Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: consequences

A few thoughts.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a storyteller. I made up stories when I was young to entertain myself and, later, my friends. Once I learned how to write, I started putting my stories on paper. Somewhere, I have an old spiral notebook with what would now be called fanfic (I didn’t know the term back then) that I showed my 7th grade English teacher. I’ve kept it all these years because she was the first to actually see my creative writing. That was important all on it own. Making it more so is the fact she encouraged me to keep writing.

Now that I write as my profession, I face the same challenge every other writer and want-to-be writer faces — how to get my work out in front of the public. There is no one right way to do so. What works for one person might not work for the next. It is also hard work and something we have to dedicate time to doing. Because self-promotion isn’t something that comes easy to a lot of us, the temptation to take shortcuts is very real. Some authors, and even some publishers, succumb to it. They might get away with it for awhile but they are eventually caught.

Authors have had their accounts closed at Amazon and other e-stores for buying reviews or for creating sock puppet accounts and posting reviews of their own work. It is clearly written out in the rules, and easily found if you search the FAQs at Author Central that an author can’t review his own work. I’ve seen reports of Amazon not allowing friends and family post reviews — those reports have not been substantiated, at least not that I’ve seen but it is something to think about. Amazon has even initiated a rule, iirc, where paid reviews have to be noted as such.

Why has Amazon taken this stance? I can’t speak for them but my guess is it is two-fold. The first is that there is a very definite ethical issue with an author posting reviews for his own work. The second is probably more important to Amazon. It comes down to the bottom line. False reviews, be their bought or straw man reviews, impact the number of books sold and the last thing Amazon wants to do is deal with returns when the customer realizes they’ve been had.

So, when I see authors wanting to review their own work (and, at last count, I’d seen approximately half a dozen contemplating it in the last six weeks or so), my radar goes off. If you are so worried about your ranking that you are contemplating reviewing your own work to get said ranking up, you need to step back and consider why readers aren’t liking your book — or why they aren’t leaving reviews. It’s hard, I know, to look at your baby and admit it might be ugly. But it is necessary sometimes.

Facebook groups and mailing lists are another sore point for a lot of people. Authors, usually indies and that pains me to say it, all too often add people to their groups or pages or mailing lists without asking permission. Don’t. Just don’t. When folks find out they’ve been added without permission you risk not only having them leaving the group but blocking you. That means they won’t see your announcements about upcoming projects or sales. It might also mean they tell their friends what happened, leading to more bad PR for you. The same goes with mailing lists.

This morning, I woke to a couple of emails from the same author but from two different mailing lists. Both had the same message. I posted a generic message on Facebook about how I didn’t want to be added to groups or pages or lists without being asked and that if you have a mailing list, make sure you aren’t sending out multiple copies of the same message to people. Considering the number of folks I’ve seen similar posts from recently, I’m not the only one having this sort of trouble, whether with the same authors or others.

Anyway, the author saw my post and admitted he was the guilty party. That’s his right. Just as it is his right to be a bit defensive about what I said and his own motivations. However, in the end, he asked what he could do to promote his work if it wasn’t by doing this sort of thing.

My first reaction, one I didn’t follow because I was on my way out the door, was to say not to own up to being the guilty party in public. For one, we are in a private writers group on FB where he could ask. If he didn’t want to do that, he could have PM’d me. No, he wanted to do it in public and he is going to have to deal with the consequences of it.

Now, I’ll admit, none of the instances I’ve mentioned rise to the “OMFG, have you lost your mind” level of bad author behavior we’ve seen some folks do. There have been cases of traditionally published authors going off on their editors in public, commenting on not only the editor’s work but getting profane about other aspects as well. Talk about killing one’s career. Then there are the authors who have made it their life’s work to rebut, usually with a full head of steam and no thought to the consequences, every negative review given on their work.

So, no, these two scenarios are nowhere near that level. However, as indie authors we fight an uphill battle. Part of that is a battle of appearances. As I discovered last week, using one word you didn’t mean to can bring down an avalanche of condemnation. Doing anything that doesn’t appear to be on the up-and-up does the same thing. So when I see an author saying she’s putting a book up for a certain award of hers up for an award and wants you to vote for it and spread the word, I take a step back from that author. Sure, ask your fans to nominate the book if they think it worthy, but don’t nominate yourself. That’s like reviewing your own work.

But that’s just me. To each his own.

Shrug. Just remember that people might not remember an author’s name if they dislike what that person does but they will remember the author was an indie. That is changing but that stigma that we aren’t quite good enough, haven’t paid our dues and are taking shortcuts still exists in the minds of all too many. So let’s not play into their hands.


Think before speaking — or hitting the enter button

This morning, it was announced that Roger Ailes died. Over the last year or so, Ailes has been in the news, not for his contribution to the industry but because of allegations lodged against him that he had sexually harassed (and more) certain female employees over the years. This isn’t a post about Ailes and whether or not he was guilty of the allegations against him. That is for another day.

No, this post is about what is happening right now on social media and how that same sort of behavior is being played out in the real world.

Go onto Facebook or Twitter and you will find numerous posts praising the fact that Ailes is dead. Unfortunately, the posts don’t end there. Those hitting the enter button are spewing invective and more at Ailes and all but dancing on his grave. Why? Because he was accused of behavior in the media that is abhorrent. But it is more than that. He is being vilified for being white and rich. He is being called a sexual predator — which he probably was. But mainly, it is because he was rich, white and of a certain age and, therefore, inherently evil.

Oh, and let’s not forget male.

When anyone tries to comment that it is a bit unseemly to act this way when someone has just died, those people are attacked. There is no concern for what Ailes’ family or friends might see. There is no compassion for those who cared for the man. Because this group of people decided he was evil, we must all agree — or at least hold our tongues and nod as they pillory him at the time of his death. Yet, if the deceased had been one of their favorites and the other side was acting as they are, they’d be outraged. Why do they get to act in one way and insist everyone acts in another? It’s that sense of entitlement and the knowledge that they are right and the rest of the world is wrong.

Not that this behavior is surprising. Something has happened with this country over the last decade or three. We have become a country where there is an increasing number of those who think they are entitled to do or say whatever they want without fear of consequence. Common courtesy is something of the past with them. Don’t believe me, go sit for a few hours in a restaurant or coffee shop. Or go to the mall or simply watch what happens in your own office.

Here’s an example.

Yesterday I was sitting in the local Panera’s, trying to get some work done. Music was playing overhead. There were at least another dozen or so people in the dining area, all talking or typing away on their laptops. In other words, it wasn’t quiet. Also, I was not sitting anywhere close to the cash registers. So, when I hear a woman raising hell, it caught my attention.

It seems this woman didn’t like what she had gotten as her order when she went through the drive-through and, by God, she was going to get satisfaction. There was no carefully explaining what she ordered and what was wrong. Oh no. What there was was a woman who just knew she was right and she wanted everyone, including those two buildings over, to know.

I slid my chair back so I could get a look at what was going on. Hey, I’m a writer. It’s what I do to get inspiration. Anyway, from where I sat, I couldn’t get a clear view. There were others in my way as well as part of the partition separating the dining area from the order area. Not that I needed to see. I could hear every word she said.

When the assistant manager tried to help her, she didn’t want to deal with him. You see, he wasn’t bending and scraping and kissing her feet. He wanted to know what she had ordered and if he could see her receipt. That’s pretty standard, especially if you claim to have gone through the drive-through. Oh, how her tone and voice level went up. How dare he question her!

Long story short. When he didn’t immediately do as she wanted, she demanded to see the manager. When he came forward, she proceeded to rip the assistant manager a new one. While she didn’t call him every name in the book, it was implied. She did say he had been unprofessional, etc., and that he should not have a job there.

And why?

Because she had gotten the right order. She had been the one to make the mistake. She ordered something without reading the description and got bread she didn’t want. But did she apologize? Oh hell no. Because, I guess, they should have read her mind. Instead, she once again voiced her negative opinion of the assistant manager and the restaurant and stormed out, swearing to never darken their doors again.

This woman was in the wrong and yet she still had to have the last work and she still expected them to bow to her will. Even when the manager offered to make her a new sandwich with the bread she wanted, she wasn’t satisfied. They’d had their one chance — a chance she screwed up — and would get no other.

Not enough proof? Look at Ethan Couch and his family. Look at our schools where teachers aren’t allowed to grade homework — or, in some districts — even assign it. Or where students are allowed to take tests over and over again instead of having to do something radical like study.

No consequences have, well, negative consequences.

Hell’s bells, even in writing they have them. I know there will be some folks who are not going to agree with me, especially when it comes to what I wrote at the beginning of the article. I recognize that fact and hope they understand I am not commenting one way or the other on whether or not Ailes was guilty of the allegations against him. I am talking solely about the behavior now being displayed by people online.

There are other ways what we do as authors can have a negative impact on not only ourselves but others we might work with. If you become an ass about just about anything, you can and probably will drive off readers. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t mean it or not. If you troll other sites and social media accounts because you think it’s fun, there will be push back. If you spam with promo posts your mailing lists or other people’s social media accounts, there will be push back. What you have to think about is that it will impact your sales but it can also impact any project you are a part of.

How many of us have seen people not only say they won’t read or watch something because so-and-so is in it but that they will do all they can to keep others from doing so as well? Well, they do and it does work. I found myself this morning looking at an anthology I have been waiting for and hesitating. Why? Because of at least one of the authors involved. No, I won’t name the antho, nor will I say when it was published or by whom. It isn’t the first time it has happened nor will it be the last. The question I have to answer is whether I will reward the author(s) I swore I wouldn’t buy or penalize the other authors in the antho. So, the actions of a small number of those involved in the antho may have a negative impact on the majority.

So, even as I consider the possible consequences of my pushing the publish button for this post, I urge each and every one of you to think about the consequences of that email you’re writing or the Tweet you are about to send or how you are about to deal with the guy who just shoved past you in line at the grocery.

And now, because I am an author and have a new story out,  check out Battle Wounds, the third short story set in the Honor and Duty universe. The stories all take place before the events of the first book, Vengeance from Ashes. The short stories came about because some of you wanted to know what happened to make Ashlyn Shaw into the women we meet in Vengeance. They’ve been fun to write and there is at least one more planned.


But he never got into trouble

How many times have we seen someone say that after a loved one has been killed doing something he — or she — shouldn’t have been doing? In the latest case, three Oklahoma teens, ranging in age from 16 – 19, broke into a home. Dressed in black, wearing masks and with at least one sporting brass knuckles, they chose the wrong house to rob. The house was not unoccupied at the time. Instead of finding easy pickings, the teens were confronted by one of the residents of the home.

The young man who came face-to-face with the three did so armed and he protected himself and the other occupants of the house. He opened fire and the three who broke in were killed. In the time since, a 21-year-old young woman has been arrested. Her alleged role in what happened was as planner and getaway driver. The possible charges against her include three counts of murder because Oklahoma, like other states, has a statue that allows for the charging of someone with murder if someone is killed in the course of a crime in which they are involved. It doesn’t matter if they pulled the trigger or not.

Now, there’s been some debate since this incident about whether or not it was right for the young man to defend his home with an AR-15. You know the weapon I mean. It’s one of those “evil” assault rifles. Fortunately, those condemning him for the use of the AR have been few and far between. Most of them are smart enough to understand that he did what I think most of us would in his situation — he protected himself and his family from masked intruders.

What prompted this post, however, was an interview I read with one of the so-called victim’s grandfather’s. I understand that he is hurting and he wishes his grandson had not been killed. But the so-called excuse that the teen had never gotten into trouble before rings hollow. Most “good” kids don’t dress in black, wear masks and don brass knuckles before breaking into someone else’s house have never done anything wrong. It usually means they’ve never been caught or the family member had never been advised of the trouble their kin had gotten into.

My question is this: what was the young man supposed to do when confronted with three masked intruders? He could, presumably, see the brass knuckles. One could also assume there was a threat from the three — or at least that the young man felt threatened. I know I certainly would have were I to walk into my kitchen and find three intruders there.

Was the young man supposed to wait until they struck him with the brass knuckles? If he had, what sort of condition would he have been in? Would he have been able to protect himself, much less anyone else in the house?

Or was he supposed to wait to see if the intruders had other weapons?

Or maybe he should have just winged one of the intruders on the hope that, while doing so, the other two didn’t pull their own guns and shoot him or someone else?

The young man acted legally, at least as far as I can tell from media reports. It is a shame that three teens lost their lives but they did so solely because of decisions they made. Had they not listened to the young woman who is currently charged as their accomplice, they wouldn’t have broken into the house. Had they not worn masks and carried brass knucks, they might not have been shot. Instead, the young man who confronted them might have not felt so threatened he saw only one way out.

Choices have consequences and, in this one, those consequences were fatal. It doesn’t matter if the grandfather knew of no other problems his grandson might have experienced. What matters are the choices the young man made that night. I feel for his family, and for the families of the others who died with him that night. But I also feel for the young man who found himself faced with the decision of either protecting himself and his loved ones or standing aside and letting three masked intruders do who knew what to him and them.

However, saying the young man had never before been in trouble rings too close to the defense set forth for Ethan Couch after he killed and injured a number of young people while driving drunk. It was argued he shouldn’t be held as accountable as others because his parents had never taught him that actions have consequences. Isn’t it time to quit coddling our kids and teaching him that, in real life, what we do will have an impact on ourselves and others and that it might not always be good?


It seems easy enough. Before you hit the “enter” button, you should stop and think about what you just wrote. That’s especially true in this age of the internet where nothing ever really goes away. Yet so many people simply refuse — or don’t think — before posting. They don’t think that future employers will look at their online presence. They don’t think about their friends and neighbors googling what they posted. They don’t think about college admission officers doing the same. Then they wonder why it blows up in their face later.

What brought this up is a discussion, and I use that term loosely, I came across yesterday. Someone decided it would be a good thing to go onto another’s wall and proceed to tell everyone that 1) raising the minimum wage to $15/hr would not negatively impact employment numbers, 2) business owners are all liars and cheats, 3) businesses should be forced to spread their money around to everyone else and 4) raising the minimum wage to that magical $15/hr rate would lead to more entry level jobs.

Now, think about that for a moment.

I’m no master’s level economist but even I understand that if you increase the cost of producing goods — and the monies paid to employees does just that — then you will see that increase in production cost passed on to the customer. If that cost increase isn’t passed along to the customer, the business owner has to find another way to cut costs. CUT costs. Quite often, that is done by decreasing the number of employees.  So, already, you have impacted the price of goods and, potentially, the number of people employed.

As for all business owners being lairs and cheats, my only conclusion is that either the OP had a really bad experience with someone or, since he proclaimed himself a former business owner, he was projecting. The fact he had no problem painting all owners with such a broad brush weakens any other arguments he might have put forth to support his argument. When called on it, he refused to back down from this stance. Instead, he started shifting the goal posts, claiming he didn’t mean they broke laws and trying to play rhetoric games with the meanings of liar, cheat, laws, and ethics.

I can’t even grasp the idea that businesses, no matter how successful they might be or how large their cash reserves, should be forced to basically redistribute their money to those who have risked nothing to help make the business successful. As I read his comments along this line, I kept thinking about Jim Taggart, Wesely Mouch and others from Atlas Shrugged. You know the characters I mean. The ones who were the moochers, who didn’t want to put forth the effort or take the risk to make money. I even found myself wanting to pick up my copy of the book and start posting quotes from John Galt’s speech.

Mind you, I’m not a fanatic about Atlas Shrugged. But when I start seeing folks talking about taking money from one and redistributing it, I can’t help but think about what Rand wrote. Nor can I help thinking about the good old communist way of life where there are the “more equal among equals”.

Here’s the thing. I’m not against people making a living wage. However, I am against blindly choosing a number and requiring every business in the country to abide by it without first taking into consideration all the factors. A living wage in San Francisco is much higher than it would be for small town Iowa. If you want to live and work in San Fran, you should understand that you may have to work two or three jobs, while going to school to get the education you need to qualify for a higher paying position. I have little sympathy for the darlings who work at a coffee shop in San Fran and then bemoan the fact that they are barely making enough to cover rent, the same darlings who then say they don’t have a roommate because they don’t want anyone in their space. Sorry, sweetheart, you made the decision to live in one of the most expensive cities in the nation and you chose to live by yourself. Your employer should not be penalized because you aren’t taking reasonable steps to cut your expenses until you can find a better paying job.

But I digress.

The OP yesterday also said something that so blew my mind in a discussion about improving our economy and taking care of the workforce that it still amazes me. In the same point in the conversation where he was proudly proclaiming that all business owners were liars and cheats, he said he didn’t care if the higher minimum wage caused businesses to close their doors. In fact, he would have no problem if that happened to most businesses because, I guess, businesses are evil too.

Now, think about this. He wants the government to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr in order for the entry level workers to make a “livable” wage. But he has no problem with businesses closing down. He doesn’t see the impact that will have on the economy or on those workers he was just championing. That sort of cognitive disconnect is hard for me to fathom.

What is the answer about the minimum wage? I’m not sure. All I know for sure is that you have to look at not only how the increase will impact the workers but also the businesses, their customers and everyone else down the supply chain. You do no one any good if the wage increase winds up hurting the local economy more than it helps.

Look at what has been happening in those cities where local governments have mandated such increases. Businesses have closed. Others have let employees go or cut their hours. Still others have moved to automate more. Prices for goods have gone up and the unemployment rate for entry level workers has not, to the best of my knowledge, decreased.

Something has to be done — yes. Is raising the minimum wage to $15/hr the answer? Not necessarily. All I know for sure is that you have to look at the complete picture and not just those parts you think important.


Here’s a reminder that Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is available for pre-order.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

Happy New Year, Affluenza Boy

A little more than two years ago, we ended the year with the news that Ethan Couch, then 16, had been given 10 years probation for after killing four and injuring nine in a drunk driving accident. Part of Couch’s sentence included the requirement that he undergo intensive counseling for his alcohol problem at a long term facility. What made Couch’s case so unusual was the use of the “affluenza” defense to keep him out of prison. Poor Ethan, we were told. He wasn’t responsible for what he did. He was a child of privilege, one who had never been made to face the consequences of his actions. It simply wouldn’t be right to put him in jail for what he did. So sorry that people died and more were injured. It wasn’t his fault. (You can see my initial reaction to this here.)

That really should have been the end of it. After all, Couch did go to the long term facility and presumably met the court requirements before he was released. However, it seems that two years didn’t do anything to teach Couch — or his mother — the error of their ways. Once again the now eighteen year old made his way into the public eye. The first instance happened when a Youtube video allegedly showing Couch looking on while other played beer pong went viral. Shortly after that, poor little Ethan failed to report to his probation officer. Funny thing about that, he probably would have been tested to see if he had been drinking or doing other things. Hmmm, do you think he might have been doing more than just watching his friends play beer pong?

Even then, Couch could have stepped up and shown he had learned from his past mistakes. It would have been easy to contact his attorney and arrange to report to his probation officer. He may have gotten a slap on the wrist but not much more. However, affluenza-boy and his over-protective and enabling mother did something else. They left.

I don’t just mean they left the party or they left the city. Apparently Tonya Couch, a modern day version of mommy dearest because she has done nothing to help her son grow up, sold her house. Then it seems like she and Ethan threw a going away party. After that, they dropped off the face of the Earth. At least that is what it appears they hoped to do. They fled the city, county, state and in very short order the country.

Needless to say, the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department, the agency first on the scene of the accident and the agency tasked with investigating what happened, wasn’t amused. Nor was the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office. Once they learned what happened, an investigation was launched. The Texas Rangers, U. S. Marshalls, and other law enforcement agencies across the nation helped Tarrant County track down numerous leads. Even as they did, we all knew there was the chance it would be a very long time before we ever saw Ethan and his mother in a court of law. They had a head start of days and, more likely, weeks. Then there was the fact they had money — or at least that was the assumption.

Fast forward to earlier this week. News broke that they Terrible Duo of Affluenza had been captured in Puerto Vallarta. These two people, whose photos had been plastered across local and national — and even international — media, had fled to a popular tourist locale for Americans. Their attempt to change their appearance boiled down to Couch dying his light hair and beard dark and his mother changing her hair style. Keystone cops meet affluenza.

This morning, Tonya Couch is back on US soil. The Mexican government deported her yesterday, releasing her to the U. S. Marshals. She should be back in the DFW area in a few days. It is likely she will spend the long New Year’s weekend in a holding cell in the Los Angeles area before being brought back home to face one, if not two, felony charges. She is currently charged with hindering apprehension and hindering prosecution. The mood the Tarrant County DA is in, she will be lucky of she is offered a plea bargain for less the the 10 year maximum.

And that is the irony of this entire sad circus. Right now, because he is still under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court system, the maximum amount of time Ethan could spent in jail for violating his probation is 120 days, if I remember correctly. Not a lot of time when you consider the number of lives he ruined that night in 2013. Now, however, the DA has filed to transfer the case out of juvenile court. If that happens, the result will be a continuation of Couch’s probation and the very real probability that another slip up will mean he gets to see what life in Huntsville is like.

For now, however, he remains in Mexico. It seems that he and his mother once again decided to do everything they could to make sure Ethan didn’t have to face the consequences of his actions — and inaction. They filed motions in the Mexican courts to prevent his extradition. Those same motions were denied for Tonya, which is why she is now back on U. S. soil. The judge postponed Ethan’s extradition for three days to give him time to rule on the motion to deny extradition. In the meantime, Ethan has been transferred to his third city and his third holding cell, this latest one in Mexico City.

This could almost be humorous in a sad sort of way if it wasn’t for the fact that this young man continues to show that he has an utter lack of respect for anything but his own wants and desires. There has been no showing of remorse and certainly no contrition. Not that it is surprising. Here is a partial timeline of his life over the last few years as compiled by the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

  • Feb. 19, 2013 – Couch is found in a pickup with a beer and a bottle of vodka. The result of this is a citation for minor in possession of alcohol.
  • June 15, 2013 — Couch first steals alcohol from a local convenience store. Then the accident that killed four and injured nine occurs. His blood alcohol content measured at more than three times the legal limit.
  • Dec. 10, 2013 — Couch is sentenced to 10 years probation, in-house treatment.
  • Feb. 19, 2014 — Couch begins his in-house treatment at taxpayer expense.
  • Aug. 14, 2014 — his father is arrested for impersonating a police officer. (Another indication that his parents have more than a few issues of their own?)
  • Dec. 2, 2015 — the Youtube video goes viral.
  • Dec. 11, 2015 — arrest warrant issued after authorities learn Couch failed to report as ordered to his probation officer and after finding the home he shared with his mother empty.
  • Dec. 18, 2015 — U. S. Marshals join the search for Couch and his mother.
  • Dec. 28, 2015 — Couch and his mother arrested in Puerto Vallarta.

Now, instead of coming back and facing the consequences of his actions, Couch is fighting to remain in Mexico. One of his Texas attorneys has pretty much set out his mother’s defense in an interview I heard this morning. Claiming Ethan is one of the most hated people in the country, she asked what anyone would do if they were in Tonya’s position. Would you want your son to go to jail, knowing how badly people hated him or would you do your best to secret him away? Affluenza strikes again. This time in the form of “he can’t go to prison because he might be hurt”. Again, excuses to keep him from having to face the consequences of his actions.

Eventually, he will be returned to the United States. Either that or he will find himself afoul of the law in Mexico or another country where the jails there make what he would face here look like Club Fed. Part of me hopes that is the case. Talk about a crash course in facing the consequences.

However, when he does finally make it back to Texas and is made to face the court and explain why he did what he did, he won’t find a sympathetic ear, either in the media or in the court. He chose to violate the terms of his probation. He might have been able to use the affluenza defense in his initial trial but I doubt it will fly a second time. Unfortunately, he will only face 120 days for the parole violation. I just hope the court does transfer the case to adult court and the State keeps a very close eye on him for the next 10 years.

As for his mother, well, she needs to have the book thrown at her. Even if her son doesn’t ever have to face the full consequences for his actions that night in 2013 when he drove his car into a group of people, she should face the consequences of her actions in trying to help him flee the jurisdiction. In the meantime, I hope she is thinking long and hard about what hear darling baby boy is facing all by his lonesome in that Mexico City holding cell.

Happy New Year, Ethan Couch. May 2016 bring you all the consequences you’ve thumbed your nose at for so long.

Welcome to the nanny state mentality

Several months ago, the question of whether or not a parent should be allowed to let their children walk alone in their neighborhood, much less play alone in the park, hit the national news. Danielle and Sasha Meitiv thought they were teaching their children, ages 10 and 6, to be independent. Apparently at least one of their neighbors thought they were being neglectful, if not abusive. Enter the Maryland police and Children’s Protective Services. And thus a debate was sparked.

The result of the December investigation into whether or not the Meitivs were bad parents for — gasp — teaching their children how to navigate their neighborhood and then letting them actually go to the park on their own, was a finding by CPS of that they were guilty of unsubstantiated child neglect.


The impact of this ruling is that CPS can keep an open file on the family for five years.

Fast forward to this month. Some “concerned” neighbor called 911 to tell the police there were two unsupervised children at the local park (which is approximately a mile from the family home). I put concerned in quotes because I have to wonder if the neighbor was anything but. I don’t know about you, but if I am worried about a couple of kids in this situation, my first response isn’t going to be to dial 911.  It would be to go outside and check on the kids. Then, if I had reason to believe there was a problem, I would consider calling 911. Of course, knowing me, I’d probably first call the parents. Instead, this “concerned” neighbor apparently called police without doing any of this and I have to wonder if the neighbor really was worried or if the kids were being loud or somehow bothering the neighbor and that is why the call was made.

The most outrageous part of this latest incident is that the kids were picked up by police and taken to CPS and no one called the parents for at least two hours. In that time, the parents had been frantically trying to find their kids. Can you imagine how they must have felt? Worse, once they did learn where their children were, it took another couple of hours to retrieve them. Now here is the kicker: in order to get their children back, the parents had to sign documentation promising that they would not leave their children unattended.

Now, Maryland law states that it is illegal to leave children unattended in a home or car if the child is under the age of 8. It is also illegal to leave a child under eight with anyone under the age of 13. However, Maryland law does not address children of those ages being outdoors. And that, my friends, is part of the problem. It leaves too much to interpretation.

But the other problem is this attitude so many people seem to have right now that we need to swaddle our kids in bubblewrap and not let them know the world is big and wonderful but that there are bad things out there as well. School districts are letting kids retake tests over and over until the kid gets the grade she — or her parents — want. No consequence for not studying and doing homework. Oh, and then there are the districts that won’t let teachers grade homework. So why should the students do it?

I look at what is happening in Maryland and think how my parents, and so many others, would have been reported to CPS over and over again. Hell, I’d probably have ended up in state custody because my parents let me “free-range”. Oh, don’t get me wrong. They taught me how to take care of myself. They always knew where I was going, what routes I would be taking and I always had to check in. But they gave me the independence to roam the neighborhood. It wasn’t uncommon in the summer for me to leave the house first thing in the morning and not come home until dinner.

That freedom taught me a sense of independence and responsibility. I may be warped in my own way but it isn’t because my parents let me walk to school or ride my bike to the other side of the neighborhood — or further.

Now comes this article in the HuffPo. I know, I know. It’s HuffPo. I should know better than to read it but, well, it’s morning and my resolve was weak. Here is where I started banging my head against the top of my desk:

Little ones aged 4 to 6 always need adult supervision. They are ready to practice the basics of crossing a street, but may still do the unexpected and are easily distracted. Adults need to model safe walking behavior. When your child reaches the 7 to 9 age bracket, they still need supervision, but are ready to learn more complicated skills such as locating and acknowledging traffic, acknowledging the speed at which cars are moving and ignoring distractions such as animals or friends calling their name. By the time children are age 10 and above, they may be ready to practice walking alone.

My son, my wonderful, responsible, confident son, was learning to walk across the street as soon as he was walking. I would take him with me and we would stop and look both ways. I would explain what we were looking for and why. By the time he was 4, he knew not to go into the street if he could see a car coming. Now, that’s not to say I still didn’t hold his hand. Nor did I let him run across the street. But by the time he was six, he could cross the street by himself. I might have watched from the yard or window, but I didn’t feel the need to hang onto his hand and walk him wherever he wanted to go.

You see, I knew my son and I knew my neighborhood. I taught him which corners to cross at and he knew his boundaries for how far he was allowed to go if I wasn’t with him. If he wanted to go to someone’s house, he had to ask first. Then, after I made sure the parents of the other child were there, I’d say okay. See, I knew safety measures were in place and that the other parent(s) would call if he didn’t get to their place within a few minutes. I knew my neighborhood and I knew my son.

What is the most amazing thing about the statement above is the bit about how a child at 10 might be ready to start practicing walking alone. When do these folks start letting their kids spend the night somewhere else?

Children need to have some freedom — within reason — and they need to have responsibilities but they still need to be children. Most of all, they need to learn that actions have consequences, some good and some bad. If we fail to teach them that, then we are failing them.

Now, I am not ready to say the parents shouldn’t have to shoulder some of the responsibility for what happened in Maryland this last time. They knew how their local police and CPS were interpreting the law. They knew someone — maybe several someones — in their neighborhood was calling the police if they saw their children out alone. In their place, I’d be doing two things. First, I’d be dealing with the legal aspect of the situation not only with my own attorneys but with my local and state government officials. Second, I wouldn’t be making it any easier for CPS to make a case against me. CPS has already shown that it has no problem finding the parents guilty of “unsubstantiated” neglect. That shows just what their mindset is. Oh, there is one more thing I’d be doing — looking for a home where the stupid wasn’t so strong.

And, no, I don’t want to hear how the world has changed. Sorry, folks, but there has always been evil out there. There has always been the possibility that an accident might happen. The truth is, we hear about it more now because it makes “good” news for the media. We also hear about it more now because, when it happens, we are more likely to report it to the authorities and that means it will make the news. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be wary but we can’t continue raising our kids to be afraid of their own shadows and without a clue about how the real world operates.

It’s time for the adults to grow up. Let our kids be kids and teach them instead of wrapping them in cotton wool so the big bad world never intrudes.

You have to think about the consequences

Once upon a time, back before indie publishing was in its infancy and I still had hopes of becoming a “real” writer*, I went to the RWA National Convention in San Francisco with my friend and mentor Sarah A. Hoyt. Sarah had said I needed to do this because RWA National was a working convention and would offer seminars that I could put to good use. She was right. If I were to join — or re-join — any professional writers group right now, it would be RWA. But that is another story.

The purpose of the set-up about attending the RWA is this article. I’ll say upfront that I feel for Brandon Robertson. In less than a year, he went from the highest of high — signing your first book contract — to the lowest of lows, having that contract yanked out from under you after you’ve finally written and turned it in. He fell into a trap that waits anyone who wants to sign with religious publishing houses. It’s a simple trap and one that is easy to forget about.

When writing for religious houses, you have to remember that everything you do and say can and will impact not only how your publisher thinks about you but how booksellers do and, in this day and age, the latter is often more important than the former, as Robertson found out.

You see, he has been vocal in his support of LGBTQ issues. There’s nothing wrong with that. But he already had experience with the sort of questions such support could raise in the evangelical community. Robertson attends a religious college and had spoken with administration before because of his blog posts on the issue. Now those posts were coming back to haunt him again, this time in the professional world.

From what I can tell, as the publisher tried to shop the book to its buyers, concerns were raised. You see, the booksellers had been doing their homework, as they should (all booksellers should know their customers and their likes) and they were worried. They took those worries to the publisher who, in typical publisher fashion, got scared. That led to the request for a phone call with Robertson to discuss some concerns and, from what Robertson said, he knew exactly what those concerns were.

All that had me remembering a conversation Sarah and I had with another author one day over lunch while at RWA. We were talking about some of the publishing houses that specialized in religious books, both fiction and non-fiction. One of them, I don’t remember if it was Sarah or the other woman, talked about a friend of theirs who had once had a contract with one of the major religious publishers. Everything had rocked along really well for awhile. Then the publisher discovered the author had published an erotica novel. This was the time when pen names were more often than not closed and this woman’s was. Unless she told you that particular pen name was her, it was next to impossible to find out. Since she hadn’t told her publisher what she had done, the implication was that someone from the erotica house had. Either way, the damage was done. Even though this was a very religious woman who lived what she wrote for the religious publisher and not the erotica one, she lost the contract with the religious house. She had strayed from the fold and if their readership found out, well, it would be seen as a breach of trust and faith.

The reason she had written the erotica was money. Things had gotten hard at home. Most of us know what that’s like. A major expense come in or someone gets sick or a job is lost and that financial backup plan is suddenly out the window. She needed to make money and it was easy and quick to write a short erotica novel under a closed pen name. That was especially important since her religious publisher was slow in acceptances, edits and publications. With the erotica, she could get money within a few months if the book was accepted and it would be out in digital — erotica was one of the earliest adopters of e-books — shortly after acceptance and edits. She took the pragmatic approach, as most of us would, and didn’t think about it again until she got the call cancelling her contract with the religious publisher.

The lesson? Think about who you are writing for — or want to write for — and be aware that their requirements may go beyond what the contract calls for. Believe me, there is going to be a clause buried somewhere in the legalese that gives them the right to cancel the contract for such issues. If you are lucky, you will be able to keep at least some of the advance you’ve been paid. But I wouldn’t count on it. The same can be said for your rights. You have to make sure the contract will instantly return all rights to you. Otherwise, you will be well and truly screwed, at least where that book is concerned.

As for Robertson, well, he admits that he knew his blogging activity might be called into issue. So what happened shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to him. It really is as simple as knowing — and accepting — that your actions do have consequences, even if you don’t agree with them. When you publish traditionally, your publisher is, in many ways, your employer. Just as employers can and do take action against their employees for questionable activity on social media, so will publishers. Worse, publishers talk to one another and the media often gets involved. So think, THINK, before you do something you know might piss off your publisher.

Unless you have a sales record that will make it difficult for them to cut you loose, you are on the short end of the stick.

I hope Robertson finds a place for his book and that he doesn’t let what happened silence his blog. I might not agree with everything he has to say but I will defend his right to say it. But that doesn’t mean publishers who sell primarily to stores and people with beliefs firmly against what Robertson blogs about should be forced to sacrifice their bottom line.

Again, think before hitting that “enter” button. What you post today may get you in trouble tomorrow. Be aware of the philosophies of any publishers you are interested in working with and always keep those in mind. An occasional  blog post might not be a problem but that is no guarantee. Or go indie and then you don’t have to worry about upsetting the tender feelings of your publisher.

The trouble with fantasy

I’ll admit right up front that the inspiration for this post comes from Cedar Sanderson’s Mad Genius Club post this morning as well as a Facebook post by P. N. Elrod. But hit upon issues I’ve seen all too often in fantasy, especially in the last twenty years. These issues have often left me wondering where the good fantasy had gone. Then I’d come across authors like Larry Correia who tilted the genre on its ear and had me begging for more.

Don’t get me wrong. There is good fantasy out there, lots of it. But a lot of what has been called “good” or even “great” have issues that drive me crazy. We’ve all read fantasy novels where there is no real economic system in place. Oh, there are shops and stores and pubs and inns. The roads are paved through the city and even outside the city where they fall into dirt roads, they are maintained. Farmers manage to get their crops to market and there never seems to be a shortage of meat, unless our heroes are caught out in a blizzard.

While that bothers me, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as magic systems that make no sense. Systems where a person is born a mage of one flavor or another and can perform magic without anything more than getting a bit tired or having a headache. There are no rituals to raise energy or no repercussions for breaking the rules.

What brought this home and formed this post in my head this morning was a comment from Ms. Elrod. Paraphrasing, she said something along the line of “don’t send your magic using characters into a a situation or battle where they will be dealing with really bad magic without preparing them for that battle.” In other words, don’t let magic become the deus ex machina solution to the problem. Spells have to be planned, rituals followed. Depending on the type of magic, supplies may need to be laid in. There might even need to be sacrifices made.

One of my biggest issues with so many magic-based plots is when the magic user draws her power from the Earth. It doesn’t matter if it is from the “energy of living things”, from ley lines or whatever. The energy used to power the magic comes from the Earth and that means it isn’t infinite. If you draw on it, there has to be a price, not only to the person pulling the energy from the Earth, be it from soil, fire, air or water — or ley lines — but also to the source. Use too much and the source dries up. So what happens to that area then? Few authors ever deal with that issue.

Fewer still have their magic users in battle actually becoming sitting targets because, gee, magic isn’t something that happens instantly. Instead of having them sitting safely at the rear of the fight, casting their spells and performing their rituals, all too often the magicker is on horseback or in the middle of the fight, casting spells even as they are swinging swords. No and no and no again.

Of course, many of those guilty of this stop calling it magic at this point and call it a “gift” or “talent” or “mind magic”. But the same problem exists. It takes thought and planning and training to use these “gifts” and, when your out there fighting for your life, casting a spell of any sort without concentrating on what you’re going to do might just whiplash right back on you — or your companions — and with disturbing results.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that everything has costs and consequences, even magic. So please make sure those are mentioned and explained in your work. It will make for a more grounded and believable world.

Another issue I have with fantasy, and this is seen most often in high fantasy and dark fantasy, is the naming convention used. Not every character has to sound like he just walked out of a manuscript by Tolkien. Nor do they have to look like they came from a list of Welsh names. However, the surest way to have me sailing a book out of the window is to give me a cast of characters with names like Aeronwyn and Cadwaladar and Rhydderch and then suddenly have Betsy walk in. Especially if Betsy is the lead female in the book and is just as pure blood — or even born and raised of pure bloods — as the rest of your cast of characters. You need to be consistent in your naming conventions or have a pretty damned good explanation that you give your reader for why that character sounds like she just walked out of modern day.

In other words, do your homework and build your world so that your magic has a basis and makes sense within the rules of your world. Most of all, if you break the rules, remember that there will be consequences. Your reader will thank you for it because it will make for a much more interesting book.

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