writing
dsmoen

Creative Market Raising Money for Nepal Earthquake Relief

nepal earthquake relief

I’m one of 474 Creative Market shops donating some or all of their shop proceeds for the Month of May to Nepal earthquake relief efforts. Creative Market will match shopowners up to $20,000. I’m donating 50%.

Here is the announcement and a list of participating shops:

Throughout the month of May, participating Creative Market shops will donate up to 100% of their earnings to Nepal disaster relief. And in partnership with the Autodesk Foundation, we’ll also match the first $20,000! These funds will be sent to All Hands, a non-profit organization that addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. So purchase great design assets, and join us in our efforts to help Nepal.

Together, we can make a difference.

At this point, I only have one product in my shop grunge textures photographed off the front of an M60 Sherman tank. It sells for $7, my usual royalty is 70% ($4.90), so half of that ($2.45) will be going to All Hands for each sale.

If that’s not your thing, and you buy some other participating store’s products by starting at this link, you’ll help both Nepal relief and me.

Thank you!

(Note: I did previously post this on my desamo.graphics blog, but the way the two blogs propagate to third parties is different.)

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

My BayCon Schedule

BayCon—san francisco bay area science fiction & fantasy convention

BayCon’s coming up this weekend, Friday through Sunday in Santa Clara, California. This year’s theme is Women of Wonder…and the people who love and appreciate them.

Normally BayCon is four days; this year it’s three due to a hotel snafu. The con starts earlier on Friday (10 am) than usual and runs late on Sunday, with the final formal event being Seanan McGuire’s concert at 8:15 pm.

BayCon Guests of Honor

Seanan McGuire, writer guest of honor

Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, artist guest of honor

Amber Benson, toastmaster

Caradwen “Sabre” Braskat-Arellanes, fan guest of honor

The Winner Twins, young adult special guests

My Friday Panels

Handicapped Characters (Alameda at 1:30 PM)

There’s a lot more ‘there’ there than the wheelchair! How do you do it right? How do you find out what life is like for someone with a particular problem? How do you handle the messy bits otherwise known as reality without turning the reader off? How do you show what other kinds of courage might be needed by a handicapped hero or heroine?

Invertebrates are Cool on Friday at 4:30 PM in Ballroom A

Jellyfishes. Octopuses. Cephalopods. Invertebrates can be unexpectedly beautiful, surprisingly smart, or just weirdly intriguing. Find out why these panelists think that they are just plain cool.

I may also put in a good word for nudibranchs.

My Saturday Panels

Book Covers That Sell Books (Bayshore at 10:00 AM)

When you’re browsing at a bookstore, why do you pick up a particular book? When you’re on Amazon, do some suggested books seem to jump out at you more than others? The saying goes “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” but when it comes to impulse buying, that’s exactly what people do. With self-publishing becoming more common, writers need to know more about an area they previously left in the publisher’s hands. How does one make a cover that will stand out when it’s shelved alongside other books? How can one tell if a thumbnail version of the cover will look good on Amazon? Do shoppers judge the quality of the book by the quality of its cover design? The panelists discuss the design elements of a good book cover, and where to go to for help in designing one that will sell.

The Hugo tug-of-war: Diversity of opinion among Worldcon voters (Camino Real at 11:30 AM)

This year’s Hugo nominations certainly have fandom talking. Is this just another periodic “all fandom is plunged into war” outbreak, or are there serious systemic issues to address?

Categorizing Your Books: YA versus NA on Saturday at 1:00 PM in Alameda

The Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association defines a young adult (YA) as someone between the ages of 12 and 18. Authors and readers of YA novels traditionally defined the genre as literature written for ages ranging from 16 up to 25, while Teen Fiction is for the ages of 10 to 15. In 2009, a new category entered the mix: New Adult (or “NA”) for literature with protagonists with ages ranging from 18 to 25. Is NA here to stay? If it is, where does that leave YA and Teen Fiction?

I’m a huge fan of the New Adult genre, though it does have some pitfalls.

Themed Reading: Erotic SF/F/H on Saturday at 4:00 PM in Alameda

Hear authors read from stories that blend erotica with speculative fiction. For ages 18 and above only, please.

What it says on the tin.

A Shot Rang Out on Saturday at 8:30 PM in Alameda

…and bounced down the hallway, through the door, and out of the world. Come see hilarious, impromptu storytelling. Back as always by popular demand.

If the masquerade/variety show starts on time, then this is likely to start after the variety show ends.

(Note: I was originally also on one Sunday panel, but, given recent events, said I wanted to be taken off as I wasn’t feeling it.)

Hope to see you there.

If you’re going, what are you looking forward to? Full schedule can be found here.

My Next Convention

After BayCon, the next convention Rick and I will be attending is Westercon 68 in San Diego, California, July 2-5. I’ll be volunteering as site selection administrator for the 2017 Westercon.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

Mom Update 5/18

Mom update

She’s down to two IVs: food and pain meds. Still has some of the other meds injected, but they no longer need to be IVs, which is huge progress (she was on at least three heart meds, one of which was pretty toxic but super-critical).

Physically, she was more alert and happily watching HGTV. After several days where she wasn’t seeming to want to do anything, that’s the best news of all.

Tuesday, 5/19 Update

We had a good talk with the nurse.

She’s down to half the dosage she had yesterday on pain meds, so that’s good. I had quite the scare this morning when they tried to call and I accidentally hung up when I fumbled answering the phone.

Turns out they just needed to have firm consent on one item, and even though they have her okay, she’s on strong enough pain meds they can’t assure her consent while she’s on a ventilator.

After I thought about it, I realized it was probably almost always dicey to get consent when one’s in the ICU. Which begs the question: if you are alone and have no known next of kin, what the heck are they supposed to do? That’s a really interesting question.

Anyhow, mom’s had five hours on ventilator assist, so she was breathing on her own for five hours. So they’re rehabbing her, hoping to get her off the antibiotics in a day or two, and once she’s healed from this portion, then they’re going to look at getting her hernia repaired.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

Hugo Awards Voting Packet Now Available

The Hugo Awards

The Hugo Awards voting packet is now available.

You’ll need your registration number and Hugo PIN in order to download the packet.

Haven’t yet registered? Here’s the registration page.

What’s in the Hugo Awards Voter’s Packet

The next two paragraphs are from the press release:

This free download is supplied by the creators and publishers of works that are nominated for the awards. It is free to all current Supporting, Attending and Young Adult members of Sasquan, and those who become members before 31 July 2015. Its purpose is to allow those who are voting on the Hugo Awards to be able to make an informed choice among the nominated works.

All of the short fiction and graphic novels are included in their entirety (((assuming Zombie Nation comes through!))). The packet contains the full text of three of the novels: The Dark between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, amd The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. Skin Game by Jim Butcher and Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie are represented by extensive excerpts. One of the five finalists in the Related Work category is represented by an excerpt: Letters from Gardner, by Lou Antonelli. There is some material in each of the other categories except the Dramatic Presentations, but not everyone wanted us to include their work in this packet.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

Email Lists: CAN-SPAM Compliance

Best Practices: CAN-SPAM Compliance header graphic

I just went through a bunch of (non-writer) email lists I was on, and realized that a whole bunch of them weren’t even pretending to comply with US anti-spam laws, even for people/companies sending commercial email in the United States.

So here are the two biggies if you’re sending commercial emails of any sort:

  1. You need to offer the recipient a way to opt out. Then honor that request!</p>
  2. You need to provide a real street address, though this can be for a mailbox. Unfortunately, this requirement keeps a lot of female writers from creating email lists. (Sorry, I don’t have a good solution to that.) I’ll just add that the mailbox doesn’t have to be in your town, but it’s likely that it’ll have to be somewhere convenient to you.

    Note that even if you’re located outside the US, many mailing list providers require that you still comply with CAN-SPAM, though they may not require you to disclose your full physical address. (I’m not certain if other countries do.)

The catch is: what’s a commercial email? The FTC guide is quite good.

My Own CAN-SPAM Saga

  1. February 13th, I bought a WordPress plugin that I liked. This was written by one company (whom I’ll call the developer) and launched in partnership with another company (and I’ve kept the relationship with the launch partner, whom I otherwise like).

    When I got some spare time, I set it up, then was having issues with my site. I went to look at the error logs and discovered this plugin was just SPEWING stuff to the logs because it was trying to write to the plugin directory. (Which is a bad practice.)

    The specific file (an error logger) wasn’t written by either company, by the way, but five years ago by an Iranian developer who was apparently in high school at the time. There’s nothing hideously wrong with it (given a quick reading) apart from where it’s trying to write to, but it’s clearly PHP code that was written for command-line stuff and not PHP code that was intended for a WordPress plugin. Hence, the log file’s location was not as important.

  2. March 1, I filed a bug with the launch partner (per instructions given), giving them the line of code and the log file. (It’s not my job, you know? I’m just a nicer person than I should be sometimes.) The ticket’s updated saying they’ll get with the developer.

  3. We go on a cruise, so I don’t check back for a couple weeks. March 19th, I file for a refund request. They offer me an alternate purchase, but I say no, and I receive my refund on March 22nd.

  4. I’m still on the developer’s email list, and I finally realize there is no unsubscribe link. Every time I get an email from him, I’m reminded of the product I really wanted to love but felt let down by. I try to unsubscribe. No luck.

    I file another ticket (my third!) on April 16th to say I can’t get off the developer’s email list and that their email doesn’t comply with CAN-SPAM. What do I get from support?

    Honestly speaking, we know that [developer] is not doing any kind of illegal stuffs and that’s one of the main reason we have partnered with him. We are aware of Can-Spam and we follow all the rules strictly.

    Yay, gaslighting. My response, excerpted:

    With respect, I wish that [launch partner] would listen when I raise an issue. (And I know all about Apple, I was a software engineer there for more than 5 years.)
    There are two specific requirements that [developer] is not complying with: 1) method of unsubscribing, 2) street address. He has NO links to unsubscribe. He does not respond when I’ve emailed him. That’s not okay.

    …and then I give a simple workaround for the problem I reported in the first ticket that would take less than an hour to fix.

  5. The next commercial email I received from developer (!) had an unsubscribe link. I clicked the link. CAN-SPAM allows the commercial enterprise up to ten days. I took screen shots of three times, responding to three different mailings, over a period of a couple of weeks. Sadly, I accidentally deleted them while I was moving files around sometime while my mom’s been in the hospital.

    So here’s where it hits a problem: many people who have commercial websites want to do some form of content locking, where part of the site’s content is only available to people who are on their email list. But email lists are typically through third-party providers. So this developer had the opt-out go through his site rather than directly to the third-party email provider. I understand the (likely) reasoning, but if that’s not working, then you need to push through the unsubscribes manually until it is working. (And test your code better!)

  6. With my mom going to the hospital, I kind of lost track of how long it had been, but every 2-3 days, I’d get another email from the developer. On May 14th, I was finally certain it had been 10 days since my last request, so I wrote to the abuse department of his third-party email provider. They suspended him pending an investigation, and blocked his ability to send to me.

  7. Yesterday, I received another email from You Know Who, which surprised me given the suspension. Viewing the source showed why: developer was using a different third-party email provider…who has since suspended him.

And I wonder how long I’m going to have to play whack-a-mole just to not continually be reminded of the mistake of trusting the wrong company. Yes, I could filter out his emails, but that’s not the point.

Thing is, I still think the original idea was pretty cool, and I’m wistful that it’s turned into this rather than being the cool product I wanted it to be.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. If it were legal advice, it would be accompanied by a bill.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

Disrupting Demographics: Nixon’s War on Drugs

Nixon and Elvis: War on Drugs

Most of the people I know in the US have lived their entire lives after the War on Drugs started.

John Ehrlichman, Counsel and Assistant to President Nixon:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Interviewed in 1992 by journalist Dan Baum, author of Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, full quote in “Truth, Lies, and Audiotape” by Dan Baum (2012). You can read the book’s first chapter here. The first chapter covers some interesting side topics, including the genesis of Cheech and Chong. It also covers Lloyd Johnston’s annual survey of 2,200 high school students:

What drugs have you used? Johnston’s survey asked. Have you used them in the last year? The last month? The last week? How accessible are drugs? Johnston also included questions about alcohol and tobacco.

When the questionnaires were processed, it emerged, unsurprisingly, that tobacco was the-most widely used drug among high school students and about a third of them smoked it every day. Alcohol was next, predictably, with about one-fifth of the students drinking once or twice a week and another fifth once or twice a month.

What surprised Johnston was that nearly 80 percent of the group had never smoked marijuana. Barely I percent smoked every day. Other drugs were hardly visible; neither heroin nor cocaine had ever been tried by nine-tenths of the sample. The kids were pretty clean: black, white, rich, poor, grind, and dropout.

This was news, Johnston thought. In the book he and his team rushed together, Johnston wrote that “there certainly was not a widespread “epidemic, of illegal drug use among these high school students as the popular press had suggested.” His interpretation: American youth are “less radical” and “more traditional” than their public image would indicate. “In fact, their continuing adherence to traditional practices—namely, the-widespread use-of alcohol and cigarettes—may ultimately be the most important fact about youthful drug practices to emerge from this study” (emphasis in the original).

Now, granted, I was eight in 1968, but it sure seemed like things went obviously truly crazy for a few years between then and 1974 or so.

The photo, where President Nixon met with Elvis Presley after Elvis requested to be made a federal agent at large to help fight the war on drugs. Irony, of course, given the role of drugs in Elvis’s own shortened life span.

One of the books that formed my thoughts on America’s drug policy was Thomas Szasz’s Our Right to Drugs., which is basically a libertarian look at drugs (and suffers from many of the libertarian perspective problems, granted). What stuck with me is one of the analogies he used. When someone injures themselves skiing, we don’t call it ski abuse. When they injure themselves with a chainsaw, we don’t say they have a chainsaw problem. But if they injure themselves with drugs, it’s abuse. Why should one get special pejorative language?

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

We’re Skipping RT Booklovers Convention

RT Booklovers Convention header graphic

This was supposed to be my first year attending the RT Booklovers convention. I booked my membership and hotel early, Rick decided to come, and we booked our flights.

Naturally with my mother in the ICU, that has to come first. Rick volunteered to stay behind, but I know that I’d be constantly fretting if I’d missed a message, if I were needed for something. Plus, my mom would rather I stay, and that’s important.

Of course, I’m sad to miss RT Booklovers.

I’ve read a few of the winning or nominated books, but there are oh so many I haven’t read, too.

RT Booklovers Convention: Crowdsourcing the Fun

If you’re going to RT Booklovers, I’d love to hear about or see:

  1. A fun moment you had at the convention.
  2. A new book you’re excited about (in any romance/romantic elements genre).
  3. Fun times you had meeting an author.
  4. Or, if you’re an author, your best fan story from the convention.
  5. Selfies!
  6. Convention reports and links to same.
  7. Which of the award winners was your personal favorite? Were any of the acceptance speeches particularly funny or good?

You don’t have to know me—if you go, I’d love to hear something fun. It’s also totally okay to share this post with others.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

Things Are Looking Up

Kitesurfing in California

This a continuation of the medical saga that began here.

Where we were as of a couple of hours ago:

  • Mom’s still in the ICU, and probably will be for at least a couple of days more. They’ve been able to keep her stable without surgery, which is good because then she’ll be more likely to survive it.
  • She still needs surgery (and recovery from same) before she can come home—and will need it before they step her down out of the ICU. Otherwise it can happen all over again.
  • Most of her numbers are vastly improved. She’s able to write almost normal size now, so her motor control’s a lot better with the current medication regimen. One of the meds I’ve been on and it makes you shaky.

I’ll add updates to this post rather than to the comments.

How The Cat Is Holding Up

I started writing this post because I wanted to say something about how our cat Tanner is handling it. We got our cat at a local shelter five years ago. Tanner bonded to my mom as her Primary Person, and she’s been just distraught since mom’s gone. Obviously, we don’t smell like mom when we come home, because hospital mom doesn’t smell like Tanner expects.

One of Tanner’s quirks is that during any period of time (and I mean weeks or months), the cat will have only one “spot” in the house. Or no spots in the house. Sometimes that’s my ottoman, but usually it’s mom’s bed. The other thing is that the cat spends most of her time outdoors, even when it’s cold and wet. She doesn’t spend time indoors when we’re not around, typically.

Rick and I (and our friend Duncan) had just gotten home from the hospital and we were calling the cat to get her to come to the back door and come in. After quite a while of that, she decided to show up from inside the house—she’d been in mom’s room all along.

Awwww.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

The Way Things Look from Here (Rather Bad)

First, for those of you who don’t know, my mom’s been in the hospital. The short version is that she’d had a gallstone, and that had caused diarrhea and vomiting, and she went to the ER a week ago Tuesday.

They transferred her to a hospital room. A few days ago, it looked like she’d be getting out of the hospital, and they’d do the gallbladder surgery in a few weeks when everything had calmed down.

Then she took a turn for the worse three days ago. Not a huge turn, just a slight detour. She wasn’t getting out of the hospital after all. She’d seemed better the day before yesterday, per Rick, and then somewhat more fragile last night. Not hugely so, just somewhat.

One of the things she’s complained about over the last few days is pain from a hernia that has needed repair. That, as it turns out, has been a huge factor in the cascading crisis.

I got a call at 4 am from the hospital saying they had to transfer her to the ICU. She’d gone into atrial fibrillation, and they needed to stabilize her.

I got another call at 8:30 in the morning. They had her somewhat stabilized, but there was a bigger problem: the hernia’s completely blocked, preventing things draining normally through the gastrointestinal system.

Which means, of course, she vomited up the fluids, got a significant bunch in one lung, which is called aspiration pneumonia. So she’s on 100% oxygen to help with that.

As a complication of all this, she’s also got sepsis, and they need to go in there to fix the hernia.

Except that she’s got one of the classic side effects of atrial fibrillation (and everything else: low blood pressure. They had to put her on two meds to bring her blood pressure up to a workable range.

And anesthesia will lower it. (Okay, this is an oversimplification, but a) I’m not a specialist in this area, and b) I have had two hours of sleep, so that’s as complicated as I can be right now.)

They just get her heart rhythm back to normal with defibrillation (but defib increases risk of stroke), and they think they have her stable enough to do the emergency surgery.

There are also renal failure complications and she may need to be on dialysis, but they can’t do that now because dialysis also lowers the blood pressure.

It’s a big cascade failure and they are doing what they can, but it’s pretty touch and go right now. The heart rhythm improvement is the first positive sign we’ve had since she was admitted to the ICU.

Lessons Learned

My mom had been putting off the hernia repair surgery, and things wouldn’t have gone sideways this far if that had already been done. If you or someone you know have been putting hernia repair off, please show them this.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

Writing Beginnings and Endings

writing: beginnings and endings

Chuck Wendig had a great post yesterday about writing.

Once upon a time, I sat in a writing workshop class: a critique circle with a bunch of other writers. The piece we were critiquing was another classmate’s novel chapter, and everyone else but the workshop leader had gone. I was up.

“What I liked most about this chapter is that it has a classic narrative structure used very effectively.”

At that point, I had everyone’s full attention, and I could see that half the class didn’t understand what I meant.

The character, a woman, had an objective when she showed up at someone’s door. As I recall, she was looking for something. She failed to achieve her goal because the person she asked didn’t have what she wanted. However, in the meantime, the other party in the scene told her something interesting that she hadn’t previously known. Offhand, I can’t remember if it was directly related to the scene’s goal or not, but it was related to why she was looking for what she was looking for.

In short form: she had a goal and motivation behind that goal, she attempted, failed, then got new information, and left the scene in a slightly different direction than she came in: with a modified goal.

It’s not the only possible scene structure, but it’s a common scene and chapter structure in longer work. If you look at most of Chuck’s list of what a novel consists of, basically points 2-9 are some variant of the above, though I’d personally throw the character a bone or two for an upbeat chapter. “Yay, we got somewhere!”

Lessons from Being a First Reader

As someone who’s read slush (unsolicited manuscripts), I thought I’d talk a little about what I learned doing that for the three markets I’ve read for.

Most newer writers have no idea where to start the story. It seems to be the hardest part. We write our way into the story. The most important lesson here: where you start writing isn’t necessarily the start of the story.

Let’s take a hypothetical short story about a high school football player. (I don’t play or watch football, so forgive any lack of sports-fu on my part.) Let’s say our dude in question has recovered from an injury, but hasn’t fully mentally realized it yet. He’s avoiding something because of fear of being injured again.

The ending of the story’s fairly obvious: he goes for it, and he succeeds, and all is well and right and just in the world. Oh, and his team scores…and maybe even wins. But the big victory is that he’s recovered.

So…where to start the story?

The general rule is: as late as possible. There’s a 35% chance the newbie writer starts writing with the player waking up, but that’s the part you edit out. One could also start with the doctor’s office visit, a talk with the parents, and the coach’s pep talks. Etc. I’m not saying these can’t work, because anything can work if you do it right.

Our player has the ball, has that momentary rush, and he sees someone else coming, and he chickens out. That gives opportunity for some great self-loathing, some yelling at by the coach, threats that his girlfriend (or boyfriend) will leave him if he doesn’t snap out of it, and of course the fear that his college scholarship will vaporize.

Then there’s that moment where everything changes for him—whatever that is—and he works through it. Victory, followed by the end.

Writing Beginnings that Match Endings; Writing Endings that Match Beginnings

The best way I’ve heard the structure described is by Karen Joy Fowler when she was my Clarion instructor. Paraphrased:

The ending of the story should be the ending to the story you started at the beginning of the book. The beginning of the story should be the beginning of the story you ended the book with.

They’re bookends.

If you take just your first and last chapter (and/or first and last scene, and/or first and last paragraph), do they go together? Do they feel like they’re from the same piece?

If not, there’s something to work on.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

Tags:

?

Log in