#weekendcoffeeshare: no dying allowed edition

If we were having coffee, reading would be a nice, uncontroversial subject to talk about. I read two and a half entire books yesterday, which is both impressive and not impressive: the two entire books were a novella and a novelette, respectively, Robert Jackson Bennett’s Vigilance and Warren Ellis’ Dead Pig Collector. The two took maybe an hour and a half taken together. Then again, the half book was the back half of Dune, so I think I still get credit for reading a lot yesterday. I’ll likely finish a book today– I’m reading Mallory Ortberg’s The Merry Spinster right now, and it’s another short one, so whatever I go to after that probably ought to have some meat to it.

That said, it would probably be best to choose an oval or rectangular table, and maybe we ought to be sitting at the far ends. I thought yesterday I was most of the way out of my cold, and then we went out to dinner and got seated too close to the door and I kept getting blasted with cold air. I feel distinctly worse than I did yesterday, and in a different way from how I’ve felt poorly over the last several days. I already know that the week after this one is going to be short, between Presidents’ Day and an inservice I’m attending on the 22nd, so I’m running out of weeks where I might be at work all five days in February. I don’t have enough sick days left right now so I’d really prefer for this shit just to go away now, please. I’m pretty sure what I had last week wasn’t contagious but hell if I know what I’m heading into right now. Whee!

The good news: Sunday is a good day to sit around and binge The Great British Baking Show, and being moderately sick gives me all the excuse I need. I’m watching the most recent season right now, and … man, are these folks British. Most of the stuff they’re making from episode to episode is stuff I’ve never heard of, too, which is always fun– and half the time it’s stuff the contestants have never heard of. It’s not a bad show. Check it out, if you happen to have a Netflix subscription.

What’s been up with you lately?

#Weekendcoffeeshare: Sweatpants Edition

If we were having coffee, you’d either be in my house or witness to just about the first time I’ve left my house since getting home from my dentist appointment on Wednesday.  This, if you’re me, constitutes a certain type of pure bliss, and it has been a lovely, wonderful long weekend, one where I have mostly not been wearing pants and yesterday I did not bother to shower until just before bed.  

Let’s talk geek shit, then, because at the moment it’s what I’ve got.  Again, I haven’t left the house in a few days.

ITEM THE FIRST!  I abandoned a book this morning, R.E. Stearns’ Barbary Station, when it became clear that despite starting off with an absolutely scandalous amount of potential the writing was never going to click for me. This book is about a duo of lesbian engineers who steal a colony ship and present it to a gang of space pirates, hoping that the gift will get them into the gang, because the galactic economy has gone to shit and “find a job with a pirate crew” is, under the circumstances, a sound plan.  They then discover that the pirates living on the station are sort of trapped there, because the AI running the place has gone rogue and has decided Kill All Humans is the right way to deal with things.  

I mean, come on.  I can’t resist a single thing about that premise.  This was bought the second I knew it existed.

One of them is a hacker, and hacking is presented as this drug-induced, hallucinatory metaphor-space, and the idea is fascinating.  In fact, damn near all of the ideas in the book are fascinating.  Everything about it is fascinating.  What it isn’t is good, unfortunately.   The writing is clumsy at best and the book is at least one solid editing pass and a new draft away from being a good read.  I don’t normally like to slag on books I didn’t like here, especially if they didn’t piss me off in an entertaining way, but part of me kind of hopes that someone will read the premise and decide I suck at deciding if things are good and buy the book anyway.  I need R. E. Stearns to sit down with a really good editor for her next book, and then to reissue this one.  Major disappointment.

(I’m not alone in this assessment.  The book currently has the worst overall star average of the nearly 600 books I’ve reviewed on Goodreads– only 3.19/5.  It’s tied with a Chuck Wendig book that was the victim of a prolonged and stupid review bombing.  That’s bad.)

Also, the font the book is written in is borderline unreadable.  I thought I’d get used to it but it was still pushing me out of getting lost in the book before I bailed.  With a better-written story, it might not have mattered, but with a poorly-written one, it was just One More Thing.  

That was unpleasant, so let’s talk about ITEM THE SECOND! which is Red Dead Redemption 2.  I actually took that picture by pointing my camera at my TV, because I got to the top of that mountain and looked off over the edge and thought Jesus, when I started playing video games, I was playing Asteroids, and now this.  Because you can go anywhere you can see in that picture.  

I will have a lot more to say about this game later, believe me, but for right now I just want to bask in how outstandingly beautiful the game is, and how it got me to spend a couple of hours this afternoon not bothering to advance the story at all but just exploring and hunting, which is kind of a ridiculous way to spend your Sunday before going back to work.  There are things I don’t like– the control scheme it starts you with is terrible, and once you fix the terrible control scheme you’re still left with something that will lead to you occasionally firing a gun in a crowded tavern by accident or punching your horse.  Both of those activities are kinda frowned upon.  

I’ve done more geekery this weekend, but the one other thing I wanna talk about is going to get its own post, I think.  So … wanna go hunt moose with me?  Because I kinda want to bag a moose today.  


My Patreon promotion is still running through bedtime tomorrow, or maybe even longer than that if I decide I feel like it.  Subscribe at the $2/month level or above and I’ll send you an autographed, print copy of my newest novel, Click.

#Weekendcoffeeshare: Everything is Awful edition

If we were having coffee, I would kind of feel sorry for you, because man, am I not fit for human company at the moment.  I was snarling at my son before I even managed to get out of bed this morning, the news makes me want to cut people, and this new WordPress editor continues to be annoying.  I’ve figured out (with help from Steve D) how to do inline graphics like I want to, but the procedure for it is so ridiculous compared to the last editor that I almost wish I didn’t know.  

Also gone in this new editor: the ability to copy a post, again, which is something I use all the time.  So, yeah, I’m still not onboard with this nonsense.  Not at all.

Oh, and the image appears to be moving down on the screen the more I type, which isn’t how inline images are supposed to work.  I don’t know what the deal is with that.  Maybe just wrap the text, WordPress?  It’s been something HTML has been able to handle for literally as long as there has been HTML.

Yep, still slowly moving down the screen.  So maybe the “Media & Text” block isn’t what I want here.

(Tries to fiddle with settings in this block, somehow all the sudden the entire block is in what looks like 30-point text, swears, gives up, copies what I’ve written, starts over.)

Okay.  There’s a “classic” block that seems to work? And when I looked in Preview, not only did the “Media and Text” block look stupid in general, but it resized the image to super-small and awful.  So literally none of this shit works at all anymore and this cannot possibly be how they want this to be.  I am tired of everything being bullshit, coffee person, and you really shouldn’t be sitting with me right now, because I’m not fit for human company.

Amazon update: I got a notification from them on Friday that they had shipped me … wait for it … one book out of the 28 or 29 that I ordered.  It is supposed to arrive today.  The cover will be on upside-down, inside-out, and no doubt on the wrong book altogether.  I got an email this morning that the rest of them have shipped and will be here tomorrow.  I fully expect them to be completely destroyed or otherwise unsalable when they arrive.  I also expect to have to spend most of my winter break reformatting everything so that I can use Ingram Spark for my printing needs now rather than Amazon.  I’m in too deep with them to even pretend that “Oh, I won’t buy books from there anymore” is a viable option, but I can sure as hell move my POD business elsewhere.  

Later today– in about half an hour, actually– my son is having a friend over for a few hours, so there will be twice as many seven-year-old boys in the house as I’m used to.  This, for once, is not me complaining; one of the disadvantages to only having one kid (and my wife and I both being temperamentally disinclined to socialize if we don’t have to) is that my son doesn’t have as many opportunities to play with other kids as I want him to.  Yesterday he tried to get me to play a game with him that he was making up as we were going along, and it became increasingly clear the harder he tried that I am a terrible father, because I don’t have the patience for the seven level-ups and eighteen unlockable weapons and two thousand interminable fucking rules that he wants to have for what boils down to “we are surrounded by invisible enemies that we must kill.”  There is no actual play, only endless iterations on the rules of the game.

A topic for later: how my kid’s conception of play has been irreversibly altered by role-playing video games.  Because whenever I was making games up with my friends as a kid, they sure as hell never involved lining up every toy sword and Nerf gun in the house so that we could “unlock” them as we played.  

My solution to this, by the way, is that I want him to have friends over more often.  I always felt that my house was where all my friends always ended up when I was a kid.  I want him to feel the same way.  The problem is I don’t think my parents did it that way because playing with me gave them headaches.  Maybe it did, though; I dunno.  Dad will no doubt chime in and let me know.  🙂

I like the drop caps, coffee person.  They will no doubt get annoying eventually, but for now I enjoy them.

Later today I’m making cornbread and chili.  With luck, it will improve my mood.  In the meantime, I’m off to the shower; one of the other fun things about the boy having a friend over is that it’s one of the kids from Hogwarts whose parents have way, way, way more money than we do so everything must be looking nice when they get here to drop the boy off and I cannot allow myself to be lazing around in my sweatpants like I am now.  My pointless and, it should be made clear, utterly unnecessary status anxieties can be something we investigate later, I suspect.

ETA:  I found a typo and jumped back in to edit it and this is what I was greeted with.  Also, I’m done with drop caps already because I don’t like how they look.  But, yeah, WordPress, you really think this editor is ready for the public?:

(can’t figure out how to add an image this far down in the post)

(Oh God FUCK THIS)

(Okay, there’s a button in the top-left to add a new “block.”  Sure, THAT’S TOTALLY INTUITIVE, WORDPRESS.)

This is what the top of my post looks like now…
…and this is what I get if I click “Resolve.”  Oh, and choosing “upload image” doesn’t actually upload an image when I try to do that.  It just crashes.

You have no idea how much swearing I’m doing over here right now.  I hate this SO MUCH.

#WeekendCoffeeShare: Ravioli edition

wordswag_15073188796611453091488.pngIf we were having coffee (and I feel like I need to point out that, unlike last time, I actually am having coffee while writing this) I would spend most of the conversation being interrupted by the kitten, who has decided that my feet are the tastiest thing in the universe, regardless of whether I’m barefoot, in socks, or wearing my shoes.  This started off as cute and endearing and now I’m seriously trying to think of a way to bash together some shame cones to wear over my feet whenever I’m in a room that she can get into because the assaults are constant and she’s too small to kick.

I could probably get her halfway across the house if I tried, though.

(I’m not going to of course I’m not going to Jesus but Goddammit leave my feet alone.)

Anyway.

We had Thanksgiving yesterday.  There have been persistent rumors that my wife’s family is planning some sort of extravagant event in Michigan for Actual Thanksgiving, and my brother and his wife just bought a new house, so we decided to kill a couple of birds with one stone and we all went up to his place north of Chicago for Very Early Thanksgiving yesterday.  We are mostly German and Polish with a smattering of English and Welsh; he married into an Italian family and brought all of them over as well, so yesterday was Teach the Polacks How to Make Ravioli Day, because why wouldn’t it be?  So we spent probably three or four hours making a couple hundred raviolis.  I didn’t actually make the pasta itself– my mom was handling that– but my brother and my dad and I were responsible for filling the raviolis and then covering them and, in general, finishing everything up.  It went pretty well:

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The darker ones are sausage and spinach, the rest are a five-cheese mix.

It went very well– I’ve actually never made fresh pasta before, and while I sort of wanted to be in the kitchen for the actual pasta-making part at least once, being the last person in the process means you get to pretend the whole thing was your doing, which is still kinda fun.  Dinner was delicious and I even managed to not pass out and die on the way home, which was also a plus.

We would probably start hinting around this election thing on Tuesday at some point and I would change the subject as fast as I possibly fucking could.  I have Tuesday off; part of me feels like this was a very good decision (there will be violence at polling places this week) and part of me is mourning the idea that I’m going to be home all day by myself to go crazy.  I’m going to spend the whole day playing Red Dead Redemption 2 just to keep from going insane.

The other thing on my mind: the Pegasus Author Expo coming up next Sunday in Lafayette:

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I am super excited about this event; I’m doing a panel on book production at 12:00 and a reading/Q&A for half an hour or so at 11:30.  I’m currently killing myself trying to figure out what to read (current theory: the prologue to Skylights and something funny from one of the Benevolence Archives books) and trying to mentally prepare for anything from a big crowd (a “big crowd,” in this context, means “any number of people that I cannot accurately count in less than a couple of seconds”) to my wife and my assistant (I have an assistant!) and no one else.  This is the first time this group has done something like this and nobody really knows what to expect in terms of attendance so I’m deciding to look at it mostly as a networking event with a chance to practice some public-speaking skills.  If I make some money and sell some books along the way, awesome.  If not?  That’s a whole lot of Indiana authors to touch base with.  Which is absolutely a good thing regardless.

You should come.  You should bring everyone you have ever met.

Okay, coffee’s cold so I’ve yapped enough.  How’re you?

#WeekendCoffeeShare: Guess Who’s Back edition

weekend-coffee-share

If we were having coffee … well, I’d be really confused, because it’s 7:15, and what the hell are we having coffee for at 7:15 on a Sunday night when I have to be back at work tomorrow?  But I was gonna write this post this morning, and it was going to be my probably-not-actually-long-awaited return to Weekend Coffee Share, which I haven’t participated in in forever.  So it’s still a WCS post and to hell with making sense.

So.  If we were having coffee, first I’d tell you about this book I started yesterday, and the reason I didn’t get a post up this morning is that I couldn’t put the damn book down until I was finished with it.  Do you like Sherlock Holmes?  Of course you do.  So you need to check out A Study in Honor, by Claire O’Dell, which is a Sherlock Holmes story, only it’s set in the future after the Second Civil War (Watson is still a veteran, and in fact has pretty bad PTSD) and Holmes and Watson are both queer black women.

I read it in about three hours– maybe an hour before bed last night and another two this morning, and I’m already reloading Amazon over and over again waiting for a sequel.  Go check it out, it’s great.

After that we might get into talking about religion a bit, believe it or not.  One of my oldest friends was in town this weekend with her three kids– her oldest daughter is twelve, her middle child (the only boy) is eight, putting him more or less at my son’s age, and her youngest, another daughter, is five.  We went to the zoo the first day they were in town and took them over to look around on Notre Dame’s campus the next day which, believe it or not, was the first time I’d ever seen the Grotto or the inside of the Basilica despite having lived in South Bend for 2/3 of my life or so.  The Basilica is absolutely amazing even if you have my, uh, somewhat unorthodox views on Christianity and religion in general– I may be a mean old atheist with a couple of degrees in religious studies, which, believe me, is the worst kind of mean old atheist, but I sure as hell can appreciate me some architecture.

It turns out that they keep docents around to give impromptu tours to the people who randomly wander into the place, and once ours determined that the oldest of the four kids was interested in being an architect she got real interesting real fast.  And then we got to the reliquary, which contains something like sixteen hundred relics of saints, and … man, it has been a minute since I have been around seriously religious people in a context where their serious-religiousness had a chance of playing a major role in the conversation.  And I’m not enough of an asshole to start a fight about this stuff, but I’ll admit it threw me for a hell of a loop when she pointed at one particular ornate cross and stated that it contained all of the following:

  • A piece of Jesus’ manger
  • A piece of the table the Last Supper was eaten at
  • A piece of Jesus’ burial shroud and
  • A fragment of the True Cross

And I had this moment of oh, holy shit, you genuinely believe every word you just said is true, and knew myself to be wholly in the presence of someone who does not view any part of the world the way I do.  Which, don’t get me wrong, is fine.  I don’t care.  She’s explaining her faith to me and my family and my friends and she’s being very very nice about it and frankly I’m in her house and I’m not about to start being a dick about her believing stuff I don’t believe.  You do you, nice lady.  There’s no problem here.

And then my son started talking, and as it turns out Daddy’s Little Empiricist has had absolutely no religious training of any kind at all, and, well, there’s some stuff that we kinda just assumed the wider culture would take care of for us?  I mean, we didn’t tell him about Santa Claus, and he knows all about that, and …

… well, as it turns out my son doesn’t know a god damn thing about Jesus.  And I think this lady has probably been doing her job for a good long time and she’s probably been asked a bunch of stuff and she’s probably had a handful of argumentative old atheists in that basilica on a couple of occasions and she was nonetheless not prepared for my son and his we-stole-him-from-a-South-American-jungle level of Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout Jesus.

He can tell you anything about the Avengers, though.

So yeah.  That happened.  How’s the coffee?