24 Dec 2013, 9:04am
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Warning: Can not be unseen or unheard

The podcast War Rocket Ajax created the Worst Christmas Mixtape Ever for their War on Christmas episode.

Aside from the warning in the subject header, you should also know these are not just incredibly terrible and physically painful, some are downright offensive.

Direct link here.

You’re welcome.

Randomness for 12/24

Not Christmas-related. Isn’t that a relief?

1) Skyrim mod replaces dragons with Thomas the Tank Engine. Video. Maybe that should be in a story seeds post.

2) Mountain goats climb nearly vertical dam for the salt.

3) Iron Moon. Video. via Kurt Busiek.

4) The world’s largest mall has an occupancy rate of less than 1%. via Fred Hicks.

5) How long it takes a typical worker to earn as much as their company CEO makes in an hour.

6) Story Corps, Animated. Video. If you have been listening to Story Corps here and there, you’ll know why this is something not to be missed. If not, Story Corps is a project where two people sit with a microphone to permanently record (for the Library of Congress) a personal story from their lives. If the news has you thinking people are mostly awful, Story Corps will change your mind.

7) Chief O’Brien At Work.

23 Dec 2013, 6:26am
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Six Things Make A Post


2) Ten Things Food Banks Need But Won’t Ask For. At first I thought it was a little late for me to be posting this, but then I smacked my forehead. People are hungry all year round, not just during the holiday.

3) At first, I thought this was satirical, but when I saw that it was Conservapedia, I believed it. Those people are too far gone to satirize: Extreme right wingers rewriting Bible because it’s not conservative enough.

4) Why Marketers Fear The Female Geek. As a marketing category, “geek” is not truly going to come into its own until every kind is welcomed.

5) U of C study demonstrates that “drug-sniffing” dogs do not actually sniff drugs. What they actually do is respond to the K9 officer’s signals on when to alert, essentially giving police the power for warrantless searches.

6) Downtown Seattle’s PERSON OF INTEREST technology. Okay, so it’s not quite POI, but what the SPD has installed (and won’t talk about) is creepily invasive.

Randomness for 12/4

1) Surreal paintings onto the human face.

2) 80′s New Wave stars as they are now.

3) Six wild modern playgrounds.

4) The bulletproof Bespoke suit.

5) The sound arrows make as they whiz by. Video.

6) Movie posters as neon signs.

7) Video artist Patrick Liddell uploaded a video of himself, ripped it, then uploaded it again over and over to track the degradation of the recording. Video.

Randomness for 11/25

1) Parents convince kids their toys come alive at night and take pictures. Actually, there’s no proof these toys are owned by kids or their parents. They might belong to a lonely middle-aged guy who figured out a way to get page views. Still: fun.

2) English has a new preposition, because internet.

3) Male novelist jokes.

4) Shit Roleplayers Say. Video. Why does “I attack the darkness” sound so familiar?

5) An extremely funny and very short video: Carpark. Video. h/t +Jonathan King

6) Marvel, DC, and The Problem, a really great longread by Chris Sims about the history and evolution of superhero comics. Even if you’re not a comics fan, you might be interested in the history of two behemoth competitors in a creative field.

7) Six ways to beat reader’s block. I needed this.

31 Oct 2013, 6:15pm
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Halloween Live Blog

Okay! The jack o’lanterns are lit, making a path from the top of the stairs to my apt door. Spooky lights are lit. Dracula is on the Netflix, but it won’t load because I can’t imagine why a horror classic would be slow to load on Halloween seriously can’t imagine.

I also have a candy bowl with four Butterfingers, four Snickers, four Nestle’s Crunches, and four (meh) Milky Ways.

There is also a cold beer in the fridge, waiting for my kind attention.

I’m going to live blog the number of kids who come, what treats they take, and what costumes they have. Assuming any show up at all.

Fingers crossed.

Anyway, movie’s playing. I always liked swapping out Renfield for Harker at the start of Lugosi’s Dracula. It simplifies things.

6:28: HOORAY! A tiny little girl dressed as “a rabid raccoon” selected a Crunch candy bar. One kid, at least, has come by.

7:00: No other kids have come by.

7:39: No other kids. Should I just give up? Shut out the light and stuff the candy into the freezer?

7:59: Seriously considering the freezer now.

9:49: Shit.

19 Oct 2013, 7:28am
making books personal:

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Writing as an opportunity for gratitude

Writers complain. A lot.

And really, they have reason to. Does the guy who drives the truck full of books from the warehouse to the bookstore have to hold down a day job so he can pursue his love of truck driving? That’s a nope, but the people who create the objects he’s transporting often do. Most people in publishing do not make mint, but most of them don’t live as though their job is a hobby.

For writers, most of them have to squeeze writing in between work and family duties. Then, when they’re published, they find that things completely out of their control threaten to (or do) sink their book.

Lousy covers. Delayed royalty payments. People who send nasty reviews because they want the writer to see the reviewer’s contempt. There are a million indignities to be endured and worst of them all is the strong possibility that a writer will outlive their own career.

But there are good things, too. A review by someone who gets the book. An enthusiastic bookseller. Beautiful cover art. Beautiful design. A kind word from another professional. A happy reader.

I think that anyone within a (virtual) mile of me knows that I’m running a Kickstarter. In fact, I’m writing this post on Friday night but scheduling it for Saturday morning, 12 hours before the campaign closes.

Going into this thing, I knew I would have reason to be grateful. Even if it never funded, I would be grateful to everyone who pledged and everyone who helped me put the project together. My wife was endlessly patient with that damn video shoot. My kid was enthusiastic about making art for the stretch goals (and the Tejohn Minecraft skins). And others, too, that I’m not sure I should specifically name, who looked at the preview version and told me what to cut or change.

But the response from readers has really been beyond my expectations. I could type out thank yous until my fingers fall off and it still wouldn’t seem like enough.

And you know what? This is pretty much on par with my experience as a writer. The fact that I can string together words into a narrative means that I have been the recipient of astonishing kindness, from things as simple as a word of praise to as complex as offers to replace my writing computer or attend events at a convention.

If there’s one thing about being a writer that has surprised me, it’s the tremendous amount of gratitude it has brought into my life. So thank you.

How your spending can improve (or do nothing for) your happiness (Twenty Palaces announcement)

If you’ve been following the recent research on happiness, you might be surprised by some of what has been discovered. Yes, buying material objects can increase your happiness, but only in the very short term. Buying new clothes or a new hat is nice at first, but we quickly become accustomed to it and the happiness fades.

What makes us most happy–and makes for long-lasting happiness–is experiences, especially experiences that will be happening sometime in the not too distant future. The reason is that it’s not so much the experience (the vacation, the concert, the road trip) itself that brings joy, but the anticipation of it. Read this article in The New Republic for a magazine-length discussion:

What you can learn about the new science of smarter spending: Yes, money can make you happy.

One interesting finding was that people enjoyed TV shows more when they included commercial breaks, because that little teasing delay between acts increased their anticipation.

Why do I mention this? Well, books are both material objects and experiences, and sometimes it can be a long wait for a book to come out. That seems like the best of both worlds.

But I’m not bringing this up because of my Kickstarter, which ends this Saturday and which promises a fun experience some months from now when the trilogy (plus the unlocked bonus books) are finished and released. I mean, sure, you might think this topic would be a good way to promote a Kickstarter, but that’s not why I’m here.

I want to officially announce a paper edition of TWENTY PALACES, the self-published prequel to CHILD OF FIRE and the other Twenty Palaces novels.

No, it’s not available yet. I’m still trying to get the cover to work (that’s today’s task, alongside setting up a new Time Capsule) but telling you now so you know it will be out soon increases happiness, right? If, that is, you’re one of those people who wants to read the prequel but doesn’t do ebooks.

Why has it taken two years to get a paper edition? Two reasons that are really one reason: It’s a lot of work, even with help, and it was too depressing. When the cancellation of the series happened, I was really really down about it, and doing all the work needed for a self-published POD Twenty Palaces would have been too painful. Now, with a little distance, it’s more manageable.

With luck, it will be available by Christmas time.


Randomness for 10/10

1) Another drive-through prank, skeleton edition. Video. This one is funny and Halloween is coming up, so… (h/t Nick Kaufmann)

2) Banksy kicks off an art institute on the streets of New York.

3) What your style of beer says about you.

4) Hyperbole and a Half explains power, identity, and changing yourself with costumes.

5) 44 of the Best Scared Bros at Haunted House (2013 pictures). I will confess to enjoying these pictures of absolute terror to an unhealthy degree. Oh, and the body language is instructive for any writer, I guess.

6) Test your color IQ with an online test. My wife, who took the analog version of this test in art school, scored a 26, which is pretty good. Then my son took it and scored a perfect zero. I haven’t tried it myself.

7) The internet is full of “life hacks” but how many of them actually work? 30 Common Life Hacks Debunked. Video.

Randomness for 9/27

1) How to clean your ear buds. I had no reason to google this. Nope. No reason at all.

2) Ladies and gentlemen, a cat playing a theremin: video.

3) Classical sculptures dressed as hipsters, and they look great.

4) THE MATRIX as retold by Mom. Video.

5) Hilariously Bad Book Covers.

6) Attention filmmakers: The future is already here. I have been tricked by an April Fools article in September! It even says “April Fools” right there in the tags! Let’s pretend that’s a rare thing, and thank you Rose Fox for catching that.

7) A gif that demonstrates that, when the martial arts ref tells you to stop fighting, you should stop fighting.

25 Sep 2013, 8:00am
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In Case You Need To Get Your Rage On, Part 2

You know what’s fun? A government empowered to steal your personal belongings (your car, your house, your cash, your jewelry) for trumped up reasons, and makes it impossible to get them back. And it’s all perfectly legal.

Even better, if you’re curious about a real-life villain that would be too smarmy for fiction, just read through to the very end. Team Drugbust! Team Jesus! If you’re on those teams, you can do anything at all and you’re still a virtuous person.


23 Sep 2013, 8:30am
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Let me tell you a story about controlling people with nuisance charges

This is something I read about a few years ago but never forgot.

It seems there was a day care center that had a problem with parents who picked their kids up late. The center was supposed to close at 6:30, but inevitably someone would get held up in traffic or stuck at work, and so maybe once or twice a week the young woman minding the kids always had to linger behind with one of the kids. Sure, the parents always apologized profusely, but the woman who owned the center wanted to fix things.

So she decided to start charging the parents money for being late.

Immediately, late pickups increased.

What the manager of the center didn’t understand was that the parents liked the day care workers and cared about the inconvenience they caused them. When a parent was late, Angela might miss the start of her night class, or her second job, or even just her dinner. The day care workers looked after their children, after all. There was a bond there.

But the bond was wrecked by putting a charge on it. Suddenly, being late to pick up your kid was not a harm you caused to someone you knew and liked, it was an entry on the balance sheet. Trying to close a big sale? Well, the commission will be 1500 bucks if you finish tonight. Picking up little Timmy 30 minutes late will only cost you ten dollars. That’s totally worth it.

Worse, once the social connection was broken it was difficult to reestablish it. Yeah, they took away the fees, but the late parents just didn’t feel sorry any more. What’s more, this isn’t something that’s happened only to on child care center. This is a pretty common phenomenon that shouldn’t surprise people as much as it does.

Why tell this story? Well, as Scott Lynch points out the latest World Fantasy Convention is trying to reduce no-shows to their Kaffeeklatsche events (essentially, coffee with an author and 19 other fans) by charging five pounds for the event. Sure, it’s also supposed to cover coffee and biscuits, but come on, 100 pounds for a coffee urn and some baked goods? Psh.

A much more powerful incentive to having people show up is to say that, if the number of no-shows is too small, the author will be sitting there at their table with a handful of fans while the other writers may have full tables. You don’t want to make your favorite writer feel bad, do you?

Not that it really matters to me; I’m not a convention person. But there’s no denying that a nuisance charge is likely to have the opposite of the intended effect (unless the money is not about no-shows at all…)

Last night, my Kickstarter blew past the 250% mark. This is wild, you guys. Also, I’m pretty much spending all my time away from the internet sending emails and answering messages. Stretch goals are coming, I promise.

23 Sep 2013, 6:57am
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In Case You Need To Get Your Rage On

Multi-millionaire hedonist drug addict heir raises kids about as well as you could expect. It’s a #Longread, but it’s horrifying; the system failed these kids because the system can not stand up against money. Awful.

Randomness for 9/12

1) Myths over Miami: Homeless children create an elaborate mythology of the city all on their own. I swear, this is the most amazing thing.

2) Amazon collects the funniest reviews on its site.

3) A convention attendance discussion for authors on reddit.

4) What every New Yorker should know, in .gif form.

5) Gifs of gelatin cubes dropped onto solid surfaces. There’s something strangely healing about this.

6) Take a virtual tour of the world’s largest cave, discovered recently in Vietnam. Video.

7) “Attacks of Opportunity” helpfully explained and demonstrated. Video. This is funny enough that I’m looking up other videos on this channel. h/t Tracy Hurley

11 Sep 2013, 7:19am
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Speech is free at first, but you have to pay hidden fees later

Popehat has a great post about a subject that comes up all the time now: freedom of speech and the so-called censorship of public condemnation. Here’s a quote:

Speech has consequences. It ought to.

In America, we have an elaborate set of laws strictly limiting the government’s ability to inflict those consequences. That is right and fit; the First Amendment prevents the government from punishing us for most speech.

Private consequences are something else. Speech is designed to invoke private and social consequences, whether the speech is “venti mocha no whip, please,” or “I love you,” or “fuck off.”1 The private and social consequences of your speech — whether they come from a barista, or your spouse, or people online, or people at whom you shout on the street — represent the free speech and freedom of association of others.

Yes, this, very much. Everyone is fine when speech has consequences that they approve of. Tell a nasty joke that makes your friends laugh, hey, that’s a nice consequence. Tell one that pisses a bunch of people off, to the point that they call you an asshole?

Well, there are certain people who think that’s completely out of bounds.

There’s a culture tug of war going on, in which one side wants to call out racist and sexist statements, and the other wants to call out all criticism of racist and sexist statements. I happen to be on the side of the former but people need to work this out and it’s going to take time.

Still, trying to frame criticism as censorship is ludicrous. Keep the link handy for the next time your Facebook comments turn toward the ridiculous.

(Trigger warning: the blog post at the other end of that link has examples of criticized speech–specifically the Pax Dickinson dudebro bullshit that created a stir recently, so people who can’t handle racist rape jokes or other asshole behavior shouldn’t click.)

9 Sep 2013, 11:29am
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RIP A.C. Crispin

Ann Crispin recently passed away.

Here’s an obit for her in the Washington Post. Here’s one in Publishers Weekly.

I didn’t read her novels, but I still owe her a great debt. Before I was published, the work that she and Victoria Strauss (and others) have done on Writer Beware helped me separate the genuine/useful business opportunities from the scammers and the clueless wannabes. She helped explain how the business worked.

The Writer Beware site is hosted at SFWA but the information in it is for writers of every type, not just sf/f people.

She never received a red cent from me for the work she did, but it was invaluable. That she volunteered so much of her time, even during the time she was ill, is a testament to the power good people have to make the world a better place.

Rest in peace, and thank you.

  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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