Tag Archives: Publishing

A New Adventure

As some of you may have already heard, my publisher of the last five years, Mercury Retrograde Press, is going to close the doors in January 2014. The official announcement is here, and a more personal explanation by Barbara Friend Ish is here.

Let me be honest and say straight up: this freaking sucks. I haven’t even finished book five in the Children of the Desert series yet. I do not want to change publishers at this point. I’m not about to gloss over that; you folks deserve better than fake PR spin.


I’m also going to be honest in saying that this is a good thing, at the end of the day. I’ve seen Barbara Friend Ish struggling to find a balance between her various commitments–including the commitments she’s made to herself–more and more over the past four years. It’s been wrenching at me, because boy, do I get where she’s at. Anyone trying to juggle a creative career with a day job understands that tension, that crazymaking stress, that perpetual feeling of being in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Just because she’s my publisher doesn’t mean she’s superhuman. Are there arguments to be made and points to pick at and criticisms to be leveled? Sure, and I’m quite certain someone out there will pick up the pen-sword and go after her for this decision.

I won’t be the one to do that. Here’s why:

Five years ago, I was a terrified, floundering newbie with only the barest glimmer of understanding regarding the craft and business of writing. Barbara Friend Ish took me in, pushed me to stretch and then stretch again; introduced me to many industry professionals; patiently answered dozens of questions about expected behavior and business strategies. She gave generously of her time and expertise to help me along the road at every step.

Today, I’m steady on my feet, confident in my ability as a writer; experienced enough myself that I’m passing along tips to those new writers coming up behind. I’m teaching writing classes, I’m attending conventions as a writer guest, I’m hooked in to a network of fellow professionals. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that without Barbara’s guidance. The passionate belief in her vision she talks about in her closing announcement isn’t PR plastic. It’s real, and I’ve been supported by it for five years now.

It totally sucks that I’m losing her as a publisher. It fucking rocks that I’m gaining her as an uncomplicated-by-a-business-relationship professional ally. I might even start being able to call her a friend soon*, which I’ve been desperately wanting to do for years; she is such a freaking cool person.

Where do I, personally, go from here? I don’t know yet. I’m still investigating whether to pitch the series to another press, in hopes of getting picked up and republished, or whether to buckle up and self-publish. There are pros and cons to every approach. One thing I have done is to absolutely slash my to-do list into fragments: only the critical items remain, and those are being given my full attention and handled with one-by-one tunnel vision. So if I don’t answer the phone or I’m slow on email replies, it’s not personal; I’m trucking a bunch of sand off my desk so that I can see clearly to where I’m headed next.

Wherever I go, I know one thing: it’s sure to be an adventure. And I love adventures.

Namaste to all, and to all a good write!:)

* One of my few absolute rules is that I never, ever, ever, allow myself to think of someone I am in a business relationship with as a “friend”. Because their interests are not mine, and my interests are not theirs. Forgetting that always leads to major heartbreak. Likewise, I’ll never go into business with a friend or a family member. I’ve seen that implode way too many times.


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Reading, reading, reading….

These days I don’t read as much fiction as I used to–meaning, I vacuum up about two books a week instead of five. Mostly thanks to the convenience of ebooks–which is a sentence I never thought would come out of my mouth. I love paperbacks and hardcovers and the feel of a good book in my hands…but…at one a.m., when I can’t sleep…it’s sooooo easy to reach for the Kindle and find something to read. Much easier than getting up, going upstairs, turning on lights, searching around the shelves for something I haven’t read to the point of total memorization yet, getting settled back down into bed–getting up again to let the dogs out, since they woke up when I was rattling around and want attention–getting up again to use the bathroom–getting up again to get a drink of water–and so on.

Grabbing the Kindle takes about five seconds and finding a new book at a reasonable price takes about five minutes. The dogs continue to sleep, my bladder stays quiet, and I’m happily reading and getting drowsy in no time.

So. I’ve picked up a handful of ebooks lately, yes. Guilty as charged. But the majority of my reading is still online, during the day, when I follow the links on Twitter and Facebook and the newsletters blogs I’ve subscribed to. It’s all important stuff, tracking the shifts and waves in big and small arenas–from local news to world news, from professonal to personal. I retweet and re-post on Facebook when I can, but it occurred to me: wouldn’t it be kind of cool to assemble all these links in one place every so often? So that’s what I’m doing for today’s post. Hopefully you enjoy the ride!

Going back to when I started using Twitter–in February–I’m astonished to see I’ve already tweeted over 950 times. Good grief. I’m a mouthy gal, ain’t I? I tweeted (briefly) about Mysticon, which was a lot of fun and I really should have written more about that; I gave my friend and fellow writer Alan Smale a shoutout or two for his awesome writing accomplishments and skill (he won the Sidewise Award in 2010 and recently signed a trilogy contract with Del Rey, which is SO FREAKING COOL.)

…but wait, there’s even more interesting stuff than that. I discovered (and was TOTALLY SIDETRACKED by) … Harry Potter fanfic. Yes, I said that. Yes, I’m not kidding. It’s called “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality“, and it is some of the funniest. freaking. shit I have ever, ever read. Ready for another shocker? I also sidetracked into the world of Twilight fanfic. Done under the same rational aegis, it’s called Luminosity. It’s a hell of a lot better than the original (well, the three pages of the original I managed to read, anyway), and goes completely away from the canon by the third chapter. So there’s my free fiction recommendation for the day.

And while we’re on the subject of snark and making fun…I’ve written a few reviews in my time, and I’ve been the subject of reviews–some good, some bad–but I’ve never written nor seen anything quite as claws-bared (and yet funny) as this review of Kansas Spirit Whiskey.

Moving from snark to thought-provoking discussion (although there is a link to the previous topic, since alcohol is involved), I’ve been reading about gendered politics more and more, such as with this post by Spectra. Then there’s this post about a study which FINALLY debunks an old theory. There’s a post by Sophia McDougall about the portrayal of rape in movies and fiction that prompted me to write a post examining my own stories. To lighten the mood after that harsh look at unpleasant realities, here’s a condom commercial written by women–best one I’ve ever seen, certainly!  I’ve read lots more in the gender wars/politics vein, but I’ll step away from that for now, because it does get overwhelming really fast.

A handful more, than I’ll quit, I promise:

Connecting gender and grammar is this post, “They Shoot Gender-Nonspecific Pronouns, Don’t They?” by Lexi Walker. Connecting grammar and writing is this post: “Action With a Side of Zombies“: In action scenes, dialogue should be short…put your grammar in peril to get the point across. There’s an interesting post here on how writing violence is easier, for Simon Morden, than writing about sex.

And I think one of my all time favorite discoveries via Twitter is this quote from Charlie Brown, posted by The Passive Voice.

There are so many, many, many others; the selected links above only reach the beginning of April, and they’re not nearly all of what’s there even so. If you’re on Twitter, I’ll encourage you to look back through my posting history to discover all the quirky and weird things I’ve found, like shells on a really big and bizarre beach. If you’re not on Twitter, well….you’ll just have to wait for me to gather another bagful of links and repost them here.:)

Please do check out the Harry Potter fanfic, though. It’s that good. And really funny.


Posted by on June 14, 2013 in Research, Uncategorized


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Time To Be Thankful

Yes, I’m one of those goopy people who love composing lists of things I’m grateful for, especially this time of year. I’ve given up being embarrassed about it. This year I have rather a lot to be grateful for, so I won’t bore you with the complete list; I’ll just highlight the items that will likely interest you the most.

Let’s start with music. This year saw the last performance of one of my favorite bands, Coyote Run. I was lucky enough to attend many a performance by this wonderful group of folks. David Doersch led his group in hundreds of fantastically choreographed and organized shows, each one just different enough to be fresh; their reimaginings of old classics brought me into a new appreciation of not only music but of history and legend. I’m deeply grateful to Doersch and company for their titanic efforts and phenomenal accomplishments; they were, truly, inspiring to me on many levels.

I also count myself lucky to have met the likes of Danny Birt, Rob Balder*, Devo Spice, Jonah Knight, and Mikey Mason–all phenomenal people and performers who are a pleasure to be around, on or off stage. I’ve learned rather a lot from each and every one of them, and I am always deeply grateful that they take the time to say hello to me at conventions!

Now let’s move on to blogs and e-newsletters. Now and again I bemoan the number of emails piling up in my box, and the bulk of that list is subscriptions to sites like Magical Words, Broad Universe, Writing-World, Fan to Pro, and The Middle Finger Project. (Not a complete list, mind you; I subscribe to about fifteen blogs/newsletters, all told!) But even as I moan about the overflowing stack of emails, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to be able to tap into such a rich and varied well of advice, inspiration, and experience. We live in a time of unparallelled opportunity; many of us can study very nearly any field we like through simply logging onto the internet and starting our inquiries. (Formal certification, of course, is another matter. But the knowledge is available with a relative minimum of effort.) I’m well aware that there are still places in the world, indeed even in America, where learning is not nearly so simple a matter; those of us who are blessed with such options had bloody well better be grateful for the chance!

I’m grateful to a number of authors for opening my eyes and mind to new and fascinating worlds and ways of thinking: Andre Norton, Edward Morris, Robert Heinlein, Patricia McKillip, Zachary Steele, Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffery, Piers Anthony, Neil Gaiman, Tove Jansson, Catherine Valente, John Adcox–oh, dozens and dozens more. I have a fairly complete list of what I’ve read over the course of my life over on Goodreads, if you really want to know more. I think I’ve probably managed to list about 80% of the total.

I’m definitely grateful to my many friends and family members, who have all been incredibly supportive over the past few years. I’m tremendously grateful to the staff and volunteers of the many conventions I’ve been lucky enough to attend in recent years, for making me feel so welcome and teaching me so very, very much along the way. And of course I’m grateful to my fantastic publisher and her staff, who have and continue to go above and beyond to provide me with lovely, well-edited books that boast fantabulous cover art.

I’m grateful for everything at this time of year, from the gorgeous yellow and red of the trees to the crisp, chill air to the cerulean, cloud-streaked sky. Gratitude is wonderful. It carries a mini-high with it, brings a smile to my face, and makes my day go a little easier. I love this time of year because it reminds me to be grateful for everything–every single little thing, no matter if it’s a good or a difficult moment. No matter how icky things get, I’m alive–and I’m strong, and smart, and brave, and able to get through tough times–maybe not always with a smile, mind you, but I’m not going to sink under pressure at the end of the day.

Ah, speaking of pressure, if you’ll excuse me–my inbox is overflowing again, as is the drafts folder at the Sleeping Hedgehog–I’ve been shamefully neglecting several matters, and I must rush off to get caught up again.

(And I’m thankful for having such an embarrassing backlog, because it’s so much better than being idle!)

Namaste and happy holidays to all!

* P.S.: Yes, yes, I know Rob has largely sidetracked into web comics these days, with his smash hit Erfworld; but I first saw him up on stage as a filker, so I still think of him as a musician. And whether he’s talking about his webcomics or singing, he’s still “on stage”, and is an excellent presenter, so I stand by putting him in that list. Mwah.:)

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Posted by on November 15, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Publications to Date…

I had hoped to have more of a list by this point in time, but on reflection I think I’m actually quite pleased with where I’m at. It’s been a lot of very hard work to get here, and I’m starting to get the hang of this writing thing…

(I know I have a properly dated list around here somewhere, but I can’t find it right now; I’ll have to come back and update this post later.)

  • Alternations, Futures: Fire to Fly Magazine
  • Charon In Tahiti,
  • Mind Games,
  • Secrets of the Sands, Mercury Retrograde Press
  • Guardians of the Desert, as prev.
  • Bells of the Kingdom, as prev. (Jan 2013)
  • Fires of the Desert, as prev. (April 2013)
  • Dragon Child, Galactic Creatures anthology (May 2012)
  • Silver and Iron, Sha’daa: PAWNS anthology (Nov. 2012)

I am currently working on refining a handful of short stories that tie in to the Mercury Retrograde Press novels, and I have a steampunk short story to get knocked out within the next couple of weeks, if the Muse–and the clock!–is kind to me. Short stories, for me, are rather like getting struck by lightning. I never know when I’ll be able to pull one off, and applying Butt In Chair almost always fails when I’m trying to develop a short story; either I wind up with garbage or I wind up with a fledgling novel. …

How do you handle writing a short story? Is it easier for you than a novel, or the other way ’round? Curious writers wanna know….:)

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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Uncategorized, Writing Fiction


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When To Hold ‘Em…

As I prepare for RavenCon, I’m listening to “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. And watching Monty Python videos. The combination seems very appropriate. See, one of the panels I’ll be on this year is “Self-Promotion and Social Anxiety Disorder”. And while I’ve been on promotional panels before, and I’ve been reading voraciously on the topic for three years now, I still don’t really believe I have the foggiest freaking idea what I’m doing. But I have solidly learned a few items, which I’ll tie into the song lyrics just for the hell of it (not all of them, but a few particularly apt lines) and punctuate with links to Monty Python videos to avoid being too serious about all this:

On a warm summer’s evening, on a train bound for nowhere/

I met up with the gambler; we were both too tired to sleep

Writing can feel like a career bound for nowhere, and hanging out with other writers at a convention is remarkably like meeting a fellow gambler on a train. And by Saturday night, we’re almost always so tired and so wired that we can’t sleep.

He said, “Son, I’ve made my life out of readin’ people’s faces/

And knowin’ what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.

This is also called “picking up on social cues”. Every writer hoping to promote themselves effectively must learn this above all else; you can be a self-marketing genius and still piss off the people you really need to impress, thus dooming all your efforts in the long term. This also applies to online conversations, unfortunately, where the cues are much harder to read. More on that below.

If you’re gonna learn to play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right

I’m really good at Othello: simple moves, limited pieces, infinite patterns. I’m not so great at chess, because there are so many different pieces and so many possible moves that result in so many variations; but if I get in the groove I can hold several moves ahead in my mind fairly well.

Planning a marketing career, though, kind of feels like playing 3D holographic chess where the computer keeps crashing and the pieces keep switching sides and the rules have been changed recently but there’s no new instruction manual to tell you what you’re supposed to do. Meanwhile a mad Pomeranian is chewing on your ankle and a parrot is screaming obscenities in your ear.

The point is … the point is … well, the point is that a writer should never own a parrot, nor a Pomeranian. But the actual point I’m attempting to make is that it’s more effective to figure out what your strengths are and build your plan around those. Fads change, rules change, options change, opportunities change. Who you are doesn’t change nearly as fast, and if you know who you are and what you want, you’re in a better position to take advantage of whatever’s on the table at the moment.

And now for the fun chorus lines:

You got to know when to hold ’em

You will lose faith in yourself, your writing, your agent, your publisher, your editor, your mom, your spouse, and even in the likelihood of the sun coming up in the morning. There will be times when everyone is telling you that you made a series of terrible mistakes, and that you really should pull that submission back and hire a lawyer to get out of that contract and fire that stupid editor and are you quite sure the sun’s coming up tomorrow, dear, because Fox News said just this afternoon….

Yeah. If those well-meaning folks don’t know anything about the publishing industry–or worse, if they’re just involved enough to know a little bit–it can sound right and be so, so, soooooooo wrong. And it’s sooooo hard to tell them to back off and that you know what you’re doing. But you got to hold ’em. You have to trust that things are gonna be okay, even if the fear and the uncertainty are making you absolutely psycho crazy. You have to–very important here–you have to stay off the message boards, even your favorite totally-friendly-on-my-side-forums, when you’re freaking out. Because there is no way to phrase “I’m freaking out and I don’t trust person xyz” that doesn’t sound, by the time you’re done, just like “DON’T TRUST PERSON XYZ” . So in addition to sandbagging whoever you’re talking about, if you then take a swipe at someone wiser who tries to stop you from making an ass of yourself in a public forum, you’re in for a fast-escalating firestorm as everyone and their brother jumps into the fight. And when it’s over, you’re stuck with a ton of PR damage that’s not going to go away. Evahhhhr. Because those comment threads are all public record. So know when to hold your mouth shut, too, on and offline.

Know when to fold ’em

There will be the exact reverse: times when a deal or situation just isn’t working out, whether that’s a partnership or a convention appearance or a publishing contract, times when everyone around you is saying “go go go!” and your instinct is saying “screeching brakes stop.” There will be times you have to trust yourself to say, “I give up. Count me out. Lesson learned.” The trick is to meet those moments will grace and dignity, because if you stomp off in a hissy fit or, again, rant all over the message boards, your blog, or Facebook…see previous paragraph for how that winds up.

Know when to walk away and know when to run

There are times for a polite, tactful withdrawal or sidestep. I’ve turned down offers to submit a story to some anthologies because they just didn’t seem the right fit for me at the time. Other people are very happy with those anthos and reportedly making very good money through them. I walked away. I don’t regret it a bit. I’ve turned down invites to conventions, same thing. Nothing wrong with the antho or convention in question; they just weren’t a good fit for me at that time. I can only do so much in a year, and that means saying no sometimes. I’ve also fended off the inevitable “Oh, you’re a writer? I have this novel I want to write, why don’t you help me write it and I’ll give you a share of the proceeds, because I’m positive it’s going to be just an awesome movie blockbuster mega hit!” (My capacity for tact occasionally strains at the seams on this one.)

There are times when a slightly faster backpedal is advisable. If you’ve already started a flame war without meaning to, or you’ve jumped in the middle of someone else’s fight, cut your losses and get out of that mess. Stop reading that thread, stop answering that person’s calls, whatever it takes. Go offline for a week and only pick up the pieces that are most important to you when you return. Actively refuse to engage in pointless confrontation, because sooner or later you’re going to lose your temper and then….see previous paragraphs. Private message or email a brief apology to the relevant people for going off the rails and stay quiet until the argument settles down. It doesn’t matter if someone’s badmouthing you or your publisher. Apologize for your part in setting things off, then shut up and stay shut.

You can’t recover ground if you never get out of the hole in the first place.

You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table/

There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

Agonizing over every dollar you spend on self-promotion will make you totally crazy. Forget it. Sure, self-promotion is important, sure, the money you spend on it needs considered. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to make money as a writer. But don’t obsess over it. Money isn’t the point. If money is ever more important than the actual writing itself, as I’ve said before, you’re in the wrong job.

As a semi-side note in the “lessons learned” column: don’t talk about the behind the scenes stuff unless someone asks, and even then, only if they’re persistent–because other people have said and are saying the same things you want to say, only better and with the benefit of more experience behind their words. Keep a list of informative web sites to hand out to people who ask you about the details of publishing. Steer discussion to you and your books, not to your publisher or your royalty checks or your contracts.

Just because you have one self-published book out there, or a book out through a small press, doesn’t mean you know what the hell you’re talking about regarding industry-wide trends and such. The truth is, beginners like me just don’t know enough to open our mouths on the subject. I try to avoid being on the “small press published authors” panels these days; I’m painfully and belatedly aware that I’m ignorant as hell compared to the real professionals.

Self promotion is about you. So get out there and talk to people face to face instead of posting on message boards. Share a meal with other convention attendees at the hotel restaurant. Go to book club meetings and local writer nights, go to art show openings and museums and nature walks. Write stuff that hasn’t a chance in hell of selling. Live a life. Love what you do. Have fun with it. True joy is the best self-promotional tool you have; it’s infectious.

Sit down at the table. Pick up your hand. Play the game, and don’t count your winnings or losses until you’re done–also known, to me, as “the day I file my taxes”. Put a new year-ahead plan together based on that, draw your cards, and set off again.

Without the Pomeranian. A parrot actually looks kind of cool. Especially if it’s an ex-parrot of the Norwegian Blue variety.

‘Cause every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser

And I would add that a bit of silliness and laughter helps considerably when dealing with anything serious.:)


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Amicable Advice

I fear clicking on links to writing-related web sites. Most of the time they’re innocuous; I scan the article, nod or roll my eyes, and occasionally post the link over onto Facebook. But sometimes… ahh, sometimes… one link leads to another, and another, and another… and I lose half my day to looking through the link trees of article after article.

I tell ya, it’s a damn dangerous place, the Internet… especially for the poor, innocent writer.

So here’s my latest source of suffering and time lost. May you enjoy it as much as I did… oh, and clear your schedule for the next couple of hours…:)

I started off with Anne R. Allen’s blog, which is one of the few I subscribe to (to which I subscribe? meh. Shut up, inner critic!); her post on how to query book reviewers caught my attention, as both an author and a book reviewer myself. That led me to Alan Rinzler’s post, “Good Day Sunshine For Writers“, which makes a strong case for the benefits of self-publishing–and offers an equally strong warning that self-publishing is not in any way easier than traditional:

[I]t’s just as hard as ever to write a good book that generates and sustains the buzz, a book that people want to tell their friends about, a book that produces major sales.

I also wandered off track to take a look at Ash Ambirge’s latest blog post, “It’s Okay If You Suck At This“, which offered me some much-needed perspective and which everyone should go and read right now. Even if you’ve read it already. It doesn’t get old. Really. Most of Ash’s posts don’t, for me at least…

Then it was back to Anne R. Allen’s blog and sideways from there over to Kristen Lamb’s blog, to read a post about “How to Win The Hearts of Bloggers“, which is where I started to lose some serious time. In addition to being an excellent blog post (and an extremely interesting interview of a book blogger) in and of itself, this one also sidetracked me into “The WANA Theory of Book Economics” (which is definitely worth a read by anyone even tentatively maybe possibly thinking about self-publishing or, for that matter, hoping to make a living from their writing at some point), and a discussion about spam toads (which is even more interesting than it sounds, and has some really good tips about blogging and using social media).

At that point I managed to stop the madness, because one of my dogs began insisting, not understanding Daylight Savings Time, that it was, in fact, dinner time thankyouverymuchdamnit right nowww mommmmm… and that made me look at the clock and screech a little. Just a little. Because it was a thoroughly enjoyable diversion…

…and now, set a timer… or install Eyes Relax and use it and then go forth to learn and enjoy!

NOTE: The company that produces Eyes Relax has been having trouble with a virus on their site. I retract my recommendation, which sucks, because it’s an awesome program; but unless you can get it from an absolutely verified clean site, please don’t go looking for it.😦 Sorry.


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Professional vs. Professionalism

Where is that line beyond which you’ve screwed yourself as a writer (or, really, in any job involving the public at some point)? I’m tackling this topic precisely because I’m not an expert. I started this blog two years ago as a way to get familiar with writing articles without the pressure of an external editor. Over time, it has morphed into a chronicle of my journey into becoming a published author. I see the questions and worries I encounter along the way as issues that other new writers are probably struggling with as well, so I want to bring them up into the light and take the fear out of the process. Anxiety over how to act in public is my latest bugaboo, so the blog post by Mamatas was very well timed indeed.

Mamatas’s take on professional behavior leads me to think that the bar is a little lower than I suspected. This is not a slur. I tend to set the bar impossibly high for myself, and stories of writers behaving badly at public events abound among sf/f fans. It’s an intense relief to find out I’m worrying too much.

I’m a low-level writer; just beginning to get Known. What I do now is going to lay the foundation for the next twenty or thirty years: an awesomely intimidating prospect. But, looking back to Mamatas: “Behaving in a professional manner, for writers, is really quite easy.” His focus is on producing good quality writing, on time, honestly, and not stepping into the libel pool. Everything else is secondary if not actually irrelevant.

I agree. I remember conversations an awful lot like what he describes; I’ve probably been on one end or the other of the nonsense. The list of “do’s and don’ts” can feel intimidating and overwhelming, and it’s really easy to get sucked into the peer pressure of marketing oneself rather than focusing on being a writer. It took me up until ShevaCon, just this year, to get my bearings back on Who I Am.

The line past which a professional ought not go, however, has turned out to involve a heavy dose of common sense. A convention is business, not play. Common sense business courtesy applies, from dress to behavior; the rules are a lot looser at sf/f conventions, but not entirely dismissed.

Mamatas comments, in his post, on the absurd pressure on writers to be ultra bland in their publicly stated opinions. That point hit home for me; I learned that lesson the hard way myself. When I began writing book reviews, I gleefully shredded bad books and dutifully pointed out the flaws in good books. Then came the day I Was Published–and everything changed. I was petrified of writing a bad review, knowing that I could well meet the author at a convention, might even get to sit on a panel with them. How dare I write that a Big Name Author stunk it up on their latest endeavor? I could be blackballed for such atrociously rude behavior.

So I yanked back on the reins and toned down all of my reviews and only accepted books that I liked.

Didn’t take long before I got hammered by another blogger for a library-paste crap review. And you know what? He was right. I was being a coward. The function of a book reviewer isn’t to be nice. The function of a writer isn’t to be nice. It’s to haul out the guts of what is and deal with it in a very public fashion, no matter who that offends. Controversy means you’re being honest; it means you’re saying something real. 

Now–there’s no need to push a discussion into an argument; no need to be loud and obnoxious about your opinions.If you have the guts to, say, admit that you support Sarah Palin to someone at a sf/f convention, you’re not going to lose that three-book deal you’ve been negotiating over with a Major (or even a Small) Publisher. If you insult the convention staff and act like they’re lower forms of life compared to You The Successfully Published Writer (yeah, I’ve actually seen this happen), you won’t lose that publishing contract either–but your welcome at that convention is likely to be very thin at best next year. And word will spread, and other conventions will be sloooooow to invite you. Which will really impact your sales, and thus your future welcome with the publisher.

In short: prima donna behavior and a lack of social mores don’t go far on the ground floor. Your writing may get you a contract, but your behavior gets you fans–and without a dedicated following of readers, you have nothing in short order. That’s the one point Mamatas seems to miss. Towards the end of his post, he gets snarky: “Here’s the dirty little secret, speaking as an editor … we laugh at ‘official’ websites–get enough fans that someone makes an unofficial one and then we might care….Your bookmarks and business cards generally tend toward the amateurish….95 percent of them go right into the trash.”

Wow. That’s depressing. And this is where I head down another road, as well; speaking as a beginning writer, I’m struggling with every step I take. I work my butt off on my official website and my Facebook presence and this blog. I love the bookmarks my publisher sends me, and I love handing them out. The editors I send my work off to might not care about any of that stuff; that’s OK. It’s not their job to care about any of that. The people who do care are the readers. The fans. The people without whom I wouldn’t need an editor or a publisher in the first place.

I think that’s an important distinction: I don’t give a rat’s ass if the editor ever looks at my website, because he’s not the target audience. While I completely agree with the majority of Mamatas’s points, that last bit of his post strikes me as mean-spirited and more than a little irrelevant. Being a writer is hard enough. There’s no need to sneer at the folks trying to figure out where the rungs on the ladder are.

But he closes with a dead-on point: “Can you write well? I mean, really write well. Note, not write well enough–we have plenty of folks who can do that…Can you write well?

That is, at the end of the day, the gold ring we’re all going after. So raise your worry threshold and lower your standards, get the book done and the next one done, and the next one after that, all as fearlessly and openly and honestly as you can; don’t throw a drink in a Major Editor’s face or widdle on the tires of his BMW, and you’ll be just fine. ;p


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