Posted in Today in Bull***t

Today in Bull***t: Book reviews, honest criticism and outright attacks.


Why did I ever read that tweet from Jon Del Arroz? This has been on my mind all day and stopped me from getting on with my work. So, in an effort to get the job done, here’s my two penneth.
Question: What is the purpose of Goodreads?
Answer: To provide a space where people can post their reviews of books they have read.
D&C makes a good point, why would you want to disconnect from readers. The answer is a simple one. Too many of them are toxic. They don’t actually want you to improve, they want you to do as they say. D&C is projecting here, he honestly (I hope) believes that the majority of reviewers are like himself, reviewing material in the hope that something good will come of it. The guy loves his industry, you can see that in every review that he does. When its good he says that it is, even if he clearly can’t stand the writer. When it’s bad he’ll say it is too, even if the guy’s someone he likes. The industry is clearly the most important thing to him.
Roxane Gay, on the one hand, looks like she’s trying to protect writers from the worst elements on Goodreads, the ones that went after Laura Moriarty and her book American Hearts. Which is funny because I’m fairly sure that if you were to Venn Diagram Laura, Roxane and the reviewers according to their beliefs I’m sure you’d be left with a single group, just one big fat old circle. There’s an element of projection here too, though I doubt that she’d see it that way.

For me, there are four camps. In the first, you have the guys and gals that just don’t care what others think. They can read a thousand negative reviews before breakfast, laugh at them and continue to write their next best selling tome. Then there are the products of the uni’s turning out MFA’s, who write literature with a capital L and slum it in other genres. These peeps have the mental grit of a toddler in a toy store and any negativity is likely to cause a meltdown. The third group are the vast majority of professional writers, who use Goodreads like any other tool. These guys are both Trad pubbed and Self, sometimes a hybrid of the two. Lastly, you have the self-pubbers, the ones that have come to the game in Amazons brave new world. They come in all shapes and sizes, but the desire to be their own boss drives them ever onwards. Genuine reviews are gold for these guys, as they truly do show the path forward.
Reality check time. Some reviewers are toxic. They have no desire to help you, they only want to ensure that you stick to THE NARRATIVE. If you don’t know what the narrative is I suggest you find out and pdq too. These are reviewers in bad faith. They will do everything they can, up to and including actual threats to ensure that you stick to THE NARRATIVE. The ones most at risk from these clowns? The guys and gals in groups 2&4. Group 2 see them as their target audience, while group four can be terrified by the noise produced.
Writers need feedback. They need it to be genuine, and they need it to be agenda-free. The best example I can give? Take a look at Tuesday Reviews, the mans a one-man reading machine who always dives right to the heart of a book. Seriously, I’m in awe of the man. If he tells you there’s a problem with your book you best listen. Find others on Goodreads that seek to do as he does and get your feedback from them, you won’t regret it.

Anywho, that’s all for now
Take care


As always, comments are truly welcome below.

Posted in Today in Bull***t

Today in Bulls***t: Not your story to write.

A new category for me, a probably irregular look at something, in particular, that’s caught my eye, something that’s really made my blood boil. Today, it’s the people attacking a YA author (Laura Moriarty) for bringing out a book that they don’t think she should have written, that she, in their opinion, had no right to write. Big shout out to Jon Del Arroz who brought this up on Twitter earlier.
From the blurb:

Imagine a United States in which registries and detainment camps for Muslim-Americans are a reality.

Fifteen-year-old Sarah-Mary Williams of Hannibal, Missouri, lives in this world, and though she has strong opinions on almost everything, she isn’t concerned with the internments because she doesn’t know any Muslims. She assumes that everything she reads and sees in the news is true, and that these plans are better for everyone’s safety.

But when she happens upon Sadaf, a Muslim fugitive determined to reach freedom in Canada, Sarah-Mary at first believes she must turn her in. But Sadaf challenges Sarah-Mary’s perceptions of right and wrong, and instead Sarah-Mary decides, with growing conviction, to do all she can to help Sadaf escape.

The two set off on a desperate journey, hitchhiking through the heart of an America that is at times courageous and kind, but always full of tension and danger for anyone deemed suspicious.

Now, would I read this book? Nope. I’m old, I’m male and I haven’t had an interest in YA lit since reading Harry Potter to my kids as a bedtime story. Also, the names she’s chosen for the main characters grate in my inner ear. Sarah-Mary? I’d have gone with Sarah-Mae. I’d also probably have gone with Salah for Sadaf too. The premise sounds interesting though, and if I was looking for something for my 13-year-old granddaughter to pick up I’d happily buy it for her. Sounds like there’s some action, a bit of adventure and a friendship story in there, and I know she likes all three. Here you go, take my money. I’d have to wait until next year though, because, and this is key here; the book hasn’t been published yet.
Not been published, and yet it has 20 reviews, and not one is from an advance reader copy. 20 reviews from people who haven’t even read the book. 20 people who are offended merely because this book exists. Why are they offended? White Knighting comes up a lot, as does it offends me because Muslim Internment camps are real (no there not, I checked.) Guilty of whiteness gets a check mark too.
Ahh man, the bull***t is so strong with this one, but the thing I keep seeing, again and again, is ‘this wasn’t your story to tell’. Really, whose story is it then? Did Laura go up to a POC and steal this idea from her? No? Then it’s her bloody story to tell then, isn’t it? It came from her imagination, is peopled by imaginary characters that she has created in a world that is a fantasy, because, and I cannot stress this enough Muslim Internment Camps do not exist. Not one. Not one single person in the USA has received a knock on the door from a police officer, been asked if they are guilty of being a Muslim and whisked away into detention. NOT ONE. If you can prove me wrong I will happily retract, but until that point, nope, not having it.
Writers tell stories. Anything that comes out of their imagination is for them to tell if they so desire it. There have been many times when I’ve had a story idea and then thought, ‘Nah, not my story to tell’ usually because it’s in a genre that doesn’t interest me. Write a Mills and Boon Romance, not going to happen, those aren’t my stories to tell.
At the moment.
We all know what’s happening here though don’t we, we’ve seen how this plays out. A book is written, howler monkeys scream about it, making as much noise as they can across social media. As the publication date gets closer the shrieking will intensify. It’s going to get so much worse for Laura, so much pressure is going to be put on her to withdraw her own book (not that she can, not with a Trad-Pub contract) and HarperCollins will do nothing to shield her. Their (howler monkeys) intention is to get the book stopped, and they will make as much noise as they can to do so.
As an end thought, let me ask you this: How many of the people ‘reviewing’ this book would have actually bought it? None is the answer, not one of them. These are not customers lost, there is nothing on earth that could have made them buy one of Moriarty’s books. The people that they’ll stop from buying it? They’d never have bought the book either. Despite all the screaming, the ‘oh you’ve hurt my fee fee’s’ not even a single sale has gone, and I hope Laura Moriarty knows that.
Their rage is bull***t.

Posted in Blog, Writing

Comics, PulpRev, and Diversity

or, That word you’re using? I don’t think you know what it means.

First, take a look at this:
Where to start with this?
Well, Folks like Diversity and Comics have dismantled the ‘diverse’ writers listed by this idiot so much better than I could. You should check out their videos, you won’t regret it. I’ve read the comics put out by the trio, and can honestly say that it felt like completely wasted time. Mainly because none of them are in reality diverse.
I know diverse. My early childhood was spent being a white kid being brought up by a lovely black stepfather, alongside three siblings. When my mom divorced him (I was 12) I was gutted. He spoke French as a first language, cooked the most amazing Mauritian food and was a devout Hindu. He loved music and the house was filled with everything from Demis Roussos to Boney M to Rachmaninov. His real love though was reggae, a love which infected me at that early age. UB40 and Bob Marley are still my go-to guys when I need comfort for my soul. He was NOTHING like the fathers of any of my friends.
There were other stepfathers, and at one point when my mom was experimenting a stepmother. Interesting times.
You grow up and you have kids. My eldest is trans, male to female. I knew from an early age that she would never be happy in a male body. I’ve never seen anyone so happy that their outside now matches their inside. That’s all I’m prepared to say on that matter. One of my stepkids is gay. His boyfriend is a prat, but not because he’s gay. Mainly because he’d agree wholeheartedly with the above viewpoint. I’ve been married twice, once to a very committed feminist, the second to a very committed Christian.
So yeah, I know a little bit about what the above chap/ess thinks is diversity.
I know that he’s wrong too.
I  know that what he thinks is diversity is nothing of the sort, as each one tells the same story, over and over again. Then they use artwork to really hammer home the points that they’re trying to make. They cannot be diverse because each one ‘creates’ identical’ work, and it’s really, really tedious. Why would anyone hand over serious money every month to read something that is no different than the last? Superman as a character is pretty tedious. He’s essentially invulnerable, can turn back time if the film is to be believed and fires laser beams out of his eyes! Having the story about him and him alone every week would be so tiresome you’d pour bleach into your eyes to escape the monotony. Instead, the story is rarely about him, but rather about the people around him, and that’s why he’s still going. America, Devil Dinosaur, and Ms Marvel? All about them.
Which brings me around to the guys and gals that sit under the PulpRev banner. Here you have real diversity, and not just limited to the individuals sexual/political orientation. The story is the key, with entertainment the desired outcome, not education or promotion of ideology. How long will it be before someone of the above ilk tries to infiltrate? Pretty soon I’d wager, but they’ll fail, and it won’t take. Too many ‘individuals’ for a start, and any attempt to make them produce a story that fits a false idea of diversity will be met with ridicule.
Show me new worlds. Excite me with your ideas, challenge my preconceptions, and if the hero happens to be gay, or black or trans I won’t give a damn. Make the story all about said hero and I’ll be bored, and that’s the point that Marvel has arrived at. They’ve got it ass-backward, and the pulprev crowd hasn’t. Entertain me with real diversity, diversity of ideas, and I’ll hand over my money in a heartbeat. Try and sell me a pig in a poke and you’ll never get another penny.

Do yourself a favor, head on over to PulpRev and sample some real diversity.

Until next time,
take care guys


Posted in Writing

Writing Journal Days 5-6

I took Saturday off, under the provisions of the ‘Happy Wife, Happy Life act of 2001’. Sunday was a good day for writing though, as the boss was doing stuff with the under boss. Lil Buddy was at Daddy’s, so it made perfect sense to work on the revised outline on the story. It has a provisional name now, Debt Paid, but we’ll see how that goes.
I like outlining, mainly because I find that if I try to pants something I write a lot slower. By outlining I allow myself to see the story in its entirety, get it down on paper in list form and then fill in the gaps. If you can write without having to do this more power to your elbow, my friends, it just doesn’t work for me. I do hope that after I’ve done it I’ll only have to do one more draft, and that’s more of a polish/edit. There have been a couple of times today when I’ve strayed into pantsing territory and considered pushing through, but instead, I’m going to let it percolate until I can add more to the outline. More work for tomorrow, but it’s a nice problem to have.
Speaking of nice problems, I’m hoping to start outlining a horror story this week, to begin working on next. Thursday if things well. Here’s hoping.

Over at PC Bushi, I came across an interesting piece by Gitabushi. Gitabushi has been having problems with ERB and I know exactly where he’s coming from. Now I loved Tarzan when I read it, ERB swept me along with the tale, transporting me with a fantastic story that I loved reading. Then I read Pellucidor and I struggled. Not a lot, but there was noticeable effort to finish it. I certainly wasn’t swept away. Lastly, I turned to the first of John Carter’s many adventures.
And stopped less than half way through.
Why? Well, for all of the reasons that Gitabushi has mentioned, and a few more. Reasons, I suspect that have a lot to do with the dreaded pantsing. The book had so many fantastic ideas that it made your head spin, but what it didn’t have was a great deal of internal consistency. It annoyed me intensely, and with so much great material out there closing the EPUB was an easy task.
Besides, I had Ringworld to read again, and what a joy that was. Go on and read Gitabushis post, it’s well worth your time, you won’t regret it.

Until next time
Take care


Posted in Uncategorized, Writing

Writing Journal Day 4

Day 4 began with something of an epiphany: The story, as you’re writing it, is wrong. I’d hit some road blocks as I was assembling the outline, but nothing that really rang any alarm bells. When I came to writing the story that changed drastically. I liked the idea, as well as the concept, as well as the characters, but the location seemed wrong. In the past, that voice would have led me to delete the entirety of the story so far and begin again. Not this time though. With a solid block of time in front of me, I could see how with just a few changes I could easily bring it into line.
I sat back and thought, doodling on my notepad until the thing that had been lurking, or perhaps hiding, at the back of my mind came forwards. Time was what was wrong, added to location. If I moved the piece forward in time, I could deal with the second quarter of my story by adding a segment that had been playing in the old skull cinema. The story would also feed into something else I’ve been thinking about over the last three years.
I began to outline again, moving the characters around, adding a few more that had suddenly become necessary and felt the whole damned thing click into place. What a fantastic feeling. Come the second draft though I’m going to have one hell of a lot of rewriting to do.

Lunchtime and Lil Buddy was eating her pasta (animal shapes, in a white sauce, heavy on the butter) while I flicked through my blog list. First up was Jon Del Arroz’s site. You can find it here. I didn’t really get past this one, though I did have a gander at passive guy, you know, as you do.
I’ve read some of Jons work now, and I can honestly say I like it. I certainly liked For Steam and Country enough to not only buy a copy for myself, but also for my 14-year-old grandson who fits right in with what I hope is the target demographic. Jon wanted to talk about the grief he’s been getting for asking a simple question to a professional magazine.
I’m paraphrasing here but it went something like this “You have, and actively solicit for women only months. When will you do the same for men?”
The question wasn’t answered of course. Instead, he got abuse and vitriol. For daring to ask a question.
Which brings me back around to self-publishing. I take a look at the market for selling books and I don’t see anyone that would be interested in me. Or even a bloke like me. You know, white, wrong side of 30 and straight. Then there’s Amazon, and they’re saying “come to us, self-pub, we don’t give a monkey about any of that stuff. If your works good you’ll sell, if it’s not, well you’ll go hungry. It’s all on you, neighbor!” I can live with that. What I can’t live with is the energy required to have to deal with small minded people who think the way to help people is to say “You’re really not good enough, so what we’re going to do is skew the playing field so that customers think you are.” That’s how you get IYWADML, and its ilk.
My last thought on the matter is: if you thought you weren’t doing something wrong, why would you be so defensive? It’s childish, the behaviour of toddlers not adults, and I should know, right?

Keep up the good work Jon, and neevr forget “Illegitimi non carborundum”.

That’s all for tonight guys.
Take care

Posted in Blog

Latest News: August 6th 2017

I know, I know, so very quiet as of late.
Well, there’s a reason for that. Not so very long ago my father in law, a thoroughly decent, honest and hard-working man received the kind of news that no man ever wants to hear. “George” his GP told him “your prostate cancer has spread, it’s now present throughout your body. If you’re lucky you have 3 months to live if you’re not lucky it could be as little as a fortnight.”
He wasn’t lucky. He got more than a fortnight, but not much more.
He made it past that fortnight, though not by much and passed away last Monday, at peace his hands held by the two women who loved him most: his daughter and wife. The funeral was on Thursday. There are times in your life when you have to step up and do whatever you can to help those you love. That means that you get less time to do what you want to do, and that’s as it should be.

So, my reading and writing took a big hit over the last few months, my usual two books a week becoming two books in 6 weeks. One of those two books I started yesterday and finished today. That’s right, I read Jeffro’s Appendix N in under 24 hours and a cracking good read it was too. I’m planning a more in depth look at it in the next few days now that life is finally returning to normal.

There are four weeks of the summer holidays left. Four glorious weeks during which we’ll do everything we can to enjoy the wonderful gift of life that we’ve been given. There are places to go to, places to see and a little buddy that is going to have some very special memories at the end of them. When it comes to end school starts and with it the beginning of my career as a professional writer.

I can hardly wait.

Posted in Blog

Latest news

Sorry guys I know it’s been a while.
It’s a busy time of the year here in the McSmith Household. Dearly beloved is hard at work, and as that work is in a school and it’s coming up to end-of-year it’s pretty hectic for her, meaning longer days and much longer hours. Anyone who thinks that teachers have an easy life needs to take a serious look at themselves. Lil Buddy has been going to see her new school and fingers crossed it looks like she loves it. Son is back for the summer now that his first year of University is completed, which is a mixed blessing. I love the great big lug but he also annoys the hell out of me too. That’s kids for ya!

I’ve not had a great deal of spare time, it seems some days that 16 of the 24 are taken up by Lil Buddy. The little bit that I do get is usually crashed out in front of my laptop defragging my tired brain. I’m extra tired too because I decided to quit drinking soda a month ago and the loss of caffeine to my system has hit me hard.

That being said I have been enjoying an uptick in my action adventure viewing. I’ve seen both series of Into the Badlands, which were enjoyable, John Wick 2 which was fantastic and both Raid and Raid 2. I liked the first one, not so keen on the second. Book wise it’s been about the craft really.

Which brings me to my last point, a minor irritation. Why do books that are supposed to be about writing focus so heavily on films? The two are very different mediums, that tell stories in vaguely similar ways. They are not and should never be considered interchangeable. What works in one will not necessarily work in the other. Telling me how something works in The Terminator does me no good whatsoever because I’m not making a damned film!

Just a thought.

Anywhoo, y’all take care

See you soon


Posted in Blog

SPV, some thoughts.

I’ve been interested in Sad/Rabid puppies since the day I had my epiphany after reading ‘If you were a dinosaur. Obviously, as a non-published writer with no dog in the fight, it’s quite easy to see things as an outsider.
Take the Rabid Puppies. It’s run by Vox Day, it’s his ballgame and he can do whatever he wants with it. His aim, which he states quite plainly, is to burn the Hugos down. It’s his church, and if that’s the hymn he wants to play then so be it. As far as I can see, as it was in the beginning so it is now.
The Sad Puppies have changed over the years. Larry Correia had his own agenda, as did Brad Torgerson, as did Katie Paulk. Each did things as they wanted to with varying degrees of success. The aim though always seemed to be getting SFF that is genuinely diverse (as opposed to one message fiction) recognized by Worldcon. I accept that this is a gross oversimplification, but I can’t be arsed to list all the differences.
Sad Puppies 5 was supposed to be headed by Sara Hoyt according to posts put out on The Mad Genius Blog. I remember reading the initial post and thinking that ‘this could be interesting’ seeing it as a natural evolution from Katie Paulks methodology from 2016. As someone who has no desire to give Worldcon one single penny of my money that was as much thought as I put into it.
Her comment about ‘someone wanting to hijack the campaign’ (I paraphrase because it’s late and I’m tired) did seem a little overboard, especially as she didn’t provide any corroborating screencaps etc. Like I said at the start, I don’t have a dog in this fight, so I thought nothing more of it.
Then there came the latest post, which explained why Sad Puppies seemed to miss the entirety of this year’s Hugos. Again, no dog, so I took it all at face value, but one thing struck me. There will be no Sad Puppies 6, or 7 or anything. Now there is just Sad Puppies the brand. One that will run forever with there being no need for any further changes in leadership. If the site goes up as described it will roll over year in year out. Will this detoxify the Puppies? Of course not, that would involve the creators of the Assterixs admitting that they were wrong and they’re not going to do that anytime soon.
Honestly, I think that the Sad Puppy campaigns are now over. The Hugos have changed the rules to ensure their will is and will remain paramount so there will be no change there. The Dragon Awards appear to be totally above board so you can’t campaign against them. Not unless they appear to be the wrong kind of diverse of course. Expect Rainbow Puppies to appear next to bring them in line with Worldcon.
Ye Gods I hope I’m wrong.

Posted in Blog

Sharing is caring: Oghmas’ Giveaway!

Well, schedules are like a box of chocolates. I will burn through all my free time on frivolous things and get to stuff later than intended. Without further ado. GIVEAWAYS First Prize: 3 full sized Poster Maps of Aihdre 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 feet Sealed Pack of Castles and Crusades Character Record Sheets 2 […]

via Giveaway! — Temple of Iron

I was originally going to do part two of my take on The Moon Pool but I’m just enjoying it too much to rush! So instead allow me to present to you a giveaway from the awesome Oghma. Come back Monday for the second part of my review, unless I get it done earlier.

Good Luck and take care!

Posted in Blog

Gaining a second education, Part three

Fast forward a few years. I’d been reading heavily in the horror and thriller genre and fancied a return to science-fiction. So, I did what any sane person would do and went looking for recommendations. What better place to start than with the Hugo nomination list. I had a quick look and saw that the latest winner was Ancillary Justice and so I ordered it from the library.

And I hated it. I loathed it. The whole gender thing? It felt like a gimmick, put there just to tick a particular box. I had read Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness while at school and found it amazing. I finished it and searched out the Earthsea stories which were even better. Leckies tale was confused and meandered and just seemed pointless. The action sequences were amateurish. And this had won the Hugo? How could this have won, was the rest of the field so poor? It ticked all the boxes I’d been taught to look out for but it was like a cup of frothy coffee, all head, and no real body.

I thought it was me. Back in the pre-internet days, I would have just assumed that it was just me. At this point, I had no idea that there was such furore over the Hugos. Bearing in mind that all I really wanted was something good to read, something to do while my newly arrived Lil Buddy slept. I did what any sane man would do; I investigated. I found If you were a dinosaur my love, a Hugo nominee. I still thought it might be me so I read some of the authors’ other work.

I was revolted.

I discovered the puppies, both sad and rabid and I listened to what they said. I discovered the fans over at 770 and I listened to what they said. And a (year, sorry my timing might be out) later I watched as the Hugo’s handed out wooden asterisks, ignored an amazingly talented editor and a female writer was verbally abused by someone who should have known better.

I was disgusted.

So I started giving my money to puppy writers. I read Sarah Hoyt, Katie Paulk and Larry Correia. Brad Torgerson scratched the itch that Leckie had missed completely. Monster Hunter was a thrill ride from start to finish. I enjoyed John C. Wright. I was entertained by one and all and that’s all I really wanted when I started out with Leckie. I certainly wasn’t looking for a fight.

I feel the need to finish on a more positive note. Three years ago I was hoping to begin writing full-time. Lil Buddy came to live with us and I found myself as a full-time parent again and I put her first, a decision I’ve never regretted. Lil Buddy is the joy in my life and gave me the opportunity to serve a writing apprenticeship, learning the craft of writing. If there’s a book on writing out there I’ve probably read it and that was only made possible thanks to her.

I’ve written over a million words in the last three years, and some of it has been good but most, well not up to the standard. Something was missing and I found out what it was. The writers of the Pulp Era. I need to say a huge thank you to Jeffro Johnson putting the idea in my head to read Appendix N.The same goes out to Jasyn Jones for his indefatigable passion for all things pulp.These stories have meaning, real heart and unadulterated heroism. I have three months before my Lil Buddy begins schools and I can once again resume writing full time. By then I hope to have gotten a good start on my second education, I’m learning more now than I ever did at school.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading guys

Take care