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Francis and MacLean

Last week’s post about the modern gothic romance led to an interesting comment thread, as a discussion of Alistair MacLean sprang up in the comments. While I had not read Mary Higgins Clark before the book I reviewed last week, MacLean was an old familiar friend. I don’t recall when I first encountered him – but I was young, probably a preteen. The First Reader and I were talking about him, and for some reason Dick Francis – another childhood favorite of mine – came up. Their main characters had much of the same outlook on life, he commented. I agreed. Perhaps Francis was influenced by MacLean? he suggested. I turned back to the computer and looked it up. Read more

Critics, reviews, and character assassination

On several occasions during my various and sundry careers, I’ve heard a well-known legal maxim.  It’s said to be advice given to lawyers during their education.  It goes something like this:

  • If the facts are against you, argue the law.
  • If the law is against you, argue the facts.
  • If the facts and the law are against you, assassinate the character of the witness (or “scream and shout”, or “appeal to the jury’s emotions”, or whatever).

I’ve seen that applied on more than a few occasions, in many and varied circumstances, so it seems to be borne out by experience.

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What was that?

I read. Widely, or rather obsessively. If there’s printed words, there’s a fair chance I’ve read them or attempted to read them (the vision isn’t so good these days, so the really small print goes unread). I don’t dare keep books in the loo because if I did I’d never leave and I’d have a permanent imprint of the toilet seat on my butt.

Yeah, one of those readers.

Which means that on my intermittent trawls through the internet, I can encounter some real doozies. One of which I ran into today. I’m not linking to it or anything else, because the unfortunate soul responsible probably hasn’t done worse than believe someone’s bull – judging by the quality of what passes for reasoning in the post, this person is not capable of distinguishing between fact, wish-fulfilment, and bigotry masquerading as some kind of enablement.

This fellow’s little tirade effectively claims that persons of pallor are aliens who arrived on the planet some 6500 years ago and proceeded to steal everything they could from the native persons of darkitude. And that this happened in Europe, of all places. Oh, and all of Europe’s wealth came from stealing from and killing the original (black) inhabitants.

Uh, right…

Best I can tell, humans of all shades enthusiastically tried to kill each other off for many, many thousands of years. And the last I heard, homo sapiens neanderthalensis (if my spelling is right) got it on with homo sapiens sapiens all through Europe to produce the modern European look. More or less.

Of course, this kind of “people of X are evil and tried to destroy my people” nonsense leaves out a lot of ugly truths. Things like slavery and slaughter being the norm for a long, long time. Things like Europe’s combination of just enough broken up terrain to allow decently large tribes to stake a claim and beat off the rivals plus just enough ease of travel particularly east-west (meaning that plants and animals suited to the region didn’t change that much over distance – allowing innovations to spread far and fast) giving said tribes enough of a combination of protection and trade to avoid being annihilated by the neighbors, while making it difficult for any one group to take over the whole mess.

It also ignores that in every region with less interesting terrain, there was a lot more of the strongest group taking over and building a much larger monoculture (China comes to mind, what with the place having been an empire for hundreds of years). That or the nature of the land didn’t make it easy to either host enough people for that (Australia) or was so interesting that travel and trade was too challenging (New Guinea mountains).

Accident, in other words. As for the idea that Europe’s original inhabitants were people of darkitude, the less said about that one, the better. Not only have there been numerous verifiable settlements complete with burial artifacts, remains and so on going back to the flipping ice ages, there’s been so many migrations that nobody really knows who came from where originally.

Of course, this crazy conspiracy of the eeeebil people of pallor mysteriously showing up a few thousand years back and slaughtering their way to prosperity (seriously? I thought that was how it was supposed to work) would make a fun kind of alternate history married to conspiracy theory. You could theorize entire lines of pre-historical cosmetics to disguise the tell-tale darkitude of your protagonists as they struggle against the eeebil people of pallor and try to build the ancient paradise of harmony and love that certain folk seem to think must have existed (I don’t believe in such things. Nature can be breathtakingly beautiful, but life without a lot of technology tends to be nasty, brutish, and short).

Maybe I shouldn’t read quite so much. Apparently stupid on Quora (on a question about the accuracy of high school history texts, no less) is enough to send me off on a rant.

Unconventional Learning

Being a professional writer, I’ve taken any number of writing classes, workshops and courses, of course.

I’ve also read a never-end of books on writing, some very useful, a lot not so much.

But for my money, as a writer (and reader) who lives too much in her own head, my best training to become a writer was the unconventional one, where people didn’t know they were teaching me to write.

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How To Dish

Tuesday looms dark against the steel-gray skyline, overtopping the muted green of the trees. I cannot tell if its silent footfalls shake evergreens, or if it’s the cold wind coming down the straight. It comes. It comes for me, and I know not what to write. The post, the post, no one else sees it, but I see it! I cannot write, for I know not the words!! Read more

What do you want?

Mad Genius Club has been around for a little more than 10 years. It seems hard to believe. Dave and Sarah have been here the whole time. Kate and I came on within the first year, iirc, and the others came onboard as slots opened. Throughout it all, you guys have stuck around, brought in new readers and cheered us from the sidelines. We can never thank you enough—and, no, this isn’t a goodbye. Trust me. You aren’t getting rid of us that easily.

When Sarah and Dave started the blog so long ago, indie publishing was in the first throes of its infancy. Traditional publishing was still the only real player in the game. But they saw the writing on the wall and knew the industry was changing. No one guessed how fast or how far  it would go. But the one consistent was the bloggers here were going to pay it forward and help other writers and wannabe writers by sharing our experience and knowledge.

And this is where you guys come in. Just as the industry has changed, so has the blog. Our focus has changed from what is happening in traditional publishing with an occasional post about indie publishing to covering the craft of writing with emphasis on indie publishing, occasionally discussing the latest foible in the trad realm.

Now we have some question for you. Don’t worry. You don’t need to study for them. But we do hope you will be honest and help us grow the blog as we move through our second decade as the mad ones.

1. What do you see as the strengths of the blog?

2. What topics would you like us to cover in more depth than we have been?

3. If bloggers here were to pull together past posts—or write new material—on various aspects of writing and/or publishing and put them out as e-books, would you purchase such titles?

4. Would you follow an occasional podcast or vlog post if we were to do something like that?

5. What else would you like us to consider in this second decade of blogging?

Leave your suggestions in the comments below and know you have our thanks for your help.

What’s behind the words?

What’s behind the words?

It’s rather like “what’s behind the curtain?”  The answer of course may be ‘very little’ or ‘a funny little man’ (pay no attention to him. He’s a wizard, and they are irascible (if not subtle) and quick to anger, especially if you notice their trickery.) Read more