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Posts Tagged ‘library’

The upside of introversion

I don’t tend to follow the news as much as I should (since it tends to be depressing, especially under the current administration), but it’s been hard to miss the building crisis with the COVID-19 coronavirus and the impact it’s having on society. The thing is, all the stuff that’s being advised for how to minimize the risk — social distancing, washing hands frequently, staying home, avoiding crowds — is pretty much stuff I already did anyway. As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, I’ve let myself become rather socially isolated in recent years, especially with my money problems lately. I’d just been on the verge of trying to change that, to get out into the world more, but now it seems I’m better off sticking with my current way of living for a while longer.

As far as my money situation goes, it’s showing signs of improvement. I’ve gotten a number of donations from my very generous fans, and I’ve finally gotten some writing work lined up, hopefully just in the nick of time. I’m still kind of worried about whether I’ll have enough to pay taxes when the time comes, especially since there’s no telling if the tax preparer appointment I made for two weeks from now will have to be postponed due to the virus. But I’m still planning to start that Patreon page soon, which hopefully will help. I could still use some other kind of work in the near future, but the pandemic situation has made me think I should refocus on prospects for online work I can do from home, which was something I was already considering anyway.

So far, the only way the burgeoning emergency has really affected my life is that the library closed for at least 3 weeks as of tonight, which is delaying me from finishing the first set of reviews I’m planning for the Patreon page. See, I picked something I own as a DVD box set, but it turns out the discs are defective and have deteriorated over the years — for some reason, every one (correction: every damaged one, since the first two worked okay) only plays the first two episodes normally and freezes up on the last two. So I’ve had to request additional copies from the library (and interestingly the DVD player remembered my place even when I switched to a different copy of the same disc), and the last two discs were still en route to my local branch when they closed for the duration. Well, I’ve still got enough reviews to last a while, and if it comes to that, I suppose I can pay to stream the episodes online, out of whatever profits I hopefully make from the earlier reviews.

My other library news is good, though. By coincidence, I’ve just recently gotten around at long last to exploring the options for borrowing e-books from the library. I signed up for the Hoopla service, which can be used by anyone with a library card from a participating library, and I’ve discovered it has a ton of digital comics available, which has let me catch up with a lot of things I’ve had trouble finding in print form. You can borrow them for 3 weeks, but the downside is that they only let you borrow 10 items a month for some reason, and I’ve exhausted that quite quickly both this month and last. Hoopla also has movies, TV shows, music, and audiobooks (including my own Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder), though I haven’t borrowed any of those yet.

I also looked into the Overdrive lending service which partners with schools and libraries and lets you borrow e-books and audiobooks — including quite a few Star Trek novels, mine and others’. You can borrow 20 per month, though only for 2 weeks, at least for the ones I’ve borrowed. You can even borrow them in Kindle format, or for other e-readers, which has proven quite handy. What’s more, when I decided a couple of days ago to look into the possibility of installing a Kindle app on my phone so I could read e-books away from my computer, I found I already had one that had come pre-installed with the phone (along with a bunch of other apps I never use). I just had to sign in, and there all my books were! What’s more, the two Kindles communicate and keep track of how far I’ve advanced in a book. So far I’m finding that I quite like reading books on my phone, even though it’s a pretty small phone. I’m used to reading websites or playing games on my phone, so reading books on it feels quite comfortable. If anything, I think my eyes are getting close to the point that it’s easier to read on a screen where I can adjust the font size than from a printed page. I have a feeling I’m going to do a lot more reading now that it’s suddenly become so easy to get a library book delivered in seconds. I’m finding it quite enjoyable.

Between that and the new writing gig (which I’ve gotten a great idea for that I’m pretty excited by), plus my readers’ generosity, I’m feeling much better than I was a couple of weeks ago. I was so panicked before that when I finally got this job offer, I ended up just lying on the floor for a few minutes, overcome with relief. But it wasn’t until the past couple of days, with this neat new idea falling into place and with the discovery of the wonders of library e-books, that I’m finally starting to smile again and actually be in a good mood. My work situation is still not fully stabilized, and at best it’s no better than the tenuous state it’s been in for the past three years, but this renewed optimism may be what I need to take things further. Hopefully this time I can finally make progress beyond that status quo, what with Patreon and the upcoming release of Arachne’s Crime and maybe some payoff for one or two other job feelers I’ve set in motion.

Of course, I’m having this burst of optimism just as our nation descends into a state of emergency, and there’s no telling what the next few weeks will bring. But I guess that’s better than facing such a crisis from a state of deep depression. And it kind of helps that all I really have to do to cope with the crisis is keep doing what I was already doing anyway. It makes me feel somewhat better about my introverted tendencies.

Categories: My Fiction Tags: , , ,

Not having a great week

The universe isn’t done screwing with me yet, it seems.

It looked like I was finally close to getting out of this financial pit I’ve been in all year, or at least making significant strides uphill. I’m waiting on something that should pay off soon, probably next month, and ease my burden a great deal. But in the meantime, it looks like the profits from the Kickstarter campaign for Among the Wild Cybers are lower than I’d hoped due to the costs of printing, shipping, etc., and I probably won’t see them right away. At the moment, I’m still very close to being out of money, biding my time and hoping I can make it through the next month or so with what little I have.

I thought it would help if I took advantage of my soon-to-be-improved fortune to apply for new credit at my banks, either a new card or a credit line increase or whatever. I was turned down before when my income was practically nonexistent, and the bankers advised me to try again when my situation improved, which it’s now just about to do. I tried applying at one bank last week, but it turned out my credit score was just a hair too low for them. I was literally off by 1 point. So I figured I’d go to my other bank and retry the things I tried there before. Hopefully one of them would pay off. If I could get more credit, I thought, it’d give me enough leeway to get some car maintenance done before I have to drive to Shore Leave.

So I went out to my car to drive over to that bank, the nearest branch of which is 5 miles away.

And I couldn’t start the car. My battery was dead.

I could get a jump start and drive to the garage pretty easily, but the new battery would run me up to a couple hundred dollars, and that’s a sizeable chunk of what I currently have left. If I’d already succeeded in getting new credit, that wouldn’t be such a problem, but I didn’t know if I would. This was the worst possible time for this to have happened. Especially knowing that, one way or another, I needed to get my car up and running within the next 20 days.

As it happens, though, a family member who recently moved to the DC/Baltimore area was willing to pay my expenses to pick up some belongings from their former home and bring them when I came to the area for Shore Leave. I realized that would be a way to pay for the new battery, since that would definitely count as a necessary expense. So I made those arrangements through my always-helpful cousin, and once I got the check in the mail, I was able to take the car in and get a new battery. Once that happened, I finally drove over to the other bank and applied for both a new credit card and a credit line extension, hoping I’d get at least one approved.

Guess what. They were both rejected, because my current debt load is too high. Which is frustrating, since I’m within a month or so of being able to start paying down that debt, but I may just need a little more help to make it until then. I know that I will be able to make good on my debt before much longer, that I just need to bridge the gap for another month or two at most, but I can’t convince the faceless decision-makers of that, because it’s all so rigid and by the numbers, so on paper I’m too great a risk. I mean, I understand the reason it’s all so strict these days — the rules were put in place to protect against fraud after the banking crisis a decade ago. So I can respect that. But it doesn’t do me any good in a situation where I could really use some wiggle room.

There’s still a chance that the big thing I’m waiting on will come through soon enough that I won’t need the additional credit cushion, but at the moment I have no idea how long it’ll take. I’d actually expected it to have happened already — I was told “very shortly” over 2 weeks ago. And I have several stories out at various magazines, so something else might pay off at any time, or it might not. I’m stuck just not knowing again, and afraid of what might happen if at least something doesn’t pay off in July. I really thought this would’ve all been wrapped up by now, but I got overconfident. Things are finally moving, but they’re still taking longer than anticipated. I just hate not knowing.

I’m wondering if, instead of applying for a bank credit card, I should just use one of those card applications that come in the mail. Maybe the approval standards would be different. But I just don’t know.

Well, at least I’ll have some books for sale at Shore Leave, copies of Only Superhuman and such. Between that and the convention stipend, maybe I’ll make at least a couple of hundred to help tide me over. Of course, my book sale is still on as always. And who knows? I could get good news from somebody or other any day now. I just hope I don’t have any other unanticipated expenses like the car battery.

Meanwhile, it’s not just the battery that unexpectedly failed me. The pull chain for my ceiling-fan light fixture in the living room broke off the other day, right after I turned it on. It broke off right at the base deep inside the fixture, so there was no way I could fix it myself. I had to wait a while for the maintenance guy to come fix it. At first I thought it was lucky that the light was on when the chain broke, since I could still use the wall switch to turn it on or off. But that meant that I couldn’t use the ceiling fan without the light also being on, and the fan is kind of necessary in hot weather, even when I don’t need the light. I might’ve preferred it if the ceiling light had been stuck in the off position, since I could’ve used my torchiere lamp to fill in. If the situation had gone on longer, I might’ve decided to unscrew the light bulb. But it turned out that it only took a couple of days to get it repaired, so it’s resolved now.

I also asked the maintenance guy to look at the spray nozzle on my kitchen sink’s hose attachment, which was sometimes sticking in the on position. Which was weird, since it was a replacement for the previous nozzle that also stuck in the on position. In trying to fix it, he got it stuck permanently in the on position, meaning all the water was coming through the spray hose instead of the faucet. He had to go out and buy a new nozzle, since he didn’t have any spares. Apparently, I’m the only tenant who still has a spray hose, since I’ve been living here so long that I’m the last one with an un-remodeled kitchen. Anyway, I thought he’d be gone for a while, so I channeled my inner MacGyver and used some long twist ties (from my drawer for spare electronics cords and such) to secure the spray hose to the faucet so I could use it as a makeshift faucet. But he came back less than half an hour later. I could’ve just waited and saved the effort. And the new spray nozzle has a different kind of lever to turn it on, so hopefully it won’t stick like the others.

Oh, one other way the universe messed with me, this time with my unwitting assistance: Yesterday when I drove to that bank 5 miles away, I turned out to get there shortly after the banker I’d been working with went to lunch. I guess I’d given her the impression on the phone that I’d be coming later in the day than I did (we didn’t make a formal appointment or anything). So I went over to the nearby library to wait it out. While there, I came upon several trade paperback volumes of Marvel’s hilarious The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl which I haven’t read yet. I tried to remember which ones I had already read and picked the two I knew I hadn’t, volumes 6 & 7 of the trade collections. Volume 5 was there too, but I got the impression I’d already read it and put it back on the shelf. But when I got home and started in on volume 6, it referred to a previous story I didn’t remember, so I went online to check, and it turned out I’d only read up to volume 4. So I went on the library website to request that volume 5 be shipped to my local branch.

Only to see that the list of volumes available for requesting included volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7.

This didn’t make sense, since I’d literally held volume 5 in my hands less than 2 hours previously. Apparently there was some catalog glitch or mislabeling or something. That meant there was no way to request it electronically, at least not from the local library. I could request a copy from another Ohio library through OhioLink, but that tends to take the better part of a week, at least. But, guys, it’s Squirrel Girl. It’s awesome. And the one place where I knew I could find it was the very branch I’d been in before. So, yes, I actually hopped in the car and drove the 5 miles back to the library to pick up volume 5. I knew exactly where I’d left it 2 hours before. And what were the odds that someone else had checked it out during those 2 hours?

Guess what. Someone else had checked it out during those 2 hours. I made that whole second 10-mile round trip for nothing.

Once I got home, I did the only thing I could and requested it through OhioLink. But that means I won’t see it until sometime next week at the earliest. Whereas I could’ve read all three volumes already and saved myself a pointless drive if I’d just checked more closely when I had the darn thing in my hand.

This is just not my week.

There be WILD CYBERS here!

No, I’m not under attack by rogue robots — rather, my author copies of Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman have just arrived.

Among the Wild Cybers in box

Among the Wild Cybers in stack

They’re thinner than I expected for a nearly 80,000-word book, but I guess that’s because of the trade-paperback format. But here they are, and it’s not much longer before the rest of you can get them too (Kickstarter backers first).

Here’s my brag shelf of all my original fiction to date, such as it is:

CLB brag shelf

Minus Hub Space, which I haven’t yet obtained a print copy of. But hey, the shelf is finally starting to grow a bit, and there’s a good chance that it’ll be growing more before long. For now, though, Only Superhuman and Among the Wild Cybers contain my complete published works to date in my primary original universe (plus “No Dominion”). So it’s nice to see them side by side. (I put ATWC first both for height reasons — I don’t want it between two shorter mass-market paperbacks — and because I generally shelve anthologies/collections before novels, a habit I picked up when I worked at the university library.)

And we’re now ridiculously close to unlocking “Abductive Reasoning” for Kickstarter backers — one to three more pledges should do it:

Only 11 days left!

And finally, Erlanger LibraryCon followup

November 12, 2017 1 comment

Yep, the Kenton County Public Library’s Erlanger branch held its LibraryCon yesterday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very well-attended, at least not by people interested in my books. Maybe I should’ve remembered to remind people of the event a couple of days ago. But the cold weather was probably the reason not many people came out. Or maybe this is just a lean year — the current economic uncertainties may make people more reluctant to engage in recreational spending. This is my second signing in a row to have a disappointing turnout.

Still, I got some things out of it. I got to meet a few local creators and publishers, and I got to meet the “other” David Mack — the comics artist/writer known for his work on Kabuki, Daredevil, and the comics adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, as opposed to my friend David (Alan) Mack who writes Star Trek novels for Pocket and the upcoming Dark Arts: The Midnight Front for Tor. I hadn’t known that the comics’ David Mack was originally from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. He’s a lot more down-to-earth than I would’ve expected from his rather ethereal art. Anyway, it was nice to meet him at last.

I also got a free meal out of it, at least. I actually brought my own lunch, since I didn’t know they’d be providing one, and since my metabolism’s still on Daylight Time, I ate it early, just before the convention formally started at 11. Not long thereafter, they passed around the catering order sheet from Chipotle — d’oh! Although lunch didn’t arrive until after 2, so I would’ve been starving by that point if I hadn’t eaten something earlier. And the burrito I ordered was so big and filling that I didn’t even need to have dinner later on, just an evening snack.

Anyway, the Erlanger branch was a pretty nice library, and it’s too bad I didn’t get a chance to take more of a look around. It’s a bit too far from home to drop into casually. But even with the underwhelming turnout, I’m grateful to the Erlanger staff for having me, and maybe they’ll have me back next year. The library’s apparently having an extension built, so it should be an even bigger space by then and hopefully able to host a larger convention, or so they told me. Maybe I’ll be able to sell more books next year. I should have at least one new thing to offer by then, which I’ll hopefully be able to announce pretty soon.

2015 Ohioana reception

This past Sunday, I was a guest at the annual Ohioana Library Association reception for Ohio authors at the Cincinnati Public Library. Here’s a shot of me from their Flickr stream, accepting my certificate from Ohioana Hamilton County Committee chairman David Siders:

MAIN 2015 Ohioana 064

(And yes, I finally got a haircut. Now I feel it’s too short. I just can’t make up my mind!!)

As you can see, this was one of my rare occasions for putting on my sport jacket and looking almost formal. As it turns out, it was appropriate to get dressed up, because one of the other authors in attendance was none other than Dr. Henry Heimlich! It’s been said that, by inventing the Heimlich Maneuver, Dr. Heimlich has saved more lives than any other individual in history. And I was in the same room with him! I didn’t get to speak to him, but still, wow!

I was officially being acknowledged for last year’s Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel, but due to the timing of these events, I donated a copy of that to the Ohioana Library last year, so this year I gave them a copy of Uncertain Logic. I’m getting ahead of the curve. After the presentations, there was a brief meet-and-greet event where guests could talk to the authors and we could try to sell our books. I only managed to sell one, but it was one of my few paperback copies of Only Superhuman. I didn’t have any luck moving the hardcovers last year, so I figured I’d have a better chance with an 8-dollar paperback, and I guess I was right.

My thanks to the Ohioana folks for inviting me to their events every year.

Cincy Library Comic Con report

Here I am at the Cincinnati Library Comic Con 2014 this afternoon:

Me at Cinti Library Comic Con

(Thanks to library volunteer Lori for taking the photo for me.)

As you can see, I brought a variety of my books with me, but I still had most of them by the end of the event. Still, I sold a bit over a quarter of my stock and earned a decent chunk of change, with 20% donated to the library. Not shown in the photo: the one copy I had left of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder. Since this was mainly a comics event, my Spidey novel and Only Superhuman sold significantly better than the Trek titles, a change of pace from what I’m used to. It makes me think I should’ve tried harder to market OS at comics events back when it first came out.

The library had snacks available for the guests, including mini-quiches from Panera. I’m not usually a quiche eater, but I was hungry and I saw that they had a spinach-artichoke variety, so I decided to give it a try, and it was quite good, as one would expect from Panera.

Another thing that really impressed me was the material covering the table, that gold sheeting you see there. The texture had a good firm grip to it and it nicely held my books in that upright position. I usually have trouble keeping them from falling over when they’re like that, but they were all very well-behaved today, so I can only conclude it’s because of the tablecloth material. If I knew what it were called, I’d recommend it to all my conventions.

Thanks to the Ohioana Library Association

Every year, the Ohioana Library Association holds a reception honoring authors from Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and the latest one was held yesterday afternoon at the Main Library in downtown Cincinnati.  I was one of the invited guests, for my second year in a row.  (Well, it’s been more than a year, since they used to hold the events in November but decided this time to move it to March.)  It was a nice reception.  I got a Certificate of Recognition for my work (this year it was Over a Torrent Sea that was nominally being honored, but I also brought a copy of Mere Anarchy to donate to the Ohioana collection), and I got to chat with a couple of local authors, including a fellow SF author who’s also been in Analog.  So I might’ve made a new connection or two within the local writing community, which is good.

There was also a buffet table with punch and cookies and  hors d’oeuvres and such.  The best ones were these little cookie-ish things filled with a pumpkin puree, kinda like bite-size pumpkin pies.  Yum.