Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, Matchmakers, Shifting Isles, Transitivity, Treble and the Lost Boys, Uncategorized

Crime and Punishment in a Free Market

I’ve had a few readers ask why “police” didn’t get involved in certain situations that come up in my stories, so this is a long-overdue response to those queries. The short answer is: There are no police. Nor jails. Nor courts.

Now for the longer answer…

(And warning here that there may be spoilers for various books mentioned below.)

***

One of the fun things about writing stories set within a fictional world is that I can explore possibilities that the real world doesn’t allow. Like magic, for instance. Or telepathy.

Or actual freedom.

Agoran, one of the lands in the Shifting Isles world, is characterized by having a free market. Namely, a complete absence of government. Also known as anarchy.

Quick vocabulary lesson: anarchy does not mean chaos. Anarchy means “no rulers”, not “no rules”. It means every individual human being has truly equal rights, with no group of human beings having more rights or power than another (unlike our real-world system, in which the government/tax-eaters have more rights and power than citizens/taxpayers). (I could go off on a tangent about how the only legitimate rights are negative rather than positive, which would eliminate a whole lot of the talk of so-called “rights” in our society today, but that’s a topic for another time.) Basically, a free market would be a far cry from what we have in the real world. The moment you have so much as one law or one government official, the market is no longer free, but regulated. (And have you seen a law library lately? Or the current tax code? All those pages! Our society and our market are far from free. Miles and miles from free.)

So I wanted to theorize how a free market might work. And one of the aspects of a free society would be figuring out how to deal with crime and punishment with no governing authority to handle it. Since a free market has never been tried, possible solutions to the problem of crime are all theory, and actual practice might lead to all sorts of different solutions I haven’t thought up.

First, there would be the matter of crime prevention.

This comes up in a few of my novels, but most obviously in S.P.I.R.I.T. Division (Shifting Isles, 2). That story centers around Hawkeye Insurance and Personal Defense Agency, a company that offers various insurance and protection programs. For instance, a life insurance policy could be tied in with a security package that offers various options: A client could have everything from a full-time bodyguard to an occasional drive-by checkup by a security officer. Or nothing at all. It would be entirely up to whatever contract a client signs with a particular agency, or what each individual competitive agency offers.

Does that mean a security agency wouldn’t ever come to the aid of someone who’s not a client?

Not at all. Yes, they’re in business to employ people and to make a profit (and I’m sorely tempted here to go off on a tangent about how profit is a good thing rather than the dirty word that people make it out to be, but that’s a whole article in and of itself, so I’ll leave it for another time), but it would also be good advertising for them to help when needed. Companies in all sorts of industries in the real world offer freebies or loss-leaders all the time as a matter of trying to create new business, and this would be the same thing.

S.P.I.R.I.T. Division itself (part of Hawkeye Insurance and the source of the novel’s title) is a free service because it has to be. In this particular instance, it involves Asenna’s telepathy picking up on victims of crimes as they’re occurring, so there’s no way to get those victims as clients ahead of time. It’s entirely unpredictable. They’ve had to figure out the protocol as they went because it was something that had never been dealt with before, but they eventually work out a system in which Asenna is able to identify the victim so the agents can determine if the victim is already a client, and if not, they can contact whichever agency the victim is a client of and work together to try to save the victim before he or she dies.

Sometimes, though, as in the case of Mistress V’dynos, the client refuses aid, and the agency has no choice but to stay out of it. Also, in reference to her case, sometimes there’s the complication of having to deal with a victim being the client of a competing agency, and the competing agency refusing to cooperate because of their contract with their client, which they have every right to do.

So crime prevention in a free market would be like using private security to replace all of our current police forces, but rather than people being forced to pay for such services by way of taxes, they would only pay for the services they specifically want.

Then there’s the matter of dealing with a crime after it has occurred. So what could replace courts in a free market? How about something we already have in the real world?

Mediation.

In Agoran, when a person is accused of a crime, that person will be called in to mediation with the victim, both the suspect and the victim being allowed to have their insurance agents present to assist them (rather like lawyers do in the real world) while an impartial mediator is hired to review the facts of the case and try to help both sides agree to a solution.

Is this objective? No. But neither is our real-world system, even though it’s supposed to be.

Is this fair? I would argue that it is far more fair and realistic than our real-world system because it allows the victim to truly have a say in what it would take to make him or her whole again, whereas the real world does not (and, in fact, punishes the victim by making the victim pay taxes to support the courts / prisons / etc., which, as the great Murray Rothbard wrote in For a New Liberty, would be utter nonsense in a libertarian society).

Would there be negotiation required? Absolutely, but this is also necessary. You couldn’t have a robbery victim asking for a death penalty, after all. That would hardly be fair. Thus, a mediator and negotiation between the victim and the suspect would bring about restitution for the victim without causing any cruel and unusual punishments for the suspects.

Unless the suspect agrees, of course.

Take the case of Broken (Shifting Isles, 4), for instance. In this book, orphaned Daivid is a repeat offender when it comes to theft. He started stealing to fund his costly search for his parents, and inevitably got caught. In order to afford to live while paying back the money he stole, he winds up stealing again. And then again. And so on and so forth until he’s constantly having to steal again in order to pay back old debts. Because of his record, he can’t get a job anywhere, but he still needs food and a roof over his head, as well as continuing to search for the parents who gave him up as a baby, so he keeps right on stealing.

Up until he gets caught stealing money from a gay nightclub.

Now, Daivid is straight. Very straight. But when the nightclub owner offers, through mediation, for Daivid to work off the debt by coming to work for him, he agrees.

Why? Surely, he’d be uncomfortable working as a stripper in a gay nightclub. But when he weighs out his options, the choice of being employed (able to pay off his debt and make enough to pay the rent) sounds much better than being homeless, jobless, and in debt.

Unusual? Yes. But it was his choice to agree to it.

But what about crimes in which restitution is not so simple? Theft is one thing. The thief can simply return the stolen items or their equivalent in money (as well as being responsible for the mediation fees, of course). But what about rape? Murder?

Those would go through mediation, too. As for the punishments? Again, that would be up to agreement.

A rape victim, for instance, could easily make a case for a monetary settlement that would cover therapy / treatment / etc. Same with an assault victim, who could seek out compensation for whatever hospital bills are involved. There could even be a case for emotional damages, just as is done in the real world.

Murder, of course, is a unique situation because the victim cannot be present, and, technically speaking, there are no other victims. However, a victim’s agent can try to argue a case on the victim’s behalf and come to an agreement that will help the victim’s family or heirs.

What about if a criminal refuses to come in for mediation? That is certainly a possibility, and the criminal couldn’t be coerced into attending (for instance, physically restrained and brought in), because that would be a crime in and of itself. However, in that case, it could be publicly broadcast that not only is this person a criminal but that he also refused to come in for mediation in order to make up for his crimes, which would very likely cause ostracism in society, such that people would refuse to interact with, sell to, or do business with him. He very well could find himself in the position of not being able to buy food because no one will sell it to him. Faced with that, submitting to mediation would be the better option.

One other solution I haven’t yet used in my novels, yet has been suggested in libertarian circles, would be the use of debtor’s prisons, which would allow such ostracized members of society a place to live while working off their debts to their victims. For more on this idea, be sure to check out The Market for Liberty, an excellent book by Morris and Linda Tannehill, available for free (at the time of this writing) at Mises.org.

Different types of situations and cases that have come up in various novels include the following:

Return to Tanas (Shifting Isles, 3): In self-defense, Dr. Graeden Crawford pushes his girlfriend away when she comes after him with a knife, and she winds up falling and hitting her head, causing irreparable brain damage. Being vegetative and having no family beyond Graeden himself, neither Lorel nor any relatives can seek restitution from Graeden, but Graeden’s own guilt drives him to take justice upon himself and do whatever he can to try treating her. It turns out being to no avail, since there’s not much he can do for her beyond keeping her comfortable, and she winds up passing away, but he does attempt to make it right in what little ways he can.

Second Chances (Matchmakers, 1): Remy is repeatedly molested by his step-father, but never pursues mediation because he simply wants to get past it and move on with his life. As for being drugged and raped by Matty, Remy was too torn up over losing Chance in that situation to even worry about the drugged assault, besides the fact that he doesn’t remember it and that Matty is his best friend (who then dies before the situation can be taken any further).

Heavens Aground (Treble and the Lost Boys, 2): Three-year-old Ryley’s parents are murdered right in front of him, and then Ryley’s magical powers manifest in his anger, and he turns the knife around on the murderer, thus killing the man. There are arguments in libertarian circles that “an eye for an eye”, when it comes to rape/assault/murder/etc., is not a legitimate solution, but I won’t get into the morality of that particular discussion. Sticking purely to the stated events, Ryley inadvertently takes justice into his own hands and murders the man who murdered his parents, so there is no case to be mediated. At least, not for him. As for what happens off-page? Perhaps Ryley’s aunt and uncle, who discovered the scene, had to go through mediation with the murderer’s agent/family, assuming he had any. Perhaps the murderer’s family didn’t seek anything since the entire crime was caught on tape and it was clear that the murderer committed the initial crime, and was unexpectedly punished for it.

Illumined Shadows (Treble and the Lost Boys, 3): Cam Lucius’s attacker is never identified until many years later, after Cam is dead and has become a ghost. Cam and his brother, Vic, go to face his attacker, but rather than pursuing mediation, Cam is satisfied with simply being able to face the man and tell him he’s no longer anonymous. Cam and Vic could spread the word at any time that the man was guilty of rape and assault, which would utterly ruin his reputation, so that people would ostracize him, but Cam decides to leave that as a threat rather than taking action because he’s had enough time to get past it, and seeing the look on his attacker’s face gives him enough satisfaction. Although, in his guilt, Cam’s attacker winds up donating a bunch of money to the missing persons department where Vic works, a voluntary restitution of sorts on his part.

(As a quick aside, remember how I mentioned earlier that S.P.I.R.I.T. Division’s services are free because of the unique circumstances? The same is more or less true of Vic’s job, with Vic being the missing persons expert at Sturmwyn Insurance and Personal Defense Agency. Because most of his “clients” are children who have run away or been kidnapped, they can’t very well pay for his recovery efforts, and sometimes don’t even have families who can pay on their behalf. As such, and as is mentioned in one of the books in which Vic appears, his department is funded both by charitable donations and by subsidies from other departments in the company. Anyone who purchases an insurance policy with Sturmwyn, for instance, is made aware that a portion of their premiums go to subsidize the missing persons department. There’s also the factor that sometimes the kidnappers aren’t caught or even identified, and so can’t be made to provide restitution to their victims, so the donations and subsidies allow Vic to continue doing his job.)

Yikes, this is starting to sound like a lot of people aren’t getting justice. So how about a case in which some do?

In the Transitivity series, Hunter Fitz is guilty of manipulating several of his students into sexual favors in exchange for various things they request (or even flat-out demand), such as better grades, exceptions to being late for class, missing assignments, etc. When Hunter finally confesses to his despicable actions, he offers mediation to any of his victims so that they can sit down and get his apology as well as determine an agreed upon restitution. Some of the victims come forward, but not all of them, the latter being mostly those who don’t want it publicly known what they did.

So do some people get away with their crimes in my fictional world? Absolutely, but so do people in the real world. Is a free market solution to crime a perfect solution? No, but there is no perfect solution. There will always be bad people, or good people who sometimes do bad things. Until human beings become gods, there will always be criminals. No legal system of any kind will ever change that.

And, in fact, our real-world legal system creates criminals where there otherwise wouldn’t be. It’s insane how many things are illegal that harm absolutely no one. And how can you possibly have a crime without a victim? It makes no sense. The free market solution is far more fair and logical because it only focuses on actual crimes rather than “crimes against society” (which is utter nonsense) or mere potentialities (for instance, driving under the influence, on its own, should not be a crime, since it harms no one–until and unless it does, at which point it does become a crime).

In a free society, individual human rights would be sacred. Specifically, each individual human being would have total rights to his or her body, mind, labor, and property (which we do not have in the real world; not even close!). Realistically, the only crimes in a free society would be theft, rape, murder, trespassing, destruction of property, and assault. Running a stop light wouldn’t be a crime (unless doing so causes you to trespass onto someone’s property). Doing drugs wouldn’t be a crime. Collecting rain water wouldn’t be a crime. Starting a business without a license wouldn’t be a crime (because there are no governing bodies to issue licenses in the first place!). Speeding, driving without a seat belt, or driving while talking on the phone wouldn’t be crimes. Building without a permit wouldn’t be a crime (because there would be no entity to issue permits, nor would there be a governing body that would have any say in what you can or can’t do with your property). Prostitution wouldn’t be remotely illegal. Arbitrary delineations between “minor” and “adult” wouldn’t be a thing, so there would be no legalities about underage drinking, for instance. Feeding the homeless or having a lemonade stand wouldn’t be a crime.

I could go on and on.

So it may seem, in my novels, like people are getting away with things, but that happens in real life, too. And you have to take into account that a whole lot of things that would be considered criminal in the real world are not even on people’s radar in my fictional world. They simply don’t matter.

I, for one, would much rather live in a free society.

I think I’ll go escape into one now and write another story. 🙂

***

(Hat tip to Storm Agorist for his insights that helped improve this post).

Advertisements
Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, Publishing

Writing Frenzy

It used to be that I considered myself lucky if I could finish a novel within a month. A couple of them have taken me over a year. With a backlog of some 20+ story ideas, it felt like I was never going to have the slightest chance of getting caught up. Even with story structure and outlines, I still couldn’t seem to improve my writing pace, and felt as though I was continually falling farther and farther behind.

Then I came across The Story Equation by Susan May Warren. What a total game-changer! It highlighted aspects of story structure and outlining that I hadn’t really been clear on before, and presented the buildup of tension in a story in a completely new way.

In two days, I outlined 5 novels.

It was right around that time that a friend and fellow author, Gianni Holmes, threw down the challenge to write a novel (approximately 50k words) in ten days. It began as a purely personal goal on her part, since that was the amount of time she was looking forward to having away from her day job. (Keep in mind, this amazing lady has managed to self-publish something like a dozen books in the space of a year, all while working full time!) I saw the challenge, and as we were already part of a Facebook group who were pushing to try writing 12 Books in 12 Months, I figured, what the hell. I’d give it a shot just to see how close I could get. I honestly wasn’t sure I could finish within ten days, especially when it came to starting a new book in a whole new series, but it was definitely worth a try.

I finished in nine. Book 1 in a new, upcoming series, The House of Denmer, reached just shy of 50k words, all within nine days.

Then we started a Facebook group so we could repeat the challenge, and I turned right back around and did it again with another new project (Simon: A Transitivity Novella) and finished that one in six days.

With that done, I started on Book 2 of The House of Denmer … and ran into a snag. At the start of Day 3, I got the Blue Screen of Death, and had to go without my laptop for a few days. But once I got it back? Three more solid days of work, and that book was done, too. 50k in five days.

And then again, with Second Act: A Matchmakers Novella (coming soon!). 45k in nine days.

Tomorrow, I’m going to attempt the next round of the #10DayNovelChallenge, getting a start on Book 3 in The House of Denmer, which will ultimately be a five-book series. Following that will be a seven-book YA fantasy series, and if I can keep up this pace, every one of them might actually be written by the end of the year.

Susan May Warren, I could kiss you!

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, Transitivity

Autism Blog Hop: Childhood Toys

Autism fact: Nearly half of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job.


Do you still have any of your childhood toys?

I certainly remember a lot of my toys. Numbered blocks from when I was two, which spurred my life-long affinity for math and order. Barbies, of course. American Girl dolls. Legos. Oh my gods, the Legos! That’s the one I really miss the most. The colors and shapes. The steps and instructions, having to put things together in the right order so you could create something fun or beautiful. And then the endless options for when you wanted to chuck the instructions out the window (which, admittedly, I rarely did, but the choice was always there). Those toys are long-gone, now. Faded away into the land of Goodwill and AmVets.

But I didn’t part with everything.

To this day, I still have all of my stuffed animals. They fill a bookcase in my room. All my old Friends, watching over me as I sleep. Out of everything from my childhood, these have proven impossible to part with. Almost all of them were given to me by my father for one reason or another. A birthday, perhaps. Or a random holiday (there’s a Ty bear covered in shamrocks that he got me on St. Patrick’s Day one year). The best ones were those he brought home when I was sick, curled up in bed with the flu. Dad would come home from work and tuck a new teddy bear under my arm, helping me feel better. I particularly remember him doing that with the brown bear toward the right of the middle shelf in this picture (click to expand):

I even still have a tiny rubber bear designed for teething babies, so it’s almost as old as I am (and I’ll be 36 this year).

There they sit, still on display. Year after year, I keep them. I’ve hauled them through six moves, hating to stick them in a box and loving when I get to pull them out again. On the rare occasion my anxiety spikes severely enough to need it, I can still grab one of them to hold on to while I lie in bed, hiding out in the safety of the dark. A pillow would serve the same purpose, but it’s never quite as effective. There’s just something about that teddy bear shape that feels good.

This even comes up in my latest series, Transitivity. The series is very dark and taboo, so I won’t get into it much here, other than to say that a bit of real life found its way into the story with Kacey receiving a stuffed bear from his stepdad when he has a hospital visit, as well as having kept all his own Friends from throughout his life, even when he moves out on his own.


For a child with autism, toys can serve an essential need, giving the child a source of tactile contentment, as well as helping them feel more grounded.

Which toys were you fond of as a kid? Do you still have any of them? Post your answer in a comment, and be entered to win a random drawing for the e-book of your choice from my backlist (except the Matchmakers combined edition), sent direct to your Kindle email address. Winner will be chosen at the end of the blog tour, and will need to add grlyons@grlyonsauthor.com to their list of approved senders.

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog hop here: rjscott.co.uk/autism19

Please consider supporting Lindengate, a charity that works with autistic children: https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/lindengate

And sign up for my newsletter here. 🙂

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, News, Publishing, Shifting Isles, Treble and the Lost Boys

#CoverReveal And other news…

Cover reveal day! Huzzah! I’m so excited to finally share the cover for my upcoming release…

But we’ll get to that. 😉 First, a little general news and commentary in the way of fictional worldbuilding.

There’s so much that goes into a book that a reader never sees. Not just the seemingly-endless hours of plotting, organizing, writing, and editing, but all the little nit-picky details that may not even show up in a book but a writer needs to know. For instance, character family trees. Or timelines.

Both of which have been tormenting me lately.

I posted previously that, thanks to an idea from a devoted reader, I was adjusting a few stories to accommodate a change in character descendants which–though a lot of work–turned out to make the future of the series even better, giving a pivotal character a bit more scope when it comes time to tell his story. Once I started charting out the tree to bring various branches together to create this character, however, I nearly ran into a problem: marrying cousins.

Thankfully, with a little more work, I was able to avoid that (sort of: it’s more like marrying second [or was it third?] cousins instead of first), but keeping track of and untangling the various branches to make sure I’d actually gotten it right nearly overloaded my brain. I finally had to print the whole thing out and pin it up on the wall in my office, just to be sure.

And, I must say, seeing that posted really brought my little fictional world to life in a whole new way.

The even more daunting project facing me, though, is the timeline. So far, I’ve been going along giving a few things concrete dates, but mostly keeping events pretty general. And until recently, that worked just fine. Until I came upon five books (two in my main series, and three in an upcoming trilogy that run alongside those two) that all have connected characters, as well as events that all happen within a few years of one another.

And as I went to edit an upcoming book, I realized several details were a whole year off.

Probably something the average reader would never be able to catch on to since there aren’t many actual dates referenced in the stories themselves, but I’m picky when it comes to that kind of stuff, so I had to fix it. At least I was able to keep the details on already-published books as they are, and just adjust the timelines in the upcoming books to match it.

But then it occurred to me that I’ll eventually be writing books that take place prior to my main series, fleshing out key events that have been referred to and hinted at throughout the series. Which means I need to pin down actual dates for those things so I don’t accidentally write them in the wrong season. Or the wrong year.

So all writing is now on hold as I go back through all my Shifting Isles books (all nine currently out in that series, as well as the Matchmakers trilogy and the upcoming Treble and the Lost Boys trilogy) so I can pinpoint exact dates for everything. Overkill? Possibly. But at least, that way, I won’t ever hit a snag like this again. And it’ll be better to do it now rather than after my series timeline stretches another five books into the future.

Normally I enjoy reading my own books, but…ugh. This is going to be tedious. Worth it, but tedious. Then again, knowing me, chances are I’ll wind up with some huge insight or inspiration for the rest of the series or offshoots of it along the way.

In the midst of all this, I’m also (very slowly but surely) trying to put together a wiki for the Shifting Isles world. That’s going to be a process and a half by itself, but it’s kinda fun seeing it come together, having all those little linked pages, showing how things connect.

But, enough of all that. Time for the really exciting news of the day: the cover of my next release!

Ta-da!

I’ve never done a proper cover reveal before, and I’ve been sitting on this one for almost two months. Thank gods this day finally came, because not being able to share it was driving me insane!

Ice on Fire is the first book in a new m/m romance trilogy, Treble and the Lost Boys, set in my fictional world of the Shifting Isles. The cover design is by Dana Leah at Designs by Dana.

You can add the book to your To Read shelf on Goodreads, and the book is up for pre-order on Amazon in Kindle format (paperback will be available on release day, April 27th).

The book is approximately 100,000 words / 340 pages.

BLURB:

Zac Cinder is on the verge of making his dream come true. His punk rock band, Inferno, might have a shot at an audition for a record deal. Fame and fortune would mean he could finally help his parents. They’d raised eight kids in a loving household while barely scraping by, so Zac is determined to give back in any way he can.

Keeping Inferno together, though, means keeping his biggest secret. His bigoted bandmates would drop him in an instant if they found out Zac was gay.

Then he meets Adrian Frost, and Zac can’t resist the shy man. Adrian gives up everything to be with Zac, but Zac can’t bring himself to do the same. He doesn’t want to lose Adrian, but he can’t give up Inferno, either. Not when he’s so close to realizing his dream.

When one cruel decision rips Adrian from his life, Zac will have to decide if ambition is worth the price of the greatest happiness he’s ever known.

(Note: This story takes place in a fictional world, the same as in the Shifting Isles Series. There are multiple gods, different names for the days of the week, etc. A glossary is included.)

WARNING: Contains scenes of self-harm that may be disturbing for some readers.

 

And now to sit back and (not so patiently) wait for release day…

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, Shifting Isles

Long-Overdue Project: Family Tree

The Shifting Isles series begins with a fork in the road. A simple choice. Right or left? Then again, for our hero, Benash, that simple choice is not so simple. It’s a struggle between the desire for choice and something new versus the security of obedience. His life is so heavily regulated that even the very path he walks to work is chosen for him. Still, that choice taunts him until he finally gives in, and it changes everything.

That one simple choice sets off a chain of births and events that would never have otherwise occurred. I thought about simply leaving it at that, but as the series progressed, and I found Benash’s direct descendants constantly having roles in the stories without any conscious decision on my part, I wondered just how far I could take it. Could I tweak the upcoming stories, already outlined, just enough that they could continue to include those of Benash’s bloodline? And, if so, how?

The Prisoner stars Benash. S.P.I.R.I.T. Division focuses on his daughter, Saira. Return to Tanas stars Saira’s son, Benash’s grandson, Graeden. Then Broken features Graeden’s daughter, Sasha. In books 5 and 6, The Five-Hour Wife and Betrayal, Graeden returns in a supporting role, as well as mention of Sasha’s firstborn, Beni, who appears in book 7, Addiction. There’s even a family member at least mentioned, if not present, in each book of the Matchmakers trilogy. With book 5, though, the series was starting to veer away from Benash’s line, and I couldn’t figure out how to continue feeding his descendants into the stories.

Then I thought back through the family tree, and finally had to sit down and start making one to keep everyone straight.


There’s a whole other branch that has been hinted at on occasion but never fully utilized, the branch referred to as the nautical side of the family. Graeden’s older brother, Aurothi, is described in Return to Tanas as having run away from home to join a naval fleet, and there are brief mentions and appearances of Aurothi’s children and grandchildren thereafter (each generation including a firstborn son named Aurothi). Thus, with book 8, Blindsighted, the main characters get to connect with Benash’s line in a whole new way, taking them to other places in the world, perfect for the upcoming stories. But I wanted to get Benash’s line more deeply involved, not just continuing simple cameos.

Then I realized I have an upcoming story involving a character with an unknown origin…

 

(Image is taken from a screenshot of a family tree I put together at familyecho.com)

Inspiration, Shifting Isles, Teasers and Excerpts

Awkward: Party of One [includes an excerpt from Betrayal]

It seems to be a general understanding that writers are socially-awkward creatures. We’re in our heads, making up fake people and fake places and fake scenarios all the time, too wrapped up in our thoughts to be aware of the fact that there’s a real world out there, with real people in it.

Real people who might run into us and wonder if we’re not slightly off our rockers.

I was in the midst of writing Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) when I had a particularly awkward and embarrassing situation.

Because my brain-mouth connection is just awesome.

I was lying in bed one night, thinking about the plot, when an idea for a scene ran through my head. The dialogue and action played out just right, and I knew it would be a good addition to the story. But did I get up and immediately write it down? No. Of course not. Because I knew, I just knew, I’d remember it all the next morning.

I always do. Somehow, my writer memory is, by far, the most reliable part of my memory. Everything else falls by the wayside. But my stories? Stick like glue.

Except this time. This time, I woke the next morning, and had no fucking clue what the scene entailed.

I remembered an argument, but that was about it. It was something between the main character, Sam, and his fellow mage, Ithyn. But what they argued about, and why, completely eluded me.

Normally, when this memory lapse happens, it only takes a few minutes of thinking it over for the whole scene to come rushing back.

Nope. Not this time. This time, I agonized for hours. What the hells was the scene? What were they arguing about? Why couldn’t I remember?

I needed just a clue. A keyword. A hint. Something to bring it all back.

And, of course, being the awesome socially-awkward person I am, it all came to me in a public setting. Most likely work (since, let’s face it, where the hells else do I ever go outside my house?), possibly the grocery store, definitely somewhere that involved other people.

“Whore!” That’s it. That’s the keyword I needed.

And, of course, I said it out loud.

Cue the what-the-fuck looks from people around me.

And cue the furious blush on my face.

Yeah, y’all totally didn’t just hear me say ‘whore’ randomly just now. You imagined it. Totally didn’t happen. Wasn’t me. Carry on.

At least–thank gods–I salvaged the scene, but I definitely could have done without that particular moment of revelation.

So, without further ado, here’s part of the scene in question, in which Sam recovers from having taken an unknown substance from amidst the stock of herbs and drugs that Ithyn–a specialist in healing–keeps on hand. The scene references the Erosti Guildmates, who are renowned throughout the world of the Shifting Isles for being highly-trained professionals in all manner of entertainments (sex, massage, singing, dancing, cooking, etc.). To be particularly crass, they are–to some–nothing but glorified whores.

Enjoy!

 

 

WHEN SAM came to, he found a blurry figure bent over him, swimming in his vision.

Shhh-sh-sh. Do not move,” a voice murmured.

Sam tried to lift his head, then groaned and closed his eyes again.

Drink this,” the soft voice said as a hand slipped around the back of Sam’s neck and cradled his head, lifting it slightly as a cup was touched to his lips.

Sam drank, and gagged, but the person holding the cup wouldn’t let him stop. The foul concoction was forced into his mouth, so Sam had no choice but to swallow as quickly as possible or choke.

Finally, the cup was taken away and Sam’s head was rested back down. Panting, Sam blinked heavily several times before his vision began to clear and he was able to make out Ithyn leaning over him.

Gods all around, Samril.” Ithyn sighed, gently pressing his wrist to Sam’s forehead. “What were you thinking?”

Sam tried to answer, felt his stomach lurch in response, and shut his mouth again.

Ithyn shook his head. “You nearly killed yourself, do you realize that?”

Sam’s eyes went wide, but he still couldn’t speak quite yet. Killed myself? What the hells did I take?

Ithyn continued looking him over, checking his pulse, examining his eyes and tongue, feeling the glands under his jaw, then sat back with another sigh. “Thank Kalos, I was able to determine which powder you took. Why did you not simply wait for me? I might have been able to assist you with…whatever it was you were attempting to accomplish.”

Needed,” Sam whispered, testing his voice, “an escape.”

Oh, Sam.” Ithyn sighed. “But to take your own life?”

Sam slowly shook his head, thankful the room didn’t spin when he did so. “Wasn’t my intention.”

What was your intention?”

Just…a break. A little break from the world.”

And you used that?” Ithyn asked incredulously.

Sam shrugged and slowly sat up. He found himself on the sofa in Ithyn’s sitting room, not far from where he’d collapsed on the floor. “It did say For Master Shyford.”

Ithyn gave him a puzzled look, then glanced over at the table where all the herbs were arranged. He gave an exasperated sigh and shook his head. “That note had nothing to do with the powders. It was for the books I placed in your room the day you arrived, and I simply forgot to discard the note. Besides, you had my jars all out of arrangement, anyway. How could you possibly match the note to one of them?”

Sam felt the tips of his ears go red. He really had made a bad assumption there.

The blue one looked like–”

Like what?” Ithyn asked when Sam broke off and fell silent.

Sam shook his head. Father’s love, I’m an idiot. He knew herb lore was not his strong point. “Looked just like the drug the Guildmate gave me.”

A puzzled look flashed across Ithyn’s face before it gave way to a stony expression. “I see,” he bit off. Then he was silent for a moment before he suddenly jumped up from his perch on the edge of the sofa and went over to the table, roughly rearranging the bottles and keeping his back to Sam.

Sam slowly sat up, testing his body for any further pain or dizziness, and turned to look at Ithyn. “Did I say something wrong?”

Ithyn paused his movements, gave a tight shake of his head, and went back to whatever he was doing.

Sam stood. “Ithyn, look, I’m sorry I messed with your bottles there. I just–”

Ithyn whirled on him. “You know, when you cavort with whores, you are no better than one yourself.”

Sam’s eyes went wide. “Excuse me? You’re calling me a whore?”

You have been with one,” Ithyn accused. “You admitted as much yourself.” He paused and gave Sam a quick once-over. “And more than once, if I had to guess.”

He’s not a whore!” Sam threw up his hands.

Ithyn clasped his hands before himself, the posture on him somehow more threatening than if he’d crossed his arms over his chest. “Does he accept payment in return for bodily pleasures?”

Of course.”

Whore,” Ithyn reiterated, and turned back to his jars and bottles.

Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6) is now available on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle formats!

Inspiration, Publishing, Shifting Isles

[Insert Relieved, Maniacal Laugh Here]

You wanna know the absolute worst part of being an indie author?

It’s not the editing, even though editing sucks, especially when you’ve got no one to do it but yourself. The long hours, the endless eye strain, the sheer boredom of reading the same story over and over and over and over and– Well, you get the picture. No, it’s not the editing.

It’s not the marketing, either. And I hate that part. I suck at marketing — it’s not my strong point, and it’s not something I’ve been brave enough to do, until recently — so that’s a part of being self-published that I absolutely never look forward to.

It’s not the lack of money. Sometimes it feels like I’m light years away from being a full-time author (mostly because of that damned marketing thing), and as much as I’d love to leave my day job, it’s just not in the cards, because I’m not selling enough books to come close to covering my expenses, and probably never will (again, that whole marketing thing).

It’s not the formatting. All those tedious hours of wrestling with a computer program to make sure the text wraps and indents just right so as to satisfy my OCD. All that time spent trying to get a footer to appear on certain pages and not on others, and trying to get my computer to keep up with every page layout change I make.

No, the absolute worst possible thing about being an indie author is…

POST BOOK FUNK.

Yes, Post Book Funk. A state of being, after releasing a book, in which the mind cannot even begin to fathom starting another project because it just finished a project and holy hell that was a lot of work and do we really want to do this again and maybe we just need a little break. But wait, now it’s turned into no inspiration whatsoever and now I can’t write and good gods what am I doing?!?!

I. Hate. Post Book Funk. So much. Like you would not believe. Like hate, hate, double hate, loathe entirely. It’s miserable. It’s awful. It’s full of so much unbelievable what-the-fuckery…I can’t even tell you. It’s bad. So bad, I’m going to capitalize it. Because yeah. It’s a thing.

In the past, Post Book Funk would drag me down for a few days — couple weeks at the most — and then I’d bounce back and be on to the next project. No big deal. Life goes on. All is well. But this time? Oh, this time…

I must have really done a number on my brain by trying to do three books at once, because Post Book Funk has been tormenting me for weeks. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t even think about writing. Couldn’t even jot down notes or outline or anything at all. It got to the point that I wondered if I would ever write again and maybe my life was over and why was I even trying to be a writer.

Post Book Funk turns me into a total douchebag asshole, too, apparently. I was punching things (bad) and snapping at customers (way bad) and not even bothering to hold my tongue with telemarketers (okay, so I don’t really feel bad about that one at all because, really, in sixteen years of working at this day job, not once have we ever actually needed something someone was trying to sell us, and telemarketers take me away from my customers, so they’re nothing better than a complete waste of time). It got to the point that I was hating myself but still unable to stop myself from being a total douchebag asshole, and quitting time never looked so good.

But today…Ah, today.

Today, something snapped. Today, I actually outlined something.

Alright, admittedly, NOT the book I’m supposed to be working on. I’m still having trouble getting my motivation worked back around to the next book in the Shifting Isles series, but at least my mind is finally on something. Anything. Good bloody effing gods, I will take any inspiration whatsoever right now. Anything but the dreaded Post Book Funk.

So, yeah. Today I started outlining three new novels, and brainstorming yet another new book idea (which could potentially turn into a whole series of its own). Still not making any progress on Betrayal (Shifting Isles, Book 6), which was originally supposed to have been released back in June, and is now looking like it might not see the light of day until December, at the earliest, but at least the dam seems to have finally broken and I’m thinking about something.

Thank. Effing. Gods.