All posts by Tobias Buckell

27 Oct

Seeing the Dinosaurs in Lima

I took the kids down with me to run some chores in Lima on Sunday, and to reward them took them to a dinosaur exhibit that was being advertised for that weekend only in the fairgrounds called “Discover the Dinosaurs.”

I knew it would be somewhat cheesy, but the girls love dinosaurs and I thought it would be fun.

$60 worth of fun? Ouch. The tickets were crazy expensive. And as we approached the door there were parents walking out cussing up a storm. $20/person is a lot of money for a family to shell out around these parts, and people weren’t getting a lot for their money.

But, I’d been worried that this would be some sort of Creation Science exhibit where we’d find out that dinosaurs and cavemen frolicked around the Earth a few thousand years ago (that sort of thing pops up in this part of the country, and sometimes they trick to trick people in by claiming to be science exhibits), so I was happy that it was actually what was advertised.

On the other hand, an expensive dinosaur exhibit with pre-printed posters featuring wikipedia information about dinosaurs and some very limited animatronic rubber dinosaurs wasn’t exactly a science high point.

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The ‘many exciting rides’ were a line of 6 dinosaurs that gently rocked up and down for two minutes, like the pony at the grocery store:

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There were three inflatable bouncy castles with inflated dinosaurs in the middle that were the high point. The kids loved those, though since all the kids did their best to stay there, it was kid chaos. They were, literally, bouncing off the walls.

Oh, and after the $20 fee each, there was overpriced face-painting (extra) and $20 each to dig for gems and wear a hard hat (but not dino-bones, gems, it wasn’t even similarly themed). I opted out.

Afterwards Thalia turned to me. “That wasn’t a very good show, was it?”

“No,” I said. “It was kind of cheesy.”

“Well, thanks for taking us, though, Dad.”

Points for trying, dad.

On the way in, a grandfather asked me if it was as bad as the complaints online about it. “Pretty much,” I said. “But if you already have the money spent in your mind [he knew the price] there are worse ways to spend a couple hours.”

I think Calli was more blown away by browsing tools at Lowes.

Now I understand why the show only spends a weekend in any one place.

27 Oct

BusyContacts looks interesting for contacts management

I mentioned investigating CRM solutions to handle so many contacts a couple posts back. Good grief, man, on the desktop side the field is so. fucking. clunky. So much unintuitive software.

I know I no longer have the patience I did in my 20s for fiddling around with software, but there’s a certain level of ‘why can’t I…?’ that if I keep having to ask, I just uninstall and move on.

The reason is that most of the solutions are aimed at large teams and small companies (Highrise online, Daylite and etc on the desktop).

Most of the software felt like using a nuke to hit a fly. And a lot of it is so focused on sales teams that I would have to artificially adapt my own flow to look that metaphor (I do have a ‘pipeline’ of sorts surrounding selling, writing, promoting a novel, but it doesn’t match selling lots of widgets that exactly).

Further, a lot of them required replacing my existing calendar and other apps to use their system. A non-starter for me.

All my searching this weekend, the only app that appealed to my in terms of just jumping in to use it was an iPhone-only app that allowed very basic contacts management. But I don’t live on the small screen like that.

However, I did find that the makers of one of the best Calendar replacement apps for OS-X will be creating BusyContacts.

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If the simplicity and ease of use, as well as development cycle, of this app is anything like BusyCal, I’m in.

I signed up for the public beta and I can’t wait for this program to drop. All I want is to be able to tag contacts, view them in clusters quickly, and keep notes/info about them in one place.

I’ll download and play with BusyCal before I make any decisions.

Daylite came close, but I found it frustrating the way projects and tasks wouldn’t let me drag and drop between them, and the project management threatened to be overly complicated compared to my quick and easy TaskPaper set up.

25 Oct

I had no idea: Sweden’s deadly subs

This is a fairly fascinating tale of military leapfrogging:

Sweden Has A Sub That’s So Deadly The US Navy Hired It To Play Bad Guy: “We have been glued all week to the sub saga off the coast of Sweden, where six days in Swedish forces have only now called off their search for an elusive sub hiding in the waters off Stockholm. Yet what nobody has mentioned is just how deadly and capable Sweden’s own subs are, and there are few better weapons for catching a sub than another sub.”

(Via Jalopnik.)

I would totally have worked that into Arctic Rising if I’d known.

Something to come back to in the third novel, possibly.

24 Oct

Why I’m investigating contact and sales management software to help my writing (tools are found in many places)

I was talking over the struggles I was having with tracking projects through various stages (novels, relaunches, foreign editions, self publishing, potential new Kickstarters) with a friend who runs a sales business, as well as bemoaning my horrible mess of notes about contacts (reviewers, publicists, people who have asked me to do remember to send them something when it becomes available years ago).

“You need a CRM tool,” he said.

“A what?”

He quickly introduced me to some overly complex tools for lead generation and contact management that sales people use, which I’d never really looked at for a creative business.

But the concept of keeping track of people and what you’d last discussed with them, as well as status of projects, is something I’ve been using Evernote to track (crudely). I’d been keeping a giant text database with hand notes.

“Good grief, no,” he said, looking over my system. “You need something that’ll scrape your emails and calendar and integrate it all as well.”

So now I’m reading about Daylite and thinking I know what I’ll be spending my weekend doing:

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The creative side is doing creative stuff.

But on the business side, while I’ve gotten a lot accomplished with GTD and email, I’ve been lacking another layer of organization to handle the large web of obligations, communications, and project management.

Because when I’m not freaking out about trying to visualize everything I have to do, I’m able to get a lot more creative stuff done.

I’m always amazed at the way in which many writers bear their disorganization as a badge of honor, and often, sadly, then watch it cost them money and creative time as things fall apart. I’m always amazed at naturally organized people.

Browsing through the website’s stories, I see a lot of musicians and graphics creatives using this sort of software. Why not writers?

23 Oct

A Bear: an original illustration by Calli

I don’t want to be every other parent that thinks they have the most artistic children in the world and foists that upon everyone. But ever since Cal showed me the cover of a ‘book’ that she made in class about bears (including the oh-so-precocious spelling of ‘hibrnat’ for hibernate) I’ve been mulling over just how good she’s gotten at drawing things in a short time.

I mean, it was just a few months ago that everything she drew was stick figures. Like, very, very basic stuff.

Now I have a bear with a quirky expression on its face, and I just want to frame this damn thing.

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16 Oct

I survived Tropical Storm Fay, but was flown back home to avoid Gonzalo

So while out in Bermuda, I flew in Emily and the kids for a surprise weekend hangout halfway through being Writer in Residence. I was excited, kids first plane trip, using passports, and seeing an island.

They were jazzed to arrive:

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We went up to see Fort St. Catherine:

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We swam at a nearby beach, and then had lunch above it:

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Later went to the Dockyards to watch the sun set. We couldn’t get to the beach, there was a wedding happening. But someone checked, then escorted us up onto the walls so we could watch the sun set, which was very nice of them. I love ocean sunsets:

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The next day we took the kids to a Shelley Beach, a kid-friendly, shallow beach with a playground attached. The wind was picking up a little, but not too much.

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Afterwards, we had a wonderful lunch with one of the writers taking my workshop and her family. I got back to teach the workshop, driving in on my scooter. People had been talking all day about a mild Tropical Depression that had become upgraded to a storm, but no one was worrying. People were still enjoying some sailing in the brisk wind as the sun dimmed.

But as I wrapped up class, people were getting phone calls. Emily called me, the owner of the apartment we were in had been by to ask us to close the storm shutters. I drove back on the scooter, and the pre-storm gusts were buffeting me around. I should have gotten a taxi. I could see the headlines “Hurricane Fever author knocked off bike by Tropical Storm!”

I got back and helped Emily lock all the storm shutters.

As the storm continued to kick up, I began to wonder if I was over reacting, but it felt like maybe I should be filling up containers with water and that I should have done hurricane prep. But no one else had been very worried, so I hadn’t. I eventually filled up a 30 gallon trashcan. Just to feel better. Because that’s what you do. I also made sure to charge up all the devices I could, and a backup battery for my iPhone, as well as the laptop (to use as a battery for the phone).

The next morning was a bit frantic, because it was Sunday, and the family was supposed to fly back. We didn’t sleep well, the winds were gusting (one taxi driver said he recorded gusts of over 100mph, I believe it) and water and leaves got pushed through the door as winds changed direction.

The cell network was down the next morning, as was power, and water, and at first we couldn’t even get a taxi to our location because of reasons like this:

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I finally swapped out my SIM card and got the other network going, though promptly had to deal with AT&T INTL roaming issues. Once that was settled, I got through to Delta, where I was lectured that if I wasn’t at the airport right away, we would forfeit our tickets.

Sounded like bullshit to me, and the taxi company finally confirmed, telling me that the airport was damaged and shut down. Delta was full of it. After the flight was finally cancelled I got them on the next flight out, on a Tuesday.

We suddenly had two more days on the island. We spent the Sunday after Fay marveling with other people we ran into at how worse it was than expected. Once the trees were cut up, I got down to the grocery store for water and dry goods (they were running off generators, thank goodness).

Bermuda houses are built solid. Multiple foot thick walls, and stone roofs. Being an island out in the Atlantic, they’re ready.

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With no power or water, I decided the next morning that we’d head for the one place that would have everything we needed and relax: the bigger, tourist beach. Horseshoe.

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Calli and I went rock climbing, getting up to a point above the beach:

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We spent a good chunk of the day there. There was some spotty wifi, that let me get some email down, and also send some texts to people. We had hamburgers and cold drinks. And we got to use the beach showers, which was great, as we didn’t have that back at the apartment.

I managed, with my laptop and backups, to eke two full days of phone use.

Later that night, the landlord got the generator up and running. Only one outlet worked with it, so:

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On Tuesday, Emily and the kids were able to fly back out. The airport had power and wifi, so I spent a couple hours there recharging and catching up quickly. Via phone, the organizers who got me to come out and do this Writer in Residence thing, decided to fly me out as well. A new hurricane had been forming: Gonzalo. It was a category 3. Since the Tropical Storm had left me with no running water, and intermittent power, they figured it would be worse after a hurricane.

The workshop I’d been running, full of amazing talent, had to be compressed into that last day (I will talk more about the workshop somewhere else, as it’s not technically over). I spent over 5 hours straight meeting with each student one on one, and I’ll be conducting a Milford model style workshop with them after the hurricane, when things are picked back up.

As I left Hamilton, I saw that they’d started boarding up in town.

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My thoughts are with everyone in Bermuda right now. They’re in the bullseye, and it’s a big storm. And Fay put a lot of debris out in the open that Gonzalo will be flinging around.

Stay safe guys.

02 Oct

Check it out: Hurricane Fever Audiobook available now from Audible.com

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Hurricane Fever is now an audiobook. Audible has worked very hard on it and Arctic Rising, the narrators are amazing.

The narrator came via referral from Robin Miles, who has done Nalo Hopkinson and Karen Lord’s books. I think he sounds amazing and am so grateful Robin was able to help us like that.

Even more amazing is this tidbit: Robin Miles and Prentice have been working very closely with me and Audible to record the Xenowealth novels. The attention to detail, the samples I’ve heard, and the books that will be coming out, are amazing. I think Xenowealth fans will be very pleased. And I hope to rope in a whole new generation of listeners (combined with the relaunch of the Xenowealth, which is coming soon!).

I can’t stress how delighted I am to have this team around me for the audiobooks, as the accents and sounds of the books are very important to me.

27 Sep

Beginning my writer residency in Bermuda today

In a blog post a while back I broke the news that I would be the Writer in Residence in Bermuda:

“Last month Dr. Kim Dismont Robinson from the Bermuda Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs reached out to me to ask if I would come and be a part of the Writer-in-Residence Programme in Bermuda this October. I would be responsible for helping direct some three weeks of workshops for interested writers, with a focus on genre.

It’s always a huge honor when the islands reach back out to me. And for anyone to reach out to ask me to teach or guide up and coming writers.”

(Via I’ve been invited to be writer-in-residence by Bermuda this October | Tobias Buckell.)

You can see the nifty brochure they made.

Since I’ve been living with the news since earlier this year, it’s been something way off on the horizon. Until it wasn’t. And yesterday I was doing laundry and packing and trying to get ready to go down and stay at a hotel and then catch a very early flight.

Bermuda is considered by some a part of the Caribbean. Culturally and historically it has a lot of ties.

But as you can see from this GPS shot on my iPhone, I’m actually out in the middle of the Atlantic and very far north of the Caribbean island chain.

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Landed a few hours ago:

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My contact has settled me into an apartment, I’ve got onto wifi, let everyone know I got here safe, and found that they left me curried chicken and peas-n-rice in the fridge.

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I’m looking forward to meeting the writers I’ll be working with over the next few weeks (I got to read all their application pieces, so it’ll be great to put faces with names), and looking forward to exploring the island. Since the roads are small and the island not so long (20-25 miles, I think), I’ll be loaned a scooter to go exploring the island with. I’m looking forward to getting some time on the beach, as well as visiting some of the historical sites on the island.

17 Sep

Rocket Talk, Episode 27: now with 100% more Karen Lord and Tobias Buckell

Karen Lord and I teamed up to chat with Justin Landon of Staffer’s Book Review for his Rocket Talk Podcast up at Tor.com:

“In this episode of Rocket Talk, Justin brings on Karen Lord and Tobias Buckell to discuss their most recent works, what they mean when they talk about Caribbean Science Fiction, and the challenge of reading western literature from a different point of view. Justin also manages to squeeze in some talk about how the two see series fiction.”

(Via Rocket Talk, Episode 27: Karen Lord and Tobias Buckell | Tor.com.)