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).

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News, Publishing, Shifting Isles, Treble and the Lost Boys

My Growing World

It’s release day! Illumined Shadows (Treble and the Lost Boys, Book 3) went live today, completing the Treble trilogy. I’m so glad Vic finally gets his HEA. After having this story close to my heart for almost two years, I’m definitely celebrating having it finally out there in the real world.

Illumined Shadows also makes the fifteenth novel set in my Shifting Isles fictional world (and, as things currently stand, I have at least fifteen more in the works, in addition to short stories). One of the things that I’ve discovered I love about having so many stories that connect in various ways within the fictional world, is just how often beloved characters either make cameo appearances or pop up in random references. For instance, Vic, the MC of Illumined Shadows, began as a minor character in both Blindsighted (Shifting Isles, Book 8) and Libertas (Shifting Isles, Book 9), and now has his own story. Elliden Crawford, the MC of Second Drafts, seems to be showing up all over the place (because I just adore him and can’t help myself).

Then, of course, there’s Vorena, from The Prisoner. I never could quite let her go. 😉

But then I had to go and write this bit in Illumined Shadows:

Who are we talking about here?” Athan asked, his marble features pulled into a hint of a frown. “Who’s Deyn?”

Summer brightened. “Oh! My great-great-great-grandmother’s ex-husband’s daughter’s daughter-in-law.” She paused for half a beat, then added, “Or your stepmother’s foster father’s best friend’s mother-in-law.”

Summer’s answer references seven named characters (in order: Ashyn Gael, Benash Rothbur, Saira Rothbur-Crawford, Zhadeyn Crawford, Seryn Vas-kelen, Samril Shyford, Daivid Thaton, and Zhadeyn again) from seven different books (The Prisoner, S.P.I.R.I.T. Division, Return to Tanas, Broken, Betrayal, Addiction, and Blindsighted, all from the Shifting Isles series). It is INSANE how many times I had to go over that little speech to make sure I’d gotten all the relationships right.

Thank gods for character family trees (which I’m STILL struggling with turning into some sort of imagery so I can include them both here on my website and in the books themselves). I’m also still working on getting profiles for all of these characters up here on the website (I think I only have two completed so far…yikes!), but eventually they’ll all be here, with all the applicable links and connections.

I could very well be insane…

BUT that’s a problem for another day. In the meantime, I’ve got my entire backlist enrolled in KU for those of you who use that service, and now that my poor Vic finally has his HEA, I’ve gotta have him go help out another character in my current WIP.

See? They just keep popping up everywhere!

Publishing, Treble and the Lost Boys

Here Comes Trouble!

Introducing: Ryley Skye! Forensics expert. Violinist. Cheater. Exhibitionist.

Mage?

Ryley can’t take anything seriously. Not the murder scenes he investigates, nor the fact that he’s cheating on his boyfriend. Not the bloody nightmares he gets every other night, and especially not Vic’s ridiculous theory that Ryley might be a mage.

Magic? Him? There’s just no way.

When Vic decides he’s had enough of Ryley’s cheating and breaks things off, it couldn’t come at a worse time. They’ve just been handed a case that will require them to work closely together, whether they like it or not. But Ryley plays along. He has to. He can’t afford any kind of confrontation. Things happen when he gets angry or aroused. Weird things. Bad things. He has to stay bottled up and in control at all times.

Then he meets Asher Arden, and indulges in what he thinks is a little rebound fling. But when Ryley loses control and puts Asher’s life at risk, he realizes two things: He loves Asher more than anything else in the world…

And Vic just might have been right all along.

The book is now available in both paperback and Kindle formats! Be sure to add it to your Goodreads TBR, and check out the Pinterest board for some neat visuals! There’s also a blog review tour and giveaway, courtesy of Signal Boost Promotions!

And huge thanks, once again, to Dana Leah at Designs by Dana, for the lovely cover.

News, Publishing, Shifting Isles, Treble and the Lost Boys

It’s About Time

I learned very quickly, when diving in to create a fictional world, that the process was a lot more work than I’d anticipated. Though free of the restrictions of continuing to write within the confines of the real world (like I did with the Lethean Trilogy), I had far more work cut out for me than simple matters of research. Making up everything from the gods to the creation of the world to the development of various races and countries–which meant determining how different people looked, spoke, behaved, dressed; what they ate, what they valued; what technology or customs they had; etc–was both thrilling and exhausting. For the most part, I managed to keep it all in my head, but as my world grew, and more stories began to take shape, I wound up with notes scattered across dozens of files, which I was constantly having to seek out and reference to make sure I was getting the details right.

What I should have been doing all along, right from the start, was building a Series Bible, keeping everything in one spot, nice and neat and organized. Of course, I didn’t run into an obvious need to do so until I began editing the next Treble and the Lost Boys book and realized I’d run into a pretty glaring timeline issue.

Between Blindsighted (Shifting Isles, Book 8), Libertas (Shifting Isles, Book 9), and the three Treble books, I had five books on my hands with tightly overlapping events, and discovered that some of those events were turning out to be a whole year off.

So I stopped writing entirely, went back to The Prisoner, the first book in the Shifting Isles world, and starting reading. I took meticulous notes of every single day that was mentioned, how much time was indicated to have passed between different events, who was where, any mentions of what time of year it happened to be, any references to past events and how long ago they were said to be, any mentions of how old a particular character was, etc. At the same time, I started building one big Series Bible file, multiple spreadsheets to consolidate information about the gods, companies, addresses, magic spells, phrases, and–of course–characters.

Almost four months later, and after having gone through the 13 Shifting Isles world novels currently in print (as well as a handful of short stories), I discovered several more timeline issues.

Some were relatively minor: events being described as happening on the same day when they were really supposed to stretch out over two. Some were more interesting, like one week in Blindsighted that somehow contained 9 days instead of 6. The worst timeline discrepancy came with the Matchmakers Trilogy. Randomly throwing out that some particular thing or another happened such-and-such years ago is all well and good until you actually start pinning down dates for things and find out that the thing happening such-and-such years ago is a temporal impossibility when compared to other historical occurrences that were mentioned.

So I corrected, adjusted, edited. Hells, I wanted to do a series relaunch / second-edition-with-bonus-content launch anyway, so now, when that does happen, not only will I be able to put out the stories with corrected timeline flow, I’ll also be able to better develop extra bonus content, as well as appendices for the novels.

Like timeline notes, for instance, showcasing major events and their dates.

Or family trees for my characters (I had a good laugh when I started fleshing out a tree for Officer Benash, and realized the man ultimately had six wives/partners as well as ten children before he died (to say nothing of all the grandchildren and so on), when all the while, in my head, I just saw him as the man who loved Vorena and fathered Saira).

Or finally make some progress (and corrections) on the Wiki I started building a few months back and had to set aside in favor of other, more pressing matters. With a dozen spreadsheets and notes on something like 260 characters, that’s going to be an ambitious project in and of itself.

Or…maps. But that’s a fun topic for another time… 😉

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…