Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Old Post with a New Name (continued)

Update: I had to change the name of this post. The name had the word a d d i c t i o n in it and this seemed to attract so much spam for so long that I’m now afraid to ever write the word again. Let that be a warning to all!

Just a quick update on my internet addiction and second life as a writer on Authonomy.

I’ve got to get at least an abstract and synopsis of a proposal done by Monday morning, 8 am. I should have the draft done as it’s got to go out on Friday and others need to comment. By the way, this is for an afterschool program grant that would benefit hundreds of inner city children for years to come. This is real and important work.

Where am I on this?

Don’t even ask.

After realizing that this thing is bigger than I am, and not being much of a believer in a higher power (besides I really don’t want to quit, and even if I could find an appropriate meeting, I have too much work to do), I have asked my technical adviser and life partner to block me from the site.

I am now in his power, and it feels strangely liberating.

If I’m a good girl and get my chores done, maybe he’ll let me go on tonight.

One America? Oh really, Mr. President?

Over dinner the spouse and I were discussing a newspaper article about Obama’s having to weigh in on whether gay partners of federal employees should get health benefits. Thanks to the “defense of marriage act” signed by then-President Bill Clinton, the government opposes this, while the courts say yes.

Aside from generally being in favor of human rights, we watch this issue closely. Two years ago we got hitched. We love each other and all that. In fact, the marriage thing was probably the best decision either of us ever made, but it was a calculated decision. (I mean that literally. I used a calculator.) One of us is past the child-bearing years, and neither of us has any great desire to breed or adopt except possibly from the local animal shelter. We did not marry in order to raise a family.

After careful consideration, we married for the bennies. That’s benefits to my friends in more progressive places like, oh, CANADA. In the US there’s no national health and the cost of medical treatment is astronomical. Private health insurance is expensive and mostly doesn’t cover “pre-existing” conditions. I wanted to quit my job and knew that while I could afford to take lower paying freelance work, I could not afford to be without health insurance. The quickest and by far least expensive way for me to get health insurance would be by marrying which would enable me to get on my husband’s work-covered plan. There were other benefits as well. As a married couple, we could file a joint income tax and as I wasn’t making that much money, we would pay a lower tax rate. And then of course there’s stuff like social security and many other privileges available only to those living in wedded bliss.

As we waited for our food to arrive, we reflected on a recent fund raiser we’d attended sponsored by Garden State Equality in which the brilliant comedian Judy Gold did a slide-show about who can get married (Brittany and K Fed, Levi and Bristol, etc.) and who can’t (sane adults who happen to be gay, no matter how much they contribute to society, and not withstanding whether or not they are raising children together).

As the waiter arrived with our dinners, I made the following naive and foolish statement (I’ve gone kind of soft and idealistic since Obama was elected): “But if the conservatives just understood it as a rights and fairness issue. You can’t have some people getting these benefits and others not….”

My husband looked at me like he was seeing the first signs of senility. “But the religious right does get it. That’s the point. They don’t want gay people to have rights.”

“But we won the election. He can…”

“If he has the balls to stand up to them.”

“But they’re not the majority..”

“They are in Dixie.”

Then he went on his usual rant about how the cultural divide in the US could not be mended. Despite our President’s very appealing words, there are two America’s.

“The only solution,” my better-half argued, “is for the US to get out of Dixie. We should have let them go after the Civil War.”

“We’d lose New Orleans,” I said.

He pointed out that even the most backward nations have their points of progress and charming cities.

“Which city do you think New York has more in common with, Amsterdam or Dallas?”

“We’d lose Florida,” I pointed out, thinking about his mother in Boynton Beach.

“We could open up diplomatic relations with Cuba,” he countered.

He was tired of his tax dollars going to support energy policies that it made it possible for people in Houston to run their air-conditioners 365 days a year. He didn’t want to pay to bring water to the Arizona desert. He didn’t want to still be debating whether or not evolution should be taught in schools. Mostly, he didn’t want rapture-ready zealots getting us into stupid wars. He didn’t want to ever see Sarah Palin’s face again.

“There shouldn’t be a debate about what the founding fathers meant by the separation of church and state,” he said.

“Or about who can get married,” I added.

We sipped our wine in the Italian restaurant with its immigrant wait-staff and its multi-ethnic neighborhood clientele. Probably not one person in that room had voted for McCain or believes that god hates the gays. While the Obama presidency has made us all feel very good about ourselves, it’s not clear what can be accomplished if he has to kowtow to the South. I’m no great fan of partition – India/Pakistan and Israel/Palestine being two examples that didn’t work out too well. But as Craig points out, left to its own devices, the South would not be strong enough or powerful enough to be a threat. It’s far more dangerous to the United States and the world as a backward, racist, backwater of a superpower.

Crack for the Unpublished

Why no recent posts? Why no emails to my friends? Why am I losing weight and why does my husband say he feels like he’s living with a ghost? The answer my friends, is Authonomy — crack for the unpublished novelist.

Authonomy was created by Harper-Collins UK in order to eliminate their slush pile. The deal is they won’t read anything unsolicited or unagented, but writers can post excerpts or entire manuscripts on this “social networking site.” None of the stigma of being self-published since you’re only “previewing” your work. Meantime you can upload a cover, work on your pitch, write your bio and do all of the stuff real writers do. You even get reviews from the other chumps on the site. When one of the top ranked authors gave me a glowing review the first day up, I was hooked. Soon, however, I came to understand the dark side.

Every member of Authonomy gets a bookshelf with space for 5 books. If you put a book you like on your shelf, then all your friends on the site will see it there and may decide to read it. If you “back” an up and coming book, then your “trend setting rank” will rise. This means that when you back a book the book’s ranking will rise more than if it was backed by a mere mortal.

Why is the book’s ranking important? Because every month the HC-overlords review the 5 top ranked books. This doesn’t mean that they will publish any of them, and some of their reviews have been painful to read, but it does mean that people believe that they have a shot if they can just get high enough in the rankings. (HC has also given contracts to some novels that they spotted on the site which didn’t rise to the top.) So between the personal trend-setter rank and the book ranks, there’s a lot of politicking going on with people swapping reads. You’re somehow ethically bound not to put books on your shelf unless you really “believe” in them, and yet…

I had a meteoric rise my first week, but this involved reading and commenting on many other books, accepting offers of “friendship” in return for reading swaps, soliciting the top ranked — who weren’t all that interested as they get tons of offers to swap and besides a newbie’s ranking isn’t going to help their books rise. Some of the books I read were better than a lot of what’s on non-virtual shelves, some not so much. But I often felt obliged to shelf those who shelved me. I began to wonder if I was getting a reputation for being “easy” — an Authonomy-whore. I began to question the sincerity of the reviews I received, even the decisions by others to put my book on the shelf. And yet seeing my virtual book with it’s virtual cover rising on the weekly “what’s hot” list, reaching number 6 in literary fiction after only 5 days on the site, kept me coming back for more.

I have become convinced that HC isn’t really involved in this at all. It’s all a Milgramesque experiment set up by deranged social scientists (Is there any other kind?) designed to show the level of depravity to which the desperate will sink when they have their eyes on the prize.

But still I cannot stop myself ….

And now that my book has reached the top 200, I’m seeing less “bump” (score change) each time I get shelved. The first few days, I moved hundreds of points within hours. Now nada. Like heroin you build a tolerance and need more just to get through.

So if I disappear, if you don’t see any new blogs, you’ll know where I am. Sweet Jesus, won’t someone save me?