SONGS I LIKE: AT 30,000 FEET (Queensrÿche)

June 7, 2013

I see it all so clear…
At 30,000 feet above the enemy.
No one can see me.
Press execute.

One of the things I learned early in life is that doing the right thing almost always carries with it a price.  Sometimes that price you pay can be terrible; you can pay a very dear cost for doing what you should rather than what you want or what temptation would have you do.
 
This is the truth of war that too many people cannot seem to understand.  Almost everyone sane understands that, as General Sherman pointed out, war is “sheer hell,” that it is a horrible, painful thing.  Soldiers know this more than anyone, and almost every soldier will say they fight not to win the war but to earn peace and get back home safe.
 
The album American Soldier is a magnificent album by Queensrÿche, an examination of what it means to be a soldier at war without a distinct, specific point of view.  You hear interviews from the men, telling what they believe and why they fight, how they see things, but the songs are just about what happens, not promoting anything.
 
The song “At 30,000 Feet” is from the perspective of a bomber pilot, flying so fast and so far above the heads of the enemy, cloaked by stealth that he’s immune to them, invisible.  Its about what its like to deliver death and fire on targets below, targets who cannot escape him and cannot fight back.
 
The song tells of the almost clinical detachment from his targets, wrapped in incredible technology, all alone hearing only the sound of his breathing and delivering death below that he’ll never hear or see.  He tells of the complaint of the enemy “show your face!” and answers “what about the faces of the women you dominate and enslave?”
 
Warriors go away from war feeling not like heroes and saviors but as men who saw, delivered, and experienced hell.  They usually don’t like to talk about it, don’t like to remember it.  They feel that burden on their souls as long as they live, all the lives they took, all the things they did. I try to express that in my books, no Conan mowing down enemies with a shrug, but men who feel what they’ve done, even though it was what they had to do and was right. Because it this life, when you do what is right, there is always a cost.
 

Whatever happens now
Is beyond my control.
Emotion has abandoned me.
Faded away and left me…cold.

The call’s been made.
I’m here, dependent on the atmosphere
Contained inside this mask I wear.
My breathing is all I hear.

I’ve got the target switch in hand.
I just feel numb, scanning the
Ground at the hell that I’ll make.
I’m above it in the air.
Flying high above the city walls
As the insurgents run.
Can’t stand their ground against the hell
That I’ll make.
I’m above in the air,

I see it all so clear…
At 30,000 feet above the enemy.
No one can see me.
Press execute.
I’ll send the “Pigs” away.
The tortured painful cries
Will never fall upon my ears
And never stain my elder years.
My heartbeat is all I’ll feel.

Infrared tracks the land
As the weapons lock.
There’s no defense against
The Hell that I’ll make.
I’m above it in the air. I’m above it.
Moving past the speed of sound,
I won’t see them when they hit the ground.
No hiding from the Hell that I make.
I’m above it in the air.
I’m a shadow.

Over the rooftops of the city the word
Travels fast from cell phone to cell phone.
“They demand to see their faces!”
“Of the women…hidden behind the veil?”

I’m the creator of this promised land
And I wonder what in the hell did I make
What in the hell did I make?
What in the hell did I make?

This is part of the Songs I Like series.

THE EARNINGS GAP

June 7, 2013

She works hard for the money
So hard for it, honey
She works hard for the money
So you better treat her right
-Donna Summer

A recent Pew Research Center study found that 40% of American households with children have a woman as the primary earner for the family.  In 1960, that number was 11%.  While there are a lot of various hand wringing comments that could be made about this shift, I thought about why this might have happened.
The main reason I’d guess is the increase of single-parent households, where if there are children will tend to be a mother with no father rather than the other way around.  Typically women will get custody of children, and since single-parent households have increased over the years, that means women earning and not men.
In fact, in 2012, the US Census bureau reported that 30% of households with children in the USA are single parent households, with only a mother.  Luke Rosiak writes in the Washington Times:

In every state, the portion of families where children have two parents, rather than one, has dropped significantly over the past decade. Even as the country added 160,000 families with children, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.

I’m not sure why 1960 is always the breakpoint for this sort of study (probably some boomer-centric influence), but there you have it.  The truth is, America is losing its dads, and that’s not helping kids any.  That Washington Times article goes on to point out another significant bit of data: Married couples with children have an average income of $80,000, compared with $24,000 for single mothers.  You can speculate why that might be happening, what’s cause and effect here, but the truth is, poor people are doing much worse in both earning and family structure.

And obviously the economy has a lot to do with this problem.  Its long been known that the recent recession has hit men much harder than women, men having much higher unemployment than women, men’s earnings dropping while women’s rose, and so on.  That means men can’t find jobs while women can, and that’s going to affect earnings.  That has to play a part, but there are other reasons.
Something I’d like to suggest here is that this is primarily a failure of men not some shift in culture toward women.   While its true, I believe, that western culture is becoming more feminized and emasculated, and that women dominate American culture in particular, that’s not due to some cruel imposition by feminists.
Its because men have dropped the ball.  Men are refusing to take responsibility, grow up, stay with their families, and be men.  Women are giving men an opportunity to get what they want without paying any price or showing responsibility, but men are the ones who are taking that opportunity.  A thief is to blame for their theft, not the one who left their treasures exposed to steal.  Men don’t have to take advantage of women and abandon our responsibilities, we choose to do so as a gender.
Yes, there are serious problems with women, as we all know.  Yes, in a certain sense there haven’t been many real ladies around in America for decades, but I’m a man and I know men, not women so much, and I don’t feel qualified to really write about women.
And men are supposed to be leaders and the ones that stand up and take responsibility.  If there’s a problem or failure in society, ultimately the blame rests on our shoulders; not the media, not a political party, not feminism or any other group but ourselves.
All these women earning more money in homes means men aren’t stepping up.  All those single-parent homes are because men aren’t taking responsibility.  All those women carrying the burden of the earning in a household means at least one man who isn’t doing his job.
This isn’t always due to sloth or irresponsibility, of course.  With this economy, men have a very hard time finding work.  But a lot of it is, and that has to change for the culture to change.  But when men are raised from early childhood to think of their gender as inferior brutes, seeing girls treated preferentially by law and policy, men portrayed as dunces and infants by popular culture, and told constantly that their primary goal in life should be to have fun, get laid, and party while never growing out of adolescence, that’s going to take its toll.
The bottom line is this: if you’re raising a boy, you have a hard battle ahead of you turning that boy into a man, and the battle starts with you.  Every breath you take, every gesture, every word is being studied and memorized by your son as to how a man acts and is supposed to think.  Your reactions, your hobbies, your treatment of women, your jokes, comments, and interests are all imprinting the meaning of masculinity on your son.  Make them all count.
Don’t buy into the culture’s perpetual frat boy image of mankind.  Don’t give into the emasculization of culture.  Don’t bow and scrape to the feminist ideal of men.  Be strong, loving, respectful, and good.  Be a true man, not a dude.  Be a real man, not a tough guy.  And maybe, just maybe if enough of us do it, well there could be hope for the future.
But for the love of all that’s holy, do not send your kids to education mills all but designed to ruin men and the hope of masculinity.

DOMAIN PROBLEMS

May 27, 2013
Still fighting Google “aps” to get my wordaroundthenet domain name renewed.  Its a big catch-22 and I can’t even get through their automated phone service because they want a PIN I never received.  If WATN goes black tomorrow, its because of that, but I’ll keep working on it.
Meanwhile: barbecued dogs and burgers, potato chips, and baseball.
Happy Memorial Day and keep these words in mind:
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
-GK Chesterton

PUBLISHED IN AMERICA

May 24, 2013

“Where we sell you your own book!”

In 2008, I finished my first book Snowberry’s Veil. I considered finding an agent and publisher but decided instead to use a reputable online publisher to print the book instead.  The idea was that it would give my book some exposure, give me a printed hard copy to establish myself more as a writer, and have something tangible to show to agents when I shopped another book.
I looked around a while, with a few criteria.  First, the publisher should be established, not brand new.  Second it should cost me nothing to get the book published, not once penny for a single aspect of the process.  Not editing, not submission, not art, nothing.  And third, it should produce an actual real copy of a full book with an ISBN and so on; a professional job.
I selected PublishAmerica because it fit all these criteria and it seemed to be a pretty good site.  I searched for complaints and problems and found few – all of them related to delays or misunderstandings involving royalties.  Since I didn’t expect to sell enough to see much if anything in royalties, I was willing to take a shot.

THE GOOD

PublishAmerica works fast and is easy to publish with.  They create a cover for you, for free, they do all the typesetting and binding, they buy the ISBN and register it, and they even do a little bit of publicity at first, sending information out to newspapers and such.  Copies of Snowberry’s Veil showed up on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and so on, all around the world.  People could buy a copy online or from PA’s website.
I felt good about having my own book, and it certainly impressed my family.  I wasn’t just fooling around with writing, I had a real book with a bar code on the back, professionally bound and produced.  I was proud of my first book, and lots of friends bought one through me at the reduced price authors can get (no royalties for me at that price).

THE UGLY

However, I noticed a few concerns right away.  First, they were trying to sell Snowberry’s Veil at over $20 bucks a copy.  I understand they had some expenses to cover, but nobody is going to buy a paperback book, especially of just a few hundred pages, for that kind of money, just nobody.  No copies sold over the internet, only a few did from me directly.  Not a single one.  And why would they?  I don’t think it is worth that kind of money, and I wrote the thing.
Another concern was that the cover wasn’t right.  As excited as I was to get the book out and happy to get the art done, I didn’t quibble when they sent me the proof, but its just poorly done.  They took a picture of a forest, tinted it blue, then hand drew some lancers in shadow into the page.  It works okay, but its nonsense for the story.  I’ve long thought that cover art doesn’t match books and it always made me wonder why writers put up with it, and now I know: they just wanted to get published.
What I requested was an image of what I consider the most dramatic and cinematic scene in the book, where knights charge across the tops of clouds.  I requested that and got misty lancers in a forest.  A group of knights roaring across a cloud toward the reader would look pretty impressive, and if I could afford to get, say, Larry Elmore to paint that for me, I would.
As it is I have another image in mind for the book that is more modest and subtle, something I can put together using available free art.
And the manuscript wasn’t quite right.  There are errors in the book that were not in my manuscript.  I edited the thing 5 times myself and my mom went over it once, and while we missed some stuff, we didn’t miss that much.  Its just mangled and I don’t know why.  Maybe they hand retyped it, maybe they changed some stuff to fit pages better, and maybe it just came down to the changing of formats.  I’ve noticed that moving Word documents from one version of the program to another, or from Word to Publisher, causes some text to change and I don’t know why.
In any case, what wasn’t expertly edited to begin with became mangled even worse and I’m frankly embarrassed I let anyone read it but me at this point.  I wish I could buy all the copies back and burn them, at this point.  People seem to like the book quite a bit despite the errors but it makes me seem amateurish and incompetent as a writer, I’m ashamed it is out there.
Now, PA doesn’t edit your book for errors, at all, and they don’t promise too, I knew that going in.  Editing is kind of expensive and I couldn’t pay for it then (or now, for that matter).  But I didn’t think it would get worse for publishing.
And the interior annoyed me, as well.  The layout and printing were fine, its just like any other book.  The problem is I did a bit of art for the book and a map of the setting in classic fantasy style. The art should have been strategically distributed through the book (as it was in the manuscript I sent them), and the map at the beginning.  Instead, to make printing easier, they just stuck it all in the middle and refused to change when I requested it.  It was a lousy way to do it, and the art didn’t reproduce well anyway.

THE BAD

Then there was the sales.  I didn’t mind so much not selling a lot of copies, I hardly expected to.  And I knew PA didn’t put a lot of effort into publicity or sales.  My problem is once the book was out there, they put zero effort into sales… to anyone but me.  They sent me 2-3 emails a day for years trying to get me to buy my own book.  You can edit your book and correct errors, just buy 5 copies!  You can get this put into hardback, just buy 10 copies!  You can have your book put into this book show, just buy 10 copies!  On and on it went.
And I mean this literally, I am not exaggerating, every single email from PublishAmerica was an attempt to get me to buy my own book.  And nothing, nothing they did was to get my book bought by anyone else.  Not a single effort went out from the company to help someone else buy my book once it had been set up online.  They didn’t want to sell my book to anyone else.
PublishAmerica’s entire business model is to get writers to buy their own books.  Period.  They don’t have any other plan. And that’s just a ridiculous way to run a publishing business.  I got very tired of the constant attempts in all sorts of clever ways to get me to buy my own book.  Finally about a year ago, they apparently gave up on me.  I never responded, didn’t buy any more books after a few years, and none of mine were selling (thankfully, as I noted above).
What’s worse is that their emails lied.  They would claim the book wasn’t going to be available in hardback unless I ordered it by buying books.  Later, they offered it in hardbound online and gave me a cut rate if I bought my own books (10 at a time).  They claimed that the paperback was going out of print, then later offered me the paperbacks at a reduced rate, bulk naturally.  The paperback version never was taken off the PA website or any online bookstore.  On and on it went, with outright lies told over emails to me.  It was ridiculous, I knew I couldn’t trust a thing.
Finally, they offered me the rights for my book back for 200 bucks, to “pay for expenses.”  I didn’t have the money and didn’t care to spend that much for it.  But they did recognize it wasn’t selling and I was getting so little in royalties it didn’t match the minimum before I get paid (had to earn $100, by the contract, before they’d send me a check.  If it never earned that, I never got paid – and so I never got any royalties).
I waited, and a year later, they offered it to me for $99, the expenses apparently reduced over time.  At the time I didn’t have the cash, but then this year they offered it again when I did have some money.  $99 to end a contract and get the rights back seemed like a fair deal to me, so I took advantage of the deal.  And here’s where the final absurdity takes place.
I let PA know I would take advantage of their offer and they referred me to a page.  The page?  Their usual order form.  I ordered the rescinding of our countract, for $99… but since it was their standard book ordering page, I had to choose shipping.  Nothing gets shipped, its just an agreement.  So I had to choose $1.99 in shipping to pay for the nonexistent product, bringing the price up to $109.  Still fairly cheap as contract negation goes but what a cheap, chiseling bunch of gougers.  I mean really, they’re digging around in the gutter for a few more pennies.  That’s just pathetic.
So in short, I would strongly advise everyone to avoid PublishAmerica, to never use them to publish a book, and to never consider them for a contract.  Not ever.  They have some positives, but overall, its a waste of your time and a 7 year lockdown on your book.  Just don’t do it.

SOME POSITIVE

So what did I do right?  Well its a good story, and I’m not just saying this because I wrote it.  Here are some reviews:

All in all, though, Snowberry’s Veil is a wonderful tale of magic, valor, bravery, innocent love, respect, and friendship. It is an excellent first novel and not only should Taylor be proud of his accomplishment, but he should give us more of these kinds of stories in the near future!  
-James Huck

If you’re looking for World Spanning Epic Fantasy, this ain’t it. A small tale about a few people, told simply yet eloquently…it may be a new genre, I’ll call it MicroFantasy. Give it a shot. 
-Mike Garfield

Like the author mentions this book is not about world-shaping events, but something you could typically imagine happening in a day to day fantasy adventure.  This is a fast-paced read with humor and action springing from the author’s detailed world setting. Careful reading rewards those who like to become immersed in an author’s imagination. I can see many adventures in the future for the Ranger of this title.

Give this story a look, you’ll like what you find
-Nick Young

“I really enjoyed it and I don’t even like fantasy”
-Arie Jongeneel


“Very well written and engaging.”
-Pastor Rob Toornstra

Edited right and with some better art and map in it, properly placed, I think this will be something you would really like to read, even if you don’t ordinarily care for fantasy.  Most of the most positive word of mouth and personal praise I’ve gotten have been from women who read it – most of them not fantasy readers.  This isn’t like your typical fantasy book.
Another thing I did right was the title.  There is literally nothing on the internet called Snowberry’s Veil except my book.  Nothing whatsoever.  I found a unique title, somehow, and that makes it easy to find and isolate in searching.  That’s pretty handy online.  And I wasn’t even very happy with the title at first.
So I’ll take the book, which a professional editor has gone through, rewrite the parts that need it, set up the art the way I want, get a good cover done, and it will show up again, on Lulu in print and on Amazon and the rest as an ebook.  Look for it hopefully later this year.
Just don’t look for it on PublishAmerica.
Here’s the blurb for Snowberry’s Veil, if you haven’t seen it before:

Serving the king as a Ranger has never been boring, but once Erkenbrand takes on the responsibility of scouting for a caravan of settlers heading to the wilderness, he faces challenges like never before.

Separated from the caravan and stripped of all his gear Erkenbrand must struggle for his life before he can see his love Thealea again. Facing the wilderness, the monsters that dwell there, and the creatures he meets, Erkanbrand is alone with only his skills and will to survive. And behind it all is a dark secret that might doom both Thealea and Erkenbrand.

Snowberry’s Veil is a departure from the usual world-changing multi-part fantasy epic, taking a more personal look at a smaller adventure. Instead of saving the world from vast evil, this is a more intimate look at one man’s struggle to survive and help those around him.

Enter a world of strange creatures, magic, and personal struggle; a fight against the harsh wilderness as well as the evil that man can bring. 


%d bloggers like this: