Good News: Earning Out Your Advance

When you sell a book as an author, you sell it for an “advance against royalties.” You also negotiate a certain percentage of each book’s cover price that will be your royalty rate; for each book sold, you’ll get that amount of money. So if your book sells for $10, and your royalty rate is 10%, every book sold gets you $1. Yay! However, you don’t actually see any of this money until that advance you got is “earned out.” It’s not a signing bonus. It’s the amount of money the publisher thinks you’ll likely make for your royalties on the book. (I’m oversimplifying here.) So until that money’s paid back, you don’t see any royalties at all. (You got paid for those up front. That’s a good thing. It means that even if the book doesn’t sell anything, you still got money. Though if the book doesn’t sell anything, you have other problems as an author . . . )

So if you ever actually see a royalty check as an author, it’s a very good thing. It means that your book at bare minimum is doing better than your publisher cautiously thought it would. It also means that you’ll periodically get checks in the mail for various amounts of money, depending on sales. When you’re a librarian first and an author second, extra money in the mail is a wonderful surprise. When you’re an author first and foremost, you’re often relying on those checks in the mail to be able to feed and clothe yourself and your family. (My favorite surprise money so far has been Chinese royalty payments for The Memory Thief, which have come a couple of times now. The book’s been plenty popular in China.)

When I sold The Perfect Place to Die, it was a two book deal. That means my publisher bought that book and a book I hadn’t written yet. They paid one advance for both of them combined. I wouldn’t see royalties for either book until all that money was “paid back.”

So I was extremely pleased when after the first six months (you get royalty checks twice a year), I got an actual royalty payment on The Perfect Place to Die. This means that I earned out my advance for both books right off the bat. This also means that from here on out, every copy of either of those books that sells, makes me money. Also, it hopefully means my publisher is happy with how the books are doing, which makes it more likely that they’ll want to buy more of my books in the future.

In any case, these days it can sometimes feel like good news only comes along every so often, so I’m celebrating every chance I get. Thanks to all you readers out there! Today’s celebration couldn’t have happened without you.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How to Be a Jerk Online

Now that I’ve been blogging for so long, having withstood a number of huge technological waves, I have a fair bit of experience with interacting with people online. Often, due to the nature of some of my posts, some of those interactions are less . . . congenial than I would like. Certainly less congenial than I’d treat other people online. But I’ve been taking notes, trying to refine just how to be as big of a boor to random people, in hopes that I might share this with you, my faithful reader. I mean, you could potentially look at this list and note the things you should *not* do, but where’s the fun in a list like that? Instead, I think it’s much more enjoyable to try to refine the art of aggravating strangers and friends alike.

Ready?

First off (and this is important), ignore as much of the original post as possible. Yes, someone might have spent an hour crafting a multifaceted look at a complex problem, replete with concessions to the dissenting side, and admissions that their point of view might be limited. Don’t fall for that trap. Taking in the entirety of the message requires both higher reasoning and patience. Instead, cherry pick one or two (at most) parts of the piece that you think you can really dig into. Whatever happens, do not let the conversation shift to anything else. (Unless, of course, your argument appears to be losing. In that case, resort to some of the later techniques on this list.)

Next, try to limit how much you actually say. This isn’t a chance to engage in meaningful conversation. This is more of a drive-by, where you pepper out a few pithy remarks and then move on, action movie style, confident that the entire original argument is even now exploding in spectacular fashion in your wake. Ideally in slow motion. The more you actually write, the more people might have to use against you. And besides, this first response isn’t really designed to continue a discussion. It’s designed to bait the trap.

Ideally, don’t do any of this with people you know well. Certainly not with someone you might see in real life. Yes, this means you can hop onto a complete stranger’s post and start bashing away, but the really nuanced jerks will use these techniques with casual acquaintances. People you’re friends with just enough that they don’t feel like they can wholly ignore what you have to say. There’s a fine balance, but you’ll get the hang of it in time. Arguing with friends of friends works well also. And don’t forget: if they unfriend you, then you automatically win.

Once you’ve got someone responding to you, fight fight fight! It doesn’t matter if they’re a complete stranger. It doesn’t matter if they’re a dear friend to anyone else in the thread. They are the enemy, and they must be destroyed. Luckily, if you’ve done this right, they’re no longer discussing the original topic. They’re discussing your slice of it. Don’t let the debate shift to different ground, unless of course your argument starts to lose. (Jerks don’t lose arguments. They just move the goalposts.)

When it comes to actual points you’re trying to make, remember: the more fallacies you include, the better. Think of them like earning brownie points in Jerk Paradise. (We don’t have any evidence Jerk Paradise actually exists, but that never stopped us from believing something in the past.) What-aboutism is great: don’t answer any actual critiques of your argument, just bring up some unrelated point and change the playing field. Or attack the intelligence or personality or virtue of the opposing side. (Remember: they are the enemy. They must be proven wrong, and you can have no mercy!) Strawmen are free! Trot them out whenever possible. And don’t think of slippery slopes as something to be avoided. Think of them more like slip ‘n slides: something that’s fun for everyone (until the grass cuts, of course.) And there’s always the trusty appeal to hypocrisy. Everyone’s a hypocrite but you. That’s a fact.

Don’t forget: there is safety in numbers. Almost always, there will be an ally or three reading through the comments section. Don’t let a fellow jerk fight alone. Rush in to talk about how right they are. You can even just Like their comment if you don’t have time for anything more. It doesn’t matter whose arguments are better, at the end of it all. What matters is who got the most Likes. Social media is like one big applause-o-meter. And applause-o-meters are much easier to win.

Finally, when all else fails, remember the laugh emoji response is your Big Red Button. Maybe you don’t have enough time to do any of the above, but it only takes a second to slam that laugh emoji in response to someone’s detailed, heartfelt post. It’s great! Facebook gave you this little tool to passive-aggressively ridicule anyone you want in less than one second.

And there you have it! That doesn’t cover every single aspect of being a jerk, but it’s enough for the intro course. It may seem like a lot to master all at once, but don’t let that get you down. You don’t have to use all the techniques all the time. As you gain more experience, a lot of this will become second nature. Soon, you’ll be traipsing from post to post, upsetting everyone in your wake and having a blast, secure in your carefully protected conviction that you are right while everyone else is wrong.

Enjoy!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Under the Banner of Heaven Episode 1 Review

I’ve already had a couple of friends ask me what I thought about Under the Banner of Heaven, the new mini-series that’s out, adapting Krakauer’s book of the same title. It’s focused on a murder investigation in 1984 in rural Utah, and it very much delves into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, portraying events both from the church’s history and its “present” (in 1984). As an active media review and active member of my religion, it makes sense people would ask for my take.

I’d read a fair bit about the show before I watched the first episode last night. All about how much effort had been put in to “getting it right” when it came to how my religion is portrayed. I was hopeful, based on many of the reviews I’d read, as they said the faith was treated quite favorably in some aspects. I haven’t read the book, but I know there’s a fair bit of “not favorable” in it toward Latter-day Saints, arguing that much of the church’s history has a direct impact on some of the bad things in the church’s present. I actually agree with that premise: I do believe there are things in the faith that can lead some to get really carried away into whackadoodle land. You just have to look at the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping to see that’s still going on. I also acknowledge that for a long time, the church at best looked at its history through rose-tinted glasses, and often actually just ignored some of it, or claimed it was misinformation. So I don’t have anything against a show that explores how the history of the church can relate to the present.

I say that on the offset, just to put it out there. I didn’t go into the viewing loaded for bear. With a solid cast and creative team around the show, I expected to like it.

What I got, instead, was something that’s very hard for me to accurately review. I realize that my religion is large enough that many people will have many different impressions of what it actually feels like to be a member. How things were in Utah in 1984 will be different than how they are in Maine in 2022. However, I lived in Utah for stretches of time in the 80s. My family out there is large and sprawling and tight knit. Almost all of them are active members. My mom literally grew up with the Lafferty’s. They’re from Payson, though the town’s never mentioned in the show. She knew them. The murders happened in American Fork, about 10 minutes north of where I lived in the early 2000s. In other words, I don’t feel like I’m so far out of touch with the source material that I can’t evaluate it at least to an extent.

Black (the writer) might have done a lot of research into the religion. He grew up a member, but left years ago. But regardless of the amount of research he put into it, the end result leaves much to be desired.

To begin with, the use of Latter-day Saint lingo by all the members in the show is just off. Perhaps if you’re not a member, it all sounds like how we talk, but it’s sort of like having Google translate do your interpretation of a novel. Yes, the words are technically correct, but they’re used in ways that don’t ring true. At one point, Brenda says “The Savior would want me to go to BYU.” But we view Christ and God as distinct beings. We pray to God for guidance, not Christ. I’ve heard plenty of people ask “What would Jesus do?”, but I don’t remember anyone asking “Where would Jesus want me to go to school?” Again, maybe there are some that do, and so I just am out of touch there, but that’s simply one example.

Characters use the term “Heavenly Father” like it was on sale at Walmart. All the members are throwing it in left and right, to an extent that just doesn’t happen (in my experience). They talk about “vows” and “oaths” and generally come across as wide-eyed idiots, even in the cases where they’re supposedly sympathetic.

I get it. Plenty of people think we are wide-eyed idiots. The religion is definitely on the “Religions we can make fun of as much as we want list,” even with many or most who would staunchly defend any who might try to ridicule Judaism, Islam, or mainstream Christianity. But I’m here to say that while we might have a few whackadoos in the religion, they’re not the flavor of whackadoo being presented by the show, if that makes sense.

Every single member shown on screen acts off. The show doesn’t hesitate to show how strange we are, right down to our garments and (from the screen shots for upcoming episodes) temple rituals. I don’t know who they got to do their cultural sensitivity consulting, but it feels like they were asleep at the wheel. The closest analogy I can think of is a show focused on Islam that has an actor portraying Allah. Yes, you can do it for the shock value, or to really “explore the subject,” but you better realize that what you’re doing is stomping all over many people’s sacred beliefs, and it would be nice to ask yourself if the price is worth the end product.

But like I said, maybe this is how the rest of the world looks at me and my family. There’s a scene where the Lafferty family gets together to clear a field of rocks, and it’s done almost like an Amish barn raising. The men are out working, and the women are providing food. I don’t object to showing that some Latter-day Saint families can be very restrictive when it comes to how they treat their wives and daughters. (Though I’d point out that’s not unique to the faith.) But the show makes a point of saying how respected the Lafferty family is. “They’re like the Kennedys,” is how the main character puts it. And when you say that, and then show the Lafferty family all behaving very bizarrely, then you’re saying that’s the norm for members out there. That’s the ideal we’re all shooting for.

And it just plain isn’t.

Besides, “the Kennedys”? The Lafferty family might have been well known in Payson, but Payson was anything but the center of the religion.

Anyway. I could go on, but I won’t. This isn’t a show (so far) that I would really recommend to anyone. Perhaps it gets better. If my opinion changes, I’ll write about it, but I’ll be surprised if it does. And please, if you’re watching the show as a non-member, don’t assume what’s being portrayed there is par for the course. I can’t say authoritatively that it’s never like that, but I can say I’ve never seen it like that in my 40+ years of living in it. To make it seem like it’s the norm is disingenuous at best.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Review: Severance Season 1

I know there are a lot of different streaming platforms out there. Too many, I’d say. And I also know that of all the platforms out there, Apple TV+ is bad on many different levels. Their app is infuriatingly awful. When I’m watching a show on the platform, unless I’m bingeing it, it’s inordinately difficult for me to find the next episode. They don’t have much in the way of a back catalog. Almost everything on there is stuff that they made specifically for the platform. And so for the first while, there just wasn’t that much.

But lately? It feels like all that Apple money is beginning to pay off.

You’ve got Ted Lasso and For All Mankind, both of which I’ve really enjoyed. You’ve got the Best Picture Oscar winner, CODA, and there are a slew of other shows that I’m rapidly adding to my watch list. The one that I just finished, Severance, had an absolutely riveting first season.

It’s very much in the line of other “mystery” shows like Lost or Westworld. Shows that aren’t mysteries in a classical sense, where you’re trying to figure out who the killer is, but rather in an “I have no idea what’s happening in this, and I want to figure it out” sort of vein. It takes place in a world where people can be “severed,” which basically splits them into two personalities, neither able to communicate with the other. When one half of the severed person is in control, the other has no clue what’s going on at all. When they switch, it’s as if no time has passed for them at all, and they have no recollection of anything that’s been happening while they were severed.

Naturally, people use this to avoid work.

Well, they specifically use it to sever themselves and then have their severed half do all the work while they only need to worry about living life. But for their severed half, all they know is work. It helps that they wake up with no real recollection of anything at all when they’re first severed. They don’t know who they are, where they are, or why they are. And so in many ways they’re like children, and treated as such by their supervisors. Still, the whole concept doesn’t go down well with some of them, as one might expect.

The show’s a slow burn, developing some of the lives of the characters both inside work and outside it. And (as one might expect, with a second season on the way) it definitely doesn’t conclude everything by the end of the season. Answers just lead to more questions, as is so often the case in shows in this genre. That makes it difficult to really evaluate the show, since much of the final verdict rests on “do the show makers actually have any idea of what the real answers to all these mysteries are, or were we just strung along for the ride?”

But as far as first seasons go, this is a doozy of one, and I really enjoyed it. (Directed by Ben Stiller, of Meet the Parents fame, no less.) I gave it a 9/10, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next season.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Religious Freedom Under Attack?

We had an interesting lesson in church on Sunday, and it’s been banging around inside my head since then, so I wanted to explore it a bit more here on digital paper. It stemmed from a talk given this past General Conference, arguing that religious freedom is under assault. I’d read the talk ahead of the lesson, and I’d listened to it back when it was given live in April. At the time, I didn’t think that much of it one way or the other. As I said in our meeting Sunday, “I’m in favor of religious freedom,” and that seems like a pretty tame assertion.

But when I read the talk again, and as we discussed it in class, I started really delving a bit more into what I thought about the concept. I know that many have argued that religious freedom is under attack, but I also believe often people use that as an argument to try and justify things they want to do, despite the fact that no real religious freedoms are being attacked. I also think it’s becoming a bigger mistake with every passing year to interpret church talks at General Conference as being aimed at Americans and only Americans. As is pointed out time and time again, more than half of Latter-day Saints live outside the US these days.

So to break this down further, it came to a few questions. First, is religious freedom under assault in America? Second, is it under assault in the world? And third, what should we do about it?

There have been many right-wing pundits who have argued that religious freedom in America is continually being eroded. I will say that I personally have never been in a situation where I’ve been denied the ability to practice my religion in a way I see fit, though I’ll add that the way I practice my religion is almost always pretty low impact on anyone around me. I’ll also add that just because I haven’t seen something personally doesn’t make me doubt that it happens. But when I’ve seen this religious freedom debate happen in the states, it’s usually come down to gay marriage, and more recently trans rights. Sixty years ago, it would have been centered around civil rights.

From what I can see, there are many conservatives who continue to believe homosexuality or anything like unto it is a choice and a sin. People aren’t born that way, they choose to live that way. And because it’s a choice, it becomes a pretty clear cut decision to oppose it in any way, shape, or form. On the other hand, those on the left (and an ever-increasing amount of scientific evidence) argue that one’s sexuality is very often not a choice and so when there are laws limiting the rights of non-straight people, those laws are discriminatory.

So when a cake shop decides it doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding because the owner of the cake shop is opposed to gay marriage, the battle lines quickly become drawn. In the case in point, Colorado (where the case happened) has a law prohibiting people being discriminated against due to their sexuality. The cake shop argued it was a matter of religious freedom. The couple in question argued they were being discriminated against illegally.

Is this an attack on religious freedom, or a defense against discrimination? You could see it either way, depending on your politics.

The same happened over the pandemic with churches claiming they were being required by the government to shut down in-person services. Whether it was a question of religious freedom or public health policy again typically boiled down to politics.

I personally don’t believe religious freedom in America is under attack. I believe that certain areas of religion that cause particular friction points are being considered and defined. If I have a religion that says people with brown eyes should be beaten over the head with a club, I don’t think I’m going to be able to get away with going around actively beating brown-eyed people with a club for very long before the government steps in and puts an end to my rampage. It’s not a question of my religious freedom being restricted any more than the ban on running into a movie theater and yelling FIRE is a question of freedom of speech being impinged. Any time you have people with different views gathered in one country, you need a way to ensure there’s a balance between individual rights and the collective good. That balance will feel restrictive on both sides from case to case.

Note that I realize there are some who believe I’m wrong when it comes to the assault on religious freedom. There are many who believe I’m wrong on a lot of topics, and I no doubt am wrong in multiple instances. But until I see a persuasive argument to change my views, that’s where they’ll stay for now.

(This is not to say I don’t believe the concept of religion is under attack. I have personally been ridiculed for my religious beliefs many times, both in person and online. But I see a big difference between someone telling me I’m an idiot for what I believe and someone telling me I can’t worship in a way I see fit (when that way has no real negative impact on anyone else). I do wish there would be more tolerance for religious beliefs in our country, but that’s a topic for a different blog post.)

Onto the second question: is religious freedom under attack elsewhere across the globe? One example brought up in the lesson was the ban on Burkas in France. The majority of citizens in France felt that the practice of wearing a full face-veil was discriminatory to women, and so they made it illegal. There were arguments given by Muslims both for and against the ban. Arguments in favor of it talked about how the Niqab or Burka had no place in Islam. Arguments against talked about how it was a personal religious choice, and as such should be protected. It wasn’t as if people were running around trying to make non-believers wear Burkas.

On a global scale, I do believe religious freedom is in danger. There’s the Uyghur genocide in China (where Muslims are being persecuted) and the rise of ISIS in the Middle East (where non-Muslims were persecuted), to name two significant examples. Any time you have people being literally killed because of their religion, I don’t think there’s much debate about whether religious freedom is under attack. This goes far beyond smaller scale “assaults” like “should I have to wear a mask?” or “should I have to be vaccinated?” And when viewed in this light, those smaller debates feel a lot more trivial. (Though I realize they’re anything but to some of the people involved.)

So the third question: what can we do about all of it? For me, this often comes back to the eleventh article of faith of my religion: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (Again, this is clean cut when those religious practices don’t impinge on other people. When they do, things get messier.) I do believe living this principle is harder in practice than in theory. It means sometimes letting people do things you might personally not agree with. It’s easy when your beliefs line up with my beliefs. But I also believe this extends to the right of people to not worship or believe in God at all. If “how, where, or what they may” doesn’t include the empty set, then it doesn’t really include everything. And if there are more people who are atheist or agnostic now, then that is what it is. I’d like to hope all sides can get along peacefully, but it’ll take some contested court cases to keep that process in line.

Globally, there’s not much I feel I can do, which feels like par for the course for many issues . . .

What about you? What do you think about all of this, and how do you handle it?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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