Writing Is the Easy Part

I’m weird. I know this.  Things that others like, I hate.  And I’m almost pathological in my negative reaction to being marketed to. I do not like to be sold and I’m very, very sensitive to any signs that it’s happening.

Which makes this whole self-publishing thing quite challenging for me.  Because I don’t want to have to sell others.  I want to just tell them, “Here’s a good product that meets your interests, buy it if you agree.”

But I’ve been reading a book on advertising recently that’s full of tips and tricks for how to market things. And I just spent the morning updating my blurbs and ad copy for some of my non-fiction books to “sell” my books better.

So now my blurbs say things like, “Do you know the X number of ways to do Y?”

It killed me to write them that way.  It’s so spammy feeling.

But… The books in question do have numbered lists telling people how to do Y. So if mentioning it up front, sells those books, might as well try it.  It’s just…painful to me.

Writing the things I want to write is easy. Getting other people to see them?  Hard.  And then buy them?  Even harder.

But that’s what you have to do if you want to succeed at this, so…Worth a try. Even if it kind of sort of makes me cringe.

Posted in General Musings | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Let’s Talk Numbers

So, as usual when I know I should be writing but for some reason am stuck, I spent some time today playing with my Access database where I track sales across eight different platforms, eight different pen names, and, as of today, over 100 different titles.

(Don’t get impressed.  Lots of that 100 are short stories. As Pronoun is slowly learning to their chagrin.)

I know I need to focus my writing.  I know this.  But as I’ve mentioned before, it isn’t all that easy to figure out what direction to focus in when your top three titles by revenue are under three names and in three different genre/types.

Today’s exercise was breaking down my total revenues, pay per hour, and pay per word by type and genre.

So, first I looked at novels vs. short stories vs. non-fiction titles.

I clearly make the most in terms of actual money from novels.  They’re certainly easier to promote because they pass the length requirements of most retailers, so that kind of makes sense.

But in terms of pay per hour, they’re actually last for me.  Turns out I make about 3x as much per writing/editing hour on my non-fiction and close to that, on average, with my short stories.

I also make pretty much the same per word rate across the board.  (And, man, do I wish it were a nice pro-rate of 6 cents per word, but it’s not. Yet.)

Which is all to say that I can write non-fiction faster than short stories and short stories faster than novels.  Makes sense.

Is there a trend on the non-fiction? A specific type I could focus on?  Nope. My top four titles are related to three completely different topics.

What about genre?  Any standouts there regardless of length?

Actually, maybe.  (And this is where this type of analysis falls apart…)  My erom titles make me twice as much per writing/editing hour as anything else with non-fiction coming in second.

That’s mostly off the strength of a well-targeted short story collection that I sort of kind of wrote to market that still occasionally sells.

But…can I write more like that? Uh, well, um…


I think I could, but I’m not sure I want to. And it’s an incredibly competitive space to be in. Very much release or die. I think trying to make a living there would stress me out no end. So I can poke around at the edge of it every once and while but trying to make a living there?  Nah.

(BTW just noticed WordPress has changed their layout again.  Grrr.  Just leave things alone, would you?)

Which all makes me circle back to that whole “how bad do you want this?” discussion.  I feel like a dilettante who just wants something useful to do around taking the puppy to the dog park and watching crappy t.v.  Problem is, I don’t have some rich uncle who’s going to kick off and leave me millions and every time I buy a lottery ticket I don’t even match one number.


Where does that leave me?

I guess I don’t have to feel too guilty when I slip in a few non-fiction titles here or there?

And, of course, the danger in an analysis like this is it doesn’t take into account intangibles like the fact that I still haven’t released an actual series yet.  So those novel numbers could be way underestimating potential right now.

(Which is what my gut tells me and why I’m hoping to write 500K in novels this year.  Hahaha. Yikes.)

I think the takeaway I’m going to go with is this: Based on the numbers, whatever I choose to write, I manage to do okay with, so what I really need to do is frickin’ pick a direction and go.  I’m like the college student who can’t decide on a major right now.

And  I will say I’m pretty impressed I’ve sold (for cash money, not free) over 2,100 short stories so far (counting sales of collections as one sale).  It was spread across a lot of titles so I didn’t realize the number was that high.

Huh.  Who knew?  (And until it pays my mortgage, who cares?)


Posted in General Musings, My Writing | Tagged , ,

Free Short Story and Thoughts on Pronoun

So, first, my short story The Bearer is free on Amazon at the moment.  Should be in all markets, so if you’re interested, pick up a copy. This is the story that almost almost almost sold to Tor.com back when they were taking open short story submissions and a few years later I still, surprisingly, like it.

I don’t know why, but I figured I’d look back at those stories I wrote in 2013 and wince, thinking how horrible they were given my older, wiser perspective.  But actually…I didn’t.  I went through all of the short stories I have published to Amazon and tweaked them before moving them over to Pronoun but they really held up pretty well.  The Price We Pay made me a little teary even.  (It’s based off my father…)

Anyway.  For you author/publisher folks, if you haven’t looked into Pronoun, it might be worth checking out, especially if you have a title you want to list for free on Amazon.  Because, unlike the convoluted hoops you have to jump through to get a title matched to free if you list your books directly with Amazon, on Pronoun you can just put the price to free and it works.  Just like that.  In all markets, I do believe.

Which is pretty darned convenient for a title you want to leave at free.  (I hadn’t been planning on listing The Bearer as free and then I thought, why not?  I like the story, I want people to read it, and I’m not going to spend a lot of time or effort promoing it to bring in those readers.  So, let’s set it to free and see what folks think.)

Listing through Pronoun does reset a book and give it a new ASIN so I wouldn’t recommend that for a title with a good ranking.  (I have one of my romance shorts that’s free that I won’t move for that reason.  But another one I just set to free is sitting at 3K or 4K on the free list since I moved it over which is nice for a title that’s been out a couple years and had lost visibility.)

You can also get your reviews on Amazon to transfer over so you won’t lose those. (But you might have to email Amazon to make that happen.  Just ask them to link the two editions and give them both ASINs.)

They also have access to Google for those who don’t have an account there and want to list wide.

Right now I won’t use them for more expensive titles because of the lack of granular price control.  Not that I think I can get a Bookbub on every title, but you never know.  And I’m not a fan of their reporting from what I’ve seen so far.  It’s not detailed at all.  Hopefully the reports they send when they send payment will give more granular detail.

But another nice little perk that they’re offering at least for now is a better payout on books outside of Amazon’s sweet spot of $2.99 to $9.99.  If you’re direct with Amazon you get 35 cents for a sale of a 99 cent title.  But if you go through Pronoun you might get as much as 70 cents.  (I’ve had a few that paid 50 cents so far probably because they were UK sales, but I can’t see that because of their crappy reporting…)

And they’ll email you to let you know what categories you could be in to get on a top 100 list, but I’m not too impressed with that either.  It suggested I list my short stories in a translations category.  Sure, I’d get on a list, but what’s the point on being on a list when my book isn’t that type of book so those readers won’t want it?

Anyway.  Something to look into if you weren’t aware of it already.  Oh, and the formatting they offer is much nicer than the basic formatting I normally get by uploading a Word file everywhere.  (But I think I’m about to take the plunge and move to Vellum so I have more control over that.  Only took me three and a half years to get there.  Haha…)

Posted in General, My Writing | Tagged , , , ,

Bit by Bit

When I don’t feel like writing I often crunch numbers related to my writing.  It makes me somehow feel like I’m working on my writing business but really I just think it’s fun to play with Access databases and Excel spreadsheets.  (It seems to me that somewhere in that statement is an indicator of what I should actually be doing to earn a living, but I digress…)


What did I learn today?

That I am slowly but surely making progress with this writing gig.  Six months into my fourth year of self-publishing and I’ve already made more than I did in my third year of self-publishing.  Yay.

We’re still talking small numbers, but I think I can pretty comfortably say that I will earn at least $100 per month at this point since the last eight months have been well clear of that number. (Although no $1,000+ months yet, sadly.)

What changed?  Last time I posted something about this on the blog I think I was happy that I’d made it twelve months with at least $50 earned.

One, audio.  I now have twenty-two titles out in audio.  Some barely sell, so I haven’t paid off my overall investment in audio yet, but without any effort from me it chugs along nicely on the ones that do sell.  The first title I put in audio got one great review and that’s driven sales of that title ever since and it broke even a few months ago so all sales on it are now gravy.  After the first four, I produced them on a non-exclusive basis and am about to list them wide so I’m hoping that by zigging while everyone else is zagging I get even more audio revenue.  We shall see…

Two, finally putting out a second book in a series.  As much as I knew the advice to write novels in series I really hadn’t done that until last year.  I have high hopes that getting the third and final book in my pen name fantasy series out will really make it pop.  Then I’ll feel comfortable pushing book 1 heavily to drive sales.  I had a small international-only Bookbub on that title in January and got a taste of what I might be able to accomplish with the series once it’s complete.  Even if I can’t get another BB I really have’t promoed that title at free or 99 cents other than that one sale, so lots of options available.

Three, advertising.  I’ve had some success with AMS ads since July with non-fiction as well as fiction titles at full price and I’m starting to poke a toe into FB ads as well. I’d like to explore other CPC ad options this year and see what I can do with them because I think advertising is what’s really been driving my numbers the last six months.  Basically, I’m getting $2 of sales for every $1 of ads.  I just wish I knew how to scale it….But pleased with that 2:1 ratio nonetheless.

Interestingly, I didn’t publish a lot last year.  Other than book 2 in that series most of what sold last year was material that I’d published the year before.  So don’t give up on a book just because it’s been out a while and didn’t do well right out the gate.  Sometimes it just requires a new format (like audio) or more related books or finding advertising that works for that book.

I by no means have cracked the secret to success.  I can still earn more in a week of consulting than I’ve ever earned with my writing.  (Although it’s pretty close right now.)  But I do have faith that if I keep working at this and eventually build a solid enough backlist under one name that I can maybe do pretty well at this.  (How’s that for resounding confidence?  Maybe, sort of, kind, possibly.)

And in the meantime, it at least gives me something to analyze when I get bored and don’t want to write…

Posted in My Writing, Writing | Tagged , , , ,

It Isn’t All Just Writing

Today’s wordcount is at negative 300 so far because I had to tear apart two chapters that were revealing information too soon and then write new words to replace what I tore out.  So I figured I’d take a break and do some non-writing writing stuff.

And man is there a lot of it to do.  Before you start writing for money you basically have the luxury of just writing.  Or maybe reading blogs or forums or books about writing craft, but really it’s just write when you want to, don’t when you don’t.

But the minute you start writing for money–either subbing stories or novels to publications or agents or editors or self-publishing–you start to find your time getting sucked up by these other things that are related to your writing but aren’t your actual writing.

To give an example, here’s my current to-do list:

  1. Get my old Mac set up to run Vellum and then update eight files that have validation errors on Kobo when I use a Word file to upload there.
  2. Load those files to Kobo once done.
  3. Create FB ads using mirror audiences from three sign-up lists I have from various giveaways I participated in.
  4. Email Amazon about linking the editions of short stories I just pubbed through Pronoun that were previously listed direct with Amazon so the reviews transfer over.
  5. Add more titles to Google.
  6. Submit a few proposals for an upcoming conference I want to speak at.
  7. Create a PowerPoint for a talk I’m giving at a library next month.
  8. Figure out where to go for wide distribution of my audiobook titles and then get all 18 titles published there.
  9. Publish a title that came out of Select wide.

Those were just the items that came to mind when I was writing the list.  Little things, like updating links for my short stories that were moved to Pronoun, didn’t even make the list but those had to be done, too.  And keeping track of ads and adjusting them as needed.  And reacting to any new developments that need my attention.  And…

Good thing I’m not popular enough to get invited to do interviews or attend cons.  I don’t know how successful authors manage to balance it all.  Some days it feels like I’m working on my writing for the entire day and yet my wordcount is negligible.  And it’s all because of these little things that eat away at my time or my focus.

At least a lot of them can be done while I’m unwinding watching television at night and need something to occupy my attention.  But still…

I’d almost recommend that authors hold off on trying to make money off their writing for as long as possible while they just write, write, write.  Then again, I think without the motivation of potential sales I would’ve written far less than I have at this point and be nowhere near where I am on this whole journey.  So…You take the bad with the good I guess.

Posted in General Musings | Tagged , , ,

Books Aren’t Cars

Huh?  What the hell do I mean by that?

I mean that a person buys a car and they drive it off the lot and it starts to lose value and continues to lose value.  And that, with rare exceptions, a car built in 1970 isn’t going to be as valuable as a car built in 2015 no matter how much usage it has or hasn’t seen.  Cars depreciate in value over time.

Books aren’t like that.  For a new reader, a book, regardless of when it was published, has the same value as when it was first published.  Maybe even more as it builds up a reputation and following.

The reason I’m writing about this today is because I got into a bit of a tiff with someone recently who was basically saying that older books should be priced cheap.  This person didn’t understand how a book, a classic of the genre, could still be priced at $9.99 in ebook.  They assumed the book should be priced cheap because it was old.

My reply was why price it cheap if it’s still selling at $9.99.  For new readers that book still has value as a new book.  (I should note that I just went and looked that book up on Amazon US and it’s ranked at 13,000 so it’s doing just fine with its $9.99 price tag.)

I only discovered Robin Hobb’s books last year.  I read all of them.  I didn’t even stop for a moment to say, “Wait, when did these books come out?  They shouldn’t cost that much.”  What I instead said was, “Oh, thank God I’ve found a good author that I haven’t already read.  Give me.”

What this person was failing to grasp is that readers are not one monolithic group that all behave exactly the same.  There are bargain hunters who will only buy books on sale or used or will borrow from the library.  There are trend chasers who probably aren’t going to ever buy a cheap book because it somehow implies low quality.  There are new release buyers (like my mom) who buy a book by a favorite author the day it comes out without even looking at the price.  And many other types of readers on top of that.  Different price points expose you to different readers.

I’m currently in the midst of an experiment on my pen name fantasy novels.  They were priced at $4.99 which when I released them felt bold and daring for an indie author putting out their first book with no following.  But you know what? I just bumped them up to $6.99.  Why?  Because the cover can compete with trade published books and that’s who I’m putting it up against with my advertising.  I’m running AMS ads on the books and every single author I chose has books priced $6.99, $7.99, or more.  By upping my price, I’m showing that my book sits alongside those books.  Pricing cheaper actually might cause a reader to pause and dig in and wonder why my book is cheaper instead of simply one-clicking.

The results so far are promising.  I don’t knock it out of the park, but I have seven sales of book 1 at $6.99 for the month so far on Amazon.  In the nine days before that I’d had two sales at $4.99.  I don’t think I was running ads, though, so that’s not really apples to apples.  A better comparison might be the first nine days of January where I had 9 sales at $4.99.  So, basically, I’m netting the same.  $32.  But if my sellthrough to book 2 stays steady, then I’ll be making more long-term.

One of the benefits to being a no-name author that isn’t being watched like a hawk is that you can do these experiments.  If I’d raised the price of the book to $6.99 and hadn’t been able to sell a copy, then I’d drop it again.  Being higher priced also gives me more wiggle room with promos.  It’s much sexier to advertise a price reduction from $6.99 to 99 cents than $2.99 to 99 cents.  Or to be sitting at 99 cents and have nowhere to go but free.

Price is an individual choice.  All I’m saying is don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to price cheap because you’re an indie or because the book is older.  To new readers it’s a new book.  And most aren’t going to think about who published it unless you give them a reason to.  (Or unless a bunch of others have given them a reason to because they’ve been burned far too many times.  Something far more like to happen at the lower price points.)


Posted in General Musings | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Shit Writers Tell Each Other…

I’m currently watching a discussion that I’ve seen happen before where a writer is asking about taking a series of books that are currently wide and putting them into KU for a bit.  (For those who don’t know, to have your books available in KU you have to pull them from all other distributors.  So no iTunes, Google, Kobo, B&N, etc. while your books are available to borrow on Amazon.)

Keep in mind, these are books that the author says aren’t exactly selling at the moment. (Although, honestly, I’m not sure that’s relevant to the discussion.)

Anyway, there’s already been one author and there will definitely be a second (because it’s her site and I know her opinion on this) telling this poor person who is just trying to sell their books that if they pull their series from being available wide that all of their readers who read them wide will hate them forever and never read them again.

Now, maybe that’s true for people who have a rabid and devoted fan base who buys everything they release on day one and check back constantly asking when the next one will be out.  (You know, the GRRM and Patrick Rothfuss type of fan.)

But fact is most writers are forgettable even when readers read our books and enjoy them. Or if not forgettable, not so memorable that readers would develop a personal grudge against them for using different distribution channels at different points in time.  As a matter of fact, I’d expect that the only ones that would even notice that had happened were other writers.

What do I as a reader do when I’m thinking of getting a new book?  I go to the bookstore.  Do I see a book by an author I like?  Yes?  I buy it.  No?  I buy something else.  That’s typical reader behavior.

But you know who does notice something like that?  Other writers.

And who do authors talk to more, their readers or fellow writers?  Fellow writers.  And boy do writers have opinions! (Half of which are unfounded gibberish based on limited personal experience. And I include myself in that description.)

Think about this…

I can point out to you a good hundred writers I’ve seen criticize 50 Shades of Grey and/or Twilight either at conferences or on forums.  To the point they were foaming at the mouth in outrage that such dreck could possibly be published and loved by readers.

Funny, though. Readers loved those books.  I’d be happy to write a book so hated by fellow writers and loved by readers.

That’s just one little example of the many, many times I’ve seen writers give strong advice on something readers don’t even care about or notice.  Or, better yet, feel the exact opposite about.  (I’d probably tell Nora Roberts not to head hop in her novels but I suspect that head hopping is something her readers love.)

So, you know, ask fellow writers for advice if you must, but just keep in mind that after a few years at this they really aren’t thinking like your core audience anymore and nine times out of ten you’ll be much better off asking a few readers what they think instead.

Posted in General | Tagged , ,

What the Price Is Right Can Teach You About Selling Books

Most weekdays, pup and I break for lunch right when The Price is Right is on.  So we sit there and watch it for about fifteen minutes while munching on whatever I’ve managed to fix myself that particular day.

And I sometimes find myself shaking my head at what I see.

For those of you who don’t know how it works, four people guess what the price of an item is and the one who comes closest to that price without going over gets to go on stage and maybe win more things like a brand-new car.

Let’s give an example because I want to talk about that last person to bid.   This is where things tie back to writing.

So, let’s say we’re watching the show and the contestants have to bid on six pairs of designer sunglasses.  Contestant A bids $750.  Contest B bids $1000.  Contest C bids $400.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

Let’s say Contest D bids $700.  (I’ve seen it happen.)

Was this a smart bid?


Why not?  Because, unless Contestant D is going for the bonus money for being right on the mark (which almost never happens and is a fool’s bet), that contestant just cost themselves about two hundred and fifty possible chances to be right.

How so?  Because had they instead bid $401 then they would be a winner if the price was anywhere between $401 and $749.  But, given their bid, they’ll only win if the price is between $700 and $749.

What if they bid $1?

Was this a smart bid?

Probably not in this case.  Unless those sunglasses are really cheap, chances are the price is not below $400 so even though they’ve been told that $1 is “the bid” and there are t-shirts dedicated to the concept of bidding just $1, it’s actually a strategy that only makes sense when there’s a realistic possibility that the actual price of the item is below the next highest bid.

On the other extreme, what if they bid $1200?

Again, not a smart bid because the next highest bid is $1000 and any price between $1000 and $1200 is going to go to the other bidder, not them.

Now, here’s where we tie things back to selling books.  I’ve watched the show enough to see contestants win in all three scenarios and then go on to win even more prizes and walk away with $50,000 in cash and prizes.

They’re winners, right?

Doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing or should tell others how to win.  The guy who bid $1 is going to walk around telling people, “Bid a dollar.  That’s how I won.”  And the other two guys are going to say, “Well you just gotta bid what you think it’s worth.  I read up on prices before I went on the show so I knew what those glasses would cost.”  Or, worse.  “When in doubt, average the two prices you think are closest to the price and bid that average.”

Or worse yet, people are going to study who wins and say, “Well, folks who bid $1 were ten times more likely to win than those that bid any other price” without seeing the nuance of why that bid won.

See, it’s possible to succeed and have no idea why you actually succeeded or to have simply been lucky.

Which is also true in publishing.

(And, no, I’m not saying it’s always true, so stop right there.  Many people succeed from hard work and study and knowing how things work, but there are always those few who think they know why they “won” who really, really don’t.  And taking advice from them is not going to help anyone else win unless they too win by sheer happenstance.)

So, yes, listen to how others succeeded, but dig deep enough to know whether there was actual thought and strategy behind it before you follow in their footsteps.

Posted in Writing | Tagged ,

A New Year, Time to Write

When I was growing up I wrote a lot of bad poetry.  It was my way of dealing with all the drama of home, including a terminally ill father.  After he died I wrote even more.  It’s not publishable, I suspect, but it did what it needed to do which is help me get through an emotionally traumatic time in my life.

My dad wrote a lot of poetry as well.  I had at one point thought I’d publish it and share it with the world but having looked at it recently I realize that it was cathartic for him and is emotionally resonant for me because I knew him, but…I won’t be publishing it anytime soon.  It doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have written it, though.

He needed that outlet, just like I did.

I suspect this next year will be rough for many of us.  If you find yourself lost, adrift, unable to articulate the angst or trauma or fear you’re feeling, grab a pen, grab some paper and write.  Poems, stories, journal entries, whatever lets you get a handle on things and keep going.

It doesn’t have to be pretty.  Or artful.  Or even good.  Burn it after if you want.  Tear it into little teeny tiny shreds if it helps.  But for many of us (especially the types that would find their way to a writer’s blog), writing will help get you through.

And if you’re not that type then get out there and run or box or lift weights or hike alone in nature.  Or find the best damn book you can and get lost in it.  Or a movie or a t.v. show you can binge watch.  Whatever keeps you going and lets you disconnect for a couple hours.

Posted in Life | Tagged ,

On Compliance…

Gee, I’m blogging a lot this month. Must be because I have a novel I need to write…

Recent events have me thinking back to this fundamental truth that I’ve known for a long while: No one person (at least in this world without magic powers) can destroy the world.  We talk a lot about men like Hitler or Mussolini but we don’t often talk about the thousands and thousands of soldiers who were out there implementing their orders.

And it’s easy to think that everyone of those soldiers was evil.  That they were corrupt at their core.  But that’s just not true.  Read Ordinary Men if you want to understand how a group of normal, average men were transformed into mass killers during World War II.

Also read The Lucifer Effect by Phil Zimbardo for a more recent study of how normal people can be led to perform “evil” acts.

Because here’s the deal.  We as humans or as part of American culture or Western culture or whatever it is have a predisposition to comply with authority.  Your boss tells you to do X, what do you do?  Do you sit back and debate whether X is the best move for the company or the best use of you as a resource?  No.  You just do it.  If you think it’s stupid or misguided maybe you shrug your shoulders and tell your co-worker about it, but you do it.

If your doctor tells you that you need a surgery RIGHT NOW, do you sit back and ask yourself whether you really want that surgery or do you go along with it?  (When my grandma fell and broke her hip and shoulder a couple years back I honestly believe if she’d had the time and pain-free ability to think about it she would’ve actually said, “Thanks, but I’ve lived a good life and don’t want months of rehab and a life that will now be constrained by limited movement and pain,” but no one explicitly gave her that choice they just acted as if and moved ahead and so she had the surgery.)

Almost every single person goes along with what their doctor tells them.  It’s hard to put the brakes on and say “no” when you have an authority figure telling you the answer is “yes”.  Especially when they won’t even do you the courtesy of debating it.  I recently asked my doctor about the side effects of going off a medication I’m not sure I need to be on and his response was “Keep taking it.  Happy Holidays!”  Well, fuck him, right?  But it was really, really hard for me to decide to go against that statement.  He’s so certain.  He’s so adamant.  He went to school for years, he must know what he’s talking about.  I shouldn’t question him.

But…many many many years ago my father had a kidney transplant performed by a world-renowned surgeon, a man everyone treated like God.  Afterwards my father wasn’t doing too well and my mother got very concerned about him.  The doctor told her the surgery had gone great, the kidney was doing well, it had all been a success, not to worry.  But…my dad wasn’t doing well.  Finally, because my mother dared to question God (as she likes to phrase it), they realized/acknowledged that my dad had pneumonia.  And because he was on immunosuppressants due to the transplant, it was running wild.  Long story short, my dad lived.  But after three months in the ICU and losing the lower lobe of one of his lungs.  If my mother hadn’t questioned?  My dad would’ve probably died when I was six.

Sometimes questioning authority makes you an idiot.  Or an unnecessary obstacle.  It exposes you to scorn or anger.  It may cost you opportunity or even your job or your health.

But sometimes you have to question.  Sometimes you have to outright refuse.  It’s not enough to say, “I was just doing my job.”  Or “It wasn’t my place.”

And trust me what I’m saying is not as easy as I make it out to be.  A few weeks ago I was confronted by this yet again in such a small way.  I was at writes’ group on a night when it was maybe 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside.  About an hour and a half into it one of the writers said they had to run outside to check on their dog who’d they’d left in their car.  I was stunned that they would do this.  Internally I was thinking, “Who the hell is stupid enough to leave a dog in a car in this kind of weather?” But all I said was, “Why don’t you bring the dog inside.  I’m sure the bookstore won’t mind.”  (And privately thinking that if the bookstore did I’d raise holy hell.)  But I didn’t confront this person.  Neither did the other three sitting there with me, all of whom are dog owners and all of whom were sharing glances about this.  And when they brought the dog back inside and it was shivering terribly and they had to wrap it up tight, the most I was able to do was respond when this person said, “I didn’t realize it would get so cold so fast” with “Yes, it’s really not safe to leave your dog in the car in this kind of weather.”

Such a small moment, but a failure by me.  Because we’re programmed to go along, to be agreeable, to not create conflict, to not put our nose in someone else’s business.

I’m trying to overcome that, to push back when needed.  It’s hard.  But there will be people in the next few years whose choice to comply or go along or to push back or refuse will impact the course of all of our lives.  It may be something as simple as turning away while someone commits an act of hatred to something as complex as agreeing to build a nuclear weapon.

The world is a tinderbox right now.  We all need to stand strong and be sure we’re not the one that lights the match.

Don’t comply blindly.  Don’t go along when you know something is wrong.

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