The Steampunk(ed) Nerf gun

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For some reason known only to the elves that live inside his brain, my son recently decided that he wanted to paint one of his Nerf guns to be “Steampunk”. Where that came from, I don’t know. He’s never read a steampunk novel as far as I can tell, and… Well, let’s just leave that at “mysterious.”

And being our son, we said “Annoying project? Sure!”

We forgot to take a picture of the Nerf Maverick in its unmodified form, but here it is, courtesy of the cool website Think Geek–behind the cut: Continue reading

Five Things Make a Friday Post

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1) Quick question: Should I do another August book giveaway to promote Circle of Enemies? I’m not sure it did me any good last time, as far as drawing in new readers, but it was nice to give away cool stuff.

2) My wife and son are spending the day on their bikes, riding the Burke-Gilman trail as far as they can go. That means that, instead of spending the day writing at a Starbucks and the library, I’m going to work at home, sans interruptions. Kitchen floor: swept.

3) What have I been working on? I should be able to let you know very soon.

4) Taxes are nearly done. At this point it’s about printing them, e-filing and transferring the money to the correct account. Also, I was a complete idiot about them this year. Here’s why: I’d been stressing over the bill. Now, we had the money in savings, but I was stressing over it because it would cut quite deeply into our cushion. It was only last night, late, that I remembered that I had a CD with no early-withdrawal penalties set aside specifically for taxes–and it has triple what I need to cover the bill. Phew!

5) I’m not gluten-free anymore. I did lose a little weight, but it was mainly because we didn’t have food available when I was hungry. Me with low blood sugar? Not a good husband. Not a good parent. Besides, it’s unsustainable and unhealthy. Also, it didn’t stop the allergic reactions on my face. (This is an FYI: no diet advice, please.)

Annalise online

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So, I was making a Minecraft skin for Annalise, and I turned to Google Images to take a quick look at a fireman’s jacket. Clicking that link will take you there.

What did I see on the 12th line, third from the left? Marissa Merrill in costume as Annalise herself! It’s from this page on the Black Gate blog, where Marissa is turning and giving someone a very un-Annalise-like smile.

I dunno. I think it’s cool.

Ebook sales and the long tail

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This is an interesting article (found via @victoriastrauss on Twitter). I should already have knocked off working for the day, but I want to address this.

The article states that most ebook sales seem to be concentrated on bestsellers, not on the so-called long tail. The short version is that online sellers don’t market like works very well, while a physical store surrounds you with impulse buys.

Now, I know there are plenty of folks out there who impulse buy ebooks all the time, but so far the numbers seem to indicated that people buying online aren’t just snapping up books they’ve never heard of.

That’s my experience with online book buying, anyway. I use Amazon.com to buy things I already want, but I usually add them to my cart and buy them later, when shipping costs are reduced and my associate’s credit comes in.

With a physical store, I have this sense that I shouldn’t walk out without a new book. Even walking by one is like passing up on wonderland; there’s a physical yearning there that Amazon.com doesn’t provide.

Anyway, it’s an interesting point. How could the marketing be better?

Good news revealed

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A week ago (for you guys–I’m writing this the same day) I told you I had some good news that I wasn’t free to talk about yet. Well, I’m told the 29th is the day, so here’s the good news.

The Science Fiction Book Club is going to put out an omnibus edition of Child of Fire, Game of Cages, and Circle of Enemies as a Main Selection for their September catalog. The book will be called The Wooden Man: A Twenty Palaces Omnibus and the catalog will reach book club members in mid-August (although the book itself won’t ship until after 8/30/11… aka, the release date for Circle of Enemies. It’s also going to be offered online through the BOMC2.

It’s also going to be a “Sliver of Night Selection,” which is meant to highlight especially good urban fantasy novels, which means the omnibus will include a black satin ribbon bookmark.

Fancy! Almost too fancy for a scruffy guy like me, but I’m very happy they like the books. I hope their readers like them even more.

Yay!

Put in a 22 hour day yesterday

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Ah, the joys of parenting a child with sleep issues.

Without getting into too much detail without his permission, as I mentioned before the time change hit him very hard. Yesterday he couldn’t get up until noon and last night I couldn’t get him to sleep until after 3:30 am. If it were my sleep schedule that went out of control, I’d set my alarm, get up super-early, be tired all day and go to be slightly early. Fixed!

For him, we may be forced to let him stay up all night one night so he can turn himself around that way.

On top of that, we’re squabbling over his assigned reading. I’ve given him a book that’s a second-world medieval-ish fantasy and he’s treating it like a plate of bitter carrots (“It has castles. I don’t like castle books.”)

Aside from the stress of having a fantasy writer’s child refuse to read traditional fantasy [1] there’s also the idea that he doesn’t believe that I, as his homeschooling parent, have the right to assign reading to him (book-length reading, at least). This… doesn’t work for me, as you might expect. If he’s griping about books written for popular readers of the modern era (with fantasy elements, which he loves) how’s he going to respond to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?

Obediently, if I have anything to say about the matter. Of course, it’ll help if he’s well-rested and has been fed healthy food that he likes. We’ll see.

Finally, I got my royalty statement for the middle part of 2010 and… well, those numbers could be better.

[1] IT READS THE HOBBIT BEFORE BEDTIME. IT DOES THIS WHENEVER IT’S TOLD

Writing tech, tax tech, belly tech

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The new iPad has had unexpected benefits: In landscape orientation, the keyboard is a good size for my son’s hands and he spent much of last night writing a story. The software eased some of his usual anxieties about writing anything–mainly spelling and penmanship–and he completed over a thousand words of an absurd story called “The Tooth Fairy.” It also helps me see what we need to work on in his schooling. I thought he had quotation marks down, but no.


It’s (past) time to do our taxes and this year I got a recommendation from a successful local writer for an accountant she uses. There are three main problems: One is that it looks like I’d be filling out forms for him that are like Turbo Tax forms which he, presumably, will then enter into his own version of tax software. Assuming we’ve been doing our taxes correctly (more on that later) this seems like paying for data entry–is there any real benefit to using a professional? Two is that they don’t quote a specific rate. This is what they say:

Tax return preparation fees are based on a per form fee or an hourly rate schedule; whichever is most appropriate, on a client by client basis. Hourly rates vary depending on the staff member performing the work and the complexity of the work itself. In addition, direct expenses may be charged when applicable.

That’s as specific as it gets. We didn’t earn all that much last year, so I have no idea what they’ll actually charge us, but it’s likely that we can’t afford it. Third is that my wife thinks problems one and two are bullshit and we might as well Turbo Tax again this year.

Me, I’d hoped to uncover some extra deductions and go over quarterly taxes with him. See, I don’t do quarterly taxes, preferring to take the relatively minor penalty (about a hundred bucks) to avoid all that estimating and paying early. That should probably change, though. Does Turbo Tax even do that for me? It’s not like I have a lot of money coming to me this year beyond the on-publication payment for Circle of Enemies–I need to sell another book or two, and I have no idea if that’s even going to happen.

Sigh. It looks like another year of Turbo Taxing, unless someone has better advice


Exactly one week ago I had an egg sandwich for breakfast… and I immediately started sneezing and my nose started running like crazy. When I told my wife, she gave me a finger-wagging and blamed it on wheat gluten.

She’d seen a nutritionist two weeks earlier and came home to tell me we were going to be giving up wheat flour. She’s done it, too. Her body shed ten pounds very quickly and the weird red, rough skin… thing that’s been troubling both our faces for a long while immediately cleared up for her. Now she’s making scary noises about giving up wheat for good.

The sketchy thing is that her nutritionist has told her that the gluten clogs the spaces between the villi in your intestine. Me, I’m doubtful about that, but the results are there even if I’m doubtful about the mechanism.

I couldn’t join in right away, because I’d just gone grocery shopping and I wasn’t about to throw out all that damn bread. Still, the last shop was pretty much wheat-free and it’s time for me to join in. And I will. With luck, my face won’t be red and inflamed, and I’ll drop some of this extra weight. Weighing less will hopefully mean less pain and therefore more exercise. Current goal: live long enough to see my son graduate from college.

Anyway, the iPad is going to be recruited to this effort–I just need to find a good calorie counter/wellness app to download. (Suggestions more than welcome–accuracy and ease of use are my top considerations). The thing about giving up wheat is that I’m hungry all the time. I can eat a big bowl of curried rice, veg, and chicken but it will never be as satisfying at the same amount of pasta. I don’t mind being hungry–I’ve done some pretty severe fasts in my time–but it’s important for my wife to know she’s getting all the calories she needs, even if they’re more complex than they used to be.

So… any thoughts on going gluten-free? Any iPad wellness apps to recommend? What about those writerly tax problems? (No advice on the boy and his story, please; it’s still too new.)

Thanks.

Three things I’m thinking about

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First, we were due to get 2-6 inches of snow last night, but something crazy apparently happened and the snow fell and stuck everywhere but right here in Seattle. I know there are some of you out there who are sick of snow, but I have a little boy here who wants to slide down a hill on a flattened cardboard box. We need some kid weather.

In fact, it’s snowing right now but nothing is sticking. I should probably bring him home a treat.

Second, I’m working on this thing, and it’s taking way longer than it should. Even when I devote hours and hours to it, I only plod through a couple thousand words. Tim Pratt, on the other hand, just kicked out an 8,000 word day (yes we are supposed to compare ourselves to other people, so hmph on you). It’s frustrating and annoying.

Third, with regard to the second point, I’m seriously considering a week-long internet fast. It wouldn’t be enough to finish this project, but it would help. Has anyone done it? What did you think?