Saturday, March 30, 2013

Stages of Decompression

Stages of decompression when I get home:

Stop in the driveway, sit back, listen to music and Brian barking in the driveway and revel in the fact that I'm not at work anymore.
Pet all my dogs and praise them on the way to the door.
Greet my family, or if I'm home alone, check out all the animals and the garden before I go in. Take deep breaths because I'm home.
Take off my shoes. Ahh!
Pick up Veronica and turn her upside-down, tickle her tummy and play with her feet. (For new readers, Veronica aka The Poop is a cat.) Let her up on my shoulders and walk around the house with her. Put on my music if I'm home alone.
Check my email. Take off my socks if it's warm, put on my slippers if it's cold. Ahhh!
Make and/or eat food. Yum!
Open up the doors and windows if it's a beautiful evening.
Write, design, do art, listen to music, or play Bejeweled ... sometimes all at once.
Take off my bra and put on snuggly sweat pants.
Write/work/play some more, until I'm sleepy.
Bath with fragrant, luxurious soap, and bed. Decompression complete!

Because it takes all night, having lots of days working at my day job in a row or just one day off (split weekends) are tough. My day off doesn't start when I leave work, but when I wake up in the morning. And now I'm laughing because I'm imagining doing my decompression routine extra fast. Veronica would not be a happy kitteh at all!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Voices, They Are Stupid

I've been working out again. As always, I've rediscovered that it's absolutely true that you end up with more energy, not less, when you work out on a regular basis.

And the voices in my head--man, they know just what to say. What's with that? Everything from a whining "I don't wanna!" to "I really don't have time to work out" to "It's my day off, I don't want to spend my day off at the gym," and everything in-between. A stupid one yesterday: "It's almost lunchtime, so I'll be hungry by the time I get there, and if I go work out now then I'll have a really late lunch if I have one at all, and if I eat before I'll be too full to work out."  Really? As if I'm afraid of being hungry for an hour or two. Anyone who's seen me knows that I'm in no danger of starvation any time soon.

The voices in my head have no logic. That's probably a good thing, otherwise I might cave in to them (more often).

The voices in my head are not who I am, nor are the voices in anyone's head who any of us really are. They are, generally speaking (at least in my case) a vocal minority expressing my fears that goad me into laziness, and are mainly concerned with maintaining my comfort level. That includes my success or lack thereof. To these voices, success is scary. It's not just fear of failure, which these voices also have. What if I succeed? Then (OMG) people might see me, might notice, and that puts me in danger. What kind of danger, the voices can't really specify other than a vague unease and the notion that people will mock me if they, for example, read my books. Regardless of what might or might not happen, it's change and we're safe right now without the change. We're safe and nothing bad is happening and if there's change then there's all this bad stuff that might happen.

What bad stuff, they can't always delineate. Even if they did, it probably wouldn't make much sense. (See previous mention of the lunch logic.)

The main leverage that the voices have is that I've been embarrassed and I've failed and I've struggled, and just thinking about some of those moments makes my gut knot up tight. So their vague threats do have teeth. Take, for example, my garden. I've spent a lot of money and time and effort on my veggie garden. Last year, I had almost nothing to show for it. The deer ate my tomato plants and most of the broccoli. They even ate the zucchini plants. The thought of all that loss makes me feel horrible. I wasted money, and I ended up looking stupid. The time spent I don't mind so much--I love gardening, and it keeps me in shape. Still ...  And I have this project where I'm going to fence the whole darned thing in to keep the deer out. In fact, I'm going to work on it today. So why am I here, typing (and playing Bejeweled) when I should dash out there right now and get to work?

Because of the voices. And when I press them past the "I don't wanna, it's my day off and it's cold and dreary outside" (although the sun is peeking out right now, yay!!) the best that they can come up with is "what if you don't have enough materials to finish and we can't afford to buy new and if you buy stuff we'll be short and lose the house or worse, what if you finish and the deer still get in and then we'll have lost the house and we'll be starving for nothing or worst of all, what if the deer stay out and the garden still fails? Then you'll be a gardening total failure because you can't even blame the deer and we'll have no food and no house and we'll all die and it's all your fault and your husband and kids won't blame you because they're so nice but you'll see their large, tear-filled eyes and know you are to blame for their total destruction."

This is, seriously, the best the voices can do.

Why do I listen to them? Why do any of us listen to the voices in our heads?

Right now I can't think of a damned reason why. I'm going to go out and work on my garden. Type atch'y'all next time!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Full of Books

I need a new bookshelf to hold proof copies, graphic design and typography books.

That's really kind of awesome. I like that. A lot.

I love books enough that I have given up the idea of living in a home where the weight and volume restrictions on stuff is severely limited.

Yes, I know, I can have them on a Kindle ... and yet, I still rely heavily on the ability to flip through a reference book. I run my fingers along the pages and watch those colors and the text go by, and mysteriously my brain connects with what I need and stops me within a few pages of exactly what I want. Also, as my vision gets worse, I depend on those larger surface areas. Yes, I can zoom in using a Kindle, but I lose the area of words, the big picture. Specifically with graphic design books and non-fiction in general, the bulk of what I read, I need to have that broader view of the book in a format that's larger than even the biggest pads I've seen. A computer screen comes the closest to the size I like. Mine is 9" high--the size I'd need to view an open spread on a 6x9 book. For larger books on art, graphic design, architecture, etc. my computer screen is much, much too small. Fiction is much more flexible. I could easily see having my whole fiction library on a Kindle or iPad with no issues. But non-fiction ....

I think that one thing that will be a challenge to future book designers will be to rethink and redesign non-fiction from the ground up so that they can present the amount of information that they now are able to transmit in a physical book. Most people aren't aware of how columns, sidebars, images, graphs, illustrations, different styles of type and white space all contribute to feeding information into the human brain. When the way all these things interact is severely space-restricted, and a full open-book spread isn't available except in a tiny size ... yeah. I don't think the answer is necessarily larger device sizes (which will affect their cost and portability.) I think a combination of the way we learn to look at books from infancy through adulthood and the way books are put together will have to change. I believe I'm too old to relearn how I glean information from the page. So for people my age, it falls to the designers to bring the mountain to us.

Already, great strides have been made in book design and information impartation. Smart phones, web site design and rich communication formats have come a long way. My own websites are sad, primitive creatures that could use some TLC from someone who knows what they're doing (and who can manipulate more complex and innovative software than I know how to use) to take advantage of everything our information age has to offer. I have some fun ideas, but I can't make them into reality, and I don't have the time or money to devote to that project (yet). Soon, maybe ....

Speaking of time, it's time to get back to work (on my day off). Some days I think about retiring ... and how much work I can get caught up on when I do. Do people ever really catch up on work?

Probably not. I know I probably won't ever catch up. My work defines who I am, and like my writing and book designs, that work keeps evolving just like the world that's evolving all around and with us.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Who's in Store?

Here's a weird little idea.

I think I posted about this before, and it might even be an official day in some country somewhere. Anyway, I thought I'd put a bug in some ears.

I shop weekly, sometimes several times a week, at our local stores. In that time, although I sometimes don't even know the person's name, I've started to develop favorites. When they're working at the registers, I go to their line even if it's longer. I say hi. Sometimes we politely chat about social nothings. Some of them went to school with my kids--now they've been employees for years and we still exchange 'say hi to's' with each other.

Where I work, I have favorite customers, and I've become a favorite employee for some. In fact, all of us at work have someone or several someones who will wait longer to be waited on just to ask how are you doing, or who will come in on a particular day knowing that person will be in the store on that day.

One of these people recently turned in a comment card about one of my coworkers along the lines of 'so and so is always helpful and polite, and I shop here because of her.' It made me realize that I don't do that enough.

So, the next time I'm at the grocery store, I'm going to look at some name tags, and start filling out comment cards for them. If you've got a favorite employee at a local store, won't you consider doing the same? It's not likely to lead to any perks unless that store has an employee of the month program or something like that, but that doesn't matter. Because of a customer's thoughtfulness, for at least a month if not longer, my friend at work will come into the work and see that tangible evidence that her efforts and time away from family are truly appreciated. So often a retail employee's day is stressful and marred by cranky or abusive customers, fear of making errors, and aches and pains from being on their feet all day (literally--I don't sit down except for two breaks and during my lunch, and sometimes I walk to the store to buy my lunch. And this is the norm for retail jobs). One brief note, just a few words of praise, weighs like gold against the balance of all those featherweight fears and annoyances.

Bring a little joy into the world. Please write a comment card about someone who makes your shopping experience easier and more enjoyable. Spread the word. It's a simple, free, and civilized gift to give to members of our community who are often overlooked as something just barely more noticeable than the counters and the cash registers.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Update on Publishing News

Random House has responded in an open letter to critics, specifically some very well-followed folks in SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) including John Scalzi.  You can find some great commentary and comments here at Writer Beware, a blog every writer ought to follow.

Here is the text of the open letter:

Dear John, Victoria, Jaym and SFWA Members,

We read with interest your posts today about the new Random House digital imprints and our business model. While we respect your position, you’ll not be surprised to learn that we strongly disagree with it, and wish you had contacted us before you published your posts. We would appreciate you giving us an opportunity to share why we believe Hydra is an excellent publishing opportunity for the science fiction community by posting ours below to them.

Hydra offers a different-- but potentially lucrative--publishing model for authors: a profit share. In the more traditional advance- plus-royalty model, the publisher takes all the financial risk up front, and recoups the advance before the author earns any cash royalties. With a profit-share model, there is no advance. Instead, the author and publisher share equally in the profits from each and every sale. In effect, we partner with the author for each book. 

As with every business partnership, there are specific costs associated with bringing a book successfully to market, and we state them very straightforwardly and transparently in our author agreements. These costs could be much higher--and certainly be more stressful and labor-intensive to undertake--for an author with a self-publishing model. Profits are generated once those costs are subtracted from the sales revenue. Hydra and the author split those profits equally from the very first sale. 

When we acquire a title in the Hydra program, it is an all-encompassing collaboration. Our authors provide the storytelling, and we at Hydra support their creativity with best-in-class services throughout the publishing process: from dedicated editorial, cover design, copy editing and production, to publicity, digital marketing and social media tools, trade sales, academic and library sales, piracy protection, negotiating and selling of subsidiary rights, as well as access to Random House coop and merchandising programs. Together, we deliver the best science fiction, fantasy and horror books to the widest possible readership, thus giving authors maximum earning potential.

As a last point to the SFWA leadership, my colleagues and I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss the advantages of the Hydra business model, describe the program overall, and respond to any of your expressed concerns. Please let me know a good time for us to set up this meeting. 

Many thanks and all the best,
Allison Dobson

Allison R. Dobson
V.P., Digital Publishing Director
Random House Publishing Group

I have to beg to differ with a few things in the letter, namely, that they would give the authors maximum earning potential. Really? 

Will they market for me? I assume that if they do, I'll get charged for it. If I'm getting charged for it, why not just buy it myself? And I'm not sure I'd want to buy advertising. Since we're partners, do I get a say in how much is spent and where?

What is Hydra offering that I can't get for myself and then receive 100% of the profits? They're fronting the money for production? Yes, they are. Are they spending more than I can afford, which I have to pay back with all of my side of the profits from the book (while they pocket their half--do they spend their half of the profits to help pay down some of those production costs or is it all on me?) or are they spending something I can afford, which couldn't I just spend that money myself and keep all the profits instead of paying them back and then only getting 50% of the profits until they cut me loose?

Am I reading this right?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Publishing News

To all the writers out there:

Contract terms seem to be getting worse and worse. I think publishers are test marketing bad contracts to see who will sign. The backlash in one particular case--Hydra, an imprint of Random House, offered a particularly bad contract the terms of which have gone viral--has the potential to send a big message not just to Random House but a great many other publishers who are toying with the idea of abusing writers.

John Scalzi makes far more educated and insightful comments than I can.

And then, it seems, Alibi gives John Scalzi more fodder for commentary. Really, guys? Some writers are in fact desperate to be read, even if they make no money but I think the bandwidth on this scandal--and it's a scandal--may make even them run away.

Kate Wilhelm bails on traditional publishing after withdrawing a book due to an insulting contract offer.

Distribution has been bottlenecked for a long time. Suddenly, the dam burst and literary rivers are running wild. I'm a little confused as to why publishers think that they can misbehave now of all times, when writers have such amazing alternatives.

Maybe from their perspective it makes sense. From their perspective there are so many free and cheap books out there that they may think that writers who have professional aspirations might feel like they can't compete or make money on their writing. (And many of us do.) Such writers, the publishers may theorize while steepling their hands together and giggling maniacally, may be desperate for validation, promotion, and the stamp of approval from a real publisher that will hopefully set them apart from those gizillions of other books. So desperate, that they may accept, despite any feelings of unease or warnings from the writing community, a really, really bad contract. Besides, there are plenty of ignorant writers out there, right? Even if writerly outrage goes viral, there will always be a chance that a talented newbie without an internet connection or the wisdom to go to the library and google up some research will sign. And the Random House name will be on the letterhead. Everyone has a Random House book in their home, if not dozens or hundreds. All it takes is for one James Patterson-like newbie to sign on based on their household name, and the money will endlessly roll in forever (thanks to the contract terms.)

Well, they'd better find that sucker while the Random House name still has a good reputation. Because reputations have a way of going down the tubes fast when your indiscretions become public. And the public loves a good scandal, especially when it involves a corporate giant.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Sunburn and good food

I have a mild sunburn. It's awesome.

I normally don't celebrate sunburns, but you know, it's been a long cold lonely winter (as the song goes) and it felt really, really good to walk in the sun and lay in the sun and forget to put sunscreen on my part-line on my scalp (and I didn't wear a hat--oops) and feel that tingle after the sunset.

It finally warmed up. Not enough to tempt me to go to the water park, but enough to actually feel a bit overheated by the pool when I stretched out in the chair.

It's cold and rainy now, in the forties (F) with scattered showers and a really unpleasant wind coming in from the east. I will say that it's very, very good to be home and everything looks rich and beautiful and wild here. I didn't see a lot of natural areas in our section of Orlando, and all the parks were theme parks rather than a place to take your dog for a walk or to hike or throw a frisbee. I didn't realize how much I liked living somewhere as rugged and ungroomed as my home county. Of course, wild spaces in that part of Florida would probably be really unpleasant and swampy.


Anyway, it'll be hard to go back to work tomorrow, but it felt really good to sleep in my own bed last night. I'm looking forward to it again tonight. That, and a home-cooked meal. We plan on home broiled steaks. I think ours tastes better than the ones at the fancy restaurants. I had egg salad made with our home-raised eggs and all my favorite seasonings for lunch and it tasted really, really yummy.

Wanna try my recipe? You have to be something of a cook already to pull it off because all the seasonings are to taste. The 'pinches' are estimates at best:

Hard boil two eggs. Drain the pan, put in cold water, and let stand for a few minutes. You can chill the eggs in the fridge if you want, but there's nothing quite like fresh, warm egg salad. Trust me.
In a sufficiently-large bowl (a larger soup bowl works) put in a large dab of mayonnaise--at least 2 tablespoons. Add:
fresh cracked black pepper (or white if you prefer)
tiny pinch of hot paprika
small pinch of regular paprika
large pinch of wasabi powder (or use premade wasabi if you have it)
large pinch of yellow mustard powder
small pinch of coriander powder
small pinch of turmeric
small pinch of cumin
a couple of dashes or a pinch of dill
tiny pinch of salt (remember, the mayonnaise is salty too!)

Stir. Chop or use an egg guillotine in one or two directions to slice the eggs and stir them into the seasoned mayonnaise. Best on toasted Dave's Killer Bread or a nice light rye.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Another lovely day in the making

The sun is uncertain and there's a cold wind, but I still managed to get a few minutes of reading in the sun beside the pool. I even took my sweater off and pulled my pant legs up to my knees. Soon, the thoughtful and generous Susan will be picking me up at the hotel. We may go to a light lunch someplace in Orlando. It's a drive (we took it the day before yesterday in a rented car) so it's very nice of her on many levels to come on over and see me.

People are wearing parkas, but it's not that cold for a northerner. Still, I'm going to bundle up if I decide to go hot tubbing later on. The official high temp predicted for today is 55, more than twenty below the average for this time of year. Not exactly brr, but it's a lot less fun to hot tub and then be nothing but layers on layers of goosepimples by the time I make it to the door leaving the pool area.

I'm not disappointed by the weather (much--it would have been sooooo fun to spend time at the water park right across the street.) It's been fun and relaxing and the flowers, wow, the flowers. So many varieties in bloom right now, and it's winter. I wonder how it looks in spring and summer. And the orange juice, and the margaritas .... Ripe citrus, really ripe, hand-squeezed, is amazing.

I love the bright orange of ripening oranges on the trees when we drive past the orange groves. I saw a nursery selling potted citrus trees--they were heavy with fruit and I so wanted to take one home, but it's impractical on a gizillion different levels. My orange trees really suffer, especially over the winter.

I truly love the Pacific Northwest. Having said that, there are a lot of really fascinating, wonderful and beautiful places in the world and I'm glad I get to visit them. Given a chance, I'd love to see Orlando again. Maybe next time, the sun will be out a bit more.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Happy happy sun sun

It's cool and cloudy, but for a brief time this morning the sun came out. I got to be there, by the hot tub (and in the hot tub) actually basking. I'd forgotten how good it felt. Not as good as gardening (weirdly, because gardening is hard!) but relaxing and soothing, like a gentle massage. R. got his requested time by the pool with a bikini-clad wife, and I got to do some reading on graphic design but mostly I reclined beneath the golden warmth of that strange and seldom-seen-in-winter object in the sky that I love so much.

I taught belly dance to martial artists, decompressed at a dog park and got to fawn over lots of really neat dogs, had great Cuban food in Mt. Dora, a great margarita at the hotel bar, incredible censored and I've had some decent work time. I might even get some stuff actually done. I'm hoping for more sunshine later, too. Because as much as I like getting stuff done, I really, really love the SUN.