I am a Spoilsport

file55843196ed611 So, I screwed something up today. A writer I like asked a question on her Facebook page about an obscure reference, and I answered that I didn’t get it, but the information was easily Googled, along with a link to the Wiki page I found and linked to.

Later, someone pointed out that she had said, “no spoilers,” in her post. Oops.

However, I can’t help but think how is my explanation of the reference a spoiler? Isn’t her reveal that it’s an obscure reference the actual spoiler? Apparently, not everyone feels this way, as someone cautioned me for revealing too much.

Now, I know explaining a joke makes it no longer funny, but here’s the thing I like about pop culture references: if you get them, they’re kind of like a little joke, but if you just lightly touch on them or move on, the reader thinks they’re part of the scenery. Unlike telling an overt joke, they can actually be funny, or at least interesting, in the explanation.

The again, maybe the author didn’t want “spoilers” because she didn’t want people’s answers influenced by the comments. In which case, just ignore this whole post.

On Reviewing My Reviews

Jed Peterson and Jim Hines

Jed Peterson and Jim Hines — I guess I should get a picture of myself and Jim.

So, today, Jim C Hines was writing about the ethics of authors reviewing other authors.

I was thinking about this the other day. I noticed almost all of my GoodReads ratings are five stars. I started reviewing my ratings and realized something about myself. If I’m not beta reading for a friend, I tend not to finish books that I don’t fall in love with.

If I am beta-reading, and I really like a piece, I assume the final form is going to be at least as good, and I’ll rate it without reading the final version. Probably the only exception to this is pieces by Dylan Moonfire and Adam Whitlatch, both of which I usually end up reading one last pass of the final version.

I probably recite passages from Birthright and Sand and Blood in my sleep.

If I am beta-reading, and I’m lukewarm about a piece, I feel like it’s unfair to leave a rating, as often a few minor tweaks can make things come together. Then, I usually don’t bother to read the final, because I didn’t go nuts over the beta-read.

That being said, a fair review is a fair review. If another author read my work and genuinely didn’t like it. I can’t be upset if they give me a low rating.

Although, I should admit that I have held back a bad reviews. I usually do this  because I liked the author and didn’t want to offend; or because I didn’t like the author, and I was afraid I would not be able to maintain my objectivity.

It’s okay to suck.

file55492d0c4e352So the other night at the con, I was telling an aspiring writer that it was okay to suck, and he cut me off before I had the opportunity to make my point, telling me he was not Stephenie Meyer.

First of all, it was kind of rude of him to interrupt–but this is perhaps forgivable as alcohol was involved. Secondly, he had no idea who I was, and you can throw a stick in any con and hit two authors (this is a minimum, at some you can hit ten.) Now I’m not saying I’m anyone important, but for all he knew, I could have been Stephenie Meyer’s friend, or even worse, a friend of her agent. Also, and this may just be me, I don’t think it’s okay to be badmouthing other authors, unless they sodomized your dog, or burned down your garage. I let this rule slide a little if I know the person actually suffered through their books. Buy hey, tastes are different. I’ll forgive the pro whose work I don’t like way before I’ll forgive hubris.

Anyway, enough ranting, time to get back to why sucking is awesome–and no, no need to tell me about the innuendo, I’ve already thought of it.

Sometimes, writers get stuck. It’s a natural part of the creative process. Maybe you’re depressed or tired. Maybe you spent all your creative energy on another endeavor.  At this juncture you have three choices.

  1. You can walk away. No writing today. I try not to do this very often, as I’ll explain below.
  2. You can sit and stare at the page, not coming up with a perfect next line. So, you’re not producing, and you’re not having any fun.
  3. You can give yourself permission to suck and write another sentence, then another one, and so on.

I tend to choose number three, and here’s why: Just because you give yourself permission to suck doesn’t mean you will. Even if you do suck, you took ownership of your piece and moved forward. Sure, some day you may delete it all in editing, but I’m often surprised by how good the material is. I end up editing it into something more usable. And sometimes, when I think I’m having a great day, I write pages of well-written material that don’t make it past the edit process.

Apparently, I should be ashamed

I try not to go off on rants too often, but something that happened yesterday really bothered me. However, while this is a rant, I’m going to have to get rather technical to complete it.

Also, this is going to get a little personal, if that bothers you, you may want to move on.

file553fa80962d94Though I’m not very forthcoming about it, I am a type 2 diabetic, as was my mother. And if you don’t know it, being type 2 carries a stigma. You see, there is a genetic component to type 2, but another good way to get it is to overwork your pancreas by eating too much, specifically in the form of simple carbohydrate foods (sugar).

In my case, I probably would have become diabetic eventually, but my weight probably brought it forward 10 to 15 years. I’m aware that I made bad decisions and I’m taking ownership of that. Going as far as to loose 65 pounds in the last 4 months. Coincidentally, that’s the weight of my lawnmower.

So, just in case you’re wondering, type 1 is a completely different animal. It is a genetic condition by which the pancreas just ceases to function and the body is incapable of producing insulin. A lack of insulin raises blood sugar.

Conversely, type 2 is a disease caused by overproduction of insulin, whether caused by abusing simple carbohydrates or genetic propensity, but more likely a combination of both. Because the body is flooded with insulin all the time, it stops responding to it, raising blood sugar. (The blood sugar imbalance being why these diseases are linked. The cause is different, but the effect is the same.)

You may be asking yourself, at this point, where is the rant? Don’t worry, it’s coming.

So, I spend a lot of time studying diabetes, as anyone diagnosed with a chronic, degenerative disease might do (or so you’d think) and I’ve learned a lot about it, not only the conventional wisdom, but I’ve also followed the bleeding edge of nutrition and medical studies. Part of this is hanging out on the diabetes subreddit.

And this is where we come to yesterday. In a thread about being shamed about being diabetic, someone related that they often got nasty looks in their office when the partook of birthday cake. I happened to have an anecdote about ice cream that seemed appropriate to reply with, as cake and ice cream go well together.

I’ll go ahead and leave it here:

We were at a family reunion and I heard my wife’s great uncle say, “Make sure Paul (my father-in-law) gets the sugar free ice cream; he’s diabetic.”

I whispered to my wife, “Don’t tell them I’m diabetic. I want the good ice cream.”

And ironically, in this thread on shaming people for diabetes, someone tried to shame me for making the decision to have regular ice cream. Not only that, but they went as far as to blame America’s high cost of healthcare on me for being overweight and diabetic. I almost responded, but then I remembered not to feed the trolls. The moderators took it down soon thereafter. Still, it stuck in my craw.

And here’s the rant:

First of all, US insurance companies like fat people. They can discriminate against them, and they actually die faster when the get sick, keeping costs down. This scary fact is one of the things motivating me to lose weight.

Second, many sugar-free foods, ice cream is a great example of this, are horrible tradeoffs. In exchange for 50% of the flavor, you’re probably only losing 10% of the calories and 25% of the carbs. Take a smaller scoop, and the physiological effect would be the same.

Thirdly, what you eat over one vacation weekend doesn’t matter in the bigger picture. Eating sugar-free ice cream every day is more carbs than eating fully-sugared ice cream once a week.

That’s pretty much it for the rant part.

This brings me to the biggest problem about type 2 diabetes, the judgement of yourself and others. When I was diagnosed, I was ashamed, I was depressed. But being ashamed and depressed didn’t help me lose weight. It didn’t help me exercise. If anything, it had the opposite effect. I spent a year of my life convinced that no matter what I did, I was going to die young, leaving my wife a widow and hoping I had enough life insurance to take care of her.

It was only after dozens of hours of research that I discovered what I needed to know to fix both my weight and my blood sugar, and hopefully my health.

I’m not sure more shaming is really what I need.

A difficult couple months

file54f77580d7c80And so it came to pass that I finished my internship at KHP, and this was good. They offered me a position, and initially I accepted, but the stresses of my day job combined with the anxiety I feel from my writing conspired against me, and I ultimately had to renege.

This put me in a bit of limbo, as they were going to publish my next book. But for now, I’m not going to worry about it.

Worry has been a big part of my writing career. I have some anxiety issues and putting myself out there, as you must do when you write, is very difficult for me. Often, when I think about my writing, I get into dark moods, and I wonder whether it isn’t time to give up writing entirely.

So, towards the end of January, I decided to take some time off from writing. I hadn’t taken a break in the last eight years, and my day job was keeping me adequately busy. It’s been a good break. I’ve caught up on my reading, as well as done some beta reading and light editing for others, which has been a positive experience for me. I often think about writing these days, and every day the prospect of starting again seems less painful.

I feel like I have more good books in me, if I can just stop worrying so much and enjoy the process.

Sidetracks

10841957_10153452282712004_2825961519268753984_oAfter focussing almost exclusively on my writing for a long time, I find that lately, I’m spending more time on my other hobbies.

I’ve been playing video games again. I know I’ll ultimately get tired of this, but I  get the urge about once a year or so.

I’ve been cooking a lot. I’ve developed what I believe to be a perfect chicken salad, or at least perfect to my tastes. I’ve been making spicy carrot pickles, my personal variation on this Alton Brown recipe, and I’ve tried my hand at puff pastry (pictured above–yes, I made those.) I’ve also tried my hand at roast, meatloaf, and mash.

On the writing front, things are not going as well as I’d like. I’ve decided to restart the sequel to Minion of Evil again, as I still haven’t gotten it how I want it.

2014 is almost gone.

file549991aee0be5So…. it looks like my last update was two months ago. There’s a good reason for this. I’ve been busy doing an intensive edit on a book for KHP, my “final project” of my internship. I don’t know how the author will feel about it–I really went for it with the edits, but my fellow editors seem happy with what I’ve done. I spent a ton of time on it.

Personally, it’s been a tough year with many challenges. I’m kind of happy to see it sliding into the rearview mirror.

In my own writing, I’ve continued to peck away at the Minion of Evil sequel. I’m now sitting just over 40,000 words, and I’m starting to contemplate the transition to the ending. Don’t open the Champagne yet, It’s just a rough draft.

On the other hand, I have submitted Panic No More to KHP–yeah, I know I’m working for them, but I planned to submit it before I took the internship–and they will be releasing it in “January.” Okay, probably more like February.

I wish I had something profound to say at this point to tie everything together, but I’ve never been good at tying things up. How about: Wishing you and yours a happy __Insert your holiday of choice here.__  celebration.

The Trouble with Port

Trouble-With-harry2While my first love is the California Cabernet, like many wine drinkers I don’t like being tied down to one region or varietal. I even enjoy the occasional bottle of port.

Now, I usually buy tawny or ruby ports, a little more cost effective and ready to drink. However, the other day, my wife presented me with a Late Bottled Vintage (LBV).

So, do you drink a late bottled vintage, or let it age? The answer is, “It depends.”

I did a little research. Wikipedia lists 11 types of port. It also notes that while LBV ports can mature slightly with age, they will never develop the character of a vintage port.

On a wine forum, I found a couple things to look for.

  • Is the wine traditional of unfiltered? Unfiltered and traditional production method allows the LBV to age more gracefully.
  • Does the wine have a traditional cork or a “cork stopper?” The cork stopper is the wine producer’s way of telling you not to age the LBV.

The bottle I had was unfiltered and had a traditional cork, but what if I could find one more source…

  • Delicious. Drink now. – James Suckling – Wine Spectator

Hmmm. As I was puzzling out what to do, my wife told me, “Just drink it, and if you like it, I’ll buy you another one.”

It’s quite good.

Writing Reviews

file543065cc5311b

I enjoy binder clips.

I promised Dylan Moonfire that I’d write a review of Sand and Blood for him.

I very much wanted to do this. I enjoyed Sand and Blood, and I felt Dylan should get a good review from me because of that. Writing reviews is one of the best ways authors can support each other–or at least those authors whose work we enjoy.

I hate writing reviews, though. Because of this, I make a habit of not writing reviews of books I don’t like. But even when I really like a book, I never feel like I know what to say–not good for a writer–and even when I put down my honest opinion, I have doubts that anyone will believe me or find it helpful and interesting.

Also, I worry that I am biased toward people I like. I shouldn’t have this opinion, because I’ve read plenty of things I didn’t like by people, even professional authors, who I had a great time with in person. Also, I really like writing by authors who I don’t care for personally.

I secretly fear that someday the Amazon or GoodReads police (are they the same police now) will expose me as a fraud, because all my reviews are 4 or 5 stars (more likely five) but I write those reviews in good faith, and I’d probably have a lot of one and two star reviews, but I tend to keep those opinions to myself. Because if you don’t have something good to say about someone’s book, should you say anything at all?

Also, I don’t tend to finish stuff I don’t like.

I’ve made a horrible copyright mistake

public-domain-logo-slightly-nicerOkay, I haven’t really made a horrible mistake, but saying I “almost” made a mistake doesn’t sound nearly as dramatic.

I was looking for some quotable poem for new new manuscript, and I found the perfect thing, however, I knew I’d have to check on the copyright status. In today’s world, figuring out the actual date a work goes into the public domain can be complicated.

O Venus, beauty of the skies,
To whom a thousand temples rise,
Gaily false in gentle smiles,
Full of love-perplexing wiles;
O goddess, from my heart remove
The wasting cares and pains of love.

So, I looked up the publication date of the poem, and found out it was attributed to a poet named Sappho in 600 BC. And here’s where I almost made my mistake. I stopped there.

It wasn’t until I was editing my piece later that I started to think there was something wrong with my logic. Sure, the original was thousands of years old… but wouldn’t the original have been written in ancient Greek?

So, this becomes a translation, and translations, even translations of things like the bible have their own copyright rules. They can be considered derivative works and come under the original work’s copyright, but they can also, if suitably different be considered a separate work, entitled to copyright protection. So, I had to find the history of the translation and determine its copyright status. Fortunately, this particular translation was done by Ambrose Philips in 1711.

So, disaster has been avoided. However, I was lucky in this case. While the piece seems antiquated, it could have easily been done in the 1960s and still have copyright protection.