Libraries are awesome!

Check out your local library

I was trying to figure out what to post about, I have one that I’ve been working on about unconditional love and my rant about it, that’s not ready yet. But while I was doing it a few things happened. I got a notification that a book I’d been wanting to check out was available, I found a couple of resources I’d been wanting some more information on (audio mixing, I’m trying to get better and faster, and website security), and I looked up and checked out another book.

Check out your local library
Check out your local library

Libraries are awesome!

Seriously, have you checked out what your local public library offers lately? Oh, you think it’s just books and a dusty card catalog? HA! Get with the times, because libraries sure as heck have!

Want to watch movies? Like live music and drinks? Want to have a book club that talks about books? Want a chance to talk about your books? Yeah, they do all these things.

Has classes ongoing on urban homesteading. Want to learn about raising chickens, apartment gardening, or maple sugaring (no I’m not in Canada)? Show up and you can take classes on all of that and a whole lot more.

Things that are really common at libraries:

  • Need help doing your taxes?
  • Looking for a job?
  • Need homework help?
  • Trying to start a business?

Libraries want to help you!

You can, of course, check out books in person. BUT you can also check out books online at most libraries, ebooks, audiobooks, comic books. And movies, music, tv shows. All of these things can be done online. Seriously, your library might not have the same selection as Netflix, but they likely have movies you won’t find on Netflix either.

Your library also likely has tools to help you learn other stuff. My library has Lynda.com available to everyone online. I’m signed in and listening to a course on securing WordPress sites. I did a whole bunch, but I want to see what else I can do.

I also have access to a wide range of journals and magazines that I wouldn’t normally. I use these to research occasionally. (And if I was fancy and dealt better with humans, I’d haul myself in physically and get help from the fantastic librarians in person.)

Also, there’s so much more!, libraries are an amazing resource for understanding what is going on in the political realm. Not just our local libraries but the Library of Congress is a deeply important institution for cultural memory. They have some amazing resources online as well. It has always been important to support libraries, they are one of the best, and often more democratic ways to share information. You can walk down, get a library card, use it in the physical location, use it online, you don’t need all the money to access it. And we need to help make sure it stays that way. So support your local library. Your local library is hyper local politics that really matter. You might know your city council person or mayor, you might be friends, heck you might be related to them. Tell them that the library matters to you. Tell them that it is one of the most important cultural and democratic instiutuions and you value it. Tell them to put dollars into the library to continue to add value to your neighborhood. Keep it in your neighborhood.

And seriously. Go get a library card! It’s worth its weight in gold.

Strong women

So this is a post I’ve been thinking about for…months? At least. Strong women. Strong female characters. I’m writing this Sunday after the marches around the world yesterday, which, great, now what? And what does that mean? And whole lot of other stuff. This is going to be a messy post. I’ll come back and edit later, and it will still be messy so be warned. And crabby…I get crabby…

A story about strong women

We Can Do It woman flexing poster (Rosie the riveter)
We Can Do It poster

I’m sitting having dinner with a friend of mine. She would tell you that she is more feminist than I am. (I’m not 100% sure that’s true, but splitting hairs either way.) We are talking about books and I’m trying to get her input. She’s a reader, not a writer. She reads in the genre I write and in others. We are talking about romances. I bring up some questions about books I’ve read and their audiences. Let’s say we are talking about 50 Shades of Grey (we weren’t, but it will work for this) and who the audience is for it and what they like about it.

I was trying to explain the plot and some of the key pieces. She kept trying to simplify it down to just a thing.

Her: Oh it’s about money.

Me: Well not really, or only only, because a big part of it is rejecting the money, she doesn’t want the money, she doesn’t want him for the money, it is important, but not as in he buys her a whole bunch of stuff, that’s not the focus of that.

Her: It’s about sex.

Me: Yes, a little, but not entirely. If it was just sex it would be just sex but in this tome there are only like 3 scenes. And the sex isn’t the story driver, and isn’t the character driver.

Her…: I’m not sure, but I’m sure I wouldn’t like it. I like strong female characters.

Ahhh there’s the rub isn’t it.

But that character, and …quite frankly? Most of the female leads in most of the books I read will tell you they are strong. My friend is not the only one who says she wants strong women.

Everyone has their own idea of what makes a character a strong female lead. The problem seems to be, to me at least, that we start stacking these. You can’t just be one thing. You have to be ALL OF THEM.

Strong Women

Some of the examples from books I was reading at the time that I brought up to her, each one she sort of shrugged and eh but’ed.

  • Woman who takes care of a child on her own, single mom, handles shit from others who think that’s bad, makes the kid turn out fantastic
  • Woman who likes sex, knows what she wants, goes after it, isn’t afraid to say yes or no loudly and frequently
  • Woman who works really hard and has an amazing career and is well respected in her field
  • Woman who overcomes extreme anxiety to become a singer

I could go on and on and on. So you stack them up and you have a single mom who spends a ton of time with her kid, a ton of time at her career, has a very active and healthy sex life, and is going to be a breakout star.

Fuck you.

No seriously, why does a character have to have all those things? And you know what happens when you stack them up?

Mary Sue. Which are 2 words I could 100% live with never seeing again.

So you can’t be strong because then you are too strong and you can’t be only one thing because then you aren’t strong enough. (And yes, heaven-for-fucking-fend if you have any intersectionality.)

I have seen a few things about complex female characters, which sounds a lot better than “strong” and even might include some intersectionality in there. But I don’t know how to really get across that…I don’t want strong women only. I want a range of women. I want a range of people. I want people who aren’t only one thing and who aren’t all things. And I’m going to keep calling this friend(s…this is actually a compliation of a few people, I love my friends, we are all always learning) out on this shit and seeing if I can keep shifting opinions. One beer or coffee at a time.

And in the mean time I’m going to do my damnest to write them and read them and share them.

Travel

Travel. I don’t really like it.

Hermitage
Hermitage – Winter Palace – I’ve been here «© A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons»

Sorry!

I feel like this is a very controversial stance. Or maybe just not a very cool one. At least in my spheres, I hear a lot about travel. How much fun it is, how it makes you a better human being, how it makes you more open to the world, how you haven’t really experienced life until you’ve been to every country. (Maybe exaggerating for effect, a little.)

I’m really glad the people who like it, like it. Good for them. But I want to stay home.

Home…

Home is safe, home is full of routine, safety, consistency, known factors. I know a lot of those are basically dirty words. But the routine of getting the same thing for breakfast? Lets my brain spend the energy it would have spent on that thinking about how Jenna would respond to a statue in her park getting up and challenging her to a duel.

Travel is full of tiny decisions all day long eating away at your brain power and exhausting. Which is fine if you are getting your brain power worth of enjoying spectacular views, or eating amazing new food, or talking with different people, or visiting museums or theme parks. Whatever is the thing that makes you go, oh this is awesome!

Those things just don’t appeal to me. I love the views where I am, and I try to partake in them often. I enjoy surfing through photos of breathtaking locations online. I know it isn’t the same (yet) as being there in person, but I do enjoy that. I try new food, I will go out with a friend to a new place and try new things, I know that is on my agenda and do it. Not all the time, but I do. (My favorite coffee shop changed menus and I’ve been trying a new item each week, I’ll pick one thing and settle on it for 90% of the time after I’ve tried it all.) I talk to people online, it’s manageable! And museums have amazing collections online, with much smaller lines, and just as much detail.

My kind of travel

I do try very hard to expand my world and travel through books, articles, podcasts, and even videos. Exploring what is out there, exploring the inner world, exploring the magical, fantastical, the future.

I read. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I can do that while walking along the beautiful local sites. And still come home and sleep safely in my own bed.

It doesn’t make me a bad person. Plenty of other things, sure, but not this. It is also important, I think, to remember that the ability to travel is not something everyone can do. (And don’t talk to me about the magic of working around the world, there are a whole bunch of assumptions that go into that too.) So travel isn’t a magical thing that is the perfect solution for all problems and all human interactions.

I happen to be a person who doesn’t do well with travel. I’m glad that others have the opportunities and take advantage of it. I would also be one of the first people to push someone who has never traveled and has the opportunity to go to another city, state, country, continent GO! Try! Experience. And if you don’t like it? I’ll go out to eat at the new restaurant down the street and we can see how that goes instead.

Audiobooks and Audible

A brief update about audiobooks and Audible.

I narrated a book a few months ago and it is finally out on Audible. So you can listen to me read a very geeky urban fantasy with wolves and where I say the word bitch a bunch.

Howling Dead by M. H. Bonham

Howing Dead
Howling Dead by M. H. Bonham

Which earrings look best with fur? Kira Walker is a geek and UNIX systems administrator who has a bad hair day at least once a month. But when a wolf attacks Kira and her BFF in downtown Denver around the full moon, she’s devastated. Now, like it or not, Kira is unemployed, and the head of Denver’s werewolf pack is getting a little too friendly for her tastes. And, oddly, she keeps finding herself naked in front of road workers. Caught in this new world, Kira discovers there are sinister forces at work. Rogue werewolves have declared war against humans, and when Kira’s other BFF is kidnapped, it gets Kira snarling mad. Can she solve the riddle of the Enchanted Forest before the rogue werewolves kill again? Fashion-challenged Kira will learn that werewolves have a strong bite.

Want to know more about using Audible? I came across a great Guide to Audible from Sajan Parikh.

And if you want to try Audible for yourself you can sign up for any of the three giveaways to get a chance to win a free audiobook. (Which you could use to listen to me narrate Howling Dead.)

Giveaway!

I’ve got a giveaway for audiobooks to announce! (This is my first giveaway so if there are any problems, please let me know.)

You can win a free audiobook at Audible.  If you don’t know about Audible they are a great place to get audiobooks. You can either subscribe and get a credit every month (or a year’s worth up front) or you can buy a book here or there. (I was a member long before they were bought by Amazon. I’ve clearly loved audiobooks for a long time.) Or…right now you can take a chance to win a credit for an audiobook!

Audiobook Giveaway
600 Second Saga Giveaway

Facebook Giveaway!

Check out the 600 Second Saga group or my author page. 600 Second Saga episodes get posted every week so if you prefer to listen via Facebook you absolutely can.

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Email Giveaway!

This mailing list will only give notifications of future novel, novella, and anthology releases and giveaways. I promise less than 6 emails a year! (This year I expect to send out two emails.)
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Weekly Email Giveaway!

This mailing list will let you know when each episode of 600 Second Saga comes out, along with novels, novellas, anthologies, and giveaways!
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Author Giveaway!

If you don’t want to sign up for anything but you write? You can be an author. 600 Second Saga authors will be entered into a quarterly drawing for an audiobook. (There is currently a slot for June left!) It is a great way to share your work, bring it to life, and promote your work to new readers (and listeners).

Learn more about submitting your flash fiction.

Reading Roundup

A little bit nerdy a little bit awesome a reading roundup this week. Not a list of books, but of very interesting tidbits of reading. (Hey these roundups aren’t always tied up neatly together, sometimes they are just some cool things I read during the week or stumbled across!)

Reading

How NOT to read like a beta reader from Kate Heartfield

I absolutely run into this when I do a lot of reading for …not pleasure. It is such a hard rut to get out of. I do feel like I do a little better with audiobooks because I don’t see things like grammar errors or other things, usually the narrator will read them correctly even if they are written wrong, which is awesome. But it is also harder to dwell or go back. I very much appreciate these tips.

Census and History

So Canada is full of nerds.

Nerds who love statistics. (You heard about how they crashed the census site right?) This is full of really great information about why census data is important, what they collect, how it comes out. And it includes links to data you can play with. (The US has some similar kinds of tools, though a lot of it is in hands of other organizations.)

census form
This is a Cuyahoga County, Ohio US Census form

Teeny Tiny Terrors

It is a mental floss counting list

I do love folklore traditions and the tiny little minions of doom that come with many of them.

I think that R2-D2 and BB-8  sort of fall into this category too. A little mischievous.

Messy Roundup

My thoughts are a bit mess this week so it is leading to a bit of a messy roundup.

Have you read blahblahblah

I told you messy. I both love and despise all of the lists about what you should read and what you have to read and what you are a horrible person if you don’t read and what you aren’t a real writer if you don’t read and whatever. They always say more about the people compiling them than anything else.

SF Signal’s How Well-Read found a new shiny toy at Worlds Without End  which lets you compare and compile lists without end in the SFF realms. There of course was the one that NPR put together that was turned into a fancy flowchart and an even fancier interactive thing.

I love that they can introduce you to new books. I love that they give you a chance to see if you are being broad in your scope. I hate the often prescriptive nature of the lists.  It feels like it is always the same books over and over and over. And the over and over nature of it feels a little like if you don’t like this thing you’re not a real fan. There is also a bit of the whole idea of a true fan that I will explore at some other point in time, but for now. Bullshit. The bullshittiest of bullshit.

messy so messy
Free Will horse from Faisal Akram because when I searched for Free Will this was the best thing that I got…

I have no choice but to write this

Illusion of Free Will I feel a little surprised that this is a new idea apparently? Is this really a new idea? I assume there is something fundamentally different about this than other stuff I’ve read.

There is an idea in some communities (I am really sure there is a Mysterious Universe episode that talks about this but I’m having a hard time finding it so I may be wrong?) that the gap in time is basically where …consciousness lives. Or where the soul lives.

But that our brains sort of back engineer things is very common. Some biases work this way. You make decisions (people are so weird during the full moon!) and then you seek out evidence to support that and dismiss what doesn’t.

*This doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole. Not having free will doesn’t mean you should go out and shoot someone and say you couldn’t help it. You’re just an asshole. Stop being an asshole.

Mesmerizing

This is a round up of things that will make you stare for hours watching how the insides of things work. So engineering gifs basically.

 

Strong Characters

I’ve been thinking a lot about the post from Jocelyn over at 52 Letters the last few days. (I know I mentioned it in the roundup post but it has been eating at my brain.)

What makes strong characters?

Jocelyn says:

the current trend of badass, take-no-shit, cool as a cucumber under pressure, stoic protagonists who face fifty million kinds of stress without any outward sign of freaking out

She’s specifically talking about YA but I think that trend is absolutely wider. Calm, cool, an answer and a quip for every situation. When they do have a Moment it is a Thing and not a part of who they are.

Think Buffy right. (I know, a little old but still entirely fits this character.) The times where she breaks down are really meaningful because she’s always got a quip and does the slaying in an entirely casual way.

A part of this is that after you have been dealing with horrible shit for a long ass time you likely get better at it. So I get that by season 4 or 5 or even the third book a character can be like, yeah…been there, done that.

But even the coolest, most badass, take-no-shittiest among us would likely freak the heck out if thrown into these worlds.

There is also an element of why can’t anyone be a hero?

Like Jocelyn I’m introverted. Personally I’m all the way to the introvert side of the scale. I’m over here on my side of the scale trying to break down the edge to get away from the other people.

I do like characters who spend time inside their own head. I like characters who think things through before they do them. And I like watching characters overcome things to go out and fight and win.

Muscled arm
Strong characters don’t all have to flex their muscles.

My strong characters

Both Eva and Jenna are somewhat introverted. Much closer to the middle of the scale, but for both their happy places are when they are working on their projects alone. Neither of them are charging out to get into the middle of trouble.

One will go out to fight for the people she loves. One kind of gets dragged kicking and grumbling into fighting.

Diane is very extroverted, but she’s actually a character who is quick to cry, highly emotional, and deeply empathetic.

I do think that just thinking about this will absolutely change the way that I design my characters. Creating more depth and a wider range of characters is always valuable. I know I have secondary characters who are like this. But it is worth considering if there are elements of this that should be brought into other characters.

Any strong characters who are not cool under pressure?

Cress. She’s the first one who jumps to my mind. She grows, but she starts out tiny, taking up as little space as she can. She doesn’t like to speak up. But she is strong. She is powerful.

I’m not sure I’ve got any other good examples coming to my head.

Feedback: editing and tracking

I’m just writing this as I go (so I don’t have a month’s worth of Feedback and Editing and UX posts all ready to go). I may have totally screwed up by not planning this all out, but I really just wrote the first post to get my own thoughts out and it turns out I have a lot more thoughts…So I have learned a thing. And next time I have a big thought thing I might plan it out better. Maybe. …

My editing checks

I have some things I always get wrong. I try to make sure before I send anything out I do a good solid edit pass of my own to really make sure I’m proud of what I’m sending out. Knowing my own weaknesses is a strength. (Yes Dunning-Kruger, I know you. I fear you, as I should.)

  • Undescribed characters (yes, I have characters you don’t even know the gender of, sometimes that’s intentional, sometimes I just haven’t done a good job of describing the character)
  • White rooms (I’m not quite as bad with this, but still not great)
  • It’s and Its (I’m horrible at this, I’m very slowly, painfully getting better, but I always do a CTRL+F on both it’s and its and check each instance to make sure I got it right)
  • My word list (I have a list of words that I …probably don’t want to use unless I’ve got a good reason for it, I CTRL+F all of these as well)
  • Read out loud (yup, I read all my stuff out loud before sending it along)

This is just what I try to always run down my checklist. I have other things on my checklist but these are always things I try to nail down before I send it off to live in someone else’s brain.

Tracking feedback

I’m the kind of person who makes spreadsheets to track all the things. So I have a feedback tracking spreadsheet. For the Critters site I mark down everyone I critique for, my thoughts of it in the form of a 1-5 word note (good, weird, eh, NEVER AGAIN, hilarious), if they responded.

I also color code them. Green means do all the critiques for this person! Either the actual thing was fun to read or incredibly good. Or…maybe more frequently, it was good and the person was gracious in response. I have had things I read that weren’t great, but the person responded to lengthy or intense feedback thoughtfully, those people get a green fast. People who respond by lashing out, being weird or demanding, or aggressive? They get red. (I have seen very little of this, it is mostly positive.)

I think it helps take some of the oh I think I remember this person out of the equation and helps me to feel like I’ve got a basis for those future decisions.

Up next?

I think I’ll write about what I do with the feedback and how I take it in and what I do with it after I’ve got it.

I still want to wrap in how I think about the feedback as a user experience test but I’m having a hard time putting that into words.

Read more

Read more

Read more is one of the top words of wisdom on how to be a better writer. I like to think I read a decent amount, but I don’t read much outside my favorite genres. I like what I like and I spend a lot of my reading time there. Which is great. Reading is valuable. And hopefully I don’t start reading so critically that I find the fun of it slipping away.

Read out of genre

I need to read more of other genres, both to learn about how story structure works for those genres and to learn more about human beings. Because I am a robot and don’t understand human interaction, apparently.

My plan

Read with a friend

I have a wonderful friend who is going to read some of these with me and then talk to me about them. Which is great, being able to discuss and dissect them makes a huge difference to understanding them and what I’m trying to get to.

Read what?

My current list is to loop through these over the next few months mixed in with other things. I’m trying to read…representative examples of the genre. (And I’m happy to take suggestions. The only thing is I’m trying to not read things that are like oooOOOOOooo it’s paranormal thriller or sci-fi mystery.)

Obviously this list won’t be the only things in these genres I read, but a good kick off for it.

If anyone would like to recommend things within these genres I’d love to hear them. I’m sort of doing it pretty haphazardly.

The list

  • Romance:
  • Mystery:
  • Thriller:
  • Literature:
  • Historical:
  • Religious:
  • Young Adult:
  • New Adult:
  • Erotica:

“Not reading”

Sci-fi and Fantasy:

Yeah they don’t go on this list because that is where I read a lot. Though at some point I’d like to make sure I’m reading a good range of sub-genres. More military sci-fi and more time travel I guess?

Horror:

I’m not a fan. I’m glad there are people who like it but like pranks and roller coaster rides, it just isn’t for me. Especially horror that leans toward gore, or the kind that is designed to keep you up at night. I need my robot sleep!

Western:

Is that still a genre? I don’t think so?

Nonfiction:

I do read a ton of this in non-book form (yay science articles, etc) as well as some books so it isn’t that I’m reading them, it is that I’ve already got it covered.

Classics:

I’ve read a ton of these already. Not that I’ve read them all, but I don’t feel like it is a gaping space. I might throw a few of these on my list over the next year though. But I will say that I find some of the “classics” just feel old and outdated and not like I’m bowled over by how it has managed to ring true for xxx years.

Any other genres I’m missing?