Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Big Brother Is Watching

CS Lewis once said that the way he learned to forgive others was when he realized there was one person he always forgave: Himself.

Funny how that works. We make mistakes, feel guilt, remorse, face consequences… And sooner or later we let ourselves off the hook for the majority of things we do. We move on.

Is it really forgiveness, or self delusion? Is it that we let go of our mistakes, or that we convince ourselves we aren’t such a bad person, until the next time, when we drag out the mental checklist for all similar failures?

The reason I got thinking about this is that I somehow manage to turn off the part of my mind that should seriously think about who’s reading my blog and what I produce online. No matter how many times I get a bizarre email or have someone I meet at a convention comment about something on my blog, I am legitimately surprised and a bit unnerved every time.

Like, why exactly do you read my blog? That’s my first question…

Now, part of the reason I got thinking about this is because an Ontario newspaper recently ran an article about me. They interviewed me for it, so I knew it was coming, but it never even occurred to me – not for one single second – that people I knew and had lost touch with years ago would look me up and get in touch.

I mean, how dumb can I be?

It’s been really cool to hear from people. I learned I have a distant cousin teaching at the University of Edinburgh, and he’s also an author. I’m hearing who married whom and who has kids and what people are doing.

However, having people show up out of the woodwork isn’t always a good thing. And you don’t know who’s reading your blog all the time, and if the consequences of that might be devastating.

I could cite two specific examples from the past week alone. In one case, a person losing their job. In another, a person losing a customer. Both over blog posts.

I know who a lot of the hits on my blog come from. The odd time I get a biting anonymous comment I usually have a laugh about it, because I can just check the hits, correspond the times, and nine times out of ten I know who the person is.

That said, there are some hits on my blog that I can’t track to a person I know. And because I don’t know who’s reading, I never know how my posts might be interpreted, or misinterpreted.

No matter how clear you think you’re being, there is always the risk of being misunderstood. I can cite no better relevant example right now than this ridiculous post, asserting Rebus is only in the final Rebus novel until page 175. The mistaken assertion comes with a reference to this article in the Daily Mirror which is quite clear on the fact that Rebus gets booted from the police department on page 175… Not the book.

I had a good laugh over it, but it reminds me that no matter how obvious you think the meaning behind your words is, someone can always misunderstand.

Sometimes I think the only reason I can continue the blog etc. is because I’m able to mentally turn off the fear about who’s reading. Last July I had the most embarrassing revelation about one reader, and I wanted to crawl under a rock. Somehow, I got over it, only to learn about someone else reading, who also made me blush.

Now, I’ve had this compounded with a phone call from my sister yesterday, in which I learned she’s been reading my blog.

Which officially means everything I say on here can come back to haunt me. I know, I know… I should have known that already, but as I’ve already repeated, I suppress that.

Well, today I got out the sticky tack and posted a note above my computer: Big Brother is Watching You.

And big sister, and former neighbour, and authors you talk about, and a former employer, and your husband…

I have done an extensive ezine update over at In For Questioning, with news about the latest Demolition, Thuglit and Hardluck Stories issues to hit the internet.

And now, a BSP Alert

Mouth Full of Bullets has published Play To Win by Kevin R. Einarson, What Every Guy Wants by me, and a feature interview with me.

Plus, James Goodman has posted his review of SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES on his blog.

And as though that’s not enough, there’s a review of SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES on Fantasy Bookspot. Here’s a snippit:

Suspicious Circumstances is the third great debut from January that I read. Its a compelling read that makes me wish it wasn’t a debut just so I could go out and buy her other books, but sadly it is a debut and there aren’t more books for me to rush out and buy. I'm tempted to become like an impatient child in the backseat of the car on a long road trip and send "are we there yet" type emails to Ruttan, Sakey & Chercover every day that say "Are you done yet, are you done yet."

This book has two big strengths going for it: its characters and the twists in the plot.

The two main characters Ty and Lara have an easy chemistry between them. At one point a minor character says that the two of them have sexual chemistry. I’m not too sure if that’s the case though. Not yet anyway, if these characters are used again in future novels it could develop into that. They do have an ease and comfort around each other. Their dialogue is filled with banter that rings true and brings out other facets of their personalities. Almost all of the characters are developed through dialogue which is one of the most natural and realistic ways for an author to develop a character. They really are great together and I hope to see at least one more book with the paring. To Ruttan's credit also she lets their relationship unfold naturally and doesn’t rush them into situations where they might kiss, hug, sleep together or have a touch that lingers just a second too long. Their personalities click in many ways before they even slightly suspect or begin to admit to themselves that there is chemistry there.

The simple premise of the plot and Lara and Ty's subsequent investigation is a first cut that strikes deep. It exposes a conspiracy of corruption that extends further then anyone thought was possible. Ruttan proves to be very adept at twisting the plot and yanking the rug out from under her characters with the continuous revealing of information. The reveals in this book are like a popcorn machine. They start off slow then very quickly speed up to maintain a relentless pace that rarely falters and never lets up.

It’s a very thoughtful, balanced review, with some interesting points. And I have to say, “YEAH! Somebody got what I wanted to do with this book, with letting the dialogue develop the character.”

As to the question, well, at this time I can’t say when another book by me will be out. But I have turned a new manuscript over to my agent.


Vincent said...

Coincidentally, I've been having those same Big Brother thoughts recently. The other week my blog stats revealed someone had reached my page searching for the name of a friend and then done a trawl of the whole thing for references to them.

Naturally, I told my friend and they were a little freaked out by this, but perhaps not quite as freaked out as when I pointed out that a more obvious result of searching the internet for their name would turn up the location of their office and phone number.

That reminded me of the responsibility that comes with writing about other people, but it also highlighted the fact that there was also an awful lot of information about me on there if people wanted to find it. As you pointed out, that brings with it both the good and the bad, but everything has downsides and the bad in this case is probably outweighed by the good that can come from having a public profile.

Jersey Jack said...

Congrats on finishing the manuscript, Sandra. And just so you know, I read your blog because you are wonderfully, refreshingly, and plain-speakingly opinionated.
And even right once in a while, too!

Christa M. Miller said...

My mother reads my blog, and I'm sure something I say there will come back to haunt me. Oh wait - it already did. She diagnosed me with postpartum depression. (Mind you, she hardly ever gets to see me IRL. And no, she isn't a licensed professional.)

Point is, I know it's going to happen. She's been using stuff against me for so long that I've come to accept it's a cross I have to bear, because I can't control what she thinks. On the other hand, it stinks that I can't just speak my mind - say, about the way my upbringing shaped my writing life. Oh well.

FTR, I read your blog because it's just interesting. I love the way you get me thinking about things. Even if I can't always develop a coherent opinion ;) I do very much enjoy reading.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Vincent, I keep telling myself the good outweighs the bad. You're probably right. Freaky situation about your friend, though.

Jersey Jack, once in a while right? LOL! You make a very welcome cheeky addition to the commenters here! And I know who you are...

Christa, it's rather awkward when family reads the blog, isn't it? I don't mind my husband at all - there's nothing I say here I wouldn't say to him. But with your mother it sounds a bit like having your diary found.

I like reading blogs because I get to know people and see how they think. Which is all helpful when you're developing characters, some of whom hold radically different opinions from your own. But really, it just gives me a chance to get to know people, since so few of us spent time IRL together and writing is isolating.

Steve Allan said...

Somebody's been reading the Blog Project stories...
I have to tell you that I read your blog for something to do while I watch you through your windows. Hi!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yeah, I read the Blog Project Story about who's reading...

And now that I know it's you Steve I'll let the dogs out. ;)

Anonymous said...

THankfully I don't have any family members reading my blog (there are advantages to people not being computer literate), but I am aware of things came back to haunt me, which is kind of why i feel my voice is strangled a bit. I can't just let loose. It's something I want to change, but too tired at the moment with the full time job so it's a moot point.

Erik Ivan James said...

~laughing~ You are so correct about "who's watching?", Sandra. Someone where I work came across my blog and identified it as mine because of the "Bug Tails" I have there about my dog Bug. Now, guess what of my writings have been circulating around the office? They sure as hell aren't my writings about the dog!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Amra, I can think of a few of your posts you wouldn't want your family to read! LOL! Lucky you that they aren't active online.

Erik, it took me ten minutes to stop laughing and crying... Poor you. Or maybe lucky you, depending. ;)

Trace said...

Excellent review, Sandra. And very well deserved.