My Theory on Conspiracy Theories

Who loves a good conspiracy theory? I know I do. In the wake of the #EpsteinSuicide, it seems all manner of conspiracy theorists have weighed in on what might have really happened. And hey, I’m one of them. Which is why I wrote this piece. What makes us gravitate towards stories that don’t have all the facts yet? Here are some of my thoughts on this phenomenon.

The Writer’s Lens E59: The Exalting and Glorifying of Ideas

After a couple weeks’ break, we’re back to finish this small series on Exploring, Exposing, and now, Exalting Ideas. What does it look like when an idea is glorified? And how might we be more cognizant of the ideas we are ingesting?

This one got a little ranty, but that comes with the territory.

The Case of Jeffrey Epstein and a Lesson in Temptation

Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes are despicable. But what else needs to be discussed in the wake of his arrest?

My latest article talks about temptation and how none of us are immune to its hooks.

Narrative Wars: 09: “Why Is It So Hard To Change People’s Minds?”

Ever have a conversation where you couldn’t convince the other party of something? You have all the facts. You have all the information. But for whatever the reason, the other person just won’t see things from your perspective.

Never? Yeah, me neither (insert sarcasm).

Changing someone’s mind is hard. We aren’t really as open as we’d like to think (cruel irony there, is it not?). New ideas can rock our worldview. And it can make for some rather uncomfortable situations if we’re discussing them openly with another who thinks differently than us.

From a writer’s perspective, storytelling – effective storytelling – is a powerful means by which to change the course of someone’s mindset. A great story can make someone aware of something he never knew or even cause him to consider making a 180 on his own thinking.

This episode of the #NarrativeWars is a deep dive so be sure to stick with me till the end.

The Minimizing of Sin, the Maximizing of the Autonomous Self

Here’s my most recent article discussing a topic I have been especially challenged by as of late. Not by a belief in God, but by the ramifications for not taking sin seriously.

Amazon’s Amazing Deals Are Affecting…Amazon?

I’ve been self-publishing material through Amazon for a few years. I didn’t start out that way. I was originally working with a publishing house out of Indiana before I decided to part ways with them. They put me through several channels, including Amazon, as it was the fastest-growing distributor on the Internet. At that time of my departure, I made a jump to CreateSpace’s platform. They had an intuitive program for self-publishing and I enjoyed the freedom. But then CreateSpace was reabsorbed by…well, Amazon. The entire program was taken into Amazon’s publishing platform and I, along with likely thousands of other authors, was taken up along with it.

You can probably discern the pattern by now. If you’re in the business of building a platform – as a writer – it’s difficult to avoid the goliath that is Amazon. Jeff Bezos’ company is the biggest online retailer in the United States. It’s a multi-billion dollar agency. Its reach far exceeds that of its closet competitors and every aspiring author, like myself, knows it.

That’s why so many writers inevitably find themselves within Amazon’s premier marketplace. The allure of Amazon is its possibility of overnight success. Newbies to the industry are probably thinking just that. If I can get on Amazon, then I increase my chances of selling more books. All I have to do is publish through them and get some reviews to boost the algorithm. No sweat….

There’s nothing wrong with that sort of thinking. I’ve thought it. I still do, to some extent. And if I’m thinking like that, then I know others are doing the same. Namely, those looking to take advantage of people like myself.

Recently, Amazon came under fire for selling counterfeit copies of a book through its online marketplace. An author was notified by one of its readers how there were several typos present. The situation cost the author close to $240k in possible revenue – a massive hit – but avoidable, nonetheless. Why could something like this even occur? David Streitfeld of The New York Times sums up the situation quite well:

“The company (Amazon) sells substantially more than half of the books in the United States, including new and used physical volumes as well as digital and audio formats. Amazon is also a platform for third-party sellers, a publisher, a printer, a self-publisher, a review hub, a textbook supplier and a distributor that now runs its own chain of brick-and-mortar stores.” 

One can see the ripple effect. When you’re that big and you can do that much, it’s hard to keep tabs on everything. To Amazon’s credit, they’ve tried to address this issue, including the claims of Mr. Streitfeld. But this isn’t the first time it’s happened. In fact, it keeps happening; a reality which raises the concern as to whether Amazon will need to take further action as 2019 rolls onward.

Either way, this situation showcases one of the dangers associated with becoming such a big distributor. For the ones looking for a personal touch and a steep attention to detail – aka the aspiring author – Amazon may lose potential clients. Though many will still look to garner reviews from the tech giant, there’s no guarantee new authors will flock to Amazon for their publishing needs. Time will tell, of course. If Amazon can crack down on these problems and assure its customer base these mishaps won’t happen (at least not regularly) then that will only encourage more up-and-comers to sign with Amazon.

As for me, I like to keep my ear to the ground. Amazon does have a massive reach. Amazon does bolster an intuitive platform. And if I’m honest, I’m not really sold on other made-to-order publishers just yet. But that doesn’t mean I can’t shop around in the meantime. There’s still traditional publishing, among other alternatives for a writer with a platform. Amazon isn’t the only player in the game.

And yes, I am aware how one could say, ‘at least for now, there are options’. But I’d prefer not to end on such a morbid note. There are other online sellers like Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million providing similar publishing services. So the biggest question is not whether Amazon will rule the world, but if buyers and authors will continue to choose the Amazonian giant down the line. Can Amazon overcome its surplus of “good problems” so as to become more streamlined and author / reader friendly?

Well, that story is still an unfolding one. Happy Amazon Prime Day, everyone.

 

 

The Writer’s Lens REVIEWS: Stranger Things – Season 3

Ah, Stranger Things. The biggest franchise on Netflix and one of the most highly anticipated binge-worthy shows of 2019. So how does Stranger Things do in its third go-round? Is it the best ever? Or is it the worst of the bunch?

This episode is all about the good, the bad, and the ugly of season three. Full disclosure: SPOILERS are ahead. You have been warned.

Why Cursing is Not a Sign of a More Realistic Story

Here is a link to an article I did on this subject. Of all the vices, cursing tends to be the sexiest and the most socially acceptable. But does it add anything to a story? Specifically in the area of realism?

That’s what I’m trying to explore and engage with in this discussion. What do you think?

A podcast episode will be soon to follow unpacking this idea further.

Narrative Wars 06: We Are Told We Can Change The World – Can We?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been told I could “change the world”. And like most writers-in-training, this concept spoke to me deeply. If my words were delivered well, then perhaps I could make that dream a reality. I could “change” the world for the better. I could be of influence. I could be of some impact in this place while I’m here.

But who says the world is bad to begin with? Is there truly a responsibility we have to fix the world if it is? These are some narratives I’ll be exploring with this episode of the #NarrativeWars on The Writer’s Lens.

Narrative Wars 05: How Do We Develop Our Worldviews?

You may or may not know the story of the Hitchens brothers – Christopher, the elder, and Peter, the younger.

Christopher was a prominent figure in the anti-religion, pro-atheistic worldview camp while Peter is a well-known voice for the pro-faith, Christian community. Their philosophies would have them at odds, but both men share the same mother and father. Their bloodline could not be tighter. And yet, each man arrived at a very different way to interpret the world.

How did this happen? Aren’t we all just slaves to our DNA? Or is there something else at play rather than blood and guts and bone?

On this episode of the #NarrativeWars, I begin to unpack what causes us to formulate our worldviews. And how stories tend to reflect and / or challenge our personal ideologies in the process. Keyword here: personal.