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

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Best Modern Fantasy by a Woman or Gender Variant Author of Color

What is the best modern fantasy book (or series) by a woman or gender variant author of color?

Since the white dudes are always crowding out other fiction on most of our open polls, here is a poll for women and gender variant authors of color.

A lot of white women authors got nominated, which of course meant they weren't eligible for our poll. I cruised their bios to see if there was something I was missing (whiteness being a little slippery as a concept for folks who pass but might be Jewish or multiethnic or just light skinned), but I didn't see anything mentioned in any case. If someone knows something I don't about an author that got skipped, let me know and I'll update the poll. It was my fault, I'm pretty sure. The way I wrote the prompt was a little confusing.

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

Our poll was pulled from your nominations, and as I said, I tallied up the "seconds" a title had gotten (or nominations later on down the page) and looked at what had received the most to create a number between 8-24. While I'm willing to do a semifinal round, I'm not willing to do endless elimination rounds and quarterfinals and such just because we're getting more participation on our polls. (Which is awesome, but I don't want every poll to take six months.) In this case NINE titles stood out with five "seconds" or more.]

At first I wasn't sure about putting NK Jemisin and Octavia Butler on the poll twice, but then I remembered how many times Neil Gaiman or Stephen King have gotten two (or more) slots on a poll–even the final round.

Everyone will get three (3) votes.

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Research and Trust (by Claire Youmans)

Research and Trust 
by Claire Youmans

I write historical fiction/fantasy adventure. I can’t just make it all up.  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series mixes the history of the Meiji era in Japan with Japanese folklore, so I can make some things up.  Japanese folklore tends to be short, simple and fluid.  What I’ve discovered through 4.5 books (I am writing Book 5 now), is that if I start with the basic folk tale, no matter what I make up, somebody’s grandma somewhere told it that way. While I tell the history through the characters and am limited by their perspectives, their stories need to be both plausible and possible given the history of this incredible time period.  I can’t write something that clearly never could have happened and claim my fiction is historical.  Rifles, for example, existed nowhere in the world in 1629*. The cotton gin was not a fact in 1406.  Research is necessary. Accurate details lead to trust on the part of your reader, who will more readily suspend disbelief and accept your fiction happily.

Right now, I am in Korea, absorbing even more culture and history, waiting for my Japanese residency visa. This is not without peril and comes with a lot of expense. Yet, since I write a series, I like to get out a book a year. Book 5, working title, Noriko’s Journey, will be late and there isn’t one darned thing I can do about it. Moving halfway across the world is no easy task! So, Japanese Immigration Office or no, I have to keep on plugging, and that leads to research.

While I’ve spent about 6 weeks a year in Japan, on average, for many years, and written 4 books set there, much of my research has been conducted on line. As I sit in a Seoul hotel room, which both interestingly and oddly, has no window**, I have reached a time in the story when I have to make sure I have Noriko’s past absolutely clear. Lady Satsuki is coming! The Dragon Queen has granted Noriko a title, and will be very hot under the collar if Noriko doesn’t use it! She must register her marriage! I had plans to visit a few more places and use that information. Visiting the places I have has been beneficial. But now, I have to make something up and use the Internet to make it plausible rather than on the ground research. The two are different.

If you’re writing fiction, it’s not only OK to make things up, but necessary. Is is also necessary to make them plausible. The sights and sounds and tastes and smells, the way the wind chills or warms your skin and where it usually comes from at any given time of day are things best found at the place you’re writing about, or a place very like it. That’s sensory information that can best be obtained on the ground. A family history can be researched on line, and if it is confusing to the point of ridiculousness, more the better for me, because I can create a plausible story within the framework of that family history and not step on anybody’s toes.  I can do that on-line.

If you are describing a journey on foot, it is better to travel that path than omit the fact that there is a big and very real mountain in the way and your character can’t just skip around or over it without even alluding to it! Oh, it is possible to research it, but you need to know you have to — and you do.

A  popular author lost me for all time when he described a sport and a journey I know extremely well — incorrectly. He could have looked it up on line, but he didn’t. If he’d ever visited the area he wrote about he would have noticed that very big mountain. It’s hard to miss. I lost trust in that writer. I have never read another thing he’s written. I can’t believe anything he says.

Research is all about trust. You can make small mistakes. It’s fine if you miss something that your POV character couldn’t and wouldn’t have needed to know to do what the character wanted to do or did. It’s when you miss Really Big Mountain (which is how the native name for Mt. Rainer translates) that you lose your reader’s trust. When you do that, you’ll lose that reader and may never get that reader back. Do your research, both online and on the ground. It matters.

*Yes, there were guns in 1629, but both rifles and the cotton gin were invented in the mid-ninteeth century.
** I pretend I’m on a space ship to avoid claustrophobia. 

Besides writing 6 published books, poetry and an anthologized short story, Claire Youmans has sailed oceans, owned horses and taught skiing. She recently moved to Japan in furtherance of writing more in the well-reviewed Toki-Girl and Sparrow-Boy series of historical fantasy and adventure books set in Meiji-era Japan. She’s currently working on Book 5. These charming books have a following among college students and adults because of the exciting mix of history and folklore, leading to sometimes fantastic adventures, but are also loved by children, fourth grade and up. Writing The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series is a passion she fully enjoys. She’ll stay in Japan as long as they’ll keep her, writing more books about this fascinating culture and its incredible history in this very readable series. Of course, there are dragons.

Retailers and readers may order through Ingram, for worldwide distribution, in hard copies and all E-formats. 

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 (close) look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

ACTUAL Protip: Don't Do This

I don't normally mess with author gossip here on Writing About Writing. Our incestual little industry has enough tricky-to-navigate gullies and plateaus without accumulating the enemies one would by taking sides every time there was some infighting.

This one, however, caught my eye.

It caught my eye for two reasons. 1) It was a shocking display and 2) it went viral even among my NON-writing friends.

The writing world doesn't get lessons like this very often. It takes years of learning how to learn, watching and studying masters craft skillfully, and practicing their techniques with infinite forbearance (and no small measure of patience for attempts that do not measure up) to have even a sense of what TO do that goes beyond instinct and perseverance. 

But it only takes one bumbling mistake to be a lesson for the ages in what NOT to do.

Here's a short rundown for the uninitiated: Terry Goodkind announces a contest on his Facebook over how bad his cover was. "Laughably bad," is his exact words.

And this was by way of a contest where the stingiest stinger about how shitty the art was would get a free book.

The artist who DID the cover art, Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme, basically said "Hi. Artist here. This isn't cool," in the comments and then made his own post pointing out that in decades he's never been treated that way as an artist. Terry has since kind of backpedaled, blamed the publisher for commissioning a work that didn't really reflect the emotional core of the book (or something), and that the quality of the art is good. He apologized to the artist, and did say that it wasn't their Lecouffe-Deharme's skillful art he was upset at, but rather the publisher that overruled his objections to the artwork. Still the damage to his professional reputation had been done and switching out who he threw under the bus for a target everyone loves to hate ("The Publisher") didn't work as seamlessly as Terry was probably hoping.

Make a mental note here folks. Lesson number one happens before the breakdown even starts: This is a VERY established author who has (apparently) ZERO control over the cover art on their book. That's the way traditional publishing works.

Personally, I don't read Terry Goodkind. I've got enough in my TBR list to last about 80 years and that's if no one writes another word starting now, so I am pretty okay with not reading overtly Randian/Objectivist themes that use rape every other chapter as a plot device in my fluffpuff fantasy.

To be sparkling, crystal lake clear, I'm absolutely okay reading what I call "popcorn books" (the saga/chronicle SF/Fantasy books of NOTORIOUSLY flat prose that started flooding the market in the early 90's when publishers realized they were cash cows [of which Goodkind is sort of infamously associated]–popcorn books are light, fluffy, and not very nutritious). I'm also totally okay–and even enjoy–reading authors I disagree with and who really force me to think about things, but when I reach for a book by choice, it is almost never the combination. 

But this isn't about Goodkind's writing. I don't have an opinion on that. His professional behavior though is a cascade of lessons in what writers should never, EVER do. Particularly with regards to an aspect of their creation that involves the creative efforts of other people. It's sort of en-vogue for authors to low-key hate their publishers (a strange sort of antagonism if you think about it for just a moment), but the other artists involved in a project are another matter.

Goodkind isn't in any danger of losing his die hard fans–they have raced to his defense on every post (and will again if they find this one). But folks who just so-so liked Goodkind have a bad taste in their mouths. Those who were ambivalent are recoiling in disgust. And those who never knew him are vowing they won't pick up a book of his willingly. Ever. I'm guessing this little faux pas costs him, and for an author as commercially popular as he is, I'd bet it's low to middle five figures of pain. 


Whether you agree or not (and clearly I have my opinion) that's probably not the result he was looking for doing a social media promotion.

If he simply didn't care, that would be one thing. We all have our lines in the sand and our principles. Sometimes I have to let the dudebros and Status Quo Defenders walk away offended from my own social media interactions knowing that they may never buy a book of mine again. And fuck if that isn't just a-okay with me.

But if it's not a matter of principle, that's a lot to pay for not just apologizing to a (very rightfully) insulted artist with some sincerity and grace. Or better yet making the OP clear that you're talking about the publisher-commissioned content (and not the quality of the art in the first place). Or even better STILL, contacting the artist before you run your art-bashing poll and taking their temperature on the language. ("I was thinking I might describe the cover as 'laughably bad.' Oh hey, yeah. Yeah okay I can totally see how that might..... Oh absolutely. So you'd prefer it if I used the term 'Great work but laughably out of touch with my vision'? Yeah okay. I can really feel how that changes the flavor. We cool?  Okay awesome. Nice chat.")

I mean how do you think the visual art world is going to feel about working on his projects now?

"Gosh Terry, it looks like your bardbarian psychic in front of the
Death Legions guarding The Castle of Ultimate Doom to me!"

Here's the crank of it: I can totally see this happening. You get wrapped up in your own shit. You hate the cover. You kick and scream. The publisher vetoes you. That really sticks in your craw because you've published like a zillion books (and all but four of them in one never-ending series) and you'd like to have your artwork taken seriously. You kind of feel like that cover is a part of your book and so you can trash talk it all you want without any consequence. And you start talking about how the cover sucks in open company. And in your mind this is really only between you and your publisher.

We've all done something similar. We see things through OUR lens when we're upset, and we sometimes take petty steps on social media that maybe ignore the nuances of who else might see our wording in a different way or be hurt by it.

But fuck if the artist of that cover personally shows up and calls you out, you don't say "Pffft. Wasn't talking to that pissed off guy–so anyway about this contest," on another post speaking to your fans. (Not unless, of course, you want to be remembered for taking a shit on an artist for a very long time.) If, on the other hand, you care about trashing the professional reputation you've spent years building, you trip over yourself to make sure that, from one artist to another, you apologize profusely for the miscommunication and you walk it back for the world to see. You salvage that shred of professional integrity that will be left if–IF–you get forgiveness from the artist and make nice with everyone involved. You don't just shell game the blame and toss the apology into an almost throw away sentence inside of four paragraphs about how you didn't REALLY do anything wrong. Professional writers don't often choose their words poorly. 

If he didn't mean to dis the artist, the language in the OP and the whole "contest" was unconscionably insensitive, and it was incredibly naive to think the artist wouldn't find out. If he did mean to dis the artist he probably forgot that shit can go viral in a New York minute. Either way, it's a pretty big lesson for all of us in the bleachers about what not to do.

Social media is a ridiculously unpredictable animal, and today's writers are pretty much condemned to have to navigate it. So without telling you WHAT to do (as that is your choice), please remember that if you step on another artist's toes the world may get the instant replay in screenshots and links and then be watching to see what you do next. Doubling down and nonpologies can actually do your writing career some very real damage.

But perhaps more importantly, even if the world weren't watching, if you botch your writing so badly that someone thinks you're cutting into their creative work of hundreds of hours (and that's not exactly what you were trying to do), perhaps it is better to be good and kind. And less Goodkind.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Diary of a Sick Writer

Yes, writers get sick.

Even the ones who jump up and down on your dining room furniture and scream like a howler monkey that the secret to "success" (should that, for you, mean anything other than enjoying writing for its own sake when the spirit moves you) is to write daily.

And sometimes we have to "call in." In some respect or another.

I'm on the mend but definitely still recovering. This morning I woke up feeling just so much fucking better. However, I was quickly reminded that I still had some convalescing to do.

Me: I'm SO MUCH BETTER. I'm going to go live! I feel life in my veins. The possibilities are endless. Energy courses through me. The merging is complete! The world is my oyster. I might even go out tonight. THE HIIIIIILLLLS ARE ALLLLLIVE WITH THE SOUND OF-

*falls asleep for 3 1/2 hours despite getting 12 hours last night*

Me: Maybe I'll just write a little filler post and stay up past nine instead.

One of the most frequent questions I get these days is some variation of "How can I do what you have done?" How can I get paid. How can I get these readership numbers.  How can I afford brand name peanut butter as a working writer? It's not like I'm secretive about it. (This entire blog serves as a real-time of my entire writing career arc.) However, I think a lot of them are hoping I'm going to drop some kind of secret or trick.

There isn't one.

The only "secret" is to have a very unhealthy life/work balance. The only "secret" is that writing is something I can't wait to do and I try to do every day.

So as a quickie today while I'm mostly still bed-resting, let me make sure that people know that I'm really QUITE serious about writing every day for the starting writer who wants to "make it." I don't say this to judge anyone for the "realness" of their writerhood or to insist that there's no other way to cross the finish line of Really Real Writer™ (though it ranks). I don't say it so that those of you who don't or can't write daily are racked with guilt.

I say it more more because of those questions about success that I get so often, and because I so often see folks treat artists as a group that works infrequently and only when inspiration hits rather than often harder than most clock punchers.

I knew I wasn't going to be able to write a blog these last couple of days. I had a headache from coughing and I was sleeping 16 hours. Even your average "fluffy" blog takes me a couple of hours and the longer ones take five to eight–some of the really involved ones take 20 hours or maybe more.

I couldn't blog, but I didn't stop writing. I plucked at a longer gun control post that will probably be going up in the next couple of weeks. I wrote a little fiction. I noodled on something for next week. I never got out of bed, but I propped myself up on a pillow and clacked away between naps and headaches. I made excuses that I wasn't that sick and slipped a little writing in where I could.

The last time I wasn't able to write at all, I was running a 102 fever and couldn't keep down water.

When I say write every day, I don't always mean the twelve hour marathons. I don't always mean dedicated hours on the work in progress. Sometimes the best you can do is fifteen minutes propped up on a pillow before the next wave of sinus pressure headache hits.

I'm not going to tell anyone that the way to make it as a writer is being willing to write until and unless one is brain-meltingly sick, but I do think there's a link between between making the time to write and struggling to do it every day (or almost every day–even just a little) and this wild, out-there concept of "making it."

I think that it's very conspicuous and revealing that in a wide sampling of folks who have made it to where so many express their florid desire to be, the consistent theme is artists who make excuses to DO their art rather than those who make their excuses not to.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Best Modern Fantasy by a Woman or Gender Variant Person of Color (Last call for nominations and seconds)

What is the best modern fantasy written by a woman or gender variant person of color? 

I am excited to run polls that don't just celebrate the same 20-30 white guys over and over, but I really need your help to see those polls succeed.

We totally need more nominations!

Be sure and drop the comment ON THE ORIGINAL POST or it will get lost in the crossfire. That's also where you'll find the rules if you're confused about anything. There was a time when I could really go round and gather up all the breadcrumb nominations from all the various social media and posts, but things are way too busy now.

Seconds are also needed. (And thirds. And fourths.) I won't be doing endless quarterfinal and elimination rounds. I will find a number somewhere between 8 and 22 of the most "seconded" titles. And there will either be two quick semifinal rounds or just the final round. I know that three and beyond aren't actually "seconds" but do yo

So drop a nomination or two and second everything you want to see on the poll.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Writer is Sick (Maybe? Probably. Yes.)

My body is having a gleeful time playing my favorite game: Genuinely Go-Back-to-Bed Sick? or Just a Little Sick and Blah?

Are those sniffles a mild cold or the sign of something serious? Did I suddenly need a nap because I didn't get enough rest this weekend or because I'm fighting something? That was the fifth sneeze in an hour? Am I ACHY achy or just a little sore. Do I feel warm to you?

I'm surrounded by sick people right now (seriously, it's like everybody I live with and everyone I work my side gigs with) and every sniff and sneeze I'm sure I'm about to be laid out with the plague that they've gotten.

It's not that I can't struggle through a few symptoms. Actually, I'm pretty good at it. 

A little too good.

If you remember the end of 2016, I struggled through a little sinus infection and ended up with bronchitis and an advice nurse ordering me to bed if I didn't want to end up with walking pneumonia. And this last summer I was sleepwalking due to exhaustion and apparently sleep-watched Iron Fist and shit posted on FB all day, so that's a weird thing to wake up to TWO days later. Anyway, the point is, my problem isn't working through "just the sniffles." It's actually taking it easy when I need some rest.

Thus, if I were a clock puncher at a regular job, I'd be calling in today, so I'm going to let my 148 bosses know that I'm out today and will probably phone it in tomorrow. I'm usually all about writing as long as my brain is not broiling in a fever, and today has been no exception, but it's more of a little of this, and a little of that and a free form kind of creative flow, and not sit-down-for-four-hours-and-write-a-post type focus.

I've got a guest post here in the hopper and everyone is going to need a proper ass kicking if our latest poll is going to be anything but lackluster.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

I Really Really Really Hate That Word! (Mailbox)

If only I could think of a word for this
really wet, damp, humid mailbox.
I hate this word!  You? 

[C.N. Some words people really, really don't like.]

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer a couple a week.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. I will...make every effort to be kind if you don't send me hate mail.]   

Rebecca asks: 

The comments for the 'saunter' post reminded me that I have a long unanswered question: We all have favorite words and phrases. These favorites, for the most part, are dynamic and change over time. But there is a word I dislike. I genuinely dislike the word 'strive'. It makes my brain itchy. If Strive were a person I'd warn my neighbors to be wary of it. I've felt this enmity for almost 20 years now. Do you have a word like this- a word you genuinely dislike and maybe will always dislike?

My reply:

[I added the link to the above question.]

You know it's going to take, like, every ounce of willpower I have not to fill this with a ridiculous number of uh....the word that is a synonym for struggle into this answer, right? But I will....erm....make every effort to do so.

Unfortunately someone out there didn't, uh, try hard to come up with any particularly latin sounding or clever portmanteau for this concept. It's just called "word aversion." (We should...hnnng...jockey to come up with a better term.) The most common one you hear these days is probably the word moist. The words panties and crevice seem to come up a lot too. I have a friend (who, if they're reading, should skip to the next paragraph) who simply can't handle the word yum or nom. It will absolutely upset them and they kind of ask everyone around them on Facebook to...uh...endeavor to leave them off of posts if they're going to use those words.

Linguists have...erm....strained to figure out why this physiological reaction happens with some people. It goes beyond people who are annoyed by the overuse of "like" or the descriptive use of decimate, literary, or miracle to describe a pedestrian childbirth. Most people confuse this with their prescriptive pet peeves and will describe something they are just really annoyed by, but it's actually closer to acute misophonia. It's an actual visceral, physiological reaction to the word itself that exists almost no matter how hard folks....labor to be okay with the word. In some cases it can make folks actually nauseated.

Most people think they've got word aversion if they're just cranky about misuse of literally, but that's really mostly them being cantankerous and irascible about prescriptive grammar.

One thing they really have to, um, bend over backwards to compensate for is the "downhill snowball" effect of people's learned distaste. For example, with so many mainstream examples of word aversion to the word moist some people dislike the word simply because they've been culturally trained to. It's the en vogue word that many shows and characters love to hate.

It's actually a pretty fascinating. The word seems intractably tethered in some minds to the concept it represents, which is where the true revulsion lies. Words that only have one letter changed, rhyme, or contain the offensive word in larger words often cause no reaction, and–this is where it gets really neat–people who study words and/or language often have no word aversions because they understand how arbitrarily words are linked with the concepts they represent. And people who are bilingual or multilingual almost NEVER have word aversions because they understand this arbitrariness at an even more fundamental level. So if you're...um...making every effort to overcome the brain itchy reaction, Rebecca, it might help to get a degree in linguistics and learn a couple of languages. That doesn't seem like an overreaction, does it?

In the meantime, I...do my utmost not to use those words around the people in question, but sometimes running a blog means that I....um....toil in vain. Personally I don't have any words that really bother me, although I am often slightly annoyed by the prissy onomatopoeia in the word "tinkle" when used to talk about peeing rather than delicate glass bumping noises. This may also have to do with an alcoholic grandmother who started to use the word excessively (almost gleefully) after her third sherry and a Stephen King short story where one of the characters also overuses the word to the main character's revulsion.

But really I just assay to remember that we all have different foibles when it comes to language. What about everyone reading? Any words you viscerally can't stand?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Day Needed

Hi all,

I need a day.

Big feels. Mostly about a country that has decided that the bodies of murdered children are just the cost of doing business. I still take my shoes off for every flight, endure seven Benghazi probes because "something something American lives," and listen to the justification of all manner of LGBTQIA+ bigotry be because "won't someone think of the children," but this is apparently just something liberals need to get over.

But also a little peep I'm very, very fond of (my favorite peep in the whole world, in fact) is going to start school this year. Today, at least, I literally can't even.

Mostly big feels bring me to the page, and turn into big posts. Today is no exception. I'm hate typing as hard as I can without the keys popping off my keyboard and flying under the desk and bed. If you know me, you know I usually take my laptop into my pillow fort and come out swinging as soon as the Ben and Jerry's is gone. Today is no exception.  And I'll want to make sure I fine tooth comb what I'm writing and dot all the i's.

So give me a day.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Help! My T.A. Says I Sound Like Alice Munro (Mailbox)

What do I do if my TA says I sound too much like another author?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer a couple a week.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. Yes, I might let you jump the substantial queue of questions if your question is good and seems time sensitive.]   

Peggy writes:

Hi Chris, enjoying your blog and finding it quite informative.

I am a mature student working toward a degree in Creative Writing at a Canadian University. In my creative writing class we have been assigned a short story to write and the TA (who marks my work), he has provided a critique. He says that it is quite fine for the course, but that if I try to get this story published I will face obstacles since it looks like I am trying to imitate Alice Munro. I am not trying to do that, it is just the way I write (I am 63 years old and grew up in small town Ontario, like she did - if that explains it, I don’t know). Anyway, he told me to try and change my writing voice- maybe write in first person rather than 3rd and maybe change up the way I write so it is not so similar to Munro’s “voice”. 

I am not sure if this is a problem of interest to others, and so maybe not for your “WAW mailbox, but I thought I would ask your thoughts about writing “voice” and if you think this will be a problem for me to get anything published.

My reply:

Alice Munro won a Nobel Prize in Literature (in 2013) and is herself pushing 90.  Finding another would be a publisher's wet dream come true.

I'm going to write two replies today Peggy. Because in the absence of a story I can read for myself, I'm not sure what's going on with your TA, but I feel like it's not 100% fair to assume that he's full of shit. Instead we will treat him like Schrodinger's T.A.–simultaneously full of shit and not full of shit at the same time because physics.

Your T.A. is full of shit.

I'm not sure what your T.A. means by that, Peggy. What it probably means is that your T.A. has had to read a lot of Alice Munro for his own classes lately, and he's got Alice Munro on the brain. Like you know how some people see the Virgin Mary in a cheese danish or swear that the cloud in the sky looks like the face of their Arch Guru. Maybe that's what's going on?

Or maybe he's trying to show off that he can connect your writing style to someone...anyone. MFA's (I'm assuming he's an MFA if he's T.A.ing your Creative Writing class) love to show off how well read they are by telling writers who they sound like. Because they've totally read that person. Absolutely. And not just for class that one time. Oh no.

I don't want to get you in trouble, but my first response to this would probably be: "Oh? How so?" Because then there's about a 99% chance that the ensuing tap dance will be at least entertaining.

So here you have a T.A. who has given you marks for your story and then decides that it's his job to tell you if you're going to get published or not. I wonder, does he have some extensive experience in publishing that you don't know about? Does he know what publishers want? I mean it's possible that he might, but most T.A.'s are still in school because they have the same dreams as other writers–to be read and published and crack the mystery of how a writer "makes it."

And not to put too fine a point on it, but if you sounded "too much like Alice Munro" you would already be in danger of getting a NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE. So what the fuck is the problem exactly?

Oh and for 500 points and control of the board, see if you can guess the MOST common bit of writing advice given by people who aren't really sure how to give writing advice. Did you guess "Try changing the point of view"? Yeeeeeeaaaaaah. Not that it is always bad advice (it's not), but it sure does a lot of standing in for more substantive criticism about narrative distance or subjectivity.

Look, there are lots of ways to give advice about how to improve a short story. T.A.'s aren't the nicest or the most teacherly–they're usually just the students that have the highest combination of "Did well last semester in that instructor's class" and "Financial need." Most of them are quite capable of really taking a careful read or two and a really considered approach to what an author was trying to do. And if T.A. wasn't taking his own classes, writing his own novel, probably some kind of side gig or three, and maybe even a social life, you might be getting that sweet, sweet ambrosia they can dish out. But frankly,  "This is too much like a Nobel Laureate in Literature to ever be published so try switching it to 3rd person" is NOT one of those ways.

Your T.A. is not full of shit.

I'm sort of guessing that you would have mentioned it if you were trying to imitate Alice Munro (rather than lie to me, trying to surreptitiously get away with it). I mean Raymond Carver writes a lot like Ernest Hemingway, and it's definitely not some sort of accident.  (It also surely didn't bother any publishers.) Most of us copy a little too closely when we're first starting to emulate our influences.

I suppose it's possible that you're similar enough that your T.A. is worried about you sounding derivative. He probably is pretty capable of doing a close, good-faith reading if he puts his heart into it. And he may even have some valuable advice for how to improve your work. Perhaps your narrative is really pulling in the direction that an omniscient narrator or distant lense would work better. One person suggested your TA might be trying to "trick" you into doing what they want, because accusing you of imitating a brilliant writer is always better than just saying, "I think this needs an omniscient third to pull off what you're trying to do."

Alice Munro's voice is sort of the apex blending of a flowing and minimalist style. Crisp declarative sentences continually punctuate these long, flowing, concrete-imagery-laden sentences with parentheticals set off by em dashes that kind of suck you into them like a boot in the mud. You can basically see Munro's heavy influence by both modernism and minimalism and the way she delights in using the anxiety between the two in her prose to set off the anxieties between simple and complicated dynamics in her story.

It's sort of brilliant, but if folks don't know what they're doing it's like just adding a bunch of commas randomly because you want to be ee cummings. Maybe your TA wants you to avoid that.

If you sat down and read a shitton of Alice Munro before you wrote that story, she might have influenced your style. I always write long Byzantine sentences with thick vocabulary choices after reading someone like Poe or Lovecraft but find my sentence style and length varying and filled with analogies after I've read Morrison. So maybe (MAYBE) you might need to work on finding your own voice. (Writing in the morning before you've had a chance to read can help you with that.)

Short of that though, it might just be your style. Maybe it's just a happy accident. And if T.A. picked up on a similarity, well good for him. I'd get a second opinion, but it does happen. If that's your voice, that's your voice. Trying to write outside of it is going to be like walking around and speaking in a lower or higher octave all the time. (It's possible, but it's always going to feel a little unnatural.) There are certainly worse things to be said about a prose than that it's Alice Munro-like.

And if you're going to be writing another couple of drafts anyway before you push it out of the nest and hope it can fly, you might consider seeing what happens if you change that point of view–it can deeply change the narrative distance and/or the ease of changing the objectivity vs. subjectivity.

What you should do about it?

Fortunately your play is the same no matter which one of Schrodinger's T.A.'s this guy is.

Don't worry about it. Yet. Or maybe ever.

If you're not ready to publish (particularly that piece), just keep developing your voice and writing what brings you bliss. Unless you're being intentionally derivative and keep trying to do so, you'll find your own way and unique narrative voice in time.

If you are ready to publish, submit your story, and see what the actual gatekeepers say. This guy is a T.A. If he's published anything, it's probably a story in a literary magazine that got him ten free copies as payment. (Not that that's not a start, and not that there's anything wrong with that, but he might not know what he's talking about.) If you get back from a few agents and publishers that you sound "too much" like Alice Munro, then maybe it's time to think about how to change things up.

To be honest, I seriously doubt that's going to happen. That's really not the kind feedback that gatekeepers give writers. (Trust me, I know a lot of them.) Sometimes they do get criticism about their voice, but rarely that it's derivative of [X]. (Certainly not where X is someone who writes so fucking beautifully.) "Derivative" is a much more common criticism of plot or characters. Mostly the struggle to get published is not about finding one's voice; that tends to happen one way or another with enough writing. Mostly it is about compelling narrative and character and a base level of prose skill. I also can't really imagine a publisher that would be too upset if they found another Alice Munro. I mean really!

If you're super worried about the whole accusation, read some Munro and see what you think. Fiddle with your narrative point of view if you want. It's YOUR art. Maybe you can see a few sentences where you totally did X or Y. And if they bother YOU, then change them.

I suspect what you're going to find, though, is that you don't think your writing is anything like Munro's and your T.A. was just dropping names.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

January's Best

As I scramble to get a post done for Friday (or tragically, more likely for NEXT Friday) with enough time to spare that my "Early Access" Patreons can enjoy before it goes live (and for longer than just a few hours), it suddenly occurred to me that in the rush of end of YEAR stuff, we skipped some end of January business.

So without further ado, here are January's best three non-poll articles that will go on to untold fame in The Best of W.A.W.

Ursula K. LeGuin (In Memoriam)  

2018 Update Schedule (Buckle up Broflakes and SQiD'sThis meta update updating people on what the new update schedule was going to be (once updated) was probably more popular than it had any right to be.

A Dozen Ways to Help You Not Write Every Day (If That's Your Jam"Write every day" is excellent advice, but if you can't or don't want to, here's a list of ways to help still get good results.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Best Modern Fantasy By a Woman or Gender Variant Person of Color (Nominations Needed)

What is the best modern fantasy written by a woman or gender variant person of color?  

[Edit: Thank you for all the nominations. We have moved on to the poll itself.]

A thing happens whenever I run a poll. Because of the fact that the publishing industry is whitewashed (and still somewhat sexist), white supremacy is alive and well (and always has been), neonazis and their little proto-neonazi versions, the Sad Puppies, can always be counted on to be offended if anyone other than white dudes gets recognized (For anything. Ever.).... And because, of course, for edgelords who are "only ironically" being bigots even though it looks exactly the same and does all the same institutional harm, and SQiDs who would clutch their pearls at the suggestion that they are anything but absolutely egalitarian but feel the need to balance out all these "just as bad" movements that are organizing, recruiting, radicalizing, arming, marching in the streets with assault rifles, have killed 18 people in 2017, and have major influence in the highest levels of the current administration and are using it to codify white their views into law using all caps in social media and hurting their feelings. And of course, a lot of people who aren't any of these things but are exposed to the background radiation of a culture that is don't acknowledge the influence such things are having on their choices and never think to compensate for it.

The end result: every poll that doesn't explicitly exclude white dudes becomes all about the white dudes.

Every. Single. One.

So since A) certain topics are wildly popular and B) we run the "open" versions of them every couple of years, I look forward to the chance to get some entirely different titles and excellent book suggestions here.


1- As always, I leave the semantics about "fantasy" to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. I might arch an eyebrow at your ridiculous stretch to get, but I'm not going to argue.

2- To avoid multi-decade spanning series being on our poll because an author tossed out a recent sequel, the book (OR FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES) must have a copyright date no earlier than 1992. If your series kicked off in the eighties, you'll have to pick one book (that came later) to nominate.

3- You may nominate two (2) works of modern fantasy. Remember that I am a terrifying megalomaniac who hates creativity and all things that hint at free will.  I will NOT take any books or series beyond the second that you suggest. (I will consider everything after your second rec in a long list to be "seconds" if the work is nominated before or after yours.)

3- You may (and should) second as many nominations of others as you wish. That is the only way they'll be making it to the final poll.

4- IF YOU DROP A NOMINATION AS A COMMENT ON FB (or wherever) IT WILL NOT BE COUNTED! Please put your nominations here. I will take nominations on reminder posts; however, they may not get the seconds you need to go onto our poll because no one will see them. But I can't can't can't CAN'T sift through all the social media cross posting. I just don't have time anymore. 

5- I can no longer handle months of of qualifying rounds, quarterfinals, semifinals all to reach the final round of our poll. So I'm hereby announcing that these polls will not go over two semifinal rounds of ten choices each. That means I'm taking the "top" twenty nominations.....at most. But if I can narrow it down to a single poll of eight choices, that's what I'll do. Or at least as close as I can get it to those perimeters. Top choices are those which get the most "seconds."  (Yes, I know that technically makes them thirds and fourths...and whateverths.)

6- "Best" means whatever you as a reader think it should. Most challenging. Most engaging. Most fun. Most literary. Most readable. It's up to you what "best" means.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Book Was SO Much Better (Poll Results)

What book was so much better than the movie (or show).

Seems like Peter Jackson took a predictable (and utterly deserved) level of hate for turning the Hobbit into a steaming three-part pile of bullshit with a few good visual effects.

Thank you all so much for your participation in our newly structured poll (where we don't do months of elimination rounds).  The results shook out about like it seemed they were going to early with only a couple of surprised down around 3rd and 4th place.

We'll start the nomination process for our new poll tomorrow!

Text results below.

The Hobbit 263 18.15%
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 225 15.53%
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 188 12.97%
Eragon 181 12.49%
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief 175 12.08%
Dune 149 10.28%
World War Z 108 7.45%
The Dark Tower 102 7.04%
Starship Troopers 58 4%

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Non Financial Help (Four things that help but cost nothing)

Normally I limit my "appeals posts" to once a month here (and once around the 15th directly to the social media I frequent) so they don't come off as spammy. I get annoyed when artists are overbearing about that stuff and I'm not going to push it on anyone else. However my usual appeals posts are definitely trying to encourage financial support, and the question comes up a lot (directly and in comments) about how to help if even $1 a month is not in the cards.

So today, since it's the weekend and I'm not really going to be able to post a full post until tomorrow, I'm doing a quazi-mailbox to all those folks.

How can you help if you've just trying to survive capitalism and moths are flying out of your pockets? It's possible to help without ever paying a dime. (One of my patron muses for two years was a guy who just "liked" everything. He never sent me a penny.)

1- Subscribe

Follow me on Facebook or Twitter (or both).  Subscribe to my blog through Blogger. Sign up to get email notifications. Stalk the shit out of me.

You don't even have to actually pay attention to these things. You could even mute/unfollow/whatever me. It just helps if you're following.

(*begins folksy annecdote that at first seems to have nothing to do with the topic at hand*)

My latest client has a big screen TV in their bedroom hooked up with all the streaming stuff. It's so swank. Normally I would just read before bed, but this set up gave me the chance to catch up on some TV since I'm always and ever criminally behind on pop culture.

I've really been enjoying Black Mirror (even though some of the episodes are quite hard to watch) because of their critique on social media. I've watched one or two episodes a night the whole time I've been here. Some of those episodes are just a little too spot on with where the spectacular fuckery of social media is heading.

But there is no doubt that when the world of algorithms and reach projections takes a look at a blogger like me, what they look for is my numbers. How many subscribers do I have? How many followers? How many this? How many that? Is Chris a "4.5"?

There's a reason I get five or ten offers a day to advertise on my Facebook page but G+ doesn't seem to know I exist. (On FB I have 650,000 followers.) I'm not particularly thrilled at the deluge of spam and bullshit, but some of the real opportunities are offered by folks who are all looking at those same numbers. Opportunities like being featured on podcasts or being invited to speak on panels are often about numbers, and you can help me look like I'm a big deal.

2- Share on social media!

A lot of people love my style and topics. A few really like them.

And a whole fucking shit ton of people don't. I'm not their jam. I'm too soft, too hard, too sweet, too fucking whatever for their taste. I say fuck too much. I don't say fuck enough. I am not artsy enough. I'm too fucking touchy feely. A wild-eyed radical who rages against the machine. A bougie bet hedger who won't burn the whole thing down. Not everyone likes my style. Not everyone cares about writing. Whatever....

The hardest part about blogging is getting the word out because basically the way social media works is that I CAN'T DO IT ALONE!

If I share a post on social media it's all my same friends seeing it again and again. They all secretly (and some not so secretly) want me to shut up. For the everloving sweet buttlicking Jesus shitsnacks, Chris, shut the FUCK UP about it.

Finding my niche and those folks who really appreciate the work I am doing is tougher than running down a cephlapoid on foot (#20yearoldpopculturereferencFTW), so helping push that process along is incredibly helpful. You have friends I've never met. You can promote a few of my links without getting blacklisted. Some of the folks out there are going love what I do, but I'll never know if they're too busy binge watching Puffin Rock to find me.  Simply share those articles you really like on various social media in order to help me to find the narrow niche of people who like both what I'm saying and how I'm saying it.

They're out there...but I could use your help to find them.

3- Click the little buttons.  A lot.

Facebook is essentially openly running a Payola scam where you have to pay them if you want your own followers and fans–the folks who have literally signed up to see you–to actually see your content.

Complicating this bullshit, in today's world of web content designers and search engine competition there is a "Red Queen Race" between content providers trying to figure out how to trick a search engine into listing them higher on a Google search and search engines trying to figure out what is web content bullshit.

Google is constantly coming up with new tricks to make sure someone who's just dropping keyword rich text into a fluff piece doesn't end up on the first page of a search.  One of the most effective ways to help an article get more traffic (by being a higher result on a search engine) is to do things like give it "Likes," "+1s" and "Thumbs Up," little hearts, approving glances, eighties head bobbing computer kid gif reacts, whatever.  If you want to help W.A.W. maybe be just a little more generous with your social media engagement.

This is real love, right here.
Thanks Brent.
4- Comment or drop me a line.  

Seriously, this doesn't help my numbers or my algorithms or me to hook up with some massive patron of the arts who has thousands of dollars a month to burn or an apartment in Oakland I can use indefinitely for free or something. It's just a bit of kindness that goes a long way.

"I'll stay home and write all night
While you go have a beer....."
Shit. Wrong Paula Cole song.
Most of the time, this is a thankless job that I do because I love it for its own sake. I make barely enough to get by (if I gave up my car, cell phone, and eating anything that wasn't a PB&J or ramen) for fifty hours or so of work a week.  There have been a deplorable lack of hawt groupie threesomes since ever. And almost the only time anyone slides into my inbox or PMs is when they want something from me. (Usually free advertising or free tutoring.)

Most of the time no one makes a comment unless they've got a problem with something I've written or want to show off themselves in some way, so I tend to have a skewed idea of how antagonistic my readers are. Fuck, half the time I get these anonymous nast-o-grams that are absolutely intended to make my cry like the Dawson's Creek meme. It's really nice to hear some of the good stuff from time to time whether it's just an article you particularly liked, or a general appreciation of my work.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


For folks not on other social media that I have updated with what's going on today, this is just a quick reminder that I'm on lockdown today writing an "Inside Scoop" letter to my $25+ Patrons (and some of the Kickstarter backers as well), and I'll be back tomorrow (though with something light if I'm still working on this).

This HAS to get done.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Happy 6th Birthday Writing About Writing (And a Folksy Lesson in Tenacity)

Happy Birthday Blog!!!!! 

For six years we've been cranking out writing wisdom (along with anything we could think of that had plausible connective tissue with writing) and hopefully the best is yet to come.

Blog: I want a million Facebook followers this year!

Me: That might actually happen.

Blog: (pauses) Oh....um....well I want to reach five million page views by next year!

Me: Yeah, that's probably going to happen later this week.

Blog: (stammering) Uh.......six million!

Me: Most likely early summer.

Blog: Ten...million?

Me: Yeah. There you go. That's an outrageously unlikely goal. Well done.

Blog: Okay ten million total and...a um five hundred thousand hit month...oh, and I make enough money that you don't have to pet sit anywhere where the driving would impact paying attention to me.

Me: Do you remember when you thought a ten thousand hit month was going to make you happy?

Blog: Pfffffffft.

Me: Or when you found out we'd hit a million page views?

Blog: Meh.

Me: Or how about when we realized that writing was literally paying the bills.

Blog: That's so last week. I'm big time now. My dreams have to be even bigger. Now let's bring in the extremely well compensated, not at all stigmatized, and entirely consent-respected sex professionals.

Me: I'm fairly certain this party is inappropriate for a six year old.

Blog: Hello incredibly shmexy gender variant folks, here to provide a premium valued service of erotic entertainment. Let's start with a bit of dancing to this song:

*Chris steps out and closes the door to the celebrations*

Hi everyone.

Just needed to get out of that room. Blog's going to be at it for a while. I thought maybe we could talk.

So...six years.

That means six years and two months ago I received a degree in Creative Writing from SFSU, sat down for a month and change to ponder what my very best approach to creative writing for a living was going to be, and then came Blog. As much as I value my writing education, perhaps the best thing I learned (a refrain echoed by our visiting guest writers) was how much the entire industry was changing.

Bigly big changes. Yuuuge changes. Not the little kind where you have to figure out if literature periodicals or mainstream magazines are going to be better to submit to.

The paradox of what has happened in the last six years (and particularly in the last one or two) is that people will ask me for my advice on how they can get my numbers, my reach, and even my income, and then will argue with me when I answer their questions.

Or they will scoff at my non-traditional approach to being a working writer, and then resent me when I've made more progress along traditional bellwethers in less time.

Nothing like Schrodinger's Jelly Rando: simultaneously pissed at you for not being a "real writer" and for having more readers and making more money than they do.

Now I definitely had the blessing of a lot of good, professional advice in that writing program that I was able to sift through for the lowest common denominators; a lot of privilege that shaped my life before I took my first step onto a community college campus in my late twenties; the opportunity in my first few years of blogging to put in 40+ hours, make no money, and have flexible secondary jobs that made that possible; and Creepy Guy probably gave me a year's worth of exposure in a day. However, I want to also stress that I have not simply had a blog for six years. I have been blogging for six years. I have been writing–basically every single day–for six years.

One of the principle mission statements of this blog is to provide a real-time glimpse into the growth and development process, so that no one thinks writers are magical creatures who just go into a cave, play Fallout 4 nonstop for two years, drink gallons of coffee, and then get hit by inspiration that causes them to shit out a bestseller in twelve sweaty, grunting hours.

So here we are....year kicking off our SEVENTH year.

Conventional writing wisdom suggests that within traditional publishing it'll take about TEN years of dedicated submission, lots of rejection, free publications for exposure, low profile publication, shitty pay, hours of unpaid self-promotion, building up a portfolio, and maybe a very crappy first book deal, tiny advance, and moving towards book two or three to get to a point where writing is barely paying the bills.

Non-traditional routes are a little faster. Also a little less "legitimized."

But what people really want is the secret sauce. And every fucking time I say "But do you have the rest of your hamburger?" they just want to talk about the sauce. So for the folks who still think it's magic and I've somehow got some trick, here's how I pulled it off. (It's going to sound pretty banal once I'm finished with the list, but here it is.)

There is no secret. There is no trick.

  • Working actively for six years.
  • Five or more posts each week
  • Posting SOMETHING...even if it's a little fluffy and skipping very few days.
  • A total of about 1 week off each year in sick days, completely missed posts, and total schedule collapses.
  • At least one hour but usually an average of five to six per day.
  • An hour a day almost every day of social media self promotion (maintaining my FB page mostly)
  • Writing through a newborn, a baby, a toddler, a wee one.
  • Writing through a loved one getting cancer.
  • Writing through a break up.
  • Writing through intense grief at custody/visitation issues.
  • Writing through a major health issue.
  • Writing through 60 hour a week commitments to other jobs.
  • Never once putting the blog on a hiatus no matter how bad it got. 
  • Writing while on vacation.
  • Not being too good to promote myself.
  • Knowing my limits, but....
  • ....testing the shit out of those fuckers.
  • Finding Patreon (holy shit thank you Patreon!!)
  • Be willing to learn developments in the industry, but also never forget that without content, none of it will matter.

So thank you for reading, and here's to Blog, here's to many more years, and here's to a career that still has plenty of up to go. I'm going to go rejoin the party now that I hear they're taking "Big Time" off the loop.

(Raises a glass)

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Quick Note to the Readers of Writing About Writing (Meta/Personal)

Hi everyone,
Shocked look purely for clickbait.

While I'm 90% sure I could just skip a post and I'd be the only one who would ever notice, I'd like to give you a quick update to let you know what's going on today (and for the rest of the week).

We're going a little light this whole week for a few reasons. I'll still get you some mailbox action and something you can sink your teeth into by Friday, but the whole week will be a slightly lighter fare– mostly because of the folks who have contributed financially to make sure that weeks this fluffy aren't our usual.
  1. I have ONE MORE thing to do to finish up the 2017 year, and that is get my $25 Patrons and upper level Kickstarter backers an "Inside Scoop" letter. This is the closest thing I have to exclusive content. All my updates and writing advice (and my every passing political thought and nerdery if you're over on my Facebook) and even my fiction are always going to be free, so this one tiny bit of personal update and preview of coming attractions is a small way I have of saying thanks.
  2. I owe my $10 Patrons some "Early Access" stuff, so I'm going to get that done and put it up as EA for next week instead of seconds-before-the-deadline this Friday .
  3. Lots of "Job 3" hours this week. Which I love because I love The Contrarian, but despite my best efforts to turn that positivity into extra time with which to write, I haven't perfected the flow of quark-rich antineutrinos into the time dilation stabilizer, so for now I just have to acknowledge that it's going to put me behind.
  4. I have to wrap up our current poll, start a new one with nominations, get the best of January up, and generally do some of those jazz-handy-er posts anyway, so I might as well do them this week when I'm half buried in this other stuff.

Two other things:
  • Big thanks to everyone yesterday who took a moment to sign up to be a Patreon or who raised their contribution because of yesterday's post. All those $1s and $5s added up fast, and I'm mostly recovered from January's loss. I think this may have been the best response to an appeals post yet. You all take my breath away.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for poll information this week. I'll start our new poll, and get the results of our current poll posted. Last chance to vote!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Writing About Writing Needs Your Help

Image description text: We need your help.
I love my job.

And to be able to do my job, and maybe even do it more, I need your help.

I lost $86 dollars of income in January. And while I'm not going to break down my exact finances, that's getting into the neighborhood of about ten percent of the amount of money that I make from writing.

Before we go on, let me just say, I'll be okay. I'm very careful with my money, I don't spend anything until it's sitting safely in my bank account if I can possibly help it, and I don't budget with more than a fraction of what I'm making from writing for just this reason. I also have plenty of pet sitting jobs lined up in the next few months, and kiddo is still four and needs plenty of looking after. So no worries that I'm going to be evicted or anything.

But it does illustrate a point.
Image description text-
January 2018 summary: -$86 in pledges, +5 patrons

See how I gained five patrons but lost money?

I actually lost like 12 patrons and gained 17 or something. That's just the absolute gain.  That kind of shifting happens every month. People cancel, other people sign on. Someone is able to give a little more. Someone else has to cut back a bit. Usually it goes up. (It's kind of weird to have a job where every month you might get a $5 raise, a $50 raise, or take a 10% pay cut, but I guess it beats wearing a tie.)
  • That's why I was able to take time off to focus on writing more last spring.
  • That's why I was able to quit teaching and focus on writing last fall.
  • That's why I was able to stop doing tons of double-bookings on pet sitting and write more starting January.
  • That's why we're up to seven posts a week and have been able to bump up to a much higher ratio of "meaty" articles to "fluff" content.
So what happened with that $86? 

I lost a big patron. 

Just one. 

I would have actually gained $14 for January, but they had a life crisis and had to reevaluate their finances. And it sounds like, compared to what they're going through, I got off pretty light.

Another huge patron is holding the world together with two hands to keep their current amount. I get a text message every few weeks about what kind of freelance gigs might be keeping them going for another month or two. And every time I am simultaneously worried and profoundly honored that I am part of the budget that is so tenuous. 

And it is still true that over half my income comes from half a dozen people. They are basically ensuring that all of you get as much content as you do.

Now of course these high level donors and patrons are all breathtaking and wonderful and I love them, but what would really help me is to have a strong foundation of smaller donors so that losses like those are less devastating. Which is why even a dollar or two makes such a difference. A thriving "ecosystem" of smaller donors wouldn't make the bigger ones any less amazing, but would ensure that if they have something happen in their life that means they have to withdraw their support, I don't immediately take a 10% pay cut.

And I might even want to not live with three roommates in a two bedroom one day. Who knows?

Please join my patreon with a small monthly donation.

At even ONE dollar a month–less than the cost of one swanky theater's nighttime movie every YEAR–you'll get in on backchannel questions and polls, conversations, and updates about what is going on in my writing life.

At five dollars you get some selfies of me and pictures of the pets I'm sitting.

At ten you'll get early access to some of the "big" articles that I post each month.

And there are even more rewards at higher levels as well.

You don't have to be a big spender to make a huge difference to a working artist.

Again here's that link: https://www.patreon.com/chrisbrecheen

And if a monthly donation is not in the cards, you can always do a one time donation through My Paypal (which is also the "conspicuously placed tip jar" in the top right corner). 

Thank you all so much, and here's to more and better articles and fiction always free and hopefully always AD free.

[As always, these kinds of posts aren't exactly "barn burners" in their own right, so engaging it on social media (likes and shares) will help it to be seen by more of my fans and followers and would be greatly appreciated.]