Archive for 'i am serious'
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
Guys…what the fuck is going on?
Seriously. What the fuck is going on here?
I honestly don’t even know where to begin, or what to say. I find myself growing more and more disturbed by things I’m seeing lately, on an almost daily basis. Like, to the point where I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps writers and readers simply should not interact with each other at all. Like, to the point where I’m considering withdrawing from the online world more than I already have (which, I’m sure none of you have noticed because you have full and busy lives, but is a bit).
It seems like almost every day we have yet another bag-of-douche acting like a fucking…I don’t even know what a good analogy is. Like a fucking vindictive shithead, vomiting their poo all over the internet and delighting in making other people feel bad. They claim this is justified, that they are Taking A Stand.
Guys…at the risk of Godwinning, reviewers are not Hitler. They’re not Mussolini. They’re not Pol Pot. I’m not aware of a single reviewer who has actually, say, kidnapped an author and tortured them in the basement, no matter how offensive they may have found that particular author’s book. I’m not aware of a single reviewer who has committed mass human rights offenses, or has engaged in some sort of cover-up, or has stolen money from people, or whatever other actions that might constitute, you know, actual activities a serious and definite stand should be taken against. For that matter, I’m not aware of a single book that has bombed spectacularly because some people got upset about it on Goodreads. The books that (appear to have) started this whole mess? Hardly failures.
I’ve been hanging around the online reading/writing community for seven years now (“Lane, I’ve been going to this school for seven years now. I’m no dummy.”). In that time I’ve seen quite a few authors behaving abominably. I’m only aware of one whose behavior was execrable AND whose books were not successful, but in that case, actually, I think the lack of sales has more to do with the fact that her books were utter shit (and even then, there were several poor misguided souls out there who liked them. Which is their right. I just personally thought the books were garbage).
So let’s get this straight, and let’s say it in boldface so there is no mistaking it:
You are not Taking A Brave Stand when you “out” people on the internet, no matter how rude or nasty you may think that person has been. You are not Exposing Their Crimes At Great Risk To Yourself. You are not a Miraculous Crusader For The Rights Of Others. You are not Karen Silkwood. You’re not even Woodward & Bernstein. You’re just an asshole with no perspective, to be honest.
And you should be fucking ashamed of yourself.
I’m ashamed of you. I’m ashamed to share internet space with you. You make me sick to my stomach.
Ever hear the phrase “Two wrongs don’t make a right?” Why don’t you think for a minute about what that means? Even IF–for the sake of argument–even IF we take your thesis as a given: That there is a segment of people online who secretly hate certain authors and delight in ripping them to shreds, and who get off on the sense of power they get from insulting and hurting and misrepresenting authors who they know can’t fight back, and who honestly believe they have the power to hurt the careers of those authors…
Even if we take that at face value…
How exactly is outing those reviewers on the internet HELPING anyone? How are you making yourself look like anything but a miserable, bullying piece of shit? How are you doing anything but making the tension in reader-writer relations–a tension with which I admit to being increasingly uncomfortable with every new kerfuffle–WORSE?
And you’re a fucking hypocrite. Outing people from behind the veil of anonymity. Yelling at people for daring to express opinions while behaving as if every word you type is precious and golden. Deciding it’s your place to attack people you deem “bullies.” (By the way, I’m also not talking about the difference between bullying and what you seem to think is bullying, and how offensive that is, and how I’m tired of seeing people hide behind the buzzword-of-the-day to justify their own complete lack of human decency.)
Honestly, I’m not just angry and sick about this. I am both of those things, intensely. I’m furious. I’m horrified.
But I’m also disheartened. I’m so tired of it all, you guys. I’m just so fucking tired of it all.
You know what? I’ve been on the receiving end of internet rage. I’ve had things I said misrepresented. I’ve gotten hate email–more than once. I’ve found people saying the most vile and hurtful things about me, lying about me. It wasn’t nice. It wasn’t fun. It didn’t feel good. It still doesn’t. I’ve seen it happen to others, too. And I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
I’m sick of the goddamn internet feeding frenzy. I’m sick of feeling like we’re all trapped on the island from LORD OF THE FLIES.
But you know what? If it’s anyone’s responsibility to put a stop to that shit, it’s MINE. I am the product creator. I am the merchant. I am the content originator. In other words, I am the one with the responsibility to guard my public image, to guard my art, to guard my integrity, and to watch how I represent myself. You could even say–and hell, for the sake of argument I will, even though it sounds egotistical and I really don’t think of it this way–that I have a responsibility to set an example.
I cannot control the behavior of others. I CAN control my own behavior.
Here’s the thing. Have I seen situations where I feel statements or actions of writers have been taken out of context, or overreacted over? You bet your ass I have. Has it upset me? Hell, yes, it has. Has it happened to me, where something said in one spirit was taken in a completely different one? Regular readers know it has (and I won’t even discuss in this post the sexism of that situation, or of this one, though I may do that soon. Suffice to say at the moment that I’m sick and tired of the attempts made to keep women and their opinions in line while no such offense is taken when men say the same things, or of women being yelled at for their “tone” and “attitude” whereas no one does the same at men. Ever visited a heavily male site like Aintitcool? Why don’t you go take a look at the vitriol there, and say something about it? Oh, I know. Because you’re too busy being an asshole about women who dared to step off the very narrow path of behavior you deem appropriate).
But here’s the other thing.
If writers never went crazy and unloaded on readers, if they never did things like try to out them or get their little friends to vote down their reviews or report them to try to get them deleted…if writers never sent nasty emails to reviewers or threatened to name AIDS-infected prostitutes after them (because that is so totally hilarious, yo) or tried to get them banned from websites…if writers never sent emails out to their cronies asking them to write positive reviews of their books or leave comments on less-than-positive reviews on retail sites or blogs…if writers never took to the internet to bitch and moan about those stupid readers who dared to not like their books and what morons they are and how they don’t deserve to live…in other words, if the idea of a writer cheating, gaming the system, and generally acting like an entitled little shit had never occurred to anyone? If all writers behaved with integrity? If no writer had ever behaved as though readers are nothing more than their personal publicity service with some kind of duty to help them promote their work? If no writer had ever behaved as if readers have no right to express an opinion?
Well, gee…if no writers had ever behaved like that, do you think readers would be so anxious? Do you think they would interpret any sort of comment by a writer on or about a review (and keep in mind I disapprove of writers commenting on reviews at all, this is just a general question) as an attack or attempt to intimidate? Do you think all this shit would have started in the first place?
Because I kind of don’t.
The fact is, the burden is on us. No, I didn’t start writing with the intent of being a Public Figure. Yes, I do find it upsetting that writers have to be so careful what we say, not just about reviews but about anything and everything else. But hey, that’s part of the job. And it’s easy to forget that it’s not just writers. It’s not an outgrowth of “celebrity.” It’s an outgrowth of having your thoughts and opinions exposed to a large group of people. Sooner or later somebody’s going to take offense. If you say something to enough people that will happen. That’s just the way it goes. I find it upsetting no matter who it happens to; I wish and wish that we could all remember those people on the other “side” of the computer screen are people, with thoughts and feelings. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe they’re lonely or sad. Maybe they’re just not thinking about everything they say with the gravity Lincoln afforded the Gettysburg Address. People make mistakes. People mess up. People forget their audience, or fail to phrase something exactly, or whatever else. I hate that people are so eager to leap onto others like a pack of wild dogs. I hate that we seem to think the internet means it’s okay to say anything to anyone, about anyone, with no consequences. But you know what? People get carried away, too.
It’s easy to look at the current climate and talk about how ugly it is. And it is. Not all of it, but a segment of it. I know I’m not the only one growing increasingly disgusted by it, increasingly uncomfortable with it, increasingly angry and upset. I know I’m not the only one who’s been seriously reconsidering my participation online. I know I’m not the only one who finds the tendency toward outright glee when someone makes a mistake, the way everyone jumps in to laugh and point, to be highly disturbing.
But the answer is not to jump in and out-disgusting the people you feel are disgusting. The answer is not to forget your responsibilities to other people. The answer is not to create a website so full of vile slime and attacks, a website that deliberately tries to disrupt lives and could potentially incite violence–a website that outs mothers with children in their homes and encourages people to harass them (think about that again for a second: MOTHERS WITH CHILDREN IN THEIR HOMES)–that it turns the stomach and then pat yourself on your smug fucking back like you’ve just Scored One For The Good Guys.
YOU ARE NOT A GOOD GUY.
You are, in fact, the opposite of that.
I’m sorry this is so disjointed, and confused. I’m sorry it doesn’t make my point as clearly as I would like. I’m just too sick and sad and angry and upset and whatever else over this. It is horrifying. HORRIFYING.
I may well discuss this more later.
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.
Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Thursday, September 8th, 2011
Some of you may already have heard of the ENTANGLED anthology; eleven short stories (well, ten shorts and a novella) by Allison Brennan, Misty Evans, Jennifer Estep, Edie Ramer, Nancy Haddock, Dale Mayer, Cynthia Eden, Michelle Miles, Lori Brighton, Liz Kreger, and Michelle Diener, with all profits going to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Oh, and a Foreword by, well, me.
Here’s a little Q&A Misty Evans sent me:
Q: Tell us about Entangled.
A: Entangled includes ten suspense-filled paranormal stories from authors Lori Brighton, Michelle Diener, Cynthia Eden, Jennifer Estep, Misty Evans, Nancy Haddock, Liz Kreger, Dale Mayer, Michelle Miles, and Edie Ramer, plus a brand new Seven Deadly Sins novella by Allison Brennan. Stacia Kane contributed the foreword and the book’s formatting and cover art were also donated to the project by Lori Devoti and Laura Morrigan. All proceeds from the sale of Entangled will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).
Q: Are the stories connected?
A: The anthology has a Halloween theme, so the stories all have Halloween elements in them.
Q: Are they all one genre?
A: All the stories paranormal, but some are heavier on suspense, while others have more romance. We even have a young adult story by Jennifer Estep that’s related to her Mythos Academy series.
Q: How did you all come up with the decision to do this book? Who initiated it and how did you all get together?
A: Edie Ramer and Misty Evans wanted to do a collaboration together, and over three or four emails earlier this year, they decided to do a paranormal anthology of short stories and have the proceeds go to breast cancer. They invited authors whose books they read and enjoyed and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
Q: Tell us more about the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
A: BCRF-funded research has helped save lives and improved the quality of care and rate of survival for tens of thousands of breast cancer patients in the past decade. Their research has revealed that the “cure” is a mosaic made up of as many approaches to diagnosing, treating, preventing and surviving as there are different types of breast cancer. The anthology is also a mosaic made up of many stories donated for this worthwhile cause.
Q: Is there a time limit on purchasing Entangled so the proceeds go to the BCRF?
A: Entangled will available for at least a year and all proceeds will go to BCRF, no matter when it’s purchased. After a year, if it’s still selling well, we’ll keep it available, and again, all proceeds will go to BCRF.
Q: How much will the ebook cost?
A: Entangled will be discounted to $2.99 during September and October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. After that the price will go up to $3.99. For stories of this caliber, it’s a fantastic deal at either price.
Q: Can people donate to the cause even if they can’t or don’t want to purchase Entangled?
A: Absolutely. Go to http://www.bcrfcure.org to make a donation in your name, or in the name of someone you know who’s been touched by breast cancer.
The book’s Goodreads page is here, with buylinks etc., and in addition to the other reviews there’s a nice thorough one here at Coffee Table Reviews.
I’ve never written a Foreword before, and it was a huge honor for me to be invited to do so, especially for such an important cause. So I really, really hope you guys all decide to buy the book!
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 Monday, July 25th, 2011
Amy Winehouse died.
I’m sure you all know that. I’m sure this is only one of thousands of posts about her and her death that will be posted today, that have already been posted. But I want to say something about it; I need to say something about it, so I’m going to.
Amy’s music wasn’t the type I normally listen to, but I honestly loved Back to Black. I loved the sixties-esque, bluesy feel of it. I thought her lyrics were stunning and gritty and dark and beautiful, and her voice incredible. And today–all weekend–I’ve watched other people–other women–talk about those lyrics especially, how it felt to them like Amy really opened herself up, really exposed something of herself and how much that mattered to them, and why it mattered to them. They talk about dark times in their lives when those lyrics and that music helped them and spoke to them and made them feel not so alone. They talk about what a tragedy this is, how much they wanted another album, how deeply they identified with the troubled soul laid bare for them in song.
I’m also seeing other people–mostly men; some women, yes, but more men–talk about how they’re not surprised, how Amy deserved to die, how she was a junkie slag, how we’re all stupid if we didn’t expect this and stupid for caring to begin with. Oh, and of course there’s a healthy dose of “Kids died in Norway so how dare you people care about this when something actually important has just happened,” as if people can’t care about both, or as if no one is allowed to mourn the loss of someone who touched their lives because another tragedy with a bigger body count has taken place elsewhere. Like if your grandparent died on 9/11 you shouldn’t have cared or something. Along with that comes quite a bit of “Those kids in Norway didn’t deserve to die and Amy did” or “those kids in Norway had futures and Amy pissed hers away.”
(This post isn’t about the tragedy in Norway, and for the record I am horrified and saddened and deeply troubled by it.)
I find a number of things troubling here, and am kind of struggling to articulate all of my thoughts and feelings on it. I’m troubled at the loss of someone with talent. I’m troubled at the loss of someone who was clearly in a lot of pain. I’m troubled by the callousness of so many of the responses (just, as it must be said, I am by the callous responses many people make anytime any kind of death is reported in the news).
I find myself thinking back to when Kurt Cobain died. I personally never cared for Kurt Cobain or his music; in fact I strongly disliked both. But I remember well the way his addiction was handled in the press, and I remember that the response to it was one of sadness and concern, the response to his death one of shock and mourning. I remember how the public discourse seemed so much to be about worry and support. And now I remember the response to Amy’s addiction was scorn and disgust, and the response to her death–not everywhere, it must be said–seems to be more of the same, with a healthy dollop of “she deserved it.” I don’t remember people calling Cobain an ugly whore because of his addictions, or discussing how if he touched them they’d want to bathe with bleach, or wondering why anyone in their right minds would want to be anywhere near him. I don’t recall, when River Phoenix died, people saying he deserved it. So why the vitriol against Amy Winehouse? Is it easier to dismiss and shame her because Ladies Don’t Do Such Things? Why is it okay for talented men to be fucked up, but talented women aren’t allowed? Why are men with addiction problems forgiven and hoped for, but women are condemned?
For every person discussing what a vile person Charlie Sheen is and has become, there are many willing to pay huge amounts of money to see him ramble. And that’s now, after the shit around him finally reached an un-ignorable level. Let’s not forget that Charlie’s had addiction issues for years; let’s not forget how many women have accused him of domestic violence. How much shit did we hear about him when those incidents happened? It was a quick news story that then disappeared, and when his name came up we didn’t hear much about it. If it was mentioned it was in a cheery “Those problems were totally overblown and are behind him now” sort of way. He was called a “partier” and a “lothario.” Now how many times in the last couple of years did you see an article about Amy that didn’t focus on her addiction problems or mention the violence in her relationship with her husband in a snide and condescending manner? How many comments to those articles didn’t focus–in Charlie’s case–on how much the commenter hoped his troubles really were behind him, and how many of the comments in Amy’s case weren’t about how ugly and skanky she was? How many times was Amy’s behavior chuckled about as if it was just normal and fine, how many times was she fondly called a “party girl?”
Googling things like “Amy Winhouse slut,” “Amy Winehouse slag,” and “Amy Winehouse disgusting” brings up millions and millions of hits all about–yes–how Amy was a slut, a slag, and disgusting. “Amy Winehouse disgusting” brought up over nine million hits, largely Facebook groups, blogs, videos, websites, whatever, devoted to how disgusting Amy is. “Charlie Sheen disgusting” brings up two million, and even on the first page you can see the difference; they’re calling his behavior disgusting, not him, or they’re quoting Denise Richards. I realize doing a few Google searches is hardly a scientific study, but I do think it’s telling.
Sure, there’s a difference. Charlie’s fame didn’t come from singing about/talking about drugs and alcohol. I know that, and I know that’s part of the response I’ll get about this post. I guess the implication there is that–my old favorite–Amy shouldn’t have mentioned it if she didn’t want to be judged, and Amy asked for it when she sang about things that had meaning for her. Of course that can’t really be argued with; every artist knows that creating art for public consumption means opening oneself up to public criticism. That’s the name of the game, and of course everyone has a right to their own reactions to things and to express those reactions. My comments or concerns aren’t about that so much as the fact that we seem to be much gentler and more forgiving when it’s a man whose problems we’re discussing rather than a woman. (It’s not just publicly either; when I asked about this online I had a girl who’d entered AA at a young age remark on how different were the reactions she got from the reactions the men she knew in recovery got. They were tortured and cool; she was a dirty slut.)
(We can say the same thing about Britney Spears, actually, a young woman who had a public breakdown while we all watched. When Britney was a sexy virgin everyone loved her; the minute she gained a few pounds and showed evidence of stress people started stoning her in the public square. Part of this is simply the way of the world these days. As I said Friday, it feels like our culture has devolved to the point where other people aren’t seen or treated as human anymore, but merely artificial constructs created for our entertainment, and we delight in going online to say whatever clever little cruelty we’ve invented in our vicious little heads, then sitting back smiling at our own pithy disregard for other people’s feelings. After all, we’re perfect, aren’t we, so obviously anyone dealing with problems we don’t ourselves deal with or not living their lives the exact same way we do are inferior in some way, and thus deserving of our scorn. I digress.)
This is getting very long, so I’m going to hold off on the second part and post it tomorrow. It’s about my own feelings about blogging and putting things out there, and all of that. So for now…that’s all.
What Stace had to say on Thursday, July 15th, 2010
On Tuesday we discussed whether or not writing was art, and how much of ourselves writers should put into their work. And it kind of struck me, as the discussion ran along similar lines at Romance Divas, as I was writing the post, and as I was preparing this one, that if we’re going to accept books as art and writers as artists…are writers the only artists who are regularly expected to completely distance themselves from their art? To act as if it has nothing to do with them?
I think this perhaps happens a bit more in genre fiction. I do believe there’s a sense that literary fiction is more artistic, that it’s deeper and more expressive or whatever. I think literary fiction writers are allowed to “get away with” stuff genre fiction writers could never even attempt.
But why is that? Is it because we think genre fiction is easier to write? Anyone who’s tried to write it can tell you it’s not. Is it because we think since the stories have certain general tropes that they’re not as original, or again, that they’re easy to write? Maybe. Maybe there is a sense out there that genre fiction isn’t art because we’re just putting a bunch of elements together in the same way as everyone else does, and that it doesn’t require any real depth from the writer. Which, as we discussed a bit on Tuesday, I think is frankly bullshit. In order to create a fully fleshed-out character you have to do some digging. In order to create a real and complex world you need to do that. If you want to make your story mean anything to readers, elicit any emotion in readers, you need to elicit that emotion in yourself, which means digging deep and–again–being honest. You can’t hide or lie to readers in your work.
But I do think there’s a weird kind of pressure on genre fiction writers to not let on that they see themselves or think of themselves as artists. There’s a definite pressure to act like their art means nothing to them, like it’s an entity completely separate from them.
Think of it this way. If a painter has a gallery show, and a critic ravages his work, does anyone frown and kick up a fuss if the artist gets upset about it? Does anyone remind him that reviews don’t exist to make him feel better, but to inform art lovers whether or not his work is worth their time? Not as far as I know. People expect the artist to be upset about terrible reviews. They expect him to be temperamental; hell, we all know what the phrase “artistic temperament” means, don’t we?
Now, I am NOT, absolutely NOT, implying in any way that reviewers don’t have the right to say whatever they want about books, or that reviews aren’t for readers and not writers–they absolutely are–or that writers should be allowed to freak out all over the internet and threaten people or name crack whore characters after people who gave them bad reviews or whatever. No, no, no, I’m not saying that at all, not one bit; you all know how I feel about that. This post isn’t about reviewers or reviews, except insomuch as they can be another example of what I feel is the expectation that genre fiction writers not consider themselves artists, not think or talk about themselves as artists, and not act as though their art is important to them. Like caring about your work has become synonymous somehow with freak-out rants and threats, instead of just…caring about your work. I’m not implying in any way that this sort of pressure comes solely from reviewers or readers, either; it comes from other writers just as much if not more.
Let’s take the “book as baby” cliche. Now, I am 100% in favor of the “Your book is NOT your baby,” reply to that one. I’ve had two babies. I’ve written over a dozen novels. I can tell you they’re entirely different.
And yes, you should be able to distance yourself from your work to some extent. Your work isn’t you. People are going to have differing opinions about your work; some may love it, some may hate it. Just like some people like you and some people hate you, and we try to learn from an early age that a lot of peoples’ opinions just don’t matter, that the only people whose opinions we should care about are our families and close friends, our bosses, whatever. You know what I mean.
But at the same time, as we discussed a bit on Tuesday, when you write you do put a lot of yourself into the work. And a lot of people will decide from that work that they can judge or define you as a person; that they somehow know you because they’ve read your books. And as I said, maybe they do. I don’t know what people think of me after reading my books, or what sort of person they think I am, or what clues to that they’ve found in my work. And this sort of judgment has always taken place, and still takes place, everywhere from the largest newspaper in the country to the smallest review blog. People always want to analyze the writer through his or her work, and they always want to analyze the work by connecting it to what they know of the writer. That’s normal; it’s just the way it goes. But again, that seems to be the case for literary fiction and not genre fiction.
I don’t believe genre fiction is any less artistic than literary fiction. I don’t believe genre fiction writers put any less of themselves into their work or expose themselves any less, at least not good genre fiction writers. I’m tired of fantasy or science fiction or romance being treated like they’re not “real” books. But I also wonder, at what point does that become, not a self-fulfilling prophecy, but one which we ourselves contribute to?
See, every time we as genre fiction writers huff indignantly that our work isn’t that special to us, that it’s not our baby, that it’s not ourselves, maybe we contribute to the idea that genre fiction isn’t art and shouldn’t be treated/considered as such. Maybe we contribute to the idea that we haven’t put anything of ourselves into the work, that we haven’t actually written anything of depth or truth.
It comes into the “professionalism” argument as well. We’re all so worried about being professional, about being easy to work with and seeing our work as a commodity and ourselves as commodities and all of that…have we become so focused on publishing as a business that we’ve forgotten about the magic of it? About the art? Have we tried so hard to be seen as professionals, not as silly women writing silly things or whatever, that we’ve stripped away some of the joy, and turned art into drudgery? We don’t want to say our work matters to us because that’s not a professional attitude; but you tell me in what other profession people are expected not to care about their work? Why can’t we be professional and still deeply invested in what we do?
It seems sometimes as if that attitude, the “Oh, my work is just what I do for a living, it doesn’t really mean that much to me, I’m totally cool, yo,” attitude, is expected of us. And I’m not sure why. Is it because we do see the occasional stunning online meltdown, with ranting and name-calling and “Wicca curses” and the ever-popular “I’d like to see you write a book, mean girl!” and we all want to distance ourselves from that as much as possible? Maybe. Is it because in some ways genre fiction feels more like a popularity contest than literary fiction, by which I mean we’re expected to network with our readers and interact with them; we’re expected to be accessible and friendly and open, in a way I don’t think litfic writers are? (I could be totally wrong about that, it’s just the impression I get and something I’ve noticed). Litfic writers get on Oprah; genre fiction writers get on Twitter.
I love interacting with readers, I honestly do. I don’t mind the expectation that I promote and Tweet and blog and all of that other stuff, because I enjoy doing all of that. But again, I wonder if the desire to be liked by readers, the desire to be popular, to not offend them, to make them want to support us, has made us deny our art? Has made us put it down or act like it’s nothing special or important in order to seem like just one of the gals, as it were? If we say our work is important, or imply that we’ve done something special that only we can do (by which I mean expressing our own individual truth and telling our own individual story, not writing in general; certainly neither I nor any of my friends are the only people who can write) then we’re not implying to our readers that we think we’re better than them. We’re equalizing with them. We’re being careful not to let a hint of ego or arrogance leak into the air around us, because if they think we’re an asshole they might not buy our books. Hell, even just talking about what our goals were or what we hoped to accomplish with our books can be seen as pretentious or entitled or whatever else.
And I do think that’s part of it as well. Sometimes it feels as thought the denial of genre fiction as art is really writers being told to get the hell over themselves, they only wrote a fantasy novel, you know?
I admit part of that is true. As proud as I am of the Downside books and as much of myself as I put into them, I don’t think they’re WAR AND PEACE. I know they’re not.
But they are art. They are my art. They are an expression of something deep inside me and the way I see the world. That’s what art is; the expression of something to elicit an emotional reaction, remember?
I’m happy to distance myself from that art when necessary; I don’t show up screaming on review blogs if someone didn’t love my work. I don’t reply to Amazon reviews or whatever. That’s not my place. I will freely admit that my books are not my babies, and I will let them go, and let people interpret them as they may. All of that is fine, and expected, and right.
But what I will not do any longer is pretend that my books aren’t part of me, and that they don’t matter, and that they aren’t art. Because they are.
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
This is something I’ve been thinking of for a while, and have wanted to post about for a while, too. It’s probably the first post of a few, and I warn you, I may ramble a bit.
A few weeks ago over on the Romance Divas forum a discussion was started about honesty in your writing, and what that means. It moved on into discussions of art and connection to your work as art, which I’m also going to discuss. So basically we’re going to have a big mishmash of Stacia’s Deep Thoughts about writing, which will hopefully be fun for everyone, but of course we’ll see, won’t we?
Anyway. The initial question, posted by the lovely and talented Kate Pearce, was whether or not we, as writers, compromise ourselves–change what we want to write–in order to sell the work or make it “acceptable” to a particular audience; do we stop ourselves from writing things readers might react badly to. Keeping in mind we’re discussing genre fiction, and genre fiction has certain conventions and reader expectations. All of which are, of course, perfectly fine; readers are entitled to expect the book they pick up will be what the cover and bookstore shelving or whatever promises them it will be.
But at what point do we stop writing what we want to write in order to be successful? At what point do we suffer for refusing to do so?
The thing is, your writing should excite you. Not ‘excite” as discussed in the Strumpet series, lol (although sometimes it should, depending on what you’re writing), but excite as in fire you up intellectually and creatively. I firmly believe that if what you’re writing doesn’t do that, the reader will sense it. The writing will be flat. The story will seem cliche. And frankly, a flat, cliche story stands very little chance of selling (yes, there are exceptions, but in general, and especially when it comes to first-time authors or those just beginning careers). This post isn’t about writing techniques, though. It’s about the deeper aspects of writing, the emotional stuff, the stuff we couch in skill.
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What Stace had to say on Thursday, June 24th, 2010
Yesterday on Twitter–I guess for the last couple of days–there’s been a discussion going on regarding agents, and how they’re paid, and how that affects their work. And then it morphed or branched off into a discussion about advances and whether or not writers would accept a no-advance model, and the end result seems to be another one of those discussions where everyone sits around like mummers at a Victorian funeral and tells us The Publishing Sky Is Falling, and it’s The End Of Publishing As We Know It, etc. etc. etc.
And you know, I understand that to an extent. It’s scary. The economy is scary. Hell, everything is scary right now; our ocean is filling with oil and all anybody with the power to do something seems interested in doing is pointing fingers and sitting around talking and whatever. There have been earthquakes and tornados and volcanos and shit all over the world. Am I terrified that the world is ending? Honestly? Kinda, yeah. But then, I’m a bit of a pessimist when it comes to this sort of thing; I’m the only person I know who is terrified of outer space and doesn’t even like seeing pictures of it because it reminds me that the earth is this one small rock floating in nothingness and something could go wrong at any second and we could start plummeting, but there’s nothing to land on so we would just keep plummeting through the darkness forever. That’s not a pleasant thought.
It probably won’t happen, either. But I wonder if I start insisting often enough that it will, and get a bunch of people to also start talking about it and how the earth’s field of gravity is thinning, people will start to believe it.
Because it seems to me that everyone is talking about the demise of publishing, but there’s actually no real evidence that it’s dying. Everyone is claiming that ebooks will be the death of publishing, but I honestly don’t understand that at all; how is providing books in another format for people who like that format killing publishing? (Aside from the issue of piracy, which don’t even get me started on.) Aren’t we hearing about people buying more books now that they’re started reading ebooks?
I know a lot of it is just to get website hits, or because people have a specific axe to grind. And you know, none of us are without bias. I certainly don’t want to see publishing die, because it’s how I make my living. I don’t want to see us all switch to self-publishing, for reasons I’ve stated many times before but will recap quickly:
1. Ease of finding something worth reading (low when trying to go through thousands & thousands of self-published books with no quality control or vetting process)
2. Ease of publishing (sure, right now you can go to Lulu and set up a book for free; it’s what Jim Macdonald did for me with the Strumpet book. But do you really think if publishing fails, and self-publishing becomes the norm, those companies won’t start charging, or charging more?)
To be perfectly honest, my feeling is and has always been that if publishing “dies,” and everyone is self-publishing, you’ll soon have people offering to vet books for other people. You’ll have someone who realizes they can make some money by taking the best books out there and printing them for a cut of the money, and setting up some sort of nationwide distribution, and…lookie there, you’ve just reinvented a publishing house.
When people want a book to read, they want a book to read. They do not want to spend hours hunting around for something readable. (Don’t believe it will take hours, or be difficult? Here’s a site where people can post shirt stories for free, called Bibliofaction. It’s a nice site; it’s a fun idea. And I don’t link to it to pick on or put down any of the stories posted there; I link to it to show you how much there is on just that one site, and what a variety of quality there is too.)
Now I’m veering off into my big self-publishing rant again, and I’ve already covered that, so I don’t want to do it again. What I do want to say is that yes, times are a bit hard right now. Yes, I’m seeing good writers whose series don’t get to go on because sales that would have been good enough three years ago aren’t anymore, or if they do get contracted for more books their advances are lower. It’s awful and it’s sad.
But for every series that doesn’t do so well, there are series that are big hits and make tons of money. I’m tired of seeing that ignored. I’m tired of seeing specious statistics bandied about all the time, like the “95% of published books don’t sell more than 500 copies,” which sounds terrifying until you realize that the people who came up with that statistic were including every single book published, including self-published books, technical manuals, employee guidebooks, specialist textbooks, souvenir books, and whatever else. The idea that most NY published books sell less than 500 copies is simply incorrect.
This study by The Association of American Publishers estimates the publishing industry sold $23.9 BILLION worth of books in 2009. Yes, that’s down almost two percent from 2008 (although apparently in the last seven years overall it’s grown), but when you consider how the economy took a swim in Lake Shitty in early-mid 2008 especially, that’s really not that bad, is it? How much have other industries lost? If we can use this CNN article as any indicator, auto industry sales/profits dropped about 30%. Freddie Mac says home prices fell almost five percent in 2009 (it was a much bigger percentage in ’08).
Yes, it’s a scary time right now. Yes, we’re all watching it and keeping an eye on what’s happening. Yes, advances aren’t as high as they once were–at least so I understand. But we’re still getting deals. We’re still getting advances. Every day.
But that doesn’t mean we all need to start desperately casting around for some other way to earn a living, or start pontificating on how publishing is “broken” and it’s the end for it. It’s not. As long as people want to read books, there will be publishing. Quite frankly, for all the “publishing is dying” talk I hear online, it seems to be pretty limited to online; the average person–the average reader–has no idea this discussion is happening, and they care even less. And why should they? The only thing readers should–or should be expected to–care about is that they get books they want to read when they want to read them and in the format in which they want them, at an affordable price. (Readers are of course welcome to care more about it if they want, but it’s certainly not a requirement, is my point. I don’t want to bore my readers with talk about how my life will end if they don’t buy my books and I’ll end up selling matches on the street and how expensive everything is–like they don’t know that–and how I really need their help or whatever. As I’ve said here before, entertaining readers is my job. Yes, I want and expect to be paid for it, but beyond that they have zero obligation to me, and I certainly don’t expect them to give a shit about my financial situation. Remember how I’d rather not have people buy my books because I nagged them into it? Yeah. I’d rather they not buy them because I guilted them into it, either. I’m fucking lucky I get to write books for a living, and I try not to forget that and act like it’s some kind of burden.)
Whether the agent commission goes up to 20%, as the lovely Victoria Strauss suggests in this post (which also links back to me, making a nifty linky circuit), or whether more agents branch out into different areas of the business, or whatever…I think reports of publishing’s death are greatly exaggerated, and to be perfectly frank I’m tired of hearing about it. I don’t know if that’s me being sensible or being ostrich-like, but I’m tired of constantly feeling like the sword of Damocles dangles over all of our heads. I’m tired of feeling like there are crowds of people rubbing their hands together gleefully and waiting for publishing to fail, for whatever reason; I don’t understand it, as I don’t see why anyone would want to have to wade through slush for hours, but people can certainly do what they like.
I refuse to feel that way anymore. I refuse to listen to alarmists and bone-pickers. Will I keep in mind that things are tough all over? Absolutely. Will I remember how tight money is? Again, absolutely.
And I will use that knowledge to inspire me to write more and better books, to challenge myself more, to not take sales for granted but to remember that I need to push myself to be great, to be outstanding, to put everything I have into my work. I’ll use that knowledge to inspire me to write bigger stories, bigger worlds, bigger characters; to remember that “good enough” isn’t good enough. And so even if I don’t achieve that greatness and never get to be outstanding I at least wasn’t lazy. At least I tried. At least I didn’t forget that what it ultimately comes down to are readers, and what they want, and that my job is to try to give it to them, to impress and entertain them and make them think and feel.
So everyone else can sit around in the doom-and-gloom corner and decide the end is coming and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’ll be over here writing more books.
Because that’s what I do.
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
John Scalzi is traveling, or rather, is about to stop traveling. So he emailed me this morning to see if it was okay to delay my Big Idea post by a day. So look for that tomorrow!
Also, an interesting comment came in the other day on my Boy Books and Girl Books? post. The commenter pointed out that perhaps one reason why men eschew urban fantasy is because the covers seem to portray women who don’t need men, who even actively put down men.
The commenter also mention how James Bond covers, for example, show Bond in active poses with women in them, and posited that if UF covers showed women in active poses with men around them they might appeal more to men.
Which I think is an interesting comment, certainly. I still think it’s sad; it still makes me angry that books marketed toward women or with female MCs are automatically dismissed by men. And I still find it kind of hard to understand; as I said in that post, it can’t be that men don’t like to read books with women in them. It can’t be that men dislike sex. And I have a hard time believing that men just plain don’t like to read about love stories; not only do I know men who read romance–and I think that’s awesome–most men I know do genuinely want to find love, or are married or in committed relationships and are very happy. So I wonder if the commenter is right. Does the way UF is marketed automatically drive men away? Does it almost present a sort of no-men-allowed kind of look?
It’s a real shame, if so. Men already miss out on some great stories in genre romance, simply because they don’t think to pick one up and give it a try. It would be sad to see them missing out on great stories in other genres as well.
My point here isn’t to say men and their opinions are the most important. It’s just that I do get tired of seeing UF dismissed and put down, often by people who’ve never tried it, or who tried one and decided they’re all exactly like that one, when in fact there’s a lot of variety in the genre (and in genre romance, as well). I do think it’s shameful that “girl books” is a put-down. As I said in my previous post, so what if it’s about women, or marketed toward women? So what if it has a love story in it, or sex? Why does that mean it’s okay to insult it? It isn’t, and it shouldn’t be.
A woman who refuses to read books marketed mainly toward men, or see films marketed mainly toward men, or consume media aimed mainly toward men, is going to have a hard time finding books to read (outside of those genres) or films to see, or media to consume. (It actually reminds me of the “News for Women” segment that a news station in Miami used to run, and how it infuriated me, not only by implying that regular news wasn’t something for women, but that women were only interested in diets and cooking, and that men had no interest in such things at all.) I remember reading an article somewhere once about why women’s magazines are as successful as they are, and part of it was because those magazines are some of the few media outlets aimed at and coming from a woman’s viewpoint.
I’m not sure our viewpoints are so different, really. I think we’re all individuals. And I’m tired of stereotypes. I’m tired of women’s writing being dismissed as “just a chick book,” as if that automatically makes it inferior. If you don’t like a genre, that’s fine, but to say you dislike it because it’s a gender thing is just kind of lazy and offensive. I’m tired of books aimed at women, like romance or like many UFs, being dismissed.
And you know, I think men in general are better than that. Don’t you? Give it a try, men! Read something different, for fun. See how you like it, and what you learn from it. Decide for yourself what you think. Try a couple of them. Get some recommendations from people. You might find you enjoy it a lot more than you thought you would, and you might realize that just because something is marketed toward women, or has a romance story in it or sex or whatever, doesn’t actually mean it isn’t worthwhile and good.
Because it doesn’t.
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
(This is a long one, guys, so get comfortable.)
I’m sure you’re probably getting sick of seeing my reviews, but I do have another quick one to share. From WickedlilPixie at Writings of a Wicked Book Addict:
Unholy Ghosts is the first book in Stacia Kane’s Downside Series & it was phenomenal! It is one of the most grittiest, in your face Urban Fantasies I’ve ever read & I loved it…If you read one new Urban Fantasy series, make it Unholy Ghosts.
So something I’ve been thinking about for a while, as you guys know, is what urban fantasy truly is as a genre, and where it’s going, and how my books fit into it. (Remember the The Books Are Out There post?
And of course we’re now exactly one week away from the official release date of UNHOLY GHOSTS. And I’m wondering how people will respond to it, whether they’ll love it or hate it, whether the darkness will be too much for them, whether they’ll accept a drug addict as a heroine, all of those things that I worried and wondered about even as I wrote it.
But here’s the thing. I feel like urban fantasy has, as a genre, been somehow relegated to the “Girl” section. It’s been dismissed as “Girl books.” And many guys really do seem to think this way. I’ve seen a lot of them in various places referring to UF as “just paranormal romance with a little more action,” or “hot girl in leather solves mystery, sleeps with paranormal creatures.”
And honestly? I think to some extent that’s true. No, hear me out. Other worlds and paranormal creatures do tend to be a big part of urban fantasy. The heroines often have sex (mine certainly do) and it’s often with paranormal creatures (Megan sleeps with a demon, for example, but in Chess’s world the only paranormal creatures are ghosts, and they don’t really make good bed partners, what with the trying to kill you and all).
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