Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Social Cues, Asperger's, and Conventions oh my!

I said something to a few people last night that wasn't quite right.  I'd like a chance to fix that now.  It's worth noting here that I'm not any kind of mental health professional; a lot of this is from my own anecdotal experience.   If you think I'm wrong (or know I'm wrong) please let me know in the comments.

I often have reason to interact with people who have Asperger'sa - or by the new classification, people who are on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum.  (I use Asperger's here simply because it's shorter.) Depending on where they are, it can manifest as just a small glitch here and there to a completely overbearing person who tries to dominate every interaction and just doesn't take a hint... or anywhere inbetween.

People with Asperger's have difficulty reading social cues and social situations.  This can get very, very uncomfortable for the "regular" (neurotypical or NT) folks who are in a social situation with someone with Asperger's.  The social cues may say "I'd like to talk now" or "I have to go", and the person with Asperger's just ... doesn't respond the way you expect they should.

And that can get really, really uncomfortable for the NT folks.  The ways Asperger's manifests can very easily come across as obnoxious, threatening, or intimidating.  Especially when the person with Asperger's is male and everyone else is female (thanks patriarchal society!).1 

I was recently in a situation where a person with Asperger's unintentionally came across as rude.  It wasn't rudeness, but simply enthusiasm with the discussion.  Some other people who saw the exchange characterized the person as rude - and I took a second to let them know that I really didn't think it was intentional.  I said:

Even though it feels weird and uncomfortable, you have to be blunt and make your needs and boundaries known.  For example, say "I have to go now" to end the conversation instead of saying "I'm going to my next panel".  Say "I need to finish saying my thought before you talk" or "You are standing too close to me, please take a step back." 

In my experience, people with Asperger's appreciate hearing this kind of feedback.  That was the case with my recent situation - the supposedly "rude" person seemed really grateful and appreciative for getting the feedback in a calm, blunt and fact-based way.

If someone with Asperger's is making you uncomfortable, they probably have no clue.  Being honest and making your boundaries obvious and clear is a great help to them.  And once those boundaries and guidelines are made known, it's rarely a problem.2  They adjust their behavior and it's all good;  it frequently takes an uncomfortable (at best) situation and makes it much better.

More importantly, once you state those boundaries, it is the responsibility of the person with Asperger's to fix the problem.  In my experience, this feels like a huge relief to the NT people involved.  They know they're heard, and usually the problem clears up instantly.

Asperger's is not a "get out of jail free" card to ignore social norms...and pretty much everyone I've met with the disorder feels the same way.

Here's what I forgot to add:   This technique should not be limited to just people with Asperger's. 

I am not saying that you take responsibility for another person's actions.   I am not saying that you need to teach anyone else social cues.  I am not saying that you have to keep someone else from being [insert adjective here].

I am talking about taking responsibility for your own boundaries.3  If anyone starts violating your boundaries, you have the right to bluntly state your boundaries, and what they can do to fix it.  It is okay to be calm and civil and blunt about how they are making you uncomfortable.

If the other person is clueless - whether due to Asperger's, cultural norms, social ineptitude, or another reason - it gives them a chance to fix the situation.

And if they choose instead to get pissy and defensive, and refuse to fix the situation?

Then you know they're a douchepuppet asshole, and proceed accordingly.

a I'm not telling you who; I don't have permission to do that. Trust me that it's multiple people, some of whom I know extremely well.
1 Yes, I'm obliquely referring to the "I'm not a creeper, I have Asperger's" bullcrap excuses that fly every time that someone creeps at a convention.  The stuff in this post takes the last little shreds of that argument and burns them. But my focus here is a little more broad than that.
2 Everybody screws up sometimes, of course. That's not the point.
3 I cannot emphasize this distinction enough.  I know how hard it is to do this; the alternative is allowing your boundaries to be violated.  Support others who are making their boundaries known in this way.


Holy Crap I'll be at MARCON!

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Yes, MARCon is coming up, and I'll actually be there this year!  As with many of the conventions I'm attending this year, I'll be travelling quite a bit, so if you want to meet up, please send me a message beforehand!

As it is, I'll be on a lot of panels, so you'll definitely be able to catch sight of me hurrying back and forth...

I also hear tell of a SIDEKICKS! launch party happening Friday night... details as I get 'em!

Friday Mar 29
     17:30 – 18:20    Autograph Session - Regency Ballroom  (NOTE: I may be late to this)
     19:00 – 20:00    Alternate realities: Turn Right, turn left, but don't step on the butterfly! - MARCON: UNION C
     20:30 – 22:00    *m* Dystopian Fiction: What’s the worst that can happen? - MARCON: UNION C
Sat Mar 30   
     11:30 – 13:00    Religion & SF: Can you believe That? - MARCON: UNION C
     13:00 – 14:20    Autographs - Regency Ballroom
     14:30 – 16:00    Good Gods and Goddesses! - MARCON: UNION C
     16:00 – 17:30    What's Up with Zombies? - MARCON: UNION A
     19:00 – 20:20    Readings from "Kicking the Habit" - Taft A-B
Sun Mar 31
     10:00 – 11:30    *m* The Now and Future Lovecraft - MARCON: Union A

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Why I Changed My Profile Picture For Today

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I changed my profile picture to the red equals sign (for marriage equality) because:

I know how thrilled I felt seeing it creep up over my Facebook feed over a half hour.

Maybe someone feeling alone will feel a little more supported.

Maybe someone who is on the fence will realize how many people give a damn about this.

Maybe someone will have the same kinds of thoughts that Rob Portman did, and know that those for marriage equality aren't "those people", it's their friends and neighbors, and actually reconsider.

Maybe someone who is used to the bigoted bullshit that is on Fox News (and don't try arguing that with me - I saw their "coverage" this morning) will stop and wonder.

Maybe all of those things.

Maybe nothing.

It's not a lot to change your profile picture.  It probably shouldn't be the only thing you do.

But it's far from meaningless.

And it's a step away from doing nothing.

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Staring Into The Abyss: There Will Always Be Monsters, Our Only Choice Is Whose Side They Are On

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I've mentioned my ... appreciation ... for the Operative from Serenity more than a few times.

Usually in the context of "It's a damn good thing I don't have superpowers."

Back in 2008, when I first learned of The Deacons for Defense, I had this thought:
It appears that our popular culture has submerged the history of valiant, brave people to praise the mythology of non-violence. It appears that we have lauded passive struggle while ignoring those who made the passive struggle sustainable. When else, I wonder, has this happened? Gandhi? What about the Nazarenes and other militant Jewish groups of the time of Yeshua?

When do our heroes and protectors - our societal immune system - become monsters? What is the distinction between inflammation and autoimmune disorders, between sustaining peace and becoming a police state?

I was thinking about the Operative again today. How you try to keep the worst of life from getting to your family. How you keep it away from your kids. And then I heard this Radiolab clip on inheritance. It's called "You Are What Your Grandpa Eats" - and it's meant quite literally. In short, if your grandfather ate well at a certain period of life there's (bad) health effects up to two generations down the line. The reverse also held true: If grandfather ate poorly at a certain time of his life, the positive effects have a positive health effect generations later.1

Which brings us back to the goals of the Operative. To protect future generations. To keep them safe. To make a world without sin.

A world without the pressures, conflict, and evil that shaped the Operative into someone willing to sacrifice everything for a greater, worthy, goal. A world where any greedy impulse can go unchecked - because there is no longer anyone like the Operative.

This is the horror of the Operative - or anyone who wishes to do good, ever. This is the dark, despairing side of "Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing."

There will always need to be monsters on both sides, both creating wrongs and righting them.


1 I'm drawing an analogy here, by the way, though other parts of that episode show that environment directly impacts biochemistry as well.

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SEO Optimization, Your Resume, Your Book Blurb (or Sales Copy), and, Eventually, You

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tl;dr: The rapid increase in trying to "optimize" and "tweak" resumes and book sales copy will first push competitors to the side in an optimization race, then implode when strategies become widely known.  Be awesome and/or write a good book instead.

How can you be honest on your job resume? Or with a job interview?

There are so many guides on tailoring the perfect answers, becoming the ideal candidate, or crafting the most effective resume that it seems an insurmountable task. Resumes are evaluated based on current styles and trends or the resume equivalent of SEO optimization. When you can be blacklisted by multiple HR departments for "unreasonable" things like asking about work conditions or refusing to give up your passwords (not joking), it's pretty easy to conclude that any degree of honesty is going to cost you that job.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this - if you're wanting to select for the skill of "selling yourself". If you're trying to find the best engineer, the best writer, the best teacher, the best medical assistant, or any other set of skills other than "being good at selling yourself", this method will turn away a lot of good talent with no guarantee of having the best rise to the top.

Your Sales Copy Is Your Resume

This problem isn't limited to literal resumes. It applies to anything where you try to sell yourself - or your work.

When you write sales copy - like the blurb or back cover of a book - it serves the exact same role as a resume in front of HR. It's a quick document that either hooks the reader or doesn't in thirty seconds or less.1 For authors, there are already tons of words about what words to use, where to place your promotional text, how to format things just so in order to raise that conversion rate.

As readers, we search for our own keywords to determine if a book is worth reading or not. And just as with resumes, this is problematic at best.

The Failure of Sales Copy

If the idea of all this optimization reminds you of creepy "pick up artist" tactics - or scammy SEO optimization schemes - then congratulations! You're a real human being. And the rest of us are starting to catch on as well. Much like "free" or "$0.99" book promotions are not as effective as they once were, much like people are skeptical of that one word "...excellent..." blurb for a movie, we're learning that people who have to rely on such optimizations - tricks, really - don't have as much to sell.

I've watched the idea of SEO optimization go from standard practice to being viewed as something akin to a 409 scam over the last decade or so... largely due to the people who learn how to game the system and have no value to add. Then Google changes its ranking algorhythm again and people rate SEO expert as a profession just below [insert job you revile here].

The techniques - whether used as tools for legitimate folks or as scams - become more and more obvious to people. (See the XKCD comic below.)

It keeps coming back to the same thing: Honesty - whether in resumes or in book blurbs and reviews - is really the only effective way to go.

1 The astute among you will realize that this applies to book covers as well.
2 For that matter, some of the movies lumped into slasher films - Psycho and Silence of the Lambs comes to mind - don't really belong there either.
3 I heard a story that people were taking children to see that film under the impression it was more like the Labrynth with Muppets.

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Scripts and Utilities to Make Newsbeuter a Console Replacement For Google Reader

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tl;dr:  I created some utilities for Newsbeuter, a console-based RSS reader, so that it gives me the social options I want and need in a light newsreader.  You might find them useful too.

Note:  If you use Firefox, Sage is a damn good and damn quick RSS reader... but you have to deal with a full browser's toolkit loading...and staying loaded.  And that also leads to distraction (for me) rather than reading my RSS feeds.  Further, it doesn't do offline reading.  So I wanted a simple offline-capable RSS reader that kept me focused.

Newsbeuter seems to be one of the quicker and more flexible console-based newsreaders out there.  Yes, console-based.  TERMINAL APPLICATION.  Why?  I don't get distracted by widgets as much and can actually go quickly.

With Google Reader going away, I had to think hard about my RSS reading.  It falls into three categories:
  1. Stuff to read at length later.
  2. Stuff to quickly read and share.
  3. LOLCats.
The first two are fairly easily dealt with through newsbeuter itself and its bookmarking application. Hit control-B, then for the description type twitter, pocket, and so on. The bash script will shorten titles (and URLs) when needed.

If you want to use, modify the script at to only output an URL.

For twitter, I use ttytter, a nice perl script that you can find at . It does a great job of sending simple text updates.

The other services are simply using Mutt ( ) to send e-mail to Pocket ( ) and Buffer ( ). Works great, no need for heavy OAuth APIs for something this simple. Best of all, if you've got a decent linux machine, you can DO THIS OFFLINE and the mail just sits in the mailqueue until you get a chance to get back on.

The third... that's when images are vital, and well, none of the linux readers works well for saving images. I share LOLCats to my hard drive long enough to share with my girlfriend (hi honey!). Liferea and RSSOwl are great for browsing, not so much for sharing to disk.  So I created a macro that saves those posts to a text file.

macro o set external-url-viewer "dehtml >> ~/imagetemp/imglinks.txt" ; show-urls ; next-unread ; set external-url-viewer "urlview"

Dehtml is available here:

Then I use the script in question to strip out the image links (with jpg/jpeg/gif/png extensions) and wget ( )to download them. BDOW.

You can check out the git repository here: .  Again, this isn't meant to be a drop-in replacement;  it's intended to get you going and knowing what's going on behind the scenes.

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This is going to be really short and sweet.

Millennicon was my first convention as a professional writer.

Millennicon is my favorite convention.

It is small enough to be cozy, big enough that there's room to move.  People talk to each other.  People care.

I always - always - leave Millennicon energized.  I have new ideas.  New plans.  New energy.  My FILDI is through the roof.

Thank you, Millennicon.  Thank you to everyone who attended the Sidekicks! launch party, organized by the amazing Sarah Hans (and thanks, Sally, for risking your leg!).  Thanks to Jason Sizemore and Janet Harriet of Apex for taking some time to answer my questions so I can keep doing things better.  Thanks to Mike Resnick for his wealth of information (and not publicly exposing how ignorant I am too badly).

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to talk (or, um, listen to me rant) on panels, the dealer's booth, and the room party!  And thanks to everyone who didn't run away when the conversation veered from BDSM to Marcuse and Fight Club to economics to reminiscing about my hometown with Ricardo (HEY DUDE!). 

And thanks to Lisa, Mary, Ramon, Chris, and Christy (and everyone else I forgot) on the Millennicon board and staff for making it possible.

If you have pictures of me, any of the Alliteration Ink authors, or the Sidekicks! launch party, PLEASE NOTIFY ME - whether through a direct message on Facebook, a comment here, or an e-mail.  Thanks!



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De-Duplicating Stuff I Send Out: How To Follow Me Without Dupes

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Just as one of those public-service notes:


This blog crosses the line between personal and professional publishing stuff.  It's a hodge-podge.

The official Alliteration Ink blog is hosted on Tumblr, and is syndicated out to the webpage and elsewhere.

There is occasional duplication, but I try to keep it to a minimum.


I largely use @uriel1998 for personal stuff.  Expect a much higher politics/rant/snark/humor/etc quotient there.

I try to route a large amount of the publishing news and thoughts through the @AlliterationInk twitter account. 

There is minimal duplication on TwitterIf you're interested in the literary/author/publishing stuff, you really should follow the AlliterationInk account.


Yeah, if +Alliteration Ink posts it, I'll usually re-share it on +Steven Saus .  But usually the AInk G+ account only talks about AInk business.


Seriously, this is where the most duplication will occur, largely because I try to (unsuccessfully) keep my personal page as being something different than the author page.  And I reshare rampantly, because of the way Facebook sorts news stories.


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Transferring Notes From Kindle for PC Between Machines

This is a huge huge huge thing for me.  Between acting as a publisher and as an eBook converter, I often have clients, editors, and authors who proof digital copies.  They frequently have to send me the corrections back in a separate text file or e-mail message... and it's a pain. Hell, the only reason that I keep Microsoft Word around is due to the comments functionality. (LibreOffice - you caught up on that yet?)

However, if you are using a DRM-Free book, it's quite easy to transfer your notes.

Please note - I am using Kindle for PC (Windows version) here.  I run it in a virtual machine on my linux box;  most of my clients and authors run Windows, so that's what this guide focuses on.  Click to embiggen pictures.

First, make sure you are showing hidden files. You'll simply move the .mobi file to My Kindle Content - and when you make notes (or highlights) it will create a file with the same name but a .mbp extension.

Then, it's as simple as sending both files (and you can probably get away with just the MBP file) to the other person, and they'll see your notes throughout the book:

BDAOW. No confusion, no muss, no fuss.

I'm sure there's a way to get the MDP file from a Kindle and/or (unlocked) phone; if anyone has guides to that, it'd be vastly appreciated.


Dear OmniBuzzMedia: You Are A Bunch Of Clueless and Scammy Morons


Stay away from OmniBuzzMedia. They employ scammy SEO practices and waste client's money pitching to irrelevant sites.

This isn't specifically directed at Adela Johnson, but more to the entirety of OmniBuzzMedia.

You recently sent me an e-mail that stated:
Omnibuzz Media are a new and exciting digital media and commercial outlet, who through in-depth market research, pair up appropriate promotional campaigns between brands and websites.
 Yeah.  Sure you did.  Because if you did, you'd notice that I already busted an advertiser for trying to get me to insert their paid content in with my own stuff.  Or that I ranted about scammers earlier this week.  Or that I don't have Google ads because I can't control the scams the way I can with Project Wonderful.

But no.  In an example of clueless SEO tricks you offered to pay me to host articles on casinos and poker.  Or worse, you suggested the same scammy SEO practice of inserting text links that I ranted against (and rejected) back in 2012.

And apparently you didn't realize that I hate scammers.  With a burning passion.  And apparently your scammy company is so scammy that you can't even be proud of (or name) your customers.

And you're clueless enough that you'll send me an e-mail saying I should promote your casino client (and their online poker game) on this website.

So folks, stay away from OmniBuzzMedia.  Not only do they employ shitty, scammy practices, paying for content and links, but they also want to waste your money by pitching to sites that have nothing to do with your product.

Which brings us to why there's a great big heading up there, and all these links that have the word "scam" pointing at OmniBuzzMedia.  Because that's how real links and reputations work.  People link to you about what they really feel about you and your product.

Hey folks - even if you rarely retweet, G+, link, or otherwise spread my posts, can you spread this one?  I'm really curious to see if someone as me can actually bury the search results for some scammers.  Thanks!


A Startling Reminder That Google is an Advertising Company: Google Reader to Be Retired

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We often forget that the big G is an advertising company first, and all the rest goes to serve that end.  And with the startling announcement yesterday that Google Reader is going away, it serves as a reminder that the people who control your data - and how you get it - may have motives very, very different than yours.

I've been a huge user of Google Reader.  HUGE.  And this is a massive blow to the way I manage data.  Lifehacker already has a decent number of suggestions, and if you're running Linux, you might want to check out Liferea and RSSOwl (which runs on Windows, OSX, and Linux).

But here's the bigger question for you (and I) to think about after we're done gnashing our teeth about the damage to our ifttt rules and inconvenience:

What about the other services that Google offers?  How long will something run if it's not directly monetized?

For example, Feedburner.  Bought by Google years ago, they recently stopped offering AdWords in RSS feeds.  Which was surprising, but not a huge concern.  This announcement about Google Reader, though, makes me wonder if other RSS-based services are going to be on the chopping block soon.

Yes, Google is providing a nice long transition window.  (Three months, actually!)   And they've not even hinted at any other changes.   But this is the time to start thinking about who hosts your content.  Who has it, and why, and what do they get out of it?

While I'm not racing this weekend to shift all my feeds away from Feedburner, or to move this blog off of Blogger today... I'm suddenly thinking about it, even though I wasn't fifteen minutes ago.

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In Which I Reflect On Publishing, Gush About SIDEKICKS! And Invite You To Enter To Win A Copy

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One of the stranger things about publishing in this day and age - at least, how I do publishing - is realizing exactly how much trust you have to put in people.

Remember, I focus on multi-author anthologies.  (BECAUSE.)  Which means that I have to completely trust the editor in charge of the project.  I didn't get to actually sit down and read the manuscripts for the last two anthologies Alliteration Ink published1 until I was fully committed to the projects.

Which is scary as hell.

Still, I'm lucky.  Paul Genesse crafted some pretty damn deliciously dark anthologies in The Crimson Pact.  Sabrina Klein has such a great attention to detail that she formed Eighth Day Genesis into one of my favorite How-To books for writers.  Jennifer Brozek is consistently awesome and professional, and I kind of knew that she would ensure that Dangers Untold would be awesome.  (And it is.)

And with the first Alliteration Ink release this year, I'm glad to say that my socks are once again blown the hell off.  SIDEKICKS! officially releases this weekend...and I'm just finally getting a chance to really kick back and read it.

Holy.  Crap.

These stories go well beyond the spandex crusaders, and take the old tropes and turn them on their head.  Whether looking at the brains behind the revolution, sword-wielding squires, sorcerer's apprentices, or places where it's Big Damn Shiny all the time, this book rocks.

And you can enter to win it over at GoodReads.  The giveaway - for a copy signed by the publisher (me), the editor, and as many of the contributing authors as I can get together at the launch party this weekend - is live through Sunday.  Go now to and enter to win this puppy!

And be sure to watch here (or at for the links when it's available everywhere!

1 Kicking the Habit doesn't count for multiple reasons.

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Always ALWAYS ALWAYS Read the Contest Rules (And Then Back Away Quickly)

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I somehow get on scam publishers' mailing lists.  Which is cool, because then I get to point out exactly what kinds of douchepuppet scammers they are.

For example, CUSTOM BOOK Publications.

The stock art and grammar mistakes on the front page should warn you.  The contest page isn't much better and just looks scammy.

Average limit of entries?  What?

And the prizes are... well, the same kind of vague language that tends to mask scams everywhere:
...guaranteed traditional Publishing Contract with Custom Book Publications in both print and eBook formats, a professional edit contract, personal webpage, and marketing and distribution of your published book and ebook.
               In addition, the winner in each category will receive a cash prize of $US300.
We don't know what the terms of those contracts are, mind you.  Just that you'll get one.  And no guarantees about the quality of marketing and distribution or web page.  Oh, and $300 if you're the winner.

What's it cost?  Well, on that page it mentions $39 as an entry fee.  But wait, there's MORE...  Look at the grant of rights on the rules page:

By submitting an Entry and until formally rejected or eliminated from the Contest, you grant Custom Books the exclusive first publication rights to your Entry in all formats. Whether a winner or runner-up or not, if Custom Books wishes to publish your Entry, you agree to negotiate the terms and conditions of a publishing agreement exclusively with Custom Books for a period of 60 days after you receive notification. If you and Custom Books have not reached agreement such period, you may offer the work to other publishers on the condition that before you enter into an agreement with another publisher, you will afford Custom Books the last right to publish your Entry on the same terms and conditions offered by any other publisher, plus an advance against royalties 10% greater than the other offer. Custom Books must communicate its decision to you within 5 business days after you have provided written notice together with a copy of the full and complete offer on the other publisher's letterhead as evidence of the other publisher’s terms and conditions. 

TL;DR:  They do their damnest to grab the rights to your book.  Oh, and they can publish parts of it on their webpage.

Tell me how that's useful to anyone's career as an author.

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Podcasting Is Sampling For Indie Authors: Hear Three Stories From My Anthology For Free

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I read a zombie story to two of my co-workers today during a break.

Specifically, I read "Kicking the Habit".  It's a romantic zombie story (YES IT IS) and they were... well, impressed.

And that's the thing - they were willing to spend ten minutes or so listening to me read a story.  But even though they knew me, the odds of them buying the book with the story were pretty low... until they heard it.

If you spend any time at all around indie authors, you'll hear a lot about "sampling", and how much of a sample is the right amount, and so on.  We often forget podcasts, though.

There are three stories from this collection that have already been put into audio form.  You can hear them without ponying up a single cent - they're free to listen.  No software needed - there are players right on the web pages.

"The Burning Servant" was produced by Pseudopod.

"Memories of Light and Sound" was produced by Tales of Old.

"Broken" is the third story in Trifecta XIX from the DrabbleCast.

Go give them a listen.  If you like 'em, maybe you'll like the rest of my stories.  Feel free to try before you buy.

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Millennicon - next weekend!

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If you check out my appearances calendar in the sidebar, you will see that there are now my panel appearances for Millennicon.

It's a fun, cozy convention in Cincinnati. If you've only been to large cons (or haven't been to any) then a nice small one like Millennicon is great.

Oh - and our launch party for SIDEKICKS! is that weekend...

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The Financial Fallout From Being a Public Bigot

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Recently, an acquaintance of mine - Chris Sprouse- declined to continue working with Orson Scott Card due to the "media attention" around the project.

That is to say, "media attention due to OSC's very public anti-gay position".

I do not pretend to know if Chris finds OSC's lobbying against gays to be repugnant... Or if Chris does not want to be publicly associated with a bigot.  I don't know Chris that well, and he's perfectly capable of speaking for himself there.

What's notable about Chris' decision to step away from working with OSC is the delicacy and class in which it's done.  (I would probably have said "ZOMG I AM NOT WORKING WITH A BIGOTED DOUCHEPUPPET", because I'm a dork like that.)

But business owners and creative folks - you need to pay attention to what's happening around OSC.  People are distancing themselves from his bigotry simply because it's controversial.

When you wear your bigotry on your sleeve, it matters. It can impact your business and your professional life.  You are perfectly free to advocate being a bigoted douchepuppet and insisting that others live by your personal views.

It will have social and financial consequences for you and anything you're associated with.

When you say bigoted stuff... People may not want to be around you. Ever. Or be associated with you. Ever.

It's not because you have a principled stand. It's because you actively chose (and continue to choose) to act like a bigot.

Believe what you like. Publicly espouse what you like.

When people react to it, don't be surprised.

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The Bit To Focus On About Hydra's Contract Terms - From One Who Is Both a Publisher and Provides Publishing Services

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You've probably seen where John Scalzi takes Hydra Publishing (an imprint of Random House) to task for their horrible contract terms (and if you haven't, you should).  The appalling terms got them taken off the list of SFWA qualifying markets.

The problem is not the lack of advances against royalties.

I agree with John (and many others) that there's no reason whatsoever an imprint from any Big Six company should not be offering advances.  The real problems are the other two terms (in reverse order):

For life of copyright.  Seriously.  FUCK THAT.  (Enough emphasis?)   There is no valid reason that any publisher should be claiming rights for that long automatically.  A publisher should be worried about losing the rights to the properties they represent.  That way they can't take them for granted.

They charge authors "set up costs".  To quote Scalzi:

The author is charged “set-up costs” for editing, artwork, sale, marketing, publicity — i.e., all the costs a publisher is has been expected to bear. The “good news” is that the author is not charged up front for these; they’re taken out of the backend. If the book is ever published in paper, costs are deducted for those, too.
Folks, this is where I am damn near uniquely qualified to comment.


It's possible to provide both.  I mean, I do.  However, I make a big freaking deal about explaining the difference between the two

Publishing services - whether with me or someone else - means that a specific service is delivered for a specific fee. I do what you pay me for, and not any more or less. (For example, I don't correct grammar or spelling during eBook conversion.) Someone providing publishing services gets paid by the author.

A publisher instead takes a percentage - usually a majority one - but handles much, if not all, of the business aspects without involving (or bothering) the author. The publisher would hire both copy and line editor, cover artist, etc without payment from the author. The author is paid an advance against royalties (most of the time) and royalties are paid out to the author through the sale of the book to the general public. The publisher makes money from sales of the book to the public.
Hydra crosses that line with a flying leap.  They might be one of the better set up publishing services outfits, but they are still offering contract terms that make them providers of publishing services, not a publisher


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You Will Be Musically Happy (Featuring Trent Reznor and Cookie Monster)

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Most of this is directly (or indirectly) via Sarah Hans!  It's her fault.

Trent Reznor's band Option 30 singing Falco's Der Kommisar:

Head Like a Hole vs. Call Me Maybe

Cookie Monster Takes on Call Me Maybe

Electro-Goth C is For Cookie Mix

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Tyler Durden's Folly, or, Storm: a 100 Word Story

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Sun Shaft

Tyler Durden was an idiot, two decades late and oblivious to the fact. Blowing up buildings in dramatic, exiting, and useless puerile adolescent dick-wagging.

This is different.

This, now, is the tornado siren, the wavering whine echoing across the landscape.

It is too late to run.  Too late to print, to fax, to copy, to burn to disk.

The storm is coming, a maelstrom of artificial life, digital ones of teeth shoveling food - data - into the naught of its gullet.

Already the storm boils through the cloud, races along the highway, flows through the tubes.

Static sounds like rainstorms.

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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INDIE AUTHOR MISTAKES: Know Your Target Audience (Or Which Groups To Advertise To)

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Out of everything that I have published, written, and distributed, there are only two titles that I promote to authors:   Eighth Day Genesis (a book about worldbuilding for authors and other creative folks) and So You Want to Make an eBook? (about making eBooks).  Both of these are explicitly for authors.

All the rest?  Nope.

I might - might - ask fellow authors that I know or have worked with to mention a release to others.  Or if I'm running a promotion, I might ask that they pass along word of the promotion.

But mostly I mention it to them to say "Hey, this is a cool thing I'm working on!" and they say "Cool!" right back.

And that's it.

AdvertisingI belong to a number of author-centric groups on various social networks.  And the same problem keeps cropping up:  Authors who try to sell their book to other authors.

Yes, authors are readers.  But - unless you've written a reference book for authors - authors are not your core audience.

"But Steve," says the straw man, "you read books by other authors you know all the time.  You even review them!"

This is true.

Not a single one of those books was because the author advertised to me

They may have given me a free copy, which is a totally different thing IMHO, or they asked me to review something knowing full well that I've panned books my friends have written.  But it was never because they advertised to me.

I've bought my friend's books.  Sometimes multiple copies so I can give them as gifts  (Hi Jim!).  But that was because the writing was good when I went to their reading, or I was impressed enough by their personality and knowledge that I gave an author I didn't know a chance (Hi Lee!).

But it wasn't because they spammed a list or a group with a driveby "buy my book" post.

PS:  Why is this an "indie author mistake"?   Because I've yet to personally see a Big Six author do this.  I've seen it dozens and dozens of times with indie authors.

I'm not slamming indie authors - hopefully, this will help (other!) indie authors up their game.

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Writing Your Author Bio - An Exercise in Extremely Short Promotion

It doesn't seem like it should be a big deal.

But it is.

Your bio - which will appear in program guides, anthologies, and after magazine articles, should convey both the tone of who you are and give a sense of what you've done... but in a very, very brief space.

How brief?

I recommend having a pre-made bio that fits into a thirty word length, a fifty word length, and a hundred word length.  Those are the most common lengths that I see editors ask for - and having them pre-written means that you'll be able to quickly snap them off when needed. 

Also:  It's tempting to list off all your publications.  Don't bother.  That is what your web page is for.  (Exceptions for people who have won major awards like Hugos, Nebulas, and the like, of course.)  When I have extended room in my bio, I tend to list the works that other people have written that I have published... but that's a situation you probably aren't in.

So for example, my thirty and fifty word variants:

Steven Saus's work has appeared in anthologies and magazines both online and off. He publishes and provides publishing services as Alliteration Ink. You can find him at and

Steven Saus injects people with radioactivity as his day job, but only to serve the forces of good. His work has appeared in anthologies and magazines both online and off. He also publishes and provides publishing services as Alliteration Ink. You can find him at and 

Note that the second one sets the tone - humorous, but slightly sinister - that pretty much fits most of my work.  It's also very memorable - I have people quote it to me at conventions.   Also note that I leave out http:// - folks know to put that there, and modern web browsers will automatically add it as well.

What do you think?  Are your bios longer?  Shorter?   Share yours in the comments!