Archive for January, 2011
What Stace had to say on Monday, January 31st, 2011
You know, I don’t even really want to discuss any of the stuff that came up last week anymore. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of having my motives questioned, sick of being told I’m lying about them, sick of being told I’m a petty vindictive bitch, sick of being called a hypocrite, sick of being told I equate bad reviews with mean and thus obviously can’t handle reviews at all, sick of being yelled at for my “tone,” sick of being told I’m obviously egotistical and self-centered, sick of being referred to and treated like the Will Hays of the publishing world or something, or like I think I’m the freaking Black Gate of Mordor and you must get through me personally to be published so you better do exactly as I say, or that I told anyone they “wouldn’t get published” if they didn’t follow my advice, which is the biggest pile of bullshit. Since when is “another writer might not want to blurb you” equal to “forget about being published ever, bitches?” FFS. I was even told by one non-writer that I was making all women writers and the entire urban fantasy community look bad.
And in fact I was/am seriously considering either giving up the blog altogether or going back to what I’ve been doing the last few months, which is basically just making the blog about me personally and not really expressing any opinions at all. Because quite frankly, it’s not worth it to me (which funnily enough was the point of last week’s posts, too). Watching myself get slammed all up and down Twitter and all over the internet and finding nasty emails in my Inbox is not worth it. Being thrown into the center of some kind of huge swirling controversy simply for sharing my experience as truthfully as possible and giving a bit of advice which people are free to take or leave–advice I wish someone had given me, advice that was just meant to be helpful and friendly, something to think about, since the subject came up (publicly, not privately as some people seem to think)–isn’t worth it. I have too much going on in my life, frankly, and don’t need to be screamed at and torn apart by a bunch of people I don’t know, who don’t know me, who’ve never even heard of me before or read any of my work but who nonetheless feel qualified to call me rude/egotistical/self-centered/weak/scared/vindictive/fake/hypocritical/oversensitive/advocating dishonesty, and feel perfectly justified in doing so as loudly and as often as possible, even though my post was nothing personal, and aimed at no one in particular.
(Yes, I got some nasty emails about UNHOLY GHOSTS right before its release, too. That was quite upsetting. That was also worth it, because it was about my work; my art, and that matters deeply to me. This isn’t, and doesn’t.)
Of course, what’s happened is the perfect example of why I said “Be careful what you say because people will misinterpret it/take offense when none is intended/attribute motives to you which aren’t yours/claim you’re ‘protesting too much’ when you try to explain that no, that really wasn’t your motive.” That reaction is exactly what I meant, everyone. Go ahead and tell me again why I’m wrong to suggest caution in your online dealings unless you enjoy being attacked. I don’t mean that to be rude, I’m just pointing it out.
Anyway. I was going to give it up. And I’m still considering what I might do. But meanwhile I had this post planned, and have told people to expect it, and a few people have encouraged me to go ahead and post it, so here it is. I guess I really can’t be attacked more than I have been, or made to feel worse, or made to wonder any more what the hell I did that was so wrong that I deserved that kind of fury.
One of the most interesting comments I saw last week and throughout the weekend were the number of unpublished writers, or un-NY-published writers, talking about “helpful” reviews, and how great it can be to find reviews that give “constructive criticism.” (Those are actual quotes, btw, not me being sarcastic.) How they would never feel bad about any review because it’s all feedback and that’s so valuable and they learn from it.
And it got me thinking. What do I learn from reviews? What have I learned from my reviews?
Well…not a damn thing, to be honest.
Before you get all up in arms again, let me make a couple more things clear. I love readers. I love reviewers. I will and have stood up (many times) for the right of readers and reviewers to say whatever they like, in whatever way they like, and have said over and over that reviewers are great and I’m grateful for them, and that I wish the tension that often appears to exist between writers and readers wasn’t there. I do often read my reviews and I almost always enjoy reading them, even if the reviewer didn’t like the book.
But enjoying them and respecting them isn’t learning from them. I don’t. And here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
It seems, much to my surprise, that there’s something controversial about saying “Don’t make enemies of people who may be in a position to help you later on in the career you hope to have.” I had no idea that this was something people would disagree with.
(While I’m on the subject, a link in comments led me to this post by Jeanine Frost, a NYT bestseller and very nice person I had the pleasure of meeting once a couple of years ago. I hadn’t seen this post before I posted; I wish I had. Maybe if you don’t want to believe me, you’ll believe her.)
Several people brought up Roger Ebert, I’m not sure why. Roger Ebert is a professional reviewer. He is a good and successful reviewer. I just must have missed the part where Ebert started actively pursuing an acting career. Nobody said you can’t be a reviewer. Just that you should think before you decide to try to be both. When is the last time you saw, say, Sandra Bullock, reviewing a film?
I’ve been referred to as being “scared.” I wanted to clarify this. I am not fucking scared. Ask anyone who knows me; I believe they’ll tell you there’s very little I’m afraid of (and if you read yesterday’s post you’ll see more clarification). I carry two switchblades. Hell, I have “I am not afraid” tattooed on my arm.
Some people are shocked–yes, shocked!–that writers would actually not take time to help out someone who criticized their work in the past. You know what? Writers are people. Just like any other people. When is the last time you took time you couldn’t afford to help a stranger who’d been publicly critical of you in the past? Why does everyone think this is a matter of anger? It’s not. I’m not sure what’s unclear about the fact that my time is extremely limited. If I have two bound mss in front of me, I likely only have time to read one, and that’s with me barely scraping that time from my schedule. Let’s see. I can pick the mss of the person who in the past said they disliked this or that about me or my work, or I can pick up the mss of the person who never said a word about me, or complimented me. You tell me what person you know–who isn’t in the running for sainthood–who’s going to deliberately pick the one of the critical person. It’s not about revenge. It’s not about anger. It’s about practicality.
This isn’t about being nice, either, to be honest. or rather, it is, but only in so much as it’s about not actively being unpleasant to or critical of people who could have an influence on your career. I’m not saying you can’t ever speak out against injustice or rudeness. I think we should do so. I think if you’ve read my blog before you know that; hell, remember what happened in May? I saw another writer–one “above” me, in fact, with whom I was friendly, who I liked as a person, and who was friends with many of my friends–behaving in a manner I found shockingly bad, disgusting, even; aggressive, rude, and unpleasant to readers. I blogged about it. Did that writer see it? I know she did. Do I think she’ll ever help me out with anything? I don’t think she’d piss on me if I were on fire, frankly. Do I think it’s possible she showed my post to her editor, and her editor now thinks I’m a bitch? I know it’s a distinct possibility, yes.
But the fact is it was worth it to me, because it was something I felt very strongly about and believe very strongly in. Do I think writing a review of her book is so important that I’d be willing to alienate her? Fuck, no. It might be worth it to you. Make the choice.
Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Yesterday’s post netted me quite a few comments.
A few of those were from reviewers and aspiring writers who disagreed with me, to which I say, hey, do whatever you like. I’m not repeating an iron-clad rule of publishing; I’m giving advice based on my experience and the experiences of my friends/people I know. You can take it or not. Frankly, I don’t give a shit if you do. Your career isn’t my problem. And yes, you may very well find a writer who didn’t see your negative review or whatever. It’s a chance you’re perfectly welcome to take. I just think you have to be either a writer or a reviewer, and not both.
A few wondered if agents/editors would really turn down a good book because the author put down one of their other books. I have no idea. I am neither an agent nor an editor. What I am is someone who watched two agents and an agency intern say it would have a definite effect on their decision to request more, or whatever. Many others may very well disagree. Not all agents are tuned into the internet or give a fuck what happens on it. Again, it’s a risk you’re perfectly welcome to take. I have no dog in that fight; I’m just the messenger when it comes to agents/editors.
And yes, it is different outside of genre fiction. Literary fiction writers don’t have the same issues, because they don’t–I believe–have the same sort of community (although I still think saying something bad about someone’s book pretty much erases your chances of getting help from that person later). And as I said, established writers are more free to talk about the work of others. What’s good for the goose may well not be good for you, though. I just wanted people to think about it, and to be aware of what they might give up, because it’s something that’s been on my mind lately.
But that brings me to another point. Much to my chagrin, at least one person yesterday took my comments to mean it’s wrong to say things about publishers. That’s not the case, or at least not really, or rather, it depends. Publishers are not writers, and the dynamic is a bit different.
No, you don’t want to run around yelling “Random House are a bunch of sleazy-ass motherfuckers!!!!” at the top of your lungs (and I used RH because they’re my current publisher and I think everyone knows I love working with them a huge big amount and have loved everyone I met there). There is such a thing as discretion, and it is important. I know things about some editors or publishers that would give you serious pause; the odds of me repeating those things–especially to anyone not a close friend/not a writer–are pretty much zero. That’s why people tell me things, see, is because they know I won’t blab them all over the place.
But there’s discretion and there’s discretion, and there are publishers and there are publishers. And, frankly, there are careers and careers. Let’s be honest here; without sounding like Miss Braggy McBraggerton, I can speak my mind about certain things more freely than an aspiring writer can, or one just barely starting a career. For instance, I often ask questions of those who decide, after self-publishing a couple of their own books, that they are totes qualified to start a publisher because all you need is some software. I do this because I know a lot of newbie writers can’t ask those questions, or don’t feel comfortable doing so.
That has not always made me popular with those hey-hang-let’s-start-a-publisher people. I don’t give a fuck. They threaten me with “She better watch herself if she wants to make it in this business,” or whatever, to which I pee myself laughing because frankly, the odds of me needing to work with a brand-new epublisher with no experience or knowledge are, well, nonexistent. Sure, I’m totally going to decide I’m done with Random House and Pocket and all those other NY houses, oh, or any of the big ehouses where I’m friends with editors who I know would love to work with me, and rush out to Amateur Love epress begging them to publish my book. I don’t even write romance anymore (although like I said, I do have that one dark erotic I’m going to do, but it isn’t my focus at all). I’ve been moving away from romance for years, because it just doesn’t suit my voice/the stories I want to tell.
If they’re so unprofessional as to get upset about a few questions, why in the world would I want to work with them anyway?
Let’s look at an example. I was emailed a month or so ago by Celia Kyle. Celia sought me out because she knows I try to help new writers as much as I can (and indeed have been doing so for years). Celia is starting a new epublisher; well, it is and it isn’t a publisher. I think it’s actually a very clever idea, actually. It’s making covers and providing a marketplace and some distribution for authors who wish to self-publish. The house is called Summerhouse Publishing.
Celia contacted me because she’d been working on answering all of the questions asked on Writer Beware and wanted to know what other questions I might think of to ask; in other words, she wanted to make sure she had everything covered, and actively sought input on that. When a thread started about her publisher on Absolute Write, as they usually do, Celia popped in to answer questions in a calm, professional manner. Celia expected questions and wanted to answer them. Celia was glad we asked questions because she wanted to present her business in the best possible way. In doing so, Celia made her house look impressive and under control, a good choice for someone interested in what she’s doing.
Contrast that to a new house that gets pissy when asked questions and starts flinging insults and threats. Which do you think is more professional? Which do you think has a better chance at lasting?
And more importantly, which would you rather work with?
See, any house I would want to work with is going to respond to questions the way Celia did, because they know it’s just a part of doing business. They know, as the famous line goes, it’s not personal. It’s business.
Just like the author who responds calmly to reviews or doesn’t respond at all is the one you’d rather read or work with, because that’s the one who’s able to keep a professional distance (and understand that really, the number of readers involved in the online community is a tiny portion of readers overall), so it goes with publishers.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that if they’re going to have witch-hunt hissy fits because I asked a few questions, I wouldn’t be caught dead working with them anyway.
And neither should you.
Yes, I have a few more options on the table, because I’ve been writing for a few years now and am lucky enough to have made some friends. That still doesn’t mean you’re forced to go with Amateur Love if you want to “get your foot in the door.” Please don’t, actually. If your work is good enough it will sell.
It also doesn’t mean that if you ask the owner of Amateur Love what her experience is, and her response is to get nasty and threaten you with the old “blacklist” canard, you should take it seriously. Because all those pros at other houses? They know Amateur Love’s owner is Amateur Hour, too. They don’t talk to her. If she does somehow contact them they shrug because they know she’s not a professional, too. Nobody cares what Amateur Hour’s owner says or thinks, so you don’t need to either. A house who’ll get grumpy over legitimate questions isn’t a house anybody wants to work with. Repeat it after me, and keep repeating until it sinks in.
If you’re treated badly at some amateur publisher, especially if it’s because you asked a few questions or whatever, for fuck’s sake speak up. Tell somebody, at least, somebody you trust. Register at AW under a pseudonym and tell your story there. Let people know, because you don’t deserve that. And don’t be scared of these people, either. They have no power over you. You will move on. (And if you don’t, well, maybe the trouble is you, to be honest.)
Questions are not critiques. Questions are not negatives; they are not criticisms. Yes, you need to watch what you say; what I’ve said above is not license to scream from the rooftops that your editor is a moron because she wants you to change a line of dialogue or whatever. Discretion is and always will be important. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat shit from some publishing bottom-feeder because you think if you don’t they’re going to call up very other publisher in the world and tell them to strike your name off their lists FOREVA.
There is nothing unprofessional about asking questions. Professionals know that. There’s a difference between asking legitimate questions and being truly unpleasant; learn it.
Any publisher worth working with? They already know. Be careful, yes. But don’t be scared.
A few other things: I’m very, very happy to let you all know that my editor has read Downside 4 and loves it! I have a few edits to do here and there-some her suggestions, some things I’ve come up with, as is usually the case–so I’m going to be working away on that, and hopefully I’ll have a release date soon. And a title!
On that subject, I’ve done a guest blog with a contest for signed copies of the three Downside books over at Book Lovers Inc. It’s about how hard it is for writers to wait for releases, too, so go check it out and enter the contest, which lasts until Feb 4th.
I’m about to start Downside 5, and another project, so busy busy busy.
Last night on Twitter the subject of a UF convention came up. I would love to go to one. I think someone should do one. Someone who, say, doesn’t have a bunch of books to write. Hint hint. I can’t believe nobody out there would want to get together with some pals and do this.
So to summarize:
*Feel free to ignore my advice if you don’t like it
*Discretion is the better part of valor, unless you’re being treated badly by someone totally unprofessional
*You could win books
*I’m very busy
*Someone needs to do a UF con
What Stace had to say on Monday, January 24th, 2011
Last night I participated in #Querychat on Twitter. And one of the participants asked about her online reviews; I think it was whether she should link to her blog in a query. The agent who answered, Jill Corcoran, basically said, “Go ahead and link if you want, but it’s a good idea to take off any bad reviews of any of the agent’s clients before you do, and the same goes for editors.”
This led into quite a long discussion, in which I, of course, poked my nose.
The asker asked if by “bad” reviews Jill meant nasty/mean ones, or if she just meant reviews where they didn’t like the book. Jill and I both replied–and I believe Weronika Janczuk, another agent, joined us as well, in saying…well, yeah, even just reviews where they didn’t like the book.
The thing is, I think people tend to forget that agents sign clients because they love their work. Yes, they think it’ll sell, but that’s part of loving it. My agent? Loves my work. Likes reading what I write, and wants to read it, and looks forward to reading it (which is the way it should be). So if you hate my work because it’s nothing like the stuff you like, which presumably is the sort of thing you write…well, your work is probably pretty different from the kind of thing my agent likes, right? So there’s one strike against you.
I mentioned that I personally would be rather hurt if my agent signed someone who’d trashed me/my work, or even just said negative things about me/my work online. My friend Yasmine Galenorn agreed with me, and said she wouldn’t help that person out, either, like with a blurb or whatever. Which I agree with, as well.
The Asker was surprised. She didn’t think authors would get so angry over a bad review.
But it’s not anger. It’s not anger at all, really; I can’t think of a review of my work that’s ever made me angry, to be honest. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and to express that opinion wherever and whenever. But…the purpose of a review, the whole reason reviews came about and exist, is to tell people whether or not they should read that book/buy that TV/use that hair gel/wear those shoes. That’s what a review is, and what it does. You may do a lot of other stuff along with your reviews, and use them to start long involved discussions, but the fact is, people read reviews first and foremost to see if the product–in this case a book–is worth buying.
Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
Somehow–I’m not entirely certain–I’ve become buried under a work avalanche. A whole bunch of stuff at once. Let’s list them, shall we?
1. A short story for an anthology. It’s a “ghost romance” story, due Feb. 1. While I’d had a sort of loose half-plan to write something non-Downside, just for fun/to do a different take on ghosts, it occurred to me that really, people are going to want and expect a Downside story (and you all know shorts aren’t really my forte, anyway, so it’s difficult enough for me to come up with stuff for them; all of my ideas want to turn themselves into novels). Plus, it is a ghost *romance* anthology, so it might be fun to do a Downside story a little more on the sweet side.
So that’s what I’m doing. A romance-y story–more like a romantic story, really–with some nice sex and sappiness (short spoiler if you haven’t read CITY OF GHOSTS: Yes, that means a Chess/Terrible sex scene) to go with all the kinky pervy creepiness that’ll be in there too. I’m not sure what the release date will be on it yet, but I imagine it’ll be at some point near the end of the year. I will of course keep you posted.
2. A dark erotic novella I had an idea for a while ago. There’s no rush on this, and I haven’t actually started it yet. My original plan was to self-publish it (because I had such a blast doing the Strumpet book), but I mentioned it to my EC editor and she’s interested in seeing it, so we’ll see what happens. It’s a very, very dark story, so may not be right for them. But either way, it’s on my list and it’ll be out there at some point.
3. A new novel project I’m working on. Again, no rush on it, but it’s coming along. Hopefully well. I can’t be sure. It’s something I’ve been toying with for a while, actually, and this is sort of a re-start, so we’ll see where it goes.
4. Downside 5. Yes, this is actually the second thing on my list, to start as soon as I finish the short. And it’s due in early April, I think, and I’m determined not to miss my deadline this time. And I’m very excited to dive into it! I think it’s going to be really fun to write, and hopefully it’ll be really fun to read.
5. Edits for Downside 4. These haven’t come in yet, but I expect them pretty much any day.
6. Another novella, likely for self-pubbing, set in the Demons world. I’ve been asked for (DEMON POSSESSED spoiler) Megan & Greyson’s wedding quite a bit, and at some point I’d like to do that, and maybe slip Nick & Tera’s story in there as well. I’m not sure when I’ll get to this, so I guess technically it’s not on my plate at the moment, but it is on my master list, so there you go.
7. And of course, Downside 6.
I also have a guest blog post due, like, tomorrow (eep!) and I have no frickin clue what to write about, so if anyone has any suggestions/questions they’d like answered, pleeeeease leave them in comments, or @ me on Twitter, or whatever.
Oh, and a couple of interviews that I also need to get to. Not to mention the reader email; I’m caught up to like mid-October now. I’m trying to do reader email every Saturday night for a couple of hours, but it’s not really working out that way these days. I’m going to see if I can’t get back into that, though, because it’s important.
A few more things:
This blog is hilarious. It’s done by a guy who owns a comic shop, and it’s basically little one-panel cartoons of some of the customers in all their crazy/stupid/dickheady glory. Even if you don’t read comics, I guarantee you’ll find something to laugh at.
This blog is full of fantastic inspiration. I get all sorts of cool ideas from looking at pictures like these, so if you do too it’s worth a look.
Mac Cosmetics is doing a new line of Wonder Woman make-up. I am not making that up. Take a look. Kind of old-woman-y colors, though, aren’t they? That lipstick looks like the sort of nail polish shade my mother has fifteen jars of. Like a swollen tongue.
If you’re in the UK, make sure you check the book shelves at your local Asda, because they’ve agreed to stock the Downside books! My HarperUK editor informed me of this the other day and I’m all squeaky thrilled. It won’t be in all their stores but it’ll be in some, and it’s a big deal for me (Asda doesn’t usually stock my kind of books), so let’s hope they sell there.
I think that’s it. So to sum up (I don’t know why I’ve been “summing up” lately, it’s not like you didn’t read the damn post yourself):
*I am busy as shit.
*I have to write a guest post for which I have not a single relevant idea.
*Lots of interesting pictures and funnies can be found online (who knew?).
*Wonder Woman apparently prefers pressed powder, and makes some rather dull color choices for her line.
*You can buy my books at Asda at the same time you pick up your new towels, washing-up liquid, fish fingers, and sticky toffee pudding (mmm, sticky toffee pudding).
What Stace had to say on Monday, January 17th, 2011
Yay! Go check it out!
As I said before, it’s on Spreadshirt. Spreadshirt had the lowest prices of the three places of this type I looked at (the other two being Zazzle and CafePress) and they seemed to have the biggest variety as well, or at least they had more things I thought would be good to have. But as far as both of those go–pricing and variety–I don’t have a huge amount of say in them, so I did the best I could.
I did a lot of the designs myself–and it was really fun! if time-consuming–and all of the designs from the old store did carry over. Unfortunately most of those designs were/are too small for Spreadshirt’s specifications, so until I get bigger files I can’t put them on a lot of stuff. I also don’t have copies of those with white print, so I can’t put them on anything dark or black. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to do that, though.
There are two designs done by the fantastic and wonderful Michelle Rowen. She sent me the “Team Lex” and “Heart Terrible” designs as a surprise, which was so freaking cool. (Also, she managed to use actual art in hers, which I am not able to do. Whether that’s due to my crappy fake Photoshop program or my dunce-ness at computers, I don’t know, but I can’t do it.)
There’s a nice big section for the urban fantasy genre in general, which I think is pretty fun. I might grab myself a few of those to wear to cons! See, we UF readers etc. are indeed out there, and we are part of the community. Plus I just find them, well, fun, like I said, and I hope you do too.
I plan to add more designs periodically; of course when the fourth book is released I hope to put up a couple related to it, and so on. And as I’ve said before, if any of you find yourselves in the mood to play around, by all means send me what you’ve got, if you want!
A lot happened in the writing community this weekend, but I think it’s all been covered in plenty of detail. I’m just going to say that people who behave as though everyone should worship and admire them just because they say so, tend to not be very pleasant when people don’t in fact worship and admire them, but instead ask them to actually prove they’re worthy of it. And no matter how politely the questions are worded, they still behave as though they’ve just been urinated upon or something, and proceed to attack. Very nastily. It’s not pleasant to be on the receiving end of one of those attacks.
And those who do that sort of attacking? They very rarely change, and stop behaving in that fashion. This makes them dangerous to deal with or work with; they don’t care who they drag down with them.
Also, on a halfway different subject, Michele Lee made this for me, isn’t it great? (If you don’t know what it refers to, read here, specifically this line:
But it seems as if the comments and the criticisms are not edifying. If your goal is to be a boo-bird. Good job.
I freely admit I find the phrase/epithet “Boo-bird” to be completely awesome. I plan to use it in a book one of these days. It’s too cute to avoid. A ridiculous thing for a grown, supposedly professional woman to say in a supposedly professional context, but charming nonetheless.
Anyway. Michele Lee made this for me:
Adorable, isn’t it?
I myself made this:
Yes, I am embarking on a new career. My darling friend Jane Smith over at How Publishing Really Works (and if you are a writer I cannot recommend her blog highly enough) is coming with me; she will be the Boo-bird CEO, and I will be VP, at Boo-birds Inc.
If you’d like to be part of Boo-bird Inc. too, just take a card! Put it on your site or blog, print it and keep it in your wallet, tattoo it on you, whatever you like.
So, to sum up:
*Lots of new t-shirts and stuff which I hope you’ll all like, at the new Downside Market!
*Chicks named Michelle (or variations thereof) have mad Photoshop skills.
*People who love themselves a little too much tend to keep doing so, and often use very bad judgement because they are convinced they’re right, and especially that they matter and everyone cares about them/what they think. (This is also true when, as is often but not always the case, they’re the sort of people who lie and “pad” their credentials so, for instance, checking over a quarterly employee newsletter for typos for an architecture firm becomes “being a journalist and editor in the architecture industry.”)
*I am a big old boo-bird.
What Stace had to say on Friday, January 14th, 2011
Two quick things before I start:
1. I anticipate opening the neato new revamped much bigger Downside Market on Monday. It will be at Spreadshirt, and I’m really excited; I’ve got a ton of new designs and I’m really hoping everyone thinks they’re as much fun as I do. So make sure to stop in on Monday to get the link!
2. I’ve done a new spiffy print version of the Strumpet series, on Createspace! For only $4.99!! I’m really, really excited about being able to offer it at that price, and it was tons of fun to do. So I’m quite pleased. It’s a 130-page paperback, and you can get it on Amazon here or on Createspace here. And as always, if anyone who’s read and enjoyed the series–either here on the blog or through purchasing it–would take a few minutes to write a little review somewhere that would be much appreciated.
SO. Last night the hubs and I were hanging out in the living room, and for whatever reason the conversation turned to nudity. Specifically, how long does it take a couple to be totally comfortable being naked in front of each other–not in an intimate situation, but in a “I’m just going to sit here naked and talk to you for twenty minutes” kind of way. And of course that’s different for everyone, but it was just an abstract talk.
In the course of it, I mentioned that I think men are in general more comfortable being naked. They don’t seem as shy as women about their nudity. And my speculation was that A) That’s because men have less to hide, by which I mean that a shirtless man is something you see all the time in the summer, but a shirtless woman…not so much. When men get hot they can be bare-chested. Not so with women. and B) That men are more accustomed to being naked in front of people because of showers after gym etc., whereas women didn’t have that.
The hubs was frankly astounded. It had never occurred to him that girls in school weren’t forced to strip down and shower in a communal shower just as much as guys were, and it shocked him to hear that no, we were never forced to do that. We weren’t even encouraged to do that. When we did our two-week swimming segment, we generally rinsed off while still wearing our swimsuits, then wrapping a towel around ourselves, drying off, then stripping and re-dressing under the towel. Or at least waiting to release the towel until we had bra and panties on.
Perhaps it was just my school or school system. But I can’t be the only girl who was essentially raised to keep hidden, you know? Being in underwear around other girls wasn’t necessarily a big deal–although for us late bloomers it was a whole different, and very painful, set of problems–but naked? Not something I ever did, or do. (But then, I read something a few years back where a girl mentioned that she and her friends had compared ladyparts one night. I can’t imagine doing that. I once knew a girl who was very open–literally–about being naked. Certainly were there a problem I wouldn’t be uncomfortable asking the BFF for help with something, or with helping her, but I can’t see us sitting around just thinking it would be fun to look.)
Anyway. I think it does change as you age. I think adult women in locker rooms are probably not as self-conscious. But I don’t think young girls are taught to be as comfortable with their naked bodies as boys are, and I wonder if that’s still the case, or how it’s changed, or how it might have been/might be different elsewhere.
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
Before I start I want to make something really, really clear. This post is NOT about any specific review outlet/magazine/blog/website. It is NOT claiming this is the case for all reviewers, in all places, or that this is a constant. And most importantly it is NOT saying reviewers can’t feel about a book however they want to, or view it through any lens they want to, or whatever else. I also want to make it absolutely, positively clear that I am thrilled beyond words at how readers and reviewers in general have taken to my books and characters; this isn’t about some sort of personal grudge on my behalf, not at all. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I’ve seen several other people discussing it recently, so wanted to stick my nose in.
I also want to mention something else, because judging from a couple of comments I need to clarify. The story about bookstore shelving was one small indie bookstore. This has nothing to do with where books are shelved. It’s about the perceptions of those books once purchased/the standards by which they are judged/the dismissal of them. But it’s not about where they’re shelved at all.
What kinds of books do women write?
I know, I know. Women write all kinds of books. But it seems–from a very extensive search I’ve done over the last few weeks/months of various bookseller sites/review sites/magazines/databases/blogs/whatever elses, that books written by women are far, far more likely to be categorized as romance, reviewed as romance, and judged by romance standards, than are books written by men.
In a Twitter discussion about this (Twitter use update: I’ve been using Hootsuite the last few days because Seesmic has a slight tendency to balk when I leave it up all the time, which I do; it’s always the second tab in my browser. I do miss the little crunch noise, though, and will be going back to Seesmic; I like switching back and forth between them, but Seesmic is the main one I use) someone told me about a bookstore near them where any books written by women that have any sort of romance subplot or whatever–including sci-fi and of course urban fantasy–are shelved as romance. Period. SFF written by men is SFF, no matter how big the romance subplot is. But if the author has ladyparts, it’s romance.
I’ve talked before here about the frustration of women’s books–urban fantasy in particular–being categorized/called/dismissed “chick books” just because there are sex scenes in them or just because finding love/romance is part of the story. And how romance is often a subplot in books written by men, too, but those books are not dismissed or judged as romances, and why it is that women’s books are denigrated as “not real fantasy” if they contain stronger romance elements but those written by men aren’t.
Neil Gaiman’s STARDUST, for example, is still called and reviewed as Fantasy, despite its incredibly strong romance plot/subplot. But I’ve seen Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series called and reviewed as Romance. Why? What’s the difference? Carey calls her books Fantasy. Gaiman calls his book(s) Fantasy. Why is his categorization honored and hers isn’t? More to the point, why do reviews of his book–including reviews written by women, too–focus on the writing and story, whereas reviews of Carey’s books focus on the romance?
In her book How to Suppress Women’s Writing, Joanna Russ–herself a fantasy/sci-fi author, among other things–uses as one of her methods “False Categorizing.” She says:
It is bad faith that stands behind what I shall call Denial by False Categorizing, a complicated now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t sleight of hand in which works or authors are belittled by assigning them to the “wrong” category, or arranging the categories so the majority of “wrong” Glotolog fall into the “wrong” category without anyone’s having to do anything further about the matter.
Later, she elaborates a little further:
The assignment of genre can also function as false categorizing, especially when the work appears to fall between established genres and can thereby be assigned to either (and then called an imperfect example of it) or chided for belonging to neither.
Does this sound familiar?
Again, reviewers have every right to bring their own tastes, thoughts, and opinions to a review; honestly, this really isn’t about reviews or reviewers as such. It’s more about genre itself. But what’s happening is, every time a work of literature, or a work of fiction in a genre that is not romance is reviewed as a romance, that author is being denied her agency; she is being denied the right to have her work seen on its own merits, and is instead being forced back into a particular box. In other words, her work is being denigrated not because it isn’t a good or worthwhile example of what it is, but because it’s not a good or worthwhile example of something it never claimed to be.
This is akin to giving Schindler’s List a bad review because it isn’t funny enough, or complaining about Caddyshack because the viewer didn’t find it scary. That these films never claimed or set out to be funny or scary doesn’t matter; the work isn’t being judged by how well it is what it’s supposed to be, but by the standards of something completely alien–standards which may even be totally unknown to the filmmakers.
Is this a way of suppressing women’s writing?
How many books by men do you see re-categorized in this fashion, either as women’s fiction or romance or whatever?
I often see Lolita discussed when the topic of underage sex comes up in regards to romance. And the very correct argument is made that Lolita is not a romance, and therefore should not be judged by romance standards. But do you think the difference would be so clearly and carefully mentioned if Lolita was called Laurence, and was written by Valentina Nabakov? Do you think people would avoid mentioning how sad and saggy Humbertina Humbertina was, how desperate to recapture her youth, how sexually useless she was, being past her sell-by date?
Of course, I am chiefly talking about genre fiction here, since it’s where my experience is and what I read, so it’s what I pay more attention to. But I honestly can’t recall the last time I saw Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels dismissed as “chick books” or downgraded in reviews because the reader didn’t fall in love with the main love interest in whatever story. I don’t remember seeing Mike Carey’s Felix Castor novels treated that way either. But I see lots of urban fantasies by women being downgraded for exactly that reason.
It’s not just the romance or lack thereof, though. It’s the “unwritten rules of romance” which are applied to women’s books but not men’s. And they’re applied not just by reviewers, not by a long shot (like I said, this really isn’t about reviewers) by society in general, who insists on shoving books into certain boxes or classifying them/their main characters as “good” or “bad” according to a strict set of rules.
It’s about how male characters–in any genre–can sleep around and their exploits are cheered; it even makes them more desirable, but a promiscuous heroine–again, in any genre–is looked down upon. Not only is she disliked for her sexual escapades, but it’s automatically taken as a sign of some intrinsic weakness in her character, i.e. she obviously needs sexual approval to feel whole, or she obviously has no self-respect.
The promiscuous heroine is unlikable–and worse than unlikable, she is unworthy–simply because she likes sex, and likes to have it with whomever strikes her fancy, at any time she feels the urge. Again, whereas the promiscuous hero is applauded; he is an object of desire. Getting him to settle down is the chief achievement of the heroine in those romances or romance subplots, in fact (of course, it should be in a genre romance). Every woman’s dream is to make him settle down, and if any negative mention is made of his bed-hopping past it’s made with a sort of wink, a boys-will-be-boys sigh. Either that, or his past promiscuity is made much of, but it’s made clear that this sort of prudery is part of the heroine’s prim/uptight character. She’s generally a virgin, or someone who’s only slept with one or two men, and she generally has other very straight-laced views and thoughts.
The hero’s promiscuity is an aspect of his character, which may or may not have consequences. The heroine’s promiscuity is a flaw, one she usually must answer for.
It’s also about how male characters can be distant or cold, even in some cases borderline psychotic/sociopathic, but they’re still regarded as likable and appealing. Whereas a cold and/or distant heroine is regarded with hostility and suspicion, because women are “supposed” to be kind/loving/feeling/friendly/caring.
Male characters can be intrinsically violent; shoot first, ask questions later, and readers approve. When female characters are like this they’re called “too angry” or “flies off the handle too fast” or, again, just plain “unlikable.”
A man whose morality is relative is morally relative. A woman whose morals are relative is morally vacant.
And yes, when male characters have drinking or substance abuse problems very little mention is made of it–the hard-drinking detective is a genre staple, in fact–but for a female character to do the same makes her a bad or unworthy person, one who should be ashamed of herself.
Does whether or not the author is a man or a woman make a difference as to how these characters are perceived? What do you think?
What about if the main character is a man or a woman? I haven’t seen any reviews of K.A. Stewart’s A Devil in the Details (which is excellent, btw, and has a male MC) called romance or put down for being UF, but J.F. Lewis’s Staked was dismissed by quite a few people simply because it has a woman on the cover, regardless of the fact that the MC is a man; and some people who did expect it to be a romance judged it rather harshly because it isn’t, although, again, it never claimed to be..
How much of a difference does it make if the reviewer or reader is a man or a woman? I see far less slut-shaming coming from men/male reviewers than I do female ones, but I also see men/male reviewers as quicker to dismiss books by women unread because it “looks like a romance,” or to cast it aside as a romance because there is a sex scene in it or a romantic subplot, as if romance isn’t a valid genre in and of itself or one that may have some worth to men (again, I discussed all of that this summer, and how I don’t understand male dismissal of romance or of UF by calling it romance, or the sort of “eeew cooties” mentality which seems to often go along with that dismissal). Again, that may simply be where I’m looking.
How much of this do you think is because of the blending of genres? Perhaps because the genres have blended a bit to a certain degree, readers/reviewers/whomever are paying less attention to authorial intent/classification (although again, it seems men’s wishes/thoughts in that regard are taken more seriously and heeded far more).
I just find this all saddening, and disturbing. I find the way women tend to put down other women for not conforming to be very disturbing, and always have; it’s been an issue with a direct effect on me my whole life, quite frankly. And while I stopped caring about shit like “fitting in” or being accepted by people who were essentially unpleasant, or whose entire achievements were that they had very shiny hair, or people who were narrow-minded that anyone who had a different viewpoint or opinion on an issue was automatically worthy of insult or simply stupid/lying/whatever–people who felt they had a right to judge others and/or the choices of others based on the presumption that everyone had the same privileges, possibilities, educations, finances, lives, cultures, etc. as they did–it still disturbs me. (In fact, I read a fantastic quote the other day that summed up my feelings on it exactly. It’s from Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (which is tons of fun, btw, and the authors definitely know their shit) which reads: Acceptance from the fascist hierarchy is death of the spirit.
This sums up pretty much my whole life.)
I certainly don’t intend to blame anyone for this. My thought is more to examine it. Is this something we do, consciously or unconsciously? How guilty are we all of doing it? It’s not something isolated; it’s pretty widespread. And I believe that the person ultimately hurt by this is the reader, because they’re not being given accurate pictures of what the books are and are not; the romance reader who grabs a book from the romance shelf in the bookstore mentioned above, only to discover it’s not in fact a romance, will be pretty angry, and they have every right to be.
And is this inevitable? Are we all going to judge a main character according to our specific 21st-century Western middle-class/upper-middle class standards, with no regard for time period/world/adversity suffered/whatever else? (This is part of another discussion, actually, the one about characters in historical novels being surprisingly PC or about books written hundreds of years ago being rewritten to make them more “acceptable” to modern audiences.)
What do you think? Have you see instances of this lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
What Stace had to say on Monday, January 10th, 2011
(I’m taking the title from the “Turd Sandwich vs. Douche” South Park episode, which is, I think, my favorite bit ever on that show; the song, I mean. Because the point here is, which do you like best?)
I’m not going to say which is my favorite.
Also…I do really like the haircut. And I’m starting to wonder if it wouldn’t look just adorable dyed black? Maybe with some fire-engine red or raspberry in it (I have both)? So I might do that at some point soon. That’s the best thing about having shorter hair; you can play with the colors a lot more because who cares if it gets damaged? Especially when you put numerous gobs of “product” in it to get it to stand up straight and all of that. Seriously, my dresser top is full of thickening potions, heat protectors, spray gels, softeners, sea-salt effect sprays, big hair mousses…and then in the bathroom are four different kinds of wax/pomade/hair glue thingys. (Currently I’m using–and really liking–Beyond the Zone Spike It Hair Cement. Definitely recommend it. I use their mousse wax too. Really good stuff, and not expensive either. I got a ton of stuff 2-for-1 at Sallys. Oh, and I became a Sally’s member, which would be great except I apparently didn’t form my C well enough and I now get regular emails for “Stalia.” Sigh.)
Anyway. Thinking of going black. Might be fun. And it’s not like I can’t bleach it back easily; I’ve been bleaching my own hair for years and years, I can mix up a good bleach in a heartbeat (well, anyone can, really, it’s not hard). Last time I got my haircut, on Xmas Eve, the guy asked if I’d ever considered being a hairdresser myself, because he was impressed with my bleach job and I told him how I cut my own hair for years, and my husband’s, and my ex-boyfriend’s too. I had considered it, actually, but now I’m working on this writing thing. But I still really enjoy doing that stuff.
Some of these are cropped, some aren’t. I’ve done a black-and-white version of a lot of them, and/or added a nifty effect to for fun to a few, and a few are just there for fun to begin with. Sorry, but I’m having a hell of a time trying to get these to upload in a normal-looking fashion–I have no idea why WordPress isn’t recognizing my returns and insists on putting several pictures per line, and then when I add < li > it makes those dots (but at least the pictures aren’t smooshed on top of each other). So…sorry about that.
LOTS of pictures under the cut:
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What Stace had to say on Monday, January 10th, 2011
I turned in Book 4 last night, at about one in the morning (I would have kept it until this morning, but we’re having this storm here and there were some predictions that the power could go out etc., so I didn’t want to take a chance). I’ve suggested a title that my editor seems to like, and my agent seems to like, although I can tell he’s not super enthusiastic about it, so we’ll see.
Final word count–this is after my edit, there’s still at least one more edit to come after my editor gets a look at it–is 122,920 words. That’s about 13k more than CITY OF GHOSTS, and that’s pre-epigrams (I add those in editing).
I’ve done a re-read of it and while I’m never happy with them–I feel this one is particularly dull–even I have to admit that at least the writing is good, which pleases me. So we’ll see what happens from here.
As I’d predicted/intended, it’s much more Lex’s book than anyone else’s. But don’t worry, Terrible fans, he’s still in there, and the next book will be extremely Terrible-heavy.
Anyway, there we go. I have a short to write which is due February 1st for a different antho–and I’m going to do a non-Downside story for this one–so I’ll be working on that, and at some point in the next week or two I’ll start Book 5. Which also does not have a title yet.
Neither of them have a release date. I promise, as soon as I have one I will tell you!
Later tonight I think I’m going to have the hubs take some pictures for an updated author photo, which is kind of scary. I hate the way I photograph, to be honest. And my current photo is, I believe, the best picture ever taken of me. So that’s going to be hard to top. Of course, if I don’t get one I like as much I’ll just keep that one, but we’ll see. It snowed here last night–the “winter storm,”–so I’ll have a snow-covered tree in the background, which will be pretty cool, I think.
I’ve had a lot of questions lately about the Downside Market. I’m working as hard/fast as I can to get all the designs transferred to Spreadshirt, and to come up with some fun new ones. Now that the book is turned in I’ll hopefully be able to get it up and running soon, maybe not with all of the designs in place–a few of them are too small for Spreadshirt’s qualifications, and I’m waiting for resized versions–but with enough, and in enough color choices etc. So again, if you have any suggestions or ideas for something you’d like to see on a shirt, don’t hesitate to say something!
So later I may very well be posting some pictures, and later in the week I’ll be doing some more relevant posts again, but for now that’s it.