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

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Facebook Compilation (Top of June)

I know I just did a FB compilation last week and, theoretically, posting one of these every two weeks should "catch up" when they compile half a month. But I missed a couple over the course of the last six months or so, and I'm falling further behind instead of catching up, so I'm going to be doing it weekly for a bit longer.

For years, I didn't count all the bite-sized chunks of writing I was doing on Facebook as "writing." But it's a post here and a post there, and sometimes I spend hours a day working on that writing, so it's high time I acknowledge the fact that it "counts."

Here is a collection of the best statuses (and a few of the most popular memes) from my public Facebook page over the period of June 1st through June 15th. (You're welcome to follow me there but read up in the Facebook FAQ [last question] if you want to send me a friend request.) 

There are problems in this world that Jeff Bezos could just…..solve. He has that much money. He could just wake up and end hunger or reverse climate change.

I'm not even talking about problems like The Mistreatment of Amazon Workers™, although that would definitely be one, but big huge social problems. He could just….solve them.

And I get the nuance. You can't just buy everyone a value meal and call it a day. In many cases supply chains would have to be INVENTED from scratch. I get that much of his wealth is tied up in the value of Amazon and isn't liquid, so he can't write a 190 billion dollar check (and still be a multi-billionaire). But even so, he has the resources to just…..solve these problems. 

But he doesn't.

He doesn't solve them. Not one of them. 

He doesn't even treat his workers particularly well. He accumulates hoards of wealth…mostly at the expense of others. And by inaction he allows these problems to continue just the same way as someone who could trivially throw a lifebuoy to a drowning person but just casually watches them die instead. 

Some people think "With great power comes great responsibility" is awesome or they understand that "or by inaction allow…" is a vital part of the three laws of robotics. And I get so tired when they turn around and give billionaires a pass. You can't live in a world where the problems are killing people, have the power to do something about it on a GLOBAL scale without even a loss of lifestyle, choose not to, and still be a moral agent.

Look at what we've done.

A handful of us have refused to show up to the shittiest jobs with the shittiest pay and look what the result has been. On one side, it's been apoplectic owners, pissed off capitalists, and exploitative politicians castigating entire generations as well as admitting openly and honestly that it was probably the fact that we were given enough money to have a few choices before we starved to death that made us reject exploitative labor. 

On the other side, (some) concessions. Rethinking of entire industries. We are the subject of think pieces. We're in every economic report because we just won't just GO fill in that labor shortage. We're slowing the recovery. A few of us took a pass on going back, and the whole damn fabric of the exploitative labor market seems to be unravelling while the exploiters cry bitter tears about our "willingness to work."

This isn't even a nationwide strike. This is just a FEW of the shittiest jobs having trouble staffing up and their exploitative bosses crying into their beer. Unemployment is only at about 6% right now. (The jobs are there; people just aren't taking them.) Imagine what would happen if we refused to work up around numbers closer to 12%. Imagine what could change.

WE have the power. We don't need them—they need us. Half our social structures project an illusion all around us to convince us that we do not have power, and if we ever did, it would be "immoral" for us to exercise it by refusing to work or inconveniencing industry. But we are the ones THEY cannot live without. Our labor is the life's blood of their wealth and income.

However (big however) only if we move and act collectively. If we get divided we can be conquered—squelched really—with little effort.

Anytime the government adds an extra layer of bureaucracy to anything (whether it's air travel, applying for benefits, or even voting), don't ask yourself if it's still technically possible for someone bound and fucking determined to get 'er done (which I admit fully that I am and have the privilege to be). Ask yourself who, given the laws of big numbers, it will "peel off." 

A certain percentage will give up, walk away, not have time, not have the paperwork, not be able to take the time off, or not be able to navigate the new labyrinth.

That group? That group that is probably poor, maybe doesn't command English very well, doesn't have a lot of free time to stand in two-hour lines during business hours, doesn't have things like lease agreements or bank statements handy. That's who your government doesn't REALLY want being able to vote/travel/get benefits.

The face of voter suppression has changed so that people can point out that it's not IMPOSSIBLE to get voter ID or to navigate the bureaucracy. 

But of course, that's exactly the point. It's also technically possible to copy and paste a URL from anywhere, but guess what happens when social media makes it easier to share with a "share" button. Make things easier….more people do them. Make them harder…..fewer people do them. It's not about one hypothetical voter with the will to be heard. It's about how you're affecting large numbers with anti-democratic legislation.

These laws don't make it harder to vote—they make it harder to vote FOR CERTAIN PEOPLE. When these laws UNSWERVINGLY target only marginalized groups like Black and poor voters, but technically haven't made it impossible, it is absolutely with the understanding that it makes it hard ENOUGH that some people won't bother. Or can't. Or simply have too much else going on. Or miss deadlines. Or……

In a world where elections are won and lost by margins of only a point or two, you don't need to block everyone who votes the way you don't like or looks a certain way. Just make it difficult enough for the people who vote the way you don't like that maybe one in a hundred or two in a hundred are disenfranchised, are inconvenienced to the point of giving up, or simply don't think their vote will count, and that's an election. All without pesky progressives gaining traction when they point out that you're disenfranchising people, cheating, and would rather win than hold a free and fair election. Heck, say "fraud" enough times (regardless of lack of evidence), and moderates (and no small number of liberals) might even cheer you on.


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Last Call: Best Stand Alone Classic Fantasy Book (Book Rec)

What is the best stand-alone Classic Fantasy Book published before 1980?

Writing About Writing's Facebook page is just going to get the rerun a couple more times, but for those of you following us in another way, I wanted to clue you in to the fact that we're almost done with this book recommendation list and going to compile it for our Master List of Book Recommendations

That's going to happen on Thursday—even though I don't usually post on Thursday. 

So this is your last chance to recommend some good fantasy books that stand alone and were published before 1980. I want to remind everyone that this is STAND-ALONE books. A whole lot of you offered up recommendations for books that were parts of series or definitely had sequels. Clearly I will have to do a "books that COULD stand alone even though they didn't" poll like I did with science fiction. However, for now I'll be gently removing those books from consideration. 

Remember to go to the ORIGINAL PAGE to drop your recommendation (and freshen up on the rules if you need to). Recommendations left on this post or on the social media sites where I promote the blog won't be tallied.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Interview Goes Live (Off The Record)

Last week, I spent multiple days working on an interview/questionnaire that went live this weekend, and so now I'm sharing it with you. Apologies that it cannibalized so many posts last week, but I think you'll find that it's about the same as three or four hefty mailboxes, so I hope it was worth the wait.

With over 1 million followers on Facebook, first off how does it feel to have such a visible metric of your progress and success? Is it everything you’d thought it would be? And what are some pros and cons to having such a massive audience?

What are some of your most and least successful pieces of content on your site, and does their success or lack thereof surprise you?

Speaking of which, do you have any tips, tricks or advice for someone who wishes to run a successful site like you do? And speaking more broadly for a moment, do you have any pearls of wisdom you want to share with your fellow writers? (again feel free to drop links to your site)?

What do you think about social media and its increasing saturation and integration with modern writing?

And many more….

For now, Tom Neil and Off The Record should get the traffic for hosting the interview, so you'll have to follow the link and read it over there: 

My Interview

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Facebook Compilation (Bottom of May)

Welp. Apparently I did almost no significant Facebooking in late May—not that many memes but particularly very little writing that got shared (or liked by many).  

But this is what I had planned for today since about last week at this time, so I don't really have anything else that I'm ready to post. I guess today is just going to be a little bit on the light side, and I'll use more of my time to keep plugging away on overdue Patreon rewards.

Protip for moderates (and no small number of liberals): If you expected me to sit through six paragraphs of explanation of why "corporations are people" doesn't really mean "corporations are people," sticking your fingers in your ears when someone tries to bring some nuance to what they mean by "defund the police" makes you look like the worst kind of hypocrite imaginable.

I think the most frustrating part of the far left is that I agree with them on almost everything and almost completely, but for the life of me they don't seem to realize that they TOO will have to govern a pluralistic society that has reactionary swings, and unless they are prepared to violently maintain an oppressive anti-democratic regime against MOST people in most parts of the country (the way the GOP does right now), what they really need to gear up for is an absolutely MASSIVE war of ideas instead of simply dismissing 95% of the labor class as not radical enough to attend the meetings and dismissing their struggles as unworthy while there's "REAL" leftism to be done.

[This one is technically from 2017 during the 2016 general election postmortem, but I've still seen the argument floating around today.]

  • Russian social media psyops
  • Cambridge Analytica exploits data mined info
  • a decades-long campaign of outrageous misogyny
  • the Republican Party accepts the political capital and financial support of Nazis, white supremacists, and white nationalists*
  • massive disenfranchisement campaign by and for Republicans that disenfranchises almost exclusively marginalized folks
  • gerrymandering so bad that it it takes a computer to do it and creates “unassailable” districts, thus silencing liberals and nearly halving their representation
  • the extent of Russian interference is STILL being uncovered but clearly involved some level of collusion
  • FBI director takes it upon himself to break the law and launch a torpedo at the campaign in its last couple of weeks because he wouldn't have wanted the results to seem illegitimate
  • an anachronistic, winner-take-all system of electoral votes wherein the votes of people in populous blue states matter significantly less than those in rural (more conservative) small states and which has caused the loser of the popular vote to be president twice in 16 years
  • finance corruption approved by SCOTUS that creates a deluge of money that chiefly goes to conservative candidates
  • an influx of cash from the NRA for GOP campaigns which may have involved $30 million in Russian money
  • Clinton wins the popular vote by 3,000,000 votes

Us: “It’s the Democrats fault for picking a candidate that didn't excite me.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Interview: Day Two

So I'm still plugging away on that interview/questionnaire. I opened it up and found out it was like fifteen FAIRLY robust questions. I got about half way through it yesterday, but I need another day to finish. 

The good news is that when it does go live (and I'll give it a special shout out post here), it'll make for a very robust read. 

In the meantime, I thought I would remind folks of some of the times I worked on collaboration with other content creators or panels or classes, and remind everyone that I'm pretty much always up for this sort of thing.

And if you have your own panel/podcast/lecture/class that you'd like me to be a part of, I'd probably love to. Just check out a few small boundaries I have and what I'm pretty good at to see if we'd be a good fit.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Schrodinger's Monday

Today I'm working on an (overdue) interview/questionnaire for someone. It will make for a fun post when it's done and I'll link it back to here so you can all go see, but I need the day to work on it. Plus the Inside Scoop is still in formation—along with early access posts, and some vacation pictures for the respective Patreon tiers. 

I haven't forgotten any of this stuff. Life has just been extra life-y as I get back into the world.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Daunted By Revision (Mailbox)

I am daunted by revision. What should I do?

[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. It's okay if most questions are more like "can you assure me that this important thing is really important?"

Just a note before I jump into this question. My queue of questions isn't EMPTY, but I can kind of "see the bottom," and like a cat, I'm absolutely sure that this means I will soon run out and perish. So if you've got questions for me, now's a good time to send them.

Sieran asks:

For context, I write primarily for pleasure and self-expression, but I also want to keep improving my craft and hope that any friends, family, or acquaintances interested in my work would enjoy them. I'm not aiming for a huge audience, so even a small group of fans, including friends and family, would be enough for me. If I do decide to publish, I'm quite content with self-publishing, especially as I have a number of good role-models who are indie authors.

As for my question, I understand that to write a good book, we need to do multiple rewrites of our manuscript, which is perfectly reasonable, especially as rewrites can help us make larger, structural changes to our stories. Yet, I have enough honest self-awareness by now to admit that I'm daunted by the prospect of doing all those rewrites. I am actually in the awkward situation where I have finished writing 22 books, many of them a part of a series, and I only have one completed series so far. My books are typically 300-400 pages long, with around 300 words per page, just to give you an idea of where I'm at.  Yet, I haven't rewritten, let alone fully edited, any of these books, so it makes me feel like a huge fraud. In fact, I wonder if I'm just making excuses for myself, believing that I'll eventually get to rewriting, but I take so long to write book after book, that I'll never get to it! The fact that I have relatively humble ambitions, gives me even more of an excuse to put it off. I know I technically don't have to do as much editing and polishing as a professional author would, since I'm not aiming to make money or to find a large audience. But still, I feel bad, like I'm not doing due diligence to my stories and characters. Also, it suddenly occurred to me: Tolstoy must have done multiple rewrites of War and Peace!!  

Do you have any advice or suggestions for someone like me? To sum up what I wrote above, I'm not aiming to find a huge audience or to make money from my books; I just want to enjoy the writing for itself, keep learning, improving, and write good stories that friends, family, and any other interested acquaintances could enjoy. But I've hit a snag where I ought to do many rewrites of my work, yet I only finish writing a lot of books without doing much editing beyond some surface, sentence-level edits. So I feel like I'm secretly daunted by the idea of doing multiple rewrites, and am awestruck by the fact that Tolstoy must have rewritten War and Peace several times. I know this is eventually something I'll have to figure out for myself, since I'm walking a path between wanting to write professionally and wanting to write only for myself, because I do hope that friends, family, and acquaintances curious about my work will like my writing too. Nevertheless, any thoughts and advice you have on my albeit rather messy situation, would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks so much!

My reply:

I want to make one thing absolutely clear before we go any further. 100% clear in a way that there can be no ambiguity, no misunderstanding, and nothing but Manini'owali Beach-water-clarity when I say this: if you have written twenty-two 300–400-page books, you are not a fraud. 

You are a writer. 

Maybe not published. Maybe not best-selling. Maybe not paid. But you absolutely ARE a writer. You know how many unpublished books I've written? Four. So maybe it's I who need to feel like the imposter here, Sieran. 

You might run into some dripping anal sphincters out there who want to tell you that if you're not engaged in (~pop in monocle and use Thurston Howell III voice~) "the entire writing process, then you haven't really written anything at all." I recommend, if you meet one of these people, that you invite them into the basement to try out this wicked-delish amontillado you scored from a carnival.

That said…I do want to be clear that revision is a part of the writing process, and it might arguably be the most important part. It is the beating heart of QUALITY writing. So don't take this the wrong way, but it sounds like you have twenty-two rough drafts. Still not a fraud by any means. Still absolutely a writer. But if you want to write for money, audience (as niche as it may be), or fans, you have another step, and likely a longer, more arduous step than writing the first draft. 

"God is in the revision," is an actual saying you will hear in the halls of literary fiction.

"Did you just…." Said dripping with indignance. "Did you just send me a rough draft? ME?" is more what this sounds like in the halls of more commercial endeavors. 

Now, moving on to the rest of your question, let me just say that even though this is one of those refreshing questions of moderated expectations that is much less formulaic to answer than "how can I MAKE it," I can't actually answer it. 

I mean I can…but I can't. 

Here's what I mean, Sieran: even if you told me the EXACT number of fans you wanted to have and the precise amount of money you would want to make per book, I couldn't tell you how much revision you need to expect to do. You just have to imagine it's forming a slope on a graph with the X–axis being times revised and the Y–axis being quality of the writing. Some people are better at revision so their slope is higher and some people's slope is closer to one (a flatter line), but one thing will always be true as long as you are not destroying and completely rewriting your story like it's a sand mosaic: THE MORE YOU REVISE, THE BETTER YOUR WORK WILL BE. 

Revise it once, it'll still be pretty crappy. Twice (with some editing) and you've got the level most commercial writers use as they pump out a book a year. Four or five times is what a lot of writers swear by. Then there are people who say the true story only really starts to come out around the 11th draft*. And all of these drafts are completely insular to the writer. This is before a single content editor takes a look or a sensitivity read or line editing. And then there's beta readers…and copy editing. Because peer review is part of the process TOO! 

*Not a random number. This is literally the title of an essay about revision as well as the title of a book that is a collection of essays about the writing process focusing on revision.

Absolutely NOT just tossed off during a month of cocaine- 
fueled benders.

It's interesting that you bring up Tolstoy. We actually know about War and Peace. It took him an ENTIRE YEAR and 15 drafts just to write the opening scene. He changed focus completely from the original intention of his work. He revised it even after publication in its initial forms as a serialized version and then six volumes (he pared it down to four). It took him six years to finish and shattered his health—he had migraines and got a terribad flu right as he was finishing that led to a LONG break from writing for a while afterward. 

So, you know…perspective. 

Even though self-publishing lets you maneuver around exactly as much revision as you want, the world is full of TERRIBLE self-published books by people who essentially didn't want to revise, and they didn't sell more than double digit copies, and even friends and family who shucked out a few bucks to be supportive smiled weakly and said "haven't gotten to it yet…but it's on my list" when pressed about what they thought. I'm not exaggerating when I say that you can literally tell some people did not want to hear a peer or editor tell them they had more work to do, so they just published their rough draft instead. And if you want to sell 37 copies (including five to yourself), you can do that. But most of us want to have a bit more to show for what is probably at least a year of our lives.

Thus….it's really hard to give you an exact answer, Sieran. The more you revise, the better the writing. That's just an axiom of writing… and really all art. It's like practicing as a musician or rehearsing as an actor. It simply MUST be done if the final product is to be more than an enjoyable hobby for oneself. If you truly want to be as small and niche as you say, you could probably keep it down to a full rewrite, a major revision, a tweaking read-through, and then the various stages of editing. But that's keeping in mind that you literally WANT to keep things modest. The writing equivalent of "I never want to be in any production bigger than my local community theater." Which is honestly and genuinely okay if it's absolutely in-your-heart true, but I wonder (and even "worry") how many people relegate their ambitions by convincing themselves they never WANTED anything more. 

My truly unvarnished advice/suggestion would be to dig into the revision process and see if you can't enjoy it. (Personally, I love polishing something once it's drafted—the drafting part is the harder, more annoying part for me.)  Try to take it into the two rewrites/two major revisions range before you start getting all that editing done. You may even find you can see the improvement enough to really start digging that part of the process and take it closer to the 11th-draft level.

So when are you done? I can't tell you that because there's no moment when it has objectively happened. It is up to the artist to basically (no, I'm not kidding) abandon the project strategically when the process of revision reaches a point of limited return that they are no longer willing to deal with. When they are satisfied that it is good enough for the eyes of the world. When the process of revision is merely polishing the stone a little more and no longer removing glaring imperfections.

It's not an easy question to ask yourself, but as you finish up draft one or two, and the prospect of how much better you could make it looms over that instant-er gratification, you might find yourself feeling like Wedge Antilles fighting AT-ATs in a rebel T-47 light airspeeder (modified to be a snowspeeder):


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Best Stand Alone Fantasy (Second Call for Recs and Secs)

What is the best stand alone Fantasy book written before 1980?

[I don't normally post on Thursdays, but I spent Tuesday waiting for the last bits of information I needed from yesterday's guest blogger, but yesterday's guest blogger is on the other side of the Earth (quite literally) and sleeping during my business day, so by the time I got the reply, it was a bit late for throwing up a post, and I waited. So this one should have gone up yesterday.]

I'll be dropping the original page rerun over on WAW's Facebook page but for everyone else, here is a quick update post haven't already, please don't forget to pop over to the original page to drop that nomination, see what has been nominated already, second (all) those you agree with, as well as brush up on the rules—there are a FEW after all.

It seems a number of folks either weren't clear about the "stand alone" part, or didn't realize that their book was part of a series. I'll probably have to run a "could stand alone but is part of a series" book rec conversation like I did with science fiction. However, for THIS one, all these recs will not be taken, so please 

Again, 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 Book Rec Conversation. I've really loved reading all your comments about the books you treasure and why.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Write Selfishly By Janet Chui (Guest Blogger)

Write Selfishly

by Janet Chui

There are two kinds of writers: Those who write with complete self-confidence and zero self-doubt, and those who don’t suck.

Wait. Then there are those writers who swing--between the two extremes, I mean, wink—and hit writing blocks that might as well be the Ever Given tanker in the Suez, (hi, throwback to March 2021). Understanding, diagnosing, and strategizing around writers’ blocks is practically a non-fiction genre in itself.

Sometimes I think I took up Psychology as a distraction from my creative blocks, and then only returned to writing so I could give fancier rationalizations why I wasn’t writing. Except I was. Writing. I’m writing now. I write all the time. It just rarely looks like anything I think is “legit”, another subject on which I was long confused. I took Journalism as an undergrad because I thought it would be more respectable than (gasp) fiction writing, even though I had half a dozen unfinished fantasy manuscripts in my closet.

I was judging the writing that I hadn’t even completed, and then I judged myself for my laziness and cowardice. I lived and breathed self-judgment. Some types of self-hatred were easier than others. Bashing myself for laziness and invisibility was more familiar and less daunting than having work completed and seen as drivel. The latter would confirm the words of my most persistent critics (hi, parents), that all my creative efforts were frivolous and unproductive; and entertaining possibilities otherwise only showed a massive ego for which I should be ashamed. I had internalised that I should only be proud or pursue things if I was good enough to sell it.

The above fancy realisation is still a block between me and where I want to be. But it’s a block I now understand well, mostly through writing--the “unproductive” kind of not-writing that I find myself doing a lot. The hidden, self-indulgent, emotional, and confessional stuff that gives me a way to examine still-open wounds and the skeletons in the closet. 

It’s funny though, because part of why I admire fiction is that over the years, I’ve come to recognise authors who are none-too-subtly writing out their struggles, beliefs, and dreams, albeit with sexy plots and characters. And it’s admirable because the results still spark joy. Trying to write stuff divorced from our flaws and idiosyncrasies is, I realise belatedly, self-defeating. Maybe impossible. But it was what I tried for a long time because I learned that objectivity and technical excellence were the only acceptable qualities in prose worth anything.

Fuck that.

I got tired of giving sad-puppy looks to writers who just wrote whatever they felt like and got lauded for it. We should all do that (whether or not the lauding comes) without worrying if we’re writing the “good stuff”. The point I’m making is that we might have, at some point in our lives, internalized an idea of what was good and placed that on a higher pedestal than what we actually enjoy writing. It took me decades to appreciate the value of what I wrote, and to retire the unhelpful concepts of what I once thought writing should be. 

And that’s what has helped me move the pen more often now.

We’re now going to pretend this is a recipe blog post. Here are the ingredients and steps:

  1. Write whatever you’re moved to write. That’s the Force compelling you, damnit.
  2. Fuck the ideal circumstances for writing. What dedicated hours? What peace and quiet? If you have to open Google Keep on your phone and jot notes while you’re waiting for your smol to emerge from school, do it.
  3. That said, guard your dedicated writing time jealously and try re-classing it as self-care time. Assholes usually won’t touch it then. 
  4. Not all our written results will be great, but if you do Step 1 enough, there’s something in everything we’ve written that serves a purpose, and it’s up to your Editor Self to figure it out and polish it till it’s shiny. And we need all kinds of shiny in the world.
  5. Place in a 400°F (200° Celsius) oven for 25 minutes or until golden.

Janet Chui is an artist and writer of astrology and self-love pieces. Her Self-Love Oracle, an illustrated deck of 44 cards for healing and self-care, is out from Beyond Words Publishing. She only cusses in blog posts.

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.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Admin Mon

We're taking an overdue Admin Monday today to get to some of these Patreon rewards that have been put off for way too long, but there is good news on the update front. I'm taking a couple of weeks off of my nanny gig, and we should start getting some good content out and get caught up and all the stuff we've been trying to do for weeks, but still haven't had QUIIIIIIIIIITE enough time to pull off. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Best Standalone Classic Fantasy (Book Recommendation)

What is the best standalone Classic Fantasy Book published before 1980?

We wrapped up our last book conversation a while ago, so we're overdue to start a new one. And, as always, remember to take your recommendations to the comments on the blog if you want them counted (not as replies to the posts on FB or other social media.) And though the rules don't change much if you've done a lot of these before, please check them out if you're new or need a refresher.

Remember that 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. You can go HERE to see what the results will look like when all is said and done. 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.

Today we're doing stand alone classic fantasy. Those books that are not part of a trilogy, a series, or massive world building universe, but nonetheless are outstanding examples of the fantasy genre. And since this would turn into a massive list if we did all fantasy ever, we're going to break it up into modern and classic. Today is classic—written before 1980.

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. NO BOOK WITH A COPYRIGHT AFTER 1980 WILL BE ACCEPTED. We'll do those in another conversation.
  3. TELL US ALL A LITTLE ABOUT WHY YOU LIKE THE BOOK (or short story) although obviously do so without spoilers! If you just drop a title name and it gets all the seconds, I'm still going to list it, of course, but the whole point of this is to have a "conversation" and gush a little about the books you think are great, exciting, well written, or unforgettable. 
  4. 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 (like…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.
  5. 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 The Time Machine as fantasy (even though it's probably better placed as sci-fi), 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 "If I may…"
  6. 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 twice is clearly taking place in the world of another book without being a sequel, prequel, or a grand unified series, that's fine, but if it takes place in Discworld, that's not "stand alone." (Nothing wrong with those kinds of massive universes, but let's get them their own conversation.) Obviously (because of the preview image), certain non-sequel offerings that occur with the same character and world are acceptable.
  7. 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, with unimaginable cruelty, simply ignore the third and any subsequent books. 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 spinosaurus list of every single book they can remember in the entire genre. However, you list more than two books and your third or later choice gets a second, I'll consider everything. (Even though that matters a lot less than it did when I was counting seconds to see which titles made the poll––see below.)
  8. Did I mention two?
  9. You may (and absolutely should) give a second shout out to 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.")
  10. 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. 
  11. You are nominating WRITTEN fiction, not their A/V portrayals. If you thought The Martian was a great movie, but never really could get through Weir's written version, please nominate something else. (I love film, but it's a different medium.) 
  12. 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. 
  13. TWO!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Facebook Compilation (Top of May)

I'm coming back from a vacation and still working more hours at my other job than I want to be. Plus if I don't get one of these up at least twice a month, I get behind pretty quickly.

For years, I didn't count all the bite-sized chunks of writing I was doing on Facebook as "writing." But it's a post here and a post there, and sometimes I spend hours a day working on that writing, so it's high time I acknowledge the fact that it "counts."

Here is a collection of the best statuses (and a few of the most popular memes) from my public Facebook page over the period of May 1st through May 15th. (You're welcome to follow me there but read up in the Facebook FAQ [last question] if you want to send me a friend request.) 

This pandemic has thrown enough into sharp contrast to see THAT (and exactly how and why) capitalism requires an inexhaustible supply of exploitable labor. The SECOND people had options that weren't working shitty exploitative jobs just to survive, they took it, and now they don't want to go back and there's an "unskilled" labor shortage. 

If your entire economic system ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY depends on the (eventual) threat of death to get a sizeable chunk of your labor force to work for less than poverty wages….that's not "more natural," more "moral," or more efficient.

When I was in my writing program, one of my professors absolutely hated speculative fiction, but loved Six Feet Under.

One day I'd had enough of his shit, and I pointed out that at several moments in the series, when one of the main characters had an interaction with someone who was dead, it actually WASN'T ambiguous about whether or not they were talking to themselves or hallucinating or something. They ~often~ learned something that their characters couldn't possibly know, including knowledge of things that hadn't happened yet. So that made it speculative fiction. 

He did not like that. He did not like that at all. The next semester, he'd "phased out" his love of Six Feet Under and was on a total Toni Morrison run. "Good fiction doesn't have to have a spaceship or some fantasy speculative element!" 

So I pointed out that Beloved was a ghost story.

Some of the EXACT same people I watched scoffing the very concept that a fast food worker ought to make a living wage (and who always bloviated at length about the invisible hand on wages) are now going apoplectic that they're spending 25 minutes in a drive thru.

I came here to be attacked and honestly I'm having such a good time right now.

#OutOfContextDnD #FightingWeenies

Demand for vaccines is officially going down now. That means the battle royal with anti-vaxxers that I've been predicting would hit as soon as everyone who COULD get vaccinated HAD gotten vaccinated is probably only about 3-4 weeks out. It may take another month or two beyond that to really hit fever pitch, but T-rex footfalls are making the water ripple. 

It's going to be like nothing almost anyone in living memory has ever seen in our culture. Trump divisiveness and anti-science with a twist that it's not always going to be partisan (except, of course, when it is). And in a few scattershot places about the net, it's already beginning. With people absolutely unconcerned that their refusal means this all drags on longer and becomes a never-ending nightmare for folks who CAN'T vaccinate. 

Shields up.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

And We're Back! (Writer Vacations)

Aaaaaaand we're back!

I want to thank you all for your patience while I tried to do a little bit to recover from sixteen months of 60-80-hour weeks. I spent some time near nature and water and hiking and having fun. I frolicked. And it was so amazingly rejuvenating. I can't tell you how much more more able and ready I feel to just sit down and do some work. I love my job (and getting to live out the childhood dream is absolutely awesome), but it's not always unicorn rainbow farts all the way to candy mountain. This pandemic has been HARD. 

I've spent a lot of the last year and change turning personal stories into the same small handful of "writerly lessons" (mostly because every damn day was so fucking like the last that there wasn't much more than a couple of ideas I could write about), so I really want to branch out today from some of the usual. Your work/life balance and getting conscious, waking rest are as important to staying creative as is putting in LOTS of hours (probably daily) if you want to achieve some typical value of "making it," you have to keep working even when you're not feeling it to keep your discipline sharp for the times when you really are, and working creatives have to thread that needle (those needles?) carefully—usually landing on the side of too much work.

Also usually while, ironically, feeling like they're never getting enough done. Not that I would know anything about that. Oh no!

So today I want to talk about logistically what vacations look like. I can't speak for every working writer who has ever taken a vacation (or a staycation), but I have a few data points from friends, colleagues, and the process wisdom that household names occasionally share.

I'll spare you the "newly-in-love" details other than to encourage everyone to appreciate flexibility when and where you find it, and instead I will focus on the writing. (And I don't mean like scheduling or morality…NARF!)

The important thing to consider is that most working writers write, even on vacation. Maybe not a lot. Maybe one hour instead of eight. Maybe not on their Work In Progress. Maybe just a poignant Facebook post and a thoughtful email. Maybe not for things under deadline. But they DO write. They hop up an hour before the kids, tuck everyone in, grab an hour while someone else works on a puzzle, steal off with a laptop (or a pen and some paper), and do a bit of writing where they can. They are constantly writing (and reading). For a working writer, not "working" tends to mean not doing certain KINDS of writing, but it rarely means not writing at all. 

For me, writing is only SLIGHTLY less important than food, water, and shelter on my hierarchy of needs. I would no more skip writing because I was on vacation than I would skip meals.

Of course you out there reading this never have to write on vacation if you don't want to, or for even a moment longer than absolutely fulfills you as a human. But the difference between working writers and folks filling the queues of writer Q&A's asking how to "make it" is often whether they look for excuses to write less or look for excuses to write MORE. 

Much like professional musicians take their instruments everywhere (if they're at all portable), and even if they're not rehearsing with the orchestra for those days or working on a concerto, they still play some scales, arpeggios, and rhythm drills just to keep their skill sharp and their craft limber. Or a professional athlete runs a couple of miles just to stay in shape—even if they're not training or practicing with their team. 

So a bit of housekeeping for the folks who are interested in my update schedules or simply fascinated by my process. 

There will at least be one more vacation (probably the same kind of situation—a week with an extra day on either end plus the weekends) in the next month or two. When you're a crowdfunded content creator, sometimes it's difficult, even guiltifying, to take more than a day off here or there when absolutely sick or unavoidably busy. However the burnout from the last sixteen months really got into my bones. This vacation was SO rejuvenating, but it's a little like eating a full meal when you're absolutely (and non hyperbolically) starving. It helps, but you can tell you're going to need to eat again before some official designated meal time. 

After that, I'm still going to take total-time-off vacations. (I realized just before this one that since I started blogging, I haven't had more than a couple of days completely off—that I wasn't sick—since I stopped going to Burning Man. I've been doing "half on" working vacations for years now.) However, I will start spacing them out at a somewhat more typical pace—probably woven in and out with some of the working kind.

I'm also going to force myself to keep taking Thursdays off FOR NOW. My guilty content-creator brain is screaming, but I am not quite down to the nanny schedule I want, and Wednesdays are usually 8 or more hours. (My ideal schedule is about 10 hours a week, I've asked for no more than 15, and right now I'm still going over that every payroll week.) So for now I'll keep taking Thursday off.

I may have to go back to a pre-pandemic "square one" in my search for the work/life balance that lets me be a working writer but not a workaholic, but I’ll make sure I don’t forget everything I learned back in 2019, when I did a lot of my work trying to get my life in balance. Working hard is important if you want to "make it," but treating yourself like a human who needs rest is important if what "makes it" is to have a life worth living.