Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Human Trafficking: Not What You Think It Is

I attended a RMMWA (Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America) meeting last week on human trafficking. The information was eye opening. Some of it I knew, but much of it I didn't. So I thought I'd pass it along since I keep talking to people who say they're including some aspect of human trafficking in their books/stories. Be aware that it's a heavy and depressing topic.

The presenter was Brittany Austin, from LCHT (Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking.)

Her initial definition of human trafficking: A severe form of exploitation for labor (including sex) through the use of fraud, force, or coercion. 

There are three categories:

1. Those under 18 involved in commercial sex acts (probably the one we hear most about).

2. Those 18 and over involved in commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion.

3. Those forced to perform labor and/or other services in conditions of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery through force, fraud, or coercion (the one I think fewest people consider when thinking of trafficking.)

An incident must involve one of the following (not one from each category, just one of any of these) to qualify:

Action: Recruit, Harbor, Transport, Provide, Obtain
Means: Force, Fraud, Coercion
Purpose: Commercial Sex Acts OR Labor or Services

Some examples that you might not think of in terms of the means are things like threatening to deport someone, threatening to hurt a family member, or even using a type of blackmail where you threaten to reveal something private and/or embarrassing.

**Sex acts can include stripping and other similar acts, not just prostitution.**

Trafficking often uses a person's needs that are not being fulfilled to coerce them. (Examples: "I'll be the mom you've never had," "I'll marry you so you," "We'll be your family.") Teens/kids will do something to help their single mom, as another example. Those silly ads we see on lamp posts that offer excessively high pay for a mystery job are often targeting youth.

Some simplified examples of how they use a person's needs to get them to perform labor, etc.:

1. Someone suffering from abuse/neglect will fall for the offer of a relationship of some sort.

2. Someone who is homeless will fall for offers of food, shelter, and family.

3. Someone with a marginalized identity can be coerced with acceptance.

4. Someone with an inability to access the job market can be coerced with offers of income.

**Marginalized communities are especially vulnerable**

Immigrant labor force makes up 22% of Colorado's labor force.

Many people know or have some manner of relationship with their trafficker. Interfamilial pimping is a big thing. Arranged marriages can also be examples of human trafficking in some circumstances.

Trafficking tends to come across as being about young females, often white (the white slave trade, etc.). This is what is most often depicted in fiction. However, it is young and old, male and female, white and people of color. It can be anyone.

Sean Crumpler was a human trafficker caught in Colorado. He ended up sentenced to 50 years. He had ten to fifteen LGBT+ boys between the ages of 16 and 21 in his home. Some of them had disappeared from California. In exchange for food, shelter, and gifts, they had to capitulate to his sexual needs.

Ski resorts, agricultural areas, and construction sites are places where immigrants are often recruited directly from their country and brought up to Colorado to be forced into a type of indentured servitude. Often, they get here with promises of a job and somewhere to stay, only to discover their wages are garnished for the transportation, the building they're required to stay in, food, etc. As they continue to work there, they continue to rack up dues, never making enough money to be able to escape. In one local case, the only time they were allowed out of the disgusting building they were being kept in was for work and church attendance on Sundays. A nun noticed their degenerating conditions and reported it, which is how they were found. Not only were they being held due to debt, but their families were threatened. When the perpetrator got out, he kept good to his promises, and traveled to Mexico to go after family members.

Something I've dealt with personally is teens that answer those mysterious ads promising tons of money. They are then transported somewhere for "training," only to discover they're now far from home, often unsure of where they even are, and that they owe money for the transportation and training after the fact. These are the teens you see knocking on doors and selling things like magazine submissions that are not for a local school (for example). They are typically being dropped off in neighborhoods, and must make a certain amount of sales if they want to eat that night. They will be picked up many hours later and taken to a hotel room or similar place, where they all stay in one room. They often have no means to try to reach out to family (or have no family to reach out TO). I've seen these kids selling in my area before, and when I looked up the company they worked for, this exact situation was described. All I knew to do at the time was ask the boy if he was okay. I wish I'd known more about this and had offered to call someone for him or get him to safety somehow.

Here are some red flags and indicators:

- Unexplained injuries
- Evidence of prolonged infection or untreated injuries
- Repeated bacterial, yeast, STI infections
- Dental issues
- Exposure, repeated motion injuries
- Cardiovascular and respiratory problems
- Tattoo branding (there are Denver tattoo parlors that have contracted with people to brand the people they are trafficking, and this likely exists all over the U.S.)
- Evidence of sexual trauma
- Not making eye contact
- Individuals not in control of their own identification documents
- Someone claiming to speak for or on behalf of a victim
- Individual has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story and/or exhibits a loss of sense of time or place
- Individual claims to be visiting, but has no real understanding of where they are or even where they're from
- Youth having relationships with older unexplained adults
- Individual with no idea when his/her last last medical/dental checkup was
- Individual exhibiting PTSD symptoms
- May be in crisis or downplaying injury/illness
- Confused/out of it

Some additional facts:

25% of children worldwide are victims of modern slavery

Women and girls make up 71% of modern slavery victims

Debt bondage affected half of all victims of forced labor imposed by private actors.

In Colorado, you can call 866-455-5075 or text 720-999-9724 to report suspected human trafficking. LCHT.

Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance: 303-861-1160.

You can visit the website for the National Human Trafficking Hotline for more information, including stats in your own state.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be called at 888-373-7888 or texted at 233733.

Now for some links. Please bear in mind that I'm not endorsing them, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Dragon Soul Press has a number of anthologies open for submissions. The one closing soonest is Organic Ink: Volume 2. No theme, just poems. Pays in royalties. Deadline September 30.

Backpacker is seeking off-the-trail stories from true lovers of the wilderness. There are many categories freelancers can break into. Pays $.40 to $1.00/word.

Funicular Magazine is seeking "quality fiction and poetry that shocks, surprises, moves, and tickles us." Pays $25/piece to $10/printed page, depending upon submission type.

Flash Fiction Magazine is seeking flash fiction of 300-1000 words. Pays $40 per story in their anthology, but nothing for those published online.

Dream of Shadows is seeking fantasy and horror short stories. Up to 1500 words. Pays £20 per piece.

Did you learn anything new about trafficking? Did you know how widespread it was? Any submission links of interest to you? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

New Releases!

Really, NEW should be in quotes. I haven't updated available stories recently, so figured that now was a good time, because one of them is available to read online for FREE!

You can click HERE to read "Dearest" for free at Tales From the Moonlit Path.

Before that came out, I had the following releases:

My story "Where I Woke Up" is in The Desperate and the Damned. A woman wakes up in a house with no escape. Even worse, she has no memory of who she is.

"Tent City Horror" is in the second issue of the newly  relaunched Sanitarium Magazine. What happens when a creature stalks the homeless populace in a tent city? And who might be responsible?

Finally, "Shelter From the Storm" is in Vagabond 002: Apocalypse Edition. Finding shelter in a post-apocalyptic world filled with caustic air is tricky. Especially when something dwells beneath the sand.

Now to get update the website. Oy. I'm falling behind!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

IWSG - Kkkkkkk, brrrr, ding (Modem Noises)

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group!

(Unfortunately, I'm using hotel wi-fi since I'm on a trip, and after waiting ages for the picture loading page to load, I've given up, so no image!)

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG is a venue for writers to both seek and give support to other writers. Anyone can join. Simply click on Alex's name above and add your blog to the list then post and visit others from the list.

The optional question of the month is If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

This one's hard, because there are so many places I'd love to sit and write, but I'm going to narrow it down to two basic places. A cottage overlooking the Oregon coast or a cabin in the Colorado mountains. I don't need to go to another country or somewhere fancy. I'd just love a small place with either the sounds of nature and the smell of pine trees or the sound of waves crashing nearby and the scent of the ocean drifting by. And I'd need a window, so I could gaze out while thinking or taking a break.

~Contented sigh~

(Oooooh, the pictures I would post right now if the internet wasn't being a jerk face.)

Because the internet connection is super wonky, I'm going to end this here and skip over my usual links and submission updates until next month. I'll be going home Thursday night, so will visit folks then unless I have a better connection tomorrow!

Where would you most like to write? What are your insecurities? Are you submitting? Any news to share? Know of anywhere accepting submissions?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

IWSG - Summer's Almost Gone

It's the first Wednesday of August, which means it's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, IWSG exists to be a support to writers.

 Anyone is welcome to join. Simply add your name to the list (click on Alex's name above for access), post the first Wednesday of each month, and visit your fellow IWSG'ers.

The co-hosts this month are:

I still haven't gotten back in the saddle completely after the last couple months of insanity and negativity, but I did manage to get a bunch of short stories edited and submitted, so even though I haven't written a bunch of new words, I'm working. I did also place two short stories last month, so yay for acceptances! Now I need some more. It's been a slow year.

Now if I can just get the creative energy to power up, things will look up. I sent out some news in my newsletter about a publishing schedule for two projects, but they get the info first! (You can always sign up over to the right...hint, hint)

My husband and I are going away soon for our anniversary. A couple days in Steamboat Springs will hopefully give me a bit of a recharge. I'm not taking my laptop with me, as the plan is to relax, plain and simple. (Though I am taking paper and writing implements. What do you take me for? A monster??)

Submission stats for July:

6 submissions
4 rejections
2 acceptances (1 was an invite)

I won't be able to visit people until this weekend.

What are your insecurities? How are you coping with them? Any submissions last month? Acceptances? Rejections? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

IWSG - Moving On & Links

It's July, and time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group again. I missed the June edition. Really, I missed most of June. But I'm getting my feet back under me, and here we go!

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG exists to lend support to fellow writers dealing with their insecurity. And, of course, to air your own insecurities. Anyone can sign up by clicking on Alex's name and adding your name to the list then posting the first Wednesday of each month. Be sure to visit your fellow IWSG'ers, especially the co-hosts:

At the end of May, my dad succumbed to the ALS he'd fought for 6 1/2 years. The average lifespan is 2 years from diagnosis. We were lucky dad made it as long as he did, though he should have had another year, based upon how he was progressing. 

What does this have to do with IWSG? I'd set goals, things I wanted to accomplish before he died, because I wanted him to see those achievements. My writing career has been a ticking clock for 6 1/2 years. The biggest goal I had was to traditionally publish a novel before he died. I was also working on a novel where the main character had ALS, with the intention of having him do a sensitivity/accuracy read. I wanted him to see someone with ALS get to be a hero, despite the disease. (Although we found out just how much of a hero he was once he was gone, thanks to over 100 people who reached out to us after his death to let us know how he'd impacted those in the ALS community. People he'd helped.)

I failed to accomplish a lot of things I wanted to do before he died. The problem with making a goal like I did is that when the driving factor behind the timing of your goals is removed, it leaves you flapping in the wind. Now what? Sure, I'll still pursue my goals, but they feel somehow emptier now. There's no deadline anymore. As much as I'm sure I'll still want to achieve them, there will be a certain hollowness to the victories, because I didn't make it in time.

I'm working on two things right now: overcoming the numbness I currently feel toward my goals and trying to get the creativity flowing again. I'm trying to be kind to myself about my lack of writing this month. I never miss deadlines, but I had to ask for a week extension for one deadline. There were a couple anthologies I wanted to write for that had a deadline at the end of June/beginning of July, and I had to let those stories go.

Catch up time is here. I have to meet that deadline, get some short stories edited, get back to writing. I'm intellectually aware that I need to give it time and not beat myself up, but that's easier said than done. I can't not keep moving forward. My dad was a driven man, and he would want me to keep going, keep progressing, and achieve my goals.

I will get there.

Since I didn't post last month, I'm going to do my short story submission stats for both May and June. They're pretty piddly, considering my being sick, having surgery, and everything else during that time. BUT I didn't allow my writing career to fall completely by the wayside. 


Submitted - 6
Accepted - 1 (this was from an invite)
Rejected - 2
Released - 1


Submitted - 3
Accepted - 1 (this was from an invite)
Rejected - 1

Currently on submission: 9

How about some links?

Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Pole to Pole Publishing is seeking short stories for Not Far From Roswell. Alien themed. Dark fiction. 3000 to 5000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline July 30.

VQR is seeking poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. 2000 to 8000 words for short fiction. Pays up to $1000. Deadline July 31.

Freeze Frame Fiction is seeking flash fiction. 1000 words or less. Pays $10. Deadline July 31.

Flash Bang Mysteries is seeking mystery/thriller themed flash fiction. 500 to 750 words. Pays $20. Deadline July 31.

Less Than Three Press is seeking LGBTQIA novellas for Creature Feature. Monster themed. 20,000 to 60,000. Pays in royalties. Deadline July 31.

Necro Publications is seeking short fiction for Blasphemous Rumors. Religious horror. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline July 31.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking short stories featuring both a vampire and a dragon for Coffins & Dragons. 5000 to 15,000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline July 31.

What are your insecurities? How do you get started writing again after a massive derailment? Have you been submitting? Any news? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Writers Behaving Badly: Top Ten Alternatives

I've written about misbehaving writers in the past, but they've been rearing their ugly heads a lot lately. These days, being a writer doesn't get to be a fully solitary pursuit. A media presence is important. Unfortunately, there are always people who shouldn't be in a position where eyes are on them and interaction is a necessity.

From bizarre videos and ill-advised legal cases to Goodreads attacks and outbursts in Facebook groups to cocky letters to reviewers, writers are behaving badly. I watched an author become aggressive and hateful in a Facebook group where she attacked people who return audio books, confronting everyone who tried to discuss it from the other viewpoint. Then she attacked those telling her to stop attacking people.

Ultimately, having a public meltdown will likely end in a deficit of readers. While the free press you get might alert some new readers to you, it's more likely to put off both people who hadn't heard of you and people who were already reading you. Know what bestsellers have in common? They usually haven't launched crazed attacks online.

Rather than haranguing on this, considering most of you probably agree that it's not a good idea, here's a Top Ten List of things you could do instead of publicly freaking out:

1. Write something newer and better and privately say, "In your FACE!" But only where you can hear it.

2. Gorge on ice cream, sweets, or other edible sadness-soppers that make you feel better with sugar, carbs, fat, and calories.

3. Go for a Rocky-jog while listening to "Eye of the Tiger" and sweating your anger out.

4. Take up a dangerous - but satisfying - hobby like lion wrangling or cactus farming.

5. Write your response down on pieces of paper then sacrifice them to a fire built using elm trees and rattlesnake bones.

6. Paper a wall with whatever review, post, or issue is setting you off then paint over it with black and red.

7. Find a practitioner of magic to put a zit spell on the perpetrator. No one ever has to know it was you...

8. Headbang to Alvin and the Chipmunks songs and get a mosh pit going.

9. Adopt as many kittens and puppies as possible, and create a giant snuggle pile.

10. Go to a bar and sobbingly do karaoke to "I Will Survive" over and over until they kick you out. know...just ignore it and move on.

Oh, hey, I'm actually going to do links! Bear in mind I'm not endorsing them, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

El Chapo Review is seeking fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. All genres. Up to 1000 words. Pays $100. Deadline June 1.

Claw & Blossom is seeking short prose and poetry that involves the natural world in some way. The current theme is "Gnaw." Up to 1000 words. Pays $25. Deadline June 6.

Randee Dawn and Michael Ventrella are seeking short speculative fiction submissions for a Beatles themed anthology entitled "Across the Universe." Up to 4000 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline June 14.

Stormy Island Publishing is seeking romantic fantasy fiction. 1000 to 8000 words. Pays $20. Deadline June 14.

Iridium Magazine is seeking short stories in a variety of genres with LGBTQ+ characters. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline June 15.

The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts is seeking flash fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, mixed media, and visual arts. Pays $50. Deadline June 15.

Darkhouse Books is seeking short stories with Lovecraft/Diesel Punk/Steam Punk flavor for "Fearrington Road." 2500 to 6000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline June 15.

What would you do instead of having an online meltdown? The more creative, the better. Have you ever responded to a bad review? Have you witnessed writers behaving badly? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

*Image "Curls Tantrum Colour Blank Bckgrnd Clip Art" by Peter Van Herk,

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

IWSG - Deadline

It's time for the May Insecure Writer's Support Group post, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Today's going to be a super brief post, because I thought I had until the end of May to finish a story, and it turns out I have until today. Good thing I pulled up the email to check!

So what's my insecurity right now? Finishing this story! Holy cow!

I'll have to post about my stats and my experience at Mountain of Authors this past weekend later. I've got Pikes Peak Writers Conference starting tomorrow. I'm co-running the green room, so I'll be away from the hubbub of the main conference floor, which will be nice. I'm on one panel about short stories then have a book signing then a query appointment with an agent, all in a row. After that, I can focus on just doing my job.

Conference ends Sunday afternoon, and then next Wednesday I'm having surgery to remove my gall bladder. I've got a busy week coming up!

The co-hosts for this week are
Lee Lowery, Juneta Key, Yvonne Ventresca, and T. Powell Coltrin! Be sure to stop by and say hi.

The optional question is: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

See you guys on the flip side.

May you find your Muse.