Monthly Archives: February 2014

Who Called It? Oh, That’s Right: ME

A couple years ago I ran a post speculating that as authors got the rights back to books they had sold to publishers, we would start seeing “author’s cut” editions self-published. I hadn’t really seen anything like that come across my reading/writing-blog spheres, and I completely forgot about the question. Until this week. On Friday I saw a post on The Passive Voice about how a fantasy author was finally releasing a sequel to his first book because he and his publisher dissolved their contract.

Turns out John D. Brown got his work freed from his contract with Tor over creative differences – not just books two and three in the trilogy, but the first book, as well. Not only that, but he went back and re-edited the reverted book to his original vision of the story. The changes weren’t major – shuffling opening chapters the publisher had asked him to move and adding a bit of denouement to the end that sets up his version of book two better – but yet those changes ARE major in the sense that they represent a re-exertion of artistic control over the story. Making the changes to the text in the first place was a compromise that represented getting the work published/not getting it published and were not major enough for him to walk away over. Unlike, apparently, the changes the editor wanted for the second book. Now he has the confidence in his own storytelling, and a viable alternative to a large publisher, to be able to actually publish his story…not a compromised second draft re-written to a publisher’s aesthetic or perceived market imperative.

This story makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. One of the biggest drawbacks, to me, of working with a publishing house is fear of this sort of artistic tinkering. My thought on it is that a novel should be treated like a boyfriend (or girlfriend) – you take it the way it is, not on condition of “if you change x, y, and z.”

I don’t want it to sound like I don’t believe in editing or that a macro-editor (story editor, content editor, etc. – basically I just mean not a line/copy editor or proofreader) can never be of value to a writer. But the writer should have the final say in what the story is. An editor can point out where something doesn’t work or is a miscue or a hundred other problems, but the writer is the one who should then be left to work out a solution to that problem. It might not actually be in that scene, but an earlier scene where a character’s action/thought/etc. wasn’t emphasized properly, or a later scene where what was supposedly set up for the character in the “problem” scene isn’t drawn on. And editors are humans; they can fall prey to the same mindset as readers, of expecting one genre/subgenre/trope/mood only to be dissatisfied with a story that turns out to be something else. Maybe the miscue was because of something the writer did early on, or maybe it was just the editor’s own expectation of how the story should play out. In any case, in my opinion, a good editor will point out the issues and offer possible suggestions but ultimately leave it up to the writer how they want to handle addressing that problem. (I know for me, with my beta readers, 80% the time they find a problem and offer a suggestion, I address the problem in a different way that feels more in line with my vision for the story. When their suggestion is exactly what I would do had I seen the problem on my own, then I take it.)

Beyond the fact that editors should be pointing out problem areas but not demanding (or even urging) specific fixes, editors at publishing houses are working for businesses who want to maximize the market appeal of their products. They have a vested interest in either providing what the market wants (or seems to want) or avoiding what the market seems not to want. Often, in my observed experience as a reader, publishers rush  to produce “more of the same” and in doing so pander to the audience that wants that sameness while snubbing the audience that wants something different. Therefore, the changes requested by a publishing house editor are not necessarily to bring the writer’s intention with the story into sharper focus – sometimes they are to blunt it or change it entirely.

All of that is long-winded way of saying, the only person who should have dominion over the tone and execution of a story is the author, and I am very happy that Brown had a strong enough sense of vision not to compromise his story and that he was able to negotiate a return of all his rights in order to give his readers the real story.

If you care to read John’s account, here are the relevant posts:

http://johndbrown.com/2013/05/news-curse-of-a-dark-god-has-a-release-date/

http://johndbrown.com/2013/10/what-changed-in-the-authors-cut-of-servant/

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No One Knows You Like You Know You

Another pregnancy post, just because I need to rant about it.

Got a call earlier this week from the diabetes center at the hospital my OB uses – not from my doctor – saying that she’d sent orders for me to go in for a consultation. So…I guess I failed the 3-hour glucose test? Doctor never called me to discuss the results. I spent the day I got that call alternating between freaking out and being royally pissed off. A pretty perfunctory Google search of “GTT false positive” turned up at least one piece of advice she gave me wrong – the WORST thing you can do to avoid a glucose meltdown in testing is avoid carbs beforehand, which she advised. Sigh. Basically at this point I feel like everything she tells me is just a guess and I should just look the condition up when I get home. As one of my friends put it, “Well, you wanted an alternative care model that would really let you own this pregnancy….”

Anyway, I assumed the diabetes center would have my results so I could at least know if we were looking at true GD or a testing conditions issue. Ha! They didn’t have my labs, either. I had to request they call my doctor and get them so we had some idea what my baseline was to begin with. I had two high marks, one at the one-hour and one at the fasting draw (only by like 5 points each time, but still). The fasting number being high tells me maybe I do have some issues. Good to know. Let’s deal with them.

The center has me doing blood tests 4x per day – first thing in the morning and 2 hours after each of my major meals. So far every reading has been within the acceptable range, even when I ate more carbs than I was supposed to for that meal. My fasting blood sugar is still a little high, though not as high as it was last weekend and now back within the “target” range – just at the upper end of it – and I don’t know whether the lab blood draw was high because of being a little sick, very tired, and completely stressed out, or if changing my eating patterns even the little bit I have has already started correcting the problem.

At the very least, now I have the means to actually experiment and see if particular foods crash my results, and if I really need to follow their guidelines or if I can modify them to better suit my lifestyle and body-driven eating habits. (The main issue I have with their plan is low carbs in the morning. I have never been the sort who can face a full breakfast until I’ve been up for 3-4 hours; the only things I want in the morning are starchy fruit and milk or cereal and milk, either of which are more than my carb allotment for breakfast. So the real-world scenarios I am looking at are skipping breakfast or having more carbs than I am “supposed” to in that time slot even if I then have fewer at my next snack and meal. Personally, I think the less detrimental option for a pregnant woman is the latter, especially since – so far, at least  – my body seems to be processing those particular carbs just fine.)

I do know that if anyone wants to do a late ultrasound to see if my baby is “big” that I will refuse it, because I am not going to be induced or bullied into a C-section for fear of a 9+ pound baby, especially given the ultrasound gets it right about 30% of the time – so statistically speaking, no better than flat out guessing. Even if my little guy grows big…fat squeezes. His head isn’t getting bigger even if he is, and the primary risk of vaginally delivering a large baby (shoulders getting stuck) is mitigated by my refusal to be strapped to a bed and forced to deliver on my back.

Right now I will confess myself annoyed at the amount of work I am having to do to feel educated about my specific pregger issues, even working with a doctor in general philosophical alignment with me, but that seems to be status quo in patient-provider relations these days. Hear the doc’s advice and then do your own research and mythbusting, because not all of their advice is going to really be suited to your unique situation.

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Good words gone bad: chaste

I spent Friday night and  then yesterday morning at my 3-hour glucose screening reading through Rose Gordon’s Fort Gibson Officer’s trilogy. I don’t normally read a lot of American-set books or Westerns, specifically, mostly because a lot of my early exposure to romance novels were Westerns, and once I found other subgenres the Westerns I had read began to seem painfully low-rent (macho men I would personally want nothing to do with, lots of Stockholm Syndrome plots, lots of native man/white woman stories, etc.). The  premises on this set of books seemed interesting, though, and since the first one was free I figured I’d give them a shot. Obviously since I read all three I liked them well enough, even though I don’t know how much time the author spent really researching the clothing  of the period, which is a trigger for me since, as a costumer, I spend a lot of time researching period clothing even if I don’t spend pages writing about it. But in these books the first mention of a corset was the third one, and each of the heroines was supposedly a relatively wealthy woman. Um. Not so sure that in 1845 ladies, even in the West, ran around with nothing under their dresses but a chemise. But I let that go because it was a very minor detail and the author didn’t dwell on the clothing.

Then I got to the third book, which was in some ways my favorite of the three, and a repeated misuse of the word “chaste” just…irked me.

First, let me share with you my understanding of the word, which goes back to my high school freshman English class and the teacher’s lecture on it while we were reading I believe Shakespeare (or maybe Mallory): “chaste” refers to a woman having no sexual relations outside of marriage. For an unmarried woman, chastity can be equated with celibacy, but for a married woman it cannot–as long as the only man she is having sex with is her husband.

That has been my understanding of the word for almost 20 years, and any time I have used it has been with that meaning in mind.

The scenario in which what I perceived as misuse came up in book 3; after the wedding night, the groom starts feeling like maybe he hadn’t given her much of a choice about whether they had sex at all and decides he doesn’t want to have any more sex unless and until they fall in love. But he doesn’t really verbalize any of this except the not having sex part, so the bride assumes it’s because she’s not a virgin anymore, and she keeps using the term “unchaste” for that. In like three different places in the book.

This bothered me endlessly, not quite enough to put the book down but just about, because it is so contrary to my understanding of the word and how it is meant to be used. She had married him; therefore she could not possibly be “unchaste” after sex with her husband.

So I had to go look up the actual definition of the word to see if she was misusing it or if I was misunderstanding it. From dictionary.com:

1. refraining from sexual intercourse that is regarded as contrary to morality or religion; virtuous.

2. virgin.

3. not engaging in sexual relations; celibate.

4. free from obscenity; decent: chaste conversation.

5. undefiled or stainless: chaste, white snow.

It’s really definitions 1-3 that concern us here.

Obviously the first definition is the one I am familiar with. But it appears that our language recognizes two definitions that would, in fact, support the author’s use (in the context the heroine could have meant either non-virginal or non-celibate when she said “unchaste”).

So who is right here? Do I have a needlessly narrow view on the definition of the word, or is this a case where the wrong usages just overwhelmed the correct use in common vernacular and diluted the power of the word? Is my reluctance, even with evidence of popular usage, to accept the other subdefinitions just a grammarian’s grudge from 1560 (the first documented usage to mean virginal/celibate as opposed to merely not having sex outside of morality/religion)? Would readers mistake my meaning if I used the word chaste, meaning definition 1, for one of the other definitions?

This is one of the points of language upon which my husband and I disagree vehemently. He is very much of the “language changes, that keeps it from dying, embrace it” mentality whereas I genuinely struggle with bastardized meanings that basically redefine/undercut the entire point of the word, which in this case was to differentiate between celibacy and “moral” sexual relations. If you make “celibate” a definition of the term that was created to mean “moral sexual relations,” then you are once more conflating ideas that should be discrete. So how can anyone communicate clearly and precisely with very specific terms if those terms keep getting co-opted to mean the very thing they were intended not to mean?

I don’t intend to sound like we should all be speaking Chaucerian English here; I realize language needs to change. But some variant-definitions are not merely pointless but genuinely detrimental to clear communication, and those are the ones that bother me. No wonder my freshman lit teacher was so up in arms about this one! The dictionary is clearly not going to be helpful to students trying to figure out what, exactly, the term meant in context.

Just for the record, dear readers: while I will attempt to no longer judge writers who use “chaste” for celibate or virginal, since it is clearly not the misuse I believed it to be, I will never use the word in my own writing to mean anything other than its original and primary definition.

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Things We Don’t Talk About: booze edition

Sometimes I loathe our reactionary medical system and the social pressures that go along with it. Tonight is one of those nights.

I will freely admit that I’ve had drinks since becoming pregnant, knowingly and willfully. The American Puritanism that insists any amount of alcohol during pregnancy is bad-bad-bad has been debunked by studies in Europe (not to mention 50,000 or so years of human existence). My feelings on it have been to drink when it sounds good and stop when it no longer tastes good. I have had one drink on a lot of occasions, two on a few, and three on I think two nights. Nothing beyond three, by my own (physical) inclination as much as a desire not to push the boundaries of moderation.

The medical information and advice available to most women is to abstain completely. There is no useful advice for how much is too much, and most women would never broach the subject with their OB – certainly in my doctor’s office I have played the pearl-clutching part of “oh, no, of course I would never drink in this condition!” because I have my own advised opinion that her propaganda isn’t going to influence.

Tonight, though, I am running into an actual medical issue where I feel like I cannot get decent advice, even from the internet, and it pisses me off that I cannot take this question to my doctor for a realistic answer without being lectured or lied to.

I came back with an “abnormal” reading on my OGTT (oral glucose tolerance test) which is the 1-hour screening that all pregnant women are recommended to get. If you fail this test, then you get the 3-hour screening to definitively determine if you have gestational diabetes. I am not sure what to make of my abnormal result; for the OGTT you have to shotgun the sugar equivalent of a 12-oz can of soda. I accidentally did mine after fasting for about 14 hours (you only have to fast for 2 for this one, and I planned to get up early enough to eat breakfast beforehand…didn’t happen so I had to do it on an empty stomach), and while I don’t avoid sugar or bread-like carbs, I do try to limit them. I doubt I have enough of the paleo lifestyle issue with sugar to affect my results, but considering I rarely to never bomb my system with that much sugar in a short period (especially first thing in the morning!) I do have to wonder if that affected my results. I guess I’ll find out for sure this weekend.

In the meantime, I have spent tonight freaking myself out about how to handle GD if it turns out I have it, not to mention that my OB’s perspective was to treat my diet like I could develop GD at any time since clearly (to her) I have *some* sort of problem processing glucose.

One of the things I wanted to know was whether alcohol will affect blood sugar levels in a way that I need to be aware of, should I be diagnosed with GD or take my doctor’s advice to restrict my diet as a precautionary measure. This is not an unreasonable question. However, four entire Google results pages yielded nothing but a repetition of the propaganda: “if you are pregnant you should never drink alcohol ever under any circumstances because it will kill your baby or make it come out all fucked up and shit and you are a horrible mother for even considering drinking a single drop or even making chicken marsala because that has cooking wine and all alcohol is bad-bad-bad while you are pregnant!” Not exactly helpful information – not even a single “we advise against alcohol consumption but if you must do it, then know this…” type of page. Nothing. Not a fucking word about how alcohol interacts with GD.

Then I found this gem on a diabetes management site:

“Alcohol has the opposite effect. The body normally stores excess glucose in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen and converts the glycogen back to glucose when your blood sugar levels fall too low. But alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to make that conversion…”

“…Women with gestational diabetes should avoid alcohol altogether, though for reasons unrelated to their diabetes.”

So what I’m gathering is that I should have a glass of wine when my blood sugar gets too high?

I kid. I realize that an inability to release additional glucose is not the same as a means of lowering a too-high glucose level. But my original question remains unanswered, and my point remains: how the hell AM I supposed to know what effect a beer or a couple fingers of scotch will have on my GD if the medical establishment is so afraid of any pregnant woman drinking anything that they won’t even release information on its effects when they are actually potentially most harmful?

I’m going to go try not to throw up and attempt to sleep now. Fuck yeah tests with a false positive 75% of the time that are making sleep-deprived stressed out pregnant ladies lose even more rest and feel even more stressed unnecessarily!

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