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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?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hacked!

We apologize for the inconvenience, but Writing About Writing has been hacked by an evil mystery blogger for a second time.  They piggy backed their pernicious lies off our regular transmission despite every effort The SciGuy took to keep internet security.  (Frankly, he's been messing a little too hard with time/space continuum stuff in an effort to bring back a dead guest blogger, and not paying enough attention to his job of security.)

The SciGuy assures me that the best way to find the vulnerability in our security codes is to shut the whole system down and let him go through it line by line.  That means that Writing About Writing will have to be offline for a few days.  I promise that this is totally about an evil mystery blogger, and in no way is because Non-WAW Chris is headed to Burning Man for the next five days.  That's just ridiculous.

In the mean time, we will leave the poll for BEST stand alone Fantasy novel up for people to vote on since there are still a few votes coming in each day, and we should be back in business on Monday or Tuesday depending on the exodus traffic from the festival uh...how long it takes The SciGuy to find the code that was exploited.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The (Worst) Best Advice About How to Be a Famous Writer

When I start finding that writing feels too much like work,
I stop writing and be awesome instead.
A collection of the absolute worst the most totally fucking amaziballs epic advice you will ever hear that will have you hobnobbing with King, Brown, Myers, and Rowling in less time than it takes Lindsy Lohan to make poor life choices.

Dear Hopeful Writer,

Are you tired of being told to "write a lot" and "read a lot" and the dreadfully cliche "write every day," when you absolutely know that there is actually just a totally metal secret to becoming a world famous author without doing a lot of work?  Well, I'm here to tell you that not only are you right, but I know the secret, and I'm willing to share it.  (Because the cabal of successful writers who would kill me, don't know who I really am.) Success comes before work--not just in the dictionary but for anyone who's willing to bypass the namby pamby slogans and instead use carefully guarded, ancient techniques to unlock their hidden potential.

Let me show you how to five finger death punch your career--but trust me, the only thing it will drop dead from (after five steps) is just how awesome it is.

Last time we talked about how to get started.  But by now I'm guessing you have your Macbook Pro, your special desk, your Celtic symbol journals, your hundred dollar pens, your special coffee house, and you've taken dozens of classes.  You're writing only once or twice a month, but you're not a famous novelist yet and you're wondering what's going on.  "I bought all the right equipment. Why am I not a successful writer yet?"



Let's assume that you've got all the basics covered?  Congratulations.  You have come further than most wannabes ever will.  Now you're ready for the next steps in your journey toward being a famous writer.  You're very close to blissful days spent working for only an hour or two, vast wealth, and lines of groupies down the block (in the gender or genders of your preference).

The best part?  You're already on the right track because you've spared no expense to surround yourself with quality materials.  From good material comes good writing, and you've got the best materials.  However, the most fabulous writing in the world can't make you the next John Grisham unless you know what to do with it.

Money should flow away from the writer!

This general rule of writing--and really all art--should be the formula by which you gauge any path to success.  I'm going to give you some specifics below, but really you can easily tell for yourself if you're on the right track by asking yourself this simple question: "Am I spending a lot more money than I'm making?"  If the answer isn't an emphatic yes, you're just wasting time and energy.  There are a lot of scams out there designed to take advantage of how badly people want to be writers by offering them success from working hard and diligence, but the only real formula is to spend lots of money.

The reason most authors are upper middle class white males is because they have the money in our society.  Becoming a writer takes money.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  You want to be ready to drop some serious scrill on the opportunities that will open doors for you.  Do not just think you can sit at home and write.  All that leads to is a pile of writing with no place to go.

Now I know you've already had some opportunities to spend money with the computer and the desk and stuff, but those were just your one shot expenditures to get you started.  And yes, now you have some high quality writing coming out, but we need to fine tune it, take it to the next level, and make sure you are seen by the power hitters who are going to turbocharge your career into a jet-setting life of leisure punctuated by glamorous social functions, fame, and fortune.

It's time to be a playa, playa!

It takes money to make money.  It's as true in writing as it is in business, so don't expect to just work hard for a few years, slowly build a name for yourself, and then start to make modest money and maybe gain fame if you write in a particularly accessible style with content that happens to be popular.  That's redonkulous.  This is very much a "quick fix" game and getting to the fame and fortune part of writing is going to take a substantial investment. If you love being a writer, you'll forget the florid poetry of all those whiny posers who "love writing for its own sake," and drop more cheddar than a supersized nacho plate all over your dreams.

Mmmmmm  Cheddarific.

Of course once you're famous, you'll make all that money back (and more) by doing nothing.  You'll pop off a quick book once every two or three years, and watch the money roll in. So it's more than worth it to invest now.

Here are just a few ways to make sure money is flowing away from you:

1- More classes  I know you took a lot of classes, but take more.  You should basically always be signed up for at least one or two. How serious is a writer who just writes and isn't signed up for a couple of classes?  Not very serious, let me tell you.

The important thing to understand is that these days your classes aren't so much places to learn to write, as places to network, be seen writing, and show the world how seriously you take your commitment to being a writer by letting the money flow away from you.

Of course picking up a few more writing tips won't hurt.  No one has ever learned enough that they essentially know the basics.  There's always another trick or platitude to be mastered in the game to be a better writer that a teacher can convey.  No writer's problem is "just getting to work," or "just getting started," no matter what the plebs say. Writing is a series of mental tricks and meditations, not some military discipline regimen.

As before, you want to avoid classes that focus on writing and work (let the unwashed masses take those), and instead focus on classes where you can rub elbows with important people. High end writing groups are the best--the kind that take place in a really swank house and are run by authors with one or two books to their name.  They don't need to be authors you've ever heard of, but just the fact that they're running writing classes instead of working as a writer just proves how successful they are.

Don't forget that these authors-turned-teachers will obviously remember their students who talk the most about how much they like writing and are the most assertive about networking.  Dominate all the group discussions so you're not forgettable, and hit them up regularly for the direct line to their publisher or agent.  Don't be afraid to beg, bribe, or offer sexual favors--this just demonstrates how serious you are.

2 Camps  It should go without saying as an extension of #1.  If you're serious about being a writer, these shouldn't just be fun excursions where you do something you enjoy doing anyway--these should literally be the life's blood of your strategy to make it to publication.  If you feel like you could take it or leave it, but a camp with other writers might be a fun week (or weekend), just give up now and beg your friends to read your fanfic because that's all you're ever going to amount to.  When you realize that you're not a real writer until you've been to half a dozen camps, you can come back and eat at the big kid's table.  Even though camps are prohibitively expensive and require most people get time off--which increases their expense, you should be going two or three times a year.  Camps are a spectacular way to make money flow away from the writer--quickly and visibly.  They should be a cornerstone of your stratagem for fame and fortune.

3- Literary Events When you tally up the advice of published writers about how to get successful, you'll probably notice that literary events aren't on there.  Things like readings in libraries or bookstores or bars rarely get top billing as important in the tools of success for writers.  This is because it's one of the most well kept secrets that I'm sharing with you today.  (The fact that it is mentioned no where is just proof of how incredibly effective it really is!) As with camps, it's important to go in with the right attitude.  You can't just be doing something because you wanted to get out anyway and a literary event combines being social with literary art.  You have to be doing it with the express intention of furthering your career.  Pay the cover.  Buy two or three (or four) drinks if you're in a bar, or buy a book or two if you're in a bookstore.  It may feel like the only career you're helping is the organizers of the event or the owner of the venue, but trust me that if you keep doing it week after week (after week after week), they will see all that money flowing away from you, know how serious you are, and your time will come.

4- Literary Reviews with entry and submission fees.
You may think you don't want to be published in a venue that obviously isn't financially viable, but nothing could be further from the truth.  What better way to get money to flow away from the writer.  A magazine that is obviously going bankrupt is going to supercharge your career by getting you the well needed exposure.  Any review that can't afford to read submissions without taking money to do so is exactly the sort of place that you really want to be published.  The fact that they don't sell enough copies to stay in the black shouldn't scare you--in fact, it should embolden you.  This means only the most powerhouse readers are going to be exposed to your work--not those mainstream commercial venues.

Nothing commands respect like authors who pay to be published.  Your brain may think "scam," but listen to your heart that says "totally appropriate way to keep the riffraff out."

Keep going!  Most people give up too early. They think to themselves that they've spent an awful lot of money, and they still aren't famous and rich, or they publish their book and the royalties are a fraction of what they paid on camps and classes and literary events.  These people just haven't given enough yet.

The money must flow!

Once you hit that critical mass of outgoing cash, fame and fortune will crash upon you like a tidal wave in the old Starburst commercials.  The juice--as they say--will be loose.  Until that moment of gushing serendipity, make sure the money keeps flowing away from you.

These are just a few examples!!  These are just a few ways to get money flowing away from the writer, but really as long as you stick with that rubric, you can determine the eventual success of anything.  Writing calendar computer programs that tell you how much you should be writing each day to finish your novel?  Sure, if you spend a bunch of money on them.  Special subscriptions to writing magazines that recycle the same thirty or forty articles over and over?  The more overpriced the better.  Buying The Writer's Market every single year even though you're still working on that first draft (and most of the information is available online).  Splendid! Honestly no matter where you look there are people who are willing to help those who want to be writers help money flow away from you.  It's just a matter of finding them, and ignoring those scam artists who say it's going to be a lot of hard work.

Because it's definitely not a matter of hard work.


Yours in serious writing efforts,

The White Text on Dark Background Knight

Don't worry.  I'll be back to talk about more ways to become a successful writer without doing much work.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Writer is Sick

Today's mailbox is going to be postponed (and not just until next week, when I'll be gone for Burning Man, but actually until two weeks from now).  I came down with something yesterday, and it has laid me out.  In the past 24 hours, I've slept about 20.  I'll spare you from using concrete imagery to catalogue my more colorful symptoms.

Let's just say they're making the awake four hours not so awesome.

I didn't even get to my morning writing or my fiction--never mind blog stuff.  And while I would normally make the effort to get a post up in the next day, I'm behind on housework too, and Burning Man, which is next week, takes some time to get ready for.

As a general reminder, however, if the tendency of Writing About Writing to skip posts in its schedule, put posts up late, to put up fluffier stuff, whenever I get sick, have things come up, or am getting into some fiction I'm writing, please consider the many ways you can give W.A.W. more direct support.  One of the reasons things can be a little flakey here sometimes is that I have two other jobs to pay the bills.  I may make a little bit of money from ads and donations, but W.A.W. sort of exists in a transition (like dawn or dusk) were it is more hobby and a lot less day job.  I would love to be able to get a few posts ahead of where I'm writing right now, clean up articles a little more before posting, put up more fiction, and generally give W.A.W. more of my time and effort.  So if you like what is here and want to see more of it, help us find a wider audience and make a few dollars.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

There's Still Time To Vote!

It's not too late to vote in the Best Standalone Fantasy Novel Poll.

The poll itself is at the bottom of the left hand "widgets" (the menus, ads, share buttons, and such that run down the left side of the screen).  


For the final round, everyone only gets two (2) votes.  Your vote will be less "diluted" if you only vote once, but if you simply can't decide, you have the extra vote available.

American Gods is really taking a strong lead so far, but second place is neck and neck between four or five. Plus the last couple of polls I've put up have had some interesting things happen in the last couple of days.  So vote!

I'll probably leave the poll up for another week.  If more votes are still coming in at that point, I'll leave it up a little longer, but it's already slowed down a bit.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Demon's Rubicon- By Chris Brecheen (Part 2)

A Demon's Rubicon (Part 2)
By Chris Brecheen
Camden Arkansas.
Downtown.
During rush hour.

Return to Part 1

Some such moments I can’t even rightly say were battles I chose as they seemed to have no significance at the time.  It is only looking back across the pregnant decades that I can now recognize how they shifted who I was like tree falling across a stream’s path forever alters the course of a mighty river.

Which is an epicfail attempt to be poetic.

There was a blanket named ”Bankee” that went everywhere with me.  “Bankee” was a pale canary yellow with a cheesecloth weave, like gossamer to tiny hands.  It was small enough that a four year old could take it everywhere--not unwieldy like its adult cousins.  Once it may have been a lovely baby blanket in my crib, a blend between canary and gold with a silk ribbon along its border.  But after four years under the tinder ministrations of a toddler, it’s silk ribbon remained only on one side, it had threadbare fraying most of the rest of the way around and at least one inexorably growing hole.  But I held it tight and rubbed the remaining silk against my cheek while I sucked my thumb--sucked it with a cavalier disregard for the sheer scope of future orthodontia bills.

The blanket was my superman cape.  It was my nap time companion.  It was my soothing pacifier.  It was a single “You’re my only friend,” speech shy of being a companion character in a Disney movie.

The night we moved from Arkansas to Iowa, where my mother had been accepted to Iowa’s graduate writing program, I asked about the blanket several times.

“Don’t forget Bankee!”

“Don’t worry,” she told me.

“Is it packed?” I asked.

“Of course,” she assured me.

“Mom,” I asked, leveling the closest thing a four year old can get to a sincerely pensive look upon my mother.  “Are you sure?”

I like to think her eyes twitched towards the black trash bags of detritus lining the curb or that she swallowed dramatically.  Of course, I also like to think that she spent two months consumed with guilt and slept no more than two or three hours a night.

“Of course,” she assured me.  “Don’t worry.”

You can’t blame her.  Not really.  The thing was practically a biohazard, being dragged through everything from mud puddles to spilled Kool-Aid.  The wonder was it didn’t try desperately to crawl away every time I let it go. It had that grimy grunge of dirt ground into the fibers that could never be washed out completely.

My tears wiped away.  They wiped away and wiped away and wiped away. “I’m not sure where your blanket is, honey.”

“It’s just in one of the other boxes,” Mom said.  “I’m sure it will turn up.  Listen, if you stop crying, we can get some ice cream.”

I was a trooper.  I hitched a few breaths, sniffled in the runner of snot that was leaking from my nose, and nodded bravely.  We ate ice cream.

Of course, we never did find it.  Eventually I stopped my candlelight vigils and wailing lament, but sure enough, thirty years later, it is emblazoned in my memory.  Four year olds are not hard to distract.  However, I never forgot.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I was learning a harsh truth about impermanence.  That no matter how badly I wanted it to not be so, everything was not going to stay the same.

It was my first lesson that life was pretty much going to be about how much ice cream you could scarf down to distract yourself between.

When we’re very young, growth and loss are basically the same thing.  It is only when we get older that we really start learning lessons in different ways (an allowance teaches how to manage money, or perhaps we have our first moment of true empathy) but it’s difficult to imagine a lesson for a small child that doesn’t involve losing something.  We are forcibly ejected from our amniotic fluid and perfectly regulated bio-dome.  The best food to ever exist is stripped from us when our mothers are ready to get their figure back and stop ruining t-shirts.  The perfectly rational response of screaming at anything that displeases  us until it goes away or is fixed is conditioned out of us by a heartless “civilization.”  And eventually our parents will engage in treacherous conspiracies to take away our bankees.

Not too surprising then that the greatest moment of growth and my greatest moment of loss in my early life were one in the same.

On the one hand, it was not a lesson I remember learning, and perhaps that softened the blow.  Instead I remember horrific traumas like losing my security blanket.  Which I'm not sure could be any better indication that I basically had a good childhood.

I wouldn’t start remembering things until I was about three (and then only the most disjointed images). I could only witness the devastating shockwaves from the echoes of this ripping across the landscape of my life.  It was like the forensic reconstruction of a bomb blast years after the event or archeologists trying to reconstruct Vesuvius.  (“Well, Bob, based on the scorch marks and ejecta patterns here, we can conjecture that this event was the equivalent of fifty to sixty thousand tons worth of lost blankets.”)

It was a lesson first being learned en mass by the children of my generation.  Not the sort of lesson we wanted to learn or would ever have picked for ourselves.  Not a character-building lesson with difficult but noble truths from which we would emerge as fuller human beings who get to say "I've learned something today" as the tender soundtrack comes up.  Not a lesson worked out in a half hour in front of a live studio audience or even in a full-season plot arc.  More a lesson that would lead us with an unerring sort of predictability to codependency, abandonment issues, and an inability to form fully functional relationships with older men.

The last time I saw my father, or so I’m told, I was just past my first birthday.  I was only a baby, but I sometimes imagine that my mother held me to her chest in such a way that my head poked up over her shoulders, and as she ran away, I faced back towards him.  I imagine that our eyes met one last time.  If that’s true, my last image of him would have been a quickly shrinking one as my mother literally ran from the house, and his face would have been twisted into a mask of boiling rage as he threatened to kill her.

My mother spoke so frequently and so convincingly of his “abandonment” that even knowing the story, I still accepted her interpretation.  (“My father abandoned me,” I would tell my pre-school friends who asked why I was not sharing my blocks.  "Oh, sorry I'm not letting anyone on the slide--my father abandoned me." "I'm afraid I won't be sharing these Legos--my father abandoned me.")  It was repeated so often that despite knowing the details of the story, I was in my twenties in the middle of a cheeseburger and fries when I literally dropped my food.  She had left him; not the other way around.  And though there isn’t an interpretation worth listening to that would blame her for her choice, it can be a bit disconcerting when your own self narrative, and the story your mother told you dozens of times suddenly reminds you of Hitler’s saying about repeating big lies.

Regardless of who left whom, and the legitimacy of why, I lost a father, and by the time I’d picked up a replacement at the hardware store, I was a honeycomb of typical single-parent psychological troubles. Of course it would have been much worse if we’d stayed.  Life sometimes only gives us a choice between grades of shit.

"Would you like the shit filled shit pie or the shit stuffed turds with shit frosting on a bed of shit and a light shit salad?"

The man who ponied up the sperm to create me--but who can hardly be called a father--was, back in the 70’s, a cross between a rebel without a clue and a genuine bad boy.  Depending on my mother’s mood, and which glass of wine she was on when she regaled me, David was a passionate idealist for the anti-Vietnam cause or a thug and a criminal with thinly veiled anger issues.  I suspected very early on that this ambiguity revealed more truth than it obfuscated.

What I hadn't quite worked yet out was just how often in life that would be the case.

My mother and David met in college and moved in together, but their lives got difficult right away.  The pill may have brought the sexual revolution to baby boomers, but the generation prior had not gotten the memo.  “Shacking up” was living in sin as far as most parents were concerned, and my southern grandparents were no exception.  They cut my mother off from financial support and a bout of hepatitis wiped out the savings she was using to go to school.  David’s friends at the time were mostly students, and he was involved in a protest activity on the local university campus.

David got caught in the middle of one of his more extreme protest actions.  It wasn’t much more than vandalism, really--the sort of thing that is often forgiven and turned into “a teaching moment” when a student does it.  But David wasn’t enrolled in classes, and so he was arrested and charged with breaking into a government building.

Camden Arkansas was a small town--the kind of place where everyone knew everyone else.  (Even forty years later, it is just over 12,000.)  The grocer knew their customers.  The banker could greet you by name.  And it’s the sort of place where, in the seventies, the sexual revolution and small town morality had a battle royale.  My mother’s parents knew the district attorney for David’s case, and he knew of their hand wringing over the scandal my mother had caused them.

I know I'm probably wrong, but I imagine there was a meeting: hushed, after dark, Corinthian leather chairs, cigars, and brandy.

Suddenly David could get out of a prison sentence if he got married.  And so my mother married him.

In a shock of perhaps the millennium, but certainly the century, my mother did not particularly appreciate the Machiavellian grace with which she was maneuvered into being a “proper woman.”  The two of them moved as far away as they plausibly could.  That turned out to be Indiana where David’s family owned a farm.  There my mother learned a few hard lessons of her own.  One was that there are generally pretty good reasons that upper middle class women don’t get into long-term relationships with lower class men who have anger management issues. The other was that being slapped by her mother, with her delicate hands, was a cake walk compared to what thick angry, drunk Indiana farmer hands could do in a fit of rage.

In case you weren’t aware, the main crop of Indiana isn’t happiness and realized dreams.  Potato farming in the early seventies was a hard life usually done by hard people.  But some of the stories my mother told went beyond “hard,” dipped into psychotic, and still send corkscrews of ice up my spine when I think about them.  I’d probably be okay eating a variant of potatoes as every meal  (It wasn't just that they ate potatoes AT every meal, but mom and David were actually so poor that the potatoes often were the meal.) But what really hollowed out my gut were her stories of the people: husbands and fathers taking government subsidy checks desperately needed for diapers and formula and spending them unapologetically on malt liquor instead, men taking after their wives with folded lawn furniture for dressing too risqué, or a mother and father who would stand on opposite sides of a room and each tell their daughter "come to me or I'll hit you"and then fall into peals of laughter when the girl broke down crying, unable to decide which parent she wanted to be beaten by.

David wasn’t one to let a high bar daunt him--even if the bar was on psychopathic behavior.  He rose admirably to the challenge, becoming jealous beyond all semblance of reason at the slightest perceived hint of impropriety--accusing her of stealing away to cheat on him in the time it took her to go to the corner store for cigarettes or slipping into the back of the store with the butcher for a quickie if they got separated in a grocery store. If she treated the accusation as laughably absurd or insulting, David's thick hands were swift and powerful.

It was there, in this dark moment of my mother’s life, alone on an Indiana potato farm with an abusive husband, monstrous neighbors and friends, and a family four states away who had all but renounced her, that my mother decided she wanted to have a baby.

So without a word to David about her decision, she tossed her ring of birth control pills into the trash. I showed up--though in a much smaller form than my current state--shortly after.

My mother tells the story of wanting to be loved for who she was and love something that didn’t spit that love back at her. In a world of broken relationships, she wanted something pure.

Don’t get me wrong. I think this is true. I just sometimes wonder if it is the entire story.

My mother is a woman whose true strength doesn’t come out for her own sake. The adult child of two alcoholics she struggles with codependency and has never been good at not letting others railroad her. To this day she struggles with family and loved ones taking advantage of her lack of boundaries. But for another, she will become a yawping Valkyrie. She would regularly march across to some neighbor or another’s house to make sure everything was okay if a child was hysterically wailing in that way that indicates things are REALLY wrong, take a baby out of a drunk mother’s arms and talk her down from a violent meltdown at 50,000 feet when the flight attendants didn’t know what to do (even though she was on her way to her own father’s funeral), or call in sick to work to help a stranger with bruises on her face find a place to stay, a couple of pairs of jeans, a toothbrush, and some essentials. When it comes to helping others, my mother finds a wellspring of strength that she simply lacks for her own sake.

It’s not that I don’t believe she wanted love. It’s just that I wonder if she didn’t unconsciously know that she would be paralyzed in her situation as long as she was alone.  But perhaps for another…

I was just past my first birthday when David’s thick hands fell upon me. She never looked back.

It’s not the story you normally hear. It’s not the cycle of violence from father to son or the mother who can’t get out. She saved me from that. Fled into the night. Never saw him again. Sent a friend for a few changes of clothes. Returned home, swallowed her pride, and asked my grandparents for help. Got a degree. Raised a son by herself (at least until I was six).

I was in my late twenties before I cornered my mother at the dinner table about the abandonment thing. “He didn’t abandon me at all, mom.” I said. “You left him.” I took a bite of scalloped potatoes. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m a gentle person without PTSD because of you, but he didn’t do the leaving.”

She nodded. “There’s another part I got wrong,” she said.  “I always told you that I saved you from your father, but that’s not really true.”

I chewed quietly.

“You saved me,” she said. “When I heard you scream from the other room, I knew instantly what had happened, and it was like...I snapped awake from a dream.”

And a part of me wonders if she knew that from the beginning. Maybe just some little part of her. If she knew when she tossed out her ring of pills that she wasn’t just creating perfect love, but a reason to be strong. Maybe she knew that something she didn’t have the strength to do for herself, she could do for another. But whether or not she had a sense of what strength I bring her, I know that my tiny hands, my little feet, my tiny beating heart, and my perfectly loving eyes gazing up at her were the grain of rice that tipped the scales and gave her the tenacity to do what she had needed to do all along.

It wasn’t a Cleaver’s beginning. That “happy ending” was just the start of the next chapter about a young boy with no father figure. We may have spared each other some really shitty lives--but I had lost a father in the deal.

I wonder sometimes if David didn’t knock a few years of childhood right out of me when he hit me. Not my whole childhood. Innocence is made of sterner stuff. There would still be smiles and giggles and suction cup dart wars, and pretending to be transformers in the courtyard of our apartment building. He didn’t knock so much out of me that I’d be one of those haggard, cynical seven year old wearing long-sleeve shirts in stifling heat. But he knocked out just enough so that I understood—on some deep level—that the world might just haul off and smack you one for no good reason. You couldn’t trust anyone.

Except mom.

[© 2013  All Rights Reserved]

Continue to Part 3

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Probably Should Have Seen This Coming


Yeah, that was dumb.

I brought Cathamel (my muse) home a companion from my Vegas trip.  I figured they would frolic and play and play "touch the orbs."  Apparently after they ran around scaring the crap out of the cats, and comparing the length and girth of their flame spouts, they then got busy doing the mythical dragon-nasty.  What a drag to discover your preoccupation with groupies might have more to do with the fact that your muse is a total horn-dog than anything.

I should have realized what kind of "companionship" Cath was talking about when she said she lacked the body to troll frat houses.

So now it seems like we will soon have a little dragonling running around.  Cath assures me that muses are immortal and neither die or are born, but sort of transfer from one artist to the next and take the most appropriate form, so it won't, strictly speaking, be a muse, but it may get some of her powers of inspiration.  Or it might just sit around the house and watch Jackass reruns and not get a job.

She's not sure.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fall 2013 Schedule and a General Disclaimer

This is going to be going up on the Blog Business Crap tab as my schedule for Fall of 2013

Mon- Update!  If the gods of temporal management are with me for the weekend prior to a Monday, there will be a good article here.  (The ones I like to call "meaty" because that makes Beevis and Butthead laugh.)  Though sometimes those gods decide it's fun to watch the mortal dance like the puppet it is and they fill my weekend with parties unsupportive girlfriend would "really appreciate" if I went to, mafia members who "need a quick favor," and Skyrim DLC.  In this case the update will be less spectacular, but there should be something here.

The staff here at Writing About Writing demand overtime pay for bank holidays.  It's better for our shoestring budget if we just shut the blog down those days.

Tues- Guest Bloggers- Because my Monday teaching schedule now includes a four hour break in which there is basically nothing to do but write, you can expect to see the return of guest bloggers.  This...uh...isn't because they aren't real and I'm making them all up.  It's because it affords me the opportunity to ride their asses.

Wed- No update.  By Wednesday I've used up any leeway time I have and I also have teaching plus trash day.  Something might go up, but it will likely be quick, meta, or link-pimp type stuff.

Thurs- Another "easy" day.  I will put something up, but it will probably not be one of my main articles.

Fri- On Fridays I answer questions you send in for The Mailbox.  You too can have your very own question answered by a not-even-slightly famous writer.  Just send them to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox."  I will also respond to comments--even anonymous ones from time to time.

Sat-  I usually take weekends off.  But I might find an image or a link It may be a link with commentary or a quick observation.  It kind of depends on how motivated I'm feeling.  Thus, if you're really excited about seeing something on the weekend, writing an e-mail on Thursday about how much you love W.A.W. would work.  A groupie threesome on Friday night would work even better.  Actually, the groupie threesome would work a lot better.

Unless there's been a threesome.
 I really can't underscore enough how well that would work.

Sun- I really, honestly try to take Sunday's off.  Or Saturdays.

Or at least one day.

Sometimes.

The problem is that content means traffic, so a day where I don't do anything sees 200-300 fewer page views than a day where I post anything--even if it's just five links with a sentence each of commentary on them.  My numbers are still really small, so a couple hundred hits is still a big deal to my overall traffic.  So if you're ever wondering why I seem to complain about never getting a day off, it's because I'm an unmitigated page view whore.

Disclaimer- This schedule tends to be a little bendy.  Writing About Writing is a labor of love.  I wish creative writing could be my day job, but it isn't.  I know there are ads everywhere and "tip jars" and such, but I still only make about $2 per day on average for what is usually 4-5hrs/day of work.  You do the math.  (No, seriously, you should do the math--I took "Math For Liberal Arts" and had to do an oral report on fractals as a final.  I'm comically bad.)  When one of my two other jobs demand my time, I have to answer the call because they are the jobs that pay the bills.  So sometimes articles just won't go up on schedule.

(I know people get envious when they hear I made fifty or sixty bucks by the end of the month, but I don't think they realize what has gone into that.)

Also, even though I write every day, some days it is just an hour of free-write or some work on my fiction.  Blogging often takes four to five hours to create a good article--sometimes more.  There are days I have the time, but I just don't have the mental bandwidth.  It doesn't happen often, but with two other jobs that both wax and wane in their commitment, sometimes I'm just too wiped to do anything more than the free-writing.  If you want to see this change, please do your part to help W.A.W. get to the point where I can work less at my other jobs.  If this were a job I had the time and energy to do eight hours a day, you'd have yourself good updates AND fiction just as regular as clockwork.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The BEST Stand-Alone Fantasy Book--FINAL ROUND

Last round's best performer.
What is the BEST stand-alone Fantasy novel?  

This is it!  The final round.  

From nearly twenty choices (of your nominations), we are down to eight.

The poll itself is at the bottom of the left hand "widgets" (the menus, ads, share buttons, and such that run down the left side of the screen). 

For the final round, everyone only gets two (2) votes.  Your vote will be less "diluted" if you only vote once, but if you simply can't decide, you have the extra vote available.  

Removed from the poll this round will be:

The RiddleMaster of Hed by Patricia McKillip
The Book of Night With Moon by Diane Duane (a shame--this was one of the authors who was aware of the poll)

Good-bye wonderful books.  I salute you!

I'm getting a lot of emails from people who are upset that this title or that title is not on the poll.  Remember, the nomination process has concluded, but I encourage you to stick around as A) I'm pretty much always running some kind of similar poll (we'll be doing horror next) and you can always BE a part of the nomination process, and B) stand alone fantasy will eventually come back around as the poll subject, and you'll have the chance to get in on the nomination.

Use whatever criteria you wish for voting.  Some of you have strongly objected to the "stand alone" status of the first books in a series.  Feel free to object with your vote.

So bookmark this blog and be a part of the next poll!

I'll leave this poll up for a couple of weeks.  Usually it's hard to get people voting after the first week, even with a final round, and it just turns into a

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chris Brecheen: Head Writer

[While I celebrate the last week of summer before I have to start teaching again--and by celebrate I mean focus on housework and domestic chores, you understand--I thought I would kick the ass of the staff to get their bios in so I can put them up on the W.A.W. Staff Page.  So far, the most successful ass kicking has been on myself.  I may also be working on some fiction, which is always slow going when I'm rocking two other jobs.]

Chris Brecheen: Head Writer and CEO of Writing About Writing.  Unlike the Non-W.A.W. Chris, this guy is actually cool, and unlike the resident evil clone, he doesn't live in a sewer and kidnap women--and is cuter.  Oh sure, he might make the prudes uncomfortable with some threesome references, but they're just jealous.  He runs the three ring cat circus around here, writing up many of the entries, whipping the guest bloggers into shape, and running the day to day business of the blog.  Pretty much he is thirty-one flavors and then some.  All that and a bag of chips.  And of course you can always check out his more complete bio here.   

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Mailbox: Help! I'm Addicted to Writing

Am I writing too much?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Friday.  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.  And remember that I actually LOVE answering questions that aren't just about me or the "Creepy Guy" article.]

Kristen writes:

My sister told me to read stuff on your blog, and you seem like a good person to ask this of. You say to be good we should write every day, but I do write every day and way too much of it! I'm addicted to my stories, and feel like I'm neglecting important things I need to do -- like being a full time mother to four children, one of whom needs to start going poop in the toilet, rather than her undies, but I'm stuck at my computer afraid to leave the keyboard because the idea in my head is rolling really well, and I might forget this awesome statement one of my characters is going to make at the end of two paragraphs away, and I can't stop till I get to that part! Does that make sense or am I just very crazy??? My older kids watch a show called, "My Strange Addiction" and I think I am going to end up on that show! I am just so scared of ending up like my mother who constantly said she wanted to write a novel, (constantly!) and never wrote more than a few dirty letter to my dad, which we unfortunately found after they died!  Ugh! 

So, what should I do? Is it that important to get the idea from my head to the paper right away before I forget, or can I safely fix dinner and take the kids for a walk, yet still finish my story someday? Seriously, I'm typing this at 2:30 am, and I have a sore throat, and my sister doesn't even think I'm a good writer, and I think I'm the only one who will ever enjoy reading what I wrote, but at least I do enjoy reading it, so....

Is it okay to write things just because I enjoy the story without regard to whether anyone else ever will? Can I make implausible things happen because that's what I want to happen, even if other people might say, "Come on... that wouldn't really happen!" And, should I have ended the last sentence with a question mark? 

Oh, well, I guess I need to find a writer's conference so I can preach to the choir and sing for the preacher.

Thanks and any input is invaluable, as I've only been writing for nine months now, and eight months of that was a fan-fiction!  Now, I'm doing my own story, with my own characters, plot, etc., and so I'm really a BABY at this stuff.

My reply:

Gee whiz. Don't give me anything too easy Kristen.

Okay it looks like there are basically four main questions (plus a grammar quickie), and I'll try to take them one at a time.  But before I get into any of them, turn on my rapier like wit, and maybe even make a snarky comment or two (I'm known to do that), first I want to make sure that you know something.  

These feelings you're having are as old as art.

Since the day Ugg and Oog took flower-juice-stained mud (or whatever it was they used for pigment) to the side of their provincial cave, artists have asked these questions. Am I crazy to do this? Am I doing this too much? Will the inspiration go away if I stop? Should I be doing something more pragmatic? How will I get better? And of course... I need to find other people who love this so I don't feel so alone. Read the non-fiction thoughts of any writer, and you will find the echoes of all these questions.

What you probably don't know, is that the Lascaux cave paintings were done by someone whose sibling was giving them crap for not putting food on the table. "Ogg, why you no get real job...like hunter?"

So, Kirsten, you're in good company.

Priorities
The first question you seem to have is if writing every day is too much with your four kids. The problem is, I can't really answer that question for you. Priorities are like that. We all have to decide for ourselves what's important, and I can't tell you what your priorities are. If you would rather troll gaming conventions for Warhammer 40k players to have orgies with than have a thirty-twople root canal without Novocain, I can't tell you that decision is wrong. It's up to you.

I'm guessing that, given how badly the refund policy sucks for kids (even worse than video games) that you're probably not going to try to put them back. That said, if your kid is screaming because her diaper is hanging down to her knees with the past eight bowel movements and the dried turds are her only toys and loving friends, I could probably take an educated guess that you need to spend less time writing. Short of that though, only you really know. Are the bills paid? Are the kids basically okay? Would this time you spend writing be "time spent watching TV" to most people? Then you're probably okay. 

Here's what I can tell you. 

1) Writing every day is important for the writer who really wants to improve and vital for the writer who wants to make word-smithing a career, but it doesn't have to be long hours every day, especially for the former. Lots of writers have achieved success even though they could only carve out thirty minutes to an hour, and did their longish sessions on the weekends. This may cause many starting writers to have seizures of knee jerk "Nuh uh!" reactions, but writers who don't write daily are notoriously poor at answering the question, "So how is your writing career going?"

2) The writers we love don't always make the best choices in these situations. Any really famous writer you can think of past or present has probably made some choices that most of us would not admire. (And we don't even have to include putting heads in ovens while the kids play upstairs in order to make this point.) Most famous writers' fame has had a cost to their personal lives. They left their spouses to raise the kids or just left their families (or never had one). They sequestered themselves away for such long hours that their families were basically estranged. Trying to be a good father depressed them and they ended up an alcoholic. If you watch the cavalcade of horror in writers' (and other artists') alcoholism, depression (and mania), obsessive compulsive issues, drug abuse, antisocial behavior, and other mental illnesses, you quickly come to realize how often writing isn't exactly a healthy hobby or even just a livelihood for many of these people.  

It's just their drug of choice. 

And they're so fucking good at it because their relationship to it isn't healthy. Society may be the richer for the beauty their obsession has placed into the world, but their personal lives pay a heavy price. That's why I am constantly saying that it really is okay for writers to strike a more sane balance with their lives and writing than many of their heroes like Stephen King (ten pages per day) or J.K. Rowling (8-14 hours per day). They may have to make peace with the fact that they'll never be that rich or famous, but there's something to be said for having a family, friends, and occasionally getting to play through a game like Bioshock Infinite.

So, all kidding aside, when I read your bit about "Strange Addictions," I wondered if you weren't onto something. Do be careful when you're deciding what your priorities are. The last thing you want is to be in an alley with track marks on your fingers offering people blow jobs for five minutes on their MacAir.  

Creativity
You're having a different problem than most writers have when it comes to creativity. Most look at their faucet and can't figure out how to turn it on. They sit and stare at a blank screen or sheet of paper for an hour or two and then go post the Hemingway quote about opening up a vein onto their Tumblr site and write (at length) about how they can't write and all the problems that are causing them not to be able to write.  

New writers often have trouble with irony as well.  

For you, it's like the faucet is always on and gushing and you're more like the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

You may not realize it, but you and these other people are actually having the same basic problem. Your muse/creativity/whateveryouwannacallit is in control. Now, if I had to choose, I'd pick your particular presentation, but you are both of you letting your creativity call the shots. The answer for each of you is the same.  You need to sit down at the same time every day, and turn creativity into a habit that you control. For you, with your gush, you have to learn that when you want it, it will be there. You write for the length of time you can based on your priorities (above) and then you walk away. 

Your muse won't like this. Not even a little.  It will kick. It will scream. It will hate you. (It's a two year old.  ....or a Tea Party Congressperson ~rimshot~) It will threaten to turn off all your creativity forever. You may even have some dry days.  It doesn't want to do anything that feels like work. But in the end, if you keep sitting down every day at the same time, you will discover that you start to feel that gush of creativity right when you get to work.  Once it's habit, you'll find that (most of the time) from the moment you sit down until you leave, you are in control of the flow of words. I highly recommend this book about process if you want more detail on how to do this and why it works.

You ask if you are going to forget the awesome idea you have about how to end a scene if you walk away. Maybe. The more specific and detailed the idea is, the more likely that you will forget it between sessions. But what you have to have faith in is that you will come up with other awesome ideas, and that somewhere in your unconscious, the original is still rattling around.  Some writers get up after their writing time is over even if they're in the middle of a sentence such is their confidence that the next day will bring equally good ideas.  Now, I don't know if I could do that, but if I'm hours to the end of a section, I just let go.  Often my writing is better for it the next day because I had time to think things through and have some even better ideas.

You only really need to race to write down the truly genius ideas. 

Some writers are constantly scribbling down ideas into note pads, but the more experienced writers don't do that as much.  There's a reason the cliche for pretentious writers is a guy saying "Oh I should write that down!" Experienced writers know that it'll bubble to the surface if it's natural, and it would be forcing it into the writing otherwise.  So they don't tend to worry about thoughts getting away unless they get an absolute doozy and then it's like a scrambled frenzy to find a napkin and some lipstick--not...uh...that I've ever done that.  (I use my iPhone recorder function these days.) 

Good ideas will always be there.  Most people have several. It is the work to realize good ideas that is actually art. It's only the uberific, great, phenomenal, Oh. My. God. ideas that you ever really need to worry about not forgetting.

Improvement
Do me a favor Kirsten: don't ask your sister if you're a good writer; ask her if you're better than you were a year ago. You might find the answer surprises you. It takes decades of reading and years of writing to really be good--a reality that most starting writers simply are not willing to face, as they would rather be unsung geniuses.  

They get sort of Raiders of the Lost Arc face melty when you mention that the talent their fifth grade teacher assured them they had has to be coupled with a buttload of work to really matter.

Writing, like any art, has a large technical skill component, and that skill will get better with use. Period.  There's no way of getting around that, no matter what people who don't want to write every day tell you.  You may not have gotten in your 10,000 hours in this last year, but if you're writing as much as you say you are, you've probably knocked out a chunk.  Many arts have a very steep learning curve, but writing isn't one of them.  It's easy to see when you've been writing a lot because you get better at it. (It's not like sculpture where after a year your misshapen head becomes a slightly less misshapen head.) There is almost no art in which effort yields noticeable fruit so quickly. Which is good news for people willing to work and irritating as fuck to those who want to believe they have some special talent.

Keep writing. You'll get better. Keep reading, so you know what good writing (and bad writing) looks like. You'll get better.

If you don't believe me, go back to some of my earlier entries on this site. (One of the reasons I keep all the old entries--even the crap ones--is so that people can see what is involved.) That shit is pretty rough. And at that point I had been writing at least an hour a day for TEN YEARS. The improvement I've had over the last year and a half is from writing two or three hours a day (usually more). 

Fulfillment-  
You ask me if it's okay to write just because you enjoy the story and without regard to the fact that no one else ever will...

Kirsten, that's the only reason to write creatively. 

Now if you want to go back and revise with further drafts, taking into consideration your audience, and involve yourself in some of the business end of writing, that's your choice (though it will bring a lot more work to your enjoyment and may mess up your worth it/not worth it ratio), but none of that is going to be worth it if you didn't enjoy the writing for its own sake.  There is absolutely no reasonable expectation of money or fame or blistering hawt groupie threesomes in writing (had to work it in at least once), so if you don't love it for its own sake, there's no end that will ever justify the means enough. The writing has to be its own end.

When people try to get rich or famous from writing when they don't actually love the work of writing (and it is work) for its own sake, they end up aging two hundred years in a few seconds while some blonde shrieks at them, and the Great Muse (clad for some reason in Knight's Templar armor) says, "They chose.......poorly."

So if you want to write fan fic or genre or whatever, do it, and sod all who try to tell you otherwise. And if you want to write for money, you STILL have to write what you love because it's going to be fuck all miserable if you don't. Besides, these people giving you advice.... do you think maybe if they knew how to get rich and famous, they might be, oh I don't know, rich and/or famous? Maybe? Because when you listen to rich and famous writers, you get a whole different kind of advice.


As for your grammar question, I'm a terrible person to ask, but I'll try.  The main thing for a writer to keep in mind about those really funky rules of punctuation is not to be asking what is technically correct. (As if language is as immutable as physics. It's not.)  The main thing to ask yourself when you get into a weird patch like that is, "Is what I have written clear?" I think yours was; I'm pretty sure it's okay.  If your copy editor wanted to change it to "Can I make implausible things happen because that's what I want to happen, even if other people might say, 'Come on... that wouldn't really happen!'?" then you go with that.  But let them worry about that crap.  I believe what I wrote above is technically correct but actually muddles meaning. Someone who would read your sentence smoothly with no confusion would have to go back and think through what's going on in mine.  There is a point when the grammar wanks (though they're usually quite correct) need to be left to wank on in peace.  

Pedants gonna peed.

P.S.- Go to conferences only if you want to go to conferences.  Don't feel like you have to.  Some writers are social creatures who would rather have their social activities be writing-centric. That's fine. (Me, I contemplate putting motion sensor auto-cannons next to the front door when we've had more than a couple of dinner guests in a given week.)  You won't find "attend writing conferences" in a single advice book written by a writer whose name you recognize, and the only one making money for sure on those events is the bartender, so go if that's your thing.  Writing conferences are the same way--they are really good for the wallets and careers of people who put on writing conferences (and maybe their panel speakers). No writer has ever looked back and insisted their career hinged on a conference. So go if they sound fun for their own sake only.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Best Fantasy Poll Round 3 (And Farewell to Gavriel Kay)

It's no Mists of Avalon, to be sure.
Gavriel Kay did not survive round two.  Sorry Gav.  

The poll itself is at the bottom of the left hand "widgets" (the menus, ads, share buttons, and such that run down the left side of the screen). 

For round three, everyone only gets three (3) votes.  With five votes, everyone has one or two left over to give to The Princess Bride.  But will it do so well against The Mists of Avalon when people have fewer votes?  We shall see!

I'm getting a lot of emails from people who are upset that this title or that title is not on the poll.  Remember, the nomination process has concluded, but I encourage you to stick around as A) I'm pretty much always running some kind of similar poll (we'll be doing horror next) and you can always BE a part of the nomination process, and B) stand alone fantasy will eventually come back around as the poll subject, and you'll have the chance to get in on the nomination.

So bookmark this page and be a part of the next poll!

With two one concluded, I fleeced the bottom three performers from the list--and Gavriel Kay did not come out a winner.  Both his books on the poll were culled, I'm afraid.

I'll leave this poll up for a week.  Next Thursday I will put up the FINALISTS and everyone will get only two votes.

Remember, I'm not JUST doing this to draw out the drama.  "Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative" is still bringing in a lot of demographically atypical readers, so only the people who keep coming back each week will really be able to influence which titles move on to the next rounds.  For the final poll we should have somewhere between seven and ten titles and two votes each.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Please Excuse Our Dust

After the epic, four-part Mailbox (and due to a combination of one of the crime fighters here at the Hall of Rectitude being outmaneuvered by a super-villain and having a rough night and a dental appointment today right in the middle of my workday), I'm taking a "big article" break until the end of this week (Friday's mailbox should be interesting though).  However, after the increase in traffic, I figured it was time to put in the time to get some of my tabs and pages cleaned up.  So if you see some cosmetic changes occurring over the next couple days, that's why.  (And any design input will be welcome.  Even though I may stick with something because I don't actually know HOW to make the change you suggest, I acknowledge that pretty much everyone else on Earth has a better eye for layout aesthetics than I do.)  It's been long overdue but with thousands of people stopping by every day, I'm feeling more self conscious about it.

Of course I will still be wrapping up round two of the Fantasy Poll tomorrow, so if you haven't voted, please take a moment to do so now!  (The poll is down on the lower left, below that pretentious author's bio.)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Mailbox: Creepy Guy Narrative (Part 4 of 4)

What about the menz!  You are badass!  Thank you. No, thank YOU!

Go here to read Part 3 or All the way back to Part 1

This is part four of a massive reply to some of the most common questions and criticisms about my article, "Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative."

Yes yes, it's wonderful what you did for her, but what we should really be talking about is how difficult it is for the poor men in our society to take the initiative in approaching women and how impossible these capricious devil women make it on us with their pesky moods, mercurial tastes, and non-standardized reactions to everything.  It's almost like they think they're individuals instead of just one big conglomerate that can be treated the same in every situation by every dude. Because that's what really led to this tragic turn of events. That poor bro didn't have a decoder ring for how to get her to drop her panties.  It's so hard for us marginalized guys and we never know when is the right time and the wrong time and how to approach all these totally secret clues when we're playing women's damned mind games.  What about the menz!

Ah yes. No post this viral would be complete without the "What about the menz" contingent.

There are two types of people who write in to complain about this.  One needs to be schooled like Wesley schooled Humperdink using small words (so they can understand) to drive home the point–which has apparently gone driven in the tenure of their narcissistic lives–that they are not, in fact, the center of the universe and their desire to get some seawater on their harpoon is not the ignition fuel for engines of all creation.

The other group is much simpler; they need to be hogtied, forced into a rocket, and shot into the sun. I say the sun only because I don't know if we have the technology needed to get them to the nearest black hole, but if spaghettification were an option, I would recommend it.

But both groups seem to be of the selfish, disrespectful variety that feels their needs should come before those of someone who clearly doesn't want to be bothered.  (That's right...even you "nice guys" are actually being monumental dillholes when you put your need to have your pool cue chalked over those of someone else's comfort on their commute.) When you insist that you're entitled to talk to someone or hit on someone, you place your desires over theirs.

This article is an supermegauberawesome illustration of what this behavior is like from a woman's perspective but written in such a way that even your average self-centered "nice guy" can understand it.  Everyone EVER ought to read it but especially if you want to try your hand at hitting on someone in public places like BART or the street.

 I absolutely hate gender courtship roles, so I appreciate that getting dates is hard as fuck.

I could never get past the pink, though.
I knew that pink meant it wasn't for boys.
If they had the black and cyan ones when I was a kid,
I might have actually learned how to cook.
I was raised by a southern belle, feminist, single mother who worked as an executive in a bank as one of three women in an ocean of guys like something out of an eighties movie. Even after she remarried, she made the bigger paycheck by nearly double (and my step-dad was a tenured professor in the California State University system) in addition to doing the heavy lifting in raising me. She made six figures in a man's world back before that was a hum-drum accomplishment. (~cough~) Though I could never be completely free of the social forces of my wider culture, I was essentially raised within a microcosmical matriarchy. It's no wonder that I was destined to become a househusband because even when I was young I wanted an EZBake oven so I could "Make Mom something nice for when she gets home."

Speaking of eighties movies, I grew up on them. You know the ones with the sexually aggressive women (usually wearing the shoulder pads) who come on to the guy?

(Actually, they're kind of creepy now that I think about them because usually the guy was saying no, the woman wasn't listening, and the audience was laughing the whole way. Unconsensual sex is so fucking hilarious, right?)

Yep, everywhere you looked in those movies there was some fantastically hot woman making the first move on some nerdy awkward (but nice)guy. It was like Beta Male Utopia. I was funny and pretty cute--I was going to have it made! So the longer I went on, the more confused I got that women weren't hitting on me. Seriously, where the fuck was my hot chick?  I made like four jokes next to a whole group of cute girls. They laughed  Why wasn't anybody asking me out? My adolescence became a chain of long-burning crushes for people I tried desperately to get close to and get them to notice me.

Southern culture, just so you know, may have its problems but has two very strong foundational pillars. One is hospitality. The other is that you don't impose. Basically you don't ask for things because the social expectation is on others to offer it. It is rude to go where you aren't invited, never mind welcome. And you can pretty much count on the fact that people will invite you due to their hospitality, and if they don't, it's very, very rude to pressure them. Should that mean you sit and slowly desiccate within someone's house because they didn't offer you a glass of iced tea in hundred degree weather, that's what you fucking well better do. (And gossip about them later.) This is why when someone does ask for something in southern culture, they often use phrasing like "Can I impose upon you for..." I may have gotten the hippie feminist version of Southern Culture (less racism and fewer corsets), but those two things were deep seated enough to come through. So I don't ask for things. I wait for people to offer.

You can probably already guess where these three forces are going to collide. Throw all of this in with some general introversion and it's a wonder I ever got laid.

I'm okay flirting. I'm pretty good at hitting on people. I'm even not-entirely-awkward at seduction, believe it or not. The irony is I'm rubbish at all of it until I know it's absolutely, positively, 100% welcome. Absolute rubbish. I have to know it's okay or there are all these psychological blocks. I just can't get past them. I've rarely ever flirted with someone who didn't flirt with me first. I can count on one hand the number of people I've asked out before their tongue spent some time in my mouth. I've only ever hit on people who either hit on my first or who basically grabbed my ears, pulled my face to theirs and said, "I would like you to make a move now, so that this evening can end with us blissed out and looking for my thong."

Pretty much everyone who has ever taken a ride on my disco stick has done the coming on.

Which is my took-forever-to-get-to-the-point way of saying, dude...

I get it.

Courtship sucks. Half the women threw out the book but didn't replace it with anything. The other half is still using the book but has a keen eye on where gallantry becomes sexism and you better agree with them right down the line.  And a third half has rewritten the book but it's not posted anywhere. An undetermined half of that first half and some of the other half still want to be chased and pursued and asked many times and know they are wanted. (My hand to God, I have sat behind a pair of women on Bart who talked about never going out with a new unless he had asked three different times because he had to prove "he was really into me." And I personally know three people who--before they got settled into long term relationships--regularly posted these memes about how guys who didn't prove their desire by pursuing them would not be getting the goods.) It is so fucking ridiculously hard to know if you're dealing with someone who wants to be pursued and wooed or someone who wants their first rejection to stick or even someone who doesn't want to be hit on at all and just wants to read their book.

Christ, it's almost like you're dealing with a bunch of individuals instead of one block group you can just treat the same.

Madness right?

But here's the problem.....

When you bring that shit up in a thread of a seven hundred comments about guys being creepy, sexual assault, and even violence on a post about a guy who was so obviously not taking what was unmistakably a genuine no for an answer....  When you say "yeah but" to a story where the woman is literally looking for an escape route and has basically begged him to leave her alone, you bring this whole package of pathetic, whiny, narcissistic stop-energy to the conversation.

Now you may not intend to do this, but what it LOOKS like to everyone watching is that you're trying to change a discussion about a woman getting harassed badly into one about how unfortunate it is that you have trouble dipping your wick.

Can you maybe see why that goes over like a depleted uranium balloon?

I have to tell you, this is a little like being pissed off that some news report about a school bus going off a cliff interrupted your soaps, and then calling in to the station to tell them that yes, you're very sorry about those kids, but was Michael the twins' dad or what?  Do you also get on domestic abuse threads and say "Yes, well, I'm surprised that no one has brought up how hard it is for men to work all day and come home to a sink full of dishes."

Yes, you really are being that inappropriate.

This is going to sting a little, but it's not about you.

Women get to not be into you.

They get to not be into talking.

They get to want to just read their book.

And they absolutely get to say no.

You're running the very real risk of being an entitled jerk-off who can't handle the idea of someone not wanting to talk to them. I know it stings, but you're just not that fucking awesome! Promise. My post wasn't a case of appropriate flirting gone wrong or mixed signals. I wouldn't have intervened with that. I would have let two adults with socialization skills work that shit out for themselves. What my post was about was one person being an intimidating bully and the other being scared.

[Don't think these guys are self-absorbed?

Here's a little thought experiment. 

Go back and check out how many comments that brought this idea up specifically said something to the effect of "I'm surprised no one else has brought this up"...completely ignoring ALL THE OTHERS who had brought it up before them with almost identical wording. If pretending you read all the comments about a serious issue so that you can bring up a point that "no one else has mentioned" without actually noticing that other people have indeed mentioned it isn't utterly self-absorbed, I don't know what is.]

So I feel pretty fracking comfortable telling you that you need to let the spotlight be off of you for a minute. Read story after story after story (after story after story) of women who weren't left alone and how it made them feel.

THEM.

Let those stories in. Let them get to you. Let the scope of this dawn on you. Realize how big a deal and how REAL a problem this really is in our culture.

Then maybe decide if this is really the right place and time and context for you to be Dawson's -Creek-Facing about the fact that you can't get someone to do some squat thrusts in your cucumber patch.

I know you were made to feel horrible and were physically threatened and wondered if you were going to get raped and this is all a larger social issue and probably leads to sexual assault and consent ought to be important and stuff and it's terrible that you have to go through this over and over again because men haven't been socialized not to be dbags and take silence to mean consent, which is a problem when a woman gets castigated for being vocal with her rejection and all....

....but I'm having trouble finding someone who'll let me feed sausage to their kitty.
Take heart. Most of you seemed like somewhat nice guys (except for your clueless narcissism and entitlement issues which you can work on by Googling "Nice Guy" and considering just how well that shoe fits). It seems like you at least want to get it right. Perhaps you're just a little self centered about how difficult it has been to cook your churro.

And let me at least offer you this word of good tidings. If you are worried about doing it wrong, you're already 90% the way to being okay. The fact that you give a shit at all about a woman not being interested in you already puts you miles ahead of actual creepers.

Just make sure you stay there, okay? Especially if you want to do something damned fool like putting the moves on women who are reading on public transit--because you'll lose what little high ground you have over those assholes if you are so full of yourself that you can't handle being rejected without turning on the person who rejected you.

The reason you can't find some paint by numbers formula or five fisted secret technique for getting your pencil sharpened is because there ISN'T ONE.  Women aren't a conglomerate block of strange alien creatures who all act one way. They are individuals with individual tastes, opinions, moods, and desire to flirt with you right that minute.  It's a sliding scale that changes depending on how hot you are, how tired she is, if Marvin Gaye is playing in the background, what she had for lunch, what underwear she has on, whether she just got out of a bad relationship (or if she is currently in a good one), and even weird shit like how much you smell like her dad. You can't control MOST of those things, so when she rejects you, it's nothing personal.

And even if it is totally about you--even if it's 100% exactly about you--it's still being an entitled ass to assume you are entitled or deserve someone to bob and bounce to your Steely Dan performance.

For more awesome stuff like this, visit:
http://reenin.deviantart.com/art/Reading-Zone-311272459
If you can't read the subtle cues for when a woman is into being approached or watch their foot position or the hair playing or pay attention to how their laughing at bad jokes to know if they're into you, you probably aren't skilled enough to be going for the interrupt-someone-reading maneuver anyway, but at least–AT LEAST–remember this: if they tell you they'd just like to read their book, you've struck out. Let go.

And in case you're keeping score, I have some very serious doubts that those of you who thought this was the place to bring up your flirting inadequacies are actually as "social signal savvy" as you think you are.

Just sayin...

Now, for the second group, those of you who honestly actually thought the guy hadn't done anything wrong or that women really do owe it to your entitled ass to be graciously receptive to your every advance:

Die.


You are a hero/badass/amazing/etc...

No.

I'm not.

I was being a snarky smartass, but I'm glad I could use my powers of sarcasm for good.  That's nice once in a while.

The truth is, if you want to know why I did this or why I'm 5'6" and get into fights with bullies, (or to a lesser--more obnoxious--degree, why I turn up my Beethoven when someone's playing rap music too loud) you have to go back to that southern belle feminist who raised me.

She was the one who would go knock on the neighbors' doors if a child was really shrieking just to make sure everything was okay. She was the one who who held babies and talked down mothers in drunk rages at 35,000 feet, when the flight attendants didn't know what to do. She was the one who spent an afternoon (and if I recall correctly, one where she should have been at work) making sure a young woman with a bruised up face had a place to stay, food, some toiletries, and a bit of cash. She demonstrated in late sixties rallies for equality.  She testified at city hall when our slumlord wouldn't fix the air conditioner. She took on the school system when my teacher targeted me for auto-punishment. And you've likely never seen anything half as inspiring as her diving into arguments over lunch with entire tables full of guys she works with--some of them above her--about some feminist issue that they were being clueless about.

If I ever seem to be fighting the good fight, I came by it honestly.  My mother really took stepping up to the next level.

She showed me (not told me–showed me) that you do NOT just pretend that nothing is wrong when it is. And she may have thought I wasn't paying attention, but I remember.  Some of my earliest memories are of complete strangers coming up to her and thanking her or telling her she did a good thing.  I was proud of her before I even understood what that meant.

She was my very first hero.

And she is the badass one.

Thank you.

As stories kept coming in--hundreds and hundreds of them--I didn't feel any less embarrassed about the pedestal some people were putting me on, but I began to realize that my sense of how common this was and how seldom anyone intervened may have been influenced in the right direction by how much I read, but that even still, I didn't really have a sense of the scope.

So, I'm going to do my best to graciously say this: You are all very, very welcome. And, despite nearly getting punched and not a few uncharitable online comments as to the nature of my character, I have to tell you...it was my pleasure.

I'm also very glad to see so many of my readers, after witnessing the outpouring of gratitude and stories of similar incidents--both with and without interventions--have told me that they will never stand by and watch something like this happen again.

It is the dream of most writers to have their writing make some small beneficial impact on the world around them, so even though it feels a little surreal to actually see things like that in print, it feels a little amazing too.

And thank YOU

I never could have expected how unbelievably viral this silly little post I made would get.  (Like I said, if I had I would have drafted it a few more times and taken out some of that "as a writer" stuff.) But for me, even though the numbers were exciting, and the donations have been amazingly generous, the most incredible thing has been how this post became a touch point for so many of your stories.  The events you've shared with me, either in comments or sent to me personally, have been unbelievable.  I've heard of amazing late husbands who would have loved to buy me a drink and survivors who saw a flicker of hope someday they might be able to be able to wear clothes they looked good in again. Though most were filled with frustrating scenarios and were even difficult to read for how painful they were, I was honored and breathless to have so many of you share with such honesty and candor your own experiences.

Yeah, let's just say it got a little dusty in the old writing room quite a few times.  Kept getting stuff in my eye...

I stopped even trying to reply to everyone after something like three hundred comments, but I read them all.  And I feel honored that you shared what were clearly some very personal and often painful stories.

Thank you.



With that, we're pretty much done with all the major themes of feedback.  I know I didn't get to some of the stuff that showed up only once (like the person who had the problem with the words "narrative" and "trope") but most comments that had some kind of echo more than two or three times are on here.  If you have any other questions, as always you can email me at chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject "W.A.W. Mailbox" (if you want to be featured in a future mailbox) or without it (if you just want the question to be between you and me).  But given that the article has mostly died down, and I'm getting only two or three comments a day on it now, I think this should be the end of it.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Thought for my Subscribers

It occurs to me that I may have enough new subscribers (or people who just check whether I post on Facebook or not) that my last entry warrants some level of explanation.

I don't do the bookkeeping every month to brag.  Actually, in a month like last, it's a bit embarrassing to me.  When it's very small, it's funny to poke fun at how absurd this whole thing is, but I was raised not to talk openly about money, so when there's an actual amount worth mentioning I'm a bit red faced.

Though last month was exciting (not enough to pay the bills, but very non-trivial), I didn't put the totals by way of a *squee*.

I keep tabs each month to maintain transparency.  I reinvest 10% of everything I make back into blog improvements, and I donate 10% to a children's literacy charity.  It's all here in my financial pledge.  I want people to know that I'm not "cooking the books" so to speak. I don't boost the posts through social media or advertise them at all, but they're there for people to look at if they want.  That also means that anyone subscribed will see them inadvertently.

So that's why.