Archive for 'sometimes people lie on the internet'

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What Stace had to say on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
I don’t need you to avenge me, thanks

Guys…what the fuck is going on?

Seriously. What the fuck is going on here?

I honestly don’t even know where to begin, or what to say. I find myself growing more and more disturbed by things I’m seeing lately, on an almost daily basis. Like, to the point where I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps writers and readers simply should not interact with each other at all. Like, to the point where I’m considering withdrawing from the online world more than I already have (which, I’m sure none of you have noticed because you have full and busy lives, but is a bit).

It seems like almost every day we have yet another bag-of-douche acting like a fucking…I don’t even know what a good analogy is. Like a fucking vindictive shithead, vomiting their poo all over the internet and delighting in making other people feel bad. They claim this is justified, that they are Taking A Stand.

Guys…at the risk of Godwinning, reviewers are not Hitler. They’re not Mussolini. They’re not Pol Pot. I’m not aware of a single reviewer who has actually, say, kidnapped an author and tortured them in the basement, no matter how offensive they may have found that particular author’s book. I’m not aware of a single reviewer who has committed mass human rights offenses, or has engaged in some sort of cover-up, or has stolen money from people, or whatever other actions that might constitute, you know, actual activities a serious and definite stand should be taken against. For that matter, I’m not aware of a single book that has bombed spectacularly because some people got upset about it on Goodreads. The books that (appear to have) started this whole mess? Hardly failures.

I’ve been hanging around the online reading/writing community for seven years now (“Lane, I’ve been going to this school for seven years now. I’m no dummy.”). In that time I’ve seen quite a few authors behaving abominably. I’m only aware of one whose behavior was execrable AND whose books were not successful, but in that case, actually, I think the lack of sales has more to do with the fact that her books were utter shit (and even then, there were several poor misguided souls out there who liked them. Which is their right. I just personally thought the books were garbage).

So let’s get this straight, and let’s say it in boldface so there is no mistaking it:

You are not Taking A Brave Stand when you “out” people on the internet, no matter how rude or nasty you may think that person has been. You are not Exposing Their Crimes At Great Risk To Yourself. You are not a Miraculous Crusader For The Rights Of Others. You are not Karen Silkwood. You’re not even Woodward & Bernstein. You’re just an asshole with no perspective, to be honest.

And you should be fucking ashamed of yourself.

I’m ashamed of you. I’m ashamed to share internet space with you. You make me sick to my stomach.

Ever hear the phrase “Two wrongs don’t make a right?” Why don’t you think for a minute about what that means? Even IF–for the sake of argument–even IF we take your thesis as a given: That there is a segment of people online who secretly hate certain authors and delight in ripping them to shreds, and who get off on the sense of power they get from insulting and hurting and misrepresenting authors who they know can’t fight back, and who honestly believe they have the power to hurt the careers of those authors…

Even if we take that at face value…

How exactly is outing those reviewers on the internet HELPING anyone? How are you making yourself look like anything but a miserable, bullying piece of shit? How are you doing anything but making the tension in reader-writer relations–a tension with which I admit to being increasingly uncomfortable with every new kerfuffle–WORSE?

You’re not.

And you’re a fucking hypocrite. Outing people from behind the veil of anonymity. Yelling at people for daring to express opinions while behaving as if every word you type is precious and golden. Deciding it’s your place to attack people you deem “bullies.” (By the way, I’m also not talking about the difference between bullying and what you seem to think is bullying, and how offensive that is, and how I’m tired of seeing people hide behind the buzzword-of-the-day to justify their own complete lack of human decency.)

Honestly, I’m not just angry and sick about this. I am both of those things, intensely. I’m furious. I’m horrified.

But I’m also disheartened. I’m so tired of it all, you guys. I’m just so fucking tired of it all.

You know what? I’ve been on the receiving end of internet rage. I’ve had things I said misrepresented. I’ve gotten hate email–more than once. I’ve found people saying the most vile and hurtful things about me, lying about me. It wasn’t nice. It wasn’t fun. It didn’t feel good. It still doesn’t. I’ve seen it happen to others, too. And I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

I’m sick of the goddamn internet feeding frenzy. I’m sick of feeling like we’re all trapped on the island from LORD OF THE FLIES.

But you know what? If it’s anyone’s responsibility to put a stop to that shit, it’s MINE. I am the product creator. I am the merchant. I am the content originator. In other words, I am the one with the responsibility to guard my public image, to guard my art, to guard my integrity, and to watch how I represent myself. You could even say–and hell, for the sake of argument I will, even though it sounds egotistical and I really don’t think of it this way–that I have a responsibility to set an example.

I cannot control the behavior of others. I CAN control my own behavior.

Here’s the thing. Have I seen situations where I feel statements or actions of writers have been taken out of context, or overreacted over? You bet your ass I have. Has it upset me? Hell, yes, it has. Has it happened to me, where something said in one spirit was taken in a completely different one? Regular readers know it has (and I won’t even discuss in this post the sexism of that situation, or of this one, though I may do that soon. Suffice to say at the moment that I’m sick and tired of the attempts made to keep women and their opinions in line while no such offense is taken when men say the same things, or of women being yelled at for their “tone” and “attitude” whereas no one does the same at men. Ever visited a heavily male site like Aintitcool? Why don’t you go take a look at the vitriol there, and say something about it? Oh, I know. Because you’re too busy being an asshole about women who dared to step off the very narrow path of behavior you deem appropriate).

But here’s the other thing.

If writers never went crazy and unloaded on readers, if they never did things like try to out them or get their little friends to vote down their reviews or report them to try to get them deleted…if writers never sent nasty emails to reviewers or threatened to name AIDS-infected prostitutes after them (because that is so totally hilarious, yo) or tried to get them banned from websites…if writers never sent emails out to their cronies asking them to write positive reviews of their books or leave comments on less-than-positive reviews on retail sites or blogs…if writers never took to the internet to bitch and moan about those stupid readers who dared to not like their books and what morons they are and how they don’t deserve to live…in other words, if the idea of a writer cheating, gaming the system, and generally acting like an entitled little shit had never occurred to anyone? If all writers behaved with integrity? If no writer had ever behaved as though readers are nothing more than their personal publicity service with some kind of duty to help them promote their work? If no writer had ever behaved as if readers have no right to express an opinion?

Well, gee…if no writers had ever behaved like that, do you think readers would be so anxious? Do you think they would interpret any sort of comment by a writer on or about a review (and keep in mind I disapprove of writers commenting on reviews at all, this is just a general question) as an attack or attempt to intimidate? Do you think all this shit would have started in the first place?

Because I kind of don’t.

The fact is, the burden is on us. No, I didn’t start writing with the intent of being a Public Figure. Yes, I do find it upsetting that writers have to be so careful what we say, not just about reviews but about anything and everything else. But hey, that’s part of the job. And it’s easy to forget that it’s not just writers. It’s not an outgrowth of “celebrity.” It’s an outgrowth of having your thoughts and opinions exposed to a large group of people. Sooner or later somebody’s going to take offense. If you say something to enough people that will happen. That’s just the way it goes. I find it upsetting no matter who it happens to; I wish and wish that we could all remember those people on the other “side” of the computer screen are people, with thoughts and feelings. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe they’re lonely or sad. Maybe they’re just not thinking about everything they say with the gravity Lincoln afforded the Gettysburg Address. People make mistakes. People mess up. People forget their audience, or fail to phrase something exactly, or whatever else. I hate that people are so eager to leap onto others like a pack of wild dogs. I hate that we seem to think the internet means it’s okay to say anything to anyone, about anyone, with no consequences. But you know what? People get carried away, too.

It’s easy to look at the current climate and talk about how ugly it is. And it is. Not all of it, but a segment of it. I know I’m not the only one growing increasingly disgusted by it, increasingly uncomfortable with it, increasingly angry and upset. I know I’m not the only one who’s been seriously reconsidering my participation online. I know I’m not the only one who finds the tendency toward outright glee when someone makes a mistake, the way everyone jumps in to laugh and point, to be highly disturbing.

But the answer is not to jump in and out-disgusting the people you feel are disgusting. The answer is not to forget your responsibilities to other people. The answer is not to create a website so full of vile slime and attacks, a website that deliberately tries to disrupt lives and could potentially incite violence–a website that outs mothers with children in their homes and encourages people to harass them (think about that again for a second: MOTHERS WITH CHILDREN IN THEIR HOMES)–that it turns the stomach and then pat yourself on your smug fucking back like you’ve just Scored One For The Good Guys.

YOU ARE NOT A GOOD GUY.

You are, in fact, the opposite of that.

I’m sorry this is so disjointed, and confused. I’m sorry it doesn’t make my point as clearly as I would like. I’m just too sick and sad and angry and upset and whatever else over this. It is horrifying. HORRIFYING.

I may well discuss this more later.

What Stace had to say on Tuesday, January 10th, 2012
Freedom of Speech

So. Yesterday I ranted a bit, and I’m going to do it some more now. As with yesterday’s post, I’m not entirely sure where this is going to go. As with yesterday’s post, this is my attempt to get some things straight in my head and to explore this subject, so I may be a bit harsh; I may say things as part of playing Devil’s Advocate; I may go off on little tangents (probably will, because let’s face it, that’s what I tend to do).

First, a couple of things I forgot or didn’t get to say yesterday. First, authors? Don’t review your own books, either on Amazon or Goodreads or anywhere else. Don’t rate them on Goodreads, even if your “review” says something like, “Well, I wrote it so obviously I think it’s good!” Like that’s funny or charming or something (hint: it’s not).

I was going to say that reviewing/rating your own books under your own name just makes you look like a tool, rather than being actually sleazy, but then I realized that your rating shows up as part of the book’s overall rating; I can think of a couple of books (all by the same author, what a shock) who have pretty decent overall ratings on Goodreads, but then when you look at them you realize that’s only because the author and his/her (not giving you clues as to who it is) “agent” and/or editor have all given the book five stars, whereas the two readers who rated/reviewed it gave it two or three. So, sorry, reviewing/rating your books under your own name is sleazy. Having your agent or editor review/rate them is also sleazy, and honestly, I’m not aware of any editors with major houses or the big epubs who do so (there could be some, but I’m not aware of them).

I do have my own books on my Goodreads and LibraryThing “shelves.” I didn’t intend to do so, but both sites said specifically that I should. So I do. I’m not entirely comfortable with it, but it does seem to be standard and expected. I rarely visit Goodreads, to be honest (more on that in a bit) and as I’ve said before, I *never* visit/read posts in the “Terrible Fever” Goodreads group or the Downside Shelfari group. Those are reader spaces, for you guys to discuss the books; they’re not for me and I actually think it would be creepy for me to lurk over them watching you all. And might make you feel uncomfortable or inhibited. So I stay away. I believe that’s the right thing to do.

I don’t think I have to say that reviewing your own books under a sockpuppet account makes you scum just like pressuring/begging your friends and family to do so does. Anytime you’re lying to readers, anytime you’re attempting to jerryrig your reviews or rankings, you’re doing something unethical. And, you’ll probably be caught, and that will be bad. Really bad.
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What Stace had to say on Friday, July 22nd, 2011
Of sales, skepticism, and scams

So.

Last night I saw a link–I’m not going to repost it here, the poor girl has been through enough–to the blog of a writer who had just self-published her novel. The link was to a new post, in which the writer announced–with palpable and understandable excitement–that Jodi Reamer of Writers House (that’s a big-name agent at a big-name agency, for those of you unfamiliar) had seen her book, emailed her to offer representation, and gotten her a deal with (if memory serves) HarperTeen. A big deal, a six-figure type deal.

Obviously people were thrilled for her, in the way so many of us are thrilled for another person–happy for them, perhaps tinged with a bit of envy, because we’re all only human and at heart most humans are, frankly, selfish, evil little beings. Socialization and morals and ethics and all of that teaches us how to deal with those selfish, evil little thoughts, but they’re still there.

Anyway. A few people were not as thrilled; they were skeptical. I admit to being in this camp. I’ve seen publishing deals happen at lightspeed–I know a few people whose agents submitted their work in the morning and had offers by the afternoon–and of course agents can offer to represent at lightspeed as well (my agent offered two days after my initial contact with him, and I’ve known people who’ve gotten offers on the same day). It does happen, sure, but to get an agent and a large deal all in a day or so is extremely unusual. To be able to announce that deal so quickly is even more–well, no, it’s not even unusual. It is, frankly, unheard of. Generally deals aren’t announced until contracts are signed, or at least until the contract stage has been reached (meaning, the fine points are agreed to and we’re just waiting for the paperwork). Lots of us wait until our deals are announced in Publisher’s Marketplace; not because we have to, but because it’s fun to be able to post the little blurb they print in there. It makes it feel real. (In fact, my agent rarely reports to PM, and did so for me because I asked him to, batting my eyelashes and all of that while I did. Okay, no, I didn’t bat my eyelashes, but I did ask, because I wanted that announcement; I wanted to see it confirmed somewhere, because so many people read PM and it’s exciting.)

But this isn’t about deals being posted or anything. It’s about the fact that apparently the expressed skepticism of some people alerted the writer that maybe she should just double-check everything. So she called Writers House.

And discovered that an extremely cruel joke had just been played on her. And not just her, either:

From today’s Publisher’s Lunch:

Writers House has learned that a series of fake emails claiming to be from WH agent Jodi Reamer have been circulating to self-published authors this week. “These emails, which contain a number of false statements, have not in fact come from Jodi Reamer and should thus be disregarded.” One easy “tell”: they advise that any e-mail from a non-Writers House address “expressing interest in representation is counterfeit.”

I cannot even begin to express how absolutely horrified I am on this poor girl’s behalf (and on behalf of the others to whom this happened); I can’t even imagine how it must feel to think you’ve accomplished something like that and to discover that no, you were simply a victim, something to be exploited for someone else’s sick enjoyment. That you were treated as if you’re not even human, less than nothing, not a person with feelings but some sort of computer construct to be toyed with. Who the hell would do something like that? What the fuck is wrong with people? Do they like to kick puppies, too, and maybe wander up to random children and tell them they’re useless, stupid little shits who’ll never amount to anything in the world? What kind of person gets their jollies from doing this sort of thing?

When did we forget that those other people, the ones on the other side of the computer, are in fact people, real people with feelings, and not Sims?

A while ago I did a post on bullies. It feels like things have gotten worse since then. No one is content to just let someone else have their own opinion anymore, and I’m sorry, but the fact that they posted that opinion on the internet does not mean it’s okay to gang up on them and call them names. You want to disagree with their opinion, fine. I personally don’t always see the point in making a big deal about disagreeing with it–I tend to just think “Huh. I don’t agree with that” and move on, unless it’s factual misinformation, in which case I still strive to be polite and respectful–but if you feel they need to hear your point, go ahead.

But there’s a difference between “I disagree with your opinion” and “Dude, you’re a fucking idiot.” There’s a difference between “This is incorrect” and “Dude, you’re a fucking idiot.” And why the hell do you care what they think, anyway? Why is it so important to you to lurk on people’s Twitter feeds and make fun of them in your own? Why do you need to send hoax emails to people just because they have dreams and are trying to accomplish something? Is that really fun? Do you even care that a human being is on the other end of that, a human being you’re being purposefully cruel to just because you can?

Yes, sure, people shouldn’t put things out there if they don’t want others to react. Yes, people should expect disagreement and not get all butthurt because someone does disagree. Yes, we’re adults and need to take responsibility for what we put out there.

But other people’s lives are not a fucking game. Just because someone doesn’t think or feel the way you think or feel doesn’t mean it’s okay to call all of your friends to gang up on them and giggle in public. Just because that person exists doesn’t mean you have the right to stomp all over them. Does it make you feel good about yourself to reduce another person to tears, to make them the butt of your jokes? Have you proved that you’re cool, because you can take an offhand remark they made and turn it into a huge debacle, or misinterpret something they said and spread that misinterpretation around, encouraging others to pile on as well, or play a prank on them and make them think their dreams have come true? Is it really that much fun to treat other people like shit? How the fuck do you people sleep at night?

I’m sick of it, is all. I’m sick of this internet culture that makes people think that other people are simply toys for their amusement, and that it’s okay to jump all over them and keep jumping, that it’s fun to do so. I’m sick of the idea that because it’s a group of people doing it, it’s okay to join in. I’m sick of the idea that it’s open season on anyone and everyone, and that if they wanted to have feelings they should have thought of that before they logged on to the internet. I’m sick of the idea that this kind of shit is cool, and I’m sick of the way people are dehumanized, and I’m sick of the internet culture that reminds me so strongly of Christians thrown to the lions.

Next time you go to comment on something, just think for one second. Is it really necessary to share my opinion here? How much does this really matter, in the big picture? Does this person really deserve my scorn? How would I feel, if someone said this to me? Am I sure I’m interpreting their point correctly?

I’m not saying you can’t have opinions or make them public. I’m not saying you should never respond. I’m not saying you can’t gossip with your friends in email or whatever else. I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t speak up when someone is being unjust, or that you shouldn’t alert people to that injustice and/or warn others away from it, or stick up for those who can’t stick up for themselves; I absolutely believe you should.

I’m just saying, don’t forget, that other person is a person, too. Being cruel to them, picking their words apart when they didn’t mean to offend, playing tricks on them, laughing and kicking them when they’re down, publicly encouraging others to go and pick and laugh too? It doesn’t make you cool. It makes you a fucking asshole, and I’m sick of seeing it, and I’m sick of watching people be bullied online and then told they deserved it for daring to put themselves out there.

Just saw a link to this:

Another ETA: I want to make it very clear that my post is NOT referring to any other posts written about this specific situation. Indeed, it’s not about any one blog, blog post, or specific incident; or rather, I’m very angry and upset about this situation and on behalf of this writer but when I speak of internet culture etc. etc. I’m speaking in generalities, and absolutely NOT referring to or accusing anyone of anything over this particular situation (except the actual hoaxers, of course).

Just wanted to mention that, because I know a couple of other posts have been written about this. I read those after I wrote my post, and am not at all reacting or responding to them here.

What Stace had to say on Friday, February 11th, 2011
Expert Advice

Ah, the internet. It’s such a big place, isn’t it? (Yes, I realize the internet isn’t actually a physical place. Just go with it.) So full of people from all walks of life, all levels of intelligence, all sorts of different opinions and thoughts and advice and knowledge and jobs and…well, all that stuff.

It’s funny how the internet has really become such a go-to place for information. I mean, it’s not funny ha-ha, but funny in that as little as fifteen years ago, nobody really even knew what an internet was. I remember my ex telling me about how somebody showed him this really cool site online called Ebay, where you could actually buy all sorts of stuff from all over the world, and you might get it really cheap!

Anyway. The things that make the internet so great–accessibility,* information, multiple viewpoints, etc. etc.–are the things that make it so dangerous. We all know the stories about women or young girls who’ve gone to meet an internet boyfriend and ended up murdered or raped. We all know about internet stalkers and all of that stuff.

But there’s another danger on the internet, one that’s a bit more…sly. And granted, it’s a lot less dangerous, in that you won’t be raped or murdered. You’ll be robbed, sure, but it’s kind of willingly, so there you go.

Here’s the problem. Anybody can be an expert online. Anybody. All you have to do is call yourself an expert, and people will believe that you’re an expert. This is how writers fall for PublishAmerica’s scam all the time; PA claims it’s a big publisher, look at our happy authors, we publish lots of books, we don’t want your money! So they submit their books (and PA will famously accept anything) and then discover that no, actually, PA does want their money very badly, and will do just about anything to get it (and treat the writers like shit along the way; they don’t even get a reach-around). Why do PA authors fall for it? Because PA has a big website, and pats themselves on the back, and because these writers don’t think to do the single most important thing they could do for research: Go to the bookstore and see if any of that publisher’s books are on the shelves.

This is something I see a lot. I’m sure it’s prevalent in all industries, but of course I see it in the writing community because that’s the one I’m part of and the one I pay attention to. I see all kinds of people shilling their “How to Get Published” guidebooks and classes, their conferences and workshops, their critiques and edits. All for a fee, of course. Often for a pretty high fee. Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
Publishing: It’s a Business! And it’s hard sometimes.

It seems, much to my surprise, that there’s something controversial about saying “Don’t make enemies of people who may be in a position to help you later on in the career you hope to have.” I had no idea that this was something people would disagree with.

(While I’m on the subject, a link in comments led me to this post by Jeanine Frost, a NYT bestseller and very nice person I had the pleasure of meeting once a couple of years ago. I hadn’t seen this post before I posted; I wish I had. Maybe if you don’t want to believe me, you’ll believe her.)

Several people brought up Roger Ebert, I’m not sure why. Roger Ebert is a professional reviewer. He is a good and successful reviewer. I just must have missed the part where Ebert started actively pursuing an acting career. Nobody said you can’t be a reviewer. Just that you should think before you decide to try to be both. When is the last time you saw, say, Sandra Bullock, reviewing a film?

I’ve been referred to as being “scared.” I wanted to clarify this. I am not fucking scared. Ask anyone who knows me; I believe they’ll tell you there’s very little I’m afraid of (and if you read yesterday’s post you’ll see more clarification). I carry two switchblades. Hell, I have “I am not afraid” tattooed on my arm.

Some people are shocked–yes, shocked!–that writers would actually not take time to help out someone who criticized their work in the past. You know what? Writers are people. Just like any other people. When is the last time you took time you couldn’t afford to help a stranger who’d been publicly critical of you in the past? Why does everyone think this is a matter of anger? It’s not. I’m not sure what’s unclear about the fact that my time is extremely limited. If I have two bound mss in front of me, I likely only have time to read one, and that’s with me barely scraping that time from my schedule. Let’s see. I can pick the mss of the person who in the past said they disliked this or that about me or my work, or I can pick up the mss of the person who never said a word about me, or complimented me. You tell me what person you know–who isn’t in the running for sainthood–who’s going to deliberately pick the one of the critical person. It’s not about revenge. It’s not about anger. It’s about practicality.

This isn’t about being nice, either, to be honest. or rather, it is, but only in so much as it’s about not actively being unpleasant to or critical of people who could have an influence on your career. I’m not saying you can’t ever speak out against injustice or rudeness. I think we should do so. I think if you’ve read my blog before you know that; hell, remember what happened in May? I saw another writer–one “above” me, in fact, with whom I was friendly, who I liked as a person, and who was friends with many of my friends–behaving in a manner I found shockingly bad, disgusting, even; aggressive, rude, and unpleasant to readers. I blogged about it. Did that writer see it? I know she did. Do I think she’ll ever help me out with anything? I don’t think she’d piss on me if I were on fire, frankly. Do I think it’s possible she showed my post to her editor, and her editor now thinks I’m a bitch? I know it’s a distinct possibility, yes.

But the fact is it was worth it to me, because it was something I felt very strongly about and believe very strongly in. Do I think writing a review of her book is so important that I’d be willing to alienate her? Fuck, no. It might be worth it to you. Make the choice.
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What Stace had to say on Monday, January 24th, 2011
Being published changes everything

Last night I participated in #Querychat on Twitter. And one of the participants asked about her online reviews; I think it was whether she should link to her blog in a query. The agent who answered, Jill Corcoran, basically said, “Go ahead and link if you want, but it’s a good idea to take off any bad reviews of any of the agent’s clients before you do, and the same goes for editors.”

This led into quite a long discussion, in which I, of course, poked my nose.

The asker asked if by “bad” reviews Jill meant nasty/mean ones, or if she just meant reviews where they didn’t like the book. Jill and I both replied–and I believe Weronika Janczuk, another agent, joined us as well, in saying…well, yeah, even just reviews where they didn’t like the book.

The thing is, I think people tend to forget that agents sign clients because they love their work. Yes, they think it’ll sell, but that’s part of loving it. My agent? Loves my work. Likes reading what I write, and wants to read it, and looks forward to reading it (which is the way it should be). So if you hate my work because it’s nothing like the stuff you like, which presumably is the sort of thing you write…well, your work is probably pretty different from the kind of thing my agent likes, right? So there’s one strike against you.

I mentioned that I personally would be rather hurt if my agent signed someone who’d trashed me/my work, or even just said negative things about me/my work online. My friend Yasmine Galenorn agreed with me, and said she wouldn’t help that person out, either, like with a blurb or whatever. Which I agree with, as well.

The Asker was surprised. She didn’t think authors would get so angry over a bad review.

But it’s not anger. It’s not anger at all, really; I can’t think of a review of my work that’s ever made me angry, to be honest. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and to express that opinion wherever and whenever. But…the purpose of a review, the whole reason reviews came about and exist, is to tell people whether or not they should read that book/buy that TV/use that hair gel/wear those shoes. That’s what a review is, and what it does. You may do a lot of other stuff along with your reviews, and use them to start long involved discussions, but the fact is, people read reviews first and foremost to see if the product–in this case a book–is worth buying.
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What Stace had to say on Monday, January 17th, 2011
The NEW Downside Market is open!

Yay! Go check it out!

As I said before, it’s on Spreadshirt. Spreadshirt had the lowest prices of the three places of this type I looked at (the other two being Zazzle and CafePress) and they seemed to have the biggest variety as well, or at least they had more things I thought would be good to have. But as far as both of those go–pricing and variety–I don’t have a huge amount of say in them, so I did the best I could.

I did a lot of the designs myself–and it was really fun! if time-consuming–and all of the designs from the old store did carry over. Unfortunately most of those designs were/are too small for Spreadshirt’s specifications, so until I get bigger files I can’t put them on a lot of stuff. I also don’t have copies of those with white print, so I can’t put them on anything dark or black. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to do that, though.

There are two designs done by the fantastic and wonderful Michelle Rowen. She sent me the “Team Lex” and “Heart Terrible” designs as a surprise, which was so freaking cool. (Also, she managed to use actual art in hers, which I am not able to do. Whether that’s due to my crappy fake Photoshop program or my dunce-ness at computers, I don’t know, but I can’t do it.)

There’s a nice big section for the urban fantasy genre in general, which I think is pretty fun. I might grab myself a few of those to wear to cons! See, we UF readers etc. are indeed out there, and we are part of the community. Plus I just find them, well, fun, like I said, and I hope you do too.

I plan to add more designs periodically; of course when the fourth book is released I hope to put up a couple related to it, and so on. And as I’ve said before, if any of you find yourselves in the mood to play around, by all means send me what you’ve got, if you want!

A lot happened in the writing community this weekend, but I think it’s all been covered in plenty of detail. I’m just going to say that people who behave as though everyone should worship and admire them just because they say so, tend to not be very pleasant when people don’t in fact worship and admire them, but instead ask them to actually prove they’re worthy of it. And no matter how politely the questions are worded, they still behave as though they’ve just been urinated upon or something, and proceed to attack. Very nastily. It’s not pleasant to be on the receiving end of one of those attacks.

And those who do that sort of attacking? They very rarely change, and stop behaving in that fashion. This makes them dangerous to deal with or work with; they don’t care who they drag down with them.

Also, on a halfway different subject, Michele Lee made this for me, isn’t it great? (If you don’t know what it refers to, read here, specifically this line:

But it seems as if the comments and the criticisms are not edifying. If your goal is to be a boo-bird. Good job.

I freely admit I find the phrase/epithet “Boo-bird” to be completely awesome. I plan to use it in a book one of these days. It’s too cute to avoid. A ridiculous thing for a grown, supposedly professional woman to say in a supposedly professional context, but charming nonetheless.

Anyway. Michele Lee made this for me:

Adorable, isn’t it?

I myself made this:

Yes, I am embarking on a new career. My darling friend Jane Smith over at How Publishing Really Works (and if you are a writer I cannot recommend her blog highly enough) is coming with me; she will be the Boo-bird CEO, and I will be VP, at Boo-birds Inc.

If you’d like to be part of Boo-bird Inc. too, just take a card! Put it on your site or blog, print it and keep it in your wallet, tattoo it on you, whatever you like.

So, to sum up:

*Lots of new t-shirts and stuff which I hope you’ll all like, at the new Downside Market!

*Chicks named Michelle (or variations thereof) have mad Photoshop skills.

*People who love themselves a little too much tend to keep doing so, and often use very bad judgement because they are convinced they’re right, and especially that they matter and everyone cares about them/what they think. (This is also true when, as is often but not always the case, they’re the sort of people who lie and “pad” their credentials so, for instance, checking over a quarterly employee newsletter for typos for an architecture firm becomes “being a journalist and editor in the architecture industry.”)

*I am a big old boo-bird.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
Women’s Books

Before I start I want to make something really, really clear. This post is NOT about any specific review outlet/magazine/blog/website. It is NOT claiming this is the case for all reviewers, in all places, or that this is a constant. And most importantly it is NOT saying reviewers can’t feel about a book however they want to, or view it through any lens they want to, or whatever else. I also want to make it absolutely, positively clear that I am thrilled beyond words at how readers and reviewers in general have taken to my books and characters; this isn’t about some sort of personal grudge on my behalf, not at all. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I’ve seen several other people discussing it recently, so wanted to stick my nose in.

I also want to mention something else, because judging from a couple of comments I need to clarify. The story about bookstore shelving was one small indie bookstore. This has nothing to do with where books are shelved. It’s about the perceptions of those books once purchased/the standards by which they are judged/the dismissal of them. But it’s not about where they’re shelved at all.

What kinds of books do women write?

I know, I know. Women write all kinds of books. But it seems–from a very extensive search I’ve done over the last few weeks/months of various bookseller sites/review sites/magazines/databases/blogs/whatever elses, that books written by women are far, far more likely to be categorized as romance, reviewed as romance, and judged by romance standards, than are books written by men.

In a Twitter discussion about this (Twitter use update: I’ve been using Hootsuite the last few days because Seesmic has a slight tendency to balk when I leave it up all the time, which I do; it’s always the second tab in my browser. I do miss the little crunch noise, though, and will be going back to Seesmic; I like switching back and forth between them, but Seesmic is the main one I use) someone told me about a bookstore near them where any books written by women that have any sort of romance subplot or whatever–including sci-fi and of course urban fantasy–are shelved as romance. Period. SFF written by men is SFF, no matter how big the romance subplot is. But if the author has ladyparts, it’s romance.

I’ve talked before here about the frustration of women’s books–urban fantasy in particular–being categorized/called/dismissed “chick books” just because there are sex scenes in them or just because finding love/romance is part of the story. And how romance is often a subplot in books written by men, too, but those books are not dismissed or judged as romances, and why it is that women’s books are denigrated as “not real fantasy” if they contain stronger romance elements but those written by men aren’t.

Neil Gaiman’s STARDUST, for example, is still called and reviewed as Fantasy, despite its incredibly strong romance plot/subplot. But I’ve seen Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series called and reviewed as Romance. Why? What’s the difference? Carey calls her books Fantasy. Gaiman calls his book(s) Fantasy. Why is his categorization honored and hers isn’t? More to the point, why do reviews of his book–including reviews written by women, too–focus on the writing and story, whereas reviews of Carey’s books focus on the romance?

In her book How to Suppress Women’s Writing, Joanna Russ–herself a fantasy/sci-fi author, among other things–uses as one of her methods “False Categorizing.” She says:

It is bad faith that stands behind what I shall call Denial by False Categorizing, a complicated now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t sleight of hand in which works or authors are belittled by assigning them to the “wrong” category, or arranging the categories so the majority of “wrong” Glotolog fall into the “wrong” category without anyone’s having to do anything further about the matter.

Later, she elaborates a little further:

The assignment of genre can also function as false categorizing, especially when the work appears to fall between established genres and can thereby be assigned to either (and then called an imperfect example of it) or chided for belonging to neither.

Does this sound familiar?

Again, reviewers have every right to bring their own tastes, thoughts, and opinions to a review; honestly, this really isn’t about reviews or reviewers as such. It’s more about genre itself. But what’s happening is, every time a work of literature, or a work of fiction in a genre that is not romance is reviewed as a romance, that author is being denied her agency; she is being denied the right to have her work seen on its own merits, and is instead being forced back into a particular box. In other words, her work is being denigrated not because it isn’t a good or worthwhile example of what it is, but because it’s not a good or worthwhile example of something it never claimed to be.

This is akin to giving Schindler’s List a bad review because it isn’t funny enough, or complaining about Caddyshack because the viewer didn’t find it scary. That these films never claimed or set out to be funny or scary doesn’t matter; the work isn’t being judged by how well it is what it’s supposed to be, but by the standards of something completely alien–standards which may even be totally unknown to the filmmakers.

Is this a way of suppressing women’s writing?

How many books by men do you see re-categorized in this fashion, either as women’s fiction or romance or whatever?

I often see Lolita discussed when the topic of underage sex comes up in regards to romance. And the very correct argument is made that Lolita is not a romance, and therefore should not be judged by romance standards. But do you think the difference would be so clearly and carefully mentioned if Lolita was called Laurence, and was written by Valentina Nabakov? Do you think people would avoid mentioning how sad and saggy Humbertina Humbertina was, how desperate to recapture her youth, how sexually useless she was, being past her sell-by date?

Of course, I am chiefly talking about genre fiction here, since it’s where my experience is and what I read, so it’s what I pay more attention to. But I honestly can’t recall the last time I saw Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels dismissed as “chick books” or downgraded in reviews because the reader didn’t fall in love with the main love interest in whatever story. I don’t remember seeing Mike Carey’s Felix Castor novels treated that way either. But I see lots of urban fantasies by women being downgraded for exactly that reason.

It’s not just the romance or lack thereof, though. It’s the “unwritten rules of romance” which are applied to women’s books but not men’s. And they’re applied not just by reviewers, not by a long shot (like I said, this really isn’t about reviewers) by society in general, who insists on shoving books into certain boxes or classifying them/their main characters as “good” or “bad” according to a strict set of rules.

It’s about how male characters–in any genre–can sleep around and their exploits are cheered; it even makes them more desirable, but a promiscuous heroine–again, in any genre–is looked down upon. Not only is she disliked for her sexual escapades, but it’s automatically taken as a sign of some intrinsic weakness in her character, i.e. she obviously needs sexual approval to feel whole, or she obviously has no self-respect.

The promiscuous heroine is unlikable–and worse than unlikable, she is unworthy–simply because she likes sex, and likes to have it with whomever strikes her fancy, at any time she feels the urge. Again, whereas the promiscuous hero is applauded; he is an object of desire. Getting him to settle down is the chief achievement of the heroine in those romances or romance subplots, in fact (of course, it should be in a genre romance). Every woman’s dream is to make him settle down, and if any negative mention is made of his bed-hopping past it’s made with a sort of wink, a boys-will-be-boys sigh. Either that, or his past promiscuity is made much of, but it’s made clear that this sort of prudery is part of the heroine’s prim/uptight character. She’s generally a virgin, or someone who’s only slept with one or two men, and she generally has other very straight-laced views and thoughts.

The hero’s promiscuity is an aspect of his character, which may or may not have consequences. The heroine’s promiscuity is a flaw, one she usually must answer for.

It’s also about how male characters can be distant or cold, even in some cases borderline psychotic/sociopathic, but they’re still regarded as likable and appealing. Whereas a cold and/or distant heroine is regarded with hostility and suspicion, because women are “supposed” to be kind/loving/feeling/friendly/caring.

Male characters can be intrinsically violent; shoot first, ask questions later, and readers approve. When female characters are like this they’re called “too angry” or “flies off the handle too fast” or, again, just plain “unlikable.”

A man whose morality is relative is morally relative. A woman whose morals are relative is morally vacant.

And yes, when male characters have drinking or substance abuse problems very little mention is made of it–the hard-drinking detective is a genre staple, in fact–but for a female character to do the same makes her a bad or unworthy person, one who should be ashamed of herself.

Does whether or not the author is a man or a woman make a difference as to how these characters are perceived? What do you think?

What about if the main character is a man or a woman? I haven’t seen any reviews of K.A. Stewart’s A Devil in the Details (which is excellent, btw, and has a male MC) called romance or put down for being UF, but J.F. Lewis’s Staked was dismissed by quite a few people simply because it has a woman on the cover, regardless of the fact that the MC is a man; and some people who did expect it to be a romance judged it rather harshly because it isn’t, although, again, it never claimed to be..

How much of a difference does it make if the reviewer or reader is a man or a woman? I see far less slut-shaming coming from men/male reviewers than I do female ones, but I also see men/male reviewers as quicker to dismiss books by women unread because it “looks like a romance,” or to cast it aside as a romance because there is a sex scene in it or a romantic subplot, as if romance isn’t a valid genre in and of itself or one that may have some worth to men (again, I discussed all of that this summer, and how I don’t understand male dismissal of romance or of UF by calling it romance, or the sort of “eeew cooties” mentality which seems to often go along with that dismissal). Again, that may simply be where I’m looking.

How much of this do you think is because of the blending of genres? Perhaps because the genres have blended a bit to a certain degree, readers/reviewers/whomever are paying less attention to authorial intent/classification (although again, it seems men’s wishes/thoughts in that regard are taken more seriously and heeded far more).

I just find this all saddening, and disturbing. I find the way women tend to put down other women for not conforming to be very disturbing, and always have; it’s been an issue with a direct effect on me my whole life, quite frankly. And while I stopped caring about shit like “fitting in” or being accepted by people who were essentially unpleasant, or whose entire achievements were that they had very shiny hair, or people who were narrow-minded that anyone who had a different viewpoint or opinion on an issue was automatically worthy of insult or simply stupid/lying/whatever–people who felt they had a right to judge others and/or the choices of others based on the presumption that everyone had the same privileges, possibilities, educations, finances, lives, cultures, etc. as they did–it still disturbs me. (In fact, I read a fantastic quote the other day that summed up my feelings on it exactly. It’s from Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (which is tons of fun, btw, and the authors definitely know their shit) which reads: Acceptance from the fascist hierarchy is death of the spirit.

This sums up pretty much my whole life.)

I certainly don’t intend to blame anyone for this. My thought is more to examine it. Is this something we do, consciously or unconsciously? How guilty are we all of doing it? It’s not something isolated; it’s pretty widespread. And I believe that the person ultimately hurt by this is the reader, because they’re not being given accurate pictures of what the books are and are not; the romance reader who grabs a book from the romance shelf in the bookstore mentioned above, only to discover it’s not in fact a romance, will be pretty angry, and they have every right to be.

And is this inevitable? Are we all going to judge a main character according to our specific 21st-century Western middle-class/upper-middle class standards, with no regard for time period/world/adversity suffered/whatever else? (This is part of another discussion, actually, the one about characters in historical novels being surprisingly PC or about books written hundreds of years ago being rewritten to make them more “acceptable” to modern audiences.)

What do you think? Have you see instances of this lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What Stace had to say on Thursday, November 18th, 2010
Up to my Neck

In work work work, oh yes. I plan to have Downside 4 finished by the beginning of next week, hopefully sooner. I’d actually expected to have it done already, but a plot twist came out of nowhere and necessitated some more words and some changes. This is a really twisty one, which is fun; I’m hoping everyone thinks it’s fun, at least. BFF Cori is enjoying it, so I’m trying to reassure myself with that, because she wouldn’t like it if it was awful.

I got an email this morning letting me know that A GLIMPSE OF DARKNESS, the story-in-the-round from the Suvudu blog (me, Lara Adrian, Harry Connolly, Kelly Meding, Lucy Snyder) is up for Kindle pre-order on Amazon now.

Which reminds me, BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET has been out on Kindle for a while now and still has zero reviews, even though it’s been selling. Won’t someone please give it a little love? *whine whine*

And one other little link, to an interview with me done by Apex Magazine. The interview is here. I was given the questions a couple of months ago, and was frankly rather stunned by that first one, but after some discussion, myself, my editor, and my publicist decided it must have just been badly worded, because the interviewer seemed so nice and friendly, and had been quite enthusiastic about the series when speaking to my publicist. Fool me once, shame on me; I’ve certainly learned my lesson in that. I’ve never before had an experience like that, where I take considerable time away from my writing to do what I think is a nice thing, and have it turned on me so roundly; I haven’t been set up like that, and I don’t care to have it happen again.

This isn’t about the review, of course; you all know how strongly I feel everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and to the expression of that opinion. I’m not remotely bothered by hers. I am, however, bothered by the fact that I was blindsided like that, and that I answered those questions with a view towards helping someone out, being nice to them, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, only to find out that there was an agenda there. This has happened to me once before, you may remember; I did a podcast interview with several other people (including my friend Jackie Kessler; this is also how I met Simon Wood, who is a really cool guy) about the Harlequin Horizons thing, and found out after it aired that the host’s questions weren’t as innocent as they seemed, and that he turned around and reamed Jackie, Simon, and I because we were “elitists.”

But again. A lesson learned is a lesson learned. Next time I get an interview that starts with a question that makes me feel slapped, I’ll cancel the interview instead of assuming the interviewer didn’t mean to be so harsh; clearly she did mean to be just that harsh, and clearly there is a degree of amusement there in being that way to my face and making it appear as if I don’t understand what’s happening.

The only reason I’m mentioning this at all is because I often get interview requests through the site, and I try to accommodate them; in fact, I’ve never turned down an interview request, or a guest blog request, I don’t think. Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to be so open with them anymore, especially if I don’t know you.

So from now on, if you want an interview with me, please submit your questions along with the request, and let me know what if anything will be appearing along side it (a review, a discussion, whatever). If you have submitted such a request in the last couple of months and haven’t yet gotten a reply, please re-submit. I’m trying to catch up on emails but with the book in the final stretch I’ve barely had time for anything else; I’ve been doing around 5k per day, plus edits etc.

The good news is I’m pretty pleased with how it’s shaping up, and I’m hoping you all will be too, since your opinions are the important ones.

And here’s a snippet! A snippet which will hopefully make you smile, in which Chess and Terrible are about to do some nocturnal investigating for her latest case. Remember it’s just a tiny snippet!:

Her car rattled and bumped its way over every little rock and patch of uneven ground, banging Terrible’s head on the ceiling once. “Shoulda brung my car.”

“No we shouldn’t have, and you know why we didn’t.”

He sighed. Heavily. “’Stoo small.”

“Every car is too small for you.” Her smile this time was genuine.

“Mine ain’t.”

Instead of answering, she slid the car up to the door and shoved it into Park. “Come on.”

What Stace had to say on Thursday, October 21st, 2010
Bloggity blog blog

I had a really good blog topic. I was thinking about it last night and how I should totally talk about it because it was such a good idea. It was a writing-related topic, too.

And of course for some stupid reason I didn’t write it down, which is odd because I’ve started keeping a pen and notebook next to the bed. Um, so I can write stuff down, which makes sense, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. Too bad I didn’t think of it earlier, and so lost that Great Idea I had a few weeks ago. Luckily, I’ve had another, and Downside 4 is still chugging along. Of course, I still think it absolutely sucks, too.

Even worse is when you do have the pen and paper, and you make notes, and then you can’t remember what the hell they pertain to. A few weeks ago I woke up and found “shivers” written there. “Shivers?” What is that supposed to be? I mean, yes, I know what shivers are. I know people, even characters in books, shiver sometimes. But why would I write it down? Why would I write just that down?

At least, unless I was deliberately trying to fuck with myself. I can just see me, thinking as I scribbled in the dark, “Ha ha ha, this will fix her!” It’s definitely the sort of thing I do, because of that whole self-destructive thing.

But here’s something I do know what it means: Twitter. I was kind of surprised the other day to realize that some people consider Twitter to be the equivalent of a blog, and that Tweeting something is equivalent somehow to blogging about it or whatever.

To me Twitter is way less important, and way more casual. If you tweet something, it’s gone in a minute or so, you know? It gets shifted down to the bottom of the screen and then lost. And who really takes the time, when they log on every day, to go scrolling back through old tweets to see what they missed? Not me.

So to me, talking about something on Twitter is almost like not talking about it at all. I mean, clearly it’s talking about it, but you know what I mean. The only people who see it are generally the people who follow me and happen to be online at that particular moment.

Of course, it does make it difficult in terms of getting messages across, because people stumble into conversations and ask about them and you end up discussing something more than you intended, yes. But the point is, Twitter is ephemeral. If I put something on my blog, it’s there. It’s right at the top, and displayed right in the middle of my homepage, for a couple of days. Then it’s just one post down, so it’s on the “blog” page for a few weeks in total. And it’s still there; it’s tagged, it’s findable, and it’s reasonable that people would hunt around in the archives. They do, quite often. But I think people rarely scroll back on someone’s Twitter feed.

What do you guys think? Is Twitter less “official” or whatever than a blog?

Last, a quick note about the Downside Market. It will be back up, don’t worry, and hopefully very soon. It’ll be a little different, but with more options. So thanks to all of you who’ve asked, and just give me a little bit more time and I’ll tell you everything, okay? But I do believe Southern Promo has been shipping items, so please do let me know when yours arrive! I’m thinking of maybe doing a little contest at some point, like take a picture of yourself in your shirt and one will be picked at random. Something like that.

So there you go. I’m still hard at work on Downside 4 (and still closing in on a title; what sucks is that the original title of UNHOLY MAGIC, which was DOWNSIDE GHOSTS, which of course ended up being used as the series title, would be perfect for this book. But I can’t use it. Sucky sucky sucky).

Oh! And one more thing. Tomorrow I’ll be blogging about apocalypse at Pens Fatales. Since I already sort of blew my wad, as it were, with that little short about the start of Haunted Week a couple of weeks ago, I thought I might do a page about it from the Book of Truth or something. Thoughts? Interesting? Not? Let me know!



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