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Kaia

Kaia

Feminist Killjoy. Badly Behaving Bookliker. Writer and reader of all things speculative. 

Currently reading

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Michelle Hodkin
Diablo III: Storm of Light
Nate Kenyon
Progress: 133/341 pages
Neuromancer
William Gibson
A Taste of Blood Wine
Freda Warrington
Progress: 380/501 pages
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
The Enemy (The Enemy #1)
Charlie Higson
The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Perdition
Ann Aguirre

An Important Rule of Thumb For Everyone. Yes, EVERYONE.

Olga Filina of The Rights Factory Threatens Legal Action to Silence Me

Yesterday, I made a post about my rather unfortunate experiences as the client of one Olga Filina of the Rights Factory. Today, I received a rather unsettling email. Behold:

 

 

That's right, "legal options." I'm not entirely sure what she could justifiably sue me for, but that's not the point.

 

The point is that my immediate reaction was fear, and that's what this email is about. Look how she brings up my career and how I could "sabotage" it. (Note: Shotgun submissions can sabotage a person's career. Having your damn manuscript in the hands of fifty people at once can sabotage a person's career. You'll excuse me if I don't really think her concern is for me here.) 

 

What she wants is for me to be silent. To retract my post. To hide the truth. I'm not going to lie; this scares the bejeezus out of me. We don't have the money to deal with a lawsuit. I suppose I could just fold, just let her censor me. But no one ever speaks out against TRF's behavior. We're all afraid of exactly this, and not only do I not want people to have that kind of power over me, but I don't think I could live with myself if I went silent and allowed other people to put themselves in the line of fire. Because my silence means other people will be treated this way by TRF. 

 

I won't let other writers be hurt, no matter what the consequences for me. Hell, I'm not sure I want much to do with the industry after this, anyway. 

 

I have to wonder, what is she so afraid of? What did I say that could possibly bring TRF's law department down on me? After all, I'm just some nobody on the internet. 

 

This is a warning for all writers. Avoid The Rights Factory. One thing is for damn sure: They don't give a flying fuck about your rights.

 

(If you have the time and inclination, please signal boost. Writers deserve to know what sort of shenanigans are going on here.)

It Happened to Me: My Year with a Terrible Agent

I've been wondering for a while now whether I should go public with this. I know that a lot of people, when they have major problems with an agent, an agency, or other people in the publishing, don't feel comfortable speaking out. I understand that fear; I feel it myself. But in the end, I decided that something needs to be said.

 
Other writers aspiring to have their work published need to know what's going on with the agency called The Rights Factory. Maybe speaking out about them will get me into trouble with some people, but I've decided I don't care. I never want to work with anyone who would approve of such unprofessional behavior. I'd rather writers were informed and knew to avoid TRF altogether.
 
Back in early 2013, I was looking through a lot of agents to query. By the time I queried Ali McDonald of The Rights Factory, I was perhaps starting to suffer some burnout--that's the only explanation I can really think of for why I sent the query before looking deeper. I'm usually good with my research. But the initial results seemed okay.
 
When Ali McDonald responded with enthusiastic interest, I took the time to do a little more looking on TRF. And what you start digging deeper, really getting beneath the surface, past their handful of successful books, you find a lot of dissatisfied clients. Particularly, you find complaints about interminably long response times (not just to queries, but to clients) and shotgun submissions (which means submitting manuscripts to large amounts of editors at once, which is not a professional practice).
 
Well, damn, I thought. There goes that. I figured I could ask some pointed questions if there was interest, but I wasn't expecting much.
 
To my surprise, a short time later I got an email from a woman named Danielle, an assistant, who told me she'd read and loved my manuscript, and would be showing it to Olga Filina, another agent at TRF. (Notably, I never heard another word from Ali McDonald, and if you look at a site like QueryTracker, you'll find that she's been accepting manuscripts and then turning them over to other agents with the explanation that her client list is full for quite some time now.) Something like a week after that, I heard from Olga, who loved my book and wanted to talk representation.
 
These fast responses were in complete contravention to the rumors I'd heard, so at that point I figured, well, the least I could do was ask my questions.
 
Which I did, and bluntly. I didn't tiptoe around the topics at all. When I mentioned the slow response times and shotgun submissions, Olga told me that she was new to the agency, and that these things had happened before she was there, that the problem was in the past. She even told me she had heard the rumors herself and had her own concerns, but had talked to Sam Hiyate (the head agent) before joining, and was reassured. She gave the very distinct impression that it was only a few agents engaging in this behavior, and that they no longer worked there. And she assured me that her submission method was to submit to a small handful of editors she had personally spoken to about the work.
 
She sounded sincere. I saw no reason to disbelieve her when she assured me that she tried to get back to her clients in no more than 48 hours, with a week being the outside limit. Everything seemed orderly and professional. My husband agreed. (He heard this phone call too. I'm autistic and struggle with non-verbal language such as tone of voice, so he often helps me in situations like this.)
 
I went ahead and signed the contract, caught up in Olga's apparent enthusiasm for my work. The first signs of what would, in the end, prove to be trouble showed up then. My contract sat in the post office for two weeks, and I could not get a response from Olga as to what was going on. When I finally pointed out in an email that this was just like the rumors I'd heard, she apologized, said she'd been really busy, asked for the benefit of the doubt. I gave it. Maybe I shouldn't have. But years of bullying and abuse have left me distrustful, and much in doubt of my own instincts.
 
There were edits to be done, of course. And in that time, I often found it hard to get responses from Olga, usually having to prod her once or twice over the course of several weeks. Still, benefit of the doubt, I reminded myself. We set a deadline for my edits for the beginning of September, which gave me a little over a month to do them, and I got down to work.
 
I finished my edits by the beginning of September and then I waited. And waited. And waited some more. A full month passed before I finally got a response. By this point I was thinking there had better be a very good explanation or I was done. (A note about screen shots: 1) Emails have been blacked out, 2) My legal name is in use in the email, but I don't personally use it, so please don't call me by it, 3) This isn't everything, I only chose screen shots that highlight the worst points, but I have more proof if this somehow is not enough.)
 
Hello?
 
Another attempt. Success!
 
I should've ended it. But when we talked on the phone, Olga explained that she'd been very busy, and she did sound exhausted. Sure, I didn't want to give up on my dream, but also, I was worried I was being too judgmental. It sounded like she barely had time to breathe. I put my doubts aside again. I mentioned that if she found herself really busy, and things had to be delayed, that she should just drop me a quick note. Or heck, have Danielle do it, I was fine with that. She told me she thought that was a great idea and would start doing that. I never got one of those notes.
 
She was ready to start submitting my manuscript. I took a deep breath, sat back, and waited. At this point it was October, and I heard nothing from her until I nudged her once the New Year had passed. I heard back that she'd gotten some "liked it but didn't love it" responses and thus braced myself for more waiting.
 
Why didn't I just run?
 
I waited patiently until June before prodding again. When I heard back, Olga told me that she was considering submitting to small presses after August (giving me the distinct impression that she'd received only rejections) and that she would send me a submissions list within the week. 
 
Pics. It totally happened.
 
That week passed. So did five more. I tried getting a response out of her once or twice, but nothing. I was fed up, done, absolutely finished with the stress of this so-called agent/client relationship. And just as I'm figuring out how to put together a letter informing her of termination of contract, out of the blue she finally sent me the submissions list (at this point, it was already August). That's when I discovered that I wasn't the only one she acted unprofessionally towards.
 
 
Of the 59 names on the list, only 9 had any markings of resolution, all of the rejections. Horrified, I sent an email back, asking for clarification--were these all outstanding?--and insisting on a quick response. For a change, it only took about a week. Olga told me that only the ones that were marked were firm no's. She also told me "many" of them were manuscripts she'd handed out at BEA and would be following up on when she was in New York in September.
 
DDDDDDD:
 
Just in case you thought I was exaggerating. I'm not.
 
To which I can only say: What the actual fuck was she even doing in the nearly a year she was submitting my book? Why on earth were so many manuscripts sitting with editors from May to September without her following up, and why the holy bleeding hells did 50 editors have my manuscript? That was definitely not the careful, intimate strategy she told me she took. And supposedly she wanted to submit it to small presses, which would add even more editors to the list. I was flat out done at this point. I sent a notice of termination via snail mail and informed Olga, via email, precisely why I was terminating our contract. (The response I got to that was, incidentally, little more than a slightly more polite version of "k thx bye.")
 
I have no idea whether Olga intended to lie in the beginning or not, but the point is moot. This is how TRF operates. If you dig around, you'll see complaints of this behavior about all their agents, including Sam Hiyate himself. They seem to be able to do little more than drop your manuscript in a slush pile, which you could easily do yourself. For me, Olga went from enthusiastic to no real interest in my work, and for some reason couldn't be bothered to tell me so. Why, I'll probably never know. 
 
These are not experiences any writers should have with their agents. This is not professional agent behavior. I'm just lucky Olga is such an unknown to editors that she couldn't damage my name or manuscript with her irresponsibility. 
 
Damage or no, I'm setting this manuscript aside, with the consideration of perhaps self-publishing; aside from the fact that a lot of agents have already seen it, I feel that trying to query it again will just leave me bitter. But I do have a project, and now I have to go through the song and dance all over again. Somehow I have to find beta readers, somehow I have to write a query, somehow I have to send that query to agents, all while dealing with feelings of low-confidence and worthlessness that have come from that hellish year.
 
But at least now that I've spoken up, maybe less people will find themselves having to do the same. 

 

When you save a post as a draft, where the heck does it go?

Seriously, I have a post I wanted to finish and I can't faint it. Am I just being completely obtuse here? Where is it?

Book Recommendations: Can You Scare Me?

So, this October, I'd really like to read some scary books. The problem? Despite the fact that I am easily terrified by pretty much every other medium (movies, video games, etc.) books almost never scare me. And even then, the few that do manage little more than a few creep out moments. 

 

Thus I'm looking for some suggestions, and it won't be easy. Many things don't scare me as it is, but even things that can be effective in movies (like zombies) don't move me much in books. Psychological horror of the type where the protagonist can't tell if what's happening to them is really or not just makes me yawn (turns out, when you've actually lived that experience, you either become terrified of it, or rather blase about it; I'm the latter). I don't tend to find much Lovecraftian horror spooky (though his stuff about things crawling out of the ocean does freak me out a fair bit).

 

That's not to say these things can't scare me, just that in books, they usually don't. I'm trying to see if I can find some books that actually can. 

 

(Just a warning, I tend to be partial to female protagonists these days.)

Book Haul

Beholder's Eye - Julie E. Czerneda Reap the Wild Wind - Julie E. Czerneda Thirteen Orphans - Jane Lindskold Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo Lord of the Fading Lands - C.L. Wilson Lady of Light and Shadows - C.L. Wilson King of Sword and Sky - C.L. Wilson Queen of Song and Souls - C. L. Wilson Crown of Crystal Flame - C.L. Wilson

Had a trip into Copenhagen today and came back with a bunch of books. Also got some comics.

 

If anyone is wondering how the heck I got the entire Tairen Soul series, well, it was packaged together and on sale for 150kr, so I figured, hey, why not? 

had to share this, because it's just absurdly cute. Atla and Skadi (who've grown a lot) eating dinner, scooping up their corn gruel with their tiny little paws. 

Make Yourself a Little Less Ignorant

The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists - Khaled Abou El Fadl Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism - Omid Safi Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations - Michael A. Sells Understanding Iran: Everything You Need to Know, From Persia to the Islamic Republic, From Cyrus to Ahmadinejad - William R. Polk

So, by now, some of you have heard about the whole fiasco with Christy "Huh, Huh, Goats Sound Just Like Muslims" Parks. 

 

Well, here are a few books to illuminate just how freaking ignorant Parks is--and to give you an even better understanding of Islam, especially if you want to speak out against her racist shit. 

 

The Great Theft by Khaled Abou El Fadl goes into great detail on how extremist Islam gained the power it did (hint: white western people were involved) and why it's so difficult to penetrate the erroneous narrative that all Muslims are violent. 

 

Progressive Muslims by Omid Safi et. al. is a wonderful collection of essays from various Muslims, male and female both, often from different sects and even from different countries. It covers a very wide range of topics and deals in things like LGBTQ+ and women's rights, and explains a bit about what the Qur'an really says on these matters (hint: just like the Bible, it doesn't say what some people think it says).

 

Approaching the Qur'an by Michael Sells is valuable for the non-Arabic speaking Westerner, as it gives some insights into the Qur'an and what it actually states. It's important to note that finding a trustworthy English translation of the Qur'an can be a tricky proposition, so always beware of Islamophobes who insist they've read it. 

 

Bonus! Understanding Iran by William R. Polk is a very useful book for expanding your understanding of the ways in which white Westerners have seriously fucked with Islam and countries that practice it. 


Caution: Do not read if you're simply unable to ever accept the idea that white people could ever do anything wrong. You're probably a lost cause anyway.

Sometimes being a writer is like playing Whack-a-Mole with your brain.

Seriously, I got a new book idea the other day, and now my brain is like "Research! We need to find the right books!"

 

Seriously, brain, slow down, we have two editing jobs, a novella, and at least two novels that need to take priority here. 

Home sweet home! We didn't get in until like eleven last night, thanks to a total train SNAFU, and if it hadn't been for the nice couple who gave us a ride both to the rattery and all the way home, we might still be on the damn train. (They got a pair of boys, themselves.)

 

So, I may occasionally post pictures of the girls here, because look at all that cuteness! But otherwise, if you're curious about them, I'll be posting pictures and updates on http://rat-and-about.tumblr.com/

My girls, Atla and Skadi! They’re coming home tomorrow!

 

Skadi is the little mink in the back, the one who looks like she’s smiling for the camera. Atla is the black in the front with the Daria expression. Clearly, she cannot be arsed with this camera business. 

 

Atla apparently has grown to be a little go-getter, though she is still a bit shy about loud, sudden noises, and Skadi apparently dreams mainly of being a shoulder rat. 

I know I haven't talked about this here, but I'm getting a pair of rats in August, and I finally got to visit the litter of babies they'll be coming from. Here's what I said about it on Tumblr:

 

My husband and I went on Friday to finally meet the rats, and his hair was a huge hit. He had up to three of them in there at one point, and every single rat he interacted with (except for the first boy) made her way up there. You can see them playing around at the top, and two of the girls having a nice nap in the second two shots.

 

My girls will look like that, one light, one dark, though not necessarily those specific two. All of them were sweet and at ease with us, but two in particular really clicked with me. One of the girls who was a bit timid seemed to really like me, and even spent a good long while trying to snuggle in my hair, which is way too short for snuggling.

 

Another girl really won my heart by first crawling under her sister, since she wanted to occupy the same spot, then responding adorably when I petted her. I was stroking her head and noticing she’d sort of drifted off, so I stopped petting her. She immediately awoke enough to open her eyes a little and poke her nose around, wondering where I was, until I started stroking again. She kept doing it, too. Little charmer. 

 

If my husband’s hair was a hit, than so was my skin. Just about every baby I held felt the need to lick me at some point, and a couple of them trekked under my shirt, because rats apparently love going under my shirt. 

I can’t wait until August 13th, when we can bring them home. 

DNF

The Adventures of Apocalypse Al TP - J. Michael Straczynski

Ugh. I simply can't bring myself to slog through any more of this. It's interminable. It's also the first of a number of comics I've tried that I've really hated.

 

The constant flow of "snarky" humor gives me a headache. I might have found some of it funny when I was twelve, but it's simply trying too hard. And some of it is actually pretty rapey. Like, Al visits this techie-wizard guy who can apparently do some odd things with time, and has a tendency to lust at her, and there are way too many cracks about when he might be doing to her when she's unable to fight back. 

 

Her design is so stereotypically superhero comics it hurts. She has enormous breasts, and somehow manages to have a thigh gap despite her thunder-thighs. Her wardrobe design is hideous, and the creators apparently had such a strong desire to have her in her underwear for a while that there's a part where she's called out of her apartment in the middle of the night, and goes wearing her panties and nightie like she wasn't given time for anything else--but she's also wearing her jacket and her boots, so I don't see why she couldn't have thrown on some pants. 

 

There's also a part where she complains about how hard it is to run in heels, even though earlier she had a nightmare--literally a nightmare--about wearing sensible shoes. You'd think someone that against simple shoes would learn to run in heels (and since there are Swedish women where I live who run across cobblestones while wearing stilettos, it can be done). None of this is funny at all.

 

Probably the worst part was the way the comic was written. I don't mind some internal monologue from the main character, but most of what's there (and there's a lot of it) is actually heavily descriptive prose. Al describes everything, including things the reader can clearly see. She also launches into detailed descriptions set against a back drop of extremely static action. So it feels like both the writer loves his own words too much, and the artist is too crap to draw most of what needs to be drawn.

 

The idea might sound like a fun one, but there are far better, less headache-inducing comics out there. 

Quote

Reblogged from Derrolyn Anderson:

Kaia sez: Mine likes to base jump from the nearest skyscraper. This is not altogether comfortable but it is um, interesting. 

 

Leaving on a jet plane

So, tomorrow, my husband and I are heading out to spend our anniversary in Berlin. So I won't really be around much again until next Tuesday.

 

This is the first time we're getting to go on vacation together like this, and I'm so excited. We're going to at least one aquarium (possibly two!), the zoo, three museums (the Museum of Natural History, the Pergamon, and the Egyptian Museum), and capping off all that erudition with a trip to the Berlin Dungeon, because who doesn't love cheesy horror stuff? Plus, on the 11th (our actual anniversary) we're going to see the Blue Man Group. 


We'll be getting as much video footage and as many pictures as we possibly can, so there should be lots to share when I get back. Once I scrape myself out of bed, which admittedly might take some time. 

 

Try not to get into too much drama while I'm gone! XD

DNF...Again

DarkShip Thieves - Sarah A. Hoyt

This is the second science fiction book I've had to DNF in less than a week due to stomach-turning ableism. 

 

I mean, not that that's the only problem. There's some misogyny vaguely disguised as pseudo-feminism, fucktons of gender essentialism, some mind-boggling Libertarian-esque politics that make no sense at all (a society that has survived 250 years with no laws, just contracts? How are those contracts even reinforced?), an anti-polyamory attitude (loving more than one person? how weird!), and a heroine with a supposed--and inexplicable--knack for making trouble and having people hate her wherever she goes (no in text evidence of this is ever really presented) and an even more inexplicable name of Athena Hera Sinistra. 

 

Early on in the book, however, I found myself flinching as the main character thought, basically, why be born with a disability if you don't have to. This is an atrociously ableist attitude, especially since most things that are disabilities are disabling due more than anything else to societies inflexibility. It's basically saying entire groups of people should cease to exist so that "normal" people can continue to always be catered to. I winced and tried to move on.

 

Then this happens:

 

The parking attendant made me flinch, because she was obviously mentally deficient. I'd seen mentally deficient people on Earth before, of course, but none with six arms [...]

(The arms, for clarification, are part of a freaking suit that assists her with her work, not part of her body. Athena is just ignorant of this.) Okay, first of all, fuck you. Second of all, FUCK YOU. Mentally deficient? Mentally deficient!? Just how fucking gross can you be? Athena literally flinches because OMG a person with a different brain than hers! Noes! You wouldn't think it could get more disgusting, but it does:

 

As we walked out of the garage I was silent, filled with horror at what had been done to this poor woman. Given the ability to bioengineer your children in the bio-womb, why have a deficient one at all? And if you chose to have one, why have her so grotesquely...dehumanized?

 

I reiterate: FUCK YOU. Excuse me? Her having extra arms (which again, she in fact does not) is "grotesquely dehumanized" but calling her mentally deficient and questioning her right to exist isn't? Just...just...

 

 

Nothing is more dehumanizing than this attitude. It's horrible. And then it turns out that the reason this woman is "mentally deficient" is because she wasn't bioengineered, which is spoken of much in the same way sensible people would criticize parents who won't vaccinate their children or refuse to get them medical care due to religious reasons. Like it's irresponsible to allow neuroatypical people to exist in the world. Like it's worse to let people be themselves than to completely eradicate entire swathes of neurotypes.

 

Of course, the suit with all the arms is there to assist the disabled woman in her job, which "allows the poor thing to earn a living." Because let's devalue her further by insisting her life is utterly worthless if she can't make money.

 

Joy, a society that eradicates disabled people and treats them like shit when they do exist. Fun fun. Did I mention there are no people of color in this society, because all the bioed people who escaped Earth 250 years ago were apparently white? 

 

Excuse me, I have to figure out whether I want to puke or cry.