Welcome

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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don't Go Breaking My Heart?

I am in the throes of editing The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy: Book Two, Chasing Dreams, which will be released in June 2015. This means I am now working with an editor.

An editor is a person who breaks your heart. That’s particularly true if the editor has her or his own vision and wants you to write a completely different book from the one you have written and insists on rewrites to conform to the editor’s vision, not the writer’s. I am fortunate in now having a truly excellent editor who understands my vision and my books, and while I may get slammed for Voltaire-length sentences and obscure word use (but I LOVED that word!), I’m not going to have to write a completely different book, and one I don’t even like very much (yes, this has happened to me) to get it published.

A good editor comes to the manuscript with fresh eyes, sees the author’s vision and has the goal of make it clearer, tighter and more interesting to readers so they truly enjoy the book and want more in a series or by the same author. In one sense, this is good. It’s all too easy to get wound up in one’s own elegant prose, one’s favorite expressions, to wander away from the story into Interesting Stuff. Not relevant Stuff, not Stuff that moves the story along, but Really Interesting Stuff nonetheless. On the other hand, it always breaks your heart at least a little bit, as you have to delete things that are interesting, funny, beautifully written, and even sometimes form the byways and backstory of the book. This process, if it’s going to work, must be all about the book as a whole.  If you’re going to have a good book, that takes readers into a different world, that pulls them along with a fast-paced and interesting story, your heart is just going to have to cope in service of the work and the service of the reader.

Too many writers who independently publish think they don’t need editors. What they produce is — sorry — all too often crap. It doesn't read well, it doesn't flow, there are plot holes, there are character inconsistencies and even character name-changes — oh, the difficulties for the reader are legion. These books aren't even properly copy-edited, so the poor grammar, punctuation and spelling distract the reader at every turn. The story idea may be good, but the book as a whole simply isn't done, and without the perspective of those fresh editorial eyes and the detail-oriented skill of a copy-editor, it’s going to be launched with all its flaws and faults. Readers may get the book free or for $0.99 off an e-book site, but those readers will say, “Ho-hum” and won’t look for and follow the succeeding books by the author. This is one of the biggest problems with independent publishing. There are too many writers who simply throw their drafts up on line without having anybody but their three best buddies listen to the overall story line and say, “It’s great. Have another beer.”

The other group who need editors but often don’t have effective ones are Big Names who publish with Major Houses for Big Bucks. NOBODY thinks these people need editors, but they need them as much as any other writer. A Big Name Author I know just published the 4th book in a series of erotica. It’s not my kind of erotica, but I like the author and generally like this author’s books, so I read a sample. It looks like a draft to me. And that’s a shame. Had the book been up to this author’s usual EDITED standards, this book might have sucked me in. It didn’t. I won’t buy this book, and I won’t take another look at the series. These Big Name Authors need editors, too, because of the things a good editor knows how to do to make the work shine — things you really can’t do for yourself.

Good editorial eyes always benefit the writer, the book and the reader. If you’re a writer who is publishing, whether independently, small press, or Major House, make sure you have an editor who is more than a yes-person, someone who actually knows how to edit, and a copy editor who knows her or his job. Getting the story out of the writer’s brain and into the computer is just the first part of the publication process. Before your Baby Book goes out into the world, it’s up to you, the writer, to make it the best book it can possibly be, and that means — among other things —  insisting on a good editor and letting her break your heart.

Now that I’ve reminded myself what a great service my wonderful editor does for me, my books and my readers, I’m going to dive into rewrites, so that Chasing Dreams will get the kind of 5-star reviews that The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy garners, and readers will be looking forward to Book Three, scheduled for 2016!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Best Fiction Heroine (Don't Forget to Vote)

Who is the best fiction heroine? 

Yeah Hermione is probably going to win, baring a huge upset, but everything from second place to sixth is still an interesting game.

There is still a couple of weeks left in this poll (even though I'll start getting nominations for whatever we're going to do as May's poll in just a couple of days), but please don't forget that if it's been a week since your last vote, you can vote again!

Everyone will get five votes (5). Before you simply vote for your favorite three, consider that, as there is no ranking of those three votes; each vote beyond one dilutes the power of your choices a little more. So if you have a genuine favorite--or pair of favorites--it's better to use as few votes as possible.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Controlling the Narrative: A Case Study within Baltimore

I left the correspondence dinner for this?
Oh wait. No I didn't.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled post about writing to bring you a late breaking post about what it means to be a writer. Also the Baltimore protests. 

In what seems like a past life I bought one of those DVD multi-packs from Costco–the kind with ten "award winning" movies in them for a phenomenally good price ($20 for the lot if I recall). Unfortunately a better name for this multi-pack would have been, "Ten movies that gave some actor an academy award, but you will probably only watch once." (Don't get me wrong, I like I am Sam, but when I've got to clean the house and it's that or The Matrix, it's not a tough choice.) Turns out, the reason Costco could have such a good deal is that the DVDs were all defective in some minor way. Some had no labels printed on them. Most were in cheap paper cases that fell apart. Some had no menu screen and just jumped right to the movie.

A couple of them had been printed on older disks–the kind with a front and a back, and so like the old laser disks, about half way through the movie, you had to turn the CD over. I put one in once, not knowing this, and watched a very strange movie.

This movie was about a coalition of men who seemed bent on annihilating these other men...for no real good reason. They were assassinating their character, getting them into trouble with the mob, trumping up charges with which to take them to court. This entire movie seems to be swirling around a spur-of-the-moment murder. They were basically destroying these people in any way they could, and they wouldn't really even explain why. It was petty. It was cruel. And they didn't seem like relatable protagonists at all–just these random sociopaths who didn't have any moral compunction doing whatever it took to harm others. They were horrible, immoral, and sadistic. In the end I felt sorry for the poor people they completely obliterated. It was an incredibly difficult movie to watch–fortunately, it was over in only an hour.

Wait....what? An hour long movie?

Well, eventually I realized that I had put the second half of Sleepers in and watched it before the first. Not knowing that these children ended up being sexually molested night after night by guards in a broken system. Not knowing that this was basically part of systematic routine the guards at this facility put all the kids through. That they were traumatized by their childhood and wanted some kind of retribution. Once I'd seen the first half, it was still a fucked up story with no happy endings, but at least the catharsis of these adults getting back at their childhood abusers had a certain relatable protagonist motivation. Sleepers suddenly made a lot more sense.

Exactly why have I gone on for four paragraphs about Sleepers in a post about Baltimore? Because I want you to understand the greatest power there is, not just in situations like this, but in any situation you can imagine. That is the ability to start and stop the story wherever you want. It's called "framing the narrative" and it's not just a catchy buzz phrase that the token black interviewee says when they get asked about a racial incident or that lets a writing blogger shoehorn in the occasional commentary on current events.

Remember that prank the kid pulled where he edited a disk of Toy Story three so that his mom though the last frame of the movie was them falling into the incinerator?  I'm not going to embed the video here because it's seven minutes, but you can find it here. [Toy Story 3 spoilers, obvs.] All he did was leave out the very end of the story. A few details. Everything she saw was FACTUAL, but by ending where he decided to, she got the TRUTH he wanted her to see. In her world, those toys died, and that was one fucked up story. Sure, it was just a goofy prank, but by framing the narrative the way he wanted to, he could show her nothing but facts, and still represent only his truth.

A lot of people are going to blog about Baltimore in the next few days. A lot already have. (We're writers; when shit works us up, we write it out.) Most of them are going to do a much better job cataloguing the injustices that led to the powder keg of anger or pointing out the breaking news. Many will attempt to draw the focus towards the thousands protesting peacefully. Some will share poignant images of a community that is grieving, and calling for justice. Some will point out that it was drunk sports fans who sparked the initial violence.

And of course others will try to frame the narrative in a different way. They don't want you to see that stuff above. They want to frame this story for you by starting and stopping it where it suits them (at best because peaceful protests "aren't news," but some due to an agenda to validate their bigotry). They will point their cameras only when they see violence. They will ignore any calls for non-violence or attempts by protestors to calm flash points. They will clutch their pearls at the horrible treasonous image of protesters throwing rocks at riot police, but edit out the part where riot police provoked them by throwing rocks first. They will ignore police brutality. They will ignore what started that violence and chalk their analysis up to "lack of education," "lack of leadership," or among the less charitable, "'those people' are just thugs and animals."

Mostly though they will start the story half way through, like I did with the Sleepers DVD. They will frame the narrative in an incomplete way so that the story you get is of random sociopaths striking out against the innocent for no particular reason. They will start the story with a riot. Or if they're "balanced" they will start the story with Freddie Gray and what was almost certainly a nickel ride that killed him and provoked a protest that became a riot.

But even these narratives are framed in a way that disregards the background that led to the powder keg, and insinuate that destruction is happening in a contextual vacuum. They ignore the top down violence that has been going on for decades (for centuries, really) where on a horrifyingly regular basis, unarmed black people are extrajudicially killed by agents of the state in a way that simply does NOT happen to whites with such statistical regularity. They ignore Baltimore's particularly egregious history with police brutality that is disproportionally doled out on Blacks. They ignore the eighteen months of cell phone camera coverage of blacks being shot in the back despite holding BB guns, shot within seconds of police arriving, despite being a child with a toy, shot in the back while running away, choked to death while begging to breathe, and an avalanche of police reports that turn out to be completely false when video footage surfaces.

The words you pick are another way to control the narrative.
They ignore whatever doesn't suit their narrative.

I hope if I've taught you nothing else on this blog, it is that controlling the narrative is power. It is absolute power. You decide who is good, who is bad, who's off the rails, and who is being noble. You get to decide who is "reasonable" and who is "too angry." That is the power to shape reality. It's why publishing is whitewashed. It's why e-publishing is so exciting. Facts and truth are entirely different creatures and you can decide what truth you want people to see by disseminating facts with discretion.

So watch closely in the coming weeks as attempts to control the narrative unfurl in their typical modus operandi.

Narrative:  "The 'proper' way to protest is non-violently." Let's forget for a second that most of the protesters ARE protesting non-violently. The problem with those at the top of an oppressive system demanding respectability politics is that "proper" is almost always synonymous with "easy to ignore." Christ, people get pissed off if a protest blocks traffic and they're late for dinner (and why should that matter more than black lives?) because the only proper protests seem to be the invisible ones.

Quick! Think of all the non-violent protests you can name and what they were about? Chances are, unless you were IN those protests, your list is pretty short. Now try to name a few riots you know of....

Let me be absolutely clear. I wish no one harm–to their body or livelihood. I really really don't. But the narrative that a broken window is an atrocity is only even plausible to advance if you leave out the part about the broken spine.

Further, this narrative is among the most absurd because it doesn't just ignore, but absolutely obfuscates the fact that every reasonable attempt to affect change HAS been made. The Black community wasn't just sitting around basking for the last 60 years in the post-racial utopia that is the United states when all of a sudden because of this ONE thing, they just forwent all the normal attempts at redress and skipped right to rioting.


Narrative: "All violence is always wrong." This is such a disingenuous narrative. It literally relies on ignoring some violence (and usually top down violence which has a far more destructive aggregate effect) but not others. Like going to a salad bar of Violence In History™ and just taking what you like and ignoring the rest. It relies on ignoring the violence of the police, both during their extrajudicial murders and as a response to those upset by them. And it is conspicuously absent when others describe what they would do to defend their store fronts if they were there, or what sort of vigilantism they would engage in if they were a cop. When "please don't be violent" only goes one way, it looks a lot like "stand there and let us shoot you."

You should probably not be in this country if you think violence is always wrong. You certainly shouldn't ever buy property or anything that runs on electricity or gas. The US was founded on violence, expanded by violence, is prosperous by violence, and has not been in a war for about seventeen of its 239 years. It's pretty much here on a legacy of violence. But, of course, that is like the edamame at a Sizzler salad bar–let's just ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist.

Look, is there anyone here who watches Star Wars and thinks the rebels should just fucking obey the law. Or (among Americans) who thinks they wouldn't have been a revolutionary during the colonial revolt? (You do know we didn't just reasonably protest until King George let us be our own country, right?) Or who watches The Hunger Games or Divergent and thinks that if they were there, they would just quietly be respecting the proper authorities? The only way to think violence is always wrong is to suggest that America is always completely just. And that is demonstrably untrue.

Plus...wake the fuck up. You live in a country where the right to violently revolt if you don't like your government is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. At least that's what you say every time someone suggests an assault rifle is not really a hunting weapon.

People will always call for peace when what they really mean is silence.


Narrative: "It's not about race. It's about culture/education/leadership/upbringing/those people's morality..." This narrative is just wrong, and it takes stone-cold willful ignorance to stick with it. It's about race. The United States has a huge race problem. Our ten biggest riots in this country have all been racially motivated. White people seem to get that racism exists at a cerebral level, but always want to declare each specific instance not actually racism THIS time. The only time this country isn't talking about race is when people of color's "tone" is respectable enough that they can be successfully ignored.


Narrative: "ALL lives matter." The problem with this narrative is that we're not having a problem putting a value on ALL lives. No one is arguing that white lives don't matter. No systematic injustice is demonstrating that white lives don't matter. No one is gunning down unarmed white people in the back on cell phone cameras every other week. (Hell they still show up in Walmart with their assault rifles.) Our culture does not need to be reminded that white lives matter or that all lives matter. It needs to be reminded that Black lives matter.



Narrative: "Why don't they just trust the system?" Have you watched the news in the last...oh thirty years? This narrative relies on absolute cognitive dissonance. "They" don't trust the system because the system works to fuck them over every chance it gets. How many innocent verdicts and failures to even indict have to come down before this is abundantly clear. As a general rule, cops don't face criminal justice punishment for killing black people. This shit is so common, people talking about them are getting the events confused.

Why in the literal fuck would anyone trust this system?

Narrative: "They are hurting their own cause/They're just making things worse./They are shooting themselves in the foot/This is no way to get what they want." This narrative is based on what people who value stability over justice want to be true. It has no actual basis in lived experience or historical knowledge. How do you know they're hurting their own cause? How do you know they won't be better off in two or ten years or maybe their kids' lives might be a little different by moving a national dialogue? How do you know that by forcing the issue they haven't overcome the inequities of systematically being made invisible? Is it your extensive experience in being a person without privilege who is flat out of options for affecting change? Is it your rich history in racial activism and all those peaceful protests you've been in that did a lot of good? Is it your robust knowledge of how, historically, social change has been achieved in the past? Or did you just pull that one out of your ass because it sounds like something a group who is absolutely in power over another might say?



Narrative: "Something something something Martin Luther King something something." White people fucking LOVE this narrative, don't they. MLK, man. I have a dream, man. Don't judge people by their color, man. Peace and love, man. He would teach these people to be non-violent if he were here.

We're talking about the same guy, right?
You mean the guy who said he couldn't really condemn rioters because a riot was the language of the unheard? The guy who broke the law all the fucking time and didn't give a flying shit about white people's feelings? The guy who got up in white people's faces pointing out injustice that they swore was no big deal until they ASSASSINATED him? The guy who died an enemy of the state? The guy the FBI blackmailed? Arrested 30 times in a relatively brief ministry? Railed against capitalism? The guy who called the peace and stability loving "northern moderate" worse than the southern racists? Is that the guy we're talking about?

Because if your narrative is that he was a teddy bear who would just hug all this shit out, please open a history book and stop remembering him from the video you were shown on the Friday before the three day weekend...in third grade.

And just so we're clear, when you're invoking Ghandi and MLK as the reason no one should ever be violent, let me remind you that these protests were very, VERY violent. It was just one side doing it.


Narrative: "I would be just as upset if white people were doing it!" The trouble with this narrative is that it is so often demonstrably untrue. I can't speak for every single person to utter these words, but some of them have been the same people–not the same type of people, mind you, but the EXACT SAME PEOPLE–who weren't quite so apoplectic when white people put federal agents in sniper crosshairs for stealing some cows (rather than breaking windows as a response to the loss of human lives). I seem to remember a different reaction when white people rioted over pumpkins and sports; the nuance brigade showed up to talk about mob psychology and diffusion of responsibility.



Human beings are a species of storytellers. That is literally (pun not intended) how we contextualize everything. It is how we self identify. It is how we talk about who we are and what we want to do. It is how we understand each other. It is how we pass on our culture to our children. It is how we talk to people. We tell long and short stories. One of our greatest cognitive strengths is to examine facts and infer a story that puts them together. Our stories are the most important parts of who we are. We try to get people to listen to our culture's stories or ignore others' stories. We try to get our story in first, loudest, most often. Our entire existence is a mosaic of stories that are woven together to define ourselves and the world around us. They are, in a fundamental way, literally our reality. Stopping and starting those stories where they do one side of an issue the most good, and marginalizing the narratives that seek to tell backstory (or enter another character's point of view) is phenomenal cosmic power when it comes to manipulating humans.



As storytellers, writers have this power in particular, and while I can't tell you what to do with it, I hope that at least, you respect it.

Baltimore is going to be a veritable shit storm of attempts to control the narrative. You could play along with the narrative you want to be true and ignore others, but I hope that whatever your feelings about inequality, racial injustice, violence, or police brutality, you pay close attention to who is trying to frame that narrative for their own ends and try to see the much bigger picture that is beyond the edges of the story one side is putting in front of you. It seems as if people are rioting over nothing (or maybe one narcotics dealer who was treated poorly). It seems as if everyone was happy as a clam in our post-racial utopia, when suddenly "those people" bypassed every reasonable course of redress and skipped right to the riots. Neither of those things is even remotely true.

Like Sleepers, if you go back and watch the first half of this story, the catharsis of destruction is still fucked up, but it makes a lot more sense.

Monday, April 27, 2015

On Sister Act II and How to Know if You Should Be a Writer

On Writing About Writing's Facebook Page, a lot of people take advantage of the chance to promote their own work. I don't think it's always a skeevy attempt to lamprey hits off of an audience I've spent a couple of years building (I usually mark those as spam and delete them...with extreme prejudice)--some people legitimately think "hey that thing I wrote that once is a good reply to this." I usually check them out to figure out if I'm going to say a pun in an Austrian accent right before I delete them ("Your access is denied!"), or if I'll let them stay because the sort of seem to be posted in good faith, not trying to sell motivational CDs, and at least tangentially related to writing.

On Saturday night someone replied to my rerun post of the FAQ Post about writing every day to be a writer by posting an entry from their own article. I'm not going to link it here because I'm going to disagree with it a bit and I know how it can sting to find you're getting referring traffic from another blog, only to go and see that someone is taking exception to what you say. (It's a good way to get traffic to link and disagree with blogs, but it always kind of ruins my morning when it happens.) If you really want to dig back through my FB feed, you can find the post in question and the link in the comments, but I'll hit the highlight reel. (As it is, they will probably see it on my FB page, and if they do, I hope they know that this isn't necessarily directed AT them even though it was inspired by them.)

It began by talking about a scene in Sister Act where Mary Clarence discusses Letters to a Young Poet, and how Rilke writes to Kappus that if he wakes up every day wanting to write, he's a writer.

This is the scene in question. Listen really closely to what Goldberg says:



The post went on to say that this author wakes up every day to dreams of being a writer, and that it follows her to bed at night. She encourages everyone to follow their dreams, whether writer, singer, painter, sculptor, or underwater basket weaver glass dildo sculptor, whatever.

And that's what I want to talk about, because I've actually heard this song before. (Get it? Song? That's a little Sister Act joke there....~sigh~ never mind.)

That's not just poetic license that I've heard something like this before. Oh no, my peeps. Actually when you've been moving through oceans of hopeful writers for as long as I have, you will hear this exact breakdown–complete with Sister Act II reference–multiple times. I've actually seen Sister Act II only once when it came out in theaters. It was my senior year, and a bunch of the choir kids went as sort of an impromptu field trip.  This clip, on the other hand, I've probably seen thirty to forty times, usually at the behest of some writer using it as proof that they are a really real writer....really.

And that Icecapades joke is getting OLD, lemmie tell ya.

Writers fucking LOVE this scene.They buy this scene flowers and say shit about having kids (even though it's only the first date) with this scene. If anything, I think this scene gives writers bigger heart flutters than it actually does singers. And most of the young writers I've seen picking out bedroom sets with this scene react to it in basically the same way:

They say they know they are a writer because they wake up in the morning and go to bed at night dreaming of being a writer.

But that's not what Mary Clarence says in this clip. 

Let me say that again. That's not actually what Mary Clarence says in this clip. And that's not what Rilke says in Letters to a Young Poet either. Feel free to re-listen if you don't believe me. Because what they actually say is subtly but critically different.

"Being a writer" vs. "writing."

Neither one of them say that you are a writer if the first thing you think of when you wake up is being a writer. What they actually say is that you are a writer if the first thing you think of when you wake up is writing.

I don't want to shit on anyone's dreams. (Well, okay, maybe like Pat Robertson's–I'd drop a fat deuce on his dreams any day.) And I don't want to tell anyone what they ought to do when they wake up in the morning short of brush those teeth because morning breath is the worst. And I'm certainly not going to stand up here and deem who is a writer and who isn't. I don't think Rilke really wants that responsibility either. He was just trying to encourage Kappus not to judge his identity by the quality of his prose. I'm just a guy who read a blog about a clip that makes the rounds among us writers almost as much as that thing about how adverbs are always bad.

However, the way people hear this clip, and the way it changes (in exactly the same way) in so many hopeful writers' heads is worth noticing because its emblematic of an art form where (for some reason) the idea that dreaming about success is more important than enjoying the work has really caught on.

If you dream of being a writer (and the writing itself is a necessary chore to get you to your goal) it's quite a different thing than if you dream of writing. And there are an awful lot of hopeful writers who seem to have a great deal of confusion conflating the two.

I can't tell you what to do about that if it's the case, but what I can tell you is that your chances of being a successful writer without loving writing for its own sake are even worse than your chances of being a successful writer, (which already blow). And the thought of doing the kind of work it would take to become successful in an art you're not that jazzed about is cray-cray with whackadoodle sauce, so maybe it's time to go back to that first time you turned a moment or a feeling into words or that first tremendous feeling when you finished something. Maybe it's time to fall in love with writing again. And wake up in the morning and dream of writing, and let the "being a writer" attend to itself.

Because if you wake up wanting to write, it will.

[For the two or three of you following closely enough to know that Monday is supposed to be a Mailbox, I'm flipping today and tomorrow because of an alarm clock that is too easy to turn off in my sleep–it's a long story with a lot of heartache, trust me.]

If you're enjoying this blog, and would like to see more articles like this one, the writer is a guy with a rent and insurance to pay who would love to spend more time writing. Please consider contributing to My Patreon. As little as $12 a year (only one single less-than-a-cup-of-coffee dollar a month) will get you in on backchannel conversations, patron-only polls, and my special ear when I ask for advice about future projects or blog changes.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Answer Is....(Sunday's Shorts)

When are the "can't miss" articles? Can anyone guest blog? Where's the hate mail? Help without money? Are you skipping posts on Facebook?

Today I'm answering a few really short questions that have full answers elsewhere (but that might not always be easy to find).

Q: Hey I love your blog, but I just got a new job and I usually catch up on weekends. What days are the can't miss articles.

A: I'm a terrible judge of what is going to be a crap article vs. what is going to be "can't miss," but the articles that are a little more "meaty" and into which I pour a little more time and energy go up every Monday and Friday. You can always check the update schedule under the "Business Crap" tap at the top of the blog. My schedule changes at least every semester (including summer), but I update the schedule regularly to tell you when I'll (try to) get up regular articles, and when I'll be doing mostly jazz hands or slightly fluffier fare.

Q: Can anyone guest blog for you? Even me?

A: I'm not sure who "even me" is since your e-mail is a yandex account roughly equivalent to "samanddean3sum4evah," but there is only a very short list (mostly of prominent white male atheists, Fox news correspondents, and "Christians who get cameras pointed at them") who I wouldn't want to blog for me under any circumstance. Of course, there are a few limitations of content, and I'd say stringing a coherent sentence together is a must, but generally I am really excited to get all kinds of different voices and many different intersections with art and writing here, so it's always worth asking. If anyone wants to blog, they should check the guest blogging guidelines and see if we'd be a good fit.

Q: Is it possible to find all the hate mail you've ever gotten in one place. I want to show my roommate the hilarity.

A: That stuff is like crack, isn't it? You want the link to Rage Against the Brecheen. Generally every post that has any kind of "staying power" can be found somewhere in The Reliquary. Some of them are old and embarrassing, but there they are.

Q: What's the best thing a penniless fan can do to help your blog?

A: I've got an FAQ that covers this, but the best thing you can do is to share articles on your social media with a quote or some kind of "upselling" commentary. I'm a big fan of "Your life will not be complete unless you read this!" or some variant. Apparently you might also get some mileage out of "Clicking this will instantly make you have a threesome with Sam and Dean."

Q: Are you skipping posts on your Facebook page? Seems like some days you post but FB only gets a rerun. 
 

A: All the time. Facebook is cesspool of algorithms and post hiding designed to make page admins pay to promote their posts. Most people who want to see the content of a page see about 5% of what that page posts. Most people are there for the macros and puns and I don't want to get to spammy, so I limit my posting there to the articles I know will get a few likes, comments, and other engagement.

If you want to get every single post I post, there are several ways to follow me that are better than Facebook.


Don't forget to keep sending me questions at chris.brecheen@gmail.com

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Writer is Sick

Clearly dying.
Got a post, a little over half done, and it could have totally been up by noonish today, but I need to crawl back into bed with some cough syrup and get my rest.  

I'll rearrange the usual posting schedule to get this one up next week on a day that's usually more fluffy.

Seeing as I have NO idea what I'm in for here, this might be a very light weekend.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Devil's in the Details--By Claire Youmans

The Devil's in the Details

I was recently in a place where I could buy REAL bagels. So I did. Quite a lot of them. Just because it's bread cooked in a ring shape does not mean it's a bagel. Like pretzels, there is a water bath involved. This is mandatory. Without that bath, the crust does not bake properly crisp and the product lacks bite. I loath the bread-ish doughnuts that lack that bath which are popularly passed off as bagels.

It's that little detail of the proper water bath that makes a bagel a bagel. It's a detail, but don't try to omit it, or you're SO NOT toast at my house.

Along the same line, those pesky bits of word usage, of punctuation, of grammar, are the devilish details that plague writers. If prose is not smooth, if there’s no continuity, if words are incorrect, if the punctuation doesn't help the reader understand how the text is read, if spelling errors about, if the formatting isn't consistent -- the reader's attention is jerked out of the story and into the way the story was crafted. That harms the reader's experience and spoils the story -- whether the reader realizes this is happening or not. It's very important to rewrite, edit and copy-edit to make reading the story the best experience it can be for the reader.

This has been bugging me a lot lately. Facebook is currently giving me a hard time by constantly changing my correctly chosen and spelled words into contextual gibberish. Repeatedly. After correction. In secret, so I won't know until tomorrow, or maybe never. It also insists on capitalizing in their entirety certain words, no matter how many times I tell it not to.  BUDDHIST is one.  FRENCH is another. Today, it started doing this with MARY. Am I experiencing Ghost-in-the-Machine messages from a French Buddhist named Mary? There’s a plot for you. Somebody run with that.

So I am not "sharing" anything that is badly written any more. I don't care if it's funny, or pertinent, or even important. I want my readers' experiences, like my bagels, to be crafted to the best of standards, so I now find it important to hold those standards high all around. If you’re a writer, a real writer, someone who is telling a story, communicating with others, shouldn’t you?

A bagel shop is where one buys bagels. This is where one buys books: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy. Book Two, Chasing Dreams, is coming!


Claire Youmans


http://claireyoumansauthor.blogspot.com

www.tokigirlandsparrowboy.com

Facebook:  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Toki-Girl-Sparrow-Boy-Claire-Youmans/dp/0990323404/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8


If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Best Heroine FINAL ROUND


Who is the best fiction heroine?

It all ends.

Two months ago, I casually started taking nominations for a "best heroine" poll I thought would be dying down by late February. The names flooded in. Too many for a single poll, and even too many for a poll with semifinals, we had to do quarterfinals just to narrow down the options enough for a single, large final poll.

This is that poll.

Our poll is ten names. Each of you will be given four votes. Please remember that there is no "ranking" system for votes so each vote you cast beyond the first will "dilute" the power of all the others. You should vote for as few as you can bear to.

Since it's already late April, this poll will stay open into May even as I collect nominations for whatever our May poll is going to be (suggestions welcome in comments). However don't tarry–this poll will close on May 13th.

One reminder that I always need to put on our more popular polls. This poll is about books. It is not about movies. There have been some great movie adaptations of almost all of these titles, but stick to voting for the BOOKS. This may go well for characters like Eowyn, who were given less agency in the movie adaptation, but try not to let a mad crush on Emma Watson after her U.N. speech influence a vote for Hermione.

The poll itself is on the lower left of the side menus–just below the "About the Author."

Since I can't really stop shenanigans, I welcome shenanigans all flavors. The main one is of course that Polldaddy tracks your IP for a week so you could vote from multiple computers or vote again after a week, but people have also enlisted friends, family, and even author sub Reddits or Facebook communities to join in the fun.

Best Heroine (Semifinal 2) Poll Results


Thank you to so many who took the time to vote. Seriously, that's about twice as many votes as normal.

Lisbeth Salander (~sniff~), Kantmiss Everdeen (that one was a surprise), and Lyra Belacqua will not be going on to the final round. So here is our mega list for the final round. I even waited to see if the Honor Harrington/Lisbeth gap would get a little wider, but they proceeded to get two votes each, so I had to just call it.

Jo March–Little Women
Cordelia Naismith–Vorkosigan Saga
Matilda
Eowyn–Lord of the Rings
Honor Harrington
Hermione Granger–Harry Potter
Laura Ingalls–Little House Series
Charlotte–Charlotte's Web
Anne Shirley–Anne of Green Gables
Keladry of Mindelan

Don't touch that dial! Our final round poll will be up later today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Thank You. Yes YOU!


Yesterday you (all of you) were able to help me fund a group of 2nd graders in one of the highest poverty schools in Oakland get a set of brand new literature readers. While we got them close to their goal, a matching charity (Oakland Reads) pushed them over the edge.

$628 is from multiple donors.
We helped push them over the edge,
but that is not all us.
Here at Writing About Writing, 10% of every penny I make (through donations or ads) goes to local children's literacy charity. In this case another local charity Oakland Reads 2020 was matching the funds, and we helped Ms. Costello's 2nd graders get the books they need.

While I can't tell you exactly how much I gave because I no longer disclose W.A.W.'s finances on the blog (for a host of reasons), and it would be a trivial exercise to "reverse engineer" how much I made if I tell you what my donation was, suffice to say that it was a non-trivial amount.

(I also stuffed the same amount into Hen Wen for the day when we can hire a web designer and really take this blog up a notch.)

Thank you all.  Thank you so, so much. Thank you for reading. Thank you for donating. Thank you for turning off your ad blocker for this domain. Thank you for sharing your favorite posts. You are literally helping the world be a little bit better by reading snarky writing advice.

Monday, April 20, 2015

When Are You Going to.....(Mailbox)

Will you ever finish the suchandsuch articles?  

[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 feel free to guilt the new parent about the fact that they've only kept up with the blog every day and haven't managed to get you the articles you want.]   


When will we see more about Skyrim? The game was already old when you started...two years ago. / Oh please tell me that you're going to do more of A Demon's Rubicon soon. I really love that one?/ Are we ever going to get more fiction? Or is that fiction?/ I'm waiting on the next part of your series on blogging./ You used to do reviews of writing books. Will we ever get more of those?/ Did that story you started to post with the spaceship picture just die out or what?/ What ever happened to the glossary? About midway through, you just stopped.

My reply:

Wow. Looking at these all in one place... I kind of feel like shit. Toasted shit. Spread across some kind of nine grain bread.

I've got a lot of questions in the hopper about when I'm going to get my ass back into gear and write up conclusions of serial pieces, more of the old school posts (like Leela BruceGuy Goodman St. White, and The Glossary),  product reviews, craft advice, some of my fiction, and fiction in general One of you even noticed that I never actually finished Self Reflection Sucks (which is simultaneously one of the best, most sublime, awesome, warm and fuzzy writerly validation feelings I've ever felt and just absolutely mortifying.)

Christ it's almost like this blog could be useful and entertaining if I'd stop doing jazz hands.

There are two things to keep in mind about the last two years of Writing About Writing. The first is that it's this little dude's fault:

"OOOOOOOh I ruin everything in the nicest way."
Now while I love throwing toddlers under the bus when it comes to excusing my life's failings as much as the next guy, bear with me just this once. Just about two years ago, The Brain was going from "a little bit preggers" to "random women keep asking to rub my belly," and my life was starting to change. My little arrangement where I kept the house cleanish, did the dishes, and took care of the hardwood floors was transforming into a full time job as a househusband. And when The Contrarian came along, things got even weirder. The past two years have been an epic saga of schedule rearranging and using a pix axe, a miners helmet (with the light), and a laser scalpel to find time anywhere I could.

Currently, my alarm goes off at the ungodly hour of 4:30 am and I write during the time that even the squirrel-loving, sunrise-watching Grape Nuts commercial guy thinks is "too fucking early for this shit." It seems to be working okay, but my writing would dearly prefer me to be a night owl.

The second is that I know I'm treading water a little bit. Writing went on the back burner. Yes, it's vitally important to me. Yes, I do it every day. But even someone who writes every day and wants to be a writer can have other things come up that mean maybe they write three or four hours a day instead of eight to ten. As I watch the Contrarian begin to be able to play with Duplos for ten or fifteen minutes before getting bored or watch a whole episode of Daniel Tiger before his attention wanders, I know that my ability to get back into the writing saddle will slowly return.

Some days it's really really hard to defend my writing time. I have to use those movement tracking machine guns from the extended version of Aliens and an arm-mounted flamethrower like Boba Fett has.

Skyrim- I'm still playing, and almost back to where I was when I last said, "I don't remember what I was doing when I stopped playing. I need to start over." I've got some notes but I need to play a bit more before I suspect they will gel into an article that says something other than what I've already said. Besides, I know this Thalmor guy spying on the Mage's guild is not on the level. Nobody has wavy blond hair that looks that good without magic. Nobody.

This one's going to take a while–I can't even pretend it's right around the corner or something. Monster huge, hundreds-of-hours, open ended Bethesda games and "primary care provider for a 16 month old" aren't really two great tastes that go great together.

Reviews- Good news, I've restarted Bird By Bird (Anne Lamott) so that I can review it. I can have the book read in just a few days, but review posts are very time intensive to write, so I don't imagine the article would be up until either next Friday or the following. Plus reading Lamott requires at least an hour or two per chapter of reflecting on (but not regretting) all of one's terrible life choices that expose the frailty of human fallibility.

Reviews are something several people have asked about (and at least one person has sent "their boys" by with lead pipes to "have a chat with me" about), so they will be getting some of my energy focus as I ramp up. They are time intensive, but not as bad as fiction. Plus I like my kneecaps.

Unfinished Series- I haven't forgotten the posts like the glossary or my Current Series Post on Blogging. I'm just....well, I'm just being cheesy about it. It's always easier to just do something I've been thinking of than to go back to an older post, and force my brain to do go somewhere other than where it wants to roam, so when I'm writing at the last minute (which is always these days), it's sometimes easier to just post whatever's

A Demon's Rubicon- The last part should be up soon. I want to get it right because it's the conclusion, and it could really get maudlin and have way too much unearned sentimentality if I don't take the time to get it right. Nothing worse than ending something I worked that hard on with syrup covered Twinkie filling to make all the cavities in people's literary teeth scream out in pain.

I may have overworked that metaphor.

Champions of Earth- I haven't forgotten this. It's just been harder than I thought to get the revisions to each section done. I can make disclaimers that I'm only trying it out to see if serial fiction is going to be viable in a blog format and it's totally a beta version, but all the disclaimers in the world won't change that posting my fiction is like peeling off my skin and posting exposed soul. Bear with me.

Fiction (in general)- Is very time intensive and probably won't come in at a steady clip until/unless I am able to do less househusbandry. If you want more fiction, keep supporting W.A.W., and hopefully I'll be able to farm out some housework or get a sitter in for a couple of hours a day. Definitely, the contrarian is getting easier to watch and I'm finding schedules that work.

Old school series- I know the metaphor is "hella" subtle (I get to say that since I'm from Oakland), but there's a reason in the current plot arc, all my guest bloggers are a bit annoyed and "won't talk to me." I have every intention of starting them back up, but they tend to thrive in environments where there's a little more space. They're all coming.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why All the Filler? (Sunday Shorts)


Why not post less often if it's just going to be filler?

Don't forget to send me more questions at chris.brecheen@gmail.com

Alex writes: 

I've been following your blog for almost two years now (love it, by the way), and I was wondering why you do such weird posts about guest bloggers living in the basement and alien secretaries and posts about your life as a superhero and all that weird stuff. It seems like you're always super busy (no pun intended), but you don't even take weekends off. Why not post once or twice a week with your big articles? I don't mind the little stuff. I'm not complaining. In fact, after I figured out what's going on they're kind of fun. It just seems like if you know you're doing "jazz hands" you should just take a day off and write something bigger a few times a week. You might be happier.

My reply:

Sort of an appropriate question for our very first Sunday Short, Alex. Thanks.

There's a lot I could say about the success of a blog, writing every day, how to get the trickles from thousands of articles to add up to something that pays a bill or three, building an audience with a niche as impacted as snarky writing advice from a non-famous writer, and maybe Bradbury's advice about quality being quantity and how I never know what articles are going to take off, but the fact is that at the end of the day, all that crap is just me with a monocle and a snifter of brandy bloviating about shit that I wouldn't do differently if I found out tomorrow it was all wrong.

It's a big, steaming pile of my bullshit, Alex. The reason I blog every day, even if I write weird plots is because is the same (and only) reason to do any art. I love it. It's my work and my soul and on the worst days after I get some shitty post up that I know will never be read, I feel amazing.

I write all that weird crap because that's what I like writing. I enjoy taking a day every couple of weeks to tell you about my life in superhero allegories and telling you the fucked up things my "guest bloggers" do inside "the compound." I like constantly tinkering on the menus without shutting down the blog for an "admin hiatus" or cleaning up the old articles to show you how powerful revision can be.

And about the plots, if people skip that crap, fine. Let em. Not everyone understands what I'm doing with them, or why. And if they can't figure out that right around when a baby showed up, I started fighting a new super villain that enjoys stealing my time or that half of my creative voices stopped talking to me because one bitterly sarcastic voice who likes to make fun of the poofy bullshit that writers sell themselves to not write every day like I still manage to we keep getting attacked by a mystery blogger, that's fine.

I love having an audience, and I hope it grows, but I'm writing for myself.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Writer Needs a Day Off

Thirty seven?  Really?
For both of you out there following closely enough to 1) notice and 2) care if I miss a post, I'm taking a day off today. Yesterday's post was admittedly kind of a goofy way to make a point, but I'm looking at its 37 hits with a McKayla Maroney moue. The house is in dire need of my tender ministrations. My alarm didn't go off. And I'm kind of in need of a day of letting my brain turn to sludge as I nostalgically play hours of Command and Conquer Generals that I picked up through the Humble Bundle.

It was only going to be a revision or a menu clean up anyway, so it's a good day to go AWOL. I'll be back in the thick of it tomorrow.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why I'm a Social Justice Bard (Not Warrior)*

Confession time:
I do not actually rock tights this rockingly.
"There you go again, scop," the grizzled warrior spat, joining us at the hall's feasting table, "wasting time talking to the enemy that would be better spent burying your battle axe in their sternum."  

"I don't carry a battle axe," I said.

"Your little fencing sword...toothpick thing--whatever it is," he said waving his hand like someone might to dismiss a servant. Maybe stick it someplace....soft."

"I'm not a warrior," I said. 

"Don't need to tell me that," he laughed. He reached for a leg of meat bigger than my head and a flaggon of frothing amber who knows what. "If you were half as fast flapping that toothpick as you are flapping those lips of yours, we'd have won the day already."

"Yes one more warrior would make all the difference in a war against a billion trolls. I'm sure that's true."

"See what I mean warriors? His tongue is sharper than his blade!"


The table erupted into belly laughs, and I felt a flush rising up my neck.

"You know..." I gritted. "I didn't see you complaining when I convinced Veknus the Troll Captain to quit the field or rallied that apathetic village on The Selnie River to give us three dozen more spearmen for the sheltron."

"Bah," the warrior spat, bits of ale drenched meat spraying from his lips. "Talk. Useless praddle. Remember when you tried to talk that grangy weasel of a trader in Blackdune while I was fighting with him. WHILE I was fighting with him. Then you went and talked with him after he'd run away. He was an enemy of our cause."

"That grangy weasel trades with us now," I said. "His backchannels were the reason the supply line didn't completely collapse when the trolls hit our flank last summer."

"Ah we'd have found someone else. Who needs that guy? He's a shitty ally." 

"No, he was a shitty ally. That's what I'm telling you. No one expects you to hold your sword in the thick of battle--your very life is being threatened, but sometimes dead is just a little less....useful to us.

The warrior didn't say anything but grunted and buried his mouth in his leg of...whatever it was.

"And you were awfully quiet when I talked Lord Whisperwind into committing her forces because I convinced her we would have her back and she would be safe. And I seem to remember that the entire third legion was brought up mostly from people who used to be troll sympathizers but have been listening to my tales for years now."


"Hmmmmm...." the warrior said, stroking a beard he hadn't noticed was wet with ale and grease.

"And when you sashayed into Plindezdu'um with the 'blood of a hundred trolls' still drying on your axe, you sure didn't seem to mind that the local youth had already heard of your daring exploits. I didn't once hear you correct them to mention that it was actually more like twenty-three...."

"Eh what's a few here or there?"

"Or a bunch of them were burnt from that fireball I threw before you got to them. I mean I know it would be shitty to make the story about me..."


"Hrrrm," the warrior said, pursing his lips.

"And let's not forget that Erica never would have agreed to be your shield sister if I hadn't insisted that you were a worthy combatant who was just no good at fighting giant spiders yet. She thought
you were a shitty ally."

"That's true," he said, glancing to his left.

"We need more than just warriors. We need healers to tend to the wounded when they've not done enough self care. Assassins to strike hard and fast at the heart of their ranks from the shadows of the enemy strongholds. Magic users to flip our perceptions and change the rules of the whole conversation by making us look at the whole world differently. Barbarians to completely lose their shit and frenzy. And even bards like me to try and figure out the best tool for the job and at least try diplomacy first."

"Fair enough," he muttered, nodding.


"Plus it's not like I don't dive in the minute they draw blood. Remember that fight against fifteen of them for six hours on the K'Casian Bridge. That was all me, baby. Fifteen hours. All. Me."


"All right Bard. All right," the warrior said. "You made your point."

"Exactly," I said. "Because that's what I do."


Fighting the troll armies is nothing short of a lifetime of struggle for minimal gains. There are billions of them out there, and in a lot of places, they've managed to convince the world that they're the good guys, or at least that things would be better if the resistance laid down its arms. There are contested borders. Diplomatic quagmires. Reluctant allies. And don't even get me started on decent people who have just fallen for the enemy propaganda. But we fight anyway because some day the Troll world order will collapse.

For a lot of people it's a pretty clear cut fight. They grab something–preferably with a sharp edge or a lot of weight–and swing it at the nearest troll's head. The crunchy splatter is a grim consolation but at least the thunk can be satisfying.

You can't blame people for the way they fight first and ask questions later. To them it's not a diplomatic struggle or an intellectual exercise. It's their lives, their families, their humanity. Trolls have razed their homes and oppressed them for centuries–even millennia. If they negotiate, they are betrayed. If they take allies, they are forsaken. If they surrender, they are enslaved. There is no escape from their oppressors and no out but through, and so they fight like warrior poets against impossible odds. There is no reason they should not be enraged. There is no cause for them to parlay in good faith. There is no sense in staying their hand. Not I nor a million wiser would hear their stories and think they should be an iota less ferocious, give quarter, or consider the fanaticism of their tone. After a thousand years of oppression, a troll telling them they can catch more flies with honey is just a pawn of the system that has subjugated them for generations. And many of them are so hopelessly entwined with that system that they don't even realize they're fighting to protect it.

But we can't all be warriors. Others have other strengths, and fight in other ways. That's where I come in.

I'm a bard. This is my story.

Not a lutey flutey bard, mind you. I tell tales. I convince people that their alliances to the trolls are based on lies. I talk of the horrors the trolls have inflicted. I expose the troll misinformation campaigns. I talk troll sympathizers into reconsidering their stances. I convince the apathetic that it is not some distant war on distant shores that doesn't matter to them. And for some reason (that I assure you has little to do with my charisma) I can be pretty good at it.

But there's a reason that even telling the night's campfire story, safe behind resistance lines that I can inspire. I can reflect the tragic glint, the moment of pause, in the troll general's eye. I can convey the hesitation in a reluctant ally. I can convey the long pauses and lip chewing of a stalwart troll ally suddenly seeing for the first time in action my tales of how the system oppresses. IF I am good at what I do, the reason isn't my charisma or my skill. The reason is that I listen to all the stories.

It is an act of radical empathy to listen to those who are oppressed rather than take the word of their oppressors that they are exaggerating, lying, and playing the victim for their benefit. To simply let an oppressed villager tell you their story and not let the Troll interrupt and explain away each injustice as justified is itself a bold action of rebellion. The trolls would have you listen to their versions: the righteousness of their cause, the inevitability of their dominion, and most poignant of all: that the struggle against their regime is far far worse than the dominion itself. They would have you ignore their oppression and the incremental but aggregate damage. And if you won't be active in the subjugation of those they oppress, they will at least convince you that stability and peace are more important than justice. At least hate the oppressed who dare to rock the boat and question the Troll world order.

But I would not have a point with which to connect to the trolls and their allies if I didn't listen to the trolls' stories as well. That moment they felt oppressed. That place where the world is not fair to them. That time they saw the system being unfair in a systematic way. Those are stories I need to make compelling characters out of those they oppress. That is what I need to help them see the humanity in those they have been socialized to see as purely inhuman. I can't shut my empathy off just because someone is a part of a harmful system.

I also have to understand the arguments to argue against them. Not cruel, twisted mockeries of the arguments made from deep inside the resistance strongholds to be countered tidily as drunken sport, but what they actually say and actually believe. I have to be able to make their points at least as well as they do if I am to dismantle them, to counter them when they come up in a way that no drunken counterpoint would ever do. I must do understand their points even though it infuriates those who consider even taking the time to listen as a weakness.

I respect the nuance of the day to day interactions, and how banal they seem to the trolls who do not view them against the backdrop of oppression. I must. For while I understand the passion of the oppressed, I must convey that passion to those who see it as pointless histrionics. I must convince them that the passion is justified in a way that more passion simply never will. I must remember the sacking of their temples seems like an unprovoked affront if they do not contextualize it against a thousand years of exploitation. And when the paladin's righteous fury calls for extreme measures, I must be willing to anger those on my own side by admitting that there are some times we go too far.

I cannot do what I do if I draw a line, and declare everyone on the other side an enemy always and every action by everyone on our side justified always. I cannot be strong, in the way that I am strong, if my respect of nuance is considered a weakness. If you slap something sharp in my hand and tell me to fight all declared non-grata, and further tell me that I am with you or against you and my negotiations are treasonous, you'll never get the best of me.

I know this all too well. I know it because  I was born in the troll capital, a noble of great privilege among my people, and I spent 3/4 of my life ignoring troll oppression while I called for reasonable discourse. I changed, but not for the help of someone with patience, tenacity, and a silver tongue.

The cause we fight is righteous, and I'll draw my sword and fight when diplomacy fails, but I know all too well that the trolls we fight are so very, very human.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Introducing Claire Youmans

[Today it is my pleasure to introduce Claire Youmans as our latest guest blogger.]  

They say it's not what you know, it's who you know, and nowhere is that more true than in the world of writing. There's a gigantic industry out there, parts of it bearing formerly respectable names, designed for the sole purpose of taking money from writers. Free advice (urging you to pay for more) abounds. The real industry that publishes books has shrunk, consolidated and vanished into inaccessibility. You can't actually get there anymore, not without a native guide. Meanwhile, the Parasitic Service Industry and various forms of DIY publishing, especially easy-access electronic publishing, have created a huge obstacle course not to publishing itself but to reaching the actual industry “in group” and the readers authors desperately seek.

A certain few people, most of whom teach at MFA programs, still claim that query letters, sent snail mail, to the three agents in the whole world who will even look at unsolicited queries, one at a time, giving each six months to think about it (if they even answer at all) so that, if accepted, you might get your work sent to one of the few marketplaces that will give a glance at unsolicited submissions even if agented, is the ONLY way to get “properly” published.

Note the use of the word "unsolicited" above. That means unless you have a PERSONAL IN of some sort, you will not be able to even reach anybody at all. Ever. It's not what you know, it's not how good your work is, it's WHO YOU KNOW. This is where you come in.

If you actually attract the attention of a publisher, it's likely going to be a small one, one that will provide you with hardly any of the services (editing, etc) that publishers used to, and all the marketing they'll give you is a place in their catalogs — that’s still something, but basically you're on your own. Want to reach your readers? The odds of winning the lottery are better.

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy is a small-press independently published book. It's doing well, gets great reviews, and is slowly finding its audience among the huge bedlam that is book publishing today. The next book, Chasing Dreams, is even better, and shows The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy for a series that can and will grow, expand, and last. Set in a realm of historic fantasy, these books are ripping good adventures for boys and girls with plenty of monsters, challenges and excitement as Meiji-era Japan leaps from toppling feudalism to first-world power, while never losing the core culture, values and beliefs that make it unique even today.

So, who do YOU know? Do you know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who just might sell books for wider distribution and film and series rights? Will you perform an introduction? That's all it takes to get some fantastic books out of the slush pile.

I want to meet your friends, and so does every other writer you know.


Claire Youmans

http://claireyoumansauthor.blogspot.com

www.tokigirlandsparrowboy.com

Facebook: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Toki-Girl-Sparrow-Boy-Claire-Youmans/dp/0990323404/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8



If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Best Heroine (Semifinal 2) Don't Forget to Vote

Hang in there, Lisbeth.
I won't stop believing.
Who is the best fiction heroine?

Semifinal polls are only two weeks long, so our second round semi-final is already half over.

Only the top 5 will go on to the final round!! 

Next Wednesday I'll close this poll, post the results, and put up the final round. Ten names that have gone through the nomination process, gotten seconded, survived the quarterfinals and the semifinals to reach the battle royal of best heroine.

Everyone will get three votes (3). Before you simply vote for your favorite three, consider that, as there is no ranking of those three votes; each vote beyond one dilutes the power of your choices a little more. So if you have a genuine favorite--or pair of favorites--it's better to use as few votes as possible.

Don't forget that IP tracking stops after one week, so if you voted early, you can vote often. (I can't stop it, so I might as well encourage it.)

This picture to the right is just a screen shot. The actual poll is at the bottom left of the side menus. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2015's Best By Month



January

Honorable Mention: Best of 2014 (Though I don't usually let other "Best of" posts qualify, this post recapping the best posts of last year got the most hits in January)

February
Potpourri Superb Owl Edition
Cultural Appropriations (Mailbox)
Character Driven Zombie Stories (Mailbox)

March
When Firefly Isn't About Star Wars
Fortune Cookie Wisdom IX
I'm Fine

Honorable Mention: The Humanity of Nuance (Was only one page-view less than Fortune Cookie 9)

April
Puppygate? Or "What's Going on with the Hugos?" (Mailbox)
The Worst Best Advice About Reading
Why I'm a Social Justice Bard (Not Warrior)

May
How to Write Plot (Mailbox) 
Falling From Orbit LARP 
What Is Art (Mailbox)

June