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Friday Five

1) After spending all that time working on Red Hood’s Revenge, it’s amazing how quickly the short fiction goes.  One week from short story seed to finished first draft?  I could get used to this!  Now to go back and make the whole thing coherent and cohesive.  (Right now it’s 3700 words of themeless mess, but that’s okay.  It’ll get better.)

2) A lot of you have already seen this, but author Cat Valente is writing a book-in-a-book as a way to help get through some tough financial times.  Cat’s a great author and human being.  Please check out her announcement for details, or visit the adopting cat community which has been set up in LiveJournal.

3) I try not to obsess.  I really do.  But I want to know who stole one of the Amazon reviews for The Stepsister Scheme!  14 reviews last week.  13 today.  Amazon’s just doing this to mess with my head, aren’t they*?

4) There is no four.  Or is there?

5) Apropos of yesterday’s post on weight issues, what are some SF/F books that deal with the issue in a decent fashion, whether that means addressing it head on or simply including non-supermodel characters who are portrayed well and not just as villains (fat=evil) or comic relief?  The first one I think of is the Such a Pretty Face anthology Lee Martindale did almost a decade back.  What else is out there?

Have a great weekend, all!

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*A brand-new 14th review popped up literally minutes before I posted this.  Amazon is totally messing with me!  Jerks.

Screw You, Death Clock! Signed, Fat Jim

So I was killing time, following a link from Michael Brotherton to the Death Clock, which supposedly predicts how much time you have left. Apparently I’m going to die in 2048. (At my current rate, this means I should be able to churn out about between 30 and 40 more books.  Yay!)

Anyway, I know this is just as reliable as any other online quiz, but what stuck with me was the basis for the prediction: 

1) I don’t smoke.
2) I’m 5’7″ and 161 lbs.

This, along with my gender and birth date, is the total data collected by the site*.  #1 is the “healthy” answer, but according to the site, #2 means I’m overweight and heading for an earlier grave.

Screw you, Death Clock. Screw you and your “Lethal Danger of Being Fat.”

Of course, deathclock.com is owned by Life Extension, a site whose front page is plastered with ads for vitamins, supplements, and — you guessed it — weight loss products. It’s a brilliant industry. Make people feel like crap, then promise them they can be skinny and happy again, and isn’t that worth an obscene amount of money? Of course they want to warn me of the deadly dangers of being 161 pounds. How else can they convince me to rush out and send them all my cash?

I do understand that obesity can have an adverse effect on your health.  Yes, I’ve heard that we have an increasing trend toward obesity in this country (though you wouldn’t know it wandering down to my daughter’s school and glancing at the kids).  Heck, I’ll even admit I’m in much worse shape these days than I used to be.  More exercise would be a very good thing.  But overweight?  Give me a freaking break.

I am so sick of my country’s attitude toward weight.  We don’t give a damn whether you’re healthy.  We care about whether you’re “pretty”.  And if you’re not?  If you’re heavy?  Congratulations, you’re a 21st century leper, and the rest of us can feel free to mock you and look down on you, because it’s your own fault.  Because you made yourself unhealthy.  You did choose to be fat, didn’t you? So by reminding you how fat you are, by making sure you know exactly how grotesque the rest of us think you are, I’m helping you!  I’m motivating you to get past your unhealthy habits and become healthy!  Because if you didn’t want to be fat, you wouldn’t be.

If that was the way things worked, I should weigh about 300 pounds.  Tonight I’ll eat almost an entire large pizza for dinner.  Healthy?  Definitely not.  But I was fortunate enough to be born with my mother’s metabolism.  I can hit the ice cream for a snack before bed, and I’ll still be 161 pounds at my next checkup.  I know people who eat far healthier than I do, exercise daily, and they’re still heavier than me.  Their bodies simply won’t lose the weight. But it’s so much easier to assume fat people are all lazy slobs gorging themselves on ice cream every night.

If it was really about health, we wouldn’t have diabetics deliberately going off insulin so their bodies would cannibalize themselves for fuel.  It’s effective — I lost about 30 pounds that way when I was first diagnosed.  It’s also toxic and potentially deadly.  But hey, better dead than fat, right?

I’m sick of it.  You don’t even want to know how young my daughter was the first time she came to us worried about her weight. And don’t get me started on the ever-popular Hollywood “Fat = Funny!” formula.

There are some seriously beautiful people out there who would be labeled heavy or even obese. I don’t mean that feel-good “Everyone’s pretty on the inside” stuff. I’m talking about Garcia from Criminal Minds being one of the hottest characters on TV. I’m talking pure, physical, completely shallow sexiness.

As a kid growing up, I couldn’t see that.  I was an idiot. As I can’t go back in time and kick my own ass, I’ll settle for venting on the blog.

Be beautiful.  Be healthy.  The rest of it can go to hell.

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*I forgot that they also ask if you’re optimistic or pessemistic, and yes, I recognize that the site gives a lot of emphasis to your attitude. Which doesn’t change the fact that their numbers label me overweight and then present me with nothing at all about attitude, but a nice little treatise about how being heavy is LETHALLY DANGEROUS!!!

Drive-by LOL Book

As some of you know, I used to post regular LOL Books.  Sadly, I eventually chose to stop doing them because it was taking too much time, and it was becoming work rather than fun.

However, as I was browsing Amazon yesterday, I came across a book just crying out for a LOL…

(The book is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], for anyone who might have missed the buzz.)

Monday Bullets

  • I hadn’t realized the Find Smudge contest was going to be quite so frustrating for folks.  I apologize for that.  I think I miscalculated the Challenge Rating on ol’ Smudge.  We did have four people who managed to find him, and the random number generator has picked a winner.  Congratulations, Sean!  I’ll e-mail you about your book.
  • For everyone else who wants the answer, go to your web browser and type in the following URL: www.jimchines.com/[Your Name], replacing [Your Name] with — well, you get the idea.
  • As noted on my Facebook page, the bright side of your dog eating all the crayons is that it’s much easier to find and scoop what she leaves in the lawn. (This discovery brought to you by our dork dog Jasmine.)
  • As of Saturday evening, Red Hood’s Revenge 2.0 is finished, at 74,000 words and change.  Woo hoo!  Time to read the manuscript, write a short story I promised to do, memorize a big ol’ tome about desert life, and then start in on Red Hood 3.0.
  • Finally, what better way to celebrate progress on book three than by giving you all a sneak peek at book two, which comes out in just under four months.  The first 5000 words or so of The Mermaid’s Madness [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy] are now posted at: http://www.jimchines.com/Files/MM.pdf

Workshop Wisdom

Okay, “wisdom” might be an overstatement.  But at Penguicon this year, it occurred to me that I’ve been doing writing workshops for a long time.  As a participant, I’ve done creative writing class discussions, the Writers of the Future workshop in ’99, Critters, and then several years with a local group until they dissolved.  Eventually, I started cofacilitating workshops, helping to run them at ConFusion, ConClave, and now Penguicon, among others.

That’s a lot of fiction feedback, and after a while, you start to notice patterns.  I figured it might be helpful to list some of the more common feedback I’ve given and received over the years.  Like all “rules,” some of these can be bent.  Others can be broken.  Our job is to learn them well enough to know when and how.

More

Contact Form Fixed

Booya!  The contact form is fixed!!!

I am a sexy, shoeless god of PHP!

Ahem.  Don’t mind me.  I’m just feeling way too smug about this right now.  (The fix required a manual tweak of a php script in the plugin.  Since I don’t know PHP and this is, as far as I can tell, a completely undocumented issue, I think I’ve earned some smug points.)

So, way too many hours fighting with this plus more hours getting through another chapter of the book means it’s time for ice cream!

Real post coming soon, I promise.

Busted Contact Form

So apparently the contact form on my site isn’t working. I’ve done some preliminary troubleshooting (with several different plugins), and I’m guessing either my own PHP broke it or else it was the permalink change. If you’ve used that form lately, I didn’t receive your message.

Unfortunately, this includes any contest entries from yesterday.  I’ve had one correct entry so far (that I know of).  If you found Smudge, please e-mail me at jchines42 -at- hotmail.com.

My apologies, folks.

Canon Fodder

Terribly Twisted Tales [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy] came out last month.  This is an anthology of twisted fairy tales, so I’m sure you’re all shocked to learn I contributed a story.  But for some reason, I’ve been nervous about this one.  I wrote “The Red Path,” which gave me a chance to explore the origin story for Red Riding Hood from my princess books, but I wasn’t sure it really worked.  So I was happy to find a review listing it among the best stories in the anthology.  (Kelly Swails also gets a shoutout.)

I’m left with another question, however.  I wrote “The Red Path” a year or so back, before even starting Red Hood’s Revenge.  Now that I’m writing the book, I find myself adjusting details of Roudette’s (Red Riding Hood’s) backstory, particularly when it comes to the hunter’s role.

So here’s the question.  Having published this story and written in the author’s note that this character will appear in Red Hood’s Revenge, how bound am I to keep the details of that story?  Given sales numbers on most anthologies, far fewer people are going to read the short story than will see the novel.  Am I allowed to alter published backstory if it improves the book?  Or am I pulling a major Lucas here, violating my own canonical history?  (Red Riding Hood shot first!)

I could use the unreliable narrator approach.  Roudette was a child at the time of that whole wolf/hunter incident, after all.  She probably missed a lot that was going on.  But even then, I find myself adding wordage to the book to explain why her original account was wrong … wordage that doesn’t need to be there for anyone who hasn’t read the short story, and thus will be dead weight for most of the novel’s readers, and should probably be taken out.

I don’t know.  I think my obligation is first and foremost to make Red Hood’s Revenge the best book I can, and if that means compromising the short story, well that sucks beanstalks but I still need to do it.

What do you think?  How would you feel knowing the hunter in “The Red Path” isn’t the same as he is when we get Roudette’s “real” backstory in the book?  What would you do as a writer, and what do you prefer as a reader and fan?

Why Books as Children is Just Plain Creepy

From a random author interview:

“My books are my children.  I love them all, and could never pick a favorite.”

Same author, different interview:

“Oh yes, I trunked several of my children back when I was starting out.”

The author at a booksigning:

“Psst.  Hey, you.  Want to buy one of my kids?  Take two, the older one and the newborn!”

The bookstore staff three months later:

“Time to clear some shelf space for the new arrivals.  Get out there and start stripping children.”

The library, where anyone can–  On second thought, I should probably stop.  I think we all get the idea.

Jim C. Hines