Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I used to be a patient man.

Hey, so, I did a 180 in my car yesterday. Black ice. It was on the quiet little industrial road that leads to my office, and there weren't any other cars around, especially none of those gas tankers that frequent the AirGas facility down the street. That was nice. Hitting the curb scarred up my hubs pretty good, but the tires seem to have survived intact, and I don't see any other damage. Just me, pissed off and a little sore. This makes two years in a row that I've had some winter-weather related event with my car. No, wait a second. I think the last time was two years ago. Hm. Maybe early 2007...I don't remember.

Business is slow. The software transition has given me something to do. There's a lot of push back from the rest of the staff on the software, not because the old way was better, but because the old way was entrenched. That's led to a lot of tense conversations. People don't like being told what to do, and I don't like having to explain myself over and over again. Whatever. It'll take time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We cut our hair with blade and wire

Christmas eve, it's christmas eve. It's the eve of christmas. Dance.

We continue to get waves of snow... a couple inches at a time, and each pass requires some shoveling and usually a tense drive to work with plenty of sliding and achy shoulders. At least it's not as cold as it was.

I don't really understand our vacation schedule. We have today off. We have tomorrow off. We have to go to work on Friday. None of our clients will be in. The *post office* won't be receiving mail. Further, it's been slow so we only have a couple jobs scheduled to run. It's going to be the slowest of slow days. Fortunately I have new software to try to figure out. I hope tech support is working, at least.

We had our christmas party on monday. You should have been there. We're down to ten employees. This from a high of around the mid-twenties. Maybe as high as thirty, I'm not sure. And for our party? Pizza. And they had a boombox playing generic christmas music, and a couple candy canes scattered about the tables. Then they told us about our bonus, and we had our required insurance talk, and then it's back to work. It's not news to you, but times are tough.

Well. You guys have a pleasant holiday. I think we're mostly staying in, except for the part where we're going to someone's house to watch The Godfather. It's some kind of tradition.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I measure time in chapters, I never want it to end.

I have this problem where I'm supposed to be working on my next book, but I'm spending every spare moment reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I can't put it down. It's such a perfect example of how a book should be written, how characters should be imagined and prose lined up... It's just a good book. A great book. I'm enjoying it. I'm going to stop reading books at lunch for a while after I finish, just to let the shine wear off so I don't go into the next tome with unrealistic expectations.

I have also seen the pretty, pretty artwork for my cover. It's pretty. I'll leave it to Solaris to decide when to reveal it, but I'll surely be linking it here when that happens.

Business is slow. And it appears to be snowing again. I wonder if people would notice if I lay my forehead against the monitor and took a little nap?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


First off, thank you Daryl for the new blog title. Everyone update your bookmarks to reflect this brilliance.

Daryl raised a question in the comments that I want to address on the main page, and that's whether I should be concerned about my current coworkers, or potential future employers, reading this blog.

I make a point of not expressing an opinion here that I wouldn't express in public, among people who might know the people involved. My bosses, to be honest, aren't internet savvy. Maybe they find this place, maybe they don't. These posts don't express opinions that I haven't expressed directly to them, either in meetings after some massive mistake, or during my annual reviews. The fact that I've made clear what I think needs to be done to correct our poor corporate performance and those things have been largely discarded in favor of what I feel are bad policies and poorly considered hirings and firings is the source of most of my frustrations. When things go badly and cost the company large stacks of cash, and it's always one or two people who cause these mistakes, and you then fire the people who knew how to do their jobs and don't fire the people who don't know how to do their jobs and then hire people who don't seem to do anything other than hold meetings and talk on the phone with people who never do any jobs with us. Well. You understand my fundamental disappointment in your regime.

As to future employers? Hello, future employers! Will you respect my opinions in areas where I am knowledgeable? Will you compensate me for my work, appreciate the time I put in and the discipline with which I complete tasks? Will you *not* reward lazy people? Will you hire coworkers because of their skills, rather than in spite of their skills? Will you *not* ask me to lie to clients? If a problem occurs, is your first priority to get to the source of the problem, correct it, display full honesty to the client, offer just compensation and implement core changes that will prevent the problem in the future?

Then I think we're going to be okay.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I can always make excuses to stay

Yesterday it was fifty degrees and sunny. Last night it started raining, and that turned to freezing rain, then sleet and finally a hard, bitter snow that froze into a crust like some kind of arctic brulee. The temperature dropped into the single digits, and this morning the wind chill was well below zero. I hate it here. I'm just saying.

On friday as I was leaving work one of my coworkers said "Hey, I'm having one of those after-business-hours meetings, so if I don't see you on Monday, it's been nice working with you." And, of course, she's not here today. Position eliminated, and my one of my bosses is taking on her responsibilities. And on friday I thought she was kidding, because honestly we can't afford to fire her. There are things about the post office that only she knows. Plus my boss, the guy who's taking her job, he doesn't know what the hell he's doing.

This is more than just firing someone to cut costs. It's a fundamental lack of insight into how the company functions. She was our only CSR. We now have no customer service reps. We've replaced them all with sales people who don't know jack shit about the business. My boss even said that. "We're replacing the details people with a more holistic approach. We want to look at the big picture stuff, here." We have six people in the office. We can't get rid of details people. There are details.

Listen, I really couldn't conceive of this. I thought she might get a talking to, because her attitude has been poor, but it's been poor because we're working in shitty conditions with shitty people and getting paid shit for it. I can't say that clearly enough. The only way I show up everyday is by making the very conscious decision to not care about my job and just letting it roll over me. But fire her? That's not just short sighted or clumsy, it's stupid. It's reckless. People call to ask questions of their new CSR, and he clearly doesn't know what he's talking about. But god he'll drive to your shop and shake your hand and look you in the eye and smile like a clipped toe nail.

Anyway. I keep saying nothing gets better here, but things do get worse. Everything sucking is one thing. The people in charge making clear-eyed decisions that make everything suck even more? That's the tops.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Also, the sun is shining.

Well, I'm 36. I'm not sure what that even means to me. Statistically in the US that's the halfway point of your life, but both sides of my family have strong genes and I take care of myself. Then again, there's nothing saying I don't get in an accident and die tomorrow. So I don't live my life thinking about ends or schedules or anything. I would say that I just do what I can to be happy now, and to ensure I'm happy tomorrow, but if you're reading this you've read the rest of my blog, and know that's a load of shit. I tend to delay happiness. Something to do with inertia.

But I'm in a good mood today. I got the fourth season of the West Wing, and a bottle of shiraz, and some DnD stuff and that's all good. I'm wearing one of my favorite shirts, and I'm not letting work get to me, and this weekend I'm going to spend some time on the book. That's really all you can hope for, I think. It's good for me at least.

The only thing I will say for my birthday is that it was on my thirtieth that I realized I wasn't getting anywhere as a writer, mostly because I wasn't writing things, nor was I submitting things to magazine, nor was I reading the magazines I wished to submit to so I had no idea what the state of the industry looked like. So I decided to get serious, and now I'm a little closer to where I want to be. This means that every year on December 12, I can measure how long I've been doing this writer thing by a little act of subtraction. Celsius should be this easy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Myth of my Mountain Time

I have firewood. It got delivered yesterday while I was at work, and then we got snow. So I had to drive home (slowly) and immediately start the stacking. The hardest part was getting the wheelbarrow around the garage in a couple inches of slush, and then not falling down as I moved between the barrow and the stacks. I mentioned it was snowing, right? And once that was done I had dinner and stared mindlessly at the television until it stopped snowing, then went out and shoveled the driveway at around 9:30ish. So I slept well last night, but I'm sore and the roads are still some icy. We're supposed to get some good sun today, so hopefully that'll melt off.

Why do I get firewood? I have a perfectly functional furnace, with a gas line that feeds my oven and power lines that provide light and radiant heat. I'll tell you. It feels natural. For a time my parents heated our house with fire, and I remember getting up early and shoving wood into the tiny wood stove in the family room, stoking it until the room got warm. I think it was part of the fantasy my dad maintained about the woods, this unreal phantasm of cold mornings and kindling and splitting wood with an old black ax, the head worn shiny by countless strokes through bark and grain. And the upshot of his fantasy is that I did live that life, I split wood and stacked it and hauled it down deerpaths. Driving around after windstorms looking for the wood we'd burn in two years, collecting piles of kindling and clearing the ashes into a hod, banging creosote out of the stove pipe and warming the flue with a twist of newspaper.

Anyway. It feels natural. And I love the way wood burns. And when you've stacked a cord of wood in blowing snow, you've actually accomplished something of weight and volume and time.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Pushing Pages

I suppose all new authors think too much about the publishing world. This is only made worse by the fact that we really don't know what we're talking about. It doesn't stop me from talking, or thinking, about these things. Still. I'm just saying, I'm aware of my ignorance.

That said, I want to go on the record as saying that I'm glad I'm going to be in Mass Market first. For those of you not in on the lingo, MM is your typical paperback. 4.25 x 6.75, or thereabouts. Current prices are around $8 in the US. For purposes of this conversation we're going to refer to the larger paperbacks as Trade Paper, and hardcover books as Hard Cover. MM, TP and HC. We're using this specific nomenclature because I was one of the Border rats, working my time at the location in Wheaton about nine years ago. It is one of my goals to hold a reading/signing there, and I suspect I'll manage it sometime next year. It'll be a good 10 year anniversary gift to myself.

Right, so, mass market. I think there are a lot of impediments to a new author's career. One of the big ones is obscurity, or unfamiliarity on the part of the reader. Readers like a certain amount of familiarity. They put their money down, and they want to know they're going to enjoy the product. This is why they tend to stick with authors they know, or authors that their friends have recommended to them. If they're going to lay out cash on an author who doesn't fit into one of those two categories, then you (as the author/publisher) need to do everything you can to ease the process. Give them cover art that catches their eye, and identifies with other products they've enjoyed in the past. Offer blurbs from authors they know and trust, to remind them what they like and why they'll like this. Most importantly, lower the price point. If I'm going to invest some amount of money in a new author, I'd like that amount to be as low as possible. That way if the product is a bust, at least I'm only out $8, instead of $14 or $24.

And let's be clear here, I hardly ever spend $24 on a new author. I think I've done it once in the last eight years. And there are so many good books out there, I'm more than happy to wait for the MM to come out. Even if I'm excited about reading a book, I'm not going to drop $24 on it when I have ten books in my queue. And I think that's bad on the publisher, putting an untried author in HC when they should at most be in TP, and probably belong in MM. It's bad for their career.

So I'm glad I'm coming out in MM. I want my book to be as available and easy to buy for the new user as possible. It's a product, an item of entertainment, and I want to remove every obstacle between the potential customer picking it up because the cover caught their eye and carrying that product to the cashier and laying down their money. And the less money it is that they have to lay down, the better my chances are of making that sale.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Ruined forever!

I did that thing again where I throw away a book in disgust about 15 pages from the end. It just wasn't going anywhere good. I've enjoyed books by this author in the past, so even though the beginning was a little weak I pushed through to the middle. The middle was really good, actually. A very solid middle. So I thought Hey maybe he can turn this around. He didn't. It just kept getting worse and worse, and then something happened and I couldn't read any more. My soul wouldn't let me. So I'm on to my next book.

And I have a new chair. On Friday the piston in my chair gave up and settled all the way to the floor, so I was sitting at my desk like I was in kindergarten again. I brought this up to my boss, and he went and rummaged through all the discarded chairs and brought me another one. I should point out that we have discarded chairs because we used to have more employees, and now we have desk space. I don't really like this chair, but I can sit in it without getting spasms or losing feeling in my shoulders, so that's something. The pad is pretty good on it, too. My bony ass wreaks havoc on seat cushions.

I really can't think of anything interesting to say, at least nothing that you'd consider interesting. I have to prep for my DnD game on Sunday. I have mixed feelings about my workplace. I'm trying to be less overtly depressing to be around. I'm looking for joy in little things. I wonder why sex ruins everything. I don't feel like I enjoy christmas anymore. I'm already sick of winter, but don't particularly like spring, either. I can't imagine having to talk to my coworkers in a social environment. I can barely stand to listen them talk to each other. I try to be polite when people say stupid things. I think I know people, but I don't.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

To be fair, I've never seen a clockwork god, and I write about those all the time.

Snowing again. I keep two bookmarks on my browser - one for the weather here in Wheaton, and one for the weather in Seattle. I keep going between the two on days like this, trying to convince myself that it must be a very *unpleasant* 51 degrees and cloudy. Certainly much worse than our lovely 30 degrees and snowing. I will do this more frequently in February.

Yesterday I got the sketches for the cover art for HEART OF VERIDON. Very satisfying. I won't tell you who the artist is just yet, but let's say I'm quite happy. Oh, and I finished the copy edits on HoV, so I'm done. I'm done, right? I can never tell. I'm saying I'm done until something else comes up, and just focusing on the next book. That's what I'm doing.

It's a peculiar feeling, I'll tell you.

Richard Morgan said something in an interview recently. He said that people shouldn't be freaked out by all the sex in his books, because it's perfectly normal sex. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, "The sex I write is, by and large, the sex I've had."

There's nothing really I can say about that. He did point out that it was a great deal less unhealthy to write about fantastic sex than to write about fantastic violence, and I tend to agree. I suppose my writing reflects who I am, which is to say it's awkward and unfocused and much too worried about making a fool of itself to be all that interesting.

SQL is going well. This is going to be more a matter of getting the syntax down than anything else. And I'm learning new stuff. It's nice to be engaged at work.

Okay, I guess that's all. My work day is done, and I'm just sitting around waiting for the office to close so I can go home. Waiting and watching the snow pile up, though to be honest it hasn't really started doing that yet.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The World is Full of Ice Cream

This according to my dog. We let her out into the front yard this morning while I was shoveling, and she just stood there and ate snow. She loves snow.

Thanksgiving in the Akers household was uneventful. Jen and I were both recovering from colds, so we stayed in and ate warm things and watched television. I had to work on Friday, unlike all of our vendors, clients and most of my coworkers. So it was quiet. I finished my proposal for book two and sent that off. This morning I got the copy edits for book one. Stet.

Oh, and my picture finally appeared in Locus. In the issue with World Fantasy coverage on the full color page, I'm seen with Paul Cornell (of Doctor Who fame) and my editors Mark and Christian. It's not a bad picture. And they got my name right. I have to assume they wrote it down from my name tag, or contacted one of the other folks and asked who I was, but still. Here's a picture of Tim Akers. Well, here's a picture of Paul Cornell and the editors from Solaris. Tim Akers was there as well.