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

Friday, July 10, 2020

Ducking Taxes

Taxes today. Can’t put ‘em off any longer. (I have multiple income streams—Patreon, Venmo, PayPal—and all are “freelance,” so I absolutely can’t do it without an accountant.)

This takes all day for me because I spend hours in password reset hell so I can get to accounts I need once a year for documentation. And if I finish before 8pm, I’m going to curl up and weep openly.

So I will see you tomorrow.

(I will make sure I throw something up on Monday for the next couple of weeks to make up for this little quarantinication.) 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Facebook Gems (Bottom of June)

What have I been up to?
I took a page from Riker's 2nd season book, and grew a beard.
Remember as long as Covid-19 has bequeathed me the attention span of a gnat, and I'm doing more of my writing in smaller chunks on my personal Facebook account, I'm going to be posting some of my best posts every couple of weeks. 

Be sure and scroll down to check out "The Smoulder™"

We'll be doing a lot of admin and "jazz hands" posts this week, so that I can have a bit of vacation with my quarantine (and take care of a shit ton of adulting that has been backing up while I worked 60+ hours a week between, but I'm still writing behind the scenes so that next week can be awesome.

I'm pretty sure when quarantine is over,
it's going to be very similar to exactly this.

You couldn't say science was ONLY wrong about evolution and global warming, so you attacked all of science.

You couldn't say medicine was ONLY wrong when it contradicted your ideas of sin, sexuality, and gender, so you attacked all of medicine.

You couldn't say experts were ONLY wrong when they took umbrage with the policies that helped the rich or devastated certain communities or your insistence that your religious dogma was unassailable, so you attacked all expertise and put everyone's "beliefs" on an equal footing with years of education.

You couldn't say the media was ONLY wrong when they told the truth about your corruption or how your policies played out, so you attacked all of media.

You couldn't say that government intervention was ONLY bad when it was doing things you didn't like, so you attacked all government intervention.

For forty years.....

And now here we are. You have created an entire wing of the political landscape of this country that is PERFECTLY engineered not to trust Medicine, Science, Expertise, The Media, or Government Interventions, which turn out to be the all things you need to depend on the most during a global pandemic if you don't want mass casualties. And so we have 4.24% of the population and 25% of the Coronavirus cases and deaths. Because you attacked entire institutions rather than face that you might be wrong about a few things.

This is on you.

Remember, folks:

I will happily engage you in an honest to goodness online debate.

It will only cost you twenty-five hundred dollars a month. Sign up for my Patreon today!

Reward tier: "Debate me!"

$2,500 per month

Once per month, on any topic of your choosing (including the humanity of others or any tenet of social justice), I will debate you with maximum good faith and not ban, block, or remove it. I will prepare for two hours, debate you online for a full 24 hours––accounting for the fact that I need to sleep for eight hours on roughly US West Coast time––doing nothing else but giving you my full, undivided attention.

[Of course, there are some lower reward tiers as well....]

There's not enough "THIS!" in the world to "This!" this with.

Going out with people I like is actually quite awesome. Strictly speaking, I don’t hate DATING. I rather love it, and miss it during Sh.I.P.

The part I don’t like about dating is the skeet-shooting phase. Where you fling yourself out there, and as soon as someone gets a good look at you, they shoot you down.

Incidentally, that’s exactly the phase I’m in right now. It suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.

So......here's the thing....

The place I order groceries from limits you to like ten boxes of Cheez-It Sharp White Cheddar grooves per month. Ten of those little boxes usually lasts me about 20-25 days or so. I make do.

I ordered my ten little boxes. (I mean they WILL get eaten––it is me after all.) And I thought there was a glitch that erased them when I saw the number next to the product was zero. So I reordered.

So here I am now with.....TWENTY boxes, half of which are FAMILY SIZED and about twice as big. You can apparently order ten OF. EACH. SIZE.

So roughly thirty boxes worth. Or about 2 1/2 months of fucking Cheez Its in my pantry.

My cup runneth over.

I might be a perv.
I took about ten seconds to get this whole thing.
Perhaps it's helpful what a common phrase it tends to be around here.

You know, I've had "really hard jobs" before but they all involved consequences for my failures. I cannot think of a single job I've had where if I failed so badly that I actually broke the law, I would then be protected from the consequence of even having to be arrested, charged, and tried––never mind not being fired on the spot.

Today a major chunk of the police force of Atlanta are basically saying that none of them will do their jobs if ANY of them should ever face so much as due process for extrajudicial murder....ever. (Also a classic echo of the "Fine, I'll just leave" abusive response to having bad behavior so much as pointed out.)

But sure, let's talk about how these bad apples are so, so few.

Every summer we Americans go through this.

People hang on the SCOTUS decisions and cheer or hiss or breathe a sigh of relief. And the rulings that really affect our lives are almost never 6-3 or 7-2.

They are 5-4––often along ideological lines.

And yet by November, the Russian psyops and the conservative false flags and the purity politics, and everyone who has (ironically) gone to so SO, SOOOO much trouble to convince folks that their vote doesn't matter, will have created this pervading sense that there's no appreciable difference between the two parties or their presidential offerings.

There are many harmful overlaps between Democrats and Republicans and it is sophistic and naive to be unaware of them, but for anyone who thinks there's "no difference," I hope this moment each summer we white-knuckle our way through is a reminder that they are not the same. RBG is pushing NINETY. And Scalia is a reminder that we can't really know HOW many justices a single president will get to replace. So unless you're 100% sure your ENTIRE revolution is going down before NEXT summer, we have a way to reduce harm.
Pretty much fuck everyone who won't take this seriously.
I'd like to get laid again some day.

No, YOU just spilled olive juice all over your shirt after just two fisting an entire can of California black pitteds by putting them on your fingers.

CN: Abuse

My younger years were marked by a number of emotionally abusive relationships, and one of the things I noticed, as I was getting therapy and getting better, is that people on the outside who were enabling that abuse would often deconstruct a moment that had happen at the height of my frustration and anger and desperation.

When I was younger, it was a slammed door or raging tears, but as I learned that my emotions would be used against me, and that I had to shut them down, it might only be a raised voice or a badly chosen word. But the point was, it was always something. THERE WAS ALWAYS SOMETHING I HAD DONE IMPERFECTLY.

These people would ask why I had done that, ignore the entire context leading up to the moment and say, "Well no WONDER they were upset," and use that moment to invalidate the entirety of the abuse. To their minds, unless I was the perfect victim (which I could never ever ever EVER be by their rubric), I had to go back to the abuse and further endure it.

I think about this a lot when I see white people arbitrating that civil unrest means the entire struggle for equality is nullified. White supremacy is abusive, but white complacency enables that abuse.

Remember, KPOP stans and TikTokers did not buy out assigned seating and thus CAUSE a low attendance. Trump's staggering loss of support pulled that off all by himself.  

What KPOP stans and TikTokers DID do was waste Trump and the Trumpsters time, money, and make them look very, very foolish by registering for MILLIONS of RSVPs that cost everyone from some T-shirt maker, who now has tens of thousands of dollars in Trump t-shirt inventory, to security companies and police who just stood around waiting to manage a crowd that never showed up to the RNC's millions in prep they never needed (for an event they probably would have canceled if they'd known how low the turnout was going to be) to flooding them with fake data that will still take them hours of work to sift through after the bots are done. Not to mention the sheer schadenfreude of getting them to crow for weeks ahead of time about how fucking BALLER their guy was to get those numbers, for what turned out to be smaller than an Oasis reunion tour.

You're just going to have to trust me that this Tumblr Post about the LGBT islands and all its subsequent replies (which goes on longer than its viral post a few years back) is absolutely gold.

I have some relationships based on mutual sarcasm,
but there's always a way to use your "safeword."
And it's a real "read the room" skill.

It's probably worth unpacking the sorts of signals you send to disabled folks (maybe even friends and family who are watching you) when you skip over things like Trump's white supremacy and his horrifying political decisions and the harm he does and his lies and his ego and his.....(ad nauseam) to make fun of the way he drinks water or his need for a ramp.

These things are not what make him a bad person and a worse politician, and if we're going to talk about his hypocrisy and the fact that he can't seem to admit that his body is having some problems, I'd be really careful to focus on the HYPOCRISY ITSELF because it's a short jump from that to ACTUALLY making fun of disabled folks...

...which, just to be clear, is something we were mortified that HE did.

So maybe the idea that the ends of his political destruction justify any splash damage is something worth considering. There are PLENTY of reasons he is unfit to hold office, and the fact that he himself would make fun of someone who couldn't one-fist a glass of water might even be one of them, but when we tear into that, we really show what our society considers important. ("Go ahead and be a Nazi, just don't let 'em see your hands shake.")

Them: But I didn't use any medical data. I just made fun of people who think this virus is a big deal. You said that was okay. Why did you ban me.

Me: Yeah, look, if you want to just lie low and get your "You should be writing" memes, you should LIE LOW. When you pop up and get yourself noticed by being a dillhole, it turns out I **JUST** might mouse over your user icon. And then I'm going to notice "back the blue" banner. And then.....well....then you're sort of in trouble....

Because then you've shown me TWO things that are all kinds of awful, and I know I really don't like you, and don't particularly want the further input you might drop on future posts if I do not rescind the invitation into MY SPACE.

Shoulda kept that low profile. But you just had to....what's the phrase you diaphanous ego fuckstrudles use? Oh, right. VIRTUE SIGNAL. You HAD to virtue signal.

Bye, now.

When I say we’re totally gonna hit 1 million dead (lowball), this is why. The GOP has spent 30 years basically perfecting half the country into a mindset that is singularly unable to handle medical, scientific information or expertise delivered through media with public safety enforced (or even just encouraged) by government. Or to take seriously anything liberals take seriously. Because that was politically expedient for them to do.

Folks in that culture (every single one of them) are going to have to see this up close and personal before it feels real to a critical enough mass that we might see a shift. Right now they absolutely, genuinely think they know better.

The Venn diagram of people who won't wear masks despite the laws and people who tell BLM protesters that they "deserved" police brutality because they "broke the law" is pretty close to a circle...

But what they haven't realized yet (and would be pearl-clutchingly incensed to have pointed out) is that the overlap part is labeled "Just made it piss obvious they're racist."

Alright. I didn't want to have to do this, but you leave me no choice.
Here comes.......The Smoulder™

There's a lot on the news about the U.S. "giving up" the Covid-19 fight. Based on folks' pictures, it seems like a lot of peeps have traded in Shelter In Place for "fuck it."

And these are MY liberal friends (and even so leftist that they consider "liberal" an insult). This is not a cross-section of Americana.

I won't wag my finger. It's been an unbelievably rough four months, and cities and states reopening with nary a care, and an honest-to-fuck "anti-mask" movement like something out of Rick and Morty means that pretty much until there's an insta-test or vaccine, we're doing this indefinitely. I know some folks can make calculated personal risks that don't put vulnerable populations at risk, carefully invite people into their family bubble, and maybe even snap a selfie.

Okay, Boo. You do you. I've amped my risk when I knew I had five days to sit around and see if I got sick before I had to see anyone I care about, so I'm not here to judge. But let me just add one thing as your concerned Uncle Chris. Something that I almost never see when people are spouting mortality calculations like there's no real reason to be afraid:

As someone who almost certainly had this in early April, please let me remind everyone that you don't roll a cosmic set of two D&D ten-sided dice and only have a bad outcome if you get a 01 (if you're young and mostly healthy). And then you either drop dead or stroll on with your life having ducked the scythe once more.

You get a hospital visit on a 02 or less (which is much more likely than you think if you haven't actually PLAYED D&D). And that's if you're young and in perfect health. Age and preexisting conditions could drive that number up as high as 17 or more. (Though, to be fair, I don't see too many 85-year-olds ignoring social distancing.) And if too many folks in your area have been taking the same chance, the hospitals might be overwhelmed, and then your chances on that life/death roll get a lot worse.

No one knows the numbers yet, but you might roll for permanent organ damage. Or just MONTHS of recovery before you're really better. Could affect your lifespan in the long run. Lung scarring after this probably means that if a bus doesn't get you, pneumonia before your time surely might. That's a pretty shitty roll too.

And oh boy howdy, since I'm talking to folks in the US, please think of the medical bills......

I suspect most people here are being responsible and quarantining after a gathering because I don't have wildly inconsiderate friends and, for the most part, they know they could feel okay for several days while being contagious, but one of the worst things, if you're being cavalier about this, is that you could FORCE everyone you come in contact with to make the same roll. Maybe even someone with a much worse "outcomes chart" than you have to roll on.

And even if you roll pretty darn well––as I did––you get laid out with the worst sick you've ever had In. Your. Life. (With the possible exception of one flu where I couldn't keep down water.) Burning lungs. Raw throat. Impossible joint pain. Twisted guts. And when you're all recovered, which could take two weeks if you're lucky, or a month or even longer if you're not, another week at least of quarantine, which for a lot of people means roughly a month without pay at a minimum.

So please don't forget to factor that into your calculus.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Best Contemporary Fantasy Book (Or Series) SEMIFINAL

What is the best contemporary fantasy book (or series)? 

I know that I USUALLY take Tuesday off on three day weekends, but I missed one last week. Besides, polls are pretty easy. They only take a couple of hours to set up and post instead of five! Practically a day off!

I'm currently on quarantinication (quarantine because I had to go to the dentist and my job-2 clients include one immunocompromised person, but vacation because it's a nice little break from work), so I'm going to frontload the week with these backlogged admin posts that are a little jazz handsy so I also get to ENJOY some of the time off. 

And up first is part two of our poll. Remember this is only half the poll––you can pop over and see Semifinal Round 1's results if you are curious. But now it's time to decide which of THESE titles will go on to the final round. Remember, semifinal rounds go FAST. I'll have the results of this poll posted next week. So don't dilly dally. Vote today!

Half of these titles are not going forth to the final round, but WHICH half is entirely up to you.

Don't forget you get three (3) votes, but that there is no ranking, so using as few votes as possible is better.

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

I'm told if you're on mobile you have to click "webpage view" then scroll alllllllllll the way to the bottom, you can find the poll. If that doesn't work, or you're having any other trouble, you can go directly to the poll here: https://poll.fm/10577198

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Poll Results Best Contemporary Fantasy Book (or Series) Semifinal 1

Text results below.

Auspicious timing! The flip between the two semifinals (with all its admin posts taking up so many days worth of space) happened right when I was having a doozy of a time at job two. Monday I stayed late, slept over, and Tuesday I woke to do the "early" shift. By the time I woke up on Wednesday, I had already worked 30 hours this week. And I still had to work Wed and Thurs (just not as much). So I'm just now showing signs of recovering from it all. But honestly I'm happy to be able to have a few days where what I need to do is post vote reminders, results, and then the new poll. 

However, I AM OFFICIALLY ON QUARANTINICATION! (Gotta quarantine after a dental appointment for a week so I don't take The Rona™ back to immunocompromised clients, but work's been so busy during Sh.I.P. that it's actually a sweet, sweet break.) So this coming week should give me some good writing time.

Thank you all so much for voting. I can't say I'm too surprised so far, but maybe round two or the finals will toss a loop or three at me.

Ghost Story - Peace Talks - J. Butcher 98 39.52%
Inheritance Trilogy - N.K. Jemisin 57 22.98%
Circe - M. Miller 29 11.69%
First Law - J. Abercrombie 23 9.27%
The Starless Sea - E. Morgenstern 19 7.66%
The Poppy War/The Dragon Republic - R.F. Kuang 15 6.05%
Sorcerer to the Crown - Z. Cho 7 2.82%

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Best Contemporary Fantasy (Reminder to Vote) [Semifinal 1]

What is the very best fantasy book (or series) written between after 2010.

Don't forget to vote! Your nominations have formed our poll, and now it's time to make your voices heard. Between needing to get this poll wrapped up and another brutal week at my other job, I'm going to be following the results close on the heels of this last reminder, so you only have one more day to get your opinions locked in for which titles go on to the finals.

And please....before you complain about what's NOT on here, remember that this is a semifinal, so there's an equal number of selections that you haven't seen yet.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. Use them....wisely.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." If you are on mobile you can pick "webpage view" and scroll down. Otherwise (or if you're having other trouble finding it), just use this link https://poll.fm/10571119

Friday, June 26, 2020

Why Are You So Hard on Yourself? (6 Lessons for the Would-Be Working Writer)

One of the most common questions I'm asked by friends, loved ones, folks who follow my Facebook, my Patrons sometimes, and those of you here who pay closeish attention to the meta of my writing life is why I am so hard on myself. Why do I write so much? Why am I constantly pushing myself, even in the midst of global pandemics, to be more prolific? Why do I worry about my "productivity" when that is a capitalist construct? Why?

These questions have ramped up during Covid and the Shelter In Place rules as I've dealt with a particularly fractured attention span, incredible difficulty writing full articles day after day, and the guilt associated with falling behind on the pace that I usually expect of myself.

These are valid questions. They're worth answering. Let me get my pen. (By which, of course, I mean I shall continue typing on my computer.)

However, before we proceed to the unpacking, I want to share another common theme of questions I get EVEN MORE than the questions above. In fact, other than "Is anyone sitting here?", this (these) are the questions I get the most from strangers. It is also overwhelmingly the most common question I get from folks who like my blog but don't really follow it. From friends who know I'm a writer, but don't pay attention to my work. From any audience I sit in front of, no matter what I'm there to talk about. And from aaaaaaaalmost any aspiring writer who finds out that I scrape out a paycheck from writing upon which I could live if I didn't insist on living in the Bay Area and eating brand name frozen waffles. These questions go like this: "How did you make it as a writer?" "How can I make it as a writer?" "What did you do to break in?" "How have you managed to make writing your job?" 

And while one of my ongoing struggles is threading the needle between self-care and pushing myself, and while I absolutely don't want to make light of workaholism so severe that if I'm not paying attention, it will approach self-harm levels, I do not believe for an instant that these two things are unrelated. Keep this in mind going forward. Because it's important to understand that when I give myself a hard time and apologize and promise to do better, I'm only OSTENSIBLY doing so to my patrons. 

It's really me I'm talking to. It's really that driving passion of an artist to create. That part that has nothing at all to do with "productivity as a capitalist construct" and everything to do with "I must keep creating like a shark has to keep swimming."

People being too hard on themselves is a problem. (And believe me, my doctor told me I was going to kill myself from heart disease if I didn't start seeing it AS a problem.) Unrealistic expectations hurt our self-esteem when we're NOT enduring a collective cultural trauma. We have to be kind to ourselves. We have to self-care. We have to manage our expectations. 

But also a problem is basically giving oneself a pass. ("Eh, collective trauma. Whatryagonnado?" "Capitalism is a scam. Whatryagonnado?") Believing one's own bullshit. Buying one's own excuses. Avoiding work because "self-care." Wondering why one is not a published author after years––YEARS––of writing two or even three times every month. 

I think most people struggling with "the air/fuel mixture" are being way, way, WAY nicer to themselves than will get them to their hopes and dreams, and that the people with careers folks want to emulate almost always have "overdoing it....at least a little" in common.
There's a needle that needs threading, and I'm not saying I'm threading it, but I know it's there. 

Lesson #1- If you have goals, you can't be too easy on yourself. You may have to put in some long hours and weekends when you're still working a day job and writing.

Okay, now onto the response.....


I work too much. I have a few of.....let's call them "issues" that surround writing.

One of them is that I love it, so I hardly think of it as working. (Or it involves being online which I consider "fucking off," so even though it's work directly related to maintaining a Facebook page or networking, it clocks on my internal odometer as "wasted time.") This creates problems when I wake up, write for five or six hours and then go to my second job where I nanny children for five or six hours. Problems like......I come home and wonder why I'm so tired or why a "part time" day kicked my ass so hard.

You're probably already thinking, "But Chris, that's a 10-12 hour day."

Congratulations, dear reader, you are already making better life choices than I usually do.

Lesson #2- Don't be like Chris. (He needs to turn it down from 11 and learn to have some fucking chill.)

Another problem that works against me is how often I forget the little things. I sometimes spend an hour writing a Facebook post reacting to a news article or just trying to frame something so that maybe––just maybe––my fellow white dudes might GET it. Often I fall into the trap of considering that "fucking off on Facebook" and not "buckling down and doing some 'real' writing." 

I also get really stuck in the idea that only certain topics COUNT. I have several totally-FINISHED articles that I could put. And I mean I have dozens of them and they are absolutely final-draft finished. I could put them up for weeks while I let incredibly well-paid fruit dispensers feed me grapes on a beach (right now, from six feet away with a grape launcher). I would enjoy the impossibly white sand and implausibly sapphire water. But I worry that those articles don't "count" towards what people want to see because they are too focused on politics or too rooted in a culture war issue like guns or too this or too that. So I trickle them in when I feel like I've done "enough" on the other writing that I believe people are tuning in for. Which, of course, is a goal that I almost never hit: "enough." And that means all that writing effort is just sitting in the wings as I turn around and write something else that "counts."

Lesson #3- It's really easy to get a sense of "Give the audience what they want" and "Keep them coming back for more" and lose a sense of what YOU want to be doing as an artist. Especially if you're right on the edge between making enough and not.

As if all that weren't enough, I also suffer from the very common, very-normal-for-artists imposter syndrome, and I tend to believe that if I'm not writing "enough," people will see through me. So while I have tons of "filler" posts I could drop or more fun things I could do like check in on the "WAW Staff" ––and perhaps most importantly, IT IS STUFF I REALLY WANT TO BE WRITING––I feel like writing little posts like this wouldn't "count," and people would see through me, and become disenchanted. So I tend to believe I've "earned" these more fun and frivolous posts after I've knocked some good ones out of the park. 

Again with the "enough."

So the first thing I have to do is cop to this accusation of "working too hard." You're right. I work too much. I'm too hard on myself, probably when I don't need to be. Between my personal insecurities, financial insecurities, and artistic insecurities, I am absolutely constantly trying to "prove myself."

Lesson #4- Writing is work. Even if you enjoy it. Promotion is work. Networking is work. Its ease compared to nannying two kids doesn't make it NOT work.



When I have a bad month––and by that I don't mean a month where my fee-fees get repeatedly hurt by cute girls who stop texting me, I mean a month of low productivity––I lose patrons. I might not lose all of them, and let me take a moment to clearly shout from the rooftops that those who are patient while my productivity goes down are wonderful. 

But some do go. 

And sometimes the exit "interviews" they fill out even say shit like, "You don't update enough for me to pay for this" or "You were writing more when I signed up."

Sometimes they tell me my politics suck and I'm the real bigot, and I think, "How did you even end up here?" but that's probably off topic for this article.

Now, before you clutch your pearls, I should nuancify this. Most people who cancel or lower their monthly contribution clearly do so because of their financial situation. They sometimes tell me or leave a note or fill out the exit interview with apologies (which I should take a moment to say here, as someone on a shoestring budget, I totally understand). Still....some definitely have a thing or three to say about how they've ALSO noticed I'm having a bad month.

And all that and $2.19+tax would buy me a single serving bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. By which I mean that people do leave. And maybe they just have a coming-to-budget moment when they notice they haven't seen a good article in a while, or maybe they just don't want to hurt my feelings so they make something up, but a shitty month correlates pretty reliably with me losing around 5% of my income. And believe it or not, if I have two bad months in a row, that pay cut happens again.

I don't know what your life and paycheck look like, but you probably wouldn't want to go too easy on yourself if you knew it were going to mean a pay cut every month.

Lesson #5- Most patrons will support artists through some tough times. Some won't. Unless you can afford to lose the ones that won't, don't go TOO easy on yourself.


The reason I'm where I am, with hundreds of patrons telling me to chill the fuck out and take care of myself, is not because I spent the last eight years tossing up a couple of good posts a month. These folks know I'll be "back" (probably with a trilogy, two hundred articles, and some sort of beard) in a fan-fucking-tastic year of productive utopia because I have established a credibility as a prolific writer (and a massive body of works). I wouldn't be making enough to (barely) scrape by if I had given myself a day off every time I wanted one. (Although I probably should have been a little kinder to myself on at least a FEW occasions. See above.)  I wouldn't have the patrons who DO have faith in me during my slow times if I didn't have a well-established reputation. Frankly, I wouldn't be making as much if I wrote significantly less.

Lesson #6- There's a LOT of content between you and a robust patronage who will have patience through your difficult times.

I know it's shitty to realize that you probably won't establish a writing career if you don't overdo it at LEAST a little, and everyone has to find their own peace with that and their personal strategy for surviving capitalism. Probably most people you ever knew who were fantastically good at something overdid it a little. Had long days. Worked weekends. Gave it more gas than the folks who wanted a functional work/life balance and a robust set of complementary priorities. And while you absolutely want to make sure you know that writing (or art of any kind) is work even when it feels like it isn't, and that you factor in enough self-care to safeguard your health both physical and mental, you also have to understand that you are your own "boss" when it comes to writing, and your ambitions are directly tied to just one fucking metric asston of hard work. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Facebook Gems From the Top of June

What can I say?
My windswept look brings 
all the reacts to the FB yard.
Just a reminder. The world being what it is right now, some of my usual focus has been fractured and I'm doing a bit more writing than I normally do on my public Facebook page in more "bite-sized" chunks. 

I've decided to bundle those posts twice a month to help pad some of my flagging blog content. 

The U.S. has justified the absolute "necessity" of being in an official armed conflict for 222 out of 239 years of its history as a country, was founded on the genocide of the natives living here and built with brutality and violent slavery, actively brutalizes its non-ruling ethnic groups (BIPOC), and has enshrined the right of every single citizen to own a lethal, long-range, semi-automatic weapon, but its ruling ethnic group (white people) will absolutely stand there with a straight face and tell marginalized folks that violence never solves anything.

I keep hearing the voice of my mother speaking out to white people with that tone she always used when she would ask me what it was **I** did to make the dog bite me or the cat scratch me.

"Well, maybe next time you'll THINK about that before you uphold white supremacy for four hundred years."

Could there be a moment more emblematic of the modern Republican party and its leader than calling for a violent suppression of one's own people while brutally dispersing a crowd who are protesting racial injustice so you can go to a special fancy church with lots of opulence in order to be seen doing a high profile photo-op with a Bible that actually proscribes literally everything you just did....and then not noticing that you're holding it upside down.

The protests are too soon to see a spike in Covid-19 cases. Especially as early as a couple of days ago when the claims started rolling in.

What's NOT too soon to account for that spike is the initial start of the cases from Memorial Day. When all those fucking states that just HAD to reopen because not going to Chili's for dinner or a beach party is tyranny.

Now go look at the state-by-state breakdown and compare that with the cities that had protests. I'll wait.

I apologize for snorting derisively at the folks who had "3rd Amendment Struggle" on their 2020 Bingo cards.

Here is a really good story that is emblematic of the reason that the further left you go, the more the rhetoric isn't willing to consider the family member you think is a good person or the occasional moral actors as a counterpoint to the unethical system all police participate in (and the unethical laws all police uphold).

Here's a protester in his seventies who was pushed down and harmed, and while he bled, they walked past him. Then all those police in this photo (basically) closed ranks, lied, and said that he tripped. Like ALL of them participated in that deception (and if one of them had told the truth, that would have been the person who got fired, censured, possibly attacked by fellow officers). The official report was "tripped and fell." Until......it turned out someone was filming and, oh look, he didn't trip after all, but was pushed.

Then when the two people who pushed him got a suspension, 57 officers (that's the ENTIRE BPD emergency response team if you didn't know) closed ranks even further on the A-Brutality B-Brutality that they KNEW was brutality because they knew they needed to lie about it. C-The LIE about the brutality and D-Consequences for the officers involved in the brutality by simply quitting.

So, somehow, not one of BPD's 57 emergency responders saw ANYTHING wrong with anything that happened.......except of course for the consequences.

This is systemic. This is an unethical system that is designed to lie to protect itself even when it knows it's doing wrong. And will further ask and give solidarity to those who behave unethically.

And it's not like you have to look far to find a zillion examples of this Thin Blue Line™ shit. How many officers must know they work with a white supremacist or someone who has control or anger issues and say nothing because that's the culture. How many would actually be penalized if they did bring it up these concerns because that is the culture?

THAT is why people want to focus on the unethical system and do not consider your Uncle Bob, your really not-so-bad cop family member, to be a "checkmate" counterpoint to that examination. The actually good cops who would speak out, report, tell the truth, or support consequences for officers behaving badly all got fired during their first month. And what is left is a system that is rotting to its core, and might need more than just a few "tough reforms."

This is a collection of pictures/comics/tweets/memes that draw attention to how problematic "ALL lives matter" can be.  https://www.facebook.com/chris.brecharge/posts/3154887584531802

I've seen this in action. It really works.

That this works at all is really all you need to know about white privilege, the "no choice" the police have, and about a dozen narratives that come up around civil unrest.

That it works SO well should slap people advancing these narratives across the face, and the fact that it doesn't means they don't WANT to understand.

A lot of people are gobsmacked that I make money writing (enough to do it outside a lot of major metropolitan areas without a side gig), but when I drill down, I find them extremely reluctant to take small steps. They want to one-and-done their career. Even when I explain that the process of getting to this income has taken me seven years where I (very) gradually phased out my day jobs, they still talk about selling their book and just BEING a working writer. BAM! And the one thing that seems to set most modern working authors apart––even a lot of the insta-success stories that sort of gloss over the years of work before "the phone call"––is their willingness to do a lot of work even to achieve baby steps.

Check in on the folks who couldn't be bothered with slow progress ten years later, and they're STILL retooling that one novel and looking for their big break and unwilling to make cell phone bill money with crowdfunding or try to write a short story for a $500 prize.

I think there's an extremely elegant metaphor there for a lot of different situations, personal, professional, and political. Hail Mary's do happen (especially if you've trained all your life to throw and/or receive them), but if your goal is the endzone, you're going to fail way more than you don't (and lose pmuch all your "games") if you are too good to work the ball down the field with some smaller plays because that's not "enough" progress to satisfy you.

I gotta tell you, that the entire police response to their brutality is a "how dare you hold us accountable," escalation is some classic abusive shit, and if you look at it through that lens, the taking-a-knee and the giving ice cream cones to kids and shit fits a much more sensical broader pattern than the idea that only a few of them are bad and the head scratching as to how it keeps happening.

Playing D&D online through Roll 20.

Literally ALL of my "Sponsored" posts just became Dungeon, the video game.

Facebook, if you're going to listen THIS goddamned close, here's what I really want: send me a cute geek who likes pizza, video games, social justice, intersectional feminism, horror and/or sci-fi genre, Star Trek, A:TLA, reading, and the various franchises on Disney Plus, plz. Also who is really ready to add ONE person to their Shelter In Place options. 

Bonus points for severe cuties.

"He was probably a terrorist."

That's what this amounts to.

Days after declaring the decentralized non-organized group of just about everyone opposed to fascism in anything more than a non-committal root-for-the-allies-during-WWII-movies-kind-of-way to be a “terrorist organization,” he then offers an explanation clearly not the reality that anyone saw.

And no one will believe him, but a few people will "believe" him. And moderates (and no small number of liberals) will get caught up in "proofs" and analysis and the ARGUMENT even though it's clearly, obviously a post-hoc lie.

And all the while they are quibbling over what "provocateur" means, or how a 75-year-old man would even be able to fling himself with perfect timing at the ground when (actually) pushed in order to accelerate his fall, or psychoanalyzing whether or not Trump himself wrote provocateur correctly when he can't spell hamburger or coffee, or examining video to show people that it was a helmet Gugino was holding, the bigger picture gets glossed over that the head of the executive branch is Tweet-exonerating police brutality, lies about that police brutality, and the grotesque rank-closing that police everywhere have participated in to basically say, "We ARE the law."

By naming a very vague group a terrorist organization, his insinuation (which could apply to almost anyone who strongly dislikes him) that someone is a member of this group then justifies anything that happens to them.

THAT--not whether he's technically right about provocateur, or if Gugino was messing with police scanners, or if it was "really" him Tweeting––is what should scare the fucking SHIT out of people.

The President is now essentially modeling to his pissed off militarized enforcers how to get away with anything––even murder.

"Could have been ANTIFA."

*shrugs* "He was probably a terrorist."


"How would we even DO that?" asked the society that had spent the last forty years defunding literally everything else.

Me: You know it fits into CLASSIC abuse patterns to get mad and escalate at the people who are calling you out for your brutality. It's like....page one of the abusive tactics handbook.

Police: Fine, we'll just leave. You'll be lost without us. You'll never make it alone.

Me: Okay....so.....moving on to page TWO....

Person on my Facebook Page: Please ban me if you're going to be all political.

Me: K

Woke up, fell out of bed
Bunch of transphobes in my thread
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup (tea)
And banned all their asses even if it made me late

Shook-KA Shook-KA Shook-KA

Part of being a good ally––perhaps the most important part––is listening to marginalized communities tell you that something is a problem instead of informing them that you've decided it isn't.

Folks (usually white dudes) who pride themselves on being surrounded with lots of diametrically opposed opinions and being oh so willing to ENGAGE in the marketplace of ideas over and over and over and over (no matter how much the underlying premise of some of these conversations hurts anyone watching said conversation like, say, their OTHER friends on social media watching their humanity be the subject of an intellectual debate) should really make an effort to understand how the SQiD (Status Quo Defender™) works.

See, your average SQiD never changes. They begin every "debate" with "Prove to me that is even a problem." They attack expertise. They propose ludicrous narratives that rationalize clear-as-day statistics. They argue from bad faith. ANYTHING that would require them to believe that their current world view is anything but utterly unimpeachable must be countered. And if you should ever incontrovertibly "win" such a debate, you will find they often have to depart suddenly. And whether they quit or stay and get trounced (rare), in the end they announce that it has been very stimulating and thank you as if you just had a vigorous martial-arts sparring match with them. Then they must go, but appreciate the discussion. (At least as long as you never got "emotional.")

Then it happens.

The next time you run into them to discuss that issue again they have returned to initial positions like it's a new chess match and not a growth process, which is exactly what they see "debate" as. So they do their favorite opening move: "Prove to me that is even a problem."

And since they never move their "square one," those willing to have that conversation with them ad nauseam are engaged in an endless tango.

If you don't learn that actually there are SOME conversations that are absolutely NOT worth having, you will be quagmired there forever as the Status Quo marches on.

I'd say this is white supremacy TBH.
Privilege means never having to think about it
so long as you steer clear of those pesky "SJWs" on social media

This is a number of images about what it would actually look like if we slowly defunded the police.  https://www.facebook.com/chris.brecharge/posts/3152257644794796

Someone from my Facebook Page: Can we not have posts like this one?

Me: Absolutely. I'll make sure you never see another one.

Just so you know, between having a relatively easy and non-fatal bout of Covid-19 and wearing a mask, I can absolutely tell you that being sick with 104 fever and the chills, coughing up the lava that it feels like is in the bottom of your lungs so frequently that your throat is aching and raw, being completely unable to move for several days, and having to ride out a full-on quarantine for a full week after your last symptom goes away....

....is way more inconvenient than the mask.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Best Contemporary Fantasy Book (or series) SEMIFINAL 1

What is the very best fantasy book (or series) written after 2010?

Our latest poll is live!  Come vote!  

Our poll was pulled from your nominations, and now you get to decide which ones will go on to the final round. There weren't a ton of nominations, so this time I took everything that got a even one second.

Let me just make ONE caveat. This poll is about BOOKS. It's about writing. If you are dying to see The Kingkiller Chronicles turned into a movie, but find the books a little slow, you shouldn't be voting for The Wise Man's Fear.

I'm pretty sure I know how this poll is going to go, at least until the final round, but sometimes y'all surprise the crap out of me. Also yes, someone clearly "technically" followed the rules to get The Dresden Files series nominated. I Spock eyebrowed it, but I do sort of encourage shenanigans. 

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

IF YOU CANNOT SEE THE POLL- You are part of a small but non-zero group. The free polling app I use recently changed hands and there appear to be some growing pains.  The following link should work for you:   https://poll.fm/10571119

Everyone will get three (3) votes. 

There is no way to do ranked choice voting, 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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Best Contemporary Fantasy (Last Chance to Nominate or Second)

What is the best Fantasy (book or series) written in 2009 or later?  

I've already told my Patrons this, but my nanny job is kicking my ass to the curb this week. My clients include one who is immunocompromised, so they are wary of using any nanny who can't basically limit all possible exposure except to them. Which is usually only mostly overwhelming to my writing time, but during weeks where they have to do payroll, my hours crawl up to the point that blogging becomes impossible. 

So for today, instead of a regular post, I'm going to give you ONE LAST CHANCE to make this poll a good one.

We now have enough books to run a poll for contemporary fantasy, but it will be a more interesting poll if we get more. If you want to see something get on this poll, the time is now to pop over to the original page (very important) and drop your nomination. You can also find the rules there and any answers to questions about genre, publication date limitations, or what to do if you are having trouble leaving a comment in Blogger for whatever reason––plus how to bring attention to a great book that you think should be recognized, but maybe isn't the "best."

Remember, go to the original page or the nomination will NOT be considered. Not a comment here. Not FB. Not G+. Not Tumblr. A comment on the original page.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

You Can Only Kill the Author....a LITTLE

I'm going to be babysitting comments for most of the day over on Writing About Writing's Facebook Page, because this post will probably bring out the more than a few trolls. 

So instead of a regular post today, I'm going to repeat what I said there.

Okay, folks....

First a reminder: if you can't disagree quietly and scroll on by, find and read the commenting guidelines unless you want to be getting your "You should be writing" memes from somewhere else by this time tomorrow. [This isn't exactly applicable to blog comments, but I do moderate them.]

Secondly, while there seems to be some discourse going on about how far Death of an Author can extend, the voices that we should be listening to (the folks harmed––namely the trans community) are generally not okay with such a flippant dismissal of authorial harm (in this case Rowling's transphobia), so it's important to understand who you're hurting and erasing, even when such things are said in jest.

While I understand the discussion continues, and I've no place getting involved in it directly myself (strictly speaking, I'm not cisgender, but I'm also not trans), I also did not want my taking a seat and listening to begin to stretch my silence into the "conspicuous" length on a platform like Writing About Writing.

My experience has ever been that the separation of art and artist is and has always been an intensely personal decision. Inspiring problematic artists have always existed, and as much as we want to, we can neither undo someone's harm nor reach back into our childhoods or young adulthoods (or even last week) and make certain media be NOT formative to who we are. However, I have always always ALWAYS taken the position that it is important to understand these things and listen to others. That an artist means a lot to one person never means they are exculpated from their hurtful behaviors to another, and whether you consider it an important part of the post-structural analysis of a good little writer or you just want to make sure you're not being a willfully oblivious asshole, understanding that art and artist can NEVER be vacuum-sealed away from each other is vital to one's relationship to either–-and to one's own work (because your bullshit is going to come up in your work too, so you better unpack it).

The post I've seen going around most lauded by the trans community is either THIS POST or a truncated version of it on FB shared by Sophie Labelle. It will sting if you love Harry Potter, but I think it's important for any person who reads extensively (and CERTAINLY any writer) to keep these things in mind. Don't make heroes of artists. Authors, and all artists, are human and most are deeply flawed. 

Please read it with an open mind.

And in case it somehow didn't go without saying, trans women are women, trans men are men, and J.K. Rowling is a writer, and so will be able to obfuscate her bigotry behind a lot of floccose language, but the fact remains that beyond her gossamer words, she is a transphobe.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Best Contemporary Fantasy (Nominations and Seconds needed)

What is the best Fantasy (book or series) written in 2009 or later?  

Have you ever found yourself wondering why your favorite book is not on one of my polls? ("How can you have this category and not have X?? It's brilliant!") Weeeelllllllllll, it's probably because you didn't nominate it. Or you didn't get your pal to throw you a second. All my polls are based 100% on reader nominations and votes.

We (barely) have enough books to run a poll for contemporary fantasy, but if you want to see something get on this poll, the time is now to pop over to the original page (very important) and drop your nomination. You can also find the rules there and any answers to questions about genre, publication date limitations, or what to do if you are having trouble leaving a comment in Blogger for whatever reason––plus how to bring attention to a great book that you think should be recognized, but maybe isn't the "best."

Remember, go to the original page or it might not count. Not a comment here. Not FB. Not G+. Not Tumblr. A comment on the original page.

Friday, June 5, 2020

It's NOT Just Words

It’s not “just words.”

It’s never “just words.”

When we are five and have to learn to shrug off the bruised feelings of being repeatedly called a “doo-doo head” on the playground, we learn perhaps one of the most pernicious and ubiquitous lies of our culture: that it takes a stick or a stone to really hurt us and words don’t have that power.

Honestly, teachers and parents should come back around when kids are ten and say, “Yeah, that’s not really true. We told you that because you were five, and we didn’t really want to deal with “doo-doo head” like it was a hate crime. Wait until you hear what we left out about the Pilgrims.”

I’m always a little surprised when I’m moderating comments over on my Facebook page and someone––who is absolutely always a white man––tries the “you’re afraid of ‘just words’” gambit. Um….have you read…..well an ANYTHING lately? (That joke works less well when you could have literally read anything––a book, an article, a blog, a short story, a poem, a...)  All you have to do is read anything to see that words are far from powerless. 

Out in the world, you might expect that folks have less ability to see how the language around them is literally altering and shaping their perceptions. (“I can’t tell you why, but I sure do want some Arby’s all of a sudden.”) But of all people you’d expect people to understand what words can do, it’s would be the folks who know how certain works shaped the path of history or how something they read left them devastated. They ought to know all too well the power that language holds to essentially warp our perceptions. Prolific readers and wordsmiths that spend all day sighing at those memes of non-English words with no good translation or perfectly cromulent neologisms then turn around somehow think that words are insignificant, powerless things.

I mean, I get the idea. The words do not literally rip the skin off someone’s skull like you just walked into a gritty reboot of X-men. It is all too easy to pretend that in the marketplace of ideas, the worthy words will merit out. And to some degree, that can be true if the marketplace of ideas has a few ground rules (like we don’t start over every conversation having to prove inequality even exists and that we understand the paradox of tolerance), but the ability of words to actually cause mental and emotional harm and be catalyst for physical harm is undeniable, no matter how open your market might be. 

Ironically, mincing words would be all too easy here, so we should be as plain as possible. Words are the building blocks of the ultimate human power. We are a species of stories and if you control the story, you control humanity. 


Corporations that have screwed up and get caught destroying the environment or using abhorrent unsafe practices spend millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, and even BILLIONS of dollars to hire the greatest experts on the planet at using words to shift blame, and they call upon these experts to complicate what are actually simple issues of malfeasance and greed while assuring people that their most important concerns are their customers instead of their own bottom lines.

Countries’ administrations include entire wings dedicated to how they word things, with everything from highly trained professionals talking to the media to a carefully crafted public relations message to framing nothing as their fault and everything as the somehow the opposition’s. One of the reasons the United States’ current administration has been less effective than it wanted to be at so many of its more horrific policies isn't because some adult in the room pumped the brakes. It is because they have continually slipped up and said the quiet parts out loud, eliciting a powerful pushback. Instead of slick talking points, we got “human capital stock,” “shit hole countries,” and “alternative facts.” Don't think for a second we wouldn't be further down this road if some of those people had been a little slicker with those "just words."

Legislation with clear agendas, like stripping rights or legalizing discrimination, is framed as “freedom of religion”; clear tax cuts––so that the 1% do not have to pay into any codified form of social contract for all the infrastructure and educated workforce they enjoy––are called “relief” and framed as creating jobs (they don’t). Every few years, these failing policies are repackaged––with WORDS––that they might continue. (“Horse and sparrow,” “trickle down,” “supply side economics,” “job creation”….it’s all the same theory that giving rich people money to hoard is somehow good for the economy.)

Stochastic terrorism can be provoked with little more than a few words in clear repudiation of a specific class of people, like one might find in a leader who spews hateful rhetoric.

As I am writing this, the story is going viral of a white woman in Central Park who knew full well that a phone call to the police (a call consisting only of WORDS) would cause the black man she was threatening no end of trouble––possibly violent trouble. She was weaponizing white supremacy and knew she was doing it. 

All with words. “Just” words.

Language is the superpower with which humans have dominated everything they see. Its vast power is the fundamental building block to every lesser ability we have, from splicing genes to nuclear explosions. Language has given us culture, which enables our environmental adaptations to happen with unimaginable alacrity compared to evolution, taking place in less than a generation instead of hundreds. In years instead of generations, we develop immunities that wipe out those diseases that threaten us. With language, we craft narratives that become vise-grip means of social control. We get the victims of oppression to basically oppress themselves by calling their concerns “crazy” or “aggressive.” The right story will justify invasions, topple empires, 

With nothing but “words,” we relegate entire groups of our fellow humans to underclass and even subhuman status and justify their treatment. 

And if that still doesn't convince you, just say, "Black Lives Matter" and watch pretty much 100% of these same "just words" white guys turn a lovely shade of purple and begin to write paragraphs about how they are the real victims of racism. Just three little..........words.

A single word can bring with it the full force of a history of oppression, struggle, and intergenerational trauma. Anyone who mocks folks harmed by "just words," as if the sound waves themselves must be forceful enough to shatter bone if it is to count as harm, has only revealed their breathtaking ignorance of how language works, mental and emotional damage, and a rich history of propaganda. Not one war, not one atrocity, not one pivotal moment in history (good or bad) happened without words shaping every second leading up to them. 

So it’s long past time that a liberal, pluralistic society retire the sophist idea that somehow words are themselves incapable of doing harm, and while expression itself should generally be protected with few exceptions, the attempt to shame anyone who visits a consequence on folks using harmful speech is, at best, fundamentally ignorant of the power of words.

And at worst attempting to preemptively manipulate anyone who dares to hold them accountable for that harm*.

(*Ironically, done with words.)