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February 3rd, 2016 03:05 pm - Hugo noms
So! Hugo noms are coming perilously close, and of course I have not done half the reading I meant to.

Does anybody have any recs for 2016 or 1941 Hugo-eligible novels I should make sure to read before I nominate?

So far I have read:

Ancillary Mercy
Dark Orbit
Sorceror to the Crown
Darkness on his Bones
Castle Hangnail
The Ill-Made Knight

(and several of the 1941 ones on the novella/novel line)

They were all good enough I should not be sad if they won, but none of them hit me in the head with Yes! This should definitely win a Hugo!

I have Unbound and The Traitor Baru Cormorant waiting for me, I could maybe get through three or four more if I really push, so what should those three or four more be? Things that are likely to push a rec up my priority list: not by a white cis dude, stand-alone complete in one volume, someone on my reading list thinks it deserves a Hugo, and either secondary-word fantasy with magic or science fiction with spaceships (especially SF with spaceships, not enough of that around lately). ETA: being also Campbell eligible would also help.

...Also I have a bunch of folks' Hugo-eligible short fiction recs bookmarked, but I would not object to recs/links for that either. Or Fanwriter - the problem with that is too many possibilities, no obvious way to narrow down...

I'm actually in better shape than I expected to be for most of the other 2016 categories - I know my noms for Graphic Story, Dramatic Presentation, Editor (Short Form), Zines, and Fancast, will never be able to judge Editor (Long Form) and more or less know where I'm looking for Related Work and Artist. 1941 recs for any of those would be welcome, though.

(41 comments | Reply)

February 2nd, 2016 10:00 am
I'm about to leave for my first ever gynecology appointment! Everybody in my local life has decided that means they should share their gynecology visit horror stories with me under the guise of 'advice'. Any of y'all want to join in? :D

(If you want to, srsly, go ahead - I'll be back from the appointment by the time I can read these comments, at which point the worst they can possibly do is provide better-you-than-me schadenfreude...)

(63 comments | Reply)

January 28th, 2016 11:59 am - snow
So, it snew! That happened. I live, and am back at work trying to catch up with half the staff still stuck on cul-de-sacs. We only got about 20 inches but apparently people just up the road got 36. It was a fun five days of snowed-in-ness, during which I shut the laptop in case of power outage and then just... didn't get around to opening it again even after the rist of power outage was over.

This sounds super virtuous, but tbh my laptop is so cranky these days that it is not a pleasure to use it. Also I spent most of that time listening to podcasts on my phone while playing solitaire, so it actually wasn't virtuous at all.

The podcast I was listening to is Rex Factor, recommended by sister, which is reviewing and rating all the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland. So far I have made it from Alfred the Great to Mary Tudor. And earned 85 stars in the solitaire app.

So far, the podcast is mostly making me think - other than 'wow, I don't remember nearly as much British political history as I thought' and 'this is actually a really good way to do history' - is just how much power women always had. Like, you read 'feminist history' things that talk about shifts in womens' rights over time, or that pick out individual powerful women, but what you get going through right in order like this is that there was almost always a woman running things. Like, there's occasional gaps, like some of the Saxon kings who outlived their mothers and grandmothers and then deliberately didn't marry, or the last decade of Henry the 8th's reign after Queen Katherine was too old to lead his armies for him anymore. But what the versions that pick out the powerful women make it easy to miss is that they weren't actually... exceptional? Like, I'm pretty sure up to the point where I am, there were about as many Queens of England who led armies to battle as there were Kings of England. (Well, maybe fewer numerically because they've tended to live longer, but as much time in power, anyway.)

Anyway, also it's got me thinking that I need to study up some dynastic history that isn't British because that's really the only ones I've ever studied. And the podcast listening has woken up the princesses who live in my head, who need at least some history influence other than British, since they live in what is basically Doggerland. (Every little girl had princesses they made up and have whole dynastic histories for, right? Mine are eight sisters: one of them becomes an architect, two become ruling queens, one becomes a sorceress-saint, one becomes a knight, one becomes a scholar, one becomes a banker, and one never amounts to anything much. Only one of 'em marries a prince; he marries her because she promises to win his war for him if she gets to run the country afterward and he's like, eh, better her than me.)

...anyway, of course that means I've gotten NOTHING ELSE done except some snow shoveling and some fingerloop, so that's fun.

I want to do a whole long rant about how they're pushing really hard to clear the roads at the expense of pedestrian access, and if previous patterns hold, there will still be five-foot piles of snow on all the wheelchair access ramps come Easter, but you can probably take that as read.

(29 comments | Reply)

January 17th, 2016 07:30 pm
So today I have been ruining my life reading Yuletide fic and the OT3 tag on Pinboard, and that mixed up with other discussions and the nonfiction book I'm reading, and I started thinking about my ur-fandoms.

Not the fandoms I was in before I was in fandom, but the things I was fannish about before my memory starts. (And my first dateable memory, I was two-and-a-half, so---)

Wee!me, basically, was fannish about: Sesame Street, Snoopy the WWI Flying Ace, and the Grinch.

Which is basically: muppets and people in furry costumes, many of whom don't speak English; dashing fighter pilots; and last-minute conversions to the side of good.

That is to say, goddammit, Star Wars.

....also why aren't there more fighter pilot AUs in fandoms I read, I even wrote one, I did my due duty
and why hasn't anyone written a fic about Sesame Street: Coruscant where Big Bird gets a lightsaber
ok I was also fannish about Wall Street Week With Louis Rukeyser but I'm not sure how that fits into the pattern

(8 comments | Reply)

January 16th, 2016 02:13 pm - Advice if you've misplaced your writing
Someone on my reading list asked for advice on what to do when you think of yourself as a writer, but you've lost the desire or need to write. And I ended up writing a 5+1 post in reply, and I've seen this question come up again and again, so here is a list of things that helped drag me out of my years-long writing slump and that I start looking at these days if I feel like I'm landing in one again. These are not answers, these are "things that it might be helpful to try". Maybe it will be useful to someone?


1. If you really don't want to write anymore, then don't worry about it. You are a writer if you have written, and sometimes life or brain chemistry or whatever turns off the desire/ability for awhile, and that's ok, and it's ok even if it doesn't come back ever. (Either Mur Lafferty or Ursula Vernon - I forget which - recently said a thing about how the world has plenty of writing, the world does not have plenty of People With Their Shit Together, so if you get to pick one and only one of those, you will be doing the world a greater service if you pick the latter. That's good wisdom, if those are options you've got.)

2. If you want to still feel like A Writer but don't want to write, you can decide you're recharging, or building up life experience to use in books later, or being a diarist instead of a novelist right now, or whatever. This old post on writing exercises includes a lot of things I do, and frame or reframe as being about writing, to feel like a writer even when I haven't been adding words to stories. Reminding yourself that you're progressing even if you aren't getting words on page can help loosen up the words, too.

3. Read things that make you want to write - I find that I'm most excited about writing original fic when I'm reading a lot of original stuff in the same genre, most excited about writing fanfic when I'm reading a lot of fanfic, most excited about making comics when I'm reading a lot of comics, and least excited about writing fiction in general when I'm reading things that are not a kind of book I want to write. For me, specifically, the best to get me writing is stuff that's almost what I want but not quite, there's something very wrong with it, and then I get inspired to write my stories to fix it, dammit.

4. If you've been trying to write toward certain stories, drop them and just let yourself write silly pointless things instead. When I have a lot of WIPs I'm trying to be serious about and have a lot invested in and then lose my joy in writing, sometimes letting myself just forget the wips, and write drabbles or ficlet memes or dirty limericks, or just noodle on something that I know will never be a good story, helps loosen up the muscles and remind me of why I want to do this. (For some people, words-a-day-of-freewriting goals can help with this, for some people it just makes it worse.)

5. Spend more time alone in your head with yourself. Especially in this era, it's really easy to constantly surround yourself with podcasts and radio and books and blogs and so on. And without even realizing it, you don't have any time left in your days for your stories to speak to you. And that doesn't give them enough soil to grow enough to want to be written. I personally find I never want to write as much as when I'm doing long walks every day with nothing else to listen to, but other ways of getting time alone with your thoughts can work too - putting the book away at night before you're tired enough to sleep or setting the alarm half an hour early to lie quietly in bed, coloring books, yoga, spinning, actual meditation, woodcarving, Lego, twiddly phone games, staring out the bus window or coffeeshop window, whatever. Just turn off the podcasts and the TV and shut down the socializing while you're doing it, and try to listen to the stories in your head instead, and maybe the the stories will start trying to get out again. (If being alone in your head is really bad for you right now, don't try this. See above about having shit at least marginally together being always more important than writing.)

+1. Last-ditch desperation move: hack your brain chemistry. By that I do NOT mean 'go off the meds that are keeping you functional' or, gods forbid, 'become Ernest Hemingway'. But humans have a specific brain system for modelling what other humans do - it helps us be social animals - and when it goes into overdrive, that's when the stories start bursting out of every pore. And sometimes it just stops working the way it used to, and it's a brain thing, not a mental thing, and if you really need your stories back, you might have to look at what might have changed the way your brain is operating at the hardware level. And sometimes it's something you can't fix (like a chronic illness) or something that is absolutely worth trading your stories for (like parenting a small child, or not being clinically depressed anymore).

But, especially if you really need your stories back and nothing else will work, it's worth looking at the little things, like: has your caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, or other recreational drug consumption changed? Have your sleep patterns changed? Your eating habits? Your exercise habits? The amount and color of light you're exposed to? Stress levels? Cuddling allowance? Socialization? General background noise? Humidity and temperature? All those background physical-body things that can change our mood without us noticing can also screw with writing mojo, and even if you can't get them back to where they were when you were last writing, you can look for things you can tweak to try to compensate. And if you absolutely have to finish a story THIS WEEK, sometimes you can find hacks that will jumpstart the writing even if you don't want to make them a lifestyle choice. Me personally, I have learned from experiment that reproducibly and independent of all other factors, the stories stop flowing when I'm caffeinated, and they go into overdrive when I'm chronically sleep-deprived without benefit of stimulant.

...and if you tried all of those and still got nowhere, I'm tapped out. Anybody else have anything that's worked?

(14 comments | Reply)

January 12th, 2016 06:59 pm - 2015 In Books Part 3: Some More Things About The Contents of Books
Okay I lied, here is the third half of the 2015 book reviews post, and then back to business as usual. (...which will probably mean the second half of the book covers post. And then some recovery time.) When I wrote the first half I thought "Huh, I thought I'd read more squishy-sciences type books this year than that"; apparently they were all backloaded into the second half of the alphabet.

Books 1-5 are here

6. The New Wild by Fred Pearce )

7. The Wild Trees by Richard Preston )

8. Awakenings; A leg to stand on; The man who mistook his wife for a hat; Seeing voices by Oliver Sacks )

9. The lore and legends of Wall Street by Robert Sharp )

10. Naming Nature by Carol Kaesuk Yoon )

Bonus Round TV Show: Over The Garden Wall )

(21 comments | Reply)

January 11th, 2016 11:22 am - General Year-In-Review
...I promise this is the last of these and then we're back to weird business as usual.

Here is all of 2015 in twelve first lines )

...apparently 2015 was a year of making lists and doing stuff. But mostly making lists.

I had a list of ten goals for the year that I posted last January:

Last year's goals )

...that's, like, 7/10 if I count fractions? Whoo?

Have this year's goals, many of them recycled:

Ten things for 2016 )

...also keep up with all the stuff in Habitica.

To get started, here's that WIP meme everyone is doing, with "Go to the seventh line of the seventh page of your wip, and post the next seven sentences". This is from the nearly-finished original story:

From a meeting )

...None of that is going to be in the final version because I belatedly realized that Ellysh does nothing in this story except stand around and be pretty, which admittedly is xir primary goal in life, but does not make for efficient storytelling, or make it worth worrying about another person in all the group scenes, even if xie does also stand in for some important worldbuilding.

Which brings me to a question for you all: this will be the first original story I have ever finished that is getting major, major revision right off the bat. It'll be over 8,000 words once it's done. How do revision? Does anyone have any have any useful resources they can point me to for revision on original stories, especially in the short-to-novella range?

(I will want beta readers eventually, but I've been changing stuff on the fly and not going back to fix it, so right now it's too incoherent for even an alpha read.)

(3 comments | Reply)

January 7th, 2016 02:37 pm - 2015 In Books Part 2: Some Things About The Contents of Books
So here's the second half third of my year-in-books follow up, in which I actually attempt to wrtie short reviews of some of the books from this year. Let's find out how "short" is "short"!

1. Absolute Worst Book of the Year: The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya )

2. Absolute Best Find of the Year: Accounts of the J. W. Gardner Family )

Ten More Books From This Year That I'm Still Thinking About

...I'm leaving out ones I've already rambled about at length on here. And these aren't necessarily the best books I've read - some of them were not very good books - but they're the ones that have made the biggest impact on me and that I keep mentioning to people.

1. Welcome to Mars by James Blish )

2. Australian Aboriginal Kinship : an introductory handbook by Laurent Dousset )

3. Bronze Age Economics: The beginnings of political economies ed. by Timothy Earle )

4. Legends of Le Détroit by Marie Caroline Watson Hamlin )

5. Rockets, missiles, and men in space by Willy Ley )

...and this is going to be p. 2 of 3 because short reviews. haha, hahaha. Short.

(29 comments | Reply)

January 5th, 2016 03:52 pm - 2015 In Review: Books!
I've decided the new year doesn't start until my sister goes back to Illinois, so we're doing more end-of-year posts before I'm back to business as usual. :p Y'all ready for statistics?

I managed my Goodreads reading challenge, which was for 250 books, but only by reading two little Running Press Miniatures in between turns while board gaming on New Year's Eve. Still, pretty good.

Not quite as impressive as it seems, because of those 250 books: If it's not quantitative it's not real )
The total number of books on the owned-and-need-to-read list currently stands at ~2100 (I don't track it to closely, it would be scary.) I also for the first time started keeping not-owned-to-read lists, mostly to keep myself from putting them on hold at the library, now that I'm constantly at the library. I keep a list on the library website of books the library owns; it's at 359; Goodreads has the 69 the library doesn't own. So my total to-read list is now about 2500 books.

Which is good news! It means that if I stop adding stuff to the lists, I will be finished in exactly ten years! Totally doable, right? (...especially the not adding stuff to the lists.)

My reading goals for 2016 are :
200 total books (which is what I started at last year, and had to increase because I was getting too far ahead, but I don't think that'll be the case this year.)
Finish the rest of the started-but-not-finished and review copy books
Before Hugo noms close, read enough Hugo eligible stuff to be comfortable nomming
After Hugo noms close, get through some of those comics you own but haven't read

So far this year, I have read one (1) Running Press miniature, about animal tracks.

Average page count for last year was 208 pages/book, which is pretty good given all those comics and picture books. Average rating is about 3.8, which is a pretty good average rating, I think. I reviewed 68 of them, one way or another, even if two of those reviews just consisted of the word "Sloths!"

That's a better number of reviews than I'd expected but less than I'd like, so next up I'm going to try to do some short reviews of books from last year that really materially changed something in my thinking. (Knowing me they won't be short and I won't finish the post until next year, but I'll try.)

Here is my list of 250 books from 2015 (minus a few that didn't import to LibraryThing for some reason and I can't be bothered to go looking for).

My goodreads account is linked to work people but if you'd like to add me there, pm me or something.

(5 comments | Reply)

January 2nd, 2016 04:48 pm - Yuletide

I received an excellent story that was everything I ever wanted in Princeless fic:

you never left my thoughts (1324 words) by doctorcakeray
Fandom: Princeless
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Adrienne Ashe/Raven Xingtao
Characters: Adrienne Ashe, Raven Xingtao
Additional Tags: First Kiss, Mutual Pining

It's been years since Adrienne has seen Raven. She's realized a few things since then. A few very important things.


There’s a journal, beaten up with bent in corners, traveled miles and miles and miles from a lonely little tower, a page marred with “STUPID PARENTS” in Adrienne’s big chunky sprawl. In another, slightly newer, journal, in the same lettering, a page of Adrienne’s diary reads “STUPID ME.”

And an excellent treat that is a Lovelace & Babbage/Babbage RPF crossover that is about my FAVORITE RL Babbage anecdote:

A Scientific Proposal (421 words) by russian_blue
Fandom: Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage
Additional Tags: Epistolary, Yuletide Treat

How can you fight crime if you haven't properly studied its source?

For yuletide, I wrote a story that is completely unlike any of my previous yuletide stories, in that it's a) based on something that is not a book, and b) porn. I really liked having the motivation to stretch myself, though, even if porn is still really hard. :P Here's to actually finishing some of my porn wips in the new year.

Rewatching the movie with my recip's prompt in mind really made me notice stuff about the movie, and especially the treatment of splices, that had rung with me on the first viewing, but then I'd sort of forgotten about over the course of reading all the excellent fanfic about Jupiter and Caine being fluffy together. Specifically, the scene between Caine and Jupiter after the bureaucracy montage, when she comes on to him again, and he says 'no', and she backs down like she hadn't even considering anything other than taking his no for an answer? So yeah. That's a lot of where this came from. (Also that scene with Titus & the floating orgy, ngl. I suspect my freefall sex mechanics weren't quite right but it's not real freefall it's fake orgy room freefall, right?)

Surely Some Revelation (2460 words) by melannen
Fandom: Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Rape/Non-Con
Relationships: Titus Abrasax/Caine Wise
Characters: Titus Abrasax, Caine Wise, Titus' winged orgy whatsits
Additional Tags: Pre-Movie(s), Sexual Coercion, Slavery, Posthuman, Aphrodisiacs, Orgy, Begging, Zero-gravity sex, Hatesex, heed the noncon warning

Caine Wise had forgotten how to be a splice and not a person.

I decided that this year I was going to be less ridiculous and try not to read the whole archive before reveals, I was just going to read one fandom per letter of the alphabet. ....I got through 1/3 of the letters.

Anyway, if you want my YT recs for Imperial Radch, Jupiter Ascending, Kings, Loki: Agent of Asgard, the Martian, Nimona, Over the Garden Wall, Princeless, [and I didn't know any Q fandoms], they're at the top of my AO3 bookmarks right now.

Some day I will get around to reading other yt fandoms.

Howeve, the Christmas season is for HL fic, and the [ profile] hlh_shortcuts exchange will never die, so I have a bunch of wonderful new Highlander stories to read; that fest hasn't revealed yet and if you're an HL person you should definitely go look.

(2 comments | Reply)

January 1st, 2016 04:01 pm
I am having a very quiet new year's break, which is working really well for me, and I do have some end-of year and yuletide wrap-up stuff to post, but in the spirit of "start as you mean to go on", have:

Five Imperial Radch Stories That Fandom Has Not Miraculously Already Provided Me, Why? (and one I may end up writing myself)

1. The modern day US coffeeshop AU where everyone is genderqueer, endgame pairing Breq/Anaander )

2. Several Thousand Years' Worth of Sphene Being Very, Very Bored )

3. Several thousand fics about identity and ancillaries, especially how that works for Breq and Tisarwat going forward from where they are. )

4. A couple segments of the part of Anaander who made Tisarwat come to Athoek Station on a diplomatic mission, and fall hard for Basnaaid, because it turns out it wasn't it wasn't Tisarwat being a teenager, it was the Lord of the Radch having a type )

5. Mercy of Kalr decides to try growing ancillaries from scratch, fic quickly degenerates into world's most horrifying + adorable kidfic )

6. Breq and Kalr *consider* having kids, decide to get a dog instead )

(9 comments | Reply)

December 30th, 2015 05:10 pm - Something awakens
I went to see the new Star Wars movie today! I had not tried particularly hard to avoid spoilers, but the entire internet had tried so hard to protect me despite myself (thanks internet!) that it just seemed ungrateful to put it off until it was too late.

So, everything even vaguely spoilery under cut )

My sister is taking all of the old-EU novels back to Chicago with her after break, which is great, because that means I won't be tempted to fall back into the Sarlacc pit after her.

(36 comments | Reply)

December 23rd, 2015 10:18 pm - How To Make A Selfpub Book Cover That Looks Like It Came From An NYC Marketing Department Part 1
So, I started thinking about this post when I went to a couple of book-focused SF cons. And for obvious reasons related to the current publishing market, a lot of the panelists and a lot of the dealer tables had self-published books or books from very very small publishers. And that is fine! There is nothing whatsoever wrong with that, if that's something that works for a writer's goals.

But then I was in yet another 'how to sell your stuff' panel (I went to all of them) where an author proudly held up her book and said, "The most important thing with a cover is that it looks professional, and that might mean you have to pay for it. I paid my cover designer a lot, but it was absolutely worth it, look at how professional my cover is!"

And in the back of the room, I was thinking, for the nth time that weekend, lady, I'm glad you're happy, but everything about that cover reeks of "self published".

It was a fairly attractive cover! The art had been done by somebody who grokked art! But not by somebody who grokked what pro-published book covers look like.

Now, I don't work in pro-publishing or graphic design (although I do some work for a very small indy publisher/art studio that sometimes does graphic design) but I work at a library and spend at least five hours a day with books passing through my hands. And then on my days off I go to cons or used book sales and look at more books. And I've reached the point where about 95% of the time, I can look at a self-pub or small-publisher book and immediately tag it as not from a pro publisher. (The other 5% of the time, it's either a self-published book by someone who really knows design, or it's from one of those small imprints of a pro house that is deliberately trying to look art-house.)

So I started thinking seriously about what it was, that je ne se quois that I could see and the people on the con panels clearly couldn't, and then testing those theories against my knowledge of design and the book covers I stare at all day every day, and here's what I came up with.

Now, I'm not saying that 'looking pro' should be your primary goal - what do I know about selfpub markets; I suspect in some of them looking pro doesn't help (niche kindle erotica, say). I also make no promises that looking pro will help you sell; it's what the marketing departments of the big publishing houses think will sell, but are they right? I can't say. Also, even within the large publishers, some genres are more flexible with these principles than others (especially on mass-market paperbacks.) But most of these principles are pretty basic to design, and are worth thinking about even if you aren't going for that particular look. And they all pretty much come down to one thing:

The only purpose of the cover is to get people to read the title of the book

That's it. That's the whole secret. Anything that makes it harder for people to read your title should not be part of the design; anything that makes it more likely for people to read your title is good.

(There are a few exceptions to this, i.e. if you're already so famous that the author name is more important than the title, or if you're part of a bestselling series or franchise and selling the brand is more important than selling the individual book, or if you're just so good that you can break the rules and get away with it, etc., but if any of those things apply, then you already have a pro marketing department working for you, and are not reading this post. And most of these things still apply anyway, they just apply to the author or franchise name or whatever instead of the title.)

Let's design an example. I'm assuming for the purpose of this post that you know the basics - how to open a file in a graphics program and put text on it, basically - but not really much else. I'll use my current silly fic WIP for the example just because it's got a title that's shaped well for playing with design and a theme that makes it easy to find public-domain art to work with. The WIP itself is ridiculous AU slash but it's an American politics AU so my marketing department has decided, for the purposes of this post, to market it as a novel about the vicissitudes of American politics. Got that?

OK, here are our two proposed covers. Which one looks more professional?

If you said "A", you have the same eye for covers that I do.

A is literally just black Times New Roman on an off-white background. It did not take an expensive art consultant, it took an open-source graphics editor and maybe two minutes to do, including looking up the correct proportions for a standard hardcover.

I expect one of the reasons so many people end up with really amateur-looking covers is that the art is what has taken all the time and effort and money, and it requires the magic that most people don't understand. Even if it's just paging though public-domain photos until you find one that feels perfect for your story (like I did on the second cover) it feels like that's most of the effort, so they let the art control the design, when it should be the text in control. Or, if they're going for minimalist art, they then decide they need to focus on the design to make it distinctive, and they let fancy design tricks detract from the title itself.

Now, I'm not saying you should always go for plain black text on white if you want to look professional, but I'm saying that you should always remember that the title being read is the most important purpose of the cover. If at any point you're making a choice about the cover, fall back on that: does it make it more likely that people will read the title? If yes, do it. If no, don't do it. And if your choice is cover A or B, then yes. Choose boring A.

I'm going to break it down a little more, but really, it all comes back to that idea.

The first set of principles are about the text itself.


Make It Big )

2. Center the title horizontally.

Center the title )

3. Colors for clarity

Color )

4. Your Font Should Be Invisible

Your Font Should Be Invisible )

5. Manually Adjust Spacing and Kerning

The Life-Changing Magic of Kerning )

Bonus Level: The other cover text

Bonus level! )

At this point, the sample covers are already both to where if I saw them, I would go, "This is either a small publisher who is almost there, or a designer at a big publishing house who was having a bad day."

Which is still miles beyond where they were when they started, and considering I spent zero money and did it on my spare time at work the day before holiday break, is pretty good.

Here's an animation of all the versions because animations are fun.

The next step in levelling-up is "how do I pick my cover art so it looks like a professional cover", but I think that's going to be a separate post, possibly posted on a day when people are actually online. Stay tuned! (Spoiler: the key is "if it distracts people from reading your title, change it.")

(37 comments | Reply)

December 22nd, 2015 03:23 pm - The flower of benefit is Amaat whole and entire
Sorry, slight hiatus in December talky due to bears. (Why is it that it was like pulling teeth to get 2000 words for Yuletide but I'm over 20,000 for dw posts this month already, without even trying hard?)

Next one on the list is to talk about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I had heard about this off and on, and then they discussed it on Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap and it sounded maybe worth reading? Also short, and I needed to catch up on my goodreads reading challenge. And then I discovered that while there were over 200 holds on the library copies, nobody seemed to have noticed we had a playaway edition, so I checked that out, and listened to it all on one Saturday. While I was helping sort through other folks' excess crap, natch.

If you have never heard of this, it's a book by Marie Kondo about decluttering that was recently translated into English from Japanese and has been extremely popular among the sort of people who read books about decluttering (and was apparently already super-popular in Japan.) It has a lot of good advice and also makes a lot of really large claims about what its methods can do. I don't have a copy on hand and I know absolutely nothing about the whole culture that has apparently grown up around KonMari, so instead you just get some disorganized thoughts in not particular order:

have some poorly-aimed bullet points )

I am interested in this kind of philosophy not just because of its obvious relevance to my own life, but because I believe that my culture is in the middle of a huge demographic and economic transition that is specifically going to have to drastically change our relationship to stuff.

So here's some rambly thoughts on that )

So. That is why I am vaguely interested in the wider theory of clutter, in a general sense.

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December 21st, 2015 05:57 pm - there are innocuous folk songs, but we regard 'em with scorn
Somebody tell me that I'm not allowed to start writing a Breq/Methos story until I have finished revisions on yuletide. And at least another chapter of wip.

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December 17th, 2015 12:07 pm - How do you write like---
So! Hamilton an American Musical.

As usual I'm a day late and a dollar short, but hey, y'all voted for this one, so you're asking for it.

So first off: the music is AMAZING in every possible way, so smart so catchy so emotionally evocative so clever so culturally important so beautiful, and I could look at pictures of the male cast (in costume or out of it) basically forever, and Lin-Manuel Miranda may literally be too good for this world, and I love what the colorful casting has done to the historical narrative and the way that's been made an integral part of the story through the music and book, and I love the reaction it's gotten and the way it's changing Broadway and people in general's perception of the history. And I legitimately teared up when young Philip tried to show his Dad he was going to be a politician too by rapping for him, I want to live in a world where ability to freestyle is a prereq for political power, we wouldn't be the first country ruled on that basis and there are much worse ways.

Also there needs to be a Doctor/Master vid to 'I'll Be Back'

And then my feelings get more complicated )


I REALLY LOVE THE MUSIC. AND I REALLY LOVE THE CAST. And I love that the fandom exists and is writing tons of nobody-dies modern AUs and second-generation shipping. It's so great! And I'm sure my expectations were too high, even if I do firmly believe that if he tried, Lin-Manuel Miranda could write a rap about Hamilton being a dork about accounting that would convince me the Federalists were right.

And I'm probably not going to be in the fandom ever. Unless Burr fandom really gets going. Meanwhile I shall keep writing about Grantaire being drunk on stage during the presidential debate and Toussaint being Valjean's campaign manager.

Possibly if I read Chernow and got more of where the show was coming from, I would have different opinions, but a) reading one entire brick for the sake of a musical fandom is enough for this decade, and b) Les Mis fandom on Tumblr has been posting enough excerpts of Chernow's wrong wrong wrong opinions on the French Revolution that I'm not sure I would trust him on the broad political stripes anyway. I do kinda want to finally read the Federalist Papers now though, so there's that.

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December 16th, 2015 07:15 pm - How To Describe Clothing In Fiction
So, some wise life advice for y'all: Don't be sick. Being sick is no fun.

Anyway, where were we? Oh right: how to describe clothing in fiction. This came up because there was a post going around Tumblr that listed 'paragraphs of clothing description' as one of the cardinal sins of bad writing, and then [personal profile] beccaelizabeth posted In defence of all those paragraphs about clothing: a cultural studies view, which is definitely worth a read, and the problem is, I agree with both of those.

Because clothing is important to your story, and also, there is nothing that makes me roll-eyes out of a story as fast as clumsy wall-o-text descriptions like that.

The same thing applies to other kinds of descriptions - if you want to want me roll-eyes out even faster, try doing it with paragraphs of descriptions of guns. That happens at least as often, although generally not in the same kind of books that do clothes. And then there's descriptions of food, of spaceships or steam trains, of scenery and nature, which I tend to be more tolerant of, but are just as easy to do a clumsily bad job on.

I'm going to stick with clothing in this post, because it's a pretty universal one, and because it gets the gendered complaining in a way the others don't, and because nearly all stories will have clothing appear at some point, but most of this applies to all sorts of things you might need to describe in a story.

Also, pls don't get the impression I actually have answers here, this is just me throwing out Thoughts.

Thoughts )
A Writing Exercise For Description )

...Anybody else wanna try that?

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December 9th, 2015 01:31 pm - Why I don't read many novels these days
This entry is actually less relevant than it was a year ago when I first talked about writing it - in 2014, if you include kids' and YA books over 200 pages, I read a total of 15 novels, a third of which were Yuletide canon review. Which was still better than 2013, during which I read Les Miserables. And some Daniel Pinkwater rereads for Yuletide. (I wasn't tracking them as carefully then, but durned if I can remember any more.) And granted if you're going to read one novel over the course of a year, Les Mis is a good one to pick, but compare that to when I was in high school and reading, conservative estimate, 350 books a year.

This year I have managed 31 novels (11 of them YA) and if I really push to make my goodreads challenge by the end of this month, I'm on track for at least 36 this year. Which is, I guess, good by most folks' standards, but 16-year-old me is looking at my overloaded bookshelves and shaking her head sadly. And adult me is looking at the library patrons who go through ten a week with abject jealousy.

I still read a lot! I read 160 adult nonfiction books in that year, plus comics, picture books, poetry, some novellas and short stories, and this and that other things. Not to mention fanfic - some judicious sampling of my AO3 page says I've read about 9,000,000 words of fanfic this year, an average of 25,000 words a day. And I still read quickly - I can read a 350-page novel in four or five hours tops, with no interruptions. It's just that I seem to have to make a deliberate effort anymore to sit down and read a novel, when it used to be like breathing.

So, what changed? I've made a bunch of attempts to write this post out, and it keeps being an incoherent mess, but I think, honestly, what it comes down to is: Because reasons )

I'm going to keep trying to push to read more novels (I'm really enjoying reading more of them, even if it seems to be coming down to 'Sunday mornings and waiting rooms only'). I want to at least have a good enough list that I feel ok about nominating for the Hugos. I think next year I'm going to try to push harder for pro short fiction, though. And catching up on my shelves at home rather than new stuff.

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December 7th, 2015 03:38 pm
So I need something super-silly today so we're skipping ahead in the poll, because I saw a post going around Tumblr (which I will never find again, alas) that said to cross over you newest fandom with your oldest fandom, and it happens I've just finally read Ancillary Mercy.

How you define my first fandom varies, but an Imperial Radch/Star Trek crossover would just raise the questions "How much would Mercy of Enterprise love all of her crew, even Riley? So much. How much do I now want to write Star Trek fic with only one pronoun for everyone? Almost as much."

The much more important question that came up was, "So are all Radch AIs Hufflepuff by nature, or is Breq just so very Hufflepuff that she blows the curve?"

Spoilers maybe )

ETA: I figured out the tune that "My Mother Said It All Goes Around" gets stuck in my head! It's "Farmer In The Dell", more or less. "My mother said/it all goes around/the shuttle goes around the ship/it all goes around..."

Now I just have to find the tune for the song with the eggs.

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December 5th, 2015 09:55 am - Things That Are Currently Annoying Me About Fic With Ace Characters
So I got brainweasels about that last post immediately after posting it, yay. All your comments are lovely! But that + RL stress = I may be letting them sit without replies for a bit while I fight off small angry mustelids. :/ Sorry.

But we shall push on regardless! Cranky post is definitely a good thing to push on with in this state of mind, right.

So, I have been sort of following the saga of "fandom discovers asexuality is a thing, yay; fandom writes ace fic, almost none of which I actually like, boo" for years and years and years, basically since fandom discovered asexuality.

Every so often I go "asexuality is so much more visible and well understood now! I will go check the AO3 tag and read the good fic that people are definitely writing" and. Nope. I still end up backbuttoning out of my first three tries. Or just looking at the summary and going 'nope'. And then I go back to only reading ace fic by a very small list of writers who I trust to do it reasonably well.

The interesting thing is that the source of Nope keeps changing. Back in the day, it was usually "What you want there is not an ace character, what you want is non-reciprocity kink. Which I also enjoy! But not when you slather 'pat my back for writing ace fic' all over your non-reciprocity kink."

We've gone through several other trends in nope since then, though. The current one actually took me awhile to figure out why it was giving me the nopes, even though it was pretty simple once I thought about it.

Here's the thing: I keep reading stories with variations on this conversation:
Bailey: Hey, wanna have sex?
Ash: Nope, sorry, you're great but I'm ace.
Bailey: Aww, well, if you're ace, we can just be cuddlebuddies.
Or like this:
Bailey: Hey, wanna go out?
Ash: Not a no, but you should know that if we do, I won't be having sex with you.
Bailey: That's OK, I already knew you were ace, we can work around that.
Or like this:
Bailey: Hey, wanna have sex?
Ash: I acknowledge you are objectively attractive, but I'm demi, so your crappy personality means that will never happen. Bye.
Bailey: I guess it's time to improve the personality.

Now, those may be perfectly realistic conversations to have happen (I too have used the "No sorry I'm ace, stop asking" line a few times) because that kind of thing is super-awkward and people don't always say the right thing even if they're trying (sometimes especially) but the thing is, these conversations are never written as "super-awkward, bad situation", they are written as "isn't this person so sensitive and understanding and trustworthy, won't they make a great SO for an ace person" and they are part of stories that are attempting to be pure sugar syrup. And. So much no.

For the record, if I turn you down by mentioning my asexuality, that does not mean "I trust you so much with my deepest darkest secret, I know you can help me figure out how to be happy anyway," it means "this is a really uncomfortable situation and I 100% don't trust you to take a plain no for an answer, so I'm going to make it weird and hope you drop the subject."

For the record, this is how this conversation should go with someone sensitive and trustworthy and cinnamon roll:
Ash: I don't want to have sex with you.
Bailey: OK! Then we won't have sex. Do you want to do something else with me? I made cake.

You see how Bailey just respects Ash's "No sex" without needing an excuse for why? Do you see how at no point does anyone imply that the only reason to turn down sex is sexual orientation? Nor does anyone imply that all non-ace romantic relationships must include sex immediately? Nor that no allosexual ever gets turned off by a crappy personality, only demi people care about that? Do you see how sexual orientation never actually comes up, because "I don't want to have sex with you" is a statement that can be said by people of many sexual orientations for many reasons, and none of them are obligated to explain why? Imagine!

Read more... )

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