Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow Day in the Sunroom

We're having a blizzard today in Wisconsin, so I'm having a snow day. Right now giant poofy flakes are falling from the sky, and some anonymous neighbor has already snowblowed (snowblown?) the entire sidewalk for our block. So I get to hang out in my recently-completed sunroom--now with Christmas tree!--and sip hot cocoa and watch the snow fall.

The sunroom used to be our main bedroom, but we always had heavy blinds on all the windows. The room has the most windows in our whole house--two south-facing, and one facing east and one facing west. Sun all day long. So we painted the walls a light, bright orangey yellow, and the floor a coordinating light sagey green, and the trim is a color called "almond toast." And we put in a bunch of full-spectrum lights, and comfy seating, and a lovely grandfather clock. The room was a big hit at our recent Christmas party.

My depression has definitely improved since we finished the room. Even outside of the extra light (which I am not in any way discounting), it's so pretty that just looking at it makes me happy.

I'm not working out regularly yet, but I did start going to physical therapy to help with my tension headaches. I've been doing some neck-strengthening exercises five times a day while I'm at my day job. I had to set Outlook reminders to go off every couple of hours so I would remember to do them, and it's been working great. My headaches are a lot less frequent. So I'm going to keep up with those exercises even though I'm technically done with PT.

My next goal is to get into some regular workout routine. Even if I'm just doing 10 minutes a day on the rowing machine, or doing some light free weights while watching The Daily Show. Gotta start small and build up from there.

My received gross writing income for 2012 should be just over $830.00. Not enough to quit my day job, of course, but I'm pretty happy with it. This is just year one. I'm hoping to have grossed $5000 by the end of year three. I have 24 titles out there, and I'm still hoping to get an anthology or two up before the new year. I also want to start a mailing list, and put links to my other works in my existing books. I'm hoping that will boost sales a little bit, but mostly I just want to make it as easy as possible for my readers to find more of my stories.

Maybe I'll get that done today. After I go hit the rowing machine.

Image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Release and Poet is EVERYWHERE!

Welcome to December! Released today is a Lovecraftian weird tale. "The Thing in the Water" is an homage to HP Lovecraft's story "The Thing on the Doorstep."



Artist Daniel Bradshaw didn’t want to take a Halloween cruise with his sister CarrieAnn and her husband Tommy, but it seemed like a great distraction from his pending divorce. Unfortunately, nothing can salve Daniel’s bitter attitude until he meets Cliff. The old man’s interest in Daniel’s art is a much-needed ego boost. Cliff even charms worry-wart CarrieAnn and takes the uncouth Tommy under his wing. In short, Cliff seems like a godsend…and he is. Just not the god any of them expected.

"The Thing in the Water" is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, and will soon be pushed out to all the usual ebook outlets.

The Once and Future Poet is out of KDP Select (which I'm never doing again, blarg) and is now available at Barnes & Noble and Smashwords, and will also soon be pushed out to all the usual ebook outlets, as well as at Amazon.

I've managed to publish at least one thing a month this year. I'm pretty proud of that, but I didn't get nearly as much writing done as I'd hoped. I'll do a full roundup later this month.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ramblings

Hey all. I've been meaning to do a post for a while, but haven't, obviously. I've had ideas about what to post about, even ideas for a more regular series of posts, but that's not what I'm doing right now. Right now I'm ignoring the Bulldog, who heard the neighbor dog barking and is now barking and whining himself. I'm ignoring my novel, which I've had a couple false starts on, and still isn't going too far. (Although I do have a new direction, thanks to some epiphanies provided by Lou Anders.)

No, right now I'm just rambling. We finally finished the new sunroom, and it's awesome. Very light and bright, but restful at the same time. I like to read in there. I'm trying to keep my laptop out of it. That is to be my relaxing space, not my working space.

Depression has been kicking my ass of late. Upped my meds, which has helped some. The room helps some. Frankly I'm really sick of being tired and down and mopey all the time.

I need to get back to the bird-by-bird approach, but I keep looking at the big picture and getting discouraged. There is a lot I should be doing; therefore, I will not do any of it.

I want to prioritize better. I need to get more sleep. I know I'm not good at getting to bed before 10pm. If I want 8 hours of sleep, that means I can't be getting up at 5am to write. And I haven't been.

That doesn't mean I can't find time to write; it just means that 5am is apparently not going to be that time.

I also need to start working out. Exercise is good for me. I'm out of shape, a little over-weight, and working out is good for treating depression. I bought a rowing machine. I've used it once. I need to figure out how to carve out time to exercise before I worry about carving out time to write.

Writing is a sickness. It will make me make time eventually. Exercise won't.

I briefly entertained the idea of learning to make WordPress themes so I could make a new website. I've decided that would be dumb. I still need to learn Audacity. I still want to do a podiobook of Scent and Shadow. But I can only do so much, you know? The website can wait.

Speaking of websites, mine is really pissing me off of late. For some reason, the forwarding for www.scentandshadow.com is not working. And two of the articles on one page keep showing up out of order, and I can't figure out why. I mean, Joomla is not that complex. Article 1 should show up first. But for some reason Article 2 is.

I hate technology. It hates me back.

I also want to do print editions of The Once and Future Poet and Demon's Asylum. Haven't made time for those, either.

I'm barely keeping up with the short story release schedule. The end of the month keeps sneaking up on me. The scary part is I only have stories written through January. I'm hoping to get some written over my winter vacation, but I tend not to get a lot done on vacation.

So yeah. That's the State of the Mercy. I will return another night with less grumpy, I promise.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Free Poetry!

The elections are over! Yay! No more robo calls or yard signs or awful commercials! (Well, at least no more of those awful commercials.)

Re-tune your brain away from politics with a free copy of The Once and Future Poet! But you have to download it today, because tomorrow it's back to normal pricing.

"I don't like poetry."

You hear that a lot, usually from people who used to write poetry. Most of those people destroyed their own poems long ago.

But poetry can be a time capsule. It can offer insight into the development of its writer both on a technical and on a thematic level, and it's a window into the writer's life.

Join Mercy Loomis, author of Scent and Shadow and Demon's Asylum, as she examines friendship, bullying, school, young love, loss, the true meaning of Christmas, and--of course--horses and vampires via essays on the poems she wrote growing up, covering twenty-five years between 1985 (age eight) and 2010 (age thirty-five).

Mercy's frank and unrepentant commentary on life, love, and the craft (or lack thereof) of writing is full of insight, dry humor, and occasional strong language, and may leave you wishing you still had some of your own poetry around to reflect on.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Release: Care Packages

My newest short story releases today. Care Packages is a hot lesbian erotic short story and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.



Shayla hates being sent to this conference every year—especially because it means she won’t be available for her mistress, Tamika. But Tamika isn’t going to let a little distance stop her from keeping her submissive in line, courtesy of a very special care package. Contains explicit sex.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quick Update

Hey folks. Sorry for the randomness of the posting lately. My depression has been rearing its ugly head this month and I've gotten next to nothing done writing-wise. However, remodeling our front bedroom into a sunroom has been a very welcome distraction. For some reason, physical labor is extra rewarding when I'm feeling down--not to mention, the full spectrum lights are particularly attractive right now. We finally get to move the furniture in this weekend. I can't wait! A big, airy, bright, sunny room just for relaxing and reading. Exactly what I need right now.

Anyhoo, with all that in mind I'm not doing a free Halloween story this year. However, as I mentioned in my last post, you can get Scent and Shadow free at Smashwords through Halloween. Just use coupon code VM43S at checkout.

I will have a new Just for Kinks short story available November first, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I'm at Vampchix & Bite Club Today

I have a guest post today over at VampChix & Bite Club. Come on over an leave a comment on paranormal bad boys and vampires who are monsters.

Also, from now through Halloween, you can pick up Scent and Shadow for free at Smashwords using coupon code VM43S at checkout.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cry Wolf Release and Poet is Free Today

My short story "Cry Wolf" is now available as a single ebook. You can get it at Amazon and Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble should hopefully finish processing it soon.

"Cry Wolf" was originally published in the anthology Bedknobs and Beanstalks from Ravenous Romance in 2009.



When a large, bold wolf starts appearing outside the fence while Wil’s guarding his flock, the only person who believes him is the girl everyone expects Wil to marry. But Wil doesn’t want to marry any girl—he’s much more interested in the men. And as it turns out, so is the wolf... Contains explicit sex

This was the first skinshifter story I published. I'd been working on the shifters for a few years at that point, but stories always help my world-building, and it's still my favorite way to flesh out a new creature or concept or character. 

Also, today you can get my poetry and essay collection, The Once and Future Poet: A Writer's Retrospective on Growing Up, for free at Amazon. And if you don't have a Kindle, email me your receipt and I'll email you back with the book in EPUB or PDF.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I Want a Bath

I had to get two more moles removed a few weeks ago. My usual dermatologist had to take a leave of absence due to family issues (very sad) so I was seeing a new dermatologist. And, of course, I forgot my comparison photos at home.

For those of you lucky enough to not have these problems, I am a fair-haired blond with a family history of skin cancer, and I am covered in freckles and moles. Not freakishly so or anything, but there are plenty of the little bastids. So many and so odd that I have a set of photographs about three inches thick that I have to bring with me to appointments, so the docs can see if any of the moles have changed significantly since the last time the photos were taken. If the moles have changed, that's a sign they may be cancerous.

I've had a bunch of moles taken off, starting when I was age four. Most have been "dysplastic." That's medical-speak for weird. (Sometimes they also call it "pre-cancerous.") For a while I was convinced all my skin cells were just weird.

Since I forgot the photos, and the images in the computer file at the dermatologists weren't that great, and I couldn't tell the doc whether the moles had changed at all (one is on my back where I can't even see it), she decided better safe than sorry. (Which, given my family history, I can't really blame her for.) So she removed one mole off my right calf and one off my right lower back. (As it turned out, both moles were perfectly normal.) And I am supposed to keep them covered with petroleum jelly and bandages until the wounds are healed. No soaking the wounds, which means no baths.

I am losing my freaking mind.

Baths are how I relax. The bathtub is where I read. It's my warm happy fortress of solitude.

I haven't had a proper bath for over a month. I had a crappy bath last month when I had bad stomach cramps, and figured out I could lay on my left side and balance my right leg on the tub rim and only fill the tub half-way and it at least worked on the cramps without getting my wounds wet. But that's not particularly relaxing, nor a good way to read a book.

Also, the skin of my torso is sensitive and most commercial adhesive bandages eat my skin off. Seriously. (I don't seem to have this problem on the tougher areas of my skin that see the light of day. Go figure.) So I had to use gauze pads and Hypafix. Gods, I love that stuff, but after a while even it will start making my skin very angry.

It's been five or six weeks now, and the wounds are closed up enough that I've said screw it, I'm done with the bandaging. I don't care if they scab over. Gods know I have enough mole-removal scars already; a couple more aren't going to kill me. (Not that the dressings prevent scarring. Maybe it's supposed to heal faster? Beats me.)

The back seems pretty much healed up. The calf is a bit scabby, but I don't care. I'm having a bath, dang it.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Updates and Football

Hey folks.

I know I've been pretty scarce of late. First, The Once and Future Poet took a LOT more time and effort and energy than I was expecting. I'd planned on having the Sept, Oct, and Nov Rookery Creek releases all set and ready to go by the end of August. Yeah, I barely finished Poet, much less the other two.

And still not entirely sure what I'm doing for Halloween...

Also, my depression has been kicking up again. Trying to nip that in the bud, but it's made it easier to ignore writing in favor of, oh, sleep. And watching football.

Speaking of football, if you haven't already experienced Scott Sigler's Galactic Football League series, you should give it a try. It's been described as "Star Wars meets The Godfather meets Any Given Sunday," and that's pretty accurate. You can listen to the first three books ABSOLUTELY FREE over at Podiobooks.com, or on iTunes. I only started really liking football after listening to these books.

So, back to me. I've finally started on Empire's Shadow, which is the novel I brought to The Roundtable Podcast a couple months ago. (Don't listen if you don't like spoilers.) I've been trying and trying and trying to figure out how to start this puppy, and finally I decided to just stop trying to get it right the first time and dive on in. So I've got the first scene mostly written (crappy first draft written, granted), but as I figured, once I started it just got moving. So I have hopes of not getting too stuck as I work my way toward the middle. The problem with having a well-filled-out timeline spanning twenty-five years or so, when your story only really spans ten years or so, is figuring out where the story's frame starts and ends.

I can already tell I'm going to have to totally rewrite everything I'm writing now, which is really frustrating because this only happens to me on the long fiction, not the short fiction so much. (Succor the Child was a notable exception, but then, I lost temporary sanity on that one.) Right now it's very distant and telly, but once I get a handle on young Isolde this should get pretty darn fun.

And I feel like less of a slacker now that I'm working on a long project again.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Once and Future Poet is free at Amazon

My newest release is available, and it's free at Amazon today and tomorrow.

The Once and Future Poet: A Writer's Retrospective on Growing Up covers the poetry I wrote between ages eight and thirty-three--twenty-five years worth! Each poem is followed by an essay discussing what was going on in my life or what inspired the poem or current thoughts on the poem's themes. If you liked my last two posts, Poetry and Death and Poetry and Mirrors, those are right out of The Once and Future Poet.

It was interesting for me to go back through all those poems and those years and see what themes I kept coming back to, and which ones still show up in my writing even today, and also the way my writing style has evolved.

I decided to put this one into KDP Select for three months, which means it's only available on Amazon. I did this because my sales at Amazon have pretty much died out, although they are steady (or growing) in other markets. I want to see if putting one book in Select will increase the visibility of my other works with Amazon's algorithms.

But my non-Kindle readers, don't fret! If you buy a copy at Amazon and email a copy of the receipt to mercy.loomis at gmail.com, I will send you an EPUB or PDF version for free! Yes, even if all you do is go to Amazon today or tomorrow and "buy" the free copy.

In fact, I will extend that offer to all of my writings: if you email me a receipt and tell me what format you want, I will email it you. Because you already bought it--why should you have to pay for it again?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Poetry and Death

Here's another excerpt from my upcoming poetry collection.


He Died


The words stilled every heart in the room.
When she was called out of class
by two friends
I had thought nothing of it.
When she came back in,
to retrieve her books,
I did not look up.
I was engrossed in a sketch
of a girl
alone
in a dark forest,
and did not see the pain
till those two words
fell
broken,
from her lips,
as if they had also
died.
“He died.”
She was not a friend,
I knew her name, her voice, her friends,
but no more.
She was not a friend,
but the pain in her voice
brought tears to my eyes.
I still did not see her face,
but her words echoed in my ears.
“He died.”
As she left again,
her friends followed,
sharing her grief,
as sobs floated back to us
through the closing door.
A stunned silence.
Uncertain, unreal.
The fraility of mortality
painfully recalled.
“He died.”

(10th grade, 01/29/1993, 2:00pm)


Comments on He Died


That was pretty much how it happened.

I never found out who it was who’d died, or what he was to that girl.

She left the room, and I wrote the poem.

I can’t decide if I like the line breaks in this. On one hand, they sort of evoke the disjointed, sudden distruption we all felt. On the other, I may have gone a little overboard on a few of them. Eh. That’s the fun with free verse. Easy to do, hard to do well, and very subjective.

I like seeing into people’s houses at night, when the lights are on. I’m not saying I go creeping up to windows or anything, but just as you’re driving or walking past, you can look through the open curtains and see little slices of people’s lives, and remember that those houses are full of people you may never meet, who have lives that have nothing to do with you. It puts things into perspective.

That day in class was sort of the dark side of that reality voyeurism. Here was loss and pain that had nothing to do with me, but I hurt because she was hurting. Yet I could set the hurt aside, whereas for her the wound would linger until the pain became so much a part of her that she didn’t notice it much anymore.

I hadn’t lost anyone myself yet, at that age. I have since. And people will tell you that the pain goes away, that the hurt stops with time. I don’t think it does. I think you just get used to it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Poetry and Mirrors

I've been working on an annotated poetry collection, and I thought I'd give you all a preview. Here's a poem I wrote when I was a freshman in high school.

 What Do You See?

What do you see
when you look in the mirror?
Do you see a reflection of your face,
or your soul?
Do you see yourself,
or who you think you are,
or who you want to be,
or who other people think you are?
Do you see beauty,
or ugliness,
even if they aren’t there?
Do you see emotion,
or a cold mask?
Do you see someone else,
or do you see nothing at all?

(02/03/1992)

Comments on What Do You See?
 
Identity. Another touchstone of the teenage experience. Just who is that person in the mirror anyway?

I’m not particularly fond of mirrors. I had one on my closet door, which for most of my life was across from my bed. Maybe I’d read Lewis Carroll one too many times, but it never seemed to adequately reflect reality. Of course, some of that’s from writer’s brain.* I kept waiting for the reflection to be wrong. (I don’t watch horror movies much anymore. The images stick with me in a way that words on a page don’t.)

My husband feels the same way about mirrors as I do. We have two mirrors in the house. One is on the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, and the other is in the guest bedroom. That’s it.

This is entertaining in a way because we’re both very self-aware. It’s not like we’re afraid of confronting ourselves or something; we each did that ages ago. But there’s something about mirrors. You just can’t trust them. They give you the illusion of seeing yourself, but you aren’t really seeing yourself, you’re seeing your inversion. Maybe that’s why they bug me more than photographs. That’s it. A photograph is a moment in time. A mirror is pretending to be you.

I don’t actively avoid mirrors now, and I didn’t then, either. In fact, there were times I spent hours (okay, maybe an hour) staring at the mirror and testing facial expressions. Not only did I want to know what it looked like when I felt a particular way, I wanted to know how to reproduce that expression. This came in handy later when I was in theater (not that I was a very good actor) but it’s also been useful in my writing career.

I notice as I write this that I’m more or less ignoring the poem. And I suppose that’s because even after twenty years, I don’t have a good answer. Not one I can put into words, anyway, other than just to say “me.” I guess that is an answer, come to think of it. The mask is still there when I want it, but now it’s a tool, not a way of life. I don’t wear it for myself. I see me, all of me, the good and the bad, the kind and the cruel.

And I smile and nod, and say, “Good enough.”


*For those of you who don’t have writer’s brain, I will explain. Writers are always on the lookout for ideas, because very often our lives are boring. Our brains find ways of making life more interesting by grabbing up commonplaces and mashing them together or giving them a twist. A lot of story ideas started out with my brain presenting me with a what-if, like “what if I walked into the garage and there was a burgler?” And then I run with the scenario. If it turns out to be interesting enough, I just change the main character and start writing it down.

You can read another excerpt here.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Roundtable Podcast and a New Release!

Today I'm the guest writer on episode 18 of the Roundtable Podcast! The guest host is the awesome Abigail Hilton (The Guild of the Cowry Catchers, The Prophet of Panamindorah, Fullcast Podcast) and we all had a ton of fun work-shopping the idea for my next novel, Empire's Shadow. This episode is full of spoilers, so be warned! However, since I haven't written it yet, I reserve the right to change plot points at will. ;) We dive into some of the world-building behind Aether Vitalis as well.

Empire's Shadow starts out in Italy in the beginning of the second century AD, and chronicles the early adventures of Gabriel, Paul, and Isolde from Scent and Shadow.

Do you have feedback on Empire's Shadow? Leave a comment at the Roundtable!

One thing Empire's Shadow doesn't cover is how Gabriel became a vampire. That story is told in the novella Night's Acolyte, which is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords!
 
All vampires start out as mortals. Gabriel Chapel was no different.

Gaul, 78 BC. When a chance misstep leaves him on the road after dark, Gabrielus Avidiacus wants nothing more than to get safely home to his wife and children. Instead, he is attacked by a blood-drinking demon and brutally transformed. Left to fend for himself, Gabrielus has no idea what he has become. Just one thing is clear: the only way to protect his family now is to get as far away from them as he can.

That, and kill the demon who did this to him.

As he struggles to discover more about his demonic nature and the bloodlust that now rules him, Gabrielus also seeks a higher purpose to his new life. What he finds will set him on the path to becoming one of the most successful vampires the world has ever known.

And last but not least, have you checked out the Smashwords Summer Sale? Use coupon code SSW75 at checkout to get 75% off Scent and Shadow through the end of July! Or use coupon code SSW25 to get 25% off Demon's Asylum, "Encore", or "When the Bough Rakes." And of course, A Wild Hunt, "Not Quite Casper", and "I Burn For You" are always free!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

MS Word 2010 For Writers: Top Ten(+1) Tools

I recently took a class on MS Word 2010. Here are the top eleven things I found useful for writers, in no particular order.

Word 2003 to Word 2010
Can't figure out how to do something in Word 2010 that you knew how to do in Word 2003? Do you have an internet connection? No problem! Click on the File tab, and choose Help from the list at the left. In the center section under Support, click on Getting Started. The Getting Started with Office 2010 webpage will open. In the middle of the webpage is a video player, and to the right of that are three headings. Under the middle heading, "Missing the menus?", click Run the Word Interactive Guide. This will open up a webpage that takes a minute to load, and then asks you to click Start. Once you click Start, you will see your beloved Word 2003 interface. Just click on whatever it is you wanted to do, and the interface will flip and show you where to find it in Word 2010. It seems to be pretty accurate, although if you click Insert:Breaks it takes you to the Page Break button and not the Breaks dropdown. For some reason, Micrsoft decided to make a Page Break button on the Insert tab (Pages section). However, that's the only break on that tab. The Breaks dropdown we all know and love (especially those of us who do print or PDF formatting in Word, since we need Section Breaks) is on the Page Layout tab in the Page Setup section.

The Lorem Ipsum Generator
Type =lorem() in Word 2010 and it spits back lines of Latin. You can put numbers in the parenthises to indicate how many paragraphs and sentences you want. So if you want one paragraph with five sentences, type =lorem(1,5) and then hit enter.

Embedding Fonts (File:Options:Save)
If you use custom fonts, you can embed them into your document by clicking on the File tab, choosing Options from the list on the left, and then in the Options window choose Save from the list on the left. The very last set of checkboxes deals with embedding fonts. I can only assume this makes your file larger, so pay attention to that.

Format Painter (Home tab, Clipboard section)
On the Home tab, all the way on the left, is the Clipboard section. There's a picture of a clipboard for Paste, and then next to it are three small icons: a scissors for Cut, two documents for Copy, and then a paint brush. That paint brush is the Format Painter. Click on a style from the Style section, and then click the Format Painter. It changes your cursor to a paint brush. Any text you highlight or word you click on will be changed to the style you selected. Once you finish your selection, the cursor changes back to normal. If you want to the Format Painter to stay active, double-click on the Format Painter icon.

Style Sets (Home tab, Styles section)
If you have a particular set of Styles you use when doing ebooks, and another for print, and maybe another for something else, you can make a Style Set. On the Home tab, in the Styles section, right under the Change Styles button is a tiny little mark, sort of like a page-turn indicator. Click that to open the Styles Task Pane. This shows you all the Styles in your current Style Set. You can then put the Styles the way you want them, and save it as a new Style Set.

Navigation Pane (View tab, Show section)
On the View tab in the Show section is a checkbox for the Navigation Pane. This thing is surprisingly useful. The Navigation Pane has three tabs. The tab on the left shows all the headings in your document. So, for example, you have a bunch of chapters, and the chapters are all in a heading style, you will get a list of your chapters. Click on a chapter heading in the Navigation Pane and it will take you to that chapter. So much nicer than scrolling through the document! The tab in the middle shows you a thumbnail of each page in your document. The tab on the right lets you search your document, and it's way better than Find. The search function tells you how many times it found the search item and lists all of them in the Navigation Pane. You can not only see the whole sentence to get the context, but you can click on each entry to go to that section of the document. Perfect for late editing passes where you want to see how many times you used the word "smiled."

Customize Ribbon
If you truly can't stand having to flip between all these tabs, or maybe you really only need a few tools, you can customize your ribbon. (The ribbon is the annoying fat strip along the top of the page where the menus used to be.) Left-click on the ribbon and choose Customize Ribbon. You can access this also by clicking on the File tab, choosing Options from the list on the left, and then choosing Customize Ribbon in the Options window. You can also customize the Quick Access Toolbar from here. That's the little row of icons at the very top left of your screen.

New Window/Arrange All/Split/Synchronous Scrolling (View tab, Window section)
This part is so cool that you really have to play with it to get the full effect. Basically, you can have more than one document open in your Word window, or have two seperate windows. (This also works in Excel!!!) If you turn on Synchronous Scrolling, both windows scroll whenever you scroll one. This is very nice for when you're comparing two versions of the same document--say, your master file and the edits you just got back...

Check for Issues (File:Info)
Click on the File tab and select Info from the menu on the left. Under Prepare for Sharing is a button labeled Check for Issues. By clicking this button, you can check your document for hidden text, comments, annotation, custom XML, and other stuff that you may not want in your final version. (Note that View Comments is turned on by default, so even if you turn it off on your end, it will likely be on when someone else opens the document.) Also note that File:Info is where you find the document Properties for when you want to add tags and other metadata.

Blog Post Template (File:New)
For you bloggers out there, this is a template that's already formatted for blog posts. I haven't tried it yet, but hey, some people might find it useful. Not only does it default to block format, it apparently can even post the document to your blog for you when you're done.

Text Audio Player (Review tab, Language section, Translate, Mini Translator)
The best way to find missing words in your text is to listen to it, and Word 2010 includes this feature and doesn't even realize just how useful it is. On the Review tab, in the Language section, click on the Translate dropdown. Select the last option, Mini Translator. It will ask what language you want to translate into, but you can just leave it on Arabic, the default, unless you want to play around. Once you've selected your language, click Ok. (It might skip asking you which language if you've chosen one before.) Highlight the text you want read, then click on Mini Translator again. (You can highlight the entire document by clicking Ctrl-A.) Hover your cursor over the highlighted text and you should see a ghostly box appear. You may have to click Mini Translator twice; I sometimes have a hard time getting it to come up. Put your cursor over the box, and you'll see the Translator. At the bottom of the Translator is a row of icons; click on the green arrow and the Translator will read the highlighted text.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More Soon

I'll have a post hopefully later this week with some of the things I learned at the MS Word 2010 class I recently attended. Also, a new short story releases on 06/01/12. But right now I'm going to try and get some work done on Night's Acolyte. I finally figured out why the story wasn't working so well--I just needed to swap the order of events a little. So now on with the rewriting.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Do You...?

I don't yet, but I think I may have to start. Neat place.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When Everything is Crap

I'm in one of those phases where I feel like everything I write is crap. I've been grinding away at "Night's Acolyte," a novella of Gabriel's origin story. Trouble is, I originally wrote about half of it back in 2008. I've changed things since then, plus my writing has gotten better, so I re-wrote the whole thing pretty much from scratch. I hate rewrites. So I finally slogged my way into new territory. Yeay! Except it's very touchy new territory. There are several things that I have to balance and it's a pretty fine line between not enough and too much. So that's been slowing me down. Plus I've pretty much decided that once I finish this draft, I'm going to have to scrap a huge portion of it and--you guessed it--rewrite it. This does not inspire me to finish. I don't mean to complain. I'm actually happy to be making as much progress as I am. When I wrote it in 2008 it was pretty much all over one weekend in an orgy of "get this out of my head now, now, now!" I was very excited to be exploring Gabriel's back story. So anything short of that feels like a bit of a let-down, even if it's more challenging now because I'm writing it for other people to read, and not just for my own edification. It's just frustrating to know you're probably going to toss out a large part of what you're currently slaving over. I'm starting to doubt that this story is even going to work. Which probably means I'm pretty close to getting it right. If that doesn't make sense, I'll let Neil Gaiman explain.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Joys of Self-Publishing

Don't get me wrong. Most of the time I love self-publishing. I get to do whatever I want with my stuff whenever I want. The downside, of course, is that I have to do it all. Well, duh, you might think. But even for me, publishing takes up a lot of time and energy, and I don't do any marketing. I've committed myself to having a release every month this year. That's twelve covers I need to make, twelve blurbs to write, twelve stories to format three times each (once for Smashwords, once for Kindle, and once for Nook). Not to mention twelve stories to write and edit, on top of the other projects I'm working on. I've been trying to write during the week and do publishing stuff on weekends. But I've been sick lately and getting up early has not been happening as much, because I just need the sleep too badly. So instead I've been trying to write over lunch a couple times a week. Writing at work is rather distracting and I usually only get about 300 words done. It would probably be more if this novella wasn't kicking my ass so badly. Meanwhile, my sales at Amazon have stagnated, and I'm trying very hard not to futz with my pricing and stuff again for a couple months. (Interestingly, Barnes & Noble is doing about the same as always. Go Nook!) I want--no, need--to start working out, but I have no idea when I can fit it into my schedule. The Husband likes to go late at night, but if I'm going to be getting up at 5am to write then I need to be in bed by 10pm. I'm thinking we can try going at 9:30pm and see how that works, 'cause I always needed less sleep when I was working out regularly, but by the time 9:30pm rolls around we're both settled in and tired. It's hard to get the motivation. I also want to learn how to do audio, so I can make a podiobook of Scent and Shadow. Ok, I don't want to learn how to do it, but I want to have a podiobook, so I have to learn it. I can't afford to pay someone to do it for me and I don't want to give someone royalties forever for something I can learn to do myself. (This is the story of my self-publishing career.) I'm going on vacation next month with my dad and my sister. I'm looking forward to it a lot, even though I'll miss my husband while I'm gone. It should be a good way to recharge. Or at least, I hope so. 'Cause I really need a recharge. Or an assistant. Minion. Yeah, a minion sounds good.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy May Day!

Celebrate the pagan festival of shagging with a new erotic short story!

Samantha and Ron’s 1950s-ish life style strikes some as misogynistic, but for them it’s about more than just sexual thrills. Contains explicit sex.

Husband's Little Helper is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords!

Just for Kinks stories are light-hearted, contemporary tales of titillation for kinky people and the kink-curious. Often romantic, Just for Kinks focuses on the everyday kinky person with a stories involving a variety of genders, orientations, and combinations thereof. These stories are about healthy relationships, clear consent, safe sex, and having fun in whatever way floats your particular boat. Commonly seen kinks include bondage, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism, exhibitionism, and voyeurism.

No historicals, no paranormals, no science fiction, no dark and unhealthy encounters. Just modern kinky people doing what they do best—having a darn good time.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My KDP Select Experience, and 6 Months of Sales Data

All righty! After six months of self-publishing, and three months of having Demon's Asylum in KDP Select, here are my sales numbers. Hopefully other authors will find this useful when making their publishing decisions.

Note: these number are not that impressive, but I didn't expect they would be. I'm still happy with the progress I'm making, especially as I'm still putting up new fiction every month and drawing new readers. Just remember folks: this is a long tail model. I'm really looking forward to coming back to this article in four and a half years and making a comparison.

First, sales comparisons for 2011 between Amazon and Barnes&Noble. I'm only doing Amazon US, because I didn't keep very good data for the other countries and I really don't have a lot of sales there. I unfortunately did not keep track of week-by-week sales at Amazon US until mid-December, so this is month to month by title:

Not Quite Casper and A Wild Hunt didn't go free on Amazon until November, and I'm assuming not until December on Barnes and Noble (I have to do those through Smashwords). I Burn For You is available to B&N through Smashwords, but it's not available on Amazon. Oddly, my sales at Amazon were better in November than they were in December.

Now for week-by-week. Since B&N only reports to Smashwords once a month, the freebies are all listed on the last week. Amazon's week-by-week numbers are gotten by using the "Prior Six Weeks Royalties" view in KDP and just saving a copy of that every few weeks. This means that there is some overlap month-to-month because the weeks don't always end when the month does. Monthly royalty statement totals are also included just for kicks.

Geargirl released to both Amazon and B&N on 01/15/2012. Demon's Asylum released to KDP Select 01/15/2012. Demon's Asylum had one borrow which netted me $1.60.

February was not a good sales month for me, despite the release of When the Bough Rakes on Feb 1. Demon's Asylum went free Feb 13 and 14. 237 copies were downloaded, and one was sold that week. I had one borrow in Feb which netted me $2.01, only 6 cents cheaper than a sale. Novellas for the win.

March was surprisingly even worse than February for me. The new story for that month, A Kiss Before Coffee, released on Feb 1 and still hasn't sold a single copy at Amazon. I experimented this month with raising the price of Scent and Shadow from $4.99 to $6.99.

And finally, the first two weeks of April. Demon's Asylum went free from April 7 to April 9. There were no borrows or new releases this month, except for Demon's Asylum going up on B&N and Smashwords today. Floggers Last Longer Than Flowers got a new cover as of April 1. Demon's Asylum also got a new cover and slightly altered blurb as of April 1. Scent and Shadow also went back to its previous price of $4.99 on April 1.

So far this year, I've sold 13 copies of Scent and Shadow at Amazon, and 14 at Barnes and Noble. As far as I can tell, having Demon's Asylum in KDP Select hasn't helped the sales of my other titles at Amazon. I do think having it in Select got me more sales of that particular title than I would have otherwise had from Amazon alone, but I don't think it's significantly more than I would have gotten from Amazon and B&N if I'd released it in both places at the same time. Short fiction sales overall (not counting Demon's Asylum): 42 at Amazon in 2012, 54 at B&N in 2012.

In short, my fiction sells slightly better at B&N than at Amazon overall. Therefore, even though I almost certainly saw more sales of Demon's Asylum at Amazon than I would have without enrolling it in KDP Select, I wouldn't do it again. I would not be surprised if the first three months of Demon's Asylum being at B&N net me more than half as many sales as I had in Select, which would basically mean Select didn't lose me many sales, but didn't really gain me any, either. (I'll report back in three months and let you know.) I may have gotten some more exposure with Select, but I'm not sure it's really worth the trouble and annoying my other readers.

Now, I'm sure that Select is great for more mainstream fiction. However, I write niche fiction. I write erotica, and kink, and GLBT, and vampires that are actually monsters. So I do better by getting my fiction into as many markets as possible, the better to find my niche market readers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mornings

So my plan of getting up early has been working. Most mornings I get up at 5am, get around, feed the dog and let him outside, and am at my computer ready to write by 5:30am. Then I write until 6:30am, when the dog and I go pile on the bed and cuddle with The Husband for 15-20 mins.

I have to say, I really like this.

I don't have any preconceived notions of what I should be doing at that hour. (Other than sleeping, of course.) I don't feel like I should be doing dishes or laundry or other chores. It's a brand new habit. I'm finding it very refreshing.

My word count average is my usual 500/hour. I don't write fast, but I like to think I save myself time later by needing less revision.

I'm dedicating mornings to working on the next novel, and using my afternoon time and weekends for other projects or for publishing stuff. I spent this last weekend putting finishing touches on an anthology submission and getting Demon's Asylum ready for general release. This coming weekend will probably be for making a cover for next month's short story release, and possibly updating my website, which I really need to do but have been putting off.

I may not be up to my goal of 4000/week, but I really feel like I'm making progress. And I really need to start that word count log I've been meaning to do, too...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fangs, Easter Bunny!


Now through Monday, my historical paranormal gay male erotic romance novella Demon's Asylum is available free on Kindle!

Set in London in 1794, this Aether Vitalis story follows George Wickham, a human who can see supernatural creatures for what they are. When a truth spell gets Wickham thrown in Bedlam asylum, he's dismayed to discover that his doctor, Thomas Thornton, is a vampire in hiding.

Thornton, a murderer with a tragic past, is intrigued first by Wickham's ability, but that quickly takes second place to the camaraderie of shared secrets; not only can Wickham see monsters, he's gay--a secret which could destroy his social standing and everything he's worked for since his lover Edwin died.

But somewhere out there is the person who set him up, and this unknown enemy isn't finished with Wickham yet. As the stakes get raised, Wickham's only ally is the vampire he's falling in love with. But with Thornton becoming increasingly possessive, is Wickham's greatest threat from his persecutor, or his lover?

Non-Kindle owners, don't worry--Demon's Asylum will be available at Barnes & Noble and Smashwords starting April 15th!

Friday, April 6, 2012

New Sale: Duty and Desire

I'm very pleased to announce my latest short story sale, once again to the great folks at Cleis Press. My story "Christmas Presents" will be appearing in the military erotica anthology Duty and Desire, edited by Kristina Wright.

For those of you who've read Scent and Shadow, "Christmas Presents" follows Amanda's brother Robbie Bairns and the Christmas of 1998 when he "couldn't get leave" to come home for a visit. This is not an Aether Vitalis story per se, as it has no paranormal elements, but does give a little glimpse into the lives of a couple of the minor characters from the novel.

Duty and Desire is due out sometime this fall. Here's a look at the table of contents:

DUTY AND DESIRE: MILITARY EROTIC ROMANCE
Introduction: Beyond the Uniform
The Long Ride Home by Delilah Devlin
Night Witch by Sacchi Green
Shattered by Shanna Germain
The Grunt and the Ditty Bop by Craig J. Sorensen
Fighting for Fresno by Ericka Hiatt
Homecoming by Kelly Maher
Passing Out Passion by Lucy Felthouse
Against the Wall by Catherine Paulssen
The Thunder of War by Anya Richards
Sergeant Rae by Toby Rider
Dead On Her Feet by Elizabeth L. Brooks
Out of Time by J.K. Coi
Done by Charlotte Stein
Wilco by Christine d’Abo
Christmas Presents by Mercy Loomis
Snake Dance by Lynn Townsend
Home by Michelle Augello-Page
For Better or Worse by Kristina Wright

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On Evil

I'm listening to some lectures on evil. I've only finished one lecture and we're mostly done with the second. (The Husband and I listen while in the car.)

I'm not a big believer in "evil." I believe in selfishness and apathy and ruthlessness and lack of empathy, but "evil" is so abstract a term as to be mostly useless. In my opinion, it's a crutch people use to define something they don't agree with. I like to be more concrete than that.

Also, "evil" is highly subjective. It changes depending on the person and the culture and the place within (or without) that culture. Whereas genocide, for example, is genocide no matter which way you slice it, and regardless of what a particular person or culture thinks of it. At least when you're talking about something concrete you can have a meaningful discussion about it.

Of course, I like to explore moral ambiguity. My vampires are a great example of this. From a vampire's point of view, he's a predator doing exactly what he was meant to do: prey on humans. I mean, the cow that provided my tasty steak dinner might have a few things to say about me and evil were we able to ask her. But I like to think I have my redeeming qualities, and my vampires do too. What people seem to mean when they talk about evil are blatant, obvious things. The devil that hath a pleasing face interests me much more.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cleaning

I don't do much cleaning. Neither does The Husband. We do the basic picking-up and wiping-down when we're going to have people over, but that's about it.

We just never developed the habit.

I know I had to clean the house when I lived with my parents. I had a list of chores I had to do, which included vacuuming and dusting and cleaning the bathroom mirror and sink.

I don't do any of that now. Maybe once every couple of years. (I do Swiffer-Vac the floors every so often, but I don't count that as vacuuming. I don't know why.)

When times were more prosperous we had a lady come in every other week and clean for us. That was awesome. I miss that. But I don't miss it enough to try and fit it into my crazy schedule. Trash and dishes and laundry and caring for animals take up enough of my time. If I leave the dust on the shelves, then it's not in the air, right?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Get People to Do What You Want

I got an email at work from a customer, wherein he said what a relief it was to correspond with someone who knows how to communicate like a businessperson. Having seen some of my coworkers' attempts at professional emails, I can only commiserate.

Here's the thing....

I've heard from many an aspiring writer that they feel they don't need to sweat grammar and spelling. That's what editors are for, right?

No, not really. Copy editors clean up your manuscript. They don't hold your freaking hand. And their job is not to do your job for you. (I've seen grammar so bad I couldn't figure out what the person was trying to say. The sentence made no sense.)

But publishing industry aside, there is an even better reason for you to learn how to communicate effectively and professionally: it's how you get people to do what you want.

Yes. Put your Machiavelli hat on for a moment.

If your email sounds like a 3rd grader wrote it, I'm probably not going to pay much attention to it. Your ineptness may even offend me, because it's really easy to get the wrong impression when you're reading a letter as opposed to talking to someone. Your lack of punctuation sounds rushed and even annoyed when I read it. I'm less likely to like you if I think you're being snippy with me.

In short, if I think you're a tool, I'm less likely to do what you're trying to get me to do.

Face it, you only write an email for two reasons: to convey information, and to get someone to do something you want them to do.

Written language is the medium through which you accomplish those things. Therefore, just as you might take a class on argumentation in order to improve your ability to get people to do what you want, you should also learn to use written language in the same way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Beads!

Got bitten by the bead bug recently. I haven't made jewelry in ages, probably at least two years, and then the bead store down the street has a going out of business sale. Next thing I know I'm $100 in on craft materials. So far I've made 3 necklaces and am halfway through two more. (One was going to be two bracelets...but then it turned into a necklace.)

$20 per necklace isn't so bad, especially considering they're stone beads. Amethyst, jade, obsidian, black goldstone, adventurine, amazonite, smoky quartz... And they all go with different outfits I bought recently at Goodwill. So, it all sort of evens out, right? A little more on the accessories, a little less on the shirts, and I have outfits for the day job.

Mmmm, shiny....

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, March 16, 2012

On Wills

If you haven't already, I highly recommend popping over to Dean Wesley Smith's blog and reading about his recent trials and travails with being executor for his friend Bill's estate. You might notice a certain someone was kinda active in the comments. I have dealt with aspects of probate often, and it's pretty rare for me to get a chance to warn people where they might actually listen. That aside, Dean's story is also a very touching tale of a deep and lasting friendship, and worth reading even without the cautionary aspect.

But please don't ignore the cautionary aspect. Even if you aren't a writer, you need to have a will. And do it right. Please. Please please please.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Small Town Wisconsin

Spring has hit Wisconsin full-force. It's supposed to be 78 degrees on Wednesday. /boggle

There are several signs of spring for me:

  1. Robins come back.
  2. Red-winged blackbirds come back.
  3. Sandhill cranes come back.
  4. Lake Monona opens. (ie, the ice goes away)
  5. Frostie Freeze opens.

The birds have been back since early last week. Lake Monona is mostly open. And Frostie Freeze opened this week.

I love Frostie Freeze. The Husband and I drive out there all the time. It's a little soft serve place, sort of 50's-style, loads of pink everywhere, and the cheapest desserts anywhere.

What I also love about Frostie Freeze is the feeling of community. I'm not even from Fort Atkinson, but when I'm standing in line outside in the sun (or at night in the bugs--oh, and the bugs are back too, darnit) it really feels like a community in a way I find to be rare anymore.

The town I live in is slightly bigger than Fort Atkinson, and granted I don't live quite near any gathering places for kids, but I do walk The Bulldog through a lot of parks and empty lots. And I don't see kids much. We saw a couple of boys throwing a football around in the old church lot last week, and I pointed it out to The Husband, because it was such a rare sight. The only places I see kids these days is in their own yards, or walking to and from school. Whereas in Fort Atkinson, nearly every time we go to Ken and Betty's Philly Cheesesteaks (yum!) I see the skateboarders, and the kids on bikes, and of course at Frostie Freeze all manner of kids. There are even annoying teenagers revving their engines past the soft-serve shop.

I think having a local all-ages watering hole like Frostie Freeze really helps foster that sense of small town togetherness. When you see each other more often, maybe people don't feel like they need to hide...er, I mean, protect...their kids as much. I'd like to see more roaming packs of preteens, more kids on bikes, more playing at the parks. And so, Danny Lecher, my hat is off to you.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Early Bird

I've been having a devil of a time lately getting my writing time in. I'm just so exhausted when I get home from work that trying to do something requiring mental energy seems a herculean effort.

At my writing group on Tuesday, Zombie Joe mentioned that he'd starting getting up early in the morning to write before work.

I've never tried the early morning thing, myself. I love my sleep, and I have a hard time going to bed before 11pm. But I decided to give it a try this morning and got up at 5am. I took care of the dog and settled down to write.

And got almost 1000 words of outlining done.

Granted, outlining is not the same as writing fiction, but even if I settle at my usual 500/hour I will call that a win. I think what I'll do is write down the night before what I'm going to be working on in the morning. That way I don't lose time to making that decision, plus it gives my brain time to work stuff over in the background while I sleep.

But yeah, so far definitely a win. I was productive, and it came pretty easy, no struggle to get started like I often have later in the day. Plus I feel good knowing that I've already got my word count under my belt and I don't have to beat myself up over it for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Well Said

All the people screaming about Amazon lately have me ready to tear my hair out. But rather than rant about it myself, I will instead point you all to Sarah A. Hoyt's post. Sarah is also tired of authors getting overly emotional and riotous without first bothering to examine what's really going on, and she says it much better than I probably would have.

The whole post is very entertaining (have I mentioned that I like snark?) but here's the crux of it:

You want to make yourself useful? Start doing things like protesting the rights-grabs of publishers keeping bringing things out in ebooks YEARS after they have BY CONTRACT lost right to those properties, or bringing out things for which they never bought ebook rights. You want to make yourself useful? Start going after the exclusivity clauses in contracts. You want to make yourself useful? Start going after some of the agency clauses which give the AGENCY copyright rights for the life of the property.

If you’re not doing all of that, stop shaking your little fist and screaming that Amazon is controlling your thoughts. Amazon can’t do that, because it has yet to be shown that you’re capable of independent thought. You’re only so many trained seals, ready and willing to serve the interests of publishers and distributors, even those who’ve been screwing you for years. You’re good circus animals, ready to jump on your little bandbox and slap your hands together and arf for the rotten fish you’ve been fed for years – even while fresh fish are swimming all around you.


My blood pressure thanks you, Sarah, for writing that post so I didn't have to.

Image: Karen Shaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, March 2, 2012

New Release: A Kiss Before Coffee

This month's short story, A Kiss Before Coffee, is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords!

When Karen is diagnosed with inoperable cancer, she travels to the ruined Asclepion on the Greek island of Kos with a vague idea of leaving an offering for the god of healing. With the help of a sympathetic tour guide, Karen gets the chance to make her petition in person. Contains explicit sex.

Originally published in Rendezvous. League City, TX: Passionate Pens/Twin Trinity Media, 2011.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When Flying

I'm traveling for work for part of this week. Unfortunately that means I'm flying.

I was annoyed to discover that Dane County Airport has only last week installed one of those damn irradiate-you machines. You have the choice between that and a pat-down. Or not flying. Yeah, next time I'm taking the damn train. At least they don't treat their customers like criminals.

But that aside... I have made carry-on and expedience an art form when it comes to flying. Other passengers, please take note:

They post size requirements for carry-on luggage. These are rules, not guidelines. Stop trying to make your bags fit into spaces they are not meant for. Note: you must take all the extra pockets and projections on your bags into account when you measure. And measure them FULL, for gods' sakes.

If you are going to be on a small plane, like only three or four seats across, THE CARRY-ON DIMENSIONS ARE WRONG. If your bag will not fit under a seat, you will have to gate-check it, because it won't fit in the overhead. Plan ahead so that your personal item goes in the overhead and your carry-on goes under the seat in front of you. Rearrange the stuff in your bags ahead of time.

When you stop in the aisle so you can get your bag into the overhead, and then slowly take off your coat and put it in the overhead, and then need to get something out of it or your bag, or decide something in your pocket must go into the overhead, YOU ARE HOLDING UP THE REST OF THE PLANE. Think about this shit ahead of time. It's not like we weren't all just sitting around for forty minutes waiting to get on the plane.

I can fit three days (or two and an extra set in case I fall in a lake) of clothes and necessities in one carry-on that's small enough to fit under the seat. My laptop and electronics then fit in the laptop bag. My laptop is too big to comfortably use on the plane, so it can go into the overhead. (My netbook is actually small enough to fit into one of the pockets of my booster jacket, if I need a computer on the flight.) Everything I expect to need on the flight I put in my jacket: paperback novel (for when electronics must be off), iPod and headphones, Kindle, protein-rich snacks, bottle of water, pack of gum for take-off and landing, breath mints, mini notebook (the paper kind) and pen. Rarely do I need to get anything out of my bags. My jacket is light enough that I can just slip out of the sleeves and leave it wrapped around me and I won't get too hot. I have a pill case on my keychain in case I get a headache or something.

When I board the plane, I am wearing my jacket. I have my under-the-seat bag carried in front of me and the overhead bag carried behind me, both by the handle. When I get to my seat, I drop the seat bag into the seat, sling the overhead bag into the overhead, step out of the aisle if I have room, sling the seat bag under the seat, and sit my ass down. Only then do I take off the jacket by removing my arms from the sleeves. Viola, I am stowed and out of everyone's way in approximately five seconds (or less). Exiting the plane is pretty much the same thing in reverse.

Please folks, be kind to your fellow passengers. Plan ahead so we can all spend the least amount of time in the tin can as possible.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Letter From Smashwords, Verbatim

February 24, 2012

Re: Your Smashwords account at http://smashwords.com/profile/view/MercyLoomis

Dear Smashwords Authors, Publishers and Literary Agents,

This email is being sent to all authors, publishers and agents who have published erotica at Smashwords. We will also post this message to Site Updates and the Press Room.

According to our records, you pubish 11 erotica-categorized title(s) out of 14
title(s) now live in the Smashwords system. This message may or may not pertain to you.

Today we are modifying our Terms of Service to clarify our policies regarding erotic fiction that contains bestiality, rape and incest. If you write in any of these categories, please carefully read the instructions below and remove such content from Smashwords. If you don’t write in these categories, you can disregard this message.

PayPal is requiring Smashwords to immediately begin removing the above-mentioned categories of books. Please review your title(s) and proactively remove and archive such works if you are affected.

I apologize for the short notice, and I’m especially sorry for any financial or emotional hardship this may cause the authors and publishers affected by this change.

As you may have heard, in the last couple weeks PayPal began aggressively enforcing a prohibition against online retailers selling certain types of "obscene" content.
For good background on the issue, see this Selena Kitt post here - http://selenakitt.com/blog/index.php/2012/02/19/slippery-slope-erotica-censorship/
or here - http://theselfpublishingrevolution.blogspot.com/2012/02/slippery-slope-erotica-censorship.html#comment-form
or this Kindleboards thread here - http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,104604.0.html


On Saturday, February 18, PayPal’s enforcement division contacted Smashwords with an ultimatum. As with the other ebook retailers affected by this enforcement, PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened
to deactivate our PayPal services. I've had multiple conversations with PayPal
over the last several days to better understand their requirements. Their team has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the Smashwords mission. I appreciate their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best to delineate their policies, gray areas remain.

Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica.


The underage erotica is not a problem for us. We already have some of the industry’s strictest policies prohibiting underage characters (we don’t even allow non-participating minors to appear in erotica), and our vetting team is always on the lookout for "barely legal" content where supposed adults are placed in underage situations.

The other three areas of bestiality, rape and incest were less well-defined in
our Terms of Service (https://www.smashwords.com/about/tos) before today. I’ll
tackle these one-by-one below, and I'll provide you a summary of the changes that will go into effect immediately.

*Incest:* Until now, we didn’t have a policy prohibiting incest between consenting adults, or its non-biological variation commonly known as "Pseudo-incest." Neither did our retailer partners. We’ve noticed a surge of PI books over the last few months, and many of them have "Daddy" in the title. I wouldn't be surprised if the surge in "Daddy" titles prompted PayPal to pursue this purge (I don't know). PI usually explores sexual relations between consenting adult stepchildren with their step parents, or between step-siblings. Effectively immediately, we no longer allow incest of any variety in erotica.

Like many writers, censorship of any form greatly concerns me. It is with some reluctance that I have made the decision to prohibit incest-themed erotica at Smashwords. Regardless of your opinion on incest, it’s a slippery slope when we allow others to control what we think and write. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It unfolds in our imagination. I’ve always believed fiction writers and readers should have the freedom to explore diverse topics and situations in the privacy of their own mind. From an imagination perspective, erotica is little different from a literary novel that puts us inside the mind of farm animals (1984), or a thriller novel that puts us inside the mind of a terrorist, or a horror novel that puts us inside the mind of an axe-murderer or their victim.
All fiction takes us somewhere. We read fiction to be moved, and to feel.
Sometimes we want to feel touched, moved, or disturbed. A reader should have the right to feel moved however they desire to be moved.

Incest, however, carries thorny baggage. The legality of incest is murky. It creates a potential legal liability for Smashwords as our business and our books
become more present in more jurisdictions around the world. Anything that threatens
Smashwords directly threatens our ability to serve the greater interests of all Smashwords authors, publishers, retailers and customers who rely upon us as the world’s leading distributor of indie ebooks. The business considerations compel me to not fall on the sword for incest. I realize this is an imperfect decision.
The slippery slope is dangerous, but I believe this imperfect decision is in the best interest of the community we serve.

*Bestiality:* Until now, we didn’t have a stated policy regarding bestiality.
I like animals. Call me old fashioned or hypocritical (I’m not a vegetarian), but I don’t want to be a party to anyone enjoying animals for sexual gratification, for the same reason we’ve never allowed pedophilia books. I don’t want to publish it, sell it, or distribute it. The TOS is now modified to reflect this. Note this does not apply to shape-shifters common in paranormal romance provided the were-creature characters are getting it on in their human form. Sorry I need to clarify it that way, but we don’t want to see bestiality erotica masquerading as paranormal romance.

*Rape:* Although our Terms of Service prohibits books that advocate violence against others, we did not specifically identify rape. This was an oversight on our part. Now we have clarified the policy. We do not want books that contain rape for the purpose of titillation. At Smashwords, rape has no longer has a place in erotica. It has no place anywhere else if the purpose is to titillate.
Non-consensual BDSM - or any other form of non-consensual violence against another person - is prohibited.

*NEXT STEPS:* If you have titles at Smashwords that are now expressly forbidden, by the end of day Monday (Feb 27), please click to your Dashboard at https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard
and click UNPUBLISH then click ARCHIVE. This will also cause our automated systems to remove the titles from retail distribution.

DO NOT try to hide or obfuscate violating content by changing book titles, book descriptions and tags. If we discover such shenanigans, said authors/publishers will risk account deletion and forfeiture of any accrued earnings, per our Terms of Service.

We take violations of the TOS seriously, because such violations jeopardize the opportunities for your fellow authors.

We do not want to see PayPal clamp down further against erotica. We think our authors should be allowed to publish erotica. Erotica, despite the attacks it faces from moralists, is a category worthy of protection. Erotica allows readers to safely explore aspects of sexuality that they might never want to explore in the real world.

The moralists forget that we humans are all sexual creatures, and the biggest sex organ is the brain. If it were not the case, none of us would be here.
Erotica authors are facing discrimination, plain and simple. Topics that are perfectly acceptable in mainstream fiction are verboten in erotica. That’s not fair. Our decisions today are imperfect. Please, act responsibly, don’t try to game the system or publish content that pushes the limits of legality. Help us continue to help indie authors around the world to continue to publish and distribute with freedom.

*THINGS TO AVOID:* Avoid using words such as 'bestiality,' 'rape,' 'incest,'
'underage,' or 'barely legal' in book titles, book descriptions or keyword tags, otherwise Smashwords may conclude you’re violating the Terms of Service, or trying to push the limits. If you’re writing non-erotic works, and any of these words are necessary, then you’re okay.

On Tuesday (Feb 28) we will begin removing content that we deem in violation.
When we remove a title, you will receive an email notifying you of such, and that email will append this letter along with instructions on how to notify us
if we made an error. I promise you, we will make mistakes, so please work with
us, take a deep breath and honor us with your patience.

If you believe we removed something in error, please click "Comments/questions,"
mention the title we removed, provide the hyperlink to said title, and provide your *calm* reasoning for why we should reconsider.

Our support team is backlogged, so it may take several days for them to respond.
As we mention in the Terms of Service, we reserve the right to remove anything for any reason. That said, we will also try to make our decisions with care and prudence.

You might wonder if Smashwords should simply switch to a different payment provider.
It’s not so easy. PayPal is designed into the wiring of the Smashwords platform.
They run the credit card processing for our retail store, and they’re how we pay our authors and publishers. PayPal is also an extremely popular, trusted payment option for our customers. It is not feasible for us to simply switch to another provider, should such a suitable provider even exist, especially with so few days notice.

Please note our Terms of Service is subject to additional modifications as we work to bring Smashwords into compliance with PayPal requirements. Let’s hope today’s actions mark the limit of the slippery slope.

Significant gray area remain. Erotica is still permitted, though if authors try to push the limits of what’s permitted, we risk further clamping down. Please
be responsible. Don’t go there. If you’re going to push the limits, push the
limits of great writing, not the limits of legality.

Thank you for assisting our compliance efforts on such short notice. We know these decisions will be upsetting to some of our authors and publishers, and for that we apologize. We do believe, however, that these decisions will place us on a stronger footing to represent the best interests all indie authors and publishers from here forward.

Best wishes,

Mark Coker
Founder
Smashwords

P.S. Please contact our support team for inquiries regarding this change in our Terms of Service by clicking the "comments/questions" link at the top of any page at Smashwords. If your inquiry regards a specific title, please include the hyperlink to the book page of that specific title.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February

So all autumn long we kept hearing about what an awful winter it was supposed to be. Apparently the awful has decided to skip Wisconsin for once. I think we've only had two snowstorms worth calling snowstorms. There's practically no snow out there right now. It's weird.

And it's not just that we're having a warm streak. It's been unseasonably warm most of the winter. Not only are plants starting to try and wake up, the birds have been coming back for weeks. Canadian geese up the wazoo. No redwings yet, but I keep looking.

I am looking for redwings in February. This is just not right.

(You can see some of my previous posts about snow here. Trust me, this weather is not normal.)

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net