End of School Year Chaos

In the past seven days, I have…

  • Spoken to my editor about revisions on Terminal Uprising
  • Attended my daughter’s high school graduation
  • Helped with the planning and preparations for said daughter’s open house this coming weekend
  • Attended my son’s induction into the National Junior Honors Society
  • Attended awards night for that same son

I am ridiculously proud of both of my children. I’m also feeling a bit frazzled, and am looking forward to summer vacation.

In the meantime, here’s a photo of my daughter in her graduation robes, and a shot I took of my son at NJHS night. (Shared with their permission.)

Daughter's graduation photo

Rusch’s Article on Agents and Embezzlement

ETA: I had a brief exchange with Rusch on Twitter after this post went up. I said I agreed with much of her article, but that it felt like she was on an anti-agent crusade. To which she replied, in part, “I am on an anti-agent crusade.” I mention this because it helped me better understand why Rusch went where she did in her post.

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Yesterday, Kristine Kathryn Rusch posted an article titled An Agent Nightmare Revealed, talking about an accountant/bookkeeper who embezzled more than $3 million from a major literary agency. She goes on to discuss the need for authors to be in control of their own business and finances, and whether or not any authors should still be using literary agents.

I agree with a fair amount of what Rusch writes here. Donadio & Olson, the agency in question, screwed up. Rusch notes that they’ve known about the embezzlement since last fall, but failed to contact all of their clients to alert them to the problem. WTF? And the embezzlement has apparently been going on since at least 2011. I’m not an accountant, but it seems like any business should have some safeguards and auditing practices in place if they’re handling that much money…

Rusch also talks about how writers neglect the business side of things. Again, I agree. Whether you have an agent or not, your writing career is your responsibility. You’ve got to read your contracts. Be aware of what rights have sold, and when payments should be coming in. Follow up on discrepancies, or any transactions that don’t match what you’re expecting.

Every contract I get from my agent comes with a cover letter reminding me to read the contract. Because even though they go over every contract, it’s possible they might miss something. Or there could be a clause I don’t understand. As the writer, I need to understand.

Track your sales. Bookscan and publisher Author Portals can help with this. You don’t have to obsess over every week’s numbers, but know how your books are doing. Know when they’ve earned out, so you know when to expect royalties to begin showing up.

But then Rusch goes on to say, “Do not hire literary agents … If you already have a literary agent, extricate yourself from this relationship. Cancel it, get your books out of that agency, and hire an attorney to do your negotiations.”

Loki Facepalm

This is exactly the type of absolute, one-size-fits-all advice I try to warn people against when I do panels and writing workshops.

I understand that Rusch has had some bad experiences with agents, some of which she describes in the article. It sounds like she’s happier on her own, and hopefully her career is doing better without an agent.

That’s great. She’s not the only author to make that choice. It’s the choice that works for her.

On the other hand, my agent has helped me land a large number of book deals I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own — mostly subsidiary deals through the agency’s contacts and their trips to international book fairs, where they’ve sold my stuff to publishers in Germany, France, Latin America, and more. Earlier this year, I wrote a pitch for a major publisher I’m waiting to hear back on. That opportunity came about through my agent; it’s almost certainly not something I would have heard about on my own.

In other words, for me, working with my agent has been the right choice, and has significantly improved my income as a writer.

But wait, what if my agent, or someone at the agency, is skimming from my royalties? As Rusch notes, “Prestigious agencies embezzle.” (I’m not clear whether Rusch meant some prestigious agencies embezzle or all of them do.)

This is where it’s important to be aware of your sales, as well as the checks you’re expecting, and when those should be coming. And if something seems off, follow up.

Rusch has a lot of good advice for writers about understanding your contracts and not neglecting the business side of writing. I just wish she didn’t mix that good advice with the alarmist “all writers should immediately dump their agents” rhetoric.

Do your research, and make the choice that’s right for you and your career.

Terminal Uprising Cover Reveal and Giveaway

The wonderful folks at Uncanny Magazine have been kind enough to host the cover reveal for Terminal Uprising, book two of the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse trilogy.

We’re also doing a giveaway for an autographed hardcover of Terminal Alliance. So head over to check out the wonderful cover Dan Dos Santos created, and enter for your chance at a free book!

Or if you’d like, you can click on one of these the Terminal Uprising pre-order links first:

Terminal Uprising: Synopsis and Pre-Order Links

For those of you who enjoyed Terminal Alliance, here’s the official summary for the sequel, coming February 2019. It’s now available for pre-order at most retailers. (Still waiting for B&N and BAM to get the hardcover listed…)

Cover art will be coming soon, and I’ll probably get a sample chapter posted in another month or two, once I finish the final revisions.

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Terminal Uprising

Human civilization didn’t just fall. It was pushed.

The Krakau came to Earth in the year 2104. By 2105, humanity had been reduced to shambling, feral monsters. In the Krakau’s defense, it was an accident, and a century later, they did come back and try to fix us. Sort of.

It’s been four months since Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos learned the truth of that accident. Four months since she and her team of hygiene and sanitation specialists stole the EMCS Pufferfish and stopped a bioterrorism attack against the Krakau homeworld. Four months since she set out to find proof of what really happened on Earth all those years ago.

Between trying to protect their secrets and fighting the xenocidal Prodryans, who’ve been escalating their war against everyone who isn’t Prodryan, the Krakau have their tentacles full.

Mops’ mission changes when she learns of a secret Krakau laboratory on Earth. A small group under command of Fleet Admiral Belle-Bonne Sage is working to create a new weapon, one that could bring victory over the Prodryans … or drown the galaxy in chaos.

To discover the truth, Mops and her rogue cleaning crew will have to do the one thing she fears most: return to Earth, a world overrun by feral apes, wild dogs, savage humans, and worse. (After all, the planet hasn’t been cleaned in a century and a half!) What Mops finds in the filthy ruins could change everything, assuming she survives long enough to share it.

Perhaps humanity isn’t as dead as the galaxy thought.

Too Many Men Can’t Handle Being Told No

Content warning for discussion of mass shootings and domestic violence.

Teen Vogue recently published an article about the link between dating violence and gun violence.

But calling it “dating violence” misses a very significant factor. I dug through a list of school shootings from the past few years and tried to pick out every story that seemed to involve any sort of dating/romantic relationship, either real or desired on the part of the shooter.

Anyone want to guess what I found? In every single case, the shooter was male, and the target was female.

Remember last week when I talked about needing to teach kids to hear and accept “No” for an answer? Let me be more specific. Being able to set and respect boundaries is important for everyone. But we desperately need to teach boys and men to respect “No.” That male sense of entitlement is literally killing people.

The whole “incel” thing is another example where we see a guy committing murder because he feels the world owed him sex. Yet, despite the fact that both men and women can be “involuntarily celibate,” it’s only the men lashing out with violence, killing people because they’re unwilling to accept women telling them no.

As a society, this is exactly what we teach men to do. We teach them to be persistent, to never accept no for an answer. The entertainment industry is flooded with stories of men essentially wearing down the target of their desire until the woman says yes. We teach them that women aren’t people, but things to be won and used.

Again and again, we see where those lessons lead:

Santa Fe High School. Texas. Kole Dixon, 16, a sophomore…said that friends told him that the gunman first entered an art classroom, said “Surprise!” and started shooting. The suspect’s ex-girlfriend was among the people shot in that classroom, he said.* Sadie Rodriguez, the mother of Shana Fisher, 16, told the newspaper that her daughter rejected four months of aggressive advances from accused shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis… Fisher finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class, the newspaper quoted her mother as writing in a private message to the Times. “A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like,” she said. “Shana being the first one.”

*Per the second link, it sounds like Fisher wasn’t the killer’s ex-girlfriend, but a girl he’d been aggressively pursuing.

Great Mills High School. Maryland. All indications suggest the shooting was not a random act of violence. Rollins and the female victim had a prior relationship which recently ended.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Florida. Student Victoria Olvera, 17, said that Cruz had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend and that his expulsion was over a fight with her new boyfriend.

Italy High School. Texas. Shook said the girl who was shot had moved to the school district a few months earlier. She said the girl had briefly dated the suspect, but that she did not know much about her.

Rancho Tehama Reserve. California. The wife’s car was still there. Her body, shot several times, was hidden beneath the floor. “We believe that’s what probably started this whole event,” Tehama County Asst. Sheriff Phil Johnston told reporters.

Mattoon High School. Illinois. [T]he teen targeted a female student at Mattoon High School who he said called him gay.

North Lake College. Texas. He had been stalking her for quite a while but she didn’t make anything of it,” her mom said. The family says witnesses told them Torres had approached Janeera in front of an art exhibit and yelled at her saying, “You know who I am and you know why I am here!” The family also says the two never dated and were not even friends.

North Park Elementary School. California. The slain teacher was identified as Karen Smith, 53, who police said was Anderson’s estranged wife.

Antigo High School. Wisconsin. A school administrator said he does not believe Wagner targeted the victims. Instead, interim district administrator Donald Childs told The Associated Press he believes Wagner planned to enter the prom and start shooting randomly. A student who did not want to be identified told FOX6 News Wagner had been depressed following the break-up with his girlfriend.

Rogers State University. Oklahoma. Sources said a woman was studying in a music hall when she spotted her ex-boyfriend, Fees, outside. Fees shot through the window at the woman, but she was able to run to safety and call authorities, reports say.

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We see the seeds in the way so many men lash out with threats of violence when a woman dares to tell them no. We see the statistics showing that the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she tries to leave.

I know, I know. “Not all men,” and all that. Most men don’t go on killing sprees when a woman turns them down. But the list of men who do is too damned long.

So many guys are so obsessed with being “real men.” Here’s a thought. Maybe a real man should have more emotional stability and maturity than a toddler throwing a tantrum when he doesn’t immediately get everything he wants. Maybe he should be man enough to hear the word “no” without having to whine, curse, threaten, and/or kill. Maybe that’s what we should be teaching boys and men.

Boundaries, Part Whatever

Sometimes I think two of the most important things we can teach kids are that they have a right to say no, and that if someone tells them no, they have to respect that.

I know some Very Clever People will point out that there are exceptions. If I tell my five-year-old child to stop shoving his LEGO Star Wars figures into the garbage disposal while cackling and saying, “In its belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years,” he’s not going to have much luck telling me no. If my boss gives me an assignment and I tell him no, that’s probably gonna end badly for me.

(On the other hand, if that same five-year-old doesn’t want a kiss from Aunt Rose? He has the right to say no. Maybe today Aunt Rose will have to settle for a fistbump.)

But I think most of us are able to understand and discuss this without having to derail for those “whatabouts.”

You have the right to say no.

If you’re on the receiving end of that “No”? You don’t have to be happy about it. You can feel hurt or angry or whatever. But you still have to accept it.

You have the right to say no, even if you said yes in the past. You’re allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to decide that today you want to set this boundary, regardless of whether you set it yesterday or not.

You have the right to set rules and boundaries in your own space. You decide who can and can’t be in your home. You decide who can call you, text you, talk to you online, and so on. You have the right to tell someone to leave you the hell alone, and to block their ass if they can’t respect that.

If someone tells you to stop talking to them? Stop talking to them! Don’t argue. Don’t whine about how it’s unfair. Don’t keep coming back to explain yourself, or to try to get the last word. Grow the hell up and get on with your life.

To put it as simply and clearly as I can, you don’t have a right to another person. Even if you disagree with them. Even if you hate them. Even if you’re attracted to them. Even if you’re married to them.

That sense of false entitlement to another human being is at the core of so much dysfunctional societal rot. Rape and domestic violence and the epidemic of men physically hurting or killing women for telling them no…

Learn to say no, and to respect it from others. Teach kids the same. Expect the same from the people in your life. Demand the same (when it’s safe for you to do so). Support people’s right to set their own boundaries, and help push back against those who would ignore them.

This post brought to you by someone who may end up being an object lesson for a future post, depending on how things go.

Jim C. Hines