2

The Death of LiveJournal

I joined LiveJournal on January 7, 2003, because a group of friends I had been interacting with for ~13 years suddenly all disappeared from our usual platform (over internal politics by the people in charge) and went to LiveJournal. I have well over 3000 blog entries on LJ. I loved the site because of its privacy features and ease of design.

Recently, now-Russian-owned-and-operated LiveJournal explicitly changed their terms of service to require obeying Russian law. This entails “protecting” minors from discussions of “sexual deviancy.” This is code for LGBTQ+ issues. In order to continue using the site, one has to click “agree” when logging in, and if you don’t, Bad Things™ will happen. (i.e., They disable/remove your account and you lose all access to your blog.)

So I clicked ‘agree,’ but I cannot and do not and will not ever actually agree to those terms. So what that means is that I have to find some way to export all of my 3000+ posts from LJ and import them either to here or to my Blogger blog. Blogger is probably a “better” choice in terms of tone, but I prefer WordPress for the control I have.

What I don’t have is a good way to do this all at once. There is a LiveJournal importer, but it has only negative reviews, because apparently although it tries to import comments along with the blog posts themselves, it ends up duplicating the comments. And not just once or twice, but up to ten times, each. This is something I, too, noticed back before I created this site, when I was playing around on WordPress.com. It was ugly and useless, and I never did get everything cleaned up. It’s a big reason why I’m not hosted on WordPress.com and have my own domain, in fact.

What this means is that I must export my posts — sans comments! :( — from LiveJournal to XML files, then import those into WordPress. But on LJ, one can only export 1 month at a time.

I have 170(ish) months of posts, which will generate — you guessed it — 170ish files, and each one will have to be imported into this blog separately.

What this means to all both of my loyal readers is that . . . things may get weird, here. I have no idea what the LiveJournal posts are going to look like when they end up on WordPress. I have no idea what the date stamps will be. I have no idea what WordPress will do with my formatting or my embedded media or my userpics . . . I just don’t know. I’ll have to try a test, and even that may not be a good indication.

What I do know is that I will turn off the thing that automatically tweets, Google+s, Facebooks, LiveJournals, and Tumblrs new posts, because that would get real fugly, real fast.

I don’t know how long this will take. I do know it will require a ton of time. Time I don’t really have. So it will be slow going. And I also know that although I’ve tried to keep my blog here at least PG-13 because it represents the “professional” part of me, should I ever be published and people come here looking for more me (Hey, it could happen!). My LiveJournal . . . is not PG-13. It’s not NC-17, but it’s certainly at least R-rated. So I will just warn you now. :)

As soon as I’m done exporting all my posts and I’m sure that everything is safely saved and thoroughly backed up, I will be deleting my 14-year-old account on LiveJournal. They will receive no more of my money. They will receive no more of my time. They will receive no more of my consideration. I’m done.

Now, to all the people who are going to snidely comment, “LiveJournal is still a thing? I thought it was already dead!” . . . we get it. You’re very funny. But I really like some of the stuff I have on that site. It’s some of my best writing, and I hate to lose all the comments that I got over the years from friends, former friends, and strangers alike. But there’s no way to preserve them. Will I keep every silly one-sentence pun post? Probably not, to be honest. But whether you knew it or not, there is — or was; I suspect this TOS change will drive most of the decent people who are still using the site away — still a thriving community. Perhaps not as active as it once was, but still active nonetheless. And part of me will miss it. But a much bigger part of me hates what it has become, and refuses to use the site on their terms.

Stay tuned for further developments.

8

Silence, Be Broken!

So . . . it’s been a while. :) Unintentionally, mind you.

Last November, I was doing what I called NaNotWriMo, meaning that I ignored NaNoWriMo for the first time since 2008, and instead, I decluttered my office. I made it a lot better. It’s still not perfect, but it is orders of magnitude better than it was.

And then toward the end of November some stuff happened. Real-life stuff. Stuff I won’t go into. But it was enough that I didn’t want to blog or write or do much of anything else creative. So I left the office declutterization unfinished, abandoned all my writing projects, and every time I thought I had something to say, here, I’d talk myself out of it with a very old argument. “Dude, this is a writing blog. You should write about, you know . . . writing. And since you aren’t doing that, what’s the point?”

And that is how we end up at May 7th with the first post since November 18th.

But enough about that. I have ranting to get to!


What I was wondering is: am I the only one who, while reading, lets a name that appears to have several, conflicting, legitimate pronunciations throw me out of the story?

I can’t help it. Every time I see the name, I find myself pausing and thinking “Is it Lord High Emperor of Space and Time Potayto Salaad, Potahto Salaad, or Pah-tah-toe Salaad? And is it Salahd, Sah-lah-ahd, or Sah-lah-ahd?”

Yes, this kind of thing really does bother me, and it is literally every time I run across the name while reading. It slows me down and throws me out of the book. If it’s a name like Mary or Frank or Kira or even Binbiniqegabinik, there are very limited ways it could be pronounced. And in the case of that last one, it was made clear in the book what the proper pronunciation is, if I recall correctly.

A friend posted a question on Facebook, asking if she should use ‘Kira,’ ‘Brianna,’ or ‘Brienne’ as a character name. I voted firmly for Kira, because for me, those other two would cause me to read at half speed unless a pronunciation guide were given. Is the ‘i’ in ‘Brianna’ long or short? Is the first ‘a’ like the one in ‘bat’ or the one in ‘father’? We won’t even go into ‘Brienne’ and all the different ways I could find to pronounce it. I would probably have to just mentally call ‘Brienne’ something like ‘Bree’ or reading a sentence would go like this:

Brienne [Bree-en? Bree-en? Bry-en? Bry-en? Is the final ‘e’ pronounced? Gaaah!] and Gemina [Is the ‘g’ hard or soft? Is it ‘{G|J}em-i-na’, or ‘{G|J}e-mee-na’? Gaaah!] leapt into the saddle of Brienne’s [Bree-en’s? Bree-en‘s?] steed Fnaben [Dammit.] . . .

I’m guilty of it, myself, of course. On Second Life, I’m known by the name Sathor Chatnoir. Although ‘Chatnoir’ is fairly simple if you know French pronounciation, apparently ‘Sathor’ gives people fits. To me, it’s obviously Say-thor (where ‘Thor’ is pronounced like the Norse god), but when I heard people pronouncing it (we sometimes abandon typing and actually talk), people were saying it to rhyme with Dan Rather’s last name, or pronouncing the ‘Sa’ as “sah” instead of “say.” I was totally flabberghasted because to me, it’s so obvious. :)

And yeah, I know that it doesn’t matter how a name is pronounced unless there’s some poetry involved (A Elbereth Gilthoniel / silivren penna míriel . . .). I guess all I’m saying is that I like to know. Maybe it has something to do with being raised fairly early in my reading-for-pleasure life on books like The Lord of the Rings where there is an actual pronunciation guide right there in the book to tell you that the “C” in “Celeborn” is hard, or that the second syllable of “Lothlorien” is stressed.

Anyway, it’s probably just me, and this is just a rant, but at least it’s off my chest, now, and I can get back to plotting my novels and novellas. :)


You may notice over on the right of this page three circular graphs showing progress. Those are novels I’m working on co-plotting. They are the first three novels of my MCU Case Files series, and there are a lot of interwoven plots that need to all resolve by the end of Book 3, so that’s mostly what I’m working on. The current figures are only guesses, but I had to point out the cool graphs because cool.

0

Lost in Translation, Part 2

I encountered another one of those things that made me take a moment to step back and say, “Wait a second. That doesn’t make any sense.”

If you don’t recall, I talked about one such thing in an earlier post.

This one is much shorter, and came from both an old pulp story I was listening to on a podcast and some old movies I’ve seen. This is one of those, “Did people ever really talk like this?” things.

The scene: Two people are talking. One of them (BOB) is a crook or dishonest in some way. The audience either knows or suspects this. The other (ALICE) is an “investigator” or another crook. Alice is trying to convince Bob to go along with something, whether it’s telling the truth (if Alice is an investigator) or another con (if Alice is a crook).

Alice makes her case.

Bob (reluctantly) agrees to go along with whatever scheme Alice has presented, starts to walk away, then turns and says, his voice dripping with suspicion, “Say . . . this isn’t some kind of trick, is it?” (Sometimes, it’s “trap” instead of “trick.”)

Alice responds, “Of course not,” and possibly follows up with, “Would I do that to you?”

Of course, whether Alice is an investigator or a crook, there is a better than even chance that it is some sort of trick. And the audience is fully aware of it because the audience is very smart.

Unlike Bob.

I mean, seriously, what would make Bob ask Alice that? It’s a nonsense question with no chance of any answer other than “no.” Whether that “no” is a lie or true depends entirely on Alice’s character.

So why ask it?

I finally thought of a reason for film. In print, the reader is able to get into the mind of the character, but the POV character is almost certainly not going to be Bob, but Alice.

I think maybe having Bob ask that question is a lazy attempt by the writers to give the readers / viewers a peek into Bob’s internal monologue that we couldn’t otherwise see. To let us know that Bob isn’t a total stooge. He knows there’s a chance he’s getting himself into more trouble, but the only way for the lazy writer to let us know this is to have him just come out and ask. For him to willingly go along with whatever scheme it is without question would be to show he’s kind of stupid.

That’s all I can think of, anyway. The other alternative — that he’s asking it because he’s an astute observer of people and can tell when they’re lying and is asking it to force Alice’s inevitable reaction to let him know with certainty what her intentions are — isn’t something I think the pulp writers or screenwriters did, unless Bob was the POV character, in which case he’s asking it for devious reasons.

What do you think?


  1. Can you imagine the story if Alice stopped, blinked, and then slumped and said, “Yeah, Bob, it was. But you caught me.”
4

I Just Don’t Understand

There are a lot of things in this world that I don’t understand. Most of them involve other people. I’m not really all that misanthropic, but the degree to which I am is entirely attributable to people acting . . . weird. Insane. Bizarre. Evilly. Take your pick of modifier.

One thing I really don’t get is spam comments on blogs. Especially small blogs, like mine. I don’t have thousands of subscribers. I have in the range of less than a dozen hits per day except when I make a new post, and then that number triples. So, really, what are they attempting to gain?

This was posted today. On my NaNoWriMo 2012, day 18 post. Which, if you don’t know how NaNoWriMo works, was posted on 11/18/2012. Nearly two years ago.

I enjoy what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the terrific works guys I’ve you guys to my personal blogroll.

The “person” who made the comment doesn’t link to a working website. It literally uses “example.com.” Clicking on the username would take another reader . . . precisely nowhere. So what, exactly, is the point of making the spam comment? No commerce can happen. No malware can infect. No personal information can be gleaned. I block all suspicious comments and moderate all comments from new commenters. I don’t make this a secret at all. So no one would ever have seen it had it not been for this post.

Five other spam comments made since I last cleaned out my spam folder all have spam/malware sites as the poster’s URL, so I can kind of see the point in those, even if I think the person doing it is a waste of DNA and air. But that one up there . . . just wow.

Here is the text of the other five, edited to remove product or website names. Why? Because they amuse me at the same time they baffle me. Would any native speaker of English — or any other language, for that matter — really think these were legitimate comments?

I arrive from the single relatives house remedy was not achievable and i had to battle it alone. At 19 I used to be considered recovered by frequent health practitioner but 4yrs of recovery i can let you know there is no these thing. Simply because I ended binging and stopped purging didn’t mean I used to be healthy or which i experienced the right mindset. I really never feel it ever goes away and i have tried using and unsuccessful countless diet programs since the line involving an consuming condition and diet plan is around invisible. For the initially time I experience I’m able to [BOGUS SPAM PRODUCT NAME] is a good helper for t and do it the right way but that doesn’t indicate it really is not a battle. Acquiring over the scale I worry nearly every time and this previous week seeing nearly 50 % a pound just about killed me but a lot additional poor arrived from good for all those 6yrs. [6/21 on this post]

In my knowledge, the selection around the scale flat traces a little bit then [FALSO ESTAFA EL NOMBRE DEL PRODUCTO] is slower. This is attributable mostly to h2o, not fat, rather than muscle mass progress. You actually never make considerable muscle although eating in a deficit. I’ve found that my prior 1-1.5 Lbs for every 7 days decline on the scale has turned into .5 to .seventy five Lbs for each week thanks largely to drinking water expected for muscle maintenance….perhaps a teeny weenie itsy bitsy muscle mass advancement, but very little appreciable that may present up on the scale me thinks…only been undertaking this 30 days or so. [6/21 on this post]

Everyone loves what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and coverage! Keep up the fantastic works guys I’ve you guys to blogroll.| [6/20 on this page; link was to a different FALSO ESTAFA EL NOMBRE DEL PRODUCTO]

However, nothing can be compared to an Internet-based outdoor network which allows users to share all of their exciting hunting stories on the web for others to read and discuss. I hunted in Connecticut, still all the old timers swore by Arkansas hound dogs. Game sites are extensive, and it is easy to get lost. [6/19 on this post; link was to a site my company has blocked]

The Pumpkin Wizard provides template patters by theme. Make tiny spiders from black chenille stems and attach them to the cobwebs. ” Make sure it’s shouted in a French accent as well. [6/16 on this post (OH. THE. IRONY.); site is a malware ‘gaming’ site.]

If I were evil, I’d take money to spam. I mean, it must be lucrative or no one would do it, right? But my bogus comments would be written in standard English. Some of those just hurt my head to read. I guess I could never really be a spammer. I’d twitch too much at the horrible grammar. Although I did laugh out loud at the last one exhorting me to shout something that isn’t made clear in a French accent. Because that’s apparently a thing.

Well . . . all right, then.

<‘Orrible Franch akSONT> «I’m French. Why do you think I have this outrageous accent, you silly king?» </’Orrible Franch akSONT>

11

DO ALL THE THINGS!

Question Everything / Nullius in verba / by dullhunk, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  dullhunk 

In my last post, I talked about a lot of things, but one thing I said was that it was time for me to decide what’s important to me.

Last Friday at work, I was almost by myself for most of the day, and I had very little to do. So I made myself a time matrix so I could map out how long I spend doing various things that are required so I could see what was left for me to apportion to the things I want to do with my copious free time.

It turns out that my free time is actually kind of copious, when looked at from a certain perspective.

When left to my own devices — in other words, no alarms and without being sick — I will sleep right at seven hours per night. It seems to be what my body requires in order to be fully rested. I can function at a decent level on five. Below that, and I’m firing on too few cylinders to be useful for much of anything that requires concentration. Even reading or listening to podcasts. If I get more than seven — unless I’m sick — I feel tired and logy and worn out.

So I started by marking off seven full hours per day for sleep. And I arbitrarily set those hours between midnight and 07:00. Why? Because if I go to bed before midnight, I somehow feel like I’m missing something. Don’t ask me why, I just do. (The brain weirds psychology.)

Time Commitments

Time Commitments

And because I don’t spring from bed perfectly clean, coiffed (I shave my head), and ready to go, I will add another hour five days per week of ‘getting ready,’ which includes all of the above plus having breakfast, checking my email, etc.

Then for another forty hours, I must work, at least if I want to eat, have a house and a car, and be (relatively) sane. And because I live and work in the Greater Atlanta Metropolitan Area, that means another two hours of commuting, to work and back. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more; it averages out to about one and a half hours.

By the way, don’t take this as me grousing. :) I enjoy my job. It doesn’t just “pay the bills”; it is fulfilling on most days. But it is, for the most part, doing things that other people value, and which I would not do if they didn’t pay me. Ideally, I’d be rich and able to do whatever I wanted.1

Now, there are a few other “required” items I have marked off. They’re all writing-related, so that’s good. Two weekly critique groups and one biweekly critique group. I also marked off time to read for the biweekly group, because the submissions can add up to 40,000 words, and that takes a while.

What that leaves me is a surprising fifty hours per week (fifty-nine on alternate weeks) that are basically free and clear.

Now, what do I currently do with all that free time?

My housemate and I are currently working our way through Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Doctor Who, and Jonathan Creek. This is what little TV we actually watch: catching up on shows via NetFlix, Hulu, YouTube, and whatever other sources we can find.

I subscribe to . . . an embarrassing number of channels on YouTube. Musicians, vloggers, comedians, scientists, and others. I spend an embarrassing amount of time watching these videos. I mean, it probably takes up almost the entirety of the remaining hours.

Then there’s Facebook. Ah, Facebook. I spend too much time on it, as well. I’ve been easing off on that, reading it for a few minutes here and there during the day, and for the most part not obsessing over it. I don’t, as it turns out, have to know every aspect of every one of my friends’ lives for every minute of their day. Nor do they need or want to know mine.

I also subscribe to quite a few podcasts2, resulting in many hours of content per week, but I find that I can do this while working or driving, so there is generally ample time that isn’t devoted solely to podcasts.

Here are the categories of things I would like to spend time on, with the most important ones underscored for emphasis.

Health: sleep, exercise, lose weight

Writing: writing, reading, blogging, critiquing, Codex, submitting

Work: advancement/learning, projects to which I’ve been assigned, proactive projects

Social: spending time with friends, watching TV, YouTube, podcasts, Facebook (yeah, it gets in there), Twitter, whatever (Yes, I’m aware that a lot of what I’m putting under “social” are, on the face of it, solitary pursuits. But there’s a reason it’s called ‘social’ media.)

Family: mom-visits, other family

So there are my five big buckets of time to apportion. As I said above, I put almost all of my uncommitted time, at the moment, into the Social bucket, neglecting everything else. That needs to change.

I get zero exercise. So I figure one of the big things that has to change is setting aside some time each week dedicated to exercise. Just walking, at first. For various reasons I won’t go into, lifting weights or doing any serious training is right out for the foreseeable future, so if I can just walk a few times per week, that might go a long way toward increasing my stamina, health, and fitness. I might even lose weight, if I can also curtail some calories while I’m at it. (My housemate is a personal chef who specializes in people with special dietary needs. She can definitely help on that front, and has been.)

So, let’s say 3 hours per week of walking, briskly. I could do it at work on breaks (one does need breaks away from the computer). I could take the stairs during the day when I’m not having to drag my rolling computer bag with me. The while-at-work stuff is free, because it still counts as work time. So that doesn’t require me to “give up” any of my uncommitted time. I figure I can stop at a nearby mall for an hour-long walk around the inside three days per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, perhaps).

I’ve been getting way less sleep. That’s how much time the ‘social’ category takes up. I just have to watch one more YouTube video or see one more page of statuses on Facebook . . . I think my average sleep time has been closer to five hours than seven for . . . years? And that’s just sad, really. These raccoon eyes aren’t because I’m a goth. :)

When I was going to physical therapy for a shoulder injury late last year, I was able to get up at 5, be at work by 6:30 or 7:00, and then leave at 14:00 or 15:00, giving me ample time to get to my physical therapy between 16:00 and 16:45, depending on the day. That proved to me, briefly, that I can rearrange my work day if need be, and no one raises too much of a fuss. Most meetings take place between 10 and 3 precisely because people have varied schedules.

If I can get a replacement power cord for my work laptop, I could even work from home on Tuesdays, which would obviate the need for me to wrestle traffic for that one day per week, and the only thing for which I’d have to leave the house would be the critique group. I could get back two whole hours of “uncommitted time” for doing things like laundry.

So, what’s my point in all this? My point is that I have a crap-ton of time that I could spend writing, reading, critiquing, and generally improving myself as a writer. But instead, I squander almost all of it doing things that have no relevance to me, or any of my long-term goals.

It’s time to man up, in other words, and take the reins. Do what needs to be done. Quit wasting my time and start spending it.

Unfortunately, my inner child (who, by the way, is a four-year-old brat named Bradford; it’s a very long story) is right now stamping his feet and shouting “NO! NO NO NO NO NO!” and refusing to do anything he sees as not fun. He has even been known to hold his breath until he turns blue, and no one wants that, believe me.

So, how can I make exercise fun? How can I make improving my skills at work fun? How can I make giving up — or at least severely curtailing — YouTube fun?

How can I make writing fun?

Step one: Gamify it. More on that in the next post. :) (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?)


  1. Well, if I’m being 100% truthful, ideally, I’d have a skull-shaped, volcanic island lair with fast internet and a helipad. And to which all of my friends could freely come as a writing retreat or whatever. But that’s never going to happen. Probably.
  2. This is what we like to call ‘understatement.’ At last count, it would take me 109.8 continuous days — meaning no sleeping — to listen to everything I have downloaded.

0

There’s a Hole in the Bucket

Wikipedia logo. Used without permission.

Wikipedia

I was listening to a podcast earlier today and it happened again.

Host: Do you have any online sources you’d recommend [for information about physics for writers of science fiction]?

Guest: Um . . . Not really. I can’t think of —

Host: Well, not Wikipedia, right? Whatever you do, don’t use Wikipedia! [laughs]

Guest: [laughs] Right.

Ha ha ha. He he. Ho ho.

There’s this meme out there in Internetland that is oddly persistent. That meme is that Wikipedia is the absolute, bottom of the barrel, worst place to go to research anything, because it’s always, always wrong. I’m sure you’ve heard it. You may even have perpetuated it.

“I got it from Wikipedia, so take this with a grain of salt, but . . .”

I’ve also heard celebrities being interviewed, and they’ll say things like, “You got that information from my page on Wikipedia didn’t you? It’s wrong. I have no idea where it came from.”

The thing about Wikipedia is this: it’s free. It’s editable by anyone.1

That’s both a good thing and, necessarily, a bad one. I can go on Wikipedia right now and change the facts on the page about the Hubble Space Telescope to indicate that it was built and launched by Serbia in 1573 by rogue centaurs intent on proving the moon is made of Camembert cheese. But that will be corrected almost immediately. And if I do something like that too often, I’ll attract the attention of the Powers That Be. <insert ominous chord here>

Apparently in contradiction to “popular belief,” Wikipedia has editors. A dedicated group of unpaid volunteers from around the world who police the site, watching for suspicious behavior, and taking action when needed. I know at least two of these people, and it’s no small undertaking.

But here’s where I’m headed with this entire rant: if you find something on Wikipedia that you can prove is wrong, fix it. That’s the entire point of the site. It’s meant to be a public domain encyclopedia maintained by the public. The idea being that all of us are smarter than any one of us.2

Now, should you go on there and just correct something without citing references? No. That’s a waste of time. Someone will notice your lack of citation and probably revert the page to its state before you edited it. Not out of malicious intent, but because without a citation, it’s your word against the word of everyone else who has ever edited that page.

I was listening to an NPR show called “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me” a few years back (November 4, 2006 to be exact) on which the “Not My Job” segment featured guest Jimmy Wales, who is the creator of Wikipedia. The producers of the show decided it would be funny to give him a quiz gleaned from some of the more trivial pages on Wikipedia. It’s a funny segment, and one I can highly recommend. That link up there will take you to that particular segment so you can listen to just it and not have to wade through the entire show if you don’t want to.

The funniest part to me, though, is when Wales himself says (at 8:25 in), “Wikipedia is really, really, really strong in the area of Japanese cartoon characters. And if you push that ‘Random’ button, I think about 33% of what you find in Wikipedia is Japanese cartoon characters.” The host, Peter Sagal, later quips (at 9:05 in), “You’re right, I kept pressing the ‘Random Entry’ button to find material for this, and, like, every other one was a Japanese video game.” [Note: the button is actually a link labeled ‘Random article.’]

All joking aside, here’s where I hope to set the record straight on something. While Wikipedia may indeed be unreliable on certain subjects, on academic subjects — for which there is much published reference material — it is no more or less inaccurate than Encyclopedia Britannica.

There have been a number of studies that have upheld this conclusion. Circular reference alert: This article on Wikipedia is about the accuracy of articles on Wikipedia. There are a number of caveats in the article and in the studies themselves, but the gist of it is this: Wikipedia is surprisingly (for most people) accurate on scientific or academic topics. You can probably safely use it as a starting reference.

I’ll finish with something I learned at Viable Paradise in 2012. Dr. Debra Doyle lectured about research and how to go about it. The thing that stuck with me is this: always try to find the original source for information. How does this relate to Wikipedia? At the bottom of well-written Wikipedia articles are links to sources that are cited. Use those as your starting point. Glean from the article what you want, and then focus in on the parts you need further clarification on. Go to the sources cited by Wikipedia. Then go to the sources cited by those sources. And so on. Eventually, you’ll end up at the bottom of the rabbit hole wondering where the last fourteen hours of your life went, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll have a (weary) smile on your face for having found the information you needed.

And if you take nothing else away from this rather long-winded rant, make it this: If you find something incorrect on Wikipedia, fix it! That’s the entire purpose of the site.


  1. It is possible to get banned from Wikipedia for various offenses such as vandalism. For example, in May of 2009, IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates were banned from Wikipedia for relentlessly pushing its own agenda, including editing Scientology-related pages to remove anything they deemed inappropriate or that would reflect negatively on the church. Individual users may also be banned for similar offenses. Topics may also be locked down and set uneditable because of frequent vandalism.
  2. Even for very, very smart people like Steven Hawking or Albert Einstein. Do you think Hawking knows anything about bat physiology? Do you think Einstein knew anything about the behavioral patterns of Japanese snow monkeys (macaques)?

10

Wrong Way, Go Back


Photo credit: wallyir from morguefile.com

I’m what they call a “discovery writer.” Or, more colloquially, a “pantser.” As in, I write by the seat of my pants. No outline. No clear end in sight, sometimes. Just a cool idea that popped into my head and a vague notion of “thattaway” when it comes to where the story is going. That’s how a lot of my stories start.

That’s also — uncoincidentally — why so many of my stories either don’t end or don’t end satisfactorily. Because I get to some point in the writing when I realize that either I have no earthly clue where the ending is or that I missed the exit some while back, and I’m going to need to turn around, backtrack, and take a different route.

While driving, that’s easy enough. You get off at exit 250 and go back to exit 248. You lost a couple of miles, a few tablespoons of gasoline, and maybe a few minutes. The air turns a little blue from the curses. Possibly, your GPS announces “Recalculating” in that mechanical ‘I’m judging you even though I have no inflection in my robot voice’ tone that adds, “idiot” or “loser” to the end of every statement. Recalculating, loser.

In writing, though, you lose words. Maybe good words. But they’re just not the right words for this story at this time. A writer and podcaster I follow religiously (Mur Lafferty) has said that she has lost thousands of words — as in twenty or thirty thousand words — because of one of these “wrong exit” mistakes.

They can be costly. But I think maybe the work is the better for it.

Mike Stackpole in his wonderful “21 Days to a Novel” workshop has said that if you reach a point in your writing when you’re blocked and you don’t know what comes next, go back about 300 words (a page or so) and look. There’s probably a decision your character made that’s out of character. Because it needed to happen for the plot. Easy enough to rewrite 300 words. And since the new words will begin with the character actually in character, they’ll be better words, and you can continue writing. And I have had this happen, and it’s usually true.

But what if you realize 50,000 or 60,000 words in that your entire design of the setting or the way magic works or something else fundamental to the work as a whole . . . is just wrong? Is anything salvageable? Is there any reason to continue writing, or should you just jettison everything and either move on to another project or start over from scratch?

I’ve done both of those, as well. And as much as losing 300 or 10,000 words might hurt, realizing that most of a novel is just spew . . . is rather frustrating.1

This is where I’ve been at recently. I’ve explained this before, but briefly: I had an idea for what I thought was a short story, then became a novella, then a novel, and finally a series of urban fantasy novels. I called book one Perdition’s Flames. I wrote roughly 40,000 words of it. In the midst of that, NaNoWriMo came around and since I by then had an idea for book two, I wrote 50,000 words of Death Scene. I had vague notions that book three would be called Eye of the Beholder, but . . . something was off. The story wouldn’t coalesce. The arc wasn’t right. The biggest climax and revelation was in book one, not book three.

Then, it occurred to me that the reason I couldn’t come up with anything for book three was that book one had the end of the arc. So Perdition’s Flames had to be book three. That moved Death Scene to book one, and Eye of the Beholder to book two. That fixed a lot. I mean a lot. I now had a very cool scene for the introduction into my series and a satisfying arc that crossed all three books, with new ideas for books four and five based on the end of book three. Even better, I knew what book two was about, now, because it could revolve around something I set up in book one, and introduce a character that will be important in book three! I was very excited.

For NaNoWriMo 2012, I wrote a 50,000-word+ book called Magic for Normals, a ‘for-dummies’ style book that was basically just a place for me to write down all my ideas about how magic works in my world, and do it in a fun format where I could just expound at length and be as pedantic as I wanted.

And then, on the heels of this, I set out to restart the series, this time beginning with Death Scene. A book I had already written more than 50,000 words of. But now, as the first book, all the characters had to be introduced and their relationships established. Again. And the world had to be introduced. Again. And certain plot points for books two and three had to be set up in advance. And secondary conflicts had to be added. Each character needed a motivation. A background. An arc. My villain character actually had to have a reason he was doing what he was doing, other than just being evil.

And every time I’d write a few thousand words, I’d think of something else I needed to add. “Oh, it’s not Bob that’s the villain. It’s really Fred! And this is why: . . .” Or, “Wait. Nick isn’t Jacob’s younger brother, he’s the older brother, because it makes [plot point 1] and [plot point 2] actually make sense. And gives Bob Fred a motivation!”

So, I’m blocked for several reasons:

  • Idea paralysis – Since I’ve moved the books around, so many new ideas are occurring to me that I can barely write a couple of hundred words before a new idea sparks. It’s a good thing, I think, but it means never being sure whether what I’m writing is on exit 248 or 250.
  • Already written syndrome – A huge part of my brain is saying, “You already wrote this. You told this story. Stop trying to retell it. Move on.” Silly brain. (This is also why I have a hard time with outlining and writing synopses.)
  • Wrong Way, Turn Back – Another part of my brain insists that all those ideas I’m getting are wrong because I get new ideas that invalidate the old ones . . . Does anyone other than me get the impression that I’m my own worst enemy? :) Either that or I need a week in a very large room with whiteboards on all four walls and no Internet.2

So, that’s where I’m at right now, if anyone’s wondering. I’m working on other writing in order to keep the writing gears lubricated. I have a “short” story (Haha! It’s at 12,000 words and shows no sign of ending soon.) to submit for my writing group by midnight tonight. I’m a blogging fool, lately. And every time my mind isn’t otherwise occupied, I’m planning plot for books one, two, three, or four. Yes, four. <shakes head in disgust> In the shower, driving, eating lunch at work, just as I’m about to drop off into sleep. I have five days of boring training classes at work next week. I have a feeling my notes are going to look . . . a bit schizophrenic. :)

GBE2

Group Blogging Exchange 2

Today’s post is inspired by GBE2 (Group Blogging Experience)’s Week 113 prompt: Photo Prompt (see associated photo at top of post)


  1. An example of litotes.
  2. No, not padded walls. I see what you did, there. Very funny. Ha ha. No, really.

0

The Pulitzer Scam

Note: I don’t make it a habit to rant, here, but I felt the need to vent about this.

This is something I wasn’t aware of until some friends of mine pointed it out last night. A writer of their acquaintance whom I shall call "Jack" sent out an email to the Atlanta Writers Club with the following title:

Jack Writer Has a New Pulitzer Nominated Book

Jack is published through what I will call a small press, but an argument could be made for calling it a vanity press. I’ve met the owner of this publishing house, and although he seems like a nice, earnest person, there was something about his answers to basic business-of-writing questions that told us he’s not really all that knowledgeable about things like contracts and rights. Which a publisher should be, if he expects to stay in business long.

The email provided a link to the book’s PR site (part of the service provided by his publisher). The page contains a number of blurbs (a.k.a. "puffs") written in that breathless style seemingly reserved for such purposes. "An instant classic!" "A tour-de-force!" "I wasn’t able to put it down!" "Jack’s story grabs you by the throat and won’t let go until the final page!" Etc. You know the type. The purpose of a blurb or puff is to influence you to buy the book. Authors (or their publishers) generally get well-known authors in their genre to provide quotes. According to Marilyn Henderson on AbsoluteWrite,

When an author gives another writer a blurb, it implies an endorsement or recommendation of the novel. Her fans may buy your book on the strength of her liking it enough to let her name be on it. It also implies her fans will like your book, so you must choose the author you ask carefully.

If her stories do not include on-stage murder, violence or profanity, for example, her fans don’t expect any in a book she recommends. They assume a novel she "endorses" will be similar to hers. If it isn’t, her publisher may get angry letters, and she may lose fans and sales.

Just as you must know the audience you write for, you must know the audience of the authors you ask for blurbs.

Recognizing none of these authors’ names, I looked a few of them up and discovered that they, too, are either self-published authors or published by small, niche-market publishers. One of them was billed as a critic for a prominent online newspaper which I will decline to mention. I looked him up, and sure enough, he’s a critic. A film and TV critic. Who publishes his reviews on his own site. And then this newspaper links to them.1 He has several books . . . also published by a small, niche publisher.

My point is that these book blurbs were all written by people in the same basic position as Jack: an author whose small publisher is probably pushing them to scratch a back in the interest of reciprocity. I have no proof of this; I’m supposing.

Now, let me be absolutely, crystal clear: none of that is an issue. I don’t have a problem with self publishing. I don’t have a problem with small publishers. I don’t have a problem with niche markets. I don’t have a problem with people getting their work in front of people by any reasonable means necessary. Except for one thing.

Pulitzer Nominated.

Surely that can’t be right. Can it? The Pulitzer is a major award. It seems unlikely that a book by an unknown writer would be nominated for such a prestigious honor.

So my friends looked into this a bit.

Turns out, anyone can enter the Pulitzer Prize competition. You pay $50 and send off a few copies and it’s "submitted." Officially entered in the contest for the Pulitzer. Notice that "submitted" is not the same as "nominated." That is a very fine distinction.

Read more here (Huffington Post article by Steve Lehto). A salient quote from that article:

The Pulitzer Prize organization has juries which select finalists in various categories and then the Pulitzer Prize Board picks the winners from those finalists. According to their own website, the only people who should say they are "nominated" for a Pulitzer Prize are the finalists who have been selected by the juries for consideration by the Pulitzer Prize Board.

Jack himself may not have had any say in this. The publisher may very well have paid the $50 and be urging him to hype the "Pulitzer Nominated" nonsense. And having met him, I can’t say that I would put it past him. That very earnestness I noted above may blind him to the negative impact something like this could have on both Jack’s and his own reputation.

So the morals of this story are these:

  1. Do not ever do this. It is at best a cheap marketing ploy. It is at worst a bold-faced lie. And if you’re caught at it by your peers, you’re going to have a hard time regaining whatever trust this costs you.
  2. If you hear of an author claiming his book is "Pulitzer Nominated," check the Pulitzer site before you believe it.

  1. My problem is the implied lie. Or lie of omission, if you will. Saying he is a "critic" "for" the ElectroNews Times (or whatever) implies that he is a full-time book / literature critic working directly on the payroll, not that he is a film / TV critic on his blog, which the publication then features. It’s the difference in saying, "Here comes the president" vs. "Here comes the president of the PTA." Both are true, but one is more truthful.

0

Why Aren’t We Past This?

I am taking a needed break from Facebook, right now. I was spending time on there I should have been using for writing. I think I might go back after the election season is over. I’m . . . so very, very done with it.

And I have been writing. I re-visited my “B Is for Bard” story from last NaNoWriMo and came up with an Actual Ending™, toward which I am now writing. I’m trying to end my Fairy Tale Private Eye story. I’m idea-wrangling several other stories, as well as my newly redesignated first novel in the PCIU Case Files series. (It was formerly known as the second novel, but the previous first one needed to be third, so two is now one and three is two.1)

I’ve also been reading and making progress in a couple of books I’d been neglecting.

And I’ve been listening to podcasts. I have a crap-ton of them on my iPod, including a new-to-me writing-oriented one called The Creative Penn, hosted by Joanna Penn. I mentioned it before (here). Since then, I’ve heard a few more, and it’s definitely a keeper.

This morning, on the way to work, I was listening to Joanna interview James Chartrand, creator of Men With Pens, which made Michael Stelzner’s list of “Top 10 Blogs for Writers” for 2009/2010.

Now, “James Chartrand” is a pseudonym. “James” is actually a woman. He “came out of the closet,” as it were, in December of 2009. After about three years of being successful and presenting a male persona to the Internet.

Go read that blog post that explains why Chartrand chose that pseudonym, then come back here. It’s a very enlightening read.

<hold muzak>

Done? Good.

There are a few things that I just don’t get. Why does it matter whether someone is male or female when it comes to writing? Chartrand said that she would often submit the same ideas as her real name and as James, and they’d be accepted and even praised as James, but not as her real name.2

How is this still happening? Seriously, how is this still allowed to happen? Maybe I’m just naïve, but I thought things were better than this. I thought the writing was what mattered, not whether the author has breasts or a penis. No wonder so many female authors use just their initials! (J. F. Penn (Joanna Penn, herself), J. K. Rowling, C. J. Cherryh, V. C. Andrews, P. D. James, A. C. Crispin, A. J. Orde, E. E. Horlak, B. J. Oliphant (the last three are all Sherri S. Tepper), D. C. Fontana, J. D. Robb, K. A. Applegate, C. S. Friedman, S. E. Hinton . . . the list goes ever on.)

But aside from that, one other thing surprises me a lot about this particular “outing.” After Chartrand was revealed to be female, her male fans/clients/readers took it pretty much in stride. But the women . . .

She said in the interview that by far the worst reactions came from women. For instance, this blog post by Amanda Hess. Not to say she’s/they’re not somewhat justified, if what Hess says in her blog is accurate. She does make it sound like Chartrand went too far in her pursuit of coming across as masculine, going as far as to do to other women what had been done to her, and that is inexcusable.

My point is that it shouldn’t matter. Honestly, I find myself looking for male characters in science fiction and fantasy because I can identify with them more, but I don’t let that stop me from enjoying female main characters. In the urban fantasy subgenre, it’s mostly female main characters, and I’m fine with that.

Men writing female main characters or women writing male main characters . . . it’s all part of what we learn to do as writers: Writing the Other.3 If we didn’t learn to do that, all our characters would be just like ourselves. I would only have middle-aged, upper-middle-class white male characters with no hair, a cat, and a southern accent. Jim Butcher would never be able to carry off Murphy, Molly, Mab, the Leanansidhe, or Susan, all of whom are wonderful characters. J. K. Rowling’s main character was not only male, he was substantially younger than she. But Harry rang true to me, as did Hermione, Ron, Draco, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Molly, Tonks, and the other 300 characters she brought to life.

Just because she has ovaries doesn’t make her unable to write about a male character. And just because Butcher has testicles doesn’t make his female characters any less believable.

It’s what writers do.

The funny part of all this is . . . I have considered using G. D. Henderson as a “pen name” just for that ambiguity. Precisely because the lion’s share of urban fantasy authors are female, and to fit into the genre, it might actually be best (Jim Butcher, Stefan Petrucha, D. B. Jackson (a pseudonym for David B. Coe), James R. Tuck, and Simon R. Greene (among others) notwithstanding) for me to be ambiguously gendered.

And that’s just . . . weird.

I guess there’s a lot more work left to go before people stop injecting prejudice into everything. If you don’t read a book or blog because of the gender — or race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else — of the author, you’re missing out on some great writing.


  1. Third base!
  2. I had a boss back when I worked at a steel mill in Alabama. This particular boss started out having morning meetings where he would talk to all four of his department of computer programmers equally: me, another man, and two women. Then slowly, over a few weeks/months, he scooted his chair more and more into the room until he was sitting in front of the two women, talking only to me and the other man. Rather than calling him on it, we decided to ram it down his throat. “Sue” (not her real name) made a suggestion, one morning (from behind him), and he hated it. Shot it down as no good and unworkable. Later, “Joe” (not his real name, either) suggested exactly the same thing . . . and our boss loved the suggestion. Couldn’t praise it enough. Then Sue called him on it. He turned red, left the room, and didn’t say a word to any of us about it.
  3. Google that phrase. Seriously.

  • Calendar

    August 2017
    M T W T F S S
    « Jun    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031