Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Yup. Quiet.

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Got a bunch of stuff bubbling on the stove while everyone's off at WorldCon.

But I've got a HappyGardenBot to help, so it should be fine.



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And I'm on Carnival of the Indies...

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The Book Designer

I got a spiffy badge and everything!

I submitted my post on making a professional-looking CreateSpace store - something that simply gets overlooked a lot of the time. Click the badge (or click this link) to go check out the rest of the articles and see what you think!

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Where Inception Saves The Cat - and What Writers Can Learn From It

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Yes, of course there are spoilers.

I finally watched Inception.  And yes, I thought it was very, very pretty.  It was a pretty straightforward adventure story with a big wrinkle thrown in.  It was a cool wrinkle, mind you (and a cool chart of the wrinkle is here), but each of the plot threads wasn't horribly complicated by itself... by itself.

There's two elements (aside from flashy effects) that make the movie worthwhile for writers to watch.

First, there's a meta-narrative on the level of The Sixth Sense going on.  There are actually hints much, much earlier in the movie (especially with the kid's voices and how they haven't aged) that something simply is... off.  Could it be that Ariadne is really Phillipa (the only two Greek names) and Eames is really James coming to help their father?  Is it all a dream?  Et cetera.  That it leaves unanswered questions - all of which are equally plausible - is what helps it stick.  Yes, it's like The Lady and the Tiger in that way - a relatively simple story that becomes complex through the reader projecting themselves into it.1

But that's not the most important part.  I mean, it's nice intellectually, but there's reams of intellectually clever films that simply don't get that kind of attention.  Why do we give a damn about anyone besides Ariadne in this film?

It's because they redeem Fischer.  We have no reason to care about the other justifications for the mission.  "Monopoly blah blah good for world blah."  Right.  Suuuure.  And when your biggest rival is splintered, you'll totally ignore that power vacuum.  "I want to see my children."  Yes, and you're still a horrible person (and the logic doesn't hold anyway - you were framed for a suicide?).  So why do we get emotionally involved in the mission's success at all?2

Fischer is portrayed essentially as an innocent.  He's the mark - and additionally, he's the mark when his dad just died.  We know from the get-go that things are jacked up between him and his dad.  And he did nothing (as far as we know) to deserve either his father's scorn or being the target of an elaborate invasive con.

In the process of ratcheting the tension up to eleven and throwing some beautiful effects at us, we also learn exactly how wounded Fischer is.  He's a kicked puppy.  And then they save him by creating the space for him to truly access his buried love for his father.   (It's not fake - remember Eames says "I wanted to find out what was in there".)

The special effects and "wow" factor carry us through the beginning of the film.  The tension picks up in the third act.  The meta-narrative lingers afterward.

But it's the very human story of disconnection between a child and parent that gives this film an emotional core that makes it all worthwhile.

That is something we writers can learn from Inception.

1 Which again is self-referential. As is the narrative of children and parents. As is the fact that the team essentially dumps Fischer through therapy rather quickly. Which, arguably, Ariadne (and perhaps Eames) is doing to Dom. And so on. But again, it's that emotional core which keeps it from being introverted wanking.
2 Note that bets are hedged here by putting the film's other innocent - Ariadne - in as much danger as the rest of the relatively horrible people around her.

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Mea Culpa - summed up changes to prior post

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I had to make several edits to that last post. Apparently is a lot more like Tumblr than Twitter... which isn't bad, but problematic for the purposes of what I was describing.

So, to sum up the changes needed:

Ignore the bits about, unless you want to use the service.

Use IFTTT to post to your FB page, Twitter, and Buffer from RSS feed(s). More functional than Twitterfeed at the moment.

Use to find the RSS feed for your Twitter stream. (It won't validate in most feed readers, but IFTTT can handle it.) This allows for (sort of) RTs.

This puts a bit more control in the hands of one service than I'd like, but it works. Keep in mind that some places (looking at you, Tumblr) update the RSS feed hours after the post appears.

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HOWTO have a "professional" twitter account without overloading yourself using

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selfpromotionIt's worth noting that this advice might very well change; Twitter is currently changing its rules somewhat (and getting some flak about it - see this Lifehacker post), so depending on when you read this, your mileage may vary.  And sometimes things get flaky - thanks to all the people who were patient when I was playing with these things last night.

EDIT @1654:'s mirroring option is not working the way I wanted it to.  Therefore, replace the bits about using it with using Twitterfeed.  I'm still not happy about the erratic nature of Twitterfeed's support lately, but I'm not sure what else I can do about it.

There's three big things to worry about when you're doing self-promotion online:  Inbound links, getting the word out there enough, and not getting it out too much.  This setup (after some tweaking) should help mitigate that somewhat for a business account.

Yes, a business account.  Over the last week, I've been setting up the official Alliteration Ink twitter account specifically to help separate out the publishing-specific updates and news from the rest of my stream-of-everything online sharing.  (Note:  If you want to make sure you don't miss any open calls for submissions or announcements of new releases, you want to join the Alliteration Ink e-mail list.)

You want more inbound links - inbound links tend to give you more pagerank (read: relevance) in search engines.  It's not something to obsess over - they have algorithms to correct for people who try to game the system - but it's not a bad idea.  But it's a nice side benefit of getting your information to wherever people are already using social media.

Here's the steps I used.  It seems like a lot of work - though each step is really quick and easy - but it's a "set up once" kind of deal on purpose.  Until someone changes their Terms of Service, I should be done with this for months or years.

  1. I have a separate e-mail address for Alliteration Ink.  It actually routes to my main mail account, and I've configured Gmail to let me send and get e-mail as that account.  
  2. I created a new profile for my web browser.  (Instructions for Firefox, Chrome.)  This saved me a lot of logging in and out from web services - I just hit Alt-Tab to switch between windows.
  3. Twitter is kind of my "online home", so I started with a new account there.  I filled in the contact information, including who was writing for that account.
  4. I already have a Facebook Page for Alliteration Ink (it's here, stop by and hit "like" if you want).
  5. Multiple accounts in iOS (for my iPhone) is actually fairly easy;  check your application of choice.  That said, I wouldn't be doing multiple Twitter accounts if I thought I was going to be using the Alliteration Ink account the way I use my main account.  Otherwise, it would be complete information overload.  The Alliteration Ink account is primarily for "push" statements, and relatively infrequent propagation of blog posts.
  6. I already have a Tumblr blog specifically for Alliteration Ink - but any blog that creates an RSS feed will do.
  7. I created a new (free) profile for Alliteration Ink at Bufferapp
  8. I created a new profile for Alliteration Ink at ifttt (if this then that).  Turn on the Twitter, Bufferapp, Facebook Page, and Tumblr (or RSS) channels.
  9. I created an account at for Alliteration Ink.  
  10. I already have a G+ page for Alliteration Ink (here) - but because their system is closed, it can't be automated in the same way.  I did set up a ManageFlitter account so that posts at Google Plus will go to Twitter.

Right.  Now to make it all work...
  • In Twitter, follow some accounts.  I personally followed only people that I've interacted with on a professional (writing) basis.  Keep it limited.
  • In ifttt, have it post directly to your Facebook Page whenever your account tweets.  (Example recipe here).
  • In ifttt, have it post to Bufferapp whenever a new post appears in your Tumblr or RSS feed. 
  • (Example recipe here.)
  • In Bufferapp, set your tweeting schedule to the opposite time of the day than you usually post.  For example, I usually schedule stuff for the beginning of the work day, so my buffer schedule is all for the evening.

Remember - OPPOSITE time of day from when the post goes "live"!

This does not work the way I thought it did at all.  Use Twitterfeed instead, or if you send it to, do not have it go to Twitter.

  •  In, go to settings and then mirroring.  You can add your RSS feed (and several, if you like) here.  Change mirroring style to "Repost the content under my account".  [EDIT:  THIS DOES NOT WORK THE WAY I THOUGHT.  That's essentially equivalent to Tumblr's "reblog", which is not what we want.  So I'm currently trying out "Repeat" mode.]
  • In, go to the twitter tab, and connect your Twitter account.   Check "Automatically send my notices to Twitter".  Your choice on the other two settings.

ONLY do this with your own content!  Seriously!

And you're done.

End result?  I post a blog about something new on the Alliteration Ink blog.  It goes live at 9am.  It's picked up by (via the RSS feed), and is posted at and Twitter.  IFTTT picks it up and posts it to the Facebook page.  IFTTT also saved it to Bufferapp, and goes out again without any effort on my part in the evening to Twitter and Facebook.  They'll be hours apart.

Regular twitter updates?  Only go once to Twitter, then to the FB page.  If I bother to post directly to, then they also go once to Twitter, then to the FB page.  (I would recommend getting a separate desktop twitter client, perhaps something really simple like TTYtter, or a plugin for Pidgin to send messages.)

So why use instead of a service like Twitterfeed?  Honestly, I've gotten more and more annoyed at Twitterfeed's slowness and strange behavior. (Posting items over a week old - and three at a time - is a bit surreal...) Also, is opensource, and I wanted to get a presence there if Twitter gets flakier on down the road.  And it's additional links and an additional audience.  Works for me.  (RSS Graffitti is also having some hiccups - I may drop them down the line as well.)

You can also do fun things like get a real RSS feed from your, so you can have your personal account automatically RT items.    Go to your personal account's IFTTT, choose the RSS Feed channel, then have it post to your personal Twitter, and have the post be:

RT @{{EntryTitle}}

Since your business/blog/professional twitter account name should be the same on and twitter, it works just fine. Edit:  It doesn't always work the way I think it should from - but you can get your twitter RSS feed from this website and plug it in instead.

Buffer is an important part of this system as well.  You don't want your feed looking like this:

Test before you get a ton of followers....

But you still want to get your message to the people who are looking at completely different times of day.  This setup means that I post once, just like I normally would, and it goes to multiple different locations (at different times!) without any effort on my part.

I do get notifications for the Alliteration Ink account on my phone (just like my regular Twitter account), and I get the pages notifications as well.  But by and large, those are designed for me to put material out there... not to consume material.  By doing this, I'm able to get it across several platforms, at different times of day, and without saturating my feed on any of the platforms.

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Review: The New Death and Others by James Hutchings

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review.pngJames Hutchings sent me an email, asking me to review his book The New Death and others, and I gladly accepted.

The book is a collection of flash fiction - short-shorts that usually clock in under a thousand words. I was intrigued by the gorgeous cover, and as someone who does a lot of work in flash fiction and drabbles myself, I was really open to the idea of the book.

I really, really wanted to like this book. The ideas are clever. There's obviously a lot of thought put into each of these short tales. But there was something about the execution that left me admiring the effort, but ultimately cold.

Many of the stories are told in a kind of mythic, distant third person narrative voice, which tends to rub me the wrong way. For example, The God of the Poor - the first flash fiction in the collection. (You can read it using the "Look Inside!" feature at Amazon.)

The concept is wry, satirical, and quite astute. I love the idea. But there's something about the execution that just didn't gel for me. However, I showed it to a friend of mine, who didn't share my reaction - they just liked it.

So go read a bit of the preview. If you enjoy the preview, you will love the rest of the book. If you don't, you will not love the rest of the book. And if you're on the fence, hey, The New Death and others is only  99 cents. Why not?

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...but I'm a creep... maybe?

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CreepThere's been a lot about creepers lately in fandom - the most recent ones I linked to from my twitter account being Jim Hines' sexual harassment policy, John Scalzi's Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping, and Captain Awkward's post about clearing up a case of "Creepy Dude". And perhaps most importantly for me, was Scalzi's tangental personal note.

Because when you read some of the accounts of creepers, it's easy to point and say that's not me, that's some other guy.  Telling women to expose themselves?  Snuggling up to someone else's girlfriend while they're drunk?  Oh, hell no.  Much to my girlfriend's amused annoyance after-the-fact, I spent a few hours at a recent convention basically keeping two of that kind of creeper away from a drunk young woman.

But after reading Scalzi's tangental personal note, I went back and re-read, and suddenly it doesn't seem so other anymore.  I'm now kinda paranoid about times that others might have seen me as a creeper.1 

The links above give a great starting point.  Extrapolating from them pretty much fills in most of the gaps, yet I'm left with three questions... and I'm guessing that if I have these questions, other guys will as well.2
  1. What is a good way to let someone know they're free to call me on my own crap without making it seem like I'm making them responsible for my bad behavior (see Scalzi #3)?
  2. If I suspect or know that I came off as a creeper, should I apologize, or just stop bothering the person?  Does that change if we're friends now, but I came across as a creeper in the past?
  3. What are some good cognitive strategies to overcome Potential Creeper Moments?  Is simply deferring and minimizing intial contact the best strategy, or are there other things that can work?

I'm really not sure how to answer these myself, but at Jim's urging, I'll take a stab at it. (So it's rambling a bit - but there's a concrete bit at the end.)

I spent some time talking about this at GenCon with Barbara Webb and Desiree Garcia. Interestingly, simply talking about the Readercon issues was a good way to broach the topic with others, so that helped with #1. There was a ready-made segue by talking about the problem (and the draft version of this post!) in a kind of meta-discussion that provided some distance that otherwise wouldn't be there. But that isn't going to be a solution for that much longer.

The (half-joking) idea of using "red flags" and "green flags" came up - clear, unambiguous signals of "I'm interested" or "Back off". It was funny - especially when the idea of developing "flirting semaphore" was floated... :)

Later in the discussion, when Ms. Garcia and myself talked about how each of us had difficulties both reading signals and managing what signals we were sending.3 And as we talked about other things, each of us provided feedback to the other about what it looked like. "Hey, that thing you did? It totally looked like you were flirting with me." And she'd say "RED FLAG! RED FLAG!" and we'd laugh. Because we'd started the conversation with very clear expectations (that there were none and we were simply providing mutual feedback), it made the whole experience a lot less threatening to anyone's ego or sense of self-esteem. Again, this was a near-unique situation for me, so I'm not sure how this can be generalized out to help other people... because asking if someone is flirting with you pretty much guarantees that if they were, they're not going to be after you ask that question. (Am I wrong with that assumption? Women, please weigh in here!)

_ Creep _That discussion also gave me some clues to #2. Even with all the meta-discussion, clear expectations, and other safeguards, women in USAian culture are trained to show appeasement strategies when they feel threatened. A forceful or aggressive response might escalate the behavior (for an academic example, see this thesis paper).

With that in mind, it's a safe bet that simply apologizing immediately after you think you came across as a creeper is at best going to get you a skewed response: "Oh, no, no, you weren't being creepy." With "not being creepy" as the highest priority here, apologize once, and then go. If necessary, tell the other person that you feel uncomfortable about how you behaved, and need time to recalibrate. Offer to let them decide when and where to connect with you again (or not) - business or calling cards are great for that.

Number three is the trickiest, especially at conventions. I do have quite a few "con-friends" - people that I see and connect deeply with at conventions, but not frequently outside of that setting. Especially if you're "interested interested" in someone, the idea of waiting a day or two between interactions may be effectively the same as saying "I'm not interested".

But I think the idea of business or calling cards might help there as well, just as they do when making business connections.

When you're first meeting someone who you're interested in doing business with, you introduce yourself, say one or two things nice, ask if you may give them your card, and then say something like, "I don't want to take up too much of your time right now" and exit stage left. That gives the other person the information needed to contact you (via the card) to continue the interaction later and provides them with the opportunity to lengthen the interaction at that time if they wish.

The whole thing should look like this:

M: "Hi, I'm sorry if I'm interrupting."
F: "Yes? Hello..."
M: "Hi, my name is _____________. I just wanted to say that I really [liked your book | love your movies | think your shirt is cool | etc]."
F: "Oh, thanks!"
M: "Yeah, [follow-up statement about item above]. Anyway, I'm sure you're busy now, but may I give you my card if you're free and maybe want to chat later?"
F [option one]: "Yeah, I'm meeting some friends, but thanks!" [M exits]
F [option two]: "I'm not busy now, or you could come along to dinner with us." [M goes to dinner]

Yeah, it's a bit socially unusual and a bit formal. But that's not a bad thing - I know a guy who attracts far more attention than you'd expect by being a bit more formal (and old-fashioned) than you'd expect. You stand out. And more to the point, it helps keep you from being a creeper.

Again, I'm wrestling with these ideas and trying to figure out solutions. Your comments, critiques, and questions are ENCOURAGED here.

What do you think?

1 Doesn't matter if their perception of me was accurate or not; I'm concerned that I made other people uncomfortable. Period.
2 "I" is used instead of the pronoun "one" in these questions.
3 My girlfriend has informed me after-the-fact both that I was being flirted with and that I was flirting... and I was clueless about both.

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Supporting the Sovereign Era

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Matthew Wayne Selznick really caught my attention years ago with Brave Men Run.  I listened to the Podiobooks version with my oldest son - and really, it's one of the few good later memories I have of my time with him.  And yeah, that's really saying something about the quality of this book.

It's a great coming-of-age (and coming-of-superpowers) story.  I paid through Podiobooks, I bought (and gifted) several of the original print version, bought all the related eBooks, and was thrilled to get him to write "History for Story's Sake - OR - No One Cares Who the Emperor was 500 Years Ago.  Unless They Should" for Eighth Day Genesis.

And then I had a little bit of fanboy squee when I realized he was running a Kickstarter to fund Pilgrimage, the next novel set in the same universe as Brave Men Run.

So to help reach some of his stretch goals (along with such other notables as Scott Roche, Justin Macumber, and P.G. Holyfield), two of the Alliteration Ink "family" are kicking in short stories.

I'm contributing "The Burning Servant" (the short story of mine that was produced by Pseudopod back in February) for all contributors (past and present) who contribute $5 or more.

Patrick Tomlinson (contributor to The Crimson Pact and Eighth Day Genesis) is contributing "Dig Up The Vote" - his fun urban fantasy story that pokes fun at modern politics - to new contributors pledging $5, or those who up their pledge by $5 or more.

Both stories will come in ePub, Kindle, and PDF formats, so you can read them on whatever device you like.

All I need you to do is email me the receipt Amazon will email you upon the funding of the campaign.

I’ll respond with the zip file containing your incentive(s) attached. Easy!   So swing on by his Kickstarter campaign and toss a few bucks his way.

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Navigating Social Media (Self-Promotion For Authors)

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selfpromotion@Karawynn - the person behind @pocketmint - wrote this rather ... familiar... post about social media engagement.   tl;dr = It's easy to get overwhelmed, no matter what topic you're interested in.

I left a comment there that says some of the same things, but I wanted to expand (and link) here.  It's something we hear a lot on panels for writers.

Abby from ForceOfHappiness basically started off by replying that you should deliberately limit your consumption and obligations.  And she is totally right.  The mechanics of how to go about doing that is up to you.

I'll start by mentioning that my social media "map" is a little more complex than most people's.  Back in March, I showed you what it looked like then...

It's actually a tiny bit more complex now, since Alliteration Ink has its own Twitter account.  I do think it's important to have accounts on the major networks, even if you're not a fan of them, and have your material go to where people are, though.  Or at least, a link for them to click on.

Social Media LandscapeIt's also worth noting that I (try to) have items show up more than once, but 6-12 hours apart.  In general, something like 10% of your audience sees any particular post on Twitter or Facebook.  Maybe.  And that's largely because people are looking at it at different times.  So I'll schedule a blog post to go up around noonish, then maybe restart the chain of notifications via a G+ share in the mid-to-late evening.  (G+ -> Twitter -> Facebook)

ATTITUDE:  I don't presume my peers read my blog(s), and vice versa.  I will often begin a conversation with a peer saying *exactly that*.  Sometimes they'll have read the post I'm going to reference - great!  Sometimes not.  And - I can't stress this enough - vice versa.  Making the assumption that someone reads your blog smacks of pure ego.  You're a content *creator*, not a consumer.  And if you're finding that content consumption is cutting into your creation time, you have to re-evaluate.

CONSUMING: I rarely scroll back on Twitter or Facebook - it's simply not possible.  SocialFixer helps a lot with FB, but it's still a pain.  If it's something that's actually worth your attention, multiple people/sites will pick it up - and then it'll hit your radar.  Twitter lists are your friend.  Curate them ruthlessly.  SocialFixer can actually do a better job of filtering Facebook content than any "friend" list (though it's harder to set up at first), which can help narrow it down.  There are currently only a few people whose tweets go through to text messages so I see every one of them - and one of them is my girlfriend.

TOOLS:  SocialFixer (makes FB navigable), Tweetdeck (multiple columns, list per column), Turpial (likewise, lighter-weight), Google Plus Wide Fork (userstyle to make G+ easier to navigate).

PRODUCING:  Mapping out the propagation network wasn't a luxury - it was a necessity.  My blog is my main content source, though I have a couple of Tumblrs that *only* serve for specific types of content.  Again, you're going to where people are.  While some of us are spread across multiple accounts and networks, many people aren't.  I do make an attempt to not duplicate content across accounts  - so that people who "like" my business page, my author page, and are my Facebook friend don't get three identical posts at the same time.  (They might show up on all three - but spread out throughout the day... so they might only actually SEE one of the posts.)

In general:  Main blog == primary new content, general purpose.   Tumblrs == specific-content blogs.

TOOLS:  ManageFlitter (G+ to Twitter), Twitterfeed (RSS->Twitter), RSSGraffitti (RSS -> Facebook),  Feedburner (turn blogs into RSS).  RSS also propagates my posts to GoodReads, Amazon, and (via post-by-email) to LiveJournal.  I've got at least one fan who reads at each of those places, which means that the time to send those posts there was totally worth it.

This setup means that after spending an afternoon figuring it out and an evening setting it up, most of the time it operates in the background without any intervention from myself.

Have I missed anything?  What do you do?  What tools do you use?

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Sparkle - A 100 Word Story

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The player below should have the audio for this week; if it doesn't, you can find the audio here to download. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site!

I am now - when I remember to do so - updating these in a podcast feed (dubbed "Radio Free Steven the Nuclear Man" by Laurence). You can subscribe with this link ( in your podcatcher or phone.

Eyes are the mirror of the soulShe remembers the glitter of his eyes when they first made love.

She remembers when it disappeared, when there was just the reflection of the television or wall.

She remembers the distortion from her tears when he said he wanted to see other people. How she couldn't see or catch his averted gaze.

She remembers The Night, but tries not to. Tries not to remember the lifelight fading as the infected bite took his body.

She fiddles with the brush, then applies more shellac to the orbs. His corpse strains against the ropes.

She remembers. She'll get it right eventually.

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Sorta-Convention WrapUp (GenCon)

I really don't like doing con reports, whether in person or in writing.

There's usually so very much going on that it's hard to keep track and remember it all.  I never take enough pictures.  I always forget something, or someone.  And there's things that happened that are, quite frankly, not the business of the general public, whether business related or strictly part of my personal life.

All that said, despite my own self-doubts and (lack of) ego issues, despite nearly not being able to go (thanks again to Robert Farnsworth for putting me up/putting up with me for the weekend), I'm glad I went to GenCon.  It's the only convention this year where I didn't have a table, and honestly, I'm glad.  As it was, I didn't get to spend as much time with either the people I already knew or new friends that I made.  Further, I spent most of the con overstimmed and sleepdepped, so there's huge fuzzy foggy patches.

There are a few icebergs that break through the mental fog, and that folks in general might find useful and/or amusing.   (Side note:  You can follow me on Instagram, or follow my Tumblr or Flickr if you're interested in pictures as I take them.)

Repurposing a white elephant into a display worked rather well.  Even though nobody prints 3.5"x5" photos anymore, there are full-color printers.

Yes, Alasdair Stuart does sound exactly as smart and quick-witted in real life as he does with the outro of every Pseudopod episode.  It was a genuine pleasure to meet him.  Later, it was also delightful to introduce him and Jerry Gordon and watch them have mutual fan-boy moments.  That really made my day.

There is no concrete evidence linking any author and these bananas arranged with a "Sugar Kills" pamphlet.  None at all.  Not a bit of evidence.

After seeing this, I know what the Nuclear Kid is going to want to do for a Halloween costume.

Klingon music is far better than Vogon poetry.

Farscape cosplay Is The Awesome.  Well done indeed.

If he's not Steampunk Santa, he frickin' should be, bringing brass gears to all the good girls and boys.

I could totally take this dragon.

I thought this hotel was ugly and didn't match the city and didn't understand... up until I looked up and saw this view.

Totally unrelated to the con:  I keep taking pictures of cool shoes to show my girlfriend.  Which probably disconcerts the women wearing the shoes when I start ignoring any other "asset" or costume they might have in order to focus on their sneakers.

If I met you (or forgot to mention you), please leave a note in the comments.  And if you managed to snap a picture of me, let me know - that way I might be able to remember more of the convention!

Also:  If you signed up for the Alliteration Ink e-mail list, I will send your e-mail to the Writer's Symposium e-mail list.  If you only signed up on the Writer's Symposium e-mail lists, I will NOT have your e-mail address for Alliteration Ink.  That seemed like the best way to go about doing it, since the two signup sheets got confused by some folks.  If you want to be on the Alliteration Ink e-mail list, please follow the instructions on our contact page.


The Writer's (Abundance of) Self-Doubt

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68/365:  Bad Mommy MorningWhile I was wrestling with the events that led to "The Writer's (Lack) of Self-Confidence" on Saturday, @Downsideupgirl brought this Kevin Smith tweet to my attention (thanks hon!):

That tweet is inspiring.

When you're beginning as a public professional, you get told you're never supposed to show self-doubt. You're supposed to show this exterior positive face. Everything's fine. Everything's wonderful. Be upbeat and positive.1

I suppose that's good for creating a cult of personality. It's good if you're trying to convert people.

And it's hell on everyone else.

We've had a lifetime of stories where problems are solved in thirty minutes to a laughtrack. Where our heroes (whether the Founding Fathers or Jesus or anyone else) don't have the doubt and fears that we do. And when we have those doubts that we never see anyone "successful" have, we doubt whether we can be successful too.

In public this last weekend, other fledgling authors saw people like Jason Sizemore, Jerry Gordon, and Alasdair Stuart (for example) all compliment my work. IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE.2 But those other fledgling authors probably did not see me go huddle in a puddle of insecurity, or see me wince when I got a rejection letter the day before, or be upset at a relatively minor slight, or the trench of self-doubt and depression that directly led to "The Writer's (Lack) of Self-Confidence". The public person those fledgling writers saw looked a lot like someone without doubts, like someone without problems, like someone without concerns and fears.

I know that in the last few weeks, I've had quite a few writers come to me with their own insecurities. With their own fears. With their own doubts. With their own sense of "not measuring up". And they came to me because they thought I'd "made it".

I think I was able to give them good advice. I think I was able to give them good strategies.

Not because I've gotten beyond that insecurity. But because I still wrestle with it on a damn near daily basis.3

Which brings us to Amanda Palmer.

Specifically, to her song "In My Mind", which came up on random while I was doing my post-con cleaning of the house. And I had to stop, and sit down for a while, and once I'd gotten my emotions back under control, I realized that I had to write this post and make sure you all got to hear this song. (There are a few f-bombs, so if you're at work, use headphones.)

In my mind
In a future five years from now
I'm 120 pounds
And I never get hungover
Because I will be the picture of discipline
Never minding what state I'm in
And I will be someone I admire
And it's funny how I imagined that I would be that person now
But it does not seem to have happened
Maybe I've just forgotten how to see
That I'm not exactly the person that I thought I'd be

At least go read all the lyrics, because it's not only a perfect musical note for these two posts, but it also shows the way forward and through and up and out of all that horrible self-doubt.

And Bob knows we need that.

It's embedded below (both video and audio); you can also get it (and all the lyrics) at AFP's Bandcamp page.

1 Note: There's a huge difference between "not being positive" and "being destructive to others". The latter is simply being an asshat.
2 I hate pointing this out. I am NOT bragging; I'm only doing it to make the point in the rest of the paragraph.
3 Note to those people, who are probably reading this and might be feeling guilty: Because I am also wrestling with the same things, helping you helps me too.

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Your Ears Need This: Greyhound

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hearthisI'm a sucker for layered music. Whether it's metal, dance, world, or whatever doesn't matter - it's simply the layered aspect of the music that I enjoy. It's one of the reasons why I enjoy so much dance, trance, and house music.

With Greyhound
, the Swedish House Mafia have created a track that is the archetype of everything dance and house music. I'll freely admit that it may not be the "best" music ever, but it really does stand as a self-contained archetype. And it's a nice, pounding, fun song to boot.

The video is actually worth a mention as well - if you thought the TV spot was pretty spiffy looking, this is quite a bit better. It's a bit of a visual treat.

The product placement with Absolut is a bit annoying in the video, but honestly, I'm just trying to enjoy this song now. Because I'm predicting we're going to keep hearing this song whenever a movie or TV show wants to signal "dance music" for the next decade or so, and I want to like this song before overuse makes me sick of it.

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The Writer's (Lack) of Self-Confidence

WritingI got to sit in on a panel this morning about the life of a writer. The moderator, the very classy editor Jerry Gordon, asked what we thought one of the biggest problems new writers face... And all of us ended up saying something about self doubt.

And it's true. And it DOES NOT go away. It might diminish some, but it can come roaring back. I've been having some bouts with it myself over the last few weeks. There's no real reason for me to feel this way - not an empirical one - but it's happened.

The danger is this: when our feeling of self worth is diminished, when we are already feeling insecure, it becomes all too easy to interpret everything in the light of that insecurity. Story rejected? I must suck. Don't get a reply to an email? I must suck. And so on.

And I think it's worse for writers - because so much of what we do is put up for public consumption and review. Other people do judge our work - and as a result, we take it as judging us as people. It becomes a horrible habit. To quote my girlfriend:

A big part of the problem, I think, is that you derive so much of your self-concept from other people. The problem is that then your self-esteem becomes dependent on how others treat you--and they have their own stuff they're dealing with and are rarely (if ever) know or care how their actions affect you. It's a perilous system to set up for yourself.

And she's right. Yes, you reflect on your own work and behaviors. You make sure you're holding true to yourself. But once you HAVE to separate your sense of self and your worth as a person from your work and other people's view of you. Understand that you don't know what is going on in anyone else's life. You never truly know what leads to another person's reaction.

And you simply cannot control it.

What you CAN control are these things:
1. Keep doing the best you can.
2. Keep challenging yourself to do better.
3. Stay true to your own values and ideals.

And specifically for the writers: keep writing.


The Crimson Pact Book(s) Trailer

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I put together a video trailer for the entire four volumes of The Crimson Pact. Check it out!

It was a difficult task. Not the actual creation of the files (I used a crossplatform tool called videoparama1.) The hard part was trying to both convey the common thread between these books while at the same time trying to keep from filling the screen with words.

I think I did a pretty good job. How would you go about making a trailer for an anthology (or series of anthologies)? What would you do differently?

1 Now that I've figured it out, it's easy to use. The learning curve was a bit steep. I have no experience with ffDiaporama.

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Apple's Conflicting ePub Cover Dimension Messages

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As I mentioned in the article about tablets changing the eBook marketplace, Apple is upping its cover image requirements - to 1400 pixels across on the shortest side.  You can even see this using iTunes Producer:

Okay, so not a big deal, right?  Just enlarge all your images...

Oh.  Wait.

So, it has to be 1400 pixels...but not more than two million pixels total...[bites tongue, does math in head]

So to satisfy both these requirements, your cover image (in the ePub) should be 1400 pixels by 1428 pixels.

A square.

I'm hoping someone at iTunes will see this and get it resolved.

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Review: Forced Conversion by Donald Bingle

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review.png[Full disclosure: I'm a friend of Don Bingle's, and have published one of his books.]

Forced Conversion plays to Donald Bingle's strengths. He is excellent at taking situations and finding both the problems that nobody's ever thought of yet... as well as the solutions to those problems.

The setup is pretty straightforward. In the near future, we've figured out how to upload consciousness (often, though wrongly, treated as synonymous with the Singularity). Most of the world's population has. But there are the (mostly devoutly religious) "malcontents" remaining who threaten the stability of the converted... and there are the Conversion forces who hunt them down to bring them into the fold... or else.

There are aspects of military SF here, but only some. This isn't a John Wayne movie with blasters; there are no clear black and white "good guys" and "bad guys". Ultimately, Forced Conversion is an exploration of the world after the Singularity... and the consequences of that world.

There are twists and turns that you've probably not seen in this kind of near-future fiction before... and better yet, the twists and turns make perfect sense. This is a fully-imagined world, with every action having real and measurable consequences. That kind of attention to detail can (and does) make plot twists that could be cheap hacks into masterful plotting.

There were only two things that nagged at me, both personal preferences. All the characters, were deeply flawed in all-too-human ways. Realistic ways. And I didn't like any of them. The protagonists were far more decent people than many of the other characters, but I had a hard time liking them. Second, there's an occasional intrusion of narrative voice and point-of-view shifts, which is just something that bugs me slightly.

Overall, Forced Conversion is a well-plotted story that takes a trope of modern SF - the ability to "upload" - and examines the probable outcomes of that technological development. Well worth reading.

You can read more about Forced Conversion at Don's website, and can buy it (in various formats) at Amazon, B&N, or Drive Thru Fiction

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Lightest GenCon Schedule EVAH.

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EventsGenCon Indy is primarily known as a gaming convention, and rightfully so. There's thousands of gamers, thousands of games, and just everything you might ever think of around and about games.

Including an entire crash course in a writing career.

I wandered into the Writer's Symposium because I hadn't scheduled anything else my first trip to GenCon. I've been back every year since - though the side of the table has changed. If you want a nuts-and-bolts jumpstart to a professional writing career (aside from Clarion and its like), this is the place to be. Period.

And this year, we're suffering from an embarrassment of riches. There are so many authors, editors, and publishers on panels that there was barely enough room for them all. I'm only scheduled for two panels on Saturday (10 and 11) and one on Sunday.1

If you were wanting a chance to bend my ear at a convention, this would be it.

I am offering to sub for anyone else if they need it - both on panels and games - but otherwise I'll probably be hanging out near the Symposium. Drop me a line (including @replies on Twitter) so we can arrange to get together!

I look forward to seeing y'all in Indy!

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Make Your Online Life Secure - HOWTO with links

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Broken LockIf you haven't read it yet, you must read the story of the epic hack that happened to Wired reporter Mat Honan not long ago.

And then you need to realize that it can happen to you.  Because he's a tech writer.  I'm worried - someone tried to hack my Yahoo account (again - I think it was hacked years ago for a while) last night.  Yahoo locked the account and notified me, but it's a little too reminiscent of the pattern of the epic hack to make me comfortable.  And I'm about to head to GenCon, so I'll be wifi-surfing more than normal... and doing business at the same time.

So here's some relatively simple things you can do in order to make your online life more secure.

1.  Use different passwords for different sites.  Yes, this is a pain in the ass.  Yes, this is absolutely necessary.  Here's the easy solution:  Use a program like KeePass (Windows) or KeePassX (Win/Mac/Linux).  That program can generate (and save) complex passwords for you - and you just remember one password to unlock the database.  You can sync that (encrypted) database to Dropbox and then access it with KyPass (iOS) or KeePassDroid (Android).

2.  Use two-step authentication with Google.  Lifehacker goes into this pretty well.  I was worried that it'd be a pain, or that I'd have to worry about older programs, but I shouldn't have been.  You can create regular passwords for programs that don't support two-step (insert dance joke here), and there's a mobile application for smartphones that makes it right easy.

3.  Clean out your authorizations.  On all your social networks.  Including Google, Yahoo, and the like.  I've been pretty decent about keeping my app permissions in check with Facebook and Twitter, but when I reset my Yahoo password, I realized there were still services hooked in that I had *no* idea what they were for anymore.  Each of those is a potential backdoor.  Handy links to all those pages are available at

4.  Use a VPN.  I had my server access hacked a while back - which, luckily, was "only" used to send e-mail spam.  I'm certain this came from someone snooping on an open wifi network.  Since then, I've been sure to use a VPN service;  in my case, I use blackVPN.  They get great reviews, support folks using pretty much any OS or device, support multiple types of VPN, and there's even coupon codes at retailmenot.  It doesn't matter if you care about their rhetoric about internet rights and the like - you need a VPN if you ever communicate over open wifi.  Think about it this way:  Would you ever make a phone call over a "party line"?  If you're thinking "I have nothing to hide," would you post your credit card number in the comments below?  Exactly.

Someone really wanted the bike5.  Use HTTPS.  This is in addition to the VPN, above.  HTTPS (S for Secure) is used by just about everywhere for signins - and ideally, for all traffic between you and any website that requires a login.  You can turn on HTTPS for GmailFacebook, and Twitter.  But a lot of other sites only use HTTPS for the login portion - and so browser add-ons like HTTPS Everywhere help fill that gap (now available for Firefox and Chrome).

6.  Protect your privacy.  I'm currently using Ghostery (Firefox/Chrome);  you can also use ad-blockers and flash-blockers to supplement it.  There's a simple reason - all those web-trackers that Ghostery protects you from can also become an exploit of your security.   By stopping them all in their tracks, there's no chance they can subvert your system.

7.  Consider, um, not allowing your devices to be remotely wiped.  Prey is a crossplatform service (Win/Mac/Linux/iOS/Android) that performs many of the same services as FindMyiPhone.  (It has additional features you can turn on if you go Pro, but free will do for most people.)  Easy to set up, easy to use.  Highly recommended.  Also - if your Apple account is compromised, your Prey account is still ready to go.

8.  Backup your data.  I recommend using both an online backup and a local backup.  My personal setup:  Google Music to backup music.  Flickr Pro account to backup images online.  SpiderOak as a general backup, including documents, business stuff, and also redundant backup of pictures.  I use Dropbox for backup and sync of things that I'm actively working on and sharing with others.  I use Box to (largely) backup eBook files and PDFs.  And I use for any files I want to share (such as PDFs) through the blog, or display to others.

Why so many different services for backing up?  Three reasons.  First, a failure, hack, or crash on one won't impact the others.  Secondly, each service does different things well;  I try to use each for their strength.  And finally, there are free accounts for each of them (except Flickr - the free account there is crap for backup purposes), so you can effectively have over six gigs (plus Google's music stuff) without paying a cent.  I pay for SpiderOak since it's my "big" online backup option.

Finally, I have a terabyte drive that does a full, differential backup of the hard drive every so often.  (A terabyte drive will currently set you back about $100 at Amazon.)  (This page explains the difference between full and incremental and differential backups.)  I use rdiff-backup for this task, choose a program for local backup that you understand and will use.  A local backup is faster than an online one, and protects you if your online backups are hacked.

You need both local and online backups.  The whole reason you're doing backups is to keep your digital data safe and recoverable.

Bonus tip #9 - Use PGP or GPG with your e-mail.  Short version:  It provides a layer of encryption around your e-mail like an envelope that can only be opened by the recipient.  It's significantly harder to set up, and may confuse a lot of the people you e-mail right now (which is why it's set-up, but disabled on my system).  But it's the next logical step in securing your online traffic... expect to see it suddenly become routine in the next two to four years.

This seems like a lot of work - but it's not.  The good news is that most of these things are things you only have to do once.  HTTPS Everywhere, Ghostery, and Prey all reside in the background.  The VPN is just a new habit to get into when you're signing in to public wifi.  Backups can be scheduled at certain times of the day in the background.  And using KeePass (or any other "password safe") actually makes password management so much easier, especially when you're working between devices.

And consider this:  Do you consider locking your doors "a lot of work"?  A home alarm?  Sealing your envelopes with checks or credit card statements in them?  These are the digital equivalents of basic home protection.

I remember an investigation where a co-worker (while I was still in the military) reported a theft.  The first thing the officer asked was:  "Did you lock your wall locker?"  When the private said they hadn't, the investigation was all-but-officially over.

Don't be that person online.

Hey folks, this post took about an hour and a half to write and research;  if you found it useful, buy a book from Alliteration Ink, click a coffee cup up there, or use Flattr to show your appreciation!

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Your Ears Need This: Buddha's Mother

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Suddenly, it's like being at Woodstock again... if Woodstock had a goatee.
Have a great Saturday with this track mixed by DRA'man!

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The Truth

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You can spend three minutes of your life listening to Hasan Minhaj. Because he's right.

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Social Media is Bullshit; Long Live Social Media (Social Promotion for Authors)

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selfpromotionI participated (donated eBooks) in a recent giveaway headed by another author, where "likes" on Facebook constituted entries. More "likes" to author's pages, more chances to win.

I recently saw a church - a house of worship, people - imploring parishoners to "like" them on Facebook.

People get all worked up about this sort of thing.  Let's get this clear:

The number of followers and likes you have is total bullshit.  It's worth (almost) nothing.

Let me prove it to you.

I used Twitter, since it's my "home" social network.  It also was the social network mentioned prominently in this article about follow-bots.  I'm sure that you can find similar services for Facebook and G+ - whether sleazy through outright purchases, or more legit ones like raffles and contests that require "likes" and "follows".

I read twitter - especially the main feed - when I'm bored, or just want to see what the Internet's zeitgeist is up to.  Normally, though, I look at my lists on Twitter.  I've got one for my pals, one for literati/media folks, one for news organizations, and so on.  It makes following large numbers of people on Twitter rather manageable; here's how to make your own.

I've always kept my follows:followers ratio somewhere below 1;  that is, I have more followers than people I follow. Usually, that ratio is a pretty good sign of whether or not someone's a bot.  And having some followers and likes (you can substitute "likes" and "friends" for followers throughout) tends to imply that you're worth paying some attention to (that's why I said "almost" nothing above).


Yesterday, I was following 750 people, and had 950-odd followers.  Today, I have 1,960-something followers.  In a little over twenty-four hours.   

It cost me only $17.

Admittedly, about a thousand of those followers have a surprising amount of Beiber-mania and seem to speak either Spanish or Portuguese.1 Despite BuyRealMarketing's claims (both in the article and on their website, these followers "feel" fishy. (And in case you're wondering, no, they offer even more sleazy-but-legal following/views services beyond Twitter.)

In the midst of those bought followers, there's some real folks - like author Michael Montoure, who happened to follow me right in the middle of this experiment. And I pick up real followers at a respectable rate - as evidenced by this graph from TweetGrader (despite the spike there at the right, which are the bought followers).

But when you're dealing with this many followers, it's kind of difficult to evaluate each one. What about my (legitimate) 900-odd followers? I have no idea how many of them might be bots. When I look at someone else's account, I simply don't have the time to evaluate their followers.

In social media, we are used to judging based on number of followers, likes, and friends. We use that to determine trustworthiness of the source. And that number is both easy and frighteningly cheap to game.

I think you see the problem.

First, it means that number of followers (likes, etc) has nothing to do with trustworthiness.2

Second, this kind of legal-but-sleazy operation opens up a new (ugly) possibility to manipulate people's trust for scams and spam. Facebook has already had issues with scams where the scammers are able to pose as friends because existing users blindly accept friend requests because they are friends of friends.

Twitter is set up for double trouble - because quite a few people have "auto-follow-back" tools (here's some set up with So all it takes is a scammer to first buy a bunch of followers to appear legit, then target some "follow-back" people... and then try to scam mutual followers.

So why "long live social media"? Because social media - real word-of-mouth from real people - is still powerful as hell.  That contest I mentioned at the top?  At the end, I got the e-mail addresses of everyone who entered.  I sent two - and only two - e-mails to those people.

The first e-mail said (effectively) "Thanks for entering, here's a free eBook just for entering, and I'll invite you to be on my mailing list for my publishing company."

The second e-mail was an opt-in invitation.

And then I deleted the spreadsheet.  Because the people who actually bother to join that mailing list (you can join here) want to be connected to what I'm doing at Alliteration Ink.  They will actually read what I send them, and actually be engaged.3

Just like the real followers I have on Twitter, Facebook, and G+.  Just like every one of you who is reading this blog, or subscribed through the RSS feed.  And you know other real people, who respect the real things that you're doing.  And that spreads. 

It's not the quantity.  It's the quality.

It's the relationships.

And that's all that matters.

Now I'm off to give TwitSweeper a try.  I'll use it along with TwitBlock to start getting rid of those spammy followers.  It's a great service, and if you're on Twitter, one you should check out (and donate to).   [EDIT:  I was only able to automatically identify 300 or so of them.  Dammit.  Other suggestions to help me get rid of them (without too many false positives) would be appreciated.]

Speaking of, if you appreciate this (or other) informative blog entries that I've put together, click a coffee cup up there on the right, buy one of the books up there, or click the Flattr button.

And, of course, be sure to share this post on the social media network of your choice.


1 I actually do have acquaintances and followers who fall into both those categories that I personally know - but they're not the "norm" for me, y'know?
2 It's worth noting that both my TwitterGrader and Klout scores have not altered at all as a result of this experiment. Which is slightly reassuring.
3 I'm actually vaguely surprised that a company that sells followers, etc, actually has any traction among professionals. It only takes one ad campaign with an abysmal clickthrough/conversion rate to realize that impressions ain't the only thing that counts.

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The Changing eBook Market: Tablet Update

publishing.pngThere's another sea change coming down the line - and it's one that could completely upend digital publishing.


Remember 2003? Cory Doctorow had just published Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Palm and Blackberry were the highest tech handheld devices available. And everyone said they'd never read off of computer screens.

Remember 2005? I first heard Mike Stackpole talking about digital publishing then, and I was still skeptical.

Remember 2007, when Doctorow was still having to argue that people liked reading off of computer screens? And it was still met with skepticism.

Then eInk (the technology) happened. It wasn't like reading off a screen. It was like reading paper books, and the digital publication revolution began in earnest. ePub and Kindle formats quickly dominated, with PDFs (which had been around for a while) suddenly taking a back seat to reflowable text. PDFs, after all, aren't real eBooks - they're digital representations of a printed page. Which kind of sucks when your screen isn't the size of a printed page.

And then... tablets. Holy crap, tablets.

Look at this article: 12 stats that matter in digital publishing. We are on track to a third of all US adults owning a tablet. 400% increases in adoption rates. E-ink (the company) has actually lost money, despite having a huge hold on the market.

People do love reading off that screen after all.

So this is going to cause two big changes for digital publishing (one already in progress):

  1. Sizes of images are going to go up in true eBooks. Apple is already requiring considerably higher resolution images to support their Retina tablets (1400 px wide). While this requires some rejiggering of your production process, it makes a big difference when some places (cough Amazon cough) charge you an additional "delivery" fee based on filesize.
  2. PDFs will come back in popularity. Fast. And none - none - of the major eBook players are currently set up to handle PDFs well, to the best of my knowledge. If you sell yourself (which you should be, and here's how), it's not hard to sell a PDF in a zipfile bundle. Places like OneBookshelf (aka DriveThru Fiction, RPGNow, DriveThruRPG) make it easy to sell watermarked PDFs. And it's dead simple to create a decent-looking1 PDF from any modern word processor. It's WYSIWYG. And just like digital publishing itself, it'll upset the current status quo - both at the market level, and by making it easier for anybody with a wordprocessor to "publish" themselves... with all the good and bad that entails.

PDF has, honestly, been an afterthought for me in the past. Even now, I usually generate the PDF simultaneously with the print layout - and after I've done the eBook work. While I expect that reflowable eBooks aren't disappearing anytime soon, I think PDF is going to have to be a bigger part of my process.

What do you think?

1 Advanced book design is its own thing.


Affordable Care Act PROHIBITS Discrimination Based on Gender Identity

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equality.png(Note: This is all via Equality Ohio, who are some pretty keen folks.)

The Department of Health and Human Services recently confirmed (PDF link, embedded below) that the Affordable Care Act's
"sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity... [It] also prohibits sexual harassment and discrimination regardless of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the individuals involved."
This is awesome news.

Of course, not everyone will feel this way.  So if you feel a health care provider, or state or local government agency, has discriminated against you (or someone else) based on gender identity, I encourage you to file a complaint with the HHS Office of Civil Rights, so your complaint can be investigated and appropriately handled. File a complaint at this link:

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Review: The Zombie Tarot: An Oracle of the Undead

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review.pngA while back, I was published in Hungry for Your Love (zombie romance, naturally). While I've mostly shambled back to the zombie well in drabbles, Stacey Graham and Paul Kepple decided to go a slightly...different... direction.  They created The Zombie Tarot: An Oracle of the Undead
(AMZ | B&N).  And when she offered me a review copy... well, I leapt at the chance.

Mind you, I was somewhat skeptical at first.  I have my old Rider-Waite deck around here somewhere, and a newer one that my girlfriend gave me.  And I didn't know how one could pull this off without being purely gimmick-y.

The answer arrived in the mail about two weeks ago, and honestly, I've not reviewed it yet because I've been too busy showing this thing off to my friends.  This is an absolutely gorgeous deck, that seems like it might just be a bit of a fun gag for your friends, but is also a FULLY FUNCTIONAL DEATH STAR... er, wait.  No, tarot deck.

 Packaging first:  The box itself is a hoot.  Zombie mystics on the outside, a caption of "insight and ammunition for surviving the undead uprising", and some great mid-60's styles.  Pull the lid up...

 ... and you get ammo!  (Well, illustrated ammo, anyway, presumably for illustrated zombies.)  The top thing you see is the instruction manual (which Ms. Graham penned).  It's a hoot in itself, and illustrated with tri-tone images of the cards.  There's a witty introduction, some notes about the different suits (and the difference between major and minor arcana), and a couple of basic layouts and tips (some amusing, some practical) for conducting a reading.  But the emphasis is clearly on the descriptions for the cards, and Ms. Graham delivers.

 For example, this one for "The Sun" reads:
Sweet success!  The morning sun has risen and the rescue teams have arrived.  After foiling a hostile takeover by the undead, you've earned a one-way ticket to a safer place.  Now it's time to make plans for the future:  consider traveling to warmer climes or getting a new job.  There's good money in corpse disposal these days...
And that's part of the genius (and one small drawback - which you might have noticed) with this deck.  That interpretation is pretty congruent with some of the various interpretations you can find for The Sun card (such as here, here, here, and of course, Wikipedia).  But it's not only a good interpretation - and since interpretations vary, simply getting the right idea across is sufficient - but it stays completely in character in a tongue-in-cheek way.  Definitely puts a new spin on an everyday reading!  (The interpretation of the card "Death" is, naturally, hilarious.)  So you can actually use the guidebook for doing a reading, making this a FULLY FUNCTIONAL DEATH ST... sorry.  Nervous tic about the words "fully functional"1 there.

But speaking of spin, I'm a bit used to having an explicit, separate interpretation for the cards coming up reversed.  That's not always provided (see half the links above again), so that might just be a bit of a personal preference.  However, having the cards come up reversed isn't mentioned in the book at all - not a problem for someone familiar with doing a reading, but perhaps necessary to note for someone who hasn't handled a Tarot deck before.

One other change with this deck: the minor arcana suit "pentacles" is replaced with "hazards".  I'm not sure what decision led to this change - the interpretations remain the same - but it's actually quite cool once you stop looking for the pentacles.  Hazards are, of course, symbolized with a biohazard symbol. 

The cards themselves are wonderful.  They're lush in a faux-sixties style that I simply can't communicate to you in text.  They're well-made and sturdy (which is actually important if you intend to use the deck), and simply gorgeous.  I took pictures of four of them (three major arcana, one of the eight of Hazards) to just give you an idea of how awesome the art is.

All in all, the Zombie Tarot is a great buy for the zombie lover in your life, and an awesome buy for the zombie lover who is into tarot cards at all. You can find it for $17 list (AMZ | B&N) (though right now I'm seeing "marketplace" offers for less).

1 death star

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