The year is 1976, and the Headless Horseman rides again!
Steve Wagner is an ordinary Ohio teenager in the year of America’s Bicentennial, 1976.
As that summer begins, his thoughts are mostly about girls, finishing high school, and driving his 1968 Pontiac Bonneville.
But this will be no ordinary summer. Steve sees evidence of supernatural activity in the area near his home: mysterious hoof prints and missing persons reports, and unusual, violently inclined men with British accents.
There is a also a hideous woman—the vengeful ghost of a condemned Loyalist spy—who appears in the doorway of Steve’s bedroom.
Filled with angry spirits, historical figures, and the Headless Horseman of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Revolutionary Ghosts is a terrifying coming-of-age story with a groovy 1970s vibe.
I’ve been adding pages of my dark fantasy/horror serial, Revolutionary Ghosts to the site more or less every day. (I did miss a few days during the holidays.)
The online version of the text represents a rough draft (with a brief editing pass for flagrant typos). This version of the book will remain online.
Before Revolutionary Ghosts is published, though (in formats that I’ll be actually charging money for), it will undergo additional editing and proofreading passes.
The basic plot of the story won’t change during the editing phases; but the descriptions may be enhanced, the character dialogue will be tweaked, etc.
Awkward sentence structures (inevitable in any first draft) will be eliminated. I’ll also make sure all the typos are nailed down. (I’m sure a few have slipped by me in the online version.)
E-book, audiobook, and paperback editions of Revolutionary Ghosts will eventually be available–not only from Amazon, but also from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play.
You are welcome to read the full text here. (That’s one of the options I had in mind when I decided to post it online, after all.)
You might alternatively choose to merely sample it here, and await the fully edited, finalized versions in the stores. (They won’t be expensive. Don’t hold me to this: But the ebook version will probably retail at $3.99.)
I plan to have retail versions of the book available no later than March 1st.
How you read Revolutionary Ghosts is up to you. In any case, I hope you enjoy the story.
As I begin typing these words, it is 5:57 a.m. in my part of the world. I’m fifty years old, and I’m feeling great.
Before I started this entry, I rode 40 minutes on my stationary bike, as I do almost every morning
If you spent last night celebrating New Year’s Eve in the traditional way, you almost certainly aren’t awake yet. In fact, you won’t be awake for hours.
And when you do wake up, you might not feel so good.
Been there, done that.
I was an early adopter of alcohol, age-wise. I started experimenting with alcohol when I was in the eighth grade.
Even in the early 1980s, it wasn’t that easy for a thirteen year-old to acquire alcoholic beverages. This inspired some creative solutions, which led to some embarrassing misadventures. On one occasion, my friend and I used a pilfered key to invade a neighbor’s liquor cabinet. The neighbors surprised us as we were in the act (they were supposed to be gone for the day), and all manner of bad things ensued. (The friend who collaborated with me on this petty crime became an officer in the Cincinnati Police Department, having learned about crime from the bottom up.)
I was never a heavy, habitual drinker, but I liked the idea of doing something that was forbidden. In the mid-1980s, the legal drinking age changed from 18 to 21. This was technically a state law, but the impetus was the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which withheld federal funding from all states that allowed alcohol sales to anyone under twenty-one years of age.
The law was implemented unevenly, according to when your birthday fell. The result was that among the cohort of kids who came of age during the mid-1980s, some were able to legally buy and consume alcohol at 18, whereas others (often only a few months younger) had to wait until the age of 21.
My birthday, August 9, 1968, fell after the cutoff date, so that I had to wait until I turned 21 in order to drink. Legally, that is.
I recall one outing, in November of 1985. I was a senior in high school. A friend of mine (he was nineteen, and legally able to purchase alcohol) and I went to a family-owned Italian restaurant/bar in an old Cincinnati neighborhood. He bought us two pitchers of beer, which we consumed on the spot with a large pizza.
During the trip home, he began driving erratically. Very erratically. A police officer in the Cincinnati enclave of Norwood stopped us. He made my friend exit the vehicle and attempt to walk a straight line. Suffice it to say that this didn’t go well.
Oh, this is it, I thought. From within the depths of my own inebriated state, I had images of the two of us being hauled to jail. My parents would be summoned to come and pick me up. Not a good scene.
To my surprise, however, my friend managed to talk his way out of it. His mother’s house was only a few blocks away, he assured the officer. And the officer let him off.
Such were the free and easy 1980s, that an underage youth could openly drink in a bar, and a police officer would let two obviously drunken teenagers continue on their way, in a rolling lethal weapon.
(I should note that I never drove while intoxicated myself. But I did ride with someone who was drunk that one time. It was a stupid, jackass, immature thing to do. I don’t excuse myself for that behavior. I am only grateful that no one was hurt.)
But even by that point, drinking was losing its fun appeal. I was a modestly impressive athlete (I went to the state championships in cross country that year), and I knew that heavy drinking and a high level of fitness were incompatible in the same body.
Moreover, I couldn’t take the hangovers. When I drank to excess, I felt really, really bad the next morning.
On New Year’s Eve, 1986, I attended a party at the home of the girl I’d gone to senior homecoming with in high school. I drank, and drank. And drank. Mostly wine, as I recall.
(Keep in mind: I was still unable to drink legally.)
The next morning, my head felt like a horse had just stomped on it. I went for a run on New Year’s Day, 1987, and that helped the headache and logy feeling a little. But my stomach was still in awful shape.
I was still living with my parents at the time. We went for a New Year’s breakfast, but I was having none of it. My mother, bless her, ordered a full platter of scrambled eggs, home fries, sausage, and gravy. The very smell of the food made me want to retch.
I sat there at the breakfast table, eighteen years old, and thought: Why am I putting myself through this?
I couldn’t think of a good reason. So I then made a decision: I am never going to do this again.
Thirty-two years later, I still haven’t. Since December 31, 1986, I have rarely consumed alcoholic beverages at all.
I haven’t been a complete teetotaler; but you could easily fit all the alcoholic beverages I’ve consumed between 1/1/87 and the present in a trunk of a compact car. (To the best of my knowledge, the last time I drank an alcoholic beverage of any kind was in 2002. I was in Detroit on business, stuck waiting for my colleagues at a bar, and I decided to try a craft beer on a whim. I drank one bottle.)
I haven’t missed alcoholic beverages. And it wouldn’t surprise me if I’ve consumed my last one, ever.
There is an irony here, of course: I consumed far more alcohol before I could legally do so, than I ever have since I turned legal, on August 9, 1989.
For me it was never really about the alcohol, I guess. It was about not being told what to do.
It’s that time of year again. The time of setting New Year’s resolutions—or not.
Since I belong to a gym, I approach January 1st with mixed feelings. On January 2nd, I know that my gym will be overrun with hordes of new members. They will fill the parking lot, take up locker space, and wander aimlessly around the exercise floor, as they struggle to master the nuances of the pec fly machine and the StairMaster.
The New Year’s resolutions members, we call them. Roughly half of them will be gone by Valentine’s Day. By the Ides of March, two-thirds will have fallen by the wayside. By Tax Day, they will be a shadow herd, less than ten percent of their original number.
This is, to a major extent, how fitness facilities make their money: They sell scores of memberships that go unused after a few months. The owners of every gym know that the year-end, that time of New Year’s resolutions, is the prime time for such sales. Because so many people make New Year’s resolutions that they quickly abandon.
This raises a natural question: Are New Year’s resolutions even worthwhile? Or should we go into the default mode of post-modern cynicism, and assume that New Year’s resolutions, too, aren’t what they’re cracked up to be?…Another residual cliché of a bygone age.
Yes, New Year’s resolutions do have a notoriously high failure rate. And yes, the New Year’s resolution has become something of a cliché. I’m going to submit to you, however, that the New Year’s resolution is still a very worthwhile undertaking.
Consider the significance of January 1 as a juncture for clearing the decks, hitting the reset button, starting over.
The first day of January is a completely arbitrary date, from a scientific, mathematical perspective. Theoretically, you could start afresh on any day of the year. Why not March 10th? Or May Day? Or Thanksgiving?
(I’ve occasionally tried to start afresh on my birthday. This hasn’t worked well at all—at least partly because my birthday falls in the humdrum, dog days of August.)
The entire world has earmarked January 1 as a new beginning. The way we designate time subtly changes, as the year is altered by a single digit. The New Year is hyped in the media, and practically everywhere else.
I’m often a cantankerous contrarian. But even I know when to go with the flow. Even though you could theoretically start afresh on any given day of the year, there is a great deal of cultural momentum behind New Year’s Day. Why not use it in your favor?
New Year’s Day, in fact, has a semi-spiritual status in some Asian cultures. The Japanese celebration of Christmas is purely secular (Christians are a small minority in Japan); and the Japanese don’t recognize Hanukkah at all. But the New Year bears a special significance within the animist beliefs of Japan’s native Shintoism.
In Japanese corporate settings, there is the bonen-kai, or “forget the year party”. Held in late December, these are occasions for putting the previous year firmly in the past, so as to facilitate a fresh start in the New Year. New Year’s Day in Japan is a time for visiting friends and loved ones—much like Christmas Day in the West.
Speaking of corporate settings: Even though many companies end their fiscal years on October 31st or July 31st for accounting purposes, most use the New Year as a time to rally employees, suppliers, and customers for a new set of goals. Why not do the same, at an individual level?
New Year’s resolutions become more important as we grow older. Children, teens, and very young adults rarely set New Year’s resolutions, and with good reason. Their lives are already focused on change and transformation.
When you are in school, after all, there is a natural progression built into the transition from one grade—and from one major level of education—to the next. Your life is going to change whether you want it to or not. The process is going to kick you forward.
The setting of new goals, likewise, is built into the process. Many of these goals are predetermined. You don’t really have a choice about the goal of moving from the fifth grade into the sixth, or graduating from high school.
As an eighteen year-old high school graduate, you’ve got to do something next. If you’ve been blessed with caring parents and other conscientious adult authority figures, you’ll have no shortage of advice. But either way, you can’t remain in high school. The only way to go is forward…toward something.
After we become entrenched in the adult world, however, that systemic forward progression no longer pushes us along. In its place arises an inertia that encourages us to fall into ruts. The external trappings of this year might not vary much from those of the previous year, or the year before that. Change is quite often something that has to be initiated from within, versus accommodated from without.
And this is how we get “stuck”—in any number of ways.
I recognized signs of this pitfall in my own life in the mid-1990s, as I passed the midpoint of my twenties. I was five years removed from college, and about ten years removed from high school. I was just another working adult, and I could already sense myself falling into ruts.
So in 1995, I began two new habits.
The first of these was the setting of annual, quarterly, and monthly goals. I set goals in all areas of my life: financial, physical, social, professional, and “skills” (areas of knowledge that I wanted to improve or acquire).
I also began keeping a daily record of my activities. Nineteen ninety-five was still a largely analog world, so I used a paper-based system: I acquired a “business diary”, and used this for my daily records: accomplishments, setbacks, challenges met and overcome, memorable events, etc. Nothing fancy or too elaborate. Just something to give me a bird’s-eye view of the year the following December, when it would be time to set the next year’s goals.
I’ve been following this practice for twenty-four years now. I still have my 1995 diary, as well as my diaries for all the years in between. It’s interesting to see how my goals and priorities have changed since the Clinton era.
I’m naturally nostalgic (most conservatives are); but you don’t have to be obsessed with your personal auld lang syne in order to benefit from such a system. It is as focused on the future as it is on the past.
And the pivotal day of that system is New Year’s Day, January 1st, when I set aside one diary and open a blank one.
All those pages—twelve months of time.
A lot can happen in a year. A lot can be accomplished in a year. That is as true for me today, at age fifty, as it was on January 1, 1995, when I was twenty-six. But at age fifty, I probably rely more on this tangible reminder of what the New Year means.
That word tangible is important, by the way. I would encourage you to record your annual plans (and results) in a written, paper format.
I know: iPhones and Word files and “the cloud”. Fiddlesticks. Holding a year in your hand, in a single bound document, makes that year more psychologically substantial. This will be true on both January 1st and December 31st. And it’s definitely true later on, when you’re looking back on long-past years. Use a physical diary to both plan and record your personal year.
Back to the gym. I know that the bulk of the New Year’s resolution members will come and go by March 15, because I’ve seen them come and go so many years in the past.
Likewise, I have fallen short on many of my New Year’s goals. So will you—unless you set goals that are unambitious (and therefore, uninspiring).
That said, the past twenty-four years have taught me that my New Year’s planning has a direct and proportional impact on the success of each subsequent year. This is why I maintain the practice, and probably always will, until the day when my New Years are no more.
I am a big fan of The Sell More Books Show, hosted by Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen. Whether you’re an indie or a traditionally published author, this is a great place to get a weekly update on the latest trends in publishing and book marketing.
One of the topics in this week’s episode was the devastation that streaming services have wrought on the music industry, and what that might presage for writers and publishers.
This segment of the show begins with a reference to several online social media postsand articlesabout the financial situation of musician Danny Michel.
Although Michel’s music is popular, he isn’t even earning beer money through the streaming services:
I’ve been a full-time musician for 25 years. It’s been nothing but hard work, but I love hard work. My songs bought my house, my studio, pay the bills and more. Through it all the conversations backstage with other musicians have always been about music, family, guitars, friends, art etc. But in 2018 that conversation changed. Everywhere I go musicians are quietly talking about one thing: how to survive. And I’ve never worried about it myself UNTIL 2018. What I can tell you is my album sales have held steady for the last decade until dropping by 95% this year due to music streaming services. Note my earnings for “Purgatory Cove”: this song has been in the TOP 20 charts (CBC Radio 2 & 3) for 10 weeks, climbed to #3. In 2018 that equals $44.99 in sales. (An artist earns $0.003 per play on Spotify)
Michel and other musicians who complain about Spotify (and similar services) are correct: The entire concept is a lousy deal. The streaming services arose as a cynical compromise with music piracy. No one in the music industry–from record label executives to the back-up drummer for the latest up-and-coming garage band–thought that this was a good idea.
But twenty years ago, too many musicians were afraid to say that music piracy wasn’t cool, wasn’t okay. Musicians at the time (circa 1999) were afraid of alienating the first generation to come of age with the Internet.
Members of that generation are now in their late thirties, and are no longer in the prime music-buying demographic, anyway. But as a result of the prevailing attitudes of that time, musicians are stuck with the streaming paradigm–at least for now.
In his commentary on the Sell More Books Show, Jim Kukral suggests that Dan Michel is just whining, that musicians should simply “suck it up”.
Why? Because digital robbery is the wave of the future? With all due respect to Jim Kukral, I wonder if he would be so glib if Russian hackers were to penetrate his personal savings account. After all, you can’t fight the future.
Obviously, I don’t want to see Jim Kukral’s bank accounts get hacked by Russians. But to some people, Russian hackers helping themselves to your money via hacking is just part of the future.
No version of the future is “inevitable”. The future is always open to debate and influence.
I’m not a musician, so I don’t have a dog in the streaming music battle. But if I were a musician with any control over my content, I would remove my entire catalogue from Spotify, Pandora, and all similar venues of online digital servitude.
Then I’d release my music as a CD. In fact, I might even release my music in vinyl, which produces a better listening experience, anyway, and is presently making a comeback among fans.
But what about the vast audience on Spotify? you might ask. I would submit that an audience from which the #2 song makes less than $50 in a year isn’t worth much.
How should we extrapolate all this to the publishing business? Authors are worried about the Spotify-ing of publishing, too. As Bryan Cohen (back to The Sell More Books Show) pointed out in his commentary, Kindle Select/Kindle Unlimited is an incremental payment system–just like Spotify.
At present, participation in the Kindle Select program is voluntary; but suppose Amazon required it in the future? Further suppose that we eventually had a situation in which authors were getting paid $0.12 per each complete read, or something like that.
Then Jim Kukral laid out yet another really dire scenario–a bit more far-fetched, but by no means impossible. Suppose some hacker in China or Russia creates a device or app that allows anyone to read all the digital books presently on Amazon–for free?
Either of these dire outcomes would completely destroy the publishing industry, and prevent anyone from making any kind of a living writing books.
But I don’t think we have to worry about it too much.
Why? Because digital books (ebooks, Kindle books) are not inevitable.
If we ever reached a state in which ebooks went to $0, due either to widespread piracy or some version of “Spotify for books”, publishers would simply stop publishing ebooks.
Yes, that could happen.
Publishers are still selling hardcover and paperback books today, in 2018, after all. (And as Jim Kukral has noted in previous episodes of The Sell More Book Show, paperbacks are making a comeback with young readers in their teens.)
Some indie authors are so desperate to be read, at all costs, that they probably would agree to a “Spotify for books”; but there is no way that Michael Connelly, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, and the companies that publish them are going to agree to such an arrangement. Why would they? Bestselling indie authors wouldn’t agree to that, either.
For further evidence that “the wave of the future” is always subject to debate and revision, note the widespread resistance to Kindle Select. Amazon launched the service in December 2011. But it hasn’t become “the wave of the future”. The New York publishers immediately said, “No thanks”. And seven years later, you still can’t read the latest Lee Child or James Patterson novel in Kindle Unlimited.
Many indie authors are also saying no to Kindle Unlimited. (Joanna Penn and Dean Wesley Smith have both been prescient in detailing the drawbacks to the program.)
The music industry was completely vulnerable to piracy (and the subsequent forced acquiescence to streaming) because in 1999–the year of Napster–everyone believed that vinyl was dead. At the time, all music was being sold in easily pirated CDs.
The publishing industry is not in a similar state. A few years ago it was considered trendy and futuristic to say that “paper books are a thing of the past”. But those dead tree books are proving to be rather persistent. (I’m reading the latest Michael Connelly novel in hardcover right now, in fact.)
Be careful about declaring any new setup “the wave of the future”, just because a particular group of people has embraced it–often for self-serving purposes.
As an artist or creative type, you should be immediately skeptical of any “wave of the future” which has the net result of preventing you from making any money whatsoever from what you do.
Nor should you be overly concerned about “alienating” those who insist that you must work for free–or almost free. Let that audience go elsewhere.
Finally, who are the real “whiners”? Are the musicians who complain about making less than $50 per year from a #2 hit “whiners”?
Or are the whiners those listeners who claim that $9.99 (the price of a few coffees at Starbucks) is a simply unacceptable price for an album, because in their preferred version of the future, all music is free?
I’ll just come out and admit it: I can’t get enough of the Cold War. Part of this is nostalgia, of course. I make no secret of the fact that I consider the culture of the latter half of the 20th century to be far superior to what the 21st century has produced so far. And if you lived in the United States, the Cold War was the dominant geopolitical reality of the late 20th century.
Or maybe I’m fascinated with that old enemy, the Ruskies. Islamic terrorists I simply want to see annihilated. Kill ’em all, and let Allah sort ’em out. But the Russians are intelligent and innovative enough to be interesting, even if they aren’t always likable and almost never trustworthy.
My Cold War fascination undoubtedly played a role in my enthusiasm for The Americans, the Cold War spy drama that ran on FX from 2013 to 2018. I suppose, too, that I was a naturally receptive audience for Red Sparrow(2018) , a movie about a Russian ex-ballarina who is recruited into “sparrow school”, where the comely are trained to be ruthless, to use their sexuality in the service of the Russian state.
Note that I said “Russian” and not “Soviet”. Red Sparrow is set in the Putin era. Russia’s new leader-for-life isn’t directly portrayed in the film, but he is constantly referred to as “the president” (the same disingenuous title used for Saddam Hussein during his long, dictatorial reign in Iraq).
The Russia depicted in Red Sparrow is appropriately cold, snowy, grim, and brutal. Within the first ten minutes of the movie, you will be tempted to turn up your house’s thermostat. You’ll also be thankful that you live in the United States (or in some other Western democracy)–and not there.
(Another personal aside here: My grandfather spent a year in the USSR during WWII. His U.S. Navy duties also took him to Syria, Egypt, and a host of other places that most Americans wouldn’t eagerly visit in 2018. The only place he described in negative terms was Russia. As he put it, “the asshole of the world”. Not only did he hate the weather, but the Soviet soldiers were uniformly unfriendly, and ordinary citizens were afraid to even look at Americans, lest they be accused of treason. But to be fair, this was during the Stalin era.)
Jennifer Lawrence stars in Red Sparrow as Dominika Egorova, a Russian ballerina who supports her mother on her dancing income, until her career is ended by an injury. Dominika is then approached by her uncle, Ivan, who heads the Russian SVR. Ivan has a job for her.
I don’t want to summarize the whole plot for you. But suffice it to say that Ivan is creepy and evil. He also has incestuous designs on his niece. Through a series of carefully orchestrated circumstances, Ivan closes off Dominika’s options until her only real choice is to dedicate her life (and her body) to the service of the Russian state.
There’s much more to the movie, of course; and the real fun begins when Dominika starts interacting with her American CIA adversary, Nate Nash (played by Joel Edgerton). Nash and Dominika have an affair. (Of course: If a Cold War-era spy movie has a pretty female Russian operative and a CIA male agent, they must have a sexual liaison.)
Speaking of sex: There is a lot of it in Red Sparrow. In this case, however, it really is integral to the plot, as Dominika has been trained to use sex as a weapon of espionage.
A word about Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer Lawrence is one of those Hollywood types with whom I have a love-hate relationship. On one hand, she is a complete idiot when she opens her mouth about political matters–something she’s been doing increasingly in recent years.
On the other hand, she is a brilliant actress. I became aware of her years ago, when I saw one of her first movies, Winter’s Bone. In that movie, Lawrence convincingly became an impoverished Missouri teenager. She is just as convincing as a Russian ex-ballerina-turned-secret-agent. You don’t have to like Jennifer Lawrence’s off-screen behavior (and I for one, don’t), but you have to admire her mastery of her craft. (Now–if she would only just stick to that craft, and spare us the moonbat political activism.)
Dominika is understandably bitter about her mistreatment at the hands of her uncle and her native country. She is therefore ripe to be turned by Nash, who recruits her as a double agent. But has Dominika truly turned? The viewer can’t be sure. As the plot of Red Sparrow evolves, you aren’t sure if you’re watching a movie about doomed Russian patriotism, an espionage double-cross tale, or a classic revenge story. It’s worth the two hours and twenty minutes it takes to watch Red Sparrow in order to find out.
Someone recently asked me for my opinion regarding ad blocking software (like Adblock Plus) and Internet users who install it.
Opinions on this one range at both extremes. On one hand, some publishers regard ad-blocking software as “theft”. I’ve also read op-eds and blog posts suggesting that online publishers should simply quit “whining” about the loss of ad revenues.
Let’s separate out the extreme viewpoints on both sides, and look for a middle ground.
Fifteen years ago, online ads weren’t obtrusive.
Yes, there was a small, vocal minority who objected to those rotating banner ads at the tops and sides of webpages. Most Internet users understood, however, that online advertising paid for the production and hosting of free online content.
I don’t recall online ads being a major distraction for me in 2001.
But in 2001, many people were still accessing the Internet via dial-up modems. Later, as high-speed Internet connections became common, online publishers and advertisers made ads increasingly more intrusive.
You all know what I’m talking about. Those large drop-down screens that descend atop the page you’re looking at. Auto-play videos that start within five seconds of you landing on a page.
I’ve written at length about how the Internet is not as much fun to explore as it used to be in a general sense, due to factors such as social media and Wikipedia. More germane to this topic, though, is the simple fact that the technology has become far more intrusive.
This intrusiveness is not limited to online advertising. Apple has been bugging me to upgrade the iOS on my iPhone 6 for two years now. My motto is: One operating system per device. (I have this policy because I’ve never upgraded an operating system without experiencing a subsequent diminishment of hardware performance.)
My dad, who is 72, recently started using the Internet more often when he went back to work to relieve the boredom of retirement. He noticed the intrusiveness of the new, drop-screen video ads and wanted to find a way to block them.
And my dad, I should note–is not a hippie tree-hugger. For many years, he ran his own successful company. My dad is as capitalist as they get.
As I’ve hopefully made clear, then, I fully understand the demand for ad blockers.
But then…there is another side to this.
If ad blocking software becomes ubiquitous, then publishers will need to find new revenue models.
This will invariably mean less free online content.
There’s an old adage in publishing: “If no one gets paid, then nothing gets made.”
Well, some things will still get made: The Internet will still contain free political screeds and online confessional blog posts. (Because some people, I’ve found, simply have to share their intimate personal details with the world.)
But as for quality news, technical information, and educational content?
No. That will all go behind paywalls–or back into books, offered for sale on Amazon. An Internet without advertising revenues will largely resemble one big pay-as-you-go shopping mall.
I don’t want to see that. On the other hand, I don’t want to be assaulted by a dropdown video ad for Viagra or car insurance when I visit the website of one of my local news channels.
Publishers can–and should–lead the way in dialing back the ad block wars. Old-style ads are fine. Old-style ads are necessary. But publishers must say “no” to the more intrusive ads that have become common in recent years.
If that happens, then the demand for ad blocking software will decline over time.
Again: there will always be ideologues who object to any commercialization of anything. Those are the same people who would rather infect their computers with malware from a bit torrent site than pay $3.99 for an ebook on Amazon, or $0.99 for a song on i-Tunes. Those people are not going to be convinced, no matter how much publishers scale back advertising–unless advertising is scaled back to zero.
Those are the ideologues.
Most people, though, understand that advertising supports free content on the Internet. But they expect that advertising to adhere to unintrusive standards and parameters.
This expectation, I would submit, is not unreasonable, and should be easy enough for publishers to accommodate.