Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Epilogue to "A Spirit of Vengeance"

I have a free story up at Torquere as part of their anniversary month. It's called "The Last Anniversary" and it's a longish epilogue to "A Spirit of Vengeance." For everyone who ever wanted to actually see the boys get their Happily Ever After, here it is, along with their first meeting, and some scenes showing what happened in Josh's life after Kevin died.

Included at the end is a recipe for Kevin's Chocolate-Chocolate-Chocolate-Chip Muffins, which appear in every scene of the epilogue. ;D

For anyone who doesn't have a copy of "Spirit," it's on sale right now for 20% off, which makes it $1.99. I don't know how long it'll be on sale for, so get 'em while they're cheap. :)


Saturday, September 27, 2008


My novelette, A Spirit of Vengeance, is on sale at Torquere for 20% off, which makes it $1.99. The free short story coming out on the 30th is an epilogue to this story, so if you haven't read "Spirit" yet, this is a great chance.


Friday, September 26, 2008


I just finished and mailed off a freebie for one of Torquere Press's anniversary promotions. They're doing a Road of a Relationship theme, similar to the holiday Advent promotion back in December, with a free thingy (story, recipe, puzzle, whatever) each day of the month. My day is the thirtieth, which is part of the "Anniversary" chunk of the road; I'll post a link to it when it goes up.

I wrote a sort of an epilogue to "A Spirit of Vengeance," called "The Last Anniversary." It shows the boys finally getting together, along with how Josh and Kevin met, and some scenes from Josh's life after Kevin's death. I also included a Chocolate-Chocolate-Chocolate-Chip Muffin recipe I've been working on for over a year. The muffins appear in every scene, and it was fun to be able to include them. :)

The story part is a bit over 3K words long, which makes it just long enough to be a Sip -- a stand-alone short story. On the one hand, "The Last Anniversary" isn't actually a story; there's no real plot arc. It's just a series of scenes, to let readers see the HEA which was implied in "Spirit," plus a few other key events in Josh's life related to his relationships. It wouldn't have worked as an actual story, or at least I don't think so. On the other hand, writing it was just as much work as writing a short story. On the third hand (hey, I write SF and fantasy, remember? [duck]) the last scene, at least, is something some of my readers have wanted, and I'm hoping they'll be happy to see it.

So, for the writers out there (most of you, I think), how much work would you do for a freebie? I'm not regretting this at all; I'm just curious. I've heard some writers insist they'll never write anything for free, or even that they won't write anything for less than some particular minimum per-word payment. How do you feel about that? Will you write and publish something you know you won't get paid for? How much? Any boundaries?


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's the Adults Who Need the Lessons

I thought I posted this on Tuesday, but it was still in the edit queue. [sigh/headdesk] I was wondering why I hadn't gotten any comments. :/ I just noticed, when I came to post something else, so I guess there'll be two today.


Check out this article about a hazing incident on a high school football team in New Mexico. The kids were at a training camp when some of the older players decided that it'd be fun and cool to rape six of the younger players with a broomstick. Just a bunch of clean-cut American kids, I'm sure. And I'll bet that if you asked them, they'd all say they love Jesus, too.

What's really outrageous, though, was how the coaches and staff handled this.

According to a state police report, an assistant coach told the other coaches during training camp "that some sort of hazing incident involving broomsticks was happening." Another coach walked into a cabin to see "a player on his stomach on the ground, with his legs spread open," while a teammate held a broomstick, the police report said. The coach told the players to "cut it out" and the group broke up.

"Cut it out?" That's it? He finds a kid on his stomach with his legs spread, and an older kid standing over him with a broomstick, and he thinks an appropriate response is "Cut it out?" O_O He didn't question them, didn't pull the kid with his legs spread aside to find out what'd happened, didn't even confiscate the freaking broom?

Rick Romero, the school superintendent, said that the coaches thought "they had intervened in time to stop a hazing incident." Umm, based on what, exactly? If they didn't talk to anyone, how did they know?

I could see them taking about this level of action if they'd found someone covered in ketchup, or saw some wet towels being snapped, or something on that level. That's stupid shit, but it's basically harmless. But when one kid has his legs spread and the other is holding a broomstick, this is very obviously not minor and not harmless and I can't imagine how anyone with a brain wouldn't figure out that it warrants a bit of investigation.

It gets better.

That afternoon, according to the police report, head coach Ray Woods called the players together and told them that if any hazing was going on, it needed to stop.

When Woods asked if anyone had been violated, one 15-year-old player raised his hand. But before the boy could elaborate, other players began making jokes, the report said. Several coaches told investigators that because of the laughter from the players, they didn't believe the allegations were serious and took no further action.

WTF?! Number one, where was this guy's brain stashed that he honestly believed that calling for victims to Raise Their Hands in a group of peers which included their rapists was a good idea? (And since he asked who'd been "violated," I'd say he had a pretty clear picture of what had happened and that he knew it was something which would be deeply painful and humiliating for the victims.) I'm surprised that that one 15-year-old kid had the guts to admit it -- kudos to him -- and not at all shocked that none of the others raised their hands.

Number two, if the coach was going to ask the question in the first place, what made him ignore the answer? The fact that a bunch of the other boys laughed? A man who's worked with teenagers for however many years doesn't know that yeah, there are teenage fuckwads out there who think it's hilarious when they hurt someone? Not that it's only teenagers who do this, but some people who aren't exposed to kids on a regular basis tend to forget what some of them are like and have this rose-colored fantasy image of what kids are capable of. Someone who works with high school kids daily should have no such delusions.

So he exposes this kid to further mockery and humiliation, then dismisses his claim and (presumably) leaves him alone once again with his peer group, the boys who have been so kind and understanding toward him already. Lovely.

The only reason the police got involved was because a woman who worked at the camp as a volunteer heard about the incident. Her husband was a state cop and she let him know what was going on, and when the bus got back to school after the camp was over, there were cops waiting for them.

The superintendent said that the reason none of them called the police themselves was because they weren't sure what had happened. I call bullshit. The phrasing of the head coach's question, when he asked who'd been "violated," tells me that he knew exactly what had happened.

And I love this toward the end:

Romero said lessons about bullying - already a regular part of the elementary school curriculum - are planned with students at all grades. High school students will also learn about sexual harassment.

See, this is part of what the problem is. All kids know what bullying is, know that when some other kid hurts or humiliates you, that sucks and it's wrong. They know that -- whether it's happening to them or to a friend or whether they're the one doing it, they know it's wrong and the bullies do it anyway because they think they can get away with it.

The only possible good these "lessons" could do would be if they were in response to lessons given first to the teachers and staff about bullying, because apparently the adults have forgotten what it is and how to properly respond to it. The first lesson should be that when some kid says he's been "violated" -- especially if it was bad enough that he's willing to say so in front of all his teammates, including the ones who did it -- you don't assume he's lying just because a lot of the other kids are laughing. Once the adults know how to respond, then you can give the kids "lessons" about how they can feel safe going to the adults to tell them they've been bullied. Until the adults get their shit together about their response to the problem, all the lessons in the world won't do a thing to prevent the bullies from bullying.

"This was a very violent, very serious form of bullying," the superintendent said. "Until we do a better job of identifying and dealing with it, this is not going to be the last time we hear about it."

At least he's figured that much out.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another Review of "A Spirit of Vengeance"

I just ran across this great review of "A Spirit of Vengeance" from back in June over at Two Lips Reviews. Obviously I don't do enough vanity searches. :D

Reviewer Bella gave it 4.5 kisses and said:

Josh is still reeling from the death of his lover, Kevin, when strange things begin to happen that make him question his sanity. In the middle of the numbness that has wrapped Josh since the news of Kevin’s death, Josh has started to “hear” Kevin’s voice in his head. And that can only mean that Josh is losing it, right? But as Josh begins to believe that Kevin is really there, he also feels compelled to find and punish Kevin’s killer.

Will Josh survive Kevin’s visits and eventual absence?

A Spirit of Vengeance is a heart-wrenching paranormal romance that will make readers hope for the “life” after death that is experienced through Kevin. Both men will invoke strong feelings of love, sadness and joy as they come to terms with what is left after Kevin’s death. Angela Benedetti did a wonderful job of creating characters that will pull at every heartstring, while delivering a quick paced and entertaining suspense. A Spirit of Vengeance is a great read that should not be missed!

Thanks so much to Bella!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm Sorry, These People Are Morons

Rachel Bird and Gideon Codding got married in Roseville, CA, but refused to sign the marriage license because the blanks on the form say "Party A" and "Party B" instead of "Bride" and "Groom." This is a huge deal to them, apparently -- they claim that their rights are being violated because this form, which they'll likely never see again once they sign and submit it, doesn't refer to them the way they would prefer.

"We just feel that our rights have been violated," [Ms. Bird] said.

Right. Because this form doesn't have exactly the terminology they want, that's a huge violation of their rights. Clearly everything should be put back the way it was a few months ago, because their supposed right to see "Bride" and "Groom" printed on a form has to override the rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California to get married at all.

I guess no one suggested to them that they sign the stupid form and then refer to themselves however they like. [eyeroll] No, clearly that won't do. In fact, Ms. Bird's [she's still Ms. Bird because their marriage hasn't been legally registered] father,

Doug Bird, pastor of Roseville's Abundant Life Fellowship, said he is urging couples not to sign the new marriage forms, and that he is getting some support from congregants and colleagues at local churches.

"I would encourage you to refuse to sign marriage licenses with 'Party A' and 'Party B,' " he wrote in a letter that he sent to them. "If ever there was a time for the people of the United States to stand up and let their voices be heard – this is that time."

Wow. That's special. And I'm sure it's going to make a huge difference in millions of lives, while harming no one. [cough]

So her father, who's older and should be advising her with the wisdom of age about when to stand up and fight and when not to sweat the small stuff, is right there rooting for her courageous stand. Cool. Hopefully if she or her kids (she has two from a previous marriage -- her new not-quite-husband has three) get sick or injured, her so-helpful father will foot the medical bills; since she's not legally married, neither she nor her children are eligible for coverage under her not-quite-husband's insurance.

But obviously it's worth taking the risk that Ms. Bird or one of her children might suffer an overwhelming medical emergency, treatment of which could cause the family financial devastation, while they stand around being stubborn over a couple of words on a form. Yep. Absolutely worth it.

Thanks to Telesilla and Darkrosetiger on LiveJournal for the link. [sigh]



I just finished a story a bit ago and sent it in to Torquere for their Halloween promotion. (I had a story in last year's and would really like to be involved this year too.) It's my first actual submission since December, and only the second story I've finished since then, so I'm pretty darned jazzed. I'm hoping this means my dead streak is broken and I'll be able to get back into the regular writing thing again now.

Everyone send positive thoughts for them taking my story? :D


Friday, September 12, 2008

Why I Hate Southwest

(And TSA sucks too.)

Caitlin Kittredge asked for travel horror stories over on the League of Reluctant Adults, and since my favorite [cough] travel horror story is a tiny bit long, I decided to post it over here and just link it. Maybe she'll count it and maybe not, but hey, spreading the aggravation helps one's blood pressure, right?

Okay, so I was flying up to Reno about a year and a half ago and I got to LAX pretty much exactly two hours before my flight -- about 11:25am when my flight was at 1:25pm. This is standard for me and my husband and it's always been plenty of time before, even when the lines have been horrendous around holidays and such. This time the line to check baggage on the sidewalk with the Skycaps (which is what I usually do) was longer than I've ever seen it, seriously. Even about a year after 9/11, when people'd started flying again but the security bozos hadn't gotten their act together (so much as they ever did) and things were insane -- this was worse. I thought maybe the lines inside were shorter so I wandered in, hauling my suitcase and my laptop bag, but the lines inside were even worse, winding back and forth and around their little tape-and-stanchion maze and then way off to the other end of the terminal building and out the door, with the line heading some unknown distance in the direction of Terminal Two. OK, forget that. I go back outside and get in line.

For a while it was moving pretty well and I wasn't worried. I'd been in bad lines there at the Southwest terminal before but it'd always moved well and I've never had a problem. And whenever we were close to being late for our flight, the airline had sent employees down the security line (which comes after the Skycap line and is usually the really bad one, if either is) pulling out people whose planes are leaving soon, bringing them to the front of the line and making sure they made their flights. So I wasn't worried about it. Now, though, people in line were talking and I was hearing that they'd stopped doing that -- they don't pull people out of line anymore. Nor do they hold planes for a few minutes if a significant number of passengers are stuck in line. They just ignore the problem and let people miss their flights. Umm, okay, if that's true then it sucks.

After I'd been in line about an hour it slowed way down. I don't know what happened but it was really slow for about half an hour or so. And this was while people were leaving the line -- people who had bags small enough for carry-on were deciding not to check them after all and were going right to the Security line. Other people were either missing their planes while standing there on the sidewalk or just knew they were going to, so they got on their cell phones and switched their reservations to either later that afternoon or the next day, whatever was available, and then got out of line. So there were all these people getting out of line at intervals and it was still very slow.

Finally it was 1pm and my plane was leaving in twenty-five minutes and I realized that my chances of making it were slim to none. I was nearing the front of the Skycap line but I still had to go through TSA bags and then X-ray and it probably wasn't going to work. There were other flights to Reno so I wasn't too worried about having to go home or anything, but I was getting kind of annoyed. This guy ahead of me (who earlier on had been like six people ahead of me but everyone between us had left) was bouncing all over the place talking to people, and a few minutes after one he went inside and talked to some people there. He came back and said that there was a lady in line inside who'd gotten to the airport at TEN IN THE MORNING and was still there, waiting to check in. [headdesk] At least I knew I'd made the right choice in staying outside. :/

So I get close to the head of the Skycap line and learn that they weren't the ones who were lagging behind. They were working down the line, with guys coming down and asking for your boarding pass (with Southwest you can go online and print it out yourself up to 24 hours in advance) or your ID and what flight you were on, taking stuff back to their station and printing out the luggage tags (and boarding passes if needed) and then bringing them back, so there were people standing ten or fifteen feet back from the "head" of the Skycap line who had their luggage tags and all; they weren't the ones holding everything up. The line just kept going past the Skycaps to the TSA people -- that's where the hold-up was. :( For some reason they'd decided to open up Every Friggin' Bag and swab the inside. Usually they just do the handles and the zipper pulls and stuff and that's good enough. Not today. Lovely.

My plane took off while I was waiting for the TWO guys they had working the TSA tables to get to my suitcase.

So I went inside and up the escalator. The security line (the one to go through the metal detectors and all) was very short. There was a lady at the top of the escalator telling people which line to get in and I went where she sent me. That line was moving pretty well too, but a few minutes later she came down and sent a bunch of us off to this other line way off to the left where they had this weird booth-style thing which was apparently an explosives detector rather than (as well as?) a metal detector. So fine, whatever. We headed over and started getting ready to go through, taking off shoes and pulling out laptops and all. Then I got up there and the guy said, "No, leave your shoes on." Well, sorry, too late. I didn't think it was a big deal but apparently he did.

"Go ahead and put your shoes back on, ma'am."

"I'm sorry, I can't. I'll just put them through X-ray with my other stuff."

"You'll have to put them back on."

"I can't just put them back on while I'm standing here."

And I can't -- I'm too fat to just bend over while standing and put on sneaker-type shoes; I need to sit down to do it. I told the guy that if he's going to insist then I need a chair, figuring he'd shut up and just have me put my shoes through X-ray. No, instead he started asking some other guy back there to bring me a chair. Whatever. I was annoyed by the hold-up over something this ridiculous but I knew that arguing with these people doesn't accomplish anything.

Then a third guy came over and asked what was going on, and said I can just carry my shoes through the booth. Okay, fine, whatever, I can do that. He and the first guy both walked away. Then a minute later the first guy came back and told me to put my shoes in a bin to go through the X-ray machine, which was what I'd said in the first place. [eyeroll]

Somewhere along the line I told him that he should tell the lady who was sending people over to his line to tell folks not to take their shoes off. Over by the other lines there are all these signs that say you have to take your shoes off and we're used to doing it anyway. Now mind you, it's an incredibly stupid thing to do and accomplishes nothing and I hate having to, but I'm not going to get stroppy with the folks working the lines 'cause they don't make policy. But if they're going to change the procedure for this one line with the weird booth then they need to tell people in advance, like, before they take their shoes off. His response was that the lady working the line didn't work for them (they're TSA and she's with the airline) and they had no control over what she did. [eyeroll] Like they couldn't just talk to her and ask her to tell people not to take their shoes off?! I didn't say that but I was thinking it rather loudly. Jeez! Idiots.

Anyway, I went through the booth and got my stuff on the other side of X-ray and found a chair and put my shoes on and went to the gate my flight had left out of half an hour earlier, which was dead now 'cause everyone was gone. I told the lady I was caught up in the mess outside and was still on the sidewalk when the plane to Reno left and what should we do now? She sort of eyerolled and gave me a sideways smile and started tapping away at her keyboard. She knew exactly what was going on and told me that her second shift that day was going to be working downstairs. I commisserated and we both did the, "OMG it's insane down there!" thing while she worked out my new schedule. I got the impression she'd already done this a few times and that she'd probably do it a few more times before too long. So she said there's a plane leaving at 2pm for Oakland and then there'd be another plane from Oakland to Reno at 5:40. She printed out my boarding pass for the Oakland flight, then scribbled the number of the Reno flight on my little folder-thingy and I scooted 'cause the Oakland flight was close to leaving.

So I made it to Oakland, then found another Southwest desk where the agents weren't too busy. "Hi, I got caught up in the mess down at LAX and missed my flight to Reno but the Southwest lady down there sent me here and said there'd be a flight to Reno but I can't read her writing -- can you figure out what my flight number is and where I'm supposed to be?" She did the eyeroll-and-sideways-smile thing and said no problem. She looked at my info and tapped on her keyboard and said yes, it was all in here and it'd be fine. She printed me out a boarding pass for the flight to Reno and told me which gate it'd be at. I asked what'd happen with my baggage. She said it would've gone on the next flight to Reno (even if I hadn't) and that it'd probably be there waiting for me. Okay, coolness, thanks. We chatted a bit about what a zoo LAX was that day and how insane it was and then I went down to Gate 30 (which was about half a mile away, of course) and settled down to wait.

I got to Reno all right and up to this point it was cool. The delays hadn't been Southwest's fault -- they couldn't control TSA being a bigger pack of idiots than usual -- and everyone had been good about it.

Then at Reno I went to the Southwest baggage office with my claim check. I told them I'd gotten caught up in the mess down in LAX and I was supposed to've been here hours ago and the lady in Oakland had told me my baggage would probably have beaten me here. The Reno lady did some keyboard tapping and then said that the next direct flight from LAX wasn't getting in until 9:10, but that they might've put my bags on the same flights I'd taken and I should go check the carousel. Okay, fine, so I went to check and it wasn't there. I went back to the office, where there are two other women in line with the same problem, whom I assume took the same route I did. I got up to the front of the line and the Southwest lady said that my bag would probably be on the 9:10 flight and that I could come pick it up.

Ummm, right. I told her that my mother lived out on the edge of town and that I didn't think it was right to ask her to drive all the way back to the airport to get my bag. She said they had a delivery service and that I could call that evening and it would probably cost around $35. Um, that wasn't quite what I meant. :/

I said, "Look, I know it's not your fault if three thousand people decide to show up and it slows everything down. But it wasn't my fault either and I don't think it's fair that I have to pay to have my bag delivered. I was there two hours early and I was in line for two and a half hours. I know you have contracts with delivery services for when people get separated from their bags." She said they did but that in this case my bag had a "Late Bag Check" tag (I knew that because I'd seen it -- and I'd seen everyone else in line getting that same tag because the damn line was so slow we were all late by the time we got up to check-in) and that they had no way of knowing I'd gotten there two hours early.

Umm, right. So basically she was saying that she has no way of knowing I hadn't lied about when I got there, therefore it was my fault I missed my plane and my fault my bag was coming in late and I could go whistle for it.

What I thought was amazing was how every Southwest employee at LAX, including the ones a story up and an entire building away, knew exactly what an insane zoo it was downstairs, and the Southwest lady in Oakland had known exactly what I was talking about as soon as I mentioned it, but the three people working the Southwest baggage office in Reno had no clue that anything unusual had gone on that afternoon, despite the fact that they'd had three people in a row (and who knows how many others when I wasn't around) come in and tell them about it, but they still had "no way of knowing" that our missing our plane wasn't our own fault. [headdesk]

You'd think that they'd have been cool about this in the name of customer good will. There were a lot of travellers inconvenienced by this mess and I wouldn't be surprised if it caused at least a few people a lot more serious problems than it did me. I'm sure someone upstairs in corporate decided that since they technically weren't responsible, they could save a few bucks by stonewalling everyone who got separated from their luggage. It was a little thing but it would've been easy for them to take care of and it caused me (and the others I'm sure) a lot of inconvenience. It wasn't just this one lady being dim, either; there were two other customer service people in that office within arm's length of her while we were having these conversations, and nobody said, "Oh, no, we take care of that sort of thing!" It's pretty clear to me this was corporate policy, not individual stupidity.

My mom and I, and another friend who was visiting her, ended up hanging out near the airport until after 9pm, rather than driving back to her place, then back to the airport, then back to her place again. I'm still pissed off about how this was handled and I haven't flown Southwest since.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Spore and DRM

Spore, a computer game with a lot of pre-hype for over a year, by the very popular Will Wright (SimCity and The Sims, among others) has finally been released, to a chorus of boos from fans. Although there are some complaints about the gameplay, the most common thread throughout the bad reviews (as I type this, 791 one-star reviews on Amazon, out of 858 total) are complaints about the draconian DRM scheme.

EA has decided that theft is such a problem for them that they need to put some truly ridiculous restrictions on the people who purchase the game. Their target audience is not happy, and is letting them know about it.

First, when you pay your $50 and buy the game, you only get three installs. That is, you can only install the game from the disks onto a computer three times. Uninstalling does not get you an install point back -- three is it, period. So if you install once, and then your hard drive goes blooey and you reinstall, and then you get a new computer so you reinstall again, that's it; you'd better hope your new computer works perfectly forever. And next time you upgrade to a new system, well, hope you were done playing. The $50 is effectively a rental fee rather than a purchase fee.

On top of that, it installs software similar to a rootkit, which opens your system up to all sorts of trouble from hackers. Wow, thanks EA! The software also does an online activation, once when you first install the game, and then again periodically afterward if you keep playing; I think I saw once every week or ten days mentioned somewhere. Even if it were once a month, or every three months, though, what that means is that once you've bought the game, you can only play it so long as EA 1) is still in business, and 2) is still maintaining the activation app on a server somewhere. And they've already had problems with the server.

The main issue, though, is that EA, along with a number of other computer game publishers, is treating its paying customers like thieves. They're assuming that every single person who buys the game is likely to be a cracker and software pirate, and are willing to make playing the game an incredibly unpleasant experience (and eventually impossible) in order to prevent these hordes of pirates from stealing their game.

Ironically enough, the actual pirates aren't inconvenienced at all. There've been cracked copies of Spore available online for days, and the pirates are happily playing their DRM-free game with no hassles whatsoever.

Some players want so badly to be honest and pay for the game, but without submitting to the outrageous treatment EA is handing out, that they're buying a legal copy of the game, then downloading and playing a cracked copy. Check out this comment on Slashdot for example. EA gets its money, the purchaser gets their game and has a chance of actually enjoying the play experience, and of being able to still play it ten years from now if they want to.

I'll admit I'm thinking about it. I've been looking forward to playing Spore since I first heard about it. It sounds incredibly cool, and the gameplay issues some people have with it are frankly the sort which might not bother me. I'm a heavy but not hard-core gamer; I don't want to work that hard when I'm playing a game, and I don't like games which are too difficult. A hard-core gamer's "boring" is often just what I prefer. [wry smile] I'm exactly EA's target audience, it seems, and I've been wanting to hand them money for over a year.

At the same time, though, I really don't want to reward EA for treating their customers like criminals. Giving them money tells them that I think their behavior is perfectly cool, and I don't want to do that. I also don't pirate anything -- ever -- and just downloading a copy and playing it isn't an option for me. So here I am, with my $50 sitting in my wallet and likely to stay there, and without the newest cool game to try.

So what does this have to do with book publishing?

Right now, electronic books are a tiny fraction of the book market. Most people still prefer paper books -- heck, I do myself, if I can get them, and more than once I've upgraded by buying a newly-available paper copy of a book I already had on my HD. And despite the new readers coming out, and the occasional publisher which comes breezing in and announces they're going to revolutionize the e-book industry (every other month or so), that's not likely to change in the near future.

Some day it will, though, I'm pretty sure. Eventually the techies working on the e-book reading experience will get it right. If nothing else, two or three generations from now, most of the population will have grown up in front of a screen and reading text in glowing pixels will seem at least as normal to them as reading it on paper does to us. Something's going to happen eventually and the e-book market will take off.

When that happens, you can bet the publishers will turn their resources to combatting piracy.

At this point, publishers and writers alike hate e-book piracy, but there's not all that much of it (because most readers still prefer paper books, remember) and sending takedown notices to pirate sites as the rightsholders become aware of them combats the bulk of the problem. Also, most of the e-book publishers are small and run on a shoestring; they don't have the resources to devote to R&D in search of a solution.

When the market takes off, though, suddenly there'll be money to throw at the problem, and there'll be enough e-book income that whatever percentage is being thrown around as the official Income Lost to Pirates number will add up to some serious cash, making it much more attractive to publishers to tackle the problem directly.

I'm dreading that time.

The fact of the matter is that nothing the game publishers have done -- nor the MPAA nor the RIAA -- has ever seriously inconvenienced actual pirates. The people caught in the DRM meatgrinder are the legitimate customers who pay for their copies, which is just insane from a customer service point of view.

Shamus Young has written a lot on the subject, and is often hassled for it. I find myself nodding whenever I read one of his posts about DRM, though. For example:

In case there is any confusion, I do not think eliminating DRM will solve all our problems. I maintain that obtrusive DRM is a problem in addition to piracy. I even grudgingly accept DRM, but for it to work, it must ... be as hassle-free as you can make it. CD checks? Codebooks? CD keys? They all have their drawbacks, but they all prevent effortless piracy. (Passing around a CD.) A user must download a crack or make some kind of effort to thwart these methods. This means that users who pirate the game are making a deliberate decision to do so. That’s the best you can hope for. Anything beyond that is needless hassle which only applies to legit users.

That's it, right there. You can't stop the real pirates. If someone decides they're going to crack your copy protection, they'll do it and you can't stop them. They'll probably do it in about a fiftieth the time it took your coders to develop the protection scheme in the first place. Piling more and more and more restrictions into your files won't do anything more than give the actual pirates an interesting challenge; the only people who'll be left annoyed and frustrated will be your customers, the people who are giving you money. Although they might not be giving you money for very much longer if you keep messing with them, as EA is finding out.

So what to do instead? There's no absolute solution, and most of this problem stems from the fact that the software (music, movie, whatever) publishers are looking for one when it doesn't exist and never will, at least not in my lifetime.

An independent game developer named Cliff Harris decided to see if he could get some actual, honest, straightforward info out of the pirates (as opposed to the snark and mockery pirates are usually known for, whenever the subject comes up) and asked them why they do it. He got a lot of answers.

Some were garbage, of course, but there was some good info too. He summarized the info he got, as well as what he plans to do about it, here. I highly recommend that you read this, even if you don't click any of the other links in this post. Anyone who writes or publishes, or might some day write or publish e-books should read this. I'll quote one paragraph, specifically about DRM:


This was expected, but whereas many pirates who debate the issue online are often abusive and aggressive on the topic, most of the DRM complaints were reasonable and well put. People don't like DRM, we knew that, but the extent to which DRM is turning away people who have no other complaints is possibly misunderstood. If you wanted to change ONE thing to get more pirates to buy games, scrapping DRM is it. These gamers are the low hanging fruit of this whole debate.

What makes me admire Cliff's approach is that he understands that you're never going to get every single apple out of that tree. You're just not. So he takes the realistic approach of going after the ones it is possible to get. If including DRM is losing you customers and eliminating it will gain you customers, then the logical course of action should be pretty clear.

And there's some other positive fall-out from this approach. Shamus linked to Cliff's post, and got some interesting comments.

Comment 22, by Luvian:

You know what I think is funny? Some game companies seem to think their customers are their allies and are on their side in the fight against piracy. That we are willing to tolerate all these hassles in the spirit of fighting piracy.

Well I’ve got some news for them. I don’t care about what the pirates do. I didn’t sign up to right society’s wrongs, I just want to have some painless fun with the product I bought.

I’m a consumer, not an ally and not a sympathizer.

Yeah. That's about it. I exchange money for a product. The money is good and I expect the product to be good, and usable, and not ridiculously hampered by DRM schemes which are useless anyway. I'm not willing to gird my loins and make sacrifices to fight the good fight against the pirates; that's not my fight, and as an honest gamer (reader) who pays for all my commercial games (e-books) it shouldn't be my fight.

In contrast,

Comment 20, by Mari:

Wow. I just dug through his site to find a game I could buy just to encourage the guy for putting the effort in. I like developers that treat me like a customer instead of a brainless bundle of walking cash.

There you go -- that, I think, is the number one thing producers of digital content can do to encourage people to pay for your products. Be cool. Be friendly. Let your customers like you, and get to know you personally. If the customers (readers, in our case) know and like you, they're less likely to want to rip you off, and more likely to be willing to pay for your products.

Will you ever win over everyone? No, of course not. No one ever will, the way the system is set up right now. Some day the folks working on the larger problem of electronic distribution and the compensation of digital producers might come up with something completely new and different which will work for everyone. Until then, though, we have to do the best we can with what we have. Draconian DRM isn't anywhere near our best.

The bottom line is that DRM doesn't succeed at its stated purpose. It doesn't prevent pirates from cracking copy protection or from distributing cracked files. It just doesn't, and no super-duper-blocker-protection scheme is ever going to defeat the efforts of hundreds or thousands of enthusiastic hobbyist crackers. The only people inconvenienced by draconian DRM are the honest customers; the pirates all have copies without any DRM on them.

I'm hoping very hard that the folks who are running the e-book industry at the time it becomes big enough to start thinking about wholesale DRM will be people who've paid attention to just how poorly DRM has worked for the other electronic media industries, and how it's alienated their customers. The mistakes have been made already; we should learn from them.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

No, It's NOT All Porn. Really.

I followed a link on Dear Author to a conversation from a few weeks ago and came across a comment I posted over there back in August. I decided to repost it here (with a bit of editing so it'll make sense as a stand-alone) because no matter how often we say it, there are still people who don't get it. Some of them are actually working in our end of the industry, which is just sad. And frustrating.

Erotica and porn are not the same thing. I agree that neither erotica nor porn are bad, but beyond that they're distinct genres which just happen to contain some of the same kinds of subject matter.

And erotic romance is another beast entirely. One of the main issues I think is hurting the erotica/romance industry is that too many publishers try to pretend that erotic romance is the same as erotica or porn, tossing all their books with explicit sex into the same bin and leaving it to the readers, who might prefer one flavor or another, to sort it out at random. Personally, if I’m looking for an erotic romance and I spend money on a book that turns out to be erotica, or even porn, I feel cheated and am much less likely to spend money with that writer or publisher again.

Porn — sex for the sake of sex. The whole point of its existence is the “Yay, sex!” factor. And no, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Erotica — sex with plot, but the point is still the sex. No need for an HEA or even for the characters to know one another’s names. More than a fuck scene (or just a string of fuck scenes, if it’s a novel) but without romance’s boundaries and conventions.

Erotic romance — this is a romance, with the usual genre conventions, but focusing heavily on the sex. A good erotic romance will make sure the sex scenes all pull their weight as elements of the story, but the sex and eroticism feature heavily in the storyline itself, allowing or even requiring quite a lot of sex because the story demands it.

And that’s not even considering “regular” romances which happen to have explicit sex.

There are differences, and it’s not fair (or smart, in the long run) for a publisher to try to pretend otherwise. By labelling each story clearly, they can appeal to the audience which wants that sort of story. Lumping all three under one label is like selling vegetables in opaque plastic bags all labelled “CUCUMBERS” when actually the customer might be buying carrots or zucchini or potatoes or celery or kale, depending on which bag they pick up out of the bin. It’s ridiculous and it leads to annoyed customers.

It might work sometimes, if a store actually carries only yams and its regular customers like yams and learn that if they buy what the store calls cucumbers they’ll get the yams they want. But yam-lovers who don’t know the code won’t buy them, and cucumber-lovers who hate yams will spend their money and be annoyed with what they get. This is a crazed way to do business and the fact that there are publishers who operate this way and do make money because they have a pool of readers who happen to like what they’re offering and have broken the code, doesn’t make it any less crazed.


Friday, September 5, 2008

And Done! Whew!

I finished the story I mentioned a few days ago, and I feel a thousand percent better now. It turns out I only added about ninety words to the thing before wrapping it. No sex, but then I don't add sex unless it's necessary, and in this case it wasn't. Hopefully not too many people will mind.

It's wonderful to be out from under the guilt, though. I still feel bad that it took so long, but it's done now and that's what matters. I remember a saying around work (I used to work for an electronics company -- we did R&D and systems integration in the signal processing field) that twenty years from now, no one will remember if you were late, but everyone will remember if it didn't work. I was late, but it works, and hopefully that's what folks will remember. :)

Next deadline is my Halloween short for Torquere, due on the fifteenth. That's not very far away, but I feel optimistic about it. I did last year's in less time, and it got me my first review, which was pretty cool. And heck, at this point any deadline that's in the future is a good one. [wry smile]

Speaking of deadlines, Writtenwyrdd has extended the deadline for her contest to Monday, so we've got the weekend to come up with some awesome setting descriptions.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Writtenwyrdd's Bloggaversary!

Okay, anyone who can crank out 933 posts in two years, and keep them all interesting and helpful and full of cool links, definitely deserves to throw a party for it. So to celebrate two years of awesomeness, WW is having a contest.

Head over to this post and give her a 150- to 300-word narrative describing a different reality. (See the post itself for details.) Deadline is Friday the fifth, at 6pm. I'm figuring Eastern timezone just to be safe.

Congrats, WW!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Within Sight of the End... Maybe

I'm catching up on my blog reader and came across this in Spyscribbler's Blog:

I'm just waiting to finish so I can move on to the next project. I'm even waiting for that and one more project to be finished, because I need a dose of Shiny New Idea Joy.

And I thought, Oh, man, that's exactly where I am too!

I am THIS close to finishing a story that was due at the end of February [hides under keyboard] and it's balking again. I've been dry since around Christmas, haven't been able to write anything since my New Year's Eve story for Torquere, but I've finally gotten going again and I'm almost done. I got the second-to-last scene finished, where the action peaks and the good guys defeat the bad guy and the external conflict is all over with, and I'm a page or so into the last scene where the relationship firms up, the reader sees how things are, what the fall-out's going to be, and how things are likely to go from here, a nice clinch, etc. But I stopped and looked back at second-to-last and I'm frowning.

Is that what I really want? Does it work? Did what the good guys do balance what the bad guy did? Is it anticlimatic? Does it just sort of deflate with a depressed hiss rather than banging through the climax? Do I need to rewrite that part? Do I need to completely rework how the good guys deal with the bad guys? Do I need to rework what the bad guy does before that? With much acking and headdesking and depressed staring.

I could probably wrap this thing up in a few hundred more words, just bull on through and finish it and that's that. But the story's already been paid for (not me -- it was a charity thing), I've felt like crap about it for just over six months now, and after all this time I want the finished product to be as good as I can make it. On the plus side, I only promised a minimum of 3K words, and I'm a bit over 15K, so my very patient patron is getting her money's worth, even if horribly late. :/ But I'm looking at it and thinking of ripping out the last three thousand or so and I really don't want to and I'm starting to hunt around for a cliff to throw myself off of.

I also have a deadline on the 15th (with an idea, thank goodness, and a couple of pages started) and a short piece due for Torquere's anniversary promotion (mine's going up on the 30th so they'll probably want it a week before) and I have an idea for that too, although nothing written. And I have a few other stories I'd like to get back to, and more ideas I want to dive into.

I think mostly, though, I just want to move on to fresh territory. Anyone else feel like that? Where you're so mired in your current projects that you just want to move to a new state, change your name, do whatever you have to for a fresh start?

Like SS said, I'm in dire need of a dose of Shiny New Idea Joy. But mostly I need to finish this story.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Win a Kindle!

Torquere Press is five years old this month, and to celebrate they're holding a scavenger hunt with a chance to win a Kindle loaded with Torquere e-books.

Go here for the rules and a list of links to journals and web sites where participating Torquere authors have hidden a graphic. Find all the URLs where the graphics are hidden, fill in the blanks on the contest page, and enter to win!

If you want to start with me, my graphic is hidden on my LiveJournal, which is here. Luck!

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More Anniversary Freebies!

All through the month of September, there'll be free short fiction themed to the stages of a relationship, along with recipes and coupons, and clues to finding the scavenger hunt graphics. Check out Torquere's Anniversary Page every day for something new!