Archive for 'intimidation is for losers'



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 Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
More on What we Say

Yesterday’s post netted me quite a few comments.

A few of those were from reviewers and aspiring writers who disagreed with me, to which I say, hey, do whatever you like. I’m not repeating an iron-clad rule of publishing; I’m giving advice based on my experience and the experiences of my friends/people I know. You can take it or not. Frankly, I don’t give a shit if you do. Your career isn’t my problem. And yes, you may very well find a writer who didn’t see your negative review or whatever. It’s a chance you’re perfectly welcome to take. I just think you have to be either a writer or a reviewer, and not both.

A few wondered if agents/editors would really turn down a good book because the author put down one of their other books. I have no idea. I am neither an agent nor an editor. What I am is someone who watched two agents and an agency intern say it would have a definite effect on their decision to request more, or whatever. Many others may very well disagree. Not all agents are tuned into the internet or give a fuck what happens on it. Again, it’s a risk you’re perfectly welcome to take. I have no dog in that fight; I’m just the messenger when it comes to agents/editors.

And yes, it is different outside of genre fiction. Literary fiction writers don’t have the same issues, because they don’t–I believe–have the same sort of community (although I still think saying something bad about someone’s book pretty much erases your chances of getting help from that person later). And as I said, established writers are more free to talk about the work of others. What’s good for the goose may well not be good for you, though. I just wanted people to think about it, and to be aware of what they might give up, because it’s something that’s been on my mind lately.

But that brings me to another point. Much to my chagrin, at least one person yesterday took my comments to mean it’s wrong to say things about publishers. That’s not the case, or at least not really, or rather, it depends. Publishers are not writers, and the dynamic is a bit different.

No, you don’t want to run around yelling “Random House are a bunch of sleazy-ass motherfuckers!!!!” at the top of your lungs (and I used RH because they’re my current publisher and I think everyone knows I love working with them a huge big amount and have loved everyone I met there). There is such a thing as discretion, and it is important. I know things about some editors or publishers that would give you serious pause; the odds of me repeating those things–especially to anyone not a close friend/not a writer–are pretty much zero. That’s why people tell me things, see, is because they know I won’t blab them all over the place.

But there’s discretion and there’s discretion, and there are publishers and there are publishers. And, frankly, there are careers and careers. Let’s be honest here; without sounding like Miss Braggy McBraggerton, I can speak my mind about certain things more freely than an aspiring writer can, or one just barely starting a career. For instance, I often ask questions of those who decide, after self-publishing a couple of their own books, that they are totes qualified to start a publisher because all you need is some software. I do this because I know a lot of newbie writers can’t ask those questions, or don’t feel comfortable doing so.

That has not always made me popular with those hey-hang-let’s-start-a-publisher people. I don’t give a fuck. They threaten me with “She better watch herself if she wants to make it in this business,” or whatever, to which I pee myself laughing because frankly, the odds of me needing to work with a brand-new epublisher with no experience or knowledge are, well, nonexistent. Sure, I’m totally going to decide I’m done with Random House and Pocket and all those other NY houses, oh, or any of the big ehouses where I’m friends with editors who I know would love to work with me, and rush out to Amateur Love epress begging them to publish my book. I don’t even write romance anymore (although like I said, I do have that one dark erotic I’m going to do, but it isn’t my focus at all). I’ve been moving away from romance for years, because it just doesn’t suit my voice/the stories I want to tell.

If they’re so unprofessional as to get upset about a few questions, why in the world would I want to work with them anyway?

Let’s look at an example. I was emailed a month or so ago by Celia Kyle. Celia sought me out because she knows I try to help new writers as much as I can (and indeed have been doing so for years). Celia is starting a new epublisher; well, it is and it isn’t a publisher. I think it’s actually a very clever idea, actually. It’s making covers and providing a marketplace and some distribution for authors who wish to self-publish. The house is called Summerhouse Publishing.

Celia contacted me because she’d been working on answering all of the questions asked on Writer Beware and wanted to know what other questions I might think of to ask; in other words, she wanted to make sure she had everything covered, and actively sought input on that. When a thread started about her publisher on Absolute Write, as they usually do, Celia popped in to answer questions in a calm, professional manner. Celia expected questions and wanted to answer them. Celia was glad we asked questions because she wanted to present her business in the best possible way. In doing so, Celia made her house look impressive and under control, a good choice for someone interested in what she’s doing.

Contrast that to a new house that gets pissy when asked questions and starts flinging insults and threats. Which do you think is more professional? Which do you think has a better chance at lasting?

And more importantly, which would you rather work with?

See, any house I would want to work with is going to respond to questions the way Celia did, because they know it’s just a part of doing business. They know, as the famous line goes, it’s not personal. It’s business.

Just like the author who responds calmly to reviews or doesn’t respond at all is the one you’d rather read or work with, because that’s the one who’s able to keep a professional distance (and understand that really, the number of readers involved in the online community is a tiny portion of readers overall), so it goes with publishers.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that if they’re going to have witch-hunt hissy fits because I asked a few questions, I wouldn’t be caught dead working with them anyway.

And neither should you.

Yes, I have a few more options on the table, because I’ve been writing for a few years now and am lucky enough to have made some friends. That still doesn’t mean you’re forced to go with Amateur Love if you want to “get your foot in the door.” Please don’t, actually. If your work is good enough it will sell.

It also doesn’t mean that if you ask the owner of Amateur Love what her experience is, and her response is to get nasty and threaten you with the old “blacklist” canard, you should take it seriously. Because all those pros at other houses? They know Amateur Love’s owner is Amateur Hour, too. They don’t talk to her. If she does somehow contact them they shrug because they know she’s not a professional, too. Nobody cares what Amateur Hour’s owner says or thinks, so you don’t need to either. A house who’ll get grumpy over legitimate questions isn’t a house anybody wants to work with. Repeat it after me, and keep repeating until it sinks in.

If you’re treated badly at some amateur publisher, especially if it’s because you asked a few questions or whatever, for fuck’s sake speak up. Tell somebody, at least, somebody you trust. Register at AW under a pseudonym and tell your story there. Let people know, because you don’t deserve that. And don’t be scared of these people, either. They have no power over you. You will move on. (And if you don’t, well, maybe the trouble is you, to be honest.)

Questions are not critiques. Questions are not negatives; they are not criticisms. Yes, you need to watch what you say; what I’ve said above is not license to scream from the rooftops that your editor is a moron because she wants you to change a line of dialogue or whatever. Discretion is and always will be important. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat shit from some publishing bottom-feeder because you think if you don’t they’re going to call up very other publisher in the world and tell them to strike your name off their lists FOREVA.

There is nothing unprofessional about asking questions. Professionals know that. There’s a difference between asking legitimate questions and being truly unpleasant; learn it.

Any publisher worth working with? They already know. Be careful, yes. But don’t be scared.

A few other things: I’m very, very happy to let you all know that my editor has read Downside 4 and loves it! I have a few edits to do here and there-some her suggestions, some things I’ve come up with, as is usually the case–so I’m going to be working away on that, and hopefully I’ll have a release date soon. And a title!

On that subject, I’ve done a guest blog with a contest for signed copies of the three Downside books over at Book Lovers Inc. It’s about how hard it is for writers to wait for releases, too, so go check it out and enter the contest, which lasts until Feb 4th.

I’m about to start Downside 5, and another project, so busy busy busy.

Last night on Twitter the subject of a UF convention came up. I would love to go to one. I think someone should do one. Someone who, say, doesn’t have a bunch of books to write. Hint hint. I can’t believe nobody out there would want to get together with some pals and do this.

So to summarize:

*Feel free to ignore my advice if you don’t like it

*Discretion is the better part of valor, unless you’re being treated badly by someone totally unprofessional

*You could win books

*I’m very busy

*Someone needs to do a UF con

What Stace had to say on Sunday, March 8th, 2009
What does silence mean?

While spending a few minutes checking my lj friendslist yesterday, I came across Jim Hines’s post about some big race discussion that’s apparently been happening right under my nose and I wasn’t paying attention.

I’ve seen this mentioned in passing elsewhere but given that I was on two deadlines and am trying to make heavy progress on a new project, AND have agreed to participate in a Mentoring program at the Romance Divas forum (yes, I am a mentor now; scary, huh?), my internet time has been even more limited than it usually is. Well, hell, I don’t have to tell you guys that; I’ve been blogging regularly for, what, three years now?, and missed two scheduled posts last month because I simply didn’t have time.

So I don’t know what all this is about. I’ve spent some time following links but am still rather confused about the whole thing. And frankly I’m not sure I want to know; I avoid internet drama whenever possible, so generally when I see posts that seem to be referring to such things, at best I skim them.

There are subjects we don’t approach here on the blog. We don’t generally discuss politics, as you know; and if you’re new to the blog, you might want to check this short post about keeping the blog light and fun, or, especially, this post about why politics are not a part of my blog and never will be. (Interestingly enough, I discovered a link to that post a while ago from a gentleman who referred to me as “that person” and said I was wrong because those of us who are educated and know the facts have a responsibility to educate others. Which amused me highly, it really did; I especially liked his bland and arrogant assumption that people who disagree with him or anyone else do so because they’re stupid and uneducated, and not because they simply have different values or ideals or, you know, their own minds. And thus need to be lectured by someone who views himself as so much more clever and informed and valuable than they are; another one who must be a real hoot at parties. Which illustrated to me the point I made in that post perfectly. Anyway.)

In fact, that political post is pretty helpful as background reading here, I think. Because again, the purpose of this blog is to be fun. To have fun. To entertain. Yes, I do posts about writing and publishing, and those are meant to educate–but hopefully in an entertaining fashion. I don’t see it as my job to tackle big issues or be some sort of guru (even if I actually thought myself capable of being such). I don’t see this as a place to expound my political or religious or moral or whatever views–we do dip into morality on occasion, yes–because I want the blog to be an inclusive place where everyone feels welcome. Everyone. Because you are. I think and have long thought that my readers are awesome; smart, friendly, fun people, and that we’re always happy to see someone new pop in and comment. There are too many places where that doesn’t happen; where new commentors are ignored, where commenters who disagree with the blog’s admin are ripped into and made fun of, are called names, are followed back to their own blogs and picked on there. Where questions are answered with vitriol and respectful comments with insults. This is not one of those places and it never will be. I hate those places. No matter who runs them I have never liked them, and avoid them.

All this is my way of saying that I genuinely had no idea all this drama was happening everywhere.

And I say that because in following some of the links left in Jim’s posts I noticed several people bemoaning the lack of comments or support by fantasy writers.

I hardly think I’m important enough to count. I am essentially unknown; I’m not a “big voice” in any genre–I’m hardly a voice at all. So I really don’t think anyone is watching me or my blog and being disturbed by my silence, but I’m going to break it anyway simply so there will be no doubt.

And really, my link-following has only skimmed the surface. I don’t know how the discussion started or who did what to whom and why; I have an idea based on the bit of reading I did but how it all snowballed and blew up everywhere I don’t know. And I’m not posting this in order to take sides or join the fray.

And I will say this as well. I love this blog and I love my blog readers. They are wonderful, warm, intelligent people. I’m not going to tolerate people coming here and starting shit with them. I doubt that will happen. But I’m saying it anyway.

So here is my basic statement. It’s based on what I’ve read and it’s based on seeing readers wondering why more fantasy authors haven’t spoken up (and to be fair, I am certain that the vast majority of my pals have no idea this is going on either). I don’t want there to be doubts and questions about why I haven’t said anything. It’s because I didn’t know. And now that I do I am going to say something, but again, this isn’t a topic I wish to have endless discussions about. I’m not joining anything. I’m just saying my piece, because even the small ampount of reading I did showed me that some truly horrible things have been said and done and I don’t want there to be any doubt that I disapprove of such things.

Judging people or stereotyping them based on the color of their skin is wrong. Implying, even if you mean it kindly, that all people of a particular color or ethnicity think or feel the same about any given issue is wrong; there is as much diversity in minorities as there is anywhere else. Because we’re all people.

Treating people like shit is wrong. Treating them as though they are less than human, as if they exist for your personal gratification, as though their feelings don’t matter and you can just do whatever you want to them, is wrong. Ignoring the possible consequences of your actions on another person’s life and/or livelihood is just wrong.

Threatening people is wrong.

Taking petty revenge on people is wrong.

Refusing to listen to other people is wrong. Discounting them and/or their veiwpoints because you don’t agree or don’t like what they have to say is wrong.

Judging people or calling them names simply because they don’t agree with you is wrong.

We’re all human. And being human means we’re kind of scummy. We all have thoughts of which we are not proud. Whether it’s socialization or simply the fact that at heart we all still have a greedy little “Mine! MINE!” baby who is jealous and hateful, we ALL sometimes have thoughts of which we are not proud. The human mind is a bizarre and wonderful and terrifying thing.

When I was three years old I grabbed a metal spoon from a kitchen drawer and bashed my brother over the head with it. For no reason, at least not that I can recall (I actually don’t remember the incident at all). He was just sitting in a chair watching TV.

What was going on in my mind? I don’t know. What I do know is, I had a thought–to bash Ray over the head with the spoon–and I acted on it. Today, I might still have the same thought; one of those crazy things that just pops into your head, like wondering what would happen if you walked up to a stranger in public and said, “You know what? I fucking hate you,” and walked away, or if you pushed someone for no reason, or any number of crazy things that pop into my mind and I am pretty sure pop into everyone’s minds at one time or another. But today I would not act on it. I might be secretly amused or horrified, but I wouldn’t act on it. Because I’m not three anymore.

I believe racism, sexism, discrimation or whatever in any form, among reasonable people, are the same thing. We ALL have unpleasant, embarrassing, or downright hideous thoughts from time to time. Hopefully not many; hopefully not too bad. But you can’t control the crazy, unlike-you thoughts that pop into your head, any more than I can control the fact that once every few years I dream I kill someone and am trying to hide the body, and the sick, horrible sense of shame and despair that dream engenders, and the intense relief on waking and realizing I have not in fact killed anyone (this generally leaves me feeling great for days: I didn’t kill anyone!)

What you CAN and SHOULD control is the expression of those thoughts. And what you can and should control is how you react to having something you said commented on. You offended someone? Just apologize. Why do we all need to be right all the time? What difference does it make, really? Even if that’s not what you meant. Even if you think the people interpreting your words are batshit crazy for thinking that. Just apologize. Try to figure out how or why you offended them. And let it go. Period.

It’s easy. It doesn’t matter. You can still think you’re right, even, if you insist. But just apologize. It’s not being a doormat. It’s not admitting you’re a racist or sexist or you discriminate against unattractive people or mice or Weeble-Wobbles. It’s just apologizing, and everyone gets to move on. And I think if we all consider it we’ll realize that most of the big problems in our lives could be avoided if we’d just quit having to be fucking right all the time and allow other people to think and feel their own thoughts, in their own wacky brains, where they are at any given moment probably contemplating running naked through the office or fucking the elderly receptionist or peeing in the hallway, because those are the kind of loony uncontrollable musings their brains create. (What? I can’t believe I’m the only person in the world who’s ever wondered what people would do if I peed in the hallway. You know, acting as though nothing was wrong and everyone does it; just lean against the wall, lift my skirt and push my panties to my knees, and have a go right there on the floor. I’d never actually do it, of course. But I can’t be responsible for the bizarre fantasies in my head–as long as they remain in my head–and neither can anyone else.)

It’s not pleasant to be called on those thoughts. It’s not pleasant to be called a sexist or a racist or a sizeist or anti-gay or whatever else, when you firmly do not believe you are and do not want to be. But it’s also not pleasant to be the one on the receiving end of a comment or action that hurts or offends you, or makes you feel less than human. So in that situation you have two hurt and confused people, and the best thing to do is for the one who did the hurting, no matter how inadvertent it was–and we’ve all hurt people inadvertently, every one of us–to apologize. “I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to hurt you.” It’s very easy. Note that there’s no “I’m not a purple-jean hater!!” outrage attached to that. It’s simply “I’m sorry.”

And it goes both ways. The one receiving the apology could also apologize thusly: “I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, and I didn’t mean to hurt or insult you, just to point out that your comment could be construed in a way you didn’t intend.” See? Again, it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong, or what anyone meant. What matters is both people have been accorded the dignity every human being should be accorded, and both parties have a chance to move on with dignity, and reach a new and deeper understanding.

This is what being an adult is, to be frank.

And that’s basically it. Like I said I’m not aware of the whole discussion. And to bring myself up-to-date would take hours and hours of time which I frankly do not have. In fact, not only is it time I don’t have, but I get the distinct feeling that those hours would be spent growing more and more upset and disillusioned and frustrated and sad, and would leave me unable to focus on work or anything else, and I still have two books to finish and a website to build and an apprentice to mentor. (“Apprentice” is the term the program in which we’re participating uses.)

And really, does it matter if I know the whole story or not? I’ve said my bit. I’m tired of anger and entitlement and the idea that other people don’t matter. I’m sick of seeing it everywhere. I don’t want to see it anymore.

Every person sitting in front of a keyboard and typing out all those words with which you disagree? They are people. Human beings. Maybe we could all remember that? Just try to keep it in mind, is all. There’s no excuse for treating them like they’re something less than that. Less than you. Less than anything. I avoid blogs and forums where people are treated that way. I avoid blogs and forums where being vicious to other people is encouraged. Those are not places I want to spend my time.

I write about pain. I write about isolation and disillusionment and the utter and complete lack of belief that life is worth living. I write about blood and magic and filth and evil and death. I write about abuse and hatred. I write about loneliness and misery and secrets and the uncertainty of life and people who have nothing but honor, people who can’t connect with other people, people who bleed rivers of pain if you cut their skin.

Quite frankly, my worldview is already twisted enough; there’s plenty of misery floating around in my head already. I don’t need to go find more. That’s why I try to keep the blog a positive place and that’s why I avoid getting into arguments etc. online, and avoid visiting websites and blogs where people are regularly turned into cannon fodder.

And I guess that’s it.

What Stace had to say on Friday, January 2nd, 2009
A few bits before I “officially” return

Yes, I know. You’re all waiting with bated breath, right? Ha.

Okay. First, yes, I am messing about with the template. I attempted to download the new CSS template I’m using for my shiny! new! website!, but Blogger kept insisting something was wrong with that code. Nothing was wrong with the code; I’ve run it through three different programs to make sure. The problem, I guess, is that it’s a webpage code and not a blogpage code. I dunno. Anyway, it blows, because I love my shiny! new! website! template. (Above is a sneak preview of the header.)

Anyway. Feedback is appreciated. I can already see the sidebar fonts are too light; I will fix them over the weekend.

Second.

I hope the person in question doesn’t mind me posting this, but a friend said something to me earlier–and I said something in return–that I felt the need to repeat here publicly.

In a nutshell, my friend is getting ready to begin the query process. I sent her a list of names of fantasy agents I esteem–Jim McCarthy, Rachel Vater, Miriam Kriss, Kim Whalen at Trident, Katie Menick at Howard Morhaim, to name a few–to add to her list.

Of course, at the top of the list I put my own agent. :-)

My friend thanked me for the suggestions but mentioned she probably wouldn’t query my agent because she didn’t think she had a chance at interesting an agent with such a prestigious agency (Look, this is what SHE said, okay. I’m not trying to brag or anything here, I’m really not, so I hope I don’t sound like one of these people who’s constantly running around talking about their agent and how their agent is the greatest agent who ever lived and how other writers would kill, yes, kill, to be repped by my agent because my agent gets a billion queries a minute and is clearly The Most Important Person In Publishing and the business would stop dead if this person were ever to leave it because they are so, so, so important and amazing and thus by extension so am I. So please don’t think I’m doing that.)(Although I do obviously think my agent is pretty fucking cool.)

Anyway.

She told me she didn’t have a chance with him, because she didn’t have any prior publication credits and she’s not writing in a “hot” subgenre, and this is what I said in return:

Don’t be ridiculous. Prior credits have nothing to do with it and you should know that. Chris signed {another cool writer} and I don’t think {writer} has any prior credits. I know my prior credits didn’t matter one bit to him.

Query him. Query him, unless you just don’t think you’re good enough to get a really good agent; in which case, why query anybody at all? Believe me, if I’m good enough for him–me, of all people–so is anybody else.

What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll waste under a minute cutting and pasting a query letter? You’ll get a polite rejection? Oooh, scary. :rolleyes

Yes, I’m being deliberately harsh here in an attempt to show you that you’re being silly. Query EVERYONE who can give you proper representation. EVERYONE. So they say no, so what? Chris isn’t some sort of beast; he’s not going to come to your house and throw poop at you if your query isn’t for him, or send out an email to every other agent in NY making fun of you for having the effrontery to think *he* might be interested in your work.

Either you believe you’re publishable or you don’t. (Yes, I use boldface a lot; so? You got a problem with that?) And if you do, you query everyone. Period.

Hugs, dear. I’m trusting that you know I’m really not trying to be a bitch here; I just don’t want you to limit yourself like that. Where would I be right now if I hadn’t decided to go ahead and query him? Maybe I’d be repped by somebody else, sure; I had five or six other fulls out when he offered. But you know, maybe not. Who knows?

Just send the fucking query. At worst you’ll get a form rejection. At best you’ll get a great agent.

And that goes for you too, readers. Don’t give me that shit about how The Big Guys aren’t going to be interested in you. Either you’re ready or you’re not. Either you think your work is publishable or you don’t. Why limit yourself at the query stage? If they say no, they say no; big damn deal. What if Bigtime Agent is the one, and you never find out because you’re too chicken?

There are LOTS of great agents out there. Try them all.

Thus ends your new year inspiration for the day.

What Stace had to say on Monday, December 15th, 2008
Sigh

I was going to do another post about the RWA today, specifically focusing on their stated purpose, which is “…[to] support the professional interests of its more than 10,000 members…” and “…to help its members pursue a career in romance fiction…” (which is a bunch of bullshit, is it not? Since they have no interest in helping ALL of their members pursue a career in romance fiction, only those who write romance without that dirty sex stuff in it) and on their Code of Ethics, which, in light of the new RITA rule, is a total and complete joke.

Check this out (it’s the middle “principle” of ethical conduct an RWA member should exhibit):

“RWA members strive to treat fellow members, RWA staff, and others with respect.”

There’s also one about adhering to RWA’s bylaws, to which I no longer have access since I decided last year to stop throwing my money away by giving it to them as “membership dues”. Last time I read the bylaws they didn’t allow discrimination, but my memory could be faulty. Either way, I hardly see telling writers who qualify for PAN that despite qualifying (by earning over the minimum “professional” amount–in other words, RWA considers PAN members to be professionals and thinks they should be treated as such), they’re still not allowed to enter the RITA, respectful. Or honest. I certainly don’t think the rule belongs on the same website as the words “integrity” or “honesty”.

Oh, members are also not permitted to engage in “conduct injurious to RWA and its stated goals”–that of helping members pursue careers etc. etc. Seems to me that the new RITA rule is awfully fucking injurious to a lot of writers’ career goals, and that that might be something a group of those of you who retained your membership in order to “change from within” might be interested in looking into–why not get that change started now? Why not DO SOMETHING from within the organization?

There are disciplinary actions in place, you know, designed to deal with violations of the Code of Ethics.

I’m just thinking out loud here.

See, here’s the thing. I know I’m actually blogging about the RWA when I said I wasn’t going to. But there’s something I realized a while ago, and it’s something I think is worth sharing with everyone else.

The RWA is a writer’s organization–at least, it’s supposed to be. Membership is not obligatory for success. It’s a nonissue. The RWA board is made up of writers. Not agents. Not editors. Not anyone who makes any decisions as far as your career is concerned.

You do not have to be an RWA member to get an agent. You do not have to be an RWA member to get published. You do not have to be an RWA member to have a long and successful career.

The RWA is a straw man. So many writers are, I think, a little afraid of speaking out against the RWA. And I understand it, I do. We all hear so often that editors and agents are reading blogs and paying attention to our conduct, and that if they get the slightest whiff of us behaving unprofessionally we’ll be blackballed. No more contracts for us! We’re done.

But it’s not true. Not at all. The RWA has NO power other than what writers give it. None. And while I’m sure most agents and editors are happy to attend RWA events and genuinely enjoy them, I really don’t think they’re going to leap to defend the organization as a whole and decide writers who speak out against the disrimination in the organization–discrimination against paying members who have done nothing wrong except write the word “cock” a few too many times in their books–are Bad Eggs, unprofessional attitude problems they don’t want to deal with. In fact, I imagine it would be extremely difficult to find an agent or editor who actively CARES what anyone says about the RWA; and I bet you’ll find one or two agents out there who represent writers who are also epublished, who are just as angry about this on behalf of their clients as I am on behalf of friends of mine who are hurt by this.

The RWA is NOT the publishing industry. They’re not. They’re just a group of writers. In the past they have gotten together AS WRITERS and done some good things–forcing Harlequin to give up rights to pen names, for example. But they didn’t do that as Publishing Movers & Shakers. They did it as writers. Because that’s all they are.

They don’t make decisions about your career. The board members don’t spend their days on the phone with agents and editors discussing in what direction the industry should go. CEOs of publishing houses do not have them on speed-dial to ask them for advice.

In other words, speaking out against their shameful discriminatory policies is not going to get you blackballed from publishing. It just isn’t.

The only reason they have ANY power, any at all, is because their members give it to them. And by saying that I don’t mean the RWA is like Freddy Krueger, gaining power from fear and becoming stronger and stronger with every scream (well, okay, maybe I do mean that a little.) But what I really mean is, they are powerful because you give them power in numbers. If the RWA was comprised of fifty people nobody would give a shit what they did (well, a lot of people still don’t give a shit what they do, but you know what I mean). But because they’re so large, they have power. Because they tell people they’re there to help and advocate etc. etc., and people believe it, that gives them power. Because they have somehow managed to spread the propoganda that belonging to the RWA is an important part of having a professional career in romance writing, a lot of people join believing it–and stay even when they’re not sure what they’re getting out of it.

But their scope is so limited. The RWA has power over the RWA’s members, and that’s it. Not over any individual, not over the industry as a whole. They just don’t.

So don’t be afraid to speak out and insist that the RWA–which is your organization, and you should have a voice in it–account for itself. Insist they live up to that Code of Ethics. Insist they start treating their members equally according to their own rules (PAN members are RITA-eligible if they released a book in the last year, period.) Insist that they represent ALL their members, not just the ones of whose books they approve.

You do not answer to the RWA. They answer to you. Without you they’re nothing. Make sure they know it.