Monday, June 15, 2015

In Defense Of Giving It Away

In Defense Of Giving It Away:
Why you should always accept any offer to be published anywhere.

I read an article entitled “Exposure is NotPayment: Why You Should Start Respecting Yourself as a Writer”.
The author of the article hates my guts and it’s tough to like someone that hates you, but my intention is not to write a response piece just to provide a counter-point or break his balls.
My intention is, knowing that some aspiring authors are going to read that article and, looking for any kind of advice to help with their writing career, are going to take his opinion as advice and follow that advice, which is, in my opinion, bad advice.

Building Your Resume
When you’re trying to establish yourself as an author, you’re building a brand. You and your writing are your brand.
The purpose of establishing brand recognition is to try to get people to recognize you and your work favorably, so that when they have tried and liked some of it, they will look for and consume more of it.
One of the problems with establishing your brand is that until you’ve been published, you have nothing for people to base their opinion on, and unless you have been published before, it’s difficult to know how to go about getting published.
It’s like the classic “can’t get a job without experience and can’t get experience without a job” conundrum.
As with employment, your compensation sometimes reflects your experience. Being published for free is an easy way to build your resume as an author. It’s like when someone does an internship in the career field they want to work in to get some work experience. You can get four or five publishing credits under your belt, establishing your brand and building a fan base, and using each new publishing credit as a lever to try to sell your back catalog and your future books.
Market statistics strongly suggest that the more books you have in print, the more of each title you will sell, because each book helps to sell the other books. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.
This is why, as an aspiring author, or one that is trying to bolster their brand, I don’t see any kind of problem with submitting to and being published by “FTL” or “For The Love” anthologies.

Fighting For Readers
According to five minutes of Google research, there are over 800,000 books available through Amazon. It’s not a matter of readers having limited choice, it’s 800,000 books fighting for the attention of potential readers.
I don’t know the statistics on how many books the average reader reads each year, but if they only read ten books a year, I want one of my books to be one of those books. Hopefully all ten of them, but, realistically, I’d settle for one or two.
The benefit of being published without compensation is that hopefully you’ll find some new readers. The new readers will like what they read and go out and try to find more of your writing. It’s like a taste test. It’s why movies make trailers. It’s why food brands pay people to stand in supermarkets and hand out free samples. And it works. Not only does it work, but “free” is a multi-million dollar industry.
I’m not saying that you should aspire to not be paid for your writing. Being paid is always better than not being paid. But, as Henry Rollins has been known to say, “Pal, I’d rather be heard than paid.
I’m willing to have my work published wherever anyone wants to publish it. I always give out free PDF copies of any of my books to anyone that wants to read them as long as they promise to stop by the Amazon listing when they’re done reading it and post a review. More reviews increases the likelihood that you’ll show up in more related searches which increases the number of potential readers that might by your book.
It’s “social proof”. “Well, if someone else likes this, then maybe I’ll like it too.” It’s how most people figure out how to spend their money.
If someone wants to include one of my stories in their anthology, I’m always down as long as they let me know so that I can promote its inclusion. Again, social proof.
The theory is also that if you give someone something for free you establish a rapport and enter into the social contract. The process where if you do something nice for someone, they’ll do something nice for you because that’s what nice people do. It’s the “golden rule” and the key to how I used to make more money than anyone else when I was a merchandise vendor at horror conventions. A lot of vendors would try to skip the foreplay and get right into your pants. I would ignore the fact that I was there to make money and just chat with people and after the conversation naturally started to dwindle, most people would buy something because I was a nice guy and didn’t try to start off selling them something. I made a lot of new friends and made thousands of dollars a weekend.
It doesn’t always work when giving away your books for free, but if they weren’t going to pay for your work anyway, if you get one sale from every ten PDF copies of your book you give away, it doesn’t cost you anything, and that’s another sale that you wouldn’t have made if you hadn’t given them something for free.

On The Other Hand…
Never pay to be published. Never pay to be considered for publication. If you’re paying to be published, the money is moving in the wrong direction. It doesn’t cost anything to publish your work through Amazon.
If a publisher is interested in publishing your work, they should think that your work is good enough that people would be willing to buy it, and the time and effort they put into reading, editing, formatting, designing a cover, publishing and promoting your work is what they’re offering.
If you can handle the editing, formatting, designing a cover, publishing and promoting your work, then a publisher doesn’t have anything to offer you and you should probably consider publishing your own work if you’re that confident in your writing.
That being said, you should have at least one or two of your friends that are experienced readers read your book before you publish it.

Why I Created My Own Publishing Imprint
I always liked reading. I’ve read thousands of books. I’m the kind of person that will almost always try to read the book before I see the movie.
I’ve read thousands of books. Good ones, bad ones, dictionaries, and at least one set of encyclopedias. I had an acquaintance that was putting together a horror genre magazine. I offered to do movie reviews, but anyone can do movie reviews. So I offered to write book reviews instead. I looked up the contact information for the publishers that publish books by the authors that I liked and asked them for books and the books started coming in and I started writing reviews.
Since then I’ve written hundreds of reviews and been appeared in most horror magazines.
One of my reviews resulted in my being offered the opportunity to write a book.
I thought what every author probably thinks.
A book contract meant an advance and I would use the advance to live on while I wrote the book.
Maybe that’s how it works for the big names, but for my first contract the deal was, they told me what kind of book they wanted, I went off and wrote the book, I sent them the book without any kind of advance payment, they published the book and then I waited for them to tell me if it sold any copies.
It did.
It retails for about $12.50 and sells about $25,000 a year and has been doing that since it was published in 2007. From that $25,000, I get a check for about $1,000 a year, so, over the past eight years I’ve made about $8,000 from that book that I wrote for free without any kind of advance payment. Not enough to quit my job and write full time, but that’s $8,000 I wouldn’t have had if I had followed the advice of the author of the article that inspired this.
If I had told them that I wouldn’t write them a book without being paid they would have told me that’s not the way it works and offered the contract to the next aspiring author.
Based on that first book, I was a published author.
I didn’t make it the only thing I ever talked about.
There’s people I know that don’t even know that I have written several books.
I’m not one of those “I’M AN AUTHOR!” authors.
But, if I’m talking with someone and we start to talk about books, I mention it.
I met some other authors at conventions and they asked me if I was interested in submitting short stories for consideration for anthologies they were putting together.
I wrote stories to compliment the themes that they were putting together and the stories were usually accepted without much editorial comment.
The compensation was usual an honorary sum between $5-$25 and a contributor’s copy of the book or either or both. Sometimes I got what I was promised. Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes the project fell apart or was never published. But it didn’t cost me anything to write new stories.
The stories have been published and re-published in other anthologies and after writing stories for about a dozen anthologies, I had enough stories to put together my own collection of short stories including tried and true stories.
I had an idea for a novel so I wrote it.
When I was finished, I submitted it for consideration to all of the publishers accepting publication.
I received mostly deferential, polite, responses letting me know that their publishing schedule for the year was full, but they would add my book to the pile of books to be considered for publication.
I let things stand for a couple years, thinking that someday one of the publishers would read my novel and recognize its potential and offer to publish it.
I realized that since the publishers of the anthologies I had appeared in were able to publish their own book projects so I spent a few days figuring out how to publish my own book.
It grew slowly till I made between $300-$500 a month from that book. So that was between $3,600-$6,000 a year on top of the $1,000 a year I was making from my first book.
Still not enough to quit working a wage slave shift job, but better than not having that money and proof that the more books you write and publish, the more books you will hopefully sell.
Granted, your results may vary.

Why I Publish Anthologies
I publish anthologies because I can.
It doesn’t cost me anything except the time and effort it takes to edit, format, designing a cover, publish and promote the anthology.
I appreciated when the publishers that published the anthologies asked me to submit stories and accepted the stories I wrote, and I want to be able to provide that experience to other aspiring authors trying to build their writing resume.
I like coming up with an idea for an anthology and designing the front cover and putting it out into the world and seeing what kind of stories that I get in response to my call.
I came up with themes for and published four or five anthologies last year.

What You May Not Know About Publishing Anthologies
I make all of my calls open calls, which means that anyone can submit stories for consideration.
I usually receive between 60-100 stories in response to each call.
I’m only looking to put between 10-15 stories in each anthology unless I get too many truly exceptional submission and can’t narrow it down to just fifteen.
I think that kind of kicks the whole “Since these anthologies aren’t overflowing with submissions, and the cost of publishing you is literally zero dollars (assuming there is no contributor copy offered, on top of no payment), there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to receive an acceptance.” thing in the dick.
I don’t think that the author of the article was targeting me or my publishing imprint.
There are publishers that will publish anything and use aspiring authors as cash cows.
But I think it shows the reality of how many submissions a publisher has to consider for inclusion. A hundred stories may not seem like a lot of reading at between 3-9 pages each, but it can be unless you have a process.
I can usually get through between three and five stories a night, giving them my undivided attention, and editing for spelling and grammar and providing editorial comment when appropriate.
It takes me about a month to put together an anthology, and my plan was to put out one a month last year, but the time and effort wore me down until I burned out and have been sitting on the last anthology since last fall.
It takes about an hour a story to read a story, edit it, figure out if it will work to compliment the theme of the anthology and if I should accept it, put it aside for reconsideration, or decline the story.
If my time is worth, say $10 an hour, then I put about $1,000 of my time into considering 100 stories. Time that I could be doing my own writing or putting in hours at a job where they give me money for showing up.
I don’t begrudge the time or effort, because, as I said, I like putting together anthologies and giving aspiring authors trying to build their brand and their writing resume the opportunity to be considered for publication.

Why I Don’t Pay Upon Acceptance
I do all of the work on the anthologies myself, outside of writing the stories, obviously.
For the latest one that I’m working on, I shopped out the cover design because my concept for the cover was beyond my Microsoft Paint bootleg Photoshop skills.
Each of the anthologies usually sell between 10 and 100 copies.
I try to have around 10-15 stories for each book if I can find 10-15 worth including from the 60-100 submitted for consideration.
That way the price for the book usually falls around $10.
Of that $10, Amazon keeps 30% and I get 70%.
For all of my anthologies, I offer a 50/50 royalty split.
As the publisher, I keep 50% and split the other half between all of the authors.
If I let myself have a story in the anthology, which I don’t always do, I don’t take an author share.
If it sells ten copies, there’s $70 to split between 10-15 authors.
If it sells a hundred copies, there’s $700 to split between 10-15 authors.
Let’s say it does well, sells a hundred copies and there were fifteen stories and I didn’t have a story in it.
I keep half ($350) and the other half ($350) split between 15 authors is 23.3infinity which I would round up to $23.50
So if I had paid out $25 (which is considered an approximate baseline industry standard for acceptance payment for short stories) I would have lost $22.50, on top of the $1,000 of time I put into putting the anthology together.
If it doesn’t do that well and only sells 10 copies, it breaks down to $70 / $35/$35 I’d round it up to $2.50 and if I had paid $25 upon acceptance I’d be out $350
If I sent out contributor copies instead of paying upon acceptance, at about $10 each (including shipping) it would have cost me $150 and I’d be out $115
I always try to pay out royalties promptly, sending out a statement with a screenshot of the back-end of my profiles on the publishing platforms that I use after the first month of release, because that’s when the anthologies sell the most copies. While the authors are still excited about being published and the book is fresh in the minds of potential buyers.
The principle is that fifteen authors, all promoting the same book will sell fifteen times as many books than if you had published something featuring any single author and each author would be introduced to the readers of all of the other authors and any other random buyers of the anthology because it looks awesome.
And it does work, kind of, except nobody is getting rich off of the anthologies I publish.
I have a standard policy that if the anthology sells a hundred copies, in addition to the royalties, I’ll send pay out of my share to send out complimentary contributor copies as an incentive for the authors to promote the anthology because if it sells well, then everyone does well.
Again, it works, in theory, but I’m still making less for my time and effort than if I just went out and got an extra part-time job.
So why do I put together anthologies?
Because I like doing it, and I like being able to give other aspiring authors the feeling that I used to get from being published.
I’ve been the first royalty payments that many of the authors that I have published have received and that’s really a nice feeling, although I kind of feel bad for giving them a little taste when the book business is so competitive these days.
Sometimes they think, “Hey! If I made this much for a short story, then imagine how much money I can make if I wrote a book of my own!”
Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t.
I wish everyone the best of luck.
One thing that I do agree with the author of the other article on is that not distributing digital copies of the book to all of the contributors is fucked.
It only takes a few minutes to paste a JPEG of the cover into the Word document of the proof for the interior and convert it into a PDF. It doesn’t cost anything to distribute ARC PDFs and, realistically, if the friends and family of the authors really want to read their story without buying the book, I wouldn’t blame the author for sending them their story.
Obviously, I’d prefer that the authors didn’t give away the book to potential customers, but the way that I distribute royalties, if they’re giving away the book to a potential customer they’re hurting their own back end and the royalties of all of the other contributors. But if the people they give a free digital copy to weren’t going to buy the book anyway, I’d rather that they give them a free copy to read and review because that way at least everyone hopefully gets their story read and reviewed which helps to contribute to the “social proof” on Amazon.
As Henry Rollins has been known to say, “Pal, I’d rather be heard than paid.”

A Guide For Writing And Submitting Stories For Consideration
When I used to help run a horror film festival, we would get around a hundred films for consideration each year.
There was a submission fee, and it was quite profitable.
We made between $3,000-$5,000 a year.
Don’t think that you should just go out and start your own horror film festival.
Like putting together the anthologies, if you’re trying to make some extra money, it’s easier to just get an extra job when you consider the time and effort that you put into putting it together, so if you’re not doing it because you love doing it, then don’t do it.
The main festival that the horror festival was a sub-festival of would take away all of our submission money and leave us about a tenth of the money to put on the festival.
Whenever there was a hot horror film that was popular in theaters, the next year we would receive a bunch of derivative knock-off shorts and features based on that film.
The year after Shaun Of The Dead came out, we received dozens of zombie comedies.
The real stand-out films were the ones that went their own way and explored a new and interesting theme.
I totally understand wanting to pay homage to the things that you liked, but if you liked a movie about a serial killer, it doesn’t meant that if you went out and made a movie about a serial killer, that it would be as good and make as much money.
Since The Walking Dead is popular these days, there’s a lot of writers writing about zombies. So I get a lot of short stories about zombies to consider for the anthologies. But, since I get so many stories about zombies, your story has to be really exceptional to stand out against all of the other zombie stories to be accepted for inclusion in the anthology.
We’d all like to think that anything we take the time and effort to write is exceptional, but if you’re writing about vampires, serial killers, zombies, demons, or anything Lovecraftian, then you’ve got a lot of competition.
I know that it seems like everything has already been done, and it’s impossible to come up with a new idea, but if you write from your own experiences in your own “voice” hopefully you’ll come up with something different enough to make the editor include your story in their anthology.
As with the film festival, I can’t stress enough that you should READ AND FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS.
If we couldn’t watch the media you sent in, you didn’t get into the film festival.
If I can’t open the document you sent, you’re not going to be included in the anthology.
If the editor mentions a certain word count parameter and your story is longer or shorter than the word count specified, then you can contact the editor and ask if they will consider stories of your length.
I’ll usually consider stories if they’re a couple hundred words above or below the guidelines, but if I’m looking for short stories and you send me a novel for consideration, you’re going to wait until after I get the anthology put together before I look at your novel.
For the anthology I’m working on, I asked that the documents be titled “Story Name by Author Name - # Word Count”.
I asked for this, because when dealing with 100 stories from 100 authors with 100 different e-mails you have to have a system to keep it all organized or it’s easy to loose track of things.
Of the stories I received, maybe half of the documents were titled in the manner that I asked that they be labeled for submission.
I went in and fixed all of the files, but the time and effort that took was time and effort that I could have been reading your story if you had read and followed the submission guidelines.
Also, I can totally tell when you’ve got a pre-existing story from the short story folder on your computer and you dust it off and send it in. It usually clashes with the stated theme and will probably be declined, so save us both the time and effort and read the call for submissions and write something new.
Use the submission call as a writing prompt to write a new story.
Worst case scenario, you’ll have another story for that collection of your short stories you’re putting together.

Who Do I think I Am?
So who am I that I think that I have the right to judge which stories are the best of those submitted for consideration and where did I get the balls to start my own publishing imprint?
Well, I’ve read thousands of books, reviewed hundreds of books, been published several dozen times and made several thousands of dollars doing what I do, so if I was bad at it, I think the world would know.
I think I get the balls from my father’s side, and anyone can start their own publishing imprint, but now that you know how much time and effort it takes to roll the dice, I don’t know why you’d want to.
It’s easier to just work a few overtime shifts at the job that you’d rather not be working.
I still work on my own books and submit new short stories for consideration in response to anthology calls for other publishers.
I like the challenge of trying to write a story for someone else’s anthology and write to meet their submission guidelines.
Also I use it as a quality test to make sure I'm not buying too much of my own bullshit.
Half the time I get accepted. Half the time I don’t.
But I don’t get hung up on it either way.
Being accepted doesn’t mean I’m amazing. Just better than the other stories that were submitted.
Being rejected doesn’t mean that I’m terrible. It just means that I didn’t send them what they were looking for and at least I have another story to add to the next edition of my short story collection.
I don’t ride my e-mail and wait to hear from the editor.
I just send in my story and if they’re interested or not, they’ll respond or they won’t.
That would be my final piece of advice.
Don’t hassle the publishers with follow-up e-mails asking about your submission.
I make it a point to send a “confirmation of receipt and ability to open” for each submission, but not every publishers take the time and effort to do so.
In fact, in my experience, most don’t.
You just shoot what you’ve got into the dark and sometimes you’re lucky and your bullet finds its target.

Scott Lefebvre can write about whatever you want him to write about.
Mostly because when he was grounded for his outlandish behavior as a hyperactive school child, the only place he was allowed to go was the public library.
His literary tastes were forged by the works of Helen Hoke, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft.
He is the author of Spooky Creepy Long Island, and Condemned; and a contributing author to Forrest J. Ackerman’s Anthology of the Living Dead, Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, The Call of Lovecraft, and Cashiers du Cinemart.
His reviews have been published by a variety of in print and online media including Scars Magazine, Icons of Fright, Fatally Yours and Screams of Terror, and he has appeared in Fangoria, Rue Morgue and HorrorHound Magazine.
Check out his publishing imprint Burnt Offerings Books here:
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Monday, April 14, 2014

The Man In Black

The Man In Black by Scott Lefebvre

     I’ll never forget where I was when I found out that Johnny Cash died.
     I had worked the graveyard shift the night before.  Midnight till eight in the morning.
     On the way home I was hungry and knew I’d need some food if I was going to get to sleep.
I stopped at a cafĂ© for breakfast.  Nothing too fancy, but the breakfast menu was decent and you knew what you were going to get when you ordered it
     The place was empty.
     A Friday morning after the breakfast rush, but before the lunch rush.
The smell of hot grease, fresh coffee and frying bacon hanging in the air.
     I sat down at the counter on a red pleather padded aluminum stool, the chrome legs scuffed from a thousand thoughtless kicks.
     The waitress came over and asked me what I wanted to drink.
     I ordered hot coffee and iced water.
     She left behind a menu, but I already knew what I wanted.
     Two eggs, over easy, rye toast, bacon.  Side of home fries.
     I told her when she came back with my drinks and she jotted it down in her notepad and went away to give the order to the cook.
     I shrugged off my jacket and hung it on the back of the stool.
     I put my elbows on the counter and leaned my head in my hands, pressing the heels into the wells of my eyes.  Being an insomniac can be difficult, but it means I can do the graveyard shift without falling asleep at the job.  It’s not for everyone, but if it was there would be less work for me, so I make do with what I’ve got.  You have to play the hand you’re dealt.
     I pushed my hair back.  It was starting to thin at the front, the widow’s peak gradually retreating as each hair gave up.
     Time is a traitor.
I watched the morning news.
     Yesterday was the anniversary of 9/11 and the day was commemorated by the nation in a variety of ways.  Some with moments of silence and some with noisy protest but none of it undid what happened two years ago.
     I remembered 9/11.
     I was asleep when the first plane hit.
     My mother called me and left a message making sure I wasn’t planning on flying anywhere.  That’s what parents do.  When the hawk flies overhead, the chickens gather their chicks under their wings.  I called back and got the answering machine.  I left a message saying I was flying out of Logan and what was the big deal?  She called me back a minute later and I found out that this was the wrong day to make jokes about air travel.  I went to their house and watched television all day and into the night, watching the second plane hit the second building and the buildings collapse into themselves over and over again and again.
     I remember thinking it looked like the dozens of controlled demolitions I had watched.  Whenever I’d see one, I’d stop and watch the puffs of smoke and listen to the roar as the building met its fate, the debris churning out into the adjoining streets.  I didn’t know if I’d be able to watch a planned demolition ever again and feel the same way and ever since then when I saw a plane that looked like it was flying a little lower than it should I wondered if I’d see it crash into the side of a building and explode in a fireball.
     But in time, those thoughts faded.  I went on with my life, like everyone else did.  Although I had some friends that said that the whole thing was a staged event and I felt at first that the collapse of the buildings looked like a planned demolition I figured that we’d never know for sure and it didn’t matter day-to-day.
     The segment ended and the television showed a clip of Johnny Cash performing Folsom Prison Blues.
     They showed the first two measures and let the first three lines of the first verse play.
     I sang along under my breath.
     “I hear the train a comin'.  It's rolling round the bend.  And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when…”
     The clip faded into a talking head who said, “Country musician Johnny Cash passed away today at the age of seventy-one.”
     “Fuck.” I said to myself.
     “We all have to go sometime.” a voice said from behind my right shoulder.
     I turned my head and saw an old white man looking up at the television.
     He was wearing a black suit with a white shirt and black tie.
     His hair, what was left of it was shorn short and wrapped around the back of his head.
     He had dark circles under his eyes that looked like bruises.
     He looked like he had carried those bags a long way.
     He looked sideways at me and shrugged, gesturing at the seat to my right.  “Is this seat taken?”
     I looked around the restaurant.  It was empty other than the two of us and the waitress, who was making small talk with the grill cook through the serving window.  No reason to be rude.
     “It’s a free country.” I said.
     “That’s what they say.”
     “They say a lot of things.”
     “They do at that, don’t they?” the man said and pulled out the chair.
     The waitress came over and asked the man what he’d be having.  The man said, “Coffee, please.”
     The waitress replied, “Coming right up!” and turned to fetch a mug.
     She came back a few seconds later with a white porcelain mug and a carafe of coffee in one hand and my plate of food in the other.
     “Here you go!” she said, putting the plate on the counter in front of me.
     “And here you go!” she said and put the mug down in front of the old man sitting to the side of me, filling the mug with steaming hot coffee.
     The woman held the carafe out and asked me, “Top you off?”
     I looked down at my coffee.  I had only had a few sips so I said, “No, thanks.”
     She took her carafe and went away.
     I reached for the salt and pepper shakers and shook a little of each over my plate of food.
     The man reached for a sugar jar.  The kind with a glass bottom and a chromed metal top with a little lever in the lid to let the sugar pour through.  He tipped the sugar and silently counted to five and put the sugar down.
     I picked up the bottle of ketchup and shook it hard, shaking the sauce into the neck of the bottle.  I uncapped the bottle and poured it over the home fries.
     He picked up an aluminum cream container and poured a dollop into his coffee and watched the cream swirl into the oily blackness and well back up to the top.  The man stirred his coffee with a spoon, clinking it around in a circle inside the mug.
     I put the ketchup bottle down and picked up my fork and knife and pinned down the center of one of the eggs, and cut across it, the bright yellow yolk bleeding out onto the white of the egg.  I cut a square and raised the fork to my mouth, tucking the first bite into my mouth.
     The man asked, “What do you do?”
     I looked down at the embroidered badge on my uniform shirt and looked up at the man.
     “I’m a security officer.”
     “Yes… I can see that.  But what do you do?”
     “I mostly just stay up all night making sure that the place doesn’t burn down around me.”
     “Sounds like easy work.”
     “It is.  I get a fair amount of time to read so I get a fair amount of reading done.”
     “What do you like to read?”
     “Charles Bukowski.  Raymond Chandler.  Bret Easton Ellis.  Hubert Selby Jr.”
     “Good stuff.”
     I turn my head and raise my right eyebrow.  “I think so.”
     “Do you like your job?” the man asked.
     “I’ve worked harder for less.  If I’ve got to do something it might as well be this.”
     “You’ll miss it someday.” He said.
     “I doubt it.” I said and cut another fork of eggs, wiping it onto a triangle of toast before biting it off.
     The man took a sip of his coffee and smiled a satisfied smile.  “God, how I miss the taste of hot coffee.”  He looked a little to the left and raised his eyebrows.  “You’ll miss it someday.  It’s the little things.  The simple things you never think you’ll miss that you end up missing the most.”
     “Why do you miss coffee?” I asked the man.
     The man laughed a quiet laugh and said, “They don’t have it where I’m from.”
     “Where are you from?” I asked, more out of politeness than genuine interest.
     “I’m from here.”
     “So, you live around here?”
     “Yes and no.”
     “Fair enough.” I took a sip from the glass of iced water to wash down the bite of eggs and toast.
     The man took a sip of his coffee.
     “If you’re from around here, and you said they don’t have coffee where you’re from, then how is it that they don’t have coffee where you’re from, since you said that you’re from here.”
     “Do you ever wonder what the future is going to be like?”
     “I guess.  Sometimes.  I don’t think it’s going to be a whole lot different than things are now.  Maybe we’ll finally stop killing each other over oil and we’ll find a way to make enough food to feed everyone, but people are people, and that not a lot’s going to change for the next thousand years or so, and even if it does, I won’t be around to see it, so it doesn’t bear thinking about.”
     “You’re right and you’re wrong.  Some things change and some things stay the same.  But it’s the little things you miss.  Coffee.  Bacon.  Cigarettes.  Enjoy them while you can.”
     “How would you know?”
     The man put his coffee on the counter and jerked his left arm back, hiking up the sleeve of his suit jacket.  He unbuttoned his cuff and folded it back.  He put his hand down on the counter and I looked at his wrist.  I expected to see a concentration camp tattoo and have to hear about what that whole thing was like.  Instead there were eight blurry words.  They weren’t in English, but I knew what they meant.  I looked at his face and his eyes locked on mine.  He said, “Day in.  Day out.  I hunger and struggle.”
     I held the man’s gaze.
     He folded the cuff back into place and buttoned the cuff, shooting the sleeve of his jacket back down.
     I looked down at my left wrist.
     I was wearing the bracelet that my friend Maya had given me when I was in Toronto.
It was a tight woven bracelet of chain mail made from little metal rings and black rubber bands.  I didn’t wear it because I was ashamed of the tattoo in the skin of my wrist underneath it.  I just didn’t like the way that anything felt when it rubbed against the scar on my right wrist so I wore the bracelet on my left.  It was closely knit and wide enough that it usually hid my tattoo unless I pushed the bracelet aside to show someone.  And I hadn’t done that.
     “What is this?”
     “What do you think it is?”
     “Is this some kind of trick?”
     “Do you think it’s a trick?”
     “Are you supposed to be me?”
     “Do you think I’m supposed to be you?”
     “Are you going to answer all of my questions with the same question?”
     “Only the rhetorical ones.”
     “So if you’re me, then what is the name of my pet cat?”
     “Your cat’s dead.  Her name was Tinkerbell.”
     I opened my mouth to ask another question and he said, “The first girl you kissed was Liz Jarvis.  It was on Halloween night when you were in seventh grade.  You don’t know what happened to her and you never will.”
     The man checked his watch and turned his head to look at me.
     “Do you want to do this all morning long?  Or is there anything else you want to ask?”
     “Why here?  Why now?”
     “You always remembered where you were when you found out that Johnny Cash had died.  All I had to do was look up the date.”
     “So there are time machines in the future.”
     The man raised his brow and gave me a deadpan look.
     “You’re not here to kill me, are you?”
     “If I was, I wouldn’t be here.  How could I kill you and then be alive to come back and kill myself?  It’s a paradox.” He said and sipped his coffee “And it doesn’t work that way.”
     “Why then?”
     “Why not?” he said, and said, “I’m sorry.  I just missed myself.  I missed this time.  Coffee.”  He laughed.  “I remembered what life used to be like and I wanted to come back and spend a little time enjoying it.”
     “But why this?  Why not travel back in time and kill Hitler?”
     “That’s what everyone always asks.  But don’t you think they tried?”
     “Then why…”
     “Imagine this.  Imagine if the Archduke Ferdinand had not been assassinated and the first world war had never happened.  That thousands didn’t die and leave behind the lesson of what a horrible thing war could be.  Imagine that the Lusitania had never been torpedoed and that the United States had never gotten involved.  Imagine what the world would be like if the attack on Pearl Harbor had never happened and that the United States developed nuclear weapons without having had to fight a major war recent enough to remember what it was like, and that the Russians had also developed nuclear weapons and that the cold war hadn’t ended with the fall of the Berlin wall.  Imagine instead that when the Cuban missile crisis happened that the Russian ships were attacked and that the Russians launched their missiles and we launched ours, and the whole mutually assured destruction scenario occurred.”
     The man took a sip of his coffee, tilting the cup back.
     The waitress picked up the carafe and came over as the man set down his mug.
     “Another cup?” the waitress asked with a smile in her voice.
     “Yes, please.” The man replied, and the waitress poured the hot black coffee.
     The man picked up the sugar dispenser and counted five in his head as it poured, then put it down.
      “Now, imagine instead that the Archduke Ferdinand is assassinated and world war one happens, and despite prior knowledge the Lusitania is allowed to be torpedoed and Pearl Harbor is allowed to happen.  Imagine a world where John F. Kennedy was assassinated so he couldn’t run for a second term, and his brother was assassinated shortly after so he could never be president for eight years after his brother.  Did you ever think that some things happen for a reason?”
     “Does everything happen for a reason?”
     “Not everything.  But some things definitely do.”
     “But…. Hitler…”
     The man stirred his coffee, the spoon clanking gently around inside the mug.  “You don’t get it.  That’s fine.  I know it’s a lot to wrap your mind around all at once.  But is it really that hard to imagine that the world you live in now is the best of all possible worlds?” the man paused to let me think about it.
     It didn’t seem like a very good world.  There was hunger and homelessness and social injustice.  Good people that never intentionally hurt another person their whole lives through died suddenly and without any reason.  It all seemed so senseless.
     “I know that it seems like the first thing that anyone would do if they invented a time machine would be to go back in time and kill Hitler and prevent JFK from being assassinated and try to prevent the burning of the library of Alexandria, but every action has an effect.  The consequences are like ripples that change everything that happens after.  I’m not saying that there weren’t people that tried to change the past and that the history of the world has been changed.  But how can you change the past if you only know what the future is going to be like based on what has already happened?   What if Lee Harvey Oswald was sent back to assassinate Kennedy, but then he was going to reveal to the world that time travel exists, so they had to send someone back to kill him?  Where does it end?”
     I looked down at my breakfast, growing cold in front of me.  “My head hurts.”
     “It should.  I remember.”
      “I know what you’re going to ask, and what I’m not going to answer.  I’m not going to tell you what tomorrow’s lottery numbers will be.  I could.  But I won’t.  And it wouldn’t matter anyway.  Where I’m from, money doesn’t matter.  There’s enough of everything for everyone.  At least as much of the things that really matter.  Some people had to make some major sacrifices to get the world to that point, but without knowing death, people don’t appreciate how precious life is.  It isn’t a utopia.  Not the way that people think it will be.  But it’s a better world than the one you’re living in now.  Not everyone gets to have everything they want, but everyone gets what they need and that’s more than most of the world gets as it is.  Wouldn’t you agree?”
     “I guess.”
     “I know.  So ask.”
     “How am I going to die?”
     “I don’t know yet.  We’re not dead.  But I’m looking forward to it.  People still die, but knowing that everything happens for a reason, they aren’t as resentful as they are now.  Everything has to come to an end and everyone has their time.  You’re going to get cancer, like you always thought you would, but by the time you do they’ve got a cure.  It isn’t pleasant, but it beats the alternative.”
     “What about…”
     The man cut me off with a wry chuckle.  “She’s never coming back.  And you’ll never know why or what happened.  You’re never going to see her again.  You kind of know that, but if it helps to know for sure, and it will, well… now you know.  There will be others, and you will love each of them for who they are and they will love you in their own ways and it will go sour and love will turn to hate as it almost always does, but you’ll move on and they’ll move on and it won’t be the end of the world until it is and by then it won’t matter.  I know it stings a little to know for sure, but time heals all wounds.  That’s one of the things that they say that’s actually true.”
     The man picked up his coffee and drank the rest of it.  He closed his eyes and sighed a satisfied sigh.  “God, how I missed coffee.”
     “So there’s no coffee in the future?”
     The man raised his left eyebrow, an expression I had practiced in the mirror a thousand times to make sure that it looked the way I wanted it to look.
      “I could tell you everything you want to know.  I could tell you that there will be a colony on the moon.  That we’ll put a man on Mars and that you’ll live a good life.  Not too short and not too long and that you won’t regret most of the things that you do except the things that you do regret and that regret is part of life.  If you don’t make mistakes, you won’t learn from your mistakes and that’s the way that lessons stick best.  I think you already know that.  In fact,” the man paused and winked at me “I know you know.  But knowing what the future has in store for you isn’t going to make your breakfast taste any better so you might as well enjoy the moment.  It’s the only one you have and you’ll never get it back again.”
     The man stood up and pushed his chair back under the lip of the counter.  He took out a wallet, took out a twenty dollar bill, and put it under the empty coffee mug.
     “Is that it?” I asked.
     “That’s it.” he said.  “Nothing that I said today will change your future.  If it did, I wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t say it.  I know you won’t forget this talk because I still remember it and you’ll spend the rest of your life looking forward to this day.  I could tell you everything that happens from now until then.  Every success and failure.  Every love and every loss.  Good luck, bad luck, good times and bad.  But part of the pleasure of there being a future is the anticipation.  The surprise.  I know you think you want to know, but you don’t.”
     The man held up his hand and closed his eyes, shaking his head gently side to side.  I felt a wave of calmness wash over me.  I knew myself well enough to know he had said his piece and that if his mind was made up that there was no convincing him otherwise.
     He opened his eyes and smiled and said, “Got a cigarette?”
     I reached into my pocket and pulled out my pack.  I flipped the lid and took one out.  He reached out and took it, rolling it into the gap between the first joint of the first and middle fingers of his right hand the way I watched my hand perform this simple task a thousand times.
     “What if I quit smoking?  Will I still get cancer?”
     “You won’t quit.  You’re not a quitter.”
     “But if I did.”
     The man tucked the cigarette into the corner of his mouth and grinned.  “You won’t.”
     The man walked behind me, and clapped me on the shoulder as he walked past.
     “Everything’s going to be alright.  Your breakfast is getting cold.”
     I looked down at my breakfast and I heard the bell on the door ring as he opened it and began to sing.
     “I hear the train a comin'.  It's rolling round the bend.  And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when…”
     The door closed behind him, muffling the words as he walked away.
     I picked up my coffee and drank what was left in the cup.
     The waitress came over with the carafe and asked, “More coffee?”
     “Yes, please.” I said, and she filled my cup.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I picked the wrong day to decide to quit smoking.

Woke up early without the prompt of an alarm.
Smoked the first cigarette of the day which was the last cigarette in the pack and realized for the four-millionth time that I don't like cigarettes.
I'm going to try to quit smoking.
Sounds pretty easy. Just don't buy cigarettes, right?
Woke up and started talking to myself in my head like most times I wake up and had a great idea for a book, so I wrote up some notes and created a place-holder document to revisit when I have the time to develop it.
I don't have to work today. Or tomorrow until midnight so my main goal is to try to lock the Hard Luck anthology because I was supposed to lock it the last week of March but finishing another anthology I have a story in and promised to publish forced me to put it off for a week while I handled that instead.
I write and edit better without the nagging urge for nicotine as a constant distraction and I use nicotine as a drug to address my adhd symptoms, so in addition to nicotine cravings, as I detox off of cigarettes, my frustration tolerance dwindles until I don't have the patience to focus on anything and I just give up on everything and start thinking of ways to kill myself which is never a good thing.
My brain: "This is taking a long time and is a lot less fun than doing nothing. Why don't I just take my belt off, make a loop, close the tail end in the top of the door and lean over and hang myself?"
Me: "Easy, brain, I've got shit to do. If I feed you cigarettes and coffee, will you cut the shit and let me pretend that the shit that I do that nobody cares whether or not I do any of it is better than just hanging myself?"
My brain: "Okay. It's a huge waste of time and you'll never be able to support yourself writing books and making art. As long as you know that, I'm going to keep the whole "Why don't I just go down to the train tracks and lay down and wait for a train to run over me?" or "Why don't I just throw myself under the wheels of the bus pulling over to take me to another grinding waste-of-time shift at my pointless job?" thoughts as a back-up plan, but if you give me cigarettes and coffee I'll keep the suicide monsters in the closet for a few hours and let you get some work done."
Me: "Thanks brain."
Having an anthology to edit and finish, and this month's anthology to determine the theme for, design a cover for, and write up and post a call for, it's a bad day for me to decide to quit smoking.
Especially when my brain is trying to kill me.
So I just talked myself into not quitting smoking for the four-millionth time.
I'm going to go out, grab a coffee from the gas station Dunkin Donuts booth, pick up a pack of American Spirit yellow box, come home , and get to work.
I'll have my internet/Facebook up in case anyone wants to get to me, but I'll have to keep it brief because I have a few dozen authors that have been waiting to know if their story is good enough to be part of Hard Luck, and I've felt terrible about keeping them in suspense while I worked on publishing that other anthology.
So as a small reward for myself, between reading submissions, I'm going to allow myself to address Facebook messages, e-mails, blog posts, cover design ideas, and transferring music over to the 64 gig chip I bought to plug into my cell phone so I can carry around a tenth of my music library and have a slightly better variety of music to listen to when I'm locked into a work shift where I can't bring my laptop in to work on writing or editing.
I have a suspicion that I'm not in a lot of News Feeds.
I have 1,800 imaginary friends, and I've never even received anything like 500 "Like"s for anything I've posted, so I think that about a thousand of them are just people that I'm in sort of a mutual ignoring thing with.
It's like we're neighbors that never got to really know each other.
I know what kind of car they drive, I'm vaguely familiar with what they look like, and I definitely know they have a stupid fucking dog they let wander around in their fenced in yard all day long while they're at work, and that stupid fucking thing barks at everything it sees and I secretly fantasize about killing the dog, but I kind of like dogs, and I kind of hate my neighbors, but you're not allowed to kill people, so instead I keep hoping that someday they'll just pick up and move away and take their fucking barking dog with them, but they don't and sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil that you don't know, and at least it's not a crack house.
As annoying as a barking dog is, having a bunch of crackheads hanging around your neighborhood is a lot more annoying because a dog never broke into anyone's house and stole all of their good stuff while the people living there were away.
So, I'll probably be dropping and blocking a few people I seem to have no connection at all with and don't seem to be interacting with.
Please don't comment being all, "Not me, right?".
If you read my stuff and click "Like" every now and then or I know you IRL, or we've done business together, you're fine.
It's all of these people that I don't know who they are or what they do but I either accepted their Friend Request blindly or blindly sent them a Friend Request because we had a few hundred imaginary friends in common with that I'm going to be trying to trim.
So if you're reading this and we're imaginary friends and we've never had a conversation, send me a private message and tell me a little about yourself.
I'll be looking forward to some brief distraction as I read and edit all of the submissions for Hard Luck.
For now, cigarettes and coffee are calling.
If I promise my brain cigarettes and coffee, it promised not to try to make me throw myself down the stairs on the way out.
Thanks brain.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Vagina Dentata.

I wasn't looking to stir up controversy and be infamous.

Not really.

I was being insomniacal like I usually am.
Refreshing Facebook every five minutes and commenting on and liking things that I liked.
Not commenting on things and hiding things from my News Feed that I didn't like.
I saw a Status Update from someone that I wasn't that familiar with.
The Status Update was "Wow. That's fucked up. I just got blocked by an actress for asking her to be upfront with her complaints about a convention. Sigh."
I was curious, since I used to work the convention circuit, but I don't like stirring up public drama, so I private messaged her, asking her which actress and which convention.
She told me which actress and which convention and we chatted about the whole thing.
I checked out the Facebook profile page of the actress in question and her cover picture was a promotional image for Women In Horror Month.

As some of you may already know, I'm not a huge fan of Women In Horror Month.
I might as well attempt to clarify my position on that matter first.
The reason that I don't like Women In Horror Month is not because I don't like women.
That's the most common knee-jerk reaction from people when I say that I don't support Women In Horror Month.
"Well, you just don't like / are scared of / are intimidated by / hate women."
Quite the contrary.
I like women.
Not only as my preferred variety of sexual partner, but I also have a fair amount of platonic female friends that I really don't see as potential sexual partners.
I actually posted a blog post about the problems that arise from men sexualizing their female acquaintances because there had been some controversy over the whole "Friend-zoning" / Girlfriend-zoning" phenomenon and I decided to offer my unsolicited opinion on the matter:
It only had 37 views.
Hopefully it well get a few more looks based on the reads that I anticipate this blog post will receive since I managed to inadvertently incur the wrath of about half of the world.
I front-loaded my defense because I anticipate what the accusations will be as I state my position regarding Women In Horror Month.
My problem with Women In Horror Month is many-faceted.
My primary problem is that women use it as a promotional tool to try to receive special consideration because there is a generally assumed bias against "Women In Horror".
With the recent advances in self-publishing, where the power of "the press" is in the hands of anyone that wants to publish whatever they want to publish, the playing ground has been leveled.
Some women argue that the bias still exists and that some men don't buy books written by women because they're sexist.
That may be true, there may be some men out there that think, "Oh, this was made by a woman!  Pfft!  No thanks!" but those jerk-offs are missing out on some excellent stuff as a result.
I'm not one of those men, although as of late I have been accused of being so.
Again, to front-load my defense, the first person other than myself mentioned in my bio is a woman, Helen Hoke.  I didn't design it that way, it just happened organically.  I used to read her horror anthologies at my local public library when I was a kid, and the stories she collected really fueled my early interest in horror literature.
If you don't know who Helen Hoke is, click the follow links and learn about someone awesome.
I also have a tattoo of Frankenstein, which I am well aware was written by a woman, and a tattoo of a fragment of a poem by Sappho, the Greek poetess who is the woman that the term "Lesbian" was derived from as in "a women attracted to other women" and "from the isle of Lesbos" since she was both.
I digress.  I apologize, but it's just how things fall out of my head sometimes.
Do I agree that there may have been a bias against women in the horror-genre and that it is mostly a boy's club?  Yes and no.
I agree in theory, but I'd like to see some statistical proof that proves this.
I'm sincerely interested, so if you're reading this, send me some links.
Some people say that there is a bias in the number of horror books written by man and that men sell more books than women.
First off, there shouldn't be a quota enforcing that an equal number of books in any genre are written by both genders.  If you're a woman and you want to write a horror genre book, go ahead.  These days, no one can stop you from doing so and I would actively take your side and defend you against anyone that tried.  Also, send me a copy.  I like books.
As for men selling more horror genre books than men, some men sell more books than some women.  Some women sell more books than some men.  If men, in general, sell more horror books as a gender than women, that's an interesting statistical artifact, but is only indicative of a market trend and not proof of a gender bias.  People buy what they want to buy.
As a side note, I am aware that there are some vile, reprehensible men that send women working in the horror genre disgusting misogynistic messages filled with unsolicited sexual / sexualized statements and threats of physical violence and rape.
I'm truly sorry that happens.  But I have never, and would never do that.
Again, in my defense, if I find out that someone is doing that, I'm on the woman's side, and I would defend your freedom and right to do what you do regardless of your gender be it male, female, or in-between.
I don't have to like what you do, but it's not up to me to tell you that you can't do it.

Another problem I have with Women In Horror Month is that it is almost entirely a self-promotional tool used by women to try to receive special consideration for a month.
I would fully support posting a list of women authors and film-makers and saying, "There's a gender bias in the horror genre.  Here are some excellent women working in the field.  Check out their stuff."
Instead, all I've been seeing is, "I'm a woman, so check out and buy MY stuff."
It's self-centered.
I'm all for self-promotion.  That's how you sell things.
If you don't promote what you're working on, people rarely wander over and check it out organically.
As an author, and soon to be a publisher, I am my brand.
My participation in social-networking is about half personal promotion.
Not exclusively, mind you.  I hate those people whose Facebook content is nothing but promotional posts and links to where people can buy their books.
I understand the necessity of it and know that it works, but that's just not me.
I like to actually provide people reading my content on Facebook with a variety of content so that they don't get promotional fatigue and remove me from their News Feed.
It's not the self-promotion I mind, it's if we're going to do a Women In Horror Month, then let's celebrate WOMEN in horror, not just you.  Stop being so selfish.
What is my solution?
I was having a conversation with Selene MacLeod and I think that we managed to resolve our differences and found that we actually agreed on a lot of points.  I suggested that later on in the year, around August, that we work together to put together a gender-blind horror anthology.  I'm not sure what the theme will be yet, but the point is that if there is a gender bias in horror, let's remove the gender tag of the author's name, and remove the gender bias.  I'm still working on the details, but I figure we can have a third-party, probably one of my gay friends so they don't have any stake in the contest, act as an impartial central-mailer.  They will receive and keep track of the submissions by the authors, and send Selene and I the submissions with the name of the author removed and have to unanimously agree on the quality of the final selections.
Then, at the end, when the contents are locked, we reveal if there is actually a gender bias based on the content of the stories
The kicker?  All proceeds will go to help women.
My knee-jerk first thought is to spend it on horror novels by women authors to donate to a domestic abuse shelter for women, but they're probably had enough horror in their lives that they won't want to read about horrifying things.
Ideally, if the sales are strong enough, I would like to contact a women's college and set up a creative writing scholarship that can be given away to help an actual women author.
I'm not sure if this is a mic drop moment, but I think it might be, so, here...

So what's all the fuss and why am I suddenly such a controversial person?
Because I spotted an obvious use of the vagina dentata and pointed it out.
For those of you that don't know what a "vagina dentata" is, which seems to be most of the people that have gotten upset, here's the Wikipedia listing:
Pretty much, a vagina with teeth.
It's not something I just came up with, although a lot of people seem to think I did.
It's a bit more complicated than that, so you may have to do some supplementary reading.
Here.  I'll Google it for you.  Go ahead and do some reading.  I'll wait.

As I said, I saw the cover picture I posted, and will post again by way of example, and immediately thought "vagina dentata".

I thought that was interesting, so I tried to find the least offensive picture of a vagina that I could find.  A picture from a textbook, presumably, and put this together.

With the accompanying message:
"This one's going to sting a little folks...
I like women.
Both as humans and as sexual partners and either and neither and both.
As long as they do the same amount and quality of work I believe they should receive the same amount of pay and vice versa.
But do you seriously think that a sideways vagina dentata with a huge clitoris is a great logo for your feminist horror movement?
I've read the feminist horror film theory and criticism have you?
If that's not a vagina dentata, then a knife plunging into a female victim isn't a substitute metal male penis being used out of impotence frustration.
Stay classy ladies.
Oh, and anyone that finds this offensive, grow up.
Every single one of you was shoved out of a vagina at birth and if the picture on the right of the attached image arouses you, you have a serious school book sex-ed diagram fetish.
Let's see how long this stays up before someone complains."

Okay, in hindsight, I admit that the message was a little confrontational, and being in an insomniacal stupor is not much of an excuse for being confrontational.
But I stand by what I noticed.  That is clearly a vagina dentata.

Coincidentally, I was as surprised by and enlightened as anyone else when I first read about the vagina dentata while reading feminist horror film theory.
It also ruined the film "Teeth" (2007) when someone tried to recommend it to me.
I took one look at the DVD and said, "Vagina dentata." and the person recommending the film said, "What?".  I said, "Vagina dentata.  A vagina with teeth."  They said "How did you know?" and I tried to give them a simplified version of the feminist/Freudian concept of the vagina dentata.

I figured I couldn't be the only person that noticed this and that everyone knew what a vagina dentata was and that at most I would get a few likes and comments and that would be it.

Instead, people lost their motherfucking minds.

Some people didn't.
Some people knew what a vagina dentata is and just shrugged it off, with a "Well, duh!"
They were in the minority.
Most people became self-righteously offended and posted some really fucked up comments insulting me as a person, and when I left the thread to work on a painting yesterday and the conversation continued in my absence, insulting others that decided to participate in the conversation.
Keep in mind, I didn't ask anyone to check it out and comment to stoke the controversy.
Anyone that I'm acquainted with that decided to participate in the conversation did so of their own free will.  I just posted it, rode the thread for a few hours and defended my position with as much civility as I could, defending myself against personal attacks and trying to unsuccessfully keep the conversation focused on whether or not this was obviously a vagina dentata and to discuss the concept of the vagina dentata by way of feminist criticism and them clicked "Stop notifications." because it didn't seem like there was any constructive conversation to be had.
Then I woke up this morning as an infamous misogynist.

What I find most interesting about this now, is not the whole "vagina dentata" thing, but just how vile people can be to someone they don't know personally using the internet.
I know... it's the internet.
It's a hive of scum and villainy and cat memes and porn.
But for people that consider themselves so self-righteous, and pious and defenders of women, there was some seriously fucked up hateful misogynistic shit said.

As I said, before, and this time I'm a bit more well-prepared, "This one's going to sting a little folks...".  I'm going to name names and show you exactly who has been saying what.

I'm posting this now, as I gather my reference materials so feel free to read this as a preamble.
I'll be updating with screenshots of all of the wonderful, kind, gracious, pious people as the day goes on.

For example, Allison M. Dickson, decided to comment on Twitter with this:

And, believe it or not, I sincerely was, and am, offended.
I would never say anyone was "asking for it".
I've been in relationships with women that have been victims of rape and molestation and it's really not much of a laughing matter, but, keep in mind, that's what she said.
Her words, not mine.

This seems to be a result of Chuck Wendig deciding that he was offended and posting a blog about his offense.
I hate giving him the page hits, but it's necessary for the purposes of this conversation, and if you scroll down and read the comments they are amazing.

He also posted a link to the blog on Twitter which, I assume, is why Allison, someone who did not know me, and does not know me decided to attack me on Twitter based on someone else's opinionated paraphrasing of my intent filtered through their offense.
I didn't go looking for Chuck Wendig to try to start trouble with him.
He came looking for something to be offended by and then posted a defamatory post about me and someone brought it ti my attention.

This is Chuck Wendig's comment on my post.
Keep in mind, Chuck and I were not previously acquainted so he went looking for something to be offended by, knowing that he would probably be offended by it.
This is what Chuck had to say as a comment in public in the thread:
"This entire thread is actually pretty shitty. If anybody wonders why women sometimes feel unwelcome in genre spaces -- it's because of posts and threads like this one.
Nice work, folks. Way to be part of a problem instead of its solution. Way to see a set of red, vampire lips and say that what YOU see instead is a place to stick your penis. High class.
Fair shot.  I did compare lips to a vagina.
I didn't say anything about my penis though.  Maybe Chuck just has my penis on his mind.

Now, this is what he had to say publicly on his blog:
"Saw some toolbag “horror author” this morning on my FB feed post this thing about how some WOMEN IN HORROR group is advertising itself using an image of a vampire woman (replete with fangs) licking blood from her lips.
And said toolbag whipped up an image that put this banner image next to the anatomical image of a woman’s vagina and from there proceeded to explain how it was silly for this feminist group to advertise their efforts using what was effectively a woman’s ladyparts. He also explained that women paint their lips red in order to simulate flushed labia. Translation: he sees every woman’s mouth as a place for him to, erm, stick it.
In the comments, which were a delightful circus act of dipshittery, he went on to explain that OH IT’S OKAY because he took a writing class taught by a lesbian once (why is it that lesbians are the token “black friends” of misogynists everywhere?) and he was the only man in that class and it was cool to have to defend the male gender from all their misinformation.
I don’t have much to say here except, goddamn. What the fuck is wrong with people?
I want to excise all this toxic stuff out of genre. Because most genre authors are awesome.
And this was decidedly not awesome.
And we wonder why women don’t feel welcome at the table.

So, we start with character assassination.
Because he's a mature adult and mature adults use "toolbag" to refer to people they disagree with.
I'm not a "horror author" I write in many different genres, but that shows how much Chuck knows about me.
I didn't say it was "silly" I said that it was a paradox.
"He also explained that women paint their lips red in order to simulate flushed labia. Translation: he sees every woman’s mouth as a place for him to, erm, stick it."
I did say, "that women paint their lips red in order to simulate flushed labia". because they do.  I thought that the premise was generally accepted and if not, then someone had better be able to explain why women spend millions of dollars a year on lipstick.  It's the same reason that women wear bras that push their breasts together to enhance their cleavage.  It's a secondary sex characteristic.  If it's just a matter of back support, there's be no need for padded bras or "push-up" bras.
It's the same reason that women use eye make-up to accentuate their eyes.  Women who say that they "just do it to make themselves feel pretty" are inadvertently supporting this premise.  Pretty as in attractive?  Attractive how?  To whom?
As far as seeing every woman's mouth as a place to "stick it" presumably referring to my penis.  That's a misattribution and the equivalent of slander.
And, seriously, Chuck, stop fixating on my penis.
If you really want to see it, just ask and I'll send you a picture.
He goes on to say, "In the comments, which were a delightful circus act of dipshittery, he went on to explain that OH IT’S OKAY because he took a writing class taught by a lesbian once (why is it that lesbians are the token “black friends” of misogynists everywhere?) and he was the only man in that class and it was cool to have to defend the male gender from all their misinformation."
So, he suggests, by analogy that I am also a racist, which was a pretty common trend in the "discussion" in the comment thread.
I'm not going to trot out a list of all of my friends that are female, gay, transgender, and of a different "race" than I because that's demeaning to them, because I don't think of them that way.  I think of my friends as my friends, not my female, gay, transgender, or "black friends".
But that was a really awkward attempt at trying to compare sexism with racism and it doesn;t stick.  I'm not a sexist or a racist or a homophobe.  I don't care what you are or who you fuck as long as you're a decent person.
Chuck thought he knew everything there was to know about me based on one thing he saw from someone he didn't know that offended him.
Judging someone without getting to know them first?
Last I checked, that was a pretty decent definition of "prejudice".

I also never said it was cool to have to defend the male gender from all of "their misinformation".  If he had asked for clarification instead of paraphrasing what he thought I said and attributing it to me as an actual statement, again, slander, I would have explained that all semester long, the girls in the class were trying to use the class as a misanthropic venting session, and, being the only man in the class I was pretty much put on trial for having a penis for a whole semester and had to defend myself against the blanket accusation for everything awful that men have ever done in recorded history.
I didn't go in there looking to fuck with a bunch of college girls.
I liked the teacher, we got along well, she was teaching a class and it would fill one of my distribution requirements so I strapped on my armor and threw myself into the den of the lionesses.
I got a little taste of what it was like to be a woman in a man's world.
It was a really eye-opening experience.
It also showed me that women can be just as sexist as men when given the opportunity and superior numbers.
I'm not complaining.  I knew what I was in for, taking a Women's Studies class as a male, and I admit I was trying to prove a point and that over-all it was a positive experience.

So, Chuck, I ask you, if you really want to "excise all this toxic stuff out of genre." why not start out by excising all of the toxicity out of your blog post?
You could start by not being prejudiced and paraphrasing misattributions.
The things that you say that I said, that I never actually said, are much more revealing about who you are as a person than anything derogatory I could ever say about you.
No wonder the comment thread is full of righteous indignation and reactionary vitriol.
If I had read your post, not knowing who it was about, I would be offended also.
As things stand, I'm not offended by what I said, I'm offended by what you said.
You paraphrased, lied, insulted me personally without knowing me and misattributed my statements reframing the conversation into what you wanted it to be.
I find you to be reactionary, small-minded, prejudiced, slanderous and not a very nice person.
If you would like to have a conversation or a public debate to defend yourself against the preceding I would welcome the opportunity to defend my original statement using my actual words to explain what I actually meant rather than your misattributed paraphrasing.
We could co-host a call-in blog or do a Skype chat and everyone can feel free to chip in and tell me all of the horrible things that they think I said, and call me all sorts of names and try to hurt my feelings by accusing me of being a sexist, and a racist and of being impotent, or having a small penis or being afraid of women or whatever they have to get off their chest.
For that matter, if you can think of a way that we can use it to help sponsor some kind of Women In Horror Month Event that focuses on the accomplishments of women in the genre that aren't actively exploiting the phenomenon for the purposes of self-promotion I would be more than pleased to do so.
As I may or may not have clarified, my problem is not with celebrating the contribution of women towards the horror genre.
My problem was the self-promotional nature, the special entitlement that is demanded, and the paradoxical dichotomy of not wanting to be objectified and treated differently as women working in what is generally accepted as a male-dominated genre, but simultaneously wanting to be treated differently for being women.
You can't claim to be insulted for being treated differently and suggest that the solution is that you be treated differently.
I mean, different in a better way, obviously, I get that.
Not as a series of holes for penises to be put in or body parts to be glazed with semen.
I fully support that.  I don't look at women that way as a general rule.
If the paradox inherent in that is not clear, then this blog post was probably not for you.
Also, before you start typing a scathing response, I suggest that you do a little reading.
Here are two books on feminist film criticism, written by women, by the way, that should set you straight on a few things about "Women In Horror".

Oh my!
Look at that scandalous book cover!
What could that woman possibly be thinking by using a pair of reddened lips presented sideways as her book cover.
Perhaps she was suggesting something?
I'm sure that Chuck Wendig has an opinion about Barbara Creed and wants the world to know his opinion.
I'd love to be a part of that conversation.  Can we make that happen?