Packaging for Kickstarter Fulfillment (with pix)

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After being six months past the “there’s-no-way-these-books-will-take-longer-than-this” deadline, I finally ordered the trade paperbacks for my new trilogy, The Great Way. The expected delivery date from UPS was last night, and I rescheduled a bunch of work so I would be ready when the boxes of books arrived (16 of them) and could slip them into the already-addressed and sorted envelopes.

Then, on Tuesday morning, I double-checked the UPS tracking numbers and realized the books had been bumped a day, to Wednesday. Sure, the boxes had arrived in Seattle before 3 am on Tuesday morning, but apparently UPS needed 30 hours to get them on a truck.

Do I need to say I was disappointed and angry? I griped about it on Twitter, and a UPS help account encouraged me to email their customer service department with the tracking numbers and other details to confirm that they were actually sitting in a warehouse down in south Seattle.

The customer service rep confirmed it. My books, which had been delivered to Seattle the night before, still had not been unloaded and sorted. I’d have to wait for them to be delivered the next day.

Three hours later, sixteen boxes of books arrived.

My son, to my great surprise, believed me when I said I needed his help. He got off his computer (not a small deal) so he could slip bookmarks into books so I could turn to the title page quickly and seal envelopes. When my wife got home at 9pm after a long day of physical work, she cheered to see us working together, then chipped in.

I started alone at 5:30. We sent the boy to bed at midnight. My wife and I didn’t finish until almost two am. This morning, we got up early, called a cab, and transported all the books to the local post office to mail them out.

Pictures behind the cut. Continue reading

Yesterday’s birthday celebration

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How many places around the U.S. (around the world, even) would be amused that yesterday’s high temps set a new record for July 1st: 94F, over a previous record high of 89F? In many places those numbers capture temps in the early morning, not the high for the day, but those places also have central air or even just air conditioners. My apartment in Seattle has no insulation and it doesn’t circulate air well, unless it’s a very windy day.

Anyway, we broke out the fan for the first time, but I still had an outbreak of heat-induced urticaria. (I keep meaning to blog about my health issues but never seem to find the time.)

My main birthday gift was a day when I didn’t have to do any work at all. The trash had been taken out, the floor cleaned, the toilet scrubbed, the carpet vacuumed (all by me the day before) so I had literally nothing to do around the apartment. I took a day off from my writing responsibilities, too. All I wanted to do was sack out on the couch and watch the extended LOTR movies.

You guys, I was really surprised by how much I was looking forward to this. Yeah, I do things that are fun or that count as goofing off, but they always come with a portion of guilt.

Yesterday was a day off from guilt.

Also, when I watch most movies I’m tempted to look at Twitter or have a comic book open next to me, but LOTR had my attention from the start. I managed to sit down close to my start time (which was 7am) and aside from looking at Twitter messages during DVD changes or checking the World Cup score for the Belgium match, I was offline most of the day. The movies themselves were engaging enough, even after multiple viewings, that I had no urge to turn away or fill dull time. What’s more, my wife–who generally has zero interest in Tolkien or other kinds of fantasy–was nearly late for work because the movie was so absorbing. I started the movies just after 7am and finished 8:30pm, and now I want to reread the books and replay the Lego game.

Weird thing: my kid is going through one of his bouts of late night wakefulness, where he sleeps all day and stays up all hours of the night. In fact, when I woke this morning, I found a plate of bacon, eggs, and toast waiting for me. My wife explained that she woke at 4am and found the boy wide awake in the kitchen cooking. He wanted to make a prepare breakfast for me, despite not being a kitchen person.

So, he dug up some YouTube videos for making scrambled eggs with bacon (and the video suggested boiling the bacon until the water steamed off and it could be browned in the skillet). Yes, by 6:45am, everything was stone cold, but while the bacon was a little bland, it was pretty good. Well, it was better than you could expect from twelve-year-old who never cooks and could barely sleep.

Dinner was delivery from a favorite pizza place. Lunch was a meatball sandwich on a fancy baguette, followed by the birthday cake cantalope-free fruit salad. See:

Inside the bag was a bottle of fancy rye whiskey. It was a good day, you guys, even if I did squeeze in a little writing work at the very end of the day.

I am 49.

Yesterday was a day off writing.

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Usually, Saturdays are the biggest writing day of the week for me, but yesterday I had the day off. We celebrated my wife’s birthday, and I put aside all the usual stuff I’m supposed to be getting done so she does not have to cook, clean, or loiter around waiting for me or the boy to start doing what she wanted to do.

So I made her favorite breakfast, took a quick library run to pick up the books she had on hold, then went to Lincoln Park for a picnic, a game of Qwirkle, and some general hanging out.

After we returned home, we have Asian take-out, she blew out the candles (on her crustless sweet potato pie) and we played a game of Bohnanza.

She won Qwirkle by a wide margin, but I kick butt in Bohnanza. I keep telling my family that they should always trade if they can. Never try to hurt another player by denying yourself a trade, but they keep playing defensively.

Then, best of all, she went to bed super-early and slept hard for 10 hours.

It wasn’t exactly a tennis bracelet/fancy restaurant birthday, but she had greenery, sunshine, and family time, which are her very favorite things, so we’re calling it a win.

Oh, yeah: I got her a nice, wide-brimmed straw hat for summer sunshines and being a little dressy. She was pleased.

But that was yesterday. Today I’m struggling with Scrivener once again. In a few minutes, I’m going to say fuck it and watch some Person of Interest.

Vacation (with pics)

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Last week, we hopped a train down to San Jose to visit my wife’s uncle and visit him and his home city, Santa Cruz. It wasn’t long enough, and sleeping in coach on a train may be better than sleeping on a plane, but still: sleeping in a chair. (The train ride from Seattle to SJC was 24 hours, 20 minutes.)

So, it was not long enough. Few vacations ever are. However, my uncle has a beautiful little house with a pretty little garden (filled with drought-resistant plants, because California) and the beach was only literally a ten-minute walk away.

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Best Gingerbread Houses Ever, An Annual Post

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Yesterday, I took my wife out for our Giftmas trip through downtown Seattle. Our son is almost 12 and old enough to stay home, so we did without him rather than drag him along while he complained. Sadly, without the kid our time turned more toward shopping for him than anything else.

We started with a really nice lunch at the Michou Deli in the Market, followed by a tiny egg nog cheescake on a stick from The Confectionary. We hit Kitchen Basics for stocking stuffers, the walked up to the Sheraton to see the Gingerbread houses.

Everything there is edible. And it rocked back and forth!

The cow jumped over the moon, via a motor.

You can see them all (including close-ups of some sections, video of the moving parts, and a candy version of our downtown library) at the set. A few are a bit blurry; my one-shot camera seems to be on its last legs viewfinder.

Then we dropped by Pacific Place to listen to a church group of male singers muddle through some Christmas songs and enjoy the indoor snowfall. There was much fun to be had, but my wife is still recovering from an injury so we cut things short.

It was a nice time, but I wish we could have brought the kid (and he would have been cool about it).

Randomness for 10/10

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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.

So. Many. Things. To. Do.

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Lots going on here. I’m going to do a brief recap to share news and try to catch up.

1) If you’ve been waiting for my rpg game tie-in novel to be released, the publisher is selling it on their website right now. KING KHAN. If you buy the paper version, you get the digital version gratis.

2) Not an hour ago I put my wife on a bus to the airport. She’s spending three weeks back east to attend a family wedding, make some tough decisions about her late father’s artwork, and generally get some time with her siblings. There was a lot to do to get her ready and out the door, but now I’m a single parent again, so things family/house obligations are not exactly going to shrink.

3) If you missed the announcement yesterday, my Kickstarter passed the $30,000/ 300% of goal. Which is a lot of whoa and thank you and I hardly know what to do with myself.

4) If you haven’t backed but are thinking about it, one of the stretch goals is based on new backers that show up starting this week. I’ve been talking about growing my audience for a long time, so new readers are welcome

5) As a followup to number 4, my son has made some pixel art to demonstrate the progress of the stretch goals, but I need to fix it up and post it before we actually reach the goals. Time is flying by

6) I owe a ton of responses to emails and things. I’m sorry. I’ll catch up as quickly as possible.

Now, back to working on my stuff.

This week sucks

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It was just Monday that I blogged about how grateful I am that folks are supporting me in the Clarion West writeathon and that I was taking those pledges seriously and hoping to get a lot done.

Then, later that day, I broke a tooth in a big way.

Tuesday, I discovered that I could not get in with my dentist that day.

Wednesday, I learned that I will probably need a root canal that I can’t afford.

Today, my wife found out that a very old friend of hers passed away. She’s processing it as best she can and I’m trying to stay close in case she needs support.

Guys, this week sucks. As soon as we can put this one in our rear-view mirror, lets.

On top of that, I realized too late that progress on the book had grown sluggish because my subconscious was telling me that I’d made a structural mistake. The book felt flat and I couldn’t keep pushing through it any more. This realization felt almost Strossian.

So, it’s late in the day but I’m going to go back and redo those pages in the proper way, and hopefully they will help to build the climax the way it’s meant to be done.

Week’s not over! It’s possible that tomorrow will be non-shitty. Let’s hope so.

Finally got to play Race to Adventure last night

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Now that season one of Veronica Mars is over, the family finally had a chance to play RACE TO ADVENTURE, which I backed as a Kickstarter.

Here’s the layout near the start of the game. Of course I played Prof. Khan.

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You can see I’ve collected the passports for the USA and Switzerland, while to the right my son has collected USA and GB. However! I am about to collect Nepal in that very turn, while my son was hoarding clues at the Library of Congress.

Yeah, that’s my kid giving the thumbs up.

My wife… I’m not sure what she was doing. Let’s just say she had a busy day and wasn’t concentrating too well.

Here we are at the end of the game, when I had returned to the Century Club, said (house rule: no shouting) “I have returned!” and won the game.

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The others also collected all of their passports (and rescued the prisoner from Atlantis) but, having saved Egypt for last, they were still cursed. They were also way behind. Mwah-ah-ah-ah!

As for the game, it was terrific. I think I’d like to play it once or twice more on the tan side of the tiles before flipping them to the more advanced “shadow” game. We stumbled a little bit with the rules at first, like we do with every game, but by the end the turns were flying by. This might be the first game ever that says it takes 30 minutes to play and really means it.

The nice thing is that there’s no luck involved (no blowing your plans because of a lousy roll of the die) and the strategy elements were light but still effective. It’ll be a good fast game when we just want to play something fun without a ton of calculation.

On a day when the news was filled with blood, horror, and people coming together to help each other in dire need, it was good to sit with my family and play a game.