blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

From The Guardian comes this observant article on the success women are finding in self-publishing.

Reactions can be summed up thusly:

"Let me argue the methodology!  Let me discredit a single line in the article!" -- Folks who are certain there wouldn't be any gender disparity if women would just shut up about it already.

"It's just because of romance!" -- Folks who either failed to read the entire article, don't want the wrong type of folks playing in their sandbox, or both.

"Yeah, but those women are just lucky."  Folks who'd rather ignore and/or degrade the achievement of successful women than accept that their success happened outside the traditional scope.

"I don't need to read this because it's all bullshit anyway."  Folks who saw "women" and/or "self-publishing" in the article's title, and assumed the topic wasn't worth their time.

"Yep." -- Women who are self-publishing.

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
My internet access last night was as slow as an exhausted sloth slogging through mud with kettleballs chained to its ankles, and writing on the computer in any position -- sitting, standing, reclining, whatever -- was distractingly uncomfortable. Thus I spent some hours stretched out across the bed to write by hand while the hip discomfort receded to an ignorable dull ache.

Excellent forward progress was made on Breath of Stone, the sequel to Sand of Bone. Considering I cut thousands of words with a fell swoop not too long ago, I'm pleased to have gained ground once again. Best of all, the collection of chapters that actively fought to escape the rules of a timeline are now behaving properly. I'll still need to do some trimming of edges here and there, but no characters now need teleportation to arrive at their proper plot-required destinations.

I'm closing in on the sprint. I can feel that sense of urgency coming—the sudden clarity that happens when I can hold the entire plot in my head while, at the same time, focusing on an individual scene. By the end of the week, barring intrusions, I should hit stride again.

Oh, and I had a birthday yesterday. Nothing terrible happened. In fact, it was rather pleasant. Best of all, my sister—who readily points out she is the younger sister—flew into town last night. Icky roads and flight delays meant she didn't arrive until around midnight, but we stayed up until 3am to make up for it. So worth it.

Maybe I'll actually risk planning something fun and interesting and ambitious for my 45th birthday next year.*

And in the meantime, links and commentary!

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck: You've seen this -- I know you have -- but I include it because the thing I celebrate most about growing older is the ability to better discern what is worth caring about. And the older I get, the more interested I am in action over advocacy, involvement over analysis, and problem-solving rather than problem-uncovering. I realize, too, that those who prefer advocacy, analysis, and problem-uncovering would look at my choices and wonder what the hell good I think I'm doing that's actually valuable. That's okay. I know what I'm doing.

How Secular Family Values Stack Up: First of all, please know I'm completely uninterested in slamming/stereotyping the faithful and the believing. I was raised in the American Episcopal faith ("Catholic with options"), spent time at Benedictine monasteries, and strongly considered spending my life in religious studies. The path to my current secular life is long and winding and not for this post. Suffice it to say I am not surprised by what the article claims. And my sensitivity on the issue is most certainly influenced by the fact I've for years been surrounded by some extremely judgmental and unloving folks who have justified their actions through religion. Regardless, I found the article interesting.

Yes, Women In Dragon Ago Could Use Longswords: In addition to pointing it the mental gymnastics some folks go through to accept fighting dragons while dismissing female fighters (a pointing I heartily agree with), the article uses historical facts rather than play-acting assumptions to make its point. Sadly, I must admit the "Women do too fight!" argument is rapidly tumbling into my "no fuck to give" bucket—not because I don't have knowledge of the situation, but because the "No, they don't!" crowd is increasingly irrelevant on multiple fronts. Yes, some in the creative industry—many of whom, not surprisingly, say they just love strong women—will cling to their self-affirming bias. But there are many more who don't. And an increasing number of writers and creators who have been marginalized are trading in the approval of the establishment for the support of their fans.

(Besides, as a martial artist, I admit an unseemly satisfaction comes from throwing a bigger, stronger, cocky opponent who doesn't yet understand that force is not the same as power.)

Indie Fantasy Bundle: If you haven't already checked it out, please do! If you have, thank you! If you're interested in giving those writers more support, you can do simple things like add the books to your Goodreads lists, leave reviews for the ones you've already read, and let others know about the Indie Fantasy Bundle.

Speaking of StoryBundle, I'll be curating for them again! A whole post on the curating experience will be coming later in the week. In the meantime, the details of time and theme of my upcoming bundles are still settling into place. But if you're an author interested in being part of a future bundle, leave a comment or drop me a line and I'll let you know how to submit either directly to me or to StoryBundle.

Lastly, if you'd like to be updated on StoryBundle projects and know first when Breath of Stone is released, remember to sign up for my not-too-often newsletter.



*For those who have no clue what I'm alluding to: I had planned a complete weekend getaway with a group of friends to celebrate my 40th birthday. Instead, I spent it in a VA hospital with my not-ex-but-separated-from husband, helping him eat his first meal in three days while trying to find out from the doctors why he'd had multiple heart attacks in two weeks, and reading lab reports that indicated the diagnosis would be end-stage liver cancer. There is no need for you to mention this in comments if you feel awkward or obligated to do so. If, however, you have questions or are seeking support/information/sharing, I'm more than willing to discuss it.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Someday I'll get to posting about the weird (for my) process of writing Breath of Stone.  In the meantime, here are some links I simply can't keep to myself:

I Am an Indie Midlister (and That's Okay) From [livejournal.com profile] haikujaguar comes a great post on her experience as an indie author, her sales numbers, and the perceptions of success in today's direct-to-reader  publishing world.

Via The Passive Voice, link to and discussion of The Bookseller's First Independent Author Preview.  As I mentioned in the comments there, it's still important for industry-to-industry discussions of indie-published works to be compared positively to trade-published works.  Many in the industry have little experience, exposure, or knowledge of what is happening outside their boundaries.  They don't know or understand how readers are connecting with independent writers.  They aren't at the forefront of the change.  They still need to be told where to look.

(Aside: Also, as a middle-aged woman, I have extensive experience with such comments.  After all, I grew up hearing, "That's really good, for a girl!" and being told that should be taken as a great compliment.  The trade-publishing folks who using "Well done, for self-publishing!" also think they are being progressive and complimentary.  It'll pass.)

Speaking of gender perceptions, Women You Should Know delivers a fabulous interview with the woman who, as a child, was featured in the 1981 LEGO ad with such a positive message about creativity in childhood that had nothing to do with gender.  Rachel Giordano speaks well to the issue of today's gendered toys, and how easy it is for those toy-imposed messages to affect choices of life and career.

Lastly, and back to the writing front, I offer you the blog post What Agents, Editors, and Art Directors Look For Online.  Alack and alas, I discover upon reading it that I would be a terrible prospect for an agent or editor.  I've written things that might be divisive!  I've discussed the publication process!  I've told people when my books are on sale!  I share some things from my personal life!  If you really want to delve into it, there is one anonymous response that goes into great detail about what the person wants to find and avoid in someone's social media presence.  And, to add a dash of humor, there is a survey respondent who doesn't really want to be reminded that writers might research their online presence as well because they "don't like the feeling."

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Here it is!


“Searingly vivid, and grittily realistic, Sand of Bone slams the reader into a harsh desert world full of complex people, tense moral dilemmas, and an exhilarating jet of the weird. Do not start this one late at night!” — Sherwood Smith

Coming Soon:     Barnes & Noble      Kobo

Syrina – descendent of the gods, one of the Velshaan who rule the deserts and deltas, cast out by her bloodkin for daring to reject their intrigues.

They thought exile to Salt Hold – surrounded by parched earth and outcast Blades who despise her – would end her defiance. But Salt is safer than the grand alcazar of home when she uncovers the secrets of commanding sand, fire, water, wind – the power mixed with ambition that nearly destroyed her bloodkin in generations past.

Pyrius was the desert's most respected Blade Commander until the bloodkin sentenced him to Salt. But he finds a way to keep his Blade vows while still exacting revenge: serve the exiled Velshaan Syrina. When her bloodkin's threats become actions, Pyrius sets a plan in motion that will either prevent the looming civil war simmering in the desert's heat or see them all fed to the sands for sedition.

Because Syrina's ability to touch the desert's deepest elements is still fickle and raw – too weak to defeat her bloodkin, strong enough her bloodkin want her crushed. But the gods demand a soul in trade, and the fate of the living rests upon the redemption of the dead.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Woohoo! Serpent Heart is now available at these booksellers:

Kindle

iTunes

Smashwords

As soon as Kobo and Nook go live, I'll provide those links as well.

Publishing this one came with the extra thrill of discovery, since I spent years believing it lost forever in a computer crash. Not only did I enjoy getting to know the characters again, I can clearly see where the story will go in the next installment. Somehow I gained another series.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
100_2469 nnmnm

Once upon a time, I wrote two to three thousand (sometimes four thousand!) words a day, in four to five hours, routinely. I thought nothing of it. I wanted to write. Stories poured through my thoughts. And my time was severely limited by caring for my infant son, managing the family business, and teaching the occasional class. So when I had a sitter for the afternoon, or an evening free of responsibilities, I wrote like mad.

Somewhere along the way, those thousands of daily words began to sound immense. Part of it was the paralysis of acquired knowledge—that second guessing of every phrase because you're thinking of what the story ought to look like after it's been edited and polished rather than thinking of just writing the damned story. Part of it was the internalization of the "appropriate" writing schedule as slow and measured. And part of it was the increasingly complicated life and schedule before me. A thousand words a day? Damn, that became a stretch.

Here is the contradiction I face today: I don't have time to write slowly—not only because my writing time is slim and often broken, but because I can't build the career I want on one book every twelve to eighteen months. But unless I quit all other work, including parenting and homeschooling, I couldn't see how to make that happen. I just couldn't get any umph in my productivity.
Read more... )
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
First: I am in love with this article by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown. As I mentioned in comments at [livejournal.com profile] sartorias's LJ, a female character cannot be confident, competent, and likeable without being deemed a Mary Sue. (That doesn't even touch upon appearance, which is a whole 'nother target of spite and vitriol.) I remember a beta reader once telling me a character was a Mary Sue because of those three factors. It didn't matter that the character had been show to earn those traits; the three in combination simply Could Not Be Done is the character was to be "realistic."

Think about that for a moment. A character with competence, natural and practiced talents, who was liked because of the way she actually treated others was not realistic. She simply wasn't insecure enough, tormented enough, or outcast enough to be realistic.

That's a fucking sad commentary on what "real women" are supposed to be.

And I should note that the majority of folks I read throwing about the Mary Sue accusation to other writers are women. That's double-fucking sad, in my opinion.

(Yes, I know the original definition of Mary Sue. Alas, linguistic drift has bestowed a slightly different definition now, and that's the one we're stuck with, and I don't deem it interesting, necessary, or productive to insist everyone use the phrase in its "proper" fashion.)

Second: This post by John Wiswell--now a fellow graduate of Viable Paradise--made me cheer first (because hooray! more VP grads!). then made me grumble. I know there is a subset of self-publishers who cannot fathom the worth of critique prior to publication. My suspicion is it's the same subset who would have, in the pre- self-publishing days, written long diatribes to agents and editors in response to rejections.

Me, I see nothing incongruent between attending Viable Paradise and self-publishing. One is for craft and fellowship. One is a business decision. Anyone with shoulder-chips might indeed have good information about their side of the argument, but not the best judgment on which path is best for others.

Third: I have no link for it, but have been following various blog posts and Twitter comments from folks attending WFC in London Brighton. (Thanks for the correction, [livejournal.com profile] green_knight !) From writers who have the "proper" credentials, who should without a doubt be treated to at least the crumbs of common courtesy. And they are not.

That sort of disregard of writers--at what is supposed to be a celebration of such creativity--is a pretty good indication of what value such folks place on the writers' creations. And don't sing the "But they're all volunteers!" song my direction. I've volunteered for numerous non-genre, professional conferences and conventions. I and other volunteers assumed courtesy and professionalism were standard expectations, not something guests received if they caught us a good time and were appropriately humble in their requests.

Fourth: Check out David Gaughran on the tightening of Traditional Publishing/Author Solutions ties. If you're planning to go the traditional publishing route, it's critical you read and understand it. If you're self-publishing, it's equally important. Alas, it's becoming more difficult for new writers to avoid being shuttled into dead-end and horribly expensive self-publishing "services" that are endorsed by the same traditional publishers who sneered at Author Solutions and their ilk just a couple years ago. "I know those other people say Author Solutions is a scam, and is being sued by their past customers," says the new writer in search of validation, "but Big Respected Publisher says they're awesome, so it must okay to give them thousands of dollars!"

And I was certain I had a fifth link, but it has vanished.

(Edited to correct location of WFC.)
blairmacg: (Chant)

This is fun: writers answer ten questions about a new or upcoming project, then tag other writers to do the same.    [livejournal.com profile] sartorias was kind enough to tag me, and the writers I'm tagging will be listed at the bottom of the post.  I'll link to their answers next week.

Here we go:

What is the working title of your current book?

Sword and Chant

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Different parts came from different places.  The central characters and their relationships came from a horrid, derivative, pseudo-Celtic fantasy novel I'd written years and years and years ago.  It was my first attempt at a novel.  The characters and their relationships were interesting but everything else was...  Ugh. 

Worst of all, I actually sent it to a couple publishers.  Once I'd learned enough to know how terrible it was, I lived in fear I'd someday hear it read aloud at one of those "It Came From the Slush Pile" convention panels.

Many years later, while writing four other novels that shall one day be revised, I became interested in the social and political dynamics of the Kashmir region, Afghanistan in the 1990s and the events surrounding Six Day War.  Those ideas freed the characters of my first attempted novel from the prison of derivative plot, and I combined them with different elements of setting and culture.  Some beta readers have said the setting feels like Turkey, and some say it feels like northern Africa.

The primary antagonist—the Chant—evolved from musings about the nature of sacrifice: the cost to the one making the sacrifice, the one causing the sacrifice to be made, the one accepting the sacrifice, and the willingness of all parties to participate in the sacrifice. (Those ideas will get more stage time in the sequel.)


What genre does your book fall under?

Fantasy, most certainly.  Epic fantasy, I suppose.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

First of all—movie!  Woohoo!  Unless, of course, it's one of those horrid adaptations.  Then it would be awful, and the actors actually playing the roles wouldn't want to admit their involvement.

Anyway.

In my mind, the characters look and sound like themselves, not actors, but I can come up with a couple ideas for the secondary characters.  I could age Grace Park many, many years so she could play Nikala, one of the warlord-chieftains.  Andre Braugher could to play Yasid Sword, and Joy Bryant could play his daughter.  But for the main characters...  I'm clueless. 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Seriously, it took me months to write a blurb that was under 200 words, and even then someone else had to fix it.  One sentence?  Gah. 

It could be: Jaynes will do anything to avenge his father's murder, but his triumphs as a warlord didn't prepare him to face the threat of civil unrest, foreign invasion, and the seductive promises of the exiled god of sacrifice.

Or it could be: Shala Sword emerges from hiding to prevent the god of sacrifice from conquering the tribes, but finds the most brutal battles are against mortals intent on exacting revenge for sins committed a generation ago.

Or it could be...  Well, you get the idea.

 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I chose to self-publish, for reasons outlined here.  It's currently available as an ebook through online retailers and in multiple formats.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Once I decided what I wanted to do with the old manuscript, I futzed with the opening chapters for about three months.  Then 9/11 happened, and the last thing I wanted to do was write about asymmetrical warfare, insurgencies, and guerrilla tactics.  When I was finally ready to face it again, I tore into it with a fury.  It was the first novel I'd written from a detailed outline. I finished within three months, and came in at nearly 160K words.  I later cut out enough words to make another short novel, had those chopped words not been so worthy of chopping.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Yeesh, I hate doing that.  It's epic fantasy with a large cast of characters, gods who speak with mortals, battles and arguments, love and loyalty and loss, and a subtle form of earth magic.  It's like other books with those things in it.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My own internal debates.  What happens when lifelong enemies decide they're tired of fighting, or when the leaders want to end the fight but those they lead don't want to?  What are the personal costs of fighting a weaker opponent who refuses to give up?  What are the moral implications of fighting an enemy who is weaker but more ruthless than you are?  What are the moral implications of not fighting, if that choice enables the enemy to hurt someone else?  When is it ethical to sacrifice your life—whether through action or death—and when is it ethical to use the willing sacrifices others make?  When does the act of defending one's self cross the line to excessive aggression?  Why do people insist on saying, "It's really that simple" when it obviously isn't?

Odd as it sounds, I think about these things a great deal.  However, I very rarely discuss them because folks usually want to deal with real-world examples, and as soon as real-world examples are used, the discussion becomes one of politics.  And once politics enter the picture, Someone Must Be Right.

Sword and Chant lets me explore what happens to a culture, and to individuals, when they can't find solutions that are good and right, and find themselves instead trapped doing what is ugly and necessary.

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

It's filled with women and men who have families and friends, who argue and fight, who fall in love and defend one another, who are sometimes proud and sometimes ashamed, who have to lead with confidence even when they know they haven't a clue what to do next.

And there is the Chant—god of sacrifice and patron of unfulfilled dreams.  He controls a skilled assassin who has an attitude, who'd be a pretty cool guy if he weren't a god-enthralled killer who's quite good at his job.

Who did you tag?
I tagged two of my VPXV classmates--LaShawn Wanak and Stephanie Charette--and my longest-running critique partner and VPXVI grad Sandy Skalski.  There are a couple others I'll be adding to the list, too.

blairmacg: (Default)
Between fretting over various things I can do nothing about, I fretted over things I could indeed control.

I played with cover design for a variety of projects.  The more I do it, the more I enjoy it.  Learning some of the basics about fonts and visual elements helped.

I've begun the process of uploading and tweaking Chant.  The process made me grateful I'd uploaded, in sekrit, smaller pieces as practice, and thus I expect the tech to hiccup somewhere. 

Blair MacGregor Books has been updated.

Sudden Moxie Press  now has the beginnings of a website.  I'm not exceedingly concerned about this right now, but did feel the need to have, at least, something quite basic.  My project over this week will be building it up properly.

Both sites have a link to Sword and Chant's opening chapter. 

Revising Sand has been both fun and frustrating. Every time I think I have the plot issues solved, a worldbuilding issue rises.  Once I wrestle the worldbuilding back into place, a character issue pops up.  I will have something for beta readers tomorrow, though.

Hmm.  I think that's it.  For now.



blairmacg: (Default)
From the Washington Post comes yet another article about the negative aspects of lead, and the positive results of its removal.

The study on crime, in particular, (linked within the article), is one I've been sharing with clients and friends for years--especially those who don't understand how what the body takes in affects what the brain will do.  (On the other hand, I've had many folks dismiss the study because they simply can't believe crime rates have declined so much in recent decades.)

Also of importance is the consistent findings that many behavioral issues for which we medicate children can be correlated with higher levels of lead in the system.  Oddly enough, I've yet to hear of a child who was tested for lead exposure prior to being given medications to control behavior.  (Kinda like I've yet to hear of a person tested for proper adrenal function before being given thyroid medications.)

Anyway.

More and more I'm convinced education reform--in the form of developing new teaching methods, tests, and information delivery systems--is pretty much a waste of resources until we decide to cease actively harming a child's nervous system while simultaneously depriving the child of the nutrients needed to counter that harm.

And I admit to being a little frustrated by knowing it will never change because the current system isn't designed for prevention and is, in some ways, actively hostile toward prevention and cause-correction.
blairmacg: (Default)

First, a really cool article about structural changes in the brain, brought about by long-term karate training.  Researchers found that, yes, the power behind a karateka's punch isn't determined by muscular strength.  It's the synchronization of movement from trunk to fist.  The cerebellum of what researchers called "karate experts" was structurally different from novice karateka--because of that fine motor control.

That's different from muscle memory, which will permit your muscles to move without your conscious step-by-step instructions.  Developing synchronicity takes time.  Lots of time.  The average black belt participating in the research had about fourteen years of experience.

As writers, it's good to keep this in mind.  There aren't too many stories being put out today that show our protagonist becoming an way-cool-expert warrior in two weeks, thank goodness.  But there are ways to play with this knowledge.  Certainly a strong person playing Hack and Thud with a broadsword can pack a wallop.  But a weaker person with more training can deliver a blow with superior power because of the whole-body movement that has developed.  An untrained fighter has to work harder at being powerful, even if the limbs are moving in the same patterns as the trained fighter.

Alas, some martial arts instructors let their students believe he or she has achieved some magical, otherworldly power to hit harder.  We call that Sensei-Fu.  In truth, it's well-honed body mechanics.

Second, a disturbing article about the possible link between butter flavoring, commonly found in microwave popcorn and such, and Alzheimer's.  The flavoring causes proteins in the brain to form incorrectly and clump together, as they do in Alzheimer's.  As an added bonus, the flavoring crosses the blood-brain barrier and prevents the brain from ridding itself of those bad proteins.

This is one of those things I politely point out when folks tell me Substance X must be safe or it wouldn't be in our food.  In truth, short term studies are usually used to see if the substance causes cancers, hormonal disruptions, or acute poisonings.  If not, it goes on the Generally Recognized As Safe list.  There it shall stay, perfectly legal to add to all manner of products, until a large body of evidence--and the passage of many years--may demonstrate otherwise.  We are all test subjects, truly.

This substance is currently on the FDA's GRAS list with a "1" rating, meaningthe FDA determined there is no evidence to indicate it will pose a hazard.  Oh, and it's the same substance known to cause lung damage in folks who work in factories where it's used.

I'm much more understanding of the FDA's willingness to take risks with pharmaceuticals, because there is a risk-benefit analysis that should be undertaken when looking for the means of bettering and prolonging life.  But this flavoring isn't a vital nutrient or disease fighter.  It's a sales gimmick.

I have no doubt that, in the decades ahead, historians will be linking our rise in cognitive disease with the overwhelming amounts of chemicals we routinely consumed in meals and snacks.

So for heaven's sake, use real butter, and use it in moderation.  I'll take the health risks and benefits of real food over chemical make-believe any day.

blairmacg: (Default)

Since I dare not allow myself to peek at my writing projects lest I immediately lose interest in all the things I must do this week, y'all have to put up with me writing more posts.  It's a coping mechanism. ;-)

Following a tweet from @KristineRusch, I watched this video of Neil Gaiman giving a commencement speech for the University of the Arts.  Loved it.  I was especially amused by the body language of some faculty when Neil discussed lying to get his first job.  I was extremely happy to hear his words about the future of art's distribution.

From a posting by [livejournal.com profile] jaylake, here's an article highlighting the correlation between organic food and asshole behavior.  Actually, what the study concludes is that when one participates in behavior seen as morally superior, one takes that virtuousness as an excuse to act like a jerk in another setting.  I see this often in the natural health field.  I also see it in the field of fitness, nursing, writing, martial arts, mainstream medicine, education, political activism, and any other endeavor that aligns itself with moral determinations.

Choosing to eat organically doesn't mean a person has joined the cult of Organic-ism and is now above being touched by the Dorito-stained fingers of others.  If one really wants to do something that might actually make a difference, quit giving cheap canned goods, white rice, and processed foods to the local food pantry.  Supply them with those organic foods of yours instead.  Folks frequenting food pantries have a far higher need for those vitamins, minerals, and chemical-free foods.

Lastly, in connection with mention of organic foods, here's a summary of research finding higher intake of saturated fats versus monounsaturated fats correlates with a decline in memory and cognition.  As always, researchers point to red meat as a main culprit.  In truth, that should commercially-raised red meat.  Grass-fed beef has only about 10% of its fat as saturated fat; it is instead high in omega-3 fatty acids.  But as long as such researchers and health writers consider food to be fuel rather than construction materials, the composition of most foods won't be considered, alas. 

(Aside: The more saturated fat--aka marbling--in a cut of meat, the higher the USDA will rate its quality.)

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