Banner image: A screaming low-res Godzilla.

Boats boats boats! This is the first cruise ship I’ve seen downtown since 2019, but I didn’t see any passengers.

The Norwegian Epic sits at Pier 66 like an enormous white floating hotel.A sailboat rests just offshore with it's sail down.

Admin Days

I like to compress all of my non-writing tasks into two administrative days per month. On the whole, I enjoy my admin days. Writing is more fun than tasking, but writing is sloooow and it’s nice to blast through a list of tasks with your tail feathers on fire. Admin days feel fast, and I enjoy the momentum.

First, the numbers. I tally royalties for the prior month, count up my new newsletter subscribers, and jot down how many new readers I “acquired” with last month’s book promotions. There are interesting patterns hidden in the numbers. According to my newsletter sign ups, most of my readers for my spy series are men. Neat, I think. You never know who your audience is for a series until you sell it for a while.

I wonder: Does this have any implications for how I market that series? I have no idea, but I’ll think about it.

Next, I pick my way through my AMS (Amazon Ads) data, trying to make sense of it all. I go through my ads, pull out the best-performing targets, and make new ads from that data. In a way, it feels like weeding.

After that, I schedule promotions for two months out. I’ll be dropping Involuntary Turnover to free for a week in early September, so that goes on my spreadsheet and I book out slots on various promotional services. The Kat Voyzey series is backlist now, it’s already been heavily advertised, so I need to be careful to balance my spending and my earnings. If AMS is like pulling weeds, I suppose promos are like applying fertilizer? The fertilizer works better on fresh books than old ones, but old ones still give you a bit of salad now and again.

Whew! Now that I’ve given all my marketing plates a good, hard, spin, I can attend to my to-do list.

Today that meant digging up missing receipts for P, reworking the blurb for The Case of the Fond Farewell, and creating the paperback wrap cover for that book. P & I met over lunch to sync up our halves of the business, and we took a long walk, talking about what’s working and what isn’t.

Tomorrow, back to the writing.

Finished reading: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D. 📚

An excellent read. I picked it up to better understand PTSD for a story I’m writing, but I found it personally useful too.

It gets easier.

A countdown timer showing I quit Twitter 1 month, 8 days, 16 hours ago.

Internet Readings: On the Pros & Cons of Email

Some collected writings on the subject of email & public accessibility.

Why I’m Unreachable and Maybe You Should Be Too

Knuth vs Email

Why I am a Bad Coorespondent

Email Explained

In Praise of Email

Vegas for Squares

It’s strange that I enjoy Vegas as much as I do. I don’t gamble, I rarely drink alcohol, and I’m not into nightclubs.

But there’s something entertaining about being in proximity to Vegasian depravity. I’m amused by the entertainers dressed like dominatrixes taking photos with tourists for $5 a pop, mostly because I enjoy asking P, every time, “would you like a photo with her?” only to have him tell me no thanks, he has no use for such a photo, and then I suggest we could use it in the annual holiday cards, to which he will say we don’t send out holiday cards, to which I respond, we could start sending holiday cards if we had a nice photo of you and the lady with the handcuffs. This is how we proceed down the strip, me making juvenile jokes and my husband refusing to take the bait. It’s our well-worn schtick, 21 years and counting.

We’re wrapping up our fifth(?) trip to Vegas and I thought I’d celebrate by buying one of those foot-long daiquiris they sell everywhere. But I chickened out. 95% of people carrying a foot-long daiquiri looked dazed, as if Bugs Bunny had whanged them on the back of the head with a frying pan.

I couldn’t do that to myself.

Perhaps this is the essence of Vegas for squares. You joke about the dominatrix photo and you contemplate buying a margarita the size of your head but in the end it’s like nah… I’ll go to the pool.

Still, the people watching doesn’t disappoint. The grouchy family wearing Prada sweatsuits that glared if anyone dare occupy a table near theirs, and the tall woman with cantaloupe-sized breasts, nude on the lower half, suspended in the air in defiance of physics, and the two upbeat “woo girls” who did shots off each other’s butts at the sedate outdoor pool we frequent, cheering and dancing while the middle-aged marrieds looked on with shock and delight, I thank you all. I honor your humanity, oh wacky Vegas people; you are not merely objects, yet observing you thrills me.

Sometimes I watch the people of Vegas walk by and David Attenborough, the nature documentarian, starts narrating in my head.

Behold, the young Kardashian imitator in her prime. Having artificially enhanced her hindquarters she now moves in pursuit of a mate. Her target: a heavily perfumed male in gold chains and a splendiferous display of chest hair. He is focused on his cigar and the approval of the other males in his pack. Will he respond?

Vegas has updated their motto. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas has become What happens in Vegas only happens in Vegas.

Indeed.

Vegas for Squares: A Suggested Itinerary

Arrive in Vegas and check into your hotel. Choose your hotel based upon three things:

  • A nice outdoor pool
  • Cigarette smoke filtration
  • A comfortable room

Read reviews. The websites lie and you do not want to end up in a hotel full of vomity drunks.

Suggested: The Wynn (watch for sales - room prices can go as low as $100/night + resort fees)

Day 1:

Arrive in the late afternoon. Have a drink (coffee perhaps) and watch the people of Vegas walk by. Enjoy the spectacle but do not judge.

When night falls, walk the strip in comfortable shoes. Shop, if you like. Marvel at the miniturized world monuments. So tacky! Yet compelling! Wander the aisles of It’s Sugar and briefly contemplate buying a five pound gummy bear. Meander into New York New York for a slice of New York pizza. It’s legit.

Sleep soundly. You are in another world.

Day 2:

Leave the strip behind and see any of the following:

  • The Hoover Dam
  • Rail Explorers
  • Pinball Museum
  • Mob Museum
  • Old Vegas (Fremont Street)

Note: A Lyft is usually preferable to parking a car here. For longer distances (like the Hoover Dam) get a day rental.

Day 3:

AM: Go to the pool early and stake out a good spot. Read a thick novel.

Mid Day: Eat at a buffet. The line will be long, the price will be high, and afterward you will swear that you’ll never buffet again. This will be a lie.

Suggested: The Wynn Buffet or The Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan

Evening: If desired, see a Show. If you’re in Vegas near Halloween, go to Fright Dome!

Day 4: (Optional)

AM: Repeat of previous day. (Pool & Book)

MidDay: Nap in your room. All that pool sitting has wearied you.

Evening: Dress up fancy & eat out at a nice restaurant. Take one last walk along the strip. If you haven’t seen the Bellagio fountain show yet, do! When you see a ragged-looking Elmo who looks like he’s been to hell and back, it’s time to go home.

Three full days in Vegas is plenty. You will arrive home relieved and ready for normalcy. Until one year later when your mouth opens of its own accord to blurt:

Hon, want to go to Vegas?

All glory to the hypnotoad?

A 40-50 foot reflective sphere in a resort. The room is filled with eerie green light.

I finished reading Dune Messiah. 📚

📍 Rail Explorers, Boulder City, NV 🚂

So. Much. Fun!

Cheri & P sit on a gocart with pedals that's on a rail road track.The Railroad tracks blur beneath pedaling feet.A beautiful pink and blue sunset behind the hills

📍 Pinball Hall of Fame, Las Vegas, NV

A 30 foot tall sign that says PINBALL in bold red lettersDozens of pinball machines inside the Pinball Hall of FameA Star Trek Voyager arcade game (shoot the borg)

SEA ✈️ LAS

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee…. I’m onna PLANE! I LOVE PLANES!

(not drunk, just excited) ☺️

The Seattle Way

I’m working at a coffeeshop today for the first time since the pandemic closed everything down. It’s a gorgeous day, sunny, bright, and not too hot. The city has been tooting along for a while now, partially open, plenty of places to buy coffee but no place to sit and enjoy it. Sitting here, it seems to me that this is the closest to normal Belltown has felt in a long while. Traffic rushes by steadily, locals are here with their laptops, and our tourists are down at the hacky Pike Place Starbucks instead of crowding the better places. The baristas sound excited to see their regulars. There’s energy here! Coffeeshop energy! It’s like working in the center of a hive, and I love it.

The speakers are playing: Joy to the world! To all the boys and girls! Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea. Joy to you and me.

The windows are open to the tree-lined street. The burr grinder next to the espresso machine is growling like a cranky civet cat. And there’s a guy to my left on a literal conference call, trying to out-shout the music. His lack of manners should annoy me, but it feels downright nostalgic. Pre-pandemic, there was always that one guy in the coffee shop. These days, anything non-pandemicky feels like a return to happiness.

Someone just turned the music up higher! LOL. Bring back that Seattle passive aggression. I’m here for it.

I remember this feeling. This Seattle feeling. We the people of the coffeeshop community want to take turns smiling thinly at conference call man and giving him looks that say, Can you fucking NOT? Unfortunately, conference call man won’t look up from his screen. So instead we will silently and collectively hate him until the end of time. It would never occur to us to say anything out loud, and if he says “Am I bothering you guys?” we’ll quickly shake our heads and insist it’s fine.

But our eyes will say: It is SO not fine.

This is the Seattle way.

Finished reading: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto 📚

The Seattle Central Library is open! 📚Three floors of it, anyway.

The library entrance with green bushes and trees framing the shot.

A tall yellow escalator stretches toward a square of glass roof.

Rows of library stacks with one patron choosing a book. He's wearing a black cloth mask.

A crosswalk sign covered in graffiti stickers. One is of Frasier Crane and he's saying: I'm listening...

25 Days of Quitting Twitter

A journal, presented in its original form.

June 1, 2021

I quit Twitter four days ago. The sun is out, and we drank cappuccinos at a cafe. My latte was unexpectedly beautiful, with swirly floral patterns in the foam. I almost took a photo before I remembered there was no need. Twitter liked my coffee photos but likes are something I no longer collect.

I admired the coffee and drank it.

Across the table, my husband looked nauseated. I asked him what was wrong. Twitter had just shown him a video of a man slitting his own throat.

June 8, 2021

My mind feels clear today. The buzzy, twitchy, anxious feeling I’ve been living with is gone. My fingers keep trying to open Twitter without my conscious consent. I blocked the URLs so I keep seeing the same page: SITE NOT FOUND. SITE NOT FOUND. SITE NOT FOUND. Have I been conditioned like one of Pavlov’s famous dogs?

Woof woof, motherfucker.

Woof woof.

June 10, 2021

I used to believe I could manage Twitter to make it less distressing. But I couldn’t. On my last day – the day I found the strength to leave – I typed three characters into the search bar and a familiar name popped up. An actor I like. With total innocence, I wondered, Oh? Is he returning to Doctor Who?

I clicked.

No, he wasn’t returning to Doctor Who. The actor had been whipping his penis out on set and his name was trending. Yuck! Why did Twitter dangle that information in front of my face? I wasn’t asking for it. I wasn’t looking for it! But they’d weaponized the search bar. When I denied them my disgust, my outrage, my frustration, they found new ways to pull me in.

It’s tempting to dismiss these small moments of yuck. But the yuck is built in. Twitter is akin to a tasty meal where every so often the restaurant owner shoves a spoonful of excrement into your open mouth.

AHA! GOT YOU! Ahem… I mean… You know you can mute certain terms, right? It’s not our fault if you’re distressed.

Fool me a thousand times, shame on me?

I’m done eating Twitter’s shit.

June 13, 2021

What’s different now? More than I expected.

  • I sleep more deeply.
  • I can comfortably watch TV or read a book without looking at my phone.
  • I feel neutral most of the time. This is way better than it sounds.
  • I’ve resumed old hobbies I thought I didn’t have the energy for.
  • My mind is clear. The only thoughts in my head are the ones I consented to!
  • I no longer feel a constant creeping dread about the world. (I am still aware of the world’s problems.)
  • My attention isn’t like light scattered from a disco ball. Now it’s a flashlight. And I control my flashlight!

Still, it’s strange to be so affected by something most people see as no big deal. Did Twitter act as an addictive stimulant in my brain? Probably. There was no warning on the package. No after school special.

Just memes and clever people holding forth.

June 22, 2021

My fingers still occasionally type TW+ENTER when my mind is empty. And I wonder: How long will it take for those neural pathways to change? No matter. My URL blocks will continue to hold, and the unwanted reflex is fading away.

In five days I’ll celebrate my month of quitting with a fancy coffee drink. At no point will I see horrific images. And if a famous person is swinging their dick around like a helicopter blade, mercifully, I will not know.

Lately, I like to watch the little birds zooming around while I drink my coffee. They swoop down looking for breadcrumbs. Later, half-hidden in the leafy trees, they tweet.

I’m intrigued by Robin Sloan’s proposal to Just Link!

About six months ago, I changed the way my email newsletters work. Instead of including the entire body of the (often substantial) dispatch in the email, I now send out a link to a lightweight web presentation.

Liked: The Formula For An Episode Of Murder, She Wrote

I adore Murder She Wrote and don’t find it too formulaic, but this gave me a chuckle.

I went up to Capitol Hill for a haircut and saw a sign that said: It’s a beautiful day in our gayborhood. Indeed it was. Happy Pride Month! 🌈

The Quiet Place Part II was scary and smart. I especially loved how the second movie enhanced the first movie. I haven’t seen a sequel pull that off since Aliens. 🎥

Important information from the Audubon Society: What’s the Difference Between a ‘Borb’ and a ‘Floof’?

But just as every bird is not a birb, every birb is not a borb. 🐦

It’s raining… But is it raining ENOUGH? 🌧

There’s been a lot of hubub in the financial news about inflation. And yup, we did the math; our post-pandemic roadtrip cost nearly twice per day what our pre-pandemic road trip did. Food costs increased the most, but hotels were high too.

Another post-pandemic first: Going to the movies! In the Heights was excellent. I’d planned to see A Quiet Place II but I figured our first movie out should be something cheerful. Besides, P loves musicals.

I enjoy them, but they always feel so loooooooong. 🙃

At the Market