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.

The Best Show Don’t Tell Advice Ever

Tim Leach wrote this on Reddit today, and it is awesome.

The evolution of the writer usually goes like this:

  • Beginners tell too much. They get told over and over again about show don’t tell.
  • Amateurs show too much. They no longer tell anything, and so everything is over described.
  • Professionals know when to tell and when to show.

“Show don’t tell” is not an overrated rule, as it really is a major weakness that’s almost universal to up and coming writers, so beating people over the head with it usually yields some results. But telling has its place too – it’s punchy, effective, and can be evocative if the voice that’s doing the telling is strong enough.

The rule I do try to stick to with “show don’t tell” is to apply it to character emotions. I try never to write “Dave was angry”, “Jeff was scared”, but to show them being angry or scared. You’ve also got to be careful about using tell too much for exposition, it can be very lazy and super dull. But yes, telling is a useful skill. Sometimes…

TL:DR – Show is usually better than tell, except when it’s not. Sorry that’s contradictory. Writing is hard.

Just some updates

file53d7f85012e10Wow, time can go by quickly. Between work, social commitments, and surgery, this has been a busy summer for me so far.

The surgery seems to have been a success. I’m currently feeling recovery-type pain instead of carpal-tunnel type pain, if that makes sense. I’m still a little weak in that hand, but every weeks is showing improvement.

On the writing front, I don’t have all that much to report. I’m working on the sequel to Minion of Evil. I was around 20,000 words in and I decided to start over with a couple different subplots. Now I’m getting back up to around 8000 words again. I’m also waiting for some beta reader comments on one of my other novels.

I’ve now been an intern at KHP for a month, but it doesn’t feel like it as they haven’t given me anything to do yet. I’ve been promised a pass at Adam J Whitlatch’s new book though, so I’m looking forward to that. I am a little worried that once they do get started they’ll bury me.

So there we are. Nothing big to report.