All posts by Tobias Buckell

23 Oct

Hurricane Patricia needs a new category definition, it’s so strong

In Hurricane Fever one of the big parts of the triptych of storms that hit the Caribbean was my suggestion that higher category hurricanes would appear.

Devastating to see this happen, now, with Patricia, my thoughts are for Mexico:

Thanks to Karen Lord for the heads up. I’ve heard this was a big one, I didn’t realize how powerful.

Sustained 200 MPH winds. I hope there isn’t too much loss of life.

21 Oct

Proofing Xenowealth: A Collection (slow and steady)

So I have files for Xenowealth: A Collection and have been creating the physical book. This has been trickier than normal b/c the print on demand service I’m using is a little spotty about getting graphics on the spine quite right (the templates they give suggest it should print a certain way, but I get extra bumped space and am learning how to adapt) though I’m happy about everything else (I settled on CreateSpace as I like the interior cream paper best and I really like the distribution possibilities).

But, here’s a close-but-not-quite picture of a copy of the trade paperback which will be up for general sale after I ship to Kickstarter backers.

IMG 0678

I keep bumping the spine text this way and then that and seeing how it comes back. Annoying, because every other little thing is perfect. I’m happy with the interior, outside, etc. The matte cover, if you have greasy fingers, collects prints a bit more than I’d like, but there you go.

Today another proof arrives, I’m hoping it’s the last. I really want to start shipping ASAP and get this baby out in the hands of folks. It’s well overdue.

That said, I’ve unintentionally learned a lot about POD, printing books, designing them myself through this process. Things I wanted to learn, just not while writing and freelancing more this year than ever before in my life, remodeling a part of my home, and making some life changes.

It’s been a wild ride, this year.

20 Oct

Yes, I’m psyched Star Wars has a diverse cast up front! Here’s why

Great post by Chuck about the Star Wars boycott:

Apparently people are mad because blah blah black dude protagonist with a lightsaber, or girl protagonist, or Latino X-Wing pilot protagonist, and not enough straight white dudes. And folks are mad enough to join in on the hashtag and — nngh. Bleh. Meh. Gnarrgh. I mean, what version of Star Wars did you watch? The one where Luke Skywalker is a racist hick shitbird? The one where the Empire are the good guys because yay oppression and fascism and totalitarian chic?

(Via About That Dumb Star Wars Boycott « terribleminds: chuck wendig.)

One of the things I predict is that some people will be shocked, shocked, to see this.

When I arrived in the US in 1995, almost 40% of the US population alive disapproved of my very existence:


As of 2007, some 18% of the US population still basically disapproved of my very existence.

Here we are 8 years later, and a lot of that 18% or whatever that’s left over: they’re online. They’re on twitter.

Whenever these explosions happen, SF/F people are like ‘no, what, things were so nice and quiet before’ but it’s always been thus. Take it from someone who came out with a novel that had A LOT of black people in outer space doing cool shit in 2006.

That 18% gets *pissed* when you do something like that.

Now they’re more visible.

So, yeah, I’m hoping Star Wars is well written. I hope it’s fun. I hope that an SF/F film with a black lead and a woman lead rake in tons of fucking dough and kill it at the box office. (And I hope it’s more than just two token characters, yes, this could still go bad, I understand, but I’m talking about my hopes here).

Not just because I hope it’ll get that argument that SF with diversity can’t sell, a lie that even allies and so forth buy into all too often, but because I just want to see more of it.

And so that its success is louder than those other, hateful voices.

-Signed: some dude who writes action adventure pew pew laser science fiction adventures that features a diverse cast.

20 Oct

Today’s passive aggressive fan mail: reader will not read more of my books because I don’t speak English English as my first language

In today’s email:

I am reading Arctic Rising.
I am enjoying the plot and think the ideas are brilliant.
However i will not read another of your books as I am finding it hard to read.
I speak English English as my first language and am not over keen on American writers as their language is different.

I am finding it hard to read this translation of your book and am having to reread the sentences to get their meaning.

I feel your book may have been translated by the wrong person.

I wanted to let your know that I feel you are being let down by your publisher. Your ideas are very good and I am sure if I could read this book in your first language it would be a better read.

Hello reader:

Well, my mum was born in Middlesex, I’m not American, and I had an RP accent until I was 12 along with a Caribbean accent sometimes with friends.

That being said, you absolutely, definitely shouldn’t read my other books like Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose. They include Caribbean dialects and people who speak in all manner of different ways. They would be far more challenging for you.

Thanks for writing!

On a side note:

Americans, you’ve been warned! There’s a reader who thinks books translated over to the UK are being poorly done!

I want to make so much more fun of this because, so many different fun ways to examine this, but alas, I actually need to get back to writing more poorly translated non-English English fiction.

14 Oct

Xenowealth: A Collection timelines for pre-orders and wider availability

I’m waiting for some more physical proofs of the Xenowealth collection so that I can trigger the final big order and get the physical books shipped for Kickstarter backers as I undo the logjam of this project. But several people have emailed asking how to get their hands on a copy if they didn’t back the Kickstarter.

Fear not Fans of the Xenowealth, for once I have delivered unto the backers their physical copies this month, I will then make pre-orders available.

Xenowealth: A Collection will go on sale sometime in December. A trade paperback and eBook will be shipping sometime in December.

But first, Kickstarter backers get their versions and for an exclusive period.

Then I’ll open up.

So stay tuned, and if you want a reminder, definitely sign up for my newsletter (look to the right, or just scroll down a bunch and it pops up) where I will post details.

14 Oct

Man Booker winner Marlon James!

Hey, Caribbean writer wins one of the biggest literary prizes. Fuck yeah!

Also, his whole story gives me all the feels:

“There was a time I actually thought I was writing the kind of stories people didn’t want to read,” he told Today. Asked if he had considered giving up writing, the 44-year-old writer said: “I did give it up. I actually destroyed the manuscript, I even went on my friends computers and erased it.” He said he retrieved the text by searching in the email outbox of an old iMac computer.

James is the first Jamaican writer to win the Man Booker prize, taking the award for an uncompromising fictional history of the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976.

(Via Man Booker winner’s debut novel rejected nearly 80 times | Books | The Guardian.)

Represent, Marlon!

When I was down at the Bocas Lit Fest I was disappointed because he was unable to get down there due to last minute travel issues. I’d been hoping to hear him speak, live and direct.

Very cool stuff.

09 Oct

Xenowealth: A Collection Kickstarter backers should see the eBook in their inboxes now

I’ve finally managed to get the copy edited and ready to go final of the Xenowealth collection uploaded and sent out to backers. If you backed this, check your inbox. There should be a Backerkit email shortly with links.

This version includes the story “Ratcatcher.”

I think it might be the bloodiest Pepper story yet. And not being able to share it for the last 5 or 6 months has been torture as I had a blast writing it.

For the physical copies, I’m still proofing. This has been my big hold up. I am nothing mea culpas on this. Not so much a blast on this front.

At the end of the Kickstarter I’ll be writing up a little ‘how this kickstarter kicked my ass’ post. Sometimes life hands you fun lessons.

05 Oct

Process neepery: my all new morning schedule for writing (did he say morning?)

I’m somewhat known for being a night owl. In the past my productive hours have been from 11pm or thereabouts until 3am. No one bothers me, nothing interesting is happening, I just put my head down and write.

Well, now I’m a morning writer.


This doesn’t mean I get up with birds chirping and wide eyes and enthusiastically tackle what I’m up to with a grin and a cup of coffee.

First off, I’m not allowed to have any stimulants due to my heart. It’s a drag, but my last bottle of caffeine happened in November 2008. I’ve been clean since then. It kinda sucks.

Secondly, I still hate mornings. This morning while eating breakfast outside the local coffeeshop Emily looked at me and laughed. “You’re not enjoying the beautiful morning at all, are you?”


Okay, so let’s back it up. A year ago I started tracking my sleep patterns with an app on the phone, and then when I got a new FitBit Charge HR, it started giving me intel automatically.

At the time, Emily was teaching at a school that was a fifteen to twenty minute drive away and had a very early start time. The twins were going to Kindergarten. So I was writing from roughly midnight to three, then they were getting up at five thirty or sixish. I would wake up at noon. But I was struggling with being tired a lot still.

What I found out after studying my sleep was that the whole family getting ready for an hour would wake me up just enough to disrupt sleep patterns for an hour or two, then I’d fall back asleep after everyone was out of the house. I was actually losing 1-2 hours a day to this. So I was getting 7 hours a day, maybe less if I stayed up later to really jam on writing. My app and FitBit were guessing that I was averaging 5.6 hours a night.

I would crash on weekends and basically sleep all day.

Emily recently changed careers to come join me running the various things I do. I guess I haven’t mentioned it before. But so far, six weeks in, it’s been great to have her pitching in. There are so many projects I could use her help on. This means that we were able to enroll the twins locally, to the school just a couple blocks away. A germ of an idea occurred to me over the summer: a whole new schedule change.

Knowing that I was losing a couple hours a day had been bugging me. So I decided to pivot everything into a morning schedule. I’d tried on in the first few months of 2014. I went to bed at 12-1am, I got up at 9-9:30 and I wrote until noon. It had been very effective until it fell apart due to exhaustion. I now know that’s due to those ghost 2 hours of little sleep.

I decided to wake up with everyone.

So, starting on the first day of school I set my alarm to get up with the kids. Because, walking them to school on the first day, how could I not? We got ready, shared the bathroom, ate breakfast, all together.

IMG 0561

They were excited to be able to hoof it.

IMG 0564

Like an alcoholic taking a last drink before their first AA meeting, I’d stayed up late the night before.

After walking the twins to school, Emily and I took the poodle out for a continuing walk, swinging through town near the local coffee shop and then back home for a full mile’s walk.

Once home I sat down at the computer and got to business. I worked until noon, then took a break for lunch and touching base with Emily about the day. After lunch, I turned to my freelance work.

My first day of that was August 31st. It’s been rather effective.

For one, I begin every day with a one mile walk. So I’m getting my exercise in right away and getting the cobwebs out of my head. No matter what else happens, I’ve seen my kids off to school, gotten a hug, gotten a walk. There are worse ways to start a day.

Secondly, by writing when I get home right away I get the other really important part of my day out of the way: writing fiction. Usually by 10am, I feel like if the rest of the day exploded into uselessness, I’d still have walked and written. Thus: I win.

Combined with my social media break and GTD approach to email I’ve been more productive than I ever have been. And importantly, consistency productive.

But is it sustainable?

I don’t know. I’ve been aiming for 7 hours 20 minutes of sleep a night minimum. I’ve been failing that here and there, but last week I had a string of 8 days in a row of 7.5 hours of sleep minimum, which is really good. I’ve been getting into bed between 11-midnight. I have fallen down a few times. Twice when company was over (I’m social, I can talk all night), one of those times I stayed up until 3am. I was a mess the next day and felt hungover for 48 hours after. My FitBit helps, it vibrates on my arm at 11, reminding me I need to turn in. If it wasn’t for that, I’d never realize. I do feel very tired around midnight now, which is new, but I’ll still accidentally power through that easily if I don’t have alarms to remind me to go to bed.

The hardest thing has been to fight my desire to ‘stay up and push on getting things caught up on.’ I’m juggling more work in my professional life than I ever have. Fitting it all in has been challenging. But with this schedule, I feel like I’m starting to get caught up (I’m certainly right on track for this current novel deadline) finally. But I still, each night, have this old instinct to want to just stay up and power on.

But I am forcing myself to leave things undone and just trust that the schedule will catch me up.

The morning schedule also solved a problem I’ve always had in the past: working while traveling. While in Baltimore I was up each morning before eight and getting my writing done before I was scheduled to be speaking. If I keep protecting my mornings I expect a boost there. I’m also getting up early on the weekends and not sleeping in, then working on projects for a couple hours.

This is week 6 of the new schedule.

In the past, I was never able to make mornings work at all. I spent six years trying to make this happen when at a day job. I spent my mornings unable to get my brain to speed, and I scheduled all important work and focused on getting things accomplished in the afternoons knowing that I’d barely be able to answer emails.

But we change sometimes. I often experiment with changes and track the results just to make sure I don’t follow old habits blindly. In this case, my morning routine seems to be lending itself toward better results, while my productivity in the late hours was falling off (I have records and charts that show this). How productive? A 60% boost in daily average word count and a 40% boost in rewrites and copy edits.

I still find the late hours conducive to creativity and take notes and drum up ideas in the hours just before bed.

So, crossing fingers this holds for the whole year…

04 Oct

Surprise, Amazon is not a neutral marketplace

I was reading an article on Seeking Alpha, a popular stocks and investment site that I use to track general info about my stocks, when I spotted this article about Amazon banning sales of rival video streaming devices:

There is no such thing as store neutrality. Amazon has all the right to forbid rival products on its online marketplace.

(Via Dear Tim Cook, Amazon Just Banned Your Apple TV 4 – Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) | Seeking Alpha.)

The Verge says Amazon’s decision is a baffling question, but it is so easy to understand. Apple’s decision to release a console gaming iOS TV device and its ambition to become a streaming video service provider are seen as threats by Amazon. Bezos, therefore, promptly exercised his prerogative to eliminate current and upcoming threats to Amazon.

I get a lot of flack for pointing out that Amazon is used as a ‘marketplace’ by authors and assumed to be a neutral marketplace by many (not all, lots of smart people out there).

But it isn’t a neutral marketplace. A lot of the Kindle Unlimited moves are really clever from a selling to readers and corporate standpoint (the monthly pot guarantees a cap on author earnings/payouts) [limiting royalties for some countries unless you sign up, limiting percentage Amazon pays you unless you do certain things just the way you want, people keep saying you get total control, but unless you sell on your own site, you get total control, but not total control of the portion you receive). Amazon is the biggest marketplace, hard not to make a living without it.

But no so much neutral.

They’re very careful to not step too far over. The Amazon brand is one of the most trusted by consumers in the world.

But I am always working hard to make sure I stay well diversified, even as I use the marketplace. As a good little author cockroach I’m always curious to see what gets the biggest marketplace to stir and change the rules.