I’m a real editor now!

Yesterday, I said on Twitter that I felt like a real editor when I had to send out my first refusal notice for someone who had failed to follow submission guidelines in a way that is automatically disqualifying: they sent a standard manuscript, with their contact information and all. Since our editorial process is built around reading pieces anonymously, this is the one point on which we’ve accorded ourselves no wiggle room. It might be that we wind up using the other guidelines to trim the slush pile, or at least do some preliminary sorting and weighting, but that’s the one that’s just automatic.

Today, I had an experience that really hammers home the fact that I’m editing a magazine of fiction and poetry. I received the following email:

Dear Editor: I’m always glad to see new publishers on the scene, but you do have more requirements for publishing a writer’s work than I have ever seen.The worst requirement that is going to keep submissions out of your mail box, is your refusing to accept simultations. However, I do wish you goodluck.
[name redacted]

Well! I’ve heard about this, but I never believed it would happen to me. I was over the moon! This may not be the wisest move, but I replied thusly:

Dear Mr. [redacted]
First, let me heartily thank you for sending this email. As a writer and poet, I have many friends who have been editors and otherwise worked in publishing, and they have all told me stories about receiving messages like this when they were first hired or set up shop: the earnest and forthright man who wishes to tell them what it is that is wrong with their submission guidelines and what they may do to correct them.
Now that I have received one of my own, I feel like I am truly part of an illustrious circle.
I couldn’t agree with you more that not accepting simultaneous submissions will keep submissions out of our inbox. In particular, it will keep those submissions out of our inbox that are under consideration elsewhere, thus preventing awkward situations where a story or poem we would like to accept has already been accepted elsewhere. We are admittedly new to this side of the table, but my suspicion is that it will be markedly easier to assemble a magazine when the submitted pieces are sitting still as we try to arrange them. The advantage has always been clear to me, which is why I’ve never balked at submitting to a magazine that does accept simultaneous submissions.
Actually, come to think of it, I can’t recall the last time I read a set of submission guidelines that allowed for simultaneous submissions, without at least some healthy caveats. I know I’ve seen at least one, but it’s very much the exception and not the rule in my experience. I think considering simultaneous submissions is really a luxury that only the bigger, better established venues can afford, as they have the staff, organizational infrastructure, and pool of contributors to handle the complications that arise as a result.
Our fledgling two person operation, on the other hand, does not. In fact, if the only practical difference was that disallowing simultaneous submissions was that it cut our slush pile down by some arbitrary amount, it would still be worth doing on that ground alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy that the response has been as strong as it has been. I’m just straining to imagine how we’d keep up if it were both markedly increased in volume and some of the pieces submitted for our consideration came with an invisible random time limit and the possibility of a silent bidding war.
As for our other requirements, they are hardly that numerous but rather are specific. We have a preferred format for reading, which is quite normal. We have a standardized subject line for submissions, which is far from unusual and which aids in our automation and sorting. We require that all personal identifying information be stripped from submitted manuscripts so that we may read them without bias. Markets are split on this, but I think you’ll find most of them either require the author’s contact information be present or require that it does not; there are few magazines that take a laissez-faire approach to where the author’s name appears. We have a generous cap on the number of pieces that may be submitted by a single author at a given time.
And that about does it for requirements. Nothing unique, nothing even that unusual, nothing overly onerous or complicated.
Perhaps it strikes you as more than it is because we spell it out in paragraph form rather than bullet-pointing? This is a personal preference from my own time submitting. I prefer when publishers are unambiguous about what it is they expect of me rather than waving a hand vaguely in the direction of their inbox and hoping I can divine their preferences. It might be that you’ve never had the experience of stopping and asking yourself, “Is this really what the other person wants from me? Am I doing this right?”, but I prefer to go the extra mile to reassure those who do worry about such things.
Or perhaps when you speak of the number of requirements, you’re talking about the section entitled “Dos, Don’ts, and Dislikes” at the bottom? These are not requirements, per se, but rather are there to alleviate one of the unfortunate side effects of soliciting submissions for a first issue. If we were an established venue,then you or any other author or poet who happened by could peruse our back issues to see what sort of things we’re wont to publish, get a general feel for the magazine, and see how your work might or might not fit into it. I know that when I submit my poetry, I take care to get to know the market in which I’m trying to sell it.
It might be that the idea of finding the right home for your work is an alien idea to you. It might be that you are more accustomed to shotgunning your pieces across the wide world and its web, which would explain your preference for markets that accept “simultations”, as you would term them. To which I say: it is certainly an approach to things, but it is not my approach as a writer, nor an approach that is likely to receive a warm reception at any venue I edit.
Spam marketing may move penis pills, Mr. [redacted], but it does not move me.
That said, I wish you good luck as well in your endeavors. If you do chance to have any pieces you would care to submit, please do make sure you follow our relatively few, simple guidelines for formatting, as they help ensure that we can read your work without respect to your identity as a person and thus without any bias based on prior relationship, reputation, or email interactions.
Kindest possible regards,
Alexandra Erin
Head Editor
Ligature Works

Now, I’ve alluded to the size of our slush pile, both in this blog post proper and in the email response. If you’ve been thinking of submitting, please don’t let that stop you! Our guidelines, few as they are, can be found in detail at http://www.ligatureworks.com/submissions. We will tell you exactly what we’re looking for (insofar as that can be conveyed with regards to artistic works), exactly how to format it to be read, and exactly how to send it in. Easy-peasy!

In or near Baltimore? Come see Fluid Movement with us!

If my summer had gone a little more smoothly, I would have talked about this more. I’d hoped to even do an interview with some of the people involved to sharpen my semi-journalistic skills, but I just didn’t have the time and spoons to make that happen.

Anyway! Last year, Jack, Sarah, and I had the pleasure of attending GOLDBLUM, a quirky water ballet by Baltimore-area aquatic performance group Fluid Movement. I livetweeted the experience (scroll to the bottom, then read up.) I intend to do the same this year with their current show, SCIENCE FAIR!.

We’ll be attending the 5 P.M. show on Sunday, August 7th, at Patterson Park Pool. If you would like to join us, you can get your tickets online at fluidmovement.org. Don’t wait to long. They sold like hotcakes last year. I should be easy to recognize: look for the giant floppy sun hat and rainbow hair. I will also likely be one of the few people covered pretty much head to toe regardless of the weather. My skin does not stand up well to the sun.

If you’re a fan or follower of mine and going, please give us a holler at blueauthor@alexandraerin.com and also let us know if you’d be interested in some kind of offsite meet-up with me beforehand. We might go out early and hang out at a coffee shop or something, if so. I don’t get out to Baltimore very often, so this might be a good chance for that sort of thing. Otherwise, we’ll just see you at the show.

STATUS: Friday, July 28th

The Daily Report

Yesterday was a bit disjointed, but I did accomplish two goals: wrote a piece of flash fiction, which I posted for my patrons, and wrote a new Sad Puppies Review Books. Both are things that I’ve been stuck on for a while.

My Patreon terms are flexible by design. I promise a minimum of one item each of several forms/genres. One of the items is flash fiction or poetry. I did this because I know I can’t write a poem every month. I’d like to. I really wanted to, this month. And so I kept sitting down and trying to do that, and not getting much of anywhere, and not doing anything with that time instead.

I think if I had taken the hint and written a flash piece the first time that happened, I would have likely had multiple flash pieces in the same time. And maybe even a poem, because creativity is funny that way. I’m not looking to lose any sleep over that, just reminding myself that there’s a reason the “or” is there in my checklist, and to pay attention next month.

The SPRB was blocked for a few reasons. One of them was that things that weren’t terribly funny and were more important than the alt-right’s entertainment media culture war. But I came to a realization last night that there’s not really a clean separation between this tempest in a teapot version of the culture war and the bigger one they’re waging outside it. The tempest is not contained within the teapot; the tempest envelops and includes the teapot.

At this point, there are only two remaining items on my checklist for the month. One of them is a big one: finish the zine version of last month’s output. The other isn’t: finish at least one new chapter/installment of my patrons-only serialized novel, Making Out Like Bandits.. The first one is just taking a lot of time because it’s a new thing I haven’t done before. Next month’s will be easier, because I’ll mainly be plugging stuff into a template. The second one is another thing I’ve been blocked on.

I actually started the next chapter of MOLB fairly early on in June, shortly after I put up the most recent one. But I got stuck on it, and I’ve been stuck on it. A little hung up on it, even. I think I’ve figured out my hang-up, though.

Financial Status

Again, I’d love to see more Patreon sign-ups before the end of the month. Since we broke a hundred pledges early on in the month, anyone that’s pledged when the month ticks over to August will be included in a drawing for my signed contributor copy of The Martian Wave 2016, which includes my Rhysling-nominated long poem “Observations From the Black-Ball Line Between Deimos and Callisto”, which may be my favorite of my poems. I believe the rights revert sometime in the fall, at which point I will put it up somewhere that more people can read it.

The State of the Me

I have been sleeping really poorly this week due to a series of misadventures with my phone. First malfunctioning earbuds meant that my sleep playlist was randomly interrupted by Google voice search telling me it couldn’t understand what I was saying. I replaced my earbuds, and the next night I kept getting pinged awake by submissions for Ligature Works. So I put my phone on Do Not Disturb last night, and somehow I turned on “Repeat 1”, which was distracting enough to rouse me a bit every time the track it was stuck on looped (it’s just under an hour long) but not wake me up completely enough to fix it.

None of this is quite as genuinely awful as an insomniac episode, and I tend to sleep a lot more shallowly in the summer anyway due to the heat. But it’s contributing to a low-grade general exhaustion that the heat and the humidity during the day don’t help.

Plans For Today

In terms of things with immediate results, I’m going to be working on Making Out Like Bandits.

Sad Puppies Review Books: CAPS FOR SALE

caps for saleCAPS FOR SALE

Reviewed by John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired)

When this book opens we are introduced to a peddler. I began to feel a sick sense of dread when the book told me that he was not an ordinary peddler. The need to be a special snowflake is ingrained in the sick psyche of the Social Justice Warrior. It is what drives them. It is what makes them all they are.

This peddler walks around with a stack of caps on his head, red caps and blue caps and brown caps and gray caps, and then his special snowflake checked hat that I guess isn’t for sale because how is anyone going to know he’s Mr. Special Cap Guy if he doesn’t have his special cap?

A head-based cap delivery service is so woefully inefficient that it is no surprise he does not sell a single cap all day. “Not even a red cap,” he laments, which suggests that he knows that red caps are best, even if he insists on wearing his ridiculous checked one. Yet they are the ones at the top of the stack, where no one can reach them. SJWs don’t believe in simple market forces like supply and demand. If he knows that red caps are the caps preferred by the majority, there’s no financial reason for him to stock anything else. It’s okay for people to like other caps, but they can’t just expect to be pandered to!

But of course the same radical feminists and I-dentitarians who demand that honest milliners and hardworking haberdashers cater to their every whim lest they be called “offensive” never actually seem to have any money to buy caps! So no one but our poor little cuck of a peddler is surprised when he doesn’t make any sales, boohoo.

He gets no sympathy from me. Should have thought that before you insulted your audience by offering them choices!

So he tramps out into the countryside and sits his lazy ass down beside a tree and falls asleep. Maybe he should just get a Patreon, if working a real job tires him out! It’s when he wakes up that this so far too-predictable tale takes a turn for the interesting: acting individually, a number of unrelated freethinking monkeys have all decided to take it upon themselves, as individual sovereign citizens of the tree, to take one of his hats.

Of course he massively overreacts.

The way the peddler goes off on them, you’d think they’d all taken all of his hats, but each monkey took no more than one. This is also the first time any living creature in the story showed any interest in his hats. He failed to sell them at 50 cents. He communicated no reason to the monkeys or anyone else why they should pay him such a price, or any price. The market has spoken. The hats are worthless! Taking one is no more unethical than pirating a movie that you don’t even want to see in the first place.

Rather than dealing with each of the monkeys as an individual, he generalizes them, which according to Social Justice Warrior logic, is the worst thing you can do. He calls them “YOU MONKEYS”. They freely sell this book to children, and yet I have been banned from many forums online and offline for using those exact words to refer to people. Why is it okay for him to say it but not me? Creeping moral relativism at work!

So the guy gets entirely bent out of shape and he tries to impose his will on the monkeys, the way leftist authoritarians always do, but he finds that they, like all freethinkers, are immune to his only weapon, the feelbads. They won’t be shamed into compliance. They mock him and his beta impotence, each and every individual monkey a shining example of an alpha male, and then in the beautiful, glorious finale, after trolling him so hard that he throws his ridiculous checked cap down at his feet, the monkeys all throw his stupid caps down right at him, too.

It’s a powerful display of defiance and individuality.

They don’t have to give him back his caps, no matter how many times he shakes his fist or stomps his feet, no matter that he pulls out every stop from the Sal Alinsky playbook. He has no power over them. They give him back his caps because they choose to. It’s like they’re saying: it is only through our benevolent forbearance that you have any caps at all, you pathetic mangina. 

They have shown they can take his caps anytime they want. And he knows it. They have nothing left to prove.

Does he learn, though? Of course not. If he could learn, he wouldn’t be a leftist. Just like if there was any demand for caps in the village, the market would already have provided a solution rather than waiting for some “wandering peddle” to happen by.

But he goes right back to it, still haranguing passersby to give him fifty cents for caps that the invisible hand of the free market has already rejected.

Two stars.

STATUS: Tuesday, July 26th

The Daily Report

As the impending presidential election continues to consume more and more of my brain cycles, I find it useful to remind myself of the advice my father gives: always proceed as though the world is not going to end, just in case it doesn’t.

Even if the world does come crashing down around our ears in the aftermath of November, of course, Ligature Works is set to launch at the end of September. I’m moving forward on making it into a real thing. We’re now listed in Duotrope, the online writer’s marktplace/submissions manager thingy. It has also been submitted to the Submissions Grinder and we’ve sent a note to the SFPA website saying that we exist. Going places.

Financial Status

I would really love to see more growth on both my personal Patreon and the Tales of MU one before the end of the month.’

The State of the Me

Doing pretty good.

Plans For Today

Work, work, work. This is going to be a hectic week, but I think it’s going to turn into a good start for next month.

Ligature Works poetry rates increased!

Back at the start of the weekend, I was considering raising the rates for poetry on Ligature Works from $5 to $15. After looking at both my budget for the zine and the marketplace, and giving some thought to game theory, unintended consequences, and being the change I want to see in the world, I have decided that Ligature Works will simply offer $25 for all accepted submissions, poetry and prose.

The reasons for this are basically threefold.

First, having very different rates for the two forms places a material incentive on authors submitting prose works, and yet it motivates us to accept poetry over prose. If you’re mainly a poet and you see someone offering 5 times the rate for prose as poetry, mightn’t that lead you to deforming your work to hit the higher payday? It’s not entirely a hypothetical possibility. The submission guides as originally written even noted the often porous boundary between flash fiction and prose poetry.

As long as there’s economic tension between the prose market and the poetry market, all the creators out there who submit to us would be trying to steer their shorter submissions into the “prose” door while we’re encouraged to shift them into the “poetry” one, which creates an incentive for authors who have written shorter works to pad them out to a “safe” size, at which they can’t reasonably be construed as a prose poem, whether that suits the piece are not. This is contrary to our basic belief that all pieces should be the right length for themselves.

By removing the difference between how we pay for prose and how we pay for poetry, this frees up both sides to behave naturally and submit/receive each work as its own thing.

Second (and strongly related to the first), it seems hypocritical to pay one rate for prose pieces regardless of how long they are, and another rate for poetry pieces, as if the fact that poetry is often less substantial in word count and page space means that it’s inherently less valuable.

It isn’t.

I myself write tens of thousands of words of prose fiction a month many months, and hundreds even in most of my worst months, but it’s a good month if I write one poem. Some people spend a year or more getting everything just right in their poem, going through multiple drafts and making sure every word bears the weight of the work.

Third, if the point of the “paying people” portion of this exercise is to reinforce the idea that creative work has value, we need to be prepared to provide value in return. When I set the rates at $25 for short stories and $5 for a poem, I based it on what I’ve been prepared to accept myself. And that’s fair enough. But $5 isn’t a “tacit payment” in the same way that $25 is; it’s way more tacit, way less payment.

Don’t get me wrong; I would still submit my poems to a venue that pays in the $5 range, or one that cannot offer payment. But I find myself unwilling to create a venue that values one over the other.

I’m aware that this decision is likely to have unintended consequences of its own. While the prose rate of $25 is still below what is considered “pro rates”, $25 for poetry is fairly competitive. It’s below the big markets, but above most of the small zines.

One obvious consequence of this is that our first few issues, at least, will likely be smaller than I’d envisioned, in terms of table of contents. But! That’s okay. I’m looking at the 2016 issues as a sort of “soft launch” anyway.


STATUS: Monday, July 25th

The Daily Report

Last week of the month, and I really need to hit this one out of the park. I need a week like my first week in June. I think I’m in a good position to have one.

This past weekend, Jack and I had a decadently life-affirming lunch with Renaissance woman C.S.E. Cooney and her mother. We talked books, movies, and what we’ve been up to lately. I talked up Ligature Works a bit, but as much as we talked about work stuff, most of the time was just catching up and hanging out, and weirdly, being able to sit there for 2-3 hours with another writer, a writer I greatly admire, and just talk might have been the biggest shot in the arm I’ve had since WisCon.

My family member in the hospital is still in the hospital, but likely to be discharged in the next few days.

Financial Status

Well, thanks to a very generous gift, we are now officially registered for WorldCon 75 in Helsinki. I’ll be looking at how my financial are lined up for actually getting us there after WorldCon 74. Nothing else much to report right now.

The State of the Me

I think I’m hitting my stride with this “summer” thing. Midafternoon nap and adequate hydration are really the keys.

Plans For Today

It’s a creative day. Last week’s aborted end means I’m a little ahead on Tales of MU for this week, so I’ve got that going for me.

STATUS: Friday, July 22nd

The Daily Report

So, first thing: a close family member is in the hospital with a painful but not likely life-threatening condition. Any predictions about the trajectory of this day must be somewhat guarded. The fact that I do not drive means I’m the least likely to be called on to help in times like this, but I must be prepared nonetheless. That said, my goal for the day is to still keep things normal as possible.

Another submission for Ligature Works has arrived. So far it’s heavily slanted towards prose, which is sort of the opposite of what I’d expected. It was kind of a bare afterthought that I made the venue poetry and prose instead of just poetry. Ah, well. There is still more than a month left in the window, and it might be that interested poets are taking more time polishing their works.

I have not had the same feeling of absolutely kicking backside in July that I did in June, though I think this is more appearance/feelings than anything else. June was a very heavily “front loaded” month for me, as it started directly after WisCon. July started with a family vacation. I keep catching myself feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing except for posting a short story I actually wrote in June, and while it’s true that there have been a lot of days where I’ve set immediate goals I did not reach, I have crossed more items off my monthly goal list than that.

I still have a lot left to do in the last week of the month, but I’ve done a lot in a week before.

Financial Status

Basically unchanged. My Patreon pledge total been hovering just below 400, sometimes with two steps forward, one back. It went down yesterday by enough that I noticed. I’m not sure if that was a response to me tweeting about Black Lives Matter and police violence, or because the $10 benefit is right now kind of contingent on people buying the $25 benefit, or just someone no longer has the financial ability to give that kind of support. I’m not saying this to call the person out and ask them to account for themselves; truth is that they don’t owe me an explanation any more than they owe me money.

There’s actually an “exit survey” thing that I never look at. If I had a few thousand supporters, maybe that would feel like anonymous data from which I could gauge general trends. With just over a hundred (and less than that, in all previous months), it feels kind of creepy and invasive to be scrutinizing individual motivations for leaving. I’m grateful people pledge any amount of money for any amount of time. In general terms, I would rather not be told when they leave, or why.

It does slightly change the odds on hitting the $400 mark before the end of the month, though. I really hope I make it back.

The State of the Me

Doing okay. I think for July and August I just might have to build a two hour nap into my afternoon schedule. It tends to happen anyway. I think my days would be more productive and better ordered, and my mental health better, if I just counted on it happening.

Plans For Today

Ideally what will happen is I’ll finish and post the chapter of Tales of MU that I started yesterday.

What happened yesterday.

Yesterday was surreal. The first thing that happened in the morning was that I saw the news about Charles Kinsey, the Black man shot in the leg while in a state of complete compliance and surrender. He wasn’t the police’s target: they were aiming at his autistic patient, sitting curled up on the pavement, legs crossed, clutching a toy truck that is not only clearly visible as a toy truck but has been identified as such by the helpful Mr. Kinsey.

When the links first started popping up on Twitter and Facebook, I read “shot” and thought “killed”. When I caught a reference to Mr. Kinsey speaking to reporters, I was so relieved. And then I read what he said about it, and I started putting it together with a lot of the more brutal things that have come out through recordings of police: people on camera giving execution-style finishing shots or ignoring and withholding medical attention from a victim who is bleeding out on the ground, the rash of gun deaths ruled “suicides” involving fully restrained prisoners who had been checked for weapons, the recordings and eyewitness testimony involving captains and other officials issuing shoot-to-kill orders and advising their officers not to leave a victim alive to testify, etc.

And I wrote a series of tweets. I was conflicted beforehand and throughout, about the utility, necessity, and appropriateness of a white woman talking about the absolute callous disregard the police as an institution hold for Black lives and the deadly consequences this holds. I went ahead and did it because I thought the things I had to say did need to be said.

I’m not going to rehash it all here, as it’s all been said already. I storified the tweet thread, to make it easier to share and read. The reason I’m making this blog post is to describe what happened next, as the tweets have resonated so much and spread so far that many of the individual tweets have been retweeted over a thousand times, the rest several hundreds. I have gained more than 300 followers on Twitter, meaning that more than 10% of my current followers came along in the past 24 hours. My notifications are utterly flooded if I don’t keep them on the friends-only setting. The Twitter app on my phone crashes if I try to check them. I think I’m getting something like a hundred notifications a minute, almost 24 hours later.

I had been having an emotional week for personal (and, to some extent, physiological) reasons already. I was tired when I made those tweets. I was exhausted afterwards. I tried to have a normal wake day, but I didn’t make my status post and I didn’t even take my morning pills until 3:30 in the afternoon.

Because it needs to be said: none of this is a complaint about the attention. It was not my goal and when I realized my tweets were blowing up, I added a link to Black Lives Matter’s donation page to the end of the tweet thread rather than trying to profit off it myself. I suspect that there will be a net gain for me either way, whether I sought it or not, even as I kind of suspect a lot of the new followers will bounce within a few days. It’s just the nature of things.

This is not a complaint, but a report: what happened yesterday, why I didn’t make a status post, why there was no chapter draft. I don’t regret that my day was taken over by this. But for those who don’t do Twitter or don’t follow me there, I believed an explanation was in order.

Today, I’m going to do my level best to have an ordinary work day, trying not to get distracted by a still climbing follower count or people’s responses, which includes a growing amount of negative backlash by people who want to debate me using racist and erroneous assumptions about crime statistics, or who want to read my tweets as a generalization about all police as individual officers rather than statements about the police as an institution. Having my notifications set to “only people you follow” is all kinds of help there, though regrettably it means I’m likely missing attempts to contact me.

…well, I just wrote this paragraph about an ordinary work day, and then got a text about a family member and a medical emergency. I don’t know the nature or extent of it, and can’t guess what affect it will have. Ah, well. No one ever knows what the future will hold.

STATUS: Wednesday, July 20th

The Daily Report

So, an interesting thing happened yesterday. For the second time, someone tapped me on the electronic shoulder regarding one of my medium pieces and asked for permission to reprint/crosspost it on their site. After some discussion of terms, I accepted, and now my satirical news story about men sitting alone in Ghostbusters theaters is up on Global Comment. I have to say, I prefer my original headline, comically unwieldy as it was, but the site has its own priorities.

I’m curious to see how well it does there. So far if the little Facebook widget on the articles are accurate, it seems like its already the most-shared recent piece. None of the other widgets are registering any shares, which is odd since I used them to post it to Twitter and Tumblr. It’ll be interesting to see where it tops out, and in particular how it compares to the numbers for the Medium version. The experiment might inform some of my decisions regarding the placement of future pieces.

Financial Status

Things continue apace. My Patreon is still hovering just below $400. Tips are slow. Household is fine.

The State of the Me

Yesterday I had rising anxiety all throughout the day. Saying I did not have a good night last night would be an understatement, and I remain tense and fragile feeling today. I kind of just hope I can get through today without breaking down.

Plans For Today

…that notwithstanding, it is a work day and I am working. Not sure on what yet, but there’s a lot to be done.