Chloe Cocking is a writer of dark urban fantasy and a lover of all things caffeinated. She is almost entirely normal in her non-writing life, so there is no reason to be afraid. Her first novel Blood Rain launched in October 2017. She is hard at work on other projects. Want to know details? Sign up for her newsletter.
I think I’ve mentioned here before that I have the dubious honor of my first novel, Blood Rain, being censored by Amazon.**
My publisher and I have been working finding out why this is the case for some time now; our best guess is the censorship relates to the child abuse/child trafficking theme and some anti-trafficking legislation in the US.
It should be pretty clear that the perspective in Blood Rain is “child trafficking = BAD BAD BAD,” but that only applies to human readers. We surmise certain keyword combos have triggered the AI and the book is summarily removed without any human review.
You’d think it’s possible for Amazon.ca to have a different editorial policy than it’s parent company but it does not . . . at least functionally. Thus Blood Rain has been pulled from there as well.
AN UNEXPECTED REQUEST
Yesterday Z. @ my publisher asked if I would be open to rewriting Blood Rain so that all the tweenage victims are young adults.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. Would it really be a big deal to make such a small change? Is it a small change? Or is it a change that changes everything?
I’m unclear on what my next steps should be. As I see it I could . . .
revise Blood Rain and hope that our educated guess about the objectionable material is correct
or . . .
I could step out of the process, let Z. figure it out, and work on other projects in the meantime until I know for certain what needs to be changed to avoid censorship
or . . .
I could raise my middle finger and refuse to make any changes, come what may.
I don’t have an answer yet. What would you do in my sitch? Is this the hill I should die on?
Z. also let me know that she sees no point in publishing Blood Down the Bones until the first book in the series gets sorted out.
Can’t blame her. On the other hand, it’s a shame to have to stop now on Blood Down the Bones when I was gearing up for a December 2019 publication date.
On the other other hand, other projects have been languishing at the wayside and I yearn to finish them.
I can only share what has worked for me and my personal opinions. Please take the following in that spirit. I am aware that one writer’s red flag is another writer’ NBD (‘no big deal’).
5. Lack of group structure and leadership
It doesn’t matter to me who is ‘in charge,’ but someone should be. When it comes to writing groups, I dig benevolent dictatorships.
4. Poor self-management
We’re writers, we want to be heard and seen. But your special snowflake ass is not somehow more worthy of airtime than the ass of any other schlub at the table (me included). For example, if you are meant to have 15 minutes for reading aloud + group discussion, do your best to stay within that. That means you should not bring 20K words to read. FYI, most people can read about 800-1200 words in about 8 minutes, which will leave 7 minutes for group discussion. Use a timer.
3. Trying to get not-writing needs met
Some people need to be right. Other people need to be the one who knows. Some need to claim the moral high ground. All of these things are a pain in the ass in writer’s groups. Try not to bring these needs to your writer’s group. Plenty of other places to be a perfectionistic, know-it-all, self-righteous Drama Llama. Like Starbucks. Go there, get revved up on caffeine, and annoy the people there. Go home and bother your family and friends. Just keep it out of the writers’ group. If we all make an effort to be congenial, professional, and helpful at our writing groups, we’ll enjoy them more.
2. No skill at constructive criticism
If you are negative, snide, or otherwise mean and disrespectful of other writers’ work, you drag the whole group down. This is a good read on how to do critiques properly.
1. Not prepared
Some writing groups distribute paper copies to everyone present so that comments can be written on the pages as the writer reads aloud. If that’s the case, bring enough copies on paper so everyone can read along with you and write their comments. You’ll get deeper feedback and won’t have to rely on your memory of what was said during the discussion.
Other writing groups distribute the work before the meeting and participants read it and prepare their critique before hand. If that’s the case with your group, do your homework!
What about you? Any obvious writing group red flags that you can see?
These are my reasons, they may or may not resonate for you . . .
12. Not certain about what I wanted to say, at least at first
11. Stuck inside the tropes and cliches of urban fantasy, not sure how to write my way out of them
10. Writer’s block (aka panic, anxiety and so on)
9. Not having a writing schedule
8. Not sticking to my writing schedule
7. Going more than three days without writing
6. Certain about opening, certain about ending, uncertain about the mushy middle.
5. Allowing myself to get distracted by Life (secret belief: if I sacrifice my writing practice on the altar of the problem of the moment, the problem will go away and I will *finally* have time and peace of mind to write.) Nope nope nope. Wrongo. The truth is is that life is life, I am me, and those facts are immutable. So write or don’t-write, but forget about me trying to change Life or trying to change my essential nature.
4. Trying advice from all kinds of writers, let them get inside my head such that I thought I was “doing it wrong”. That slowed productivity to a mere crawl.
3. Working 80 hour weeks from 2009 – 2016. stupid stupid girl.
2. Over-ambitious timetable and scheduling leading to overwhelm, overwhelm leading to procrastination, the gnashing of teeth, and yet more writer’s block.
1. Loving writing so much I thought it had to be perfect. Then I found out that “perfect” kills dreams.
For a couple of years I was working “J-O-B-S” to pay the bills and give me some emotional energy for writing.
At the end of Summer 2018 I returned to my (emotionally demanding + weird hours required) profession.
Consequently, writing (incl. blogging) has sloooooowed down.
But it hasn’t stopped. (Go me!)
Right now I’m working on:
The Blood Rain sequel, Blood Down the Bones
A YA novella called Gaia Shrugged
A second volume of short stories in the Fables series
In other news, my publisher, Filidh Publishing, advises that Blood Rain is no longer available on Amazon. Apparently this is because of recent US legislation that has had a chilling effect on what kind of books Internet bookstores feel comfortable offering. It’s easier for them to simply not carry certain titles than it is to fight the power.
Apparently the child trafficking theme in Blood Rain is a no-no. For the record, I’m against child trafficking. That should be pretty obvious to anyone who actually reads the book. That said, keyword searches for (what some think of as) objectionable content are not context-sensitive, so it would seem the fact that child trafficking is a theme is a problem, regardless of the frame placed on it by yours truly.