Categories
Authoring Writing Life

The illusion of progress

Writing a whole post of accomplishment lists has led to pondering WHY I like making “I did this” lists so much. Here’s my answer: it’s a frame adjustment.

I know, I know, “WTF frame what?” Stick with me here. Start with the idea of “progress.”

See, all our lives we’re taught–both formally and informally– to find worth in achieving goals and measuring progress, but that whole plan is fundamentally mismatched with the way life WORKS.

Progress is grounded in linear concepts of direction & endpoints. It’s all about the quantifiables.

When a task is done, it’s done. When a thing is filled, it’s full. When a goal is achieved, it’s over. There are jokes about the reward for a job well done being another job, but the system is accepted as valid.

Except it ISN’T. Reality doesn’t work that way.

Life is built on multiple, interlocking circular processes: sunrise to sunset to sunrise, winter to summer to winter again. Washed dishes get dirty, dinnertime comes around again, dust returns again, plants need tending, laundry piles up AGAIN.

No wonder people feel like we’re always failing. We’re judging ourselves by a metric that’s incompatible w/the medium.

Measuring success & satisfaction by progress is like measuring slices of bread in a loaf by weight. You can do it, but it takes some mental gymnastics.

Lists are my favorite way of somersaulting past frustration & feelings of failure. They line up my position in the endless cycle of Life Doings with the idea of “done,” and presto, I HAVE DONE THINGS.

It’s not only gymnastics, it’s kinda like a magic trick when it works.

Now I’m wondering what neat tricks other people use.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. If you want to celebrate by curling up with a cozy kissing book, may I suggest Weaving In The Ends? I wrote it, it’s all about love, but not only and not even mostly the romance hearts & flowers kind. It’s about the prickly kind of love, sibling love, family love, and formed-family love, the patient kind and the kind that makes mistakes and owns them and makes amends.

Also, there is knitting. And empaths. Available most places books & ebooks are sold. You can find it here https://bit.ly/kmhkindle along with the other books in the Restoration collection.

Sleepy cat for everyone who got this far. Until later!

all tuckered out after a long ponder
Categories
2. Worldbuilding nuts & bolts Whimsy Writing Life

Barns & other distractions

Did I need to research dairy barn restoration and collect architectural drawings of historical barn types yesterday & today?

TRICK QUESTION.

Checking my barn-related terminology for a single scene sent me skipping through Indian dairy farming advice blogs, across encyclopedia entries on cow breeds, and down a long sideline into the meaning of “Highline electricity” into power line work and voltage issues with server racks.

Fun facts: gawala means cattleman or head dairy worker in Urdu, at least according to two language sites I consulted after being puzzled by the term’s appearance in an otherwise all-English language paper comparing the efficiency of different cow configurations in milking barns. (Surprise, it was an INDIAN dairy industry publication. …which bounced me into a brief investigation of dairy farming in India.) Gawala may also be a kind of milk-based candy?

Highline vs lowline refers to the voltage carried by power lines. Also back in the day your builder needed to know whether your farm had highline or house plant electricity before drawing up plans for your barn.

And barn research totally relates to volcanoes, right? Okay, no, but I saw a news headline while I was closing a tab. Count on a geology/meteorology nerd like me to click on ANY link with a satellite photo of a huge ash cloud.

What happened in the Pacific last week will have global effects for a long time to come. Like every huge eruption, it’ll teach geologists a ton about what’s going on beneath the thin biosphere we inhabit. And like every huge eruption near humans, its toll will be expensie and heartbreaking. The videos and photos of the aftermath are incredible. The cost? Incalculable.

ANYway. Speaking of satellite photos, I’ve been watching US winter storms on assorted weather sites lately. The quality of the images is interesting (in a muttered curses way) because it pretty much indicates how blatant the site is about downgrading the available imagery to engineer subscriptions to the premium subscription strategy. Charging for something that should be a free public resource.

I recall my excitement a zillion years ago when my parents got cable television and a new TV with a remote. Not because we got HBO. Not because the TV picture was suddenly clear instead of getting fuzzy or staticky when it rained. Not because I could flip channels from across the room. Nope.

I was over the moon because I COULD WATCH THE WEATHER RADAR! MInd, this was not the amazing many-layered weather displays of today’s weather apps. It was straight-up regional Doppler precipitation radar on a 30-second loop. It still fascinated me. Weather patterns both local and distant shifted, grew, and passed right in front of my eyes.

I loved mentally connecting those trends to the conditions outside the window. My dad used to make fun of me for checking the television for the weather instead of looking outside (weather rock style) but matching screen to reality taught me tons about reading the sky for future conditions in just a few years. Priceless free education.

But I digress. The free imagery now available from modern satellites is MIND-BLOWING. You won’t find it on easily-accessible, fast-loading commercial weather apps, but it’s out there. Full-color, high-resolution visuals. Temperature gradients. Precipitation. Stills and animation loops for hours. Any time there’s a Big Weather or Big Fire event, I am up online ogling the imagery from space.

There are a lot of sites, but my favorites are https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/goes/index.php for the US GOES-East & GOES-West satellites, and https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/satellite.php when I want Himawari-8.

That’s all for this episode of Research roundup. For your enjoyment, I am including a Weather Rock Photo.

Until later!

Oh, right. Obligatory “Hey, I Write Books” postscript: if you like my writing, please recommend my books to all your friends & enemies. They are wonderful books full of Good Things.

Science. Fiction. Love. Honor. Revenge. Knitting. Gardening. Thrilling escapes & cozy conversations. All that and more. Easy one-stop access: https://bit.ly/kmhlinktree

Categories
Promotion Writing Life

Oh, no, it’s a year end post! Wait, not really.

But it’s a post on New Year’s Eve so it counts, I guess?

Spouseman & I are ringing out the old year with leftover steak dinner from yesterday, plus lots of popcorn and hot apple cider, while watching a 2021 movie–Black Widow. Which is nothing wild or partylike, but it’s basically the kind of thing we usually do on NYE. Cozy & quiet. That’s my brand, I guess?

Earlier in the day garage cleaning occurred (EXCITEMENT!) and some visiting with a friend, and there was also writing in front of the fireplace with the cat. More progress on Serena’s dog story was made. Snacks were enjoyed. And Pippin snored a lot.

photographic proof of fireside presence.

Every time I took a writing break and surfed through the news I saw people sharing their big accomplisments from 2021. AND I AM NOTHING IF NOT A FOLLOWER. SO.

The big thing I did in 2021 was send my new book out into the world.

The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday, in case you have somehow missed all my posts about it until now, is a fantastical novel set in a world much like this one except that 10% of the populations develop unexplainable powers when they hit middle age.

It’s a story about family, secrets, mistakes, and betrayal, it’s about the power of trust and cooperation, it’s about the evil of dehumanization, and it’s about redemption. There a characters ranging in age from radical teens to badass grannies, and it stars a wicked heroine who takes charge of her own life.

Or, as my wonderful author-friend Shannon Eichorn puts it, it’s about middle-aged moms with superpowers making the military very nervous. What’s that? You think that book sounds epic excellent and want a link to find it? Here ya go: bit.ly/sharpedgekmh

It looks like this. Isn’t it pretty?

Sharp Edge didn’t get a release party, because pandemic, and for the same reason I only got to show it off at two conventions, one big, one small, but somewhat to my surprise, it released really, really well. Best of my six books so far by a long shot.

People bought it–LOTS of people, people who’ve never heard of me & didn’t know anything about the book except its blurb–they reviewed it, they bought copies for other people, and they told friends to buy it. That’s as good as it gets as far as I’m concerned.

Would I like more reviews? Of course I would. I want 100 reviews for each of my books. Why? WHY NOT? It’s a nice round number. Also a ridiculously ambitious one. Some great novels take years to hit that. Some brilliant ones never do.

On a practical level a book needs 25+ reviews specifically on Amazon before I can begin to promote it through most of the best channels available to me. (I only have 1 title over that threshold, alas, and it isn’t Sharp Edge.) And would I like more sales? Hell yes, of course, what recovering bookseller doesn’t love seeing their book fly off shelves virtual or physical?

But honestly, I only care about that part because sales mean readers, and no story circle is complete without that happening. I love the idea of sharing this world I’ve dreamed up and squeezed into existence out of nothingness. I can talk about my characters and their conflicts all day long, and I have a hundred more stories to tell about them. Hundreds more. At least.

ANYway. That’s a good place to wrap this up. Black Widow is over, and now I need to watch some Marvel What If?

Good-bye, 2021, (aka 2020 the sequel) hello, 2022. May there be new stories completed, nw stories begun, new friends made, and many good times shared.

Until later!

Categories
Authoring

A lot like yesterday

Tuesdays and Wednesdays often bleed together. They’re my library shift days, so they’re more structured and have exactly the same rhythm, week to week. That makes them the same day in my head:

Get up, putter through chores, get in some writing or computer puttering, have a walk with Spouseman, have a snack, write a bit more, go to work, come home, crash on the couch with supper & something to view.

That’s what I did yesterday, and today was very much a “rinse and repeat.”

I only got more writing done on the dog story, rather than digging into Ghost Town as planned, but I enjoyed myself and don’t regret a minute of it.

Tonight’s couch viewing was another foray into the world of Studio Ghibli has been The Secret World of Arrietty, which if I’d known was a Borrowers adaptation I would’ve seen AGES ago.

I adored the Borrowers books and reread them multiple times. On my all-time early faves list, right up there with Boxcar Children, the Mary Poppins and Oz series, all of Joan Aiken’s books, and The Wind In the Willows. IThen in fourth grade I discovered Narnia and the worlds of Andre Norton and never went back.

Huh. Now I want to read all the Borrowers books all over again, just to revisit the happy memories and compare the adaptation to the original.

The movie was sweet.

We’ll be working our way through Studio Ghibli pretty steadily over the next month or so. Next, it’ll be Howl’s Moving Castle. Tomorrow, if Spouseman’s tolerance for watching television holds up. Three movies in three nights!

Shopping for cat trees is on the schedule tomorrow too. That should please Pippin. I’ll report on the results.

It occurs to me that if I’m going to keep rambling here like this, I should probably be plugging my books here, too.

I write unapologetically progressive science fiction and super-powered fantasy novels. Disability representation, female protagonists, found family vibes. Also crafting, cats, thrills, laughs, and more.

Get them here online https://bit.ly/kmhkindle or as audiobooks on Audible or order them as paperbacks anywhere books are sold.

That’s it. Until later!

Categories
Writing Life

Musings on reviews & reaching readers

I don’t go looking at reviews often, but when I do, sometimes I find pure gems. Take this observation, from an unverified 2-star Amazon review left in June. (Why am I posting this now, when it happened in June? HI HAVE WE MET? HAVE I NOT MENTIONED MY ABILITY TO OVERTHINK THINGS FOREVER?)

But I digress early this time.

The reviewer found Controlled Descent unappealing in large part because there were repeated instances of “characters dealing with physical suffering and acting like jerks.”

Friends, I confess THIS IS A VALID TAKE, and that makes this a valuable review.

Not sure where the reader got their copy. Since the review is unverified & not linked to a Goodreads, it’s not an Amazon purchase. Might have been a convention? This means someone cared hard enough about their disappointment in a book they bought at least 2 years ago to hunt it down online & vent.

I admire that kind of dedication, and I’m (perhaps perversely) pleased I was able to inspire that passionate a reaction.

I mean, sure I’d rather inspire excitement and joy and other positive responses like loyalty and enthusiasm, but the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. I’d rather fifty people passionately but thoughtfully hate my writing than five hundred think it’s too MEH to bother rating at all.

I’ve learned over the years that my perspective on this is far from universal. Your mileage may vary, etc.

That same review complained about an “obligatory intertwined love story” and that remark kinda underscores that the book was a bad fit for them. Which happens. But not because there’s and intertwined love story.

There isn’t. Pinkie swear. There are multiple characters who are sexually attracted to others, yes. That’s hardly unrealistic. And there are comedic elements involving one character’s obliviousness, because that’s my lived experience & fun to write. But it’s a group of people who all respect consent & accept responsibility for their own attraction, so that’s that. There;s a straightforward pair-up within the embrace of a supportive, approving friendship group, and nothing more.

But!

If a reader was braced for/expecting matters to fall out as a Typical Tropey Lurve Triangle, well, I can see why they might read the interactions differently and not appreciate it. I’m not a fan of love triangle angst myself, so I can respect others being sensitive to it and having a different perspective.

I’m sharing all this as an example of why an unfavorable review can still be a good one — nay, even an excellent one.

Now, there are bad reviews aplenty out there. Vicious, vitriolic, meanspirited, hating, hateful ones. Getting a lot of those can sink a beautiful book into obscurity forever. I’ve seen stories smothered that way on Goodreads, on Twitter, on…well, anywhere readers are gathered together. Like some other authors, I fear attcks like those. So far, my obscurity has protected my writing.

(Low-star pile-on attacks have little to do with the quality of the book. Even in cases where problematic elements offended and enraged people, the massive inundation of bad reviews come from people who never. read. the. book–which is a little piece of proof that a review reveals something of its author along with its analysis.)

BUT I DIGRESS AGAIN. QUELLE SUPRISE

As long as the review is a good, honest, thoughtful one, the reasons one reader did NOT like a book inform other prospective readers about things they WILL like. That’s why I welcome good unfavorable ones. I’m grateful to all the people who took the time to share why they didn’t like my books.

Some provide insight into choices I made unconsciously about characters or style or themes–the kind of choices beta readers and editors might not question, but ones which I would rather make consciously. Other “bad” reviews highlight imperfections in plot or structure that are part of the craft ‘m always striving to improve. And yes, a few of the reviews are pure entertainment in a classic “WTAF, did they read the same book I wrote?” way.

But anyway. I thought I’d share my ponderings on this topic, and now I have done so.

That’s all for now. Until later!

OOP! CAT TAX: