Category Archives: thoughtspinning

A Work In Progress, I Am

Today’s long day at the distillery gave me a lesson.

Yes, I still love and adore my job.  Nearly every person who comes in is in a good mood and ready to be in an even better one.  And nearly everyone is happy with the person giving the tour because, well, I give them whiskey not once, but twice.

Nearly everyone.  Nearly.

It’s still a customer service position, and as such, there will always be someone not happy.  Or someone who is happy, but high maintenance.  Or someone who will never, ever be happy, and that level of unhappiness has nothing to do with their surroundings and activities.  This is the person who will actively seek a reason for their unhappiness, right down to whether they have to take twenty-seven steps to reach a destination when everyone else seems to take a mere twenty-six and three-quarters.

(Certainly there are those for whom the quarter-step is an actual imposition, a painful addition, or an unreasonable expectation.  Those aren’t the folks I’m speaking of.)

And those folks often trick us into believing that last quarter-step is important.  Or their misery over that quarter-step is important.  Or the threat of their overblown dissatisfaction with that quarter-step is important.  And once that trick is played, the obligation for solving it is transferred to us as well.

And most times, we know both the trick and the obligation are bullshit, but we fall for the trick anyway, and then are angry we were made to feel an obligation.  And we try to find a way to either duck the obligation, or meet the obligation in a way that doesn’t actually make the person happy because that feels like a “win.”

This is the root of pettiness.  On both sides.

I fell into the trap today, took a quick walk, and decided I didn’t want to be petty any longer.

Look: No matter our social and political leanings, there are great and wonderful and terrifying and inspiring things happening in our world today.  Those things deserve my energy.  Matching petty-for-petty does not.  Answering someone’s act of petty nastiness with equally petty nastiness accomplishes nothing.  Answering petty nastiness with civility often accomplishes nothing for the other person as well…  But it accomplishes a great deal for me.

I don’t waste my energy.  I don’t waste me time.  I don’t waste my emotional reserves.

I solve the problem, or I don’t because I can’t, and that’s the end of it.

So today my goal became to leave as much pettiness behind as I can.  To leave behind the deep-rooted need to respond in kind over little and meaningless nastiness.  To let go of the false notion of “winning” in the game of pettiness, and strive instead to understand in the moment how little pettiness matters.

Pettiness is exhausting.  I have more important things to do.

Now we’ll see how long I can hold on to this decision…

#SFWApro

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To Catch A Pup

My sis and her family live on a military base, and I’m on and off the base a few times a week to help care for my nephews.  The road through the base swings around a field of about five or six acres near the family housing.

As I was pulling onto that road last week, I saw a boy walking, leash in hand, toward a beautiful and tall Husky sniffing around the side of the road.  Behind him, his parents were splitting up to close off escape routes.  I drove a little farther down the road, stopped my car beside a couple other cars, and joined a half dozen folks who had the same idea I did.

The Husky walked back to the boy, ducked his head… then tore off for the field with his tail up high.

For the next half hour, I was part of an impromptu mission to capture the pup.  Men and women — some in uniforms, some not — running back and forth in lines and arcs to keep the pup from bolting for the gates, and to gradually shrink his romping area.

And romping he was!  Head up, he pranced and sprinted and leapt all over that field.  Time and again, he bowed down in front of one of us, tail swinging, waiting for a single twitch to tell him where we were going to play next.

Everyone was laughing.  Sure, it was important we catch that pup, but it was so clear the pup was having the absolute time of his life!  And as orders and warnings were called (“HOLE!” was the most common, since the field was riddled with prairie dog dens), we humans played his game in the bright sun and cool breeze until the pup stopped, shook himself from nose to tail, and trotted over to the woman holding his leash.

More laughing, an exchange of waves, and we all piled into our respective cars and went on our way.  I passed that kid I’d first seen, now holding a leash with a tongue-lolling dog on the other end, and grinned all the way home.

As I was driving home, I thought, “This is one of those things that would happen to Francesca!”   Then, in the next moment, I thought, “No, Francesca’s stories have changed the way I see things, and that’s an incredible thing.”

And then I thought I should tell her, and tell all of you, about the Husky and the military folks and the laughter and the sun, and the power of perspective to change a story and a life.

I might have gotten teary-eyed in there somewhere, too.

#SFWApro

 

 

Musing That Might Or Might Not Apply To Current Conversations

My admiration for a professional acquaintance grew during the Indiana RFRA upheaval (which I introduce here as an EXAMPLE, not something I really want to debate right now*). She is a life-long Republican activist. And I do mean activist. She organizes and attends political rallies, works in campaign offices, and is always ready to intelligently discuss policy. My beliefs and hers overlap in very few places, but I’ve always enjoyed our conversations whether we’re agreeing or disagreeing.

She held strong beliefs against RFRA–beliefs she determined were more in line with her vein of conservatism than that of RFRA’s supporters. Knowing she’d forever damage her standing among segments of her party, she became one of the loudest and most reasoned voices speaking for its amendment or repeal. Many of the photos you’ve seen of local rallies include her. She was even asked to speak at the largest rally. And she spoke to her fellow conservatives at every opportunity.

Coolest of all? She consistently delivered moderate messages regardless of her audience. Since the message was both inclusive and diverse (it touched on social, economic, personal, national, political, and generational responsibilities), people on both sides listened.

Even so, folks on one side bad-mouthed her as a fake supporter and criticized her mention of economic motivations as cold-hearted and selfish. Folks on the other side bad-mouthed her as a fake Republican intent on attacking religion.

But in the end, she and others supported and achieved a middle ground: Indiana has an RFRA that is more in line with the original intent of the Federal RFRA, and the folks whom the original Indiana RFRA drafters targeted were extended protection, and the discussion continues.

Oh, and Indiana state government has allocated millions of dollars to marketing and public relations intended to repair the damage done to Indiana’s convention and tourism business.

***

There is a charming innocence in believing life is like a box of chocolates. I rather hope that isn’t true because that would mean some chocolates are rotten, or filled with venomous spiders, or imbued with the ability to randomly kill those I love. I’d prefer my chocolates to be like chocolates, thank you very much.

Life is really a plane filled with passengers who ought to be prepared to slip into The Langoliers without warning. The view is fantastic and the destination just might be wonderful, but at any moment something will go terribly, irrevocably wrong and your survival will depend upon not only your own preparations but the attitudes and preparedness of those sharing your plane.

Continue reading Musing That Might Or Might Not Apply To Current Conversations

A Window To Kindle Scout Perspectives

CliffWindowI really didn’t want to blog about Amazon’s Kindle Scout—I’m not interested in the good/bad debate—but I do think the conversation about the program is highlighting perfectly the business divide between self-publishers and (most) hybrids, and those who are focused solely (or overwhelmingly) on landing or keeping a contract with a “traditional” publishing contract.

In short, as Jim Hines says, Kindle Scout crowdsources the slush pile.  Writers submit their work and are encouraged to publicize their participation.  Readers nominate their favorite books.  The books with the most nominations are “more likely,” in Amazon’s words, to be reviewed by Amazon.  Amazon will then select the books it wants to publish.

I emphasize that last point because some have wrongly claimed Amazon will publish books with the most votes.  Nope.  Votes garner attention, not contracts.

My intent isn’t to rah-rah for or against Kindle Scout, but to look at why different writers with different perspectives have different reactions and opinions.  Personally, I want to see what shakes out in the next three months before I make a decision.

One issue that has caused a minor stir is that writers who enter Kindle Scout agree, at the moment of entry, to the contract terms.  To my knowledge, that’s similar to many contests.  I don’t believe the contracts for Glimmer Train’s competitions are negotiable, for example, but I’m willing to be corrected.  I’d also be interested in knowing if past contracts offered under contests like Warner Aspect’s First Novel Contest were negotiable.

I personally don’t much like things I can’t negotiate–my knee-jerk hang-up.  I’d love to see, say, SFWA and RWA look at the terms and make professional recommendations to Amazon.  For example, I’ve seen some opinions on the Scout indemnity clause that make me wonder enough to want the opinion of a pair of legal eyes, as well as a comparison to trade-publishing’s indemnity clauses.

On the other hand, the contract terms are right out in the open.  There aren’t surprises.  You either like them or you don’t, and if Amazon doesn’t select your work within 30 days, you’re still free to publish it on your own.

In contrast, Amtrak’s recent contest rules stated all submitted materials became immediately the property of Amtrak—including the work of those who didn’t win.  Many writers—self-published and trade-published—spoke out against that rule.  And many writers decided the mere chance of winning a train ride was worth losing exclusive rights to their submitted work.  As far as I could tell, those sides didn’t fall along self/trade lines.

So what about the Kindle Scout issues that do?

Continue reading A Window To Kindle Scout Perspectives

New Sand of Bone Review

TWO502-SandOfBone-cover-2400

Really, you can’t be much more satisfied than when a reviewer recommends your dark fantasy novel to fans of KJ Parker.

To my great happiness, reviewer Marissa Lingen chose to give a full review to Sand of Bone, just as she did for Sword and Chant.

I love that she speaks about the themes of loyalty and personal motivations.

In SFF fiction in general, and epic fantasy in particular, the writerly temptation to attach broad and noble motivations to our characters is massive.  We want to believe our own heroes and grand historical figures were motivated to struggle and fight and at last achieve greatness by lofty ideals alone.  It just sounds better to say, “He wanted freedom for everyone!” than to say, “His son was insulted again, and he just couldn’t see his son cry one more time.”

The first one is the “public” face, the motivation that will rally others to agree and act.  But the second one is the real reason, and is equally noble despite the fact most folks won’t give a damn about what happens to his son (outside of its PR value as an origin story, that is).  It’s the public reason, the noble reason, that connects the empathetic few with the self-motivated whole.

With Sand of Bone, I didn’t want to create characters motivated from the start by Grand Notions that would later be revealed as having personal underpinnings.  It’s a valid storytelling method, to be certain, but backwards. I wanted to use my viewpoint characters to carry out the real-life version of what leads to dissention: start with deeply personal reasons for standing up to authority and, if enough people agree, maybe it’ll be deemed noble.  If even more people agree, maybe it’ll be a movement.  But for the characters, backstory is never backstory.  It’s the reason for every breath.

And the fact Lingen touched upon that in her review makes me even happier than the Parker-reader recommendation.