New Widget

Actually there are two new widgets. Or one new widget and one old widget with new information. Or…yeah. Look. In the lower right where the word count for the current book used to be there is now my progress on the initial read through. It will be updated daily or whenever I remember to update it. When I get through the whole thing there’ll still be some work left as I do more polishing and finalize the release but it’s a pretty good barometer for my progress as far as they go. Because I’m awash in barometers. There are like sixty piled up behind my couch.

Also, on the various book and story pages there will be a donation box so you can give me money. People keep asking me about that. When I started this site the notion of reading an entire book on your computer seemed silly to me. Now I read entire books on my phone. I find that so weird but with it getting easier and easier to utilize the various e-formats offered on the page it makes sense to throw a donation box in there so people can chip in when they download something. Actually it started making sense to do that like a year ago but I move slowly in these matters.

The thumbnail for today’s post was what showed up when I searched for pictures of “widgets.”

So that’s what they look like.

New York Before Dawn

Writing a book is strange work. You compile hours and hours over the course of a year, maybe a year and a half, and throughout that entire time you barely have anything to show for it. You can give “sneak peaks” out or show people your progress in other ways, but that isn’t exactly real. An outline is not a book. A chapter is not a book. A summary is not a book. A book is a book and that is all. A year, a year and a half, and all that time your life is constantly moving past.

I woke up at 5 this morning after some nightmares and began to feel panicky that after all of this work my book wasn’t going to be any good, which is a common fear, or that certain scenes weren’t playing out right, or that my rewrites would never end. Rather than sit around with those thoughts for company I went and walked around in a misty pre-dawn New York and snapped some pictures. That always clears my head (you can click on any for a larger view).

Writing is very strange work…

…and it makes you wander about alone…

…through the empty New York morning.

The One Tool Every Writer Needs

A few weeks ago I mentioned here and there that a cherished friend of mine had been torn to pieces by my own two hands. Here is the gruesome photo I took on that day:

I actually used the poor thing to death. It just fell apart in my fingers. It was very sad, I had a lot of memories with the old girl. It didn’t seem like it was her time to go.

And, after she was gone, I found myself freaking out at my desk constantly with nothing for my hands to do while caffeine was coursing through my system. Oh, sure, typing is the ultimate finger freak-out exercise, but when the words aren’t coming? Well you need a back-up plan or else you might jitter yourself into oblivion.

So, while I know she can never replace the original in my heart, I have allowed myself to let a new Rubik’s Cube into my life.

I’m sure she’ll fit in just fine. I’ve got a good feeling about her…

Also who the hell works a Rubik’s Cube to death? Jesus God I’m a freak.

Amazon’s Latest Idea (that’s actually from like three months ago)

As a self-published author I have a ridiculous array of things to keep track of, from possible user comments at about twenty different locations, to new formats that my works should be available in to constant news and updates from any number of sites whose services I employ. Generally speaking I’m terrible at keeping up with these things and most of it slips through the cracks.

Recently I did, however, revisit an old email from the Amazon digital publishing department. It seems that over the summer (or possibly in the Spring) Amazon began offering the option for authors published via the Kindle to receive a 70% royalty rate on all sales.

This is ridiculous. The normal royalty rate usually hovers around 10-15%. At 70% With this change I can sell my books for $2.99 and still receive a higher cut per sale than through my paperbacks. $2.99!

This is also one of the first major moves I’ve heard of that acknowledges the fundamental changes that publishing is going through. There’s tons of talk all the time about digital publishing and worldwide rights and embracing new forms of content but generally it boils down to just that, talk. Which is annoying. Because things really are different. To put it simply, ten years ago in order for me to get my story to someone I would have had to print my story out on a paper product produced from wood pulp and mail a physical copy to them. In order to get more people my story I would have had to produce more copies, then mail those copies individually to each reader. This no longer is necessary. Now a massless copy can be sent to a reader electronically, no need to first produce and then move a 13.6 ounce stack of papers across any distance. The difference is a MASSIVE altering in how these stories ought to be priced. I mean, my god, over the past ten years we’re talking about changing from the same basic shipping method that has been in use since ancient Rome to something very close to teleportation. If apples could suddenly be cloned instantly and shipped instantly to your refrigerator, you had better believe that the price of apples would plummet as the majority of the costs in that equation would suddenly have vanished. That’s exactly what has happened to books, yet the price has barely shifted. Or rather, large scale distribution methods have barely shifted their prices, there is of course the smaller scale distribution method, this website, which offers all of my works in various formats for free. Truth be told, my gut tells me that this second option is a lot closer to where the price will eventually wind up. Which isn’t to say I plan on giving away my work for free forever, but I do think alternate revenue streams, such as ad sales, will be more important than an actual cost-per-book structure.

Aaaaaand that’s way more consultant-speak than I’m usually allowed in a week so we’ll just end there with a, “Well done, Amazon.”

Also, if you haven’t yet (and if you haven’t what on earth is wrong with you?) go read Probability Angels or go buy Probability Angels. The sequel is on its way and it’s going to be ridiculous.

My Dog Ate It

I swear I had this hilarious and illuminating post idea for today but I lost it. I know exactly where I lost it, too. I lost it at the Midtown Wendy’s where I grabbed lunch . I walked into that place and my brain died. It was the weirdest mix of people and lunatics and one guy who swore he was a wizard and all rational thought left my head. I did get a tasty cheeseburger out of it, though, so I’m happy with how everything turned out.

I like cheeseburgers.

Rewrites are moving along. I’m back at my desk daily and what seemed like a huge pile words to sort through is quickly being tamed. Part 3 is done and has been mailed off to early readers and art for my countdown to release is starting to stream in.

Things are good.

I would mention here when, exactly, I expect to release the book but the last time I wrote a deadline down in a post I fell laughably short of said deadline, so until I’ve actually got the cannon loaded and the enemy in my sights I’m not giong to light the fuse.

That…was sort of an unexpected metaphor. What sort of canon were you picturing? Cause I was picturing like a pirate canon.

Right.

You’ve Done it Again, Hollywood!

Living in Manhattan you get pretty used to movies and television shows being filmed all around you. In fact you get so used to it that it can sort of become annoying. Nobody likes having to wait to get to their home because Law and Order hasn’t gotten their best take in yet. And then there are the times that they take over an entire street, shutting things down and blocking off all the parking and traffic. It’s quite a power these movie magicians wield and, somehow, they carry it all out simply by putting sheets of paper up everywhere. Like this one:

These things go up and The Smurf Movie can magically shut down a New York City avenue. I don’t quite get it. But, you know, that’s the smurfs and all.

This morning I found this on all the lamp posts:

Seriously?

Celebrity Ghost Stories?

High holy hell someone please tell me what that’s all about?

Pork and Earl

Normally after I cook things I try and get some pictures of the dish and provide some semblance of a recipe to share with you all. At least, that’s what I decided I would do after my last cooking excursion. I shall be known as that cook guy who also writes books.

As I mentioned last week, my big Labor Day attempt was going to be the making of pulled pork.  However, I didn’t get a whole lot of  pictures of the food that was made. I did get a lot of pictures of the sorts of waves a hurricane stirs up when it’s passing by miles away, as that is precisely what Hurricane Earl was doing. So we’ll do a sort of hodge podge here of pictures of waves and descriptions of pork and it will make perfect sense.

First, here is what I drank:

I love that picture and I think Maker’s Mark or Canada Dry should buy it off me.

As for cooking, and as I just said, the main dish was pulled pork. I had to go with cooking in a normal oven as my smoker has been banned from my family’s house. But it turned out marvelously. Not that I have any real recipes to come away with, but I learned a lot about the various techniques. First I brined the pork:

I basically kept putting salt into water until it tasted brackish to me. This measurement means a lot more than cups and gallons as I can never remember that, but I will remember how salty the water tasted. Then I dumped in sugar until it wasn’t horrible to taste. Then I soaked the pork shoulder for about fifteen hours. I think I could go ahead and soak for much longer as well as add some spices to the brine. The finished product, while delicious, could have used some added seasoning and brining supposedly lets the flavors in the soaking liquid fill up the inside of the meat. I’m told that purists don’t like to brine pork shoulder as they prefer a milder flavor and brining tends to make things taste “too much like ham.” But it’s my damned pork and I wanted more saltiness so a longer soak next time I think.

Then I made up a spice rub and applied it:

No idea what was in it. I smelled the spices I had until I had a pungent, spicy mess of powders which I then coated the meat with once I had removed it from the brine.  I let this sit for awhile in an attempt to brine the meat and dry rub it…no idea if that’s legal but it’s what I did. I’m not entirely sure how much this added as I had to use a semi-wet cooking method so all the spices might have simply dripped off in the oven. I would probably pay more attention to my brine next time and less to my rub. But I wouldn’t cook my meat naked, either.

Then I put the pork into a disposable roasting pan and threw in some quartered onions and some celery. Then I added some Maker’s Mark and water. Not a lot, maybe enough until the liquid came half an inch up the sides of the pan:

Next I set the oven for 250 degrees, covered the pan in foil and let her sit in there for about nine hours. The resulting meat was utterly wonderful. It was so tender that I didn’t really pull or shred it so much as tap it with a spoon and watch it dissolve into moist pieces of pork:

And that’s really it. A simple easy recipe. Once shredded, the meat was wonderful by itself or spread on a potato roll with a slice of swiss cheese to top it.

Bon appetit!

The Jersey Shore after Hurricane Earl


Hog Wild

This coming Labor Day weekend I shall be heading out to New Jersey to spend some time drinking beer, dodging possible hurricanes and cooking. This happens a few weekends over the course of any given summer (minus the possible hurricane) but it is usually only once a summer that I do battle against my most ancient of foe, the pork butt.

And, no, that doesn’t mean…you know…pork butt. It’s what they call a pork shoulder, which is what pulled pork is made out of, and it was my great honor and great mistake a few years ago to say, “You know what? I think I’ll try making some of that pulled pork.”

This resulted in hours of research on rubs:

Way too many trips to the hardware store:

The building of a homemade smoker:

And a lot of very tasty, but not quite perfect, cooked pig:

For someone who’s a bit of a neurotic perfectionist, pulled pork represents the ideal cooking project. You can tinker with near unlimited elements from your rub to your smoke to your technique, it takes tons of time so you really feel like you’ve got your teeth into a project, there’s heat management and multiple phases to fret over and at the end everyone is so drunk and starving because it always takes four hours longer than you told them that all you get are compliments on how good it tastes.

This weekend I go into battle one more time. The homemade smoker, sadly, has been scrapped and I am left with only a standard oven for this year’s try.

Unconventional? Yes.

Lacking the utter craziness of past attempts? Yes.

Downright sacrilegious to barbecue enthusiasts? Yes.

A quest I refuse to give up on despite all of this?

Hells yes.

On Saturday it’s time to get my pork on, come hell or hurricane.