January 2010

Vibe’s a beauty on snow, and the roads really aren’t that bad–there’s one or two spots with hills that I wouldn’t try to take after dark when it’s frozen into a nice sheet, but otherwise it was fine. Hardly anybody on the roads, though, and this during the hour when everybody should be getting out of church and the roads are usually packed. Took Kevin around for his weekly feral feed (no trapping in this weather, of course) and saw lots of bird tracks in snow. Then brunch, and now I have to do a little work and then maybe a nap.

And then maybe some more Assassin’s Creed 2–it’s no Dragon Age, but now that I’ve gotten into it, it’s definitely entertaining.

Alllllrighty….today, we leave the house. We’re out of cat food, so unless we want the police to find our gnawed corpses some weeks hence, it’s time to go out. We’ll see how the Vibe handles snow.

It’s doing the thing that combines ice and snow and slog that weather forecasters like to refer to as "wintry mix" (which for whatever reason just makes me think of a potpourri, heavy on the evergreen and mulled cider) and there is a couple-inch blanket of white over everything.

Downside, not really worth going anywhere. (Not everybody here served their driving apprenticeship in Minnesota, and even if I can be trusted to steer into the skid nine times out of ten, my skills–and more importantly, my tires!–aren’t worth much against the skating rink currently covering the cul-de-sac at the end of the drive.) 

Upside, having very recently infected Kevin with the birding bug, we managed to get him some garden birds this morning, since the easiest birding in the world is feeder-birds-in-snow. Tufted titmouse, white-throated sparrow, purple finch (actually quite a good bird around here, and one I didn’t get for years–we get tons of house finches, but rarely a nice distinctively rosy purple male) and scads of dark-eyed juncos joined the usual cardinals and Carolina chickadees on the feeder. There’s two male cardinals studiously ignoring one another, while secretly jockeying to be the most picturesque blaze of red on snow. I give them a sitting ovation.

And now the goldfinches and the Carolina wrens are out…it’s a lovely day to be indoors, looking out.

It’s started snowing!

And we just finalized the Batbreath script, so it’s time for the three month death march. Two illos a day, six days a week, until it’s done or I tear off my clothes and run screaming into the forest, which hasn’t actually happened yet but you just never know, do you?

Then they came back for more Wurstbreath changes, which they needed by next week, so I had to scrabble together alterations and additions and whatnot.

Then I spackled the dents the Chair left in the stairwell, because…um…it was real, and I was sick of pixels. Nothing virtual about spackle. Nope.

Since Batbreath art means that there will be very little Real Art coming out of t’ol studio (except for occasional OH MY GOD I HAVE TO GET THIS OUT OF MY SYSTEM pieces) I figured I’d toss out a few random sketch things that might be mildly interesting.

Homonuculus sketch

Nude With Chickens

Waiting for Snow

God, the south has weird weather.

It’s been in the sixties this week, which would be weird enough for January–my swamp jasmine broke dormancy and commenced climbing– but tonight it’s supposed to snow like a bear. 5-10 inches predicted, then sleet, then ice, and basically the weather service is telling us that we won’t be leaving the house until Monday.

I am somewhat sympathetic to the guy at the coffee shop who said dryly that he wasn’t going to worry until they started saying there was no chance of snow whatsoever–the last few Massive Apocalyptic Blizzards Of Doom that were predicted involved a couple of flakes and a run on eggs, milk and bread.* Problem with being out in the boonies is that if we actually do get the worst-case scenario of the ice accumulation they’re forecasting, the power goes down in a big way–we’re seriously rural out here–which means that nothing at all gets done for the three or four days it takes to fix, and I’ll be rebooting the fish tank. (I grant you, prolonged forty degree water would probably finally kill those hydroids, but  I feel bad for my inverts.) We’ve got a gas fireplace, so we won’t die or anything, just gotta move into the living room, but the fish tank will only last as long as the battery backup, or the road conditions, as I’m not above driving to Otter’s with a load of coral crying "Sanctuary!"

So if there’s internet silence for a few days, it’s not that I don’t love you, it’s that I’m buried up to my eyeballs in snow and all.

I suspect we’ll probably get a few inches, perhaps a slightly slick weekend, then it’ll all melt Monday. But hey, y’never know.

*As many have observed before and since, the weather gods must REALLY like French Toast.

Hey, nifty! Digger has been nominated over at the Webcomics List Awards! Best B&W Art, Best Character. I’m flattered to see Digger up alongside Agatha Heterodyne!

Aaaand, much belatedly, let me point out that Digger is currently #81 at TopWebcomics.com, so if you wanted to go over there and vote–not neccessarily for me! There are lots of other great strips there! You don’t have to register!–it’d be awesome.

ETA: Also, I am working on page 650, and since people were asking at the con and I couldn’t remember, I went back to check how long I’d been doing the strip. Turns out I was wrong on the panel…I’m about a month shy of seven years on the comic.

I have friends who still talk to me who I’ve known longer than Digger, but not many. And by "not many" I think I mean "Alan Davidson of St. Paul, Minnesota, take a bow."* After that, we mostly get into relatives, who are kinda stuck with me anyway.

*There’s a few more–hi, Dave & Kathy!–who come in either right before or during or awful close, but my mental chronology gets a little wonky around there, and I know I didn’t meet ’em in the flesh until sometime later…


I’m back from the con, and lord, am I tired. Great con, wonderful to see a lot of West Coastites, meet some fans I haven’t met before, hang with the other artists, etc–although I think we did a lot of the hanging out with artists in the airport on the way back…but man, the jet lag’s murder both ways. Bad enough you’re up until two AM working on sketchbooks, but when your brain is whispering "You know it’s really five AM your time, right?" it makes it difficult. And then, of course, four days was just about enough to get the brain switched back, so I slept until ten–or maybe seven–fell out of bed, and now I am awake but bone-deep tired.

It’ll sort itself out in a few days. I think.

Anyway! Sales not bad–table sales not quite up to Anthrocon, which is my benchmark convention, but definitely pretty solid. Art show did GREAT, definitely the best art show I’ve ever done, thanks in large part to one of my more dedicated collectors who braved the furriness to come buy art and hang out.

Panels were awesome. I was a little surprised and terribly flatttered to see that there was standing-room-only for my Kaffeklatch, and I think we ran out of coffee, but it was awesome to get a chance to chat with a big group, and there were some very good questions. (Everybody asks about my art, but nobody ever asks what kind of art I like! That was a great question!) And big thanks to a bunch of people, including Kevinbunny, Bobcat and his pear, Doodles and Warhorse for making sure I got to where I needed to go and keeping me informed of time and so forth. And Banshea, who brought a cake. And Skulldog for an awesome badge. And Agent Elrond and Jess Bear and Song Coyote and I should stop now, because I’ll never remember everybody and there were a lot of awesome people. 

And huge massive mondo oh-my-god gratitude to Sofawolf and Phil and crew for getting my con kit and printer mailed back (and to Tor for taking pick up in the first place!) Printer wasn’t churning night and day the way it is at some cons–there’s some speculation that print sales are down across the fandom in general–but it was still good to have, and I absolutely could not do without the con kit.

Anyway! Nothing seems to have blown up in our absence, my new tank clean-up crew is still alive, although voraciously hungry (and have already learned that the Chopstick of Heaven brings food.) Gir peed with joy when we came in, Ben launched himself at me from a little too far away and then rode around on my shoulder purring madly while I tried to wrangle suitcases and clean up the joy. So that was normal.

My goal for today is to answer some e-mail and get the suitcases unpacked. I can do this. I have the technology.

Further Confusion!

After long plane rides* we have arrived at Further Confusion, the San Jose convention this weekend, of which I’m a GoH.

Good lord this place is swank.

I’ve had cons take good care of me before, I’ve had them send limos and rent me quite nice rooms, but this is incredible. The suite we’re in is larger than most of the apartments I’ve had. (The bathroom is larger than some apartments I’ve had!) I can look out the window at the Adobe building. (I can worship the masters of Photoshop in the morning!) There was a bottle of wine and a plate of cheese and fruit waiting when we walked in. Given that we’d been on planes for eight hours, we fell on it like starving wolves.

Con staff is wonderfully helpful and apologetic for minor snags–hopefully they believe me when I say that these are barely noticeable and nobody’s Thursday set-up goes completely without a hitch. (And hell, they got me a cheese and fruit plate! At this point, unless they start throwing anvils at me, I’m happy!) I kinda want to grab somebody and say "Dude, you’re waaaaay overpricing me. I don’t think I’m worth THIS!"

Met some fans and readers last night, always a pleasure to put faces to names (or, more accurately, badges to icons) and hopefully I’ll see more people over the next few days (and if you’re in the area, come by and say hi! It’s a cool con!)

Owing to the help of some very nice people, my con kit was delivered safely, and in a few minutes I’ll fall into the shower, and thence to breakfast and then to setup and we’ll get this sucker rollin’!

*I think the TSA stole one of my sweaters, or at least misplaced it while searching my bag. Damnit. That sucker came from Anthropologie and is one of the few articles of clothing I own capable of making me look elegant and cosmopolitan. I gotta go home and make sure I didn’t just leave it out at the last minute before I raise hell with ’em, but elegant and cosmopolitan comes with a serious pricetag, and if I have to replace it, the TSA is getting a nasty e-mail. You can search my bag as often as you like, but you damn well better put everything BACK!

Stripped, Pulped, and Panicky

Okay. All prep done. I can go fall down now.

However, proving that arguing on the internet can revitalize even the most exhausted soul, I’ve discovered that apparently people are freaking out because when Waldenbooks closes, they will be stripping and destroying their unsold books.


In the interests of public service, let me tell you now, as gently as possible, that it is standard industry practice across most bookstores–including the majority of those good-natured little indie ones that give you tea and cookies when you come in–to strip the covers off unsold paperbacks and send them off to be pulped and made into more books. This is why there’s that little warning in the front of the book that says if you bought it without a cover, it was theft.

I mention this because apparently not everybody knows this, and there’s a lot of outrage at Waldenbooks for doing such a horrible horrible thing as Destroying A Book. If you are only now discovering that this is the fate of many many books, then…err…sorry to have to be the one to tell you. But, uh, you’re a couple of decades late to the party on this one. This has been the practice for a very long time.


This is not Fahrenheit 451. This is how you dispose of "Willy the Burrowing Wasp Visits Mr. Cow’s Spleen" and "The Secret(tm) for Dirt Farmers" and all the other volumes that nobody wants. Anywhere. And furthermore, this is the usual practice.

Yeah, it’s kinda wasteful. I wish there was a better method. But shipping them back would waste even more in terms of money, fuel, and packing materials, and the publisher generally doesn’t want it back. And they can’t be donated, because A) libraries really genuinely truly often don’t want them, mass-market paperbacks fall apart under library usage, to say nothing of the fact that many of these books are just plain worthless*–and a lot of thrift stores flatly refuse to take crappy paperbacks any more either, and B) the bookstore loses a heckuva lot of money on it. If the book didn’t sell, the bookstore gets a refund back, by sending those stripped covers as proof of non-sale.

And you can’t donate a stripped book to charity. It’s like donating stolen property. It’s a big legal no-no, and thrift stores won’t take them. And anybody who thinks that children and schools would luuuuv these books has,I think, a slightly skewed notion of what sort of books we’re talking about. Mass-market paperbacks are fragile beasts, and I don’t recall any class of mine in school that would have been improved by "The Joy of Canning Your Own Asparagus."

Well…maybe Geometry.

Don’t get me wrong. I love books. I love them deeply and passionately. I write them for part of my living. A book is a glorious thing. There are books that are dear friends to me. I live surrounded by them, and I never have enough bookcases and books are fabulously gloriously awesome things and much of my life is dedicated to ’em.

But a book is not a puppy. It doesn’t feel pain. And I have learned eventually that if I don’t want it any more, and the used book store has no use for it, and Goodwill has the No Books sign up, then y’know, that book can get recycled, and it’ll be okay. It doesn’t automatically get a chunk of valuable shelf real estate by virtue of being paper between covers. The ghosts of tiny angry words will not buzz around me like wasps. I will sleep just fine at night without that copy of "One Woman’s Journey To Self-Discovery Through Weaving Baskets of Nose Hair."

A book unread, unloved and unwanted is a dead book. I prefer to bury the corpse rather than keep it as a warning to the others.

So it gets pulped and made into more books (the fate of many of those coverless volumes being destroyed) and the circle of life is complete, lion cubs are held aloft on the savannah, Elton John sings, everybody’s happy.

End public service announcement. Keep calm and carry on.

*Individual libraries must speak for themselves, but just in general–libraries are not the burial ground for unwanted books. They have limited space too, and should not be considered the dump for any ‘ol book that the dumper lacks the moral fiber to recycle. Some libraries have book sales and can use these, but it should not be assumed that the library automatically wants it by virtue of it being book-shaped.

Apparently there was a Senate race or something and we lost, and today there is nothing on the internet or NPR but Monday morning quarterbacking and how this is the end of all things.

I’ve been prepping for a con and editing a book–this one’s been off my radar. Also, while it’s very bad and all, I kinda don’t really care right now. I burned out my political sensibilities a little bit ago, there is not a damn thing I can do to fix this and I have to go draw a Digger and label a bunch of art. And I should probably go buy birdseed. Crud.

I’m hopeful that since we fly out tomorrow and will be effectively off the news grid until Tuesday morning, all the wailing and gnashing of teeth and gloating and vows to do whatever will have passed off by then and we can get back to stuff like interesting tube worms discovered in ocean trenches.

So it’s time for iTunes. I happen to have the near-complete collected works of Allan Sherman, thanks to Deb’s husband. I am a huge fan of Allan Sherman. (And also Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and Tool, which just goes to prove that humans are complex little buggers.) 

Since there is a lot of stuff I need to be doing RIGHT THIS MINUTE, I am of course seized with a wild urge to go down and trim back the garden, which is ragged mass of dead stalks. I should have done it months ago, but it was bloody cold and the little birds were using the dead pineapple sage as cover, so I didn’t want to cut it back. But now the swamp jessamine has broken dormancy and is running wild over the dead stalks, so I really OUGHT to cut ’em…

Okay, twenty minutes in the garden can’t hurt. Then I’ll do a Digger.

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