Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Random Stuff About Me

Okay, Sarai tagged me for this meme thing, so here we go.

1. Link back to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Share six random things about you.
4. Tag six random people at the end of your blog entry.
5. Let the tagged people know by leaving a comment on their blog.

Six random things about me....

1 -- I don't always follow directions well. [duck]

2 -- I started reading historical romances when I was twelve, joined the Society for Creative Anachronism when I was eighteen, and majored in history (emphasis medieval Europe) at university. One of these days I'll write a historical of my own, but I know how much time and effort it'd take to do a really good job and it's been a bit daunting so far. [wry smile]

3 -- I met my husband over the internet, playing an online fantasy RPG back in '89. (Yes, they had multi-player online role-playing games back in '89 and even earlier, although to listen to the MMORPG people brag, you'd never know it.) We lucked out when it turned out we were both in the same state, only 400 miles apart. We got married in '96 and our honeymoon was at the Los Angeles WorldCon. (We're both into SF as well as computers and history.)

4 -- I love spinach, and have since I was a little kid. I only like it cooked, though, not raw.

5 -- Despite being female, I'm a dog person. ;) The cat in our house belongs to my husband; she and I cordially despise one another.

6 -- I learned to knit when I was three and crochet when I was six (taught by my grandmother and mother respectively) and have taught myself some unknown number of other needlework techniques since. I go through phases of being really into one or another needlework projects, then will put it down for a while, sometimes for years. I'm currently between phases.

Tagging whoever feels like doing it. :D


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Modes of Marketing

There've been a number of discussions around the blogosphere recently about book trailers -- Romancing the Blog had one today and has had others in the past, and they've been a subject of discussion in other places as well. I've never seen a good one, but then I'll admit I haven't gone looking very much. Even granting that there are good book trailers, though, I still have to wonder how much correspondance there'd be between a reader's enjoyment of a trailer and their enjoyment of the book it's advertising.

Movie trailers work because the trailer -- a piece of video with bits of scenes out of the movie, dialogue from the movie, action from the movie, showing the actors who are in the movie, and playing music from the movie -- give the viewer a small sample of the experience they'll have while actually watching the movie. "Like this? Get more of the same!" is the message of a movie trailer.

Book trailers, though, present information in a mode completely different from that of the book itself. Even a well-done book trailer, with hired actors or custom animation rather than pans of stock photos, and with music appropriate to the mood of the book, is going to be presenting an experience which bears very little resemblance to that of actually reading the book.

So how valuable is the trailer going to be, from the POV of the reader? I love watching movie trailers because I can get a feel for the movie and decide whether I want to see it. It doesn't always work -- we've all seen trailers where it turns out that all the best parts of the movie were in the thirty-second trailer -- but if I like the chase scene or the effects or a bit of dialogue in the trailer, I'll probably like it in the movie too. Liking the actors or the music or the visuals in a book trailer, though, doesn't really tell me whether I'll enjoy the experience of reading the author's writing in the book. (Although it might suggest that I'd enjoy watching a movie made from the book.) And although a trailer can certainly present a short description of the plotline, which is more relevant, I can get that just as easily and without all the extraneous distractions by reading the back cover blurb of the book itself.

If I do buy the novel being advertised, I'm not going to be watching the actors act it out, nor am I going to have the music playing. I'm going to be reading the writer's words, and all the voices, music, action and animation is going to be provided by my own mind, as suggested by the text. It's quite possible that I might enjoy a trailer very much but not care for the book for whatever reason, because the experiences of each are very different and liking one isn't going to necessarily guarantee liking the other. So from my POV as a reader, how much benefit is there to watching the book trailer if, when it finishes playing, I'm still no closer to knowing whether or not I'd enjoy reading the book?

If a writer only has one book to sell, then I suppose this doesn't matter. If a trailer persuades me to buy the book, then that's the whole point, right? The writer can smile and bank the money (after paying the people who made the trailer) and there you go. But maybe I would have liked their second book, or their fifth book. I'm less likely to buy those books, though, because at this point I have personal experience telling me that liking Author X's marketing doesn't mean I'll like Author X's book. I thought the trailer was great but disliked the book anyway, so if I like the marketing for the next book -- even if it's a more traditional blog or magazine ad -- my experience is telling me that I'll probably dislike the book it's pushing, that Good Marketing = Bad Book in the case of Author X. Yuck.

I might be wrong about this, and it's possible that five years from now we'll all be scrambling to make trailers even for our short stories. As a writer, though, I'm not going to jump onto this bandwagon without a lot more data, and it'll have to show that there's a significant correspondance between readers liking the trailers and liking the book, not just that watching the trailer makes them buy the book.

As a reader, I'll stick with the written modes of marketing to decide whether or not to buy books. At least there I have some idea of what I'll be getting.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Modes of Encouragement

Natasha wrote a post on Encouragement today and I found myself frowning. She's right, but.... Well, yes, but.... Huh.

She says in part:

one of the things I love about DH, is he will read my stuff, tell me it's great, and tell me he's looking forward to the next bit.

I don't delude myself into thinking that he really thinks it's always great. I mean, he doesn't have much choice about what to say. If he doesn't say it's great, he gets a barrage of two thousand questions and we have to talk about it all the way home.

But even though I know it's a "canned" response, it keeps me writing.

And that's where I started squinting and pondering. I think it depends on the individual, really, because I wouldn't want my husband to read my stuff and just go "It's great, honey!" every time. I'd find that incredibly frustrating and annoying and pretty quickly I'd stop giving him stuff to read. :P

Do I like encouragement? Of course. But when it comes to my actual writing, to specific stories or pages or whatever, I want it to be honest encouragement, with reasons behind it. I want that back-and-forth discussion of what works and what doesn't work and why, and how things could be made better.

A bare, "Hey, this rocks!" is great when it comes from a reader who's posting a comment to a story or sending me an e-mail or something; they're strangers and it's great that they took the time to say anything at all. But for someone who's reading my work on a regular basis, someone I talk to every day, who's right there and available for an extended conversation, to just say "Good job, keep going," over and over again? Ummm. :/ No thanks, seriously.

Maybe it's just that I'm cynical about this sort of thing, but to me, having someone always claim to love whatever it is I'm doing, with no commentary and never any "But maybe this bit could've used some work," or "Actually, I didn't get why Joe did that in in this part here," sounds fake. Hearing "Great stuff, love!" every single time sounds like that person is just trying to boost my ego by giving hollow compliments, patting my head and telling me I'm a good girl and isn't that adorable? It comes across (to me, anyway) as incredibly patronizing and makes me angry much more than it makes me feel good or warm or fuzzy.

Which isn't to say I dislike any and all generic encouragement, of course. My husband respects my work and doesn't interrupt me when I'm writing, which is the encouragement version of showing rather than just telling. :) And on the telling side, he's said that he's proud of me for getting published after all this time, for sticking with it and finally fulfilling a dream I've had since I was a teenager. "You work so hard," or "You're so determined," or even, "Come on, you can do it -- keep trying and you'll find away over, around or through that roadblock in the story" -- that sort of encouragement is very cool because it says "I admire you" and "I believe in you," which is the sort of support I can believe and appreciate. But telling me how wonderful my writing is, over and over -- that page was wonderful, that chapter was wonderful, that story was wonderful, every word that comes out of your keyboard is absolutely wonderful -- I can't believe that. Maybe that's a problem, I don't know.

I'm not everyone, of course. I'm certainly not Natasha, and she's not me. I think it rocks that her husband gives her the exact sort of encouragement she needs and thrives on; it just shows that he knows her well and they fit together just right. But I don't think there's any one mode of praising or encouraging that's going to work with everyone. With people who are close to you, I think the trick of it is to make sure your spouse or parent or best friend or whomever actually knows what sort of encouragement you want or need. People don't read minds, and while it feels great when someone spontaneously tells you exactly what you want to hear, it can feel just as good to tell someone what you need and know that they're giving it to you because they care about you and really want to help you out by giving you what you need and have asked for.

Hopefully everyone can hook up with someone who'll give them what they need. Because every writer -- and every person, no matter what they're into -- deserves to feel like someone's there encouraging them and cheering them on.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Writers and Money

John Scalzi wrote an excellent post called Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money which I recommend highly. Scalzi is a successful SF writer and has been at this for a while. He's not always delicate about what he says [cough] but he makes a lot of excellent points. He admits that not every chunk of advice will apply to every single person, but there's a lot of value here, I think, for just about anyone who's freelancing in just about any field.


Monday, February 11, 2008


Right now, I want to be Alan Moore. Next best, I want to have some hope that some day, something I've written will have this kind of influence on people. Because seriously, this rocks.

"This," for anyone who doesn't feel like following the link (which I highly recommend) was a protest in London outside a couple of Church of Scientology buildings where most of the picketers showed up in masks from "V for Vendetta." They spent the day making fun of Scientology, completely pwning the whole business through mockery, with chants and signs based on Internet Stuff and generally having fun. There was no violence, no nastiness, and when someone occasionally yelled something offensive, the crowd chorused "FAIL!" and the person being offensive was shouted down. The cops were polite and helpful to everyone, as only British cops can be, and one of the local businesses got into the spirit of things with a quickly-made sign in the window. It was a realspace extension of the Anonymous campaign against Scientology, and it sounds like it went off beautifully.

What I think is just brilliant about this is that the people who participated took the mockery and wit from "V for Vendetta," but none of the violence. It would've been really easy for some whack-job with a V mask to take the impersonation too far, but that didn't happen, not even close. The idea that a large group of people can express their opinion and protest and make a difference, and that (despite what was shown in the movie) they don't have to use violence to do it, is a great message to give people, and if I were Alan Moore I'd be proud enough to bust knowing that a bunch of my fans had gotten that message from me.

Because really, the Scientologists don't merit violence; laughter is a very appropriate weapon to use here.

For myself, and the work I'm producing right now, I'd like it if my readers got the message that it's fine to be gay, that there's nothing wrong with it and if you're gay there's nothing wrong with you, and that anyone who says otherwise is an ignorant wanker. That there's room in the world for gay romances, and that gay people deserve to have positive stories written about them, just like anyone else. I doubt I'll ever influence the sort of mass demonstration of awesome that Alan Moore did the other day, but I'd like to think I'll have some occasional positive influence on a few people, here and there. 'Cause it all adds up, you know?

What kind of influence would you like to have on your readers?


ETA: Wow, it was all over the world, not just London! Cleolinda posted a good collection of links to write-ups and pics from all over.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Story Seed

I'm still sort of boggled from a news article I read and my brain is slipping in all sorts of directions. On the surface it's just a story about a petty theft, no big deal. But I'm coming up with all these different interpretations and implications and what if...? kinds of threads.

The story is about two teenagers who stole a nine-year-old Girl Scout's cookie money, and my first thought was that these two bitches are just begging for a good pounding, seriously. Not just for what they did, although that was bad enough. But when they were caught this is what they had to say:

"We went through all that effort to get it, we got all these charges and we had to give the money back. I'm kind of pissed," one of the girls told WPBF.

And the other:

"I'm not sorry, I'm just pissed that I got caught," the girl said.

That's it. No remorse, no guilt, no sense that they'd done anything wrong whatsoever. They "needed" the money, it was there within reach, so they took it. And after going to "all that effort" they seem to think that they somehow deserved to keep it. O_O

It seems like a minor thing, if you take a step back and look at it in the context of the world and its larger problems -- two teenagers stole money and weren't sorry when they were caught. But what if that were the new direction society was heading? What if that's "normal" a couple of generations from now -- what would the world look like? What if, a hundred years from now, there would be no outrage at all over what these girls did, just contempt for their being stupid and inept enough to get caught? Dystopias have fallen out of fashion in SF over the last decade or two, but this news story really brings a dystopian future scenario into my mind.

Or what if there's some explanation for their actions and attitudes other than their just being a couple of prime examples of entitled personalities? Maybe there's some disease attacks the part of the brain which makes moral judgements? Maybe they were drugged in some way which produces the same effect? (Deliberately or accidentally? Willingly or knowingly or not?) Maybe they're being impersonated or had their minds taken over (aliens? demons? ghosts?) by entities who are trying to fit in but watched the wrong movies during their preparations? Or which are deliberately trying to smear the two girls or hurt the Girl Scout or just generally create outrage?

You can get a dozen different stories out of this, from chilling to humorous, from intense psycho-drama to despairing dark-future to rollicking adventure, because this is just so outrageous that it spawns a strong need to figure out reasons and consequences, which is always a good place to start with a story.

In the real world, though, I still want to smack the both of them good.