Thursday, October 16, 2014

Inequality--Blog Action Day 2014

http://www.blogactionday.org
From time to time I go off the rails. I mean, I get serious and stop posting fun snippets from my books or talking about attending sci-fi cons and actually write an opinion piece. This is one of those times. You can leave now if you wish. You've been warned.



 


If you're still reading, welcome to Blog Action Day 2014. This year's topic is inequality. Bloggers around the world are posting pieces about inequality today. The above Facebook meme really speaks to me about inequality because it directly affects me as a woman. Just because I was born with two X chromosomes this somehow it means I need my life choices regulated by a bunch of old farts in the statehouse or Washington, D.C. That thought really raises my blood pressure.

What is it with these men (mostly men--I realize there are some "good ol' gals" among these politicians who toe the party line) that they feel women are incapable of making decisions about their own bodies? Are we an inferior species? If that's the case, then why did the Creator give us the ability to bear children and nurse them? Seems to me women are far from inferior creatures! It could even be argued women are both physically and psychologically superior to men since God thinks we're the gender with the best attributes to carry and nurture babies. But apparently women are mentally and morally deficient--and the government has to step in and tell us how to think and act for our own good.

Could these myriad of U.S. regulations aimed at controling women's bodies be an attempt to keep us in our place? Think about it. If women are free to do as they like, we might do things that men (especially old farts) don't like. We might decide that they don't want to stay at home in the kitchen all day long, barefoot and pregnant. Women might use their minds to study and hone their skills and have--gasp!--actual careers! Women might even aspire to position of powers over men... The horror!

Insecure males can't have females competing against them for jobs and positions. It's just not done! Here's a telling quote from an article about a recent remark made by Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella saying that it’s “good karma” for women not to ask for a pay raise, but to “trust the system” to eventually reward them


Nadella’s words have struck a sensitive chord with the public, as the discrepancy in salaries women and men get is notable. US women received 78 percent of what equally qualified men received in 2013, according to research by the American Association of University Women, cited by Reuters.(Full article at http://rt.com/news/194740-karma-women-microsoft-criticism/   Another good article about women and how they are perceived in the workplace: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/opinion/sunday/learning-to-love-criticism.html?smid=fb-share&_r=1 )

Women throughout history have been forced into second class citizen roles to keep us in our place. Less pay, less chance for advancement, less reward for our hard work... What better way to shut women up permanently and keep us at odds with each other than to attack us at our most vulnerable spot--the very control of our bodies?

We've all heard the old adages "good girls don't" but that "boys will be boys." By legislating a double standard we impose a twenty-first century equivalent of slavery on the female gender. If forcing women into sexual and economic slavery doesn't count as inequality, what does?

We're unequal before the law. A woman can't even make an intimate decision about her reproductive health with her doctor without some buttinski politician forcing his opinion into the mix. The decisions women are forced to make are sometimes terrible, agreed, but I do believe no woman takes these types of decisions lightly or believes she has a better option at the time. Let's trust that women who need to make these decisions aren't moral or mental defectives. Let's trust them to make their own decisions about their bodies and health. Let's leave them in peace and give them the privacy to do so.

By making access to birth control more difficult through legislation which actively prevents medical coverage for it, the double standard shines brighter than ever. Viagra is covered under many health insurance plans, but the Pill isn't? Why would any sane person in the year 2014 think that making birth control methods harder to obtain is going to stop women from have sex? After all, a male can forcefully use a female's body for his own sick pleasure, but she is stuck with the damning labels of "adulteress" and "murderer" if she chooses to terminate the pregnancy his vile actions caused? Why are the victim's rights and mental/emotional/physical health not as important as her rapist's?

I think Jesus said it best: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Inequality is sin. Women are God's creation, too. God made us capable of making our own decisions. Old farts--leave our bodies and our decisions alone!





Look for these hashtags to find more Blog Action Day posts on the topic of inequality: #BAD2014, #Inequality, #BlogAction, #OCT16, and #BlogAction14

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Off to the cons!

We're off to a couple of sci-fi cons this month--Archon 38 and ConClave 38. What better way to celebrate this wonderful fact than by posting some flash fiction I wrote at the last con we attended, the NASFic DetCon1?

(Okay, there's probably a better way to celebrate, but this is a family friendly blog!) 

Now for the wonderful flash fiction, written under duress in five minutes on a Sunday morning at DetCon1...




Writing prompts: Two old friends, a mistake, an airlock



“No, you did not just do that!”


Bob scowled at his dear old friend Bill. Yeah, Bill was getting forgetful, but he hadn’t slipped into Alzheimer’s quite yet.


“I did. He deserved it, Bob. You heard what he said about the Sixth Doctor. That man deserved to die.”


“But Bill—come on! It was just a flippant remark about a centuries’ old sci-fi TV show... It wasn’t worth it.”


“Yes, it was!" Bill stood proudly. “The entire Doctor Who fandom was at stake. It had to be done.”


“Oh, all right.” Bob sighed. “What do we tell the captain then?”


“We just say Rick stepped out for a breath of fresh air.”


“Fresh air?” Bob smacked his forehead. “Through an airlock? On a space station in geosynchronous orbit around Earth?” He thought for a moment. “Well, all right.”



I'll be posting news about a couple of book contracts I recently lined-up very soon!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Sexy Saturday Post from a W.I.P.

 
Deep in an English wood...


What's a W.I.P. you ask? Simply it's a "work in progress" and this time around I've decided to post seven sexy paragraphs from our current work in progress entitled Driving in England. I say "our" because this is story was written by me and my husband, the talented A.J. Matthews. Right now, it's tentatively scheduled for a January 2015 release from Devine Destinies, so if you like this excerpt more be coming soon! In the meantime, be sure to check out my other mainstream romantic fiction at www.cynthianna.com


A brief synopsis: Susannah, a woman of a certain age, travels to England on behalf of her boss, a rich oil tycoon, to do a little snooping into his family tree. What she doesn't count on is butting heads and then falling for the handsome genealogist Duncan Balfour. 

Excerpt set-up: Who says older lovers can't have as much fun as younger ones, especially when it's a warm day and an empty forest meadow beckons? ;)


Oh, my!” Susannah shot him a glance that covered his body from face to bulging pants. Her face looked pink. “We’re like a couple of teenagers.”

Duncan thought of something. “Let’s get past Norwich. Thetford’s not too far down the road.” 


“What’s in Thetford?”


“It’s not what’s in Thetford, it’s what’s around it.” When she looked blank he smiled. “Thetford Forest. There are a number of trails running through it. We can find one and be... private for a few minutes.”


She chuckled. “You wanna do it outside? Hmm, Duncan, what a naughty boy you are!” 


“But you like the idea?”


She nodded. “Oh, I like.”



Enjoy the rest of your Sexy Saturday blog hop!
http://mysexysaturday.blogspot.com




Saturday, September 13, 2014

Beware of Book Mills!



I love my current publishers!


Writers, beware of book mills!



Things are going along fairly smoothly in life when suddenly a mistake you thought you’d corrected years ago rears its ugly head. No, I don’t mean my ex (ugly as he is!) showed up on my doorstep. That I could easily handle by kicking his butt to the curb. This mistake has to do with one of lowest of pond-scum-feeding con artists who exist in the publishing world—the book mill.



For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, here’s a quick definition. A book mill simply churns out book after book after book with little or no editing or consideration of the material. Any and all topics and genres and writing abilities are fair game because no one at the book mill actually reads the manuscripts submitted. All the book mill wants is for wannabe authors to buy tons of copies of their own books so the book mill can make a tidy profit with little effort. They may promise “promotion opportunities for only $99!” but the author receives little or no sales boost from handing over money to the book mill, and, of course, it’s a non-refundable fee. In fact, the book mill routinely bombards its authors with meaningless communications promising to put their titles in front of famous talk show hosts and radio stars, along with entering the books into prestigious book expos—all for a fee, of course. It’s not hard to see that a running book mill is a great way to scam a lot of money off of anxious writers who have no knowledge of how the publishing world works.




I didn’t realize at the time (well over a decade ago) that I was dealing with a book mill, but it gradually became obvious. I had sold the electronic rights to my novel to an ebook-only press, but I had been asked to sign print books at a book-signing. This is way before the Kindle debuted, so not many people were interested in having an e-book author at a book-signing event. Where would I get print copies to sign? An online acquaintance recommended this book mill, and from his comments I thought they sounded legitimate. The book mill agreed to the print rights only to my novel since I informed them I had sold the e-rights earlier. Win-win, right?



The book mill did a quick spell check for “editing” and then told me my novel was now available for purchase. I bought some copies for the signing, but I was very disappointed when they arrived in the mail. The print books were extremely expensive for the quality of the product. A stock image photo slapped onto a rather sorry solid color with the book’s title printed above in a standard font was the “cover art.” (Even I could have done that well over a decade ago!) But at least I had a book in hand to sign at the event. I was hopeful it would eventually sell well in both print and electronic formats.



Flash forward a few years: With practically zero print sales (none I couldn’t account for personally), I requested my book’s print rights back from the book mill and asked them to pull my title from their web site. Years passed and I never heard a peep from this company. I heard nothing about them on the grapevine either. I figured the book mill must have gone out of business. I felt very relieved to have escaped their clutches.



My novel’s e-rights eventually expired with its first electronic publisher. I revised and re-sold the novel to a publisher of both print and ebooks with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with for some time now. With fresh edits and a snazzy new cover, I was happy that my “baby” had found a good home. Everything seemed to have come together for this well-reviewed book with its mixed-up publishing past. 
 


Flash forward to a few weeks ago: An email arrives in my inbox from an unknown company saying they’re publishing my novel and that I can pay them money to promote it. What the…? Who are they and why did they pirate my book? I immediately contacted my publisher and then wrote back to this unknown company asking them to take my book down from their site. Immediately the abuse began. I eventually learned that this new company was in fact the same old book mill I had dealt with more than a decade ago operating under a new name. They claimed I had “infringed upon my copyright.”



Say what? Along with other legal-sounding mumbo-jumbo the email stated they’d “return my copyright” for a mere $99. Imagine that! Thing is, if I didn’t pay them right away they claimed they’d take me to court and sue me for the "infringing on the copyright" to my own work. Wow! (I dug out the old contract. There’s not a word about having to pay them any fees whatsoever in their contract or that they would file for a copyright on the work.)



Weirder yet, I had filed for the copyright for my novel with the US Copyright Office many years ago. It’s my book and I registered the copyright, so what nonsense is this? My current publisher said to stop communicating with this company directly, as they’re obviously trying to frighten me into paying them money to shut up. She wisely asked for the book mill’s legal counsel contact information so the two “publishers” could discuss the matter. The book mill seemed to ignore this request.




Weeks later, another email arrives in my inbox stating that I need to buy my copyright back from the book mill since my book hasn’t sold any copies in over a year. Well, of course it hasn’t sold any copies! I told the company many years ago to take it down from their site, and I’d requested my print rights back. Since the “new company” is actually the “old book mill” surely they have this information at hand and could see it was all a mistake, right? I was advised by my publisher to send them a short and simple email to the book mill reminding them to contact my novel’s current publisher as requested earlier, just in case the first email had been missed.



Then all hell broke loose.



The most unprofessional and nasty emails followed. There’s simply no other way to describe the horrid tone of these communications. Personal attacks? Plenty! I must be an axe murderer in my sleep. What an odd sideline for a romance author!



The book mill also sent these insulting emails to my publisher as well, since I had provided contact information. We can only assume they did this for maximum fright tactic/belittling effect. Apart from calling my current publisher every name in the book (how professional!) they continue to insist I’ll be in a world of financial hurt if I don’t pay them. I’m beginning to wonder if they haven’t taken lessons from either Tony Soprano or the Godfather. Needless to say, my current publisher and the company lawyer will be conversing directly with the book mill from now on.



You know what? Even if I win the lottery tomorrow, there’s no way I’ll ever pay these people. Who gives in to a bully? Why would anyone pay a bully for the rights to his/her own work? With further research, we’ve discovered that this book mill has been sued before for employing similar tactics with their authors.



A Better Business Bureau web site says the book mill in question publicly stated that their contracts don’t last more than ten years. My original contract would have ended a few years back then. This might explain why I’d never heard from the old book mill with the new name until recently.



It doesn’t appear they were bought out or sold. It’s simply the same book mill operating under a new name. Why on earth should a business change their name in midstream unless they’ve got something to hide? This is an ongoing nightmare, so I’ll fill you in on any news as it comes available.



The moral of the story is this: Writers beware of book mills! They are not your friends, especially if they constantly request money for so-called services. And never ever forget the old adage: “The money flows from the publisher to the author—not the other way around.” A legitimate publisher takes you on as an author because they truly believe in your book (like my novel's current publisher). You deserve nothing less!





Editor’s note: My husband and I will be leading a panel called “What makes a good publisher?” at ConClave 38, October 10-12, in Dearborn, Michigan. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I Got the Doctor Who Let Down Blues

                                                               

I Got the Doctor Who Let Down Blues

by Cynthianna

The tension has been building up for months now—eight months to be precise. The new season of Doctor Who with a new actor in the title role has been touted since last Christmas with only crumbs dropped now and then to feed the fans’ rabid appetite for news and gossip. Big kudos go out to the BBC marketing department for their expert dangling of the carrot in front of the fervent fans and for preventing our attention from ever wandering too far. The Beeb promised us a mind-blowing, landmark-making, scrumpdillyupmptious sci-fi/fantasy event of unbelievable proportions. In the last couple of weeks Whovians were whipped into a frenzy further with the Doctor Who World Tour featuring the main actors and creators of the show. (Once again, kudos to the BBC marketing department.) Doctor Who fans have bemoaned the long wait but they were totally and sincerely psyched when at last the big day, August 23, finally arrived.

I guess it’s only natural after so much whipping up of excitement and expectations, a fan girl might feel a bit let down after actually viewing said long-awaited first episode of the new season. No, you can put the tomatoes away—I adore Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and have no problems with Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara the companion—but I will say I’d hoped for a stronger vehicle for their debut story together. Once again, I don’t fault the actors or the special effects or even the story idea, but I found some very avoidable faults in the scriptwriting that literally set my teeth on edge. (To quote a fan about what made the Matt Smith era seem less than stellar: “Moffat!”)

Where to begin? I don’t want to give spoilers to those who haven’t seen said episode yet, so I will be general in my comments. Also, I will compare and contrast the classics series of Doctor Who to the new series in hopes this will illustrate where I see the newer episodes have lost their luster. If I had to give a one word quote about what I feel the new series of Doctor Who is missing, that word would be “intelligence.”

“Intelligent what?” you may ask. Don’t worry, I’ll get there. Here’s some background first: My husband and I are very fortunate to be able to receive the Retro-TV channel where we live, and since August 4 we’ve been watching nightly episodes of classic Doctor Who, starting with the very first Doctor as portrayed by William Hartnell. Also, this past summer we’ve been checking out DVDs of classic Doctor Who episodes from our local library, having recently watched a number of the third Doctor’s (Jon Pertwee) stories. 




Okay, BBC marketing department this is where you guys might have made a big mistake by asking us to wait eight months for the new season to begin... Those of us who were big fans since the last century have had ample time to re-watch our favorite moments on DVD and broadcast TV. We can leisurely stop and pause our DVDs and discuss what works and what doesn’t in a particular Doctor Who story. Surprisingly, even if we agree that the special effects could have been better in an episode, we very rarely complain that the writing is weak, the characters aren’t realized well, or anything sets our teeth on edge.

Not bad for a sci-fi show whose entire yearly budget in the 1960s - 1980s was no where near what they spend creating just one episode today—even when adjusted for inflation. So, if a bigger budget and flashier special effects don’t make for a better Doctor Who experience, what does? This is where I posit my thoughts on what is currently missing from the series—intelligence. What do you take away from a Doctor Who story? What lesson(s) did you learn? Did you find out anything new about science or history or humanity or yourself?

I know some of the new series fans will argue, “Doctor Who has never been a family friendly show—it’s not about teaching kids things,” but that’s where they’re wrong. All one has to do is go back to the original 1963 proposal for Doctor Who to see that it was created to be a television show for families with school-aged children, and it was to have “teaching moments” scattered through-out its futuristic tales along with facts and insights tossed into the historical storylines. The point I’m making here is that the writing was strong enough to both entertain and enlighten both adults and children. Viewers never felt as if they were being talked down to or manipulated by catch-phrases and multitudes of explosions. (Plus, they never felt as if being a person of faith was somehow suspect, a common theme in the newer series. It's okay if you don't believe in God, Mr. Moffat, but please don't try to purposely offend those who do. It's just plain rude.)


I celebrate fans--not insult them, Steven!

No doubt, the newer series’ emphasis has drifted away from the educational premise. Alas, sometimes it doesn’t even entertain. One can walk away after viewing a new series’ episode and fifteen minutes later totally forget what the premise or point of the story was. Sure, you might remember the Doctor wore a dressing gown or rode a horse or cracked some funny one-liners (possibly of a sexual nature), but nothing stays in your mind of any importance. You don’t feel like the show helped you to think more intelligently. You may not feel that some of the content was appropriate for your six-year-old. Classic Doctor Who writers probably wouldn’t recognize it as the same show anymore.

To clarify, let’s look at the 1973 story, The Green Death. The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and his assistant, Jo Grant, along with his friends at UNIT, are fighting against an international chemical company which is bent on polluting the water supply and killing people (through the infected maggots created) so the corporation and its masters can reap mega-profits. Change “Global Chemical” to “Monsanto” or “Dow” or “Bayer” and this story of how important it is for humanity (with help from the Doctor) to rise up and stop this disaster before it’s too late would make for an episode that is both entertaining and educational and very relevant in the year 2014. Added bonus, once viewers watched such an episode they might actually be motivated to become more environmentally aware and take positive action.

The Third Doctor era can also boast of another intelligent environmental awareness storyline—1970’s Inferno. If you’re alarmed about the increasing earthquakes and ground water pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing or fracking, this is a story that bears close viewing. Even more amazing, the 1964 story Planet of Giants starring the first Doctor deals with a businessman who kills a government official in order to make a fortune off his new pesticide that destroys everything it touches... Recent headlines about “bee-killing” pesticides called neonicotinoids are both shocking and frightening. But can one imagine Doctor Who in 2014 touching upon such a burning topic that could affect life on Earth as we know it?

Intelligent television? Yes, even a fictional TV series can work for the good of humanity. At the very least it could make us all more aware of state of the planet and our impact upon it. Wouldn’t it be better to inspire a new generation of ecologists and astronauts and historians simply than create a mad marketing rush to get the kids to haul ass to Hot Topic to purchase millions of dollars in Doctor Who T-shirts, fezes and bow-ties?




I got the Doctor Who Let Down Blues. I was hoping for more intelligent writing for Peter Capaldi in his new incarnation as the Doctor, but producer Steven Moffat didn’t want to disappoint his perceived audience’s tastes—he kept things on the rather silly level. All I know is that I’m too old to care for discussions about “boyfriends” in the Tardis or learning the funny put-downs the Doctor and his companions will use with each other for the next year. Whatever happened to the Doctor and his companions treating each other with respect and kindness? Are women in the Whovian universe to be seen simply as sex objects?

Case in point: Girls kissing lizards? Who needs it? Not my bag, baby, and I don’t believe that scenes of adult sexuality add anything to a show that should be family friendly, even when it outright refuses to be “educational for school aged children” as the original 1963 show premise states. Silly sex talk—that’s what late-night TV and locker rooms in middle schools are for, isn’t it? Rise above it, please.





Perhaps both George Lucas and Steven Moffat should be banned from attempting to write/produce any of their story ideas ever again. Remember The Phantom Menace, another long-awaited event that proved to be disappointing? These two guys should stick to their strengths and recruit strong writers who can craft intelligent, respectful, and moving storylines without all the adolescent fluff. Who knows—some of these writers could even be adult females?
 

I think the Doctor—with his numerous intelligent and strong female sidekicks—would approve.


Addition, 9-1-14:
I enjoyed Peter Capaldi's performance as the Doctor in the latest episode (Into the Dalek) much more than in the first story, but Clara is still not a very defined character. She slaps him hard in the face--wow! What sort of "teacher" would strike a "pupil"? I almost think that was producer Steven Moffat's idea of another "funny gimmick", but to me it turned Clara into a bully. I like the idea of the new Doctor needing a "teacher" to help him--just look at the first Doctor with teacher companions Barbara and Ian. They really helped him to learn a lot about himself and humanity. I just wish the producers could keep a consistent tone and skip the gimmicks of slapstick/adult sexuality that Moffat seems to think fits. Doctor Who is a science fiction/fantasy tale--SF lovers tend to be a bit more sophisticated than fans of The Three Stooges. I still feel that Russell T. Davies wrote and supervised much more intelligent scripts.