Archive for July, 2009

Flailing Snobs, Offended Racists, and Some Really Cool People Ending Hunger

Friday, July 31st, 2009

A quick compilation post because I have a story due tomorrow and a few thousand more words to go on it.

Rich Snobs in New York Blocking Children’s Library Expansion

My husband sent me a link to this article in School Library Journal.

Library Director Dennis Fabiszak has said that the East Hampton Village Board of Zoning Appeals has expressed concern that an expanded children’s collection would lead to more library usage by those who live in the less affluent areas of Springs and Wainscott.

East Hampton Village is a posh area where a lot of rich people (like Martha Stewart, Katie Couric, Rudolph Giuliani) have summer homes. Certain residents are objecting to a 6800-square-foot expansion to the children’s area (which last year was ranked last in available books per child, although the article doesn’t say whether that was last in the state or the nation or what) for which private funds — four million dollars — have already been raised. The expansion will add ten thousand children’s books to the library to go with all that floor space, and most libraries would be delighted with the project.

In fact, the library is delighted with it, and wishes they could get on with the implementation.

The problem is apparently that “The library serves not only the Village of East Hampton but also the less affluent communities of Springs and Wainscott.” Ahh, there’s the rub. Some of the locals (just enough, apparently) object to the expansion because one never knows what sort of child would come in to use the library if they actually acquired a decent children’s collection.

I haven’t done any demographic research on these areas (see above for time crunch) but I doubt very strongly that the people of Springs and Wainscott are, like, horribly poor or anything. One doesn’t generally build a fashionable community for wealthy people’s second (or third or fourth) homes right next to a slum. So my guess is that Springs and Wainscott are probably middle class. If anyone knows otherwise, please drop a note and I’ll post a correction, but seriously, I doubt any of the people who live near enough to East Hampton to send their kids to its library are getting government cheese, you know?

Which means that the people objecting to the expansion are horrified at the thought of having to pass actual Middle Class People in the halls of their public library. The horrors! O_O One has to wonder, if they’ll fight this hard to keep children who aren’t actually rich out of their library, just how much empathy or compassion these people have for those who are actually poor.


Racists Criticized For Racist Remarks Cry Censorship

No, really. Jim Hines posted a thoughtful, down-to-earth entry about freedom of speech and censorship and the consequences of being a jerkwad, in response to this open letter on the Carl Brandon Society site, which went up in response to this series of posts/incidents and particularly the third one. The original incident is over and done, since someone explained to Mr. Ellison that he’d been misled and he apologized (sort of) and Ms. Bradford accepted (see the fourth link) but the basic principle being discussed applies to any discussion and Mr. Hines discussed it in a more general context. The core of his point:

* People disagreeing with you is not censorship.
* People stating that they don’t like your cover art and think its racist, sexist, or whatever, is not censorship.
* People banning you from their blogs is not censorship.
* For the writers out there, an editor rejecting your story for his/her publication is not censorship.
* People saying they don’t like something you said is not censorship.
* People telling you racial slurs are unacceptable is not censorship.
* People criticising, mocking, or insulting you for choosing to use racial slurs is not censorship.

Also this: Freedom of speech does not protect you from the consequences of saying stupid shit.

Amen.


And to wrap on a positive note:

Brazilian City of Belo Horizonte Ends Hunger with a System That’s Working

This Yes! Magazine article describes a system in which the government, the farmers and the citizens of the city all work together to end hunger, and all benefit. Usually programs to end hunger end up messing someone over. You can only live on government cheese and civil defense crackers for so long before the nutritional deficiencies become clear, and hunger programs based on government hand-outs both diminish the dignity of the beneficiaries and become an ever-greater burden on the taxpayer. Producers are often abused for the benefit of the poor, which drives the former producers into poverty themselves.

Belo Horizonte has figured out a way of making their program work for everyone, though. The poor have access to fresh produce at a reduced price, and the farmers are making more money selling their produce direct to the customers.

A farmer in a cheerful green smock, emblazoned with “Direct from the Countryside,” grinned as she told us, “I am able to support three children from my five acres now. Since I got this contract with the city, I’ve even been able to buy a truck.”

The improved prospects of these Belo farmers were remarkable considering that, as these programs were getting underway, farmers in the country as a whole saw their incomes drop by almost half.

One of the prime gauges of hunger in a population is the infant mortality statistics.

In just a decade Belo Horizonte cut its infant death rate—widely used as evidence of hunger—by more than half, and today these initiatives benefit almost 40 percent of the city’s 2.5 million population. One six-month period in 1999 saw infant malnutrition in a sample group reduced by 50 percent. And between 1993 and 2002 Belo Horizonte was the only locality in which consumption of fruits and vegetables went up.

Sounds to me like it’s working. Major kudos to the people and government of Belo Horizonte.

There’s more — definitely read the article. They’ve got something here; it’d be great to see it spread to other areas.

Angie

Pirate Humor, and a Challenge

Monday, July 27th, 2009

The funny first. I was checking hits on my blog and I saw that someone was querying Google for “chasing fire by angela benedetti torrent” recently. Yay, someone else looking to steal one of my stories.

Except I’ve never published a story called “Chasing Fire.” :) Nor even written one. And when I checked, it doesn’t seem there’s anyone else named “Angela Benedetti” who’s written a story by that name either. (Although there are a couple others of us; one’s a meteorologist who publishes a lot of scholarly papers, and the other is a lady who works with children in Bogotá. So far as I know, neither one writes fiction.)

So it looks like this is one confused pirate. :D Not that I’m complaining or anything — confused pirates are the best kind. Hey, dude? If you can find a torrent copy of a story by me called “Chasing Fire,” go for it, with my blessing. [wave]

Moving on to the subject of slightly more competent pirates, someone finally did find a copy of “Learning to Love Yourself” and got it up on a torrent site back around the end of June. I sent a takedown note and, credit where it’s due, the site took it down. It was up for however many days, though, and a bunch of people got free copies.

It’s been argued at many times and in many places that piracy of this sort actually benefits the creative producer. That people who’d never have tried my work if they’d had to pay for it right off will instead download a pirated copy, and some significant number will like it and, being essentially good people, will then go and buy a legitimate copy. They might even buy more of my work, once they’ve tried my fiction and become fans. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the case with the person who made the original request for a free copy of “Learning,” judging by his/her comments in the request thread, but supposedly most of the people who use these sites are not actually selfish, entitled thieves, contrary to all appearances.

All right, fine — let’s test that.

Since the pirate copy was made available in late June, that’s too late for any Pirate Bonus Sales to show up in my upcoming royalty statement, but about three months from now I’ll be getting another one, covering sales in July through September. Surely that length of time is enough for most people to read a short story (about 3300 words), decide to buy a copy, and scrape together $1.29.

If my third quarter royalty statement shows a significant spike in purchases of “Learning to Love Yourself” — not necessarily a huge flood of sales, but a clearly noticeable increase over prior sales trends — then fine, I’ll assume that there is some significant number of ethical people who prefer to try before they buy, but who do buy, and that the net result of the torrent upload was a gain for me. “Learning” hasn’t been reviewed recently or anything like that, so there’s no obvious other source of sales stimulus right now; I’m willing to credit it to torrent people, if it occurs.

[Caveat: if "Learning" is reviewed within the next couple of months, or if irony strikes and this challenge is publicized all over the web, that would clearly taint the experiment with multiple sources of attention for the story, and it'll be impossible to sort out what caused any given number of sales. If the situation remains as it is now, though, then I'll assume extra sales are to people who downloaded the torrent copy.]

So there you go. To BUGCHICKLV and associates: if you’ve read a stolen copy of my story, this is your chance to prove to the world (or at least to me) that you’re not just a bunch of thieves. If I see that spike in the sales numbers, then I’ll admit that all the pirate apologists who make the “But letting people read for free results in more sales!” argument are right, and I’ll shut up about the issue. I’ll let my publisher go after pirates and torrent copies if they want, but I’ll personally leave it alone. Fair enough?

I think it’s more than fair, myself.

So, let’s see what happens. I’ll check back in on this subject when my third quarter royalty statement comes in, in late October or early November, and then we’ll find out whether piracy is actually “to the writer’s benefit” in the long run, or whether that claim is just a bunch of thieves whining and making excuses.

Angie

Workshop — Queues

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

I was replying to a comment by Charles on my last post (about the Critique Circle workshop site) and mentioned the queue system. I got into explaining how it all works, but thought others might be interested too.

Stories or chapters you want critiqued get posted to a queue. Each queue is a list of pieces up for critique. How many pieces get put into the new week’s “current” queue depends on a formula based on how many pieces are waiting and how many critiques that queue got last week; the idea is to keep things balanced so pieces move up reasonably fast, but without flooding the current queue so much that the number of critiques per story goes way down.

There are current queues (the pieces up for critique this week) which show when you go right to the queue page; upcoming queues, which is the list of pieces waiting to move into a future current queue; and older queues, which are the archives. The set of public queues include the Newbie Queue, where every new person has to post their first story or chapter, plus a list of genre queues — General, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Women’s/Romance/Chick-Lit, Children’s/YA, Mystery/Suspense/Horror and Erotica.

If you post one of your stories to a queue, the soonest it’ll come up is the next critiquing week, and it might take two or three. You can help it along by doing more critiques on the current stories in that queue, nudging the formula to let more stories out next week, giving yours a better shot at moving up. Your story in particular doesn’t move because you’re critiquing personally, but anyone doing a lot of critiques will make more slots in that queue available next week.

You can also spend more credits (which you accumulate by critiquing) to move your story up, but it takes quite a lot. I was reading the forum and people were talking about spending like 15 or 18 credits to bump their story up to the top of the list, when it only costs 3 to dump it in at the end of the list. I haven’t seen anyone complaining that people who bump their stories are keeping others from progressing normally, though, so I guess they have some sort of mechanism to prevent that.

There are also private queues, which are owned by individuals and are invite-only. A private queue can either let only the owner post and invited members critique, or it can let every member both post and critique. This lets people set up a chosen group of friends to critique their novel or whatever, or a smaller closed workshop group. Members of a private queue can also post to and critique on the public queues, and you can be a member of as many private queues as you want.

I’m probably missing some subtleties or refinements, but I’m pretty sure this is the basics. :)

Angie

Workshop

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

I’ve been missing critiquing recently, so when Stacia Kane mentioned a couple of sites online the other day — one a service to help find crit partners and the other an actual workshop — I checked them out and ended up joining Critique Circle.

It’s only been about a day and a half since I joined, but so far it’s working out well.

The one thing I really liked when I was checking it out was the way it’s organized. You submit a story or a novel chapter to a queue to be critiqued, and a set of stories and chapters becomes available in each queue to be critiqued for a week as currently up for review. (There are also archives where you can choose to critique an older story, or just read to catch up if there’s an interesting Chapter 5 up in the current queue.) You look through what’s up, pick one and write a critique.

There’s no obligation to critique certain stories, or certain people’s stories (although as I look around, there does seem to be some social expectation to give a critique to someone who’s critiqued you, but it’s not a requirement); you can do however many of whichever stories grab you. I’ve always had a hard time in workshops where you’re grouped with four or five people and everyone in the group critiques everyone else’s stories. Inevitably there are stories I’m just not into, and I’m not enthusiastic enough about the some aspect to really enjoy putting three or four or eight hours into dissecting it and making notes on all the parts. Or someone in the group is just not a great writer, but gets offended at criticism, etc. I like being able to choose what I critique. That’s how the RomEx workshop back on GEnie worked, and it was excellent; it’s sort of been my gold standard for workshops ever since, and Critique Circle seems to be hitting it.

I’ve done one critique so far for CC (although it hasn’t been released yet — newbies’ first critiques have to be reviewed by a staffer, which makes sense) and it came out at a little over 7K words, for a story (actually half a story) a little over 3K words. That’s always been fairly standard for me, unless I’m critiquing one of those rare writers whose manuscript is just that clean, which has only happened once or twice. I did an inline critique, where you leave comments under specific paragraphs so it’s very clear to the writer exactly what bit you’re talking about; there are also blocks before and after the story for leaving more general comments. I started the critique in the afternoon, left off when my husband came home (leaving the critique screen up on my computer), then finished the next day. The system logged me off at some point while I was AFK, and when I sat down again and started working, I got a message that the auto-save (which kicks in like every minute) had failed and that I needed to log in. It did not blank the screen, take me to a log-in window, or lose the typing I’d done in the previous minute; I was able to open a new window, log in there, then go back to the critique window and keep working. This is a brilliant system and every site where you have to be logged in to do any kind of work (even if it’s just typing a forum post) should work this way.

CC works on a credit system, where you need a certain number of earned credits (although they start you out with two when you join) to post a story or chapter, and you earn credits by critiquing. Depending on the length of the story you critique and the length of your critique, you can earn between .5 and 1.5 credits for a critique. It takes three credits to post, and more to post another if you already have one in the queue, so the system requires people to critique more than they post. As it works out, looking at the older queues, stories seem to get an average of about half a dozen critiques each, which is pretty awesome. I’ve seen a few that only got two or three (which would still be pretty good for most workshops, not counting the you-WILL-critique-everyone groups; I’ve been in some that only promised one, and sometimes only delivered one) and quite a few have gotten ten or more.

I have to say, though, that most of the critiques are incredibly short. I’ve browsed through some of the archives and for the most part the comments are specific and useful, but still, the average critique length seems to be about four or five hundred words, which…. Well, yeah. Still, if you get six or eight of them, that adds up to quite a lot of feedback.

One thing I’m not crazy about is that the site uses a wierd, square-bracket-based markup system I’ve only seen on one other forum. I’ve gotten used to it for forum posts, but in order to take full advantage of the site features (like getting in-line comments on your story) you need to use this system for your posted stories too. :/ I posted the first chapter of my urban fantasy novel to the workshop yesterday and went through changing the italic text to use [i]italic[/i] markup. There were only a few instances so it wasn’t unbearably annoying, but not for the first time I’m wondering who came up with this system and why they decided they just had to invent something different when HTML is around and most people online know at least the simplest basics, like italics. [sigh] And for a serious writing workshop, editors don’t want the HTML either, much less some odd forum system, so even if they didn’t make you learn something new, you’d still have to go in and change all your mark-ups to post. I’m hoping there’s actually a technical reason why we can’t paste text with inherent italics in, because it’s definitely inconvenient to have to convert everything for posting. Ideally, the workshop should accept the format that editors want to see too, so manuscripts files can go straight back and forth.

There are some neat side features on the site too, though, like a tracking system for your submissions (to markets, not the workshop), a name generator, a reminder system that lets you set up alerts for whatever you want, and a manuscript progress tool, among others. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but it’s cool that the site has a lot of little extras like that; it’ll be fun to poke around and see what’s here and how things work.

At this point I’m generally happy with the site. Everyone I’ve interacted with has been very friendly and helpful. This feels like a good place and I’m looking forward to being here for a long while.

Angie

Prescription Wierdness

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

So I was trying to get a couple of prescriptions refilled yesterday. I called the number on the bottle and it rang and rang and rang and rang, and cetera. Okay, that’s weird. I hung up, waited a couple of hours and tried again. Same thing. :/

I tried again today and got the “The number you have dialed has been disconnected…” message. o_O I’m wondering if the CVS store is, like, a smoking crater or something. No clue, nothing in the news about it.

I e-mailed my husband to ask what to do (since he picks up my prescriptions on his way home from work, I let him choose where to get them filled) and he sent me a phone number and URL for RiteAid. Coolness. I poked around on the web site and saw they even have a current coupon for two $25 gift cards if you transfer two prescriptions. Bonus! My prescripts are generic and only cost us about $10 each, so we’ll even make some money on the deal. I got that all set up, getting their cross-streets just to make sure I wasn’t calling a store in Whittier or something by mistake. I e-mailed my husband back, telling him everything was cool, sent him the URL for the coupon in case he hadn’t seen it, and gave him the cross streets.

Husband e-mailed back again. It turns out that wasn’t the store he thought it was. [headdesk] It’s local, but it’s not the one he was thinking of, which is right on the bus line he takes home. This one’s four blocks off, and then back, which isn’t quite as convenient. I don’t know if there’s anything else that’s more convenient, besides the store with the disconnected phone, but anyway. :/

I’m still wondering what happened to the CVS, though. I looked them up online and the phone number for that store is still the one I called — the one that doesn’t work. Google Maps Satellite view isn’t showing a smoking crater, but then, maybe it just hasn’t updated recently enough. [bemused smile] No idea. All I know is that I need my prescriptions and their phone’s been disconnected, so there you go.

Angie

Raffle!

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Today and tomorrow, PD Singer, Mara Ismine and I are taking over the Torquere Social community on LiveJournal to celebrate the release of our mini anthology, Walk the Plank. A number of the posts — well, most of them so far — are marked PIRATE RAFFLE in their titles. If you comment on those posts and participate in whatever activities we’ve got going there, you’ll be entered into the drawing for one of three free copies of the anthology. For each post you participate in, you’ll get one chit in the hat; hang out with us both days and you could really stuff the raffle. :)

The first Pirate Post is here, with Mara on watch alone for a while ’cause she’s in England. I chime in here with a story from my misspent youth [cough] and an invitation for others to share, for a raffle entry.

We’ll be around all day today, and tomorrow through midnight Eastern or so. Come hang with us, have fun, and enter to win one of the free anthos!

Angie

Release — Boarding Action

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I just had a new story released, “Boarding Action,” in the pirate themed anthology Walk the Plank.

Walk the Plank is a Taste Test, a short anthology with three stories all on a theme. Short stories sold alone cost $1.29; Taste Tests have three and sell for $2.49, so it’s a little better than getting one free. :)

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Cam and his friends plan a pirate themed prank to play on their friend Marsha Donovan and her father. They dress up and go out in their motorboat with their pirate costumes, plastic swords and water guns, hoping to stage a fun, fake pirate attack on the Donovans’ yacht, then spend the afternoon swimming and cruising. Of course it all goes wrong, and Cam’s friends bail on him, leaving him to face an angry — but hot — man with a gun who wants to know just WTF he thought he was doing.

===============

Cam had been out with Marcia’s family on their boat a few times and knew where they usually went. There was a series of beaches up the coast where Mr. Donovan liked to anchor and fish. They cruised by, keeping an eye out for the distinctive white hull, but didn’t have any luck. Next, Cam directed David out to a cluster of islands Marcia liked; the tiny beaches there were quieter than the mainland, and sometimes she could persuade her dad to go there, even thought the fishing wasn’t as good.

They cruised around the wooded islands for half an hour or so, then Ted yelled, “There! Hah! Gear up, me hearties!”

Cam snickered and made sure his head scarf was straight, then dug his hat out from behind the cooler where he’d stuck it to keep it from blowing overboard or getting stepped on. David aimed the go-fast right for the Donovans’ yacht and the other three all pulled their plastic swords and waved them around, smacking each other a few times in the process.

He happened to be on the right side of the boat when David pulled up to the swim platform at the stern of the anchored yacht, so Cam was the first off. He hopped over while Ted bellowed from behind him, “Ho the yacht! Come out with yer hands in the air and bring yer valuables, arrr!”

Idiot, Cam thought with a grin and a smirk. He scrambled up the ladder with his plastic sword still in his hand, then heard the approaching patter of feet. Bare feet, and coming a lot faster than Mr. Donovan — who was pushing three hundred pounds if he was an ounce — could possibly manage without falling over with a heart attack. Hah, it had to be Marcia!

Facing the far corner of the cabin, Cam dropped his sword and leveled his water-uzi at the place where his friend would appear. Ted appeared on the ladder behind him with his own water gun in hand, and Stone and David piled up behind him.

Cam turned to give his friends a grin, then looked back toward the far corner just as a blond figure came dashing into view. He stepped forward and yelled, “Hey, Marcia!” and let loose with a stream of water just as the newcomer aimed a gun right between his eyes. The blond — who was definitely not Marcia — yelled, “Fuck!” just as Cam yelped in fear and ducked. He heard an explosion right next to his head and dropped down onto the deck, curled up in a ball with his hands over his ears.

A blast of swearing drifted around him, with drumming footsteps, a slightly more distant thump! splat! thump! and then the roar of an engine zooming away.

Cam’s heart was banging away double-time; he could feel it slamming into his ribs and his breath was coming in short, panting puffs around it. All he could think of was that they’d made a mistake, that this wasn’t the Selkie and they’d played pirate-attack on some stranger’s yacht two weeks after another boat had been attacked and the pissed-off owner was going to shoot him and dump his body onto the pier for the harbor police and if he ever got his hands on Ted he was going to strangle the idiot, and then himself for going along with such a half-assed–

Someone kicked him in the thigh and snapped, “Get the fuck up! Who are you and what the hell were you doing?”

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Also included in the book are “Canons and Honor” by PD Singer, and “Life on the Ocean Wave” by Mara Ismine. Get the whole thing here!

Custom Anthologies

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Here’s something different I ran across the other day. AnthologyBuilder is a new twist on POD service where writers offer their reprint stories (and they only take reprints, from paying books or anthologies) to the AnthologyBuilder archive — which also contains public domain stories — and customers can browse through and choose exactly which stories they want to have in their personalized anthology. They can choose up to 350 pages of fiction, give the book their own title and choose cover art, then pay $14.95 and have the book produced and mailed to them. Authors get paid pro rata royalties whenever one of their stories is chosen for an anthology. Their guidelines are here, and their author contract is here.

I have no idea how well this works, what kinds of sales numbers the site has, or whether it’d be a smart use of reprint rights, but it’s an interesting idea so I thought I’d toss it out there for you all to take a look at.

Angie

Anthology Markets

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

More anthology calls — more holidays, both Halloween and Christmas/etc. I’m including Torquere’s story blitzes even though they’re not technically anthologies, because they’re treated enough like anthologies that it’s close enough IMO. Stories are sold separately, but readers can buy the whole package for a discount, and there’s a single deadline and package promo and all, so there you go.

NOTE: the SHINE anthology deadline has been pushed back to 1 August, so if you were thinking about subbing but didn’t quite make it, you still have some time.

[ETA NOTE2: I’ve been getting a lot of hits on these posts, so if you’ve just wandered in off the internet, hi and welcome. :) I do these posts every month, so click here to make sure you’re seeing the most recent one.]

[And what the heck is a "creative nonfiction short story"? o_O If they want a short memoir or a true narrative or whatever, why didn't they say so? Needless to say, that one's not in here.]

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1 August 2009SHINE — Solaris Books

Convincing and optimistic: Imagine that we are the biggest skeptics on the planet, then show us how things can change for the better, and persuade us.

Near-future: from now until 50 years later.

SF: we’re not going to define it. Write what you think is SF, and convince us with the story.

The Gritty:
Length: up to 10k words (not hard, but anything longer than 10k should be mind-blowingly superb).

***

1 August 2009Halloween Sip Blitz — Torquere

Sips are our popular short story line, running 3000-8000 words. Every Halloween we put out Sips with a spooky theme, to be sold separately and as a package. We prefer male/male stories for this line, but will consider lesbian or menage stories if they’re exceptional. The deadline for this year’s Halloween Sip Blitz is August 1, 2009, and we ask exclusive electronic rights for one year. Sips are a royalty paying line, and authors earn 35% gross on all Torquere site sales, and 25% on all distributor sales.

***

1 August 2009Holiday Single Shot Extravaganza — Torquere

Got a holiday story that needs telling? Think it will be novelette length, from 10000 to 20000 words? If it’s romantic, gay, lesbian or menage, and has a holiday theme, then query us for our Single Shot extravaganza! Please send query by August 1, 2009 to submissions@torquerepress.com. Once your query has been approved, stories are due by October 1, 2009. We ask exclusive electronic rights for one year. Single Shots are a royalty paying line, and authors earn 35% gross on all Torquere site sales, and 25% on all distributor sales.

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1 August 2009Changing Lives, Charity Short Story Blitz — Torquere

The theme is Changing Lives, and proceeds will go to the Matthew Shepherd foundation.

Stories are due August 1, 2009, and will be released in September 2009. Each story should be 3000-8000 words in length, and focus on gay, lesbian or transgendered characters. Priority will be given to stories with strong romantic elements.

What is Changing Lives all about? We want stories about changing minds, about standing up for what you believe in, and about the right to live, and love, as you choose. We’re looking for hope, for positive endings, and of course, love stories.

General submissions guidelines can be found at www.torquerepress.com Please send submissions to submissions @ torquerepress.com with “Changing Minds” in the subject line. Authors agree that all royalties from Charity Sips will be donated to the Matthew Shepherd Foundation, with Torquere matching all donations 100%. Please email Shawn at saclements@torquerepress.com with any questions.

***

10 August 2009Space Opera Anthology — Samhain

Open to M/F, M/M, or multiples thereof, and any sexual heat level. The only rule is the story should be set mainly or entirely in space and the romance must end happily ever after or happy for now.

The anthology will include novellas from 25,000 to 30,000 words in length and will be released individually as ebooks in April 2010.

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 and a cover letter. When you send your manuscript, please be sure to use the naming convention SpaceOpera_Title_MS and SpaceOpera_Title_Synopsis.

Submissions are open until August 10, 2009 and final decision will be made by August 31, 2009. Please send your submission to editor@samhainpublishing.com and include Space Opera Anthology in the subject line.

Questions can be addressed to Sasha Knight sasha@samhainpublishing.com

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12 August 2009Men in Kilts Taste Test — Torquere

Publication date November 2009, subs due 8/12/2009 (Celtic barbarians, modern day commando hotties. Highland fling me, please!)

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15 August 2009Phone Sex Toybox — Torquere

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31 August 2009Queer Gothic Anthology — Queered Fiction

Open call for submissions for a Queer Gothic Anthology to be published by QueeredFiction where genre is queered. Deadline is 31st August 2009. We’re looking for gothic tales of horror and romance. Your submission should be a short story between 3,000 and 10,000 words. We are seeking fiction with positive images of queer characters. We’re not looking for clichés. We do not want reprints. We are seeking first world rights for this anthology which will be published as an eBook and in Print format.

***

UNTIL FILLEDMM and Menage Steampunk Antho — Phaze

Call: M/M and Menage Steampunk Anthology, Title TBA
Edited by: Leigh Ellwood
Projected release date: late 2010
Format: eBook (with possible print release)
Publisher: Phaze Books
Payment: $50 for one-time electronic and print rights, plus copies

Hey, all you steampunk enthusiasts, grab your goggles and get to writing! Phaze Books is planning an M/M (and bi-M menage) steampunk collection for eBook publication in 2010. If you have a yen for 19th century history with a touch of good humor and technological innovation (and a whole lot of manlove!), we hope you’ll send us your hottest steampunk erotic romance of 10K – 20K words. If you’re not sure about the genre, check out this Wikipedia entry for steampunk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk) to get an idea of the style of stories we’re looking for. Think H.G. Wells or Wild Wild West, then turn up the steam factor with an incredible M/M or MMF/MMM match-up!

This call is open indefinitely until the spots are filled. Contributors will offer one-time electronic and print rights to their works and receive a one-time payment of $50 and contributors copies (eBook and/or print, if the book goes to print).

To submit to this anthology, please follow the Phaze Books structural guidelines at http://www.phaze.com/submissions.html and attach your RTF submission to Leigh Ellwood, c/o Phaze Books at submissions @ phaze (dot) com. Please use STEAMPUNK ANTHOLOGY is your subject header.

San Francisco

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

San Francisco was awesome, as always, but it’s good to be home. If nothing else, I heart my main computer, and particularly its full-size keyboard. :)

We had a great time, though, and I’m going to babble about some of it.

SF is a great place for food, particularly if you’re into meat. We were staying at the Hyatt on the Embarcadero, right across from the Ferry Terminal. I’ve never gone over there before for whatever reason, but a few days before we left to fly up, Jim and I were watching an episode of a Food Network show called The Best Thing I Ever Ate. A bunch of the Food Network people talk about great food they’ve had in various places, and this was a bacon themed episode, yum! One of the guys talked about a great little butcher shop in the Ferry Terminal called Boccalone; their slogan is “Tasty Salted Pig Parts.” Can’t beat that, right? They cure their meat right on the premises; there’s a glass-doored cabinet off to one side with slabs of bacon and legs of prosciutto and whatever all else hanging there. The “best thing” here was a salumi cone for like $3.50. Salumi seems to be like a superset of salami; it’s a variety of cured pork bits, sliced thin and curled up in a paper cone, sort of like a snowcone only with meat instead of ice. We got that a couple of times — good stuff. It’s salty and porky and just fatty enough.

[Note that the Terminal is a great place just to walk around and eat. There were three artisanal butcher shops there that I counted, plus a fish monger, a couple of cheese shops, an artisanal bakery, three or four places selling local produce, a mushroom shop, a place specializing in olive oil, and a gelato shop. These are all local shops; the only chain was a coffee place, Peet's, which is a local chain. There weren't any McDonald's or Starbuck's or Cinnabon or anything like that. Highly recommended for wandering around to get lunch. After having my salty pig parts, I got some bread and some grapes and a pear to sort of balance things out.]

Also off that same show, Jim went to this little shop called Dynamo Donuts one morning while I was asleep and got us bacon donuts. No kidding, these things are great! They cut slab bacon into chunks and cook it, then knead the bacon pieces (I’m not calling them “bacon bits” ’cause that gives absolutely the wrong image) right into the donut dough. They fry the bacon-studded donuts, then glaze the tops with maple icing and sprinkle on more bacon. Mmmm! It kind of reminds me of when you’re having breakfast and your bacon gets into the syrup from your pancakes, you know? Good stuff.

We also went to The Stinking Rose. If you like garlic at all, you can’t hit SF without going to this place — their slogan is that they flavor their garlic with food. :) We started out with a bagna calda, which is a dish of roasted garlic cloves in olive oil and butter. They put it over a candle to keep it warm, and serve it with bread. The garlic is soft so you just spread it on, and drizzle some of the oil. Much more dangerous than just basic bread and butter. Then both of us had the prime rib. Wow. Note that they have three sizes: regular, large and the slab. With both got regular cuts and I couldn’t finish mine. I was pushing the last few bits over onto Jim’s plate because this thing was just huge. I can only speculate what the larger cuts are like, but I suspect you could probably feed like six people if you got the “slab” size. After the regular cuts, couldn’t even think about dessert, which for us is very unusual. [duck]

Oh, and the sides rocked too. It came with garlic mashed potatoes and creamed swiss chard. Now I’m not a major swiss chard fan — it has a bit too strong of a flavor for my taste. I don’t hate it, though, so I tasted it, and I’m glad I did. Jim’s almost as anti-vegetable as Travis and even he liked it; I don’t know what they did to it, but the flavor was mellower and more spinach-like, and of course with the cream and the garlic, it was just perfect. I could’ve done with about half as much prime rib but three or four times as much chard. :)

We ate at the hotel a few times and in their lobby cafe-bar, and that was good if a bit expensive. You can actually get a rare burger there, which is more and more difficult to do these days, and the garlic-parmesan fries are really good. The clam chowder is excellent, and the quatro leches cake.

Jim had enough upgrade points to get us a small suite at the hotel. It was actually a single large room rather than a bona fide suite, but it was an excellent room, long enough that I could be on the laptop on one end without disturbing a sleeping spousal unit at the other end. It also had an awesome view of the Bay Bridge. The only problem was a certain busker down on the sidewalk. This dude played the saxophone. Every day. For about twelve hours a day, with periodic breaks but essentially from around nine to nine. Every day. Did I mention every day? This dude wasn’t a horrible horn player, but he wasn’t awesome either and I’m not really all that into unaccompanied sax at the best of times, so a little goes a long way with me. Oh, and he only knew about fifteen songs. O_O And he played every one of them a little slow. I don’t know whether he wasn’t capable of playing on-tempo or whether he thought he was being artsy or whatever, but… yeah. After a day or two I was ready to offer to drop a twenty out the window if he’d go four or five blocks in, well, any direction actually. [headdesk]

We went to the movies, down at the Sundance Kabuki theater in Japan Town to see Public Enemy and Ice Age 3. The theater is upscale for a movie theater, with assigned seating like at a play, so you can buy your tickets in advance and choose your seats. They sell alcohol up on the balcony so there aren’t any kids allowed up there, which is nice if you’re not into kids and don’t mind sitting in the balcony. Looking at the architecture and decor, I have to wonder whether it used to be an actual kabuki theater. If not, they did a great remodel on it, because it looks like a place where there used to be live performances.

Public Enemy was great; Johnny Depp rocked the part and made it feel natural to be rooting for a bank robber. Christian Bale’s a great actor too, but playing Melvin Purvis didn’t really give him a whole lot to work with. I didn’t get the impression that the role was badly written or anything, but rather that it’s a supporting role and they didn’t develop it all that much. Ice Age was fun, with Scrat getting all the good bits as usual, but I discovered that my eyes don’t agree with 3D. :/ In addition to being nearsighted, I also have a hard time focusing on objects at a distance; I see double without my glasses, which have prisms on the edges to help me see straight. Add the 3D glasses and it was intermittently blurry and just generally unpleasant. Luckily I’m not all that into 3D anyway, so I’ll just let Jim go by himself to 3D showings he wants to see in the future.

The trip to the theater was like the second day we were there and I was still feeling lively enough to be kind of stupid. [cough] I suggested we walk back to the hotel, or at least start walking; I figured if my knee or feet or whatever gave out, we could grab a bus at the next stop. So we start walking and there’s this humongous hill right off the bat, but once we’re past that it’s all flat, downhill, flat, downhill, flat, downhill from there on. So we’re walking and walking and walking, and by the time I’m starting to get uncomfortable I can see a clocktower in the distance which I recognized as being near the hotel, so I grit my teeth and keep going. It’s around dinner time so we decide to go past the hotel to the Ferry building and grab some food, but when we got over there everything but the coffee shop was closed, so back to the hotel. Jim went out and grabbed some sandwiches for dinner, one of the few situations where we’ll eat basic chain-shop food on a vacation. Everything from about the hips down was really griping at me, though, and looking at a map we probably walked about three and a half miles. [sigh] Really stupid, but when I get going I get stubborn. You’d think I’d know better by now.

A couple of days later we took the cable car up to Chinatown and walked around there for a while, up one street to the border of North Beach, then a block over and walked back. We didn’t buy anything, but just enjoyed looking around, seeing the carvings and jewelry and clothes and things in the shop windows, and the things in the food shops, which all tend to have huge displays right out to the sidewalk. The produce smelled wonderful, green and sweet, interspersed with shops selling dried everything — spices and mushrooms and fish and squid, earthy and rich and salty and fishy.

Oh, on another day we got dim sum at a little place that’s only open a few hours through lunchtime, but they’re incredibly busy and have wonderful food. This wasn’t in Chinatown, but was a couple of blocks from the hotel. They had some things I’ve never tasted before, including these little dumplings full of soup. :D It’s like a little balloon full of broth, about an inch and a half across. You take it onto your ceramic spoon, then pierce one side with a chopstick to let the soup out. Then there was a little bowl of vinegar and shaved ginger; you put a bit of that on if you want to, then eat the whole thing, one spoonful at a time. Wonderful stuff; I could’ve made a lunch of just a few more servings of those.

One thing Jim really wanted to do was go on a duck tour. They have these amphibious vehicles called ducks, which were built to land troops during WWII. We took a similar tour up in Toronto a few years ago, but those vehicles were purpose-modified for the tourist trade, and they had to stop and do a bit of conversion between land and water. These are refurbished but otherwise work just like they did during the war, going right from the land into the water and back again without having to stop and fiddle with anything. The soldiers didn’t like them because they could only do about five knots in the water and that made them… sitting ducks. :P They’re great fun for touring around the city and then into the bay, though.

The tour went past the new ballpark three times, twice on land and once on the water. I don’t know, I used to go to Candlestick when I was a kid, so I view the new park with a jaundiced eye. It’s nice, and there are statues of famous Giants players around the plaza on the land side. There’s plenty of parking (which is kind of amazing for something right there on one end of the city like that, well up the penninsula) and there were a bunch of people having a huge tailgate party, even though the game didn’t start for a few more hours, so obviously people like the place and have fun there. I think that to me, though, the “real” home of the San Francisco Giants will always be Candlestick Park, despite the wind and the cold and the slightly grubby structure. :)

And of course, there’s no way I can tourist around San Francisco for a week without going to A Different Light. It’s a great gay bookstore up in the Castro. A trolley went from right outside our hotel to within a block or two of the store, very convenient. I came out with a bunch of books and could easily have bought a lot more. I restrained myself, however, and what I got will keep me for a few more days:

Alex Beecroft’s False Colors
James Buchanan’s The Good Thief (hardcopy to replace my e-book — I prefer paper copies of my favorites if I can get them)
Erastes’s Frost Fair
Scott and Scott’s E-male
NL Gassert’s The Protector

Jim did a lot more running around than I did; my joints just aren’t up to hard touristing every day. I had a great time, though, and just being in the city, hearing the cable cars go by and enjoying the wonderfully cool temperatures — San Francisco is absolutely the place to be in July. :) It’s one of the few really urban areas I wouldn’t mind living in, if only the cost of housing wasn’t so ridiculously high. Maybe some day.

Angie