Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Reading Audiobooks

18 August 2014

For years, I never really thought about what verb to use when reading audiobooks. I discuss my shift in verb usage from “listen” to “read.”
Mary Robinette notes some good things for the future of audio-first books:

Woot! The motion to make audio books officially part of the Hugo fiction categories passed. Still needs to be ratified, but Yay!

— Mary Robinette Kowal (@MaryRobinette) August 16, 2014

Last year, she was disqualified for Best Novelette in last year’s Hugo Awards because it was audio first and the posted story on her blog had some small staging directions. Thus, the administrators ruled it would qualify in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Sadly, it lacked the number of votes to make the nominating cutoff in that particular category.
This year, it was published on Tor.com and won Best Novelette.
A few months ago, I had a conversation on Twitter with Colter Reed. He said he’d “read” an audiobook, and the usage stuck out to me.

I realized today that I have only read the abridged audiobook of @EntreLeadership. Just bought the full book.

— Colter Reed (@ColterReed) March 23, 2014

@csreed I still can’t reconcile “read” and “audiobook.”

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) March 23, 2014

@deirdresm I decided to just use read for consistency and simplicity. Audio-, digital, or paper… it’s all read.

— Colter Reed (@ColterReed) March 23, 2014

@deirdresm Though some prescriptivists will likely cringe.

— Colter Reed (@ColterReed) March 23, 2014

@csreed I’m not one of those, just hadn’t really thought it through. It’s a book regardless. You’re right.

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) March 23, 2014

@deirdresm Now that I check M-W, I think it fits. 1a mentions sight and touch, so it isn’t just visual. http://t.co/3PC0tFCFne

— Colter Reed (@ColterReed) March 23, 2014

Audiobooks are really taking off, and a lot of people read them. (See what I did there?)
I’ve moved away from them myself, for various reasons, mostly that I tend to remember books better when I read them by eye rather than ear.
I’m very aware, as my very literate father’s eyesight has degraded, that reading a book with one’s eyes is a privilege not everyone has.
Some people prefer audiobooks for other reasons, like making a long commute easier.
Still, it’s a book—or a story—and we “read” those.
Accordingly, my usage of the term “read” has changed.

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Hugo Awards, 2014 Edition

17 August 2014

First, congratulations to all the winners!
Wow, what a rush.
None of my four outlier recommendations made the ballot. Except one of them won in a different category, and I could just do jumping jacks about that.

Campbell Award

I’m entirely unsurprised that Sofia Samatar won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I remember vascillating between her and Ramez Naam, my own two personal favorites out of the five.

Best Fan Artist

Sarah Webb is someone I should have known would win eventually.
The first of my recommendations, Randall Munroe, came in 9th.

Best Fan Writer

Kameron Hurley takes it! Her acceptance speech. She likely mostly won for the post that also won “Best Related Work” (below), but my personal favorite is When to Persist… and When to Quit.

Best Fancast

SF Signal. Which I should totally listen to more often. Interesting quirk: No Award had the highest number of first-place votes in this category.

Best Fanzine

Aiden Moher’s beautiful A Dribble of Ink.

Best Semiprozine

Lightspeed Magazine. Given their recent success in Kickstarter campaigns, this surprises exactly no one.

Best Professional Artist

Julie Dillon becomes the first woman to win the Hugo for Best Professional Artist as a solo artist. (Diane Dillon co-won with her husband in 1971.)

Best Editor, Long Form

Ace’s retiring editor Ginjer Buchanan won, though she didn’t have the largest number of first-place votes. Baen’s Toni Weisskopf did, but she also had less support in other places, and also had more people rank No Award higher.

Best Editor, Short Form

Ellen. Datlow.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

I was really hoping for Orphan Black, but Game of Thrones won for “The Rains of Castamere.” I’m peeved that Sharknado wasn’t on either the long list for either the long or short form ballot. It was robbed!

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Gravity. So, so, so happy about this.

Best Graphic Story

Randall Munroe, XKCD, Time.
In 2011, I first suggested Randall Munroe for Best Fan Artist. As a result of my lobbying, he got on the ballot that year (and the next), but he didn’t win.
Randall’s acceptance speech.
And Cory Doctorow accepting, dressed as an XKCD character (also a later XKCD):

[![Cory Doctorow accepting the Best Graphic Story Hugo Award for Randall Munroe's "Time.". Photo by Jim C. Hines](/images/2014/08/863871148.jpg)](/images/2014/08/863871148.jpg)Cory Doctorow accepting the Best Graphic Story Hugo Award for Randall Munroe’s “Time.”. Photo by Jim C. Hines

My work here is done.
Congratulations, Randall! ## Best Related Work

“We Have Always Fought”: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative by Kameron Hurley on A Dribble of Ink. Very much worth reading. In a related note, here’s how the lemming myth was perpetuated.
I also have a soft spot in my heart for Writing Excuses as I’ll be on an upcoming episode.

Best Short Story

“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu published by Tor.com.

Best Novelette

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal also published by Tor.com. I loved the audio version last year, and love the text version as well.
This was the category that Vox Day was also in, so I note that he lost fifth place (of five) to “No Award.”

Best Novella

“Equoid” by Charles Stross also published by Tor.com. I love Stross’s work. Though I preferred his Best Novel entry to this one, I’m glad he won in a category.

Best Novel

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. This book won the Hugo, the Nebula, the Clarke Award, and the Locus Award, as well as tying for the BSFA Award. That is a very rare combo, especially for a debut novel.
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson came in 4th, and, Warbound by Larry Correia (of the voting slate) came in last, somewhat above “No Award.”

Overall

Wow, a lot of women won! (Dramatic sigh re: Orphan Black not being among them.)
The two nominations I was most excited by won. w00t!
Tor.com really did a great job.

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Falling Back in Love With One's Own Book

15 August 2014

[![Photo by Lizzy Gadd](/images/2014/08/KGcbEHoSLmcHyhqA2nfl_76591_667052060003591_1045050051_n-700x464.jpg)](/images/2014/08/KGcbEHoSLmcHyhqA2nfl_76591_667052060003591_1045050051_n.jpg)Photo by Lizzy Gadd

While I’m guilty of most of the classic bad writerly habits save for drugs and alcohol, none of those bad habits per se are the cause of my greatest problems with word count.
No, for things like spending too much time on Twitter, that typically means I’ll write fewer words (unless I’m on Twitter for a word war, at which point it’s productive).
What causes the single greatest loss for me are the days on end where I’ve lost belief in my book. It happens every book. I wish I could say that I’ve learned to plan for these side trips into the doldrums, but no. I haven’t.
So here are some of the ways I work out of these issues. ## But X Has a More Famous Book on a Similar Topic

This will always be true, right? Even though every book is unique, the mind can always find ways in which X’s book or Y’s screenplay or Z’s book is similar to one’s own.
Here’s my exercises for this stage of writerly despair:

  1. Name ten things your book has that X’s does not. They can be small things, e.g., you feature a coffee shop throughout your novel, and X’s does not. You love coffee.
  2. Name one person (whom you’re not related to) who you think would be more interested in the book you’re writing than X’s, and why you think that’s so. Pro tip: this can be your barista.
  3. Identify one thing you hope a reader will get out of your book that they won’t get out of X’s.

Why Am I Writing This?

At some point, my answer usually boils down to: because you started it. That’s reason enough for some people, but sadly it’s not reason enough for me.

  1. List ten things you think are cool about the book.
  2. Name three things you learned while writing or researching the book.
  3. Is there anything you found “too cool not to use” that you haven’t used yet?

Write Ten Words (or Write One Paragraph)

Instead of writing a day’s quota, I’ll challenge myself to only write a ridiculously small amount of words. Then quit.
Repeat as needed. It’s better than not writing at all. At some point, you’ll realize you’ve gone over that quota and are back in the groove. For me, this usually takes a few days.

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Worldcon: Day 1

14 August 2014

We arrived in London on Wednesday afternoon, and our shared ride to the Aloft hotel took 2-1/2 hours due to road closures in central London for an event.
It’s our first stay at an Aloft hotel, which is trendy and hipsterish without being too much so. The convention rate makes it affordable for a London hotel.
We got to dinner late on Wednesday after napping for several hours, and I slept very well that night.
Thursday, I only went to one panel: The Joy of Sex, which featured Artist Guest of Honor Chris Foss, one of the original illustrators of the book The Joy of Sex. The panel also included Meg Barker, who is currently researching sex manuals, and Bethan Jones a sexualities researcher.
Chris was a complete hoot.
I missed two koffeeklatsches. One I was on the alternate list for, and the other was after the panel, and I was simply too tired by that point. Pity, as I would really have loved to have gone.
Apart from that, I did a fair amount of talking to people before needing to bail for a nap in the late afternoon.
One of Rick’s relatives who lives in London came to dinner with us, and it was great to see him again.

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Problematic Topics and Catharsis

13 August 2014

[![Photo by Björn Simon](/images/2014/08/9XkFhM8tRiuHXZRCKSdm_ny-2.jpg)](/images/2014/08/9XkFhM8tRiuHXZRCKSdm_ny-2.jpg)Photo by Björn Simon

In many ways, I’m a classic liberal: I don’t believe in censorship, even of works I feel are reprehensible. I think fiction, and well-written non-fiction, can be cathartic, and that catharsis is a good thing.
Most of us have some sort of negative desire: something that, if fulfilled, would harm us or others. For most people, I suspect these are far more ordinary bad things.
I read four posts the other day that are all, in their own ways, on related difficult subjects: ## 50 Shades of Non-Consent: Editing BDSM Erotica as a Queer Top

An editor of BDSM fiction talks about the effect it’s had on her love life. There are some cues here that someone not familiar with the culture of BDSM might miss, e.g., warning signs like, “You are what we call a natural sub.”

When 50 Shades of Grey exploded in 2012, I was editing erotic romance novels five days a week in a cramped pink building in South Austin. 50 Shades made “BDSM” the most marketable term in the romance/erotica industry, and it made my already uncomfortable job a living hell.

I’ve read some books that, frankly, seem more like grooming someone for conditioned violence, and Jennifer agrees:

And books like 50 Shades set a dangerous precedent for would-be subs: one where hyper-femininity is demanded and safe words are for the weak. I understand why, upon reading these books, some people become adamant that D/s is just an excuse for violence against women.

It depresses me. BDSM (which, for what it’s worth, isn’t my thing) is a very large umbrella that doesn’t necessarily involve bondage, discipline, sadism, or masochism. Yet the fiction in the genre tends to the farther end of the genre, and quite a bit of it, like 50 Shades, is abuse masquerading as BDSM. Another relevant post on this subject is Jenny Trout’s commentary about 50 Shades and abusive relationships.

The Marketing of Slave Fantasy: A Bridge Too Far?

Moving on to the second post, there are people who have rape fantasies and slave fantasies. There is fiction that caters to those market segements—but the marketing of same may well be problematic.
Frankly, it’s hard to imagine non-problematic marketing for the content in question, but it doesn’t quite hit my squick button the way one particular category does: breeder stories.

You can take my rape fantasy when you non-consensually prise it from my kink dependent mind

Someone who enjoys same discusses it.

You’re 16. You’re a Pedophile. You Don’t Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now?

This fourth post might seem like an outlier—and, frankly, it is. However, it discusses a really important topic: what if people’s fantasies tend toward real non-consent (rather than fantasy non-consent), and yet the people who have said fantasies don’t want to harm anyone?
It turns out that we have little infrastructure in place for people who are pre-offenders.
Quoting Elizabeth Letourneau, founding director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins University.

We say we’re really concerned about sex offending and we really don’t want children to be sexually offended and we don’t want adults to be raped, but we don’t do anything to prevent it. We put most of our energy into criminal justice, which means that the offense has already happened and often many offenses have already happened.

That seems backwards, doesn’t it?
It’s important to have means of escape, means of dealing with difficult fantasies that are so integral to various people’s lives. It’s also important to provide necessary support to both would-be offenders and people who’ve been victims.

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Coping With Depression

11 August 2014

Robin Williams died, apparently of suicide. He’d been through a recent rehab program; he struggled with both addiction and depression.
For many years, I didn’t realize I struggled with depression. When I became involved in Scientology, the depression got worse, and the costs of admitting I had it rose. I left Scientology in 1989, but I didn’t seek help for my depression until 1997. To ask for “psych drugs” or traditional therapy was counter to all my programming.
At that point, I’d been widowed for a few months. I wasn’t suffering any obvious big-picture depression problems. I cried occasionally, but didn’t go on long crying jags.
I was waiting for my doctor, and read an article about depression. I had many of the secondary problems of depression: total inability to sleep at night (which has plagued me intermittently ever since) being the biggest one. As a secondary effect, my fibromyalgia raged on with the sleep irregularities and never went away.
My doctor prescribed me two antidepressants, one of which was amitriptyline. To this day, I’m still on nortriptyline to help regulate sleep (and thus pain), though I no longer feel depressed. Unless, of course, I go off of it, as I did for a few months. Big mistake.
My doctor told me that when he’d tell depressed people what drugs and/or therapy could do for them, they’d look at him like he was a Martian. My own example: I’d become convinced I’d never write again. It was too painful and too wrapped up in the identities both I and my late husband had.
I started to feel the emotional lift from one of the meds in a few days, and within two weeks I was starting to write again. Medication turned my life around and made it worth living again; I’m unhappy when I can’t write.
I’m thankful that I’ve only been suicidal during one very short period of my life, before my first marriage. I’ve known other people who’ve killed themselves (I tell one such story here), and I always feel sad for them and the people left behind.
Susan, I’m so sorry you lost your husband Robin.
If you’re reading this and struggling with depression: there are sources of help. What worked for me may not work for you, but please try to find something that helps, even if it doesn’t seem immediately effective.

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All the Important Stuff

11 August 2014

One of the valuable things to learn when you go outside your comfort zone, that it’s going to be okay.
Probably.
When I was at the World Domination Summit in Portland recently, speaker Michael Hyatt said this during his talk. It was one of the things he said that I found most profound.
Since then, at difficult moments, I’ve been able to give myself strength by repeating this.
Hope it helps you.
Available from Redbubble in: t-shirts, tanks, sweatshirts, hoodies, phone and iPad cases, prints, stickers, cards, throw pillows, and tote bags.
A version without the background is available on Redbubble for: t-shirts, tanks, sweatshirts, hoodies, and other clothing items.
Available from Society6 in: t-shirts, tanks, onesies, hoodies, iPhone and iPod cases, coffee mugs, laptop and iPad skins, shower curtains, and duvet covers.
all-the-important-stuff-700

Credits

Thanks to Michael Hyatt for permission to use the quote.
The font is Ruba from RodrigoTypo. (Yes, purchased as a part of a Design Cuts deal.)
The halftone textures are from Rob Brink, purchased as a part of an (expired) My Design Deals bundle. The border edge (not on all products) is from Dustin Lee of Retro Supply. It’s from the Standard Issue Texture Brushes package, though I didn’t use them in a subtle manner. (Deliberately.) If you’re interested in weathered or aged effects, this is worth it just for the video that comes as a part of the package.

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Amazon, Invoking WW2 and Getting it Wrong

08 August 2014

Amazon invokes World War II. (Do Not Linkified because why should they get all the Google juice?)

Also, structure of email opening is remarkably similar to http://t.co/redsJvrNhc from @andrewtshaffer (which has full Orwell quote)

— andrea vuleta (@alv65) August 9, 2014

Except, of course, they said “World War II” rather than 1939 because that carries so much more emotional weight. It’s Godwin’s Law by proxy.
Also, as a technical point, this was an innovation in the US, and the US wasn’t involved in WWII in 1939 (not until Pearl Harbor in December, 1941). Not only that, as Andrew’s article points out, the paperback started in June, 1939, and World War II is generally considered to have started with the Invasion of Poland on 1 September, 1939.
So not only did they invoke WWII for all the emotional baggage it carries, their email opening is factually incorrect.

@alv65 When you google “paperback history” or “paperback revolution,” my story is the first hit. So it’s possible they just crammed it.

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF They also twisted the Orwell quote to make it look like he hated paperbacks. Just the opposite: pic.twitter.com/V0M60brNcu

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF Looks like they took it—and their opening graf—from my Mental Floss article. I dunno. Crazy no matter what. http://t.co/1TFYAg07TG

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF Now that I look back into the quote, looks like he thought paperbacks were good for readers, bad for trade. pic.twitter.com/z09AOFRBuo

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF I still don’t think he was literally suggesting publishers collude, though, which is what Amazon’s letter seems to suggest.

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

Then Amazon gives the email address of Hachette’s CEO, but not their own.
Because Amazon wants to play fair, right?
No.

Cora Buhlert Has an Even Better Point

Edited to add Cora Buhlert’s fabulous tweets:

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward Besides, Germany has had paperbacks since 1867.

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward And they cost 20 pennies, 25 pennies from 1917 on. I demand a return to the prices of the Second Empire.

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward In case you need a reference for the 1867 paperbacks, try this one: http://t.co/xbFhRgpuCm

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

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Branding Done Right

07 August 2014

I have to admit I’m not usually a huge fan of branding campaigns, but Typecon 2014’s branding, designed by Build really knocked it out of the park.
The conference theme was “Redacted,” and the name was “Capitolized,” both homages to the conference’s Washington D.C. location. The theme also included double-speak and information combined with (justifiable) paranoia.

Welcome to the City of Magnificent Intentions

[![Typecon banner, photo by Akira Himei](/images/2014/08/BuOKwRDCEAAbjGY.jpg)](/images/2014/08/BuOKwRDCEAAbjGY.jpg)Typecon banner, photo by [Akira Himei](https://twitter.com/ashlight/status/496392946757812224/photo/1)

Typecon Bureau of Dining, Imbibing, Navigating, and Inconspicuous Tourist Operations

[![Typecon Dining and Imbibing Guide, pic by Deirdre Saoirse Moen](/images/2014/08/dining-and-imbibing.jpg)](/images/2014/08/dining-and-imbibing.jpg)Typecon Dining and Imbibing Guide, pic by Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Behold the Video Monitors

Here’s a link to the video one saw going down the escalators to the conference. (Note: Seizure disorder warning.)

All Neatly Leading into the Keynote

Tobias Frere-Jones speaks on the topic of In Letters We Trust. It was a fascinating talk I’ll write about in an upcoming post.

[![In Letters We Trust, photo by Helen Lysen](/images/2014/08/10570202_262734890586143_1722358510_n.jpg)](/images/2014/08/10570202_262734890586143_1722358510_n.jpg)In Letters We Trust, photo by [Helen Lysen](http://instagram.com/hcdarling)

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Bad Book Covers: Comic Exaggeration

06 August 2014

For Westercon, I made a Lousy Book Cover for comedic effect. After all, I had to have one to show at the panel, right?
So I picked a great photo. I picked a great typeface.
And deliberately made a grievous error.
Behold.
terminator-2-comedy-cover

Courtney Milan Talks Type

I bring this up because Courtney Milan’s got a great blog post called How to Suck at Typography. Ironically, I missed it because I was at Typecon.
First, I absolutely love the Borges font she discusses. It’s called Desire. It is truly one of the showcase pieces of what can be done with OpenType.
What she says about free fonts is largely true, but there are some good ones out there. The one I used was Great Vibes, which is the free cousin to Good Vibrations. I mention this for a reason: sometimes there’s significantly better typographic features on the paid version of a font. And sometimes it’s the bad fonts that get thrown to the free bin. (Or packaged up by the hundred for seemingly low prices.)
Personally, I’d like less space between Te so it feels more like Ju. Similarly, I’d like a tidge more space between Da so it feels more like Ju. Given that the paid font seems the same at first glance, evidently the font designer disagrees with me on that point.

There Is One Point of Violent Disagreement, However

Font effects are the opposite of tasteful covers. They are harder to read at best, and migraine-inducing at worst. The worst fug in the world comes from font effects.

I’ll half agree with the last. Granted, she’s talking from a historical romance perspective.
I’ve been working on a poster off and on for a month. I just couldn’t get the right approach to say what I wanted to, so I put it away and get back to it.
Yellow Design Studio is one of my favorite indie font foundries. I love love love love love their font family Gist, which is really Gist and Gist Upright, Gist Rough and Gist Rough Upright, and GistX.
One of the things Gist has is the line version of the font along with the regular—so you can separately style/color. Let’s say you’re making a poster, in navy, for an upcoming nautical clothing line. Put the text in white, and make the line red (or green, as that’s another combo used for nautical clothing). Perfecto.
In this case, I’ve been fussing with this poster, and, once I decided on Gist, I started randomly clicking layer styles for the line until I got this:
layer-effects-mmmm
I love it. I love how the beveling turns the corner between the u and the s.
The catch is, it’s applied on a relatively small part of the type. It’s the mint leaf served in your chocolate dessert.

Drop Shadows and Outer Glows

There is one reason to use these two features: to separate the type from the background. I used an outer glow in my sample bad cover. It’s subtle enough that if you don’t know what to look for, you’d miss it.
As a general rule, that’s how it should be. The secret is to reduce the opacity of the effect. I often reduce it from the default 75% down to 25-35%. Also, increase the radius of the effect from a few pixels to 20 or 30.

Coming Back Around

Getting back to the original picture, there’s one aspect that Courtney doesn’t talk about: appropriateness of the type for the project. It’s not just whether it’s a good font. It’s not whether the layer style, kerning, etc., works—there’s a bigger thing going on.
Is the font, the most appropriate (within reason) font you can use? I say within reason because I love Skolar, but it’s going to be a very long time before I’ll be able to afford it.
I recently heard a cover designer say that if the book got the person to read the blurb, the cover had done its job.
I agree in part and disagree in part. When they get to the blurb, they have a mindset in place that may lead them to interpret the blurb fundamentally differently than the blurb was intended.
Your cover needs to give the reader the feel for the book. Typography’s a huge part of that. As an example, a friend wrote a historical fantasy. Someone did a cover for her, but the fonts were all super-modern, so they’d lead someone to expect a really different book. For that reason, she went with a different cover entirely. Good call.
Remember that saying I found so profound? “A one-star review means the wrong reader has found your book.”
The purpose of a cover is to find your book’s five star readers and turn away the one-star readers.
The main problem with the cover I’ve given for Terminator 2? It would find mostly one-star readers. They’d be wanting something nice and cozy with tea and biscuits, and get something else entirely.
Find your five-star readers.

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