Things like "Bob Smith from college" or "Neil Gaiman" or some clue for me to know who the actual person behind the account is. Sometimes I know people by many different names, and it's hard to keep up, frankly. I'm sure I'll figure something out. But that's gonna hurt. :)
Things like "Bob Smith from college" or "Neil Gaiman" or some clue for me to know who the actual person behind the account is. Sometimes I know people by many different names, and it's hard to keep up, frankly. I'm sure I'll figure something out. But that's gonna hurt. :)
On the Quillian Chronicles, each time we present a story, we follow it up with an interview with the author. My interview is now live, if you have any desire to hear it. :)
I loathe the sound of my own voice. But I think everyone does. So . . . there you have it. Go. Listen. Download. Share. But only after you share the story as well. :)
It should come as no surprise to anyone who either knows me or reads this blog that I am participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. This will be my seventh consecutive year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I hope it will be my fifth consecutive win. As I said in a previous post, I already have my project picked out for this year, and it promises to be something kind of fun, but more importantly, useful to me as I write my PCIU Case Files novels.
What this means for those of you who do see these posts is that the frequency is going to pick up. Perhaps drastically. From one or two per week to one every day, or perhaps multiple posts per day.
For those of you seeing this over on LiveJournal, I’ll kindly put a cut so you aren’t inundated by my spewing effusively about whatever I’ve written that day. Or, alternatively, lamenting the words I did not write that day. But please bear with me as the link-up between WordPress and LiveJournal is . . . a little fickle at times, and I’ve never gotten the cut to work just right.
So, I’m going to test it, right now. On my WordPress site, you’re about to see a "more" link, and on LJ, it should show up as an LJ-cut.
Note: I don’t make it a habit to rant, here, but I felt the need to vent about this.
This is something I wasn’t aware of until some friends of mine pointed it out last night. A writer of their acquaintance whom I shall call "Jack" sent out an email to the Atlanta Writers Club with the following title:
Jack Writer Has a New Pulitzer Nominated Book
Jack is published through what I will call a small press, but an argument could be made for calling it a vanity press. I’ve met the owner of this publishing house, and although he seems like a nice, earnest person, there was something about his answers to basic business-of-writing questions that told us he’s not really all that knowledgeable about things like contracts and rights. Which a publisher should be, if he expects to stay in business long.
The email provided a link to the book’s PR site (part of the service provided by his publisher). The page contains a number of blurbs (a.k.a. "puffs") written in that breathless style seemingly reserved for such purposes. "An instant classic!" "A tour-de-force!" "I wasn’t able to put it down!" "Jack’s story grabs you by the throat and won’t let go until the final page!" Etc. You know the type. The purpose of a blurb or puff is to influence you to buy the book. Authors (or their publishers) generally get well-known authors in their genre to provide quotes. According to Marilyn Henderson on AbsoluteWrite,
When an author gives another writer a blurb, it implies an endorsement or recommendation of the novel. Her fans may buy your book on the strength of her liking it enough to let her name be on it. It also implies her fans will like your book, so you must choose the author you ask carefully.
If her stories do not include on-stage murder, violence or profanity, for example, her fans don’t expect any in a book she recommends. They assume a novel she "endorses" will be similar to hers. If it isn’t, her publisher may get angry letters, and she may lose fans and sales.
Just as you must know the audience you write for, you must know the audience of the authors you ask for blurbs.
Recognizing none of these authors’ names, I looked a few of them up and discovered that they, too, are either self-published authors or published by small, niche-market publishers. One of them was billed as a critic for a prominent online newspaper which I will decline to mention. I looked him up, and sure enough, he’s a critic. A film and TV critic. Who publishes his reviews on his own site. And then this newspaper links to them.1 He has several books . . . also published by a small, niche publisher.
My point is that these book blurbs were all written by people in the same basic position as Jack: an author whose small publisher is probably pushing them to scratch a back in the interest of reciprocity. I have no proof of this; I’m supposing.
Now, let me be absolutely, crystal clear: none of that is an issue. I don’t have a problem with self publishing. I don’t have a problem with small publishers. I don’t have a problem with niche markets. I don’t have a problem with people getting their work in front of people by any reasonable means necessary. Except for one thing.
Surely that can’t be right. Can it? The Pulitzer is a major award. It seems unlikely that a book by an unknown writer would be nominated for such a prestigious honor.
So my friends looked into this a bit.
Turns out, anyone can enter the Pulitzer Prize competition. You pay $50 and send off a few copies and it’s "submitted." Officially entered in the contest for the Pulitzer. Notice that "submitted" is not the same as "nominated." That is a very fine distinction.
Read more here (Huffington Post article by Steve Lehto). A salient quote from that article:
The Pulitzer Prize organization has juries which select finalists in various categories and then the Pulitzer Prize Board picks the winners from those finalists. According to their own website, the only people who should say they are "nominated" for a Pulitzer Prize are the finalists who have been selected by the juries for consideration by the Pulitzer Prize Board.
Jack himself may not have had any say in this. The publisher may very well have paid the $50 and be urging him to hype the "Pulitzer Nominated" nonsense. And having met him, I can’t say that I would put it past him. That very earnestness I noted above may blind him to the negative impact something like this could have on both Jack’s and his own reputation.
So the morals of this story are these:
- Do not ever do this. It is at best a cheap marketing ploy. It is at worst a bold-faced lie. And if you’re caught at it by your peers, you’re going to have a hard time regaining whatever trust this costs you.
- If you hear of an author claiming his book is "Pulitzer Nominated," check the Pulitzer site before you believe it.
- My problem is the implied lie. Or lie of omission, if you will. Saying he is a "critic" "for" the ElectroNews Times (or whatever) implies that he is a full-time book / literature critic working directly on the payroll, not that he is a film / TV critic on his blog, which the publication then features. It’s the difference in saying, "Here comes the president" vs. "Here comes the president of the PTA." Both are true, but one is more truthful.
Sorry if that inconveniences anyone.
I am taking a needed break from Facebook, right now. I was spending time on there I should have been using for writing. I think I might go back after the election season is over. I’m . . . so very, very done with it.
And I have been writing. I re-visited my “B Is for Bard” story from last NaNoWriMo and came up with an Actual Ending™, toward which I am now writing. I’m trying to end my Fairy Tale Private Eye story. I’m idea-wrangling several other stories, as well as my newly redesignated first novel in the PCIU Case Files series. (It was formerly known as the second novel, but the previous first one needed to be third, so two is now one and three is two.1)
I’ve also been reading and making progress in a couple of books I’d been neglecting.
And I’ve been listening to podcasts. I have a crap-ton of them on my iPod, including a new-to-me writing-oriented one called The Creative Penn, hosted by Joanna Penn. I mentioned it before (here). Since then, I’ve heard a few more, and it’s definitely a keeper.
Now, “James Chartrand” is a pseudonym. “James” is actually a woman. He “came out of the closet,” as it were, in December of 2009. After about three years of being successful and presenting a male persona to the Internet.
Go read that blog post that explains why Chartrand chose that pseudonym, then come back here. It’s a very enlightening read.
There are a few things that I just don’t get. Why does it matter whether someone is male or female when it comes to writing? Chartrand said that she would often submit the same ideas as her real name and as James, and they’d be accepted and even praised as James, but not as her real name.2
How is this still happening? Seriously, how is this still allowed to happen? Maybe I’m just naïve, but I thought things were better than this. I thought the writing was what mattered, not whether the author has breasts or a penis. No wonder so many female authors use just their initials! (J. F. Penn (Joanna Penn, herself), J. K. Rowling, C. J. Cherryh, V. C. Andrews, P. D. James, A. C. Crispin, A. J. Orde, E. E. Horlak, B. J. Oliphant (the last three are all Sherri S. Tepper), D. C. Fontana, J. D. Robb, K. A. Applegate, C. S. Friedman, S. E. Hinton . . . the list goes ever on.)
But aside from that, one other thing surprises me a lot about this particular “outing.” After Chartrand was revealed to be female, her male fans/clients/readers took it pretty much in stride. But the women . . .
She said in the interview that by far the worst reactions came from women. For instance, this blog post by Amanda Hess. Not to say she’s/they’re not somewhat justified, if what Hess says in her blog is accurate. She does make it sound like Chartrand went too far in her pursuit of coming across as masculine, going as far as to do to other women what had been done to her, and that is inexcusable.
My point is that it shouldn’t matter. Honestly, I find myself looking for male characters in science fiction and fantasy because I can identify with them more, but I don’t let that stop me from enjoying female main characters. In the urban fantasy subgenre, it’s mostly female main characters, and I’m fine with that.
Men writing female main characters or women writing male main characters . . . it’s all part of what we learn to do as writers: Writing the Other.3 If we didn’t learn to do that, all our characters would be just like ourselves. I would only have middle-aged, upper-middle-class white male characters with no hair, a cat, and a southern accent. Jim Butcher would never be able to carry off Murphy, Molly, Mab, the Leanansidhe, or Susan, all of whom are wonderful characters. J. K. Rowling’s main character was not only male, he was substantially younger than she. But Harry rang true to me, as did Hermione, Ron, Draco, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Molly, Tonks, and the other 300 characters she brought to life.
Just because she has ovaries doesn’t make her unable to write about a male character. And just because Butcher has testicles doesn’t make his female characters any less believable.
It’s what writers do.
The funny part of all this is . . . I have considered using G. D. Henderson as a “pen name” just for that ambiguity. Precisely because the lion’s share of urban fantasy authors are female, and to fit into the genre, it might actually be best (Jim Butcher, Stefan Petrucha, D. B. Jackson (a pseudonym for David B. Coe), James R. Tuck, and Simon R. Greene (among others) notwithstanding) for me to be ambiguously gendered.
And that’s just . . . weird.
I guess there’s a lot more work left to go before people stop injecting prejudice into everything. If you don’t read a book or blog because of the gender — or race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else — of the author, you’re missing out on some great writing.
- Third base!
- I had a boss back when I worked at a steel mill in Alabama. This particular boss started out having morning meetings where he would talk to all four of his department of computer programmers equally: me, another man, and two women. Then slowly, over a few weeks/months, he scooted his chair more and more into the room until he was sitting in front of the two women, talking only to me and the other man. Rather than calling him on it, we decided to ram it down his throat. “Sue” (not her real name) made a suggestion, one morning (from behind him), and he hated it. Shot it down as no good and unworkable. Later, “Joe” (not his real name, either) suggested exactly the same thing . . . and our boss loved the suggestion. Couldn’t praise it enough. Then Sue called him on it. He turned red, left the room, and didn’t say a word to any of us about it.
- Google that phrase. Seriously.
When Facebook pretty much took over the Internet, killed MySpace, and lured all my friends from LiveJournal and other places, I naturally followed.1 It's been pretty much crickets here, since. I completely abandoned Twitter.2
But LiveJournal is far superior to Facebook in a fair number of ways. For one thing, I can write more freely here without regard to having only a certain number of characters. For another, there is an accessible archive I can use to go back and see my own posts going back to the very first one in January of 2003. I have—or had—a set of people who regularly read my posts and commented on them. And in spite of my claim in 2003 that I would probably never post anything, this post will be the 2799th post I never intended to make. The temptation to make another post before this one and make this one the Big Round Number Post (2800) is almost overwhelming, but I'm going to try to resist it. :)
I've invested a lot of time in LiveJournal. I've written some of my best material, here. I'm frankly proud of what I've accomplished. And judging from some of the comments I used to get, a fair number of you used to enjoy reading my posts, as well.
Well, dammit, I'm not about to abandon LiveJournal. Dammit, this is just a better venue. Sure, everything I post here is automagically posted to Facebook so people can read it, but that doesn't change the fact that I just prefer writing for this venue.
Nor does this mean I'm going to abandon Facebook, either. But I'm thinking that it's time to cut back there and do more elsewhere. I have three blogs. I have this one, one over on Blogger where I put more philosophical stuff (I even call it Philosophidian (the blog itself is pithily titled "Insert Something Pithy Here") and I have my "Professional Writer Blog," (WriteWright) which, if you've been paying attention—and I couldn't blame you if you haven't been, given the layers of dust, spider webs, and tumbleweeds collecting here—are also automatically duplicated over here. Not always in the most expert of ways. I'm still a novice at getting Wordpress to do my bidding, but I'm learning. If posts occasionally turn too long and you wish I'd just learn to use an <lj-cut>, please bear with me. There's no easy way to get that to happen, apparently.
It's no secret from anyone that I want to be a professional writer when I grow up, but I almost never write. Why is that? I think if I can solve that little conundrum, I'll have answered a fundamental question about myself. But I suspect part of it is having fallen out of the habit of writing here.
But anyway, enough navel-gazing. What I'm leading up to saying is this: I'm back. I want to really make an effort to get back into the habit of making posts here, at Philosophidian, and on WriteWright. This is my fifth post in three days, I think, and I have several more in development.
I've assigned myself the task of making entries "more often." So much for SMART goals, huh? :)
I'm using EverNote to help. I make notes all day about every topic imaginable using this software. I've even started going through my old note-taking software (which only runs under Windows, so is less useful to me; EverNote runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, and my phone) finding all the "[LJ]" notes I made—posts I intended to make, usually half-written or even just half-baked, vague ideas—and copying those over to EverNote so I'll have them with me on the go.
I used to have a set of rules:
1. If it's a short, single sentence thing or a link that needs no explanation, put it on Twitter.
2. If it's slightly longer, isn't worth a lot of writing, or is a link that needs some explanation, put it on Facebook.
3. Everything else goes here, at Blogger, or on my writing blog (depending on topic and target audience)
Over time, Facebook—like the invasive species with no natural predators it is—took over all three of those. They just recently relaxed the strict character limit for statuses on Facebook. It used to be 420 characters, or three tweets' worth. Now you can put multiple paragraphs. I'm sure their intent is to murder all the other social networks out there.
The recent changes . . . have disturbed me. I don't like where Facebook is headed. It wants to be too many things to too many people. It wants all of my life to be public, whether I'm comfortable with that or not. It will be interesting to see how the user base reacts to the sweeping changes coming soon, with music and video being incorporated into Facebook as they go after those markets as well.3
People are reacting to the changes in a couple of interesting ways.
Some are threatening to leave. Google+ just opened recently, and they have many of the same functions as Facebook with a slightly different look and feel, and without being "evil" yet . . . but I just can't get "comfortable" on Google+. It feels like I'm visiting friends I don't know all that well and I'm staying in their guest room with all the furniture they inherited from their grandparents. It doesn't match, it's a bit fragile-looking, and it smells kind of funny. OK, the analogy went somewhere I wasn't intending, but I'm going to leave it. :)
Others are crying foul very loudly . . . but will forget it soon and go back to using Facebook the way they always have. Until the next major change comes along, at which point they'll complain how it's better the way it used to be, with no sense of irony that they hated that as well.
Still others are threatening to abandon social networking altogether. To just unplug from it all and become social-networking hermits. No Twitter. No Facebook. No Google+. Just a phone and email.
But it had a different effect on me.
What it made me do was miss the time I spent crafting an entry, here.4 I might spend ten minutes on Facebook. I often spend three hours writing these posts for LiveJournal, because . . . I guess it "feels" more like . . . something permanent. I edit these as ruthlessly as I edit a short story or novel chapter. I try to give them a beginning, middle, and end.
Facebook has a way for you to download your statuses. But it only goes back three months. To get to anything older, you have to manually go to your own profile and start pressing the "back" button. A lot. And don't accidentally refresh the page—it kills all the effort.
Then you have to carefully expand all of your posts out so you can see everything you wrote and all the responses . . . and then and only then can you think about saving the page as raw html so you can use it as a reference for that thing you wrote a year ago about chickens, but then forgot.
I want to get back the feeling I used to have when I'd starting writing a post in my head and couldn't wait to get back to my desk to do it. Now, I'm much more likely to take out my phone and write a few words to Facebook. For a fleeting amusement that goes by in an instant and is quickly forgotten.
I miss Skippy, Bradford, Preston, and even Jürgen. They're still very much parts of my psyche, and I want to bring them out more. Maybe there are even more of them lurking in the dark recesses of my subconscious mind.
So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm back. Hopefully for good. Hopefully not Spammy. Hopefully not like last night's chili.
And hopefully, with old friends and new.
- The only reason I'm on LiveJournal is that all my friends abandoned TinyTIM and came over here in droves. The same ones that flocked to Facebook.
- There are other reasons for that, most prominent of which is that it's just impossible to keep up with people tweeting and retweeting one another anywhere from 5 to 20 times per day. I got weeks behind at one point and then just . . . gave up. I go back every few weeks, catch up on the most recent hour or two of tweets, and then abandon it again for a while. I still tweet whenever I make a blog post, so this one will be visible over there within minutes of my posting it.
- Check out the livestream of their F8 conference.
- Note to telleestmavie: While I did give you blanket permission to punch me in the face if I ever referred to writing as "my craft" unless I was doing so ironically or mocking someone else, this does not quite qualify. There is a certain amount of craft that goes into any writing, and I acknowledge that. I still want never to find myself using the über-pretentious-sounding "my craft." So I guess what I'm saying is "Please don't punch me in the face. Yet."
Now, by “skeptic,” I don’t mean “that guy who always says ‘nuh-uh!’ every time anyone makes a claim. Nor do I mean the habitual debunker, who feels compelled to—often gleefully—reply all to every credulous chain email with 5 links disproving whatever silly story is contained therein.1
I also don’t mean the kind of “skeptic” that simply doesn’t believe in something because it goes against my particular world-view or dogma or agenda.2
I’m the kind of skeptic that is epitomized by the image of James Randi above: give me evidence or don’t be shocked when I fail to believe your claim.
I don’t believe in ghosts, magic, bigfoot, psychic powers, angels, demons, gods, devils, alien abduction, mermaids, the Loch Ness monster, qi/chi, homeopathy, therapeutic touch, ear candling, or a very, very long list of other things too numerous to mention for which there is simply no well-tested scientific evidence that shows an effect that could not be accounted for by other things such as abnormal psychology, pareidolia, coincidence, or the placebo effect.
When people know or learn this about me and then see the kind of thing I write (science fiction, fantasy (epic, urban, and dark), and horror), I sometimes get the response where they tilt their head to one side and you can practically hear their neurons undergoing cognitive dissonance.
“But…if you don’t believe in any of that stuff, why is that all you write about?”
It’s a very good, valid question. And one for which I didn’t have a good answer. But something occurred to me during lunch, today, and I think I have a glimmer of understanding.
One of the most basic tools in the Skeptic’s Toolbox is this simple question: If X is true, how would that affect the world?
For instance, here’s an example. If homeopathy3 were true, how would that affect the world?
Well, first of all, every time you drank water, you’d get what amounts to a massive dose of medicine that should cure every known disease or ailment. And the irony of homeopathy is that the less of it you drink, the higher the dose.
If that were true, how would that affect the world?
Well, there’d be practically no sickness, because all anyone would have to do to cure themselves would be to drink a glass of water. Doctors and hospitals would only be needed for treating trauma. Drug companies would go out of business. Insurance companies would deal only in accidental death and dismemberment policies. (Alas, no amount of medicine cures stupid.)
There would be no more depression, no more malaria, no more common cold, no more cancer, no more epilepsy, no more ebola, AIDS, herpes…the world would be entirely different.
And if by diluting a substance that causes an effect, you can cause the opposite effect in the body, think of the amazing new illicit drugs! Dilute something that causes pain and taking a miniscule dose of it would cause euphoria. Meth and cocaine and LSD wouldn’t hold a candle to some of the designer drugs you could whip up in your own kitchen sink.
Of course, you’d have to have a way of removing the ‘remembered vibrations’ from water, so there’d be a market for that kind of thing. If for no other reason than to make sure that the human race didn’t go extinct or have a population boom. Think of all the substances out there that cause either fertility or infertility. Dilute those enough, and you have a potent birth control (by diluting the fertility-inducers) or fertility drugs (by super-dilution of fertility-reducing substances).
On the other hand, maybe “regular” tap water is nearly perfectly balanced, so all the things that would cause X and all the things that would cause -X cancel each other out. Maybe diseases are caused by water supplies being slightly tilted in one direction or another. People who could analyze the content of municipal water supplies (or wells) could make a mint by offering to re-balance the water supply.
Imagine a world where you might be hyper-allergic to water, because it contains a massively dilute form of anti-histamine compounds. How would you survive? You’d have to have a way of “detoxifying” the water so you could drink it (i.e., removing the ‘vibrations’; erasing the ‘memory.’)
Ooh, or how about all the estrogen or testosterone that winds up in the water supply? Even if there had never been a drug industry churning out metric tons of artificial examples of both hormones, people gotta pee, and that pee’s gotta go somewhere. If your municipal water supply became gender-imbalanced…if there were too much estrogen and it were diluted enough, it would have the same effect as a massive dose of anabolic steroids. <shudder>.
Do you see what I’ve done, here? This is exactly what a writer does when doing world development. It’s just world-building!
If elves existed, how would that affect the world?
If ships could travel faster than light, how would that affect civilization?
If lycanthropism existed, how would it work? How would it affect the world?4
What if the ancient Mayans were right, and all their gods do exist, and the world really is going to end in 2012?
So I think the answer to the question, “How do you write this stuff if you don’t believe in any of it?” is that by being a skeptic and really looking at the world through a skeptical lens, you’re improving your ability to ask really interesting world-building questions.
Note: I realize that I have said some things here that will not sit well with some people. I will not allow the comments here to turn into a debate. If I have said something here to offend you, I apologize, but there will be absolutely no name-calling, no diatribes, etc. I mention the definition of a skeptic and the negative examples in the footnote below for informational purposes to show readers what I mean—along with the majority of the skeptical community—when I use the word ‘skeptic.’ If you have a differing opinion, you are certainly entitled to it. But we are not going to debate it, here. All comments are moderated. Capisce? Buona.
- Well, okay, I actually do this, but it’s beside my point.
- In other words, climate-change skeptics, who claim there is insufficient evidence that either our climate is changing or that mankind’s activities have contributed to it significantly; 9/11 skeptics (“Truthers”), who claim to be skeptical that 9/11 was perpetrated by terrorists; “Moon Hoaxers,” who claim that the United States never landed on the moon and that the entirety of the Apollo program was faked on a soundstage; “Birthers,” who claim to be skeptical that President Obama is a US citizen; or Holocaust skeptics, who claim that either no one was killed by the Nazis or far fewer than is generally accepted. In each of those cases, the scientific consensus goes with the overwhelming evidence, but the ‘skeptics’ go against that evidence. The kind of skeptic I’m talking about is the kind that goes where the evidence leads, even if that is to a place his/her sentiments oppose.
- This link at Wikipedia does a much more thorough job of explaining homeopathy than I can.
- At least one author in the Urban Fantasy genre (Kat Richardson) had one of her characters—a skeptic, amusingly enough—point out that the energy required to literally reshape the tissues in a living being into another form would generate enough heat that any such creature would explode. She uses this to explain why there are no were-beasts in her novels. Vampires, yes. :)
Well, after quite a bit of hard work and a lot of cursing and name-calling (I definitely implied that the parents of the designers of WordPress, several widgets, and a number of plugins I’m using, as well as those of the designers of the theme I eventually decided I like were never married..and may have also suggested that they indulge in unsavory sexual acts best left undiscussed), I have finally gotten my newly minted website up and operational.
There are a lot of reasons it was time. LiveJournal is and will continue to be my first love as far as blogging is concerned, but as a writer who wants to be published, I need a home site where, eventually, my
fanatically loyal minions readers can go for information about me as an author. LiveJournal…has a lot more of me than that on display.
Mostly, though, it’s because I eventually want to have a story in Mike Stackpole’s Chain Story, and one of the requirements is—you guessed it—a website on which to host the story itself.
I’ve been putting it off for several months. It just seemed overwhelming. Every time I looked at themes and tried to figure out WordPress, it seemed so arcane and I just didn’t want to expend the time. But this week at work, I’ve had some downtime (shhhh!) and so it gave me ample opportunity to play.
I’m going to beg everyone’s indulgence over the next couple of weeks as I iron out the kinks. I may double cross-post a time or two, or who knows what. This will be a learning experience for all of us. I’m going to try to post all my writing posts here on Writewright (catchy, no?) and everything else will be on either LiveJournal, Twitter, or Facebook, depending on the nature of it.
It’s a brave new world, and I just hope it doesn’t bite.
1. I discovered Facebook and realized that everyone had pretty much moved over to there, and that LiveJournal had become—for a good many of my friends that I know in person, at least—kind of a wasteland. With tumble-weeds. (Or is that Tumblr-weeds?)
2. I got The Shiny and no longer had access to Semagic. Semagic does all kinds of wondrous things, like allow me to program macros to do that green-underliny thing and to use auto-replace text, so when I want 'The Shiny' to show up like it does above, I merely type #The Shiny, and Semagic replaces that with the underliny-code.
Am I getting too technical? :) I also have auto-replace set up for Skippy, Jürgen, Preston, and Bradford; macros set up for things like the text you see floating over to the right of this paragraph, with the neat, italic font and the purty box setting it off from the rest of the text; auto-replace text (#nano) to do this: ; and macros to do things like footnotes1, and that horizontal line that separates the main text from the footnotes. It's all stuff I've set up over years of making posts to LiveJournal almost every day, often several times per day.
And I miss that. I've tried every single free client for LiveJournal that runs natively on the Mac. None of them even come close to being as great as Semagic. None of them have 1/10th the capability of it. And because I'm a essentially a creature of habit, I let my frustration in not having my tools readily available stop me from using LiveJournal. I efficiencied myself out of doing something I love doing.
While Facebook has its own pros and cons, I really do like LiveJournal for posting anything sort of thoughtful or that tells a story, because Facebook is so...fleeting. Yes, people respond to it almost instantly, but then those responses are swallowed in the hundreds of emails I get from Facebook. I barely remember tomorrow something that someone said today. But on LiveJournal, there's a certain...permanence that you don't get on Facebook.
So I guess what I'm getting at is that I'm still looking for a Mac tool that will give me the kind of usability of Semagic, or I'll try to find some way to run Semagic on the Mac (my earlier attempts were failures), or maybe I'll just make posts while my work laptop is available.
But I want to get more active, again. NaNoWriMo has reminded me why I came here in the first place. Well, that's not true. I came to LJ because TIM had become a throbbing wasteland with tumble-weeds. But I stayed because I liked it.
- And not only the reference, as the little "1" is above, but each entry in the table of actual footnotes they reference, like this one here.2
- Or this one.
Yep! It's almost time for NaNoWriMo!
For those not in the know (and who can't or don't want to hover over the word with the green dotted underline), NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. For the last 10+ years, every November, millions of people the world over put pen to paper, stylus to smartphone, or fingers to keyboard (or some combination of those) and attempt to produce a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and November 30.
Why November? Well...why not? (Don't look at me, I didn't set the thing up.)
I've participated for four years. The first year (2006) I think I wrote about 1500 words and then forgot about it. :)
In 2007, I started The Surrogate, wrote 2221 words, and then had no idea where to take the story from there. (Later, this became a novella that I actually finished.) I didn't know where it went because...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
In 2008, I "won" (i.e., I reached 50,000 words (51,115, to be exact)) of my novel The Third Prophecy the evening of the 11/30/2008. This was a story that had been rattling around in my head for more than 30 years, and I finally decided to just write what I could down and get it out of there. It was keeping me up at night. I wrote what I estimate to be about 1/4 of the total story, and I have not continued it because...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
In 2009, I "won" (53,122 words) by completing my novel Death Scene on 11/30/2009. This was the second novel in what I hope will eventually be a series of urban fantasy novels set in present-day Atlanta, only where magic works. I already "knew" the characters and had a good bit of the story already coherent in my head before I started writing, so it went pretty effortlessly, really. I wrote about half of the estimated total story, but haven't continued it because...once again, I get ahead of myself.
This year, I've been casting about trying to figure out what I would write. Would I expand one of my short stories to novel form? Write the third book in the aforementioned series? (The first novel, called Perdition's Flames, is my current WIP, and I haven't finished it because...) Would I come up with something entirely new? Would I even bother?
Now it's time to finish those ellipses. When I started writing Perdition's Flames, it was because I was doing a First Sentence Exercise and wrote
The man Sean Marks had come to kill was already dead.I read it and thought, "OOoooh! I like it. But that name has to go. Hmm. Nick. Nick...Damon!" I continued writing, spurred on by the chance overhearing of someone saying "Die in a fire!" and the rest is history (34,602 words to date, which is where I stalled). This is what I call "Seat of the Pants" writing, or what is more properly termed "discovery writing."
I haven't finished Perdition's Flames or Death Scene because even though I thought I knew my characters, I didn't. I got to chapter 9 of PF and realized I had no idea how my characters would react to what I'd just written. And that I needed more characters. And for that, I'd need to add those characters from the beginning. Even though I was telling the story I wanted to tell in both novels at a pretty good pace, the books were turning out to be 60,000 to 75,000 words, and that's not really enough to be commercially successful. (60,000 = ~240 pages; 75,000 = ~300 pages. 100,000 words, or 400 pages, is about what a novelist should aim for, according to multiple sources. (YMMV, and I'm not about to pretend to be even a novice at this, much less an expert.)) This meant that I needed more meat. Meat means plot. And what's meat without tasty side dishes? (Sub-plots.)
I took a writing workshop between August 2 and September 20 from local author David Fulmer. He taught us a lot of useful information about character development and setting and plot development. At the tail end of that, local author Haywood Smith came and talked to our Tuesday night writing group about character development.
And I noticed something.
In 2008, I took a writing workshop from author Ann C. Crispin. I've been hanging out on Second Life and getting a lot of advice from author Michael A. Stackpole.
What I noticed was that these four very different writers in four different genres and with vastly different styles...were all basically saying much of the same stuff, but worded differently.
Now, this is a good thing. It's not like those "diet gurus" who each tell you a completely different "secret" for eating what you want and still losing weight. These are four professional authors (who make a living from their writing) all agreeing.
And the #1 thing they all said—without exception—is that character is the most important thing in fiction. A lot of problems can be overlooked by readers (and agents and editors), but if you have bland, boring, flaccid characters, no one is going to read your books.
Ann didn't have any specific "methods" of making believable characters; it was more of an exhortation and the gestalt of what she said over two days, condensed. (Condensed Gestalt. Sounds like a product name on Futurama.)
Mike Stackpole has his "21 Days to a Novel," which lays out how to develop three strong characters for a novel using exercises you write over a 21-day period. Sometimes as little as five sentences per day.
David Fulmer had us do something very similar to that, only all at once. With both Mike and Dave, the exercises are aimed at defining the characters so that we would know what they would do in a given situation without having to think about it or go back and make changes (too often).
And Haywood Smith has a 13-page character sheet similar to something you'd see either in D&D or on eHarmony.com to map out every possible piece of information you'd want to know about a given character. ("Describe the character's orgasm face." No, I'm not kidding.) I know this because the last two items on the last page are
What else do I need to know about character to understand who he/she really is?So that kind of covers it. :)
What questions should I have included that weren’t there?
ANYWAY...the point of this whole diatribe is that Monday night, as I was driving home from work, I was going over in my head all the stories I'd already written as well as some new ones I was mulling over, and one story leaped out at me.
I originally wrote it as a novella (~13,000 words) called Killing Time. It involves time travel and the role one man plays in saving—or dooming—Earth.
I've put it through both of my local critique groups, and it had mixed reception. Some thought it was overly expository; others that it lacked a unique enough ending to distinguish it from other, similar stories; and still others thought the motivations of the characters were questionable at best.
What I decided to do is rewrite the story from the ground up, but instead of making it a short story, turning it into a novel with more than just two characters. Giving both characters a background, motivations, goals, enemies, friends, hobbies, jobs, etc. In other words, turning my caricatures into characters. (Ooh, I like that line. I'mma keep that...)
Toward that end, I started Mike Stackpole's 21 Days to a Novel on Monday night, but did two nights' worth of material because Tuesday nights are busy for me, what with the critique group and all.
Tonight I'll be doing day 3, which involves coming up with the things that are thwarting or holding back or preventing my characters from being successful in their goal(s). "Bonus points" if you can arrange it so that one character achieving his or her goal prevents another character from achieving theirs, and vice versa. And it just so happens that my new third main character is the ex-lover and "business rival" of one of the two original characters, and their goals are diametrically opposed. And both of their goals affects the other character in a fundamental way; one positively, one negatively. Sort of like rock, paper, scissors. Only with THE FATE OF THE EARTH HANGING IN THE BALANCE. (Was that dramatic enough?)
I'll try to post my progress here. For NaNoWriMo, too, like I did the prior two years, only better. :) It'll look like this:
|NaNoWriMo Progress: Killing Time|
- A note.
- Another one.
- A third one.
I can't wait to see if this will make the writing flow even easier than it did last year. I know the story I want to tell because I wrote it before as a short story, but I'm changing most of the internal details, and adding so much more. If I do the 21 Days to a Novel right, I should have a rough outline by the end and know all the places where the character arcs cross one another.
For instance, I have a service that tells me when people stop following me (Twitter doesn't think to tell you this like LiveJournal does, so several third parties took up that slack). Today I got an email that someone had stopped following me.
ONOZ! It is clearly the end of the world! I must...oh, wait.
Back on March 7, I got email from Twitter saying "TDMxxxxxx is now following you on Twitter!" (Not the real account name.)
Whenever I get one of these, I always visit their profile to see who it is, whether I'd be remotely interested in following them back, and how painful it would be to do so.
For the 'painful' part, I look at whether they ever tweet about anything remotely interesting to me or if it's just link after link after boring link (especially if they just post it without explanation) or all stuff geared toward marketing or becoming a social networking god. Those are the ones I hate the worst. "Follow me back so I have 13,000 followers and everyone is impressed by me!" It's fairly easy to tell these from the others.
If they pass all those hurdles, I then give them the final test: Follow Cost. It analyzes the person's tweet patterns and attempts to inform you how annoying they'll be to follow. It does this by giving you the average number of times they tweet per day overall, within the last 100 tweets, and the percentage of their tweets that are replies to other people or "golden" (exactly 140 characters).
TDMxxxxxx presents itself as "Retirement solutions for YOU" and is located near me. Oy vey. Who cares? Their "follow cost" was low, but do I really want to even see two or three messages each day about retirement solutions? No. So I didn't follow it back. I didn't block it, either, because it's not porn or some phishing scheme.
As an aside, a good percentage of the people I follow on Twitter do not, in fact, follow me back. They don't know who the hell I am, nor do they care. And I lose no sleep over the fact that they don't.
Almost four months go by. I get the email I mentioned above. Again, when someone unfollows, I tend to go to their page to see who they were and why they might have been following me in the first place. Not because I'm going to cry because someone stopped hanging on my every important syllable, mind you, but because maybe I want to unfollow them back if I was following them.
And I see this. Its most recent tweet:
Sorry unfriendly non-followers, I dumped you. I will follow almost everyone who follows me. #business #finance #markets preferred.1Oh! Oh! I am wounded. Wounded, I tell you. To the quick! :)
This, to me, epitomizes what is fundamentally wrong with much of Twitter. It's all about numbers. It's not about people making contact with people. It's about people shouting, "Hey! Hey! Hey! LOOK AT ME! I'm HERE!"
This person randomly followed me based entirely on the results of a search engine because I'm located nearby. They didn't look at my bio to see if I was interested. They didn't read any of my tweets. All they cared about was increasing the number listed after "followers" on their profile page. And then, when I didn't follow it back, it acted like a petulant four-year-old. "You're not friendly! I'm going to dump you. So there! NYAH!" And by "not friendly" it means "didn't validate my existence by providing me with the one thing I crave: larger numbers of followers." Pathetic.
The pièce de résistance, though, is "I will follow almost everyone who follows me." In other words, scolding those who had the audacity not to want to be marketed to on a daily basis about a product they most likely have no need for.
Boy, I'm really put in my place, I tellya! I'll just go over here in the corner and eat worms.
Sure, it may be Twitter "etiquette" (twetiquette?) to follow people back, but if you do that, you end up seeing a lot of crap you have no desire to see. (Well, to be fair, you do that anyway.) I get a lot of spam on my email accounts already. The last thing I need is to have it on Twitter as well.
Of course, let's hang a lantern on the fact that I'm ranting on one social network about the users of another one, and that as soon as this rant is posted, an automated service will tweet, "New LiveJournal post!" with a link to this very post. :) My followers on Twitter probably don't want to see most of what I spew (many of my followers on Twitter are also my friends on Facebook and LiveJournal). But they can do something about it: they can stop following me, if I get too annoying. :)
That said, I don't use Twitter much anymore, so ironically I have become one of those people who only posts links to his own blog, although I'm trying to ease myself back into Twitter a bit at a time. So, yes, I am Mr. Pot, and I am indeed calling Mr. Kettle black. So there! NYAH!
(If you want to follow me on Twitter—not because I crave attention or the increase in follower numbers—I'm @KaaSerpent.) </irony>
- Those #things at the end, for those who aren't Twitter users, are called "hash tags." They serve roughly the same purpose as "tags" do on LiveJournal. They're searchable, so if you want to see all the kajillions of posts, for instance, about the world cup, you can search for #worldcup and an auto-updating list of them will appear and you can read to your heart's content. It's a way to join in on larger conversation or make your own tweets show up on searches. This person is obviously hoping that someone searching for "#business," "#finance," and/or "#markets" will wind up seeing its all-important tweets and following it, so that it will auto-follow back, thereby perpetuating the unappealing, masturbatory aspect of Twitter that I so dislike.
I have diligently watched the 'kaa' account over the intervening time, even going so far as to set up events with LJ to let me know if he basically did anything with the account. Anything at all. I even had a friend who speaks Russian compose me an email to send to the guy, but his response got lost and I have no idea what it was he said. Probably the Russian equivalent of "fuck off."
So, imagine my surprise today when I saw that my notifications I had set up for the user "kaa" now pointed to user ex_kaa182!
I tried kaa only to find that it has been transferred to someone else! I never got a notice or anything. That ticks me off unbelievably. I have waited—patiently, for the most part—for more than seven years, and then someone comes along who convinces the guy to give up 'kaa' and let him have it?
Gaaah! GAAAAH! GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! <sound of head exploding>
That does it. There's gonna be a name-change. Just you wait and see.
Comeslither? Philosophidian? My other blogs are all Philosophidian. Hmmm.
They could be combined.
America's Next Top Model + Project Runway + Top ChefThere. I've gotten it off my chest. If you have any suggestions for other shows, add 'em in the comments! :)While the models compete to see who can out-bitch the others, the designers compete to clothe them and the chefs compete to prepare the most delectable bulimic binges for the battling beauties. The longer the models keep down the food, the higher the chef's score! Even I would watch this, and I hate reality TV. :)
Animal Cops + Dog Whisperer + Clean Sweep + Cops + Animal Psychic + Rescue, InkThis very specific show would concentrate on the criminal element who hoard stuff and mistreat their pets. While the Cops + Animal Cops drag the drunk, obscenity-screaming, animal-abusing hoarders off in their wife-beaters, the (scary) Rescue, Ink guys would descend and rescue the perps' poor pets, but in a tough, tattooed, manly kind of way. Cesar Millan would then instantly rehabilitate any dogs that were found on scene, while the
fraudulent moronlady from Pet Psychic would "commune" with any other pet to find out what horrible, horrible things the criminal types did to them. (I can virtually guarantee there wouldn't be a dry eye in any home watching this segment.) After she completes her side show"reading," the Rescue, Ink guys would go retrieve the perps from their cells and intimidate the Hell out of them, Scared Straight style. Then, after the freak show was done, the Clean Sweep guys would come in and help to organize the home prior to it being auctioned off. The arrested perpetrators' sentence would include being forced (Rescue, Ink) to spend time with Angelo Surmelis and not punch him in the face. Hours of entertainment!
Ghost Hunters + Ghost Whisperer + MediumI know that two of these are not reality shows (as if the third has anything to do with "reality," but I'll try to hold back), but think of the possibilities! The
plumbers fraudsGhost Hunter crew would hunt down haunted places, then the crossover episode of Ghost Whisperer and Medium would take place in and around the haunted locale. Hoaky ghost hunting, tear-jerking drama, and Patricia Arquette and her breasts! You can't go wrong!
Desperate Housewives + The BachelorPlease. This one practically writes itself. Who wouldn't watch this?
If you're from one of the major networks and you're reading this, my rates are reasonable, at only $5000/hour. Have your people call my people and we'll do blah blah blah.
I recommend that no one who reads this ever do business with Protection One, which is now owned by BellSouth and calls themselves "BellSouth Security."
They took yet another $80.85 out of my checking account. ( <insert sound of gritting teeth here> )
I had this whole thing in my head about the 2000th post being "postworthy" (see the Seinfeld "Spongeworthy" episode) and I wanted to make sure it wasn't some piddly little nonsense. I should have known something would crop up that I needed to make a record of (yes, my journal is actually being used to keep track of how often I have to deal with this crap). Such is life. :) The other alternative, of course, was to make post #2000 a metapost about post #2000 and how I wanted it to be "postworthy." Which...I guess I sort of did, anyway. :)