Weird meets weird

I can't even begin to say how bizarre this is.

The new publishing reality?

Do we need agents? do we need publishers?


Publishers have long taken the view that agents are parasites contributing nothing to the publishing ecosystem – and they might have a point were it not for the fact that every single time I have ever seen a contract signed by an author without an agent it has without exception been awful.
Agents, pretty obviously, have never questioned the existence of publishers – their parentage sometimes, but not the fact of their existence. But that is changing – it is now possible to ask the question, what are publishers for? How much do they contribute?
Publishers do offer a considerable amount of value of course but do they offer enough value to justify an author giving up 90% of revenue? It is becoming increasingly hard to make that case in all instances – I never expected to have to sell the very idea of having a publisher to authors.


About comments

Yes, they are on, and you're welcome to share, but anything that look remotely like spam, even if the filters don't catch it or the scouts don't spot it, will be deleted.

And for the record, my sex life is fine and I don't need any more pain killers, prescription or not.

You can't judge a book by its cover

. . .  but I was certainly wowed by the new cover for the ebook edition of Threat Level Black, prepared by Kim Killion of the Killion Group:

Threat Level Black, which was originally published by Simon & Schuster, is available in Kindle format here.

The first frogman I ever got to know cleared beaches in the Pacific ahead of the allied advance. We'd play poker every weekend - he was a great storyteller, and good enough at cards to keep everyone in the game.

The authors' dilemma

From British thriller writer, Matt Hilton:

Like many other mid-list authors I’m fighting a losing battle to get my books onto physical bookshelves these days, and instead of seeing the numbers of my books growing in availability I’m finding that fewer bookshops now carry them than when I was a newbie on the scene a few years ago.     There’s no single specific reason why this has happened, but you can count in the fact that there are fewer bookshops on the high street these days, that many of the supermarkets have cut back on the number of lines they once carried, and that many readers are now turning to Amazon to feed their reading habits. But then you have to also look at the way that the chain bookshops have largely turned their backs on supporting the mid-list authors.

Full blog entry, here.

A lot of what he says applies to the U.S. as well -- and to writers in all places on "the list." It's a bit of a downer, actually, but it's also unfortunately accurate. The changing ecosystem, and the continuing recession or recession-like economy, has made it more difficult for creative artists in general, and writers in particular, to make a decent living.

This just in . . .

. . . scientists discover that monkey brains are different than human brains.


Professor Vanduffel continued, "When watching a movie, the cortex processes an enormous amount of visual and auditory information. The human-specific resting state networks react to this stimulation in a totally different way than any part of the monkey brain. This means that they also have a different function than any of the resting state networks found in the monkey. In other words, brain structures that are unique in humans are anatomically absent in the monkey 


Imagine the results if they'd been showing them porn . . .

Just like they planned?

From the Europe is a great example of everything department:

The euro-area economy will shrink in back-to-back years for the first time, driving unemployment higher as governments, consumers and companies curb spending, the European Commission said.Gross domestic product in the 17-nation region will fall 0.3 percent this year, compared with a November prediction of 0.1 percent growth, the Brussels-based commission forecast today. Unemployment will climb to 12.2 percent, up from the previous estimate of 11.8 percent and 11.4 percent last year. . . .
“The decisive policy action undertaken recently is paving the way for a return to recovery,” [Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli] Rehn said. “We must stay the course of reform and avoid any loss of momentum, which could undermine the turnaround in confidence that is under way, delaying the needed upswing in growth and job creation.”


Uh-huh. The policies have worked so well that they've put Europe in a recession, but confidence abounds. In what, I wonder.
Hogs Book 3 available

Kindle version here.
North Korea and the bomb

So at what point does someone figure out that:

a) North Korea's government, living in a bubble and not a particularly stable one at that, is likely to use its nuclear weapons in a first strike situation; and

b) Not only would their strike potentially kill hundreds of thousands if not millions, but any retaliation is likely to do the same; and

c) It would be far safer for some other country - read, U.S. - to first strike their missile silos and weapons storage areas, limiting potential collateral damage to military targets.

I realize it's hard to take the North Koreans seriously, what with their goofy videos and all (see below), but at some point the calculus becomes unarguable - if a psychotic paranoid controls a lethal weapon, the safest course of action is to take it away before it can be used.

Thanks to the Gotcha Patrol

I just wanted to thank readers who have pointed out typos and another anomalies in Omar Bradley. Hopefully we'll have them all fixed for the new edition due out later this year.

Corrections and additions are always welcome - the easiest way to get my attention is by email through the author's site.

In honor of Washington's birthday . . .

. . . spend the holiday with his favorite spy.

Kindle ebook free for a limited time here. And we fixed the typos - or at least most of them!

Up next . . .

. . . Book 3 in the Hogs series, available for Kindle ereaders.

 Should be live by the end of next week.
Help me fix the errors . . .

A lot of readers have very kindly (mostly) pointed out typos and what-have-yous that snuck their way into my biography of Omar Bradley - General at War.

We're hoping to correct them for the new trade paperback edition due out later this year. If you spot something, I'd truly appreciate knowing. The easiest way would be to post a comment here; you can also email through the author's site. (No need to do so again if you already have. And yes, the captions [arg] were among the first things anyone spotted - the dent in my wall is proof! Hopefully we can at least get them fixed.)

Iran - a Photoshop superpower . . .

The new Iranian superjet is so good, it flies over stock images . . .

The backstory: Iran announced a new "stealth fighter" the other day, only to have its fantasy exposed by a blogger - the image above showing the aircraft was a Photoshop creation is from the blog, located here. (Google translate kind of murders the Persian, but you get the gist from the images. The top photo is a stock image; the jet was superimposed - or "shopped" over it.)

As numerous people have pointed out, the aircraft is a preposterously unflyable design. But it does look kind of cool. Maybe we should get one for Ace Combat.
Hey, we can blow stuff up, too

Item: Following North Korean nuclear test, South Korea launches a cruise missile and provides video on it, just to keep things interesting.
Nuclear attraction


Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability.


Is there anyone in the world who thinks Iran is NOT trying to do this??? I mean, duh . . .

Not with a bang . . .

The "suit" ends - Macmillan settles. From CEO John Sargent:

I like to believe that we would win at trial. But outcomes are hard to predict with certainty,
particularly in a civil case with a low burden of proof.  And so we agreed to settle with no
admission of guilt. As with the other settling publishers, retailers will now be able to discount
Macmillan e-books for a limited time. This change will take effect quickly.
Thank you for all the support you have shown for Macmillan, and me, over this last year.  And
also thanks to the many booksellers and others who voiced their opinions. I’m disappointed it
ended this way. But this round will shortly be over, and it is time for us to move on to the next.

Full statement here.

Some still walk among us . . .


Humankind’s common ancestor with other mammals may have been a roughly rat-size animal that weighed no more than a half a pound, had a long furry tail and lived on insects.

Kind of explains a lot, doesn't it?*


* Relax. I'm only kidding.

Did the space monkey do it?


CNN) -- Iran says it has decoded and released footage from a U.S. drone that it downed more than a year ago.
The black and white aerial footage, Iran claims was from a RQ-170 spy plane, was aired by Iranian news agencies and placed on YouTube.

Translation: Iranian scientists, working around the clock for approximately a year, found the play button for the video gear used during landings/taxiing/takeoffs.

At this pace, the entire technology will be available in . . . twenty years?

On a serious note, it's not actually clear that these images are from the drone; the steady stream of bs propaganda that comes from the country (witness the space monkey, the supposed Iranian stealth interceptor, etc.) make it hard to accept anything at face value. But even if they are, they are hardly as significant as the rest of the technology aboard the aircraft, most importantly its instrument package, which any prudent official has to consider already compromised - not by Iran, but by countries that can actually do something with it.

Memorial trust funds established


We have received considerable interest from friends, colleagues and members of the general public wishing to contribute to the families of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield, who were tragically killed on Saturday, February 2, 2013.  We are extremely humbled by the outpouring of generosity and offers of support.

In response, trusts have been set up in both of their names for anyone who would like to make a financial donation to the families.  These trusts will provide for the general welfare of the families as well as the education of their young children.  One hundred percent (100%) of the donations will go to the respective families.

Please follow the link below to make a donation to the Chris Kyle Memorial Trust and  the Chad Littlefield Memorial Trust.

On behalf of everyone at Craft International, we thank you for all of your kind words, thoughts, prayers and assistance.

Craft International

Donate to the Memorial Funds

Craft webpage, with links here.

"The number"

In pretty much every news story on Chris Kyle, his “record” of sniper kills is mentioned. That’s not surprising, of course; it’s one of the things that helped bring him to national attention.

But it’s worth saying that Chris was very, very ambivalent about the so-called record and “the number” or tally of kills. While he was proud of the job and service he had done as a SEAL, and while he fully understood that those battlefield “kills” represented in tenfold the lives of innocent civilians and fellow Americans he had saved, he nonetheless looked at the number as a strange artifact of time and circumstance. If it were up to him, it would not have been used in the book.

The number we published – over one hundred and sixty – is purposely vague. The actual number of “kills” recorded by Chris Kyle as a Navy SEAL is considerably higher. That should be obvious to anyone carefully reading the book.

The high number seems to alarm a number of people – journalists especially, who in the wake of Chris’s death haven’t failed to ask about it, and then gone on to imply that he should have somehow felt guilty about doing his job protecting Americans and Iraqis so well.

The number is partly a product of the fact that Chris was involved in some of the fiercest battles in Iraq, and thereby operated in what military analysts call a “target rich environment.” But even more critically, it’s the result of changing technology and attitudes toward warfare. At its heart, it’s the result of a conscious decision by the U.S. to limit collateral damage and civilian deaths, especially when warfare is conducted in an urban environment at a time and place when the enemy is consciously using civilians and the threat of their deaths as part of their warfare strategy.

A full analysis of the tactics employed in Iraq and to some extent in Afghanistan is probably far more than most people care to read. But it may be useful for people to consider World War II, and how that war was waged.

I think most mental images of the Good War feature a sanitized battlefield, one where two armies maneuvered across vast areas of empty terrain. No civilians enter the picture. Even when the image we conjure has an urban setting, we rarely if ever picture civilians, or stop to consider that the buildings in shambles were very recently houses and businesses.

But of course, hundreds of thousands of civilians died in the war. And yes, the American army was, at times, responsible for their deaths. Even if the people were fortunate enough to have fled before the troops arrived, the destruction of their homes certainly could not have been considered a good thing.
The changes in attitudes and technology since then are most obvious in air warfare. The cases of deliberate targeting of civilian areas during World War II is rightfully notorious. But in truth, when a munitions plant or even an army camp was bombed, a large portion of those bombs fell on non-military targets.
The development of so-called “smart bombs” has radically changed that. While there are still mistakes and malfunctions, military targets can be hit with a precision undreamed of in World War II or Korea. Collateral damage – a fancy term for civilian deaths – can be drastically reduced.

On the ground, artillery and machine guns were the main killing weapons from roughly World War I on. A single machine gunner in a critical unit could easily account for several hundred deaths over the course of a war; so could an artillery crew. No one would question whether any of them were operating outside the norms expected of any soldier.

The tactics that relied on those weapons are still possible – witness Syria, among other examples. But they’re no longer considered acceptable to most Western nations, the U.S. especially. (Their effectiveness, of course, is another question – again, witness Syria.)

Snipers* make possible different tactics – selective engagement of enemy soldiers at relatively long-range, or at least far enough away that they can’t put too many Americans or nearby civilians at risk. Those tactics produced Chris Kyle’s “record.” They also made possible the Iraqi elections, allowed a fair number of Iraqis to remain in their homes despite a violent civil war, and greatly reduced collateral damage. They also helped reduce American casualties.

This is not to say that there wasn’t a great deal of damage or no casualties – war is still hell. And the use of well-trained snipers and other soldiers was just one facet of the changing tactics that have been employed over the last decade or two. But it’s important to realize that “the number” – not just Chris’s, but that of every sniper and even soldier in the war – is really just a statistical byproduct, an accident if you will, of an attitude that tries to keep civilians apart from war, even if the enemy is using their safety and deaths as a tactic against you.


I should probably note the reason there is a number in the first place: Specific shooter records were kept during a significant portion of some of the battles Chris participated in. I can only speculate why that was so, but it seems obvious that some members of the military hierarchy weren’t entirely comfortable with either the tactics themselves, or perhaps what they saw as the possible public reaction to them. It must have seemed somehow more antiseptic if a mortar round killed an enemy soldier, rather than a single bullet fired by a single man who studied him and his actions for considerable time before shooting – even if the mortar round killed nearby civilians being used as a shield.


You can read Chris’s attitude toward “the number” in the prologue to American Sniper. It’s possible that most of the words in that specific section were mine, but the sentiment is one hundred percent his. We talked about “the number,” many, many times, and his thoughts were always the ones captured there.

There is no deep discussion or analysis of tactics and the evolving nature of warfare in the book. That wasn’t the way Chris thought things. For Chris, his job was to protect people – his fellow Americans, other allies in the war, and the Iraqi people. He did it with grace and efficiency few others have exhibited.

* Just a note for the technically inclined and those who have asked: Yes, the U.S. also employed snipers in what most people would consider a more "traditional" sniper role: individual missions, and advance scout/recon. While Chris was trained that way and took part in such missions, the vast majority of his kills and his war experiences came from the urban warfare referred to here.
Others always came first

A lot of people who came to know Chris Kyle, either through the book or his other public endeavors, focused on the kills or the medals. For me, Chris was about two things: Family, and helping others.

Even before we began working together on American Sniper, Chris was incredibly dedicated to helping others. We spent a lot of time talking about his plans to help other veterans in various ways.

I remember one conversation we had about what we would do if we suddenly got rich. His words: “I’d set up a foundation to help wounded veterans in any way they need help.”
Throughout his life and career as a SEAL, Chris struggled to determine how his life should be ordered:

God, Country, Family . . . or . . . God, Family, Country.

But there was never a question in his mind that those things were more important than he was.


I've just heard the news that Chris Kyle was shot and killed, apparently by a vet whom he was trying to help.

Words are incredibly useless at this moment.

Go, Phil

Spring ahead?

(Reuters) - Punxsutawney Phil, America's most famous groundhog, emerged from his burrow on Saturday to the glare of cameras and the cheers of thousands of spectators and offered his annual weather prognostication: An early spring is coming.


Monkeying around?

Images released by the Iranian government — supposedly depicting the monkey before and after the launch — don't appear to match up, casting further doubt on their claims and raising suspicions that the launch may have been faked.


The Iranians claim they used the wrong photo.

At what point will it be revealed that the Iranian space program is actually a cover for a plot to make monkeys extinct?

And now for a word from our . . .

. . . um, sponsors (??) . . .

rogue-ale-girls 1-30-13 from on Vimeo.

. . . Rogues all.

(Catch the Rogue Warrior fighting championships, which help raise money for wounded veterans. Even if you don't like fighting, there's plenty to see. Website)
No lip syncing here