A Quick Tutorial

It's Memorial Day here in the US, a time to honor those that have served in uniform. We have parades. We grill. We post on Facebook that we honor their memory. What I'm finding, however, is that people don't know how to properly refer to America's armed forces. I see a lot of "in memory of our soldiers" and what have you. Here's a quick list so you don't make this mistake in your writing:

Army = Soldier
Air Force = Airman
Marine Corps = Marine
Navy = Seaman/Sailor

So when that person posted saying he was remembering soldiers, he was only remembering army personnel, which must be a bummer to all the others. (Marines in particular bristle at this mistake because Marines are Marines and they're always Marines.)

A trend that started during our invasion of Iraq is to support the troops! We have replaced armed forces with troops, which is also incorrect. A troop is a grouping of forces (originally at company size, so troops might refer to a battalion or two).

If you want to refer to the armed forces as a whole, call them such. Servicemen/Servicewomen is also acceptable. Or distinguish based on their individual calling if you don't have a mixed group.

If you're genuine about wanting to honor their memory, this little courtesy will help show you mean it.

Subscribe by Email

So after an incredibly verbose fall, the last couple months have been virtually silent in comparison. As I've mentioned before, I work in publishing. My managers finally acknowledged they weren't giving me enough work so I'm moving to a list1 that is changing its business strategy. Thus lots of meetings, lots of new work, and of course I'm still responsible for my old position until they hire someone new2.

While the work has been satisfying, it's made it hard to post here. It's also made it hard to keep up with other people's blogs (and commenting doesn't work so well on my smart phone, so I can't even do it on the train). I was griping the other day that the thing I miss most about LiveJournal is that it notifies you when someone replies to a comment you've made. I hate repeatedly checking the comments of a blog when my last comment remains the last one. I just want to know that someone has replied. Why don't you do that, Blogger?!?!

What's that? It does? D'OH! So next to the comment box, there's a link that says "Subscribe by Email." By default, this is turned off, but simply click it and you'll get an email any time someone responds after you (don't do this on very popular blogs or you'll get hundreds of emails and go insane). I always forget to do it because it's not included in the comment box and there isn't an option to turn it on as the default. Still, it's a habit I should get into. Commenting on a blog is okay, but I enjoy genuine conversation, a back and forth between participants3. At some point or another, you just stop checking to see if there's new

1 A list is like a genre in publishing. An editor and a project manager will have a list (or sometimes multiple lists) they call their own. In this case, I managed media content for Developmental Psychology (a big money maker, but the content is pretty much the same). I am moving over to Political Science, which has a much more diverse publishing set. It also publishes all its content at the same time, so that'll be a fun challenge.

2 And they haven't even posted the position yet. D'oh!

3 Who's old enough to remember the early chatrooms of the early intertubes? I spent many an hour my freshman year in Chathouse, marveling at this thing called the internet and the hot girl in New Jersey who liked me. ;)4

4 16 years later and we're still friends on Facebook. How do ya like them apples?

"You have a right..."

So the whole Amazon pedophile thing has stirred up an argument I absolutely hate. It begins when someone says "You have a right..." and trails off into some moronic thing you don't actually have a right to. So for all you American readers/writers (as a number of modernized countries don't offer a right to free speech), know the law. Your rights have limitations. And even if you are within those limitations, freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence. You are free to be a dick, but that does not mean people have to like you or even listen. It certainly doesn't mean a vendor has to sell your dickitude.

Your speech cannot harm others or put others in harm's way. Your speech is your ability to say and write what you want. It does not require others to listen, print, or read what you say/write.

The first amendment of the constitution of the United States of America affords me the right to say that George W. Bush is the worst president in our nation's history without fear of the government arresting me for that voiced opinion. It does not mean people who love George Bush need to listen to me or that a newspaper, magazine, or publisher must afford me the opportunity to publish my onion of George Bush.

Know your freedoms. Know your freedoms' limits.

Reformed Conservative in a Liberal World

Conservative blowhard commentators often accuse this or that media of being liberal (depending on which media they want to accuse at that particular moment). While I feel the following is true about any medium, I am speaking today about print publishing so will keep this opinion only there. I don't think publishing is liberal. I think publishing is capitalistic. It will print whatever book will make it money. (Or how else could Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter continue to spew their crazy?) The people that work in publishing, however, are predominantly liberal.

This doesn't bother me because I count myself among their ranks. The real challenge is for me to count myself among their ranks. I am a Gen-Xer raised by a Greatest Generation mother. Staunch Catholic brought up before Vatican II watered down the demagoguery, perhaps the best lesson she ever taught me was that she was born in 1930s Detroit and if I saw her react negatively to black people, I should know that she is wrong. That's as far as her liberalism went. Women had gender roles. Gays were unnatural. The pope and his teaching were directed by the hand of heaven. We lived on a street with only one black family (who actually would not play with us because we were white, to flip a presumption on its head). No one had gay children (turns out one of them did, and the family accepted him, but no one talks about it). Everyone voted for Reagan and in turn voted for Bush 1.

I began having doubts in my faith as a teenager. I had separate doubts about organized religion, but a genuine acceptance of god was questioned by a completely separate list (people tend to assume I'm an atheist because of my mother, which is an insult to me and my beliefs and wholly untrue). It began with the separation of humanity from nature. Seeing the pollution and and ecological destruction we wrought on the environment, and understanding the scientific necessities of an environment, I had trouble accepting that God would have placed us to rule over the rest of the world rather than live cooperatively in it. This lead to years and years of questioning.

September 21st, 1996, I abandoned my belief in god and became an atheist (to which I continue to this day). This freed me from many of the obsolete structures of organized religion. I could accept people with differing beliefs because I had no obligation to spread my own. What it did not do was change my long educated perception of homosexuality. If an observation of nature had lead me to question the existence of god, that same observation made me question whether homosexuals were anything more than perverts. They had no means for reproduction, and as an evolutionary animal, they thus fell outside the purpose of our species.

This was not to say I felt them abominations. That's just overly dramatic. I lived in my fraternity house with a gay member (though not roommates; he lived in the room above mine). He always assumed I did not like him because I was an Army ROTC scholarship student. In fact, he just annoyed me because he'd complain how dirty the house was if there were three magazines on the coffee table1.

It was a year or two later, having a peaceable discussion with someone about homosexuality (this was the 90s, so it was only just easing into acceptance by the national consciousness), that I mentioned my difficulty homosexuality. They then pointed me to a study on dog breeds and a few other species that, when faced with overpopulation, would change sexual preference to ebb off their growing numbers.

Boom. That easy. Homosexuals weren't outside of nature. They weren't an abomination. They were quite rightly a result of our own means of ignoring environmental equilibrium. It wasn't just a biological happenstance, it was an inevitability. All right then. I'm sold.

And that's it. I have numerous homosexual friends, some of whom are thankfully far less annoying than my fraternity brother was in college. I support LGBT equality. My state's legislature passed the best gay marriage law in the entire nation23. That's the end of it, right?

Well, kind of. Now it's a matter of degree. I participate to the best of my ability in the pub-o-sphere to which there are people much more liberal than I am. People like the Rejectionist who faced a similar upbringing but rebelled much sooner. Even with all these decisions I made, it took about a decade of living life off the rails before my conscious beliefs and my unconscious beliefs truly aligned. Being part of the pub-o-sphere, though, there is an LGBT cause du jour, effectively. Blog posts, tweets and retweets. It's like a phone tree. You can watch the outrage spread across your friends list.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Change is happening--change for the better--and this is what it looks like. I just don't have the energy to get so impassioned about it. I support them in their efforts. Raise a fist, go go go! But I don't have the desire to write a blistering rebuttal to today's offense. I just ran a marathon of leaving behind my Catholic upbringing to one of acceptance. I work daily to remind myself to erase stereotypes, to accept and support my neighbors in their choices.

It makes me feel like an outsider. Often. If I don't retweet this or change my user picture here, they're going to assume that I'm against them. (The with us or against us fervor can get pretty heated sometimes.) But really, I feel I'm the goal. Not the end goal, by any means. Perhaps the Rejectionist is what we'll all become some day. But a successful social revolution will move right-set minds to where I am now. I'm not the outsider. I'm the desired result.

I know this isn't writing focused4, and it may be too hot a topic to even post on, but there only ever seems to be two discussions, white hat or black hat. Just thought I'd raise my hand and say, "Hey, we're on our way, but the road is long."

1 Later of course, he got really drunk, insulted an entire sorority, and told them it was me. To this day, he's never apologized even when I've asked him to point blank. Clearly being gay doesn't prevent you from being a dick.

2 It's relevant to point out that this was a legislative success. Depending on the appeals to recent judicial rulings, those states whose gay marriage is a result of judicial decision will see immediate challenges. Legislative roads are subject only to elections and public referenda.

3 New Hampshire allows gay marriage, but individuals may not sue private institutions like chruches to force them to perform the ceremony. I never even knew people had considered doing this, and am glad the law includes the provision. Equality for all, after all.

4 I do have a few gay characters in my stories. I never hesitate to make them good guys or bad guys because I have no agenda to press. Much like my fraternity brother can be a douche despite his sexuality, homosexuals can be villains or heroes despite theirs. The key is to make sure they are not so because of their sexuality. I do not want to read about a Big Gay Hero any more than I want the Big Bad to wave his evil rainbow flag.

Clarification, Explanation

I changed my twitter profile recently from "I write." to "I write in the morning. I make ebooks all day. I write in the evening. I do other stuff." There was some confusion to this statement. It was presumed that I self-publish in ebook format, and that is not the case. I work for a publishing company as a media project manager. One of the things I am responsible for creating is the ebook (in its many formats, pdf, xml, flash, etc). I changed it because in the pub-o-sphere, the paradigm of agents giving advice to aspiring writers, they can forget that we have day jobs too. I have eight years in publishing, six of those in media production. I have participated in the creation of estrategy and worked the guidelines for xml creation from typeset PDFs of finished books. So, you can imagine, when an agent tells me I'm wrong about ebooks, it grinds my gears. The closest an agent will get on the production side is perhaps giving feedback on a cover. When it comes to this part of the business, the paradigm is reversed. There is a caveat to all this.

On my website, I list the jobs I've held. At the bottom of the list is my current job in educational publishing. My web presence elsewhere is part of the trade publishing community, blogs, twitter, just like how all of you found me at one point or another. In that environment where there is a limit to characters or an amount of time you can make your point before readers go on to the next post, I leave off the "educational" because most people don't understand the difference. I also say I work for a big 6 publisher because I do not want to say which publisher it is and there isn't a term any of you would understand otherwise. I do work for the parent company of one of the big six. I am in their higher education division rather than their trade pub division.

Here's why this matters: 1) The acquisition of trade titles is different than the acquisition of education titles. For all my bad experiences with a perpetually late editorial staff that has no understanding of production or media (of which there are many), I have no basis to claim the same for trade.

2) I do not want it to appear as if I am intentionally deceiving people or suggesting that I have a role in trade when I do not. I have never worked in trade and never intend to do so as anything but an author.

Here's why it doesn't: 1) In corporate strategy sessions, technological strategy often has to take into account both sides of the business. Efficiency is always the key word and a method I use for making my ebook is highly likely to be used on the trade side as well. Disparate systems cost money!

2) Print and media in general are established workflows that are not affected by what they are publishing. Printing a book is printing a book. You need to know your trim size, your paper weight, your final page count, the weight of the paper for the cover, and various milestones for your schedule. The subject matter of the book doesn't matter. The printing process is the same. The same is true for media. An enhanced ebook is an enhanced ebook. File format matters MUCH more than subject matter. Is this thing for Kindle? Nook? Our own proprietary ebook viewing system? The skill set I have in media transfers 100% to trade.

So there you go. Full disclosure. I work for the largest publisher in the world. So often people say largest and they're just talking about trade, when in fact they should consider trade and education. It actually obscures a lot of "predictions" on where publishing is going because people only focus on trade. Educational publishing puts trade publishing to shame. So when you think, oh no, ebooks are going to kill publishing. I laugh. I laugh heartily. Trade publishing is having difficulty adjusting to ebooks, but Education has been pushing as hard as it can for years to get to this point. The ebook revolution is a gold mine for educational publishing. Where does educational publishing lose the most money? Not piracy. Used book stores. How do you sell an ebook to a used book store? Exactly. A collapse of the trade division of my company would see total yearly revenue drop by only 25%.

The end of publishing? Oh no, my friends. This is only the beginning.

(Technical note: The information in this post is stated as personal observation and without review by my HR department. The information is non-proprietary and represents experiences gained working at two separate publishing companies over the course of 8 years. Chill.)