Writing & Indie Thoughts
Writers all have their own quirks. They all have different ways of coping with stress or “writers block”. For me, writers block has never been a real thing in a way that I couldn’t write anything at all, but it has been a thing insofar as what I could write joyfully. I love writing non-fiction and I love research, but writing fiction has always been the thing that I do that makes me happier than doing anything else. Fiction writers hold the universe in their hands, and they can literally do anything with it. I think it comes with a responsibility though. Good fiction can change minds, and sometimes it can change lives.
I’ve always had a broad spectrum of genres that I enjoy to read in both fiction and non-fiction. History, good literary works, humour, and horror. In my teens there was a short sojourn into soppy romances but that didn’t last very long. Always at the top of my list have been science-fiction and fantasy. An early addiction to Stephen King and Dean Koontz however led to sleeping with the light on for a long time, and to this day I dip into horror sparingly. King’s books are amazingly cerebral when you consider his writing style. He gets psychopaths in ways that are fabulously terrifying to read. I’m really not at all into the new “let’s make friends with the devil” trend though.
The biggest problem that I have with trends like these (see also the It’s Sexy to Have Vampires Sucking on Your Neck – poor hungry guys) is because in the hands of really good writers, blood-sucking demons can start to look very cool, especially when they’re tall, have six-packs, have a good reason to be pitied, and possibly are a tiny bit sparkly. A great writer can make readers feel sorry for the devil himself, while really wanting to help him get over his traumatic childhood. When a book like that becomes a bestseller it becomes a bit of our social history. Just like Shades of Grey set off a generation of people thinking that it is quite acceptable for young girls to be treated like rubbish, as long as it made for good jollies all around in the end. That particular book has to go down in history as one of the most badly written—ever—but it is still loved and defended by a whole lot of people.
Fairy tales seem to last forever, and there are still people today who believe that fairies actually exist. Maybe they do. Maybe the act of writing about them makes them pop into existence somewhere. I do like to think that the creatures that come alive in my mind when I write them exist somewhere now in our vast universe. If you believe in the law of attraction, you create in your life what you focus on. This has been proved right a lot more than not, so it makes me wonder, what happens when we concentrate on evil things, in whatever form, shiny and good-looking or gnarly with big claws and teeth? I’m not innocent in this respect because of the seriously gnarly and evil Nefandus in one of my own books—those guys scared me when I wrote them—still do as I write more of them.
The thing is, it is clear that they are the bad guys. They don’t have groupies Googling “how can I summon a Nefandus that has a lot of muscly bits?” That is not as funny as it sounds because there are actual Google searches of people trying to find out how to either become a vampire or locate one. It just seems wrong to me to put books out there where the devil is the one who has been wronged, and to glorify powers that have historically been seen as demonic. Banshees are no longer feared—rather their “powers” are considered enviable. Aliens are eminently bonkable, their being related to fish notwithstanding apparently. Demons are great as long as they look good and had an unhappy childhood. Vampires—well—
I remember when the Interview with a Vampire books and movies came out. I remember feeling a lot of pity for those poor things—and admiration for their gorgeousness. Almost every teenage girl in the eighties had a crush on Tom Cruise—back before we found out that he had to stand on boxes to look smoulderingly down on his leading ladies. And the whole couch bouncing thing of course—
That’s just the opinion of this particular scribbler though. Reading is all about escapism after all, and we should be able to differentiate between what could be possible and what is just too way out there. Still—you never know—while I like to think of friendly cartoon Pegasus and dragon having marshmallow parties with their buddies somewhere out there, I would not be so happy with some of my other “creations” zooming around anywhere at all.
It’s a term of respect around here apparently. I’m fine with children calling me Tannie (that’s Aunty in Afrikaans), but I object to anyone who is already grown up aiming that moniker at me. Unless I am their actual aunty. Apart from the fact that writers are ageless—that comes with the territory—there is something deeply insulting being called Tannie by anyone with more wrinkles than me.
Any time anyone over forty says Hello Tannie to me they’re unwittingly heading onto dangerous ground. It will instantly jar me from my semi-permanent mental state of communing with those fabulous folk who populate my books, and elicit a malignant stare, at the very least. I tend to want to inform these elderly but apparently younger than me people of our distinct lack of similar DNA. So far I’ve (mostly) managed to control myself, but it has had me peering in the mirror and wondering what it is about my looks these days that makes me come over as venerable enough to be considered their Tannie. Should I be swopping my denim shorts and purple toenail varnish for a purple hair rinse and twin set jerseys?
Nope. I’ll just do what I do and put it in a book. My very interesting journey of the past couple of years hasn’t left me much time for personal writing, but when the urge does hit too strongly to be ignored I’ve been zooming off to bang out a paragraph or two of my “interesting journey” inspired new fiction book, Mopani Mansions. Even though quite a bit of this trip has been painful or fearful to the max, it’s also taught me to fear less, learn from pain rather than wallow in it, and it’s inspired my weird writerly mind and sense of humour rather than squashed it.
The whacky, weird, precious, or just plain wonderful people who have come into my life in one way or another lately have mostly found themselves arriving in Mopani Mansions, and now of course we will have the coolest, sexiest, and most fabulous Tannie there too. She will be allowed to do all of those terrible things that occurred to me to do every time any aged and arthritic fellow had the temerity to assume I would be honoured to be called Aunty.
I have a couple of launches for my fabulous author clients coming first, but around June this year I’ll be letting Mopani Mansions loose on the world, and also my long ago finished but yet to be edited non-fiction work about living, dying, reality, and all the bits in between. That’s the fabulousness of being a scribbler. You can’t keep us down, and we NEVER get old, no matter how many times we get called Tannie. We can be unicorns forever, and so we will be in our worlds. Read the rest of this entry »
The whole Amazon review policy debacle that started a while ago is not going to go away, so we should probably make firm decisions as to the way forward as far as how we are each personally going to review books in the future. There’s a great post covering the whole subject very thoroughly on Anne R. Allen’s site right now – definitely a must read for anyone not a hundred percent sure about what is going on with this issue. I’ve posted on this briefly over at Lit World Interviews a while ago but it’s worth revisiting on a personal level. Anyone with published books on Amazon needs to take this seriously.
Firstly, we must accept that Amazon can, and does, remove books for sale on their site if they feel that the author has violated their terms of service. Many of us have over the years reviewed books by others who have also reviewed books by us, while still blissfully unaware that this was not acceptable by them. Because we zoom around in the same writerly circles it’s inevitable that we’re going to spot and buy books written by authors that we follow online – especially in blogland. I reckon that an author is much more likely to leave a public review of a book that they’ve read. Leaving a review would probably not occur to the majority of readers, and logically in the writing world, reviews from your peers are gold. Not according to Amazon’s rules though. Now that we are aware of this, and we have seen the review takedowns and author warnings, we have two choices. Continue posting reviews to Amazon for books whose author’s we are online “friends” with, and risk serious repercussions as far as the potential for Amazon closing our KDP accounts is concerned, or only post reviews there for books by authors that we have no contact with at all.
It’s a bit of a mess as far as I’m concerned. I very often seek out the authors of books that I’ve liked, read, and reviewed. I then proceed to follow them all over the place. Reading their blogs inevitably leads to commenting and also quite often, making “friends’. I’m not taking those reviews down after the fact – or any reviews I’ve published so far. Now that I am aware of what’s going on, I’ll be more careful. The online writing community is a wonderful place. Writers are different – different in the nicest possible ways. There are some not so nice writers out there to be sure, but they’re generally zooming by at a rate of knots on Twitter demanding that you buy their books and like them on Facebook right away, while not listening to or looking at anyone else, so unlikely to be chatting with anyone who isn’t perceived as some sort of possible benefit to them anyway.
Apart from the good that will come from zapping the real crooks as far as reviews go, this is a shame and a blow for all decent scribblers. The writers I know are nice – honest, and mellow. Kind, thoughtful and understanding of others. Writers are special. They are broad-minded, funny and so, so truly clever. Adventurous and stubborn in good ways – ways that learn the things that seem impossible to understand to begin with. Sometimes when you look at the torrent of books floating around the ether these days, it’s easy to forget the small core of the real deal scribblers riding the waves in there. You guys who never give up, and keep on writing because you don’t understand not writing, even when your royalties barely keep you in toothpaste. When your book is reviewed by one of your tribe, it’s common for such a kindly soul to be filled with gratitude, and if the reviewer is also a published author, to reciprocate, buy their book, and leave a review if you like it. That’s become a bit dangerous to do now.
It’s understandable that Amazon want to remove fake reviews, and good news for any potential readers who could be duped into buying something nasty on the strength of them. It’s also understandable that it would be very difficult for them to process each review individually. So, sad to say, I don’t think that they can change this stance, or stop the ongoing takedowns. I don’t consider myself a book reviewer, and I don’t review a lot of books publicly, and those mainly for Feed My Reads SA. I also as yet haven’t actually ever posted a review of less than five stars – not because I’m lying – when I don’t think a book deserves a five star review I don’t post it. I don’t want anyone to see me as a book reviewer and I don’t want to post bad reviews. That’s just me though. I honestly think that I should be allowed to post a public review of every book on my Kindle that I’ve legally bought from Amazon, whether I “know” the author online or not
I really don’t think that it’s a good idea to poke a hippopotamus with a stick though. Those guys don’t always behave logically but if they bite you, you’re going to feel it. Same with this situation. Don’t poke that Hippo unless you’re prepared to lose your right to publish your books with them. I think that it’s much wiser to post reviews for the books of your online “friends” everywhere that you can online, except as an actual review on Amazon. You could post the review in the Customer Discussions section on the book’s landing page on Amazon though – that is allowed. As I said, I’m not going to take down any of the reviews I’ve already posted, because each and every one of them was posted in good faith and honestly written about books that I’ve read, but if they do get taken down then there’s not much to do about it. I also have some books on my Kindle that I’ve already bought specifically to review for Feed My Reads SA, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t post those on Amazon on behalf of FMR as I always do. Not sure now. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t with some of these “rules”.
Definitely have a read of this Amazon FAQ if you’re still not sure where you stand on this subject.
Image Courtesy: Pixabay
I saw an episode of Come Dine With Me where one contestant actually said the letters OMG quite a few times. She obviously wasn’t trying to be funny – saying this seemed to come out as part of her normal conversation, but I do wonder why anyone would actually say the letters rather than the words in the first place. You aren’t going to get a sore mouth or fingers by verbally saying whole words. Maybe when something’s funny she could just deadpan say ROTFL rather than actually laughing. Or simply LOL if it wasn’t all that funny. Hopefully we’ll never get to saying Smiley Face or Like in our conversations. Everyone who zooms around online these days is part of this culture of communication. I do love my smiley faces, but I wonder where we’ll all be in another ten years as technology advances even further.
These days people probably don’t get bored in waiting rooms and come over all Mr Bean. Everyone has a phone, and everywhere you look people are looking down at them or aiming them at something or other. I’ve got a couple of books downloaded onto Kindle on mine, although admittedly I’ve never used it to read – I mainly wanted to see what my Kindle books looked like on my phone because us Indies need to see our scribbles on as many devices as possible. They look cool. I’m sure that lots of people do play games or read on their phones on train journeys and so on though, and that’s just the same as reading a book anyway. But everyone else who is not reading is also doing something on their phones. Personally I’m way too interested in people watching, but that’s just me and my nosy ways. I remember reading a story ages ago where those big headed grey aliens who go around apparently abducting people and fiddling with them in terrifying and offensive ways turned out to be us from the future. A future where we’d spent all our time physically doing nothing. All our activity happened in our heads, hence the overly large noggin and wasted away tiny bodies. The aliens wanted to use us, their ancestors, to fix their problem.
Personally I’ve noted that the old bod tends to expand rather than waste away with too much of sitting, but you never know what could happen as technology advances. Maybe a skinny pill really will be discovered at some point – one that exercises you without you having to unglue your eyeballs from whatever screen you’re looking at. Anyway.
Hopefully all you properly seated for the month NaNoers are going great guns. This is one time that the dreaded writer’s block can’t get you, because what you write doesn’t have to make perfect sense right now. So remain firmly on bum and scribble to the finish line. Kick that rotten block to the kerb!
It’s brilliant to be properly back in the bloggerverse. I’ll be finishing up a couple of cover designs this weekend before diving into my sci-fi series book edits again next week, and now that I’m finally having some quality time back at my computer again with two of my favourite things, I’m pretty much grinning all the time. I abandoned my sketching and painting for so many years that I really didn’t think that I’d ever get back into it, but lately all the rust is falling away and I’m amazed at the huge joy it brings me. It’s weird how we sometimes stop doing the things that we love for whatever reasons, sometimes forever, and that’s a huge shame. It’s also weird how so many of us humans think that getting pleasure from an activity must mean that it’s not work and not worthy of our quality time. It’s the same with writing – how can it be your day job if it’s your favourite thing in the world to do? The truth really is that if that’s what it is – your true happy place, you’ll probably do it so much better than any other kind of “work”. It’s definitely worth striving for, to spend your life doing the work that you love, rather than getting to the end of it and looking back with huge regrets. Put as much work into work that you love as you do your day job, and with a bit of luck and elbow grease it will eventually be your day job.
Now that I’ve discovered that our illustrious scientists have discovered that Earth is actually a billion years older than they thought it was I have lots of tweaking to do to my series. Tweaking, I reckon, is the most dangerous thing to do as far as inserting all sorts of terrible inconsistencies is concerned, especially in a very long story that you’ve been away from for a while, but an extra billion years is way too cool for me to pass up. Anyway – now I’m off to paint covers and ponder what weirdness could possibly reside in dark matter.