Books, ads, and cold hard cash

My long-suffering Keyboard Kindle finally shuffled off its mortal coil. I hopped on immediately to buy a new one, because I just can’t be without my precious $2.99 ebooks. The cheapest model available comes with advertisements: there’s a smallish banner on the home page, and when you turn the device off, the screen shows an advertisement rather than a random picture of an author/coffee cup/generally book-related thing.

My boyfriend asked me whether the advertisements bothered me. “Of course they do,” I said. “These clearly aren’t using Amazon’s recommendation algorithm. It hasn’t once recommended a book in a genre I actually read.”


Here is a picture of my Kindle trying to convince me to buy a game exclusively for a device that is not a Kindle. I don’t own a Wii U, I don’t buy video games from Amazon, and I only recognize the characters from Legend of Zelda because I played Super Smash Bros at a friend’s house eight years ago. This is the opposite of targeted advertising.

I actually do like Amazon’s recommendation engine, even when it’s a creepy reminder of just how much the company knows about your purchasing habits. It’s tailored to your interests, it’s difficult to game, and it isn’t (as far as I’m aware) weighted in favor of the Big Five. I’ve discovered plenty of excellent authors through that service. So I’m annoyed that my Kindle’s advertising runs on a different, far dumber system, one that keeps insisting I would like to read inspirational memoirs and police procedural thrillers.

My boyfriend had a different issue with the Kindle. He was bothered that a device I had bought to read books on had advertising on it at all. I had bought it, I owned it, so why should I be subjected to advertising at all?

That’s a trickier issue. On the one hand, what consumers are allowed to do with their own devices is a legal grey area; if I decided I didn’t want to see these infuriatingly off-beat ads, I might be able to find a way to block them, but I would certainly void my warranty at the very least. On the other hand, books and advertisements used to mix perfectly well. Modern readers reacted with horror when the Wall Street Journal floated the idea of ads in books, even though the practice was common only thirty years ago in print books. In the comics industry, back-of-the-book advertisements are remembered with great fondness. When I buy a print magazine or a newspaper, I expect ads on almost every page. What makes books the exception?

There seems to be a cultural assumption that prose, especially prose fiction, should exist in a vacuum untainted by any whiff of merchandising. Books should just appear, perfectly edited and pleasantly bound, and the reader should find out about them through some sort of spontaneous inspiration. The advent of online bookstores, and ebooks in particular, has heightened this fear that our books are somehow in danger of being corrupted by crass commercialism.

Never mind that bookstores have been selling choice display space for ages. Never mind that publishers have advertised books for generations (in fact, a publishing company that didn’t advertise its products would not be long for this world).

So I’m mad about these ads, but not because I object to the concept of ads in my books. I’m mad that Amazon is clearly taking publishing companies’ money to put ads in front of the wrong people, using a system that’s way worse than what they already have available for free.

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The best inadvertently sexy lines from that Evangelical Harry Potter rewrite

Have you read Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles yet? It’s supposedly a rewrite of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, made safe for Evangelical Christians. Every moment of it is so perfectly, deliciously insane that readers are already insisting it must be a prank. But I want to believe.  

Harry Potter

On the porch was standing a huge, muscular man with a big, manly beard; and he was dressed in a plaid, red shirt, blue jeans, and sturdy, leather boots. His chest was covered in a thick, unruly carpet of coarse, brown hair.

And we all know that it would be a dreadful, terrible sin to bring another man’s wife into intimacy.

“We don’t believe in the stuff against fornication and drinking and socialism”

Now, at the beginning of the breakfast meal, Harry had noticed, a tall, mysterious-looking man with long dark hair and gaunt, enigmatic features. He was dressed stylishly in a crisp, black suit; and his tie made a shock of red in the otherwise totally black outfit. The dark hair on his pale chest was neatly trimmed but still noticeably thick; and he wore elegant, black leather shoes on both of his feet.

“Welcome to Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles,” greeted the older but still handsome in a dignified, rugged way amicably.

“Well,” Mr. Snape said; and he drew his tall, strapping form up to its full, impressive height.

Harry was nervous; but he clenched his fist determinedly.

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Portland trip: the zoo


This bear would only drink by dipping its paw in the water and licking it.


20140915_104704_1An otter takes a break from freaking out about fish.



This cougar decided to take a nap against the glass. It had a very fluffy belly.



Behold, the weirdest animal I have ever seen.



Unexpectedly majestic shot of a monkey.



Isaac and I had a long debate about whether or not this caiman was alive.



Lazy cheetahs.



I was OBSESSED with this majestic weirdo. He looked like he had been drawn by someone who didn’t understand physics.



Here he is standing on his hind legs, in defiance of everything I thought I knew about gravity.



This monkey woke up from its nap and ended up hanging out on the other side of the glass.



Silly leopard face.


20140915121018Om nom nom.


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Crispy fried

I have written 100,000 words of fiction since January 1st.

Don’t start with the congratulations yet, though. They’re not great words. They’re first draft words, and one draft isn’t even finished yet (yes, I jumped into the second project less than 24 hours after finishing the first, this was not a wise decision). To meet the goals I set for myself, I’ve got at least 30,000 more words to write before December 31st. And then I have to edit, which will involve a major structural overhaul of a story that was structurally unstable to begin with. And then I have to edit some more just to put some meat on this story’s bones. And then I have to find some beta readers, and get their suggestions for more edits. And then I have to edit some more. Then I can start querying, and in the very unlikely event that I have any success at that, I will enter yet another round of edits.

I will do all this and also find time to eat, sleep, work out, hang out with friends, maintain a relationship, and work hard enough at my full-time job to ensure that my raises keep pace with the rising cost of living in my area. And of course, I have to get started on the next project.

Writing a novel is like climbing a mountain. Does that sound trite? Of course it does. Everyone believes they could climb a mountain, and they will climb a mountain someday, when they feel up to it. From a distance, the mountain’s sides don’t look that steep. You just walk straight up the side, right? Then one day you decide to drive out to the trailhead, and the mountain seems a lot taller from this close, but you can still picture yourself at the top. So you start walking, and the slope seems a lot steeper when you’re relying on your legs and not your imagination to carry you, and after a tremendous amount of effort the mile markers are telling you you’re only a third of the way up.

And some jerks are strolling up the mountain like it’s nothing at all. Some are jogging up the mountain. Experienced hikers are passing you. They have climbed many mountains before. They won’t even be sore tomorrow. Some of them are so good at climbing mountains that companies will give them vast sums of money to keep going.

I am scaling a bigger mountain than last year. I am still not close to the top, but now I can tell you exactly how far I’ve got to go. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I should keep walking.

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