This Should Be a Thing

I’m plum tuckered out. Today I have been more or less consistently disappointed by humanity. Disappointed in general, as well as in particular. Pretty much everyone I’ve encountered in the last twelve to sixteen hours has figured out a new and sometimes interesting way to let me down. For example, the long line of college aged kids on the trail to Lake Serene who were speaking so loudly I could make them out over the din of the forest and a 200 foot cascade crashing into boulders. Guys, hiking should be a lot like visiting the library. Then there is pretty much everyone on social media for, well, saying dumb shit.

After our hike we picked up some passable fried fish and an okay beer. Expectations thereafter lowered, the Fam and I returned to our castle on the hill and played frisbee at the park for a while. Mostly good, but I caught a disc, thrown at close range by my three year old, with my ear. It’s still throbbing. Eventually, we made our way back to the house and I thought, “Hey, I need a pick-me-up. I should see what my friends are up to,” and then clicked through to Facebook because I’m a glutton for punishment, or disappointment. Take your pick. At the top of my feed the fine folks at Facebook thought I’d appreciate this.

Got a request from a new author to read his book. These always set me on edge.

I love helping out new authors. But I’m super busy, so I can’t really take the time to pour myself into that kind of critical reading. And whenever I tell someone this, it’s always a crapshoot whether I’ll get a “thanks for your time” or a raging screed about arrogant writers.

I will not name the author that wrote this. He’s a good guy, and I suspect that this was probably written out of frustration. The amount of reading anybody associated with this gig is constantly asked to undertake can be daunting. At some point we all have to draw lines and declare “None shall pass.” Also noteworthy, I am not the author making said request. This guy writes fantasy, I write science fiction; I’m uncertain he would understand my works any more than I get his. Add to this he’s just an acquaintance I’ve made, not a bosom buddy or a connection to an agent or an imprint. Just some dude I was friendly with over beers at a convention. I’d be really surprised if he reads this blog post. Ever.

But this very public comment struck me as particularly off-putting for a couple of reasons. First, it is a public declaration characterized by indirect refusal to the request of another. He’s not refusing to help by telling the requesting author, he is refusing by telling his fans. While this avenue of response avoids direct confrontation, it also creates more drama than it solves. While at the same time, the comment itself appears to be a lightly veiled attempt to raise one author above another. The Cliff notes for this post? “I’ve got mine, don’t bother asking.”

Add to the above that I’ve found this attitude somewhat widespread. At conventions I’ve sat next to people, other authors, who spend an inordinate amount of time bitching about the unwashed masses with whom they’re too good to consort. To further the misattribution of a phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” This seems to me the genre specific contemporary version of Marie Antoinette’s contempt. Funnily it is not the people with swimming pools of book revenue that tend to do this. Go figure.

If you “love helping out new authors” than give it your best shot. Do what you can, no one expects any more. Be more than a self-promoter, be an advocate for your favorite stories. Tell others about all the really fine works that will improve their appreciation of your canon. You’ve worked hard to find your audience, and you may have had help along the way. If not, it cannot hurt to pay it forward. If you really don’t have the time to read someone else’s work than, at the very least, be honest and mature. Tell them upfront.

In an attempt to reconstruct my attitude I turned this nugget on its head because I’m not into maintaining a never ending streak of disappointment. I seriously had to let this one go or risk staying up all night thinking about it, thus, this is a little bit of therapy. I probably need to turn this into a policy statement, but in the mean time consider my public declaration an invitation. Feel free to change out the pronouns as you see fit.

Got a request from a new author to read his book. These always get me excited.

I love helping out new authors because I might have just been given an early opportunity to find my next favorite wordsmith. This is why I will create time in my busy schedule to read his book instead of concocting a series of excuses designed to passive-aggressively justify my own narcissism and surreptitiously segregate him from my social crowd. Besides, I should spend less time playing video games. Whenever I tell someone that I will read their book I am reasonably confident I’ll receive a sincere “thank you” for my time, perhaps some quid pro quo. This is far preferable to the anxiety of waiting on their reply which can range from polite dismissal to an arrogant, raging screed.

It is the last day of August. Today I can officially say I’ve been doing this professionally for a year. Writing, or making shit up for living as I love to call it, is an excellent way to make a living.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the last year is that it’s a group effort. No one makes it alone. The idea of an “independent author” is a myth, a complete and utter fabrication. For each and every one of us who takes this chance, who writes something down and then sends it out into the world, there must necessarily be a collection of people to read that wager. If you’ve got your’s, I say, “Great! Good on ya.” But I’d also remind you that you did not find your level of success on your own. Someone read what you had to write and loved it enough to tell a friend, to write a blurb, put it in front of your agent or your publisher, or just leave a review on Amazon.

Don’t crap on your fans. Don’t crap on your peers. Pay it forward when ever you can. And always, ALWAYS play nice.

Top Ten

ListDavid Wohlreich recently posted a list of ten books that have remained with him and/or influenced him throughout his life. Any reasonably literate person probably has a list like this simmering on their back burner, but bringing it to the front, where it can stand as a fully formed entrée, seems like an undertaking.

Just as I said I would, I’ve given this some thought. Here’s my list in no particular order.

There are many more stories and works that I’d love to put on this list. Ultimately, writing it down became an act of excision. And yes, there is indeed a trilogy in my list. You cannot read just one of these books and have the whole of the story.

Finally, I’m posting this to the blog and not directly to Facebook. Why? Mostly because this is a little portal into my head and I’d much rather share these sorts of thoughts near the core. Facebook feels much like a social extremity. Also, I get to link to the titles themselves.

Finally, I’m not challenging anyone, but if you feel inspired to write your top ten books down please feel free to tag me so I’ll know. Give it some thought, make the list longer than ten then start chopping.

She May Never Read This

My Mom won’t get on Facebook. She doesn’t text or tweet. I suspect that she rarely, if ever, actually clicks through on her laptop to this blog. But that’s okay, she’s my mother and I still love her despite her on-line will’s-and-wont’s.

But you guys should click on over to a monthly feature at SF Signal called Mind Meld where yours truly is featured amongst many other respectable wordsmiths for the August question, What is your favorite childhood memory of a library or bookstore? My Mom, peerless parent, plays a role in my story. Even all these moons later I’m still thankful she stuck with me. My Mom is pretty cool.

 

Yet More Drama

Alright already! SFF writers can we please move beyond the petty, boorish and un-funk worthy spectacle of the day? Seriously, you guys waste way too much time expressing your heart felt opinions while simultaneously developing an unrivaled skill for hyperbole.  What’s the beef de jour? This morning Hugh Howey wrote a brief bit about a weekend convention. Seems convention organizers decided to put some authors in a back room for some reason while other authors got big tables in a big, comfy room.

I agree with him, it was a bit of a dick move by RT Booklovers Convention organizers, how ever you cut it up. But these things happen. The insinuation that it was intentional or focused on one kind of writer or publisher as opposed to another are unlikely to be true. But even if the accusations are verifiable, the absolute best anyone can hope for at this point is that next year the convention organizers will lay out the guest list with a little more forethought.

If this situation affected you personally — I mean if you were there this weekend and you ended up sitting in the cramped back room not selling any books — might it be unlikely you plan on returning? No, didn’t think so. RT Booklovers Convention is probably going to experience a shortage of creative types in the future.

If it didn’t affect you personally, why do you care? There is a Facebook-turd forming under a series of names I thought were above this sort of nonsense. It’s really too bad because too, these sorts of opinions get tossed around all the time and they never go anywhere. I get it, you’re angry. You may dislike the way some people publish. Perhaps you’re envious of their successes or their set up. But folks, you’re spot on the money when you say that this stuff is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. You really need to pay attention to your own words, because if it’s truly an easily forgiven “faux pas” you’re making a mountain out a mole hill. Cultivating a culture of melodrama.

Beyond a relatively few SFF diehard fanatics who have previously made up their minds, it is exceptionally unlikely that anyone who encounters this sort of genre specific infighting will experience an epiphany and see the world anew, now well informed by your opinion. Rather, if in the process of sorting the day’s media catch they are unlucky enough to firmly grasp your infernal doo-doo might they then form a negative opinion about you, your writing, or perhaps the genre you write in?

I don’t mind reminding anyone that science fiction and fantasy writers already have a tough row to hoe. SFF is still perceived as “kids stuff” at best. Regardless of the way you publish, our collective lack of professionalism has not made anyone’s job any easier. Worse, SFF authors seem to be preternaturally primed to hop the bandwagon each and every time it trundles by. Do you realize that children’s authors and romance writers look down their noses at SFF? Yeah, chew on that for a bit.

I am so tired of talking to people about my stories, seeing the flame of interest in their eye, only to watch it be extinguished with the words “Oh, I don’t usually read sci-fi.” This is almost always accompanied by a sneer which I imagine as commentary on my working choice of literature. Our genre is still outside what most people consider normal or well-adjusted. It lacks the respect other writing commands.

Like all of you, I work hard on my craft. I’ve suffered personal indignities, and sure, I carry my fair share of spite around with me. But we’ve got to cultivate the respect we deserve. Your platform is yours, do with it as you will, but we’re all set up on the same stage of genre. This means your self destructive habits affect those near you. If you cannot resolve your personal problems without pasting them in flashing neon across the whole internet, you may have some room for personal growth.

Mailing List … Finally

MailChimp-Logo-on-mevvy.com_Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the FeetForBrains email list. Yes, I’ve let this one slide for far too long. My laziness has probably stunted my growth as an author. And I certainly bitch about Facebook’s evil ways enough, which is why I’ve finally gone ahead and started an email list.

Specials on books, advanced reader copies, contests, appearances, signing, all the good stuff, will be made available to anyone who signs up. I promise not to sell your information (name and email address only) and I hope that you will be amply rewarded for becoming a fan.

You’ll notice that besides this post, there is a permanent page that appears under About MAT called Mailing List. But you don’t have to navigate there now simply click here and go straight to the form.

Writer’s Tool Box: Not Facebook Part Zwei

“So where ever you’re targeting advertising your page on Facebook is a waste of money. I wish Facebook would remove all the fake likes from my page and from all the others, but that would mean admitting that they have generated significant ad revenue from clicks that weren’t genuine which then supress the reach of of page which had low engagement. Forcing those pages to pay again to reach unauthentic fans. So the truth is that Facebook benefits by maintaining the status quo. Because the reality is *NOBODY LIKES THAT MANY THINGS*”.

I found this on KB today and if you’re using Facebook to promote something there is ample evidence you’re wasting your time and money. Paying for page likes, or page promotions for that matter, seems increasingly like willingly donating to a racketeering scheme.

I will continue to cross post information about my writing to Facebook, but don’t expect me to ever use their services to promote through that particular social network. The noise to signal ratio is full of static.