Beauty, Madness, Red Plague

deflam /Free Photos

Yeah, so…apparently I’m dating. This surprises everyone, me included, but I guess when he carries all your stuff through Ikea and brings you flowers each time he sees you, that’s really guy-code for “I like you.” (Who knew?) Plus, my inner goddess approves of all the adoration. It’s nice to be flattered.

In other news, it’s been Officially Announced, so I suppose I can finally say something about it here: Razorbill will be bringing out my next YA series, Tales of Beauty & Madness, soonish. I’ve been fascinated with fairytales and Brothers Grimm for a long time, and the first Tale, Heartless, is something that’s been boiling in the back of my head for a while. I’m working on the second book now–the series is also partly my homage to Kieslowski’s Three Colors, which just about exploded my tiny little brain when I saw it the first time. Further bulletins as events warrant–I will tell you, though, that my working title for the first Tale was Snow White and the Seven Mob Bosses. Heh.

I’m also working on the second Bannon & Clare, The Red Plague Affair. I broke 25K yesterday, and the book is finally starting to hang together as a whole, though it hasn’t made that clicking sound and started pulling itself forward under its own steam (ha ha) just yet. There has been a monkey, a broken neck, and the death of a character so far, though. So the initial signs are good.

How about some links, too? Anna Genoese gives a piece of Very Good Advice, Chuck Wendig talks about creativity, Ilona Gordon notes a few things about procrastination (and I should tell you, both graphics pretty much approximate my working style), and a very interesting piece on Cardinal Richelieu. Enjoy! I’ll be over in the corner beating my head on my desk and weeping softly while I try to make Red Plague suck a little less.

Wish me luck.

A Mad Thought

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So…good news, and not-so-good news.

The good news is that I found the old SQL file of my pre-2009 blog posts. Further good news is that I have mad thoughts of stripping out the writing posts and turning them into a book. The not-so-good news is that it’s a lot of work, and that work needs to be paid for. SO. My plan at the moment is to go through and get a reasonable text file of the entries I feel are Relevant, and after that I need to find someone who can edit for typos and clarity, format for ebook and trade paper, and get a decent cover image/layout. None of this is going to be cheap, so I may–MAY–get quotes, and then Kickstart for it.

Here’s where you come in, dear Reader: if you know of anyone who can perform the above tasks for cold hard cash, drop me a line! Or if you would like to quote those services to me, again, drop me a line. My timeline is possibly getting the book together by May. Also, I’d like to gauge interest, so if this is something you’d be interested in as a Reader, well, pop a comment here and let me know. There’s very little reason to go to all the trouble if nobody’s interested.

I know I said I hated writing advice books. And I do. I am undecided whether practicality or hubris is sparking this idea of putting one out. Please don’t tell me which. I’d rather just uncomfortably suspect both…

Unattached to the Work

So the recent website follies have me thinking about attachment. (Very Zen of me, I’m sure.) It doesn’t bother me that much to have lost, let’s see, about three years’ worth of blogging about five days a week. At an average of 1K words per blog post, that’s…eh, a few words. (I am too tired to do math.) I know it’s archived on the Wayback Machine, but cutting and pasting to that degree is one of my ideas of Hell. So…there it is.

Which brings up something I think doesn’t get addressed in a lot of writing books: the quality of detaching from one’s own work.

Obviously this can’t be done in the throes of creation. A small amount of detachment is needed even in the white heat; otherwise one runs the risk of turning a good story into a bathetic abomination. But one must care one way or the other for one’s characters, if one wants to have someone else give a damn about them. It’s an odd dichotomy, caring intensely for the characters and yet being unafraid to hurt them in order to serve the story. There are tricks to that, but that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

Once you have a whole corpse–the zero draft–the first phase of detaching commences. Revising calls for becoming progressively more detached each successive time. A scene you loved during the initial writing seems overblown when you come back to it, and needs ruthless pruning. You do the best you can, but the first revise is a little like splinting a broken arm–necessary, but it takes more time to fix the problem.

Your editor (if this story is intended for publication) helps with further phases of detachment, simply by telling you where the holes and weak spots are. This is where the phrase “Murder your darlings” becomes most applicable and useful.

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it–wholeheartedly–and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings. (Quiller-Couch)

Now, there will be cases when your editor is wrong about a certain weakness in the work, or a certain character’s actions, or even some dialogue that raises a red flag. There will be cases when the writer cannot see the work clearly and is wrong. My rule is: 99% of the time, my editor is right. The other 1%, I stick to my guns. (Or, as Ilona Andrews so pithily puts it, “Pick the hill you want to die on.”) If I find myself fighting on something more than 1% of the time, I have to take a step back and reconsider.

This presupposes you trust your editor. I am lucky in that I’ve only been revenge-edited[1] once or twice, but each time was incredibly painful. I doubted my ability to string words into coherent sentences each time, and had to ask a second source for an opinion before I held my nose and turned back, politely prepared to do battle for a good 60%+ of my manuscript.

If editing doesn’t force a certain detachment, copyediting certainly will. Copyeditors are those brave, blessed souls who comb every goddamn word and punctuation mark, looking for typos and errors. Sometimes a copyeditor tries to do editing, which never works out well for me, but that’s exceedingly rare.

Incidentally, if you find a good copyeditor, tell your editor. A lot of CEs work freelance and the feedback helps them get rehired. On the other hand, if you have a really bad copyedit, don’t bitch overmuch to your editor. Content yourself with saying, “Wow, this one was rough.” Because you can’t ever be sure that you’re not just worn raw by having to stet or keep a zillion changes on a story you’re already so sick of you wish you could stab UNTIL IT DIES.

You’re still not done at that point. Further detachment is required when you proof the damn thing, going through it for the final time before it hits print and looking for typos and dropped words, last-minute minor cosmetic changes, and the like. At the proofing stage, I am usually so sick of the book I just want to set it on fire and stamp on it to make sure the goddamn beast is dead, which is wonderful for helping me disentangle myself from my emotional investment in the characters.

Then there’s release-day nerves, and the hell of waiting for reviews, and the hell of actual reviews. By the time a book hits the shelves, I’m excited because it means I won’t have to go through the fucking thing again looking for holes. I very rarely reread the books once they’ve been published; usually it’s only a refresher skim while I’m working later in the series.

Each book requires me to develop a fresh emotional callus, so to speak. Maybe there are some writers who detach more easily. There are things that make it easier, yes.

  • Time. Putting the zero draft in a folder and forgetting about it for two weeks to a month is critical, and the wait between edits and CEs and proofs and release day is actually ideal to force you to view the work with a fresh eye each go-round.
  • Bitching. Bitching relieves some stress, if you have a good crit group (is there such a thing?) or a good writing partner (yes, there is such a thing; I have one.). Allow yourself a bit of it. By “a bit” I mean ten minutes TOPS, closer to five if you still want friends. And that’s not per day. That’s per week. But do not bitch publicly about a certain editor or copyeditor. The place for that is in the bar at a convention, not on the Internet where it makes you look like a jerk.
  • Physical activity. Writing is, despite its reputation, a physical job. It’s hard on the wrists and the back and the legs to sit and type for long periods of time, and it makes your brain calcify in odd ways too. Getting up and walking away from the thing, setting a timer and taking a break, is a good way to regain some crucial millimeters of perspective. It’s not much, but it helps. I run and climb my stress off, but you don’t have to. A brisk walk, a few jumping-jacks, a five-minute dance to your favourite jam, even just pounding on a pillow and screaming for five minutes counts. (And is immensely therapeutic, let me tell you. Heavy bag is also good, but watch your hands.) Moving around can help your brain shake free of the story.
  • Understand it’s not just you. Every writer deals with this to some degree. It is not a reason to stop writing, or to allow bitching to cut into writing time, or to be an asshole to your editor/copyeditor/marketing department/spouse/children/friends/passing strangers. This is part of the price of the art, and part of the drawbacks of publishing being, you know, a business.

A lot of people have asked me if I’m angry about all that work being gone. Eh, it’s on the Internet, it’s not gone. Plus, now when I get dotty and start repeating myself, it’s less aggravating. (Hopefully.) But above all, those posts are far enough in the past that I’m pretty detached. Better to start semi-fresh, I guess. And besides, it gave me something writing-related to blog about.

Silver linings, I guess. But if you do want to hunt down the hackers that have been messing with author sites lately and administer a beatdown, I won’t complain. Detachment doesn’t mean I’ve lost my rage.

Over and out.

[1] Revenge-editing is the practice whereupon an editor takes out their personal hatred for an author on the manuscript. This happens exponentially less often than one might suppose.

Hidden Costs, Not Haterade

So of course someone had to ask Jonathan Franzen what he thinks about ebooks, since he’s the critical darling of the moment. And of course the Internet exploded when he said ebooks are damaging society. Ink, both actual and virtual, was spilled. Haterade was prepared in copious amounts. It was like the hate that started swilling when Sherman Alexie called the Kindle “elitist.” Of course, I am much more likely to think deeply about anything Alexie says than Franzen, for a variety of reasons.

When Alexie “clarified” his stance, this caught my eye:

Having grown up poor, I’m also highly aware that there’s always a massive technology gap between rich and poor kids. I haven’t yet heard what Amazon plans to do about this potential technology gap. And that’s a vital question considering that Bezos wants to change the way we read books. How does he plan to change the way that poor kids read books? How does he plan to make sure that poor kids have access to the technology? Poor kids all over the country don’t have access to current textbooks, so will they have access to Kindle? (Sherman Alexie)

Right there, in a nutshell, is a point that gets lost when people on the Internet talk about ebooks. The hidden costs of buying that cheap digital edition–why aren’t more people talking about this rather than hating on Franzen for having an opinion? (Admittedly he comes off as somewhat of a pretentious knob in that Telegraph piece, but still.)

It sent me off on a (quelle ironic) Twitter rampage.

Why doesn’t anyone factor in platform and obsolescence costs for ebooks? I.e., the ebook reader and its updates.

Frex, the laptop or ereader you’re using, and the cost to charge it and replace it for wear and tear, not to mention updates.

Until we get wetware that can jack the book right into our brains, there are still going to be platform costs.

A paperback’s cover price takes into account production and platform costs; an ebook’s price does not.

These are the discussions we should be having, not hating on writers who have Opinions About Publishing.

And certainly not stroking the turgid egos of highly-paid anomalies on the Internet, either. (My Twitter feed)

After having a great deal of fun with the phrase “turgid egos” I really warmed to my theme.

Ebooks are not “cheap” or “free”. They are *convenient* for certain socioeconomic strata.

There is not nearly enough attention paid to the hidden costs, like hardware, platform, obsolescence (planned or otherwise) of hardware–

–replacement costs, access to electricity, etc., etc.

This is the kind of conversation I wish we were having about ebooks, not “So and So is elitist because they have Opinions about Self-Pub.”

Or “So and So gives their books away so piracy is always OK.” (Hint: this one REALLY irks me.)

Or, “Big Name Author has enough money/brand recognition not to worry about lost sales, so they say piracy isn’t a problem.” (My Twitter feed)

At that point I started getting a lot of “But I LIKE my Kindle/Nook!” And I’m happy that they do, but that was not the point I was making OR the conversation I was inviting.

There is a narrative out there saying “digital=free.” I’d like to see discussion that doesn’t use that equation, because it’s untrue.

Most of the human species can’t afford a desktop/laptop/Kindle/Nook/monthly smartphone bill/startup smartphone investment.

Those that can tend to think their experience is ubiquitous, because it FEELS ubiquitous. The curse of the Internet, you could say.

An examination of the underpinnings and the hidden costs is more productive than hating on ebooks or Authors With Opinions. (My Twitter feed)

At that point Stephen Blackmoore made the great observation: “Not to mention there are still places in the world that don’t even have electricity.”

Discussing the real costs could help us bend our considerable energies to raising literacy, not getting all hatey on the Internet.

Why is this not a blog post? Because I don’t think I can refrain myself from ranting without Twitter’s character limit. *sigh* (My Twitter feed)

I’m glad I waited, but so many people asked me to collect those tweets I decided to put them all here.

There were a number of responses that I should probably answer right now:

* “But I LIKE my Kindle/Nook/ebook reader!” Well, see above. That’s GREAT. It’s WONDERFUL that you like it. I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t. I’m saying that when we talk about publishing and ebooks, we should be talking as well about the hidden costs of the platform used to decode/store/show the digital “book.” Because those costs are more than you think–not just electricity, and the initial investment in the platform (desktop computer, laptop, ereader, smartphone, tablet) but also things like the monthly cost of an Internet connection or the cell phone bill, the cost of upgrading the hardware every few years (because of the pace of technology and obsolescence both planned and unplanned) not to mention the social costs of slave labor to make it, pollution from the making of it, pollution from the electricity used to power it—the list goes on and on.

* “I’m disabled and the ebook reader makes it easier for me to read!” Often accompanied by “Alexie is ableist!” (I shit you not.) It’s great that this technology is helping you, I am very happy for you. But I am mystified at how this was even a response. I don’t think it’s “ableist” of Alexie to point out that poor kids and their families can’t invest in this kind of technology as easily as others can, or of me to say that talking about the hidden costs might help us find a solution.

* “But I have a computer/laptop anyway, adding the ebook-reading function is free.” It’s not “free.” Adding that functionality presupposes the investment in the platform; it is convenient, certainly, but you pay the hidden costs for that convenience whether or not you engage it. It is the fact of the hidden cost we’re talking about, not whether or not you feel like added functionality is something you want to use.

* “Paper books have hidden costs too!” Well, those are rather elegantly included in the cover price, so they’re not so “hidden.” The cover price of a paper book takes into account the price of the paper and distribution, and has for a long time because of the built-up infrastructure. You could argue that bookstores are the purview of a higher socioeconomic stratum too, and that there’s invisible privilege there, but I don’t think it’s quite as germane. For one thing, there’s the used books factor; for another, there’s few upgrade costs with paper books–if you read them to pieces and get another one, that’s an upgrade cost, but it’s not nearly as huge as upgrading an ereader every couple years or a laptop every four-five years. There’s also the marvelousness of libraries, which even the field a bit for some poorer strata of society.

Of course, it’s incredibly hard not to snark observations such as:

Franzen said he took comfort from knowing he will not be here in 50 years’ time to find out if books have become obsolete.

“I’m amused by how intent people are on making human beings immortal or at least extremely long-lived,” he joked.

“One of the consolations of dying is that [you think], ‘Well, that won’t have to be my problem’. Seriously, the world is changing so quickly that if you had any more than 80 years of change I don’t see how you could stand it psychologically.” (Telegraph)

Somehow I think the world will carry on, Jonathan dear.

But I would really like to see more discussion of hidden costs, platform costs, access differences between socioeconomic strata, etc., instead of hating on an author for having a goddamn opinion about developments in the industry they’re working in. Doctors have opinions about developments in their field; bricklayers and pizza delivery people, retail workers and scientists have opinions about their chosen (or just career) field. People have goddamn opinions about everything, as evidenced by the jackasses who know nothing about publishing but try to school me about the industry.

But that’s another rant, and this is already long enough. Let’s talk about the hidden costs of ebooks and eplatforms instead.

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Reckoning Release!

Weren’t we just here, where I tell you how nervous release days make me? It seems like we were just here. *blinks*

I am proud and happy (as well as knocking knees with fear) to tell you that Reckoning, the fifth and final in the Strange Angels series, is officially released!

Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She’s battled killer zombies, jealous djamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a full-fledged svetocha – rare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires – the worst is yet to come.

Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she’s ever imagined. And in the end, is her survival really worth the sacrifice?

Now available at Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, BooksAMillion, Powell’s, the Book Depository, and Amazon!

I am sad to be saying goodbye to Dru. From the first moment I saw her standing in her kitchen, staring at the back door while a zombie’s fleshless finger tapped against the glass, I’ve known that she would grow up and continue on. It’s very bittersweet, but I’m proud of her. She’s learned a lot along the way, and through it all she’s remained that same smart, driven, incredibly loyal girl. Growing up is never easy–it’s even less easy when there’s vampires looking to tear your head off and betrayal lurking around every corner.

But I think she’s done just fine, and I’m glad she has exactly the right ending.

Now I’m going to go be a puddle of frayed release-day nerves. See you around.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

PSA, Plus Win A Copy of Angel Town!

First, the serious: Jim C. Hines on reporting sexual harassment in the SFF community. The comments also mention Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear, which I also can’t recommend enough.

Then, the fun! Would you like to win a signed (in the US) or free (outside the US) copy of my just-released Angel Town? Or a copy of fellow Dame Keri Arthur’s Darkness Rising? Or would you, perchance, like a $15 Amazon gift certificate? Would you?

Well, you’re in luck! Just head over to the Deadline Dames’ latest Release Day Giveaway. All you have to do to get a chance to win is comment there. The Dames, we believe in making it easy to win.

We’re cool like that.

While you’re there, you can also find tons of other cool things, like the Readers on Deadline contests and helpful writing/publishing advice. And as soon as we figure out how to give out pie over the Internet, we’ll probably do that too.

Because we’re Dames. And Dames rock.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Quiet Again

Some tidbits for your consideration:

* Dina James’s new book is out! Dina is my Evil #1 over at the ELEW, and a lovely person.

* A call to action against a serial plagiarist.

* Topeka, Kansas, is looking to decriminalize domestic violence. To, erm, save money. (If I halt to comment on this, there will be a whole day’s worth of ranting. I’ll just skip it, and you can fill in your own.)

The kids are at school, the houseguests are gone, my street is empty, and I can hear the ticking of the cat clocks on my wall. Archibald Clare has a man in knee-deep Londinium sewer water, and has a mouthful of blood besides. I can feel the rest of the book calling me. Plague pits, sorcery, potential zombies, and a mad art professor beckon, and the hunt is afoot again.

I’m swamped.

See you guys around…

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.