NEW RELEASE! The Feminist Utopia Project

Hey everybody! While I spend the week in the happiest place on Earth, you can read this new book imagining the happiest place Earth could be. I have a short piece in here, and there are fifty-six other contributors (including Janet Mock and Melissa Harris-Perry), all imagining a world with true equality for all genders.


cover of the feminist utopia project

What do we want?

In this groundbreaking collection, more than fifty cutting-edge voices, including Melissa Harris-Perry, Janet Mock, Sheila Heti, and Mia McKenzie, invite us to imagine a truly feminist world. An abortion provider reinvents birth control, Sheila Bapat envisions an economy that values domestic work, a teenage rock band dreams up a new way to make music, Katherine Cross rewrites the Constitution, and Maya Dusenbery resets the standard for good sex. Combining essays, interviews, poetry, illustrations, and short stories, The Feminist Utopia Project challenges the status quo that accepts inequality and violence as a given—and inspires us to demand a radically better future.

Amazon • Barnes & Noble • iBooks

Scarecrows. Screw those guys.

My town has been seeming taken over by scarecrows. Here is the saga (ignore my bike helmet’s askew-ness. One of the pads fell out at the post office today and wouldn’t stick back in, so it just kept slipping back. I assure you, I don’t usually wear it so high up on my damn head) (also, the videos are filmed vertically because it’s hard to ride a fucking bike and use a phone, okay?).

*next one has NSFW language

DON’T DO THIS EVER: “From The Horse’s Mouth” edition

You write a book. You think it’s excellent. Your beta readers love it. You send it off either to a freelance editor that you hired with the intention of self-publishing, or to a publisher. In the latter case, let’s assume your book gets accepted, and it undergoes a round of edits. Either way, you get your manuscript back and it’s covered–absolutely covered–with notes. Maybe the editor felt a character’s motivations weren’t strong enough. Maybe there were factual inaccuracies in your book. But that doesn’t matter. You know in your heart that your book is perfect, and the editor is trying to stifle your creative voice.

I’ve edited fiction as both a freelancer and for a small press, and in that time I worked with authors who were genuinely grateful for my feedback, as well as authors who had mistakenly confused “editing” with “uncritically praising and applauding” and did not like the dose of reality they received. Some of my greatest hits:

  • An author whose manuscript contained the n-word over three hundred times. When asked to remove every instance of the word, the author balked and insisted that it was needed to maintain the historical accuracy and realism of the book’s Old West setting. It was a vampire book. Bonus: the word was almost exclusively used against indigenous Plains people. Author’s response: “They didn’t have bad words for Native Americans back then.”
  • An author who called me at home after ten p.m. on release day because a minor character who never appeared “on-screen” and whose name was mentioned once in the first chapter of the novel had the wrong middle name when mentioned for the second and only other time at the end of the book. This was my fault, she informed me, because a “true professional” would have caught it (though she didn’t during numerous passes of her own manuscript). The author insisted that “hundreds of readers” had reported the mistake to her, but real-time sales data showed that the book had been purchased twice.
  • A freelance client who refused to pay me for the work I did on her over 100k word manuscript because she felt I was “too critical.” The work was later published, though whether she took my advice, I don’t know. What I do know is that she cheated me out of nearly $700.00.

It may seem obvious to you that this behavior isn’t acceptable, but I find it astonishing how many authors don’t. That’s why I’ve consulted some other editors I know to share–anonymously–their favorite cautionary tales.

• “In recent memory, my worst author response was actually a non-response. I encourage every author to tell me what he/she needs–even if that means they need a different editor. This is a business. I don’t take it personally if a client needs a different editorial style. Just buck up and be honest. Recently, an author emailed me just a few days before her book was due. She said it wasn’t written. I was kind; these things happen all the time. Less than a week later…she released said book.

Now, it was a full novel. She couldn’t have had it written, edited, and revised in 6 days. So clearly, she hired a new editor but didn’t want to tell me. So she lied instead…despite knowing I’d see her posts on her personal profile and author page on FB.

I don’t wish her ill will, and I hope the book sells. But the fact is, she cancelled with too little time for me to fill the hole in my schedule, which means I didn’t earn a paycheck that week. I suspect authors forget sometimes that when they mess with an editor’s schedule, they’re also messing with her livelihood. I take great care to meet my deadlines. It’s a point of pride. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to ask clients to do the same.”

• “I once had an author tell me that she was working really hard, trying to get her book finished as quickly as she could by a fast-looming deadline. Not more than ten minutes after receiving that email, I saw that the same author was tweeting about going to the salon to get her hair colored and her nails done and after that she was meeting her husband for lunch and a movie. “

• “I worked for a publishing house that, despite preaching author equality, had a vastly different set of rules for their bestselling authors vs. the rest of their author pool. Company policy was that all manuscripts must be ‘finaled’ (edited, proofed, formatted, etc.) and turned in to management two weeks prior to the release date.

However, I routinely edited manuscripts for a certain author, who was one of the company’s bestsellers, two to three days prior to the release day because that’s when she’d finish it. The worst was when my designated proofer and I pulled an editing all-nighter while the author sent the manuscript a few chapters at a time because she was still writing the book the night before it released. Actually, make that the morning before it released. I don’t think I got the last chapter until four AM, that morning. It went live at ten AM.”
•  “I was editing an anthology. We were getting down to crunch time when one author finally sent me her manuscript for edits. It was rife with misogyny, plot holes, and characters that were TSTL. I worked for days editing this book and sent it off to the author asking that it be turned around ASAP. Almost two weeks later (less than a week before the anthology was supposed to release), I finally got the book back with a note telling me how hard she’d been working on it. Yet, when I opened the manuscript, not a single edit had been made until late in the evening ten days after the manuscript had been returned to her. The book then sat untouched for another two days when she attempted to do all of the edits and somehow added twelve thousand words in one day. Track Changes makes a time and date stamp on all edits. “
•  “I’ve had more than one author go on social media upon receiving edits to complain about their editor not liking their writing and/or that their editor thinks they’re stupid or failures. Conversely, there are those authors who complain that the reason the edits were so bad was because the editor doesn’t like the genre or doesn’t understand the story. “
•  “I was editing a a book that had been co-authored by two authors. It was an M/M erotic paranormal story. Now, I’m not one who believes that all erotic content should follow some sort of unwritten rule. The sexual interaction can come early on or later. It’s whatever fits the story. However, if you’re going to market a book as an erotic tale, there needs to be some kind of erotic content. As I went through this book, I got about three-quarters of the way only to realize there’d been nothing more than a kiss. And I was only a couple of chapters away from the end. So I asked the authors what any editor would…  there is going to be erotic content in your erotic novel, right? But what’s better is that they both wrote in places they could add some, but neither ever did. Ended up going multiple rounds in order to actually reach their marketable audience.”
• “An author called me at home, crying, because a proofer said that they felt a phrase the character used was ‘a little corny’. This brought on a deluge of angry, hysterical tears.”
• “One author argued with me about whether or not a scene was rapey. Heroine is actively saying and thinking no, she doesn’t want to have sex with all these men. “Heroes” proceed to have sex with her anyway. Or, as it’s accurately termed, the “heroes” rape the heroine.
• ” I was editing a book, and I came across a mistake that, dear god, made me laugh so hard. And it was written incorrectly not once but twice because the author thought it was the correct phrasing… The author wanted to say that the character had gotten angry, but wrote…. ‘and he let all his mad out.’ This same author also continually mixed up your and you’re. When I politely reminded them of the difference they left a comment saying they already knew the difference. They had no idea why there were so many mistakes, then proceeded to mix them up again throughout the edits.”
• “I’ve had authors who insist on keeping ethnic or racial slurs when they’re pointed out, because ‘They’ve become common usage.’”
• “I used to work with an author who, when I would ask a question about a character or the plot, would write paragraphs upon paragraphs in comments explaining it to me. Even after working on numerous books together, this was a regular thing. A good rule of thumb, if something needs that much explanation, that information needs to be in the book, not in comments to your editor. As an author, you aren’t going to be on hand when readers ask these questions. ”
• “The overenthusiastic thesaurus user—As much as authors should avoid repetitive words and phrases, sometimes, it can be made worse than simple repetition. In an effort to avoid repetition, it requires much more than simply pulling up or clicking synonyms in your document and replacing the word. That can lead to some clunky and awkward sentences—particularly when the new word isn’t exactly the same as the word replaced and it actually changes the meaning of the sentence.
So there you have it. Don’t argue with your editors, ignore their suggestions, miss your deadlines, and if you’re going to lie, don’t expose yourself on social media. Follow these way not difficult rules and you should be fine.

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch, S02E20, “Go Fish”

In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone has still not learned her lesson about buying Cheez-Its to keep in her office. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.

Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.  Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.

WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it. 

CW: Rape

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No, Smart Phones Aren’t Destroying Humanity

Last Sunday, the New York Times ran a piece about how smart phones are destroying the next generation. I always find it interesting that it’s always the next generation that’s being destroyed, but the generation writing think pieces about that destruction have always been mercifully spared. While the article does note that parents are as addicted to technology as their children are, it swiftly moves on to discussing the myriad ways teens aren’t communicating correctly.

I could mock this piece by scrounging up anecdotes about similar changes in technology that lead to dire warnings of societal collapse. There are plenty of examples: the internet. The telephone. The novel. I’m sure that even the harnessing of fire was criticized as a civilization ender, with middle-aged cave people lamenting the good old days when everyone lived in mortal dread of being eaten by a bear in the dark. But we don’t have to reach so far back for this one; smart phones and social media are providing all of us–not just the doomed “next generation”–with a level of connectivity to our fellow humans that we’ve never experienced before, and it’s all become possible in a very short span of years. All of us, even those who are writing disparaging think pieces, remember a time we would now consider unbearable. In the movie Hot Tub Time Machine, a teenager who mysteriously finds himself trapped in 1985 is astounded when a girl reminds him that there’s no way to text or email her. If he wants to talk to her, she explains, he has to come and find her. His response? “That sounds exhausting.”

And it was exhausting. And boring. And isolating. I grew up in a rural area, in a house where I was the only child. If the school year ended and I didn’t have a friend’s phone number, I didn’t speak to them until September–an interminable wait when you’re young and time seems so much longer. If I wanted to meet with my friends and spend time, the arrangements were contingent upon whether or not our parents had the means or inclination to get us into the same place at once. With no neighbor children to play with, summers could be very lonely.

My son, however, never spends his summers alone. Though he can’t always be with his friends in person, they gather online via Skype to play Minecraft or watch “let’s play” videos together on YouTube. They talk and they giggle and socialize, and some of them are doing this with the aid of smart phones.

Those lonely summers I spent might have been less lonely if we’d had smart phones. I could have texted or emailed my friends, rather than having to work up the courage to call them. To this day, I have debilitating phone anxiety that makes a single phone call an all day project as I sit and talk myself into dialing the number. I could have had long conversations via Facebook messenger, seen pictures from their summer vacations and shared my own. And failing all that, I could have downloaded books, rather than waiting for a weekly trip to the library.

I don’t begrudge my children the technology that provides them an adolescence filled with more conveniences than I had in mine. Will they grow up differently than I did? Of course they will, but every advance changes our way of life. That’s the point of advancement. We strive for change, but fear it when it arrives. Since we don’t want to blame ourselves for causing it, we resent the next generation for using the tools we’ve created for them.

Maybe kids these days don’t communicate the way kids did twenty years ago. Maybe it’s making them different. But kids twenty years before that were different, too. Our luddite insistence that any behavioral change caused by technology will spin us into a grim dystopia foretold in 1950′s science fiction novels proves that the only true constant is the human ego. Because how can the next generation possibly thrive or surpass us unless they duplicate our experiences exactly?

THE BABY Cover Reveal and Excerpt! (Plus a Boss Boxed Set! and other news)

Everyone is getting antsy for news about The Baby, and today I’m going to deliver! Now, after the “read more” tag you’re going to find the cover to The Baby, the final book in the Boss series, as well as a super hot excerpt from the first chapter. However, if you skip straight there, you’re going to miss out on some Boss related news you’re going to need if you want to keep up with Neil and Sophie. So exercise some self-denial and read through these details first.

Release date: I’ve seen confusion about what the release date is, ranging anywhere from November 5 , 6, 10, or 25. The release date for The Baby is November 10.

Preorders: There won’t be a preorder for the The Baby, or any of my future self-published books. Here’s why: Amazon and other retailers have stopped counting preorders as first day sales. It used to be that authors could set up a preorder ninety days in advance and use that time to rack up sales that would rocket the book onto bestseller lists and to the top of retail charts. I’m not concerned with hitting lists; I did it once and nothing magical happened apart from an ego stroke, so it isn’t a huge priority. However, making it into the top one hundred in your category on Amazon, for example, increases your visibility and allows you to sell more copies. I learned this lesson the hard way when I made First Time available for preorder. Had preorders been counted toward first day sales, both books would have easily gained a spot in the top one hundred of their categories. They didn’t, and the book never broke the top thousand overall. Despite the fact that so many of you bought the book, without visibility the sales overall slowed to a trickle because new readers who might have been interested in it just didn’t find it.

Please, don’t think that I don’t appreciate that you preordered First Time. I loved the enthusiastic response it received, and I’m thankful for each and every copy sold. I’m just using it as an example to explain why The Baby won’t have a preorder.  And obviously, this is going to inconvenience or anger some of you. All I can do is apologize. While I love writing and sharing my writing with you, this is also a business, and I sometimes have to make business decisions based on circumstances I don’t have a say in. This is the final book in this series for Neil and Sophie, and if everyone who would normally preorder it just ends up buying it the first week, it’ll have a greater chance at the visibility and longevity that, frankly, I believe it deserves. I’m pretty proud of my work lately, and I want to see it do well.

Oh, about that whole “last book in the series” thing: While The Baby is the last book in this series, it is not the last Neil and Sophie book. I’m taking a break from them for now to focus on some other projects, but I have every intention of writing more for them. Stopping at five books gives us a convenient place for readers of the series to step off the train if they’re getting bored, but feel like they absolutely have to finish. It also gives me time to explore side characters, like the continuation of Ian and Penny’s story, and Emir’s own novel. So yes, Neil and Sophie will be back, but not in 2016.

THE BOSS boxed set: If you want to get caught up on all the novels in this series (or you want to force a friend to read them), there’s an easy way to do that now. A digital boxed set of the first four books is available now, for $1.99. The set is only available for a limited time, so spread the word. It’s currently available on Amazon and Smashwords.

All right. It’s cover and excerpt time. Are you ready?

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