Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Trigger Warnings, Pavlov, And Being Kind to Yourself

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Let's start with the obvious: I'm not a therapist. There are problems and issues that require someone who is really trained in helping people, not a dabbler like myself.

And I'm going to crib the second obvious thing here: I'm not talking about exposure therapy or anything like that. To crib from Jim Hines:

Exposure Therapy and Systematic Desensitization are processes. They’re done in a controlled environment, with preparation and planning, which includes letting the patient know what’s coming. I.e., giving them a warning.
And finally, trigger warnings are not censorship and do not interfere with mental health (quite the opposite, IMHO). 

We good with that?

Okay. Let's begin.

I've been thinking a lot about triggers and trigger warnings lately. For some reason, I've been running into a number of people I know who have some kind of trigger.

Sometimes the trigger is severe enough to cause him to curl up in bed and cry. Sometimes it's just strong enough to ruin an evening.

Sadly, most of the people I've met with these triggers blame themselves. They think they're "just" overreacting. They think they're foolish. They see it as some kind of fundamental flaw in themselves.

Which is so much bullshit.

Triggers - as we generally understand them - are associated with some kind of traumatic or painful event. They may or may not be explicitly connected to the event. As Jim points out, Wreck-It Ralph has a great example of one that's actually connected to a pleasant phrase.

And pretty much universally, it's something that is done to the person who develops the trigger. It's not their fault. And it is a perfectly reasonable response to the situation that created the trigger.

I'll use myself as an example of a very minor trigger. My oldest son (the one I usually don't talk about) and I ended up creating a series of interactions where I would routinely become extremely stressed and upset. Afterward, just the mention of him or anything I associated with him would cause those same physical symptoms to manifest.

And it's not my fault that reaction exists. If you have a similar kind of trigger - or something stronger - it's not your fault.

Be kind to yourself. Know that the reactions you have were appropriate for a certain time and place. And all you're doing now is trying to figure out how to manage those reactions and minimize the impact they're having on your life.

If it's something strong enough that it totally disrupts your life, I highly recommend finding a therapist. I'm not one, as mentioned.

If it's something that just gets in the way, like that stress response of mine, be aware of it. Expect it.

When you know that you have a reaction from certain stimuli, then you can start to figure ways to work with or around it. (And again, if you're having difficulty with this, professional help is highly encouraged.)

And remember: Be kind to yourself. The reaction that was instilled in you is not your fault. You've got work to do to mitigate that reaction, and beating yourself up about it isn't going to help.

Good luck - and remember, if you're having difficulty, find professional help in your area.

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Chesya Burke on Safety At Conventions

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It should be assumed that by posting it, I agree with it.

Reposted with permission from Chesya Burke's Facebook:

I’m going to say something, and it’s probably going to piss some people off. But, hey, when has that stopped me?

It seems that some people are just now realizing that genre conventions and some publications are not, and have not been, safe or welcoming spaces for certain people. Whereas SF and fantasy has been dealing with these issues for a few years, the horror community, it seems, is lagging behind yet again. Of late (as in 2016) there have actually been people who have compared being minority to being a vampire in order to justify not liking/publishing some types of people and stories those types of people tell in response to a White Supremacist being placed as a juror for one of the only awards in the genre, and more recently it has come to light that an attempted rape was covered up for years by a man who physically assaulted another woman.

For those counting at home, that’s two assaults, blatant racist behavior and those condoning it because, you know, vampires are people, my friend.

But, a few incidences is not enough. Let me just outline some more so you understand why this is important to me. And should be important to you.

I have been followed around more conferences than I can count (to the point that my longtime friend, Maurice Broaddus, watches me, waiting for me to make eye contact just in case….), I have been offered money for sex, and called “Aunt Jemima” in front a group of white male writers in order to put me in my place. I have seen and/or know of a woman writer being touched and rubbed by a big name writer without her permission, a trans woman being openly mocked and practically laughed out of the genre, a man who was arrested for molesting children at a conference, and well, Ed Kramer, who many writers (in this fucking genre) still defend to this day.

In other words, these are not isolated incidents. I can guarantee you that they happen at every single convention that you have been to, every single one, every single year. Just because you have not heard about them, or done any of these things yourself, does not mean that they don’t happen. It does not mean that the people who must deal with these types of micro and outright aggressions should hide away, and does not mean that they are lying if you didn’t personally see them.

It means that you need to pull your head out of your own ass and fucking believe that different people have different experiences than you. It means that you, as a person who is relatively safe in these spaces, have not done all that you can to help those who are not as privileged as you are.

Instead of acknowledging this, some argue that if you’re too scared to simply be around other people (as if this is the argument), then maybe you shouldn’t go to conventions.

First off, this is dismissive as fuck. Really? If predators have been given space to prey and oppress others within our genre, we should not seek to eliminate them, but to chastise those who want to stop them? Get the fuck outta here with that bullshit. Every single person should feel just as safe as you do entering that space (and not safe by your standards, but their own), and if they don’t, it’s not their problem, it’s our problem as a community. We done fucked up.

Moreover, some argue that “common sense” and “logic” dictate that we are over reacting by having harassment policies and creating safe spaces because they see conventions as some of the safest public gatherings anyone can attend. Anyone not believing this, of course, is inciting hysteria.

Because if conventions are safe for them, they must be safe for everyone in equal measures. In other words, you know, women are hysterical and men are the calm, logical ones. Right….

But what’s the end game here? We create an environment that women aren’t raped, molested or attacked? That racial minorities, gay and trans people aren’t humiliated and oppressed? That everyone is safe and comfortable in the spaces that we all inhabit? So…. This is good, right?

I’m going to be very blunt here. The only reason that I see anyone as having a problem with this is if you are a rapist, racist, sexist, homophobe or some kinda combination of these.

If you are, cool! You have every right to be some or all of these things.

Just don’t expect the rest of us to play along as if you aren’t actively harming us.

For those who support us, thanks! We need and value you. For those who don’t, move the fuck aside, we’re moving on. This gets tiring, and there are way too many diverse stories to tell to continue living in a past that is not welcoming for us. Or in a present that some want to keep that way.

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I'll be at Penguicon 2016 this weekend! Will I see you there?

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Hey, wanna guess where I'll be this weekend?

At Penguicon, y'all!

I've got three (scheduled) panels:

  • Editors, Publishers, and Readers-- What Rules to Break and Which Don't Apply: Many new authors have heard the rules: One POV per scene, don't use adverbs, Limit the POVs to no more than three per story. These 'rules' have been taught for over a hundred years, but who came up with them and do they still apply to the modern reader?  Speakers include:Ann Leckie, Michael K. Elliot, Steven Saus, Tobias Buckell, Stacy Bender - 5pm Friday in Portage
  • History in Speculative Fiction (and Other Literature), The historical details can bring a story to life or bog it down. What's the right balance?  Speakers include:Clif Flynt, Steven Saus, Nicole Castle, Robert Kroese - 9pm in EMC I
  • Acts of Shameless Self-Promotion, What's the best way to get your name forward?  Speakers include:Dave Klecha, Michael W. Lucas, Jackie Morgan, Steven Saus - 5pm Saturday in Portage.
I say "scheduled", because as I usually do, I've offered to jump in anywhere if needed. But it looks like I'm going to have a lot of time Saturday and Sunday to hang out, talk, and otherwise have a good time.

That is, if I manage to get over the high of being on a panel with Ann Leckie and Tobias Buckell...

Anyway, if you'd like to formally schedule some of my time during the convention, it's pretty easy to do using Calendy at . And if we just run into each other, all the better!

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An Alert From SFWA About Contract Non-Compete and Option Clauses

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Brought to my attention by Chuck Wendig is an alert by the SFWA Contracts Committee regarding non-compete clauses:

The SFWA Contracts Committee believes there are serious problems for writers with the non-compete and option clauses in many science fiction and fantasy publishers’ contracts. The non-compete language in these contracts often overreaches and limits authors’ career options in unacceptable ways.
Please take the time to go carefully over your contracts before signing them. If you need legal assistance, consult a lawyer who is knowledgeable in intellectual property law, not just contract law.

The sample contracts that Alliteration Ink uses are visible and available under an MIT license (e.g. they're free to use; I'm not liable for any problems you have). You can find them at:

You can also find my big compendium posts about contracts at:

Looking at Your Contracts:

Dissection of A Contract:

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Why Do I Care If A Local Newspaper Chain Won't Publish Articles About LGBT People, Anyway?

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So this is an update to the update.  Prior posts can be found at:

Dale Grimm, the newspaper publisher who doesn't publish "that nature of stories" (read: about teh gays) sent me another e-mail with this almost ... plaintive... quality:
What is your interest in what we do and do not publish? You do not subscribe, you do not live in the area - you don't even know how to pronounce the village's name.
Below is my response; I'm posting it here as an "open letter" of sorts in the hopes that it may prove useful to someone else.

Dale, I do live in the area. I'm literally eighteen miles away from you. Local news stations cover stuff in New Carlisle on a regular basis; likewise, your papers have covered Dayton events.
My friends and people I care about live all over the area, from Cincinnati to Columbus to Lima and Findlay even further north than you. Some of them are the LGBT people that you apparently refuse to admit exist. While I do not personally live in Enon or Troy or Springfield or New Carlisle (which I do know how to say, thank you), people that I do know do.
You also publish your publication on the internet. As I well know from my own publications, that means your publication is of interest to literally the entire world. As an ISP operator as well, and one who knows enough to use linux boxes, I am surprised that you apparently think someone less than a half-hour away would be interested in your publication's ethics.

Your publications proport to cover the communities they are in as a whole. Yet there is clearly a silent, unspoken blacklist of people whose existence you apparently will not acknowledge. That exclusion is bad for those individuals - especially children - and is bad for the community. The silent blacklist is, in my opinion, more insidious and damaging than an honestly stated blacklist.
On a personal note as a small publisher, I find non-answer answers like "editorial privilege" to explain actions quite frustrating. If you're going to take a personal belief and incorporate it into your business, then you should be open about it. For example, my respect policy that covers both myself and all of my contractors. It has gotten me some degree of grief, but it is something that I believe strongly in, and therefore make very public.

Finally, you have set yourself up as a news outlet - and perhaps more importantly, one that works with local schools. There is an ethical bar in reporting the news evenly and fairly, even if you disagree with the people you're reporting about. Further, there is an obligation that you do not misrepresent the news to match your own agenda. For example, your alteration of an obituary to match your own personal beliefs is a vast compromise of your integrity.
I am well aware of what the first amendment actually says; it is perfectly legal for you to continue on as you have been.
The first amendment, however, does not protect you from social consequences for what you do and do not publish.
Personally? I would urge you to do one of two things:
1. Be public about what your editorial policies are. If you're going to not publish any stories about LGBT people (or whomever else might violate what you consider unseemly), then be open and public about it.
2. If you choose to be an ethical newspaperman and report on the whole community, apologize quickly, succinctly, and publicly for the problems in the past. (There's a good guide to how to make a good apology at )  Once you have apologized, start making any wrongs you have done right.

I am not saying that you should give up your personal beliefs.  Go ahead and vigorously believe whatever personal beliefs you have.

But leave them at the door when you start working as a newspaperman.
It might seem that apologizing won't work. There are plenty of people who claim that out there. But I can tell you from personal experience that it does.
The ball, as they say, is in your court.

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UPDATE: Dale Grimm, Ohio Newspaper Owner, Considers LGBT Erasure an "Editorial Prerogative"

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[update to the update: I got one more e-mail from Dale, and responded to it both privately and in a public letter here:

There's a few updates to the post about Dale Grimm, the newspaper owner in Ohio who won't cover LGBT people:

First, Grant did a few Google searches of the Enon Eagle's website, to see what topics got covered, and screencapped the result. As he put it:
I did a few Google searches on their domain – LGBT, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender -- all zero results. Did searches for sex, drugs, rock and roll, and church, and got plenty.
Transmothra points out some context, namely that Dale Grimm has been erasing the existence of LGBT people from his newspapers at least since 2009. He points us to this story of a man whose primary relationship was edited away by Mr. Grimm in an obituary:
Friend. Ronald was identified as Jeff’s friend. That’s not typical use even in a small town like this one, especially when you make it clear in the same paragraph that you consider each other’s family your family. An out and proud person generally doesn’t willingly downgrade his apparently long-term, committed relationship to friendship.
Later, I checked the funeral home’s website for the original version. It didn’t say friend. It said Jeff is survived by his partner, Ronald S.I checked the websites of two other newspapers, one in the nearest city and one where Jeff had lived. Both used the word partner
If you read the whole post, Mr. Grimm confirmed that he had made that change, and called it an "editorial decision".  (You can see a screencap of that e-mail here.)  

Remember that phrase - "editorial decision".  And we'll be back to get to the last update from that post in a little bit.

Which brings us to the last comment I'm going to cover in this update: Nathaniel Hoffelder said:
The word castigate means "to criticize severely, or to inflict severe punishment on". I do not see how that one sentence meets either definition.
Does your "responsibility and an obligation in setting yourself up as a news outlet" not include accurate reporting? I ask because your hyperbole would suggest that it does not.
Remember this argument about "castigate" as well.

Of course, I'm not a news outlet. I don't pretend to be. I did establish my bona fides for having an idea of what journalistic integrity is supposed to look like, but I have never pretended to be a news outlet of any type. And castigate also means to chastise, which it sure did look like to me.

But more to the point: The actual event was cited in my blog post. And even if you objected to that one word in the title... perhaps you missed the point of the post.

Because Dale Grimm clearly has something against LGBT people, and it's not just me reading between the lines. Remember that obituary story? Back in 2009, Dale Grimm wrote the following to a commenter on that post:
The idea that a man can consider another man his "spouse" is ludcrious (sic). Had the obituary come in identifying his daughter as his "spouse", should I have printed it that way? What if it had identified his dog as his "spouse"?
If you had cared so much about this individual as you imply in your e-mail, why did you not encourage him to seek help for his problem? Homosexuality is a demon that thousands of people have escaped.
I did get several e-mails back from Dale Grimm, finally. (You can see screencaps of the whole exchange (including where he rejected my press release) at and

He complained that he was delivering papers, apparently not realizing I'd called back in the evening when his employees said he would have returned. He also eventually made the same dictionary argument about "castigate", and even questioned why I would be interested in what I did and did not publish. (Short answer there: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students living in rural areas are considerably more likely to feel unsafe in their respective academic environments than their urban counterparts. Source)

I asked him why he said his papers would not publish stories about LGBT high-school students, but demonstrably publish stories about other local high-school students.

His response? Simply this:
We have exercised editorial prerogative.
Let's run through this again, because if you look at the screencaps from the e-mails, Mr. Grimm doesn't seem to understand how language works.

I ask the question: "Why do you refuse to publish stories about LGBT students when you publish stories about other students?"

He answers "Editorial prerogative."

Since we're doing definitions now, what do you think the definition of prerogative might be, folks?

An exclusive or special right, power, or privilege.

That's right. Dale Grimm said that he refuses to publish stories about LGBT people because of privilege.

You can't make this stuff up.

Because here's the thing: If you're a news outlet, you're supposed to be objective. Yes, you have opinions and feelings. That's what the editorial page is supposed to be for, after all.

Instead, Dale Grimm has, and continues to use his privilege to erase LGBT people from the public discourse in four towns in Ohio.

And it doesn't stop with the newspaper.

The small-town ISP Grimm also owns points to a Jesus site under a link saying "meet the real owner", and clearly says you can't host "unseemly content"...which apparently, in Dale's head, includes LGBT people. (Makes you wonder whether or not he's using those spamassassin filters to check for anything he deems "unseemly" as well, doesn't it?)

Time Warner and U-Verse never looked so good.

If you'd like to let Dale Grimm know what you think about all this, feel free call Dale Grimm at (937) 845-1709 or you could send him (or the editors of his papers) an e-mail for the The Enon Eagle, New Carlisle News, Tipp City Gazette, and the Troy Tribune.

And if you want to check out the Kickstarter I'm running that started my involvement with all of this, it's at

[update to the update: I got one more e-mail from Dale, and responded to it both privately and in a public letter here:

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The Owner of Four Town Papers In Ohio Refuses to Publish News About LGBT Students, Castigates High School Student on Facebook

[UPDATED: 14 April @ 1614 - I've included what response Dale Grimm had, as well as responses to some comments and more information in the post at]

[update to the update: I got one more e-mail from Dale, and responded to it both privately and in a public letter here:

It was really good to write about how the Kickstarter for No Sh!t, There I Was is over 45% funded after 48 hours. It was also kind of funny to write a backer update about how I've managed to get something unique: A rejection letter for a press release.

But, sadly, there's a darker side to the story.

See, I can understand why a newspaper wouldn't want to print "shit" or "sh!t" or "sh*t". I fully expected most of the press releases to be quickly discarded. I was a little surprised that someone would take the time to write about how they were offended by it, but hey.

And like publishing or agenting, there isn't any real criteria for being a journalist or a newspaper... except doing it.

But y'all know me. You know that I hold publishers to a high standard - myself included. And what you might not know is that I came within a hair's breadth of teaching journalism. So I kind of think that newspapers have a responsibility to present the news.

I wondered when I saw a Facebook post saying that a local-ish paper had rejected high school student's stories about a transgender student and about the formation of the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) club at their school. 1

"I take a writing for publication class at my high school and today my teacher informed us that the person who is in charge of the newspaper we write for, the Enon Eagle, refused to publish two of our articles. A few weeks ago an article was written about a trans student at my school and it was not published. This week an article about GSA, (Gay straight alliance) a club at Greenon, was also not published.
"I take a writing for publication class at my high school and today my teacher informed us that the person who is in charge of the newspaper we write for, the Enon Eagle, refused to publish two of our articles. A few weeks ago an article was written about a trans student at my school and it was not published. This week an article about GSA, (Gay straight alliance) a club at Greenon, was also not published.

Lo and behold, it was our buddy, Dale Grimm, Publisher of the New Carlisle News, the Enon Eagle, the Tippecanoe Gazette, and the Troy Tribune. The same guy who rejected my press release.

I got a little chuckle out of that. I mean, life's not fair, I understand the first amendment, and so on.

And then I saw that the offical Facebook account for the Enon Eagle - presumably controlled by Dale2 himself - had replied to this high school student's post.

     "We do not print articles of that nature."
"We do not print articles of that nature."

Now, remember, this is the same company that publishes stories about Little League, "Things I've Found In The River", middle schoolers, and high schoolers.

So it's pretty damn obvious what "articles of that nature" means, isn't it?2

Apparently the guy who owns four city papers in Ohio won't publish stories about LGBT people.

Yes, I do know what the first amendment really says.

But at the same time, I also understand that there's a responsibility and an obligation in setting yourself up as a news outlet.

I find it disturbing that in these small towns, one of the newspaper publishers (and in some cases, the only local newspaper publisher) refuses to print articles about LGBT people at all. And then is small and petty enough to get on Facebook to rub a sixteen year old high school student's nose in it.

I don't know what, exactly, to do.

The normal tools seem...inadequate. There's no obvious advertisers. One could post on the Enon Eagle Page on like these folks, or call Dale Grimm at (937) 845-1709. Maybe you could send him (or the editors of his papers) an e-mail for the The Enon Eagle, New Carlisle News, Tipp City Gazette, and the Troy Tribune.

When you do, perhaps you should ask why, exactly, Mr. Grimm has decided that LGBT folks are excluded from being reported on, and if they'd care to disclose any other groups of people that Mr. Grimm has unilaterally decided to not report on.

Also, I should note that Mr. Grimm "does not appreciate receiving vulgar e-mails".

Take that as you may.

[UPDATED: 14 April @ 1614 - I've included what response Dale Grimm had, as well as responses to some comments and more information in the post at]

[update to the update: I got one more e-mail from Dale, and responded to it both privately and in a public letter here:]  

1 I asked for and gained permission to write about this minor's issue with the paper. That said, she's a minor and so I'm refraining from posting her image or name here. A screenshot of both the post and the response together is at
2 I attempted to contact Dale several times today by phone and e-mail. At this time, I have gotten no response.


Review: Babymetal (both Babymetal and METAL RESISTANCE)

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Let me start by saying that I really, really liked the first Bodycount album. What impressed me most about it was how each track was recognizably influenced by different styles of metal and punk music. That was lost on later albums, and I became less interested in the group.

Babymetal exploded onto the scene in 2014 with their self-titled debut album. It seems like it should be a joke - three girls singing "idol" vocals over metal instrumentals, but it works. The album likewise samples different styles of metal instrumentals while keeping the same vocal stylings, and succeeds magnificently for it. It looks like it should be a joke - but it's done so skillfully and so well that it deserves a place in any metal fan's library. For example, MEGITSUNE:

All - and I mean all of the tracks in the first album are that heavy and intense. The girl's vocals are like a pure stream of brilliance riding atop a dirty tsunami of guitars and drums. 

So I was thrilled when I learned of the 2016 follow-up METAL RESISTANCE through the music video for "Karate", which definitely carries on the same heritage:

I mean, that video rocks.

But. And there's a big but here.

After buying "METAL RESISTANCE", I learned that Babymetal had toured with Dragonforce. You might remember Dragonforce from Guitar Hero with "Through The Fire and Flames":

That influence definitely shows in METAL RESISTANCE. In many - and I mean many of the tracks, the guitarist shows off in a similar kind of way more interested in the speed of notes than the slamming, head-crunching, face-melting that I was expecting from this album.

And then there's also "The One".

I think it's probably best to let the video for this track speak for itself first:

Yeah, that's right. It's a power ballad. It's not the only one, either - "No Rain, No Rainbow" is right up there with it.

It's not that METAL RESISTANCE is a bad album at all. Babymetal is a tight and talented band. It doesn't matter why they were originally brought into existence - they simply rock now.

But METAL RESISTANCE is a significant departure from the debut album. It's nowhere near as heavy. I'd be willing to simply chalk that up to their trying to show even more styles and versatility, except for the strong Dragonforce-style guitar work throughout.

While I'd argue that Babymetal is a needed album in any metalhead's library, METAL RESISTANCE seems targeted at a very specific audience... that doesn't quite include me.

I'm still a fan, but I'm definitely hoping that Babymetal goes back to the truly metal roots that brought them fame in the first place.

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What A Cover Letter Should Look Like When Submitting To A Magazine

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It's been a couple years since I wrote about what a cover letter should look like, and it was definitely before we launched recompose.

Three hundred odd submissions later, I asked Leslie J. Anderson, one of the editors of recompose, what she would like to see in a cover letter.

"It's a lot more boring than people think," she said. While the cover letter I posted years ago was also from her, she pointed out that was her cover letter for a book, and that she uses something slightly different for magazines.  Here's her template:

Thank you for the chance to submit my work to Magazine. The story [poem] I included is Story or Poem Title. It is XXX words [or XX lines].
My writing has appeared in Other Magazines. My other writing accomplishments include Stuff.
I look forward to hearing from you soon!

It's simple, to the point, but gets all the pertinent information right out there where the editor needs it. An excellent template indeed.


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