Monday, May 4, 2015

On Failure

I was going to write 50,000 words during April for Camp NaNoWriMo. I was going to finish my current WIP ahead of LDStorymakers, now less than 2 weeks away. I was going to work more at my freelance writing job. I was going to exercise daily and eat fewer calories. I was going to do a lot of things.

Instead... I didn't. I wrote NO fiction. I increased my freelance hours by a mere fraction of what was possible. I gained weight - and it's not muscle.

Part of my failure is because I had to shift priorities, part of it is because of my continuing addiction to social media (curse my interesting friends saying interesting things!), and part of it is because, well, I got bored with my WIP's plot, and didn't much care what happened next.

I have great excuses, like being a mother, having a traveling husband, trying to jump-start a new career in mediation, and all sorts of other stuff....

But I wrote more words on Facebook last month than I did in my WIP.

I ate third helpings at dinner even when I was full. And then ate a full helping of dessert. I didn't exercise as often or as hard as I could have, preferring to hurry up to my office to web-surf.

But here's the thing about failure: I don't HAVE to do it today, just because I did it yesterday. Just because I spent the last hour on pointless surfing, I don't have to spend the next three hours on the same thing. My day might be shorter, now, than it should be, but I can still accomplish more than nothing. More than I accomplished Thursday and Friday last week.

Besides, I've finally figured out why I was bored and, though I'll have to rewrite about 5 chapters, my book will be better.

Now if I can ignore that shiny blue F.... Hey! Did you know it's possible to CLOSE the Facebook tag on your browser? So weird.

How do you overcome your own failures?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Roots of Knowledge

Last week, I had the chance to visit Holdman Studios at Thanksgiving Point, where my friend DawnRay Ammon works. If you're ever near there, I highly recommend a visit: The glass they work there is so gorgeous!

Holdman is a glassworking studio that provides the stained glass for many of the world's LDS temples, as well as for other religions. I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the temple glass, but it was amazing to see it all come together, from sketches to individual pieces of glass, to the finished windows.

Holdman is working on a huge project for Utah Valley University right now called Roots of Knowledge. It's a truly epic project that promises to be a major attraction in the UVU library.

I did get to take pictures of the Roots of Knowledge project. This is one of the windows currently being assembled:



DawnRay sent me more pictures, too. This sequence shows the assembly of the Adam and Eve window:



What I didn't know (but should have guessed) is that the detail in the glass is painted onto the individual pieces. They're still assembled like puzzle pieces, but the shading on the rocks and the faces and other detail on Adam and Eve is accomplished by painting the glass before refiring it. Several layers are usually needed to get all the right colors, and they have to be done in a specific order, since some colors are more durable than others, and will survive the repeated firing while still maintaining their hues.



The point of the Roots of Knowledge project is to tell the Story of Man from the creation of the world. This will be the first time it is told with art glass, and Holdman Studios is doing an amazing job.



Whether you're a storyteller in search of plot bunnies, a lover of stained glass, or just someone who loves learning stuff, this series of windows will be amazing. Please consider donating to help bring the project to life.

Friday, April 10, 2015

"No Award" and How to Parent Unruly Children

Old news in the 2015 Hugo Awards debacle is that those who hate the Sad Puppies - not the works on the slate, mind you, but the very idea of public slates, the proponents of the slate, those who agree with the proponents of the slate, and, by extension, every author named on the slate - are lobbying that everyone who hates what they hate should vote "No Award" in every category dominated by the slate, regardless of whether they like any of the works nominated. This, they seem to think, will prove to the Sad Puppies that they cannot continue to present slates for mass voting. (Hmph.)

In response, a contingent of SP supporters, led by nobody-likes-him-and-he-doesn't-care Vox Day, are promising that if the 2015 Hugos are No Awarded out of existence, they'll do the same in 2016. And in 2017. And will continue to do so until everyone stops being mean, shares their toys, and admits that the other side is right. 

Did you get confused, in that last sentence, and wonder which side I was talking about? Me, too.

Since we're already confused, let's talk about my sons for a minute, huh?

I have three sons, all spaced two years apart. By the end of the summer, they'll be 14, 12, and 10. In true brotherly fashion, the 14 year old likes to tell the others what to do, and they HATE that. They respond by telling HIM what to do. He persists in asserting his older-than-thou superiority and they strike back with name-calling, pseudo-ugly gestures ("That wasn't my middle finger, mom!"), and general button-pushing. He grows frustrated at being ganged up on and  allows his temper to get the best of him. Physical threats follow. And are returned. Actual physical violence often ensues. And ends with three angry, crying boys.

Ever since the start of this on-again-off-again war, a few years ago, I've sat down with each of them as the dust settled, and tried to impress upon each what HE could have done to avoid the most recent skirmish. I was universally assured that there was absolutely NOTHING he could have done, as the fault lay entirely with his brother(s). Each would insist that I immediately go talk to his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad brother, and convince him to change his behavior to better comport with the preferences of the one I was conversing with.

No one, you see, was ever responsible for his own actions, as they were always the natural result of his brother's actions.

I have pointed out countless times that they all have ample instances of actual bad things their brothers have done to them in the past. These bad actions can serve forever as justification for whatever retaliation they want to inflict upon said brothers. And their retaliation will be added to their brothers' lists of wrongs, fueling their own righteous indignation... and so on and on until my boys are the next Hatfields and McCoys.

Unless. Someone. Starts. Forgiving.

In desperation, I started selecting family scriptures to memorize. One of the earliest was this, from Proverbs:

Be like Yoda. He can control himself AND take a city.
Then came the hard part: I had to actually stop getting angry, myself.

Screaming at the boys when they were in the middle of a scream-fest only made things worse, I slowly realized. Throwing my own temper-tantrum might have momentarily halted their conflict a time or two, but it contributed to the general idea that yelling was a great, effective way to solve a conflict. Striking them or throwing things only taught them that striking and throwing things was an okay way to react to stress.

THEIR bad behavior was a direct outgrowth of MY bad behavior. Once I changed my behavior, we started to see a lot more peace at home. My more calm and measured responses to their disagreements help to diffuse the conflict instead of adding fuel. The boys still get into it on occasion, but I can see them actually trying to choose better reactions to their brothers' bad behaviors.  It's awesome to watch, even when they fall short of actual harmony.

Which brings me back to the Hugos.

I've had fun watching the sides duke it out, but my fun was tainted this morning when someone on the side I agreed most with started name-calling, cursing, and offering actual physical violence to someone who disagreed with him in a comment thread.

That.

Won't.

Fix.

Anything.

Can we talk for a moment about how we want this to end? 

Do we want to lay waste to all SFF fandom awards? To divide into politically-polarized sides? To someday find that we can't tell our closest friends that we enjoyed a book by a liberal or a conservative author lest we reveal that we've crossed some line in the sand? Do we want to have separate awards, which will be universally derided by half of the fans of the genre as not "legitimate?" How about separate cons, where liberals and conservatives will never have to mingle with each other and so can avoid the actual physical shoving that is coming (and fast)? Should we rename SFF to LibSFF and ConSFF? Lobby book stores to designate separate shelves lest we accidentally like a book whose author we dislike?

Or, we can start to forgive each other for the stupid, mean, rotten things we've all done/said/written. 

We can, a few years from now, find ourselves in a real fandom award show, inwardly hissing for the winning works we didn't like and cheering the winning works we did like while knowing that, at least, we'd had a fair chance to see the award go to the books we liked. Resolving to rally more voters for next year. Blogging afterward about why we did or didn't like the results without once mentioning the personal politics of the authors, except when those politics reflected themselves in their works.

Folks, this is more than the Golden Rule, though that's a great place to start. If YOU don't like a No Award nuclear option, REFUSE to give it legitimacy by threatening to use it yourself. If YOU don't like the nasty conflict in fandom, REFUSE to give it legitimacy by participating nastily. 

If you want everyone to be reasonable, YOU must be reasonable. Usually, you have to do it FIRST.

In any fight - especially those that are recorded forever online and can be reviewed years later by heads free of the adrenaline rush of conflict engaged - the actual winner isn't the one who scores the most points. The winner is whichever side is most gracious. Most reasonable. Most clear-headed. The side which controls its anger, rules its spirit, and doesn't try to take someone else's city.

I wanna be on that side.

Now, since I can't resist, some specific advice:

If you're part of those who don't like how the Hugos are going this year, you have some options short of blowing them up completely. 

1) You can do as Mary Robinette Kowal is doing, actually review all the works on the ballot, and vote for the ones you like the best, ensuring that, at the very least, the most worthy nominees win. You can follow that up by rallying behind your favorite works in next year's nomination process, convince your friends and family to do the same, and get your favorites nominated by sheer force of votes. 

OR, 

2) You can seek to have WorldCon change how the Hugos are awarded and appoint a contingent of "approved" judges, who will henceforth choose the nominees, review all nominated works, and decide on the winners. Careful with this one, though: You can't guarantee that you'll agree with every judge, and you will lose your individual vote.

What you can't do, of course, is claim that the award represents the voice of all fandom while silencing the fans you don't like. That's got some definitional problems: Either you want everyone to vote or you can't call it everyone's vote. Choose wisely.

If you're part of those who are currently celebrating, keep this in mind:

1) Gracious winners are more important than gracious losers. Sore losers at least have some excuse in the emotion of severe disappointment. Some temper-tantrum throwing is normal, if not quite the "adult" thing to do. The sore winner, however, who is too busy trash-talking to smile graciously and shake his opponent's hand... well, that's a special kind of stuck-up, isn't it?

2) Nothing is more maddening to those who act badly than to receive only kindness in return. Kindness isn't being a door-mat, and it isn't being a victim. Only the truly superior can muster true kindness. Only those who can love their enemies – the ultimate sign of superiority – can see those enemies for all their parts (and not just the parts currently acting badly). If you’ve ever been in a fight with someone who knows you that well, loves you anyway, and refuses to return insult for insult, you know how disconcerting it is.

In conclusion…

Both sides are right. Both sides are wrong. Let’s stop trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong on which point and just rejoice that the speculative fiction genre we love has such a wonderful spectrum of thought, opinion, and creativity.

Larry Correia would tell me, now, that I’m an idealistic fool, and that trying to get people to play nice is useless. He has years of hard experience to back up that opinion, and parts of it are obviously correct: There are those on both sides who will always be rabble-rousers who are hungry for a fight and unsatisfied with a cease-fire. There are those on both sides who are incapable of logical thought and who are ruled by their emotions almost entirely.

But there are also those on both sides who are weary of the conflict, and who are actively trying to calm it down. Larry, for all his fire, is not an illogical rabble-rouser: He fights back, and he hits hard, and he has his agenda, but I've never seen him engage in a conflict for the sake of conflict. Sad Puppies was begun as a campaign to give voice to thousands of fans who weren't being represented in the “ultimate award of fandom” and I truly believe he’d be satisfied to see works he didn't like still win Hugos, if only he could be assured that everyone had a voice in the awards.

Mary, too, though she and Larry see eye-to-eye on very little, is also a friend, and a lovely voice of reason. She is generous with her knowledge and her talents and has been publicly trying to calm the flames for days, now.

I want to give ammo to the peace-makers, no matter what else we might disagree on. I want to convince the fence-sitters that an all-out civil war is not the answer.

I've been a lawyer for over a decade and a mother for even longer, and I can promise you this: Conflict without utterly annihilating the other side resolves nothing. And annihilation is rarely a viable option.


Which side are you on?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Guesting on Writerly Passion

Head on over to Nathan Barra's blog to see my guest post on Writerly Passion.

I love professional writers who have been able to dedicate their lives to writing. I love their dedication, I love their obvious talent, and I love that they are so free with advice on writing.

I don't love it when they say that a writing career is so hard, you shouldn't do it if you can do anything else.

I - all of us - can do anything that's in our hearts that we also put our minds and wills to.

And wonderful books can come from anyone, even if they excel at other things, too.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Of Hugos, Sad Puppies, and Worthy Blog Entries

Over the last few years, I've been happily diverted on a regular basis by the plight of The Hugo Awards. The Hugo awards, for those still in the dark, are self-proclaimed as "science fiction’s most prestigious award" since 1955. And they're awarded by anyone who is interested enough to pay $40 for a membership: "The Hugo Awards are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”), which is also responsible for administering them."

Anyone can join. Anyone who joins can vote. Just, well, if you value your right to live a peaceful, unbullied existence, vote RIGHT. Or is that left? Er... vote CORRECTLY.

Enter Larry Correia, a friend of mine and one of the nicest, most accessible and honest people I know. If you manage to refrain from telling him how he should think, calling him nasty names, or claiming that the entertainment he enjoys is unworthy, he's a wonderful guy. Funny, humble (kinda), eager to share his knowledge on how to become a bestselling author. A real decent sort. Husband to an amazing lady and father to several awesome daughters.

Larry, however, doesn't play well with others when those others want him to conform. He has a loud acerbic potty mouth and he uses it to cry foul in hilarious fashion whenever fouls are thrown.

Larry and the Hugos are not friends.

Three years ago, Larry grew tired of the prevalent idea in the Worldcon community that the only Right and True SF/F deserving of awards also conveyed a Message. Or were written by minorities. Yanno, like women, People of Color, non-heterosexuals, and the like. Because white straight men are, naturally, incapable of writing great SF/F. Or something.

Larry - who, it should be noted, is NOT white - decided to do something about it, and Sad Puppies was born. (Check out Larry's own Sad Puppies blog tag for a more complete history. Just get popcorn and a very comfy chair, first.)

Sad Puppies set out in tongue-in-cheek fashion to expose the bias of the majority of the Worldcon voters by asserting that the then-current voting norms were "the leading cause of puppy-related sadness." The movement urged followers to get involved in Worldcon by voting for well-written fiction that was more entertaining than preachy. Larry proposed a list of worthy titles, but never once suggested that his followers should limit themselves to his favorites.

Three years later, the suggested Sad Puppies 3 - The Saddening - slate dominated the nominations. The vocal message-and-minority loving Worldcon members had a complete breakdown. As they've been doing for years, they've attacked Larry personally, calling him a racist and a misogynist. Brad Torgerson - a white, straight male who only coincidentally has been married to a black woman for the last 21 years - has been helping run the movement this year and got painted with the same brush.

Possibly worse, the authors of works on the Sad Puppies slate have been maligned, regardless of the quality of their work (more on that, below).

Last night, Entertainment Weekly stepped in it. Big time. In a truly reprehensible bit of "journalistic" laziness, the writer (who I'm not naming because shaming her for her laziness isn't the point, and she's obviously not actually affiliated with either side beyond her 30 second bit of "research" for her article) presented the following headline:

Hugo Award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting campaign



Yeah. The article followed suit, claiming that the Sad Puppies only wanted white males to win... utterly ignoring the presence of women, minorities, and homosexual lead characters in the Sad Puppies slate.

Larry, no stranger to controversy or to lies being spread about him, took to Twitter and Facebook and quickly disabused Entertainment Weekly. As of this morning, when I finally noticed this delicious bit of fun, the article bears a new headline (Correction: Hugo Awards voting campaign sparks controversy) and has been greatly altered. The following disclaimer appears at the top:

CORRECTION: After misinterpreting reports in other news publications, EW published an unfair and inaccurate depiction of the Sad Puppies voting slate, which does, in fact, include many women and writers of color. As Sad Puppies’ Brad Torgerson explained to EW, the slate includes both women and non-caucasian writers, including Rajnar Vajra, Larry Correia, Annie Bellet, Kary English, Toni Weisskopf, Ann Sowards, Megan Gray, Sheila Gilbert, Jennifer Brozek, Cedar Sanderson, and Amanda Green.
This story has been updated to more accurately reflect this. EW regrets the error.

Well, of course they regret it. Larry may actually sue one of his libelers this time.

What I thought was interesting was that even the "corrected" article still links to Philip Sandifer's blog post, calling it "worth reading in full" and explains that Philip's blog "addresses what this disaster means for the sci-fi world."

Philip's post is entitled The Day Fandom Ended. He spends exactly ZERO time discussing the merits of the nominated works, only detailing the Bad Politics of Vox Day, who fronts a Sad Puppies spin-off entitled Rabid Puppies. He claims that the Hugos are a completely useless award, since books that dare to be liked and promoted by someone with Bad Views have now been nominated. He ends by calling for voters to vote "No Award Given" in every category dominated by the Sad Puppies slate. 
Because, naturally, it is impossible for someone who thinks bad thoughts to like ANYTHING that is good, ergo, NONE of the books on the slate are worthy of the award.
I don't know Vox Day, and I have no idea if the Bad Politics Philip describes are actually his views. Given the way he's blowing everything else out of proportion, I rather inclined to visit a salt mine while I read Philip's denunciations.
But I can't help but echo Larry's oft repeated position: Even if Vox is a Bad Person... who cares? If the Hugo awards are only supposed to be given to Good People who have Correct Politics and who Never Say Anything Wrong (as defined by the message-and-minority-loving Worldcon folks), why do we even bother reading at all? Why do we talk about quality writing and excellent plot and moving themes? Why list blurbs at all? Why not just have every nominee spell out their pedigree, sexual orientation history, and political views, so we can vote on what's Really Important in the SF/F world?
As apparently awful as Larry's position is, I'm rather solidly behind him (mainly because he's a big guy, and I can hide). Books are good if the content is good. Authors may be bad people, but if they write good books, those books are still good. Content is good if I enjoy reading it, if I learn something from it, AND if it promotes good things.
I don't care what my favorite authors' politics are. Do you?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Er... I mean 3000

I recalculated with my handy-dandy spreadsheet, and it turns out I actually have to write 3000 words a day to finish my novel by mid-April. 

At my current top speed, that takes a minimum of 2 hours, 30 minutes. 

And I need to spend 4 hours per day writing other things, for which I get money for food and stuff. 

And 9 hours being a mother and homemaker (6:30-8:30 am, 3:00-10:00 pm). 

And 2 hours being a newlywed (10-midnight). 

And 8 hours sleeping, or else I'll eventually get sick and nothing else will get done.

And 2 hours reading or I'll shrivel up and die for lack of creative stimulation.

And 2 hours (here and there) on exercising, eating, getting dressed, etc.

2.5 + 4 + 9 + 2 + 8 + 2 + 2 = 29.5 hours each day


Totally do-able.


Friday, March 13, 2015

2000 words a day...

So, I have this little self-imposed deadline, where I have to have almost 70,000 words drafted by the middle of next month. In order to do that, I need to write around 2,000 words a day. More, if I want to take Sundays off.

Most days so far, I haven't accomplished that. Or anywhere close.

Here's what I've done instead:

  • Freelance writing (yay money, boo time lost on non-fiction writing)
  • Volunteer writing and editing (yay service)
  • Kids and husband  (yay human connection)
  • Housework and meals (usually while watching Netflix--yay inspiration)
  • Facebook (yay friends)
  • Shopping, dentist appointments, driving kids to school and/or visitation, etc (yay... uh... living?)
  • Blogging (yay outlet)
  • Squirrels! (boo. just boo)
BUT, I've been getting better each day that I've actually sat down and made myself draft. Faster.

Thursday morning I drafted almost 1000 words and then spent some time fine-tuning my outline, so future drafting days can go more smoothly.

At my normal top speed (sometimes I can go faster, but not often), I write around 1000 words in an hour. I'm thinking I need to do more 1k1hr sprints, and leave off the break I take if I only write for 30 minutes. 

Anyway, to hold myself accountable, I'm going to start posting my word count each week when I blog. This'll be fun, no?

What do you do to make yourself write faster?