Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why the Myth of Common Sense Persists

Common sense is a myth, but it's so pervasive that it has to come from somewhere—and it has to have some aspect of truth to it, for it to persist.

To see why, we first must consider where the "common sense" myth stems from. This involves an assumption. Well, a few assumptions.

  • Everyone knows the same things.
  • Everyone has the same concerns and goals.
  • An event has the selfsame significance to everyone who experiences it.
  • Everyone interprets events' significance the selfsame way.
  • Everyone's best response to an event is the selfsame reaction.
  • In short: Everyone is the same.

To illustrate, I have a lot of allergies. Let's say someone offers me something that I'm allergic to, wherein I'll be sick for days if I eat it. "Common sense" would be to refuse, right?.

  • What if I'm about to pass out from lack of food?
  • What if the person offering it isn't someone I have the authority to refuse?
  • What if I have reason to want to be sick?
  • What if it's Communion?

Suddenly, the "common sense" of not eating foods you're allergic to isn't so common.

But the average person doesn't know the contributing factors, so all they see is me eating that rice-full Communion bread in the morning, taking the red wine (and then wearing sunglasses indoors until the threat of migraine passes), then missing evening service due to illness.

That Communion example is reality, by the way. Technically, I could bring my own bread or cracker—and I did, last time—though I'm a bit uncomfortable doing that. I could also take one of the grape juice mini cups instead of the wine, but Communion is supposed to be wine*.

*I'm speaking of my own convictions, here, the result of my own study. I'm aware of the wine vs. grape juice debate, and that's not my point, today. My point is that my principles mean I do something that's commonly considered stupid or foolish and definitely not common sense.

In order for common sense to exist, everyone would have to be the same—know the same things, want the same things, come from the same starting point, have the same goals, etc.

But everyone's different.

So a universal, objective common sense—a sense that everyone holds in common—is a myth*.

*Okay, so you could argue that natural revelation is a common sense, but that's not strictly true, because the Christian vs. non-Christian knows it differently.

That myth means, when someone's doing something you find weird and irrational, getting snippity and calling the correct action "common sense" is foolish, because there is no universally applicable common sense. Something might be common sense to you, but that does not make it some objective "common sense".

And vice versa, of course. Others' "common sense" is likewise limited and flawed.

Does that make "common sense" useless? No. It just makes it limited.

Knowing where apostrophies go is common sense to me. It's common sense to any text editor worth their salt. It's common sense to many a writer.

Or perhaps we should say that the placement of apostrophes is a sense that is common to me, editors, and writers.

That's something to bear in mind in life and in writing or reading. If the actions of a person or a character make no sense to you, you're probably disconnecting on a "common sense" level.

If you're aware of that, then you might just be able to figure out what differs. (Or take advantage of those differences in producing character conflict when writing.)

Do you have any stories to share about common sense or the myth of it?


Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Christian's Defense of Fantasy (including vampires)

This post is written from a solidly Christian perspective, treating the Bible as the Word from God and its commands as effective in the world today. If that offends you, kindly go read something else. Quotes are taken from the King James Version, mainly because it's popular and copyright-free, but links go to a resource with multiple translations.

Some people hate fiction, particularly speculative fiction, saying it isn't real and puts you out of touch with reality, as if non-fiction (and, sometimes, allegories) are the only reality, the only way of conveying information, though even the Bible has all sorts of communication types in it.

But I'll get to that.

Some people are more prone to seeing the glass as half-full; and some people are more prone to seeing the glass as half-empty. Usually this is described as optimism versus pessimism.

But like any analogy, it's not strictly true. They're actually illustrations two main ways you can describe or explain something:

  1. By pointing out what it is, to describe what is not
  2. By pointing out what it is not, to describe what is

My parents sometimes call me fat in public. It's a joke—because I'm most definitely not fat—but people who overhear it tend to freak out. Some protest, "She's skinny, not fat!", putting what is before what is not. Others insist "She's not fat! She's skinny!", putting what is not before what is. Neither statement is wrong. That difference illustrates my point about the two different styles of thought.

Allegories, much (but not all) non-fiction, and some fiction use what is to speak of what is not. Analogies, speculative fiction—science fiction, fantasy, horror—and satire use what is not to speak of what is.

And that's where the haters of fiction and fantasy tend to harp, saying it isn't real, and why would you want to fill your head with such nonsense?

Those people are missing the entire point. Sure, there's an escapist aspect, conveying you to another world—but that very "escapism" is what lowers the defenses so it can show the author's worldview.

Even the Bible sometimes contains fiction.

Case in point: Nathan's story of the lambs in II Samuel 12, told to David so he'd listen to the story to its conclusion and acknowledge his sin.

Scripture never forbids storytelling, and indeed, the prophets and Jesus often use stories to make their points. So fiction itself is therefore authorized, though the line between fact and fiction must be kept clear, to keep from bearing false witness (Ex. 20:16, Deut. 5:20).

The Bible also sometimes speaks out of what is not, as in the realm of fantasy.

The visions received by Pharaoh and the prophets in the Bible often could be thought fantasy, such as the statue in Daniel 2. Even Jesus got fantastical when he spoke of removing a plank from your own eye before seeking to remove the speck from your brother's eye (Matt. 7, Luke 6); it's not exactly possible to walk around with a two-by-four sticking out of your eye.

The Bible even references ghosts, such as when Jesus returned from the dead and his disciples freaked out. Jesus didn't say ghosts didn't exist; He gave the reasons He couldn't be a ghost (Luke 24:39). Maybe that means ghosts are real; maybe He was gently reassuring His disciples and poking holes in their beliefs about the paranormal. I don't know enough about Jewish or Roman beliefs about ghosts at the time in order to guess.

Now, we certainly aren't Jesus. Nothing we do is perfectly holy, good, just, right, etc. That doesn't stop people like David in Scripture from doing what he could to advance God's kingdom, though he was an adulterer, a murderer, and probably not all that great a father (that last one being a strong suspicion of mine from the mess that was his family).

But our imperfection makes any non-fiction we write just as imperfect as any fantasy.

In fact, because we are imperfect and view the world with flawed eyes, I find text about what is more potentially confusing and dangerous than text about what is not. Some of that is likely because I think out of what is not, but consider:

It's easier to describe what is not than to describe what is.

Consider the satirical essay "A Modest Proposal", by Jonathan Swift, which starts with the "what is not" premise that the Irish population must be reduced by any means possible—and runs with it. The result is gross, appalling…and in being so, makes its point in a pointed, memorable way.

For a long time, Arena by Karen Hancock has bothered me, because it has a bunch of benevolent aliens acting in the roles of Christ and angels. (Otherwise, I'd highly recommend it.) I naturally see analogies rather than allegories, so I was reading the text as the aliens being analogous to Christ and angels. But I suspect the overall text was meant as an allegory. I don't comprehend symbolism well, so though I can recognize an overall allegory and the broad analogies, the specifics intended by the big picture tend to lose me. (As much as I enjoy reading Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, don't ask me to identify what's supposed to symbolize what. I tried guessing once, and checked my answers by looking it up. I flunked.)

Analogies? I'm all over those. Allegories? Not so much.

But some people are the opposite, loving allegories and being lost by analogies, getting stuck on the points wherein the analogy fails.

Analogies are supposed to fail on some level, because they start with what is not, to speak of what is.

That doesn't make analogies bad. It just gives them different limitations than allegories—and allegories have limitations that analogies don't share.

Fantasy is the selfsame way.

If text speaking out of "what is" works best for your comprehension, that's great! Go ahead and never read a fantasy novel.

But please stop assuming that "what is not" is useless for everyone because it's useless for you. Pilgrim's Progress is useless for me, and you don't see me calling it a waste of time or sinful.

Now, I know I've still left unaddressed one significant argument against "dark" fiction, horror, vampires, etc.

Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Ergo, the argument goes, anything that contains any overt sin must be avoided. Christians must read of rainbows and cute fuzzy bunnies and not things that disturb them, because things that disturb you aren't pure and lovely. (Or, in the very least, it must explicitly and thoroughly condemn any sin that's mentioned.)

But if that's what it means, why is Judges in the Bible, or the incest of Lot's daughters (Genesis 19), or any one of a plethora of terrible and wicked things that are stated in Scripture without being explicitly condemned when they occur? If reading about relationships is wrong, why is Song of Solomon or Proverbs in the Bible? If reading about depression or hopelessness is wrong, what's up with Ecclesiastes?

Christians are to study Scripture, which includes disturbing texts like Judges—texts that don't include explicit, direct condemnation.

So defining "pure" and "lovely" as "sunshine and rainbows and warm fuzzy feelings" doesn't wash, and nor does a definition of "things that explicitly condemn every wicked thing therein".

What, then, is meant by the verse in Philippians by "whatsoever things are lovely" etc.? I'd have to learn Greek to be sure, but the semicolon before "if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise" suggests that is the definition for what has gone before.

Any story, text, or argument doesn't occur in a vacuum. To interpret it in a vacuum would be the equivalent of taking the story of the Levite's concubine out of Judges 19 and using that example to say that it's okay to take a second wife, because a Levite did it, and he's never condemned for it. (Never mind that concubine hasn't always referred to a secondary wife—it could just indicate a wife who came from a lower station than the husband or one who didn't have a dowry.) Or using that example to say that it's okay to hand your wife over to rapists to be tortured for the night, because the rapists were the bad guys of that story, not the Levite husband.

I'm not saying that everyone needs to think about the dark. Some people are more affected by negatives than others and actually can't handle it. Other people…actually find more reassurance in considering the evils in the world than they do in considering the nice things.

I read about some terrible thing that happened, and my reaction isn't "How can God let this happen?!" (which wouldn't make it very virtuous or praiseworthy to think on them). My first, instinctual reaction is along the lines of, "That poor person; yikes, we're wicked; and thank You for protecting me, God." Part of why I wrote Destiny's Kiss is that sex slavery is a problem—and more pervasive even in first world countries than we tend to think about it—and I intentionally chose a "what is not" premise, because I can't get everything right, and this way, I'm not supposed to.

And as an added bonus, the fantasy premise it lets the reader accept it as a step away from reality, so they can follow the events and connect it to the real world on their own, in their own time.

But as in the aforementioned "A Modest Proposal", life is comprised of dichotomies. (The song "Eye of the Storm" by Crüxshadows actually talks about this; listen on YouTube.) If your lights are always on, how will you know dark when you see it? If you don't start with the premise that it's wrong to eat babies, you won't understand "A Modest Proposal" properly as the satire it is.

Darkness can be used to make the light all the more obvious. The light shines in the darkness, according to John 1:5, and some translations say the darkness hasn't overcome it; some say it hasn't comprehended it. Both are true, though the implications differ.

Now, I'm not saying that people who define things out of negatives need to bury themselves in that "darkness", either. We need the light, too. We need balance. We have to with the negative to define the positive, because the Christian worldview is ultimately hopeful.

One last note on vampires: Blood drinking was forbidden under the Levitical law. Acts 15:20 includes the consumption of blood on a list that's also against eating meat sacrificed to idols—and I Corinthians 8 explicitly says that eating of meat sacrificed to idols is a conscience issue, for the food laws were negated in Acts 10.

Now, it's quite possible that I'm missing a nuance in the translation, and the blood spoken of in Acts 15:20 is specifically animal blood. However, Colossians 2:16 explicitly states that we aren't to pass judgement on what others do or do not eat, drink, or celebrate.

So I'll enjoy a rare steak, but I'm not about to go drink from someone's wrist. (Ew!) I have no qualms about sucking my own papercut, though. If vampries existed in the nice non–homicidal monster sense, blood would be natural part of their diet, and I find it reasonable to conclude that their diet, though revolting, would be theologically acceptable.

Even if you disagree with me, there's enough evidence to make fantasy—including vampires—a conscience issue. As for which side of the debate holds the "weaker brother" spoken of in Romans 14, neither of us knows, and it would be presumptuous to judge definitively on something that doesn't even exist.

Maybe vampires would be damned by definition; maybe not. I prefer assuming not, because the standard lore has it possible to be changed into a vampire against your will; you might prefer the interpretation that they are. That's okay.

Writing, reading (or to refusing to read) any fantasy, or horror, or vampire stories most certainly is not a sin, any more than reading non-fiction, satire, or general fiction.

So what's your argument for or against fantasy? See any holes I missed?


Friday, April 12, 2013

First Draft Fridays: AFoW Update & a little contest…

Well, it's not as many words as I'd hoped it would be, but I do have a new scene up on Wattpad for A Fistful of Water.

I've found a few new songs to help me get into Geddis's head, too, so that's nice. It's all guy-fronted alternative rock and metal, though, which is good for Geddis's mood, but not so great for the setting.

And my goodness, do I have a large cast in this one! I suspect that the revisions will feature streamlining who overtly appears in scenes, because I'm not convinced I really need all those different people in the scene.

*sighs and tugs hair* A Fistful of Water is kind of a weird story to write, because I actually dislike the narrator. I feel sorry for her, and I know I'll enjoy the story at the end, and Geddis will grow and learn and become someone I wouldn't mind knowing, but as for now…


She's not exactly pleasant company.

But I can't exactly blame her for that. Objectively, I invented her. Subjectively, I can't think of one character who helps her for her own sake, at this point. Everyone who helps her is helping her because of someone else.

First person who actually helps her for her own sake is, well, going to be complicit in Geddis doing something incredibly stupid, because that person doesn't consider it her place to judge anyone else's behavior. So Geddis says "I want to do X," and this person says "Okay" and gives tips rather than saying "Are you crazy?!"

This person has already appeared in the story. First person to guess who it is gets a copy of my as-yet unreleased (and unrelated) clean paranormal romance short story "Buzz and Bunnies" or a copy of my recipe for chia seed pudding, winner's choice.

The friends who have tasted my pudding are demanding my recipe, so don't be too quick to dismiss that option. *wink*

So… Who do you think will be the primary accomplice that I've described?

You can guess from who you already know from previous books (because the character shows up in at least one of the other two), or you can check what's posted of A Fistful of Water here.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

When Life Kicks You in the Teeth… (Stress and the Danger of the "Little Things")

Life is comprised of how you handle what comes at you. Those things can be little or big, and sometimes you'll navigate them fine, but sometimes you'll start drowning in it, either because you've lost perspective or because you don't see a way out.

Major events can cause that feeling of being overwhelmed, but… Minor events, little ones that even you think aren't a big deal, can do the same thing.

I had an allergy test this past Friday (meaning I was antihistamine-free and feeling pretty crummy for the whole week prior). I got the test, got home, took a phone call, crashed for ten hours…then fell back asleep for the night, and still felt poorly the next day.

Turns out that I'm ever-so-slightly allergic to cat hair. And when I'm not feeling well or napping at odd times? My cat insists on keeping me company. It's cute (as befits a cat named QTpi), but not helpful. But if I try to kick her out, she thinks she's in trouble and gets even more clingy in apology for whatever she did wrong.

I'm behind on Camp NaNoWriMo. I suspect I won't catch up, though I'll be focusing on it next week…

I'm behind on other life stuff (…like laundry and making tahini for my mother).

My grandparents decided last minute to come visit this weekend. I'm happy to be seeing them, and I'm concerned because Grandpa's not in the best of health.

Any one of those would be a non-issue to most people (me included), but all of them together? Those little things can all add up and be absolutely overwhelming.

Some people are overwhelmed at any series of things, and they respond by being impulsive. They don't think things through because they don't want to.

Some people are obsessed with analyzing everything, to the point that they rarely actually do anything, because they're still thinking it all through.

Most people are skewed one way or the other, having specific topics and situations wherein they respond the opposite way from usual.

I've mentioned before that I'm a detail-oriented person. I see details, I love them, and I'm susceptible to them overwhelming me. (Oh my I can't do my laundry—that takes a whole four hours! …Hey, the library has Thursday Next #4 in; it'll only take me a few hours to read it.)

Funny, the mind games we play with ourselves.

At any rate, our culture is overwhelming, with extroverts dominating. If you aren't go-go-go all the time, people assume you're lazy—or at best insist you have nothing to be stressed about. As if having a bunch of little things going on can't be as stressful as having something big going on.

I am not in any way denigrating the effect major events can have on a person. One semester when I was in college, I had constant gall bladder attacks for an entire term, my laptop (needed for school and work) was on the fritz, a friend died in the middle of finals week, and I had surgery scheduled the following week. My professors were incredibly gracious.

Those events look like major ones now, as I look back, but at the time? Constant pain and/or nausea was normal. Oddly behaving computer? Normal. The upcoming surgery was a relief, if a bit nervewracking due to some allergies that I knew I'd have to be careful to make sure were borne in mind. The only really "major" event to me at the time was the friend's death.

But…friends' deaths are actually normal, particularly as a person ages. It's a major life event when it's unexpected, but when it's expected or commonplace… It can be a little thing.

Your little thing is my big thing. And vice versa.

That's something that we tend to lose track of, when someone admits something that's bothering them, and we call it "not that bad". I have friends with conditions like neurofibromitosis, lupus, fibromyalgia. I am so glad that I am not them.

And all of them are freaking glad they aren't me.

I look at all my allergies, at all the health issues I have, and to me, they're little. I'm used to them. Oh, I'd better double-check my purse for all three antihistamines I regularly carry. Oh, it's hot today, so I'd better not have any caffeine, else I'll get a migraine. Oh, I need to keep a box of vinyl gloves in my purse marked ICE in case of emergency, though they probably wouldn't be used, but maybe the EMT would notice… (I've considered getting allergy tags.) Oh, I should order a Caesar salad—but with no croutons, and no seasoning on the chicken—to make sure it won't have any pork, rice, tomato, almond, etc. in it. (I even have to watch ingredient lists on regular, gluten-full tortillas and bagels.)

But mopping the floor? I'd have to get my cleaner (which I make myself), put on my gloves, fill up the bucket with hot water, get out the mop, scrub the floor, block Mom's cat from playing with the mop, scold Mom's cat when she tries playing in the water, redo the parts of the floor that Mom's cat messes up, dry the floor, dump the water, rinse out the bucket and mop, wring out the mop, and figure out how to get the mop to dry when it's seventy degrees out (F).

Ah! Attack of the littles!

When I find myself getting overwhelmed, I do my best to get myself to a change in scenery. As I type this (Wednesday afternoon), I'm sitting in Starbucks. The coffee's not that great, but the location's convenient, and the perks are good. Pulling myself out of my regular routine and location helps me get some persepctive, helps me slap myself upside the head.

Because really, mopping the floor isn't that hard. Or involved. Or even all that time-consuming, if you bother to time it.

But if you start looking at every little step in anything, that thing can easily become huge.

While the details are necessary to do something properly, the details can't be all that's focused on. The big picture matters, too. No matter what you're doing.

That doesn't mean "little things" aren't stressful. They are. The little things can overwhelm you, drown you, bury you every bit as much as the "big things" can.

The key is in how you look at them.

That's why some people look at starting a business or self-publishing a story or cooking a pizza from scratch (including the bread and sauce) and get all wide-eyed, insisting they can't do that.

Well… They probably could do it. They just feel as if they can't. And the overwhelmed person isn't helped when people are condescending or derisive of that feeling.

Everyone has "littles" that overwhelm them.

Remember: Your "little event" differs from mine, and vice versa.

The way to overcome attacks of the littles isn't to convince yourself how stupid you're being. It's to step out and adjust your perspective. Sometimes that ends up making you feel stupid…but we're all stupid, sometimes, so it's nothing to feel stupid about.

But all too often, we end up burying ourselves in self-derision. And that's the true danger in the littles.

How do you help yourself refocus on the big picture when you suffer from attacks of the littles? Do you have friends or family members who help you balance the way you naturally view things?


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Two Years in Review: Some Self-Publishing Numbers

I released my first novel, A Fistful of Fire, April 1, 2011. (I only remembered it was April Fool's Day after I'd already committed to releasing on that day.)

Sometimes, an author will post sales numbers, to encourage others to keep at it, to prove why they're successes or failures, etc. I enjoy reading those posts as much as the next writer, and I've always intended to follow suit. I've never understood the taboos against money talk—but then, I'm the type of person who, if told the company owner's making thrice what I am, will point out why the owner deserves that, rather than gripe about how I should be paid more.

But…my sales are low. Very low. So low that sharing my numbers in detail would end up looking like a "Please buy my stories!" plea, which isn't at all what I want. (Seriously. Not what I'm saying. If you want to buy something, great, but if not…please don't engage in pity buys on my account.)

Actually, the sales numbers themselves are such that I'm kinda reluctant to share them, but it seems as though the only people sharing are the ones who are raking in sufficient dough or who are throwing in the towel. Someone has to speak up, and it might as well be me.

Some of the low sales numbers are likely because life rolls have interfered with my product production. I had almost a year without releases. And most of my releases aren't in the same series, which are further strikes against sales improving. There could be other factors—for example, at some point, the file for A Fistful of Fire got mixed up with the pre-proofread version, and I'm still finding issues from that.

So how low is "very low"?

Total Sales of Aleyi and Darkworld stories

(I have some other things out, but I'd rather keep this simple. Besides, do you really want to know how memorization guides sell?)

2011: (9 months) 47

2012: (12 months) 38

So… 3 copies or 4 copies a month, over all my titles in those worlds. The majority of those sales are my epic fantasy novels. Thus why I'm more focused on finishing that series than the Darkworld series, at the moment. (Also why I'm seriously considering putting Destiny's Kiss and PRIMpriety up on Wattpad.)

Even with my low sales, I don't consider self-publishing a failure. I see it as getting a backlist in place. I also see it as practice in targeting my audience.

If you follow my blog, you might've encountered me mentioning that I have some stories that I plan to submit to some small publishers. I don't know about you, but more than once, I've read someone's novel from a publisher, then gone digging to try to find other things they've written. If I can find more, I might buy it—but I'll also be a lot more likely to remember the author's name and to buy their titles in the future.

Maybe you're like me. Maybe you aren't. That's okay. I'm keeping an eye on the big picture and the long haul, but that doesn't make you in any way obligated to do the same. Maybe you just want to know when I'm having my next release. (Probably June, if not sooner.)

I'm not worrying about the low sales until I have the Chronicles of Marsdenfel done, by which point I'll be doing some advertising, because I'll have enough product available to make it worthwhile. If sales don't start picking up at all, I'll give their branding, etc., a hard look. (And I'm already probably going to adjust the branding for the Darkworld stories—label them "new adult", for example.)

But let's say sales never take off or solidify, even after I have ten novels up. If that happens, I might stop self-publishing in general, but my self-publishing will not be a failure.

Because it's taught me more about branding, blurbs, cover design, genre, and e-book formatting. I can always try again.

And really, that's why I poke my nose into anything: to try it out and maybe learn something.

And that's what keeps me from running around like a chicken with my head cut off, assuming my career is a failure. Because it really isn't.

What do you think of my goals and analysis? If you self-publish or are considering doing so, what are will be your goals?


Monday, April 1, 2013

Don't Sign the Petition to "Stop e-Book Refund Fraud"

As some of you already know, there's a petition on going around: "Amazon Kindle e-Book Return Policy: Stop allowing refund of e-Books after the e-Books have been read".

Now, if you truly think this is a problem, and you truly think this is the way to fix it—by all means, sign the petition.

But please hear me out, first.

Remember when Breaking Dawn came out? Some folks bought the book, read it, and returned it in outrage.

The response then was something like, "The sky is falling! Readers are setting a precedent for returning books for the sole reason that they were dissatisfied with the ending!"

News flash #1: There have always been readers who returned books due to emotional dissatisfaction, rather than physically flawed product.

News flash #2: There have always been people who take advantage of refund policies.

Ask anyone who works in retail.

Now, e-books are a lot easier to return than physical items. I don't know about you, but it's fairly normal at my house to have some kind of "Ulgh! I should return this!" item at home, but the gas cost to return the physical item would be worth more than returning it. So I'd expect e-books to have a higher return rate than physical items.

And then, some people are more likely to return things than others. I actually return things and complain to management more often than my mother does (except for restaurants, where it's not unusual for us to end up with discounted or free meals due to screwups). But when we do, we do so calmly, rationally, and without lashing out at the middlemen, so even when we're recognized, the reaction is along the lines of "Is everything okay this time?" rather than "Oh, it's them! I'm on break!"

But most people who are likely to return things lash out at the poor retail personnel or the waiter who's in-between, and who probably isn't at fault.

My mother's worked in restaurants. She's taught me how to tell the difference between waiter incompetence and kitchen incompetence. Most of the time when we have a restaurant screwup—which happens probably a good third of the time when we go out—it's the kitchen. From waiters' startled reactions when we give them the proper tips despite the screwups, most people don't realize that and penalize them. Servers usually don't even make minimum wage, people. Tip your waiters and delivery guys!

Especially at lunch. And Christians who leave tracts instead of tips have really bad reputations with their servers. Yes, I'm one of those people who gives 10% for bad service. But when service is good? I tip well enough that the good servers remember me and want to serve me, despite how troublesome my orders can be. I don't go out to eat unless I can afford a 25% tip. I've had servers who got that even correct my order for me when I forgot to specify something I always ask for, like chopsticks or no ice in my water. Or ask "Did you mean to specify no mushroom?" (at which point, I give them a bonus).

Apologies for the slight rant, but it kinda proves the point of one reason I actually rather like e-book returnability:

Ebooks can be returned without personal middleman involvement.

Most people, when they're angling to return something that they don't really have cause to return, do so by causing enough of a headache that they'll be given the money just to make them go away. But e-books can be returned more easily, without raising someone's blood pressure or ruining anyone's day.

And policies will always be abused.

Even the change recommended by the petition is imperfect. Someone could download the e-book, make a copy, read it as an imported (not-Amazon) file, then return the Amazon file, because it wouldn't show up as read. If you think that sounds too complicated for people to do, macros could easily handle a good portion of it. Also consider how a lot of people know how to strip DRM off their files (and a fair number do so just because they don't want to get locked out of their own files).

You can bet Amazon keeps track of the policy abusers. I've even heard of them cracking down on such people. Amazon is policing itself. Let it do so.

Is it disappointing to lose a sale to a return? Yeah. But the author likely never would've gotten that sale if the reader was unable to return it.

And even if the return is a lost sale…that's a standard component of working in retail. Some of the product will be returned. We self-publishers should be glad that we don't have to deal with defective physical product, water damage, etc. Back when offset printing was the only way to go, self-publishers had to deal with all that.

There are legitimate reasons to return an e-book after getting to the end. It might've been that bad (like a non-fiction book that utterly failed to deliver on what was promised). Maybe the reader jumped ahead to see if the editing got any better. Maybe the reader is disgusted and prefers to return the book rather than give a one-star review. (If it's an either/or preposition, wouldn't most of us rather have the returned book than the bad review?)

Now, to be clear: I've never returned an e-book. I've considered doing so, but so far, everything I've been that dissatisfied with has been cheap, and I was leaving a low review anyway, so decided that my low review would be a sufficient slap in the face for the author.

And that's just for the e-books I buy that accept returns. My preferred vendor, Smashwords, doesn't accept returns, but that's not why I prefer them. I just don't consider the inability to return an e-book enough of a detriment to overcome what I like about them.

I'm also a self-published author, with most of my sales in e-book form. One of my pennames is dark fantasy. I do my best to give fair warning, and the worst things happen near the beginning, but I don't think it's a coincidence that that penname has a higher return rate than my others.

So I have a leg in this race, and I'm not worried about the returns.

And I don't think you should be, either.

What do you think about the current situation with e-book returns? Do you agree with me or the petition-makers?


P.S. This is not an April Fools' joke. Just to be clear. ^_^

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