Waiting for The Cinder Block of Internet Dismay

Do you ever look at that SEND button, and know–even before you push it–that what you’re saying is probably more controversial than you know?

I’m pretty good at self-censoring the political content. In the first place, it just doesn’t travel well. After all, does someone in Britain or New Zealand really care that I hold my local city council personally responsible for the water main break the other day? I mean, if someone had employed the judicious use of condoms, their son would never have hit that pipe with a backhoe, but you pretty much have to be from my town to care. Definitely my state.

In the second place, that’s a slippery slope into a rant–FREE CONDOMS FOR EVERYONE (except the nuns, that would be a waste of taxpayer money)–and do I really want my website to be the no-holds barred, ultimate fighting championship of the world?

Not really.

I spent plenty of time stuck between the republican, the democrat, the dentist and the gynecologist at family gatherings, and I have no desire to relive the experience.

Maybe I’m still left with that feeling of the futility of talking about it.

After all, the only consensus anyone ever came to was a preference for patients with big… mouths.

Okay. Yes. Moving right along.

Every now and then, the urge to say something overcomes me, and I say it, and then, I wait for the backlash. Most of the time, the backlash never comes, either because I don’t have that big a following outside my immediate sphere of internet influence, or because everyone in the whole entire world agrees with me.

Every now and then, though, there’s something I know touches on the political, and I still wind up saying it because someone’s in danger (right now, at this moment), or because I just don’t have the sense to keep my mouth shut.

So, you say the thing that everybody’s been dancing around for political correctness’ sake, and hold your breath.

There’s that feeling that you’re about to be hit by the great cinder block of internet derision.

Yesterday, I heard the story of a girl whose brand-new college roommate is in an abusive relationship. There are two elements that I should point out here: American dormitory rooms (including the one these girls are in) tend to be about 15feet x19feet with the bathroom down the hall. And the college semester started about a month ago, so they have known each other for about a month.

Well, there’s what’s really happening. Then, there’s the fraction of that the girl’s willing to tell a roommate she’s known for a month. And then, there’s the fraction of that the roommate is willing to tell her mother.

The mother was asking what to tell the daughter.

Uhm… Gee… what would I tell my daughter?

GET. THE. FUCK. OUT.

NOW.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe the other girl should be safe, too. Hell, I’ll even say I think she should dump the bum, if half the story is true.

But sharing a 15×19 room with someone who’s in that kind of situation is not safe, and it’s certainly not conducive to learning to spend your life wondering what’s going on and if your roommate is going to come home.

There’s a difference between “supporting” someone in a bad situation and putting yourself in the line of the bullet.

And nothing says “I’m concerned for your safety” like… well, “I’m concerned for my safety.”

I also included information on how to switch roommates, in case that’s the problem. Not everybody is aware that changing is an option, and I happen to believe that the girl who’s the very first person in her family to go to college deserves the same safety as the girl whose mother just picks up the phone and calls the dean.

So, I’m sitting back and waiting for the cinder block.

But as of right  now, I get a few extra rep points on that forum (it’s one that’s visible to the public, not a private forum), and some very quiet murmurs of agreement.

 

Naming Names

I’m completely negligent in naming characters. I just… uhm… don’t do it until the bitter end, and even then, I’m never happy about it. I have a whole manuscript in which the character’s names are TKMC, TKvillain. Tksomebodyorother. I intended to fill in real names at the end, but the end never came on that one.

My first manuscript was a delightful mess of names chosen on statistics. Want the serial killer to remind readers of someone they know? Well, why not pick from the list of most-used names for the guy’s decade of birth? Hello, Joe Smith!

I have a fixation with names in real life. If I ever had a kid, we’d probably just call them by the last 4 digits of their social security number until they’re old enough to decide for themselves.

So, I ran into the first names I really remember in terms of culture and circumstance about the same time. The first was a friend who was named after her father and her mother. In the sense of her name was (Father’s Name)(Mother’s name) no spaces. Now, there’s a paradigm. On the one hand, you have the “My kid is going to know who her parents are” philosophy, which does not come from stable cultures and stable homes. And on the other? Well, I never knew anyone who was named after their mother, before. I knew plenty of thirds and fourths, and more juniors than you could shake a stick at, but none of them were named after a woman.

About the same time… maybe just a little later… I ran into a girl who was allowed to choose her own name.  It was a legal name change. You see… she was one of those little girls who was named after her father. The feminine version of his name. And unfortunately, he committed a few crimes, gained notoriety, and ultimately was committed to the state hospital with no expectation of ever being released. Well, you know grade school kids are gonna mention it, if a classmate is named Tedda Bundy or Charlene Manson.

Culture plays a role in this. There are very few Amish kids, for instance, who are named Stargate Warhammer.

As does social support structure. Yup. Your friends and family have opinions. And the more important your family and friends are to you, the more likely you are to listen to them. On the other end of it, we have the people who don’t care that their grandmother can’t pronounce the new baby’s name, or who simply don’t care. I’ve run into people who have completely refused to tell anyone their baby-names in advance for fear of feedback.

I happen to think social support structure is important. My family’s naming structure? (Well, for boys, anyway.) The first name is whatever you want, but the middle names are the two grandfathers. I also note the number of kids named Stargate Warhammer who wind up on missing posters or in foster care.

And age. Not many 30 year olds are naming their kids Justin Bieber Smith, and not many 15 year olds are naming their kids Elvis.

The perfect name for a human being is something you can envision on a business card, or an office door. Would you turn around and walk back out, if that surgeon were named Stargate Warhammer Smith IV? Okay. New name. And it should travel well. If it’s a name in the United States, but a graphic sex act in 23% of the non-English Speaking world, you might want to change. And yes, you should take your free babysitters‘ support structure’s opinions into account.

The perfect name for a fictional character? Well, aside from having a character who is actually, literally, named after a graphic sex act. (Do NOT name your kids after my characters, people) I think Stargate Warhammer is a pretty good choice.

Pondering Patreon

I’m not signing up, just yet, but Patreon has been on the edge of my radar for a while, now.

For those of you who don’t know, Patreon is a platform that allows people to support the creatives they love by pledging various amounts of money per (well, thing created, or month, or… well, you get the picture.)

In exchange, the creatives produce “things” for their patrons, beginning at one end with access to patron-only content (think stories, music, or comic strips) and progressing to bigger, more extravagant rewards as the money goes up. (Think private performances, real-live art, physical, signed copies of books, and sometimes out-takes that never made it into the finished manuscript.)

And in theory–if you’re good enough, or lucky enough–you get paid enough to live, and work on your art, and so forth.

So, getting serious, here.

The first time I heard of Patreon, it was from a rock star. Who had just published a New York Bestselling memoir. Who, even several years later, is making 38,000 dollars per thing.

Well, obviously, her variables do not apply to me.

I’m an introverted writer, and my tits are strictly indoor tits, and by the way, I don’t have a pre-mustered army of fans behind me.

So, I went in search of lab rats. early adopters who are biologically similar to myself.

That’s easy enough. I headed off to Twitter, and made a list. And every time someone mentioned using Patreon, I added them to the list.  Okay. So, there aren’t all that many, and they’re probably not a cross-section. It’s an on-again, off-again hobby. (If you know anyone else who should be on the list, or if you have a Patreon, yourself, send me Twitter handles.)

And now–thank you, hurricane–my teacher Holly Lisle is joining Patreon. Here’s a link, so you can get the scoop straight from her.

That’s another not-my-variables situation, but I’m hoping we’ll hear the inside story of how it’s working, and what she thinks. (You know, assuming she isn’t blown all the way to Canada by the next hurricane.)

As of right now, though… the conclusions I’ve reached are:

  1. It helps to have a ready-made fan base
  2. Having a means of reaching out to people who are not fans yet is imperative. (That would be the people at your show who just turned up for the buffalo wings. I’m not really sure where a writer pulls in spectators.)
  3. Most people are starting way too early, and probably wind up with one or two family members or close friends sending them a buck now and then.
  4. Rewards should be really well thought out, and consist of multi-disciplinary content.
  5. If you have a friend who can be talked into jumping, maybe watch them hit the ground before you leave the window, ’cause you only get one chance at the grand opening.

 

So, any thoughts on Patreon or other pay-the-artist platforms? Tips?

And, again, if you know anybody who’s doing it, send me a message, or leave a comment, and I’ll add them to my List of Glorious Fame.

Ex Post Facto Foreshadowing

I’m trying to find the perfect place to put a little, tiny sliver of foreshadowing. I know the chapter. In fact, editing that chapter was when it occurred to me that now might be a good time to hint that the two cultures in my fine book are more dependent on each other than my main character thinks they are.

I can’t quite seem to get the foreshadowing piece hammered flat in the rest of the chapter.

I printed out another copy of the chapter, and identified the place where I think my foreshadowing goes. (And by the way, have I mentioned that my printer takes high-capacity, ultra-economy sized cartridges? Yeah. There’s a reason for that.)

All I really need is a couple of lines, but smoothing out the parts around those two lines is tricky.

And one of the characters–who is about twelve–always seems to wind up sounding like a 50 year old business man.

So, what about you? Do you like foreshadowing? Will you do my homework for me? Oh, wait. No. I meant… does it come smoothly at the beginning or do you find yourself tetris-ing it in at the end?

No, Really… If you could do anything….

I ran into this TED Talk the other day.

And even though it was nested in among such gems as “Your Vagina is Not a Car,” a highly intellectual search for hidden meaning in Kubrick’s version of The Shining, and assortment of official and unofficial music videos, it stuck with me.

If you ask teenagers what they want to do when they grow up, about 80% of them say they want to be one of three things: Doctors, Lawyers, and Engineers. (Well, I think it said engineers. I’ve dated enough of them that there’s a semi-permanent censorship bleep over the word.)

And if you then ask them No, really, if you could do anything in the whole world you wanted, what would it be?

Uhm… well, about 80% (of the total, not just the Doctors, Lawyers, and whatevers) change their answer.

Okay. So 4 out of 5 people –already, in high school–are planning on doing something other than what they really want to do.

Or maybe… they have no sense of how to get from where they are to where they want to be.

I find myself looking around at the people I know–and people I think of as successful–and wondering which one is the happy one? If I have five people lined up, which one is doing what they actually want?

Remember that lecture from college? Look to your left… look to your right… One of those people won’t be here by spring.

This is more… well, add in the person in front of you… and behind you… and all four of those people will be spending their lives doing second-choice jobs in pursuit of stability and money.

And maybe I am the happy one. Maybe, even though I haven’t reached my goal–the fact that I’m still in motion counts for something.

Maybe the fact that I haven’t arrived at a destination I never wanted to get to in the first place matters more than I think.

And either way, so I’m in a job I don’t love, but somehow, maybe… I’m a little less alone than I thought I was.

After all… if 4 out of 5 people could do anything–anything in the world they wanted–it wouldn’t be what they are doing.

Used Kitty Litter Delivery

I had a dream about Richard Feynman last night. I’m really not sure why, but I think it may have had to do with a line in Space Calamari Eats Jake Gyllenhall (Okay,Life“) in which they’re hiding from Calamari and discussing the Challenger disaster. Feynman, himself, never comes up, but I’m sure everyone remembers the story of how he was dragged off his deathbed (literally) to come put o-rings in ice water on national television.

As it turns out, my subconscious doesn’t know all that much about Feynman, and as a result, he wasn’t all that chatty, even after we (there was a definite we, but I can’t remember who the others were) left the highly scientific bags of mostly-fresh kitty litter outside his office door.

His wife was amazing, though. Thought I was good for the family (no, I can’t think of a single reason why. I mean, I was delivering used kitty litter.) and slipped me a credit card to go buy Microsoft software for their son. (Not the one they actually had. One of my co-workers.) Who was living on a shelf. (It was a very large shelf.)

Okay. Yeah.

That’s definitely a job-related dream.

Just marvelous. I’m delivering used kitty litter for a living.

Not that it’s a particularly damaging line of work.

But it is pretty pointless.

And there’s probably not a future in previously-owned kitty litter sales.

Dying Computers, Chainsaw Editing, and Snail Races

As I’m going through my revision, I’m noticing that certain letters are missing. Not all the time, and not always the same letters, but… I’m writing in letters. After a few pages of this, I’m starting to think about new computers (or at lest, new keyboards.) My slightly neurotic alternate theory is that it’s me, somehow, just not hitting the keys as hard as I should be. I can’t decide whether that last one’s a sign that I’m cheap as hell and don’t want to spend money on a new computer, If I could just get degenerative muscular diseases instead, or if I’m paranoid that I’m getting something I’ve encountered in other people.

Note to self: It IS you, and in the future, don’t pop the keys off your keyboard to clean, you moron.

I’m editing with a chainsaw, today. Twenty one pages come in… and four come out. Four! And there’s nothing wrong with the extra 17 pages, really. Just chunks that are duplicated in other places, or that I don’t need anymore, because I’ve revised them out of my timeline.

On the bright side, think of all the word count that frees up.

I have front row seats for #pitmad this morning, which basically means 1.) I’m not working and 2.) I have all kinds of tabs open on my computer, watching various agents from by TBQ (to be queried) list punch in those likes. Likes on Twitter do not automatically refresh, or even notify you of their existence, so I’m wearing out the reload button. Exactly why am I doing this?

Well, maybe I’m bored, and maybe I’m diligent. It does give you an idea of their specific tastes, though.

The process reminds me of the snail-races we used to have back when I was a teacher’s aide. Place the agents inside a circle, and wait. So far, none of them have actually done anything, but the kids are entertained, and teacher gets a few spare minutes to catch her breath and organize the next lesson.

Snail A has liked two pitches. Snail B has poured himself a cup of coffee. Pretty sure Snail C is in one of Billy Ostermeyer’s pockets.

In most cases, the reward for getting #pitmad likes is… Well, you get to query in exactly the same way you would, if you’d just read the guidelines, but you get to add #pitmad to the subject line.

I can’t decide whether that’s worth the effort of the snail race, or not.

IWSG: Surprises, Surprises

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
The awesome co-hosts for the September 6 posting of the IWSG are Tyrean Martinson, Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure!

 

September 6 Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in??

The biggest surprise I ever got with my fiction was when I switched from Mysteries & Thrillers to Science Fiction.

I wasn’t really looking to change genres… After all, I had finished manuscripts just waiting to revise, and I was getting fairly upbeat and positive rejections on the one I was sending out at the time.

But, NaNoWriMo was coming up, and I was pretty much stuck in one of my WIPs. (Well, come on… just exactly what is the response when someone throws a human hand through your front window?)

And the stories were getting darker.

I also had a bunch of friends who wrote Science Fiction and Fantasy waiting for me at NaNoWriMo, so when I realized I needed a break from the slicey-dicey stuff, I knew where I should go for that break. Take some time off, entertain a few friends… maybe a nice trip to Mars.

By the time I was finished with my first draft, I think I already knew that I wasn’t going back to the thriller end of the universe. At least, not full-time.

I’m a lot happier spending months and years debating how to populate a spaceship than I am thinking about how badly that murder in the news was messed up by the perpetrator, even if reading thrillers is…thrilling… for a week or two.

 

Looking to the Future, and Preparing to Duck

There’s a point in querying when you look at the agent’s guidelines, and you look at your manuscript, and you start doing math in your head. If literary agent is on a train leaving Boston at 3:17 and rejects three and a half manuscripts every ten minutes, in what city will she rip open a hernia laughing at your audacity? If literary assistant is from Nebraska, and you mention the Huskers three times in your query, will he read quickly enough to award perceived affinity points before he realizes you meant the Concrete Canoe team, and don’t know anything about football?

And–my personal favorite–if Guidelines request X number of pages, where exactly are you abandoning your characters?

So far as I can tell, there are three possible answers to this question.

Don’t worry.

You’ll loose plenty of sleep regardless.

1.) Holy shit, I thought this thing was finished. I am going back to revise.

2.) One good stopping point is too short. The next one is too long.

or…

3.) Gee, I wonder if there’s a specific protocol for sending humorous penis descriptions to a respected publishing professional.

Maybe that last one is just me.

It’s not an erotic scene by any stretch. My character arrives on scene naked and incredibly intoxicated.

And I love the scene. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

But those moral restraints society has worked so hard to imbue me with tend to suggest there might be some form of etiquette involved… Somewhere.

Here is the scene I couldn’t read out loud in the company break room.

And a quiche, because a non-sexy breakfast food is an excellent way to take the awkward out of… awkward!

Is quiche platonic enough? I mean… well, it doesn’t have any holes.

At any rate, the most popular numbers of pages to request seem to be 5 pages… 10 pages… and CUE THE NUDITY!!!

Related Links, or THAT’S NOT MY FAULT!

One of the things that always fascinates me about the internet is the automatically generated links. Now, a human being… they have a pretty good idea what’s related to what. They can bet that if you’re looking for desert recipes with chocolate, you’re game for pies, cakes, and tortes, and that maybe you’d settle for brownies.

The internet? Well, left to its own devices, it’ll find some off the wall connection between your searches. Yup. She’s definitely looking for recipes where salt is an ingredient.

I subscribe to a blog that focuses on Strong Language. Yup. The all-dirty words all the time blog. It’s an academic approach–it highlights the origins, the usages, and the cultural differences–and it’s a riot. It’s also not appropriate for children, or the squeamish, and sometimes… well, it’s not guaranteed safe for work.

Yesterday, the specific word was “cock” and the various adjectives, verbs, and adverbs that come with it.

The writer does note–rightly–that this is the kind of Google search that will lead to a wide variety of pornographic content, and–to save you from that horrifying experience–has aggregated the data into some really spiffy actuarial tables.

(Well, we’re not trying to be obscene here.)

The related links–obviously computer generated–led me to a linguist led me to a conservative Christian minister. Well, check that. I’m pretty sure the minister would consider himself a linguist, and I’m pretty sure there’s a copy of Bauer on his desk.

Well, that got me to thinking about related links and sales.

For instance, I bought a case of soup on the internet, the other day, and in the same order, I happened–no real correlation–to order a bottle of my favorite anti-diarrheal medication. So… does the soup now come up with “People who bought this also bought…”

There’s not that much to control that kind of links, as far as I know.

But it would still be cool to be recommended as something people who bought Arduino or a pet dinosaur also bought.