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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Doing my first post from my I-phone. It did lousy at the gym today as a music source will use my mp3 player from now on

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pay Pal Backs Down

Smashwords sent out an e-mail that Pay Pal has backed down and all is back to normal.

Hunger Games review

I saw one movie ad on TV and knew that there was a movie coming out, but it didn't tell me much. I signed on for Amazon's Prime where you can borrow books for your Kindle for free, so the first books I chose for free were The Hunger Games and Circle of Fire, only to pay for them since I ordered them on my Computer's ap. If you want to borrow for free you have to order on the Kindle and it shows up only on the Kindle not the computer or Iphone. I did it the right way for Mockingjay.
I figured it to be some kind of post apocalypse world on the vein of Rollerball, and it has elements of 1984 and Animal Farm in it as well. The two Rollerball films glorify the violence. This book lets the reader know that children dying for the entertainment of the populace is the ultimate horror. Since these books were written for Young Adults most of the deaths are out of sight and revealed more as box scores at the end of the day.
I don't want to get into the plot because just about everyone out there is telling it. I'm going to give my take on what it was like to read all three of the books.
Premise and violence: In the first fifty pages it was hard to read through the tears. I don't recall ever reading someone who could tug at your heart strings so quickly and hold you for so long without wanting to close the book and walk away. I was drawn into the world, the characters and their plight.
In the games there is a character named Rue that captures your heart completely and as a reader you knew she had to die for Katniss to win and go on to the second and third books, but her death is devastating.
This reminded me of something Harlan Ellison wrote in either his book The Glass Teat or The Other Glass Teat (not sure which and too lazy to find out). He was castigating Movies, Television and viewers on the mindless, numbing violence offered and viewed. He wrote the articles in The Rolling Stone later compiled into the books in the late 60's. Very tame by today's Friday the 13th, Saw type of movies or even the CSI's, Closer type of TV shows. (the escalation in violence to satisfy viewers and readers appetites proves his point ie. Spartacus on Showtime and many video games that glorify carnage) He said for violence to have effect it had to follow certain parameters. 1 for a protaganist to resort to violence it has to be the last resort. Think Quaker woman Eliza Birdwell picking up a broom and clobbring a rebel raider about to kill her pet goose Samantha in Friendly Persuasion. 2. A death has to happen to a character the audience identifies with. When a person dies on screen or in a book you want it to have an impact. You want the reader to scream "No" while it's happening and weep at the loss. Think the death of Mariko in Shogun by James Clavell. When it's done right it's unforgettable and Suzanne Collins hit a bullseye with Rue.
Theme: I've read many books describing the horrors of totalitarian rule. It's part and parcel with Science Fiction/Fantasy. Take the power mad Valdemorte out of Harry Potter and there's no conflict hence no story. Most of these books and movies deal either with filling the reader with dread the oppression or have a hero become superhero conquering the evil Ming or Captain Nemo saving humanity. In these books Katniss is the spark for revolution by subtle defiance and The Capital's over reaction causes the revolution. She's a teenage Rosa Parks thrown off the bus or Ghandi kicked off the train and the whole world says they've had enough of the bully. Ms Collins said the books follow a simple arc: book 1 defiance, book 2 revolt, book 3 war.
Timing: While reading the HG it made me think of the way Arab Spring started. The book was published in 2008 meaning Ms Collins was very precient and with the movie hitting movie screens Friday there couldn't be better timing for the message she wishes to convey to her audience.
Fast Read: All the books are told in first person and because you're not stumbling over needless description and backstory for every character it doesn't take long to polish off  300+ pages. With three books to get through this is a real positive.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Censorship Fight Back

E-mail received today from Smashwords.


PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction. Regardless of how one views topics of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are pervasive in mainstream fiction. We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers. This is unfair, and it marks a slippery slope. We don't want credit card companies or financial institutions telling our authors what they can write and what readers can read.
Fiction is fantasy. It's not real. It's legal.
There's no easy solution. Legally, PayPal and the credit card companies probably have the right to decide how their services are used. Unfortunately, since they're the moneyrunners, they control the oxygen that feeds digital commerce. Many Smashwords authors have suggested we find a different payment processor. That's not a good long term solution, because if credit card companies are behind
this, they'll eventually force crackdowns elsewhere. PayPal works well for us. In addition to running all credit card processing at the Smashwords.com store, PayPal is how we pay all our authors outside the U.S. My conversations with PayPal are ongoing and have been productive, yet I have no illusion that the road ahead will be simple, or that the outcome will be favorable.
Independent advocacy groups are considering taking on the PayPal censorship case. I'm supporting the development of this loose-knit coalition of like-minded groups who believe that censorship of legal fiction should not be allowed. We will grow the coalition. Each group will have its own voice and tactics I'm working with them because we share a common cause to protect books from censorship. Earlier today I had conversations with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). I briefed them on the Smashwords/PayPal situation, explained the adverse affect this crackdown will have on some of our authors and customers, and shared my intention to continue working with PayPal in a positive manner to move the discussion forward.
The EFF blogged about the issue a few days ago: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/02/legal-censorship-paypal-makes-habit-deciding-what-users-can-read Today, ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release: http://www.scribd.com/doc/83549049/NCAC-ABFFE-Letter-To-PayPal-eBay-re-Ebook-Refusal-2012
I will not be on the streets with torch in hand calling for PayPal's head, but I will encourage interested parties to get involved and speak their piece. This is where you come in...
Although erotica authors are being targeted, this is an issue that should concern all indie authors. It affects indies disproportionately because indies are the ones pushing the boundaries of fiction. Indies are the ones out there publishing without the (fading) protective patina of a "traditional publisher" to lend them legitimacy. We indies only have each other.
everal Smashwords authors have contacted me to stress that this censorship affects women disproportionately. Women write a lot of the erotica, and they're also the primary consumers of erotica. They're also the primary consumers of mainstream romance, which could also come under threat if PayPal and the credit card companies were to overly enforce their too-broad and too-nebulous obsenity clauses (I think this is unlikely, but at the same time, why would dubious consent be okay in mainstream romance but not okay in erotica? If you write paranormal, can your were-creatures not get it on with one another, or is that bestiality? The insanity needs to stop here. These are not questions an author, publisher or distributor of legal fiction should have to answer.).
All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their opposition to financial services companies censoring books. Authors should have the freedom to publish legal fiction, and readers should have the freedom to read what they want. These corporations need to hear from you. Pick up the phone and call them. Email them. Start petitions. Sign petitions. Blog your opposition to censorship.
Encourage your readers to do the same. Pass the word among your social networks. Contact your favorite bloggers and encourage them to follow this story. Contact your local newspaper and offer to let them interview you so they can hear a local author's perspective on this story of international significance. If you have connections to mainstream media, encourage them to pick up on the story. Encourage them to call the credit card companies and pose this simple question, "PayPal says they're trying to enforce the policies of credit card companies. Why are you censoring legal fiction?"
Tell the credit card companies you want them to give PayPal permission to sell your ebooks without censorship or discrimination. Let them know that PayPal's policies are out of step with the major online ebook retailers who already accept your books as they are. Address your calls, emails (if you can find the email) and paper letters (yes paper!) to the executives. Post open letters to them on your blog, then tweet and Facebook hyperlinks to your letters. Force the credit card companies to join the discussion about censorship. And yes, express your feelings and opinions to PayPal as well. Don't scream at them. Ask them to work on your behalf to protect you and your readers from censorship. Tell them how their proposed censorship will harm you and your fellow writers.

American Express:
Ebay (owns PayPal):