Archive for 'sometimes writers drink'

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

So…I’m not going to RT. I’m staying here. And sulking about it.

Staying home seemed like a good idea at the time, really. RT is expensive, and LA is far and I’d have to fly and I hate doing that. I hate it a lot.

But I also do love LA, and my friends are there, so now I’m feeling like a big blah, and I want to be having fun with my pals too.

So last night on Twitter I came up with something all we shut-ins can do. SULKATHON 2011, where we prove we can have our own damn fun all by our damn selves.

How to participate? It’s easy. Just use the Sulkathon hashtag (which has been shortened to #SK11, which I happen to think works out pretty cool). Then do something on Twitter or on your blog or whatever, and post the link with the tag (or do a chat with the tag if you like).

I have a few authors agreeing to play along; they’re doing chats and giveaways. I plan to give away some books myself, too. I know my lovely friend Yasmine Galenorn is doing a giveaway on Friday, I believe.

I’m putting together a schedule now. This is a really, really loose thing; I don’t have the time, honestly, to set up a really full schedule, and besides, we need lots of time for sulking and bitching about our dull shut-in status.

So. If you are an author who wants to play, leave me a comment and let me know what you’d like to do. If you’re a reader/blogger and want to do a post on your blog about something book/reader/whatever related, let me know. I’ll keep updating this post with info.

Here’s what I have so far:

Today, 4/6: Sulking until 8 pm. At 8 pm or so (schedules are loose at Sulkathon, because really, who cares? It’s all worthless anyway) we’ll do some chatting on Twitter, perhaps, about why being at home drinking by ourselves and writing in our jammies is so much better than having fun with other human beings. I may also give away a signed book or something.

That’ll go on for an hour or so, at least with me there. I’ll come back around 11 for another hour of chatting and drinking cheap beer before I get to work for the night. And who knows, maybe I’ll do another giveaway.

Tomorrow, 4/7: Some readers have indicated they’d like to give themselves manicures/pedicures. If you’re one of them, set up a time in comments, if you like, and I’ll amend the post to reflect it. The rest of us may continue to sulk, with some whining about being left out thrown in for flavor.

Once again we’ll converge on Twitter for the evening; L.A. Whitt/Lauren Gallagher has promised to do a giveaway, so we’ll see if she’s up for doing it then.

Remember, you don’t have to do a chat, and you don’t *have* to be on Twitter. If you want to do a blog post or something–preferably a sulky one, but we shut-in losers aren’t picky–and have it included, just let me know.

Yasmine’s giveaway is on Friday, I believe, and BronwynK has a giveaway happening at her blog on that day, too. I’ll update as I have more info. Friday night also seems like perhaps a good night for the corset party, in which we all put on corsets and post pictures of them.

I’d love to do some panel-type chats, as well. Perhaps on the downsides of being a writer? That could fit the theme. Any ideas are welcome. Again, leave them in comments and I’ll update here as I can, and don’t be afraid to use the #SK11 hashtag (it’s been pointed out that if you look at it fast, that looks like SKULL. Also very cool).

So come sulk with us, this week until Sunday. Do a blog post, do a giveaway, start a chat topic, whatever you like, and let me know it’s happening, and I’ll post it here.

Let’s at least try to have some fun, huh?


Michele Lee has posted some funny images on her site in honor of Sulkathon.

Erotic romance fantasy author Mima is giving away some backlist books on Twitter; check this post for details.

…I know there are more but I can’t find them.

What Stace had to say on Monday, March 7th, 2011
Guest Blog: Michele Lee

(Most of you know Michele, I think; she’s a writer and reviewer, and someone I’m lucky to count as a friend. Don’t miss her Book Love website.)

Doin’ it All Anyway

by Michele Lee

So at this point a lot of you are wondering just who I am and why I’ve taken over Stacia’s blog. My name is Michele Lee. I’m an author (HWA qualified, but not SFWA, and an anthology featuring one of my shorts is Stoker nominated this year), a reviewer (for Dark Scribe Magazine, Monster Librarian and The Letter), editor (zombie review editor for Monster Librarian, though I have fanzine editing experience as well) and I’m a bookseller for Borders (at least until April when our store closes). About the only thing I haven’t done in publishing, other than the whole bestselling author with a three book deal gig, is agenting, and that’s because no one’s offered me the opportunity.

I’m here today because I am exactly the kind of person certain internet folk are claiming that Stacia and the YA Mafia say shouldn’t exist, and reasonably, I take issue with that. First of all, YA Mafia? Pu-lease, in the horror ghetto where I was spawned we have the Cabal, which has been ruining careers and sacrificing puppies to elder gods when they should have been writing for over ten years. I call your mafia and raise you ancient cannibal fauns, nasal parasites and zombie-fucking-apocalypses.

But I digress…much like the original discussion started about Stacia’s blog.

Here’s the down and dirty point I think she was trying to make: People treat you differently after you’ve been published. People treat you differently when you have book cred. They take your words wrong. They put intent there that wasn’t. And for some reason just because an author has a book or two to their name their opinion weighs heavier even when it’s still only their opinion and they’re still only people who don’t know everything.

That aside, let’s look at the real reason I’m here: Can authors also be reviewers?

Well, sure they can. Many of them do. Charlaine Harris recommends books on her blog all the time. Zadie Smith just took over the book column in Harper magazine and have you heard of a place called Publishers Weekly? Many authors have reviewed, anonymously and not, for PW.

Can if affect your career? Absolutely. It would be silly to assume it wouldn’t. Once you set out to have a career everything can affect it. Sitting around watching TV can affect your career, particularly if you’re not writing when you should be and Tweeting snide comments when you shouldn’t be.

Can they co-exist? Carefully they can.

I started reviewing after my second short story was published. I was looking for a way to get and stay involved in the publishing community, even when I didn’t have a story coming out. I was looking, like all budding authors, for a little legitimacy. Let me make this clear though, reviewing was always part of my plan of attack when it came to building a career.

Here’s why:

Reviewing makes me read. A lot. Things I never would have picked up on my own. Things I loved and had to dial down the fangirl in order to assess. Things I hated and had to neutrally assess the pros and cons of.
Reviewing made me have to think, really think, about the elements of a story and why it worked or failed for me. Which in turn made me think about the elements of my own stories, whether they were as effective as they needed to be.

Reviewing for other people means I have to meet deadlines, both in actually doing the reading and in sending in my analysis.

Review editing pushes me to be more firm in my publishing presence. I have to made myself more comfortable with (or just able to fake it better) approaching authors, publishers and editors for review copies, interviews and other interactions. In short I can’t flake out when I’m feeling insecure because people are depending on me to do my job. And since those same people are the ones I work with in my personal writing I figure if I can ask them to send me free copies of books and do interviews with me I can ask them to add my query to the pile they’re already reading anyway.

Also, complete cheat here, as a writer knowing the market, supporting it, reading it helps me target my submissions better. What I’m reviewing is the same people I’m submitting to, so I can better target my submissions by sending to the places putting out work I like or am impressed by. Reviewing is market research (albeit harder than just buying magazines and reading them).

So what are some of the cons?

Reviewing sucks up as much time as writing. More if you let it because lots more people want you to read and review their work than want to read yours. And if you get stuck in a slump where you just need to feel like you’re moving forward adding more reviews to your credits and crossing things off your to do list feels a lot better than sending out another round of subs on a story that’s been out there for a year.

You have to read some bad stuff. Really bad stuff. That makes you want to cry, especially when you think about your poor rejected manuscript making the circuit, yet this is published. Also you have to read some really good stuff that isn’t going to get the attention it deserves because it’s not the current trend, or is a small press release that most people will never learn about.

Yeah, people get upset if you don’t like their work. Usually they don’t ever say anything to your face, they just quietly stop talking to you, or give you a polite cold shoulder if you meet them face to face, if anything at all. Why does being a published writer make someone not a human capable of disappointment? (Not that being disappointed means you should plaster it all over the intarnets.) You do have to consider what happens if you don’t like a book. Sometimes it’s not worth it to publicly state that you didn’t like the book. (Even though yes, negative reviews do sell books.) Other times the editor you’re reviewing for expects you to be honest. Honest doesn’t equal cruel. Usually if you treat it like a job you must be professional at, meaning mention positives as well as negative, consider who the audience would be, if it isn’t you, and avoid personal statements (“This books is…” not “this author is…”) and true nastiness you’ll be okay.

However bad reviews aren’t the only ones that can hurt you. What if publishers get hooked on the idea of you as a reviewer who is predisposed to like their work and decides to keep sending you things to review, and likewise rejects your work because they’d rather have you supporting them as a reviewer rather than having to support you as a writer? It happens, and it sucks. Just like writers can get pigeon-holed by fans into writing the same kinds of stories, reviewer-writers can get trapped in the role of reviewer and be completely unrecognized as a writer.

You can burn out faster if you’re playing writer and reviewer. You can get tired of seeing the same thing over and over. You can find yourself too tired of a genre to keep writing in it. When something becomes business, much less double business, it’s easier to get bored with it and groan when you see another zombie decorated cover with “Dead [Insert random word here]” in dripping gore letters on the cover.

Books are a solid, holdable thing, but publishing is an industry built on ideas. It is too vast., too varied, to wild a thing to be determined and controlled by a handful of people. Publishing is a sieve, and there are too many agents, editors, publishers, self publishers, magazines, anthologies and webzines for someone to be completely locked out of it by one or a handful of people.

Top that off with the insane crazy busy of the industry and expecting there to be some sort of collection of people who can be successful AND have time to blackball people is like expecting the ocean to stay still for a picture because you asked it to.

Yeah it’s easy to screw up if you’re trying to be a reviewer and a writer. The big mistake is not expecting the two to affect each other. But if they are both aspects of your job, a job you go about as professionally as you would a day job in every aspect that you can, they can coexist. The key is professionalism, and remembering to keep an eye on the overall goal, not letting the individual parts run themselves with abandon.

Someday I will probably have to make the decision between one or the other. Maybe it will be a happy occasion, because I’ll be forced to chose because I have a multi-book deal at auction and have to focus on writing. But I don’t ever expect that I’ll stop recommending the books I love to people. How and why I do it, though, is something that takes more care and consideration the more “well known” I am.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
Write What You Know

You guys know I think a lot of writing advice is total crap. And really, that’s because it is. “Kill your darlings?” My ass. Yes, if you have to, you have to, and I know what the line is supposed to actually mean, but it sounds like you’re supposed to machete your way through your book chopping up anything you think is especially good. Um, why, exactly, would I want to do that? Were I to have “killed [my] darlings,” there would certainly be no Abominable Snowpimp. Although maybe that’s a bad example, because I was actually worried that it was too funny for the tone of the rest of the book. But my agent and editor and everyone else loved it so much I left it. The point still remains: You have to cut things that need to be cut, but really, if the good lines stand out with that much contrast in your work, maybe your work just isn’t good enough in general. (Sure, I have a few lines etc. I’m more proud of than any others. Every writer does. But I’d like to think they aren’t so much better than the rest of my lines that the reader stumbles over them.)

Personally I think most of those rules are crappity-crap-crap. And I’m sick of them all being passed around like Moses brought them down from the mountain. The fact is, if you write well and have a strong, stylish, commercial voice you can get away with just about anything.

But here’s one I agree with; in fact, one I believe in strongly. And I feel that it’s sadly, sadly misunderstood by many, which is why I’m going to discuss it.

See, I think there’s a belief out there, especially amongst beginning writers, that “write what you know” means that if you’re a farmer you should write about farming, or if you’re an office manager you’re not going to be able to write about the life of a wizard.

That’s not what it means.

“Write what you know” means write what you know emotionally. It means write what you understand and feel. It means write from the inside.

Great stories are important, yes. Great writing–or at least good writing–is important, yes. But what involves readers, what really makes them understand, identify with, and care about your stories–your characters–is making sure your characters are three-dimensional, fully developed people, with feelings. Your characters have to have emotional lives, because your readers have emotional lives. Your characters have to let their emotions color how they see the world, because your readers’ emotions color how they see the world. And your characters’ feelings and emotions, and their emotional desires and needs, have to be real and important to them, because your readers have emotional desires and needs that are very important to them.

I think I mentioned in an interview once that what really struck me about the responses to the Downside books was the way readers seem to either violently identify with and understand Chess, or violently dislike and not understand Chess at all. And I find the differences in those people, and the comments of the few I’ve seen who dislike her, are pretty interesting (to me, at least), in that their outlook on the world and the way they present themselves is one I often don’t understand or care for, either. That’s not to say it’s wrong or they’re a bunch of assholes; it’s also not to say that the only reason someone might not like my books or characters is because they’ve never felt that kind of alienation/loneliness/insecurity/dislike of self-satisfied people/aversion to being “normal” or whatever else. But it is something I’ve noticed.

When I started writing UNHOLY GHOSTS one of my main goals was to write a heroine I could identify with and understand, because I hadn’t seen any out there, really. I mean yeah, of course I wanted to write the most kick-ass different type of UF I could, but the reason why I cared about the book and the reason why the characters in it mean so much to me is because I worked really hard on giving them the feelings and emotions and outlooks that matter to me, that are what I understand. I know those feelings, and I know that outlook on the world, and I believe that’s why they were able to come across as clearly and strongly as they apparently did; it’s why those books are, frankly, deeply personal to me.

In other words, I wrote what I know.

I’ve been asked before what sorts of things I can’t/couldn’t write and I’ve always said I can’t really write happy people. I mean, of course I can write people who have found some happiness, or who have fun sometimes; no one wants to read a book where all the MC does is sit around moping and contemplating suicide. I’ve been unfortunate enough in the past to know a few truly negative people, the kinds of people who when I finally got away from them I was an absolute mess because just being around them was like being trapped inside a life-sucking black cloud of misery. That’s not good, and that’s something we all have to be careful with; certainly I find myself editing out some rather depressing little rambles on occasion.

Everyone has emotions and feelings. Everyone has their own unique way of looking at the world. You have to dig deep inside yourself and really feel those emotions, really think about how they affect the way you look at things. That’s what you put into your characters, and that’s what makes them real. If you’re giving your characters emotions or reactions you don’t understand or simply haven’t really thought about, the reader will know it. It will feel false, because it will be false. And false work means nothing to anyone; lies don’t resonate in the mind or the soul.

No, you might not know what it’s like to walk on the moon. But if you think about it, you probably do know how you felt when you achieved something amazing, or saw something that filled you with awe and wonder–even if it was something as simple as telling someone you love them or seeing Lord of the Rings for the first time. Those are the feelings you know. Those are the feelings you use.

“Write what you know” isn’t about the outside stuff, the plot or setting. “Write what you know” doesn’t mean your character has to do the same job as you, live the same life as you, and look like you. What it does mean is that your character has to feel–and have feelings–like an actual living person. It means those characters have to behave and react the way real living people would, and do.

Does it mean your character has to be just like you? No. But it does mean that if your character isn’t like you, you’re going to have to figure out how you differ and how you’re the same, and adjust your feelings accordingly, because they still have to be strong and real.

“Write what you know” means write from the heart. It means don’t be afraid to expose what needs to be exposed. Don’t be afraid to share something truly important, something truly meaningful, with your readers. Writing and reading should be about sharing; it should be about a universal experience the writer and reader share. It should be about feeling something, no matter what that something is. And if you aren’t feeling it, neither will your readers; if you’re lying they’ll know it, and it will at first confuse and then turn them off. They didn’t pay good money for something that rings false to them, that feels like manipulation, that feels like the writer didn’t think they were important enough to really work for. They didn’t pay good money to be fobbed off with something fake.

Writing fiction is telling a story, yes. But writing characters is telling a truth, and it’s your truth; the truth you know. You have to tell it as strongly, as deeply, and as well as you possibly can.

What Stace had to say on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
Edits are up to you

I hadn’t actually planned to start my little series on editing today, but this topic came up last night in email with a good friend of mine, and it annoyed me, so here we go, and we’ll do more next week (including copyedits, which will be fun, I think, and of course I’m going to use pages from the original mss of UNHOLY MAGIC and CITY OF GHOSTS to illustrate, which, again, will hopefully be fun).

Anyway. My friend and I were discussing edits, and the fact that someone she knew got a set of edits where the editor actually wrote in new dialogue.

Editors are not supposed to do this.

It is not their job.

They can tell you that conversation/line doesn’t work for them. They can maybe suggest new lines, by saying “Maybe you could try having Character A say he hates that, and Character B can say he knows, and that might make the joke clearer?” But anything beyond that is them trying to write your book for you, and you shouldn’t let them do it.

It seems to me that, especially when you get into the micropress/epress area, the favorite excuse of lame publishers for why an author might be upset with them is “S/he refused to accept editing.” “Oh, Author A is only saying we’re a total high-school clique house because she refused to accept editing so we dropped her.” “All those authors are mad because they’re prima donnas who refused to accept editing.” That sort of thing.

And I think that atmosphere, that sort of Red Pen of Damocles hanging over every writers’ head, permeates the world of writers’ forums etc., and leads many to the belief that they have to accept all suggested edits, no questions asked. If the editor says “Change this,” it better be changed.

Sadly, I also have no doubt that at some little crappy places, that is indeed the case. I know I was required to fight tooth and nail about factual accuracy, against an editor who believed people in the medieval period used hieroglyphs to communicate in writing. I’ve heard similar horror stories from small- and micro-press friends; maybe not quite as bad as that, but lots of tales about style and voice being removed and replaced with plodding paint-by-numbers writing.

Then there’s the matter of “house style,” which in a lot of cases can be downright lousy, and sometimes doesn’t make sense at all. “House style,” though, is unfortunately the one thing you’re probably not going to be able to fight with. You may be able to keep a comma here or a semicolon there if you can make a good enough case for it, but beyond that you’re going to need to let it go.

“House style,” though, isn’t generally messing about with your actual writing. It may be ridiculous things, sure, like completely interrupting the flow of a sex scene by inserting a hard break to indicate a POV switch (because we’re all so paranoid about “head-hopping” that we refuse to accept that readers are not in fact stupid, and are perfectly capable of dealing with one POV switch), or being forced to change every “start” in your book to “begin,” or whatever, because someone thinks “start” sounds “common.” But usually it’s just a few little bits here and there.

Editing is different, and editing is up to you.

It’s your book. You wrote it, and it belongs to you, and your name is on it. Yes, there is a line. An editor can refuse to accept the book, thereby requiring you to give back your advance and lose the contract, if you won’t make any changes at all. I’ve never heard of it happening, but then, most writers I know believe–as I do–that editors are generally awesome, and that it’s fun to work with them, and that they’re right most of the time with their suggestions.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a line, and it’s a line you do NOT have to cross. It certainly doesn’t mean they’re right all the time. You do NOT have to accept every edit, every suggestion, every wording change. You certainly do NOT have to allow anyone to re-write part of your book for you, absolutely not.

Working with an editor is just that–working with an editor. It’s the two of you–and maybe your agent, or maybe the editor’s assistant might have an idea, or a friend of yours who’s read the mss might come up with something you like–working together to make the book as good as it can be. It’s not you handing your work over to someone else to change it and turn it into something that isn’t yours.

There’s a difference between edits, as in your editorial letter, and edits, as in line edits, too. When I get edits from my editor at Del Rey, it’s in the form of an email or Word doc with all of her thoughts, good and bad (I firmly believe a good editor tells you what they love about the book, too; they don’t simply assume that you know they like it since they bought it. A good editor wants to talk to you about your book and the things they love about it).

I go through and implement her suggestions, basically. I may disagree with one, and discuss it with her, but so far I can think of only one editorial suggestion I dug my heels in over, and that ended up working out just fine–a quick change of something else, and it became a moot point. Really? There shouldn’t even be many issues if any, because you should agree with most of your editor’s thoughts. If s/he’s a good editor, and you’re not a Speshul Golden-Words Snowflake, most if not all of the suggestions should fall into the “Oh, riiiiight!” category.

Then come line edits. (My last few books, my ms has been sent back to me with an editorial letter and some notes made on the ms, so it’s like a combination of the two.) Line edits are “This line makes no sense,” basically. I often get “What the hell is Bump saying here, because I can’t understand him at all,” but of course, that’s me. Line edits might also be “This paragraph is overkill,” or whatever. This is where “kill your darlings”–advice with which I disagree, frankly–comes in. Lots of those overkill lines? Yeah…those are probably the “Stacia knows this is probably too much but look how good that sentence is!” lines. So those have to go. (I often stick them into a special Word doc in case I have the chance to use them later. Of course, then I never open it and re-use them, but whatever. I still have them, my poor deleted darlings, and I can go frolic in the midst of them whenever I choose.)

There may be some typos tossed in throughout there, too. There usually are. No matter how hard I try to make the ms perfect, there’s always going to be something I miss before I send it to my editor, mainly because I’ve read the damn thing so many times I see what should be there, not what is.

There will also probably be some story inconsistencies or whatever to clean up, from my own edits. If I decide to switch from having two ghosts to one, for example, I need to make sure I’ve done what is called “Following through on the cut,” and removed every reference to “they/them,” “the two ghosts,” whatever. I often miss this stuff too, again, because I’ve been going through it so much/so many times.

My editor also catches the occasional repeated word, as in “Slowly the ghost moved toward her. It raised its arm slowly, the knife in its spectral hand catching the moonlight and sending it right into her eyes, blinding her.” I don’t always notice these when I’m actually writing, and while I catch most of them when I’m editing before I turn the book in, again, I can’t find everything. I hate repeated words, actually. They bug me almost as much as sentences that begin with participial phrases (dangling or not), which I loathe with a fiery and all-devouring passion, and will never, ever use, because they’re so awful I can’t even find a way to describe how awful they are. (Let me just say, though, that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you find them in the mss of newbie writers, because they think that sentence construction is “writery” or professional, thus making them look very smooth and clever. It’s not, and it doesn’t.)

Anyway, enough of that rant. The point is, edits are something you do with your editor, not for or in spite of. You get to make the choice, and there is nothing wrong with doing so. I’d say when it comes to “regular” edits–as in editorial letter/line edits–I probably accept pretty much all of my editor’s suggestions, because I trust her, and because in most cases I agree with her. With copyedits it’s probably more like 50-75%, depending on how good the CE is, of course.

An editor is there to help you, and to help make the book as good as it can be. They are not there to rewrite your book themselves, and they are not there to remove your voice and turn it into something a third-grader would have written.

I can’t remember who said it, but I read an awesome quote a little while back. It basically said, “The only rule of grammar a writer needs to follow is to make himself understood. Everything else is style.”

It may not be true all of the time–well, it isn’t, not ALL of the time–but it is most of the time. You don’t have to let yourself be treated badly, you don’t have to let control of your work be taken from you, and you don’t have to agree to every edit.

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 Thursday, September 9th, 2010
My Lackadaisical Blog

Yep, I’m being lazy, and although I’ll be posting this Thursday morning it’s actually quite late Wednesday night as I write this, and I got barely any sleep last night, so I’m quite tired.

And because I’m quite tired I have very little to discuss. It occurs to me I should mention Dragon*Con. I had a wonderful time at the con, I really did. Friday I got to hang out with Caitlin and my family, in addition to sitting and chatting in the bar with a number of other people whose names I’m not going to mention because they probably don’t want to admit they were actually in public with me, ha. No, actually, it was just a lot of people. But I think a great time was had by all.

This was my stepdaughter’s, and my daughters’, first Dragoncon, and they were pretty awed by the whole thing. We left them at home on Saturday–that being the most crowded day, usually, and yeah, it certainly was–and wandered around ourselves. Ended up–surprise!–in the bar again. I did a little interview for a very nice girl named Day, and my friend Shannan came along, and somehow the conversation turned to a video I saw online once of a couple discussing their bestiality and how they really love their pet miniature horse. Hey, I just saw it, okay, I wasn’t in it or anything. And I wasn’t talking about it like it was a beautiful love story or something. It just came up in conversation, as these things are wont to do if you hang out with weirdos like me and my friends.

The point of my mentioning it is, apparently on Sunday people were hearing that I actually had a bestiality porn video on my phone, and was showing people. So there goes the rumor mill! I’m waiting for the tale of how someone caught me shooting up in the bathrooms or something to get out. Because, um, of course that never happened! Ha ha! No, not me! (Of course I’m joking. It totally happened. Ha! See what I did there? Oh, I am a card.) No, really, honestly, of course it didn’t happen, because I didn’t shoot up anything in any bathrooms because I am not a shooter-upper, but such is the nature of rumor that I’m expecting more outrageous stories about me, is all. My agent says that’s a good thing, because obviously if people need to talk about you you’re doing something right, and he said something else that was really wise and reassuring but I don’t remember now what it was. Anyway, I find the whole thing both terrifying and amusing, so we’ll see which of those wins out.

On Saturday too we hooked up with our pals Chris and Mike, and went for drinks in the restaurant, and then to home.

So Sunday I was pretty well exhausted. To the point where I started drinking around two pm just in order to stay awake. You know, hair of the dog and all. And it worked; I did in fact stay awake. I had a panel at 5:30 that my children got to come and see, which was pretty cool; they waved at me a lot and I waved back, and they really wanted to wear costumes so they were Wonder Woman (Faerie) and Batgirl (Princess). Sadly, hubs had to take them all home shortly after that panel ended, leaving Caitlin and I all on our alones. We didn’t end up in the bar that night, well, not the Hyatt bar where we’d been. Instead we had dinner with more friends, two very awesome ladies, and then we hooked up with other friends and hung out in the lobby area by where the comic artists alley was, drinking from the little bar there and looking at costumes and generally having a gay old time.

And that was it. We came home. Had considered going back Monday but I was exhausted and felt like absolute crap. Yes, all that vodka caught up with me on Monday; I was capable of movement and speech and all, but I certainly didn’t feel like my chipper self, and the thought of dragging my ass down to the Marta station, and from there on the train down to the con, and then around the con, just didn’t appeal. So I didn’t get to see the dealer room at all this year, which was again a disappointment since I wanted to get myself something. (Of course, it also meant there was no repeat of last year’s corset issue. And I admit, part of me wondered if that booth wouldn’t have a picture of me taped up somewhere with a warning not to let me anywhere near the store. Now I’ll never know, sigh.)

What else shall I mention, in my lackadaisical blog post? My stepdaughter went home this morning, so it’s been kind of a downer day here, which sucks since Caitlin is here. And then she leaves tomorrow which makes me sad too. And all my Dragoncon pals, of course, have already left, which always sucks.

On the plus side, though, work on the 4th Downside book is coming along nicely. Work on the t-shirt designs and other things is coming along nicely, and I’m quite pleased and enthused and I think you all will be too, at least I hope so. I have the deleted scenes from CITY OF GHOSTS and a list of other updates and tidbits ready to be added to the site, along with more really cool reader-made stuff that I think you guys are going to love. And I’m going to do a list of research books, and sort of suggested reading/things I read, for those who want to learn a bit more about that stuff. So I’m quite excited about the next wave of updates. And as always, if there’s anything you guys want to see on the site, let me know, and I will do my best. (And if you’ve done anything like wallpapers or artwork or something along those lines and would like to share it on the site, let me know that too.)

Oh, and several of you asked questions in the comments on my little “How Babies Are Made” series. I will get to them as soon as possible, and give you what answers I can, okay?

I think that’s it for today’s lackadaisical blog post.