Category Archives: rant

Just Say Bullsh– I mean “No”

I’m feelin’ a little ranty over here.

We women are all the time hearing that we take on too much, and we need to learn to say “no” a bit more, to only take on what we can handle and what we actually want to handle. And when that’s said, it’s said so simply that it seems to ignore the people-pleasing, anti-no training that’s gone into generations of women.

This morning I’m throwing up my hands because one of the most practical and self-assured women I am privileged to know finds herself in a social/family situation in which she’s been asked to do something she’d rather not–for a number of good reasons. From my outside perspective, it seems perfectly reasonable for her to say, hey, thanks for asking, but I’d rather not, and this is why. And on the bright side, not doing that will leave me free to do this for you instead (something she wants to do which will actually be of more benefit to this person).

But instead of saying that, my friend is telling me she’s sent off an email, giving this person this alternative my friend would prefer, and “just hopes” the family member sees it in the same light.

What? Why should that be left in the other person’s court to decide if you really don’t want to do this?

Because, to do otherwise would have required saying “no.”

I was hanging out with a mom a know a bit ago, and she was telling me this story from her past in which she and several other vulnerable and inexperienced young women did not follow the rules laid out for them, and got themselves in an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation. Now, the story turns out fine, but at the end of it, this very aggressive man who had intimidated these young women, asked if they wouldn’t give him hugs as they left. And my friend says, “I didn’t, I wasn’t going anywhere near him. But the other girls did. I don’t know why they would do that.”

Oh, I do.

In his book, THE GIFT OF FEAR, Gavin DeBecker relates a story about a young woman carrying groceries to her apartment, and being offered help by a young man. The woman politely refuses, the man pushes her, the woman acquiesces because it’s rude to keep saying no to someone who is offering to help you.  The fact that he’s telling the story, and the way that he’s telling it, the reader knows where this is going, and readily sees the escalation of events as the man pushes her boundaries, and eventually gains entry to her apartment.

Because, for those heavily schooled in people pleasing, it’s easier to ignore apprehension, disregard what are surely overreactive concerns for personal welfare, and even dismiss the squick of making bodily contact with a loud-mouthed, obnoxious, skeezy asshole than it is to be rude and possibly cause discomfort to someone else.

Objectively, it’s a seething cauldron of Whatthefuck, and yet, it is what it is, and how it is for so many women.

I don’t think we can keep teaching our girls to say “no” solely “when it’s important.” I don’t know, maybe that part of your brain that allows you to respond in those situations doesn’t know how to tell the difference. Maybe, in that part of your mind, there’s no difference between refusing a favor you don’t have time for, a responsibility you don’t want, or to continue a conversation with a man who invades your personal space.

If you don’t have the money, and you really don’t want to parade around pregnant, in uncomfortable shoes, in some mockery of a bridesmaids dress, if all of that discomfort isn’t worthy of your polite “thanks but no thanks,” where, exactly, is your line in the sand?

Well, for all of you reading, you’re thinking clearly the line in the sand would be here, or here, or here.

Except for those of you who have been there, defaulted to training, and then are left asking yourselves why you were so stupid?

Ever get in your car to go somewhere and turned left, even though where you’re going was to the right? And you’re like, well, that was brilliant, but you know that you turned left because you turn left there to go to work every day and, with your mind on other things, you turned left. Out of habit.

Yeah, when I’m totally uncomfortable, nervous, maybe scared, and completely out of my depth, that’s when my brain really kicks in to see things clearly and make the best decisions. Not.

The stupidity, I submit to you, is to fail to call bullshit. Just like your brain doesn’t see the real difference between a lifetime of putting up with discomfort to avoid saying “no,” and saying “no” in the “when it matters” moment, neither will your daughter readily understand why it’s okay for you put yourself last over and over and over again, but she’s supposed to put herself first, you know, “when it’s important.”

Can we just, like, stop? Can we, maybe, help each other out of our conditioning? Remind each other that “being polite” and “never causing a moment’s displeasure to anyone” are not the same thing?

I mean…damn.

And for chrissakes, next time someone goes on all long-winded and you really have to pee, call a time-out and go. OMG, who would mind that? Next time someone calls when you’re up to your elbows in bread dough, tell them (not “hey, would you mind if I,” but “hey, I gotta”) call you back in 10.

Teach your own brain that you matter.

/rant. Now go write me some books about strong women who reject bullshit.

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A mini-rant on the slighting of Android users

I’ve been trying to be more positive lately, but look. This just needs to be said.

Businesses:

Please note that there are a lot of Android users out there, we really like our Android phones. We really like apps.

When you roll out apps for iPhone and blow off Android, it makes some of us mad. Disgusted, even.

No, seriously. Why is this still a thing?

No, you know what? That’s not a real question, so don’t answer it. I flat out do not CARE why it’s a thing. I’m sure you have your reasons. I’m sure you think they’re valid. Those are yours to deal with.

Your customers and your potential customers who are also Android customers neither know nor care about these reasons. What we know and care about is that you have provided services to some of your customers who are not us, and we have been slighted.

Really? Does that seem like a good idea?

Many of us make decisions on what companies to deal with based on mobile access and device support. Please note that some of you have really pissed off some of us.

Please try to do better. And, just so this isn’t all about yelling at you, may I offer a bit of gratitude for the money I have saved by not spending with companies which offer extra benefits to their iOS customers only. (Free digital version of the magazine for iPad! Really? You can’t even through the REST of us a PDF bone? Really??)

And if you’re an Android user, and you find yourself ticked about this on the regular basis, feel free to rant likewise wherever you go.

 

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In which I am more puritanical than I think I am…

This is hardly enough of a thought to make a post, but it keeps coming up and I’m just going to put it out there.

I don’t think of myself as a prude. I don’t think people who know me do either. I like sexy books and sexy movies. I have this thing for “foul” language and the way it’s used for posturing, to show passion, for the ways it can be amusing. Etc. I’m not going to spend all day building up my freak cred here. Point: not a prude.

“Gird my loins”

I don’t know why this phrase bothers me. I would not use it. I don’t want to talk to anyone about my loins, and I’m certainly not going say, “I have something really difficult to do, so I’m going to go provide the region around my pelvis with extra protection.”

This is not something you need to know.

Also, as much as I try to be a modern woman (and, come on, if you’ve read Joss, and her relationship with Dylan, you’ve got to believe that I’m as feminist as the next person), I find that I’m not only puritanical but sexist, because I find it especially disturbing (if I had a word that meant a very low level of shockingly vulgar, that’s what I’d use here) when women say this. We women are definitely not supposed to be talking about…that area…and certainly not in mixed company!

Maybe I need to lay off the period drama…

So what about you? It’s just me, right? No one else is taking all this talk of loins as literally as I am, no one else is bothered by it, and, like many a Puritan, I’m just hyper focused on anatomy and have a dirty mind.

Okay, so if the rampant girding of loins doesn’t bother you, make a girl feel better and tell me what common cliche does bother you even though it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else.

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Amazon, Censorship, and DRM

I freaking hate DRM. Hate hate hate. DRM absolutely affects my buying decisions. Absolutely. I’ve been an ebook fan for a while now. My device was pretty expensive, because the technology was newer when I bought it, but before agency pricing I was able to save enough money on my book-buying habit to make it worth the price, because back then you could get a lot of good deals on ebooks. (And you still can, if you stick to cheap, DRM-free indie reads.) What really made the decision for me to embrace ebooks at the time was how much I love getting digital books from the library. So my choice of ereader was the one that worked with the library’s DRM.

I’m going to want a new device down the line. I’m already looking. But in purchasing a device, I want to concentrate on device quality and features–not the quality of the store to which the device is virtually tethered. A main reason I don’t buy DRM-encumbered books is because I want to be sure my library is as future-protected as possible, and that I’ll be able to read all of those books on my next ereader.

There may be some of you who are confused about what I’m saying here, so let me pause to explain. But do keep in mind that I’m not a technician and I don’t play one on TV, so my understanding and explanation may be technically flawed. An ebook is a file. When you purchase an ebook with DRM, that file is locked by the DRM. You need to have a program that contains your (or your device’s) individual license in order to unlock that file and enjoy your purchase. That program and information is contained in your device, and you may or may not also have that on your personal computer as well. As long as the DRM encumbers your purchase, you will need to rely on that program and license info any time you want to experience the media you bought. Depending on how much you buy, that can start to require a lot of faith on your part. Faith that your license will always be honored.

And the fact is, a lot of people just don’t think about or care about actually owning what they buy. But I’m not one of those. Books have never been throwaway purchases for me, and I don’t have a different attitude toward ebooks. All my ebooks get saved to my hard drive, backed up, and the selection I want to keep on the device gets side-loaded (moved from PC to device by cable) on and off.

So guess what’s not going to happen to my DRM-free books. And here’s where the inspiration for today’s post comes from: I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and find that the willy-nilly Amazon censorship committee has dicked with my personal library. Unless I very much mistake how the world works, if it’s DRM-free and I’ve backed it up, they can’t take it away from me. And, of course, I can convert it to any format I want, to read it on whatever device I choose to purchase going forward.

It’s my money and my purchase. I deserve that security and that freedom to be able to own what I buy. And my readers deserve it.

All the DRM has been cracked. The amount of effort it takes for a pirate to strip a book of DRM and fileshare it is about as much effort as it takes you and me to check our email. Yes, DRM will prevent casual sharing. It will prevent Sally from telling Jane, “OMG, I just read the greatest book. Read it nooowwww,” and attaching the file, in the same way she, and probably you, have lent out paperbacks in the past. And yes, I agree that there are no controls on the number of copies the enthusiastic Sally can fileshare, and that’s a problem inherent in digital media.

But at the end of the day, I trust Sally, my reader, more than I trust the corporate entities that are currently screwing around, back-room dealing in DRM to control my purchases and spending. And I’d kind of rather be a little dicked over by Sally’s enthusiasm than dick her– and my other readers, scrupulously honest readers– over by not allowing her to take my book with her to her next device purchase or to find it no longer available to her when the retailer from which she purchased it decides to remove her access.

Want an example of the controlling bullshit going on with DRM? Sony Reader reads EPUB, and DRM’d content for the Sony is “protected” by Adobe. Wow, same with NOOK! So that means Sony owners have a whole new store to shop! Um…no. Notice how Sony’s not on the list of supported devices. Why? It makes no sense. Same file format, same program for licensed content. What’s the deal? I NEVER got a straight answer out of B&N customer service. At first I think they wanted to talk about the wireless stuff. Um, I don’t CARE abut the wireless stuff, my device is pre-wireless. Why can’t I just purchase the content, open it in Adobe Digital Editions, and side-load it? And I actually think that customer service just wasn’t educated enough to answer my questions.

A lot of Googling finally informed me that just because both devices go through Adobe Digital Editions, doesn’t mean it’s the same DRM. I read somewhere that NOOK DRM is a variation on the previous Adobe DRM, and that’s why it won’t work for the Sony Reader. Why? Or maybe because they’re following Amazon’s model: if you want to shop our store, you’re going to have to buy our reader (we’re just not even going to talk about smartphone or PC apps because who wants that?). Maybe because everyone else who’s been dealing with Adobe got together and pressured Adobe: No! Don’t let them have the same DRM as us or we’ll lose all our ebook customers to B&N! Who knows?

But what’s any of that got to do with piracy?

Nothing.

Indies have the choice to DRM or not to DRM with some retailers. Many DRM without even thinking about it. Oh yes, protect me from the dreaded pirates! when it’s got so little to do with piracy and so much to do with controlling the market. We can’t always control what happens to our uploaded content at all retailers (I’m sure Hush Money is DRM-encumbered at Kobo, Sony, and Apple, for example), but we can give our customers choices.

My readers don’t deserve to be encumbered by bullshit DRM, and I won’t choose it.

PS. Everyone who commented yesterday was a winner. I’ll send those prizes out today. Thanks, guys!

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Rantus Interruptus Continuous: In which the Universe has a lesson for me

Arg, I am an idiot.

I do things I know I shouldn’t do, because I know I’m just going to frustrated and pissed off, and that’s just going to make my whiny and depressed. And I have no right to be whiny and depressed.

But then, as I was writing this post about how I wasn’t going to rant about this, the world shifted again. And people, when the Universe gives you a sign, you need to work through what it means. Which is what I’ll be doing, should you choose to continue reading this.

And now that we’ve had THE most confusing beginning to a blog post EVAR, I’m going to go back to the beginning.

Last night, in my email, a Twitter notification of a new follow by @JamiGold. So because Twitter can’t just give me everything I need in the email, I have to actually go to Twitter to read her bio and follow her back. And what’s her latest tweet?

I know, I know! I should never have clicked that. What was I thinking? I was thinking that I should not be clicking that. But I’m just going to peek.

And then it’s scroll scroll scroll through a lot of opinions that are making ZERO sense to me, and I am taking it WAAAAAY too personally. And it wasn’t a mean, nasty angry thing AT ALL. It was just…insensible.

I mean, what I kept reading, over and over, is that because the books aren’t vetted, self-published books aren’t a good risk for these readers. They acknowledge that there might be great indie reads out there, but trad-pubbed books, while not a sure thing, are a safer bet. Ok, yeah, that’s totally logical, if you’re looking at a new trad book vs. a new indie book, all things being equal and no buzz, no reviews, etc. But here we have people saying I wouldn’t buy a book by an indie unless I met them first.

So you can see how this would make me sad. I just don’t get out much.

And the problem is that when I read this stuff I take it whack-job personally. In my head, I’m whining at these people going, what the hell? Compare my sales rank, compare my cover, compare my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, check out the page of links to blog reviews I have on my website, READ a few pages to see if I’m literate. Judge my book on the things that matter in a book. And then decide if you want to sink the whole 99cents and a few more hours of your time into it.

Maybe it just comes down to this: no one likes to be dismissed. And I think that part of the way these comments touch me is because that feeling of dismissal, that what I can do (write an entertaining book) doesn’t matter because of what I am (an indie author), feels so much like the frustration of being a powerless child.

Here’s what I came to when I decided I wasn’t going to harp on this– and I’m sorry to cuss because that makes me sound angry, but I’m trying to have a personal power moment over here, so indulge me: This shit does not apply to me. Not in some way of I put the awesome IN the mutha-fuckin’ sauce! and this shit don’t apply to me, but more in the way of this is not my readership right now, and their opinions are not relevant in my world right now.

I’m not going to win these readers over by arguing with them. (Oh don’t worry, I didn’t get involved.) There are so, so many literate people in the world today, you guys. Do you know what’s been the most surprising thing to me since publishing? How many non-writing readers are out there embracing indies, supporting indies they love, and how many more just aren’t aware that we’re even out here, that there’s really a difference. If a book looks crappy, they avoid it. If it looks good, they try it. So many readers out there judging books on the book stuff. I think you’ll find, overwhelmingly, that the people who are most negative about indie books are other writers, for whatever their reasons, which are not my business.

Part 2

So yeah, all set to just let this all go and write you this quickie post about how I wasn’t going to rant about what I was going to rant about. And then the Universe stepped in.

Last night, after reading a lot of those disheartening comments I got whiny and tweeted (is there a word for a whiny tweet, like twined?)

A few friends showed up to say cheering things to me, and remind me that I had nothing to be depressed about and I did feel better. And while I was worrying about this crap that I can’t fix, I sold my 3,000th copy of Hush Money and totally missed it. I mean, how far up your ass does you head have to be before you notice you’re being an asshat?

Nevertheless, this morning, I found myself still ticked off enough to be composing a ranty post in my head. Then I got hold of myself, decided to post the Rantus Interruptus instead, and move on with my life. And then, as I was writing this post, @JamiGold shows up. And she says,

And I’m like…Really? Seriously, I was rendered kind of panicked and speechless. Which, if you’re an introvert or social phobic, you might understand. Or if you can imagine Joss’s reaction to, Well heck, Joss, everyone knows who you are. [cue garbled choking sounds]

And also a little…Really? Like, I’m doing this right, this marketing/platform stuff that I was so sure I fail at and would be the ultimate reason for my bookfail?

Oh yeah, dude, it’s totally all dramarama like this in my brain all the time. You do not want to live here.

Ok, so now my brain is totally melted. There are people on Twitter I want to attempt light banter with, but everything’s scrolling by while my mouth is doing floppy fish thing. And @JamiGold says,

(There was one in between where she said she hasn’t read mine yet due to the scary TBR pile from Hell with which we are all familiar.) Wow, Jami, condense all my effort into 140 characters of pure validation. :sucker punch:

No, this is not hyperbole. I’m very emotional. Quit rolling your eyes and embrace this special moment we’re having together, dammit.

Because this is why I decided to tell you the whole story of my stupidity in reading that comment thread. Because we don’t ignore the things the Universe tries to tell us. Especially when the Universe talks via Twitter, because then you really know it means business. Maybe. Whatever. Fine. Have we learned anything?

1. I must not read comment threads about prejudices against self-pubbed books/authors. Evar.

2. Those are not my people. You are my people. Later on, some of those people will hear about my books, be intrigued. They’re NOT the unreasonable people I thought I saw last night. That’s silly. They’re people who love books. They’ll look at my books, at the fabulous cover art, at the reviews, and they’ll judge us on the book stuff. Someday.

3. Until they do that, I’ve got a lot of other things I need to put my energy into. Like getting you guys Heroes ‘Til Curfew. And, to that end, I’m leaving you with a link while I go work on finishing the shit that I started.

The above link is mandatory for all writers, although adult language and beverage warnings do apply.

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Filed under book blogs, books, goals, insecurities, Laws of the Universe, me me me, rant, self-publishing, Signs, what not to do, writing

Holding Pattern

The good news: I’m publishing today.

The not as good news: I’m not totally sure about being live today, and won’t be until I have it all buyable right in front of me.

I’m very anxious/hyper/nervous/excited today, so please bear with me.

Kait, who actually said the other day “I love Adobe Acrobat!”, offered to do the PDF and whatever headers and stuff I need to file for copyright. (Actually, she’s ranting today about how formatting is not hard. Check it out.) But she had real work to do this morning so I must wait until after lunch for her awesomeness to finish doing my work for me.

After that, it’s upload city, baby, and I get to see if it’s really as no hard as she says. So far, everything I’ve done is really…not that hard. I just have to wait to see if it all blows up before I can actually talk about it.

While we’re waiting, if you would consider liking my new Facebook author page, that would really help me look less losery, thanks so much.

I should be doing more productive stuff. I have a list, but I haven’t opened it today. I’ve been thinking about printing with Createspace, doing some reading on that, asking for some experiences and opinions and stuff. My biggest obstacle really is that I have to go back to Robin for the rest of the cover since I only bought a front. Her price for that is really reasonable, I just don’t have a lot of money right now. I wonder if she’d accept this slightly used puppy who ripped through two skeins of pricey yarn this morning… Likely not, and I couldn’t blame her.

Anyway, see, this is the thing with the hyper. I get really rambly. I’ve got to go do something while I wait. I’ll get those links out to you soon!

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“Yeah, I saw that in 6 music videos and a Gap ad.”

Ok, maybe that’s not exactly what SJP said in “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, but if you know what I’m talking about then you know that it’s more about how she said it and that what she was saying was: dude, that dance move is so played.

So I’m talking about cliches.  God do I have reader fatigue.  And it’s not fair because I love to read.  Now I understand that “we’re in the middle of a like totally wasted decade; all the great themes have been used up, turned into theme parks…”  Actually, that was last decade, wasn’t it?

Anyway, make it new!

Do not, under any circumstances, think that it’s ok to take a played plot from one genre and plunk it down into another with barely anything changed.  It’s just not.

On a related topic–related to what I spent 3 hours reading today before just plain giving up–

Food fights and throwing each other into creeks is not conflict.

Middles full of fluffy scenes like that are so not what I want to read, and when the blurb promises that the book is going to be about something, it’s just all the more annoying.  Marshmallow filling in the middle is for Twinkies, not for novels.

But then, maybe some people are into that.  I don’t know.  Or maybe, like me, they just keep reading anything in search of something good, and just anything keeps getting published with the knowledge that people like us just keep reading.

/rant.

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No Admittance Without Plot

It’ s been awhile.

I’m trying.  Maybe not very hard, maybe not in the most consistent way, but I am.  And the why of it is simply that my head is full of brain dolls, and more show up all the time.

A brain doll is sort of like a character.  But a character is someone whom I work, whom I form and mold and tweak.  A character fits into a story and the story fits around the character.  They are the ones who make it to the keyboard and are not generally allowed to run amock.  A brain doll works me.  Brain dolls are creatures that live in my head.  They’re made up of bits of backstory and internal conflict with a dash of physical characteristics, and they often show up in pairs.  They tend to come with very few accessories like, say, plot points, and most of them are lazy and don’t build on their own.  They just wait around for me to do it.

Some of my brain dolls, the ones that have been with me a long time, make their own spaces in the corners of my world.  They build sets and create stories, and they live lives within the borders of their regions.  Their stories tend to be soap-opera quality messes that I could never untangle enough to put to paper, even if I wanted to.  Some of them are former characters, retired with their abandoned plots to enact and embellish on their favorite scenes for, it would seem, all eternity. 

Matt and Alex still live in the WOTM region, waiting for that last 20K or so of grey area to get colored in.  They’re still characters, and thus far, they continue to wait silently for my return, should you wonder what became of them.

 But it’s the huge brain world playset of Supertown that’s out of control.  That’s the world where Mac and Colby live, though they, too, linger as characters trapped in the brain doll world.  Rand and Marissa want their story told, but not enough to give me enough hints on plot points to keep the action going.  Marissa brought in this ex-boyfriend named Joel, and next thing you know, Tina showed up with a criminal past and said she wanted to, after much angst and denial, be hooked up with Joel please.  Well ok, Tina, but what else ya got?  Give me more to work with or get in line.  One young woman showed up a month or so ago, and she felt promising.  She brought a hero, a father, a sister.  And then she turned around and informed me that no, she had 2 sisters, and they had beaus, but please excuse their complete fuzziness.  Great.  Thanks.  Take your trilogy and wait over there.  Patiently, Carolyn waits, reminding me that she’s important and she has a love interest, and please don’t forget to introduce him at some point.  But while she’s told me what she can about him, he has yet to show up and introduce himself properly.  Which might be why we refer to him as Stasis Guy.    Today, as I stare at the last line I wrote for Rand and Marissa, wondering about their motivations, I realize that someone needs to die.  Not right now, just, you know, sometime.  And the man she leaves behind waves to me from a dark corner.  I didn’t even know he was there, but he’ll be ready to play the Grieving Widower type who finds true love a second time later on down the road.  He introduces me to his Best Friend, who pulls him away from the body of his lover.  Best Friend says hey, how’s it goin’?  Just wanted to let you know that that experience will make me realize what a jerk I’ve been to my COMPLETELY FUZZY love interest here, and I’ll be having one of those Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone moments (yeah, coincidentally Cinderella is playing right now, neat).  Oh, how will that come about?  Well I don’t know, that’s your job, isn’t it?

Hey, I love hangin’ out in Supertown.  I love you guys.  Really.  But I’m constantly distracted by all these new arrivals.  You guys are never going to reach your character potential if I don’t get some work done.  Help me.  Help me help you.  Give me some stories to go along with these setups, or your world is never going to be anything but a some assembly required brain doll playset. 

Rand, you’ve got that anti-gravity thing going for you.  Get up there and pull down the Welcome to Supertown sign with the everchanging digital population indicator.  Bryan, get off your not coming up with my YA subplot butt and help him out, because I suspect you’ve got a bit of telekinesis going, don’t you?  The new sign is right over there.  It reads:

No Admittance Without Plot.

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Filed under characters, COD, ideas, progress update, rant, romance, wotm, writing

WOTM Update: Boys Don’t Cry

Last night I wasn’t going to write anything.  I was doing that regrouping thing, figuring out the next bit to come.  What that really means is that I DID NOT want to write my Black Moment and was stalling like anything.

Well, Kettle pops up, and of course she’s writing.  That girl is always writing in whatever snatches of time she has.  Makes me feel like crap sometimes, let me tell you.  “Progress?” she asks.  “Depends on your perspective,” is my reply.  “I knitted a sweater for Blythe and I’m just about to write up the pattern before I jayne fan blytheforget what I did so I can do it again.”

Bad Susan.  It’s 100°+ every day.  Like Blythe needed a sweater.

Anyway, since Kettle was writing, I was like ok, I guess I can write the intro to the Black Moment scene.  So I pretty much whipped that out at 725 words, showing that it was right there ready to be writ and I was just being lazy and/or stubborn.

Kettle went to bed and I wasn’t sleepy, so I decided it would help my mental health to try and get some notes written about this Black Moment scene, so I wouldn’t forget to include stuff once I got into it, and so I’d know where I was going and wouldn’t have to fear the writing of it so much.  So la dee da, and the next thing you know, it starts pouring out onto the screen, in that very rough way I tend to write things in the present tense with no proper quotes or format.  And almost 3000 words later I was through it.  Whew.  It was after 1am and I was on a roll.  As Alex left the room I was ready to jump right into Matt’s head and get his reaction.

I turned around, and he’s sitting there crying.  Oh no.  Oh.  NO!  I freaked.  I admit it.  I cannot stand to see men cry.  It scares me.  I hate it.  I shut the lights on that scene so fast you’d have thought a transformer had blown. 

Yeah, I’m pretty much afraid to go back now.  Don’t be surprised if you see me rewriting and tweaking the Black Moment a whole bunch to avoid it.  I don’t know what’s going to happen now.

Men crying in books has to be handled just right for me.  It’s very dicey, and generally, I wouldn’t recommend it.  So what do I do now?  I like me my brooding, stoic, Alpha males.  How did I end up with Emo Matt?  When he’s not blowing sunshine out his butt, he’s emoting all over the damned place.

So do I fix him?  Do I deny him the emotional outlet?  How much do I not want to go back there and not only be Matt in tears, but also watch and record at the same time!

How about you?  How do you feel about teary men?

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Filed under ideas, love, progress update, rant, romance, word count, wotm, writing

Write What You Can Sorta Relate To

Cliches.  Sometimes as a cliche matures, it kinda takes on a life of its own.  Not too long ago I read:

They’re often tired similes and metaphors that no longer inspire comparative thought (“a drop in the bucket”). 

Thing about it is, when a phrase is carelessly tossed around enough, people stop talking about what it means.  And they carelessly assume that everyone knows or that it’s perfectly obvious.  And, can you imagine, people sometimes do this when providing instruction and advice?

This came up recently when Kettle and I went back and forth on the topic of Write Like You Talk, and in the end what I had to say was that it’s like that chestnut: Write What You Know.  It may not be the simple, straightforward advice it seems, and maybe one ought to think twice before dispensing it without explanation.  No drive-by, hit and run advice for impressionable writers. 

So after that, Kettle said: you should really write a post about your issues with the whole Write What You Know thing; she said she had some thoughts on that herself.  And I filed it away and tried to forget about it, and I can’t tell you how many times it’s popped up since.  Ok.  I give.  Here’s the post.

Not too long ago, I was participating in an online group for amateur writers and the subject came up: I want to write, but everyone says Write What You Know and I feel like I haven’t got enough experience to write anything yet.  And others chimed in with yes, they had that same issue, and since they only wrote from their own experience, it made them feel trapped, and like they were so limited on what kinds of stories they could tell. 

I totally related to what they were saying, because I used to feel that.  Everyone says that, and for some people, on some basic level, it sinks in in a very literal way.  I don’t know at what point I got my head straight on it, but I think it came during a period in which I read a lot of fantasy and it hit me: Anne McCaffrey has never been to Pern nor had dragon hormones influence her sex life.  Yet here’s this incredibly detailed world with a complex society and an entire history and development of the society and it’s people–and she’s never been there!  How can this be? 

[I don’t want to discuss how people “see” or “live in” different worlds in their heads.  I don’t discount that by any means, but it is not the topic I’m on here, ok?]

For some people, it’s always been obvious.  Write What You Know never gave them pause.  Others have found themselves shackled by a simple misunderstanding.  So I’m going to try to explain what it means to me now.

I think what makes Pern or any other story world real to us is the author’s ability to allow us to relate to it and the characters who inhabit it.  This is true, not just for fantasy worlds, but for stories set in our own world as well, not just for worlds, but for characters.  The more relatable–er, accessible is probably the right word–the elements of the story are to the reader, the more the reader is going to connect with the story, suspend disbelief, feel with and for the characters.

And here’s where Write What You Know comes in for me.  If you want to write a story about someone being stalked by a psychopath or chased by a killer or hunted by a demon, does that mean that if those things have never happened to you, you can’t write it?  No.  When you’re writing those scenes, what does your character feel?  Fear.  We’ve all felt fear.  Maybe we don’t know bone-deep, life-and-death, stone-cold, insert other hyphenated cliche terror here, but we know what fear feels like.  And, as writers, we remember that, we allow ourselves to experience that again, and we describe it as vividly as we can through the eyes of our character in his or her current situation.  Same thing goes for embarrassment, hate, love, longing, grief…  You write your character into the situation, and you feel it for them.  Remember how your heart pounded, how you felt dizzy, how you thought you’d never make it through the moment or didn’t want to or didn’t want it to end.  And make us feel it too.

Write What You Know is about emotions.  Because emotions are what is common in the human experience.  We all have our different histories, stories, backgrounds and experiences that we bring with us every time we pick up a book to read.  But the feelings we’ve felt when X happened to us are very similar to the feelings that Jane Doe had when a very different and yet sort of the same Y happened to her.  So we can pick up the same book and, if it’s done well, we’re probably going to be able to feel the same feelings for the character as well.  Cool, huh?

While we sometimes think that imagination in books is all on the shoulders of the writer, it kinda isn’t.  The writer built the exhibit, and the writer’s your tour guide through it.  But as the reader, it’s up to your own imagination to experience it, isn’t it?  It’s a joint venture, from her head to yours via your shared experience.

There’s no question that experience can enrich your writing.  It’s only logical that the more you bring with you, the more you’ll have to work with.  But it’s not necessarily true that whoever comes with the most life experience will write the best book.  After all, people are walkin’ around all over the place, having all kinds of experiences they can’t possibly begin to put into words.  (Read a few random blogs today, see you if you don’t get what I’m saying.) 

Don’t let youth and/or inexperience stop you from writing, and telling the story you want to tell.  And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you haven’t done enough to be a writer.  You’ve survived this life this long, you’ve got stuff inside you.  Make believable characters others can relate to by writing your own experience into them.  Now go Write What You Know.

Kettle’s written on the same topic today.  Go check it out.

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