15 Mar

Plot twist: it turns out basements can be a bit chilly

One small act of miscalculation with a basement office: I did all the work to set it up during 40-50 degree temperatures.

A new wave of chilliness has swept across this area of the country. I noticed that as it fell below 30 outside, my basement fell down from 68 degrees Fahrenheit, where I could easily boost my new basement office space to 70 degrees and be comfortable typing and working, to 63 degrees where I’m just unable to get comfortable. The larger heater I have by the desk gets the temp up to 66.

Upping the humidity a little and making sure I have my shoes on means I’m comfortable, but my fingers just can’t handle anything below 70. They just lock up.

I tried moving the heater around to aim at the keyboard more, but it didn’t work. So I snagged these gloves online:

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Just basic fingerless gloves. I got red to make it harder to lose them in the office.

Next winter I’ll get a more powerful heater, but I’m not going to spend a big chunk on a solution there when winter is closer to over than starting and the gloves will do just fine.

13 Mar

Everything old is new again

As I’m taking this new jump into building out a Patreon I’m reminded of how similar this all feels. So I went back through my blog to 2006, the last time I affected a massive change.

Back then I’d been working hard for many years toward the goal of becoming a writer. I had started writing stories and submitting them regularly in 8th grade, so 1992 or thereabouts, which is why I have my first Writers of the Future rejection. I really turned the gas up on that in 1996, when I was a senior in high school (which is when I got my first personal rejection from Stan Schmidt, back then the editor of Analog) and a freshman in college. I attended Clarion 3 years later as a junior in college in 1999. Started getting my first pro sales in 2000. When the first novel was about to come out in 2006 it was the end of a 10 year cycle of blasting away pretty hard at the writing. Many hundreds of rejections, short stories written, and so forth.

Back on February 3rd, 2006, I learned that my day job was going to be ended (and I was to train my replacement), after 10 years of being heavily involved in campus life (as a student and then staff member). Looking back on my blog at that time, I realize that I then thought about what to do for a month, and then firmly decided the play was to become a freelancer even though I had no idea how. I had lined up about 50% of the income I needed when I jumped.

It wasn’t an easy schedule, but it was mine. I worked really hard 2006-2007, and I didn’t let up to something resembling a regular 40 hour workweek until 2008 when the freelancing money improved and I started working on Halo: The Cole Protocol. Since then, I have boosted or lowered the amount of freelancing based on how well the writing is going, but used the freelancing to create a reliable base as writing income is super variable.

When I found out the biggest chunk of my freelancing income had folded up I was facing a similar dilemma, though I didn’t make the connection until a few days ago. I started out by looking for the same kind of freelance work all over again (much like I started out trying to replace the day job with another), but then come early March I made a similar decision as I did almost 11 years ago:

JUMP!

Trust that you can build wings on the way down.

Which is why I then created the Patreon. Jump and trust that, as I fell through savings and kept writing, that I could cobble it all together and get the wings.

I’ve tried this before, actually. In late 2011 when I did the Kickstarter for the Xenowealth novel The Apocalypse Ocean. I used that money to write the novel, seriously lower the freelancing down to a minimum, and spend a year trying to build the runway in 2012, as Kickstarter had given me an 7 month runway. I accepted some contracts that I had estimated would give me another 12 months, but the money and contracts took so long to firm up that they came 2 months after I ran out of savings, a business line of credit I use to smooth over lump periods, and I had to blink and go back to freelancing.

But out of that 7 month runaway I got two books and a number of short stories. It was a success, even if I had to reengage bigger freelance gigs and slow down on fiction.

So this time, I’m in the same spot, but feeling like I did back in 2006. Nervous, but excited. Knowing that I could fail (I tasted that in 2012) but I spent the years after 2012 maniacally paying down debt to prepare for a moment like this. Knowing that I could get back into more blogging, more interacting with folks again after a long while away as I lost more and more time.

It’s hard not to look at is ‘the one shot’ but I know that it’s a process. I was just struck at how uncanny it was that it matched the timeline of the first time I tried to change my life and career in 2006.

09 Mar

Cover reveal and what the table of contents for my short story collection ‘System Reset’ will be

So I’m working on putting together my next short story collection, which I have titled System Reset.

In the past I’ve done successful Kickstarters for these. But this time I’m doing something different. System Reset will be available as a mobi, ePub and PDF to Patreon subscribers (at any level, from $1 all the way up) six months before anyone else can buy it.

What is Patreon? It’s a new of supporting a writer where you subscribe to them for varying amounts and you get fresh content in your inbox like brand new short stories, snippets of as of yet unpublished work that will come out much later, and other cool stuff.j

Here is the cover:

Systemreset

And here is the table of contents, featuring 9 stories and over 60,000 words of fiction:

Pale Blue Memories
On The Eve of the Fall of Habesh
Jungle Walkers (w/ David Klecha)
A Tinker of Warhoon
The Found Girl (w/ David Klecha)
A Pressure of Shadows
Ambassador to the Dinosaurs
Sundown
System Reset

08 Mar

I Moved My Office Back Into My Basement: Here Are the Pictures and What I Did

I promised every one on twitter a comprehensive post about the basement office project. There are a few tweaks I want to do still, but now that I’ve spend a week working out of it, here you go:

My basement and I have a complicated relationship.

In 2007, it was mildly flooded during the great 2007 flood. Mold ended up taking off and it ended up costing us whatever was stored down there and paying a professional crew to rip out all the old wood paneling and do water damage remeditation and mold killing. They installed a sump in a canning room that kept seeping water and causing water to pool on the basement floor.

In 2008, while working on remodeling the basement to reclaim it I had a cardiac event that put me in the hospital for a bit and was how I found out I have a genetic heart defect. The damn basement almost killed me.

In 2012, I think, I hired someone to clean up the bare brick walls and floors and install some doors and lights in hopes of reclaiming the basement. But we mainly used it for storage and secondary space while I used a room upstairs for primary writing.

Spiders used the basement as an office, mainly.

Recently one of my daughters started advocating for a room of her own. She had a lot of good reasons, but we didn’t bite. It wasn’t until said daughter explained to me her plan to move into the spider-filled basement on her own (she explained how she planned to clean it up, and where she would keep her stuff, and how we could get the mattress down there) that I realized she really, really was all in on the room of her own department.

I told her I’d figure out what it would take to move out and give her the room, whether staying upstairs and carving space out of lesser-used living room. She started sleeping on my office couch right away.

I spent a couple hours staring at the basement. Some of the fluorescent tubes we’d installed five years ago had gone out. But last summer we spent a large chunk of money to have our front yard landscaping all pulled out, on the theory that the previous owners fancy large beds up against the front of the basement were keeping water against the basement, increasing the water seepage. Over the last year, as far as we could tell, the seepage had decreased a great deal.

Enough for me to make the basement not a storage place for stuff but my primary working environment again?

I like being up near the large windows as I work on sun. Being away from the sun depresses me.

But since regrading the front lawn, the windows along the sunward side of the basement were dropping more light into he basement. And if I put in some replacement fluorescents, even though I hated the flicker, I realized I could do something.

Another thing had been bugging me the last few years. I moved away from physical books to eBooks on my phone. But, as my kids were getting older they were assuming that time I spent reading books on the phone was me ‘playing’ on the phone. So I’d started ordering physical books to read so that they could see me reading a lot.

To my surprise, I found that I was enjoying being away from screens. No distractions or temptations, just a book and me and a moment of time.

Which meant that the 80% of my library that I’d donated I now missed. I wanted books on shelves again. And I wanted all my own books that I’d been published in, or published, to be around me. I’d had all those books stored away. With a large basement, I could have a lot of shelves.

Plus, now that I was playing frisbee outside and walking more I was getting sunlight. Maybe I could risk a basement office again. Then a friend of mine gifted me a 4K monitor large enough to display full editing documents side by side on, and a sitting to standing adjustable desk.

So three weeks ago I got busy and took a broom and cleaning supplies down into the basement to do battle with the spiders.

I scrubbed walls, attacked webs, and killed many spiders on day one.

I took out sixteen or so bags of things that could be put on the curb or donated.

In the canning room where the water seepage was the worst I purchased quick dry mortar repair and stuffed all the gaps I could find. I then painted two coats of DryLock paint over the walls in there. I also sealed the wooden ceiling of the canning room with Thompson’s water seal. So here we go from open cinder block and spider heaven to clean and dry to the touch:

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I went over the walls where I planned to put my office with primer and sealant where moisture had seeped through and discolored the paint.

Then I cleaned the windows. That actually boosted the light into the basement a bit, they hadn’t been cleaned in over a decade, I had to scrape dirt off the outer glass. So 50% more sunlight comes in now. I also went outside and pulled the metal wells free, giving more sun a chance to come through.

Of six four-foot flourescent tubes, four were still working. I found out that LED lights are being made for those same fixtures. I ordered them off Amazon.com. Not only did I get a boost in light from getting the two missing light tubes installed, but the LED lights are like 20% or so brighter than the fluorescents were. It feels like the artificial light doubled. Also, the light doesn’t flicker and feels ‘bright’ to me. On days when it’s dark and gloomy in Ohio outside, I’m often not noticing in the basement until I look out the window.

I was on a tight budget for this, I had been hoping to get the entire remodel done for under $500. That was my goal. But as I looked at bookcases everywhere I realized quickly that I wouldn’t be able to get rows of shelving for books and all the things in my office to sit on easily for that.

After wracking my brains for a while I started thinking of affordable shelving that people wouldn’t anticipate for books. I spent some time in food service, and I knew that NSF certified chrome shelving was sturdy, easy to assemble, and cheap. Further, the chrome shelving would fit with the industrial look of the basement, with the exposed ductwork and brick walls. I could get a sort of aesthetic that all fit together.

Along the 13″ back wall I decided to use an eighteen inch wide NSF chrome shelf that was almost as high as the basement ceiling, which came with six shelves. I would use two shelves to create an ego shelf and one shelf to create a desk area against the wall. I then figured out I could use pieces of a shorter fourteen inch wide shelf to create the legs that two of the other shelves left over could create another desk and general storage area on the right. Then I could use some hooks to create a desk in the middle.

Here it is:

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I then had four shelves left over from using the legs to create that eighteen inch deep area, that meant I could take the four shelf, fourteen inch chrome shelves and make them all five shelf shelves perfect for books:

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The wires run the length of the shelves, so books sit very nicely on them. If I do get worried, I can eventually cut and stain wood planks to add some warmth and sit over the wires: just drill a one-inch wide circular hole on each corner of the plank.

Here’s a closer look at the desk behind my computer desk:

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I purchased some cheap plastic sheets that sit on top of the wires for these shelves, as the wires run in the same direction as the books. They can fall through on the eighteen inch deep wire shelves, so that’s necessary.

On the first shelf I have books that I have published an original story in for the first time. They’re in order of year. Underneath are my novels, book ended by bookends made out of Bermuda Cedar, which is rare to get. Those were a gift from the government of Bermuda Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, and I’m super proud of them. Under the shelf I have hooks and binder clips holding some quickly drawn art that says “CREATE.” Emily is designing some more colorful letters for me shortly!

To the right is an extra desk where I keep some office stuff, a spare chrome book that the kids use, my iPad, and hanging above it is art from my first novel, Crystal Rain, that Todd Lockwood gifted me a print of and that I’ve always wanted to have hanging but didn’t have a place for. Until now!

Okay, so here’s the office as you entire the basement and turn to the right:

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I created a little area for reading, thinking, and editing on work. I have a surprisingly comfortable slatted (not uncomfortable rods) futon that converts into a queen for visitors or passing through family. It used to be upstairs, but now splits the office into two different parts and functions. My friend Ross Kaufmann came over to help me move it downstairs. A cheap $15 rug from a dollar store really ties the room together. At that point I had been over budget, so I don’t have a rug for the computer desk area or for along the bookshelves. One day, though!

Again, a Todd Lockwood print hangs by the futon.

Here’s the angle from the walkthrough area:

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I’m hoping to get a tiny dorm fridge to put soda water and protein bars in that little space along the wall there down the road.

I keep all my currently reading and magazines on the little red table that I appropriated from the kids. One of the kids is reading Muse and left it down there, so I’m not the only one using this is a reading zone.

I was super psyched to get this extra shelf from my friend Brandon Rhodes, python programmer extraordinare:

I unpacked all my extra author’s copies and loaded the shelf up. Again, this was stuff all packed away in storage that I had no idea what I had and what I didn’t.

The basement is divided into half with the use of a Kallax four cubby by four cubby shelf on casters (I will be getting casters for all the other chrome shelves, so that walls are easy to get to and clean, spider kill, and dust, but again, I went over budget slightly and will get to that in a month or so) next to another two by four Kallax on casters.

I ordered a sheet of Shoji paper to cover the back of the Kallax and let some light through as it’s translucent.

Side note. I had always thought rice paper was made of actual rice, why else call it that? Turns out it’s ‘rice’ paper like a Japanese car is a ‘ricer.’ It’s seems to be a western ‘we use rice to describe anything Japanese’ thing. Ugh. So it’s actually called Shoji paper, I found after a minute or two of looking for the paper, and it’s made of mulberry bush (Kozo). It should be called Mulberry paper, if anything.

Here’s the other side:

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Anyway, here’s the desk where I work:

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I’m hoping to add some art, cool books to the cubbies. I also have five plastic stands along the top of the divider, and I’m hoping to add W R I T E in colorful letters to them. Behind them is some Ivy, known for helping clean the air. To the left the other side of the basement is peeking out, a bunch of stuff is stored there that I need get to the curb/donate and clean out so that I can start to use other side for a small gym.

Here is the writing area with the standing desk up. I’m going to put in a glass dry erase board along that wall under the window there when the budget gets back in my favor. And a rug for my cold feet.

I’m pretty excited about the desk, as Skype sessions should be more fun. I can stand for them, and the area behind me will be framed by my written books and some colorful art. CREATE!

Another thing I might toy with is seeing if that one duct by the window can be flattened with a rectangular duct there to give me a little head room and allow more light in through that window.

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I pulled this together in a little over a week and a half. It’s full of light, clean space, and I’m really happy with it. I spent a day going around smearing essential peppermint oil and spraying it wherever there had been spiders two weeks ago, and they’ve taken the hint. Plus, it smells very refreshing down here! I also purchased an ozone generator and have run it to kill anything down here like mold, mildew, annoying small insects. I’ll run every once in a while to keep the air fresh.

I’m hoping to make this the center of my operation to launch a whole new act of writing great things from down here. I’m surrounded by books, my achievements, and lots of great creative space.

07 Mar

Patreon: end of the first day, into the second and some changes to the goal bonuses

I just launched a Patreon. I’d been hoping to hit $500 in the first forty eight hours of the big push and we’re at $290. Last night I right away saw that I should have set up the goals to begin at $500, not $1,000. I need $1,500 to replace the lost freelancing income and survive with book contracts. But for $1,000 I can take the jump. I over estimated the velocity, which is egg on my face. I had no idea how my Kickstarter campaigns would translate over to Patreon, which is a bigger ask and does not have as much a profile, whereas the Kickstarter thing is embedded (and gets some signal boost from Kickstarter due to past success).

It’s amazing that over 50 people have signed up already and are psyched to get stories from me and we’re slowly ticking toward 100. Always, crowdfunding is amazing to me.

I was trying to wrap my head around whether we had conditions for a success in the future of this or whether I’d miscalculated badly and should have just done two kickstarters for my collection System Reset and Just a Draft, my book collecting things I’ve written about writing.

Still, I’m roughly 30% to where I minimum need to survive, which means I can envision how to get to 50%. And once you have half of something, you have half the job of getting to the whole thing. I went back and looked at my old Kickstarter launch for the novel The Apocalypse Ocean, where I realized that it was a hard long slog. We launched and only had 20% of the funding at start. Everyone was worried I’d fallen on my face hard in public. But, we kept at it and it happened:

Kickstarter

I believe I can provide stories with characters of diverse backgrounds that are thrilling and through provoking and entertaining for people. I’m super committed to trying to spend the next five months making this Patreon work, so that I’ll never look back on this moment and say “hey, I didn’t try everything I could have.” It’s a leap of faith, but, I’ve never regretted trying a thing.

To that end, with some feedback from folks, I reshaped the goal bonuses of the Patron:

At $500 a month, I’ll start writing the stories. Period. So we’re well over halfway to that point. We’re 60% of the way to that point as I write this.

At $750 a month, using some deep savings and some judicious credit on the business side, I don’t have to start looking for new freelance work and the stories are going to keep coming for sure. We’re 30% of the way there, and the moment we hit it I’ll release the collection ‘System Reset’ to backers.

At $1,000 a month I’ll release my collection of thoughts about writing called ‘Just a Draft’ to Patrons and I’ll start designing covers for the work.

At $1,500 a month I’ll begin creating audio versions and podcasting the stories to you.

At $2,000, you get an original Xenowealth novella.

I’m learning in public here. There’s a reason most choose $500 for the first goal set and I just learned that the hard way!

06 Mar

I’m Gearing Up To Write a Story a Month on Patreon, With Your Help!

This morning on twitter I announced that I was launching a Patreon to write a short story every month for supporters.

I’ll be honest, it’s nerve wracking to do crowdfunding projects. I’ve done a Kickstarter for the 4th Xenowealth novel The Apocalypse Ocean when I changed career directions to do Arctic Rising. I also followed up with two short story collections that did really well.

But it’s a wild ride to walk out on stage to see if there are enough fans on the spot to make something happen. When I first did The Apocalypse Ocean Kickstarter back in October of 2011 I got a lot of concerned emails from folks that asked if I wasn’t worried about failing in public.

Well, of course I was.

But, the upside was that I would get to write more things that people were asking me to write.

In this case, I’m trying to do something a little more ambitious: I’m trying to get enough of a Patreon off the ground that I can overall focus on creating more fiction and doing less freelance work.

Here’s the thing, I’ve been pretty open about the fact that I am lucky with my fiction, but the money is so irregular that I have always used freelancing to create a monthly income stream to balance the long delays in publishing. I could get the greatest news about a book out on submission today, and maybe not see a check after the contract is negotiated and money sent for 7-12 months.

For the last couple years the freelancing opportunities really increased and I took advantage of that. I started working longer days and using more of my creativity and emotional energy. By December the fiction was getting harder to juggle, and when my largest client cut me back by 80% in January I took the time to examine what to do next and what offers to accept.

But since I set aside money and live simply here in Northwest Ohio (as much as the weather isn’t all that fun or the rural life that stimulating) it allows me to make gambles. Being a freelancer was one of them. Having some time to try something different is another. I was exhausted from freelancing on a variety of different fronts and some accelerated deadlines. I took the time to work on moving into a new office, recovering from being sick, and thinking about how to make a go of the next year or so.

Six months ago I’d polled twitter, thinking about how a Patreon may or may not work. A couple hundred folk indicated interest in a short story Patreon, where I pledge to write a short story a month and if the story is delivered they’ll pay a certain amount per story.

So I’m back to crowdfunding.

I’m willing to write a story a month in that place I had been doing freelancing, even if it means a solid pay cut. I’d love to focus harder on the fiction and go all in. The last time I did it, it was because supporters got behind the novel The Apocalypse Ocean and I spent a year writing fiction.

I set up the Patreon so that at $5 a month everyone gets a short story, based on successful Patreons by writers, though I do worry that maybe everyone getting a story would be more successful. I’m second-guessing myself a lot there. I’m certainly nervous about this, as I’m sure I will ‘less successful’ in some people’s eyes. But I’ve enjoyed the direct projects for fans that I’ve done since 2011.

If we can get to $1,000 on the Patreon, I’m willing to take the leap on this and start doing the writing to see where I can take this over the next six months before making a decision on whether to stop it.

I’ve also tried to sweeten the pot by offering rewards for different levels. If we reach $1,500 in the first month I’ll give out my 3rd short story collection, as of yet unpublished (System Reset). I may have to tweak those bonuses after we see whether this Patreon does well.

If I can’t reach $1,000 in the first month, I’ll write a thank you story and shut this down, with thanks for everyone giving it a try. I’m honored that we’re already 11% of the way there here on the day of the first launch. I’m nervous about stepping out into public like this to try something different, something new. I’ve been doing the freelance on one side, novels on the other, for so long it’s become the easy path.

But I stand at a fork in the road over the next few months. And forks like that are usually opportunities. The last time I stood somewhere similar, I was laid off from my day job, looking at not being able to write novels again for years, and thinking ‘maybe I can try freelancing to replace 70% of my day job income and keep writing.’ And I built that freelancing/writing combination over a touch and go year following that.

If there is ever a time for us to build something new, to get more fiction out of me, to create more stories, then this is another one of those years, I think.

But like then, it’s scary.

I hope you’ll join me in jumping off this cliff and take a look at my Patreon.

Become a Patron!

03 Jan

This is how I Bullet Journal

Hi, I’m Tobias Buckell, a science fiction writer, and this is how I Bullet Journal.

I mentioned I’d started bullet journalling on twitter and people were curious and suggested I create a blog post.

So in September, I had been seeing people mentioning Bullet Journals and seen some Instagram links and Pinterest accounts about bullet journaling.

I was a bit put off by it all because there were pictures like this (these aren’t actual Bullet Journals, but emblematic of the sort of thing that kept me from engaging initially):

Or like this:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BO0SylsD9C8

It seemed like a group of scrapbookers vomited all over to-do lists. I bounce off the scrapbooking aesthetic. I wouldn’t mock it, those examples above are beautiful. But, it looked like it could, maybe, you know, be a lot of yak shaving or vacuuming the cat before getting stuff done:

Yak shaving is a programming term that refers to a series of tasks that need to be performed before a project can progress to its next milestone. This term is believed to have been coined by Carlin Vieri and was inspired by an episode of “The Ren & Stimpy Show.”

I don’t know if that’s fair, but to me (and I emphasize that ‘to me’ part), needing fifteen different colored pens and the right paper, stencils, and so forth, to get a to do list done, that seemed like madness.

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But then someone I really respect (who had the same reaction to it all) told me they were thinking of doing it. Always curious to examine new personal time management tools, I told that person that if they did it, I’d also try one out for a month as a personal experiment and see what I thought.

Bullet Journalling Attempt #1

I went online and purchased a Luechtturm 1917 A5 Notebook as devotees of the system recommended it. I overnighted it, along with a nice gel pen (also recommended). Why reinvent the wheel?

Here’s a youtube video review of the notebook:

Nice notebook!

I then watched the official Bullet Journaling youtube video by the Bullet Journaling inventor:

There. I was ready to start and be awesome! I was relieved to find out that the creator of the Bullet Journal didn’t recommend using fifteen different colored pens and stencils.

I grabbed my fancy new pen, opened my fancy new book, and started following the instructions on the video…

…and promptly biffed it.

I’m ADD, I’m dyslexic, and I made a bunch of mistakes making my first pages.

However, I was determined the experiment continue. I realized that using a pen terrified me because I kept making mistakes. I also wanted to be able to rip out pages if I screwed them up (Bullet Journallers say you just create a new page, or decorate around the mistakes, but, I wasn’t feeling it at the start of the experiment). So I drove up to Staples, purchased an A5 binder with some paper and, on a whim, I snagged a bunch of mechanical pencils.

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I booted up the video and started again.

Within a week of keeping that loose-leaf, three ring binder, I came to a few conclusions:

1) using a pencil helps me lose my worries about making a mistake on the page.
2) with pencil I didn’t need loose leaf paper.
3) man, that Luechtturm had really nice paper, regular American school paper was shit.
4) this is the most important: whatever may or may not work with Bullet Journalling, the idea of indexing my notes and scribbles was revelatory.

Okay, about number four. That’s like, paperclip obvious. It’s so obvious in retrospect I don’t know why I wasn’t doing this in high school or college. But honestly, I have gone my entire life writing things down on scraps of paper as they occur to me, and then collating them onto the computer.

One of my most popular posts is “How I Write a Novel” and you can see that I do actually use paper for brainstorming:

But I get that into computer quickly as I can because it’s then organized and searchable. And when I was planning things, my desk would look like that.

But creating an index, that was interesting. Because now I suddenly, like a light bulb going off, realized I could create not only daily to-dos, but project to-dos, and flip back and forth. Even better, while I used a variety of to-dos via digital software, some projects of mine were getting so complex that I needed a way to glance at the 30,000 foot view quickly.

Surprisingly, there is no official graphical user interface for a novelist 10 years into his career who needs an at a glance look at what’s going on with all his novels in one place.

But with an indexed paper system I could built a two page spread with all that data, including my own symbols for different things happening to the books and…

…all of a sudden I understood all the custom scrapbook-y stuff I was seeing. These were personalized UIs. And creative output, of course.

I quickly created a sketch of a two page spread that would allow me to see all the complicated things I was doing for my novel career, and right away I was like “yeah, I’ll be opening this up every time I talk to an editor, or agent, or accepting a deadline.” I could see everything I was up to on one page.

Bullet Journal #2: Considering aesthetics

So, the Staples binder was a shitty quick solution. The paper was cheap. The binder was cheap. And I hated the rings. Yeah, writing on the right page was easy, but writing on the left? I had to hold my hand in an odd way. I took to writing on only half the page. In the second week, I got online and started ordering possible Bullet Journal systems.

Here is what I ordered:

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Upper left is the shitty Staples A5, 3-ring binder. I liked A5 size because I could stick the notebook in a backpack pocket, or take it with me to a panel to take notes.

On the upper right, I snagged a Japanese 20-ring binder with some nice paper.

On the lower right I purchased a very nice 6 ring system with a luxurious leather holder that could take credit cards and extra pens and pencils, plus it had more space in the middle. Many diarists in the US use that gapped six ring system, I found out. Incidentally, my wife took up that notebook for her own Bullet Journalling (it is infectious apparently).

On the lower left is the system I settled on: the Kokuyo Systemic Notebook cover.

Here’s a product shot of the whole thing:

NewImage

For the pencil (it has this great pen loop) I have a Uni-Ball KuruToga 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil which is magical because it has a mechanism in it that rotates the lead every time you pick it up, so that the pencil comes down sharp on the next stroke. I use the diamond infused lead for the super sharp lines. Pencil isn’t as sharp as pen, but this pencil really helps compensate for that.

I used that to build out my to-do list and project management, heavily using indexing so I can jump around and find what I need.

Each Kokuyo twin ring notebook lasts me about two months. I think I could get three out of them, but I haven’t tried yet.

I also added a Moleskine Cahair slim notebook on the left panel of the Kokuyo Notebook cover. So my project management happens on the right, with the twin ring, and on the left, I write down ideas and writing snippets.

Bullet Journalling: What I do

So I have an index, then I create some pages for quotes. Two pages of my favorite quotes, one for life, one for writing.

Then come the future pages that Bullet Journalling recommends. They don’t work as well for me so I’m slowly deprecating them. But my month page is a thing just like normal. Then I start doing my daily pages (dailies some people call them).

My page looks simple, I don’t adorn, I have the shittiest handwriting. Here’s a sample fake page:

Page

Date at top (because that helps me know what day I wrote things on).

Priority: I write in two to three (no more than three) priorities for the day, things that absolutely have to be done. Like ‘refill meds’ so that I can continue living.

After a skipped line I write “Today will rock b/c:” and then fill in why it will rock. This is something I picked up from a neurophysiology researched, how to work/live better journalling exercise I read about. If I can’t fill that out, that means I’m not looking forward to anything on this day. Seeing a blank after that is a clue I need to stop and think about why or what is in the way of me having even a small thing to look forward to. Often it says something like “Today will rock b/c: I’m going to have a Choco Taco after dinner!”

Then I have my daily to-dos that I’ve filled out in the morning or the night before. I use a box for these (instead of a dot), and if the box is half filled it’s in progress. I like coloring in the box after I achieve a to-do, it makes me feel happy, accomplished, and kick ass. It’s dumb, but there you go.

I interweave journaling and to-dos, which is what blew me away about some Bullet Journallers. It’s not official, I don’t think, but I use a circle to denote a journal entry. So right under the to-dos I’ll often have something like:

Bubble: “Man it’s colder than all fuck outside, this is so depressing. I hate being cold all the time. I hate winter. Etc” I wanted to start journaling because I’ve read a lot of research showing its positive impacts. Interweaving the to-dos and journaling mean I do this organically throughout the day, and can also meta-comment on my mental state regarding some of the to-dos.

I can add new to-dos as they occur to me interleaved through this all as well.

And lastly, I use a plus sign to denote a thing I did that wasn’t scheduled:

+phone call from XYZ. We discussed ABC project. 1pm-1:30.

These plus activities are added in for things I know to do, interruptions, last minute etc.

With all this in play, I can look at each day and see that ‘oh, I failed on my to-dos but a crisis happened’ or what have you. Journaling helps me express myself and engage in meta-cognition.

I use a triangle to denote warnings, or things I’ve noticed.

Triangle: you didn’t get enough sleep and are feeling like shit. I was perusing my journals and noticed a number of patterns flagged by triangles that I was able to get ahead of.

Lastly, I try to write at the end of the day if I was grateful for anything. Gratefulness journals are again, shown to by psychologically helpful.

I’ll take notes on a lecture, or call, right on the page of the day, then go index them after I’m done (a significant lecture will get indexed from front, I keep a project page called ‘call log’ and log the date, time, person, and quick summary on that page, which notes the page of the diary that is on, that call log is a project page indexed by index). Sounds complex, but I’m able to keep a surprising amount of info organized easily, and generating it is easy.

Project pages. I mentioned that I have a novels project page. I also keep pages that log books read, tv shows watched and my thoughts, movies and my thoughts, each audiobook I’m listening to. These are as I go logs.

I also keep lists. I have lists of movies recommended to me written down, and books recommended to me.

Specific complicated projects all get a page.

One of the most useful pages ever for my mental health was “Things I’m Waiting On.”

Open loops, things that are undone and in-progress, that I have no control over, keep me up at night. When I created my first ‘waiting on’ page, I had 43 items on there. It was a relief to list them all out, collating the items from various project pages. I list contracts I’m waiting for, checks, people getting back to me about questions, things being shipped, etc. Knowing that it was on a page that I could update really took it out my perpetual worrying back mind. It also let me put dates next to them so I knew how often to ‘poke’ the project on a set, regular reminder schedule.

I also have pages for ‘life goals’ ‘year goals’ ‘places I want to see’ and things like that.

Project pages are more decorated up with lines from a ruler, and things to help me graphically understand what I’m up to. I can’t share these really, right now, as they have either personal info or info about projects I can’t talk about. But really, there are lots of arrows and things written sideways and all custom designed by me to get the gist of what happens next.

One thing I have learned from Getting Things Done, each project breaks down parts by next actions on those pages, so I understand what I have to do next and can copy a next action onto my daily page as an easy to do.

So to create an internet business project page, first step might be ‘investigate open domain names related to ‘theme of business’’ after that ‘register the domain’ because each of those are concrete, actionable steps that I could almost assign anyone, that I can follow when brain dead. Obviously creative stuff is not something I can assign, but if I were to assign it to another writer, how would I write it? (Say: write one page of X. Or brainstorm 3 ideas for X. Or ‘spend 30 minutes brainstorming ideas for X). That is how I break it down for creative stuff.

That is basically been how I spent the last four months, and I actually think it saved my sanity because the crunch of work I had to achieve in the last four months meant I depended on this heavily.

My only issue was that two months per notebook sucked. I think I can squeeze three out of the Kokuyos, but I am currently testing out a Luechtturm 1917 that I think I can 3-4 months out of and that will be nice, as I won’t have to copy over my project pages every two months.

But man, I love that clear plastic cover and the immediate index of the Kokuyo, so we’ll see how this goes over the next two months.

16 Nov

So that one dude got elected…

In some ways it is Deja Vu all over again…

I’m 37, I arrived in this country during the Clinton administration and not too long after that, I saw Gore win the popular vote and lose the electoral college and I subsequently lived through 8 years of the Bush administration.

It was freaky to see Gore miss the election by losing the electoral college but having won the popular vote. It was devastating to see a conservative judge swing the vote over to Bush. It was devastating to see the recount halted. There were serious feelings back then. It’s hard to remember how angry many were. Jay Lake captured some of that in an essay he wrote in 2000 called Why Are So Many of Us So Mad.

This time it is Russian intervention, the use of racism well above the usual Southern Strategy that Nixon first used, and the FBI’s October email surprise. There is still rage.

And everyone who predicted Bush would be a mess turned out to be right.

Bush gave us trillions in debt for the two wars where there had been a surplus. Invaded Iraq for reasons turned out to be fabricated. And then presided over one of the greatest economic collapses the country has seen.

Now this sort of thing has happened to Democrats twice in the last 16 years.

But seriously, HOLY SHIT, this is nothing like Bush…

That being said, Trump ain’t no Bush. And so help me, that is a fucked up thing to have to write.

Who the fuck knows what comes with the mismanagement of Trump. This tweet just about covers what a freakshow his ‘management’ of the last week has already been:

Everyone is scared. I think they’re right to be. An anti-semite and racist from Breitbart in a high position of power. Peter Thiel, who wrote that capitalism is incompatible with democracy and left South Africa to come here, is an influencer. Seriously sketch people are getting nods for staff. The team not understanding basic things about government. Trump making millions off of charging the government for use of his planes and hotels. His kids getting woven into all this.

One week in and it’s already a new modern low for incompetence and just general sketchy behavior. Then there are the Trump supporters, many of whom are emboldened racists, which is leading to encounters that are just one jump removed from me that I’ve seen reported on Facebook via trustworthy sources that are fucked up.

That’s just one week in.

So they whole ‘trust the system’ thing? When Republicans blocked the Supreme Court nominee and played this dirty. When they got rid of the voting rights act and purged voter rolls. When they gerrymandered their way to this victory that gives them Electoral College dominance but they lost the popular vote by (checks, over a million people now), then you’re left going ‘what system?’

I could write a massive essay on how fucked up Trump is. I don’t have to, Wil Wheaton did a bang up job here.

When McCain ran, I really felt he wasn’t up for running things and I didn’t want Palin one heart attack away from the presidency. Romney, I didn’t want the policies but I got why he was running for the other side (Ryan I didn’t like).

But Trump?

Jesus.

On the other hand, this reveals a segment of America that has always been here

Many of my friends of color were wholly unsurprised by the result (yeah, man, America is racist, this is news) and when liberals have said ‘this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen happen’ have had some very strong reactions to that.

I live in a red state, where I am surrounded by Trumpist opinions, and have been fighting that sort of shit through my fiction since 1999. I don’t feel I got the Obama years off, in fact, it was frustrating that so many white folk would tell me I was being over dramatic for feeling like the US was still a hostile environ. It has never not been hostile for me. I never know who is going to accidentally forget I’m not white and say something racist. And then I know, at least I look white, so I’m relatively *safe* compared to the non-white people who that shit gets aimed at. I just get backsplash.

I feel this election has more revealed what was already there. More so than it was a sudden surge from nowhere. The same pick up trucks with confederate flags are still rolling coal up and down streets in my town. As Vice points out in this article “A Racist White House Doesn’t Surprise Black People.

I feel that a bunch of people stayed home, proving Martin Luther King’s statement that it isn’t the people who hate you you need to worry about, it’s the quiet folk in the middle.

We’re in a moral recession

Change is slow, and involves setbacks, and what I call ‘moral recessions.’ I think we’re in one now. This isn’t just about politics, but the kind of people being posted in charge right now. I’m happy to say that a president who puts a publicly anti-semitic, alt-right, white nationalist in a position of power has a moral deficit. And the president has a big impact on the country.

I don’t know if Trump is a facist or a Hitler, I am not omniscient. These same comparisons were made to Bush, it’s a natural part of the reaction that comes. I sometimes worry that over ascribing power to the opposition causes self-defeatism. I think 2018’s house is all up for reelection, and that is the tool to blunting the worst of this damage. I take hope from that. But it’s going to be a rough road ahead if this week’s any indication.

But when I say moral recession, it’s because a line is never straight.

I take some hope from the fact that more Americans, despite gerrymandering and voter roll purges, voted for Hillary Clinton than for Trump. I take some hope from the fact that basic modern attitudes in the US are swinging in a progressive direction and this is why many Trump supporters are screaming on twitter and Facebook how happy they are that they think Trump is a white nationalist, or destroy healthcare, or women’s rights.

Things are radically different from the 1980s. In the 1980s, 75% of white respondents to polls thought it was okay to discriminate when selling a house. That’s 25% now. That 25% is where you find a lot of Trump’s core support (due to the US being such a low voter turnout country, 25% of a population can swing an election). When I first arrived in the US, more Americans thought my very existence shouldn’t allowed (mixed race) at 52% of the country than not, that’s now 13% according to Gallup.

That smaller part of the country, mainly rural, has reacted against the majority and done something pretty horrible while another chunk of the country stood by and did nothing. But they’ve been doing horrible shit all along, and now is not the time to buckle against their lashback.

What I plan to do

I’ve always been here making art that’s diverse. I didn’t stop doing that when famous white SF authors told me to die or leave the country after 9/11 in SFWA forums. I didn’t stop doing it when called any number of things along the way. I’ve tried to play the long con. The fight for diversity and inclusion and my values has been something I’ve been at since the beginning. I will be at it forever.

I’ve made up a list of things I can do that are not posting on social media to try and help out politically as I realize I’ll need to do more than continue my mission in art. Places to donate, ways to volunteer, places to lend my creativity to

But I will continue to create exactly the kind of art that quite a few Trump supporters have always despised me for, wish to shut down, and I will continue to help create a future that supports the trend lines of positive things in this country so that in the multi-decade span of time, I can look back on this.

I plan to do my best to make sure vulnerable people are safe near me, reach out to other friends who feel the same. I plan to make sure my family is safe and that I am safe. I plan to avoid getting sucked in too much to news and social media that depresses me or overwhelms me or I will be lulled into inaction, which is how these things work. Expect a flurry of negative news, and a flurry of legislature and plans that try to overwhelm us all with apathy. I remember social security teetering on being canceled by Republicans in 2004, I remember the way people tried to stop the inevitability of the wars and couldn’t. It’ll be tough, but you’ll need to take care of yourself as well.

This is a lifetime’s work. It may not pan out to put hopes on 2018. Or 2020. I think it’s always been a lifetime’s work. I think it’s a lifetime’s work that minorities of all kinds have borne heavily and this will be heaviest on them moving forward. I hope that doesn’t get anyone down, you need to protect yourselves, but it’s the long game I tend to think of. Back when it was Bush in charge, when Obama swept in, and still now. Always the long game. Always about what the point of my art is here for and why I do it. And always about what I’m trying to leave behind in the world.

PS

No, I’m not sure what the hell will happen with my healthcare. A year ago my wife joined me in freelancing and we set up on ACA. I would prefer single payer, but ACA was at least something, and though pricey, it let the family freelance. It’ll be good for 2017, but 2018 is a shrouded mist for me. Like that place the Bene Gesserit can’t see past? I can’t either.

I have, now, a pre-existing condition, my heart defect. That means even if I wanted to pay it might prevent my family from getting health insurance. I’m not sure how we’ll thread that needle, it adds some anxiousness to my ability to forecast and plan. However, since we all freelance in the house now, we do have the ability to move anywhere we need to in order to get health insurance. I’m hoping not to have to move, as I’ve put down roots pretty well in my current community…

PPS

This is the calm version of the post. I just wrote ‘fuck’ over and over again originally. I feel I still have yet to wrap my head around many different aspects of this election, but this was a first attempt. I may be posting more.