ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

It's not "fanac", it's makers: The changing demarcations of "professional"

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I didn't know what "fanac" meant until just a few months ago. It's one of those not-quite-an-acronym terms for "Fan Activity". Which in itself contains another one of the same type of shortenings - so it should be "Fanatic Activity".

When I first ran into the term, an older author was using it.  I thought that maybe the term sounded a little dismissive.

I quickly learned that author meant for it to sound that way.

For this author, the very framing of the term implies a structure and heirarchy, with "fanac" at the bottom and "proac" (I guess?) at the top. The term "fanac" carried with it the sneering down-proboscis tone of "amateur". It's the same kind of division that reignites perennial classics about what it means to be a "professional" author... except that when I heard it, "fanac" was used to belittle a small publisher because they didn't meet the speaker's ideas of what "professional" means. It was a completely dismissive slam, presumptively assuming that publisher would never be worth a real author's time.

And it stung a bit - because they were describing a small publisher that could have been me just a year or two ago.

It doesn't take a whole lot of reading in this blog to know the degree of loathing I have for opportunistic scams run by so-called publishers. It also doesn't take a whole lot of reading to know that scams (and publishers preying on authors) exist at all levels of publishing. It's important to me that authors know how to avoid the scammers.

I think I understand where the down-nose sneering comes from. At one time, Yog's law ("Money flows toward the author") was the single largest indicator of reputableness. But that's no longer the case. Cthugha's Correlary ("Value flows toward the author") can better encompass the shifting, murky, and individual paths to success for today's writers.

The disconnect between Yog's Law and Cthugha's Correlary sums up the last decade in writing and publishing.

In general, the value that authors get from their publisher is money.

But neither advances or the size of the publisher guarantees that the publisher is going to treat the author (or the work) well.

Conversely, a publisher that is dismissed as "fanac" might instead be a maker. They might not have a fancy New York address or bottomless pocketbooks... but they're someone who will do everything they can1 to treat the author and the work well.

I have been using crowdfunding a lot more lately, because I do want to offer authors up-front payments for their stories. And I do pay attention to the bottom line, choosing projects and anthologies that I think will do well.

But it's even more important that they're projects and stories that I'm proud to publish, while respecting and taking care of the authors behind the stories.

I think that attitude - along with the desire to constantly learn and improve - is a better distinction between whether someone is worth your time than whether or not they're just in it for the benjamins.

And I will greet as peers all publishers (and author-publishers) who have that same mentality, whether someone else calls you "fanac" or not.


1While ignorance and inexperience can be bad as well, if the publisher actually means well, they're also fixable. Ignorance is curable.

#SFWAPRO

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Poetry Above and Below - #DAYTON - TONIGHT at 5pm

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Come and enjoy an evening of Ekphrastic Poetry at "Poetry Above and Below" Tonight at 5:00 p.m.



"Poetry Above and Below" will bring Wright State faculty and student together to read their own poetry based on the Wright State Stein Gallery's current exhibit "Above and Below" This is the first event in the new Nexus Ekphrastic Poetry Series and we hope that you all will be able to join us for a delightful night of poetry.

Also join us afterwards for an open mic night at the Bridge Cafe at 8:00 p.m. Stop by and enjoy some delicious coffee and treats as well as some wonderful poetry.

https://www.facebook.com/events/250777595083990/

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The Kickstarter for Streets of Shadows Is Going On Right Now

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http://bit.ly/kickshadows

The underworld of crime noir meets the shadows of urban fantasy in Streets of Shadows, a new fiction anthology edited by editors Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon - the team that brought you the Dark Faith series of anthologies.

Featuring Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kevin J. Anderson, Tim Lebbon, Seanan McGuire, and Brandon Massey, the anthology promises to push the boundaries of both genres.

We are currently seeking funding to reward the authors and editors for their creative work.  There's a whole slew of rewards for backers as well above and beyond just the book.

Check us out on Kickstarter at http://bit.ly/kickshadows .

Streets of Shadows - A Noir Urban Fantasy Fiction Anthology -- Kicktraq Mini


We will be accepting open submissions for this anthology only after the funding period has ended.  Limited slots will be available.  Details will be forthcoming once the project has funded.

Please note Alliteration Ink's crowdfunding ethics policy before deciding to submit.  Your submission will be regarded as agreement to comply with Alliteration Ink's policies.

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Help Me Develop A Litmus Test To Vaccinate Authors Against Scammers

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I hate scams.  A lot.  Whether it's publishers acting as scammers (even imprints of the big ones), or writing contests and even more writing contests, SEO scammers, and especially especially groups acting like they are helping out writers when they're really untrustworthy.

Remember when I came up with a quick litmus test to see if someone was a real publisher?

  1. The do not require payments from the author.
  2. The author is paid in something more than author copies.
  3. Editorial oversight/control from someone separate than the author.
  4. They do not publish their own work as their main imprint.
The more of those you fail, the more worrisome the "publisher" is.  And I think we might be able to come up with similar litmus tests for other things that take advantage of authors.

Right now, most of the warning signs for me are almost subconscious - I almost just "sense" there's something wrong - so it's going to take some unpacking on my end.

And it's a little more complicated than it used to be.  Remember that not only do you have Yog’s Law, but you also have Cthugha’s Correlary (the tl;dr - value flows toward the author).  Sometimes fees are appropriate - but how do you determine when those are worthwhile or not before you shell out cold hard cash?

Are there any warning signs that tell you that someone's trying to rip you off instead of help you?

#SFWAPro

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Geeky things: X-Clipboard synchronization, file/mime types, and commandline uploading

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Geeky things I learned recently:


You can send standard output to multiple processes at the same time using tee:

echo "blah" | tee >(xclip -i -s primary) >(xclip -i -s clipboard)

You can find out if a file is binary using the command "file" and a simple grep operation:

binary=$(file -b $1 | grep text)

And you can find out if a file is an image using xdg-mime:


mimetype=$(xdg-mime query filetype $file| grep image)
if [ "$mimetype" = "" ]; then
echo "Not an image, skipping."
fi


Related: You can upload to pastebins easily using pastebinit, upload images to imgur from bash, and (woo) do screencaps and upload to imgur in one fell swoop.

See?


Mind you, I started doing this about three hours ago. Because this scene from Malcom in the Middle is what any kind of programming is like.

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What I Get From Books On Writing (BTW - I'm In One That Comes Out Today)

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One of the things I like about books on writing is that they can inspire me to write more.  Hearing a different author's take on how they do something can get me to want to write more.

That's one of the reasons I still enjoy flipping through my copy of Eighth Day Genesis - it's a great book on worldbuilding that has a lot of expertise crammed into easy (and fun) chunks.

It's also something the Now Write! series has been doing for a while - and today I join the ranks of authors who have contributed exercises and essays to help inspire other authors.

Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror just came out today (AMZ | B&N).  It's got an impressive list of contributors - Stacey Graham, Vonda N. McIntyre, Jay Lake, Joe R. Lansdale, Vanessa Vaughn, and, um, me.  (A full list of contributors is here:  http://nowwrite.net/contributors-sf-fantasy-horror/ )

I'm quite pleased with my contribution, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

And don't forget - the Streets of Shadows kickstarter only has a few days left, so if you want to get in on the exclusive backer rewards, you need to hurry!

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The Unexpected Benefit of Not Being Very Professional Online

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Recent events (you know, these) reminded me of the mantra "never meet your heroes". And I get that.  The disappointment of finding out that several of my literary heroes were... well, yeah.  Let's not rehash that.

It was disappointing.  And I would have rather not had my high opinion of them punctured quite so readily.

But I wonder if that truism is quite so true now.

As far as I can tell, John Scalzi, Tobias Buckell, and Jim C. Hines are all pretty much they way they present themselves online. Whenever I get to meet Chuck Wendig in person, the odds are that I'm not going to be horribly surprised. And I know that the way I present myself online is pretty much the way I really am.

Sure, it's my "public persona", but my public persona is essentially me, just running at 115.2%. (That 0.2% is the difference.) You might be surprised at how much I curse when I'm not "in public", but otherwise? I am what's on the tin.

And so I think about the recent shocks I've had where some people I've looked up to disappointed me. Badly. And they're all people who don't do a lot online. Maybe they're older, maybe it's because they're closely guarded online, but they're people whom I only know through their writing or artwork.

When I first started, I acknowledged that my online/public persona isn't cool and polished and professional. My style (or positions) repel some people... but they attract others. When speaking to new writers, I'd point this out to them - that there was a cost and benefit to being outspoken online.

But now, it's all too easy for "private" conversations and e-mails and forum posts to spread far beyond their original audiences. And I'm kind of insulated against that... because I don't say anything markedly different in private than I do in public.

Anyone who would use my private (or semi-private) statements to avoid my creative work already has, because of my public statements.

So that's one less thing that I have to worry about when people meet me.  If you like how I am on the blog, you'll probably like me in real life.  And vice versa.

Except I cuss about as much in private as Chuck Wendig does in public.

Which probably doesn't surprise you either.

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What old-school video games would YOU like to play with other congoers?

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So, one of the things I want to do at a convention is to have some old-school video games... but I'm looking for feedback on WHAT to do.

One option - and easily the hardest and most expensive for me - is to have 1-2 systems running MAME with USB controllers.

That means getting to play classic arcade games - Shinobi Showdown, Midway: 1942, Metal Slug, Dig Dug, Moon Patrol - right there like we used to back in the day.  I can see this being a LOT of fun.

But it also means having to have monitors/displays.  While I have some old CPUs that I can use (temporarily), I don't have the large monitors such a setup would require, let alone enough USB D-Pads to preconfigure.

Another possibility would be using the boxes to run servers of classic games:


and do it over either a local wireless LAN I set up with a router or inside the hotel's network.

I have those two games above because there are free (and legal) solutions for people to install it on their own computers so we can just play at the con with custom maps and the shareware version of the game.  And since there's a dedicated server version, we could definitely run a few instances so there's both co-op and PvP running.  And since they're source ports of old games, folks wouldn't need to have a high-end system to run it at all.

We could also do some games like these:



but I don't think there's a dedicated server mode available for it, and it would require people to buy the game to (legally) participate.

And honestly, if we're going the high-end route, I'd rather play this free game:

which is also cross platform, unlike the Blizzard games.

What do you all think?  Would you like to have an old-school LAN party?  Or arcade games?   Or both?

And yes, of course it's literary.

:: bows ::

Please let me know what you think below!

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An Open Letter To White Dudes From A White Dude (Or The Problems Of Being An Ally)

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No. Really, I'm pretty pasty-white.

An Open Letter To White Dudes From A White Dude

Look, it's fucking scary.

Not that women are doing things or minorities are doing things or people with different sexualities and gender identies are doing things, or that they want to be treated with basic human dignity.  

That makes sense to you. And you intellectually understand that you're "playing on easy" and that you have "white privilege", though sometimes you still have a hard time remembering that, or feeling like life's cutting you any breaks. You recognize that you've said (and even believed) some really misguided shit over the years.

You recognize that you don't want to be part of the problem.1

None of that is scary.

What's scary as all hell is that every so often you see someone "slip up". That there seems to be a whole mess of rules that you're supposed to follow, and you think you are, but then all of a sudden wham! Out of nowhere the Internets descend on someone saying the same thing - or if you're really unlucky, they descend on you.

And it's not that you meant to be shitty or bigoted. Maybe you still don't understand how it's bigoted.

Want an example? Let me give you two.

First, the #SoWhiteOutside hashtag. About five out of every six were hilarious, pointed, and spot-on. I grokked them, even if they didn't directly apply to me.





But there were others that I didn't wholly agree with – like this one:



And some where I simply just... don't get it.



Is there something I don't know about? If I refer to a TED talk, is that somehow now a thing? I have no idea. Which brings us to the second example:

I have a grand total of two experiences in my life where I had even the slightest taste of what racism is like. Those two experiences - which were stupid, minor things while overseas - were a huge shock to me.

Do I "understand" what it's like to be discriminated against in this country? Um, no. Not in the slightest. Does that give me somewhere to start imagining what it must be like? Yes.

Can I come across as a bigot by telling that story? Fuck yes.

It can be really challenging and scary. Because you don't want to be part of the problem. And you don't always understand how to be part of the solution.

Sometimes you're even told you can't be part of the solution.

Like I said, it's scary.

But you already know this: That you can't - that you won't - continue to being part of the problem.

So yeah, it's scary. It's fucking terrifying.

And the only choice you have – besides intentionally being a bigoted asshat – is to learn to seek out that uncomfortable feeling. To challenge yourself.

To be scared that you're going to say or do the wrong thing.

Because the alternative is so much worse.


1 And if that doesn't describe you, then you're probably not whom I'm talking to.

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In Case You Didn't Read Closely: The Bigots Are Protesting AGAINST #SFWA Now.

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So in all this "petition" kerfluffle, (the core issue of which I summarize here) I keep seeing one thing repeated over and over - and not rarely corrected: 

That petition isn't from SFWA.  It never was. 

Let me repeat that idea:  SFWA's current stance is what the bigots are upset about.

Note:  If people want to act like bigots, I'll call 'em bigots.  If you don't like the label, please stop acting like the label.

That's why these folks are mad - their exclusive clubhouse now has all this diversity running around.  We fought this fight last year, and diversity won

Imagine this headline:  "Quaker petition sparks outrage about racism." 

I mean, holy crap, right?  Who knew?  (Serious note:  Yeah, um, no.  Every modern-day Quaker I've met has been a truly beautiful person.  That's why such a headline would be shocking.)

Then you read the article (instead of just the headline) and see that it's a petition from the KKK to Quakers, maybe with a few ex-Quakers having signed it.

But everyone keeps calling it a "Quaker petition".

So that's the situation we're in now with SFWA.

There's a bunch of bigots who are whining because SFWA called them on their bigotry a year ago, and they don't like that. Nearly all of them aren't in the organization any longer because they didn't like getting called on it a year ago.

But please recognize the difference between the current organization and the bigots who are criticizing it.

Thanks.

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Hear Me Read "Kicking the Habit" and Support Streets of Shadows For As Little As $1

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Hey folks!  We're more than halfway through the Streets of Shadows Kickstarter at http://bit.ly/kickshadows - a new fiction anthology combining noir crime and urban fantasy edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon - the team behind the Dark Faith series of anthologies.

One of the things that Kickstarters like this do is help independent publishers (like me) pay authors and editors fair wages.  And that means we have the ability to bring you innovative and cool stories that aren't the same old recycled reboots and desperate sequels that you see everywhere else.

But that requires your support.

I understand that not every project may be something you're interested in.  Heck, until I started looking into what noir fiction was really about (and man, The Maltese Falcon is a REALLY good movie!) I wasn't sure that I would be interested.   I'm really excited about this anthology now, and really looking forward to reading the stories in it - but at the same time I can understand where it might not be your cup of tea.

...but you still want to support Alliteration Ink and independent publishing.

So I've made it so you can.

There's a $1 backer level for Streets of Shadows.  And man, that dollar is going to be a heck of an investment for you.  Because you'll get every one of the "all backer rewards".

Right now, that's not only desktop backgrounds of the cover art, but an MP3 of me reading my story "Kicking the Habit".  This story has never been produced in audio before, and has been a hit with audiences at conventions wherever I've gone.

And you'll get your very own DRM-free copy of it for just a buck.

When we add more "all backer" rewards, you'll get those too when the project funds.

I think you'll find a lot of value in the backer rewards at higher levels - an exclusive hardback, critiques from the Dark Faith editors, tuckerizations, and more.

But even if times are tight for you, we are committed to making sure that you'll get more than your money's worth if you can just spend a single dollar.

Stop by http://bit.ly/kickshadows and back us today!

Thanks!

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Summarizing My Thoughts On Writing For A Professional Journal For A Professional Organization (For Reference)

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This really is the core issue for anyone still wanting to "debate" anything around last year's controversy about the SFWA Bulletin or the people who are trying to re-argue it again.  (I said this in a comment over here, but thought it was worth copying to my own blog to refer back to later.)  I'm kind of done talking about it, because I don't see what more there is to say besides what follows.

That said, comments are open.

In a professional organization and professional writing you should err on the side of caution.

And if that means you stop and consider that maybe that cover art - even if it's satirical or a pastiche of an older, no longer appropriate style - could come across the wrong way, leading you to choose some different artwork... then that's okay by me.

And if that means that you cautiously avoid remarking on someone's attractive appearance when talking about their writing and editing career because someone might take it the wrong way... then that's okay by me.

And if that means that when you screw up - because you will - that you mindfully say "I'm sorry I offended you" instead of trying to tell someone else their feelings are less important than your own... then that's okay by me.

And if you can't understand why an author in a professional, non-fiction publication might need to consider the sensibilities of their audience... well, good luck with that in your writing career.

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Valentine's Day Is Creepy. Let's Write Flash Together This Weekend Instead.

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Stop and think about it for a second:  The line between healthy love and boiling-bunnies crazy is mighty mighty thin.

Don't believe me?

Take the Ponds from Doctor Who.


Take the number of times (at least twice) where they quite literally pull a Romeo & Juliet suicide pact.  Oh, sure it's not really.  But they have no reason to think that going into it.  It sounds an awful lot like the way manipulative people sound when they threaten self-harm to keep someone in an emotionally abusive relationship.

It's all a matter of a very small degree.  (Is the bunny boiling, or just simmering?)


Even straight-up "normal" Valentine's Day stuff can be pretty creepy:






So this Saturday (yes, tomorrow), join me and others for Shock Totem's bi-weekly one hour flash fiction challenge at 8pm EST.

You'll need to make an account on their message board (free);  that way the work you post isn't "previously published".  The rules are pretty straightforward.


  • An image is posted at 8pm to inspire you
  • You have one hour to write up to 1K words in any genre (though a lot of people do horror and dark fantasy, just FYI.)
  • You post your story, and everyone reads, critiques, and votes.


The official rules are right here.

That's it!  I really enjoy it - it forces me to put my brain in a different writing space than normal, and that helps jar it out of whatever problems I'm running into at the time.

I look forward to seeing what you write tomorrow night!  And remember...


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Updated HTML Entities Reference using Zenity, Awk, SED.

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So I made the first big change in my repository for eBook utilities in a long time, largely because I'm toying with completely changing my workflow.  I used Pandoc with a recent conversion, and it was very very nice.

But right now I'm doing the eBook layout for Steampunk World and I ran into a problem I'd almost forgotten about - extended characters.

Not just your "normal" accented characters, but ones that literally have unicode names of "inodot".  So instead of scrolling up and down across four different unicode reference webpages, I updated my referring entities script to be able to search and the reference text file to add extended-A and extended-B.

Basic instructions here:

http://ideatrash.net/2012/02/so-you-want-to-make-ebook-quick-access.html

Because all the tools involved (awk, sed, zenity) are cross-platform, you should be able to make it work pretty easily no matter what system you're on.  And the first time you run into a conversion job that has a lot of special characters, you'll thank me.

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An Open Letter To Mike Resnick On The Occasion of A Petition

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Dear Mike Resnick:

It was less than a year ago when I last praised you publicly.  One of my editors describes you as a "grumpy old Yoda", with lots of information and wisdom, and I think that's a fair description.  You're great on panels, and freely share your experiences and knowledge.

And then.

It wasn't just the crap around the Bulletin originally.  But it was how you doubled down instead of offering the simple apology that I wished and hoped you'd give.

All it required was you saying "I am sorry I said offensive things.  I will examine what I said so that I don't repeat the offense."  Or you could have just used John's apology template for something a little more eloquent.

But you didn't.  And that sucks.

And yes, I noticed you sneering at the SFWA and Writer Beware pamphlets at my table at the last con we were both attending.  But I figured we could just leave it at that.  Maybe you'd never apologize... but I wouldn't have to explicitly call you out either.

And then there came this petition.  Which you not only signed off on, but circulated as well.

Tripling down, as it were.

And here's the thing, Mike.

Maybe you and all the other "signatories" who posted your awards after your names (on the earlier, more offensive version) think that your awards give you some kind of insulation from the consequences of your words.

You're wrong.

All you are doing is changing how you're remembered.

When I mention your name now, people think "Oh, that sexist guy".  They don't remember the awards.  They don't remember your stories.  They don't remember the way that your stories made people feel over the years.

They remember you for saying some unfortunate sexist shit, and then getting defensive as hell when called on it.  And then getting more offensive.  And more defensive.

They forget why you were listened to at all.

And that is a damn shame, Mike.  It really is.

But.

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


There is only one available course of action:

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


So, Mr. Resnick, I ask you as a former admirer.  As someone who has sat next to you as a panelist.  As someone who has looked up to you in the past.

How do you want to be remembered?



I've known Mike Resnick since my first Millennicon, so I've written this specifically with him in mind.  But looking over it, the basics apply to a number of people - some of whom are implicated but haven't (yet?) signed this particular document.

I sincerely hope that you'll change your mind, and perhaps we can work together again. 

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Journey To The Center of (Your) Core

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When you go into business - and if you're writing for money, it is a business - you should always keep your core business in mind, and not stray far from it.

When I say "core business", I mean something that you are good at doing and you are excited about doing. If your core business is not aligned with your actual business activities, it'll show.

It's best to give two examples.

You looking at me?????I used to rent apartments in Second Life. I rented virtual land, then put apartments on them, and then rented the apartments out. They were simple apartments. Simple for the users, simple for me. It was something that few others were doing well, and I made some good pocket money that way.

And then I started listening to people who wanted something different. I didn't want to have different size apartments, or any of the bells and whistles that other virtual landlords offered.  But I did it anyway.

Within six months I was spending three times as much energy and time just maintaining the apartments. Within six months I was starting to lose money, and I eventually shuttered my virtual doors.

I might have gotten out of the virtual landlord business by now anyway, but maybe not. But I know for certain that losing focus on my core business was directly responsible for me having to leave the virtual landlord gig.

And it happens in media as well. You don't have to think hard to find an example where a sequel doesn't complete a story, but just serves as a way to rake in more bucks. Where the people who create listened to the clamoring voices that said "MOAR." Or worse, the people who are creators are seduced by success and simply say "Let's just do that again."

And that's how we get so many sequels and remakes and reboots that just leave us all feeling sick and empty inside.

The key is to find something you like to do, that you're good at, and that is in demand.  And then, when it's starting to work, don't let yourself be pushed around by people telling you that it's wrong if you don't do it their way.

For us writers, that means write the stories you want to write (or read), not what someone else tells you to be writing.

Looking back over Alliteration Ink's three years, it's kind of hard to find a consistent theme. Dark fantasy and horror. Literary fantasy. Eclectic themed anthologies. A thriller. Nonfiction. Steampunk. Poetry. Urban fantasy.

You might think I don't have a core business there, but you'd be wrong.

And that's because my core business as a publisher is not a specific genre.

My core business is finding things that are neat.

I'm one of those "sharing" types of geeks - the ones who discover a cool thing and just love to tell people about it.

Not only do I get to find those cool things, but I get to help make those neat things.

It means that Alliteration Ink is hard to classify into a specific genre.

Until you realize that "freaking neat" is a genre unto itself.

And that's pretty neat too.

Alliteration Ink's current project is Streets of Shadows, a crime urban fantasy anthology edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon.

Imagine The Maltese Falcon with Sam Spade's partner coming back as a zombie. The Big Sleep where they stash wands under the dashboard, or Sin City with lizard people. Sound interesting? Check out our Kickstarter at http://bit.ly/kickshadows and spread the word to your social networks.

We'll have an open call for submissions at the end of our crowdfunding campaign.

#sfwapro

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Selecting Panelists and Early Bird Rates and Guests Oh My!

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Putting together convention programming is kind of like herding cats.  I think.  Maybe herding wombats. 



Okay, I'm being dramatic.  But it does require some hard decisions to be made.  Since last November, I've been heading up programming for Context 27.  And that includes one huge mandate:
My job - and the reason I'm really excited about this - is to make the con worthwhile for people attending it even if they never go to a workshop.   I am working to ensure that the "basic" experience is top-notch and worth every penny.
Context - unlike, say, *cough* Comic-Con *cough* - is not about the profit.  It's about the people and the experience.  The folks who run it are just like the people who attend.  But if the ConCom doesn't pay attention to the bottom line... well, that could get bad.



Here's the skinny:  I've already got more people applying to be panelists than I have panelist slots... and we are still more than seven months out.  And believe me, I know how hard it can be to apply and not make it onto panels, or to not be invited back despite having been a panelist for many years.

Believe me, my droogs, I know. And that's why the next sentence is so important:


This isn't just a writer's workshop.  This is Context. 

Context is small enough that you actually get to talk to the people you want to see, and big enough that it attracts the people you want to see.
Aside from making sure the panels are top-freaking-notch, I want to make sure there's plenty of space and time for everyone there to actually get to sit and talk and relax and talk shop and party instead of just running from panel to panel.

Whether you're a fan, writer, publisher, editor, student, or curious bystander, with guests including Jonathan Maberry, Betsy Mitchell, Lucien Soulban, Jennifer Brozek, Monica Valentinelli, Sharon Short, Maurice Broaddus, Jerry Gordon, Jason Sizemore, Ferrett Steinmetz, Laura Resnick, and Geoffrey Girard (and MORE!), Context is going to be a place where you want to be. 

Even if you don't go to a single panel.



The discounted Early Bird rate for the weekend ends after this weekend, so get thee over and take advantage of it right now:   http://bit.ly/ContextReg

And I'll see you at the con!

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A Brief Thought On Pope Francis

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Pope Francis met with mediaI was going to try for something witty, or snarky.

But I just can't.

I don't want to make fun of this guy.

This guy?  Pope Francis?  Actually seems to have his heart in the right place.  Seems to care more about kindness than righteousness.  To care more about the spirit of the law than the letter of the law.  To care more about doing the right thing than being seen doing the right thing.

It's a pity that the self-righteous indignant dogmatic jerkoffs that alienated me from the Church are still there.

But maybe they'll be too busy saying Hail Marys trying to make this Pope into a Pharisee to cause too much trouble.

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My Facebook Movie Is Kinda Spot On - And Unexpectedly Awesome

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Especially the "most liked posts" part. :)

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Hear What Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon are Looking For In *Streets of Shadows*

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Ever wonder what Maurice & Jerry are hoping for in the Streets of Shadows anthology?

Now you can find out.  They were interviewed by DJ Grandpa - and you can hear them talk about their love of urban fantasy, crime stories, missing drinks, and missing Steves on DJ Grandpa's Crib.

Jerry and Maurice show up at 32'26";  if you've never had a chance to talk to these two guys, it's a great interview and really captures the fun and passion these guys have for their work.



Take a few minutes to listen - but first take just a few seconds while it's loading to check out the Streets of Shadows Kickstarter (or share it with your friends on social media with just three button clicks).

Thanks!

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Happy Smoochversary to @WritingCyn

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@Downsideupgirl at Around About Books

SMOOCHES.


(Yes. Smoochversary is a thing now. Back off.)

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Why Donna Noble Is "Stronger" Than Mary Watson - A Practical Example of The Strong Woman Myth Weakening The Story

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A few caveats:

While I've scheduled this to go live after S3 of Sherlock finishes up in the US, there's spoilers aplenty. You have been warned.

Yes, there's lots to discuss about the end of S4 of Doctor Who and S3 of Sherlock. I want to focus on this aspect right now.  And that aspect is the writing, not the acting.  (I think all the parts mentioned are brilliantly acted.)

And yes, you should watch all the things I mention.



Donna Noble is quite literally the everywoman - a (barely) white-collar worker with a coarse accent and no aspirations. And yes, Russell T. Davies can't leave well enough alone and shoves infinite superpowers into her character so that he can have his Big Season Finale!

But the superpowers are not what makes Donna Noble strong. She is a strong character from the first time we see her up to the end. She repeatedly calls a Time Lord on the carpet - and he backs down. She is a force to be reckoned with in her own right, simply because of her personality, upbringing, and force of will.



Donna Noble was - and is, once again - everyperson. She has no special training, no special skills. Her strength is strength of character.  She puts it all together, figures it out with minimal prompting, and just adapts.

The addition of superpowers to Donna Noble lessens her, quite literally

Then you have Mary Morstan Watson.



During the first 180 minutes of this series (season, whatever), she's a refreshing change from the secondary roles - or worse, "dangerous women" roles - that women have been shoved into with Sherlock. She's a strong personality - much like Donna. She doesn't shirk danger, nor does she seek it out. She is smart, resourceful, and quick-witted. She stands up to our adorable "sociopath" (see footnote #3), sees right through his attempts at obfuscation, and is pretty much awesome.

And then.

And then we learn the truth.

Mary Watson isn't anything like Donna Noble.

Mary Watson was superpowered all along.1

The showrunners of Sherlock fell into the "strong woman" trap that Neil Gaiman talked about so eloquently (tl;dr: A woman can only hit not-a-doormat levels if they're physically formidible), and that's quite bad enough sexist storytelling in and of itself.

But sexist (and racist, etc) writing is also bad writing... and the sexist underpinnings of having to make Mary a "strong" character is that it weakens the development of the male characters as well.


There's a similar thematic element in both S4 of Doctor Who and S3 of Sherlock: Our protagonist is trying to come to grips with thier place in the world - and how dysfunctionally they relate to everyone around them.

Tennant's Doctor struggles with guilt and a feeling of being responsible for and superior to everyone around him.2 Donna provides him a way to reconnect to regular people again, and when she is lost, we get the well-meaning (and tragically fumbled) events of "The Waters of Mars". No matter how much I feel cheated by what Davies did to Donna (and I do) - at least it serves the thematic arc of Tennant's Doctor.

Cumberbatch's Sherlock is a self-proclaimed "high-functioning sociopath" - though he's clearly not.3 That dichotomy is what powers Sherlock's character growth throughout the entire show's run so far.  The arc of Sherlock starting to care enough about other people to make the effort to learn social skills is a major theme from S2E03 ("Reichenbach Fall") and throughout all of S3. We see Sherlock learn to pay attention to Molly4, explicitly identify John as the thing he cares about most. Season three of Sherlock is where Sherlock starts to really learn how to identify with and interact with people, how to break away from the stereotype that Abed so skillfully destroys in S5E03 of Community.



And then.

And then we learn the truth.

Sherlock hasn't been learning to relate to normal people at all.

Because they've all - John the resourceful war hero, Mary Watson and all her secrets, even Mrs. Hudson with her past worthy of an episode of Breaking Bad - been superpowered all along.

None of them are normal people.

They're all superpowered, just like Sherlock is.

And the entire character arc of Sherlock Holmes through Season three crumbles under the temptation to make Mary Watson "stronger" than Donna Noble.

But no matter how many holes are shot in coins or men spontaneously offer baby names, neither Mary Watson nor The Woman is as strong a woman or as strong a character as regular, plain old Donna Noble.

And I miss her.





1 Yes, sooper-seekrit skillset counts as superpowers.
2 A trend which actually gets fulfilled - repeatedly - throughout Smith's tenure.
3 Mycroft is perfectly aware of social norms, and doesn't give a damn, but his younger brother is frequently clueless, which would point us more toward somewhere on the Asperger's continuum. That he identifies as a sociopath says actually quite a lot about Sherlock's relationship with Mycroft, and that's hinted at throughout S3 as well.
4 And thank goodness she's treated better this season.

#SFWAPro

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