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

Friday, May 18, 2018

Be My Guest (But remember you're my guest)

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I have two running thoughts today. One slightly less mature than the other.


After I spent several hours modding yesterday's post and dealt with no small number of private messages pontificating the quality of my character, intelligence, and education, something really nice happened. One of those things that kind of sort of makes it all worth it.

Someone told me they really appreciated how reasonable people were on my page.

Well...people aren't really "reasonable" on my page. Some are. They're awesome. Some are not. And I go through and erase their comments. What looks at first like a reasonable comment section is actually a couple of hours of moderating, cleaning out comments that break our commenting policy in some way, and banning the people who crossed the line egregiously.

But still it was nice to hear....

First a personal story (a bit long):

I used to debate social issues. Hard. I loved a good debate. I thought open and free debate was how we were going to "GET SOMEWHERE."

My spaces were more about civility and respect and free exchange of ideas and I was very proud of not being too coupled with either "side" but an impartial arbiter of "both sides" as problematic in their own ways. I remained above it all. Of course I cared about equality, but arguments had to be good (thus bad arguments had to be picked apart) and civil, respectful conversations were vital.

Here's what I noticed though. While I would find arguments that survived the crucible of debate and let them change my world view, most people around me returned to their "home position" at the end of each encounter. Instead of "oh yes, okay we've cleared up that gender inequality IS a thing" it would be like "But can you PROVE we need feminism?" all over again.

And I would think "Jesus I just saw you get into this until you had absolutely had to capitulate this point like AN HOUR AGO." Or "how come every single time you get to the exact same point about this issue you suddenly have pressing business and disappear like a ninja with a smoke pellet only to return the next thread with your 'healthy skepticism' completely replenished like a stamina bar in a fighting game."

I would see the fallacy patrol try to call out fallacies like whack-a-mole but ignore their own. They would use metonymy left and right but then invoke semantics as "crucial critical thinking" when NotALLMen was on the line. I would see anyone who had something to say held to an impossible standard of tu quoque. I would see fallacies of relative privation. And people didn't say "Oh yes, my bad. Poor critical thinking on my part," when called on it. They just got angrier. Like they were the only ones allowed to point out (often incorrectly) a fallacy.

I would see people become the nuance brigade, but their nuance only worked one way. It only got to apply to the poor maligned misunderstood status quo and its defenders. The nuance of how that status quo was hurting people who weren't cishet white men was cheerfully ignored (usually in favor of another "reset to square one" debate). The nuance of invisible cultural forces was scoffed at.

And it was always that you had to convince them. Fucking ALWAYS. Calmly. Gently. (EVER so gently.) With whatever level of intellectual rigor they felt like applying. They never had to convince you that inequality WASN'T a thing. (Think about that for just a second.) No matter how many times you proved something, it would be a claim that required evidence (again) the next time round. Because they never saw the irony of getting to define what could and couldn't be asserted without evidence and then demanding people convince them of the truth of their own oppression.

And that didn't happen once or twice or with that one guy. It was pervasive. Constant. Ubiquitous. Not the slow change of percolating ideas that maybe isn't as fast as a thread of angry people would like it to be in the heat of the moment, but literally NO CHANGE week after week, month after month. Just debate. Debate for the sake of debating. The same debate over and over. Endlessly rehashing the same tired arguments like this time they are a refreshing take that no one has ever encountered.

And everyone HAD to debate them. HAD TO. No one was allowed to say, "Look I don't feel like having this conversation again," or they were "unable to prove your point." And you couldn't ask them to leave you alone or find a space in which certain assumptions about inequality were considered non-debatable or you were "stifling their free speech." And if you asked them to step out of any thread that piqued their interest to do some intellectual due diligence and catch up to the level of the conversation or Google a basic concept themselves or to just to posit questions in better faith, you were kicking to the curb a poor, pupil of humanity whose only desire was to learn.

And it wasn't actually "most people" doing this well-known song and dance. It was most people WHO WERE DEBATING FOR THE STATUS QUO. The "I prefer humanism over feminism" or "do we KNOW that was racism, tho?" crowds. It was the people who thought rage at bathroom bills wasn't ANY different than transphobia itself or who are willing to give open, naked bigotry a pass because of some pretzel twisted nuance that might might might might make it anything else. It was the people who valued their objectivity over taking a moral stance. The status quo defenders. They were the ones that seemed to "reset" every damned time they approached a topic and treated everything as debatable and the debate itself as an entitlement.

People weren't debating to get to truth. They weren't asking questions out of sincere curiosity. They certainly didn't want a clearer understanding or increased empathy of what other humans were going through and how they experienced the world.

They were debating to win

They were debating because it was a fun intellectual diversion that didn't affect them. The most generous thing to be said is that maybe they were debating to show off their spectacular brains. But over time in broad patterns, really, they were debating to grind the debate itself and the willpower of anyone challenging the status quo into powder. It's the intellectual equivalent of running out the clock (since you're already in the lead). So that these conversations would be silenced and the world could go back to how it was–unfair in a way they swore up and down they cared deeply about, but with no specific injustice they were willing to actually challenge or even believe was real.

We weren't "GETTING SOMEWHERE." It was more like phone calls with customer service. ("Have you tried calling it 'equalism' and claiming they're being irrational?") and every debate was a fresh new phone call with a new representative that goes right up to the top of the flow chart. ("Have you tried shaming them for being ridiculous?")

These debates weren't conversations, explorations, empathetic exchanges. They were problems to be solved. ("Oh you are using the Sicilian opener. Naturally you will expect me to defend with Capa Ferro.") They were obstacles to be overcome. Opponents to be defeated.

It's a very singular definition of "civility" or "respect" to demand it shape and mold the behavior that is acceptable within the scope of a debate, but to have absolutely zero intention of letting that debate actually affect you beyond its own borders. To treat these issues if they are NO MORE THAN an intellectual contest to be won.

I grew tired of debate for debate's sake because of this. I want to write (a not insignificant time sink). I want people on my page to feel safe and not feel like their humanity is the subject of an ever resetting intellectual exercise. If someone approaches in good faith, they give off "tells," even over text media, and I have a teacher's patience when someone cares to learn. But I'm tired of bad faith actors and the damage they do.

It's not that no one EVER learns or debating is always useless in every space. (I still end up in one from time to time.) Adversarial argumentation forms the backbone of our legal system and skepticism is crucial to science. All this stuff has its place. And in any given debate, the audience may be learning more than anyone involved. This is all good stuff. But it doesn't have to happen everywhere all the time. The main reason I stopped hosting these kinds of debates in my own space is because most of them AREN'T REALLY DEBATES.

What they are is scripts. Complicated dances where everyone knows the steps to counter their "opponent's" moves. That's why they reset. Because they have to or they don't work. "Now back to  the beginning of the song–from the top." Because they are absolutely intended to counterpoint the debate rather than develop a more meaningful connection with another human or establish a more intellectually rigorous narrative, and whether intended or not, they maintain various forms of oppression and even strengthen them by attrition. The people debating so rarely allow for the possibility of real change.

I can think of few things less civil or respectful.

And that is why comments have been, are, and always will be moderated in my space. You or your comment might disappear if you can't follow the commenting guidelines. Sometimes a Bard will match wits all night long and into the morning light, but he knows to just pull out the fireball and rapier when a troll shows up.

And then there's this. 

Because some days, especially after days like yesterday, I just go where the muse points me.

"Dudebros, SQuiDs, Sea Lions and JAQoffs, it is with deepest pride
And greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight
And now we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair
As Writing About Writing's Facebook page proudly presents
Your banning!”

be my guest
Put my modding to the test
Tell me "fuck this social justice stuff"
And I will do the rest.

News du jour, hottest take
Trot out all your boilerplates
Try discussion, it's delicious
But "ta-ta" if you're pernicious

You are welcome to engage
But remember it's MY page
And the comments here won't be the wild west
Feel free to find a venue
That likes fights, and then you'll
Be their guest, oui THEIR guest
Not MY guest

Linguistic jokes every day
Quotations authors have to say
I'll prepare and serve with flair
The memes of writing every day.

I'm progressive; don't be scared
Your scroll wheel finger came prepared
But if you're hostile while complaining
I'll make sure you're not so draining

We post comics, Tumblr Pics
So my blog will get some clicks
But I won't not care for justice you can bet

Try not to show your ass
Or it's a one way pass
To NOT my guest
~If you're stressed
The unfollow button we suggest~
Or "ban" pressed, no protest, be my guest

Life is so irritating
For a white dude not bloviating
He's not whole without a soul to splain upon
Ah, those good old days of hegemony
Suddenly those good old days are gone

Too long we've been debating
Thinking outshouting was "checkmating"
Claiming FREEZE PEACH if any space told us to shush
Most "debates" were just silencing non cis white dudes
This comment policy's not hazy.
You got banned. Oh oops-a-daisy!

You're my guest. You're my guest.
But this is not debate contest.
Lose the sword cause fuck me Lord
I'll click on "ban" to be less stressed.

Yes I make a buck or three
But this page is still for me
Feel free to witness my soft-shoein'
But for assholes I'm "adieu"-ing
You think you're clever, but you're not
I hear your argument a LOT
After the hundredth or so time, I'm not impressed
I made your comment ghost!
So next time read the post?
Don't be a pest. Or I'll divest.
Of you–my guest

Be my guest, enjoy a jest
But don't punch down to the oppressed
Like a million people follow my page here
And they're the BEST.

But if my content doesn't please
I can't take time to appease
If your choler won't stop flowing
I will help you with your going

Post by post, pun by pun
Banning bigots til I'm done
I don't mind telling you I do it with some zest.
So if you want to rage
Please find another page
I'll ban if pressed
You may have guessed
I don't detest.
Please, be my guest.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Words Fucking Matter

We interrupt your regularly scheduled mailbox to remind you that words have power and the way world leaders use them very often telegraph what they will try to do next.

"Animals," he called them, as if they were not humans in need of some empathy and compassion.

We've passed a lot of rubicon moments in the last couple of years where the general support of this administration and Trump by rank and file conservatives has belied if not a secret burning support for the open, naked racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and transphobia he spews and the white nationalism and the nazis marching in the street (and the, and the, and the.....), at least a deafening, conspicuous silence that standing up against these things is not nearly as important as the next tax break for the wealthy or pointing fingers or blaming those who do stand up against them for being "just as bad."

Trump got elected despite a history of racism, misogyny, and outright bigotry (a history of spectacularly misogynistic comments, the Central Park 5, not renting his properties to Black folks, treating Black employees differently, revolting levels of birtherism, insisting that Black people have a marked advantage, claiming Indian crime was well documented [a lie] when his casinos were in competition,  accusing Native Americans of faking their ancestry, calling the Venezuelan Miss Universe "Miss Housekeeping," his comments on Mexicans as rapists, his comments that an American judge of Mexican ancestry could never be impartial, tacitly encouraging violence against a Black Lives Matter protestor, refusing to condemn white nationalists who campaigned for him, attacking the Khan's with vicious stereotypes, outright lying about crime statistics in urban [read: Black] areas, taking a day to figure out if he wanted that David Duke endorsement, breathtaking ableism, misogynistic attacks on women, multiple rape allegations, retweeting white supremacists without retraction or apology on the regular including blatant antisemitism, and horrifying comments about assaulting women from his own lips). For many, this election itself was a betrayal–the last straw. People may have had their bigotry in an "economic anxiety"-shaped container, but they endorsed, cheered, funded, voted for, and handed power to a wanton bigot. And largely the the conversation that has ensued since has been almost exclusively white Trump supporters with increasing volume demanding empathy for their raison d'être, and the Americans they threw under the bus pointing out (repeatedly) that the fact that they backed him makes them complicit–a inculpation they are very, very uncomfortable with.

That is, of course, when they're not saying "We won. Get over it." Because that's apparently the other way to get bridges built towards you.

And since Trump's election, the claims that his bigotry was merely blustery showmanship and it could never happen here that someone could be so bad have been put to the lie. If anything it was all his OTHER claims that turned out to be a bunch of bullshit. The promise of all those jobs have evaporated. No one talks about infrastructure anymore. The tax cut didn't help the people Republicans pinky swore it would help. Trump was extraordinarily hands off about policy initiatives that Congress tried to tackle. In fact, the only thing he really went after with gusto was his bigoted policies.

Pay attention. Because when people with power signal over and over again explicitly what they really care about, it's a pretty good bet they're telegraphing what they're going to do.

He got right to work on his Islamaphobic ban. He has appointed a cabinet of people with histories of overt racism. He hired few women and even fewer people of color for positions in his administration. He denied that his campaign rhetoric could have had anything to do with the sharp up-spike in hate crimes immediately following the election. He called for a transgender military ban. He called two people who beat up a Latino man and cited his anti-immigration as the reason "passionate." He called Senator Warren "Pocahontas." He said Haitians all had AIDS and included them in a comment about a number of "shithole" countries. He called Puerto Ricans "politically motivated ingrates," for deigning to want more assistance getting their power back on. He hired a senior editor of a publication that espoused white nationalism to be a a key member of his staff. He campaigned directly for Ray Moore. He pardoned Joe Arpaio. He called white nationalists and literal Nazis "very good people." He regularly criticizes the first amendment demonstrations when the people doing them are Black.

So there have been a lot of "last straws." There have been a lot of Rubicons. There have been a lot of points where the folks feeling the wheels of the bus they were thrown under crush them have (justifiably) said, "This is absolutely IT! I don't care about your uncle with the 'good heart' who just wants his coal job back. If you support this guy still, you are the worst sort of bigot–it doesn't matter if you personally feel that hate in your heart. You are culpable. You are complicit. You are responsible. And I do not care to know the reasons you have told yourself so that you can tuck your supremacy in at night with an untroubled conscience that your financial well being comes at the expense of my being treated as human."

And yet....when I saw the news this morning, my blood ran cold. Perhaps colder than ever before. "Animals," he called them. Without the slightest hint of statesmanship or leadership or empathy or compassion. With not a trace of understanding what sort of heinous conditions it takes to get someone to migrate thousands of miles from their homes to a place they know they're probably going to be treated like unwelcome shit.

And of course, there are still people falling down into the mud in a screaming tantrum that Trump is not being given sufficient benefit of the doubt. That every item on this laundry list is simply one more completely misconstrued attack by the liberal media with a perfectly reasonable explanation (if you would just listen...). That's simply the world we live in. Donald Trump is "the least racist person you'll ever meet." Right along with Paula Dean, Hulk Hogan, Steve Alford, Donald Sterling, and the KKK (who just want to end the white genocide, doncha know.) They will no doubt claim that this quote is purely about M13.

Through all of this, as Trump faces one constitutional crisis after another, he undermines the foundations of modern democracy like a free press and separation of powers because they make him feel bad, he Tweetingly dismisses a massive and growing body of evidence that there was collusion at at least some level of his campaign, blows off brazen global economic conflicts of interest possibly including mob ties, is embroiled in a new scandal every week, assumes a bellicose posture with the entire world, tanks years of diplomacy and moderate policy chiefly because he wants to shit in every sand castle Obama built, we tip further towards a moment that historians, political scientists, people who lived through Europe in the 40's, people who live under totalitarian regimes, people who study totalitarian regimes, and literally almost every world leader who isn't the head of a totalitarian regime is warning us might be the point of no return.

But perhaps more alarmingly, as Trump begins to checkmark more and more ticky boxes next to the "List of Things that Make a Government Fascist™," many have noted that the role of "scapegoat" in our unfolding drama––the scapegoat that is so vital to the fascist persecution complex––is being played first and foremost by "immigrants." He has attacked them early and often (unless they're from Scandinavia...for some unknown reason...gee whiz what could it possibly be)–probably because it plays better than the underlying racism that's driving it.

And he just called them "animals."

Here are the exact words, so that no one can claim that one word was taken out of context:

Sherrif Mims: "Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it."

Trump: “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them,” Mr. Trump said. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”

There's no mention of M13 in this thought, which is absolutely directly references "people coming into the country" not, specifically, gang members. There's no call back to the prior statement. There's no connective tissue to what Mims said that indicates this is some kind of response. Of course there might might might be enough leeway for plausible denial since M13 was part of the prior statement (because isn't there always plausible deniability when it comes to slipping the accusations of racism?), but there's almost certainly not going to be a correction or an apology. But it doesn't even actually make a whole lot of sense as a response.

He didn't say "animals" was how these immigrants looked or how they were treated by the people with transportation who are basically guilty of extortion. He didn't say it was the demeanor they carried after a long journey in hellish conditions and the malnutrition and dehydration and illness. Even if it weren't absurd to claim that gang members aren't human, this isn't the first time Trump has shell gamed things in just this way. This is just a really high profile situation.  He regularly suggests that Immigrants= M13= animals/thugs/criminals= totally justified immigration policy. M13 is largely not even what Trump says they are. They are just a good boogyman with exclusively central American recruitment.

Trump also seems to have no trouble making his language is perfectly precise and careful when he's making sure we know that white shooters are troubled or that the murderous rampages of white supremacists can't be tied to the bigger group or that groups of Nazis and white supremacists contain very fine people, and he has NEVER called those gang members animals. And the backdrop of his increasingly brutal immigration policies and racism push defending this as being JUST about M13 into a weird realm of cognitive dissonance that seems to insist that neither the actual quote or the broader context is allowed to matter.

This "out" exists only in this linguistically vague spot where there wasn't 100% clarity but since it's possible that he was speaking in brutal, dehumanizing terms about gang members, it's totally okay. (No doubt people will still cling to that like a palm tree in a hurricane.)

He dis-acknowledged their humanity. And whether or not he meant to tie it to a broader group, he absolutely meant to tie it to a broader group.

Scapegoating immigrants is not a new tactic of the Trump administration. There is hardly a right wing populist movement that hasn't done so in the last two hundred years. The specter of someone who is simultaneously lazy but also stealing your job allows people to be xenophobic without being outright racist since that tends to play a little better post WWII (even though there's usually a pretty obvious pattern in who the "right" kind of immigrants and the "bad" immigrants are). However, painting people as inhuman, and deliberately choosing the words that dehumanize them, is the first part of a complicated answer to every kid who ever raised their hand a la "The Wave" and asked their history teacher how "they" could possibly ever let such a thing happen.

Part of the answer is words. WORDS MATTER! You don't get to be a writer and then turn around and play like words don't have any real power. You don't get to say that words can only "offend" when they are the rationalization, the mobilization, and the defense of actual institutional harm. You don't get to understand the history and power of language and then suggest that unless the sound waves are ripping off flesh like a comic book mutant, words can't possibly cause actual hurt to anyone.

Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me perpetuate my societal othering and encourage casual "debate" about my humanity and frame me as less than human and disparage me until people stop caring about the hate crimes and stop asking questions about the disappearances and look the other way when the rumors of atrocities begin to surface.

Words. Fucking. Matter.

The first step to creating a scapegoat is to name them and blame them, and the second step is to dehumanize them. I know that I would only be accused of the worst alarmist hyperbole if I suggested we are entering phase two, but keep your eye on the ball. Trump will double down if only because his supporters noticed that this pissed off liberals and will egg him on. For his supporters have few guiding stars as bright and true.

Like many powerful people and particularly politicians Trump telegraphs his intentions badly in order to soften the ground and find his support. Much like his joke about remaining president after eight years (an idea for which his predecessor was burned in effigy without EVER ACTUALLY HAVING MADE SUCH A JOKE), Trump's racism has always pointed exactly where he's dying to go. The idea that this escalation is mere coincidence and hyperbole to take note of might be absurdly disingenuous, but it is absolutely irresponsible.

His rant came within days of the policy being announced and hours of it being enacted that refugees and families crossing illegally will be arrested and children will be separated from their parents. Nearly 1500 migrant children placed into homes cannot be found.  ICE agents have already been given broad discretionary powers and in some cases impunity without oversight, have been accused of civil rights violations and unapologetic cruelty, and are targeting cities (and sometimes activists) in patterns that belie extremely political and partisan agendas. The administration is prepared to hold border crossers on military bases...in camps.

This is not THE point of no return, for there have been so many already for so many folks. But another group of folks just peeled of from the belief that folks on the right could support this administration and still be a good people. And the folks who support this president no matter what he does and no matter what he says might want to consider that there's every indication that they are in imminent danger of getting a hell of a lot more blood on their hands.

And it is absolutely positively, unequivocally, undeniably, undebatably, human blood.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Best Classic Science Fiction Not Written by a Cis Het White Man (Nominations Needed)

What is the very best science fiction book or series written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQ+ community that is from 1997 or earlier?

Today we had a Patreon appeal post across social media, and tomorrow I have a full day planned at a new side gig. (Job #4 if you're keeping track–though this one is probably going to be very sporadic and may phase out the pet sitting when it finally does hit.) So don't expect anything until Thursday. In the meantime, we need your input!

The poll is going up probably next week. We need more nominations and seconds, so there might be at least one more call after this one.

Please check this post if you have any questions about the limiting factors of this poll.

All the rules are here

That link (above) is ALSO the place to leave any new nominations or seconds. PLEASE do not leave them here. I need them all in one place. Please remember to second even if a title already has a second. I am no longer doing several elimination rounds–at most I will do a single semifinal round. Therefore a number of titles between eight and twenty with the MOST seconds will go on to the poll.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Fortune Cookies XV

Writers would probably mind far less that folks argue with their advice about how to succeed (like writing every day) if they didn't get hit up so often for exactly that advice like they'd done something magical that required a trick.  

If you're going traditional publishing, get an agent. I don't know how much simpler to make that advice. They'll pay for themselves, give you editing advice on what to change to get sold, and keep you out of some bleary-eyed intern's "slush pile."

We all have to decide our level of involvement and give ourselves enough time to be human that we don't hit points of limited return, but it is probably no coincidence that generally the people who are making a living writing are usually the ones who overdo it....at least a little.

If you like this blog, you should probably drop a buck a month* on its Patreon, so I can keep writing it without needing 30 hours a week in side gigs just to keep the lights on. It'll mean I write more!
(*Or more!)

In a capitalist economy, all artists who want to survive by doing art have to promote themselves. An artist with no reach might be a genius but they will still be hungry or teaching typewriter maintenance if they are too good to get out there and sell themselves. And whether you pound the pavement begging bookstores to put copies on consignment, attend every literary even to make a name for yourself, or just find your audience on social media, it's work––just like everything else in this business.

You can get stuck easier than you think doing something you don't really want to do because you're in a job that's "technically writing" or because you think "it couldn't hurt" your professional development to take every opportunity. Be careful.

You don't have to be the best to make it. Sometimes you just have to be the one who gets back up once more than everyone else.

Talent might be real, but good luck even defining what it is, never mind ever seeing it make half the difference in your writing that hard work does.

Actual, Literal Protip: Don't trash the collaborators who make your book come into the world with things like cover art. They worked hard too, shit like that goes viral fast, and it'll probably do your career some very real damage.

Most people absolutely, positively love writing more than anything....but not that much.

Fanfiction is done for the love of writing. It's done for the fun of creation. For the enjoyment of the craft and the characters and their journeys. It is done without regard for payment of any kind and often despite social censure from judgemental little snots who paint them all with the same brush and call them parasites, but who, in all likelihood. aren't doing half as much of their "real" fucking writing. Hating on fanfic is like so much elitist twaddle that belies the fact that its own supercilious snobbery is unable to feel superior without tearing something else down. It's the same "I don't read that crap" all over again repeated (loudly and often) as a marker of class and sophistication by those who don't want to be seen enjoying something "beneath them."

I don't know what it's like to be "famous," but I do know what it's like as you approach that event horizon: people stop treating you entirely like a person, so it might be helpful to keep your public and private lives quite separate.

Think about all the writers you know––I don't mean personally know, but all of the writers you're aware of. All the writers you can imagine. In all the world. Not just working writers but the hobbyists, the bloggers, the poets, the trade writers, the journalists, the ones gearing up each year for NaNo or toiling away with unsatisfied ambition. Everyone with a self published book or a single title they wrote through a small press. Hundreds of thousands? Maybe millions? Now imagine the writers on the shelves with names you recognize and careers you want to emulate.


How many are left? A few hundred? Maybe a thousand? It's fine to write exactly as much and as hard as brings you bliss, but keep this in mind when you manage your expectations. This is analogous to being an olympic athlete of the writing world–one of the world champions of our age in writing, and those folks don't get there by training a couple of hours on the weekends when they are inspired.

I can't get enough! I need more fortune cookie wisdom!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

April's Best (2018)

The highest page-viewed, non-poll posts from last month that will go on to the halls of glory and renown in our Greatest Hits menu.  April was a struggle between schedule normalization and schedule chaotic-ification, but we managed to find some time to fight off the forces of distraction and get some good posts up. 

A Baker's Dozen Random Bits of Writing Advice I Wish Someone Had told ME. (And two that someone did.)
These random bits of advice don't fit neatly into a themed listicle, but they are things I really wish someone had told me.

Writing About Writing Staff Meeting
Seems the staff will have to actually start doing some work around here.

Writing Prompt: Short Term Goals
The most common problem writers have with goals is that they want to "make it" without having a clear sense of what "it" is. But the second most common problem is that they know the "end result" goals they want to achieve without any sense of the smaller step goals it'll take to get there.

Honorable Mention: Consider Your Writer Talent Build Carefully

This revision of a past post (that got enough views to be second place for April) is about being strategic about what kinds of writing you let yourself do just because any writing might help you improve.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Best Classic Sci-Fi Not Written by a Cis Het White Man

What is the best science fiction book or series written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQIA+ community that is over 20 years old? 

Please consult this post if you have any questions about the limitations of this poll or the reasons why we're running another nine months of such polls.

The classics!  Some of the literature upon which the entire genre rests, and some of the best to stand the test of time. While it is harder as we look back to find offerings that were not written by the usual line up of white dudes, they are out there. Our year of diverse polls will cover all the most popular polls we've ever done here at WAW (but with a single limitation), and while we just finished up dystopia and modern science fiction, now we're doing classic science fiction and like all our polls, this one will be made up completely of audience generated nominations.

The Rules:

  1. Please note the diversity requirements above.
  2. Nominations must be copyrighted no earlier than 1997 (twenty years). Any series with books after that cannot be nominated as a full series (but individual books still may be). 
  3. As always, I leave the niggling over "Science Fiction" to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you feel like Pern is science fiction, I'm not going to argue. (Though you might need to "show your work" to get anyone to second your nomination.) I'll only throw them out if they get super ridiculous. 
  4. You may nominate two (2) books or series. If you nominate three or more, my eyes narrow like that meme with Fry and I boil over––a cauldron of unmitigated rage. But more importantly for you, I will NOT take any nominations beyond the second that you suggest. (I will consider a long list to be "seconds" if someone else nominates them as well.)
  5. You may (and absolutely should) second as many nominations of others as you wish. So stop back in and see if anyone has put up something you want to see go onto the poll. Seriously, nothing that doesn't at least have ONE second will ever make it onto one of our polls.
  6. Please put your nominations here. I will take nominations only as comments on this post. (No comments on FB posts or G+.)
  7. You are nominating WRITTEN SCIENCE FICTION, not their movie portrayals. CGI may make A Wrinkle in Time pretty fun to look at, but if you find the books to be a little contrived, you shouldn't nominate it.
  8. No more endless elimination rounds. I will ONLY take somewhere between 8-20 best performing titles and at most run a single semifinal round. So second the titles you want even if they already have one second. (Yes, I guess that would make them thirds, fourths, etc...)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Best Sci-Fi not Written by a Cis Het White Man (Results!)

Remember to go here if you don't understand why we're doing a year of polls with this particular limitation.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the polls. We had a good turn out and a great spread. I definitely added a couple of titles to my TBR list.

Text results below.

I'm working 14 hours these last two days on one of my side gigs and helping some friends pack for an unexpected (and unwanted) move tomorrow, so I'm probably going to drag out the end of month/new poll nominations posts, and back load this week's real writing to the weekend.

Congrats to the winners and thank you everyone who participated.

The Broken Earth Trilogy – N.K. Jemisin 29 30.53%
Ancillary Justice – A. Leckie 23 24.21%
The Binti Series – N. Okorafor 16 16.84%
Foreigner Series – C.J. Cherryh 12 12.63%
Coldfire Trilogy – C.S. Friedman 6 6.32%
This Alien Shore – C.S. Friedman 5 5.26%
An Unkindness of Ghosts – R. Solomon 2 2.11%
UFO in Her Eyes – X. Guo 2 2.11%

Monday, May 7, 2018

Best Modern Sci-Fi Not by a CisHet White Man (Last chance to vote)

What is the best modern science fiction book or series written by someone other than a cishet white man? 

Had a full day with my third job today and more tomorrow night, so I'm just going to pop in to remind you that tomorrow the results go up for our latest poll because we need to get on gathering nominations for the next one.

Remember if you have any questions about why the poll is limited in the particular way it is, this link will cover that.

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

If you're on mobile you can scroll ALLLLLL the way to the bottom and click on"webpage view" to see the side menus and get to the polls.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

How to Get My Book Published (Mailbox)

Book publishing questions. 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer a couple each week.  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. Now get five questions for the price of one.]   

Prithu asks,

Have you ever finished writing a book? How do you do it?

I am writing something and there is so much more to write.

If [you] have published a book, can you please tell me how to haggle with a publisher? What is the usual cost of printing? How much of the total does the author get?

My reply,

I'm starting to get a lot of these questions. They seem to be frequent to working writers with a public profiles.  It's understandable for aspiring writers worry about how publishing is going to work and I highly encourage writers who are serious about trying to make money to understand the ins and outs of the industry they mean to make headway in, but I do notice that sometimes the level of detail and focus on particular moments of the process seem to be oft asked after, especially before one has  finished even a single draft of a single manuscript.

I'm not going to NOT answer your questions of course, but I can do a lot more than what you can get from ten or fifteen minutes on Google. I have esoteric knowledge of craft and years worth of advice about process. I am a codex goddamnit.

Erm.....let's do your questions.

Have you ever finished writing a book?

Yes. A couple, in fact. Neither is fit for publication without major rewriting and total revision. And one I'm pretty fucking sure will never see the light of day because I don't really know how to unproblematic-ify it. It may have just been 500 pages of writing practice. And that's okay. I sure as shit needed it.

In the modern era writers can circumvent rejection by going with self publication, but this isn't always a spiffy idea. If a book hasn't been substantially content edited, it is likely to be shitstorm bad and getting clocked over the head with a bunch of rejections sends a writer back to make their work better instead of going with instant gratification. First time manuscripts are notoriously bad and often are bad in a particular way. (They're horrible at the beginning and get better as the person spends a year or so practicing and literally gets better at writing by the time they reach the end. In fact, a careful agent or publisher can usually identify a first novel by watching the prose quality improve markedly from beginning to end.) A lot of writers should put their first book on the shelf, learn many valuable lessons, and start their career in commercial publication with book number two.

They don't, but they should.

I'm currently working through the first draft of #3 and I think this will be the first one that I tell to go fly and be free.

How do you do it?

One word at a time, Prithu.

When the draft is done, rewrite it.

When the rewrite is done, revise it.

When the revision is done, revise it some more and get feedback.

When you get feedback, swallow your pride and listen to it. Revise it again, and get more feedback.

When you're sick to death of it, and it's as perfect as you can make it, shop for an agent.

Trying to skip steps is...not advisable. I mean, you can self publish a rough draft if you want, but it doesn't mean it's going to get any attention.

I am writing something and there is so much more to write.

I've been there. Just keep writing!

If [you] have published a book, can you please tell me how to haggle with a publisher?

I don't have a published book, but here's what I can tell you about haggling with a publisher: get an agent. Get an agent. Get an agent. GET AN AGENT. GET. AN. AGENT.

Let them haggle. They know how to do it. And how not to get taken for a ride through a quagmire of leagal-ese.

They will almost always get you more money than they cost, and they will be your first line of commercial-level feedback (if you need to make some changes to make your manuscript more sellable). They are your legal representation. They know the tricks publishers will pull, and very few opportunities exist for an unsolicited manuscript to be published anyway. (You don't want to be in the slush pile.) They will know where to best shop your book because it might not be too obvious. And if you do happen to be someone who wrote something that is really (truly) good but might not sell–one of those books that needs to be in the world–they know who to call.

What is the usual cost of printing?

This really depends. The cost of printing a single book is now low enough that a print-on-demand model is viable and will make a writer money. You can crank out a book for really only a few dollars in materials once the galley proofs are uploaded to the computer. The big five use cost scalability of materials and economies of scale to lower their per-book cost to pennies, but that's why they don't typically sign a contract if they don't think you're going to sell at least 7500-10,000 books. They need a lot of copies to make back their investment.

How much of the total does the author get?

There are a lot of ways that it gets worded (amount per unit, percentage of wholesale, wholesale return value, percentage of retail) but the end result is that you will probably get somewhere between 5% and 10% of a book's cover price depending on how good your agent is at negotiating for you. You can actually make less if you try to go it without an agent (don't) and more if you're a household name (don't we wish).

Hope these answers were helpful. I can also do a post colonial deconstruction of Cars III if....you know....you're into that sort of thing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Best Modern Sci Fi by an Author who is not a Cis Het White Man (Voting Reminder)

What is the best modern science fiction written by an author who is a person of color, a woman, or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community?  

Please follow this link if you're wondering why this poll has some particular limitations.

Only a week (or so) remains on this poll, and then we're going to start gathering nominations for our next one (and trying to claw our way back to a poll a month schedule). Don't forget to take a moment to vote for your favorite.

Everyone gets three [3] votes, but as there is no way to "rank" votes, you should use as few as you can stand.

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

If you're on mobile you can scroll ALLLLLL the way to the bottom and click on"webpage view" to see the side menus and get to the polls.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Polls, Triexta, Glass Ceilings, Nasty Little Storm Clouds, Exhaustion, and the Great Meta Update of 2018 (Personal Update)

I'm having a hard time getting ahead.
For the vast majority of my life, there has always been more time to write and I was just being a Slothy McSlothkins not to be doing it. I knew what it took to be a writer (lots of reading and lots of writing) and I could always see more I could be giving. An hour more in the mornings. Two more hours each weekend day. Half an hour before bed. At least three hours a day if I would just stop trying to actually CLICK the cookie on Cookie Clicker.

I could always be doing more.

When I filled up that time, there were still simple sacrifices to be made. Give up that raiding guild. Cut back on a social life. Fewer Netflix binges. Teach one less class–yes, the budget would be tight, but I'd have that time for writing. Skip that vacation. Try to perfect elven trance meditation instead of sleep. And for a while, finding these things is easy and most of them are low priority sacrifices when it comes to the writing itself.

I was not familiar with the sensation of hitting the wall. In fact, it was so alien to me that I ran hard into it several times before I realized what was happening. Somewhere in the metaphorical plane of existence there is a temporal wall with four or five good Chris-shaped indentations in it.

There was no more time to give.

I'm not saying that I write sixteen hours a day. I don't. If I made a million dollars a day writing and had a housekeeper and never needed a moment off, I couldn't write that much. (Not for more than a week or two on "lockdown" maybe.) Although at least if that were the case it would have been easier to realize that there was no more time to give. ("Sir, it seems that in order to write any more you must stop sleeping. Perhaps sir would care for another methamphetamine pill?") But I didn't realize I was at the point of limited returns. Instead I did what I had always done and found an hour or two here or there to sacrifice. I pushed myself harder. I canceled more plans and cannibalized more downtime.

My first indication that something was rotten in Denmark was exhaustion. Not just of the "oh I'm tired" variety, but as I blogged about here around six months ago, more of the sleepwalking/scary amnesia, wait-how-is-it-Sunday-already variety. Fortunately, the only thing I woke up to discover I had unknowingly murdered was a whole lot of grammar. (Always nice not to come to in a crime scene.) Actually that was the second time in as many months that a doctor whipped out their medical megaphone and yelled into my face that I needed to take it the fuck easier.

Get some rest, dillhole.
Hearts younger than yours have stopped from this bullshit.
Recently my Texas trip threw my ongoing balancing act into sharp relief. There was pet sitting at either end of the trip. I tried to write posts between being social while in Texas, and fell further behind. Then I came home feeling like I was more stressed out than before I had left. The time change messed with me WAY longer and harder than two hours should have. All this and I'm still struggling just to get my own long fiction work (Triexta) an extra page of rough draft a day. I started to feel that old familiar whisper of exhaustion, and even had a moment last weekend where I remember going into the bedroom, but nothing after that until I woke up the next morning.

Then of course, there's my mood.....I call it a nasty little storm cloud, but sometimes it goes by other names. It shows up every few months, and usually leaves when I throw vegetables and exercise at it (and some decent sleep), and sometimes even shifts back into the runs of great creativity and energy, but it'll be back. It always comes back.

[Just so you know, I'm aware that what I'm describing could have a clinical definition if it were more dramatic in the highs and lows. I've talked to professionals and most of them just think it's a little turned up from most folks–not something I need treatment for–and unfortunately somewhat of a common temperament among artists.]

None of this, of course, is quite as dramatic as losing a whole day and finding out you had some weird ass, grammar-free conversations on FB and apparently, willingly, watched all of Iron Fist. Still, it was a bit of a warning shot across my bow.

The problems go deeper than "GET MOAR SLEEP." I have to take an inventory that I've never had to take. I have to find a work/life balance with writing and though it will be obsessive and ridiculous and way more than most people would consider healthy, it still has to be there.

I have to do a certain amount of side gigs in order to shore up my budget. It is breathtaking to have achieved the goal of being able to survive on writing, but that survival is bare bones and that goal is really only "technically" achieved. If I want something besides Top Ramen, Kirkland PB&Js, and to be 100% beholden to public transit, I have to throw in some pet sitting and freelance editing and stuff too.

As a personal note, I also almost never say no to my kid watching side gig. I'd hang the moon for that kid. The budget isn't even a factor and I regularly do it without pay if it's been more than a few days. So I'm never going to give up that either.

Unless it's "Dessert you" which might mean buying him ice cream and cake.
I'll totally do that.

Of what's left, I still can't give everything to writing. I'm backlogged on guest posts, emails, cleaning up menus, my fiction, and everything that isn't grinding out a post every day. Beyond that, I need some time to unwind and go on walks that give my body some physical activity, have relationships with other humans, read, and maybe even catch up on Daredevil Season 2 if I'm feeling extra outrageous.

I'm pretty hard on myself. For the record, I don't think it's a big ol' coincidence that I'm hard on myself and I have a day job doing creative writing, but sometimes learning to thread that needle takes kicking my ass like a taskmaster in BDSM gear and sometimes it takes a gentle Galadriel voice that kindness will make the universe unfold as it will. Lately it's been more like a not-taking-your-shit single mom voice that there's a glass ceiling of "productivity" where I'm just gutting out words and they're not all that creative anymore, so stop being such a goddamned artiste about every damn thing and go take a fucking nap, loser. And even though it's not their fault in the slightest, and literally NONE of my Patrons has ever even suggested that I'm not writing enough (sometimes they suggest the opposite, actually), I still think of them every time I want to take a day off.

Sometimes it's like having 186 bosses.

Listen, if we could get you to go ahead and post on Saturday, that'd be great.
OH...and we're going to need you to go ahead and post on Sunday too. Yeeeeaaaah.
Thanks a bunch, Chris.
(Except literally none of my bosses do anything like this–this is really me doing it to myself.)

I was talking with Cap yesterday. She commissions a lot of art pieces from fan-artists mostly to support them as artists (with wanting the actual art only as a distant second). And she told me that artists are sometimes people you have to just give your money, let them do their thing, and know that it's going to be a few months. It's  I'm not going to quite go THAT laissez faire with my update schedule, but I remember my own patronage, and that I'm being harder on myself than I would be on any artist or writer or anyone but me.

That's sort of a theme in my life, bee-tee-dubs. Me being harder on me than anyone else is on me and than I am on anyone else. Big theme. Lots of therapy. Still a work in progress. Boundaries Я hard. It's its whole own post–like ten of them really; trust me.

So what now?

Recently, I polled my Patrons to take their temperature about all of this. Were they going to leave in droves if I started posting a little less? ("We find your effort....lacking.") While a few people suggested that my current posting schedule was pretty good (though I should feel free to take a break when I needed one) most actually made it clear that they'd like to see quality over quantity, wouldn't leave unless I stopped writing altogether, were supporting me for other non-blog writing I do (and in anticipation of what I will write), and even thought that maybe I could pump the breaks just a little on Mr. Toad's Wild Blog.

So here's the new plan. I was doing seven posts a week. I'm going to take that down to six. I was doing three "meaty" posts a week. I'm going to take that down to two. It's not that the other four will be phoned in or anything, but I spend a lot of time posting polls, reminding people to vote, doing the little running plot that goes on here, and various low-key posts like Fortune Cookie Wisdom. I'm going to take more "Admin weekends" (at least one a month) and give myself permission to cut out a post–though without my signature tearful apologies–if I've had to watch the young'un a lot or if someone agrees to pay my rate for a double booking. Or even–and this will take a tank of oxygen and some tranquilizers–when I'm just in one of my slumps. Because I can do the Write-Every-Day discipline thing and it'll help get SOMETHING on the stove and keep me sharp when the mojo come back, but there are still always going to be periods where a full force blog post of the "meaty" variety just sits in my brain and taunts me instead of coming out.

I'm basically going to be a little nicer to Chris. He seems nice.

That time will go into cleaning up menus, going through emails, setting up a better schedule of guest bloggers, writing my fiction, unspooling in a way that counterintuitively improves my creative productivity because that's just the kind of right a-hole creativity is sometimes, and just taking a minute to chillax because I'm wound to goddamned tight.

Who knows, I might even get around to seeing Jessica Jones.

I know! I know!!
And that.
I will bring these posts back when I no longer need the side gigs to cover their part of the budget. That is to say that when I am making enough money writing that I can stop pet sitting, I will do so–just as I did so with teaching and just as I did with the triple bookings I used to take. There's a lot of ground to cover before I can phase out side gigs completely and right now I'm just hoping to cover how much my health insurance is going to go up (I have to buy those plans out of pocket since I am technically self-employed), and the imminent fall to engineered obsolescence of some of the high end items (like my writing laptop) that I had when I left my much cushier financial situation.

Yes, this is my monthly appeal post. It's not cute or clever (this time). I'm tucking it in here because it relates so well to all of this stuff. For the vast majority of my life, there has always been more time to write. Now I can't without your help.

If you'd like to be a part of helping me phase out pet sitting, so that there actually can be more time to write please consider even the smallest of financial support by becoming a Patron. I still depend on half a dozen breathtakingly generous folks for over half my income and that is a very vulnerable place for me to be no matter how much I love them. A strong foundation of smaller donors ($1 and $5...maybe $10) will help cushion the blow if life happens to one of those patrons.

Of course, not everyone can handle a recurring payment, and of course you can also make a one time donation through Paypal, but if you would like to be a part of polls like the one I describe above or conversations about what's coming up, you'll have to commit to at least a dollar a month on Patreon.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Major Meta Update Tomorrw

For those folks who follow the blog itself and not just my social media where I can drop a rerun and do a soft shoe, today I did two hours of job three that ended up being a lot more like four (five once the commute got factored in) and I'm working on a major change to the update schedule that I don't want to toss out after the east coast has gone to bed and the west coast has fired up part two of their Westworld binge.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

How to Grow Your Facebook Audience (Mailbox)

How is it that you have such a huge, throbbing......Facebook following.

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer a couple each week.  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. If I can't find your whole question, you might have to be Daniel.]   

Daniel* asks,

Hey Chris. I wanted to tell you that I enjoy your Facebook group/fan page and that I also really admire the way you built your audience. I'm trying to build my own audience just now, and it's slow going, but I feel like you've been really successful at it. I liked your page back when you had something like 40,000 likes, and you have grown by, like, A FREAKING LOT [note: current number is almost 800k-Chris]. Well done! If you ever wrote an article called "Baby Steps for Building Your Fan Base for Those Who Really Want Information But Need Things to Be Explained in Small Words," I would love it. Lol.

*I'm pretty sure Daniel is the person who asked the question before this one, but I seem to have copy pasted over that part of the original text. If this is your question, bear with me, and I apologize; you get to be Daniel for a while.

My reply,

This is a good reminder to me to get off my flippen ass on all the serial posts that I have been neglecting (in some cases for years) during what I have come to call The Time of Great Hardship™.

My current series of posts–a little less than half done–is under the auspices of Blogging About Blogging and is all about starting your own blog. It's not exactly what you're asking me about but (as you'll see) there's some overlap. After that I want to do a series on finding and taking feedback on one's writing. And that's to say nothing of the craft stuff. And more plot points! And the Skyrim article and....and....

Uh...so anyway about your question.

Getting your followers up on a page turns out to be a lot like writing. There's glitz and glamour and regular visits to media moguls who send their limos around to pick you up (stocked with Ruinart champagne, of course). You go everywhere with attractive partners of your preferred gender hanging off your arm, often two at a time–three when you pop over to the French Riviera to do meet a bunch of movie stars and pop musicians. And...

Oh sorry. That's something else. Here's the description of writing and page admin and how they're alike:

It's a soul sucking pit of deep unfulfillment unless you really enjoy it for its own sake.

Yeah, that sounds a lot more accurate. 

The good news is, I can convey what's involved pretty easily because there aren't really any tricks or techniques beyond sheer force of will and some patience. And even though I sort of worry that I'll have a million competitors nipping at my heels by next week, I did promise you all that I would share the hard won wisdom.

The bad news is, you're not going to like it because actually it's a lot like work. I don't mean YOU don't like work "Daniel." I don't even know you and I'm not here to judge, but I get this question a lot from a lot of people and when I tell them what is involved they get a thousand yard stare and say things like "The turtle couldn't help us."

See the problem is, the simplest explanation is to work on your page for about one to two hours every day. Go find content. Post content. Keep your comment section from becoming the sort of horror show that would scare away the people you imagine are your audience. Everything else I'm going to tell you is a variation on that theme: about an hour or two a day.

  • Basically post every day about once an hour. 
  • Yes, that means 12-15 posts a day. A hundred or more a week. Tremendous amounts of effort over time. 
  • Spread your posts out. Even with the algorithm and most people missing most posts, one an hour is pretty close to the saturation point. Any more than that and people will see nothing but you in their feed. Then they'll get annoyed and unfollow, even if they mostly like what you're doing. They just don't lie seeing YOU over and over again. Brains amirite? 
  • This also means you can't dump all your day's posts in ten minutes and call it a day. Either schedule them or post them every hour. 
  • I'd strongly recommend keeping a cache of fresh-to-death images on your phone so you can post when you're out.
  • Vary your posts. If you do puns and grammar memes and thoughtful articles and funny jokes, don't do seven puns in a row. Suddenly your a pun page and everyone who was following for the other stuff unfollows. Keep the mixture from "clumping" as you alternate between funny and serious or whatever the range is of your own content.
  • Spend some time in your comment section, if only to remove the MOST horrible people being horrible. You can't stop every rando from dropping a shit comment on every post, but you can cull the worst behaviors and help direct the timbre of the community by making it clear what isn't going to fly. As much as "don't read the comments" is an internet axiom people do and they'll be keeping score of what you allow to go unchecked.
  • If you're doing some kind of self promotion (like, say, posting a link to your blog), you want to limit that to a couple of times a day–MAAAAAAAAYBE three. 
  • Ask for money VERY infrequently. Once or twice a month at most. (I promote my Patreon once a month on the blog and once a month directly to social media.) Constantly trying to monetize will really sour people to you even if all they ever really had to do was give their scroll wheel a little something something. 
  • Whatever you do, just do it. Figure out what your thing is (hopefully something you really enjoy) and give it full throttle. Somewhere out there is someone who isn't going to like your thing, but instead of just getting over themselves or finding a page they like better, they'll get super entitled about their free entertainment and demand YOU change. Fuck em. Because if you get stuck where you're trying to please everyone, counterintuitively, your page will just kind of fizzle. For every person who grouses about X, ten people are there JUST FOR X. Just do your thing–whatever it is. This doesn't mean you're above reproach or never have to listen or apologize if you post something shitty, but it does mean that you don't stop posting puns because someone threatens to leave.
I do some other things (like just hiding comments I know are designed to stir up controversy in a particular SQuiDy way rather than engaging them or even leaving them, banning people who flounce or threaten to so they can't come back, or dribbling in reruns that I know no one has seen because they're from back when the page had a thousand followers), but I don't necessarily know if they've contributed to my page's success or just my personal peace of mind.

Oh and there's one more thing worth mentioning here.

Building up a facebook page of shitposting and puns isn't strictly about writing, per se, but it turns out to be more than just analogously similar. A whole lot of writers who want actual cash money careers could be doing a whole lot better if they learned to use social media to promote themselves. They whip up pages, for their book or their writing persona and then never post anything beyond "Hey, buy my book!" and wonder why they have 28 followers (17 of which have the same last name as them).

There are not really working writers anymore who just mail out manuscripts and pick up checks (and for reasons too involved to get into here, there never really were). Some of the old methods of self promotion like physically travelling to local bookstores to shop out copies of a book on consignment or organizing book parties or attending literally every reading in an area don't have nearly the ROI of social media. An artist, no matter how skilled they are, will quickly find that lacking reach can be incredibly frustrating. (You've written a good book but no one knows about it!) Before that big break where folks start seeking out the artist, we all have to go out and find our audience. (And newsflash–you still will have to self promote even after you're a household name. They're called readings and signings and they're going to be a part of your contract negotiations. From what I've heard, they're only exciting for the first twenty minutes of the first one you ever do, and then it starts to look like a wall of strangers who all want to talk.) It's not a bad idea to learn how to use the tools of modern promotion for the self promotion of a modern career.

I'm not sure every artist needs to be QUITE so prolific. Everyone can find their own air/fuel mixture, but your question was specifically how I achieved MY numbers.

It's work to build up a social media presence, and it's work that is NOT writing, but it's often work that would have to be done in some form anyway by anyone who wanted to be writing for a living, so I have to say that posting puns and digging through quotes to find the most inspirational beach sunset picture that quote is paired with is better than most alternatives. And if I have to pause a conversation with a friend for two minutes to drop a meme from my phone, it's not that high a price to pay.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Best Modern SciFi Not Written by a Cishet White Man

What is the very best science fiction written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQ+ community written in the last 20 years? 

Our latest poll is live!

This poll is from our Year of Diverse Polls, and as such it can't includes authors who are cishet white men. Please adjust your nominations accordingly. Also please check out that post before leaving any shitty comments here or on social media that wildly miss the point and which I will cheerfully remove.

Our poll was pulled from your nominations. Discounting a few that didn't follow directions, almost everyone that got a second made the final round. I put a couple up that I seconded myself.

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

Everyone will get three (3) votes.

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

This poll will be up for a couple of weeks. You can vote once a week. Since I can't stop shenanigans, I encourage as much of it as possible. Vote early, vote often.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Best Modern SciFi Not Written by a Cishet White Man (Last Call for Nominations!)

What is the very best science fiction written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQ+ community written in the last 20 years?

Despite big news going on over at Patreon behind the scenes, we have to get this poll up and running, so take your last opportunity to nominate titles or second the ones that are there.

The poll is going up tomorrow.

This poll is from our Year of Diverse Polls, and as such it can't includes authors who are cishet white men. Please adjust your nominations accordingly. Also please check out that post before leaving any shitty comments here or on social media that wildly miss the point and which I will cheerfully remove.

All the rules are here

That is ALSO the place to leave any new nominations or seconds. PLEASE do not leave them here. I need them all in one place. Please remember to second even if a title already has a second. I am no longer doing several elimination rounds–at most I will do a single semifinal round. Therefore a number of titles between eight and twenty with the MOST seconds will go on to the poll.

Consider Your Writer Talent Build Carefully (Revision)

No no no. That's WOW.
My blog is WAW.
Totally different.
Wow...they DO sound alike when you just say them.
That never even occurred to me.
I used to be addicted to World of Warcraft.

Well, not addicted addicted. I could quit any time, of course. I wasn't like my friends putting in the hours of a full time job to be in a raiding guild. I wasn't like those guys in their parents' basements. I was a high class addict, you see. Avoiding ten page papers that were due in less than 12 hours...absolutely, but I didn't really have a PROBLEM.

One thing I noticed about W.O.W.'s talent point mechanic was how strangely like being a writer it was.

No. Really.

Hear me out.

I should probably start with the USDA approved message to writerly folk that if you are serious about being a writer, one of the best things you could possibly do would be to take any Massively Multiplayer Online Games you happen to be subscribed to, place them into small box, and then place that box inside a bigger box filled with enriched uranium, and then take that box, put it into a rocket that is filled with explosives, and launch that rocket into the sun (or preferably another sun......one that is going supernova).

You will amaze and astound yourself with how much time you have available for writing when an afternoon's session isn't interrupted with: "Shit, I haven't done my daily fishing quests yet." (Because nothing says "fun game" like treating not-actually-fishing as a chore.)

Yeah, me neither. So keep it down to a few hours a week and keep writing, kay?

Of course, I stopped playing because Cataclysm sucked ass (and not in the way that makes someone go "Oh my god. I've never felt anything that intense!"). But let's pretend it was because I'm a disciplined writer who knew it was just going to be part of the price I had to pay, that I totally have epic mad levels of discipline, and I want to be a writer just that fucking bad. Furthermore, let's pretend I haven't started back up in the last few months.

Okay? Are you pretending? Splendid.

Anyway, this post isn't about getting rid of WOW. You can face that demon on your own....or better yet with a group...or a raid......of demon hunters.

Uh, sorry.  Where was I? Oh yeah. This is about how writing is often like WOW.

You mean you spend thirty hours a week doing it with nothing to show for it except some shiny pixels that make you think you're cool? 

Shut up evil italics voice!  No one invited you to this article. No, what I mean is that you have to decide carefully what kind of writer you're going to be.

If you've played WOW, or really any MMO, you know that your character fulfills a sort of "role" whenever you group up with others to accomplish goals. If you're an MMO vet, just bear with me through the crash course.

In most games like WOW you either take damage, deal damage, or heal. (There are games with a fourth role called "support" where characters sort of swiss army knife what's needed in a given group and drop some sick buffs, but WOW isn't one of those games.) If you take damage, you have to be a big bad tough to kill guy with lots of ways to taunt the monsters into attacking you instead of the people doing the damage or healing--this person is called the "tank."  If you deal damage you have to be able to crank out attacks that can hurt but without doing it in a way that takes the monster's attention away from the tank. If you heal...well, you heal, but again, you don't want to heal TOO well, or the monster will perceive you as the bigger threat. You keep the tank from getting killed, and everybody else if you can.

Unless everyone else is too incompetent to reign in their DPS and they end up with the monster's aggro. Then you let those fools die to teach them a lesson. Except that you'll get blamed for them dying even though they totally deserved it. Everyone always blames the healer when they die. Always. Even if they literally jumped off a cliff into a room full of snake men like in that movie Dreamscape...on purpose....into a fire...and pulled out their weapons so they would impale themselves when they hit the ground. It was still the healer's fault for letting them die.

Did I mention that I usually heal (if there's no bard class).

But really, "I can't heal through walls" needs to be about three times as big.

Off topic much?

I'm pacing myself.

In WOW, and most similar games, each time you gain a few levels, you get a point to spend on a "talent" that gives your character a little bit of customized power. Used to be there were whole trees where you had to buy somewhere between one and five talents to unlock something more powerful. (These days it's all streamlined and a little cookie cutter.) These are called talent trees–because they look like trees....that are growing upside down.....with three or four long spindly branches....and....okay, they don't look anything like trees.

Are you going to tell us this metaphor, or just tell us a bunch of things that aren't this metaphor.

Shut up.

Anyway, when you buy these talents, you don't just buy some from here and some from there in a mishmash of grocery-shopping-esque "I'd-probably-use-that-eventually" kinds of choices.  You are shopping with a list that has the ingredients from the recipe, and no Ben and Jerry's--not even Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough goddamn it!--is going to deter you. You consider how to get the best talents for that "role" you're playing. You want to unlock the more powerful talents because they will make you better at your role, but you also want to make sure everything fits together with what you're trying to accomplish. And sometimes there are really great, awesome, powerful talents that you don't take. Not because they aren't great, awesome, and powerful, but because they just don't fit with what you are trying to accomplish.

Like if you're a damage-dealing character, and you need to crank out damage, you might ignore a talent that gives you more armor every time you get hit by a monster. It's not that armor isn't awesome. Armor is the enthusiastic oral sex of the MMO world: you can never get enough.  It's just that every talent point you spend getting better armor is a talent point you can't spend to do more damage.

If you pick the armor talent, you might have to skip the "Rip Their Face......OFF" talent.

Now here's the problem: people who want to hedge their bets take that armor talent anyway.  Then they become less awesome at their "role" of doing damage. Sure, they can take a few more hits, but what they really WANT to be doing is more damage. They sacrificed their niche for something more jack-of-all-tradesish and now they can't do as well at their niche. The good guilds don't let them join. They get called noob. None of the sexy characters who are just-like-a-hot-human-except-blue will go back to their starting village to take a look at their etchings. And no one will cyber them.

We were promised some kind of metaphor or connective tissue with writing.  Did you forget about that?

Shut up evil italics voice.  I'm getting to it.

As a writer, you have to chose your focus wisely. You have a finite amount of time, and you probably have a finite amount of creative energy before you don't want to write anymore in a given day. You also probably have certain physical limitations like joint stiffness or eye strain. So it's important to think about the kind of writing you want to be doing and consider the "talents" you pursue.

You probably have a "role" you want to be writing in: "Fiction Author," for example or "Journalist" or "Web Content Freelancer." And sometimes it can be dangerous to think all writing is created equal and all avenues will serve you equally well.

Yes, freelance work might be useful. Sure, a journalism degree isn't a waste of time. Sure offering yourself up for no-pay gigs that get you some recognition might be useful. Fanfic might be useful. Writing web content might be useful. Blogging for free for a big blog might be useful. Any of these things would develop skill sets you don't already have and teach you a thing or two about writing. There are lots of "valuable lessons" to be learned. Experience is valuable. But they are like that awesome talent point that doesn't fit with what you're trying to do.

Just to be your-mom's-good-china-when-company's-coming clear. It is not that these things are not useful. It's not that they can't help you be a better writer. They just might be like that armor talent–that is to say they might be helpful but not necessarily helping you be the best kind of writer of the type you want to be. They take time and effort away from the one kind of writing you really may want to be doing.

While you're doing somebody else's Shakespeare homework or writing web copy for roughly 1 cent a word, are you missing other opportunities that involve the kind of writing you would rather be doing?

It's easy--all too easy--to take a job as a writer because....hey I'm a fucking WRITER! Freeze frame Flash Gordon fist-in-the-air-jump!

And then you look up one day, and it's twenty years later, and you're still on chapter six of your book because you come home at the end of every day from your "Fucking Writer!" job and the last thing in the world you want to do is write some more. You're probably a really good writer–twenty years of practice will do that–but eight hours a day is really about all you can handle. To make matters worse you might have a really specific style of writing at your "fucking writer" job that isn't helping you with the sort of writing you always dreamed of.

Oh and you're married with kids, so good luck trying to quit your "fucking writer" job to go make 8 cents an hour because you want to chase your dreams full time.

The same can be said of teaching writing. Just about every teacher I had at SFSU would rather have been writing full time. The same can be said for editing. The same can be said for publishing. Feelance. Techwriting. Whatever. A lot of writers get stuck in jobs where they thought they would learn something useful in a job that was close to writing, or "kind of creative," and they just ended up regretting how sidetracked they got.

I can't tell you how many writers I know who've told me they wished they'd just been a patent clerk or gone into construction so that they could come and not be revolted by the idea of writing for another few hours.

No one is suggesting you pass up opportunities, but the goal is to do so in a way that works you UP your skill tree, not to take every random opportunity because you might develop as a writer.  If you want to write about the robot wars on Khyron Beta Prime, joining a writers group for sci-fi writers two towns over (even though the drive is an hour each way) might be a better use of your time and effort than a paid internship at your local paper.

Disclaimer: If the kind of writing you're doing makes you happy, then you're not really stuck.  If you can make a lot of money writing, and come home and write some more, then rock, rock on! I know a tech writer who can demand some fucking serious money, and then does their fiction writing at night without missing a beat.

And guys....seriously...I can't stress this next part enough: if you got into something but then you found that it gave you a fulfillment in life that you ever could have expected, you've won the jackpot.


That's all we're really trying for in this life anyway, right?  If it turns out that raising a family brings you more happiness than writing eight hours a day in a boiler room apartment, then do that! Too many people lose sleep over some unfulfilled desire just because that was their childhood dream, but they've long since found other aspects of life more fulfilling. My mother dreamed of being a published author when she was young, but ended up writing internal policy for a bank when she discovered what really brought her joy in life was her family.

Of course now she lives vicariously through you by telling me to write BDSM erotica, and not noticing that you take a shower with steel wool every time she does so.

Please shut up, evil italics voice.  Please...

This is why I often turn down certain kinds of freelance work or advice about where to find writing gigs–even good paying ones. It's not that I'm too good for them. I certainly don't think they would be pointless or that I wouldn't grow as a writer from the experience. It's just that once I've done web content for twenty or so articles, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to have much trouble imagining how the 21st will go.  I want to write novels and mediocre blogs about the thing I love in this world.

Everyone has to balance their ambitions and hopes and dreams against the reality of their lives. If you're the breadwinner for a family of six, I'm not suggesting you quit your job to chase rainbows. But what I can tell you is that you can easily lose years because you went for that "armor."