Friday, December 8, 2017

My Money Matters (On Patreon & Being A Small Pledger)

Patreon announced new fees this week and has a lot of people (including me) pissed off.* You can complain to them about the new fee structure here.

For those of you who don't know what Patreon is, it's an online platform by which artists can receive funding directly from their fans. Here's more info on them (via Wikipedia). All of the creators I pledge to are writers.

I spend an absurd amount of money on books. New, used, and now e-books too. But I don't know the publishing industry well enough to know how much is going to authors (not much, I know that at least, and nothing for anything I buy used). And I also know that those funds are not steady.

It's made me really happy to find a way to support some authors directly. Even though my pledges have all been at the $1/month level (until recently), I know it makes a difference. And pledging at that level has allowed me to support more authors.

I work at a large liberal church and a big part of my work each year is running donation drives: hygiene kits for disaster assistance, school supplies for our summer students, Christmas gifts for our tutoring students. From talking with donors and my own experience as a donor, it's important to me that everyone be able to contribute as they can and would like to. I sometimes get grumblings about this from new volunteers - it's not efficient, it's not economical, etc. But these drives are part of the life of the church, of that particular community. People need to feel they have something to contribute, that they are a valued part of that community. That what they give makes a difference.

We all do.

And from my end, every contribution does make a difference. Dollars add up fast when you have enough people giving. One women's group I work with has a weekly collection of their "least coins". Trust me, when I'm dragging a sack of coins twice a year to accounting, those least coins are not so little!

Reading Patreon's new few structure, in light of my own experience with asking for donations, tells me my little pledges don't matter to them. That I'm not who they want giving.

I hope that's not the message they want to send. I know it's not the message creators want them to be sending.

For myself, I've dropped out of a couple of pledges (to organizations rather than individuals). I've upped my pledges to everyone else, both because I can swallow the per-pledge fee more comfortably if it's a smaller percentage of the whole, and because I know creators are losing pledges over this. And I've resigned myself to spending more overall this way - I was going to say I'll just buy one less book each month but I think we all know that's unlikely. Maybe a few less coffees instead. And I'll be more cautious about adding any new ones.

And yes, I have registered my complaint.

Sending love to all authors and those who support them,

*Word now is that Patreon is doing this as a way to freeze out creators that they feel aren't "successful" enough to represent them. What a dick move. I'll stay on it to support those authors I love, but if/as they start migrating to other platforms I'll follow them.

Monday, December 4, 2017

NaNo, Now What?

I did this NaNo thing last month, 50,000+ words when previously I'd never managed more than 12,000 in that time.

Even starting the month I didn't think I would be able to, but then I switched to writing by hand, which you'd think would take longer, but 1) I write pretty fast by hand (not that anyone but me can read my writing when I'm going that fast, and all the personal shorthand doesn't help), 2) I can take it anywhere with me, and 3) I don't edit as I go, which I do when composing by keyboard. I do all my other writing this way, I don't know why I'd gotten into the habit of something different for my fiction.

Plus I got connected with some other writer types - through the Chicago NaNo Facebook group, through Twitter, through emails with the all of two people I know in real life who write fiction - and that gave me inspiration to keep trying as well.

But even so I was amazed at what happened over the course of the month. I've heard NaNo described as a gym for writers and that was what happened for me. My sit-my-butt-in-one-place-and-just-write muscles got stronger. Like, ten times their size. And I wasn't as worried about being able to "come up with something good" either. Hell, it didn't matter. I just had to come up with something - and I got better at doing that too - time and editing will sort out what's good and what isn't, and what has the germ of something good but needs a lot more work to let it flower.

Since I've been working on this novel for over a year (NaNo was a way for me to jumpstart the total rewrite I needed to do thanks to a change in POV and some pesky paranormal stuff that demanded to be made more prominent - thus necessitating total change in backstory and plot details as well, thank you oh so much), I do actually have an idea of what happens in this story overall. So I know, for example, that I'm two scenes away from the end of Act 1 at this point and that I'm probably a third of the way through the whole thing. That is, a lot more writing still to be done.

My secondary goal for the month was to finish the first act, so after taking a few days off to just not think about it, I plan to keep going at a somewhat more moderate pace until I've done that. Then start the process of typing in all those lovely handwritten pages and I'll be editing on the fly as I do that.

And then another push for act two, and then another for act three... I want to finish this first draft by the end of my birthday month, four months from now. And I know there are plenty of people who would say however long it takes is fine... but no. I have more stories to tell. (Already thinking about next year's NaNo...)

But I can't say strongly enough how huge it was for me to "win" NaNo. Kind of thinking of myself as a real writer now... And I don't want to lose that, no way, no how.

I may have to be a complete dork and put up my winner's certificate where I can see it every day.

What it feels like to want something so much,

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Return To Scary Movie Month - The Books

Even as I was writing yesterday's post I knew I was missing titles. That's what I get for leaving my book journal at home, and not updating my notes from the beginning of the month. (I meant to write these earlier in the month but NaNo got in the way.)

I suppose it's not too surprising that I couldn't quite put my finger on what I was missing - I read these all as e-books, and my brain still hasn't figured out where e-books fit into it. Which is a shame, because I've gotten to read some fantastic new authors I never could have otherwise, as well as a lot more short stories and novellas. But I'm a hands-on kind of gal, and I remember things based on the way they feel and the place they take in the world, the more I can handle them the better.

That said, here are some more books (and stories and novellas) of a fantastical bent that I enjoyed this November. A number of these authors were new to me and I'm looking forward to reading more of their work.

By Elliot Cooper, The Clockwork Menagerie and Junk Mage. I'm trying to remember how I found out about these - maybe a Twitter thread? I get a lot of my book recommendations from Twitter these days.

The Clockwork Menagerie by [Cooper, Elliot]    Junk Mage by [Cooper, Elliot]

Ginn Hale's Swift & The Black Dog. I don't know if this is a stand-alone story or part of a larger series, but I would love to explore this world more. I do have the first of another of her series on its way to me from inter-library loan.

Swift and the Black Dog by [Hale, Ginn]

The Whybourne and Griffin series by Jordan Hawk. This series took me a while to settle into, I think I was expecting something else from it, though I'm not sure what. Now though I think of these as cosies - as cosy as hell-beasts, insane asylums, and curses can be, that is. But something I can cuddle into at the end of the day and not get all tied up in emotional knots about.

Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin Book 1) by [Hawk, Jordan L.]

Close Quarter by Anna Zabo. Well. I was going to say that all of these stories today have some romance in them, so if you dislike kissing and sighing and longing you won't want to read any of these. But this one is a bit more graphic. (Well, the Whybourne and Griffin books are too, now that I think about it.) Still. Fairies! Vampires! Elemental beings! On an ocean liner to boot.

Close Quarter by [Zabo, Anna]

And then two by E.E. Ottoman, Business Makes Strange Bedfellows and Selume Proferre. I've been slowly working my way through their works, as well as appreciating their blog posts on history. I particularly loved the first, a gothic vampire story, but I'd be happy to read more stories from both worlds.

Business Makes Strange Bedfellows by [Ottoman, E.E.]    Selume Proferre by [Ottoman, E.E.]

Oh, and I'm in the second book of Zoraida Córdova's Vicious Deep series, The Savage Blue, I mentioned in an earlier post that I had started this. Because, you know, mermaids.

That's it for this month. I'd been thinking I might use December to work through some of the historical novels in my to-be-read pile, but I've also got my hands on new releases by some of my favorite contemporary authors so maybe not. (Though E.E. Ottoman's latest is a historical and I can't wait to dive into that.)

Because I will buy books before clothes or shoes or sometimes food,

Monday, November 27, 2017

Scary Movie Month Part III - The Books

I started off my reading for this month trying to get through my growing pile of fantasy books, though by the end of the month that had veered mostly into ghost stories and horror.

No spoilers here or even reviews, really, I loved all these books. Some I may have swooned over more than others but I'll let you guess which ones.

Finished Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor and am sad that I'll have to wait until next year to get the sequel in paperback ('cause I'm dorky and like to have my series in similar format). Luckily I have The Book of Phoenix still to read.

Akata Witch by [Okorafor, Nnedi]

Then, Thorn by Intisar Khanani. My sister recommended this to me and I'm glad she did.

A new Gail Carriger! Two, even. Romancing the Werewolf and Romancing the Inventor. I should say, two new ones in the Supernatural Society, since I haven't been excited by her young adult books. But these were sweet, I loved getting to return to these characters.

Product DetailsProduct Details

On a complete side note, there's been some discussion on the interwebs lately about "sweet" as a descriptor for romance novels. In its strictest sense it apparently means romances without sex on the page, but in broader usage it refers to romances with traditional gender roles/ages/abilities/etc. Socially conservative. And "sweet" as opposed to "dirty".

I think it's safe to say that nothing I read is "sweet" by that usage. But it's a good word to describe some of what I read! Damn social conservatives mis-using good words.

Two by K.J. Charles, The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal and Spectred Isle. I'm not sure I can adequately convey my love for her books. I had to join her Facebook group just so I could have a place to squee sufficiently.

   Product Details

Then Open Mic Night at the End of the World by Jessica Meyers. I'm not usually a big fan of end-of-the-world stories. Probably because I've been pretty sure since I was ten that it was likely. (I wrote my own version at that time - even won a writing competition for it - which meant having to read it out loud to a number of my peers, all of whom looked at me sideways afterwards.) But this one was, yes, sweet.

Open Mic Night at the End of the World by [Jessica Meyers]

After weeks of waiting it seemed, Caroline's Heart by Austin Chant. A ghost story in the best way - haunting. And over much too soon.

Caroline's Heart by [Austin Chant]

Then All In Fear, a collection of short horror stories. I read this because of, yes, K.J. Charles, and Roan Parrish and Avon Gale, but all of the stories were great (and I've now been introduced to Kris Ripper and have been busy trying to read all I can of zirs).

All in Fear: A Collection of Six Horror Tales by [Charles, KJ, Parrish, Roan, Rock, J.A., Ripper, Kris, Berman, Steve, Gale, Avon]

Finally, I'm still in the process of reading The Whites of Their Eyes by Xen, and Latin@ Rising, an anthology of Latinx science fiction and fantasy (many of which are horrific, at least to my eyes). I'm reading both slowly - the first because I find the stories truly terrifying (and because his writing is lush and I want to fully take it in, plus I've gotten sidetracked by his other books), and the second because the stories are so different in tone that I want to be sure each one sticks before going on to the next.

The Whites of Their Eyes: A Collection of Queer Horror by [Xen]     Latin@ Rising  An Anthology of Latin@ Science Fiction and Fantasy by [Aldama, Frederick]

I've really enjoyed spending a block of time steeped in these books - I've always read some fantasy throughout the year but these have pushed me to read more science fiction and horror as well. I think this may become a new October/November tradition.

Read any scary stories lately?

Friday, November 17, 2017

November Joys

This past week has been hard, folks.

Just in ultimately inconsequential, non-threatening ways though, so not worth detailing. The usual trifecta of work/family/sick.

As a result I'm a bit behind on my word count for NaNoWriMo, but the writing itself is still going well, and I think I'll be able to catch up. Doing NaNo has been an amazing experience, actually, but I don't want to jinx myself by saying too much about it yet.

Mostly I wanted to share a couple of things that have been bringing me joy or energy when I've needed it.

First, some music: Visualízate by Gente di Zona.

Related image

I've had this for a few months and keep listening to it, but it's been on almost constant repeat in the car and at work this week. There aren't videos for my most favorite songs on the album (Que Tú Quieres and Más Whisky), but here's another one I enjoy. Well, heck, I like all the songs on the album.

And then, for a completely different kind of rhythm and energy, some poetry: The Black Maria by Aracelis Girmay.

The Black Maria (American Poets Continuum Series) by [Girmay, Aracelis]

Maria, in this case, referring to the mare, or "seas", that early astronomers thought they saw on the surface of the moon and Mars (actually craters). She describes this collection, "This cycle of poems focuses on Eritrean history, as this is a history I am somewhat familiar with as someone of its diaspora. But, of course, the history of people searching for political asylum and opportunity (both) is much larger than Eritrean history alone."

From luam - asmara:

No one loves the flies, their work,
their rearranging, marking us
with the light of other guests.

Religious world - 

if there are angels, they are flies
who hover over our privacies,
kissing us with mouths
that have kissed
other wounds.

What's been bringing you joy lately?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Scary Movie Month Part II

More movies, more books. A rush report - but I didn't want to get too much farther into NaNoWriMo without getting this out.

After the tension of Get Out we decided to relax a bit with Hot Fuzz, the second in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy by Edgar Wright. I love this movie. I always remember how funny and sweet it is - I never remember just how well it's made (or how gory it is). Now I may need to rewatch the whole trilogy (also includes Shaun of the Dead and The World's End).

Then it was Slither by James Gunn. Funnier than I expected - and more gory as well. Nathan Fillian was being Nathan Fillian but that's always a treat so who cares. And I could probably watch Elizabeth Banks in anything as well. This was just a perfect horror movie, it hit all its beats and had some fun surprises as well.

Next we saw Split by M. Night Shyamalan. Oooo, this was heartbreaking. Fascinating. Completely drew us in and had us talking about it for a while afterwards. And now I have to see Unbreakable.

One interesting aspect of watching this movie was how The Dude completely missed elements of Casey's story that I got immediately. I can't say anything without being spoilery but it reminded me how easy it is to not know things about our society if you don't have to know them. And yet other people are profoundly impacted by those things, so to not see them or deny them is another form of violence.

Then Alien 3 by David Fincher (remember that we saw Zodiac by him?) Visually arresting, but, eh.

Halloween II, written by John Carpenter but directed by Rick Rosenthal. Another meh, but now I've seen it and don't have to again.

Scream by Wes Craven. Okay, I know this was considered a big deal when it came out, one of the first horror movies to get all meta on itself and reinvigorating the genre, attracting female viewers in big numbers for the first time, etc., etc. So, from the point of view of knowing my horror movie history, fine. But it really disturbed me. I know it's satire, and you aren't supposed to take it seriously, but I just found it scary and unsettling and even more so because you're supposed to be laughing. At a woman being stalked and gas-lit by her boyfriend and his friend, who also killed other women including her own mother the year before. Plus lots of slut-shaming. No, thank you.

It Follows by David Robert Mitchell was next, brooding, atmospheric, interesting to think about. Almost a little quiet and slow at times, but perhaps we were just experiencing scary movie fatigue at this point.

And then, to finish the month, Psycho. Well. I will just say that I was probably not in the right mood for this one, probably because while the movie goes to some length at the end (though the voice of the psychiatrist) to emphasize that Norman isn't transsexual or a transvestite, it doesn't effing matter because what you see is a "psycho", dressed in women's clothing, with no nuance in that particular depiction at all*. And all the critical explaining away I've read doesn't do anything to change that initial impact. So again, no.

I've exhausted myself just thinking about these, I'll finish up with the books in another post. Thankfully I also read a lot of good spooky/scary books!

Worn out on scary so now we're binge-watching Shameless,

*As opposed to the same in Split, where McAvoy's female personalities are portrayed as convincingly as the male ones and not for shock value. Leaving aside the whole problematic portrayal of dissociative identity disorder in that movie, of course.

Friday, November 3, 2017


It's National Novel Writing Month and a whole bunch of us writer types are signed up to write 50,000 words this month on whatever project we've gotten it into our heads to do.

There's an official webpage and all, and Twitter threads and Facebook groups, national and local, and oh, all kinds of ways to connect with other writers doing this. In good and bad ways.

My project this year is the rewrite of the novel I was working on over this past year. Over the summer I realized I needed to change the point of view it was in, and once I got over the heartbreak of seeing eight months' work wither and die, I got excited about casting a critical eye on it in regards to plotting and character goals/motivations.

Of course in that process some elements I'd previously seen as, oh, window-dressing, decided that they were integral to the story I really wanted to write. So basically it's a whole new novel.

To my surprise I've gotten a good start, hitting my daily word goals. Just a couple of days ago I thought there was no way I could do it, and if I'd kept to my previous work method I couldn't. But for this month I'm writing loose and easy, all long-hand - no editing! We'll see if I can keep it up.

This is gonna be hard, I'm not going to lie. But I'm feeling game. You won't see much of me on Facebook this month but these days I'm far more active on Twitter anyway and you can find me there @AEllisC, hanging out with queer romance writers/readers and other interesting cats. And actual cat photos. And foxes. And red pandas. Who knew?

May need a hand massage when this is through,