Archive for 'in which i open up in an afterschool special kind of way'
What Stace had to say on Thursday, November 3rd, 2016
So it’s election time again.
No, no, wait! Don’t go! Remember, I don’t really talk politics on this blog, and this is not really a political post–or at least, it’s not the kind of political post that tells you why you’re a bad person (or a good person) if you plan on voting for Candidate A or Candidate B and how evil those assholes planning on voting for the other candidate are. Back in 2008 I wrote a post about why I don’t talk politics here, and…honestly, it was a little depressing to go back and read it, because things have only gotten worse. So, so much worse.
In 2008, I could honestly say that I believed both candidates were good people who would do a pretty good job. The same is not true this year, sadly. Both candidates suck. Both candidates suck so bad that it feels like the set-up to a joke. Years ago I posted the “Douche vs. Turd” South Park song here as a sort of nod-n-wink, just to illustrate, in a humorous fashion, my general feelings about many elections. This year, Douche vs. Turd is not a joke. It is basically the literal illustration of our two choices. Neither of these people deserve to be President. The fact that one of them will be kind of horrifies me and kind of makes me wonder when the punchline is coming and more than kind of makes me want to cry.
But you know what? (Or, “You know whats,” because I have a couple of points to make here.) First, the fact that both candidates are dishonest scum who see the Presidency as some kind of free cash machine, who’d go through your pockets, take everything you have, and then sell you for a quarter if they could and feel justified in doing so because they think you are stupid and disgusting, is kind of our fault–or rather, it’s the fault of the people who have worked so hard over the past, I dunno, fifteen years or so, to divide us and fill us with hate. It’s the fault of people who convince us that we are more different than we are similar and we should focus on the differences more than the similarities; that there are no common experiences; that anyone who disagrees with us is not only against us, but is actively evil and doesn’t deserve to live or speak; that we do not deserve to be proud in any way of any thing; and that society as a whole is just a sea of selfish, wicked morons. It’s the fault of people who go out of their way to insult, degrade, and silence others. Our two candidates are, basically, the result of an environment that convinces us not to see other viewpoints and relate to each other to reach common ground, but to see others as stereotypes rather than people, and set ourselves firmly against them–and convince ourselves that we’re morally in the right as we mercilessly attack and name-call. (And by the way, I have seen examples of all of those things on both sides of the aisle–all over the room, in fact–lest anyone think I’m singling out either side. Also, yes, guys, some people really are just dreadful people. Every place in the world has its share of just plain horrible shitbags; they’re the human equivalent of cockroaches. But there aren’t as many as some would have you believe, there really aren’t. Most people–the vast, vast majority!–are not festering piles of slime.)
But here’s the other thing, the other “you know what” that answers the first. I’m not worried.
Many of you are familiar with my Downside books, and the world they’re set in. Humanity was ravaged by a calamity in which bloodthirsty spirits rose from the grave; millions died. The world is run by a totalitarian atheistic “Church,” that demands obedience in exchange for safety from the dead. Religion, or faith in any sort of god or gods, is illegal. People are only allowed to believe in the Church, and in facts. Because there is no religion and one single world government–one viewpoint on how the world should run–there’s no war, and a lot of unpleasant social problems have disappeared, either because they were products of different belief systems or because there was simply not a large enough population, and people were shaken and traumatized enough, to set that stuff aside and pull together.
Lots of people have mentioned that “atheism” thing, either as something they disliked or something they liked. A few people have asked how it came about. But no one has asked me what it means to me.
The world in these books is, in some ways–some might say more than “some”–better than ours, for the reasons listed above. There are some great, positive things in there.
But it also sucks. It’s awful. It’s full of fear and punishment–not overtly, not in a way that makes everyday life seem other than normal for most people, but it’s still there. People know exactly what will happen when they die: they’ll go to the cavernous underground City of Eternity. Which seems great, knowing what will happen, but at the same time means there’s no mystery, and without mystery there’s no hope. Without hope…well, that’s just despair. The world, even with all of its good points, is not perfect, because the world is made of people and people are not–can not–be perfect. We’re human; we have emotions and dreams and fears, and those mean we’re always feeling things for no good reason or imagining things that aren’t true or whatever.
The people in the Downside books know they’re not supposed to have faith in things. But they do, just the same. They know they’re not supposed to think certain things, or to want certain things, but they do, just the same. They know they’re not supposed to do certain things, but guess what? Yep. They still do it. They do it all the time. Even in Triumph City, right there under the nose of the Church government, the people of Downside commit every sort of crime imaginable; the Church can’t enforce what it doesn’t know about, and people are not robots. People cannot be programmed to do nothing but spit out the correct answers without any independent thought. The Church may control the law and the enforcement of the law, but it cannot, no matter how hard it tries, control the hearts and minds of people.
And people hope. We hope so hard and so much that we built skyscrapers and went to the moon. We hope so hard, so fucking hard, that every day we pledge to spend our lives together and we have children. We hope so much and so hard that we get out of bed, we say hi to a stranger, we apply for jobs and we start companies and we go meet the neighbors and we adopt pets and drive cars. Every single one of those acts comes with and from hope; everlasting, beautiful hope. We need that hope.
We want to connect with other people. We just forget that sometimes, when we’re angry and feeling ignored and belittled; we forget that not everything is personally directed at us. But when it comes down to it, when things go wrong, we reach out and we help and we listen, and we connect. That’s special and important, and it’s not something you find everywhere. I’m sorry, but it’s not.
This is why I’m not worried about what will happen on Tuesday, not really. Oh, sure, I spend time thinking of worst-case scenarios, but honestly? Our system is set up to avoid those worst-case scenarios. Our Founding Fathers created that system specifically to protect us when we go crazy and vote in a lemon. Presidents are not monarchs; they do not get to create laws out of whole cloth and demand they be enforced. Laws do not leap into being overnight and suddenly become enforced nationwide within hours. Everything takes time. And we have a voice, and we can talk to–talk to, not scream at–each other and make things better if we try.
I’m not saying it’s going to be a great four years. I don’t think it will (I mean, stranger things have happened, but still). But I do think we can get through them together. I hope–I very very much hope–that maybe this will be the thing that re-unites us. (And please don’t tell me “Well, if the Other Side would stop demonizing us–” because I don’t care. Be the bigger person. Everybody has at least one legitimate grievance–yes, they do!–and everybody could stand to extend a hand and try instead of deciding that the pain of others is somehow deserved. No, I don’t care if it is or not. No, I don’t care if yours is worse. Extend the hand anyway, and try to really listen and understand instead of just looking for things to get mad about, and maybe if you do you’ll get the same in return and look, there we’ll all be talking and understanding and buying each other a Coke.) Maybe this will remind us that we’re in this together, and that we can deal with whatever happens as long as we remember that. Maybe we can stop demonizing each other and start trying to accept each other instead, and recognizing that even points and people with which we disagree have value. Even points and people with which we disagree add something to the conversation.
Because if you have a world where those points aren’t allowed, you have a world where no one is free and no one can be trusted. That’s a world without hope. I don’t want to live in that world. I hope you don’t, either.
…This was supposed to be shorter, and more concise, and have a point, though (other than that one, which I’ve been thinking and wanting to say for a long time). The title of this post is “Deals and Dealing,” because it’s about, well, dealing–see above–and deals, which is this part here. Those Downside books I talked about? The first one, UNHOLY GHOSTS, is currently on super-sale in the US: only 99 cents in ebook format. Personally, I think there’s nothing I’d rather do this weekend than hunker down with a book and lose myself in some other world for a while, maybe a world where both of our major Presidential candidates do not make my skin crawl. (And by the way? Vote third party if you want to, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s a waste. Personally, I think maybe if enough people vote third party, then A] those third parties will be inspired to step up their damn game a bit and stop looking unprepared and/or silly; and B] maybe the Big Two will be inspired to realize they’re losing voters and will start trying to speak to us instead of just special-interest groups and corporations. Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but again, I hope, and I believe.) Maybe a world that reminds me that no matter how bad things get, there is still hope, and there are still people, beautiful, complicated, messed-up, confused, delightful people who try to be happy and try to help others and try to believe that after all, tomorrow is another day.
But, uh, don’t let that last part inspire you to read GONE WITH THE WIND this weekend. Read my book. It’s only 99 cents in ebook format.
And you can get it here:
Barnes & Noble
This 99-cent deal ends on Saturday the 5th, though, so don’t miss out.
…So that’s what I wanted to say, guys. I know some of you–a lot of you–are scared. I’m scared, too, because the unknown is always scary and getting a new President is always a little scary even if you like the person you’re voting for. But I’ve been listening to dire predictions–which are voiced as certainties–for several decades now, about how Candidate A will definitely start a nuclear war and Candidate B will definitely make abortion illegal, and our country will go to Hell in a fiery handbasket if Candidate A is elected and Candidate B will turn us into some kind of third-world prison camp and Candidate B will make being different illegal and Candidate A will literally take a shit on the Constitution. I’m not entirely joking, either; some of those are real things people said, on national television. I remember being terrified as a child because it seemed like everywhere I looked, people were telling me that Ronald Reagan would start a nuclear war. Funnily enough, though, he didn’t and we’re still here. In fact, I can’t think of a single dire “This will absolutely happen, you guys,” election-year predicertain (get it? Prediction made with the air of certainty) that I’ve ever heard that has come true, and I’ve heard a lot of them. I don’t buy them anymore. You shouldn’t, either, because what all those predictions fail to take into account–again–is that we’re people, and we’re generally good, creative, inventive, smart people who care. We are, and I refuse to apologize for this next statement, Americans, and we will unite, we will reach out to each other, we will find a way to make it work, and we will try to make things better, because that’s what we do. Always. Whoever ends up in office, that won’t change.
And that’s my personal predicertain, because I have faith in you.
What Stace had to say on Monday, September 21st, 2015
When I was in eighth grade, I went on a class trip to Washington, D.C. (which was amazing, btw; I love D.C.). We did all the things people do there: we hung around outside the White House (we didn’t go in, I don’t remember why), we saw the U.S. Mint, we visited the FBI building and saw the 10 Most Wanted list, we wandered around the Smithsonian and saw the Hope diamond, and we went to see the giant pandas at the National Zoo–that was Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, not the current pair. (Also, click here if you want to see something adorable and wonderful and amazing. It will open in a new tab, which you can then keep open all day to check on periodically and feel whatever stress you’re dealing with evaporate. You’re welcome.)
Anyway. When we made our National Zoo visit, the panda exhibit/habitat was being renovated or something–my memory is fuzzy as to what actually was going on, maybe they’d just had a baby?–so the pandas were in a big glass box. And they weren’t doing much. I got bored fairly quickly, and decided to go back to the bus (we were all in a big tour bus) and hang out in there.
Sitting across from me was a girl from my school I didn’t know very well, named Vanessa. She was reading, with the sort of intense focus one only sees when someone is reading a book that has utterly captivated them, a thick paperback. Its cover was black, and across it stretched an image of a gold necklace with a ruby heart in the center. Above and below the necklace were the author and title:
This is the cover I saw.
Jackie Collins, and LUCKY.
I’d heard of Jackie Collins before, but had never really seen one of her books. I’d never read one; in fact, I’d never heard of anyone my age reading one. At that time, although I was (of course) an avid and voracious reader who read YA and adult fiction, I’d never ventured into the world of adult potboiler/bestsellers. So I asked Vanessa about it, and she told me how good it was and even let me borrow it while she went to look at the pandas herself.
I started reading. And I couldn’t–didn’t want to–stop.
For the rest of the trip, Vanessa and I would race to see who could get back to the bus first to read LUCKY, and the first thing I did when we got home was insist my mom take me to the bookstore so I could buy my own copy. I’d never read anything like it in my life: beautiful rich people having copious sex, saying “fuck” every other word, being criminals, killing people, using sex as currency or as a weapon, flying in private jets, cheating on each other, betraying each other, backstabbing each other, spending millions of dollars on jewelry and cocaine, taking cruises on private yachts with their husband’s mistress and then fucking some guy who turned out to be the husband of their stepdaughter and former teenage best friend while at port. Teenage girls ran away to the South of France, where they got drunk and gave blow jobs to sleazy wannabe film directors. Other teenage girls got scammed by bad actors and kidnapped by sleazy mobsters. Actual gay and lesbian sex was described. Everybody murdered everybody else while building hotels and there was family drama and daddy issues and gay porn and strippers and dead lovers and riots and crime everywhere. I was thirteen, you guys. This was the most incredible book I had ever read in my life.
Vanessa and I became friends, and she told me all about the first Santangelo book, CHANCES, which I of course immediately grabbed a copy of. I remember my mom taking me to the library to check out more Jackie Collins novels, and her having to give her permission to the librarian so I could do so (would that still happen today?). HOLLYWOOD WIVES, HOLLYWOOD HUSBANDS, THE STUD, THE BITCH, THE WORLD IS FULL OF MARRIED MEN, LOVERS AND GAMBLERS…whatever I could get my hands on, I read, though none of them captured me the way the Santangelo books did.
Now, I fully understand the…shall we say, limitations…of Jackie Collins’s books, literary-speaking (I know that’s wrong, but it sounds funny). I just don’t give a damn, because my goodness, they’re fun as hell, aren’t they? Ridiculous and silly and over-the-top, crazy, dirty, trashy fun. I still love them. I will always love them (and I’m still planning a project that will hopefully have all of the same trashy, over-the-top fun). The novels of Jackie Collins helped show me what was possible in a book, just as much as the novels of Stephen King or Richard Matheson or Edgar Allan Poe, or Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters (whose books I devoured at age twelve and still adore), or Herman Wouk, or Nathaniel Hawthorne, or Charles Dickens, or Orwell or Tolkein or Harper Lee or any number of other writers with incredible stories did. I never realized you could write books like Jackie Collins wrote; I’d never been exposed to anything like them before. I’d certainly never realized that they were something girls my age could read–while I’d read plenty of books written for adults, her books seemed like books for ADULTS, if you know what I mean, far beyond the comprehension or enjoyment of someone my age. (A few years before that, I’d found a book in one of the cabinets in our basement called THE CHOIRBOYS, by Joseph Wambaugh [some of you are probably chuckling right about now]. The cover copy described it as “shocking,” so I thought I’d give it a read. I think I gave up after three or four pages, having become simultaneously bored, confused, and terrified–I vividly remember something about a dead person with dog poo in his or her mouth, and deciding that was not the kind of “shocking” or “adult” I’d been looking for and furthermore who would want to read that?) (Apparently it is a very good book; I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it or reading it, of course, just that at twelve or thirteen it seemed horrifying.)
I’m starting to ramble and digress, so I’ll get to the point of all this.
Jackie Collins died on Saturday. I’m sad about it, although I admit I haven’t read one of her books in some time–actually, the last one I read was LADY BOSS, when it came out in paperback, so yeah, it’s been a while. That doesn’t change the fact that they were a huge influence on me, and that I will be forever grateful that I met Vanessa on that long-ago trip and she introduced the barely-a-teenager me to this incredible, sparkling adult world, where sex and wealth dripped off the pages to infect me with possibilities. Her books were about giants; larger-than-life, slightly insane, sometimes unlikable, oversexed, wealthy giants who made up for what they lacked in gravity and humanity by being flashy and tough. I remember trying a few other potboiler-y books, looking for something that would give me that “Jackie” rush, and being sadly unable to find any. (I think my favorite out of those others was Sidney Sheldon’s MASTER OF THE GAME, although there wasn’t enough crazy sex in it for me. Harold Robbins left me cold, though I imagine I might enjoy his books more now. Danielle Steele was too tragic and sentimental for me, though she enjoyed quite a period of vogue among the girls at my school during our freshman and sophomore years. I never could get into Judith Krantz or Rosamunde Pilcher.) No one could compare to Lucky Santangelo and the collection of mobsters, prostitutes, models, politicians, businessmen, actors, and idiots who peopled her world.
So thank you, Jackie Collins. Thank you for blowing my thirteen-year-old mind, and thank you for showing me that you could do anything, go anywhere, in a book. That there were no limits. You will be missed.
What Stace had to say on Monday, July 8th, 2013
No, I still don’t have a release date for WRONG WAYS DOWN, but I am hoping to have one very soon, so stay tuned. (Also, I’ve gotten lots of questions about the release date for Downside 6. I’m working on it, guys, I swear. I can’t confirm any dates but again, hopefully I’ll be able to soon, and I swear I will announce all this stuff as soon as I possibly can.)
But I do have a few things to share today!
First, I’m very excited to say I’ve sold a new Downside short to Heroes & Heartbreakers. I can’t give a lot of detail on this one, except to say we’re back in Chessie’s head, and H&H will be doing a cover/blurb reveal and all that good stuff in the next month or so. But–and this’ll make more sense, I think, when the details are announced–this one was a TON of fun to write, because I got to play with something I don’t usually get to use or even mention in the books at all. And when you can reference Dickens and Faulkner (I can’t wait to see if anybody catches the Faulkner bit) in a short, it’s always extra nifty. I had a few nerdy giggles writing this one, basically, and I can’t wait for you guys to see it. I believe it’ll be released in the fall sometime.
And as I mentioned above, WRONG WAYS DOWN things are coming along and such (new except–well, mini-excerpt–below).
Which brings me to…well, something, anyway.
I’m planning on doing another contest for WRONG WAYS DOWN, and I’m thinking because the “Name a Character” contest for SACRIFICIAL MAGIC was such a blast to do, and everyone seemed to enjoy it so much, I’ll do another of those. Especially since this will be Name a Character in the next Terrible novella…well, I can probably say with confidence that some of you will *really* want to be in this one.
But something occurred to me about the last contest as I was writing the Acknowledgments for WWD and passing them along. And you know, this is probably really dorky of me, and it probably doesn’t matter, but my stupid little sense of Do Right is pretty much making me say something, because…well, because I try to be honest and up-front with you guys, and honest and up-front in general. It’s important to me. And I just want to clarify something. It’s not a big deal–I’m pretty sure I’m making it a much bigger deal than it is–but still. You know me.
You may remember that Chelsea Mueller from Vampire Book Club won the SACRIFICIAL character contest (which was held for the release of CITY OF GHOSTS back in 2010). The thing is, in the intervening time since SACRIFICIAL’s release, Chelsea and I have become pretty close friends; we email pretty regularly and she beta-read WWD (and hence is in the Acknowledgments). Again, not a big deal, but because she won my contest and because I’m planning to do another one, I do kind of feel the need to just clarify that we really didn’t know each other when the contest happened, and really didn’t know each other as I wrote SM. In other words, I don’t just pick my friends to win my contests, honest. Her name happened to come out of the hat, so to speak (actually, the number of one of her entries was randomly picked by my child, if memory serves), and a year or so later we happened to get to chatting about something and there you go.
Like I said, I know this is rather dorky, and probably nobody cares but me and Chelsea (who, BTW, no longer personally reviews my work on her blog, also in the interests of objectivity and such), but it is important to me that I be open with you all and just make sure everybody knows that there was no contest hanky-panky happening. I worry about things like that.
So! On to the new mini-cerpt!
“Terrible, is you listening to me?” Amy set her hand on his chest. “You ain’t sayin much, you ain’t.”
“Aye, sorry.” Shit, what had she been saying? “Just got a lot on, aye? Some shit happening, is all.”
Her bright pink mouth twisted down. “Oughta just cancel with me, aye, iffen you ain’t gonna pay attention. Wanting chatter with you.”
“Sorry,” he said again. “You was sayin on you work, aye? What happen?”
“Two dudes coming on, telling me be a ghost around. Say a ghost kill Bump’s man on the other night. Be true? It a ghost?”
Her brown eyes were wide; she looked scared, and he hated that his first thought was to be annoyed instead of wanting to make her feel better like he should. With effort he kept his voice casual. “Naw, ain’t true. Don’t know where them dumb fuckin rumors starting, but ain’t true. Ain’t a ghost.”
Amy worked at a secondhand store up Sixtieth, old furniture and appliances and whatany. Fuck. Now she got people just coming in offen the streets, chattering on ghosts?
“Then why they—”
He shrugged. “Somebody tryin stir shit up, is all.”
Amy glanced around. “Slobag?”
“Maybe.” Probably. But until he were certain he ain’t wanted to say, and he were trying real fucking hard not to get mad thinking of it. Why the fuck all this shit starting up now? “Don’t need to be worryin on it, aye? No ghost.”
She nodded, but he could see the question starting behind her eyes, could see her wondering did he wish it were a ghost so’s he could call Chess, or was he saying weren’t a ghost causen he were already working with Chess.
He cut that off with, “Want me getting you a beer?”
“Aye.” She leaned back on the seat and folded her pale arms over her chest in a way that let him know she caught on that he were trying to change the subject. She wore a skimpy little pink dress, with thin straps and a short skirt. How she ain’t froze in that outside he didn’t know, but he couldn’t deny he ain’t minded at all when she looked mostly undressed.
Which kinda made him feel worse, causen they’d hang out there an hour or so, and then they’d go back to his and get that dress off her, and despite the fact that they never made any promises or aught like that—and he weren’t the only dude she saw, neither—he couldn’t help thinking he weren’t really treating her right. No. He didn’t think it. He knew it. And he knew why, which was worse.
So, there you go.
What Stace had to say on Monday, March 11th, 2013
Very longtime readers may recognize this story, but I originally posted it six or seven years ago, and it’s relevant, so I’m telling it again.
Back in 2002 I attended my first Dragon*Con (which was awesome). Coincidentally, I’d just finished writing my Very First Novel, a totally abysmal medieval romance. (Seriously, I wish I still had the printed mss to scan some of it to show you. While I still believe it had a couple of quite good scenes, for the most part it was pretty bad: overdramatic characters, contrived plot points, an Evil Ex Lover making silly threats, a Big Misunderstanding…I honestly barely remember the plot at this point, but trust me, it was lame.)
Anyway. There I was at Dragon*Con, and I happened to notice a panel on women writing, so I hopped on over to see it. It was held in a tiny room in the basement, and there were maybe fifteen people there, which was quite sad as the panelists included Betty Ballantine and a writer I hadn’t heard of named Sherrilyn Kenyon.
It turned out, though, that Sherrilyn Kenyon also wrote under the name Kinley MacGregor, and I’d just finished reading Kinley MacGregor’s BORN IN SIN, as part of my research-based orgy of romance reading. And in fact, BORN IN SIN had been one of my favorites of the romances I’d picked up. So once I realized Sherrilyn and Kinley were one and the same, I was quite excited.
Excited enough, in fact, to make a total idiot out of myself after the panel.
I went bopping up to Sherrilyn, all full of vim and eager puppy-dog dorkiness, and gushed at her that I, too, was a writer! I’d just finished my first romance and I was hoping to get it published! Thankfully I did manage to slip in there that I’d loved BORN IN SIN–although I did also say that I’d had no idea who Sherrilyn Kenyon was when I came to the panel and I was so excited to learn she was also Kinley MacGregor and was that information public, which, FFS, moron–but for the most part, I said the sort of things that make me shrink in embarrassment even now, over ten years later. I asked, stammering and blushing, if she thought I should get an agent, as if I could head for the phone book and hire one just like ordering a pizza (I may even have asked who her agent was; I have honestly blocked much of what I said from my memory). I believe I bragged about doing research and said how much I love the medieval period. And then, in a denouement so fucking ridiculous it makes me cringe, I said, “Maybe one day we’ll have the same publisher!”
Like we were going to play on the Avon softball team or something. Like we’d be Publisher Pals and spend our nights having giggly slumber parties and telling secrets. Like my very first mss ever was obviously just as good as any of her books, and of course I could just walk into a publishing contract simply by virtue of having completed a novel (which was, btw, over 114k words of facile plot contrivances and exclamation points. I didn’t even know not to capitalize the pronoun dialogue tag after dialogue ended in one of those exclamation points, so the book was full of shit like: ‘”Unhand me!” She shouted.’).
Sherrilyn was kindness itself. She gave absolutely no indication that she found my questions ridiculous or my lack of publishing knowledge silly and/or naive. She answered my questions nicely and wished me luck, and left me feeling that, well, maybe I’d been a bit nervous, but it was okay. She left me feeling positive and encouraged.
Now, at this point, I had joined the RWA. I’d done a bit of research on publishing; I knew better than to ask some of those questions. But I asked them anyway. Why? Because I was nervous. Because I was intimidated–I’d never met a real-life author before. Because I wanted to seem like I knew what I was talking about. Because I wanted to show her I was serious. And–this is important–because having read and really enjoyed her book, I felt there was some sort of connection between us. She had spoken to me in that book, and I had responded, and that meant something to me; it mattered to me.
I have never, ever forgotten that day. Yes, sometimes it’s a hauntingly humiliating memory, but I still haven’t forgotten it. I was just some red-faced idiot, and instead of responding with contempt, Sherrilyn Kenyon treated me with gentleness and respect.
But it’s not just her politeness that I remember. I remember the things I said, and WHY. All those reasons I listed above: being nervous, being intimidated, wanting to seem like I knew what I was talking about, feeling like there was a connection between us, like maybe we could be friends; like maybe on some level, insignificant as it was, we were friends. I felt like I knew Sherrilyn, a little bit; she had come into my home and entertained me for a while.
Quite recently there was a blog post written by an author wherein she complained about an email sent to her by a reader, which she felt was rude because it referred to her work as “her stuff” (as in “I bought all your stuff”) and said something like “Why aren’t you writing faster!? Get to work!” She rewrote the reader’s email to be more acceptable to her and went on to instruct readers on what questions not to ask authors, Because Rude, or Because Stupid, or something. She complained about being asked questions when the answers are on her website.
I’m not posting about this to pick on that author, which is one reason why I’m not linking to the discussion(s) about it or giving her name (and I have altered some of the quotes slightly, too). We all have bad days; we all make jokes that don’t come off, or get bad advice, or whatever, and she is human just as the rest of us are. As I’ve said before, internet pile-ons have gone way past the point of amusing for me and into nauseating territory, and that’s one big reason why I have cut back on my internet presence so sharply. This isn’t about her, really–although I admit I find it tremendously difficult to think of how awful that poor reader must feel, being held up as an object of scorn like that for the hideous crime of loving a writer’s work so much that she bought all of it and emailed the writer to tell her so, and asked eagerly when she can further support said writer by buying even more of her work, and I found the post pretty horrific–except that she’s sparked several discussions that break my heart.
Those discussions are from readers saying they’re going to think twice before contacting authors whose work they love, because they’re afraid they too will be publicly humiliated in such a rude and painful fashion if they say the wrong thing.
Guys…please don’t be afraid of that.
My story above is about Sherrilyn Kenyon, but I am absolutely certain that you could insert the name of almost any author on the planet and they would have responded with just as much grace. The fact is, hearing from people who love our books is one of the best things about this job. I can only speak for myself and a few of my friends, but I/we don’t seek out reviews. I/we don’t visit the Amazon pages for my books; I don’t Google them (or myself, unless I’m looking for something specific, like a guest blog post I’ve done somewhere or something); I don’t visit their Goodreads pages or my Goodreads Author page, in general. As I’ve said before, if someone directly sends me a link to a review, I will usually click and read it, because A) that’s a specific invitation for me to do so, which means B) it’s probably a positive review, and I like to retweet those or quote them here as a way of thanking the reviewer/giving them credit for the review without barging into their space.
Emails from readers are the most amazing things in the world. They are. I’ve gotten emails that have brought tears to my eyes. I’ve gotten emails that made me laugh. I’ve gotten emails that made me feel like I was floating for hours, all because someone out there took the time to hunt down my contact info and actually tell me, personally, how much they loved my work and that it meant something to them, really meant something. Without wishing to sound as though I’m making a dirty joke, something I wrote touched them, and they touched me back. Isn’t that what writing and reading are all about? A connection with someone else? Isn’t that why we do what we do, whether we’re writing or reading or reviewing–to feel something, to connect with something, to reach out to something? To share something?
Sure, I’ve gotten some rude emails, too. I’ve gotten a few so offensive and outright threatening that I contacted their IPs. I’ve gotten emails that called me names, that called my characters names, that accused me of all manner of nonsense. They’re not fun. But being asked eagerly when the next book is coming, and can’t I write faster, is not rude. It’s charming, and it’s sweet, and while we all know that intent is not magical, the fact remains that in those cases, when the intent is obviously to flatter, it’s rather silly to take offense. This isn’t a male co-worker telling you how hot you look today and then going, “But I meant it as a compliment! You’re sexy!” It’s someone expressing delight in our work, and that’s not an insult. Especially when if we stopped and thought about it we might realize that behind that email is someone trying to make a connection with us, someone perhaps a bit nervous, perhaps a bit intimidated, someone to whom we mean something and our work means something, and maybe because of that meaning they feel like they know us a little bit. Someone who, aside from everything else, is probably not a professional writer, and is writing private correspondence, and so perhaps cannot be expected to phrase everything in a way that perfectly suits and flatters and pleases us.
I never expect that anyone will be intimidated or nervous when speaking to or emailing me; I mean, who the fuck am I? Nobody of any importance. But I’m also aware that contacting anyone you don’t know personally can be intimidating or can make one nervous. I’m also aware that there are indeed people out there–I’ve met them, and more importantly I’ve been one and occasionally still am–who are nervous or intimidated meeting a writer whose work they love. I’d be willing to bet that when Sherrilyn Kenyon headed for that panel that day, she didn’t expect anyone to be nervous or intimidated at the thought of meeting her, and yet there I was with my face beet-red and my hands shaking as I wagged my Newbie Writer tail in desperate, eager neediness, so excited to be talking to a Real Writer that I pretty much ran down a checklist of silly questions and statements.
I have been horrendously lax in replying to my emails. I’m ashamed of it. I’m so far behind I don’t even know how far behind I am, and that’s inexcusable. But that also doesn’t change the fact that I read and am grateful for every one of those emails. And every writer I know feels the same.
So please, guys, don’t stop writing to us. It matters–you matter. Don’t think the fact that one writer was having a bad day or is rude or ungracious or pretentious or mean means we all sit around rubbing our hands just waiting to pick on you for misphrasing something or misspelling something or simply saying something in a way that doesn’t meet someone’s idea of how to correctly speak to An Author. Most of us don’t expect perfection and we don’t expect you to bow and scrape. We love you just as you are, and are interested in whatever you have to say, and are happy to answer what questions we can, when we can. When you email us we’re grateful, not insulted or offended or angry or upset. Hearing from readers is one of the best things that can happen to us, and if that stopped it would be heartbreaking.
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, 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 Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
(In which I interrupt the SACRIFICIAL MAGIC pre-release-week festivities and fun to bring you a huge rant. I warn you in advance that this topic has made me rather emotional, and I’m emotional anyway since it is pre-release week and we’re moving house this weekend, and maybe this is going to come off harsher than I intend it to; I hope it won’t, I don’t want it to and I will be careful, but just as I spent several days before my wedding being completely unable to read others’s tones or body language from stress, so am I having difficulty at the moment. I also warn you this is LONG.)
So yesterday I popped onto Facebook, which I’ve been trying to do more lately, because I have friends who hang out there and I want to be more active there. And while checking my timeline I found someone had posted an image. I won’t re-post the image, but it was one of those “I’m going to make my saying a picture so you’ll read it” things, and it said:
“Brotip #1415: ladies, guys are sick of hearing you ask where all of the ‘nice guys’ are. They’re in the friend zone, where you left them.”
Okay, fuck you.
Let me tell you a story about those “nice guys” shoved into that cold, cruel “friend zone” by all those heartless bitches who only want to date assholes, okay? Read the rest of this entry »
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 Friday, July 22nd, 2011
Last night I saw a link–I’m not going to repost it here, the poor girl has been through enough–to the blog of a writer who had just self-published her novel. The link was to a new post, in which the writer announced–with palpable and understandable excitement–that Jodi Reamer of Writers House (that’s a big-name agent at a big-name agency, for those of you unfamiliar) had seen her book, emailed her to offer representation, and gotten her a deal with (if memory serves) HarperTeen. A big deal, a six-figure type deal.
Obviously people were thrilled for her, in the way so many of us are thrilled for another person–happy for them, perhaps tinged with a bit of envy, because we’re all only human and at heart most humans are, frankly, selfish, evil little beings. Socialization and morals and ethics and all of that teaches us how to deal with those selfish, evil little thoughts, but they’re still there.
Anyway. A few people were not as thrilled; they were skeptical. I admit to being in this camp. I’ve seen publishing deals happen at lightspeed–I know a few people whose agents submitted their work in the morning and had offers by the afternoon–and of course agents can offer to represent at lightspeed as well (my agent offered two days after my initial contact with him, and I’ve known people who’ve gotten offers on the same day). It does happen, sure, but to get an agent and a large deal all in a day or so is extremely unusual. To be able to announce that deal so quickly is even more–well, no, it’s not even unusual. It is, frankly, unheard of. Generally deals aren’t announced until contracts are signed, or at least until the contract stage has been reached (meaning, the fine points are agreed to and we’re just waiting for the paperwork). Lots of us wait until our deals are announced in Publisher’s Marketplace; not because we have to, but because it’s fun to be able to post the little blurb they print in there. It makes it feel real. (In fact, my agent rarely reports to PM, and did so for me because I asked him to, batting my eyelashes and all of that while I did. Okay, no, I didn’t bat my eyelashes, but I did ask, because I wanted that announcement; I wanted to see it confirmed somewhere, because so many people read PM and it’s exciting.)
But this isn’t about deals being posted or anything. It’s about the fact that apparently the expressed skepticism of some people alerted the writer that maybe she should just double-check everything. So she called Writers House.
And discovered that an extremely cruel joke had just been played on her. And not just her, either:
From today’s Publisher’s Lunch:
Writers House has learned that a series of fake emails claiming to be from WH agent Jodi Reamer have been circulating to self-published authors this week. “These emails, which contain a number of false statements, have not in fact come from Jodi Reamer and should thus be disregarded.” One easy “tell”: they advise that any e-mail from a non-Writers House address “expressing interest in representation is counterfeit.”
I cannot even begin to express how absolutely horrified I am on this poor girl’s behalf (and on behalf of the others to whom this happened); I can’t even imagine how it must feel to think you’ve accomplished something like that and to discover that no, you were simply a victim, something to be exploited for someone else’s sick enjoyment. That you were treated as if you’re not even human, less than nothing, not a person with feelings but some sort of computer construct to be toyed with. Who the hell would do something like that? What the fuck is wrong with people? Do they like to kick puppies, too, and maybe wander up to random children and tell them they’re useless, stupid little shits who’ll never amount to anything in the world? What kind of person gets their jollies from doing this sort of thing?
When did we forget that those other people, the ones on the other side of the computer, are in fact people, real people with feelings, and not Sims?
A while ago I did a post on bullies. It feels like things have gotten worse since then. No one is content to just let someone else have their own opinion anymore, and I’m sorry, but the fact that they posted that opinion on the internet does not mean it’s okay to gang up on them and call them names. You want to disagree with their opinion, fine. I personally don’t always see the point in making a big deal about disagreeing with it–I tend to just think “Huh. I don’t agree with that” and move on, unless it’s factual misinformation, in which case I still strive to be polite and respectful–but if you feel they need to hear your point, go ahead.
But there’s a difference between “I disagree with your opinion” and “Dude, you’re a fucking idiot.” There’s a difference between “This is incorrect” and “Dude, you’re a fucking idiot.” And why the hell do you care what they think, anyway? Why is it so important to you to lurk on people’s Twitter feeds and make fun of them in your own? Why do you need to send hoax emails to people just because they have dreams and are trying to accomplish something? Is that really fun? Do you even care that a human being is on the other end of that, a human being you’re being purposefully cruel to just because you can?
Yes, sure, people shouldn’t put things out there if they don’t want others to react. Yes, people should expect disagreement and not get all butthurt because someone does disagree. Yes, we’re adults and need to take responsibility for what we put out there.
But other people’s lives are not a fucking game. Just because someone doesn’t think or feel the way you think or feel doesn’t mean it’s okay to call all of your friends to gang up on them and giggle in public. Just because that person exists doesn’t mean you have the right to stomp all over them. Does it make you feel good about yourself to reduce another person to tears, to make them the butt of your jokes? Have you proved that you’re cool, because you can take an offhand remark they made and turn it into a huge debacle, or misinterpret something they said and spread that misinterpretation around, encouraging others to pile on as well, or play a prank on them and make them think their dreams have come true? Is it really that much fun to treat other people like shit? How the fuck do you people sleep at night?
I’m sick of it, is all. I’m sick of this internet culture that makes people think that other people are simply toys for their amusement, and that it’s okay to jump all over them and keep jumping, that it’s fun to do so. I’m sick of the idea that because it’s a group of people doing it, it’s okay to join in. I’m sick of the idea that it’s open season on anyone and everyone, and that if they wanted to have feelings they should have thought of that before they logged on to the internet. I’m sick of the idea that this kind of shit is cool, and I’m sick of the way people are dehumanized, and I’m sick of the internet culture that reminds me so strongly of Christians thrown to the lions.
Next time you go to comment on something, just think for one second. Is it really necessary to share my opinion here? How much does this really matter, in the big picture? Does this person really deserve my scorn? How would I feel, if someone said this to me? Am I sure I’m interpreting their point correctly?
I’m not saying you can’t have opinions or make them public. I’m not saying you should never respond. I’m not saying you can’t gossip with your friends in email or whatever else. I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t speak up when someone is being unjust, or that you shouldn’t alert people to that injustice and/or warn others away from it, or stick up for those who can’t stick up for themselves; I absolutely believe you should.
I’m just saying, don’t forget, that other person is a person, too. Being cruel to them, picking their words apart when they didn’t mean to offend, playing tricks on them, laughing and kicking them when they’re down, publicly encouraging others to go and pick and laugh too? It doesn’t make you cool. It makes you a fucking asshole, and I’m sick of seeing it, and I’m sick of watching people be bullied online and then told they deserved it for daring to put themselves out there.
Just saw a link to this:
Another ETA: I want to make it very clear that my post is NOT referring to any other posts written about this specific situation. Indeed, it’s not about any one blog, blog post, or specific incident; or rather, I’m very angry and upset about this situation and on behalf of this writer but when I speak of internet culture etc. etc. I’m speaking in generalities, and absolutely NOT referring to or accusing anyone of anything over this particular situation (except the actual hoaxers, of course).
Just wanted to mention that, because I know a couple of other posts have been written about this. I read those after I wrote my post, and am not at all reacting or responding to them here.
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 Friday, June 24th, 2011
Yes, we arrived safely in England, and all is well. Amazingly well, in fact; touch wood, but we’ve had gorgeous weather, even. Warm, mostly sunny, but with enough drizzle to make us feel at home. I’ve had fish and chips twice (aaah!) and we’ve rented a car that, although it’s not the Vectra we had before (how I loved that car), is very similar (Vauxhall isn’t making the Vectra anymore, which makes me sad inside). We’ve done some wandering around and some loitering, and hubs has been pounding the pavements and his job hunt is looking *very* promising at the moment, so please keep your fingers crossed for him!
I missed a few things while I was away, sigh. First, and most importantly: L.A. Banks has been diagnosed with adrenal cancer. It’s serious and it’s awful, awful news, and her medical bills are and will continue to be astronomical.
An auction–several auctions, actually–are being held to help raise money for her. I heard about it/got involved too late so couldn’t offer anything; fortunately many, many other people did hear in time, and there’s lots of awesome stuff available to bid on. Please, I urge you all to go have a look. Leslie is really a fantastic person and writer; one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
Nowhere near that in importance is the fact that SACRIFICIAL MAGIC is now up for pre-order on Amazon (I don’t see it on B&N.com yet, and Book Depository has it but with the incorrect release date [though you can still pre-order it]) and Amazon UK! So if you’re planning on buying the book anyway, you could pre-order it now, and that would be frankly awesome.
I understand that while I was away there was something of a kerfuffle about this whole pre-order business and the “How you should buy my books” thing again and that whole business. I’ve already made my position on such things clear, but since people have a tendency to forget, let’s just go over it again quickly, shall we? Let me make clear too this particular comment isn’t directed at any one author, or at least not at the one this mess seemed to be directed at.
But I do have issues with authors who think it’s okay to scold people and make them feel guilty for buying her book on the Monday before it comes out rather than the actual Tuesday release date, which is such bullshit. First of all, the NYT counts book sales for the week. They tally numbers Sunday night, which means, unless no book ever sold on a Monday ever counts, that a “week” in those terms runs Monday morning-Sunday night. So a book bought on Monday? Fucking counts, so shut up. Second, shut up anyway, because your arrogant assumption that your listing should matter to your readers grosses me out. You want to grumble privately? Fine. But to make them feel guilty and bad? *gag*
Sorry, but I can’t see myself ever having the ego-driven nerve to assume I’m going to make any kind of list. Perhaps that’s because I’m barely midlist, sure, but either way. And even if I did… Seriously, dude, do you really think that if your sales are going to be big enough to give you a shot at the NYT, those ten or twenty copies people managed to buy early is going to keep you off it? Really? Especially when it’s a day early, which I remind you again, still counts?
Also, pre-orders count, and pre-orders matter. Pre-orders help determine print runs and convince bookstore buyers to place bigger orders. Pre-orders count as first-week sales. Again, even were that not the case? Pre-orders are fucking sales. They count. Every fucking sale counts. (When the previous “Buy my books this way so I can hit the NYT” thing broke out I actually had a chat with my editor about it; she confirmed that yeah, every single damn sale counts as a sale, and that–ta da!–helps our sales numbers, and those determine if we get to write more books or not.)
Getting to write more books or not is what matters to me. Would I love to hit a list one day? Of course; what writer wouldn’t? But honestly? What I care about is getting to write more books. Please, please let me get to write more books. If I could get paid a little more for them that would be great, sure. If I could get a bit of recognition beyond the circle of incredible awesome people who’ve actually read my books and are kind and wonderful enough to talk about them that would be pretty cool, too; I’d love to have a bigger audience. But really, I just want to write more books. I dream about getting to write more books. I can’t imagine being so secure in myself and my sales that I think I can totally hit a list as long as those damn readers don’t fuck it up for me, and worrying they will fuck it up by exercising their rights as a consumer to buy available products.
You know what I worry about? Whether or not they’ll like the book. Whether it’s as good as the last one. Whether they’ll understand why Chess did X in that scene or if I didn’t make it clear enough; whether they’ll see the changes being made or not and like them or not. I worry I’m not giving them a full enough experience, that this book will be a let-down, that I haven’t made it exciting enough, sexy enough, thrilling enough. I worry I’ve failed them–you. That’s what I’m crying about in the weeks before release. That’s where my focus is, what’s on my mind. Not “Will they buy it on the right date?” but “Will they love it?” I honestly, again, can’t imagine being in a position where worrying about what on what day the book was/is bought overrules my absolute terror that my readers will hate my new book, or be disappointed by it.
I just can’t explain how furious I get; not when I see the initial posts about “How you can help me hit a list,” because really, they bug me but oh well. Read it or don’t; follow it or don’t. I dislike the implication that it’s the reader’s job to care about such things or that they exist to serve the writer, yes. As I said above, I dislike the sort of arrogance implied by “My book is going to sell big numbers, y’all, so let’s get me some accolades for it.” The initial posts annoy me. But those aren’t such a big deal to me; it’s the follow-up comments about how no one is following instructions or how they’re obviously not reading the posts because if they were they wouldn’t be behaving so damn badly by buying the book when they see it/in the format they’re buying it in/whatever or how they’ve just made the author cry and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing that when I get angry. That’s what infuriates me; that’s where I start to get that sort of deep raw burning rage inside me that makes me want to start screaming and punching people. That’s where slight rudeness or even innocence of tone becomes real arrogance.
Why am I saying all of this now, when the current little internet mess is over? Well, because I’ve just posted pre-order links, that’s why. And I want to make it clear that while I would love you to pre-order the book, I really would, because I need every sale I can get and a sale is a sale, you’re under no obligation to do so. My sales numbers are not your problem; you are not required to do shit for me, my career, or my sales, frankly.
Yes, maybe it is the case–as I’m sure will be pointed out–that it’s easy for me to say all of this because I’m not in a position where I could hit a list, the implication being that because I’m not a big success I don’t have to worry about growing that success, I only have to try to hang on with my fingertips, whereas these people actually are successful and what do losers like me know about that. But I also know writers who have hit the NYT–quite a few of them, in fact–and none of them made a stink about buying the book the day before release or tell their readers they’d made them sick by buying the book a day or two early. And again, oh well. Maybe I’ll never hit a list. I don’t really care. I care about having a long career, and selling enough to make my publishers happy and make them keep offering me contracts. I care–deeply–about writing books my readers love, books that make them happy and make them want to see more books from me.
I got into this business so I could write books. I stay in this business because I still want to do that. That’s all I want to do. I want readers to like my books. That’s all I worry about.
So pre-order my book or don’t. I hope you do. I’m not worried if you don’t. I just want you to LOVE the book, and be excited by it and not feel let down, and that’s what I’d much rather focus on: you, the reader.