Write What You (don’t) Know

First, go read this piece by E Catherine Tobler. It’s more important than anything I have to say, and probably better worded. We talked about this particular exchange right after it happened, and I refrained from writing this post, but since she said it, I am going to say some stuff as well.

People say this kind of crap all the time- I don’t see race, gender, whatever– and I get what they are trying to say, even if they are saying it incredibly poorly. They- I assume-slash-hope- are trying to say ‘everyone is equal, so it shouldn’t matter’. That statement is true, but there’s a pretty important qualifier in there- shouldn’t.

(I am stealing her tweet because it is great)

I’ve used this before, but it holds true: walk into a bookstore and grab 100 books at random. How many of them are by something other than straight white males?

Does it matter?


Because most of those books will be by straight white males. And, again, I get it- guess which category I fall in? And, man, I hope people buy my book. But that’s just it- it’s the vast majority. Of those 100 books you are metaphorically, I would bet you 80 of them fit that bill.

So by making the statement I don’t see X, well, of course you don’t. You haven’t given yourself the chance to. By literally grabbing blindly, you have ended up with a result that is primarily one thing.

Think of it from the publishers perspective: They publish primarily straight, white dudes. Then most of what sells is straight white dudes. So the publisher, in turn, thinks “Well, consumers want more straight white dudes! They sell!”

Yes, it is that stupid. Yes, that is the way consumerism works. So vote for some diversity with your five/ten/twenty dollars.

As a reader, that’s bad (and dumb) enough. But let’s talk writing for a moment. “Write what you know” is a piece of advice writers just love to dispense (along with ‘write every day’). Apparently, a lot of authors have much more experience with vampires and werewolves and romancing ghosts, based on the books I am seeing out there.

Stephen King said it best, though:

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.

That is a great piece of advice. But if, like Mister Weir, you are only reading authors who are just like you, and write essentially the same things as you, what tools do you have?

So maybe start seeing it. Go to a bookstore and seek something else out. Read and write something outside of your wheelhouse- particularly if you’re in a vast majority.


Dear Authors

Come on in, guys. Grab a seat anywhere. You need a drink? No? OK. You? OK, good.

Look, gang, we need to talk about this:

Again. Look, everybody, it’s simple: Don’t do this.

Here’s the thing: I know how you feel. It’s your baby. You worked on it, stayed up way too late, ignored friends and family and you, yeah, buddy, you, are going to be the next Tolkien/Rowling/Asimov/Whoever. This is your ticket. And man, you had a free day, and a bunch of people discovered it, and read it and… they hated it. Or didn’t like it very much. And boy, that stung.

But here’s the thing… All those great authors you want to be? They took the same chance you did. And they were stung along the way too. And- this might hurt- but they are probably better authors than you are. And if they are not, they didn’t get where they are by attacking their readers- even if the readers didn’t like what they wrote.

Because you garner exactly no goodwill, from that reader or any other, when you do this. Time and time again, authors do this- get a bad review, and lash out. Again- DO. NOT. DO. THIS. How people think this will get them anywhere is beyond me. But it happens about once a month. And you know what? I never hear of those authors again! It’s almost as if railing on readers and reviewers did their careers no good whatsoever!

So, in conclusion, don’t do that.


Story Notes: The Venturess

In case you’re not familiar, The Venturess is my free, ongoing, crowdsourced science fiction story. What does that mean? Every Friday, a new story is posted. At the end is a poll. You vote for what you want to happen next. After a week, voting closes and yours truly writes the next installment. Rinse and repeat.

This is a concept I have always loved- and I think a lot of people have, growing up with the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books (which is a trademarked term, natch). I wanted to find a way to make that work online, with anyone who wanted being able to participate. I think this way works very well, and hopefully you do too. In the near future, I’d like to be posting more frequently, but more on that in a sec.

As to the story itself, I wanted a fun, open SciFi universe. Lasers and aliens and FTL travel and all that. I wanted engaging characters that readers would care enough to vote on their fates, and had to have them doing something that would allow them to see the sights in said universe. Package delivery worked for Futurama and Firefly, so The Venturess is a cargo ship.

venturessWhile it’s certainly lighter than a lot of what I write, I wanted the voting process to carry meaning. Which is to say, there is no fridge to hide in- Characters can die, and have. It’s not Game of Thrones, either, where every choice leads to a bloodbath. Sometimes the endings, such as they are, will be happy. Other times, not. It all depends on the votes.

About those endings: It’s in an episodic format, obviously, but think of it as a TV show with ‘seasons': Each one contains a story arc. I don’t have a set number that it will take, because that would be too much planning- I’d rather let the votes play out as they need to. So some might be longer, some shorter.

The other thing I wanted was for this to be free- free to read, free to participate in. But, time being money and all that, if it’s something people enjoy and want to support, I want to give them (and myself) that opportunity. So I set up a Patreon for that purpose. If it gets to the point where it is something a lot of people are enjoying, and supporting, I will change to a weekly schedule (and if people really enjoy it, I will start a second story in a new universe, with new characters).

‘Season’ three started this week. It goes to a much darker place than the first two, so if you haven’t yet- come aboard! Read and vote for free, and if you like it, please consider chipping in!


Why I Write

I went to the library that I used to go to when I was a kid the other day. I’m not one to be married to the past, by any means, but it had certainly changed. It’s not a city library anymore, but county, so the dusty, smelly old books that used to crowd the shelves are replaced with sleek latest editions, and only enough of those to fill half the shelves. You can request any book you want on the computer. I expected as much, just from the rise of the ebook, but still. Gone are the days of staggering out with every book that interested me (which was all of them), precariously balancing a stack, while trying to read one of them, all the while being grateful for automatic doors, which likely saved many concussions for my 10-year-old self.

I lived at that library growing up. The librarians were amazing, and always had wonderful suggestions for me. The more I read, the more I wanted to write. I wanted to tell stories that gave people the kind of enjoyment I get from reading them.

That, right there, is the best piece of writing advice I ever received. Know why you write.

It’s not the same for everyone. Maybe you have an agenda, or a message. Maybe you want fame and glory and awards (more on that in a second). Maybe it’s a hobby. The list is long and varied.

A funny thing happens, as many of you know, when you go from one day I will have a book out to I am a published author, or somewhere in the middle, anyway. In fact, it happens earlier and earlier, thanks to the internet and social media. Things crowd out why you write. Twitter activism- if you follow a bunch of writers on Twitter, you are basically walking into a high school of very vocal, very opinionated people. Suddenly, you care about awards. Not just awards, but the process, the categories, and goddammit I want one.

Why do you write?

With the recent Hugo… cluster, and every goddamn controversy in genre before that (do crime authors deal with this shit?), for as much as I am interested in those things, and do care about them- guess what? It’s not why I write. I don’t need any hardware to validate my writing, me as a person, and certainly not any of my views (*cough puppies cough*). It doesn’t do me or my writing any good to dwell on them.

What’s my point in all this? Twofold, really. I never looked for any stamp on any of those books I read- Hugo Award Winner, Nebula Award Winner– and if they had some award or not, it wouldn’t have increased or decreased my enjoyment of them. So, as a writer, I have reached a point where I genuinely don’t care. Perhaps easy to say, since no one has, ya know, offered me a Hugo, but I can say I don’t particularly want someone to. What I want, as a writer, is people to read my stuff, hopefully enjoy it, and then hopefully tell someone to do the same. If things go really well, I will get to make a living off that.

As a reader, I care even less. If that’s the validation some people need, fine, whatever, that’s their business. But if your writing is a platform for your idiotic, selfish and bigoted worldviews, and awards and the process around them serves as means to draw attention to same, you can bet your sweet ass I will not be reading your book.

Wanted: Fiction Authors

Seeking one (1) qualified writer to fill desired position. Must have not less than ten years experience, and have no less than three (3) NYT bestsellers, and short fiction sales to every (literally) pro market.

Job duties to include:

  • Working long hours for no pay on something which will likely never be read.
  • Coming to despise your own work with a hatred you previously imagined impossible.
  • Renouncing vacations, friendships and any and all free time.

Required Qualifications:

  • Must love daily, cold rejection.
  • Must enjoy ongoing criticism of work you consider personal.
  • Must embrace conflict and controversy. Candidates who have experience overreacting to perceived slights are preferred.

Compensation is DOE (and name recognition) and is not guaranteed.

Listicles are the Worst

Every year, Lake Superior State University releases a list of words to be removed from the Queen’s English due to mis- or over-use, or general uselessness. I submit that certain phrases and expressions should be retired for the same reasons.

shut upComparing anything to the Holocaust: Mild inconveniences are not the same as being sent to slave and death camps! Even injustices applied to groups of people are not. The holocaust was the Holocaust. That’s what makes it so bad. If everything was that bad, it wouldn’t be remarkable. Also included is comparing things/people to Nazis or Hitler.

‘-gate': I wish to god that that incident had taken place at any other hotel so people would stop with the ‘-gate’ thing. GamerGate. DeflateGate. FIND SOMETHING NEW.

Just the Worst: As with Holocaust comparisons above, no, it probably is not. I certainly understand and appreciate hyperbole, but when you can seven different things per day “Just the Worst” the impact is somewhat lessened.

Clickbait: No, not the term Clickbait. Clickbait itself. Any headline that says “you won’t believe” or tells me I “Need to” do anything. No. Stop. All you’re doing is advertising how valueless your article actually is.


What other phrases and expressions need to go?


Age of Ultron – Random Thoughts

Managed to (finally) catch Age of Ultron last night, and mostly what I have is a bunch of random thoughts, that are far too long for the twitters. So you get them here!! Feel free to comment, or poke me on twitter, because I want to talk about them! So many thoughts!

Oh, and be tee dubs. This isn’t a review, it’s my thoughts on the movie, so SPOILER ALERT and whatnot.

-The writing was bloody fantastic. I went in with very low expectations, and was impressed. I liked this movie more than the first Avengers. It felt smarter, with a more defined antagonist. The first one felt more like OMG AVENGERS and just watching them do awesome stuff. Ultron was more… well, let’s get into that.

-Holy character development, Batman. Aside from Thor, every character seemed to grow. I spent most of the movie going back and forth between who I loved most. If the movie was nothing but Banner and Nat, I would have been 100% OK with it. Their growth, tragic romance (*shovels popcorn*), holy cow the bedroom conversation, all of that was amazing. And of course, for Hawkeye (AGAIN: SPOILERS), it seems basic to say he advanced a ton. He felt like the third (or, like, eighth) wheel. He was just kind of there so far, but I love what they did with him- he’s still a third wheel, but you know who he is and why now. Also he has some of the movies best lines, and certainly more self-awareness than the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. “The city is flying… We’re fighting robots… And I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes any sense” is the best part of the whole damn movie, because it nails it. It doesn’t make sense, but goddamn if it isn’t fun.

-I loved the last scene between Steve and Tony. With the events of Civil War looming (and what happens between them in the comics *sobs*), it made it tragic and bittersweet.

-On the subject of Cap, while I have developed a serious Hawkeye crush, I love what the MCU has done for him. He was never my favorite in comics, mostly because no one has ever described me as a patriot and he was a commercial for America. But in the MCU he is much deeper, and Steve is an incredibly well-rounded character. I can’t wait for Civil War, even though it’s gonna break my heart, since I’m basically Tony.

-I would have really liked to see (at least) Falcon play a larger role. He had, basically, a glorified cameo. And he’s awesome. Ditto Rhodey. We’re not gonna talk about that here, OK? *glares at the room* They know what they did. No, I said we’re not talking about it.

-The acting was also superb. James Spader was nothing short of brilliant as Ultron. I love that he wasn’t the cold, unfeeling robot. There is some snark to him. Ruffalo is equally brilliant as Banner, and his facial expressions alone sell the conflict within him. I love nearly all things Jeremy Renner, and again, he is amazing as Hawkeye (and before you talk about THAT, read THIS)(ugh, now I’m angry again) (ugh, we’re not talking about gender and race in comics) (but seriously, is it that hard to write something other than white males?)(DAMMIT I SAID WE’RE NOT NOT TALKING ABOUT IT).

-It was a fun movie. Go see it.

-Oh, I am super glad they cut out at “Avengers A-“