Archive for the 'rantypants' Category



What Stace had to say on Thursday, November 3rd, 2016
Deals and Dealing

So it’s election time again.

No, no, wait! Don’t go! Remember, I don’t really talk politics on this blog, and this is not really a political post–or at least, it’s not the kind of political post that tells you why you’re a bad person (or a good person) if you plan on voting for Candidate A or Candidate B and how evil those assholes planning on voting for the other candidate are. Back in 2008 I wrote a post about why I don’t talk politics here, and…honestly, it was a little depressing to go back and read it, because things have only gotten worse. So, so much worse.

In 2008, I could honestly say that I believed both candidates were good people who would do a pretty good job. The same is not true this year, sadly. Both candidates suck. Both candidates suck so bad that it feels like the set-up to a joke. Years ago I posted the “Douche vs. Turd” South Park song here as a sort of nod-n-wink, just to illustrate, in a humorous fashion, my general feelings about many elections. This year, Douche vs. Turd is not a joke. It is basically the literal illustration of our two choices. Neither of these people deserve to be President. The fact that one of them will be kind of horrifies me and kind of makes me wonder when the punchline is coming and more than kind of makes me want to cry.

But you know what? (Or, “You know whats,” because I have a couple of points to make here.) First, the fact that both candidates are dishonest scum who see the Presidency as some kind of free cash machine, who’d go through your pockets, take everything you have, and then sell you for a quarter if they could and feel justified in doing so because they think you are stupid and disgusting, is kind of our fault–or rather, it’s the fault of the people who have worked so hard over the past, I dunno, fifteen years or so, to divide us and fill us with hate. It’s the fault of people who convince us that we are more different than we are similar and we should focus on the differences more than the similarities; that there are no common experiences; that anyone who disagrees with us is not only against us, but is actively evil and doesn’t deserve to live or speak; that we do not deserve to be proud in any way of any thing; and that society as a whole is just a sea of selfish, wicked morons. It’s the fault of people who go out of their way to insult, degrade, and silence others. Our two candidates are, basically, the result of an environment that convinces us not to see other viewpoints and relate to each other to reach common ground, but to see others as stereotypes rather than people, and set ourselves firmly against them–and convince ourselves that we’re morally in the right as we mercilessly attack and name-call. (And by the way, I have seen examples of all of those things on both sides of the aisle–all over the room, in fact–lest anyone think I’m singling out either side. Also, yes, guys, some people really are just dreadful people. Every place in the world has its share of just plain horrible shitbags; they’re the human equivalent of cockroaches. But there aren’t as many as some would have you believe, there really aren’t. Most people–the vast, vast majority!–are not festering piles of slime.)

But here’s the other thing, the other “you know what” that answers the first. I’m not worried.

Many of you are familiar with my Downside books, and the world they’re set in. Humanity was ravaged by a calamity in which bloodthirsty spirits rose from the grave; millions died. The world is run by a totalitarian atheistic “Church,” that demands obedience in exchange for safety from the dead. Religion, or faith in any sort of god or gods, is illegal. People are only allowed to believe in the Church, and in facts. Because there is no religion and one single world government–one viewpoint on how the world should run–there’s no war, and a lot of unpleasant social problems have disappeared, either because they were products of different belief systems or because there was simply not a large enough population, and people were shaken and traumatized enough, to set that stuff aside and pull together.

Lots of people have mentioned that “atheism” thing, either as something they disliked or something they liked. A few people have asked how it came about. But no one has asked me what it means to me.

The world in these books is, in some ways–some might say more than “some”–better than ours, for the reasons listed above. There are some great, positive things in there.

But it also sucks. It’s awful. It’s full of fear and punishment–not overtly, not in a way that makes everyday life seem other than normal for most people, but it’s still there. People know exactly what will happen when they die: they’ll go to the cavernous underground City of Eternity. Which seems great, knowing what will happen, but at the same time means there’s no mystery, and without mystery there’s no hope. Without hope…well, that’s just despair. The world, even with all of its good points, is not perfect, because the world is made of people and people are not–can not–be perfect. We’re human; we have emotions and dreams and fears, and those mean we’re always feeling things for no good reason or imagining things that aren’t true or whatever.

The people in the Downside books know they’re not supposed to have faith in things. But they do, just the same. They know they’re not supposed to think certain things, or to want certain things, but they do, just the same. They know they’re not supposed to do certain things, but guess what? Yep. They still do it. They do it all the time. Even in Triumph City, right there under the nose of the Church government, the people of Downside commit every sort of crime imaginable; the Church can’t enforce what it doesn’t know about, and people are not robots. People cannot be programmed to do nothing but spit out the correct answers without any independent thought. The Church may control the law and the enforcement of the law, but it cannot, no matter how hard it tries, control the hearts and minds of people.

And people hope. We hope so hard and so much that we built skyscrapers and went to the moon. We hope so hard, so fucking hard, that every day we pledge to spend our lives together and we have children. We hope so much and so hard that we get out of bed, we say hi to a stranger, we apply for jobs and we start companies and we go meet the neighbors and we adopt pets and drive cars. Every single one of those acts comes with and from hope; everlasting, beautiful hope. We need that hope.

We want to connect with other people. We just forget that sometimes, when we’re angry and feeling ignored and belittled; we forget that not everything is personally directed at us. But when it comes down to it, when things go wrong, we reach out and we help and we listen, and we connect. That’s special and important, and it’s not something you find everywhere. I’m sorry, but it’s not.

This is why I’m not worried about what will happen on Tuesday, not really. Oh, sure, I spend time thinking of worst-case scenarios, but honestly? Our system is set up to avoid those worst-case scenarios. Our Founding Fathers created that system specifically to protect us when we go crazy and vote in a lemon. Presidents are not monarchs; they do not get to create laws out of whole cloth and demand they be enforced. Laws do not leap into being overnight and suddenly become enforced nationwide within hours. Everything takes time. And we have a voice, and we can talk to–talk to, not scream at–each other and make things better if we try.

I’m not saying it’s going to be a great four years. I don’t think it will (I mean, stranger things have happened, but still). But I do think we can get through them together. I hope–I very very much hope–that maybe this will be the thing that re-unites us. (And please don’t tell me “Well, if the Other Side would stop demonizing us–” because I don’t care. Be the bigger person. Everybody has at least one legitimate grievance–yes, they do!–and everybody could stand to extend a hand and try instead of deciding that the pain of others is somehow deserved. No, I don’t care if it is or not. No, I don’t care if yours is worse. Extend the hand anyway, and try to really listen and understand instead of just looking for things to get mad about, and maybe if you do you’ll get the same in return and look, there we’ll all be talking and understanding and buying each other a Coke.) Maybe this will remind us that we’re in this together, and that we can deal with whatever happens as long as we remember that. Maybe we can stop demonizing each other and start trying to accept each other instead, and recognizing that even points and people with which we disagree have value. Even points and people with which we disagree add something to the conversation.

Because if you have a world where those points aren’t allowed, you have a world where no one is free and no one can be trusted. That’s a world without hope. I don’t want to live in that world. I hope you don’t, either.

…This was supposed to be shorter, and more concise, and have a point, though (other than that one, which I’ve been thinking and wanting to say for a long time). The title of this post is “Deals and Dealing,” because it’s about, well, dealing–see above–and deals, which is this part here. Those Downside books I talked about? The first one, UNHOLY GHOSTS, is currently on super-sale in the US: only 99 cents in ebook format. Personally, I think there’s nothing I’d rather do this weekend than hunker down with a book and lose myself in some other world for a while, maybe a world where both of our major Presidential candidates do not make my skin crawl. (And by the way? Vote third party if you want to, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s a waste. Personally, I think maybe if enough people vote third party, then A] those third parties will be inspired to step up their damn game a bit and stop looking unprepared and/or silly; and B] maybe the Big Two will be inspired to realize they’re losing voters and will start trying to speak to us instead of just special-interest groups and corporations. Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but again, I hope, and I believe.) Maybe a world that reminds me that no matter how bad things get, there is still hope, and there are still people, beautiful, complicated, messed-up, confused, delightful people who try to be happy and try to help others and try to believe that after all, tomorrow is another day.

But, uh, don’t let that last part inspire you to read GONE WITH THE WIND this weekend. Read my book. It’s only 99 cents in ebook format.

And you can get it here:

Amazon

Google Play

Kobo

ARE

Barnes & Noble

iBooks

This 99-cent deal ends on Saturday the 5th, though, so don’t miss out.

…So that’s what I wanted to say, guys. I know some of you–a lot of you–are scared. I’m scared, too, because the unknown is always scary and getting a new President is always a little scary even if you like the person you’re voting for. But I’ve been listening to dire predictions–which are voiced as certainties–for several decades now, about how Candidate A will definitely start a nuclear war and Candidate B will definitely make abortion illegal, and our country will go to Hell in a fiery handbasket if Candidate A is elected and Candidate B will turn us into some kind of third-world prison camp and Candidate B will make being different illegal and Candidate A will literally take a shit on the Constitution. I’m not entirely joking, either; some of those are real things people said, on national television. I remember being terrified as a child because it seemed like everywhere I looked, people were telling me that Ronald Reagan would start a nuclear war. Funnily enough, though, he didn’t and we’re still here. In fact, I can’t think of a single dire “This will absolutely happen, you guys,” election-year predicertain (get it? Prediction made with the air of certainty) that I’ve ever heard that has come true, and I’ve heard a lot of them. I don’t buy them anymore. You shouldn’t, either, because what all those predictions fail to take into account–again–is that we’re people, and we’re generally good, creative, inventive, smart people who care. We are, and I refuse to apologize for this next statement, Americans, and we will unite, we will reach out to each other, we will find a way to make it work, and we will try to make things better, because that’s what we do. Always. Whoever ends up in office, that won’t change.

And that’s my personal predicertain, because I have faith in you.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, April 20th, 2016
On Superman

So I’ve been planning this post for a few weeks now, which is why it’s maybe a little out-of-date. Or, not maybe out of date, it IS out of date, but I’ve been working hard and being sick–I’m still sick, bleh, with one of those colds where the symptoms aren’t too bad but you just generally feel like you haven’t slept in weeks and you’re about to die. Seriously, I feel like utter crap. I don’t think I had a single cold for like two years and now this is the second one this year (I was horribly sick over New Year’s). I keep going to bed early and getting a good nine or ten hours of sleep–highly unusual for me–and then feeling exhausted like half an hour after I get up. It sucks. It’s doing nothing for my productivity. All I feel up to doing is staring at the TV but I have too much to do, like, three entire people depend on me for dinner every night and shit like that, so I can’t just stare at anything, I have to wash dishes and cook food and drive children to school.

And it’s depressing. I don’t think there’s much more depressing–in an otherwise fairly healthy day-to-day life, I mean, obviously there are illnesses way more depressing in general–than having a cold. It just makes you think of how shitty everything is and how shitty you are, doesn’t it? Like, you sit on the couch in a stupor and suddenly want to cry because, I dunno, you’re hungry or something. It’s the worst. I hate it. I never used to mind it so much, but now I just hate it. Bleh.

I am going to be back tomorrow, too, though, to post an excerpt from MADE FOR SIN and the cover, which I know a lot of people have already seen.

Oh, and our car died last week. Our old piece-of-shit was on its last legs anyway, but now it has given up the ghost and will run no more. So we’re looking for a new cheap car, which wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t feel like crap and hate everything at the moment.

Anyway. Here’s the thing I was going to post a couple of weeks ago, before I got this stupid awful fucking cold (I have not had the cold for weeks, I was just really busy, and then I got the cold).

I saw a reference the other day to a comment made about the Superman movie, Man of Steel. If you recall, that’s the one where it’s made clear to us that a world with superheroes in it is a hellish place where entire cities are destroyed and millions of lives are lost just because some guy with special abilities shows up on our planet. I mean, really. Isn’t one of the points of superheroes supposed to be how hopeful they’re supposed to be, and how one person can make a difference and we’re all supposed to be inspired and such? Is it really fun to believe that no, the worst thing you could ever want would be to live in a place where an invincible superhero also lives, because that’s just a place where mass death is ready to happen at any second? What the shit is that, right? “Oh, I’m moving as far away from Metropolis as possible, because you’re totally gonna die if you live anywhere near that magical super-strong guy who can fly and loves to help people. Near Superman is the worst place to be.”

Anyway. You may also recall that Superman kills a guy in that movie. Superman. He kills a guy. It caused rather a bit of controversy when it came out, and here’s what the film’s director, Zack Snyder, had to say about it recently:

“I was surprised with the fervency of the defense of the concept of Superman,” said Snyder. “I feel like they were taking it personally that I was trying to grow up their character.” Snyder also recalled being told that his film had more collateral damage than any other movie in recent memory, which was a claim that surprised him.

“I went, really? And I said, well, what about [‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’]?” said Snyder. “In ‘Star Wars’ they destroy five planets with billions of people on them. That’s gotta be one of the highest death toll movies in history, the new ‘Star Wars’ movie, if you just do the math.”

“‘Grow up’ their character.”

“I was trying to grow up their character,” he says.

In other words, turning Superman into this grumpy guy who kills people is “growing up” the character.

Aside from the general pissiness of that statement, like people who didn’t like seeing Superman kill somebody are just childish little whinybabies, or how dare people love a character so much that it means something to them personally, there’s another problem with it. That he thinks making Superman kill is “growing up” the character is a fundamental lack of understanding of what “growing up” is, along with who Superman is, what he stands for, and why.

The point isn’t that Superman doesn’t kill because he’s a big wussy or a child; the point is that Superman doesn’t kill because he’s fucking *Superman.* He doesn’t HAVE to kill.

Humanity, people–we have to kill, sometimes. Because sometimes it’s the only way we can handle or deal with or solve a serious problem. Sometimes we have to go to war, for example, because every attempt to not go to war has failed and we simply have no other choice unless we want to live in slavery or let millions of other people die or whatever. Life is complicated for humans.

Superman is not human. Superman can always find another way. And that’s a GOOD thing.

That’s something grown-up, mature people–even those of us who understand that, to put it bluntly, sometimes rabid dogs need to be put down for the good of society and the world–ASPIRE to. All grown-up people aspire to a world and a society where there is no more need for killing. It’s only children (mentally) who think killing is cool and no big deal. (I’m not talking about action heroes of a different stripe from Superman here, because that’s not what Snyder was talking about. Believe me, I like movies and [obviously] books where the bad guys die. I don’t have a problem with heroes in general who kill bad guys…but I also recognize that in real life that’s not always the ideal way to handle things, and that what we enjoy in entertainment isn’t necessarily the arbiter of what’s right in real life.)

Yes, Superman is also fictional, but it’s different. Superman is a fictional character we’re supposed to admire and look up to and want to be like, the embodiment of our ideals.

Superman doesn’t kill because when Superman doesn’t kill, it gives the rest of us hope that one day we can live in a world without killing.

Superman doesn’t kill because when Superman doesn’t kill, it makes it okay for our other action heroes to kill.

Superman doesn’t kill because he’s better than us.

The day Superman kills is the day we admit there’s no hope that problems will ever be solved any other way.

That doesn’t strike me as something to aspire to, and it doesn’t strike me as something it’s childish to object to.

So, tune in tomorrow for MADE FOR SIN stuff! Hopefully I’ll be feeling a little better then, though I doubt it.

(And guys, I am working on Downside 6, okay? I will announce news about it as soon as I have some.)

What Stace had to say on Friday, September 4th, 2015
On Happy Endings

A while ago I was wandering around the IMDb page for “The Departed.” I imagine it won’t be much of a surprise to many of you for me to say that I fucking love The Departed, but just in case: I fucking love The Departed.

Anyway. As is my wont, I had a look through the discussion threads for the movie; there is often fun to be had there, even if it’s of the “Really?” sort. (Example of fun: A thread on the Unforgiven page suggests that maybe William Munney moved to San Francisco, where, in order to put his criminal past behind him forever, he changed his name to Callahan. Seventy-some years later, his great-great-grandson Harry becomes a cop. Silly, maybe, but I thought it was fun.) The discussion I saw is either no longer there–since IMCb has started ruthlessly deleting discussions after a short period of time, which is very annoying–but it was basically somebody sniffing snootily (say that three times fast) about how The Departed sucks, because they had to add some dumb happy ending to it and Americans always have to ruin movies with their stupid endings that imply the world isn’t a miserable shithole. Dumbasses!

(I note that in the current discussions there’s a discussion which will be the subject of another post in future.)

Many of us are probably familiar with these wet-blanket sneerers at happy endings, since anyone who’s spent any time in the “book world” has seen them. I bet you have. You know, the ones who insult women’s fiction as a category and the genres within it as “stupid trash” because the endings are usually happy and that’s just dumb because what idiot wants to read a book where the characters are happy in the end? Really, what sort of moron enjoys it when things work out for other people? Don’t the readers of those genres, or of any books where the ending is anything less than an apocalypse of misery and death, know that in the real world things don’t always end happily? How stupid do you have to be, to enjoy reading something uplifting when you could be spending a nice afternoon being reminded of the world’s inhumanity and that that no matter what you do, you’re likely to end up screwed (in a bad way)? Dumbasses. People who like books with happy endings or movies with happy endings are clearly barely above a dog in terms of intellectual capacity, and also are cowards who bury their heads in the sand.

Can you tell from the above just how much these misery-gut thought police annoy me?

I don’t think there’s much purpose behind pointing out that, as bad as things might be, in the real world things often do work out for people. If in the real world people never got married and spent their lives together, then maybe we could agree that books in which the protagonists do exactly that are “unrealistic.” But they do. It happens every day. I’ve been married for over fifteen years, and while we’ve had a few less-then-perfect periods–as most couples do–we are still quite happy together. I’m aware of more than a few others, who’ve been married far longer, and are still pretty happy to spend time together.

But it’s not just romances/stories with strong romantic elements, I hasten to point out. Again, this all started (partly) with a discussion of The Departed, where the term “happy ending” fits loosely at best. The complaint there seems to be that revenge was gotten, or at least vengeance was served. Thinking people know that just because vengeance was served doesn’t mean anyone is happy; the dead certainly do not come back to life. To say that’s a “happy” ending makes me wonder just how much you hate people, and if you will ever consider your personal revenge on humanity complete.

But honestly, the point is not how mean people who sneer about happy endings are and how they probably kick puppies in their off hours. (No, really, it’s not.) And–honestly, again–I don’t insist on them in everything myself, and have been known to enjoy plenty of books and/or movies where the ending is ambiguous or downright unhappy. I’ve even hated a few happy endings which I felt were tacked on or unearned or just plain shitty–I’m looking at you, Natural Born Killers.

But in general. I don’t think turning up your nose at a story with a happy ending (and anyone who enjoys it) while drawling about how much better it is when stories are realistic, like real life, man, not inane and sappy (as if real life is not inane and sappy sometimes), and how stupid it is for people to like happy endings and how American movies should be more like European movies because they’re real and nobody is ever happy in them and nothing ever works out in the end. Which, wow, sounds fun, but also, can we please get over the idea that it is somehow intellectually superior to wish ill on others, and that it is some kind of virtue to expect everything to be shitty and horrible and that doing so makes you a person of fine and elevated tastes far beyond the average in some fashion?

It’s not. I promise. And you’re not either, Joe Misery. There’s nothing virtuous or clever or special about thinking it sucks when other people find happiness, and that’s what you’re doing when you get all grumpyass about happy endings: You’re saying that it’s wrong–it’s dumb or it’s naive–to take pleasure in the joy of others (because in its essence, taking pleasure in a the happy ending of a story is really taking pleasure in the joy of others, isn’t it? Being glad that things worked out for them, that they overcame their obstacles and found happiness at the end? We don’t smile and sigh because the protagonists ended up miserable and alone and it’s made us feel better about our own shitty lives of existential horror–at least, we don’t if we’re decent people and the characters are, too [I make no apologies for being glad when hideous evil characters get what’s coming to them]. It’s nice to be pleased when other people are happy. It’s virtuous and good. It’s kind. It indicates that you have positive human emotions instead of being riddled with envy and hate and rage.

And I have to admit, it’s that last part that always crosses my mind when I come across some “Why do you people want a happy ending, you simps,” person. Why don’t you want one, man? What is it about things working out okay for other people that you find so offensive? Why do you want people to be unhappy? Is schadenfreude so noble that you want to pat yourself on the back for it, really? Do you think you’re actually imparting some earth-shaking wisdom by reminding people that things aren’t always great for everyone all the time? Or are you really just stomping on the only joy someone might have, in the middle of a shitty patch–the only joy to be had by someone whose life could very well be a hell of a lot worse than yours, by the way, Mr. or Ms. Emotional Bully?

Of course the world can be a cold and miserable place. We all know that already, and don’t need you to tell us. That’s why we need happy endings. And happy endings aren’t just about fooling us into thinking things could work out for us, too, or whatever. They’re about reminding us that they sometimes do, and that even when things look awful and we’re at our lowest, there could still be something good around the corner. It’s like playing the lottery, but everybody wins. That’s a good thing. And it doesn’t deserve anyone’s contempt.

(Note: Yes, my tongue is slightly in my cheek as I write this, and I’m not referring to people who disagree with a particular ending to a particular story or even people who simply prefer ambiguous endings. I’m talking specifically about people who feel the need to insult others who do like happy endings, and who act as though there’s something especially clever or cool about not liking them; that’s what I take issue with. Also, about halfway through this post I began feeling like I was writing some sort of obscure porn about massage parlors; the double entendres are just everywhere, aren’t they? But it couldn’t be helped.)

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Spoilers

(No, there are no spoilers here, or rather, not of any of my work. I promise.)

A few weeks ago I had the misfortune of catching the movie The House at the End of the Street on TV. I say “misfortune,” because no one watching this thing could ever feel that they were experiencing anything but bad luck, or the laughter of fate. It’s not that it’s an awful movie; that’s the problem. It’s not interesting enough to be awful. It’s just dull, a series of nothing moments that lead to nothing, and every time the movie makes you think something interesting is about to happen, it decides instead to show you another very dull or pointless thing.

This isn’t a movie review, or rather, the movie itself isn’t the subject of this post. Spoilers are the subject of this post, and it was conversation about this movie that inspired that subject, so I’m talking about the movie as background and example. And along the way I’m just saying–for informational purposes, really–that The House at the End of the Street pretty much sucked, despite its rather interesting and spooky-sounding premise.

Here is that premise: A girl and her mom move into a big expensive house on a secluded street. The house across the street (or behind them, I’m not exactly sure; what I do know is that neither house was actually at the end of a street) was the scene of a murder years before, wherein a teenage girl murdered her parents and then presumably drowned, though they never found her body. The movie give us one moment of “Hey, what’s that? That’s creepy” when Elisabeth Shue (who plays the mother and looks gorgeous) sees a light on in that house, and looks scared by it. Lucky for us, though, the movie is quick to reassure us–almost immediately, in fact–that there’s nothing to be frightened of, there’s just a dude living there. No ghosties or anything, just the son of the murdered parents/brother of the murderous sister, who is around twenty-one now. He was away visiting an aunt when the murders occurred, so of course, like any normal young person, he wants to keep living all alone in the big huge secluded house fifteen miles outside of town where his parents met their violent ends at the hands of his sister. Makes sense to me, sure.

So. There’s some dumb scene with a subplot or something with some guy who skeeves all over Jennifer Lawrence (and, okay, I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. I do not see the “OMGMOSTBEAUTIFULGIRLEVERANDSOCHARMINGANDTALENTEDTOO” thing. Sure, she’s a pretty enough girl, but so is just about every other young actress. JMO.) and her walking home from a party; it’s a ten-mile walk, we are told, so it makes sense that she wouldn’t try to get someone else to take her or attempt to call a cab or anything. A Mysterious Guy drives past and asks if she needs a ride; she wisely says no, but then it starts to rain and she gets in the car after all.

It turns out–here’s where the post topic comes in–that this guy is Ryan, the suburban murder-house hermit. It turns out he’s taking classes at community college, slowly making his way toward, and saving up for, a four-year college education. Anyone might be forgiven for thinking, “Dude, if you sold that enormous chunk of real estate you rattle around in by yourself, you could skip the community college,” but apparently it’s all Ry-ry has to remember his family by, and that’s why he stays, all by his lonesome in a house where his family were slaughtered in a town that openly loathes him. Yes, Ryan, I’m sure your parents would want you to struggle and be ostracized in their death house because pictures just aren’t enough sometimes.

Anyway. We meet Ryan. He drops Jennifer Lawrence at her house and goes home. We watch him for a minute or two as he wanders around, a tiny lone figure in a huge house, and makes some soup from a can or something (it might have been spaghetti-Os? I don’t recall). He puts the food on a tray and heads downstairs into the basement, where he pulls back a rug on the floor to reveal a trapdoor, which he lifts, which reveals a whole ‘nother underground hallway–I mean, not a tunnel, but a full-on hallway–which leads to a locked door (he leaves the key above the doorframe, because why would you keep that key with you?), beyond which is a small bedroom, and in that bed is a girl in a slightly ragged nightgown with semi-ratty blonde hair. The girl sort of grunt-screams and tries to attack him, but he sedates her with one of those tranq syringes it’s so easy for people to acquire just in case. “Calm down, Carrie Ann,” he says, and we in the audience stop rolling our eyes and guffawing long enough to gasp! In shock! Carrie Ann is the name of his murderous sister! Clearly he, when he was a teen, dug and remodeled this sub-basement to keep his sister a prisoner because he loves her and can’t let the law or a hospital have her (or maybe his parents did so, because they wanted an extra guest room and thought it would be fun to treat their guests like prisoners at a gulag? Maybe they just really wanted to dig out a secret room under their house as an experiment in engineering? Maybe they planned to mine coal in secret, for kicks?)! Clearly, this is why he stays in town–it’s not the memories, it’s so he can keep his sister locked in this sub-basement rather than keeping her in some other above-ground bedroom somewhere nobody knows them and thus would not recognize her! Clearly he keeps her there because it would be awful to alert the authorities and thus get her the help she needs! It makes perfect sense!

Now. At this point we are barely thirty minutes into the film. We have just met Ryan, and the camera has essentially stayed with him from the moment he meets Jennifer Lawrence all the way through his fascinating food-making and into the basement to his conversation with and drugging of Carrie Ann.

I went hunting around for reviews and such of this film, and found many that mentioned this plot point: Ryan lives in the house and keeps Carrie Ann in his basement.

Every one of those reviews had someone–often numerous people–bitching about the “spoiler.”

You guys, something the movie shows you in the first half-hour is not a spoiler. It’s a plot point.

When a movie introduces you to a major character in that first half hour, and follows him back to his house to show you-the-viewer what’s in his amazingly professionally-finished sub-basement, that’s not a spoiler. That is a character and plot point that the movie wants you to know before it goes any further.

When a movie’s trailer essentially says to you, “ZOMGYOUGUYS CARRIE ANN’S LIKE TOTALLY STILL OF THE LIVING CHECK IT OUT” by showing you characters conversing with and about Carrie Ann…that’s not a spoiler. It is a plot point. (Seriously. That shit is in the trailer. See for yourself.)

A spoiler is something the movie makers (or author/s or songwriter/s or whatever) want to keep hidden. When M. Night Shyamalan made The Sixth Sense, he did not, in the trailer, show any bits of the film’s final scenes. He did, however, include the kid whispering, “I see dead people,” which tells you that it’s not a spoiler to say the movie is about a kid who sees dead people. In fact, even without the trailer, it’s not a spoiler to say the movie is about a kid who sees dead people, because not only is that a pretty intrinsic part of little Cole’s character, which we as viewers are shown this pretty much right away when we’re introduced to him, but it’s an intrinsic part of the movie’s plot.

So, to get to the essence of my point, I personally think any events which take place in a movie’s first half hour or so–or the first third or so of a book–or any character points which are brought to light while we are introduced to that character, are not spoilers. They’re plot points which must be laid in place before the rest of the story can unfold. Every damn thing is not a spoiler.

What do you think?

(Oh, and if you’re curious, the House at the End… movie goes on to be a basic, and very dull, sort of quasi-slasher movie, where people do stupid things for stupid reasons and it never occurs to anyone to call 911 like a normal person would do, and it’s all just dull, dull, dull. It’s not even fun to make fun of, it’s so dull and insipid.)

Also not a spoiler: I’ll have some news for everyone soon.

Also also not a spoiler: I have been very busy lately, making lots of new words.

What Stace had to say on Monday, June 16th, 2014
Hiding

I’m hiding from the internet today.

See, last night all you lucky people in the US got to watch the GAME OF THRONES finale. Whereas the hubs and I–and everyone else in England–have to wait until 9 pm tonight. A WHOLE DAY LATER IT IS KILLING ME BLAAAH.

*******SPOILERS! SPOILERS UP TO THE PENULTIMATE EP OF SEASON 4!! HIGHLIGHT TO SEE SPOILERS!*******

What happens to Tyrion? Will Arya find Sansa? Does that psychopathic bastard Ramsey move his sadistic ass into the ruins of Winterfell to rebuild it and, I dunno, have a place where he can grin his evil grin while he drinks blood and tortures infants and conducts medical experiments that would shock Josef Mengele? What’s Stannis going to do? What about Sir Jorah–I love Sir Jorah and I’m so sad, even though really he did ruin everything and it’s his fault I don’t get to look at Khal Drogo anymore.

Some of the anticipation is gone now that Joffrey is dead and all; I mean, I was thrilled to see him die but it felt sort of anticlimactic. Mainly because I suspect most of us–or, okay, maybe just me–would only have been happy if the show had done a one-hour “Joffrey dies the hideous death he deserves” special, in which we saw clips of all of his worst acts–okay, it’d need to be, like, a four-hour miniseries event–and the people he’d wronged each got to come up, call him names, and slap him, and then stab him somewhere painful but non-deadly, like the Death of a Thousand You’re-A-Hideous-Shitbird Cuts, until finally Sansa and the ghost of Ned Stark finish him off by ass-fucking him with Ned’s sword Ice. And also, I’m disappointed that we found out so quickly who killed Joffrey, because Hubs and I were having a lot of fun imagining it like a game of GOT Clue: was it Sansa in the Observatory with the Poison Wine? Tyrion in the Tower of the Hand with the Valyrian Sword? Cersei in the Red Keep with the Crazy Malevolent Mother-Obsession? Margaery in the Garden with some sort of Magical Ingestible Torture Device? It was fun, but sadly, we now know Emma Peele did it, along with Littlefinger, who is just as sinister as the Red Death when the clock strikes twelve.

Feel free to comment on any of the above, but for the love of all that’s holy please don’t spoil me for the finale!! Because seriously, I will be very upset and will probably put you in a book suffering some sort of very undignified and stupid death. “We have a new case, Chess…there’s a woman who reported a ghost but then we found her dead. Apparently she was masturbating with a carrot and it broke, so she sent a mouse up there to eat it, and it died so she sat on the toilet to try to douche with bleach to clean it out but it hurt, so she stood up and tripped and drowned with her head in the bleach-filled toilet and a dead bleach-soaked mouse and a half-eaten carrot inside her ladybusiness there. Her name was _____ ____, and everyone hated her guts because she couldn’t keep her spoiling mouth shut. So I say we don’t need to investigate her ghost, because she got what she deserved for being stupid and horrible and spoiling GAME OF THRONES.”

Um…sorry, guys, that got sort of needlessly graphic and horrible, huh.

Anyway. I know there are spoilers out there, and so I must hide.

Not because I’m afraid of, say, being randomly attacked by a spoiler as I mind my own business walking down the internet street. No, I’m reasonably certain that most spoilers–not all, of course–mark themselves clearly as such, as they are respectable spoilers and do not wish to be mistaken for hints, previews, or mere theories. They’re proud to be spoilers and want the world to know it. Yes, there’s always that moron or dickhead who enjoys spoiling things for others, or dismisses complaints with, “It was on LAST NIGHT, man, if you haven’t seen it by now, that’s your fault,” but in general I’m not too afraid that I’ll be accosted by a spoiler while innocently researching the death penalty in Victorian England or reading humorous anecdotes on notalwaysright.com.

I just don’t trust myself. Right now I’m practically sweating, because I know there are spoilers out there and that I could find them. Easily. Five minutes from now I could know everything that happens; it’s the digital equivalent of knowing exactly where your parents hide the Christmas presents.

But you know, one year I found those presents, and realized that it really did ruin the run-up to the actual holiday and the holiday itself. It just wasn’t as much fun knowing exactly what was coming. Same with spoilers. (Plus, the hubs hates it when I know what’s coming and he doesn’t.) At least, not when I actually care what happens. I no longer particularly care what happens on MAD MEN, frex–watching Don Draper have a meltdown and turn into an insignificant sadsack, living in roach-infested filth and failing at everything he attempts, is not really what I signed up for when I got on board the MAD MEN train however many years ago (and don’t even get me started on splitting the final season in two, seriously. Because that story moves so fast it needs to give us time to breathe? uh-huh).

I watch MAD MEN to watch Don be clever and drink and get laid a lot while being impossibly smooth in nice suits. I don’t care if the point of the whole show is how men like that are secretly miserable or how that image is a miserable facade just like America in the early 60s or how the majority of men lead lives of quiet desperation in their gray flannel suits. That’s not a show I want to watch. I want Don to be awesome, and Roger to be awesome, and Peggy to not turn into a shrew right out of the pages of a 1950s True Confessions magazine (“I had it all, but I cried every night because without a husband it’s all meaningless, which is why I became a barfly and lost all my teeth and then had a hissybabyfit in the office because my secretary got flowers”), and Stan to be hilarious, and Joan to appear in every scene being cutting and gorgeous. (I can’t complain about what they did with Pete in the S7 episodes I watched, because he’s pretty much how he’s always been, only with louder pants.) That is why I watch.

To replace MAD MEN, we started watching HANNIBAL. I said on Twitter that if you’re not watching HANNIBAL, you are missing the fuck out, and that is entirely 100% true. More than that, even. It’s more true than even the craziest stereotypical football coach would feel comfortable expressing in a percentage (“That truth is giving 469%–oh, dammit, now I just sound like a moron, don’t I.”) so s/he would just go back to shouting “WIN! WIN! WIN!” (Remember, we’re discussing stereotypes here. Please do not get angry at me if you know and love a football coach, or are personally a football coach.) Seriously, you guys, HANNIBAL is SO GOOD. SO FUCKING GOOD. I thought it wouldn’t be good–it sounded sort of dumb and pointless to me–but I was wrong. It’s amazing. It’s so good that after the first couple of episodes I completely stopped noticing that Hugh Dancy’s earlobes are kind of hobbit-like.

But of course, it’s on summer hiatus. As GAME OF THRONES will be after tonight, and I honestly do not know what we’re going to do here–at least, what we’re going to do until JUSTIFIED’s fifth season comes out on DVD and we scrape together some money to buy it and have it shipped to us. But that’ll last us, like, a week and a half if we’re lucky. (Because JUSTIFIED? Also AWESOME, and you should watch it so we can all talk about it and trade little references like, “It was in your glass,” and dissolve into happy drooling sighs over Raylan and Boyd.

And we have some episodes of THE BLACKLIST still to watch, which is also a very good show and we like it a lot, although let’s be honest, compared to GAME OF THRONES it might as well be The Teletubbies. We have a couple of seasons of THE SOPRANOS that we never finished watching (I know, I know) and–shocking as I’m sure this will be–we have never actually seen THE WIRE, although we’ve both really wanted to.

So there will be things for me to watch on warm evenings as I sit on the couch and apply lotion to every exposed bit of skin I possess. (I realized last night that I do this every summer. It’s like I’m anointing myself for some sort of ritual, or I’m about to be placed on a very hot grill. You guys know I’m never far from a bottle of lotion anyway, because I’m constantly washing my hands, but in summer it gets sort of weirdly obsessive and at any given moment I’m contorting myself oddly on the couch rubbing coconut oil into my elbows, or something. I also put it in my hair. I’m like some sort of grooming machine.) I will somehow manage to be entertained throughout the summer, aside from the time I spend working, which will be plenty.

But what I’m watching won’t be new episodes of GAME OF THRONES, which is the saddest thing…well, the saddest thing I’ve said in this paragraph, because the stuff about the lotion is pretty pitiful, really.

What Stace had to say on Monday, June 9th, 2014
Updates, upgrades, and bad things

I’ve been neglecting you, and I’m sorry. I really am. Things have not been great here and I’ve fallen into some lazy habits and been working on a number of other things, and blogging (all social media, really) has fallen by the wayside. I feel awful about neglecting you all like that. But this will be a looong post, and I have something planned for the next week or two here that should be really, really fun, so…

First. Downside 6. You’ve been asking and I’ve been somewhat evasive. There’s been some behind-the-scenes stuff going on with it that I wasn’t/am not really at liberty to discuss. What I can say, with absolute certainty, is that there WILL be a number 6, that I am indeed working on it, that I’m quite excited about it and think it’s going to be great, and that as soon as I have some bits to put up here for you all I will. Look for them in the next month or two (the excerpts, I mean). I have #7 in the late planning stages, too.

I am also hard at work on the second Terrible novella (which will cover the events of UM and CoG), and a new short which will round out the collection of shorts that I’m hoping to get put together by the end of June. (To that end, btw, I have a question: has anyone had any experience with Jutoh? It’s an ebook formatting program. I’d like to try it, but $40 is rather a lot to spend for me, especially on something I’m not sure will work.) My plan–as I think I’ve stated before–is to take the already-published shorts to which I now have rights (that would be RICK THE BRAVE and HOME) then add KEEPING IT CLOSE and another new one.

Then there’s the New Stuff: a stand-alone contemp paranormal romance; a new UF series; and a new UF-type series which I’m going to do in serial form, which I’m really excited about and think will be a ton of fun. Oh, and a different thing I’ve had going for a while, which I am almost done editing.

All of this is being done on the Toshiba Satellite I bought back at the end of March, after being essentially computer-less for over a month. Astute readers may notice that I am now using a Windows machine rather than a Mac. Here’s why (and settle in, because this is long):

On the 15th of February, I–like a dumbass–knocked my Macbook off the kitchen table. Well, technically I didn’t knock it off, I just rested it precariously on something else that was on the table, and it fell to the floor. The hard, linoleum-covered-cement floor. Sigh. Aside from the cracked case and loose screen bezel, I ended up with what’s known as “the gray screen of death,” which basically means “your computer is fucked.”

So we made an appointment at the nearest Apple store, which is about an hour and a half away. They couldn’t fix it because they no longer fix 2007 machines, which is what mine was/is. They didn’t even open it up or anything. The Genius suggested a new hard drive, but gave us nothing in writing to say what kind, and I couldn’t call Apple customer service without paying for the call, which was quite frustrating. I asked about that online and got an email from someone in Apple’s Executive Relations; I’ll call her Lydia. Lydia was happy–sort of–to find out what kind of hard drive I’d need and where I could get one, but Lydia was not remotely interested in anything else, like the casing or screen or any other internal parts, or in telling me what to do should the new hard drive not fix the problem. Lydia also confirmed for me several times that the computer–which she could see on my account–was too old for Apple to fix, and that it was “not possible” for them to do that. Well, okay. I did suspect its age might be a problem, after all. She said she’d research the hard drive thing and get back to me; I said fine.

That’s where it all goes to hell.

We have home contents insurance. Very good home contents insurance, it turns out. The Hubs called them and discovered that, thanks to the awesomeness of them and their policy, they would replace the Macbook with a brand new one if it can’t be repaired to like-new condition. Not like-before-the-accident-my-dumbassery-caused; like brand-new. It doesn’t matter that I accidentally broke it; it’s a no-fault policy. Keep in mind, this is the reason people buy insurance: so that when they fuck up like morons and accidentally destroy valuable items, or a blameless accident happens and a valuable item is destroyed, said item can be replaced without financial hardship. That is the purpose of insurance. That is its entire reason for existence. It is why we all have it, right?

So I, giddy as a wee child at Christmas, contacted Lydia and told her that my insurance would replace the Macbook. She interrupted me and said, in the sort of tone she might use if I’d just informed her that I was mailing her a sack of roaches as a present, “YOUR insurance?”

Well, yeah, I said, and quickly explained the whole no-fault-like-new thing and how all I’d need from her was confirmation that the Macbook in question belonged to me, and–

She interrupted me (again; she interrupted me a lot, from the very beginning) to tell me she was not going to do that. When I asked why, she told me it was because of the Data Protection Act. I’m no expert on the Act, but I’m pretty sure that me personally requesting information Apple has on my account is in fact a request that the Data Protection Act legally requires Apple to fulfill. And even if it is not, I was giving my express permission for Apple to share this data with me–for me to pass to my insurer–to confirm my ownership. I honestly can see no reason why Apple couldn’t do this, as it gives away zero confidential information about Apple as a company, and certainly it does not give out any personal information about anyone but myself, and even then it’s hardly the sort of information spies pass around in manila folders; it’s “Macbook serial number WXXXXXXX was registered to Stacia Kane in [month/year].” I have grocery store receipts with more confidential information than that.

So I was beginning to get a very sinking feeling. For whatever reason, Lydia didn’t seem at all pleased and delighted that I could get my Macbook replaced at no cost to me–and at no cost to Apple, either. Win-win, right? But if anything she sounded quite annoyed, rather suspicious, and generally as if she was tired of me wasting her time with my nonsense. “You’ll have to prove ownership yourself,” she told me.

Well, whatever. I could just screen-shot my Apple account, I figured, with the computer listed right there. So I moved on, and told her that what I really needed was written confirmation from Apple that the computer could not be fixed by them. There was a pause, and then she said something about needing to research that and she’d call me the next day. Now I really had a sinking feeling. But hey, she was probably just being cautious or needed to check with a supervisor or something. I told her I’d send her an email with exactly what I needed, so she would have it there in writing, and we terminated the call.

I wrote and sent her the email. It reiterated my request for Apple to confirm the registration of that Macbook to my Apple account/confirm my date of purchase. (I note that in my understanding, putting this request was in writing meant that under the terms of the Data Protection Act it constituted a formal, legal SAR request that this information be provided to me.) I mentioned the Act and stated that I hereby gave permission for her to share that bit of information. But I reiterated that the proof of ownership was not the main part of my request. What I needed was for Apple to simply confirm in writing what they’d already told me more than once: that they could not repair the damage to my Macbook.

It wasn’t about the hard drive alone; our policy covers the entire machine, every curve of plastic, every part, every tiny screw, everything. If any part of it cannot be repaired or replaced to like-new condition, the entire machine qualifies for a brand-new replacement. I explained this to Lydia in the email, because I thought having it in writing might be helpful for her (I also offered to send her pictures of the damage if she wanted to confirm it all herself). I assured her–because she sounded so doubtful and suspicious on the phone–that this was a perfectly straightforward and legitimate insurance claim (I repeated the “no-fault” terms of the policy again as well, in hopes of reassuring her, although I didn’t particularly enjoy feeling like I needed to reassure her that I was not committing fraud) and that we were not asking for her to make any false statements or anything of that nature at all, simply to confirm in writing exactly what she’d already confirmed verbally more than once. No more, no less. I even wrote out a very brief statement for her–which didn’t specify the damage or anything, just that they no longer have the parts or ability to repair 2007 Macbooks–which she could just copy and paste, and pointed out that she could see herself that it was a true and accurate account of what both she and the Genius had told us (which it was). I told her I’d be happy to give her the email address or fax number or whatever of our insurer, if she felt more comfortable sending it directly to them (again, I didn’t like feeling as if I was trying to convince someone that I wasn’t committing fraud, but I was trying my best to be understanding).

And I sent it off, confident that I would soon have a reply from her with the information. Again, why would she not give it to me? Apple had indeed stated more than once that my Macbook could not be repaired, and what company refuses to provide confirmation that an item can or cannot be replaced? What company would refuse to provide a statement of same for a customer’s insurance claim–a claim which has absolutely nothing to do with said company beyond confirming the damage to the item, and does not hold them liable for anything or require them to do anything other than sit back and wait to accept payment for the new item? I could walk into any PC World store with a Windows machine in a similar state, and their service department would write such a statement for me without blinking; surely some random PC World didn’t provide better customer service than Apple. That wasn’t possible.

But it turns out it was. Lydia called me the next day to inform me that no, Apple would absolutely not confirm that my Macbook is registered to me, because of something about the Data Protection Act which I frankly could not follow since she was speaking at a breakneck speed, so couldn’t refute, but oh well. I said, “Okay, so–” and she once again interrupted me to say that Apple also would not confirm that they could not repair my Macbook.

I asked her why, since she’d been able to state that to me several times over the phone and the Genius had stated it in person, she could not put it in writing? Because it’s not Apple’s policy, apparently. It’s not Apple’s policy to provide a written record of their verbal repair estimations or evaluations? It’s not Apple’s policy to back up what they’ve said? It’s not Apple’s policy to help their customers?

Thinking that perhaps she was hinting, or could assist me in another version of my request, I asked her if I could get such a statement from an Apple Genius if I made the trek back to the Apple store. That was up to the individual Genius, she said; they had no obligation to provide any sort of statement or evaluation of damage or estimate. I could try my luck, basically. She made no offer to contact the nearest Apple store and explain my situation or request that they provide assistance to me.

At this point I was fuming. Apple would not repair my Macbook–they flat-out refused–but also would not state that they won’t repair it so I can get a new one from my insurance, because POLICY. What kind of service is that?

I said that what she was basically telling me, then, was that Apple did not care to keep me as a customer or to sell me a new Macbook. She said no, she wouldn’t say that. I said that actually, yes, that was exactly what she was saying, because what this all boiled down to was Apple’s policy being “If you want a new Macbook, you can pay for it yourself; only peons and Poors need insurance.”

I was in tears at that point. I absolutely could not believe that the company I had so much faith in was so coldly refusing to help me in any way, when all I was asking was for them to confirm their verbal statements in writing. That is not, I don’t think, an unreasonable request. It’s one other manufacturers, retailers, and service providers fulfill every minute of every day. I asked why she could not just send me a quick email confirming what she’d told me and she said she could not do that because she is PHONE support (I thought Executive Relations was supposed to be above phone support, with abilities and powers beyond what they have?). I asked who I needed to speak to, then, who were the representatives or people who could write things down (which was honestly one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever had to say to a Customer Service rep), and she said nobody would be able to do this for me. Apparently no one at Apple is allowed to email anything to anyone or write anything at all down, ever. She told me she could send me the link to the page on the Apple site where it says they no longer make parts for or service the 2007 Macbook. I informed her that I can find a link myself, and that if a webpage was likely to be enough to satisfy my insurer I wouldn’t have asked her for a written statement to begin with. And also, that meant that while Apple will happily state publicly and openly online that they wouldn’t fix my Macbook, they absolutely would not take the five seconds to write that down separately for me.

So I asked to speak to someone else; she refused. I told her I wanted to speak to her supervisor or someone above her; she told me no one was above her and that this was “Apple’s final statement,” and this was the end of the matter. So Apple’s final statement, then, was “Sucks to be you!”

I called Apple’s main service line again the next day, thinking that perhaps Lydia just didn’t understand or was misinformed. I was told that once a situation goes to Executive Relations no one else can touch it, and any issues I might have with my Executive Relations rep would be given to her again. So if I had a complaint about Lydia, I’d have to take it up with Lydia. Seems like the way things should work, right? Who better to deal with my complaint about Lydia than Lydia? She’d been so helpful already. What exactly was she going to do for me, aside from talk over and interrupt and make me feel like she’s thinking about all of the better and more important things she could be doing with her time, instead of listening to some spoiled American whine about how her computer is quite literally her livelihood, as if that’s Lydia’s problem or something?

So Lydia called me again, because of course my phone call was instantly reported to her, much in the manner of how a grade-school snitch reports another kid sticking out his tongue at them. She was very displeased with me at that point, which made sense because I wasn’t exactly thrilled with her. I asked again if there was any way to get the four fucking sentences I needed written down, if a Genius could do it, an Apple store manager, an Apple-licensed repair shop. She told me–very hotly–that NO ONE, absolutely no one at any Apple-affiliated place anywhere, would EVER write that down for me. NO ONE EVER.

So I asked her, then, if there was anything else Apple was willing to do for me, to show me that they actually gave a shit about my business and wanted me to spend my money on a new Macbook. Anything at all. Now, I didn’t start the whole mess expecting to be offered anything; I started it knowing that the damage to my laptop was all my fault and that the laptop was old, and all I was hoping for was an estimate for repairs. But it seemed to me (and still does) that when a company is refusing a customer request as simple and basic as “Write down what you told me, please,” and they know that said refusal is causing that customer serious difficulty, and they know the customer is very seriously considering giving up on their company altogether (I told Lydia several times that this was really making me rethink dealing with the company at all), I’d think they’d consider some way of making up for the loss. Certainly in the 6+ years or so I spent working as a customer service rep (mostly in banking, for one of the world’s largest credit card banks), that was standard practice. You can’t help them, they’re upset, you try to do something to make them happy. It’s pretty basic. I did stuff like that every day, as did all of my co-workers.

I literally begged her to give me a reason, any reason, why I should buy a new Macbook instead of a Windows machine. Any reason at all; was there honestly nothing she could do for me? Ten percent off AppleCare, a fucking $5 iTunes credit? I hear stories all the time about Apple going above and beyond, and there I was just asking for some confirmation that my business matters. No, she said. There is nothing Apple will do for me (I believe her exact words, said in a tone of surprised disdain, were, “We’re not going to do anything for you,” actually). She wouldn’t even say the words, “Your business matters; you are important to Apple,” when I asked her she could even tell me that.

The next week, the hubs went back to the Apple store. The manager was happy to give him a work estimate/order thingie that said “We cannot repair this Macbook.” Shockingly, this happened even though Lydia had informed me with such confidence that NO ONE EVER ANYWHERE at Apple would EVER do this for me.

And about a week after that we got a check from our insurance company, and I decided that given how very, very little of a fuck Apple gave about its customers and how it was willing to do absolutely nothing–beyond feeding me misinformation and making an already upsetting and difficult process even harder–to help me, and how if I ever had another problem with a new Macbook the odds were extremely high that Apple would once again tell me to go fuck myself, I was not going to buy a new Macbook. Especially not since I would have had to provide the deductible myself, and money is so extremely tight for us. I was not about to struggle to scrounge up that cash on something when if there was ever a problem I’d be left in the lurch, especially since there was no way we could scrape together enough to pay for AppleCare, too.

So I used it to get a Toshiba Satellite, and pay for data recovery/installation (from the Mac’s hard drive) and warranty and data back-up, and for Word. (Which we had trouble installing; funnily enough, the Microsoft rep we called was friendly and awesome and spent a good half-hour with us getting it all set up.)

It’s okay. It’s not a bad computer. It’s not like the little Mac I loved. It’s less convenient and I still loathe several things about Windows machines in general. I’m not crazy about Windows 8. I set it to open directly to the background screen instead of that awful Windows 8 menu thingy with all the blocks.

I lost all of my cool installed fonts and all of the cool fonts that came with Word for Mac. I lost all of my bookmarked sites, going back almost five years–tons of research and recipes. I lost a bunch of music. I lost a few programs I used all the time and I lost several capabilities I liked a lot, and I don’t like Chrome for Windows as much as I liked Chrome for Mac, which was awesome. None of that is good; it’s very depressing, in fact. But at least I didn’t lose any documents or any pictures of my little ones, which was/is what really matters–along with knowing that if I have a problem I won’t have a customer service rep who seems to think I’m trying to defraud everyone tell me that’s just too damn bad.

So there you go. That’s part of the reason, at least, why I’m behind on things. And I know I have several other things to tell you about, but this is very long already so I will end it there.

Again, though…I’ll be back again in the next few days, and I have something that will hopefully provide us all some fun and amusement coming up this week or next. Something from the vault, to show you all.

I miss you all terribly, and hope you forgive me for being so absent.

What Stace had to say on Friday, July 19th, 2013
Us Weekly Thinks Abuse is “Romantic.”

Yeah, some of you may have seen this already on my Facebook or Tumblr. I’m reposting it here because A) I’m still pissed and B) I’ve added a little bit to it. And C) I’m still really pissed.

I also note that since posting it on Facebook I’ve heard privately from a couple of men who were abused in previous relationships saying how hard it was to get out of it and how people acted like it was no big deal or they were just pussies, which is another reason I’m reposting it here.

Earlier I was reading headlines and happened to see one about some celebrity’s “Extreme,” “Passionate” Relationship. I normally don’t give much of a shit about celebrities, as you all know, but eh, I was bored.

Turns out, this actress (Emma Roberts, who it seems is Julia Roberts’s niece) got into a fight with her boyfriend, and in the course of that fight bloodied his nose and left several bite marks on him. The police were called and she was arrested.

And according to US Weekly, this is just soooo indicative of a really passionate relationship in which the two people are “crazy in love,” and she is “very dramatic” so it’s totes fine that she bloodied and bit her boyfriend. See, it’s cool, guys, because SHE ONLY DOES IT BECAUSE SHE LOVES HIM SO MUCH.

This is emphasized again in a later article. Here we see a brief interview with Ms. Roberts where she says, “I can’t say I’m never going to mess up, but if I do, I’ll definitely be sorry.” Of course! Lots of abusers feel that way. See, it’s cool, because SHE WAS REALLY SORRY AFTERWARD.

THIS paragraph has to be read in its entirety to be believed:

“In fact, Roberts is something of a romantic. Musing about love in her Nylon interview, she said she still believes in “happily ever after,” despite what she’s seen and experienced. “I’ve been with people in the past who lie about what they’re doing or whom they’re with, and you always find out about it…I’ve grown up in a business where we’re taught to think that relationships don’t last, and that people are supposed to be married a bunch of times. But I come from the school of getting married once,” she said. “Every relationship should be important. Everyone kind of rolls their eyes at me, but I still believe in the romantic movie outcome.””

She believes in the romantic movie outcome…as long as he doesn’t give her any lip, I guess. Once again, abuse is awesome because IT’S ONLY BECAUSE SHE IS SO PASSIONATE AND ROMANTIC. HE JUST MAKES HER CRAZY BECAUSE OF ALL THE PASSIONATE LOVE AND SHE CAN’T HELP IT.

(Note the “I’ve been with people who lie about what they’re doing or who they’re with and you always find out about it,” line, which sounds to me like BITCHES BE LYIN AND DESERVE A SLAP/I LIKE TO STALK PEOPLE, but I could be wrong there. I do know, though, that an abusive person–sorry, a “dramatic, passionate,” person who becomes “crazy” in love and is so “romantic”–who feels the need to tell you how their past relationships were all with “liars,” is perhaps not to be entirely trusted on that. And really…they lie about what they’re doing? You know, I know there are times when lies like that are harmful and I’m not saying you should never know what your SO is doing or that you should lie to them either, but…maybe they lied because it’s none of your business and you’re being creepily possessive and insisting they tell you where they are every minute. Or maybe they’re lying because if they tell the truth you’ll get angry and, you know, break their noses and bite them hard enough to leave marks. Just a thought.)

Now, yes, some of these things are quotes from Roberts or “sources close to her,” which means they’re going to be ridiculous crap designed to make her look good.

But US did not have to print those quotes, unchallenged. US did not have to follow up the first article with the one that says, flat-out, in exposition, “In fact, Roberts is something of a romantic.” They did not have to print those quotes in such an approving tone, with a wink and a nudge, like it’s just really sweet or we should all be awed by this great great passion taking place before our very eyes.

The timing of these articles, btw, is NOT a coincidence. That second article was posted the day after the first. Us Weekly deliberately chose to publish the article after Ms. Roberts beat and bit her boyfriend badly enough that she was arrested. They deliberately chose to smile about how “romantic” she is, and encourage others to do the same, the day after news of her abuse got out. They deliberately chose to downplay her abuse and encourage us all to just see it as a passionate girl who overreacted a little, isn’t that sweet, ah, impetuous youth.

BTW, I don’t care if the abuse is girl-on-boy or boy-on-girl, though I know I’m not the only one who thought that were the situation reversed, no way would US be writing glowing articles about how Evan is just “dramatic” and “passionate,” and “something of a romantic,” and how they’re just “crazy in love.” Can you imagine the outrage that would (rightly) follow such a thing? (For that matter, can you imagine being Evan Peters, or one of his friends or family members, seeing his bloodied face and then watching a national magazine smile about how “passionate” his abuser is and how she’s really just a romantic?) But abuse is no less wrong when it’s the man being abused.

When US Weekly chose to print these articles with their sympathetic, approving, even slightly envious-sounding depictions of an abusive relationship in which blood was spilled and skin was broken, here’s the message they reinforced to every impressionable young girl or boy out there, to every abused person, and to every abuser:

1. If s/he didn’t love you so much, this wouldn’t happen. The abuse is proof of that love.

2. It’s because s/he just feels things so much more deeply than other people. The abuse is proof of his/her sensitivity and passionate nature.

3. It’s because your love is so much greater and more dramatic and deep than other people’s. The abuse is proof of the grand scale of your love and devotion.

4. You know how passionate and/or dramatic and/or deeply emotional your partner is, so why are you BAITING him/her like that and making him/her mad when you know how s/he gets?

5. It’s okay that s/he hit you because s/he is really sorry afterward.

6. It’s okay to be an abuser and physically hurt your partner, because US Weekly will still just smile and run articles about you full of glowing comments from people who condone your abuse, which means really you’re not that bad and probably everybody does it.

7. The fact that articles like that run proves that you aren’t really being abused and what’s happening to you isn’t really wrong, you’re just being oversensitive. Can’t you see that the rest of the world acknowledges how it’s proof of love and you being meant for each other?

8. Celebrities are abusive and it’s cool, so why don’t you go ahead and be abusive, too? All the hotties are doing it!

Aren’t those great messages to send? Do we need to send yet another “Abuse is proof of love” message? Do we really want to just wink and nod at abuse because a woman committed it?

Fuck you, US Weekly. You make me sick.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
Who Takes the Chance?

Quite a few years ago I did a blog series about choosing a publisher, specifically an epublisher: what to look for, what to be wary of, that sort of thing. It’s a topic I’ve revisited now and again, though not recently (thanks to my long moratorium on discussing writing-related subjects).

But you know…I just, I’m tried of seeing something. I’ve been tired of seeing it for, oh, eight years or so now, and I grow more tired of seeing it every day, and it pisses me off, so I’m going to talk about it anyway, because there seems to be a new wave of it out there.

I am sick to fucking death of seeing bad publishers, or writers associated with them, justify their lousy treatment of writers and their unprofessionalism and their crappy business decisions and their lack of ability to perform a publisher’s number one job (which is to SELL BOOKS TO READERS) with the following phrase:

“We/they took a chance on you, so you should be grateful!”

You guys, publishers do not “take chances” on your work, at least, not in the way these people imply they do. Sure, every book is a chance they take. In the most basic sense I must concede that publishing is about taking chances, and your book could lose money.

But those publishers who stand to lose money? They’re buying the rights to publish your book because they’re pretty sure it will actually make them money*, and they’re basing that decision on quite a bit of experience and knowledge and work**. They’re buying your book because in their professional opinions it is well-written enough and interesting enough to appeal to a large audience of readers, and they want to sell it to those readers. It’s “taking a chance,” yes, but not in the sense these snippy little writer-nannies seem to mean it, whereby the author who’s getting fucked over is apparently supposed to spread wider and beg for more because hey, somebody agreed to publish their book! That means they have license to treat the author any way they want and make whatever shitty business decisions they want and the author should just shut the hell up, right?

(*They SHOULD be buying the rights because they think it will make them money, anyway; and **They SHOULD have quite a bit of experience and knowledge and work before they start acquiring books. More on that in a bit.)

The thing is, when you tell another writer that they should be grateful somebody took a chance on their book, you might as well scratch out “book” and insert “piece of shit.” Isn’t that what you’re really implying? That they should be glad somebody actually agreed to publish that crap they wrote? That it’s not really a good book or anything, so they’ve been done a huge favor and beggers can’t be choosers? That they don’t really deserve a decent, professional publisher, so they should be glad somebody agreed to “give them a chance?”

Quite frankly, if the book isn’t good enough, then doesn’t that almost by definition mean that a publisher who “takes a chance on it” isn’t a very good publisher? Because they’re publishing books that, well, aren’t good enough to be published? (It’s like a big “chicken or the egg” loop, isn’t it?) There’s no benefit to anyone in “taking a chance” in publishing a lousy book; it doesn’t benefit the writer, it doesn’t benefit the publisher, and it certainly doesn’t benefit the people the industry exists to serve: those people we call “readers,” who spend their hard-earned money on those books.

Either you think your publisher publishes good and worthy books (like yours, right?) and therefore should be providing the authors of those books with all of the benefits professional publishers provide, or you think your publisher tends to publish crappy books (except yours, I guess?) which deserve only the bare bones and everyone should just be glad they got a “chance.”

Except–and here’s the big thing–throwing a book out into the ether without promotion or decent cover art or good editing is NOT giving it a chance. It’s sort of stacking the deck against it, actually, and ensuring that most people either won’t have the “chance” to hear about it, won’t look beyond the cover, won’t look beyond the excerpt, or won’t find it to be of high enough quality to “take a chance” on other books from that publisher or by that author. Or, of course, they’ll see a review that mentions poor cover art and/or editing, and write both publisher and author off in their minds.

Being a writer means you make, and take, your OWN chances. You’re taking a chance every time you open a new Word doc and start writing. You’re taking a chance every time you submit. You’re the one who controls the quality of your book and what happens in it–don’t forget, editors are not supposed to change your book, just make suggestions. It’s your name on the cover, and what’s inside should be 100% yours. Publishers do not–should not–be the ones deigning to give your book a “chance,” the way you may agree to a date with that guy who doesn’t really appeal but seems nice enough, or the way you might give someone who’s been rude and nasty to you one more chance to make it up to you, or whatever other serious power imbalances and ambivalence are inherently implied in the phrase “give it a chance.” A publisher shouldn’t be publishing your book reluctantly. They should be snatching it up. A publisher who buys your book is not–should not be–doing you a fucking favor.

You know what you owe the people who publish your book? You owe them the text of that book, turned in on time, edited on time. That’s it. That is ALL.

Now, in the standard nature of the professional author-publisher relationship, it also behooves you to do things like not scream and yell at editors, and not turn to the internet to scream about your publisher because you found out X got a higher advance, and generally not make yourself horrendously unpleasant to work with. It behooves you to work with your editor, whose sole interest is and should be making your book the best it can possibly be. It may also behoove you–it’s not a requirement, usually, but it’s often nice–to do things like have a website or make appearances or do guest blogs or interviews or whatever at the publisher’s request, in order to help make you and your book more visible in hopes of selling more copies.

Nowhere on that list, or on any of the similar things I left off the list because of length considerations, are things like, “It’s necessary to let your editor call you an idiot and imply that you’re lucky she agreed to take on that piece of shit you think is a book,” or “You can’t forget to let various publishing staffers call you names,” or “You must sit quietly while a pack of illiterates overshare about their ladyparts in emails to you,” or “It’s important to remember that paying you is something we do out of the kindness of our hearts,” or “Never think you deserve things like distribution or for our website to work properly or for us not to behave like twats online.” Nowhere on that list are things like “Of course, by submitting your work you agree that only entitled jerks expect to be able to negotiate contracts,” or “If you think you have a right to an opinion about your work, you’re dead wrong,” or really any variation of “Be grateful we published your talentless ass, loser.”

Here’s the thing. As I said, yeah, it’s sort of true that any publisher who offers you a contract is “taking a chance,” on you. But the thing to remember is that A) You are also taking a chance, on them, and believe me, there are plenty of stories out there–a really sadly large number of stories–of authors for whom that chance didn’t work out; and B) Everything is a “chance,” if you want to look at it that way.

For example. Are you married? If you are, that means your spouse “took a chance” on you. Does that mean, in turn, that you are required to allow him/her to be abusive? That you get no say in the finances, or where you live, or how you spend your evenings? Does that mean every argument is your fault, or that s/he is entitled to cheat on you and you should shut up, sit down, and be grateful? (Yeah, I know that last one with the cheating is stretching the analogy a little. Tough.)

It doesn’t. Because the “chance” isn’t all on one side in your marriage, and it isn’t all on one side with your publisher. If your spouse tells you it is, s/he is abusive and you need to get the fuck out. Same with your publisher.

You were offered a contract–you should have been offered a contract–because your publisher thinks your work is good enough to sell. Your publisher thinks that not only will the publisher make money, but you will, too. That’s how partnership works, see, and really, to a large extent publishing is a partnership.

All that editing and cover design and stuff that amateurish publishers keep insisting they provided free of charge so you should be grateful? Yeah. Books get cover art because cover art attracts readers: you know, paying customers. Books gets editing because publishers who want repeat business don’t expect to get it by selling a substandard product–at least, publishers with half a damn brain don’t.

Another example: Say you walk into a restaurant, and the food is bad. Next time you’re considering where to eat, is that place going to be at the top of your list? Unless you’re a culinary masochist, I’m guessing no. Personally, I go to look at the websites of new publishers and look at the excerpts, and if I see more than one full of grammar/spelling/punctuation errors or clunky writing? Not only do I not buy those books, I don’t look at the others, and I write that publisher off in my head. Sure, I might check again one day, but the odds are against it. I’m sorry for the good writers (and, sadly, good writers sign with bad publishers every day, and I in no way mean to imply anything different) who are caught up with that substandard house, but my time is limited and there are too many good books out there for me to spend hours hunting through published slush piles to try to find the one or two good books in there. I’m sorry about that; sorry for the writers watching their good books sink in a heap of not-so-good ones, and sorry for me because I miss out on a story I might have loved.

I’m digressing. My point is: Quit telling writers they should be grateful that publishers “took a chance” on them and provided them–however expertly or ineptly–with the things that are the fucking job of a goddamn publisher, like editing and cover art, and provided it in the way that a publisher is supposed to, which is without charge. Oh, good, they’ve done the bare-bones minimum, so writers are supposed to be tearfully grateful for the crumbs from their table. Whoopee.

You guys, let me be blunt. You are better than that. You deserve more than that. You deserve a publisher who will provide you with the things a publisher is supposed to provide, professionally executed, and in a professional fashion. You do not need to be “grateful” that someone published you; a real, professional house is just as grateful that they are getting the opportunity to work with you. An editor doesn’t wake up one morning, grab any old manuscript from the slush pile, and decide to send a contract because, gee, they just feel like giving somebody a chance that morning (at least, a good editor doesn’t). You didn’t win some sort of lottery. You worked hard and made your book the best it can possibly be, and if a publisher contracts that book it should be because they think they can make money on it and want to work with you, not because they’re granting favors and your name was in the hat.

I repeat: They are not doing you a favor.

And if they say they are or imply they are…they’re wrong, and you deserve better.

I may discuss this more tomorrow.

What Stace had to say on Monday, March 11th, 2013
We Love Hearing From You

Very longtime readers may recognize this story, but I originally posted it six or seven years ago, and it’s relevant, so I’m telling it again.

Back in 2002 I attended my first Dragon*Con (which was awesome). Coincidentally, I’d just finished writing my Very First Novel, a totally abysmal medieval romance. (Seriously, I wish I still had the printed mss to scan some of it to show you. While I still believe it had a couple of quite good scenes, for the most part it was pretty bad: overdramatic characters, contrived plot points, an Evil Ex Lover making silly threats, a Big Misunderstanding…I honestly barely remember the plot at this point, but trust me, it was lame.)

Anyway. There I was at Dragon*Con, and I happened to notice a panel on women writing, so I hopped on over to see it. It was held in a tiny room in the basement, and there were maybe fifteen people there, which was quite sad as the panelists included Betty Ballantine and a writer I hadn’t heard of named Sherrilyn Kenyon.

It turned out, though, that Sherrilyn Kenyon also wrote under the name Kinley MacGregor, and I’d just finished reading Kinley MacGregor’s BORN IN SIN, as part of my research-based orgy of romance reading. And in fact, BORN IN SIN had been one of my favorites of the romances I’d picked up. So once I realized Sherrilyn and Kinley were one and the same, I was quite excited.

Excited enough, in fact, to make a total idiot out of myself after the panel.

I went bopping up to Sherrilyn, all full of vim and eager puppy-dog dorkiness, and gushed at her that I, too, was a writer! I’d just finished my first romance and I was hoping to get it published! Thankfully I did manage to slip in there that I’d loved BORN IN SIN–although I did also say that I’d had no idea who Sherrilyn Kenyon was when I came to the panel and I was so excited to learn she was also Kinley MacGregor and was that information public, which, FFS, moron–but for the most part, I said the sort of things that make me shrink in embarrassment even now, over ten years later. I asked, stammering and blushing, if she thought I should get an agent, as if I could head for the phone book and hire one just like ordering a pizza (I may even have asked who her agent was; I have honestly blocked much of what I said from my memory). I believe I bragged about doing research and said how much I love the medieval period. And then, in a denouement so fucking ridiculous it makes me cringe, I said, “Maybe one day we’ll have the same publisher!”

Like we were going to play on the Avon softball team or something. Like we’d be Publisher Pals and spend our nights having giggly slumber parties and telling secrets. Like my very first mss ever was obviously just as good as any of her books, and of course I could just walk into a publishing contract simply by virtue of having completed a novel (which was, btw, over 114k words of facile plot contrivances and exclamation points. I didn’t even know not to capitalize the pronoun dialogue tag after dialogue ended in one of those exclamation points, so the book was full of shit like: ‘”Unhand me!” She shouted.’).

Sherrilyn was kindness itself. She gave absolutely no indication that she found my questions ridiculous or my lack of publishing knowledge silly and/or naive. She answered my questions nicely and wished me luck, and left me feeling that, well, maybe I’d been a bit nervous, but it was okay. She left me feeling positive and encouraged.

Now, at this point, I had joined the RWA. I’d done a bit of research on publishing; I knew better than to ask some of those questions. But I asked them anyway. Why? Because I was nervous. Because I was intimidated–I’d never met a real-life author before. Because I wanted to seem like I knew what I was talking about. Because I wanted to show her I was serious. And–this is important–because having read and really enjoyed her book, I felt there was some sort of connection between us. She had spoken to me in that book, and I had responded, and that meant something to me; it mattered to me.

I have never, ever forgotten that day. Yes, sometimes it’s a hauntingly humiliating memory, but I still haven’t forgotten it. I was just some red-faced idiot, and instead of responding with contempt, Sherrilyn Kenyon treated me with gentleness and respect.

But it’s not just her politeness that I remember. I remember the things I said, and WHY. All those reasons I listed above: being nervous, being intimidated, wanting to seem like I knew what I was talking about, feeling like there was a connection between us, like maybe we could be friends; like maybe on some level, insignificant as it was, we were friends. I felt like I knew Sherrilyn, a little bit; she had come into my home and entertained me for a while.

Quite recently there was a blog post written by an author wherein she complained about an email sent to her by a reader, which she felt was rude because it referred to her work as “her stuff” (as in “I bought all your stuff”) and said something like “Why aren’t you writing faster!? Get to work!” She rewrote the reader’s email to be more acceptable to her and went on to instruct readers on what questions not to ask authors, Because Rude, or Because Stupid, or something. She complained about being asked questions when the answers are on her website.

I’m not posting about this to pick on that author, which is one reason why I’m not linking to the discussion(s) about it or giving her name (and I have altered some of the quotes slightly, too). We all have bad days; we all make jokes that don’t come off, or get bad advice, or whatever, and she is human just as the rest of us are. As I’ve said before, internet pile-ons have gone way past the point of amusing for me and into nauseating territory, and that’s one big reason why I have cut back on my internet presence so sharply. This isn’t about her, really–although I admit I find it tremendously difficult to think of how awful that poor reader must feel, being held up as an object of scorn like that for the hideous crime of loving a writer’s work so much that she bought all of it and emailed the writer to tell her so, and asked eagerly when she can further support said writer by buying even more of her work, and I found the post pretty horrific–except that she’s sparked several discussions that break my heart.

Those discussions are from readers saying they’re going to think twice before contacting authors whose work they love, because they’re afraid they too will be publicly humiliated in such a rude and painful fashion if they say the wrong thing.

Guys…please don’t be afraid of that.

My story above is about Sherrilyn Kenyon, but I am absolutely certain that you could insert the name of almost any author on the planet and they would have responded with just as much grace. The fact is, hearing from people who love our books is one of the best things about this job. I can only speak for myself and a few of my friends, but I/we don’t seek out reviews. I/we don’t visit the Amazon pages for my books; I don’t Google them (or myself, unless I’m looking for something specific, like a guest blog post I’ve done somewhere or something); I don’t visit their Goodreads pages or my Goodreads Author page, in general. As I’ve said before, if someone directly sends me a link to a review, I will usually click and read it, because A) that’s a specific invitation for me to do so, which means B) it’s probably a positive review, and I like to retweet those or quote them here as a way of thanking the reviewer/giving them credit for the review without barging into their space.

Emails from readers are the most amazing things in the world. They are. I’ve gotten emails that have brought tears to my eyes. I’ve gotten emails that made me laugh. I’ve gotten emails that made me feel like I was floating for hours, all because someone out there took the time to hunt down my contact info and actually tell me, personally, how much they loved my work and that it meant something to them, really meant something. Without wishing to sound as though I’m making a dirty joke, something I wrote touched them, and they touched me back. Isn’t that what writing and reading are all about? A connection with someone else? Isn’t that why we do what we do, whether we’re writing or reading or reviewing–to feel something, to connect with something, to reach out to something? To share something?

Sure, I’ve gotten some rude emails, too. I’ve gotten a few so offensive and outright threatening that I contacted their IPs. I’ve gotten emails that called me names, that called my characters names, that accused me of all manner of nonsense. They’re not fun. But being asked eagerly when the next book is coming, and can’t I write faster, is not rude. It’s charming, and it’s sweet, and while we all know that intent is not magical, the fact remains that in those cases, when the intent is obviously to flatter, it’s rather silly to take offense. This isn’t a male co-worker telling you how hot you look today and then going, “But I meant it as a compliment! You’re sexy!” It’s someone expressing delight in our work, and that’s not an insult. Especially when if we stopped and thought about it we might realize that behind that email is someone trying to make a connection with us, someone perhaps a bit nervous, perhaps a bit intimidated, someone to whom we mean something and our work means something, and maybe because of that meaning they feel like they know us a little bit. Someone who, aside from everything else, is probably not a professional writer, and is writing private correspondence, and so perhaps cannot be expected to phrase everything in a way that perfectly suits and flatters and pleases us.

I never expect that anyone will be intimidated or nervous when speaking to or emailing me; I mean, who the fuck am I? Nobody of any importance. But I’m also aware that contacting anyone you don’t know personally can be intimidating or can make one nervous. I’m also aware that there are indeed people out there–I’ve met them, and more importantly I’ve been one and occasionally still am–who are nervous or intimidated meeting a writer whose work they love. I’d be willing to bet that when Sherrilyn Kenyon headed for that panel that day, she didn’t expect anyone to be nervous or intimidated at the thought of meeting her, and yet there I was with my face beet-red and my hands shaking as I wagged my Newbie Writer tail in desperate, eager neediness, so excited to be talking to a Real Writer that I pretty much ran down a checklist of silly questions and statements.

I have been horrendously lax in replying to my emails. I’m ashamed of it. I’m so far behind I don’t even know how far behind I am, and that’s inexcusable. But that also doesn’t change the fact that I read and am grateful for every one of those emails. And every writer I know feels the same.

So please, guys, don’t stop writing to us. It matters–you matter. Don’t think the fact that one writer was having a bad day or is rude or ungracious or pretentious or mean means we all sit around rubbing our hands just waiting to pick on you for misphrasing something or misspelling something or simply saying something in a way that doesn’t meet someone’s idea of how to correctly speak to An Author. Most of us don’t expect perfection and we don’t expect you to bow and scrape. We love you just as you are, and are interested in whatever you have to say, and are happy to answer what questions we can, when we can. When you email us we’re grateful, not insulted or offended or angry or upset. Hearing from readers is one of the best things that can happen to us, and if that stopped it would be heartbreaking.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
Your Questions Answered!

(Note: This is Part One. To include all the questions would run a bit longer than I’d like, so Auntie graciously permitted me to do two separate posts. The next one will be up tomorrow.)

Auntie Specialsnowflake here! So many of you silly little readersheep sent in questions, and good for you! It is so gratifying to see how many of you acknowledge your lowly status, and that you need to modify your behavior in order to make this world a better place. Auntie is proud of you–well, as proud as she can be, considering that you still have not achieved anything of any importance (i.e. you have not written a book).

So let’s get to it!

Dear Auntie Specialsnowflake,

Readersheep want a cool, and attractive author. How can I make myself seem more cool and attractive?

Yours,
Fat and over 40. 😉

Well, Fat, of course they do! Readersheep are incapable of seeing beyond the surface of anything, which is why they’re such sad failures and why they do things like give bad reviews to books that have lots of errors, just as if writing ability matters or something (we Professional Authors know it does not). As I said before, the obvious and best answer is to steal the photo of a Canadian model from a photographer’s Flickr account. This works especially well if you repeatedly talk about how your manager wants you to get more professional photos like that done but you’re just so down-to-earth you’re not necessarily into that, and you can also mention how hard it is to find people who like you for YOU and not just because of your golden hair and “blue eyes to die for.”

However, if you cannot find a photographer whose copyright you’re ready to trounce upon in the name of entitlement (which, how silly! Of course you’re entitled!) or a model whose image you are happy to use and whose career you are happy to potentially damage, there are other things you can try.

*Along that “picture” vein, find one of yourself taken, say, fifteen years ago. Make sure that it looks like it was taken during the heyday of Glamour Shots (i.e. shiny satin wrapped around your shoulders, hair piled eight inches off your scalp, heavy makeup, lots of fake pearls; science has yet to discover any look more flattering, or one that so loudly screams “Professional Author,” as what I’ve just described) or that you are otherwise wearing clothes or a hairstyle which are seriously dated. That photo of you with big poufy bangs and a perm wearing a Rick Springfield t-shirt will do nicely.

You can also skip the “old” picture and go for one which is “artistic.” Like, say, one where so much Vaseline was smeared on the lens that you resemble nothing so much as a sort of flesh-toned amoeba, or maybe one taken from fifty or sixty feet away, or perhaps a silhouette or an image taken basically in the dark.

Don’t forget, too, that nobody says you have to post a picture of your whole face. Take a close-up of the back of your head, or your hand. Not only will this be flattering, it has an ironic “hipster” feel that will be much appreciated by the younger readersheep, who will never see through any of these ruses.

*Use hip lingo. In my last post I mentioned how valuable “LOL” is, especially when discussing things which no sane human would ever think are actually worth even a smile, much less a full-on laugh. Use “LOL” a lot. This sort of “cool code-word” will immediately clue in the kiddies that you are young and fresh!

*Talk about popular culture. Apparently there’s some young singer called “Justin Beaver” or something. Post some pictures of him. The readersheep will immediately see that you are clued into what the kids are doing these days.

*Post a lot about very personal things. Let it all hang out! Talking about your sex life is guaranteed to excite the readersheep–they have the mentality of raincoat-wearing old men in pornographic theaters, you see, a voyeuristic delight in hearing or reading about anything having to do with sex–and make them come back for more. Auntie can picture them now, drooling as you explain your latest orgasms to them. Don’t forget to totally objectify any man you may happen to write about, as in, “I ran out to the convenience store to get a drink, and the guy behind the counter was totally hot and flirted with me so much I was tempted to peel off my jeans right there and let him see what he so obviously wanted!” The readersheep will be titillated beyond belief at this, especially since everyone knows they themselves can never manage to find anyone willing to have sex with them.

*Prove that you are tough, just like they are. We all know young people today are basically animals with no brains or impulse control. Prove that you are one of them by, of course, following the advice Auntie’s already given, but also by doing things like visiting forums hosted by TV networks for their reality shows and picking fights and calling names. There are no end to the places on the internet where you can demonstrate your amazing linguistic abilities and lack of self-censoring.

*Misspellings and poor grammar. As I mentioned, this will let the readersheep know that you are one of them, casual and unpretentious. Everyone knows that only fuddy-duddies and The Olds care about such things. YOU are an artiste! Young and hip and happening, just like Rimbaud!

*Don’t forget the importance of lying. This is the internet. Nobody has to know how old you really are!

*Make sure you rant whenever you can about how awful the readersheep who don’t like your book are and how much you need the support of the readersheep who do. This will get them on your side and make them want to run around the internet attacking those who give your book bad reviews, which will in turn make it appear that you are young, popular, and cool, with legions of fans (we Professional Authors always refer to the readersheep who like us as “Fans,” btw). Win!

Dear Auntie,

The Readersheep are overrunning my sock puppet reviews on my book. They tell me my book is bad. How can it be bad when it’s over 1000 pages?!

Epically yours,

A Stenographer of the Heart

Oh, dear, Stenographer. It can’t be, of course. Your book is the best and most amazing and touching novel ever put on paper. The problem is–as deep down you know–those stupid jealous readersheep. They hate that you managed to write such an intricate and involved tale, and that you have the dedication to put such a huge number of words on the page, especially since we all know that the only other Authors who have ever managed to write that many words are people like Tolkein and Dickens and Clavell, and obviously your book puts you in their ranks.

The only way to combat such stupidity from such uneducated, snivelling, hate-filled readersheep is, of course, to report them and their reviews to whatever site they’re posting on, including web hosts. Get all of your sockpuppets to report, too. In addition, use all of their names in your next book for characters of whose lifestyles you do not approve, or who have diseases or are otherwise imperfect. That’ll show em!