No to Everything

. . . We’ve decided the above will be the title of my autobiography.

There is a bit of contention about which was my first word: “no” or “hot.” They worked in tandem, so I can understand the uncertainty. You see, in order to keep me from touching things as a child, my parents would say, “No. It’s hot.”

This makes sense when talking about, say, a stove. Less sense when talking about the television set. And being somewhat clever, I figured this out. My dad would be watching the telly, and I would make a move toward it. For whatever reason, turning the dial was very satisfying for me. Probably a tactile/sensory thing. I can actually still remember this—the feel of it and the sound of it burring as it clicked. We didn’t have remote controls in those days. Ours was a wood-paneled thing from Montgomery Ward as I recall. I don’t know the make or model but it looked something like:

The point being that I liked to go turn the dial on the television, and my parents didn’t want me to. So Dad would say, “No. Hot.”

And I would smile and say, “Hot?” But I would draw the word out like, “Hooooooot?”

“Yes, Manda, it’s hot.”

So then I’d reach out and turn the dial, then laugh and run away, yelling, “No! Hot!”

I haven’t stopped saying “no” since, though I don’t say “hot” as often. And televisions don’t have dials anymore.

So I think, if I were ever to write an autobiography or memoir, I’d call it No to Everything. Because I’ve been told I do say no to everything. (I’m not convinced that’s entirely true, but apparently I’m somewhat forbidding.) Also, it’s a less off-putting title than I Hate Everyone.

An Unreasonable Heart

You guys, I really want a Corgi. Like, really. I’ve reached out to local Corgi rescue and adoption groups, but so far there has been nothing. It’s breaking my heart a little.

I grew up with dogs. In fact, I can’t remember a time as a kid when we didn’t have at least one dog and usually a few cats, too. (I have two cats now. You can see pics and video of them on my Facebook page.) But I haven’t had a dog in my life since leaving for college. And while there are many up sides to not having to care for a dog . . . It’s a head versus heart kind of thing for me. My head says I have plenty enough without one more thing, one more dependent. But my heart says, “CORGI!”

Ugh.

The decision will likely be made for me. I don’t want to pay a breeder, and actual Corgis don’t seem to be in need of rescue or adoption. I see many dogs listed as “Corgi mix” on sites, but . . . Even though I know I shouldn’t fixate, and that these other dogs also need loving homes, as Prince Lir says in The Last Unicorn, “I love whom I love.” Or as Blaise Pascal put it: “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”

For now I have a Pinterest board filled with Corgi pictures. That’s probably only making things worse though. I should distract myself with, you know, writing and other work. Does the heart ever give up? Maybe mine will exhaust itself like a nagging child and eventually fall asleep.

Off-Topic

(c) CLAMP/Dark Horse – a picture I took from my English translation of “Cardcaptor Sakura”

As long-time readers of my site know, I am fond of Cardcaptor Sakura, and in particular of Touya and Yukito, who are probably my favorite fictional couple. After almost twenty years, CCS is back in a new series called “Clear Card.” The above shot of Yue (Yukito’s alter ego) and Touya aired this past weekend. It was a lovely scene, but I did have one problem with it. Touya tells Yue that Yuki told him Yue’s name. But in the manga (and, I thought, also in the original animated series—though I could be misremembering), Yue tells Touya his name when they first meet. So someone failed to check the continuity.

That aside, it’s a lovely, tense scene. Though I’m not sure why Touya is being so cagey about his new powers. Is he worried Yue will want them, too?

17 Years

<— I haven’t seen my natural hair color in years!

Seventeen years ago today, in the garden of a little Victorian “mansion” (let’s face it, it was a house), we were married. It was Mother’s Day then, too. We hadn’t known when we picked the date that it would be Mother’s Day, but oh well. At least my best friend Tara was also our florist and got us the flowers at cost.

It was a small ceremony, not even 100 guests. We wanted to be able to talk to everyone at the reception. So many of our friends and family contributed in various ways—my dad’s best friend is a professional photographer, and he came and took all our photos as a gift to us; Scott’s cousin works in the film industry and was our videographer (using the camera we’d been given as a wedding gift). He did this amazing thing where he went around and spoke to people to ask them how they knew me and/or Scott and to give little memories about us.

We were married by a Reform rabbi who incorporated both religious backgrounds into the ceremony. (When people ask, “Oh, are you Jewish?” I answer, “Only by marriage.”) It was sweet and personal and unique and very us.

So here’s to 17 years of holding it together. And also a happy Mother’s Day, which we will spend at a haunted house. Should be fun?

Actions Speak

As a rule, I try not to be political on this site. The point of this site is to focus on writing, publishing, books, and other media. But I was talking to someone the other day who seemed genuinely surprised and aggrieved to have had friends ghost her after political discussions. This person had voted for Trump and couldn’t understand why she and these friends couldn’t simply have “a difference of opinion.”

Usually, a mere difference of opinion wouldn’t be enough to make a friend—depending on how close the relationship is, I suppose—bail. I mean, I’m the only one of my friends who likes Matchbox Twenty and Jimmy Buffett (and I don’t like metal), but no one has dumped me for my dubious musical tastes yet. That I know of . . .

But voting is not just an opinion, it’s an action. And when you vote for someone whose policies are designed to oppress entire groups, then I think it’s probably a valid response for some people to not want to associate with you. You’ve basically acted against whole sects of society, which is the same as saying, “I don’t care about you. I don’t think you have rights. I don’t think you should exist.” Your actions have words behind them, whether you speak them or not.

Think about it in more mundane circumstances. A person who runs a red light is “saying” any or all of the following:

  • My time is more important than yours.
  • The rules don’t apply to me.
  • I am entitled to do what I like.
  • I am distracted and therefore should not be driving.
  • It’s fine if there’s no authority figure around because who is going to stop me?

We all hate that person because their actions speak to a disregard for everyone else.

All this said, I’m not condoning dropping your friends based on who they voted for. I’m just saying I can see why someone would do that. Certainly, we need to remain open-minded and have a willingness to discuss issues. But we should also think about how what we do impacts others. We’re a society, a community. We don’t have to agree on everything—we don’t even have to like everyone—but we do need to show basic human kindness and respect. To everyone. When you take an action that doesn’t do that, that in fact does the opposite, you can’t be surprised when people react badly.

Oh, Oscar

I have an admittedly complex relationship with the Big 3: Golden Globes, Academy Awards, and Emmys. This is because my goal from childhood was to be among those stars, and as I get older that seems less and less likely.

The far-too-late movement to include more minorities in filmmaking doesn’t seem to extend to the likes of me. Despite much wonderful feedback (even a win) for my screenwriting, I can’t get anyone to take me and my work seriously. Is it because I’m a woman? Or because I’ve aged out? Or just because I don’t know anyone?

This is why I resent the overall tenor of things like the Oscars, where they act as though if you just try hard enough you will get recognized. This is patently untrue. Sorry, del Toro, but you can’t just kick the door open. That door is like a bank vault; you need to be able to crack a safe open to get through it.

Some of my sorrow is my own fault, certainly. I made the choice to have a family, and Hollywood is not family friendly. I’ve worked on film sets; I remember the insane schedules and the gnawing worry about what my next job would be. It’s not steady work or a stable environment. Piss off one person and you may never work again.

Still, as a writer you would think I could at least get a script produced. Hollywood needs writers, right? Well, apparently they only need the five guys who write all the Marvel films.

I don’t mean to sound bitter, but I suppose I am a little. For all the talk of being inclusive, what they really mean is including the women (and minorities) who are already there, not anyone new. Those walls are still standing, that vault door is still firmly locked.

Off Topic

Last night I was trying to find some specific information that I was, alas, unable to find. However, I did discover these photos:

The first headstone I’ve seen a number of times in my life, and the second one I’ve seen at least a few times, too. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen the third, and I don’t know about the fourth.

Lloyd, Joseph, Perry, and Clarence were brothers. Clarence was my grandfather, the others were my great-uncles. For some reason Perry is buried in a different cemetery. I have a vague memory of “Aunt Evy” . . . ::shrug::

Both Uncle Joe and Pop died on November 11. The O. stands for “Ovide”. I own his Catholic missal. Not sure how I ended up with it. I think my family has a lot of the Asian knick-knacks Uncle Joe collected while stationed overseas, too.

I don’t know what the C. or P. stand for. I know next to nothing about Perry or Lloyd.

Miss Stella is, as you see, still alive. She was Pop’s second wife, so my dad’s stepmother. But Dad and his brother and sister didn’t live with them. They lived with their grandmother (for whom I’m named). Here she and Rosemond are:

The V. is for “Viator”, her maiden name. Rosemond’s middle name was Alexandre.

Men in our family die relatively young it seems. Makes me worry about my dad sometimes.

I realize this is a really random post. But sometimes it helps me to collect information in one place. Right now my oldest son—not coincidentally named Alexander—is working on a family tree and history. So I thought this might interest and help him. Langlinais is not a common name. Rosemond was the oldest of 11 children, and so there are many branches of the family, but even still, it’s a fairly small and select clan. According to Name Stats, only 794 people have the surname Langlinais in the United States; Forebears says 991 have it worldwide (including those 794 in the U.S.). That’s a drop in the bucket when the world population is some 8 billion.

Anyway, I like my unique name, even if no one can spell or pronounce it. Dad used to just give the last name “Lang” when making dinner reservations or anything like that because it was easier. In all of my school years, only my high school world history teacher could pronounce it correctly, and he spoke five languages, so I guess that helped.

Do you have any interest in genealogy? Any interesting family stories or names? I love hearing about things like that! Let me know in the comments!

SFWC 2018: Building a Bestselling Author Platform

I mentioned in a previous post that I had the opportunity for a brief one-on-one with Rusty Shelton. (He’s a former Longhorn like me.) After that meeting, I also attended his talk on building an author platform.

Many fiction authors will say they don’t need a platform, that platform is for nonfiction. It’s true that nonfiction authors must prove themselves differently than fiction authors, but everyone needs some kind of platform. In short, we all need an audience/readership.

According to Rusty, there are three chief pieces of real estate in the media world: rented, earned, and owned.

Rented Media includes anything you buy an audience for. That is, when you pay for an ad, you’re paying for access to someone else’s audience. You control the content—what people see and hear about you and your book—but someone else holds the audience. Even if you aren’t paying outright, Twitter followers and Facebook page Likes aren’t actually yours. That real estate—those sites—belong to someone else. Those readers aren’t yours, but you’re hoping that you can sell to them and make them yours.

Earned Media is the world of PR. This is where you get book reviews and do interviews. You’re not paying for it (usually), but you’re exploiting that opportunity. In this case, however, you don’t control the content. You don’t get to say how the interview or review is written up. And the real estate still isn’t yours; it belongs to the newspaper or blog or reviews site where it’s posted.

Owned Media is the goal. This is your site, your home turf. You control the content, and the audience is yours. They’re coming to you, not through some other outlet.

So what you want is for the rented and earned media to drive the audience to your site and mailing list. You want to convert them.

Rusty explained it by using a stadium as an example. (Texas Memorial Stadium, in fact.) Imagine a stadium divided in half. One one side sits the VIPs. On the other side are people just here to see the game. Maybe they’re not big sports fans yet. And then there are people milling around outside the stadium not even sure they want to go in.

VIPs = your established customers
Spectators = those who are checking you out but haven’t committed yet
Loiterers = people who don’t even know you exist

The big problem with many authors is that they want to take people from outside the stadium and immediately stick them in the VIP section. And that’s a hard sell. In fact, you shouldn’t be trying to sell these people anything. Instead, give them a free ticket and encourage them to just step inside and check things out.

That’s right, give them something—a reason to stay, and a reason to come back.

You need to make readers aware of you and your product. And then you need to convert that awareness not immediately to a sale but simply to attention. Get their attention and hold it. Else they’ll wander into the stadium, look around and think there’s nothing for them there, and wander back out again.

Think about your website. If someone were to stumble across it, or even deliberately click the link from somewhere, what first impression does it give? Do you immediately get a sense of the brand? You are a brand. And in the absence of meeting you personally, your site stands for YOU.

If you’ve won awards, showcase that on your site. You have mere seconds to capture and keep someone’s attention, so be sure your site does that. Differentiate yourself from everything else out there. And update consistently. But don’t make your content all about you and what you think. Deliver other content, maybe from daily headlines that pertain to your work. Rusty called this “newsjacking.” However, don’t be unprofessional or too controversial because that will turn your readers off.

Another idea is to interview others. Not just writers but, again, experts that are tangential to your work. Maybe a local undertaker if you’re writing a book that features a mortician. Yes, you’re a writer and you want to stay in your hole. But you’re also a brand, and that means you’ll have to go out there and show your face once in a while.

If you don’t want to do interviews, offer others guest post spots. Again, not just other writers, but professionals in various fields that relate to what you’re writing about.

And as so many others pointed out over the course of the conference: if at all possible, own your name as your website.

I hope this gave you a new way of thinking about how to reach readers and build a fan base. I definitely got a lot out of it! If you have anything to add, feel free to speak up in the comments!

SFWC 2018: Exploring Your Publishing Options

There are three basic types of publishing:

  • traditional
  • independent (or self-publishing)
  • hybrid

Traditional publishing takes the form of writing a book, finding an agent, and then sending the book out to publishers. Some publishing houses—particularly small ones—will accept unsolicited manuscripts directly from the author (meaning no agent is required). However, it’s recommended that you not sign a contract without input from an agent or appropriate counsel. In traditional publishing, the author is not required to contribute any money to the process. If a publisher or agent ever tries to charge you money, RUN.

Indie publishing is when the author takes full responsibility for producing the book. That doesn’t mean the author doesn’t need help, however. Indie authors should always have their books edited by a professional, and they should hire good cover artists and formatters/designers (though in some cases having good software may make the need for an outside formatter obsolete). There are “author services” companies that will provide all this, but authors must be careful not to be trapped by scam artists. The big difference between indie and traditional is that an author must invest money in their book before making any back from sales. Not everyone can afford to do that.

Hybrid publishing also requires the author to pay, so again, it’s not for everyone. The thing that distinguishes a hybrid publisher from a vanity press is that a hybrid publisher will have a submissions process. They won’t take just anyone. They will also provide distribution for your book, something that’s difficult to arrange as an indie author. She Writes Press is an example of a hybrid publisher, and co-founder of SWP Brooke Warner was on this panel to discuss the options authors have when publishing.

Now, “hybrid publisher” should not be confused with “hybrid author.” A hybrid author is an author who has some works traditionally published and some indie published.

Stephanie Chandler noted that traditional publishing doesn’t allow the author much control of the process or his/her work. She had a couple of books traditionally published and realized she wanted more say. Brooke Warner said that her reason for starting SWP was that while working for a traditional publisher she was forced to pass up great manuscripts because the authors didn’t have a platform. She wanted to create a way for those books to be brought to the public.

Hybrid publishing is still new enough that there are no established criteria, but the IBPA is working to change that. It’s anticipated that in the next few months they will be coming out with a list of standards for publishers to qualify as “hybrid.”

No matter which option you choose—and these days, you can choose something different for each book if you want—you need to know the market and your audience. Even if you’re published traditionally, you need to be prepared to do much of your own marketing. Know your genre and keep up with whatever is going on in the industry.

Nina Amir pointed out, “Having your book stand beside traditional books on the shelf means it needs to go through the same rigorous process. If you’re not going the traditional route, you need to put your own money where the publisher would normally put theirs.”

Speed is also a factor. The traditional publishing process takes years, and that’s not counting the amount of time it takes to write the book and find an agent. Hybrid publishing can take less time, and indie publishing takes the least amount of time. In short, the more people involved in publishing a book, the longer it takes.

Hopefully this gives you a sense of your publishing options. Feel free to ask questions in the comments!