Category Archives: Somebody Has To Say It

You Don’t (Often) Need Profanity



A few times a year I see a post about the right to use profanity, and every time I do, I wonder where are the people writing the rebuttal. Then I realised no one is…

To be clear, I’m not saying you don’t have the right to swear. What I’m debating is whether there is usually any need to swear, and what it achieves if you do. A right, after all, need not always be exercised. Even the right to vote in some countries is not often exercised (and I would love to see posts passionately exhorting people to vote the same way they exhort them to swear, because, you know, voting is so much less important than foul language…).

Before we get started, let’s be clear, profane words are not intrinsically bad. There is no such thing as a bad word, although this has come to be the common understanding. But like all words, profane words have meanings, and as is the case with the English language, words often have shades of meaning. The meaning of profane words goes past their strict literal definition and includes an element of offensiveness.

I’ve seen people argue that only the literal definition should matter, but the fact remains that these words have historically been, and continue to be, used to insult and offend or at least shock. We have created this definition, and it seems as ridiculous to me to rail against this fact as to complain that ‘sheep’ means a woolly herbivorous animal. Particularly if you yourself actually use these words in this sense. Sure, definitions change, but this is a slow, organic process. Exhorting people to stop treating profanity as offensive simply won’t work.

So, why don’t you need to swear?

It’s Not Articulate


Really, you can’t think of a better word to express how you feel? Maybe your vocabulary is limited through no fault of your own, or perhaps you are communicating with such people, in which case profanity may be the most effective means of communication. 

But if you do have a better vocabulary, what’s your excuse for not using it? The only time I forget my vocabulary is when I’m so sleep-deprived my brain stops functioning, or perhaps in extreme instances of pain.

#writetip – vary your language. Use specific descriptors, and don’t fall into patterns of repetition. Convey precisely the meaning you intend to convey.

It’s Not Effective Communication


I’m not saying that using profanity negates what you are saying, or makes your points any less valid, but it often means people stop paying attention.

When you start swearing at people, they stop listening. It doesn’t matter how valid your point is, they stop wanting to help you. Swearing at a customer service representative never gets you what you want. Swearing in a complaint won’t be taken as seriously as the person who can articulate their problem. It certainly won’t persuade a judge to your point of view.

In the instance that someone continues to pay attention after you start swearing, then to some extent profanity does denote emotion and anger, which thus also often denotes irrationality, and so your words are given less weight.

If, however, you can precisely articulate your problem, your position, your argument, in a calm and logical manner, you are more likely to persuade someone to your point of view.

As I said above, words have shades of meaning. In fact, we can look at words like tools. Profanity is like a hammer – it’s big, heavy, and packs a punch. But hey, that’s not always appropriate!

I don’t swear when I get angry, and my husband says that’s worse. You can’t always get your point across using the same blunt tool.

He strains to hear a whisper who refuses to hear a shout– Robert Jordan, the Wheel of Time

Often It’s Meaningless


One of the #writetips I tweet is ‘If a word can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning, then you probably should’.

Often profane words are redundant. They don’t really add anything to the sentence. Consider the way profanity is used in everyday language:

‘So he fucking told me the fucking goods needed to be picked up and then he got in his fucking truck and fucking drove away.’

Considering that such a sentence may well be delivered by someone who is not angry, the word adds no value to the sentence. There is even a teenage version, with which you may be more familiar and it reads like this:

‘So he, like, told me that the goods, like, needed to be picked up, and then he, like, got in his truck and, like, drove away.’

OK, so you probably wouldn’t hear a teenager say that exact sentence, but I wanted to make the comparison of usage.

The second example would drive so many people absolutely crazy. The first would be defended by some of the same people. To me they are the same. Take the whole question of profanity out of it, if the word doesn’t need to be there, it’s repetitive, and adds nothing to the sentence, don’t use it! The first version annoys me just as much as the second. Don’t tell me verbal language is different to writing unless you are happy to listen to someone say ‘like’ every fourth word.

When Is Profanity Effective?


I’ve seen it suggested that profanity is effective in communication to create a visceral, emotional response, but I think this is limited to select communications, usually written articles designed to provoke a response (and not one where the response you want is someone to do something for you). It seems to be useful for provoking discussion. I don’t think it’s useful in everyday communication which is, let’s face it, the bulk of communication for most of us.

It’s certainly going to be effective in fiction where you are showing something about a character by its use. Obviously it’s necessary in an article like this one discussing the subject.

a href=”https://ciaraballintyne.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/famous-historical-use.jpg”>famous historical use

You Can Swear If You Want


Sure, if you don’t care about any of the above reasons, then you can use profanity for no better reason than because you want to. I won’t like you any less for it.

But please – don’t tell me you’re striking a blow for the freedom of communication, or furthering some great literary purpose! I call a spade a spade, and a spade this is not.



What Would You Pay For A Book? What Do You Charge For A Book?

Book prices


I’ve always had views about book pricing. I won’t buy a book priced at $0.99, because if that’s all it’s actually worth, then it’s not worth my time. The exception is a book on sale at $0.99 – in principle, anyway, because I still don’t think I’ve ever bought in that case either. 

$2.99 is another favourite price point because that gets the writer the 70% royalty offered by Amazon, but still, it’s an awfully cheap price for the amount of effort that actually goes into a book. 
I’ve long believed that selling books too cheaply results in them being undervalued by readers. There is anecdotal evidence than readers don’t value free books – many people collect free books and never read them, probably because something they’ve paid for always takes priority. There’s been no real expenditure of effort for a free book, so it can wait.

My opinion was somewhat vindicated when I saw some people questioning why a medical text was being offered for the price of $99 – I suspect they were spoiled by cheap ebook prices on Amazon, as well as having no clue about intellectual property.

I have been harbouring the hope that eventually readers would cotton on to the fact that you get what you pay for, and start avoiding $0.99 books as assiduously as I do in favour of something priced a little higher and hopefully of a better quality.

Then I read this article, by Dean Wesley Smith – http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=7891

The author has strong opinions about pricing, and even offers a suggested pricing structure. He’s been around the traps a bit, having published over a hundred novels in thirty years and hundreds and hundreds of short stories across many genres. He wrote a couple dozen Star Trek novels, the only two original Men in Black novels, Spider-Man and X-Men novels, plus novels set in gaming and television worlds. He also co-wrote the novel for the NBC miniseries The Tenth Kingdom, and wrote novelisations of a dozen films, from The Final Fantasy to Steel to Rundown.

The article is worth reading, but if you don’t have the time, this is his suggested pricing structure in a nutshell:
 
— Novels

  • Front list, meaning brand new. Over 50,000 words. $7.99
  • Shorter front list novels, meaning 30,000 to 50,000 words. $6.96
  • Backlist novels, meaning already published by a traditional publisher. $6.99

— Short Books

  • Short books, meaning stories from 8,000 words to 30,000 words. $3.99

— Short Stories

  • Short stories … 4,000 to 8,000 words. $2.99
  • Short stories under 4,000 double with another bonus story… $2.99

— Collections

  • 5 stories $4.99
  • 10 stories $7.99

I like his prices. I’d pay them, as a reader, but then I’m coming from the perspective of an Australian reader, conditioned to pay $22 for a trade paperback , so these prices are still cheap as chips. Hell, $9.99 is cheap as chips.

There is a sweet spot for pricing, but that doesn’t mean
everything should be priced there – for example, a
short story priced at $9.99 probably wouldn’t sell much.
Your prices need to match what you’re selling!
I think these prices are fair, but I’m not convinced that many readers, still spoiled by abysmally low book prices, will yet pay them – although I still hope that in the future they will.

I’ve just released my novella, Confronting the Demon, which I had originally planned to price at $1.99. This article suggests $3.99. I compromised at $2.99, and decided to see what happened, and use this as a guideline to pricing future books. It’s still early days as yet, but I’m getting upwards of 15 clickthroughs to the Amazon store each day, but usually no sales from that. I’m getting people to the book page, but they aren’t buying. Is it the price? Or something else?

So tell me what you think:
  • Would you pay the suggested prices? If not, why not?
  • Would you pay $2.99 for a novella including a bonus short story (totalling 30,000 words)?
  • What do you think is a fair price for ebooks?
  • How do you price your ebooks?
I’ll be signing copies of Confronting the Demon at the IndieVengeance Day Book Signing in Dallas, Saturday, October 12, 2013 from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM (CDT). Register here – http://www.indievengeanceday.eventbrite.com/.

Blurb – Confronting the Demon

The gates to hell are thrown wide when Alloran is betrayed by his best friend, Ladanyon, and framed for forbidden magic. He is hunted by the guards and the wizards both, tormented by the gruesome murder of his friends and loved ones, and crippled by fear for the living. Now Alloran must face his demons, or damn the woman he loves.

A Magical Melody

When a lethal spell is stolen from a locked and warded room, Avram must hunt down the thief before the song of power buries a city of innocents beneath a thousand tons of ice.
Links to Buy Confronting the Demon – How would you like to read?

Trade Paperback


On my Kindle


On my computer



Coming soon on Nook, Kobo, and Apple devices.

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Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us.
 

Dry July: Support Cancer Sufferers and Raise Alcohol Awareness

This year my husband has decided to participate in Dry July.

Dry July aims to improve the lives of adults living with cancer and raise awareness of individual drinking habits, encourage positive change and an awareness of a healthy attitude to alcohol consumption. The funds raised go to various cancer initiatives.

My grandfather died of bone cancer last year. He had cancer in just about every bone in his body, excepting his arms and legs. In September they gave him twelve months to live, and he passed just before Christmas. It was a fast, ugly deterioration, and developed to the point where my family needed to put him into high-dependency care. He lived on his own, and though his children tried, it was impossible to keep him there. In a week, my mother might work 4 days and visit her father 5 days – which means doubling up some days. That kind of thing is only sustainable so long, and my grandfather deteriorated too fast for other arrangements to be made.

Cancer is something nearly all of us have some experience with.

In Australia, sad to say the same is almost true of alcohol. Alcohol has always been a part of the Australian culture, and has grown to the point where there is a binge-drinking problem, with multiple instances of violence over the weekend in the cities requiring police and paramedic attendance. Ugly scenes of girls vomiting on their sparkly shoes in the gutter, while some guys brawl in the background, aren’t just something the news finds for sensationalism, but a sad reality.

Alcohol-related harm causes around 3,000 deaths and 65,000 hospitalisations every year in Australia, and binge-drinking is a particular problem amongst teenagers aged 15-17 and young adults aged 18-25, where many are drinking at risky levels. Campaigns to raise awareness of alcohol-related road deaths, violence, and unsafe sex resulting in STIs and unwanted pregnancy have been targeted at these groups.


If you’d like to support my husband in undertaking Dry July, and help raise funds for cancer sufferers and assist in raising awareness of alcohol-related problems, click here.Or if you’d like to participate yourself, sign-up here.



My Love Hate Relationship With Dora the Explorer – Role Models For Girls

Dora the Explorer

Polgara the Sorceress

I hate Dora.

There’s the mind-numbing, repetitive songs – ‘I’m a map, I’m a map’ and ‘We did it, we did it’, for those who are blessed enough to not know. These things will drill their way into your mind like a bad advertising jingle and lodge there at 2am in the morning while you are desperately praying for sleep.

There’s the annoying fact that Dora keeps getting lost, even going to places she – should know, like her cousin’s house. I’m down with dragons and unicorns, but there’s, you know, a talking monkey, a blue bull, and the weird insectoid orchestra.

My husband and I are convinced she’s smuggling drugs across the border and sampling the wares, which would account for the way she roams around the countryside, her poor memory and the hallucinations.  

On the other hand, it was recently pointed out to me that once little girls outgrow Dora, they are stuck with role models like Miley Cyrus and Bratz. I have two little girls, and the thought mortifies me.
Dora, whatever else you say about her, is a good role model (provided, of course, that her drug-taking habits aren’t evident to the average child…). She’s bold, brave, curious, generous, independent, a leader, and a thinker. Everything many of us would like our little girls to be. On the other hand, the only values Miley Cyrus and Bratz appear to be advocating is a disturbing lack of clothes and an obsession with physical appearance.

Kahlan Amnell, the Mother Confessor
Don’t get me wrong, I take pride in my appearance. But I value many other characteristics much more than my appearance, such as my brain and my independence, and those things have gotten me a lot further in life than the way I look.

This revelation got me thinking about who the female role models in my life were. I spent the vast majority of my childhood with my nose in a book, so my role models (apart from my mother)were almost certainly there as well. 

Here are the ones I think were probably most influential:

  • At age ten, Polgara the Sorceress from The Belgariad by David Eddings – almost the very definition of a poised, powerful and above all indomitable woman;
  • At age twelve, Lessa of Pern (from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight), who was nothing if not strong, determined, and single-minded. What Lessa wanted, she generally got, and through her own efforts, not because someone handed it to her on a platter;
  • At age fourteen:
    • Kahlan Amnell, from Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth, a woman who would lead men into battle at risk of her own life for justice, who fought for the freedom of people who reviled her for what she was, who stood for the weak, and the voiceless, and who above all stood for truth and justice.
    • Nynaeve al’meara, Egwene al’Vere, Elayne Trakand, and Aviendha from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, all women who faced their fears and fought against terrible odds and dreadful evil at great personal expense to do what they thought was right.
Far more inspiring than the average fare available to young girls and teenagers these days. Some of these books I was considering giving away or donating. Now I think I should go and pack them away and hope that I can get my daughters to read them when they are a little older, because if there is one thing I hope for my girls right now, it’s strong female role models. 

What do you think of today’s role models, for girls and boys? Who were your role models? 

Aviendha, Elayne Trakand, and Min

Ender’s Game: Review by Club Fantasci

Ender's Game: Review by Club Fantasci
Club Fantasci met last weekend to discuss both the March Book of the Month – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. You can watch the discussion of co-hosts David Lowry, Dionne Lister, Kriss Morton and myself below.


You can find our full reviews of the books here on the Club Fantasci website.

April’s Book of the Month is The Glass Demon by Helen Grant and the Hangout will take place on April 26th at 7:30pm CST.