How’s the weather out there?

beta readers

There’s a piece of advice that gets traded around on writers’ FB groups, attributed to various famous authors (but mostly Neil Gaiman) that “beta readers” can tell you what is wrong, but editors tell you why and then how to fix it.

And I always nod and not comment because my tried-and-true betas are really good about this: they’ll note that something seems off (and even say, in comments, that they have a PhD. In whatever, and can offer details if I need them, but leave the subsequent queries up to me). They know better than to tell me *how* to write it.

But, then again (keeping in mind that this was the first run at the scene, in the first draft of a novel):

One time, I threw out a general request for some people with some experience in something to read a short snippet and tell me if the terminology was all right, and if it “felt” realistic enough.

Most of the people that responded ignored the specifics of the question and jumped in with anecdotes that were not even slightly pertinent, given the parameters I asked for.

Most gave me advice about what the characters “should” do, ignoring the fact that – being a short excerpt with no surrounding context – I hadn’t asked for solutions to avoid the situation, but for whether or not, given some poor decision-making, the feel of the scene was accurate.

I pointed that out.

I got two more people chiming in with what the characters ought to have done to avoid the problems.

And then, several people gave me contradictory advice, anyway, which suggested to me that perhaps some of them knew a whole lot less than they thought they did.

But the real kicker was that one person gave me a long screed that was essentially an edit. They objected to a descriptive phrase, not because it was inaccurate, but because it seemed out of place to them. They ignored the really salient details, and gave advice about a different environment that I specifically said this wasn’t. They felt that the reader would need to know a lot of details that are, in fact, treated much earlier in the chapter, but were not germane to my writer’s dilemma or to the question I had posed.

It was also an edit that suggested that they would hate, hate, hate my books because frankly, in no reality whatsoever would I interrupt a scary, life-threatening action scene to deliver a lecture on meteorology and how storms form over the North Atlantic (which is not where my characters were, anyway.)

My instinct is this: that open queries are a mistake, and that people need to read those queries really carefully when they do come up.

Because now I have a whole lot less respect for some people’s reading comprehension skills, and that’s a little bit sad.

 

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Our Second Selves

shadows

 

There is the me I think I know.

Brash, smart-mouthed, passionate, crusading – the public me is outgoing and tries hard to remember to be kind. That me believes in her own innate goodness, believes in your goodness, too, and will dance to crappy music in the mall, throw snowballs, march in protests, make dinner, and write novels.

I admire her. I like her.

But late at night, there is the other me. Deep inside, the other self is lying in wait.

Trembling, because this world is so frightening. This world is so hard.

This me is hesitant. This me fears the risks. This me wants nothing more than to curl up under the blankets and sleep to the end of time.

This me sees only her shortcomings: the gaps between – the ways she has not fulfilled her own promises. The lack of patience. The rush to judgement.

She sees your faults, too: she nurses the pain you cause, she carries the grudges like unsheathed swords. She will cut you, to prevent you from cutting her first.

You might not know her, but I do, and I have to live with her. Believe me, it is not easy.

 

We all have those second selves inside.

It’s important to remember that, when other people hurt you.

Because I strongly suspect that when they do, it isn’t their first, best selves that cause the pain. It is that second self, the one that is so scared, the one that lashes out, the one that is too quick to battle unseen foes, that’s the one who hurt you.

On the sideline, their first, best self is standing, openmouthed in shock and dismay, longing to take it all back.

Be good to both selves. Neither of them are perfect, but they try.

This just in…

georgia fans

Apparently, I was a big hit in Georgia….

Aaron-Michael Hall (one of my favourite writers) was kind enough to take a few copies of my books to the Steampunk con there, and sold them all!

And to this terrific looking lady with the 1000-watt smile – I so hope you love the books!

Yeah, I try hard not to toot my own horn here too much, but I just occasionally get a lift like this and needed to share.

TODAY ONLY!

22282064_10204299169197569_7726425918001331459_n

 

I’m doing the Reader Giveaway Extravaganza.

There are gift cards to be won, as well as lots of other prizes for readers, so check it out here:

https://tinyurl.com/ybf5w7w9

And for a chance to win a “bundle” of both of my fantasy novels in eBook form, drop a word or gif or even just a happy face (or a sad one, I don’t mind) in the comments thingie at the bottom of this post.

comic con image

There will be some form of random draw process (usually, it’s a five-year-old choosing a name from a hat) (not the name OF a hat, that would defeat the purpose) to choose the winner, who I will then contact.

 

Enjoy yourselves, and (for the Canadians) Happy Thanksgiving!

Them’s Fighting Words Around Here

valkyrie

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/09/dna-proves-fearsome-viking-warrior-was-woman

I’ve watched with fascination how this debate has evolved over the last few days.

It’s been instructive.

And depressing.

The argument goes like this:

“There are lots of reasons this cannot be the grave of a woman who actually was a warrior. But one of them is that we have found almost no graves that can be reliably proven as women who fought. Therefore, this one is not an actual woman warrior.”

Basically, the whole rationale here is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

If this grave can, by subjecting it to a level of testing and analysis that no male-with-weapons inhumation is ever subjected to, be consigned to the category of “unproven”, then the number of female warrior graves can remain statistically at zero or less, which therefore means that the next XX skeleton can also be dismissed, because we “still haven’t found any unequivocal evidence of women who were warriors”.

I say that until every single “male warrior” grave undergoes the level of critique that this recently re-interpreted burial has, not one single archaeologist (and certainly no one whose expertise remains at the level of “I read a bunch of stuff about it on the internet”) should be allowed to pontificate on this.

Because, frankly, there’s no way to compare the relevant findings until that happens.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/18/battle-prejudice-warrior-women-ancient-amazons

Labour Day Week-end is no time for seriousness

So instead, I’ll give you the Best Ever One-and-a-Half-Dish Supper.

food

In addition writing and reading and Archaeology, I like to cook. (And eat – boy, do I love to eat!)

It stems from my childhood and that incredible hippie-hospitality ethos that my parents were into, and I frequently go into the kitchen to recreate those memories through food. This one isn’t really so much of a remake of one of those classics, but it has that feel to it. You can satisfy 6-8 people with this – it’s very filling.

 

1 double recipe for Bisquik Rolled Biscuits (or double recipe of your own scratch biscuit dough)

1 lb ground beef

Half-cup or so of either a robust tomato sauce or barbecue sauce

Lots of grated cheese. 2-3 cups minimum, very likely more. Cheddar is good, mozzarella is important, Parmesan is advised as an addition, although optional if using barbecue sauce.

Make the biscuit recipe up and roll out till it’s big enough to fill one of those standard long-size oblong lasagna dishes – right up the sides. Grease the dish first, then line it with the dough.

Prebake for fifteen minutes at 350 degrees F or until slightly golden brown.

Meanwhile, cook the ground beef until there’s no more pink. Drain. Add whichever sauce you fancy (don’t put too much in…use some judgment. It needs to be moist, but not runny.) and cook two or three minutes longer.

Let both the crust and the filling cool a bit (or a lot, if you want, this is a good one for making a day ahead…), and, when about a half hour out from suppertime, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (okay, approximately, because ovens all have their own unique interpretation of temperature).

Put the filling into the crust in the lasagna pan, smooth it out, and top with all the cheese.

Put the thing into the oven and turn the temperature down to about 350 degrees F, bake until cheese is bubbly and browning and ooey-gooey delicious.

Serve with a green salad.

TRUST ME! It’s super-easy and totally yummy. Serves any reasonable number of normal eaters or four starving artists.