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

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

No. I'm Not Going to Beta Test Your Game

Jesus add Laura Croft or Samus or something.
What a dudefest.
I buy games.

I have seven hundred and ninety-eight games on Steam for an account that is a little over five years old, and I’m looking forward to the coming Winter Sale even though I'll need to sell a kidney to have any money for it. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 Playstation 2 games, fifty or so Wii games, and about a hundred games each for N-64 and Dreamcast from my console era. I now have a Switch and a very modest eight games for that (since it is relatively new and I only play it right before bed and when I'm at home and not pet sitting). Though I vastly prefer PC and the cloud these days, I could probably dig up two or three hundred games on disk if I went spelunking through storage boxes (and the casualties of various moves were magically restored). I don't have the disposable income I did when I assembled much of this collection, but games are still a major fraction of my discretionary income. (That and books are about 90%). I know full well that if I added up the retail price I spent on all these games, I would be looking at several years’ salary.

I don’t say this to brag. I’m not trying to prove my gaming street cred. I also don’t say it to establish some “#sorrynotsorry” faux patheticness. (“Look what a loser I am, spending so much on the hobby I love! It’s so unlike those other inexpensive hobbies like cosplay, LARPing, skydiving, and ballroom dancing.”) I say it to establish one simple fact:

I buy games.

So don’t tell me I’m not your audience. I am your audience. I am a game buying machine.

I buy your DLC without so much as a gumtoothed complaint that in the old days “a game was a game was a game.” Before a certain tiny human came along, I had time to enjoy Gametap and spend money to indulge my gaming nostalgia. I keep subscriptions active for MMORPG’s I don’t get to play more than an hour or two a month. I have a Humble Bundle subscription. Hell, I’ll even spend the price of a latte every couple of days on your Freemium game if it’s currently holding my interest.

If you’re on the up and up, I’m basically one of the people putting your kids through college.

But not all of you are on the up and up.

There’s a particularly odious trend exploding in the video games industry right now, and when you’re scratching your heads wondering what went so very, very wrong when your sales tank, and no one will by games until they’re a year old and all the bugs are shaken out, I hope you look back and take into account that you basically turned conning your customers into a business model.

Quit fucking releasing games that aren’t done.

It’s bad enough that we get bullshit like the Assassin’s Creed Unity launch, which was so bad, it’s being compared to E.T. for Atari–arguably the worst video game EVER.

But perhaps your worst move is to attempt to charge your customers for doing your beta testing instead of hiring a proper team or at LEAST giving your customers a free game to do your work for you. Making players fork over money so they can fill out bug reports to an increasingly irritated and overworked dev team. Forcing your players to do the grunt work of interacting with a team that’s getting more and more frustrated and demanding more and more detail in how to trigger bugs because they see each one as a personal affront.

This little shit goblin of a move goes by the charming euphemism “Early Access” but like “pre-enjoyed vehicles”and “depopulating areas,” this use of delightful euphemisms is no more than sticking a still steaming turd into a box with a bow. Frankly, you are being “economical with the truth.”

Some Early Access is great! There's a core game there. The core game is good. The price is appropriate. And the developer (usually indie) is hoping for some feedback about what to flesh out. But AAA titles slapping that label on their unfinished shit to get free beta testing is a whole different foxhunt.

Also....and I’m going to say this last part as someone who often hits “publish” a little too soon when I’m blogging and ends up rushing back to fixing typos and grammar errors that I'm mortified about: It reflects on you what you put out in the world and you really want your work to be the best possible representation of your brand. It betrays a breathtaking lack of professionalism to expect people to pay full price to wade through glaring errors. Have some fucking pride in what you’re putting your name on and expecting people to fork over hard earned money for. The video game industry is outrageously competitive and most studios are one flop away from bankruptcy. A company that has no artistic integrity and no pride in its final product will get chewed up and spat out by being penny wise and pound foolish.

I'm warning you as someone who absolutely spends gobs and gobs and gobs of money on games. I will not buy your game when I hear it had glitches or you did an “early release” to get your customers to do your Q.A. work for you (and pay to do so). I'm warning you as someone who will then avoid your future releases and be dubious about your company from then on until and unless glowing reviews flow like water from a pitcher in a Middle Earth elven kingdom scene. I'm warning you as someone who has watched one studio after another go down in flames to the head-scratching of its upper management. I'm warning you as someone who got the message loud and clear that a few dollars at the front end means more to you than giving your customers their money's worth in experience. I'm warning you as someone who increasingly waits a year to buy new releases (even though $60.00+ is not too much if I love a game) because of exactly this shit. I'm warning you as someone who really wants your good games to succeed.

Releasing undone games won’t just lose you one gamer’s wallet love. It may not even merely trash your company. There’s a reason E.T. was cited as causing an INDUSTRY WIDE CRASH. There's a reason I don't buy games unless they get golden reviews or have been out a few months. Being shitty is like anti-branding. You’re dragging your reputation through the mud and making your customers that much more gunshy–not just about your games and your company, but all new releases in general. It’s a few dollars up front that costs you in the long run in customer loyalty for you and the entire industry.

I buy games.

But whether you dress it up like you're doing us a big "early access favor" or just put out a shitty product hoping to patch on the fly, if you keep releasing games that aren’t done and not giving your customers a discount for essentially doing your beta testing, I won’t be buying yours.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Overly Sentimental Gratitude Post or Some Shit

Today Patreon is doing a #Thankyouinthefacepatrons thing. You know, where all the creators join hands and sing "Your financial support rocks beyond the telling of it" to the tune of Kumbaya that is in no way a promotional gimmick that gives Patreon loads of visibility and probably more income during a tough time of the year.

It's not usually my thing to get in on corporate promotion shit like this, but in this case, I have to concur. You all are so awesome I need a thesaurus just so I can come up with even more fandamnfucktacular words to describe the scope of the awesome. So let's go ahead and turn this into a moment so sentimental it borders on maudlin.

*cue the choir of orphans crying because of how grateful they are*

But seriously fucking thank you, okay? I'm totes grateful and shit. Load me up with patchouli essential oil and let me be mindful within my spirit cave of gratitude because you all––YOU ALL have made it possible for me to be a writer. Like a pay-the-bills, go-ahead-and-buy-that-game-from-Steam-even-though-it-won't-be-on-sale-for-another-year, I-might-get-to-do-two-vacations-in-as-many-years writer. These days I can even turn down pet sitting gigs 90 minutes of shittacular traffic away from where I watch The Contrarian.

All because of my patrons.

I have a lot to be thankful for. Even in a world of rising fascism and terrifying climate change, I can find some gratitude deep down in the couch cushions. From finding a side gig that lets me write instead of driving for Lyft 20 hours a week to wonderfully supportive uberpeeps like Cap. My life kind of fell apart a couple of years ago, and it still looks a little like a Jenga tower ten minutes into the game, but I'm grateful that it's starting to come together. I am grateful that I'm only dealing with a couple of annoying weeks of smoke from a California wildfire, and not the life-upending tragedy that thousands of others are now dealing with. I'm grateful that when I get a kidney stone, I can go to the hospital and not have to put up a Gofundme. I'm grateful that I'm able to afford therapy (every other week and sliding scale, but still...) I'm grateful that I'm probably going to be able to afford dental work soon.

But mostly I'm grateful for my patrons. Because most of that shit wouldn't be true if it weren't for them.

November is always a little rough. People cancel or lower their contributions, probably because finances get a little tight this time of year. And I always end up losing a fair chunk more support than I pick up and having to do the holidays on a shoestring budget. Then there are other folks who ask me about my Amazon wishlist and want to get me gifts. (Rest assured that the best gift you could get me is to become a Patreon and a close second would be a one-time donation.) So I've totally ended up eating LOTS of pasta with butter while playing Final Fantasy XV on my roommate's PS4.

But this year we're hanging on. By a thread, but technically still in the positive.

And if next year I'm able to absorb the rising cost of healthcare and go see a dentist, it'll be because my Patreons made it possible. So thank you all....for real.

So much.

So fucking much.

In particular I want to thank my Patron Muses: Julia, Margaret, John
, Pol
, Ginger, Kelly
, Alisha, Hélène, Amy, TM Caldwell, Alex, another––more different––Alex and two Anonymouses. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Fake Geek Girl: Misogyny not Elitism

This is one of my Ace of Geeks articles I'm going to be moving to Writing About Writing to keep safe. While not strictly about writing, it is about SF/F fandoms and some poor behavior that overlaps heavily with those fandoms and that I've seen writers of SF/F fall into.  

I'm a fake geek guy.

I've now been to about twenty conventions. One comic book convention, lots of gaming conventions, an anime convention, a SF/F convention with household name writers, and a couple of conventions that defied categorization.

I've sat with geeks of every stripe. Star Wars fans. Trekkies. Browncoats. Role players. LARPers. Cosplayers. SCAers. Comic book lovers. Gamers. Even people who love civil war strategy games enough that that's basically WHAT THEY DO every Saturday night.

(We artists get around. There's a reason that uptight, high-class dads get REALLY wary if their kids are dating one of us.)

I've watched conversations rage around me about whether DC or Marvel heroes would win in a fight or if the Enterprise could defeat a Super Star Destroyer. My own Facebook was the site of a 250+ comment thread on whether or not Darth Vader by himself could win against a Star Destroyer taken over by an Alien queen with a two-week head start. I've seen friendships strain over the wording of a +1 strike bonus for an elf using a long bow while hanging by its knees from a tree. ("It doesn't say long bow! There's no way you can use a long bow upside down like that." "It says bow. The long bow is a bow!" "It's just a +1." "Then don't make a big deal about it.") I've seen people talking about the merits of sword types in different military theaters and I've seen a conversation about whether a samurai or a medieval knight would win in a fight that I honestly thought was going to end in a live, to-the-death, demonstration.  There's even a group out there still saying "frell" instead of "gorram" or "frack."

And here's the deep dark truth. I smile and nod a lot.

I mean, I smile and nod a LOT.

I like most geek things, but I don't like them enough to delve into the obsession that is a bit of a defining characteristic of the sub-culture. I watch the main movies or read the main books, and call it a day. I can't quote Game of Thrones. ("You know nothing about snow"? Right?) I've only read the first two Dresden books. (This seems kind of misogynistic. You SURE it gets "way better"? *doing air quotes with my fingers*) I don't know the extensive backstories of every Avenger (Iron Man is an alcoholic, right?)  I don't have a definitive vitriolic opinion on Disney's gutting of the Star Wars extended universe because I don't know it. (The Old Republic was cool....mostly...right?) I've seen the X-Men movies, but I don't really read comic books. (There's a new timeline now, or something, isn't there?)  I'm vaguely aware that Superman died a few years back. (Oh that was in that one Youtube....with Elijah Woods!)

~whispers~ I haven't even seen all of Doctor Who.

By now you've probably realized the shocking, horrifying truth. Frankly put, I am a FAKE GEEK GUY.

Secretly I'm ridiculously hot.
And cool.
And did I mention hot.
I admit it. I like geek stuff, but I don't love geek stuff. Not the way most geeks do. Not like the fandoms. I'm an interloper on the geek scene. I've seen the movies, but I don't know the canon. I am not a "true" fan.

All those things about not really loving the source material and "just watching the movies" or only reading the one book that everyone has read....that--all of that--applies to me.

But here are some things that have never happened to me: I have never been quizzed about who Data's evil brother is to prove I like Star Trek enough to be worthy of my position in line for the midnight showing of First Contact. (Oh! Oh! That one I know.) I have never had to justify my place in a sneak preview line to see Spider-Man II by knowing who took up the mantle of Spider-Man after Peter Parker's death. (Peter Parker dies? Really? That's so sad!) I have never had to explain who Nightwing is in order to participate in a conversation about Batman. (Nightwing is like....Robin on steroids, right?) I have never been asked how battle meditation works in order to voice my opinion that Enterprise shields would probably make a fight with Star Wars technology one-sided. (Battle meditation is something that was in that Jedi role-playing video game, wasn't it?) I have never had to beat everybody in the room (twice) at Mario Kart to prove I liked video games. I have never had my gender "honorarily" changed by having enough geek interests to be accepted ("you're one of the guys now"). No one has ever insisted I tell them the difference between a tank and DPS in an MMORPG before allowing me to discuss raiding Molten Core. (I still haven't seen Molten Core.) I have never been dismissed as a faker at a prequel screening because I didn't know which admiral came out of light speed too close to the planet's surface in The Empire Strikes Back. (I know this one, but only because in the days before Netflix, we had these things called VCRs, and I watched my very worn Christmas-present copies of the Star Wars movies like 250+ times when nothing else was on TV.) I have never been quizzed about Armor Class in order to get past someone who was blocking my path to the back of a game store where my friends were waiting at the tables. I have never been told I'm not a real fan. I have never been shamed for coming to a convention despite my lack of esoteric knowledge. I have never been shamed because my ridonkulously cute outfit was turning heads and that somehow made me not interested in the game I was playing. And I have never, ever, EVER, EVER been invited to leave a fandom because I didn't like [whatever it was] enough.

Every one of the things I have listed, I have personally witnessed happen.

To women.

That's not elitism. That's sexism.

Rank, blatant, "no girls allowed," women-should-stay-at-home-and-watch-their-soaps-while-I-go-do-geek-stuff, flagrant, shameless sexism.

Elitism is arrogant. It's obnoxious. It makes people look like pompous, pretentious, smug assholes who deserve to die alone. And so everything about the "fake geek" movement needs to be called out, ridiculed, peed on, fed belladonna, hit over the head with a shovel, cut into pieces, dunked in boiling sulfuric acid, and the sludge remaining buried in the backyard behind the chemical shed where the rabid badgers live. (You get to complain that your fandom is tragically misunderstood OR be a raging asshole to people who are just starting to be curious about it. Pick one.) So it's kind of telling that the best thing people can claim when they're spewing their "fake geek girl" bullshit is that they're being elitist fucknoodles.

But real elitism, for all it's haughty, conceited snobbery, is at least egalitarian and universally applied. Real elitism is haughty dillholerific bullshit that...despite all other asswaffle bullshit at least sees no gender.

Spoiler: the "fake geek girl" movement isn't actually about elitism at all. Elitism is just the ostensible mask it wears to have a somewhat socially acceptable face. ("Oh it's just about how much we love this thing! We don't want people who don't really love it mucking up our squee!") Everyone knows sexism is bad, but being a jerk about your fandom is...sort of okay. So elitism becomes the misogyny-adjacent issue seized upon for plausible deniability.

Except for the fact that every single manifesto or online rant or bloviating geek or shitcrumpet calling out a woman...  Every single one of them who blusters about how how FGG's don't "love or appreciate [whatever] enough" or "aren't real fans" or "don't really know what they are talking about" or "shouldn't be cosplaying" or "don't have the right to be geeking out" betrays their sexism when they they fail to deliver the exact same bullshit (with equal fervor and frequency) to men.

And they do not.

As a 25-year fake geek guy who has literally never been quizzed, shamed, or gatekept, I can attest to the fact that they. do. NOT.

[Might there be one or two dudes out there beyond my anecdotal observations who have given or received such quizzes? Certainly. Are SOME geeks simply frustrated that their interests––once the subject of ridicule––are now mainstream? Surely. But the presence of a few outliers does not in any way devalue the way the screaming vast majority of this is a gendered phenomenon.]

These sexist buttstrudels  don't care about their fandom. (I mean they might, but that's not what this is really about, and if they really cared, they'd want more new blood and fans, not fewer.) What they care about is keeping the club boys only. If a woman is banging one of the guys, she might be able to get by without this shit with THAT PARTICULAR GUY (and his maybe his closest), but how DARE she have geek interests yet not make herself sexually available to geeks. (And the irony here––for which a whole other article could be written––is that the way this community objectifies, criticizes, and scrutinizes women––yes, even including the entire "fake geek girl" trope––drives many away from things they would otherwise love to be a part of.) If these dudes cared about their fandom, they wouldn't stand as gatekeepers to purity only when it comes to one gender while letting the other pass without comment.

It's fine to be a girl as long as you're one of the guys. Oh and by the way, we won't be testing the guys.

If you only give your incredibly difficult voting literacy tests to blacks, but not whites, that makes you a total fucking racist, and when we look back on Jim Crow history, we can see that particular forest for the trees without ever being fooled that it was really about critical thinking skills. (Though these days there's a whole new round of "How dare you call us racist--this is about X" plausible deniability when it comes to voter suppression.) So let's not be obtuse because this is happening in real time and a few people have discovered how to couch their misogyny in some kind of halfway relatable, wanktrumpet-but-at-least-not-bigoted fuckwadery instead of the blatant sexist kind.

Geeks are getting a pass on unbelievably misogynistic behavior, because we can maybe kind of imagine a world where obsessive geeks obsess a little too much about their fandom and they tend to be bullied in school. We tend to only call out their ridiculous elitism and leave the purple elephant alone. But they are as sexist as the rest of the world, and they just found a version that fits into their subculture. And geeks who would never behave this way are looking the other way when it happens.

Simply put, ignoring this makes the entire fandom complicit in the system that is only overly loyal and purist when it comes to women, and it's time we called this misogyny out for what it is. We're doing a grave disservice to the reputations of our fandoms and ourselves by not Nazgul screaming at this shitwanker behavior in the starkest terms possible. The reason geek culture is being labeled as a den of misogyny is because the shoe fits, and letting sexism slide is the moral equivalent of asking to see the wing tips.

If you only give your asshole, elistist, geek cross-examinations, quizzes, and "prove you're one of us" tests to women, you're not just an elitist pissrocket, you're a sexist bag of dicks too. And when we see it happening, if we don't check it, then we're smiling and nodding at reprehensible misogynist assholes.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Massively Massive Update of Massive Mass (Personal/Meta/The Best of/ and a Fortnight of Geekery)

My new schedule does create one very special problem. The little posts that I used to use to fill in the cracks on the slow days are kind of backing up like the caseload of the recruitment officer for the White House employment positions under the current administration.

(Good one. Not forced at all.)

Where I would normally spackle in the cracks of a week between "hefty" articles with a call for nominations or votes on the latest poll or a personal update or something meta or whatever monthly blog admin business needed to get done (like "The Best of Last Month"), now that Tuesday, Thursday, and weekends are completely off because I'm trying to be kinder to myself and focus more energy on fiction, I find these posts getting backlogged.

So....we may periodically have to knock several of these things out in a single post of splattered miscelanea.

(Thanks for loading me up with THAT image.)

Nominations (and seconds) Needed for our Current Poll (Best Non-SF/F/Horror genre not written by a cis het white man)

(That is the most specific title in the history of polls.)

What is the very best genre book or series that is not sci-fi, fantasy, or horror and was written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQ+ community that is from 1997 or earlier? 

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

All the rules are here. This is also where to leave nominations and seconds. 

Have you ever found yourself wondering how one of my polls could POSSIBLY have neglected X or Y title or missed out on your favorite author? Well the answer is because I just put up what gets nominated and you have to pop by and nominate if you want your fav on the poll.

I'm still not able to work that much.

I'm trying to be transparent with you about why the downturn in posts. I suspect we're going to miss a few more before this is over. The air quality where I live is SO bad that even inside and even taking it easy, my eyes start to sting if I sit on the computer for more than 10-15 minutes. I can't walk down to my car without coughing.

It's actually been kind of shitty emotionally/mentally too because that 10-15 minute time frame is perfect for checking FB way too much and I'm getting sucked in on stuff I try to limit these days. We're still so fresh from the midterms that it seems like pointing out things like "misogyny exists in the U.S. Congress" just ends up rolling into a rehash of the 2016 Democratic primaries. Because that's how liberals ROLL, fuckers. Anyway, it's been a shitshow.

(So the doctor said...."Don't do that.")

I've ordered a filter for my room since this is the new normal and I have a vaporizer cranked as high as it can go to help. Most of the places I called to just go BUY one were out of them (for reasons a moment's thought will make obvious) so it's still going to be a couple of days.

Numbers are at noon and tend to go up until late evening when the air stills a little.

The Best of October

These are the best articles from the month of October. They'll be going on to our Hall of Fame.

The Buy Me Lunch Answer About My Gender I'm not looking for a label, but the one society gave me isn't quite right.

9 Writerly Things No One is Going to Give You (But We All Need) [Part 1] Part 2 will be coming pretty much as soon as the smoke clears up and I can finish it.

Broken Mirror (by Shadow) Guest blogger Shadow's post about the power of stories and representation and the intersection that has with the kink community.

A Fortnight of Geekery

Interesting news. A slew of posts is coming that was originally hosted on another blog. They're not all entirely about writing though and some of them are years out from being topical, but I want to make sure they are safe and will be hosting them here.

Here's the story: I went to link something in a post I'm making to an old post I wrote for Ace of Geeks, and found the site was down. I knew they had stopped blogging, but I didn't realize the whole site could go down.

Panic set in, as a few of those articles rank high among my favorites of all time and one (though I now know it was outrageously self-indulgent) was probably about 30 written pages of some of the best pop culture analysis I've ever done. And for the next three hours I was looking through weird internet archives like The Wayback Machine and FB mobile archives that I found by hand typing in URLs. Eventually I managed to put together all the posts I would have been very sorry to lose.

(The universe tried to do you a favor, brah...)

The posting schedule will depend on the smoke situation. They might make for a good post on a M/W/F when I still can't sit down and write something. If things clear up, I'll drizzle them in on the off days. That way followers still only have to tune in M/W/F for the new (and totally-about-writing) stuff. Should take me a couple of weeks to get it all done.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Smoking Section

Quick update for anyone maybe wondering where I've gone off to. I'm still here, but I'm in the smoke plume of one of the current big California fires (roughly between Oakland and Antioch on this air quality map--that purple blob to the south means we're probably at the high end of red). I have some high sensitivity that really makes staring at a screen uncomfortable after only a few minutes. I've managed to get SOME work done, usually in the mornings, but an emergency tag in this morning with The Contrarian because of a closed school means I'm going to have to do some of my soft shoeing on our regular schedule.

Air quality is usually a little better in the early morning, so the current plan is for today's post to go up tomorrow, then the one I was going to do Thursday goes up on Friday and I'll push the Friday one to the weekend or early next week. But I will say now that this plan might not survive contact with the enemy terribad air quality.

And having heard some of the horror stories from folks I know who have lost everything, I'm absolutely one of the fortunate ones in this whole ordeal.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Social Justice Fortune Cookies

"Holy fuck, these are some huge ass fortune cookies
to hold entire paragraphs inside!"
You got your social justice in my fortune cookies! You got your fortune cookies in my social justice! Two great tastes that go great together? 

It's depressing that so many fail at it, because really SO much of social justice comes down simply to this: Listen and pay attention when people are describing their own lives to you. Apologize sincerely when you fail to do this. 

I've long avoided this direct comparison because I really want to explore it in the book I'm writing, but fascism is the social analogue to abuse. Insults that genuinely hurt blown off as just jokes. The victims will be blamed for their mistreatment. The abuser will cast themselves as persecuted––even by outrageously lying. The SLIGHTEST response is framed as unreasonable and the actual abuse. Praise and superficial charm will be heaped upon "proper" behavior. Convincing people they are completely wrong about reality is an integral part of keeping them feeling crazy and ungrounded. Naming what is happening will incense the abuser/fascist rather than give them pause about their actions. Even mentioning that something was painful is likely to cause a worse reaction, "what about," and an attack posture instead of a consideration of impact. Guilt trips. Intimidation. Explosive anger and backlash. Constantly citing how other people totally agree with them and think they're right. Keeping so many things happening that the victim can't find their center about any ONE issue. There's gaslighting. It gets worse and worse even as a cycle of ups and downs leave the victims numb.

And a whole lot of people will stand on the sidelines (people who claim they care very much) saying "Why don't you make up. They're not THAT bad. Maybe you kind of deserved it."

Insisting that either both sides are just as bad isn't just intellectually indolent, it's actually a fallacy. (It's called the "Middle-of-the-road fallacy" because the fallacy naming folks were getting tired of latin at that point.) So if you think you're being all astute and superior to abdicate any sort of stance against bigotry, supremacy, exploitation, you're not. Your intellectual rigor is right there with your moral turpitude.

It is functionally meaningless to the people being harmed whether or not every. single. one. of the people who voted for Trump personally holds some open animus of racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, or xenophobia. They handed someone who was ALL those things the executive power over perhaps the most powerful nation on the earth even when he told them the first things he was going to do with that power would be to hurt people and they did it BASICALLY because he promised them a raise. Nor was there a "great referendum" come midterms after people saw what his presidency was actually going to be like compared to his campaign: all of the "it's just for show" bigotry and none of the "he will care about this" promises. Pretty much this is exactly what half the electorate either secretly agrees with or doesn't care enough about to stop.

Interesting that the rise of "all this PC stuff" coincided almost exactly with a revolutionary new medium where everyone had equal access and could create content without the censoring and editing power of almost exclusively cis, het, white, male gatekeepers. Every person had much greater ability to reach beyond maybe a roomful of folks who already shared most of their views within a medium where people could find their own voices from a position of relative safety. 
Then...."all of a sudden"....everyone was offended all the time.

Fellow privileged folks (cis het white dudes in particular): Not every space was made with "converting us" in mind. Not every conversation is intended to convince us to join the cause. Not every person is an ambassador trying to "do themselves a favor." But the ubiquitous, nearly universal, expectation of these things in every time and in every place and of every person is absolutely part of the problem.

How come if a book has diverse characters, it's just "pandering" to those groups, but if it has almost literally nothing but cis het white characters, it's NOT pandering to cis het white people? 
Does that seem right to you?

Snarking about identity politics IS identity politics. It's just like most shitty things done by folks with privilege: surrounded by a cultural invisibility cloak, fueled by hypocrisy, and fully charged with a double-standard field. Consider this: what do you get as you strip away "identity politics"? Strip away racial politics. Sexuality politics. Gender politics. Ability/access politics. Neurodivergent politics. Whose concerns are you left with?

The answer isn't "no one's." It also isn't "normal" people's. Or "regular" people. And it isn't "default humans." Or "everyday Americans." The answer is ABLE-BODIED NEUROTYPICAL CIS HET WHITE DUDES. Snarking about identity politics is just making everything about THEM with a little sociolinguistic magic trick that makes it sound like they're doing the opposite.

Dear dude,
I hope you spent like an hour on that three-page screed you dropped on WAW's FB Messenger because I deleted it and banned you without reading another syllable as soon as I saw the words "misogyny isn't real," and it warms my heart to think that you wasted all that time.

White dude: *writes seven paragraph screed about why social justice concept is destroying America*

Also white dude: "Sorry, I don't have time to Google that."

It doesn't matter how erudite, elevated, and chin-strokingly reasonable your case might be, if you ONLY apply it in one direction along a power differential. It doesn't matter if we're talking about deeply examining the nuance of cops while lumping all protesters together, testing the fake geekness of only gamer girls, or pointing out the way gender expression challenges gender essentialism only when dealing with trans folk. It's all the same. 
You might as well be giving out literacy tests at voting booths.....but not to whites. One bigot just thinks they're being logical.

"You have made an enemy this day, Chris Brecheen. Your insistence on posting something that makes me think about status quo portrayals within my own writing pretty much EVERY week or two is unconscionable–I mean, that's almost one percent of your posts! I shall take my like and go home, leaving you with a mere 885 THOUSAND followers left. I could have been your biggest fan if you'd just never posted anything that I dislike. What do you think about that, Chris? What. Do. You. Think. About. THAT!"

Ad hominem is only a fallacy if it's being offered up AS or IN PLACE OF an actual argument. It's entirely possible for someone to be wrong AND an asshole.

Please don't tell people of color, LGBTQIA+, disabled folks, poor people, folks with chronic illness, immigrants, or even women that everything is going to be okay. Shit just got is real for anyone who's not a cis het white guy making decent money. Shit just got has gotten really, really real. Of course shit's real for everyone, but shit just got has gotten life-threateningly dangerous to folks on the margins of our society. Hate crimes are going to skyrocket have skyrocketed now that emboldened white nationalism has won a legitimate election, there are kids in cages, right-wing terrorism is on the rise, trans folks have been erased (literally from the WH policy pages), free press is called the enemy of the people, and the list just goes on and on. Don't be a splainy gaslighting asshole because you want to turn some frowns upside down.

Your ability to stay calm when academically debating someone's experiences and possibly their very humanity is an indicator of your disinterest and your privilege––not your objectivity.

I can't speak for anybody else, but on my ballot initiatives, there was a measure for low income housing, homelessness prevention, a measure proposed by the mobile rich that would hurt school property values, a measure for children's hospitals, a measure trying to expand rent control, homelessness services, an attempt to kill a gas tax that pays for road maintenance, mental illness housing, a measure that would let (or not) dialysis companies gouge their patients, a labor dispute that was written by a shitty EMT company to avoid paying its workers, and half a dozen judges up for reelection––including a FIERCELY anti-LGBT one––on top of, of course, all the people who would be governing me and representing me whether or not I consent to it and the possibility of putting some stop energy in front of our march toward fascism. So while I empathize with and often respect people who march to different drums, I trip up on the idea that it "doesn't matter."

"My rights are just rights. YOUR rights are identity politics, boutique issues, and going to lose us another election." 
-Guess who

Link to some fortune cookies ABOUT WRITING.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Midterm Autopsy

Folks, know I'm a progressive and a leftist and antifa and all that jazz. Counted among those I love and respect are anarchists who would never legitimize a colonialist power's government by voting in their elections all the way to actual Democrat politicians. Me, I'm pretty much in the "harm reduction" camp. I vote because while there are lots of legitimate reasons to be disaffected, that's probably the most useful thing I could do to keep my loved ones safe on a Tuesday afternoon. There will be a lot of analysis to come, but I'm on the West coast, so I got the gist of things before I went to bed. I spent a lot of yesterday writing intensely, so today I'm just going to put a 2.0 version of some of my Facebook thoughts.

I'm sad about Florida and Texas (and Iowa) too and it would have been sweet to blue-wave so hard we flipped the Senate to the shock-reacts of the GOP and smacked the smug fuck-your-feelings-snowflake sneers right off their faces. But we were never supposed to win that stuff. No polling data had it even possible. There weren't enough Republican senate seats coming up that were in play this year. Nine million fewer Republicans voted and they still picked up three seats. That's just a reflection of which seats were up for re-election (the Senate is a six year term).

And yes, we saw an open white nationalists get elected. And a literal Nazi get elected. And candidates being investigated for felony charges get elected. And brothel owner who had been dead for three weeks get elected. And we saw some really disappointing races bend to the right as the party of family values proved there wasn't any "family value" that they loved more than maintaining power. We saw a lot of evidence that there are huge swaths of white people in this country who are not in the slightest put off by Trump or his rhetoric of bigotry and devisiveness, internment camps, trans erasure, xenophobia, white supremacy, white nationalism, and literal Nazis.. In fact, they embrace these things.

That is the sobering reality of the Republican party's right wing populism right now, and the fact that Trump IS the GOP––you either kiss the ring or you're out. And it would be all too easy to adopt this narrative without nuance or caveat.

There is another narrative, of course. Because here's the thing, and there's no getting around it. In a midterm election and with an economy that is doing pretty good, the left managed to deliver a hardcore indictment. All things that would work against the results we saw last night.  (The left votes less, votes less especially during midterms, and when the economy is good, people usually meh-out on midterm voting for the status quo.) Despite all those things, the message was delivered loud and clear. 31 MILLION more people voted than in 2014.

Democrats have a check on Trump now. Not just a speed bump of protest. Veto power. Budget power. Subpoena power. Adam Schiff in charge of the House Intel Committee. They HAVE to work with Dems now.

Despite ALL their attempts to suppress voters (through voter purges, through gerrymandering, through voter ID laws, through intimidation, through closing polling stations or forgetting to send them power cords), we took the House. And that means the investigations (some into the very voter fraud that may have influenced this election) stop being winks-and-nudges and "We investigated ourselves and found we did nothing wrong" and may actually start uncovering the corruption that has practically been "What are you going to do about it eh?" since 2018. The rubber stamp on fascism is over. We're getting governors who will be seated when the 2020 census happens (and the gerrymander maps get drawn). Millions of Florida voters were re-enfranchised. Bathroom bills were struck down. Races that should not have been close were neck and neck until the last, and freaking TEXAS might be a battleground state by 2020. Entire states have gone deeply blue that weren't before. Folks are elected to congress from groups that have NEVER had representation. State legislature is flipping like popcorn. There have yet been some upsets that'll keep em' guessing.

And perhaps best of all, there's some stop energy to the Trump steamroll. Folks who were rolling over because it seemed nothing could stand up to him may now find their courage.

An indictment has come down. On internment camps. On trans erasure. On taking away the A.C.A.

We knew today was going to be when the real work started. We KNEW that. Collective action doesn't begin and end with only voting. We face only the reality that the "good job, let's keep going" is a bit more true than our most ambitious fantasies.

  • For the first time in history more than 100 women were elected to Congress. (While that's only 23%, and shouldn't be some huge bellwether, it is)
  • Dems also picked up Gov offices in IL, ME, MI, NM
  • Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland are the first Native American Women in Congress
  • Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar are the first TWO Latinas going to Congress from Texas
  • Dems took over the Colorado State Senate, Maine Senate, Minnesota House, New Hampshire Senate and House and NY Senate
  • Michigan passed automatic voter registration and anti-gerrymandering legislation
  • Nevada passed Automatic Voter Registration and Maryland passed same day registration
  • Jared Polis is the first openly gay man elected Governor of a state
  • A huge power grab by GOP in NC was defeated
  • Louisiana overturned a Jim Crow-era law that allowed non-unanimous jury convictions
  • Kim Davis got creamed by someone she would have refused to issue a licence to
  • Scott Walker is gone and can't ask for a recount because of a law he put in place to screw with liberals
  • Texas Dems picked up 2 state Senate seats and 11 state House races, the author of the transphobic “bathroom bill” lost his re-election, and not only did Beto do better than any Dem has statewide in 30 years but Texas Democrats have proved in multiple offices that they are viable at the statewide level. Texas is shifting left and might be worth not writing off in 2020.

We were never going to fix everything that is so, so wrong in one election, but harm reduction had a good day.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Best Genre Fiction That Isn't SF/F/Horror Not by a Cis Het White Man (Nominations Needed)

What is the best genre fiction that isn't science fiction, horror, or fantasy by a woman, POC, or member of the LGBTQIA+ community. We need your nominations!  

This is the last poll we will run in our Year of Diverse Polls. Please check out this link if you have any questions about the limitations. Understanding the defining lines of (and liminal spaces between) between overarching genres will also be important in this poll, so please read carefully.

For our last Diverse Poll, having covered all the polls folks really get into and seeing a desire for some of the unconventional stuff in my friends' suggestions, I turn to genre fiction--BUT NOT THE STUFF WE'VE ALREADY DONE.  No HORROR. No SCIENCE FICTION. No FANTASY. But other than that, any genre fiction is fair game up to and including the touchy feely shit that "literary fiction" is trying to convince you ISN'T genre (like magical realism). I will, however, put the kibosh on futurism since that showed up in sci-fi polls already.

Examples include, but aren't limited to:
Alternate history
Historical fiction
Magical realism
Meta fiction

The Rules:

  1. Please note the diversity requirements above. 
  2. As always, I leave the niggling over the definition of genres to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you feel like Little House on the Prairie is a western, I'll furrow my brow, but accept it. 
  3. You may nominate two (2) books or series. If you nominate three or more 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, and will only take the first two.)
  4. You may (and absolutely should) second as many nominations of others as you wish. Also stop back in and see if anyone has put up something you want to see go onto the poll. I imagine with such a broad poll, the nominations will cover a lot of ground and are absolutely going to need your seconds.
  5. Put your nominations here. I will take nominations only as comments and only on this post. (No comments on FB posts or G+ will be considered nominations.) If you can't comment for some reason because of Blogger, send me an email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) stating exactly that, and I will personally put your comment up. I am not likely to see a comment on social media even if it says you were unable to leave a comment here. 
  6. You are nominating WRITTEN genre fiction, not their movie portrayals. If you thought the new Murder on the Orient Express was a great flick, but you didn't really care for Agatha Christie, then that shouldn't be your nomination.
  7. This is probably well known by vets of this blog by now, but there will be no more endless elimination rounds. I will 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. (Yes, I guess that would make them thirds, fourths, etc...) The competition on THIS poll is going to be FIERCE so please come back and second, third, fourth, and twenty-fifth everything you want to see go on to the poll. You may have to get your friends involved. Buy them a pizza. Make it real. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Poll Results! Best Classic YA Book (or series) Not by a Cis Het White Man

What is the BEST young adult book (or series) written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQIA+ community before 2000?  

The results are in. From your nominations to your votes. Here are our results. Remember that this is from our year of diverse polls, so follow this link if you're wondering about the limitations of the poll.

It breaks my heart to see Harry Potter beat out The House on Mango Street, but I knew it was going to happen from the moment they both got their nomination.
Text results below.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated. Get ready to fire up the nominations for our next poll on Monday. (No promises, but you might consider urban fantasy.)

Harry Potter (The 3 pre-1999)- J.K. Rowling 105 36.46%
Time Quintet (Wrinkle in Time) M.L'Engle 48 16.67%
Earthsea Trilogy - U. Le Guin 41 14.24%
The Immortals Series - T. Pierce 32 11.11%
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles - P.C. Wrede 24 8.33%
The House on Mango Street- S. Cisneros 13 4.51%
The Rowan (The Tower and the Hive series) - A. McCaffrey 9 3.13%
Nightworld - L.J. Smith 8 2.78%
Everworld (The First Five Books) - K. A. Applegate 8 2.78%

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Misery Podcast (Pop Culture Confessions)

I was in a podcast! Pop Culture Confession's Podcast, to be specific!

We've got something a bit different this week (and out of order because of holiday timing), but I was in a podcast and we talked about Misery. 

It was the movie, not the book, we were chatted about, but I got to be a part of it to bring in some of the writerly perspective (that my impostor syndrome can't believe they think I have).

This week's confession is so big we had to call in an expert! For the final episode of Spookytober, Chris Brecheen of Writing About Writing joins your three hosts to talk about Misery, which (yet again) Amanda and Hannah have never seen. Thankfully, we've got a Certified Writing Expert on hand to answer questions like: Is losing your life's work worse than having your ankles sledgehammered? How realistic are Paul's writing rituals? What does a greasy protein bar have to do with good writing? And more!

Here's the episode I did on Misery.

All 19 episodes (and counting) of Pop Culture Confessions are available on iTunes

You can also follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pcccast Or on Facebook.

Will I be in YOUR podcast?  Sure. Just drop me a line and if it's about writing in some way (or maybe social media outreach), I'll be happy to schedule something.

I put this up today because it's Halloween and the last chance to be spoooooooopy, but tomorrow expect the results of our poll to go up (and Friday we'll start gathering nominations for the next one). Which means IT IS ABSOLUTELY YOUR LAST CHANCE TO VOTE!!!!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Moving Day

*two buff guys carrying a box that says "VLOGS" past much of the Writing About Writing staff*

Chris: That definitely goes in the pile.

Cedrick: You sure?

Chris: Three posts a week? We're not going to have time to get back to VLOGS. Some things have got to go, my eight-armed friend. It's time to clean house, and some things have to go.

Cedrick: Do you have to get rid of it though?

Chris: A lot of this stuff will still exist. And we might even make more. We'll just fold it into other posts. I mean, do we really need a whole category and menu and stress over something we've written three articles about in the last seven years?

Cedrick: Some of the guest bloggers are a little nervous.

Chris: Well, some of them should be. I need you to fire Twizlefizzlepop and The Pointer Sisters.

Cedrick: WHAT??

Chris: Come on. They were totally our most problematic segments.

Cedrick: Yeah, but....

Chris: Look, both of them had great input. I liked them. But if we're cutting our posts down by about half, we have to be honest about the fact that we weren't really doing them anyway. And a bit with a book recommender who used to be a pimp before becoming a feminist was ALWAYS going to be a tough sell. We have to get rid of some of this stuff. It was just....raw ambition.

Leela Bruce: You know what getting rid of The Pointer Sisters means?

Chris: I believe it means....you're back on protest hiatus because of the "sausage fest" that is the guest bloggers around here.

Leela Bruce: The ones that exist outside of the compound are great, but the ones that live here....

Chris: I got it. Too many dudes dudily duding up the place.

Leela Bruce: As long as we're on the same page. And I don't have to kick open your door.

Cedrick: Please call it a dor. We honor the great Dor around here.

Leela: How can you HEAR what I call it?

Cedrick: I just can. Now....Chris...are you sure about firing those guest bloggers?

Chris: Let's be real. Three posts a week. We weren't getting to them anyway. And we can fold the links into a Potpourri if we really want links. It's time to make tough choices. At six posts a week, we could pretend we were getting around to all that stuff any minute. At three....we gotta be more––oh hey (*shouting at the movers*) no...NO! Leave The Mailboxes where they are, those aren't going anywhere.

Mover: You have stars all over the Social Justice Bard stuff? What's that about?

Chris: Okay, I need two of those boxes put into my car. I'm going to pretty much move them over to Facebook and Tumblr; keep them there, but one box stays here. We're not getting rid of it completely.

Mover: Chicken soup?

Chris: Pile.

Mover: Grounded Parents?

Chris: Pile.

Mover: Ace of Geeks

Chris: *deep sigh* Pile.

Mover: Ivory Tower?

Chris: Defending or attacking? Actually it doesn't matter: pile.

Mover: Fortune cookies?

Chris: Keep. Those shouldn't even be in boxes. What the hell?

Mover: Glossary?

Chris:  Unnnnnngh.....let's pretend I'm going to finish it––keep.

Mover: And you want everything else? Prompts? Product reviews? Polls? Patreon appeals posts where you beg for money each month because otherwise you'll have to keep going on a zillion side gigs and have less time to write? [By the way, this is it for this month, so please sign up to throw us a dollar or five a month if you like what we do here so we don't have to keep doing a zillion side gigs to keep the bills paid and can do more writing...for YOU!]

Chris: Keep it all. Unless you can get rid of the Jurassic-Park-Style velociraptor on the third floor with the eye laser.

Mover: *blinks in anime*

Chris: Yeah, okay. I should probably not press my luck since you're willing to be paid for this job with only cheese.

Mover: And Pizza Hut coupons. Very important! I'm a big fan of cheese, but if me and my whole crew can't upgrade our medium pizzas to larges for only a dollar, we're out like trout.

Chris: Wouldn't want that.

Mover: No.

Chris: Okay then.....AND Pizza Hut coupons.

Mover: That's it, then. We're all done.

Chris: Okay, well, if that's it, let's get this show on the road.

*the boxes have all been loaded up on a boat which Chris pushes out to sea
Leela Bruce produces a bow and quarrel arrow, lights it, and fires a burning arrow into the boat, flames ravenously consume the boxes and boat as it floats further out to sea*

Chris: From the imagination we came. From hopes and dreams...and ambitions. From stories we were given life. And to the imagination we will return. From now, till the end of time. We therefore commit these stories to the deep.

[Thank you all so much for your support through this transition. Please consider Patreon if you like what I do and want to be a part of the NEXT conversation about future projects.]

Twizzlefizzlepop's voice from burning boat: This is deeply uncool!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Faith and Priorities by Claire Youmans

I now live in Japan, and my books — The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, with five published and one in the works — are set in Meiji-era Japan. How good is that? 

It’s darned hard to get a visa to live in Japan, nearly impossible if you don't have a job or attend school full time. I found a new bit of law and slipped in for a couple of years.

Permanent residency is extra-hard. It takes ten years of non-student residency to get PR unless you can somehow meet a “points” requirement to fast-track yourself.

I took a very high level part-time job with a school hoping to get myself fast-tracked for PR using a new program I am developing. I have lots of “points," but I cannot work enough to create the “points" I still need through Japan-based income.

Today, I started crying because I was in so much pain from getting across town on a commuter-time train for my single half-day of hands-on teaching. Last week was so bad that my single half-day kept me writhing for two more. I enjoy the work. The program is interesting and important, something Japan needs. I get out, I meet people, I learn things, it’s fun. But I am old and handicapped. I try to ignore those factors, but they are true, and that’s been brought home to me recently. I can’t do this. I certainly can’t do this and be a productive full-time writer.

I used to travel to Japan a couple of times a year for research, but that’s not something that’s viable for me anymore, if I can’t even manage being shoved into a sardine can commuter train for half an hour. It’s time I acknowledge that and make sure my priorities are in order and my life reflects that as best it can.

My top priority is my writing. That’s obvious to me. Further, I need to have faith in it, and that’s now obvious to me, too. I need to have faith that I can renew my visa when the time comes, four more times if necessary. I need to have faith that my books will sell generally, will actually be translated, will sell well here, and that my semi-fictional universe will expand and grow, maybe in the direction of anime and film — to some extent, its natural home. I need to believe in my work, my talent and myself. I need to always remember my writing is my top priority, and make these things so.

All too often we as writers get caught up in the day to day. We get caught up in other work, family, kids, school. Our priorities can’t be like those of other people. We are writers, and writing must come first on our priority lists.  We must arrange our lives around it, so we can do it and keep on doing it, because it’s important. If we don’t believe in ourselves and our work, we might as well stop now. This isn’t an easy life. I can’t say if it’s one we chose or if it chose us, but we must have faith in ourselves and our work, and make sure it’s our top priority. 

Also check out Claire's blog and FB page and available books here (book one in the series is always free!!!):



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.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Last Call to Vote (Best YA book or series not by a cishet white man pre 2000)

What is the BEST young adult book (or series) written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQIA+ community before 2000?  

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

With everything going on with major restructures, maybe you forgot we were running a poll, but we didn't forget and the results will be up probably next Wednesday.

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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Fall 2018 Update Schedule

As of October 2018, Writing About Writing has undergone a major restructuring and now updates three times a week––usually on Mon/Wed/Fri.  

Writing About Writing consists chiefly of one guy with lots of fake people running around behind his eyeballs (he takes care of a 4-year-old, pet-sits throughout the SF Bay Area, is writing a novel and a few other bits of fiction, and sometimes even does really wacky shit like try to go on a date or play D&D or something), but this is the schedule we will generally make an effort to keep.


Fridays, for the most part, will be The Big Post™ of the week. If you're here for the hard-hitting writing advice (with the occasional examination of how language and narrative play into broader social issues), Friday is the day to tune in.


Wednesdays will be our smaller posts: calls to vote or nominate in whatever poll is going on, the best of the prior month, quickies, fortune cookie wisdom. Things I like to call "jazz hands."


Harder to qualify than simply "big" or "jazz hands," Mondays are probably between Wednesdays and Fridays in their content and girth. They will be personal updates, smaller mailboxes, prompts, guest blogs, etc.

The Three-Post Rule

Some weeks aren't going to go down like clockwork and they might be front or back loaded with side gigs or other commitments. My writing career is also starting to take me to occasional points of interest like conventions or invitations to do interviews or podcasts. In these cases I will (sometimes) still get three posts up. They might just be posted off schedule––Thur, Fri, Sat for example.

Facebook Writing and Social Justice Bard

If you really like our Social Justice Bard posts, don't worry! They will still be around. But I also I invite you to follow my Public Facebook Page as well (you can friend it if you send me a message, but it might be better for both of us if you follow it for a while first––unfiltered me is not everyone's cup of tea). I write almost daily in that capacity over there. Also, FB page is where I put thoughts that are more directly political and less likely to be about "narratives," "language," and things I can pour into the container of writing. I also often post "proto-versions" of SJB posts on Facebook and find that they evolve later into full posts (if you're interested in seeing how those things develop. Also, fret not; there may be fewer SJB posts here on Writing About Writing since we'll be dealing with fewer available "slots" overall, but there will still be some.

A Fourth Post?

There MIGHT occasionally be a fourth post in a week. Usually this will happen when I've written something very light and fluffy for the Wednesday post, but I also need to cover some ground on "blog business." (Like posting the results of a poll or something.) In this case you might see an extra post pop up from time to time on a Tue/Thur/Sat. Fiction will also usually go up independent of our regular schedule, and may be the fourth post in a given week.

  • I still nanny for a four-year-old, sometimes have more pet sitting than I can handle, and my host body occasionally succumbs to your Earth illnesses, so those three posts might not always happen like clockwork or may involve going off the rails of my usual updates
  • This should also cut down on the thing where I'm apologizing to absolutely fucking nobody that it's Tuesday and I've yet to put so much as a taco video up. As long as I get in all the entries that week, my readers (who have literally never said anything in six years about my update schedule) and I can give me a break.
  • I invoke the Anything Can Happen™ real world excuse. I usually have a couple of "emergency blogs" tucked away, but I chew through them pretty quickly when the fit hits the shan. Health complications might crop up suddenly and have me needing to do a sudden unexpected several-hour shift or even an overnight...or maybe even more. Trust me, I'm going to feel ten times worse about missing a post than all of my readers combined.
  • Admin weekends at least once a month will still be a thing–usually the Monday, but occasionally the Friday, will be cannibalized. I need the extra time to answer emails, clean up menus, catch up on editing and hang out in my  

Also you like what I do, stuff a few dollars into that "tip jar" at the top left, or even better yet sign up to be a monthly patron through Patreon and get in on the back channel discussions about posting schedules, big changes, and upcoming projects. I have bills to pay like any other starving artist, and I'm working four side gigs to make ends meet, so even a dollar a month (just $12 a year) will go a long way. However, I am over forty and have had a "real job" for exactly two years of my life, so I can't afford to be as Bohemian-carefree as my twenties about saving up for retirement or health care.

Note: There's a pretty loud contingent of "Who Cares!" from the other side of the internet, and I'll give you all nod if this isn't your cup of tea. They usually get few likes and are one of my least popular kinds of posts. However, I'm not going to stop posting them. One of our mission statements is to keep "The Process" transparent and give you updates in real time as we learn them so there will always be an occasional post about the meta here. I want people to see that someone who is making a paycheck doesn't have all the answers. I want them to see how their work life balance matters and how easy it is to fall into working TOO much. I want them to see that a successful blog doesn't require nine updates a week (and, in fact, that's too much). And I want them to see how artists are constantly struggling to fiddle with the knobs and get it just write because they are at once human and also never satisfied. Even if this isn't a formula for their own success and is no more than a comfort at realizing how flawed and human working writers can be, I want them to see it.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Atop Death Hill (Personal/Meta Update–MAJOR CHANGES)

Pictured: Death Hill probably.
Actually pictured: half dome.
Probably every kid has a Death Hill.

I don't mean that probably every kid has some metaphorical analog to Death Hill. I mean literally 90% of kids probably had at least one hill somewhere in their childhood called Death Hill That's how kids name things. Ridge of Doom. Slaughter Creek. Massacre way.

When you're thirteen, the world is in danger of becoming a lot more pedestrian than you hoped it would be, and that sense of adventure is hard to come by.

My Death Hill was a bike path on a half developed (and then abandoned for some reason) housing tract. The ground was level at the top and level at the bottom and on the hill between them a flattened section of the dirt hill made a passable bike path. We all knew a friend of a friend from the town over whose cousin had totally died on Death Hill. And each of us was sure we were the only one lying about personally knowing that kid.

Let me drop some truth though: even though my personal Death Hill was conquered back in the eighties before kids would be caught dead wearing helmets, I'm pretty sure you would have to strap some sort of explosive device to your bike to do anything more than skin your knees and forearms but good. Perhaps....perhaps there was some grain of truth to the legends, but Broken Arm Hill didn't have quite the same gravitas.

I would be the first of us over Death Hill that day. I was always racing where angels feared to tread––more a testament to my foolishness than bravery as private property, high security government contract campuses, and the occasional not-abandoned building were on that list. That day would be no different. And halfway down Death Hill, when I realized for the first time, it was possible I wasn't actually going to crash (unconsciously reinforcing some formative lesson about risk versus reward) I felt like I had smiled at the face of mortality.

What I remember most was looking over the edge. It was probably a 45 degree angle at the outside, had been pressed pretty flat, and might have been an elevation change of 20 feet at most, but when you were looking down it for the first time it felt like half a mile straight down....with jagged outcroppings ripe for the impaling. We all looked over the edge for a long time until, one by one, we found our courage.

Today I'm looking over a new edge.

Writing About Writing (and my writing career) is about to undertake the most major change it's ever had since this blog's inception. We're not just fiddling with the knobs this time. We're going back in to rebuild some of the core assumptions about content.

This last week I didn't get much posted, but over at Patreon, the back channels were alive with chatter. ("And tier rewards too if you want to get in on that!" he said with his best salesman pitch.) This is part of a longer conversation I've been having with those who help keep the lights on around here (and me fed) about what they'd like to see from me and how often. A few months back, I posted a question about quality vs. quantity. As always, I was harder on myself than my patrons would even dream of being.

The short version is I've been working too hard. I've had no appreciable work/life balance as I slam out 50,60, and sometimes 70+ hour weeks. I was perpetually reminding myself to take it easier (and finding I actually had difficulty doing so). Probably chasing blog analytics helped me not feel like such a fuck up after what pragmatically amounted to a divorce, but it also affected my mental and sometimes physical health. It was just so easy to keep going...to always be behind and overwhelmed. Then you don't have to slow down and listen to the voices.

This is as much a process happening between me and my therapist as it is a blog reorg.

Also, and perhaps most frustratingly, I ran out of time to cannibalize for ever more writing, and still wasn't getting to the writing I wanted to be doing. I've been so busy writing blog posts (and doing all the various behind-the-scenes maintenance) that I wasn't getting time for the fiction projects I want to be doing including a VERY overdue book a lot of people were very generous about Kickstarting.

There was no "Coming to Jesus Moment" but over the last two months, I have realized the center wasn't going to hold. To criminally mix metaphors, I'm pedaling a flying machine that is overloaded and I'm pedalling faster and faster and faster but still losing altitude. The problem isn't how fast I'm pedaling. The problem is I need to jettison some baggage. So I checked in with my 200+ bosses, and now I'm going to be majorly altering the structure of this blog.

You can see the latest poll results in that screen cap above, of course, but this wasn't my first poll on the topic (I've sort of been asking the same question in different ways for several months) and I've gotten a lot of good feedback from Patrons and friends over the last few months.

  • I'm too hard on myself.
  • No...way way WAY too hard on myself.
  • Seriously, fucking stop being so hard on yourself, Chris.
  • If I want to keep internal deadlines, fine, but no one else––even the people paying me to write––really gives a shit, so I really don't need these "Mea Culpa!" posts describing how behind I am.
  • Writing six posts a week and shooting for seven is overwhelming to followers. It's TOO much and is actually STRESSFUL to try to keep track of a blog that is so prolific. 
  • Quality over quantity will merit out.
  • People give me money because they support me as an artist and a writer, not because they expect to see "output" from me like I'm a factory worker.
  • Pretty much unless I disappear for weeks, that support will remain.
  • People know fiction isn't going to go up at the same speed and they're okay waiting.
  • I need to consider my political ramblings on my personal Facebook page to be writing. I put in hours on some of those posts. They count.
  • Folding in downtime should be considered an essential part of my process. I write better and write more interesting things when I'm refreshed.
  • Many of you have mentioned that the QUALITY of my writing is noticeably better when I am taking regular breaks.
  • Really dude, way too hard on yourself.
I'm going to modify the Patreon goal tiers and change the update schedule officially for Wednesday's post, but we're going to go to a M-W-F update schedule with only occasional T-Th-Sat light and fluffy, jazz hand shenanigans. You can expect our hard hitting post to land FRIDAYS. I'll still be writing, but I'm absolutely going to be clearing out more time for me, and I'm going to be prioritizing other writing projects.

*stares over the edge a little longer*
*deep breath*
*hits publish/pushes off*

Here we go...