Posts Tagged ‘activism’

Recently, the United States celebrated the first occurrence of Juneteenth as a federal holiday. For those unaware, Juneteenth commemorates when General Gordon Granger of the Union Army entered Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865 and announced the end of slavery there. This was two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, though often emancipation had to be enforced by Union soldiers. Nevertheless, many African Americans count June 19th, known as Juneteenth, Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day, and Emancipation Day, as the day slavery ended and for celebrating African American culture.

President Biden signing the holiday into law makes Juneteenth the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. And hopefully, both holidays will now serve as opportunities to educate the masses on the history of African Americans in the United States and what they’ve gone through. It could even make for an interesting discussion when we contrast it with July 4th, Independence Day, which will be in just a few days.

That is, if teachers in certain states aren’t kept from talking about the stories behind Juneteenth and MLK Jr. Day by law.

If you’re from outside the United States or just haven’t heard, many state legislatures are enacting laws to try and keep teachers in those states from teaching Critical Race Theory, or any form of in-depth discussion of race’s effect on the history and culture of the United States. Opponents say that CRT or any other form of in-depth discussion as “left-wing propaganda” or “trying to shame white people for actions of the past.” Some of these bills have been passed into law, which might technically make discussion of why we have these holidays technically illegal.

Which worries me, because as we’ve seen, ignorance isn’t bliss. It only furthers divisions.

You probably heard of this, but recently, a certain United States congrresswoman compared mask mandates in the US to the Yellow Star worn by Jews in Nazi Germany and Nazi-controlled areas. This same congresswoman then defended herself, saying that any rational Jewish person would agree with her.

Well, I may be eccentric, but I am Jewish and I consider myself rational. And I think there’s a huge difference between public health measures that are meant to protect people from disease–you know, like having proper sewage disposal systems rather than letting poop contaminate our drinking water and cause cholera outbreaks like what happened in 19th-century London?–and measures that were meant to isolate and stigmatize people of a minority religion, keep them from most professions and taking part in a nation’s political, economic and social circles. These same people were then forbidden to practice their religion, forced into tiny communities and concentration camps, and endured harsh slave labor and systematic murder.

Last I checked, no one is trying to do any of that with people who don’t wear masks or aren’t vaccinated. Governments and businesses just want people to continue following measures taken to keep people from getting sick. You know, like not mixing poop into your drinking water? Victorian Londoners learned that one the hard way!

Anyway, that congresswoman realized she made a mistake, went to the Holocaust Museum in DC, and publicly apologized for her comments. And I want to believe she’s at least learned some kind of lesson from this. But I know that there were plenty of people who backed up her ignorance when she was defending herself, and would have resisted any attempts for her, or for themselves, to find out that why what they said and did was wrong.

I can only chalk some of this response to blatant white supremacy and anti-Semitism. It is part of it, no doubt, but ignorance has played its part as well. Since the Civil War, many history textbooks have been written with the aim of keeping people ignorant of the actual causes of the war, the horrors of slavery, or why things are still very unequal. And while Holocaust education has made great strides since WWII, it’s not emphasized enough if the level of ignorance displayed by our elected leaders is anything to go by.

(Not to mention the number of Holocaust deniers out there.)

Look, I’m white. I may not be treated as such sometimes because of my religion (anti-Semitism is weird that way), but I am white. And I’ve never once felt ashamed of my skin color due to learning of how white people treated black people in the past. Our fifth grade history unit mainly focused on the slave trade, Underground Railroad, and the Civil War, and I feel like it allowed me to feel more empathetic to African Americans. At the same time, I wish I had learned about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, which was basically an American pogrom, or the coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, which I’m still fuzzy on.

Both events, by the way, I only learned about in the last year! And that doesn’t sit right with me.

From the way I’ve been writing this, you would think that I’m going to conclude that a better handle on history would solve these problems. I wish it were so easy. There has to be a multi-pronged approach to fixing not just the ignorance of the past, but the divisions and pain of the present so they don’t continue into the future. But teaching a history that takes in multiple perspectives, follows more than one or a few groups, and takes a look on how those histories affect our modern day world and culture, would be one of those prongs.

Otherwise, nothing will change. No matter our background, us and our descendants will not receive a history that’ll help us deal with the modern world. We’ll just receive some stories with lies, propaganda and fairytales mixed in. And teaching fiction as truth helps no one.

General Mark Miley testifying before Congress on why critical race theory is taught at West Point.

And we also have to learn why certain circles, mainly composed of white conservatives, have come out so strong against CRT. To quote General Mark Miley, who recently testified before Congress on critical race theory being taught at West Point, “I want to understand white rage–and I’m white.” This pairs very well with what my recently retired boss, who is African-American, gave as the reason why we needed a European American group in our organization, alongside groups for African-American, Latinx, Asian Americans, Native American, LGBT, veterans, and disabled employees,* “We need to have EVERYBODY at the table.”

I completely agree. We need everybody at the table. Because all Americans are at the table. And we need to be better able to understand each other if we want this country to continue on. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that, like a table with rotten legs, it’ll simply collapse.


Thanks for reading this essay, everyone. I know this was a rather unusual sort of post for me to write, but given current events in this country, I felt it was necessary. I look forward to discussion in the comments, but I only ask that you keep things civil. After all, the only things that are supposed to intimidate or scare people on this blog are me and my stories! The comments section are neither.

Until next time, Followers of Fear, thanks for reading, and pleasant nightmares.

*For those who don’t know, my day job is at a supply agency where I work in an office that promotes diversity and inclusion in the workforce. My main duties involve getting accommodations for disabled employees so they can do their jobs, arranging interpreting for deaf employees, and assisting with programs meant to highlight the contributions and accomplishments of the various groups above. It’s a fulfilling job in many different ways.

Audible company logo.

If you’re not familiar with Audible and Audiobook Creation Exchange (aka ACX), let me fill you in. Audible is Amazon’s audio book wing. They distribute thousands of audio books and have just as many subscribers (I’ve been one since 2015). ACX is part of Audible: it’s a places where authors and publishers can hook up with narrators, produce audio books, and then upload them to Audible.

With me so far?

Recently, Audible and ACX have been in a bit of hot water. It’s come to the attention of several authors that Audible has a rather questionable policy on the books. Audible Premium Plus subscribers have the option to exchange an audio book they’ve bought through their subscription within 365 days of purchase! And get this: if an audio book is exchanged within that time frame, the authors or publishers get their royalties deducted for it!

You read that right: somebody can exchange any audio book they buy within a year of purchasing, and the author gets punished for it.

Most people’s reactions to the exchange policy abuse. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

And lately, this has become a huge problem. Many authors, mostly indie authors, have noticed an increase in exchanges and deducted royalties over the past several months, In fact, some have speculated that use of the exchange policy–or should I say abuse of the exchange policy?–has boomed because Audible’s been using the policy in some of their advertising to attract new members.

Spurred by reports of this, the Authors Guild, along with a whole bunch of other author organizations, have drafted a letter to Audible and ACX to get them to, among other things, change the policy and create a more reasonable exchange policy. At the time I’m writing this, the letter has over twelve thousand signatures, and it’s still growing. To quote the letter,

This policy is in clear breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing implied in the authors’ agreements with Audible and ACX as it allows books to be purchased and listened to without paying the authors and narrators their royalties.

Authors Guild Letter to Audible and ACX

Now, I have only have Rose‘s audio book on Audible, and so far as I know, it hasn’t suffered from this exchange policy much. However, I have heard from a couple of colleagues, including some I consider good friends, who are upset by the policy and are considering pulling their works from Audible and ACX because of the policy.

And even if I didn’t know anyone affected by this policy, once I learned about it, it was hard for me to sit still. This is a terrible policy that hurts authors and publishers alike! These are the people that Amazon needs to continue selling through Audible, and yet they treat them this way?

And why is the exchange window a year long to begin with? That’s a terrible business strategy. Can you imagine if a hardware store allowed you to exchange a tool within a year, even if it’s likely been used? Or a shoe store? Or a computer business? They’d be out of business within a year with a policy like that! What the hell, Amazon?

The letter I received from Audible about the change in the exchange policy. Feel free to enlarge and read it in full.

Thankfully, it seems that news of the abuse and the letter made Audible realize their mistake. While they’ve defended the policy, saying that they do monitor for abuse and that such abuse is rare, they are changing the policy effective January 1st. After that, the exchange window is limited to 7 days, and Audible will pay for any exchanges made after that timeframe. They later confirmed this in an email to ACX creators, which I got as well.

And that is good. That is a good change. It’s harder to abuse an exchange policy limited to only a week instead of a year. Still, some aren’t satisfied. In fact, the Authors Guild letter suggests shortening the window to 48 hours. And I like that idea: not only is it even harder to listen to multiple audio books over the course of two days than it is to do over a week, but it should be easier to spot abuse when an account is making multiple exchanges within a two day period.

So, what can you do? Well, you can sign the letter, which at the time of writing is only 440 signatures away from the Authors Guild’s goal. Even if Audible has changed the policy, every signature is a reminder to the company that this sort of malarkey won’t be tolerated by the very people the company needs for products if it continues.

You can also share with other authors and readers. The more people who are informed about the issue, the more people who will be weary and on the lookout for policies and abuse like this. People, and companies, are more likely to be better behaved if they know they’re being watched and kept under pressure.

And finally, if you have or plan on getting an Audible subscription, don’t be the kind of subscriber who does this sort of crap. I’ve only exchanged a book on Audible once, and that was because I thought it was one kind of story, and it turned out to be another. Otherwise, I would never rob another writer of royalties! Instead, keep the book once you buy it, and wait for your next credit. Don’t make someone else lose money just because you want more listening material!

And if Audible doesn’t address the problem, maybe consider giving up your membership. Yeah, it’ll suck to not get that credit for an audio book each month, but it’ll sure send a message to Audible.

And if you do enjoy an audio book purchased through Audible, make sure to review or at least rate it afterwards. Trust me, ratings and reviews left by readers help both new readers and the writers who put their books on the site. I speak from personal experience on that!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thank you for reading this far and giving a damn about this problem. I hope you’ll consider helping out authors and stopping abuse of Audible’s exchange policy.

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving and pleasant nightmares!

October is usually associated with Halloween, and obviously I’m doing everything I can to make sure you don’t forget that. But it is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month, when the United States recognizes how peoples with disabilities have contributed to the country and to our various industries over the years. This year especially, we are marking both the 75th anniversary of NDEAM, as it’s often abbreviated, and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) becoming a law.

And it’s good we have this month, because there are so many people with disabilities throughout the world and history who have contributed to our society. Harriet Tubman led dozens of slaves to freedom and acted as an armed scout and nurse for the Union Army, suffered from neurological issues due to a childhood traumatic brain injury; Franklin Roosevelt became President of the United States and led the US through some of its toughest crises, all while dealing with the aftereffects of polio from a childhood condition; Albert Einstein had a learning disability; and author Flannery O’Connor wrote enduring fiction while suffering from lupus.

Not to mention there’s a growing list of entertainers and athletes with disabilities inspiring us everyday. Magic Johnson, the basketball player, has dyslexia; Gaten Matarazzo and Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things have cleidocranial dysplasia and deafness in one ear, respectively; and Elton John has fought bulimia and epilepsy for years. And more amazing people with disabilities are emerging every day. Check out this video of a dance company, half of whose members have disabilities.

I point out all these people because, as Ms. Hamamoto points out in the video above, one in five people have a disability of some sort. Yet, despite the passage of the ADA and the many opportunities this law opened up for Americans with disabilities, this country isn’t always very inclusive. In fact, opportunities and services available for people with disabilities can vary greatly from place to place.

This astonishes me, because becoming disabled is something that can happen to anyone regardless of sex, race, nationality, class, religion, political leanings, ethnicity or age. In fact, the likelihood of getting a disability grows as you get older. It can happen because of genetics, because of an accident, a side effect of an illness, or other causes. Lately, I’ve heard of people who get over COVID-19, but have side effects such as still being unable to taste or suffering from multiple headaches a week. These can, and likely will, be considered disabilities in the years to come.

And many members of the American military come back or discharge with disabilities. These can range from physical, such as war injuries, to mental or psychological, such as PTSD.

You might not even realize that someone near you has a disability. The majority of them are invisible. You may only see their struggles, if anything.

And yet, so many people don’t want to think about the disabled. Services for the disabled can be underfunded. Many homes aren’t always built with the disabled in mind. Education in general is often not given the funding it needs, and when it comes to budget cuts, special education is often on the chopping block. And there’s so little education on disability in general, that people may hold a stigma regarding disability for years: that disability is contagious; that they’re useless; that they brought it upon themselves; that the best thing to do with disability is to ignore it or hide it away or treat it as an annoyance.

As a person with several disabilities–some congenital, others acquired in adulthood–I’m aware of how lucky I’ve been. I’m gainfully employed at an organization where close to twenty percent of the workforce has some form of disability (as well as accommodations for them). And throughout my life, I’ve been able to receive services that help me with my disabilities. So I feel it is important to not only make disability more visible, but also to advocate and help out when I can.

Which is why I’d like to close out this post with some links to help my fellow peoples with disabilities. The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has numerous resources for the disabled, and many states have programs or offices for the disabled, such as Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities in my state. If you are or know a college student or recent graduate with disabilities, then might I recommend the Workforce Recruitment Program, or WRP, a great program that pairs students and graduates with disabilities with internships in the federal government, and which sometimes turn into jobs (please use Firefox when operating on the site). And the Job Accommodation Network, or JAN, has numerous listings of individual disabilities and what accommodations exist out there. My office uses this site all the time, and we find it quite helpful.

And these are just a small sample of resources for the disabled, a group that should never be discounted or forgotten. Because not only can you become disabled at any time in your life, but because no matter the disability, you matter. You contribute. You make the world a better place. And if people forget that, then it’s up to you and to the rest of us to remind them.

What resources for people with disabilities are you aware of? What has your disability experience been like?

Reborn City, Book 1 of the Reborn City series.

As many of you know, I started this blog while working on a sci-fi series, the Reborn City trilogy. It follows street gangs in a dystopian future, and focuses mainly on the Hydras, a gang whose leaders have strange powers and abilities. At the very core of the series was a theme of overcoming various prejudices, especially racial and Islamaphobic. I self-published the first two books, Reborn City and Video Rage, and started work on the final book, Full Circle.

However, trouble started around the third book. Midway through the first draft, I realized the direction of the story wasn’t epic enough for what I wanted for the series. It neither provided the action, nor the catharsis needed to end the series. So I stopped working on the story, with the hope that eventually I could finish the series.

That was 2017. It’s 2020. And I’ve realized some things about the series. Things that made me change how I feel about those books, and about selling them to people. The biggest thing being that I’m a different person than I used to be. I’m not the same person I was when I first started writing those books.

Let me explain. When I first started that series, it was 2009, I was sixteen, and I was full of the naive, optimistic hope that most teens are filled with. That hope filled Reborn City and its themes of the power of tolerance, which I hoped would do some good in the world. I thought if I could take those themes and work them into a story, I could beat back some of the horrors that were plaguing the world.

In a way, I still think it’s possible to write a story and make a difference through literature. We’ve seen it with multiple books that have withstood the test of time and build conversations around difficult topics. I just don’t think the Reborn City books can do that anymore.

It’s now 2020. Eleven years have passed, I’m twenty seven, and I’m a lot more educated, as well as a lot more jaded, about the very issues I was writing about. I think we all are. We’ve seen too much these past several years, felt too much heartbreak and harsh realities. Knowing that, I look back at the Reborn City books and realize that those stories don’t fit their purpose anymore. It’s like you try to build a better hose to put out house fires, but you find out after the fact that what’s needed is a fire hose, and you built a garden hose. And the whole house is on fire.

See where I’m going? I can’t finish the books because I know the hose I’m building is inadequate, and I don’t feel right selling the books for the same reason.

This, among other reasons, is why earlier this week, I made the decision to take both Reborn City and Video Rage off Amazon and Smashwords.

Reborn City and Video Rage. As of today, I’m not selling copies on Amazon or Smashwords.

Yeah, I can hear some of your shock. Believe me, I’m not happy about it, either. But it is what it is. I won’t sell a product (and make no mistake, that’s part of what I’m doing as a writer) that doesn’t work, and these stories just don’t work. You can maybe still find the last few paperback copies of them on Amazon, but after those are gone, that’s it.

That being said, there are a couple of bright sides. For one thing, I may revisit the world of Reborn City again someday. I still think there’s some potential with those characters and that world, I just need to write a story around them that works with what I know now. And in the meantime, I still like to put the issues I care about into the stories I write, like I did with Rose, or with River of Wrath. The latter of which, by the way, tackles some of the same issues Reborn City and Video Rage did.

Also, while those books are no longer available, my two other books that I self-published, the short story collection The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones, and the horror-thriller Snake, are both still available. While those stories aren’t perfect, they’ve weathered the test of time better than the Reborn City books did, so I feel more comfortable putting them out there. I’ll include the links for them below.

I’m sorry to drop sad news on you on a Friday night, my Followers of Fear. But I thank you for reading, and for your understanding. Do know that I plan to keep putting out quality stories in the future, and I hope you’ll stick around to keep supporting me while I work on that.

That’s all for now, and I’ll be back soon. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

 

The Quiet Game: AmazonCreatespaceBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Rose:  Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Well, I didn’t think I would get it done, and especially not today. But get it done, I did, and now it’s time for a blog post.

As you well know, earlier this month I started working on the second draft of River of Wrath, a novel about a small town in 1960s Mississippi whose dark history is dredged up when one of the circles of Hell described in Dante’s Inferno appears in the town. I’ve been meaning to get to this draft for forever, but the deaths of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbury, among so many others, forced me to pull this one off the flash drive and get to work on it again. One of this story’s main themes is racism and racial violence, after all, so I can’t think of a better time to work on this story.

And I’m honestly amazed I got this story finished. For one thing, I didn’t think I’d get to keep to that goal of getting one story done a month, but I guess I did, after a fashion. And I didn’t think I’d finish it today. After all, I had about 75 pages left to edit when I got up this morning. However, a lot of work and I just kept going. Before I knew it, I only had 30 left, and I just couldn’t stop. Now it’s a bit after midnight and I’m done with the second draft. Imagine that.

On another note, this draft is now longer than the first draft! When I finished the story the first time around in October 2018, the novel was 192 pages (8.5 x 11 inches on MS Word, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font) and 60,059 words. The second draft…is 204 pages and 63,843 words! I added twelve pages and nearly four-thousand words! I’m not sure if most of those words came from adding more in-depth explanations about Dante’s Inferno, as one of my beta readers advised, but it’s quite an addition. One, hopefully, that’s well worth the work.

So what’s next, both for River of Wrath and for myself? Well, before I start a third draft of River, I’d like to get it looked at by some sensitivity readers. As I said, this story deals with racism, and I want to make sure it’s not accidentally hurtful to African-Americans despite my best intentions. Hopefully, they’ll give me some insight to improve the novel and make it so that the only people who find it offensive are people whose offense I don’t care about, aka white supremacists.

As for me, I’m going to take a break for a short while. You know, watch some movies, read some books, prepare for my upcoming trip to Iowa and South Carolina. However, I’m sure I’ll get in front of the keyboard and start banging out a new story soon enough. I have an idea that’s been rattling in my head for awhile now that I think I can do a lot with, so I’m looking forward to working on it.

But for now, it’s late and I need to sleep. Good night, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, stay safe, be kind, and pleasant nightmares!

I only realized after I wrote the title of this post that there’s a rhyme in there. Wrath and Draft. Didn’t intend for that.

If you read my post from last Saturday, you’ll remember that I was trying to write a story taking place after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, I was going to write a story wit a certain theme derived from one of my own challenges with self-isolation. And I couldn’t find a plot or a story line to fit with what I was going for. So, I moved onto the next story on my list: editing the first draft of River of Wrath after nearly two years since finishing it.

For those of you who don’t know, River of Wrath was one of those stories I began that I thought was going to be very short but ended up being very long. The story follows a small town in 1960’s Mississippi with a dark history to it that suddenly has its history dredged up when one of the circles of Hell appears in the town one day.

I’ve been meaning to edit this story for forever. I originally wrote it on and off over the course of a year, finishing it in October 2018. Since then, it’s been lying dormant on my flash drive, but recent events, such as the deaths of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, have compelled me to look at it again. After all, one of the novel’s main themes are the consequences of racism and racial violence, and given how much those subjects have been brought to the forefront of society’s consciousness, I can’t think of a better time to work on the story.

Of course, I’ll at some point have to have sensitivity readers look at this story to ensure that I’ve handled the themes in a way that’s helpful rather than upsetting. But right now, the focus is to take a look at the first draft and maybe pull something worth reading out of it.

Anyway, the goal is to get the second draft done by the end of the month, keeping with my goal to get at least one story done a month. So far, I’ve been able to do that since I finished Toyland in February, but given that we’re nearly halfway through the month already and I’m still pretty early in the story, it’ll be a challenge.

Oh well. Sometimes these things happen. You just have to roll with it and hope for the best.

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated on River and other projects as time goes on. I hope to have positive news soon on some stories, but as you know, it depends on finding the right people who think my stories are worth a risk.

In the meantime, as you know, you have until Wednesday, June 17th at noon to submit questions for the YouTube Q&A I’ll be doing for the one-year publishing anniversary of Rose. Just send your name, where you’re from, and up to two questions to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com by the deadline, and your questions could appear in the video. And even better, if you’re from the US or UK, you could win a download code for the Rose audio book.

You can also order signed copies of Rose by sending an email to that same address, by the way. Or you can find the book on Amazon and Audible.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, Shabbat Shalom, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

The other day, I posted my thoughts on the COVID-19 virus. Among those thoughts was my desire for writers and readers alike to support authors who will be struggling during the ongoing crisis. For a lot of authors, this crisis will cut into conventions, teaching seminars, readings, and so much more that they rely on to sell their books and use their craft. The best thing we can do for those authors is to support them. This could be by buying their work, writing their reviews, anything else you can do to help them out while we’re all stuck inside and trying to protect our health.

That said, there’s an opportunity to do just that.

I’ve known Jason Stokes, owner of Gestalt Media, for about a year. He’s a writer whose work I’ve read and reviewed, but he’s also the owner of a publishing company that tries to give authors the best experience with a publisher as possible. This includes better royalty rates and more control over the creative process than you might find at another publisher. And the model’s worked so far; in the year or so they’ve been in business, Gestalt Media has acquired a number of authors, many of them horror authors, and are sending their stories into the marketplace.

Not only that, but Gestalt Media put together a charity anthology last year for victims of the Virginia Beach shooting which included the likes of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. Yeah, not kidding, those authors let their short stories be used in the anthology, Dark Tides, to benefit victims and families of victims of that charity. You can check out the anthology’s Amazon page by clicking on this link.

Anyway, just like authors everywhere else, Gestalt Media is working hard to support its authors during this difficult time. They’re raising money on GoFundMe to ensure their authors are able to whether the storm, and they’ve already made almost ten percent of their goal. And for every dollar they make, companies like GoFundMe, Intuit and Yelp will match them. Yeah, every dollar does count here!*

Now, I know a lot of you might be struggling yourselves during this difficult time. Many of us are out of work and unable to make an income during this crisis. I understand. But if you are able to help somehow, please consider doing so.  I’m lucky enough to still be working and making enough money to meet my needs, so I was able to donate. And if I can, I want to help further, so I’m spreading the word where I can.

And if you can’t help out monetarily, maybe consider sharing the campaign on your social media. The more people who know about this,  the more people will be likely to donate. And if you can help out monetarily, great! You’ll be helping out plenty of authors.

Whatever way you can help, please do. We’re all in this together. In fact, the whole point of all these measures is to make sure we all get through the crisis together. This would only be a continuation of the communal preservation we’re engaging in.

And if you can’t help out, that’s fine too. We all have things we can and can’t do, even now.

Well, that’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’ll include the link for the fundraiser down below. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Gestalt Media Creators Relief Fund

*How they were able to work that deal, I don’t know, but I’m not going to complain when they’re able to get results.

As many of you are aware, I am a member of the disabled community, having autism, ADHD, anxiety, and more things than I can name. What many of you might not be aware is that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM for short) in the United States. And this year’s theme (which I think is decided by the Department of Labor) is, “The Right Talent, Right Now.”

And at work today, we had an observance of NDEAM which included a panel of employees with disabilities and a video showing the audition of this year’s winner of America’s Got Talent, Kodie Lee, who is blind and autistic. You can watch the video down below.

I am crying, and so are you. You can’t help it.

And what this video demonstrates is that, despite certain issues and centuries worth of stigma, people with disabilities do have plenty to contribute to the world. In fact, they contribute every day. At my workplace, my main job duties involve helping employees with disabilities get accommodations so they can continue their jobs. This doesn’t just include disabilities from genetics and brain chemistry, like mine, but people who gain health problems like back issues or vision problems as they grow older, among others. And despite their disabilities–or sometimes because–they do amazing things at their workstations. They just need a few accommodations and an accepting environment to do so.

And you know what? This isn’t a new phenomena: people with disabilities have been contributing to the world for years. Beethoven, like Kodie Lee, made the world a better place with his music. Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein changed our understanding of the universe in their lifetimes. Harriet Tubman had a head injury that caused headaches, seizures and hypersomnia. John F. Kennedy may have had Addison’s or a similar condition.

Despite all these famous examples though, there are still a lot of barriers to people with disabilities getting work and living full lives. A recent article from Phys.org showed that many blind people face unemployment or underemployment, even though they can be just as capable as able-bodied people of doing job-related tasks. And it wouldn’t surprise me to see similar numbers to that quoted in the article from other groups in the disabled community.

So let me take a moment to address anyone in a position to hire someone with disabilities: we are capable of basic tasks. Hell, sometimes we do very complex tasks too, like write programs or design skyscrapers or perform surgeries or defend clients in court. I’ve even been known to write a decent story from time to time, and that’s not the easiest task. All we need to do our jobs is a few accommodations, which usually don’t cost that much, and an accepting atmosphere.

And remember, this is a group anyone can join at any time. Including maybe you, if you’re not already there. Life has a way of making that possible. So in a way, by encouraging hiring peoples with disabilities, you’re not only helping them, you’re helping yourself.

As well as your employer by ensuring they get the most talented people from the most diverse workforce. Let’s not forget that.

So this October, while we’re all enjoying the season of fear and screams, let’s also remember that there is an entire pool of untapped talent out there. One that has been subjected to and overcome stigmas multiple times to prove us wrong. So why not let them show you what they’re made of?

Normally I don’t voice my opinions or make calls to actions on this blog, but I feel like I have to say something on this one. Earlier this week, my stepmother, who works for Columbus’s library system, asked if I had any opinion on a petition the library was gathering signatures for to send to Macmillan Publishers. I did a little research, and what I found shocked me.

Starting this November, Macmillan Publishers, one of the biggest and oldest publishing firms in the world, will not allow libraries to purchase more than one copy of an ebook they publish for the first eight weeks after the book is published. For those unaware, many libraries these days lend e-books to readers who prefer reading on tablets to paperbacks using technology called e-lending, during which patrons have access to the ebook file for a short access period, after which they’re unable to access it without renewing or checking it out again. One ebook file equals one book to check out, so libraries buy multiple copies, especially for more popular books and writers. If this change goes through, libraries will only have one copy of an ebook for readers for the two months after release.

Now lest I be accused of being biased, Macmillan cites e-lending’s effects on book sales as their reason for why they’re doing it. According to a memo released by John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan:

It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an ebook for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American ebook reader is starting to lean heavily toward free.

First off, thirteen bucks for an ebook? Of course people are going to go for the cheaper option! The majority of people aren’t rich, you know. We hae rent and car bills to pay.

Second, let’s take a look at print books, which are still more popular than ebooks. Libraries order several physical copies of books by famous authors* months before they’re released. Upwards of hundreds of people reserve copies of those books and wait months to read them without having to pay anything. However, this doesn’t seem to affect publisher sales significantly enough to put similar measures in place. And if a publisher dared to, I imagine they’d face riots. I mean, what if libraries could only order one copy of the latest JK Rowling or Stephen King book, and were perfectly honest about why? I’d imagine the offending publishers would be visited by mobs of angry wizards and blood-soaked prom queens.

And finally, the word-of-mouth effect should have a counter-effect to anything e-lending can do to book sales. The more people who are reading a book, the more people are likely to talk about it. The more people who talk about a book, the more people who will want to read it. The more people will want to read, the more people who will read, which will repeat the cycle. Allowing access to more ebooks at libraries only helps this effect, so Macmillan is kind of cutting off their own digits with this move.

This and other reasons is why the American Library Association has launched a petition asking Macmillan to reverse their decision, a petition which I support. As of writing this, the petition has a little over twenty-thousand signatures, but it’s going to need a lot more to change CEO John Sargent’s mind. So I wrote this article to help change a few minds.

If you would like to sign the petition, please click here, and make sure to spread the word. The more people who are aware of this issue, the more people who will be persuaded to help. And honestly, for the sake of the many people who like to read, including our work on occasion, we owe it to them.

You can also read this article from Slate.com if you would like to further research this issue yourself.

Thanks for reading, Followers of Fear. I hope you decide to support the cause, and until next time, pleasant nightmares.

*AKA not Rose and/or anything else by me, though if you want to help me change that, I’d appreciate that.

Yesterday I came out of Avengers: Endgame, in awe of the movie I’d just seen. I pull out my phone, and see a message from a friend. The same friend, might I add, who informed me of the shooting in Pittsburgh. Six months to the day of the Pittsburgh shooting, in fact. This time, it was a Hasidic synagogue in Poway in California. Thankfully, the casualties were much fewer: several people were injured, but only one person died, and she died saving the rabbi, who despite his injuries allegedly finished his Passover sermon and told his congregants that they were strong and would get through this.

Despite all these stories of strength and heroism, however, the fact that this happened again, on an anniversary of the Pittsburgh shooting, is horrifying. It reopens old wounds and reminds us all, but especially the Jewish people, of how vulnerable we can be.

As many of you know, I am Jewish, and I feel deeply connected to my heritage. And twice, my people and my heritage has been openly attacked in America, a country where people are theoretically supposed to be able to live free of persecution.

Reading about this, it’s tempting to think nothing can change in this country, that hate and gun violence can never change. However, remember what that rabbi was supposed to have said? Well, I found a quote by him, and while I can’t verify if he said it at the end of his sermon, I can verify it’s from what I consider a reliable source. He said,

I guarantee you, we will not be intimidated or deterred by this terror. Terror will not win. As Americans, we can’t cower in the face of senseless hate that is anti-Semitism.

Amen. There is an upsurge of open strains of hatred in the US, from all walks of life and all sides of the political spectrum. Not just anti-Semitism, but racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, and so many more. We can’t let this become the norm anymore than it has. Take a stand against hate and fear. Reach out to the people around you when you see them in trouble, if you’re able to. Fight for popular platforms to ban hatred. Facebook’s taken a stand against white nationalist and other groups, and there’s a campaign on Twitter to get similar groups auto-banned from the platform using the hashtag #JackStopTheHate, which is directed to Jack Dorsey (username @jack), the CEO of Twitter. Speak out if someone is posting or saying hateful things, because if you stand up to them, you’re letting them know their views aren’t tolerated.

Together, we can fight for tolerance and love.

At the same time, fight for initiatives to end gun violence. John Earnest, the shooter in Poway, used an AR-15, a military-grade weapon. What is a military-grade weapon doing in the hands of a 19-year-old civilian?! We can’t keep letting people get their hands on military weaponry so easily. If we do, we’re only ensuring that this cycle of violence continues. Vote for bills or leaders who will fight to keep these weapons from being used in shootings over and over.

Together, we can ensure people don’t have to worry about being shot every time they step outside.

This weekend should’ve only been about positive events: Endgame having a billion-dollar opening; She-Ra season 2 hitting Netflix; the end of Passover and plenty of pizza parties! Not this. Nothing like what happened. And it’s up to us to make sure it never happens again.

Again, I’d like to thank everyone who supports me and thinks about me every time something like this happens. I can’t allow myself to be scared into submission by monsters like this. Just know that your love and kindness bolsters me and keeps me from retreating when I need to speak out on issues like this. Thanks.