Warm weather is here, and you know what that means.
Sucking up my weekends, when I’d much rather be indoors writing. I’m trying to reclaim my back yard from the blackberry brambles this year, and have finally resorted to chemical warfare. I hate using herbicides, but it’s out of control. There’s a play structure in the back that my ex-husband made for the kids when they were small that is now completely overgrown by blackberries, you can’t even see it. The deer haven’t been by in weeks, so I thought maybe it was safe to spray as long as they’re not here eating the blackberries. I wanted to get the blackberries dealt with before they flower and produce berries and (more to the point) more seeds. I still hate the idea, but it’s insane how much yard they take up.
I found this little thing growing up through the ivy. Known as “Stinky Bob” or “Herb Bob” it’s also classified as a noxious weed, just like the blackberries are. These sound much easier to get rid of, if you want to. I left it.
Here’s a shot of my redwood tree. You can see some of the blackberry bushes at the bottom, how tall they are, almost totally blocking the shed/outbuilding. It’s a big building, up on a concrete slab with electrical. Previous owners used it as a woodworking shop, apparently they built cabinets there. There’s an extra-wide door to get the stuff they built out through.
And Buster. He follows me around, meowing. I don’t know what the hell he wants.
I’m already sick of mowing.
This is just a pet peeve of mine on Twitter that I’ve yet to see it addressed by any of the “Twitter etiquette” articles I can find online. There’s something about this that just doesn’t sit right with me, and that being when someone takes every conversation public by responding to a tweet by using the “retweet” and then “quoting” it in replay, like so:
So for the sake of argument, let’s say I conduct all my Twitter conversations like this, by hitting “retweet” and quoting the other person’s tweet, even if their tweet was sent to me as an @ reply. Clearly this one was not, but I’m just using Baba Studio’s tweet as an example since they’re a business and sent that out or the world (or at least all their followers) to see. I don’t want to embarrass anyone with this, but I’m wondering how others feel about this method of interacting? I know there are no hard and fast rules, and social media platforms are still evolving, but I find this quite annoying. It’s stopped me more than once from responding to someone because I knew they would do that with my tweet to them. Sometimes you just want to have a conversation with one person or send a quick reply, and I realize it’s the web and everything is public, and if I really wanted to keep something private I’d take it to DM (Direct Message), although these are off-the-cuff conversations and don’t merit a DM anyway. I guess it feels like it depersonalizes it, as if they can’t be bothered talking to just me.
To me, it’s the equivalent of chatting with someone at a party or in the office, and everything you say to them, they turn around and yell it to everyone else or broadcast it over the PA system. By quoting the other person’s tweet they’ve effectively invited everyone else who follows them to join the conversation. Personally I’ve only used this in the past when someone was going on the attack. He or she had said something I thought was funny in response to something a newspaper had tweeted, so I quoted him/her and tweeted it. The person was horrendously offended and shocked that I would do that, and became combative and defensive, when I had meant it as a compliment because it was so pithy. I don’t recall what the comment was. I don’t know if he/she didn’t realize the tweet was public and anyone could see it. He (I’m assuming it was a male) seemed quite shocked that I could see it and demanded to know who I was. He seemed afraid of getting into a flame war with people who might disagree and seemed to hint this had happened in the past. Well, that’s the risks of tweeting, I suppose. But I digress.
So granted, all tweets are public, but it just seems like bad form to conduct all your conversations like performance art. And it’s really annoying when someone does this with a celebrity’s tweet, and quotes the celeb’s tweet in a tweet as a response, as if they know the person. Which they don’t. It strikes me as pretentious like “look who I tweeted to!”
What do you guys think?
On Twitter this morning, an author I follow retweeted another author that he follows, who spake thusly:
Still looking for the right publisher for my newest # . If anyone knows of a good publisher or agent, please let me know. No selfpub plz
And I thought, he’s kidding, right? There is no way anyone can answer this because the author in search of a publisher gave no info about the book he’s hoping to publish. Nada. This person has apparently already self-published one book, but didn’t specify if the new book is a sequel, in the same genre, or something completely different. Maybe some of his followers know more about the book, but retweeting it to people who don’t is pretty pointless. Frankly I wasn’t interested enough to even ask. Nor do I have any info on agents, but it’s not that hard to find.
Here’s the thing: Agents and publishers are very specialized. Writers need to do their own research and find an agent that handles the kind of material they write. An agent who reps (represents) Young Adult books may or may not also rep erotica (very likely not). Some will handle a variety of genres (mystery, historical fiction, women’s fiction), whereas some may have a much narrower focus. A poetry publisher will not be interested in a memoir of a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Newbies to the writing and publishing business have to understand that it IS a business, and they need to become as informed and in-touch as any business professional who hopes to succeed in their chosen career. And here’s the biggest thing: It is no one’s responsibility to do it for you. Even if someone does have a working relationship with an agent, that doesn’t mean it would be the right agent for this particular book. I thought we were past the time when writers thought all they needed to do was sit in a coffee shop typing out their masterpiece and then turn it over to a publisher who would instantly recognize their genius and deliver it to the world. Apparently not.
Agents are like anyone else, they have their likes and dislikes. This is why it’s so important to do research, see who else the agent has published, if they seem to be interested in what you’re offering. Just because that agent likes one writer doesn’t mean they’ll like what the next writer sends along. To use a dated analogy, they’re not like phone booths – “Oh look, there’s one.” Just wastes everyone’s time.
This kind of plea makes me wonder if this author also thinks signing a contract is the end of the work for the writer. Whether self-publishing or getting a contract with a publishing house, the bulk of marketing and advertising will still fall to the writer. Unless you’re Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, your publisher is not going to be taking out full page ads in the New York Times to advertise your book. To quote Westley in The Princess Bride, “Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” Do your homework. Read up on publishers and agents. They’re all online now so it’s much easier than it used to be. Back in the dim time writers had to head down to the library to read the mastheads of magazines for editors’ names and addresses, most of which would be out-of-date by the time you read it. I honestly don’t know how people found agents in those days. Probably going through the phone book.
Nowadays agents and publishers are all online. Try a quick Google search for “literary agents on Twitter” and follow the ones who rep what you write. Read their bios on their sites. They will spell out in glorious technicolor detail what they handle, and what they’re looking for. If you’re pitching a military steampunk novel to an agent who only reps childrens’ books, don’t be shocked when they don’t even respond to your query.
Follow the hashtag #MSWL (My Secret Wish List) on Twitter to see what agents are really looking for right now.
Pick up the Writer’s Digest “Writer’s Market” or “Fiction Market” or “Poet’s Market.” They even publish a separate “Guide to Literary Agents.” Writer’s Digest site is a great place for any writer to begin. There’s a wealth of information there no matter what you write. Check here. I’m not shilling for them, but I would have been lost without their magazine when I first started writing.
Read Writer Beware, which will steer you clear of scams and shady publishers and agents.
That tweet this morning reminded me why I don’t hang out in writing chat groups online. They’re full of newbie, aspiring writers (which is fine in and of itself) who spend half the time begging other people for ideas. “I don’t know what my main character should do, can someone give me an idea?” Hand to god, I am not making this up. I feel a little bit like I’m channeling Harlan Ellison here, but if you have no ideas you should probably do something else. It’s the writer’s job to write the book, unless you plan to credit the person who supplies all your ideas as your co-author on the book.
I have no way of knowing how much info the tweeter this morning expected other people to provide since I didn’t respond, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was expecting other people to research agents for him and get back to him with the details. That could be a full time job. But I bet the pay is lousy.
UPDATE March 24: Here is a searchable database of agents http://agentquery.com/
End rant. Here, have a pretty picture for reading all that.
With all the talk of Twitter moving to an algorithmic system that promotes “popular” posts (read: things that make the company more money) I’m preparing to either abandon it, or use it less. In any event, I’ve started a Tumblog which can be found here. Not much there yet since I just started it today. I expect it will evolve as these things do.
I also resuscitated my Ello site, just barely, but it has a pulse now. I’m still not sure what I’ll be doing over there. But if you happen to be on either of those services, let’s connect. If you’re on Facebook I’m there as well (also here) but I don’t log in often.
Don’t be a stranger!
Last weekend I was sick with a cold, and because I was sick I turned on the tv and thereby caught this program about books, WellREAD, on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting). I’m always excited to find a show about books, and it was doubly exciting to come in on a show discussing books on witches with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff. She was talking about her latest, The Witches: Salem, 1692, which is another exploration of the witch trials.
Schiff clearly has a real passion for her subject. I also liked that she said she can’t seem to write a book in less than four or five years when authors now are pressured to crank out a book every few months to keep up momentum (although this likely applies solely to fiction. I can’t see any sort of respectably researched historical book being done well in less than a couple of years). As much as I’ve read over the years on the witch trials I will consider adding Ms. Schiff’s book to my TBR pile. The reviews on Amazon are split pretty evenly between those who loved it and those who thought it was a ‘tedious slog’ so my expectations are tempered.
Be that as it may, the show itself was going great until about the last five minutes when Mary Ann Gwinn, who gives further reading suggestions, excitedly talked about Alex Mar’s “Witches of America.” Mar’s book has been roundly criticized by the pagan/witchcraft community, and you can read one take on that here. It’s obvious Gwinn knows absolutely nothing about modern witchcraft, or was even aware of its existence. I got the impression neither of the show’s hosts has ever met anyone who didn’t believe exactly what they do; they both seemed amazed that there are people today who call themselves witches. Gwinn went on to mockingly describe modern witches saying, “In one way you want to make fun of these subjects: the weird tattoos, the costumes, blue hair, the free-form sex, the witches’ convention at a Doubletree Inn. Really?” Nice. She openly wants to make fun of them. Ok, I admit the Doubletree Inn is a little weird seeing as how my coven always meets in Lucifer’s penthouse. But what the hell.
Maybe she thinks we should all look as bland and asexual as she does. Finally, the show’s host Terry Tazioli gives a shudder and says “I’m done with witches.” Good for you, buddy. Very disappointing to see such a derisive dismissal of alternative spirituality in this day and age. Their way or the highway, it would seem. They might be interested to know witchcraft practitioners and practices are as varied as any segment of the population, and many hold advanced degrees, including PhDs, and careers in the sciences and academia. I, for one, look more like a Sunday school teacher. My hair is not blue (although I really like the look) because I need to fit in in Corporate America. But not everyone does, and this is not the 1950s. You can watch the show here.
I shudder to think of the judgment the two of them sit in towards other marginalized population groups.
And for your edification and enlightenment, here are some reading suggestions if you really want to learn about paganism and/or Witchcraft in the modern world:
Margot Adler, “Drawing Down the Moon”
Scott Cunningham, “The Truth About Witchcraft Today”
Scott Cunningham, “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner”
Pauline Campanelli, “The Wheel of the Year”
Starhawk, “The Spiral Dance”
For real basics, The Witches’ Voice website has “Witchcraft 101: So You Wanna Be a Witch?”
If nothing else, Mar’s book introduced people at The New York Times to the idea that there are practicing witches today. We may not fly on brooms (the old joke is we ride Hoovers now) but we have been known to dance under a full moon.
Just a few recent pics.
Moon and Venus, 7AM, Jan. 6, 2016
Sunrise over Farksolia, Jan. 6, 2016. The roads were total ice, so traffic was doing about 20mph through this stretch.
And without the wires
Snow earlier in the week (January 3) so I got to work from home that Monday (Jan. 4). It didn’t amount to much, only about an inch and a half, but it stuck around in my area for several days. My backyard was still snowy on Thursday (the 7th) when it was gone from just about everywhere else in the area. The hills of course had it worse.
Daffodils aren’t afraid of a little snow.
Having an insomniac night, and find reading to be of no help in settling my mind, I switched on the tv at 4 o’clock in the morning. After flipping through the handful of channels I get on the antenna (I don’t have tv cable) I ran across this on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting). It’s a 2-year-old documentary hosted by the actor Stephen Fry about a handful of contemporary Russian authors. Russia kind of fascinates me after being closed off to the West for so long. It makes me wonder what we in the West have missed. The documentary website is here. I do have a couple of books by Russian contemporary writers, one fantasy (Nightwatch, by Sergei Lukyanenko, and The Stranger, by Max Frei) but haven’t gotten to them in the TBR pile.
If it makes you curious for more, and aren’t the type to read the comments, I found this guy’s blog which has much more on Russian writing and writers.