E-book readers, check your emails!

Apparently a lot of folks got a credit in their online book buying accounts (e.g., Amazon) from a price fixing settlement today. It’s all down to a lawsuit involving Apple colluding with publishers to push up the prices of ebooks, but even if you never bought ebooks through Apple (I didn’t), you still might see a payout because it affected the whole industry. Business Insider has the details here: http://www.businessinsider.com/check-your-email-you-might-have-free-ebooks-waiting-for-you-2016-6

My share of the settlement came in the form of a $68 virtual giftcard on my Amazon account, because I buy a lot of books and almost all of them are electronic. Because people bought a bunch of the fun stuff off my wishlist for my birthday and because this magic internet money arrived in my account the day after I was basically praying for a financial miracle, I have elected to be responsible with this money and use it to buy some of the bulk household items on my wishlist (sponges, kitty litter, gallon bags) and some of my pills.

But, you know, don’t feel constrained to follow my example. I was this close to getting Mario Maker with it, and if I had, I’d have zero regrets. The last time I had an ebook price lawsuit settlement credited to me, I turned right around and bought more books.

Today on “If you have enough money to live cheaply”…

…I want to share something I learned recently: there are online restaurant supply companies that will sell to the general public and ship to residential addresses, and you can use them to order bulk less-than-perishable foods (including canned fruits, veggies, meat, and soups, and dry goods like pasta and rice and beans, and condiments, and drink mixes or syrups). We started using Webstaurant Store a while back for certain things. Individual dietary needs means we can’t take advantage of all their offerings, but I’d like to pass on the good word to those who can.

Now when I say bulk, I mean bulk. You might want to get some friends and/or neighbors and/or coworkers together to split an order, and when you’re comparison shopping make sure you’re paying attention to the unit sizes and how they compare to the ones on the grocery store shelves. $15 for something like ten cans of tomatoes might not sound like a good deal… until you realize they’re 6+ pound cans and so you’re getting them for less than a quarter a pound.

Now, that’s before shipping, which is something you’ll want to watch, and it doesn’t do you much good to have 60+ pounds of canned tomatoes if you can’t go through an open 6 pound can before it turns, which is why it’s probably good to coordinate. But if you’re involved in a church or school function, or you’re running a daycare, or you just have a large extended family to feed? Score.

You can get some good deals on staples this way. It can also be a cheap way to get some treats, which is how I discovered it a while back.

You know those flavor syrups that coffee shops use? It’s hard to find them in grocery stores beyond the most obvious everyday flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and hazelnut, and they’re not cheap. We use the sugar-free versions to add a sweet indulgence and variety while controlling blood sugar, but those are even harder to find. You can get them online for around $10 a bottle, or a bit cheaper on Amazon if you aren’t picky about flavors and don’t mind getting bundles of the same one.

But the restaurant supply store has them for around $5 a bottle, before shipping and taxes.

Again, you have to have the money to make this deal work; with shipping, it doesn’t really become worth it until you’re buying more than half a dozen at a time. But if you can either save it and splurge or get a bunch of friends and coworkers to go in with you, can add that decadence to your morning coffee or soda or whatever.

So, again: if you’ve got the shelf space and flexibility in your budget, and you do a little careful comparison shopping and watch the shipping (I suggest keeping your shopping cart open in another tab so you can refresh to see what the shipping is as you add items), you can save yourself some money. Might take some planning and friend-wrangling to make it really worth it, but it can really pay off for you if you can make it work.

Goal statuses.

So, my goal of spending the day writing did not come to fruition due to aforementioned bank hijinks, because I spent a portion of the day in necessary confabs with Jack about meal planning for today and tomorrow, and emergency planning about when we’d be able to go grocery shopping, and sketching out financial contingencies, and in between all of that I was too anxiety-riddled to focus on stories and creativity.

But! My pre-existing goal for today was that I would post a completed draft of tomorrow’s Tales of MU chapter to the MU Patreon so the now 17 people who are pledged to support each chapter could read it a day early. Given everything above, and given my sickness of late last week through the weekend, I was kind of bracing myself for failure… right up until my must-write alarm went off at 4:30 and I sat down and did my thing.

As of 6:30, end of day… mission accomplished. The post is posted. And I have a word count of 2,600 for today, 600 of which is for Thursday’s chapter. I’d hoped to be done with this week’s major writing before this week began, but I’m still ahead of the game.

If you’re a MU reader who wants to see the MU chapters early, you can get in on them by pledging a dollar or more per chapter here: http://www.patreon.com/talesofmu. While my income is increasing across multiple streams of revenue right now, Patreon support for both Tales of MU and my writing generally are the ones that are poised to make the biggest difference to my life in the medium to long term.

So, to sum up: it’s not been a great day, but I still did a thing that was worth doing.

And in fairness, I knew it was going to be a long day as soon as I looked at the calendar this morning.

Random, but…

…I think the best example of the growing genre of “flash mob composed of performers from a local production of Les Mis staging ‘One Day More’ in a shopping mall” is still the first one I’ve seen, and the earliest exemplar of which I’m aware: the Polish version in Warsaw.

And there are three reasons for this.

One, the video’s early focus on crowd reactions as people notice the singers or it slowly dawns on them what’s happening.

Two, the fact that each of the players is dressed in what (once you realize what’s happening) is recognizably something their character would wear in a modern AU. They’re neither out of place in a modern shopping mall, nor out of character.

But three: the fact that they cast a big-name pop star not in the role of Marius (recognized as the male romantic lead) but Enjolras, which means that when he comes sweeping in like a storm, the response from the crowd is exactly what it should be for a young man so dynamic and charismatic that he inspires others to follow him into the jaws of hell. Enjolras’s part in the story is not small, but it’s not foregrounded. He is the fulcrum on which the entire second half of the story swings (which action creates Marius’s arc). Watching the crowd react to him, you could well believe that some of them would be tearing fixtures out of the stores to barricade one of the anchor stores if he asked them to.

I mean, the whole thing is very well staged and all the actors are charismatic and engaging, but I applaud whoever had the perspicacity to recognize that Enjolras and not Marius needs to be the one who can command a crowd with an upraised fist and voice.

See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZ-9twCAjoE

Dang, apparently I am sick.

So, I did that 8 hour game experiment in part because I was too headachy and congested to engage the story brain. Over the course of the day I felt really energized and inspired, and I figured that meant I was on the upswing.

Nope. Just super into what I was doing. As soon as I stopped: headachy, dizzy, sore, and tired. Opened up my mouth to speak and it was a creaky whisper. I think part of that was disuse, as I barely said a word to anyone all day (and nothing for the last 6 hours), but while my voice did improve a bit with warming up, it is definitely a bit torn up from post-nasal drip.

Good thing I still have some of my con supplies (crystallized ginger and cepacol lozenges). Hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow, as it’s supposed to be D&D day.

Late night anxieties.

I’m having late night anxieties, mostly surrounding money. I mean, it’s not exactly keeping me up at night. Headache, joint ache, and a possible low-grade fever are doing that. But since I’m up, this is what’s occupying my mind: money. My Patreon payouts are still just over two weeks away. Cash will dribble in in small, unpredictable amounts until then. Me having a surplus following WisCon helped out a bit. The kind gifts some readers purchased off my Amazon wishlist have also helped. But I don’t think I’m going to be able to relax until my WorldCon fundraiser is over, and I’ve had my first payout on my new Patreon set-up.

Nothing can speed up the latter, but we’re very close on the former. Just $355 to go and I can close the thing out. That’s not nothing, but it’s less than 20% of the total. A few moderately sized donations or one really generous one or several smaller ones, and it could be done this month, or this week, or this weekend.

I know, I know… I’ve been given so much already. But I have to believe that I’m worth it, or I wouldn’t ask.

GoFundMe: http://www.gofundme.com/ae2worldcon

Some grateful acknowledgments.

Over the course of my birthday, I posted links to my Amazon wishlist. Generous folks out there in internet land provided me with some of my medically necessary dietary supplements, a few new wigs I’ve had my eye on, and… a new smart watch.

As I mentioned last week, I took a gamble on getting a bargain basement smart watch to go with my new smart phone, and it was a huge mistake. My reasoning was “Maybe it won’t do much for that price, but I really just need it to tell time and give me notifications without having to dig my phone out.” What I got for the price was a phone that tries to do everything you might want a smart watch to do (including take pictures, place and answer calls, etc.) but fails at most of them. It can barely make or hold a connection to a phone. The interface is terrible, the touchscreen is non-responsive, and most of the functions are not accessible without a third party application that will not install on my phone and/or a SIM card or memory card inserted into a watch that has no aperture for receiving such.

The watch worked just enough to make me see the value of a good one. I asked Twitter for recommendations. Weird thing: if I say anywhere on the internet that I’m thinking about getting an X or that I’m having Y problems with Z, I’ll have people falling over themselves to give me advice that is often unneeded or inapplicable, being based only on the iceberg-tip view of what’s going on that my blog provides. But when I threw out a request for information, I got exactly one response.

Now this might be a side effect of the fact that I have been kind of vocal about the unsolicited advice thing lately, in which case it’s a matter of people learning the wrong lesson… which I was pretty sure was going to happen. But, oh well.

The one recommendation I got was for the Pebble. After looking into it, I listed a couple of  models on my wishlist (one a bit older), with the intention of saving up for one. From my quick research, it seemed like the Pebble was pretty much the epitome of what I was looking for: rugged, with a long-battery life, capable of both telling time and delivering me messages from my phone, and not a lot of extra bells and whistles like trying to be a phone itself or having a tiny, awkward camera.

The pills and accessories did not surprise me, but I was floored when I opened a box today and found a Pebble Steel in it. It’s the older of the two I had listed, but it is, indeed, exactly what I was looking for. Solid and sturdy seeming. Simple. No touchscreen or even color display, just an old-fashioned LCD. But it paired quickly and easily, and hasn’t dropped its connection anywhere I go in the house relative to the phone. So far I’ve read text messages and emails on it. It has limited ability to respond to them (pre-sets only, basically), but at the point where I know I need to respond to an alert, I am perfectly willing to get my phone.

It does do more than my bare minimum, but not by enough to be a distraction. It has a timer function, which is great, as I use timers in my writing, but the web-based timer I’d previously used no longer works reliably with my browser, and having to dig out my phone to set a timer kind of throws me off my game. I also find I like the gentle pulsing buzz on my wrist (this device does not appear to have any speakers) much more than I do any alarm sound.

The neatest thing about this watch, though, is something I never knew how much I wanted until I had it: a virtual watch face that tells you the time in words, as in “SIX eleven”. I can read an analog clock, and in fact, I was pretty sure I would be using a virtual one when I saw that the face could be customized. But there is something so adorable and charming about a watch that just says “SIX twelve” (now) in so many words. Welcome to the future.

Anyway, this is just to say thank you to everyone who sent me something—even a message or well-wishes—for my 36th birthday. The start of my awesome year of awesome is officially underway. Stick around… you’re really going to see something.


Fun with Twitter ads!

(Facebook users, for the full effect, click the link to see the original post.)

"The cringing mortal you knew as Chad Sayler is no more. I am become Lord Chad, Master of Seals, and my pinniped servants shall overrun this corrupt earth like wet, undulating hounds of hell. Pray to any gods you please for mercy in the next life, for you shall find none in this one. ORF ORF!"

“The cringing mortal you knew as Chad Sayler is no more. I am become Lord Chad, Master of Seals, and my pinniped servants shall overrun this corrupt earth like wet, undulating hounds of hell. Pray to any gods you please for mercy in the next life, for you shall find none in this one. ORF ORF!”

This one is based on a New Yorker cartoon:

“The Seal Master grows tired of your career advice, Mother.”


seal master weird dogs

“Weird dogs? WEIRD DOGS? These are NO MERE CANINES, you simpering fools! They are SEALS, Nature’s perfect weapons. They obey only the commands of LORD CHAD, the SEAL MASTER, and they shall be your DOOM.”

seal master fish

“My hands do NOT smell of fish, Barbara, they smell of POWER. The POWER to control SEALS. Yes, yes, the power comes from fish, but he who masters the SEALS masters the WORLD. DARE you truly wrinkle your nose and shy from the touch of the future master of the world, Barbara?”

seal master circus tricks

“Oh, you trained a seal to balance a ball on its nose? How clever! Quelle drôle d’idée! When you are finished demonstrating your little circus tricks, I shall show you a trick of my own, and then we shall see who is the true MASTER OF SEALS, Francisco!”

If you’ve enjoyed the adventures of LORD CHAD, SEAL MASTER, please throw a little something in my tip jar:


I will produce another set of image macros containing a further quote from the SEAL MASTER for every $10 I receive today (June 13th), or any day through Friday (June 17th), to a maximum of 25 new images of LORD CHAD, SEAL MASTER. Funds need not arrive in multiples of 10; if ten people throw in $1, that’s still one image.

Hold The Phone

So, I’ve been intermittently anxious and miserable about phone-related difficulties pretty much since leaving WisCon, when my rapidly declining phone began to crash. I got a replacement, I got a case for the replacement, I dropped the replacement while putting it into the case, the screen shattered, and that’s what you missed on Glee. (GLEE!)

I wrote about how I felt about that yesterday, and also said that I’d looked at the options and concluded that an insurance claim was my best bet. Deciding that didn’t make me feel any better, and today I thought about why.

It basically comes down to: I don’t want to pay a deductible of $50 or more for a phone that might well be a refurb, won’t necessarily even be the model I picked (and will be paying for), and certainly won’t be the same color. I had just started getting this phone trained to work the way I like (minimal notifications, no autocorrect or spelling suggestions, no auditory or haptic feedback on most things), and it was starting to feel like it was mine. Transferring stuff of my dying phone to this one was an ordeal, and while transferring from this one to an insurance replacement would likely be a lot easier (because it’s brand new and fully functional), but, you know, at this point I’m invested in this one.

My manufacturer has a standing offer right now that I think of as “I Can’t Believe It’s Not A Recall!”, whereby in exchange for believing them when they say that the screens on this phone are totally made of impact-resistant space-age materials, they will replace any shattered or cracked screen on any unit purchased within a time frame of now-ish, no questions asked. I found out about this while looking at my options yesterday, but I rejected it because it requires me to ship my phone to them, and thus be without it for “4-7 business days” (or a week to a week and a half), whereas the insurance claim can be processed within a day and they’ll overnight a replacement without waiting for the old one to be returned first.

But that’s instant gratification. I could have a phone tomorrow, but it won’t be my phone. Not the one I picked, not the one I’m paying for, not the one I’ve been getting used to and customizing. I mean, there’s probably a good chance it would be the same model. Probably. But if it’s not, then I’m stuck with a case I can’t use, and have to wrap my replacement phone in bubble wrap until I can get a new one.

And as much as the thought of being phoneless for up to the better part of two weeks is not a fun one… I do it, and I’m done. I have my phone back. It fits my case. I can use it, theoretically, for years to come.

I can theoretically reactivate my old dying phone for the time being, but I’m not sure I honestly need to? I’ve gone more than two weeks without using my phone as a phone, even for texting. I can also send and receive texts through my carrier’s website. Most people who have my phone number don’t necessarily expect me to be easy to reach by phone anyway. I can use my tablet for a lot of the things I would use my phone for, and to the extent that it works, I can use my deactivated old phone for most of those things, too.

I keep thinking, “Well, this isn’t an ideal solution.” But I’m not sure why we always look for ideal solutions, when the fact that we’re looking for a solution is a strong indication that we’re not in an ideal situation to begin with. The ideal solution is that I didn’t drop my phone, or it didn’t break the screen when I did, or that I developed the ability to telepathically communicate with wireless networks and/or repair objects by thinking hard at them. (It is my birthday, universe, so if you’re feeling generous, you could help me cross a couple items off my superpower wishlist. No? Okay. Worth a try.)

Of the solutions that actually apply to the situation, this is the one that works the best. I mean, I can’t promise that the lack of a phone and background anxiety about it won’t weigh on me in the coming weeks. It can and probably will. But right now I’m kind of in the “soft launch” phase of pushing my career to the next level, and while I keep thinking how inconvenient the timing is that I’m dealing with this now… it’s really not a bad time.

And even though this means my phone problems are stretched out another few weeks (I’m not going to mess with this until Monday), honestly, just making this decision and having it be my decision, just claiming ownership of this phone I picked out and bought… it makes a huge difference in how I feel. The loss of my old phone’s functionality and the damage to this one were things beyond my control. This is a choice, though. It’s me taking ownership of the situation. And that right away makes me feel better about it.


Just hit me…

…that I have three actual honest-to-goodness print books in my house that I didn’t publish myself, but which nonetheless contain my name and my works. They all arrived at some point in 2016, mostly during a period when I was agonizing over my life choices and career path. It’s a funny old world, when you think about it.

The books in question are:

  • The 2016 Rhysling Anthology, containing my nominated poems “Institutional Memory” and “Observations from the Black Ball Line Between Deimos and Callisto”. (http://amzn.to/1ZE4F7X)
  • The 2016 edition of The Martian Wave, containing “Observations from the Black Ball Line Between Deimos and Callisto”. (http://amzn.to/1YhSfEi)
  • Nights of the Round Tablea Circlet Press anthology of Arthurian erotica, containing my very long short story, “The Giving Game”, which retells the story of Gawain and the Green Knight as a bisexual polyamorous romance.

It’s possible I should be creating a trophy shelf of the sort some authors have, but the fact is, I wasn’t particularly pursuing print publication when I wrote or submitted these works. I wasn’t aware The Martian Wave would have a print edition. I knew it was possible for Circlet Press to take their books to print, but they’re primarily an e-publisher and the print edition is not something they announce when they solicit submissions. At the same time, I also feel like I have enough stuff in my house and in my life, and I don’t feel a strong connection to physical books. For accessibility and ease of use, I mostly read electronically.

But I know there are people who enjoy having a physical object, enjoy that tangible connection to artwork. So I’m going to try something out here: at the end of the first month in which I have 100 sponsors on my Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/alexandraerin), I will do a drawing of all the people who were paying sponsors that month. The winner will get my copy of The Martian Wave, with my signature on my (Rhysling-nominated!) poem.