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

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Vaccine Side Effect Sick

The writer is sick. Or….well….he was. I think I'm better today.

Folks, that vaccine. Holy shit. I mean it beats having Covid (I know), but it knocked me out.

I've since read that this is pretty common when someone has had covid. It's often the first dose (not the second) that is really the doozy. Because it's actually the second EXPOSURE that is rough. 

Anyway, I'm seeing it's about a 80/20 split with people who've had covid and rough dose one experiences that dose two is either LESS of a deal than does one, or that it's "OMFG even worse!" Fingers crossed for the former. Otherwise, I'm going to lose a WHOLE week of writing come about April 16th.

Yesterday I thought I was better, but I think I was actually suffering from the Covid brain fog. I seem to remember my first day back to the writing after ACTUAL covid (a tiny bit less than exactly a year ago) I also had an amazingly difficult time. Getting brain fog when you have ADHD just feels like a bad ADHD day. But holy CRAP is it noticeable when it's gone. ("Oh right. I do know how to form coherent thoughts and triage plans of actions that go beyond, "Need chips. And clear splashy stuff.")

I'm a day behind. But really I'm THIS WEEK behind. I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and try to get a meaty post up on Friday, and since I missed yesterday, I'll aim to post that post on Saturday instead of taking the day off. 

Or maybe I won't. I get to be sick sometimes and not have to work on the weekend to make up for it. We'll see how I'm feeling. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Admin (TWO DAYS)

For folks following close, I'm going to be taking two days off of regular posting for admin work. 

I always take off one Monday a month to catch up on emails and write a newsletter for Patrons (this month it's the Inside Scoop). Since I'm out of Mondays in March, I guess it needs to be today. But also the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine kicked my ASS (which is, I am to understand, kind of typical for folks who've had Covid…which I did). 

Folks at the Inside Scoop tier can expect that probably Wednesday or Thursday and I'll be back on schedule with posting on Wednesday as well. 

My writing hours won't suddenly become full-time on May 1st, but you should see them start to improve by then. 

Five more weeks!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Facebook Compilation (Top of February)

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

Here is a collection of the best statuses (and a few of the most popular memes) from my public Facebook page over the period of Feb-1st through Feb-15th. (You're welcome to follow me there but read up in the Facebook FAQ [last question] before you send me a friend request.) Once we've caught up, these will only land once every two weeks.

If there's a specific context that's important to one of the posts, I'll add it in at the top, but remember this would have been before, during, and just after the Senate impeachment trial of Trump.

I have seen the regressive left. I have witnessed first-hand an online mob that cares more about cyber bullying than restorative justice. I have watched in real time as people have lost huge chunks of their friends and chosen family networks because someone with greater “leftist cred” (usually Ship of Theseus’ing a personal incompatibility into a social justice “sin”) has dragged them publicly. These aren’t boogeymen made up to point baseless fingers at a community with absolutely zero cause for some self-reflection.

But when someone like Bill Maher or some people throwing their support behind a TERF or some vast moderate, right-of-center chunk of the Democratic Party who are sure they could win elections if everyone harmed by the status quo would just stop talking about it are the ones complaining, what they are complaining about is CONSEQUENCE CULTURE.

Chris's Pass/Agg theater of the day:

If you're going to run back to your wall to get support from your peeps, that's cool. We all do it. And we all cast ourselves in the best possible light when we relay our conflicts with others. (Well….most of us. Some of us question ourselves for the rest of time even if we were clearly being abused.) 

But when you start to maybe replace what happened with a few embellishments and maybe leave the part out of the screenshots where you were absolutely behaving unconscionably and got called on it, and topping the whole thing off with a bold determination of bigoted intentions that literally no one INCLUDING MEMBERS OF THE GROUP IN QUESTION (which it should be made clear that you are not) thought was actually happening…..

At that point, you should probably check out the Ship of Theseus question. Because that thought experiment is starting to become very relevant. And I see this shit in leftist circles all too often.

At what point does your representation of the exchange alter SO many details to your favor or the other's castigation that it's not even really what was said?

In the writers room, moments before the concept of SG-1 gets pitched:

"So, what if we had a show kind of like Star Trek, but instead of the prime directive, they basically do…just…. the TOTAL FUCKING opposite? They just show up and jack the shit of EVERY culture they see. Show them tech. Say where they’re from. Interfere left and right. They don’t even PRETEND not to meddle if they have a contrary value system.

The sooner Democrats learn to just say, "It didn't seem to bother you when Trump was president," the better we're all going to be. 

Fiscal hawks and the claim that you can't punish someone if they're no longer in office are the argument dujour, but it'll work in SO MANY situations!

I know the GOP think they can do the Jedi Mind Trick with gaslighting and just get away with that abusive bullshit, but I distinctly remember "Lock her up" being chanted OH….ONCE OR TWICE at rallies. So what do we say?

And where to even begin with deficit spending….JFC, the things Trump did. So what do we say?

"It didn't seem to bother you when Trump was president."  

Phrase that pays, Dems. Learn it. Love it. Say it a LOT.

Do you know what it was that Gina Carano said that upset people? Can you find the exact words? Are you capable of looking it up across almost any medium in the known world?

That's freedom of speech. The fact that she wasn't silenced means she has it.

Everything that has happened since? Just consequences of her actions.

Stop. Just stop. 

None of these people cares if Gina Carano "learns," or "is allowed to develop." (Neither of which requires employment by Disney to occur.) They just don't want there to be consequences for this speech. They walked right past the fact that she did NOT learn when people objected to the last months of her hateful bigotry. No apologies. No backtreading. No learning to at least shut the fuck up with a public profile. Just double, triple, quadruple down and add worse and worse hate speech. And they want people to be able to use hate speech without consequence.

"Any speech!" they will claim, but this is not accurate. Certain people socially censured will earn a shrug and a "that's what you get" or "something something something free market something." It happens every day, and with far more insidious replatforming tactics than someone getting fired from a position where their public political views will cost a major corporation.

How do we decipher this hypocrisy? Well, actually it's piss easy. You just watch what they defend and what they are conspicuously silent about. Anti-social justice is seldom about people being WRONG with their rationalization. It's just about calling out the double standard. They're a lot less slick than they think they are.

But if you don't trust yourself, know that EVERY. SINGLE. STUDY. done on this reveals the same thing: people start to defend "free speech" in situations where it doesn't actually apply when the ideas being discussed more closely align with their own. Because they recognize that they may suffer consequences for their OWN beliefs.

I have basically watched people this last year make (informed) decisions that lengthen and worsen this pandemic for my loved ones, many of whom have had no choice due to their status but to treat it with an abundance of caution. I'm not even talking about maskholes and hoaxers. I don't really know any of them. [Incidentally, I'm also not talking about careful people who got Covid despite their precautions. It's been a while, but don't forget that I WAS one of those.] I'm talking about people who were just…..done. Like a bad driver at a stop sign who yanks their car out in front of a semi because they've "waited long enough."

I'm talking about people who just decided they were not going to let the pandemic slow them down TOO much. They gathered, they exposed themselves to high risk without quarantining, they mixed pods with pods with pods until they were "podding" with dozens and hundreds of people by proxy, and they did risky stuff while assuring everyone they were "being careful," and they didn't seem to care that they were acting like a turd in a pool and ruining things for everyone who couldn't be so cavalier with their risk assessment. (Some of them even acted shocked when they GOT Covid.) 

I haven't said anything. But I see it.

Stargate SG-1 understood the microaggression of saying people's names wrong 23 years ago. Every person who basically power-disrespects the Goa'uld says their names wrong ("Like Goold.") The races that respect them pronounce it correctly. And Daniel alternates depending on whether he is speaking academically or with his emotional hatred. 

Twenty-three years ago, they got this concept that it's intentionally shitty to not say someone's name correctly. It really cuts into the plausible deniability of the "Gosh, whatever could the problem be?" faux innocence an entire generation later.

Regarding the freezing storm that hit Texas

This would be one of those times when it's super uncool to do that "You call that an earthquake" or "You call this cold?!?" one-upmanship, and remember that if an area is getting weather that they basically NEVER get, they will not have the infrastructure in their building designs or utilities or the cultural knowledge ("lifehacks") to deal with it in the way that a place that gets more extremes on the regular will.

Of COURSE it's just about the sexism and the racism and the world order where white men ran EVERYTHING (instead of just, like, 85%). Of course it is. Of COURSE it is. JFC. Do you think they're harkening back to the halcyon days of strong unions, 90% tax brackets, and the entrenched New Deal?

Of all their bullshit, "Make America Great Again" has been the easiest to decode for exactly what it is.

It’s funny to me how much of “awesome” alien future communications tech from shows even as recent as the 90s basically amounted to Zoom.

The Senate voted on jurisdiction days ago, voted that they had it, proceeded, and then a handful of Senators walked out of the chamber having acquitted Trump, popped right over to a media microphone, and practically boasted that the main reason they voted to acquit was because they didn't believe they had jurisdiction*. 

[*It's not. They did it because Trump had an (R) after his name. But that keeps them arguing about the legalese instead admitting to what they're actually doing, which is exonerating his behavior for the sake of party loyalty. They're washing their hands just as fast as they can and with as much plausible deniability as they can muster.]

But in case you think that's slick of them, basically here's what just happened: the party of law and order just did the Senate version of Jury Nullification….practically bragging about it to avoid defending Trump's ACTUAL behavior.

It takes a special sort of moxie for a lawyer to get up during the due process part of a procedure and argue that their client isn't getting due process.

Regarding the firing of Gina Carano

The irony is that people at Disney—paid to do analyses about shit JUST. LIKE. THIS.—almost certainly knew exactly what the blowback was going to be, and her words were SO hateful they said, "We have to do this even if it means we weather a controversy. Loud. Proud. And NOW! Because over time she will lose us MORE money." Like they didn't even bother to do it quietly or write her gently out of the show or just let her go for some ostensible other reason.

That's how awful she was. That a team at Disney sat down and said, "Here are our projections with or without her and we've decided to do something." This is a company that DOES NOT take a stand on social issues and that quietly ignores its controversies until they go away. They didn't even release a statement or show up to answer congressional inquiries to speak to their involvement with Xinjiang slave camps. SLAVE CAMPS. They don't take a stand on anything "moral." They do things that protect their bottom line. And they took one look at the continuing consequences and noped out.

They're never going to get 17 Republicans to turn on Trump, and they know it. 

What's really on trial is the 50 Republican senators. What they're really doing is putting the narrative that this was no big deal (just some angry people blowing off steam) and "we can just move past it with a shrug" on trial. And those senators will have to go on the record in all their partisan glory and say "No big."

How come, in TV and movies when they shoot something and it goes down for a while but then reveals itself to have REGENERATIVE POWERS and it's not really dead, the next time they shoot it, it just stands there laughing? But there's no reason for it to be stronger. It didn't grow armor or anything. It just regenerates. Bullets should do the same amount of damage, and technically shooting it should make it go down for the same amount of time. Every time you shoot it, you buy yourself the same couple of minutes. If you have enough bullets, you might have hours or even days to plan something, just as long as you remember to shoot the thing every once in a while. 

It could be done intense like that BSG where the cylons showed up every 33 minutes, or kind of funny where the person is like, "Oh crap, it's 30 seconds over. I'm going to have to listen to the monologue about my doom now." "I SHALL FEAST UPON YOUR––"  "Yeah yeah." BAM!

I say let them filibuster. But old school. They can't just use the bylaws of the Senate to THREATEN to filibuster. In front of CSPAN cameras with a scrolling newsreel in front of them that tells every single American what they are so desperate to block that they can't even risk a vote, they have to hold the floor without so much as a break. Let it go on for days. Weeks. All hours of the morning. (An earlier version of this said don't let them lean or sit, which is [on reflection] ableist bullshit, but if this rule is going to exist, they have to HOLD THE FLOOR.) 

Put their complete inability to compromise and or suffer a regular vote in a representative body on full display for every single vote they want to block, instead of framing the fillibuster as some twee little check-and-balance rule that keeps bad legislation from eking through rather than the blunt and ostentatious obstructionism that it really is. If cloture can't happen, make them show everyone their true colors like in 1964, when Southern senators held the floor for SIXTY DAYS in opposition to anti-lynching legislation.  Force them, on camera, to be on the wrong side of issue after issue and willing to waste the taxpayers' money reading Dickens to prevent a floor vote instead of just doing their fucking job.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Best Stand Alone Modern Sci-Fi (Book Recs—More Recs and Seconds Needed)

What is the stand alone science fiction book (or short story) written AFTER 1980? Come join our conversation.

Remember there are no more polls. These days instead of a grudge match, we just have a conversation about some good books. ANY book can end up on our list with even as much as a single nomination. The only thing I do even remotely like "ranking" is to put the books in order by number of "seconds." 

I'm doing a week that is pretty extra on the nanny front, so we might have to do some jazz hands by the end of the week, but I'm still trying to hit all of our update goals and stick the landing.

However, we do have a book rec conversation going on RIGHT NOW, and you haven't already, please don't forget to pop over to the original page to drop that nomination, see what has been nominated already, second (all) those you agree with, and brush up on the rules (there are a FEW after all). 

Keep in mind, as there have been some charming A/V media adaptations (and a few terrible ones), that this is a poll about BOOKS. If you loved Jurassic Park The Lost World when it was scientifically inaccurate CGI dinosaurs running around eating people, but found Michael Crichton's 1995 technothriller to be a dry read that was nothing like the moview, you should nominate something else. 

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

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

Monday, March 22, 2021

"I Shall Return" (Personal/Meta/Damned Good News)

I bring you glad tidings. I shall return.

One year ago I bought a dozen or so games for my PS4 in anticipation of needing to stay home, lay low, only do essential things, and keep immunocompromised folks and the high-risk groups safe while a vaccine is developed. 

Some of those games are still in cellophane.

What I didn't realize is that when the airlock doors came down, I would be the only nanny my clients could bring into their pods, and that my days of working a couple of hours four or five days a week while I wrote full time would soon be eclipsed by twenty, thirty, and sometimes longer weeks—all before I'd written a word. As many hours as I could handle (and more than a few I couldn't). Trying to keep up with a blog on top of that was all I could handle. And temporal luxuries like video games simply languished in the "soon" pile. 

For over a year.

If you've been paying attention long enough, you know these aren't kids I would just say "Smell you later" to while I just demand my clients not burden me with extra hours.  And there are circumstances (like past chemotherapy) that make immunocompromised clients need everyone podding with them to proceed with greater caution than most of the world. So for a year and change, I've been working (twice as much as I could handle and half as much as they needed) to pedal a non-aerodynamic flying machine as fast as I could to try to stay in the air. I knew it was not sustainable. I knew it couldn't "fly."  I knew it would crash eventually. But if I pedaled as fast as I could, maybe we could stay up just a little longer and beat out the pandemic before I hit the ground. Other than a couple of weeks off while I quarantined after a dentist or doctor appointment or a rare moment when someone shifted into our pod for a few weeks and could watch the kids, I have just been in an ongoing state of overwhelmed.

It has wrecked my social life (even some online version). It has impacted my mental health. It is devastating my other hobbies like photography, cooking, and video games. I barely even have time to WATCH the latest Netflix or Disney+ show. (I can put something on I've seen before while I make dinner or clean the house, but the time to just sit and watch something new has clocked in at little more than an hour or two a week.) But perhaps the most noticeable effect was how hard all those extra work hours slammed into my writing schedule. I've gotten a little better from my 10 post months early on, but I'm still struggling to put up two "meaty" pats a week.

For over a year.

California's vaccine distribution is coming along PRETTY well, but I recently learned that the "childcare" category that I thought was just for daycares or teachers includes homecare employees. Like nannies. 

Now this is great for me. I'm glad to get the vaccine. Especially since there are a couple of people who might like to kiss me on my face once that happens.

But what's REALLY cool is that this means the other nanny can start tagging in. 


It's a week until their appointment, and two more until their second dose. And two more past that until full efficacy, but….I'm about five to six weeks out from getting my full-time writing schedule back. It almost doesn't feel real to actually have an end in sight. While I always knew I would return, I can actually finally tell you all WHEN.

So many of you have been so patient through jazz hands and reduced posting. Including no small number of folks who keep the lights on around here. I just wanted to share with all of you right away that the end of this dry spell is in sight. 

And when I finally get those extra 20 to 30 hours a week of my writing life back….

Friday, March 19, 2021

"Easily" Published? [Mailbox]

Wait. How is it "easy" to see my name in print on one book?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox." I will use your first name ONLY, unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. Follow-up questions will probably get a jump through the queue.] 

Many ask:

In a post not too long ago, where I was once again trying to tackle the nuance between "write every day" as prescriptive to being a "real" writer vs. as an answer to the ubiquitously solicited advice for how to "make it." I wrote that part of the reason writers talk about writing every day (or nearly so) is because most of the questions they get are about "making it" as writers and they tend to sort of "preempt" that question. However, I added that if writers got slightly different questions their answers might be different. For example, "If I don't care about being rich or famous, but just want to see my name in print on ONE book, once, how can I make that happen?" I went on to say that "That would be a strangely fresh breath of air to us [writers]. (And a surprisingly EASY questions to answer, if you're curious.)"

Many folks commented or wrote in asking me to elaborate on that. "Wait….WHAT?" How can they get that one book published.

My reply:

Having a paying career as a working creative writer involves a lot of work. Most people can't even conceive of it. They try, but they don't realize how much it takes.

No, more than that. 


That's still not enough. 

Okay, now you're in a Rocky training montage. 

But honestly, like any job and any career, working many hours a day and most days a week is simply part of how you make enough money to live. Except for a tiny sliver of household names, writing isn't any less full time than any other career (and it's usually more). And if you stop working five or maybe six days a week, you stop having that career pretty quickly. ("Well, I was hoping that I could just be a really great dentist for ONE year and then retire…")

Unfortunately, with writing, a certain amount of skill is also involved before one can start bringing in that sweet sweet scrill. In many cases, years and years of practice before any kind of "break," and perhaps another dedicated five to ten years to go from sideline income to career money. Most jobs don't have a decade-long unpaid internship, so that part is particularly shitty (although there are ways to make money sooner). I know multi-best-selling authors who have day jobs to make ends meet. Even my claims that I could be fully independent of side gigs and JUST write if I wanted to would have me comparison shopping for which instant ramen was cheapest at LEAST a couple of nights a week. 

But if you're really just looking to get a single book published—or maybe a trilogy—it's pretty easy. That's procedurally easy, my sweet summer children. That's easy-to-tell-you-how-to-DO-it. I mean it's not EASY easy, right? You still have to sit down and write A GODDAMN FUCKING NOVEL, and that's just step ONE. 

But it's not a hard question to answer.

Still, as "pretty easy" as it is (procedurally), even THEN, it's only going to be plausible for most people if they let go of everything they fantasize about when they fantasize about getting a book published. They're not going to get "the call." They're not going to make millions. They're not going to be hailed as brilliant before they go through about nine kinds of pain. They're probably not going to MAKE money, and in fact they might end up spending a small fortune. They're not going to have legions of fans.

Those things…..all those things…come from going through the process in the messy, hard, long way with the career-caliber effort and the writing every day and the blah blah blah. You can't shortcut that part. But you can get ONE thing on the shelf if you're really determined. So let's go through your most obvious options.

Finish it

I'm firmly aware that this should not even be a part of this list and ought to go without saying, but it doesn't. Fully 95% of the people trying to ask me how to see their book in print haven't written one yet. That's the first step. Don't worry about anything else until that's done.

Don't be too good to self publish

Bam. You're in print. No muss. No fuss. No gatekeepers. No one saying no. You push a button and it's done. This isn't vanity press either. You'll get an ISBN number and everything, and if you want to print out physical copies, you can get print on demand for a very reasonable price. 

Victory lap. It's Miller time.

Okay, okay. You'd like to sell more than six copies to your nana, which would not even net you enough for a Taco Bell run. So maybe "in print" is not exactly all that you want. Maybe you even want to publish traditionally because there's a "street cred" in being accepted by a traditional gatekeeper and a certain emotional validation in traditional publishing that is absent from non-traditional routes. Okay. In that case I have a few steps you should probably add.

Get ready to revise

Your book is not done when your first draft is done, and the sooner you get that through your "not MY book"-insisting head, the sooner you aren't self publishing a total fucking trainwreck and standing there proudly holding it like you're Meme Man, completely unaware of the six typos on page one or that you basically ripped off the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster that you forgot you saw when you had the flu last year.

Rewrite it. Heck, rewrite it more than once. I don't just mean reopen the file and pepper in some commas and change a few words and then do a "Save as Version 2." I mean print it out, sit down, and rewrite it from the beginning. We get caught up in our "sunk costs" when we're trying to revise existing words. If we know we're going to rewrite the whole thing anyway, we're a lot more likely to make the big changes that most first drafts really need. When you know you can't sort of just ignore how slow chapter seven is (and hope your reader does too), you're going to be more willing to stick your arms down in it to the elbows in order to cut the entire messy chapter, and put the important bits in chapter six and eight.

Which…..uh…..would then be….the new chapter seven…..you get it, right?

Strong advice: do that twice. Full rewrite. Don't just open the document and revise what you have. Rewrite. Twice.

Did you know that most people's first draft of their first novel gets NOTICEABLY BETTER in prose quality by the end? The author is literally getting better by practicing and you can watch it in real time. You should rewrite (and then rewrite it again) and then revise and come up with the best possible version to hand an editor and/or peer reviewer. Many books you can name off the top of your head as good literature have been completely rewritten five, ten, even twenty times. Now, a professional writer on a deadline to produce content might not have time to rewrite more than once, but YOU can replace alacrity with dogged tenacity and take your time since you just want this ONE book in print, rewriting it until it's as perfect as you can make it. 

This draft sings.

At this point you could self-publish your book, and it would be much better than publishing that draft. Although you'd still probably only have a few readers. Family and a few friends. If you want more than that (or want traditional publishing), you'll have to go further.

Find Some Initial Editing/Peer Review

Early in the revision stages, the kind of content help you can get from an editor and the kind you can get from a (capable) peer is pretty much the same, so you can replace some editing with peer review (or if you don't have a peer group, you can skip peer review and just go straight to hiring an editor). 

But someone needs to read your story and tell you that you lovingly missed a gaping plot hole. Or that some whole paragraph makes no sense. Or that chapter seven was boring AF. Or that the whole Vindameer plot arc was not doing it for them. You've been reading that damned book for probably two or three years now, and you suffer from a tragic case of knowing what you MEANT and being in love with it. You have to get a new set of eyes on it. 

Hey, and in case you didn't know, this part sucks. It hurts. Most writers take a while to learn to separate themselves from their ego enough to hear good criticism when it lands (but not so much they don't recognize bad criticism). You thought people were going to say with wide eyes, "Wow….this is (dramatic pause) ….really good." But instead they say, "Yeah….listen. How much time do you have cause there's a lot to go over about what could be improved. I brought a binder full of notes…" You have to be ready for the pain. And when you give them the next draft, it's going to hurt all over again. ("Okay, this is a little better, but I still think…." "Listen, I love you, but you actually made this worse…")

Procure Professional Editing

Okay, this part, you can't skimp on, especially if you are a non-professional writer with an equally-amateur peer review group who wants to circumvent years of practice to get that ONE thing in print. 

Enter into a professional collaboration with an editor who you like and work well with. Don't be afraid to shop around. It might take you a few tries before you find one you like. You want someone who will push back, but also who understands what you are trying to do and won't screw up your everything.

Explain to them your goals and objectives. (Not every editor is going to want to take on that much work.) Make sure to be clear that you are under no illusions about how rough the shape of the work is now, but that you are willing to use LOTS of editing to get it fixed up no matter how long that takes. They will read your work (carefully, multiple times) and then begin to help you develop it. The more money per page you are willing to invest, the more direct this help can be. In some cases they may offer suggestions that rewrite entire paragraphs, but the ideas are all still yours. Understand that you are talking about basically months of their time, and that this endeavor might cost you tens of thousands of dollars (or, if you're trying to do a trade, you better make a mean stack of pancakes or whatever). 

Don't let people tell you this doesn't count. Lots of people retool their ONE book for hundreds, even thousands of labor hours. All this is….is more efficient. 

There will be many kinds of editing, and likely at least a couple of different editors before you're all done. At first you want developmental editing. Eventually you'll want to get into line and copy editing. All of this is going to cost you money. 

"But Chris," I hear you ask. "What is the point if I'm going to spend this much goddamn money on editing?" 

You're right. You're ABSOLUTELY right. The reason professional writers make money on their writing is because they do a lot of this themselves with skill sets they have built up over years instead of paying to farm them out. A professional writer's rough draft reads a lot like a beginning writer's fifth or sixth draft WITH some editing help. But you just want this ONE thing in print, so you can keep doing it until you nail it.

This is the "shortcut," remember?

This is why it takes years to develop this skill set (and it is a skill set) and why everyone you know doesn't have a book or two published. You really have to ask yourself how much you want that book in print. If you don't want to spend that much, you have to go through the harder processes of reading and writing for years so that you have a sharper, more professional-caliber sense of good writing and cultivate a more developed peer group. Then your editor spends less time per page because it's more like polishing silver, and THEN…..the cost of editing is much, much less, and if you sell enough copies, you'll make it all back.

But if you replace these things with professional editing, you are going to have to compensate someone, somehow. 

That ought to get you to a decent self-published product. More than just your nuclear family and close friends will buy it. If you are insistent on traditional publishing, read the next four suggestions, but whether or not you do traditional or not, be sure and check out the self-promotion part if you want to sell more than a modest run of a couple hundred copies. 

Yes, Get an Agent

If you want to go traditional, get an agent. I don't know how to be more clear about that. 

Knowing where to submit, when to submit, being able to suggest changes that will make a work more marketable, who to talk to avoid the slush pile, having people who will take your call, and how to negotiate a contract when the time comes……those are SKILLS, and writers don't have those skills (unless they are ALSO agents, in which case they already know how foolish it is for writers not to have agents). An agent will pay for themselves and then some.

Get one.

Don't Go Big

If you just want your book in print, don't worry about that big-five contract. That's just frosting. Tell your agent you're happy to have a small press that will take a chance on you. That gives them SO many more options for niche publishers who are maybe all about the type of book you've written. Sure, you're going to have a more modest run and probably lower distribution. And you will have to do more of the groundwork in self-promotion. But the chances you'll simply be rejected are much lower.

Keep Working on It and Make the Changes They Suggest

You're probably going to get rejected a few times. Okay, when I say a few I mean….buckle up, kiddo, you're in for a ride. You will probably be able to wallpaper a room with rejection letters before this is over. Still rejection tells you that you still need to work, and sometimes a rejection letter comes with very good suggestions. If you get a form letter or a flat rejection, it's back to the drawing board. Find an editor who can still see places to improve it and work with them. However, sometimes you get feedback with a rejection. If the agent turns you down, but gives you reasons why, apply the suggestions. If the publisher rejects you, but gives you reasons why, apply the suggestions. And if you don't know how to do it, bring an editor on board to help you. If you just want this thing in (traditional) print, you might have to make some pretty substantive changes to it. Maybe even some "sellout" changes. Make them. 

But—and I realize this is frustrating, contradictory advice—don't be afraid to NOT make those changes if these folks are telling you to change something that is TOO fundamental to the soul of your work. And if you're having trouble navigating that difference, talk to your editor and see what they think. Certainly if you keep getting the same feedback over and over, you might need to set aside your ego and listen. Sometimes you have to add a car chase if you want to get published. But, then again, sometimes you need to know that a publisher just doesn't get what you're trying to do with your art, maaaaaaaan.

Be patient

A professional writer has to get their shit published and get on to the next thing or they're going to starve to death. You, on the other hand, have all the time in the world, so you can keep going back and retooling what you have until it's perfect. You only need to get this right ONCE. It may take you a lot of rejections, but you'll probably get it eventually.

Promote it if You Want it "Out There"

Okay, your book exists. By now editing and revision have hopefully made it good enough that folks will read and enjoy it, and it will seep out beyond family and supportive friends. It's never going to go far because you don't have a platform or an audience, but it COULD if you wanted to promote it. People would probably pick up your book and might even enjoy or recommend it, but you have to get them interested first. However, because you didn't spend years building an audience eager for your latest content, you're going to have to replace an existing platform with promotion, and promotion will either cost money or require a LOT of your own hard work. You can spend hours doing it yourself by putting copies on consignment or putting out a merch table at literary events and doing book signings and every other form of aggressive self-promotion. Or you can spend money doing targeted ads on social media*. Or you can rent a billboard. Or you can sell copies out of your trunk. You're probably going to "spend" the same countless hours either way if you really want good results. If you've written something that will generate word-of-mouth buzz, you may find your efforts get a lot of traction. If not, you may have to put in a lot of effort or money to sell far fewer copies. 

[*If I can make a suggestion. Don't be too good for social media advertising. It may feel like selling out, but if you spend ten hours hitting book stores all over town to sell two copies on consignment, have you REALLY been any more of an artist than if you take ten hours of your wage, buy a hundred or so dollars in targeted ads, and get ten times as many sales?]

But it is out there now. And more than just your mom, BFF, and Aunt Gertrude have a copy.

"Wait a minute. That's a lot of shit. I've spent thousands. This took years. I got rejected hundreds of times. I put in so much goddamned work that I can't even see straight. This looks suspiciously like everything that writers actually do? And all I have is this ONE book. I thought you said this was easy."

No, I said the ANSWER was easy.

Also… it WAS easy when all you wanted was your book in print. Finish it and self-publish. Bam. Your book is in print.

But that's not all you wanted.

Every subsequent goal you hung onto that dream book took you further down the road of exactly what it actually takes to be a writer. By the time you wanted a well-promoted, traditionally published book that lots of people have read and maybe sets you up for a future career in writing, you're talking about exactly what a regular writer does for a living. Not to put too fine a cliché on it, but that's why BEING A WRITER IS HARD. But since you didn't write every day, build an audience, develop a reputation, and do the hard work, you had to use money, editors, advertising, and years of patience and revision to replace what writers learn to do faster, more efficiently, for themselves, and on the fly.

Some people even become working writers this way. May the gods have mercy on them, but they do. Their first book is a travesty of invested time and money and energy, but they learn a lot from the process and try again. By the second book, they are writing a little better and have a tiny little peer group. By having their shit edited to oblivion and back, they learn what mistakes they often make, and what they need to look out for. (Or they skip the editing and notice what they get dragged for.) They have a sense of the needs of the industry and desires of the market, so they take a little LESS time, money, editing, and energy. Book three is even easier. By now they may have a little audience and don't have to promote as hard. A publisher might even be more likely to take a chance by book four…five…six. Of course, they are GUTTING out these books over years and years of hard work, so it's basically the same fucking timeline that every writer has to invest in their craft plus a shit-ton of front-loaded cash. But…some people spend that same amount on MFA programs or lose that much in traditional income when they quit their jobs to write full time, so I'm not sure there's a solid group that gets to throw stones in this equation. 

And yes, this entire process absolutely favors people with lots of money. Because that's the world we live in. They can hire the editors (and pay the "rush job" fees). They can even hire ghostwriters and just sit back and literally let their book write itself. ("Just make it about a farm boy who fights a dark lord who turns out to be HIS REAL DAD! Isn't that fucking cool?") Then they slap their name on it and call themselves a published author. It's fucked up. I wish I could change that about the industry, but I can't.

If this is making you feel a little like the trope of the student who wants to cheat on a test and spends SO long and works SO hard writing notes on their arms that they end up having a half decent study session, you're right. Once you start wanting book deals and good sales, it starts to get a little surreal not to simply go after it in a more traditional way. 

It's a bit like how you could probably learn a song on piano, that you could play for a big audience even, if you had five years and you only learned ONE song and practiced it constantly and hired an orchestra to accompany you that made you sound good if you messed up a little. You wouldn't need to learn to read music or actually play piano. You just work that one song over and over until it's total muscle memory. Eventually, after YEARS, you'd get it. (I don't play piano past a very beginner level, but I hunt-and-pecked out the Phantom of the Opera tune, even slowly learned the left hand, and practiced it so much when I was a freshman in high school that the muscle memory remains to this day.)

And now…Stravinsky – Trois mouvements de Petrouchka,
which is the only song I know.

However….any actual pianist would be ABSOLUTELY CORRECT to point out that with as much time and energy as you just sunk into all that artifice, you could probably be well on your way to being able to play piano pretty gosh dang well. Maybe even well enough to be playing that ONE song for real….but also a bunch of other songs too. The same thing applies to that book and writing. 

So really there are no shortcuts….again. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Facebook Compilation (Bottom of January)

I do a lot of my writing in bite-sized chunks on Facebook (particularly during "interesting times), and it pulls some writing time and energy from blogging. But it IS still writing, and it's high time I acknowledge that fact. Here is a collection of the best statuses (and a few of the most popular memes) from my public Facebook page over the period of Jan-16th through Jan-31st. (You're welcome to follow me there but read up in the Facebook FAQ [last question] before you send me a friend request.) Once we've caught up, these will only land once every two weeks.

If there's a specific context that's important to one of the posts, I'll add it in at the top, but don't forget that this would have been while the country was sort of unpacking the Jan 6th insurrection and coup attempt, and would have included both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Biden's inauguration. 

An otter spooning a cat. 
An. OTTER. Spooning. A. Cat!

A few years back someone caught only the tail end of me talking about MLK. "Something something a radical communist murdered for speaking out whose actual message has almost been completely ignored in favor of the few, carefully chosen quotes that make white oppressors feel good while they go on oppressing."

"Jesus?" they asked.

"No," I said. "But fuck if that ain't telling."

If so much as a single conservative complains that the state attorneys general are going after all these people Trump pardoned (and Trump himself), I demand a 6-10-hour supercut of Republicans passionately saying "states rights" that can be sent as our only reply.

I was talking with a friend and I came up with a sort of crass but extremely effective analogy for how I'm starting to feel about the pandemic.

You know how you're driving and you have to go to the bathroom. And you know eventually it's going to be a problem but, for like fifty miles, you've just dealt with the discomfort because you had to. And it didn't mean it felt good or anything, but when there was no choice, you could kind of push it down and just deal. And probably you could go another fifty or even more if you had to.

But then you see a rest stop. And it's like suddenly you're speeding up and fumbling with your keys and running across the little plaza at warp speed because you're not sure you're going to make it. For FIFTY miles you were uncomfortable but okay, but suddenly in the last 20 feet, it becomes a question of how close this photo finish is going to be. If your zipper gets stuck, may God have mercy on your soul.

And that's all because just the IDEA that relief could be in your future made everything ten times worse. 

That's me. That's where I am. I just saw the rest stop sign and HO BOY, am I fucking ready for this shit to be OVER.

Them: Face it. Your narrative that there are more of you than us is fundamentally flawed. It's about even.

Me: You mean after computer-assisted gerrymandering to disenfranchise the most left-leaning people possible, and voter ID laws designed to disenfranchise the most left-leaning people possible, and voter polling station closures designed to disenfranchise the most left-leaning people possible, and voter roll purges to disenfranchise the most left-leaning people possible, and official felony disenfranchisement that works off of a criminal justice system (which disproportionately affect the most left-leaning people possible), and resisting the statehood of any place that would add left-leaning people, and ignoring foreign psyops, and literally having sustained, ongoing, in-plain-sight election interference by your party leader, and voter registration restrictions that almost exclusively manage to disqualify left-leaning folks…(*takes a breath*)…..not to mention an anachronistic winner-take-all-system built at least somewhat with protecting slavery in mind that makes the votes of some people who live in certain places in the country account for something like three times as much as votes of other people who live in certain other parts……

After all THAT, the results (which you STILL lost) were pretty close in some places? Though overall it was by Seven. MILLION. Votes. Is that what you mean by "even"?

Fuck that narrative.

Dear brain,

Of all the….

Look. I put up with a lot of shit over the years, but the image of a deeply empathic person who is telling their partner that they really, really, really want to understand what's happening that has the partner upset, and then spinning around and becoming Dee Snider from "Twisted Sister" and proceeding to sing "I wanna Grok" is just…too much.

GOP (crying): I tried blocking everything and saying no and being obstructionist and refusing to work with them and not compromising and ensuring that they couldn't get anything done and trying to break their shit so that I could say, "Hey this is broken!" next election cycle (because that's what has worked for forty years), but then they went and just worked around me with the overwhelming majority of the country that wants their help. 


I'm not sure there could be a more emblematic image of what the current conservative, privileged, how-dare-they-not-treat-me-with-deference understanding of "censorship" is (and isn't) than a white congressperson literally speaking INTO A MICROPHONE…. at a podium…. while having the floor….. as a lawmaker….. in the chamber of the legislature….. broadcast on CSPAN and turned into a viral YouTube....but wearing a mask about how "censored" she is…..all without the slightest hint of irony.

They really do think "censorship" is the slightest consequences to their speech. This is probably because they've never actually experienced censorship. 

Maybe this could be MORE emblematic if they made a cross-streaming, highly-advertised  special out of MTG's "struggle" available on on Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, Peacock, CBS All Access, and Prime (all at once) called Bound and Gagged: How I Was Utterly Silenced by the Left—Parts I and II or something.

General Electric Gothic:

Your dryer tells you your clothes will be dry in 17 minutes.

You watch an episode of Westworld. You have 16 minutes to go.

You binge the rest of the season. You have 33 minutes to go.

Watch very closely now. 

Now that there is a clear way for us to get their money, they are going to change the laws and regulations (with a terrible alacrity that is never there when WE need help) so that it's illegal or impossible.

They protect themselves with this narrative: "One percent of this is YOUR money, so this hurts you too." 

You are not an embarrassed millionaire. And there's absolutely no reason not to tax the shit out of the folks with enough money to play these kinds of games, so that humans can ~checks notes~ eat, have shelter, and get medical care.

ETA: And that's exactly what they DID. See below…

This is a comment about teacher's 401k values plummeting because of Gamestop shit, but I'm going to put it here. Just so you think pointing and laughing at high finance hedge fund managers who are getting hosed means I suddenly forgot how to nuance or something.

High finance is complicated. There's a pretty good chance that a LOT of people are going to lose money if their 401k or pension has a hedge fund that invested into Gamestop's demise.

But….hang on. That's like half the story. Not even half. Like….10%…or less. And anyone who stops there is either trying to fool you or has themselves been fooled. And it's the typical divide-and-conquer, get-them-to-fight-each-other-over-table-scraps shit that works all too well.

That is avoiding the WHOLE story in a way that is almost criminally manipulative. It's like saying that everyone's going to go broke if we pay for this highway overpass because "it costs 3 HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS!!!!" ….and conveniently forgetting to mention that if we put a progressive tax on everyone in the state to pay for it, your portion is really only like $2. (Plus it's going to get you to work 10 minutes faster every day so….).

When you buy into a 401k, you probably have these investment choices you can make. You fill out a little form and decide how much money goes into each of them. Like, sometimes you have five. I think the one I have from when I worked in "a real job" (because writing for ten hours a day isn't real) has like 9. There's guaranteed interest that has bonds and high-interest savings accounts. There's mid-range stocks and…. index funds and….… high cap growth…. And there will be one of them, marked "VOLATILE" that you are ONLY recommended to put your money in if you have many many many years before retirement. It could pay out big, but you could lose your shirt. Only over time will the ups and downs will stabilize.

And you decide how much of your contribution goes into each fund. Some people just distribute their payments equally. Most people put just a few percent into the volatile fund and beef out the others proportionally. And if you have a set pension (not a 401k), you CAN'T have more than a tiny percentage in that one––it's probably part of your company or union bylaws and gets voted on by the people who show up to those meetings.

Now let's give the devil its due. Teachers are one of the groups that do NOT get all this choice on their base retirement (unless they go yell at state lawmakers, I guess). They do have a little extra fund they can put money into if they want that has something like this. But for the base stuff, the state just invests it for them. However, teacher's retirement investments are diversified. Their entire retirement savings are not ONLY in these hedge funds, if they even have them at all. The mutual funds that the state invests in are diversified, and not JUST based on some hedge fund doing short sales. Actually, it makes the idea that some single poor teacher's retirement will be utterly tanked by JUST this even more ridiculous. 

So what you're ACTUALLY talking about is the impact of a single decision of hedge fund managers of a tiny percentage of the 401k (or pensions) of folks, most of whom who CHOSE to put some (and probably ONLY some) of that money in a volatile fund. (Teachers don't get to fill out a percentage form, but if their retirements are all blown on underwater basket futures, they have SOME recourse.) The amount that this ENTIRE FIASCO will affect some SINGLE "poor widdle teacher's" 401k is probably not even NOTICEABLE by the time the quarter is over. The people who are actually losing money are the finance managers who were for-all-intents-and-purposes gambling on the stock market. 

Boo hoo.

And…just so we're sparkling mountain lake crystal clear….I'm not exactly FOR any of this (it's peak peak PEEEEAAAAAK capitalism after all). This is exactly what's wrong with the system. writ large and in your living room for a change.

I'm also not here for the plucky underdogs narrative. These Reddit guys are like the next tier down of unmitigated shitlords. But "won't someone think of the teachers' retirements" is a really terrible reason for only RICH people to get to play with a free market. It's not like they're taking good care of us and how dare we disrupt their benevolence with our unfettered greed. 

And for some reason, this line of argument only shows up when rich people are taking a bath. They manipulate markets all day and give folks without food or homes the "courtier's reply" about markets when called on it. Like, where's the concern when these volatile funds lose money for a teacher's retirement plan on their own? Where is it when government pensions are raided to pay to keep a car company in business or woo an Amazon campus? Where is it when lawmakers invest in their pals and teachers' retirements take a hit THEN? No, then we get to hear how good teachers have it with their summers off and their tenure and fuck them for wanting some "cushy" retirement, after all. Everyone gets screwed out of their retirement, and the only time it's front page news is when it's also fucking up the 1%. 

They've been playing EXACTLY this game with retirement funds for decades, and it's only suddenly a huge-ass deal to their manbaby asses when some Reddit dudebros totally out-dudebro'ed them, and they lost ONE round of the game they're never supposed to lose. 

The whole "poor teachers" thing just a double standard, and it's intended to garner exactly the kind of knee-jerk sympathy that it has.

And just like that I'm having a moment about how much Rapunzel must really love having her hair pulled.

I think I'm about ready for quarantinication (and/or the rain) to be over. I gotta get out of here.

I think "ghosting" is one of those places where Tumblr and Twitter screenshots are never going to "crack the case," because there will always be something resonant on the other side. We will always end up with a "Yeah but…." comment if we drop one of those posts.


Even if you completely remove the fact that someone has the absolute right to ghost another person if the "exit interview" of that relationship would not be a safe experience for them (like ghosting a dude who's scary on a dating app or ghosting an abuser)….  EVEN WITHOUT THAT NUANCE, there's so much feedback and input between any two numbers on the knob that fiddling with it just changes everything.
Is it "ghosting" or did you just drift apart? Because if someone pings me, they're going to get the chat equivalent of coming home to an excited dog, whether it's been a day or five years. But the minute my life gets busy, I totally forget to go through my list of friends and methodically check in on everyone. Like there are so many possibilities between position one and position two. 

Here's another facet: are you noticing that you're always the one reaching out? Because that doesn't feel good. However, there are lots of reasons that might happen, from just "this is the way the relationship patterns and habits got going and you're angrily unpacking something I haven't even noticed yet" to one person's neurodivergence. I hate feeling like a burden, so I tend to wait, but I also know how I feel if I'm always the one reaching out. And I have literally stopped giving endless emotional labor to people who don't "reach out" back, just because that is a healthy boundary.

And some people really are just….takers. Your relationship ends the minute you stop pouring into it. And other people leave relationships and would rather just walk away than give someone an explanation. I've had people simply stop replying to deep relationship scheduling-the-meet-up texts to later find out that they got involved with someone monogamous and didn't bother to tell me. Of course, not every person who leaves someone wondering what the fuck happened has some totes relatable reason.

Having someone stop simply talking to you sucks. Kind of getting busy with your own shit and forgetting people you care about is understandable. I have been BOTH people in BOTH those scenarios. (I'm far from always a "nice guy.") There are reasons… But it doesn't make it not suck. But there are reasons. But it still sucks. But there are reasons. 

(But it sucks)

(But there are reasons*.)

And we're always going to have feelz about that Twitter screen grab because it's right. But so is the counterpoint.

It's nuance all the way down.

*But it sucks.

Someday I'd like to sit down and just TALK (maybe while getting just a little tipsy) with someone who thinks hundreds of millions of people's just IMMEDIATELY improved mental health, 20 million people whose health coverage is probably safe, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives that will be saved due to a coordinated response, mask mandates and some fucking leadership, immediately rejoining the WHO and the Paris climate accords, making workplace gender identity discrimination illegal, moratoriums on evictions, extending the pause on student loans, cancelling Keystone pipeline, rescinding the 1776 commission, bolstering DACA, reversing the Muslim ban, reversing four years of deregulation, (ETA-a child tax credit, another $1400 in direct stimulus), not to mention the swearing in of the first woman, and first multiracial Black and Asian woman is not worth celebrating…….  Someday I'd like to sit down and talk with someone who thinks this is all unworthy of a deep breath, maybe a "Nice plateau for a selfie, and then we keep climbing."

Someday I'd like to sit down and talk with someone who doesn't think defeating Trump is worthy of at least a moment of respite before shitting in someone's sandcastle for THEIR audacity to feel relief.

I'm just not understanding how you can look at all that and say "Pfffffft. All that doesn't matter, and I refuse to allow good feelings of others around me about this to go unremarked upon." Particularly when it feels like it is (in a kind of ableist way) demanding people stay in their trauma and their anxiety and how dare they have the audacity to think this could be a good thing. 

I mean, forget for a second that the ACA saved MY life and a handful of my loved ones and so that sort of sentiment lands on me a bit like saying, "It wouldn't matter to me if you and all those other people were dead. I've got some real leftism to do here." It seems to me to at LEAST be "a pretty damn good day." And I feel like the disconnect might be insurmountable in the medium. Is it just a sheer abandonment of pragmatism for absolute idealism? Is it anti-Americanism so profound that even millions of objectively better outcomes cannot warrant so much as a relieved sigh? Is it the leftist version of edgelord? Or am I missing something? Am I leaving out some fundamental ingredient from my own attempts at empathetic alchemy? I know these people are wonderful, smart, educated, well-intentioned. We agree on 95% of leftism and get along famously on days that aren't elections or the last days of Trump's presidency. 

I want to understand (because I want to understand everyone, and this is more confusing to me than when I try to understand people to the right of me). But I just don't. I get that there are miles to go. I get the wanting more. I get not celebrating one's own oppressors. I get the war criminals/capitalism/colonialist/racist stuff. I get that brunch remains cancelled. I just don't get how that means today wasn't at least worth letting some people be relieved and maybe even a little happy.

(If I could lock this post to comments, I would. CLEARLY I'm not trying to ~have~ this discussion online in print. So please take care with replies.)

*Note- This post was popular, but a lot of people let me know that this is a very common trauma response—a refusal to believe that good things are "real" or will remain real. 

I would caution everyone who thinks the Georgia results mean that Biden can do ANYTHING he wants (or that he's a sellout if he doesn't) to slow their roll a little. Approving Senate-confirmable positions or passing contentious laws in a 50/50 split chamber means you can't lose a SINGLE vote, even from the D.I.N.O. wing of the party. Unless you want to whip like woah or backroom deal, you have a LITTLE more breathing room, but it's not like your purple state senators are going to cheerfully appoint socialists like there are no consequences tomorrow for what is done today.