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?

Yes.

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.

-DESR

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MMR: I’m Back!

I hope you enjoyed the interviews last week! If you missed them, SC Barrus, EC Tobler and Megan Paasch all contributed. Thanks to them for letting me take a break from blogging.

I have a new post up over at Nerds Feather, talking about the damage Amazon does to the literary and bookstore community, and how indie authors can circumvent that.

If you want to help spread the word about my books with a few quick clicks, your votes on these GoodReads lists would be much appreciated.

Also, 3024AD is $2.99 for the month of July, so if you don’t have a copy yet, make with the clicky over to the right.

I wonder if I would still type it backwards every damn time if I had named it 3042AD.

I did a reading with S.C. Barrus on Saturday at the Pioneer Cafe in North Bent, basically kitty corner to the cafe from Twin Peaks. It was an absolute blast, and I think he took video, so I’ll share that as soon as I can. Everyone there was really cool, so thank you if you were among them. The reception to my reading was fantastic and heartening. It’s growing slowly, but that every new reader seems to fall in love with my work gives me a lot of confidence for the future. So, to all you readers, thank you (to those of you who haven’t yet, get on it!).

Me @ The Pioneer Cafe

This is a couple weeks old (fourteen years in internet time), but for authors, this post over at Insatiable Booksluts is a must-read. Basically, don’t be spammy. For those of us who don’t want to fill out social streams with hashtag-riddled ads, it’s a fine line to try to walk. You don’t want to spam, but you want people to know you have a book out. I try to limit my self-promo to what can be filed under ‘content’, i.e., something your readers will want to know (like the price of the book dropping, etc)- and then not telling them every five damn seconds. In any case, a great read, and if I ever get spammy, feel free to call me on it.

EtA: This spam thing is seriously out of control. I have recently joined a few scifi forums, with the basic thought of putting a link in my sig and, ya know, interacting with people. Every post has at least one post from a person who does nothing but link their book, and there are several threads from people saying BUY MY BOOK- and that is their only post on the forum. Dear lord.

Interview: E Cathrine Tobler

As part of my week away from the internet, I am interviewing a couple authors. First up is E Cathrine Tobler, who is a fantastic author with a brand-new release, Rings of Anubis: Gold & Glass, which you need to read right this instant. I’ll let her tell you more about it:

Gold & Glass is out now!

Every Writers favorite question: What is Gold & Glass about?

Once upon a time, in the deserts of Egypt, something remarkable happened. Our Heroine, Eleanor Folley, tries to determine exactly what that something was, even though her family doesn’t want her to pursue it. She is aided by the theft of a ring, a man who seems more beast than gentleman, and strangely, the past that has always haunted her.
What was your favorite part of writing it?
My favorite part was “the end”! Beyond that, I had a great time playing with time travel and putting together lives the way you might a book; scene by scene, your life adds up to an extraordinary story. How would you react if you found yourself confronted by that book? Judged by it?
What was the hardest part?
The hardest part was probably getting into viewpoints that were highly unlike my own. The book deals with shape shifters and ancient gods and an opium addict, and while every person who isn’t US is going to be vastly different inside, I found writing The Other a definite challenge in this case.
I’m totally stealing your soundtrack question. Go.
The first three tracks of my soundtrack would be:
1. Twilight Galaxy, Metric –
2. Silk Pajamas, Thomas Dolby –
3. Howl, Florence and the Machine –
What’s next for you?
Silver & Steam, which wraps up the adventures in Gold & Glass, will be out in August!  I have a handful of short stories that will be out later this year, and next year…I’m not sure I can talk about that yet. 😀
If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
I actually wrote my younger self a letter some time ago, which you can find here: http://www.shimmerzine.com/2011/05/04/letter-to-a-young-writer/ And mostly that holds true: stick with it, younger self. Sometimes, you don’t see the path, but it’s there. I promise.
Take two minutes to write about anything at all:

I haven’t felt like writing this week, I even protest this prompt (how dare he! I just finished a new short and a new novella and I am empty, drained, a husk!), though I know the myth (and the sage advice is) “write every day.” Some days, it’s not there. I’m empty of words, but then I’ll sit quietly, or read, or do something else, and the words will start up again. Perhaps it is strange if you’re not a writer to explain this. I’m not sure what kicks the imagination into overdrive, if it’s just something writers naturally do. I don’t write every day, I don’t submit everything I write, but I finish everything I start, even if it’s a good many years later (as with one recent story). I’m thinking now about stories I want to write, stories I want to revise and expand, and I think too about another story involving the crew from Rings of Anubis. I think about deserts and a solitary patch of shade, and who is working within that scant respite from the heat, and what she’s about to find. I can see it–she’s not pleased, but I am.

Monday Morning Randomness

If you want to do a guest post or interview for my week off next week, let me know!

The paperback version of 3024AD: Short Stories Series One is out now. I’d love it if you picked up a copy. If you want to buy it from your local indie bookstore, please send me their info and I will see if we can make that happen (I’d prefer this, BTW).

But if you want to save some money, you can enter to win a (signed!) copy in three places: Nerds Feather (soon!), the Cult Den and GoodReads.

In not-me news (pfffft I know you’re just here for me), E Cathrine Tobler has a new book out, which you need to read. It’s Rings of Anubis: Gold & Glass. I’m a bit more than a third of the way through it, and I highly recommend it. GoodReads | Kindle | Nook |

A great io9 post on low-budget films.

Monday Morning Randomness

Some linkage and other fun stuff to get your week started:

I told sj of Book Snobbery that I kinda fought the urge to link to every post she writes, because her blog is a must read, but here are two posts you need to read:

Don’t tell her what to read.

She shares my hatred for Peter Jackson’s LotR/Hobbit. Seriously, every time I hear about that damn movie or some stupid gif pops up in my Tumblr, I die inside.

I have a new Adventure in Indie Publishing up over at Nerds Feather, which is primarily occupied with a review of Planks by SC Harrison.

It is mostly occupied with that review because I don’t feel like wading into the sh*tstorm that my good friend E. Cathrine Tobler started with her resignation from the SFWA due to their wildly inappropriate columns and sexist comments. I think it’s been debated enough in enough media outlets that anything I add would be of little consequence. However, I will say, if someone feels discriminated against and has the gumption to stand up and you send them hate mail… You suck. Seriously.

We should instead focus on the fact that she has a new book coming out next month, Rings of Anubis: Gold & Glass, and I hear it’s really good.

sj has to read it twice.

In the self-promotion theater, I am humbled, grateful and a little overwhelmed by how positive reviews have been for 3024AD. Many thanks to all of you who review and recommend it. As a huge book geek, it’s a great feeling to know I provided people with a book they enjoyed, if that makes sense.

Couple o’ Updates from things that happened today:

If you are running a Kickstarter, have a plan. Actually, have several plans- if it is funded, if it is not, if it is overfunded and if it is way overfunded. Don’t be this guy.

And then this load, from Good Ereader (via The Passive Voice), saying that “self-published authors are ruining literature”. OK *deep breath* *rubs temples*. First off, no, they are not. Literature is just fine, thank you very much. What you are saying they are ruining is a distribution platform and online bookstores. And to that, I agree. I have harped on this for a long time (see: Writing as a Business, Quality Control). Self-published authors should not just publish an unpolished, unfinished piece of crap.

But guess what? They’re going to.

But if you want to speak to literature, I counter that the mass-produced garbage of Stephanie Meyer and EL James do far more to ruin literature than someone living out the dream of finishing a novel and taking advantage of the ease of the options that are out there.

And if you don’t want to read any of the piles of crap crowding the Kindle store? If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and sh*ts like a duck, guess what? It probably is. Also: Many of these self-published people who aren’t putting in time and effort to have their work edited or have solid cover art designed aren’t putting in the time and effort to put it on, say, Kobo. Just sayin’.

On final point: this is a hole traditional publishing has put themselves and us, as readers, in, but offering less and less money to the authors, not supporting them and being completely risk-averse. So, the fault is hardly in the stars, my friend.