Category Archives: Writer beware

60 Minutes: Real Reporting?

Here’s a blog post by author/reporter Sam Quinones regarding the 60 minutes piece about heroin use in Ohio that aired last Sunday evening. As an author, what 60 Minutes did infuriates me and should do the same to anyone who values in-depth reporting. What happened to honesty and citing your sources? 60 Minutes used to be one of my favorite shows on television. Not any more.


Writer Beware: Author Solutions

This link to Writer Beware explains the judgement handed down in the ongoing class action lawsuit against Author Solutions, Inc. and Penguin. Finally, someone is holding ASI’s feet to the fire.

Stand up for Yourself

Manly-art-of-self-defenseI ran across a couple of good posts today about standing up for yourself in both the business and social arenas. Here’s one from Kathryn Rusch and another from GoodEreader via the Passive Guy. How do you feel about it? What would you do if it were you?

Top 5 Ways to Beat Crazy-Writer Syndrome

Welcome to CTI’ve been writing full-time for a while now, and I seem to have fallen into a comfortable routine of home days (two days during the week where I do nothing but stay home and write) and away days, or days that I have other stuff I have to do that takes me away from a full day of writing. I’m still able to make my word count (usually) on those days, but I also get to go out into the real world and pretend I have a life.

At first I looked forward to those two home days, mentally rubbing my hands together in gleeful anticipation of a long, unhurried stretch of time to spend with my work in progress. Uninterrupted hours in which to concentrate on putting words to page, staring out the window and planning the next scene, completely immersing myself in the world of my characters and blowing stuff up with wild abandon.

Um, yeah. Not so much. Funny thing about spending that much time alone. You get a little whacked.

Let me amend that. Spending that much time alone in a writer’s brain is a first class ticket to cray-cray town, and seriously, not in a good way.

I have noticed myself tossing witty bon mots at the ceramic foo dog in the hall when passing by on my way to the kitchen, as if it could hear me and might respond. A group of squirrels digging up the lawn looking for nuts? I’d talk through the screen, asking them how their day was going and offer to give them all rides to the waterfront park. Once, when caller I.D. showed a call from the local ‘No on Initiative WTH’, I answered just so I could have a conversation with the robot.

So, so sad.

One day, after writing a particularly complicated scene, my husband came home from work and walked in on me talking to the picture of Dorothy Parker pinned to the wall by my desk. He mistakenly assumed I was on the phone from the animation in my voice.

Now he knocks.

It got me thinking. I’m certainly not the only writer in the world that experiences psychotic breaks, right? So, I decided in the spirit of helping others I’d offer a few of the ways that have worked for me to combat those inevitable days when you’d rather dash through the streets like a mad woman, looking for an actual human to talk to than spend another minute alone with yourself and your manuscript.

5 ways to Beat Crazy-Writer Syndrome (CWS)

1) Go to your local grocery store and chat up the meat guy. I guarantee he’s as starved for conversation as you are and just might give you a little extra something with your free-range chicken thighs. And, he might help you figure out an intriguing way to kill that annoying character in chapter four.

2) When those religious people on a mission (the ones with bad acne, wearing razor-creased white shirts and skinny black ties) ring the doorbell invite them in to discuss the latest trend in enhanced interrogation techniques and modified ammunition. Offer tequila.

3) Flag down the nearest policeman and ask them what would happen if, hypothetically, a person used enhanced interrogation techniques on an unsuspecting visitor as *cough* research for a novel. (Note: This tactic should be reserved for extreme circumstances, as you’ll end up with more time on your hands than you might like. Although, it does have the added benefit of three meals a day and TV privileges).

4) Go to your nearest coffee shop and order a drink, snag a table near the front and greet everyone who walks in, engaging them in idle conversation about decapitation. The majority of customers will think you’re annoying, if not flat-out bug nuts but eventually someone may take pity on you and sit down. Extra points if they’re a serial killer or a hit man for a drug cartel.

5) Walk into the nearest FBI field office with what looks like a bomb strapped to your chest holding a dead-man’s switch in order to get a good idea of what would happen to your character if she did the same thing in your work in progress. (Note: remember to smile and tell them you’re a writer. Granted, a sniper will likely take you down, but if you get shot you can always use that in a book, right?)

And there you have it—my top 5 ways to combat CWS. How about you? How do you keep the crazies at bay?

A Ranty Waste

Midsummer bonfire closeupI’ve been noticing that more things than usual are pissing me off lately. Most of the time when something pisses me off I write a book. Say, like when I watched a documentary on child sex trafficking and was so appalled I had to set the anger free by writing Bad Traffick. Or when I learned about the escalating violence of drug cartels and how they’re pretty much ruining life for a whole lotta folks in Mexico and beyond and all they really care about are how they look in a selfie on Facebook. And, of course when women perpetuate the whole “I need a man to become complete” myth, or, better yet, when one of us sets feminism back hundreds of years in one fell swoop (Fifty Shades of WTF anyone?).

But lately, there’s just been too much and really people, I can’t fucking write that fast.

Rant #1: Here in the US our politicians can’t figure out how to be politicians, or, you know, grow up and actually govern the country. And, they get paid a lot of money to act like schoolyard dickwads, not to mention enjoying paid-for-by-the-government health care (cue the irony theme). When I look at the leaders for both parties I can’t help but get a mental picture of two spoiled little white boys with snot running down their noses and sucking on their bottom lip in a pout because the other side won’t play by their rules. Waaah.

Rant #2: How celebrities like Miley and Kim and Paula Deen can suck the life out of the headlines when there are people in the Philippines who don’t have any clean drinking water or medical supplies and how hundreds are dying because we can’t get supplies to them fast enough.Or when people are selling their kidneys so they don’t have to live underneath someone else’s squalid shack.

Rant #3: And, the ever present fact that the only thing large corporations are concerned with is the bottom line, e.g. profits, screw being honest or neighborly or even giving a rat’s ass about their customers. Don’t get me started on how most corporations treat the environment, not to mention a whole lotta people who either just don’t get it, or don’t care. One earth–capiche????

And yes, I’ve been a daily meditator for several years now and should be able to relax and be all ohm and shit, but some days I. just. can’t.

The latest thing that set me off was an article about how a percentage of writers in the US avoid using the Internet to research certain subjects because of fears of the NSA spying on them. Seriously? What the hell happened to the proud tradition of writers bucking the system? Of being subversives? Of fighting back? When I read that article it pissed me off to the point that I had to do something, so I went to the pool and swam laps. Hard. I stopped (mostly) self-medicating years ago and swimming is now my go-to release. It took the edge off, but as I sit here at my computer I can still feel a flame of anger flickering in my gut when I wonder, if what these writers were doing was legal and for research, why anyone in the US would remain silent because they were afraid of a government agency watching them?

That’s so unbelievably scary, I can’t tell you. That tells me that Americans are becoming afraid of their government. My first response to the article, other than anger, was to assume these writers were wimps–scaredy pants, namby-pamby (insert wussy word here) milquetoasts who would jump if someone said boo.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized my knee-jerk reaction (love the ‘jerk’ part of that saying) of calling these folks whom I don’t know wimps was wrong. I’m a HUGE proponent of fighting back: if you’re being attacked, however that attack is being carried out I believe it’s your responsibility to fight back with all you’ve got. Yes, there are some times when you need to pick your battles, but in general, fight the asshats trying to keep you down.

But this is different. This avoidance of using the interwebz goes deeper than that. Now we all know the NSA has overstepped its bounds, and has done so probably since its inception. But it hasn’t really affected most law-abiding citizens in a quantifiable way. However, when I hear or read that writers in the US are modifying their behavior because of fear of retaliation from the government, that makes me sit up and take notice. Mainly because I consort with a lot of writers, and almost every one of them has a least a modicum of rebelliousness in their bones and will do whatever in hell they want to. Some are nice about it, some aren’t. Some go the passive-aggressive route and act nice but end up doing some seriously un-nice things. But I’ve never heard one of them say they were afraid of what the government would do to them, unless what they were doing was illegal. But here’s the results of a poll of 520 writers where 16% admitted to curtailing their online activities because of fear of the NSA.NSA-square

My friends will tell you that yes, I’m opinionated, but am certainly not given over to hyperbole or conspiracy theories. I understand writers/journalists in China, or Iran, or Mexico being afraid–death or torture is a real possibility in those countries. But the US is supposed to be different. Americans are supposed to be different. It’s a slippery slope to censorship and clamping down on freedom of expression. I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but it does give me pause.

I’m really interested in what people think about this. Is this some paranoid delusion rearing its ugly head in response to me killing all those little brain cells so many years ago, or do we need to be a little more vigilant, a little more aware of what’s happening in our world?As the article I mentioned above states, “It’s not the surveillance, treacherous as it is, but that some writers, at least, already appear willing to capitulate.”

In the immortal words of Winston Churchill: “…we shall fight in the fields and in the streets; we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Addendums, Rights Grabs & Agents

Writer Beware. Excellent posts by both Kathryn Rusch and The Passive Guy regarding publishing contracts. After you read the Rusch article, make sure you read PG’s comments.

Addendums, Rights Grabs & Agents.

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