Category Archives: Life Log

11 Apr

I Now Have a Pair of 6 Year Olds

Six months old in the green editing chair in my office:

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Six years old in the green editing chair, about to be taken out to the curb on the morning of their 6th birthday.

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Man those five and a half years went by quickly.

If I were super hip, I’d keep the green chair and keep taking pictures of them in it every year until they were thirty, and post it, and it’d go viral.

But the chair needs to go to the curb. We got it free somehow, and it’s served its purpose as my office editing chair well, but I have a way more comfortable one now.

Also, their birthday cakes, for the win:

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The young lady who did the cakes got all excited about making sure Thalia’s had some graphics b/c there was no already-existing vampire stuff for kid’s cakes like there were for Hello Kitty, so she spent extra time doing this. Everyone was curious to hear about the story of the vampire birthday cake for the young girl at the grocery store.

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27 Feb

Thank you, Mr. Nimoy. Your portrayal of a mixed race person had a big impact on me.

It’s not often that I am struck by the passing of a celebrity. I don’t often feel I need to weigh in. I certainly don’t feel like I had any special connection to that person. Certainly when celebrities that are in the common consciousness who are my age pass, I feel the shiver of mortality, but that’s usually it.

But the news today that Leonard Nimoy had passed had an impact.

I wasn’t a devoted trekker, or trekkie, or what have you. But Spock was one of the first times I saw a living example of a pro-science, pro-rational point of view in a character on a screen who wasn’t the evil scientist.

It was the first time in my life I’d seen a protagonist, a hero, be like that. Spock had a huge impact on my nascent scientific world view, giving me permission to explore a scientific worldview. It took a long time for me to go all in on that, but he was the first that made if feel it was safe.

I’m probably not alone in geek-dom there.

But where Spock really hit me in the feels was when I encountered more about him in occasional re-runs and some of the books.

Spock was half human and half Vulcan. Humans took one look at him and ‘saw’ Vulcan, and coded as such. And Vulcans ‘knew’ he wasn’t really Vulcan because of his invisible human-ness.

Spock was bi-racial. But he didn’t look like a half-human half Vulcan. He coded as Vulcan.

For someone who looked white, but was bi-racial, that had a huge impact on me. Spock was the closest thing I had ever seen in my life, even to this day, to a role model. As a kid, it blew my mind. There was Spock and that was it as far as ‘light not white’ me.

Spock struggling with trying to be accepted by Vulcans and humans, both sides of which kind of pushed him away a bit. That hit me in all the feels. Spock finding his own path, being just awesome as himself. Crewing with a bunch of people who all looked different than him and being down with it. Putting up with being teased for being too rational with calm and equanimity.

Yeah it was all fiction. Cardboard props and bullshit.

But telling a story about a possible path helps.

When I was a kid I was smart enough to be clever. And as John Scalzi famously noted, the failure mode of clever is ‘asshole.’ I fell into some of that. Wanting to be the Dr. House mode of smart, dismissive of stupidity and willing to push through solutions because of your own smarts. And I apologize to all those I hurt while trying to be clever.

As I got older, I realized I wanted to be more like Spock. Smart, but hard-working smart and with genuine warmth. Yes, he’s cold rational. But he’s not rational in the ‘toss you out the airlock’ way. He’s rational in the ‘dies to save the crew even though they’re not as smart as him’ way. He used his intelligence as a tool to try and create a universe that they could all be in. He made friends out of a diverse crew on the bridge. He was even close friends with the womanizing asshole of a captain that ran the ship and who had to often bail out of trouble, because even Kirk had good qualities and challenged Spock to broaden his experiences and grow as thinking creature, to see other modes and solutions, adding to his abilities.

He chose not to reject either side of his identity, but embrace them and synthesize something new out of them (yeah, I know not all the media were perfect about handling this aspect, but seeing it exist at all, when people like myself were/still are invisible, was water in the desert for me).

So, thank you Leonard Nimoy for playing Spock. And for bringing that person to life. Thank you for a great life lived, and continuing to engaged with all the people that loved this thing.

I will do my best to live long and prosper, and to try and always be a friend. There are worse things to try and live up to.

Addendum: I was pointed out this amazing article where Mr. Nimoy writes a letter to a dispirited bi-racial woman in the 1960s who was struggling, and found common ground with Spock.

Now I have double the feels knowing that he was aware of this and wrote letters like this.

03 Feb

Travel report: St. Mary’s College and Chattacon!

I did a poor job reminding everyone on the blog and online that I was about to do some public speaking and signing in the Bay Area. Please keep in mind, I’d been dealing with sick kids on vacation, then was sick for a couple weeks, and recovering, then catching up on a month of lost work. Then I hopped on a plane to head West!

Fortunately, thanks to the magic of Seat Guru, I scored awesome seats on the way out:

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I was invited to St. Mary’s College California, at the invitation of professors Dana R. Herrera of the Department of Anthropology and András Margitay-Becht of the Economics Department.

It was weird to walk around campus and see posters up with my own goofy face.

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We had a great turn out for the lecture, and a spirited Q&A session (including a gentleman who asserted that the Caribbean was the most racist place he’d ever visited because everyone there noticed the color of your skin. It was hard to unpack the assertion that seeing skin color is not the same as being racist and talk about colonial attitudes that *do* leave vestiges of power to lighter skin at the same time while also rejecting the assertion that the Caribbean is more or less racist when that’s such a simplistic framing of the question as well, but I tried to push back in the small amount of time I had [the gentleman’s experience was also 30+ years old]. One could do an entire semester on that, really).

I also got to sneak out to the fancy fancy mall near the hotel I was staying at and visit a Tesla dealership for the first time.

Oh yeah. I’d say this would be my next car, but I’d have to sell way more books than I am these days to snag one of these. I did, however, touch it:

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In addition to the big lecture, I chatted with the class on SF and sociology that Dana and András have been teaching, and also chatted about the business of writing at another session. Dana and András were a lot of fun to chat with as well, as they’re both very familiar with all my work.

After that, it was back on a plane for Chattanooga. A year ago I was to be Guest of Honor at Chattacon, but I slipped on ice and hurt myself badly enough to end up unable to travel. The organizers were amazing enough to invite me down again for Chattacon 40, along with many other Guests of Honor.

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The event was held in the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo, an old rail terminal turned into a large hotel complex. About a thousand fans packed into this place and took it over.

I got to chat with Julie Czerneda, Kathleen Ann Goonan and Adam-Troy Castro. I also did a reading very early on morning. Not many people showed up, but that wasn’t a surprise because Chattacon is known for their con suite, which has beer on tap (delivered, I saw, because I got there a day early, by a giant beer truck).

This is the con suite, it used to be an ice rink and is now a place for traveling bands to perform in:

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I was well-treated by Chattacon and enjoyed getting to explore the city a little thanks to Cherie Priest, who took me on a brief tour. Here’s a view of the entire metro area from up on Lookout Mountain:

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While in transit, I revised an entire novella and worked on freelance work, so it was rather a hectic one. I’m a bit zonked, more than I realized, so I’m mostly catching up on paperwork that was waiting for me when I returned home and emails I ignored while bouncing around.

03 Feb

A note about RETR-O-RAMA appearance in Florida: Apparently I will not be attending

Last July I confirmed I’d be attending a Jacksonville, FL event called Retr-O-Rama, and a few Florida readers have contacted to ask about it. I was contacted July 16th by someone representing the event (I still have all the archived emails) and confirmed that I would attend back then. I requested details to hammer down the flight time in August, as I’d planned to go down early (and spend my own money on a hotel) to spend a number of days writing in the sun as it always doubles or triples my word count. Since August I’ve had no reply. January 7th I reached out again to the email that had confirmed my attendance and got nothing.

Since January 7th I’ve not been told the event has been rescinded or anything like that.

Seeing that other names have been added to the site and that I’m getting the silent treatment, and seeing that I was supposed to travel down on the 13th (I’d asked for earlier), and that there are mere days left and I haven’t seen any ticket information, I can safely assume that I am being dodged/ignored/forgotten or some combination thereof.

So, sadly, and alas, I will not be down in Florida to sign books.

I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience if you were hoping or planning to come out to see me. I swear it was not my fault. I’ll be taking down the appearance listing, but I just wanted to pass on a notice.

I do have another speaking appearance that is being offered that will be at a Florida university, details to be announced later, which will be sometime next year.

Until then!

05 Jan

For Locus subscribers, I have a summary of the Bermuda workshop in the latest issue

I penned a few words about the awesome folks I got to meet in Bermuda for the latest issue of Locus.

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(Correction: Grace Jones = Grace Welch), I apologize for any confusion).

I’m hoping that with the ongoing workshop, and the stories, that soon editors in the field will start seeing submissions from them.

Or I’ll be giving them a long-distance side eye.

Because they were talented.

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.