My twins will drop everything they’re doing to watch an Oxyclean commercial

Every once in a while, when Emily is going down to start up a load of laundry, the twins (4 years old) will call after her ‘make sure you add some Oxyclean! It takes all the stains out! Just put one scoop in the laundry.’

It’s interesting what they soak up. There are lots of other advertisements that they don’t pay any attention to. Sometimes they’ll mention something that’s pertinent to their four year old interests and say they saw it on TV at their daycare provider’s house. She occasionally has Nickelodeon on.

We don’t have cable, I resent the intrusion of advertising and find my life a little less cluttered with it. I spent a bit more to buy all my shows direct, but I enjoy having control of when and where I watch things as a cord cutter. So the kids don’t get a lot of advertising exposure here at home.

I have nothing intrinsically against it, and I try to inoculate them against it by explaining what advertising is. When they get older, I plan to do what an amazing teacher did for me in grade school; teach the basic functions of advertising and rhetorics it uses to convince you to want or buy things. Learning the ‘how’ and strains of advertising (bandwagon, expert’s prefer, you’ll be better with X) has stuck with me for life.

That being said, my kids think Oxyclean is the shit.

A few weeks ago, when we were eating something messy and Thalia dropped her sleeve in it, Calli piped up ‘don’t get mad, dad, it’s okay, we’ll just use some Oxyclean and it’ll be okay.’

‘Right,’ says Thalia. ‘Oxyclean’ll take the stain right out!’

It’s a little… weird. Because they’ll continue on talking up the wonders of Oxyclean for another couple rounds. They’re like little walking talking informercials:

“Hey, is that a bad stain.”

“Why yes, yes it is.”

“Did you know some Oxyclean will take that right out?”

“Yes, just a little bit will get rid of the stain.”

I guess I was expecting more tea play parties.

The other day at a restaurant they were chatting with each other and then they both stopped. And looked at the TV. I turned around, and it was an ad for Oxyclean. They were silent. Almost reverent for a full half minute, until it ended.

“Oxyclean,” they both said. In the same tone as those little green aliens from Toy Story.

And then they were back to ignoring what was on the TV.

I have no idea what to make of this, other than the fact that advertising is powerful. Brands are powerful. And my kids do not react to any other brand this way. But for some reason, Oxyclean is magic pixie dust and they respect the hell out of it.

And to be fair, if you happen to be in a spot of trouble regarding stains, that stuff can sometimes seem magical.

Review: Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Coat

A few years ago, after getting some Christmas money from my father in law, I drove up to an outfitters and asked them what the warmest winter coat was. There was much hemming and hawing, but in the end I got recommended an 800 weight down puffy coat made by North Face. “I want to go out in a snowstorm in a T-shirt and this coat,” was my request.

I got just that. In most cases my North Face puffy jacket rocks.

But it’s like wearing a sleeping bag.

I’ve recently lost some more weight as part of my slow, years-long journey since 2009 to slim down and get more and more heart healthy. And the XL puffy jacket is still great, but has a couple drawbacks. One, it feels even vastly more puffy now that I’m not filling it out so much, and that means that, two, it leaves a large column of air inside the jacket that when broken into (by shifting hem or a gust of wind) I get chilled in it more than I used to.

So, buy a replacement size smaller of this trusty companion, or do something different?

When I saw a winter storm approaching, I quickly planned my options and decided to gamble on a whole new winter coat. I’ve blogged positively about Uniqlo’s Heat Tech undershirts here. Affordable, yet amazing, I wondered if their ultra light down coat could be just as good a tool in my new cold-weather arsenal.

Here’s the jacket:

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That, however, is not me. Just a head’s up. I stole it from their website.

I ordered a large (my shirts are mediums, jackets large now. Uniqlo, tends to size a bit small anyway, so I knew it would likely be a fit. It arrived today, delivered by a very cold Fed Ex employee.

And could I have a better day to test this jacket out?

No.

Before I’d gone out into the -10 degree weather with a uniqlo heat teach undershirt, long sleeve polo, and the North Face jacket. To test the Uniglo, I went out into the -12 degree garden later in the day to let the dogs out. No Uniqlo undershirt, just a polo and pajamas and my uggs pulled on quickly.

The jacket advertises 630 fill, which is a little less than the North Face, but not a whole lot. Amazingly, I felt pretty comfortable in the still air at -12. It was the moment the wind struck that the jacket, like the North Face, struggled to keep the penetrating cold out. But when the gust passed I warmed back up.

Pretty amazing for a jacket that was extremely thin compared to the bulky one. It didn’t seem feasible it could be keeping me that warm. Birds are crazy smart (down). But that windchill…

On a hunch, I went back in and pulled my leather jacket on over it quite comfortably. And the leather jacket was a fantastic wind block.

When I go out, I usually have a dilemma of preferring the leather jacket, and sometimes having to get the giant puffy coat out that makes me feel like a walking sleeping bag. But I think I have a solution now. The Uniqlo actually rolls down into a small bag it comes with that can fit in my computer backpack:

Photo

If it gets too cold for a leather jacket, I can put this on underneath. And if it warms up, I can roll it up, squeeze it, and get it put away in my backpack with no fuss.

Wish I’d found a 600-700 fill jacket this crazy thin earlier, but I’m still learning some of this stuff.

Anyway, I imagine the massive puffy jacket will now be retiring…

Slippery slope of unrestrained profit engines

This blog post at Sociological Images just firmed up something in my mind that’s been bugging me:

“I sometimes would disagree with Tommy about the talents or behavior of some celebrity — a rock star or an actor.  Today’s equivalent might be Ke$ha or a Kardashian. Tommy’s response was usually, ‘He’s makin’ more money than you’ll ever see.’  And that settled the issue as far as Tommy was concerned.  A huge income trumped just about anything.”

….

I thought of Tommy and values today when I read the transcript of a CNBC interview with Alex Pereene. Pereene has recently gone on record criticizing Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan. That bank currently faces an $11 billion fine for having dealt in shoddy mortgage-backed securities. JP Morgan can afford it, of course, but $11 billion begins to be real money. The question on CNBC was whether Dimon should continue as its CEO.

Pareene says no. The CNBC anchor, Maria Bartiromo then says.

Legal problems aside, JP Morgan remains one of the best, if not the best performing major bank in the world today. You believe the leader of that bank should step down?

Or as Tommy Fiedler would have put it, “His bank is makin’ more money than you’ll ever see.”

(Via Is Profit the Ultimate Value? On JP Morgan’s $11b Fine » Sociological Images.)

I’m happy to live in a capitalist society, but as I pointed out to someone the other day when they said ‘profit is the *only* motive’ and goal, I asked if they then supported slavery. Much sputtering later, my point was to say that if profit is all that matters, then they’re suggesting that America transform itself into something profoundly different than it has been for the last decades. I mean, if you get rid of minimum wage and squeeze it all the way down as far as you can, you have slavery or indentured servitude.

If you believe profit is the ‘only’ important thing to focus on, then you’re on a slippery slope.

Capitalism is an engine. A powerful one. I believe it’s the most powerful. Profoundly. But the question isn’t ‘which engine is more powerful’ but ‘what are you using that engine for?’

I believe it’s powerful enough to run a society that makes decisions about where the engine is taking them.

I had a strong jolt when reading about an academic who reported on the language used by capitalists from the 1800s who were slave owners:

The research: Caitlin Rosenthal pored over hundreds of account books from U.S. and West Indian plantations that operated from 1750 to 1860. She found that their owners employed advanced accounting and management tools, including depreciation and standardized efficiency metrics, to manage their land and their slaves. After comparing their practices with those described in the account books of northern factories, Rosenthal concluded that many plantations took a more scientific approach to management than the factories did.

The challenge: Did historians get the genesis of management wrong? Professor Rosenthal, defend your research.

Rosenthal: I was surprised by what we uncovered in these account books. The mythology is that on plantations, management was crude and just amounted to driving enslaved people harder and harder. These documents show that plantations used highly sophisticated accounting practices more consistently than many contemporary northern factories, which are often considered the birthplace of modern management. In some ways the conditions of slavery permitted a more scientific approach than the factories did.

Advanced Accounting
HBR: How so?

In the factory books, you see lots of turnover. But slaves couldn’t quit. While factories were worrying about filling positions and just keeping things going, plantation owners were focused on optimization. They could reallocate labor as they saw fit. I found real quantitative analysis in their records. They were literally looking at humans as capital.

This interview is going to make people queasy. I’m already cringing.

It should make you cringe. This is not an easy topic. People tend to think about the positive with regard to management and capitalism. With our modern lens, efficiency is good. Here it was equal to the brutal extraction of labor from oppressed people. But it’s important for businesspeople to read unvarnished history, not just the happy stories.

In other words, capitalism was taken to its logical endpoint once. It was morally problematic.

The question we need to interact with more is… where are we steering this engine, and what is driving?

I face a similar dilemma when I talk to people about alternative energy. “But it’s expensive,” they say, and therefore a country’s economic engine shouldn’t be choked by the drag.

I have two reactions that response.

1) It completely indicates a lack of trust in the power of capitalism’s engine. The engine can handle the load, I believe in capitalism and its ability to factor around. We abolished slavery, capitalism made a lot of money off it. Capitalism continues to do just fine. We abolished child labor. The engine is still turning. To moan about the ‘end of capitalism’ over these things is to devalue capitalism. (i.e.: capitalism will survive Obamacare just fine, as capitalism continues to be the engine for many nations with all manners of universal healthcare).

2) If profit is the only response to alternative energy, then why doesn’t the person then demand that all cars have catalytic converters yanked out, engines spew black fumes, and coal stacks no longer filters to the point where pollution fog makes it hard to breathe? I mean, that would be cheaper for the energy producers, right?

The truth is, we get to define what’s attached to that engine because the country is not just capitalist. It’s capitalist + representative democracy. C+RD. C is the engine, RD decides what’s attached to the C.

The argument against all this (the argument for unrestrained capitalism) is that a rising tide of wealth raises all boats. But as you can easily see from the GINI coefficient of the US, the rising tide is apparently not lifting all boats because that’s just an analogy and the reality is that although the US is making lots more money, it’s not trickling down, arriving at, or showing up in the pockets of anyone outside the tip top of the pyramid.

The *unrestrained* pursuit of profit is becoming such an ideology that someone one TV literally cannot conceive of someone being a bad leader because they harmed millions of lives, and helped almost crater our economy, merely because ‘they made a lot of money.’

That’s fucked up.

Appearances update

So recently some people have found out I’m going to Worldcon and were totally surprised, but I swear, I’ve had the info that I plan on going here on my home page and under the blog page under appearances. Realizing that many people still aren’t noticing that, I’ve added a menu nav bar item for ‘appearances’ as well, hopefully that helps.

Here’s the current schedule:

2013
-August 24-26: AnimeKon Expo (Barbados)
-August 28-Sep 2: Worldcon (San Antonio, Texas)
-Oct. 31-Nov 3rd: World Fantasy Con (Brighton, UK)

2014
-Jan. 17-19: Confusion (Detroit, MI)

AnimeKon Expo is coming soon. I’ll be there with a number of authors and comic book artists and writers as part of the Authors Lounge at Animekon Expo. Details are here.

On my way back from Barbados and after seeing everyone at AnimeKon Expo, I’ll be flying into San Antonio for Worldcon. I don’t have a full Worldcon schedule yet, but for the first time in many years I won’t be incognito in the bar but doing panels and (hopefully a reading), and, I’ve asked, but if the folks at Worldcon are willing and the producers of the film are as well, I’d like to show All Her Children Fought. We shall see if it lines up. More details as I can.

In October things are working out for a trip to World Fantasy Con along with some other activity over in London. The details are all still locking in, but I’ll post them as I get them. And, as always, I’ll post them on ‘appearances’ as I get information as well.

Adventures in parenting: lassoed sister

Today on adventures in parenting:

“No you may not lasso your sister around the neck!”

“Why not?”

“Because you could hurt her.”

“Oh, but we’re good cowgirls!”

“You still can’t do it. You could still get hurt.”

“What about teddy bears?”

Pause.

“We can lasso teddy bears. But no people!”

Moments later Emily chimes in.

“No dogs either. No living things.”

Corporations don’t like you…

I don’t agree with James Altucher on everything, but man he’s always thought provoking and this latest kinda hit me:

3) Corporations don’t like you. The executive editor of a major news publication took me out to lunch to get advice on how to expand their website traffic. But before I could talk he started complaining to me: “Our top writers keep putting their twitter names in their posts and then when they get more followers they start asking for raises.”

“What’s the problem?” I said. “Don’t you want writers that are popular and well-respected?”

When I say a “major news publication” I am talking MAJOR.

He said, “no, we want to be about the news. We don’t want anyone to be an individual star.”

In other words, his main job was to destroy the career aspirations of his most talented people, the people who swore their loyalty to him, the people who worked 90 hours a week for him. If they only worked 30 hours a week and were slightly more mediocre he would’ve been happy. But he doesn’t like you. He wants you to stay in the hole and he will throw you a meal every once in awhile in exchange for your excrement.

The number of people I run into who’ve been fired for having a personality outside of their job. The recruiters I hear who bemoan the unwillingness of younger workers to want to commit to a job for very long (why commit, we see what happens in every down turn, loyalty goes both ways, son, and the reason my generation and younger doesn’t want to commit is we don’t see commitment)…

…when I left to freelance people asked ‘aren’t you worried about living day to day, what about not knowing what the future holds? The uncertainty?’

The truth was, their lives were just as uncertain as mine, they were just being told day in and day that it wasn’t so.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last couple months. I don’t have certain conclusions, but I’m probably going to circle back on it here and there.

Shani: A Disclaimer for a short story written when I was 14

A fellow SF writer is on his fourth round of chemo. And a number of us decided to come together to see if we could help him out by holding a fund raiser where we agreed to donate acts of whimsy for certain levels of funds raised. I agreed to give everyone a read of my first ever, full completed short story.

Well, I was thinking I would have the weekend to type this up for everyone helping out, but we blew right past all of our levels of hoped-for funds within a few hours. People watched as authors agreed to sing, read classic literature as if having phone sex, and way, way more. It was, in short, epic. And so I found myself asking for help to quickly prep the files for my piece of whimsy.

The intro/disclaimer I quickly wrote for that piece of juvenilia was this:

When I was asked to donate a piece of whimsy to this project to raise money to punch back against Jay’s cancer I said yes automatically. Yes, because having gone through a medical ordeal of my own I don’t wish that on anyone. Not even my worst enemy. And Jay’s a friend. So I super-extra unwish all of this on him and hate seeing it. Sure he’s all the way over on the West Coast, but we broke in together at roughly the same time and there’s always this ‘cohorts for life’ sort of feel among writers that start publishing around the same time. I couldn’t help but say yes… even though I don’t do whimsy all that well. I’m always in awe of cool stunts and whimsical events that people in this community do (like Jim Hines replicating urban fantasy covers on his blog).

I thought a good part of whimsy is to let yourself be potentially embarrassed. So twenty years ago I was fourteen years old, wearing braces, oversized glasses with a blue tint, unruly curly hair, and I read a lot. And I got it in my head that I would write a short story. Until then I’d mostly scribbled snippets (and there was that everlasting gobstopper of a novel I was always ‘working on’).

So…

Here is a story that I wrote when I was still in middle school. The first one.
I said I would donate it to the cause. And I’m a man of my word. But in a fit of ‘Oh crap, what have I wrought’ panic I thought I would at least put a disclaimer in front of it, and here it is and…

… you know what, I don’t even regret it in the slightest. If it helped bring a few extra people to prime the pump of this amazing fundraiser, it was totally worth it. Fourteen year old me wasn’t embarrassed to try, and fear of being judged by peers and strangers only binds and hobbles us. And fourteen year old me would have been delighted to have helped out a colleague in this way, and been thrilled the story was read at all. Other than including a few hashmarks to properly indicated section breaks, the story is proudly included with all of its original errors.

Please to enjoy. And thank you, thank you again for helping with this fundraiser. You are good people. All of you.

Thank you also to Angie Rush for transcribing this from pictures I took of the original, yellowed paper copy.

Here on the blog, I’d also like to add to the story of how I came to have a paper-only copy of this story.

As I said, I wrote it almost exactly 20 years ago. When I was done with this story I gave a copy to my grandfather on his boat. He didn’t like it, didn’t understand what was going on. But he kept the damn thing.

After the hurricanes that hit in 1995, I lost a lot of my paper print outs, so the other copy of Shani was lost to the storm. I might have had a copy of it on a hard drive, but my hard drive failed in college somewhere my sophomore year. So I figured the story for a lost artifact that I’d always remember fondly… my first complete short story.

Until my grandfather collapsed in the Caribbean from diabetes-related complications. One of my uncles flew down and got him back up to Ohio for a stay here in Ohio with my parents while he mooned about their house recovering (and then being settled permanently as they realized his health was failing). And one of the things he still had when his things were moved off his boat to my parent’s house was his copy of Shani, which he gave back to me.

And so that is why I have, sealed away in a large envelope in the back of my filing cabinet, a 20 year old print out of the first short story I wrote, typed up on a Brother ‘word processor’ that had a four-line LCD screen that let me type a paragraph up before it started printing the words.

So donating this to the cause seemed like a very whimsical thing to do, and I’m so pleased that it is able to be used for a good cause after being lost, found, then hidden away.

If you’ve donated to help Jay Lake sequence his cancer, you can read my first ever short story written here.

If you read the story, and haven’t donated, please… consider going to help Jay here:

Jay Lake is an award-winning American author of ten science fiction novels and over 300 short stories. He is also one of more than a million Americans who have colon cancer. Diagnosed in April, 2008, Jay’s cancer has progressed from a single tumor to metastatic disease affecting the lung and liver, recurring after multiple surgeries and chemotherapy courses, and multiplying from single tumor presentations to multiple tumors presentations. Jay is now in his fourth round of chemotherapy, but it’s not clear that it’s working, and his doctors have little to go on in terms of advising further courses of treatment for him. In short, things are not looking good for Jay. Not at all.

However, a new technology is becoming available—one that may offer his doctors a better option for treating the cancer. We’re trying to raise funds to allow Jay to have whole genome sequencing. There is a small possibility that the results of such a test, which is more comprehensive than conventional genetic testing of tumors, may suggest a treatment path that Jay’s doctor’s may not have considered, and that could be life saving. It’s a really small chance, and Jay knows that.

The unlocked reward goals are a lot of fun. Right now we’re moving towards getting a 3-d scan of Cory Doctorow’s head making a funny face.

The possibilities are endless.

Looking back, looking forward

In some ways, my massive retrospective is the post I wrote a couple of weeks ago called How I Used Kickstarter to Reboot a Book Series, My Career, and Maybe My Life, where I talked about how funding, writing, and delivering The Apocalypse Ocean dominated most of 2012, and in a very good way.

But, it’s New Year’s Eve, and my birthday is January 2nd, so for me this time of year is always very reflective as the year ends and my age officially bumps up a notch. So here is some reflection about the year.

Actual writing of words

The core part of my year, I actually wrote a lot this year. In fact, I sort of dedicated myself to experimenting with ways to achieve more work. Using the ideas explored in the blog entry Productivity in Bursts and Work Habits I was able to train myself to write more words.

Productivity isn’t the most important thing in the world. I could rush myself faster than I was capable. I view writing as training. Some people can keep good form and run faster on the track than I could when I ran, because they’d been practicing. Some would be able to run fast right off the bat. Some trained themselves up. Some were sprinters and some were marathon runners. Some were naturally faster than others, some had taught themselves to be faster. Some were weekenders, some were walkers. I spent this year trying to train myself up faster, but without losing my form or burning myself out.

I wrote two novellas, three short stories, and co-wrote a short story with David Klecha, though he did most of the heavy lifting.

I began the year revising a novel for younger readers called The Star Tree, redrafting the opening third and writing four new chapters, as well as going through the whole book with an eye toward making it stronger.

I wrote The Apocalypse Ocean, the 4th book in my Xenowealth series.

I wrote The Trove, another book for younger readers.

I began work on Hurricane Fever, which follows in the same vein as Arctic Rising. Unusually for me, I decided to spend a whole month (November) outlining the hell out of this, and have a 16,000 word outline, as well as 6,000 words written so far. I’ll be honest, I was hoping to get a very, very rough first draft done by today (or at least a 30,000 word chunk), as I had the outline in hand. But due to not getting some checks I’d hoped for, I had to spend December hustling freelance gigs pretty hard as I ran out of money in November, so I wasn’t able to focus on fiction like I had from January through October. But 22,000 words of work on this book in two months isn’t shabby. And by having an outline in hand, I’m expecting the writing ahead on Hurricane Fever to be quick, as I’ve puzzled through a lot of stuff that usually then hangs me up in the draft process. Plus, I’ve been researching and filing away tidbits for this book for a year and a half now, so I’m ready to be writing it.

All in all, this is the most productive I’ve ever been in my life (just shy of 200,000 words of new fiction), and it’s thanks partially to making more money off fiction and being able to focus on just that, and to the burst methods I was blogging about. I didn’t exhaust myself, and I did this despite a) a month of traveling for the release of Arctic Rising and b) a month of vertigo that made looking at a screen impossible and c) December freelancing.

Were I to maneuver myself into a similar high writing income situation as I did for 2012 down the road, I know I’m capable of blowing previous years out of the water.

Stuff that was published this year

Arctic Rising, my near future eco-thriller, came out. Good reviews, including a very nice one on NPR, rocketed this one up to graze the Bookscan extended bestseller list. The gamble when my editor and I mutually decided to go in a new direction seems to have been a good one. This book sold out two printings and when into a third. It was assigned reading to all incoming freshman at my local university. I did a small book tour to promote it, and promptly got horrifically sick before getting to the East Coast and spent two days on C.C. Finlay and Rae Carson’s couch, which was as close as I got to the airport before fever hit.

As Arctic Rising dropped in February, a lot of people are already thinking of it as a late 2011 book, which saddens me. But the paperback just came out, and I’m hoping this gives it a second round of fresh life, as the first round was pretty awesome.

Arctic Rising is also the first novel of mine to get some interest from Hollywood, though nothing has firmed up to announceable levels yet (publishing, everything is slooowwww, until it’s hyper fast). It was nice to be spending a couple months forwarding inquiries to my agent, though.

I love the book, I’m grateful it’s selling on a new level. It means I smile whenever I get the occasional ‘you’re a libtard hippy who believes in the global conspiracy of global warming’ sort of email rage that the book engenders.

The Apocalypse Ocean launched to backers in the middle of the year, and print copies got mailed out later in the year. At my store, there are still some limited editions available. The eBook is out for all the platforms and selling (as I write this, it’s in the top 100 of Amazon’s Space Opera books, which it has popped onto right when I first pushed it live, and then slowly fell off of, then popped back onto thanks to some linkage and reviews, so thanks!).

Since it really launched to the general public a couple of weeks ago, reviews and word of mouth is only just now gearing up, so I’m not really sure what the impact of this one was. Hopefully fans of Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose find it a worthy addition to the series. Enough so that I can entertain doing the 5th book to wrap the series up.

I also put together a new short story collection, Mitigated Futures, for Kickstarter backers. It’s going to be available shortly for the general public, but all Kickstarter backers got the collection. I was thrilled with the amazing cover that Jenn Reese did for it, and the physical copy is just amazing to hold. Backers set out to make me write two new stories for it. One, A Game of Rats and Dragon was reprinted at Lightspeed Magazine (where it became my most commented story on evar!), and the other, The Rainy Season, ended up being a fun challenge to write as the concept and idea where dictated by an outside source. A new experience!

I also got to check off something from my bucket list. I’ve always wanted to edit an anthology. Joe Monti and I put together one for Lee and Low Books called Diverse Energies. This YA collection features lots of characters of color, writers of various backgrounds, and hopefully adds some new voices to the conversation. Certainly the reviews have been strong, and I’ve gotten some feedback from teachers who would love to use something like this in the classroom for younger readers who like genre and are starving for diversity. I’m very proud of having put together an anthology that could fill that gap.

Last, but not least, six short stories appeared this year:

-The Found Girl (w/ David Klecha) – Clarkesworld Magazine (September, 2012)
-The Rainy Season – Mitigated Futures (August, 2012)
-A Game of Rats and Dragon – Mitigated Futures (June, 2012)
- – reprinted in Lightspeed Magazine (November, 2012)
-Jungle Walkers (w/ David Klecha) – Armored (March, 2012)
-Press Enter to Execute – Fireside Magazine #1 (Spring, 2012)
-A Tinker of Warhoon – Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom (Spring, 2012)

Also, a short story I wrote with David Klecha, A Militant Peace, appeared in The Year’s Best Science Fiction #29. So that was cool.

Metatropolis: Cascadia, the audio anthology I was a part of with several other writers, won an Audie Award for Original Work.

All in all, a very, very good year.

Looking forward

Right now my plan is to finish writing Hurricane Fever while juggling the new extra freelance gig I have started, and watching how things go with The Apocalypse Ocean and Mitigated Futures, the two direct books I’ve just launched. I’m waiting on some potential news, stuff that I need to know is in hand before making plans going forward. So to be honest, other than writing Hurricane Fever, most of next year is sort of a blank to me.

Due to the fact I agreed to work this freelance job, I know this year won’t be as productive as 2012. But I’ve put enough hard work last year, I’m hoping that it pays off and puts me in a good position to pay off debt. I didn’t incur much in 2012, but I did have to use a credit card a few times here and there, and I wasn’t paying down debt incurred while ill in early 2009 and recovering in 2009/2010 that has been a weight on my shoulders still (I paid off a big chunk in 2010 and a lesser chunk in 2011). Working the extra freelance gig assures some financial stability and a period of building savings.

I’m planning on making sure my existing Xenowealth books get into more people’s hands in non-US territories where I have the rights floating around for them (more on that to come later in January) and I’m planning something pretty cool for the launch of Mitigated Futures (more on that to come in January).

I have a secret, small hope that I can write 200,000 words again. But I’m not going to kick myself if I don’t get it. I’m also hoping to do better at posting at this blog, however it does get sacrificed on the altar of that 200,000 words. I post in between writing, not before. I can see the loss in traffic when I drop off posting regularly, but I have to prioritize the fiction, of course.

And that is what I’m up to, moving forward.

As to what new books will be coming out when, when I know things for sure, I will of course post about it here!

Email of the day: rage quitting me

You’re a good author, and I enjoy your works. I’m happy to spend money for your books.

But I’m sick to death of your soft-headed, left-liberal politics – especially when you act oh-so-superior to those of us who disagree with your one-government-fits-all, pseudo-scientific, anti-individual rights views.

You don’t understand the U.S. Constitution, you don’t understand much about history, and you certainly don’t understand much about actual science (vs. pseudoscientfic ‘global warming’ religious views).

You should understand that most folks whose views you’ve insulted wouldn’t keep buying your books (though I’ll avoid the ‘global warming’ nonsense); they’d just refuse to spend their money with you. I’m a bit different, in that I try to realize you’re probably a product of the US public school system, and have been brainwashed with left-liberal propaganda all your life, and separate your art (except for the ‘global warming’ nonsense’) from your views.

It’s not smart to insult actual and potential readers, especially when one sings for his supper and has undergone all the trials and tribulations you’ve detailed. Maybe some day you’ll realize this; in the meantime, I am no longer going to subscribe to your syndication feed, and so I might miss out on future works of yours which I’d like to purchase from you.

But that’s how it is – I’m not going to be lectured to by someone with whom I’ve spent my hard-earned money. And it’s all because of your pseudo-intellectual arrogance.

Next time I see a six year old shot in the back eleven times I’ll think of you fondly. Good bye. (for the blog: see, that’s where I actually do ‘act superior.’ I mean, if I’m being typecast, let’s have some fun!).

If you really are a dedicated follower, you’d know I didn’t grow up in the US or attend much school in the US. I’m only liberal because you think I am, I tend to score right of center on all political makeup quizzes (and I’d be considered right of center by most of the European politics).

Also: Please don’t ever email me again, you have been added to my kill filter along with those people who tell me the same thing, only say (let’s cross out say and put in, add for this, as I’m copy editing myself) that they’re unfollowing me because I buy into multiculturalism and have the affront to force black main characters on them because of PC brainwashed liberalism and then go on to explain to me why black people would never make it to space because they’re stupid. (PS, since the day I started publishing I’ve been getting one of those every other month or so from fans of these same common beliefs, so I’m actually really inured to this passive aggressive ‘I’ll never buy your books again style of email, it’s fairly unoriginal).

Good bye, good riddance.

(And this last paragraph is for the blog: those of you who stand on the other side of the debate but still read the links and think I’m at least thought provoking, thank you for your time and know that I don’t assume you’re all like this dude. But he’s representative of a trickle of emails I’ve gotten since posting the article ‘Rice‘ on Friday).

How I used Kickstarter to reboot a book series, and my career (and maybe my life?)

Hello.

Some of you who will read this won’t know me from Adam. But the short version is that I’m a science fiction writer. I write and freelance full time since 2006, the ratio of each to my total income changing based on the uncertainties of both lines of income (some years the fiction income mostly pays the bills, some others freelance). I’ve seen 50+ short stories appear in various venues since 2000. I’ve been translated into 16 different languages.

I’m probably most known for writing a HALO novel that hit the NYT Bestseller list, though I’ve written many other science fiction novels. My entire bibliography is here. I’m 33 years old, and I’ve dreamt of being an SF writer since 14. I sold my first story at 19 and have been working hard at this since.

This is a long post. I don’t know why, it came out this way. I tried to make it short. But I had so much to share, and every time I sliced into something short I cut out all of the nuance, and joy, and information I was trying to share. So I made it long again. And I like it.

Bear with me.

Seriously, this is like 5,000 words long. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.

Welcome to the Xenowealth

My first science fiction novel debuted in 2006. Crystal Rain was flavored with a science fiction stew of Caribbean refugees fled to a lost world, steampunk, a dangerous dreadlocked cyborg in a trench coat, and an ancient evil pressing down on our heroes. The first of my Xenowealth novels, it was followed by Ragamuffin in 2007 (a Nebula nominee), and Sly Mongoose in 2008. I was in my mid to late twenties. I wanted to write more. I wanted to grab the dream I had since I was 14 (and indeed in 2008, after much hustling, most of my money was coming from fiction and I was pretty much living the life I’d been striving toward).

The books didn’t do too well in chain bookstores, each time getting a smaller order. As we know from real estate: location location location. So each book sold less in bookstores. It was quite dramatic with the step between Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin (where a small buy-in from Wal-Mart even buoyed first time reader numbers, but was not repeated for following books). And yet…

…readers of the series compensated for the loss of chain bookstore placement by switching to ordering online off Amazon. Independent stores were still really nice to me (special shout out to Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, which always was responsible for moving the highest number of copies). Library orders still remained okay. Sales didn’t increase, but they weren’t dying. In fact, Sly Mongoose slightly grew in hardcover (it just came out in paperback this year after a 3 year delay, so those numbers are still trickling in). Tor had agreed to buy two more books in the series, giving me my planned 5 book series.

But I am nothing if not a realist. In later 2008, when I met my editor after seeing that Sly Mongoose was barely carried in any bookstores we had an honest discussion about the chances the 4th Xenowealth book would have. It would probably get even less bookstore placement, being harder for readers to stumble on. Based on the core, awesome, dedicated readers I already have, we guessed that it would do okay. Just like Sly Mongoose it would get enough readers to offset the loss in bookstore readers, and indies would help. But overall, I wouldn’t be growing sales much. Just ticking up slightly.

Some have wondered if my publisher killed the series. No. It was a mutual decision hashed out over a business lunch, the topic raised by me. My editor and I thought, hey, let’s change direction. I started working on a novel called Arctic Rising.

In which life sucks for a while and I don’t write much (skip if you don’t want to read depressing shit):

Life being life, I also promptly was hospitalized for a nasty genetic heart defect a couple months or so later, suffered a pulmonary embolism as a side effect of exploratory surgery, and was left with my health, confidence, and stamina shattered. Despite good health insurance, I had been dumb enough to have this happen at the end of the year, and was in hospital both at the end of the year and at the start of the next. Doubling my deductible. My wife was just about to give birth to twins.

Yeah.

Also, I had a few hours of stamina every day, and doctors wouldn’t tell me whether my heard defect meant I could drop dead at any moment or if I had a good chance at living on. So for a year I didn’t work on novel-length work, as I had no decent personal expectation that I would live long enough to finish the damn thing. Also, my savings was wiped out, credit extended, as I could only work a few hours a day (and was thus earning less as I worked less, a horrible cycle). I focused on the highest per-word work I could do. Friends (and boy in situations do you find out who *they* are) helped me find some freelance gigs that helped. I wrote some short fiction where I could.

By September 2009 I’d lived almost a year, and begun to suspect that I might stumble through a bit longer. I began to work a bit on Arctic Rising again as I could. And collapsing in the Canadian health system, where doctors will happily tell you what they think about your chance of living because they’re not worried about lawsuits, really helped me. A heart specialist in Montreal said he’d bet that I died of something else before my heart defect, and said that I had a very survivable version of it (thus, with one sentence and five minutes and some paper towels while I broke down, changing everything for me).

I felt I could risk writing novels again.

Getting slowly back in the ring

For the next two years I worked on Arctic Rising as best I could in between freelance work. I sold my little red sports car to give me breathing room and time to write. I stole hours where I could. I lived lean. I got it done. And by September of 2011 I knew it was scheduled to come out from Tor in February 2012. From August 2008 to February 2012 there would be a giant hole in my novel writing career, but I was finally moving forward.

During this time, people kept asking me a single question: When was I going to write another Xenowealth book? I’d been thinking about this for a while.

From 2008 to 2011 things had been swinging around a lot (hell, since 2000). I’ve always been one to keep my basket diversified. I’d released ebooks of short stories as creative commons to see how they spread, or were read. I’d sold them through Fictionwise. I’d worked with medium sized presses, smaller ones, and one of the largest. I’d written a media tie in novel that hit some bestseller lists.

Lots of people kept suggesting that if I just released another Xenowealth book digitally, I’d suddenly be on my way to riches and gold. But I spent enough time reading through Kindle forums to see people selling single digits worth of books to know there are no guarantees. I’d released a short story collection to test what the lifecycle of an eBook looked like. How covers affected it. My feeling was, there might be some money in doing this. But it was a risky gamble. And I had a family to take care of. It was easy for *other* people to suggest I spend a year’s worth of productivity on a gamble.

But Kickstarter.

Kickstarter makes things interesting

I’d been watching authors and other artistic types use Kickstarter to good affect. And the powerful part of it was the ability to test your potential market. Kickstarter took pledges (or pre-orders) from everyone, and didn’t withdraw the money unless you raised a certain amount. That caught my interest right away, because I knew then that this was a way to try something different. In my view, this was more potentially disruptive than just eBooks. Because sometimes it’s getting seed money to kick that generator, to get it to fire, is sometimes the hardest trick.

I was freelancing to keep from drowning, and snatching writing time while underwater and holding my breath. I’d been doing that since the day I got out of the hospital.

But I started working with my friend Pablo Defendini to create some custom art for what would become the next book. I began working on a video for the project, and I signed up for Kickstarter. I mulled the idea over with friends I trusted. I thought, at the very least, it was a moment that would let me see if there was enough fan support to write another book in the series. We could let it go, if not. And move on.

So in October 2011, I took a deep breath and went for it.

What I did

I created a Kickstarter page. I created a video with the custom graphics Pablo had made, with me giving a brief synopsis of the novel to be, and a lot of explanation as to how Kickstarter worked (it was a little over a year ago, it was a newer concept).

I researched every similar project I could, and read the Kickstarter (and Kickstarter lesson articles) blog summaries of statistics.

I decided that I would a) keep to as few levels of support (rewards for backers) as I could, as many indicated too much choice creates choice fatigue or confusion and b) focus on the $25 and $50 price levels that Kickstarter indicated are the two most popular.

I set the eBook as the $25 reward, and the printed limited edition hardcover as the $50.

I promised to start the novel January 1st, and finish it sometime in the middle of the year (I kept using July as a target month).

I created a spreadsheet, where I then ‘gamed’ various scenarios based on averages that Kickstarter showed for successful projects (most people support at 25, then 50, and so on).

I took a look at a print on demand publisher, Lulu, and eyeballed out what a per-book cost was going to be. For the hardcover, Lulu estimated ~$20. I added in $5 shipping and handling on my end, I wasn’t sure how much they would charge, so I guessed $30 a book to be a very safe place to be. I gamed out how different levels of support would affect the overall profit of the project, and came up with a final price.

Back in 2006, five years earlier, I sold my first novel for roughly the bog standard minimum wage of genre novel writing. The mythical $5,000 advance. I earned way more than that in royalties once it earned out, and translation sales, audio rights, and the SF Bookclub addition. My advances are higher now, but this was my first attempt. It felt right to compare.

So I figured, I needed to at least beat $5,000 in profit. Printing fees looked like they could be anywhere from $2,000 and on up. I set aside money for design (Pablo does amazing work, man, and deserved to be paid as he does this stuff professionally, as he was doing a cover design, an interior PDF for the print copy, and so on). There was shipping. There was copy editing that would need done. There was the 10% in fees that would be taken out (5% to Kickstarter, 5% to Amazon payments). I looked at it and figured, $10,000. Minimum needed to make it work.

So that was the set up. The Apocalypse Ocean. $10,000 needed to fund it to match the same sort of base scenario as my first novel.

What was I hoping?

I was hoping to squeak over the 10K. The five figures seemed like a barrier, a dangerous one. Some of my friend suggested lowering it, but I know I needed that to do this right.

I was hoping, at the time, to build my portfolio. I had short stories, two collections, all making a little bit of money each month. Not a lot, but a regular flow. The idea was that I’d work on this book in between the freelancing, pushing myself to finish it in between the cracks. I’d taken over two years to write Arctic Rising, I knew the sequel was going to take a long time as well. But this would maybe make me some extra, much needed money. Novels sell better than short stories or collections.

And, I wanted to get closer to giving fans all five books. Really.

When it gets down to it, if I were only in it for nothing but the money, I’d be a stock broker. Not a novelist. There’s love here.

That was where I was. Hoping that it would, down the line, help things out.

And I wanted a win. I’ll be honest.

Hell, I needed a solid win. Yes I’d turned in Arctic Rising, but I had no idea how it was going to do. And my novel writing career had this huge, growing gap in it. I wanted a successful Kickstarter.

After treading water I wanted to just hit a project out of the park, feel enthusiasm, and go for broke without risking hurting anyone.

What makes a successful Kickstarter?

I think there are three things that make for a Kickstarter success:

1) An intriguing product

2) Created by an entity that has proven it can deliver it

3) Created by an entity that has a following (or publicity reach)

Any two of those create an atmosphere where I think success is more likely. Hit all three, you’re likely to see something interesting.

Look over successful Kickstarters, you’ll find a lot of doubles and triples, and very few of the above successful as singles. I’ve seen even famous people stick up a Kickstarter, people who should have a huge following, and fizzle because they had not fulfilled #1 and #2. I’ve seen plenty of #1s, by people who had no following or proof they could deliver it. Fizzle.

I’ve seen lots of projects that hit #1 and #3, and watched them struggle to deliver it. That’s made a lot of news in the last six months. But they still got funded. And I bet still will.

What I had was a little bit of a following. My blog gets two thousand user sessions a day or higher. At the time a few thousand people followed me on twitter. And I knew that there were some fans of the Xenowealth out there, because they asked me about writing another book a lot. So I had to trust the books.

I knew I could prove #2. I’d written a number of novels.

So I had #2 for sure, and some hazy amount of #3 after 11 years of publishing stories and novels and people reading Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose. Those were my two, for sure, strong legs.

I made a case for #1 in the video about the project, and hoped that people would find it intriguing.

And it worked!

Kickstarterfund

A couple of thousand dollars of orders for a new Xenowealth book came in during the first few days. That was when most of the action happens, so it was exciting. But at only 25% of the amount, I was worried. Many successful projects funded in the first couple days. I might, I realized, end up rejected by my own readers in public in front of everyone.

That was the fear, wasn’t it? That had everyone asking me if I really wanted to do this. It’s so public.

But rejection and failure are just business. It means you tried. And you’ll never get a win if you don’t at least swing for one.

I love my blog readers, fans, and twitter followers, so I did my best not to constantly spam them about the Kickstarter after the first few days. I tried to settle into a once a week thing.

I knew from the Kickstarter blog that 90% of all projects that hit the 50% mark get funded. So it took from September 18 to October 1st before that happened. For 13 days, it just kept inching forward as we went through the middle muddle. But on October 1st I celebrated with a beer, knowing that 90% was not a bad coin toss. We spent the next 15 days inching forward from 50% to 75%, increasing the odds.

And then it seemed that people couldn’t stand the tension, because on the 15th a host of pledges came in to kick the project up over the 10K mark. In the end, $11,652 came in, meaning that the little extra covered the Kickstarter and Amazon fees.

There it was. In a month and a half, I’d be starting a new novel in an old, treasured universe I’d started on years ago.

I now owed my readers a book!

How it changed everything…

Here’s the thing. I’d been working three freelance gigs. And right as this Kickstarter happened, one of them folded. I spent December running the figures on my spreadsheet, forecasting cash flow. Thanks to gig #3, I’d set some cash aside. Not a lot, but enough to cover printing costs and then a little extra. Combined with the Kickstarter money, I looked at my cash burn rate, and realized I could do something truly, insanely, crazy:

I could quit gig #2, stick with only gig #1, and I had enough money to make it for nine months. Maybe ten.

I had a taste, in 2008, of only working one freelance gig and then spending all other time writing. It was the thing I’d worked toward since I was fourteen. I’d always juggled in various amounts, but never down to a single freelance gig on the side while writing furiously.

After talking it over with Emily (my wife), I did it. I jumped.

I came up for breath thanks to the Kickstarter and was writing. Not just moments underwater. Full on. We lived tight, and it wasn’t easy, but I was able to really put some fuel in the furnace.

I wrote The Apocalypse Ocean, I wrote short stories, I wrote novellas, I wrote another novel called The Trove, I wrote a nice chunk of another novel, Hurricane Fever, I completely revised another project. I dreamed words, people. It was good.

Those freelance gigs, I love them. But the writer in me got to stretch some serious wings and soar. And I’d been furled up and caught up in that treading for so long, it was a great feeling. In this last 11 months, I’ve learned a lot about how to do this better, how to harness the energy, and what I can do when unleashed.

I recently accepted an offer from gig #2. I have just two gigs now. I know now I was burned out from juggling 3 freelance gigs and writing. Going to just one gig and writing gave me recovery time. I have the tools to handle two and writing. Ultimately, food goes back on the table. I’m not unhappy in the slightest. I’m ahead. I made it. And I couldn’t have done it without that injection, that nugget that Kickstarter provided when I was really down low.

I’m glad I went for the win. Because I was able to go on an author book tour for Arctic Rising when it came out. To speak at Tools of Change in New York (which was amazing). To write, write, write.

There’s a spark in me, now, that was getting flickery just due to plain exhaustion.

Yes, this year has been stressful. Great goodness has it been. Watching that money leak out slowly over the eleven months while trying to make other deals happen; that’s been crazy tough. I’d been hoping something would strike before I had to go get a freelance gig #2, and I could continue the run. Arctic Rising is doing well, but it takes a while for that money to reach me. There are other things percolating in the distance. Having the time to write nearly full time gave me the time to pitch some ideas, work angles a little harder.

So I wouldn’t trade it the last eleven months. Not for anything.

Why not do another Kickstarter? I was asked this recently, but I explained it thusly:

I am still working on studying The Apocalypse Ocean and how it did. I did Kickstart it, and when all was said and done, with extra sales outside of the Kickstarter, and a pledge from a bookstore for a number of copies, I think I ended up making a $7,000 profit. But that is not a living. So now The Apocalypse Ocean is up for sale through Kindle, B&N, and Kobo, and iTunes. I need to get a sense for how it does for a few months to get a sense of the entire book’s lifecycle. Will the backlist sales be solid? Or very meagre? My guess is that if it does as well as the novella I have up, then this will have been smart.

But also, I didn’t want to ask people to pony up for a Kickstarter until everything I’ve set out to do with current Kickstarters is delivered. That means everyone has their limited editions of The Apocalypse Ocean and are reading them. And I did another Kickstarter, a short story collection called Mitigated Futures. Backers didn’t have their copies yet. I couldn’t ask again. No, I wanted both the data on sales after the projects and for people to have been satisfied and taken care of.

It’s a point of honor.

Hey, how did you print the book?

Well, that’s a pretty cool story, actually. One of the backers who got The Apocalypse Ocean twittered that they were “high quality, I mean, like Subterranean Press quality.” When I first ran the figures I knew it was going to be expensive per book. As I got near time to print them, Pablo and I got copies from Lulu to check out the process. But I was also emailing around asking, and looking, for alternatives. This was part of the learning process!

Lulu wasn’t too bad. It was actually better than I expected. I’d feared what print on demand would be. It’s come very far in just a couple of years.

But Bill at Subterranean was able to recommend me an offset printer he worked with, and the quote, it turned out, was not too bad. It was more expensive, for sure, than the Lulu run. But… for an extra $800 I could finagle a very, very high quality printing.

I couldn’t do this with the short story collection Mitigated Futures that I had Kickstartered later in this year. Too few copies. But I could with the novel.

And in the end, as I mentioned, if this was only about the money, I wouldn’t be here. The chance to print a 200 copy limited edition run of the fourth Xenowealth book in high quality paper stock?

I didn’t even think twice, really. It was an investment in my future, as someone who could deliver on execution. And because it would become properly collectible.

Mistakes, as they say, were made

And now, to the brutal self honesty part I promised would come.

I have made mistakes.

Boy have I ever.

I launched the project at noon. Because I was writing and fixing things that morning. So I set it to go live. Rookie. That meant I missed four hours of first day, the biggest day, of word-of-mouth and fundraising. The momentum was slow from day one. People love piling onto a winning project. Mine did not come out the gate strong for The Apocalypse Ocean. Next time, I set it to go live at 7am.

I set the eBook price too high. $25. It worked, because fans backed the project and jumped aboard. I think I could risk focusing harder on a $10 eBook. Then maybe a $25 trade paper, and then move up.

While I got backers their eBooks as fast as I could, roughly by the deadline, I vastly underestimated how long the project management of creating a print book would take. Physical copies had to be mailed around. Proofed. Schedules had to be lined up. It was all… fiddly. I thought August/September I would have books delivered. Instead, it ended up being early December.

To be fair, part of that was because I switched from going with Lulu to going with a real printer.

I don’t even regret that. Next time around, I know where I’d be bringing a novel if we have preorders. But I spent a lot of time making first timer mistakes.

Some have asked if this makes me way more interested in going it alone. But the truth is, I really, really like having a team around me that can take stuff out of my brain-worrying area so I can focus. I’ve talked to people who are interested in helping authors run a Kickstarter, it’s something I will ponder in the future.

With the collection of short stories I did, Mitigated Futures, my distractibility ended up costing me a whole print run. I didn’t spot an error. I had to reorder the hardcovers with the fix. I was the one who approved the final, it was on me. Again, a big mistake.

Another mistake was that I really botched the $100 backer level with The Apocalypse Ocean. If you ordered the $50, you got a limited edition hardcover. For $100, you got it signed, and your name in the back of the back as a backer. For $250 you got that plus reading the book *as I wrote it!*

When I was designing the Kickstarter, I overvalued the live read along, which I thought would snag a few more people. Halfway through, I asked the $250 level people for permission to tweak things, and bring the $100 crew into the live read along. I didn’t get enough replies quickly enough to feel confident about shifting everything. It was my first time, I was nervous about breaking trust.

Next time around, I would put the live read along at $100, to see if it would pull some people out of the $50.

Toward the end of the The Apocalypse Ocean’s print run, I felt I’d communicated what was happening not too well, some readers felt compelled to keep asking what was going on. Some people don’t want over-explained or bugged, but I needed to be clearer about timelines. And if I wasn’t, to be okay with bugging people.

Another thing I won’t do: I won’t take orders after the Kickstarter closes. Keeping track of those was… really hard. Those people didn’t get notified at the same time, it added extra stress.

What were the negative sides of using Kickstarter?

There weren’t many negative sides. But there were a few things that stood out.

One was that owing your readers a new project, directly, meant they had a stake and ownership in you in a way that is not normally experienced. So… there was pressure to deliver. However, I’d been living under various sorts of pressure, it only really upset me when I got a weird dizzy spell period that affected my ability to focus on a monitor and use a computer. Falling behind freaked me out.

Two, some people started hitting me up about their Kickstarter. Sure, there were many people doing Kickstarters that I loved, and backed, or raised the word about and loved hearing from. But there were also people I’d never met, never talked to, didn’t know, insinuating that since they spread the word for me (and in these cases I’m not even sure they did) I should do the same for them. I felt it should be about stuff we genuinely loved, not logrolling. But it sometimes got a little passive/aggressive.

Three, a lot of people assumed I was now a fighter against the evil New York corporate publishing system and would be taking it to the man. I’m sorry to report that I’m still a corporate sellout. There were some weird reactions.

Would you do it again?

I get asked a lot, would I do it again?

I have a nuanced reply. I think, for short story collections of mine, Kickstarter has been an obviously solid experiment. With Mitigated Futures, I had already written the stories. A couple of a new ones were commissioned. We did the books with Lulu, which is not as cool as traditional offset print run, but still solid. The big bonus was interior art for the collection and everyone got their eBooks really quickly. Right at the end of the month the Kickstarter happened.

For novels, I still think it is powerful and potentially transformative. It gave me the money I needed to get this off the ground. It came along at just the right moment to help give me a sorely needed boost. But so far I’m not making as much as I do for novels like Arctic Rising.

But I’m doing two things here. I’m playing a long game, hoping that the royalties on a book that I wrote and own directly will help me out. And… I wrote the fourth book of the Xenowealth series!

It got done, and it’s out there. And it’ll find new readers. And things will will build. And, maybe sometime very soon, or maybe a little further out, I’ll come back again to do the final book.

But for now, I’m writing Hurricane Fever. The sequel to Arctic Rising. And, yeah, it’s a lot of fun. That’s my focus. That has to be done.

But I have no doubt the final book, Desolation’s Gap, will be written. If I finish Hurricane Fever very soon, and I see that The Apocalypse Ocean has a solid stream of sales… then it will be sooner. Maybe even over this summer. That would be cool. That would be my dream. Maybe it will happen. Maybe it won’t. I don’t know.

But if it’s really a trickle then I’ll wait until the sales build and give it time. Like a good wine. And the book will come along then, after some aging, while I pursue some other stuff. But the lessons, and the tools that Kickstarter gave me, they’re all still here. There are more possibilities in the air.

As a writer, it’s a good time. I can work with a large publisher, I can work with a medium sized publisher, I can work with smaller publishers. I can put projects directly up as an eBook. I can use Kickstarter.

This is a modern, diversified author, using the tools at their disposal. It’s all good. There is no one True Way, there are, instead, lots of opportunities.

Thank you!

To all of you who backed the book, and made it real. We did it! Pepper lives!

So many of you spread the word, cheerleaded me, and just offered to help. Doing this reminded me that I had a readership that enjoyed what I wrote and was passionate about my stuff. That really made a difference. More than many will ever realize. I live to tell these stories, and seeing them valued in real time like that was surprisingly empowering. So… thank you.

Buy the book! Spread the word!

Seriously, if you’ve read this far, I have poured my little heart out. I got ready to launch on Friday, but yanked everything down. It wasn’t the time. But today, Monday, I’d like to re-launch The Apocalypse Ocean (and will be telling everyone it’s here). And I’d ever so appreciate your help in spreading this little story you read. Or anything about the book.

Here’s the book. Buy it, rate it, spread it around:

The ebook is available [directly from me] on [Amazon Kindle] or [B&N Nook] or [Kobo Books] or [iBooks]