About Jim Hines

http://www.jimchines.com

Posts by Jim Hines:

Diabetes Details 6: The Basics

• Book signing tonight at 7:00 at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.  I’m sacrificing a tribble to the weather gods for a blizzard-free signing this time!

• This is why I shouldn’t be allowed to play with Photoshop.  I end up making LJ icons and escalating the plotbunny wars.  (Help yourself to the icon, if you’re interested.)

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I realized that after five diabetes posts, I had yet to talk about the basics of the disease.  Remember I’m not a doctor — everything that follows is based on my personal experiences and understanding.

For you non-diabetics out there, it works like so.  You eat food.  Your body breaks the food down into, among other things, glucose in your blood.  Your pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin that allows you to use that glucose for energy and keeps the glucose in your blood at a normal, healthy level (around 100 mg/dl).

There are two types of diabetes (three if you include gestational).  Type two is the most common.  Your body makes too little insulin, or else your cells aren’t able to use it efficiently.  A lower-carb diet can help, as do exercise and weight loss (your body might not produce enough insulin for 250 pounds, but could have enough for 175). There are meds that improve insulin absorption.   In some cases, you also inject insulin to supplement what your body makes.

I’ve got type one diabetes, which means my pancreas is a lazy bastard that quit producing insulin altogether.  Stupid pancreas.  For me, the treatment is black and white: I either take insulin or else my blood sugar rises until I go into a coma and die.  Type one is known as juvenile diabetes, giving folks the false impression that I got it as a child.  (I was 24 when I was diagnosed. My blood sugar was over 600 mg/dl.)

I started with injections, taking a long-acting insulin shot to manage my baseline needs and short-acting insulin at meals.  Because of the way I eat and live, I was taking 6 or 7 shots a day to keep things under control.  So I switched to an insulin pump, which gives me a baseline insulin rate throughout the day and allows me to give myself more at the press of a button.

When I eat, I guesstimate the amount of glucose I’ll be getting from that meal and take insulin to match.  I check my blood sugar levels about two hours after each meal.  Too high, I take more insulin.  Too low, I snack.  (If you see me acting drunk and confused, shove some carbs my way.)

What this means, among other things, is I can eat whatever the heck I want, as long as I take the insulin to cover it. I get cranky when people tell me what I can and can’t eat.  Yes, I had a donut yesterday.  I also took more insulin and checked my blood sugar an extra time.

I do adjust my diet somewhat to keep things manageable.  For example, I switched to diet pop because diet has zero carbs, meaning I can drink it without worrying about taking insulin.  On the other hand, when I was first diagnosed, I did extensive “research” to figure out exactly how much insulin I needed to cover a hot fudge sundae (2.5 to 3 units of regular insulin plus 1 unit of long-acting). So when you ask what I’m allowed to eat, the answer is anything I want, so long as I’m keeping the disease under control.

I was going to get into the consequences when the disease gets out of control, but this is getting long, so I think I’ll save that for next time.

I’m very open about all this, so feel free to ask questions.  You can also click the “diabetes” tag if you want to read any of my earlier posts about the disease.

Guest Post at GFTW

Welcome to all of the new people who’ve started reading over the past weeks/months.  Please feel free to say hi and introduce yourselves!  Or not, if you prefer.  It’s all good.

Today I’m going to point folks to the guest blog post I did at Grasping for the Wind.  From time to time, readers will ask me where they should go to buy an author’s books.  Does it really matter if you buy from Amazon or the local independent?  Click over to GftW for my response.

And just because I haven’t done it in a while, have another LEGO pic.  Many of you should recognize Crow and Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater.  These were built by Christopher Doyle at Reasonably Clever, which is a fun little site and worth checking out.  Click the pic for the step-by-step on the ‘bots.

Girly Books

From time to time, I get an e-mail or a comment from male readers who enjoyed my goblin books, but are hesitant to pick up Stepsister Scheme or Mermaid’s Madness because they look like they’re for girls.

My reaction to this is all over the place.  The goblin books went over well with younger boys, and I can understand why a teenage boy might be hesitant to walk around with a book that has three women surrounded by swirling pastels on the cover.  I also think it sucks that we’re still raising boys to think it’s shameful to be caught reading something “feminine,” but having been a teenage male myself, I can understand that reluctance.

I like the cover for Mermaid better, less because we lost the pastels, and more because I think it’s just a great image.  But I still get the questions.  This is obviously a book about three girls, so doesn’t that mean it’s written for girls?  (Much as Name of the Wind was written for red-haired boys, and the Zombie Raccoons anthology was written for decaying scavengers.)

I’ve said in multiple interviews that I wrote Stepsister for my daughter, in response to the Disney/Barbie princess infestation we went through at the house.  So in a way, these books are written for girls.  Or at least for one girl.  Which means … what, exactly?  I don’t even know what a “girly book” is.  I assume it’s shorthand along the lines of:

Boy Books = Action/Adventure; Girl Books = Romance
Boy Books = Plot/Idea-centric; Girl Books = Character-centric
Boy Books = Explody things on the cover; Girl Books = Chicks and pastels

There’s value in being able to find the kind of books you want.  If you’re into character-oriented fiction, you want to be able to discover those books in the store.  You don’t want to buy a book, take it home, and discover that what you thought was an action-packed vampire adventure is actually a 400-page relationship angst-fest.  I get that.  But trying to classify those preferences by gender, with all of the stereotyping and judgement that goes with that?  It doesn’t work for me.

Josh Jasper wrote a piece over at Genreville about genre shame, and about being male and reading romance novels.  “Why should I be ashamed of reading something fun when women aren’t?  The answer is that I’m afraid of being judged by people I don’t know, whose opinions don’t really matter, about something they have no real business judging me over.  Social conditioning is strange and stupid.”

When you ask me if Mermaid and Stepsister are girly books, the answer is that I don’t even know what that means.  I don’t want to know.  I can’t tell you whether or not you’ll like the books, but I can try to give you an idea what they’re about and let you make your own decision.  In a nutshell, the princess series is about:

Fighting and magic and family and fairies and revenge and unrequited love and requited love and hairy trolls and sailing and a three-legged cat and flying horses and wolves and drunk pixies and sewer goblins and enchanted swords and mermaids and friendship and ghosts and strong women and not-so-strong women and also some men and birds and rats and lots of ass-kicking.

It’s bad enough we still try to force people into fairly rigid gender roles.  Do we really have to do it to books too?

Monday Pics

Saturday was my wife’s birthday, so much of the weekend was spent doing things like making breakfast for her and the family, going out to birthday dinner with my parents, then going out to lunch the next day and watching a movie with just the two of us.  As a result, I spent zero time on things writing-related.  Nothing on Snow Queen, nothing on the new series proposal, and nothing for the blog.

Instead, have a picture of Flit with multicolored eyes beneath the Snoopy-infested Christmas tree.  (Is anyone really surprised by the Snoopy addiction?)

And as long as I’m posting pics, here’s the artwork Socchan did from my story “The Creature in Your Neighborhood.”  She drew this during my reading at Icon, and I’m most impressed.  That’s Rolly (after his breakdown), the Mall Rats, Peter the Pretendisaurus, and poor Tommy the Tuba.

The Conspiracy Against New Writers

• I’ve got a book signing 12/17 at 7:00 at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.  Just in case any of you A2 folks need Christmas gift ideas 🙂  The last time I did an Ann Arbor signing, we got one of the nastiest blizzards I can remember.  I’m hoping this doesn’t become a pattern.

Dragovianknight made this wonderful Christmas LJ icon from the cover of Mermaid.  I love it!

• For those of you who read electronically, Fictionwise is running a pretty nice sale.  Looks like 40% off of short fiction, and 50% rebates on e-books.  (Including my own stuff.)

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Came across a post responding to the pay rate discussion and protesting how the snobby pros are pulling up the ladder, trying to keep new writers out.  I know a fair number of successful authors these days, and the idea that pro writers are scared of the newbies and spending all this time and energy working to exclude them … is kind of dumb.

Of all the things I worry about, of all the things that can hurt my career, new  writers don’t even make the footnotes.  Many pro authors go out of their way to try to help new writers, and to repay the help we received.  Most either celebrate the success of the new folks, or else simply don’t have the time or the interest to notice them.  But nobody’s trying to keep the newbies down (no matter how much Publish America and their ilk try to convince you otherwise while they take your money).

How can I put this delicately?  The biggest reason it’s so hard for new writers to break in is because most of us suck when we’re new.  Myself included.  I wrote hundreds of thousands of words of utter crap while learning how to do this.  Sure, I was discouraged by all the rejection.  I felt shut out.  I had my days where I felt like a martyr and a victim.

But believe me, it had nothing to do with pros being scared of me as a newbie, or conspiring to keep the good markets all to themselves.  It had nothing to do with editors only buying work from Big Names.  It had to do with the fact that my work wasn’t good enough yet.[1. Ann Leckie wrote a very good post deconstructing the “write better” advice, including some of the assumptions and flaws with that advice.  Worth reading.  http://ann-leckie.livejournal.com/141905.html]

If you disagree with what folks are saying, that’s one thing.  Sometimes the pros are wrong.  Do your research and make your own decisions.  But if you’re going to argue, please try to come up with something better than The Grand Conspiracy Against New Writers?

Stop — Drama Time

I’m reminded once again that conflict and drama make popular blog topics.  Therefore, I feel it’s time for me to announce my newest project, an unauthorized anthology of Twilight fiction titled Fuschia Eclipse.[1. Russet Moon Summary – http://blog.fanhistory.com/?p=532]

The project will be published by Penguin Droppings, a revolutionary new self-publishing branch of Penguin.[2. See Jackie Kessler’s posts on the Harlequin self-publishing fiasco – http://www.jackiekessler.com/blog/]  Publishing is changing, and it’s time to do away with the gatekeepers of traditional publishing and make way for the new millennium!

I had originally hoped to be able to pay contributors a token rate of 1/20th of a cent per word[3. Short fiction pay rate conversation – http://jimhines.livejournal.com/479488.html], but after reviewing the Penguin Droppings contract, it turns out contributors will end up owing me $500 per story.  However, they will all receive one contributor copy and Valuable Exposure!

I’ll only be inviting white male authors for this volume.[4. Mammoth Anthology of Mindblowing SF – http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2009/08/toc-the-mammoth-book-of-mindblowing-sf-edited-by-mike-ashley/] [5. Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 Books of 2009 – http://jimhines.livejournal.com/475502.html]  But I want to assure everyone I’m neither sexist nor racist.  I don’t see race or gender; all I care about is the story!  It’s not my fault the only truly great literature comes from white penises!

I’m already working on the cover art.  I’m thinking something tabloid-style, maybe Jacob Black fighting some vampire raccoons and zombie bunnies?[6. Zombie Rabbit Cover of Doom – http://jimhines.livejournal.com/469403.html]  All I know is that, for marketing purposes, Jacob will be portrayed by a pale blond kid.[7. White-washed cover of Justine Larbalestier’s Liar – http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/23/aint-that-a-shame/]

Short Fiction Pay Rates

A week or so back, John Scalzi tore into Black Matrix Publishing for their short fiction pay rate of 1/5 of a cent per word.  Black Matrix responded, explaining that this is a “labor of love.” They never implied that they were a pro market, and isn’t a token payment better than none at all? (I believe Publish America uses the same rationalization with their $1 advance.) Scalzi promptly shredded their arguments.

Cat Valente weighed in as a “mid-career author” who writes a lot of short fiction.  Sarah Monette offered a third perspective, including examples of her own fiction which sold for fairly low rates, and a discussion of when and why she chooses to submit her work to semi-pro markets.

Looking at my own bibliography, there are two stories I received no payment for, and at least a half-dozen more that fall into the semi-pro category, whether that’s a $5 flat rate or a penny a word.  A careful reading will also show that this stopped around the end of 2003, after I “sold” a flash piece to a royalties-only e-book that, as far as I can tell, never sold a single copy.

Around 2004, I began submitting only to markets that paid SFWA pro rates (Then three cents a word. ETA: Current SFWA pro rate is 5 cents/word). Not because I was insulted by lesser pay rates.  Not because I felt exploited by the smaller markets.  But because my goal as a writer was to be read.

Publishing in those smaller venues was good for my ego.  Of course it feels better to be accepted than rejected.  But aside from that ego boost, those sales did little else for my stories or my career.  Sure, I could go out and buy a slice of pizza with my earnings.  But almost nobody read my work.

The contributors got their copy, so it’s possible some of my fellow authors glanced at my story.  Maybe.  (Authors, how many of you read every story in every contributor copy of an anthology or magazine?)  Aside from that?  Well, one friend in college did pick up a copy of World Wide Writer, so that’s something, right?  What’s World Wide Writer, you ask?  Oh, right.  They were a tiny startup ‘zine that died after two issues.

I don’t use pay rate as an absolute rule.  Sure I’d rather make $250 than $25.  But I sold a story to Andromeda Spaceways recently, and they pay significantly less than 5 cents/word.  On the other hand, they’ve been around a long time, put out a nice magazine, and have a good reputation and readership for a semi-pro.  There are a handful of others, publications that pay less than pro rates, but have earned a lot of critical acclaim or developed a broader readership.

In general though, minuscule pay rate correlates to minuscule readership.  I suspect there are more markets listed on the for-the-luv page at Ralan than there are readers for those markets.

When I started aiming for pro markets in 2004, several things happened.  I got rejected more.  I was forced to improve as a writer.  And eventually, as I broke into those markets, more people began reading my work.

Is Black Matrix exploiting writers? Token payment is better than nothing. (Chtulhu spare us from markets promising “exposure” as compensation.)  But there’s “token” and there’s “spare change I found in my sofa.”[1. Deleted for unnecessary snark.] I don’t believe Black Matrix is trying to scam anyone.  But I won’t submit to them, and I wouldn’t recommend them as a market for new writers who want to build a career and be read.

Zombie Rhymes: Three Dead Mice

Three Dead Mice
by Jim C. Hines

Three dead mice.
Three dead mice.
Hear how they moan.
Hear how they moan.
They all chased after a bloke named Pat.
He caved in their skulls with a cricket bat.
If only he’d noticed that undead rat
behind the mice
who nipped him twice.


If any of my artistically inclined readers are interested in doing sketches to go with these, please let me know.  No pay or anything like that — it’s all for the sheer, morbid fun.

Why I Haven’t Written a 4th Goblin Book

At least once a month, I receive an e-mail or a comment asking if I’m going to do a fourth goblin book.  The answer has always been, “Probably not.”  I can think of only two situations wherein I might consider writing another goblin book:

  1. DAW offers to pay me a million dollars[1. Or any publisher, for that matter. I’m not picky.].
  2. I come up with an idea for a goblin story that is both new and exciting to me as a writer.

The thing is, in my brain, Jig’s story is finished.  I’ve shown him and his fellow goblins growing and changing over the three books.  I leave them in a very different place in book three, and I like that.  I like that we got to see Tymalous Shadowstar’s story as well.  I like that we got closure for some of the other characters and situations from book one.  It feels done.

Sometimes I wonder if I made the right call, if maybe I should have kept going with the series.  Jig has some wonderful fans, and he really was a fun character to write.  (Not to mention the goblins were making great money over in Germany!)  And then last night I caught the rebirth of Scrubs.

This is a show that “ended” after season eight.  I thought they had a wonderful series finale, and I was very impressed at how they handled everything.  It worked.

And then they decided to keep going.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know if it was a purely commercial decision, or if someone honestly thought they had more stories to tell.  All I know is that it was painful.  Many of the characters had crossed the line into caricature.  The stories felt repetitive–things we had already seen in earlier seasons.  The whole thing felt hollow.

I hope they’ll improve as the season progresses, and I’ll keep watching to see where they go with it.  But those two new episodes affirmed for me why I don’t just sit down and write a fourth Jig book.  If I wrote it because the fans wanted it, or for money, or for any reason aside from my own love and excitement over a new story, the odds are that I’d lose the heart of those stories.  I’d end up with the same kind of empty, repetitive caricature I watched last night.

I was disappointed when Scrubs ended, but I enjoyed the series, and I loved and respected the way they wrapped things up.  As a fan, I find myself wishing they had left it there.  And as a writer, I don’t want to do that to my own fans.

Jim C. Hines