Friday, March 30, 2012

I'm in the business of making dreams come true. And now...so are YOU!

Inspired by a conversation with mah moms and this post, I'm excited to announce a new Dig This for the ALL THE THINGS YOU NEVER EVEN KNEW pre-order.

I know June 24th seems really far off right now, and knowing myself, I'd probably wait a while myself before pre-ordering a book that wasn't coming out until June. Who wants to buy something they won't even get until summer?

But you see, the thing is, there's a method to the madness behind the pre-order of a book. If you're an independent author like m'self, pre-sales can do the awesome task of building up buzz and generating excitement and all that shiz... But the REALLY great thing that pre-orders do is give the author needed time and resources to complete the book. Basically, the money you pay for the pre-order gives me more time to write and more resources to contribute toward making a killer final product. And that's a really big fucking deal to me. Every pre-order of ALL THE THINGS is a vote of faith and confidence, as well as a big high-five when it comes to this crazy dream of mine to make it as an independent author.

So, since I consider every pre-order an investment in the book, it seems only fitting that I officially thank every investor within the actual book.

Thus, everyone who has or does pre-order the book ALL THE THINGS before May 1st (aka, before it goes to print) will receive a special dedication inside the actual book. Printed. In type. For everyone to see. It's something you can show to your friends and family and brag about around an open fire. "Hey, check this out," you can smugly say, as you slowly pull the book off the shelf and open it to reveal your name in print. "My name's in this totally awesome book." When they ooh and aaah and rub your shoulder appreciatively, you can brush your hair back, shrug, and say, "Yeah. I know the author. No big deal." (Even if you don't know me, this will be the one time when it will be okay with me if you say that anyway).

Think about it - your name in print! And you don't even have to write a book or a super shitty editorial to make it happen! Look at you. You're so smart. Yeah, you are! Why'n't you just put your feet up for a minute, rest your hand back in your hands, and relax for a little while. Congratulate yourself for being a fine human being. A fine human being whose name is listed in many fine, paperback-bound books.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

HOLIDAY CHICK: UNCUT!

The full scenes and monologues from the very hilarious stars of HOLIDAY CHICK: A Very Special Book Trailer. You will laugh out loud at least once. I promise. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Sounds like someone we should party with." - Anonymous

So, as part of my 2 Million In 2012 goals, I'm extending my reach. My virtual social circle, if you will (but I hope you won't, because that sounds stupid). 
 
In this endeavor, I tend to run across a lot of new people. A lot of new...writing people. Some of them are fucking awesome. And then some of them are...this:
 
You can call me ______.

I live without limits as an uncaged bird in human form. To die is to live again, for there is no life without death, and no death without life. Photography and writing are the means by which I bring to life my appreciation and wonder of the world we live in. I view my life as a constantly evolving, all-encompassing work of art, and this work of art has become the most beautiful mosaic I have ever created.

I also hold a special place in my heart for moonlight, the hours before dawn, silence, storms, literature, meaningful music, late nights, and walking in torrential downpour.

I think I've made enough friends by now, right? Maybe I don't really need to make any more! Maybe there's a reason why the friends I have are already in my life...maybe it's to save me from the depths of the One Who Is An Uncaged Bird in Human Form...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Buy a signed copy of HOLIDAY CHICK and win something feckin' cool.

From now until April 4th, when you buy a signed copy of Holiday Chick, you'll be entered to win a brand new iPod nano.

Even better, though? That phancy new iPod nano will come loaded with songs from the Holiday Chick playlists.

Fuck yes.

So let's break it down - brand new signed copy of a book that everyone's talking about (okay. "Everyone" being a bunch of local dudes. But they're cool local dudes, yeah?). A brand new - silver, 8G, multi-touch - iPod nano. A bunch of free songs (some of which you can no longer get through any other means) that will not only enhance your reading, but also your life.

Dudes. Even if you already own a copy of Holiday Chick, you should probably just buy another one so you can win this shiz.  

AND! After you buy your copy, you can DOUBLE your chances of winning by copying and posting this tweet exactly on your Twitter feed. TRIPLE if you post it on *both* Twitter and Facebook. 

"I just entered to win a new iPod nano by buying a signed copy of HOLIDAY CHICK. And you should, too. http://ow.ly/9NAMO"

The winner will be chosen using a very complicated algorithm that combines a list of names, a bunch of paper slips, and a hat. The winner will be announced here, on April 5th, to unlimited fanfare and blog shouting.

So happy Holiday Chick buying (or giving, if you're awesome)! And may the odds be ever in your favor!*




*Why yes, I am going to the Hunger Games midnight showing tomorrow night! And yes, I am also so totally freaking excited about it that it has started to leak into everything I think, say, and do. Also, if anyone out there knows someone who teaches bow-and-arrow classes, let me know, kay?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Coupons don't just save you money. They also save you from being cool.

Yesterday, Chris and I found this coupon from the Target website, which Chris used to buy a pair of Mossimo jeans for me that I was surprisingly and ridiculously in love with but hadn't bought for myself yet since I just treated myself to hundreds of dollars in car repairs (I deserved it, you guys. And my savings were growing to be waaaay too big, and so something - new brakes, a new alternator - had to be done). Chris and I like to use coupons for stuff because they help us save money for pageants, but this one somehow became a source of outrage and disgust. Women's denim bottoms? Why can't you just call them pants? Or, how about jeans? Or even slacks, the word of choice for grandmas. "Denim bottoms" causes one to think of the cheap jean-like material that you buy at Ben Franklin and then fashion into shorts with a ladybug stitched onto the back pocket, which your daughter can then wear in the local 4th of July parade when her dance class performs their baton routine to "I Just Called (To Say I Love You)" by Stevie Wonder. But not for fancy places like Target! What is happening to you, place of domestic and apparel wonder? Is it JCP? Is that what's got you down? Are you thinking of just giving up, giving in...they've already stolen so much from you anyway, you might as well just pack it in and start wondering what Kmart does on nights like this to get by

And because of this, Chris and I have inadvertently started referring to my jeans as denim bottoms, which of course started as a joke that is hilarious but now is also terrifying because deep down we both know it's the kind that's going to start sinking in until one day we start using it around other people who don't know what we're talking about and they'll think we're using it for real instead of ironically and then we become known as the couple who calls jeans Denim Bottoms.

It is really funny, though, when we say it in a Brooklyn Jewish Grandparents accent and then talk that way all afternoon just to torture ourselves (and Dax).

Because we are dorks. Big, women's denim plus-sized bottom ones.

Friday, March 16, 2012

PayPal Decides Not To Be Huge Dickbags, Reverses Censorship Decision.

I should write newspaper headlines for a living. 
 
An update to this news

March 13, 2012

Smashwords author/publisher update:  PayPal Reverses Proposed Censorship


Great news.  Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction.

Effective last night, we rolled back the Smashwords Terms of Service to its pre-February 24 state.

It's been a tumultuous, nerve-wracking few weeks as we worked to protect the right of writers to write and publish legal fiction.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Smashwords authors, publishers and customers.  You stood up and made your voice known.  Thank you to every Smashwords author and publisher who wrote me to express opinions, even if we disagreed, and even if you were angry with me. You inspired me to carry your cause forward.

Smashwords authors, publishers and customers mobilized. You made telephone calls, wrote emails and letters, started and signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and drove the conversation. You made the difference.  Without you, no one would have paid attention. I would also like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). These three advocacy groups were the first to stand up for our authors, publishers and customers. Their contribution cannot be overstated.  We collaborated with them to build a coalition of like-minded organizations to support our mutual cause. Special kudos to Rainey Reitman of EFF for her energy, enthusiasm and leadership.

I would also like to thank all the bloggers and journalists out there who helped carry our story forward by lending their platforms to get the story out.  Special thanks to TechCrunch, Slashdot, TechDirt, The Independent (UK), Reuters, Publishers Weekly, Dow Jones, The Digital Reader, CNET, Forbes, GalleyCat & EbookNewser and dozens of others too numerous to mention.

I would like to thank our friends at PayPal.  They worked with us in good faith as they promised, engaged us in dialogue, made the effort to understand Smashwords and our mission, went to bat for our authors with the credit card companies and banks, and showed the courage to revise their policies.

This is a big, bold move by PayPal.  It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction.  It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction.

Following implementation of their new policies, PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors.  Will Google Checkout and Checkout by Amazon be next now that the credit card companies have clarified their positions, and have essentially given payment providers the permission to adopt more enlightened policies?   Finally, thanks to Selena Kitt of Excessica and Remittance Girl for helping me to understand and respect all fiction more than I ever have before.

This is a bright day for indie publishing.  In the old world, traditional publishers were the arbiters of literary merit.  Today, thanks to the rise of indie ebooks, the world is moving toward a broader, more inclusive definition of literary merit. Smashwords gives writers the power and freedom to publish.  Merit is decided by your readers.  Just as it should be.


Thanks,

Mark Coker
Founder
Smashwords

Monday, March 12, 2012

HOLIDAY CHICK: A Very Special Book Trailer

Special thanks to (in order of appearance): Randy Fordice, Andrew Eklund, Tony D'Aloia, Jake Nyberg, and Jason DeRusha. This video also could not be possible without the producing, filming, and editing brilliance of Ryan Shaddelee and Christopher K. Grap.

Dreams Really Can Come True, You Guys.


Erika Napoletano is one of my all-time favorite bloggers: She's smart, hilarious, brutally honest, and just a straight-up, fucking cool chick. So when I found out she was coming out with new book, The Power of Unpopular: A Guide to Building Your Brand for the Audience Who Will Love You (and why no one else matters), I was determined to get a copy of it signed by her, even if I had to strong-arm someone up here in Minneapolis to bring her here to do it*.

So of course, after I decided not to go to SXSW and then I learned that she was holding a release and signing of her book at SXSW on Sunday, there was some HULK SMASHES of Regret. But! Chris went for me instead and even brought her a copy of Holiday Chick, which I inscribed with totally uncool gushing over how fucking awesome I think she is.

And then I went total and complete Fan Girl when Chris texted me the picture above and below.



The End.

* I'm still strong-arming some people about this, though. Just because I got what I want doesn't mean I want others to miss out on the awesome, too. Because I'm a giver, you guys. I care about giving to the world the gifts of things that I like, and are therefore awesome.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Commitment. The lame kind.

There's a part about commitment that kind of sucks. It's the part that makes you give up other stuff you want or want to do in order to keep said commitment.

Aka, the totally lame part. 

Like this week: Chris will be at SXSW, and I'll be home. A few months ago we talked about my tagging along, and I was all in - even if there wasn't a ton in the Interactive portion of the festival that I wanted to check out, it would still be a sweet getaway during the blah month of March. But as time inched closer, I started to realize that the money spent on my ticket and badge was also money that could be better spent on reaching my goal to sell 2 million copies of Holiday Chick. I could enter a bunch of contests. Buy a slew of advertising. Restock copies for Big Cartel orders. I could do a billion things that would help get the word out about Holiday Chick if I stayed home, versus a couple of things - maybe get the book into a couple of bookstores, give a few free copies to peeps I dig - if I went to Austin. 

So, I'm home, after having just dropped Chris off at the airport. Opportunity to take advantage of SXSW is not wholly lost - I sent him with a handful of copies of Holiday Chick to give away, as well as some super sweet book cards to hand out near and far. And I'm taking this week to do some power push-ups on the writing and promoting front - are you guys aware of how much harder it is to buckle down and get stuff done when you live with someone awesome? HOW COME NO ONE EVER TELLS YOU HOW MUCH MORE PRODUCTIVE YOU ARE WHEN YOU'RE SINGLE - so it's good, you know? It's not the fun choice, but it's the smart choice, and I feel better knowing that I'm sticking to my commitment. 

I'm gonna win this thing, you guys.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

PayPal Censorship Update

In case you haven't heard, about two weeks ago, PayPal contacted Smashwords and
gave us a surprise ultimatum:  Remove all titles containing bestiality, rape
or incest, otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal account.  We engaged
them in discussions and on Monday they gave us a temporary reprieve as we continue
to work in good faith to find a suitable solution.

PayPal tells us that their crackdown is necessary so that they can remain in
compliance with the requirements of the banks and credit card associations (likely
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, though they didn't mention them
by name).

Last Friday, I sent the following email to our erotica authors and publishers:
 https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/27   Then on Monday, I issued an update,
and announced we would delay enforcement of PayPal's guidelines so we and PayPal
could continue our discussions:  https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/28

THE PROBLEM:

PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction.  Regardless of how one views topics
of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are pervasive in mainstream fiction.
 We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers.  This is unfair,
and it marks a slippery slope.  We don't want credit card companies or financial
institutions telling our authors what they can write and what readers can read.
 Fiction is fantasy.  It's not real.  It's legal.


THE SOLUTION:

There's no easy solution.  Legally, PayPal and the credit card companies probably
have the right to decide how their services are used. Unfortunately, since they're
the moneyrunners, they control the oxygen that feeds digital commerce.

Many Smashwords authors have suggested we find a different payment processor.
 That's not a good long term solution, because if credit card companies are behind
this, they'll eventually force crackdowns elsewhere.  PayPal works well for us.
In addition to running all credit card processing at the Smashwords.com store,
PayPal is how we pay all our authors outside the U.S.  My conversations with
PayPal are ongoing and have been productive, yet I have no illusion that the
road ahead will be simple, or that the outcome will be favorable.


BUILDING A COALITION OF SUPPORT:

Independent advocacy groups are considering taking on the PayPal censorship case.
 I'm supporting the development of this loose-knit coalition of like-minded groups
who believe that censorship of legal fiction should not be allowed. We will grow
the coalition. Each group will have its own voice and tactics  I'm working with
them because we share a common cause to protect books from censorship.  Earlier
today I had conversations with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National
Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC).  I briefed them on the Smashwords/PayPal
situation, explained the adverse affect this crackdown will have on some of our
authors and customers, and shared my intention to continue working with PayPal
in a positive manner to move the discussion forward.

The EFF blogged about the issue a few days ago:  https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/02/legal-censorship-paypal-makes-habit-deciding-what-users-can-read
 Today, ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/83549049/NCAC-ABFFE-Letter-To-PayPal-eBay-re-Ebook-Refusal-2012

I will not be on the streets with torch in hand calling for PayPal's head, but
I will encourage interested parties to get involved and speak their piece.  This
is where you come in...


HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Although erotica authors are being targeted, this is an issue that should concern
all indie authors. It affects indies disproportionately because indies are the
ones pushing the boundaries of fiction. Indies are the ones out there publishing
without the (fading) protective patina of a "traditional publisher" to lend them
legitimacy. We indies only have each other.

Several Smashwords authors have contacted me to stress that this censorship affects
women disproportionately.  Women write a lot of the erotica, and they're also
the primary consumers of erotica.  They're also the primary consumers of mainstream
romance, which could also come under threat if PayPal and the credit card companies
were to overly enforce their too-broad and too-nebulous obsenity clauses (I think
this is unlikely, but at the same time, why would dubious consent be okay in
mainstream romance but not okay in erotica? If your write paranormal, can your
were-creatures not get it on with one another, or is that bestiality?  The insanity
needs to stop here. These are not questions an author, publisher or distributor
of legal fiction should have to answer.).

All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their opposition to financial
services companies censoring books.  Authors should have the freedom to publish
legal fiction, and readers should have the freedom to read what they want.

These corporations need to hear from you.  Pick up the phone and call them.
Email them.  Start petitions.  Sign petitions.  Blog your opposition to censorship.
 Encourage your readers to do the same.  Pass the word among your social networks.
 Contact your favorite bloggers and encourage them to follow this story.  Contact
your local newspaper and offer to let them interview you so they can hear a local
author's perspective on this story of international significance. If you have
connections to mainstream media, encourage them to pick up on the story.  Encourage
them to call the credit card companies and pose this simple question, "PayPal
says they're trying to enforce the policies of credit card companies.  Why are
you censoring legal fiction?"

Below are links to the companies waiting to hear from you. Click the link and
you'll find their phone numbers, executive names and postal mailing addresses.
 Be polite, respectful and professional, and encourage your friends and followers
to do the same.  Let them know you want them out of the business of censoring
legal fiction.

Tell the credit card companies you want them to give PayPal permission to sell
your ebooks without censorship or discrimination.  Let them know that PayPal's
policies are out of step with the major online ebook retailers who already accept
your books as they are.  Address your calls, emails (if you can find the email)
and paper letters (yes paper!) to the executives.  Post open letters to them
on your blog, then tweet and Facebook hyperlinks to your letters.  Force the
credit card companies to join the discussion about censorship.  And yes, express
your feelings and opinions to PayPal as well.  Don't scream at them.  Ask them
to work on your behalf to protect you and your readers from censorship.  Tell
them how their proposed censorship will harm you and your fellow writers.

Visa:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=V+Profile

American Express:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=AXP+Profile

MasterCard:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=MA+Profile

Discover:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=DFS+Profile

Ebay (owns PayPal):
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=ebay+Profile

_________

Starting Sunday, if our email systems can handle it, we will send out an email
to several hundred thousand registered Smashwords members who are opted in to
receive occasional Smashwords service updates.  The email will combine Read an
Ebook Week with the censorship call to action.  Let's start a little fire, shall
we?

Thank you for your continuing support of Smashwords.  With your help, we can
move mountains.

Best wishes,

Mark



Mark Coker
Founder
Smashwords
http://smashwords.com
blog:  http://blog.smashwords.com
twitter:  http://twitter.com/markcoker

Think of all the books that would fall under this guideline, whether they are indie or no. Game of Thrones would be removed, since it contains scenes and themes of incest and rape. The Harry Potter series has allusions to centaur rape and bestiality. The Lovely Bones would be removed, as the whole plot hinges on the past rape of the main character.

And yes, Holiday Chick would be removed from Smashwords shelves, as it's an indie title whose reading includes a rape scene.

This is not about condoning or glorifying rape, bestiality, or incest. This ultimatum doesn't even give room for interpretation or thought as to what frame of meaning this content might pose. It's censorship of legal content, and if allowed to succeed, you can imagine what other content will be next. It is already surprising to me that violent murder, cannibalism, etc is not included or targeted in this "obscene content" clause. But then why would it be, if the suspicions held by many - that this unduly targets both female authors and readers - are correct? Which also poses another question: If I cannot use PayPal to sell or buy what it deems to be "obscene" reading content, why can I use PayPal to purchase and pay for porn?

Please help us protect the glorious world of new, interesting, and creative independent content that Smashwords and independent authors alike bring to the world of literature, and join us in a peaceful campaign of protest against PayPal's decision. We cannot let financial institutions govern what type of creative content we may access and digest. Please help us protect free speech and artistic freedom and creativity by sending the message that we will not stand for censorship of legal content. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The leash factor.

There's a particular misconception that keeps coming across my doorstep. It's persistent and steeped in ignorance and it irritates me, in the way that only attitudes coming from a smug but ignorant position can. So I'm taking to the blog to explain it further, and I hope you'll share it with others.

It's been kind of a hip thing, in the past few years, to hate on parents who put their kids on leashes. I've seen the outrage on Facebook, Twitter, and more recently, in the last issue of Outside Magazine. The attitude expressed is laced with condensation and self-righteousness...look at those awful parents who have their kids on a leash! If they're that bad of parents that they treat their kids like dogs, then maybe they shouldn't even have kids!
 
To which I usually reply: You don't know what you're talking about. 

In my decade-long career as a behavior therapist for children on the autism spectrum, I counseled many parents who needed to use child harnesses just to keep their children safe. Safety is a hard concept to a child on the autism spectrum: It's abstract, and if you have limited cognitive abilities, if you don't perceive danger, if you don't have perspective-taking, and if you're not wholly aware of your surroundings, you don't get it. 90% of my clients had bolting issues: Whether they were happy, sad, angry, scared, or sick, they could take off at mach speed at a moment's notice. If they weren't stopped in time, they could run outside the center, they could run into traffic, they could run for miles outside your neighborhood. You think you should be able to stop them. Sometimes you can't. You think you should be able to catch them. Sometimes you can't. It's impulsive, it happens LIKETHAT, and most of the time it's this blind, tunnel-vision thing - they're not looking out for cars. They're not looking out for people. They're not paying attention to anything else in their surroundings, except getting farther away or closer to whatever it might have been - the sound of a siren, a funny trick, a song they hate - that set them off.

And we tend to get very cocky, when it comes to other people's children. I do the same thing, too. Before I worked with clients with autism, I thought I knew it all. All it takes is a little teaching! I would think to myself. A little bit more supervision! But you become very humble, after the day when you have three therapists assisting you and still a client manages to dodge all four of you and bolt all the way to the door because he heard a lawnmower outside.

So what do you do, when you have a child who could run out into traffic at a moment's notice anytime you go outside? What do you do when you're a mom with limited means of help and you have a child with special needs? What do you do when you have two other kids who also require your attention during regular outings like going to Target or the YMCA? These parents are trying to keep their child safe. They're not trying to make their own lives easier... They're trying to simply live an everyday life as a family with a child with special needs. The only other safe solution, for children who have severe bolting tendencies, is keeping that child locked inside a house all day. Not a great alternative. 
 
And remember - these children could look perfectly normal to you. They could look perfectly well-behaved, perfectly calm. Welcome to the Autism Spectrum Disorder. You don't know until you know.

So please, let's stop it with the automatic assumption that a child on a leash is attached to a horrible parent. Sometimes it might be - I don't personally know everyone who has one. But for the parents I know who do use child harnesses, they are, quite frankly, some of the most wonderful parents I know. They're willing to withstand withering gazes and condescending stares - let's face it, we're not exactly subtle when we're passing judgement - to keep their child safe while also giving them some semblance of a normal life.  
 
And why are we so big on judging parents all the time, anyway? There are so many other more important things to worry about. Ben might pick Courtney at the final rose ceremony, you guys! And if that happens, the world might blow up, so let's get in the game and gain some perspective, yeah? 
 
The End.

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