ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

See Me Guest Blog All Over Teh InterWebz

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I've been writing a lot of guest posts for What Fates Impose which you might not have gotten to see.  So let me collect them here:

I'm actually pretty happy about these little essays, so go give 'em a looksee.

And of course, be sure to back the Kickstarter!  We're over halfway!  Woo!   And if you've already donated, keep spreading the word.   I made it really easy - just three button clicks on this page.

One last thing - my significant other, Cynthia Marshall, is participating in the Clarion West Write-A-Thon.  You can sponsor her writing (and others going to Clarion) right on over here.

Otherwise the dogs with their laser eyes will get you.


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Your Ears Need This: Lady Winchester

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You might remember a little while ago when I waxed all poetic over Douglas F. Warrick's book Plow the Bones?

Yeah.  Well, it turns out that Mr. Warrick is multi-talented.

One of the more interesting bits about music lately has been the smashing and twisting of genres, and Lady Winchester (the band Mr. Warrick is part of) does that quite well.  They hang out on the folk side of the spectrum, but with some punk sensibilities.   Very fun stuff.  Give it a few minutes to worm its ways into your earholes when you can dance about, and I bet you like it.  There's some samples on YouTube, and you can get the whole album as a pay-what-you-like download at Bandcamp.



NOTE: Chicago, My Love starts with a scream....



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Just a brief update about the Nuclear Kid

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I want to take a minute to say thank you for the expressions of support both public and private about my last post regarding my son.

At least one person showed it to Aubrey (my ex). So I was surprised when my son was able to call last night.

It is still upsetting.  Even though he called yesterday, he is "grounded from all electronics" - computer, cell phone, etc - and has not been allowed access to the internet at his home. He has no idea why - just that it started after he returned from visiting me.

That, combined with my ex revoking the powers of attorney without notice, warning, or explanation still indicates that this isn't over.  That access to my son will be a sword of Damocles, at least for a little over two years.

I have no idea why this is happening now.  The two times he has visited have been entirely at her whim.  At Christmas last, when I said "Just tell me what I have to do to see my son," she said "No."  This last time she insisted on controlling the dates and times of his visit.

I'm telling you all this not to condemn her.  I am genuinely sure she is doing the best she can. 

But I don't understand why it is happening.  And so I have to presume that it will happen again.

I don't want to focus on that, though. I want to focus on my relationship with my son.

And at least for now, I can.

Thank you.

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An Open Letter to Chris The Nuclear Kid On The Day I Get The News His Mom Is Trying To Cut Me Off From Him

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I don't have any legal right to my son.

It's a long and complicated story, but the basics are this:  I didn't adopt him while I was married to his mother.  It was purely a logistical decision, based around money and time constraints, nothing more.  While I started out as "Mister Steve" when I first met him when he was four, I quickly just became "Dad", and have been for over a decade.  His mom and I used powers of attorney and the like to ensure that I was always able to take care of him.  I get angry when people say he's not my "real child".  He is my son.

When my relationship with Aubrey Maples1 - my son's mother - became so strained that it was impacting my mental health, I moved out.  Obviously, his mother sees it differently.  Not the point.

Before we divorced last year, I continued to support him (and, by extension, his mother) for nearly three years2. I made sure to move to a nearby apartment so that I could be sure to play an active role in his life. A role that, from what my son has told me, that he welcomed then and continues to welcome.

Then when the divorce actually happened, Aubrey suddenly moved herself - and my son - two states away to Tennessee.  Because the courts wouldn't let me pay child support (seriously), his mother and I arranged a "spousal support" agreement to reflect the child support I wanted to pay.  Aubrey verbally agreed to let Chris visit, to help my son keep in contact with his father.

That's not really been the case for a year now.  He's visited twice.  Grand total of just over three weeks - ten days at Christmas and not quite two weeks earlier this month.  She placed strict conditions on both times, changing plans at the last second, and making non-negotiable demands about the times and dates he could visit me.  The first half of this year, she routinely kept him from the ways that he has to stay in touch with me.  She justifies it by citing his grades or some other reason, but how Skype impacts his grades, I'm not sure.  She told him that I don't send any money to help support him, even though it's right there in the court documents.

But it was worth the hassles she imposed.   I was glad both times when he visited.  I enjoy talking to him and hanging out with him.  He's a pretty cool kid.  We had a lot of fun this last time he visited, even though his mother insisted that it be cut short, and forced him to miss the last two days of the Origins Game Fair and return the day before Father's Day.

Again, despite Aubrey's demands, I enjoyed having him here.  We played games.  We watched movies.  I took him out to eat.  We had an early birthday party for him, since I figured he wouldn't be allowed to visit before his birthday came around.  We listened to the Audible production of Death Troopers together in the car.  He hung out at Origins, and did an awesome job manning my table there for a few hours.  We sang "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the car, a la Wayne & Garth.

It was cool.

His mom insisted a friend of hers drive him back instead of me the day before Father's Day.  I had to say goodbye to him before I dropped him off there;  I pulled over shortly after him dropping off to finish crying before driving back to Origins.

Today I got the letter where his mother revoked all the powers of attorney on the day he left - the day before Father's Day.   The letter where she asserted that if I even @ replied to her on Twitter that it would be considered "harassment".

To me, that pretty much sounds like his mother is saying "I'm not going to let him visit you again."

I call my son almost every night.  He's not answered the last few in a row.  He's not answered his text messages, either.  Given that in the past she's confiscated his phone and computer and any way to contact me, it's not looking good.  I hope I'm wrong - but I doubt it.

Whatever.  That's not the point.  I'm not writing this to bitch about my ex-wife.  That's just background so my son knows the timeline of what has happened in case I don't get a chance to tell him myself.

Because here's the thing:  My son's relationship with his mother is his.  It has nothing to do with me, or my relationship with her.  I made damn sure to make that clear to him, and it's still true.  His relationship with her parents is his as well, regardless of what I think of them.

I figure that at some point he will read this.  I figure at some point my son will find out that without asking him what he thought, she decided to cut him off from his father.

So here, Chris:

I love you.  I want to spend as much time with you as possible.  I think I showed that during the years your mom and I were separated and you spent practically every other day with me.  I think I've shown that by doing everything I can to help you get up to visit me since she moved two states away.   I want to be involved in your life - that's why I keep calling, that's why I keep playing games with you online.  I'm going to continue sending that money every month so that you can have a better life down there, regardless of what your mom does.  Because you are more important to me than being mad or upset at your mom.   And that's why I can say this:

If you're mad at your mom about this, try to forgive her.

I have barely talked to your mother for months.  You've seen practically all of it, when she took your phone to text me.  You saw the last time I called to help you recover your password.  I have no idea what she's thinking. 

But I know that I have done some pretty shitty things in my life.  I've done some pretty shitty things to your mom, too.  And no matter how shitty they were, I was doing the best I could at the time.

I figure she is too.

That doesn't mean what she's doing is right.  It's not.  Using access to kids as a way to hurt your ex is a fucking horrible thing to do.

But here's the thing, kiddo.  It means her actions are understandable.  If you're mad, if you're upset, that's okay.  But you've got to live with her for at least two more years.  I imagine that she's coming from a place of hurt and anger - and damn, that's a horrible place to be.

Recognize your feelings.  Recognize where she's coming from.  Feel the emotion - and let it go again.  Live your life excellently.  Try to be positive even when the people around you are being hateful.  Focus on healing yourself, especially when the people around you are coming from places of anger and hurt.

I hope I'm wrong, and that your mom will let you visit again.  I hope I'm wrong, and that you'll be able to talk to me again soon.  Or that we'll play Minecraft or Warcraft or something else over the Internet. 

And if it is as bad as I think - if she's trying to completely cut you off from me - toss me a message when you can.   I'm all over the freaking Internet, man.  It's easy to find me.

I'll be waiting to hear from you.   And if your mom is going to try to make that be a little over two years from now, well, that just means we'll have a whole hell of a lot of catching up to do. 

After you kick my ass in Metroid and I whup yours in Warcraft.

Love you, kiddo.


1 His last name is different than either of ours, FWIW.
2 Note for the curious: I mean "paid for the rent, gas, power, water, electric, phone, alarm system, vet visits for the animals, clothes, and medical and life insurance" when I say "support".

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Fade: A Flash Fiction

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She flickers.  "Nonononononononono."  My words blur like my typing fingers pulling up source code.

"I'm... tired, John."  She puts a hand to her head.  "I'm...dizzy."

Sweat beads on my forehead.  "It'll be okay, honey."

There's an edge to her fading voice.  "You're always working on the computer."

"I have a good reason."  Keep typing.  Keep debugging.

"Computer instead of me."  Her voice is half-static.  "You... time with me." 

I look.  Her eyes are 8-bit and translucent, and closing.

My wife, two years dead, derezzes again.

"I have a good reason."  I start typing through the tears.

"A good reason."


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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Kickstarter and Link Roundups And Donations Oh My!

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Last night I talked a lot to the authors and editor of What Fates Impose about what our response to issues with Kickstarter would be.   I read a lot of backer feedback.  I encouraged all and sundry to directly contact Kickstarter with our concerns.  Thank all of you who left feedback and talked with me online.

This morning I wrote a rather long e-mail to the authors, and Nayad wrote an update to our project outlining what our response would be.   And then Kickstarter apologized rather well, making much of what was going to appear here today completely moot.  

The one thing that isn't?   Whatever Kickstarter's cut is of What Fates Impose is going to be matched and donated, out of my personal pocket, to the Artemis Center in my neck of the woods.  Yes, that means the more money raised by What Fates Impose, the more they get.   (Legal note:  I am not donating money raised from the Kickstarter, I'm donating my own cash.)

Still, there's some deeper questions to ponder here.  If a tool is misused, does that mean the tool is bad?  If Kickstarter did not have community guidelines, would this have still been a problem?  If we, as authors, discover a publisher (or printer, or layout designer) has also worked on abhorrent projects, does that mean we shouldn't be working with that person or organization?

These aren't easy questions.  For someone like me, where ideals factor high in my business DNA, they're tough questions indeed.

Rather than just leave you with those questions, I'm going to leave you with a mini link roundup!

Nayad is offering artwork to folks who back the project early;  check her offer out.

Peter Watts graciously allowed me some space on his blog to talk about fate, George Herbert Mead, and biological determinism.

Beth Wodzinsky writes some about why this anthology is going to be awesome!

You can get a preview of Ferrett Steinmetz's story "Black Swan Oracle" right on over here...

And, of course, you should totally go back the Kickstarter itself at bit.ly/kickfate and help promote it in three clicks at bit.ly/sharefate

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Brief Note on Kickstarter Issues

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I will be issuing a larger statement about Kickstarter and Alliteration Ink in the next 12-36 hours.

If you don't know why I would need to do such a thing, here's some background information:

http://www.jimchines.com/2013/06/what-is-rape-culture/

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/06/19/should_kickstarter_have_taken_down_ken_hoinsky_s_above_the_game_a_guide.html

http://caseymalone.com/post/53394156872/hey-everyone-if-youre-here-its-probably

There is a petition which is here:

http://www.dosomething.org/petition/kickstarter

I highly encourage you to contact Kickstarter and ask them why they willingly chose to let a project that violated their community guidelines continue.

It's difficult to contact them directly.  Instructions are below:


TO REGISTER A COMPLAINT WITH KICKSTARTER:

It seems that the only way to contact them is through this page:

http://www.kickstarter.com/contact

There's a drop-down menu of answers to "What can we help you with?" Pick "Something else," then "Using the site," then "Other." Then you can type in your question and details and submit it.
 

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Minimalistic Twitter Client On The Desktop (literally) using ttytter

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I used to use (and recommend) Turpial as a light twitter client, but those days are gone with a recent mandatory change in the API.  No matter - I'd largely been using ttytter as a way to browse twitter in a dropdown window with few problems.

But...but...I wanted something I could glance at.  Something I could just peruse without any difficulty when I had just a few moments.  Something... embedded in the desktop.

So I did it.


Yes, that's my twitter stream. On the desktop.

I already had ttytter installed and configured, and then simply followed the directions here to embed the terminal in the desktop.  It helped that I was already running Openbox, of course.  On other system types (including OSX) you can use the instructions here at http://daesu.github.io/blog/2013/01/22/embedded-terminal-on-desktop/ or these instructions for GNOME 3: http://askubuntu.com/questions/167428/embed-terminal-on-desktop-in-gnome-3-4

Because it's behind all the other windows, I have to make a conscious effort to look at it.  Otherwise, it's invisible.  Huzzah!  Informed without constant notifications and distractions.  Goal achieved.

Oh, and one other thing. Here's my settings for .Xdefaults that gets it looking so nice.
URxvt.transparent:true
URxvt.scrollBar:false
URxvt.borderLess:true
URxvt.cursorColor:white
URxvt.foreground:white
URxvt.intensityStyles:false
URxvt.font: xft:Inconsolata:size=8

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The resources I mentioned in my Digital Publishing talk at Origins

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I'm recently back from Origins in Columbus - a fun but exhausting four days where I got to meet a lot of cool new people and catch up with a lot more.

I led a session on selling your work digitally, and mentioned a few resources there that I thought were a great places to start - start - learning more:

Jane Friedman's Five paths to publication helps break down the confusing array of choices into something useful and meaningful.

Digital Publishing G+ group, founded by Evo Terra, is a well-moderated and high signal-to-noise ratio G+ group filled with people who are interested in the best ways to sell digitally.
   
The Book Designer (Joel Friedlander) and Kris Rusch are consistently well-thought out and informative.  I sometimes disagree with their conclusions, but I always respect their arguments.
   
My instructions on how to sell your eBooks yourself (and in person).




This isn't a comprehensive list - not by a long shot - but I these are five high-quality places to start.

#SFWApro

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Stages - A Flash Fiction

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Your lover twists silk around your wrists, pulls it taut. The soft, unyielding resistance is numbing your hands.

"It's a little-" you say before your lover presses a sweat-salted finger against your lip.

"Stage one," your lover says.

Your heart races, pumping love and trust and fear.

Then your ankles - not soft silk, but the cold clank of steel handcuffs, metal edges biting your skin.

"I-" you say. Your lover's silencing hand is a stinging slap.

"Stage two," your lover says.

Your heart races, pumping love and fear.

"Stage three," your lover whispers, drawing the knife.

Your heart races.


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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Putting my money where my mouth is: Endorsing a call to expel Theodore Beale from SFWA

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If you need background on this, I steer you to Jim Hines and Tobias Buckell.

I am a member of the Science fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  I tell my peers it is a professional organization for writers of genre fiction.

And then a racist misogynistic man by the name of Theodore Beale goes and deliberately tries to smear its reputation by threatening another member and taking non-trivial action to get his bigotry propagated through a SFWA channel in explicit violation of that channel's rules. 

He has demonstrated a sickening degree of public disrespect - and in such a way that it tarnishes the reputation of SFWA. He did so deliberately, intentionally, and with full knowledge of his actions.  (There's evidence to this effect;  due to certain policies, I can't post it here.)

[Edit for clarity 0704 EST 14 Jun 2013:  While I find his bigotry repulsive, it is not his private bigotry that is grounds for expulsion, but the the specifics of his action that demonstrate the deliberate nature of his act as an attempt to damage SFWA's reputation, some of which I can't share here, that made it grounds for expulsion.  But make no mistake, I find his views repellent.]

Therefore, I publicly and fully endorse this call for the expulsion of Theodore Beale from SFWA under the OPPM and existing bylaws.  Specifically, under the provision that makes "conduct materially and seriously prejudicial to the purposes and interests of SFWA".

One of the provisions of expulsion is that SFWA must return a prorated portion of the membership dues paid by that individual.

I make this public offer of personally reimbursing SFWA whatever membership dues that must be refunded to Mr. Beale.

I can't think of a better way to signal exactly how important this is than putting up my own cash.

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Going to Origins? Vote for Eighth Day Genesis for an #OriginsAward

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You might remember that Eighth Day Genesis, edited by Sabrina Klein, is nominated for an Origins award this year!

If you’re attending the Origins Game Fair, you can vote for the winners of the Origins Awards. I'm asking you to cast your vote for Best Game-Related Publication for Eighth Day Genesis — A Worldbuilding Codex for Writers and Creatives

You’ll be able to check the book out from Lending Library at the Origins Game Fair in order to review it, but I also hope you’ll consider purchasing a copy of the paperback or ebook editions from Amazon.com or directly from the publisher (me), Alliteration Ink. All of the contributing authors participated on a royalty-share basis, so they share a percentage payment from each sale.

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The Myth of Dueling Kickstarters

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Through sheer coincidence1 there are two big fiction anthology Kickstarters running among the authors who are at Origins this weekend.  There's Time Traveled Tales, run by Silence In The Library and there's What Fates Impose, run by... well, me.

The table of contents share quite a few people - including myself, as I have a story in Time Traveled Tales.  So I've been asked in what I imagine are hushed conspiratorial tones what I am "going to do about... it".

The answer, of course, is that I'm going to tell people about both.

Here's a picture of my minion (er, kid) standing behind my table after we set it up yesterday at Origins.  Just look across the posters on the front.

Sidekicks!, a speculative fiction anthology.  Eighth Day Genesis, a worldbuilding book (up for an Origins award!).  Dangers Untold, a horror anthology.  Net Impact, a spy thriller.

Some people - like me, as an example - might love all these books.  A lot of people would like some, but not all of them.  And that's the key here.

Yes, I'm going to be talking about What Fates Impose a lot over the next month.  And that book will appeal to quite a lot of people.  But not all.  Time Traveled Tales will appeal to quite a lot of people.  But not all.   Some people will like one more than the other. 

And that's okay.

This isn't a race.  It's not a competition.  My goal with this Kickstarter is not to make all the moniez evah.  My goal is:

Pay the authors in this project a professional rate for their stories.

Period.  And we're right on track to do that.

Please take the time to click the buttons below to share What Fates Impose on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. Thank you.

Tell people about What Fates Impose on Twitter

Tell people about What Fates Impose on Facebook

Tell people about What Fates Impose on Google+
1 Mine was supposed to start a week earlier.

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I Forsee Paying Authors: The Kickstarter for WHAT FATES IMPOSE (and why SFWA is relevant today) #SFWApro

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First, the awesome bit, originally announced at the Alliteration Ink News Blog:

Alliteration Ink is proud to present the Kickstarter for WHAT FATES IMPOSE

Rather than hear me blather on about it, I can instead let Alasdair Stuart (host of Pseudopod) tell you what he thought about the book in this excerpt from "Reading From the Book of Holy Jagger" (the audio is a CC-licensed track "Anaerobica" by PerlssDj):




We're raising the money to pay the authors what they deserve.  Not just over time, but up-front. 

And that's why it's interesting that this is (if everything works correctly) the first post from this blog to get mirrored to the @SFWAauthors twitter feed.  (SFWA = Science fiction and Fantasy Writers of America)

Alliteration Ink is not a SFWA qualifying market.  There's some pretty strict qualifications you need in order to become one, and I'm not there yet.   There's some criticism - some very valid - about the way that SFWA awards "qualifying market" status... and that's not counting the other (again, often very valid) complaints about other aspects of the organization.

But.

I was so proud when I made my first qualifying sale.  I was thrilled when I made my third qualifying sale and became a full SFWA member.

It was something to strive for.  Even though I sold other stories - even at qualifying pay levels, but to non-qualifying markets - I still strove for that third qualifying sale.

And now I'm going through the same leveling up experience as a publisher.  I still think royalty models (if done properly) are relevant and valid ways of compensating authors.  I will still be doing new projects under that model. 

But at the same time, I have something to strive for.  A level of professionalism and conduct - and pay - to reach for.   I don't have the luxury of being lazy or saying that it's good enough - because I have a standard to live up to.  And SFWA helps provide that standard by saying what a qualifying market consists of. 

And this Kickstarter is a step along that path.

This is going to be a great book, folks - there's award winning, talented, and award winning talented authors all through this book.  Nayad's done a great job selecting stories and weaving it together (and honestly, helping this project come together).   And some of the rewards for backers make me want to claim them.

Go check out (and back) the project at http://bit.ly/kickfate today!

#SFWApro

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My story "Bindings" Will Be In This Year's Origins Anthology

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The cover art for Heroes!, this year's Origins Game Fair anthology of original fiction, was released a while back.  If you're on the fence about getting one of these, I'll give you a little teaser of my story, "Bindings" below.

There's only four hundred of these suckers in the world, so if you want to read the rest of the story, you either have to make arrangements with someone who is going, or make your own way  to Origins (where you could also vote for Eighth Day Genesis to win this year's Origins Award, just sayin').

An Excerpt from "Bindings"
by Steven Saus

The agent entered my featureless room, the door quickly shut behind him.  He turned toward me, grey eyes the color of his tie.  "The airlock is filling with neurotoxins right now, Mr. Gutierrez."

I raised my left eyebrow, keeping my hands still on the slick wood table.  Mister.  Not Colonel.  "Bedbugs, sir?"

"Funny."  He sat across from me, the metal folding chair creaking under him.  He slapped a thin manila folder down in front of him.

"I thought it would be bigger."  I let a smirk crease my face and glanced at the folder.  "My file, that is."

The agent's neck flushed deep red.  He glanced up at the corner of my room, then stood.  "Fine.  Play it that way."  He waited thirty seconds, got up, and exited the room. 

So.  Camera in the northwest corner of the ceiling.  Quick clearance time on the toxins, assuming they were telling the truth.  As the agent left, two muscular men with buzzcuts entered.  I started a mental exercise to keep my focus when I saw they each held a baton.

They were very skilled at using them.

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A PR Person From Grammarly Wanted A PR Post; I Gave Them A Review Instead

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(See updates at http://ideatrash.net/2013/12/dear-grammarly-your-pr-relies-on-scammy.html and http://ideatrash.net/2013/12/in-which-grammarlys-pr-continues-to-be.html)

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because a marketing guy annoyed me by suggesting how I talk about a product by saying I should start the post with that wording, but the service looked decent enough that I thought I'd look at it and tell you all what I thought about it.

I've been getting more and more aggressive marketing e-mails lately.  This was a bit better than the crap that OmniBuzz Media tried to get me to run or where I'd previously run into advertisers trying to buy my reputation.  This one... I want to believe it's legit.

Nick Baron of Grammarly sent me  an e-mail1 that said I was nominated as a favorite blogging author, and was selected to get a $25 blog post sponsorship (in the form of an Amazon gift certificate), and if I wanted the pro version, he'd make it happen.

Which was weird, because I couldn't see the call for nominations or anything like that on the website, and asked.  He explained it was all via e-mail.

Y'know, it really trips a ton of my scammy marketing sensors.2

Except it seems to be a real, relevant product.  So I decided to poke around with the sample text trial.

Since it's an online service, the idea of cross-platform compatibility was a go, right off the bat.  And the grammar checking seems to be pretty decent.

Everything before this line scored as following:

Grammarly found 14 critical writing issues and generated 1 word choice correction for your text.
Score: 48 of 100 (weak, needs revision)
Plagiarism
  • The text in this document is original
Contextual Spelling Check 3 issues
  • Spelling (3)
  • Ignored words
  • Commonly confused words
Grammar 7 issues
  • Sentence structure (2)
  • Wordiness (3)
  • Passive voice use (2)
Punctuation
  • Punctuation within a sentence
  • Closing punctuation
  • Formal punctuation
Style and Word Choice 4 issues
  • Writing style (4)
  • Vocabulary use

Impressive enough!  I'm assuming that there's a granular level of data that you can get once you sign up for the subscription service.  I also presume (and hope) there's more than one reading level/comprehension level analysis going on in the subscription version.

I put the plagiarism detector through a bit of its paces, since it claims you can "[a]void plagiarism by checking your texts against over 8 billion documents".  As a sometimes-professor, I love plagiarism detectors to help supplement my grading of papers.   But this... well, I tried cutting and pasting from two actual academic papers from relatively big journals, and it claimed that it was "original text".  In an effort to make sure it wasn't the paywall around those papers that was problematic, I tried my own master's thesis (which is freely accessible under a Creative Commons license).  And nope.

When I put in bits from this blog, though... that spiked it right away as being plagiarized.   So I'm guessing that "eight billion documents" means "the web".  That's decent for general purposes, but if I were to recommend this for my students in academia, I'd want something as robust as TurnItIn.

...aaaaand then I saw the prices.  Depending on how far in advance you wanted to pay, the monthly service runs from $29.95 a month (pay month to month) to $11.66 a month (paying once a year).


And that's where I'm not sure where Grammarly makes its case as being better than, say, the grammar check in a word processor.  There are other services like GrammarBase (which tells you where you screwed up for free, but have to pay to have them fix it) which seem to provide similar tools.

So it seems useful.  And maybe the full on API would be cool enough that I'd pay some cash to grammar check my blog posts.  (Hint - use something like skypipe or a combination of xclip and curl to take the info from the clipboard, send it, and return and URL with results or open a webpage in the browser of choice.  You can take a look at this way of doing it with bit.ly, for example.)

Again, I'm sure there's reasons why you'd want to pay that much for Grammarly.  It seems like a good grammar checker.  And the site licenses are a heck of a lot cheaper per-person.  And I think that might be the best market for Grammarly - site licenses for schools.

I know my significant other experiences a lot of college freshmen whose grammar is... remarkably substandard.  And this is exactly the kind of tool that would be helpful for them.  Heck, it'd be helpful for my kid... but not at $12 a month for what you see in the demo.  But as part of a school license?  Absolutely.

Take a look at Grammarly, and see what you think about it.  And if you know more of what's behind the paywall, or have experiences with it, leave them in the comments.


1 His sig file said it was unilaterally declaring a NDA. My anti-EULA signature file unilaterally declared that he released me from all that crap. 
2 Especially when he sent me "Paste the following text into the top of your next blog post: "I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because [insert clever/funny reason here]." (e.g. "because time spent proofreading could be time spent writing")".

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Acting - A Flash Fiction

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"C'mon," the bear says, gestures with a paw, a grin "let's catch some fish." The tiger follows the bumbling oaf - her bumbling oaf - her deliberate pawsteps behind the crash and crunch of him plowing through the bush.
She pretends to learn to fish.
In their cave feasting, warm fish flesh sliding gills tickling tastebuds, the bear idly says he knew the spot - he learned it - from a friend, a she-bear he knows.
His words crash and crunch.
As he lay asleep snoring bear snores, paw across her fur she plots and plans how best to kill a bear.

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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Past the Far Side of Meaning: A Review of "Plow the Bones" by Douglas F. Warrick

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There is a connection between the television comedy Louie, the Book of Ecclesiastes, and Douglas Warrick's collection Plow the Bones.

All three are literary in the best possible way. Not the pretentious "look at how clever I am at writing this" head-up-your-ass kind of literary that is too often force-fed by bad English teachers who are still writing their own "literary" works focusing on the introspective musings of a beleagured-but-sympathetic writer-turned-adjunct-professor whose name is strikingly similar to the author's. Not that.

The kind of literary where the words are beautiful, the sentences are keenly and insightfully crafted with care - and they exist entirely to serve the story. To draw you in and drive it home, to haunt you days and weeks and months and years later because the story shows you, perhaps unwillingly, something about yourself.

In Ecclesiastes, the prophet says "Vanity of vanities - all things are vanity." Everything will crumble to dust. All human endeavor is meaningless and without purpose. While the prophet does an end-run by appealing to service to the Lord, it is a last-second panacea, as much as Descartes' half-hearted reassurance that reality is not an illusion because (my paraphrase) God is good and wouldn't do that to us.

I'm writing this the day after a building fell on a Salvation Army thrift store, killing six. That kind of faith too closely resembles willful ignorance. But without that sense of external validation, without that sense of meaning... things get soul-blastingly cold.

For me, the most striking bit in Louie is when the title character tells us all relationships are doomed. They will always - always end in sadness. The relationship will end, or, best case scenario, one of you will die before the other. The end result of all relationships is sadness. He strives for one anyway, though you as the viewer know he's doomed to both short (and long) term failure.

It's a horrible, terrifying thought. I dare you to contemplate it. Dare you. It is emotional torture.

As a teenager, I told my mother (to her horror) that I'd realized the positive emotions - happiness, joy, and so on - could simply be explained as the absence of the negative emotions of fear, sadness, and depression. As if the removal of those awful things is relief enough. Carry a weight for too long, and simply removing gives you a feeling of lightness.

And that is the far side that Douglas Warrick takes us to.

Make no mistake. He shoves us screaming into the fire, eyelids pinned open while we viddy the chaos and meaningless madness that exists all around us. It's emotionally trying reading. This book hit me as hard as Blindsight and House of Leaves; it took me nearly a month to be emotionally equipped to finish the book.

But.

But.

As we travel through the fire, the beautiful words searing the false illusions, the manufactured meanings, the idle banal distractions of the world away, Mr. Warrick's work brings us through to the far side. To the place where, for a little while, cities can be redrawn, we love the women whose heads blaze, we tell our secrets to the creatures behind the walls, we dance on stilts and behind masks as the world burns. There is no meaning save the meaning of now, and released of the weight of all the illusions and delusions, free of the everyday blinding burden of society, we feel, for a little while, free.

It is a kind of hope.

We tell him that we love him.

And we mean it.

Highly recommended; you can buy Plow the Bones here

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Writing an official policy for Alliteration Ink about sexism, discrimination, and harassment

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I've been getting more and more angry over the last week. Not because of the flap over the Bulletin, per se. Definitely not about the official SFWA response, or the vast majority of the positive discussions on the public SFWA discussion boards.

I am getting more and more angry about the vitriol my female peers are getting.

Consider one of my female peers, who has repeatedly had mutual male acquaintances defend sexism and belittle feminism... But they refuse to argue it with me. Most notably, one individual ignored something I posted but argued when she shared the same material on her timeline.

Then look at Ann Aguirre's experiences being diminished as a female writer. Then read on to see the (all too predictable) emails from goddamned privilege laden cowards.

Yes, cowards. Weaklings. Rather than having the strength of character to examine themselves, to question their own privilege, they simply double down on intimidating women.

That is unacceptable.

Many of my peers are women. Most of the books I've published had (and continue to have) women as editors. I try to foster a congenial, civil, and respectful attitude among all of my fellow writers and editors that I work with.

I wrote a policy (largely modeled after the SFWA policy) and posted it just a few minutes ago;  it'll be up on the website itself soon.  If you have any suggestions on ways to improve this policy, please let me know.

Alliteration Ink strives to create a professional atmosphere free of all forms of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation.  Alliteration Ink will respond promptly and effectively to reports of harassment and discrimination of any kind and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and if necessary, to discipline behavior that violates this policy. This policy applies to any events or spaces sponsored by Alliteration Ink, including the website, official twitter feed, mailing lists, or real-world events.

I want to know if any of the professionals I have worked with have engaged in the kinds of sexist (or racist, or homophobic) behaviors as above. Especially when that behavior crosses the line into openly abusive language.  Further, I want to know if any of the professionals I have worked with have engaged in sexual harassment.  Bigotry and discrimination are not acceptable professional behavior.

My email is steven -at - alliterationink.com; please direct all complaints (formal or informal) there.

Thank you.

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Some Followup to the SFWA Bulletin Issue

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If there's one thing that this recent flap with the SFWA Bulletin has illustrated, it's that there are a lot of cool people whose blogs I want to read.  That and cementing my opinion that Theodore Beale is a complete douchebag. That doesn't make it worth it, mind you, and I could have found out that last point by simply reading any of his blog posts.

But I thought I'd bring you some of the blog posts that best reflect some of the thoughts and attitudes I have.

Some notable ones from people I've just discovered:  Peter Brett on why he's (still) renewing his SFWA membership and Jess Haines' well-written thoughts on her reaction and call to action to the whole thingMary Robinette Kowal sums up the feelings many of us (and I count myself as part of the "us" here; while my direct involvement is minimal, I have met many of the principals).  If you haven't seen it, SFWA's official response is actually swift and heartening (my reasons why I think so are in the comments there), as is John Scalzi's official apology as the President of SFWA.


There was (aside from the aforementioned douchebag) one other type of comment that actually bothered me.
Paraphrased, they boiled down to:  "Hey, those guys have done a lot of good in the past.  Shouldn't we cut them some slack now?"
The answer to this is no.  Not for them, and definitely not for me.

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.

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