Where to List Random Bits of Opinion, and Disastrous Art Projects

I don’t usually write for children, so I don’t usually blog about children, and I don’t usually blog about education. But, every now and then, an opinion slips out. I don’t even know why I should get to have an opinion. I did my turn teaching, substituting, and wearing the dog costume in the children’s section of the bookstore, but it’s not a calling.

Let’s be honest. Most of the things I do are not lifetime passions.

I don’t expect to be doing model rocketry at eighty. I won’t be making a career out of folding two-headed origami cranes. I’m not expected to do a Ted-Talk about painting or sculpture anytime soon.

But I do these things, and sometimes I blog about them.

And as I was applying tags to yesterday’s post–the kind of tags I never use, that have their own, separate, over-there audience–I started thinking about the kinds of cross-promotion that could be done with the little fringe interests I barely dip my toes in.

The thought of a list of subject-specific places to post that kind of post came to mind, and honestly, I’m not sure where to start.

It does sound like a great way of pulling in new audience members, though.

A good way to get past this is a writing blog, and move out in front of other interest groups.

Name The Crime

I ran across a headline in Jezebel (not my usual reading) yesterday.

“After Body-Shaming a Fellow Gym Patron, Dani Mathers Will Be Tried in Court”

Body Shaming?

Well, don’t get me wrong. She definitely did that, too. (Allegedly, but in an already admitted it in an online video, and apologized, but really doesn’t want a record kind of way.)

But what she’s being tried in court for is taking a picture of a naked 70 year old in the gym locker room and posting it to the internet.

Let’s put it this way: if she’d said the woman was “hot” instead of the nasty thing she did say, she’d still be on trial. And probably for a sex offense. The DA delivered a nifty sermon on the evils of body shaming, but in the end, that’s not what she’s charged with.

The media likes to do the same thing with “bullying.”

“Bullying” can stretch all the way from not eating lunch with someone through harassment, and assault. Most of the time, if “bullying” hits the papers, what we’re really talking about is a concrete, nameable crime.

Sometimes, it’s lots of crimes.

You can sit and count the crimes in the articles that announce the “bullying” victims’ eventual deaths.

We could call this kidnapping, or false imprisonment, or assault or battery, or any number of things. We can name people who went to prison for the same things. If someone did it to an adult, they’d call the police, press charges, and name the crime by name.

But if the crime is committed in a school, we have a tendency to find the euphemism. Bullying. He was pushed (assault) into the women’s restroom (kidnapping), held there against his will, (unlawful imprisonment). Let’s call it “bullying.”

Let’s call the principal instead of the police.

Let’s keep it out of the papers until someone is actually, literally, dead.

Let’s fudge over the reports and the details, so no one can really be sure how often something like this happens in the school their children go to. You didn’t really want valid statistics on that in-school crime rate, did you?

And why on earth would the principal have any obligation to report these things to the police, in the first place?

It’s only a crime against minor children.

Oh, that’s right.

It’s a crime against minor children.

The next time you see a story that says something like “Bullying Victim Commits Suicide”… NAME THE CRIMES. Chances are pretty good that an adult would have called the police months or years earlier.

And if you have children, make sure they KNOW that these are crimes. Not just so they’ll understand the impact doing things like that can have on their own life, but so that if they are a victim, they’re able to walk into the principal’s office and say, “I’ve been assaulted, and I need to call the police.”

Sometimes, a stern talking to just isn’t the answer.

The punishment for assault–for kidnapping–for unlawful imprisonment–for any number of things that get waved aside as “bullying” isn’t that you don’t get to go to the winter Snow Ball.

Fighting for My Right… to Sleep

Oh, there is far too much “awake” in my life, right now. It could be the change in the weather–it’s a little too hot for sleep, and a little too cool for air-conditioning, right now. In all honesty, a little air conditioning–if it were warm enough–might kill off some of the allergies that keep me from breathing. And I’m actually getting fairly enthusiastic about my revision, again. (I’m filling in the nice-to-have scenes.)

I’m beginning to suspect the cat might have a hand in it.

The cat spent last night on the Catio, after knocking some things off shelves and waking me up.

And, one of these days, there will have to be a B-A-T-H.

I have some anti-allergy gel that’s supposed to keep him from dandering and me from sneezing. I think it works pretty well, when I keep on top of it.

I’m not really one of those people who always needs more sleep, but more than three or four hours in a night might be nice. And it would be nice if they were arranged in a more convenient pattern, too.

I’m getting that Do I try to sleep for a few more minutes or do I give up and get up? timing.

Why I’m Not Allowed to Write Children’s Books

I bumped into the fact that children’s books have about 500 words, yesterday. There was probably some sort of distinction between what kind of children and what kind of books, but 500 words. I can do that.

I can not do that.

In the first place, what I wrote is about twice that. Probably more, when I get it all polished and shiny. It’s still short for an adults’ story, but it’s not any 500 words.

And… in the second place…

As if there needed to be a second place…

It’s about the monster who eats Santa Claus.

Well, he sees some old guy sneaking around a little girl’s bedroom at night and figures that’s someone who needs to be eaten.

So, the rest of the story is about what they do, while they are waiting for the monster to shit… I mean, poop… Santa back out.

I actually like the idea of a monster delivering presents. I’m kinda betting that a monster doesn’t have a lot of preference between the naughty kids and the nice kids, so everybody wins.

And yes, I’m aware that something horrible happens to Santa Claus every time I pick up a pen. I never liked him, anyway.

The Answer is Tourism. Always Tourism.

I live in a historic town.

You can tell by the road signs and billboards, and by the fact that here and there, you have a building that is more than a hundred fifty years old.

It’s not a particularly exciting history.

And honestly, it’s not that much different than the history that the other 4,683 historical small towns in my state have on display. By the luck of the draw, we were first at something, once. There’s a plaque.

And if you go on a tour of downtown, you’ll find a lot of plaques. The downtown committee put them up a few years back, so that you can read all about what the empty buildings and tumble-down ruins used to be.

There’s not a whole lot left to bring outsiders here. A few old papers in the archive, and an eclipse that will come and go this August. We got eclipse glasses printed up with our name on them.

So did the towns next door.

And down the street.

The “historic” market share is minuscule.

Sure, it worked for Williamsburg, and that picturesque little town on the river–the one with all the B&Bs and the arts festivals, every summer. The one that grows to five times its size, every year. But they got their start decades ago. Before the market was divvyed up.

Before any of the bigger towns even realized they would need to be historic.

Back when we still had businesses in those empty buildings.

Back when we were modern, and proud of it.

Writing by Index Card and Machete

So, I started the revision with three separate files on the ol’ novel-writing software. I had One for the  chapters at the beginning that I’d already revised almost to finished. One for the things that I think I can use out of the first draft. And One for scenes which did not exist, when I started the revision. (I have matching, color-coded index cards to go with this.)

I’m pulling the three apart to make one, coherent file, right now.

Watching my word count soar.

I’m aiming for a word count somewhere in the middle of my genre’s expectations.

Word count and I haven’t always been friends. My first novel wound up very low, and the first draft of this novel is… well, it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of twice as long as it needs to be. I was playing with writing thick at the time.

Let’s just swing back and forth between extremes.

I have about 80,000 words in the “good” pile and about another 70,000 in the “possibly able to keep” pile.

**sigh**

I know I have a lot I can’t save, and some of it doesn’t even fit with the plot, anymore… but still!

It’s possible that writing thick isn’t working for me on the revision end.

So, how do you write? Less than you need and add more later, or more than you need, and cut it down to size in revision?

 

So, I’m Going To Drown…

I went ahead and bought a neti pot. It’s one of those maybe it’ll help ideas that I’ve been toying with on and off for a while. On the one hand, it’s a really cool idea. In one nostril, out the other, and all kinds of pollens and allergens down the drain. It probably can’t hurt, and it might even help. The people who like it really do like it. The people who don’t already drowned, so they don’t get a vote.

The thin, dry air at the writers’ conference is probably what pushed me over the final bump, along with the idea of some recent studies that correlate antihistamines with Alzheimer’s disease. (And actually, this does make since to me, since Alzheimer’s appears about twice as often in women, and guess what one of the ingredients in Midol is, so goodbye, little pink pills.)

I had a friend… well, okay, he was maybe more of a two-legged house pet… or… class mascot or something… Uhm… well, I digress.

Once upon a time, I knew a boy who was able to insert the ink-tube from a ball point pen into his nose all the way up to the nib, so he’d look pretty much like he’d shoved the whole pen into his nose.

That’s really pretty much everything I remember about him.

Pretty sure Neti Pots can’t get lost in my sinus cavity.

**Crosses fingers**

I am pulling apart the recently finished, pared down, and still necessary scenes from my last butcher job, and adding them to the scenes that I found entirely missing.

I’m not sure what I have left, but it looks as though my word count will come out sane, at this point.

 

Reading, Writing, and Television Documentaries

I’m finally sitting down to finish reading the Doomsday Book, and it appears that I’ve saved all the most depressing bits for last. **sigh** Well, I guess I shoulda figured it out back at the beginning, when I found a quote from the author that suggested that all time-travel stories are inherently sad, because you’re dealing with characters who have long since died.

Let’s see if I can keep up here. I took a break from my Hugo/Nebula list to read Sandman, an now I’m taking a break from Sandman to read the Hugo/Nebula list. Oh. And some quick peeks at the book I was given at the writers’ conference. Because, hey, free books.

Ideally, I would like to have my own book finished before the people I met at the writers’ conference forget who I am.  So, I’ll just hop in a time machine, and go back to last week to mail the manuscript. I’m feeling incredibly forgettable, right now. And maybe, the truth of the matter is that the whole point is to be able to “jog” people’s memories later: “We met briefly at the Pike’s Peak Writers’ Conference. I did not throw up on you.”

Clearly, I need a more concrete timeline.

Right now, I’m working on organizing everything I have into one coherent document with a timetable attached. I think most of the scenes are written–or, at least, I can say they exist in real life–and just need to be polished.

And I watched a delightful–if somewhat mass-audience–documentary on syphilis today. It’s amazing the things that are just sitting there, waiting for you to find them on YouTube. I learned that there is a non-lethal, airborne version of the disease, and also that John Deere tractors are sold in England.

To the best of my knowledge, there are neither John Deere tractors nor venereal disease mentioned in my novel. Perhaps I should add a postscript.

 

Choosing Trust

A while back, I wound up trapped in a conversation with one of those I’m Telling You This For Your Own Good people. The topic was critique groups, and the woman was basically a stranger.

I know you’re bracing for a horror story.

So, here it is.

Someone she knew stole her title.

I won’t tell you what the title is, but I will say that it churns up nearly a thousand results on Amazon, and it has that vaguely familiar feel to it. It’s one of those deep and meaningful titles you find on literary fiction and questionable poetry. It ain’t Snakes on a Plane.

I’m sure you’ve heard something like this, before. The general idea is that when you take your writing to a critique group, it’s in horrible danger of being stolen, and people lie, and flatter you, and really, how do you know they aren’t just saying what you want to hear to make you happy. Or, you know… ripping into you for shits and giggles.

On the other end of the spectrum is the guy who says you shouldn’t be afraid to give away all of your work. (Eventually.)

I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t think the people who criticize my writing are doing it for their own amusement, and I believe that if someone says my work is good, they actually mean it. (Whether or not they’re objective is another thing.)

I post work on my blog from time to time, and even chunks of longer works. I blog my thoughts, and I’m choosing trust every time I push the publish button. I’m not sorry.

But I’m not good at trust, either. I password protect things. I keep my website–and sometimes my writing–a secret from my real-world acquaintances. I think about things like my rough draft being sold in Lebanon without so much as being told. I’m not the jump and trust the Universe to catch you type.

There’s that voice in the back of my mind that says things that are a lot like… I’m telling you this for your own good. And… This probably sucks, you know.

And there’s the real world stuff-the at what point is it published, and how much can I share before it turns the publishing industry off? A lot of that is fuzzy math, but I think I’ve stayed in the clear.

The other thing that occurs to me is that not every writers’ group has to be a deep and deadly serious critique group. I’ve gotten a lot out of groups that were mostly just social, and I’ve found critique partners there.

How far do you trust people with your work? Any hard limits? Any suggestions to avoid those critique group horror stories?

Religion as A Marketing Technique

Yesterday, I was reading an author’s biography.  Her biography was a list of attributes. You know the kind. Dinosaur wrangler, Rockstar, and Mail-order Accountant Ethel Hergenmeier lives in Florida with her husband, her potted plants, and three small children whose parents refuse to take them back. (This was the blog-based, and probably unofficial biography, by the way.)

Except, in her case, the first attribute was her religion. So, Zen Buddhist, Dinosaur Wrangler and etc… And, in all fairness, she was writing a book about the Four Noble Truths for writers, or artists, or something. (Disclaimer. I never got past the Third Noble Truth, and can’t remember what the Fourth Noble Truth is, so if you have questions about Zen Buddhism, go ask one.)

For all intents and purposes, the book seems to be marketed toward a general writing audience, and not exclusively to the Zen Buddhist crowd. The biography on Amazon is different, and focuses on her previous books, her career, and where she lives.

There’s no separate Zen Buddhist section in the bookstore (or at least, not in mine) and this book would wither and die, if people had to hunt it down in “Eastern Philosophy.”

The general audience thing has me stumped. On the one hand, the fact that the writer is a Zen Buddhist could matter. Of course, if it does, the fact that the reader is not could also matter.

With some religions, I have a very clear idea of what to expect, if the author or the book is described (front and center) with their religion. Christian comes to mind, and generally means no sex, no swearing, and geared toward a (fairly conservative) Christian audience. (No, that is NOT idiomatic.) It’s not just a fact, it’s a niche market.

I don’t have that same clarity with Zen Buddhism. Maybe I would, if I knew more about it, but I’m not picking up on the “How does that sell books?” end of it.

There’s a range in all of the biography information. Retired FBI agent or NASA astronaut is more relevant; Owns a dog named Buster is… arguably less relevant. And you work from more to less relevant.

So, how important is knowing an author’s religion to you? And what information do you get from knowing? Are there any circumstances under which you would mention your religion in your bio information?