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barbarienne August 1 2014, 18:50

Droning on and on

People keep talking about deliveries by drone. Admittedly, most of these people are Amazon spokespeople, trying to engage enthusiasm for what could be a really cool development in online retail: you order something and have it delivered within hours instead of having to wait oh god two whole days.

(I mock, but I can imagine scenarios when it would be nice to get something super quick.)

I see two hindrances to this plan, one minor and one major.

Minor hindrance: Cost. Right now I pay zero for delivery from Amazon*. No, I'm not a member of Prime, I'm just not impatient. If I have to wait two days anyway, what's another three or four? (I grant delivery time may be different if you don't live on the I-95 corridor within a few hours of two Amazon warehouses and a major UPS transfer hub.)

But I call this a minor hindrance because lots of other people are members of Prime and if drone delivery is offered free to Prime members, it would probably be worth it to some not-yet-Prime customers to join.

But then there's the Major hindrance.

Does anyone honestly think that in a country with next to zero gun control laws, populated by a noticeable percentage of paranoid lunatics and outright thieves, that drone deliveries will go unmolested?

Shit, I'm neither a paranoid lunatic nor a thief, and I immediately thought of shooting down drones just to be an asshole because I don't want the fucking things buzzing all over my neighborhood.** (I don't own a gun, so this would involve a slingshot or throwing rocks or something, I guess.)

Perhaps after the first fifty tries yield nothing more valuable than a box of candy bars intended for some college student who's smoked too much pot the thieves might give it up. Or they might say, "Hey, here comes a drone! Free chocolate bars!"

(And perhaps some sale value for the drone parts. If people steal all the wiring and plumbing from vacant houses for the scrap metal value, I'm sure they'll find a use for drone bits.)

So, yeah, kinda looking forward to what happens with the drone-delivery concept.

*Yes, I do order things from Amazon, just not books. I only order items on sale, and I never pay for shipping. I'm pretty certain I cost them money. I get a chuckle when they release financials showing they did a bazillion dollars in business, and in the process lost money that quarter. Obviously I'm not the only one gaming their system.

**Because how do you tell the difference between a delivery drone and some asshole with a spycam checking out the neighbor girl sunbathing in her yard? Because they might annoy birds, which I like. Because they might malfunction and crash land on a car or through a house window or on power lines. Because they're noisy. Because I like to look at a clear sky, not one with a lot of machines buzzing around in it.

agilebrit August 1 2014, 18:00

My tweets

barbarienne August 1 2014, 16:19

Brief update


I've been neglecting the blog horribly for at least a year, but I've been writing. I did a bit of math and figured out I wrote around 70K new words last year, which is HUGE for me. I've done 8K in the last 2 weeks.

Getting rid of the TV has been the best thing for my output.

I've also read a lot more books in the last couple of years. It's weird to be reading novels while writing them, but I find it's easier if I read ones that aren't in too close a subgenre as what I'm writing. While I was writing I read some space opera (from Scalzi and ann_leckie)* and a bit of UF (Kim Harrison).

I took two weeks off from writing after putting the -30- on the previous project, and got to read an actual secondary world fantasy (from kellymccullough), which made me happy. I hate to think that I can only read my preferred subgenre while I'm not actively writing in it, but that's how it is. I my have to test this theory since I really want to read some Joe Abercrombie soon, but I'm working on my own grimdark novel so I don't know.

Also in the queue is one from stillnotbored, which is very far from my subgenre, so she'll probably jump over Abercrombie on the list. Or I may handle both together: I've noticed I can do an ebook and a print book at the same time, since I read them in different places/circumstances. (Ebook on lunch hour and while waiting places; print while on the toilet** or if I want laptime with the cat.)

Wow, at this rate I may have to consider trying to get on panels at conventions. I often don't care to because I don't feel as well-read as other folks.

But anyway, possibly the most interesting development of this business is that I frequently am itching to get out of work and go home and write. Amazing what happens when you say "Screw this trying-to-find-an-agent-and-be-a-professional-writer shit. Just write whatever the fuck you want, for your own enjoyment, like you did when you were young."

Current project progress:

Though to be honest I expect to eventually blow past that 120K, because that's what happens in epic grimdark.

*They both write what I would call space opera, but very different from each other.

**TMI I'm sure, but if you don't read on the toilet I am suspicious of you.

agilebrit July 31 2014, 18:00

My tweets

  • Wed, 12:35: I'm pretty sure that Jesse Ventura has damaged his own reputation via the lawsuit far more than Chris Kyle did in his book. Good job, there.
  • Thu, 10:02: First of five expected responses this week dropped today. They can't all be rejections. ...Right?
  • Thu, 10:12: Autoplay is EVIL. Why in the hell do websites still do this? If I want to play your damn video, I will push the Play button.
  • Thu, 11:54: First round of red-pen edits done. That was... suspiciously easy.
  • Thu, 11:56: This leads me to think there's something deeply wrong with the story that I just can't see.
zellion July 31 2014, 02:19

Cognitive dissonance

Little J looks so much like TC did as a baby that it is kind of weird to me. Like now; lying in bed, phone in one hand, baby attached to boob, I look at him and think "oh it's TC."

But no, my "baby" TC is playing video games with his daddy and talking up a storm, and is so. Darn. Big.

This is a new person, someone I don't really know yet. And other than the fact that he's a better nurser than his brother was at 2 days old, (how much of that is him vs my having previous experience I have no idea, but damn he is good at this, and I am greatful,) I don't know what kind of person this dude is. Other than big. And I am so glad to no longer be pregnant with him.

We took him to see the pediatrician today and he's perfect and healthy. I notice the Dr. was a lot less concerned about asking me certain things like making sure I know how often to be feeding him etc. since she knows he's kid #2 and TC was also born at home, breastfed, etc. She did think it was pretty funny that she saw TC for his yearly checkup on Monday- grandma had to take him in cause I was in labor with little J.

Wish we didn't have to do all the piddly things like paperwork for FMLA and his birth certificate, but that's the price I pay for bucking the system in this day and age. It'll get done and be over with.

barbarienne July 30 2014, 19:07

Ebook pricing AGAIN, pardon me while I barf

Scalzi weighs in with another discussion of the ongoing Hachette/Amazon situation.

This is the comment I posted over there:

I am a book production manager. This is my career of TWENTY YEARS (almost exactly--I started in the first week of August, 1994). I have worked on everything from mass market paperbacks to fancy coffee table books. There's very, very little I don't know about what it costs to print, bind, and ship a book. (My knowledge gap: kids' picture books.)

When it comes to novels, the average mass market paperback costs between $1-$2 to print and ship. Trade ppk between $3-$4. The average hardcover, $4-$5.

(If you're printing POD, it will be higher. Publishers save by printing in bulk on offset presses.)

So if you want the publisher to give all that savings back to the reader (instead of, say, the writers), the best savings you should be demanding is that the ebook price be $2 less than the mass-market list price, or $4 less than the trade list price, or $5 less than the hardcover list price.

Go do some comparisons of list price (not discounted bookseller price) for print vs e- editions. See how close these numbers come. I think you will find many, many cases where the publishers are discounting the ebook editions more than this, particularly on hardcovers.

(slight topic change)

Now, you may personally feel that an ebook isn't worth the price because you can't lend it, etc etc. The simple answer to that is: Don't buy it. I decline to purchase all sorts of things because I think they don't deliver enough value for my needs. Or I purchase an alternative (store brand over-the-counter ibuprofen instead of Motrin brand, for example).

Remarkably, publishers still supply that value-added thing called a "print book." If you would prefer to have a book you can lend to friends or resell or use to balance a wobbly chair, you can buy a print edition.

Oh, what's that you say? You like the convenience of having multiple books in a dimensionless space in your pocket or backpack?

Hello, you have just discovered the value add of an ebook. You give up tradeability and resell for portability. Surely that's worth something to you?

(end comment)

For more of my posts on this same damn topic, click the "this wacky industry" tag below.

agilebrit July 30 2014, 18:00

My tweets

  • Tue, 22:54: RT @SarahThyre: It's time for us all to admit the "endorphin rush" you get after exercise is just an overwhelming sense of relief it's over.
  • Tue, 23:07: 1st readthrough/editing pass done on nightmare story. It is improved! I added a line that makes it even MORE horrible for my protag. Go, me.
  • Tue, 23:08: That line also makes it hit the "unreliable narrator" note I need.
anghara July 29 2014, 23:04


"DEARLY BELOVED, SAVE HUMANITY!" says the subject line on one the messages in my spam box.

I am tempted to send an autoreply.

"You have reached the Messiah Hotline. We value your call. Due to the heavier than usual call valume, you may have to wait a little longer than usual for a response. Your expected wait time is approximately 2000 years. Please stay on the line and someone will be with you momentarily."
agilebrit July 29 2014, 18:00

My tweets

zellion July 28 2014, 19:41


Joshua Robert was born at noon 7/28/14, 10 lbs 1 oz, 21 inches long. About 8 hours of labor, compared to his brother's 17, but damn fast hurts more. A lot more. Still, 10 minutes of pushing and no tears for a ten pounder is pretty damn good.

It's about a quarter to 4 now. He has been nursing almost non stop for the past hour.


jpsorrow July 28 2014, 15:27

Book Discussion: "Happy Hour in Hell" by Tad Williams

Time for the last book discussion of the July book releases, Tad Williams' Happy Hour in Hell, the second Bobby Dollar novel. Here's the new cover and cover copy! Who's read this one already? What did you think?

Cover Copy: I've been told to go to Hell more times than I can count. But this time I'm actually going.

My name’s Bobby Dollar, sometimes known as Doloriel, and of course, Hell isn’t a great place for someone like me--I’m an angel. They don’t like my kind down there, not even the slightly fallen variety. But they have my girlfriend, who happens to be a beautiful demon named Casimira, Countess of Cold Hands. Why does an angel have a demon girlfriend? Well, certainly not because it helps my career.

She’s being held hostage by one of the nastiest, most powerful demons in all of the netherworld--Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell. He already hates me, and he’d like nothing better than to get his hands on me and rip my immortal soul right out of my borrowed but oh-so-mortal body.

But wait, it gets better! Not only do I have to sneak into Hell, make my way across thousands of miles of terror and suffering to reach Pandemonium, capital of the fiery depths, but then I have to steal Caz right out from under Eligor’s burning eyes and smuggle her out again, past demon soldiers, hellhounds, and all the murderous creatures imprisoned there for eternity. And even if I somehow manage to escape Hell, I’m also being stalked by an undead psychopath named Smyler who’s been following me for weeks. Oh, and did I mention that he can’t be killed?

So if I somehow survive Hell, elude the Grand Duke and all his hideous minions and make it back to the real world, I’ll still be the most hunted soul in Creation. But at least I’ll have Caz. Gotta have something to look forward to, right?

So just pour me that damn drink, will you? I’ve got somewhere to go.
agilebrit July 28 2014, 04:02


Finally, finally, finally. The nightmare story has an END at the bottom of its first draft, and there is much rejoicing. This was a really difficult story to write, out of my comfort zone on every possible count. It came in a smidge over 4100 words.

I hope it doesn't suck. I know I've said more than once that there's some nice writing here. Tomorrow, I'll start tearing into it and also send the Hubby off with a copy to peruse on his overnight.

But for now? I'm just going to... collapse.

barbarienne July 26 2014, 17:50

On Dialogue

cathellisen and I were tweeting a few minutes ago and then Twitter collapsed (at least on my end), so I'm going to continue our talk a bit here on the blog.

I've got a piece of juvenalia up on my monitor that is...horrifying. Aside from everything else, the DIALOGUE, OH THE DIALOGUE. That got me started thinking about the most basic things one could tell a fledgling writer, simple stuff that could improve their dialogue from what I was cranking out at that point (college age, people. COLLEGE. Holy shit, was I still that bad a writer even by then?).

1. CONTRACTIONS. Real people use them, and so should your characters. If they're speaking their native language fluently, they'll have grammatical shortcuts. In English these are contractions. Even in formal speech, English has contractions (though fewer).

Usage note: Sometimes English can contract multiple ways: "I had not..." or "I would not..." can contract to "I'd not..." or "I hadn't..." or "I wouldn't..." To my American ears, the first sounds a bit formal, even with the contraction.

Other usage note: What with all the helper verbs in English, there are multiple ways to say simple things, each with contractions: "I had none" "I hadn't any" "I'd none" "I didn't have any". So play around with those things. I found I tended to use the more formal sounding "I had none" instead of "I did not have any," so to get the right, fluent contraction in many cases meant I had to first change the phrasing.

Note of note: Obviously you need to do what's right for the characters. But I assure you, your big dramatic fantasy novel characters will not sound better for speaking formally all the time.

2. That said, CHARACTERS SHOULDN'T LITERALLY TALK LIKE REAL PEOPLE. Real people have digressions and repetition in their conversations. They have momentary misunderstandings that are cleared up quickly. They have verbal tics such as "um" or "you know." (Indeed, I entertain myself in business meetings by counting how many times a particular coworker says "you know." I used to do the same with how many times my sophmore year social studies teacher said "and, uh.")

Dialogue should be streamlined. You can gloss over the obvious things such as phone greetings:
Millicent called shortly thereafter to tell me she had the idol. "But you better get here quick. I think someone followed me home."

"Make sure the doors are locked. I'll be right there."

Five minutes later, I pulled into Millicent's driveway behind a car I had never seen before.

See, none of that hello/goodbye stuff, and no reader will miss it. We know it happened; you don't have to show it. Heck, in real life there would be at least a few more sentences of Millicent being scared, the narrator reassuring her, maybe some "How did you find it? Never mind, you'll tell me when I get there." But NONE of that is needed.

3. AS YOU KNOW BOB. Dialogue is not a means of exposition. You can get away with it sometimes if one character is new to a place and another character is explaining things to them (and by extension, the reader). But try to remember that real people don't tell each other things they already know. "Dear, your best friend Millicent is on the phone for you." If she's my best friend, just say "Millicent," and I'll know. The reader will have to figure out the best-friend status from the rest of the interaction. (Also, don't say "for you," because OBVIOUSLY she's calling for me. So: "Dear, Millicent is on the phone."*

Those are really basic things, stuff rookies can learn pretty quickly and which give a lot of improvement to dialogue for not a lot of effort. There are of course plenty more advanced tips, such as one Cat mentioned on twitter: DIALOGUE SHOULD HAVE SUBTEXT. But that's a more advanced lesson and a different blog post for another time.

Let me know in comments any simple tricks you have for making dialogue sound less stilted.

*What with family-plan cell phones, probably no one utters this sort of sentence anymore. Young people, this is what your parents would say when they answered the landline and the caller wanted to talk to you.

jpsorrow July 24 2014, 16:31

Book Review: "Chimes at Midnight" by Seanan McGuire

This is the seventh book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. This is a dark, urban fantasy series, with an emphasis on the dark, focusing on how the fae are living in their knowes adjacent to our more mundane real world. The series starts off a little rocky in my opinion, but has steadily been improving both in the quality and focus in the most recent books, starting with Late Eclipses (book four). This book continue that trend.

The premise here is that October is investigating the sudden appearance of goblin fruit on the streets, which is highly addictive to changelings and humans, so addictive it kills them. Once she has proof that multiple changelings have died from the addiction, she goes to the Queen of the Mists to get help with the problem . . . and is promptly banished from the realm, given three days to pack up and ship out. Now she's scrambling to save herself from eviction from faerie completely, her allies banding behind her, and the only option may be to depose the Queen.

Again, the quality of the books has increased steadily and this book was solid. The characters are, once again, engaging and the plot moves along at a swift pace. In earlier books, the plot and some of October's decisions were . . . well, rocky and sometime didn't make sense. Not so here (or in the previous few books). Seanan appears to have completely settled into this world and this character. Probably the best part of this book is how October finds her allies supporting her in her efforts, all of the actions in previous books coming into play to help her achieve her goal. Also great, October doesn't wallow in angst and being alone, nor does she hesitate to accept the help she's offered. In past books, she'd refuse help or shove it to one side, which was always annoying. As a character, she's grown, and this book brings all of that growth to the forefront. Also nice, some of the plot threads that were alluded to in previous books (such as the goblin fruit being a problem on the streets, and multiple other side comments) are finally pulled together and addressed. Not all of them, and there's obviously some loose ends in this book that need to be tied up, but many of them come together here.

So, overall, a great book in this series. One or two minor things were overplayed (the kissing of Tybalt got slightly annoying and also the reliance on the Luideag in the first part of the book) but those were, as I said, minor. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series, which should be out sometime this fall.

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