ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

What To Do About Sexism In Our Official Publications

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[Full disclosure - I am a member of SFWA and have written articles for the SFWA Bulletin. In fact, I had an article in the issue between the two controversial issues.  I also personally know several of the people involved in this.]

[EDIT:  There is an official statement and task force at announced at http://www.sfwa.org/2013/06/sfwa-bulletin-task-force-announced/ ]

Just like the last controversy concerning the SFWA Bulletin, I started hearing about it while my copy is in my PO Box with a good thunderstorm between me and it.  If you want a quick summing up of what's going on, check out these two articles: Dear SFWA and Dear SFWA Writers: Let's Talk About Censorship and Bullying.

My stance - and yes, this is the stance of Alliteration Ink as well - is the same as it was last time:

We - the guys who have perpetuated it for so long - must join voices with the women who love the same things we do. We must all say in one voice, repeatedly, that sexism is not okay any more.

When sexist bullshit raises its head, we have to ensure that there's a clear message that it's not okay in our community. That apologies are matched with actions, instead of justified with "reasons".

There is only one available course of action:

We must clearly, consistently ensure that until those apologies are said, until those sexist behaviors change, that people behaving in sexist ways aren't welcome in our fandom.

This isn't something that requires balance.  This is not something that the racists and sexists and homophobes get to "rebut".  This is not a matter of opinion or politics.  This is not a matter to be negotiated or mitigated or compromised upon.  This is a matter of being professional and treating all sf/f authors professionally.

This said, I'm glad to see the outgoing SFWA president - John Scalzi - quickly taking responsibility.


Additionally, I have confidence that the incoming president will continue promoting the organization as representative of all sf/f writers, and treating them professionally.  And my view of the organization as a whole is still mirrored by Damien Walter:
But for the actors in this particular controversy... well, I'll sum up my feelings there by saying that I'm still not interested in getting involved with the financial fallout from being a public bigot.

Yes, there is a lot of sexism and racism and bigotry embedded in our culture.  Those of us raised in it - especially those of us with privilege - have a blind spot to it.   We must invite others to call us on our blind spots. We must listen when they do so. We must make sure we are not being creeps.  We must stop being defensive and mocking of those who criticize us.

And we don't get to make the same damn mistakes over and over and over again.

How to make it right?

There needs to be a simple, public apology (good guide here) from all directly involved actors.  While it's good (and necessary) that the leadership of SFWA is taking responsibility, I'm actually more interested in the actors involved apologizing.  Not as scapegoats or as patsies, but because I know them.  Because I know I've screwed up - massively - in the past, and worked to redeem myself.  Because I want them to see where they erred, and to work to improve themselves for the better.

Because the alternative is choosing between people who are choosing to be bigots and alienating more people from the fandom I love.

And that's a damn easy choice to make.

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Why I'm Not Converting to ePub version 3

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I was preparing a talk on selling your work digitally that I'll present at the Origins Game Fair, when I realized that I am still firmly using ePub version 2 instead of version 3.  There's not a lot of differences between the two, but they exist.

So I looked into it somewhat... and quickly realized that for those of us writing novels, short stories, anthologies - basically text-based works - that the drawbacks and learning curve aren't worth it.

The whole point of using a real eBook format instead of PDF is so that the text can fit the screen - because you don't know what font size or even what kind of device the person is going to be reading on.  They could be reading it on a PC, on a phone (of different resolutions), an eInk reader, or tablet.  And I want that reading experience to be roughly the same across platforms.  Or to put it another way:

The presentation of the text may enhance the work, but must never distract from the work

I've pointed this out a few different times - the example showing how drop caps can completely bork your work is a good one - and that philosophy underpins why I'm not using ePub version 3.  I don't know what my readers are using, and I want to ensure that it renders the same across devices.

Here's one of the example ePub 3 files (the Wasteland, to be specific - and not obfuscated fonts, because I know that problem already) rendered across several different devices.  There is neither consistent support for the Greek lettering (which I would have solved by using an image) or for the linebreaks.

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The Potential Downside for Publishers of Making Pirate Links Less Relevant

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So I got to send a DMCA notice this morning for someone hosting The Crimson Pact on their pirate site.  The only reason I found it was due to a Google Alert.

And that makes me question the policy of downgrading pirate sites in search results.

Should I start changing my alerts to "all results" (and get a bunch of random unrelated crap), or will I still see pirate results so that I can actually ask they be taken down?

I don't know the answer to that question.  I wish I did.  But it does tell me that simply removing it from the public eye isn't going to make piracy go away.

Alliteration Ink's official piracy policy is available at http://alliterationink.com/piracy.html

If you pirated some of our work, buy a copy for a friend.  Buy the next thing that comes out.  Support those making the art and entertainment you enjoy.

Thanks.

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The Show Must Go On - A Flash Fiction

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The lights dim, the crowd silences.

He strides out from the wings - his shadow overlarge, distorted in the few paces before the blue spear of the spotlight catches him. Surely it is just a trick, an illusion.

"You have come for a show!" His mouth smiles, wet and wide, not reaching his eyes. He gestures toward the curtain.

The red cloth pulls back as the shapes behind it lurch and gibber and thrust their way forward through the crowd's screaming flesh.

"So have they," he says through his too-wide smile. "Because all the world's a stage."

"And all-you-can-eat buffet."


Please note that the 100 Word Story Podcast is changing URLS to http://oneadayuntilthedayidie.com/! 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 (http://feeds.feedburner.com/Ideatrash) 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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Honoring the Dead: Memorial Day

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It's Memorial Day in the United States today.

I've been posting (or at least linking to) "Honoring the Dead" just about every year since I wrote it in 2005.

My son is twice more than old as he was then.  One of the two wars going on when I wrote it is still ongoing.  It has literally been going on for over three quarters of his life. 





Honoring the Dead: Memorial Day

by Steven Saus

The name stumbles from my tongue. Mashed consonants slide into a string of vowels - my mouth is confused. It is an Iraqi name, someone killed in the war.

A woman stands across from me. She has read the name of a dead Ohio soldier. Seven Iraqi names to each Ohioan - an attempt to give some perspective to the kill ratio. She is waiting as I fumble through the first of seven. Finally, I get to the age of death: 45.

A bit old for a soldier, I muse. Still, six more strange names to go. It is Memorial Day, and we are honoring the dead.

The second name is more familiar - Hassan Mohammed something. I breeze through it, cruising easily until I stop short at the age: seven.

Seven?

Glance down the list quickly, check the rest of the ages. Five. Nine. Six. Eleven. Two.

My youngest son sits with his mother, bored but patient. She is praying, but he sees me looking and smiles at me. It's a goofy grin under his tousled blond hair.

He, too, is seven.

I struggle through the rest of the names and ages. I wonder how alien, how strange my son's name of "Christopher" would sound to them.

Later, I hug him, my little seven-year-old boy, and pray for the parents who can never hold their child again.

On Memorial Day, I remember, and pray never to forget.

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Do Whatever You Can To Foster Young Writers. They Are The Future. (And you get to see my early, early writing!)

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Maurice Broaddus didn't know what he stumbled into the week after Mo*Con.

He sent me an e-mail asking if I could help with the layout of a special anthology... from where he was encouraging school children to write their own stories.  The kids had all written something and he'd collected it together, and wanted to get print copies for the kids.  Originally, he was just asking for some assistance setting up a document for him to figure out with Lulu or ...

At which I point I cut him off by doing this:


Luckily, it was e-mail, so I could pretend to be cool and suave and stuff and finish the e-mail before telling him that I WANTED TO DO ALL THE THINGS.

The result is this little gem:

He assures me that it's a pretty thing.  I went to great lengths to try to make it look good, for it to be something that each kid would look at and be impressed by.

Let me clarify.

That the kids would be impressed that they were so important, that their writing was so important, that it deserved that kind of effort.

Because it does.

My official bio says "His first venture into writing and publishing was while in second grade using a mimeograph machine."   Those little magazines were a wonderful opportunity that a few teachers did their best to give me.

And I had found them less than a week before.

I remember those teachers encouraging me. Their influence is part of why writing has always been part of my life. They helped me realize it was important. And here was Maurice, doing the same thing for entire classrooms of children. Of course I would do anything I could to help.

So to the kids whose first published work is in Fueled by Takis, excellent job. 


I am proud to be your publisher. I am humbled to be a part of your journey.  You shared your stories with each other and with me.  Encourage each other.  Because you can do it.

And if you're curious what those mimeographed magazines from my childhood looked like... well, they're right below (plus bonus material!)

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The Mobile Version of Your Website is Your Digital Business Card; Treat It That Way

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It was a lot of work to make my website look pretty decent in mobile browsers.  It's still not perfect, but it is useable.

I wasn't quite sure why I need to spend all that energy - other than increasing my own personal nerd-fu - until the author and artist session I was at last weekend.  Each person had about five minutes to speak, and the venue had plentiful wi-fi.

And I found myself looking up people's web pages.

So for example, here are my sites - stevensaus.com and alliterationink.com - viewed through my iPhone:



I made some efforts to make them recognizable if you'd seen the main site, but still have a coherent layout and legible text at the default resolution. 

Here's another publisher's website:
There are some very clear design differences between their site and mine, but the key elements are very easy to read, the menu button works just fine, so hey, it's all good.

Another group - whose website looks great at full resolution - has some more problems though.


 We're having some real legibility problems here.  Luckily, the columns are such that you can tap and zoom in on each column.  It works - but it's awkward. 

But then there was this one:


  

It didn't zoom for me to the center column.  Nothing is legible at this level.  The website title tag is "Home", so even if I mail the link to myself or bookmark it, it won't clearly be the author's website.  I wouldn't follow up.

People talked about "digital business cards" a few years ago, but I think we missed the point.  With the market penetration of mobile browsers and smartphones, people no longer need to wait to get your paper business card after the talk or panel.  They've already looked you up on the web.  They've already looked at your site.

Use the same principles for your business card for the mobile version of your web page.

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Random Thought: Drive By Readings

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One of the hardest things to do at conventions is to get people to listen to or try out your work.

While at MARCon this year, I started out with only person listening. There were quite a few more when I was done - simply from people stopping by and investigating what was going on.

So maybe we, as authors, need to rethink how we do readings. Drive by readings in the public areas of parks. Reading in between sets for a local band.

Being public with our work.

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Digital Books Should (still) Not Just Mean PDF

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It was years ago when I first started emphatically noting that PDFs were fundamentally different than eBooks. I've not been alone in that, and kind of assumed by this point that it was common knowledge.

So I was surprised to learn 1that any publishers - let alone a big publisher - will still just sends out PDFs when they send digital advance review copies.2

An advance review copy is not supposed to be the finished product. While I am a huge proponent of having excellent eBook design (and not relying on automatic converters), that simply does not apply here.

You don't send ARCs to the public at large. They are for reviewers. For people who are wanting to review the words.

I'm not bashing on folks who use PDF- or those who primarily read on a tablet. A PDF works fine if you have a tablet. And it kind of sucks on everything else. The last book that I reviewed, I half read on my eReader and half on my phone. It would have been difficult to read on the eReader and impossible to read on my phone.

There is no reason to make it hard for a reviewer to review your book.



1 After making an ass of myself by asking questions and not scrolling far enough back to get context first. D'oh.
2 Let alone password protected or otherwise DRM'd versions - but that's another post.

Location:Woodland Ave,Dayton,United States

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What I Did With My Five Minutes Speaking To A Group of Local Authors

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This weekend, I was at a local author's and artists event.  Other than knowing I'd have five minutes to speak, I wasn't sure what to expect.  Despite the table-oriented setup, I quickly realized that it was more of a networking kind of event instead of a public-facing sales event.   I didn't want to make the common indie-author mistake of trying to sell to authors, so I spent a few minutes hashing out and reworking what I wanted to say.

I'm glad I did.

I got a little carried away - this is a topic I'm highly passionate about - but these are my notes.  If you know someone who is just getting into writing and being published, this is a good place for them to start knowing what questions to ask.

And maybe it was best that there were few genre writers there.  For some reason, those of us in the genre ghettos seem to be more aware of pay rates and contracts than our literary brethren.  

And for those of you who were there (or are reading this now) who have been scammed, A.C. Crispin has some good advice on what to do next.



My name is Steven Saus. I pay the bills by injecting people with radioactive stuff. For the forces of good.

Mostly.

I am an author, with fiction, nonfiction, and poetry appearing in magazines and anthologies both online and off. I am a member in good standing of both SFWA and HWA.

I am a small publisher who focuses on anthologies - mostly genre fiction, though you might be interested in 8th Day Genesis, my worldbuilding book for writers and creatives.

I also provide publishing services, including eBook conversion, digital distribution, and more.

And that brings me to my big point.

The world of publishing is changing. And that's good. It lets stories be heard that would otherwise be silenced. But it has a dark side - it lets lots of people call themselves publishers and prey on you - on us.

There are a lot of scammers out there. There are a lot of folks taking advantage of writers. And sometimes the scammers are even owned by the big New York houses.

As an author, this annoys me to no end because I want fair contracts and professional deals.  As a publisher, it annoys me because their bad practices drag down the reputation of the rest of us.

Part of my mission statement is helping authors know what is fair. To know that you don't have to pay a publisher to be published, and what fair rates are for publishing services.

My contract templates are online, with plain language descriptions.  I talk about what's fair on my blog, and help point people to trustworthy resources.

For example: Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors.

And questions are free. Work costs money - but questions are always free.

You do not have to pay someone else to tell your story.

Money flows toward the author.

Value flows toward the creator.

Always.

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Old Scabs - Free Flash Fiction

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You don't want to, you really don't. But the scab - dried platelets and blood - can't be ignored.

Try to concentrate on the smooth skin - not the red raised inflammation around the scab - focus, dammit, focus.

Your fingers, your clothes, the air brushes against the scab.

The invisible elephant makes it impossible to move, to breathe, to think.

Dig with fingernails chewed and peeled and bitten with worry. The sharp flashes of pain are relief, any sensation besides the crusted deadened dread.

You are surprised by the blood, by the wound.

It will stain your clothes.

It will leave a scar.


Please note that the 100 Word Story Podcast is changing URLS to http://oneadayuntilthedayidie.com/!

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 (http://feeds.feedburner.com/Ideatrash) 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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The Three Things That Make or Break Relationships

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At a recent party1, the conversation turned to relationships. Capital-R relationships. Serious relationships. Romantic relationships. And I shared my biggest relationship tip of them all: Listen to the polyamorous folks. Even if you’re straight-up monogamous, poly people have to manage more relationships at once - and so it stands to reason that they’ve got to have some ideas that can help a monogamous relationship as well.2

And that got us talking about the benefits and drawbacks of the relationship models each of us is in. The people in the discussion spanned the range of relationship models - from purely monogamous to fully polyamorous. And each person (or in some cases, couples) were in pretty functional relationships. As we all talked about what kind of relationship we were in, and why we were doing the kinds of relationships we were, one thing kept coming up again and again:

Each person in the relationship trusted each other, was honest about their needs and fears - and the other people in the relationship were flexible enough to address those needs and fears to make the relationship stronger.

The people different relationship models - polyamorous, monogamous, monogamish, some mix of all of the above - had all talked openly to their partner(s). They were honest about their needs and fears. And their partners addressed those fears - even to the point of changing the relationship model.

One couple told how they had an “open” relationship - but when there was extra stress and anxiety due to life events, they closed their relationship to help each other feel more secure. Another couple said they’d done the opposite - that having a more “open” relationship and being honest about it with each other had reduced their insecurity.

Those two couples addressed their insecurity issues in completely different ways. And that’s the point - there is no one-size fits all relationship model. It doesn’t matter what aspect of the relationship you’re talking about: kids, how long an engagement should be, what kinds of living arrangements you choose, or even how many partners you should (or shouldn’t) have.

Heck, look at the example above. The relationship model you’re in (or want) now may change as your life changes. You may realize you have needs or fears that you were unaware of. That’s okay.

You build your relationship based on trust, honesty, and a commitment to be flexible enough to meet your partner's needs. Flexible enough that you can even change the relationship model you're in order to strengthen the relationship itself.

That’s what is important.

That’s what makes relationships work.



1 I’m one of those guys who likes to talk about “real stuff” at parties. So this scenario is fairly common for me - and is actually cobbled together from a few different conversations at a few different locations. Identities are, of course, mungled and smeared, genders sometimes changed, and so on.

2 Polyweekly is a good place to start. I also recommend Dan Savage as well; the guy has consistently good advice, and is funny to boot. Reading-wise, I'd start with Wendy-O Matik's "Redefining Our Relationships". There's even more recommendations here

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What I Think A Query (or Cover Letter) Should Look Like

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One of the things that happens when you become a publisher is that you start getting people telling you about their manuscript... and asking you if you want to publish it.  On the Alliteration Ink website, there's a place where I wrote:

As a general rule, I am not open to novel submissions as a publisher. If you insist, query by e-mail. Do NOT send any of the text.
If you are interested in pitching me a single-author collections, please query by e-mail with two or three samples of your work.
I received an excellent query from one author, Leslie J. Anderson.  It struck me as pitch-perfect (pun intended), and she gave me permission to share it with you.  First, the actual query:

Dear Mr. Saus,

I picked up a copy of See No Evil, Say No Evil, and I was really impressed with both the quality of the production and writing.

I am currently looking for a publisher for my poetry manuscript. The manuscript, entitled An Inheritance of Stone, is mostly speculative poetry. The genre is primarily science fiction, but there are some horror and fantasy pieces.

Poems from the collection are forthcoming or have been published in Asimov’s, Star*Line, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Strange Horizons, and New Myths. I have an MA in Creative Writing from Ohio University.

May I send you a copy of my manuscript for consideration? Thank you for your time.

Best Regards,
Leslie
Okay, so here's why I liked it, paragraph by paragraph:

  1. She said clearly why she became interested in me as a publisher.  The work she referenced is comparable to what she's pitching as well.
  2. Straight to the point.  Clearly describes what she's offering without going into too much detail.  It's a elevator pitch, really, and lets me quickly decide if it's something I'm interested in finding out more about or not.
  3. Relevant publishing credits.  I am familiar with all of those markets except Star*Line.  They're all quality pro or semi-pro markets.  The MA can be superfluous, but given that we're talking about poetry, it's probably more relevant than if she had been pitching space opera or zombies.
  4. Actionable request.  Note that there was no manuscript attached here, which is the way it should be.  Don't send a manuscript until you're asked to.
A nice professional close, and we're done.

While other publishers may have different tastes, I'm fairly certain they're as busy as me... and probably busier.  It's like any elevator pitch - you get interest with a hook.

Think of it like describing your kick-ass ninth level paladin.  Even if I'm a tabletop RPG nerd (and I am), going into a lot of detail up front isn't going to intrigue me.  Who cares what the stats are, or his family tree, or lineage right off the bat?  Tell me "I'm playing a paladin who is starting to think he's an atheist in a polytheistic fantasy setting," on the other hand...

Well, I want to hear all about that character.  

Or write them.   Excuse me, I've got a story to write....


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The Nostalgic Low-FILDI Mix

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I made the original "When Your FILDI Is Low" mix on 8tracks a while back.

It's a bit... eclectic. So this is the grungy/alternative/punk 90's mix with the same goal.

I hope you enjoy.


When Your FILDI Is Low (90's Retro Mix) from SenorWombat on 8tracks Radio.

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Recreating a bit of Savannah in MineCraft

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Because I said I would.








My humble abode is in the background.  I play on this server, if you're wondering:



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Past performance can impact future results.

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This could be an addendum to the prior blog post.

As I worked my way out of my toxic relationship, one person was invaluable in getting my head screwed on straight. Important enough that I dedicated my collection Kicking The Habit to her, saying that she saved me.

It's not an exaggeration.

And in the process, I hurt her badly. Emotionally. I screwed up large parts of her life. More than a few times, she relied on me and I completely let her down. My actions did not always follow my intent - both my stated intent and my desired intent.

The details of that aren't just mine, so I'm not going into them here.

Suffice to say that I was a shithead.

I like to think - I hope - that I am not the same person that treated her so badly. I hope that I am no longer the person who repaid kindness and understanding with weakness and selfishness.

But that is the downside of relying on a trend line.

Your missteps, your mistakes - all of these are someone else's pain. They will remember that pain, that hurt, and it will have consequences on the way they treat you down the road.

And you have to acknowledge that and deal with the pain you have caused.

Because all you can do is apologize, do better the next time, and hope that is enough.

I'm sorry, Cynthia.

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Past performance does not guarantee future results

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This is how past behavior influences the present:

You look at the trend line.

Everyone slips and falls and backtracks and sidesteps. That's normal.

When the general trend line of their progress is the same (or different) direction as what they say, it demonstrates a lot.

I had a real hard time getting out of my last toxic relationship. I backslid. I screwed up. I stumbled and I fell back into codependent ways of thinking.

BUT - I said I was progressing toward getting out of that toxic relationship and toxic mindset. And despite all my failings, I kept (generally) moving toward that goal.

And that's the thing to pay attention to. Where is the goal? When you smooth out the failings and screwups, what's the general direction of travel?

And if they're not going the same direction, you make course corrections.

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A Story From Ecclesiastes: A 100 Word Story

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This isn't a story.

You want purpose? You want some kind of reassurance that there is meaning?

There is no evidence that there is meaning. None.

Faith, maybe, but no evidence.

As far as we know, there's just a huge, empty, terrifying blank. A vast nothing, throwing your brainstem into survival instinct protective recoil. It's terrifying, no matter how many times you look at it.

You want to just give up. To give in to the nothing.

And then you get up. You go on. You do something awesome anyway.

Then it gains meaning.

Only then does it becomes story.

Based around Laurence Simon's weekly challenge for the 100 word-stories podcast. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site.

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Thank You For Supporting The Ennies - And You Still Get To Hear Me Sing

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Thank you to everyone who contributed to the Publisher Karaoke fundraiser for the ENnies this year! Unfortunately, despite a last-second rally, we came in fourth place... just barely missing the mark needed to get me to sing in public.

But screw that. You all are awesome for contributing to something as cool as the ENnies. So you get to hear me sing anyway. Use the player below, or you can access it directly at this link. (If you're reading this on LJ or Goodreads, you might need to actually visit ideatrash.net to see the link.)

Again, thank you so much for supporting the ENnies!

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My Take on Spoon Theory (from MoCon)

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Note: we used spoon theory to describe chronic psychiatric illness. A good description of spoon theory is here



This weekend I learned that sometimes you don't have enough spoons in the drawer.

That everyone, at some point, doesn't have enough spoons.

And on those days, you learn to work with not having enough spoons.

And you learn to forgive yourself for having too few spoons.

And that sometimes you don't have the nice spoons, but you might have a used plastic spork.

And you use that nasty cheap spork all you have to, and screw anyone who judges you for using a spork.

Because there's a hell of a lot of people out there who understand why there's a cheap-ass used spork clenched in your fist.

And I learned they care about you.

Thank you to everyone at MoCon.

Location:Brown St,Dayton,United States

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Securing Your Online Life

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There's no easy segue into this: There are bad people on the internet.

By being a public figure (and honestly, if you've written anything and been published anywhere, you're a public figure), you are a target. A panel I attended at Mo*Con covered a lot of how to protect your life when you live online, and the principles of how to balance privacy and real life.

Slightly overlapping on the Venn diagram of keeping yourself safe are the technical aspects of keeping your online life secure. There's a lot to know. Even a rough overview covers having good passwords, encrypting your web browsing, knowing the how to effectively back up your data, social engineering, and keeping yourself off of stalker-friendly "people searches".

I hope the article below, which originally appeared in Volume 47, Issue Two of the SFWA Bulletin1, helps you keep the creepers a little farther away.





1 Presented with permission. Please link back to this document. Thanks.

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The Awesome Nature of Relaxapanels

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One of the things I love about genre and writing conventions are the panels. I enjoy them as an audience member, and I love it even more being on the panels.

It's nice to get up for a panel and see the room filled with two score (or more) people waiting to hear what you have to say. It's the familiar lecture format. Even if you have a moderator who primarily moderates by asking the panelists questions the audience wants to hear, it still resembles a lecture or a "talk". The audience recieves wisdom delivered from the Wise Ones on High.

And then there's the panel where you walk in and have as many people in the audience as you do panelists.

I call these "relaxapanels". And they can be awesome.

For the audience member(s), it's great. They have a rare opportunity to talk to the panelists for about an hour without interruption. (This frequently happens with author readings at conventions as well.) Talk about the panel topic, or ask about other things that are going on. Get the behind-the-scenes look.

For panelists, it can be awesome...if you let go of the podium. Let go of the lecture format. Pull chairs into a circle if you can. Have a conversation. See what the audience wants to talk about. Maybe they have information or perspectives you've never considered. Maybe they can confirm what you've always believed. Maybe they're just cool to talk to.

The next time you find yourself unexpectedly at a relaxapanel (you can't plan relaxapanels, they just happen1, don't worry about how many people are there.

Relax.

It can be awesome.


1 Okay, planning a panel for early Sunday morning at a convention raises the odds...

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I have a guest blog on Maurice Broaddus' blog; go check it out.

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I've talked piecemeal - and in different amounts to different people - about how I managed to get myself in a toxic relationship.  And when I realized that Maurice Broaddus was having folks write guest blogs about the things they've gone through in the run up to Mo*Con this year, I asked if I could write about codependency and toxic relationships.

You can read the post here.  It should open in an new window and everything.

After I sent it to him, I started doubting myself.  Some of the amazing guest posts were so much more personal, so much more moving, so much more everything... and really, could my issues even vaguely measure up?

And that's a testament of exactly how much a toxic relationship can mess you over.

Because I re-read what I'd sent Maurice.
The axioms about boiling frogs are largely true.  Increase the heat slowly, slowly, and the frog will never think to jump out of the pot.  I did not pay attention to the slow, small changes, the little nudges that ended up twisting my worldview.  The nudges that eventually left me in front of Despair’s mirror.  I was about to quit college a term away from graduation.  To stop writing fiction.  To stop blogging.  To stop going out.  For the second time in my life, I seriously considered killing myself.  The despair was far, far deeper than anything I’d felt while clinically depressed.  The water was boiling, and I barely noticed.
Yes, I was lucky.  I was in a situation where changing my circumstances could actually change everything else.

It didn't feel lucky.  It didn't feel fixable.  It felt helpless as hell.

Since I started extracting myself from my own toxic relationship, since I've started changing my own behaviors and policing my boundaries, I've run into quite a few other people on the same journey.  Maybe that means that I attract those folks.

But I'm afraid it just means there's a hell of a lot of us.

If you don't want to read my whole essay, at least check out Sick Systems: How to Keep Someone With You Forever and How to Avoid Problem People.

And go read the rest of the excellent "Road to Mo*Con" posts.  

Thanks.

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You Are A Puzzle Piece: Your Value In Relationships

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All the context you need:  I had a pal tell me this:

"She would rather be alone than with me.  That means I'm worse than being alone."

Aside from the built-in prejudice that being alone is automatically the same as "bad", there's a much worse fallacy at play.

puzzle perspectiveDan Savage frequently says there isn't a "The One", but there's a lot of 0.7's, or 0.8's.  Maybe even some 0.9's.  Even that is problematic, because you have to remember that each person's scale only counts for that person.

As I put it to my pal:

This is not about a scale of good to bad. This is about matching puzzle pieces. Just because two don't quite fit right doesn't make either puzzle piece "bad".
 Your relationship doesn't work out?  That sucks.  It sucks bad.  But it doesn't automatically mean you are a bad person... just that you're not right for that person.

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