Grumpy Saturday Morning

It’s early in the morning on a Saturday, and I am awake. I mean, it’s early, even for me. I’m being punished for letting my schedule go to hell on my days off, and for crashing yesterday. Somehow… no matter how hard I try, or how long it’s been, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that sleeping to seven is sleeping in. And sleeping in more than I ever would have, when I was on a more normal schedule.

I mean, three and a half extra hours!

And no… Not good enough. I wind up sleeping until all kinds of times I wouldn’t ordinarily.

**pops a series of happy morning type vitamins**

**and an acetaminophen**

I’m having one of those mornings where I woke up to my “daily reminder” on Twitter of how evil a particular book is. The general goal of the “reminder” is to talk it’s (traditional) publisher into cancelling it.

Let’s be honest, though… if I didn’t catch on that there was a publisher until after I’d read the tweet, and read the review it linked to, and went on Goodreads to figure out what the heck the story is about… the campaign’s not all that effective.

I’m creeping slowly toward free-speech absolutism in my old age, and by the time I’m eighty, I’ll probably think you should be able to shout FIRE in a crowded theater.

I was a little shocked to find out that this did have a mainstream publisher. My first thought–as soon as I read the main character’s name–was actually that the reviewer had accidentally picked up something written and published by the white power movement, and was doing nothing but signal boosting by railing against it.

(There will be no signal boosting here.)

So, here’s this book. And by the time I was finished reading the review, I was thoroughly convinced that the reviewer was an idiot. After all, who picks up a book where the hero’s name is Hitler McHitlerson and is then surprised when it turns out to be racist?

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite that obvious. I’m grumpy early in the morning, and I probably need to be reminded that not everybody was actually paying attention in that particular dusty corner of the library stacks.

Still. Direct line.

I was surprised when I found out we weren’t talking about some guy with a garage full of vanity press copies.

If there’s an idea out there that’s so dangerous I need to be protected from it… well, this isn’t it.

Distracted by Comic Books

A month and a half ago, I set out to read all of the books that have won both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. There are twenty-two of them, and when I started, I had read about two and a third of them.

I think things are going fairly well.

Now, I’ve read two and a third and a half of them, and also the first four volumes of Sandman comics/graphic novels/whatever. No, Sandman is not on the list.

I’d like to pretend I don’t know how I missed reading Sandman all this time, but the truth is, I know exactly how it happened. There are pictures (not diagrams) and also… it’s a comic book. Did I mention it’s a comic book?

Well, that would pretty well guarantee that a library near me was not stocking it. Not when it first came out, anyway. And it also guarantees that my parents were not wasting their money on it, even if I did happen to escape and find it while I was being shepherded toward  the “real” books.

Don’t waste your eyes! wails the ghost of my great-grandfather from beyond the grave.

Nope. The only comic books I ever saw as a kid were Classic Comics versions of Dickens and Shakespeare. And even those didn’t come home with me. Why would they? I was smart enough to read the real thing.

It’s taken me a long, long time, and a whole lot of really smart people and a whole lot of “bumping into” references to Sandman to get me past that. Well, eventually, I broke down. And besides, they’re on my e-reader, so I can pretend I’m reading War and Peace, if anybody asks.

And, now, I’m going through them like water. A few select comic books, that is. I’m never going to have shelves and shelves of them.

But I was surprised.

I’ve actually been crying over comic books.

I’ve actually been thinking about comic books.

Oh, dear.

Choosing A Book

I spent most of the night up reading a couple of nights ago. I haven’t done that in a long, long time. You know how it is. Grown-up responsibilities, and the need for a job mean that most of the time, I have to actually wake up. At a predictable hour. And function.

Being quite honest, I’m not sure I’m on my “ideal” creative schedule, either. Given a choice, I’d probably be up all night reading or writing or something on a regular basis, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten into the Zone as easily in say the mid-afternoon or evening. Even when I was a kid, it’s into bed… one more chapter… and then, seven or eight hours later… I’m blinking at the sunlight.

Writing can work the same way, too… maybe it’s supposed to, and maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s my excuse for lack of discipline. Maybe I really do focus better at some times of the day or night than at others.

Let me start by confessing… the book I was reading wasn’t on the list of Hugo/Nebula winning books that I intend to be reading. I got caught up in a sample of an e-book, and then, I bought the e-book, and after that, I read the e-book.

All of it.

In one sitting.

And now, I’ve purchased the next part of the series, and I’m probably going to wind up reading that, too.

I was up all night reading, and by the end of it, I was crying my eyes out. It’s been a while since the last time, there, too. Partly the book, and partly my own losses… I have no idea the size of the parts.

So, now… I am reading All of the Books That Have Won Both The Hugo and the Nebula And also Sandman. The weird part of it is that I don’t really feel as though the list has grown… not that much, anyway.

If I’m very, very good, and if I don’t wander off into the omni-present internet bookstore too many more times, I might be able to get through the list in a year. The list is growing. I’m assured, for instance, that Blackout and All Clear will only make sense as a pair, and only if read in that order. So one more book to the list. And there are a couple of others that are not the first ones in their series.

I’ll make it through, eventually. After all, what are the odds that they’ll hand those awards out to the same book again, this year?

The Doomsday Book Has Arrived

A couple days ago, my current selection from the reading list of things that have won both the Nebula and the Hugo arrived. It’s a mass market paperback, and it’s been a while since I read something that way instead of on an e-reader.  Oh, wow, it’s been a while.

The e-reader files show up pre-adjusted to my preferred font, and my preferred size, and they’re always purse-ready on my Kindle or my Nexus. I have gotten used to this. Ordering a paperback is…. at least in part… a political statement. A social statement, maybe. I ordered a book, because I want a book sitting on my bookshelf. I don’t always. My more recreational reading doesn’t have to sit anywhere in particular, but this… well, I want children to live in a world where they walk into peoples’ houses, and see good books. Where they’re allowed to pick up and read books, and not just realize in some hazy way that there are books on that device their family friend keeps in her purse.

Call me idealistic.

So, here I am, looking at a book in book form. It’s nearly six hundred pages of book, and it looks like nearly six hundred pages of book. The paper isn’t the greatest quality, sorta news print gray… and the print is small. Not insanely small, but if I were on my e-reader, I’d be bumping it up.

I might be having e-reader withdrawal.

So, anyway… I’m about to delve into Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. It smells like paper and ink, and I’m probably going to wind up breaking the spine at some point, but I’m getting started on that list.

If anyone wants to join me on the great quest to read all of the books that have won both the Hugo and the Nebula, the list is here.

Read More… BUT…

2016 was a year.

It hit me pretty hard, personally, and I think that shows in every corner of every month. I’ve taken on more than I can chew, not just because I wanted to escape, but because I wanted to say yes. I wanted to say yes to every awesome thing that came up.

So, I said yes. Actually, kind of a lot. And to more things than I probably actually had (compressed, bad year, emotion-ridden) time for. In a normal year, sure. Why not? This year… Well, it was a year.

I need to catch up. I still have a review to write, and some beta-ing to finish. Both for really brilliant, talented writers.

And then, I’m going to say no, for a while. I think. If I can remember how.

I’ll get my own writing back on track. Which it hasn’t been. Since it was more or less steam-rolled a few months ago.

And then, I’ll read more.

This is Getting Series-er and Series-er…

I spent a good chunk of my lunch hour organizing today. Trying to figure out exactly how much stuff has to go into my novel in order for it to be a complete story.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the kind of book where you get to the end and find yourself wondering where the rest of the story went. I always feel a little cheated.

And I feel more cheated if I happen to get in on the middle of a series, and the “rest” of it isn’t even available. Sometimes, I’ll “wait” for the next installment–or more precisely, I’ll remember it exists long enough to get it–but most of the time, I won’t. Half the time, if I do go back, it’s more a coincidence than anything else. Bumping into an acquaintance on the bookstore shelves. Fancy meeting you here!

I don’t want to write one of those books. In fact, for a long time, I didn’t want to write anything but stand-alone, non-series, non-related books.

I’ve backed off the no series thing. (Well, I’m having fun in one of my worlds.)

But I still want the books to stand alone.

I am just barely squeaking by on that goal. And I need to pinch every single word really, really tight to get there.

When I’m focused, I think I can do it. When I let myself look beyond my outline, and see the entire behemoth of a rough draft I have fermenting in my hard drive… I’m not so sure.

So, my question for tonight is… Tell me about the times you’ve picked up a series, and felt like the first book just… wasn’t all there. Tell me about the ones you’ve waited for, and kept reading, and the ones you put down all together. What makes the difference?

Throwing Away The Classics

I ran into this post–which talks about why not to give children a particular book– on Carol Nissenson’s Blog the other day and despite the post’s title, it took me three or four read throughs to figure out exactly which book she was talking about. The Secret Garden. One of the books I read as a child, and enjoyed. And probably would have handed over to the next generation without a second thought. The truth is, my initial response was something more along the line of “What is she talking about?” than “Oh, she’s right.”

But she is right.

It took me a while to think of the negative stereotypes she was talking about. But, of course, they didn’t make as direct an impact on me as they would have on other children. And, in time, my memory glossed over them.  So, I went back to Padma Venkatraman’s interview, and kept reading.

Oh. Yeah. That. Well, yes.

Leave a comment and tell me if you knew right away what scenes she’s talking about, or if it took you a second.

Revisiting old stories… old songs… old anything and consciously thinking about the messages in them has been a recurring thought lately.

For instance… Pretty Woman (the song, not the move)… It’s street harassment, but kinda catchy, and you can dance to it. Still… Should little girls’ brains be marinating in the idea that you’ll hurt a stranger’s feelings if you don’t smile at him?

Return to Sender… A stalker classic. No amount of pelvis shaking is going to change the fact that the woman in the song is giving Elvis a clear NO! and his next step will be… to show up on her doorstep. Not a great example for little boys.

And The Secret Garden? Well, damn it, I liked the Secret Garden. But moving forward… I liked a lot of books. And I still want there to be time in childhood for kids to discover their own favorites. I don’t think every childhood needs to be a blow-by-blow replay of my own to be a good childhood.

The Great Hierarchy of Children’s Books

  1. Books Recommended by A Parent, Teacher, or Librarian. In my family, this included Caldecott and Newbery winners and nominees, and a large number of dog stories. Books received as gifts from any of the above. And things on school reading lists. That recommendation–the moment when someone actually hands a child a book and says “Read this”–is a high level of approval. And not all books deserve that seal of approval. This is the pinnacle of all children’s books.
  2. Books Not Recommended, but Still Enjoyed by Parents, Teachers, or Librarians. These would be the books of no particular social value (or detriment) that your mother is willing to read to or with you. Your parents aren’t holding them up as anything special. You probably brought them home, yourself. Good for you.
  3. Books That Annoy the Shit Out of Adults Not actually harmful, but your mother is not willing to read them to you or with you because she just doesn’t like them. Because, at some point, you’re old enough to read that to yourself, if you really want to read it. My family? Well, this would be any Ramona book.
  4. Books That Will Result in a DISCUSSION. These are the books that will need some parental guidance. The ones where your parents seriously disagree with some of it, or where clarification will be necessary. The family medical encyclopedia. That thing about the circus sideshow. And anything where the expectations in your family are dramatically different than what’s shown in that book. For instance: The Secret Garden is really old fashioned, isn’t it? Wow, that child is horrible.
  5. Books That Will Result in Someone’s Career Ending There weren’t a lot of books that fell into this category, when I was a kid. (We’re a fairly information-positive family.) In one notable instance, however, a really lazy grade-school teacher decided that a movie about World War II would be just as good as a more formal lesson. Her career ended somewhere during a scene with a couple f—udging* on the porch.

I believe that books can move up or down the hierarchy of children’s books without any actual censorship or book-banning taking place. I don’t think I owe a recommendation to anything, and I certainly don’t think I should recommend everything to children. Plenty of books I read myself–and enjoy, and recommend to adults–that I wouldn’t recommend to a ten year old or a six year old.

Most of the books I read, I wouldn’t recommend to a young child.

And if I do recommend a book, I want it to be good–not just enjoyable, but good–a step in the direction I believe the world should go. I want it to be something that represents something I can stand behind, and something that will give that child–and the children he comes into contact with–a better life.

*If you know how to use euphemisms, thank a teacher.

 

Useful Things to Say To Developing Writers

If you want to be a doctor, you go talk to your local GP. If you want to be a teacher, there are a school full of people you can ask questions. But…

One of the things that’s tough about “I want to be a writer” is finding people who have done that successfully. The results–the books that writers write–are all around you, but it’s harder to find a writer. Even if you’re hanging out with other writers, finding someone who knows how to get from that first draft to a finished product is tough.

“This Could Use Some Structural Editing/Block Revision.”

Developing writers need to know that there is more than one kind of editing. And the editing you learned about in school–with the commas and the dictionary? That’s copy editing. That’s probably not the kind of editing a novel needs. At least, not at first.

In general, the longest thing you’re going to write in high school is a ten to fifteen page paper. And you’re going to do that in a matter of weeks; maybe, if you’re one of those last-minute folk, you’ll do it in days. Structural editing isn’t really a thing.

A three to four hundred page novel is a different beast. You stop. You start. You take time off for your cousin’s wedding.

Even if you started with an outline, the novel you wrote might not follow it. There could be duplicates. And you might have taken that left turn at Poughkeepsie that looked so appealing at the time.

Then, when you’re finished, you track down some unsuspecting English teacher or Librarian–or worse, a relative who “reads a lot”–and ask for their opinion.

So, for all the poor victims who are looking for something to say about that first novel that… well, it’s repetitive, and there are chunks missing, and the plot seems to veer off in the middle? That’s your line.

“This could use some Structural Editing.” or “This could use some Block Revision.”

 

Promoting an Online Event

I just finished hosting the most recent installment of the Storytime Blog Hop, and I think everyone who wrote stories this time is starting to look toward the next one. October. Halloween. That should be fun.

So, every now and then, I think about how to promote the blog hop…or my own blog… or an especially profound tweet…

I think about putting up posters in real life. Something catchy that would be easy to adapt to individual writers. Support your local independent authors, and a blank for the person’s name and website.

Or maybe posters that are less individual, that can be scattered across three or four continents and maybe pull in some readers. They’d have to be designed well to pull in different readers. And probably culturally brilliant, since there are so many different countries participating in the blog hop.

I’ve seen people promote things by handing out information with their Halloween candy, but of course, we don’t have that many kids left, right now. I think there were three last year, and two of them were siblings. It could work. Download codes for kids books aren’t quite the same as handing out toothbrushes, are they?

Fliers in Little Free Libraries might work, especially if there were download codes involved.

And then, the other thought that occurred to me… and I had the nerve to mention this one to another human being… is that maybe what we need is a scavenger hunt. Track down people in various categories, and invite them to the blog hop. Teacher from grade school? Old love interest? Person from Greenland? Person with a fish on their shirt?

Yes! They all want to read about my dragons. Yes, they do.

And maybe we could get readers involved somehow.

So, right now… I’m still trying to think of ideas. Because deep down inside, I’m probably a lot better at promotion in real life, when I can talk to someone face to face, than I am on the internet.

Three Days till The Blog Hop

Update: Please see the Blog Hop page for dates and details about the next blog hop.

It’s been a few hours since I mentioned the fact that I’m having a blog hop, so I thought I might mention I’m having a blog hop.

My blog hop is on the 27th of July.

Huh. I feel a little bit like a kid having a birthday. My blog hop is on the 27th. Are you coming?

The Storytime Blog Hop is a fun collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction stories. No graphic sex or violence, and no swearing. (Yes, I’ll go back and edit. Again.) And since it’s the genre, not the age range that ties it together, there’s a really nice range of writers involved.

If you want to check out some stories from our last blog hops right this second, I have a whole page of them.

And be sure to join me back here on July 27th for new stories from twelve talented writers. (Oh, fine. Eleven plus me. ;))