Category Archives: Life Log

19 Dec

Confusion schedule

I’ll be a panelist at Confusion this January 16-18th. In addition to the panels and mass autograph session, I’m excited to be interviewing the GoH, Karen Lord, for anyone attending.

This’ll be great. I hope to see you all show up!

The schedule:

Friday 5pm: Gadgets and Apps for Writing
Scrivener, Evernote, writing books on phones and tablets!

Saturday 4pm: Mass Autograph Session

Sunday 10am: Post-Colonial SF
Can our world’s own colonization history help us write the stories of future colonizations? What were the pitfalls? And how can we avoid them? Or are we just doomed to repeat history…

Sunday 11am: Karen Lord interview
Best-selling author Tobias Buckell interviews our Author Guest of Honor Karen Lord

Sunday 12pm: Extreme Weather in Science Fiction
First the ice caps begin melting, and then we get Sharknado. How have real-world weather events influenced science fiction? Can we use science fictional ideas to solve our real-world environmental crises?

09 Dec

Authors reading one star reviews

Have you been paying attention to the Worldbuilders charity that Pat Rothfuss runs? It’s up to $574,508 raised for Heifer International. One of the stretch goals was just blown right past (450K), in which I and many other cool writers read one star reviews of our work.

You can help out Heifer International via Worldbuilders here by just buying great signed books, or other cool items, as well as entering a lottery.

The next stretch goal is getting Hank Green to perform an angry acoustic of “Shake it Off.”

What’s that you say? You want to make the world a better place while winning fabulous prizes?

Well today is your lucky day.

Heifer International is our favorite charity. It helps people raise themselves up out of poverty and starvation. Heifer promotes education, sustainable agriculture, and local industry all over the world.

They don’t just keep kids from starving, they make it so families can take care of themselves. They give goats, sheep, and chickens to families so their children have milk to drink, warm clothes to wear, and eggs to eat.

(Are you ready? I’m so ready. Let’s do it.)

Pay attention now, you’ve got a couple different options for donating.

The Lottery

The Sure Thing

The Auctions

(Via How It Works | Worldbuilders.)

04 Dec

Xenowealth: A Collection Kickstarter is halfway through. Some quick thoughts.

As of today we’re just over the halfway mark on my Kickstarter for Xenowealth: A Collection. I promised I’d burn some social capitol promoting this, but Thanksgiving break and holidays hit at the halfway point as well, so I’ve just been letting things go quiet.

When I built this Kickstarter out, I wanted to tweak some of the things I’d done in the past. For one, in the past I’d put the eBooks at too high a value. Lowering them to $10 seems to have boosted our numbers, and included some drive-by backers who aren’t already part of my core readership. So that worked.

I noticed from some other Kickstarters that a decent tranche of trade paperback backers existed. I’d shied away as that being ‘more logistics’ in the past. But I think I was wrong. It fills in a ~$30 backing level. There’s a logical $10 eBook, $30 trade and $50 hardcover set of steps.

I’m noticing my higher ones aren’t as popular though, so while I nailed the lower ones, I’m having trouble with those. But I can’t call it a failed test until the very end. We shall see.

The $30 trade level also offers a great transition into the post-Kickstarter selling. Get a trade paperback ready to sell via CreateSpace, because if you have the rights, you should do that anyway. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for The Apocalypse Ocean, Mitigated Futures, and I haven’t. Putting in there will make me do it. While the limited hardcover will be limited, the trade allows me sell physical books.

People still really like those. I need to test those waters out more than I currently do.

I need to put out a call for artists soon. That’ll be fun to have some of the stories illustrated.

As far as progress so far, I’m happy. People asked why I set the goal so low at $1,000. As Mitigated Futures hit $3,280 (and a last minute backer came in the next day to push it to $4,280 and commission a custom story), I had a feeling we could get to $4,000 or so. I set up stretch goals all the way through $10,000, trying to make sure to keep the project interesting. And because, hey, a guy can dream, right?

That said, I wasn’t expecting the first day to go so well. To be at $5,220 here halfway through is amazing. Lots of Xenowealth fans out there.

I am questioning whether I should have set a $6,000 stretch goal with the third novella there, instead of putting it in with the $7,500 omnibus. Maybe that would have kept some excitement during the slower bits here in week 3.

But week 4 always picks back up.

I have no idea where this is going to end, but it’s been quite a ride so far.

Thanks all for the signal boosts and enthusiasm. Short story collections get the short shrift often enough in an author’s career. They’re a hard sell. It’s interesting to see that crowdfunding opens up a space here for me to do these in a way where everyone wins.

When I talked at O’Reilly Tools of Change about crowdfunding I mentioned that Kevin Kelly’s ‘1,000 true fans’ concept could be used to do interesting things even at smaller levels. 169 readers made Mitigated Futures a great project, 191 gave me the space to write The Apocalypse Ocean. 192 are on board for the Xenowealth collection. The next 13 days should be interesting!

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02 Dec

Juggling projects

I mentioned last night on twitter that I’m grateful I took the time a month ago to rethink my to-do list management.

Years ago I was using Things, but it stopped syncing to my iPhone reliably. Plus, managing the list was starting to crumble and take time. I switched to a simple piece of software inspired by paper lists called TaskPaper, which I’ve used for almost three years now.

It did the trick, but as project management started getting more and more complex over the last year, year and a half, I started dropping the occasional ball.

This was extremely frustrating.

I spent time in November trying to figure out what was happening, and I realized that I wasn’t checking in on TaskPaper frequently, and that I was relying on my calendar and a simple document in Evernote more and more.

Why was that?

Well, one thing that’s important in modern task management for me is not leaving emails in an inbox as a to-do, as eventually that just overwhelms me. The psychic weight of emails that aren’t handled is a big issue in modern workflow. I was moving stuff to TaskPaper, and it helped me visualize everything that needed done.

Problem was, TaskPaper was too much like a paper list. There was no way I could tag it to alert me on a certain day that something needed done. And it didn’t work hard at screening unscheduled tasks away from me unless I created tabs based on tags. So although it was a simpler user interface, it was secretly more complex for me in that I needed to actively sort tags to achieve a ‘work on this today’ sort of screen.

I tested out over fifteen different apps over three days. Time I didn’t have, but basically I was thinking this:

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I settled on 2Do, an app that is a bit clunky and imperfect (requires a couple too many clicks to get core info into a to-do), I think Todoist was cleaner and simpler (and yes, please do assume I tested [insert your favorite software here] but had my own personal reasons for not using it) but at some point, imperfect, you have to make a choice and roll with it.

2Do had a lot of focus on skeudorphic design that I didn’t like in past years, but the current iteration works.

And only seeing today’s projects, or this week’s, is a huge relief.

Because I’m trying to:

-get Crystal Rain ready for sale in English digital stores that I have the rights to sell it
-set up pre-orders for Ragamuffin and Sly Mongoose (after above)
-run a Kickstarter
-finish revise a YA novel
-write an outline for a novel due later next year
-revise an outline for a novel I have to start writing ASAP due early next year
-prep all the rewards for said Kickstarter
-finish some paperwork for incorporation
-finish banking details for incorporation
-tax payment information for incorporation
-convert business cards to new corporation, change business cards, set up a retirement account
-read two books for blurbs
-several tweaks needed on website
-publicity followup and outreach for Crystal Rain’s trade paperback launch in January need tackled now
-write an outline for a collaboration I’ve been planning for a few months
-keep track of an already written novel’s progress, sub rights on other novels, some possibilities
-keep an eye on 4 different checks owed to me (as a freelancer, you’re the business dept.)

That’s just the writing stuff. I have eBooks to design for clients and solar tubes to make sure are installed in the house to get sunlight for the winter, and possible projects around the house as well.

This is all in the next week or so.

In Taskpaper I’d just see everything like that and blanch. Then get overwhelmed and panic. So with 2Do, I just see the couple of things I have marked myself to work on for today.

So I can just put my head down and focus on that. Tomorrow it will surface something different. I have to-dos plugged in to surface three months down the road, and now they’re just out of my head and not cluttering things up.

That’s a relief.

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.

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?

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.

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.

08 Sep

Catching up

It seems like yesterday I was taking selfies while riding a cable car across the Thames to the O2 Centre, but I’ve been catching up on All The Things since getting home a couple weeks ago.

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Meanwhile, the twins started Kindergarten. Which is wild. Everyday they’re heading out with bags on their backs that seem bigger than they are, and they’re riding the bus. Emily takes them in with her on the way to school, and they ride a bus to the sitter and wait for her to get off work. Finding out they were riding a bus on their own was my first parental ‘wait, what?’ moment where I felt this was all happening a bit faster than I was ready for.

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Now that we’re back home and slowly getting back into our routine for the new year I’ve managed to finish the rewrite of the pseudonymous novel PS-1 and, I think, tackled all the edit notes.

Which means I’m now back into my edit notes for the novel Island in The Sky which needs done ASAP and doing background stuff for my contribution to Storium. I’m soooo close on both fronts.

Meanwhile, I’m still doing some interviews and promotional items for Hurricane Fever (I’d love to do some more podcasts/audio interviews or video interviews, as those are easier on my hands than typed out interviews!). I’ll be signing in Kalamazoo, MI this weekend, along with Jim Hines, at Kazoo books. We’re hoping we’ll get a great crowd!