Why Do I Do This To Myself?

So I’ve spent the last few days compulsively reading the English translation of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, or ‘When They Cry‘. It’s a jolly little Groundhog-Day-style repeating story with serial killings and insanity and people getting murdered in a thrilling variety of gruesome ways.

This was a bad decision, for the record.

It’s one I keep making. I watched Ghost Ship and had a pillow over my head for half of it. I watched The Ring and had nightmares for a week. I keep reading creepy urban legends and then not being able to sleep. I don’t know why, but scary stories have a terrible allure for me even though they freak me out and I couldn’t even watch Sweeney Todd without hiding my eyes during the bloody bits.

When They Cry kept me awake until two in the morning, way too creeped out to sleep. And I didn’t have all of it, so I’m going to read the other arcs and do this to myself again. I know it’s a bad idea, but I’ll do it anyway because I need to know what happens.

As far as I can tell, most people who enjoy horror stories don’t actually have nightmares and hide under pillows and find it impossible to sleep after finding out the latest horrifying twist (SHION WHY). I don’t even enjoy them most of the time. But every now and then I pick up a DVD case and read the back, or happen across a review online, and I get curious and think I’ll just take a peek and YOU WOULD THINK I WOULD KNOW BETTER BY NOW. Apparently I have sub-conscious self-destructive urges that express themselves by putting thoughts in my head like ‘I’m thirty-five, surely I am now sufficiently jaded to handle a horror comic meant for teenagers’.

I am not.

This is why I had nightmares about my baby being either a vampire or a zombie after she was born. Didn’t improve the post-natal freakout one bit.

I have very rarely tried to write creepy. This is probably my best attempt. I would actually really like to, but I have the little problem that I completely terrify myself and can’t finish and don’t want to think about it because scary. Like writing mystery, it’s something I really want to do but find myself fundamentally ill-equipped for. Do any of you have a genre you like reading and want to write but just can’t seem to get the knack of? (Or can’t do except during day-light with cartoons on and someone at hand to distract you at need?)

Don’t Break My Heart

An acquaintance on tumblr recently asked for recommendations for a tv-show to watch that won’t ‘break my heart right away’.

I gave some thought to this. Avatar? No. Firefly? God, no. Sherlock? Ever so much no. Battlestar Galactica? Frak, no. Supernatural? HELL, no. Most shows, especially if you’re inclined to get emotionally invested in the characters, will break your heart sooner or later.

So I suggested one from what is, bizarrely, one of  the emotionally safest genres – murder mysteries.

No, really. Someone dies in every episode, sure, but it’s quite rarely someone you actually know! The drama comes from the murder of unknown characters, while the known characters – police, detectives, what have you – are completely safe. They might seem threatened now and then, undergo a bit of trauma, but you know they’re going to be okay in the end. I’d never thought about it before, but when I’m feeling shattered I tend to watch either murder mysteries/cop shows or a nice medical, where the doctors are likewise pretty safe. I don’t mind people dying right and left, as long as it’s no-one I’m personally attached to. (My attitude to blood is much the same – I don’t care about anyone else’s, but come over all queasy if I see too much of my own)

Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, especially if an actor wants to leave a show. But emotionally speaking, the shows where someone dies every episode are often easier than the ones where it comes as a horrible surprise. So if Supernatural or Sherlock have broken your heart, why not pay a little visit to Midsomer? The deaths won’t be surprising at all!

For the record, the show I recommended was ‘Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries’. I haven’t seen all of it, so heart-breakage is still a possibility, but it features a sassy lady detective in 1920s Sydney, who’s gloriously self-assertive and witty and there are also grumpy cabbies, charming policemen and sexy bits. I recommend it.

All The Ideas In The World

Do you ever feel like you have too many ideas? I do. I can never possibly write them all – and what if I don’t pick the right one to *try* to write? What if I forget a good one chasing a bad one?

I what-if myself a lot. I suspect we all do.

But I do wonder how published authors can stick to just one genre. Don’t they get bored? Do they really like sci-fi/romance/Pretentious Lit/fart jokes so much that they never want to branch out? I’ve heard different answers – that agents and publishers put presser on them to do more of the same because that’s what readers expect, or that they get comfortable in a particular genre and just want to stay there for a while, or that they really do just like one. Stephen King made a break for it, Barbara Cartland doesn’t seem to have. Like everything, it seems to depend on the author.

My favourite genre is broadly fantasy – urban, high, shaded with steampunk, I like it all – but the other day I was thinking about the Where Did Everybody Go trope… you know the one, where the town or ship or whatever is suddenly empty and a Rag-Tag Band of Strangers has to unite to find out what happened? And I was thinking about how I would do that one, just idly wondering because the last thing I need right now is a new project, and then next thing I know my brain is merrily depopulating a mining station on a planetoid somewhere and I don’t even usually write sci-fi but sometimes it just hijacks my brain. Especially since I happened to be reading the Honour Harrington series while I was thinking about it. (If you like badass ladies in your sci-fi, Honour Harrington is not half bad)

I’ve written down a few paragraphs of very rough outline, including what actually happened to all the people in case I forget. (If you have an idea that involves a twist, and you make a note of it? INCLUDE THE TWIST. I’ve forgotten one once, halfway through a fanfic I’d already started posting, and it was pretty damn awkward let me tell you) At this point, I’ll let it simmer for a while and then come back. If it still seems interesting and like something I want to write, I’ll take a crack at it.

 

Writers, Beware

I mentioned John Scalzi the other day, and his commentary on the dastardly dealings of Random House and their e-book only imprints. He’s done multiple entries on the subject now that are very much worth reading, and being the conscientiously helpful gentleman that he is has put them all together in one post here.

As a non-published writer, my advice is clearly of limited value. I haven’t succeeded at the job myself, so why would anyone else listen to me tell them how to do it?

But this I do know, and think everyone should know. There are a lot of scams out there. As Agent Pleakley says on the subject of mosquitoes ‘Here, educate yourself‘, because there are plenty of people out there who will take advantage of you if you don’t. Don’t be put off by the fact that most of my links are genre-skewed – this stuff applies to everyone.

Once you’ve perused Writer Beware, there’s more you can do. Such as:

1. If you have a local or otherwise writer’s centre, guild, whatever, check out their website for a section like this one. They’ll usually offer at least a few words of advice. You can also contact them for help if you do get offered a contract but don’t have an agent, which is useful.

2. Read sites and blogs written by those in the industry! Not just writers, but agents and publishers. Their advice can be very helpful, and if they say something is a scam, it likely is. (But if they say something isn’t, well, do keep your critical faculties engaged. You don’t actually know this person, after all)

3. Remind yourself early and often that a bad book deal is worse than no deal at all. The harder you can hammer this into your own head, the less likely it is (I hope) that you’ll be suckered by a vanity publisher or scam artists like Hydra because they’re offering to publish you and you want it so bad.

Be wary. Swim up that stream towards publication carefully, because there’s a lot of sharp rocks on the way, and an injured salmon swims slower. Be the strong, wily salmon who avoids the sharp rocks, and reaches the spawning ground of Publication relatively unharmed!

The Name Explained

So, why is this blog called the Genre Salmon?

For many deep and meaningful reasons. Most of them being that I was having real trouble coming up with anything and all the things I thought of had already been used and all my clever pseudonyms were apparently obvious and pre-loved and at some point I just said ‘screw it, I’m a salmon’.

I like salmon. I especially like pink canned salmon with the bones in that go crunch. But I liked the metaphor, too.

Publishing is a stream, right? Bubbling, gurgling along, pushing relentlessly towards the sea. And I am the stoic, noble salmon, fighting my way up to the spawning-ground of my imagination, there to leave my own precious eggs of creativity to spawn new readers! (Wow, this metaphor actually extends way further than originally envisioned. Mostly I was flopping on the bed and giggling about ‘fishy fishy’ more than envisioning as such)

And I am the Genre Salmon because… well, I read and write genre. Mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, paranormal, I like ’em all. Historicals have a good chance of luring me in, and I’ve even dipped my toes in a few thrillers. But literary? No. No thank you. Not for me. Maybe I’ve just been terribly unlucky in the books I’ve sampled, but my experience of modern ‘literary’ fiction is mostly one of unpleasant, frequently over-privileged people suffering from the latest in trendy misfortune and feeling incredibly sorry for themselves. (You’re married! But you cheated! And now you’re afraid you’ll be caught and WOE and I don’t feel the least bit sorry for you, you cheating cheater who didn’t have the frigging spine to break up with the first one before doinking the second! Especially if you didn’t break up with the first one because he offers you ‘security’ by which you mean ‘pots of money’.)

But as any reader or writer of genre knows, somehow lit is seen as much more worthwhile and important and – sadly – more commercial. So. The Genre Salmon swims gamely against the literary stream, leaping over financial obstacles and plunging through the white waters of literary skepticism, towards the spawning grounds of Publication.

Swim with me!