guest blog (and girl on girl action)

Today I’m guest blogging over at It’s Not Chick Porn. The topic is agents and how to get one, and I think it’s a pretty helpful article, if you have any interest in such things. Even if you don’t, it’s worth your time to stop by and comment because saying hi gets you a contest entry.

I’m giving away a $40 Amazon Gift Certificate, plus a copy of The Average Girl’s Guide to Getting Laid to the grand prize winner. Two other lucky souls will walk away with their own copies of Guide as well, so definitely stop by. Winners will be announced Wednesday morning.

Okay, the subtitle probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. I’ve been thinking quite a bit this weekend about feminine interpersonal dynamics. Karen posted a link to a letter by Joss Whedon, responding to what happened to Dua Khalil, who was brutally murdered at the end of April in an “honor-killing.” Her crime? Falling in love with a Sunni Muslim boy. If that wasn’t bad enough, when she was dragged from her home by her family members and stoned in the street, instead of helping her, people in the front row recorded it on their camera phones. I have no words for my loathing.

Dionne asked the following questions: “Why would anyone want to gleefully hurt us in such a way? Why do we tear into each other ourselves?”

I thought she meant figuratively, and I responded:

Studies on feminine interpersonal dynamics seem to indicate that women learn passive-aggressive behavior patterns in early childhood. A strong, confident woman who handles her business in a “masculine” way, that is to say directly and perhaps even confrontationally, is often ostracized by her peers. Women are taught it isn’t ladylike to behave in such a way, so they subvert their hostility into catty behaviors that lead to festering jealousies. A group of women, trying to accomplish a project jointly, will likely encounter more petty resentments than a mixed group of male / female colleagues. Furthermore, I would posit that women, as whole, tend to be more uncertain about their own accomplishments, more likely to compare themselves to their female coworkers, than their male colleagues, thus a woman might be more likely to feel threatened by someone else’s success.

To my astonishment, some anonymous person appeared to make a link between what I said and this:

“Within the comments there was post about the passive-agressiveness of the female gender. I really didn’t think belonged here. I was like WTF. But it really made me think because that study and the quoting of it is also about part of the cultural bias. Because it’s a repeat of what I see in the original Daily Mail headline. Women bring it on themselves. See they are passive-agressive and can’t work together.”

How the hell do you get from “women learn passive-aggressive behaviors early on” and “they deserve to be stoned to death! they can’t work together!” I’m gobsmacked at the specious logic involved in such a leap. Perhaps I shouldn’t have answered the question on this thread in particular, but I don’t agree with the conclusions drawn. This anonymous poster goes on to say that working with women can be a nightmare, but it comes down to the individuals involved, not the gender. I think it’s naive to say that gender plays no role in group behavior.

Would you ever find a group straight men sitting around with a Jenny Crusie book, trying to decide just how fat the heroine was in Bet Me? Unlikely. I’m sure you’ve all been part of a circle where everyone was talking about someone who wasn’t there. Maybe the woman’s having marital trouble, got a bad haircut, whatever, but instead of telling her what’s on the table for discussion (her!) when she walks in the door, everyone pins on a bright smile and changes the subject.

It’s bullshit to say there’s no trouble in feminine interpersonal dynamics. There’s such a dichotomy — women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they behave “properly” with subverted hostilities and cattiness and backstabbing, then they’re “typical” women. If they handle their business like men, aggressive, confrontational, open, they often get called bitches, butch, dykes, etc.

I’d love to see a happy medium where women can be strong, confident and direct without sacrificing any perception of femininity. We’re not there yet, but I think we will be soon. Traditional gender roles are currently in flux, and there’s no telling what the future holds. I just cannot accept that what I said is tantamount to saying women deserve to be stoned because they occasionally bicker and gossip. I brought it here because I didn’t want to dishonor Dua’s memory on a thread devoted to her by arguing. Feel free to give me your thoughts on the subject as well. I can handle hearing I’m wrong, if you disagree.

waiting sucks

Just ask this monkey. He’s been hanging around his tree all day, waiting for some exciting shit to happen, and he’s still waiting.

I had a big old long whine rant on this subject ready to go, and then I reread it, and realized it stank of authentic authorial panic, so I sent it to Bam instead. She has now encouraged me / told me off (the lines often blur with her) and I feel a lot less like eating a pot pie and refusing to leave the house for a week.

So I’ll just leave the title as the complete encapsulation of my current state. Waiting sucks.

on the joy of renovations

Have you noticed that when you start a home remodeling / redecorating project you go through these phases? First, you’re all excited. You can see it in your mind’s eye: how it will look, the way it will improve your life, you’ll be better organized, your house will look nicer, it will eliminate clutter, be prettier, more efficient, or whatever the hell you told yourself in order to get the ball rolling. I call that Stage 1, or the Pipe Dream.

Then there’s stage 2, or as I like to call it, the Collective Incompetence. So you have your grand scheme, but there’s no way you’re skilled enough to do all that labor by yourself. Some of it, you couldn’t do even if you apprenticed to a master for seven years. What do you do? Find someone to handle it for you. You talk to people, ask questions, and eventually make up your mind who offers the best price / quality ratio. Why you even bother with this, I have no idea. You may as well hurl darts at the phone directory and hire whomever it lands on because you’re just as likely to find a competent contractor that way as through your meticulous research.

Once money has changed hands, you have passed the point of no return. I fondly dub this stage 3, Holy Shit, my house exploded or alternately, The Time of the Ass Crack. This means people whose names you do not know or cannot remember will tromp in and out of your house, bringing this and that, leaving rubbish, trampling your shrubs and flowers and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Very little will be accomplished that first day (and perhaps for many days henceforth) except to test your patience and make you wish you had a time machine. You wouldn’t do anything selfless with it, like save Abraham Lincoln. No, you’d just go back to the day before you entered stage 1 and write yourself a note that reads: Psst, the house is okay the way it is. Seriously.

Sometimes it looks like progress is being made, but then the contractor faeries come out at night and undo any work that may have been accomplished by accident the day before. Parts will go missing and delivery men will promise to contact “the warehouse” and have replacements sent out right away. This can be anywhere from three days to never. This part of the process is stage 4, also known as Waiting for Godot.

At this point, you get on the phone and start making ridiculous threats that you cannot carry out (unless you do actually have pull with the postal service and can see to it that they never receive another parcel as long as they live) unless they finish on your house. You stop being the cheerful host, offering ice water and free Cokes, and start letting your dog, who has a tendency to lick and hump the most unusual objects, run free on the worksite. This motivates the workers to enter stage 5, which is “This woman is crazy, let’s wrap this job up!”

Work will proceed at a prodigious pace and you’ll start to remember why you put yourself through this ordeal, back in the rosy glow of stage 1. Until they install everything backwards, in direct opposition to what you initially discussed, and then vanish in their trucks as if into the Bermuda Triangle. They don’t return your calls.

Yes. It’s time to break out the tequila.

killing the muse (or deconstruction and the art of the endless revision)

There are any number of things that make it impossible for me to write: the dog barking nonstop at the cats, the cats yowling at each other, the kids acting like absolute prats. Whenever I’m trying to work, the smaller denizens of the house sense it and then they conspire to go batshit simultaneously at the worst possible time.

That’s not what I intended to blog about today, however. I’m noticing I don’t want to surf to writer blogs lately. Why? Because of the constant deconstruction of the process. How do you do (X)? How can we make (X) better? For me, writing is magic; it’s not a mechanical process. And for me to think about the nuts and bolts that make the machine run, well, it’s like telling a bumblebee he is not aerodynamic enough to fly. The poor bastard’s first reaction is, “Huh? What?” and then he plummets to earth. Logic, once applied to magic, cannot be undone.

My writing is like that poor bumblebee. I don’t know how it works; it just does. It’s lovely, sparkly, and I don’t think about the process. In fact, I shouldn’t think about the process. Because now that I have been, I’m finding it hard to write. I second-guess myself more than I used to. I need to go back to the old ways, where I simply listen to whatever the characters have to say and write it down. That’s truly all I do, and it works for me, profoundly.

I’m not a reviser. I either sell my product or I don’t. Once a work is contracted, my editor will tell me what changes to make, and if the book doesn’t sell, all the revisions in the world probably aren’t going to make a difference. All that accomplishes is to eradicate an author’s unique voice, ruthlessly squelched by endless critique rounds. Your crit partners are well-intentioned, but unless they are bestselling authors, they don’t have any more idea what sells than you do. They have opinions, of course, but so does everyone. Too much interference will kill the muse.

Mine is sickly, poor thing. And so I’m not going to read blogs where they talk about the best way to do this or that. Or how do I do such and such? I can’t analyze it. When you dissect something, you find out how it works, sure, but you no longer have a dynamic, vital entity. Just ask the poor frog floating in Formaldehyde.

presumptuous bastards

This is a mini-rant, mixed with a whine. So cut yourself a slice of your favorite cheese and listen up.

First of all, who the hell does Google (and other websites) think they are? I’m sick and tired of having my preferences changed without my consent. It seems like every time I click to a site, they decide I want all my content in Spanish because they recognize my ISP is out of Mexico. Yes, I live in Mexico, but it doesn’t mean I want all my online content in Spanish. Why don’t they give me a choice about it? Or better yet, let me change it myself, if I need it done. Fact of the matter is, I do okay in Spanish, but it’s not my native language. I write in English. I do business in English. So why are they making me waste my time, struggling to find the way to switch it back when I didn’t switch it in the first place?

That makes me feel ill at ease about how much information is readily available just from accessing a site. I click and they know I’m looking at their page from Mexico, using Prodigy Infinitum, so they decide to change my subscriptions without asking me? WTF is that? I’m starting to think websites know entirely too much. They’re crossing the line in trying to anticipate my needs. I don’t want some web-bot doing that, just like I don’t want my online content translated without my say so. It’s often like that when people think they’re doing you a favor — by not asking first, half the time they mess up what you had going.

Moving on to the whine portion of our program. Got your cheese handy? Good. My WIP isn’t going well. I’m not feeling it, I don’t want to write it right now. It’s not under contract or anything yet, so I have no obligation to it. I really want to do a sequel to Falling or Good Touch, at this point. I was trying to be smart in a business sense. Guide is sold, my editors want a sequel telling Darnell and Maya’s story. Said they’ll contract on a partial. The other two books aren’t sold, don’t know if they will be. I was going by the “bird in hand beats two in the bush” edict, but my muse thinks this is a lame-ass idea.

When do you guys put a project on hold and move on? Do you force yourself to slog on through something you’re not feeling? Or do you follow your muse wherever she leads? I could use some advice.

reviews

This isn’t a rant so much as a public service announcement.

First, let me say, if you send me an ebook to review, I will get to it as soon as I can and I promise to read it with an open mind. However, I don’t promise to love it. I don’t promise to give you an A for effort or even a B. Anybody who claims to read It’s Not Chick Porn regularly and then explodes into frothing rage over my “mean” response to her magnum opus clearly didn’t understand the tone of the site. Or maybe it’s only funny when it happens to other people. Now authors are free to shit-talk me on their personal blogs. I don’t care. Freedom of speech and all that, but honestly, when you talk about how stupid the person is for not loving your book, you only make yourself look bad. It’s a subjective business, and you really can’t please everybody. Professionals learn that early on.

Second point — when I review a story, I’m not casting aspersions on anybody’s character, intellect, or writing gift. I’m reviewing one story and it’s just my opinion. It’s sad I have to say that, but there you go. Do I need to start posting warning labels on my reviews like McDonald’s coffee (“warning, this shit is hot and may burn your hoo-ha if you spill it in your lap”)? I hope not.

But you know what’s interesting?

I can only think of one author whose book I gave a not-so-good review who actually got in touch with me and said, “Thanks for your time, I appreciate it. I hope you like my next book better.” I’m gonna call her out too, because that lady has class. That was December Quinn. Maybe she secretly thinks I’m a stupid cunt but she didn’t go public with it, which shows a measure of self-control and class. People could learn from her.

A number of authors whose books I raved over have contacted me, but of the ones whose books I didn’t like, not a peep, not a thank you, except for DQ. You want to talk about common courtesy? How about that? The books were sent to me and I gave my time to review them, which I did honestly. I’m only one person. I’m not a publishing conglomerate; I’m not an editor. Think about how much power I actually have before you lose your mind over it. But if authors think I’m too mean and unfair, there’s a solution. Don’t send me your book. I don’t pick random people to shred. My reviews are unbiased, even if you don’t happen to agree with me.

I’ve given higher grades than I expected. LE Bryce managed to sell me on m/m books, a feat that continues to astonish me. I would’ve said I could never enjoy that kind of thing, but she can really write. So props to Ms. Bryce. Likewise to Bridget Midway, who will be receiving my first A. I fucking hate BDSM books, and damn if she didn’t turn one in that rocked my world. Props to Ms. Midway too.

So if I love your book I will rave about to the skies. Diana Bold and Bonnie Dee both quote my reviews on their sites because they loved what I wrote about their work so much. From Bonnie’s site:

FINDING HOME is the most beautiful book I’ve read this year. It possesses a haunting, visceral power, and this writing team produces seamless, utterly lyrical prose. It is rich and textured, gritty and real as life itself is real. From the beginning, even the exposition felt like foreplay, fleshing out a passionate, poignant, and utterly forbidden relationship with delicacy and simmering subtlety. If you read just one e-book this year, let it be FINDING HOME.

From Diana’s site:

Thus begins an intricately woven story of love, lust, dark secrets and incredible intrigue. Diana Bold writes in a smooth, seductive voice that will raise shivers on the reader’s spine and summon comparisons to powerful authors like Laura Kinsale. Every note in this dark, delicious symphony falls just right, perfectly euphonic. Talon and Kathryn so obviously belong together that one cannot help but be swept up in their story. Ms. Bold crafts a haunting secondary character in Daniel, so beautifully written that his pain lingers long after the hero and heroine enjoy their happily ever after. For an unforgettable read, hot with forbidden desire, smooth eroticism and unspeakable secrets, pick up a copy of NOBODY’S HERO.

I’m not a reviewer who never has anything good to say about a book. To my way of thinking, my praise holds more weight because I don’t (and won’t) blow smoke up somebody’s ass, no matter how much I like them. If I did, I would have buttered the hell out of December Quinn because I like her a lot, and I respect her for her attitude. Final point, you gotta take the bitter with the sweet, ya’ll. Or maybe just send the book to somebody you know will give it four stars, if you don’t really want an honest review.

Comment Moderation

When I visit a blog and comment, it’s because I want to interact with the owner(s) and other commenters. Sometimes people turn on comment moderation and then it’s like commenting blind. You don’t know what else people have said on this topic, maybe you’re going to post the exact same thing as the guy ahead of you.

It makes reasoned discourse impossible; I can’t react to what someone else has said until the blog owner “approves” the comment. That strikes me as utterly micro-managerial. I mean, shit, you can delete any comment anytime. So what if somebody calls me a cum-guzzling whore or a no-talent hack? One of those things is true, so I’d let that comment stand. The other one, I can remove. What’s the big freaking deal? I don’t believe in censorship, and if I get spammed, I’ll delete that comment too. Again, not a big deal.

The thing that really honks me off about comment moderation is: some folks turn it on and then don’t moderate. I’ll leave a comment on their blog and then surf back there a week later to find out their thoughts on what I said…and my comment isn’t posted!! Bollocks to that. There is no faster, surer way to keep me from returning than to do that shit. Strikes me as onanistic, for one. If you don’t want others intruding on your self-love, turn off comments altogether, for fuck’s sake. Make it crystal clear you aren’t interested in other people’s opinions.

no bitchin’ today

Things are going too well for me to have any bitching to do. Rather than work up a fake rant about stuff that doesn’t really bother me (and you guys could tell the difference, couldn’t you?), I’m going to do something different. Today SBD stands from Smart Blessing Day; I’m going to recount the ways I’m lucky as hell. If this post seems disjointed, it’s because I’m just counting my blessings as they occur to me.

My cover art for Guide is absolutely gorgeous. If that wasn’t enough, my wonderful editors at Loose Id, Ann and Olivia, who helped make a good book great, are interested in a sequel. Ann wants three chapters and synopsis for the secondary characters in Guide. I’m calling it My Valentine and when I have that stuff done, Ann says she can probably offer me a contract, based on partial and synopsis. I’ll have deadlines and everything!

Last week, I sold a book and I hadn’t ever submitted to this publisher. As an adjunct to my 100th comment contest, Tina Burns, acquisition editor of Liquid Silver Books, read some of my material on my website and sent me a personal invitation to submit. I had Your Alibi available, so I sent it her way. Five days later, she offered me a contract. When I accepted, she wrote:

Yeah! I’m so glad. I got goosebumps when I’d read the excerpts on your site and was prepared to send chocolates if I needed to to bribe you to send me a book!

I’m a feedback whore, I freely admit it. Sometimes in this solitary writing gig of mine, I start jonesing for other people’s opinions. Well, that was a happy slice of validation right there. I gave someone goosebumps!

More good stuff. My work is currently in the hands of a wonderful agent, who is close to making me an offer. I’ve checked her references and they’re impeccable. Now I’m just waiting for the magic moment.

Paula Guran of Juno Books is considering Good Touch for their paranormal line. I’m pitching a six book series. My kids are old enough to understand that I’m working when I’m writing, and they’ve gotten great about handling their own issues. I’m so proud of them for that. I have a maid who takes care of the pesky household details so I can work. I have a husband who, even though he’s second in line running a five company corporation, spends his whole weekend helping me whip a project into shape. After reading Good Touch, he also told me who Corine ends up with. I’m not sure he’s wrong.

Is there more? Well, yes. As a reward for staying on task over the last two weeks, I bought a gorgeous black sparkly handbag and a new water fountain. I love those (and so do my cats).

I also have fantastic, supportive writer friends who give me great advice and commiserate with me so that my failures don’t sting too much. All in all, I have a pretty great life and things are going well. Come on, your turn. Count your blessings for me. I think you’ll be smiling when you’re done.

bitchness

Fucking characters.

One character, who shall remain nameless (you know who are, bitch) is just so goddammned stubborn. For the first time in my life, I’m writing a series, ya’ll. And I have some idea where the story arc is going.

This character is such a hobag. She thinks with her vagina. I’ve never had a character so obsessed with sex. No matter what I’m writing, how I’m advancing the plot, doing cool stuff like foreshadowing, all she can think about is when she’s gonna get laid and with whom.

Last night, around 8 p.m., our conversation went something like this:

Her: “Come on, just let me sleep with him. Sex doesn’t have to take place within the confines of a relationship. I’m a modern woman and I NEED TO GET LAID. So go on, just write the scene for me, okay? You know you want to.”

Me: “Look, I don’t want you having sex with every guy that comes into the book. That will turn you into just another MarySue Slutbag that nobody wants to read about. I’m going to make your story different, goddammit. And that means you’re not sleeping with anybody until we’re several books into this thing and I have a feel for your relationships. I’m also going to take reader feedback into consideration when deciding who you end up with. I am in charge here, now STFU and pick up the chihuahua.”

Her: “Readers will understand that I have NEEDS, yo. Just write me one sex scene. It doesn’t have to mean anything. Your readers will be disappointed if you write a whole book with no sex. How can you do that to them? Traitor! Now how about him? Or him? No, okay, well, I’ll take some cyber with–“

Me: “Don’t even start with the traitor thing, you know that’s why I have separate pen names. This isn’t an Annie Dean story. You’re such a stubborn bitch.”

Her: “Takes one to know one.”

So we’re kinda stalemated on this sex issue. I don’t want to point her vagina at the nearest male character and say, “Shazam.” I want to build some relationships and intriguing possibilities before I let her have the sex. Unfortunately she’s not big on self-denial. Lord help us both.

Are your characters such stubborn bitches? If so, how do you haul their asses back in line?

Rant-tastic

Since it’s Monday, I know you expect me to have something to bitch about. I won’t disappoint you two weeks in a row, though I really should be writing. This one will be quick and to the point.

Hello, foolish authors. Why do you waste time messing with readers, starting little kitty fights on the Internet? Why do you spend valuable writing time whinging over bad reviews? Do you not understand that if you spent more time working on your craft and less time crying because you’re not famous, you might get somewhere?

Yes, because you’re an author people get to take shots at your work, your life and sometimes your dog (but hopefully not literally). Put up with it. If you go around starting fights with people, you will get a rep and not a good one. So please, for the love of all gods and sacred things, stop acting like such pussies. You have them, you don’t need to be them. Get a bitching buddy, vent in e-mails and let this crazy shit go. You have books to write.
Would you storm into your boss’s office at General Electric and call him a doody-head because he didn’t like your energy saver proposal for a kitchen stove? I thought not.

I cannot say this enough — be professional.