Project Ditch Smashwords Distribution and Fatten My Bank Account: Completed!


Like a lot of authors, I uploaded my self-published ebook to Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords a long time ago. The benefit of Smashwords is not the direct sales they make (which are pitiful) but that they distribute to many other book vendors who, generally speaking, sell only marginally better than Smashwords itself: Kobo, Flipkart(?), Sony, Oyster(?)… actually, you can tell that I haven’t visited my Smashwords Dashboard in a while because some of these I haven’t even heard of before. Yeah, they pay quarterly instead of monthly, and yeah, their “meatgrinder” requirements are tedious and annoying, but once the hoops are properly jumped through, they do what they’re supposed to do.

They also upload to Apple’s iBooks.

However, I recently pulled my books from iBooks distribution and created an iTunes Connect account. You have to be vetted by Apple and of course you can’t sell your book by simply uploading a file and filling in some data. Apple makes you download a special program to enter all the metadata, select the proper files, then upload in one go.

Why go to all this trouble? For this:

Mac Discount

This year, we might be forced to buy two iMacs (low end ones, but still) to replace my rapidly-aging current equipment and I’m hoping we’ll qualify for the 20% discount for both.

Anyway, we obviously haven’t ditched Smashwords completely. It turns out that Flipkart is an ebook seller in India, which is nice since I refuse to let Amazon take a 65% commission or force my book into their Select program to sell there. Oyster turns out to be a subscription-based book service like Netflix or Spotify: users pay $X a month and read as many listed books as they like. I get my money if they read 10% of my book. (So hey, Oyster-users, why not slowly page through my ebook while you’re watching TV or something. My bank account will be grateful.) I’m pleased to be distributed to both services plus Kobo, plus Sony, plus whatever.

But I do my work on Apple computers and the savings I will get this Giftmas was worth a little extra fussing with the distribution of my books.

Free Marvel Comics


Yeah, I spent an inordinate amount of time this morning putting Comixology on my wife’s iPad and downloading as many of the free Marvel comics as I could snag. I tried for all 700-some, but there were issues with server overload, obviously, so I’m going to try again later.

The free comics (first issues of new and old books) are only available for a short time, so snap them up if you want them.

I have to say that I enjoy reading comics on the iPad. For novels I think paper is better, but the electronic format works nicely with panels and art. I just wish I could afford them.

I write with Scrivener, too


Charles Stross blogged about writing a novel in Scrivener and I thought it was an interesting read. Okay, I skimmed the part where he talked about LaTeX because Jesus, what the hell is that even and I pretty much don’t need to know.

Anyway, he’s right about many things: there is no way to do the track changes thing that people use MSWord for. That means I either have to a) switch over to Scrivener to type out all the changes I want to accept in MSWord, or b) import the edited Word document into a new Scrivener project (or into the old project, which I haven’t done because .scriv files are already HUGE), or c) accept that the .scriv file will not be the most recent file.

I’ve been doing a) which is annoying but feels satisfying, too, like keeping a tidy desk.

Also, I don’t have the same issues with the compiling process. Yes, there’s a helluva learning curve. Yes, it’s annoying as hell. Still, with enough trial-and-error I was able to create a handful of very clean epub files, without any hand-coding at all.

The floating word count window? AWESOME. I seriously love it, especially the way I can set a due date for the draft and it will tell me how many words I have to do per day to make that goal. I can even go in and mark certain days of the week as non-writing days. That’s good. I wrote about that some time ago: You can see the progress bar in this screen cap post.

Something else I like is that I can import web pages into the research section. I can dl the Wikipedia page for “Pansy Craze” or “Samurai” then while I’m writing (my internet is always disabled when I write) I can easily

Finally, one thing Charlie doesn’t mention is one of my favorite things: Custom Meta-data. See, when I was writing the Twenty Palaces books, I drove myself to exhaustion trying to keep track of what Ray had in his pockets: Did he have money? How much? Did he still have a gun? Whose was it? Had he stolen a car? What make again?

It was crazy-making and involved a lot of tedious fact-checking back through the book. But! With Custom Meta-data I could easily make a line for “Money” and keep track. Or “Gun”

In Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts, I used Custom Meta-data to keep track of the two protagonists’ time lines. (They diverge late in the book.) That’s the sort of thing that drove me to distraction in earlier work.

Anyway, Scrivener is way too complicated, but I just ignore all those complicated parts I don’t need, just the way I did with MSWord back in the day. Plus, I’ve figured out the search thing that used to make me nuts.

I’m still working on the first draft for King Khan, and I swear that progress bar thing is really helping my productivity (not to mention the easy access I have to the synopsis). Yesterday’s word count was 3.3K which is huge for me, and today’s was 4K, which is unthinkable. So, you know, pleased.

Puncturing the rainbow beach ball


Thank you, everyone, for the advice I received on my LiveJournal. I really, really don’t want it to be an impending hard drive failure, but I’ve already had the laptop for over four years. At this point I’m pretty much playing with the casino’s money.

Still, I downloaded OnyX from the developer’s site, and ran it. It checked the S.M.A.R.T. whatever and assures me that the hard drive is not about to fail (which I take with a grain of salt). It also repaired permissions and changed a bunch of things that Disk Utility completely ignored.

Anyway, things seem to be working pretty well, alluvasudden (knock on my wooden head), and I’m hopeful that the casino will keep fronting me chips for a while. In the meantime, stuff’s backed up and I have a crapton of work to do.

Thanks again. I’m really grateful.

I hate that rainbow beach ball


Things have been so busy at my end that I barely have time to be online at this point. I answer some emails–usually days after I should–and post silly tweets once in a while. Sorry, folks. I have interesting things planned for March.

In any event, I’m quite concerned about my laptop. It’s a MacBook I bought in 2007 (bottom of the line, frankly) and it’s the machine I use for all of my writing.

Sadly, it’s not running very well. I get the Spinning Beach Ball of Death every day, and my programs (Safari, Thunderbird, iPhoto, YoruFukurou, Scrivener) become non-responsive for frustratingly long times. Often I’ll type a word and sit back while each. Letter. Slowly. Appears.

I just deleted the contents of my OS trash, some 13+GB, because my hard drive was nearly full (now it’s down to 57GB). Writey runs 10.5.8 and has been really great so far but as the day goes on the performance become worse and worse. I don’t want to have to replace it.

Does anyone have any suggestions for fixing this sort of thing?

I’m turning on comments on my main blog (for those of you reading this at a mirror site) to see whether my spam issue has abated. I’m heading off to do some work and I’ll check back later. Thanks for any help you can offer.



So, I had no wireless on my laptop and that was frustrating. To test if it was a software or hardware problem, I reinstalled the OS, set up a new user and found that the problem was still there. If a fresh install of the software didn’t fix it, it must be hardware.

So I rode the bus across town yesterday to The Mac Store because they had a usb wireless adapter for sale. As the sales guy talked to the repair guy about the device, the repair guy suggested I pay to have it fixed instead.

“I can’t afford it,” I told him.

He shrugged and took the adapter off the wall. I asked if I could try it out right here in the store. He shrugged again and we started opening the package (which had been opened once before).

The install disc doesn’t do much in the way of installing, and the repair guy starts fussing with it. You know that feeling when someone else is typing on your computer and you want to push their hands away and do it all the right way? I fight that urge.

While I’m looking at the contents of the adapter package, the repair guy does something to my computer that completely fixes the wireless. As in, it was software all along and he’s thoroughly solved the problem. I make him explain it to me, showing me that he went into System Preferences and created a new “location” which easily connected to the web.

And he did it in the ten seconds that I was looking at a page of the user manual. He also didn’t charge me.

The Mac Store on 45th in the U District. They are awesome.

Today I will be rousing myself from this morning’s (somewhat unproductive) writing session and I’ll head downtown to buy an anniversary gift, after a very long walk to buy some stuff we need. It’s a school holiday, so my son has a chance to hang out with a buddy across town all day. Once I’m done, I’ll head home and do some more writing from there.

Quick post


I’m about to get back to revising The Unnamed Project but I thought I’d drop in here for a quick post.

I have great news! … which I can’t share yet. Yes, I know, I’ve become one of those tiresome writers who talks about all the awesome things they’re not allowed to talk about. This one won’t be too much delayed in announcing; the contracts should be all signed and ready very soon now.

Gluten-Free! For the first few days I was doing pretty well (and dropping a few pounds) but fell off the wagon. I put the pounds back on and my face is inflamed again. Annoying. I also tried out a few of the apps folks recommended but they were unsuitable for one reason or another.

I tried the free version of the Livestrong app, for example, but apparently there’s no way to put a food into it at quantities smaller than their minimum serving size. Apparently, everyone who has maple syrup eats a quarter cup of it at one go; no one ever just adds a tablespoon to their yogurt. It’s also annoying and I’m not sure if the paid version fixes this flaw.

Galleys for Circle of Enemies! are done. I’m going to make copies of them and then ship they back to Del Rey later this week. There are sections I wish I could iron out–not too many, but some–but I still think this book is the best I’ve ever written.

Science Fiction Conventions! I’m going to one. Norwescon, in this case. I bought a membership over the weekend because I figured I’m supposed to be going to Readercon later this summer and even (gulp!) be on a panel or something, so I should probably go to one as an audience member to see what they look like. I realize they’re not the same sort of convention, but what the hell. I have until the end of April to remember where I left my extrovert mask.

iPad! Finally, a gadget my wife will actually use.

Ebooks for 99 cents! Boy has this been bouncing around the internet for a while. Personally, I’m sure the price of ebooks will drop below the current prices, but I’m not so sure they’ll fall all the way to 99 cents. This indie author has an interesting take on book pricing, mainly because she isn’t interested in the 99 cent market. She doesn’t believe those readers will follow her to other, higher-priced books, and also that they’re kind of a pain in the ass.

Combine that with some other readers out there who say they avoid one buck books because they assume they’re crap, and you see a case for higher prices. It’s pretty interesting and things are changing quickly.

Christ, didn’t I say this was supposed to be quick? Time to work.

Writing tech, tax tech, belly tech


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.)