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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Advice for Foreign Currencizers (Mailbox)

Creative commons.
What advice do you have for patrons who have to deal with a currency exchange rate?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox." I will use your first name ONLY, unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. And you never ever EVER need to apologize for "bothering" me with questions. After all what would The Mailbox be without them?] 

Becky asks:

Dear Mr Brecheen,

I'm so sorry to bother you, but I have a question about Patreon. After following and appreciating your blog for several years and managing one or two one-off donations, I finally plucked up the courage to subscribe to Patreon. I'm afraid it's only a tiny amount per month, and the reason I'm contacting you is that I have big doubts about how much of that tiny amount per month you are actually getting. I'm in France, you see, and obliged to connect Patreon to my French bank account. Patreon seems to be taking 3.08 euros a month, for you I presume, then there is a separate monthly "fee" of 0.48 euros. I just wondered if you had any advice how your other overseas subscribers did things, and if there was a more efficient way of doing it so that you get more of the tiny amount, rather than so much being lost to charges and currency conversion. Maybe it's a silly question sorry.

My reply:

Never a bother. Totally not silly.

You can call me Chris. Back when I taught English as a second language, I used to tell my students that if they said "Mr. Brecheen," I was going to turn around and look for my dad. That's not actually true because the Mr. Brecheen dad wasn't in my life much past my first birthday, and the other guy––who waited until I was 20 to give me the slip––didn't go by Mr. Brecheen. (The actual last time I heard "Mr. Brecheen" was a D/s roleplaying about a stern disciplinarian....um...you know, maybe another time.) Buuuuuut it always got a laugh and they called me Chris. Every once in a while, there would be someone from a culture who just could not wrap their head around treating an instructor with such familiarity, and we worked something out. I think my favorite was "Teacher Chris."

But I'm getting WAY off track... 

I'm going to start including some of the questions I get about Paypal, Patreon and such since this page is about the journey to writing as a career and crowdfunding (at least MY journey), and while these things take time and energy away from the magical unicorn rainbow farts of writing itself, they are also kind of the entire reason I can write 40 hours a week and be a working creative.

[The only question I'm never going to answer is exactly how much I make. The reason for this is that people who do not live here in the Bay Area––where a bedroom with a roommate runs from $800-$1000/mo on the cheap end (and $1500-$2000 if you live somewhere nice and/or central....and even MORE if you want to live in the city)––sometimes tend to get into this place where they think an artist is doing "well enough." I've actually had people tell me they were cancelling their monthly contribution, back when I shared the actual number, because they weren't forking over their hard-earned money to (and this is a direct quote) "keep me in the lap of luxury." I wish I could tell you how big the lolsob was on that one. I have a second job to afford a car/car insurance and anything beyond Spartan survival, and most of my local middle-class friends are pulling down salaries that are between 3 and 10 times my best month, so it can be unrealistic for someone––from a place where $600 gets you a one-bedroom place of your own and eating out is $10 a plate––to think they know how my budget works.]

Caveat made, let's get back to the question of foreign currency exchange. Patreon sent me this fifty zillion page terms-of-service agreement thing about foreign currencies, and naturally I didn't read a word of it before clicking "agree." However, shortly after, I started getting patron sign-ups in foreign currencies. Several of them in just a couple of weeks. So I think some people reading me from other countries were not able to join until that happened. 

So...that's a really good thing. I'm making more money. More money is good. Like anyone, I have to pay the bills, and like most everyone, my income is going down these days due to the pandemic and recession. As folks tighten their budget, the ol' "Crowdfunding Bloggers Discretionary Fund" is usually one of the first to take a hit. So if I can shore up some of what I'm losing with a few folks who couldn't send a few dollars my way before, that's awesome.

Because of this question, I did some digging and found that in addition to the usual Patreon fee, they take out 2.5% for currency exchange. I actually have no problem with this. Banks charge 1%-3%, so it's not like they're gouging. I think your credit card might be getting some of that as well. Everyone deserves a living wage, including payment processors, and Patreon is LITERALLY the reason I can be a working writer, so they've earned their cut. Yes, the service fee is 35 cents and that tends to mean, for my very small patrons, I'm actually only making a little over 50% of what they pledge, but I know that's as much as some people can afford, and Patreon employees gotta get theirs. Plus that 35 cents cuts less deep on a $3/month contribution and is not really even noticeable on anything over $5/month.

And if you want to talk about profit margins and who gets more of the money than the workers toiling away all day debugging code and stuff, you are absolutely right, but what you're really getting into is the suckitude of unfettered capitalism, and I really, honestly, can't do anything about the unethical ocean we're all swimming in by shopping around for crowdfunding payment processors. 

There's no payment process that won't take roughly the same amount, and short of mailing me checks* (which some folks actually do and I can provide a P.O. Box if that's something someone wants), I am never going to get everything someone sends me. That's just the cost of doing (very convenient electronic) business. Patreon isn't particularly evil in that regard, and in some ways they're better than most.

[*This goes for people sending money in $USD. Patreon would probably skim LESS off the top than a bank would to deposit a check in a foreign currency.]

One of the reasons I like Patreon is that within a certain latitude of cancelled or reduced contributions, it shows me how much I can count on each month and budget for. I have literally been able to say, "Yes I can afford that rent" in a couple of situations because Patreon gave me a sense of what I could expect for my monthly income. (It still goes up and down enough to make me anxious and unsure, but I can mostly count on it not to change more than 5% or so in a given month.) I might get a few cents on the dollar more for an every-three-months Paypal dump than I do for a Patreon signed up for a monthly contribution, but not knowing when and how much is coming keeps my finances in a state of flux and me in an anxious state of not knowing what to expect from month to month. 

Plus, I can just push a button and send out my reward to everyone in the relevant tier at once.

Now....Patreon doesn't get exculpated from ALL their bullshit because "capitalism." I am extremely annoyed about one thing: they shouldn't be charging YOU any of these fees. You should be charged only exactly what you sign up for (say $5), and if they need a fee, it should come out of my end (so that I make $4.75, not so you get charged $5.35). I even joined a massive protest campaign the last time they pulled it (and they backed off), but they apparently decided we wouldn't notice if they tried it again on foreign currencies. So they get 35 evil points there. One for each cent of their tainted money.

As far as ADVICE goes, I don't have any. It all adds up, and as much as I swoon at the names of my larger donors, my smaller donors absolutely form the bedrock of my income, and it is their contributions (aggregate) that I can count on not to disappear in a single fateful night. (Once someone who was giving me $100 a month had to cancel suddenly due to a life circumstance they could not possibly have foreseen. At the time that was a 15% pay cut.) Just give what feels good and comfortable and I'll keep writing enough that hopefully it'll add up. It's not the thirty-five extra cents Patreon takes as their pound of flesh that'll make or break me, but a few dozen more patrons from places who couldn't contribute before will absolutely make a difference.


Folks, I don't tend to make much ado about the Gregorian calendar ending (my big days are solstices and equinoxes), but I know many of you might. Also, tomorrow is a bank holiday, and there are far fewer people sitting around reading blogs about writing than usual. Plus this particular bank holiday involves folks with hangovers to nurse, and resolutions to make that are surely going stick THIS year; maybe even less blog reading.

So have a WONDERFUL new year. Stay safe. Maybe skip that Covid-filled party this year. And call a cab if you need to. And may our 2021 be the light at the end of this tunnel. I'll see you all on Monday. Bless.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Top of November (Facebook Compilation)

Here is a collection of the best memes and statuses from my public Facebook page over the period of Nov.-1st through 15th. (You're welcome to follow me there.) As the election results became more and more certain, I started to regain long-term focus and drop my thoughts on Facebook a little less. 

Due to the holidays and how far behind I still am on the compilation posts themselves, you'll see TWO this week, but starting with the December compilation, I'll only do them once a month instead of every two weeks.

I don’t love the pandemic, of course, and I’m no fan of maskholes (especially when they pull it down past over their nose like a Covid shirtcocker). But at least there’s a way to tell from like 30 feet away if someone is an inconsiderate jerkwad.

You used to have to wait until they started talking.

I never got my emotional support Canadian. ~single tear~


I don’t think I have too many Republican friends, even on this account, but if any of you are pulling that “now we have switched places” bullshit, you STILL aren’t paying attention. 

Joe Biden is many suboptimal things, but he isn’t likely to endanger the life of Christians, encourage stochastic terrorism against white people, ban Christian-majority nations from traveling here, or treat cities and states run by Republicans like they’re a geopolitical enemy (though Russia is not).


In case you didn't know. I am going to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature. I will be suing to stop any nominations or votes that are not for me and saying the word "fraud" a lot. I basically already won.



Now it's time for everyone's favorite game show, "WHICH IS MORE LIKELY?" The game where you choose which of two incredibly likely scenarios is actually the MOST likely.

We rejoin the game from our last episode. For $5000 and control of the board, please identify which is more likely:

1- That if tomorrow feminists changed their name to "humanists" or "egalitarians," suddenly ALL those people who "hate that word" would jump on board, give a shit, and fight the good fight against places where there is gender inequality. They would instantly care about street harassment, pay inequality, family planning, and sexual assault because before, that word ("feminism") was simply SO off-putting that that they couldn't bear to stand up regarding issues that disproportionately affect women as long as it came under such a sexist label.

Or

2- That, as has happened every single time a marginalized group demands rights throughout the arc of human history (ever, like literally EVER), the people who stand to lose power find ostensibly reasonable-sounding ways to rationalize the fact that they have absolutely no intention of challenging the status quo, but would prefer a justification that sounds plausible to simply saying “I don’t really care.”


Look, this is really simple. 

Abusers accuse their victims of what they themselves do. Textbook. 101. Right out of the playbook––page one. 

Conservatives in their macro societal-abuse dynamics have been disenfranchising voters through gerrymandering, voter-ID laws that are piss-easy to see through, closing polling stations, and voter scourges. These laws are proposed by Republicans, supported by Republicans, lobbied for by Republicans, paid for by Republicans, cheered by Republicans, disenfranchise the opponents of Republicans, are voted on by Republicans, carried by Republicans, and help Republicans win. 

Republicans are so shameless about this, they will straight up say the quiet part out loud: that re-enfranchisement efforts will cause them to lose.

Essentially by a few points here and there, they've been cheating. They've been cheating more and more every election for decades. The last election, they basically welcomed election interference from a geopolitical enemy because it "Eh....it was on THEIR side." They can't win without it. 

And while I'm sure some of them are not capable of imagining how they could lose unless Dems cheated even MORE, this is actually a much simpler equation. This is basically the imposter listing out everything suspicious that every other character has done to throw everyone off their own scent. 

Now the GOP is cheating SO much, it's become essential to their ability to even hold the line. They have to keep the focus anywhere but on their own voter suppression (which, sadly, they are actually doing quite effectively). Even if some really do capital-B "believe" their own shit (but especially for those that don't), it's a survival mechanism to keep the focus on everyone....ANYONE else.



[The night the results were actually declared.]

I see a lot of people (including me) making disclaimers of their joy that Trump's regime has been stopped. I get why they're doing it (I did it too), but it's sort of a shame that we have to. 

We all kind of get that Biden and Harris are flawed and how the work has only just begun and stuff that literally every single person I can think of knows. (Like, honestly, is there ANYONE in my extended circle actually saying, "Oh good. I can relax for the next four years. Phew."?) And that this is more like celebrating the stanching of a wound when the person is still dying and needs to get to the hospital. Fascism lives on in lower-key forms, and 70 million Americans watched four years of what they could expect (the lies, the racism, the xenophobia, the anti-statesmanship), and didn't think it was a deal breaker, so we have a hearts-and-minds ground game that will take decades to start moving the needle.

All legit.

But the kind thing to do for ourselves and each other would be to know that we know that for four years, we've been living a nightmare that actually WAS a pretty fucking extra, and self-care would be taking a moment/letting folks take a moment before winding up about the miles to go or the very next thing.

Hope is not a luxury. Joy is not an indulgence. Celebrating a hell of a baby step doesn't mean we've lost sight of the objectives. That contrarian streak that stands against ever celebrating mainstream victories––that is so chic on the left––is a bit on the toxic side. 

We all want to blow up the Death Star, but some days we have to settle for successfully evacuating Hoth.


Now....just as a thought experiment...

Juxtapose this election, and its high voter turnout yet STILL narrow results with the far-left belief that socialism basically sells itself and "Bernie would totally have won" (and be sure and factor in places like Florida where there was a RED wave primarily due to the Trump campaign saying "socialism" a lot), and please consider the possibility that actually NONE of our goals is even remotely realistic in a pluralistic nation that leans right, unless there is a hearts and minds ground game the likes of which no dank meme (or calling anyone who disagrees a "bootlicker") is ever going to replace. Also a re-enfranchisement effort that goes on in mainstream politics more than once every four years. And that sort of institutional change will require mainstream civic engagement and legislation....or in common parlance: "selling out". 

Because you can't govern if you don't win.

Or, of course, we can win a war against the greatest military of all time as well as the civilian militias that will resist us––all on their home soil––and institute our policies on threat of violence against the will of the vast majority of society over which we will have to minority rule in an anti-democratic fashion. I suppose that's almost as realistic as socialism taking over a country in which leftists don't participate because of the dirt it will put under their fingernails.


I'm going to fantasize now.

A thing is about to happen here that has not happened since ever. The Georgians are going to wake up and find that they are strong––that their vote actually matters and can make a difference even if it can't get them everything they want in one election cycle. So they will turn out in waves for the run-off elections for their senate. 

And then Dems win two more seats and flip the Senate.

And Mitch McConnell will still be in office but won't be the majority leader. So he can't effectively be the most powerful human in US politics by simply not allowing ANY legislation he doesn't like to come to the floor for a vote. And Dems can get through some more progressive, Senate-approved appointments. And there will be real stimulus. And maybe Dems can take the country's temperature on a little minor court-packing action. And McConnell just has to sit there and watch it all.

And the left realizes that it CAN have power and starts involving itself (demanding democratic reforms as its "price" for mobilization) and moving the slider away from predatory capitalism and billionaire feudalism. And there are sex parties to celebrate with no creepy guys and at least a couple of people who say "I **REALLY** would like you there, Chris." And a unicorn befriends me and lightsabers are real and....

Sorry, got a little carried away there.


"I'm not racist, and I'm offended that you would say so! But also I will swiftly give power to open white supremacists and their harmful policies if it helps my low five-figure 401k. But I'm definitely not racist."

-70 Million Americans

I would caution my fellow white peeps to choose their words with care in the coming days. Being disgusted, revolted, and appalled, by the fact that so many people saw his naked racism on display and in policy and voted for him anyway is quite different than being SURPRISED by that.

We certainly got bamboozled by some promising polling data that maybe the water's edge was not where we thought it was and it is a pleasant fiction to imagine that Trump finally went a bridge too far with his open white supremacy, but BIPOC have been telling us the national situation was REALLY THAT BAD for decades. But this whole narrative of total "shock" or being "flabbergasted" requires not having listened to them again and again and again about their lived experiences in our society.

That's probably NOT the gaslighting message you intend to send.

A- There's never been a single silent thing about you.

B- You're not the majority.



Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Best Y.A. Science Fiction (NOTpoll)

What is the best Young Adult Book (or series) in the Science Fiction genre?

Even though I have recently shifted from polls to NOTpolls, it seems like we JUST did the whole slew of adult SciFi and Fantasy by classic, modern, or contemporary, so I'd like to get a few buffer conversations in there before we begin to retread all that ground.

That said, let's talk about Science Fiction in Y.A. literature. 

I am going to make a distinction here that is not a hard and fast line. There will be another NOTpoll along shortly for dystopian Y.A. since it is such a pronounced genre of its own with SO many rich and wonderful choices. It absolutely needs its own category. I'm not going to nitpick or police everyone's choices, and I know there's a lot of overlap between the two, but consider if you think your nominee might be a better fit for dystopia rather than sci-fi. (Hunger Games, for example, did not make enough out of the futuristic tech and/or emphasize sci-fi tropes. It felt much more dystopian to me.) 

For those still getting used to NOTpolls or who remember the years and years of polls we ran here, there are still rules (below). But instead of trying to figure out what more people think is the BEST (which usually turns into which book has the coolest movie adaptation anyway), we're just going to have a good chat about good books and all come away with some suggestions for our To Be Read Pile™. We'll still have the system of seconds (and "thirds" and "fourths"), but all that will determine is which goes to the top of the list when I post the results. And I'll link out the original nomination post for folks who want to go see what people are actually saying about the book. Eventually these posts listing the results will be compiled in a massive "book recommendation" post.


The Rules

  1. Make two recommendations. Obviously, I can't stop anyone from making fifteen, but nothing beyond the first two will make it onto the master list.
  2. TALK ABOUT WHY YOU LIKE THE BOOK or series (but without spoilers)! Obviously if you just drop a title name and it gets all the seconds, I'm still going to list it, but the whole point of this is to gush a little about the books you think are great, exciting, well written, or unforgettable. 
  3. For each recommendation, let us know if you're nominating it more as a BEST book in the genre or an UNDERSUNG HERO in the genre. Basically "undersung hero" is for books you think are great, tragically overlooked, NEED to be read by everyone yesterday, but are maybe not necessarily the besty bestest best. They'll all end up in the list I compile, but I'll put them in different places.
  4. As always, I leave the niggling over the definition of genres to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you want to nominate Divergent as science fiction (even though it's probably better placed as dystopia), you should show your work if you desire those sweet, sweet seconds (or thirds....or fourths) and there might be a discussion thread after your comment with a lot of people writing out the "Uh...." 
  5. You get to mention two (2) books. That's it. Two. You can do one BEST and one UNDERSUNG HERO. Or you can do two BESTS. Or you can do two UNDERSUNG HEROES. But two is the total. If you nominate three or more, I will NOT take any nominations beyond the second that you suggest. I'm sorry that I'm a stickler on this, but it's just lil ol' me compiling this list by myself and it's a pain when people drop a megalodon list of every decent book they can remember in the entire genre. If you list more than two books and your third or later choice gets a second, I'll consider the SECOND the first mention of the book "officially." (Even though that matters a lot less than it did when I was counting seconds to see which titles made the poll––see below.)
  6. Did I mention two?
  7. You may (and absolutely should) second AS MANY nominations of others as you wish. There is no more poll, so this will not be a cutthroat competition to see who makes it to the semifinals. It will simply dictate which titles I list first, and it may influence which books someone considers a good recommendation. ("This one got six seconds, and that one only got two, so I think I'll start with this one.")
  8. 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 what your nomination is, 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. 
  9. You are nominating WRITTEN fiction, not their movie portrayals. If you thought Stardust was a spectacular movie, but never really could get through Gaiman's written version, please nominate something else. (I love films, but they're a different medium.)
  10. Have a conversation, but check the typical internet assholery at the door. If someone likes something you think is terrible, it's okay to let them enjoy it. And if someone has one tight and polite bit of criticism about your recommendation ("I was not a fan of the X plot arc or the way that author writes women."), it's okay that they didn't care for it and there's no need to defend it like they have impugned you honor for seven generations.  I **WILL** delete shitty comments, and I absolutely know that's highly subjective, so better to err on the side of nice. 
  11. TWO!

Hopefully, we all get some great book recommendations (and maybe a few fewer "not winners") out of this new format. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Weird Weeks

 Hi all, 

Just a very quick note. My patrons already know what is going on, but these weeks get chaotic and sporadic. I usually go out and hug a tree on solstices and equinoxes, there are small children in my life so helping my clients get Christmas going takes weird hours, and of course there are the holidays themselves.

But here's what you can expect in the next few weeks:

Tomorrow: Off. Technically I usually take Mondays off blogging, but I've been going off schedule a lot and doing a lot of Monday posts. But tomorrow is solstice and I have an early shift at my other job, so I'm going to be mostly AFK all day. I'll take some pictures for my picture tier on Patreon.

Tuesday: What comes out of that solstice alone time is an NWAW post about goals and some fee-fees about the year. Of course....what I'll be reflecting on most will likely be the pandemic and the way I hit almost none of my goals, but since it'll probably be autumn before vaccines begin to wrench life back into a normal-ish mode, my goals should still include its effect. 

Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat, Sun: OFF. I'm taking the older kid for an overnight at my place so mom and dad can wrap and prep. Wednesday morning is going to me trying to cook something a seven year old wants for breakfast and racking my brain for movies I can share from MY childhood that don't have something like that fucking Swamp of Sadness scene. Then of course it's the holidays themselves. 

Next Week: There aren't so many holidays next week, so I'll be back on in a limited capacity. I'm still going to do take Monday off to write an Early Access post for that tier on Patreon. Tues, Wed, Thur you can expect some posts.

First Week of Jan: So if you've been around for a while you know this already, but for those new to Writing About Writing in the last year (or who weren't paying attention the last few Januarys), I try to compile the best performing posts of the year, and that CHANGES which posts remain as the MONTH'S bests. It always takes me a couple of days to do all that admin Tetrising. Although pandemic productivity will probably mean I only need about half the time, that's still going to eat up about three days worth of posts. Expect a lot of "Best of Nov/Dec" and then "Best of the Year" and then "New Adjusted Best Posts By Month." (Once upon a time I would do two posts a day when I had multiple admin posts like that, but I actually get MORE readers if I post [a little] less.) PLUS....I always take time to go through and update all my admin posts (the tabs at the top of the screen in Desktop view) including my update schedule. Those are usually more "cosmetic surgery" and less "mass revision" and I can "bundle" the results.

By the second week we should be sliding into a regular schedule, which I'm pretty excited to say feels like it's going to be a lot easier for me to keep up with than much of this last year. I don't know if it is just the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, the election results, or a combination, but I'm starting to get my swing back. 

I know I'm almost the only one who cares about all this, but it's part of my mission statement to be transparent about this stuff, so that people who are burning to know what it takes to make it can literally just read this blog to see my entire glacial slog to some value of success. 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Best Standalone Fantasy (NOTPoll Results)

What is the best standalone book (or short story) in the fantasy genre? 

From your nominations and recommendations have come these two lists. One of the best titles in the genre. The other titles that are not "best" but are great, but tragically less well known. Pad your TBR list with few gems or journey over to the nomination page to see people singing the specific praises of each title and having a conversation.

Thank you all so much for making our first NOTpoll a success. I look forward to many more great conversations about really good books.

BEST (in order of number of seconds received):

The Night Circus, E. Morgenstern (5)

The Princess Bride, W. Goldman (4)

War for the Oaks, E. Bull (4)

 Good Omens, N. Gaiman and T. Pratchett (4)

American Gods, N. Gaiman (3)

Neverwhere, N. Gaiman (3)

The House in the Cerulean Sea, T. J. Klune (2)

The Once and Future Witches, A. E. Harrow (2)

Poison, C. Wooding 

Un Lun Dun, C. Mieville 1

Le morte d'Arthur, T. Mallory 1

Tailchaser's Song, T. Williams 1

Kindred, O. Butler 1

Dragon Pearl, Y. H. Lee 1


UNDERSUNG (in no particular order):

Shades of Grey, J. Fforde 2

Afterworlds, S. Westerfeld 2

Glasgow Fairytale, A. D. McIver

Fire and Hemlock, D. W. Jones


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Bottom of October (Facebook Compilation)

Boy, I was REALLY wound up as October came to a close. I barely even got my splattering of Facebook posts written. So this will be a little shorter than many of the others.

Here is a collection of the best memes and statuses from my public Facebook page over the period of Oct-16th through Oct-31st (You're welcome to follow me there.) Since the election––or more accurately since the results became increasingly obvious––I have been able to focus again, and though I absolutely AM getting back on track, it's a lot of slow going and two steps forward and one back because of the holidays. I'm going to blow through these compilation posts over the next handful of weeks, both to catch up and to give me something a little lower key to throw up while I catch up.

After that, maybe I'll do these compilations more like once a month instead of every two weeks.

Folks, you know I hate to judge, but maybe a few of you need to think about whether Russian psyops and conservative false-flags ginning up existing divisions on the left would be decreasing or INCREASING in the last two weeks before the election.


Look, I don't mean to be a killjoy to all the "marketplace of ideas" moderates (and no small number of liberals) who really truly think that the best thoughts will merit out if we invite everyone to the table and talk it out, but it's time to use that critical thinking on ourselves. 

We can't actually have a "crucible-like" debate with someone whose epistemology is "Truth is what I say it is." And that is essentially what you have when someone says "fake news" at any report or study they don't want to be true or will only take a certain cult leader's word for what reality is. Particularly when that cult leader is disconnected with reality and believes that basically everyone not part of the cult is persecuting them with the objective of destroying them, and that all their own most harmful tactics are "defensive" in nature. It's like the ultimate form of cognitive dissonance. 

You can speak up. You can speak out. And if you are able to, there's a reasonable argument that you should. But thinking that these folks must be welcomed and engaged with civility in every forum and medium and situation because we're going to "get through" to them is where it gets dicey.

We're operating with different perceptions of reality. It would be like trying to have a calm, rational conversation with someone who is vividly hallucinating that you are a demon who will say anything to trick them. Short of violence, the only broad-spectrum societal option we have is to deny them power en masse, let them cool off for a few years, and stop gaslighting the people who have unswervingly warned us that this was RIGHT under the surface ALL along.



Conservatives: "Where do you leftists come up with these wild conspiracy theories?"

CIA: "Oh yeah. We totally did that. Here's the proof."

Conservatives: "I guess we'll never know....."


Here's a nickel's worth of free advice. Something I noticed twice today and once a few weeks ago.

If you go to do something that can be done online these days––registering to vote, renewing car registration, having your mail forwarded––basically the first couple of links ARE scams. They simply ARE. Just be ready for it. Google stopped protecting you and not being evil a LOOOOONG time ago.  

They are pay sites that will either charge you about twice as much to do the same thing, or they will get you signed up at a super reasonable-sounding price and then renew some service you do not want the NEXT day for juuuuuuuust enough money a month that you aren't likely to notice. 

Check the URLs. Make sure you're on a .gov site or an official site. It's easy to make a mistake and pay more than you need to and/or basically PAY for information you can just look up.


Know those feels meme.
Know those feels SO well. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

LAST CHANCE TO NOMINATE (Best Stand Alone Fantasy)

What is the best fantasy book (or short story) that is not part of a series?

This is the last call for nominations (or seconds of existing nominations) that will go on our compilation page. Remember there are no more polls. We just have a conversation about some good books. On Friday I will publish two lists: one of "undersung heroes," the books that aren't the best but that you love and want to see more people know about. And the BEST, which will have no ranking other than being listed in order of which got the most seconds.

Please remember to go to the original page to drop your nomination (and familiarize yourself with the rules if you haven't yet). If you put it anywhere else (including a Facebook comment on this post) it will not be counted.

Thank you all for joining in our first NOTpoll. I've really loved reading all your comments about the books you treasure and why.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Nov/Dec Newsletter

Today's post has been cannibalized to finish up a combo November/December newsletter (although it is over twice as long as a regular newsletter to compensate). If you enjoy this blog and want to support it at the very low rate of $3/month, you can become a Patron and get a newsletter too! Higher tiers have even more rewards! 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Top of October (Facebook Compilation)

It's been an unbelievably hellish three weeks, but I wanted to get SOMETHING posted, and I'm very behind on these compilations (as you can see from the fact that we're still working on October).

Here is a collection of the best memes and statuses from my public Facebook page over the period of Oct-1st through Oct-15th. Also, as a small reminder to everyone, I was doing a lot of writing on my public Facebook profile in the months before the election. (You're welcome to follow me there.) Since the election––or more accurately since the results became increasingly obvious––I have been able to focus again, and though I absolutely AM getting back on track, it's a lot of slow going and two steps forward and one back because of the holidays. I'm going to blow through these compilation posts over the next handful of weeks (both to catch up and to give me something a little lower key to throw up while I'm busy AF).

After that, maybe I'll do more like one a month instead of every two weeks.

Note: Some of these are very topical, so I've put notes about what was going on when they were written.


[Upon hearing the news of Trump having Covid-19]

Trump hasn’t been Machiavellian this entire administration. Or admitted weakness even when every poll said it would bump his numbers (like wearing a mask). I’ve certainly never seen so much as an ounce of humility. He also thinks he WON his first debate and doesn’t read enough or suffer non-sycophants enough around him to be informed otherwise, so he’s probably not trying to get out of them. 

A lot of the “so I can CLEARLY not choose the wine in front of ME!” stuff going on on my timeline would possibly be effective (if not exposed just as quickly by the leakiest WH ever), but is wildly out of character. My guess is this one is real.

On the other hand, a flurry of “Is this true?”/“Could this be a trick?”/“What is the WORST possible way this development could go wrong and hurt me?”/“What is acceptable to feel?” is EXACTLY what you would expect from an abuse victim trying to process reality, so I’m not exactly surprised at how spun around everyone is.


[As Trump got admitted to the hospital and his inner circle started reporting being infected.]

I have to admit that––if I were coming up with things that would really work against Trump's reelection––bringing the focus directly back to Covid-19 (his response to which has brought him the lowest approval of anything he's done) in a dramatic and sensational Masque of the Red Death way that could not be poo-poo'ed as "just the flu," and that takes a dozen or so high-profile Republicans off the board ONE month before the national election would be, like, pretty much exactly what I'd come up with.

I may have had complicated feelings (and to be clear I blame no one with....LESS complicated feelings) about my own initial reaction to the news, but without invoking weird stories of Russian roulette or something, it's hard to think of a group who more thoroughly brought something on themselves.

They killed thousands with misinformation and a casual disregard for the most vulnerable. They FLAUNTED an indifference to science. They milked the movements that spurned even mild, reasonable precautions because it won them cheap political points. They even ignored it when they thought it was only really going to hit Democrat strongholds. By the end they were absolutely conducting business as usual and "It is what it is." They not only didn't act like leaders, they behaved antithetical to leadership. In this, as in everything, cruelty was the point. 

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.


There are a lot of emblematic moments in this presidency (the Bible photo shoot is probably never going to be knocked out of first place), but breaking isolation in clear disregard of medical protocols and endangering all those people in your entourage who have no choice but to join you just so you can get a photoshoot showing how recovered you are has got to rank up there. 

Because blatantly doing the opposite of medical guidelines to bolster your political ambitions didn't, like, CAUSE all of this or anything.

[Written as Trump recovered from Covid and returned to the White House]

After receiving what you will never convince me wasn't a life-saving intervention due to medical care that literally only a few people have access to, and most could not afford if they did, and after being returned to his "home" that can operate as a functioning hospital (and probably while flying on steroids), the President tweets, "Don't be afraid of Covid." 

He almost dies, probably WOULD have if not for what is likely a high six/low seven figures level of care from an army of doctors with no other charge than him, and his response is to tell everyone else to disregard their health and safety because he was totally right all along.

I guess I was wrong that nothing could top out that Bible photo shoot as emblematic of what a horrible leader and human he is.


If I had to write an academic paper on the unspoken toxic assumptions of the right wing, I think one of my examples could be just this tweet.

There's so much to unpack here. Even Oct. 5th, with Republicans falling ill left and right and a ghost-town West Wing only one MONTH from an election and a disaster of leadership that is probably going to cost the GOP for the next decade, the simple advice to wear a mask is not only rejected but still viciously mocked.

Perhaps most telling is that this elevated-to-mouthpiece woman of conservative values has apparently decided that the worst thing she can call Joe Biden is....feminine. That's the cuttingest of insults in her world––some deeply internalized misogyny. 


Listen...maybe you don't know this, so I'm going to tell you off the QT and *on* the downlow, but if you sat there and loved my posts for months, and then told me I didn't know how to write on the day I posted a coming-out story....

....you're not as slick as you think you are about what your problem actually is.

[Note from Dec 11th- Well, this was prescient.]

Study after study after study shows that people LOVE free markets and democracy....

...until they stand to lose. 

Then they will undermine them. Then they start to be okay with other things as long as they are the ones who WIN. That whole graceful "Well, looks like we lost this time" thing you see is almost exclusively the purview of people who value the democracy and the free trade THEMSELVES (and also only on television). For everyone else, mandates are great until they become obstacles.

So moderates (and no small number of liberals) who continue to be shocked and kind of gobsmacked at the open and naked lengths to which so many conservative actors are going in order to steal an election (often with little more than a shrug and "Who's gonna stop us? YOU?") should try applying the the Occam's razor principle. 

Instead of a patchwork of strange one-off zealots and this growing body of results skewing efforts like gerrymandering and voter suppression, they would notice a much more elegant explanation––the party that is about to lose and lose BIG (the party that, in fact, can't win) considers it a moral imperative to cheat. 

And suddenly everything they're doing (and all that is yet to come) isn't the least bit shocking. 

That they cannot be shamed is not the least bit surprising (they are absolutely pursuing their values––free and fair elections ain't one of them). That they disenfranchise their opposition despite a zillion proofs that the fraud they're using to rationalize it isn't a thing becomes obviously not actually about fraud, but about disenfranchising their opposition....and saying anything to justify it while they continue to do so. That they absolutely want fewer people to vote instead of more suddenly is perfectly understandable. That they will do this in the open even makes sense because they see this as a battle that they must win.

It even has predictive power. If you assume that they value winning over democracy, you can guess their next moves quite easily. They will attempt to subvert the results of the election by any means necessary. They are NOT interested in participating in our liberal democracy (at least not in good faith), and if we don't explain to them (and soon) how out of bounds they are, they will simply grab the power and establish minority rule instead of governing a pluralistic society.....all the while insisting that it was totally fair because (without a shred of actual evidence, mind you): "it was really the Democrats who were cheating." 

I'm so upset this became so popular.
According to this, I'm not a bard,
and I'm bitter about it.


This very popular post is five memes in a single post, so you'll just have to go to the link to see them. 
https://www.facebook.com/chris.brecharge/posts/3517363041617586


The right knows it can shame the left because generally the left is still capable of feeling shame. The left still has values it feels conflicted about when they are at odds with each other, cares about integrity, calls out its bad actors, gives a shit about impact....

Four years of telling us to fuck our feelings, calling for our deaths, and running policy pretty much based on what "triggers" us (or never really calling out the contingent of their party that DOES), and governing in a way that shows us they've absolutely no interest in a pluralistic democracy will change how much of that shame we're absolutely willing to push down and move past, though.

So the right has reached the "find out" portion of their fucking around.




Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Reminder to Nominate for Our NOTpoll (Best Stand-Alone Fantasy)

What is the best Fantasy novel not a part of any larger series?

As I recover from events about which I'll be sending out a newsletter to my newsletter-tier Patrons shortly, and begin to fold blogging BACK into a schedule that has not seen fit to give me any days off in over two weeks (but has at least returned to its sort of regularly scheduled chaos), I want to remind everyone that we don't have polls anymore. 

Instead I invite you to add some nominations and join the conversation about some really good books on our NOTpoll. These "conversations" will go a lot faster than our polls did, so be sure and nominate a good book or two for others to put on their TBR lists. 

If you've spent the past few years frustrated at the fact that your own offerings of whatever genre was up never made it onto the polls, or always got knocked out in the semifinals, here is your chance to get it some glory that cannot be snatched by the mercurial whims of folks who probably just watched the latest CGI adaptation. 

There are a few RULES and you can find them HERE. I would repost them here, but that earlier page is ALSO where you need to go anyway in order to make the nominations if you want to see them show up on the compilation post at the end. (Leave them here and I will skip them. Leave them on FB, and I will never even see them.) 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Best of Sept. and Oct. 2020

Just a quick reminder to my old timers and a point of order for anyone just tuning in that because of Covid-19, I'm being tapped for about three to five times the hours I want or need as a nanny (since I'm the only nanny whose pod is just me––I only see them and they only see me). These are special kids and this is a special job, so I can't/won't/don't just say "can't help ya" to my clients when they need me for lots of extra hours.

It cuts into the writing time pretty hard, though.

My current productivity means that I'm reliably only cranking out a couple of posts a week and twice a month, one of them is a compilation of things I've written on Facebook (also a temporary development during Covid). So for 2020, I'm only doing these "Best of" posts every TWO months instead of monthly. 

This one is from September and October.

Bottom of August Compilation

A collection of memes and rants from my public Facebook profile.

Sentence Structure (Mailbox)

How important is it to get sentence structure right these days?

Top of September Compilation

Another compilation made the best of for the two-month period.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

We Now Return You To Our Regularly Scheduled — *sounds of screaming*

 *Masterpiece Theater Introduction*

*Chris, smoking a pipe, looks up from a leather bound books* 

"Oh, hello there. You found me catching up on my Proust. Welcome to Writing About Writing. Today we're going to talk about the subtle but powerful ways in which literary authors utilize setting as kinetic landscape, and the––"

*sound of screaming offscreen/Chris's eyes flick left*

"––dare I say, transcendental ways in which the skilled writer brings the setting ITSELF to life as a character in the story."

*sound of a gunshot/Chris's eyes go wide and flick left again*

"If....um...the rich tapestry woven by the author functions in conjunction with the work's themes, what emerges is an altogether....uh.....more powerful......"

Voice from off camera: "Everybody stay calm, and no one will get hurt. Now, I just found out my retirement plan is nothing but Arby's coupons and those necklaces they give out at Mardi Gras, so I was already in a bad mood. But then I discover that I'm a patron of Chris, and here on December 2nd we still haven't gotten the November newsletter, so until I get my FUCKING NEWSLETTER or some answers, we're all just going to hang tight and eat these roast beef sandwiches I brought for everyone. No one has to get hurt."

Chris: "Uh.....so that would be my fault. Bit of an emergency yesterday. The big cheese upstairs was supposed to have a day off, but got called away to deal with some emergency in.....uh......some retirement plans or something, so we're running a little behind on some of the behind-the-scenes mojo we're supposed to be doing. It's kind of funny really. Just because of the way the Thanksgiving holiday went down, apparently no one here has had a day off in––"

Voice from off camera: "And you just thought you could wait until, what, December third or fourth to do the November newsletter? Do you know how absurd that sounds? It's like DaVinci demanding more time to paint the Cistern Chapel.

Chris: "There's actually a LOT to unpack about what you just said––"

Voice: "Shut up! You know I pay the rent here. I keep the lights on. I'm the reason you have food. I mean like vegetables and stuff. Not just these really good roast beef sandwiches."

Chris: "Well, yes. You and almost three hundred other Patrons."

*sound of gun cocking*

Chris: (*looking back at the camera*) "Well, folks, I'm afraid we'll have to wait on that kinetic landscape thing. I just remembered some important work I have to do backstage for my beloved patrons."

Voice: "And I'm going to leave all my bead necklaces if you don't get me my early access post as well. ALL of them."

Chris: (*still looking at the camera*) Aaaaand we might have to settle for some jazz hands too over the next couple-a. We'll get you something, though. Because that's just how we roll here at––"

*static*

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Best Standalone Fantasy Novel (NOTpoll)

Update: This nomination is closed for now. (But it will come around again.)

What is the best Fantasy novel not a part of any larger series?


While I (really this time) work behind the scenes on the November Newsletter for my patrons, a first of the month seems like a good day to kick off our new NOTpolls. 

If you recall (or even if you don't), I recently ran into enough trouble with free polling programs––and the prohibitive price of the paid ones given that I only ever ran one every month or two. Instead, I decided to change up our entire "poll-like" experience here on Writing About Writing. Rather than of nominations and polls with winners and losers, we're just going to do a comment thread of gushing recommendations. 

There are still rules (below). But instead of trying to figure out what more people think is the BEST (which usually turns into which book has the coolest movie adaptation anyway), we're just going to have a good chat about good books and all come away with some suggestions for our To Be Read Pile™. We'll still have the system of seconds (and "thirds" and "fourths"), but all that will determine is which goes to the top of the list when I post the results. And I'll link out the original nomination post for folks who want to go see what people are actually saying about the book. Eventually these posts listing the results will be compiled in a massive "book recommendation" post.

It's going to be pretty fucking dope.


The Rules

  1. Make two recommendations. Obviously, I can't stop anyone from making fifteen, but nothing beyond the first two will make it onto the master list.
  2. TALK ABOUT WHY YOU LIKE THE BOOK (but without spoilers)! Obviously if you just drop a title name and it gets all the seconds, I'm still going to list it, but the whole point of this is to gush a little about the books you think are great, exciting, well written, or unforgettable. 
  3. For each recommendation, let us know if you're nominating it more as a BEST book in the genre or an UNDERSUNG HERO in the genre. Basically "undersung hero" is for books you think are great, tragically overlooked, NEED to be read by everyone yesterday, but are maybe not necessarily the besty bestest best. They'll all end up in the list I compile, but I'll put them in different places.
  4. As always, I leave the niggling over the definition of genres to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you want to nominate Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (though it is pretty clearly science fiction), you should show your work if you desire those sweet, sweet seconds (or thirds....or fourths) and there might be a discussion thread after your comment with a lot of people writing out the "Uh...." 
  5. Your book must not be part of a series or more than tangentially related to a fictional universe. If it makes a reference to another book like once or is clearly taking place in the world of another book without being a sequel, prequel, or grand unified series, that's fine, but if it takes place in Discworld, that's not "stand alone."
  6. You get to mention two (2) books. That's it. Two. You can do one BEST and one UNDERSUNG HERO. Or you can do two BESTS. Or you can do two UNDERSUNG HEROES. But two is the total. If you nominate three or more, I will NOT take any nominations beyond the second that you suggest. I'm sorry that I'm a stickler on this, but it's just lil ol' me compiling this list by myself and it's a pain when people drop a megalodon list of every decent book they can remember in the entire genre. If you list more than two books and your third or later choice gets a second, I'll consider the SECOND the first mention of the book "officially." (Even though that matters a lot less than it did when I was counting seconds to see which titles made the poll––see below.)
  7. Did I mention two?
  8. You may (and absolutely should) second AS MANY nominations of others as you wish. There is no more poll, so this will not be a cutthroat competition to see who makes it to the semifinals. It will simply dictate which titles I list first, and it may influence which books someone considers a good recommendation. ("This one got six seconds, and that one only got two, so I think I'll start with this one.")
  9. 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 what your nomination is, 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. 
  10. You are nominating WRITTEN fiction, not their movie portrayals. If you thought Stardust was a spectacular movie, but never really could get through Gaiman's written version, please nominate something else. (I love films, but they're a different medium.)
  11. Have a conversation, but check the typical internet assholery at the door. If someone likes something you think is terrible, it's okay to let them enjoy it. And if someone has one tight and polite bit of criticism about your recommendation ("I was not a fan of the X plot arc or the way that author writes women."), it's okay that they didn't care for it and there's no need to defend it like they have impugned you personally.  I **WILL** delete shitty comments, and I absolutely know that's highly subjective, so better to err on the side of nice. 
  12. TWO!
Hopefully, we all get some great book recommendations (and maybe a few fewer "not winners") out of this new format.