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Promises, Promises

Well. I said I’d do it. So it’s done.

The Long Hidden Kickstarter surpassed $30,000, so as promised, I’ve had my hair dyed rainbow. Lucia Starkey (who has a story coming in a future CG Magazine issue) is experienced with hair dyeing and did the job.

It turned out pretty well, actually. Here’s some before, during and after pics to prove it’s really done:


This is how my hair looked before.


Shower cap while the bleach sets.


Kay thinks it’s pretty funny.


Apparently I had a Lucius Malfoy “thing” going…


Starting the dye.


Feels kind of weird. (I’m pretty sure this is the first time I ever dyed my hair.)


The results!


A good look from behind.


It actually looks pretty brilliant in a pony tail!


And there you have it.

Big thanks to Lucia for doing a great job, and to her and Kay for helping with the photos. I’m pretty pleased with the results, and look forward to the looks I’ll get when I go to the library and the bank tomorrow. 😉 I’ve already gotten “Rainbow Dash” and “Rainbrow Brite’s horse” comments…

ETA: Anyone coming to WisCon next month? You’ll get to see the rainbow hair in person! 😉

Of course, there’s one more part to fulfilling my promise. At some point, probably in May, I’m supposed to visit Anthony Cardno and appear in his video while he sings a Britney Spears song. This is a follow-up to A similar promise which Anthony fulfilled when he sang Justin Bieber:

So I’ll be talking with Anthony about dates and such. In the meantime? Please help me convince Anthony to dye his hair too, so we can do a Double Rainbow! ;P

I put my head on the line for Long Hidden

It started as a joke!

When Kay, Daniel, Rose and I were putting together the Long Hidden Kickstarter, I made the image for the project’s stretch goals: extra goals for after the initial goal was reached. And when I put the $50,000 goal (for an audiobook), I added – jokingly! – “Plus, Crossed Genres co-publisher Bart Leib will shave his head!”

A certain subset of our friends and followers – who love to rag on me, apparently – latched onto this and wouldn’t let it go. So I confirmed that yes, if we did somehow improbably reach $50k, I would shave my head.

$50k is out of reach – it was expected really. Only 3 Fiction Publishing projects have ever topped $50,000. So my head was safe – until last night when I opened my big mouth:

I was joking. But of course some people approved. And then Deirdre Murphy suggested an alternative:

So… I’m back on the hook. If Long Hidden does somehow reach reach $30k (as of now, $6039 to go in ~35 hours), I will either get a mohawk, or get my hair dyed in a rainbow. (ETA: It’s been pointed out that a mohawk would be insensitive appropriation, so it’ll be the rainbow hair option only!) The goal is a really good one: adding accompanying artwork to ALL ~30 STORIES in the anthology. In case you’ve never seen me, I have hair that reaches below my shoulder blades when in its normal ponytail (pic available on request, i suppose).

It’s a long shot that we’ll reach $30k. So I feel relatively safe. And if you prove me wrong… well I really do want to see Long Hidden add artwork, so I won’t complain. Much.

And yes, if it happens, there will be pictures of the process. Maybe video.

ETA: Definitely video – and a song! This is what we call escalation! Not long ago, author & friend Anthony Cardno promised that if a friend of his reached a (seemingly impossible) funding of their Kickstarter, Anthony would sing a Justin Bieber song. Well that goal was reached, and Anthony kept his promise:

So of course Crossed Genres had to ask:

After some hemming and hawing – and the observation that a bit of Britney was nothing compared to rainbow hair dye – Anthony gave in… on one condition. If Long Hidden reaches $30k he’ll sing a Britney song, IF I go and appear in the video with him. With my rainbow hair.

But he said I didn’t have to sing, just appear. Which is good. Because no one wants to hear me sing.

Big news on the home front! Literally!

So we’ve been keeping this under our hats for a while now, but we’re far enough along that we think we can mention it now and hopefully not jinx it.

Kay & I are buying a house. We’re moving not particularly far, staying in Massachusetts. While Baz will be switching schools, we’re still plenty close enough to arrange regular play dates for him with his friends – though knowing Baz, he’ll have a clutch of new friends in no time.

Before anyone asks, no, we didn’t suddenly come into a ton of money. =P We’re getting help from my mom for the down payment. And our monthly mortgage payments will be about $5-$15 less than what we’re currently paying in rent.

There are a lot of reasons we’re motivated to do this now, as opposed to in the recent past or the near future:

  • We got an excellent price on the home, and the rates are amazingly low right now.
  • Kay’s new job pays better and is more fulfilling and rewarding than her previous job, and seems secure. *KNOCK WOOD*
  • Our current place is kind of run-down, and it’s been like pulling teeth to get the landlord to address maintenance issues.
  • The new place is in a great location, close to transportation, all kinds of shopping, convenient to the library, etc.
  • There are a few good local schools, one of which has a bus that goes within a few blocks of the house.
  • It’s a terrific house, that both Kay and I immediately knew would be great for us. It’s significantly bigger than our current place, with 2 extra bedrooms and a large grassy backyard.

That last one is, I think, the biggest motivation for us. We’ve wanted more room for a long time, for one specific reason.

Kay and I have talked for years about adopting a second child. We’ve wanted a brother or sister for Baz and, of course, another kid for us to adore. =) But we’ve always known that we’d need at least another bedroom, and preferably more space in general, before we could do that. Now, in our new home, we can finally move on that and hopefully find some boy or girl to welcome into our family.

How far along are we? Well we’ve signed the Purchase & Sale Agreement, so we’re committed. If everything goes well, we hope to have it wrapped up before New Year’s. We’re in frantic “THIS CAN’T REALLY BE HAPPENING?!” unloading-junk-and-panic-packing mode.

So… yes. That’s our big news on the home front. Literally. Please cross your fingers for us that the whole thing actually goes through.

What paying pro rates means to me (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Kickstarter)

I realized after posting this that it probably didn’t make a whole lot of sense out of context. Considering the incredible success of our Crossed Genres Kickstarter, and how close we are to maybe-if-we’re-really-lucky reaching our goal of pro rates for CG Magazine, I figure it deserves a bit of explanation.

Since I started high school, I’ve wanted to be a writer. I entered college planning a Creative Writing major; some years later I went as far as to apply for graduate programs in Creative Writing. Kay and I are both 2-time NaNoWriMo winners, and I have a finished first draft of a novel sitting in a folder (along with several partial first drafts. I’ve even published a couple of stories, and I still write nonfiction (mostly for Wired’s GeekDad now).

Over the past few years, as Crossed Genres has grown and gotten more complex, my writing time has dwindled. Recently I’ve had almost no time at all for writing. I’ve told myself that I’d make time, but it’s difficult, and that’s depressed me.

***

As the Kickstarter’s passed 75% and then 80% and now sits at 85.5%, it’s seemed more and more possible that we might actually somehow make this crazy goal. It’s good in so many obvious ways: It was one of our big dreams back when we first founded CG Magazine; we get to help new authors get that huge, confidence-boosting first pro sale; we’ll draw more authors, publish even better work, gain greater recognition, etc. etc… It’s just good all around. Right?

Well there’s been a tiny fear at the back of my mind that the rise of the pro-rate CG Magazine means the death of my desire to be a writer. If I can’t find time to write now, how could I possibly find time when I’m managing a pro-rate magazine on top of the rest of CG?

***

Earlier this evening I was chatting online with Daniel José Older. We’re about to publish Daniel’s collection Salsa Nocturna in July.

At one point the conversation turned to how busy we both are – Daniel’s working on his MFA in Creative Writing, and I mentioned how it made me kind of jealous: “At this point I’m not sure when I’ll ever have the chance to write again!” I said it tongue-in-cheek, but knew as I said it that it was true.

But surprisingly, it didn’t bother me the way I expected it to. Because the thing that was preventing me from writing – the work I do as publisher and editor for CG – is a great thing.

And that’s when I realized why I was so unbelievably excited about the chance to pay pro rates. It’s because so many other people are excited that we might get the chance too. There are a LOT of people – those who’ve backed the Kickstarter, or helped spread the word, or supported us in other ways – who want us to do it. Every pledge and tweet and show of support is a vote of confidence in me and Kay and what we’re doing.

And that means that Kay and I have made the right decision to pursue this. It means that even if we don’t make the pro-rate goal, we’ve still accomplished and will accomplish incredible things, through shared respect and admiration with the people who support us.

I’ll write again – writers go on hiatus but they never stop. But right now, we’ve taken what started as a wisp of an idea (and no clue what we were doing) to the brink of what some would’ve called a pipe dream.

How can I be unhappy about what I’m not doing, when what I am doing is so special?

De-lurking from my own site

I haven’t posted here in over 5 months. Hey, I’ve been busy! Just ‘cuz I’ve been out of work… *cough*

No really I have been busy. So what’s drawn me out of hiding, you ask, you three who are actually reading this?

Well a couple of months ago Kay was laid off. As mentioned, I’ve been out of work since October. Thus, our finances got pretty messy. Kay got unemployment but of course that’s not even close to what she was earning, and our finances were damn tight even with that. So in the process of trimming the fat from our expenses, we came to the conclusion that there was just no way we could afford to keep paying the expenses for Crossed Genres.

We weren’t about to just ditch CG, though. We’ve been nurturing it for 3 1/2 years and it’s very important to us, and to a lot of other people. So we decided to go all-out, and run a Kickstarter project to fund Crossed Genres through 2013.

We spent quite a while planning it, and getting many of our peeps involved and excited. A lot of them donated items or services that we could offer as rewards for pledging to the Kickstarter. We also made a video, or rather we filmed Baz saying the things for the video while wearing a series of funny hats:

Finally we got the all-clear from Kickstarter, and launched the fundraiser! People started talking and donations began to come in. It was off to a pretty good start.

Then, really on a whim, I sent this tweet to Neil Gaiman, not really expecting anything to come of it:

To my surprise and delight, a few minutes later Mr. Gaiman posted this tweet:

Okay, so he said “two good anthologies” when in fact the KS is funding four books. He retweeted, and not just a basic RT: he took the time to look at it, and liked what he saw enough to write a new tweet for it. That was damn nice of him; he knows that his RTs to his 1.7 million followers can cause massive traffic flow and even crash sites (the occurrence even has its own hashtag, #Neilwebfail) – IOW, can sometimes make the difference between success for a project like ours, or failure.

I can’t say for sure how many pledges came via Gaiman and how many didn’t – and I still maintain that the REAL success was due to Baz’s irresistible cuteness in the video – but the pace of pledges accelerated significantly. I went to pick up Baz from school at 2:30, and he stayed to play in the playground a while; while he did I obsessively checked my phone every 2-5 minutes, and every time I did there was at least one new pledge, sometimes 3 or 4. This went on for a good hour.

By 10:55 am the following morning, I was able to post this absurdly excited tweet:

Yup, 22 hours. We’d been expecting a good month of begging for pledges, and instead we did it in less than a day.

So… now what? Well, after all the cheering and thank-yous and insanity, we announced a stretch goal – that is, a second larger goal once the first one’s been met. If we reached $5500 total, we would resurrect CG Magazine, which we’d retired due to financial/time constraints in December. We never really expected we’d get to do the stretch goal, but considering how the first day had gone, we figured we had a shot at even reaching that goal!

As of writing this, the KS is at $5,128. That’s right – we’re only $372 away from the stretch goal.

And the Kickstarter still has 29 days to go.

There’s a good chance we could reach $5500 by tomorrow. We don’t even know what we’ll do then. We have some ideas but this is so far above our expectations that we have to figure out how to keep it going, how to make it really worth it for all the 129 (so far) wonderful people who’ve pledged. We have some ideas, but we have to work it out fast!

Anyway I just had to post about it here, because we’re so damn hyper and excited about it. It’s really a huge, huge relief. So since i’m here, what else is going on?

  • Baz has started playing t-ball! He’s been to 2 Saturday sessions and has enjoyed it immensely. After the first one he insisted we go out and get him his first glove. I had a strap on my old glove that I’d taken from an earlier glove, and tied to each new glove as I’d gotten it – I took it off and tied it to Baz’s first glove. Got a bit teary, I’m not ashamed to admit.

    Here’s a video of his first-ever at-bat. It is HILARIOUS:

  • The captions on the Baz vid above were because I was reviewing a smartphone accessory – I’m writing for Wired’s GeekDad now. Kay has been writing for GeekMom for over a year, and now I’m the other half. I guess.
  • Baz’s birthday is the 31st; we’re having his party the weekend after, on Saturday the 2nd. It will be EPIC. That is all for now. But there shall be pictures.

I’m sure there’s more – I could talk about the other projects CG is working on, or the ongoing personal financial WTFery, but frankly the Kickstarter is still eating my brain. So maybe another post soon! Wouldn’t that be somethin’!

Anthologies, birthdays, and other frightening things

Today, Crossed Genres released our new anthology, Subversion: Science Fiction & Fantasy tales of challenging the norm. This is a project I put together by myself – I came up with the topic, invited authors, read slush, selected stories, edited those stories, designed and formatted the book, worked with the artist to come up with the cover, designed the cover, and got it to the distributors. Not that I hadn’t done all those things before, but it was always working with Kay and our various wonderful staff. This time, it was all me. (Except for formatting the ebooks, which CG’s ebook assistant Casey Seda handled excellently.)

So you can probably imagine that Subversion means a lot to me. Not only because of all the work I put into it, but also because even when being as objective as possible I think it’s an amazingly good anthology. I invited authors who I already knew were fine writers, but they really stepped up for this one, and sent me some magnificent stories. Brittany Jackson, the cover artist, took the design concept and made it brilliant. I had great material to work with – which certainly made it easier, and also makes me even more proud to have brought it all together.

So why is it frightening? Because I want it to do well so badly. CG is a tiny market, and we’ve never hidden the fact that it’s never been a financial success. This is problematic when we have great work that we want as many people as possible to see.

And it’s especially problematic now, because I no longer have a day job. Now, we can honestly say we NEED Crossed Genres to become more self-sustaining – we no longer have the resources to run it as we have in the past. Subversion is the first book we’ve released since I became unemployed, so it’s the first one that’s had this kind of quiet desperation to it.

We’re already planning more for Subversion‘s future than we usually do. On January 3 I’ll be guest hosting a Subversion reading for The New York Review of Science Fiction in NYC. (Kay will be one of the readers!) And on January 11 I’ll be the guest representing CG in SFF Writer Chat on Twitter (where I’ll also be talking about Fat Girl in a Strange Land). But I am worried. I like not having a day job, and the only way to make that work is to make our finances work. CG is a big part of that.

Saturday is my birthday. Contrary to the post title I don’t actually consider it frightening. I’m not one of those people who obsesses over age or has midlife crises or anything. I’ll be 35, so I could run around going “OMG I’M HALFWAY TO 70!!!!1!!” but honestly it just doesn’t bother me. I have a great family and consider myself very, very lucky.

But, y’know, if you want to make my birthday even happier? Get me an early present: go buy a copy of Subversion, help us boost the sales numbers so I can keep dedicating my time to CG, and I will be very happy indeed!

I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance

Today is the 14th. It’s been exactly one month since I quit my job.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time giving a play-by-play of what my days have been like. Basically, I’ve spent a lot of time doing dishes, cooking, and working on Crossed Genres. I’ve also been hanging with Baz more than in the past, which has mostly been fun – he’s been learning some annoying traits from some of his kindergarten friends, and that’s been a bit challenging, but mostly he’s still the fun happy funny kid he’s always been. Tonight Kay gave him his dinner to take in the other room, and while we were getting our portions ready she told him he could start eating. Baz replied “No, I’m going to wait, because that’s good manners.” And we were all, “Who are you and what did you do with our kid?!” 😉

Mostly the past month has been… well surreal, really. Every morning I make breakfast for all of us, and lunch for Baz, and I see Kay off and take Baz over to school. After that I’m home at 8:15am with the day in front of me, and I don’t have to go out almost at all, except to get groceries sometimes. (I am looking for some sort of work, so that might change.) I’ve been exercising semi-regularly in the mornings, and I’ve flossed almost every weekday for a month, which is about 15 times longer than any previous flossing stretch I’ve ever had.

And I have been accomplishing a lot. I have. I’ve gotten a ton of CG stuff done, and keep working on it. I’m at a point where nothing feels too close, or that I’m running out of time on. And that’s good. It’s even true, so far.

But I can’t shake this feeling that I’m not doing enough. Every night, no matter how much I accomplished during the day, I feel like I should have gotten more done. I worry pretty much constantly that I’m not doing enough to justify this situation. I mean, it’s been a fucking month – shouldn’t our house be spotless and perfectly organized by now? Where’s the growth that CG’s supposed to have? Shouldn’t I already know how to cook a different sumptuous and healthy meal each day of the week, while still staying under our grocery budget? For that matter, why haven’t I already started a part-time job to help us make ends meet?

Every single bit of the above paragraph is absurd. I know this. It’s only been one month, and it’s the first month, which means I’m still in the adjustment period. Last week Baz’s school was closed TWICE, which meant Baz was home two full days out of five, which is enough to screw with any plans and throw off any routine. I AM accomplishing things. There’s been no backsliding to speak of, and even some progress on a few fronts, which considering how little (relative) time has passed, is pretty damn good. Hell, I’ve even been working on my novel writing again for the first time in almost two years – I’m developing an idea I had some time ago and plan to start the actual drafting of it very soon.

My brain and my nerves, of course, think all this reasonable factual stuff is a crock of shit and I should be freaking out about the utter and abysmal failure this stupid experiment has become.

It’s really all just fear. Fear that money will become a real problem before I can find even a shitty job; Fear that we won’t sell enough books to make CGP viable and will have to shut it down; Fear that I should be focusing my attention on other things, but I won’t figure that out until it’s too late; Fear that I don’t actually know the best way to reach our goals and I’m trying to learn, or worse, that there is no definable way; Fear that I’ll just fuck something up and screw up our future.

This entire situation is a big risk, and we knew that going into it. We need CG to do well, to at least become self-sustaining. One major financial crisis for us, and it’s back to a full-time job for me, assuming I can find one. And of course, we’re doing this during a recession, and it’s hard enough for small presses to make ends meet at the best of times.

We knew all that, and we did it anyway. And yes, there were other factors – that is, not just what I was going to but what I was leaving. So now I’ve got to make it work. And I’m working hard to make that happen.

So my brain needs to shut the hell up and let me get on with it.

Post title from American Pie by Don McLean:

Makin’ a mistake is just a chance you gotta take

As many of you probably heard – somewhere – I am now unemployed. It was by choice. I know, what the hell were we thinking? But Kay and I talked about it and decided it would be a good idea. This past Friday was my last day; I had been at that job for 5 years 8 months.

While I will be searching for another job (probably part-time), most of my time will be dedicated to three things:

    1. Crossed Genres
    2. Household stuff (cooking, cleaning, etc.)
    3. Baz!

Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Today was my first day as at-home editor/househusband/stay-at-home dad. Here’s what it looked like:

  • Got up at 6:50am. Made breakfast for Baz, Kay and myself.
  • Saw Kay off to work
  • After breakfast, took Baz & dropped him off for kindergarten. Chatted with other parents, invited one of Baz’s friends to our Halloween shindig (which I’m planning).
  • Went home. Exercised (20 min), cleaned teeth.
  • ETA: made snack for kid of dorky sister who couldn’t get her shit together.
  • Washed dishes (round 1)
  • Made phone calls (set up doctor appts, etc.), did online no-more-job organization (401k research, transfer of benefits, etc.)
  • Worked on online prep for issue 35 of Crossed Genres Magazine.
  • Made/ate lunch. Did dishes (round 2).
  • Returned an item to a store, went shopping for groceries.
  • Washed dishes (round 3)
  • Made dinner (butternut squash soup! Never made it before, & the recipe takes 2 hours. Turned out delicious though! Also had spinach & cheese ravioli.)
  • Ate! (by this point Kay and Baz were home)
  • Washed dishes (round 4 – cooking is messy!)
  • Had Family night – hangin’ with the fam, woo!
  • Read to Baz, brushed teeth, put him to bed.

That was day one. The first week will be a lot like that – lots of organization and setting up life for this new… er, life. I’ll be spending a lot of time over the next few weeks cleaning too, trying to get the house in such great shape that it can be maintained with minimal regular effort.

The exercise and teeth cleaning are things I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. I put them in my schedule first thing because I know me, and I know if I put them off, I’ll keep putting them off and they won’t happen. Want them to become a habit.

I have SOOOOOOO many things i’m working on, and several times today I felt panic rising as I became terrified that I would never have time to get to it all. I haven’t yet convinced my brain that I have more time to do those things in, so I don’t need to freak out and try to cram everything into the same day. It’s hard not to try, though: “Free time?! IT’S SO RARE MUST FILL IT WITH WORK!” It’s not really free time I have of course, but the flexibility of my schedule – i.e. the ability to push something back knowing I’ll be able to find time for it soon – is a strange thing and will require me to think about my schedule and my life in a wholly different way than I ever have before. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s really really weird.

As I mentioned above, I’m going to organize a Halloween thing this year! After last year Kay and I talked and we both expressed frustration that Halloween is our favorite holiday, but every year we just seem to do a slap-dash thing. By comparison we spend inordinate amounts of time on Thanksgiving and Christmas, which we don’t even like as much. So I decided I would do a thing with appropriately-themed foods, decorations, the works. Invite some folks over for a bit of a get-together and to fortify with foods ahead of trick-or-treating. Very excited to get to it all!

Tomorrow will be a much more CGP-oriented day for me. And Baz gets out earlier, so it’ll also be shorter.

That’s right, I didn’t mention that. Because we have less income we can’t afford to have Baz in afterschool all week. My mom is very kindly helping us out to pay for Baz getting to stay in afterschool 2 days a week – he gets to keep doing martial arts and Lego club, which he loves. But the other 3 days of the week I’m picking him up right when school ends. I personally am looking forward to it – more time with Baz, yay! But that means less time for working some days and more on others.

This whole thing is just… strange. It feels weird. But It’s good and I really want it to work! Wish me luck!

(Oh and if you know anyone who needs a website designed, send them my way! I work less expensively than most web designers!)

Post title from “Shake-A-Booty” by Hank Green: