Archive for 'in which i open up in an afterschool special kind of way'



What Stace had to say on Thursday, March 31st, 2011
Elder Griffin is Gay

(There is a point to my saying this, I swear.)

I’m pretty sure most of you know that already, actually, although I did see a bit of confusion over the summer when the subject of a possible youthful dalliance/crush of his came up in UNHOLY MAGIC (and for the record, for those curious: yes, there was some canoodling, although it was more curiosity/ego-feeding/careless fun for the other party). I thought that was fairly obvious, but didn’t see any reason to press the point or have him running around monologuing about being gay; the man is gay, and Chess obviously knows he’s gay, and nobody cares that he’s gay, so why would he do a speech about his gayness? Especially in that world, where being gay isn’t remotely an issue to anyone and gay marriage is totally legal.

(I can’t resist throwing in another worldbuilding note there: for certain people, like Church employees, simple cohabitation is not permitted [gay or straight]. You’re either married or you live alone, period.)

(Oh, and those of you who read THE BRAVE TALE OF MADDIE CARVER may have noticed a slight reference to his sexuality there, too, when Maddie thinks about how his family abandoned him because of it.)

Anyway. So Elder Griffin is gay. And his part in the next books is a bit bigger, and (minor spoiler) he does have an active love life and that becomes part of the next books as well, and it’s something that makes me happy. Because it’s important to me to add that to my books. It’s important to have some diversity. It’s important because the real world is diverse, and it’s important because who knows might see it and maybe think about it, or maybe feel better about it. Elder Griffin is first and foremost a good man, a smart one and a kind one and a loving one; one who adds great value to Chess’s life. His being gay is part of him but it’s also incidental. He is more than GAY. He is (at least I hope he is) a full, living, breathing, thinking, feeling, human being of worth who happens to be gay.

All of this is my way of explaining why yesterday I emailed Trisha Telep to pull my short story HOME from the MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE anthology.

You can read the background on this here and here.

HOME is a Downside story; I think I’ve mentioned it before? It is, I think, the closest thing to a “happy” Downside story as can exist–at least one from Chess’s POV–and for that reason it was fun to write (again, plus kinky hippies, which was a hoot).

It also involves–revolves around, to no small extent–bisexuality/homosexuality, in an important and positive way.

HOME is not dead. I’m considering some other options at the moment, because I absolutely want to make sure those of you waiting for the next Downside book get to read the story in the interim. And in fact there are a few potential Downside stories in the works for you guys in addition to the one appearing in HOME IMPROVEMENT: UNDEAD EDITION, which will be released August 2nd. So you’ll get to read it, I’m just not sure how, where, or when (but my plan is sooner rather than later).

Because I feel that to not speak up here, to not pull the story, takes something away from Elder Griffin, and from every other gay character I’ve ever written (Carter in the Demons books, too, as another example). In fact it takes something away from every character I’ve written, because it makes them all less human. It treats them like characters and not people; it treats them as unimportant, as lip service. They’re not that. They matter to me. And hopefully they matter to readers. And maybe they even matter to someone who sees themselves in them–in any of my characters, no matter what traits or differences or faults or personality quirks or whatever else they may have that some people feel it’s okay to judge or condemn–and realizes it’s okay to be exactly who and what they are.

Because it is.

What Stace had to say on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
The Last One

Say my love is easy had,
Say I’m bitten raw with pride,
Say I am too often sad –
Still behold me at your side.

Say I’m neither brave nor young,
Say I woo and coddle care,
Say the devil touched my tounge –
Still you have my heart to wear.

But say my verses do not scan,
And I’ll get me another man!

–Dorothy Parker

Authors shouldn’t respond to reviews. That’s fine. Most of us don’t. We understand that reviews are for readers, not for writers. I don’t even like the “they can be helpful/constructive” because no, they really aren’t constructive, and they don’t help me, and more to the point, they don’t have to be. There is absolutely no reason in the world why a reader should have to remember a writer’s “feelings” when writing a review. There is absolutely no reason in the world why a reader shouldn’t say whatever they like about a book. It’s totally allowed.

But more to the point…who allows it? Nobody. There have been writers out there who’ve been shitty about “amateur” reviewers, and gone around huffing and puffing that they shouldn’t be listened to, or that no one should be allowed to write negative reviews ever, or whatever other self-entitled silliness. Funnily enough, last time I checked that didn’t actually stop anyone from blogging their opinion of a book, or from reading that blogged opinion and giving it whatever consequence the reader chose. Last time I checked, no gang of writers in a black windowless van started making the rounds of reviewers’ homes, grabbing them off the street and releasing them, naked, in a public park several miles away after telling them they won’t be writing any more reviews if they know what’s good for them, dig?

Last time I checked, a reader did not need a writer’s permission to read whatever they liked, and to say about it whatever they liked. So why the idea has come about that writers can or somehow are trying to “censor” readers, I don’t know. Where the idea came that the opinion of writers on that subject matters worth a fidder’s damn, I don’t know either.

Readers can say whatever they want.

Writers cannot.

I accept that. As I’ve said before, I knew that getting into this. I knew there were a lot of subjects I could no longer be myself on. Frankly, it’s a privilege to be in that position, and I’m grateful for it. Of course, I foolishly believed that standing up for readers every time the situation arose would mean people would remember that later; I foolishly believed that going out of my way for people, that being a good person, would mean something, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is, I totally understand, accept, and whole-heartedly approve of the idea of writers staying away from reader reviews, and keeping their mouths shut regarding opinions of them. Fine. Just as I don’t have any overwhelming need to review books on my blog, nor do I have an overwhelming need to blog about readers and their reviews. I mention them, yes, because as I’ve said before, when a reader shows appreciation for my work I like to repay that; they work hard on their reviews. I want to give them credit for that work and let them know how much I value it, and them. Some of them–most of them–are damn good writers, and it makes me proud to have such smart and awesome people recommend my work. I won’t stop doing that, either, because my readers are important to me.

But the only real thing I’ve ever said on the subject is that readers can say whatever they want. Then I said readers who review and wish to become writers–who review as part of their aspiring writer persona–might want to be aware that they could find some writers who aren’t really eager to do them favors if they’d been negatively reviewed in the past. Funnily enough, last time I checked a favor was just that: a favor, something people are under zero obligation to do for someone else, and can turn down for any arbitrary reason. “I don’t feel like getting my lazy ass off the couch” is an acceptable excuse to refuse a favor, frankly, so I’m not sure how this is different. Favors aren’t obligations.

And for a long time things have been pretty smooth. But now? Now I’m finding that not only is it not okay for me to respond to reviews publicly, not only is it not okay to respond to them privately, but I’m not even allowed to have feelings about them.

Sure enough, the “My books aren’t me and they’re totally separate from me and I’m so professional and detached that I don’t care what people say” crowd leaps in to prove how much more professional they are than those of us who admit negative reviews can be hurtful or sad or disappointing, as if they’re far better than us pussybaby freaks with an emotional attachment to our work. That their work isn’t them, and they are totally detached from it, as if it was something they spat into the sink, because they’re True Professionals.

Sorry, but no.

I fully accept that not everyone is going to love my books or even like them. I know that. I can take it. I knew going into this business that there would be people who don’t like it. I’m happy to stand back and not engage. I don’t let them have their say–it’s not up to me–but I’m glad they have it. More power to them. I have never once tried to quiet another person or keep them from expressing their opinion.

What I will not stand for is the idea that not only can I not reply, not only can I not reply privately, but it’s not even okay for me to feel something about a review. Even feeling privately hurt or upset or down is now wrong and unprofessional. And fuck that.

My books are not my babies. I have babies. I have books. They’re different. But you bet your ass my books are part of me. Every word on every page came from me. Every word on every page matters to me.

Now it’s not supposed to.

Or at least, it’s not supposed to if I write genre fiction. I’ve found a few articles/discussions about literary fiction writers who made the Mistake; funnily enough, no one writing those articles or commenting on them implied that it was wrong of the writer to even feel bad about the review. It was understood that their work was important to them, that they would care about the response it gets, that they would have opinions on those responses. No other literary fiction authors jumped in to say how ridiculous they were for wanting people to like their books, or for feeling kinda bad when they didn’t. It would never occur to most people that those writers aren’t supposed to be personally invested in their work. (For that matter, it would never occur to most people that anyone isn’t supposed to be personally invested in their work. I worked at a Dairy Queen once in high school; I made the best damn Strawberry Shortcakes and Peanutbuster Parfaits you ever saw. My Dairy Queen curl was always perfect. Why? Because I cared. Because I liked the satisfaction of knowing I’d put something of myself into my work, to give someone else the best possible experience.)

And I ask you to show me someone whose boss told them their work wasn’t good enough, wasn’t acceptable, who didn’t feel the slightest twinge of sadness or pain because of that. It’s expected that people will be a bit hurt. It’s expected that they react professionally; no screaming “Shut up, asshole!” It’s expected that they not take it hugely personally and freak out, or be inconsolable for months, or tell that person they’re obviously morons, but it’s expected that it might be a bit hurtful.

But it seems that over the last few years, and of course especially the last couple of weeks, there’s this attitude–sometimes spoken, sometimes implied–of “It’s not like your work is important. You only write genre fiction, you know. It’s not important, what you do. You only churn out a product. So shut up about your feelings.”

You know what? I think that’s utter bullshit. I think if you can detach from your books that completely, maybe you’re not really putting enough of yourself into that book.

My books are not a churned-out product. My books are not a fucking TPS report that’ll go in the shredder as soon as the boss gets a glance at the numbers. My books are not a paint-by-numbers picture of a unicorn that anyone can put together.

My books are mine. My books are me. I’m in there. I’m in every word and every page and every character. Megan? Me. Chess? Especially me. My past. My outlook. My dreams. My thoughts on the world and people in general. My books are what they are because I make them that way. They come from my conscious mind; they come from my subconscious. They speak to parts of me I’m familiar with and parts I don’t know exist.

In other words, my books are me stripped bare. My heart and soul is on every page of every book. They are part of me.

Why? Because I think I owe it to you. Because you as a reader want something, and I want to give it to you. You want a book that will make you think and feel; that is what I want to give you. And how the fuck can I expect to make you feel, really feel, if I’m not feeling when I write it? How can I expect you to have an emotional reaction to my work when for me it’s just another fucking day at the office, whatever, toss out some words and who cares what they are because as soon as the book is finished I’ll emotionally disavow it anyway?

My books are not written according to some formula. My books are not thrown together with a “That’s good enough for the likes of them” sort of casualness, for me to dust off my hands when they’re done. My blood, my sweat, my tears, my pain, my joy, my thoughts, my feelings, go into every goddamn page. My books matter to me. They are important to me.

Yes, my books are genre fiction. So what? Does that mean they can’t be meaningful? Does that mean I have to shrug them off when they’re done, like they’re just some widget I built on an assembly line? Does that mean I’m not trying to say something big with them, that they don’t have a theme that’s important to me, that they aren’t a plea for change or a light being shone on something negative or anything else?

Some writers think we all should be able to completely detach from the book and not care if people like it at all, have it not effect them emotionally in any way. Well, just as they obviously think something is wrong with me and I’m unprofessional for caring if people like my work, I frankly think their work can’t be that damn good or meaningful if they’re so easily able to wash their hands of it and not care about how people take it. When I pour my heart into something I don’t just walk away when it’s done. When I really connect to something and it really matters to me, I don’t just shrug it off when it’s finished and forget it ever mattered. And I think it’s bullshit that I should be expected to. Fuck that.

Yes, it’s just genre fiction. Yes, of course there will always be people who don’t connect with certain books or characters. We all know that; it’s a given, and it’s fine. But don’t you dare tell me that because I just write genre fiction I’m not allowed to care about my books, and the only professional way to write genre fiction is to view it as some sort of toenail clipping, something that came from me but to which I have no attachment whatsoever.

My work matters to me. My work is part of me. I put everything I have and everything I can into my work.

Quite frankly, if I don’t feel deeply when I’m writing it, if I don’t dig deep and push myself and expose everything I can…how the hell can I expect readers to feel something when they read it?

They deserve everything I can give them. And I deserve to not be ridiculed for caring about my work in the privacy of my own home. Because I will never stop caring about my work, and I will never stop trying to make it the best it can be.

An endnote. This will be my last post on writing/writerly topics. I’m tired of it and I’m done. It’s not worth it to me. Yes, I know the people who read and enjoy my books are smart enough to know what I’m actually saying and not what some alarmist claims I’m saying. Yes, I know those who read this and haven’t read my work but know what I’m actually saying are just the sorts of people who probably will like my work. But giving time and energy and feelings to shit like this takes away from what I should be giving time and energy and especially feelings to, and that is my books. (This isn’t just related to stuff on the blog; you AW members may have a good idea of some other things that have contributed to it.) So I’m making some changes here on the blog, and that’s one of them. I will probably be blogging more often, but shorter posts, and I will no longer be commenting on things happening in the online writing world. I don’t want to be part of it anymore; I haven’t wanted to for a long time, actually. I’m happy to let other people have their opinions on things and rarely feel the need to challenge them; the same courtesy is not usually extended to me, and the way to avoid it is simply to stop posting opinionated things, and that’s what I’m doing.

I will always be open for suggestions on topics, and I will always be happy to answer questions here on the blog; I’d like to do that regularly, actually, so I encourage you all to ask away.

What Stace had to say on Friday, March 4th, 2011
Don’t ever take sides against the family

Wow.

Last night I got a couple of pingbacks in my email, letting me know some of my posts had been linked to. I think you can guess which ones; the little series I did several weeks back about watching what you say online.

Turns out that little tempest-in-a-teapot has not in fact died, but has grown and changed and turned into something huge and sinister. Turns out there are people out there now–otherwise reasonable people, I assume–who are equating my words with threats that someone will never be published or will never find an agent, that authors can and will “blackball” someone for a negative review, or whatever. Turns out I have somehow inadvertently created a cabal (NOTE: This doesn’t mean I think it’s all down to me or anything, just that my post is being linked to by people who say it was/is a “key exchange” in starting the whole thing. Trust me, there may be things in this world I’d like credit for. Threatening to ruin people’s careers from behind the scenes like some sort of self-important literary Blofeld is not one of them). The YA Mafia. I’m not sure how that happened, given that I’m not published in YA, but my posts are being linked to as the ones that started it all. And hey, my agent has a YA proposal from me as I write this, which I’m extremely excited about because it has all sorts of dark bloody creepiness in it. Including Springheel Jacks (yes, Jacks, as in more than one. Whee!). I digress.

I’m extremely tempted to ignore all of this and just move on. The only reason I’m not doing it is because it apparently started with me, so I feel partly responsible for the discussions, and because people are spreading some pretty wild stories about what I said (no offense to that commenter, who seems a very nice, rational person. Hers was simply the first comment I saw to illustrate my point. It is far from the only comment of that sort out there, and most people don’t apologize when it’s pointed out that they’ve misinterpreted something like that. She did. I appreciate that. This isn’t about her at all. It is about the fact that this is all getting blown way out of proportion, and I don’t appreciate being lied about).

There is no “mafia.” No writer in the world can keep you from getting published if your work is good. Period.

So you might not get a blurb from someone. As I said repeatedly when this all started, so fucking what? That’s not going to ruin your career, or end it before it’s even begun. So when you do a panel with someone they might not invite you for a drink afterward. Again, oh well.

The statement was NEVER made, by me or anyone else I’m aware of, that writing a negative review of a book could mean you never get published or repped.

The statement was NEVER made by me or anyone else I’m aware of that I would ask my agent not to rep someone who gave me a bad review. I said I might be a little hurt. Sorry, I am a human being, with feelings, just like everyone else. My agent and I have a very close relationship. I might be a little hurt. I probably wouldn’t even mention this to him (and for the record, he told me that if the review was really nasty he’d assume the writer isn’t very professional and thus not be interested in them, but a calm “This is why it didn’t work for me” wouldn’t be a big deal if the work was wonderful). I certainly wouldn’t email or call him and say “So-and-so only gave me two stars. I never want to see you go near her/him ever.”

Nor would I do that with my editor, which is another claim being made. Would I care if she signed a writer who didn’t like my work? Not one damn bit, no. An editor-author relationship is different from an agent-author relationship, for one thing. And for another…

Geez, guys, it’s just a review. Who cares about it, really?

Yeah, I might not want to blurb you if you took the time to write a big old post about not liking my book. So what. As I said in my original post, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t help you with other things if you needed it. That certainly doesn’t mean I’d start calling people to put your name on the Secret Mafia Blackball List. It certainly doesn’t mean I’d go out of my way to damage your career.

The simple truth is–and I mean this in the nicest possible way–I don’t care about you. I don’t know you. You don’t mean anything to me, beyond being another human being with whom I share this planet. If you’re one of my readers you mean a little more to me, sure. I try to do whatever I can for my readers; I love them. I will and have gone out of my way for them, whether they blog or not. But if you’re not one of them, you’re probably not on my radar at all. If I see your negative review I’ll probably shrug. Again as I said in those posts, if I have to choose between blurbing you and blurbing a book by one of my readers, my reader gets the blurb (unless her books sucks, which of course it won’t, because my readers are so awesome it hurts). That’s assuming I even remember your name; I don’t write this shit down, and I have a horrible memory. I might google you, if I’m bored. I might not; I probably won’t.

Somehow it seems book bloggers in general got tied up in all of this, which I find extremely upsetting, and frankly confusing. I’m not really sure how much more outspoken I can be on the subject of book bloggers/readers having the right to say anything they damn well please about a book, short of buying a bullhorn and picketing genre conventions. I have never once failed to back the reader/reader-blogger when it comes to an author vs. situation, and yeah, it is personally upsetting to me to see that completely disregarded, to see no one even bothering to read the posts I linked to on that subject before declaring what my intentions and words were.

That’s too bad for me, though. Because–and here is where we go full circle–anything you say on the internet is public, and people are people and don’t always take things the way you want them to. Because, which was honestly the whole point of the first post in the series, once you become a writer and have work published you are no longer free to speak your mind as clearly and openly as you once were; or rather, you certainly are free to do so, but there are and will be consequences. I can point not only to this little kerfuffle, but to numerous others to illustrate this. The line “She put it out there on the internet, it’s public, she can say whatever she wants but she has to accept that people might not like it and will talk about it” has been repeated so many times by so many people it’s almost funny at this point.

Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s frustrating and difficult sometimes. Tough. It’s part of the job.

What this all boils down to is that somehow, my attempt to pass on a bit of advice–the internet can be scary, it really can, and you never know what might set someone off so it’s best to just be very careful and not burn any bridges–has turned into ALL YOUR PUBLISHING CHANCES ARE BELONG TO ME.

There is no “Mafia.” No one has that much power. Quite frankly, nothing that happens on the internet is that damn important. All of those “Authors Behaving Badly” posts out there? Don’t really matter. Those authors are still publishing, and the vast majority of readers have no idea of the scandal du jour. Although it seems big, the number of readers who actually hang out in the online readerworld is minute.

And something else I learned is that for every person who sees what you say and thinks “Man, fuck that bitch”–whether it’s because of what you said or what they think you said or whatever–there’s someone else who thinks, “Man, that chick is awesome for speaking her mind.”

The lesson there? People are people, and we’re all different. Some of us may feel one way, some another.

But we’re still people. Yes, people can be incredibly scary sometimes. But most of us aren’t. We’re a pretty decent bunch, I think, we writers. We might get annoyed by something or upset when attacked or whatever; we have bad days just like everyone or anyone else. We have to be careful when we have those bad days, more careful than non-writers. We have to be careful especially if we’re women.

But I’m also careful when I go out alone at night. That doesn’t mean I’m afraid to do it at all. I’m just careful.

My post was intended as a bit of advice, and something interesting to discuss. I say down on the Sunday night and thought, “Oh, that’ll be a cool topic to discuss. I can do a little series on it, that’ll be fun. I like doing series.” It was not intended as some sort of rule. It was most certainly not a threat; it never occurred to me that anyone would think of it that way, because to assume someone is threatening you is to assume they have some power over you, and I have none. I’ve never claimed to have any.

But sheesh, guys, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Yes, the internet is forever, but you know what? Nothing is forever. Things are forgotten. People move on. People stop caring, if they ever did. No one is threatening you. No one is calling the Boss of Publishing–Don Paperback, or whatever–to tell him you sleep with the fishes. I’m not sure how exactly that belief came about, but it’s not true, and as Zoe Winters says here, “No one EVER Said That.” (Interestingly enough, that belief, the misunderstanding, was really the main point behind my saying “You can’t be both”–not that writers would ostracize you but that readers would misunderstand you/mistrust you. Sadly, it does happen. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it.)

What you say online may lose you a few readers. It might gain you a few. It might make Author A not inclined to blurb you. It might make Author B more inclined to do so. I don’t enjoy controversy so I avoid it. I think making enemies is pointless so I avoid it. (Frankly, I think writing negative reviews is generally a waste of my time, because I have no special attachment to reviewing and never have. You may feel differently, and that’s fine. But for me, I’d usually rather spend my time talking about books I loved.) What you say online might very well make you some enemies or thrust you into unwanted controversy. It may cross a few names of your list. Like I said, I don’t understand why someone would feel so strongly about being able to review, or why they would be upset at being told they have to be careful with what they say, since A) When you’re published you have to be even more careful, and B) Isn’t that sort of standard in the world? Don’t we always need to be careful what we say? Just like we don’t walk up to someone on the street and say “Wow! Your dress is really ugly!” so we are careful what we put out there publicly online, too.

But what your statements online won’t do is keep you from getting published if your work is good. (Hell, even if it isn’t; I know one specific example of this, who although the houses aren’t particularly well-regarded or established, they’re still putting out books with that writer’s name on them, and there are so many marks against that person it makes my head spin.) Unless you are a complete ranting harpie, if your work is good you will find people who want to work with you.

The writing is everything. The work is everything. Focus on that, and quit worrying about whether or not it’s okay to say you didn’t like a book. There is no “Mafia.” There is no “blacklist.” There are only people, and we’re all different. And most of all there are books, and those are what matter more than anything else.

Seriously. Don’t worry about this. Just write the best book you can.

Other posts on this topic:

Holly Black

Ally Carter

Justine Larbalestier

Amperstory

Janni Simner

Cleolinda Jones

Foz Meadows

Dia Reeves

An older but extremely trenchant post from Ilona Andrews

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
Some Quick Notes

This is just a quick one, everyone, a few little tidbits of tidbittiness.

1. I turned in my story for the MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE. I’m fairly pleased with it, although writing romance really isn’t my forte, necessarily, and you all know sorts definitely aren’t. Plus, it’s a Downside story–or more accurately, a Chess/Terrible Triumph City story–so writing a happy ending was a bit weird, ha. But I think it’s a fairly sweet little tale, and I think there’s enough this-love-thing-kinda-sucks in there to make it work. Plus, kinky hippies.

2. Working on edits for Book 4, and plan to start Book 5 tonight. At some point these books need titles, although I admit the idea of simply titling them “4” and “5” has its own ascetic appeal.

3. Working on New Project too. Still pleased with it 3,000 words in, which is nice, since usually the “This sucks” sets in after the first few pages.

4. I will be doing the “Write What You Know” post soon.

5. Also…it occurred to me last week, I think, that I never did get around to doing my Editing posts, and the editor interviews. So look for those in the next month or so, I think, because I totally don’t have enough on my plate and need to pile more work onto myself.

6. My good friend Yasmine Galenorn had a book release yesterday! BLOOD WYNE, the latest in her Otherworld series.

7. Oh, shit! I forgot to mention, I got my Dragon*con Guest Agreement letter the other night, so failing a major problem, I will once again be a guest this year.

Valentine’s Day is coming up; I went to the grocery store a few minutes ago (I know! Can you believe I left the house? Crazy!) and they have all of their heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and pink-wrapped Hershey’s Kisses and stuff out. Which is all very cute, but I hate Valentine’s Day. I always tell the hubs to ignore it, and he always says he will then feels guilty at the last minute and gets me something, and it’s usually something I get annoyed by because if he was going to spend the money why couldn’t it be on something I actually wanted (I’m a big proponent of “Stick to the list!”) and we end up, if not fighting, then at least grumpy.

Oh, and one year he got us these Valentine’s Day crackers, like Christmas crackers? Where you pull the ends and there’s a little paper hat etc. inside? Anyway. These had little shiny red hearts inside them. I swear we found hearts in the couch/on the floor for the next year and a half. It’s like glitter, where one person uses glitter in the house and for the next ten years odd bits of glitter keep sticking themselves to you for no reason at all. It’s like it gets in the air shafts.

Anyway. Valentine’s Day sucks, so let me be the first to go one record with my “It Sucks” post. (Although some of you might be very interested to know that the rooftop scene in UNHOLY MAGIC took place on that day. No, it’s never mentioned outright–and the holiday no longer exists in that world, of course–but in my head, given the timeline, I realized early on that it was the early-middle of February in dramatic time, so it fit very well.)

I can’t remember the last time I had a really good Valentine’s Day, actually. I think it was in early elementary school? For a long time, like all through high school, I was sick on Valentine’s Day. I used to get respiratory infections every year in October and February.

Oh, and the really fun one? In junior high our school did a fundraiser where you could send your friends flowers–carnations–in their classrooms. Because that’s a really good idea when you’re dealing with junior-high-age kids: give them another chance to openly measure and compare at a glance how many friends everyone has, and a perfect excuse for them to be even nastier to one another.

Anyway. In seventh grade I was sick the whole week before, and so no one sent me any flowers (of course, they might not have had I been there, either; I didn’t have a lot of friends, and the few I had didn’t have a lot of money, and neither did I). So I got to walk around the whole day with bitchy little soc girls asking me where my flowers were, and hadn’t anyone sent me any? with extremely pleased grins on their faces. I was twelve. That shit matters when you’re twelve. It was pretty awful.

Ah, glorious childhood memories. So anyway, yeah. I’m happy to buy the candy, because I love candy (I’ve managed to cut back on my peanut-butter cup dependency, btw. I’m down to four a night), but the rest of it? Meh.

Got any bad Valentine’s Day memories to share?

What Stace had to say on Monday, January 31st, 2011
Reviews are for Readers

You know, I don’t even really want to discuss any of the stuff that came up last week anymore. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of having my motives questioned, sick of being told I’m lying about them, sick of being told I’m a petty vindictive bitch, sick of being called a hypocrite, sick of being told I equate bad reviews with mean and thus obviously can’t handle reviews at all, sick of being yelled at for my “tone,” sick of being told I’m obviously egotistical and self-centered, sick of being referred to and treated like the Will Hays of the publishing world or something, or like I think I’m the freaking Black Gate of Mordor and you must get through me personally to be published so you better do exactly as I say, or that I told anyone they “wouldn’t get published” if they didn’t follow my advice, which is the biggest pile of bullshit. Since when is “another writer might not want to blurb you” equal to “forget about being published ever, bitches?” FFS. I was even told by one non-writer that I was making all women writers and the entire urban fantasy community look bad.

And in fact I was/am seriously considering either giving up the blog altogether or going back to what I’ve been doing the last few months, which is basically just making the blog about me personally and not really expressing any opinions at all. Because quite frankly, it’s not worth it to me (which funnily enough was the point of last week’s posts, too). Watching myself get slammed all up and down Twitter and all over the internet and finding nasty emails in my Inbox is not worth it. Being thrown into the center of some kind of huge swirling controversy simply for sharing my experience as truthfully as possible and giving a bit of advice which people are free to take or leave–advice I wish someone had given me, advice that was just meant to be helpful and friendly, something to think about, since the subject came up (publicly, not privately as some people seem to think)–isn’t worth it. I have too much going on in my life, frankly, and don’t need to be screamed at and torn apart by a bunch of people I don’t know, who don’t know me, who’ve never even heard of me before or read any of my work but who nonetheless feel qualified to call me rude/egotistical/self-centered/weak/scared/vindictive/fake/hypocritical/oversensitive/advocating dishonesty, and feel perfectly justified in doing so as loudly and as often as possible, even though my post was nothing personal, and aimed at no one in particular.

(Yes, I got some nasty emails about UNHOLY GHOSTS right before its release, too. That was quite upsetting. That was also worth it, because it was about my work; my art, and that matters deeply to me. This isn’t, and doesn’t.)

Of course, what’s happened is the perfect example of why I said “Be careful what you say because people will misinterpret it/take offense when none is intended/attribute motives to you which aren’t yours/claim you’re ‘protesting too much’ when you try to explain that no, that really wasn’t your motive.” That reaction is exactly what I meant, everyone. Go ahead and tell me again why I’m wrong to suggest caution in your online dealings unless you enjoy being attacked. I don’t mean that to be rude, I’m just pointing it out.

Anyway. I was going to give it up. And I’m still considering what I might do. But meanwhile I had this post planned, and have told people to expect it, and a few people have encouraged me to go ahead and post it, so here it is. I guess I really can’t be attacked more than I have been, or made to feel worse, or made to wonder any more what the hell I did that was so wrong that I deserved that kind of fury.

One of the most interesting comments I saw last week and throughout the weekend were the number of unpublished writers, or un-NY-published writers, talking about “helpful” reviews, and how great it can be to find reviews that give “constructive criticism.” (Those are actual quotes, btw, not me being sarcastic.) How they would never feel bad about any review because it’s all feedback and that’s so valuable and they learn from it.

And it got me thinking. What do I learn from reviews? What have I learned from my reviews?

Well…not a damn thing, to be honest.

Before you get all up in arms again, let me make a couple more things clear. I love readers. I love reviewers. I will and have stood up (many times) for the right of readers and reviewers to say whatever they like, in whatever way they like, and have said over and over that reviewers are great and I’m grateful for them, and that I wish the tension that often appears to exist between writers and readers wasn’t there. I do often read my reviews and I almost always enjoy reading them, even if the reviewer didn’t like the book.

But enjoying them and respecting them isn’t learning from them. I don’t. And here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Friday, October 22nd, 2010

First, my guest blog is up at the Pens Fatales. The theme this week is “apocalypse,” so I did a little post about, well, apocalypse. And Y2K, and zombies, and of course, Haunted Week, with some extra information about the history of the Church. So go check it out!

Speaking of Haunted Week, I’m thinking of maybe doing some sort of contest for that week, but I’m not sure. I’ll be away from the 28th-30th at World Fantasy, so I don’t know if I should, or what it would be, for that matter. But I’m considering it.

Also, tonight I’m going to speak to a local reading group or something about writing. I’m quite nervous about it. It’s not like a panel at a con, where there are other people there with me, you know? It’s just me. Plus, apparently there will be some younger ones there, which means I’ll need to watch what I say. (“Mommy, we had a writer come to talk to us! She said ‘fuck’ a lot.”) So wish me luck, because I’ll definitely be wanting some.

And that’s it for today, so have a great weekend! I do have a few Big Topics I want to blog about at some point, but they may have to wait until this book is finished. We’ll see.

What Stace had to say on Monday, August 23rd, 2010
News of a Random Nature

I am extremely excited to let everyone know that we have a t-shirt design! Anilu Magloire, who is also doing some totally kick-ass wallpapers to download here, which will be up with my next set of updates very soon, has done a really cool Chuck’s logo, which will be the first shirt. I’m so excited! I should be able to sell the shirts for $12 or so and make enough money off the initial batch to buy more, assuming all or most of them sell (obviously if they don’t I wouldn’t bother buying more anyway).

I plan to buy 50 to start with, 10 each of Sm, Med, Large, XL and XXL. I figure that kind of covers all the bases at first, right? And of course, again if those sell and we do a second run, we can start doing different styles as well. The “My other boyfriend is Terrible” shirt is still definitely planned, and another awesome reader is working on some different designs too; I don’t want to give anything away but they are also seriously kick-ass. So if all goes well we’ll end up with four or five different designs to choose from, and I think at first they’ll all be white printing on black shirts. And of course, again, if they’re successful we’ll start looking at doing other things as well, like mousepads or tote bags or whatever. But that’s all in the future. For now I’m just thrilled at the Chuck’s logo, it’s so cool!

I’m also excited about this new website Pocket has set up. It’s called Pocket After Dark, and it’s a huge site devoted to all sorts of UF and paranormal books and discussions, which is really cool. Of course, since Pocket put out the second and third Demons books, I’m a Pocket author, so I’m all registered and set up there, and am really looking forward to exploring the site a bit more; there’s so much stuff there it’s impossible to read/see it all in one go. It just started a couple of weeks ago, I think, and already has over two thousand members. They plan to do giveaways and live chats and all sorts of cool stuff, too. So if you’re interested in discussing UF with other UF readers, give it a try! (You do NOT have to just discuss Pocket books, btw; they want it to be a general UF place, where authors and readers can just hang out and have fun and chat, which I think is seriously awesome.) So I hope to see you all there!

I took my Mac into the Apple store today to get it fixed; I’d been having this really weird cursor problem where for no reason the computer would decide to highlight blocks of text, or move them, or the clickbar (I don’t know what it’s called) would get stuck, or just a whole bunch of stuff like that, which was incredibly frustrating and annoying. (Several times it deleted whole paragraphs of text, for example.) Anyway, turns out the battery was bulging for some reason, and that was putting pressure on the bar, and that’s why. So now it’s all fixed, but it’s weird to hit the clickbar now, because it actually clicks, whereas before it didn’t really move.

Today was also my Faerie’s first day of kindergarten. I cried after we left her classroom. I know, it’s such a cliche thing to do, but I couldn’t help it. She’s my youngest, my baby, and now she’s getting so big and it’s not fair! And to underscore the point, she lost her second tooth about an hour after she got home (did I tell you she lost her first on my birthday? She did. How’s that for a “You are totally getting older, Stacia,” message?)

So. Tomorrow I’m going to post the first of two “Why it takes so damn long to publish a book right” posts. Wednesday I will probably put up my Dragoncon schedule, since it just occurred to me that I haven’t done that yet. Thursday I’ll do the second Publishing post, and then we’ll see where we are, because I still have those editing posts planned.

So there you go. Shirts, websites, kindergarten, and teeth. It’s been a heck of a day!

What Stace had to say on Saturday, August 14th, 2010
Why I Post Reviews

About twenty minutes ago I found a link on Twitter to a review of the entire Downside series. This review, by Danielle at Alpha Reader.

Only the link didn’t go to Alpha Reader. It went to one of those content-collecting sites, a book focused one. That site has a Twitter account and when they “collect” a review, they tweet it, which is how I found it. Now that I’m thinkig of it I realize I’ve seen them post a duplicate of another review before, but as the review was for a site with many reviewers I thought the reviewer herself owned the “collecting” site (obviously I didn’t realize it was one of those sites) and was simply reposting her own review.

Of course I retweeted the link, thinking it was original. Immediately another reader informed me of the situation, which shocked me and made me feel ill. I deleted my tweet and reposted it with the correct link, giving credit to the actual writer of the post. By name, which the “collecting” site didn’t do; they had “Source: Alpha Reader” in the bottom left corner in a very pale gray font, which wasn’t easy to see.

That pissed me the hell off.

Here’s the thing. I’ve seen it mentioned a couple of times that writers should not acknowledge any reviews at all, be they positive or negative. And I think that’s bullshit. Why in the hell would I not give someone credit for their work? Why would I ignore it, when they’ve said wonderful things about my work, and took the time to write it all down and post it for anyone to see? When they are recommending my books to their friends? Why in the hell would I not at least give them a nod, let them know I did see it and appreciate it?

Not to mention, a lot of these reviews are incredibly well-written. These are reviewers with talent. Thoughtful, intelligent people who really pay attention to what they’re reading, who analyze it. Reviewers who really truly understand the books and what they’re trying to say, who really truly understand the characters. That’s a big deal. That’s a connection with people, a connection you cannot buy. It’s an amazing thing; it’s the best thing about being a writer, it’s the reason why most of us become writers. We want to share something, say something. When you discover that someone heard that and understood it and appreciated it, that something that means so much to you also means so much to them, that’s a big deal.

As far as I’m concerned, someone who reads my books, enjoys them, and takes time out of their day to write a review–especially a thoughtful, detailed one like Danielle’s or like any of the dozens of other fantastic reviews the Downside books have gotten–deserves credit for that. We all like web hits, right? So isn’t it a good thing to do to link to them, to encourage people to check out their blogs? Isn’t it a good thing for those who read my blog to maybe find a new reader blog they’ll enjoy? Maybe they’ll meet someone whose taste is like theirs; maybe they’ll make a new book-friend. Why the hell shouldn’t I do that? Why the hell should I ignore the hard work of someone who has acknowledged mine so kindly?

The “Terrible Fever” Goodreads group has over fifty members now (yes, I realize that hardly makes me a big name or anything, but I think it’s cool). How many of those readers knew each other before they joined up? I haven’t been reading the posts there because I don’t believe that’s my place–reviews are one thing, but discussions on forums among readers are another–but I’m willing to bet that not all of them did. That some of them met each other through that group. Isn’t that cool? Would that have happened if I hadn’t linked to the group here, or retweeted it? It’s very possible, sure, but it’s not definite.

I don’t read the Goodreads group; I don’t think it’s my place to do so. That’s a forum for readers, and they’re having their own discussions, and that’s not my business. I feel like if I popped in and started talking it might stultify the conversation, make them all self-conscious and uncomfortable. That’s the last thing I want to do. And frankly, yeah, I know there are few places that are reader-only anymore, and that it can be frustrating to have writers always popping in to comment. Yes, it’s disappointing and depressing; I am a reader, after all. I’ve been a reader all my life. But it feels sometimes like even if I’m trying to comment as a reader, I’m still not seen as one, and you know, that’s just the way it is, and it’s the price I pay for getting to do this job that I love more than anything.

Here’s the thing. I can’t email reviewers. I can’t contact them and tell them how glad I am that they caught this or understood that, or why the thing that disappointed them happened, or what the implications of the thing they’re curious about will be down the road. I can’t do that. I’ve learned that no matter how diplomatic you try to be, no matter how good your intentions are, no matter how happy you are or how interesting you think such a discussion is–no matter how much you think it would be fucking awesome to have a conversation like that with a writer whose work you read and had thoughts about–some people will always see it as an invasion, as writers butting in and trying to tell them what to do.

But what I can do is link to them. Acknowledge them from a distance. Say in my post that I loved this one or that one, that I found this line or that line particularly well-written and that I appreciated the effort that was put into it. Just as my novels are art to me, so those reviews may well be art to those reviewers, and they’ve put it out there hoping people will see it and understand it and connect with it.

Those reviews, those reviewers, those readers, are what make this whole thing worthwhile. They’re the ones who make all of the blood and sweat and tears, all of the emotional nakedness and pain, every bit of yourself that you put into your work, matter. I think they deserve to be acknowledged for that, and told that they matter. And I’m going to keep doing it.

What Stace had to say on Friday, August 13th, 2010
Some Stuff

First, yes, I do totally intend to reply to all comments and questions, both here and on Livejournal, from Wednesday’s big De-lurk. And again, I can’t thank you all enough! So many happy birthday wishes, so many great comments and questions. It was fantastic, as are all of you. I have to admit, though, next year I may do the De-lurk day on a day near my birthday but not actually on it; that was a lot to keep up with, between here, Facebook, and Twitter. Not that I’m complaining, at all; it was wonderful. But I may change it a bit next year so I can give everyone the attention I should.

We’re back home now, sigh. Being in Miami is always kind of bittersweet; fun but not fun. It’s always great to see Cori and her family. It’s always fun to drive around and know exactly where you are, and five or six different ways to get somewhere, and all of that. But at the same time it’s sad to see how much has changed. It’s sad to drive by places that were once important to you, and now they’re not. It’s sad to remember people you once knew that you don’t anymore, or even just the person you used to be, how young you were and how different. So yeah, Miami is kind of bittersweet. And I’m sad I didn’t get to see my brother either; the days flew by so fast and we were so busy, when I finally had a chance to call it was too late. But we’re hoping to go back in a couple of months.

But! We did go to the Mai-Kai for tiki drinks and dinner; it’s one of my absolute favorite places. And, to make things even more exciting, I wore a new dress. A new dress that isn’t even black.

Now, granted, I did buy two of the exact same dress (from Express; I don’t care that it’s a mall store, I almost always find something I love there that looks decent on me, and it’s one of the few stores that usually has my size in stock), and one of them is a very dark charcoal gray, which is just gorgeous. I absolutely adore this dress. But I decided the light color–it’s sort of a creamy pale peachy color–looked more tropical. And I had these shoes which look weird in the picture but are actually a gorgeous shade of blue, and have big flowers done in sequins on the outside.

So, enough prattling, I have questions to answer! And I’ll be announcing the Name a Character Contest winner on Monday! Here are a couple of pictures: first is me and the hubs, and second is me and the BFF, Cori. The one of Cori and me isn’t the most flattering picture ever taken of me (the flash totally washes me out and makes my eye makeup look kind of creepy), but what the hell, right? I said I’d share some pictures, and so I will. Plus, it’s proof that Cori actually exists! I’ve talked about her on the blog for years–we’ve been best friends for almost eleven years now–and UNHOLY GHOSTS is dedicated to her, because she’s my super beta reader and totally encouraged me to finish writing that book and sat on the phone brainstorming with me for hours, but this is the first chance I’ve had to share a picture of her or of us together. And I actually really like the one of me & hubs, which is a very rare thing, as I generally hate the way I photograph.

Also, yes, that is my husband sitting right behind us at the bar.
Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Friday, July 16th, 2010
Wrap-ups and reviews

I have a few final thoughts on my little art and compromise series, but first I have a couple of new reviews for UNHOLY MAGIC I’d like to share.

Book Chick City calls it “one of the best books [she’s] ever read,” and says:

For me, Unholy Magic has the precise combination and balance of everything I love about the urban fantasy genre: action, romance, complex but likeable characters and world building. I adored this book so much from beginning to end – just perfect.

Smexy Books says:

Kane has written one of the most dark and disturbing Urban Fantasy’s I have read in a long time. This story drug me in, striped me bare, then rebuilt me page by page till the end. Enticing and addicting from page one…

5 out of 5 from The Fiction Vixen: In trying to come up with an adjective to describe the over all tone and feel of this story, I came up short. Gritty seems weak in reference to this book and just does not cover it. I had a brief twitter conversation about the Downside series and I eventually came up with this: Unholy Magic spits on gritty and calls its mother names. Yes, this book is that bad ass! Stacia Kane has written an amazing, spine tingling novel in Unholy Magic, taking me by surprise by surpassing even the brilliance of its predecessor Unholy Ghosts.

Last but certainly not least, we have Barnes & Noble’s Paul Goat Allen on the B&N Explorations blog, a man who’s been reading and reviewing fantasy for twenty years or so:

The bottom line is this – never before in paranormal fantasy have I read a series that features the combination of grand scale world building, labyrinthine storyline, superb character development, and social relevance. Stacia Kane’s Downside saga is taking paranormal fantasy to another level right before our eyes…

I challenge anyone who has never read a paranormal fantasy before to read this series – I’ll guarantee you that you never look at paranormal fantasy the same way again.

So, um, all of those are really nice to get.

But they do kind of have something to do with my art posts, honestly they do. Because yesterday the first post, But is it Art?was linked to on io9. Which was also pretty cool.

But I found the comments over there really interesting, in that so many of them seemed to automatically assume that you must compromise in order to get published, that it was necessary. That if you want to be published you have to expect you’ll be told to change things.

That hasn’t been my experience at all, frankly. While UNHOLY GHOSTS isn’t everything I’d envisioned it being when I started writing it, that’s my failure; I wasn’t asked to tone anything down or change anything fundamental about the story, characters, or world. Not one thing. Not in any of the Downside books, in fact. Not in any of the Demons books, either. Hell, DEMON INSIDE has a ritual cannibalism scene involving the hero of the series. Nobody asked me to take that out or tone it down or change it. Nobody has asked me to change or tone down anything I’ve written, frankly, with the sole exception of–as I’ve mentioned before–the incestuous rape scene in DEMON’S TRIAD, and that was perfectly understandable and perfectly okay with Anna and I; we’d inadvertently made it a bit sexier than it should have been and so needed to tone it down. That wasn’t a compromise. We weren’t asked to remove the rape, which was female-on-male. We were just asked not to make it titillating, and like I said, we were happy to do so.

That is honestly the only time in my entire career that I can think of where I was asked to change something in one of my books, and that’s not really a change at all. I’ve never had to give up on anything truly important to me. I honestly don’t know anyone who has.

Yes, saying that does sort of negate the whole point of the first post. And I think it’s important to remember that DEMON’S TRIAD was an X-rated ebook, sold with a warning; that scene very well may not have flown in NY, especially NY genre romance. UNHOLY GHOSTS and the Downside books are urban fantasies, which also give me a bit more leeway. As I said on Tuesday, if you want to write a cannibal love story (in mine, it was ritualistic and involved non-humans, remember) you may have problems. There are a lot of difficult subjects that you may indeed need to wait to write, until you have a bigger name or more solid standing.

But I also believe it comes down to the writing. I’d never sold to NY when I signed with my agent for UNHOLY GHOSTS, and the series was my first NY sale. I had no standing in the industry (not that I think I do now; I’m still nobody, really). But my agent and several editors felt my writing was strong enough, my story, characters, and worldbuilding compelling enough, that they didn’t care about the slightly difficult subject.

Which brings us full circle. Getting published isn’t about compromising. getting published is about writing. It’s about characters and story. Focus on those, and on being true to them and to yourself, and on giving your work that emotional depth and making it as strong as you possibly can. That’s how you get published, not by giving in or giving up or whatever.

Tomorrow I’m going to post the CITY OF GHOSTS playlist, I think, and a weekend SNeak Peek. I’m also thinking of a contest of some kind, to name a character in the fourth Downside book? Trying to think of a fun way to have people enter; I’m thinking of doing a Twitter contest using the #cityofghosts hashtag HarperVoyager already came up with. Thoughts? Anybody interested?