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

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


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

Friday, February 17, 2012

Time Flies

Holy crap, it's halfway through the month already. And here I kept thinking I had all this time to get stuff done...

Not that this is really news, but oi. Sometimes I wonder how I ever got any writing done back in the day, before I got laid off from my old job.

Oh, yeah, I didn't...just in short bursts every few weeks.


Must find a way to fit more hours into the day,

Monday, February 13, 2012

Demon's Asylum Free Through Valentine's Day

Just in time for Valentine's Day, my gay male erotic romance Demon's Asylum is free at Amazon.com! Tonight and tomorrow you can download the novella at no charge.

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?

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Got two rejections this week, which puts me up to three for the year. Last year I only had 5, so I'm making a much better start this year.

Why are rejections good? Because it means I'm submitting.

Even though I self-publish regularly, I still want to be getting into anthologies and webzines and other paying markets. The only way to do that is to submit. If you submit, you will get rejections.

It still sorta sucks to come home to that "thanks but no thanks" email, but heck, it's really not that big a deal. Eventually the stories will go up one way or another.

Rejections are also on my mind because one of the ladies from last year's workshop just got her first agent rejection on her novel since she finished the workshop revisions. It made me sorta proud, like when your kid takes their first steps or something. (Of course, I don't have kids...) Or maybe more like the first time your kid falls flat on their face. It's okay, little writer, just get back up and keep going! Which is, of course, what I'm going to do too. Time to hit my market list...

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

An Awesome WWII Book

I haven't read this yet, but saw a news article about it. World War II Remembered sounds like exactly the kind of stories I was thinking of in my Veteran's Day post. If you are at all interested in that period of US history, or in personal accounts of wartime, or in our vanishing Greatest Generation, check out this book. In our fast-paced and increasingly digital world, collections like this one are a top-notch idea. We need to preserve this heritage before all the eye-witnesses are gone. I hope other communities do this as well.

A wonderful thing about this book is that it's also available in ebook. (Overpriced, certainly, but available.) That means it won't just end up languishing in a few museums and local libraries, but will be available to interested parties all over the world, now and years from now. Gods, I love this new era of publishing! I hope more academics will electronically publish their works as well--so much research goes to waste because of lack of availability and access. Forth, knowledge!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Short Story Available!

My newest short story, "When the Bough Rakes," is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords!

Dillon’s a solitary masochist with who’s found a unique solution to his needs—a pine grove in a windy valley on his parents’ property. But when Dillon comes home for his first visit since starting college, his secret is discovered by a handsome new neighbor. Contains adult situations.

Of course, I forgot to include the "an erotic short story" subtitle when I pubbed the story last night, which resulted in zero sales at Smashwords. Usually I get one or two in the first few hours. It should be fixed at all sites shortly, but it'll miss the "new release" ticker on Smashwords. Sad. I'll remember that for next time.