So of course someone had to ask Jonathan Franzen what he thinks about ebooks, since he’s the critical darling of the moment. And of course the Internet exploded when he said ebooks are damaging society. Ink, both actual and virtual, was spilled. Haterade was prepared in copious amounts. It was like the hate that started swilling when Sherman Alexie called the Kindle “elitist.” Of course, I am much more likely to think deeply about anything Alexie says than Franzen, for a variety of reasons.

When Alexie “clarified” his stance, this caught my eye:

Having grown up poor, I’m also highly aware that there’s always a massive technology gap between rich and poor kids. I haven’t yet heard what Amazon plans to do about this potential technology gap. And that’s a vital question considering that Bezos wants to change the way we read books. How does he plan to change the way that poor kids read books? How does he plan to make sure that poor kids have access to the technology? Poor kids all over the country don’t have access to current textbooks, so will they have access to Kindle? (Sherman Alexie)

Right there, in a nutshell, is a point that gets lost when people on the Internet talk about ebooks. The hidden costs of buying that cheap digital edition–why aren’t more people talking about this rather than hating on Franzen for having an opinion? (Admittedly he comes off as somewhat of a pretentious knob in that Telegraph piece, but still.)

It sent me off on a (quelle ironic) Twitter rampage.

Why doesn’t anyone factor in platform and obsolescence costs for ebooks? I.e., the ebook reader and its updates.

Frex, the laptop or ereader you’re using, and the cost to charge it and replace it for wear and tear, not to mention updates.

Until we get wetware that can jack the book right into our brains, there are still going to be platform costs.

A paperback’s cover price takes into account production and platform costs; an ebook’s price does not.

These are the discussions we should be having, not hating on writers who have Opinions About Publishing.

And certainly not stroking the turgid egos of highly-paid anomalies on the Internet, either. (My Twitter feed)

After having a great deal of fun with the phrase “turgid egos” I really warmed to my theme.

Ebooks are not “cheap” or “free”. They are *convenient* for certain socioeconomic strata.

There is not nearly enough attention paid to the hidden costs, like hardware, platform, obsolescence (planned or otherwise) of hardware–

–replacement costs, access to electricity, etc., etc.

This is the kind of conversation I wish we were having about ebooks, not “So and So is elitist because they have Opinions about Self-Pub.”

Or “So and So gives their books away so piracy is always OK.” (Hint: this one REALLY irks me.)

Or, “Big Name Author has enough money/brand recognition not to worry about lost sales, so they say piracy isn’t a problem.” (My Twitter feed)

At that point I started getting a lot of “But I LIKE my Kindle/Nook!” And I’m happy that they do, but that was not the point I was making OR the conversation I was inviting.

There is a narrative out there saying “digital=free.” I’d like to see discussion that doesn’t use that equation, because it’s untrue.

Most of the human species can’t afford a desktop/laptop/Kindle/Nook/monthly smartphone bill/startup smartphone investment.

Those that can tend to think their experience is ubiquitous, because it FEELS ubiquitous. The curse of the Internet, you could say.

An examination of the underpinnings and the hidden costs is more productive than hating on ebooks or Authors With Opinions. (My Twitter feed)

At that point Stephen Blackmoore made the great observation: “Not to mention there are still places in the world that don’t even have electricity.”

Discussing the real costs could help us bend our considerable energies to raising literacy, not getting all hatey on the Internet.

Why is this not a blog post? Because I don’t think I can refrain myself from ranting without Twitter’s character limit. *sigh* (My Twitter feed)

I’m glad I waited, but so many people asked me to collect those tweets I decided to put them all here.

There were a number of responses that I should probably answer right now:

* “But I LIKE my Kindle/Nook/ebook reader!” Well, see above. That’s GREAT. It’s WONDERFUL that you like it. I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t. I’m saying that when we talk about publishing and ebooks, we should be talking as well about the hidden costs of the platform used to decode/store/show the digital “book.” Because those costs are more than you think–not just electricity, and the initial investment in the platform (desktop computer, laptop, ereader, smartphone, tablet) but also things like the monthly cost of an Internet connection or the cell phone bill, the cost of upgrading the hardware every few years (because of the pace of technology and obsolescence both planned and unplanned) not to mention the social costs of slave labor to make it, pollution from the making of it, pollution from the electricity used to power it—the list goes on and on.

* “I’m disabled and the ebook reader makes it easier for me to read!” Often accompanied by “Alexie is ableist!” (I shit you not.) It’s great that this technology is helping you, I am very happy for you. But I am mystified at how this was even a response. I don’t think it’s “ableist” of Alexie to point out that poor kids and their families can’t invest in this kind of technology as easily as others can, or of me to say that talking about the hidden costs might help us find a solution.

* “But I have a computer/laptop anyway, adding the ebook-reading function is free.” It’s not “free.” Adding that functionality presupposes the investment in the platform; it is convenient, certainly, but you pay the hidden costs for that convenience whether or not you engage it. It is the fact of the hidden cost we’re talking about, not whether or not you feel like added functionality is something you want to use.

* “Paper books have hidden costs too!” Well, those are rather elegantly included in the cover price, so they’re not so “hidden.” The cover price of a paper book takes into account the price of the paper and distribution, and has for a long time because of the built-up infrastructure. You could argue that bookstores are the purview of a higher socioeconomic stratum too, and that there’s invisible privilege there, but I don’t think it’s quite as germane. For one thing, there’s the used books factor; for another, there’s few upgrade costs with paper books–if you read them to pieces and get another one, that’s an upgrade cost, but it’s not nearly as huge as upgrading an ereader every couple years or a laptop every four-five years. There’s also the marvelousness of libraries, which even the field a bit for some poorer strata of society.

Of course, it’s incredibly hard not to snark observations such as:

Franzen said he took comfort from knowing he will not be here in 50 years’ time to find out if books have become obsolete.

“I’m amused by how intent people are on making human beings immortal or at least extremely long-lived,” he joked.

“One of the consolations of dying is that [you think], ‘Well, that won’t have to be my problem’. Seriously, the world is changing so quickly that if you had any more than 80 years of change I don’t see how you could stand it psychologically.” (Telegraph)

Somehow I think the world will carry on, Jonathan dear.

But I would really like to see more discussion of hidden costs, platform costs, access differences between socioeconomic strata, etc., instead of hating on an author for having a goddamn opinion about developments in the industry they’re working in. Doctors have opinions about developments in their field; bricklayers and pizza delivery people, retail workers and scientists have opinions about their chosen (or just career) field. People have goddamn opinions about everything, as evidenced by the jackasses who know nothing about publishing but try to school me about the industry.

But that’s another rant, and this is already long enough. Let’s talk about the hidden costs of ebooks and eplatforms instead.

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

“My royalty cheque from (insert Traditional Publisher Name) was only $X00! Why, if I’d self-published, it would have been $X000 for the same number of books sold! Clearly, self-publishing is better!”

I hear this frequently, and it always irks the bejesus out of me. What annoys me is not the assumption that self-publishing is better. For some writers and some books (Chuck Wendig’s and Laura Anne Gilman‘s writing advice books spring to mind) it IS the best path. And it is awesome. No, that’s not why, when I hear any of the hundred versions of this hoary chestnut, I immediately start taking EVERYTHING the speaker says 300% less seriously.

Take the number of books sold on that royalty statement. Now we’re going to play a game of takeaway!

* Take away the sales to people turned off by a low-cost self-pubbed cover. Even the worst of Big Six covers is preferable to a Poser monstrosity.
* Take away the sales to people buying in stores serviced by the distribution companies the trad publisher has good agreements with. Consider the ease of returns and the likelihood of a buyer taking a chance on a book from the known quantity of a trad publisher vs., let’s say, Greenlight or nonreturnable items from a POD (or God forbid, a vanity) press.
* Take away sales to people who have been priced out on, say, a $20 trade paperback of middling quality from a self-pubber using a POD press. Now, you could say, “But I’ll price my book at $.99!” Great. You get a slice of a miniscule price from miniscule sales.
* Take away sales to people who are turned off by indifferent editing/copyediting. Oh, but you’ll pay to have that done? News flash, cupcake: that’s an out-of-pocket expense you need to balance against that royalty check. Either way, that $X000 takes a huge hit.
* Take away the sales the trad publisher gained through marketing/publicity of any type. Now, rare and fortunate is the author whose publisher gets them all sorts of good, high-cost publicity. Most authors get bundled together in catalogs and on lists, but guess what? Those catalogs and lists are invisible publicity that ups the chance of your book being on the shelf somewhere people can see it. Self-pubbing doesn’t have the “invisible” publicity a lot of readers don’t see but feel the effects of, which then reflects on the royalty statement.

These are just five things wrong with a one-to-one comparison. There are at least fifty on my list. (We could be here all fucking day, but I don’t have the patience.) Most of the time, when I bring one or more of them up, the response is a blank stare shading into immediate hostility. (It could be that I lack patience the umpteenth million time I hear this shit spouted, granted.) Self-publishing is not a replacement for trad publishing. It’s a different tool.

“My book is awesome but I can’t get an acceptance from an agent or publisher!” Well, look at why. Do you have a problem with following submissions guidelines? Is your craft–grammar, punctuation, etc.–spotty? Is your book impossibly niche–like, say the vampiric flatworms that live only in the urethras of one tribe of the Antarctic Red-Jacketed Tundra Sparrow? (If so, drop me an email, there’s an academic press that might be interested.) Have you not polished your query letter since you first submitted *mumblemumble* years ago? Writing well requires a time investment, are you investing? Are you using the hard sell and stinking of desperation? Are you just not targeting your queries or networking attempts at people who might be interested? Have you revised your finished work and figured out where it would be shelved in a bookstore (its genre, if you will,) and hence, who in the industry might handle it to bring it to market? Do you know who the publishers and editors in your chosen genre(s) are? If you can’t answer those questions, well, your chances of acceptance are not maximized as well as they could be. Knowing this shit gives you an edge, both in trad and in self-publishing.

I’m going to reiterate, because I can just tell there are going to be a lot of comments on the “But you get a bigger percentage with self-pub, you elitist gatekeeper, you!” I LIKE SELF-PUBLISHING. It’s a good choice for some writers. It is a great choice for other writers. The problem is, it’s a kumquat and trad publishing is a tomato. They are both fruits, yes. But they are not the same thing, and they don’t behave the same way when you cook them. You will not get the same results, and comparing them inappropriately will only bring you grief. A bigger percentage of a tiny number is…still a tiny number. Self-publishing is not the get-rich-or-famous scheme a lot of people unconsciously think it is. And that “bigger percentage” has to be balanced against the sales you can reasonably expect AND the out-of-pocket initial outlay you’re going to spend. Less outlay, less professionalism, less sales; more outlay, more professionalism, bigger sales but a bigger debit in your ledger to begin with, too.

Speaking of not getting the same results, let’s please skip the “But so-and-so was a HYOOOGE SELF-PUBLISHING SUCCESS!” That’s great, and I’m happy for them. But those successes should come with that same disclaimer you see in the fine print of infomercials: Results not typical. There’s the self-pubber who had a huge web presence and parlayed that into profitable self-publishing. There’s the odd raw talent who was lucky and marketing savvy and could spend tons of time growing their “overnight success.” There’s the Big Names In Trad Publishing who use that name recognition and their financial gains from said recognition to springboard self-pub projects–and that’s another thing, a professional writer with connections to editing and experience with the publishing process and what makes a quality project is NOT going to have “typical” results. They have experience they have invested in it, and it shows. Results. Not. Typical. Okay?

Muddy, uncritical thinking is not your friend when it comes to writing or business, or the business of writing and publishing. And, frankly, these are the kinds of discussions and numbers I’d love to see more of when it comes to talking about self-pub, instead of the usual round of Internet hateration and shaking pitchforks at mythical “gatekeepers”.

Speaking of hateration on the Net, tune in next time for my reprise on the hidden costs of ebooks. I did a series of tweets yesterday on the subject and have been convinced that I should put them in a blog post for ease of reading.

See, occasionally I can be bribed. Or swayed.

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, who you should really be reading. Because we’re awesome.

Instead of the Snowpocalypse we feared (and that Seattle is currently suffering under the spike heel of) we’ve got rain. Lots of rain. Well, this is the Pacific Northwest, and I happen to like rain, but I wish the weather would make up its mind. Heavy wet snow yesterday, melt and easily an inch of rain today, branches down everywhere and my morning run more like a swim–oh, I know I could have used the treadmill, but Miss B was inside all day yesterday, which meant it was either get her out for a run or go to the dog park and stand in mud up to my knees. An appetizing choice, indeed.

Plus, the Little Prince became, once more, Sir Pewksalot last night. All of which is a roundabout way of saying my temper and nerves are equally frayed, and I decided on a Three Things post because if I start on a rant or two now there will be nothing but a smoking crater left where my computer used to be. (Expensive.) Not to mention with all the biting and snarling going on all over the Internet about Authors Daring To Speak, so to speak, and a rant doesn’t seem like a good idea. For lo, if I strap on my armor now and go all Don Quixote after Idiot Entitled Jerks On The Internet, I may never stop. And I’ve writing to do, so…yeah. Three things. Let’s see.

* Kickass is not a prerequisite. It’s not even a requisite. I swear to God, someday I am going to write about Milquetoast von Constipated, a potbellied, balding vampire with bowel issues who lives in Minnesota and, whenever there is an incident of violence, he *gasp* alerts the authorities! Together with his werecow buddy, Milton Morton (who is not only vegan but gets tipped every full moon), they do not fight crime willingly. Rather, they sort of bumble through and the police take care of things on their own. (As to why he has bowel issues when he’s on a liquid diet, I’ll just say, have you ever tried to live on protein shakes? HAVE YOU?)

Sounds amusing, doesn’t it? But it’s sparked by a frustration of mine: where is it written that I can’t write anything other than kickass leather-clad wiseacres? I mean, I’m very glad people connect with my kickass heroes and heroines, but that isn’t all I write, it isn’t all I am. It isn’t all the world consists of. I dislike it intensely when I write a character whose strength is internal and am immediately subjected to a “but your fans won’t recognize…” Screw that. They will recognize, and those who send me venomous screeds about how I should just stick to writing kickass chicks even though I don’t do so very well (seriously, it’s like the writers of these things all got together in a room somewhere) can just go…fly kites. Yes. fly kites.

The point of this is: If you’re used to writing one thing, and you want to write another thing, go ahead and do it. You may have to attempt a couple times before you get a salable piece, but it will teach you things about writing that staying in your comfort zone will not. I’m fairly okay at writing angst and violence, but you know what I would really love? I would love to be talented at writing comedy. Comedy is hard effing work, it doesn’t come naturally to me. (Unless it’s bleak black macabre humor. Heh.) It doesn’t stop me from wanting and trying, and from seeking other types of characters and stories to play with. What you’re good at writing and what you want to write may be two different things, but you should try them both.

* The Levenger catalog is pure crack. I mean, their 3X5 cards are incredibly useful while revising or making grocery lists, both things I do at my computer. My bag lust is inflamed every time I see their briefcases. And, oh my God, the desk sets. The desk sets. It’s nice to reward myself with some lovely tools after slogging through a zero draft. I nerd all over their paper, and one day, one day, I will have a Levenger desk. I’ll save my pennies, by God, and I will have it.

Other things I keep within easy reaching distance while I’m writing: a statue of Ganesh writing, some Climb On creme, cell phone, tarot cards (Rider-Waites, for those curious), Moleskine notebook, a couple pads of paper both legal and Levenger, scissors, pens and sharpened pencils, rubber bands, a Keep Calm and Carry On paperweight, two pink plastic flamingos, six dictionaries, two thesauri, two visual dictionaries, assorted other reference works from encyclopedias of military arms to herbals and Jack the Ripper books. Also, two copies of Jane Eyre, plus six or seven DVDs of different treatments of Jane Eyre, and a few Wuthering Heights. (Don’t ask.) Also, tissues, ibuprofen, and Carmex. Because you never can tell.

The flamingos are for practicing dialogue with. (But that’s another blog post.)

* Beware of great ideas. “A million cat clocks! That’s a GREAT idea!” Then some of them started looking a little odd because their tails weren’t moving. And I had to find more batteries. This just goes to show you, great ideas are only great until one gets to the care, feeding, and administrivia involved. (Note: I have six cat clocks, all on my living-room wall. And I want more.)

What does this have to do with writing? Simple. Beware of great ideas. Sometimes they happen halfway through a zero draft, and you either have to go back and alter what you’ve already written to account for the Great Idea, or you just go ahead and write as if the Great Idea has been there all the time, which means the first half of revising the zero draft is likely to send you to the booze cabinet sooner rather than later. Sometimes the Great Ideas happen during revision, and one should be careful because they are like pebbles thrown into a quiet pond. (BOOT TO THE HEAD!) The ripples spread throughout the entire book, which may mean you have to go back and deal with tweaking everything before and after in subtle and overt ways. Rippling tweakage is another thing that will send you to the booze cabinet during revisions. Or to banging your head against a brick wall, whichever is handier. (Also, Rippling Tweakage is my new indie band name.)

Great ideas are great, but there is no Great Idea that fixes everything without a lot of work. If the Idea is Great Enough, the work, while frustrating, is also a process of simplification. If it’s a Mediocre Idea masquerading as Great, or even just a Garden-Variety Idea Of Some Magnitude But Hardly Greatness, well, booze cabinets and brick walls, or whatever coping mechanism works for you, STAT. It doesn’t make the Rippling Tweakage any easier, but it can dull the gnawing pain between your temples somewhat.

…I just looked at that last sentence and cannot believe I typed that. Some days, I really love my job.

Over and out!

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Get out the pitchforks and torches, it’s that kind of day…

So, there’s been some brouhaha in the book-reviewing world. Mostly, it’s been yet another edition of Authors Behaving Badly, and I’ll just point you at Cleolinda’s rundown and my own hoary old advice. Of course writers shouldn’t respond, positively or negatively, to reviews. Of course it’s wrestling a pig in mud–the pig loves it, and you just get dirty and look like an idiot. Of course. Of course.

But.

Look, it would take the patience of a saint to put up with some of this shit. And writers are most definitely not saints. Neither, dear Reader, are you.

In any group of people, X% are going to be assholes. It’s like the speed of light–it’s a fucking constant, so let’s get used to it and go on from there. Even those who are not assholes as a matter of course can sometimes act in an asshole manner, given the right conditions. Sometimes, we’re all assholes. You, me, that guy over there, everyone.

I have to tell you, though, sometimes I just don’t blame authors as much as you’d think. There are “review” sites that only serve to aggrandize their owners’ precious little pretensions, and there are “review” sites that should have a sign attached saying “LOOK, JUST FEED MY ENTITLEMENT COMPLEX BECAUSE OTHERWISE I’LL BADMOUTH YOU!”. Then there’s Goodreads–which I use myself, as a means of tracking my reading, and to be available, to a certain degree, to fans. Which is all fine and good, but just like EVERY OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE, there are some corners of Goodreads that might as well be 4chan. That’s all right if you like 4chan, and of course, if I claim the right to say whatever the hell I want here on this corner of the Internet that I pay for and maintain, I can certainly allow it to “review” sites that appear to be someone’s shallow little reproductions of high-school cliquishness. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre, c’est the fucking marmalade.

A lot of times, however, when I see an Author Behaving Badly On Teh Interwebs–I’m not talking about harassment, I’m not talking about plagiarism–I see a writer getting mad at some deliberately provocative pieces of horseshit. There are “review” sites that keep waving red flags and waiting for the moment a writer, any writer, will snap. They get a charge off this, and I don’t precisely blame some writers for responding. It turns into a situation that only ends well for the petty little provocateur, because they end up getting the emotional charge and the hit count. It never, ever ends well for the writer.

So while I don’t precisely blame the writer sometimes, I do wince. And I do sometimes privately agree with the kernel of some of their rants. I am, and plenty of other writers are, in the position of not being able to offer agreement publicly or professionally, and I think a lot of “review” sites and Mean People on social networking sites bank on that. It’s like the Speshul Snowflakes who decide to be rude to retail or food-service workers. They get the emotional charge and get a kick out of being the “injured party” or merely the Stirrer Of The Shit, and their stink spreads far and wide.

The point of all this is, sooner or later a writer is going to be tempted to respond. If the idea of taking the high road and behaving professionally isn’t enough to stop you, just think about what it means to descend to the level of the jackass who’s trying to taunt you into reacting. Is it worth being just like him or her? Is it truly worth it, when you know you’re just going to end up covered in shit while they laugh at the fact that they made you respond while basking in their brief Internet celebrity? Is it seriously worth it?

This isn’t to exonerate every writer who behaves badly on the Internet. It’s just to say that sometimes, you know, I don’t exactly blame the ones who do snap under the provocation. There but for the grace of God goes anyone, really.

It would do well for us all to remember that.

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames. Check us out!

The Dames have been answering a lot of questions lately, and I’m going to join the fun. I often get emailed the same questions by a number of different people at once; they seem to come in waves. Here are the three questions about writing I’ve been asked by more than five people in the last two weeks, and my answers. Enjoy!

* How do you get your ideas/How do you know if an idea is good enough for a book/What do you do when you don’t have an idea of what to write? (And various permutations thereof.)

I get asked this in spates, usually about every three months. It kind of puzzles me.

Ideas are not the problem. The discipline to sit down and finish something is the problem. Being worried about “not having ideas” is kind of like living in the Pacific Northwest and being worried there isn’t enough mold. If there’s one thing I’ve never had to worry about, it’s a paucity of shiny things to mentally play with. If you’re reading this, you’re a thinking monkey with an actively-producing-ideas few pounds of meat inside your skull; if you want to be a writer, you always have ideas swarming around inside said skull screaming to get out. There are ideas lurking in your kitchen junk drawer, in the face of every passerby, in every daydream or what-if question. Believe me, the there are enough ideas around to keep everyone busy until the sun explodes, and we won’t even have scratched the surface.

How do you know if an idea is “good enough”? Short answer: You don’t. Longer answer: You don’t until you attempt it. After a few years of constantly attempting stories, you can develop a feel for those ideas that have some meat and legs to them, weight and heft and complexity enough for a short story or a novella, or a novel entire, or a series. You also learn, in the course of those attempts, how to scratch below the surface of a story and discover the complexity in even the simplest of ideas. This can only be learned by doing, like so much else in this line of work.

As for “not having an idea of what to write”…I have never understood that. Is that an attempt to resuscitate the old canard of writer’s block? (There’s a cure for that.) Is it saying “I have so many ideas I can’t pick one?” That’s time-wasting, and a way for your Inner Censor to keep you chasing your own tail. Pick one and go. Is it saying “I don’t want to sit down day after day and do the boring typing?” Well, okay, but that defeats the purpose of being a writer, doesn’t it? Writers write. It doesn’t matter what you write, it matters THAT you write, and if you “can’t find” an idea, the problem isn’t with writing or the ideas. The problem is not opening your eyes and seeing the crowd of ideas that’s screaming “PICK ME! OOOH, PICK ME!” You can go to a mall or a casino and people-watch, you can open up your kitchen drawers, you can watch a few random scenes from a movie or listen to some random songs on shuffle. The genesis of story idea is usually a “What if/Why…” question, and getting into the habit of asking yourself “what if” and “why” about things is sort of the magic set of goggles that will allow you to see that invisible crowd.

* I am a new/young writer, do you have any advice?

This is an every-six-months sort of question. I’ll get twenty of them in a row every half-year, usually for summer and winter breaks. I kind of want to do a form letter to send back saying “Yes. And yes. And yes. I can only add: pay attention, and do the work.”

* “How much research do you do?”

Every month I get one of these. Short answer: a LOT. Longer answer: well, everything I read is research, every movie I watch is research, every new song I find is research, every time I cook it’s research. All things feed the work. If you’re asking me how many or how few hours of research go into each book, I can’t tell you.

For example, some of the things I researched for the Valentine series included: leaf springs (for hovers), ballistics, brushing up on human and canine anatomy and physiology, the geography of Prague, the battle of Blackbird Fields, legends of the Nephilim, the Goetia, demonology, friction, strata, relative weight of a dotanuki, ethical systems–and other things, too varied to count. The research ranged from simple questions that were answered in a few minutes by looking something up to month-long binges of reading in a particular subject, strip-mining everything I could lay my hands on. I probably research less than most authors of historical fiction, who go deeply into their chosen era, but I range pretty widely. I’m more a magpie researcher; everything I pick up goes into the storeroom and moulders into a fertile sludge there. Your mileage may vary, but I am (as is pretty evident here) a big believer in creative ferment, and in everything that goes into my head serving some sort of purpose, even if only as ballast.

So there you have it, three questions I’ve received numerous times over the last few weeks. I expect a new crop by the turn of the year…

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Oh, Friday, I’m not in love. But I will consider letting you buy me dinner.

* Want to chat me up and maybe get some books signed? Come to the First Annual Author Faire at Cover to Cover Books! I’ll be there Saturday, December 10, from 11AM to 3PM, along with other great authors like Bill Cameron and Lisa Nowak. I plan on drinking tons of coffee so I’m bright-eyed and manic. Should be lots of fun.

* Today I’m over at the Orbit Books blog, talking about the Hedgewitch Experiment. Any day I can use the phrase “suppository supposition” is a good day.

* Oooh, they dug up a Pendle witch house!

* Big happy doings on the YA front. I can’t say much yet, but it involves a new series. I hate sitting on secrets like this, so rest assured, as soon as I can give more details, I will.

* A certain Squirrel Wonder scared the bejesus out of some guys in my front yard the other day. Which reminds me, I really have to tell you guys how that convalescence of Neo’s turned out. It involves me barefoot and screaming in the backyard again. It’s nice to know I’m consistent…but I’m amazed you guys aren’t bored yet.

* I am starting a project. It involves wine and livetweeting my reading of Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. I did the first 25 pages the other night and had a blast. My favourite? “Hi, I’m Aaron Lightner/Rod Serling. For the next 965 pages, I’ll be showing you through Anne Rice’s id.” I kill me sometimes, I really do.

* To the skeezy guy trying to chat up the young girl with her dog near the middle-school’s soccer field this morning: my earphones weren’t playing music. I just don’t want to talk to people while I’m running. Consequently, I heard every word you said. And yes, I was looking at you. Because YOU ARE CREEPY. I’m glad the girl fled, and I took that extra lap around the track just to make sure you didn’t follow her. I’m surprised my gaze didn’t burn a hole in you. NEXT TIME IT WILL.

Yeah, Friday. It’s turning out to be a doozy. Let’s skip dinner and go straight to the drinks…

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Dec. 7th, 2011 04:13 pm)

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, where there are contests, prizes, Readers on Deadline, and demons. But don’t worry. We have the demons under control. Mostly…

“Do you ever take a day off?” a health professional asked me today. “Do you ever take a vacation?”

“Not often,” I replied. “I can’t go for very long without writing. It itches under my skin, the words have to get out. It’s physically uncomfortable.”

“But everyone needs some time off.”

“I guess. Sometimes I just look through and tighten what I did the day before. That means I only write about 200 fresh words, sometimes, but it’s tweaking and tightening everything else that scratches the itch.”

“Weekends too?”

“Weekends too. Except then I get up and wander away to spend time with the kids, then come back when they’re done.” I paused. She was looking at me in a most peculiar manner. “I’m not crazy, I just like my job.”

I’m the picture of health, actually, other than some anemia. My pulse is a nice even 60 per minute, my blood pressure is extraordinarily low because of the running, and I’m reasonably fit. The bloodwork says my liver is healthy, for which I give a great deal of credit to that glass of red wine with dinner. (You’ve got to stretch those cells out, keep ‘em flexible.) But all of a sudden she’s looking narrowly at me.

I’m not crazy. I just don’t take a lot of time off. My job is a vacation, for heaven’s sake. Each day I get to do the thing I was designed and built for. It lowers my stress to sit down and write.

I’m between books right now. Kind of. I have some revisions staring at me, but I am coyly refusing to return their gaze. (We’re in the let-the-edit-letter-rest section of revisions.) After the crunch of three books at once earlier in the year (who else was seriously questioning my sanity? OTHER than my writing partner, editor, and agent? Why, that would be ME. Anyway.) I deliberately built a little bit of time into my schedule to decompress. But am I lying about on some tropical beach? Hell no. Sand would get into my laptop.

I’m writing. A trunk novel about zombies, a cowboy, a schoolmarm, and a gold claim. Not to mention vampires and a pawnshop and chartermages. I am having a ball with it. Nobody will ever read it, of course, I don’t think it would ever sell…but I like it. I giggle with glee every time I open the document. I wriggle with joy at a neat turn of phrase. I outright chortle every time I throw another obstacle in the sheriff’s way.

This is a vacation, dammit. And the little dopamine glows I get from, say, a well-turned phrase or the wordcount reached for the day just reinforce it. I get a reward each time I sit down to write. Yeah, some times it’s like chipping hardened cheese out of wooden scrollwork, but there’s even some joy in that. In a job well done and polished at the end of the day.

Slight digression: I advocate daily writing because it builds discipline, not because I happen to get a glow from it. Some professionals can take a few weeks between books, or need to refill the well with time spent away, or days when they’re not dragging the words out into the ring and making them dance. (Isn’t that a lovely mental image.) That’s perfectly okay–one size does not fit all. And yet I advocate daily writing, and will continue to do so, because it’s very easy to mistake laziness or fear for the much more pleasant-sounding “needing some time off” or “vacation.” The professionals who take time off know that it’s hard to get back up onto the horse, and they have their own tips and tricks for doing so. YMMV.

“I hated writing in school,” she said, finally, taping the cotton ball over the bright tear of blood on my inner arm. “Your job sounds like my idea of torture.”

“Likewise.” I grinned. You’re sticking needles in me. I would be unhappy if I had to do that all day. “If I had to do what you do I’d go mad. Well, madder than I already am…”

“I don’t think they’ll commit you just yet,” she laughed.

But I got out of there quickly anyway. You never can tell.

And now, back to scratching the itch…

This Saturday I’m at the Author Faire at C2C books in Battle Ground! Also, check out the Hedgewitch Queen–my first e-only release, and $2.99 in the US for the entire month of December.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Nov. 10th, 2011 11:27 am)

Let’s talk, dear Readers. Let’s talk about endings. (If you haven’t read Reckoning yet, I’ll do my best not to spoil you.)

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I’m going to have to write the Battle of Pelennor Sunroom next week. This week’s just not conducive to sitting down and telling a really embarrassing story about a squirrel loose in my house.

What can I tell you? I’m hard at work on the next Bannon & Clare book; there are revisions for a brand-new YA sitting in my inbox, I am turning in eleven-minute miles. The revisions…well, I’m in the week after receiving the edit letter where I am just processing. I think I’ve written about it before–when I get an edit letter, I open it up and read. Then, I cry. I scream. I fling the pages across the room, I stamp, and I basically have a little hissy.

Look, I’m admitting it out loud. This is part of the process.

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Oct. 12th, 2011 09:34 am)

Last night, the Topeka, Kansas, city council voted to decriminalize domestic violence.

I can’t say it any better than Jim C. Hines does: “To the folks behind this mess, congratulations! You not only fail as decent human beings, you also suck at math.”

As Erik Scott deBie remarked: To paraphrase Kansas govt: “Down with the wimmins! Yays for abusers! LOL!” http://bit.ly/pwZ1a4 #ugh #electricshockneeded

So, yeah. In Topeka, beating your spouse is okay. Unless someone will foot the legal bills, in which case, it’s wrong.

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I find myself hesitating to write what happened next in the Saga of SquirrelTerror. I don’t know if I’m ready. *looks thoughtful* It’s a sad tale, but I guess I should have thought of that when I started writing about the little fuzzballs.

Anyway. It’s Friday, and I haven’t done a Five Things post for a while. Here’s three things I wish aspiring authors wouldn’t do on social networking, and two I wish they would. All usual disclaimers and mileage-may-varies apply. Let’s start with the DO NOTs. (They’re more fun.)

Please, for the love of Crom, don’t:

* List yourself as “Author” in your name field. When I get a Facebook/Goodreads friend request from JANE SMITH, AUTHOR, or AUTHOR JOHN SMITH or JANE SMITH, WRITER, I wince and die a little inside. It has everything to do with my experience of 95% of those requests that I approve inevitably end up with me being spammed, repeatedly and at great length, with desperate self-promotion. It’s unprofessional and just plain annoying. So you’re a writer? Great. You’re newly-published? Double great. You’re self-pubbed? Okay. You don’t need to put it on that particular billboard. Put “writing” in your interests, put a link to your website in your profile, and start interacting like a human being instead of a marketing machine. Hysterical insistence that everyone call you AUTHOR X is not going to gain you an audience or endear you to other professionals. Interacting like a human being and sharing neat things takes you further in the long run.

* Hard sell or spam. I’ve covered this before, but it can always be said again. Spamming me with fifty links during the day about your NEW BOOK OMG, especially when I’ve just approved a friend request, is the way to get yourself unfriended in a hurry and put in that little mental drawer of “Oh, God, I never want to meet this person IRL.” I try to keep to 5-10% marketing at most on my social networking streams, with the rest being interaction and fresh content. I am willing to say one can go as high as 15% without driving away potential readers and professional acquaintances screaming. The trouble is, I see a lot of new/aspiring authors reversing those percentages, and then getting frustrated when they don’t see a return from all this effort. When it comes to this sort of thing, bigger is not better.

* Monopolize the conversation. This falls more under interpersonal faux pas than marketing disaster, but I’ve seen it so much I figure it counts. Even if you’re excited to be in a Google+ hangout or a Twitter conversation with another author, one you might be a fan of or who you might think is a potentially good contact, try not to make everything about you. Do not keep bringing the conversation around to You And Your Hobbyhorses. Don’t try to one-up with better stories. Don’t, for the love of Henrietta, talk over other people who might be shyer than you. Do not lecture, and do not get invested in “getting the last word.” Interact, certainly, but try to interact on the principle that you are interested in what the other people have to say. Not only will this make you look good, it gives you a higher chance of people wanting to talk to you more than once. They won’t run the other way when they see your name pop up onscreen. You will acquire precious reputation as someone who is actually fun to interact with, and that goodwill is worth GOLD.

And now, the Two Dos!

DO:

* Start as if you are a professional with a reputation to lose. From the very instant you step into the wide carpet of kittens and rainbows that is the Internet, you need to be prepared for the fact that it is public. Not only is it public, but if you make a misstep, it lingers. Everything you have written on the Internet is on someone’s server somewhere, and you do not have any goddamn control over it. Solution? From the very beginning, act as if you’re a professional, and think before you hit “send.” There may be things you feel strongly enough about to risk offending people over, but you want those things to be chosen with care and thought, not just mushrooming because you opened your stupid mouth one day and something fell out. If you have Silly Internet Things in your past, it’s never too late to say mea culpa, tighten your belt, and make the commitment to act like a reasonable professional from this moment forth. Also, remember: pseudonyms do not make you anonymous. You are NEVER really anonymous on the Internet, most especially if someone really truly wants to find you.

* Chill. You’re going to find things all over social media and the Internet that make you want to vomit. People will say things that make you want to scream. There will be so much stupid your eyes will bleed and it will BURN. But if you get all het up over every little thing, you will burn out your emotional insulation, your emotional energy, your stomach lining, and quite possibly fuse a couple synapses. There is stupid and nasty and bigoted all over the Internet, and you will not be able to slay that hydra. Plus, sooner or later someone is going to get pissed off and troll you. It is unavoidable, especially if you are a “public” person. Your best defense is to chillax and practice the art of Just Not Engaging, with a side order of Banning Where Possible. Not only will it save you a pretty penny in ulcer medication, but it also makes you look like the Bigger Person and makes the trolls writhe in agony because they’re Being Ignored. And really, what better revenge is there? (Answer in comments. Cheap story prompts FTW!)

There it is. Three and two make five, and I’m done dispensing Possibly-Useless Advice for the day. (Well, not really, but it sounds good.) Stay cool, my chickadees.

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Another predawn sighting of Phred the Coyote. The Bunny Brigade was taunting him, but they lost another one of their number. Ah, the circle of life.

Anyway, when last we met, I was telling you about the mysterious peppering of Squirrel!Neo with pinecones. I saw Steerpike!Squirrel slinking away afterward, but that wasn’t, so to speak, proof enough to convict. It was, however, enough to make me wonder and keep an eye out.

Picture this: a cloudy afternoon, the squirrels going about their business. You know how, in a group of people, a sudden silence will fall? (Hermes is among us, they used to say.) It’s kind of like that in the Kingdom of Backyard. There will be a crowd, and all of a sudden, everyone will disappear except for one lone squirrel. He’s got a crooked tail, and he’s a little bigger than Yon Average Yard Rodent. He glances around, sees that he is alone, and immediately is on high alert.

Because that’s when it strikes. A pinecone, a small rock, any type of ammunition. Always when he was alone, always from an unexpected direction. Other squirrels would show up and give him curious looks as he stood, shaking his fist and chittering angrily, or desperately trying to convince them to stay under cover.

The first stage was anger, of course. He’d be pelted, and would take out his aggression on the first thing he saw. Most of the time it was other squirrels. But this particular afternoon, he was bombed from the plum tree with something that looked suspiciously like an acorn. (I don’t know where the hell it came from, there’s not an oak tree for a few miles.) Neo hit the dirt, rolling, and just barely avoided getting hit in the head. He came up, furious and looking for the perpetrator…

…just as Romeo!Jay, his brother-in-arms, glided down to land near him and shoot the breeze. Romeo doesn’t talk much–he saves most of his words for Juliet!Jay, as we saw during the Corn Pops War. But he does like to hop around after Neo and his cadre, occasionally getting in a screechy joke that will make all of them laugh. I get the idea that with Mercutio!Jay around, Romeo doesn’t often get a word in edgewise, so he’s learned to make them count.

Neo went off.

“BANZAI!” he yelled in squirrel-ese. “MOTHERFUCKER I’VE GOT YOU NOW! BOMB ME WITH NUTS, WILL YOU?”

“JESUS CHRIST!” Romeo!Jay screamed, taking off in an explosion of feathers. “WHAT THE HELL, YOU FURRY DUMBASS?”

Your Humble Narrator stood in the sunroom with a watering can–yes, I was watering my goddamn bonsai, that’s a whole ‘nother story–and a slack jaw, observing this.

All Squirrel!Neo’s considerable fury and frustration had boiled over. He leapt after Romeo!Jay, screaming like a banshee. Yes, he was making THAT SOUND, like a wineglass, Sam Kinison, and some steak caught in a possessed blender. Romeo, normally an easygoing guy (he used to be a little more wound up before Juliet noticed his existence, now he’s pretty damn calm for a jay), spread his wings, let out a warning screech, and pecked Neo.

On the head.

It was a perfect kung-fu peck (where the hell do all these animals learn their goddamn martial arts, I’d like to know), and it rang Neo’s chimes pretty good. Romeo hopped back. “WHAT THE HELL?” he squawked again. “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR TINY LITTLE MIND, DUMBASS? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?”

Neo lay stunned on the grass for a moment before hopping up. “YOU FEATHERED BASTARD!” he screamed. “OH YOU FEATHERED FUCKING BASTARD, I’M GONNA–”

“YOU’RE GONNA WHAT?” Romeo cocked his head. “ANYTIME YOU THINK YOU’RE BLUEJAY ENOUGH FOR THE JOB, FOURLEGS. BRING IT.”

With that, he spread his wings again and took off, brushing over Neo’s head. The King of Backyard ducked as the jay buzzed him, and Romeo was gone over the house in a flash of blue feathers. The King shook his tiny little rodent fists and bayed furiously at the cloudy sky.

That’s when the other acorn pasted him right on the noggin as well. This one came from the plum tree too.

Behind Neo.

“Holy shit,” I breathed, looking down at Miss B. She cocked her head, wondering what in the yard was holding my attention so much. “Somebody’s gaslighting Neo.”

I got the canine equivalent of a shrug–she can’t see out into that part of the yard when she’s under the picnic table in the sunroom. (Don’t ask.) I looked up just in time to see Neo’s tail disappearing into the juniper hedge next to the plum tree as yet another acorn-shaped thing plowed into the ground behind him.

I waited.

Sure enough, after an interval, who should come sneaking down the plum tree but a certain reddish squirrel?

“You bastard,” I muttered. “Oh, I don’t like you.”

Steerpike!Squirrel glanced at the house as if he’d heard me. He flicked his lean reddish tail twice, smoothed the fur on his tiny head, and I could swear to God he smiled before vanishing into the hedge after the sorely-tried King of Backyard.

I had a sinking feeling things were about to get ugly.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, where there’s tons more writing advice, contests, and pie! (Okay, maybe no pie.) Check us out!

Every once in a while, I like to sit down and think of about five things to make a post. Since I’m exhausted and stare-eyed after a long, very busy week that went straight through the weekend without even pausing to nod, I see this as a very good strategy for today. So, without further ado, here’s Five Things Writing Will Teach You, Or, Valuable Skills Learned By Telling Lies For A Living.

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Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

First, a couple things: the Little Prince is bright and perky again. That’s the thing with kid stomach bugs–they show up in the middle of the night and are gone pretty much right after dawn, and the kid is all energetic again while the adult feels like she’s been hit by a bus. Yesterday was…well, pretty stabby. But he’s doing all right.

Plus, I’ll be participating in a Book Country Twitter chat tonight. (The hashtag will be #bookcountry.) The topic is: “Author blogs & websites: what works, what doesn’t, how to maintain a balance of personal and professional, and how not to become an annoying book marketing machine.” I’ll be there with Colleen Lindsay and Dan Blank; it promises to be fun.

So. You’ve made it through the process of writing a novel, and your brain feels like three-day-rotted cheese. What does the recovery process look like?

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Jul. 4th, 2011 11:27 am)

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Reader Kassandra A., who asked me:

Long shot here to get a response from you but still worth it for me to try. ;) I am going to attempt to start running. I am a 34 year old mother of two who tends to delve into my enormous TBR pile of books to escape the reality of life more times than is most likely healthy. *shrug* The way you have talked about your running routine has brought an already (although very dormant) existing interest in doing the same for myself to light. If you have insight into how I can get started (and keep going) I would love to hear your thoughts. (from email)

I got this email and thought, but why would you ask me? I’m not a professional or anything. Then I sat down and looked at my running journals. They’re year-long sort-of-diaries (I like this kind) where I can note mileage, my route, speed (if applicable) and notes about how a particular run felt. I’ve been running for almost three years now, keeping a log for about a year and a half. So, maybe I do have something to say, even though I’m not a professional.

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I’m under huge copyedit crunch, but it’s my day to post at the Deadline Dames. So, in honor of the occasion (if by “occasion” one means “feeling like my head is going to explode and that would be welcome because I would be DEAD and not worrying about these GODDAMN things”) here’s Five Bits of (Maybe Useless) Advice About Being a Working Writer:

5. No matter how much you love your book, be prepared to get sick of it. After at least two (sometimes as many as five or six or God forbid more) drafts, at least one (but likely more) revision letter(s), copyedits where some poor soul goes through and checks every damn comma, and proof pages where you search for typos, dropped words, and stets that didn’t make it through, you will become so fucking sick of this book you will want to stab it, pour petrol on it, light it, and stamp on it while singing a stabby-burny song and mutilating it afresh with your red-hot spurs of discontent. This is normal. If you can’t handle hating your own work or getting so sick of a project you literally want to put your fist through a brick wall (or someone’s head), this is not the career for you. Every goddamn job has aspects you won’t like. Finding the way to make them palatable is how we amuse the gods (and each other, most often on reality TV).

4. Your editor, your copyeditor, the Marketing folks, and the Production department are NOT your enemies. Your editor will tell you that parts of the work are weak and need to be fixed. Your copyeditor will make you feel like a goddamn fool by catching every punctuation error you ever thought of committing, plus a few you don’t even know how the hell happened. The Marketing folks will rub you the wrong way with cover copy, cover design, too much or too little publicity (or too much of the wrong publicity, or too little of the right publicity, or some other damn thing). Production will give you short turnaround dates, or piss you off in some way over something. This is normal. Working with other people is a goddamn hassle.

Get over it.

Editor, copyeditor, Marketing, Production–they have one goal. That is to make this book they’re working on right now the best book it can be. They are in the trenches at your side. They are your buddies, your comrades, your platoon. They may get on your nerves, but they are looking out for you the best way they know how, especially when the bullets come flying. It’s a feather in their caps when your book goes well. No matter how pissed off you are, remember they are not your enemies, that their priority is to make your book shine as much as it can, and they may see things you don’t. Don’t fire on them.

3. Sometimes you’ve got to turn the goddamn Internet off. Need I say more? I love Freedom. It was the best $10 I ever spent for my productivity.

What’s that? You in the back? What? But what if I need to research something while the Internet’s off? Mark it in the manuscript with a [[ thing I need to research ]] and move on. Get past it, and when you’re on the Net again, then look it up and search for [[ or ]] in your manuscript. Getting dragged into looking up the sex habits of Arctic flesh-eating bacteria is a slippery, slippery slope, my friends. You could lose days on that shit. (Or so I’ve heard.)

2. Decide on your stress tolerance early. Someone once told me that everyone has a certain tolerance for stress, and even if they arrange their lives to hit below that threshold, they will create shit to stress over until they hit the level they’re geared toward. “You don’t lower your stress,” he continued, staring into his bourbon. “You lower your tolerance.” Which was great advice, and I wish I’d thought to write down his phone number. Because he was pretty good-looking too, and he had a nice leather jacket.

Ahem. Anyway. Look not at your stress, young Padawans. Look at your tolerance, and see if you’re creating more stress for yourself by fretting over some aspects of your writing/writing career/whatever. Then start interrupting the stress-wave before it starts to build. Get up and dance, or something, scream at your computer, go for a skydive. Whatever works.

1. Give yourself some tiny rewards. I bargain with myself so often, it’s like I’m fricking Mephistopheles on crack trying to damn myself. “Set the timer. Ten minutes, and I can read the latest Girl Genius.” Or, “Fifteen more minutes, then you can roll on the floor with the dog and pretend you’re a poodle.” Or, “Another half-hour, and you can have a handful of Fritos.” Or, “Okay, Lili, if you get to 3K words, you can take the kids out for dinner so you don’t have to cook.” Or, “Get fifty pages of proofs out of the way and you can spend twenty minutes on Twitter making yourself look like an idiot.”

Hey, whatever works.

To consistently produce, I trick myself in a hundred little ways. I make it a game. I know my propensity for procrastination, but I don’t try to stop procrastinating–that’s impossible, and sets up a bound-to-fail diet mentality. Instead, I make the game all about rewarding myself for steady increments of work. I try to outwit myself. A certain amount of dragging my feet is necessary creative fuel, a sort of counterweight to my urge to go full speed ahead until I turn into a flaming wreck. Also, I enjoy the challenge of finding little ways to hoodwink myself, kind of like only focusing on the next three minutes on the treadmill. Each three-minute chunk adds up, and before I realize it I’ve run five miles.

So, give yourself teensy rewards. It really is all about tricking yourself into consistency.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve lingered long enough. I promised myself that if I could get this post written, I’d have earned a square of choco before I dive back into the copyedits. (See what I did there? SEE?)

Good luck, kids. Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Too much to explain. Let me sum up.

* An interview with me, and a giveaway, over at CJ Redwine’s place. I am interviewed by a were-llama. Also, part 2 of the giveaway next week involves JEWELRY. Trust me, you want to be in on this.

* The Wall Street Journal went concern-trolling for pageviews again. Dame Jackie responds a lot more politely than I would have, Diane Duane hits it out of the park, the Guardian weighs in, and #YASaves hits trending. I thought of posting my own response to WSJ’s pearl-clutching idiocy, but in the end Jackie and Diane did it better than I ever could, and I don’t want to link and feed the troll more pageviews. So there it is.

* Kristen Lamb on training to be a career writer:

Athletes who compete in decathlons use a lot of different skills—speed, endurance, strength. They walk this fine balance of giving an event their all….without really giving it their all. They still must have energy left to effectively compete in the other events and outpace the competition.

We writers must learn to give it our all….without giving it our all. The better we get at balancing our duties, the more successful we will be in the long-run. Writers who fail to appreciate all this job entails won’t be around in a year or three. They are like a runner who sprints at the beginning of a marathon. They will fall by the side of the road, injured and broken.

So today when you have to squeeze in that 100 words on your break from work, think I’m training. When your kids hang off you as you write, picture that weighted sled. Play the soundtrack to Rocky if you must. (Kristen Lamb)

* Want to see me climb? We’re recording ourselves on routes so we can nitpick our performance. (By “we” I mean “me and ZenEllen, my bouldering partner.”) Here’s some from today: an inglorious failure at a bouldering route, then a second attempt where I stick the damn thing. I’ve been working this route for a few weeks now. You can also see some of my tats, and the Official Belt Of Urban Fantasy. (Long story. I had to buy one, after that.)

And now I’ve got to spend the first half of my writing day in alternate-Renaissance fantasy France, and the second half in contemporary paranormal YA. The braincramps are fun to watch–my face squinches up when I shift gears and go from one to the other. Good times, man. Good times.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

First, the obligatory self-pimpage: don’t forget the RECKONING contest! The May 31 event grows ever closer!

Things I did today include:

* Dropping off people at the airport without killing, maiming, or screaming at anyone. Banner occasion.
* Staring at a weird pale growth in the front yard until I realized it was a mushroom.
* Saying very loudly, “Jesus Christ, don’t eat that, what’s WRONG with you?” to my dog, then looking up and realizing a woman and her toddler were staring at me round-eyed.
* Wondering just where the J. Peterman Company got my address from. I mean, I’m not mad. I’m just curious.
* Realizing my current TBR stack includes five books on psychopathology, two books on forensic pathology, and six books on World War II.
* Admitting to myself that I find China Mieville‘s brain disturbingly hawt. (WHAT? I paid for Embassytown in HARDCOVER, thankyouverymuch.)
* Spending serious time while walking considering just how best to set up shots of Gilbert the Zombie Gnome at the May 31 event.

Things I looked up today include:

* Mining in the 1800s
* How to say “you magnificent bastard” in German
* Rapiers. RAPIERS ARE COOL. Actually, medieval fencing manuals are interesting too. I should totally get someone around here to put on a couple rapier fights for me…
* Prostitute slang in Victorian London. ^o.0^

Things I wrote today include:

* A mentath, an assassin, and a mad Bavarian go into a mine.
* A REALLY BAD joke. (If it ain’t baroque, donna fixit!)
* An entire email based on a sleeping tapir. (I love saying “TAPIR TOES!” at random moments.)
* A scorching letter to the Entitled Stalker Of The Week. Which I promptly deleted. Because I am an adult.
* An email beginning “Dear Mr. Jones,”. No lie.

And a couple of links to round things off:

* Jill Filipovic on accusing the accuser.
* And the BEST THING IN THE WORLD TODAY is this vlog, where a lovely young lady calls out Beyonce for being a liar-liar-pants-on-fire, and does it with such clarity and grace it leaves one breathless.

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

He has been scrutinized for months now, his accuracy questioned and his decision to return to school second-guessed. He has never bristled, showing the kind of composure that any coach would love to see in the pocket.

There have been fun moments like the ESPN feature with former NFL coach Jon Gruden and his famously intense film study. There have been awkward times, too. Like the interview question from a team that threw Locker for a loop: Would you give your 16-year-old daughter birth control.

“It caught me off guard,” he said. “Maybe it was to see how I would respond.” (Boston Herald)

Well, yes. That would catch one off-guard, wouldn’t it.

This is a guy being drafted into a football team. He will be playing a made-up game that glorifies violence and aggression, and probably be paid very well for it. That’s his choice, I have no problem with that. I like rock climbing, he likes throwing a pigskin for imaginary points. One man’s meat, and all.

Here is what mystifies me: why the hell are “they” (I presume this is a team he might be drafted into) asking him a question like this? The underlying assumption is that he would “give” or “allow” his daughter birth control. Well, if the alternative is a teen pregnancy or an STD, such a move might be considered responsible parenting. Parents are here to teach their children to be adults, and to help kids in the years before their ability to understand consequences is fully developed. (If you even try to trot out the old canard about abstinence education being effective, just stop right there.) I’ve written before about the pervading and pervasive cultural assumption that women are property, passed from their fathers to their husbands in no unequivocal terms. Is this question an outgrowth of that assumption? That troubles me on a meta level, but what troubles me even more is that this is a throwaway line in the middle of a piece of reporting*, obviously considered of little consequence except for its “entertainment” value. (I actually got the link from a Mental Floss tweet.) It’s considered no big deal. The indifference is breathtaking.

My answer to a question like that would be, “What? Why the fuck do you think that is your business? It’s my family’s business, and beyond that, it’s my daughter’s business, and what is a collection of men doing asking about this?” I’m fairly sure I would give whoever asked such a ridiculous, repugnant, invasive question a stinging verbal dressing-down before leaving the room determined never to do business with them again, in any way, since they are capable of (and have no qualms about, apparently) such inappropriate asshattery. This is what I immediately thought, “What the hell is this guy doing, sitting there calmly while a bunch of jerks asks him this?”

He’s a college player, so it’s vanishingly unlikely that he has a 16-year old daughter, or that he will for quite some time. You could argue, I suppose, that they wanted to “provoke” him to see how he would respond on the field. My reply is: bullshit. This man is going to make a living playing a violent game that encourages, facilitates, and rewards violent behavior. A question this stupid, phrased this casually, especially when it’s totally irrelevant because the guy is what, 20?, is not going to give you any goddamn idea of how he’s going to behave after you finish another few years of rewarding the type of behavior football requires and endorses from its players. It’s like asking a llama how it feels about tap dancing–it just doesn’t even fricking apply.

And, I reiterate: the whole thing is just thrown into the middle of a “news” article, like it’s no big deal. Wink wink, nudge nudge, isn’t this funny, the important thing is this guy can play this made-up game and might be invited to play this made-up game somewhere else for a lot of money.

It just boggles the mind.

* However much sports “reporting” can qualify for that name, that is.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

You know, dry pants do help to civilize one.

This morning I ran several errands with Miss B. along. She still isn’t too sure about car rides, but one of the errands was a 2+ mile walk in the rain, and she was glad to get back into the car after that and spent the rest of the errands snoozing.I did not think of myself as the type of high-energy person who could wear out an Australian shepherd, but apparently, I am. My vision of myself as a sedentary, ambitionless lump is taking rather a hard knock or two.

However, breaking up the errands with that walk meant that for about an hour and a half I was wandering around soaked from mid-thigh down. My feet were okay–wool socks and combat boots, so my toesies were damp but not cold–but my jeans were absolutely dripping. I’m sure I left a trail of moss behind. I have to say, peeling out of wet clothes and into dry is one of the most sensual, civilizing experiences I’ve had the pleasure of encountering. It’s right up there with hot tea, good Thai food, a glass of Sangiovese, and the ability to press a button and hear Beethoven.

Ahhhh.

Anyway, it’s Friday. I’ve grown away from doing Friday writing posts. It’s not that I ran out of things to say. Far, far from. There just hasn’t been a lot of bandwidth available, what with three books due this year, another few books in revision and proofs and copyedits, gah, plus the constant chaos of two kids, now with extra dog.

*time passes*

I wrote all that this morning, then left for afternoon errands. Now I’m here trying to pick up the train of thought that derailed when I looked at the clock and thought oh, dammit, almost late! It was very White Rabbit of me. In any case, I have limited time now before the set of evening tasks rises up to gnaw at my ankles and demand my attention, so let’s get on with it.

To quote Stephen King: Let’s talk, you and I. Let’s talk about fear.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

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