Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Have you registered for Context 27 yet?

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We are only one month away from Context 27! Have you registered yet?

I made a quick 30 second spot that you can listen to in the player below or at this link.

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You read that right.

"...will you minecraft marry me"

They were two fifteen year olds on the server I used to moderate.  Apparently there was a bit of drama (iDrama, really, or perhaps mDrama, if you want to be game-specific) going on about who was "minecraft married" to someone else.

I laughed my ass off.

Because I remember.  I remember how bloody important everything seemed back then.  How vital, how necessary.

And how little it all means now.

We all do it.  We forget how insignificant all of our failures and successes are to the world at large when they happen, and how trivial they are to us later in our lives.1

We forget when we suffer our current victories, our current setbacks.

It will be insignificant soon enough.

This too will pass.

1 Sure, you can be that high-school football glory days guy, or Mrs. Haversham, or any of the other iterations of that person stuck in the past. But that such exceptions are memorable demonstrates the rarity of them.

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What Is Your Awesome Mix #1?

One of the best things about Guardians of the Galaxy is the soundtrack:  Awesome Mix #1.   And one of the (sadly few) good things about Rock of Ages is the kick-ass soundtrack there as well.

Listening to playlists made from and inspired by those songs has totally saved my state of mind on more than one occasion lately.

So I've decided to add my own "Awesome Mix", though mine's on average about a decade and a half after StarLord's.

You can listen to mine on 8tracks (the player's embedded below), but I'm also curious:  What songs would be on your awesome mix?  Share in the comments, or make your own mix on 8tracks!

Awesome Mix #3 from SenorWombat on 8tracks Radio.


Coming to CONTEXT? Then enter the Beatnik Cafe! (Extended deadline)

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TL;DR:  Hey everyone, we have extended the deadline for Beatnik Cafe submissions to September 10. Please send them in asap if you're interested in reading at the event!

The Western Ohio Writers Association Beanik Cafe is a live reading that pays homage to the hole-in-the-wall poetry clubs of the 1960s, but with a more modern style. Reading aloud from original work, each writer will take the stage for 10 minutes, dazzling audiences with short stories, poetry or who knows what. Reading authors are encouraged to perform their work for the audience taking into account style and entertainment quality when presenting.

Perspective Beatnik performing authors should submit their ORIGINAL story or poetry to be chosen by our committee to read in the performance. Each submission should be accompanied by a 150-word bio with complete contact information - name, phone and email. Please submit only ONE story / poem per person. Maximum length: 1200 words. We will choose the best of 10 original pieces, any genre, no theme. Submissions should be sent in by 11PM on August 1st, 2014. Submit stories to and put Context Beatnik Submission in the subject line. By submitting their work for consideration for Beatnik, each author/performer has agreed he or she will in attendance at Context and present on Saturday evening to perform at the event.

How it works: Emceed by WOWA Executive Director, Gery L. Deer, the performance will be ordered based on the style and type of stories. The bio submitted with each story will serve as the basis for an introduction given by the MC. Each author will have 10 minutes to perform his or her story for the crowd.

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Help Me Choose A New Motto For Alliteration Ink And Win Free Books!


TL;DR: I need a new slugline that describes what I publish. I'm running a small contest to help me choose a new one; winner gets over $60 in eBooks.

So here's the thing:

I seem to be a "real publisher" now.

It kind of happened without me noticing it - and just like others have reflected about being a "real writer" - I became a "real publisher" when I stopped worrying about what people called me and just started doing the work.

But there is a change. And when I looked over the Alliteration Ink website, I realized... it doesn't match what Alliteration Ink is now.

"Get excited and make stuff?" That whole "publishing because I can" thing? Made perfect sense four years ago for me as a business1. I was publishing to show that it could be done. Now? That's not news. And since Alliteration Ink got out of the publishing services game, it really doesn't make sense today.

But that leaves me without a catchy summary of what Alliteration Ink is.

Other small publishers tend to have a focus on a particular genre, or type of book (or go whole hog the other direction). And I don't want to do that, either.

What do I choose to publish? Good stories and poems. Things that push genre, or are hard to pin to any one particular genre. Anthologies full of stories that poke at the way you think, poems that are literary but not self-conciously so, or novels that I find compelling.  As Anton Cancre pointed out in his review of What Fates Impose:

The big thing about What Fates Impose that will be either a huge draw or a repellent, depending on your tastes, is how hard it is to ascribe a genre to most of the stories presented. Sarah Hans’ “Charms” provides a great example of this. It carries a largely noirish feel in a somewhat detective tale occurring amidst urban fantasy magic but it’s kind of a romance as well, while dealing with issues of identity and the physical expression thereof. I really liked that aspect of it, but I know it isn’t for everyone.
Don't get me wrong - this is a feature, not a bug.

In 2014 I have or have solid plans to publish three anthologies, two single-author collections, a novella, two novels, and launch a periodical. With potentially two to four more titles.

And even though these works span several genres, the odds are pretty good that if you like one of them, you'll like the others as well... but I can't think of a way to sum that up. "Publishing stories that don't suck" is true, but... well, I'd rather phrase it in a positive way, and a bit more politely.

So here's where you come in. 

Suggest a slugline for me.  In the comments here.  On Facebook.  On Twitter (either @uriel1998 or @AlliterationInk ).  Or send me an e-mail.

The best one will get the entirety of my catalog in digital formats (ePub, Kindle, PDF), and five other random ones will get a digital copy of any one book in my catalog.  That's over sixty bucks worth of books for the winner!

So enter now!

1 The former still makes sense for me as an individual though.


Possible Slight Delay to GenCon Meetup

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Due to some factors we can't control (traffic, will call lines), Sarah Hans and I may be late to the noon meetup at GenCon outside the Writer's Symposium.  We'll be there as soon as humanly possible.

If we're late and others who don't know are wondering where we are, please let them know.   I'm tweetable at @uriel1998 or @alliterationink as well, and will update there.

Thanks for understanding!

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Steampunk World Is Officially Released - And You Can Win It!

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It's publication day for Steampunk World (Amazon, B&N, Alliteration Ink, Google), and as you may know, around here that also means a Goodreads giveaway!

The giveaway is just for this weekend, so don't delay - enter now!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Steampunk World by Sarah Hans

Steampunk World

by Sarah Hans

Giveaway ends August 18, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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Changing Cover Layouts: Which Variation Do You Like Better?

(This expands on a post I made on Facebook.)

Sometimes it's the small things that make a big difference. Consider these two variants of the Steampunk World cover:

The original one, on the right, made sense at the time. I wanted (rightly so) to showcase James Ng's artwork. And anything that people might end up getting from the title - it's steampunk, and global in scope - is something that you'll be able to see from the image.

But it's a year later. And there's two big reasons I moved the title location.

First, people have heard about the project. It's not an unknown thing, and even if you weren't a backer, you probably heard something about it.  And so the title alone might get someone to pick up the book now, when they hadn't before.

Second, the title is more clearly visible when it's in a book rack.  Check out that photo of my display when I was at a local event this year.  I'm reaching the point where I will have to have a book in every row... which means you'll not get to see the full cover of each book.

This is not a problem I've had before.  I either had digital books (where this isn't an issue) or I had books laid out more like the displays in the background in the photo.  But now, I simply can't do that anymore with printed books.  I have over a dozen titles in print, and they take up a lot of room - especially when I only have half a table.

Putting the title at the top suddenly means the difference between a title getting seen or being ignored.

So which of the two variants do you like better?  Does seeing the title on a display make a difference for you?  Or do you judge a book by it's cover alone?

And don't forget - you can pre-order Steampunk World right now!


My Fellow Veterans: The #Ferguson Police Action Disrespects Every Vet's Sacrifice

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I was stationed - both at the beginning and end of my military service - at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Thanks - in large part to Fox News after 9/11 - I routinely got told "Thank you for your service."

It's always made me uncomfortable.


The possibility always remained that I could be called up, that I could be deployed.  And I would honor that contract.  This particular quote resonated a lot with me:
“Under our system every voter and officeholder is a man who has demonstrated through voluntary and difficult service that he places the welfare of the group ahead of personal advantage.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers
And one thing that I always - always - found sacred among my fellow soldiers was this:
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.
That, ladies and gentlemen, that is the ideal our servicemen and women have sacrificed thier lives and deaths for.

Not this:

My fellow veterans:

Make no mistake.

With every American the police in Ferguson - or anywhere else - harass, arrest, beat, and silence, they disrespect everything that every last patriot has fought for.

With every tank in the street, with every shell of tear gas, with every zip-tied bystander, they are directly and personally insulting the sacrifice you made.

Are you really okay with the rights you dedicated years of your life being taken away from those you swore to protect?

Freedom still needs protecting.

If you also feel helpless and want to urge your senators to do/say something about Ferguson, CALL THEM:

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What Dreams May Come.

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Thank you, Robin Williams.

Wherever you are, I hope you understand what you taught me here, what I finally can understand and have now.

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See Sarah Hans and Myself at GenCon this year - SATURDAY ONLY

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The Writer's Symposium at GenCon is a hidden treasure.  I stumbled into it almost by accident during my first GenCon, and I've not looked back.  It was the best crash-course a fledgling writer could have - both for the craft of writing and for the often-neglected business side of things.

Marc Tassin has been doing a bang-up job running the Symposium for the last several years, and I'm glad to be part of it again thanks to Jaym Gates.

She invited me to take part in her workshop:

Kickstarter, Social Media, and Standing Out From the Crowd

It's at 3pm this Saturday, featuring Jaym Gates, Melanie Meadors, Stephen Hood (of the Storium Kickstarter), and myself.  My part will include not only the ethics of running a successful crowdfunding campaign, but some of the hard data I've collected over four successful campaigns.

Prior to that, Sarah Hans (editor of Steampunk World and Sidekicks and author published all over the place) and I will be having an informal meet-and-greet at noon on Saturday right outside the Symposium's rooms.  

We look forward to seeing you there!

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The difference between being a patriot and being dead.

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For those of you who aren't local to me, yes, that happened in the same Beavercreek, Ohio, which got featured with this lead paragraph last year:

A lily-white Ohio suburb is doing everything it can, including risking millions in federal highway funding, to keep mostly minority bus-riders from a nearby city from entering their community.

I still sometimes hear "those people" used to refer to minorities poor you know, THOSE people in this area.

I was recently told it wasn't polite or right to call out people being racist like that in public. That it wasn't needed any more.

I wish it wasn't needed any more.

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Amazon Wants To Be Your Friend. Again.

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So Amazon sent a letter to (primarily independent) KDP authors.  (Damien G. Walter posted a copy on his blog, along with his thoughts.)

Which means it's time for a standard round of "Remember who you're dealing with."

Amazon is following Wal*Mart's business model.

Their interests are not yours.  They will never be yours.  And there's one key phrase in the letter that illustrates that more than anything:

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99.
This makes two huge mistakes. 

First, it assumes that all ebooks are perfect substitutes.  Oh, sure from Amazon's point of view this is absolutely true.  But there are some authors that I'll buy for over $10, some that I will buy at $5, and some I'll never buy, even at $0.99.  And from my own anecdata, there's plenty of folks who are now very wary of the low end of the price-pool.

Second, it assumes that greater sales means greater profits for the creators of the work.  And that's simply not true.  This was demonstrated quite succinctly by Tobias Buckell over three years ago.

So what's the point of this letter?  Why is it trying to get indie authors to be on Amazon's side?

Amazon doesn't want to be seen as the bad guy.

Amazon plays hardball - VERY hard ball - and there's nothing inherently good or bad about that.  They're a corporation.  That's what they do.

But they want to be seen as your friend at the same time.  They want to be seen as being good to "book culture"... and they can't do that while simultaneously screwing with a major publisher.

Remember, you can't rely on the public backlash without having it.

And Amazon knows it.

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Don't Offer Review Books In Only One Format

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As we start into award nomination time, I'm getting invitations to read stuff so that I can nominate them.

Which is cool.

But let me make this clear:

The odds of me reading your book as a reviewer (or award nominator) are much higher if it's in a format I typically use.  And I bet others are the same way.

So send that book in PDF and ePub and Kindle formats.  (And make print available if you want;  some folks swing like that.)  PDF only?  I may or may not read it.  If it has DRM on it?  I may or may not read it.

The whole point of sending books to people for consideration for awards - or for review - is to make it easy on them to give your book a chance

Offering only one format or another is making it hard for them... and that's not a good recipie for success.


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Holding A Dark Mirror: What Genre Writing Does Better Than Anything Else

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There is a role that genre - and perhaps only genre - writing can do, and it took The Conjuring to get me to realize it.

Genre writing - and I mean specifically the speculative fiction trifecta of science fiction, fantasy, and horror - questions the existing society... and when something with the trappings of genre - the rayguns or swords or slasher - fails to meet that expectation, it leaves us feeling bereft.

Sometimes this is because of point and place in time. Rosemary's Baby and The Conjuring both share common trappings of "SATANISTS ARE REAL AND AMONG US" - but the former questions the (especially then) prevaling assumption that one's neighbors are fundamentally decent people. The Conjuring, on the other hand, only presents the trappings of questioning society. It, nearly quoting The Usual Suspects, raises a question about the reality of evil - but then quickly says "But here is the One True Answer" instead of leaving the audience unsettled and willing to reflect.

Fantasy does this, both on a large and personal level. The Lord of the Rings questions the necessity of fighting evil - and what sorts of people and actions are important in that fight. The Hobbit questions the idea of being "proper" and "civilized". The Dresden Files constantly questions our ideas of right and wrong, of compromise and steadfastness. Jessie Shimmer questions the ideas of family and love - and how far one will go for either.

In science fiction, we can see it from superheroes to deep space. Serenity works as a film because both Mal and the Operative are at least partially right. The Winter Soldier clearly questions our ideas about safety, security, and the surveillance state (as does most work by Phillip K. Dick). Ender's Game and (particularly) Speaker For the Dead question our presumptions about might, survival, and tolerance of those we don't immediately understand.

That questioning aspect - that "dark mirror" that genre holds up - is the defining element. When that element is lost, we feel betrayed. The questioning elements are vital to the work.

Sometimes that questioning is betrayed by the creator of the work. I am still surprised that the man who penned such moving words about varalese has written such virulence towards gay people.

Often it's when the questioning is removed entirely - when the book or film is about the trappings instead of the questioning. This is why every bad Sharknado (and bog help us, rip-offs of the same) fails at being actual genre fiction...or for that matter, most movies directed by Michael Bay.

And it also happens - though more subtly - when the question is too-neatly resolved by an ideological point of view. This latter is where The Conjuring fails. It raises the question, then hands you the answer of "It's Christianity, stupid!"

Likewise, most "genre" fiction that's written with a particular agenda fails for this reason as well - even if it hews to every trope and convention, it is about espousing a viewpoint instead of questioning one.

This doesn't mean that every work must raise a new question, or that every work must suddenly be a deep, introspective philosophy class.

It does mean that genre work that simply espouses the status quo – that simply glues on the gears or hands a protagonist a sword, laser, or laser-sword – fails.

When writing does that, it fails not only as “literature”, but more importantly, it fails as genre writing as well.

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