Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Kerrie L. Hughes talks about "Gamer Fantastic" for "The Whole Is Greater"

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The Whole is Greater is a semi-regular feature on the blog where I ask the editors of anthologies to tell us about their experience working on an anthology.  Today's features Kerrie Hughes,whom I originally met at GenCon.  She's been editing anthologies since 2005, and as damn near as many professional "hats" as I do.  Full disclosure: Kerrie bought my story "Coyote, Spider, Bat" for the anthology Westward Weird, but today she wanted to talk about her experiences editing another anthology.

Gamer Fantastic comes to mind because Gen Con has been my favorite convention and I was able to get an all star line up of gamers/writers from the people that have become my friends via the convention.

The stories are good of course because I only invite the best of the best, but this collection became a bittersweet effort because Gary Gygax passed away before he could get me a story.

Strangely, I had a hard time finding someone who wasn’t feuding with Gary to write an eulogy for him until Ed Greenwood stepped up and said he would be glad to. I dedicated the anthology to Gygax’s memory.

Brain Thomsen also passed away by the time the book came out which is sad. He wrote a fiction based on a true story about the power struggle for intellectual property that a major GC presence went through; deliciously scandalous.

Speaking of scandalous, Ed also wrote a story for the book that speaks to the trope of saving an Elf Princess.

Margaret Weis did an introduction for me and I got Don Bingle, one of the top ranked D&D players in the world to do one as well.

I also have stories from Chris Pierson (Dragonlance,) Jody Lynn Nye (SF&F legend,) Richard Lee Byers (The Sundering,) Bill Fawcett (Dragon Con,), SL Farrell (The Cloudmages,) Steven Schend (Forgotten Realms,) and Kris Kathryn Rusch (Legend in every area of writing,).

My favorite success story from this anthology is one that I suggested to Jim Hines. I wanted him to write a creature story featuring his fire spider from Goblin Quest for Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies. But it fit better in Gamer and I had fun telling him I was rejecting it for ZRKB then telling him it would be a main story in GF.
He liked the character from that short story so much that it became Libromancer and he thanked me in the book. Which is editor glee gold! The book has gone to multiple hardback printings and I believe he is on book 2 with the series.

I like all the anthologies I’ve done but this one is in my top five.

Good Fun! Game On!

Kerrie L. Hughes

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Twelve Books I'm Thankful To Have Published. And you don't have to wake up stupidly early to get them.

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Sometimes you forget exactly how far you've come in under three years. Twelve books which I'm quite proud of publishing (and yes, that is not counting my own work).

I am seriously thankful for being able to help bring these works into the world.  I'm thankful for being able to read the excellent stories, poetry, and essays in them.  I'm thankful that I'm able to help these authors see the reward for their efforts.  And I'm thankful that I'm able to bring these books to you.
Check 'em out if you haven't already - order online (digital and print) or request from your local bookstore if they don't already have them.

 Wild and Wishful, Dark and Dreaming An Inheritance of Stone What Fates Impose Eighth Day Genesis: A Worldbuilding Codex Sidekicks! Dangers Untold See No Evil, Say No Evil Net Impact The Crimson Pact Volume One The Crimson Pact Volume Two The Crimson Pact Volume Three The Crimson Pact Volume Four

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The Complexity of Television And Story Pacing

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The latest (I'm writing this the day before Thanksgiving) Agents of SHIELD was easily the best to date. High powered stakes, great acting by Ming-Na Wen, and a bit of characterization for everyone. The last few weeks have been steadily upping the ante from "fancy X-files/Torchwood with a plane" to the promise Coulson gave us in the first episode:  this is a world post-alien invasion. Post-Avengers. And I'm finally starting to feel it as the team of plucky misfits gets more and more out of their depth.

Because we see the patterns established in the first couple episodes - Coulson's trust in SHIELD, May's reliance on violence, Skye's go-to tactic of "do the thing everyone said not to" - stop working.  And then we see the characters try to figure out what the hell to do next.

It turns out that these characters ARE quite a bit more than stereotypes.  They just had to get pushed pout of their comfort zones for us to see that.

And that fact might be the undoing of the series.

Not that the tropes are being subverted and revealing character growth. Nope - it's that we've had to wait a half season to get here.

And in a culture where we can consume an entire series in a weekend... Well, who wants to wait for it to get interesting?

I'm still trying to figure out what this means for us as storytellers. Not just in terms of release schedules, but for pacing as well.  What do you think?

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Playing With Fear: A Kickstarter For a Documentary About Horror Games

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Playing With Fear is an independent exploration of the relentlessly creative world of horror video games. The project will shine a light on the stories behind the enduring classics, the ingenuity of the new harbingers of our digital nightmares, and the speed of technological innovation nurturing the global renaissance of interactive horror.

They have three days left, and need your help.

This project absolutely deserves to get funded, folks.  Take a look at this three-minute video, and you'll understand why:

History Of Horror Video Games In 3 Minutes from Anthony Carpendale on Vimeo.

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7 Things I Know About Women - A Guest Post by Graham Storrs

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Graham Storrs is a science fiction writer living in rural Queensland. A former research scientist, IT consultant and award-winning software designer, he now lives and writes on a quiet mountain top with his wife, Christine, an Airedale terrier and a Tonkinese cat. His published non-fiction includes three children's science books, over a hundred magazine articles, and more than thirty academic papers and book chapters, in the fields of artificial intelligence, psychology, and human-computer interaction. In recent years he has published over twenty short stories in magazines and anthologies. His time travel thriller, Timesplash, and its sequel, True Path, are published by Pan Macmillan's Momentum imprint.

I've published Graham's work both in Eighth Day Genesis and Sidekicks!. This is a longish worldbuilding post, but when you go back and review your NaNoWriMo manuscript (or any manuscript), these are the kinds of things that you have to keep in mind about your characters and how they are the same - and different - than you are.

7 Things I Know About Women

by Graham Storrs

There's been much discussion over the the years about men writing female characters, and women writing males. Some writers do it well, it seems, some don't. A recent post on a publisher's blog suggesting that some female characters these days were essentially male characters in drag – especially in high-adrenaline, action-packed thrillers where the female cop, or the female spy, or the female space cadet kicks ass, smart-mouths her superiors, and knocks back cheap scotch with the best of them.

Since this is the kind of fiction I write (only of a highly refined, intellectually stimulating, and deeply meaningful variety) it made me wonder about my own female characters. More than this, it made me wonder if you could ever say that a character of either gender was not representative of their sex.

I recall vividly a short story by Roger Zelazny which I read about forty years ago (Yes, I'm really, really old. Get over it.) in which the reader does not discover that the rough, tough spacer protagonist is actually a woman until the very last paragraph. It has had a profound effect on my writing, I believe, and I rarely, these days, mention the sex, ethnicity, or stature of a character unless it becomes useful to the story. I honestly believe that such “external” attributes of a person are irrelevant to who they are – but they may be relevant to how the other characters react to them.

So, let me list a few things I know about women to illustrate this notion.

1. Curves

And here I'm talking about bell curves – normal distributions of human traits like height, weight, hair colour, intelligence, empathy, strength, psychopathy, courage, creativity, and so on. On all of these traits you will find that there is an average and that the great majority of people are clustered around it. As you move away from the average to higher or lower “amounts” of the trait, the chances of finding it in a random sample of people falls away sharply. If you plot the amount of the trait against the frequency of finding each amount in the population at large, you get a graph that starts off very low, rises quickly to peak at the average amount, and then falls away just as quickly as it rose. It makes a nice, neat bell-shaped curve.

The interesting thing about men and women is that their averages on some of these traits are slightly different – like strength, height, shoe-size, and so on – and the averages on others are just the same – like intelligence, hair colour, etc.. But, and this is the really important point, if you draw the bell curve for men and the bell curve for women, even for traits where they have quite different averages, and lay one on top of the other, you will find that the curves overlap massively. There are plenty of women who are taller than the average man, plenty of men weaker than the average woman, plenty of men with more empathy than the average woman, and plenty of women heavier than the average male.

The point is that there are vastly more similarities between men and women than there are difference. Technically speaking, the variance in the two populations all but swamps the difference in averages. All things being equal, there should be plenty of hard-hitting, beer-swilling, foul-mouthed, tough-talking, borderline psychopath women. Not quite so many as there are men, perhaps, but enough that if you were to say Sam is that kind of person, it is mostly prejudice that makes you think the character is a Samuel rather than a Samantha.

2. The Eye of the Beholder

You have to remember that most of what you see of any person you meet is an act they're putting on for your benefit – or somebody's, anyway, even if it's their own. Take that gorgeous creature who just walked into the cocktail bar in the tight red dress, she might well be thinking that her underwiring is chafing and those heels are murder on her feet. Maybe she's on the prowl, you think, intimidating, a woman who uses her body as a bribe to get what she wants.

But maybe, inside, she's bitter and angry with herself, humiliated that she dressed up like that just because she heard that her ex-husband and his new girlfriend would be there that night and her idiot best-friend encouraged an impulse to make him regret leaving her. Maybe she flies light aircraft for a tourist company. Maybe she's doing a PhD in reptile physiology. Maybe she has two kids at home with a sitter. Maybe her brother just died of cancer. Before you write that arrogant sneer onto her full lips, it's worth pausing for a moment to consider that the life of every woman you meet is far more complicated than you imagined. It's a tangle of family and friends, work and hobbies, childhood and adolescence. She's got political opinions, religious views, she's got emotional problems and blind spots, gaps in her knowledge, passions and obsessions, sexual hangups, irrational fears, and a limited supply of courage. Sitting at the bar in your best suit, you have to realise that that red dress tells you nothing at all.

And, as you stride across the room in your high heels, hoping to God you don't fall off them and break your ankle, you need to realise that the guy in the suit watching you from the bar stool isn't the simple middle-management drone on a business trip, off the leash and looking for action, that he seems to be.

3. Emotionality

It's a well-documented scientific finding that men are generally more emotionally unstable than women. They start of that way as little boys. They cry more, they're more easily angered, their highs are higher, their lows are lower. But don't forget those bell curves. This is just a small difference in averages. The most striking thing about the emotionality of men and women is how much overlap there is.

Even so, the relative emotional instability of men manifests itself in some strange ways. In a recent study, it was found that men are more likely to be the first in a couple to say, “I love you.” Men might like to think they're stable, solid, dependable and reasonable, but the evidence is that, in the face of danger, they're more likely to take stupid risks, or collapse under the strain, or both.

Of course, there are differences in the hormonal systems of men and women. Oestrogen can make a person more nurturing and compassionate. Testosterone can make a person more aggressive and take more risks. But the differences are not as dramatic as you might think and, again, the overlaps are considerable. There are plenty of men who make great nurses and plenty of women who can run major corporations.

4. Society

It's great that there are so may stories about women running police departments, women heading up law firms, women astronauts, women scientists, women spies, but you have to remember that the real world isn't much like that. In the real world, women are as rare as hens' teeth in top jobs and, in some professions, even rarer than that. It was shocking to hear that when the Australian Academy of Science voted in its new fellows this year, there were thirty-seven nominees and all of them were men. Not one single female scientist was thought good enough to be elected to the country's top professional body.

But it's OK, I suppose, that, in the spirit of affirmative action, or just shifting the perceptions of young people reading books and watching telly, we should portray a world that doesn't resemble the real one all that much. It doesn't even matter, I suppose, that the female lawyer, the female cop, the female mining executive or gang boss, are all stunningly beautiful and dress like a teenage boy's wet dream, because, these days, the same standard of physical beauty is increasingly applied to the male cop, the male lawyer, and the male mining executive or gang boss – as long as they're the good guys. If they're bad guys, the female still has to be smoking hot but the male can be as fat and ugly as you like.

In our real world, women do, very, very rarely, get to be heads of state. But, unlike men, they also have their clothing and their bodies endlessly discussed in the media. Their male colleagues snigger at sexist jokes about them behind their backs. The public – both men and women – frequently expresses a lack of confidence in them purely on the basis that they are female. She has to put up with all that crap on top of the normal pressures of running a country.

It's the same for the cop, the lawyer, the mining exec. And the gang boss. Overt and covert pandemic sexism is probably the single biggest difference between men and women. Women suffer it, men don't.

5. Sex

In the fictional bedroom, protagonists tend to be good at sex. They're adventurous, skilful, considerate, enthusiastic, and yet tender. They're also blatantly heterosexual. If it's a man he's ripped. If it's a woman, she's got breasts like melons. It probably all arises from a male fantasy that the heroic male is more than adequate in every way. Great male leaders are traditionally giants and well hung. That it has now rubbed off onto the female protagonist is probably just by analogy, rather than a strong cultural belief that heroic women are also sexual athletes. Indeed, until very recently (and it still happens a LOT) it was the female antagonist who revealed her moral degeneracy by exhibiting a healthy sexual appetite.

But the male stereotype has as little to do with reality as the new female equivalent. Think of all the real male heroes and leaders you know. Can you imagine they were or are exceptional lovers? What about Winston Churchill, or Rupert Murdoch? And, among the women, Margaret Thatcher? Julia Gillard? I'm not saying they aren't terrific sex partners, just that it may not be a safe assumption based solely on their leadership skills.

And what about all that rampant heterosexuality? It's estimated that as many as five per cent of men are practising homosexuals and that a tenth of one per cent are regular cross dressers (and that these are quite different groups). There is also a substantial number of men who are asexual – preferring not to have sex at all. The figures for women are less certain. It wasn't all that long ago that female homosexuality wasn't even acknowledged by many legal systems. My suspicion is that the numbers might tend to be quite similar over time if our society moves in the direction of more openness.

I don't know what kind of books you read but I'm guessing fewer than one in a thousand have featured a cross-dressing male hero, and fewer than one in twenty a gay hero. Have you ever read a book in which the heroine is a female-to-male cross dresser? (Stories like Tootsie and Yentl don't count. I'm talking about heroes whose strong gender preference is to present as the opposite of their biological sex.) When do you think we might elect such a woman as head of state?

6. Genius

Differences that we do see between men and women are typically to do with differences in opportunity rather than innate differences. They are differences in achievement (which is regulated by society) rather than differences in ability (which is not – yet – but we live on the cusp of being able to choose such traits for our children). There is some evidence that there are more men with extreme IQs (both high and low) than women. This is thought to be because men are inherently a little more variable on most traits than are women (the set of bell curves for male characteristics are slightly wider and lower than the women's, even when they have the same average value). However, it's hard to be sure in the case of IQ since the tests are notoriously dodgy and they are validated against actual achievement or estimates of likely achievement, which are both culturally biassed in favour of men.
The usual argument (“Name me ten great women composers/artists/physicists/engineers/etc.”) is clearly a load of codswallop in a society that has always been biassed against female achievement (and still is, remember the Australian Academy of Sciences example above).

Evidence of differences in maths ability, spatial reasoning, language skills, “social IQ”, and so on are also based on more-or-less shaky evidence. While we live in a society that pushes so hard for boys to go one way and girls to go another, it is almost impossible to tell what is a truly innate difference and one which has been socially determined. My feeling is that we should err on the side of requiring very strong evidence before we attribute any individual difference in ability to sex rather than society.

7. Geeks and Jocks

And, finally, returning to the problem that set off on this exploration, we are seeing a great many new female stereotypes arising in popular fiction. The Geek Girl, the hard-as-nails, one-of-the-boys cop/spy/cowgirl/roustabout/you-name-it, the fiercely competitive lady lawyer/senior cop/senior spy/executive/newspaperwoman/etc., to name but a few. It would be fair to say that many of these characters are so like their male equivalents that the accusation that they're men in drag would be hard to defend. Possibly to offset this, a fair number of them are single moms with a small child in the background somewhere (and many of these youngsters are preternaturally understanding and forgiving of their absentee parent – probably to assuage cultural bias against neglectful mothers).

More alarmingly, the female stereotypes that have emerged seem to fall into two main camps, mirroring the geeks and jocks categories into which so many male characters can be divided these days. Like male geeks and jocks, the attractive, competent, physically larger, self-assured women get to be jocks, while the unattractive (although often “cute”), socially inept, incompetent, smaller ones get to be geeks. What this phenomenon indicates is not that female geeks and jocks actually mirror their male counterparts – since, in the real world of actual males, it would be hard to make that distinction anyway – but that the writers who use these stereotypes are exhibiting an appalling failure of imagination and a shocking inability to observe and describe real women.

In Conclusion

It seems to me that a lot of the complaints about male writers writing female characters and female writers writing men are at least as much a reflection of the gender prejudices of the reader as of the writer's lack of skill. I don't deny that some writers struggle in this area and some simply write stereotypes. However, before criticising the writer, we might first make an inventory of our own attitudes to gender and ask ourselves how realistic are our own notions of what is masculine and what is feminine.

Be sure to check out more of Graham's writing at his blog,


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Planning ahead for CONTEXT 27

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So this happened:

I'm not doing this by myself - oh, dearie me, no. We want this to be good.  So I've got quite a few people working with me both publicly and behind the scenes.

The thing that really got my attention about CONTEXT was the workshops.  In essence, you can sign up to sit down in a small (usually 10-20 people) group with an accomplished professional and really focus on some aspects of writing.

But that's the added special feature.  My job - and the reason I'm really excited about this - is to make the con worthwhile for people attending it even if they never go to a workshop.   I am working to ensure that the "basic" experience is top-notch and worth every penny.

And then you realize that's not all.  CONTEXT is small enough that you actually get to talk to the people you want to see, and big enough that it attracts the people you want to see.  And yes, we're going to have more interactive, creative, and social events throughout the day.

I'm largely inviting panelists this year, but I'm well aware that I don't know everybody out there... and I'm sure I've missed people whom I meant to invite.  Please check out this form if you're interested in applying to be a panelist:

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Jennifer Brozek Writes About "Human For A Day" for "The Whole Is Greater"

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The Whole is Greater is a semi-regular feature on the blog where I ask the editors of anthologies to tell us about their experience working on an anthology.  Today's features Jennifer Brozek, whom I have worked as an author and as a publisher, and is probably responsible for a good half of the things I do correctly as either.  (The problems are all my fault.)  She's edited a whole mess of anthologies, and so I was interested to see her mention Human For A Day.  If you're interested in anthologies, I highly recommend the second half of her book Industry Talk

I think my favorite anthology is still HUMAN FOR A DAY. John Helfers asked me to pitch a series of anthology themes for Tekno Books to pitch to DAW. I pitched 8 of them. HUMAN FOR A DAY was the last one. I wrote the idea in the spur of the moment as I looked at one of my gargoyles. This is the pitch I wrote:

Title: Human for a Day
Genre: General Speculative Fiction
The day is finally here. By will, wish, spell, or curse, those who are not human have become human—and mortal—for a day. Experience the joy of the mannequin who softens from wood into flesh and the fear of the god cast down from his divine heights. Feel the anticipation of the immortal solider that finally has a chance to die and the desire of the monster to regain her mortal heart. Not everyone who becomes human for a day wants this transformation. For all, this will be a day they never forget.

I was very surprised when it was the anthology DAW selected to produce. Then I got excited. Then I was terrified. Who the heck was I to edit pro-authors I had admired for years? I don’t know if John ever realized just how intimidated I was. I tried to hide it. Just as I worked my butt off to make sure HUMAN FOR A DAY was a damn good anthology.

It was the seventh anthology I had edited and the quality of the stories was well above what I was used to. Though, I still had to edit. Everyone needs an editor. The thing that surprised me the most was the tone of the stories. I had wanted stories about things coming to life for a day. What I received was a series of stories exploring the birth-life-death cycle. More than one story in HUMAN FOR A DAY made me cry.

I think, because it was my first pro-anthology and because the stories were so poignant, HUMAN FOR A DAY will always have a warm spot in my heart.

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And Sometimes The Problem Is A Person You Admire

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Gutters is a satire comics page.  It's pretty cool, even if you're not a big comics person, and recently successfully funded a Kickstarter to keep going.

And this single post makes it worthwhile.  Go click through if you haven't read it.  (As usual, avoid teh commentz.)

Because this, my friends, is the standard that we should be held to.  It's easy to be loud and outspoken and true to your principles when someone else screws up.  It's hard as hell when it's a friend of yours... or yourself.

As we grow as a society, there's going to be a lot of screwups.  Some big.  Some small.  Sometimes we'll learn that people we admired have feet of clay.  And that's when we have to remember that we care about behaviors.  If someone's behavior is flawed, we must call them on that behavior.  Not just because of ethics (though that's enough), but because it helps our friends grow as human beings.

Some of the most important lessons I've learned as a human being came from when a friend - a true friend - would not give me a pass on my ignorance, my privilege, or my selfishness.  And I do my best to actually thank them for it.

I'm going to repeat the same thing I said back in June:

I ask this of you:   Do not give me a pass when I screw up.

Yes, forgive me when I apologize.  Yes, give me another chance.  Let me fix whatever mess I have created.  But I beg you, hold me accountable for my own misdeeds.  Do not accept half-apologies or abdication of responsibility.

That would not be fair for you... and it would not be fair for me.

Alliteration Ink's Respect Policy is right over here:

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Are You The Gatekeeper - A Guest Post by Neal Litherland

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Neal Litherland is a blogger, editor, freelance writer, and genre-hopping author whose work has been featured in anthologies such as "Sidekicks" and "Big Damn Heroines". A graduate of Indiana University he holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Follow him on Facebook at

Neal has done some freelance work for me, as well as writing a story for Sidekicks! earlier this year.  He's definitely been dealing with the rough-and-ragged world of freelancing and doing-it-yourself, and he has some words of advice and encouragement for the rest of us still wondering if we're "really" doing it.

Are You The Gatekeeper?
By Neal F. Litherland

There's a lot of talk about whether someone is a “real” writer or not. Some people say if you can't buy the author's book in an established bookstore, then that person isn't legitimate. Others claim that authors whose work only appears in e-book format are just pretenders. Still more people say that if a writer doesn't have an agent and a big-name company, then that author is a pretender to the title.

So who's right? All of them? None of them? Unfortunately the answer isn't a simple one.

A Publishing Panalopy

In the past authors had only a few options available to them. Novels would have to go to a big publishing house, or to one of a select few, smaller publishers. The only other choice was to self-publish the book, essentially taking on all the costs and profits of the publisher. Then came the Internet, and with it the publishing world changed forever.

Today writers have a bigger array of options. They can self-publish physical books, or digital ones. There is a slew of independent, small, medium, and large publishing houses out there to submit to. Writers willing to put in the time and effort can also set up their own publishing companies, thanks to the advantages and low overhead offered by desktop publishing and digital commerce. Because of all these options more and more writers are getting published, and the marketplace is overflowing with new voices.

Lingering Doubts, “The Gatekeepers”

Practically speaking authors have never had more opportunity than they do now. Publishing culture has been slow to change, though. All you need to do is say the words “self-published” and watch the reaction people have.

There's still a cultural feeling that if a book isn't published by a traditional, established publisher that the author failed some kind of test. Despite the extremely small numbers of manuscripts accepted by big publishers, and the requirement for those who submit to often have an agent, there's an all-or-nothing mentality many people possess. Conventional wisdom says if a book is good enough, and an author persistent enough, then they'll eventually be given the success the manuscript deserves.

The Truth of The Matter

Books are, traditionally, judged on how well they sell. A book's popularity, when combined with its critical acclaim, is what decides if a book is good or bad. The truth is, contrary to what gatekeepers have said throughout the years, no one knows which books will become smash hits and which ones will fade into obscurity. No publishing house, big or small, has a magical formula that lets them decide which stories are more legitimate as products or as art than any others. Every publishing method is completely viable; authors have to find what works for them.

With that said though, no one publishing method guarantees success. Big names at Random House and self-publishing smash hits have one thing in common; readers had to show their support. Whether an author's publishing company runs a successful PR campaign, or the author simply plugs the book in places where it will be seen by the public, success largely depends on getting the word out and intriguing the public. Once the public is paying attention an author can watch the sales shoot through the roof, regardless of the particular method of publication.

For more industry insights and writing rhetoric by Neal F. Litherland visit his author blog, The Literary Mercenary!

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How To Brainwash Your Citizens (an excerpt from my WiP)

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From the WiP, but something interesting as a standalone observation (and possible explanation for some otherwise inexplicable trends):

They'd prepared for a contagion by getting everyone used to it with a huge propaganda machine. With the basic antibiotic resistant bacteria quickly becoming the *weaklings* on the block, the next step didn't take a lot of imagination. We would need to quarantine people. Against their will. Prescriptively. 

So: zombies. 

Failure to quarantine is *the* biggest problem faced in those movies and books. Sickness isn't there to be cured - it's there to be eradicated by any means necessary. And if it's not stopped, then society collapses and you die. Mercy dooms you all.

All the government has to do is to boost the sales of one or two titles. They don't even have to tell anyone - that's the beautiful part. When something is a bestseller or at the top of the ticket sales, most - enough - people will convince themselves they like it. The publishers and media companies will make more, since the first one did well. And your theme is spread out into the wild, and your people are brainwashed to do what you want of their very own accord.

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Sending and Recieving GVoice texts from the Command Line (uses node.js)

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As many of you might know (or have guessed), I've taught myself most of what I know programming-wise.  Which means that if it's an API or system I'm not familiar with, I'm usually ending up cobbling together or heavily modifying someone else's work.

Which is why my github repository has ruby, python, bash, some virtual basic, and other stuff all crammed together.

Anyway, I used to use a nice little utility to forward all SMS messages from my phone to Google Talk/Jabber.  And then Google Talk became Hangouts and they broke the bridge.  So I started using Google Voice for text messages a lot more, since I could at least get and send them easily from my PC.

Except... the web interface sucks.  It's resource heavy and doesn't update well.

So I started searching for a commandline interface.  The ruby and python ones I found half-worked (at best) or weren't focused on SMS.  And then I first found GV.  I'd never used node.js before, but GV fit the bill.

Except that it quickly stopped getting SMS properly.  I told the author, but he's not gotten around to it yet.  So I started poking around with voice.js, which is what GV built off of.   And now I've managed to cobble together something that works pretty well for my purposes.

  • Uses the commandline
  • With the bash wrapper and ppl (optional) I can type recipient my message goes here.
  • Optional replies within the get-sms script
  • Color-coding of to and from messages
  • Displays thread ID as well as phone number and time-date stamp.
My big TODOs?  Better PPL integration as well as GoogleCL lookup and integration.  And hopefully, since it's on github, some folks who are better than I will actually be able to make the code cleaner.

Here's the install instructions (the bash script will probably only work for you if you're on *nix or OSX, sorry):

  • If you don't already have node.js, you have to install it.  Sorry, I don't know enough to translate a node.js program to another language.
  • Install the dependencies:  Once you have it installed, get voice.js by typing npm install voice.js .  While you're there, also type npm install colors.js.
  • Get an authorization token:  Go to the examples for voice.js in the node modules directory (usually ~/node_modules/voice.js/examples).  Then edit tokens.js with your Google Voice login details. Run tokens.js from the /examples folder ( node ./tokens.js). It will save a tokens.json file in the /examples folder containing authentication tokens. Copy that tokens.js file to ~/node_modules/tokens.js.
  • Download my scripts:  They're at, or you can directly download from .  Unzip it into ~/node_modules.
  • RTFM.  (It's short)
  • Run the scripts.  The main one is get-sms.js (or if you want to keep it from being executable, type node ./get-sms.js ).  The default action is to get the last couple of unread text messages.  You can auto-mark messages read, change the number of threads and messages per thread, and even reply to a thread within the script itself with the optional --interactive commandline switch.
  • If you have ppl installed, there's rudimentary support for using it to send texts.

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Scott Roche writes about "Dead Ends" for "The Whole Is Greater"

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The Whole is Greater is a semi-regular feature on the blog where I ask the editors of anthologies to tell us about their experience working on an anthology.  Today's features Scott Roche, whom I've had the pleasure of talking with more than once for a podcast interview and back and forth via the internet.  One day, Roche, you will fall into my clutches ... er, we'll meet in person.  When Scott told me that this was to support another charity anthology... well, that's awesome.  And since it benefits the organization running NaNoWriMo, it's timely as well.  

Dead Ends – A Horror Anthology

My first passion as a reader, writer, and movie-goer is horror. As a result of that and my participation in the horror end of the indie publishing arena, I’ve gotten to know a good many writers. Sadly, many of these writers lack the draw that I think they deserve, and they also have audiences that may be unaware of these other talented writers. To resolve this, I set about doing my part and conceived of the idea for Dead Ends. It was to be a charity anthology that would benefit the Office of Letters and Light, theorganization that brought us NaNoWriMo.

As this is a charity anthology, I was only offering a token payment. So at first I only intended to draw from authors that I knew, ones known for writing horror. I was also mainly on the lookout for reprints. I didn’t want anyone to spend time crafting a new story when they weren’t going to be paid pro rates for their efforts. A couple of people, notably Justin Macumber and Ed Lorn, didn’t fall into these categories. Justin has written in a number of genres, mostly hard SF. Ed was an author I had been completely unaware of until I put out calls, and he created a completely new tale just for the anthology. I was pleasantly surprised by their additions to the body of work.

I was also able to find an editor and a creative designer to aid me in creating something that was really polished. Sue Baiman and Scott Pond filled these roles, bringing their talents on board in the interest of benefiting our charity. Their hours of work are evident in the quality of the cover and what’s in between them.

The whole process has been both a positive and a negative experience for me. First, the bad: it simply hasn’t sold as well as I’d hoped. The number one purpose behind Dead Ends was to spread the word about these authors and their awesome stories. In order for that to happen, people need to buy them. Everyone involved has leveraged their web presences to spread the word, but by and large the response has been less than anticipated. On balance, there’s been a lot of good. The stories are great. The responses of the people who’ve read them have met my expectations. And working with all the people involved has been a dream. I’m proud of what we’ve done and the lackluster sales just mean I have to put my shoulder behind this and continue to spread the word.

I want to thank Steve for helping me do that, and I hope you’ll check it out.

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Measure Twice, Register For an ISBN Once (and Where Bowker's Data Reveals A Surprising Correlation About Smashwords)

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If you're part of the online "indie publishing" community, you're probably hearing that Smashwords is the #1 producer of Indie eBooks in the US

This claim is... questionable... at best. 

It all depends on what you mean by "producer".

The claim is based on data from Bowker - the one and only place to get ISBNs in the United States.  Anyone else who offers an ISBN - me, Smashwords, Google - has bought those ISBNs from Bowker.  When the ISBN is assigned to a book, then you have to tell Bowker about it. 

Smashwords offers free ISBNs (as does CreateSpace, who ranks right up there in the report when you include print books).  It seems like a great deal - individual ISBNs are horribly expensive.  The per-unit price goes down a lot when you buy them in bulk, but you have to have the cash up front.

I don't think those free ISBNs are a good deal.

Assigning an ISBN to a book makes you the "publisher of record" - whether the person who gives you the ISBN had a damn thing to do with actually creating the work or not.  And by my lights, that doesn't make you a publisher... or even a "producer".

Of course, Bowker does have something that nobody else really has.  They have an accurate record of who has bought ISBNs, and who has assigned ISBNs to books.  So we can definitely say:

Smashwords is the #1 assigner of ISBNs to Indie eBooks in the United States.

That's actually a fairly impressive thing.  And the data reveals something else as well:

 The top four entries in that table are Smashwords, Luly, AuthorHouse, and Xlibris.  Both AuthorHouse and Xlibris are part of the uber-vanity-press-scammers Author Solutions.   Author Solutions is so scammy that they're the subject of a class action lawsuit (yes, despite them being owned by RandomPenguinHouse).

What's a little harder to see is that Author Solutions' ISBN assignation numbers are shrinking.  And that's from 2012 - before the class action lawsuit really got underway.  Whilst it's correlational, this seems to imply that Smashword's gain is Author Solution's (via AuthorHouse and Xlibris) loss.  Smashwords is a distribution platform, and has helped a lot of indie authors get to markets they otherwise wouldn't have.  I believe it's clear from this data that the availability of platforms like Smashwords means that authors have more options and more information, making it harder for scammers to run their scams.

By my lights, that's a damn fine thing for Smashwords to be proud about.



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Performance Anxiety - A guest blog by Graham Storrs

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Graham Storrs is a science fiction writer living in rural Queensland. A former research scientist, IT consultant and award-winning software designer, he now lives and writes on a quiet mountain top with his wife, Christine, an Airedale terrier and a Tonkinese cat. His published non-fiction includes three children's science books, over a hundred magazine articles, and more than thirty academic papers and book chapters, in the fields of artificial intelligence, psychology, and human-computer interaction. In recent years he has published over twenty short stories in magazines and anthologies. His time travel thriller, Timesplash, and its sequel, True Path, are published by Pan Macmillan's Momentum imprint.

I've published Graham's work both in Eighth Day Genesis and Sidekicks!. Coming halfway through NaNoWriMo, I think this post is especially timely.

Performance Anxiety
by Graham Storrs

Here's something no-one ever told me about being a writer: it's like being an improv comedian.

When I sit down with my laptop and stare at that empty page, I hear a hush come over the audience. I can't see them but they're out there, waiting to be entertained. A sentence forms in my mind. No, that's no good. I need something better, something that will really grab them. Another one comes, and another. Yes, that's the one. I start typing and the words begin to flow. I know roughly what I want to say, of course, but it's the words that matter, the exact words, the precise delivery.

Writing is a performance. It doesn't happen in real time – thank the gods – but that's how it feels. I'm a jazz musician, a concert pianist improvising a cadenza, a pavement artist, taking requests.

Which is a bit weird, when you think about it. A novelist will write a first draft, revise it until it's fit to be seen, hand it out to alpha then beta readers, amending it as the feedback comes in, constantly polishing it until a "final" draft is ready. Then that draft goes to an editor and hundreds more changes are negotiated before a publishable work goes off to be formatted, packaged and offered for sale to the public.

Yet, there it is. For me, however much planning and preparation I've done before I begin to write, that very first draft is where all the magic happens, where the story finds its voice and where the characters come alive. It is the only time in the whole process of making a book that the story unfolds from beginning to end, fresh and new, takes its first breath, climbs to its feet, looks the world in the eye, and sings.

That terrible first draft is where writers like me need to wrestle inspiration out of the ether and nail it down on the page, giving it everything we've got until the whole massive structure is complete. And this performance, which takes months and sometimes years, is done with nothing to guide us other than the million words we've written beforehand, when we were learning our craft.

And it better be good.

You can find more of Graham's thoughts and musings at his blog,

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The Difference Between Acknowledging and Triaging: Things the Men's Right Movement (and many of the rest of us) Haven't Learned

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There is a difference between acknowledgement and triage.

Acknowledging someone's subjective pain or difficulty is completely different from triaging (assigning the priority needed) to fix that pain.

Again, using our understanding of medicine as a jumping-off point:

We can acknowledge that many - or even all - of the people in an emergency room rate their pain as being extremely high.  But it would lead to gridlock if we tried to treat everyone with their own self-evaluation of how much pain they were in.

There are many other factors that go into effective triage (or sorting and prioritizing).  A few examples:
  • Which patients need to be isolated because they are contagious?  
  • Which patients will suffer permanent damage without immediate care?  
  • Which patients have conditions that will worsen without immediate care?
Medical personnel were trained effectively in triage... but addressing each indvidual's pain as a subjective measure is a fairly new thing.  But rather than having more patients be frustrated with the triage process, the mere experience of being heard and acknowledged helped them be more understanding that other people's needs may have to come first.

This also goes with emotions, and how our subjective pain (or difficulty) translates into real-world triage.

A trivial example:  My girlfriend has a very busy schedule one day a week.  I check on her stuff and make sure to prepare (or at least start to prepare) a meal for her so that she can come back to her house and simply relax.  I don't normally cook much anymore, and I often have to rush from my own job to make it in time, so it's a minor inconvenience for me. I do it anyway, because regardless of how much I might not feel like cooking that day, when I look at it from a triage perspective my inconvenience is minor compared to what she has to deal with on that day of the week.1

If I focused on my own selfish perceptions instead of what we both need, our relationship would suffer.  Yet at the same time, I really appreciate it when she acknowledges the effort and (minor) inconvenience.  (Thanks honey!)

Right.  So let's play this up to a large-scale example:  the Dr. Nerdlove article "When Masculinity Fails Men".   Although Dr. Nerdlove doesn't say the difficulties men face in today's world are due to the patriarchy in quite so many words, they lay the blame directly at patriarchal norms:
[The problem isn't women doing things to men.  The problem is] men. More specifically, it’s masculinity. The traditional societal definitions of masculinity – and its attendant gender roles - fails men.

The patriarchy does screw up men.  Quite a bit, actually.  It causes a crapton of subjective pain for men.  But I think both Dr. Nerdlove and I would agree on this:

Acknowledging the subjective pain the patriarchy imposes on men is distinct and different from triaging the problems the patriarchy causes men.

Straight white men (such as myself) are still playing on the lowest difficulty setting.  When we work toward undoing the damage that the patriarchy and male social norms have inflicted on society, I am at the bottom of the list.

But the Goofus in our example here are the asshats in the "Men's Rights Movement".  They don't want acknowledgement, they want to be bumped to the top of the triage line.  They use the language of empathy and acknowledgement to demand a change in triage.  This is at best selfish.

To use myself as an analogy:  Sinus pressure is debilitating for me.  I experience it as far worse pain than a broken toe or wrist.  And yes, it's nice to have someone notice and acknowledge that I hurt.  But, damn, that doesn't mean that my subjective experience of pain from a head cold means I get treated before someone who broke a bone!

By screwing up such a basic distinction between acknowledgement and triage, the selfish asshats that call themselves the "Men's Rights Movement" make the overall situation worse for everyone.  Not only do they undermine the ability to have one's pain and difficulty acknowledged, but by insisting their needs come first they end up perpetuating the very system that causes the difficulty they experience.2

1 Yes, I'm cheating here a little bit, because I enjoy doing things for her, even if they're things I don't like doing for myself.  I like being useful, and even at worst it's only a minor inconvenience for me. But you get the point, yes?
2 I'm sure there are some (most? many?) people in the "MRM" whose intention is exactly this - to support the patriarchy by undermining those who work for the rights of all people. But I also suspect there is a non-zero number of men who have never been taught the difference between acknowledgement and triage (thanks, patriarchy!) and are unwittingly perpetuating the thing causing them pain.

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Jaym Gates writes about "War Stories" for "The Whole Is Greater"

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The Whole is Greater is a semi-regular feature on the blog where I ask the editors of anthologies to tell us about their experience working on an anthology.  Today's features Jaym Gates, whom I had the pleasure to meet at Origins this year.  Jaym is the co-editor of War Stories, which is running a Kickstarter campaign through the 14th of November. 

Every project I've worked on has had its own excitement, and looking back, I love all of them. But the one I'm working on now, War Stories is the most exciting one yet, and one I really hope leaves a lasting impression of the best sort.

War is a harsh mistress, to everyone it touches. Sometimes it breaks people. Sometimes it brings out the best in them.

The history, the technology, the political and social triggers, all those elements of war are fascinating, and could fill endless books. But what does it look like from the ground? What are the stories from the front lines, the aftermath, the hospital? What does war do to the internal landscape of soldiers and civilians? How do we, as humans, survive, recover, move on, break, adapt to the unique and awful stress of conflict?

War Stories is a project that keeps surprising me. The stories we've selected so far have surprised me with their breadth: a disabled veteran helping an AI deal with guilt; a little South African ghost girl protected by the downloaded consciousness of her rebel father; a commanding officer making an awful decision in defense of his troops; a commanding officer struggling to save one of her soldiers from suicidal penance; a soldier giving all to save civilians.

On-planet, off-planet. Near-future, far-future, alternate-future. Human, alien, robot, AI. My co-editor, Andrew Liptak, and I wanted their stories to be told.

These are the stories you find out when you ask your grandparents if anyone else in your family served in the military; that a soldier tells her wife when she can finally talk about what happened; that get told to boost courage before a first battle, or a twentieth.

These are stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and I can't wait to share this project with everyone.

War Stories is a project from Apex Publications, currently funding on Kickstarter, ending November 14, 2013.


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Introducing "The Whole Is Greater" - Where Editors Can Talk About Their Anthologies

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I have always loved anthologies. They're like full-length LPs and cassettes, or maybe watching an entire season of your favorite show in one sitting.

Each individual part - each story, each song, each episode - can be a powerful, moving experience.

But when they're together, when they're carefully crafted and arranged, the whole thing hits you with an impact so much greater than any part by itself.

We lost track of that for a while. Albums had a few good songs, but a lot of crap, too. Singles - and then individual song downloads - were the order of the day. Sitcoms and weekly dramas where everything seemed to "reset" by the end of the episode. And anthologies... well, three years ago, I kept hearing that anthologies were going to die.

That didn't happen.  Thank goodness.

There is a resurgence of musicians releasing single-track albums. The most successful television shows are written with the entire season (and even series) arc in mind. And anthologies are not only back, but exploring the risky places that longer works might fear to tread.

And so I am introducing a new semi-regular feature here at the blog: The Whole Is Greater. I am inviting the editor-anthologists of anthologies to tell us about the experience. What went into putting together the anthology? Did the vision they have change as it came together?

Think of this as the anthology-centered "Big Idea" or "My Favorite Bit" column.

And if you're an editor - or know one - who would like to write about your favorite (current or past - as long as it's still available!) anthology that you edited, please contact me at steven.saus at gmail and let me know.


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Three Simple Expectations On How To Manage Backer Rewards Ethically on Kickstarter

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Crowdfunding has the additional bonus benefit of offering additional rewards for different backer levels. This is great! It incentivises backers to give more, which lets us make more art (in my case, books) and to compensate the artists (writers) even more.

As attractive as these backer rewards are, they bring about two potential problems. I neglected to mention them in my prior statement about paying authors via crowdfunding. I'm going to discuss these two problems, and then address the potential problem of backers submitting stories. Each section has a clear expectation for ethical behavior which is repeated at the end as well.  And yes, crowdfunding is now one of the things covered in Alliteration Ink's Policies.

Important note: Unless specified, I am speaking of the third model of crowdfunding where authors already have a contractual relationship of some kind with the publisher of the anthology.

Contributors Offering Backer Rewards

The original concept of backer rewards is to provide some kind of "extra" - and in the case of Kickstarter, extras specifically created by people who are involved in the project itself. While this is fairly straightforward idea for a project run by a single person (or company), it's a little more complex when you're talking about a multi-author anthology.

Originally with What Fates Impose, Nayad Monroe (the anthologist) and myself were simply going to offer backer rewards with what we could personally do. Story critiques, eBook conversions, that sort of thing.
And then, literally days before launching, we asked the contributors what they were willing to offer... and we ended up with a backer rewards list that filled an entire side of a sheet of paper. Single spaced. Some of the rewards were as simple as a personalized tweet, others as complex as authors offering to collaborate on a story.

It's important to note, though, that not all authors offered a backer reward for us to use. I didn't realize that until nearly halfway through the campaign.

I can understand an author not wanting to devote additional time and energy to creating a backer reward for a crowdfunding campaign... much the same way that I understand that not all authors in an anthology are going to put the same effort into promoting a book after it's out.

We're all busy people. Donating time to a backer reward is time not spent writing, or away from a paying (non-writing) job, or even time away from loved ones. It might even be money out of the author's pocket, or a layer of frustration they'd otherwise never bring on themselves. Perhaps there simply isn't anything they can think of to offer, or they're just out of spoons and find themselves in a place where they can't offer a reward.

That said, there are definite reasons why an author would want to offer a backer reward to support an anthology they are in: money, art, and reputation.

Money is obvious: if the crowdfunding fails, then the author may not get paid as much (or at all, if the project tanks). Depending on the contract, the crowdfunding exceeding its goals may net that author more money for the author's story.

Art is also pretty straightforward. I am a big believer in anthologies as crafted art, and crowdfunding has quickly become a way to patronize art that would otherwise not happen. So if an author believes in a project, then offering a reward is a way to help support that project becoming a reality.

Reputation didn't occur to me until What Fates Impose was well underway. I'm a fan as much as I am a publisher or author, so getting to (virtually) rub elbows with people whose work I enjoy - Beth Wodzinski, Lucy A. Snyder, Alasdair Stuart, and Cat Rambo for a few examples - was a great thrill. Then being exposed to the other authors I'd never encountered before made it even better.

But - and this is important - the authors' stories were selected to make the best anthology possible, not on the basis of what rewards they offered. It's possible that authors involved with a crowdfunding campaign might feel peer pressure to offer a reward when they see the other authors doing so. There is no way to completely avoid that impression; people who believe badly about you will do so, no matter how you behave or what you say. What crowdfunding organizers can do is to ensure that their expectations are clearly and unambiguously spelled out. I've taken a stab at it below:


The author's primary obligation to the anthology is the story. The anthologist or publisher organizing the crowdfunding campaign may ask contributors to offer additional backer rewards. The organizer must respect all contributors equally, regardless of whether they contribute an additional reward.

Clearly Stating the Backer Rewards

Since the backer rewards for What Fates Impose got put together so quickly, a few problems crept in that I wasn't watching for. For example, Sarah Hans offered to do a Skype tarot reading... in August, when her schedule was such that she could manage it. I didn't notice her availability requirements, so when I asked about it nearly a month after her availability, scheduling the reading was problematic. Cat Rambo suggested two possible rewards, and I misread that as offering two rewards.

In both cases, it was my mistake, though the authors (and impacted backers) were quite gracious about it... but it could have turned ugly. So I will start issuing short contracts to cover such eventualities - both to cover myself and the authors I work with. The important features of such a contract will be:
  • Who is involved (organizer, author)
  • That ONLY if the crowdfunding succeeds, the author will offer a backer reward.
  • A clear explanation of the Reward
  • A timetable of delivery/fulfillment of the Reward
  • Any costs or reimbursement involved, as needed
  • That the offering of the Reward is independent of the contract for the story in the anthology


The scope of any backer reward, as well as the responsibilities of the entity offering the reward, must be clearly defined prior to the crowdfunding campaign.

Contributing To Crowdfunding Campaigns

After the campaign for What Fates Impose ended, I was surprised to see that many of the authors had actually become backers as well. That was great; I presume that they wanted to do so for the same reason that they wanted to offer backer rewards as well. After all, crowdfunding sites will tell you which friends of yours are backing which projects; it makes sense.

And it wasn't an ethical issue for us. Again, we were using the third model of crowdfunding. The authors had already been told they were accepted into the anthology, so there was no potential quid pro quo behavior going on.
But not everyone follows that model. For those following the first two models (where the table of contents is not fixed before the campaign launches), there are some special ethical issues to keep in mind:


Publishers and/or anthologists offering an open or semi-open call for submissions for a crowdfunded anthology must avoid any preferential treatment - in reality or appearance - toward submitting authors based on whether or not they are backing the crowdfunded project.

When a publisher or anthologist gives preferential treatment to a story submission based upon the author backing a crowdfunding project, they have become a vanity press.

It's worth repeating again.

When a publisher or anthologist gives preferential treatment to a story submission based upon the author backing a crowdfunding project, they have become a vanity press.

That includes both someone looking over their list of backers, or even (shudder) offering a spot in an anthology as a backer reward. Even if it's mediated through a crowdfunding platform, that's still the same pay-to-play vanity press scam artist crap that has been preying upon authors for years.

Summing Up

I am routinely horrified by the behavior of those who call themselves publishers. Many of the scams simply would not occur to me until I hear reports of someone else doing them.

I wrote these expectations broadly enough that they should cover most aspects of publishers behaving badly. But again, these are guidelines.

If you find something not covered by these expectations, remember and let yourself be guided by Yog's Law and Cthugha's Correlary: Money (or value) flows toward the author.


* The author's primary obligation to the anthology is the story. The anthologist or publisher organizing the crowdfunding campaign may ask contributors to offer additional backer rewards. The organizer must respect all contributors equally, regardless of whether the contribute an additional reward.

* The scope of any backer reward, as well as the responsibilities of the entity offering the reward, must be clearly defined prior to the crowdfunding campaign.

* Publishers and/or anthologists offering an open or semi-open call for submissions for a crowdfunded anthology must avoid any preferential treatment - in reality or appearance - toward submitting authors based on whether or not they are backing the crowdfunded project.



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How Do You Rate Other's Pain?

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"How do you rate your pain?"

The question revolutionized the way we looked at pain in a medical setting.  Instead of trying to determine if a patient was "really" hurting, it recognized the subjective nature of pain.

Not everyone hurts the same way.  I've walked on a broken toe for a week without really noticing.  As a child, I reacted so calmly to breaking both bones in my forearm that nobody (including myself) thought x-rays were necessary for more than two weeks.  But sinus pressure reduces me to a quivering whimpering mess.

It's a hard lesson to learn with physical pain.  It's harder to realize that the exact same thing is true with emotional pain.

It is all too easy to look at someone else's pain and say "I've been through worse."  It is all too easy to dismiss another person's difficulties because you went through something worse, or they have an advantage you don't, or whatever excuse seems reasonable at the time.  It's easy to dismiss someone else's emotional pain as trivial.  As something that can't really hurt all that badly.

And just like everyone who thought I didn't hurt my arm that badly all those years ago, you'd be wrong.

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Find A Writing Critique Group During NaNoWriMo!

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It's important to have a critique group.  It's also important that you don't mistake a writing support group for a critique group.

A critique group ... well, they critique.  And that's important if you're serious about being a writer, especially when you're in your first decade.  I'm going to quote Ferrett Steinmetz here:

I was writing to please my friends, and I thought that “pretty good” stories were good enough, not realizing that the slush piles are clogged with “pretty good,” and they want great.  I spent a lot of time in front of the keyboard, but I wasn’t learning much – I talked to buddies who liked what I wrote well enough, and when I got rejected I shrugged...

That’s why Clarion was so transformative to me.  I had eighteen people, all willing to pound my story to bits.
And that's what critique groups do.  They are there to support the story, not you.

That is a valuable thing, my friends.

There's been a lot of pixels spilled about finding (or creating!) your own critique group - here's two great places to get started:

The NaNoWriMo write-ins coming up at your local library would also be a keen place to find lots of writers congregated at the same time and place.  Just put up a sign saying when you're going to get together, and go from there.

And yes, it can be as simple as being at the right place at the right time.  For me, it was just being at the right virtual place at the right time.  I tweeted that I wanted a writing group while I was at GenCon one year, and another author saw it, and we drug our own friends and other like-minded people in.

One important thing to keep in mind here is that the number of people does *not* imply anything about how worthwhile it is.  We lost two people in the first two meetings!  But there's a core three of us that have been constant since the beginning, and we all find value in it.


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