Sunday, June 12, 2011

Speedy Delivery?

Google Notifications just e-mailed me a link to something mentioning me (or actually, my LiveJournal name) that was posted in October of 2007.

Umm, thanks...? [eyeroll]

Seriously, though, I've gotten Google notifications that were weeks late, but this is just silly.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Anthology Markets

If you've just wandered in off the internet, hi and welcome. :) I do these posts every month, so if this post isn't dated in the same month you're in, click here to make sure you're seeing the most recent one.

Markets with specific deadlines are listed first, "Until Filled" markets are at the bottom. There are usually more details on the original site; always click through and read the full guidelines before submitting. Note that some publishers list multiple antho guidelines on one page, so after you click through you might have to scroll a bit.

Non-erotica/romance writers: check out The Mothman Files, Mirror Shards, Machine of Death, At Second Glance, Warrior Wisewoman, the Fish-Themed Fantasy Antho, Horror Library, Mortis Operandi and the Fantastic Stories Anthology.


30 June 2011 -- Taken By Force II -- ed. Christopher Pierce, STARbooks Press

Return to the cutting edge of danger and desire! In this second volume of Taken by Force: Erotic Stories of Abduction and Captivity, I am asking writers to delve even deeper into their dark imaginations and come back with their hottest stories of men kidnapping other men!

Have you ever wanted a guy so badly that you'd do anything to have him, including abducting him? Have you ever seen a big bruiser and wished he'd just tie you up, throw you over his shoulder and kidnap you away from your dull, boring life? Have you ever plotted revenge against a guy that rejected you and wanted to rip him out of his safe, comfortable world and into one where you call the shots and his very survival depends on you?

Let these scenarios stir your imagination and start writing!

All characters must be men (gay or straight) over 18 years old. Stories can be from the point-of-view of the kidnapper or the kidnapped. Stories can have any setting and be any genre (regular stroke fiction, bondage/SM, comedy, romantic, action/adventure, science fiction, fantasy, horror) so follow your imagination into your darkest and raunchiest fantasies…and be sure to bring your pen or your laptop!

Original work is preferred. There is no limit to the number of stories a single author can submit.

On the first page of your story include all contact information: Your name, your pen name (if using), your e-mail address, your physical address and your phone number. Also include a short bio.

Make sure your story has been edited and proofread. Stories that do not adhere to the guidelines will not be considered.

Send submissions as .doc files to: with TBF2 and your STORY TITLE in the subject line.

Write to me with any questions:


1 July 2011 -- The Mothman Files -- ed. Michael Knost, Woodland Press

Format: Trade Paperback.

Payment: five-cents per word (upon publication) plus contributor copy. No reprints.

Story length: Up to 3000 words. No multiple or simultaneous subs.

E-mail submissions to: themothmanfiles at yahoo dot com. We will accept .doc attachments only.

I am looking for fictional mothman stories. The setting is not limited to West Virginia or any other regional area known as mothman territory.

I want tales with a solid plot and good character development. Stories should grab the reader's attention quickly and hold it until the end. I want powerful and emotional tales that are creepy, chilling, disturbing, and moody.

Although stories will mainly target an adult/young adult audience, we DO NOT want stories containing language or content unsuitable for children.

Formatting your manuscript:

Double-space. Use Times New Roman (12). Italicize what you want italicized. Single space after sentence-ending punctuation.

Be sure to include your name, address, email on manuscript.


1 July 2011 -- The Touch of the Sea: Mermen & Selkies -- ed. Steve Berman, Lethe Press

"The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace." — Kate Chopin

For The Touch of the the Sea, Lethe Press is seeking fantastical stories that feature mermen or selkies, doomed sailors, underwater ruins, the taste of salt on the lips and in the blood.

Have an idea? Written such a tale? The book will be editing by multiple Lambda Literary Award finalist Steve Berman.

-- All submissions should feature gay male protagonists.
-- Stories should be between 1,500 and 10,000 words in length.
-- While some sexual situations are fine for inclusion, this is not an erotica anthology.

We have already accepted stories from such well-known writers as Jeff Mann and Adam Lowe.

Payment is 2 cents / word upon publication plus a contributor copy.

Email us at Stories should be sent as RTF files.


8 July 2011 -- Mirror Shards: Exploring the Edges of Augmented Reality -- ed. Thomas K. Carpenter, Black Moon Books

This anthology is a new yearly paying anthology that will be released by Black Moon Books early each fall as an eBook and POD.

Augmented reality holds the promise of great social change in both the near and far-flung futures. It’s also a wonderful medium for storytelling as information and graphics overlain eye-screens challenges the doors of perception and creates mixed-reality worlds to work and play. Black Moon Books is seeking stories between 3000 and 6000 words (soft edges) that utilize augmented reality as a way to explore the human condition. The stories can be set in any place, time, or genre, as long as the story cannot exist bereft of augmented reality. Feel free to explore the edges of the technology.

The anthology will pay from $0.02/word to $0.05/word. A few slots will be offered to established professionals, but at least one pro paying slot will be given through the slush pile (Gold Prize). Minimum payment per word will be $0.02 for all accepted slush stories. Rights I’ll ask for include exclusivity for 4 months, First Electronic & First English-Language Book Rights. One copy will be provided for each author in the anthology.

Stories should be emailed to mirrorshards2011 (at) blackmoonbooks (dot) com and should follow standard manuscript formatting (courier new, 12 point, double spaced, etc.) The file should be attached as an .doc or .rtf (not .docx). Multiple submissions are welcome, though your best bet is to pick your best story and send only that one.

A brief cover letter listing current publication credits would be helpful in the body of the email. If you have received an honorable mention or above in the Writers of the Future contest, please note that.

The submission period for the anthology will be from April 8, 2011 to July 8, 2011. Stories will be selected by July 20, 2011. Payment will be on acceptance and will be either mailed as a check or sent through PayPal. Publication date will be in the month of September. Accepted authors will also be required to provide a brief bio for the anthology. Authors are also encouraged to put their stories up online once the rights have reverted and will be requested (optional) to put a note in their stories linking back to the anthology to help each other (ie – if you liked this story, please check out other authors writing AR stories in...)

I will try to notify quickly for rejections. I will also notify authors of those stories I’m holding as a "maybe". The latest possible date for all notifications, acceptance or rejection, will be July 20, 2011.

For those that are interested in entering the anthology but have no experience with augmented reality, I suggest visiting the websites: Games Alfresco, The Future Digital Life, or reading the Hugo award winning Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge any books or short stories by Thomas K. Carpenter.


15 July 2011 -- Machine of Death 2 -- ed. Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo and David Malki

[Note: I'm making some assumptions here. North, Bennardo and Malki edited the first MOD antho. I didn't find anything on the site (with the caveat that I didn't feel like going through every single page) saying who was editing MOD 2, so I just put the three names from the first book on this one. If I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will correct me.

[The premise of the book is here, in the shaded box. Essenthially, there's a machine that can take a blood sample and tell you how you're going to die. It's not terribly precise, and doesn't give a date.]

Submissions will be accepted from May 1 – July 15, 2011. We expect to make our final selections by October 31, 2011.

We pay $200 (US) upon acceptance.

Stories can be any length, but we recommend a length of 1,500 – 7,500 words. We will almost certainly be printing stories longer or shorter than these limits, but we expect most stories in the book will fall into this range.

We buy the following rights:

-- World anthology rights in English and translation
-- Audio and ebook anthology rights
-- Film rights, with an additional bonus payout of $4,000 if your story is substantially used in any commercial movie or TV adaptation of Machine of Death

World anthology rights and audio/ebook anthology rights are specific to anthologies. These are non-exclusive licenses allowing us to use your story in an anthology only. Specifying “in translation” allows us to request that your work be included in any potential foreign editions as well.

You retain all other print rights. So you’re free to also sell your story to magazines, or websites, or podcasts, or as an individual short story (say, on Kindle), or in a collection of your own work, or even sell it to another anthology after our book has been out for a while. It’s your story, and you keep it — we just want to be the first to print it.

Film rights allow us to include your story in any conversations we have about adapting the general Machine of Death concept into a film or TV show. Buying the rights upfront means that if any producer is interested in an MoD movie, we can instantly say “Yes! Make it happen!” without unresolved rights issues scaring anybody off. (Plenty of movies don’t get made for lesser reasons.) We don’t know if there will ever be an MoD movie or show, but we’d love for there to be! And having the rights ready just in case increases the odds that it could actually happen.

Additionally, we expect to release a Creative Commons edition of the next book, just as we did with the first one. Most of the authors in the first book elected to release their stories under Creative Commons, but it’s not strictly required. If you have strong feeling about this either way, please let us know upfront so we can take it into account when reading your story.

We only accept email submissions. You can either paste your story into the body of your email message or send an attachment. If you are attaching, please use Microsoft Word (DOC), Rich Text Format (RTF), or Plain Text (TXT) formats only. Any word processor should be able to save a file as at least one of those formats. We’re not sticklers for things like double-spacing and paragraph indentation and point size. Just submit a file that is as readable as possible.

Send your story to submit at machineofdeath dot net. Please use the following subject line when submitting…

[MOD2] STORY TITLE – Your Name

So if your name is Sherwood Anderson and if your story is called “SWALLOWING A TOOTHPICK” then the subject line of your email should read…


This is in case we get two stories with the same title, so we can tell which one is yours. Please follow this format, so your submission does not get overlooked!

Next, in the body of your email, please include the following information…

• Title: The title of your story
• Pen name: How you would want your name to appear in print
• Word count: Approximately how many words are in your story

• Real name: Your real name (not a pseudonym or handle — this is the name that will go on the contract)
• Email address
• Phone number
• Short biography: This is optional, but we’d be happy to read a short paragraph or two about your previous writing experience, where you’re from, or any personal information that has a bearing on your story. No other cover letter is necessary.

All of this information is REQUIRED (except the short biography). Don’t ask us if you can omit one or more pieces of information because the answer is "NO". However, we won’t share any of your personal information with ANYBODY, and we will only use your contact information to tell you whether your story was accepted, and then once to tell you when the book is finished. We will always try to contact you via email first — the phone number will only be used if we need to get in touch with you and email isn’t working.

If your story is accepted we’ll ask you to confirm all your information, and you’ll also have the chance at that time to write a new short biography for publication in the book.

Finally, we ask that each writer submit no more than 3 stories. Please send only previously unpublished work, and no simultaneous submissions. Otherwise, have fun! We can’t wait to read all your stories!

[There's a LOT more on the web site; definitely click through on this one if you're interested.]


31 July 2011 -- At Second Glance: Gay City Anthology Vol. 4 -- ed. Eric Andrews-Katz & Vincent Kovar

Gay City’s Mission is to promote the health of gay/bisexual men and prevent HIV transmission by building community, fostering communication, and nurturing self-esteem. This year, our anthology series continues with volume 4: At Second Glance.

There are always at least two viewpoints of every story and yet, we usually only hear one side. In the tradition of WICKED, The Red Tent and The Mists of Avalon, a different perspective can provide an entirely different story than the commonly known tale; the other side of the looking glass, so to speak. You are encouraged to experiment with sexual and cultural norms, technology and historical events. Sensuality is fine, but please no erotica.

== How could gay influences have changed the outcome of the Russian revolution?
== Was Mrs. Anna really there to tutor the King of Siam’s children, or was she a lesbian secret agent?
== Did ‘Jack’ kill the giant out of self-defense, or was their relationship somehow more complex?

At Second Glance is seeking previously unpublished stories that tell a tale from another viewpoint. Either historical or fictional characters are acceptable and feel free to take creative liberties. Be serious, funny, romantic, scary… just be original and unique. Submissions are open to ALL genders and orientations but must appeal to a gay male audience. Multiple submissions accepted, but please let the editors know.

All submissions must be postmarked by July 31, 2011
No electronic submissions


Plotlines, time periods and settings are all up to you. Genres (such as steampunk, horror, science fiction, western…) are completely open, just please, no erotica.

== Word count: maximum 7K
== Double space, standard font in .doc, .rtf or compatible format.
== Include title, author’s name, and address on cover only.
== Title and page number must appear on all pages.
== Include a SASE.

Payment for accepted work includes two printed copies and $75 at time of publication. A $50.00 prize for Editor’s pick will be awarded in each category. Winners of Editor’s pick will be announced after the work is formally launched.

Send submissions to:

GC Anthologies
511 East Pike,
Seattle WA 98122-3617
For questions:


31 July 2011 -- Warrior Wisewoman 4 -- ed. Roby James, Norilana Press

Warrior Wisewoman is an annual anthology series of science fiction featuring powerful and remarkable women, edited by Roby James.

The first volume was published by Norilana Books in June 2008, the second volume in June 2009, and the third volume in August 2010.

The anthology was conceived as a sister volume to the classic Sword and Sorceress fantasy series originally edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, with the main difference being that the story themes will involve science fiction instead of fantasy, and they will be intended for a more mature audience, allowing a mixture of serious contemporary issues and reasonable sexual content (but no erotica) in addition to action and adventure. The stories will have a stronger focus on the interface between scientific exploration and our sense of wonder.

Editor Roby James says:

"I am looking for stories that shed light on the truth of what it means to be female, that illuminate the wisdom and the strength of a woman, but not in clich� 'goddess' stories. I love action and adventure, grand space opera, thrilling discovery, and intelligent protagonists. Make the story thoughtful, wise, and surprising. In addition, the stories in the anthology should appeal to genuine emotions, suspense, fear, sorrow, delight, wonder. The science can be part of the background and the characters foremost, or the science can be central to the story, as long as the characters are realistic and appealing. It is strongly recommended you read the previous volumes to get an idea of what kind of material we're looking for.

"This is science fiction, but I also welcome stories of spiritual exploration, looking at the bond between the scientific and the divine. I want to see how a woman survives tragedy and disaster, overcomes impossible odds, achieves her true potential, or goes on to thrive in a marvelous universe of so many possibilities, using what is inside her, as well as what she finds in the laboratory, the alien planet, or space itself.

"The stories should contain the question of 'what if' on some level. And they should have a woman answer it."

Read the editorial Introduction to Volume One.

Guidelines for Volume #4 of the Anthology:

RIGHTS PURCHASED: First English Language Rights and non-exclusive electronic rights. The anthology will be published by Norilana Books in a trade paperback edition in June 2012, to be followed by an electronic edition to be produced later.
PAYMENT: $0.02 a word on acceptance, and a pro rata share of royalties, plus a contributor copy.
WORD LENGTH: Up to 10,000 words, with longer stories having to be exceptional.
DEADLINE: July 31, 2011.
HOW TO SUBMIT: Submissions are electronic only. Please submit your story as a Word (.doc or .rtf) attachment to your e-mail. The subject line of your e-mail should say "Submission: Story Title, last name of author." Also, include a brief cover letter. It should have your full name, address, e-mail address, title of story, number of words, and brief biographical information in case we don't know you, with most recent publishing credits, if applicable. We are open to new writers and seasoned veterans alike.
EDITORIAL ADDRESS: roby dot james at comcast dot net

We look forward to reading your most inspired work.


31 August 2011 -- To-Be-Named Fish-Themed Fantasy Anthology -- Dagan Books

Our next open anthology will begin accepting submissions on June 1, 2011, and we will take stories until August 30, 2011. The theme of this anthology is “Fish”. We want your mythic adventures and modern retellings. We want Dagan, not of Lovecraft but of the Phillistines. We want Ku-ula, of Hawaii, and Hatmehyt, and Nereus with his bounty. We want magic koi in ancient ponds and the street shaman with his fishy avatar, stalking the streets in some odd future. We want sharks, hunting far out at sea. We want carnival goldfish with short-lived secrets.

Send us something beautiful.

Submit stories of up to 4,000 words (flash of under 1000 is also encouraged) to:

Stories must be sent as a .doc attachment. Do not double space after the end of sentences. Do use paragraphs and tab indents. Do not add an extra line after each paragraph.

Subject heading must have: [FISH] Story Title, Author Last Name

This project pays 1 cent per word plus 1% royalty, paid quarterly, for the first two years of the book’s life.

Cover art by Galen Dara will be available June 1, 2011.


1 September 2011 -- Super Hero Anthology -- ed. Hailey Edwards, Samhain Publishing

It’s up, up and away we go, to a world of superheroes and supervillains, where heroes and/or heroines with special abilities and crime-fighting prowess protect the public…and fall in love.

I’m very happy to announce an open call for submissions for a new, yet-to-be-titled spring 2012 superhero romance anthology. For more information on what I’m looking for when I ask for superhero stories, check out these entries on wikipedia.

I’m open to M/F, M/M, F/F, or multiples thereof, any sexual heat level, and the romance must end happily ever after or happy for now.

The novellas must range between 25,000 to 30,000 words in length, no more, no less—please note, only manuscripts that fall in this word count will be considered for this anthology—and will be released individually as ebooks in spring 2012 and in print approximately one year later.

Submissions are open to all authors, published with Samhain or aspiring to be published with Samhain. All submissions must be new material—previously published submissions will not be considered. Additionally, manuscripts previously submitted, whether individually or for past anthologies, will not be considered either. Be aware that manuscripts submitted to this anthology cannot be resubmitted at a later date unless by invitation from an editor.

Please note: fanfiction of popular, trademarked and copyrighted superheroes will not be considered. Only original works please.

To submit a manuscript for consideration, please include:

The full manuscript (of 25,000 to 30,000 words) with a comprehensive 2-5 page synopsis. Also include a letter of introduction/query letter. Full manuscripts are required for this as it is a special project.

As well, when you send your manuscript, be sure to use the naming convention Superhero_Title_MS and Superhero_Title_Synopsis. This will ensure that your submission doesn’t get missed in the many submissions we receive, and makes it easy for me to find in my e-reader.

Submissions are open until September 1, 2011. No submissions will be accepted after this date—no exceptions. A final decision will be made by October 1, 2011. Send your submission to and include Superhero Anthology in the subject line. Questions and queries can be addressed to Sasha Knight ( though do your due diligence and read this anthology call completely and check the Samhain Submission FAQ page before emailing.


UNTIL FILLED -- Horror Library, Vol. 5 -- Cutting Block Press

Cutting Block Press is pleased to announce an open submissions period for the 4th Volume of its Horror Anthology Series, +Horror Library+, to be published in trade paperback during 2011.

We're looking for the highest quality examples of all forms of Dark Fiction, running the gamut from traditional horror, supernatural, speculative, psychological thriller, dark satire, including every point between and especially beyond. No Fantasy or Sci-fi unless the horror elements are dominant. Read +Horror Library+ Volumes 1-3 to see what's already pleased us. Special consideration will be given those pieces that we find profoundly disturbing, though blood and violence on their own won't cut it. While we will consider tales of vampires, ghosts and zombies, we tend to roll our eyes at ordinary ones. They're just too plentiful. Your best bet is to surprise us with something that is different, while well conceived and tightly executed.

Guidelines: Stories will range between 1,000 and 6,000 words, though we'll look at longer works of exceptional merit. In that case, query before submission. Buying 1st worldwide anthology rights. No reprints. Paying 1.5 cents per word, plus one contributors copy. For established authors, rates may be negotiable. Response time: six months or sooner. Deadline: We will accept submissions until filled. All Queries to

Manuscript format: 12 point courier font, standard margins, left side of header: name, contact info, right side of header: word count, top of first page: title, author

Variances from traditional manuscript format: single space, NO INDENTS, ONE EXTRA space between paragraphs, use bold, italics and underline as they are to appear in story

Subject box: Short Story submission - title of story

Attach story in MS Word Document or RTF (only). Please paste your cover letter in the body of the e-mail. Send submissions to

[See the web page for a special offer on copies of Horror Library Vol. 1 for writers doing market research.]


UNTIL FILLED -- Mortis Operandi -- ed. Kfir Luzzatto and Dru Pagliassotti, The Harrow Press

MORTIS OPERANDI is looking for stories that revolve around the investigation of a crime and in which the supernatural plays a central role. While we’re expecting a fair share of murders, we strongly encourage stories that revolve around OTHER kinds of crime — for example, arson, assault, blackmail, bullying, burglary, dowry death, embezzlement, fraud, kidnapping, larceny, libel, piracy, product liability, slavery, smuggling, terrorism, treason, and toxic pollution are all fair game.

By "supernatural" we mean magic, monsters, and/or miracles, but we don’t consider psychic abilities (although the inclusion of a minor character possessing them will not in itself disqualify a story), extraterrestrial life, or UFOs to be supernatural.

Types of stories may include whodunits, police procedurals, hardboiled fiction, and courtroom dramas. All genres and treatments are welcome, including ecclesiastic, fantasy, humor, horror, historical, military, romance, and parody. Settings outside the U.S. and U.K. are welcome. Settings on other worlds aren’t.

We want well-written stories that demonstrate originality of concept and plot. Zombies, vampires, and werewolves will be a hard sell, and romantically inclined vampires will be staked on sight. Think outside of the coffin.

Stories will be judged exclusively on the basis of their literary merit; a history of prior publication is not necessary.

Get more information about our thoughts on this antho at Market Scoop.
Submissions & Queries: anthology [[ at ]]
==No simultaneous submissions. One submission at a time.
==Please attach your stories to your email in Microsoft Word, RTF, or text-only format. Stories pasted in the body of an email will not be read.
==Please include the words “Submission: Mortis Operandi” in the Subject line of your e-mail.
Length: 3,000-6,000 words. Please include an approximate word count in your e-mail submission.
Reprints: No
Language: English
Payment: US $50/story, upon publication, and a free copy of the book
Rights: Exclusive English anthology print and electronic (e-book) rights. Please read our Sample Contract (pdf) for full details.
Submission period: Opens 1.1.11 -- Closes when filled.
Publication Date: 2012


UNTIL FILLED -- Fantastic Stories Anthology -- ed. Warren Lapine, Wilder Publications

Fantastic Stories of the Imagination is a yearly anthology. Edited by Warren Lapine, Wilder Publications Box 10641, Blacksburg, VA 24063

I’m looking for stories that cover the entire science fiction, fantasy, and horror spectrum. I love magic realism (think Tim Powers and Neil Gaiman) and hard sf. I want a story to surprise me and to take me to unexpected places. I love word play, and would like to see stories with a literary bent, though decidedly not a pretentious bent. I could spend some time telling you what I don’t want, but I’ve found that good stories can make me buy them regardless of how many of my rules they violate. Let your imagination run wild, push and blur the limits of genre, or send me something traditional. I want it to see it all. My experience as an editor tells me that over time I’ll develop preferences and that the anthology will take on its own personality. When that happens I’ll change the guidelines to be more specific, but for now I’m going to explore what’s out there before I decide what direction to go in.

Payment: 10 cents per word on acceptance for original stories (maximum of $250.00) or 2 cents per word for reprints (maximum of $100.00). A check will accompany the contract so no simultaneous submissions please. I am purchasing First English Language Book Rights and non-exclusive electronic rights.

Story length, I have no limit on story length but the longer the story is the better it will have to be.

Sorry no e-mail submissions. Why is this? Don’t you know that e-mail submissions is the future? Yes I do know that, but it’s not the way I want to do this. For me the best part of being an editor is having people over to have slush parties and interacting with them during the reading process. Editing on a screen is a thing devoid of fun or joy, I edit for the fun and joy of it.

[Note: definitely click through on this one; there's some very useful info in the comments.]

Monday, June 6, 2011

May Stuff

Zoned on this earlier in the month. [duck]

6 Submissions = 6pts
7820 words written = 2pts (Arrgh!)
TOTAL = 8 points

Koala 8

Bother, I missed Approved for the first time this year, and by 180 freaking words! At least the amount I missed another point by was in the triple digits this month. :P

Still not happy with my writing totals, but I have a couple of stories I'm fairly close to finishing, around attempts to flog Paul and Rory back to work.

Jim and I only travel a few times a year, but two of them were in May this year -- the cruise early in the month, and BayCon at the end. I spent a few hours very early Memorial Day morning in an ER in San Jose (or maybe Santa Clara, I honestly wasn't paying that much attention), having gotten sick again about 2.5 days after the flight down there. This has been happening pretty much every time we fly somewhere for almost a year now, and I've been coming up with all sorts of theories about what might be going on, none of which have suggested solutions. The ER doctor watched me staying rock-still while he talked to me and examined me, holding on to the bed rails and keeping my head perfectly still. I'd been sick since about 3am and moving makes nausea worse, even just turning my head. I told him about the travel thing, and he thinks it's the pressure changes in flying, that something is going squirrely in my inner ear during descent, and 2-3 days later it goes sproing! and I get a nasty case of positional vertigo, with massive nausea. I got some good drugs in my IV and was fine in the cab on the way back to the hotel. He gave me a prescription for what turned out to be generic bonine.

This is pretty awesome. If he's right about what the problem is, and if the bonine works, then I'm basically cured. We're going to WorldCon in Reno in August, and I'll take the bonine for five days or so after the flight out. If I don't get sick, then I'll be celebrating; bonine is cheap and OTC, so if that works then the problem is fixed, yay. Keeping a set of virtual fingers crossed for that one.

I can't believe it's June! It's still cold up in Seattle! :(

Angie, still in sweatpants

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Go Home Depot!

People for the American Way reports that the American Family Association has been campaigning against Home Depot for months because the company supports GLBT rights by sponsoring pride events. The ultra-conservative AFA can't stand the thought of GLBT people having the same rights as everyone else, or being able to live their lives free of harassment. PFAW reported on 2 June:

Today, the AFA's Executive Vice President, Buddy Smith, traveled to a Home Deport board meeting to present the company with a petition bearing nearly a half-million names of those who have vowed to stop shopping at Home Deport stores until the company decides to "remain neutral in the culture war."

Rather than caving, though, Frank Blake -- the Chairman of Home Depot -- apparently told Mr. Smith where to go and what to do with his petition when he got there. All right, he was probably more polite than that, but I can't help imagining. :) Check out this video to see Mr. Smith gravely reporting his failure to Bryan Fischer.

I love the bit in the video where Mr. Smith claims that they're persecuting GLBT people "because we love our neighbors." Umm, right. All their neighbors except the gay ones. But they're going to hell, so who cares about them anyway? [sigh]

I do hope, though, that other companies learn from Home Depot's example that businesses don't have to cave under the pressures of ultra-conservative hatred and bigotry.

And a note on the concept of "remaining neutral in the culture war." Bishop Desmond Tutu said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." I think he was dead on target there. When a marginalized group is being oppressed by a group with more power, there's no such thing as neutrality. If you're not on the side of the oppressed, then you support the oppressor by doing nothing. The American Family Association is hoping that most of the people and companies in this country will be "neutral" in conflicts like this, because that neutrality is a win for their side. Support Home Depot in not being neutral.

Thanks to BoingBoing for the link.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Characters, Relationships and Social Objects

One of the main complaints that go around about romances is that the reader doesn't buy into the relationship. People complain about "instalove," basically a modern term for Love At First Sight, which -- if you step out of the romance-glow and think about it -- really doesn't make any sense at all. Lust at first sight, sure. Infatuation (which feels exactly like love from the inside) at first sight, sure. But not actual love. Too many romance writers show their characters having boatloads of awesome sex and figure that's enough to communicate to the reader that they're In Love, but it doesn't actually work very well.

This applies to other kinds of relationships too. If your characters are friends, the reader wants to know why. What's the friendship based on? What holds it together? When these family members get together, do they really enjoy one another's company, or is it just duty visits and birthday cards?

Hugh MacLeod, a well-known cartoonist I'd never heard of before (thanks to Passive Guy for linking to him) talks a lot about social objects, the things (physical or conceptual or whatever) that link people together socially.

He says:

The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if [you] think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that "node" in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.

He goes on to give some examples:

Example A. You and your friend, Joe like to go bowling every Tuesday. The bowling is the Social Object.

Example B. You and your friend, Lee are huge Star Wars fans. You two invariably geek out about Darth Vader and X-Wing fighters every time you meet. Star Wars is the Social Object.

Example C. You’ve popped into your local bar for a drink after work. At the bar there’s some random dude, sending a text on this neat-looking cellphone. So you go up to him and ask him about the phone. The random dude just LOVES his new phone, so has no trouble with telling a stranger about his new phone for hours on end. Next thing you know, you two are hitting it off and you offer to buy him a beer. You spend the rest of the next hour geeking out about the new phone, till it’s time for you to leave and go meet your wife for dinner. The cellphone was the social object.

There are more, but you get the idea.

Hugh's mainly talking about social objects in the context of marketing, but I think they apply to characterization too. What are your protag's favorite social objects? What topic or thing will draw him or her into a discussion or activity, will make another person seem interesting or worth engaging, whether they agree or are having a good argument or are arch rivals? The subject of their interaction, whether it's something they like to geek out over, something they both support, or something they fight over bitterly, is a social object.

I've seen plenty of characters who don't seem to have many social objects, which can be particularly problematic if relationships (friendly, family, romance, business, whatever) are important to the story. (This means all romance books; the primaries in a romantic relationship had better have a few social objects in common -- aside from great boinking -- by the end of the story or there are plenty of readers who aren't going to believe in their HEA.)

Say Joe and Bob meet in college. They bond over their mutual hatred for the head of the French department, whose hard-ass views and rules, which she forces upon all the French teachers*, make it a lot harder for students to succeed. Joe and Bob also have a favorite eat/study table they share in the campus center, and they're both discus throwers on the college's track team. They're best buddies, yay.

What do they do after they graduate? The French department is now irrelevant, they're not eating or studying at their favorite table anymore (and don't have studying or assignments to collaborate on or help each other with), and discus isn't exactly a popular passtime for people who aren't active on competitive teams. What social objects do they share now? If the author's answer is "...?" then pretty soon it won't be believable that Joe and Bob have remained friends. I just started thinking about relationships in these terms, but it seems to me that a lack of social objects in common is probably one of the main reasons people who used to be close drift away and their friendship fades.

Ever notice how seldom you stay in touch with your old coworkers when you leave a job? That's a lack of social objects. If all you ever talked about was work related -- if "work and associated subjects" was your only social object in common -- then once you no longer work at the same place, you don't have any social objects to anchor your conversations and interests anymore.

Shared past experiences can be social objects -- that's often most of the glue that holds family members together despite different interests -- but it doesn't hold up under daily use. It's easy to anchor two or three conversations per year on twenty years' worth of shared experiences, but if you and your brother see each other once a week, you're both going to get tired of the repetition after a while, unless you have other things in common.

My brother and I visit two to four times a year, and talk on the phone maybe half a dozen times. We share news about our relationships, talk about working out (which he does a lot more than I do), he talks about his job and I talk about my writing, and we both talk about our mother. For a dozen or so conversations per year, we have enough social objects that hold both our interest. (Note that "our non-similar occupations" are a sort of reciprocal pair of social objects -- I'm not that interested in retail management and he's probably not that interested in writing and publishing, but up to a certain point each of us is interested in what the other is doing, because it's a brother/sister thing. That wouldn't work for a weekly or daily conversation, but for our level of communication we're both willing to swap listening time. There probably is (or if not, there should be) a special social object term for that kind of reciprocity between people who care about one another enough to be interested in Object X in a limited way only because it's an interest of the other person. [ponder]

But your characters who are best buddies from college need strong social objects in common post-graduation if they're going to believably be best buddies in the now of your story, ten or fifteen or twenty years later. They can only rehash college so many times before they're going to bore one another to death. And your romantic couple who got together while fleeing a deadly ninja mercenary squad who'd been hired to kill a pair of drug dealers who'd run off with their supplier's money, and for whom the ninjas (or possibly the supplier) mistook your couple are going to need some significant social objects to keep them together once the excitement of dodging death is over and done with. (And no, great boinking is not enough. Even reminiscing about that awesome time they did some really great boinking while hanging by their knees from the rafters of an abandoned warehouse, struggling to stay silent while the ninja hit squad searched for them forty feet below, isn't going to take them to their 20th anniversary, despite the fact that it's probably a pretty incredible memory. [cough])

Figuring out each major character's favorite social objects, and exactly which ones they have in common with their friends or others they're close to, and maybe which new ones they're going to be drawn to during the course of the story, sounds like a great exercise for establishing how each pair of characters connects with one another and what maintains their relationship, whatever it might be.


*Seriously, I only took one French class in college because the department head was an idiot and a martinet. She chose a textbook all the first-year classes had to use that emphasized memorizing dialogues over actually learning grammar, and refused to let the French teachers let the students keep corrected exam papers. Graded exams were passed out, students could ask questions, then the teacher collected and kept them. Everyone gets that language is cumulative, and that you might want to study previous exams when prepping for the next one, but the only way students could do that at my school was to go into their teacher's office during office hours and study there. Ummm, yeah. :/ I took one quarter of French and then ditched it, because the learning environment was ridiculous. [sigh]

Note, however, that I'm no longer in contact with any of my fellow students who hated it as much as I did. :P