The Spheres of Heaven

My country of origin kept a (very bastardized) expression from the Moors that occupied the land for centuries: Oxala, the Portuguese version of Insh Allah and roughly translated as it’s used as “May it be G-d’s will” (rather than, “if Allah wants it.”)

It seems brazen, like walking around naked, to say “Tomorrow I’m going for a walk” without adding “G-d willing.”  The most simple predictions, of the most trivial nature “I think tomorrow we’ll go to the beach” get a “G-d willing” appended to it, because if I said “oxala” people might take it wrong.

Now, I’m not stupid — most of the time — and I’m 55.  This means I’ve seen a lot of “Man poses, G-d disposes” or “I can’t believe this happened to me” both good and bad.  On the balance, for me, good.  I’m a highly improbable creature, on a highly improbable life path (starting with still being alive at all) and so far so good.

But at the same time I know what that “can’t predict/can’t be sure” in reality — not just, you know, giving Himself his due to change plot on a dime — can do to a mind.

For years as a traditionally published writer, I experienced total and complete lack of control.

Sure, I could write the best book I could, and I neurotically did that over and over again.  Neurotically?  Well, madness is after all doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

But the thing was, once it left my hands, it was … out of my hands, quite literally.

The ones most extensively twisted-by-editing with the Magical British Empire books, part of the reason they aren’t out yet, because my “go over” for a writers’ edition amounts to a rewrite.  (Yes, I know.  But the files I have are… interesting.  I don’t seem to have a final/delivered file.  Don’t ask.  I think in the dozens of back and forth editing exchanges, I overwrote it.)  But all of them could be twisted.  Words are plastic (in the sense of malleable) and if someone inserts the wrong thing at the wrong time… it can change the whole sense of the book.  And yeah, sure, copyedits and page proofs are supposed to be run by the author.  But often they’re not.  And often, in the round robin of a publishing house, things appear in the book that weren’t there at “final” viewing of typeset pages.

For instance, in my Shakespeare books, there was an entire paragraph added, heaven only knows why, of someone’s idea of Elizabethan English.  It didn’t add to the plot.  It ddn’t add to character.  It was just someone’s bright, last minute idea.  And this person thought that “illiterate grammar mistakes” was the equivalent of “Elizabethan English.”

Now, I can honestly say stuff — I’m sure — gets through my final reading of page-proofed manuscripts.  By that time I’m on my 11th or 12th go round of the book, and in traditional rhythms it usually lands on my desk as I’m nearing the climax of the current book and running a week behind.  I’m sure that’s how I missed someone at Baen changed one of Simon St. Cyr’s names to Michelle from Michel (probably a spell check thing, honestly combined with not knowing Michael is spelled differently in French.)  Those are minor, won’t make or break a book, and just get me half a dozen letters from fans saying “change this.”  (I can’t guys.)

But that paragraph?  No way in hell I’d have missed it.  No. Way. In. Hell.  I about hit the roof when I found it while casually flipping through the printed book.  (I don’t normally read my published books unless I’m preparing to write more in the series, aka “reading myself into the world.”)

Also edits…  Until five years ago, with a short story, and probably because I was on the verge of killing myself with an ear infection, while trying to prepare to teach a workshop, I never talked back to an edit. My mind had this setting that went “I’m ESL, so if they change wording, they’re probably right.”  And also “they are paying for it.  If they want it purple, I’ll do it.”

But mostly, really, I wanted to be known as “easy to work with” so my career wouldn’t end.

Has that stopped?  Not totally.  The awareness there’s indie makes a difference, though.  When the first publishers of Sword and Blood gave the book to a “volunteer” to edit and she kept doing crazy stuff like correcting my French using some online translator (I no longer have the confidence to SPEAK French to French people — though it would probably be solved by reading in French for a month or so, if I had the time — but I do have a bachelor’s in French via some French college’s Portuguese outpost (I don’t remember which university.  It’s been 26 years since I used it professionally.  Heck, until last month I hadn’t told my husband I also had an equivalent of a BA in Italian from the University of Milan.  It never came up, and also I never need to show the diploma.  Until we tripped on it while cleaning my closet. Anyway, my Italian, like my Swedish is really gone.  I can still READ in Italian, but can’t even start to speak it.) BUT I guarantee to you that my French is better than some online translator program.  Also, (I ran into that in a recent edit, again) if I use a word in French, I mean that word, not whatever you think is more likely.  This particularly editor of Sword and blood also decided I should change all the musketeer names, and not even to the names that people think are “right” because these people were the “inspiration” of the musketeers (look, inspiration and fictional characters are not the same.  For one the inspirations were ALL Gascons and cousins.  Clearly this is not the case in The Three Musketeers.  Where the only one of the four with a first name is Aramis.)  No, this special bunny had “researched” via google, and wanted me to give them the first names they’d been assigned in a 1920’s silent movie.  She was also upset because I didn’t seem to know that Porthos had been a pirate.

That particular edit got returned to sender with a rhino-blistering letter, and they actually rolled it back.

But by then I’d been swallowing just as preposterous edits and editorial letters for years, because after all they were paying for it, never mind my name was on the cover.  (And oh, the reviews I got sometimes, after Amazon became a thing. On errors not-mine.)

So, there’ s that.  There’s also cover, over which we midlisters had no say, and even most bestsellers didn’t really have any control.  There’s distribution and push, which means that in the nineties especially, when publishing houses got to tell the bookstores how many books to take of each title, you know… you could be published and never see your book in a bookstore, ever.  (The Musketeer’s Seamstress and The Musketeer’s Apprentice.  And no, according to my statements it wasn’t because Death of A Musketeer didn’t sell.  It’s because in the four months between traditional publishing decided that historical mysteries didn’t sell.)

So you could write the best book possible, but after that it was all “Oxala.”  And your entire career rode on it.  And you had no control.  None.  In the long view of things, actually, whether the story was great didn’t even count that much for sales.  There were any number of “pushed” bestsellers where you facepalmed so hard all the way through that you looked like a domestic abuse victim.

Sometime in the oughts I read a book on overcoming burn out.  And the first advice was “Find a way to take control of your career.”  I laughed, and laughed, then I put it down.

Now there’s indie.  We have that control, right?

We have more control, sure.  And I appreciate it, but it’s still a chaotic system with a million unknown variables.  At least, though, no one can tell you your career is over.  And you don’t need to walk on eggshells.  There is always a third or fourth or fifth chance.  Change your name, try another subgenre.  You can always start again.

Of course, in the meanwhile and while you’re learning the ropes, you can eat pretty lean.

I think this is part of the reason my old-pro friends are having so much trouble with the change. Sure, it’s freedom, but it’s also being alone, bare to the world, with nothing to back you up, nothing to hide behind.

My friends in the fiction world are not the only ones running scared.

My journalist friends are half and half.  The younger ones are thriving, writing for various sites, moving fast.  The older ones are bitter, lost, sometimes giving up on their (traditional journalism) profession completely.

These are the fields I know well, but it’s hitting EVERYTHING.  Non-fiction writing, sure, but also … well, everything, including apparently retail.

Information technology is changing the way we live, the way we work, the way we do business.

Sometimes the in-between forms, particularly where government gets its nose in, is practically non-functional.  But by and large the more personal, more individual, information-rich new economy is a freeing one.

And yet people are scared, people are losing their minds.

The human animal is not a rational one.  I know that, from myself.  Even things that I know are hurting me, if they’re established ways of doing business/living are hard to leave behind.  You mourn the old way of life, even when it sucked.

But the times they are achanging.  The wheel in the sky is turning a little faster these days.

Those who do best are those with multiple streams of income, who keep it agile, keep it adaptive.

They are the mammals as the meteor nears.

Be a mammal.  You might sometimes scurry in the undergrowth, but you’ll survive.

Keep moving, keep abreast of new conditions, cultivate multiple streams of income.

And don’t give up.  Never give up.

182 responses to “The Spheres of Heaven

  1. I somehow doubt Our Heavenly Father is micromanaging our personal lives. It would rather defeat the purpose of providing us with Free Will. Most references to “G-d Willing” strike me as litte more than the ritual observations with which most Uncle Remus* stories ended, running along the lines of “And if the dish doesn’t run away with the spoon, tomorrow I shall tell you about the time …”

    *Maybe Uncle Remus; it has been something like fifty-some years since I read them (or had them read to me in school — yah, I’m so old my teachers were allowed to use such stuff in the post-lunch sit quietly sessions) and thus my memories are hardly reliable about details.

    • On the tiny chance that nobody has pointed it out, may I suggest you look up and read “The United Idolators” from STALKY & CO. By Kipling?

      • I doubt it too, RES, though it makes sense in Islam. In my case, when it comes out it’s more “I’m sure there’s some factor I didn’t take in account, so I hope He doesn’t have other plans.”

        • A bit more of the “God willin’ and the crik don’t rise”?

          • Rabbit trail ahead: “Crik” might originally have been “Creek,” in this sense meaning the American Indian nation. Don’t know which is correct.

            • I’ve heard reasonable arguments for and against both interpretations. Both sides mortally certain they’re correct. Me? I can’t tell.

            • That one got debunked– here’s a rather tart summary:
              http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=294395

              • Unfortunately, the very first debunking doesn’t hold up. The Creeks were raiding settlements in the 18th Century, where it seems Benjamin Hawkins had his first official dealings with them. By the War of 1812, the Creeks were in a civil war between the Upper and Lower factions (the former called Red Sticks). There was friction even with the Lower Creeks prior to the War of 1812, which suited the British just fine. A club found at the scene of a minor attack during that period had a drawing or carving of British soldiers marching in file, and that one didn’t come from the Upper Creeks. Oh, yes: the Creeks would rise on occasion, and some Lower Creek towns were disgusted enough with the settlers that they at least made noises about joining the Upper Creeks. That faded out somewhat after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, but it continued to be problematic through the end of the War of 1812 and after.

                Dealings along the frontier was mixed. Right now I’m thinking of a family who illegally went over into the Creek territory prior to 1818, maybe by the name of Mobley (would have to check notes), and had a war party show up in their front yard. The wife (Mr. Mobley being away), asked if they wanted to join them in their meal, and the war party wiped off their war paint and ate and admired the latest addition to the Mobley family. After promising not to hurt then, they put war paint back on, went down the road, and killed an entire family of settlers.

                Oh, yeah, the Creeks would rise on occasion, which is why the Georgia Militia put a string of forts along the frontier during the War of 1812. And those forts served as refuge afterward.

                Lots of gruesome stories, some that would give nightmares and which I won’t repeat.

                • Notice I’m repeating somewhat. The cat has been in here twice, wanting me elsewhere.

                • The debunking points out that’s raiding (yes, it would give me nightmares– the tribes around my childhood home did it, too, into then-living memory) and the only uprising that could be called it was a sub-tribe– one which the guy supposedly coining the phrase was trying to disassociate from the group as a whole.

                  • Depends on when. The Creeks had a hand in the Yamasee War, and there was the aforementioned raids in the 18th Century. There was a real danger of Lower Creek towns going over prior to Horseshoe Bend, with encouragement of the British. After Horseshoe Bend, things dropped to a simmer, but there was still trouble in 1818. When a Georgia militia unit was nearly wiped out in March of that year, the major in command (Josiah Cauthorn? – from memory here) sent a hasty dispatch for help to the governor and observed the entire frontier could break and there was only a river to cross.

                    Note that this was when Andrew Jackson was marching against the Seminoles.Jackson may have discounted it – he certainly knew about it and ignored it. Jackson’s role in all of this doesn’t impress me much, but that’s just my opinion.

                    There would be trouble after 1818, with settlers fleeing to the militia forts, and not all of it from Seminoles. Since the Seminoles took in Red Stick Creeks (Osceola one of them), there was some kinship with various Creek families in Georgia. Let’s just say it’s blurry, and the Seminoles get the bulk of the credit, deserved or not.

    • “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.”
      – James 4:13-16, NASB

      The American version of oxala is “the Lord willing.” Not heard much these days.The point is we have no idea what tomorrow will hold, and plan as we may, we ultimately have no control over it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan for tomorrow to the best of our ability, but we should be aware that just because we plan it doesn’t mean it will be so. Just ask Hillary.

      • Or as I remind my somewhat OC sweetheart:

        Plans are what you make,
        Life is what happens. 😉

        I learned a long time ago that the best way to survive and thrive is to roll with the punches, and take advantage of here-to-for unforeseen circumstance.

        It’s also a lot more pleasant (and productive) than bellyaching about how nothing ever goes according to plan.

        You’d think that some folks had never made the acquaintance of ol’ Murphy….

      • Lord willing and the creek don’t rise

      • Aha! Thanks, KJC.

    • It’s one of those things I can argue both ways– one, I know how corrosive it can be to responsibility to put everything on Himself. (Folks here have spoken of inshallah maintenance; between that and promoting on blood rather than merit….*shudder*)
      Yet on the other hand– if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise recognizes that man plans and God laughs, because there is a lot outside of our knowledge and ability.

      I think I prefer the latter forms, because they don’t so much shift the responsibility to Himself as recognize that there are things outside of our control.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        My mom often used “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”, which I think I internalized as “you can plan, God can trump, and nature may decide to troll you”. It seems a fairly realistic approach to me.

  2. Christopher M. Chupik

    “That particular edit got returned to sender with a rhino-blistering letter, and they actually rolled it back.”

    To be a fly on the wall when they got that letter. 🙂

    • My thus far one-and-only book* had some issues with a novice editor, the worst of which I pushed back against. (Thankfully, she didn’t attack most of the style.) I have since learned that said editor is no longer working for the small press, as her skills were oversold. Thank goodness.

      *I swear, I am not a writer. I have a friend who is a writer, and she is compulsive to the point where she basically put out ten books in just a few years, on top of having both a full-time job and getting a degree, PLUS the photography. Me, I write sometimes, if it doesn’t seem like I have anything pressing. Like trying to get a toddler who is complaining of hunger to EAT SOMETHING, darn it.

      • Be careful with that writing sometimes. Yeah, you do it here or there in private and wash your hands after.

        Then the temptation to put a short story on Amazon via KDP for “the hell of it” hits and now you’ve done it in public. The some damn fool buys it who isn’t one of the three friends you can identify that did.

        Next thing you know you’ve started a mailing list then you get serious about your 5th and 23rd of the month promise and then you decide “oh, look at this flash short I wrote taking Holly’s course, let’s put it in the newsletter” and then you think “I can serialize my last NaNoWriMo story”.

        Then you wake up one morning and after a beer last night you submitted a story to F&SF and you realize you’ve hit rock bottom.

        Best to avoid that writing stuff altogether…I mean, look at what it’s done to our hostess 😉

        • “Writing is not necessarily something you should be ashamed of. But you should to it in private, and wash your hands afterwards” _ Robert A. Heinlein.

        • SheSellsSeashells

          So off on a rabbit trail here; would you recommend Holly’s courses? I’ve never been one for “how to write” stuff, but I like her business-plus-art approach quite a lot, and she’s always struck me as very smart.

          Because I gave up and started writing a Thing, and now the Thing is making ominous mutterings about needing a sequel, and there is an unrelated Thinglette showing up on my mental doorstep…

          • If you refer to Holly Lisle’s classes — generally they teach organizational skills for creative stuff, at various levels of approach. If your muse resists like you’re pulling teeth, or your right and left brains aren’t on speaking terms, or that novel’s revision looks like an axe murderer went at it and is still never done, or that series is wandering into the weeds — then they are likely to work very well for you. [They don’t work for me, probably because I do pretty much that same triage in the back of my head *before* anything comes out my fingers; I’m a first-draft-is-almost-final-draft pantser, and my right and left brain have had an unholy alliance for decades… so it was kinda like “what do you mean, ‘show my work’??”]

            • SheSellsSeashells

              Huh. Okay, I will maybe nibble around the fringes a little more before I drop the money. As far as I can tell, I’m a reasonably polished pantser and mostly need the occasional rah-rah and/or questions to make sure I’m pantsing *right*.

          • I only did the free flash one and given my newsletter story came out of it I can’t complain given the price. I also have some others and suspect they’ll get finished and see light of day.

            The best thing, IMHO, about it is the flash fiction focus. Getting something short, actually five if you do all the work (which I’m bad about), done was for me a big accomplishment. I needed the win to have confidence I could even learn.

            I would say give it a shot.

            I also got a Dean Wesley Smith course in a bundle (the 2016 NaNoWriMo bundle I think) on the Lester Dent master plot. For what I’m trying to write it fits pretty well.

            The one I submitted to F&SF came from an exercise in the book Write Now! which is just a bunch of exercises.

            • SheSellsSeashells

              Gotcha. Writing prompts work well for me, but short fiction is my nemesis. By the time I get five paragraphs in there’s backstory, follow-up, and Opinions thumping around inside my skull, and all of a sudden the damn thing explodes on me.

        • Heh. I have written since then, and so forth. But i’m waiting a bit before putting more stuff online because I’m going to get a hands-on formatting tutorial from a friend so that it will all look super-professional. Note: I’m an artist as my principle self-description, so if it doesn’t look right, I will be annoyed every time I see it.

      • I realize this is probably crazy talk — so crazy it just might work — but I think if I were a publisher I would concentrate very heavily on the recruiting and the professional development of my editors.

        Publishers obviously imagine writers a commodity, it being the publisher’s function to take the raw talent and develop it, the way a chef develops a raw cut of beef into a delicious steak. That being the case, editors are the chefs in my publishing kitchen, with assistant editors as sous chefs and typesetters the dishwashers — necessary to keep customers from throwing up, but valued primarily for the fact nobody notices their work.

        So some twit fresh out of some university English Studies course isn’t getting any input into my books without being thoroughly trained in my house style. While I may consider writers a commodity, that doesn’t mean I want some “thinks she can cook” tyro ruining the product by inserting random paragraphs or rewriting portions of the books to comport with some ivory-tower “can’t make it in the real world” professor declared constituted Good Writing. Besides, my customers don’t want Good Writing and likely wouldn’t recognize it if slapped in the face with it. Good Writing may impress reviewers but is won’t move books, and I can manufacture reviewer blurbs easily enough for my needs. Writers may not be important to me, but when I discard one I want to be sure she isn’t going to go to a competitor and suddenly hit the best-seller list because my competitor assigned an editor who wasn’t a complete cretin. There is a cost to getting writers broken to my whip and no need to wastefully break them in only to give them to some other publisher.

        You can absolutely be sure that, were I a publisher I would train me editors heavily as to what makes my books sell and I would tolerate nor indulge no editor’s tweaking the product until that editor has proven an ability to make books more salable!

        • There you go, thinking publishing is a business and not a sacred missionary calling to spread the holy word of St. Karl.

        • the way a chef develops a raw cut of beef into a delicious steak
          By slicing them up, tenderizing them, and placing them over an open flame?!? o.O

          This explains much about the publishing industry.

        • The publisher is still fairly new (she started the press after *her* publisher went down and left the writers in limbo, so the contracts are VERY clear as to rights reversion clauses.) Her publishing house had suffered a setback when her lead editor left under a cloud and she took this editor on a recommendation that turned out to be oversold. It’s okay; I’m stubborn enough to not have bent to the crazy, and that editor didn’t fight me when I explained things.

    • These sorts of tales are why my inner control freak feels no urge to submit our stuff to publishers of any stripe. I’ve seen what comes out of some of these tyro editors… (I swear, some of them have never heard of past perfect.)

      Speaking AS an editor, my job isn’t to change shit or make it sound different; my job is to make it sound like its very best self.

      • Speaking as an editor – yes, exactly. Buff, polish, correct egregious errors, and query the writer about anything that needs serious pruning, but, yeah. Make it look good, don’t rewrite it!

      • I can’t say I’ve anything nicer to say about editors and their ability to understand what one is going for, and unilaterally make good changes.
        😦

        • Exactly. Prune tics and trim verbiage that obscure the intended shape, and fix goofy constructions that make the reader have to go back and reparse, but don’t shave it just cuz you don’t like beards. Hear what the author meant, and make it sound that way. Which requires considerable ability to imitate the style and flavor of the work.

          • SheSellsSeashells

            Yup. I do lots of marketing and academic editing but would much rather do fiction. It’s more fun to enhance the good stuff than it is to smooth out imperfections; for me, at least. (Academic ESL editing winds up being fun again, for some reason.)

      • subjunctive. I worked for an editor for 11 years. She did very weird stuff like change releases without telling me, make me change my name 3 times. BUT the time I called her is when I said “I’m steting all the times you guys removed my subjunctive.”
        She said “We don’t use that anymore.” THAT’s when I snarled. Then I got polite.

  3. My favorite version of “God willing” is “The good Lord willing and the crick don’t rise.”

    • I use that too. Which in my accent totally blows people’s minds.

    • Indeed, I have said that.

      Often during snow melt, as we have a crick, and there are seasonal feeder streams that have to cross the road to reach the creek. Never had worse than a six inch deep puddle and a frustrated county worker trying to figure out where the culvert was plugged on the road, but it could happen.

      *Looks at the White House* Stranger things have happened.

    • It is not generally known that this saying is not referring to water levels in local federally protected waterways, but instead stems from the 1,770 year pupation of the slightly subterranean “Crick” sentients in certain areas of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Obviously the Rising of the Crick disrupts many plans when it occurs, what with all the parties and gift exchanges on such short notice.

    • The crick I have heard referred to has been anything from a trickle in a muddy spot to a rushing expanse of “No Swimming- We Mean It!” a hundred yards across, carrying whole trees down the way during spring melt. We may live way on back in the sticks, up the holler, and down past the black stump, but flooding ain’t been a stranger these past forty years.

      • Crick, as pronounced, indicates an Appalachian origin, which means mountains of the Blue Ridge, Smokies and Alleghenies. As is well known, in the mountains heavy rains and spring melts often produce rushing waters causing the cricks to rise in flood with force to uproot trees and toss snags about.

    • Then it’s “up a creek without a paddle”

  4. Some days I pray for the SMOD…Being a mammal isn’t that bad. The undergrowth can be a little too cozy though.

  5. That bit about French is funny, since I was noticing a few things in Sword & Blood. I caught a few different words, or small variations on a phrase (one was a common one throughout the book). When I noticed the first one, I thought, “Huh, I wonder if that’s an older version of the phrase I know, or if it’s a regional difference?” Because I knew it was Sarah behind those words I wondered if it was research or linguistics that drove the difference. “Mistake” never entered my mind. 🙂

    (BTW, I really enjoyed that book. When you get there – no rush, no pressure – I’m looking forward to another.)

    • It’s about 3/4s done. I have a batch of books that should be released BY April, and that’s one of them.

    • CombatMissionary

      I could help with some French, but for some weird reason the only French that comes readily to mind is the kind that can’t be repeated in polite company. It’s sometimes fun to say to the wife, “It doesn’t count as swearing if it’s in a foreign language.”
      If you can’t get flirtatious glances out of the ladies, you can at least elicit eyerolls from them. 😉

  6. On a slightly related (but possibly only in my head) note, which of your out-of-print books can I expect to be re-released, and which should I resort to buying used? Would much rather send *you* money than a third party.

    • Here, here…I have no idea why she’s so reluctant about our desire to toss money at her. 🙂

      • I’m not. Most of my books are out in e-editions. The ones that aren’t out in paper is because the old system of doing paper was cumbersome, and I’ve been running as hard as I could.
        BUT there’s this velum thing, and we’ve bought it. Now I need to learn it. Amanda Green says it takes ten minutes to typeset a book. TEN MINUTES. Uh.

        • It’s also really, really great for noticing some of the odder things you might have missed on a previous pass through – things that don’t show up on your usual document seem to stand out in a print format.

          • I print them anyway Sure on paper not bound, but–. I pay copyeditors for a reason. Even when I pay them in covers. Also, for me, because I read mostly electronic, I spot them electronic.

            • I really wish I could figure a way to print single books on demand cheaper than hiring someone to manually scribe them on top quality wood pulp and fiber pages. E-books are okay, but there’s an atavistic streak in me that just loves the feel and smell of paper in my hands.

            • [pricks ears] One of these days I’m gonna be a-lookin’ for a cover… I can do stick figures. They’re not really representative of my nonhumans (which evolved from a critter that most nearly resembles a spotted hyena).

              • If it’s scifi, you can probably get away with just a head-shot of the merged human and hyena head. Searching for “Gnoll” might work, unless in the massive trashing of treasure they’ve changed what Gnolls look like.

                • Hadn’t seen gnolls… [looks] …might be a starting point… In dim light with their clothes on and their mouths shut (they have fangs and carnassials), my guys can pass for human. I’ve tried doing a morph and the results were less than satisfactory. Better morphing software, mutter, grumble…

                  • Oooh, if they’re that humanoid, high-anthro furries might be a good place– existing artwork on Deviant ARt and such. (Ordering art can be iffy for delivery times.)

                    • SheSellsSeashells

                      *If* I make it that far (two-thirds through the rough draft and the muse is beating me severely about the head and shoulders this week) I plan to sniff through DA and see if I can find a decent artist to commission there. I know exactly what I have in mind, just got to find somebody who’s not drawing anime. 🙂

            • In my case, it was seeing the little errors, like a comma instead of a period, double spaces that somehow escaped the first round of ‘get rid of that’, and typos which were proper words (like ‘read’ instead of ride). I don’t know why it was, but it helped my eyes.

        • I love, 💗 love Vellum. Easy, fast, and very nice results.

          • Yeah, when all my friends, including Kevin J Anderson say “learn Velum”

          • Yeah, but when is it going to be available for Windows, or even linux? I loathe MacOS, even if I wanted to invest in their overpriced hardware.

            • The developers say “Never,” for reasons I don’t quite understand. I wonder if it would entail doing a 100% bottom-up rewrite of the package? *shrugs*

              Classes are over for the semester!!!! Party!! OK, after the faculty meeting and administering and grading the semester test.

    • Most of my out of print books are released, except for the Magical British Empire, which I will release shortly, probably mid next year (yeah, I know, but the schedule is packed.)
      Or do you mean paper? Soon and very soon. First I need to learn a new program.
      And all of them.
      I’d, of course, prefer you pay me. 😉 I get no money from used.

    • Would much rather send *you* money than a third party.

      My strong preference is to avoid buying books which are badly butchered by publisher and then having to buy proper editions later. I do not anticipating living long enough to bowdlerized and revised editions of such things, much less paying money for some idiot editor’s scribbled over version of what he thought Sara should have written.

  7. “Lord Willing” is pretty much a direct quote from the Book of James 4:13-15
    Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.

    In context, the passage is about humility- not boasting in a future with which we have no actual control.
    As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

  8. As an amature historian (amature in the sense that I have no credentials, and don’t study constantly, but I grew up with two pros and have the habit), I have the sense that there are periods in history when a lot of established institutions get brittle all at once. When that happens the people who have a vested interest in those institutions react. They get panicked, or something like it. Often it can look like society is running a fever.

    Today, we look at the development of the Industrial Revolution as a fairly long process, but I think it hit pretty hard at the time. The shift from land as a generator of wealth to land as a sink-hole for wealth generated elsewhere was actually a major social earthquake. Things got brittle and the Aristocracy did some very stupid things.

    I believe another such period was the gap between the World Wars, and I think that Prohibition was one of the symptoms. The old order trying to make things stay the same in ways that, objectively, had no chance of,working….and maybe not much real connection to anything at all.

    The internet has made the society the Progressive Left worked so hard to build very brittle indeed.

    • Yeah, I’m an amateur historian too, and I think your perception is accurate.
      Of course, we could just be mad in the exact same way.

      • Ve arrrre all Difffffffffffffferrrrrrrrrrrrent! Und all MADDDDDDDDDDD! Mad, do you hear? MAD!! (Slap) Thanks; I needed that.

      • In Civilization, institutions are Institutions because they interlock with other such social entities. Thus they feed upon the same social fauna and compete for the same social spaces. They draw their staffing from the same downstream Institutions and therefore build in their brittleness in similar fashions.

        And, of course, they flee the same spooks as their fellows.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Some website, maybe linked fairly recently from here.

      Someone was talking about some of the evidence of civilization ruin others cite as warning of climate change. Their own take was that it could be diverse societies in contact. (That wasn’t the wording they used, probably far too PC for that.)

      My thought was that since the case was made for ideological causes and changes, it might be a matter of people having a magical belief in some or another institution, and hence stressing it past the point of failure.

      Which is potentially related to the embrittlement model.

    • Amateur myself – and yes, that does make sense to me; society going all brittle, and those with the most to lose going hysterical, in an attempt to hold back change.

      I mean – look at how the internet and specialty blogs changed the news business! I bailed on the local newspaper, when I realized all they had for national news were reworked AP/UPI releases, which I had already read online anyway. Foreign news – I had a couple of English-language newspaper websites. I didn’t need to wait a week for the local paper to republish.
      I certainly didn’t need wait for Time or Newsweek to re-warm a story two weeks old by the time it hit my mailbox.

      No wonder that Big News is imploding, spectacularly. The ground under their feet is shaking, and not in a good way.

      • I greatly enjoyed the luxury of a hard copy paper when I was,still living near DC (up to ‘98). There I could read the Post for the Left narrative, the Washington Times for the Right narrative (and a singularly clever film reviewer for a while), and the local edition of the CityPaper for a,third POV; usually Left but often just plain odd. I triangulated between the Narratives, and held myself reasonably well informed.

        Then I moved to the Delaware Valley. No local source for the Right (which is weird, because I’m surrounded by deplorables). I could get the Left from the NYT, if their writing wasn’t so goddamned awful. The Post was Left, but they could still write (I gather that’s changed). The Philly papaers,seem to be receiving radio venus on their bridgework.

        *sigh*

        • If you’re still looking for a sometimes-somewhat-rightwing-generally-has-to-interact-with-physical-reality paper, have you consider the Capital Press? http://www.capitalpress.com

          It’s…well, basically “Farmers and Ranchers Weekly,” for want of a better description. North-west flavored, mostly.

      • I do regret the decline of local newspapers, though, mostly for the lack of local news. It would be nice if there were a few reporters willing to keep the local politicians in line and maybe investigate where all that tax money that we’re paying for a light rail (currently due to open in 2038) is actually going.

        Of course, this might be a case of nostalgia for something that never really existed.Certainly as long as I’ve been reading the paper, it’s been a cheerleader for whatever Utopian codswallop comes out of the city council.

        • I hope that 2038 date’s for last planned segment opening rather than for first planned segment opening. If it isn’t, something is seriously wrong. Which city is it?

          • I think I’ve answered my own question. What you describe sounds very much like the Sound Transit plan to hike taxes for a quarter century, with construction piecemeal and drawn out. Thus mingling all the economic disadvantages of a tax hike with a long lead time before any – theoretical – benefits can begin to be felt. On the stupidity scale, that’s up there. Maybe not as bad as pushing for funding for line extensions when funding can’t even cover existing operations & maintenance costs, or of building extensions when capacity has already hit limits, but still pretty foolish, IMHO.

          • And they better hope the computers get updated again before then, or people will be railing about the rail fail.

  9. The human animal is not a rational one. I know that, from myself. Even things that I know are hurting me, if they’re established ways of doing business/living are hard to leave behind. You mourn the old way of life, even when it sucked.

    Tell me about it. ‘Nuff said.

  10. richardmcenroe

    We’re not DESIGNED for freedom. Deep down, genetically, we’re a pack of apes that flies through the tries flinging shit and keeping out of the Alpha male’s way. It can be a frantic and often threadbare way to live, but it has the comfort of numbers around you, offering companionship and safety from outside dangers.

    The Alpha males, fewer and farther between, have to spend their time fending off challenges from below and outside, real and imagined. They also kill the offspring of its underlings to keep them from threatening the Alphas’ own lineages along with outside threats to its own dominance. It’s a scary and lonely way to live.

    But enough about defining publishing…

    • The alpha male ape-band structure actually doesn’t really map to publishing as I understand it, or indeed much of the corporate world as I’ve observed directly, as one of the primary duties of the alpha to the band is to protect all the band members from local predators, and indeed die doing so if necessary. This constant guard duty and readiness to charge when a leopard comes into view is also why silverback male gorillas have a pretty short lifespan after they take that position, often dying from heart failure and other diseases of stress, in spite of the absence of cheeseburgers in their diet.

      At least in my experience in the semiconductor side of the tech world, the “alphas” there are more likely to feed their band to any predators in batches so as to protect themselves.

    • Some years ago I picked up a couple of books on primates. They were interesting at first, then pretty depressing, as much of “primate anthropology” seemed directly applicable to the sarariman workplace I was stuck in at the time.

      However, while our cousins are so territorial they will usually starve rather than leave their patch, and while they’re locked into a social pecking order, H.Sap is not. Sure, some of us are, but there are enough crazed mutants that we have a permanent base in Antarctica and have left footprints on the Moon.

  11. I can honestly say that I’ve never changed anything in any of the dozens of fiction and non-fiction books that I’ve edited or proofread without first referring it back to the author. Though I did have one publisher whose editor changed something and got it badly wrong – a conversation with the publisher made sure that all future editorial changes were referred to me for my approval. The only thing that went SERIOUSLY wrong was when an author I was beta-reading for got the same character both standing in a courtyard and inside a room, simultaneously talking to two different people. Alas, it didn’t get corrected because he’d changed his email address and never saw my message about it, or those from two other beta-readers. His publisher’s editor never spotted it!

    • Eh. Noah’s boy I cloned a car. It was simultaneously in the mountains and in town. I had 12 betas. ONLY THE LAST REPORTING ONE, literally a day before book went to press caught it. Not the editor, not the copyeditor, none of the other betas.
      All credit to Francis Turner for the catch, even if he sent it in very late with a “I’m sure someone else caught this.” … and about stopped my heart.

  12. SheSellsSeashells

    copyedits and page poofs

    Best typo ever. I think I’m in love.

  13. “No tails?” – ROTFL. Any chance of another Shifters book?

  14. Ah, those page poofters… Never had the misfortune of meeting one, myself.

  15. Can you tell me how to say that 🙂 with an American English accent. I am writing and publishing… but it is still in the hands of the gods.

  16. Well that’s annoying. Hotmail decided all the email notifications from this post were spam.

    • Same with MadGeniusClub.

      • Original Post. Same with Google. Doesn’t go to spam, usually. But almost always gets tagged: “Be careful with this message. It contains content that’s typically used to steal personal information. Learn more. Report this suspicious message Ignore, I trust this message”. You’d think gmail would get the message as I immediately click “Ignore, I trust this message.”

        *sigh*

    • Hotmail delenda est?

    • I sometimes trick my email programs that way, by reading and deleting too quickly. Decides i didn’t want to see it!

      • There doesn’t seem to be any way to “whitelist” it either. Which is really annoying.

        • Online interface? If it’s not responding well enough to the “Not Junk” button inside of the junk mail box, you can make a rule for it. I think it’s like *@whateverowrdpressendstheemailsin =>always put in inbox => apply to all conversations.

          • Ah, “New Rule” hidden in an “other features” menu. Let’s see how that works.

            • I swear, one of these days I will HUNT DOWN the people who use “spam” to mean “I am too lazy to hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button,” and thump them with the emails I’ve had to dig out of the spam filter…..

              • Didn’t work. Still going into the “junk” folder.

                • I figured out something similar recently: Clicking the local mail app “not junk” wasn’t causing any changes to the junk rules to stick on one of my wife’s accounts.
                  After much creative language I finally figured out that the exact same action, i.e. clicking on the “not junk” button on those emails that had incorrectly tripped the incoming spam filters, but in the browser interface to the email host, was what worked, not only un-junking the stuff that had previously been junked in both the local and browser client’s view, but apparently updating the rule going forward.

                  It would have been a lot easier if the mail provider had just let me edit the rule directly somehow, but we can’t have that.

                  • I can’t promise, but if you click on the sender address in the mail proper — e.g., According To Hoyt — Hotmail will open a sidebar wherein you can, if you hover in the right place during the dark of the moon, discern an option to add the sender to your Contacts List. That ought whitelist everything from the sender.

                    YMMV, not all interfaces interface the same way across different flatporms (or even the same flatporms in different phases of the moon.)

    • I found out that SOMETHING has been not showing me all my Facebook notifications for some time, after I got a new laptop. Either that, or else they coincidentally got something fixed in their notification system at almost exactly the same time. I was down to getting just a few email notifications a day from basically one group. I assumed Facebook had cut back on my notifications because I wasn’t as active in the other groups, but after getting a new laptop, they’re mostly coming in all the time now.

  17. CombatMissionary

    For those interested in remaining flexible with your job skills, check out Udemy. I recently got hired and am getting trained on-the-job to manage databases with no prior training or experience (it’s an insanely obscure set of circumstances, don’t ask). Udemy is helping me a lot. For a couple of hundred bucks, you get lifetime access to training programs for practical skills from IT/MIS skills to languages to art to electronics and beyond. From what I can tell, programs like this are going to be the future for a lot of industries. Train online, get certifications, then get jobs. Screw the degree mills.

    • Darn. Wish I’d known about them over the last 20 years (site/concept newer than that). Don’t do me any good now. I’m done (as in retired). Previous job, before the last one, could talk powers that be into seminars, occasionally. Last one, not so much; they suggested taking class at local CC. Nope. Absolutely not. Done, I tell you, with college classes, and all the group projects you have to do. After 10 years of schooling. Two Bachelors, and one CC Associates. Ask me how many professional “group” projects I’ve ever done? NONE. 35 years of programming and design. Had to learn how to get information from clients and a feel for what they needed (VS wanted) on my own. FYI. Was never in business for myself, always worked for a company. Also got tired of the political BS, but that is another rant.

  18. If anybody is interested in Great Courses Plus, but hasn’t bit the bullet, they’ve got a buy-a-year-for-half-price deal going on.

    Also gives you discounts on physical copies of the classes.

    https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/?utm_source=HouseEmail&utm_medium=TGCPlusAcquisitionEmail&plan=0000015e-cde6-d221-a35e-fdfe1fab0000&plan=0000015e-a521-dd8c-a35e-f735b6d70000&utm_campaign=155366