We’ve invested heavily in the Chromebook at my day job, and it’s given me an opportunity to evaluate several models and use them on a day-to-day basis. After using one for several months now, I’ve found they offer a lot of options for those of us looking for a simple, portable, and affordable setup for
Too many of my friends lament their age. I’m not even sure why. I mention some small ailment or injury, and the older guys will say, “Just wait.” They act as if there’s some demon lurking in the background, biding its time until I hit some predetermined age. Then, it pounces! “Happy birthday! Welcome to
Our school is cutting back on traditional industrial arts programs and pushing more kids into heavier math and science courses, and it bums me out. Not because math and science aren’t important, mind, but not every kid is looking to go on to college or to become an engineer. Even if that were the case,
I’m wrapping up vacation from the day job this week. Unfortunately, I’ve spent very little of that time on myself. Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back. —Harvey
It’s been a while since a cigar kicked my ass, and the Uranium from Foundry’s Compounds, Elements, & Musings line came pretty close. The CE&M line is Foundry’s small batch, a mix of blends that will even vary within the same box. My guess is the names are all about the size and shape of
I was especially pleased to see the reviewer, David Henderson, mention my short story “All Things Through Me”. I felt the art by Mike S Henderson and colors by Jordan Boyd really made me look good, and David agreed:
This is one of the better stories in the collection thanks to the faith the two Mikes have in their story to let it play out how it does and even give it a heartfelt ending.
Score. Thanks for the kind words, David. And thanks once again to our intrepid editor, Rachel Deering, for putting this book together.
And we have liftoff! The Pack Book 2: Lie with the Dead is now available in trade paperback.
Today my contributor copies arrived, too. Man it’s nice to have this one out there at last.
Hope you dig, folks.
The article “From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author’s life?” by Robert McCrum over at The Observer sounds kind of scary at first: a couple of award-winning literary darlings have fallen on hard times due to the changing face of the publishing industry.
Then I considered the stories of the first two authors McCrum sites as examples. The first, Rupert Thomson, is clearly living beyond his means. The second, Hanif Kureishi, was “swindled out of his life savings.”
Are these sad stories truly the fault of the publishing industry? Either situation could easily befall anyone in any job situation. A McDonald’s employee could be swindled out of his life savings, too. Or consider the number of professional athletes who are bankrupt within just a few years of the end of their career. Consider the number of Hollywood celebs who find themselves in the gutter after their big break doesn’t pan out.
The gravy train is not a perpetual motion machine.
Yes, the publishing business can absolutely be fickle. Readers’ attention spans are short and shelf space (or prominent screen space) is finite. Editors change. Publishing houses merge or fall. Oprah’s Book Club will always have a new selection.
Writing sounds like a glamorous career, but it’s also a job. Like any other job, its situation is subject to change.
I don’t doubt these writers are intent on keeping up their word counts, but what are they doing outside of the actual writing? Get deeper into the article, and there are the usual woes of social media, self publishing, and Amazon. Are the authors leveraging these tools themselves? Or are they just waiting for an editor to come along and do it all for them?
It’s the creator’s job to stay relevant, not the industry’s job to keep him there.
The article then goes on to take a shot at the “information should be free” trend and the Google Print Initiative, and their combined threat against copyright. I get why some authors and creators aren’t fans, but again, times change. Situations change. Sure, it sucks when books show up on torrent sites. When books (and movies and music) are easier to publish, they’re easier to pirate. Does that mean give up? To pack it in? To not take advantage of Amazon’s incredible reach (while it, too, lasts)?
Pandora’s box has been opened. When the refrigerator was invented, the ice delivery guy had two choices: starve to death while cursing new technology, or find new uses for his delivery truck.
Adapt or die. This is also a time any one of these authors can take direct ownership of their work and not rely on a middle man. This is a time they can reach more fans than they ever could before, whether through direct social media interaction or a simple electronic newsletter. Writers today can be their own publisher and publicist. The job has evolved.
Finally, awards don’t mean shit, son. They may raise an eyebrow here and there, but in the big picture they’re just another blurb to put on a cover or in a cover letter. Awards translating into piles of cash is a public perception, not an insider’s reality.
Pick a successful creator in any medium. There are more than a few creators someone might point to and say, “he got lucky, he met so-and-so at the right time.” That may be true, but you know what? He was also hustling when so-and-so found him. He was working.
It’s natural to be jealous of success. It’s okay to feel sorry for great creators who have fallen on hard times. Just remember, when it comes down to it, their job is still just another job.
From today through Monday, March 3rd, Winter Kill is free on Kindle!
This new edition includes a preview of Lie with the Dead, which will be released early next month.
I’m one of the lucky winners of the Fitbit Force skin rash lottery.
I’m far from the only one reporting a problem, and now Fitbit has issued a recall on their Force devices. The company first blamed a nickel allergy, and they’re still using that as their main explanation. However, they’re acknowledging it may also be a glue used to bind the Force device to the wristband. This makes a lot more sense, as this rash feels more like a chemical burn than a rash. I’ve still got the burn/rash today (Monday), yet I haven’t worn the device since Wednesday evening. I notified Fitbit and they immediately issued me a refund and a shipping label to return the device.
Here’s the thing: I liked this device. While in many respects it is a glorified pedometer, and using RunKeeper and GPS on my phone is probably more effective when I get back to running, I liked the addition of a display and the ability to track activity all day. I also liked that it does sleep tracking and has a silent alarm. I had yet to really put it to the test in karate classes, but it seemed to be pretty good at figuring out when I was active versus just moving around on day-to-day tasks.
My personal feeling is their manufacturer used cheap materials. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the worst parts of the burns are beneath the two joins between the underside of the device and the strap. With luck, it will be something they’ll be able to straighten out soon.
Will I purchase another Force if that’s the case? Honestly, I’m not sure. I thought about downgrading to Fitbit’s Flex, but I hate the idea of a single-purpose device. There are also new competitors coming, like Atlas Wearables, who make devices capable of tracking more data (heart rate would be terrific) and which are waterproof (ideal for when I run the Warrior Dash this summer).
My only other concern? Dragging a sword across it in iaijutsu class or snagging it during judo work and partner drills. I can worry about that when a new device is in hand, though.
In the meantime, farewell, Fitbit. It was nice while it lasted.
It’s been two weeks now, and the photo below is what the wound (I think it’s fair to call it that) looks like now.
Tasty, huh? It doesn’t itch near as much, and it’s mostly just crusty, dry skin as it heals. It’s cracked in a few spots, though, so I try to keep it clean and I put unscented moisturizer on it.
Fitbit still maintains it’s skin irritation or an allergic reaction. I don’t buy it, but hey, I’m not a doctor.
This edition of the book has a new format, a new cover, and an excerpt from the sequel, Lie with the Dead, which is due out in early March. In fact, I’m told my contributor copies will be landing at my doorstep any day now.
If you’re new to my work or my The Pack series, Winter Kill is the first book and this is the ideal jumping-on point. If you’re a digital reader, stay tuned next week for more information on this new Kindle edition of Winter Kill.
New readers can also get a taste of the series by reading the first The Pack short story, “Bravo Four”, for only 99 cents on Amazon, or by checking out the short comic “Big Bad Wolves” on Indie Pulp. “Bravo Four” takes place several decades prior to Winter Kill and is set during the Vietnam War. “Big Bad Wolves”, meanwhile, leads into the events of Winter Kill.
And on that note, expect news on the next The Pack short story in the coming weeks.
The only downside to the new edition is we have a new ISBN, and thus a new product page on Amazon. As a result, our reviews aren’t listed on the new page. If you’ve read and enjoyed Winter Kill, I’d greatly appreciate it if you posted a review on the new product page.
Here’s a taste of previous reviews:
In the end, it’s the same great book, it just has a new face and some bonus material. I hope you’ll check it out.
This is my daughter, the Little Bird. This photo is a few years old, but she’s still pretty bad ass.
Today she brought home the Valentine she created for me at school. Pretty standard, hand-written stuff. Heart on the front.
Then I opened it and read it.
One note before you get to feel the love:
She has a friend who has a goldfish. Little Bird came home after visiting said friend one day last week and asked if she could have one, too. Why not, right? What’s it cost, like ten bucks at Wally World to get her all set up? It’s a no-brainer for her next birthday present this Spring.
There. Now here’s the card:
You are the best dad ever. I like beating you at Candyland. It is fun beating you at every single game. It is nice of you to let me have a fish. You are the best dad ever when I beat you at games.
You’re cool because I can beat your ass at games and you buy me stuff.
Maybe I should buy her a piranha.
After some questions from other writers, I thought I’d expand on my “Why I Love Evernote” post to discuss how I actually use it to help with my writing projects.
The key to remember here is your mileage may vary. There may be things about Evernote I love that don’t work for you, and you may discover things I wasn’t aware of or had no use for. Dive in, play with it, and make it work for you.
Also, keep it simple. “Ubiquitous capture” and the lack of traditional computer metaphors like files and folders can be daunting at first, but once you get a handle on how Evernote handles notebooks, notes, tagging, and searching, things get pretty easy.
So let’s break it down and use my The Pack series and notes as an example.
1) Create a Notebook
It may help at first to think of notebook as folders, but the metaphor here is imagine you just purchased a shiny new paper notebook you’re going to write in and stuff full of pictures, newspaper clippings related to your project. It’s both notebook and scrapbook, in a sense.
An Evernote notebook, then is your first order of sorting. In the future you can share it with an editor or a collaborator, but in the meantime it’s the place you’ll dump everything related to that project. The default notebook is enough for some folks, but I just use that one for day-to-day things. I have a Recipes notebook, a Karate notebook, a notebook for the day job, and one for every major project I’m working on.
Everything from here on will have been created within my “The Pack” notebook. I could feasibly create one for every novel, but it’s a lot handier (to me) to group everything related to the series under one notebook.
2) Create Notes
Click “create note” and you’re off and running. The beauty of notes is they can include several types of content. Text is most common, of course, but I can also drag in photos and other media. Tables, lists, and checklists are available when needed, and with the indents and lists, you can build a traditional outline.
If you’re the type who likes voice notes, Evernote can handle this, too. Dictate into the Evernote app on your phone, for example, and it will be available everywhere you have Evernote installed or via the Evernote web app. Want to make dictated notes searchable, or transcribe to text? Check out Quicktate or Voice2Note. I don’t use these, but as I said, YMMV.
Here are the types of notes I use most often:
Character Dates and Timeline
This note is simply a master list of important dates and a timeline of events. The novels Winter Kill and Lie with the Dead occur about six months apart, but the events in the first Pack short “Bravo Four” take place decades earlier during the Vietnam War. Events from the Call of the Wild comic series have an impact in the prose series. There are references to unpublished (for now) events in each story, and of course there is the ages of characters to consider. To keep it all straight, I’ve got each major character’s birth date, their death date where applicable, and at least approximate dates of when each story took place and when unpublished events occurred.
This is where I get more detailed. Winter Kill has a lot of characters, including the Tyler family, at least two sets of villains, and a handful of supporting characters. There are two ways one might approach it: one note per character, like an old-school index card; or one note per group of characters.
I tend toward the latter because I don’t mind if the notes get a bit lengthy. So, I have a note for all of the core members of the Tyler family. I have a note for all of the skinheads in Winter Kill. I have a note for Angie Wallace, a major character unrelated to the Tylers or the villains. Each character’s physical descriptions, their personality, and so on are all included. It’s simply broken down so the character’s name is in bold, and then the paragraphs or one-liners follow.
These notes help keep details straight. For example, if a character carries a certain weapon, it goes in the note so the weapon doesn’t magically change in another book. If a character receives a wound, I make sure I know where the scar is. I might even paste in descriptive passages from each work to be sure it’s always consistent.
In short, it’s helpful for continuity, and it saves me the time of having to flip through published works to verify details later.
Book Notes or Outlines
I have at least one note for each novel in the series, including Book 3. They’re fairly organic, and change as I massage the plots. They might start with a simple breakdown of Act I, Act II, and Act III, or even just a line or two about what I want to accomplish or an overall theme. Some are just brainstorming, and at least one includes a discarded version of a story which I might pick apart for later use anyway.
Over time, they get more detailed. I might have a beat sheet breaking down the book event by event, or even chapter by chapter. Pretty soon, they’re more or less an outline of the book I can use to write from, and they also become useful to refer back to when working on other projects in the series.
Short Story Notes
I have one note that has the synopsis for each of the short stories I’ll be writing for the series over the next few months. I then flesh them out with a separate note to figure out how the stories will play out.
For example, there’s a “Bravo Four” note I used to write from. It’s an outline, and it’s a reference for the future. If The Pack were a comic series, I might even have an issue-by-issue breakdown, a note for each story arc.
These are most often web clippings, but some may be simply photos or other notes. Because The Pack is a werewolf series, I clipped the article “Why everything you know about wolf packs is wrong” in case it might be useful in the future. This way it’s available in searches and browsing rather than lost in a pile of bookmarks or other links. I also have some notes about places and events from the Vietnam War for “Bravo Four”, and I have some other history notes for future short stories.
Everything related to publishing gets a note. I have a note with key reviews for Winter Kill. I have a note listing the ISBN numbers and publication dates of each work, and any relevant Amazon or Barnes & Noble links. They’re small things, maybe only needed once in a blue moon, but they’re handy to keep around.
I also have a note for the editing process of Lie with the Dead. I simply dumped the editor’s notes into a note for quick reference. Once, while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, I thought of a way to address one of his notes. I fired up Evernote on my phone and jotted those thoughts in with that comment so I could address it later and not sweat forgetting it before I got to a computer.
I also dumped everything from a weekend retreat planning meeting I had with my publisher into a note. Notes we took, things we discussed, and even photos of the whiteboard we used are all still available to me for reference.
Everything else, basically. I do all my brainstorming on paper, so I might transfer those notes into a separate note for later noodling. Other times, the brainstorming notes go into existing notes. There’s no hard-and-fast rule here, because tagging and searching makes where I record the notes irrelevant.
3) Tying Notes Together
There are two ways to do this: tagging and linking.
You’re probably already familiar with the idea of tagging. They’re a simple way to “group” notes without using folders. Character names are an important tag, for example, as are book titles. This way, if I look for anything tagged “winter kill,” I’ll get everything that may be related to that book.
Linking is also handy, and works just like a hyperlink on a website, and in effect can turn your notebook into a wiki. In a plot note, I might include a link from a character’s name to the note containing their description. Or I can link from a plot or character note to one of the research notes. This keeps me from having to reproduce information, or from bogging down notes with extraneous information.
This is the point people sweat keeping everything organized. Forget about it, because the search feature makes all of that irrelevant. It’s very powerful, and will search tags, text within notes, and text within attachments (pictures, and even PDFs if you’re a pro user).
You simply don’t need to sort things into folders because the search will find it for you. Accidentally drop a note into the wrong notebook? No problem, you can restrict searches to within a notebook or open it up to your entire account.
Notes are typically listed by the date they were last modified. This way, the thing you’re working on most at the moment is typically at the top of the stack. It can also sort notes by location if that’s what you’re into by tagging notes with GPS information and showing you a map.
Are you the visual type? Take a look at Mohiomap, an app which allows you to surf your notes visually as a mind map based on your tags. This is another feature that’s not for me, but if you’re a big fan of mind mapping, check it out.
Once you get used to searching over sorting, it’s very liberating. You’re not wasting time organizing things, archiving things, or otherwise performing housekeeping on a fat stack of files. Throw your data in a note and forget about it.
The Evernote app also allows you the flexibility of creating shortcuts to your most-used notebooks and notes. One click gets you to a current project rather than having to go through a list of notebooks every time.
5) The Extras
Wherever I am, whatever device I have with me, if I can get to the Internet I can get to my notes. If I’m going to travel somewhere coverage might be sketchy (a very real possibility for me now that US Cellular has carved up and sold off entire service areas), I can tag certain notebooks as Offline notebooks so I can keep current notes with me at all times.
A Second Screen
I’m not a fan of flipping back and forth between windows, and it’s not always helpful to shrink windows to keep them side by side on a screen. Thus it’s not unusual for me to have a document in progress open on screen, and the notes related to that project open on the iPad or smartphone next to me. It’s a small thing, but I like it.
Reminders and To-Dos
I personally prefer Todoist and Google Calendar for these, but Evernote does have these features built in. You can set a reminder to nag you about a meeting or a deadline. You can create checklists of to-dos in a note, and tie them to reminders. It’s all very flexible, I just find it unwieldy compared to Todoist.
Just Do It!
There’s really no right or wrong way to this, and it’s all very adaptable to your style and personality. Get in there and dig around, start creating notes. If you decide you want to handle notes and notebooks differently, you can drag notes to different notebooks.
It’s all very organic, and all a lot more user-friendly than it appears at first glance. Understanding comes quickly. Learn by doing, and don’t be afraid because you’re not going to lose anything.
If you’re ready to get started, please, use my referral link to set up your Evernote account. I’d appreciate it!
When I visited my friend John’s man cave for the NFL championship games, he handed me a CAO Flathead cigar. The sheer size of the thing surprised me, and I took it as a challenge.
I lit this cigar during the 1st quarter of the Seahawks game. Shortly after Richard Sherman’s post-game outburst about three hours later, I stubbed out the last inch-and-a-half or so to get back on the road. Amazing.
The cigar lit easy and drew fine, but one of the box-pressed sides would start to go out from time to time. I blame the ring gauge. It looked like a Maduro, but instead the Flathead sports a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. Inside we’ve got a Habano Connecticut binder and a mix of Nicaraguan and Piloto Cubano Ligero for the filler.
I’ll say now I’ve never had a Ligero I didn’t like, and the Flathead is no exception. I truly enjoyed those three hours with this monster, and when I saw Flathead 660 “Carb” in a local liquor store’s humidor this past weekend, I thought I would try to repeat the experience.
I found the 660 sported the same smooth taste, the same draw and sturdy construction, but did not have as many lighting problems. Of course, it didn’t last quite as long, either, but it was still a damn fine smoke in its own right.
Ligero fans, put this one on your must-try list. Highly recommended.
The In the Dark horror comics anthology will hit shelves on April 23rd, but you can preorder your copy today with Diamond/Previews order code FEB14 0452.
In the Dark had a successful Kickstarter campaign around Halloween last year and will be published by IDW Publishing. The backers already have their copies reserved, and now preorders are available to the general public. Simply stop by your favorite comic shop within the next couple of weeks, give the guy behind the counter the FEB14 0452 order code, and you’ll get your copy in April.
Don’t know where to find a comic shop? Check out the Comic Shop Locator Service.
Congrats to editor Rachel Deering on getting this monster anthology funded and published. I’m looking forward to reading it myself!
DSC’s Mike bills the OWCs as a sort of extraction team. You’re a busy man, so you wipe once and you get on with your life. Problem is, I’m a big busy man, and my diet ain’t the greatest. If I subsisted on granola and greens, one wipe would probably be all it takes. Instead I eat a lot of meat and dairy. I’ve been known to burn through half a roll of TP in a sitting (pun fully intended), and I’ve even slain the jet-flushing industrial toilets in some public restrooms.
(Too gross? Too personal? I’ll just skip the hair issue. You’re welcome.)
Instead, think of the OWCs as a clean-up crew. You’ve handled the real business and the battle is over. Now it’s Charlie’s turn to kill off the survivors and stash the bodies. In those terms, all I’ve ever needed is one, and I’m much happier with the final result.
The next thing to consider is cost. One Wipe Charlies work out to ten cents a wipe, so I hit a couple of stores to examine alternatives. Some baby wipes are cheaper, but the thing to remember is they’re not all flushable. Unless you’re also keeping a diaper disposal station nearby, you want a garbage can loaded with crap-covered wipes, or you want to bring a plumber into the equation in the future, the Charlies still come out on top.
I also don’t want to go around smelling like baby powder or a “baby fresh” scent all day, but we’ll come back to that in a moment.
I did find some Kroger-branded flushable wipes which were far cheaper. I don’t recall the actual cost, but I got over twice as many wipes for a similar cost. Great, I thought, I get the same experience and save a few bucks even over Dollar Shave!
In the end, not so much.
First, the Kroger wipes are smaller. Not a lot smaller, but there are times those couple of inches count. Second, they smell like hell. To be specific, they smell like the witch hazel they’re made with. Witch Hazel isn’t really the image I need at that particular moment.
Now, are you really smelling what’s down there? Probably not while you’re walking around. However, it does make things easier on a significant other and on your laundry. And honestly, just opening the One Wipe Charlies package and handling the peppermint-scented wipes is a lot nicer than everything else going on at the time. And it’s a gentle peppermint, not an overpowering toothpaste or candy smell. Dare I say, it’s a manly peppermint: just enough to counter the biological stink but not enough to overpower you in the other direction.
Are there other, cheaper alternatives I haven’t seen? I dunno, maybe. The convenience of delivery, the one-click ordering, and the comfort and hygienic advantages, however, will keep me Dollar Shave-loyal for the time being.
Next month, a new, remastered Winter Kill will be available prior to the release of the sequel, Lie with the Dead, in March.
What’s changed, you ask? Not a whole lot. The manuscript itself is untouched. Evileye Books is giving Winter Kill a new cover and design to jive with the look of Lie with the Dead and future books in the series. Also, there will be an excerpt from Lie with the Dead included in the back of Winter Kill. Both the print and e-book editions will sport this new cover.