So, there’s a calendar, the 2015 Classic Trains wall calendar by Calendar Ink, and a friend of mine, Thad, owns the calendar and her husband Mr. Thad happened to notice yesterday that I am Mr. April.

That text above is a quote from my steampunk fantasy novel The Dead Isle, randomly printed in a train calendar. I mean, obviously not totally randomly, it’s a quote about trains on a train calendar, not like, a quote about fish on a train calendar. But it’s not as though I’m an expert on trains or something. And I had no idea they had done this. I guess someone googled for quotes about trains and mine turned up and they were like welp, that one looks good, throw it on April.

I don’t know what to do with this. I can’t stop laughing about it. Especially since the owner of the calendar tells me:

They put you on a mighty 4-12-2, one of the biggest and most powerful non-articulated locomotives ever built.

So I guess if I had to go on a calendar at least I went fuckin’ large, yo.

I never in my wildest childhood imaginings dreamed that I would one day have to deal with the cognitive dissonance of seeing my name on a calendar about trains. (Five year old me would have been thrilled to hear it, though.)


(Thanks [personal profile] vickita for the image.)
Sooooo I didn't know that you could look up the top 25 users on LJ based on page views, but now I do.

Turns out I am #4 on LJ today.

#5 is George RR Martin.

Serve him right, killing all those poor people.

It's a false return, I think, because of the LJ-might-be-banning-gay-content-wait-no-not-really foofarah from yesterday, but still, it is kind of hilarious to read a list that goes:

Ursula Vernon
Seanan McGuire
George RR Martin
Jim C. Hines

It's either the worst or best orgy ever, I can't decide.
Oh man, I just realised I'm living in a high-brow sitcom.

I have the wacky friends, the weird job full of slightly off-kilter people*, the glamorous crush, the crazy secret second job, the strange family, the improbably large apartment for the iconic urban area I live in, the built-in narrative device, and every day on my way to work I walk past a twenty-six-foot-tall homage to the upskirt panty shot. I'm currently arguing on the internet with someone about the cupcake industry.

In honour of my double life, I'm calling it Sam Squared.

And before you guys say you'd watch it, guess what: you're in it.

* When we got to the luncheon on Friday, each eight-person table had a plate of dessert nibbles as the centrepiece, clearly meant to be eaten after the meal. I looked around as the soup was being brought out and discovered our table was the only table that had done the sensible thing and eaten the dessert nibbles immediately.
That last post on LJ was a little obscure, wasn't it? Contextless ducks. Ducks are one of the funniest animals though, and as a few of you pointed out, I have mine in a row.

This post is about ducks and dicks, actually. I've heard back from Suzanne, who I think I can confidently state at this point is my source within the Art Institute Museum. :D Our exchange over Apollo And His Metaphorical Dick Slaying Python generated another post on the ARTIC blog, including a link back to my original post which, as Suzanne pointed out, is getting a little meta. But at the ARTIC blog post you can see a closeup of the defaced Apollo and his massive quiver, in case you were curious.

Every time I go to the exhibit I see something I missed before. This latest time, I saw a reliquary with the actual relic still inside, which a) WAS AWESOME, I've never seen a piece of a saint before, and b) I guess means when I visit the Art Institute Museum I see bones everywhere. But honestly, if you're in Chicago from now through July 10th, you really should try to catch the exhibit. Tomorrow is a free-admission day all day long!

Go on. You know you want to play hooky to go to the art museum and look at Renaissance peen.

And if you're really feeling conservative, they also have American Gothic, you know.

Literally as I was writing this post a lovely comment showed up from the curator of the Art Institute Museum's "Altered and Adorned" exhibit, which I posted the placard from yesterday. You can find the comment here, including an offer of a tour if any Chicago locals act quickly, and a blog post about the exhibit here, including THE DISCOVERY OF ADAM'S MISSING LUNGS. I loled. I mean I'm thrilled, but it's still pretty funny.

I also spent some time this morning applying for a job at the museum, and I'm not sure how to vocalise the awesomeness of that properly. I'll keep everyone posted.

If I'm lucky, I get to leave work at two today, which would be nice. I'm going to buy groceries and trousers, run down to the library for a book (a specific book, I'm not just randomly in need of books), catch the blue line up to the new Chrome store out in Wicker Park, and have dinner at Lillie's Q, which I'm told is the best barbecue in Chicago.

The best barbecue in Chicago is a hotly debated topic considering nobody in Chicago actually cares about barbecue.

Anyway, all that frees up tomorrow for me to go see if St. John Cantius actually wants to share any of the art it keeps boasting about; given how proud they are of their collection, they sure are cagey on the website about where it is and how one goes about coming to see it.

And then there shall be an orgy of cleaning. My place is actually pretty tidy but badly in need of some Roomba love, and the bathroom still has some strange artifacts left over from the retiling.

I keep thinking maybe I'm having some kind of manic phase, but it's probably just my Vitamin D levels evening out now that I'm taking a jillion units of it a day.
Things I have been asked today:

"Sam, where do I go to recycle batteries?"
("I googled 'chicago battery recycling' and apparently you can turn them in to your nearest Walgreens.")

"Can you send my guests driving directions to the parking garage? I ride the train."
("I ride the train too! But here's the address, and Googlemaps gives very accurate directions.")

Apparently I am the Avatar of Google upon the Earth.


(Before you guys ask, because I know some of you will, you can get a Google Logo of your own right here.)

(Also, fess up, how many of you guys just tried to click in the search box of that image?)
Still not dead!

I'm running around a lot the next few days, which is fine, makes me feel important. :D The internet is intermittent but the food is excellent and the company stimulating. There are a lot of dreadful things to be said about corporate culture, but corporations are still made up mostly of human beings, who are nice on the whole.

I did have to explain to someone sitting at breakfast what a flashdrive was. That was embarrassing for all concerned. The problem with technology is that you can't really ever just explain to someone what an object does, you're compelled to explain how it does it, because if you don't understand the architecture it's difficult to make it function. "But what does the flashing light do?" "Nothing. It just tells you it's plugged in." "That's not the internet?" "Um, no."

Mind you, at home, my wireless router has a green light that flashes when the internet is active, and I can see it from my bed when I'm going to sleep. I do find it somewhat reassuring.

Also I skinned my knee this morning. I am thirty-one years old.
As I have had emails, and as it is well worth the recc:

For the record, I didn't write Pairing: Pendragon/Merlin. I did spend all afternoon laughing my ass off while reading it.

It's technically written for the Merlin kinkmeme but there's no actual kink and as some have said it reads perfectly well as fandom meta -- it's a story about fandom and the funny shit we do and the weird dynamics we create with one another. The author utterly nailed the occasionally slightly fraught dance between a good beta and a receptive writer, and the romance is sweet.

In all: this is sometimes what my life is like, and probably sometimes what your life is like, too. :) It's worth a read.

LOVE FOR MY BETAS, YO. Just...not like that.
This is a post All About Books. Books! Yay!

[ profile] fitfool was kind enough to send me a copy of Cooked, by Jeff Henderson, which I would have finished a lot sooner if I'd remembered to bring it with me to Texas. Henderson is the Bellagio's first African American executive chef in Las Vegas; he came to cooking through a job in a prison kitchen where he was serving time for drug dealing, and Cooked is his story of how.

It's a pretty awesome book -- my usual critique techniques don't really apply, because it's an autobiography, but Henderson tells a very engaging story and it's fascinating to watch his life unfold. He talks about his childhood, his career as a crack cook and dealer, his prison experience, and his struggle to become a recognised chef despite a felony record and multiple encounters with racism in the kitchen. If you're looking for a really interesting read, Cooked delivers. :)

Second, when I won the Author Sales Contest at in November, I started chatting back and forth with a very nice Lulu employee named Josh, who invited me to do a short piece on "Sales Secrets" for the January newsletter. My Sales Secret: BLOGGIN.

(That's just a clip from the newsletter -- if you're on Lulu and would like to receive the newsletter, it's slightly difficult to locate but you can find signup instructions here.)

And finally, here is chapter four of Trace!

You all are exhaustingly thorough in your commentary -- which is not in any way a negative. I'm loving every minute of it and getting some really useful insights. But afterwards I often need a nap. :D
Okay. I've written three versions of this post, now, let me see if I can do this correctly, because I don't have a whole lot of clue how to have this discussion with the internet, but I'm trying.

We need to talk about boundaries. )

Uh, as a postscript, bear in mind that I am exhausted and one tightly strung nerve right now. If any of the above sounds a little insane, it's because I'm a little insane. It'll be better soon, I think.
So, yesterday I acquired many new friends. Hello new friends! Thanks for visiting. I feel I should warn you I don't normally achieve the peak of wit that the Prufrock parody did, but I try to entertain.

Things you should probably know:

- We call this journal "Sam's Cafe", because I can often be peripheral to the actual discussions going on in it. Don't mind me, I'll be here behind the counter inventorying the tea. But if you hear "welcome to the cafe", that's what's going on.

- If you encounter "R", and that may happen because tonight's my weekly "I have to go to a bar to make R happy" night, he is my closest friend in Chicago. R is a blues musician who I lived with for about ten months and who I now live down the street from. If you'd like...forewarning, I guess, you can check the "conversations with r" tag on the journal, that will tell you more than you ever wanted to know. We are not actually dating, no matter what anyone else here tells you.

- The wildebeest thing can't be explained. No, really, I don't remember the origins of the joke. Just roll with it, you'll pick it up in time.

I think that's probably all you need to know, but if you have questions we're a friendly group and I don't bite, so feel free to ask. "Relevance to topic" is something that happens to other blogs.

In other news, I have done my first fanfic masterlist update since I went insane and actually made a masterlist. Hurrah!

Between June 30th and the present, I have written and posted three Doctor Who fics, one Doctor Who/White Collar crossover, four White Collar fics, one White Collar/Sherlock crossover, and three Sherlock fics. There's a symmetry to all this that I find both pleasing and highly unsettling.

Fanfics what I have written since the masterlist went live )
TODAY IS THE SLOWEST DAY EVER and it's going to last until ten o'clock tonight because I'm working our one-night-a-year-sam-has-to-work event. It is giving me time to think, whether or not that's a good thing...

I can't really say I'm on the horns of a dilemma, because it's not a dilemma, but I a...jar of contemplation. Or something.

This morning I got an email soliciting me as an author to pitch a Young Adult novel to a professional publisher (reputable; they linked, I checked). It's not something I was looking into -- I simply came to the attention of the publisher and they asked if I'd consider making a pitch. Which, even if it goes nowhere, is pretty flattering.

There's a lot involved in considering this. I never really read YA lit when I was the age it was aimed at; I went pretty much straight from children's lit to "grownup" books, though I encountered a few on occasion. I've read many more as an adult, but as an adult I'm not reading them for the same reasons I would as a young person -- Harry Potter, for example, was something I read to get a brain-break from my undergrad thesis.

I do want to make a pitch, but it all comes down to whether I can create a story that a) I want to write and b) someone else wants to publish. That's not a self-esteem thing, it's merely a consideration of the fact that writing for the YA age-group is REALLY HARD. Also, making up plots can be troublesome. Most of mine whap me in the back of the head, it's not like I go panning for them in the Secret Book Ideas Mine.

You know what I'd really like to write? I'd like to write some enjoyable trashy scifi that kids will have fun reading. Something with robots. I'm not in it for a Newbery. I'm in it for the robots. :D

I always experience a significant amount of terror right before I travel alone -- it got so bad when I was going to Boston that I almost didn't go -- but I'm accustomed to it now and I just ignore the shakes and get on the train and I always have an awesome time once I'm underway.

Riding the train from Chicago to anywhere in Indiana is apparently a pretty bare-bones proposition. There's no first class (which I usually take, it's worth the extra $10) and no snack car, so I was glad I packed dinner. Well, "dinner"; a bottle of water, a Clif bar, and a Snickers bar.

I'll spare you the tribulations I had getting to my housing, but I will say that the Lafayette Amtrak Station is not designed to facilitate a cohesive traffic stream after dark. I got lost in the station. I did, however, finally get where I was going and I got a pretty good night's sleep, though this morning I couldn't figure out how to work the shower spigot and my shower was cooooooold. Still, woke me up.

On the train yesterday I was reading Jonathan Lethem's "The Ecstasy Of Influence: A Plagiarism", which was an article published in Harper's a few years ago and which someone told me I ought to read. Back then Harper's didn't have an accessible online archive, and if you've ever tried to get a Harper's out of a library archive, as opposed to a Harper's Bazaar, it's...difficult. So I never got to read it.

Anyway, happily, a few weeks ago Kate_Nepveu linked to it in a post about fanfic, and it really is a fascinating read on the subject of the relationship between corporate ownership and cultural commons. There are a few rough patches where I don't think Lethem quite got where he was intending to go, but overall it's a great essay.

It did get me thinking about fanfic in a slightly more abstracted way, and about why this current debate over it really enrages me so much. I don't normally weigh in on wanky matters, so to get me to make a statement about it, it must really have got under my skin. Now I think I know why.

Extribulum and fear. )

So, that's the eventual coherent statement I have: fanfic is inherently valuable as, if nothing else, a document of response to the originating media. To decry the thing is to decry merely the symbol of something you can never control. Stripped to its bones, there's no point in fighting an author about it, because they aren't acting from a place of rationality but one of fear, and fear makes people both incoherent and mean.

See, the thing is, you don't have to fight on behalf of fanfic -- just by thinking independently and having an opinion, you've already won. Which is kind of awesome, really. So the decision you're faced with is not whether to fight about it, but whether to respect an author's foolish, fearful wish and not post it, or publish and be damned.

Given I've already violated the spirit of the wish by having an opinion, I choose damnation every time, myself.

(This is the shit I come up with on trains. Jesus I love trains.)
So remember I mentioned the interviews I did? One of them's up! interviewed me as an Author Blog Awards winner.

I admit, given that it's My Thoughts On Writing, it's not like you guys are the target audience. :D Also of note on this topic, a self-published novelist just won the Andre Norton award. (Thanks [ profile] elucreh!) Congrats [ profile] yuki_onna on an awesome win!

I've been building a package of paperwork for the writing conference -- I LEAVE ON WEDNESDAY OMG -- and I'm getting more and more excited about it. I'm going home early so I'm missing Sunday's presentations, which is a shame, but I get a full day to explore the conference exhibits and two full days of panels and presentations, so I'm okay with it.

Plus, there's THE HOGROAST to consider. I haven't been able to find out any information about it (believe me, I've been looking) but that just contributes to the excitement.

Apropos of none of this, tomorrow is International Museum Day! [ profile] jonaht linked me to an article, and if you scroll to the bottom there's a link to a PDF file that lists all the participating museums, their free or discounted admissions, and the date they'll be participating.

I sat down and looked at my inbox this afternoon and thought to myself, I need an assistant. And then I LOLed because, well, my life, you guys. My life.

I tend not to talk too much about how I work with and around having a large readership; I'm very conscious of its existence, whenever I post, but I don't think I devote much time to how that consciousness affects my activity online. I do sometimes feel like I'm approaching an event horizon behond which lies a time when I really will have to radically alter the way I use this journal, but that's hopefully still quite a ways off if it has to happen at all.

Very few events in life can't be put in perspective by a peanut butter sandwich.

Including the fact that either LJ has crashed or our work server suddenly doesn't like it, because I can't respond to comments or get my journal to load. Livejournal's timing has always sucked, but this feels like some kind of vendetta.

Just for documentation's sake, the official Author Blog Awards announcement not-on-twitter is here. Fun new blogs to read!

I've been pondering and I think it is apt that these awards reward the voters with prizes, rather than the bloggers -- the spirit of digital media, and social networking to support print media, is very much driven by a desire to connect to readers. Reader participation is vital to the whole process. It certainly is for me. And that is, if not the point, at least a happy side effect of widely-available, instantaneous mass communication -- forging a stronger bond with the people you tell your stories to, so that you can learn how to tell them better, and what kind to tell.

To be honest, I dashed off the last post and ran off to lunch expecting to have a lot more to say, but that pretty much covers my bases.

Meanwhile, the security audit at work goes on. Happily, one of our staff had flowers sent to her today and she's not in, so she told me to put them in water and I could keep them on my desk. Roses and crocuses do brighten the spreadsheet mire I'm slogging through.
Uh. So.

This morning: sprained my wrist opening a jar of jam.

This afternoon: won a blog award.

Look, I try to have some perspective on my life, but it's sometimes very difficult.

They announced the Author Blog Awards winners at the London Book Fair this "evening" (evening London time), and I am among the winners.

Apparently there were three categories: Microblog, Published Author Blog, and Unpublished Author Blog, which is nice, because the odds even out a little, I think. Big congratulations to Emily Benet, who won for Published Author Blog, and to Neil Gaiman, who won for Microblog. I am in exalted company, kids, and a little bit freaked out.

I do want to say thank you all for voting, though, and thank you for being a part of my corner of the internet. The reason Nameless exists*, the reason Extribulum exists as a concept, is that I have a population of friends and colleagues and readers willing to play with me. You guys are what make the blog go. Don't think for a minute I ever forget that.

* Oh hay teeny tiny plug for everyone visiting to find out who Sam Starbuck is. Sorry! The PR man in me got the best of my self-control.

Unfortunately I am writing this in the ten minutes before my lunch break so it's rather hasty, but there will be more thoughts on this later.

This also gives me a comfortable hour in which to stop hyperventilating.
So, I came home from work last night and promptly fell asleep, resulting in the fact that I have slept eleven of the past twelve hours. I can't remember the last time I slept eleven hours in such a short amount of time. Anyway, during the Epic Sleep, Gareth David-Lloyd namedropped me at a con in Australia.

Seriously, wait, what?

[ profile] misswinterhill and [ profile] cassie_lee, MY SPIES ON THE INSIDE, let me know that apparently the LOLcat fic made an impression on him, and he mentioned it positively in conjunction with a discussion of fanfic. I am amused and pleased too, of course. Thank you, Mr. David-Lloyd, for the publicity! In return I am happy to report I actually quite enjoyed The Fergal.'d be wrong to go back to sleep now, wouldn't it?
Man, that is the most epic fail I've had in cooking in a long while. I just tried to make potstickers and they...stuck to the pot so bad I had to scrub it with salt to get the remnants off. Gyoza, why do you thwart me?

BARROWMAN! *fistshake*

In other news, a few cafe members were asking if I would do a poll about where everyone lives, and that seemed like a lot of coding but eventually I remembered you can do this kind of thing via Google Map:

Drop a pin!

I don't actually live under the Sheridan El stop. It's just my train station. Drop a pin if you want and see where other Cafe users are too!


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