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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?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Reminder to Vote)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?  

I'm flipping the order of operations between tomorrow and today–today will be the poll and tomorrow will be Evil Chris's survival guide to week three of NaNoWriMo. The reason for this change is three and loves Death Star jelly bean dispensers. Also I'm going to weep bitter tears when N.K. Jemisin doesn't make it to the finals (as it seems they won't), so if you see me on the streets, have pity. I am going through the only slightly imaginable. However, such is not under my control. *sigh* 

There are only four days left to vote. On Saturday I will post the results of this poll and put up the final round.

I know some people won't read this before they look at the choices and make a comment on Facebook, but please consider that 1) this is only half the titles in the semifinal round ("Oh my god how could Harry Potter not make it????" It did. It was in the first semifinal and will be going on to the finals.), 2) there were rules that disqualified titles that came out before 1992 ("Why isn't Wheel of Time on here?" Because it's not modern according to the definition of this poll.), and 3) there have been twelve rounds getting to here and that was after the epic-est nominations process I've ever seen, and much like N.K. Jemisin's unlikelihood of making it to the finals, I controlled literally NONE OF IT. My readers made all the decisions, so if a title got voted off the island or never got nominated, acting like it is a crime to the genre might make you look a little foolish.

Don't forget you get three (3) votes, but that there is no ranking, so using as few votes as possible is better.

The poll itself is in the lower left at the bottom of the side menus.

I'm told if you're on mobile you have to click "webpage view" then scroll alllllllllll the way to the bottom, you can find the poll.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Metacular (Personal and Meta Update)

I'm sure at one point I had a reason for looking this ridiculous.
A post on Monday? Whaaaaaaaat?

Actually it's just a preview to let you know what's going on. This week is a major holiday and our update schedule might look a little screwy. You know I can't get the staff to even come in on a bank holiday. Even if I offer them double-time, they say something like: "So, you're going to give us TWO coupons for half off DippenDots with the purchase of a value meal."

And they say it in that way that means it's totally the end of the conversation, so I'm not really sure.

Sci Guy wants to install a buttload of tracking software so we can definitively figure out what's going on with Evil Mystery Blogger by logging keystrokes or something, but it's a huge endeavor and he needs the entire building offline. I'm sure he's not just wanting the power reserves to do experiments to bring his dead girlfriend over from timelines where she didn't die because nothing weird ever happens here at Writing About Writing when we go on break for a few days. We also have a bit of freelance hero work happening Tuesday (rather than the usual Monday schedule for that sort of thing).

Anyway the point is, I'm going to take the opportunity to do something of a MASSIVE admin overhaul in the next week. Everything from figuring out the future of guest blogging to an Inside Scoop e-mail to a catch up on all the menus that have fallen into decay. And I'd love to get some full force sessions in with my fiction now that life is not a screaming tire fire.

And hey...I might even take a moment to have some good food with friends and family in my ritual sacrifice with pie.

There should still be a really real post for tomorrow (Evil Chris assures me) and some of our Best Modern Fantasy Poll business will go up on Wed. [Edit: It looks like I'm going to have to flip the rollout schedule on these two days, but all the same posts will go up.] But then we need to take the blog offline until Tuesday. If things go very well, we might fire it back up by Sunday, but we'll be back to taking Mondays off next week.

Now there's a D&D article I've been threatening, and I think it's going to be ready this week, but I've changed my mind about posting it this week. I'm overdue to give my patrons an early access post, and I'm going to let them have it for a few days.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

On Holidays, Flossing, and Writing

I stumbled into a metaphor not too long ago that resonated with me and has been packed into the top tier of my writing platitudes toolbox ever since. I share it now because my article about what Dungeons and Dragons taught me about writing will have to wait until at least tomorrow. And that's because frankly I needed a damned day off. (Uh.....other than this, I guess.)

I was having my teeth cleaned after a particularly busy period of my life. (Funny how often I seem to have those.) The dentist was remarking how good my flossing was and how good my gums were looking. This is notable because it was literally my first "Looks good. See you in six months," check up since I was a child. Usually I have to sit there and listen to how my every oral hygiene routine is actually completely wrong.

"I haven't flossed in like two weeks," I admitted anyway, wanting to absolve my guilt. I couldn't live with all those sweet golden compliments built on a turpitudinous throne of lies.  "Like maybe once or twice."

Thinking back on it, that exchange kind of reveals a lot about who I am as a person.


"It doesn't matter if you do it every single day. It doesn't even matter if you skip a few days. What matters is that you usually have the habit of doing it daily."

"Oh like writing," I said.

OH!  LIKE WRITING!!!!! I thought.

Here at Writing About Writing we're pretty staunch advocates of writing every day if you're trying to make it to The Show™. (Contented hobbyists are a whole other story.) Every writer whose name we recognize probably wrote every day or close. And while legit excuses are out there, there are few so beleaguered that they can't set aside fifteen minutes or so from Facebook or Zelda: Breath of the Wild to write for fifteen to thirty minutes.

However, as the holidays loom here in the States, it's also important for writers–particularly the kind that haven't carved out a paycheck from writing and have day jobs on top of everything else the Holiday season packs on–to remember that it's the habit they're cultivating that matters rather than whether or not they missed a couple of days here and there (or had to write a couple of paragraphs and call it good) in the days around a major event.

If you find yourself saying "I don't have to do it every day," to the mirror five days a week for six months, you might need to do a brutally honest inventory about who's fooling whom. But if you've got six hours of shopping and cooking and that's before the first guest arrives, and a boss who wants you to clear out a five day week of work in three days if you want Friday off, and the verge still needs trimming....be kind to yourselves.

Remember your writing doesn't have to be grueling hours on your work in progress. Tear someone a new asshole on a political post, redirect all that rage you have about your childhood to someone who thinks Trump isn't risking an irony fissure to the time space continuum to mock Al Franken, (or, you know, maybe send an email to Nana thanking her for the cookies if that's more your speed), and call it a day. The writing will all still be there on Monday.

It's not one day that's going to hurt your chances as a writer. It's forming that habit.

Like flossing.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Post Postponing

I mentioned this on Facebook, but I'm packing up one pet-sitting job and heading straight to another today (and the past two weeks of nannying haven't given me the time to have something mostly cobbled together already), so look for today's post this weekend.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Who Ordered The Extra Salty Mailbox (Mailbox)

It's not quite hate mail, but I'm not exactly putting up with this shit either. 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will (eventually?) answer on my weekly reply.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. I do not bother with the kid gloves if you don't sign your name.]    

Anonymous writes:

All you ever write about is writing. For five years you've been writing about writing. How much writing can be done about writing? How much longer can you keep this blog going and have it be just about writing?

My reply:

If you're not having a good time, I have a couple of suggestions for alternative activities. One might require a cloning machine, but I hear we have one of those in the basement.

Here's the deal. I have a couple of "notes" files of articles that I'm reminding myself I need to write and a lot of brainspace dedicated to future articles. A number of serial posts remain unfinished but I haven't forgotten about them or abandoned them (whether they are literary reviews of Skyrim or some of my own creative nonfiction). And there are far more entries for things like The Basics or Craft of Fiction that are yet to come. There are so many unwritten posts–so FUCKING MANY–that were I to experience some kind of trauma or injury or simply the all time mother of writer's blocks and stop generating new ideas....TODAY, it would be over three years before I finished up the backlog.

That means that if I only finish up loose ends, half written, and conceived but not yet put to pixel posts. If no one writes in a new question for the mailbox. If I don't manage to watch another movie and review it. If no news in Trump's America manages to invoke a Social Justice Bard response about narratives and sociolinguistics. If not one single new guest blogger ever steps forward. If no one tries to take a viral litsnob swipe at someone like Pratchett or JK Rowling. If I can't think of a single thing as the plot for Season 3. If I don't read a single new writing book or try out a single new thing of which I would want to do a product review. If I read no "lesser known" books that I really want to give a shout out to. If absolutely no ideas for a listicle  jumps into my head as a great idea for a post....

....at all....

....ever again.....

It'll be about 2022 before Writing About Writing closes up shop.

Frankly, I wouldn't count on that. I can get inspired watching those commercials they run at the gas stations while you're filling up.

Art and life are inseparable, and like life, you can declare that you've got it pretty much figured out or you can delight in the infinite complexities of endless variations on the themes.

A commenter writes:

How could you possibly claim to know everything there is to know about Loki's character if you missed one of the movies with him in it?

My reply:

(Dark World and Ragnorok spoilers ahead)

If only....

If only there were some sort of central repository of knowledge that we, as curious media consumers, could access with all these new fangled machines that have become so ubiquitous and we are so accustomed to.  Somewhere where someone who was watching an "Including Movies" run of Agents of Shield and couldn't get the Roku to work would be able to find some sort of synopsis of The Dark World and read about Loki's tricking everyone into thinking he's dead so he can abduct his father, usurp his power while pretending to be him, and abandon him in a situation that will eventually lead to his death noble sacrifice.

But honestly here's me looking for the place where I claimed I knew everything there is to know about Loki. Nope not there. Nope. Not there either. Are you sure I claimed that? Because I know winning arguments is a lot easier when you are arguing against claims someone never made, but there is a name for that sort of thing.

Nope. Not seeing it.
Look I know what the real crime here is. I had the temerity to evaluate Loki on a scale other than "Awesome," "Totally Awesome," or "Tragically misunderstood but nonetheless totally awesome." People really like Loki and want to put that whole murdering entire cities, slave trading, totally would have murdered that guy who didn't kneel, multiple betrayals, was-about-to-sell-bro-out-to-slavers thing behind them because he cracks wise, sometimes makes tenuous alliances, and rocks the curved horn look.

I like Loki too. I totes do. Too many villains don't have that depth and nuance and you know too well what they're going to do. I REALLY like that he brings nuances of biculturalism and "otherness" to his portrayal. His motivations are more complicated, and I think that's really cool. But while he might be on track for some very interesting MCU redemption arc action, is certainly a complicated character, absolutely OOZES charisma with Tom Hiddleston behind the wheel, and has some very interesting change-of-heart moments, he does most things most of the time mostly because they are going to help Loki to acquire power.

Anonymous writes:

As someone who's a literary major, maybe you should spell your literary references correctly. It's Chekhov, not "Chekov". 

As someone who's a literary major????  Do math majors not have to spell theater references correctly?

Oh wait. I get it. I see what's going on. I'm savvy.

This was an attempt to embarrass me because I should know better. How could I, a lit major, not have an eidetic memory with regards to the spelling of every major literary figure that I would have run across in the course of my studies. After all that's what I spent most of my four years of college doing right? It wasn't writing papers–it was spelling tests of notable figures.

It must really burn some people up when a guy like me shows up, someone whose dyslexia and ADD leads to grammar and spelling errors left and right, yet who still manages to get straight A's in his English major, gets invited to dinner with professors to discuss theses even as an undergrad, gets paid to write, and has a huge international audience.

"Why that guy doesn't even know his Jane's from his Texan cities!!! Balderdash!"

Since we're in the catty zone though, "Lit" stands for literaTURE major. Literary is an adjective. A "literary major" would be a high ranking officer in the army's book reading brigade. Also if you were paying attention instead of just giving your red pen a workout, you might have noticed that I was a Creative Writing Major so clearly I am simply lost without an editor. Though really, at the undergrad level, there's a lot of overlap, and they're all just English majors with various emphases. I still wrote rings around most of those lit majors though. Even if I misspelled some names along the way. Oh yes.

Because at the end of the day I can fix my Chekhovian flaws with two presses of a button (thanks Bee Tee Dubs), but confronting the sort of snide elitism that'll make someone try to shame a writer because their autocorrect recognizes Star Trek will take a bit more effort.