Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Year with My Celiac Kid

One year ago we discovered that my daughter had celiac disease, which means she can't eat gluten or it makes her very sick (gluten is a protein found in many common grains like wheat). After 1 year of dealing with it I have to say I think I would rather we had discovered she had some other problem, like being born without a foot or something like that.

People can at least understand when you don't have a foot, and you just get a plastic foot and you're good.

And you either have the plastic foot on, or you don't. You don't have to stand there looking at a label while your wife uses her phone to research the internet to see if the plastic the plastic foot is made of is actually OK for her to wear.

And never, despite all assurances from the Internet, the manufacturer, the store you bought it from, etc that the foot is safe to wear, will the plastic foot in fact be the WRONG foot and start kicking her in the ass until we get it off and then continue kicking her in the ass for a couple of days.

I could just strap the foot on and let her go run and play. She'd get the hang of it after a bit and then I bet she'd barely notice it. I wouldn't have to watch out for other well-meaning moms giving her other plastic feet that might make her sick, or kids learning how to share sharing their own, toxic plastic feet with her. She could just wear the goddamn foot and get on with her day.

If my daughter needed her foot, but didn't have it for whatever reason, I bet she could use a cane or something, anything that would help her walk that we could find in the perpetual pile of crap that is in our family minivan.

On a road trip we could stop anywhere, use any facilities, even if we forgot the damn foot somehow. We wouldn't have to drive around looking for that one fast-food place that is safe for kids with one foot.

Okay, that's enough.

I'm sure being born without a foot (congential apedia?) must really suck in a lot of ways. But all the subtle ways in which my daughter having celiac disease means that her journey through the world is a lot harder make me think it wouldn't be so bad. Something like a missing foot is immediately obvious to all and, I'm certain, would elicit exactly zero complaints from people about the kid with no foot. Celiac is an invisible disease that isn't really fatal to anyone that has it unless that person is a tiny child. And when my wife tells people "we're gluten free" we get looks like "ugh, THOSE people".

I don't mind all the people getting into gluten-free for their health that much even though I'm skeptical about it. Frankly, with them around there's a lot more interest in making all kinds of products my kid can eat. Yeah, she doesn't need cupcakes or pizza but it's great that I can provide those things for her. I wonder what will happen when the gluten-free fad finally ends and people get into something else. How much harder to find and more expensive will this food be? Well, it seems like the number of people with celiac/gluten intolerance is going up ("MONSANTO!" shouts my wife from the other room) so maybe I don't have to worry about it. We'll figure it out regardless.

I don't want the world to change for us, that's pretty impossible and frankly I think would make the lives of a lot of other people miserable. Would it be nice to be able to eat anywhere we wanted without having to worry, just saying "we're gluten free" and the cooks change their gloves and give us our quinoa and chicken or whatever otherwise it's a huge lawsuit? Yeah, it would, but I think expecting that is what's wrong with a lot of people today. My daughter isn't the Princess of the Galaxy (just mine) and it's good for her to learn that, I think. She's going to need a lot of patience dealing with other people dealing with her disease, and some understanding too, that most people have no problem eating gluten and THAT'S OKAY and they're not evil or microaggressing her or whatever stupid shit they say in the future if they don't accommodate her every need.

But yeah, if I could snap my fingers and make the trade -- plastic foot all the way.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Horror Tropes: Dead Ned

Possibly my least-favorite horror novel trope is what I call a "Dead Ned".

This is a character whose sole purpose is to die in the first chapter, killed by the Big Bad so that you will know that Dr. KnifePenis or whatever is SERIOUS BIZNISS. Usually described with Tom Clancy levels of detail regarding his appearance, life history, thoughts on current events, etc. Almost always some kind of lower-class white person, dumb as a bag of rocks and just as cliched in their portrayal.

Without spending too much time at TVTropes, the concept of "Developing Doomed Characters" is closest to what I'm talking about.

"Dead Ned" usually is not an object of the author's / audience's animus like other character types (The Homophobic Jock, The Hot Slut, etc) or at least isn't presented as such -- the author doesn't have enough attachment to Ned, because Ned's dead, baby. He was dead as soon as the author typed "Chapter 1" (or just "1" a lot of the time these days). You could argue that Ned is a stand-in for small-minded small town types that think horror fiction is satanic, of course. Ned's so generic in his exactness and vividness of description it's hard to tell. The author who creates a Dead Ned clearly has axes in more need of grinding so doesn't have time for the diffuse kulturhass he might bear toward proles.

I blame movies for this as I haven't noticed it as much in older horror novels from the generation that didn't get their inspiration to write from watching slasher flicks. While it arguably serves a purpose in visual media I have a hard time with it in written works. It's a lot of time and space to use, even in a format like the novel where you have a lot of time and space to develop characters, since Ned's sole purpose is to get some gore into the first 5-10 pages (preferably with some sex sandwiched in there somewhere) under the cover of its "business" being establishing the Threat.

Say the novel is about 80k words and Ned's chap is about 4k. That's about 5% of the novel. That chapter with the awesome fight scene that had to be cut? The great scene where the heroes comment on GamerGate? Deeper insight into the author's AHEM I MEAN main character's troubled relationship with his father? Ned is all up in that space watching the local news story about the rash of serial killings as he eats his TV dinner, drinks his beer, and starts cussing about raccoons getting into his trash cans when he hears Lord Throatcut skulking around out by the barbecue pit.

I think you can do that without making the reader endure all this information that is ultimately worthless within book form. I would tell you how but instead I will do it myself next time I need to.

I'm now at the point where if the book I'm reading is a horror novel I read the first few lines of chap 1 to see if an obvious Dead Ned shows up, then skip to the end to make sure he dies, and then I just go on to chap 2, comfortable that I missed absolutely nothing I'll want to know later. It isn't a perfect system; I've been fooled a few times by authors who really made me believe Ned was going to survive. I'm not sure what the point of that is because it just pisses me off when I realize I've been bamboozled. As far as important information about the Big Bad, if the writer is revealing that kind of stuff (like it becomes powerless when it smells curry) in the first chapter, the book is better without me knowing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Month on Kindle and Other Things

So HBVK has been on Kindle for about a month. It hasn't quite exploded the face of the Internet, thanks to my Taoist marketing strategy of refusing to go against the flow of the Universe by promoting my book all the time. That's wu wei, baby. If it's gonna happen, it'll happen.

Yeah, well. I haven't squared the circle yet on how to tell people about my book without being annoying. Everyone I'm connected to on Facebook already knows about it and maybe already bought it. I'm back on Twitter but not tweeting much and don't want all my tweets to be BUY MY BOOK like so many of you I'm still following for some reason. (Not you, @BoxedWineSocial, I love you. Then again, you don't have a book ... YET).

I've debated mentioning my sales figures on here and I figured fuck it. Let's be real. If nothing else the small-press people will enjoy getting a laugh. So in a month I sold 13 books, which got me about twenty bucks. I am ranked in the mid 300,000s on Kindle. LET'S CRACK 200K PEOPLE WE CAN DOO ITTTT

So there that is. My thoughts:

1. 20 bucks is not bad. That's a case of good beer, or a suitcase of Busch with some change left over. It's two handles of my favorite cheap whisky: ( . I'm pulling your coat on a sleeper hit, there. You're welcome.) It's a night out at the dollar theater with the wife, a couple of good cigars. It's still money someone paid to read something I wrote.

2. I didn't expect to set the world on fire, and I didn't, but I did sell some books. Shouts out to the folks in Germany and the UK who bought a book, I thought that was pretty awesome. I have no idea who bought this thing, feel free to email me and tell me about yourself or something. I'd be interested to know how people found it. I'd like to think that people will see it pop up in suggestions and check it out. I like to think it's pretty different.

3. All this was basically without any marketing effort on my part. I didn't buy any ads, spam Twitter or FB, or run any deals. I am in KDP Select but I don't know how much that helped, if any. No one borrowed the book which is one of the things KDP Select offers. Which reminds me, did you know, Prime users and whoever else gets to borrow books, that if you do borrow it, I still get paid? Yeah, I thought that was pretty awesome too. So borrow away, I don't mind.

Not bad for a book that I worked on and (mostly) off for several years and that is now 3+ years old in it's final form. It's my first book and I'll be honest, I kind of cringe to look at it. Shit, I cringe at the memories, as much as I love them at the same time, of the cons I went to "promoting" it (I probably more demoted it).

I have more thoughts on this but I'm trying a new way of blogging and yet again am trying for shorter posts, so that will have to wait.

For now -- PLEASE review my fucking book if you want to help me. Shit, I'll tell you what -- if you have a BAD review, fucking post that too. I think bad reviews help, believe it or not. Right now I only have one 5-star review so everyone assumes either I or my wife or my mom wrote it. And shitting on my book might make you feel better if you're having a bad day.