Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Yog Sothoth's Ambient Mixtape and The Creeping Doom (Metal): Music for Halloween

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I put this playlist together while proofreading Dangers Untold last year.

Screaming guitars? No. Death growls? No. Those are not the sounds of the Mythos.

Instead, this is just a soundtrack meant to be a slow steady grind against your sanity as you come to realize how insignificant, how pathetic, how meaningless you are in the universe.

Largely quiet (though they may not stay that way), sanity-scrubbing throbbing deep cuts.

Want something a little more black and heavy? Try out this mix, featuring Electric Wizard, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Acid King, and, of course, Black Sabbath.

Enjoy your Halloween!

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Paying Authors Through Crowdfunding: How To Know It Is Being Done Ethically

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I have heard rumblings from some authors who are complaining about the “recent practice of offering ‘early submission’ of stories to a publisher in return for Kickstarter or crowd sourced funding.”

Much like the controversy over Random House’s imprint Hydra Publishing this is something Alliteration Ink is already out in front of… and the devil is entirely in the details.

First, let me just state this as plainly as I can:

Crowdfunding is the way that small publishers can actually offer professional rates to authors.

Crowdfunding is what lets us concentrate on making the best book possible rather than concentrating on the most marketable book possible.  This is a huge shift, and something worth going into in some detail.

Three Major Crowdfunding Models

The First Model - Idea-based patronage

Kickstarter in particular was founded on the idea of raising funding before a project started. That’s how, for example, Live Through This was designed.

In this “pure” model, the publisher, author, or anthologist would raise money simply based on the idea of the book.

This can work - Matt Forbeck and Tim Pratt, among others have done so quite successfully. Then once funding was secured, the novel (or stories) would be written.

But this style of crowdfunding has its risks. Even though “The Doom That Came to Atlantic City” funded, the game never got made… and the backers are left holding a big pile of nothing. And especially when you’re talking about anthologies, it’s not hard to imagine a great idea ruined by poor execution.

The Second Model - Attached Authors

So another possibility would be to have authors (I’m thinking mostly of anthologies here) “attached” to a project.

They may have a vague idea for a story, but it’s simply a promise of a story. Long Hidden appears to have used this strategy, stating that certain authors would be submitting to the anthology. This kind of hybrid model helps reassure backers somewhat, and nobody has to do any work before the money is raised.

The Third Model - Raising Production Costs

Which brings me to the third model, and my experience as a publisher. For our crowdfunded anthologies to date, we have selected the stories before beginning the Kickstarter. We essentially already have the “prototype” and are looking for production costs - that is, paying the authors. It’s kind of like what Jasper The Colossal did to make their first full-length album.

There’s a simple reason we do it this way: I know that the anthologists for both What Fates Impose - which successfully funded - and Steampunk World - Kickstarter pending - have rejected stories from authors they originally wanted to have in the anthology.

In fact, that’s the entire reason that Steampunk World’s Kickstarter hasn’t begun. As I announced back in August, Sarah Hans is taking very particular care in choosing the stories so that the anthology isn’t just good, but so that it will be awesome.

Which means that authors have written stories and haven’t been paid yet. And if the Kickstarter doesn’t fund, that raises further problems.

Or it could. But for us, it won’t.

You see, in the proposal for Steampunk World we were very upfront:
Payment: We intend to fund this project via Kickstarter.
The initial funding will provide for a flat US$0.05 per word rate for original stories up to 5000 words. Should we exceed funding goals, providing US$0.05 per word up to 7000 words is a high priority. Query for reprints; should a reprint be accepted, the rate will be US$0.03 a word. There are no kill fees for this project.
Should the project fail to fund for any reason, the project will still continue, though with a different payment structure to be determined. Contracts will be executed at the completion of the Kickstarter.
So yes, these authors wrote a story prior to the Kickstarter. Some of them have been waiting a few months now after acceptance. But the stories are still theirs. They haven’t actually sold me the story yet… because I haven’t paid them and they haven’t signed a contract. If the Kickstarter doesn’t fund, I will offer a different funding mechanism… and the authors can accept or reject it as they feel appropriate. Simple as that.

There’s another ethical way to do this where I could have the rights to their stories. I could execute a contract where:
  1. The payment is upon publication or within 30 days of the successful funding of the crowdfunding campaign.
  1. There is a contingency option if the crowdfunding fails which the author either agrees on beforehand or has an option to re-evaluate the contract at that time.
  1. There is a strong Publish-By Or Revert clause. In short, the publisher agrees to get the work in print by a certain date - and if they fail, the rights automatically revert to the author. Mine from my contract templates is right here: Publish By Or Revert
If all three of those conditions are met, then the publisher is acting ethically.

On the other hand, if the publisher (or anthologist, etc) is asking an author to sign a contract before crowdfunding starts - and doesn’t have those three things in the contract… then there’s a big problem.

Just like the confusion over Random House’s imprint Hydra Publishing actually providing publishing services, the ethical lines are detailed and specific.

But they are very, very clear.


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Call for editors for after NaNoWriMo

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National Novel Writing Month is coming up in just a few days. After it is over, there will be (or at least SHOULD be) a lot of people looking for an editor for their NaNo novel.

I am going to post a list of editors (details below for what exactly I want) who are willing to offer their services.  Writers: note that this will be a caveat emptor list!

What I want from the editors (so that I scan post these details):

Contact info
Any areas of expertise and/or preferred genres

Send these to me at Steven.Saus at gmail soonest so I can get it together for folks, and pass along to others who would be interested.  Thanks!

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How to Not Overwhelm Everyone On Social Media - Using IFTTT and Multiple Channels on Buffer

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I find all sorts of cool stuff on the internet, and I like to share it.  Yes, social media was made for me.  But I tend to do so a lot in a short period of time (because I read from Pocket or a RSS reader), which gets damn tiring for my friends when I flood their feeds with my posts.

So I was thrilled to see Buffer come online.  This service lets you post many updates at once, then queues them up throughout the day to many different social media networks.  And I've already talked about IFTTT, which lets you automate things you do on the web.

And there's the beauty of it.  Remember that I tend to post publishing-related items through the Alliteration Ink account.  So when I'm reading an article in Pocket, I can mark it as a favorite.  IFTTT will notice, and then you can use the Buffer channel...

...oh, wait.  Even though you've set up multiple social networks in Buffer, you can choose only one with IFTTT.  This, quite frankly, blows.  So following the advice of Carolyn at Buffer (thanks Carolyn!), I found the secret e-mail address you can use to send items to Buffer.  Then it was simple - I had IFTTT use the gmail channel (yes, that's important) to create this recipe:

Here's what it looks like, filled in:

When you send an e-mail link to Buffer, it will do what it's supposed to and put the post in the queue for all the social networks that you've chosen.

By the way, those Buffer links - - are referral links.  If you sign up through those, each of us gets an extra space in our buffer, so that's a win-win.

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Now I Understand Why Some Employers Don't Want To Be Listed On Facebook (warning: some foul language)

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I didn't understand - at one point - why a business wouldn't want you to list them on Facebook.
Last night I got a dramatic example why.

An employee of a local catering business here in town first decided that he was going to be a jackass to people hosting a benefit... and then decided he was going to threaten me.  (For those paying attention, threatening me on public posts in Facebook means I'm not going to obfuscate your name.)

Keeping it classy.  Please note that he wasn't done yet - "It must be an AIDS benefit" was his next comment.

I removed the name of the catering company here on purpose.

Yes, calling me "fag dicksuck fuck boy" will definitely make things better for your employer.

There's four big lessons here.1

1.  I'm not going to patronize a place that hires someone so hateful that they'd bash a benefit for someone going into surgery.
2.  I am sure as hell going to enforce my respect policy now.  Because I don't want my business associated with this kind of douchebro behavior.
2.  Apparently douchebros still think shouting "gay gay fag gay AIDS" is somehow a threat - and definitely go straight for the bullying.
3.  Can you imagine how effective this bullying is?

Yes, ladies, I know you know how effective this bullying is.  My girlfriend and I had a long talk about this again this weekend where I was cluelessly unaware of the threat... because I was male.  And I'll admit, I'm a tish anxious about what I'd do if this douchebro actually tried to hunt me down.2

But I can imagine how much more nervous I would be if I wasn't big, or male.

And that isn't okay.

1 Yes, I can hear some people saying "Why say anything?". Good question. I've already blocked the guy (and reported him to FB, FWIW). But why bring it up to the employer? Because it really did just show up when I was just mousing down - as seen in one of the screencaps.  (I redacted the name of the company here; it's not like they defended the guy on Facebook.) And why bring it up to the douchebro at all? Because bigoted asshats think silence is people agreeing with them. 
2 Just a tish. I mean, having lived with a sociopath or two does have its advantages.  Like learning to vigorously and publicly document when someone threatens you.

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Edge: A Free Flash Fiction

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"Answer me," I repeat, hating my voice.

In the chair, he struggles against the ropes, grunts, but doesn't speak.

I extend my fifth arm. The scalpel at the end glints in the flickering fluorescents. My servos whine in the quiet room.

He glances at them, at my camera, then down to his scuffed leather shoes.

I synthesize more words, the blades sliding closer to him. "Why did you make me into an ugly robot?"

My third arm reaches from behind, grasps his soft human hair, pulls his head back.

"You're beautiful," he says as the scalpel slides across his throat.

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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Breathe - An Inspirational Creative Non Fiction

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by Steven Saus


Just take a deep breath. Go ahead. No one is watching.

Exhaling, I complete yet another sit up and stop. It's not the burning muscles or the hard ground that stop me - it's what I see above the ground. The afternoon sky is awash in watercolor grays, light shimmering over steely clouds layered like oil paint. They don't resemble anything, no bunnies sculpted in water vapor. It's just the beauty of the colors that takes my breath away. Something alerts my still-exercising friend that I've stopped; she asks me if there's anything wrong.

"It's just the clouds. They're beautiful."

She glances up, shrugs, and begins another repetition.

I am often distracted by the clouds, by the play of light on the bobbing leaves of a tree, a wheeling majestic bird of prey circling over the highway whose motions are echoed by the twirling of a falling leaf. Sometimes I'll just stop in my tracks and look around in wonder.

Breathe. Feel the air, feel it flow down your throat and fill your lungs.

He is pouting, even though he just ate pepperoni pizza, his favorite.  It's about dessert - or rather, the lack of it. My son wants ice cream, a candy bar, just SOMETHING for dessert. He can't comprehend why tonight there simply isn't any. He reminds me that he's done eating - that was his part of the bargain, right?
I look down at the magazine I'm reading; the article is about children a year older than he carrying AK-47s in a civil war they did not start. There are no overflowing boxes of toys like the ones his room, there is no pizza place that can deliver to them, let alone in thirty minutes or less. The photographed eyes of a child who has seen combat pierce me, and somehow I cannot work up the appropriate sympathy over the lack of dessert.

Breathe. Use your diaphragm. Feel your stomach swell, your lungs inflate. Stretch your chest, ribs spreading to accommodate all the air. Notice exactly how it feels.

We have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world - and one of the highest rates of clinical depression. A staggering proportion of the population is obese - yet people die due to eating disorders and diet plans every day.

Perhaps it's our vast dissatisfaction - a gaping hole we try to fill with shopping, eating, drinking, even sex. A dissatisfaction that comes from a lack of appreciation. We are excellent at listing what we don't have, what we want to gain, what we want to change.
We rarely pay attention to what we have.

Even on Thanksgiving, that day of family reunions and slaughtered birds, we stuff ourselves until we are sick of birdflesh, and loathe the leftovers that would be gratefully eaten, half-rotten, by one who had nothing.


We are told that all men are created equal, even though we know that's a lie. We hear that we have a right to the pursuit of happiness, and mistake that to mean that we have a right TO happiness. We think that if you just play by the rules, play fair, bend the rules, cheat, maybe even if you pray just right, that you'll get everything you want and it'll all be okay.

We say "I need" when we really mean "I want". We tell ourselves "You don't know what you've got until it's gone" - and forget it five seconds later.

We drive ourselves insane with the wanting, the longing, with the feeling that the grass is always greener, that maybe we're missing out on the one thing, the vital thing, that we never knew we wanted until we
saw it on TV.

My son enters stores and solemnly informs me that he wants to buy something. When I ask him what he wants, he tells me he doesn't know yet - he hasn't seen it.


Take your worldview in your hands for a minute, and rotate it just a little. Give up your assumptions. Try it - just for a minute. Stop thinking that you have a "right" to see, a "right" to hear, to feel, to smell.

Forget that you have a "right" to live.

Suddenly, life is precious again. Your boss' annoying voice becomes music. The child incessantly pelting you with questions, demanding your complete attention, is now an angelic creature from heaven. The feel of your muscles aching after a hard run is sweet bliss. The smell of your spouse's hair, long ignored, floods your senses with joy.

Remove the idea that you have a "right" to live, and every instant becomes a precious gift. Every moment is a treasure, every touch exquisite, every smell is perfume, every sight a beautiful painting.

Every breath a blessing.


Creative Commons License
This work "Breathe" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Please note that the image on this blog post is not part of the Work.

(originally written in 2000, posted on several different sites, since decommissioned, so reprinted here now.)

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Getting An Auto-Login Window on Public WiFi in Linux

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I often end up connecting to public wifi networks that have a "click to accept" in order to get real network connectivity.  It's fine on my Android and iOS devices - I'm automagically presented with a login webpage.  But I don't get that with my linux box.


This script works with network-manager and wicd to emulate that same behavior.  It's fairly straightforward - it's actually a modification of the script I use to get my external IP and interface for conky.  It should also work just fine on OSX, as it's a bash script.

Note that I use midori for the web browser - it's light, and has just enough functionality to get past all the different variations of "click to accept" screens that I've seen to date.

NOTE FOR WICD USERS:  Run it as a startup script - wicd starts as a service before X starts, and you need to call a graphical browser for many of the login screens.

The script should be embedded below if you're reading this on the site, or you can find it at this gist here:

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Enter To Win A Chance To Win *Wild & Wishful, Dark & Dreaming* by Alethea Kontis

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Just a reminder that you can for a chance to win a copy of NYT Bestselling Author Alethea Kontis' collection, Wild & Wishful, Dark & Dreaming over at Goodreads only until the 21st!  Of course, you will be able to pick up the book at for quite some time after that.  :)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Wild & Wishful, Dark & Dreaming by Alethea Kontis

Wild & Wishful, Dark & Dreaming

by Alethea Kontis

Giveaway ends October 21, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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Thoughts of A-Not-Quite-Old-Fart on Finally Being Exposed to "Wrecking Ball"

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Maybe it's because I missed all but the most cursory bits of the earlier "discussion" around Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" video, or maybe it's because I first heard her performance of it on SNL, and then for a while could only find the "Director's Cut" of the video (which is just a closeup of her singing).

1.  I think the song - in lyrics, tempo, and performance - captures damn near perfectly the intensity of relationships when you're in your teens and twenties - and if you're lucky (hi honey!) later in life.
2.  I like the director's cut video better.  The bare severity of it serves the song well.
3.  The woman can sing.  Don't believe me?  Hear her knock out Jolene.   Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.
4.  The "controversial" video isn't bad, though.  The imagery actually matches and complements the song, which is kind of rare anymore.
5.  The "controversial" video... doesn't have anything inherently scandalous about it.  We've seen worse in prime-time television ads.
6.  This quote from Entertainment Weekly illustrates exactly why it had to be made (and how bloody sexist our society is):
Watch [the video] here and be scandalized/titillated/disappointed in Billy Ray Cyrus’ parenting skills:
She's twenty.  And the main quote is about her dad's parenting skills?  Bloody hell.  Go back to those comments on "Jolene" - and see how many are wanting this twenty-year-old grown woman to be a child.  (I'm not even counting the attempts at slut-shaming, just the pining for Hannah-bloody-Montana.)  Wow.

I can't imagine what it's like to be her - having so many people wanting you to be nothing but a child forever.  But it's clear that Miley isn't going to stand for that.  Come hell or high water, she seems to be determined to not let herself be molded by other people's stereotypes, and I applaud her for it.

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Snarky Witty Banter, Free Of Context

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One of the things I used to do when I was running some tabletop RPGs was to write down the funny quotes that people came up with.

And y’know, as far as snarky witty banter, some of them hold up pretty well. Here’s some of my favorites, that work free of context. I think the fact that they work on their own says a lot about the language... and what sorts of things resonate for people.

Obviously, the attribution is to the character, not the player.

  • “No! That’s one of the rules! You cannot come up with your own codename!” - Evan 
  • “You don’t consider that strange?” “Not compared to vampire fish.” - Geneva/ Crispin 
  • “Does everyone have weapons on them? No? We’ll stop by my house then.” - Geneva
  • “There’s jumping TO conclusions, and then there’s jumping PAST conclusions…” Evan
  • ”I’ll have you know that ill-concieved plans are the bread and butter of what we do.” - Crispin
  • “I prefer he not run to the bad guy, get his throat slit and bring the apocalypse.”
  • “This morning I was opening Christmas gifts, now I’m facing down guns of madness!” “Merry Christmas, dude.” Crispin/ Evan 
  • “This hootenanny of evil ends now!” - Crispin 
  • “Of all our concerns, that’s the worst. Evil Christmas music.” - Evan 
  • “The closest I ever came to hunting was the mini-marshmallows in my mother’s cupboard” - Geneva 
  • “Can you explain that in our culture it’s considered bad manners to eat the neighbors?” - Erin 
  • “The demons drove by this house? Dude, I am SO glad I don’t live here.” - Josh 
  • “I don’t have enough Oxyclean with me to get all of this.” - Erin
  • “This is where you check for traps in a Dungeons & Dragons game.” - Erin
  • “What more information do you need? We’re here, they’re there, let’s go get them.” - Bannunu
  • “Why don’t we go to the tavern first before we see the Mayor. That way we have plausible deniability.” - Bannunu

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An Open Letter to All Republican and Conservative Voters

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I know that we've had our differences.  And we will continue to do so.  That's cool.  That's what makes America great.  We disagree so that we can find the best solutions to do the right thing for our citizens. 

Because our country is more important than any political party.

But this shutdown thing?  It's seriously hurting our country - and if we default on Thursday, it will be so much worse.  (Imagine not paying your mortgage - even once - and how badly that would impact your finances.)  And right now, the GOP - and the Speaker of the House in particular - are keeping us from moving forward.

I know everyone is saying that it's just a faction of the GOP.  That it's just the Tea Party's fault.  But I don't think so.

It's yours.

And yes, I'm looking at you personally.  Friends, family, people I barely know:

If you identify as Republican or conservative, you got us in this situation.

And only you can fix it.

I saw a GOP Representative be quoted today as saying that "a default would help stabilize the economy".  I can only imagine that this elected official has failed either basic economics or a basic understanding of the English language. 

The actions of the Tea Party are already damaging our country's economy

And we haven't defaulted yet.

Yes, I understand that redistricting yah yah yah.  That you don't agree with the Tea Party agenda of damaging our government.  That you didn't vote for those Republicans.  You understand that the Tea Party extremists doesn't represent the Republican party just like patchouli-drenched hippies don't represent the Democrats.  I understand that.

Here's the difference:  The Republican Party as a whole is terrified of the Tea Party... because they're the only ones yelling.

Why is the Speaker of the House scared - yes, scared - to actually do the right thing and keep our country going?

Because he's seen the last decade of vocal extremists screaming "RINO".  Because he's seen the extremists shout and yell and create a fuss - and the moderate Republicans and conservatives say nothing.

The opinions of those of us outside the GOP don't count here.  Boehner knows we're not voting for him or his allies.  Our opinions don't count for him.   Only the voices of the moderate conservatives - the ones who value America over ideology - can save America's reputation.

This is the eleventh hour.

This is not about political parties.

I say this without exaggeration:  This is about a bunch of extremists out to destroy America.

If you don't contact your Representatives today, they will keep thinking those extremists speak for you.

And if you don't raise up your voice right now, they'll be right.

You can contact your representative right here:

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Link Salad: References From The Digital Publishing Talk

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Thanks to everyone who came out to the Digital Publishing presentation tonight as part of the Dayton area run-up to NaNoWriMo!

These are the resources I mentioned tonight in my talk about Digital Publishing, posted for convenience.  There's also a lot of good info in "Steve 101" section which collects a lot of my often-referenced links and in the "Writers to Writers" section.

Five paths to publication
Digital Publishing G+ Group:
The Book Designer – Joel Friedlander:
Writer Beware:
Laura Resnick's Writer Resources:
How To Sell your eBook yourself:
Big Contract Post:

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So Amazon Wants to be Pintrest Too...

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I mean, seriously, have you looked at Amazon's Collections?  Here's one my pinboar... I mean, collectionsMy Style

Yes, of course I immediately added everything I've published. 

Because aside from there not being a way to search by publisher on Amazon (grrrr), it was a kind of cool exercise for me, to really experience exactly how many awesome, quality products I'd helped bring into the world.

It's something you forget at times, and it's well worth remembering.

Not that I think Amazon gives a rat's ass about that.  But it works for me, and that's kind of cool.

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Event: Digital, Self, Traditional, Services, and Scams: What Kind of Publishing is Right for You? - FREE 6:30PM MONDAY

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I am presenting my talk "Digital, Self, Traditional, Services, and Scams: What Kind of Publishing is Right for You?" at the main Dayton Metro Library at 6:30pm on the 14th.  From the official description:

Dizzying choices of the modern publishing landscape can confound any writer.  Published author Steven Saus will shed some light on the subject.  He'll help you understand a variety of options and help you avoid scams to keep you from getting ripped off.

This is going to be a high-level overview designed for people with no experience, but I'm leaving lots of time for folks to ask detailed questions afterward. 

My goals for the talk are to make the audience:
  • Familiar with formats and technology
  • Familiar with current models of publishing
  • Familiar with scams (and how to avoid them)
  • Familiar with major storefronts
  • Familiar with arguments about piracy
  • Familiar with pricing conventions
  • Have the background to be able to answer if they should ePublish,self-publish, etc
Be prepared to take notes (or record the thing);  I go fast and don't do much in the way of handouts.

Please note:  I may have some copies of books on hand outside (particularly Eighth Day Genesis), but I am not there to sell books.  Further, I am not going to be soliciting business or entertaining queries for publication or eBook conversion at that time;  please see the Alliteration Ink Guidelines (and follow them).

Why?  Because this is an informative talk, not a sales pitch.  Anyone who makes a sales pitch and tries to disguise it as an informative talk probably doesn't have your best interests in mind.

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You Can Always Be You Again: A Free Flash Fiction

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He grumbles at me from across the bar, over the foamy top of the beer he slides to me. He gives me the once-over: fit body, fashionably fitted clothes, smiling teeth fitted with white caps. “You can’t be young forever. But you can always be you again.” And then he’s moving down the bar.

I take a quick drink of the microbrew to cover my discomfort. What was that bit of new-age pap supposed to mean? Like all the good lines - and damn, I’ve fallen for enough of them - it talks a good talk, but it’s uncomfortably vague when it comes to specifics.

The barkeep slides two drinks to a young woman. She is dressed bedroom slutty, and though she’s ten years too young, I think about hitting on her even though she’s with someone. I catch the end of it: ”…be you again.”

Her eyes get wide, but he’s already giving two drinks to a couple of douchebros arguing football. ”…be you again.” Then it's the guy sliding his wedding band on and off. ”…be you again.”

I watch the young woman tell her date that she wants to take it slower. The douchebros confess, sobbing on each other’s shoulders, how sports reminds them of their fathers. The man with the ring is on the phone, telling someone he loves them.

The barkeep is in front of me, gesturing to my empty glass. “‘Nother?”

I smile. The question is vague, but for once I think I know what it means.

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Strange Critters and Appalachia

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Strange Critters:  Unusual Creatures of Appalachia will be coming out this winter from Woodland Press and includes my story "Brood".  And it's going to have a fantastic cover from Steven Gilberts (who also did the cover for What Fates Impose).  I've just recently gotten permission to share this cover, and it's pretty dang keen:

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Ultimatums and Blackmailing

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Whenever you say "If X doesn't happen, Y won't happen" - or for that matter, "If X happens, Y will happen" - then you have issued an ultimatum.

That isn't a bad thing. Sometimes you really won't let the kid play video games until their room is clean. Or you won't sign the contract unless it is amended. Or you will break up with them if they keep smoking crack.

But make no mistake - you have issued an ultimatum. You have stopped negotiating. You are no longer rounding up. You are not giving the benefit of the doubt. You are making demands and forcing others to meet them.

That can be good. It can be healthy. It can also be destructive.

When you find yourself making ultimatums, ask yourself if this is really where you need to make a stand.

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Indicator Lights - A Free Flash Fiction

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She is still online.

Quotes pump out on her Twitter feed, one every three hours. Her Tumblr shares funny images, the occasional poignant quote. Three posts a day.

I read her blog, every Monday. Ten in the morning. Like clockwork.

The rest of it doesn't matter. Not the bounced e-mails. Not the offline indicator on Jabber or Facebook or Skype. Not the stuffy home with the overwrought quasi-Victorian wallpaper, the smarmy attendant, the stifling heat in the suit jacket in the stone-littered field. Her weeping parents.

The casket.

None of it.

She is still online.

For now, she's still alive.

The player above should have the audio for this week; if it doesn't, you can find the audio here to download. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site!

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How To Avoid Being Overwhelmed Being On All The Social Media 101

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Big post today - this is "How to Not Get Overwhelmed by Social Media 101" folks. Take some time with it.

Talk to heavy social media users (like me) or worse, talk to a self-appointed guru, and they will eventually say something like this:

| You need to be on all the different social media networks. They do different things well, and…

…and you’re probably glazing over wondering where in the bloody blue hell you’re going to find the time to do all of these things.

That is a damn good question.

You probably shouldn’t try to do All The Things. Not just because there’s a huge rabbit hole of different networks, but also because more get invented every day.

But there is a problem, and one that the Social Media Gurus correctly identify. Your readers - both those who already are aware of your genius with the written word, and those who have yet to be Enlightened - are just like you.

They don’t have time to be on all the social media networks either.

I have trouble convincing my own mother to look at my Facebook updates…and she’s on Facebook. There’s no way I’d convince her to get on Twitter. (I tried.) And if my mom won’t change networks… well, that person who just heard of me for the first time? There’s no way they would either.

You have to somehow be where the people who will read your work will naturally find you.

That’s why I recommend a nameplate page that is not tied to any particular social media network - and wrote the one-hour guide to setting one up. That way you avoid any prejudice against any particular social media network.

Think about how often you hear people complain about a social media network - especially one they aren’t part of. If the first thing that comes up for your name is anyone else’s brand, you run the risk of being associated with that brand. (Yes, this is exactly like being a snob about e-mail addresses.)

Why give anyone an excuse to dismiss you or your work for something you don’t control? Let them find your nameplate page, and from there select the social media network that they most identify with? Check mine out, for example. I’ve got Twitter, G+, and Facebook all right there. People will zoom in on the brand (social media network) they identify with, and probably ignore the others.

So yes, this means you need to have a social media presence. On All The Things. Because there are few things more pathetic on the Interwebs than the completely abandonded blog or social media account. But you don’t have time to do All The Things. So… what do you do?

Divide And Automate

Chris Bellamy 'Automated machining'
First, let’s face it. You’re a creator. You are someone who may consume vast terabytes of content on the internet, but you also produce vast amounts of content. (I’m using the term “content” here to reflect not just what you write, but your photos, your recording, your music metadata, whatever. You produce data - that’s the key bit.)

So the first question to think about is:

Where do you naturally create content?

Again, content is a very agnostic term here. Content can include everything from:

  • Sharing links
  • Uploading a photo
  • Sharing a picture
  • Writing a blog post
  • Recording a song
  • Filming a video
  • Doing a podcast

One of the best bits of advice from the book Crush It! (paraphrased) is this:

Do what is natural for you. Would you be blogging anyway? Do it. Hate writing, but love video? Do a vlog (or whatever they’re called these days). Audio your bag? Do a podcast.

The key part here is identifying what you already do.

There are two special forms of content creation - automatic creation and replies - that I talk about below.

Where do you create content?

Determine where you already spend energy to create content. Let me give you a couple of examples of types of content, and where I personally share them. (Please note, these are examples. If you like Wordpress instead of Blogger or think flat files are the only way to blog, then do what feels right for you.)

  1. Writing = My blog. This is perhaps the most important bit of my online presence. It’s where people get a sense of who I am, what I do, why I do it, and what I believe in. I dreamed of being an opinion columnist when I was younger, and it’s quite possible that this is the best elements of that gig.
  2. Link sharing and casual conversation = Twitter. I like the quasi-instant, quasi-asynchronous communication format.
  3. Pictures = Flickr. Nearly every picture I’ve taken and digitized ends up in Flickr somewhere.
  4. Deeper conversation = A few communities on Google Plus, most notably Evo Terra’s Digital Publishing group.

There’s a bit of bleedover - I’ve occasionally had a deeper conversation on Facebook (though it’s rare), and sometimes I’ve shared stuff just on Tumblr. But these are the four big places that content originates. And these are, again, things I’d be doing anyway.

Where do you automatically create content?

I listen to music. It is submitted to I do nothing extra.

On Instagram or Flickr, if I favorite a photo, I’ve automatically created content.

Rating a book on Goodreads. Submitting a commit to GitHub. Repinning on Pinterest, or faving on Tumblr or Twitter. There is a lot of activity we do that can generate some kind of content without us doing anything extra.

What’s better, is that this is the kind of data that fans love. It makes you more than just a name on a book - it makes you into more of a person.

And many of these kinds of content are exposed through an RSS feed.

Please note: I have deliberately not included Foursquare on here. There is a line that you should be very acutely aware of in terms of privacy. See Practical Privacy Online for more details.

How do you get it from here to there?

So you have the places your content originates, and the types of content you automatically create. And this is where a few tools (and types of tools) let us have a presence on social media networks where we aren’t otherwise active.

Many services - such as, Goodreads, and GitHub - have “recent activity feeds”. It’s an RSS feed, which is really versatile for our purposes.

Quite a few of the rest are able to be accessed through If This Then That - or IFTTT. We can channel all this traffic through IFTTTT - and will in the example below - but be aware that there are other services that exist (RSS Graffiti, Buffer, Futuretweets, Tweetitlater, or even the Twitter app in Facebook) that let you do a lot of this behavior without relying on one service. Buffer, TweetItLater and RSS Graffiti even spread out your updates. For the advanced user, you can also use Yahoo Pipes to really do some cool stuff. And don’t forget things like “post by e-mail” - that’s how my blog gets to LiveJournal, or directly piping your blog’s RSS feed into Amazon Authors or Goodreads.

But back to the simplest starting point. Please note that all these connections in this example are handled through IFTTT… so I do not have to manually share it using any application. Here’s a guide to automating your online life with IFTTT.  But here's some examples of how I use it:

  • I post a blog post. I have the blogger channel in IFTTT set up, and I have a recipie that takes any new blog post and posts it to my Facebook feed, Twitter, and Facebook author page.
  • I post a picture to Flickr. It gets reposted as a Tumblr photo blog post.
  • I post a picture to Instagram. It gets copied to Flickr and then to a Tumblr photo blog post.
  • I tweet. It gets posted to my Facebook feed but not my Facebook author page. (You’ll note this could cause duplicates over blog posts. This is where it gets tricky.)
And those automatic content creators?

  • I “heart” a track on It posts to Twitter or Facebook. (I also use TweetItLater to post the latest song in my “listened” feed every three hours.)
  • I “favorite” a picture on Flickr or Instagram. It gets turned into a Tumblr photo post.

All of a sudden, people are seeing content from me on social networks that I rarely actually look at. It’s real content - not just meaningless trash - and it’s really from me.  But it's also not requiring a ton of effort on my part.

You’ll also notice the exception of Google Plus in all of this. That’s because Google Plus actually does a really, really horrible job in letting information in or out. Which is why I only really participate in one group on Google Plus, though I’ll manually post my own blog links when I remember to.  Note:  Buffer now has G+ integration for pages as well.

What about duplication?

Well, I’ve stopped worrying about it quite so much, and this is why: Not only is everyone else too time-strapped to be on all the networks themselves, they also use them very differently.

For example, my girlfriend barely follows anyone on Facebook. But she follows a WHOLE bunch of people on Twitter. One is close friends, and one is everyone she’s met or is interested at all in.

And then I know people who treat them exactly the opposite.

The point being that even people who are on multiple social media networks rarely treat them the same… and will probably be okay with seeing you talk about the same blog post once on each network.

And how do you keep from flooding your friends with a bunch of stuff all at once?  Check out Buffer for automated scheduled releases of your tweets, shares, and the like.  Pretty awesome, actually.

Where and how do you reply?

If all of that makes you feel a little deceptive, then congratulations! You have a soul and aren’t a SEO monster who feeds on trust and defecates spammy content. After all, this is social media, right? That means you need to be social.

The key is managing your notifications. Every online service wants to send you notifications when someone replies, tags, reblogs, or otherwise interacts with anything else you’ve done. Let’s use that to our advantage.

Notifications via e-mail are the easiest to manage. Set up an e-mail filter so that you get - and see - only the messages when someone actually replies to your post.

For example, I usually only log in to GoodReads when I am posting a full-on review. Except when someone comments on one of my blog entries or sends me an actual private message there - and those are the only reasons I get notifications from GoodReads. You can do the same with practically any social network, which lets you still be social with the people who are interacting with you while avoiding the pitfall of having to check (and create original content for) a bazillion networks every day.

What do you do differently?

Obviously, this is what I do to manage my social networks.  What other services, tips, or tricks do you use?

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So I Went A Little Nuts This Weekend

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There's no joke there.  Sorry.

The last few weeks have been difficult.  Not because of anything big, mind you.  Everything - even the most dramatic of things that has happened over the last two months - has been relatively minor.  The most first-world of first-world problems.  Even compared to the stuff that has happened to me in my (largely easy) life, each and every little stressor has been a minor papercut.

I mean, once you deal with your own son assaulting you and getting to the point where even love isn't enough or your ex-wife trying to cut you off from your (other) kid, even BASIC looks easy, right?  The last couple of weeks have been emotional papercuts compared to the emotional stab wounds I've endured.

But a thousand papercuts is still a hell of a lot of bleeding.

I'm not telling you (and the world) this because I want sympathy.  I appreciate the thought, but I don't deserve a cookie for failing.

I'm telling you this because I routinely get people asking me how I do it all.  How I manage to do All The Things.  One cost is that sometimes my sink is a disaster area.

Another cost - and one I often forget to think about - is that I usually have just barely enough spoons. 

Occasionally, Sarah Hans has called me her mentor.  Maybe that was true at one point, but it's not true now.  She realized a couple of months ago the value of quitting.

Listen to her on this.

And while I've cut down some things and delayed others, I've not done enough cutting back - and there are things that need to get done.

So for those of you who are waiting on me for projects and feedback, it's going to be a little while.  I'm also looking for an intern - at least through the end of the year - to try to ensure that I do right by folks I've already committed to.

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Get The Extension to Make Facebook Tolerable TODAY (Before Facebook Forces Him To Neuter It)

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Social Fixer is a browser extension (it started life as a Greasemonkey script) which makes Facebook *SO* much more useable.  It is - no joke - the difference between Facebook being something I want to use and something I want to avoid.

In particular, Social Fixer has a filtering ability which lets me use keywords to move posts about things I'm not interested in into another tab.  I use it for filtering out sports-related stuff; I know others who filter out political posts.

A while back, Facebook deleted the Social Fixer Facebook page.  Now Facebook is strongly hinting that if the extension author doesn't comply with their demands (that would cripple the usefulness of the plugin) that they'll sue him.

The problem, of course, is that this argument is a client-side modification.  It runs on YOUR end, not theirs, and could apply to *any* Stylish or Greasemonkey script.  And like any Greasemonkey script, it is easy to copy and paste the actual code.  (That took about two seconds of searching to find.)

Still, I have a huge problem with Facebook insisting that they get to control exactly what their site looks like to you. And it's just one more way where social media is becoming less and less useful for us - both as people and as independent creators.

If nothing else, I'd like to urge those who are interested to grab a copy of the current version (7.801 (2013-08-23)) before the functionality is removed.

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Privilege, Power, and Writing: Because I Can Disregard A Facebook Stalker

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This post is a good time to remind folks that if you think I’m talking about you, you’re probably wrong. It’s also worth noting that when I say crazy, I’m referring to people like my first ex-wife, who was diagnosed with (and refused treatment for) borderline personality disorder. K? K.

I’ve had my share - perhaps more than my share - of crazy, stalker, or just otherwise drama-inducing people in my life. And they are the perfect example of how privilege impacts every facet of my life.

One such person messaged me for the first time in several years on Facebook. The message that they sent was … uncomfortable. I deflected the message, politely, and left it at that. And then I told my girlfriend about it.

To paraphrase her response: “Why haven’t you blocked them yet?”

After a brief minute where my brain stuttered along trying to justify itself, I realized there is a one-word answer: privilege.

While I’ve encountered a large number of crazy and/or stalker type people in my life, few of them get labeled as “threat” in my head. Perhaps “I don’t want to run into them” or “socially uncomfortable”, but not “threat”.

My girlfriend - and pretty much any woman in our society - does not have that luxury. They have to parse any potential threat as that threat. The crazy-talking ex can just as quickly become the crazy-acting ex, and then you’ve got a real threat to you and yours.

This concept is firmly embedded in our culture. Security guards regularly give rides to the parking lot to women who want an escort - but look down their noses at a man who asks for the same. The idea of a woman being threatened by a man is so cliche that an entire cable channel is known for producing movies with that theme… and the idea of a man threatened by a woman is rare enough that Fatal Attraction immediately embedded itself into our cultural consciousness.

And yet, it’s completely bullshit. It’s a narrative we (and particularly men) tell ourselves to reinforce a cultural paradigm that’s built on a falsehood. And that gives us a new way to make our stories fresh.

Think about this, writers. We are tool-using. And that means that your protagonists (and antagonists) can look past the cultural narrative and use tools. Why should a man feel safe if threatened by a woman? Women are better shots. Force projection and amplification are at the point where pretty much anyone in the United States can be a deadly force to any other person.

Any. Other. Person.

The first step is to tell the stories that reinforce the paradigm. Lifetime did that. The second step is to tell the “exception” stories where the paradigm is reversed in unusual circumstances. Michael Douglas’ career did a lot of that. The third step - the step we’re at now - is to strip away the falseness of the paradigm and leave our characters what the hell to do after that.

Because we help shape our society. And right now, my girlfriend is right. My privilege as a male blinded me to potential threats. And that’s stupid.

So, probably by the time you read this, I’ll have cleaned up and locked down my Facebook account again.

And then I’ll start writing.

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Misdirection Makes You A Scammer

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When you disguise your intents, when you mislead someone in order to make a sale - whether of a book or a service - makes you a slimy piece of crap scammer.

Avoid doing it.

You want people to be genuinely interested - and you want them to feel fulfilled afterward, not cheated.

Don't sprinkle your book descriptions with bogus (keyword: bogus) comparisons to well-known authors.  Just don't, unless it's for real.  A book I'll be publishing from KW Taylor later this year reminds me of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, so I'll say that... but I wouldn't about any book that didn't make me think of that.

And when you misrepresent yourself as having a conversation when it's really a thinly disguised sales pitch... well, then you get people like me using you as an example of what not to do on the internet.

As I replied in this thread:  I am far less worried about pirates than I am douchebag asshats who disguise their self-promotion attempts to market their anti-piracy wares as a discussion.  Check out Alliteration Ink's piracy policy right on over here.

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Cold Reading - A Free Creative Nonfiction

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I was careful as I shuffled the tarot cards one more time. They were a pack of cheap Ryder knock-offs. Still, I couldn't afford to lose even one.  My parents refused to give me an allowance;  saving for this deck had taken me two months, and I'd had to shoplift the book of interpretations.

Five boys crouched in a circle around myself and Mike, the kid who had volunteered this time.  It was my third reading of the day, but they still stayed huddled around my bunk.  Their breath puffed out in quiet clouds as they looked at me, the cards, Mike.  A fire crackled in the cabin's fireplace, and the smell of canned stew nearly overpowered the stink of unwashed preteen boy.  Glancing out the window, I saw the snow-covered branches glittering in the fading evening sunlight.

"I think this will be the last one," I said.  "There won't be enough light in the cabin."

The other six boys groaned.  With so much snow on the ground, our troop's camping trip was spectacularly boring. Since they couldn't pound each other (and me) in a game proving their machismo, my weird cards and book had to suffice. 

I handed the deck to Mike.  "Cut the deck while thinking of your question," I told him.  "And no-"

"Yeah," he said.  "No pocketknives.  It was a stupid joke the first time, dumbass.  I was here."

I flushed, and Mike handed the deck back across the bed to me.  I laid the cards down in the thirteen card pattern the book recommended, muttering instructions.  "This one covers, this one crosses, this one..."  When I finished, I had no idea what the arrangement of cards signified.

I hadn't the other times, either. Not really.  Sometimes enough familiar cards would come up that I got a feel for things, but I insisted on looking up each card in the book to be certain.  Though I’d only had it a month, the book’s pages were already dogeared and worn.

"What does it say?"  Mike's tone was different.  Quieter - not the sarcastic put-down that I'd always heard from him before.

I began flipping the pages.  "That card," I said, pointing, "covers you.  That's your environment.  That card is" - I found the page - "the five of cups."  I read the interpretation straight from the book.  Then I did it again, with the next card.  Mike didn't say much, just nodding as I worked my way through the cards.  I was still confused when I finished, but Mike's eyes stayed wide.

"Dude," he said, "that was completely right.  That's freaky, man."

That night, I watched shadows shift across the walls.  It was my watch, staying awake to keep the fires burning, but my mind kept dancing back to the afternoon.  With the first few readings, I thought my accuracy was due to my Eastern European ancestry.  But that didn't explain Mike.  With him, I just read out of the book, no sense of power, or spirits, or whatever.  Later, I learned about cold readings.  I learned what people consistently want to hear, and how "fortunetellers" make generalized predictions that can apply to anybody.  Logical, skeptical stuff - and I still run into that kind of profiteering fortune teller all the time.  Why can't they see the future lottery numbers, right?

But that failed to explain Mike.  Mike didn't like what the cards said about his situation.  It wasn't what he wanted to hear.  But it helped him.  It helped to hear another person put things in a different light.  I didn't know his situation - but for whatever reason, my reading gave him a new perspective on his problems.

That's when I decided to keep reading horoscopes, too.  Maybe there are people who can make predictions about the future - I don't know.  But I realized that wasn't the point.  Fortunes and forecasts were not really about lottery numbers and what exact events are coming up ahead. 

They're about getting another point of view from another person.  They help you avoid getting too wrapped up into your own perspective.  The tools - cards, charts, whatever - may truly work.  They may not.  But they always give you a chance to open up and hear another person.

I realized it didn't matter if they were truly prediction.  They're wisdom.

That's worth more to me than any vision of the future.

Thanks for reading this essay I originally wrote for Bridgette Walther and check out What Fates Impose, now publicly available in print and digital formats.

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