Yesterday I was at Johns Hopkins, standing at the bedside of a very sick, most beloved friend.

I don’t know if she’ll make it all the way back.

This particular friend is an extraordinary human being. She’s immensely kind without being a patsy. She’s unstintingly generous and also savvy, an astute businesswoman who worked as a book keeper in her early life. She’s spiritual and impish. She’s wise and funny. She’s opinionated and yet respectful. She changed the world in a specific way–for the better–and few people know it. I do, because we had a similar background, in some ways.

I know that she changed the world and that many people benefited from a specific thing she set in motion. Yet she didn’t want anyone else to know about it. She preferred to stay out of the spotlight.

She’s loving and yet regularly looked me in the eyes and told me what I needed to do to improve myself. She was always right, yet I never felt that she was judging or condemning me. I just felt loved and seen, and I felt that if I did what she was suggesting, my life would improve.

Over the last few decades, I had adopted her as an alternate mother. My biological mother is a borderline personality disorder, incredibly vicious toward me, completely unaware of it. I married badly the first time around. I found someone who would continue the pattern of abusively treating me like a non-person who existed only to serve others, or at best, like a second class citizen.

This woman was someone who came into my life as I started to heal and I began to realize that I deserved better. That I deserved to be treated well, with respect and kindness.

Her constant mantra  to me, from our earliest meetings, was, “Trust yourself, Traci. Be happy and be soft. Trust yourself. Love yourself.”

This stood in direct and startling contrast with the mantras of my family of origin and my first marriage, where I heard, “You are not a person. You don’t deserve to be treated well. You are a (fill in the blank: non-human, slave, rage monster, crazy weirdo, etc.).”

She was model to me for how to be spiritual and yet also be grounded in reality. In fact, far too many “spiritual” people flake out. My friend was not flaky. She was dependable, reliable, and intensely practical.

At the same time, she was the most psychic person I’ve ever met, and I’ve met a lot of psychics. I have no small talent in that direction myself, though I tend to underplay it these days. She was, with one exception, always right when she read the energy of a person, situation, or event for me.

That one time had to do with me; when she read that situation, I vowed I would not let it turn out that way. I worked unbelievably hard, with another party’s help, to prevent the outcome she foresaw.

She helped me forgive my father, who was a sociopath. As my father had by beating me, her father tried to kill her. Her own father was, if anything, a worse sociopath. Yet she harbored no ill will toward him. Being with her, in her presence, I realized that holding on to anger at my father would only hurt me. And I realized that my dad was just a terribly flawed human being doing the best he could, which was piss-poor terrible. That was his best.

I can remember the specific moment I forgave him, sitting in a church that my little one likes. I prefer synagogues, but I am tolerant and accepting of my little one’s choices. So I was there to please my little one when that current of forgiveness ran up me like gold light, washing everything out.

“That’s the way it happens,” my friend said, with a warm smile. “Congratulations. You’re doing the hard work of life. I’m so proud of you.”

She never suggested my father wasn’t a sociopath. But she knew that letting go of the anger and drama would benefit me.

She was right. As she was about so many things.

She knew all my secrets. She knew the things I was deeply ashamed of. She knew what I had done that I wished I hadn’t done, and she knew what was done to me, the horrifying things I’ve never told anyone. She loved me anyway. She held my confidences in a neutral, loving space.

I love her for it.

I hope she makes it back. Yesterday I stood at her bedside, praying for her. “Please God, help her.” I was also keenly aware of the fragility and preciousness of life, and of now important it is to let the important people in your life know that you love them. Everything can change in a split-second. Someone you always relied on is suddenly gone, suddenly shattered.

She would tell me to know that and to stay open and soft. She would tell me that that is the essential task of the human being.

To the people in my life whom I love: You know who you are, and I am telling you, I treasure you.


The Business of Independent Publishing
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The Business of Independent Publishing

Regarding the business of independent publishing: A few months ago, I received a polite email from Professor John Maxwell of Simon Fraser University. Some of his students had come to him. Between the covers of the text he had ordered for his graduate class on publishing, The Content Machine by Michael Bhaskar, was the novel Broken by Traci L. Slatton, in its entirety. He attached a picture to show me, see below.

Here was an opportunity to spread the word about Parvati Press in general and about my novels in particular, I thought. “Are your students interested in the novel? Would you like more copies?” I asked. I am always looking for opportunities to promote the Press.

He accepted with alacrity. Ten copies shipped out to him at SFU.

Sometime later, during an email exchange, he invited me to guest lecture to his class via Skype. I accepted. It was a good experience; his students were bright, polite, inquisitive, and thoughtful. I enjoyed talking to them but finished with a feeling of frustration: there was so much else to say about independent publishing.

Much of it I’ve learned the hard way, too.

It has been an intense journey since the day I decided to expand the Press and take on other authors. I’ve learned some tough lessons. My first time out of the box, I took on a writer who turned out to be certifiably insane. Not, like, a little kookie, but off-her-rockers lunatic demented. I’ve blogged about that elsewhere, including a Huffington Post article about How to Handle eMail Harassment.

The next three writers weren’t crazy, but I still made a big mistake in trusting one of them.

After the debacle with the first writer, I realized I needed a solid contract for dealing with potential Parvati Press authors. I hired an attorney who had helped me on other matters. She wasn’t a publishing attorney, and the contract put off the other writers.

That was my responsibility, I knew. So I went out and found a real publishing attorney, I mean, the guy in publishing law, to create a contract that was clear, simple, fair, and had precedents in publishing. He did a great job.

He also yelled at me about the deal I was giving the writers. He explained that I could not sustain the Press with that deal. He was right, but I felt that I had given my word to the writers, so those first few would still receive the deal I had originally offered them. He called me crazy. But I was going to keep my word.

One writer refused to do a revision that his manuscript urgently required. Line for line, his prose was polished and perfect. Unfortunately, it was a good story badly told. His novel was boring. He had to revise it to bring it to life. He didn’t want to do the work required because he’s had a storied career as an author. But production values matter to me, so I declined to send him a contract.

A second writer saw immediately that I was being scrupulously honorable. She signed the contract and sent it back immediately.

Ah, but the third guy. He had been hemming and hawing, wringing his hands, and dragging his feet about signing a contract from the day I sent him one. Days and weeks would go by. He was always about to talk to his attorney, who was so busy…. When I sent him the second contract, he said, “I’ll sign it right away, I’ll tell my lawyer that I want to get this done unless there’s something major wrong with it.”

As the months went by, with all the foot-dragging and hand-wringing and excuses, I was working on this writer’s manuscript. I stupidly invested a great deal of my own time, thought, and energy into his manuscript. Now, it had a germ of a good idea, and the writer showed flashes of serious, big talent throughout. But it was no where near publishable. It was going to require sustained heavy lifting to get it to the point where the manuscript was professional and polished.

Also, it was tricky to deal with the writer because of the arrogance involved. Taking editorial criticism is a skill that requires learning for most of us.

I paid for the Parvati Press editor to do a thorough manuscript critique. It was still going to be at least three more revisions before the manuscript was ready to be published, two that I could do and one more from the professional editor. Note that this editorial critique is the work product of Parvati Press.

Despite my honorable behavior, there was only continued hand-wringing and hawing and excuses about the second contract.

I woke up.

I realized–finally!–that this writer had no intention of signing a contract with me. One tip-off was when he asked why there was now no “out” in the new contract so he could go to a bigger publisher if one made an offer.

It broke over me that this writer was out to get free editing for his manuscript so he could shop it around to other publishers.

I conferred with several experienced business people close to me. One woman with her own PR company told me that it happens all the time. Clients come to her, get her ideas, and then don’t sign a contract and pay her. They go off and use her ideas either by themselves or with another PR firm.

Essentially, they rip her off, the same way that this writer planned to rip off Parvati Press.

Another businessman said to me, dryly, “Welcome to the business world.”

Another friend said, “These are the early business mistakes.”

My publishing attorney said, “Never work on a project without a signed contract.”

I emailed back to him, “I’m learning.”

This is just writer relations, a tiny slice of the whole juicy pie. There is so much else to independent publishing, especially the way I do it: with integrity. The book has to be high quality in terms of content, and it has to look good, too. It has to be copyedited, proofread, professionally laid out with an appealing, professionally designed book cover, and given an ISBN and accurate categories…And all that is BEFORE the hard work of marketing a book so it stands out from the crowd: so that readers will know about the book and buy it.

Marketing is a big challenge. It deserves its own post, so I’ll pause here. Meantime, here’s Professor Maxwell’s post about finding BROKEN in his textbook, called, cleverly, “My Content Machine is Broken.”

Maxwell is a good writer himself. His post is worth reading, though his characterization of my novel BROKEN is condescending and pejorative. I emailed him to let him know this:

I would like to put out there (please indulge me) that BROKEN is more than a paranormal romance. It is based on a serious philosophical question with which I wrestle every day: How could a good God allow such pain and suffering?
In this vein, FOREWORD REVIEWS, which is the Library Journal for independent publishing, is reviewing BROKEN for its forthcoming Sci Fi issue, and wrote, “This is a gorgeous philosophical treaty on right and wrong….”

To his credit, Maxwell agreed with me.  He has yet to correct his post to reflect the respect my novel deserves. And this is part of independent publishing, too: Making sure that independently published books are valued and respected.

independent publishing

Beautiful Movie: IN YOUR EYES
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Beautiful Movie: IN YOUR EYES

It’s been a long time since I fell in love with a movie the way I did last night with IN YOUR EYES. So here is my movie review for this richly enjoyable film.

IN YOUR EYES is the story of a woman and a man who find themselves telepathically entwined, a bond which leads them to greater and greater trust and finally to love. With grace and humor, this movie shows two people engaging the process of mutual self-revelation that is falling in love, and then finally lurching into the more humbling unburdening that is intimacy.

I felt a tender resonance with the woman Rebecca undergoing psychic events and struggling to have her vulnerability, her personhood, and her distinct agency all at once, all while married to a wealthy, controlling man who insists on seeing her as crazy. “Because he loves her.”

As if!

The writer in me loved the perfect balance of Joss Whedon’s screenplay. It was simply a beautifully written script. The two main characters mirrored, tested, and enhanced each other. They gave to each other, needed each other, and completed each other. Whedon’s Rebecca has class and education, and she must confront and integrate her losses to find her strength.  His ex-con Dylan courageously decides to grow and better himself, yet it is his criminal skills that ultimately save the day.

I laughed out loud at a scene where the main characters were dancing to music only one of them could hear aloud–while others watched. A scene where Rebecca erupts to save Dylan from a kitchen fire was scary, funny, and compelling all at once.

With delight, I recommend this movie: it’s a 5 star film.

I was never a Buffy fan, but to Joss Whedon, I say, My compliments! Well done, sir!

movie review


Note: The movie soundtrack is also fantastic–worth $9.99 to purchase. I particularly recommend Crumblin’. Great song!

From the Author’s Guild: The Anti-Google Mass Book Digitization Campaign Goes Global

Authors Malcolm Gladwell, J.M. Coetzee, Michael Pollan, Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey Support Lawsuit Against Google’s Theft of Books Through Digitization
New York, NY- Prize-winning authors, international rights organizations, and legal experts Monday joined the Authors Guild in fighting what they call Google’s dangerous and unprecedented violation of copyright law. They filed eight stinging friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the Guild’s appeal in Authors Guild v. Google, agreeing that Judge Denny Chin’s decision in the case should be overturned.

“Google’s ambitions respected no borders,” said Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson. “Millions of copyrighted books by authors from every major country were swept in to Google’s scheme. As the new filings demonstrate, not just authors but also photographers, visual artists, songwriters, and publishers around the world find it particularly galling that a wealthy American company would try to find a way to use their creations for free.”

Check out the whole text here.  []
Copyright infringement is a serious ethical problem. Authors, like musicians, have to make a living. Taking an author’s work and scanning it for public use is theft. It is exactly the same as when a burglar breaks into a home and steals Great-grandma’s pearls, or when a shoplifter takes expensive clothes from a boutique. It is the same as when a grifter cons you out of your life savings or when a pickpocket lifts your wallet and runs up all your credit cards. It is no different.
Copyright infringement is theft. It is wrong.
What Google has done in appropriating artists’ works without payment goes far beyond Google’s usual creepy invasiveness. In the words of 15 groups representing textbook authors, visual artists and photographers:
“One group cannot simply be allowed to take from creators and give works to the public for free with impunity. This undermines the very purpose of copyright law and ultimately of fair use.”
I personally am depreciating my gmail accounts, partly as protest for the massive copyright infringement to which Google feels, mystifyingly, entitled, and partly because I’ve had enough of their creepy invasiveness. Check out, a Danish company under the umbrella of strong Danish privacy laws. I’ve been happy with runbox.

Questioning or Criticizing Obama is Sedition and Makes You Bad: How to create a totalitarian state

No, I’m not going to voice in any lengthy way my outrage and concern about the NSA’s spying on ordinary private citizens. It is thuggery, it is wrong, and it reminds me of how the NSDAP read every letter into, out of, and through Germany during WWII.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the NSDAP were the Nazis.

What concerns me right now is the huge split I see in the United States.

I have friends–highly intelligent, educated people of great moral conscience–who fall on both sides of the fence: far right and far left. Ne’er the twain shall meet.

What worries me is that so few people see how this very split is playing out to deprive us of fundamental, Constitutionally guaranteed rights as citizens of the United States, because healthy dialogue and inquiry are being shut down by the assumption of complete moral rectitude by those on the left. Friends and relatives who are Obama-ites have actually said to me, “You’re a bad person if you don’t like Obama.”

Obama health care is a nightmare. It’s wildly expensive, it’s driving up health insurance costs, it’s making conscienceless health insurance corporations even richer, and it badly hampers doctors who are doing their jobs. It will kill people. Doctors at first class medical institutions have told me that they now have to deal with Obamacare overseers who have no medical training whatsoever and yet have veto power over the decisions for which doctors undertook 10 years of medical education to make.

I’ve also read several reports that claim that health insurance companies get to keep more money under Obamacare.

But this is perfectly in keeping with Obama’s large, ponderous federal government with too much power concentrated within it. He has gone after the states to weaken them, and he has pandered to the large corporations. He pandered to the large corporations with the bail-outs on Wall Street, too.

Any thoughtful person MUST WONDER: how much does Obama owe to large, multi-national corporations that function as independent nation states without oversight or accountability?

But we don’t hear much about this, because the liberal media has conspired to give Obama a free pass for his entire administration.

Listen to this interview of reporter Sharyl Attkison, who left a 20 year job at CBS because her bosses at the network would not let her do her job: report on Obama’s administration. Anything that might potentially embarrass him, such as Benghazi and Obama-care, was not aired. See the video here.

I have also read articles saying how the Obama administration limits the access that reporters have to him, because he is so concerned about his image.

Why don’t we hear more about this cowardice on Obama’s part? A Republican president who behaved this way would be skewered mercilessly.

Don’t people see how close we are getting to a profound dystopia with this craven failure of the fourth estate to do its job?

If you read the European media, as I do, you will see many more articles critical of Obama, because they are actually reporting on the Obama administrations’ antics, such as the outrageous sums that are expended on vacations and foreign visits, and the often silly behavior of the president and his wife abroad.

I am also not fond of the Democratic Pothead Agenda. Despite what George Soros’ millions of dollars devoted to legalizing marijuana would have you believe, a stoned citizen isn’t a citizen, he or she is a subject. Very easy to control and not thinking deeply about serious issues, sure–maybe that’s one reason a totalitarian state wouldn’t mind having a stoner population?

Has no one read history, and does no one remember that the British promoted opium in China as a way to control the Chinese populace and to further British imperialist aims? Control people by getting them hooked on drugs: an ancient tactic.

But perhaps western media is concerned about suffering Ben Carson’s fate: being harassed by the IRS for criticizing Obama.

The Republicans are no better, and they’re probably worse. I attended a few events at a Republican organization around the time of the last election, because I was so disgusted with the Democratic party. While there were some very fine people there, I couldn’t shake the impression that it was Rich People Hanging on to Their Money.

And really, Romney? Ugh.

Let us not forget that the Republican party has a terrible record concerning the rights of women, gays, and minorities. If they don’t modernize their fundamental notions about human and civic rights, how can they expect to attract people who may be fiscally conservative but who are definitely socially progressive?

Rep. Steve Israel recently claimed that the Republican base contains racist elements. He’s right. The problem for me is that he pulled out that claim in an effort to completely shut down the right’s concerns about Obama’s agenda.

To call someone racist in our culture is to completely invalidate them and to disenfranchise them from expressing their opinion. It’s a neat tool for the left: anyone who dislikes Obama’s far left agenda is “racist.” All dialogue is shut down. There is no more back and forth.

We did that a few decades ago with the word “communist.” Remember McCarthy? Same tactic, different label.

So what is a person to do if he or she believes in the rights of individuals, not the rights of groups; in a small federal government with an appropriate division of power among legislative, judicial, and executive branches; in the Constitution; in the privacy of citizens; in small American businesses; in the rights of women to determine their reproductive lives; in the rights of any two people of whatever gender, race, or religion to marry, as long as they have attained their majority; in giving opportunities, not handouts; and in a true meritocracy?

Is there a place left for real inquiry in these United States?