Friday Hangovers

Tap, Tap, Is This Thing On?

Didn't mean to vanish here, but winter and deadlines and did I mention the WINTER? (Someone please appease George R.R. Martin with a suitable offering to make it stop–I expect the White Walkers to show at any time otherwise.) And surely today is our last snowstorm of the season, she said, with a tiny measure of hope. When I'm not here, you can almost always still find me tumbling random things and on twitter, of course.

Lots of quietly exciting things have been happening. I just turned in a draft of secret project, the first new book I've finished this year (obviously, since it's only three months in!). I got to see some possible cover looks for Girl on a Wire and they were AMAZING; I can't wait to see how the final version turns out. I just broke down and made an exception to my long-time Groucho Marx, non-club-joiner policy to join SFWA, because so many people have been doing such good work the past few years to change it and keep it relevant and I want to support that. I taught a group of amazing teen girls about SFF over the weekend, and since so many people pitched in great exercise ideas over on facebook I'll try to do a devoted post about that and share some of those. What else? Christopher also finished a novel draft last month (very exciting). Oh, and I had some new author photos taken, which I'm sure I'll be showing you soon.

BearthedogRight around New Year's C and I started watching Person of Interest, after seeing it recommended by many, many trusted sources as an excellent science fiction show–most notably the io9 recs, and those from Molly Gloss, Ted Chiang, Chris McLaren (source of its excellent nickname Hobo Batman), and Adam Christopher. They were right. Though it took us a while to fully commit, and I definitely think there are some skippable episodes in the first season. That said, I'm glad we didn't skip them. It truly is one of the most excellent, provocative SF shows around, with sharp, thoughtful writing. We'd have so caved and started watching earlier if you'd told us there was a dog. We're suckers for a dog (especially Bear, above). And we're now all caught up with the current season, which is a little woeful, because it was so nice to feel like there was an endless supply of episodes.

Anyway, I'll be back later this week with a round up of recent reading and many accumulated links and fewer excuses. Probably.

Locus Recommended List!

Is out. And I am thrilled to be included in such amazing company!

Young Adult Books

Now go check out the entire list, which contains many wondrous books and stories. Too many friends to congratulate, so I will only say congrats to all. <3

Friday Hangovers

Monday Miscellany

Birdbewitching.phpI've been deep in the mines they call copyedits, where the grammar is fixed and the style sheet is set and precision is queen. This is one of my favorite parts of the publication process. Despite the terrifying part of itthat it's pretty much the last time significant changes can be madeit's also the last time someone goes through your words with the fine-tune comb designed to save you from yourself. Because, no matter how magical a book, even one you wrote yourself, feels when you hold it in your hands, and how contained at the same time, it has worlds in it. Well, at least one, hopefully, and that does not come easy or without mistakes.

Which is why editing at all its various stages is so important. Honestly, when I think about what I want from this crazy game we call pub these days, the topmost thing is the best editorial support possible for the book in question. That's the most important thing to me. And I've been fortunate in this respect.

Anyway, even though I've done some light copyediting myself, and lots and lots of proofing, this time around I learned that I can default to a "try and" construction rather than the "try to" construction, among other things. Gripping for you, I know. But while I was looking up something minor to double-check it, I fell down a rabbithole (yay, internet; I will never tire of these particular breaks in the space-time continuum) in the form of Tiny Kline's memoir, Circus Queen and Tinkerbell. And I quote the section in question:

It was 5 pm when I got back to Madison Square Garden. I missed my turn in the races, but that was okay. I was on a special job, therefore, and not subject to fine, according to the rules regarding absenteeism. My two opponents, Butch and Strawberry Red, carried on without me.

With her wire rigged up spanning Wall Street, Bird Millman, billed as 'A Fairy on a Cobweb,' opened the drive, selling the first bonds to the highest bidders while balanced on the fine metal thread as if suspended in thin air. Attired, appropriately, in a costume along military lines, she looked breathtakingly lovely in that nifty officer's uniform, a preview of the Women's Allied Air Command of twenty-five years hence.

Bird is my heroine's idol, and there are lots of photos of her doing astounding things I've been able to get my grubby eyes on. Even one video I've found (don't worry: plenty of time for that when the book's closer to coming out). But I can't seem to find a photo from this particular appearance to sell war bonds,* and I so wish I could. But this is almost as good. A photo, of a different kind.

Back later this week with an entry. Swearsies. (You can always pre-order the circus book, if you feel so inclined.)

*If you know of one, please send or link below, because I'd love to see it.

Wednesday Hangovers

  • Total-film-magazine-4367-a-1389784791-470-75Circus daredevil book copy edits to do and second half of secret project to write and etcetera, oh my! A busy week here, so some links, and hopefully a real entry later on this week–probably about how our first couple weeks of VB6 have been going. 
  • First up is a cool promotion that Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry is doing with Total Film magazine this month, highlighting some of their books that were optioned for TV and movies. Snag a copy of the print magazine or pick up an electronic copy and find out how to download free e-books of mine own Blackwood, Ramez Naam's Nexus, and Richard Parker's Scare Me. Details at the SC blog or just go buy the magazine here.
  • Courtney Milan writing smartly as usual about the book business, this time taking on print sales for historical romances. Lots here applicable to other genres as well.
  • Merrill Markoe's "How I Stopped Procrastinating" in the NYT: "Here’s what I learned: First thing in the morning, before I have drowned myself in coffee, while I still have that sleepy brain I used to believe was useless — that is the best brain for creative writing. Words come pouring out easily while my head still feels as if it is full of ground fog, wrapped in flannel and gauze, and surrounded by a hive of humming, velvety sleep bees." I have found this to be a surefire cure if I'm having trouble, and my best first draft groove.
  • The expanded universe as gateway at io9.
  • I love it when Austin Kleon posts a good old-fashioned blog entry: "A good spaceship for time travel."
  • Kevin Brockmeier's "Dead Last Is a Kind of Second Place" at the Georgia Review.
  • The classic paintings come alive thing is utterly. magical.
  • Chuck Wendig guest posts on why he doesn't guest post much. Sensible! Because, if you have to do a lot, as is frequently asked of authors: It. Is. So. Time. Consuming. I think my new policy is going to be that I'll only do interviews and actual essays that I feel would be worth people's time to read, in places that make sense. Most of the blogs I read regularly–with the exception of Chuck's, Scalzi's, and a couple of others–aren't that heavy on guest posts either, and it's mainly for the reason he says. I read most of the blogs I read for the voice of the owner/author/operator (a recent case in point: Leila Roy blogs her read of V.C. Andrews' Petals on the Wind; you will to laugh). With exceptions, of course. And I do have a soft spot for the ugly word blog. So antiquated you kind of have to love it. Like one of those crazy ugly dogs that somehow goes full circle and becomes adorable.
  • Colleen Mondor just totally sold me on this book, Miss Me When I'm Gone.
  • The hazards of sitting. Something I wish I wasn't thinking about, but after looking at this illustration can't stop thinking about. Must be better about yoga.

Snow Day

I really did intend to make a real entry here today, but instead I took the time I wasn't working to go romping with the dogs in the snow.


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And got the best photo ever of Puck the Dog, possibly:


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But because Emma gets jealous, here's one of her too, walking the wall ala Jon Snow:


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I have no regrets. You can see the whole captioned set of romping photos at Flickr.

Friday Hangovers

Monday Nattering

I'm going to give this site a real makeover at some point this year, but I gave it an in-the-meantime one over the weekend. I did an abysmal job at tracking my reading last year, so I'm also reviving my reading log page; will also try to remember to point to it occasionally.

Totally overwhelmed by the number of people who shared and visited the post about sexism and self-promotion and related thoughts over the weekend here or over on tumblr. I almost didn't post it, and am now really glad I did. Look for more Actual Bloggery to happen here, and more little things over at tumblr (where I'll continue to mirror bigger posts). At any rate, I propose a blog renaissance for 2014. And will do my part, even while deep in Secret Project Land, as I am currently.

Speaking of the self-promote-y, I completely missed this lovely mention of The Woken Gods from Erin Keane as part of the WFPL staff year-end reading round-up: "Bond's D.C. is a world of powerful tricksters, ancient relics, and spooky rituals that feels both mysterious and familiar at once, and like her first novel "Blackwood," (listen to an excerpt on Unbound) this whip-smart heroine-led adventure is equal parts creepy and fun." *beam*

Two things I suggest you read today, if you haven't: Genevieve Valentine's fashion round-up from the Golden Globes (always a highlight of the day after any awards show) and Sarah Weinman's great NYT Magazine piece about an award-winning crime manuscript written by a man currently in prison for murder.

And, finally, having eaten in enough restaurants in the last week to last me through the next couple of months in deadline-ville, I'm looking forward to bunker life with the secret novel and our foray into Vegan Before 6 (so far so good, er, on the first day). The fabulously fun winter residency of the Bluegrass Writers Studio definitely also yielded enough social activity to hold me for a good while, but was, in fact, too fabulously fun to pass up most evenings–especially given that it's C's final semester in the program (thesis novel!). Finally met the delightful (but in a noir way) Kelly Braffet in person, along with her editor Zack Wagman (who I interviewed once upon a time), as well as Alissa Nutting, who it turns out we have several common friends with, and the very funny Sam Lipsyte. Plus, the usual program suspects like Derek Nikitas. And, of course, we got to hang out lots with Maureen McHugh, one of my favorite favorite people, who was here teaching a workshop. Witness this evidence from an evening meal at Table 310 with Maureen, Christopher, (the lucky-for-us currently local) Andrew Shaffer, and a former program student who turned out to also be a former small town funeral director and made the best conversation (sample: "We call that 'creating a beautiful picture' "):

In short: I like 2014 so far.

Battle of the Sexists (aka Let The Self-Promotion Roll, Ladies)

So…I almost talked myself out of making this post, but then, hey, I said I was going to start blogging again and these are the kinds of things I'm interesting in blogging about. Even though it is a little scary, for reasons the post will make clear. The thing is, publishing books is–even though our books are not ourselves–extremely revealing, by which I mean it opens us up to lots more casual judgment and criticism, especially when we voice opinions that not everyone agrees with or wants to hear.

It's probably one of the reasons I've talked less in depth about anything except writing and interesting bits and bobs I find on the Internet here, since Blackwood came out. The other is that it takes time, time away from writing fiction and doing other work and living, which is time and mental space I don't have much of. I like watching TV too much. So, there will probably be a lot more nattering type "this is what's going on" posts. Pet pictures and the like. But I'm not happy with confining all discussions of other things to twitter or facebook, and so here we are. And I come to you with a ranty ramble.

What prompted this post is a stew of things that happened to appear in concert this week, and some of which I've been stewing about ever since.

The first was the Jennifer Weiner profile in the New Yorker. I only just got time to read the whole thing last night. It's a fair, thoughtful piece, and definitely worth your time. 

I saw a few tweets flying around, which notified me of its existence, but the actual first direct impression I got of it was a secondary one. My friend Erin posted a link to a Slate reaction piece to it, one which had rightly piqued her ire. Reader, this piece makes my blood boil. The headline: "Jennifer Weiner Critiques Sexism in Publishing, Promotes Self." But, you know, writers aren't always in charge of the headline, and they often seem written to troll for outrage clicks, so I was prepared for the actual piece to be a little more balanced. It honestly isn't, and then there's this:

All of this means that Jennifer Weiner is an imperfect vessel for confronting sexism in the publishing industry. What it doesn’t mean is that Weiner is unique in her strategy of leveraging critical analysis to self-promote.

Just take in the wording for a second…see if anything jumps out at you in the wording, like, oh, I don't know: IMPERFECT VESSEL.

Look, I know, I know, there's a larger point being made, etc., et al., but as a writer, I believe words matter. The choice of words reveals so much here; it is the crux, the entire red effing wheelbarrow of the matter, as far as I'm concerned.

Don't be an imperfect vessel, kids. Which seems to mean, among other things, don't self-promote, don't believe your own work is worth promoting, and for eff's sake, don't imply that it's worthy of critical consideration OR that which books get attention really does often come down to initial perceptions of the people who make those decisions… Perceptions which are undeniably colored by impressions created by the track record/history of the author and the packaging (and I'd include marketing push there). And if you believe that women's and men's work are packaged the same, or that women authors whose works are or are perceived to be primarily about and/or for girls or women are on equal ground in this equation, then I have some lovely beachfront property I'd love to sell you with a library full of Franzen the Grouch novels. Just send me a cashier's check.

Ditto if you believe that women aren't perceived and treated differently when they  self-promote.

Some people are rubbed the wrong way by Jennifer Weiner, some are some of the time (I agree with her way more often than I don't and find her frequently hilarious), but what KILLS me about some of the reactions is just how much they are about her. Again, look, I get it, it's a reaction to a profile piece, also about her. But it is also absolutely typical and predictable to sidestep the points she's making. It's far easier to criticize her for self-promoting or talk about her shortcomings–whether perceived or real–than it is to address the substance of her arguments. Her arguments which are not only about the books of Jennifer Weiner.

Who, by the way, is an actual human being and author, not a vessel, perfect or imperfect or otherwise. The very phrasing in that sentence may have been what caused my blood to boil. (By the way, I have enjoyed some other pieces by the writer of the Slate one. Just decidedly not this one.)

Like Weiner, I would love to see more attention devoted to the work of women and especially that perceived to be aimed primarily at women and girls. I read category romance (I LOVE category romance) right beside mainstream literary fiction right beside mystery right beside YA right beside SF and I do my best to judge the books based on their merits. I try not to do that pre-slotting of things into Worthwhile and Not Worthwhile, but make that decision based on the book in question. I know my own likes and dislikes, which means not assuming that because something isn't my cup of book, it shouldn't exist or be talked about. This is also not to say that everything is equally "literary," but there are other measures of worth that are, um, worth discussing, too, and can we just admit that the term itself is pretty squishy and seems to stick to most of the things it's applied to, as long as the right person is doing the applying?

There are certain kinds of books the word is far less likely to be applied to. Sometimes, that may be because of the quality of the books. Sometimes, it may be for other reasons–lots of them. (I have seen people claim, for instance, that literary YA doesn't exist. Which is crazypants.)

What I wish as a reader is that I could find more smart writing about all those types of books I mentioned above easily, instead of the typical uninformed scarlet-rage inflammatory or blush-rosy nostalgic pieces about YA, or the terrible pieces implying women who read romance aren't feminists and all romances are identical, or calling out the one or two SF books this year that stand above the trash heap…. I could go on with examples, but this is getting long and I doubt I need to. This is why I believe blogs are still so important, and why I read so many, and oh romance and YA blogosphere in particular you are THE BEST. You write such smart pieces, about so many different kinds of books, taking them seriously. You talk the things I'm talking about here. But oh how I wish there were more opportunities for you to write about it for professional outlets and be paid.

(Aside: This is one of the main reasons I regretted leaving my regular reviewing gig at Locus. I want to see more women writing about books, period–also why I try to read every word about books people like Laura Miller, Charlie Jane Anders, Annalee Newitz, Sarah Weinman, Roxane Gay, and Carolyn Kellogg produce, to name a handful, in addition to the blogs I follow.)

But, I digress. I wanted to talk a little bit about this idea that self-promotion is somehow inherently shameful or deserving of a call-out, especially when women are engaging in it.

Because at the same time the profile conversation was going on, this week there's been a bunch of talk in the SFF field about whether people should mention awards-eligible work and the associated discussions about self-promotion that engenders (not an accidental word choice). (Read those links.)

Not too long ago, two fabulous YA authors I consider friends wrote essays about the experience of being a woman writer and self-promoting, about the reactions that they get and see, and how those might be different toward women than men. Here's Sarah Rees Brennan's and here's Malinda Lo's.

I watched for reactions to these pieces with interest at the time, and I meant to post at length about them, but see above, avoiding rants. While most of the reactions I saw were quite positive, recognizing their valid points, I did also see a few really clueless mansplaining and nasty ones. I won't point to them, because…reasons, but ugh. Reactions like the one to Weiner in Slate tell the story just fine.

And before it comes up, I am not at all saying that men don't feel weird about self-promotion too, that they all feel completely comfortable and natural doing it. We're all humans here. Of course, it feels awkward. It feels awkward when I do it.

I'm also not saying there shouldn't be a balance, and that it's not possible to overdo it. It is, of course it is. In my experience, if you're someone who worries about that, you're probably not anywhere close to the line.

And yet.

Like most writers I know, I often experience doubts and bouts of imposter syndrome. But at the same time I am proud of my work, and it's work I, in fact, work really hard on. I want to be able to keep doing it. I also believe that women absolutely should not think twice about self-promotion. All the data suggests it's harder for the work of women, especially in certain genres, to get attention. That makes self-promoting part of the job for most of us, whether we like it or lump it. So if I catch myself hesitating on a RT or about posting some news related to my own books or trying to get an invite somewhere, I usually go on and do it, because I want to contribute to an online and offline culture where women don't hesitate and then decide not to speak up about their own work. Speaking up hopefully encourages speaking up. In case it doesn't: speak up.

Generosity of spirit is where it's at. Let's give each other the benefit of the doubt, and stash the judging on this point. I've always tried to help draw attention to other people's work I feel deserves it, but I pledge to do more of that, too.

Mostly, though, let's all try to call b.s. like this when we see it, by which I mean the attitudes about self-promotion and other things that help preserve the percentages in the VIDA count, that stoke the inequity in certain bestseller lists, and that make women not feel okay about trying to get attention for their work. Let our self-promotion truly be shameless.

End ranty rambling.

Speaking of promo, I'm determined to get a newsletter out something like quarterly this year. The first one will be sometime in the next week or so, and sign up if you want it.