Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Don't forget to help the ENnie Awards stay afloat! (and make me sing)

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Remember that I'm participating in the ENnies Publisher Karaoke Fundraiser - the last day to bid on a publisher (and raise money for the ENnies) is tomorrow.


But you haven't failed your saving throw against Hold Person!  Go throw another buck or two in for your favorite publisher RIGHT NOW at

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When You Should NOT Worry About Impressing Your Customers

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There are some business truths that are ignored surprisingly often.

You can't wow ketchup without losing baked beans
For example, you should wow your customers. Exceed their expectations with surprisingly good service. Bragging about your service removes the wow factor, but you can help manage expectations and put customers in a positive frame of mind.

And you should control expenses. Sometimes that means relying on just in time inventory, or cutting staffing.

But managing expectations and trying to create "wow" moments do not matter when you cut supplies and staffing so low you cannot meet the basic needs of your customers.

You cannot wow your customers without being able to deliver on the routine promises.

You can try, but it's painting a turd. And it still stinks.

And your customers sure as hell will notice.

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Just have a good day, dammit.

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It bothers me, grating on my nerves. Especially on business calls.

"Have a blessed day."

It's not the intention behind it. I imagine that most who say it are simply wishing me well.

It is the presumption.

The presumption that I am of the same faith (or any faith), and that it's okay to bless a stranger who might be of a different (or no) faith.

Would the same people be cool if I told them I prayed to Mary on their behalf? If I asked the Goddess to rain good fortune on them? If I asked for Allah's blessing?

Honestly, when it comes to individuals, it's a personal choice.  Do what you like.

When you're running a business, even if it doesn't bother me personally, it tells me that you're willing to alienate your customers in order to satisfy your own personal religious agenda.

What do you all think?  Overreaction on my part?  Totally rational?

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Evaluating Your Awesome Idea And Making It A Reality (Evaluation and Business Plans)

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Plan of the old railnetworkWhile I was doing my taxes, I realized that Alliteration Ink has managed to get past the first big small business hurdle - failing in the first year.  It's cleared that without difficulty, and turned a profit (after paying authors) for a few years running.

I think one of the reasons it's succeeded is because I have a pretty clear mission statement about what I do, why I do it, and what I'm doing that's different.

And I was lucky enough to intuitively figure out these three (and a half) questions that I think you need to evaluate before you embark on any business adventure:

  1. What will I do that is different (and/or better) than what others are doing?
  2. Do people want what I'm going to do?
  3. How do I get people to realize/know/be aware of what I'm going to do?  And if necessary, how do I keep them  coming back?
 (For what it's worth, I focused more on 1 and 2, and that's caused me problems since.)

Answering those questions will get you on your way to making a business plan.  I recommend PlanCruncher for one simple reason:  It forces you to get it all together right quickly and in a short space.  One page.

Whatever business endeavor (publishing? self publishing? web design? etc...) you're into, try those two exercises and see if you come up with something. And if you're having problems coming up with something (especially if you're having problems with the first one) then maybe you want to reconsider what you're doing....

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Numbers - A Flash Fiction

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Andromeda:  Textile MacroFifteen threads. Fifteen bright timelines stretching into the when.

Fourteen. One disappears: a woman slips on the sidewalk. He hears the crack of bone, her sharp intake of breath before the scream, and ignores it.

Thirteen to seven in a heartbeat. He misses the causes; they could be a butterfly's wing flapping.

His original timeline is brightening. Probabilities collapse; he shoves through the crowd. Five. Four.

He won't be scared this time.

Two threads.

"John?" She is there, confused. He'd just left.

He doesn't know what will happen when the timelines switch.

"I love you," he says, and kisses her.

Please note that the 100 Word Story Podcast is changing URLS to!

Based around Laurence Simon's weekly challenge for the 100 word-stories podcast. The player above should have the audio for this week; if it doesn't, you can find the audio here to download.

I am 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. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site.

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There's a lot you don't know when I don't respond to you.

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It seems like I share a lot with you all.

This isn't really the case. (That also is not going to change.)

What I share, I share pretty fully and openly... and then there's the rest of it. The stuff that many people don't know. The stuff you might have heard a glimmer of here and there. The stuff I've just whispered about.

Hiding from the stormIf you don't hear from me, get a response, or otherwise don't get a reply to a comment or anything else... assume that:

  • I got sucked into doing something else, 
  • I have a deadline coming up, or
  • Something else (probably not good) is going on.

Charlie Glickman talks about how unavailability isn't the same as rejection in a sexual context, but the key lesson, summed up in the title, is the same.

It's not rejection.

It's just life.

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The National Rifle Association Is Working Against Your Gun Rights

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There is a lot of room to legitimately argue over gun control.

Expanding background checks to cover sales via the Internet? Ensuring convicted felons cannot buy weapons online?

Not there.

This is why I'm now certain the NRA is either insane or working for those who really DO want to take all the guns away.

Their extremist point of view - the opposition to background checks - means the NRA insists that the legitimate sportsmen and hunters they supposedly represent are no different than convicted felons.

Their whole argument - that more weapons equals safety - is simply, obviously, wrong. And making the issue an ideological flashpoint to where even background checks are problematic does a huge disservice to those they represent.

The next time there is a mass murderer - and you know there will be a next time - who could have been picked up by a background check, or slowed down by a smaller magazine... then we will all know that mass murder will be the fault of the NRA.

And what they fear will come to pass.

Not because of left-wing blue state folks.

Because the NRA keeps betting the whole thing on double or nothing.

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I Assume You Don't Read My Blog (Or: How To Not Be An Egotistical Douchepuppet)

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Blog OMG!"I assume you don't read my blog."

I say that a lot at conventions. I talk about most of the things I'm thinking about on the blog at some point. Or I reference them, or, or, or.

And the fact of the matter is, I don't know who reads this blog. Or who reads it regularly as opposed to intermittently. Sometimes I'm surprised, and the person I'm talking to has read my blog. They do know what I'm referring to.

But more often than not, they don't. And that's okay.

I've run into a few people who seem surprised that I didn't see their blog entry, or what they tweeted, or what they posted to Facebook that one time. They take it as a personal affront, as a breach of friendship.

They're egotistical douchepuppets.

I don't get to read everything I want to. My Read It Later list is fantastically long. And stuff happens. I get busy. And so on.

I'm sure I am missing absolutely awesome stuff. I wish I wasn't...but I am, whether I want to or not. It isn't a referendum on you, your writing, the LOLCat you shared, or anything else. It just is.

I assume that you're in that kind of situation.

So I'll keep assuming that you haven't read my blog.

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Will Anonymous keep fighting crime?

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Tell me something.

Anonymous solves some cases faster than the cops. Doesn't matter why, really. Just that it happened. They brought justice - more than once - when justice was otherwise impotent.

When do you think that Anonymous - and the tools that Anonymous uses - will be used to catch those who hurt innocents to create terror?

Reading about the events in Boston, I am not only filled with sadness and compassion, but a righteous anger sharpened by my inability to stop those who attacked innocents.

I also see the occasional Guy Fawkes mask icon spreading news and information.

How long do you really think it'll be before Anonymous - people who couldn't help being raised on myths of epic spandex-clad heroes - realizes they can be the mother-f'in batman in a Guy Fawkes mask?

I don't know if that thought is awesome or terrifying.

But sooner or later, it's coming.

Why I post quotations (inspirational and otherwise) to Twitter

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Hello. My name is Steve. I tweet quotations.

They're semi-automatic. If my computer's on, and it's a certain time of day, one of about two hundred (at present count) quotations is selected and sent out into the Twitterverse. They're usually "uplifting" and somewhat nonspecific - they're not aimed at any particular group like "writers" or adherents of a political or religious view.

I know there's some people who don't like quotations, or inspirational tweets. And to those people, I say "suck it up".

At different times in my life, different things have resonated. Some days, I look at a book, song, movie, or quotation and it leaves me cold. And yet on another day the same book, song, movie, or quotation will be exactly what I need to hear. It might make the difference between despair and acceptance, between giving up and moving forward, between dwelling in the past and moving on.

I'm regularly surprised by who sees my tweets, my blog posts, or even Facebook posts. I'm surprised by the impact they can have on - and for - other people. I sure as hell can't predict it.

So I don't.

I curate my quotations. I choose ones that I generally find worthwhile (or provocative enough to jolt me out of a rut). And then I let randomness do its thing.

And when I see someone else favorite or RT that quotation, I'm glad there is a little more FILDI, a little more optimism, a little more happiness in the world.

That's why.

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In Which I Get Hate Mail From A Rape Apologist

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Tipped off to check my "Other" mail in Facebook, I found a very... puzzling rant.  (I've only redacted one person's name and the cursing;  I will note that both the person referred to is male, and I'm guessing the person who wrote it is also male.)

So are you just another gender stereotyping #######? You don't think a man can be raped? Well, [redacted] was in his past. You should NOT make assumptions and you sure as hell should never think you can tell someone to STFU because you feel safe behind a monitor. Until you know EVERYTHING about a person who makes a post you see, you never act like you did which was like a person with a corncob up their ass. The way you acted made me wonder if you are one of those teabagger ####heads.

Maybe you should do everyone a favor and go suck on a the business end of a pistol because you clearly have no sensitivity and it would probably taste better than the #### covered foot that you inserted into your mouth.

YOU are one of the reasons why this country has mass shooters. Next time, think before you speak.
This was from back in March, and I think I know what it's referring to.  Maybe.  I'm not really compelled by this hate letter to go find out.  But I do want to talk about it for a moment.

If I remember correctly, it was a feminist issue and one of my female friends was talking about it.  Given the context, it was probably about rape culture, and the violence that women face.  What I do remember, is that the guy in question was busy mansplaining to the women who were talking.

And so I told him to STFU and let the women talk for once.

So here's the four interesting points:

1.  I'm radically misclassified politically and socially.  Which shows how crappy Facebook is for political discussion more than anything else.
2.  Wow - violence much?  Especially in a conversation about violence towards others?  (Let's set aside the potential legal issues of issuing threats across state lines, hm?)  I - unlike the person who wrote this - am kind of public.  They apparently blocked me, so unlike my publicly-noticeable self, they really are anonymous on the internet and hiding behind a screen.
3.  Yeah, I didn't know that guy was raped.  Which sucks.  It's horrible.  (So nice of his friend to reveal personal details the survivor didn't want to, by the way.)

4.  This message was intended to silence feminist speech.

This letter is a perfect example of what Rock Paper Shotgun wrote about the other day.

The original post - as best I can recall, and the discussion that triggered this response for certain - was about violence toward women.  Approximately ONE IN SIX (some studies suggest 1 in 5) women will be sexually assaulted during their life.  Approximately 3% (based on a UK study) of men will report a non-consensual sexual experience during their adult life. But the letter writer was right.  Changing rape culture does need to be about respecting people, not genders or roles. 

And it's quite possible - hell, probable - that I was too blunt and brusque.1 

But that misses the larger point.

Because guys won't get told it's their fault because they were out too late.  Or that they shouldn't have been alone.  Or that their pants were too tight.  Or that they "really" meant yes.  Or that they shouldn't be friendly if they aren't sexually interested.  Or that they're just such a tease.

Because in our culture, men do not have to be constantly wary of being sexually assaulted - and do not have to worry about being blamed if they're attacked.

It's horrible that anyone is raped.  Ever.

And pretending that rape culture impacts men and women the same way is still bullshit.

And it's worse than that.  The day after I got this message, I mentioned it to a few women2 I know while figuring out what to write.  That's where I got a lot of the "guys won't get told" paragraph.  When I asked them if I could quote what they said, they all agreed.

If they were kept anonymous.

They were concerned that the person who wrote the hate mail - or some other rape apologist - would track them down.  It didn't matter that there's no names associated with this post, or that it took place last month, or whatever.

They were still concerned that a random rape apologist would try to hurt them.

Tell me again that rape culture - and in a larger sense, sexist crap - impacts men the same way that it does women.

Go ahead.

Keep lying.

1 Probably not, though. IIRC, the guy in question was being quite rude to the women in the discussion thread.
2 Online? Offline? In chat? During a phone call? In person? At a meetup? None of your business.

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Examine your expectations so they serve you - not the other way around

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ExpectationYou have expectations buried deep inside of you. Assumptions about the way the world works, theories about how things are supposed to go that were implanted in you long, long ago.

You're supposed to succeed before you're 40.

The right relationship will "just click".

Good will, eventually, win.

The geek will get the girl.

Those expectations are rarely our own. They're from our parents, our peers, our environment. From the stories we're told and the stories we tell ourselves.

Expectations have power. They shape our lives. Not in some kind of bullshit wish-fulfillment "The Secret" kind of way, but through the lens that we look at the world. Think that someone's a jerk? You'll find plenty of evidence. Think that someone's wonderful? You'll find plenty of evidence there as well. 23-skiddoo.

Once you find that evidence, you react to it. You shut doors. Open windows. Close some opportunities, refocus your energy elsewhere to create others.

Those expectations are usually hidden from us. And while our decisions are logical, our "givens" - the assumptions we make about the world - can be wildly off-base.

So look to your goals. Look to what you want to achieve, to have, to love.

Question the assumptions and expectations that keep you from getting there. Question them hard. Shine the light in their faces and interrogate them in a bad accent until they reveal where they come from, why you hold them.

Then, and only then, decide whether or not to keep your expectations.

Or whether or not to throw them in the trash.

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The core argument for civil, equal rights and fair treatment of everyone.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - in the midst of a wonderful article deconstructing the bullshit women in gaming have to deal with - penned something that underlies my support for civil rights and equality issues across the board:

I like people, and I like it when people are treated well. I abhor it when people are treated badly. The root of my caring about this subject isn’t any more sophisticated than that.

Go read the rest of the article at Well worth it.


This Audio Clip Explains So Much About Why I'm The Way I Am

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Random dog picture!Just a little audio glimpse into my everyday life.

And why my dreams are as completely messed up as they are.

The dog is SO lucky that she's cute.

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Falling - A 100 Word Story

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He groaned as she rubbed his shoulders. "That's cheating," he whispered.

"And you're objecting sooo strongly.". She ran her lips along his ear.  Her voice grew husky.  "Take your shirt off."

He rolled over on the bed.  "Ladies first."

Later, as they rested on the sweaty hotel sheets, he whispered "I'm falling for you."

The succubus smiled and turned to kiss him and claim his soul, and was surprised to hear herself say "I'm falling for you, too."

She was more surprised to find her horns locked with those of her incubus lover.

They laughed and kissed again and again.

Please note that the 100 Word Story Podcast is changing URLS to!

Based around Laurence Simon's weekly challenge for the 100 word-stories podcast. The player above should have the audio for this week; if it doesn't, you can find the audio here to download.

I am 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. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site.

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SIDEKICKS! Event at Epic Loot in Centerville, 6 April 2013

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Join me, the editor, and other contributors to SIDEKICKS! at Epic Loot this Saturday, 6 April, from 4-6pm!   Check out the full-size flyer and meet us there!

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The Threatening Figure in Advertising

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Over the weekend at MARCon, I was on a panel that, at one point, discussed negative racial stereotypes in film and literature. The shorthand used to convey a "threatening figure" used to be a black man in the background looking at a white (usually blonde) woman.

So when the ad below showed up in the corner of my eye, I figured it was more of the same. And then I looked a little more closely.

Huh. White dude in the background. It isn't a lot, but in some ways it's a better sign of how things have changed - because it's just an ad.

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Make Me Sing at GENCON... or KEEP me from singing at GENCON!

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As Alliteration Ink, I'm one of the publishers participating in the ENnies Publisher Karaoke Fundraiser.

You heard me.  Karaoke.

If you're not familiar with the ENnies, let me give you a quick rundown from the site:
The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards (the “ENnies”) are an annual fan-based celebration of excellence in tabletop roleplaying gaming. The ENnies give game designers, writers and artists the recognition they deserve. It is a peoples’ choice award, and the final winners are voted upon online by the gaming public.
By being fan-based, the ENnies fill a niche that the Origins Award doesn't.  The ENnies rely upon donations and sponsors, and this year they're expanding it with Publisher Karaoke.  Many of the publishers (again, including me) have volunteered to sing a song at the ENnies to raise money.

There's a lot of publishers offering to sing a lot of songs (mine is "The Hero of Canton" from Firefly).

Only the three publishers who raise the most money will sing.

So here's where you come in.

Do you want to hear me sing "The Hero of Canton" in front of scads of people in public?  Go to and donate whatever you can by my name (I'm first)!

Do you want to keep me from singing in public?  Then go to and donate whatever you can by someone else's name.

While fundraising continues through the first of May, don't wait!  Go help me sing (or keep me from singing) RIGHT NOW at

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