Category Archives: Writing

In which I discuss my writing process, including research and related issues.

Nearly Quit Writing This Week

I almost quit writing this past week. Art is a very rough road, and there are no clear signs to “success.” Effort and ability are not enough. I’ve got a bookshelf and tablet full of indie writers who have gone through the considerable effort of writing and publishing their works – but the truth is that few people are likely to read what they write. It is as I said: hard work and ability aren’t enough.

The flat truth: the number of writers in any given market are increasing at a much faster pace than the number of readers. The limited amount of time and money the audience has is being more finely distributed over an ever-increasing number of authors. So bad is it that it is considered de rigeur for indie writers to pay promotional sites to give away their books. It is a reader’s market, and for the readers it’s great! They get to read to their heart’s content and not pay a dime, to have a plethora of high-quality work for free, indeed, the expense is borne by the writer, not the consumer.

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Dracula vs. Cthulhu: Vampires in Spaceships

When discussing Dracula vs. Cthulhu, people seem surprised when I say it’s science-fiction and then talk about spaceships and time travel. So I’ll say it, again! Dracula vs. Cthulhu is science-fiction horror! So, yeah, don’t be too surprised if it has spaceships and time travel.

This is part of the reason to do such a story, right? If I was going to write a story where Dracula was just another Gothic monster, who would care? But the je ne sais quoi is the “vs. Cthulhu.” And Cthulhu? He’s on the sci-fi end of Lovecraft’s works. Further, I process both Cthulhu and Dracula through the lens of my interpretations and preferences. I think Lovecraft was at his best when he was at his most science-fiction-y.

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New Project: Dracula vs. Cthulhu

I’m putting aside the Atlas Shrugged parody for the time being. Having gone to some shows, I find that con-goers aren’t likely to be swayed by someone saying, “What you like sucks.” Which is what would happen. People would see the Atlas pictures, think Ayn Rand, and come over to hear my say that what they love sucks. Until I’m more established, that’s a losing strategy.

Which brings me to my new project. I noticed that the booths that did best were those in which preawareness played a significant role. Since I’m not rich, I need to keep to the public domain. Thinking about it, I got an idea that builds off of the spy-horror-sci-fi stuff I wrote a couple of years back, and the working name is. . . well, it’s probably why you’re reading this: Dracula vs. Cthulhu.

Initially, I imagined that the name would be a mere working title. But every time I mention it, people go, “That’s interesting!” Which means there’s a good chance that I’m writing a book named Dracula vs. Cthulhu.

The genre will be sci-fi horror, and it’ll be awesome. The good news is that I’ve already done most of the research! And the research won’t be totally about things I hate! Yay!

Publishers have always made a killing on the backs of writers

Tara Sparling posted There’s An Indie Publishing Gold Rush, And Guess Who’s Making A Killing?

While the article is, itself, worth reading, I’d like to point out that publishing as we currently know it is the primary form of writer exploitation.

In traditional publication, writers give up much of their rights over their work for a period – often years, sometimes indefinitely. Most writers get damn little support, too. And for giving up the right to price their book, sell it where and how they please, and a bunch of editorial control, the writer gets ten percent of cover price (or about 20% of what the publishing house makes).

Defenders of traditional publication will say that the publisher assumes all the financial risk. Which is untrue. The writer has spent untold hours of their life writing and editing before they get to the point of publication – that’s financial risk, too. But no one talks about the financial risk of a writer because it happens beforehand. But it’s there and its real. The writer has spent their precious hours writing the book with the hopes of financial reward for their labor, after all.  That’s the definition of financial risk.  Writers are taking a chance writing at all.

Absent an argument of financial risk – which is shared equally by the writer and publisher – the rationale for the publisher getting eighty percent is. . . what, exactly?

Let’s flip the script a bit. You’re an engineer. You’ve spent a lot of time, money, and effort to become an engineer. And you spent another year of your life making a cool invention. So you take it to EngineerCo and pitch your invention. What they say is, “It’s a great invention, we like it, but we’re not going to pay you anything for it – or we’ll pay you a pittance, like, five grand for your years of work – and if we sell any, we’ll take eighty percent, and you won’t get paid anything until we recoup the money we forwarded to you.” If you’re an engineer, you’d be insulted and seek elsewhere – or go into business for yourself.  Society would praise you for your entrepreneurial spirit.

But that’s what publishers tell authors. Even when they like their work, they don’t pay a living wage for it (unless you’re one of the lucky few), and they take a shamelessly high percentage of book sales. So if your book sells a few hundred copies, they make their money back, and if it sells a million. . . well, they make about four times as much as the author.

It’s a good scam, really.  And the most significant one, too.  Traditional publishers are robbers.

The Traditional Way of Payment

by Kit Bradley

Written March 2017

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

In Galt Gulch, one of the few laws was that nothing should be given for nothing. How much should a wife charge for a meal, washing clothes, sex? Should they be able to sell all of those services on the free market? After all, that was the very origin of Galt’s Gulch: mercantile contracts. They embraced the traditional way of payment for married women, as they called it.

James Gussey was on his third wife by the time he got to Galt’s Gulch. Owing to a botched plastic surgery his face had a stretched, glassy look. When adding to his slight build might cause one to imagine that he was unpopular with women. Hundreds of millions of dollars ensured he never lost his sex appeal, and he had the confidence borne of a man to whom the word “no” was an illusion.

James Gussey’s third wife was Laine Maxton-Gussey. James had seduced her when she was seventeen and unsophisticated. Arriving at the Gulch, she was twenty-seven, a tall Viking beauty of a type that seemed to be very popular among millionaires of the time.

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Lord Goblin’s Militias

The first three Lord Goblin novels, the already published Mere Anarchy (go buy it, now!), and the upcoming Rough Beast and The Center Cannot Hold, include antagonists that based on private militia groups. As I discuss some of the thoughts that went into creating the Lord Goblin series, I’m starting with this one because one of the criticisms leveled against an early draft of Mere Anarchy is how nasty the Christian militia members are written. I didn’t modify the behavior of the characters, though, because I low-balled the odiousness of the militia groups in the Lord Goblin novels! I felt that a realistic portrayal of the militia leaders would be seen as too broad a caricature!  As ever, reality is more disturbing than fiction.

I first became aware of private militia groups as my general interest in conspiracy theory. Not in the sense that I believe that stuff, but in the sense that I find it fascinating what people will believe, and the rationalizations (hidden and unhidden) that are used to defend those beliefs. Right now, out there, all over America, tens of thousands of people belong to these private militias.

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Mere Anarchy: Lord Goblin’s First Joint is LIVE!

I’m happy to announce the publication of Mere Anarchy: Lord Goblin’s First Joint by Sword & Lion Publishing.  It’s my first published novel – and I have two more Lord Goblin books in the pipeline, one of them likely to be published in a month or so – and I’m very proud of it.

The story revolves around a professional fighter, Channing Montmorency, who has survived a supernatural apocalypse.  Conceptually, the story is one of invasion.  An enemy more powerful and advanced (albeit it magically and not technologically) than we can imagine has decided – or been compelled – to re-create our world, which is now their world.  Rather than write a triumphalist story where the unique glories of humanity are sufficient to defeat this alien menace quickly.  Instead, the characters have to face the very real possibility that humanity will not regain a dominant position in the world.  It is a story of survival in a newly hostile world, the old one gone, never to return.

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Ronnie Drumpf in Galt’s Gulch

by Kit Bradley

Written March 2017

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Ronnie Drumpf in Galt’s Gulch by Kit Bradley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Some of Ronald Joseph Drumpf’s first memories were helping his father to collect rents from Brooklyn tenements.  Ronald’s old man, Fred Drumpf, left Germany in his teens to avoid military service – in later years, Ronald would avoid the American draft into World War II.  It was just Ronald, his father and Vincent – a heavyset Italian-American with scars on his face and knuckles.  Fred Drumpf introduced Vincent as a “boxer,” and it was true after a fashion, and Vincent was certainly in the hurt business.

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I can’t seem to figure out what a publicist does – which is a good reason for not hiring one

I acknowledge that publicity doesn’t come naturally to me. And since I am lucky enough to be middle class, and have a little bit of money to just throw at a problem, I started looking into the effectiveness of a book publicist. So I found this article by Jane Friedman about her takeaway from a panel about book publicists.

Perhaps I have trained myself to see too many fnords – to see the unsaid but relevant things. But Friedman’s article goes on at some length about what publicists want from the writers with whom they work, but nothing about what the publicist brings to the table. What the publicist does for the writer is discussed in ONE LINE in Friedman’s article: “Publicity seeks to find, identify, or target the audience to make them aware of your book.” The rest? It is about saying how much work the author will need to do, and lowering expectations.

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Atlas Falls Cycle – Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and the lessons of Donald Trump

As I transition to doing more research for the Atlas Falls cycle, which is a parody of Atlas Shrugged, I think that the current administration makes the work highly trenchant. Indeed, part of my research!

Part of my criticism of Objectivism is that it doesn’t work because people aren’t anything like the heroes or villains of Atlas Shrugged. What makes this highly apropos is the relationship between Rand-devotees in the Senate like Paul Ryan and Rand Paul with Donald Trump.

I have thought a long time to the extent that Trump shares the goals of Objectivism. While Trump is the kind of man that would be created by Objectivism, that’s because of its ideological idiocy – the idea that ruthless ambition has a limit, an idea that is verbally expressed in the novel but ignored in practice. But, in the end, Trump is one of Ayn Rand’s enemies: a crony capitalist who finessed government regulations to get taxpayers to foot the bill of his construction contracts, using tons of insider pull. In the parlance, Trump is a looter, raiding the public trust to subsidize his business ventures, succeeding more because of federal largesse and elaborate contacts than holding himself to the tenants of laissez-faire capitalism.

Yet, he is the President, and none of the government Randroids have the guts to call him what he is: a crony capitalist. Not only has Trump gotten one over on the disciples of Rand in the government, Ryan, in particular, has his tongue so far up Trump’s ass that he knows what Trump ate for dinner two minutes before Trump does.

When writing a parody of Atlas Shrugged, though, this dynamic between the followers of Rand and a man that Rand would consider an archenemy (if one consistently adhered to Objectivist philosophy) is fascinating.

I acknowledge that this is a lot of interpretation, in part because the characters of Atlas Shrugged don’t live up to Rand’s stated ideology. From murderous piracy of Ragnar Danneskjold to the intellectual property theft of Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden to innumerable breaches of contract (which are supposed to be the bedrock of Objectivist law and order), the characters of Atlas Shrugged don’t live Rand’s ideology. So, given the immense failure of the cast of Atlas Shrugged to live up to Objectivism, Trump is very much like a Randian hero as written.

You read Atlas Shrugged without understanding the supposed ideology of Objectivism, the lesson of the book is clear: it’s okay to do anything, to break any law, destroy any contract, to lie, to cheat, to steal, and to kill to get your way. In this regard, Trump is very much like Rand’s heroes, even down to the sexual abuse of women.

Which, ultimately, is a big part of what the Atlas Falls cycle will be about: how Rand’s heroes aren’t who they think they are, how they violate all the principles they claim to hold. That Paul Ryan and Rand Paul’s horror at Trump is simply the horror over the lessons of Atlas Shrugged.