Saturday, February 25, 2012

The List

A few weeks ago, I underwent a fairly serious and complicated operation on my back.  While I was waiting in pre-op, I compiled the following list. I thought that today, I'd share that list--of things I wished I'd said, things I wish I'd done, people I wish were in a different role in my life.  The list is kind of scattered--you know, I was on those pre-op sedatives--but at the time, scattered was okay.  Today it'll have to be just enough.

The List

To my mother--I wish the last thing I ever said to you had been based in love, not anger. 

To the teacher who taught me the most about English and writing--I wish you could have seen where I've ended up, and I wish you would have known that the knowledge and enthusiasm you shared with me is now filtering down to hundreds of authors across the planet.

To the University of Tennessee athletic department--You still suck, and all of this is the result of the bad karma you stacked up when you booted out a legend in favor of an asshole.  Just sayin'...

I wish I'd figured out a way to get to Egypt before this.  I need to figure it out in the next couple of years. Maybe it's better to have waited; doing Egypt with a screwed up back would have sucked.

To the naysayers and trolls who've been sneaking around my coat tails--piss off.

To my aunt Lucienne: I can't even begin to tell you how much I miss you.

To my Musa co-directors: Look at us! SQUEEEEE~!

I really wish this story bouncing around in my head would hurry up and get onto paper and leave me alone.  What part of *not for a month* do you NOT understand? 

To the three stories bouncing around New York right now--reel 'em in, wouldcha? I am not a patient person.

Oh, Penumbra--your cover SO kicks ass for March!  Totally. Awesome. Cover.

Hey Doc--please don't screw up my back. Kthxbai.

Regardless of what happens, I will be strong and deal with whatever fortune bounces my way. 

Hey Dad!  I love you, and for the first time in my life I feel like I'm able to address you as an equal instead of the big, silent disapproving *Don't be stupid, Celina* angel on my right shoulder. 

There's a reason I have a *Jackasses* folder in my inbox. Unfortunately, it's a lot more full than I thought it would be.

What do I have to do to get a damn ice chip in this place anyway?

Okay, the will and the literary estate are set up, as are the living will and the donor registry form and the power of attorney.  Hopefully the big THIS IS FOR AUDREY written across the back of the Dali woodcut prints will not be contested by anyone. Hopefully.

Wait a second--wow. I am seriously (hopefully) at the midpoint of my life. I'm not a kid or a young adult anymore.  Now I have to be...responsible?  Or at the very least, determined.  Good thing determination is a quality I have always had.

I think that at the end of my life, the best possible realization I should have as I draw my last breath is -- I never gave up. I never gave in. Now I can rest.

I wonder--if I did die today, where would I haunt?

Not this house.  Not my last house.  Not my Dad's house. The house I grew up in?  Maybe.  But actually--probably the theater building at APSU.  The Trahern needs a new ghost, and I'm smartass enough alive or dead to really leave my 'mark' on shows they do there.

To my brother: when we were little, I really tried hard with you.  But you aren't the 'trying' kind of guy, I guess. At the very least, we should be able to get along for Dad's sake--but I won't compete with drugs for your attention just to make our father happy. Clean it up.

Once upon a time, there was a couple who taught Latin in a middle-sized Tennessee town.  They influenced hundreds of really smart kids, kids who are now doctors, professors, lawyers, teachers and even one writer/editor/publisher. This couple is so amazing, so wonderfully ageless and incredible, that they are still turning out those kinds of kids thirty years later.  God bless the Warrens, and the Junior Classical League in Clarksville, Tennessee.  I'm sketching out my experiences with them as the basis of a story.  When I'm recovered from this, I need to sound out some of my other JCL compadres for their memories too.  

There should be more stories where teacher are heroes. 

There should be more heroes for the teachers.

To my husband: we can overcome anything as long as we continue to work, live and love as a unit.

To my granddaughters:  as you three get older, be sure to listen to the stories of your heritage on all sides.  You'll learn wonderful things about your family--all about Indians and entrepreneurs and artists and writers, about births and marriages and death, about how every single person had to decide who/what they were going to be, and how some succeeded and others failed. All these lessons happened for a reason--so that you could listen to those stories and learn from them, one way or another.

Is there anything sweeter or happier than an infant or a young child?  I don't think so.

Unless it's kittens.

Pain has a purpose.  Somewhere. I guess. Funny, though--the cure for pain is apparently MORE pain.  That's a life lesson everyone should learn at some time.

This damn idiot just blew ANOTHER vein in my arm. I'm going to look like the world's only fat heroin addict by the time I get out of here.

I wish my family could have all been together, all happy, all supportive of each other. I don't remember a single day of my life where that was the case.

To my daughters--live, love, learn. Don't be so rooted in the past that you fail to move toward your future. The past will just hold you back; the future will lure you in. 

The next month is going to suck.  Good thing I'm going to miss the next few hours of it--

* Just so you guys know, the surgery went very well.  Now I'm back at home, and doing much better.  Still laid up with pain--who wouldn't be?--but starting to move around better and catching up on my reading for fun.  In other words, everything's going well.*

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rejections and Dejection and Objections


Harsh word. Harsher reality.  And, unfortunately, a part of every writer's life.   Here it is, early on Wednesday morning, and this has already been a week where rejection has played a huge part in the life events of all kinds of writers at all different levels. For me this week, rejection has been the catchphrase.  So, I wanted to address rejection in this blog post. I kind of feel obligated to, because not only have I had to reject writers this week, but I've been rejected myself as well.

Strange, isn't it?  That I can deal in rejections after receiving my own?  And sure--there's a part of me that thinks, "ANY writer, given the proper chance, training and editing, can succeed." I honestly believe that. That's part of the Musa creed, in fact.  We take writers and build authors.  It's our mission.

And yet...

And yet...does that mean every writer RIGHT NOW is ready to take advantage of that creed? 

No, it doesn't.

Let me tell you a story.  The first draft of The Reckoning of Asphodel that I wrote was in 1983.  I came back to it in 2003, when I had to quit work after my car accident.  We were poor---POOOOOOOOOOOR--and I was stuck at home all day by myself while my husband worked two jobs.  And after rent and food and medicine and doctors' bills and gas and car insurance and utilities, there was nothing left for cable or internet or even books.  So, just to entertain myself, I dug out this old story from my memory--not even the paper manuscript--and set about writing a story to keep myself sane.  And after that story was written (and the other three as well), it took me three years and multiple rejections before I finally found a publisher. 

Twenty years.  And don't get me wrong--that manuscript was rejected back in 1984 and 1985 when I was a dumb college kid who didn't know the first thing about how to submit or what even made up a good story.  My writing career was born of rejection, just like every other writer out there.  My study wall is papered with printed up rejections--the helpful ones, that steered me in the right direction; the painful ones, that almost made it; and even a few stupid ones. You know--for the wrong manuscript or the wrong author name. So every time when I look at a new manuscript from my slushpile, before I write that rejection letter I'm confronted with literally hundreds of my own failures.  I try to take into account how each rejection made me feel, what it made me do, and if it helped or hurt.

This week so far, I've had a writer attack one of my editors online because she rejected his manuscript--and this after I wrote him probably one of the gentlest and most encouraging rejections I have EVER written.  I was concerned upon reading his manuscript that he wasn't quite mature enough as a writer to work through the editing process successfully.  And, within 48 hours, my lack of conviction in the writer's maturity was borne out.  

I wonder. Will he take that manuscript out in a couple of decades and look at it again?  Or will he move on to another project and submit to us as we advised and encouraged him to do?  Or, will he instead play the victim card, and fritter away his talent and promise?

And will I ever know?

Then, less than twenty-four hours later, I got probably one of the most crushing rejections I have ever received. Crushing--not because it was a rejection, but because against every instinct I have to the opposite, I very foolishly allowed myself to think that maybe one of my agented manuscripts had found a home.  

I knew better than to do that, and I paid for it. 

But...I have to admit, as crushing as the rejection was, I find myself thinking in an entirely different manner about the repercussions.  I'm not sitting here dwelling on *manuscript A* rejected by *insert Big Six house here* after having *manuscript A* for well over *insert number higher than 8 and lower than 12 here* months. 

(okay--maybe a little bitter about the months thing. I'll admit it.)

Instead, within the same email to my agent after she delivered the news, I was already thinking about the NEXT publisher. I was already processing the COMMENTS of the editor who'd taken the book to committee and had lost.  I was already thinking AHEAD.


The thing about publishing, and writing, and all the intangibles involved in the submission process is that any work is malleable.  Any opportunity lost can become an opportunity gained.  And the author who wishes to succeed in publishing, to gain all that they hope for and have worked for, must keep their focus AHEAD.  Sure--it's okay to be depressed for a bit.  I muttered a few choice...verbs at my computer screen when I woke up to that email.  But then pick yourself up and move on to the next house on your list.  Or, if the rejection includes comments that resonate with you, take a look at the manuscript. If the comments don't jingle any strings, though, just move forward.  The last thing I want to encourage any author to do is to change their manuscript every time they get a personalized rejection.  All you'll get out of that is a confused mess of changes that don't enhance the story.  

Regardless of what you decide to do with the manuscript, the real course lies only in one direction.  Ahead.  Anything else will throw you off course for years.  And if you reach the natural end of the line for the manuscript, wrap it up carefully and store it away.

Every story, every novel you write is a jewel of accomplishment and dedication and education.  The more you write, the more you learn. Never let one manuscript, one rejection, one publisher be the end all-be all of your writing career. Take a day--a week--to get your pouting and sulking out of the way. In private is best, and by all means don't run off to the editor's Facebook and leave a snotty comment on their Wall.  But get it out of your system if you need to and then move the heck on. Because the only way to prove that rejection was a bad idea? Is to get that manuscript accepted somewhere else.

Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind.  J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Both great classics.  Both manuscripts, rejected scores of times before someone bought it.  Stephen King. John Grisham. Madeline L'Engle. All authors who were rejected--famously--multiple times before they were published. Hell, Anne Frank was rejected.  Who could be mean enough to reject Anne Frank? If you talk to any of our great writers, our famous and revered writers, they all have one thing in common.  Rejections. 

Getting rejections is a part of the growth experience of every writer.  We have to get rejected in order to know how to improve ourselves and our work.  We have to be told 'no' before we can really appreciate the 'yes.' And just like with every other writing milestone, we have to learn to take these things in stride.  

One thing that being an editor has taught me is that it's never easy to reject a writer whose manuscript is almost there.  Believe it or not, it's hard.  And while I was muttering some strong...verbs at the computer monitor this morning, I wasn't saying them to or about the editor.  My verbs had to do with what comes next.

Your verbs should try to do the same thing.

And the adjectives?  Well, as with all descriptive terms they should SHOW, not TELL.

Let your work do the job for you.  You'll be better off watching the spectacle from the high road, than dragging yourself, your work and your reputation down into the gutter. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things these days...

...are strange in the wonderful world of Celinaland.  Besides being busier than a three-legged cat in a room full of mice, lots of changes are on the horizon. 

My totally wonderful and awesome agent, who is the tiniest object of universal fear in the publishing industry, now has three of my manuscripts in hand.  I'm very happy about this--I like knowing that I have three fish swimming in the barrel.  A little over a year ago, I would have been thrilled to have ONE.  But now, since all three manuscripts are the first stories in series, those manuscripts represent much much more.  In those three series I have eleven manuscripts written.  Not too bad, eh?  So I feel that last year, despite all the craziness, I managed to get a lot of good work done towards my writing career.

And we shall see how that goes.

On the Musa front, we just keep getting busier and busier.  Our submissions inboxes are up to date--a very good thing considering how many subs we get--and our release schedule is already stretching its timeline tentacles into the autumn of this year. Penumbra just assumed the electronic submissions for the stranded subscribers to Realms of Fantasy, so I'm working my rear off on that too.  With the addition of two columns, one by writer/editor/blogger/aikido bully Lori Basiewicz on folklore, and the other by writer/comicist/educator/Writer Beware guru Richard White on worldbuilding, our content is not only increasing but improving.  And, of course the February issue of Penumbra is Shakespeare.  That always helps.

Life at home, surprisingly, is quiet.  With both kids grown and out of the home, it's just me and the cats most of the time.  Very conducive to getting a lot of work done.

What is NOT conducive to getting a lot of work done, however, is the ongoing purgatory of my back.  Yes...that's still going on.  Last week, I was admitted to Ohio State; there was a suspicion that the area around the artificial disc in my lumbar spine was infect.  That was not the case.  However, what IS the case is that the artificial disc is dangerously displaced and has been almost since the day it was put in.  In fact, some displacement was already visible six weeks after it was put in.

Did my then-surgeon tell me about that displacement?  Nope.  Did he let me know that the surgical screws were already visibly protruding?  Nope.  Did he ever let on--during the months after that artificial disc replacement--that maybe perhaps the continuing pain in my back and the horrific sciatic pain in my leg might have been caused by a problem with the surgery that he, himself, performed.

Not once.  In fact, he discharged me six months after the operation and never saw me again. Funny how that works, huh?

At any rate, I'm now with one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the country for this type of failed hardware correction.  He told me today I'd become a 'back surgery celebrity' since I was discharged from the hospital last week.  He had communicated with some other orthopedic surgeons he knows and given them the details of my case.  And every single one of them agreed with his diagnosis.  


At any rate, I'm really glad I have my writing stuff squared away; that's one less thing to worry about.  But now, I need to get Musa and Penumbra set for my absence, and that's not quite as much fun.  Regardless, though, being able to walk without pain,, to drive down to see my parents or daughters, to be able to do SOMETHING...ANYTHING again is something that not even my fertile imagination can conjure up.  It's been so long since I've been able to say that--I really can't let myself think I might be able to travel again, go boating, go riding, just be NORMAL for a while.  

Because if this falls through and it doesn't pan out, I don't know that I'll be able to stand it.

Until then, though, I'll distract myself with work.  There's plenty of it to go around, that's for sure.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Today Feels Like a Thousand Days Before

December 1 is never a good day for me. Never.  Today is World AIDS Day and a day when not only do I remember, but I sit back and think about how things are different now.  If they are.  And since today is the 24th World AIDS Day in a year in which it's been 30 years since the first reported case of AIDS, it's a day for people of my generation to reflect.

And reflection for me is not easy.

When AIDS first came to my notice, I was a teenager.  In the early days, the media called it 'gay cancer' -- straight up, on television news programs and magazines.  And as a kid in Tennessee, the concepts involved were at first hard to understand.  When I graduated in 1984 from a still-small Tennessee high school, I was unprepared for what the next few years would bring.

At first, AIDS and HIV were problems in the cities with big gay communities and freer moral standards.  I learned about it like many kids my age did--through the media.  But as I matured and moved into professional theatrical work, AIDS was no longer so remote.  Insidiously, it crept into my world--first by rumor, then by implication.  Then kids started getting sick, and straight women and then all of a sudden there wasn't any more talk about the 'gay cancer.' All of a sudden, there was a lot of hatred. Bigotry. Torture--mental and physical--and while the government and the generations ahead of mine tried to ignore the growing crisis, my generation could not. Would not. 

And the gay community, which had been in hiding and underground, mobilized into an army.  And I, and other people like me, who skirted along the edges of it because of occupation or relationships, mobilized right along with them.  

Being a youngster in the AIDS fights made me stand out on many levels--not only from within the community, where I was an anomaly by benefit of gender and orientation--but from without.  It's hard to understand now, probably, but the fear and hysteria surrounding the crisis tainted everyone involved. The pressure was incredible.  And I, who'd joined up with this events almost passively, buoyed by some sense that I, a straight girl, could somehow shield my friends from the horrific punishments they faced from the general population, found myself supported from within--by the people I, in my arrogance, had though to 'protect.'

We all learned a lot about ourselves. And about others.  And hatred, pure and vicious, that whipped along every move we made.

But worst of all, more than anything else, there was fear, coiling under the foundations of what we tried to build. Always fear--and part of that fear was split off from everything else, because while we preached testing and knowledge there's still the part of every human being that's afraid to know.

I'm not going to talk about the young people, men and women, I know who died.  I'm going to talk about the young people, men and women, who were left behind as survivors.  Those memories are  raw still, and probably always will be.  Sometimes being a survivor was worse.  So many lovers, upon the illness of their partners, were shunned by the families who had 'legal' responsibility for them--the same families who'd turned their sons out for being gay in the first place. How many parents who only months before had disowned their sons showed up before the end to snatch him away from the people who cared for him in their stead?  How many partners were shut out of the mourning process, forbidden to "intrude" upon the family's wishes? How many victims were hidden away after their deaths, buried without ceremony or notice, so his "shame" wouldn't reflect upon his parents?  I witnessed this too many times in too many hallways--a second death without closure, eviscerating the one left behind.  That's what I'll never forget really--the blankness of that moment, the stare, the absolute stillness of the one left behind.  And there was always someone left behind.

A few times, it was me.

It's hard, I think, for my kids' generation to understand what the period from 1985-1995 was really like and how hard millions of people, gay and straight, worked--not only to fight the disease itself but its complications--hatred, prejudice, ignorance, shame, and terror.  My daughters know more than most of their peers.  I've told them of the bedsides I sat at in hospices, reading out loud to victims who had no one else who cared about their condition. My girls are smart and are blessed with natural compassion. They know. But they don't know how many deaths I actually saw.

Please God they never will.

In 2011, AIDS has touched almost everyone's life in some way.  I know HIV+ patients who have lived long, productive lives with the virus because of medicine, safe practices and sometimes just sheer, stubborn determination and a burning need to tell the rest of the world to fuck off.  (And good for them!)  Now, because the hysteria has calmed because of the ceaseless, amazing work of the gay community to educate the rest of the world about AIDS, most people accept it as just another fact of life.  Something unpleasant to be aware of, but for someone else to deal with the actuality of.

While we are hopefully getting closer to a cure, the fact of the matter is that AIDS is not for someone else to deal with.  WE must deal with it.  WE must continue to fight, to educate, to research. WE must always remember that the only cure for the complications of AIDS rests with us and not some nebulous other.

The responsibility is ours. Still. And until the day comes that the last victim of AIDS is cured, we cannot ever lay down the burden or rest from the battle.

But today, when I think back on twenty-four years of World AIDS Day, I can't think of slogans or catchphrases.

All I see are faces. Hundreds--thousands of faces.

And I know them. All of them.

And so do you.

But today, I think, I'd like for you to meet someone else.  Meet the one who was left behind.  Until this country's willing to grant every American citizen the same civil rights, there will ALWAYS be someone left behind.  Today, I want you to look, to really look at them. The forgotten victims of AIDS.

The ones left behind.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks--It Ain't As Hard As You Think

Let's see--what am I thankful for this year?

I could go through the whole usual litany of "things Celina is grateful for in 2011" but I'm sure you'd be bored.  The list is short and...well, quite frankly, you guys don't read my blog to see what I'm being nice about.  You want to see what's pissing me off.  So let's head to the top of the list, shall we?

I hate divas.

Now, I realize that's strange coming from a girl who worked in theater AND in drag shows for a long time, but it's the God-honest truth.  You know all the awards show speeches that thank the "little people?"  Well, who are the "little people" in publishing?

The cover artist. The content editor. The line editor. The proofreader. The book designer. The marketing people. The bookkeeper. The review coordinator.  The list goes on and on and on.  A whole lot of people go into creating a book.  Sure--the writer is responsible for the lion's share of it; after all, they WROTE the book.  But the steps of the publication process mean that a lot of different people touch that manuscript before it becomes a BOOK and makes it to readers.  

There is a growing trend I've noticed lately, one that I find more than a little disturbing: authors who feel they have the right--and the power--to treat the crew that works on their book disrespectfully.  Authors who talk out of their asses, criticizing...say, a cover artist, for example, for creating a cover based on the author's OWN DESCRIPTION of the theme and plot instead of reading the book and pulling an image directly from the author's brain and regurgitating it onto the page. Last year, as a matter of fact, an editor who is a dear friend of mine was told by an author that he would SUE HER for copyright violations if she "dumbed down" his manuscript by correcting his very (very,very) horrific use of the English language.

At least I assume it was English. It might have been Tagalog for all I know.

In fact, earlier this year PM (pre-Musa) I retracted a contract offer to a writer who took it upon himself to correct the CONTRACT (one that I did not write and didn't have anything to do with) and then expressed concern over the level of editing he would receive if the contract was any indication of the company's standards.  But what made THAT encounter resonate even more strongly (and heads up!  herein lies the lesson) happened a couple of months later, when the same author submitted the same manuscript to the same editor at a different company. 

Guess who didn't get a contract offer from Musa?

And you know what?--it's a damn shame.  The book was well-written, funny, timely--and with a good, strong editor and the proper platform could have done very well.  But that book lingers with the author as far as I know, and probably will for some time.

You see, all those "little people?" They are working on multiple books from numerous authors at varying levels of proficiency.  That artist is making five or six more covers this week.  The content editor has her next two books already lined up.  The proofreader just got done working with the best-known author in the house, who treated her with kindness and respect.  And THAT'S why the best-seller is loved by the staff--because courtesy and professionalism go a long way to greasing the gears of the process. 

So my Thanksgiving post this year isn't about turkey or family or Pilgrims. My Thanksgiving post is about the actual giving of thanks to the people who work with you on your book.  Be courteous. Be professional. Speak to these publishing pros like equals. You don't automatically assume god status when you sign a publishing contract. 

Don't demand. Ask.

There are enough divas in the world as it is.  In the publishing industry, we don't really have divas.  Instead, we have asshats--and that's the last title you want dangling from your name.  Because usually right behind it, there's another tag that's even worse.


Monday, November 07, 2011

What To Write, What To Write...?

I just spent fifteen minutes looking for an appropriate quote for my blog today.  

Unfortunately, every quote I considered had something to do with not being able to write. Probably not the best thing to write about--not being able to write--and yet, a strangely familiar thing for me at the moment.  

I've never had any problems sitting down and putting words on paper.  Sometimes, those words even made sense. Frequently, those words formed themselves into sequential stories.  And in the end, no matter whether I have my writer's hat or my editor's hat on, the stories are what drive me in all aspects of my life. 

Which makes my life pretty damn cool.

Except that right now, I'm finding it difficult to make the time to write.  All those 20 hour, 20,000 word days are now 20 hour, 20,000 (slight exaggeration for literary effect) email days. My editing time has taken away my writing time, save for...well, now.  Three a.m.  The house is quiet, my inboxes are clean-ish.  I open up my WIP and...

I've lost the thread of the story.

So I have to take some time to read back through the last pages I wrote, so I can pick up the thru line.  Fortunately, that doesn't take long.  And then...and then...

It's seven in the morning and everyone's alarm clocks in the house start to go off.  

*So, Celina, what's the point?*

The point is that writing is not always some bolt of inspiration.  A Muse doesn't descend from the Olympian heights to inject 100,000 brilliant words in the correct order and then drops a wall to block the same writer from ever producing another coherent sentence. 

Writing is work--difficult, painstaking, solitary work.  The best way to cure writer's block?  Write your way out of it.  Instead of sitting there waiting for the heavenly choirs to hit a harmonized high "C" that hefts you over that block, make yourself write.  It doesn't matter what you write. You can write an extremely creative grocery list.  Just go to your writing place, sit in your writing chair, and WRITE. You may have to rearrange your mind from whatever it is you do when you're not writing--I certainly do--but once you've managed that, then write.


Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time...the wait is simply too long. -- Leonard Bernstein

Thank God for

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Journalist And Newspaper Gone Bad

The reporter that was bugging me for details about AMP? The one that Teddi Pig posted the contact details for? His article went up at the Aurora Sentinel newspaper. The title of his "article?"

Battle Among Local PORN Authors Heats Up on Facebook As Aurora Publisher Goes Mum.

Porn?  PORN?  What the HELL?  I don't write PORN.  I don't edit PORN.  In fact, during my tenure at AMP, I never saw a PORN book go through the pipes.  PORN and EROTICA are two entirely different genres, types of book, and markets. AMP didn't publish PORN.  AMP published science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance w/o sex, romance w/sex, erotica, mysteries, suspense, thrillers, action/adventure, paranormal romances.

And yet, this "journalist," Brandon Johanssen, didn't mention that in the title of his article.  Oh no--instead, he compounded the misery of AMP authors by calling them all PORN authors.  


Dude--are you really SO ignorant that you don't know the difference between erotica and PORN?  Are you really throwing it out there that I, who writes fantasy, science fiction, and horror am a PORN writer?  Really?

You know, I think that's called LIBEL.

Or, at the very least, yellow journalism.

What happened to journalistic ethics?  What happened to double checking your facts?  Heck--one of the authors quoted in the story, Charles Sanders, wrote a HORROR book that didn't get anywhere near a PORN.  Charles is probably not real happy to be called a PORN author.

I know I'm sure as hell not.

This is why I didn't talk to that cretin when he kept pestering me for information about AMP.  And despite the fact that in the ARTICLE, he states that not all AMP writers wrote PORN--it doesn't really matter.  The TITLE is what will remain online. So for the eternity that is Google-fu, when my publishing credits come up online, PORN author is what people will think.  No one will remember that I write vanilla spec fic, or that I edited books from all genres and build a no-sex-allowed tradtional Regency romance line.  All they'll remember is the PORN.

With complete unconcern for the victims of the AMP debacle, this "journalist" and the Aurora Sentinel newspaper discarded all the ethics of their profession and threw all AMP writers under the bus on top of the financial and emotional hardships they are already undergoing.  And while I'm really damn pissed at Sandra Hicks right now, the fact that she's been labeled a PORN publisher in her hometown is absolute bullshit.

But the Sentinel and Johanssen don't give a rats' ass about that.  As long as they sell papers, they are quite willing to trample to work and reputations of over a hundred authors and staff into the dirt. Right now, that PORN label is hovering over every single victim of Aspen Mountain Press.  And that "reporter?"  The one that lied to AMP authors and staff about wanting to get their stories out?  

He lied.

Let's look at my correspondence with him At first, he contacted me because of my blog and mentioned that an AMP author (who most assuredly does NOT write PORN) had contacted him about AMP.  In my return email, I confirmed that I did work at AMP (and yeah, that was a big DUH on my part since I'd been raging about it on my blog. Cut me some slack. Even I can pull a DUH.) and asked what he intended to write his story about.  He indicated he wanted to do a business story, and wanted details about why AMP fell, how much I personally was owed, how many books AMP published and WHAT KIND OF BOOKS AMP PUBLISHED.

I talked about the offer with the ladies of Musa, and we arrived at a decision together that what I'd said on my blog was enough to serve as Musa's statement about our dealings with AMP, both within the company and as a separate entity.  I informed Mr. Johanssen of this in a formal, if cordial, reply:

Dear Mr. Johansson,

After discussing your request with my colleagues and considering it very carefully, I'm afraid I don't really want to comment further on the Aspen Mountain Press situation.  My blog posts are already up and impacting the situation. I don't feel that participating in such an interview is the best choice for me at this time.
Celina Summers

His response? He wanted more background information for the story. At that time, I replied that I would be happy to reply to his questions via email, but not via a phone call.  I never heard from him again.

Now I know why.

The article came out the next DAY.

He didn't have any interest in the facts of the story.  The facts are pretty boring. What he wanted was the sensationalism of screaming PORN!!!! into the quiet little community of Aurora, pointing to a member of that community as the PORN Queen who stole from her writers.  

So thanks for nothing Aurora Sentinel.  Appreciate all the "help" Mr. Johanssen. My situation is SO much better now that I've been branded for my involvement with a company that produces PORN.  

Anyone who is outraged by this article--like pretty much every writer that's been born?--can leave a comment at the Aurora Sentinel story page (linked to above) or send an email to  As writers, we know the power of the written word. The truth pales next to it.  And this is just another example of how to exploit the writers who have already been exploited by their publisher.  

Yellow journalism should never be supported, particularly when a journalist and the organization he writes for are content to lie in order to sell more copies.  Perhaps the Aurora Sentinel and Mr. Johanssen will be surprised to realize that a simple writer of non-porn PORN has a greater understanding of journalistic ethics and scruples than they do. 

You see, when I was working toward my degree in Communications, my professors always pounded home the fact that a reporter had to be sure of the FACTS before he went live with a story.  I guess Brandon Johanssen slept through that part of the course.

But his editor?  His editor knew better.

For shame.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Breaking My Word About Aspen Mountain Press

Yeah, yeah--I really thought I was done.  There are a lot of things I could be blogging about, but this one is sticking in my craw.

Since all this mess started, Sandra Hicks has been maintaining a low profile.  The splash page on the AMP website reads:

The Aspen Mountain Press web site is temporarily suspending operations.Over the past five years we've demanded high standards in all areas of the company from authors to editors to administrators.  Due to the current health of the owner these standards have not been met.We'd like to thank you for your support and patronage over this past half decade and apologize for any inconveniences this decision causes.

Due to the current health of the owner...

Makes it sound really bad, doesn't it?  Like the situation is dire?

Well, then let's take a look at the owner, Sandra Hicks, and her personal Facebook page. Her personal Facebook page tells an entirely different story.  This Sandra Hicks doesn't seem to have many health problems.  According to her posts, she is shopping to finish decorating her son's bedroom, going to concerts, baking pumpkin pies and...quoting Bible verses. A lot of Bible verses.

And yet, this is the same woman who just a few weeks ago in an  open letter to her unpaid and rebelling authors and staff claimed, "I can only work about two hours a day."

Obviously, if one is shopping, decorating, baking and going to concerts that doesn't leave a lot of hours in the day.  And, curiously, while the AMP authors and staff remain unpaid, Ms. Hicks can miraculously afford to redecorate her son's room?

Amazing recovery on her part--both financial AND physical.

I've canvassed the AMP authors and staff over the past few days.  Despite a minuscule trickle of rights reversion letters 10-14 days ago, no one has been paid or received their rights back since then.  I know since I had the 'latest betrayal in a long line of betrayals' voice message (ironic since apparently me not getting paid the royalties she owes me is now some kind of betrayal of her?) I haven't heard a peep from Sandra Hicks or Aspen Mountain Press.

We are now into November. I have not received any pay from Aspen Mountain Press since June.  That means that on November 15th, we'll be at the FIFTH consecutive month without receiving pay.  And yet, Sandra Hicks apparently feels holy enough to purchase the makings of pumpkin pies, to pay for concert tickets, to redecorate her son's room--and all with the royalties that AMP authors and staff members didn't get paid for.

How easy it is to steal someone else's money and spend it on yourself. And so, despite numerous articles and blog posts about the thievery ongoing at Aspen Mountain Press, including from Writer Beware and sites of that nature, Sandra Hicks apparently feels well enough--and safe enough--to spend the money she has illegally withheld from the authors and editors who actually EARNED that money.


The time for excuses is past.  The time for spurious claims of ill health or some other incapacity to follow through with her sorely abused authors and staff and to rectify her mistakes is long past.  At any time in the past five months, Sandra Hicks could have made even a tiny effort to recompense the well over a hundred authors and staffers for the over four hundred books that were published by Aspen Mountain Press.

She has not.

Instead, while claiming poor health, she's engaged fully in her new AMP-free days: spreading the word of God, baking pies, redecorating her son's room and attending concerts, sharing the joys of her life and the bounties of God's grace with her new pals from church, none of whom appear to be aware that she is responsible for financial hardship across multiple continents and blithely unconcerned with the suffering she's left in her wake.  She's not responding to emails, or phone calls, or registered letters, or text messages.  Nothing.  Nada.

And yet I am the betrayer for spilling her dirty little secrets, despite the fact that I almost lost my house while she redecorated hers?


Allow me to make myself VERY clear.  If Aspen Mountain Press and its owner, Sandra Hicks, do NOT respond in a clear cut fashion and make an effort to make amends to the writers, editors and staff who've been stolen from, I will release every single piece of correspondence, every financial record I was provided or had access to, and every single word of the transcripts I have for the multiple staff meetings I attended/ran as the managing editor at Aspen Mountain Press on this blog, other blogs, and whatever sites want to have them.  I will provide those materials to each and every author at Aspen Mountain Press for their legal cases. I will give that information to the journalist in Aurora, CO who's been asking me for an interview and whom, up to this point, I have refused.

A brand new countdown clock has just started. I would have been happy to deliver this message to Ms. Hicks in person and privately, but she's not answering her mail OR her phone these days.  But I'd damn sure be willing to bet that she's watching her Google Alerts, or that her husband, Jeff Hicks, the owner of 1PlaceForRomance (Mr. Hicks was also involved in an unsavory situation last year when AllRomanceEbooks sued him for copyright infringement and the third party site cancelled AMP's ability to upload books to the ARE site, naming Sandra Hicks as a co-respondent in the lawsuit) is.  As a matter of fact, judging from the undeniable truth that the only time Ms. Hicks has contacted me since my departure from AMP had to do either with getting money from me (the Aurora Regency deal) or to accuse me of betraying her as the result of a blog post, this is probably the ONLY way to get the warning to her ears.

Close the doors permanently, Sandra.

Give the authors their rights back.

And then pay the people you owe the money you owe them instead of going on about your business like there's not a thing in the world wrong with what you're doing.

There is something very wrong with what you're doing.  You have become what you once preached against--you, the leader in the fight against the scam publishers that burned you and your rights back in the day.

No matter how many Bible quotes you regurgitate, you have become a scam publisher yourself--an electronic pirate garbed in the spoils you've earned from the labor of others.

Just get it over with.

There's not a person in the world stupid enough to believe that you're at death's door when you're spending your energy, time and OUR money redecorating your son's room.  Seriously.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Breaking News from Musa Publishing

Musa Publishing is proud to announce our acquisition of the entire collected works of American pulp fiction author and a pioneer in America speculative fiction--Homer Eon Flint. Best known for stories like The Emancipatrix, The Devolutionist, The Blind Spot (co-written with Austin Hall), The Lord of Death and The Queen of Life, Flint was an influential and popular writer who amazed readers with his flowing prose, his incredible vision, and his ability to create credible and vivid imagery that rolled out just like a film-which is good since he was doing film treatments as well.

At Musa, we believe that electronic publishing has value and uses other than just publishing. We believe that the archival ability of e-publishing allows us to better the literary world in general. These manuscripts have been stored away for almost a hundred years. Now they are going to see the light of day for the first time in some cases--and Homer Eon Flint's bibliography will increase accordingly.

The Homer Eon Flint collection will be published in its own Musa Gold line through our Polyhymnia short fiction/collections imprint. Dr. Matt Teel, the head editor at Urania, will be working with myself and Vella Munn on the collection, which Musa will publish bi-weekly throughout most of 2012.

Musa invites you to join in this gradual revelations of this amazing author who helped to lay the groundwork for our genre nearly a century ago--and let whose words read smoothly, whose voice is still fresh and original in the kind of world that he actually DID imagine with a great deal of prescience. Stay tuned to the Musa website and blogs for more information and release schedules for his books.

And congratulations. The entire world of Homer Eon Flint is about to be laid at your feet.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why That Won't Work

To the individual who keeps spamming my blog with the same comment:

I, and everyone else involved is, well aware of what our options are for the AMP case.  I have already clearly stated in my blog posts, had you bothered to read them, that this was the case.  I do not need multiple postings of the SAME COMMENT to understand what my rights and options are, thank you very much. 

Probably a bit of a nasty surprise to find out my blog is moderated, yes?  But, since you seem intent on posting the SAME COMMENT even more, I'm terribly afraid I have marked you as spam. 

To the rest of the world:

We're going to try this one more time.  I WILL NOT DISCUSS legal issues on this blog.  I WILL NOT COMMENT FURTHER on AMP and the case around them. I WILL NOT PERMIT anyone to use this blog as the weapon for their own personal vendetta. 

I trust I have made myself clear?

We now return you to your regular NON-AMP status. Have a very nice day.

Updates 10/28/2011 --  To the commenter who doesn't want to take the advice above:

The owner of AMP is not MY Sandra Hicks, so quit acting like I'm trying to protect her. I'm going to try again and use very small words so you can understand this--

1. I am the one who blew this story wide open.

2. I already TOLD you politely that I won't discuss legal actions being taken on a public blog.  So let me be more blunt--it's none of your damn business what we are doing legally and we're not obligated to tell you or anyone else what those actions are.  Why is that?  BECAUSE WE DON"T WANT AMP TO KNOW, you moron.

3.  Chances are good that if I didn't publish your spamming comments on my blog last week, I wasn't going to publish the new one--you know, the one where you insulted me and acted like I was protecting this publisher?

4. If you keep broadcasting your legal intentions to AMP in public, then their attorneys will be prepared for you.

5. There are multiple uses of your energy that are more effective than trying to piss ME off.

Have a nice day.