Just Put Your Foot Right Into This Trap….

Am I the only one who hates tinyurl links? :/ I mean, seriously, if you hover the mouse over one of those links, all you get is the tinyurl address itself, which means nothing. You have no idea where it leads, where you might be taken. Whenever I see one I always feel like it’s a web leading to a spider that’s going to bite me and inject viruses onto my computer or something like that.

Is it really that tough to just use the real URL? Everyone has copy/paste on their computer, right? If anything, it’s more work to use tinyurl. Is there even a point to it nowadays, when we don’t generally type out the URLs by hand anymore? (And come on, it’s been, what, fifteen years or more since we had to do that on any kind of a regular basis…?)

If you’re particularly HTML savvy you can even use the href command so that a word or three in your text becomes a clickable link — I have the command in a file so I just copy/paste it into my post or comment or whatever, then fill it in with the link I want to use and the words I want clickable. There you go, about as easy as it gets without having someone else do the actual mousing and typing for you.

I have to trust someone implicitly to click on a tinyurl link in their post or comment. And even then, I can usually find a good enough reason to skip over it. If folks are hoping for readers to follow their links, using tinyurl loses me.

Am I alone in my unreasoning suspicion…?

Angie

Inspiration vs. Perspiration

There’s a discussion going on at Nathan Bransford’s place about what writers owe their readers, in the context of sequels and delays and missed deadlines. It’s interesting in its own right, but what struck me was the thread in the comments about inspiration and the muse and how impossible it is to write anything at all unless the planets are properly aligned, or whatever each individual writer takes as a sign that It Is Time To Be Creative Now.

I’ve run into other writers saying similar things, both online and in writing books and articles. But I’ve also seen writers saying the exact opposite, and it seems to be mostly the full time writers, the ones who pay all their bills with their keyboards, who think that the whole muse/inspiration thing is a lot of hooey and whining. As Mercedes Lackey puts it, all that’s needed is to apply seat of pants to seat of chair and do the work. According to her, writer’s block just means you don’t feel like doing the work, but you get a lot more sympathy and petting if you say you’re blocked than if you say you don’t feel like working.

Me, I’m kind of in the middle. For me, there are times when the words just flow (my fondest writing memory at this point is last October, when I cranked out 40K words of my WIP in two weeks) and there are times when I have to hunt every word down with a flashlight and pliers. I have some techniques I can use to get past a blockage, but they all take focus and concentration, and there are times when I can’t muster either one.

I’m bipolar, which I’ve mentioned before, and my moods (which affect such things as ambition and energy level) are subject to the whims of my wildly veering brain chemistry. When I’m in a low, I can’t scrape together enough ambition or energy to do much of anything at all. When I’m sort of in the middle I’m just like everyone else, and the writing is usually work but I can do it if I decide to, including working through a block.

When I’m in a high, well, it depends what kind. The best kind is what I think of as a productive high — lots of energy and ambition, the confidence to believe I can do anything at all [this is the part known as “mania,” which is where the “manic” part of manic-depressive comes from, and no, it doesn’t necessarily lead one to thoughts of taking over the world 😉 ] and I do some of my best work, no matter what kind of work I’m doing, when I’m in this chunk of my cycle. Some highs are less productive, though, and if I’m irritable (pissed at the world, snappish, no patience of any kind) or if thoughts are racing around in my head so furiously I can’t grab on to any of them, work is pretty much out the window.

[BTW, I have no problem talking about any of this. If anyone is thinking about writing a bipolar character, or is just curious, feel free to post here or e-mail me and I’ll be happy to answer questions.]

Of course, the times I enjoy writing most is when I’m on a productive high. Story ideas pour out, and I have enough focus to concentrate on a single story and make significant progress with it. Even when I’m in the mid-range, though, I can usually manage. I might have to kick my butt to get it into gear, and put in some Seat Of Pants In Seat Of Chair time to work through whatever problems might crop up, but I can do it, and if I don’t it’s my own fault.

Recognizing where I am can be a problem, though. It’s a forest-and-trees thing, where the person experiencing an episode is too close to the issue, and possibly too judgement-impaired, to be able to spot what’s going on. I don’t know how often it’s suddenly hit me that, hey, I’ve been depressed for a while now. Or, wow, irritable high! Sorry, everyone! (The recognition usually hits after the fact, unfortunately, when I’ve shifted back a bit and my judgement is better.) So there are times when I’m trying to make the words come and they just won’t, I can’t focus enough to work on a story because there are six or ten other ideas all shouting at me from behind my eyeballs, and trying to chase them down is just pointless and frustrating. I’d rather do that, though, than not try to work when I could if I only would try, you know? Although I’m not successful at making that happen a hundred percent of the time, either. :/

That’s me. It’s hardly ever boring [wry smile] but I deal with it as best I can, and occasionally I crank out a story I think is pretty good.

How about you? Where does your opinion fall on the inspiration-vs.-perspiration scale, and what do you do about block?

Angie

In the Mail

I just got a cool certificate in the mail today (or yesterday now, I guess) from EPIC, for being an EPPIE finalist. It’s really nice, around 10×13 or so (I’m too lazy to dig up a ruler) on parchmentish paper, with full-color printing. It came in a folder, too, rather than just being stuck into the envelope. I think my husband was more excited than I was, LOL! We’re going to get a frame for it and hang it in the computer room. 😀

I didn’t know the finalists got certificates, so it was nice to get. Good on the EPPIE committee for doing this.

If you want to see what the certificate looks like, Cat Grant posted a pic of hers. Mine’s just the same, but with my info and book cover.

Angie

On the Organization of Bookstores

Carleen has a poll over at White Readers Meet Black Authors, asking whether bookstores should have a section for African American fiction. Head over and leave your opinion.

Me, I have a few thoughts, which tend to distill down to “This is complicated.”

Because basically, it’s all about authors wanting readers to find (and buy, and read) their books, and readers wanting to find books they’d want to buy and read. So there’s actually a larger issue here of bookstore organization in general, as opposed to just a question of whether books by Black authors should all be shelved together in their own section. So where will readers most easily find books by Black authors?

Well, if the main criterion readers are searching by is the race of the author, then having a special section for Black authors might be the way to go. Want Black authors? African American section. Want Hispanic authors? Latin@ American section. Want Asian authors? Asian American section. Want gay authors? Gay Studies section. (Which is its own issue, because shelving novels with sociological studies, sex manuals, gay history and gay travel guides does not sell a lot of fiction.) Want white authors? Ummm… well, that’s the rest of the store, basically.

Which is where my main problem with this kind of sorting comes from. Giving each group its own little ghetto-shelf in the store doesn’t do very much to encourage people to buy books by writers who aren’t just like them. And by “people” I mainly mean “white people” here, because a Black reader who wants SF has to go to the SF section, and an Asian reader who wants romance has to go to the romance section; it’s not like there are duplicate stores complete with genre sections for each racial group. They might browse through “their” race’s special lit section too, but they’ll hardly ever find anyone else in that aisle.

Reading other discussions of this subject, I’ve seen people of color, both readers and writers, commenting with about equal energy and numbers on either side of the issue, and there is another side to it. If it’s mainly Black people buying books by Black writers, then putting all the Black writers in one section makes it easier for the target audience to find them. For writers, it’s playing to their core audience, and for readers, it lets them hit one spot in the bookstore instead of rambling all over.

To me, this seems like surrendering to the racial barriers, though. It’d never occurred to me, for example, that there were romance novels with Black characters until someone online mentioned them. Once I thought about it, sure, it made perfect sense that Black women would want to read romances too, and would want to have books about people like themselves. But they weren’t (and even now, still generally aren’t) shelved with the rest of the romances, so readers who just want “romances” without having any particular preference about the race of the main characters won’t find anything but white romances unless they think to go looking in the African American Lit section, or wherever that particular store or chain has the Black romances stashed. Impulse buys on the part of the other 80% of the reader market are forfeited when the books aren’t shelved in the place where most readers looking for a given genre would go looking for them.

The argument, though, is that virtually all the people who would actually buy the book are going to be looking in the “Whatever-American Lit” section, that putting the book somewhere else will forfeit the purchases of people who shop there and not in the genre section (and there are people who do that — I’ve seen them arguing in favor of the special sections on that very basis) while gaining few or no new readers from the genre section. It’s a smaller market, but it’s theirs and these authors don’t want to miss out on a chunk of it by gambling on maybes.

Fair enough.

I think it’s a shame, though, that people who might well be interested in a book by a writer of color, whether they’re consciously looking to choose books by writers with a variety of backgrounds or whether they just think that some book which caught their eye looks interesting regardless of the author’s race, are unlikely to ever run across such books in stores where they’re all sorted away into their “special” sections.

I don’t think this situation can be solved to everyone’s satisfaction, unfortunately. Someone in the comments to Carleen’s post suggested shelving books in both places — the special ethnic section and the relevant genre section. That sounds good in theory, but unless you’re already a pretty great seller, getting a bookstore to stock multiples of your book can be tough. Heck, these days getting them to stock one copy can be tough. And I’ve never worked in a bookstore, but there are probably inventory and tracking issues with cross-shelving too.

Brick-and-mortar stores are just too limited to solve this problem. Luckily it’s not the only option.

This is a situation e-commerce handles perfectly. Since there are no issues around the physical location of the books, it’s just a matter of building your search database to handle any sort of query a customer might have. Want books by Black authors? Ask for a list. Want SF books by Black authors? You can have that too.

Or you should be able to have it — there’s no technical reason why “romance novel ‘Black author'” should be an impossible search. Practical application lags, unfortunately (just try to find those Black SF authors’ books at Amazon, for example) but the potential is there; it only requires making use of the available tools.

If online bookstores realize we want to be able to search this way, then there’s no reason they couldn’t virtually shelve any book in as many “sections” as will help readers find it. Beloved could be in “African American Lit” and “Literature” and “Fantasy” and “Bestsellers” and “Books-into-Movies” and anywhere else anyone can think of to put it. Or rather, it can carry any other tags or keywords anyone can think to hang on it. Any individual book can be found in a dozen different places around the virtual bookstore, giving its author the greatest chance of catching the eye of a new reader or being found by their core audience.

Everyone wins.

Angie

[EDIT:  Comments closed because of spammer trash.]

And the Winner Is….

Not me, but then I wasn’t really expecting it. 🙂 EPIC got the list of EPPIE winners up and Cat 15 was won by Rick Reed for Orientation.

I have to say that I was expecting Rick to win. Oh, not at first. I mean, “Spirit of Vengeance” is one of my favorite of my own stories, and I figured I had a decent chance. I wanted to check out the competition, though — and besides, the finalists list was bound to have some pretty good books on it — so I started reading the other Cat 15 finalists. I thought I still had a decent shot all the way to the end, when I read the last book, Orientation.

Not that it’s last on the list, but it’s the last one I read. Why? Because the plot summary sounds… well, I have to say, kind of iffy. It’s a reincarnation plot, which can go either way, and the (gay male) protag’s lover dies and comes back as a woman, which just has “Train Wreck” written all over it. I mean, you know? Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, or maybe it’s just because I’ve done a lot of reading, but for whatever reason I’ve noticed that there are certain plots or devices which are incredibly difficult to do well, and most writers who tackle them seem to end up in the weeds. This is one of those plots that a less than stellar writer could smear all over the landscape — I had images of a “straight for you” sort of storyline, where the guy is gay but he loves the soul inside this woman so much that he turns straight just for her or something, which just…. No. You know? The gay community already gets enough crap from idiots who think they could just “decide” to be straight if they really wanted to, and said idiots don’t need any encouragement.

But these problematic plotline types are also the kind that a really excellent writer can turn into gold, and that’s what Rick did. He handles everything beautifully — the characters sound real, the reincarnation device isn’t too twee or completely woo-woo, and it isn’t really the central pivot around which all the characters’ development arcs turn. The secondary characters are appropriately well developed, even the protag’s current lover in the here-and-now section; he’s a selfish little druggie jerkwad who’s completely consumed by and focused on his addiction, but Rick shows us (without rambling on and on about it) how he got that way and who he was before, and lets us see the shreds of the person he was still buried inside him. I empathized with him, and wouldn’t mind seeing a book about him later on; I hope his recovery goes well.

There’s a bit of action, but this isn’t an action book and isn’t trying to pretend it is. There’s drama but it doesn’t go over into melodrama. There’s barely any sexual content, which is fine because what’s there is what the story needs and no more, just the way I like it. There’s just enough of everything, not too much, and it all fits just right and balances. And the last chapter is perfect — I was holding my breath all the way to the end on the possibility of a straight-for-you ending, but Rick didn’t go there, and where he went fits the characters and ties everything off just neatly enough.

Excellent book — highly recommended. I don’t at all mind losing to this one.

Angie

Resurfacing

Yes, I’m still alive, although it was a near thing for a while, or at least it felt like a near thing. Last Sunday night I became violently sick and blogging’s been the last thing on my mind ever since.

I am not, as you might have guessed by now, at EPICon. 🙁 I went to the doctor on Wednesday (which tells you just how bad it was — it takes a lot of nausea etc. to get me into a doctor’s office, since they generally tell you to drink clear liquids, get lots of rest, maybe take something Pepto Bismolish, and wait it out, sending you home with a short list of bland foods you can eat once you can eat anything at all, and in what order to add in more complex kinds of things, none of which advice I need, nor have for many years, thanks anyway) and since it’d been going on for three days at that point, my doctor actually gave me some pills along with the above-mentioned advice. He also gave me a note saying I shouldn’t travel for a week, with which we can collect on the travel insurance my husband presciently took out on this trip however many weeks ago when he booked my plane tickets. We’re still out a “fee” of about $150, but the tickets were like $280, so it was worth taking my queasy stomach on two very short cab rides, I suppose. Oh, and the diagnosis is gastritis, which seems to mean just “upset stomach.” [bemused smile]

Anyway, I’ve been mostly sleeping and was living on Gatorade and the aforementioned Pepto Bismol for several days straight. I tried dry toast on Tuesday and that didn’t work. After getting home from the doctor’s office on Wednesday I tried plain rice, and that stayed down, yay. I’ve since tried the toast again, plus some applesauce and a couple of bananas, and everything seems to be processing well. I took my life in my hands last night and put some actual butter on my toast, and nothing untoward occurred during the night, so I’m feeling quite optimistic at this point.

When not immediately concerned with matters digestive, and not asleep, I mainly lay there thinking about whatever crossed my mind. Am I the only writer who lies around while sick thinking about fictional scenarios where the protagonist is deathly ill? Imagining how to describe all the feelings and fears, each visceral detail, all the completely reframed points of view one gains while sick and weak and lightheaded and so completely miserable that one might actually welcome, say, a violent home invader and think of ways of provoking same into actually opening fire and putting one out of one’s misery…?

We’ll have to see if any of the coming year’s characters end up at death’s door. Most likely not 😀 although I’ll admit to still feeling tempted by the sheer vividness of the perceptions, and the sharpness of focus one gains when one’s entire sensory existence is concentrated in just a few cubic inches….

Anyway, I’m grossly behind again so I beg forgiveness in advance if I end up just skipping a few things, or if I still sound a bit loopy when commenting. [cough]

Angie

Vote to Give Kids Free Books

First Book is having a vote in their What Book Got You Hooked? campaign, and will be donating fifty thousand books to kids in the winning US state.

Go here to vote. All you have to do is vote for your state (or whichever state you want the books to go to), but you can also tell them what your earliest favorite book was and why if you want to. Name and e-mail are also optional.

You can vote once a day between now and 15 September. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. 😀

By the way, my favorite book when I was little was The Gingerbread Man. Hey, it’s about someone who runs around having fun and causing trouble, and that’s pretty cool when you’re four or five. 😉

Thanks to Kerry Allen, one of my fellow Romancing the Blog columnists, for posting about this.

Angie

Come Hang Out With Me

I’m hosting the Torquere_Social community here on LiveJournal today (Friday the 26th). I’ll be posting periodically all day, and will be putting up a snippet from my Halloween short story, to be published soon by Torquere Press, and maybe a couple of others. We’ve got popcorn and Halloween movies, so come over and spend the day. 🙂

If you don’t have a LiveJournal, that’s fine — LJ takes anonymous comments with no problem. Just sign your comment so I know who I’m chatting with. [wave]

Angie

Hello

My name is Angela Benedetti and I’m a writer. I live in Long Beach, California, and have been writing since I was a teenager, although I published my first story only recently.

Most of my stories are gay romance or erotica, or often both. I write in a variety of genres, including science fiction, fantasy and urban fantasy, as well as the more realistic contemporary settings. Some of my stories are quite dark while others are light and humorous. I’m more than willing to write something sexy if it supports the story, and I’ll walk on the BDSM side of the street occasionally. I enjoy exploring new things and trying new ideas and I’m never sure what kind of story or characters are going to pop up and demand to be next. 🙂

I hope you enjoy my work and that you’ll let me know what you thought. Feedback from readers, including constructive criticism, are always welcome. Thanks!

Angie