Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Flash Writing Challege This Weekend! Prompt at 8PM EST TODAY! FREE! NO EXCUSES!

Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.

Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary. 

The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Author, and editor Sarah Hans is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at right now and join us!

And look, I'm getting e-mails from Grammarly asking me to take down pages again!

If you've been around for a couple of years, you might remember when I talked about Grammarly.  My review of the service was that it wasn't worth the price, though my girlfriend at the time (who teaches college level English) gave it a much more scathing review:
I would NOT recommend such a program for my students or my school for a bunch of reasons. First, I can't see the quality of the feedback provided. If I can't see an actual sample, I wouldn't ever endorse its use. Period.

Second, the program appears to give A LOT of commentary on work, as if quantity indicates quality. Students need help not only finding problems but also PRIORITIZING them. An omitted Oxford comma is a stylistic choice; pervasive run-on sentences are a much more pressing issue.

Third, this program should be used ONLY under the guidance of competent real-live writing teachers. But admini$trator$ will see $12 a month as a wonderfully cheap way to get a new "teacher"; they'll get what they pay for. And without guidance as to HOW to use the comments, students may think that a properly edited piece of writing is GOOD, that the correctness somehow proves their content is okay. However, editing isn't revision. If I could give students grades based solely on where they placed their commas, my job would be much simpler and grading much more efficient.

There's a body of research out there, and more being conducted all the time, about computer-assisted writing assessment on products such as Criterion and My Access, which purport to assess content as well as correctness. Do they work? Finding of most researchers indicate, in short, that they don't.

Now, I'm back to grading. And not only for the commas.

But aside from the quality of the service, I also took exception with their scammy PR tactics, where they (under the guidance of Nick Baron) tried to essentially bribe me and other bloggers to get positive linkbacks and reviews, and then trying to get people to take down their negative reactions to said tactics.

That was four years ago.  You'd think they would learn, right?


Karen Hertzberg, Grammarly's current "content specialist", sent me this e-mail today:
Karen from Grammarly’s team here with a quick request. We’re working on cleaning up our backlink profile, and part of that process involves removing certain links pointing to our site. Would you help us out by removing the Grammarly hyperlink on the following page?

Understand that we’re not questioning your website’s quality; we’re just doing all we can to comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. I’d be grateful if you’d email me to let me know when the link has been removed.
Thanks in advance for your help!
So once again, Grammarly is wanting folks to take down negative reviews (and reminders about their history of scammy promotion tactics).  But rather than being straightforward about it, they're claiming it's because of Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

Maybe - just MAYBE - they've hired a new PR person who is going back and undoing the damage that was done.  But considering that my response was as follows:
Are you kidding me?  Oh man, going about trying to get a negative article about you removed by pretending it is just complying with Google...oh wow.

Hell, you're gonna get another link now, detailing this conversation. 
You'd expect that they'd respond with a clarification that they were trying to walk the straight and narrow now instead of... well, silence.

So maybe Grammarly is trying to go back and remove all the scammy and spammy backlinks they generated years ago.  But if so, they're going about it in a particularly tone-deaf way. 

Review: RimWorld

RimWorld isn't your normal kind of game. The official description gives you a
hint of this:
RimWorld follows three survivors from a crashed space liner as they build a colony on a frontier world at the rim of known space. Inspired by the space western vibe of Firefly, the deep simulation of Dwarf Fortress, and the epic scale of Dune and Warhammer 40,000.
But before you think this is just another game like so many others, there's a big twist:
In RimWorld, your colonists are not professional settlers – they’re survivors from a crashed passenger liner. They'll be accountants, homemakers, journalists, cooks, nobles, urchins, and soldiers.
There's a lot to like about this game - though it's technically still in alpha (and has been since its first release at the end of 2013), it's more polished and developed than many other independent final releases. It's also very actively developed, with new releases bringing performance and feature improvements. Like many indie games, graphics aren't its biggest draw, but they're stylized and quite acceptable.

It's crossplatform - Windows, Mac, and Linux - and whether you use Steam or a direct download, there's an active modding community which lets you tweak and enhance gameplay significantly.

RimWorld has aspects of worldbuilding, RTS, and 4x games, and should appeal most to those who enjoy those kinds of games.

Rimworld is $30 (which includes all updates and the final game), and is well worth it.

You don't seem too happy to see me.

"You don't seem too happy to see me."

There are some phrases where tone of voice is everything.

This is one of them.

Admittedly it's disconcerting when someone you care about doesn't react the way you expect. Especially when you haven't seen them for a while.

It's possible to say this in a caring way.  If your loved one seems out of sorts, there's probably a reason. Saying this in a caring tone gives you an opportunity to find out what's wrong and to help.

The other way, though, is something completely different.  The other way is a demand for an emotional performance. It's a demand borne out of a sense of entitlement.

And that sense of entitlement is a giant red flag.

It might seem that the difference between the two tones is obvious, but too often our caring natures makes us want to excuse the latter. 


When a hate site claims it's not a hate site, because religion

The site linked to at the bottom is - and you've been warned - some concentrated, distilled, and purified self-righteous fuckery dressed up and pretending that it's a follower of an itinerant Jewish rabbi that lived two thousand years ago. 
There's almost too much on this page to really get it in one go.  From the predictable gender policing and anti-feminism to '9/11 was an inside job' to anti-Catholicism to the insistence that (somehow) only King James's version of the Bible is the only accurate translation (which also posits that English somehow hasn't changed since that time, but anyway).

But it's worth taking an eyeball-searing look at this yes quite probably triggering supposedly "Christian" website.  Especially if you're a Christian.
First, because It's stunning and horrifying and worth reminding yourself that yes, people like this actually exist. 
But the more important thing is easily missed if you don't scroll to the bottom.  There's a link where they claim "This is NOT a hate site" and "explain" how it's really a "love" site. I'm reminded of one of the street preachers who explained to me that since he was "born again", it was impossible for him to sin, since that would mean he wasn't actually born again.
And that's terrifying

It is not difficult at all to see how this kind of zealotry leads to extremism, or how prominent quotations of "...Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here" can become dog-whistles to violence.  (Christian terrorism in the US is a thing)

The dominant Christian narrative in the United States keeps claiming that Christianity is different than "those" religions.  They keep claiming - implicitly or explicitly - that it is a difference in the quality of the religions.

Sites like this do serve a valuable purpose: They show, quite clearly, that extremism isn't about which faith tradition or religion you follow. It's about the people following that religion.

With that warning: