random observations


So, in the YA book, there's a punky teenager who has an "FTW" T-shirt. This confused the copy editor, who was like, "Why don't you spell out 'For the Win'? Clearly 'FTW' has no other meaning." So I had to explain to him that, this being a punky teenager and all, the shirt they wore did have another meaning that the teenager was hoping adults don't know about--namely, "Fuck the World."

I told this story to my sister, who works with punky teenagers, and--you guessed it--she got really annoyed and was like, "Of course it means 'Fuck the World'! Clearly 'FTW' has no other meaning!"

I think we're lucky she didn't assign us all detention....

Glory, Hallelujah! I have been cured!

I've had a couple of high blood pressure readings at the doctor's office--I've pretty much always gotten white-coat syndrome with new doctors, but this is a doctor I've had for a while, so she was a bit hmmm about it. After tangling with the blood pressure machines at the supermarket (which are free for a reason) I went ahead and bought a home monitor--they're not expensive, and I really wanted to have reliable data. If there's a problem with my blood pressure, I don't want to ignore it and wind up like my brother, but I also don't want to be put on medication just because some doofus almost backed me over in the supermarket's parking lot.

I've been reading up on how to take accurate measurements (do it in the morning before you've had caffeine), plus I've been taking it at various times during the day just to get a sense of what my own patterns are. (At this point, it doesn't look like there's a real problem.)

So after I finally managed to get some writing today, I took my blood pressure. And in spite of the fact that 1. it's the afternoon, and 2. I drank a whole bunch of caffeine to help the writing along, my blood pressure reading was the lowest it's ever been--and I took it twice to make sure!

And, you know, this is what I have been telling people! Like, yes, what I'm doing for the family is very important and meaningful, and yes, there are other enjoyable activities out there--but they're not writing. They're just not. And if you're a writer, there is simply no substitute for the real thing!

This again

One of the things that's been happening that's been preventing the writing is that I've been traveling A LOT over the past year or so.

There's been a few reasons for this. One is that I never did travel very much before, because I was a freelancer and travel meant I had to both pay for the trip and forgo earned income, so it was extremely expensive. The other thing is that my family was scattered all over the country, so what travel I did was to see family, not to go on some adventure.

We're more consolidated now, but because I've taken on a bigger role in the family's financial management, I've still had to travel quite a bit for family--and not fun trips, but ones undertaken to ensure that taxes are paid properly and the like. You know: Meet with lawyer. Meet with bank. Search in file cabinet for documents. Meet with lawyer....

I started to really resent this, and as a result I booked a bunch of fun travel. Everything I'd ever wanted to do, but couldn't before! Carpe diem! YOLO, dude!! I went to Hawaii! And London! I rode the Coast Starlight train all the way from Seattle to Los Angeles!

That was all great, but...lately when I see these things on my calendar, my reaction has been "Not ANOTHER one!" I realize that this is the very definition of a Rich Person Problem, but it's been very frustrating to me to not be making progress with the writing, and these trips really fracture my focus (especially when they are followed up by persistent sinus infections).

So, I have another trip coming up soon (with family, but it's supposed to be a fun trip, not a work trip), but then I should have no trips at least until the holiday season. I still want to travel, of course--I want to see the world! Whee!--but I need to find a better balance and try to schedule trips around the writing.

I receive the third degree

I have two nieces, one seven years old and one ten. Last night, my sister and her husband wanted to go to a concert, so I baby-sat.

Everything was chugging along normally--I was reading in the kitchen--when the younger niece trundled down from upstairs with a copy of Trang in her hands.

NIECE: Who's Mary Sisson? [We're all named Mary, so at home I go by a family nickname.]

ME: That's me.

NIECE: Why is your name on this book?

ME: I wrote it.

NIECE: Do you think it's a good book?

ME: I wrote that book.

NIECE: Why does a curse appear [older niece joins in from the next room] just a few paragraphs into the book!

Le sigh. I went with the younger niece into the next room and explained to both children that a curse word appears on the first page because the soldiers curse a lot, and I wanted people who were bothered by cursing to know what they were getting into sooner rather than later. The older niece is just generally less prudish than the younger, so we spent a few fun-filled minutes imitating people who throw books across the room, shrieking, whenever they encounter a bad word.

I went back to the kitchen and my reading--and the younger niece joined me, opening Trang up on the kitchen table.

NIECE: I can see that bad word right there.

ME: That book is not for kids!

NIECE: Then why is it in the house?

ME: Because I wanted my sister to read it, and she isn't a kid!

NIECE: [Shuts book.] I know that bad word. I know five bad words.

I changed the subject, but when my sister got home she assured me that, had I asked, the niece would have been happy to share those five words with me....


Still moving--I'm doing it one carload at a time, so it's taking forever. I'm semi-settled into the new place, though--still lots of piles o' crap around (it's actually rather discouraging to realize that I have so much crap, since as a rule I try to live uncluttered), but I can sleep at the new place and I have Internet and tomorrow I am supposed to get an actual stove.

I've been doing so much hoisting, plus the new place has stairs, that I've been pretty much exhausted all the time (yes, overexercise is real). But hopefully soon I can strike a balance between moving and the rest of life--just spend an hour or to a day on moving-type stuff, and then spend time on other things. Of course, I still have to get the old house ready to sell--UGH. I will be very happy to get rid of THAT commute....

It's getting, it's getting, it's getting kinda hectic

Moving in! It's happening! It's kind of a complicated process because the new place still lacks some key things (like a stove and curtains) but hopefully it will be done fairly soon!

In the meantime, here's a couple of article I thought were interesting but didn't have time to actually write posts about:

This one is about the music market in Japan. Japan has been notable because it's resisted digitization, but guess what's happening right now? Oh, yeah, digitization is happening with a vengeance and all the Japanese labels are being caught out because they thought that Japan was the one market that would never, ever change, so why should they prepare?

I also have to point out something that has always annoyed me with reporting about the Japanese music market: People always report the revenues. So they say (or rather, they used to say), Oh, the Japanese music market is so much better than the U.S. music market because evil, awful digitization hasn't happened there so their revenues are still high!

Anyone see the problem there? Revenues are not profits. If I sell something for $10 that costs me $8 to produce and ship, I have revenues of $10 but profits of only $2. What's so nice about digitization (be it music or books) is that you can sell something for $5 or $3 that costs you next to nothing to make. So yeah, your revenues go down, but who cares?

That one is about dodgy on-line reviews. Businesses are starting to sue people who post negative fake reviews for defamation--something to keep in mind if you're ever tempted to trash someone via sock-puppet.


Look at that!

It's been mentioned that the way Amazon is designed gets you to focus on them at the expense of other retailers, and I'm going to expand that observation to note that the same is true of Amazon's international operations--I can't look up my Amazon UK numbers, so I just don't give them much thought.

Until I was entering their payment into my checking software and realized that it was fully 50% of what Amazon US is paying me.

It turns out that, at the moment, Trang is in the top 10 of Amazon UK's free first contact books!

This pleases me very much, because in my opinion, British media tends to be very well-written. Of course there are many great American writers, but I've seen British trashy celebrity gossip crafted with a care that you would just never see here for that kind of story. I think we are much more of the mentality that there's high literature and then there's the everyday stuff that just needs to be simple and clear (really simple and really clear--we make zero assumptions about the literacy of our audience), while the British take more of the attitude that everything should be written as well as possible regardless of purpose. I really noticed that when I was collecting reviews for Serenity--American reviewers almost never noted that the movie was well-written, because that would be regarded as kind of off-putting ("this movie is hard, and you will not understand it"), while British reviewers almost always threw in a paragraph about how marvelous (and enjoyable!) the use of language was.

Angsty post

So, the house is chugging along--I'm glad I've been focusing on it, because it actually does make things happen a lot quicker if the homeowner has already made decisions about stuff, or is willing to run off to the REALLY big Home Depot to pick up that thing that the nearby merely-large Home Depot doesn't carry.

But I'm still having the writing itch. I've been taking it out on the other blog--including writing posts and then deleting them without publishing them, which I think is like a Grade A symptom of Frustrated Writerdom. ("I have nothing to say! But I shall write it down anyway!")

I'm really of two minds about blogging there--and I was already of two minds about blogging here. I know there are writers who think that it is important to just write anything, so much so that they will count blog posts toward their daily word count. Maybe it's because I spent a few years having to switch between working on Trang and Trust, and writing for a living, but I feel like you have to decide, Do I want to be a novelist, or do I want to be a blogger? I had to do this before with the freelance writing--did I want to be a novelist (and spend time writing novels), or did I want to be a journalist (and spend time networking and pitching stories)?

A blog can really reel you in, so that you begin to focus on building readership and networking with other blogs that you like, which can be a major time-suck and distraction. The other issue is that it's simply easier to do blog posts, so writing them can be a form of procrastination--Look! I wrote 1,000 words today! Everything's fine!--just like the way to-do lists can be abused.

Part of me feels like I should just delete the other blog--prune off that writerly outlet so that output is forced into the novel. (Can you tell that I garden?) Part of me wonders if the writing-is-like-exercise people have a point. I think I'm going keep both blogs, but make an effort to channel the writing into the novel--at least it's a good sign that I want to write, and that even though the house takes a lot of time and focus, I've been able to write, even if it's just for that random blog.

This actually makes me feel better about myself

As I mentioned in the comments here, I've basically stopped reading posts by writers, because I just couldn't deal with all the chirpy little "I've written a billion words today!"-type posts.

Obviously, this is my issue--when I'm productive, I make those kinds of posts, and they're a major reason why this blog exists. But, you know, when you're not being productive, reading about other people being super-productive can be a recipe for misery. If you read that sort of post, and your very first thought is, "FUCK YOU!!" then it's time to do something else with your time.

But oddly enough, when I read this article in the Wall Street Journal about Russell Blake, I felt totally fine. According to the article, Blake "churns out 7,000 to 10,000 words a day and often works from eight in the morning until midnight."

You know, good for him, but that is a life I would never, ever want to have. Ever.

And that, I think, is the real problem with envy and getting into the habit of comparing yourself to other writers: In addition to fostering misery, it takes your focus away from figuring out what it is you actually want in life, and what you actually want from your writing. Maybe you don't want to write full time. Maybe someone else's work habits would render you entirely unproductive. Maybe your goals are not Russell Blake's goals.

There was a point in life (maybe when I was in my late 20s?) when I realized that if I wanted my life to be like Person X's, then that meant I had to accept the whole shebang--I couldn't just cherry pick the nice things. If Person X was glamorous but vapid, then to be more like them, I would have to be more vapid--and I'd rather not. If Person X was successful professionally because they didn't mind being a tiny, fairly-useless cog in an enormous, impersonal machine, well, guess what? I either was going to have to learn to love the rat race, or accept the fact that my career was going to have a more unusual trajectory.


That sound you heard was my word count running into the fact that I just bought a house.

I'm trying to make it so that my daily schedule does not read:

1. Get up


3. Go to sleep

Ironically, I think I'm going to be helped by the fact that the house was a foreclosure and is something of a mess--even the jobs that seem simple (the ivy needs to be taken out of the front yard) are on such a scale (THERE ARE MASSIVE QUANTITIES OF IVY SMOTHERING THE ENTIRE FRONT YARD) that I am simply going to have to hire people. (And I yanked out most of my front lawn myself, so trust me when I say that that ivy is not a one-person job!)

There's still some running around that I must do, but hopefully soon I will be in a place where I can get back to the book!

The itch is returning

First off: Happy Holidays! Enjoy your movie and Chinese food, or whatever festivities you have planned!

(Is it OK for me to make that joke? I'm not actually Jewish. But the Church of Paranoid Christians has been putting up signs where I live saying that if you don't say "M---y C-------s" every single time, you are an Evil Satanic Communist, and I really want to join that group now that the Illuminati has vanished. (Or has it!?!))

Anyway, I've been increasingly having the itch to write lately--to just sort of write anything. I think that after the visiting relatives decamp next week, I'm going to start in on the young-adult fantasy novel I've had outlined for ages.

Without question, I will be getting back to the Trang series--Trials is partially written, both books are outlined, I even have covers!--but right now it's simply too hard. Basically there's a really unfortunate combination of where I was in writing the book (just where things got really depressing) and life circumstances. To seriously mix a metaphor, I can't pick up the thread of the one without touching the third rail of the other.

The young-adult fantasy novel is not nearly so focused on grief and loss, so hopefully it will be more doable (and hopefully I'm not killing the urge by making this post). I want it to be fun and cute (while also being deep and meaningful, of course! I iz broody artiste!), and something I will really enjoy writing.

ETA: Oh, and according to my last Amazon statement, I've sold copies of Trust in France, Germany, and Japan!

And November begins with . . . a random dispatch!

I've decided against renting. I looked at a couple of places, and they were fine as far as they went, but OMFG I had completely forgotten what landlords are like to deal with. Many thanks to them for calling me first thing on a Saturday morning, as well as selling my telephone number to marketers who also enjoy calling me at the crack of dawn! It appears that it's not just a regional thing--landlords across the country are retarded douchebags. (And before you start muttering, I've never had a problem with paying rent. I do, however, have a problem with people who confuse the right to rental payments with droit du seigneur.)

Anyway, renting close to my sister would be more expeditious than waiting for a suitable house to come to the market. But the prospect of inviting some stupid asshole to break into my apartment while I am taking a shower because the shower was not, in fact, waterproof (happened) has reconciled me to the virtues of patience.

What else? Well, as I mentioned, in July Amazon rejiggered its science fiction categories, and at this point I think I have enough data to say that being on the free Science Fiction: First Contact list really blows. I'm keeping my ranking and my front-page status, but I'm giving away far fewer copies of Trang and selling far fewer copies of Trust than when I was on the front page of the free Science Fiction: Series list. The fact that I'm in roughly the same position as far as rankings are concerned just reinforces to me that this list has far less appeal to people than the other list.

So, it's a problem worthy of a science-fiction writer: When I finally get back to work on Trials and finally finish it and finally publish it, I will have to push to get on the general science fiction list (or on whatever more-promising list exists at that date in the faraway future).

Another random dispatch

So, I've pretty much decided that I am going to move--not to Dallas, but about 20 minutes away from where I live now to be closer to my sister and her kids (and not incidentally, to get the hell out of my ghetto-ass neighborhood). I'm going to look at a rental tomorrow, and if I like it, I'm gone. I know a move is going to be a huge time suck, but it has to happen sooner or later, so why not now when I'm being unproductive anyway?

My Other Blog

I've decided to start a blog that's just going to be completely self-indulgent--it's called My Other Blog. Partly, this was because I want to have a place to post about things that I can't manage to force into this blog (surprise, surprise, today's post is about Korean rappers). And partly it's because I feel like I have less to say about self-publishing--you know, do it, don't get ripped off, is there anything else? I'll still post about what I'm doing, of course.

You don't always get to pick your priorities

It sure felt nice to set a goal and decide that Priority #1 was going to be the novel!

Well, man plans, God laughs. The problem is that Priority #1 has to be the family, and everything's not quite mopped up from the crisis earlier this year. The lasting suckage of the last two family deaths is that Team Responsible Adults is now permanently down two members. My fingers are crossed that the situation can stabilize without radical, time-sucking solutions (like a cross-country move on my part), but who knows? Anyway, it's requiring some added attention now, but hopefully will settle down soon.

My random other project

So, I got really annoyed at what happened to Block B, and then my Browncoat instincts kicked in, and--well, now I've built a Web site that is going to be BlockB.com as soon as the domain transfer is finalized and I get the domain name mapped onto there.

Hey, I now am much better with GIMP!

Anyway, if you don't mind running over there and clicking links, checking for typos, etc., I'd appreciate that. Also if there's stuff, like Korean cultural references, that maybe needs some more background to be accessible, let me know.

Bad vs. legally actionable

So, it's not like I'm trying to turn this into a K-pop blog or anything, but Block B recently had its lawsuit against its label dismissed. The case reminded me a lot of the failed class-action lawsuit against Harlequin in that the company being sued was engaged in behavior that clearly was very bad, but that, for various reasons, was not considered by the courts to actually be lawsuit-worthy.

In Block B's case, the label:

1. Did not pay members until the members started to sue.

2. Owes the members a substantial amount of money (roughly $400,000).

3. Hired as CEO a man who stole money from the member's families and then committed suicide.

Not shockingly, the members of the group feel that their label is Not A Good Label. (In fact, they are going indie now, which honestly I think is probably the best thing--in the Korean music industry the performers are typically just talking heads, so it's pretty standard for a band's legal relationship with their label to closely resemble that of a monkey to an organ grinder.)

But all that is pretty much irrelevant to the court. Why? Because the court is trying to determine if the label's actions are so bad that the contracts have been voided. And the court said no.

Why? Well, the court looked at the above points and said, Yeah, but once you did sue, the label paid you. And yeah, they still owe you money, but it sounds like they're planning on someday paying you that, too. Plus, there's no evidence that the label underpaid you because they were trying to rob you--it's more likely that they underpaid you because they're completely disorganized and keep craptacular records.

You might think that that sort of thing wouldn't happen here, but rest assured, it does: What a court considers Bad is often far below most people's Get Me the Hell Out threshold. It's kind of like the difference between someone being a bad driver and someone having their license revoked--there's a whole grey area in there where you don't let that person drive your kids around. And it's something to keep in mind before you go a-signing contracts with a publisher or other company that may or may not actually prove to be of service to you.

Really random link

This is a Wall Street Journal interview with Kid Rock about how he's pricing his concert tickets at $20 but still hoping to make s---tons, or perhaps even f---tons, of money. Interesting stuff--basically he's hoping that by lowering the barriers to entry, he'll 1. sell more tickets, making him more fans in the long run, and 2. make more money, because he'll be getting a share of T shirt and beer sales. (And he's got very high expectations for those beer sales.)