Archive for 'deep thoughts'
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, January 10th, 2012
So. Yesterday I ranted a bit, and I’m going to do it some more now. As with yesterday’s post, I’m not entirely sure where this is going to go. As with yesterday’s post, this is my attempt to get some things straight in my head and to explore this subject, so I may be a bit harsh; I may say things as part of playing Devil’s Advocate; I may go off on little tangents (probably will, because let’s face it, that’s what I tend to do).
First, a couple of things I forgot or didn’t get to say yesterday. First, authors? Don’t review your own books, either on Amazon or Goodreads or anywhere else. Don’t rate them on Goodreads, even if your “review” says something like, “Well, I wrote it so obviously I think it’s good!” Like that’s funny or charming or something (hint: it’s not).
I was going to say that reviewing/rating your own books under your own name just makes you look like a tool, rather than being actually sleazy, but then I realized that your rating shows up as part of the book’s overall rating; I can think of a couple of books (all by the same author, what a shock) who have pretty decent overall ratings on Goodreads, but then when you look at them you realize that’s only because the author and his/her (not giving you clues as to who it is) “agent” and/or editor have all given the book five stars, whereas the two readers who rated/reviewed it gave it two or three. So, sorry, reviewing/rating your books under your own name is sleazy. Having your agent or editor review/rate them is also sleazy, and honestly, I’m not aware of any editors with major houses or the big epubs who do so (there could be some, but I’m not aware of them).
I do have my own books on my Goodreads and LibraryThing “shelves.” I didn’t intend to do so, but both sites said specifically that I should. So I do. I’m not entirely comfortable with it, but it does seem to be standard and expected. I rarely visit Goodreads, to be honest (more on that in a bit) and as I’ve said before, I *never* visit/read posts in the “Terrible Fever” Goodreads group or the Downside Shelfari group. Those are reader spaces, for you guys to discuss the books; they’re not for me and I actually think it would be creepy for me to lurk over them watching you all. And might make you feel uncomfortable or inhibited. So I stay away. I believe that’s the right thing to do.
I don’t think I have to say that reviewing your own books under a sockpuppet account makes you scum just like pressuring/begging your friends and family to do so does. Anytime you’re lying to readers, anytime you’re attempting to jerryrig your reviews or rankings, you’re doing something unethical. And, you’ll probably be caught, and that will be bad. Really bad.
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What Stace had to say on Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
(This is a continuation of yesterday’s post, for those who haven’t seen it.)
So anyway. Yes. I’ve seen lots of people being very nasty about Amy Winehouse.
But here’s what today’s focus is. I’ve also seen so many comments about the music and the lyrics, and the fact that Amy kept fighting, kept putting herself out there. How much it mattered to people, how much seeing their feelings mirrored mattered to them and how much it helped them when they were feeling down. And it made me start thinking about what art is, how it can touch people, and what the responsibility of the artist is, if any.
Obviously in this I can only speak for myself. I certainly can’t call myself a great artist; I do the best I can yes, and I work as hard as I can to put something of myself, something as important and meaningful as I can, into my work. I try to make it matter; certainly it matters to me. Regular readers may recall (alliteration is fun!) that I blogged about this whole genre-fiction/personal-investment-in-art thing before, here and here.
You guys may also recall that several months ago I decided to stop writing about writing/publishing–to step back on the blog in general, really–after something I meant as a general piece of take-it-or-leave-it advice, a small part of a much bigger cautionary tale about the realities of the internet and being published in a world where the internet exists and you’re expected to use it, was taken so much more strongly, so much more intensely, than I intended, and I became the center of something of a kerfuffle for writing what so many of the people who disapproved of what I wrote also said and have said: Be careful what you say online, because the internet is public and whatever you say can and will be misinterpreted, talked about, picked on, and dissected, and you personally will be harshly judged and criticized for it.
Anyway. The response I got shocked me; I was attacked on blogs and websites, I was attacked on Twitter, I was attacked in email. My words were mischaracterized to the point of being unrecognizable. I was made fun of and called names. A piece of advice I gave specifically to aspiring writers was taken as applying to readers and reader-reviewers, which especially shocked me since I’ve always been very vocally supportive (to the point where it’s cost me friendships) of the rights of readers to say whatever they like about whatever book(s) they read, and had tried in my post to make very clear that I wasn’t speaking about them and I certainly wasn’t saying anyone didn’t have the right to say whatever they wanted about a book.
Long story short (too late) I was stunned and hurt, and frankly, I’ve been stunned and hurt by the internet a few too many times in the last year or so; not by comments about my books but by comments about me personally. It’s frankly terrifying to find people you don’t know, who don’t know you, making fun of you on Twitter and inviting tons of other people who you also don’t know and who don’t know you to join in. It’s awful to get nasty comments and emails not about what you said or wrote, but about what they were told you said or wrote. It’s awful to ask a few innocent (you think) questions of someone, and find people calling you names and talking about what a huge bitch you are and how everyone hates you because of it. It’s not fun to make a general comment somewhere, something that would have passed without comment a year or two before, but for which you are suddenly accused of massive ego and arrogance. It’s upsetting. It’s painful. I’m just one person, one who fucks up on occasion, one who’s acted on impulse and later regretted it, one who’s made mistakes, one whose words can be misinterpreted no matter how clearly I and hundreds of others think they’re phrased. One who isn’t perfect just like none of us are perfect.
It just wasn’t worth it, to keep being attacked like that. It made me rethink a lot of things; it made me decide to take a step back, because I was tired of feeling like there was a big target on my back and people were just waiting for me to say something else they could pick on and attack me over (note: I doubt they actually were, but it felt that way). I was tired of being made to feel bad about myself, of seeing people discuss how I was a bitch, an asshole, an idiot, an unprofessional cunt with a terrible reputation (no one I actually work with or have ever worked with or who even knows anyone I work with or have worked with said this, by the way; I have to admit the source on that one made me roll my eyes). To be perfectly honest, I’ve had a difficult time writing anything this last year or so, and part of me wonders if that isn’t because subconsciously I’m tanking myself so I don’t have to go through all of that again.
But seeing all of the comments from people, from other women, this weekend about how much it meant to them to see another woman putting herself out there, being herself no matter what kinds of shit she got for it, about how that inspired them and gave them strength…that’s made me rethink things a bit.
Certainly I’m not a big star. I don’t have one-eighth the following or audience Amy Winehouse had. Not one-tenth of one-eighth. I’m pretty much nobody (which frankly makes the overblown responses to me doubly confusing; I see bigger sellers–bigger names with bigger followings–than me say all kinds of things that go basically unnoticed, it seems. I certainly see male writers saying whatever they like and not being slammed all over the internet for it). I still don’t understand why anyone really gives a shit what I have to say, why anyone needs to pass it on and gossip about it. If you disagree with me that’s fine, but why the attacks? Why not just shrug and go about your business? Why am I so important to you–why is anyone so important to you–that you need to make a huge issue out of it? I’m not Glenn Beck making disgusting comments comparing the murdered children in Norway to Hitler Youth and I’m not anyone with any real influence in policy-making or decision-making in any organization or industry; I’m just a writer talking about my experience(s), or asking a few questions, or making a comment about something, while freely admitting they may not be the same as the experiences of others, explaining the reasoning behind the questions, and acknowledging that others may have different opinions, and nothing I say is that big a deal.
But maybe I don’t have to be some sort of huge name to still make a difference. I started doing things like posting at Absolute Write’s Bewares forum (years ago now) because I wanted to help aspiring writers avoid some of the traps I’ve seen others fall into, and avoid the traps I myself fell into early in my career. I’ve tried to take a stand on certain issues, and step into certain issues, because I always figured, you know, I’d rather they attack me than someone else. If Puny Epublisher A is going to start making their ridiculous “blackball” threats, I’d rather they make them at me (to whom their threats mean absolutely nothing) than someone just starting out who doesn’t actually understand how ludicrous those threats are, or who might be genuinely hurt or scared. And I still feel that way, even after seeing those comments about me, even after seeing my name dragged through the mud by someone with a personal vendetta because I dared to ask a couple of questions. Yeah, I’ve gotten some nasty emails in the past year or so. I’ve also gotten hundreds of wonderful emails from readers who love my books, to whom my books mean something. I’ve gotten dozens of wonderful emails from other writers who I helped.
So here’s what this enormous long post is actually about, if anyone is still reading. I’m thinking I need to put my money back where my mouth is, and quit trying to protect myself. I’m thinking that if I expect or want my work to mean anything to anyone I need to put myself out there, and keep doing it; I need to be myself and keep making it mean something. I’m thinking that maybe if more of us do that we can build our own little world, we can create something strong and good, and we can bring a little more happiness and acceptance along with us. A little more understanding and forgiveness.
The thing is, I see this blog as a way to communicate with my readers–those who’ve read my books and came here to learn more about them, and maybe a bit more about me, if they want. I think my books, especially the Downside books, have a lot of me in them already, really; if you’ve read them you probably already know something about me, you probably already know me to some extent. I think if you like the books chances are you’ll like me; I think if you don’t like them chances are you probably won’t, and if you disapprove of them you probably disapprove of me, too.
But everything I write here is addressed to my readers, really. Maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it; maybe I should be worrying about those people who stumble across the blog and see something about me or the books for the first time. It probably is the wrong way to look at it, to assume that the people reading your blog are already familiar with your work. Certainly thinking of my blog as a place where I communicate with people who are already aware of my work has gotten me into trouble before.
So what do I owe those readers–what do I owe you, when it comes to the blog, and what do you want to see? What do you think the purpose of a writer’s blog is, and what do you expect from it?
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
I just realized that there’s less than a month to go until the (August 2nd) release of HOME IMPROVEMENT: UNDEAD EDITION, the latest Charlaine Harris/Toni L.P. Kelner-edited urban fantasy anthology, and the one featuring–ta da!–a brand new Downside story, called RICK THE BRAVE!
I’m very excited about the story (which is a little different, and hopefully you’ll all get as much of a kick out of reading it as I did writing it), and of course *very* excited about the anthology (already getting great reviews), which features much, much bigger-and-better-than-me writers like Charlaine and Toni, Patricia Briggs, Heather Graham, Melissa Marr…you know, people of whom readers in general have actually heard. I *may* go ahead and send a snippet of it out to the Downside Army later.
Speaking of which, there are over 500 members now! I know it’s not a patch on what other, way more successful writers have, but I’m proud of it. And I’m hoping to get some activity going on in there soon, as we gear up for the release of SACRIFICIAL MAGIC, among other things (she says mysteriously).
It’s a bit weird for me, though, the whole “street team” concept. We were discussing it on a forum I’m a member of the other day, and I thought, you know, it’s hard for me to ask or even suggest that the DA members do anything to promote the books; not to mention, what do I ask them to do? Granted, by signing up they indicated a willingness to do things, and granted, there’s no obligation to do things in order to be a member, but…I think especially given some of the issues that have been had online in the last few years with writers expecting readers to do things for them, it feels bizarre for me to ask for any sort of promo help or anything like that. But I’m trying to come up with something, because there are a few things coming along the pike that it would be great if word could be spread about (she says mysteriously again). So if anyone has any ideas, feel free to share. I have a few of my own, as well, so we’ll see.
Also…on a completely different subject…quite a few people yesterday saw my tweet mentioning that my father-in-law has died. I really, really appreciate the replies and the expressions of sympathy. It’s an odd situation, really, because without going into detail we’ve been estranged from the man for a few years now; my husband did get to speak to him back at Christmas, and we’d hoped the relationship could be rebuilt, but it wasn’t something the FIL was particularly interested in. He was often a difficult man to deal with, and a stubborn one, and he’d gotten involved with a person who would much prefer my husband and I not be around and did everything she could to make that happen. Sadly, it worked.
All of this is my roundabout way of saying we’d actually dealt with this loss several years ago, so while this is a shock, and a sad one, we’re okay. It’s another reminder, though, that life is short; too short to let petty differences get in the way of things. I know the hubs feels much better knowing that at Xmas he reached out and tried to mend things; it doesn’t make him feel less rejected, or less sad about how difficult their relationship always was, but it does mean he can take comfort in knowing that he was able to tell his dad he loved him that one last time, that he proved himself to be the bigger man by making the gesture.
So thanks to those of you who saw the tweet and said something, and to the few people who emailed me, and thanks to those of you who’ve read this little exercise in navel-gazing, but please don’t feel you need to leave a comment here or anything like that. Perhaps it’s presumptuous of me but I’m going to take your sympathy as a given (since you’re all such awesome people) and just issue a blanket thank-you, and don’t worry about commenting on it; not because I don’t care or don’t want to hear it but because I’d rather we discuss and think about more cheerful things, like new Downside stories and fun activities and being kind to people we love (and to those we don’t love, too, for that matter). How does that sound?
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
You guys know I think a lot of writing advice is total crap. And really, that’s because it is. “Kill your darlings?” My ass. Yes, if you have to, you have to, and I know what the line is supposed to actually mean, but it sounds like you’re supposed to machete your way through your book chopping up anything you think is especially good. Um, why, exactly, would I want to do that? Were I to have “killed [my] darlings,” there would certainly be no Abominable Snowpimp. Although maybe that’s a bad example, because I was actually worried that it was too funny for the tone of the rest of the book. But my agent and editor and everyone else loved it so much I left it. The point still remains: You have to cut things that need to be cut, but really, if the good lines stand out with that much contrast in your work, maybe your work just isn’t good enough in general. (Sure, I have a few lines etc. I’m more proud of than any others. Every writer does. But I’d like to think they aren’t so much better than the rest of my lines that the reader stumbles over them.)
Personally I think most of those rules are crappity-crap-crap. And I’m sick of them all being passed around like Moses brought them down from the mountain. The fact is, if you write well and have a strong, stylish, commercial voice you can get away with just about anything.
But here’s one I agree with; in fact, one I believe in strongly. And I feel that it’s sadly, sadly misunderstood by many, which is why I’m going to discuss it.
See, I think there’s a belief out there, especially amongst beginning writers, that “write what you know” means that if you’re a farmer you should write about farming, or if you’re an office manager you’re not going to be able to write about the life of a wizard.
That’s not what it means.
“Write what you know” means write what you know emotionally. It means write what you understand and feel. It means write from the inside.
Great stories are important, yes. Great writing–or at least good writing–is important, yes. But what involves readers, what really makes them understand, identify with, and care about your stories–your characters–is making sure your characters are three-dimensional, fully developed people, with feelings. Your characters have to have emotional lives, because your readers have emotional lives. Your characters have to let their emotions color how they see the world, because your readers’ emotions color how they see the world. And your characters’ feelings and emotions, and their emotional desires and needs, have to be real and important to them, because your readers have emotional desires and needs that are very important to them.
I think I mentioned in an interview once that what really struck me about the responses to the Downside books was the way readers seem to either violently identify with and understand Chess, or violently dislike and not understand Chess at all. And I find the differences in those people, and the comments of the few I’ve seen who dislike her, are pretty interesting (to me, at least), in that their outlook on the world and the way they present themselves is one I often don’t understand or care for, either. That’s not to say it’s wrong or they’re a bunch of assholes; it’s also not to say that the only reason someone might not like my books or characters is because they’ve never felt that kind of alienation/loneliness/insecurity/dislike of self-satisfied people/aversion to being “normal” or whatever else. But it is something I’ve noticed.
When I started writing UNHOLY GHOSTS one of my main goals was to write a heroine I could identify with and understand, because I hadn’t seen any out there, really. I mean yeah, of course I wanted to write the most kick-ass different type of UF I could, but the reason why I cared about the book and the reason why the characters in it mean so much to me is because I worked really hard on giving them the feelings and emotions and outlooks that matter to me, that are what I understand. I know those feelings, and I know that outlook on the world, and I believe that’s why they were able to come across as clearly and strongly as they apparently did; it’s why those books are, frankly, deeply personal to me.
In other words, I wrote what I know.
I’ve been asked before what sorts of things I can’t/couldn’t write and I’ve always said I can’t really write happy people. I mean, of course I can write people who have found some happiness, or who have fun sometimes; no one wants to read a book where all the MC does is sit around moping and contemplating suicide. I’ve been unfortunate enough in the past to know a few truly negative people, the kinds of people who when I finally got away from them I was an absolute mess because just being around them was like being trapped inside a life-sucking black cloud of misery. That’s not good, and that’s something we all have to be careful with; certainly I find myself editing out some rather depressing little rambles on occasion.
Everyone has emotions and feelings. Everyone has their own unique way of looking at the world. You have to dig deep inside yourself and really feel those emotions, really think about how they affect the way you look at things. That’s what you put into your characters, and that’s what makes them real. If you’re giving your characters emotions or reactions you don’t understand or simply haven’t really thought about, the reader will know it. It will feel false, because it will be false. And false work means nothing to anyone; lies don’t resonate in the mind or the soul.
No, you might not know what it’s like to walk on the moon. But if you think about it, you probably do know how you felt when you achieved something amazing, or saw something that filled you with awe and wonder–even if it was something as simple as telling someone you love them or seeing Lord of the Rings for the first time. Those are the feelings you know. Those are the feelings you use.
“Write what you know” isn’t about the outside stuff, the plot or setting. “Write what you know” doesn’t mean your character has to do the same job as you, live the same life as you, and look like you. What it does mean is that your character has to feel–and have feelings–like an actual living person. It means those characters have to behave and react the way real living people would, and do.
Does it mean your character has to be just like you? No. But it does mean that if your character isn’t like you, you’re going to have to figure out how you differ and how you’re the same, and adjust your feelings accordingly, because they still have to be strong and real.
“Write what you know” means write from the heart. It means don’t be afraid to expose what needs to be exposed. Don’t be afraid to share something truly important, something truly meaningful, with your readers. Writing and reading should be about sharing; it should be about a universal experience the writer and reader share. It should be about feeling something, no matter what that something is. And if you aren’t feeling it, neither will your readers; if you’re lying they’ll know it, and it will at first confuse and then turn them off. They didn’t pay good money for something that rings false to them, that feels like manipulation, that feels like the writer didn’t think they were important enough to really work for. They didn’t pay good money to be fobbed off with something fake.
Writing fiction is telling a story, yes. But writing characters is telling a truth, and it’s your truth; the truth you know. You have to tell it as strongly, as deeply, and as well as you possibly can.
What Stace had to say on Thursday, July 1st, 2010
No, really, hear me out here. This isn’t a “Twilight is great” or a “Twilight sucks” post. I’m not defending it, but I’m not raging against it either. I’ve just had a few thoughts abut it recently, and I thought they were interesting, and I thought my smart and wonderful blog readers might have some thoughts about my thoughts. So here we are.
I’ve read the Twilight books. Well, okay, I read the first three. The second, if memory serves, was the one I liked best out of those, but I simply could not force myself to get through the last one. I was dreadfully bored, so I skimmed it, and got the gist, and that was more than enough. And again, I didn’t hate them. I didn’t love them, by any stretch. I didn’t particularly like them. But I didn’t loathe them. I even thought–and it’s not an uncommon thought, I don’t think–that there were some good ideas buried in there, some really cool shit. And I admit as well that one scene in the first book, the one at the lake when Jacob tells Bella the legend of the vampires, was pretty nifty. I dug that scene.
But yes, I also see the problems. I see the essentially abusive relationship, the completely ridiculous parents, the ha-ha-semi-rape-is-okay bits, the oh-sure-it’s-totally-cool-for-adults-to-fall-in-love-with-infants bits, the female-sexual-desire-is-gross-and-must-be-suppressed bits, the creepy-religion-y stuff…you name it. I know it’s there.
Am I happy that teenage girls all over the world wish a man would stalk them, scare them, destroy their possessions in order to get them to obey, patronize them, treat them like morons? No. Of course not.
But here’s the thing. What exactly are the other relationship alternatives we as a society are offering teenage girls?
How many stories do we see about teen pregnancy rates going up? How many of the fathers of those babies stick around? How many women and girls do you know who’ve slept with a man who said he loved them or cared about them, and then dumped them shortly after they had sex? How many times does our society tell young women that for them to expect to be loved and taken care of by a man is ridiculous, a silly fairy-tale dream, and that they better get used to relying only on themselves because men won’t stick around? How many girls out there are led to believe that their only value is as a sex object? That being a sex object is the most important thing there is? How many of these girls have fathers in their homes? How many see men as people who drift in and out of your life, treating you sort of okay sometimes?
It’s not just about sex. I don’t mean to sound like I’m on some chastity crusade. But what I do think is that girls today are being raised to believe that they shouldn’t expect respect, love, responsibility, or anything else from men. That being cheated on is just the way it goes. That the only way to get and keep a boyfriend is to not mind when he treats you badly, to give him things, to not act like you really care that much, to place no expectations on him.
I realize I’m exaggerating a bit. I realize there are still plenty of decent people out there. I realize that things can be just as tough for teenage boys.
But my point is, our society seems to be moving further and further away from the idea that love is a valuable and good thing, that people belong together, that girls have the right to expect to be treated with respect and kindness, and that boys have the right to expect the same.
And that, my friends, is one reason I believe the Twilight books are so popular. Yes, Edward is a controlling jerk. But Edward isn’t embarrassed to care (he even says the L word!), and he doesn’t leave Bella at home alone while he goes out with his friends picking up girls. He doesn’t refer to her as his “bitch.” Once he admits he cares, he is committed. Twilight offers girls a view of a relationship that, if it’s not a great alternative, at least seems more secure than a casual hook-up. It’s a world where girls don’t have to be embarrassed to want a solid relationship, with a man who will care for and about them, and wants to make a serious commitment to them. It’s a world where, for all that the sexual attitudes in the book are troublesome to say the least, Bella’s sexuality and willingness to sexually perform is the least important aspect of the relationship.
And in this world it’s okay, even right, if the desire to love and be loved is the most important thing in your life. That desire isn’t pooh-poohed or put down in those books. It’s not treated as frivolity. It’s not spoken about or represented as if it’s a shameful thing to want to be loved or to be in love, and that any girl who thinks about relationships and romance instead of college and their investment portfolios are obviously ridiculous, irresponsible creatures.
Twilight offers a skewed view of relationship, yes. Twilight does not contain what I would say is a truly healthy relationship.
But Twilight is about a relationship, and Twilight takes that relationship seriously and treats it as an important thing, a worthwhile thing, a thing of respect. Something fulfilling. Twilight doesn’t put down young girls for wanting a boyfriend, or for wanting that more than anything else. It doesn’t make them feel as if they’re not good enough if they don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, or aren’t spending their every waking minute working hard and collecting references for college applications.
I don’t think this is the only reason; it’s just the only one I can fathom, to be honest. And I’m not saying any of this is a good thing, or that I approve. And I’m not saying Twilight doesn’t deserve the criticism it’s gotten; it absolutely does.
But I also think that in relentlessly attacking Twilight, we’re once again attacking these girls, too. We’re telling them, once again, that they’re stupid and silly for believing in love and for wanting it. They’re ridiculous for wanting a man to truly love them and to see something special in them. We’re telling them that the desires of their heart and soul are unimportant, and foolish, and that if they aren’t focusing their entire selves on future earning power and getting ahead they’re wasting everyone’s time.
And to be honest, I don’t know which of those messages is worse.
What Stace had to say on Friday, January 15th, 2010
First, let me just say that when I asked on Monday about keeping to my schedule, this was what I meant. I’d fallen into a bit of a trap with the blog, where I’d come up with a good idea for a post but hold on to it because it wasn’t a “blog day,” and by the time Monday/Thursday rolled around I would have either forgotten it or it felt outdated; the immediacy simply wasn’t there anymore. So I probably won’t be on a set schedule anymore but am still planing to blog minimum 2x a week, unless something happens or I’m buried in work (in which case I will let you know).
One of my new projects is really starting to come together in my head, too, at least to some degree. I’m considering starting to post metrics for it, simply because I did enjoy posting them back when I was writing UNHOLY GHOSTS.
Anyway. I got an interesting email the other night, and it sparked some interesting thoughts/discussions, so I thought I would share it with you and see what you think.
I’m not going to quote the email directly here, but it was from a lady who owns a small online jewelry store. She asked if I would be willing to accept a piece of her jewelry–for free–in exchange for blogging about it; positive or negative, it didn’t matter. Just mention the store.
I checked out the site, and some of the stuff was really nice. Stuff I would actually wear. I have very specific tastes in jewelry–ask anyone who’s ever tried to buy me any–so it’s not always easy for me to find things that appeal. I don’t wear gold, ever. I don’t like anything heart-shaped or with hearts on it. Not too sparkly. Not a fan of colored stones unless they’re onyx or black pearls (I do love black pearls). I like chunky things. I like dull silver better than shiny. And of course it just has to feel and look “right.” I’m not saying my tastes are so, so, so unique, just that as with everything else they are specific. But yeah, I liked some of the stuff on the site.
Here’s the thing, though. My initial response was, of course, suspicion. The email wasn’t particularly personal; no mention of how she’d been reading my blog for a while or had read any of my work or anything like that. The first thing I did was click Show Details so I could see if this was a mass email. It didn’t appear to be, but of course it could have been BCCd to a thousand people for all I know. I hopped on Twitter to see if anyone else had received a similar email. No. I checked out the site (obviously).
My other initial response, of course, was that while I guess it was a bit flattering, I couldn’t do it. Of course not. I’m not a reviewer. My blog doesn’t exist to inform consumers and it’s not one of those blogs that runs solely on the strength of my fascinating personality, like some famous blogs (I don’t really read any of those, but I know there are a few bloggers who are basically just famous for blogging). I’m a writer, not a shill.
It felt like it would be unethical for me to do this. And I still feel like it would be the wrong thing to do.
But here’s the thing. Right on the heels of that came, “But why?”
Why is it unethical? Why is it wrong for me to get something free in exchange for my honest opinion on it? That’s what review sites do; hell, as I mentioned the other day I know Del Rey has sent out some ARCs for UNHOLY GHOSTS and I’ve already gotten a look at two of the reviews written from those ARCs (both very positive, thank goodness!)
I mean, I talk about things here. I’ve talked about Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and shoes, and clothes, and make-up items, and movies and of course books. I’ve recommended things and recommended you stay away from things.
So why is this different?
Actors or singers or TV personalities or whatever get free stuff all the time, in return for endorsement. Not that I’m equating myself with them in any way, I’m just saying. Heck, doctors get free samples of things in hope they’ll recommend them to their patients. I’m sure, in fact, that there are thousands of other situations where people, everyday people, get offered free things in hopes they’ll recommend those things to others; kind of like a free sample of a new fabric softener you’d get in the mail.
For that matter, I put brand name items in my books. I drink Coke, so my characters drink Coke; I wouldn’t turn down free Coke if, say, the Coca-Cola company read my books and wanted to say thanks or whatever. (I also have a character who drives a superbadass ’69 Chevelle, the uberfast 427. So, um, Chevy, if you happen to be reading this…) But seriously, I do use products and those products sometimes appear in my work, and of course I don’t do it for compensation or anything–it’s versimilitude, or to avoid awkwardness, or whatever–I wouldn’t grumble if the people at Coca-Cola decided to thank me for that, either monetarily or in free products or anything like that. I’m not looking for it, of course, and it’s not why I include the mentions, I’m just saying that while that too might feel a little weird it wouldn’t freak me out.
But this… I don’t know. Am I crazy for thinking this feels different, is different? Am I crazy for thinking I’m not going to do it? Is this some weird ethical hang-up nobody has but me?
What do you guys think?