Sunshine Awards

I don’t usually do these, but Dan Alatorre over at this blawg here said I had to, or…

…or.

Actually, I don’t know what happens if I don’t do it. But Dan said I had to. So.

I got nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award. When you guys are done laughing at the idea of me getting nominated for Sunshine anything, I’m supposed to do three things:

1) Thank the Dan who nominated me
2) Answer Dan’s eleven questions
3) Nominate eleven (!!) bloggers to take my place in the eleventh sunshine circle of hell, and provide eleven questions for these eleven bloggers to answer.

Is that clear? It has numbers in front of it. Numbers are clear.

Without further ado, thanks to Dan Alatorre, for forcing a ray of sunshine into my ghastly-gloomy blog, directly after ALL that horrorflash. 🙂

Dan’s Questions:

1) Where is the strangest place you’ve ever made whoopee?
Now, Dan. My mom reads this blog. If whoopee means what I SUSPECT it means, I am unwilling to answer this question, because MOM I AM TOTALLY A VIRGIN.

If, however, it means farting (which is what I secretly REALLY want it to mean) then the answer is church. Oh, buddy. Church. See also: funerals. The stench-gas of sadness has eked out of my black-clad buttocks at more than one graveside service.

2) Share a blog post you wrote that meant a lot to you and tell us why you picked that one.
Here recently, it would probably be this underappreciated baby about the importance of proper word choice. I don’t see a lot of writing posts that deal with the actual mechanics of writing, save as pedantic grammar chicanery, and I hate to say this, but the basic mechanics are precisely what a lot of us need help with. I’m working on a post or two now devoted to metric feet, and the SOUND of metric meter in prose, to address more of these issues: it isn’t enough to simply look at good writing, say ‘that sounds good’, and move on. There are reasons good writing sounds good, and a writer should be able to pick out what those reasons are.

3) Kiss a stranger or eat a Scotch egg?
This is actually an incredibly complicated question for me.

On one hand, I hate touching other people. Does that sound antisocial? Yes? It probably is. But when a stranger touches my arm, or tries to hug me, my stomach does a sort of tribal knot-dance of terror and agony.

On the other hand, as per Scotch egg? I’m vegetarian.

I might have to go with kissing the stranger here, little though I want to. I think I’d actually prefer a kiss to full hug-contact, and if I initiate I’ll probably make it through alive.  Scotch eggs are, however, delicious, and if I still ate meat it would unquestionably be the Scotch egg.

4) Rob a Wal-Mart or wear a bikini at the beach?
Wal-Mart, I’m comin’ for you. All the paper towels I can wipe things down with sounds awesome.

5) What is your deepest fear about your writing?
I think this is the same thing for most people, in the end. I worry I’m not as good as I think I am.

6) What is your best book?
You know, I think folks expect to hear Aurian and Jin here, but actually? I’m going to go with one I’m working on now. Which no one else has read. Therefore: no one can disagree with me. I feel like I get a little bit better with every story I write, and that’s important.

7) Do you get manicures, and if so, when was your last one and what did it cost?
I’ve NEVER gotten a manicure, actually. Again with the people touching me. Especially pedicures—augh! How can you let someone that close to your feet? You walk on those.

Also, it’s a silly thing to spend money on.

8) Jacuzzi or dry sauna?
Getting drunk in a hot tub is one of the Five Greatest Pleasures of Winter. The other four are:
2) Getting drunk in bed
3) Getting drunk in a sweater
4) Getting drunk on New Year’s
5) Getting drunk at Christmas.

9) Who is your favorite author ever and who is your favorite that you’ve read this year?
My favorite writer ever is probably Ursula K. Leguin. The Left Hand of Darkness is a masterful novel, and the language is simple but elusively beautiful. Some of her other stuff verges on seventies woo-woo to me, but Left Hand makes up for all of it. If I could work with half of her skill and simplicity of phrase, I would be so happy I’d let strangers hug me.

Other favorites of mine, in poetry and prose: Dostoyevsky, Margaret Atwood, Terry Pratchett, Iain M. Banks, Pablo Neruda, Kasuo Ishiguro, Andrei Codrescu, Umberto Eco, T.C. Boyle, Muriel Rukeyser, Charles Bukowski, Wilkie Collins.

Best thing I’ve read this year has probably been Dan Simmons’s Drood, as long as we’re talking about Mr. Collins. I love Wilkie Collins, in spite of all advice to the contrary, and I can’t read his novels without thinking about the picture of him presented in this book now. Whether it’s a good or a bad thing I’m not sure, but it was damned effective, obviously.

10) What author or blogger would you like to sit down and have drinks with?
I’d like to buy a drink for my first creative writing professor in college. Just to say thank you, and to tell him that, in spite of me being an insufferable pain in the ass, a piss poor student, and full of absolutely undeserved arrogance, I heard him. The things he taught made a difference to me, and I’m forever grateful for his class, even if it looked like it was falling on deaf ears at the time.

11) If you have one piece of career advice to share with the readers here, what would it be? Lame as this sounds, and as often as this advice gets shared: keep the fire burning. You should have a passion for what you do, and even if you fail by the rest of the world’s standards that fire will keep you alive. I don’t advocate Hamsen-style starvation, but you need to do the things that make you happy with yourself, and not the things that sell. Having passion won’t get you money, necessarily, and it won’t make you famous, and it won’t sell your books. But you’ll have it. And if you think there needs to be some justification other than that, then you aren’t in the right line of work.

I’m not going to nominate anyone specifically here, because shyness. So you’re all nominated. All of you. Especially Dave Koster over here at On Writing Dragons and Chris over here at The Opening Sentence. Because I like you guys.

My Questions For You:

1) If you had to survive on one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
2) What’s more important in a story: character, plot, or voice?
3) What’s the first book you remember being deeply affected by?
4) How important is good grammar in a novel to you?
5) Would you rather get blackout drunk in front of
A) Your mother-in-law, or
B) Your boss?
6) In honor of the season, tell me one good memory you have about Halloween as a child. (The first year I was diabetic for Halloween, my dad traded me my candy for a guitar. My dad is, obviously, very cool.)
7) One word or phrase that really annoys you.
8) Give me five single words that describe your writing style.
9) What’s the best part of an average day for you?
10) If you’re writing, somebody somewhere encouraged you to do it. Who?
11) What makes you decide a story is bad?

How to Find Good Advice Online

image

Okay. Yes, yes, I’ll get to that post about accents in a few. Right now, I wanted to talk about a little problem I’ve been having–and the solution, which is more helpful to you than the problem’ll be.

My views, the past few weeks, have TANKED. I mean–TANKED.  It’s a negative feeling when that happens, especially for sensitive little shits such as myself: boo-hoo-hoo, I say. Am I being uninteresting? Does nobody care about the art of writing any more? Boo hoo hoo. Lesigh.

Of course, it’s nothing that personal. (Or–I hope it isn’t). I narrowed it down to three possible causes, all of which I’ll try to remedy:

1) I’m not posting at the right time of day/on the right days.(I’ve known this for a while. I just–I have a job.)
2) I’m not as engaged in my blogging (or Twitter, where a lot of my views come from) as I used to be.
3) The topic I’ve picked for my blog is perhaps not as popular as it used to be.

We’ll talk about two and three in time, but right now, I want to talk about number one. Why? Because I had REVELATIONS, man. Revelations.

There are, of course, particular times that’re peak times on social media. They’re different for each kind of media–if you want more information on this, check out the bottom of this post.

But when you’re doing a google search, a lot of things’ll pop up. And they’ll say DIFFERENT stuff. And it’s pretty confusing. And how the hell do you know who to believe?

The answer is important, and also useful when encountering shiny pretty memes on Facebook:

Use your common damn sense.

We’ll use this example: say you see a meme on Facebook informing you that voting for Hillary Clinton is like voting for your own death sentence, because she personally traveled to Libya and killed 5,000 virgins in Benghazi with a strange alien deathstaff, laughing all the while in bloodstreaked killjoy.

What? You say, horrified. That’s terrible. How on earth has the truth about this been suppressed? How could I not have known this? I’m definitely voting Republican now. Definitely.

Well, kids. A meme is an image with text on it. That image could be from anywhere, and so could the text. They’re not necessarily related. That text isn’t true, just because you saw it on the internet.

Again, start by using your common damn sense. If an American politician did something this shocking, why doesn’t everyone know about it? There are two possible answers:

1) Someone is, indeed, suppressing the story. Or:
2) Someone is telling porky pies.

Now, balance the likelihood of these two answers. People could suppress something like that, I suppose, but a picture of a gore-covered Hillary Clinton laughing amidst the carnage, glowing alien artifact in hand, is unlikely to STAY suppressed very long, in our age of internet sharing. (Or: is this why we’re seeing a meme about it now? Is it all a government conspiracy? WERE there two gunmen on the grassy knoll?)

Also, consider–if the truth is being EFFECTIVELY suppressed, there’s not shit you can do to find out about it sitting in your chair tooling around online. So you might want to play around with the other conclusion anyway, just to see if anything THERE convinces you.

Suppression aside, people lie on the internet every day. Every second. There’s no data for this, sadly, but I’d be willing to bet there are more lies told in the course of a day than babies born, or meals eaten, or fucking breaths taken. Why is it less likely to be a lie because it’s on the internet, with a picture tacked on to it?

Your next step? Take to Google. Image search for ‘bloodstained Hillary Clinton’. Image search for ‘Hillary Clinton alien deathstaff’. Query Google: ‘Hillary Clinton virgenocide Benghazi alien deathstaff’.

See a very similar image of Hillary Clinton, minus bloodstains and staff, giving a speech in Iowa? Hmm. Photoshop seems likely. See a photo of that same alien deathstaff in promotional material for a movie called Plan 8 from Outer Space? Hmmmm.

And I can almost promise you, someone else has seen that image before you, and done a more thorough investigation, hopefully with better sources. Find a few reputable sites (since it’s political, try and find a few with differing political biases). What do they think?

If a lot of sites call it fake, if they offer convincing evidence, then it probably is fake. See, kiddos? That’s using your brain on the interwebs. You should do it every time you see something that shocks you. ‘S what shock SHOULD do–it should make you think. Is it solid proof? No, of course not. Solid proof of anything is next to impossible. But if a lot of reputable people agree, well, you might want to cash in your chips on the reputable people.

What, you’re wondering, does this have to do with post times on social media?

You need to use the same set of problem-solving tools in figuring out which advice to follow about your blog.

This is the internet. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone with a keyboard can offer advice. Hell, I’m doing it right now. So what should you look for, in figuring out which advice to follow?

1) What KIND of advice do you want?

If you’re looking for advice on how to write well, likes and popularity aren’t important. Look for a post that you, personally, think has been written well. You might want to start by seeing if some of your favorite writers have blogs online–a lot of writers WILL write about their craft, and a lot of them (especially the indies) are more than happy to help you out, and would love to see your comments. Don’t be afraid to try and make friends: what’s the worst that could happen?

If you’re looking for advice on how to make your blog more popular, look for a blog offering this advice that is already popular. You don’t want advice on garnering more pageviews from someone whose posts have like three likes apiece. You don’t want marketing advice from someone whose book is in millionth place in Amazon rankings.

Advice on where to get nice legal images? Look for a blog whose pictures grab your attention.

Etc. You get my point.

2) Is the link timely?

This one, especially, if you’re looking for advice on social media use and anything involving popularity. A link telling you how to get more Facebook likes from 2008 might not be viable now: people change, and the average age of Facebook users has increased since then. This means people will be logging on at different peak hours, interested in different things. Always check the date of the post, before you make up your mind to follow advice.

3) Use Your Common Goddamn Sense.

I can’t stress this one enough.

See a shiny infographic telling you the most people log on to Pinterest at 5 AM EST? Woah, nelly. Hang on a second. Most Pinterest traffic is probably mainland American (as we’re the most wired-up nation in the world) and the earliest 5AM EST could be is 1AM, for those on the Pacific coast. Most Pinterest pinners are adult women, who have things to do like work or at least take care of the kids–how likely does even a 1AM peak time seem?

Some of you are wondering why I’m asking you to do ‘all that work’. You’re whining: ‘you can’t possibly expect me to fact-check everything I believe in’. After I cold-cock slap you, I’m going to be honest with you: I do. And let me just chuckle patronizingly and end this with a single statement:

If you don’t have the time to fact check it at least a little, maybe you should suspend motherfucking judgement.

For People Interested in Peak Posting Times, Here’s a Useful Current Link:

Julie Neidlinger over at CoSchedule is a fricking QUEEN for doing this one.

For People Interested in Not Believing Every Shiny Meme they See, Here are Some Fairly Reliable Fact-Checkers:

Factcheck–One of the oldest and most consistently reliable of the fact-checking sites online.

SnopesI know, I know. All the Republicans in my crowd can’t believe I’m listing Snopes as a viable fact checker. Well, it isn’t 100% reliable, but it’s better than that almost 100% FALSE chain email you’re thinking of right now that discredited Snopes (which was, in turn, discredited by FactChecker). A note for you: any time the phrase ‘Wikipedia finally got to the bottom of it’ is used, you might want to reconsider reliability.

Google–The best ‘fact checker’ of all: yourself. Spend some time looking stuff up under different search terms, so you get different points of view, and make up your own damn mind.

“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”
Maurice Switzer