Marriage Equality, Finally

The Supreme Court finally grants marriage equality.

Try as they might, people opposed to marriage equality haven’t been able to come up with any rational reasons for their stand. “Because our god disapproves,” is not a rational reason in a nation with separation of church and state. “Because the children,” is not supported by any legitimate research. (In fact, I can’t give a link because I didn’t save it at the time, but I remember reading an article a few years ago discussing research that showed the best outcome for children, looking at emotional adjustment, behavior, and performance in school, came from having two lesbian parents.) “Because pedophiles,” is a null argument because adults having sex with minors (ignoring the complications of what that means and where the lines are drawn) is still illegal. And that idiot in California who tried to get a proposition on the ballot requiring that anyone who commits “sodomy” be executed by whatever member of the general public got to them first (no, seriously) just makes the anti-GLBT side look even more whacked than it actually is.

I’m sure there are plenty of people moaning and gnashing their teeth today. But look, the sky isn’t falling. If you think gay sex is icky, then good news: you’re not required to have gay sex. Your kids are no more likely to be gay now than they were last week. And if your kid does come out to you, you’re still free to disown him or her, and the people around you who disapprove would probably have disapproved last week, while people who would’ve agreed you did the right thing last week will probably still think that now. And if your church doesn’t recognize gay marriage, your church still isn’t required to marry gay couples. Nothing has changed for straight people.

Which is the whole point. Nothing has changed for straight people. We can go about our lives as we always have, because the world still treats us the way it always did.

And in fact, only thirteen states still banned marriage between same-sex couples yesterday. We were already mostly there; the Supremes just acknowledged the way society was moving.

Note, though, that this decision doesn’t mean homophobia is dead in the US, any more than the election of President Obama meant racism is dead. There are still plenty of people who see straight as “normal” and gay as “deviant,” and who want the laws of the land to reflect their views, some of whom are active on the political stage.

Ted Cruz and Scott Walker are two Republican presidential hopefuls who support a Constitutional amendment allowing states to ban same-sex marriage. Considering that the majority of states allowed it yesterday, and polls show a majority of Americans are in favor of it, I have no idea where these guys thought that amendment would come from. There’s no way they’d ever get the two-thirds ratification required to pass it, so…? Marriage equality doesn’t affect them, so it looks like either their own fears and squicks on display, or (more likely IMO) it’s a flag-waving act, aimed at the very small but very loud radical-right voting pool. “Hey, look how conservative I am! Vote for me!” Of course, that tactic hasn’t worked in the last couple of presidential elections, but if these guys want to give it another whirl, bully for them.

And others have already discussed Clarence Thomas’s dissenting opinion against marriage equality. From Thomas’s opinion:

The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.

Seriously? Because being a slave, confined and beaten and raped, isn’t at all undignified. Because being dragged away from your property (often losing it permanently) and locked up in an internment camp, declared a danger to the country of which you’re a citizen, hated and reviled by your fellow citizens, isn’t at all undignified. And having people sneer and snark at your marriage, telling you it’s just pretend, and having your children harassed and mocked because their parents aren’t really married and they don’t really have a normal family, that’s not at all undignified.

The fact that Justice Thomas, who’s married to a white woman, clearly benefits from the results of Loving v. the State of Virginia, and yet declares that Obergefell v. Hodges — which grants the exact same kind of marriage rights (and dignity) to a group of people who were discriminated against exactly the way interracial couples were discriminated against before Loving — is wrong and pointless, is bogglingly irrational. It reflects a lack of compassion, and an “I’ve got mine so you all can go suck it” attitude.

There are plenty of people, though, even in conservative states, who are ready to jump right into getting gay and lesbian couples married, because “conservative” is not the same as “asshole.”

Gerard Rickhoff, who oversees marriage licenses in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, has removed the words “male” and “female” from the licenses. He’s prepared extra work stations and is ready to keep the office open late. He’s planning to have security on site to deal with protesters, “so there’s no possibility of discomfort or hate speech.” And if same-sex couples are turned away by clerks in other counties, he has a message for them: “Just get in your car and come on down the highway. You’ll be embraced here.”

Props to Mr. Rickhoff, and others like him in Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Michigan, mentioned in the above HuffPo article, and to people in all states, of all political orientations around the country whose action and support, however loud or quiet, let this happen.

I’ll wrap with a quote from President Obama: “Today we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect … America should be very proud.”

The World’s Biggest Christmas Stocking

If you knit or crochet, or are willing to learn, this is an incredibly cool project for a great charity.

The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation helps kids who’ve lost a military parent in the line of duty pay for college. Caron, the yarn manufacturer, is putting together a project to make the world’s biggest Christmas stocking, and is asking people to knit or crochet three-foot squares and send them in to be assembled. They’re going for an entry in the Guinness Book, which is also cool.

If you buy your yarn from Caron, they’ll give fifteen cents per skein to the CFPF. If you just want to participate in the world’s-biggest-Christmas-stocking project, you can buy your yarn from someone else, or use yarn from your stash, so long as it’s worsted weight. There are knit patterns and crochet patterns you can download and print out. All the crochet patterns are Beginner or Easy, and the knitting patterns are mostly Beginner or Easy, with a couple of Intermediates that use mosaic colorwork. Even if you’re just learning, you can find a pattern that’ll work for you. It might take a while to do a three-by-three square, but if you use a Beginner level pattern, it won’t be hard. If you have a favorite pattern you want to use instead, you can do that, so long as you end up with a three-by-three foot square.

If you’re worried that you’ll be too slow, note that they’ve been working on this since last November, as far as I can tell. They planned for it to go into this year, and sure enough, they’re only 20% through right now. Looks like there’ll be time for fast workers to do several squares if they want, and for beginners or people who are just busy to do one without knocking themselves out. 🙂

The main page, with a progress meter, is here.

Watch Ireland Passing Marriage Equality

This is a wonderful video, just under 7.5 minutes long, by Raymond Braun who travelled to Ireland for the vote. He travelled around and talked to people, both straight and gay, about what it meant to them. It was pretty awesome seeing the up-welling of support for marriage equality, enough so that there was an entire store in a mall selling just pro-equality items.

This is the first time a country has adopted marriage equality through a popular vote. Props to Ireland. I hope it spreads.

Anthology Acceptance

I got a note from Corie Weaver, editor of The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, saying they want the story I subbed to them. This is pretty awesome — it’s my first pro sale to someone I haven’t met face-to-face, fourth all together.

The publisher, Dreaming Robot, is going to be running a crowdfunding campaign starting on 1 August to raise the money to pay their writers the pro rates they’re offering. Normally this would be a red flag for me — not a scammer-type red flag, but an “Is this worth the time and hassle for something that might not work out?” kind of red flag. But their web site says:

If the crowd-funding fails, please note that we are still committed to this anthology, and will find other ways to fund the project. However, there may be delays. If authors feel the need to withdraw their submission due to delays, we understand.

And the sample contract sent with the acceptance letter states:

In the event that The Anthology has not been published within twelve (12) months of signing of this agreement, all rights revert to The Author, and The Author has the right to sell or arrange for publication of The Work in any manner.

So the editorial team plans to be cool about people withdrawing because of delays, and if they get hit by a bus and their sociopathic cousin takes over ownership of the project and its contracted works, the contract still protects us from unreasonable delay. I’m satisfied with the situation.

They’re taking subs through 31 August, if you’re into YA SF. It’d be cool to be in an antho with some of my blog buds. 🙂

Angie

PS — I had to dig the original acceptance letter out of my spam folder. :/ Always-always check before you delete!

New Release — Captive Magic [Updated]

Captive Magic releases today, and is available at the Torquere site. UPDATE: It’s currently available on Amazon, Amazon UK, ARe, Rainbow eBooks, Smashwords (with a 38-page sample), and Bookstrand. No B&N or Kobo yet, and the paperback isn’t up yet at all.

Also, to go along with the new novel release, all my older books on the Torquere site are 20% off. This is a great time to catch up on the Sentinel series, or anything else you might’ve missed.

I love new release days. 😀

Angie

Review and Giveaway

Pattycake at Mrs. Condit Reads Books reviewed an ARC of Captive Magic and seemed to like it a lot:

Captive Magic by Angela Benedetti is a wild ride of a story that starts out with a touch of the paranormal, then takes a left turn into the Twilight Zone! The blurb covers the bare bones of the tale, but to really appreciate the unique and original twists that this story takes, you need to check it out for yourself.

Click through for the rest.

There’s also an interview where I ramble on for a while about such things as how I got into writing fantasy romance, which had to do with the early mainstream fantasy and “futuristic” romances falling so far short of the mark, in my opinion as a long-time SF and fantasy fan.

If you leave a comment on the review post, you’ll be entered in a drawing for a complete set of the Sentinels books — three novels and a short story.

Thanks to Pattycake — I’m so glad she liked the book! — and to Mrs. Condit for hosting the review and giveaway.

Captive Magic will be release on 4 September.

Angie

Captive Magic Cover

I got my cover for the third Sentinel novel, Captive Magic, and permission to show it off. 🙂

The book is due out on 4 September, and I’m excited to see what people think of it.

Teleporter Breck Bayes made a deal with a demon to save the life of his little sister Amanda, who was dying of cancer. The demon expects Breck to work off the debt — as a thief who can get past any walls or locks. If Breck balks, Amanda’s cancer will come back, and she’ll die. Breck’s a good guy, but a few trinkets versus Amanda’s life? It’s no contest.

Manny hears about Breck’s popping around town and uses his own talents to find and confront him. Sentinels are supposed to prevent the magegifted from using their talents to steal, by force if necessary, but then he gets the whole story. Manny understands family, and he decides that his Sentinel persona is going to have to suck it up and deal while he helps Breck get out from under the demon — even if it means becoming an accomplice to the thieving while they plot Breck’s escape. But then the demon notices Manny, whose truesight and seeking would be very useful in its quest to own things that don’t properly belong to it, and suddenly it’s not only Breck who’s in trouble.

There’s an entry for it on Goodreads, for folks who use that site.

Just under three weeks to go!

Angie

DOMA and Prop 8 Unconstitutional

When you wake up in the morning (hey, it was still morning) and your in-box is full of joyful announcements that the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 [both PDF links] have both been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, that’s a damn fine way to start a day.

My usual demeanor is pretty cynical, I’ll be the first to admit — the things people do to one another, around the world and particularly here in the US, have contributed to that throughout my life. One of the most ridiculous, hateful, fearmongering trends in recent years has been the insistence by so many social conservatives that same-sex marriage is bad, wrong, evil, unnatural, and a threat to “traditional” marriage. The people who support this vile drivel have been masking their hate and fear and general negativity about the issue by insisting that they’re trying to “defend” marriage. Even with many thousands of gay and lesbian people getting married in the US in states where it’s been legal, even with the hundreds of thousands (maybe millions?) of gay and lesbian people getting married in countries around the world where it’s legal — including Canada, right next door — fearful, scowling folks keep insisting that gay marriage is somehow dangerous, that it threatens traditional man-woman marriage.

You know what? My traditional marriage doesn’t need defending, certainly not by people like them. When Jim and I were living in California, about 40,000 gay couples got married during the five months that it was legal, if I remember the numbers correctly, and hey, we’re still married! Imagine that! All those people, men marrying men and women marrying women, and there was never a morning when either Jim or I woke up and said, “Hey, damn, I feel this overwhelming need to divorce you and marry someone of my own sex!” We have a great marriage, it’s as strong as ever, and all those gay people joyfully marrying each other did nothing whatsoever to damage our marriage. Heck, we got a double dose of this dangerous threat to our union when our new home state of Washington legalized gay marriage last year — you’ll be happy to know I’ve still felt no impulse to divorce my husband.

One of my favorite sayings to come out of this situation is, “The only threat to traditional marriage is traditional divorce.” Halle-freaking-luiah.

If you want to defend the institution of marriage, how about taking all the money and energy and other resources that’ve been poured into trying to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying and instead use it to, I don’t know, offer free counseling to couples whose marriages are actually in trouble? That’d be a constructive focus for the beliefs of the social conservatives, one that’d help a lot of people while hurting nobody, unlike DOMA and Prop 8 and related efforts, which are purely destructive and have caused a lot of hardship and misery.

Just a suggestion for any defenders of marriage who are trying to figure out what their next move should be.

So, the Feds now recognize any legal marriage, no matter what the plumbing of the married people looks like. And gay people are free to marry once more in California, which is awesome.

This news actually chips away a tiny bit at my natural cynicism. If the other 37 states ever get with the 21st century and let gay couples marry, I might actually turn into a complete optimist! Let’s work toward that, shall we?

Angie

Busy with Business

Wow, two anthology posts in a row! I’ve never done that before. I’ve been kind of busy, doing some cool things.

Early in May I attended a workshop on how to do POD books — covers, interiors, marketing and selling, with a lot of really shocking info on how the business has changed very recently. I spent the time between my April anthology post and the workshop itself fiddling with Photoshop Elements (which it turned out I didn’t need for the class 😛 ) and InDesign, which is an awesome tool — once you’ve learned even the basics of ID, it becomes clear why it’s the industry standard. Once you have your art (for about fifteen dollars off a stock art site — and yes, they have art art as well as photos) you can do the whole cover, beautifully, in InDesign.

Flowing the text in is easy. Front matter goes in first, then your story or novel text; ID will create as many pages as you need, and you use master pages to set the layout. The fiddly part here is making sure the formatting works at the line- and paragraph-level. Hunting for widows (the first line of a paragraph alone at the bottom of a page), orphans (the last line of a paragraph alone at the top of a page, and widowed orphans (the last line of a paragraph, totally alone at the top of a page, with no other text on the page) can make your interior look much better. Most of these can be fixed easily by using the tracking tool on a whole paragraph at once, tightening or loosening it enough to pull a lone word or two up onto the previous line (re-flowing everything up to close the space) or to push a word or two onto the next line (pushing everything down a line) while not changing the spacing so much that someone casually reading will even notice.

InDesign is an incredibly powerful tool, and there are usually multiple ways of doing just about anything, which means it can be overwhelming at first. Having personal classroom instruction, one-to-three instruction with Allyson in small groups, and people coming around to give us one-to-one help during lab periods, was worth the cost of the workshop, and then some. The workshop was taught by Dean Wesley Smith and Allyson Longueira (Allyson is the publisher at WMG), with help during labs by a couple of local writers who are old hands at this and came to help out. Lee Allred was particularly awesome in giving assistance to all of us newbie book designers.

And really, that’s what it comes down to: the design. You can achieve the same results with other tools, but what’s important is the design. Look at other books in your genre — professionally published books, not just indie books — and see what they look like. What elements are on the cover? How are they laid out? What’s large or small? What elements are associated together, and placed near one another? Notice those little tags — “Bestselling author of Popular Book,” or “Book 3 of Author’s Cool Series” — that are too small to read in thumbnail? You still need them on your e-books. Even if they’re unreadable in an online bookseller’s catalog, they’re design elements and readers are used to seeing them, even as a little line of unreadable text, on professionally designed covers. The cover will look naked and unfinished without them.

What’s included in the front matter, and how is it laid out? What do new chapter pages look like in a novel, or new story pages in a collection or anthology? What does the spacing look like, between the headers and the text, the footers and the text, the text and the margins? If your presentation is amateurish, potential readers (buyers) will notice, even if they can’t articulate what bugs them about a particular cover or interior. New York has conditioned us to expect certain things about a professional book, and if an indie book doesn’t have all those things, or they’re not laid out the way we’re used to seeing, that’ll ping our “amateur” alarm, even if we can’t put our finger on why. Learning how to design the book, and the cover, is more important than learning to use kerning tools or feathered gradients in a particular software package. (Although you really should learn those things in whatever software you’re using.)

So before the workshop, I was playing with the software and watching instructional videos online. Then I was in Oregon for a week and a half, and a lot busier than I thought I’d be. The day I flew to Portland, I met a writer friend [waves to PD Singer] at the airport, along with a friend of hers who lives in Portland, and we went and had lunch with a few other writers in our genre who are local to Portland. I love meeting internet people in realspace, so that was very cool. After lunch, Pam and I drove out to the coast, and we roomed together for the workshop itself. We sat next to each other in class, swapping help and opinions and angst. 🙂

After the workshop, we drove back to Portland and Pam dropped me off at my hotel. When I’m at these workshops, I like staying an extra night in Portland; not having to scramble to catch a plane that day means that I can flex my schedule to match that of whoever’s driving me. One of the writers we had lunch with on the way out came to my hotel that evening. [waves to Amelia Gormley.] We chatted, had dinner together, and chatted some more.

The biggest bomb dropped on the workshop, though, was during the evening sessions, which were all business discussions. Remember Ella Distribution? I mentioned them a couple of months ago — they were set up to distribute indie books by small publishers to bookstores. Well, Ella is gone. It was well organized, with an awesome web site, and had great people working on it, but within less than half a year, the industry changed. Now, not only is Ella no longer necessary, but it can’t compete with the big kids on the playground.

Dean and Sheldon McArthur (Shelly’s one of the best known booksellers in the country) talked to us about what’d changed recently with the distributors. Basically, 1) Baker and Taylor no longer marks books as POD published, and Ingram and the others followed suit; 2) B&T (and the others) now offer POD books at a good discount to booksellers, about 45%, and more if they keep on top of their bills; and 3) B&T (and the others) now allow returns on POD books.

There are indie-pubbed books in bookstores right now. If you go through Createspace, and pay the extra $25 for extended distribution, your books are available to bookstores through their standard distributors, on terms that make stocking them attractive. The only barrier right now is your book’s presentation — mainly cover and summary blurb. (Again, does your cover look professional, or does it look amateur?)

The playing field between an indie-pubbed book and a midlist New York published book is now level when it comes to getting into bookstores.

Shelly talked about how he finds books to buy for his store, through the distributor, through publisher catalogs and promotional material, and through sites like Goodreads, where he’ll go to see what books people might be talking about that he hadn’t heard of. He’s been buying indie books ever since the distributors changed their policies. He doesn’t care where a book comes from so long as it’s a good book, professionally presented, and neither do the readers.

Dean and Kristine Kathryn Rusch are talking about this all month on their blogs, in much more detail. As always, there’s good stuff in the comments, too. I highly recommend you read their posts on the subject. (Actually, if you’re a writer I highly recommend you read their blogs all the time. Lots of great stuff there.)

During all this, I had a deadline on the 15th to get a story turned in for an event running in June on Goodreads, and the story I was writing was getting longer and longer and longer…. [headdesk] When I wasn’t futzing with InDesign during the workshop, I was writing, and after I came home I was still writing. I got it done, a 60K word novel that’ll be available on Goodreads some time in June, and as an e-book on Goodreads and ARe some time after that, depending on where it is in the very long list of books the group’s volunteers have to work on. I’ll be doing a paperback version some time after that. (I did a cover for it at the workshop.)

And now I’m back to writing other things.

The business is changing while we sit here. If we stay on top of the changes, and take advantage of them, they’ll work for us. This is a great time to be a writer, and a wonderful time to be indie publishing, or getting into it if you’re not yet.

Angie

February Stuff

I’ve been on the Oregon coast for the last week and a half, doing two workshops back-to-back. It was a grueling experience, as the single workshop I did last year was. And it was awesome, and I’ll definitely be doing it again. I got lots of writing done, and I SOLD A STORY!! Which got the all-caps treatment because it’s my first professional sale, as in more than five cents per word, holy freaking yay!!! 😀

I’m going to have a story in Fiction River’s anthology How to Save the World, edited by John Helfers. (Scroll down a bit — it’s the second book.) Holy sheep, I’m gonna be in a book with David Gerrold!

I’ve been trying to break into mainstream SF/F for ages, so this is a huge deal for me. I’m still getting this really silly grin on my face whenever I think about it, so I beg pardon of anyone who sees me and thinks o_O about my state of mind. 🙂

I wrote almost 29K words in February, which is good — I’m still well ahead of quota for making my 2013 goal. My wordcount meter says I’m at 27%, so I’m where I was hoping to be at about a week into April. That’s great; I love having padding on my quota. I was hoping for more in February (January was over 35K) but there were several days when I was in the workshop and frantically reading rather than writing. I count those days well spent, though. I also killed my streak, but I was anticipating that, too. No prob; doing an Oregon workshop is one of the better reasons I can think of for having days with no actual writing.

The workshops I did were The Business and Craft of Short Fiction, and the Anthology Workshop. The Antho Workshop is a repeat for me; it’s worth doing over and over, and many writers do. I took a ton of notes, especially at the first one, and learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know before, which is the point. (Wow, a story that’s in a continually extended option with Hollywood can make you a buttload of money, even if they never make the movie!) Great info; it’s going to take a while to absorb it all.

Currently I’m sitting in a hotel room in Portland; I have a flight home at 2:30. I’ll do some writing today, then fall into bed (ten hours last night, still not caught up) and my next Thing To Go To is a dentist’s appointment on Thursday.

Oh, yeah, didn’t blog about that before. :/ So on Wednesday two weeks ago, Jim and I were having dinner at this little cafe across the street. They have these really good ice cream sandwiches — two chocolate chip cookies, made in-house, with in-house ice cream in the middle, then freeze the whole thing. So I was eating my ice cream sandwich when one of my crowns (upper incisor) snapped off at the gum line. 🙁 Luckily I had a root canal before they put the crown on, so it didn’t hurt; I was just damn startled, and then all ACK!! when I realized what’d happened. And that I was getting on a plane Saturday morning to go to the workshops. [headdesk]

I went to my dentist the next morning and they put in a very fragile, non-functional, temporary tooth-like object, cemented to the teeth to either side on the back. I was warned not to bite anything, and not even to brush. And when your dentist tells you not to brush, you know your fragile dental work is FRAGILE. I was very careful, but it was a bit wiggly within about 24 hours. I had some vague hope that it’d last at least until the second workshop, but no luck; it came out just a bit over three days after having been installed. So I’ve been going just over a week now with this huge gap in my front teeth, and talking a little funny.

I feel like I’m seven again. 😛

Anyway, this is fixable, although it’s going to be expensive. Civil Service has notoriously lousy dental insurance, and the Pacific Northwest has notoriously expensive dental care, for whatever reason. So the bill for an implant is going to be very large, and our insurance isn’t picking up a dollar of it. This is our tentatively planned cruise for this year, going into my mouth.

I just hope my other crowns last longer. At least I know to stay away from the Market Cafe’s ice cream sandwiches; that was the most expensive dessert I’ve ever eaten, by a couple of orders of magnitude.

Angie