Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Three tools that will help you save money automatically, without effort.

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So as you may have guessed from my last post about how I'm using Remember The Milk now, I've been messing with how I'm reaching the goals I've had all along and making them more deliberate, more mindful, and more focused on what I want to achieve.

And part of that is being kind to myself and recognizing where my own weaknesses lie.

I am not a money person when it comes to my personal finances. (My attitude is different when it comes to business stuff, which is strange, but whatever.) I strive to be prudent and all, but I'm just not particularly interested in the differences from one type of investment to another.

Don't get me wrong - I know enough to be able to understand the basics of investment and saving, but I sure would have to look up the differences between a 401K and a 403B (and I'm pretty sure I have both).

Which, if I want to save or invest money at all, means that I damn well need to ensure that I do it in a way that doesn't bore me. Automatically, even.

There's a couple of interesting tools I've run into lately that I'm going to pass on to you.  (Please note, the links are referral links; I'll get a slightly better deal or maybe a buck or two if you use them. Many of them will also get you something extra as well for using the referral link.)

Digit is an interesting service that will examine your spending and balances of your accounts, and every weekday will try to determine a small amount of money that won't be needed for bills. If it can, it'll automatically transfer them to your Digit account. Painless, automatic, and therefore not boring.

Acorns looks at your transactions from whatever accounts you link, rounds up spending to the nearest dollar, and then invests it (when it hits $5 or more) into an investment portfolio. You get to choose the risk via a basic slider, which controls what kinds of investment it goes into. Again, painless, automatic, and therefore not boring.

Paribus will look at your email (and your Amazon account, though that won't count as much as it did before) to see if prices have dropped on any purchases you've made recently. If so, it'll request a price difference refund on your behalf. Again, painless, automatic, and therefore not boring.

None of these services will suddenly make you a millionaire, nor should they be treated as a primary investment or savings plan. But, if you're like me, they might just help you start saving a little money here and there without any difficulty.

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Changing the way I do chores with Remember The Milk

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Last week I was on second shift, which (unlike prior times) really disrupted my schedule at home. As a result, my house was a wreck by Saturday morning.

So I decided to change how I was doing things.

First, I like the idea of the rotating lists of things to do, like these from They provide a nice bit of structure instead of "do what needs to be done".  That kind of amorphous goal just does not work for me.

But printed lists aren't my style. I'm a technological boy, and on top of that, I tend to get discouraged if I don't complete a list. The stress builds, and then I end up dumping the whole thing.

Enter Remember The Milk.

The key features that make this app so nice for this are:

* You can postpone tasks. They don't go away, but can be put off. On the phone app, it's a simple leftward swipe.
* You can set up events for "after three days". If you have a task set up for "every three days" it will show up every three days...whether you completed the prior one or not. After three days means that it creates a task three days after you complete it.
* You can separate tasks by list AND tag.

I have my lists set up as locations in a quasi GTD style, so pretty much all my chores fall under "Home". But the tasks themselves are tagged "chores_daily", "chores_weekly", and so on. And I plugged in all those chores from those lists, plus a few of my own.

Screenshot from the webapp

Some of those are "gimmie" tasks - like making the bed and hanging up towels. But it's still a nice bit of positive reinforcement for me to swipe them away. And because I can easily postpone a task, I don't have the overwhelming guilt and stress when I don't have enough hours in the day.

This has really changed the way I do things - I've already noticed a difference, even though I started out behind on things. Instead of floundering around looking for something that needs done, I just look at the big list.

Now I just need to put "write blog posts" on there so I don't unexpectedly go another week and a half without anything.

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Alliteration Ink Presents: The Kickstarter for *No Sh!t, There I Was*, an anthology of improbable tales

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Unbelievable, but no sh!t, there I was, seeing a Kickstarter for 24 improbable tales from science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors.

Is there a better phrase to start a story than "No Shit, There I Was..."? If you hear someone start with that phrase, you know it's going to be worth listening carefully. That's how all the craziest - and most interesting - stories start.

And then we turned a bunch of speculative fiction authors loose on that phrase.

I mean, these stories - whew.  Science fiction. Fantasy. Humor. Even horror. What they came up with is kind of hard to believe.

But no shit, there we were.

And you can get your hands on these stories by heading over to the Kickstarter page and becoming a backer right now!  You can get there by following this link:

No Sh!t, There I Was - An Anthology of Improbable Tales -- Kicktraq Mini

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A (Good) Response From One of the Security Team From MarCon about Harassment

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I've known one of the guys who does security for MarCon for over twenty years, and after seeing my post the other day, asked if he could write a response. His response follows:
It is really frustrating to hear about bad behavior like this after a con. I have been on the security team at Marcon longer than I care to say, and we work hard to shut crap like this down when it gets reported.

Marcon has a pretty extensive anti-harassment policy and has for something like 15 years. It is one of the first ones I personally know of for a convention. And I have been a part of enforcing that on multiple occasions.

As a fan I really hate it when our community is damaged by harassing behavior. Inclusion is kind of the point of our thing to me.

Our security and operations folks need help making our space better for everyone, and that help is reporting stuff when it happens. I know there can be a lot of reasons someone might not report behavior, but if one of those reasons is a feeling we won't take it seriously I can tell you that isn't the case for anyone on my team.

On our side, I am talking with the organizers about highlighting our anti-harassment policy more prominently in our program guide next year and giving a bit more PR to how to contact Operations or Security folks if someone has a problem or sees behavior that doesn't meet our community standards.

- JP Withers

PS Please note that I am not speaking for Con Comm here. My gig at this con is completely limited to working site security during the event. 
As I mentioned in the original post, I was very glad to hear that people were sending reports to the convention organizers. I am doubly glad to hear from JP that the security folks at MarCon are just as dedicated to providing a safe space for convention goers.

Having known JP for so long, I would definitely vouch for him as a person who will take you seriously should you have a problem at future cons.

Thank you, JP, for providing such a good example.

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And Sometimes The Criticism Is Itself Problematic: Responding to a Criticism About Steampunk Universe

So it turns out that I'd forgotten one (at least) place that I'd posted the guidelines for Steampunk Universe that caused a bit of an uproar a few months ago. Those original guidelines did have some problematic elements, and I got an e-mail from a concerned author about those specific bits. I replied to that e-mail, pointing to the updated guidelines that answered that person's concerns.

I then went searching to see if there were any other places I'd forgotten that I posted them, and found a post by Dale Cameron Lowry on Tumblr that... well, seems to want to take exception...not to the original guidelines, but to the updated ones.

But first, let me cite the (updated) guidelines:

  • Your story should take place in a non-White and preferably non-Anglophone culture.
  • Your story should contain and have as a focus a character with at least one disability. It should be a major element of the story. I want to explore how steampunk technology changes the lives of people who are aneurotypical or disabled, for better or for worse. I’d love to see characters who are also members of other marginalized groups (such as LGBTQ characters).
  • I have already committed to stories taking place in North America, England, and China. While we may commit to more stories featuring other cultures in those regions, we strongly encourage you to explore stories that take place in the diverse cultures of Central/South America, Asia, and Africa.2
And the footnote says "This wording has been changed to emphasize that we are looking to maximize diversity from all regions and peoples in the limited space we have, not minimize or erase any group."

Mr. Lowry (and he is an author, hence my replying this way) says this:
Seriously? You want to exclude Anglophone cultures and countries from an anthology which will be published in English, while at the same time saying you want works “that take place in the diverse cultures of Central/South America, Asia, and Africa” among “non-White”s ... By saying “your story should take place in a non-White and preferably non-Anglophone culture,” you’re also implying, “If you’re a Kenyan who uses English as your primary language for writing, consider that a part of your culture, and want to send us some Kenyan steampunk, we’d prefer you not.”
Here's why I'm not responding to this criticism the same way that I did to the criticisms back in February:  He is totally missing the point.

First, "preferably". We all understand what that means, right?

Now that that's settled, let's get to the more serious problems with this critique.

Steampunk is associated with the 19th century - and typically the latter half of it. During the latter half of the 19th century, the people in Kenya who would most likely identify as "anglophones" (or have English as their native language) were colonizing British people. The Gĩkũyũ people in the Agĩkũyũ nation (what is now Kenya) spoke (and still speak) the Bantu Kikuyu language as a mother tongue. Their way of life got "disrupted" when they came into contact with the British around 1888. The British violently colonized Kenya in 1895.

His other examples of "Anglophone countries and cultures where the majority of residents/members are 'non-White'" include India, Singapore, South Africa, and perhaps most ironically, Hong Kong twice...which specifically WAS INVADED and became a British colony during the middle of the period covered by steampunk. He is confusing "countries" and "cultures" at best, and ignoring the history and native peoples and cultures of these areas at worst.

Because these places that speak English now? That's because during the 19th century (or just before) the British colonized those areas, frequently subjecting the native people and cultures to suppression or worse.

Both Steampunk World and Steampunk Universe are specifically put together to provide more steampunk stories that are not about colonizing white people. We want stories featuring and about the native cultures of those areas.

So, yeah, we don't want stories that focus on the colonizing and occupying British people during this period. That's kind of the point.

In the tags for the post (which are almost a post themselves), Lowry does make one good point:
...when I go to my writer's boards I don't see non-Westerners posting about how they're going to submit to this antho I see Westerners talking about how they are going to go research non-Western cultures so they can write a contribution that qualifies which might not be the most ideal way to do diversity
And he's right. Ideally, that's not the most ideal way to do diversity.

But, aside from the facts that this might be sample bias due to which boards he's on and that I can't control what other people write or submit, he could also look at the ToC of Steampunk World and see that there's authors there who hail from all over. Or that I actively assess the diversity of submitting authors when possible.

But his final "tag" is the most ironic:
and am I the only one who thinks that steampunk as a genre is pretty effing western

Originally I was just going to write "that's what we're trying to change" here, but while talking about this on Twitter, I was reminded that there's a lot more non-Western steampunk out there that Mr. Lowry has completely erased from existence.

Quick examples from off the top of my head: The Sea is Ours edited by Jaymee Goh. How about Beyond Victoriana, from Diana M. Pho, if you want a blog. Or Tai Chi Zero if you're into film. And countless short stories, illustrations, and cosplay.

The submissions period for Steampunk Universe closes soon.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.


Reports of Harassment at MarCon 2016, including "The Chainmail Guy" who harassed people at CONTEXT

[EDIT 12 May: Please see this response from one of the security detail from MarCon: ]

It is rare that you get to see your decisions and actions, no matter how principled, justified.

And really, when you're taking a stand against harassment, you don't want your stance justified. You don't want to have proof and evidence that yes, that creepy guy really was creepy, and was going to keep being creepy.

Sadly, I'm hearing from friends who attended MarCon this year that the stance about Chainmail Guy's harassment - the one that some members of the board decided to destroy the con over rather than censure a buddy who was harassing people - was completely justified.

According to multiple accounts, he was very visible in the main corridor, apparently with a table displaying some chain mail. (Which is exactly the setup that spawned problems at Context.) Sure, he wasn't a volunteer, but had a very prominent bit of real estate. And, much like the complaints at Context, kept inserting himself into private conversations, just as he did before.

Unlike Context, he was in the main hall - and therefore much harder to avoid.

As one person put it, "if you heard about the stuff about Context, you'd get the very clear opinion that MarCon was okay with all that."

Sadly, this might just be the case.

There were reports (and these were forwarded to the con chair) of another guy suggesting he should "frisk" a young woman after earlier reaching out to touch her without consent.

A corset vendor walked the line between creepy and harassment by insisting their corset fit perfectly, and any impression otherwise was due to the person's "body issues". He told another person that "he needed to see me try on one of the corsets and not in a friendly front of my kids."

And this is just what's managed to cross my awareness.

It's good that more incidents are being reported. Yet the people involved - when I asked if I could write about it - asked that I not use their names.

Why? They still fear reprisal. They fear being shunned. This is a sad, but still true, experience of many women reporting harassment. They are still subject to the same bullshit questions and asinine rationalizations that really should have gone out of fashion last century. Please note that "sexual harassment bingo" is NOT something that you want victims to win. And given the experience I had simply presenting the evidence of harassment to CONTEXT's Con Comm a few years ago, I totally understand why they fear reprisal. I've been asked to not be a participant on panels at a convention due to the "controversy" of standing up against sexual harassment... and I'm a guy.

In some ways, this is a self-solving problem. The conventions that do not address these issues - and do so visibly - will find themselves losing attendees and growing smaller, while conventions (like Penguicon) are attracting younger and more diverse crowds.

Nobody wants to be harassed. And sadly, it's all too common for those who are harassed to be further harassed by those trying to protect others. Research (my research, no less) shows that a strong "we don't allow harassment and celebrate diversity" tone from leadership produces a statistically significant change in behavior. But we don't see that.

And yet.

A vast majority of the people who have publicly reported a harassing experience at MarCon have also said they reported it to convention leadership after the convention. That's a good sign.

With World Fantasy coming to Columbus in a few months - and especially after the controversy earlier this year - it is vital that the SMOFs of Columbus be transparent about exactly what they're doing about these cases - and what they'll do in the future.

Perhaps they will learn that these controversies, that these complaints, are not personal attacks, but are instead a deep desire to make the convention experience better for all people... and that these harassers are the ones who are actively and materially hurting their convention attendance.

And if they do not, they will continue to learn that even tolerating harassment means that they are socially, if not legally, culpable.

In the meantime, if the status quo maintains (which I expect) I'm so much reassurred that I did the right thing by giving up my WFC 2016 membership and for taking an unpopular stance against harassment a few years ago.

But damn, I wish I'd been wrong.


Dayton Sideshow 11 THIS WEEKEND (includes me!)

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I'll be appearing this weekend as part of the eleventh Dayton Sideshow!

The Sideshow celebrates the local arts scene and is unique in Dayton for its variety and ambition. The Sideshow recognizes the potential of every individual to create. We empower the members of our community by helping them actualize their dreams. We value the contributions of everyone, and we support each other with a true sense of community. We know that through collaborating with others, we create something greater than ourselves.
It's a two-day event with a plethora of artists and performers of all kinds on Friday night and Saturday afternoon and evening. It'll be at the Old Yellow Cab Building in downtown Dayton. Click the images below to embiggen the schedules:

I'll be doing a reading on the indoor stage on Saturday at 4:20 (heh), and will also have various cards and bookmarks to give away as well! I hope to see you there!

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Why You Shouldn't Wait: Back *No Sh!t, There I Was* Today!

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I've run into them, and perhaps you have too: People who look at a crowdfunding project and say "Ooh, that's neat. I'll buy it when it comes out."

Maybe you're one of those people.

Let me offer three simple reasons why you shouldn't be - at least, not with the Kickstarter for No Shit, There I Was.

You're Not Saving Money By Waiting

One of the things I'm doing differently with this project is to set the lowest funding levels at prices equal to the retail price.

I've not always done this for reasons that made sense to me - mostly that I'd pay a little extra to ensure something cool happened, and assumed others would too. I've heard from a lot of folks that they did not feel that way, so I started adjusting things starting with the Kickstarter for recompose.

What You Eventually Get Might Be Less Awesome

I really do enjoy interior art - I was glad to be able to have it for Steampunk World and recompose...and I'd love to be able to have it for No Shit, There I Was. But we have to reach those stretch goals in order to get it. I can't go back and retroactively add it if you buy the book six months down the line.

Backers Will Get The Books Well Before The Public

Previously, I tried to get books out as soon as possible to everyone - backers and the general public alike - as soon as possible. But starting with this campaign, backers are still going to get the book as soon as possible... but everyone else is going to have to wait several months (I haven't decided if we should wait three or six months) to be able to buy it. 

We are less than a week out from the campaign finishing, and have already met our funding goal. So tell everyone that if they want the book anytime soon - or if they want cool things like interior art - the time for waiting is over, and to back now!

Easy sharing links are right here:

The project:
Google Plus:

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Small Genre Publishers in Ohio; You Have Been Summoned! (But what is a publisher, anyway?)

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I mentioned Post Mortem Press; if you're a small genre publisher, let her know on Twitter.

I did comment - and I think this is a conversation worth having - that the criteria for being a publisher is pretty vague. I tend to insist on not publishing your own work (I have a separate imprint for that) in order to be a publisher. (Perhaps controversial, yes, but I think the role of a publisher of someone else's work is fundamentally different in attitude than the role of someone publishing their own work. Whether that distinction is good or productive is a different question.)

Providing publishing services doesn't necessarily disqualify you from being a publisher, but it certainly makes that line a lot clearer. (To create that line is why I quit providing eBook conversion for the public at large, for example.)

What do you think "makes" someone a publisher?

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Meet Franz, The Cross-Platform Attempt at a Unified Messaging App

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TL;DR: Franz is a cross-platform free messaging app that corrals the web versions so you can have them all in one container.

I was introduced to Franz relatively recently, and while there's a few things about Franz that irritate me, it's still fair to say that Franz has made my life easier.

I should probably explain.

If you're anything like me - or even close - you have more than one messaging application. Messenger. Hangouts. Slack. Skype. There's lots more - WeChat, WhatsApp, Telegram, and bunch I don't know.

Franz handles fourteen of them. And you can have multiple accounts open for each of them.

Thing is, Franz is kind of a cheat. It's not something like the purple-facebook plugin for Pidgin or hangups and yakyak for Hangouts. Instead, they've used the Electron framework to act as a kind of container for the web versions of these applications.


I hate having a window open for each of several messaging services. And given how the biggest ones (Facebook and Hangouts) have moved away from open standards, it's become more and more difficult to use something like Pidgin or Bitlbee to manage them efficiently. Franz does a very satisfactory job of ensuring that I get the messages, that I get notifications on the desktop, and that I don't have half a dozen windows cluttering my screen.

It's also free, and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Hopefully you'll find Franz as helpful as I did.

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