How I’ve decided to consume media and support creators
Last summer, City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty was on sale for something like two bucks for Kindle. I had heard good things about the book, so I picked it up and eventually got around to reading it. Not only did I love it, but it ended on a hell of a last sentence. I was all in for book two in the trilogy, Kingdom of Copper. [Book links go to my online bookstore.]
The covers of these books are as gorgeous as the words inside, so I wanted to get the hardcover when book two came out. I searched for it through Powell’s books, and luckiest of lucky days, they had a used hardcover of the first book too. So I preordered book two and ordered book one. Again. In a different format.Â
A lot of avid readers buy books they love in different formats, especially if they come out in special editions or they’ve shredded their copy from over-love. I don’t usually buy multiple physical editions of books, but I do buy ebooks for cheap or borrow books and ebooks from the local library then, if I love them, buy my own copy. If I love a book this much, I try to buy the prettiest edition I can. I don’t do it constantly, but I’ve got maybe a half-dozen books on my shelves that entered my life as electronic or borrowed copies.
It’s not just books
I also support musicians this way. I have a paid Spotify account that gets heavy, heavy usage. It’s playing ad-free music most of the workday and often in the evening (while I’m reading, of course). But Spotify royalties are laughably small for most artists, like fractions of pennies per listen.
When I hit on an artist I love, I visit their website and click on the merch page. Then I’ll buy the vinyl of whatever album I’m listening to and probably sign up for newsletters so I can buy the next one too. Records usually come with a digital download, and maybe a sticker or some other little gifty for supporting the artist. I’ve ordered special edition vinyl from Neko Case and St. Vincent this way.
Maybe this is a “pay a little, and pay a lot” model, but I appreciate the time and work that go into creating something new, and if a book or a song gets its hooks in me, I’m happy to be reeled in.
I want to hear from you!
Do you have a digital or physical preference for what you read and listen to? Send me a note at [email protected], or take the conversation to the people and find me on Twitter at @kristenhg. Talk soon!
If you visit the Amazon page for Skull and Sidecar, you will notice that it’s available in paperback or ebook. You will also notice that if you try to buy it directly — like, the usual way you buy a book, with the Buy Now or one-click button — there’s a message saying that the book is on back order. That it will take a few weeks before it even ships.
Let’s be very clear: SkullÂ andÂ SidecarÂ is not now, nor has it ever been, on back order.
Skull and Sidecar is a print-on-demand (POD) book. It cannot be on back order; it will often be printed as soon as you place the order and then shipped right to your door. That’s how my other book, Take the Wheel, works too.
But paperback books that were uploaded to Amazon’s system during a short window during the summer of 2018 (when S+S was published) got caught in a weird place. Amazon was phasing out Createspace in favor of KDP for print-on-demand paperbacks. I have never used either of these services from Amazon (I use Ingram), but apparently during its in-house change-over period, other POD ebooks ended up being listed as being on back order.
I called Ingram and learned that other authors have had this issue. They assured me that yes, my titles are indeed print-on-demand and available. They also checked their warehouses and found that there are printed copies in stock in both California and Ohio. They are merely waiting for someone to click that Buy Now button.
Or they’re waiting for someone to buy a paperback copy of S+SÂ from literally anywhere online. My mom, who is responsible for a huge percentage of my paperback sales, refers people to the Barnes & Noble website with great success. You can also find them via Powell’s, Indiebound — really anywhere you can buy books online, you can order my books. You can also order them through your neighborhood bookstore if it doesn’t carry S+S on the shelf.
If you head over to my online book store, Practical Fox, you’ll find a collection called “KHG’s TBR Pile.” (That’s “to-be-read pile,” if you’re new to the bookworm club. Welcome!) If you take into account all of my ebooks, hardcovers, and paperbacks, I have dozens of books on that list. Some of them have languished there for years.Â
So I’m giving myself an incentive to read these books and giving you a benefit for my habit of acquiring books without reading them. If you head to the collection, you can see everything I’ve got on my list. And if you use code KHGTBR when you check out, you get half off every book in the collection.Â
I just added new titles this morning:
FLY GIRLS: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien
THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu
ALICE PAYNE ARRIVES by Kate Heartfield
LADY SINGS THE BLUES by Billie Holiday
I’m about to finish Stephen King’s IT, and I have two long, international flights coming up. I have no idea what I’ll be in the mood to read, so go grab a couple of books before I pick!Â
Setting up a Patreon page for any of you who’d like to support my writing–and get a lot more of it: https://www.patreon.com/Kristenhg
Proofreading a very soothing, enlightening book about mindfulness and horses. A balm in these troubled times.
Continuing to create the first draft of Willa the Night Witch, a middle-grade fantasy novel. I plan on being done with this draft by the end of 2018 so I can put it away for a few months and revise with a fresh brain.
Working on the final stages of design for Beat the Boss, a role playing game for organizing on the job and in the community. It was written by my husband, a role player for 30 years and an organizer for nearly 20. We’re planning a Kickstarter in February 2019 with online and retail sales available in March. Cover reveal coming soon!
Deciding on a new tool to keep track of all the tasks associated with publishing and freelancing. I’m giving Trello a go this week since people seem to love it, and it integrates with Evernote, which is where all my research materials live. This should, in theory, make it super simple for me to create the essays for you all. As my business evolves, I often need to change the tools I’m using to make it all work.
You know what tools have worked for ages, though? Evernote, Freshbooks, and a Bullet Journal. All the others work for a while and then don’t, but these three have been my go-tos for running my freelance business for ages, and they’re flexible enough for my publishing business too.
Getting a massage and getting in my runs for the week.
Meeting with my best friends and fellow publishing, freelance, and business pros. It may look like we eat a lot of hummus and drink a lot of beer (and we do), but we also have created whole new projects and even lives for ourselves while we dunk carrots in squished-up garbanzo beans and garlic.
If you’re in the Portland area this weekend and want something to do on Saturday afternoon, come pick up a paperback copy of my new novel,Â Skull and Sidecar. It’s historical fiction about women anthropologists set in 1926. There’s a man in a black hat, and a Harley-Davidson with a sidecar, and a trip across the state of Oregon. It’s fun.
The party will be at Two Stroke Coffee on Lombard Street in North Portland, and there will be a popup shop for Beefcake Swimwear. We’ll be there from 2 to 5 p.m., hanging out and selling stuff. I’ll probably bring copies ofÂ Take the Wheel, too, so if you want one of those, come on by. And have a cup of coffee.
When I was a kid, probably about eight years old, I got my first hardcover journal. I think it was for my birthday, though it could have come in an Easter basket. We were a gift-giving family, so sometimes after decades have passed, I donâ€™t remember precisely what holiday was the occasion for a gift. But I do remember that the notebook was the same size as the one Iâ€™m writing in right now, one very like the one youâ€™re writing in now because itâ€™s both big enough and portable enough. Itâ€™s also a pretty standard size for journals. And I still have it; itâ€™s in a trunk in my closet. Itâ€™s easy to remember when you can just go look at a thing. It has an illustration on the front of a generic Teddy bear-type wearing overalls. It wasnâ€™t Corduroy, the storybook bear I loved for his love of pockets, but he was close enough. Outside this bearâ€™s rectangular frame is a pattern of little pink flowers. As a kid, I loved it.
I started in immediately, in ink of many colors. I wrote one- and two-paragraph short stories. I would now try to elevate these by calling them flash fiction. I wrote rhyming couplets and odes to every animal that passed through our yard. I wrote haiku about every object my gaze fell across, including two-liter pop bottles. Over the next few days, I wrote like a tiny little motherfucker. I had pages to fill in a hardcover notebook.
Then my mom, a big supporter of my writing habit then and now, and the purchaser of the bear notebook, told me to slow down. I didnâ€™t have to fill it so fast. I could ponder. Savor. Commit only the best, most meaningful thoughts to the bound pages. I think it was the haiku about pop bottles that made her think maybe I wasnâ€™t being judicious in my use of the journal.
Of course, she didnâ€™t say anything like that at all. She probably tossed off some very Mom phrase, like, â€œDonâ€™t use it up all at once.â€ She meant donâ€™t be wasteful. I grade-school brain heard that what I wrote had to countâ€”every word.
And so for most of my life I have balanced two truths: I love notebooks. I never use the notebooks I have. If a project wonâ€™t fill it, neatly and completely and brilliantly, then why sully its pages with shitty attempts and half-formed ideas? A hardbound notebook should be like a handwritten novel, start to finish, precious and correct. No false starts, no half-formed ideas, no haiku about Orange Crush because it happens to be whatâ€™s in front of you when you have a pen and a notebook in your hands while you sit on the floor of the kitchen for some weird kid reason.
I did not realize the depth of my belief in the unified theory of journals until I started a Bullet Journal in October 2016. Desperate for a new way to capture everything from ideas to schedules to notes at trade shows, I did what I had never done before. In the middle of a Moleskine I was using as a half-assed journal, I changed the format. I started bullet journaling instead. I watched creator Ryder Carroll’s video and read the tutorials for how to start a Bullet Journal. I dove in very messily, ready to abandon the system at the first whiff of bullshit.
I have not missed a week in a year and a half. I have blown through, used up, raced through, and filled up two journals, and Iâ€™m seventy-five pages into my third. One I bought new for this purpose. One I bought as a vacation souvenir but then didnâ€™t use because it was too lovely. One had dots. Two had lines. One had a soft cover, and I learned that prefer hard covers that lie flat, though I am not religious about this or any other bullet journal detail. I have filled them. Am filling them. Will fill them.
My Bullet Journals are not pretty. No calendar stamps. Some halfhearted attempts at color and washi tape. No illustrated monthly introduction pages. Lots of to-do lists, goals, and simple calendars. Lots of project idea caches. Lots of quotes and thoughts from books Iâ€™m readingâ€”a commonplace. Lots of notes for books and essays Iâ€™m incubating. Lots of notes for roleplaying games Iâ€™m running.
A draft of this very essay in longhand over several pages, as seen at the top of this post.
My momâ€”my biggest fanâ€”meant nothing by her comment. In that way of grade school minds, I heard mountains more, and that mountain followed me for thirty-five years. Bullet journals turned that fixation on only worthy words in only the most beautiful journals into the ridiculous molehill it should have been all along.
I change layouts constantly. I fill pages. I abandon pages. I never save blank pages for a rainy day. I live in Portland, Oregon, where it rains all the time. I tear right through these journals like a bear in a blueberry patch. (Another favorite childhood book: Blueberries for Sal.) I gobble up pages and let the ink run down my chin.
Pages are not precious. Ideas are too important to worry about their worth before they even get out of my head. I need to see them and turn them over like a hunk of rock. Worth polishing into a jewel? Today? Tomorrow? Worth chomping through the pages, one after another, to make this happen yet? Worth starting a collection to outline the steps to make this idea a reality? Worth putting it in the six-month planner? Worth sketching the idea for the website over a two-page spread?
The bullet journal is the incubatorâ€”inkubatorâ€”for all those messy thoughts and the lists that give them structure.
Using up a journal doesnâ€™t mean Iâ€™m done. It means exactly the opposite: Iâ€™ve got more. Always more. So much more.
I have not been happy with my previous attempt at a logo. It had too many words because I am a word person, so that’s what I added. It was two shades of gray, light and dark, because that seemed trustworthy and professional. It was boring and looked like this:
I am trustworthy and professional, but I am also way more fun than that logo would lead you to believe. I have purple hair, I have a ridiculous dog and three even more ridiculous cats, my favorite roleplaying character of mine is a kender named Astolata!, and I will talk about the importance of Beyonce on every level for as long as you would like. I tried making a new logo that was text-based, and I raised it up the flagpole as a banner on my Twitter profile. I didn’t like it either. I’m not even going to put it up here because it’s not worth resizing to make WordPress happy.
Then this morning, Adobe Spark sent a newsletter out with some logo-making inspiration and templates. Within a half an hour of playing around and clicking things, I had a whole new logo that I would never have had the skill to make all by myself. (Adobe Spark is free and I don’t get anything for typing their name in this post.) Here is this cool thing:
Fewer words! More colors! A pen nib! And it actually picks up on the theme of the business cards I’ve had and loved ever since I started freelancing in 2006, which is ridiculous and fantastic.
If you’re in need of a logo, give Adobe Spark a whirl while you’re binge watchingÂ Lost in SpaceÂ on Netflix.
I originally posted this on Medium January 20, 2018, but the humble advice here works any time you want to make a political difference, especially a feminist one, even if you aren’t totally cool with crowds. You too can #resist, bookish nerds! – KHG
I went to the Womenâ€™s March in 2017, and it was amazing and powerful and meaningful. I expect the 2018 anniversary marches across the country to be much the same in that way, but I wonâ€™t be there.
As a bookish nerd, I also found the thousands upon thousands of people to be anxiety-producing and even sometimes a little scary. I was with a group of very close friends in 2017, and even with that supportive buffer, it was a lot to handle.
So this year, I want to wish everyone marching the best of luck, the best of weather, and the best of outcomes. I am totally behind you every step of the way. But Iâ€™m really far behind you. Like, at my house.
Thereâ€™s still plenty for us bookish nerds to do this weekend, even from home. I started my morning with Resistbot, which lets you send messages to your representative in the House, your senators, and your governor. I chose my DC congresspeople and sent them a thank you note for their strong stance on DACA and CHIP.
My next move is to go to a meeting of my Hood to Coast race team. I know a couple of people on the team, but not many. Itâ€™s a more manageable size for me than a march of thousands. Itâ€™s my first time running this 200-mile relay, and Iâ€™m glad to be part of a team of women and men whoâ€™ll train together and support each other. And share a couple of stinky vans during the race.
I also did some research this morning to find contact info for organizations Iâ€™d like to volunteer with. Iâ€™m a writer and editor, so Iâ€™d like to use those skills to help others who struggle with writing or reading. Iâ€™ve got the emails in my pocket to send off Monday morning, when people are more likely to be in their offices.
A Few Suggestions for Crowd-Free Resistance
Thatâ€™s my plan for Womenâ€™s March Weekend, but there are lots of other things bookish nerds can do if crowds give them the howling fantods. Here are a few ideas:
Start a small politically minded reading group. You can read books together or discuss long-form journalism from sources like the New Yorker or the Atlantic. No hot takes, no tweets. Bonus points for encouraging and seeking out diversity in the groupâ€™s members and the authors you choose to read.
Start an all-woman (and those who identify as such) role playing group. Play an adventure that allows for lots of cooperative baddassery.
Use technology for good. Resistbot and Flippable are pretty great, but there are lots that have established themselves in the past year to effect real change, especially in the 2018 elections.
Speaking of which, register to vote or make sure your registration is up to date, and then vote! Iâ€™m Gen X; there are something like 300 people in my generation. Millennials, thoughâ€Šâ€”â€Šthere are a ton of you guys! Please save us with your votes.
If youâ€™re thinking of volunteering but donâ€™t want to attend meetings all the time, I get it. Me neither. What skills could you offer? Do you know how to wrangle a database into useful shape? Can you proofread flyers and newsletters? Can you design postcards? Lots of organizations, especially the new ones that have popped up in the wake of the 2016 election, could use your help. Bonus points for offering these skills to small, local organizations that likely have fewer funds for staff.
Visibility and numbers are important, so if you can march, do! But if the thought makes your stomach turn, get your Spotify feminist playlist of choice fired up this weekend and make change happen from home. Letâ€™s do it, bookish nerds.
or, a study in forced metaphors andÂ The Great British Baking Show
For a little less than a year and a half, I contracted with TechCrunch to write nearly a dozen posts a month on automotive technology. As of July 31, 2017, that contract came to an end. This is how things work in the freelance writing world. No hard feelings.
There did seem to be a misunderstanding, though, on the part of PR firms and startup companies who often thought that I worked for TechCrunch as a regular employee. That’s not true. I’ve always written for other publications at the same time as I wrote for TechCrunch, including US News and World Report, Popular Science, How Stuff Works, and B2B work that most people never saw. I also edit books, mostly nonfiction, and I’m starting my own publishing and production company. TechCrunch was a fun piece of the pie, but it was never the whole pie. I didn’t even live in the same city as the TechCrunch pie; the office is in the Bay Area, and I’m in Oregon.
Now I have time to bake a new pie.
I’m still an expert on automotive technology, from electric cars to autonomous vehicles to smart cities. I’ll be pitching interesting ideas to editors (and accepting assignments, if you’ve got one in need of a journalist on the automotive tech beat), but I’ll also still be doing all the other things I do. Today, for example, I’m doing some research for a ghostwriting project, I finished the last round of revisions on my first novel, I’m writing a blog post for my site Carsplaining, and I’ll be prepping for a talk on the past, present, and future of electric vehicles that I’m giving on Monday.
My work is still a pretty big pie with a lot of layers. Because I’m binge watchingÂ The Great British Baking ShowÂ on Netflix, I’m obsessed with layered foods. I’m also obsessed with trying new things and experimenting with freelance flavors, which is why I work the way I do. I’ve been at it since 2006, and I cannot imagine doing anything else.
If you’re a freelancer who’s still perfecting your pie’s lovely layers, click Contact and ask me questions. I’ll do my best to help out.
On International Women’s Day 2017, I participated in A Day Without Women. It was supposed to be a general strike, but it supposed a lot of privilege on the part of the strikers. There were millions of women who couldn’t take a day off. I’m a freelance writer and editor, so I worked extra hours early in the week so I could strike that day.
But there weren’t any good events in my city, which was weird, because I live in Portland, Oregon. This is our jam. But I only foundÂ one sad afternoon-long speaking event that sounded like a snooze-fest. I decided to devote my striking day to seeking out women in automotive occupations, especially engineers, and boosting them. I tweeted about some women, I offered to volunteer with a university that holds seminars for women students in automotive engineering, and I reached out to a woman who runs an excellent automotive website for membership in our local professional organization.
And then it was lunchtime.
That was not a full day of striking. I continued searching and Googling and ran out of women to boost. It is a small cohort.
I got bored enough to take steps to move my own long-simmering plans ahead. I registered Practical Fox as a business in the state of Oregon. PF is essentially a vanity publisher. I have a nonfiction paper, a revamp of a previously published book, a historical fiction trilogy, a fantasy book for middle-grade readers, and more that I want to publish over the next couple of years. I also want to own the means of my own production, which seems an appropriate goal to realize during a general strike. I put the work and the money into these projects, and I get the rewards (however great or small they may be) in the end.
So from boredom was born a publishing schedule that, in addition to my paying freelance work, will keep me very busy through October and mildly busy thereafter. Boredom will not be an issue for a long while.