Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”
~ Terry Pratchett
Now that I have your attention, let’s talk public nudity. How much are you comfortable with? Do you offer just a quick flash like the opening of a raincoat, or do you like to streak through a public gathering? Do you keep yourself wrapped head to toe like a Victorian bride, or is it your style to go skinny-dipping in the city fountain? And what’s all this talk about nudity on a site for writers and their fans, anyway?
It’s funny you should ask. What I’m referring to here, of course, is psychological nudity. As a writer, everything that goes on the page comes out of your head. Your experiences inform your prose. My service aboard a wooden minesweeper, and the experience of cruising the Orient from Japan to Viet Nam and the Philippines on the deck of a tanker did a great deal to inform my presentation of the airship Kestrel. On the other hand, I’ve never been to any part of Africa, and everything you read in Beyond the Rails was a product of watching National Geographic nature shows and months of on-line research. If the reviews are any indication, readers think I did pretty well with it, but that isn’t the point.
If flying an airship and keeping up maintenance on a wooden hull came out of my head, then so did the dark scenes of villains performing despicable acts with their dire machines designed for no other purpose than the infliction of pain and suffering, and that is the subject I’m here to discuss today. As a writer, you are absolutely unable to put anything on the page that you are not aware of. That’s a simple fact, and is utterly unavoidable. As a reader, when you read one of your favorite authors writing about a cannibalistic serial killer, a manipulator of those at his or her mercy, or a terrorist preparing to murder a building full of people, your conscious mind may be thinking that you’re reading a superb story by a gifted writer, but your subconscious is wondering how the hell a seemingly quiet and gentle bookworm who has kids and probably a 9-to-5 job even knows about this stuff.
That is how being a writer renders you naked. Readers will always wonder, consciously or not, what the hell was done to you as a child, what your home life must be like, what kind of medieval boss you must have to draw such savagery out of your mind. You’re naked before your readers, and in the absence of hard information, they will speculate and try to fill in the blanks. As a writer, you must be prepared to accept the consequences, which as anyone who has spent time on this-here interweb thingie knows, can be pretty brutal, and run the range from hate mail to smear campaigns to death threats.
The same holds true for reviews. If your only interest is in being told what a wonderful author you are, you may want to stick to sharing your work with friends and family. Once you post a book on Amazon or some similar site, you have to take the good with the bad, and there will be bad; not everyone, after all, is going to find your style to mesh with their expectations. And even before the internet, reviews could be pretty brutal. Nowadays, with every Tom, Dick, and Harry able to post an opinion with a few mouse clicks, you can find yourself labeled a gutless hack, a blight on the face of society, or a writer who glorifies violence to no good purpose. You must be prepared to accept the existence of these statements and walk away without comment; the worst thing you can do is get down in the pit and mud-wrestle with these people. They thrive on the attention. You cannot outlast them, and they will dirty your reputation if you insist on engaging with them.
So, this, too, is what being a writer means. If you’re just starting out, and all you’re thinking about is book signings and late-night talk shows, don’t embark on the journey without considering the fact that in the wake of your publication, you will stand stripped bare, the core of your psyche and id exposed to the world, and you cannot control what they think. I don’t in any way recommend that you give up your dream, only that forewarned is forearmed. Be aware that there are some pretty nasty people lurking on the web, vile, feckless people whose only “contribution,” if you could call it that, is to stomp on someone’s dream. Know that they’re out there, be mentally prepared to shrug them off, and let your imagination take you on the journey of a lifetime. Just remember that the trolls are writing in public, too, and what they write exposes them as surely as your prose does you!
Other Voices . . .
Not Just a Mum is a delightful blog consisting of observations on family life by a woman who has one, kids, cats, and husband. Fun reading that really raises a point when the laughter stops and you realize that she’s talking about you!
I’ve gone about as long as I can without mentioning the crew at Nerd Lunch. The familiar gang of Carlin Trammel, Paxton Holley, and the Man Called Jeeg will tear up your funny bone with their zany and all-too-real observations on their weekly pop-culture podcast. This week they rifle through the 50¢ bin at their local comic book store to create some new old superhero teams.
Lucid Being is a blog that defies description. It has a new-age, post-apocalyptic, turning points in history feel that would be a gold mine for a dystopian writer to mine – or a reader interested in getting off the well-worn path for a bit to settle back and enjoy.
J.A. Allen writes Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, a blog that is mostly for writers about writing, but boy, does she have a sharp barb to her political harpoon! When something gets her going, she can really expound on the subject with great clarity. If you’re into well-reasoned political commentary, her last post is a doozy!
Eva Newermann is a Norwegian author of creepy sci-fi adventures, a paint artist, and a drone operator who regularly posts incredible photography of the rugged Norwegian landscape. She sometimes, as in her latest post, paints scenes from her books. Drop by and get acquainted. She has a way of commanding your attention.
Inmate Blogger is not a site for the faint of heart. I’m still not sure exactly how it works, but if you subscribe, as I have done, then each morning you will receive in your mail box about a dozen, give or take, blog posts written by prison inmates. I presume said inmates have earned the right to blog through good behavior or some mechanism, but their voices cover a wide range of tones. Some, as you might expect, are protestations of innocence, tales of being run over by the wheels of miscarried justice. I can’t comment on these. I don’t know the particulars of each case, and I do know that innocent people get convicted, but they make compelling reading. Most of the inmates are men, but there is a smattering of women among them. They write poetry, political treatises, book and movie reviews, poignant stories of the people they miss. One of them is writing a book a chapter at a time, and it isn’t bad. These are subjects most of us write about on our daily blogs, but they come with a perspective that most of us have never imagined. This is very much worth signing up for, if you think you can handle it.
The Art of Blogging is, as the name suggests, a blog about how to blog, and Cristian Mihai’s 18,000+ followers suggest he knows whereof he writes. He has a book available on the subject, and offers plenty of tips on the blog that you can incorporate instantly. I don’t often use the term “must read,” but if you want to up your game, this would be a good place to start.
Be sure to make a stop at The Firewater Site, where an ongoing series of in-depth reviews of Star Trek: The Original Series is underway, interspersed with a number of other interesting and often hilarious takes on various icons of popular culture. This is must-see blogging at its bet for any pop-culture fan.
Lifestyle blogger Simple Ula offers something everyone seems to need these days, tips for getting a better night’s sleep. I probably don’t need to mention that this is almost required reading if you’re of the unfortunate millions who suffer in that regard.
The blog Pointless Overthinking, which seems to mainly concern one man’s philosophy on the journey of life, asks a question of the day that, should you decide to answer it, would require some deep introspection. He’s up to #153 today, and it occurs to me that if you were to sit down and answer them all, you’d have a pretty in-depth autobiography . . . Hmmm.
If you’ve heard about the FBI’s temporary closure of the Solar Sunspot Observatory and have been seeking more information, Kitt Peak Astronomer David Lee Summers’ blog yesterday carried the latest scuttlebutt. A skilled story weaver and always a good read in book or blog format, you should check in and meet the scientist behind the writer.
They found the compassion to include a message of comradeship with the fans displaced by Hurricane Florence. From their Facebook promotion:
Dear Geeks who have been displaced by Hurricane Florence – We know that many of you have taken refuge in Knoxville and surrounding areas like Chattanooga and Nashville, TN. So if you are here, we invite you to join us at Clarksville Dr. Who/ steampunk con 2018. Anyone displaced can show us your drivers license from North or South Carolina and get in free.
You may be far from home, but you can be right at home with us.”
It is certainly understandable if people displaced by a natural disaster have other things on their minds, but what a wonderful, inclusive community this is!
And that’s 30 for this installment. Be sure to stop by Thursday. I’m working on another bushel-basket of good reading, and you won’t want to miss it. Until then, read well and write better!