Who cares?

I’ve reverted to generic non-biography bios.

This is because I realised something:  I can’t be representation.  I could be a perfect fiction.  Even if I had a picture of my face instead of that faerie, how’re you to know that’s my face?  Okay, see me at a convention?  Does romance fiction have conventions?!  See me at the market?  What’re the odds?  Too, what’re the odds you’d recognise me?

Authors, once they’re in the hands of a reader, are not people.  We’re a collection of letters following the word ‘by’, commonly referred to collectively as a by-line.

I have books I love I couldn’t tell you who wrote them.  If I can, I can’t tell you if that person is black, white, male, female, gay, straight, human, or other.  I also don’t care.  I have books I love, I can’t usually remember the titles of.  Because it doesn’t matter.

True, if I were to borrow the book from a library the author’s name, the series title, and/or the book title would be a big thing to remember for the finding of the book again or for the going to the bookstore to purchase myself a copy.  Once I’ve memorised its location and appearance in the library, I need never remember another detail about the book.  Once I own a copy, I only ever have to remember where I put the damned thing or what the cover image looks like in my iBooks library.

I strongly believe my life growing up would have been affected in important and positive ways by better representation of those demographics to which I belong.  Some far more so than others.  But that’s the job of the characters in the stories, in the movies, in the TV shows.  The only people who matter as people themselves are the faces of the advocacy.  Jazz Jennings matters because she isn’t a character, she’s a person who puts a name and a face to trans-youth rights.  Ms Cox is a couple of things, so who she is matters in myriad ways.

Do I care that the person playing the trans-woman in The Dutch Girl wasn’t trans?  Nope.  Would I care if I learnt the director refused to consider/audition trans-women? Probably.  Would I care if I learnt that trans-actresses auditioned, had better auditions, but didn’t get the role?  Absolutely.

The character matters, not the person playing it.  The actor is not the character and vice versa.  The actor may put some of themselves into the role; conversely they may take away part of the character when the final scene is finished, but they’re not the same person.  Exceptions exist.  An all male cast of A League of Their Own isn’t automatically horrible, but it’s automatically highly suspect and had better damned well come with a damned good explanation.  If the explanation is that every female actor who showed up stunk, genuinely sucked, and the only way the movie was going to exist was to take these male talented folks and put them in a whole lot of makeup … weird, very very very weird, but okay, whatever.

The average reader doesn’t follow the authors they like.  I’m not even an average reader and yet I follow authors I’ve never read a single book or short story by and never intend to; I don’t follow almost every author I do read … the majority the few I do I could count on the fingers of my left elbow how many blogposts/twits/FB posts by them I’ve ever once seen.

I’m going to keep the blog because it’s a good outlet for my thoughts and feelings.  It’s got links to my work, on the off chance someone finds it before they find me in iBooks/Amazon/etc.  But I don’t expect people to read my books as a result of reading my blog, nor do I expect people to read my blog because of my books.  And so far not only are those assumptions correct, but they hold true to the norm for other authors and their social media presences.

I’m on Tumblr, Twitter, and here.  The former two are almost entirely auto-posts of this blog, but if you like subscribing to things from those rather than separately subscribing through my blog I understand and it’s why they exist.  I do sometimes put other things I find interesting, or things I want to say on those that I don’t put here.  That’s because they’re a better media for saying something quick and offhand than an actual blogpost is; and they’re better equipped for sharing things I find interesting from other people’s shared content.

I’m not going to make any secret of anything about myself, I’m just not going to have bio sections that advertise anything about me because I do not want people to read my work based on my sexuality, gender, etc.  I want you to see the cover, notice the book, read the blurb, check out the sample, then (I pray) purchase it.

Rant over modern series writing

(Sarah is a cuckoo—a breed of human-looking cryptid that’s biologically more like a giant wasp than any sort of primate, and telepathic to boot. Evolution is funky sometimes.)

Excerpt From: Seanan McGuire. “Midnight Blue-Light Special.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/midnight-blue-light-special/id592216584?mt=11

So, at the moment, I’m rereading Midnight Blue-Light Special.  And it made me have to say something about why I don’t read a lot of newer series.

There are 3 fundamental approaches to series.

The Discworld Model:

This is for series like Bernie Rhodenbarr, the Rita Mae Brown & Sneakie Pie Brown mysteries, Discworld, Mithgar, and similar.  In these (and Mithgar is, quite possibly, the most amazingly perfect example) the books stand alone.  There’s little reference to the prior events, or they’re referenced in off-hand manner if relevant to the moment in the same way you or I will make off-hand references to our own pasts.  Other than that the book of the moment is pretty thoroughly divorced from the books before and after.  You can literally pick up at any point in the series and not be missing anything besides the fun of the other books … which you can just pick up and enjoy as you go.

The Serial Model:

This is the classic Book 1, Book 2, etc model.  This is Now & Forever, this is Harry Potter, this is – frankly – most series.  This is “To Be Continued” through to “The End”.  Sometimes you can muddle through if you pick up part way in.  Harry PotterLittle House, and others aren’t nonsense if you pick up later than the beginning, but it helps.  Well … Little House might be more of a Discworld Model, now I think of it, but humour me.

The thing with these is that you write them assuming that the person reading book 2 read book 1.  If you write something that was explained in book 1 you don’t explain it again, you move on because you’re not worried about confusing anyone because they read book 1 or bloody well best have done.

The Modern Model:

This is one I really don’t like.  I’ve read things, namely InCryptid, that use it.  But it annoys the hell out of me and the stories have to be very good for me to let it slide and keep going … or you have to not do a very good job of it, thus begging the question of why the author bothered instead of sticking with the Serial Model (possibly the actual case with InCryptid … I’m not actually 100% certain).

In this you try to do the bastardisation of the Discworld Model and the Serial Model.  Your books are very “to be continued”, and rely heavily on what came before, but you try to accommodate the ones who are coming in a bit late.  Now, some series are a blending of these. Mithgar has Serials (duologies, trilogies, etc) tossed in amongst the larger tapestry of things.  Shannara too.  But series of Serials is a whole other kettle of popcorn.

I don’t like this one as a reader, nor as a writer.  It’s this philosophy that your Serial should be accessible to any and sundry who walk in 5min before the closing credits.  That really doesn’t work.  You have to insert little obnoxious infodumps that irritate those who have been there since the curtain went up, and unless you want to make your books exponentially thicker by basically reprinting the prior book into the following books –building them into an omnibus edition as you go – you’re going to annoy the mid-streamer who is like “well, she explained this, but why doesn’t she explain that?!”

There.  Was I going anywhere with this?

No, not especially.  Just saying that I don’t grok the modern method of serialising and it irritates me when I encounter it.  All the other crap about the other 2 methods was to illustrate what I meant.  Now, back to the book; it has Aeslin Mice in 😍

The Ultimate Mary Sue Test

I got to seriously thinking about some of the discussions around the internet about this movie character is or isn’t a Mary Sue, or this TV character, or this, or that, etc.

A pattern emerged quickly among the discussions that, according to these conversations, makes a Mary Sue test exceedingly short and simple.  So I present one.

The Test

Instructions:  keep 2 columns of tallies for answer a or answer b.

1) What is the character’s gender identity?

a) Male
b) Female

2) Is the character competent in more than 1 thing not traditionally a feminine role/activity/interest?

a) No
b) Yes

3) Is the character attractive?

a) No
b) Yes

Time to tally up!

Continue reading

ZOMG! She lives!?

Yeah, that’s becoming a rather popular post topic for me lately.

Sorry about that.  This has just been a year of hell for me.  Some ups, certainly.  Moving to Massachusetts has been pretty cool if not without its sour notes.  I’ve become addicted to Doctor Who which is bloody fantastic, but Netflix (henceforth referred to as ‘the meanie bad people’ for short) haven’t got series 9 yet, so I don’t get to find out what’s been going on.

I’ve been managing to write.  Not as much or as often as I’d like.  Some of it has been a lack of time.  Since 12 November I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of days and hours dealing with my jobs, but that’s starting to mellow out.  The time I have had that could be spent writing has been spent in the sorts of things one must do in order that stress does not eat her brain … and sufficient stress of the wrong sort is bad for people with chronic depression (and I are one such person), and if you’ve ever tried to write when having attacks of depression you know it tends to make the stories go in dark and unhappy directions.  Dark and unhappy can be fine, here and there, but we’re talking the kind of dark and unhappy that gets you the “the dog dies” award (sorry, forgot its name, lots of kids books I never liked at all have it – to the point I treat it the same as a skull and crossbones on a bottle in the cupboard).

So far, as of the same sorts of dates that 2015 had started looking down (early December 2014, no lie), 2016 is starting to look really up.  So, that said, I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for a summer 2016 release of the, still, unnamed Book 3.  I’ve gotten more than a page into the first Færie Patrol which is turning out interesting and teaching me fun things about the world and characters.  Can’t recall if I ever got any further in the story about that transgender girl I started one day on a whim (no link because I’m buggered if I recall where I mentioned that).

I’m going to try to be a little more active here soon.  Some of it is going to bend my guidelines RE talking politics (read:  I’m going to bloody well talk about a few things, and I may as well warn I use words I learnt from my wife when Donald Trump and the GOP get brought up these days), primarily US politics. I might not, though.  I also may talk about some of the quirkier trans* issues.  I shan’t be discussing the new Star Wars film because I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to see it due to being, currently, unable to afford a ticket (while I’m not saying this in hopes people will donate a ticket, this is the internet and I’ve seen it happen too many times to not point to the contact link above for anyone who takes this notion into their head.  This said because I may as well – if I explicitly said “please do not …” people would anyway, so screw trying).

As per usual, Happy Holidays.  I’m in a sufficiently high Jewish populated area to know that Hanukkah is over or nearly so, so happy belated that.  Merry Christmas coming up for those folks.  Solstice/Jül/etc is coming up later this week for my Pagan loves, so enjoy – no over indulging in the holy water for you ADF folks.  Turns out there’re almost as many Muslim holidays in December as there are days in the year (just kidding, but there are a lot) and I can’t spell any but Ramadan, but as especially fond happy/merry/blessed series of celebrations for you folks; sorry for all the crap people are giving you, please know some of us do wish you well and would love to punch certain people in the mouth on your behalf.

Moved! And staying bloody put.

The Berkshire Hills, part of the Appalachian M...

The Berkshire Hills, part of the Appalachian Mountains, in winter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was insanity, it was … moving sucks.  I am not doing it again.

I’m settling in here in the Berkshires, and loving it here.  Maybe if I ever hit the level of best seller wherein I have millions of dollars I’ll buy a quiet island somewhere in Nova Scotia or Norway or something, but that’s different. That’s me paying several very large and well built individuals with nothing better to do to come out and put all my stuff into boxes which they will then load onto a big damned truck and drive off into the sunset for me and will catch me up later as I pile into a car/plane and wave goodbye to Massachusetts.

Then again, I really do like it here rather a lot and my do nothing of the sort.

I’ve been spending the week running back and forth from the Berkshires to Springfield so I’ve been too tired to get to writing, but I’m really feeling better and better with each day.  Stress is melting away, and writing is waiting right there on the fringes.  I’m getting itchy for a pen and paper, but it’s not quite there.  For one thing I have groceries to go buy today.

Please hold the snow comments.  Believe me, I could have got snow moving all of 1hr north of Augusta.  It doesn’t take rocket science to realise that it snows in New England.  I’m looking forward to it, in fact.  The roads here generally stay well plowed, I’m told, but if they should get too slick for the driving I can walk to work from where I live if I just leave a bit earlier.

Curiously, the taxes (so far) have been quite a bit less than Georgia, and prices have been comparable; a few things are higher, some things the same or lower, all in all it’s as I expected rather than as people would say.  It’s amazing the “truths” people cling to.  It’s kind of like “Walmart has the lowest prices”, no it doesn’t.  “The south has such friendly and polite people”, are you kidding me?!  The people impressing me with their manners, friendliness, and generosity are the New Englanders hands down!

Suffice to say, I think I’m home.

Writing advice

Yeah, I’m back on this.  But it’s important.

So, when I tell people I’ve published a book I get some very odd questions, but one that comes up often is “so how did that happen?”

How does one answer that?  I usually go with “I went through most of a pack of paper and several ink cartridges.”

Thing is, that is how it happens.  I know a lot of writers, but I don’t know many authors.  The difference?  The former have ideas, and they write … a lot … but they never finish anything, or never put it out there when they’re done.

Some don’t want to publish, they write for their own pleasure.  This is well and good.  Just as there are plenty of people, some of them brilliantly talented, who paint or draw just for the pleasure of it and others who sell their work so the same should be with any art or craft; writing is no exception.

For the rest, just get to work.

Now, some myths:

You must write every day, no exceptions and no excuses!

Bullshit.  This is so very much not true.  This seems to be more prominent among Americans.  For those in other countries, America is a barbarism where paid sick leave (or even unpaid!) isn’t always available and rather than rise up in revolution against it we developed “the American work ethic” and it’s as perverse as it sounds.

No, art suffers if you do it when you’re not up to it.  Now, you must be self aware enough to know the difference between “I’m just not feeling it today” and “I really don’t want to write this scene”.  The former is fine.  There is no point spending an hour staring at the paper writing nothing, or in writing for an hour a few thousand words that you’ll throw away tomorrow.  The latter … get it over with and move on.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block; it’s all in your mind!

Mmmm … yes and no.  There can be a number of things that are preventing you from moving forward in your story.  Maybe it turns out you need to backtrack and rewrite something, but until you discover that you’re stuck and you can’t move on.  Maybe your dog died and you just can’t concentrate.  Maybe you’re a chronic depressive and you’re having a low day, week, month, year … and you can’t seem to write anything or write anything you want to keep.

Writer’s block is no superstitious concept.  It’s a simple lack of inspiration.  It can have a billion and one causes and reasons, and it can have two billion and five solutions.

Find your solutions, but don’t let anyone tell you that all you have to do is plant your arse in the chair and write (unless, you know, that actually works for you).

You should write like … / Never use …

Just … no.  No, definitely not.  Proof?  Look at the criticisms of any wildly popular work.  I mean the stuff that lasts, like Harry PotterThe HobbitAlice in Wonderland, and so many many more.  They break rules, some break every modern rule.  Bill Shakespeare broke the rules, his contemporaries did not; who do we remember?  Ms Rowling was writing in a “dead genre”, among other “writing faux pas”; who is the best selling author of all time (no Bible comments, please)?

Don’t take thou shalt and thou shalt not from any author, even the most successful ones.  First off, Stephen King said to avoid adverbs, not to never use them; he uses them.  Thing is, it makes a kind of sense for the pacing and tone of his books, but that’d be horrid advice for Lawrence Block to follow.

I mean “thou shalt write thine own damned book” and “thou shalt finish what thou starts” and “once it’s bloody finished, bloody publish it” and so forth, those are fine.  “Thou shalt find thine own voice/style”, etc. this is good.  Absolutes suck, but “absolutes” are good reminders that we’re creating art.  We’re not building and designing nuclear reactors here, there is no precise science to follow; this is art, it’s all about imperfections, experimentation, creativity, and doing whatever.  Well, unless you’re trying to put out a cheap dime pulp in a hurry that’s deliberately formulaic and such … but that’s a complete other kettle of popcorn.

You must do X, Y, Z before you can write your novel / [blah blah blah] pay your dues …

I don’t know where to begin with this one.  It’s just not true on many levels.

  1. Some people just don’t write short fiction
  2. The “examples” usually given weren’t people following a deliberate career path, they were coincidences (and if you’ll notice it’s generally the same list of specific, mostly, old scifi authors.) and leaves out the numerous examples of people who are just as famous or more-so who didn’t go this route.
  3. There’s not really a short fiction market anymore.  Well, self-published, but not a “professional” short market.
  4. That “gotta write a million words” or whatever it was, wasn’t meant to be literal gospel truth and it certainly wasn’t thinking just write a million words of pure drivel.  You must always be aiming for quality and somewhere in there will be mistakes and pitfalls from which we learn and grow.  Read all of Sir Terry Pratchett‘s work from earliest to final (moment of sadness) and you’ll see it.  Heinlein, Asimov, Dickens … you see it if you look at someone with a long enough career.  Some start to lose their touch and so the opposite can become true as well.

In simple, and as always, to be blunt:  go ye forth and write, finish what you write (unless it really is garbage, but get at least a second if not twenty-fifth opinion on that subject before genuinely trashing it), find a means to get it to the world.  That’s the only sure-fire formula for success.  Everything else is superstition.

Love wins!

Oh my gods!

In all sincerity it has taken this long to convince myself I’m not dreaming … I got a text from a rights group that announced the decision the moment it was given, but … wow.

I expect, once it’s sunk in, I shall have more to say in days to come but right now I’m too overwhelmed.  Also I’m busy baking in a daily hell of record breaking GEORGIA summer highs.  110°F in the shade is terrible for cognitive thought and/or creativity (which potentially explains a great deal about the deep south).

Congrats to all the newlywed couples out there and all the ones whose marriages have been properly accepted and respected by the laws of our supposedly free nation.

Thoughts about Caitlyn Jenner

Well, by now I’m sure a lot of people are aware that the person formerly known to the world as one Mr Bruce Jenner is to be known as Ms Caitlyn Jenner.

Bravo.

Sincerely. I mean, why not?

Is it her fault she’s someone people have heard of? (I hadn’t until this whole trans suspicion business began in the past months, but I’m still trying to figure out who the Karadashians are and why anyone cares … seriously, I don’t know this) No, so the trans people upset the media is giving her attention … target it at the media, not her.

BUT I would like to point out:

  1. Ms Cox got all this attention first, so a win for racial trans visibility, yes?
  2. She’s apparently a well respected athelete and celebrity. This is great. You can’t deny things took a turn for the better when Ellen & Neil Patrick Harris both came out: people find it hard to support laws that create suffering for such beloved people.
  3. At this point any positive visibility is good visibility.  First Time, then … was it GQ with that trans hunk recently (sorry his name escapes me so Googling very unhelpful) was in/on … now Vanity Fair?!  Fingers crossed to see one of our gorgeous trans sisters in Playboy (now wouldn’t that be a serious acceptance win!)

In other countries maybe you can change people’s minds with reason and politics.  In America, though, you change it with pop culture and celebrity.  No one cares about the Supreme Court case, they care what Kanye West had on his Wheaties.  They care about the equality cases if it affects them, if they think it affects them (yes, I’m looking at you religious right), or if a beloved celeb cares.  So by a reversal:  Ellen cares and so does Mr Takei so millions of people do care.

It is a good idea to fight this creepy obsession that the US has with its celebrities, but that’s a separate battle.  In the mean time it is a tool to be embraced.  Misses Jenner, Cox, Mock, et al help just by being people that give us a face.  

Should the media be paying more attention to wars, political corruption, LGBT+ discrimination, etc?  Of course!  But they won’t.  CNN once upon a time would have hardly spent 5 minutes of their loop on Caitlyn, yesterday she was 95% of 2hrs broadcast.  

These are our vessels to make things better.  Can’t get the conversation onto homelessness in LGBT youth?  Let one of them bring that up (thank you for that Ms Cox).  Or let the public opinion shift by their visibility breaking down people’s perceptions and this reducing the discrimination that leads to those ugly numbers.  As far as I’ve noticed watching the stats, the more gay/lesbian celebrities who’re out the lower the ugly homosexuality stats get.  Are they great?  No!  Better just means not as terrible as last time.

So, yes, I applaud her.  I shake my head at the news for their treatment of her – especially the disrespect from conservative news – but more than that I hang my head for the LGBT disrespect she got.  Wealth makes the cosmetic stuff easier, but it doesn’t mean her struggle with herself was any less real or hard than for anyone else … her celebrity status could even have made that worse.  Let her be welcomed with a lovely photoshoot and some news coverage, be happy for her, then move on with important matters afterward and with a new name on the list of faces with a certain power that may be the crucial leverage to enact some change.

Oh, now this is just insulting

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 08.54.53

Seriously? I mean, they couldn’t have tried even a little harder?!

Mens’ clothes?  Me?!  And Ralph Lauren at that?!  I’m a hippie chick, damnit, Mx Spammer.  Sheesh!

Okay, to be fair I do have a Ralph Lauren sweater I picked up for like $4 at a thrift shop once that I rather like because it’s big and comfortable and warm that I didn’t even realise was RL until I got it home.  It caught my eye because I’m from the 80s and the pattern reminded me of some of Cliff Huxtable’s tamer sweaters.

Puppies …

No, I’m not doing a post about young canines.  I wish I were, actually; instead I shall be venting some steam on a matter.

I know I write romances, but I’m also a fan of speculative fiction.  This means I tend to be somewhat aware of what’s going on around the matters of WorldCon and the Hugo awards.

For those of my readers (is it pretentious to actually think of anyone who follows this blog or reads my books as “fans”?) who don’t keep up with the SF/F universe this post might not interest you, but you may wish to keep reading anyway if you like reality TV a la Jerry Springer and … buggered if I know, I really haven’t watched TV since 2002 in any capacity that is worth considering.

Oh my gods, where to begin?  Look, if you keep up with this stuff can I assume you’re familiar with the vitriolic, misogynistic, sociopathic troll who calls himself Vox Day?  (No, seriously, this is me being my usual sunny and kind, sweet self … if I weren’t I’m pretty sure I’d have to resort to Russian and German as English lacks the requisite vocabulary to voice my thoughts)  Is it also safe to assume that you’re marginally familiar with the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies?

If not, you can get a really awesome education about them on the blogs of Messrs John Scalzi and George R R Martin.

I just want to chime in with this:  What the fuck guys?!  I mean, seriously?!

There.  Okay, first off, you really spoil your arguments when you can’t keep your story straight from one day to the next.  It doesn’t.  If it’s about diversity in the genre, then stick with that and when it’s pointed out that you’re idiots because Exhibit A, B, C, D … QQ, RR … ZZ1ZZ4%3ERT, etc then just sit down and shut up.

Do not, instead, decide that it’s about bringing back the good ol’ adventure yarn in place of “message fic” (also do not knock “message fic” while it is possible to witness the orgasmic pleasure you derive by merely typing the name Robert A Heinlein, it REALLY spoils your point), but then start bitching that things don’t qualify when numerous items are pointed out, but those items just happen to have females who play a role other than damsel in distress (Uh, one word for you, buddies, little thing you probably never heard of from the early 20th century Triplanetary … she wasn’t a damsel in distress), characters who incidentally are gay or trans or black or fuchsia or vegetarian or ¼ amphibian … If you’re trying to claim you aren’t over-privileged, white-supremacist, homophobic, transphobic, etc it’d help if you didn’t call things that are exactly the old-fashioned classic adventure yarn you claim to want “message fic about gay issues [for example]” just because a character is gay.  Trust me, there’s a difference between a character being gay and a story dealing with gay issues.  My stories touch on gay issues, they aren’t strictly about them, and in SF/F there frequently is the conceit that the society has no gay issues in the first place (some of the talented Ed Greenwood‘s work, for example).

Just … no.  The whole thing?  You can’t have a secret cabal of 8000 people dictating an award you can’t even make up your mind if it is relevant & important or not.  You certainly can’t say various different authors giving non-identical lists of books they liked which number more items than can be Hugo finalists are setting up the ballots and then turn around and create slates of specific items that should be nominated and voted into certain orders.  No.  Just, are you people serious?  Also, you’re authors, have you ever heard of using capital letters?  What are you all … was it Hemmingway who never touched his shift key? [Edit:  Apparently that’s E E Cumming, either way no one I liked trying to read]

Of course these clowns won’t read my post.  It’d be funny if they did, not.  First off, I’m a woman, so they wouldn’t take this seriously, they’d just leave trollish comments that I wouldn’t bother to approve unless they’ve started leaving more intelligent comments than the last ones I saw elsewhere.  I’m trans, so they’d have terrible things to say which would probably make me cry and then my wife would be in jail for murder because she lacks the requisite subtlety (especially when angry) to make sure the case is of “a missing person presumed dead” instead.  Oh, and I’m a lesbian, and they’re pretty ugly about that too.  And I don’t write SF/F so somehow this makes my opinion about the genre I’ve loved most of my life invalid (I was born in 1981 and have a few fragments of memory of seeing Return of the Jedi in a cinema for crying out loud!).

Oh, this would be further evidence that their own arguments are invalid given that they are often so dismissive of people who are openly Other.

P.S.  Question:  If I ever were to win a Hugo, since Færie Patrol books would qualify for it even if the genre rarely gets any attention at WorldCon … would it be wrong of me to make some kind of off colour joke about the trophy and its profound resemblance to a sex toy?  Something like “Cool … are batteries included?  Where’re the speed controls?” 😇