Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summer Vacation Isn't Just for Kids

I started a new book today.

Okay, that was a blatant lie. I actually started it yesterday...Monday...the middle of last week...but if I actually tell the truth, then I have to face how little progress I've made over the past seven days. (You would think that it would require a kind of controlled schizophrenia to lie to one's self so effectively, but no! I get a clean bill of mental health in spite of the vast number of people who would like to argue otherwise.) I've managed less than four thousand words in a week. That's something like a thirty-six minute mile; in other words, not good.

A lot of indie writers are playing for the brass ring of being able to do this gig as a full-time thing. I like to think that I'm self-aware enough to realize that this would be a terrible path for me. I'm fundamentally lazy, and there's a reason that I don't get much done during the weekends. When I'm doing my day job, I write during my two fifteen-minute breaks and during my lunch hour, and with a good outline I can get something like 3000 words done. I'm really an eight year-old at heart, and I need my structure in order to get things done. For some reason, though, it is kicking my ass this time around to switch gears from the editing-brain to the drafting-brain.

Something needs to be done here. It might involve stickers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

This Is Not How We Do, Guys.

Death Threats and Hate Crimes, Attacks Against Women Bloggers Increasing.

Lots of smart people have tackled the relative merits of anonymity vs. pseudonymity vs. Real Names online before me, but it's a psychological fact: when you*, or your victim, wearing a mask, it's easier to hurt them. They seem less real to you, and it's easier to make completely heinous statements and threats that you would never carry out or wish for in real life. When that internet-induced callousness is pointed towards a subset of people who historically have had to fear mob violence**, it stops being a matter of blowing off steam. It's the start of a chilling effect that makes any further discourse impossible at best, punches right on the PTSD button, or maybe even inspires someone else to actual physical violence. I've seen a blogger/author whip his fans into making graphic rape threats against a female blogger who excoriated his book, and another author who is still stalking a blogger two and a half years after she called him a racist. Come on, guys. Be better than that. There is someone standing behind that avatar, even if they do look like the Twitter egg. I'm going to hazard a guess that 99.9% of the folks saying vile things to others on the internet don't actually want harm to come to the bloggers (and they know what they can do with themselves if they do), but it's still akin to waving around a loaded gun while doing tequila shots.

*General "you" unless specifically stated otherwise.

**I'm talking specifically about women bloggers as far as this post is concerned, but that's not me being mealy-mouthed: the rule applies to gay or trans folks, people of color, whatever the evil immigrant group of the day is, and so forth.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Under the Dome by Stephen King

As the book is a couple of years old now, I'm going to be pretty free and easy with spoilers, so this is your warning to skim or skip if you're sensitive to 'em.

I went back and forth on including Under the Dome in the Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian Reading Challenge for two different reasons. Firstly, I wasn't sure that it counted as "apocalyptic" when it only affected one town. Secondly, the apocalypse ends before anyone has time to really dig into the nitty-gritty of rebuilding society after it's been destroyed. However, the book does go deeply into the psychological changes that rip through people when they find out that they're suddenly no longer rewarded for being civilized, so what the hell: it's my blog and I'll natter if I want to.

Summary: In October of 2012, the small town of Chester's Mill is abruptly cut off from the outside world by a clear, indestructible dome that defends itself by destroying any electronic devices that come within six feet of it. Former soldier Dale Barbara is on his way out of town when the Dome comes down, trapping him inside with the murderous Junior Rennie and Junior's equally corrupt father, Big Jim. Over the next week, the roughly two thousand residents of "the Mill" find themselves fighting for their town, their humanity, and their lives.

My Thoughts: I read Under the Dome and Cell concurrently, and realized something: they're both examples of King speaking back across the years to the younger self who wrote The Stand. Though I liked Cell a lot, UtD is actually the more fitting response. It's like The Stand in a lot of ways in its large cast and frequent switches between POVs, the perfect drawing of small-town grudges and politics, and the hints of Third Sight. (I even wondered at times if Trashcan Man hadn't fathered a child somewhere along the way who had grown up to become the Chef.) However, while I still liked it, it's also similar to Cell in that King has become increasingly pessimistic as he's gotten older. The Las Vegas crew in The Stand had to sacrifice their lives to defeat Flagg, but they succeeded. Our Heroes in UtD only made it out alive because they begged for their lives and hit a chord of pity in the aliens playing with them. I'm an old-fashioned girl who likes the heroes' sacrifices to mean something even if they leave deep scars behind, so I'm not entirely sure what to make of that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Jessica Verday hasn't had the best of years. There was the tiny little issue of an editor attempting to pressure her into taking the gay romance out of her YA novella in order to turn it into a heterosexual love affair, her refusal and the yanking of the story, and the publishing house's subsequent attempts to burn her career. (Cleolinda has the full deets here, and I'm not ashamed to say that the house's behavior was a major factor in this pretty miss deciding to go indie. I try to control my millworker mouth when I'm on the internet, but certain anatomically improbable things with a chainsaw might have been suggested.)

Happily for us, however, she has plucked herself up and is now selling the novella, Flesh Which Is Not Flesh, as a stand-alone. Even better, 50% of the proceeds through August 31 will go to the Living Beyond Tolerance scholarship fund. So go forth, my lovelies, to buy and then promote like mad promoting things!!!

(I admit that I should not be allowed candy in the afternoons, but still: this is very cool, y'all.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Authors Behaving Badly

So you got a bad review. You worked out this scenario in your mind before you ever published, you assured yourself that you were going to be coolly above it all, you could already picture yourself swishing the martini as you stared down your nose at the ignorant philistine who was so unable to appreciate your work. They would see the error of their ways! When you were rich and famous. Or dead. After you cut off your ear. (This actually works with both the rich and the dead scenario.) (What, I have an active imagination, leave me alone.)

When the moment comes, however, you find yourself regressing all the way back to kindergarten, when it was acceptable to chase the other kid down with a pair of safety scissors for the high crime of stealing your crayons, or at least spitting into the glue that you knew they would be eating later. By the time that the white-hot rage has lifted, you're swearing at the reviewer or worse, getting the review entry suspended.

Guys. Do not do this. Turn that metaphorical martini into an actual one (might want to have someone hide your wireless router if you're a mean drunk), pay a friend to tackle you if they see a tic developing under your eye, go clean out your closet so that you can donate to charity (bonus: you're helping people in need and throwing things). But do not ever respond to a negative review. If you destroy your reputation with unprofessional behavior, it doesn't matter how good a writer you are, no one is going to want to give you money in order to find out. They might still revere you after you're dead, but it doesn't help your career in the slightest to be an ass while you're alive.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: Cell by Stephen King

Summary: In Cell, King taps into readers fears of technological warfare and terrorism. Mobile phones deliver the apocalypse to millions of unsuspecting humans by wiping their brains of any humanity, leaving only aggressive and destructive impulses behind. Those without cell phones, like illustrator Clayton Riddell and his small band of "normies," must fight for survival, and their journey to find Clayton's estranged wife and young son rockets the book toward resolution.

My Thoughts: Stephen King's getting old, y'all. I'm also reading Under the Dome right now, and he has a character in his mid-twenties who hates cell phones. Clayton is about ten to fifteen years older than Barbie, so his distrust of technology doesn't stand out quite so starkly, but most of the authors and illustrators of graphic novels that I know geek the hell out over new technology, so by rights Clayton should have been battling it out with the Raggedy Man for control of the phone zombies. A good thing he didn't, since we would have a radically different book at that point. King writes good villains, but I don't think that even he could make me root for a zombie over a span of more than 400 pages.

This book shines in all of the places where Stephen King is strongest. Clayton is a decent guy, his heroism arising from his ability to pay attention to the world around him with artist's eyes. (And we stay in his head for the duration of the book, very strange for King.) Raggedy Man is one of King's creepier villains since the late, lamented Randall Flagg, and the bird-like movements of the flock eerier still. The world-building is strong and detailed, and longtime King readers will recognize several of the character archetypes who populated The Stand. It's also pretty streamlined, for a King book, at less than half the length of The Stand. Some readers may cheer this, but I kind of like The Stand's sprawling epicness. (It also makes a handy portable weapon if one needs to go jogging or walk across a parking lot at night.) The thing that I found most noteworthy in comparing it to The Stand was much less about length and much more about tone: this is ultimately a pretty pessimistic book. While Raggedy Man stands in as our Randall Flagg (of a sort, anyway: the book ends with a strangely sympathetic attitude towards its villains), there's no corresponding Mother Abigail. The efforts of the heroes ripple on a small scale rather than a global one; I hope that this is not a conclusion that Stephen King has arrived at about the human race as a whole.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm not a lunatic, I just play one on TV.

My family had a medical crisis last night/this morning that ultimately led to me stomping around a hospital floor during the early evening today snarling out a blue fury and, ah, not being a lady. Threats of black magic might have been issued. (Look, they worked, and this isn't the first time that I've done it, either. You start muttering about chicken blood, and folks tend to give you what you want.) I had to pause and remind myself that I only write about superheroes, it's not that I actually am one. Which led to jokes about how I do get kind of shrill when I'm upset, and Naomi could definitely relate, which led to...

I don't write self-inserts. As much as my life has been crazy for the past few years, it lacks an ending as of yet, not to mention any semblance of coherent theme. (And if I were to put my aunt to fiction, I would immediately get cries that my villain was much too cartoonish and unbelievable.) However, I'm a pure damned liar if I say that I don't explore a specific aspect of myself more often than not in my heroines. Take the series that I'm brushing up and getting ready to show to the world right now:

Ophelia is my Type A side, my elder sibling side. She's also a lot of what I want to be, quietly confident and unceasingly good no matter what happens.

Bonnie is my angry teenaged self, constantly convinced that I was misunderstood and betrayed. The hell of it is that teenaged angst isn't always unjustified.

J is my redneck, hard-drinking, hard-fighting, and hard-loving side. She's gone largely into the closet as I've graduated college and grown up a bit, but J still has her secrets.

Mindy is my insecurities. She's actually probably my favorite after Ophelia because of them.

Naomi is, um...well, we both get very shrill when we're upset, to say the least. Naomi was actually the hardest of these characters for me to get to know. I placed her POV book towards the end of my schedule for a reason, and I was startled by much of what she told me when the time to outline came around.

Well, *pffft*. And here I always try to avoid talking about writing as if it's a mysterious visit from a muse with fairy-dust in hand as opposed to awesome, fulfilling, frustrating work. How about y'all? Do you see certain aspects of yourself in your characters again and again? And readers, do you navigate towards characters that remind you of aspects of yourself, whether those aspects be things that you like or things that you dislike?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Let me take you back to a dark and troubled time...

...nearly forgotten in the mists of history. Yes, Gentle Reader, we are journeying back to, the horror, the early aughts. Cobain hadn't been gone a full decade yet. 9/11 was a few months away, and the POTUS was a benignly stupid chucklehead that none of the people in my age group paid that much attention to. (The erosion of the Constitution hadn't begun in earnest quite yet, and to be fair: outside of crass jokes, we hadn't paid much attention to the last guy, either.) Emo was still a pejorative, and I thought that Hot Topic was cool. I was fifteen, and mad as hell about that fact.

Obviously, I've gotten over all that in order to emerge before you as the, erm, bright and shining example of optimism that I am at the present day. But I went to a Godsmack concert last night and, as I was screaming obscenities at a stage flanked by people ten years younger than me to twenty years older, I was right back there. Adolescence sucks when you're living it (anyone who talks about the best years of their life is going to have a sad one), but nostalgia brings back the sweetness a bit. I jammed along to "Voodoo" and remembered sexy-dancing in a friend's living room while a boy named Justin, my first ooh-la-la tongue kiss, tried to seduce me. (Well, for a fifteen year-old's understanding of "seduce", which mostly meant that we played grab-ass.) (And it didn't work.) "I Stand Alone" was all about my deep and painful angst. (How dare you suggest that I stooped to having tantrums, and anyway: there was also a pretty nasty custody battle going on. People who mock adolescent experiences either lived in shoeboxes filled with cotton or have numbed the memories since with drugs.) And I didn't get my first iPod until I was eighteen, thankyouverymuch. I was "cool" because I had one of the slim CD Walkmans.

I wouldn't trade anything in order to be fifteen again. I had no freedom, lived on ten dollars a week when Mom was raking in the overtime, and wore black eyeshadow without blending. Last night I chilled out on the grass and left when I damn well wanted to, drank two beers, and was confident enough to realize that it was sticky for anything other than a bare face 'cause I got nothing to prove. Even though the responsibilities of being an adult are a hell of a lot more intense than those of a teenager, and there are months when ten bucks is all the disposable income that I have to my name, a door with a deadbolt is a mighty thing. For a little while, though, it was nice to remember.

(And then I turned sixteen, got my license and a job, and realized that the cops brought in from the city didn't know the back roads nearly enough to hunt down we few, we proud, we redneck kids when we were determined to get in trouble, but those are stories for another day.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hugo Weaving Is a Creepy Mofo: An Essay in Pictures.

As I mentioned on this blog, I saw Captain America a few weeks ago and was duly impressed. Most of my praise went to Chris Evans, whom I had not anticipated would be able to tone down his comedic side enough to deliver on the gravitas required for a capital-letter Heroic role. (And was I ever glad to be wrong; I'm even more excited about The Avengers now.) What I am now fearing, however, is that I neglected to praise one of the movie's other major tent pegs, Hugo Weaving as Red Skull. That man is creepy, y'all. Case in point:

Granted, Weaving is most known for his villains, but that's a headshot! When you look as if you drag the skin off of your forehead all the way around to the back of your skull in order to make another face in a generic headshot, maybe there are certain roles that are naturally going to find their way to you.

So you can't hear him utter his trademark "Mr. Anderson." Does that really stop a cold chill from running up your spine?

Okay, you might be saying, so Mr. Weaving scored one, now two iconic villain roles and is going to have more loose skin than a Shar-Pei once he reaches a certain distinguished age. It's not fair to call him creepy based upon that. After all, the man does play heroes sometimes...

His eyebrows do that naturally? But I'm not being fair. After all, I haven't discussed my favorite role of his yet.

Most convincing good guy he's ever played. Can't imagine why.

(This is what I do when it's raining too hard to run errands, folks.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

There's a new webslinger in town.

Marvel is debuting a new Spider-Man.

1. First surprising thing: the new Spider-Man is biracial.

2. Second surprising thing: neither of those races is white.

The sadly not surprising thing is the number of fanboy heads that are exploding over this. Guys. Guys. Chill out, you're making the fine dork tradition look bad. The vast majority of superheroes are straight, white, male, and cisgendered. The majority of the human race is not. Hell, even in the US, where Marvel will presumably be concentrating most of its publicity dollars and expecting the majority of its sales, straight, white cis-dudes are still the minority. That means the rest of us who enjoy a good hero now and then? Are already completely down and well-versed in empathizing with someone who isn't like us demographically. Trust me, it's not that hard. If you can believe that a man can fly, a couple of gods can come down from Asgard to play out their Shakespearean family dramas amongst the mortals, and Batman can have a sleepover without accidentally killing someone in a rage blackout, you can handle a black Spider-Man. I promise. Here, take my hand. Now: deep breath in, deep breath out, deep breath in. Now remind yourself that Miles Morales is stepping up to do the right thing armed only with inexplicable powers and/or pluck, just like Peter Parker before him.

There. That's not nearly as scary as you thought it would be, is it?