Sunday, December 21, 2008

Katrina's Hidden Race War

This is seriously disgusting. Thanks to Carmen at All About Race for posting the link.

According to an article in The Nation, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some residents of a mostly white neighborhood in New Orleans called Algiers Point decided to protect their homes from looters. Okay, that sounds reasonable, right? They even claim "The police said, If they're breaking in your property do what you gotta do and leave them [the bodies] on the side of the road."

Okay, fine, I can understand that too, under the circumstances. But these men decided to interpret "breaking in your property" to mean "walking down the street within a block or two." Only one of the incidents reported mentions someone trying to get into a locked and shuttered building -- a grocery store -- and the way it's written, it could easily have been someone trying to see if there was anyone inside who'd sell them something. It might've been a looter, sure, but we don't know for certain.

And there are a number of very clear cases of people being shot just for being Black and nearby, because the vigilantes were also interpreting "looter" to mean "any Black man within gun range." Here's the account of a woman who spoke anonymously to the reporter:

Some of the gunmen prowling Algiers Point were out to wage a race war, says one woman whose uncle and two cousins joined the cause. A former New Orleanian, this source spoke to me anonymously because she fears her relatives could be prosecuted for their crimes. "My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all--white against black--that he could participate in," says the woman. "For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy."

"They didn't want any of the 'ghetto niggers' coming over" from the east side of the river, she says, adding that her relatives viewed African-Americans who wandered into Algiers Point as "fair game." One of her cousins, a young man in his 20s, sent an e-mail to her and several other family members describing his adventures with the militia. He had attached a photo in which he posed next to an African-American man who'd been fatally shot. The tone of the e-mail, she says, was "gleeful"--her cousin was happy that "they were shooting niggers."

So it's not quite accurate to say that these were simply people determined to protect their property.

Three of the shooting victims, Donnell Herrington -- who was shot in the neck and would've died if he hadn't made it to a hospital in time -- and his friends Marcel Alexander and Chris Collins, were walking by Algiers Point on their way to the Algiers Point Ferry. The National Guard had "designated the Algiers Point ferry landing an official evacuation site. Rescuers from the Coast Guard and other agencies brought flood victims to the ferry terminal, where soldiers loaded them onto buses headed for Texas." So these three men were headed to a bona fide evacuation site, run by the National Guard and the Coast Guard, hoping to be evacuated. And for the crime of heading for an official evacuation site, all three were shot and Herrington nearly died.

The police were in disarray during the flooding and couldn't do anything about the various crimes being committed in the area. But even now, when there are multiple video tapes of members of the Algiers Point "militia" bragging about shooting people, and describing the circumstances of their having done so (most of which don't even come close to resembling active looting) the police still don't seem to have any interest at all in pursuing these shootings. Or if they are, they're keeping it a tight secret.

The article is long but it's definitely worth a read. Anyone who thinks these attitudes are going to vanish into the ether when a Black family enters the White House next month needs to think long and hard about reality.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chocolate Techniques

Mom and I are making cookies, of course, and I just drizzled chocolate for the first time. It didn't work very well at first [cough] but I eventually got the hang of it. The trick is to not care at all where the chocolate goes. Fling the chocolate around with wild abandon and the cookies will come out looking great. Use multiple layers -- keep going till your chocolate is gone.

Waxed paper under the cookie racks is a good idea. :)


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Editorial Sensitivity?

Erastes on LJ posted a link to the submission guidelines for Eternal Press. They contain this passage:

Send us a cover letter and please tell us what questionable content may be found within the MS as we do not wish to subject our editors to content that may put them at risk emotionally.

I was rather taken aback by this statement. I've never seen any such requirement in any other market's guidelines, so what's up with this? Do they really have one or more editors who are so delicate that they need to have their slush pre-screened for them? Maybe those individuals would do better working for a publisher specializing in children's books, or inspirational lit, or any other publisher that doesn't accept fiction with adult themes; there are quite a few of those, after all. Why would an editor who's that emotionally sensitive take a job with a publisher which accepts:

Mystery, sci-fi, paranormal, historical, suspense, horror, women's fiction, fantasy, thrillers, erotica, gay and all sub genres of romance as well as.

Any of those genres might well include "icky" material, but particularly the suspense, horror, erotica and romance.

[And hey, Eternal Press -- your guidelines need editing.]

They also assume their readers are just as twitchy:

We do put disclaimers about the content if it could potentially disturb our consumers

Umm, why? This isn't traditional, not in erotica and not in general literature. A few publishers have begun to do it recently, but I don't care for the practice and am never happy to see it spreading.

It's not that abiding by this requirement would be horribly onerous or anything. Everything else looks fine (although kidding aside, their guidelines really do need editing, in more than one spot, which doesn't inspire great confidence about the editing of their books) and they pay a nice royalty, but this requirement to put a warning label on the cover of your story just makes me twitch. I mean, seriously, an editor at a publisher of horror, romance and erotica who has to be protected from "questionable" material? That's like going to the vet and having to warn them ahead of time that your dog's been vomiting, because they have a doctor who's icked out by vomit. Sorry, hon, it's part of the job -- you deal with it or find work elsewhere.

It's unfortunate, but I think I'll pass.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Expiration Date?

Over the years I've seen a lot of writers (editors, publishers, whoever) make statements which imply that there's some sort of deadline for starting a writing career, as though creativity has an expiration date and if you don't use it by then it goes bad. A recent blog comment made me think about this, but the idea has been around for a long time -- I've read similar opinions on other blogs, on journals and forums, in books and magazines, and on BBSs in the pre-web days. It's one of those things everyone just knows, or accepts.

But... seriously? The context is usually some sort of conversation between a writer and a non-writer, where the non-writer says something like, "You know I've always wanted to write a book." The writer thinks (or occasionally says out loud) something like, "No, you don't. If you really did then you'd have done it."

Or maybe it's, "I always wanted to write," and "No you don't, or you'd be writing." Something like that.

Or a comment about how if you're capable of not writing for any period of time, then you're clearly not a writer and you'd be better off going back to your triple-entry accounting or whatever it is you've been doing with your life all along.

I've always felt uncomfortable about these statements, though. For one thing, it's pretty obvious that stepping up to say, "Well, I don't write all the time -- I've gone weeks or months or even years without writing any fiction in the past," will bring about the obvious retort, "Well, you're not a real writer, then. Nyah!" which makes the whole thing sound more like the tauntings of a junior high clique in a lunchroom rather than an actual discussion among adults.

Aside from that, though, there's also the familiar trap of assuming that everyone is the same. It's great that some people hit the ground running -- one of my fellow Torquere authors isn't old enough to drink (or maybe just turned twenty-one?) and has nine stories published already. That's awesome, seriously. But George Eliot started at thirty-six -- what if someone had told her, at thirty or thirty-five, that if she were "really" a writer she'd have done it already, and that therefore she should go back to her knitting? Janet Evanovich's first novel came out when she was in her fifties. Laura Ingalls Wilder's first novel came out when she was in her sixties. Watership Down, Richard Adams's first novel, came out in his fifties.

Some people have other things going on in their lives. Is someone disqualified as a writer because, after having a long career at something else, they turn to writing in their retirement? Does that not count? My own first thought is that someone who's lived a full life probably has a lot to write about.

Or maybe someone has confidence problems and can't quite manage to apply seat of pants to seat of chair in front of a keyboard for a year or three or thirty. Dude's got issues? Maybe so. But maybe living with, working through and resolving those issues will give the older writer -- again -- something worth writing about.

How about the idea that you have to write every day? If you can do it then that's great, and it's tough to support yourself solely through your writing unless you do produce daily. Not everyone can, though, for a variety of reasons. So what? If the writer who bangs out words for two hours a day sneers at the writer who only puts in two hours a week over the weekends, what about the writer who puts in eight hours a day? If a 2/day writer thinks a 2/week writer sucks, does the existence of the 8/day writer mean the 2/day writer sucks?

Different people are different, and fiction writers of all people should know that. It's easy to get caught up in a bit of rah-rah-for-us when we're together with other writers, to talk about what it's actually like to be a working writer versus what the general public thinks it's like, to swap war stories about short sleep and insane deadlines and taking a jackhammer to that writer's block, and brag about how anyone who can't hack brutally honest criticism had better not quit their day job. All that's true, and certainly anyone who wants to have a prayer of being a full-time writer had better be able to hunker down and do the work and produce quantity and quality both, and not break down at a less-than-diplomatic rejection or review.

That's not the only way to be a writer, though, and in the middle of all the bragging and snarking and one-upmanship and war stories, it's easy to forget that the person who has a poem published in a magazine qualifies as a writer too, just as much as the person with a shelf full of novels. And someone else who delays (procrastinates, lazes, dithers) and doesn't even start tapping out their first tentative manuscript until after the social security checks start coming is also a writer.

Someone who says, "I've always wanted to try writing," might not be a writer right now. They might never actually be a writer. But then again, they might, some day, and it doesn't diminish any of us to acknowledge the potential.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

How Not to Submit to an Agent

A truly amazing combination of nerve and idiocy here, via Cleolinda on LJ.

Someone faked up an e-mail from an agent (who'd rejected them) to make it look like they were sending a requested partial. And then sent chapters 4-6 of the book. [blinkblink]

Seriously, just how stupid-newbie do you have to be to not know that a partial is always the first three chapters?? Although I guess that goes with being dumb enough to think an agent won't remember that they didn't request anything from you in the first place. Good grief....


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wonderful Vid!

It's actually a musical about gay marriage and Prop 8. With Jack Black playing Jesus! :D

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Thanks to Lostiawen on LJ!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

EPPIE Finalist

I just found out that "A Spirit of Vengeance" has made the EPPIE finals! (The EPPIEs are the yearly awards given by EPIC, the Electronically Published Internet Connection, basically an association for writers and publishers of e-books.) I'm ridiculously happy -- making the short list is a great honor and I can't stop smiling. :D

This was my first time entering and I was feeling kind of hesitant, but now I'm glad I did. Winning would be awesome, but just making the short list has me over the moon!

Congrats as well to my fellow Torquere author Tory Temple, who also made the finals for two of her books! Good luck, Tory!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Freedom of Speech Means Freedom for ALL Speech

Or, "I may disagree with what you say, but I'll fight to the death for your right to say it."

That sort of thing.

Except, as usual, Neil Gaiman says it much better.

The Law is a huge blunt weapon that does not and will not make distinctions between what you find acceptable and what you don't.

Popular speech doesn't need defending. The speech (fiction, art, whatever) that makes you cringe and snarl and want to hit something is what needs defending, and we all need to defend it or next time it'll be our speech or fiction or art which makes someone else cringe or snarl or want to hit something, and we'll be left blustering about how our writing is different.

No. It's not. To that other person out there, my writing and your writing is just as objectionable as that other stuff you or I consider disgusting or obscene. It's all the same to someone, and that someone might well be trying to get re-elected. So we need to defend it all, simple as that.