The Thing About Symbols…

The thing that came up during my recent Twitter surge…

Well, the thing other than wedding dress porn. (You note the absence of a link.)

Was the idea of symbols. Well, that’s what came up for me. What came up for a lot of people, apparently, was YOU’RE WRONG!!!

I had raised the question of whether a white wedding dress symbolizing virginity is overtly sexual.

Well, obviously, in 170,000 (plus or minus) views, there were a few people who had to tell me I’m wrong, and a nifty assortment of other things white symbolizes and/or origin stories for where white wedding dresses come from. (None of them had an opinion on whether white wedding dresses are overtly sexual, except, of course, for the wedding dress porn guy. His opinion was “sure, and here are some things we can make them MORE overt.”

The glories of white wedding dresses.

If I ever get married, I’ll probably wear a hospital gown, symbolizing the idea of “Gee, I wonder what brain tumor made me think this was a good idea?”

There’s a range of symbolism in white wedding dresses. On the one hand, my friend… the one with the list… which was three pages… (front and back)… with little asterisks where she’d forgotten a sex partner’s name… wore white to her wedding. Because she wanted to, and that was more or less as far as it went.

On the other hand, if someone says his daughter will be wearing white to her wedding, it’s a fair guess that he doesn’t mean white’s her favorite color.

More often than not, symbols are an AND proposition.

You can’t argue that white doesn’t represent virginity, but you can point out that it has other meanings, too. You can add your own meaning to the list, and you can wear whatever the hell you want. Even at your mother’s wedding.

Anything else is like arguing that a cross doesn’t represent the Klan, it represents some little Jewish sect in 2nd Temple Palestine. It may represent both, but people are still going to be upset when they find one burning in their front yards.

Running My Mouth

I’m enjoying the last ripples of one of those freak social media surges, and–as usual–debating how on earth you can harness something like that. One week into October, my Twitter impressions are up. More than 500% up (yes, that’s a cool way of saying 507%) over September.

This is as a result of me hopping into a conversation between two people I don’t know, and running my mouth about something completely un-writerly, and unrelated to anything I do.

Last time, it was armpit hair. This time, it’s photoshoots involving children in the U.S., and child marriage in other parts of the world.

And it’s always something un-writerly.

Here’s the formula: Pop into conversation, and just talk. Sometimes, it turns out that the person you’re talking to is a minor celebrity, and **poof**.

Formula for avoiding any kind of writerly surge: Glance at conversation. Recognize brilliant author. Turn into quivering bowl of jello.

The bar to send me all fan-girl is lower in a sport I actually follow and recognize names from. And I’m positive that none of those people are even slightly concerned about my opinion, or the state of my armpit hair.

I’m not even sure I see them for the most part. I’m probably more likely to follow a band I perceive as an up-and comer than an author who’s–OMG–UP–and COMING.

I may have self-esteem issues, there.

Or delusions of grandiose.

Or it could be a matter of the writers are all under my writer rock with me, whereas I’d have to stick my head out from time to time to actually know I’m talking to a rock star, sports star, or popular stand-up comedian.

What about you? Who makes you speechless with awe?

IWSG: The Personal Stuff

Insecure Writers' Support Group logo

Click the image to join the fun!

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!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
October 4 question – Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?
The awesome co-hosts for the October 4 posting of the IWSG are Olga Godim,Chemist Ken,Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan!
I’m not really sure how personal information has to be to be personal information. An old friend of mine says that I’m an audience person, as opposed to a people person, or a private person. More comfortable on stage than mingling afterward.
The ideas that I’m playing with find their way into my stories. Sometimes, I sneak in a “message,” but I’m probably not going to write my best friend into a book, and I’m always careful that nobody’s recognizable on the blog unless they want to be. So, while I might give you the general outline of a real-life non-writer I know, it would never be something like “My friend JOHN SMITH who is exactly 5 foot Nine with Red Hair, freckles, and lives at 123 Embarrassing Lane…”
And, mostly, the messages are thinned out, and the ideas aren’t totally things that anybody’d be wildly concerned about, anyway.
Some of my places are based on places I’ve been, and some of them are research, and some are made up. I’d like to believe no one can tell the difference, but I’m pretty sure they can. If I’ve taken up a hobby, it’s fairly likely that someone in my WIP does the same thing. (Of course, there’s a good chance I’ve moved on before anyone sees it.)
For me, the question is more… what do I want to share? I try never to share something, if I think I’ll change my mind in a week or a month… And how much can I share before people start hating me in great masses?

Those Pesky Goals

It is September, and I have less than a hundred views left before I pass last year’s total. I’m growing–at least a little–and that makes me think about the mile markers I didn’t know existed, or didn’t think about until I hit them.

  1. The first time you’re working on your blog, and you realize there is someone else on there with you.
  2. The first time someone shares your posts.
  3. The first time your readers start talking to each other.
  4. The first time you see actual… growth potential.

I’m looking toward actual goals for next year, too. And that’s where I fall short. After  all, most of the goals that stand out in my mind are things I never thought of until they were actually there. Oh, yes… growth, and more views, and more loyal readers, and maybe my own literary agent?

We’ll call that last one a stretch goal.

I want another 100 rejections for my rejection collection. (That, I can control.)

Strangers on the Internet and Suicide

I don’t always know what happens to the people I meet on the internet. Some of them are pretty constant. A few of my followers have been around and commenting since the beginning of Reprobate Typewriter, and some of them come and go, disappear, and then resurface. I also have a couple of internet communities filled with friends and acquaintances. Now and then, I meet internet people in real-life. Not often, and certainly not until I’m sure they’re not serial killers, but it happens. (well, hell. I’ve internet-known some of them for nearly a decade.) And then, there’s social media.

Social media is more like the special-interest bar of the internet.

You can find people you have a lot in common with, and lots of them, but these are fleeting interactions. More the familiar faces you see walking across campus than the deep and lasting friendships. (Although when you do hit it off, it’s usually well worth the effort.)

Most of the time, you get bits and pieces. A busy coffee shop with a band you all like. Small talk. A little heavy on the politics, but of course, somebody has to be mayor of Arizona, I guess.

And sometimes, you hear parts of peoples’ lives that they would never, ever share in real life.

Maybe the things nobody hears them sharing in real life.

Every now and then, you run into the dark stuff. The stuff that makes you really concerned about someone’s safety.

I ran into one of those, yesterday. A deep, dark, Twitter thread that ended abruptly, maybe twenty minutes before I saw it. The poster was talking about suicide, and depression. A few off-the wall things, here and there. And they’d been talking about it for hours. Maybe days.

So, this is a reminder that you should get familiar with your social media platforms’ methods of getting real, medical help to people, quickly. Reporting it can be tough, but sometimes… it’s necessary.

(And as for my person, they seemed to be better today than yesterday. Let’s hope we all are.)

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.

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.

And I’m Back…

So, here I am, and everything appears–for the first time in three days–to be back to normal with my web host. I’m looking at a very normal control panel, and a very normal editing screen. Yesterday, I wound up with a situation where I could only see my own website from my phone (not my home computer) or from a different network, but at least some of my readers got through. And the day before that it seemed to be completely and totally down. (although the thought that I could get there on my phone hadn’t actually occurred to me, yet.)

So, this is a free speech issue.

Dreamhost has a policy of hosting any content which is legal in the United States, and the hack-mob didn’t like it. (specifically mentioned, a neo-nazi website) Neither did the Department of Justice (which feels that Dreamhost should turn over records regarding users of a website that organized Anti-Trump Protests.)

And here’s the thing… the neo-nazis managed to piss off Dreamhost with a terms of service violation. (They’d already been thrown off once, and when they came back–for about a week–they got thrown off again.)

In the course of that week, the mob brought down 400,000 websites, and gave freedom of speech a real nice shiner.

The way this particular attack works–and it takes basically no skill–is that the annoyed teenager (lots and lots of annoyed teenagers) downloads software to his mom and dad’s computer, and then sets it to load the same websites (in this case, my host’s DNS servers) over and over and over until the server can’t handle it. There’s a twitter account, or a website that sends out “calls to action.” Type in the new information for whatever reason the guy on the other end of the IP says, and away you go.

Suddenly you’re smashing in shop windows in shops you had no idea even existed, and putting people you don’t know out of business.

There’s a lot of collateral damage.

And I’m sure that most people–regardless of age–just see that one website they want taken down. That one neo-nazi site, or that one Facebook page with the embarrassing picture of them when they were six.

There are a lot of people I’d like to shut up.

There are.

But I’m aware that when you curtail freedom of speech, you’re handing a set of ready-made laws and precedents to whoever happens to be in power at the moment. And in a democracy, sometimes, that’s the other guy.

And if you’d like it to stay a democracy, you probably shouldn’t build the censorship laws for him.

Web Hosting Woes

My website spent a good chunk of today not functioning. The general reason–as I understand it–is that someone attacked the host’s name servers, and as a result… basically everything attached to those name servers went down. I’ve been debating changing hosts on and off for a while. This afternoon was a little bit of an **aha!** moment. A while back, I got a letter that suggested I upgrade to a snazzier server because I’m straining the resources on my current plan.

Well, I contacted them, and asked for a ballpark figure on how many views my account should be able to handle, and was told–I don’t know if I should be surprised–that it had more to do with my use of resources, than a specific number of views.

Uh-huh. So, I got to optimizing databases, and started looking askance at photos. Is that picture too big? Uhm… Well, maybe a few fewer pictures. I’m sure you’ll be able to see where it changed, if you look back at posts.

I don’t know what number I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t anything close to what I had been getting. But you know how it is. Lack of experience, and willingness to accept the idea that this is my fault.

So, fast forward, and now the whole system is down because of a Distributed Denial of Service attack on the name servers.  Well, **aha!** That sounds a lot like the kind of thing that might be presaged by resources being gobbled up.

I’m thinking warm fuzzy thoughts about changing hosts.

I’ve found one that advertises a number of views with a hosting plan that costs… well, about the same as mine… And their number is 200k per month. Well, I’m not actually going to do the math, but–uhm, yeah… carry the 200–that’s more than I’m getting.

And it’s WordPress specific hosting.

I know it won’t be exactly the same for everyone, but I do like having at least a broad figure.

I’m still doing some thinking. I have a while until my term ends. I’m not crazy about the hassle of moving, and I’m not 100% sure what the new host will be. I also kinda want to revisit the issue with their customer service, and perhaps be much clearer about the reason for the questions.

I also have a friend who has some deep and soul-binding connection with them (I didn’t ask) so I might run the questions by him, just on basic principle. (Or I might not. I don’t know if setting myself up for second-hand preferential treatment is a good long-term choice.)

So, while I’m out there collecting information… Anybody in love with their host? Or, you know… ready to commit justifiable homicide? Recommendations? Warnings?

New Month, New Goals

First day of August, and I’m thinking about all the things I would like to get accomplished between now and the end of time. I would like to finish revising my novel, of course. I think that’s probably more than a month’s worth of work, but “By the End of October” would maybe be do-able, and it would get me out of the project in time to do NaNoWriMo. Before next summer would still enable me to say “we met briefly at Pike’s Peak last summer.”

And then, we have all those short stories I’ve been meaning to write. **sigh** It seems like every time I finish one, it pops up on the website, or someone calls dibs on it, and that’s that. Or, you know… 20,000 words later, I just have to admit that it’s pole vaulted over “short” story.  I may not be programmed to be a short story writer.

As usual, I guess the goal is 4 short stories in August. One per week, or maybe all in a rush at the end.

I’m still on the fitness=better sleep thing, and working my way toward… well, sleep. I like sleep. I want sleep. I’m working on that.

Shall we add “podcast” to the list? I’m still up in the air on that. I don’t have a clear idea of what I’d talk about for half an hour, but read some stories, announce some random trivia, crack a few jokes… maybe drag a friend or two in with me? I’m fiddling with the idea. Maybe I’ll hit that “buy” button and have a microphone sent to me.

Get a haircut, look like a civilized human being, track down the next day job, which with luck will be somewhere else, doing something else entirely. I’m running out of steam.

So, podcast? Thoughts, suggestions? Somebody talk some sense into me!