August 5th, 2006

bear by san

the vast indifference of heaven

A diamond necklace, though I'm not sure what I'd do with it. I have no room for a plasma TV in a two-room apartment with a galley kitchen. *g*.

When coupled with the flamethrower scene from The Blues Brothers projected on the wall of a dank Goffclub, it is.

From when I started writing, over twenty years. From my first publications, twenty years. From when I started seriously trying to publish, eight years. From my first paid publication, seven years. In real-world terms, 2002.


(NB: When I say "me/I," below, I mostly mean "the author or editor in the case example," not "ebear," except in the paragraphs where I am obviously talking about, you know, me.)

There's a school of thought that says that acknowledging or talking about reviews at all is tacky. I am, obviously, not in it.

Essentially, when linking to or talking about reviews in public, I try not to say anything I wouldn't say to the reviewer's face if he was sitting across from me, I try to acknowledge things I feel in particular are helpful to me, ignore the stuff I think is incredibly crackheaded and wrong, and move along without too much fuss. But the thing is, there's a complex of reactions at work when people read a book.

In an online community like this, there's always personal bias. People who like me are more likely to give my work at least an apologetic review, if not an actually good one, than people who don't. People who are of the opinion that I exist to piss in cheerios? Much less likely to think my work doesn't suck. It's always worth taking note when somebody who likes me says they don't like something, or vice versa.

Also, a reader who doesn't know me, who is pissed off by hype or subject matter or my politics or the fact that her ex-boyfriend who left her for the dog loved my work? Already fighting an uphill battle there.

If I am the reviewer, in this case, it's my failing; not the book's. I hope I'm grown up enough and secure enough in my craft to recognize when this is happening, these days.

There's also personal taste. I don't really like ghost stories, and it takes a Sixth Sense or a Beloved to get past that. A genre ghost story that explores the conventions of ghost stories? Mostly wasted on me. Likewise, most romance. I don't care. Reviewers who want to be reading a different book and who will tell you about that better imaginary book at length, or ones who pride themselves on hating everything, are more or less useless except as entertainment. Also, there's a trend in online reviews lately of engaging a percieved online discussion, which I despise.

(The Strange Horizons nonfiction editorial style lends itself to this particular trick, which I think tends to make the review look like a ground axe. I'm thinking in particular of the Lies of Locke Lamora review flap, and also the one over Touched By Venom. Strange Horizons publishes my short fiction; many of their reviewers and writers and editorial staff are my friends. But man, their book reviews are sometimes embarrassing. It's the opposite problem of the Helix response to criticism that's being wanked about the club scene currently.

Which, in my opinion, moves beyond merely embarrassing and into cringeworthy.)

As an opposite case and counterpoint, I offer the response of Ms. Janine Cross, the author of Touched By Venom, who I think handled herself with absolute class and style and grace by staying the hell out of it during not one but two internet-wide explosions of wank over her book. I don't care for her work--I have artistic and personal issues with it. But the lady herself exhibited tremendous grace under pressure.

Also, there's the hammer thing. ("When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.") When one is learning one's craft as a writer, one often finds one's self extraordinarily picky about whatever skill one is working on the hardest currently--structure, character, prose style, whatever. I went through a phase of about two years when I couldn't read fiction, even books I loved. I hated everything I picked up. It was me, not them.

So, being cognizant of these facts, and because I know perfectly well how often I dislike a book others like--and often I dislike award-winning books--and how often my friends dislike books I love, for what seem to them perfectly good and sensible reasons, although they are of course incredibly wrong-headed and foolish!--I try to remember that reviews are just one person's opinion, and that they are, in fact, entitled to decide what they do and don't like, and it's not my job to tell them otherwise. 

The one thing I do find really hysterical is when I link a bad review with some text along the lines of "so and so panned it," or "so and so hated it" and the reviewer, who can google as well as I can, shows up to say "No, I really didn't dislike it!" (This happens with surprising frequency.)

If 75% of the review is negative and there's one paragraph on the end allowing how the fight scenes aren't too bad, it's a pan. Dude, stand up for your opinions!
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bear by san

I really need to hack this icon so it's winking.

Thumbs up on Hand D in Sir Thomas More. Thumbs down on Edmund Ironside.

The answer, according to a team of Renaissance researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and the University of Newcastle in Australia, is that in all likelihood, Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.

(the latest from the rarified realms of obsessive Elizabethan word-frequency analysis.)
bear by san

(no subject)


I don't try that hard to assign roles to my characters--primary, secondary, etc. I tell the story, and try to let the characters pull as much weight as they are capable of hauling.

Of course, I tend to write ensemble books.
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bear by san

--stick it you know where you know why you don't care--

A cautionary tale about sex scenes, pursuant to limyaael's recent post and my own on the topic of writing nookie. Some of you will recall, back in March, that I posted the original comparison of one of the worst and one of the best sex scenes I'd encountered in my wide-ranging reading of the soft underbelly of Elizabethan historical fiction. And I posted a bit of my own period smut, because it only seemed fair when I was trashing other people.

At that time, I bemoaned the fact that I did not have local a copy of Tamburlaine Must Die, which contains still more Marlowe/Walsingham smut, and what I then described as "a somewhat tragic irrumation scene."

Well, ladies and gentlemen, guess what I copied when I went back to Las Vegas? 

Collapse )

And, just because I am a completist, a bit of Mignon.

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...okay, I'm swearing off semicolons forever.

Here, go read the Burgess again. You'll beel better.

bear by san

cover the naked, deliver the blind, because Heaven loves the stranger who tries.

Russ Allbery at Eagle's Path nails down exactly what's wrong with Blood & Iron, from my perspective as a writer.

He's absolutely correct. It should have been in omniscient.

I didn't have the chops to do it when I wrote that book, or the balls to try. And frankly, I'm not sure I could have sold it in omni.

Whiskey & Water, on the other hand. I think I pulled it off for that one.

And I suspect Patience & Fortitude needs The Big Gun as well.

ETA And some ambivalence for the San Francisco Chronicle. I think he maybe wanted more horror in his fantasy.

bear by san

(no subject)

My routine varies a lot. Both ashacat and I bore easily. So, we change it up. We tend to do pullups (assisted) and dips, and some sort of cardio (treadmill, ski machine, once in a blue moon the rowing machine), and some core workout (crunches, stuff on the wobble board for balance). The weights can be free weights (shrugs, bench press, smith cage squats, sumo squats, hand weight work) or cable machines (row, lateral pulldown, tricep pulldown, chest press, and so on), or sometimes we use the rigid machines (leg press, quad curl, hamstring, flies), but usually only when we're feeling like we suck and want the estra stability. They're not as effective at building functional strength as weights that provide a less stable environment, and we're both all about the power!

I like lemon drops and peppermints and violet pastilles and altoids and root beer barrels, and those blue ice mint sugar drops.

If it's set up, it's not a deus ex machina.

dunno. ;-)

I'm informed it's going to be Matthew and the Morningstar, but other than that, I do not know any details. Authors have about the same control over cover art as 13th-century princesses had over their bridegrooms.
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can't sleep books will eat me

(no subject)

Book #54: Barbara Hambly, Days of the Dead

One of the better of the later Benjamin January mysteries, I think. More Hannibal Sefton is never a bad thing, and there is plenty of Hannibal in this one. Also, this one seems to have been written with a good deal more focus and care than the previous two--the transitions are smoother, the prose is strong, the dialogue sparks, the emotion rings true, and there are very few places where I felt my attention drifting or started wondering if I'd skipped a page reading. I got bucked off a lot by Die Upon a Kiss, but not this time. (this is damning with faint praise; I really did enjoy this book.)

Also, I love Hambly forever for this line: "My dearest Athene, we are past fine distinctions about hawks and handsaws here and deep within the realm of Lucia di Lammermoor, in case it had escaped your notice."


Book #55: Andy Harnsworth, A journey to Medieval Canterbury

Really intended for kids, but nevertheless full of nifty drawings and factoids.

In other news, I like my book collection. And LibraryThing is, indeed, addictive.
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