My obsolescence, let me show you it

Instead of waxing poetic about all the really cool things I got for x-mas, I thought I’d collect all the stuff sitting in my office that used to be really cool. Remember, eventually that iPhone’s going to join this little montage:

We got here on top, the Ultimate Doom, which needed 5 whole disks to install. We have the first iPod, pre-windows, with 5 gigs of storage and a firewire connection that will fit no current iPod accessories. In the middle there we have two flash drives 32MB and 128MB. On the right there we have one of the first smart phones, a Nokia 3650, with a Symbian OS that had a Commodore 64 emulator on it before it died. On the bottom there we have the last word in 20th Century unreliable mass storage, a couple of Iomega Zip disks that hold a whole 100 Megs.

Ready, Set. . .

Well, Christmas is upon us and for me it means something in addition to the birth of Christ, feeding ham to the in-laws, and sacrificing a tree on the altar of capitalism: This year it’s the start of my semi-annual writing vacation. (No, not a vacation from writing.) Like a lot of novelists out there, probably the vast majority, I have a day job. So, I have to work the writing in around the job, usually in the early morning.

However, one of the perks I do get is four weeks of paid vacation a year. So, I use half of it for actual family vacations (like my trip to Germany this year) and the other half I use for intense work on whatever project is on the front burner. Sort of a micro NaNoWriMo where I’m aiming a lot higher than 1600+ words a day. A one person writer’s retreat that, this year, is going to run from Christmas to Jan 1st. I’m hoping I’ll be able to sprint to the finish with Prophets and have it done for the new year. (Which, if my estimate of the word count for the novel’s right, will require something under 3400 words a day for a week.)

Wish me luck.

But if it’s that easy, wouldn’t everyone do it?

Again, some Smart Bitches have led me to yet another choice example of web ludicrousity (I’m a writer, I get to make words up) where a website lists “romance novelist” as a possible home-based business for stay-at-home moms. While certainly upbeat and well-meaning, anyone who’s had to actually expend effort to make money from their words has to look at this and just sadly shake their heads.

If you like writing, have a great imagination and knack for storytelling, have self-discipline, are a romantic, are willing to sell your finished novel, and are persistent, then being a romance novelist may be the home business for you!

Sort of reminds you of the old ads that asked “can you draw this picture?” I mean, yes, this is all sort of true, but it does sort of downplay the amount of each you need to be successful. I also suspect that, if you strike the references to “romance” you end up with an assertion that even the post’s author might have found a little silly. The whole idea of recommending this to someone looking for a home business on the same level as, for instance, selling Hummels on eBay or running a day care center, I think arises from the pernicious idea that anyone can write a romance novel.

As a romance novelist you should be writing everyday. Many successful romance novelists look to everyday life, or historical events to generate ideas for a story. Your job is not only to write your book but it will also be to sell it! If you self publish you will be in charge of printing, marketing, selling, and fulfilling orders of your book. If you don’t want to self publish, you will need to find a publisher to do all those things for you for a percentage of your book’s profits.

All I can say is holy batcrap. Again, on a literal level you could say this is an accurate paragraph, but it shows the understanding of a Martian reconstructing the economics of the publishing industry based on the badly translated back cover of a single Harlequin Romance.

Asshat of the day

Oh the things you find online when just clicking around at random. The man’s name is Tad Safran, he’s from the UK, and I do not think he gets laid enough. He has an article at Times Online (which I found via a post at the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog) that is essentially one long rant about the shortcomings of British women, who are apparently lazy and unkempt, as opposed to American women who are vain, crass, materialistic and “take themselves too seriously and are annoyingly confrontational.”

Old episodes of the Man Show were less misogynistic than this guy. Hell, Girls Gone Wild is less misogynistic than this guy. I mean, here’s a choice little quote:

Sophie tumbled into the house looking like a refugee from Hurricane Katrina. She smelt like the R&D lab at Philip Morris. Her outfit was about as sexy as a half-pound of ground meat. And, surely, the only time she’d seen the inside of a gym was to ask directions to the nearest pub. I was hurt that my friends thought I’d be remotely interested in Sophie. Even more insulting was when my friend’s wife pointedly said: “Tad, I hear you just sold a screenplay to the producers of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” I could not believe it. She was selling ME to HER!?

Actually, Mr. Safran, I am pretty sure that Sophie once did your friend’s wife some grave unforgivable injustice and sadly the only way she could effectively mete out any revenge was to arrange a suicidally painful evening with you.

Another choice bit of ugliness:

I remember dancing with a really lovely English girl. She was gorgeous. Things were going well until I took her hand. I actually recoiled. Her palms were rough and leathery like a tree-climbing monkey’s. Years of working around horses had given her the hands of an 80-year-old Siberian coalminer. Surely some sort of moisturising routine would have been a simple and inexpensive remedy. (It was more shocking than the time I took a girl’s hand after chatting her up for an hour and discovered she was missing the two middle fingers on it.)

That last line is the kicker, ain’t it? Got a really sensitive new-age guy here. Frankly, I really feel bad for the girl with the missing fingers. I mean you go though life, self-conscious about something like that, you meet a guy that seems cool, talk for an hour thinking he doesn’t care and in a single gesture realize A) he was too busy staring at your tits to notice your hand in the first place, and B) when he does notice, he freaks out like a clown-phobic kid at the Ronald McDonald house.

Of course, my favorite line of his:

I’m sure other women will be incredibly impressed by your new Jimmy Choos or Blahniks. But, ladies, the only time a man will notice your shoes is if your feet are wedged on top of his shoulders bouncing either side of his head.

You better hurry and snap this guy up girls, he’s still single. I bet he wonders why.

Advice from Mark Twain

I have suggested in a comment that beginning writers should all read Mark Twain’s essay Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences. (This is the third time I’ve posted about it in this blog.) However, for the caffeinated ADD sufferers out there, I’d thought I’d post Twain’s rules here. (i.e. the ones Mr. Cooper violated.)

There are nineteen rules governing literary art in the domain of romantic fiction–some say twenty-two. These eighteen require:

  • 1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.
  • 2. They require that the episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it.
  • 3. They require that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.
  • 4. They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.
  • 5. They require that when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.
  • 6. They require that when the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.
  • 7. They require that when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it.
  • 8. They require that crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.
  • 9. They require that that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.
  • 10. They require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.
  • 11. They require that the characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

In addition to these large rules there are some little ones. These
require that the author shall:

  • 12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
  • 13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
  • 14. Eschew surplusage.
  • 15. Not omit necessary details.
  • 16. Avoid slovenliness of form.
  • 17. Use good grammar.
  • 18. Employ a simple and straightforward style.


Well I’ve hit the first landmark in the Apotheosis Trilogy I’ve felt worth posting about. I have reached the quarter mark on the trilogy as a whole. Word-count subject to change, as I’ve assumed that book #1 is going to be a little longer than the next two. Speaking of book one, I’m a little past the 2/3 mark, and I’m hoping to get the first draft wrapped up sometime in early January.

BTW- here’s a good rule of thumb. The more fragmented your POV, the more characters and settings, the more tightly you need to adhere to an explicitly linear time-line. If you have events separated by several light-years that converge and diverge as the players move about– you better draw up a literal time-line(s). I have an Excel spreadsheet with columns for various characters so I can track when stuff happened.

Why I Hate Self-Appointed Literati

In the Guardian there’s an article about the 100th Anniversary of Mills & Boon romances. In their article they’ve fallen into the pathology of having to include a pro and a con segment to the article. (What? Someone has an opinion? We must have an opposing viewpoint, the force must remain in balance!)

It is the “con” portion that really torques me. Julie Bindle pulls no punches in her article unambiguously entitled “Detestable Trash.” The first two lines:

Fifteen years ago, I read 20 Mills & Boon novels as research for a dissertation on “romantic fiction and the rape myth”. It was the easiest piece of research I have ever done.

Can you see the warning signs already? When you set forth the ease with which you’ve come to your conclusions in the second sentence of your argument, you are admitting the shallowness of your thoughts on the matter. Much like certain wannabe European literati who were publicly spanked on other, more popular, sites in the SF blogosphere, this article advertises the lack of depth of the writer, waves it like a flag, and pretends it is a trait held in common by people whose opinions matter.

Now I don’t take lightly arguments about “novels that perpetuate gender stereotypes… [which] feed directly into some women’s sense of themselves as lesser beings, as creatures desperate to be dominated.” However, I think a lot more thought went into the deconstruction of the misogyny of Larry Niven’s Known Space oeuvre on the Feminist SF Blog than went into this article, which allegedly considers a much longer and broader body of work. Not only does the author condemn a century worth of text on the basis of twenty-some examples, read fifteen years ago, but condemns the current crop simply on the basis of back cover copy. That’s just lazy. When you are too intellectually dishonest to read the subject of your critique, you undercut your arguments no matter how easy the target might be.

The final insult comes at the end, with the following enlightened bit of criticism:

[…] Heterosexual romantic fiction promotes the sexual submission of women to men. M&B novels are full of patriarchal propaganda. I can say it no better than the late, great Andrea Dworkin. This classic depiction of romance is simply “rape embellished with meaningful looks”.

Thus we come to condemn an entire genre, hetrosexual romantic fiction. I can understand a feminist critique of Mills & Boon, of category romance, and of romance in general, is probably not going to be favorable. But even as someone who’s only brushed the genre, I can see that this is over the top. Way over. This is the same thing as a blanket condemnation of SF because you read a couple dozen bad Perry Rhodan novels in the 90s. Worse, the deliberate qualification, making it heterosexual romance, makes it appear that the portrayal of homosexual rape fantasies is somehow a morally superior exercise.

ADDENDUM: Teach Me Tonight has begun an in-depth critique of this article.