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Cats vs. Dogs: The Results

Last week, I posted the ultimate test of which is better: cats or dogs.  I posed my cat Flit with a copy of Goblin Quest [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon] and our new dog Casey with The Stepsister Scheme [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon].

Well, the Bookscan results are in, and they’re a bit of a surprise.  Sales of Goblin Quest were exactly the same as in the previous week.  The cuteness that is Flit made absolutely no difference!  I’m thinking perhaps an alternate picture might have worked better.  (And no, that photo is not retouched in any way, except for the caption.)

So then I compared the numbers for Stepsister Scheme.  Comparing last week (with Casey) to the week before (no animals at all), I found that Casey’s photo led to a 10.5% decrease in sales.

There you have it.  Indisputable scientific proof that you people hate dogs!  What’s wrong with you?

For such heartless cruelty, I can think of no more suitable fate than to let you dog-haters suffer at the hands of LEGO Cthulhu — with lasers! This was built by Flickr user ((Primus)).  Click here or on the picture below for the full six-pic story.

Butt Kicking

When I was a kid learning Tae Kwon Do, I hated sparring.  I don’t like to fight.  Being small for my age didn’t help.  It was my least favorite part of the lessons.

Jump ahead 20 years to the present.  Sanchin-Ryu, the style my daughter and I have been studying, has been a very different experience for me.  Take last night.  We had a session of fighting practice.  I was the lowest ranked, least experienced student in the group.  Among other things, I took a punch to the groin (thankfully, the black belt who threw that punch had very good control), as well as a punch to the back of my fist[1. There is a scene in Red Hood’s Revenge where Talia uses this move. Trust me — it’s effective.].  That one’s still sore this morning.

I had a blast.  Yes, a part of me is wondering if that’s a sign of deeper psychological problems.  But mostly I think it’s because with this style and group of people, there’s always a clear understanding that everyone wants you to succeed.  It’s not about winning or scoring points; it’s about helping you to see and understand what you did well and what you need to do better.

It reminds me very much of the editorial process.  My editor kicks my butt with every book.  My agent often jumps in as well.  (Much like the me-against-two-black-belts scenario I had last night, actually.  That was fun!)  I usually come away bruised, but it’s a good thing.  They’re not the enemy; they want me to succeed and improve.

And if one of their comments hits a little too hard or in a particularly sensitive spot?  Well, you can bet that next time I’ll be paying attention to my form and technique to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Janet Kagan

Janet Kagan was the author of, in my humble opinion, one of the best Star Trek novels out there: Uhura’s Song [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon]. She also wrote the original SF novel Hellspark [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon] as well as a collection called Mirabile [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon] and a Hugo-winning story “The Nutcracker Coup.”  There’s a warmth to her writing that I absolutely love.

Janet was the first professional writer I talked to when I began trying to break in.  I’m not sure how I got the courage to contact her, but we ended up swapping a number of e-mails over the years.  She offered advice and shared her own experiences, and even provided a wonderful blurb for Goblin Quest.

Close readers will notice several references to Janet in Mermaid’s Madness.  The map includes the Kagan Sea, and in chapter one, the ships Saint Tocohl and Lord Lynn Margaret are both named after characters from Hellspark.

She died two years ago this week.  Here’s an excerpt from the post I wrote when I learned she was gone:

One of the things she did was to offer a personalized, hand-made card to anyone who would donate blood. She was a small woman, and the Red Cross wouldn’t let her donate, so this was her way of supporting them. My mother (a regular donor) got in touch with her, and asked if she could send a card to me instead. I still have it.

Of course, this led to Janet and my mother becoming friends. When I sneakily arranged to have Janet send mom a signed copy of Hellspark for her birthday, Janet threw in a hardcover first edition of Uhura’s Song as well. That’s just who she was.

It’s hard to explain how much her encouragement and support meant to me as a struggling newbie.  I occasionally still find myself wishing I could e-mail her about hitting #1 on the Locus bestseller list, or how well the goblin books were doing in Germany.  Like a little kid showing his parents the A+ he got on his diorama for school.

She’s who I think of when writers talk about paying it forward, and someone I aspire to be like as I try to step into the role of helping other new writers.  I miss her.

Diabetes Details 7: Doing the Math

Previous diabetes posts are available by clicking the diabetes tag.

People often make assumptions about what I can and can’t eat as a type 1 diabetic.  Here’s the thing: I can eat anything I choose … as long as I take the correct dose of insulin to go with it.  Therein lies the trick.

Diabetes Math 100: Introduction to D-Math

I try to keep my blood sugar goal between 70 and 140.  I’ve discovered that one unit of insulin drops my blood sugar about 60 points, so if my blood sugar is 200, I’ll program the insulin pump to give me 1.5 units.

With meals, you’re worried about glucose.  This means you primarily count carbohydrates.  I need to take about 1 unit for every 8-9 grams of carbs.

Pop Quiz: My blood sugar is 160, and I’m sitting down to a meal with 90 grams of carbohydrates.  How much insulin do I take?

I’ve also found that I need more insulin for my first meal of the day.  Closer to 1 unit for every 7 grams of carbs.  A 50 gram breakfast gets about 7 units.  So now there are two ratios to remember.  So far, so good.

Diabetes Math 200: Graphing Over Time

Those ratios are nice, but some foods are digested and absorbed more quickly than others.  Humalog insulin has a pretty stable absorption rate, peaking after about 90 minutes.  This can be a problem.

A number of factors affect the absorption of that meal you just ate.  Some things, like orange juice, get absorbed pretty darn fast.  Others, like pasta, can take a long time to absorb, especially larger noodles.  (Lasagna is a killer.)

The insulin pump is programmed to deal with this using a feature known as the square bolus.  Basically, you program two doses of insulin: one to be delivered immediately, and a second to be delivered at a steady rate over several hours.

Pizza has a pretty high fat/grease content, which also slows down absorption. So for pizza night, I’ve figured out the proper dose is around 6.5 units now and a square bolus of 10 units over 6 hours.  Lasagna is 2 units now, 6-7 over about 5 hours.  A piece of fruit?  1 unit now, no square bolus.

Diabetes Math 300: Multivariable Equations

Now things get exciting.  Remember those ratios we learned back in the 100-level class?  They don’t actually stay the same from day to day.  Here are some of the factors that can mess with your numbers:

  • A good aerobic workout speeds up my metabolism and decreases my insulin requirements by 10% or so for up to 24 hours.
  • Getting sick throws everything off, and usually raises my blood sugar, meaning I need 10-20% more insulin. (I can often tell I’m getting sick because my blood sugar starts to spike a day or so before any other symptoms.)
  • Stress tends to raise blood sugar, though I’m told it can also lower it in some people with type 1 diabetes.
  • When did I change my insulin pump?  If it’s the first 24 hours of a new set, the insulin absorbs better than it does on the second day.
  • The insulin pump uses catheters that go into the belly fat, and occasionally those sites get irritated or build up scar tissue, which slows absorption.  Increase all dosages 5-10%.
  • Finally, there’s the “heck if I know” factor.  Because sometimes your blood sugar still ends up at 250, even though you ate the exact same thing for lunch, took the exactly right dosage of insulin, and did everything else you were supposed to.

Conclusion: It’s not that diabetics can’t eat certain food.  But I’ve chosen to eliminate some things from my diet.  I drink diet pop instead of regular; I don’t usually drink milk; I’ll eat ice cream, but rarely.  Not because I can’t, but because eliminating those things from my diet reduces the number of variables and makes it easier for me to calculate my dosage.  Even so, those calculations are often a best-guess, and I’ll usually check my sugar 2 hours after a meal and adjust for any errors.

That’s how it works for me as a type 1 diabetic.  Questions are welcome, as always — I’m pretty open about this stuff.

Cats vs. Dogs

A few follow-up links to last week’s post about rape in fandom:

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The First (Pro) Novel Survey is up to 151 responses.  I’d love to break 200 if possible.  I’ve posted information at the following sites:

  • My blog
  • SFWA (Newsgroup and Discussion Forum)
  • Absolute Write
  • Codex
  • SF Novelists

Any suggestions for places I’ve missed?  (Or feel free to pass the link on directly, if you know someone who might be interested.)

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So I was chatting with Seanan McGuire this weekend about book releases and pancakes and such when she mentioned something fascinating.  Apparently every time she posts a picture of her cat, her Amazon ranking improves.

Forget book trailers and contests.  The key to writing success is cute animals.  But it got me wondering … would a dog picture have the same effect?  Can we prove once and for all whether cats or dogs have the superior selling power? Can we finally put an end to the age-old cats vs. dog dispute?

I believe we can!  I spent Sunday afternoon chasing our poor pets around until I got the following pictures.


This is our new dog Casey.  As you can see, Casey has a lot of toys, but she’s most possessive of that copy of The Stepsister Scheme [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon].


And this is my cat Flit, all curled up and ready to go to sleep on her copy of Goblin Quest [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon].  (Just as soon as she gets her belly rubbed, that is.)

So there we have it.  Having posted two animal pictures, my sales should now go through the roof.  I’ll compare this week’s Bookscan numbers to last week’s for both books and figure out the percentage change.  So tune in late next week for indisputable scientific proof of whether cats or dogs are better.

Rape in Fandom

Earlier this week, [link removed at her request] shared a letter to her rapist in order to warn others in fandom about this individual.

A number of people have responded to express their support.  To say “I’ve got your back,” and that those who would commit rape are not welcome in this community.  To which I can add only, “Hell, yes.”  So often we as a society ignore rape.  We make excuses.  We pretend not to notice, and by doing so, we allow it to continue.

I’m bracing myself for the backlash.  For the indignant bloggers to ask why the Internet is dogpiling this poor man without giving him the chance to defend himself.  For the guys to rally behind the flag of False Accusations.  For the victim blamers to ask what she did to enable this, or why she didn’t press charges.  For the men to point out how terrible it is to be accused of rape, and the horrible damage it can do to a man’s reputation.  And for all of the other excuses why publicly confronting rape and rapists is a scary, dangerous, bad idea.  I’ve already seen it in a few comments.

To all of these people, please just shut up.  Instead of immediately working to silence someone who found the courage to speak out, how about you take a turn being silenced for once.  Maybe even try listening.

I’m not saying false accusations don’t happen — they do, albeit rarely.  I’m not saying there’s never a time to talk about criminal prosecution of rape and why people might choose not to endure the ugliness of a rape trial.  I’m saying this is not the time.

People don’t choose to be raped.  People choose to commit rape.  If you make that choice, I don’t want you in my community.

You know what?  The same goes for those who choose to grope their way through conventions.  The ones who believe a costume that shows off a woman’s body is an invitation to sexually harass her.  The ones who think drunk/unconscious is an acceptable substitute for consent.  If those are your choices, I don’t want you around.

Can you imagine what would happen if, every time someone raped, assaulted, or harassed another person, the rest of us actually spoke out?  If we as a community let them know — clearly and loudly — that this would not be tolerated?  If we told those who had been assaulted that we would listen, and we would support them?

Comments are open, and discussion is welcome as always.  However, please consider this fair warning that I’m going to be quicker to freeze and delete comments that I feel cross the line.

Another New Book

Today was my day to blog at SFNovelists.  I’m pleased with today’s entry, a helpful[1. For certain values of ‘helpful’] glossary of publishing terms.  Here’s an example:

Page Proofs – 1. Your chance as an author to review the typeset pages of your book and correct any typos.  2. Your chance as an author to discover all of those larger changes you’ll wish you’d made before, but now it’s too damn late.

Full post is at http://www.sfnovelists.com/2010/02/24/writing-terms-defined/

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So yesterday I went on about Diana Rowland’s book.  Well it turns out Anton Strout also had a book out yesterday.  I knew this, but somehow — completely by accident — forgot to mention it.  I don’t know how this happened.  I love Anton’s work.  Really I do!  I’ve reviewed him twice!

By the way, this blog post has nothing to do with a phone call I received last night that went something like this…

Anton: Hello Mister Hines.  I was calling to let you know how much I enjoyed your review of Miss Rowland’s work.

Jim: Thanks, Anton.  I appreciate–

Anton: I cannot help noticing, however, that you omitted another urban fantasy title from your post.

Jim: Oh, shoot.  Sorry about that.

Anton: You are aware that I am published by, and have certain connections at Penguin, yes?

Jim: Well, sure.

Anton: Penguin, which just happens to to handle much of the sales and distribution for DAW.

Jim: Um … yes, that’s right.

Anton: Don’t you have a book coming out from DAW this July?  It would be a shame if anything happened to it.

Nope, that conversation had nothing to do with my decision to blog about the book.  Nor did the rather disturbing experience of waking up this morning to find a stripped copy of Mermaid’s Madness on the pillow beside me.

To make amends, I’m telling you all to go check out the third Simon Canderous book, Dead Matter [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon].  Please?  Tell ’em Jim sent you.

Responding to a Review

General rule: don’t respond to reviews.  But then, every rule has an exception…

Joshua Palmatier recently posted a review of Mermaid’s Madness that pointed out what he felt was an error.  “…at one point, Snow knocks someone down, but without any sign of recovery, the person is back up a few pages later.”

I haven’t gone back to double-check this in my book, and I don’t intend to.  The book is in print, and it’s not like I can recall and change the copies even if he’s right.

Instead, I’ve written a note for my own future reference:

When Snow knocks you down, you stay the @#$% down!

Author Entitlement

Novel Survey Update: 130+ responses and counting.  My goal is to try to get at least 200.

Steven Saus pointed me toward A Softer World’s comic on fairy tale romance.  Yes!!!

Michael Cannon took the picture of me in my hat and photoshopped it into something awesome.  Yes, that is Smudge the fire-spider all blinged out on my shoulder.

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The first time I noticed the author entitlement thing in myself was with book discussion forums.  I’d come across a post asking for recommendations for good fantasy humor, or maybe someone wanted suggestions for a fun SF/F series with strong women characters.  Naturally, I’d peek to see if anyone had recommended my books.

Occasionally someone would, but usually it was the same old Pratchett and Asprin, Bujold and Bradley.  And I realized I was getting cranky about this.  Some of it seems to spring from envy.  “Why aren’t I getting the same buzz as so-and-so? They should be recommending me!  Strong female leads?  Come on!  Have you seen my covers?  I deserve to be in those lists!”

Only that’s not my call to make.  The fact that I’ve written books about goblins and kick-ass princesses doesn’t mean I get a free pass to the top of everyone’s recommended reading list.  I happen to think I’m a pretty good writer, but I don’t get to say how successful I should be.  That’s up to the readers.  (And for the record, I’m tremendously grateful for the success I’ve had — thank you!)

The sense of entitlement seems worst with some of the authors from a certain subclass of “publisher.”  Check out a few quotes from the testimonials page at Publish America.

“…people always told me it was difficult to get published. WRONG!”

“…no one,except Publish America will give the little guy, the unknown poet,the chance to get recognized.”

“…PA creates a serious threat to the publishing industry. PA helps new authors get started.”

Ignoring the idiotic assertion that commercial publishers won’t publish new writers, the underlying assumption is that we all deserve to be published.  We’re all entitled to that success.

Sorry, but no.  In kindergarten, everyone’s drawing gets hung up on the classroom wall.  But you’re a grown-up now, and writing a book doesn’t entitle you to a publishing contract.  The fact that you think it’s good doesn’t mean you’re right, nor does it mean a publisher must invest tens of thousands of dollars to get your book out there.

For those of us who do break in with a big publisher, that contract does not entitle us to NYT Bestseller status.  It doesn’t obligate the publisher to buy major in-store displays or table placement at the major chains.  Do I want those things?  Heck yes!  But am I entitled to them?  Envious as I might feel when my friends get a bigger marketing push than me, I’m the last one qualified to say what my books do or don’t deserve.

I feel it with the day job sometimes, too.  I’m a published author.  Why should I have to work a desk job?  Unfortunately, just because I want to write full time doesn’t mean I get to do it.  The world doesn’t owe me a full-time writing career, a NYT bestselling series, or a pony.

Setting goals is good.  Working toward those goals is even better.  But the moment I start griping about not getting the success I deserve, the success I’m owed, then it just starts to feel tacky and childish.

Comments, questions, and outright disagreement are all welcome, as always 🙂

New Author Look?

Already 90 100+ responses to the first novel poll — thanks to everyone for participating and passing the link along.

Today, I have a very different but equally vital survey.  Vital to me, I mean.  See, I’ve been doing the author jacket thing for a few years now, and it works pretty well.  But lately I’ve been thinking it needs something more.  Lots of authors have leather jackets.  Sure, theirs don’t have 41 different pockets, but still … I need something to stand out from the authorly crowd.

So I figured I’d add something more, a combination that would be uniquely Jim.

What do you think?  Yes?  No?  Needs more plumage?

Jim C. Hines