Wednesday, November 28, 2012


So...I will not win the lottery, because, let's face it, no one you know ever does. And at this moment in time, supposedly 130,000 people are buying a ticket every single minute (that stat courtesy of the WSJ) so the chances are insanely small. I suppose they always were, even before people went insane. It's not as if the mathematical odds change at all based on the number of people going crazy. Not the point, however.

After I picked up the kid from school today, we were talking about what we would do with our lottery winnings while on the way to the grocery store. For me, that mostly included paying for people to go to college. Many, many people. My nieces and nephews. My cousins once removed. My step-grand-niece. It just seems like the thing to do with a lot of money.

On the way home from the store, I said, "Let's pay for Cheyne to go to college, too." The kid said, "Um, why?" I said, "Why not? If I've won the lottery, then all your friends can win the lottery, too. We'll pay for everyone to go to college." The kid said, "Let's buy a ticket."

And so we actually bought a ticket.

Ooh, radical.

Most of the time, I am perfectly capable of enjoying the lottery without wasting money on it. The money is just to buy a couple hours of dreaming, imo, it's not like you'll ever win.

But that said, buying a ticket meant that I really needed to get my money's worth from my $2 so tonight was much lottery dreaming.

Twenty minutes ago, the kid came into my room to say goodnight and I told him of my new lottery plan. Okay, there's the $200 million to college tuition for random people, but also, wouldn't it be insanely fun to pick people and give them $1 million dollars where they get to keep $100K but then give away $900,000? It could be like a reality television show.

He frowned, skeptical, and I tried harder to persuade him. No, seriously, I said, we'll give Wil Wheaton a million dollars and he'll give $900,000 to the Pasadena Animal Shelter and we'll get to go visit. What cooler way could there be to spend a million dollars? We'd have so much fun.

He stayed skeptical. I tried harder. Nathan Fillion, I offered. We'll give him a million dollars, and see what charities he likes. Felicia Day. She'll probably go for something musical. Jenny Lawson. She'd go for mental health, I bet. The Vlog brothers. They'd definitely have fun with a million dollars to give away.

(I can think of others, too. Patrick Rothfuss would be on my list -- he'd give the money to Heifer International and that's pretty much the best destination I can think of.)

Finally, R nodded. Okay, he agreed, to my imaginary disbursement of millions of dollars that we don't have. That sounds good. But can we give money to Hyperbole and a Half first? I'd really like to know that she's okay.

My boy.

Holy shit, do I love him.

I would also really like to know that the creator of "All the Things" is okay.

And if we win many millions of dollars tonight (which we won't, because buying lottery tickets is really just throwing money away) that will be the very first thing we do.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Dialog avec boy.

Him to dog: All right, I'm going to unload the dishwasher and then go to bed.

(Departure from my room to kitchen.)

Me, realizing the opportunity: Yo! If you feel so inspired, set up the coffee for the morning.

Him, calling back from the kitchen: I'm really tired.

Me: Yo! Set up the coffee for the morning.

Him: Ugh.

That better mean that I have one-button coffee in the morning. Really, that's what it ought to mean.

Today would have been my mom's 70th birthday. A few years back, we talked about doing a cruise for her 70th birthday celebration. I was more okay than I expected to be with today being an entirely solitary day at home because honestly, she would have liked it that way. And I woke up this morning to Ghosts at #1 on the best giveaway Contemporary Fantasy list, which...well, those lists are kind of a joke. A) So what if you can give away more books than anyone else? Talk about a meaningless metric! And B) Amazon lists are fluid and flexible and really don't reflect anything much at all. But still, it felt like a nice birthday present when it wasn't really my birthday.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Free books

I set both books to be free this weekend, A Gift of Ghosts free today and tomorrow, and A Gift of Thought free on Sunday and Monday. I did nothing about mentioning them to anyone, mostly because I've told everyone I know about the books at least two or three times already and submitting to the sites that list free books has never, to the best of my knowledge, accomplished anything for me. So I set them free and let it go. (I love the image I just had of the books flying away into the sky, soaring on the wind, up into the clouds. Ha. Wouldn't it be cool if books came with wings? Ghosts would look lovely with white angel wings and Thought would be very cool as a raven.)

Anyway, no surprise, very few copies have been downloaded this morning. Total free downloads was 13 when I checked. But funnily enough, 13 copies downloaded over more than 4 hours was actually enough to put Ghosts onto the free bestseller list, at #6,896. Not a niche bestseller list at that number, but the main one. That has to mean that there are less than 10,000 books free on Amazon right now. And that I find fascinating.

I checked the bestseller list and it contains the usual suspects -- Tolstoy and Dickens and the Bible -- which means it's not likely that Amazon has started eliminating perennially free books. They could do that if they wanted to, and I've wondered if they would someday since there's an incremental cost to them in providing those downloads. The hundreds of free downloads a day, every day, of A Tale of Two Cities, never earns Amazon a penny, so if you accept their estimate of costs as being real costs, then they're probably spending $10/day to give Dickens away. (I'm going by the .06 download fee they charge me for each book downloaded.) That's nothing, of course, for them and when they were growing the Kindle market, the advantage of having classic books available was obviously worth the expense. Probably it always will be.

So if the small number of free books isn't because the classics are gone, therefore did Amazon crack down on people using price-matching to give away free books? A quick check of one that I know is price-matched shows that it's still there, so nope.

I think that adds up to there simply not being nearly as many free books on Amazon as there used to be. Or, of course, it could be the day--that most publishers and authors decided the biggest shopping day of the year wasn't the right day to go free. I'm intrigued to see what Monday will be -- will there be more free books or fewer? Monday is the day when people are supposed to be shopping online, of course (the famous Cyber Monday), so I would have thought it a good day to give away books. It'll be interesting to find out.

I'm not sure what conclusions I have. None, I suppose, except that the day of plentiful free books might be over. Maybe people have decided it's not worth giving them away.

PS SPOILERS Colin and Rose are currently flirting over Colin's dead body and oh, my, it's amusing me. First time I've felt enchanted while writing A Gift of Time, and it's such a great feeling.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Capturing a memory

Tomorrow ends my two dog weekend.

The most entertaining part of the weekend has been watching the two dogs negotiate. They are so incredibly different. I call Zelda "fluffhead" sometimes and it's because she's a long-coated JRT, so if I don't chop off her fur, which I routinely do, she can wind up looking quite fluffy. Gizmo deserves the name for other reasons. The difference between them is the difference between a guinea pig and...well, honestly, a human being. A small human being. A preschooler. Or maybe a toddler. The kind of human being who understands some of what you say but is often confused by your choices and motivations. Versus...a guinea pig. Poor Gizmo might, in fact, be the dumbest animal I have ever met. Cute, yes, but completely oblivious to everything.

Gizmo doesn't jump, Zelda does. So Zelda can get places that Gizmo can't. I give them treats. Sometime later, I discover that all the treats are buried under my pillow. I scowl at Zelda. There are enough treats to go around. There is no shortage of treats. And then I lift Gizmo onto the bed, so that he can choose from the treats. Five minutes later, I'm watching Zelda try to sneak the treat away from Giz. She doesn't just take it, she stealths it away. She's like the pushy salesman, who steps a little too close so that you step away and then suddenly you realize you've moved halfway across the room and are looking at exactly what he wants you to be looking at. Manipulative.

And my lap--oh, so funny. Zelda demands her space like a cat. She doesn't debate the rules with Giz like a dog should. She just squeezes him out. If he's going to be near me, she's going to be nearer. If he's going to be on me, she's going to be more on me. It's nice for me, except for the few brief moments when I've had two twenty-pound dogs sitting on my chest (not a lot of room for air in that scenario). Then I shove them both away and say, "You're dogs! Cut it out!" and Giz looks at me blankly, with his trademarked "the lips move, I wonder if that means something" gaze and Zelda looks shame-faced before starting to lick my hand and snuggling closer and closer until she can get her tongue onto my face, too.

Giz doesn't care about rides in the car. Not at all. And when you come home, he's like, "Oh, hi. You left the room a minute ago, didn't you? How've you been?" Zelda knows exactly what's happening when we head toward the back door and does her best ears up, eyes alert, plaintive plea to come with us. When we get home, she has an extremely finely tuned sense of time. If I've been gone for just a few minutes, she's hoping that I'm changing my mind and am going to bring her, but she's not going to get too excited about the unlikely possibility. If I've been gone for more than twenty minutes but less than an hour or so, she's happy to see me, with an enthusiastic hello, paws up, tail wagging. But if I've been gone for several hours, it's insanity. Dashing from room to room, desperately trying to get into my arms, must, must-must-must, have a chance to lick my face and have me rub her belly. It's that returning-vet-greeting every time I'm gone for a few hours. When I've been gone for days, though, totally different story. It's "Oh, you're back, great, I need to go to sleep. Right now. Preferably on you, but okay if not." I come home from a trip and she crashes as if she hasn't slept in days. I'm wondering how Giz is going to react when he sees his people tomorrow. I bet he dances.

Two dogs is more than twice as much work as one dog. Walking them is not the peaceful, meditative, story-planning walk that I'm used to but more of a tug-of-war, constant attention scenario. I know that they're both perfectly capable of walking nicely on leash, but together, they get distracted and excited. Still I really like having them both here. At the moment, I'm sitting on the bed with a dog on my feet, another snuggled by my side. Also on the bed are multiple stuffed animals (Giz really likes to sleep with his toys around him) and three rawhide bones. It's almost like having a toddler again in terms of distractions and toys, except a toddler that can be left home alone.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Arsenic research

I think it's pretty unlikely that I'll write a historical anytime soon. It seems like the kind of thing that would make someone like me become completely obsessed. I can picture myself spending a month researching the proper types of silverware for a throwaway line in a single scene. That said, I stumbled across a reference to Scheele's Green today and thought, wow, I wonder how I could use that?

Scheele's Green was a pigment used in wallpaper in the 1700 and early 1800s, and it contained arsenic. In a damp climate, a mold could grow on the wallpaper and release toxic arsenic gas into the air. It's a really creepy idea. One modern study says that the gas wouldn't have been strong enough to actually kill people, but still, what a fun plot twist for a Regency murder mystery.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving dinner

Yes, we're a week away from Thanksgiving. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner tonight anyway. Long story, having much to do with the fact that last year Thanksgiving fell on what would have been my mom's 68th birthday. And my sister's best friend died the night before. I told this story once in a setting where my point was how reality actually does have worse coincidences than fiction and it was received with awkward, frozen smiles which reminded me, oh, yes, this is truly awful, but mostly we've come to accept it as just, like, you know, life. (And yes, my best friend also died last year. Unrelated. It was a rough year.)

So yeah, last year's Thanksgiving sucked. Big time. In the kind of way that leaves you shell-shocked and unwilling to celebrate the holiday forever after. Except I really like cooking Thanksgiving dinner. It's one of my favorite holidays, because, hey, food, what's not to love? Except last year dinner conversation consisted of things like one dinner guest talking about how grateful he was for his wonderful wife (dude? Your semi-host's wife is DEAD and today is her BIRTHDAY, so shut up now) and another talking about how her mom cried all night long because Sharon was dead and we would never see her again, which we have to forgive because the guest in question was eight years old but wow, if you want to have an uncomfortable giving-of-thanks, just ask an eight-year-old to talk about death. That'll do it.

And yet...I like cooking Thanksgiving dinner. So on actual Thanksgiving we will have a seafood buffet -- I'm hoping for sushi, personally -- but today we had the traditional foods. And yum!

Turkey, obviously. Stuffing and potatoes, c'est la vie. But our sweet potatoes were these and wow, it was so good. I could eat that celery topping all day long. And for cranberry sauce, I made two different kinds. The first was straightforward and yet yummy; a bag of cranberries, plus a cup of orange juice, plus 3/4 of a cup of sugar, plus a teaspoon or so of cinnamon, plus a handful of chopped pecans, all simmered for a while. It's the most traditional cranberry sauce I've ever made (I tend to go weird on cranberry sauce) but it might have been one of the best. Then the second cranberry sauce was hardcore weird: a bag of cranberries, plus half a cup of sugar, plus a cup of cranberry grape juice, plus a tablespoon or so of sriracha sauce plus two teaspoons or so of unsweetened chocolate powder. And it was also yum, although yum with a serious kick.

We had pumpkin cheesecake (Sara Lee) for dessert, which is not typical for me -- dessert is definitely the area I most tend to go crazy and creative in but my mom made excellent pumpkin pies and last year I tried and failed to make her pie and so this year...yeah. It just fell into the Do-Not-Touch category so pumpkin cheesecake seemed like a good option and, in fact, it was quite yum. Good crust and tasty filling. It's a good thing I liked it because I've got half the cheesecake left.

Plus, best news, I've got my dad's dog visiting for the next few days. Gizmo is some wacky mix -- half Pekeginese, half poodle, I think? But soft and fluffy and just as willing to snuggle as Zelda. Rory was mopey this morning and I told him that he'd have Giz to console him for the whole weekend and he grunted and said bitterly, "No, that just means you'll have two dogs to adore you." Which, okay, sort of annoying when you're trying to cheer someone up and yet, so true. I adore my dog and she fully reciprocates so for two days, I get to experience double adoration and double snuggles and double demands for attention and love and walks and food and that is all double-good by me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Gift of Time update

I finally figured out how to solve a nagging problem with A Gift of Time today. Yay! Only, boo-hiss, it would mean, yet again, going back to the beginning and rewriting. So far with this book, I've written the first 5000 words about ten times. Over and over again, I write the first 5000 words. The thought of going back one more time -- ugh. It just doesn't inspire me.

On the other hand, it's a fix for a thing that's been bothering me about the beginning for weeks. And at least I don't keep solving the same problem. First was a character problem, next came a point of view problem, this is a plot problem. It's like different layers every time.

I think, for the moment, I'm not going to make the fix. I'm going to keep it in reserve for when I actually have a completed first draft. After all, it's NaNoWriMo and if I'm going to make 50,000 words by the end of the month (not yet impossible, although definitely not looking terribly likely), I need to stop revising and get on with it. Excellent plan. So good I'm going to start right this very minute!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I went and talked to my dad's computer club yesterday about self-publishing and how it works. Ahead of time, I was feeling as if I really hadn't prepared. I only had about 20 slides for a 45-minute presentation, and I hadn't bothered to run through what I was going to say, not even to check timing. I had a vague idea of what I'd talk about, more or less, and a little bit of structure prepared. Some talk about writing as a hobby -- since this was the computer club, I figured not everyone would be writers; some warnings about keeping expectations reasonable and avoiding scams; and then a walk through CreateSpace. Nice and simple. But still, driving over, I was feeling a little insecure.

It was great. I talked smoothly, my audience was attentive and appreciative, and I got lots of interesting questions at the end, plus plenty of positive feedback after we wrapped up (and not just from my dad and step-mom, who are sort of obligated to tell me I'm wonderful!)

I forget how much I truly enjoy presenting when I'm not doing it. I'm such an introvert that I mostly dread interactions with lots of people, but put me on a stage or in front of audience, and I...well, it's not relax, exactly, but sort of it is. It's the lovely combination of a little bit of adrenaline, pumping me up, plus a -- OH! It's a flow state!! How exciting to realize that. A flow state is when you're fully present in the moment you're in, focused and concentrating, but also energized. Wikipedia says "In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand."

When I give a presentation, I go into flow. For that time, I'm just there, just trying to convey something to my audience, to connect with them and figure out what they need to learn and how to reach them. It's a lovely feeling.

I think I should be looking for a job that gives me an opportunity to talk in front of crowds a lot. Or maybe start a business? Except that I can't really travel. Oh, but in 14 months, the kid will be 18. So fairly soon, I really can travel all I like. Wow, that's such a strange thought. I could go places without worrying about who will take care of my boy. Hmm, so maybe I should start thinking about what kind of jobs involve presentations.