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Alison Diem is a writer of intricate stories involving history, the paranormal, adventure, magic, mystery, murder, fantasy, steampunk, creatures that may (or may not) be real and any combination thereof.  Also, dragons. She admires the work of many and has learned much from every book she’s ever read, even the really, really bad ones.  Especially […]

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Greatness

Greatness is not believing people when they tell you that you CAN’T.

Greatness is ignoring the noise around you, from the people treading water, who want to hold you back, who can’t move forward themselves but can’t stand to see YOU do it instead.

Greatness is having that dream, hearing that song, and not brushing it off as something you must have heard on the radio or seen on the TV the other day. Greatness is realizing that the idea is YOURS and that YOU have to act on it or it’s going to slip away forever and disappear. Greatness is understanding the tragedy of losing whatever it is to the ether and getting it down on paper or on tape or on digital so that it lives and breathes and can be shared with the world. Greatness is understanding the power of creation and knowing that power isn’t just dollar signs. It’s ideas.

Greatness is the power to move hearts and minds.

Greatness is chasing your dream even when you don’t know where it’s going to lead, even when you don’t know if it’s going to be profitable or shower you with money or fame or power, but you do it because something inside of you tells you that it NEEDS to be done. When you can’t sleep until you write down that last little line, until you get that last bit of code, until you weld that last piece of metal.

It’s a story that HAS to be told. It’s a machine that HAS to be made. It’s a process that MUST be created because the world WILL NOT be the same without it.

You do it because your DNA will not let you get away with NOT doing it. You do it because if you don’t, you will be a lesser person for it and so will the rest of the world.

Greatness is knowing the power you have in the little gray cells in your brain. Greatness is knowing the power you have and being afraid. It’s being afraid and DOING IT ANYWAY because it needs to be done. Greatness is powering through fear and doubt and shame and danger because the IDEA is bigger than any one person, any one thing, and it needs to exist in the world or what’s the point?

Greatness is getting it done because it matters and you matter and you know it and everything else is just noise. And you ignore the noise and you just do it.

 

We are never, ever, ever, getting back together. Ever.

As an aside, before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to bring up the following:

For Christmas, I was given the opportunity to pick up a copy of Scrivner.  I have never used this program but I have read about it and heard a lot of my writer friends talking about how much they love it.

So far, I am still working through the tutorial, which is a bit daunting.  I mean, there is a LOT to this program, and I am getting a bit intimidated about using this to write my stuff.

My goal is to find a central location to be able to do all my pre-writing stuff, all my organizing of my materials, notes, research, etc., as well as my writing and I think this might just be the thing but man, is it difficult to get into.  I’m sure I’ll get rolling eventually, but I’m just not there yet.

Is there anyone out there with some suggestions, personal stories, pros/cons, cautionary tales, etc. to give me about this program?  I’d really appreciate it!

 

 Okay.  So, the real stuff.  ;)

I was totally stoked when the new Taylor Swift album, RED, came out.  I loved all the singles that were being released and was super pumped to get the album when it was released on iTunes at midnight.

I had a few issues, however, that made it a less than awesome experience.

Since I had purchased the singles from iTunes, I was supposed to be able to buy the album using the “complete album” feature, where I would get credit for the songs that I had already bought.

Apparently, iTunes has “issues” with that feature, or at least were having issues with that feature from midnight to about 6:30am.  The exact time hardcore fans would want to buy the album and complete it.

I wonder if it is really a coding issue, as they told me, or if it is a way to try to get the hardcore peeps to purchase the full album at full price, despite already buying five of the songs.

Anywho, I finally get the album, and I love it.  There are like two songs that I’m not a huge fan of, and to be honest, it’s not Speak Now but RED is pretty great.

And then one day, I’m listening to Pandora and this Taylor Swift song comes on, one that I have NEVER heard before.  I check my iPhone and I see that it’s from RED but it’s not one that I have.

Apparently, there was a disk that was released as a Target exclusive that contained a few demos, some acoustics, and three original songs not available anywhere else.

I was PISSED.

I’m sorry, I have to buy a physical CD that I will use ONCE to put the songs on my computer and then it will collect dust in my house?  And I either have to physically go to a Target store (blargh!) or I have to order the CD online and WAIT.

Look, I get it.  I’m spoiled.  I LOVE the fact that I can purchase a book and have it on my kindle in less than 20 seconds.  I love the fact that I can hear a song on the radio, Soundhound it with my phone, and purchase it on my iPhone before the song is even over.  I’m spoiled, blah blah blah.

But think about it.  We are all spoiled.  Many of us have smart phones, most of us use e-mail, computers, etc.  We are used to fast and convenient and we like it that way.

As writers, we want to not only create, but sell a product to a consumer.  We want someone to buy our books, right?  To do that, the barriers to entry have to be fairly low.  A consumer will only jump through so many hoops before they determine that it’s one hoop too many and they throw up their hands and say forget it.

Now, Taylor Swift and her management is gambling that she has a big enough brand and a product that people are desperate enough for that they will be willing to jump through a lot of hoops to buy the extra disk at Target.  And I’m sure they are hoping that those same fans will get instant gratification by purchasing the album on iTunes at midnight, or on amazon.com, and THEN coming to Target to get the bonus disk.

Maybe that’s a good bet.  I would love to see the numbers on that.

(The worst part is that at least two of the bonus songs are, in my opinion, two of the best songs on the ENTIRE album, which is infuriating.)

Taylor Swift might be able to do this, but midlist authors and the newly published don’t have that luxury.  Nora Roberts surely can do that- I’m sure if she had a book that was a Wal-Mart exclusive, it would STILL hit the New York Times Bestseller List- but WHY would she want to do that?  Why would ANYONE want to limit where their product would be sold?

Granted, Taylor is only limiting where the SPECIAL EDITION is selling, but there is still an element to that album that you can’t get anywhere else.

MY POINT IS THIS- you cannot make the barrier to get your work this high. 

Maybe, to someone who had to wait in line to buy a 45 of Elvis or the Beatles, this isn’t that big a deal.   But to someone who DOES care about accessibility, ease of purchase, and the amount of trouble they have to go through to give you their money in the 21st century, you need to THINK and plan accordingly when making publishing decisions.  And yeah, I think this counts for anyone getting published, whether it’s traditional publishing, e-pub, or self pub.

This is why self-publishing with amazon.com is, when looking at it from an easy access perspective, a great idea.  Doesn’t take a lot of work, people only have to go to one site to get the item and pay for it, etc. 

Amazon payment options are easy.  You do it through their site and you can pay with credit, debit, or checking account.  You don’t have to download special programs to read their books (unless you don’t already have a kindle, a kindle reader, or Calibre to convert to your format of choice).

If you are traditionally publishing or e-publishing, you should find out if your book will be offered through amazon.com.  Many people shop there and there alone, because it is easy.  Remember, easy = sales.  If your traditional publisher is not offering your book there, find out why.  This could affect your desire to publish with them. 

If your e-publisher is not selling through them, find out why- this makes more sense to me, as e-pubs don’t like to give amazon.com a cut of their sales money when they have their own web based sales portal, but if people don’t know your book is out there because they ONLY shop on amazon.com, this could be a problem.  Understanding your publisher’s position before you sign with them is the smartest path to take, so you can make the best decision for you.

When you look at your publishing choices, think about how your reader will GET your book.  Can they buy it online?  Can they buy an e-book version of it, and get it right away?  Ellora’s Cave used to e-mail you your purchase as an attachment after your paid for it, but it could take a few days.  I’m not sure how they do it now, as I haven’t purchased anything from them since.  (See?  How you distribute your books will affect your sales.)

This was a killer for me.  I want my e-book NOW- that’s part of why I bought it as an e-book.  If you are thinking of publishing with an e-pub, this is a question to ask- does the reader/purchaser get immediate access to the product they purchased?  If not, then maybe this isn’t the place for you.

Let’s talk payment.  How many screens does your reader/purchaser have to go through to give you their money?  Does your e-publisher have its own payment screen/system?  Do they default to PayPal?  Do they offer a choice?  Do they go through amazon.com?  These are important questions to ask, because the less hoops, the more books you’ll sell.  I want to get in there, buy the book, and be done with it.  I don’t want a million pop-up windows or to have to go to a different site that I may or may not have heard of before to put in my sensitive payment info to buy your book.  The fewer screens here, the better.

Just something to think about when you’re looking for that perfect publisher.

To round out this story, I have not yet gone to Target.  Instead, I have been listening to the “special” songs on youtube, and hoping that I’ll get them to come up on Pandora.

In case you haven’t heard’em, have a listen:

(This next one is my personal favorite of the new stuf, just FYI.)

That Depends A Good Deal On Where You Want To Get To

cats can be real douche canoes sometimes, even if they're right

I do this every year.  I make a list of things that I want to achieve and I feel like I hit some, ignore others, and feel a bit adrift by the time December 31 passes.

I find myself unmotivated at times.  I have a few reasons for this, that I think I have used as excuses in the past but I need to deal with them, work with them, and move past them if I want to be successful moving forward.

I tend to write very quickly.  I can write 1000 words in 20 minutes, for example, if I sit down and actually write.  Because of this, I have a tendency to put writing off, knowing that I can pound out some words quickly later.

The problem with this is that I can WRITE the words but that’s not the end of it.  They need edited and polished and the first draft is never (well, not usually) the BEST draft for me.  My words need more work, and I tend to ignore that fact so that I can sit on the couch with Bear, reading fic or books or whatever while I watch TV.  (Yes, I can multitask but only with things that don’t get me anywhere, as opposed to stuff that could move my writing career forward.  *sigh*)

I also struggle with… not depression, I don’t think, but melancholy.  Maybe it is a mild form of depression, but I allow it, from time to time, to convince me that I should stay on the couch or in bed or wherever, reading and not creating.  I don’t know what I’m melancholy about.  I think I allow myself to be intimidated by other authors I’ve read, in the sense that their writing is so good or well-constructed that I don’t think I could ever match their skill, etc. so why bother trying.

Which is a bunch of crap.  I like my writing when I read it, and I know that others enjoy it as well.  I have a voice that is recognizable, according to some of my more regular readers, which means that I have reached a certain level in my career, where I have a voice, I just need to use it and polish it.  And I’m not doing that as often as I need to.

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Doctor Livingstone, I presume?

Oh, MAN.  It has been a long time since I’ve posted.  I don’t even know, you guys.  It feels like I’ve been lost in the jungle and I’ve just been “discovered” in the jungle by Mr. Stanley

First and foremost, I have relocated.  I was in Los Angeles, and now I am back in the Midwest, in the Detroit Metro region.

It was quite an adventure.  My company was bought out and the new owners decided they didn’t want or need an office in LA.  They let us all go but gave us all nice severance, which was nice.  Bear and I decided that it was time to move back home, to Michigan.

I ended up getting hired by a pretty awesome company in Detroit but they wanted me to start ASAP.  I put together a move in very little time- I was technically hired on August 14th and I start on September 4th.  I planned and executed a cross country move in two weeks.

TWO WEEKS.

This was AFTER our trip to the Outer Banks to help celebrate my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary.  60 YEARS, y’all.  That is quite an achievement and I was so happy and honored that I could join them in their celebration.

It was also a reminder of how long I’ve been with Bear, myself.  My grandparents took us all on a family cruise for their 50th anniversary 10 years ago and I was dating Bear at the time.  He wasn’t able to go with us, as we weren’t married yet.  I do distinctly recall being told that if he “put a ring on it” he could come a long.  Funny thing, it was pre-Single Ladies and it was from my super conservative, not particularly pop culture savvy aunt, which makes the comment even funnier to me.

ANYWHO.

I’ve been trying to get back into the groove of a Midwest winter and a new job, which has been fun.  I say that with only a LITTLE bit of sarcasm.  I’ve also had to get used to not attending my regular RWA meetings- EVA, LARA, and OCC!  I miss all you guys!!!

I did find a great chapter here in the area and have been attending somewhat regularly- Greater Detroit RWA.  At the Christmas dinner, I won a full manuscript read from an e-publisher that I am SUPER excited about, mostly because they sell m/m romances, which is the book I am working on right now and I think that I could have a real shot at publication once I submit to this editor. 

I’m trying to set my timeline for this- when do I want to have it completed by and then when do I want it submitted by.  Based on my production over the past month, I’m not sure what the best time frame is for me.

I wanted to do a 2012 year-end run down before I jump on what I want to accomplish in 2013, so here we go!

1) Final Word Count for 2012:  135,483

This is a pretty great word count.

Except.

I had signed up for the Get Your Words Out challenge AGAIN this year and had pledged 350,000 words again, in an attempt to hit that bar at least once.

Didn’t happen.  It should have, which is upsetting.  I could whine and complain that I was losing my job, moving cross country, blah blah blah, but those would be excuses.  Lots of people do a lot more under a lot worse conditions, so I have to stop giving myself outs for stuff like this.

Anyway, on the one hand, I am pleased with what I was able to accomplish.  On the other, I am disappointed with myself that I didn’t even break the 200,000 mark.

2) National Novel Writing Month final word count:  50,075

I made my NaNo word count just after midnight on the 30th.  It felt GOOD.

Especially because I was teaching a class on NaNoWriMo at the time.  I had offered to teach the class for OCC back in 2011 and they got me on the schedule for 2012.  I had a small but amazing class of ladies that pushed each other (and me) to meet that 50K goal and to keep writing every day.  It was an amazing experience and I am hoping to teach the same class this year, although I think that OCC already has something scheduled for the month.

If you are an RWA chapter that is interested in a NaNo class/group for your chapter, let me know!  I’d love to work with you!

Anyway, I met my 50K goal and I think I got a lot out of the experience.

I was working on my “Farmer and the Medic” m/m romance story (so I was breaking the rules by working on a project I had already started- so sue me) and managed to figure out a lot of things about my plot and about my characters.

I think I have a better feel for Xander than I did before, and Jake (as always) comes right off the page.  I think I need to work on Xander some more to make him really pop and feel just as real and fully realized as Jake does, but I’m happier than I was.  I also think that I have the voices down a little better for most of my characters, which feels great, too.

I have roughly 175 pages written in total, which I am working on editing into individual chapters.  I think I can get this pounded out over the next few months and should be able to submit my manuscript to the e-publisher that I won the full read from, and we’ll see what kind of feedback I get from her.

 

So, that’s my end of the year wrap up.  How did the rest of you do?

“If only you could frost someone to death.” – Peeta Mellark

Back in January, I wrote a post on why I haven’t read The Hunger Games series.  I promised at the end of that post to write a second post if and when I read past the second chapter of the book.

I have arrived at that point.

My original points regarding why I didn’t like the book and hadn’t gotten past page four were as follows:

1) It is in first person POV.

2) She wanted to kill the cat.

3) I can be, on occasion, contrary.

I break it down, below the cut.  Spoilers for all three Hunger Games books, and the movie.

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“That’s why they put the “I” in FBI.” – Fox Mulder

Yesterday was a major milestone.  It was the 20th anniversary of the day that Agent Fox Mulder met Agent Dana Scully.

First of all, TWENTY YEARS?  Holy shit.  I feel incredibly old right now. 

The X-Files premiered on September 10, 1993, but with the on-screen date of March 6, 1992.

Why does this matter?  Why should anyone, including you or I care?

Well, for me, The X-Files was a life changing event.  The show changed the way I looked at the world around me, for good or ill, and it helped me hang on when I was so depressed that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make it to the next episode or not.  For the record, my obsession was so great that I honestly think my need to find out what would happen next (and when would they hook up, damn it) trumped any suicidal thoughts that I possibly had at the time.    

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They see me trollin’. They be hatin’.

Katie(babs) pointed out an… infuriating blog post from a sci-fi writer named Cale McCaskey.  (He was answering comments, which is where he really digs his hole deeper, but he has since decided to stop replying.  So, check out his post but you won’t be able to engage at this point.  Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing at this point.) 

On January 18, Cale made a post titled “The Problem with Romance Novels” and proceeded to denigrate the entire genre of romance.  This, of course, made a lot of people on the internet angry.  Quelle surprise!

Cale claims to be a “sexy, single white male with a really big, uh, wallet.”  There is one claim in that list that I’d believe, and that’s the “single, white male” part. 

But I digress.

For those who don’t want to give this guy more hits on his site, here’s a breakdown of what he’s saying.

His claims:

1) Romance novels and authors demanding respect is similar to people demanding respect for finger paintings.  Translation: it’s ridiculous.

2) Romance is responsible for the “almost 50%” illiteracy rate in this country. (Not sure where he’s getting his numbers- he didn’t source them, although throughout his post, he required others to reference all of THEIR claims.  Just saying, is all.)

3) Romance writers do not deserve the same respect as “authors of much higher standing.”  (It reads like he doesn’t think they deserve any respect at all.)

4) Romance novels are DESIGNED to be inferior.

5) Romance and love stories are things belonging to junior high school girls and should be left behind when girls become women. (I don’t even know.  I mean, seriously?  WTF?)

6) “If a romance story were that good, it would no longer be referred to as romance, but would instead simply be known as drama or literary fiction or a classic love story.” (*blinks*)

I tried to engage the guy in genial, polite discourse, and he stuck to his guns.  Romance is for little kids, he seems to think.  I was dismissed with a wave of the guy’s hand.

As an aside, I’m disturbed by this.  Romance, with all the sexy times and serious emotional connections, are for kids?  What does he think adults are doing when they date and get married, etc?  Does he think it’s all rational, logical decisions based on cost analysis and future projections of wealth, or possibly a decision based on genetic compatibility alone?  There is a reason this guy is single and I think this might be a big part of it.

He makes a big deal about Ivy League schools not treating romance as “real” literature, as well.  He even goes so far as to research people that are mentioned in comments so he can discount their academic status (“He’s not a REAL Harvard professor, he’s just a guest lecturer,” blah, blah, blah).  The pretention is just oozing off the page by the time you get to these comment replies.  I think I threw up a little in my mouth.

I was really incensed for a bit, until I figured it out.

The dude is a troll.

Read that again and let it sink in.

THE DUDE IS A TROLL.

Dude is a douche canoe. And sadly, I'll bet he doesn't even float.

He’s not trolling someone’s blog in the comments, he’s trolling the entire romance/reading COMMUNITY in order to get traffic to his blog.  He clearly needs it.  The guy is at the same level that I am- he’s trying to get published, make a name for himself, but he hasn’t gotten there yet.  He’s trying to build his readership, get some eyes to his blog to check him out.  He’s not getting the kind of traffic that he wants (prob. because he’s pretentious and derogatory as shit, but that might just be me) so he’s decided to try something new.

He nukes the romance community from space (it’s the only way to be sure!!!) and watches the traffic to his site just skyrocket.

My guess?  He’s seen what’s been happening with all of the reviewer vs. author stuff and knows that controversy will get you a lot of attention.  And boy, is he getting it.

The problem with his plan, is that he looks like a total toolbox.  Why?  Because the people he’s drawn to his site are ROMANCE READERS who are not going to agree with him.  And the more dismissive and condescending he gets with his comments, the less likely it is that these people are going to be swayed to his perspective.

Am I going to go back and read more of this guy’s stuff? 

Not a chance in hell.

So, he gets a post with a ton of comments and a lot of traffic that isn’t, for the most part, going to last for him.

I’m sure he’ll get a few new followers, but let’s do a cost analysis on this.  Will the value he gets from new readers outweigh the bad will that he’s engendering in other members of the reading/writing community?  Is INFAMOUS preferable to famous? 

The other question I keep asking myself is if he actually, true facts, believes the crap that he’s spouting.  If he does, he may be in trouble.  He gives me the impression that he is not a listener.  He doesn’t hear what people are saying, because he’s so convinced that he’s right that he doesn’t need to bother. 

This guy is going to have issues in the future.  What if an editor or agent decides they want to pick up one of his books, but he needs to do some story editing?  Is this the guy that’s going to be open to suggestions or is he going to argue over every little change and not bend at all?

He strikes me as the type of person that will self-publish if only because he thinks he knows better than the editorial professionals and doesn’t believe he needs to change anything in his manuscript.

Translation: the kind of guy to avoid when you’re clicking around amazon.com and come across his book.

I also imagine that he’s this way in his personal life, so he’s either going to have to find a woman who agrees with everything he says or who won’t say anything even if she doesn’t.  Good luck with that, buddy.

Funny thing- I’ve been reading Chuck Wendig’s 500 Ways to be a Better Writer (which is totally worth the $2.99- you should all pick it up!) and I just read the bit where he talks about not being a “book racist.”  In Wendig’s case, he’s talking about not denigrating other storytelling mediums, like TV or movies.  However, I think his point can apply here as well.

There are those of us that are so sure that our medium is the only one that matters or that has value, and we are not afraid to express that opinion.  This is true within each medium- look at the film world.  The people who will argue the value of Speilberg vs. Tarintino, romantic comedies vs. indie dramas vs. sci-fi vs. blockbusters of all kinds.

Clearly, this guy is one of those who wants to place a value on each genre of books and rank them according to value to the world.  But as I read over his comments, it makes me wonder what value he’s actually looking for in his literature.  Whatever it is, it’s clear that he’s not truly willing to experiment or try new things.  He’s already decided what he likes and what he doesn’t and isn’t willing to bend on that at all, which I believe is to his detriment as a writer of fiction.

There are many genres of books out there.  Literature, with a capital ‘L’, westerns, mysteries, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, etc.  To quote Wendig, “the storytelling cults can learn much from each other.”  You won’t like everything you read, but you should never just write it off as a lesser form.  You can learn something from everything. 

Some of the best storytelling lessons I’ve learned have come from bad books, bad TV shows, and bad movies, or stories that I haven’t liked, even if I could agree that the writing was well done.  If you can’t learn from what you engage in and encounter, then you may be missing a large part of what has kept humans on the top of the pile for so long.  Adaptability.

I’ve learned a lot from his posts, point of fact, and I will be using the lessons I learned as I move forward, hopefully making myself a better writer and a better person.

But in the end, it all boils down to the fact that, no matter what he ACTUALLY believes or doesn’t, the guy is a troll and not worth worrying about.

Age of the geek?

There have been a couple of recent book events that have annoyed me. The Da Vinci Code was one of them. So many people were going crazy over the content of the book, over the concept that the author was trying to push, and yet the writing was utter shit. I mean, just terrible.

I read detective novels and suspense thrillers. I went through a period in my life where I had read almost all the current releases, even the shitty books that they sell you at the checkout counter in big box stores like Wal-Mart or Meijer, for like $1.99. So, when I started reading the Da Vinci Code and I was able to guess every step that the author would take for the first 30 pages, I decided I was done.

I don’t want to be a step (or five) ahead of the author. I want to be surprised and shocked and mesmerized the whole way. Which I wasn’t.

And I wasn’t all that surprised about the content of the book, either. After reading other books with similar theological content (and which mare much better written) like Christopher Moore’s Lamb, and seeing films like Kevin Smith’s Dogma, the idea that things did not go down like the bible spells it out is not a new concept to me. And it’s not heretical, at least in my mind. There are numerous reasons why the Catholic Church and the Pope would want to change the story to meet their own needs and I get that. Which is why the whole plot of the Da Vinci Code just didn’t shock me.

Like, at ALL.

That ties in with a second phenomenon that bothers the crap out of me. Remember when Lost came out and all these people got sucked into the story? People who had denigrated and smack talked all sorts of sci-fi and fantasy works for years?

Yeah, they decided that they loved Lost and they fell into two categories. Either they refused to believe or accept that Lost was actually a work of science fiction or of fantasy (which I experienced when I worked at Blockbuster and got into an argument with a woman who refused to accept that Lost was a fantasy despite all of the evidence to the contrary), or they acted like they were the first person ever to like science fiction or fantasy. Or, that Lost was the first show to do any of the things that it did.

Spoiler alert- it wasn’t.

Not that I don’t think Lost was a great show, although I only watched the first season and that was it (god, back to the Twilight/Hunger Games conversation). I think it did amazing things and I am actually pretty glad that it got people interested in speculative fiction. However, as a lifelong speculative fiction fan, it’s annoying.

My husband is seeing this trend in gaming and with comic books. It’s really popular to be a geek right now. Geek isn’t really derogatory anymore, which is nice for the kids growing up, but it’s annoying for those of us who went through that gauntlet when we were kids and are mad as hell that the people that tormented us with snide comments and who failed to invite us to their parties are suddenly embracing the very things that they gave us shit for.

The internet, it seems, it responsible for this in the long run. It’s not that Spider-Man is inherently cooler now than he was thirty years ago. It’s not like the X-Men have undergone a major revision and are suddenly a different, more exciting team of heroes. No, it’s that the people who never would have read those comics or seen those movies in the past are being shown, thanks to technology, that those stories are amazing, they are spectacular (see what I did there?), and they are worth spending time and money on. The internet, it seems, is a geek enabler.

The internet makes it easier to share your passion. It makes it easier to show people WHY you love something and give them an interactive medium with which to ask you questions and find out more. And if someone does find your little manifesto on why Nightwing/Robin is the best sidekick ever in the history of comics (with Bucky coming in a close second), they are able to, with just a few clicks, find more material to read and do research. Comics, it seems, are not difficult to get a hold of anymore, even if you live in the middle of BFE.

Short stories, fan fic, book/comic/movie reviews, podcasts- there is an amazing amount of access available via the web and it’s allowing people to find their inner geek, even if they hadn’t allowed themselves to do that previously.

Which bugs the shit out of the nerds/geeks who had to take the heat for loving Star Trek or Star Wars for the past 40 years or so.

I was an angry kid, tall and strong and big, who cared what people thought but was able to throw shit back and ACT like I didn’t care when people made fun of me. It was fun to be contrary and tell people, “so what?” when they told me that I was a loser or that Star Wars was lame.

“Why do I care what you think?” does wonders for people messing with you. (I will also confess that I won a weight lifting competition when I was in high school and after my total weight lifted was announced over the intercom the Monday after, there was a certain segment of dudes who had given me shot before then who decided that I was no longer worth the hassle, which made life a lot easier for me.)

Seriously, when you tell people who are giving you shit that you don’t give a shit about what they’re saying, it is so much fun to watch their faces. They sometimes deflate, like a balloon, or they get all red and mad, which is equally awesome.

But I digress.

My point here is that my husband and I grew up without the internet. If we wanted to squee over Star Wars or Thundercats or whatever, we needed to actually meet people, probably in our hometown or at camp or something, to talk about it with. It could be hard to find fellow fans (Escape to Witch Mountain fans, please contact me!) and being a fannish person could be super lonely.

If you were alone, and you were taking shit from people at school, it could be a long, hard road to walk.

That all changed with the internet. We got the internet at my house in 1996 and the coolest thing about it, at least for me, was the fact that I could get on Yahoo (oh, 1990′s, how quaint you were!) and do a search for any of my fannish loves and find web sites devoted to it, fan fiction archives with the additional adventures of whoever it was you wanted to read about, newsgroups discussing the latest episodes, and e-mail loops with all of the above.

Suddenly, the community of geeks was much larger, in that it now included the entire world, and smaller, in that so many people from all over the world became close friends with fans who felt the same way about it.

On the one hand, I am so glad that today’s kids can log on to the web and find someone else who loves what they love and they can talk about it. Even in a town as small as the one that I grew up in, it’s easy to find someone else to geek out with, even if they live 5,000 miles away.

The other side is that the special nature of geekdom is slipping away. It used to be that you survived the trial by fire and you earned your stripes. You got respect for what you made it through and what you were able to find on your own. It took work to get a hold of fanzines or fan films. It was hard to get all the episodes of Doctor Who or Cowboy Bebop. Now it takes less than 5 minutes and you can have the entire run of Doctor Who on your iPad.

I feel like an old person, complaining about this, but I think it is something that needs to be brought up. After all that, it comes back to the Lost phenomenon. All sorts of late speculative fiction adopters are annoying those of us who have been in the game for most of our lives. It is super frustrating when people talk about tropes of the genre that appear in these shows (I will include Battlestar Galactica here as well because there are a ton of people who jumped on the bandwagon because it was cool, not because they really loved the sci-fi and started acted as though BSG was the first to do any of it and really? It was a REMAKE of a show from the 1970′s- CLEARLY it is not entirely new and fresh.) as though the show was the first to do any of it.

No. No it isn’t. They are tropes. Please to be doing some homework.

Here’s the thing. I’m not opposed to things like the Da Vinci Code or Lost. I just wish they were BETTER than what we’ve been given. If we’re going to suck in this new wave of fans, why can’t we give them the best that genre fiction has to offer, not just something that’s middling?

Clearly there is something in these works that have connected with these viewers/readers in a way that previous works did not. That must be taken into consideration, clearly. My concern is that what if what drew people in is something superficial and stupid, that no one who is a true lover of genre fiction would ever want to repeat in their own works? Like, did people watch Lost because of the cast? Or because they were fans of Felicity and JJ Abrams was a part of Lost? Or was the massive marketing campaign that ABC threw out a part of it as well?

I don’t want to be the snob that doesn’t want to let in the barbarians at the gate. I love that more and more people are getting into the things that I love. It’s just that, as they do, they are changing the nature of fandom and of fannish interactions. They’re changing what it means to be a geek and some of us long term, hard core geeks who survived all those early battles are a bit bitter.

Just a bit.

I’ve been on LiveJournal for over 10 years, and I’ve been an active participant in fandom and fan fiction culture for almost 20 years. There are certain rules that were created in the early days of the net that governed the way that fan interacted. Those rules tried to take into account misogyny, racism, ablest language, gender and sexuality issues, and generally try to make fannish online spaces safe havens for fans of all types, no matter what they look like, who they worship, who they want to have sex with, or what kind of body they were currently living in.

New fans are breaking these well-established rules, left right and center. Just look at the comments on any random youtube video. Or on popular online blogs like IO9 or Huffington Post. The negativity, the vicious attacks on anything and everything- it’s like the wild west out there and the old school online fans are having a hard time tamping it down.

Many of us are sticking with our little corners of the web but as more people embrace new technologies and advances, we’re forced out more and more. I LOVE Twitter- I think it’s so much fun, but it does allow people to be absolute dicks to each other, and in public. The things that people will say on Twitter that they would NEVER say face to face is just astounding.

And tumblr. I don’t even get tumblr. I feel like an old lady sitting on his front porch with the shotgun and the old dog, warning kids to get off my lawn when I play around with tumblr. But as LiveJournal has issues and people aren’t willing to go over to Dreamwidth (which you should- it’s awesome!), they are finding themselves on tumblr and the epicenter for fannish info and trends is gradually shifting. Maybe not so gradual. And, again, tumblr is the wild, wild west. It doesn’t work the way I’m used to and it’s uncomfortable.

Change is uncomfortable.

I’d really like to welcome all the Twilight fans to the world of the paranormal. I’d love to tell the Losties where they can find the best sci-fi to expand their minds and to find more of what they loved about their favorite show. But I’m not sure where or how to do that, or if it would even be well received, because I’m not sure that their speculative fiction is MY speculative fiction and that makes me a bit worried.

The times, they are a’changing and I’m not sure I like the way the wind is blowing. I bet this is how old school Trek fans felt when Next Gen was on the horizon. At least they had Patrick Stewart to look forward to.

Put it on the pile with the Furby and the pet rock.

I’ve tried to read Hunger Games at least five times. I have never made it past page four. I’ve tried to figure out what it is that is keeping me out from the biggest book phenomenon since Twilight.

Here are the three things that I can come up with:

1) It’s in first person.

And it’s not very good first person. I have been very upfront about how much I don’t care for first person, generally. It has to be done incredibly well for me to actually feel comfortable reading that close of a POV.

I thought that the first few pages of Hunger Games read very rough, that the author hadn’t quite found her first person feet and it really felt like it needed a second, or third polish. At least to my sensitive first person palate.

2) She wanted to kill the cat.

Look, kill as many people as you want but leave the cat alone. I’m not kidding, As an author, you can kill the entire planet all in one swoop or one by one, Punisher style, but if you want me to like your character, the pets need to be left alone.

I get what she’s trying to do with the whole “I wanted to kill the cat” bit. It’s supposed to be a sign that the world is really tough, that times are awful, and that food is so scarce that the main character would be worried about feeding this additional mouth.

I don’t care. She wanted to kill the cat, game over. No, really. That was enough for me, I was done.

3) I’m just contrary.

I will admit it. I will, occasionally, NOT like something because everyone else likes it. I’ve been accused of that regarding Twilight, but I can honestly say that I’ve read the first book and thought it was shit. I hate Twilight.

Hunger Games, I haven’t really decided yet. I did not like the first few pages that I read and thus, I stopped. I have based my opinion on those pages from that point forward. I have been told by other readers that the first few pages are a bit rough, and that I just need to get past them.

I have also been told this regarding Doctor Who and David Tennant. I shouldn’t have to watch more than a season to get to like the new Doctor, that’s just stupid (I did love me some Christopher Eccleston, good lord did I love him). However, for a book that actually makes sense. It does take a few pages to set up the world and the characters, and to get the plot rolling.

However, it is a problem if the first page has rough writing and contains an element that makes certain readers (re: me) instantly dislike your main character. Maybe not the best way to get that ball rolling.

 

I will admit that I am more interested in reading the book now that the movie trailer has come out. I love Jennifer Lawrence. She was amazing in Winter’s Bone and X-Men First Class. She has this bad ass nature about her, an amazing figure, and this husky, sexy voice that just really works for me. When I saw her in the trailer, she looked hard core and I did find myself wanting to know more about her character and the world that she finds herself in.

I normally get all upset with people over stuff like that. You know, the only wanting to read something because it’s a movie kind of thing.  I did that when P.S. I Love You came out and I discovered that while I liked the movie just fine (and cried my way through it) I really, really disliked the book. That one also has a horrible first person POV, unbelievable character set up, and a contrived plot that made no sense.

I can see why Hunger Games was sold- the whole post-apocalyptic story line, which is hot now, and the kick ass female lead, which we’re always looking for as both readers/consumers of stories and as producers. I’m just not sure it’s the story for me.

I will confess that I did buy a kindle copy of the book with my annual Christmas amazon.com gift card. It was less than $5, so I thought it would be okay even if I made it to page ten and still hated the damn thing.

I still have not read the book.

I will report back if I ever make to chapter 2.

(To be continued…)

 

And now, because I called people out, I’ll find a billion mistakes in here. Figures.

I had an interesting conversation with a writer friend of mine last night, focusing on the things that we both dislike in writing, and things that would get us to stop reading a story, should we run into them.

It’s not just about themes or settings or even setups. I am not a fan of adultery in stories and so I avoid stories where that is a major element. That’s pretty easy and most people have those things, which in circles I run in are referred to as bullets. For example, adultery is my bullet that will kill any interest I have in reading a story or watching a movie/TV show.

What we were talking about is more about the little choices that a writer or production team makes. To make this even easier, I’m going to focus on writing. One of the major things that will a story for me is poor grammar and word usage. This usually only matters with fannish type stuff or self-published work. This applies to people who use the wrong “to/too/two” or “their/there/they’re”- that kind of thing.

This is the kind of mistake that a good editor or a good beta reader should be able to catch. When I see this stuff, it screams “unprofessional” to me. Even if the work is a known unprofessional piece, say like fanfic or something of that nature, running into these issues just tells me that you, as the writer, were too impatient to find a beta reader and just wanted to post and get comments, so you put something up that isn’t as quality as it could be or should be.

Moral of this story? Get a beta reader and/or get an editor (esp. if you intend to get this work professional published or you want to self-pub) and get rid of all these little, stupid mistakes. It’s worth the time and the money. You want people to remember you for you great plot and fun characters, not because you consistently used the wrong “its/it’s.”

The second thing that will get me to stop reading occurs in the character description. I hate, hate, HATE it when two characters are described in the following way: “The older man turned to look at the younger man.” Or, “The blond looked over at the brunette and smiled.” That’s not WRONG, per se, but it screams inexperience. It tells me that you don’t really know how to deal with multiple characters in a scene that might require the same pronouns.
Let’s say that you are writing a romance novel, featuring a man and a woman. You can use “she” and “he” throughout the book, especially in the scenes that they are in together, and that makes it very easy to differentiate between the characters when you aren’t using their names.

Now let’s say that you are writing a story that has multiple characters of the same sex that end up together in various scenes. Using “she” and “she” or “he” and “he” can get confusing to the reader. I can understand why someone would want to find different elements to use as differentiating characteristics. That’s how you get “the blond and the brunette” or “The taller woman and the shorter woman.”

But that isn’t very fun to read. It reads rough, if that makes any sense, and comes across as unprofessional and unseasoned. There are a variety of ways to differentiate between characters in these scenes, as much of the published m/m romances will attest to.

An example: “James turned to look at Sean and frowned. He was wearing a short sleeved shirt and shorts, despite the below freezing temperature and James wanted nothing more than to throw a sweater at the guy and cover his clearly cold frame with something warm. But he knew that Sean would get weird about it, so he kept his opinions, and his sweater, to himself.”

Now, that isn’t the greatest paragraph in the history of the writing world, but I hope it works as a way to show how you can still use pronouns with two characters of the same sex, without resorting to using their eye color, height, or hair color to define them.

On a more serious note, how you treat sex in your work will determine if I keep reading or not.

I like reading stories where there might be some roughness, but all in fun. Or it might get a bit more serious, like bondage, dominance, BDSM, etc. That’s FINE, especially if I go into the story, knowing that’s what I’m getting. What I DO NOT like is walking into a story and suddenly it’s a rape fantasy.

I recently finished reading a book where the heroine had been attacked (raped, beaten, left for dead) and had lost her memory. She was discovered by her family three years later and comes back to them, not remembering any of them, including her husband. Instead of understanding that she had undergone great trauma and didn’t remember who they were, the husband decided that he was ENTITLED to her body because they were married and despite the fact that she repeatedly said no, he was going to continue to attempt (and actually achieve) having sex with her.

It was not sexy, it was not fun or cute, and it was not an enjoyable read. I DESPISED this “hero” character and was incredibly upset when the heroine finally gave in to his advances and suddenly, all of her rape induced trauma was suddenly cured.

I felt like this story was disrespectful of anyone who had actually been raped and it failed to understand the kind of mindset that would happen to a person if they had actually undergone that experience. Plus, the story was buying into and promoting rape culture, which is just disgusting and disturbing. That’s the kind of thing that will make me stop reading your stuff.

How do you translate that into something that you can use as a writer?

Be mindful.

What the hell does that mean?

Have someone else read your stuff. Find someone you know who is really good at the grammar/spelling/punctuation to read through with a red pen and fix any mistakes that you have. No one is perfect and no one catches all their own mistakes. Our brains will correct things for us, making us see what should be there, as opposed to what actually is there, which means that if you don’t get a second set of eyes to look at your work, you could be posting or publishing with easily correctable mistakes and you’ll look like a giant toolbox.

Read a lot of books and stories. Read stories by other people, in different styles and voices, to find out how other people have tackled the same problems that you are facing. I’m not even talking about plots, but in the way that they craft a sentence, the way that they use words to describe places, people, and things.

There are a lot of great ways to do things and you may not have run across them all yet in your writing life. Explore and experience so you can better your own work.

Do research. If you are writing about a subject or situation that might be triggering to someone, like rape or murder or cancer, don’t wing it. There is a lot of research about the effects of rape on the body and on the mind. Same is true for victims of violent crimes, survivors of murder attempts or the remaining families of murder victims. Ditto for cancer. Honor those who have truly gone through these events and get it right. It doesn’t take that much more effort and those who read your work will appreciate what you’ve done to create the most accurate portrayal of those events.

That goes hand in hand with respect. Respect the situation and get it right. There are many people who participate in the BDSM lifestyle. That does not mean that they eroticize rape or torture. If you think that, you have NOT done your research and you need to stop right now and read some books. Hell, you are clearly on the internet- find some message boards, read some blogs and LEARN.

What this all boils down to is DO NOT BE IGNORANT. It will show and you will look like an idiot. You don’t want to look stupid and no one wants to read works that come off as stupid.

Be careful, do the leg work, and reap the rewards. Trust me, the time is worth it.

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