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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Poll Results Best Contemporary Fantasy Book (or Series) Semifinal 1


Text results below.

Auspicious timing! The flip between the two semifinals (with all its admin posts taking up so many days worth of space) happened right when I was having a doozy of a time at job two. Monday I stayed late, slept over, and Tuesday I woke to do the "early" shift. By the time I woke up on Wednesday, I had already worked 30 hours this week. And I still had to work Wed and Thurs (just not as much). So I'm just now showing signs of recovering from it all. But honestly I'm happy to be able to have a few days where what I need to do is post vote reminders, results, and then the new poll. 

However, I AM OFFICIALLY ON QUARANTINICATION! (Gotta quarantine after a dental appointment for a week so I don't take The Rona™ back to immunocompromised clients, but work's been so busy during Sh.I.P. that it's actually a sweet, sweet break.) So this coming week should give me some good writing time.

Thank you all so much for voting. I can't say I'm too surprised so far, but maybe round two or the finals will toss a loop or three at me.


Ghost Story - Peace Talks - J. Butcher 98 39.52%
Inheritance Trilogy - N.K. Jemisin 57 22.98%
Circe - M. Miller 29 11.69%
First Law - J. Abercrombie 23 9.27%
The Starless Sea - E. Morgenstern 19 7.66%
The Poppy War/The Dragon Republic - R.F. Kuang 15 6.05%
Sorcerer to the Crown - Z. Cho 7 2.82%






Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Best Contemporary Fantasy (Reminder to Vote) [Semifinal 1]

What is the very best fantasy book (or series) written between after 2010.

Don't forget to vote! Your nominations have formed our poll, and now it's time to make your voices heard. Between needing to get this poll wrapped up and another brutal week at my other job, I'm going to be following the results close on the heels of this last reminder, so you only have one more day to get your opinions locked in for which titles go on to the finals.

And please....before you complain about what's NOT on here, remember that this is a semifinal, so there's an equal number of selections that you haven't seen yet.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. Use them....wisely.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." If you are on mobile you can pick "webpage view" and scroll down. Otherwise (or if you're having other trouble finding it), just use this link https://poll.fm/10571119

Friday, June 26, 2020

Why Are You So Hard on Yourself? (6 Lessons for the Would-Be Working Writer)

One of the most common questions I'm asked by friends, loved ones, folks who follow my Facebook, my Patrons sometimes, and those of you here who pay closeish attention to the meta of my writing life is why I am so hard on myself. Why do I write so much? Why am I constantly pushing myself, even in the midst of global pandemics, to be more prolific? Why do I worry about my "productivity" when that is a capitalist construct? Why?

These questions have ramped up during Covid and the Shelter In Place rules as I've dealt with a particularly fractured attention span, incredible difficulty writing full articles day after day, and the guilt associated with falling behind on the pace that I usually expect of myself.

These are valid questions. They're worth answering. Let me get my pen. (By which, of course, I mean I shall continue typing on my computer.)

However, before we proceed to the unpacking, I want to share another common theme of questions I get EVEN MORE than the questions above. In fact, other than "Is anyone sitting here?", this (these) are the questions I get the most from strangers. It is also overwhelmingly the most common question I get from folks who like my blog but don't really follow it. From friends who know I'm a writer, but don't pay attention to my work. From any audience I sit in front of, no matter what I'm there to talk about. And from aaaaaaaalmost any aspiring writer who finds out that I scrape out a paycheck from writing upon which I could live if I didn't insist on living in the Bay Area and eating brand name frozen waffles. These questions go like this: "How did you make it as a writer?" "How can I make it as a writer?" "What did you do to break in?" "How have you managed to make writing your job?" 

And while one of my ongoing struggles is threading the needle between self-care and pushing myself, and while I absolutely don't want to make light of workaholism so severe that if I'm not paying attention, it will approach self-harm levels, I do not believe for an instant that these two things are unrelated. Keep this in mind going forward. Because it's important to understand that when I give myself a hard time and apologize and promise to do better, I'm only OSTENSIBLY doing so to my patrons. 

It's really me I'm talking to. It's really that driving passion of an artist to create. That part that has nothing at all to do with "productivity as a capitalist construct" and everything to do with "I must keep creating like a shark has to keep swimming."

People being too hard on themselves is a problem. (And believe me, my doctor told me I was going to kill myself from heart disease if I didn't start seeing it AS a problem.) Unrealistic expectations hurt our self-esteem when we're NOT enduring a collective cultural trauma. We have to be kind to ourselves. We have to self-care. We have to manage our expectations. 

But also a problem is basically giving oneself a pass. ("Eh, collective trauma. Whatryagonnado?" "Capitalism is a scam. Whatryagonnado?") Believing one's own bullshit. Buying one's own excuses. Avoiding work because "self-care." Wondering why one is not a published author after years––YEARS––of writing two or even three times every month. 

I think most people struggling with "the air/fuel mixture" are being way, way, WAY nicer to themselves than will get them to their hopes and dreams, and that the people with careers folks want to emulate almost always have "overdoing it....at least a little" in common.
There's a needle that needs threading, and I'm not saying I'm threading it, but I know it's there. 

Lesson #1- If you have goals, you can't be too easy on yourself. You may have to put in some long hours and weekends when you're still working a day job and writing.

Okay, now onto the response.....

FIRST OF ALL, YOU'RE GODDAMNED RIGHT.  

I work too much. I have a few of.....let's call them "issues" that surround writing.

One of them is that I love it, so I hardly think of it as working. (Or it involves being online which I consider "fucking off," so even though it's work directly related to maintaining a Facebook page or networking, it clocks on my internal odometer as "wasted time.") This creates problems when I wake up, write for five or six hours and then go to my second job where I nanny children for five or six hours. Problems like......I come home and wonder why I'm so tired or why a "part time" day kicked my ass so hard.

You're probably already thinking, "But Chris, that's a 10-12 hour day."

Congratulations, dear reader, you are already making better life choices than I usually do.

Lesson #2- Don't be like Chris. (He needs to turn it down from 11 and learn to have some fucking chill.)

Another problem that works against me is how often I forget the little things. I sometimes spend an hour writing a Facebook post reacting to a news article or just trying to frame something so that maybe––just maybe––my fellow white dudes might GET it. Often I fall into the trap of considering that "fucking off on Facebook" and not "buckling down and doing some 'real' writing." 

I also get really stuck in the idea that only certain topics COUNT. I have several totally-FINISHED articles that I could put. And I mean I have dozens of them and they are absolutely final-draft finished. I could put them up for weeks while I let incredibly well-paid fruit dispensers feed me grapes on a beach (right now, from six feet away with a grape launcher). I would enjoy the impossibly white sand and implausibly sapphire water. But I worry that those articles don't "count" towards what people want to see because they are too focused on politics or too rooted in a culture war issue like guns or too this or too that. So I trickle them in when I feel like I've done "enough" on the other writing that I believe people are tuning in for. Which, of course, is a goal that I almost never hit: "enough." And that means all that writing effort is just sitting in the wings as I turn around and write something else that "counts."

Lesson #3- It's really easy to get a sense of "Give the audience what they want" and "Keep them coming back for more" and lose a sense of what YOU want to be doing as an artist. Especially if you're right on the edge between making enough and not.

As if all that weren't enough, I also suffer from the very common, very-normal-for-artists imposter syndrome, and I tend to believe that if I'm not writing "enough," people will see through me. So while I have tons of "filler" posts I could drop or more fun things I could do like check in on the "WAW Staff" ––and perhaps most importantly, IT IS STUFF I REALLY WANT TO BE WRITING––I feel like writing little posts like this wouldn't "count," and people would see through me, and become disenchanted. So I tend to believe I've "earned" these more fun and frivolous posts after I've knocked some good ones out of the park. 

Again with the "enough."

So the first thing I have to do is cop to this accusation of "working too hard." You're right. I work too much. I'm too hard on myself, probably when I don't need to be. Between my personal insecurities, financial insecurities, and artistic insecurities, I am absolutely constantly trying to "prove myself."

Lesson #4- Writing is work. Even if you enjoy it. Promotion is work. Networking is work. Its ease compared to nannying two kids doesn't make it NOT work.


BUT....

YOU MAY NOT CARE (AND FUCK, I LOVE YOU FOR IT), BUT SOME DO

When I have a bad month––and by that I don't mean a month where my fee-fees get repeatedly hurt by cute girls who stop texting me, I mean a month of low productivity––I lose patrons. I might not lose all of them, and let me take a moment to clearly shout from the rooftops that those who are patient while my productivity goes down are wonderful. 

But some do go. 

And sometimes the exit "interviews" they fill out even say shit like, "You don't update enough for me to pay for this" or "You were writing more when I signed up."

Sometimes they tell me my politics suck and I'm the real bigot, and I think, "How did you even end up here?" but that's probably off topic for this article.

Now, before you clutch your pearls, I should nuancify this. Most people who cancel or lower their monthly contribution clearly do so because of their financial situation. They sometimes tell me or leave a note or fill out the exit interview with apologies (which I should take a moment to say here, as someone on a shoestring budget, I totally understand). Still....some definitely have a thing or three to say about how they've ALSO noticed I'm having a bad month.

And all that and $2.19+tax would buy me a single serving bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. By which I mean that people do leave. And maybe they just have a coming-to-budget moment when they notice they haven't seen a good article in a while, or maybe they just don't want to hurt my feelings so they make something up, but a shitty month correlates pretty reliably with me losing around 5% of my income. And believe it or not, if I have two bad months in a row, that pay cut happens again.

I don't know what your life and paycheck look like, but you probably wouldn't want to go too easy on yourself if you knew it were going to mean a pay cut every month.

Lesson #5- Most patrons will support artists through some tough times. Some won't. Unless you can afford to lose the ones that won't, don't go TOO easy on yourself.


I WOULDN'T HAVE LAURELS TO REST ON (EVEN FOR A MOMENT––EVEN IN A GLOBAL PANDEMIC) IF I HADN'T WORKED THIS HARD.

The reason I'm where I am, with hundreds of patrons telling me to chill the fuck out and take care of myself, is not because I spent the last eight years tossing up a couple of good posts a month. These folks know I'll be "back" (probably with a trilogy, two hundred articles, and some sort of beard) in a fan-fucking-tastic year of productive utopia because I have established a credibility as a prolific writer (and a massive body of works). I wouldn't be making enough to (barely) scrape by if I had given myself a day off every time I wanted one. (Although I probably should have been a little kinder to myself on at least a FEW occasions. See above.)  I wouldn't have the patrons who DO have faith in me during my slow times if I didn't have a well-established reputation. Frankly, I wouldn't be making as much if I wrote significantly less.

Lesson #6- There's a LOT of content between you and a robust patronage who will have patience through your difficult times.

I know it's shitty to realize that you probably won't establish a writing career if you don't overdo it at LEAST a little, and everyone has to find their own peace with that and their personal strategy for surviving capitalism. Probably most people you ever knew who were fantastically good at something overdid it a little. Had long days. Worked weekends. Gave it more gas than the folks who wanted a functional work/life balance and a robust set of complementary priorities. And while you absolutely want to make sure you know that writing (or art of any kind) is work even when it feels like it isn't, and that you factor in enough self-care to safeguard your health both physical and mental, you also have to understand that you are your own "boss" when it comes to writing, and your ambitions are directly tied to just one fucking metric asston of hard work. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Facebook Gems From the Top of June


What can I say?
My windswept look brings 
all the reacts to the FB yard.
Just a reminder. The world being what it is right now, some of my usual focus has been fractured and I'm doing a bit more writing than I normally do on my public Facebook page in more "bite-sized" chunks. 

I've decided to bundle those posts twice a month to help pad some of my flagging blog content. 

The U.S. has justified the absolute "necessity" of being in an official armed conflict for 222 out of 239 years of its history as a country, was founded on the genocide of the natives living here and built with brutality and violent slavery, actively brutalizes its non-ruling ethnic groups (BIPOC), and has enshrined the right of every single citizen to own a lethal, long-range, semi-automatic weapon, but its ruling ethnic group (white people) will absolutely stand there with a straight face and tell marginalized folks that violence never solves anything.


I keep hearing the voice of my mother speaking out to white people with that tone she always used when she would ask me what it was **I** did to make the dog bite me or the cat scratch me.

"Well, maybe next time you'll THINK about that before you uphold white supremacy for four hundred years."




Could there be a moment more emblematic of the modern Republican party and its leader than calling for a violent suppression of one's own people while brutally dispersing a crowd who are protesting racial injustice so you can go to a special fancy church with lots of opulence in order to be seen doing a high profile photo-op with a Bible that actually proscribes literally everything you just did....and then not noticing that you're holding it upside down.



The protests are too soon to see a spike in Covid-19 cases. Especially as early as a couple of days ago when the claims started rolling in.

What's NOT too soon to account for that spike is the initial start of the cases from Memorial Day. When all those fucking states that just HAD to reopen because not going to Chili's for dinner or a beach party is tyranny.

Now go look at the state-by-state breakdown and compare that with the cities that had protests. I'll wait.



I apologize for snorting derisively at the folks who had "3rd Amendment Struggle" on their 2020 Bingo cards.



Here is a really good story that is emblematic of the reason that the further left you go, the more the rhetoric isn't willing to consider the family member you think is a good person or the occasional moral actors as a counterpoint to the unethical system all police participate in (and the unethical laws all police uphold).

Here's a protester in his seventies who was pushed down and harmed, and while he bled, they walked past him. Then all those police in this photo (basically) closed ranks, lied, and said that he tripped. Like ALL of them participated in that deception (and if one of them had told the truth, that would have been the person who got fired, censured, possibly attacked by fellow officers). The official report was "tripped and fell." Until......it turned out someone was filming and, oh look, he didn't trip after all, but was pushed.

Then when the two people who pushed him got a suspension, 57 officers (that's the ENTIRE BPD emergency response team if you didn't know) closed ranks even further on the A-Brutality B-Brutality that they KNEW was brutality because they knew they needed to lie about it. C-The LIE about the brutality and D-Consequences for the officers involved in the brutality by simply quitting.

So, somehow, not one of BPD's 57 emergency responders saw ANYTHING wrong with anything that happened.......except of course for the consequences.

This is systemic. This is an unethical system that is designed to lie to protect itself even when it knows it's doing wrong. And will further ask and give solidarity to those who behave unethically.

And it's not like you have to look far to find a zillion examples of this Thin Blue Line™ shit. How many officers must know they work with a white supremacist or someone who has control or anger issues and say nothing because that's the culture. How many would actually be penalized if they did bring it up these concerns because that is the culture?

THAT is why people want to focus on the unethical system and do not consider your Uncle Bob, your really not-so-bad cop family member, to be a "checkmate" counterpoint to that examination. The actually good cops who would speak out, report, tell the truth, or support consequences for officers behaving badly all got fired during their first month. And what is left is a system that is rotting to its core, and might need more than just a few "tough reforms."



This is a collection of pictures/comics/tweets/memes that draw attention to how problematic "ALL lives matter" can be.  https://www.facebook.com/chris.brecharge/posts/3154887584531802



I've seen this in action. It really works.

That this works at all is really all you need to know about white privilege, the "no choice" the police have, and about a dozen narratives that come up around civil unrest.

That it works SO well should slap people advancing these narratives across the face, and the fact that it doesn't means they don't WANT to understand.







A lot of people are gobsmacked that I make money writing (enough to do it outside a lot of major metropolitan areas without a side gig), but when I drill down, I find them extremely reluctant to take small steps. They want to one-and-done their career. Even when I explain that the process of getting to this income has taken me seven years where I (very) gradually phased out my day jobs, they still talk about selling their book and just BEING a working writer. BAM! And the one thing that seems to set most modern working authors apart––even a lot of the insta-success stories that sort of gloss over the years of work before "the phone call"––is their willingness to do a lot of work even to achieve baby steps.

Check in on the folks who couldn't be bothered with slow progress ten years later, and they're STILL retooling that one novel and looking for their big break and unwilling to make cell phone bill money with crowdfunding or try to write a short story for a $500 prize.

I think there's an extremely elegant metaphor there for a lot of different situations, personal, professional, and political. Hail Mary's do happen (especially if you've trained all your life to throw and/or receive them), but if your goal is the endzone, you're going to fail way more than you don't (and lose pmuch all your "games") if you are too good to work the ball down the field with some smaller plays because that's not "enough" progress to satisfy you.



I gotta tell you, that the entire police response to their brutality is a "how dare you hold us accountable," escalation is some classic abusive shit, and if you look at it through that lens, the taking-a-knee and the giving ice cream cones to kids and shit fits a much more sensical broader pattern than the idea that only a few of them are bad and the head scratching as to how it keeps happening.




Playing D&D online through Roll 20.

Literally ALL of my "Sponsored" posts just became Dungeon, the video game.

Facebook, if you're going to listen THIS goddamned close, here's what I really want: send me a cute geek who likes pizza, video games, social justice, intersectional feminism, horror and/or sci-fi genre, Star Trek, A:TLA, reading, and the various franchises on Disney Plus, plz. Also who is really ready to add ONE person to their Shelter In Place options. 

Bonus points for severe cuties.



"He was probably a terrorist."

That's what this amounts to.

Days after declaring the decentralized non-organized group of just about everyone opposed to fascism in anything more than a non-committal root-for-the-allies-during-WWII-movies-kind-of-way to be a “terrorist organization,” he then offers an explanation clearly not the reality that anyone saw.

And no one will believe him, but a few people will "believe" him. And moderates (and no small number of liberals) will get caught up in "proofs" and analysis and the ARGUMENT even though it's clearly, obviously a post-hoc lie.

And all the while they are quibbling over what "provocateur" means, or how a 75-year-old man would even be able to fling himself with perfect timing at the ground when (actually) pushed in order to accelerate his fall, or psychoanalyzing whether or not Trump himself wrote provocateur correctly when he can't spell hamburger or coffee, or examining video to show people that it was a helmet Gugino was holding, the bigger picture gets glossed over that the head of the executive branch is Tweet-exonerating police brutality, lies about that police brutality, and the grotesque rank-closing that police everywhere have participated in to basically say, "We ARE the law."

By naming a very vague group a terrorist organization, his insinuation (which could apply to almost anyone who strongly dislikes him) that someone is a member of this group then justifies anything that happens to them.

THAT--not whether he's technically right about provocateur, or if Gugino was messing with police scanners, or if it was "really" him Tweeting––is what should scare the fucking SHIT out of people.

The President is now essentially modeling to his pissed off militarized enforcers how to get away with anything––even murder.

"Could have been ANTIFA."

*shrugs* "He was probably a terrorist."


RISE UP!!


"How would we even DO that?" asked the society that had spent the last forty years defunding literally everything else.



Me: You know it fits into CLASSIC abuse patterns to get mad and escalate at the people who are calling you out for your brutality. It's like....page one of the abusive tactics handbook.

Police: Fine, we'll just leave. You'll be lost without us. You'll never make it alone.

Me: Okay....so.....moving on to page TWO....




Person on my Facebook Page: Please ban me if you're going to be all political.

Me: K



Woke up, fell out of bed
Bunch of transphobes in my thread
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup (tea)
And banned all their asses even if it made me late

Shook-KA Shook-KA Shook-KA




Part of being a good ally––perhaps the most important part––is listening to marginalized communities tell you that something is a problem instead of informing them that you've decided it isn't.



Folks (usually white dudes) who pride themselves on being surrounded with lots of diametrically opposed opinions and being oh so willing to ENGAGE in the marketplace of ideas over and over and over and over (no matter how much the underlying premise of some of these conversations hurts anyone watching said conversation like, say, their OTHER friends on social media watching their humanity be the subject of an intellectual debate) should really make an effort to understand how the SQiD (Status Quo Defender™) works.

See, your average SQiD never changes. They begin every "debate" with "Prove to me that is even a problem." They attack expertise. They propose ludicrous narratives that rationalize clear-as-day statistics. They argue from bad faith. ANYTHING that would require them to believe that their current world view is anything but utterly unimpeachable must be countered. And if you should ever incontrovertibly "win" such a debate, you will find they often have to depart suddenly. And whether they quit or stay and get trounced (rare), in the end they announce that it has been very stimulating and thank you as if you just had a vigorous martial-arts sparring match with them. Then they must go, but appreciate the discussion. (At least as long as you never got "emotional.")

Then it happens.

The next time you run into them to discuss that issue again they have returned to initial positions like it's a new chess match and not a growth process, which is exactly what they see "debate" as. So they do their favorite opening move: "Prove to me that is even a problem."

And since they never move their "square one," those willing to have that conversation with them ad nauseam are engaged in an endless tango.

If you don't learn that actually there are SOME conversations that are absolutely NOT worth having, you will be quagmired there forever as the Status Quo marches on.

I'd say this is white supremacy TBH.
Privilege means never having to think about it
so long as you steer clear of those pesky "SJWs" on social media



This is a number of images about what it would actually look like if we slowly defunded the police.  https://www.facebook.com/chris.brecharge/posts/3152257644794796




Someone from my Facebook Page: Can we not have posts like this one?

Me: Absolutely. I'll make sure you never see another one.




Just so you know, between having a relatively easy and non-fatal bout of Covid-19 and wearing a mask, I can absolutely tell you that being sick with 104 fever and the chills, coughing up the lava that it feels like is in the bottom of your lungs so frequently that your throat is aching and raw, being completely unable to move for several days, and having to ride out a full-on quarantine for a full week after your last symptom goes away....

....is way more inconvenient than the mask.




Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Best Contemporary Fantasy Book (or series) SEMIFINAL 1

What is the very best fantasy book (or series) written after 2010?

Our latest poll is live!  Come vote!  

Our poll was pulled from your nominations, and now you get to decide which ones will go on to the final round. There weren't a ton of nominations, so this time I took everything that got a even one second.

Let me just make ONE caveat. This poll is about BOOKS. It's about writing. If you are dying to see The Kingkiller Chronicles turned into a movie, but find the books a little slow, you shouldn't be voting for The Wise Man's Fear.

I'm pretty sure I know how this poll is going to go, at least until the final round, but sometimes y'all surprise the crap out of me. Also yes, someone clearly "technically" followed the rules to get The Dresden Files series nominated. I Spock eyebrowed it, but I do sort of encourage shenanigans. 

The actual poll is on the left hand side at the bottom, beneath the "About The Author" section. Mobile viewers will have to go aaaaaaall to the very bottom of their page and switch to "Webview" in order to access the poll.

IF YOU CANNOT SEE THE POLL- You are part of a small but non-zero group. The free polling app I use recently changed hands and there appear to be some growing pains.  The following link should work for you:   https://poll.fm/10571119

Everyone will get three (3) votes. 

There is no way to do ranked choice voting, so please consider that every vote beyond the first "dilutes" the power of your initial vote and use as few as you can stand to use.