The Umpires are Human

My chat pinged.

Them: Hey.
Me: Yo.
Them: I would REALLY like it if you weighed in on the thing in the forum.
Me: The what-now?
Them: On the forum. Someone linked an op-ed piece and it turned into a “big five bash” by people who would dance a jig if they got picked up. Your perspective might help.

As a frequent victim of what I now call Rule 386, I was wary. There’s not much use (and a great deal of time lost) in my getting embroiled in some internet debate on the goods and bads of the publishing world.

Still, it was a request from a friend, so in I went.

Luckily, the discussion wasn’t as bad as I’d expected, but I did spot a number of the familiar themes.

So many gatekeepers are wearing “the next Hunger Games” glasses.

That phrase really worked better a few years ago when it was Harry Potter glasses.

Because he wore glasses. Nevermind.

The Enormous Five aren’t just looking for the next best-seller. They decide — before seeing it — what the next best-seller will look like, meaning a narrower and narrower idea of what they they’ll publish. Standard megastar bestseller mindset.

It’s not enough to call them the Big Five, anymore, I guess. They don’t seem monolithic and inhuman enough?

Reversion of rights to the author is a joke in most contracts now.

I’ve actually got a funny/awesome story to tell about that, but I’m going to save it for next week.

Writers should just publish their own work and let people decide.

Which, though the original poster might not have intended it, implies quite strongly the editors and agents within publishing houses or literary agencies are not people.

Really, I think that’s what a lot of those quotes are saying, and that puts me in mind of one final quote:

Mechanistic dehumanization occurs when features of human nature (cognitive flexibility, warmth, agency) are denied to the subject. Targets of mechanistic dehumanization are seen as cold, rigid, lacking agency, and likened to machines or objects. Mechanistic dehumanization is usually employed on an interpersonal basis (e.g. when a person is seen as a means to another’s end).

That’s what I want to talk about.

As a writer, I’m in an unusual situation, and I have been for quite a long time. I’m blessed to know quite a few people (there’s that word again) in traditional publishing — published writers, editors, and of course agents. I have some experience with what it’s like to be on the “creator” side of things, and at the same time I get a fly-on-the wall view of what it’s like for those ‘in the industry’ — I’ve even written about it. Sharing my life with Kate has given me the ability to speak frankly and (often) sanely with my own agent and editor.

Now, I have my own problems with traditional publishing. They are well-documented.

But I don’t have a problem with the people in publishing. I disagree with those who imply that agents and editors are just looking for the next Lemony Hunger Potter, because I’ve seen those editors and agents fight for books they believe in.

Like mine, for one easy example. Hidden Things, for all that it may be beloved by tens of dozens of people, walked a long road to publication. My agent worked with me through a complete edit before we signed a contract, and my HarperCollins editor did the same (again, before we had a contract). That’s significant.

You know what ‘before we had a contract’ means, really?

It means ‘before there was even the slightest chance they would get paid for their time.’

All that work was to get the book to the point where it would pass muster with the other parts of the agency and/or publishing house.

Some might wonder why they do that, but I live with an agent, so I’ve already figured out the answer.


Once upon a time, Kate worked in New York; part of the second largest literary agency in the city (so large and well-recognized that — to this day — they still don’t bother with a web site). She worked her way up, sacrificing so that she could live and work at the heart of publishing.

She for damn sure wasn’t doing it for the money — Manhattan isn’t cheap, and working past six every day, hauling twenty pounds of manuscripts home every weekend (to read on her own time), and pulling down ‘specialist’ wages left her about enough for a rich assortment of ramen noodle flavors.

That went on for over a decade.

Five years ago, this very day, Kate and I got married. Our anniversary is, very nearly, also the anniversary of her own agency. In those five years Kate has (at my conservative estimate) read approximately three hundred twenty thousand pages of queries, partials, and manuscripts. That’s three full-length young adult novels a week for half a decade, and doesn’t include reading work from her signed authors, dealing with contracts, handling perpetually late payments, and all the rest.

She shows no sign of slowing down.

Further, as much as I love my wife (and count myself so very, very lucky), I know this: my agent does the same thing. My editor does the same thing. Your agent and editor (even the one you haven’t found yet) does the same thing.

There is only one reason someone would do that, and it’s not to find the next the next commercial hit.

It is, simply, love of a good story, to a degree that would shame most of us.

I hate the phrase “gate keeper” applied to agents and editors. It turns these people — these very human, motivated, story-loving people — into some kind of minor boss you have to fight to get to the next level of a video game.

They aren’t.

They are, in fact, the allies you recruit to ensure victory. Anyone with any sense should count themselves lucky to have them.

Agent, Author, Editor. (You didn’t seriously think I’d finish this post without a gaming screenshot, did you?)

Yes, agents must be particular about what work they represent. Sturgeon’s Law applies.

Yes, editors must be particular about what work they will take on, and must justify that work to marketing, payroll, et cetera, ad nauseum.

Yes, these people (again, people) must judge, and sometimes the judgement doesn’t go your way, and that sucks.

But the Umpires are Human.

Today, remember that. If you have the means or the desire, say thanks. Do it for me.

Call it an anniversary gift.

If You Have to Steal My Book, Steal My Book

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to share dinner with a guy from Amazon’s KDP and CreateSpace services (e-publishing to Kindle and Amazon-enabled print-on-demand, respectively). Also there: a couple other authors with published work out on the market. The conversation turned to ebooks and publishing and things like Digital Rights Management and all that sort of stuff; it was sort of inevitable.

I ended up arguing with one of the other authors a bit, because we had (and probably still have) fairly different views on these topics.

“I hate DRM,” I said. “I hate anything that says ‘since criminals theoretically exist, we need to put something in place that treats everyone like criminals, in order to deal with a few theoretically bad people.’ Even more, I hate something that artificially limits one story medium – e-books – so that it’s as equally crippled as some other medium – books.” (This was in regards to big publishers putting a usage cap on any ebooks purchased by libraries, which we’d already been talking about, and which I’ve previously opined is just a publishing company trying to charge rent on products the purchaser should entirely own.)

“Books do wear out,” said the other author.

“Sure,” I replied. “But e-books don’t, and there’s no reasonable excuse to force them to do so. Making e-books ‘expire’ because a paper book would wear out is like engineering cars to fail after thirty thousand miles because a horse would die if you rode it that far. Don’t confuse the actual story with the bucket being used to carry it.”

“You’d give up the sales you’d make from libraries needing to repurchase your e-book?”

“Absolutely!” People at another table glanced our way and I lowered my voice. “Look, I get paid… what? A buck per e-book sale? Maybe a buck and a half? Do you think I’d give up a buck and a half if it meant twenty five more people would read the story at the library? If I could be sure that would happen, I would happily give away a hundred or a thousand times that, because it would create readers who’d seek out my next story, out of hundreds or thousands of people who don’t currently know me and don’t care. There is absolutely no margin in restricting e-books in that fashion: in forcing a librarian to ask ‘Do I have the budget to re-order a new copy of this story?’ when the competition for their dwindling budget is always growing.”

The other author got that look on their face that says they don’t have any kind of counterargument, and aren’t happy about it. “That doesn’t have anything to do with normal DRM, though,” they muttered.

“Let me tell you about DRM,” I said. “When my book came out, one of my buddies – jokingly – said he wasn’t going to buy it, he was just going to wait until the e-book showed up on piratebay and download it. I told him when he found it on there, to tell me where, so I could post the location on my website and point people there if they liked.”


“And when he does, I will do that, and here’s why: most people — hear me out — most people are not grabbing the e-book off a pirate site because they hate the idea of paying the author: they are doing it because either (a) they want to do with an e-book what they can’t do on Amazon and what they CAN do with a paper book in a store: read the first couple chapters to see if they’ll like it or (b) they already bought the story in some other format and feel they’ve bought the story and deserve that story in other formats — which is a stance I happen to agree with, because I care about whether they bought the story, not whether they paid for a particular format.”

“Actually,” the amazon guy said “we’ve just started doing that with music. If you’ve bought a CD on amazon – like, ever – you can now download the MP3s of those albums. You bought the song, not the format.”

“Exactly,” I said. “Which means that publishing will eventually get there, once they finish imitating all of the music industry’s mistakes, because publishing is copying the music industry’s evolution pretty much exactly, but fifteen years behind.”

“What about audiobooks?”

“Totally different thing,” I said. “You bought the story. You did not buy the right to hear Morgan Freeman read it to you. That, you should pay for separately, and as a general rule people do because — as a general rule — people aren’t criminals and shouldn’t be treated as though they are.”

“But what about piracy?”

“Prove to me piracy exists as a sales-damaging activity — I don’t believe it does; the biggest file downloaders are statistically those spending the most on the stuff they’re supposedly stealing — and I’ll spend time trying to fix it.” I thought for a second. “Actually, I know how to stop piracy. Entirely.”

The author across from me crossed her arms, but the Amazon guy leaned in. I pointed at him. “Amazon needs to get make it so that everything you can do with piracy is easier with Amazon. Hell, not even easier. Just “as easy”, or even “almost as easy, but guaranteed safe with no viruses.” I smiled, thinking of my wife, whom I missed more and more every day of this trip. “I’m not much of an optimist, but I’ll say this: people are generally good — give them an option where they can do the right thing, not be treated like a criminal, and actually OWN the thing they paid for, and they’ll pay for it, even if a shady-but-free option exists.” I looked at the author. “Some won’t, but they were never going to become a long-time reader anyway — they’re already a lost cause. You didn’t lose anything with them.”

None of this conversation was new thinking for me. I’ve said much it before, more or less, but it was new to them, and maybe it will be new for whomever is reading this, so that makes it worth repeating.

The Amazon guy, at any rate, thanked me, and thanked me again the next day, and in an email a week later, so maybe some good will come of it.

Here’s hoping.

Revisting, briefly, the source of my Publishing Predictions

As I’ve already said, all of my predictions about publishing come from observing other industries that have recently gone digital (in some cases, unwillingly).

From that, I’ve projected things like the demise of chain bookstores; their failure slowed but not stopped by stubborn publishers clinging to DRM in a vain effort to make digital books work like paper books, and as a result making ebooks not more ‘secure’, but less attractive for early adoption by the casual consumers who (understandably) prefer to actually own the shit they buy.

It’s just fucking math, guys.

In 2001, we got the iPod. Three million iPods were sold in two and a half years.
Nine years later, the number of employees of music stores has dropped from 80,000 people to 20,000.

Three million iPods were sold in two and a half years.

Three million Kindles were sold in two years.

Three million iPads were sold in eighty days.

Three million iPhones were sold in three weeks.

Just do the fucking math.


Carnac the Magnificent strikes again

I believe I have already established that I am psychic, but in case anyone missed it, let’s check out a different subheading of ‘nailed it’ from my original post:

As electronic distribution (and web-based shopping) becomes more and more prevalent, and the percentage of electronic vs. analog versions of the same products continues to move toward electronic, brick-and-mortar stores will become progressively obsolete. Physical bookstores already account for less than a third of all book sales — in ten years Barnes and Noble will be the publishing equivalent of Sam Goody and Blockbuster.

God, I’m so crazy. Where would I come up with something like that?

Well, like every other ‘prediction’, I’m just creating publishing-industry ‘events’ by taking things — excuse me, that should read “easily observable, fairly recent, stupid fucking mistakes” — that already happened in the movie and music industries and coloring them with a publishing brush.

For instance, in the case of that ‘prediction’ up above, I simply looked at the history of Musicland swallowing Sam Goody before it, too, succumbed to obsolescence.

And I think to myself: “well, there are two major brick and mortar chain bookstores left in the US today — I expect we’ll see them go through similar death throes.

As my dad has been known to say, “Wellwhaddayafuckinknow…”

[…] a $960 million merger of Borders Group and its larger rival, Barnes & Noble […] could help both companies pare back the number of stores they run, as well as cut costs in their back-office and distribution operations.

But any deal would face a formidable hurdle: sales at the bookstores of both chains have declined and the competition on the digital front is intense.

That’s not a ‘formidable hurdle’. That’s death.

And don’t fucking tell me that chain bookstores are some kind of inevitable creature that must exist, like a gelatinous cube in a ten foot wide hallway — music stores and brick and mortar video rental chains were inevitable creatures too.

Preliminary graphic representation of the merger details. I call the piece 'Fighting over End-Cap Placement'.

I am like some kind of genius at predicting stupidity

Twenty days ago, in this post, I made a prediction:

At least one — probably several — big publishers will try to introduce their own ebook reader or ebook format, despite the fact that popular formats exist and are already being whittled down to a few survivors. These things will suck huge amounts of money that could have been spent partnering with existing solution providers and solving the problem with already-adopted tech.


Check this bit of brilliance out:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced a tabletish color ereader targeted at children in mid-2011. Called the Fable, the seven-inch touchscreen device will sell for between $149 and $179 (plus cellular connection fees). “Several” HMH books will be pre-loaded on the device, and Isabella ceo Matthew Growley says they “have right now four other publishers signed up,” though he would not name them. (That implies, but does not state, that the company is thinking of a proprietary store and/or format.) The device will be sold from their own website and “select retailers.”

Nook Color notwithstanding, HMH svp of digital strategy and planning Cheryl Cramer Toto says “there is a real market need out there for a kids’ color tablet.”

In other device news, E Ink [Doyce: the technology that Kindle uses] is unveiling their first color electronic paper display at a trade show in Tokyo today.

Tomorrow, Ford will announce a product called an “fTire” that will, in the words of one insider, “reinvent the wheel”.

Jesus wept.

People: Kids books make up twenty-five percent of Kindle sales. It’s the fastest growing category for Kindle. I needn’t mention what percentage of all ebook sales Kindle and Nook represent.

Can someone else compete with Kindle? Yes. Can someone build a better, cheaper ereader than Kindle? Yes.

But you know who won’t?

Publishers. Building the next great electronic gadget is not what they do. It is, in fact, one of the best examples of Not What They Do.

Okay, I’m done ranting. I’ll wrap up with another prediction. Here we go:

This isn’t over. At least one other publisher will announce some similar project in the near future.

(Because why just compete with Kindle when you can compete with each other as well? *headdesk*)

On Seeing the Inevitable

I have nothing against Joe Konrath.

Those of you familiar with the ins and outs of publishing might be aware of Konrath as a mystery/suspense writer who’s become something of an evangelist for independent epublishing via markets like Amazon where an ‘unsupported’ author can play on a more level field with the Big Six of publishing. His arguments swivel on the dual pivots of sales numbers for his not-inconsiderable backlist and regular pillorying of the publishing industry for its poor choices.

(Which, to be fair, is pretty goddamn easy to manage when publishers make the decisions they do.)

Now, Joe makes a lot of good arguments. His analysis — both of his own numbers and the sales for other independent authors selling through Amazon — is usually pretty solid. And based on that analysis (and what I can only call common sense) it’s not hard for him to point out mistakes being made by big publishing simply by pointing out the stuff that individuals are doing that works, and the stuff that publishers are doing that yeilds less profit for their authors and more ill-will from consumers.

But with that said, Konrath’s points (or the tone they’re delivered in) do have a tendency to grate after awhile, and I say that as someone who thinks he’s ultimately correct; someone who’s predisposed toward ebooks and the technology behind it; someone who’s currently reading The Stand for the first time (finally), on his phone, unabridged.

I think he’s arguing the wrong point.

Yeah, he’s making good money selling his books at $2.99, at least in part because the lowered price means more people will buy his stuff; the simple fact is that a reader will buy five three-dollar ebooks in a clump, but balk at paying fifteen for one… and even if they ‘only’ buy one or two of those three-dollar books, that’s still more money spent than the fifteen-dollar non-sale.

But who cares? Those are just numbers, and (in my opinion) there are only a few numbers that big publishers care about:


“We sell hardbacks for 24.99, and readers have to pay that price for at least a year before they get a cheaper option. Our industry is built on that model, and we will cut a child before we accept anything that substantively affects that.”

You can find individuals in publishing who don’t feel or act that way, yes. But I tend to think actions speak a lot louder than words (especially when those words are muttered over drinks after work, where their bosses won’t hear). Look at the actual moves the big fish are making, and I don’t think you’ll see strong evidence against my assessment.

“Fine. You think he’s arguing the wrong point,” you say. “So what’s the right argument, smarty?”

In a word: History.

All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again.

Unless everyone in the publishing industry was born after 1990 (I’ve met quite a few of them — they weren’t), none of them actually need to crack a history book or dig into the wayback machine to recall a historical precedent for every single thing that’s happening in publishing today — they’ve lived through them.

I’m not the first person to point out the similarities between what’s going on today in publishing and what happened to the music, movie, and even television industries when digital formats became commonplace enough to penetrate the market. But I don’t think it would hurt anyone if I mention it again, because I will be fucking gobsmacked if anyone making decisions for the big publishers are paying attention.

And I’m not saying “there are a few indicators and patterns you can find in the painful (and painfully mismanaged) changes to, say, the music industry that might work as a kind of vague oracle for some of the stuff happening in publishing.”

I’m saying the changes are identical; each of those ‘predecessor’ industries provides flawless mimeographed blueprints in which we can see big companies working themselves into an obsolescence matched only by… mimeographs.

So here’s my call to everyone in publishing — not just publishers, but agents and writers and most of all readers:

Forget the numbers. Forget the price points and distribution methods and however things have been done in the past. Also, give up on arguing for change based on the numbers — no one other than the converted are listening.

Instead, look at your predecessors. Think back to the time when the music industry howled about cassette tapes and the fact it let kids tape music off the radio… and then howled about burnable CDs… and then unencrypted MP3s. Or think back to television broadcasters howling about VCR tapes… then DVRs.

Did it do any good? What happened?

Think back to the format wars in [pick your industry here]. 8-track. Cassette. Betamax. HDDVD. The fifty file formats mp3 annihilated. Did the money spent by companies trying to introduce their own, brand-specific, copy-protected, file format turn out to be money well-spent?

Think back to the birth of independent artists working without Big Industry Backing in those industries. Were people convinced that there was no way they could make a living — hell, even that there was no way they wouldn’t end up going bankrupt? Was industry backing touted as the only way to be seen as ‘legitimate’? Was electronic distribution seen as a fad? Was pirating of unprotected electronic copies seen as the Ultimate Poison Pill?

What happened in those industries? What continues to happen? Were the big boys ever right? Ever?

I’m going to make some predictions about publishing now, and since I think they’re pretty damned obvious, I will present them as absolutes. Some of them are negative, and some of them are positive, and I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which. I’m basing every single one of these predictions not on publishing, but on the industries that have already gone through what publishing is facing today, while publishing was snickering into its sleeve and making jokes like “How many formats does PAPER have? Heh heh heh.”

  • Most publishers aren’t going to change much. Most — almost all — of their money will be spent on their superstars, and their midlist creators will be seen as (and treated like) dead weight, despite the fact that they make up 99% of authors and most of their revenue. The big names will increasingly become known as vapid pop-culture hit machines.
  • At least one — probably several — big publishers will try to introduce their own ebook reader or ebook format that only works and is only distributed for their products, despite the fact that popular formats exist and are already being whittled down to a few survivors. These specialized formats and branded readers will suck huge amounts of money that could have been spent partnering with existing solution providers and solving the problem with already-adopted tech.
  • A very few traditional publishers will figure out what’s going on and adapt to new models.
  • New publishers will spring up. Almost all of these publishers will be boutique-type studios (sorry, I mean publishers), founded by AUTHORS or AGENTS who figured out how to do everything that needed doing with the new technology, and who decided to turn around and provide those services to a select group of fellow artists they chose to work with… often while teaching them all the same stuff they’ve learned.
  • Artists will continue to produce their own stuff and distribute it through increasingly easier-to-use and easier-to-access avenues. Ninety percept of it will be crap (for each consumer’s own values of crap), but those with enough drive and (obviously) talent will reach their audience and grow a really devoted group of supporters. The writer-equivalents of Jonathan Coulton or Julia Nunes or Pomplamoose are out there.
  • Fans will continue to not give a damn whether someone is promoted by some big publisher or if they did all their own stuff on a Macbook in their basement, because readers don’t give a fuck about publishers and infer no added quality from a pub’s stamp on the spine — most of them don’t know who the ‘big six’ are anyway.
  • As electronic distribution (and web-based shopping) becomes more and more prevalent, and the percentage of electronic vs. analog versions of the same products continues to move toward electronic, brick-and-mortar stores will become progressively obsolete. Physical bookstores already account for less than a third of all book sales — in ten years Barnes and Noble will be the publishing equivalent of Sam Goody and Blockbuster.

Generally, all of this will be better for both the author and the reader.

For everyone else, it depends on how willing they are to see the clear and (as far as I can see) utterly unvarying patterns that came before, and how able they are to do something about it.

What I’m saying is this:

If you’re a reader looking at the options out there for ebooks, worried that the whole thing may be a flash in the pan, don’t — the growth of digital format text is inevitable. Unless you have a stunningly bad track record for selecting new technologies to back, it’s probably okay to jump in the pool now.

If you’re an author looking at the possibility of independently producing your stuff, don’t worry about Joe Konrath’s math. Look at one (or all) of these other industries that have been here already and see what kind of artists make independence work for them. Ask yourself if you can be that kind of artist. If you think the answer’s yes, then that should be answer enough.

This is How I Get It Done: Making a quick ebook with Jutoh

This one’s going to be short, because I’ve kind of been looking at this screen all day.

A few days ago, I asked if anyone would be interested in getting all of my NaNoWriMo advice posts pulled together into some kind of epub format.

The answer was “yes.”

I kind of ignored that for a bit, because frankly I didn’t know where to start with creating something like that, beyond a PDF; all the stuff I used a few years ago is abandonware.

But today someone sent me an ebook they’d ‘just slapped together’ in eCub, so I went and looked at that.

It seemed fine, but I did notice this bit:

eCub does not do WYSIWYG or syntax-highlighted editing.

Hmm. I may be reading that wrong, but it sounds like it doesn’t do something like “highlight that word and hit ctrl-I for italics.” So… may a little simpler than I wanted.

But then I read:

You may like to consider the Jutoh ebook editor for easier, WYSIWYG editing, more sophisticated import, and greater configurability. Jutoh also handles footnotes, index entries and other aspects.

Well, that certainly seemed a lot closer to what I was looking for.

So I grabbed it, installed it, and got to work. First, I saved copies of all the individual posts as html files, then I pointed Jutoh at that directory full of a mess of html files, images, links, and… you know, stuff, and said “Do something with that, wouldja?”

Here is the result — This is How I Get It Done – Daily Kicks in the Ass for NaNoWriMo Authors, in:

It took me longer to get a decent picture of a composition notebook cover than it did to format the first chapter.

Now… it wasn’t THAT easy — I spent most of the afternoon cleaning out text I didn’t need, and dropping some (but not all — or even most) of the comments from the posts. And I had to recenter pictures and format the captions and…

Okay, yeah, it took awhile, but it was a piece of cake.

The end result (at least for the .mobi – I can’t check the others) is a document that Kate can read on her Kindle and I can read on my phone. The text formating is clean, the pictures are totally legible, the table of contents works perfectly, and all the links to other people’s websites (the commenters, for example) are live and do exactly what they should. I’d love to hear how it works for you guys on your readers of choice.

Unavoidable Snark: A whoooooole afternoon to format a clean, readable, twenty-three thousand word ebook with pictures and an extended reading list that reaches out to the rest of the internet. Yeah. Wow. I can totally see why publishers are charging as much for ebooks as hardbacks. Totally. Yeah.

Finally, for those folks who just want it in their browser, here’s the complete collection of the original posts.

A bit of conversation

SO here’s a talk I had this morning:

Website: *explodes*
Me: …the hell?
Website: What?
Me: You just exploded.
Website: Nuh uh.
Me: Yes. You did. You are still exploded, in fact.
Website: Well…
Me: What?
Website: At least you noticed me.
Website: Sorry.
Me: I’ve had a lot on my —
Website: I know. I know. Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. Here… I’ll unexplode for you. Gratis.
Me: You don’t have to —
Website: It’s fine. It’s fine. Really. Just… it’s fine. You should finish up your job aps and the new coursework. I know it’s how you spend your mornings right now.
Me: Actually…
Website: *sigh* What?
Me: Well, the apps are in, the course is done — I’m writing this morning.
Website: Oh, on Adrift? I thought I saw something about that on your other site.
Me: My other…
Website: You know. The Twitter.
Me: The Twitter?
Website: Shut up.
Me: The Twitter? Who are you, Betty White?
Website: Maybe I am.
Me: What? What does that even mean?
Website: Nevermind. Shut up.
Me: Listen. *sigh* The reason I noticed you exploded is because I was going to write something with you.
Website: Pff. Sure.
Me: Really. Look, I got some pictures to go along with it.
Website: *glances sidelong* That’s a pretty random collection.
Me: It’s kind of a potpourri post.
Website: … thus marking the one and only time that “potpourri” will show up on your website.
Me: Well, two, now.
Website: Whatever. *rubs scalp with fingers* Grab-bag post, huh?
Me: If you like. I don’t have to if you —
Website: Just get over here and type.

Why Hello There


Yes, it’s been pretty quiet around here, but that’s only because it’s been really noisy everywhere else, and while I love me some oversharing, there’s a point at which the day to day slog of doing contract instructional design and job hunting gets a little banal, and that point is somewhere just before I ever start talking about it on the blog. I’ve been working out my schedule (which keeps changing), and the points during the day when I would normally write here have been swallowed by writing for other stuff.

That picture, by the way? That’s totally me — lots of tappity tappity tap, lots of phone calls, and a growing feeling that I’m having two conversations at once, all the time. I’m hoping that’ll pass.

Let’s see what else is going on…

The death of the paper book! Again!

There’s been a lot of very intelligent talking about books and writing and piracy lately, and while I’ve been keeping my eye on all of it, I haven’t jumped in because my feelings haven’t really changed, which means the music I’d be adding to those jam sessions isn’t substantively different than the stuff I’ve played before, and everyone’s already heard that.

Print is dead, long live print.

I’ll tell you this for free: I agree with Konrath — the changes that are coming to publishing will, in the end, come from the rainmakers (the writers), not the people manufacturing buckets (huge props to Rob Donoghue for that analogy). I look around at our greatest living shamans today — the mightiest rainmakers — and I examine what they’re doing, and it looks a lot like someone marking a trail for others to follow. That Steven King dude? He’s training a LOT of readers to like ebooks. I’m just sayin’.

There’s a lot more to this conversation than just paper vs. plastic, but it is one of the sides to the dodecahedron, and I truly feel that electronic (self-?) publishing will be the thing that melts traditional publishing down to its composite goo, remoulds it, and forges it into something new in the next two decades.

It’s important.

I’m Done with Facebook

Yeah, I'm done.

It’s not that I’m a particularly private person. It’s not that I think anything I post on facebook is that inherently valuable.

But it bothers the fuck out of me when someone takes any portion of me — any fraction of my anima — and sells it off like erection-inducing rhino horn powder to the nearest advertising megacorp. No. Not me. Not anymore.

Facebook. Initially welcoming. Ultimately crap.


Nuff said.

The Beard

It comes and goes, oscillating between “sea captain” and “gruff grandfather”. At some point in there, Kaylee decides that Daddy Don’t Get No More Lovin’ til the thing comes off, so off it comes. Wail, my brothers, but know that I will soon be with you again.

Someday, I will be a super-wizard.

Gaming stuff

Hoping for a little tabletop Dragon Age this weekend, maybe even next weekend — two weeks in a row. That’ll be fun.

Still playing the FATE-based Diaspora, and it’s good. It’s probably the best FATE iteration I’ve played, but I suspect that’s only because I haven’t played Dresden Files yet. It’s good – don’t get me wrong, it’s damn good – but it’s good in the way that reading Ekaterina Sedia is good: you simply cannot shake the sense that the authors are not communicating with you in their mother tongue. The Diaspora guys speak FATE fluently, but one gets the sense that they’ll never be wholly comfortable within it.

Games overwhelm me at times.

On the computer front, Kate and I are still really enjoying, of all things, Wizard 101. Enough so that we’re playing when we don’t “have to” with Kaylee, and have a pair that we’ve taken well ahead of the trio we play with our youngest gaming partner. It’s good times, and frankly it’s a good game. I even like the dueling arena, which gets back to the game’s MtG/Pokemon deck-dueling roots in a way that I find very satisfying, even when I’m getting my ass kicked.

Also? Teaming up to play a game with my daughter? Awesome.

Back in Middle Earth

We’re not spending a ton of time in Lord of the Rings Online at the moment, due to our Wizard 101 binge…

You're Tolkein my language.

… but I’m getting my fix all the same.

Kaylee and I are reading The Hobbit. By my best reckoning, this marks the realization of a personal dream probably 20 years in the making, and I am very very happy about it.

The dwarves are stuck in the barrels now, floating down to Laketown. Bilbo has a cold.

Kaylee keeps telling me that none of this would have happened if they’d stayed on the path, like Gandalf said.

Sooth, child. You speak sooth.

In the Meantime

I write. I’m coming to the tail-end of my contract work, and I’m taking the opportunity to let go of my job-search stress and use the time to find out what I can do when I’m not cramming my writing time in wherever it will fit, like mortar between boredom bricks. It’s a bit scary, and more than a little stressful, but the words keep moving from my fingers to the screen, and some of them really make me happy, and there are so many many worse things than that.

I have all the direction I need.

I’ll talk to you soon.