Archive for 'what do you think'
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
First…OMH, y’all, FINDING MAGIC is going to be on sale in like five days. Holy crap! And CHASING MAGIC in less than a month.
(BTW, for those curious…yes, that is basically Chess’s natural hair color; maybe not quite that blond, but definitely a lighter color. She’s naturally quite pale.)
Anyway. It just occurred to me this morning how close we are to release for that, so…eep!
But it’s not what I’m discussing. This is something I’ve thought about for a while, off and on, and I think will be interesting. It’s not meant to be advocating anything, At ALL. Especially not human or other mammalian sacrifice; for the record, let me state clearly that I DO NOT CONDONE OR ADVOCATE HUMAN SACRIFICE OR SACRIFICE OF OTHER LIVING BEINGS. PLEASE DO NOT SACRIFICE HUMANS OR OTHER LIVING BEINGS. EXCEPT MAYBE FLIES AND COCKROACHES. BUT EVEN THEN I DO NOT CONDONE OR ADVOCATE RITUAL SACRIFICE. I just thought it might be an interesting topic, and maybe an interesting discussion. Maybe something to think about as we write and/or as we read. It’s a “generic” topic, in that it’s not really inspired by any particular event (at least not in the writing world). It is, I admit, a *tad* inspired by someone I saw on a totally nothing-to-do-with-writing-or-books-at-all website. This person was claiming, with breathtaking…uh, well, ignorance…that “Ancient Wiccans” used to be PROUD when their child was chosen to be the “spring sacrifice,” killed, and its body stuffed into a tree trunk.
No, I am not joking.
But we’ll leave aside the idea of “Ancient Wiccans,” because frankly that’s not a subject I want to get into. We won’t even really get into the idea of babies stuffed in tree trunks, which is just immensely disturbing.
What we will talk about is sacrifice, because I’ve heard and seen far too many things about this, for years, where the idea of “sacrifice” is taken incorrectly. IMO. (But I’m right.) (And note that this doesn’t relate to the type of sacrifice that is literally just about death, as in several books I’ve written and many, many others other people have written. Those were not religious sacrifices.)
The thing is, a sacrifice is supposed to be–should be–a sacrifice. This is why although I love the original film THE WICKER MAN–and I do–the “sacrifice” depicted doesn’t count. It’s not a sacrifice. The residents of Summer Isle deserve to have their crops die, because they may be obeying the letter of the law but they are certainly not obeying the spirit.
Why, you say? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Because a sacrifice is supposed to be a sacrifice. It’s supposed to be giving up something of value to you, to your community. It’s supposed to be causing yourself pain and suffering to prove your loyalty or worthiness or love/adoration for your deity, to acknowledge their godhood. A sacrifice is supposed to be you giving something up.
The residents of Summer Island did NOT sacrifice anything. They gave nothing up. A sacrifice is supposed to be personal, not a good reason to grab a stranger, murder him, and walk away whistling without a second thought. A sacrifice is supposed to be one of your own, one of your community. When you sacrifice a human being (and again I am NOT advocating such in any way, shape, or form), you’re proving your love for your God is higher than any human love. You’re giving up not just a person you love but another hand in the fields, or another pair of eyes to watch the children. (You’re also confirming your belief that this life is less important than the next, and that the sacrificed soul will live in eternity with the God and all of that etc.)
If you believe such things, God didn’t ask Abraham to sacrifice some guy off the street. He asked Abraham to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, and he did that because a sacrifice is supposed to be a sacrifice. (That he stopped Abraham before the knife came down doesn’t change that proof, although I frankly wonder how comfortable family dinners could have been after that.) For that matter, if you believe such things, God sacrificed His son Jesus to prove His love for humanity. He didn’t do it because he thought it would be a hoot. He didn’t grab somebody at random or just strike Jesus with lightning while Jesus walked down the street minding his own business. He didn’t do that because that is not a sacrifice. He sacrificed his son, and he did it (or had it done) in a very big public way, because THAT is a sacrifice, and THAT proves/proved (again, if you believe such things) his love for/devotion to humanity. That sacrifice was a covenant.
And not only is a sacrifice supposed to be personal, a sacrifice is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to hurt. If you stand around beaming while your baby is taken from your arms and stuffed into a tree, you haven’t just made a sacrifice (and you’re a really cold bitch, frankly. Like, so cold I shudder thinking of you). You’ve just handed over something that means nothing to you, is what you’ve done. Because if it meant something to you you wouldn’t be grinning with pride; if it was truly a sacrifice you wouldn’t be happy. Or even calm and resigned. You might be understanding. You might be dully accepting. You might, if you’re very devout, be sort of pleased, in a, I-still-feel-sick way, that you’ve had a chance to prove your devotion. But you’re not going to feel good and happy, brush off your hands, and say, “Awesome! That’s done. Let’s go have some pie.”
What devotion does it prove, to hand over something you didn’t give a damn about to begin with? What is the point of sacrifice if after it’s done you shrug and go about your business?
The idea that understanding why a sacrifice needs to be made means it’s okay or right or normal to feel nothing about the sacrifice is ridiculous. The idea that, for example, there’s any way a woman could sacrifice her baby and feel nothing but pride and/or satisfaction is ridiculous. Animals–even cats, who are often called “bad mothers”–don’t just hand over their defenseless babies to predators with nary a qualm.
Anyone remember ROSEMARY’S BABY? Wherein Rosemary was drugged and raped–and thus impregnated–by Satan, in order to birth the half-devil child who would bring about the apocalypse? Anybody remember how Rosemary discovered this plan, and went into the nursery with a knife to kill the abomination, but then she saw him, and biological instinct or whatever kicked in and she thought, “Well, he’s half me. Half human. Maybe I can raise him right, and teach him. Maybe he doesn’t have to be evil.”
Guys, that baby had a tail and horns, if memory serves. But his MOTHER couldn’t bring herself to kill him. His mother wanted to try to save him. I’m not going to say you’re a terrible mother if you do actually kill the horned, spike-tailed baby that you know for an indisputable fact is born directly of Satan, but I will say that if you can do it without even blinking an eye or feeling the slightest qualm, I wonder about you a whole, whole lot.
And if you can do it without blinking an eye or feeling the slightest qualm–even a purely selfish one, as in, “I wasted nine months being pregnant and I have nothing to show for it”–then you have not made a sacrifice.
It is a myth that people stood around grinning when it was their turn to be or make a sacrifice. No, they didn’t. If they did it wasn’t a sacrifice, it was just murder.
Sacrifice is supposed to hurt. It is supposed to elicit an emotional reaction. It is supposed to be painful. It is supposed to be…a sacrifice.
If you’re writing, your characters need to have actual feelings about things. If you’re reading, you should expect characters to have actual feelings about things. “Sacrifice” does not mean “easy.” It should at least be a complex decision.
What Stace had to say on Monday, May 21st, 2012
Before I get into the rant, a few things to share…
1. SACRIFICIAL MAGIC has been released in the UK! (I am told there was/is a shipping delay in the Australia-bound books, for which I am very sorry.)
2. SACRIFICIAL MAGIC has been released in audiobook! (And I believe CHASING MAGIC’s audio release will be very close to if not the same as the actual ppb/ebook US release.) I’ve heard already from a few readers who are enjoying the hell out of the audiobook(s); while I personally find listening to them to be just too bizarre an experience, I’m thrilled that they exist and that you guys like them!
3. Some of you may have already heard this, but I have to share with you the monumentally humiliating thing I did on Saturday.
I was at the grocery store, and outside were a couple of gentlemen collecting funds for Lifeboat Rescue. Since I have kind of a thing about the Navy/sailors/boats/the sea, I of course plucked some coins out of my pocket and tossed them in the bucket. As the guy was peeling off a sticker for me (stickers are a big thing here when you donate money), I started to say, “I love the Navy!”
But it occurred to me, maybe they weren’t actually the Navy. I mean, is Lifeboat Rescue the Navy? Or is it the Coast Guard? Or are they a separate, private group? It wouldn’t do to say “I love the Navy” if/when they’re not actually Navy, would it. So I changed my intent mid-sentence, casting frantically about for the correct term.
And what I ended up saying, in a bright, cheery voice, with a big smile on my face, was “I LOVE SEAMEN!”
I could still hear both of them laughing as I got into my car.
I swear I am not making that up.
4. I am coming down with a cold. Echinacea tastes icky.
Okay, with all of that out of the way… (This is a rant. An angry one. It’s possible that later I may feel more kindly about this, but I doubt it. I want to make clear that while I am using a particular person here as an example, and while her opinion infuriates me, this is not meant to be a personal attack, and it is not my intent to be personally hurtful to her [although I believe many of her comments were and are personally hurtful to me and other writers who care about readers and what we do].)
A day or so ago I got a pingback on one of my posts about how authors should not respond to reader reviews, because reviews are not written for us. I of course followed the link, which clearly from its title disagreed with me. (ETA: And more pingbacks, months later! Because apparently some of us are so butthurt that people disagree with them that they’re still thinking about it months later after the rest of us have long forgotten the whole thing. Whatever.)
I am not linking back to the post myself, because frankly, I don’t wanna send traffic this person’s way. But don’t worry. I’ll explain it well enough.
This particular self-published author (and I point out that she’s self-published simply because not only does it make her outlook a bit different, perhaps, but because of the impossibility of a commercially published author following one of her more offensive “rules”) believes that not only is it not bad for authors to respond to negative reviews, but it’s actually–wait for it–“Good Customer Service” to do so. Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Friday, March 2nd, 2012
This is something I’ve wondered about for a while–a long while, actually–and a discussion elsewhere has finally prompted me to go ahead and ask. (I want to emphasize that this is all just hypothetical/what ifs/conjecture; I’m not strictly endorsing any of these ideas, just thinking aloud and providing talking points.)
How do we all feel about heroes who masturbate? Especially when thinking of the heroine?
It’s not something we see often, is it? Which is kind of funny, actually; I think this is maybe one place where female sexuality is permitted more expression, because it’s not uncommon to see female MCs engage in a little solo play, but it is–to my knowledge–quite uncommon to see men do it, especially to see them do it to completion. I’ve read a couple of books where the hero perhaps starts to do it, but then realizes what he’s doing and stops himself, for various reasons (“What I’m doing is disrespectful to her/I’m too grown up to do this,” that sort of thing).
Are men just supposed to have more “control” over themselves/their desires, or are they simply supposed to want to only share sexual experiences with the heroine and if she’s not there it’s empty? Is having control over his sexual needs to the point of being able to sublimate them completely another way that the hero becomes the ubermensch: extra strong, extra smart, extra brave, extra controlled? Is he supposed to be so devoted to his heroine that he refuses to or just doesn’t want to have any kind of sexual feelings or release unless she’s involved?
Maybe we just don’t find the mental image of the hero having to wipe off his stomach or rinse the shower walls or whatever afterward to be all that sexy? I mean, even if we find the act arousing/interesting/understandable, thinking about him messing about with a handful of sticky tissues after just…maybe feels a little “teenage boy,” or just a little silly or embarrassing or whatever. Or perhaps it’s because of the porn money shot, which seems to appeal to men much more than women (I’m not saying it absolutely does, just that it seems to be aimed [no pun intended] at men; to my [admittedly sketchy] knowledge, many of the porn films put out by all-female or female-run production companies, or aimed specifically at the female audience, don’t tend to depict the money shot with such vigor and focus and don’t tend to focus so much on “Look! Semen!” as the ultimate sexy sexiness). I mean, again, female masturbation is depicted maybe not regularly, but certainly more often than male, and there’s generally little cleaning up to do after; most women don’t have to check the walls or furniture to make sure no stray fluids shot over there. (Yes, I know about Rainwoman, but she’s hardly the norm.)
Is there something just sort of inherently non-heroic–inherently sad, embarrassing, or pitiful, even–about thinking of the hero all by himself with a head full of fantasies and a bottle of lotion, or something?
Do we perhaps expect him to sate those desires by sleeping with some other woman, and isn’t that sort of worse, really–using some other chick’s body while in his head he’s banging the heroine? Does it change if he feels guilty about it, or doesn’t intend to use the other woman in that way but realizes midway through that he’s pretending she’s someone else?
It just seems to me that, while I would never say “all men masturbate*,” I’m sure a healthy proportion of them do at least occasionally. I find it hard to believe that NO hero in any novel which involves a sexual/romantic relationship ever finds himself trying to sleep one night with a body that absolutely refuses to let him, or finds himself practically unable to walk, especially in those early stages where he’s obsessed/consumed/whatever and is practically a walking hormone. And yet while it’s often considered sexy for the heroine to masturbate thinking of the hero, we almost never see the hero do it (again, from my reading; I freely admit I don’t read very much romance/erotic romance these days if any, so there may well have been a revolution in male masturbation in the last few years). Like I said, I did read it a few times, but the hero never went on to orgasm without the heroine’s actual involvement, i.e. she caught him at it and encouraged him to continue, perhaps lending him a helping hand, or, you know, a helping vagina. (Here, let me loan you this vagina. It’s the helpful sort. Hee.)
Does it feel objectifying, like he’s reducing her to mere jerk-off fodder in his head? Especially if their relationship isn’t yet sexual, does it seem almost like he’s mentally molesting her–taking what he wants without permission, mentally “having” her even if she hasn’t given him permission to do so yet in real life?
Is it maybe that in the world of novels aimed more toward women, with a female audience, men are the ones whose sexuality shouldn’t/doesn’t exist outside female involvement? We’ve all had the uncomfortable sensation of being undressed by a man’s eyes without our permission, so maybe it’s just not something we want to think of a man doing without our knowledge. Or are women simply more uncomfortable with the idea of masturbation in general? I’ve known more than a few women for whom the idea of their boyfriends/husbands watching porn or masturbating is very uncomfortable, even upsetting. So is the idea that the hero shouldn’t be masturbating related to that, or an extension of that, or even a perpetuation of that?
Do we simply not want to write male sexual fantasies? We live surrounded by them; male sexual fantasies are everywhere. Maybe we just don’t want them in our fiction; maybe we want books aimed at women to be about female sexual fantasies, if there are any fantasies being shown, and men can keep theirs to themselves (or, you know, out in popular culture where they are now.)
What do you think? Do you want to read that, or not? Why, if you’re comfortable sharing? Would you feel differently about a male character shown masturbating? What about the “starts to but then realizes he’s doing something wrong” idea/scene? Is the hero masturbating sexy and a sign of how badly he wants the heroine, or is it distasteful or a turn-off? Why? Do you agree or disagree with any of my conjecture?
*I personally dislike the broad assumption that all men or all women masturbate but just refuse to admit it, and that if someone denies it they’re automatically lying. Making such assumptions about the sexual expressions of other people strikes me as rather rude, and taking their denial as a sign that they’re liars just ashamed to admit it is especially rude. Sure, perhaps some people who say they don’t are lying, but I find it hard to believe that no one is being truthful when they say they don’t. There are indeed people who just don’t, for whatever reason, and that’s just as fine and valid as being someone who does.
ETA: Let’s assume for the sake of the discussion that there is a way for the masturbation scene to advance story, plot, and/or character, okay? Obviously we all know that sex-for-sex’s-sake is unnecessary, and I’ve written more than once about that subject here. I’m not so much interested in structure and whether or not the scene fits as in how people feel about those scenes and whether or not they’re sexy/unappealing/whatever, or whether people think another way should be found to advance story/plot/character that doesn’t involve masturbation.
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
Disclaimer: Once again, this is just opinions/thinking on the page, YMMV, Devil’s Advocate, hoping for a dialogue, please don’t kill me, all that sort of thing.
Not too long ago I was involved in a discussion on an internet forum where I am a long-time member, in which I expressed an opinion about the writing process, basically. And someone responded to me to say, basically, that I obviously expected everyone to give my opinions more weight because of my publishing record, and that it seemed to this person that I expected everyone to listen to me not because I was right but because I thought being published meant I knew better than everyone else; this person felt that I was acting like my opinions were facts and relying on my credentials to make others think so too.
Now. For the record, I know some of you may have seen that discussion and I want to make it very, very clear that the person who said that is entitled to his/her opinions and feelings and that I am absolutely NOT trying to “bring the discussion here,” or berate or belittle them in any way. I’m not. Not one bit.
My reason for mentioning it here is because it so perfectly illustrates the point I want to make today and the discussion I want to have, which is that once you are published you are no longer “a reader;” not because you’ve stopped reading (hopefully), but because other people see you differently. Readers see you differently. Maybe not all of them, no; I certainly can’t speak for every reader in the world (or any of them, for that matter; they can speak for themselves, and who am I to decide I’m their champion or something?). But for many of them…you have become “an author.” A different sort of animal. Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
First some YAYNEWS! My wonderful agentman has just sold UNHOLY GHOSTS, UNHOLY MAGIC, and CITY OF GHOSTS to Schibsted Forlag in Norway! I have no idea what the titles might translate to or when the books will be published there or anything else, but it’s awesome just the same. So I’m very excited.
Second, just a quick note re the blog. From now on, all links posted will open in a new window.
So. This is fun. Remember last week when I blogged about those two YADS? And basically just said hey, these sites don’t tend to work for me, because I don’t personally want to wade through slush? One of those sites took great offense, I guess, to the fact that I pointed out on AW that their stated goal of getting two thousand reviews for a book before it’s published is an extremely difficult one to reach (I assume that was the issue, since as far as I could tell they didn’t even see my blog post), and sent me a nice little email about it. Only, they didn’t actually email me about their site or why I was wrong about it. And it wasn’t actually a nice email. And they didn’t even mention their site. Instead they informed me that my writing “sucks shit balls,” that my books are dull and unoriginal, and that “you new authors” (I guess having only five years of being commercially published still makes me a “new author”) are “all the same” and don’t know how to tell a story “old school.”
Of course, since they apparently don’t understand what an IP address is or how one can be tracked through websites, I guess they thought this was a very clever little attack on me, sure to leave me crying into my pillow. Unluckily for them, I do know what an IP address is and how it can be tracked through websites, and so was able to identify them pretty much immediately, even between bouts of laughter and head-shaking at the feebleness of that attempt to upset me.
So, my initial “Sigh, people have tried this before and it doesn’t work” reservation about that particular YADS has turned into a much stronger “Avoid avoid avoid,” because rather than discuss the actual issue, they send childish insults through email using someone else’s name (they claimed to be “Jason Biggs”) or leave nasty comments on someone’s blog (not here, but a friend who participated in the AW thread got some fun ones). Which display site was it, you ask? Well, it wasn’t PUBSLUSH.
In other news…beauty news: I don’t know if any of you ever read Jezebel, but I do. And commenters there often discuss using the Oil Cleansing Method to wash their faces. Since we’ve gotten to England–a different climate–my skin’s been a little unhappy, as it often gets when seasons change, etc.; it tends to be a bit dry and quite sensitive anyway, and it hasn’t been a major problem, but enough of one that I was curious to try the Oil Cleansing thing, especially since A) I’ve seen so many people raving about it, and B) when we got here I decided to try a new cleanser & moisturizer, switching from the Shiseido stuff which served me very well and trying Fresh’s soy cleanser and a Murad moisturizer; neither of which I particularly liked. Well, I liked the cleanser okay (though it was awfully pricey for such a small tube; more expensive than the Shiseido, which was already not cheap at $35 or so for one tube, but which was a bigger tube and which required me to use such a small amount it was actually worth it; that one tube lasted me over a year and a half and there’s still a decent amount left). But it was my birthday so I decided it’d be fun to do something new. I definitely don’t like the Murad moisturizer, though. It made me feel greasy and heavy, like my skin was covered in plastic. Ick.
Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Monday, September 26th, 2011
Okay. Maybe someone can explain this to me.
In the past few days I’ve seen two of these display-site/make-your-books-go-viral/readers-can’t-wait-to-read-your-unedited-unpublished-book sites. Slush sites; also known as YADS (Yet Another Display Site), because yeah, this is an idea that people have been trying and trying for years now, and which has never to my knowledge resulted in any sort of publishing deal for anyone.
Anyway. The two I’m thinking of offhand are PUBSLUSH (read more at AW and Writer Beware here and here) and the not-yet-unveiled ViralBestseller.com (link goes to the AW thread).
Here’s the basic idea behind these sites. The PUBSLUSH people or the “agents” at ViralBestseller will post your book on a website. According to them, what will then happen is that thousands of eager readers will flock to their site, desperate to find something new to read that hasn’t been touched by those horrible editors (ViralBestseller refers to “unedited glory” and reading “the author’s original intensions[sic],” which frankly to me displays a deep misunderstanding of the editing process, but whatever) or professional publishers or, well, anyone who can determine whether or not the work in question is actually readable. Readers, they claim, are desperate to wade through thousands of manuscripts looking for one that they might like. In the case of PUBSLUSH, their plan is for readers to actually pledge money to preorder the book, based on a ten-page sample, and when a certain amount of supporters/cash is reached the book will be published.
Now…okay. Maybe the problem here is me (I am the “lazy reader” referred to in the title of the post). I fully admit that may be the case. I certainly think of myself as a dedicated and avid reader; I don’t have as much time to read now as I used to, seeing as how I spend so much time writing them these days, but I certainly still read and buy books and read some more. I read a lot. Probably not as much as any of you, but certainly as much as I can. I’m always looking for book recommendations. Those of you who’ve reviewed my books favorably in the past may be surprised to know that based on that (by which I mean your obviously excellent taste in literature), I visit your sites to see what else you’re reading that you like, and check those books out at the bookstore. I write down titles; I look to see who you’re talking about (I also grit my teeth because, you know, talking about other books means you’re not talking about mine, but still). (That is of course a joke.) (Mostly.)
But I look at sites like these and I think, man…I just don’t want to have to work that hard, you know?
I have a big enough TBR list; I have books by my friends whose writing I love that I don’t manage to get to fast enough for me. I have recommendations I’ve found on your sites, if you review. I have research reading to do; my nonfiction library is ever-growing. I have books I saw at the bookstore that I bought just cuz they looked cool that I haven’t gotten to read yet. That adds up to a lot of books.
So when I’m thinking of looking for something new to read (if I’m not just picking something from my TBR)…I dunno, I just never think to myself, “You know what I’d like to do? I’d like to spend several hours hunting through digital slushpiles to see if maybe there’s something in there I might want to read on my laptop.” In the case of PUBSLUSH, that would be “I’d like to spend several hours looking through ten-page samples in hopes of pledging to pay $25 to maybe get the whole thing in a few months’ time.”
All of the YADS play on–most of them have little screeds written to the effect of–the idea that commercial publishing as it is is “broken” and isn’t serving readers. I disagree with this; sure, not every book is to my taste, but in general I find there’s plenty of variety out there to keep me happy and interested. And the idea that publishers have no idea what readers want puzzles me, too, frankly. You and I might think TWILIGHT isn’t very good (or we may love it; I’m not saying anything one way or the other) but the fact remains that an agent and an editor read it and thought “This book will appeal to lots of readers,” and they were right, and that happens every day. Yes, bad books get published. I can certainly think of a few. But good ones do, too, every day.
But to get back to the main point…am I just lazy? Is this something readers actually want to do? Do you find yourself hunting around odd websites looking for something that might be interesting to read? Do you look at sites like those?
Or do you, like me, and like–I believe–the majority of readers, still prefer to find and read books from bookstores, from reviews on trusted sites, from friends who’ve read them? Books that you can be fairly certain are at least up to a certain standard of readability?
I’m genuinely curious. Because like I said, I just don’t want to work that hard to find something to read, and I just don’t have that kind of time.
BTW…I now have a Tumblr. So if you’re on Tumblr, let me know! I have plans for something fun on Tumblr soon, which I’m working on at the moment, so…there’ll be more on that later.
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
(This is a continuation of yesterday’s post, for those who haven’t seen it.)
So anyway. Yes. I’ve seen lots of people being very nasty about Amy Winehouse.
But here’s what today’s focus is. I’ve also seen so many comments about the music and the lyrics, and the fact that Amy kept fighting, kept putting herself out there. How much it mattered to people, how much seeing their feelings mirrored mattered to them and how much it helped them when they were feeling down. And it made me start thinking about what art is, how it can touch people, and what the responsibility of the artist is, if any.
Obviously in this I can only speak for myself. I certainly can’t call myself a great artist; I do the best I can yes, and I work as hard as I can to put something of myself, something as important and meaningful as I can, into my work. I try to make it matter; certainly it matters to me. Regular readers may recall (alliteration is fun!) that I blogged about this whole genre-fiction/personal-investment-in-art thing before, here and here.
You guys may also recall that several months ago I decided to stop writing about writing/publishing–to step back on the blog in general, really–after something I meant as a general piece of take-it-or-leave-it advice, a small part of a much bigger cautionary tale about the realities of the internet and being published in a world where the internet exists and you’re expected to use it, was taken so much more strongly, so much more intensely, than I intended, and I became the center of something of a kerfuffle for writing what so many of the people who disapproved of what I wrote also said and have said: Be careful what you say online, because the internet is public and whatever you say can and will be misinterpreted, talked about, picked on, and dissected, and you personally will be harshly judged and criticized for it.
Anyway. The response I got shocked me; I was attacked on blogs and websites, I was attacked on Twitter, I was attacked in email. My words were mischaracterized to the point of being unrecognizable. I was made fun of and called names. A piece of advice I gave specifically to aspiring writers was taken as applying to readers and reader-reviewers, which especially shocked me since I’ve always been very vocally supportive (to the point where it’s cost me friendships) of the rights of readers to say whatever they like about whatever book(s) they read, and had tried in my post to make very clear that I wasn’t speaking about them and I certainly wasn’t saying anyone didn’t have the right to say whatever they wanted about a book.
Long story short (too late) I was stunned and hurt, and frankly, I’ve been stunned and hurt by the internet a few too many times in the last year or so; not by comments about my books but by comments about me personally. It’s frankly terrifying to find people you don’t know, who don’t know you, making fun of you on Twitter and inviting tons of other people who you also don’t know and who don’t know you to join in. It’s awful to get nasty comments and emails not about what you said or wrote, but about what they were told you said or wrote. It’s awful to ask a few innocent (you think) questions of someone, and find people calling you names and talking about what a huge bitch you are and how everyone hates you because of it. It’s not fun to make a general comment somewhere, something that would have passed without comment a year or two before, but for which you are suddenly accused of massive ego and arrogance. It’s upsetting. It’s painful. I’m just one person, one who fucks up on occasion, one who’s acted on impulse and later regretted it, one who’s made mistakes, one whose words can be misinterpreted no matter how clearly I and hundreds of others think they’re phrased. One who isn’t perfect just like none of us are perfect.
It just wasn’t worth it, to keep being attacked like that. It made me rethink a lot of things; it made me decide to take a step back, because I was tired of feeling like there was a big target on my back and people were just waiting for me to say something else they could pick on and attack me over (note: I doubt they actually were, but it felt that way). I was tired of being made to feel bad about myself, of seeing people discuss how I was a bitch, an asshole, an idiot, an unprofessional cunt with a terrible reputation (no one I actually work with or have ever worked with or who even knows anyone I work with or have worked with said this, by the way; I have to admit the source on that one made me roll my eyes). To be perfectly honest, I’ve had a difficult time writing anything this last year or so, and part of me wonders if that isn’t because subconsciously I’m tanking myself so I don’t have to go through all of that again.
But seeing all of the comments from people, from other women, this weekend about how much it meant to them to see another woman putting herself out there, being herself no matter what kinds of shit she got for it, about how that inspired them and gave them strength…that’s made me rethink things a bit.
Certainly I’m not a big star. I don’t have one-eighth the following or audience Amy Winehouse had. Not one-tenth of one-eighth. I’m pretty much nobody (which frankly makes the overblown responses to me doubly confusing; I see bigger sellers–bigger names with bigger followings–than me say all kinds of things that go basically unnoticed, it seems. I certainly see male writers saying whatever they like and not being slammed all over the internet for it). I still don’t understand why anyone really gives a shit what I have to say, why anyone needs to pass it on and gossip about it. If you disagree with me that’s fine, but why the attacks? Why not just shrug and go about your business? Why am I so important to you–why is anyone so important to you–that you need to make a huge issue out of it? I’m not Glenn Beck making disgusting comments comparing the murdered children in Norway to Hitler Youth and I’m not anyone with any real influence in policy-making or decision-making in any organization or industry; I’m just a writer talking about my experience(s), or asking a few questions, or making a comment about something, while freely admitting they may not be the same as the experiences of others, explaining the reasoning behind the questions, and acknowledging that others may have different opinions, and nothing I say is that big a deal.
But maybe I don’t have to be some sort of huge name to still make a difference. I started doing things like posting at Absolute Write’s Bewares forum (years ago now) because I wanted to help aspiring writers avoid some of the traps I’ve seen others fall into, and avoid the traps I myself fell into early in my career. I’ve tried to take a stand on certain issues, and step into certain issues, because I always figured, you know, I’d rather they attack me than someone else. If Puny Epublisher A is going to start making their ridiculous “blackball” threats, I’d rather they make them at me (to whom their threats mean absolutely nothing) than someone just starting out who doesn’t actually understand how ludicrous those threats are, or who might be genuinely hurt or scared. And I still feel that way, even after seeing those comments about me, even after seeing my name dragged through the mud by someone with a personal vendetta because I dared to ask a couple of questions. Yeah, I’ve gotten some nasty emails in the past year or so. I’ve also gotten hundreds of wonderful emails from readers who love my books, to whom my books mean something. I’ve gotten dozens of wonderful emails from other writers who I helped.
So here’s what this enormous long post is actually about, if anyone is still reading. I’m thinking I need to put my money back where my mouth is, and quit trying to protect myself. I’m thinking that if I expect or want my work to mean anything to anyone I need to put myself out there, and keep doing it; I need to be myself and keep making it mean something. I’m thinking that maybe if more of us do that we can build our own little world, we can create something strong and good, and we can bring a little more happiness and acceptance along with us. A little more understanding and forgiveness.
The thing is, I see this blog as a way to communicate with my readers–those who’ve read my books and came here to learn more about them, and maybe a bit more about me, if they want. I think my books, especially the Downside books, have a lot of me in them already, really; if you’ve read them you probably already know something about me, you probably already know me to some extent. I think if you like the books chances are you’ll like me; I think if you don’t like them chances are you probably won’t, and if you disapprove of them you probably disapprove of me, too.
But everything I write here is addressed to my readers, really. Maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it; maybe I should be worrying about those people who stumble across the blog and see something about me or the books for the first time. It probably is the wrong way to look at it, to assume that the people reading your blog are already familiar with your work. Certainly thinking of my blog as a place where I communicate with people who are already aware of my work has gotten me into trouble before.
So what do I owe those readers–what do I owe you, when it comes to the blog, and what do you want to see? What do you think the purpose of a writer’s blog is, and what do you expect from it?
What Stace had to say on Monday, July 25th, 2011
Amy Winehouse died.
I’m sure you all know that. I’m sure this is only one of thousands of posts about her and her death that will be posted today, that have already been posted. But I want to say something about it; I need to say something about it, so I’m going to.
Amy’s music wasn’t the type I normally listen to, but I honestly loved Back to Black. I loved the sixties-esque, bluesy feel of it. I thought her lyrics were stunning and gritty and dark and beautiful, and her voice incredible. And today–all weekend–I’ve watched other people–other women–talk about those lyrics especially, how it felt to them like Amy really opened herself up, really exposed something of herself and how much that mattered to them, and why it mattered to them. They talk about dark times in their lives when those lyrics and that music helped them and spoke to them and made them feel not so alone. They talk about what a tragedy this is, how much they wanted another album, how deeply they identified with the troubled soul laid bare for them in song.
I’m also seeing other people–mostly men; some women, yes, but more men–talk about how they’re not surprised, how Amy deserved to die, how she was a junkie slag, how we’re all stupid if we didn’t expect this and stupid for caring to begin with. Oh, and of course there’s a healthy dose of “Kids died in Norway so how dare you people care about this when something actually important has just happened,” as if people can’t care about both, or as if no one is allowed to mourn the loss of someone who touched their lives because another tragedy with a bigger body count has taken place elsewhere. Like if your grandparent died on 9/11 you shouldn’t have cared or something. Along with that comes quite a bit of “Those kids in Norway didn’t deserve to die and Amy did” or “those kids in Norway had futures and Amy pissed hers away.”
(This post isn’t about the tragedy in Norway, and for the record I am horrified and saddened and deeply troubled by it.)
I find a number of things troubling here, and am kind of struggling to articulate all of my thoughts and feelings on it. I’m troubled at the loss of someone with talent. I’m troubled at the loss of someone who was clearly in a lot of pain. I’m troubled by the callousness of so many of the responses (just, as it must be said, I am by the callous responses many people make anytime any kind of death is reported in the news).
I find myself thinking back to when Kurt Cobain died. I personally never cared for Kurt Cobain or his music; in fact I strongly disliked both. But I remember well the way his addiction was handled in the press, and I remember that the response to it was one of sadness and concern, the response to his death one of shock and mourning. I remember how the public discourse seemed so much to be about worry and support. And now I remember the response to Amy’s addiction was scorn and disgust, and the response to her death–not everywhere, it must be said–seems to be more of the same, with a healthy dollop of “she deserved it.” I don’t remember people calling Cobain an ugly whore because of his addictions, or discussing how if he touched them they’d want to bathe with bleach, or wondering why anyone in their right minds would want to be anywhere near him. I don’t recall, when River Phoenix died, people saying he deserved it. So why the vitriol against Amy Winehouse? Is it easier to dismiss and shame her because Ladies Don’t Do Such Things? Why is it okay for talented men to be fucked up, but talented women aren’t allowed? Why are men with addiction problems forgiven and hoped for, but women are condemned?
For every person discussing what a vile person Charlie Sheen is and has become, there are many willing to pay huge amounts of money to see him ramble. And that’s now, after the shit around him finally reached an un-ignorable level. Let’s not forget that Charlie’s had addiction issues for years; let’s not forget how many women have accused him of domestic violence. How much shit did we hear about him when those incidents happened? It was a quick news story that then disappeared, and when his name came up we didn’t hear much about it. If it was mentioned it was in a cheery “Those problems were totally overblown and are behind him now” sort of way. He was called a “partier” and a “lothario.” Now how many times in the last couple of years did you see an article about Amy that didn’t focus on her addiction problems or mention the violence in her relationship with her husband in a snide and condescending manner? How many comments to those articles didn’t focus–in Charlie’s case–on how much the commenter hoped his troubles really were behind him, and how many of the comments in Amy’s case weren’t about how ugly and skanky she was? How many times was Amy’s behavior chuckled about as if it was just normal and fine, how many times was she fondly called a “party girl?”
Googling things like “Amy Winhouse slut,” “Amy Winehouse slag,” and “Amy Winehouse disgusting” brings up millions and millions of hits all about–yes–how Amy was a slut, a slag, and disgusting. “Amy Winehouse disgusting” brought up over nine million hits, largely Facebook groups, blogs, videos, websites, whatever, devoted to how disgusting Amy is. “Charlie Sheen disgusting” brings up two million, and even on the first page you can see the difference; they’re calling his behavior disgusting, not him, or they’re quoting Denise Richards. I realize doing a few Google searches is hardly a scientific study, but I do think it’s telling.
Sure, there’s a difference. Charlie’s fame didn’t come from singing about/talking about drugs and alcohol. I know that, and I know that’s part of the response I’ll get about this post. I guess the implication there is that–my old favorite–Amy shouldn’t have mentioned it if she didn’t want to be judged, and Amy asked for it when she sang about things that had meaning for her. Of course that can’t really be argued with; every artist knows that creating art for public consumption means opening oneself up to public criticism. That’s the name of the game, and of course everyone has a right to their own reactions to things and to express those reactions. My comments or concerns aren’t about that so much as the fact that we seem to be much gentler and more forgiving when it’s a man whose problems we’re discussing rather than a woman. (It’s not just publicly either; when I asked about this online I had a girl who’d entered AA at a young age remark on how different were the reactions she got from the reactions the men she knew in recovery got. They were tortured and cool; she was a dirty slut.)
(We can say the same thing about Britney Spears, actually, a young woman who had a public breakdown while we all watched. When Britney was a sexy virgin everyone loved her; the minute she gained a few pounds and showed evidence of stress people started stoning her in the public square. Part of this is simply the way of the world these days. As I said Friday, it feels like our culture has devolved to the point where other people aren’t seen or treated as human anymore, but merely artificial constructs created for our entertainment, and we delight in going online to say whatever clever little cruelty we’ve invented in our vicious little heads, then sitting back smiling at our own pithy disregard for other people’s feelings. After all, we’re perfect, aren’t we, so obviously anyone dealing with problems we don’t ourselves deal with or not living their lives the exact same way we do are inferior in some way, and thus deserving of our scorn. I digress.)
This is getting very long, so I’m going to hold off on the second part and post it tomorrow. It’s about my own feelings about blogging and putting things out there, and all of that. So for now…that’s all.
What Stace had to say on Monday, April 4th, 2011
1. I tried to approve a comment this morning that had ended up in my spam folder. It was a comment to my post about Elder Griffin and the commenter had a gay brother, I think? And was also an addict. Please, please re-leave your comment if you’re the one who left it; you and your comment are important to me, and I appreciated your words, and I honestly don’t know why it ended up in my spam folder to begin with but I feel awful about whatever dumb clutzy thing I did that made it disappear.
2. All this talk about short stories has me thinking. And there may be some stuff going on this summer as far as promotions etc. Certainly I have that story in HOME IMPROVEMENT: UNDEAD EDITION which frankly needs no promotion from me at all, given that the other authors in it are actually successful, but I’d like to do something for it and I’d certainly like to have some stuff to offer to piggyback from it a bit, if you know what I mean. I like my story in the antho pretty well–certainly I think it’s the best short I’ve written, but then you all know I’m not crazy about my short stories in general.
But that brings me to another question, actually. I’ve mentioned here that there’s a (very) dark erotica/erotic romance story I want to do. But I also have HOME, the Downside short which would have gone to the MMBO GHOST ROMANCE, (which made me realize earlier that I also have TRUST ME, my short from the MMBO VAMPIRE ROMANCE II, which is now essentially reverted to me–it was a non-exclusive contract after the first year). And I’d really, really like to get some more Downside stuff out there for you guys, and have been considering a few options.
I thought there was a way to do a proper voting poll on WordPress here but I can’t find it. So I’ll just ask and you guys can leave our thoughts in comments or @ me on Twitter or whatever.
I’m having some thoughts re the following short/novella-type projects. Keep in mind that not only do I of course want to do something special for you guys but I’m hoping to do something that might be accessible to those who haven’t read the books, something that might entice them a bit and get the word out? I know there are people who think the series is very successful because of the great reviews it got last summer but really that’s not the case, so I’m working really hard on finding a way to reach a larger audience.
Here are some of the ideas I have in mind; I may actually end up doing all of them, but I’m really interested in what appeals to you:
1. An “origin”-type story for Chess from her Church training
2. UG/UM/CoG from Terrible’s POV
3. ” ” ” from Lex’s POV
4. Some shorter in-continuity stories; nothing you’d have to read to understand/follow later books (I hate that) but, you know, “Further Adventures”-type things (HOME is one of these already)
5. Origin-type stories for other characters (Bump, Terrible, Lex, Edsel, etc.)
What do you guys think?
Anything I don’t have there that you’d really like to see?
Let me know!
What Stace had to say on Monday, March 21st, 2011
I was updating my FAQ a little while ago and wanted to link to the Polish editions of the Demons books on Amber Publishing’s website. And guess what I found? The Downside books are available in a boxed set over there! How cool is that? (Google translate tells me the wording at the top is “STACII KANE in a Box.” Which makes me think of the end of the movie SEVEN. Eek.)
Anyway, I was excited to see it, so there you go. Also, it occurs to me that I haven’t really updated the FAQ in a while, so if you have any questions you want in there, please ask them! (I did remember to add “How do you pronounce “Cesaria?” because I do get asked that fairly often.)
So. I saw something yesterday that reminded me of this; I’d ranted about it a bit on Twitter one night but not in a post here. You know what I really dislike? I really dislike kissing scenes in books where at any point one character “runs his/her tongue” over the other person’s lips. Eeeew. I don’t want my mouth licked, thank you. It tickles, and it feels slobbery.
I asked about this on Twitter and one of my pals there said he’d once dated a girl who really, really liked it. I think she’s an anomaly, since I’ve never known anyone else who did. And yet, this happens all the time in books. Why? It’s such a weird thing to do! Especially before that very first kiss, at least I think so. The lip-licking makes me think of a snake. Or a dog. It doesn’t make me think of sexy times.
There are plenty of places on the human body where tongues are welcome (that’s what she said, yeah, ha ha). But having the outside of my mouth licked just feels like the guy has bad aim, or like he’s trying to figure out if I’m something edible or a rock, or maybe like he’s seen way too many movies and thus will probably try to pull all those slick moves that look erotic but aren’t at all, and thus will bore me to death before anything actually happens.
I don’t want tongues inside my ears, either. In fact, I don’t want anything inside my ears. Not even air gently blown.
So…who is it out there who likes this, and keeps sticking it in books? It’s kind of like how someone got the idea that it felt good to have the cervix banged into, and for a while there were tons of books where men were banging into cervixes and that was driving the women wild. Um, actually, that hurts every woman I know. (But I confess, even I wrote it; I can’t remember what book it was in, but I did write it. Mainly because it seemed like it was in every book so I started wondering if maybe it was just me who found it painful, and everyone else loved it. It wasn’t until I had the guts to ask around that I discovered no, it hurts pretty much all women. I don’t remember if it stayed to publication or not.)
Anything you see in books and don’t “get?” How do you feel about the lip-licking thing? Got any questions you’d like put in my FAQ?
Finish Downside 5 (just over 50k now)
edits for SACRIFICIAL MAGIC
more words on New Project
possible exciting new Downside thing I can’t discuss yet
erotic novella (not yet started)
Demons novella (not yet started)