Monday, December 29, 2008

Simba Moves On

I Don't usually share family details, but since I'd blogged about Simba, I thought I should inform those kindly friends who wished him well:

Simba passed on Sunday night. Probably renal failure.

Poor guy; about five years old. When we first met him as a half-grown kitten he was following the red-headed Hat Boys (a group which included their sister and a Makah kid). On the beach. He stopped to get petted, and then scrambled down the log to follow his gang.

Dan said, "We're going to end up with him."

He spent his young life in a here-and-there household situation between a couple houses, tagging after kids who were good to him, including him in trips to the ville and football games. They hauled him around like a doll, and he looked happy. Then he disappeared, and everybody thought he was gone.

We figured later, he'd just moved down the road to do some tom-catting with the woods cats.

A couple years ago, in April, he came to us for help, thin, faded to pink, claws ripped off and hide covered with wounds from constant fighting. We have a policy: if there's a human attached, we don't adopt. But Simba was really alone, and desperate.

We fixed him and fed him, and he found a warm place on the couch and in front of the wood stove. He began to play with our other cats, and claimed Dan's lap for his own. He had a really loud purr. His color came back, turning him into a fine red bull's-eye tabby.

But the tom-cat life is a rough one. Simba developed health problems, and we realized he was going to be a Chronic Cat. Chronics don't thrive. We were preparing ourselves. I won't go into details of the last illness.

The Simbanator was fat and happy while he was with us, and he was Daddy's cat.

And on this Christmas, did he ever get totally baked on catnip.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Silver Lining

Waiting for the Clallam Bay bus (or the bus that would GET me to the Clallam Bay bus) and wandering around downtown Port Angeles looking at decorations and browsing shiny shops, I picked up an irresistibly appetizing odor.

It led me to the Soho Asian Bistro, near the ferry terminal, across from the downtown bus terminal.

I just wanted something light and warming. So the very helpful waitress made some suggestions.

(Clockwise) shows what she brought: paper-skin rolls, a very smooth and nutty peanut sauce sprinkled with large peanut fragments, a rather fragrant tea and a rich, dark hot-and-sour soup.

The soup is homemade. It tastes as though they've roasted the bones, which is the right way to make the stock. I'd like it a bit hotter -- both ways -- but it was well-balanced, and very soothing on a cold winter's day.

I didn't know the paper-skin rolls were made with shrimp, and when I bit into one of the two big juicy prawns wrapped with the fresh lettuce and rice stick noodles, it was a very tasty surprise. The rolls were very filling, and I took one home to Dan.

The waitress -- who I think was one of the owners -- said that they had pho but they didn't have beef tendon. They sometimes ate it themselves in the kitchen, but the local restaurant clientele didn't seem open to it.

I love beef tendon; I told her it tasted like nomlish little dumplings (I didn't say "nomlish"). She said an -- ahem -- "American" friend found the texture "weird." They didn't think they could serve bubble tea, either. She agreed that the taro-root flavor was the best one.

I told them they should have Challenge Nights.

Next time I'm in town, I'm ordering pho and I'm asking them to add beef tendon if they have it.

The Soho Asian Bistro serves Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes. It has a bar, which I didn't try. The prices are moderate, and the servings are large and handsome, like the rooms. It would stand up in Seattle or San Franciso.

We ended up finishing up the roll at the Clallam Bay Inn with Mac and Jack Stout. Perfect.

"At Least The Internet's Not Frozen."

That was a throwaway comment on Twitter.

But it made me realize that it's made it possible for ALL of us to keep contact with each other, talking to each other, sharing the happy and the sad, the little triumphs, the moments of loss.

The costs of the internet and computers are going down, and compared to the costs of mail and travel -- well, there is no comparison.

So, here's today holiday report: Simba wasn't looking quite well on Friday, but it wasn't until Saturday we were finally able to see he had a blocked bladder. So, 50 miles to the only emergency weekend vet around here, in Port Angeles. He's fine, and is sitting at the clinic getting antibiotic drips, under observation.

Mz Blue, our blue 1989 Toyota pickup performed beautifully. Then, after shopping at the dollar store, I pull out on the highway and the clutch -- old and much abused in this bad weather -- just dies. But it was only a 1/4 mile from my favorite mechanic in PA. I managed to struggle her into 1st gear, and we crept along the turn lane and pulled in.

Monday, I'll get on the bus and by 11:00 -- which is when everybody wants me to call -- find out if I can pick up either tabby or truck. Going around Lake Crescent, it's going to be out of range of ANYTHING -- and Tracfone is the one phone that goes everywhere.

I even use my Tracfone to chat long distance, whether business or just to keep contact. I accidently put more on the phone than I thought, while using the internet, and wound up with over 1600 minutes, and a time renewal date of 2016. For less than $225. I know, it sounds like an ad. I'm not linking it, so it won't be so commercial.

Friday, December 26, 2008

It's the BOOKS.

Me and Rob Dougherty on Facebook are having a difference of opinion about selling books. There may be a problem defining terms -- or perhaps the booksellers feel extremely threatened by new marketing methods?

I thought I was being pleasant when expressing how we use the internet, and can't ignore it -- maybe I should have used smiley Emoticons? On the other hand, getting upset is always a great way to start a meme! We may both get good PR out of this -- there is no such thing as bad PR in marketing, after all (well, unless you're leaving a beach full of oil-choked dying ducks, or poisoning whole villages in India).

Anyways, here's the discussion:

Rob: At the Indie Book Sellers cause, it is about who is selling the books.

Me: It's ALWAYS about the books. That's the point of the exercise. The actual connection is Author to Reader. Everybody else is a middleman. We need middlemen, but without authors and readers there are no middlemen. It IS possible to have authors and readers without middlemen -- it's clumsier, and takes more effort, but it's possible -- but not the other way around.

No, wait, I tell a lie -- with the internet, every day it's LESS clumsy and more possible.

I WANT independent bookstores so I'm cooperating with them. But I don't NEED them any more -- more and more authors don't NEED them any more. I just don't want them to go away. I LOVE them. Call me old-fashioned. Call me sentimental -- but an indie bookstore is about the personal touch, and an atmosphere. It's about a tradition.

(The dream of an indie bookstore -- and this has been backed by authors, publishers, ad builders and readers -- is a shop whose owner has eclectic tastes, an open mind, and knows his or her stock -- and you can get a cookie and a cup of tea to read a book with. And there's a cat on the back stacks. I think we've all been --happily --infected by Shakespeare and Company...).

Rob: Donna....I understand what you are referring to; however, the Independent Book Sellers cause is about the book sellers, those that fell passionate enough about the books place them into the hands of potential readers. Your perspective of the absence of the middleman is what disturbs me the most.

Maybe you can find a group that is dedicated to nothing more than online sales. Your perspective is not one that I agree with or support. We as booksellers do not need authors, such as yourself who have little if no respect for the art of hand selling. Your insulting perspective will provoke me to not carry your books in our shop.

I will be sure to share your perspective with the many indie book shop owners and staff who feel as I do. As a member of the American Book Sellers Association and the New Atlantic Independent Book Sellers, I have the capacity to share your rather insulting messge with many and will. I cannot wait to start hearing from them as your ill-informed opinion is perhaps the most twisted and demonstrates a very poor reflection of your respect for book sellers. If cutting the middle man out completely is something that you seek, than I am sure your message will help you accomplish that.

I have deleted your membership to the Indie Book Sellers cause.

Me: I'm sorry if I've made you feel I don't like indie booksellers or don't want to use them. I'm just pointing out that there are many other means of selling books now, and if you don't pay attention to that, you'll lose track of what a lot of the market is doing.

Authors use middlemen and readers buy from them simply because they're a useful tool. There is absolutely no reason a traditional bookseller can't take advantage of the new systems.

Your answer is interesting. I might post it on my blog and Facebook and twitter the links. I think a discussion about the future of bookselling by ALL methods needs to be begun. None of them needs to be mutually exclusive.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rescuing a Townsend's Warbler

Neighbors and I were trudging along the beach – they in high boots, so they could walk the wet edge, myself in low boots, so I was breaking trail – when we found this little girl huddled in the snow.

That's a female Townsend's Warbler (or so we think).

They thought she was pretty cute, being so friendly. I recognized a lowered core temperature and disorientation when I saw it. That poor little thing couldn't see any landmarks and was very probably waiting for the sun to provide her some way of orienting for direction. Her insides were heading for freezing and the tiny computer in her head couldn't get her back to the woods. If she'd lifted off in the wind in her weakened state, she would have probably just been puffed into the cold, slate-colored water of the Clallam bay. Loons, mergansers, grebes, buffleheads and goldeneyes were swimming nearby, feasting on fish, but their living room would have been the warbler's deathtrap.

The Townsend's Warbler isn't usual to this area in the winter, except for a small, local population in the lowlands, where we seldom have harsh weather. It's a bird of the upper stories of conifer woods, and to this little female this expanse of snow-covered beach might as well have been the Sahara desert. I knew it would be terrifying to her for me to approach her at predator speed, so I crept up on her. She must have read my dark legs as “tree,” for she flew up and gripped a fold in my pant-leg.

I reached slowly down, hoping not to spook her, but she flew desperately to the next thing she recognized as a tree – one of my fellow walker's wool hat. The woman laughed and backed away; you have to admit that having a wild animal landing on your head isn't an everyday experience, and most of us would shriek and try to duck away. The bird fluttered back to the snow.

At this point the warbler was so exhausted – and probably confused -- she couldn't prevent me from catching her. I managed to lower my wool-gloved hands to the snow and slowly enclosed her; she helped by crawling into my right hand. Not from recognition that I was kind or safe or perhaps even a living thing – I was larger than a dinosaur to her – but from the attraction of warmth.

I couldn't take any more photos; I had both hands carefully cupped around the motionless bird, and I had a long trudge back up to the roadside bushes. There were logs and ditches in the way, so I had to take it slow, so I wouldn't fall and crush her. I could see her little bright eye peeping out from under my left forefinger, watching where we were headed.

Up on the road, I looked around for a shelter. The best shelter – a short, fat Douglas Fir, little larger than a bush, was already the obvious property of a pair of fat Dark-Eyed Juncos. The frozen fuchsias in another front yard were full of snow and frankly uninviting. They were too low to protect the bird from dogs, including the large yellow lab – Willie – who was happily romping along, obviously hoping I'd throw whatever I had in my hands for her to fetch.

Then I saw the ragged bushes under a neighbor's house: part salal, part wind-wrenched scraggy hemlock, part ivy, forming a small cave in the mass of foliage. The bushes were further sheltered by a small grove of Douglas Fir. They looked as though they had old leaves, rotten buds and probably tasty bugs in them. Ivy has berries. The Townsend Warbler eats insects, but insects eat everything else.

As we all approached the bushes, the warbler had begun to respond to the warmth, and she began to wriggle and chirp. When I gently thrust my hands into the cavity among the branches, the bird hopped out of my hands and onto one of the internal twigs, and bounced out of sight in the foliage.

The neighbor asked me what I was doing, and when I told her, she said, “You're kind.”

I said, “No, the spirits are watching. If I walked by a fellow creature and let it suffer, they'd let the same thing happen to me.”

I've seen karma come around too many times not to help when I'm asked to. It's not kindness. It's self-preservation.

It be snowin' its ASS off

The Yukon gave us a Solstice present – its weather!

This is our front yard, with snow drifted up so high we go out the back door. We're using the snow from the front porch to melt until we can get a look at the pipes. Pretty nice, the wind bringing us our water. We of course filter and boil anything that's going to get near our mouths. We normally flush the toilets with bath water, so we have lots of buckets.

The snow falling now is soft and fluffy. The first storm is what I'm calling igloo snow. Franz Boas said the four Inuit words for snow were kind of like other languages: falling snow, snow on the ground, snowdrift, stuff like that. Igloo snow was the kind you could cut with a mattock to make snow blocks for an igloo; dense, icy crystals that packed together to form a firm substance. The new stuff is snowball snow!

Confusion: as I was typing, at the back of my mind I was wondering how Dan could have fallen asleep so quickly, because I heard a man deeply – and loudly -- snoring on the floor beside the couch. Then Dan walked in and my mind focused. It wasn't Dan on the floor.

We used to have an old native guy in a plaid shirt show up at the first lighting of the wood stove in the autumn. He was there for a second, nodded once and disappeared. We haven't seen him in a while, so maybe he feels at home enough now to sleep in front of the stove.

Dan says, “He's welcome! Enjoy!”

(We've had a lot of experience with ghosts and tape recordings over the years. Lots of cats, some old ladies, some old guys, one crying girl -- and a fucking dead pedophile. I'm about to concentrate on a life's worth of comic's collections -- start the prose novels so many people have been asking for. Lord knows I have the weird life -- and dialog).

This is the stove, melting, heating and boiling water and food. Bread rising, more snow melting, beans simmering. We loves us our Quadrafire, Becky. We have about three years' worth of collected wood sitting in the yard and shed. I knew this economic mess was coming, and we weren't going to be caught short. We have lots of food, cat food, solar lights and wood. And wireless. We be happy Technohicks.

The only car to move came down to slip and slide to the house that – ahem – runs a business. Let's say that somebody needed her medicine; the kind that gives the really bad teeth. What can I say? I'm hooked on caffeine and the occasional hit of tobacco, and I love my booze. My drugs are legal, so I can't point fingers at anybody else. Especially in THIS weather.

Dogs love this. Here's Willy, the neighbor's lab, so happy somebody will walk through the snow with her, plowing through the snow on the Old Lighthouse Bridge to Slip Point. In Willy's case, it's a whole lot of running around and running back to tell you “Isn't this great???” Willy doesn't give a damn. She'll fetch sticks in deep water and heavy waves – riding the surf back to shore – until your arm gives out.

I rescued a bird. Next blog.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It be snowin'

Well, it's kinda snowing. It's not a huge blizzard like the '78 snowbowl in Ohio, but it's making the kids happy.

Bryce Hat, with Colby and Samisue Underwood, braved the first winter weather of the year to walk their spaniel Freckles at the Clallam Bay Park. Colby expressed every kid's and dog's love of snow when he said, “We need more!” Temperatures at freezing brought dry snow and blasts of wind with a storm that originally went around the west end.

I grew up near Mukilteo, Washington, and severe weather was something my mom would wake us up for: "Look! Lightning!!"

Bryce is one of the Hat Boys: a group of red-headed boys that originally included their red-headed sister and a Makah boy and a little girl who wore sweaters 'way too big for her. They would play tag and hide-and-go-seek in the rain, because you either play in the rain out here, or you don't play outside, period. Our cat, Simba, was originally their cat, and used to follow them to the beach and downtown, and get under their feet during the street football. He's unafraid of people, which speaks well for the kids.

The first year up here we had no wood and had to get in a quick load of the green stuff. It's made me a bit nuts about making sure we have plenty. This is a shot of just PART of the suppply:

The sticks are part of small aspens the Utility District let us haul off after Mike had cut 'em down to clear out the power and telephone line paths.

He didn't have to chip them and we got a lot of wood. And the song sparrow who owns our yard gets to shelter in the twigs and eat the bugs and the buds that came out even after the twigs were cut.

It's all good.

Talk about stupid


That's me hitting myself in the forehead. It's just hit me that the bookstores and distributors think THEY're the point of the exercise.

I was literally told by a small bookstore owner that, "We're not looking for authors. Authors are looking for sellers."

They've also told me that if a small bookstore has to go to the extra "bother," (and I'm quoting that word), they won't get a customer a book.

I've realized the independent bookstores are where the comics stores were a few years ago -- closed-in little satrapies who got to control what the reader was able to obtain. Remember those comic stores? Dark, dirty, dank, and snotty owners? Page 45 turned that around. Admittedly a lot of comics stores run on Manga and toys but they'll help you find the books you want.

They really hate Amazon -- but Amazon is programmed to "bother" for every single reader.

So am I. Not that I'm going to write the way you tell me to -- although I will steal good quotes every time -- but I'll try to get you my books in any market.

If I owned a bookstore, I'd never return damaged or even overstocked books -- I'd use them as loss-leader giveaways to hook readers and promote word-of-mouth. Free PR, instead of more shipping and shredding!

Maybe I'm the only person with the right attitude to open a bookstore. Hm.....

"Not An Asshole Books" -- ?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Afterdead 2 -- let it snow.

So let's get off the whole publishing thing for now and talk about the next books.

I was whining to someone (yes,you know who you are) that I couldn't get any work done because I've been doing nothing but plow through publishing.

Which is why I'm about to start page 19 of AFTERDEAD 1.4, which is the last section of AFTERDEAD 2.

Dan says this is like teaching me to parallel park. He said I learned it faster than anybody he'd seen but I was still cussing because I didn't get it right the first time. I tend to beat up on myself more than is warranted (Recovering Catholic).

(Some of my readers mistake me for the sweet, patient, fatherly Peach or Stinz. I am much more like a cross between Udo and Leutnant Winzig.)

I had started the story sorta in the late summer, the trees touched with orange, mostly green. Then, while talking to a colleague on the phone, I remembered what the sky outside out window looked like.

Vancouver Island was frosted with snow. I can see this from my front window across the Strait of Juan de Fuca (NOT pronounced like that). I said, "There's snow on Vancouver Island. Oh, hell, the story should be taking place in the snow."

Which is why I changed page the pages up to 19 -- ah, the unifying wonders of a bright orange marker -- and put in a new page. I'd accidentally miss-numbered the pages, and had an extra I could either ignore or add. So I used it to surprise everybody involved that their little production was going to have to take place in the white stuff.

The prose writers reading this are scratching their heads and going, "Why didn't she just cut and paste?"

You don't cut and paste comic book pages. That would be like cutting and pasting tapestries once you'd gotten halfway down the warp. It would be like repainting the car once you'd gotten past the front doors -- and I'm talking a dragon-and-flame airbrush, not a nice metal-flake blue.

Speaking of prose, I'm seriously champing at the bit to get done with the AFTERDEAD book and start something in prose. I don't care what.

I should give my poor agent something a little easier to flog than the ENTIRE DESERT PEACH COLLECTION. Just as a break.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

IndieBound Links Fixed!

Abracadabra, now all the links at the Little Store work!

I'd used my affiliate ID, but it was new, so it was probably getting into the system. My bad for working faster than computers (and who hasn't locked up a system by doing THAT?).

I just found out that Indiebound is just a marketing campaign with the American Booksellers Association, promoting publishers who pay them.

I told them that Bowker -- the people who make the ISBN numbers -- weren't a publisher or printer. The guy I got the email from said Bowker doesn't dropship. Well, d'uh. They just make the books trackable all over the planet. They're the ones you go to so you can list with the Copyright office.

Anyway, if you're a reader, PLEASE consider using your independent bookstore to help you get my books. I know it's an extra step, but don't we all enjoy the delightful clutter where we can dig and discover? The muffins and fancy bookmarks, the strange stairways and cats on the stacks?

Try the Indie Bookstore links now. If they say the books aren't listed, you know better. A truly good indie bookstore will get it for you.

And if they can't -- well, there's me, and there's Amazon.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Indiebound crawling toward the 21st century


Well, sorta kinda. It's in development, but like the Afghan/Iraq war pullout.

If you look in the Little Store you'll see a bunch of funky links. They're supposed to help you find independent bookstores that carry my books.

Weirdly enough, if they're for books without ISBNs, I've managed to -- well -- hack them so that they work. I've had to create a known non-existent ISBN to make the link work (Everybody who works with me knows I'm the one finds the back doors on sites and does everything that -- to quote Joey Manley at Webcomicsnation -- the site isn't supposed to be able to do).

If the books HAVE ISBNs they don't work. Yet. I could use the fake ISBN, but I don't want to cause a problem to avalanche through the internet or bookstore systems. These things are messy enough.

The fake links take you to the bookstores where they say they don't have the books, but they have an email link for you to ask how to get them. Which is, of course, to send them back to me. So the bookstore can get them. Which they could do directly, but I don't work with the old warehouse systems, and because they haven't figured out how to work with the 21st-century systems, everything's all confused.

Everybody feeling like Alice down through the looking glass yet?

Now before we start pointing fingers at Indiebound, let's see what they're up against.

Part of this is because the books have to be registered with the American Book Association, or Booksense, and they are still hand-entering books. At the ABA they have one guy -- ONE GUY! -- who has to hand-enter any info an author or company emails him. Barnes and Noble still hand-enters. That's practically 1950's!

You'd think they'd figure out how to make secure entry sites so publishers or authors could enter all this complicated stuff and the art for the book covers. Bowker -- the ISBN people -- has had that up and running for years. Nobody's using their model? It's nice and secure, and even the authors get to rise and fall on their own data. It lists all the distributors and direct orders and no retailer has to wander around looking for the books. What gets me is, why isn't Indiebound linking to Bowker as the homesite for ISBN's? Why all the extra steps? For that matter, is linking directly to Bowkerlink automatically whenever one of their publishers uses an ISBN?

Bowker invented the damn numbers -- why is everybody acting like they don't exist? What's going on here?

(I'm beginning to get a sinking feeling I may be the only person who knows all the sides and sites of this situation. I could fix it... I only work for $80.00 an hour. That would be CHEAP.)

And then there's Amazon. Amazon is hilarious --- Booksurge locked into being their only POD company -- but anybody can order from Booksurge at for the same or better rates Amazon gets! Did Amazon ever get screwed. Another rickety company: Baker and Taylor still sends purchase orders ON PAPER -- and claims they didn't get books when UPS can show the tracking and delivery dates!

Anyway, this bookstore link feature is in development at the home site, and. But when it is up and running, it will fulfill what is -- hopefully -- predicted at the Little Store:

"Find an independent bookstore near you. If your bookstore doesn't carry the book, tell them to head to this page -- or contact the author or publisher directly at donnabarr at hotmail dot com. Direct distribution through mulitiple sources. Request autographed copies, or autographed labels. Help support your local bookstore!"

I'll alert all retailers and customers once Indiebound has made my books searchable on their site. We're working on it! It's a big site and it's pretty old-fashioned, publisher-wise, but with a little help we may be able to bring it into the 21st century. Geeky friends encouraged to go help these folks!

In the meantime, head to Lulu and get all the new books, and the Little Store for the old books.

I'VE dicked this. What's wrong with everybody else?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Webcomics Inc

Where the web comics.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Season's Greetings, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Whatever or whenever you're celebrating, may you have lots of friends, family, food and brights lights -- and JUST enough snow for snowballs.

The AFTERDEAD gang posed for the attached card.

Donna Barr