Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Have A Musical Halloween!

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I'm going to be working Halloween, but there's no reason you shouldn't be treating your ears. Here's three very different takes on the season from my playlists on 8tracks!

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.  Enjoy.

Doom metal to provide a throbbing wall of brain-melting sound as you try to avoid the horrors that walk the earth on Halloween.

Darkwave, some early synth, a dash of harsh EBM and industrial. Happiness and dancing with an edge of goth and aggression. Dark yet danceable is the goal here.

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Join my son and I in Clash of Clans

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A quick informal note from Steve here:

My son and I have a small clan (AlliterationInk, clan tag  #29UGUGC) on the mobile game Clash of Clans.

You all are invited to join us in smiting our virtual enemies!  Huzzah!

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Only Bite The Hand That Feeds You When It's Necessary

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There's an episode in the second season of Louie that's ... well, relevant to me right now.

The idea is this: Louie takes a gig working at a Trump casino. His normal act tanks, so he starts dissing both the gamblers there and throws in some shots at Trump. This gets him reminded by the manager that his contract includes a clause that says he can't make fun of Trump, so he quits. Then he runs into Joan Rivers, who says he's stupid for not accepting the restrictions and just sucking it up: "You don't know when you're lucky."

This episode bothered me at the time, and still does. Or rather, one part of the morality of the episode bothers me.

There's a lot of value here. You should appreciate the value of any gig, no matter how small or unappreciative they might seem. You shouldn't needlessly aggravate the people who pay you or can help you up.


In this episode, the waters are muddied because Louie isn't taking a principled stand in mocking Trump - he's just desperate to not bomb, and pissed off at the situation. And yeah, he should have sucked it up publicly.

That distinction is never made, though. Maybe it's assumed that such distinctions don't apply to comedians, that they don't or can't make a principled stand or say things that make a real-world difference in their acts. (Paging Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert! )

The advice that the (at least semi-fictional) Joan Rivers gives only makes the distinction between whether or not it advances your career financially or not.

And that is a very limiting idea of what "success" is.1

As I've long pointed out, I could fairly easily get into the author-scamming business. I have the technical know-how to make it happen.

But I'm not. I even backed out of doing the publishing services business.

Those decisions aren't making me money.

But there's a value there that makes it worth it.

1 Caveat: It becomes more of a thorny issue when those decisions are the difference between eating or not.

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Time Is Running Out To Be A Backer of *Not Our Kind*!

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The campaign for Not Our Kind is well underway!

If you're already a backer, thanks so much!  If not, now is the time to check out the Kickstarter campaign for this book!

When you talk about outsiders, it's easy to think about that sense of isolation when you're not one of the "popular kids" in high school, when you're the new person on the job, when you stand out in a bad way.

But there's more than that.

There's the sense of wonder at a new, alien place. There's seeing everything you know through a new, different point of view.

These stories defy expectations and easy genre boundaries.

But if you want that sense of wonder and amazement when you first encountered speculative fiction, that idea that there is something different, something *more* just around the corner, just out of sight, that sense of coming home to the unfamiliar, then this is the book you want to read.

The book's currently raising money on Kickstarter.  If you're not familiar with Kickstarter, it's a website where you get to be a patron of the arts like the Medicis, with PBS-style pledge rewards.  No money gets charged until the project gets fully funded, and Alliteration Ink has a stellar track record on delivering on its Kickstarter campaigns, so there's practically no risk to you.

Check out Not Our Kind - and all the kick-ass backer rewards - at right now!

PS:  If you're on the fence, check out where several of the authors have talked about their stories for this anthology:

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Some Random Generators

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This is for the class I'm teaching today:

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How To Get Invited To Anthologies

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With Not Our Kind in the funding phase (have you backed it yet?), friend of Alliteration Ink (and an author I've published before) Justin Swapp asked a very smart question on Facebook:
How can we find out about your upcoming anthologies while you are still looking for authors?
This is a good question, because I've never done a purely open-call anthology (yet).  There's always been a large "invitation" component, and few (if any) open submissions.

You probably know what an open call for submissions is;  usually with invitations, an editor (or more properly, anthologist) will invite authors they know, have worked with, or want to work with to submit stories for an upcoming anthology.

Usually the anthologist will ask somewhere around twice as many authors as they actually need - quite a few invariably have to decline for whatever reason, others may have to bow out, and a few may simply write a bad story.  But because you're (largely) working with professionals with a good track record, there are few bad surprises.

This can seem like it's an "Old Boy's Club" (and we know how I feel about those), but it is not.  This is a purely practical matter.

Reading open submissions (often called slush) is hard and tiring.  Developmental editing is hard and a lot of work.  It can be very rewarding... but it can also be a colossal time sink.  Many anthologists don't want to work with open submissions at all.

So what's an aspiring writer to do?

See what you can do about getting your work noticed by an editor or anthologist.  As a publisher, I leave nearly all aspects of story selection up to the anthologists and editors of anthologies, so e-mailing me directly to be in an anthology is not going to help much.

When you contact the anthologist - either by e-mail or at a convention - be polite, clear, grammatically correct (you would be surprised), and don't be pushy.

At Context for the last few years, we've had a flash fiction contest.  Several of the participants (and not just winners) were contacted afterward by myself or one of the anthologists I work with because we saw a sample of their work.   It was exactly this process that got me my first professional sale!

If you already have a professional contact with an anthologist or editor, it is okay to drop a single, polite email to the effect of "If you have any projects coming up or need a pinch-hitter for an anthology, please consider me."

The key - as with any such contact - is to be polite, formal, and not pushy.

I highly recommend Jennifer Brozek's Industry Talk (Amazon|B&N|Drive Thru Fiction) not just for those who wish to be anthologists, but if you want to better understand what anthologists are doing behind the scenes.

And, of course, you could always back Not Our Kind.  Not only do we have an already-stellar lineup of authors, but our first stretch goal is adding an open call for submissions!


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The difference between threats and boundaries.

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BoundaryThere is a difference between a boundary and a threat - and when someone uses the two interchangeably, it says more about them than it does about the person setting the boundary.

Admittedly, at first glance they can look similar.  They're usually non-negotiable, and contain an if-then-else kind of statement. 

But the difference is super important:

It's all about whether the person in question is trying to project power over you, or maintaining their own power over their own actions and decisions.

For example, I have a respect policy as a publisher, and have signed John Scalzi's convention harassment pledge.  Those are things that are important to me both personally and professionally.

Do I have any authority to force an author or editor to follow my respect policy?  Not at all.  Multiple authors can - and repeatedly do - act in racist, sexist, homophobic, and outright hateful ways online and off.

But I have every authority to say that I will not be involved in business dealings with them until they get in line with my policies.  I have every authority to honestly answer why I am not working with that person.

Do I have any authority to force a convention to have an anti-harassment policy, or force them to enforce it?  Not at all.  A convention could decide to forego any kind of policy, or repeatedly fail to enforce it when it becomes inconvenient.

But I have every authority to say that I will not be involved with a convention which does not have an anti-harassment policy or will not enforce it.  I have every authority to honestly answer why I am not going to that convention.

If others whose views align with mine decide that they will take the same action, that is their choice. 1

If you view people deciding they aren't comfortable with your decisions and statements, or if you view policing their own boundaries and deciding what they're comfortable doing... If you view those actions as a threat...

...then that says far more about you than me.

1That's not a threat either. It goes both ways. Some people refuse to work with me (or have made derisive comments about me) because of my respect policy, and that doesn't bother me either.

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Come Get Speculative With Me: 25 October 2014 @ 2pm at the Dayton Metro Library

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Where Do You Get Those Wonderful Ideas?  We will spend approximately one hour talking about ways to generate ideas and plot and character - and how to strip them down to their most bare elements.  We will then spend a portion of time writing a flash fiction using these techniques and a prompt, and then comparing what we came up with.

Bring whatever tools you need to write - laptop, tablet, pen, paper.  This is a participatory exercise, and should be a blast.

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See me at the Northwest Ohio Writers Forum THIS SATURDAY

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I'll be giving a presentation at the NWOWF this Saturday in Toledo, Ohio!

Writing a Kicking Query Letter with editor Steven Saus

Saturday, October 18, 10 am – 12 pm
Where: Sanger Branch, 3030 West Central, Toledo

Join us to find out what it really takes to get an editor's attention! Steven Saus will be with us to talk about what makes a query letter stand out and how to give your boring business-y letter some kick without resorting to over the top gimmicks. Steven is the owner/editor of Alliteration Ink, a small press that focuses on anthologies and collections.

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HOWTO Get Custom Icons With Each New XTerm Terminal Window

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Use Xterm? Want to have custom icons for each instance like this?

Here's how you do it:

1. Alias xterm to

xterm -e ";bash"

Save the script below into your $PATH somewhere (and make it executable):

# icon from
# xseticon from
# Solutions from

running=$(ps aux | grep "xterm" | grep -v "grep" | grep -c "xterm")

if [ "$running" -gt "7" ];then

snark=$(echo $WINDOWID)
xseticon -id $snark /home/MYUSERNAME/.icons/terms/terminal_prompt$running.png
wmctrl -i -r "$snark" -T "xterm"

And get the icons from here: Note that the filenames should be terminal_prompt0.png, terminal_prompt1.png, and so on.


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Want to Win A FREE Copy of *Streets of Shadows*? ENTER TODAY!

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No, seriously.  Today.   It's free to enter over at Goodreads:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Streets of Shadows by Maurice Broaddus

Streets of Shadows

by Maurice Broaddus

Giveaway ends October 13, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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Getting Published - Some Starting Advice

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I had a new author ask me what the best up-front advice I'd give them.  This author had already put out a digital version of the book and was looking to get into print, so I didn't touch much on that here, but I think these are some big considerations to look at whenever you are thinking about publishing.

1.  Consider whether or not you want to do it yourself.  There's huge advantages (you keep the money, full creative control, and things happen on your timetable), and huge disadvantages (you either do it yourself or pay someone).   I've had so much less time and energy to write myself since I started publishing.

2.  Unless you get with a big publisher - and maybe not even then - people are going to have to order your book.  If that's the case, DIYing it with Createspace or Lightning Source's "Spark" program is probably worthwhile.  LSI is much more difficult to work with, though, especially if you don't already know the difference between RGB and CMYK, for one example.  LSI's setup is also more expensive, but you have more options - hardcover, for example, and other trim sizes.

3.  Own your own ISBN, or have someone you trust do it.  That makes them (or you) the publisher of record.  See for details as to why I think "free" ISBNs are a bad deal for indies.

4.  Agents are great for finding more deals and promoting your book.  CAVEAT:  All it takes to call yourself an agent is to call yourself an agent.  Look at other books and see who represents established authors you respect so that you can approach appropriate agents.  And do not forget to check Preditors and Editors:

5. In the current publishing climate, you will want to ALSO get a lawyer who deals with literary contracts.  Laura Resnick has a great resource here about that:

6.  Always dissect the contracts.  The reason I mention literary lawyers above is because contract law is a thing unto itself - and current publishing contracts have gotten a lot more ... interesting ... as of late.  Even my lawyer friends are often puzzled by them.   I dissect the basics of what should be in a publishing contract at

What questions do you have about starting to get published (or doing it yourself)?


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Genre Punk Rock n Roll by old guys: Yellowdog Union

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I've talked about Yellowdog Union before, and my opinion hasn't changed.  These guys have now powered through two EPs (Plain Brown Wrapper and Slightly Irregular) which just kick ass in that nice place where punk met people who could play instruments.

These guys come out of Morgantown West-by-God-Virginia, home of the Dry House and the Underground Railroad clubs, and it's great to see these guys are still true to the music we loved as teenagers and still love now.

Both EPs are "pay what you want", so take a listen below and toss a couple bucks their way.

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Finding Hope In Nihilism: Reflections on Echopraxia, by Peter Watts

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Let's get the nuts and bolts out of the way first. Echopraxia is like if you took Blindsight and mixed in the best bits of Rendezvous With Rama. Hard, thoughtful sci-fi that still manages to pull off having characters that actually matter. Much like Blindsight, I'm sure I'll keep realizing things about it after reading it three or four times. Luckily, it's a fun ride as well.

This book is a sort-of sequel to Blindsight; you might be able to get away with reading this one first, but I wouldn't try. Luckily, it's available under a Creative Commons license:

There is hope in Echopraxia. Not the hope that you want, but the kind of hope that you deserve.

As I've gotten older, I identify more with the overwhelming of sensation experienced (as best we can tell) by those on the autism spectrum. It's especially true with audio - I can *hear* just fine, but if there's background noise, a television screen flickering, much any sensory distraction at all, it's much harder for me to understand the words being said. I have a hard time being in the dealer's hall at conventions for the same reason - too much sound, too many people, just too bloody *much*.

I feel lost. Disconnected. Isolated, alone, and left behind.

A parasite.

Just like the post-singularity baseline humans in Echopraxia.

It's the direction we're moving in. A world where humanity's consciousness is, at best, irrelevant. A transitional, nihilistic world. It's inherent in our technology. Even the impermanence of digital existence isn't enough; we build expiration dates into our very photographs. Monuments are irrelevant and not enough; the concepts of permanence and meaning wither in the dust of our planet.

And it is there, with the horrors of our own meaninglessness and obsolescence swirling around us, more menacing than the Great Old Ones in their formless undefeatable might, staring into the abyss where we were told never to look, that we find it staring back at us.

Our hope.

Not a fluffy bunny or lamb, not an executed convict miraculously come back to life, but a hard-edged raw, naked, hungry hope.

It does not matter if you call us processes, or our emotions chemical reactions, or label us parasite or roach.

We are what we are. The fading shock of finding the abyss at our feet fades; our startled shrieks are merely mimicry of the reactions of others. It is time to step onward and be what - and who - we are.

So we open our eyes, though the abyss rages about us.

And when we look at that place they told us not to look, we will see ourselves standing there.  And we will have hope in this one simple thing:

We are.
And that can be enough for hope.

Transcendental Black Metal is in fact nihilism, however it is a double nihilism and a final nihilism, a once and for all negation of the entire series of negations. With this final “No” we arrive a sort of vertiginous Affirmation, an Affirmation that is white-knuckled, terrified, unsentimental, and courageous.... Our affirmation is a refusal to deny.

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