October 2009

A self-publishing project to inspire

by Suw on October 29, 2009

I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to do my self-publishing project for Revenge of the Book of Hay. I’m constantly riddled with doubt: Is it going to be good enough? Will enough people be interested? How will I convince people to support me given I have no track record? What exciting things could I add to the sponsorship options to entice people in?

Robin is offering a “surprise”, which I think is a great idea, but what sort of a surprise could I offer? A picture of me saying “Boo!”? A pop-up picture of me saying “Boo!”? A paperclip and elastic band contraption that shoots a pictures of me saying “Boo!” out of the book when it’s open? (I give all due credit and deference to Kevin Marks for that idea.)

Now Cory Doctorow has given me even more ideas in his article for Publishers Weekly to appropriate. Cory is self-publishing a collection of short stories, With a Little Help, as a free ebook and audiobook, but also as a print-on-demand trade paperback (via Lulu), a premium hardcover edition, has sold a specially commissioned new story (at a fee of $10,000) and is looking for other income streams such as maybe including ads.

The details of the packages are interesting. The trade paperbacks will have four different covers, and there’ll be a custom-cover package for people who want to run events or give-aways.

The premium hardcover really is premium, at $250 for a limited run of 250 copies. It will be printed by Oldacres of Hatton Gardens [Suw makes mental note] and hand bound by Wyvern Bindery [walked past them the other day, makes another mental note]. Each will be embossed with an illustration and will come with an SD card containing the full text of the book and all the audio. Furthermore, every book will have “unique endpapers made from paper ephemera solicited from writer friends, ranging from William Gibson and Neil Gaiman to Kelly Link and Eileen Gunn.”

Now, Cory does have bucketfuls of contacts that he can call upon to send him ephemera or help him out. Some of those people are very famous, some are just quite famous, and some are people he’s worked with before. He’s been doing this for a while so it’s no surprise that he has a fatter address book and, as an already successful author, he has a much deeper understanding of how the book creation process works than I do.

I’m going to have to get to grips with that process myself, and I’ll admit it’s a bit daunting. I don’t know who of the people that I do know has typography or cover design skills. But there are plenty of great ideas in Cory’s piece that I shall be half-inching right this second. A hardback edition is a great idea, for example.

But right now, I need to put details aside and just get enough nerve together to launch the project.

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Pay as you go

by Suw on October 25, 2009

I have been on a lengthy crusade against the evil that is sugar, but must confess to mainly being on the losing side. The summer has been quite stressful and where once I lost my appetite when stressed now I seem to feel constant hunger. Part of that hunger is down to the amount of sugary food that I was eating – for some reason sugar makes me feel hungrier, not less hungry.

Anyway, various schemes to cut down on the number of times I was popping to the corner shop for a Coke and Wispa have failed. I’m not great at willpower and have even less of the stuff when stressed (although that’s because, as I’m sure I’ve said before, you only have a limited amount of willpower, although you can increase it with practice). Going cold turkey failed. Simply trying to cut down has failed. So time for some creative thinking.

Kev and I have joined a new gym which is larger and closer to our new flat than the old one was. It’s a 10 min walk through the park each morning, which is a most pleasant way to bookend one’s work-out. This new gym has machines that weren’t available to us in the old gym, including a crunchie machine (for your abdominals) and a lower back resistance machine.

My new scheme combines and reinforces gym and a reduction in sugar intake and it’s really very simple.

I can only buy treats at the shop when I have burnt off their calorific equivalent at the gym.

It’s very simple and so far it seems to be working. It encourages me to work harder at the gym and gives me some idea of how many calories you actually work off. It turns out that I have been burning relatively few calories at the gym, which would explain why I’m fitter but still getting fatter. In our morning workouts, which are only half an hour long, I spend half my time doing resistance work and the rest on the recumbent bike, treadmill or cross-trainer. In that latter 15 mins, I tend to burn only about 75 kcal.

If you’ve ever tried to find a sugary treat that comes in at under 75 calories you’ll know that it’s basically impossible. A can of Coke is 139 kcal and a Wispa is 210 kcal. People have advised me to go for dark chocolate because it’s less sugary. That might be so, but a large bar of Green & Black’s 70% Cocoa is over 500 kcal.

This means that it takes me two workouts during the week to earn enough kcal to have a Coke, and three to earn a Wispa. Erk! I don’t think I’d ever really realised how much effort I need to expend in order to work off one of my favourite treats but now I know it really has changed the way that I think about them. I always knew that these were empty calories – there’s no nutritional value in them at all. They’re stupid calories. But, well, a kcal is bigger than I thought it was!

The nice thing about this is that I can still have my treats, but only when I’ve earnt them. So I don’t need to go cold turkey and I don’t really need willpower. I just need to make sure that I get up early enough to go to the gym and that I work hard whilst I’m there.

I really do hope that this will result in the loss of a few *cough* pounds because I’m heavier now than I’ve ever been. Trousers that were really loose on me once now fit snugly. I really can’t let that go on otherwise I’ll be a blimp before you know it.

So wish me luck and here’s hoping this tactic really does work.

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Cat perch

by Suw on October 21, 2009

I hope Grabbity doesn’t see this – she might get ideas.

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Grabbity’s double fangs

by Suw on October 4, 2009

I’ve had cats all my life, including some kittens, and I’ve never caught one in the act of getting their adult teeth. Usually kittens teethe, swallow their milk teeth and the new ones are there to fill in behind so there’s nothing much to spot. But I was surprised to see Grabbity – who has been chewing on everything in the flat she can wrap her teeth around – has two sets of fangs in her upper jaw.

Grabbity's double fangs

I first spotted them on Friday, so I’m going to keep an eye on them and if the deciduous teeth (that’s milk teeth to you and me – I had no idea that deciduous applied to anything other than trees! does that make her permanent teeth ‘evergreen’?) don’t fall out within the next week I’ll be talking to the vet to see if they need pulling.

Meantime, they do look rather impressive!

Grabbity's double fangs

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Make yours a handmade Christmas

by Suw on October 2, 2009

I can’t quite believe it, but I’ve started my Christmas shopping early this year. I mean, it’s only just October and we haven’t even had Hallowe’en yet, but already I’m looking for presents for people. This is mainly because of the knock-on effects of recent strikes by Royal Mail workers which have resulted in a huge backlog of mail, delaying many items. The strikes haven’t been well covered by the media, who mainly seem to want to just bash the strikers, so it’s hard to say where we’re at, but there is a chance there will be more strikes and that could make Christmas shopping online quite hellish.

I have decided this year to buy as many of my presents as possible from Folksy, a new shopping site for artists and crafters. I really like the idea that when I spend 25 quid on something from Folksy, I know that the vast majority of that money is going to end up in the pocket of the person who made the item. Just 20p goes to Folksy, and PayPal take their fees, but the rest helps the maker have a better Christmas themselves.

There is some absolutely wonderful stuff there too. Browsing last night, I saw just a fraction of the items for sale, but favourited a whole bunch as possible presents. All I have to do now is marry up the things I’ve seen with the people I need to buy for.

There’s this Raku bowl, by Jude Allman.

Or this cashmere scarf, by Ellens Knitwear.

Honestly, I could spend my Christmas budget several times over without even breaking a sweat.

Of course, I have my shop on Folksy too and I’m hoping that I’ll sell enough jewellery there, either through people buying what’s in the shop already or ordering a custom-made piece, that I’ll have enough in my PayPal kitty to cover my shopping spree.

So if you want to support British artists and crafters and help them to have a wonderful Christmas, do think about buying handmade presents. And if you find things you like on Folksy, do tell your friends!

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