Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Call For Submissions: *recompose* (pro rates for poetry and flash fiction)

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With the completion of the crowdfunding campaign (and me being out of hospital), I'm pleased to announce that recompose is officially open for submissions.

We are looking for poetry and short prose works with speculative fiction elements. We are paying professional rates: $0.25/line for poetry up to 50 lines and $0.06/word for prose up to 1000 words. You may submit works that slightly exceed those limits; just be aware of the pay limits.

You can see a sample contract for Alliteration Ink at As per that template, for original works we will be asking for one-year exclusive print and digital rights (with exceptions), and five year non-exclusive print and digital rights. All other rights reside with the author.

Please note the details on the guidelines page above. Publication expected to be three issues in 2016, web publication and print annual. Free first issue available at website to see what we're looking for.


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48 Things Women Hear In A Lifetime

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So this video went up nearly a month ago. It's nothing amazing - women saying the same old sexist bullcrap that they always get.

Which is, perhaps, the most remarkable bit about it.

It's not featuring some exceptionally douchebaggy douchebro. It's not featuring something beyond the pale. It's the everyday things that just alter the experience of women in ways that they categorically do not for men.

It's as inoffensive as you can possibly get without denying sexism at all.

And yet:

 Yeah, more dislikes than likes.

I've seen videos that were total crap (hell, I've posted videos that were total crap) that didn't have more dislikes than likes.

You'd think that maybe some segment of the population feels...guilty.

If you haven't seen it yet, go check out the video.  And, y'know, maybe give it a like.  (And while you're at it, check out MRA Dilbert.  You know you want to.)

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Alliteration Ink Presents: The Kickstarter for recompose, a new journal of literary speculative fiction (and a free first issue)


You're a person who loves speculative fiction. Give you a blaster, a sword, a creature from the Outer Black any day.

You're also a person who loves literature. Works that take language seriously, that treat writing as art.

What kind of magazine is this going to be?

This project is aimed for so-called "interstitial" works - short fiction and poetry that are too literary for genre, too genre for literary. Works that push the boundaries of both.

This is not a place for pretentious self-involved literary works, nor is it a place for flat genre. This is a place where metaphors exist alongside magic, where synecdoche occurs in space, where elves pen ekphrastic poems of Pickman's paintings.

This project is set up not to get big backers (though those rewards are there!), but to bring these works to as many people as possible.  That's why as little as $3 can get you a full year's worth of stories, poems, non-fiction, and artwork.

Wait, only $3 for the full year?

That's the other special thing about this Kickstarter - the more we raise, the more content there is for all backers. The more we raise, the more issues, more stories, more poems, more art there is for you... without you spending an additional dime.

What's the catch?

There is one, small catch. To make this happen, we need lots of people to support it. We have to tell everyone.

That's why we created issue #0 - a "sample issue" - that's free for anyone and everyone. You can get the free digital issue #0 at the Kickstarter page:

Tell everyone about recompose and the free digital issue - and help us bring more art to more people today.

recompose:a journal of literary speculative poetry & fiction -- Kicktraq Mini


It wasn't fleas - it was a hypertensive crisis

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I'm posting this for three reasons:
  1. Because I spent way too much time investigating the wrong thing, and maybe someone else can get useful info from this.
  2. Because it could have been far more serious than it has been so far, and maybe someone else can get useful info from this.
  3. A bit of a status update.
There's some pics of medical things - not terribly gross, but it isn't kittens.

Cat Tax

As some of you already know, I spent a good bit of yesterday evening in Urgent Care.  And it wasn't fleas.

Let me back up.

A while back I had a mouse get into my house, then a bit after that, my cat started to get eaten up by fleas. She's an inside cat, so I figured she had to have gotten them from the mouse. I isolated and treated the cat, re-treated the dog, and after getting what I thought was some bites, treated my bedroom (the main place she is if not in the bathroom) with diachromatic earth and set out a flea trap.

The first few looked a bit like this (this is not me):

There are still no - repeat no - fleas in the trap, but the "bites" only happened that one day, so I thought I was good.

Saturday there were more "bites" on my lower legs. I checked all over for any signs of bugs - fleas, anything - and didn't see any. Still no fleas in the trap.

On Sunday morning, my legs were covered with "bites". It looked kind of like this picture below (also not me), but without the pus-filled center. Thankfully, since that's a picture of a MRSA skin infection. 
There were a few areas where I'd scratched in my sleep which seemed to be getting sore and inflamed, but my legs were just covered in this stuff. And then my lower extremities started to swell up, and red blotchy rashes appeared.

I took some benadryl, thinking it was an allergic reaction of some kind. I also raised my legs and thought that maybe if an hour or two of that helped, I'd be good. During that time I also started to freak myself out by reading everything on the internet about "bites but no fleas" (this is actually a really informative thread)... because there were still no signs of the buggers.

It didn't.

These pictures are me - at the Urgent Care last night.
You can see the infected bit on this one on my foot

Turns out it's purpura, and probably caused by the same thing that was causing my swollen legs: my blood pressure was 220/95. If you look at a blood pressure chart, that's literally off the charts. When we retook it, it was still a staggering 185/90.

My blood pressure is typically in the 120-130/80-90 range, but I was in a hypertensive crisis.

After debating sending me directly to the ER, they decided (with some urging on my part) to just give me meds (and make sure they worked before letting me go) for the night and to see my doc in the morning. My blood pressure's still surprisingly high for me - 170-180 systolic - but that was after meds had worn off. I'm about to go pick up some new ones.

So I can only presume that my blood pressure was going up (or was high) all this week, and the symptoms just spiked over the weekend. Remember, I didn't otherwise feel bad. I had no idea my blood pressure was so out of whack. I was busy thinking that it was bugs rather than checking my own health.

We still don't know why my blood pressure has gone out of sorts. The running assumption is stress - which would make sense given what happened a year ago.

Anyway, I'm still here, and will keep folks updated, especially if it can help someone else from running down the wrong path for days on end.  :)

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Always try to sell short works before putting them in your own collection

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I putz about on Reddit sometimes, and ran across this question in /r/Writing (relevant bit quoted below):

[I've written some short stories now.] I was wondering whether I should submit somewhere online, or put like 5 shorts together and submit it as a book.
I think this cannot be repeated enough times to new authors:

Always attempt to sell short stories, poems, and flash fiction to periodical and anthology markets first.

The reasons are pretty simple.

First, unless you are already a Name - and let's face it, if you've got this problem, you're probably not - it's very unlikely that a publisher is going to take a risk on publishing a collection of your work. They might - hell, I have - but that's by and far the exception, not the rule.

Their reason is the same one that it's not worth your time to start by publishing a collection on your own, either.

My experience has been that people buy short story collections of authors they know - either from reading them, or because they've met them at a convention or signing. If you don't already have that base working for you, it's a hard sell to both publishers and readers.

Second, it's that pesky "First Publication Rights" thing. Most collections - like my Kicking The Habit - are mostly or completely made up of reprints. This is reasonable - to get all the stories in Kicking you'd have to buy quite a few books and magazines, some of which you're not going to be able to find any longer. Publishers also recognize this, so if you were to sell a collection to a publisher, they wouldn't expect most (or any) of the stories to still have their first publication rights.

Magazines and periodicals and anthologies? That's a different story. They do want previously unpublished works - and even if they'll take reprints, the rate is usually far lower.

Third, by selling to other markets, you're reaching new audiences. And that is always a good thing.

So again:

Always attempt to sell short stories, poems, and flash fiction to periodical and anthology markets first.

There's plenty of places to look for where to submit: check out The Submissions Grinder, Ralan.Com,, or even things like this open subs thread on Reddit.

There's new markets popping up all the time - for example, submissions for recompose will be opening up after the Kickstarter ends Tuesday night. (You still have time to back recompose! Exclusive content starts with a pledge of as little as $3! Don't wait!)

So even if you think you've "done the rounds", set the work to the side for a little bit, re-read it to see if you're still happy with it, then start again.

It's worth it.


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The Force Awakens is a Worthy Star Wars Film Because It Knows Its Material (pretty spoiler free)

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The Force Awakens is the first movie that consistently felt like Star Wars since 1983, and it's all about knowing your tropes and using them as callbacks.

Let me explain.

As a teenager growing up, I read The Belgariad, by David Eddings. It's a great five book fantasy series which manages to fill all the tropes of a fantasy series without feeling like there was a checklist to make sure all the notes got hit.

A little while later, I discovered the sequel epic, The Malloreon. It too covers five books, and begins to hit many of the same beats as The Belgariad did.

On purpose.

It's explicitly noted at one point that there's a cyclic nature to things, and so the similarities (though, it should be noted, not duplications) are a feature, not a bug. The echoes then have the force of callbacks, rather than fan-service or sloppy writing.

The Force Awakens implies that J.J. Abrams knows this as well.

Look, we all know that Star Wars: A New Hope (yes, I'm that kind of nerd) was largely a ripoff of Hidden Fortress, Buck Rogers, and Flash Gordon. And there was a lot of homages (read: borrowed and used techniques) to prior film history in A New Hope. And Lucas got away with it/made them his own (depending on which camp you're in) and turned both the story arc and the techniques their own set of tropes for Star Wars films. With the strong influence of Lucas' ex-wife, and Lawrence Kasdan, Irvin Kershner, and Gary Kurtz in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, these three films carved their own path across the world's psyche.

And then there were the prequels.  Y'know, where Lucas pretty much got to do whatever he wanted.

While I don't hate the prequels, I clearly remember two things from my first viewing of The Phantom Menace:

1. The midichlorians were ripped straight from Madeline L'Engle's description of mitochondria in A Wind In the Door. (Yeah, George, I preferred gobbledygook to ripping off a SF author and making the Force a purely hereditary thing you can measure with a blood test.)

2. Coruscant is directly ripped from Asimov's Trantor from the Foundation series.

And that threw me right out of the movie - even moreso than Jar-Jar. Sure, I watched them, and I enjoyed them well enough - but in the way that you enjoy seeing a re-enactment of a story you already know. But between the wincing moments of Anakin's "love" story, and that Lucas didn't even follow his own tropes - such as the opening shots of the films - these didn't feel like Star Wars movies. Instead, they were movies that had Star Wars moments within them.

So while I was excited to see The Force Awakens, I was also...worried. 

I shouldn't have been. 

Much as The Malloreon echoes The Belgariad, you'll find that The Force Awakens echoes - but does not mirror - A New Hope. Abrams treats the tropes of the series as the necessary tentpoles needed to make it feel like a Star Wars film, but does not stoop to mere fanservice. 

You will see characters you know and love - but you already knew that. I found both Finn and Rey (who is a delight!) compelling and interesting. I cared about these characters.

This story is tied to the ones we already know - in tone, theme, and rhythm - but is its own, new thing.
Highly recommended.


Of course there are plot holes (here's a good list; don't click the link if you don't want spoilers). I suspect many of the mysteries are meant to be. In general, if I'm not thinking about plot holes before the credits are over, I'm okay with it.
 Unlike Lucas' attempts with Jar-Jar, Abrams understands comic relief, and employs it well. THANK FSM.

I will be upset if trend #2 here (don't follow the link if you don't want a spoiler) continues.

Nobody mentions midichlorians. THANK FSM. At least in this film, we're back to the Force being what it was in IV-VI. PLEASE let this continue.

It is a little odd that the Jedi have already become a myth - although it could be explained somewhat by erratic communications tech and re-education and suppression by the Empire.

I don't mind at all that there are a lot of young and comparatively unskilled main characters. Thing is, it's the challenge and growth that makes the story interesting and compelling, much as it was for Luke during IV-VI.

I love how Rey is - as The Atlantic puts it - Star Wars' first feminist protagonist.

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Earth Without Art Is Eh. Support *recompose* today.

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This is really the reason behind recompose.

There's something ... different ... when you start talking about short works of art. Whether drabbles like the 100 Word Story podcast (or some of my own drabbles), flash fiction like "Safe Empathy", or poetry like "The Right of It", short works of art slam into you in a way that a longer work never can.

You do yourself a disservice if you read a book of poetry or short fictions in one sitting. You will become numb at best, the repeated blows of art becoming nothing more than background noise.

Short fiction and poetry have a special power that longer works simply cannot reproduce.

They are quick, powerful jabs. They are the slice of meathooks into your skin. They are the electric touch of the first time you touch your lover's skin. They are the first melting drop of ice cream upon your tongue.

That is what we are bringing you with recompose.  We've already funded two issues for 2016, and every cent we get will go to getting more poets and authors crafting work for you.

There's only a week left in the Kickstarter.  Don't delay.

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Here's the Two Things I'd Ask You to Do for my birthday!

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It's my birthday! There's two things I'd ask you to do to celebrate!
  • Promote or back the recompose Kickstarter
If you haven't already, get your free #0 issue of recompose and check out the Kickstarter at . And if you've already backed us, please take a moment to share it on your social networks:
  • Weekend Long Flash Fiction Contest!
Shock Totem does a flash fiction contest every so often, and I'm the flash master for this weekend! That means I post a photo prompt, and we all write on it! Go sign up at; once you register you'll be able to see the Flash Fiction contest. The prompt will go up at 8pm on the 11th of December!

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Godwin's Law Is Dead. We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience.

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How are you going to tell who the Muslims are, Donald? Have them wear an armband? Maybe you'd like to repeat one of our nation's great shames and round 'em up for "safety"?  (Yes, folks, it can happen here.)

In case you were wondering, this right here is the point where "Trump's got a few good ideas" becomes not something that gets an eyeroll, but is treated as the moral equivalent of "Hitler had a few good ideas".

This man has passed from being a buffoon to being evil.

And those who still follow him risk the same.

If everyone waits until the other man makes a start, the messengers of avenging Nemesis will come steadily closer.

...why do you allow these men who are in power to rob you step by step, openly and in secret, of one domain of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanised state system presided over by criminals and drunks? Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right - or rather, your moral duty - to eliminate this system?

We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. 

This is one of those times that simply being visible, that simply saying "No, not here", is a good thing. That it is a powerful thing.

I have added a white rose in honor of the White Rose (from whom the above quotes come) to my social media avatars - you can too, if you want to use Twibbon. Or the raw PNG files (with transparency) are here:

Make no mistake, I feel pretentious as fuck making a Twibbon campaign.

But if there was anything that screamed that it needed a simple, visible symbol of everyone who would say "No, not here. No, not us." this is it.

I'll probably make a shirt, too, and donate those proceeds, but that's for a later time.

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Supergirl E06: "Red Faced" (or: "Please, can we have more of the B story?")

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A few quick thoughts about Supergirl, in particular, episode 6, "Red-Faced". (Yeah, there's some spoilery bits.)

First let me get this out of the way:  I like this show. After getting used to the "Let's make the worst possible emotional decisions!" stratagem used for S2 and S3 of Arrow, I have no problem with this show's so-called "soap opera" elements at all.

In fact, they were the only elements of this episode that I liked.

The "A" story - Red Tornado - just made me want to scream that's not how any of it works ... and that's from a guy who works in nuclear medicine who manages to avoid yelling at the MCU for the way they handle gamma rays.

From General Lane suddenly blaming everyone else for his scientist's weapon getting out of control (Seriously? Have the writers never heard of DARPA?) to the climatic fight "seventy miles away" (but apparently close an interstate?) and the "Oh, I resign my commission Daddy" crap... man, the A story sucked serious ass.  (And as The Mary Sue points out, wait, did Supergirl just straight up kill someone?)

But - and this is really the saving grace of this show - the emotional bits (which are usually the B story) are things that matter. Women not being able to express anger and shoving rage aside. People dealing with relationships they can't handle. Trying to do the right thing by your friends that you have crushes on. All of these are handled well and deftly. I love Callista Flockhart and Melissa Benoist in this show.

And the banter's good. I'm a sucker for banter.

Overall, I'm still with Supergirl. I just want them to keep further away from the villain of the week formula and give us more of something different - like the challenges that a female superhero has to deal with that, say, her cousin doesn't have to.

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Now you're just a CPAP mask I used to know...

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Holy crap you guys, I just had a really good night's sleep.

That doesn't sound like much, but when you've got sleep apnea, it's a big freaking deal.

I wrote about my initial experiences with a CPAP machine (and made a recording of the wave-machine like sound it typically makes now) back in 2010.  I've tried a few different masks since then, and the one I just used last night has to be my favorite so far.

Whether you're looking at this as someone who needs a CPAP mask, a significant other of someone who uses one, or just curious, I hope this quick overview of a few types of masks (and reviews) helps!

Please note: All images and links are from  They've been my go-to supplier for parts, masks, and more for years. Great people, good customer service. Highly recommended. I've also used all of these masks over the years, so these are my personal experience.

The "Profile Lite Gel" mask from Phillips is probably similar to most "default" masks that you get when you first get your machine. This is the kind of mask I was using when I made the recording of myself using a CPAP. It's a strong, durable kind of mask. While the straps slowly stretch with use, that's true of any mask. The major downsides of this kind of mask are leakage around the eyes or sides, and problems if you don't sleep on your back. The protruding front hose attachment pushes the mask to the side if you turn your head, and can cause leaks.

And the red spot on your forehead.  See that blue bit? That helps stabilize the mask so it stays straight on your head... but also means you might end up with a pressure mark on your forehead.

There are other masks - like this Aclaim 2 from Fisher and Paykel - that try to solve the problem. The forehead stabilizer is a wider design so it doesn't create as much of a mark. Both the over-the-head hose design and the sliding lower strap attachment are supposed to help keep the seal intact if you turn on your side.

The problem - and we'll see this again - is that the lighter construction of the side attachments mean that it's easier to break. And when those are broken... it's broke. That's one reason why I usually have one of the "default" masks on hand at any point, even if it's not what I usually use.

That's also the problem with what (was) my default home mask for a while - the Breeze SleepGear from Puritan Bennett.

Yup, we've lost the over-nose attachment completely for nasal pillows. This means that not only is the seal easier to maintain, but with the over-head tubing I could sleep on my side or stomach again without any difficulty. That was a huge thing for me, and made me a fan and repeat customer for years. There were two big problems with it. First, my hair is... well, thick and often longish. The strap design is less than ideal for people with thick shifting hair. I could deal with that.

The other problem is that I travel to conventions... and if you're thinking that design looks thin and not very collapsible, you'd be absolutely right. That design does not fit in bags well, and again, once it breaks... it's freaking broken. So less than ideal for travel, and requires that you have a backup mask handy.

Over head version
What is ideal for travel are the SleepWeaver series from Circadiance. (Over head strap version, side of head strap version) These are cloth masks - I think it's made from a variant of Goretex, but that's a guess.

They are super light, and are easy to stuff into a bag with your machine. They puff up against your face with the CPAP pressure, which is what makes the seal. They are okay when it comes to maintaining that seal if you turn from side to side.

Do not machine wash these. One got into the laundry by mistake, and it was completely useless afterward.

Side-strap version
There's three drawbacks to this style of mask - one of which mostly impacts the side-strap version. First, because there's no volume to the material until the pressure's on, they actually feel slightly claustrophobic until the machine is started. Once you're going, it's all good.

But if you're used to a machine that automatically turns on (mine will after three inhalations), that will not work with a cloth mask. You'll have to manually hit the button. Seems like a small thing, but it's disconcerting if you're not expecting it.

And finally, the side strap version (which maintains a better seal, IMHO) has a problem simply because it doesn't have a firm frame. Which side is up? How does this tangle of straps and material fit on my face? Folks who have roomed with me at cons have laughed more than once at my flipping it back and forth to get it right.

Which brings us to what I just tried last night - the Aloha nasal pillow mask from InnoMed/RespCare. So far, this seems to combine a lot of my favorite aspects for a home mask. The straps are light, but maintained a decent pressure despite my hair. It's a nasal pillow mask, but without the over-head plastic bit (which is what always broke for me on the Breeze), I should have fewer problems. I actually had my face buried in a pillow at one point with no problem at all.

I don't know that it's a good travel mask - the parts that cross the cheekbones are semi-rigid plastic (though nicely padded), so I'm worried about breaking those if I were to shove them in a bag. But for a home mask? I'm definitely a fan - it has all the benefits of the Breeze but without the drawbacks.

Do you (or someone you know) use a CPAP? Have you tried any of these masks, or do you have another favorite I've not tried yet?

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Publishers Will Fix Their Contracts If You Call Them On It

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There's an inherent benefit of calling people on their crap: not only might they fix their stuff, but it lets you see what's wrong with your own.

So I'm browsing /r/Writing on Reddit, and I see this post:

If you can't read it: is the new place where you can submit your short story to. They accept all genres and encourage their writers to write about some extraordinary and weird things. Also, if you sign up for their newsletter, you get the chance to win a different prize every month. Their official release is on December 7 and the current prize is Iphone 5s. So, don't miss it out! Feel free to send them your story at , but first check their submission guidelines on
A bit of a ... spirited ... exchange followed between myself and the poster, who confirmed that they were a representative of  (You can see a screencap of the entire exchange at  I quizzed them both about payment rates ("There are no rates for now. The point is that writers will receive free products and services from business who want to advertise their products on the site.") and the rights that were desired ("We're asking for the rights to publish it on our website.").

And I'll give them credit.  Their submissions page is now updated with some new information about the rights they're asking for, how long they're retaining them, and the payment (or lack thereof - but that's not my point here).

By simply asking - publicly - about what exactly they were wanting, this publisher upped their game from really sketchy to a straightforward for-the-love market that more clearly demarcates what they're asking for and what they do - and do not - own.  (Again, whether or not you should deal with FTL markets is a different question.)

While the financial (and technological) hurdles of being a publisher are significantly lower than they were a decade ago, the legal aspects are still the same. And it's all too easy for someone well-meaning to completely screw things up.

That's why I've been very up-front about my revisions about contracts, posted my experiences on this blog, and made sure that my own contract templates were publicly available.

But even I screw up. I had it pointed out to me that while I linked to the templates, I didn't make it clear what I was asking for with recompose... so that's been fixed on recompose's submissions page.

And unlike a for-the-love market, recompose is designed to pay professional rates for both flash fiction and poetry.

While we met initial funding goals, recompose still needs your support to ensure that we can produce more issues and have more content per issue. Please check out the free first issue and the Kickstarter at


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Reviews: The Ark and She Walks In Shadows

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I've got two books to recommend for you today (aside from mentioning briefly the free issue of recompose you can get at the Kickstarter).  Full disclosure: I've published both the editor of She Walks In Shadows and the author of The Ark. Neither had any idea I was writing these reviews.
When you delve into Lovecraftian territories, it's often difficult to please everyone. Perhaps you enjoy the Mythos stories, but not the Dreamlands types of tales, or vice versa. Perhaps you're reading for the language, or for the ideas, or for the horror.

It is supremely difficult to deliver on all of them.

She Walks In Shadows does a pretty good job of walking that line. 

The stories here are all creepy in a very Lovecraftian way, though some are quiet and intimate tales, while others are death and destruction.

Regardless, this book's central thesis - that the ouvre of Lovecraftian tales can, and should, include female authors - is well borne out by the book itself.  Quite recommended.
Now on to Patrick Tomlinson's The Ark.

I think you can often tell a first novel - there's some rough edges, a place or two where you can almost hear the author working out what's going on. And this first novel has some of those problems.

Luckily, it has few of those problems, and they're of the type that get resolved after the first book or so.

The central murder mystery (for it is one) of this action sci-fi novel has the wonderful twist of being a sort of closed-room murder while still having thousands of people around. The plot moves quickly and satisfyingly.

The characters aren't quite as rounded as I'd like, but have enough quirks and foibles (and have to deal with the fallout from them) to keep them engaging. And the fast-moving plot kept me going through any rough spots.

The central concept - that this is the remnants of humanity fleeing the destruction of Earth - is a clever one, and something that is not mere window dressing. The science is handled well, and not in an obsessive nuts-and-bolts way.

In all, this is a strong first novel from an author who knows how to spin an entertaining story. If you like science fiction, action, or mysteries, you should definitely check this out.

I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.

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Like blasters, tentacles... but also like poetry and well-written fiction? We do too.

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Okay, so I've sent out the formal announcements about recompose

So let me take a second to talk informally about some of the things that make recompose special and worth a few bucks.

  • We're paying professional rates. For both fiction and poetry. Without markets that fairly compensate authors and poets, there will be less art in the world.
  • Getting art out there is the main goal. I had an allergy to poetry for a large part of my life - because I didn't realize what was out there. As David Mitchell recently pointed out, separating literary and genre works is an act of "self mutiliation".  We want to be part of the solution. While backers will get exclusive content throughout the year, the majority of recompose will be available for free at
  • Anybody can support the arts. Sure, there's some high-level backer rewards. But after seeing a lot of crowdfunding projects lately where you wouldn't get the rewards unless you ponied up $20, $50, or $100 or more, I wanted to make sure that everyone could participate.
  • More backers means more stuff for all backers, period. We're taking a chance making recompose almost entirely digital (except for the print annual)... but that also means that we can easily add content without worrying about costs going up.
That last one is especially cool to me. We can keep adding poems and stories and artwork, and all backers from the $3 level and up benefit the same.

Which means that the very most important thing you can do to support this project is to tell other people about it. If you're gathering with others this week for the holidays, mention recompose. Show to folks on your phone or tablet.  (Yes, it's mobile-friendly.)

And if you haven't yet, be sure to back the project on Kickstarter so that you can be part of this new venture.

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Automagically Sort Downloads By Category with uGet on Windows and Linux (and replace KGet if you need to)

I like customizability with my computer interface. The more I can automate certain tasks - like where I put my downloads so I can get back to them later - the happier a bear I am.

So, a download manager for me.

And I've settled on uGet.

I tried out uGet and quickly realized it was far more lightweight than what I'd been using, had categories like I wanted, and could integrate easily with Firefox/Iceweasel using FlashGot.  And always a plus - it's cross-platform, so I could easily recommend it to Windows users as well.

Consistently, uGet feels light, snappy, and quick.

I had two problems.

First was that certain apps I use - in particular Liferea - do not support uGet. But they do support KGet.  While KGet was good, it just felt ... bloated, and I had crashes with it, so I didn't want to keep using it.

Second, the one feature that KGet does natively that uGet does not is automatically sort downloads into categories. You can specify what categories to use, but it won't automatically detect them.

Turns out the solution to both was the same thing.  So I, um, did the thing.

I wrote a bash script for us linux people and a Windows script for the Windows folks, along with pretty straightforward and step-by-step instructions. The whole thing is over on Github: .

I've done all the heavy lifting; it should be a matter of 20 minutes to set it up (including FlashGot for Firefox), and it's all free. If you have any problems with it, let me know!


Playing with MPD - covers in the terminal and easy selection from the commandline

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MPD (the Music Player Daemon) is an...interesting bit of software. Rather than being an all-in-one music player itself, it acts as a service that provides you music when you give it commands. That makes the learning curve a bit higher, but also means that you have a lot more flexibility.

For example, you can control it with a simple command line program called MPC .  Yes, looking at the instructions make it look like a bear.

Luckily, its complexity also makes it super powerful when you use the right tools. And I like making tools like this. Using pick, I wrote a script that lets you control the most basic MPD playing - playing specific albums, artists, and genres - easily from the commandline.  Take a look:

There's also (less useful, but amusing) a way to show the album covers in a terminal window:

Both are available in my collection of MPD scripts and utilities over on GitHub at

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The Emotions Chart

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I'm not sure if I've posted this before, but I can't find it if I have, so it deserves to be posted again.

This is an "emotions chart". It's really useful when you're struggling to identify - or communicate - the emotions you're having, and it's simple to use.

The emotion words are written on either side, and there's a scale in the middle.  So you can easily say "I'm feeling mad at you at a 5, and need space at a 7 right now."

The tool was originally designed for children (this specific iteration was created by my ex-wife, Aubrey), particularly those on the autism spectrum. However, I've found it's really useful for anybody who is struggling with identifying how they're feeling... and in our culture, that means just about everyone.

You can click the image to get an embiggened version.

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What's the most important thing in (or reason for) a relationship?

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In a recent conversation, it became clear that Amanda and I had very different views on the most important thing in relationships.

“I want someone to go on adventures with,” I said. “To have fun with. That’s the most important thing to me. To watch stupid TV shows with. Someone to simply have fun with and talk with. What about you?”

“For me, the most important part of a relationship is getting things done. I want a partner to help me take care of things,” she said. “I don’t want to have to take care of everything by myself.”

“That sounds… depressing,” I said. “That almost sounds more like a business contract than a relationship.”

“Everyone has to do the boring stuff, so why not have someone to help you?. Sure, adventures are fun, but life isn’t always fun. And if you’re only in a relationship because it’s entertaining, aren’t you going to split as soon as it gets boring or routine?”

“Would you split as soon as someone had problems doing their share of the housework? Isn’t there something more to life than just work?”

It was pretty obvious that either of our viewpoints - if taken to extremes - was unbalanced and potentially unfulfilling. But I think that conversation between friends is an important one for people in the early stages of a relationship.

The people in the relationship do not have have to agree, nor do they need to put the same value on the same portions of a relationship. But they do need to know what is most important to the others in the relationship, so they can make sure that everyone’s needs… including their own… are being met.

Do you agree with either of the views above? Or is there something else that you think is most important?

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The Most Important Question On OKCupid (As Far As I'm Concerned)

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It is perhaps the most important question on OK Cupid:

Would you rather date someone who almost never made a mistake but doesn't admit their flaws, or someone who often messes up but takes full responsibility for their mistakes?

This isn't a dealbreaker question, but if it's not addressed, it can definitely destroy any kind of relationship - romantic, business, or otherwise. [Edited for clarity: If this question is not addressed, it is a dealbreaker.] It's about the assumptions that we make both about ourselves and the behaviors of others in the relationship.

It's a spectrum (isn't everything, really) between "deliberateness" and "forgiveness". Someone who's being deliberate will attempt to have everything they say and do be intentional, and assumes that you are doing the same. Someone high on the forgiveness scale will sometimes say or do things that do not have the repercussions they wanted.

As with all spectrum stuff, being too far on either side is bad. An overly deliberate person will see intentional hurt everywhere, and an overly forgiving person will excuse the person torturing them. An overly deliberate person will not admit their errors, and an overly forgiving person may expect that they do not need to consider consequences due to the likelihood of being forgiven.

Okay, so an example. (My artistic license applies, as always.)

I'm attempting to reconnect with someone who I had a big argument with. It's a little dicey; in the past, attempts to reconnect ended up with triggering a resumption of the same argument and bad feelings all around.

It wasn't intentional (as far as I know); one of us just said the wrong thing at the wrong time, or the tone wasn't "heard" right over text, and so on. The problem - at least on my part - was that I was expecting deliberateness.

And in that kind of a situation, where you're trying to patch up or rebuild after a problem, deliberateness is important. That kind of intentional empathy is vital after you've been hurt.

Yet I wasn't forgiving enough myself. By expecting deliberateness, I interpreted anything that could be hurtful as being hurtful. And even worse, I didn't leave room for that person to sometimes fail at their own deliberateness and just react out of their own pain and hurt and frustration.

To the frustration of many an economist, we've learned that humans are not "rational actors". We do not always live up to our own ideals or act in our own best interests.

The only choice I have is to do my damnedest to remember to be forgiving and deliberate with everyone.

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Take A Quick Break From NaNoWriMo With A One Hour Flash Challenge TONIGHT at 8pm EST!

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Shock Totem hosts a series of flash challenges on their forum (free account required). The next one is tonight (7 November) at 8pm EST.  It's a one-hour prompted challenge, and I'll be posting the prompt this week.

Why am I suggesting this in the middle of NaNoWriMo? Because of the shower.


You know how you get your best ideas or figure out problems when you're in the shower? That's because you stop focusing on it.

So take a brief break and write something completely different for an hour... and then return to your work with a fresh perspective.

Go make a free account now (you won't be able to see the challenges until you log it - that's so it protects your first publication rights), and I'll see you there at 8!

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Identifying the Common Brain Weasel

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I've mentioned brain weasels a few times to people and in blog posts.

Brain weasels are the little voices in your head that tell you that everything you fear is going to happen. That your self-doubt is simply being reasonable. That whatever you imagine will go wrong, is currently going wrong.

Like this.

They're always negative, always telling you that you're going to fail, that nobody likes you, that everyone hates you, that you'll never.

"But," some people ask, "why weasels? I mean, look at them! They're cute! And smart!"

long tailed weasel

Which is absolutely true. They are cute. They are smart.

They will also eat your face off, if given the chance.

This is just like your brain weasels. They look cute (or reasonable). They are clever enough to show up no matter how smart you are.

And they will eat your face off, if given the chance.

Here's one example of a brain weasel. My friend gave hers the name "Nargle". (Mine are "Argle" and "Bargle"), and after I'd said something nice, she said this:

"You're fine. Nargle the Brain Weasel is informing me, persuasively, that people don't just LIKE me, they always want something. Just like people don't compliment others out of the blue, or shower money on someone else. Everyone always wants something."

Which doesn't sound crazy at all. Some people do just want something. As the Russian saying goes, "Doveryai, no proverya" -- trust, but verify.

But it's much easier to just listen to the brain weasel's prediction. And the thing is, if you predict bad things all the time... it'll happen at least some of the time. And then, thanks to survivorship bias, we'll remember those which matched the brain weasel's prediction and forget the rest.

There's only one way to really deal with brain weasels: Drag them out into the light. Blatantly and baldly address your fears - including how irrational and baseless they might be.

Because that way you get to deal with the truth. And even if your brain weasels were right for once, finding out the truth will give you the ability to actually deal with it.

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The Most Important Comic You Will Read Today (Hint: It's today's Sheldon)

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I want to draw your attention to one comic, here in a second.

You should go check out the rest of Sheldon - it's a damn funny webcomic, gently snarky, and classy.  You really should.  I was first introduced through "Coffee! It's What's For Dinner!" that I got through a Humble Bundle.

But this comic... this comic, needs to be spread far and wide. (Click the comic to embiggen.)

I just bought a print of it.  This comic, this idea needs to be spread far and wide.

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Why we need Android to become a truly open source phone OS

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When the serious SSL exploit "Heartbleed" was announced, I was at lunch. By the time I got home from work, there was already a patch in the Debian repositories, and there was one in the Ubuntu repositories before I went to bed.

Both Debian and Ubuntu are distributions of linux, and are installed on all sorts of different computers - from laptops to desktops to servers to the tiny Raspberry Pi, so the "oh, Android's on lots of different hardware" argument seems a little thin to me.

Contrast that with the response to the "Stagefright" Android security hole. Announced at the end of July, it still took the big Android manufacturers a week to simply state that they were going to provide monthly security updates.

What they didn't say was that the patches would roll out slowly, and only for selected models of phones. If you look at this list of patched phones, you'll see that whether or not you're patched has a lot to do with how new your phone is and who your carrier is. Have a Galaxy S3? I hope you've got Sprint as a carrier.

This, unfortunately, isn't new. A vulnerability discovered in older versions of Android (and by old, I mean "the primary version in mid-2013") simply will not get a patch.

Which is kind of crap. It's leaving people who can't afford to get a new phone every year or two (or simply don't want to give up a perfectly good phone) in the dust.

And yet, my near end-of-support cycle Ubuntu laptop got a software patch for Heartbleed within 24 hours.

But this is not just a customer service issue. This is a national security issue. Take a listen to RadioLab's story about Darkode. Realize that everything that applies there also applies to your smartphone.

Yes, I realize that our government (hello NSA!) thinks that there's a benefit to having the code be closed. But just like ISPs and PC manufacturers realized it was less expensive to provide antivirus software to consumers, so must our defense industry realize that having the ability to quickly and easily stop exploits will be far less expensive than dealing with the fallout from huge mobile botnets.

We don't have to abandon Android (or iOS with its linux-style backend); we do have to make it so that these commercial providers have the same kind of security consciousness and responsiveness that free and open source software does as well.

It's entirely possible there's a real reason what I'm suggesting couldn't happen. If so, please educate me.

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Symphony #5 vs Galvanize and Paperback Believer

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I wanted to finish up this week of mashups with this one from DJs From Mars: Symphony #5 vs Galvanize:

While I like DJs From Mars, in the last few years they've developed a consistent pattern to their mashups where they're starting with a techno/house base and layering other works on top of that base. And they'll distort the hell out of the original works in order to make it fit with the techno base. I'm sure it works wonderfully for them in club performances; it's a great commercial product.

But it loses something of the artistry that you get with works like Go Home Production's "Paperback Believer":

I don't know if this is a sign that mashup has seen its day come and go - the Bootie Blog (which introduced me to many of these works) is still going strong, and they're getting new artists on a regular basis. As computers and the tech to make these kinds of works well has gotten cheaper and more accessible over the last decade, we've seen a lot of people trying their hand at mashups. Many of them badly.

But I'm reminded of a conversation I had with an impressively skill graffiti artist. I said that I'd love to have art like he could produce on more walls and public spaces, but the crappy tagging just annoyed me.

He looked at me funny, and said, "How do you think I got started?"

I hope you've enjoyed these mashups I've shared with you. There's a lot more out there; keep your eyes (and ears) open.

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Stronger Power, Hot Rock 'n' Roll, A Hard Girl's Night, Break the 21 Guns in D Major

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For a hard-hitting club beat, "Stronger Power" by Robin Skouteris delivers, with no less than ten artists mashed seamlessly into this one song from 2013:

And last year, DRA'man gave us Joan Jett and Hollywood Undead mixed together in "Hot Rock 'n' Roll":

And Wax Audio gave us "A Hard Girl's Night" mixing The Beatles and Motley Crue...

Bringing us into 2015, we have DJ Dumpz bringing us "Break the 21 Guns in D Major":

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Virgin O'Riley, Who Knew Someone Like You, In The Mood For Some Killing, Tainted Jesus

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What? The Who and Madonna? Why yes, in 2010, Go Home Productions mashed them together nicely with "Virgin O'Riley"

Not all mashups are upbeat and fun. Sometimes they can be well-crafted and tear-jerkers. In 2011, Mashup Germany created "Who Knew Someone Like You", which I still can't listen to without tearing up.

As a palate cleanser, let's check out DJ Schmolli's "In the Mood For Some Killing", which mixes The Glenn Miller Orchestra and Rage Against The Machine (yes really):

And to get us back into pop-land, DJ Lobsterdust gives us Depeche Mode and Soft Cell together with "Tainted Jesus":

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Seven Nation Army's Going On, Call Me Uprising, All The Single Ladies (In Mayberry), and Suit and Commercial

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More music to tickle your eardrums and twist your brain up today.

In 2008, DJ Fac did something either amazing or blasphemous by combining The White Stripes and The Backstreet Boys with "Seven Nation Army's Going On":

In 2009, we have CJR putting Muse and Blondie together like they're matching puzzle pieces:

Also in 2009, Party Ben created "All The Single Ladies (In Mayberry)", which is exactly what it sounds like. And while this is easily the "jokiest" entry in my list, it still works nicely.

And to finish out your Timberlake fix, The Hood Internet mashed him up with Daft Punk:

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Pink Wedding, Illiterate City, and Somebody to Praise

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Yup, we're doing mashups all this week.

To continue the rock/pop trend, in 2006 Go Home Productions produced "Pink Wedding":

And maybe this says more about my taste, but I really like these rock mashups, especially when they're paired with something completely unlike what they started with. Like Divide and Kreate's "Illiterate City", which mashes up Guns 'n' Roses and The Jackson Five...

But that goes the other way as well, like DJ Lobsterdust's "Somebody To Praise" which mashes up Jefferson Airplane and Fatboy Slim exquisitely...

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Stairway to Bootleg Heaven, Stayin Alive in the Wall, and Rock in Black

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There's a few mashup artists who have been around the whole decade. DJ Earworm is one of them. This track, "Stairway to Bootleg Heaven" was from back in 2004.

But it's not all airy dance stuff. In 2005, Go Home Productions put out this rocking mix of "Back in Black" and "We Will Rock You":

And for something completely different: Wax Audio's presentation of "Stayin' Alive In the Wall":

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Mashup Week At Ideatrash

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There are a lot of crappy mashups out there.  But I've found some really, really good ones over the last decade.  Ones that take good (or even not-so-good) songs and make them better.  Like "Get up Hitch A Ride":

So I'm going to spend this week sharing them with you. I hope you enjoy.

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You are Jack's Special Snowflake: A Review of The Flux by Ferrett Steinmetz

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It's difficult to say a lot about The Flux that isn't, in some way, a spoiler.

Which is a good thing. The Flux is pretty damn awesome, and you should just go read it.

I loved Flex when it came out. The thematic elements and innovative magic system were pretty awesome.

And with The Flux, Ferrett somehow improves that virtuoso performance while shaking off the few first-novel issues that he had. The characterization of family dynamics - particularly troubled ones - were spot on.  The references were, well.. sick. Out of control.

And the twists are surprising but make total and perfect sense.

But you can read a lot of other reviews and know that.

Here's the beautiful theme that makes The Flux special: It shows the power in your weird, whatever your weird might be.

As we get to see the wider world of 'mancy, we see all sorts of 'mancers, with all sorts of obsessions. Sometimes they could seem stupid or limiting. But we get to see how they can be beautiful in their own right... and how they can sometimes be far more than one originally suspected.

You are a special snowflake. And that kicks ass.

Like Flex, these themes don't dominate. They're there, they aren't exactly hidden, but they serve the story.

The Flux is a sequel that is superior to its original... and the original was a must-read. So go read this book, now.

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"While the amazons have the truth lasso, I've got tequila": Reviewing Animated DC Movies

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While everyone's been concerned with Man of Steel and the next DC live-action movie, there's been some seriously kick-ass animated films with DC heroes that haven't gotten enough attention.
Justice League: War is the weakest of the titles, and that's simply because it tries to give origin stories for all of the Justice League in one fell swoop.  It does, mind you, but it ends up being a movie that feels like a setup for another film in its own right.
Justice League: The New Frontier takes us back to WWII and the Silver Age.  As a result, this film is a nice nostalgic look back at these characters. Well worth watching.

But then we start to get to the standouts.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is really more of a Flash story than a JL story (with some interesting echoes of season one of the current live-action TV series). Short form: The Flash manages to change history...but the consequences are horrific. Thomas Wayne as the Batman (yes, really) demonstrates the difference that his son makes in the role.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters plays with a serious alternate reality:  What if Zod was Kal-El's father instead? Batman is ... well, a lot more literal... in this reality, and Diana's harsh style of vengance is not tempered by Superman's boy scout nature. And then everything goes to hell. Well worth the digital rental.
There has already been a feature length Wonder Woman film. And despite including an origin story, this film is simply hands-down my favorite of all of these. In turns both witty and gritty, Diana (voiced by Keri Russell) and Steve (voiced by Nathan Fillion) literally save the world. Includes lines like "While the Amazons have the truth lasso, I have tequila..." followed by Diana drinking Steve under the table.

It should be noted that all of these films have a gritty element to them (especially the further down the list you get). People die. Often at the hands of our heroes.  So if you're expecting a "they parachute out of the plane" kind of film for the wee ones, you should be warned.

That said, these films are excellent. While I might quibble with the deus ex machina resolutions of several of these films (though not Wonder Woman), these set a high bar for superhero movies that DC will really need to stretch to reach in the future.

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Music Review: Resonance by VNV Nation

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I had my love of darkwave music reawakened recently; most of VNV Nation's discography falls squarely in that genre. But this album... this album is something more.
VNV Nation are an Irish/English Alternative-Electronic project.

The latest album "Resonance" sees some of VNV Nation's best known songs scored for Orchestra and Voice, and was recorded with the world renowned Babelsberg Film Orchestra.
Not everyone's going to like it - particularly if you're not a fan of their vocal style - but that's why it's so cool that you can preview it easily on Bandcamp. Highly recommended tracks:  "Nova", "Illusion", and "Beloved".

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What Kind Of Publishing Should Authors Choose?

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As a small publisher - and as someone who has done self-publishing in the past - I sometimes get asked why people should choose one path of publishing over another.

The answer is: Whatever SPECIFIC choice provides more value for you as an author.

And that’s going to be different for every author and publisher.

So let me spin you out an example. You have two small publishers - Alliteration Ink (my examples about me are 100% accurate) and OtherGuy Publishing (these details are real, but obfuscated).
  • Here’s where they are the same:
  • Both publishers have a minimal marketing budget - maybe an ad at a convention program book, maybe bookmarks, that sort of thing.
  • Both publishers allow authors a great deal of creative control when it comes to how the book looks, its cover, that sort of thing.
  • Neither publisher has enough reach or distribution deals to get physical books on the shelves in brick and mortar stores.
  • Both provide print and digital layout.
Here’s where they’re different:
  • Alliteration Ink hires editors per project, and does not have a full-time house editor. OtherGuy Publishers does.
  • Alliteration Ink pays for cover art. OtherGuy Publishers does not.
  • Alliteration Ink provides copies to authors at cost. OtherGuy Publishers provides them at 45% off the cover prices.
  • OtherGuy Publishers provides a royalty rate of 20% - 45%, depending on format. Alliteration Ink provides a royalty rate of 50%-65%, depending on the project.

I’m sure you can find a lot of other publishers - big and small - and compare these deals to theirs. A few years back, I met a small publisher who provides a much smaller royalty rate than I - but also routinely advertises in large publications.1 Making comparisons between small publishers - especially when they’re largely similar - can be useful.

Because when you're comparing two publishers like we have above, you can easily compare services and royalty rates. But when you're talking about multiple publishers, it gets to be too many variables at once.

So I suggest starting with a baseline of what it would cost to do it by yourself.1

Luckily, there are plenty of tools for doing exactly that.

So let’s say you have a 300 page book, about 75,000 words, with 6”x9” trim.

Go to the above link, click on the "buying copies" tab, and you can easily see what each copy of that book would cost you ($4.45). Good eBook layout is still somewhere around $2-$3 per thousand words as a base price ($225).  Let's say that print layout costs you the same - $225.  Covers can cost anywhere from $75-$300 or more. Let's guesstimate $200 here.  Editing prices likewise vary - but it’s something that you can shop for. For example, one quoted price from here would get us a price over $1500, another about $300.  Let's go with somewhere between those two and call it $900.

$225 + $225 + $200 + $900 = $1550

Add in also both the time and cost of advertising - though I've separated that out, since many times authors have to do this sort of thing regardless. Depends on the publisher.  But we're trying to keep it simple here, so we'll stop with these costs.

With a $15 retail price and about $10 profit per print book, you'd have to sell around 160 books in person to break even.

Yes, in person.

The amount you get from a sale on Amazon or other bookstores for your print book is a lot less.  Go to the "Royalties" tab and plug in those same numbers.  Instead of $10 profit per book, you're looking at $4.55 for each copy sold at Amazon (341 copies to break even), $7 for ones sold from the estore3, and only $1.55 for "expanded distribution", e.g. everywhere that isn't (1000 copies to break even).

So take a cold, hard look at what kind of sales you can expect.  (Kameron Hurley did a great post on this, pointing out:

The average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime (Publishers Weekly, 2006).
Yes. It’s not missing a zero.
Take a breath and read that again.
But wait, there’s more!
The average traditionally published book which sells 3,000 in its entire lifetime in print only sells about 250-300 copies its first year.
But I’m going indie! you say. My odds are better!
No, grasshopper. Your odds are worse.
The average digital only author-published book sells 250 copies in its lifetime.
Yeah.  And that's also part of the equation - the risk if a book doesn't pay out is on the publisher, not you.

And while this isn't comprehensive (not at all), from this basic idea, you can start to figure out what your publisher is (or would be) making from your book.

And you can start asking yourself if they’re doing enough to earn that money.

1 While it's hard to predict with great certainty who will get more of your books out there, there's some things that you can look to in order to see whether or not they've got reach.
2 Or rather, what it would cost for you to hire someone to do all this for you.
3 There is no reason to use the estore. Just set up a store on your own website.


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