Archive for 'in which i open up in an afterschool special kind of way'
What Stace had to say on Thursday, July 15th, 2010
On Tuesday we discussed whether or not writing was art, and how much of ourselves writers should put into their work. And it kind of struck me, as the discussion ran along similar lines at Romance Divas, as I was writing the post, and as I was preparing this one, that if we’re going to accept books as art and writers as artists…are writers the only artists who are regularly expected to completely distance themselves from their art? To act as if it has nothing to do with them?
I think this perhaps happens a bit more in genre fiction. I do believe there’s a sense that literary fiction is more artistic, that it’s deeper and more expressive or whatever. I think literary fiction writers are allowed to “get away with” stuff genre fiction writers could never even attempt.
But why is that? Is it because we think genre fiction is easier to write? Anyone who’s tried to write it can tell you it’s not. Is it because we think since the stories have certain general tropes that they’re not as original, or again, that they’re easy to write? Maybe. Maybe there is a sense out there that genre fiction isn’t art because we’re just putting a bunch of elements together in the same way as everyone else does, and that it doesn’t require any real depth from the writer. Which, as we discussed a bit on Tuesday, I think is frankly bullshit. In order to create a fully fleshed-out character you have to do some digging. In order to create a real and complex world you need to do that. If you want to make your story mean anything to readers, elicit any emotion in readers, you need to elicit that emotion in yourself, which means digging deep and–again–being honest. You can’t hide or lie to readers in your work.
But I do think there’s a weird kind of pressure on genre fiction writers to not let on that they see themselves or think of themselves as artists. There’s a definite pressure to act like their art means nothing to them, like it’s an entity completely separate from them.
Think of it this way. If a painter has a gallery show, and a critic ravages his work, does anyone frown and kick up a fuss if the artist gets upset about it? Does anyone remind him that reviews don’t exist to make him feel better, but to inform art lovers whether or not his work is worth their time? Not as far as I know. People expect the artist to be upset about terrible reviews. They expect him to be temperamental; hell, we all know what the phrase “artistic temperament” means, don’t we?
Now, I am NOT, absolutely NOT, implying in any way that reviewers don’t have the right to say whatever they want about books, or that reviews aren’t for readers and not writers–they absolutely are–or that writers should be allowed to freak out all over the internet and threaten people or name crack whore characters after people who gave them bad reviews or whatever. No, no, no, I’m not saying that at all, not one bit; you all know how I feel about that. This post isn’t about reviewers or reviews, except insomuch as they can be another example of what I feel is the expectation that genre fiction writers not consider themselves artists, not think or talk about themselves as artists, and not act as though their art is important to them. Like caring about your work has become synonymous somehow with freak-out rants and threats, instead of just…caring about your work. I’m not implying in any way that this sort of pressure comes solely from reviewers or readers, either; it comes from other writers just as much if not more.
Let’s take the “book as baby” cliche. Now, I am 100% in favor of the “Your book is NOT your baby,” reply to that one. I’ve had two babies. I’ve written over a dozen novels. I can tell you they’re entirely different.
And yes, you should be able to distance yourself from your work to some extent. Your work isn’t you. People are going to have differing opinions about your work; some may love it, some may hate it. Just like some people like you and some people hate you, and we try to learn from an early age that a lot of peoples’ opinions just don’t matter, that the only people whose opinions we should care about are our families and close friends, our bosses, whatever. You know what I mean.
But at the same time, as we discussed a bit on Tuesday, when you write you do put a lot of yourself into the work. And a lot of people will decide from that work that they can judge or define you as a person; that they somehow know you because they’ve read your books. And as I said, maybe they do. I don’t know what people think of me after reading my books, or what sort of person they think I am, or what clues to that they’ve found in my work. And this sort of judgment has always taken place, and still takes place, everywhere from the largest newspaper in the country to the smallest review blog. People always want to analyze the writer through his or her work, and they always want to analyze the work by connecting it to what they know of the writer. That’s normal; it’s just the way it goes. But again, that seems to be the case for literary fiction and not genre fiction.
I don’t believe genre fiction is any less artistic than literary fiction. I don’t believe genre fiction writers put any less of themselves into their work or expose themselves any less, at least not good genre fiction writers. I’m tired of fantasy or science fiction or romance being treated like they’re not “real” books. But I also wonder, at what point does that become, not a self-fulfilling prophecy, but one which we ourselves contribute to?
See, every time we as genre fiction writers huff indignantly that our work isn’t that special to us, that it’s not our baby, that it’s not ourselves, maybe we contribute to the idea that genre fiction isn’t art and shouldn’t be treated/considered as such. Maybe we contribute to the idea that we haven’t put anything of ourselves into the work, that we haven’t actually written anything of depth or truth.
It comes into the “professionalism” argument as well. We’re all so worried about being professional, about being easy to work with and seeing our work as a commodity and ourselves as commodities and all of that…have we become so focused on publishing as a business that we’ve forgotten about the magic of it? About the art? Have we tried so hard to be seen as professionals, not as silly women writing silly things or whatever, that we’ve stripped away some of the joy, and turned art into drudgery? We don’t want to say our work matters to us because that’s not a professional attitude; but you tell me in what other profession people are expected not to care about their work? Why can’t we be professional and still deeply invested in what we do?
It seems sometimes as if that attitude, the “Oh, my work is just what I do for a living, it doesn’t really mean that much to me, I’m totally cool, yo,” attitude, is expected of us. And I’m not sure why. Is it because we do see the occasional stunning online meltdown, with ranting and name-calling and “Wicca curses” and the ever-popular “I’d like to see you write a book, mean girl!” and we all want to distance ourselves from that as much as possible? Maybe. Is it because in some ways genre fiction feels more like a popularity contest than literary fiction, by which I mean we’re expected to network with our readers and interact with them; we’re expected to be accessible and friendly and open, in a way I don’t think litfic writers are? (I could be totally wrong about that, it’s just the impression I get and something I’ve noticed). Litfic writers get on Oprah; genre fiction writers get on Twitter.
I love interacting with readers, I honestly do. I don’t mind the expectation that I promote and Tweet and blog and all of that other stuff, because I enjoy doing all of that. But again, I wonder if the desire to be liked by readers, the desire to be popular, to not offend them, to make them want to support us, has made us deny our art? Has made us put it down or act like it’s nothing special or important in order to seem like just one of the gals, as it were? If we say our work is important, or imply that we’ve done something special that only we can do (by which I mean expressing our own individual truth and telling our own individual story, not writing in general; certainly neither I nor any of my friends are the only people who can write) then we’re not implying to our readers that we think we’re better than them. We’re equalizing with them. We’re being careful not to let a hint of ego or arrogance leak into the air around us, because if they think we’re an asshole they might not buy our books. Hell, even just talking about what our goals were or what we hoped to accomplish with our books can be seen as pretentious or entitled or whatever else.
And I do think that’s part of it as well. Sometimes it feels as thought the denial of genre fiction as art is really writers being told to get the hell over themselves, they only wrote a fantasy novel, you know?
I admit part of that is true. As proud as I am of the Downside books and as much of myself as I put into them, I don’t think they’re WAR AND PEACE. I know they’re not.
But they are art. They are my art. They are an expression of something deep inside me and the way I see the world. That’s what art is; the expression of something to elicit an emotional reaction, remember?
I’m happy to distance myself from that art when necessary; I don’t show up screaming on review blogs if someone didn’t love my work. I don’t reply to Amazon reviews or whatever. That’s not my place. I will freely admit that my books are not my babies, and I will let them go, and let people interpret them as they may. All of that is fine, and expected, and right.
But what I will not do any longer is pretend that my books aren’t part of me, and that they don’t matter, and that they aren’t art. Because they are.
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
This is something I’ve been thinking of for a while, and have wanted to post about for a while, too. It’s probably the first post of a few, and I warn you, I may ramble a bit.
A few weeks ago over on the Romance Divas forum a discussion was started about honesty in your writing, and what that means. It moved on into discussions of art and connection to your work as art, which I’m also going to discuss. So basically we’re going to have a big mishmash of Stacia’s Deep Thoughts about writing, which will hopefully be fun for everyone, but of course we’ll see, won’t we?
Anyway. The initial question, posted by the lovely and talented Kate Pearce, was whether or not we, as writers, compromise ourselves–change what we want to write–in order to sell the work or make it “acceptable” to a particular audience; do we stop ourselves from writing things readers might react badly to. Keeping in mind we’re discussing genre fiction, and genre fiction has certain conventions and reader expectations. All of which are, of course, perfectly fine; readers are entitled to expect the book they pick up will be what the cover and bookstore shelving or whatever promises them it will be.
But at what point do we stop writing what we want to write in order to be successful? At what point do we suffer for refusing to do so?
The thing is, your writing should excite you. Not ‘excite” as discussed in the Strumpet series, lol (although sometimes it should, depending on what you’re writing), but excite as in fire you up intellectually and creatively. I firmly believe that if what you’re writing doesn’t do that, the reader will sense it. The writing will be flat. The story will seem cliche. And frankly, a flat, cliche story stands very little chance of selling (yes, there are exceptions, but in general, and especially when it comes to first-time authors or those just beginning careers). This post isn’t about writing techniques, though. It’s about the deeper aspects of writing, the emotional stuff, the stuff we couch in skill.
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What Stace had to say on Thursday, July 1st, 2010
No, really, hear me out here. This isn’t a “Twilight is great” or a “Twilight sucks” post. I’m not defending it, but I’m not raging against it either. I’ve just had a few thoughts abut it recently, and I thought they were interesting, and I thought my smart and wonderful blog readers might have some thoughts about my thoughts. So here we are.
I’ve read the Twilight books. Well, okay, I read the first three. The second, if memory serves, was the one I liked best out of those, but I simply could not force myself to get through the last one. I was dreadfully bored, so I skimmed it, and got the gist, and that was more than enough. And again, I didn’t hate them. I didn’t love them, by any stretch. I didn’t particularly like them. But I didn’t loathe them. I even thought–and it’s not an uncommon thought, I don’t think–that there were some good ideas buried in there, some really cool shit. And I admit as well that one scene in the first book, the one at the lake when Jacob tells Bella the legend of the vampires, was pretty nifty. I dug that scene.
But yes, I also see the problems. I see the essentially abusive relationship, the completely ridiculous parents, the ha-ha-semi-rape-is-okay bits, the oh-sure-it’s-totally-cool-for-adults-to-fall-in-love-with-infants bits, the female-sexual-desire-is-gross-and-must-be-suppressed bits, the creepy-religion-y stuff…you name it. I know it’s there.
Am I happy that teenage girls all over the world wish a man would stalk them, scare them, destroy their possessions in order to get them to obey, patronize them, treat them like morons? No. Of course not.
But here’s the thing. What exactly are the other relationship alternatives we as a society are offering teenage girls?
How many stories do we see about teen pregnancy rates going up? How many of the fathers of those babies stick around? How many women and girls do you know who’ve slept with a man who said he loved them or cared about them, and then dumped them shortly after they had sex? How many times does our society tell young women that for them to expect to be loved and taken care of by a man is ridiculous, a silly fairy-tale dream, and that they better get used to relying only on themselves because men won’t stick around? How many girls out there are led to believe that their only value is as a sex object? That being a sex object is the most important thing there is? How many of these girls have fathers in their homes? How many see men as people who drift in and out of your life, treating you sort of okay sometimes?
It’s not just about sex. I don’t mean to sound like I’m on some chastity crusade. But what I do think is that girls today are being raised to believe that they shouldn’t expect respect, love, responsibility, or anything else from men. That being cheated on is just the way it goes. That the only way to get and keep a boyfriend is to not mind when he treats you badly, to give him things, to not act like you really care that much, to place no expectations on him.
I realize I’m exaggerating a bit. I realize there are still plenty of decent people out there. I realize that things can be just as tough for teenage boys.
But my point is, our society seems to be moving further and further away from the idea that love is a valuable and good thing, that people belong together, that girls have the right to expect to be treated with respect and kindness, and that boys have the right to expect the same.
And that, my friends, is one reason I believe the Twilight books are so popular. Yes, Edward is a controlling jerk. But Edward isn’t embarrassed to care (he even says the L word!), and he doesn’t leave Bella at home alone while he goes out with his friends picking up girls. He doesn’t refer to her as his “bitch.” Once he admits he cares, he is committed. Twilight offers girls a view of a relationship that, if it’s not a great alternative, at least seems more secure than a casual hook-up. It’s a world where girls don’t have to be embarrassed to want a solid relationship, with a man who will care for and about them, and wants to make a serious commitment to them. It’s a world where, for all that the sexual attitudes in the book are troublesome to say the least, Bella’s sexuality and willingness to sexually perform is the least important aspect of the relationship.
And in this world it’s okay, even right, if the desire to love and be loved is the most important thing in your life. That desire isn’t pooh-poohed or put down in those books. It’s not treated as frivolity. It’s not spoken about or represented as if it’s a shameful thing to want to be loved or to be in love, and that any girl who thinks about relationships and romance instead of college and their investment portfolios are obviously ridiculous, irresponsible creatures.
Twilight offers a skewed view of relationship, yes. Twilight does not contain what I would say is a truly healthy relationship.
But Twilight is about a relationship, and Twilight takes that relationship seriously and treats it as an important thing, a worthwhile thing, a thing of respect. Something fulfilling. Twilight doesn’t put down young girls for wanting a boyfriend, or for wanting that more than anything else. It doesn’t make them feel as if they’re not good enough if they don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, or aren’t spending their every waking minute working hard and collecting references for college applications.
I don’t think this is the only reason; it’s just the only one I can fathom, to be honest. And I’m not saying any of this is a good thing, or that I approve. And I’m not saying Twilight doesn’t deserve the criticism it’s gotten; it absolutely does.
But I also think that in relentlessly attacking Twilight, we’re once again attacking these girls, too. We’re telling them, once again, that they’re stupid and silly for believing in love and for wanting it. They’re ridiculous for wanting a man to truly love them and to see something special in them. We’re telling them that the desires of their heart and soul are unimportant, and foolish, and that if they aren’t focusing their entire selves on future earning power and getting ahead they’re wasting everyone’s time.
And to be honest, I don’t know which of those messages is worse.
What Stace had to say on Friday, June 18th, 2010
It’s 1:50 pm (yes, I know that isn’t morning. So what?). I’ve been ready to go back to bed since ten.
Lousy sleep–it’s too damn hot to sleep–and lousy dreams. Then, as I’m wandering the internet this morning I find an article about the upcoming Toy Story 3 movie, which reminded me of Toy Story 2, which I hate and can’t watch.
“But, Stace,” you say, “how can you possibly hate such a sweet little kid’s movie?”
I’ll tell you why. Because it’s awful and sad and tragic. Sure, it’s fun for the first hour or so. Look at the toys, aren’t they funny, Barbie is an idiot slut, la la la. Then we meet Joan Cusack’s character, and then we hear her tale, and they sing that song about how life was beautiful when that fickle girl loved her, and we see that fickle girl abandon her by the side of the road and go off with some boy, because all women will eventually abandon everything for a man, and by that time I’m sobbing and on the beginning of a depressive shame spiral that will only end in a lot of vodka.
I can’t possibly be the only one who feels like this, can I? Who sees that and starts remembering all of my toys, the stuffed animals and horse statues and Weeble-Wobbles and stuff, now lying broken and abandoned in a ditch somewhere, alone and scared, at the mercy of the elements, sobbing and spending their entire eternal toy lives wondering what they did that was so wrong, and why I forsook them so coldly? And wishing desperately I would just appear and hold them one more time?
Seriously. I have enough shit on my conscience. I don’t need that, too.
After reading that article I literally cried for ten minutes. Why don’t you just play a recording of Helen Reddy’s “Candle on the Water,” to complete the childhood misery deluge? (See, I have this theory about “Candle on the Water.” I believe that while we as children thought it was a sweet song, and maybe kids today still do, you cannot play that song to any adult over the age of, oh, thirty, and expect them not to dissolve into tears. Seriously. We should look into this as a weapon. Whoever owns the Helen Reddy records owns the world.)
Did I mention the hideous, oppressive heat, and how it makes me half-convinced that the earth is just about to burst into flames? And saps every bit of energy out of me, and makes me slow-witted and sad? I hate the damn sun. I hate the damn heat. It makes me ill (literally; I’ve always been really sensitive to heat).
And then, something was crawling–well, I say crawling, but what it was in fact doing was racing–up my arm, and across my lapdesk. I–acting purely on my killer animal instincts–killed the thing with a spiral notebook. And guess what? It was a spider. It’s bad luck to kill a spider. Like I need more of that these days, right?
Sigh. So this day is not shaping up to be a great day, but let’s hope it improves. And it actually has a bit, because I popped over to Twitter to drown my sorrows and found a new review of UNHOLY GHOSTS, which, coupled with the one I got in my email this morning, makes me feel much cheerier.
From All Things Urban Fantasy, 4 out of 5 bats:
Any series that is described as “a cross between Ghostbusters and Escape From New York” is going to get my attention, big time. Of course that also means said series is going to have a lot to live up to. And in one of the wonderfully rare cases, UNHOLY GHOSTS does exactly that. It’s cool and twisted, just the way I like my urban fantasy.
From Book Chick City:
I’m so excited about this book – I LOVED it! I haven’t read an Urban Fantasy this good in quite a while…The writing is perfectly paced, I didn’t get bored once and everything slots together at the right time. The plot is just brilliant and had me engrossed until the very last page – I didn’t want to put this book down!
So let’s hope my slightly cheerier feeling lasts.
How about you? Looking forward to a good weekend, or a dull one? Does the heat make you feel oppressed and trapped beneath the weight of all the world’s misery too? Do you like Toy Story 2, and does “Candle on the Water” make you cry?
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
…So that’s what I’m doing today.
Today is the official release day for UNHOLY GHOSTS in the US, and I guess it’s being released in the UK/Ireland/Australia/New Zealand as well? Yes, it seems that way. And I’m frankly terrified. Excited and elated and terrified.
We had a couple of new reviews come in, and they’re good ones. Not just, or not necessarily, because they’re positive, although they largely are, but because they’re thoughtful. Because they read the book and really considered it, and really put that consideration into the reviews, and really?
It’s not my place as an author to ask reviewers or readers for shit. It’s not my place to tell them how they should think or feel about my work, or how they should express those feelings. But I won’t deny that it pleases me immensely and makes me feel good when they do put that consideration and thought into their reviews. It’s gratifying, and I appreciate it, and if I could ask for something, that would be what I would ask for.
So first we have Michele Lee’s Book Love:
Unholy Ghosts is a thrilling ride, textured and vivid, a powerhouse of fantasy. Brimming with characters that aren’t quite heroes but aren’t quite bad guys either, it shows the hard core, broke down parts of the world other stories skip over, the dark side of reality that comes not from magic, but from the poor, desperate and disillusioned trying to make it through a hard life.
Seriously? I got a little teary when I saw this one. It was so close to how I think of the books; Michele understood so clearly what I was trying to do and express. It’s absolutely amazing to feel understood like that, and like you’ve truly connected with someone through your work.
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What Stace had to say on Monday, April 19th, 2010
I’d planned to post about something else today (Amber Publishing, who are publishing the Downside books in Poland, have posted the cover and blurb on their site, in Polish [of course], which is totally cool), but that, along with the online translation of it, will have to wait. Because I’ve had this post in mind for like a month now, and I want to get it out there. Settle in, guys, this is a long one.
You may have heard of Young Adult Authors Against Bullying, a Facebook group made up of–as the name implies–YA authors who disapprove of bullying. I’m not technically a YA author but I’ve joined, as have a lot of others. And a few weeks ago many writers posted their bullying stories on their blogs. I didn’t; not because I don’t have bullying stories or wasn’t bullied as a child/preteen/teen (believe me, I was, horribly) but because I didn’t learn about it until it was already in progress and I already had this post sort of planned, as I said above.
A lot of this is in reaction to the death of Phoebe Prince, a high-school girl driven to suicide by a gang of less-than-human teenage shitweeds who decided she deserved to be mocked, bullied, teased, insulted, and otherwise abused because she *gasp* dated a guy who used to date one of the aforementioned shitweeds (and the guy later joined in, which just makes me lose hope in the future of humanity, but then, this whole story does).
It reminds me a bit of the Megan Meier case, in which a girl was cyber-bullied not just by kids her own age, but by the mother of one of her acquaintances. A grown fucking woman, who thought it was a good idea to harass and play tricks on a young girl online.
And that’s sort of what I want to discuss. Adult bullying, and the society of mean.
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What Stace had to say on Friday, March 5th, 2010
First, I forgot to mention here (though I have put it on Twitter a few times) that I’m doing a chat at BookSmugglers and it lasts until tomorrow, and when you ask me a question you’re entered to win a complete set of the Demons books. So if you haven’t stopped by already, please do!
Second…well. My last post got considerably more attention that I ever anticipated, so that was quite a surprise. And I have some follow-up questions about it, but those I think will wait until another time. At the moment I just want to address one thing quickly, and another in a bit more detail.
First, as always, when you put things out on the internet and people see it, they’re going to react, just like when you write a book and put it out there people are going to react. And really, part of being a writer is learning to accept that and let the negative stuff roll off your back, or learn from it. It really doesn’t bother me anymore, and the comment I want to discuss didn’t bother me personally, I just find it’s indicative of what the whole point of my post the other day was.
I discovered, quite by accident, that apparently there are some people who feel that Moira and myself, and any other writer who shares our opinions, are simply kissing ass. I find this extremely sad, I have to admit. Is this what the world has come to, that when people see a wrong and speak up about it they’re immediately assumed to have some sort of ulterior motive?
Have we really reached a point where “Writers hate readers” has become the default position, so any writer who claims to actually like readers and want to see them treated well is automatically suspected of just being a big old liar, who probably spends their private, secret hours lurking in bookstores and tripping innocent readers as they pass by, just for fun? Or who runs around various reader blogs and sites leaving anonymous comments along the lines of “You’re all just thieves why don’t you go fuck yourselves you selfish bastards?” Seriously. Am I the only one who finds it really sad that we live in a world where a writer who says “I love readers, and want to please them, and want to see them treated like human beings instead of dogs,” must be an ass kisser, because the person making the accusation apparently can honestly not imagine any other reason why a writer might feel that way and express that feeling?
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What Stace had to say on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
I’m in a release day frame of mind lately, what with DEMON POSSESSED being released last week. See, it’s not just that that book was released, it’s also that it means UNHOLY GHOSTS will be out soon. Well, soonish, lol; three months.
And like any other writer with a book coming out, I’m thinking about promo. See, I want you to buy the book(s). I want you to get all of your friends to buy the book(s). I want to sell thousands and thousands and thousands of copies. I want to hit the NYT list, or the USA Today list, or the Publisher’s Weekly list, or Bookscan or whatever. Lists make writers happy, you see. And they make publishers happy, and everybody’s happy. Happiness is good.
And of course, I would hope that you guys, my lovely readers, would want to help me sell books or hit lists or whatever. Because we have something of a symbiotic relationship, you know, you and me. I write books, and you buy them, and when you buy them you encourage me to write more of them, and it’s all very cheering and makes me feel warm and happy inside to think that I’ve given you something you enjoy (I honestly love giving presents; I’m one of those weird people at holidays who gets more excited about the things I’m giving than what I might get).
But here’s the thing. While I would hope that you would want to help, I don’t expect you to. I’m surprised and thrilled and grateful whenever you do, but I don’t expect it. At all. Ever. And I certainly wouldn’t presume to INSIST you do, or berate you for not doing so. Or imply that you’re stupid for not purchasing my books in the exact fashion that I would prefer you to do so.
Sadly, it seems sometimes as if I–okay, I and several of my close friends–are alone in that feeling, that instinctive cringing when we see readers being treated like nothing more than open wallets whose sole purpose is to drive said writer to greater glory.
Do I want to hit a list? Of course, although I would never presume to think I have a real shot at it. Do I think it would be great if readers everywhere held off on buying my books until the day of release? Well, sure, I guess so, but see the aforementioned “I would never presume to think I have a shot at a list anyway so what does it matter,” answer. (Yeah, I know, that wasn’t the full answer, but it’s what I meant.)
Are there things readers can do to help a favorite author hit a list? Yeah, but not as many as you think, really. Sure, waiting until release day–or the day before, since books release on Tuesdays and sales are counted for the entire week, so buying on Monday is okay–helps. That’s a good thing to do, if you’re interested, but really that’s about it. It’s certainly all I would ever think to ask.
See…I work for YOU. I mean, yes, I work for myself, but I DO the work for you. You are my audience. You are not my slaves. You do not exist in order to feed my ego or allow me to add a shiny “List” pin to my vest. It’s not for me to tell you where you’re allowed to buy my books or in what format. I’m just amazed and grateful that you buy them at all.
I’ll be perfectly honest here. There are times when it feels as if the world of readers and the world of writers are at war. Readers want certain things; they have a right to want those things as consumers. But writers/publishers want certain things as well, and we have a right to want those things as content creators and producers. And don’t even get me started on copyright violations/piracy, and some of the justifications for those. Again, to be honest? There are times when I see discussions of it, or come across my books on filesharing sites, and have the sick, deep feeling that I should just give the hell up. I can never “win”–by which I mean earn a decent living consistently, when I’m being stolen from.
And it’s not just the financial theft, it’s the feeling that someone has literally reached into my mind and taken something from me without permission. It feels like I got drunk and told a deep secret to someone I thought was a friend, and that so-called friend turned around and told the world, and they’re all laughing at me. Or like a when a guy you really like sleeps with you and then never calls you again, you know? It makes me feel worthless, and frustrated, and lonely and sad. Sure piracy bothers me because of the money, sure, but really?
Piracy just hurts. It hurts to think someone is using you for entertainment but doesn’t think you deserve any compensation for that. It hurts to think you’re seen as less than human; as some sort of machine which exists for the gratification of others but is not permitted any gratification of its own. It hurts to feel that someone thinks they’re entitled to the fruits of your labor–the expression of the truth as you see it and the worlds and people you created and love–without paying for them. It doesn’t feel like a royalty payment was stolen from you. It feels like a tiny part of your soul was stolen from you.
That shit hurts.
And I imagine it hurts readers, too, when they’re made to feel–from being yelled at, lectured, or treated like they’re stupid–that they exist solely to provide the writer with titles and accolades. That just buying and reading and enjoying and talking about a book isn’t enough, that they now must buy it at certain times, in certain places, in certain formats, at certain phases of the moon, or whatever. Just as writers are not simply typewriters churning out words, readers are not simply notches on that big bestseller belt. They are people.
I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. Just that I think it’s wrong.
Do I want to sell a lot of books? Hell, yes!
But I don’t want to just sell a lot of books. I want to entertain a lot of people. I want to give them something. That’s what this is about, not numbers or lists. It’s about books and writing and reading and the way when we read a book we love we feel connected to that book, and those characters, and that author. And when we discover another fan of those books we have a connection with that person, and books created that connection, and it wouldn’t exist without writers, readers, and publishers.
So do I want to hit a list? Of course. Have I thought of various promotional things to do, fun things, that may help facilitate that? Sure.
Do I want to hit a list at the expense of readers, by berating them or nagging them, by treating them like my minions or like they fucking owe me that goddamn list, so they better get off their fat asses and do what I say?
That’s not worth it to me. I don’t want it that way. It wouldn’t mean anything that way.
I may never hit a list. But I will always be grateful that people have bought my books, and read them and loved them and took the time to tell me. Yes, this is a business, and I want to succeed in it and make money. But not at the expense of readers, and not at the expense of my own soul.
So that’s it. Just some things I’m thinking of, and will continue to think of as we get closer to the summer and the release of the Downside books (finished copyedits on CITY OF GHOSTS last week, and am quite pleased, btw).
ETA: Moira Rogers, who writes awesome books, has also done a post on this topic, and I highly recommend you check it out too. My response to it? Ditto.
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
So a number of things have happened in the past few weeks/days that have got me thinking about this blog (No, relax. This is NOT a “I’m not blogging anymore” post). One, my decision to let the set schedule go. I’ve actually enjoyed blogging more lately, and if you notice, I’m still doing about two posts a week. The difference for me is I can now blog when something strikes me, and not hold back until it’s Blog Day or whatever. So I kind of feel rejuvenated as a blogger, if that makes any sense. I’m having fun with it again, and that feels great. So I thought this would be a good time to kind of renew my thoughts on the blog, and what its purpose is, and what I think about it.
I’ve seen a few times online in the last month or two people–people who should fucking know better, IMO–running contests where one of the ways to enter the contest is to post about the contest on blogs or message boards. In other words, don’t just promote the contest on your own blog or Twitter feed, but post about it on various message boards or in comments on other people’s blogs.
This is spam. It is spam, spam, spam. It is tacky and it is rude, and just as a general FYI–although I know none of you would ever do such a thing–it will not be tolerated here. I can ban IPs from this site, and I will do it.
Here’s the thing. This is MY blog. It’s MY website. And while I follow certain rules–which I’ll get to in a minute–the fact remains that at its most basic level, this site and blog are here to promote me and my books. Along with, of course, the books of anyone I mention in posts or invite to come do a guest post here. To “walk” into my blog and start dropping your own promo is the height of rudeness, akin to walking into my home and starting to redecorate without being asked. I don’t care what it’s for. Don’t do it. It’s rude to me and it’s rude to you guys, the readers of this blog, who do not deserve to be treated like rubes or fish in a barrel, just waiting to be led around by the nose.
As of this writing the blog gets anywhere from 200-600 hits a day, every day. On days when I post the numbers go up; no-post days, of course, have lower numbers (and some posts got much, much higher numbers, but those are obvious anomalies). And I’m aware that’s nowhere near the kinds of hits really popular blogs, really popular names, get. But they’re still MY numbers; you’re MY readers, and I’ve worked hard over the years to attract you and entertain you and get to know you a bit, even, and let you get to know me, and you and that work mean a lot to me.
If you have something to promote–be it a book or a charity–email me about it. There’s a good chance that I’ll invite you to guest post about it, or I’ll mention it. And if I don’t, it’s probably because I don’t think my readers would be that interested in it, frankly. And you know what? That’s up to me. because, again, MY BLOG. MY READERS. I owe them–I owe you guys–the respect of not being treated like some nameless, faceless gaggle of wallets.
Which brings me to the other thing. A long time ago now I did a post about why I don’t blog about politics, and the gist of it was, because I respect you all and think you’re capable of making your own decisions without my input. This is still true. But, as I believe I said in a follow-up post at some point, which I’m too lazy to hunt around for–there’s another reason, too.
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What Stace had to say on Thursday, February 4th, 2010
So a discussion began last night, on a forum of which I am a member, about the rinsing of raw meats before cooking, specifically poultry. Some rinse, some don’t. Another member commented that apparently the FDA recommends against rinsing. You know why?
Because the water can splash and land on other things, thus spreading bacteria.
I had to laugh. I love the idea, first of all, that the FDA is recommending against a basic sanitary routine because the people doing it are apparently not capable of cleaning up after themselves. Seriously.
But it got me thinking about one of my biggest, hugest pet peeves ever, which I’m going to share with you.
See, I am anal about raw poultry and/or pork. Seriously. I treat that shit like it’s nitroglycerine. Nitroglycerine which also carries the Ebola virus. And is armed with razor blades.
Here’s what I do:
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