Me 2012

New Release! Frost and Desire

 Frost and Desire book cover: torso of a long-haired man partially disrobed
 
Frost and Desire
 
 
Frost, master sorcerer, wanted an apprentice: someone who would perform the tedious parts of sorcery, while Frost enjoyed the more sophisticated and varied aspects. Sorcery-bound individuals are vanishingly rare, so when he stumbled upon one who'd been overlooked by testers, he counted himself lucky indeed. No matter if the boy was old to begin an apprenticeship; he would learn.
 
After growing up a bastard and a whipping boy, the promise of a future as a rare powerful sorcerer seemed impossible to Thistle. He braced himself for failure and disappointment.
 
But nothing could prepare him for his growing attraction to his master. And it turns out there is one thing worse than an unrequited infatuation with one's mentor:
 
Having it reciprocated.
 
Author Comments

Woo! Finally done!
 

Frost and Desire
is a standalone M/M fantasy romance in a new setting. I thought of the idea for this story in 2015, wrote most of an outline, and then trunked it as too self-indulgent. Last year, after I finished drafting Angel's Sigil, I decided I was entitled to indulge myself for a little while.
 
The self-indulgent part: one of my favorite variations on the "hurt/comfort" trope is when one character hurts another and then feels awful and guilty about it and spends the rest of the book trying to make up for it. In real life, this does not make for healthy relationships. But this is fiction, and it can be just as much fun to read about relationships that don't work in the real world as it is to read about magic systems and interstellar spaceships that don't work in the real world, either.
 
I enjoyed writing this book, and I enjoy re-reading it even more. It is so finely-crafted to cater to my particular tastes that I will not fault anyone else for finding it unappealing. But if it sounds intriguing to you, I daresay you will love it!
 
Spoliers and Content Notes

This novel depicts a relationship that begins as healthy and platonic but eventually becomes abusive. After the breaking point and a long separation, the characters gradually work their way to their happily-ever-after. This is a fantasy. It is not intended to suggest that real-world abusive relationships should be "worked on" until they become healthy ones, or that teacher-pupil romances are a good idea (they are not even a good idea in the story). Novel contains an incident of mind-control, nonconsensual sex transformation, and rape. Also contains explicit sex and consensual bondage. It is not erotica; sex scenes comprise very little of the book. Similarly, despite some dark scenes, most of the book is upbeat: it wallows in the "comfort" side of hurt/comfort.
 
Thank you for reading!
 
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cute

Not Rabid

 For anyone worried that I might die of rabies because I didn't get the vaccine: I saw the cat who bit me last night. He's still alive (and still feeling kind of bitey, though he did not bite me). Rabies is only contagious after symptoms show, and dogs and cats will die of it within ten days of symptoms showing. It's been over two weeks. I'm safe. n.n

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smile

2018 in Review and 2019 Goals

 Published
January: Golden Coils
June: Demon's Lure
August: Angel's Sigil
 
Edited
Demon's Lure: complete
Angel's Sigil: complete
Frost and Desire: complete
The Princess Her Dragon, and Their Prince: Started initial edits (very little done).
 
Written
Angel's Sigil: 8,000 (draft begun 2017, completed 2018)
Frost and Desire: 120,380
The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince: 134,928
The Twilight Etherium: 74,400 (draft incomplete)
 
That's 337,000 words. This is not quite my all-time high of 347,000 in 2016, but in 2016 I only edited one book and this year I edited three. Also, cancer. I am happy with my word count total.
 
Promotions
Purchased four international-only Bookbub ads, for Silver Scales, Demon's Lure, The Moon Etherium, and The Sun Etherium
 
Other Business-of-Writing items
I commissioned Anthony Avon to do the Demon's Lure and Angel's Sigil covers. I've also commissioned a different artist to do the cover for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince.
 
Art
4 finished
2 Flight Rising adopts
6 sketches
Composited one cover out of my existing art
 
Support Lut
He's still alive!  *\o/*  Actually doing pretty well at the moment, as he recovers from the cold and has not been pushed back down by cancer treatment yet. His oncologist will try tapering down on one of his drugs next month, which may help with his general brain fog.
 
General Adulting
I have done pretty well at this, with one exception -- I broke the front wall of my garage back in, like, October? And never got it fixed.  I made some very desultory attempts at it, and then it was winter and of course I can't hire someone in winter which gave me an excuse not to try.  I should really do something about this, though.
 
Also, the house needs painting and some general exterior repairs. Meh.
 
Points
In 2011, I started an activity log to track all of my creative efforts.  Then in 2012, I made a "unified productivity scoring" system kind of thing, that gave me points for writing/editing/completing fiction, and also for blog posts and for art. It was more than slightly ridiculous. For 2012, I scored 27,000 points.  For 2013 I set what I considered an extremely ambitious goal of 30,000. My actual 2013 score -- the year I began and finished the first draft of A Rational Arrangement -- was 45,780. My 2014 and 2015 levels of creative output were overall much lower. (In fairness to my past self, in 2014 and 2015 I was trying to sort out editing and self-publishing and this was extremely stressful for me at the time.)
 
I stopped using the activity log in the middle of 2014, because it had become much too cumbersome.  But for fun this year, I decided to try to calculate what my 2018 score would've been.
 
108,000.
 
That's not even counting a bunch of stuff that I would have scored points for if I was still using the log -- time spent (or words written) on blog posts and art would've counted as well, for instance.
 
Anyway, that amused me.
 
2018 Goal Recap:
I hit all of my stated goals:
 
* Support Lut through the cancer treatment process
* Continue general adulting as necessary.
* Publish Golden Coils
* Edit and publish the two Demon books.
* Post monthly updates on whatever I did.
 
I also reached my stretch goal:
* finish some other book and/or stories.
 
My ideal was "write and publish a fourth book and have two more books drafted."  I did not accomplish this. I drafted 2.5 books this year instead of the hoped-for three, and I didn't publish a fourth book.
 
I am vaguely dissatisfied about this, and also think that dissatisfaction here is ridiculous and unreasonable.  Yes, I could've spent December working instead of relaxing and maybe finished the draft of The Twilight Etherium. (Probably not; it would've taken another 50k month at a minimum and that still might not have been enough.)  
 
But I averaged over 900 words per day this year -- not just work-week days, every day! -- and I edited three books to completion and I got three books published and I hired contractors and at some point I just need to admit that this is Good Enough.  I'm not ready to be a four-books-a-year author yet.
 
Honestly, three books is quite a lot.
 
Also, they are all good books that I am proud of and enjoy re-reading, which is important too.
 
2019 Goals
* Support Lut through cancer treatment process
* Do something about the broken garage wall
* Publish three books
* Finish drafting three books
* Write a book in the 55,000-85,000 word range and which covers the entire original outline for the book.
* Post monthly updates
 
Technically, I've written one book under 85,000 words already, but this was accomplished by splitting Demon's Lure and Angel's Sigil into two books. I am content with them as two books, but I have gotten some complaints about the break and I am just not a fan of this approach. It's part of why I don't want to split The Twilight Etherium.  The Twilight Etherium splits very well in one sense: there's one major plot arc that wraps up the first half, and the second half of the book has a new plot arc that resolves during it. But I want the Etherium books to all be in the same genre: standalone fantasy romances. If I split TTE in half, then it becomes a two-part romance instead of a standalone. From a marketing perspective, this is confusing.
 
Anyway, I feel as if I am much better at estimating book length than I was four years ago, and that figuring out in advance how long an outline will be and then MAKING IT SHORTER -- or doing a different outline -- is no longer beyond my skillset. Also, I don't want another year where I write 337,000 words but that's somehow only 2.5 books.
 
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studious

Adventures in Book Advertising

2018 was the year that I started to look seriously into buying ads for my books.

Book promotion is notoriously difficult. Most books sell based on word of mouth, or recommendations through various media, rather than by advertising. Because the product is inexpensive and even consumers who want it are generally only going to buy one copy, no publisher can afford to pay a premium for individual views or clicks.

Most advertising channels for books are Very Bad at selling books. There are many venues, most of which have negligible impact on sales. Back in 2017, I tried buying a Bargain Booksy ad for Silver Scales in the week after its release, and it had zero impact: I sold three copies the day before the ad, and three copies the day of the ad. That ad was for the book at its full price ($4.99). Bargain Booksy might be more effective at a lower pricepoint, but based on other authors' experiences, they are unlikely to be profitable. In point of fact, I unsubscribed from all but Bargain Booksy's "LGBT" category for my own reading, because Bargain Booksy accepts unlimited numbers of promotions per day and its daily emails are overwhelming: twenty or more fantasy novels in one email. I am not surprised it doesn't work.

I might try E-reader News Today at some point: they at least had a noticeable impact on sales for one author's ad, although not nearly enough to cover the cost of the ad.

The gold standard of book advertising -- the outlet most likely (though not guaranteed!) to turn a profit -- is Bookbub. Bookbub is a discount email newsletter. Readers sign up for the categories they want to see and pick whether they want to get emails daily, weekly, or not at all. (You can look at the site to see what's discounted in your genres instead.) Bookbub runs a single deal each day in each category, for a book priced between $0.00 and $2.99. Publishers pay for slots, with slots being cheaper the lower the price point they pay.

Because Bookbub is a discount-books outlet, much of the profit in advertising through them relies on follow-on sales. The book you advertise is a loss leader, and other books in the series or your catalog (hopefully) make up the difference.

Since Bookbub is committed to "one slot per genre per day", advertising space in their newsletter is limited. They turn down a lot of books: 80% is their advertised standard. I've applied twenty-three times for slots. All of my submissions have been for:
  • One book (you can also discount a box set)
  • Sale price of $0.99
  • Both US & International (you can pick one or the other or both).
  • Genre: either "fantasy" or "LGBT".
None of my books have been selected for a US Bookbub, but four of them were selected for international-only Bookbubs. In order:
  • July: Silver Scales (fantasy, $188)
  • October: Demon's Lure (fantasy, $188)
  • November: The Moon Etherium (fantasy, $188)
  • December: The Sun Etherium (LGBT, $52)
Conventional wisdom holds that you run discounts only on the first book in a series. Once people buy the first book, if they like it, they'll pay full price for the others. Some publishers make an exception for romance novels, because romance readers understand that a romance "series" can generally be read in any order and that each book is a standalone story. Moreover, since most ad requests are rejected, being able to submit more books than just the first in a series is helpful in getting your books out there.

That was partly my logic in submitting The Sun Etherium for a promotion. The other part is that The Sun Etherium is the queerest of my books: it features two genderfluid protagonists, both of whom most often present as male: one cannot mistake this for a heterosexual pairing. Part of me wanted to submit The Moon Etherium in the LGBT+ category, but The Moon Etherium is an M/F fantasy romance. Yes, the female protagonist is bisexual, and yes, the setting presents gender as a spectrum where individuals determine for themselves where they belong, not a binary that people are born into. But a 40-word blurb for The Moon Etherium is not going to capture why a reader looking for an LGBT book will want to pick this up.

Speaking of which: Bookbub writes its own blurbs for every book featured in one of its emails. These are short and punchy, and based on Bookbub's market research of what sells books.

These are the Bookbub blurbs for my ads:

Silver Scales: To escape the legions of hell, Sir Damon Kildare has to succeed in a seemingly impossible quest. But Zenobia, a dragon-slayer’s daughter, will stop at nothing to find the key to saving his soul…

Demon's Lure: When Sunrise agrees to help a team of hunters catch a demon, she thinks it will be simple. But the demon is nothing like she expects — and neither is the future that awaits her… An enchanting fantasy!

The Moon Etherium: On a quest to secure his father’s freedom from slavery, Prince Mirohirokon enlists Ardent’s assistance. Bound by duty, she agrees to help and soon the duo is swept up in betrayal and intrigue — with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

The Sun Etherium: Fey immortal Jino, ruler of the Sun Etherium, needs to make sure this year’s Founder’s Festival is a success. But will his trysts at a new club, coupled with his deepening desire for ex-prince consort Kireki, risk everything he’s worked for?

You'll note that The Moon Etherium's blurb doesn't even mention the romance -- it's an ad in the "fantasy" genre, so Bookbub is pitching its fantasy/intrigue plot.

Also, I was totally guessing when I said Bookbub's blurbs were 40 words, but looks like that is around their max length!

Anyway:

Most of Bookbub's subscribers are in the US. The other countries where they have a presence are the UK, Australia, India, and Canada. Their international-only ads usually, but not necessarily, include all four of those countries. In my case, I got all four countries for each promo.

Unit sales from each promo are a little squidgy, because some sales are clearly not from Bookbub and probably unrelated to the promo ("this was an international-only Bookbub and these were US sales"). Others can't be Bookbub but are probably Bookbub-influenced ("Demon's Lure is selling twice as well at its regular price, two weeks after the Bookbub, than it was before the promo.") And whether or not follow-on sales are due to the Bookbub is purely guesswork. So I am giving exact unit numbers, but honestly, they are guesstimates.

Translating unit sales into dollars is even squidgier, because these are international sales. The actual price was 0.99 in the local currency (or 65 rupees for India, but I only had a few sales in India so those have a negligible impact.) Amazon then gives 35% of that 0.99 of local currency to me, converted to US dollars, two months later, bundled with all my book sales in that market. Kobo, Apple, and Barnes & Noble give me between 60%, via Draft2Digital. And while D2D's markets are negligible for my non-promotional sales, they are significant during promos and releases. Kobo is especially a big market for an international Bookbub: in Canada, Kobo is a much stronger competitor with Amazon. The upshot is that a single unit sale could net me as little as US $0.22 (Australian dollars, via Amazon) or as much as US $0.63 (UK sale via Draft2Digital). That is based on conversion rates back in December; it will have changed again by now, and will probably be different by the time I am actually paid. It is theoretically possible to parse out exactly how much each sale made and add it all up, but I have not done so.

July
Silver Scales: 210
Golden Coils: 27
This was a modest failure. I lost probably $30-$40 net on this promotion. I am fine with this: it moved a couple hundred books into people's e-readers and bumped my visibility a touch. I am willing to assume I got some long-term vigorish from this.

October
Demon's Lure: 382
Angel's Sigil: 30
This was a definite success. The sales of Angel's Sigil are especially hard to calculate, because Angel's Sigil had only been out a couple of months and was still benefiting from its new-release bump. But percentage-wise, my guess is that the immediate sell-through on Lure was definitely worse than Scales. Nonetheless, very happy with this promotion and would be glad to buy a US Bookbub for this book.

November
The Moon Etherium: 110
The Sun Etherium: 2
This was just abysmal. Few sales and almost no sell-through. Big money loser.

December
The Sun Etherium: 83
The Moon Etherium: 12
In case you are looking at this and thinking "oog, that's even worse than The Moon Etherium": no, actually this is the best ROI of all four promotions. TSE was promoted in the LGBT category. Bookbub has many fewer LGBT readers than fantasy readers, and the ads are correspondingly cheaper. This ad was only $52, as compared to $188 for the other three. Moreover, the sell-through was unexpectedly good. 15% of readers either looked at the blurb for TSE and decided immediately that they wanted the first book too, or they chewed through TSE in under a day and then bought TME. Last: this promotion was on 12/31, so it's likely that a few more sales will still trickle in. So although this was comparatively low-volume, I'm excited about the possibilities.

~

The disparity in the performance of the Etherium novels in the fantasy vs LGBT categories makes it clear that I want to market these books as LGBT+. Which is how I've always wanted to market them, to be fair. On the other hand, marketing The Sun Etherium as LGBT+ and hoping people will then pick up The Moon Etherium is not, in my opinion, ideal. For one thing, just the blurb for The Sun Etherium has spoilers for The Moon Etherium. But The Moon Etherium is, as previously mentioned, difficult to position as an LGBT+ book.

So the logical solution to this problem is to write an EXTREMELY GAY prequel to The Moon Etherium, and then market THAT as the first book in the series. n_n

~

Overall, Bookbub works much better as a marketing outlet if you have several books in a single series. I haven't really seen an impact on sales of my other series based on a Bookbub promo. So because I only have two books in each series, I've lost a little money, net, on the four promotions I've bought so far. If I were promoting the first book in a series with four or more installments, it'd be much more clearly profitable. The good news is, I'm finally working on the third book in a series! The bad news is, it's a third Etherium book, and nothwithstanding the successful promo on The Sun Etherium, the Etherium books are my worst-selling series.

I still haven't landed a US Bookbub, and the US Bookbubs have a much bigger impact on sales than the international ones (and are correspondingly more expensive -- they cost about four times as much.) I am still submitting to Bookbub for one of these. Bookbub won't run an ad for the same book in the same market more often than every six months, so most of my catalog doesn't qualify for another international Bookbub yet. Except A Rational Arrangement; I am amused that I still haven't gotten a promo for it, since it's my most-reviewed and most-sold book.

Those who've been following my blog since I first released A Rational Arrangement may have noticed that none of the promotions reach the heights of my first couple of months of ARA's release. Alas, ARA remains an outlier in my catalog. ARA has received no promotions, and has sold three times as many copies as anything else I've written since. On the other hand, outside of promotions and recent releases, all of my books are selling 10 or fewer copies a month at this stage: it's not as if ARA is continuing to outsell the rest of my catalog now. It just has a big head start from 2015-2016. Arguably, I should be writing more books set in Paradise. I have not been inspired to write more books in Paradise, however. Also, Further Arrangements was not a stand out in terms of sales the way ARA is, and even ARA did not make full-time-writing-income money. Hence, I am continuing to write books based on my own interests rather than being strongly influenced by "what's selling."

My general experience with Bookbub has been positive: it sells books and it's low effort on my part. Yes, I have to submit a bunch of books for every one they accept, but the submission form only takes a couple of minutes to complete. There are other advertising options I should try, especially since Bookbub is so exclusive. But since Bookbub is the industry leader and even it has not been consistently profitable, I am still at the stage where focusing most of my effort on "write more books" feels right. Advertising one book will have a better ROI when I have more books to sell after new readers finish that first one. This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/635487.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

December in Review

Health/Fitness
I went to the coffee shop to write this, which was a huge mistake because my poor little Surface 3 is choking to death on all the stuff I am asking it to do this morning.

One of those things was "extract the data from Google Fit and get it into some kind of meaningful format."

It looks like Google Fit records the data in nanoseconds, because it's a computer and why not, I guess. Assuming this is right -- it produces minutes-per-day that are a little higher than those the app shows, so I'm not confident, but there is no single divisor that will match app to data so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ -- then my average "activity per day" for November was 69 minutes and for December, 65. These figures make zero intuitive sense to me: I felt like I did almost no exercise in December. I stopped biking, and I practically stopped doing anything for the last two weeks because BODY SO BROKEN.

I am not particularly happy with this level of activity, especially since it's 100% walking, with nothing of higher intensity, but meh. I do not seem able to motivate myself to use the exercise bike or dance in my living room, which are my usual methods of winter activity. So this is probably what the next couple of months will look like.

I already whinged about my body failing me repeatedly, so I won't rehash that.

Lut still has a cold, but has been slowly recovering rather than getting worse. One Wednesday, 12/26, he was scheduled for his monthly immunotherapy treatment.

Lut: "I am too sick to get up this early. I can't go to the clinic."
Me: "You still can't call in sick to your doctor's appointment."

So I coaxed him out of bed and into the shower, even, and we got to the clinic only five or ten minutes late, which I totally took as a win. At the oncology clinic, he saw Melody, our usual RN (appointments generally alternate between her and the oncology doctor).

Melody: "You look pretty awful."
Lut: *grunts a little, eyes closed and slumped in his chair.*
Melody: "Do you want to put off treatment until next week?"
Lut: "YES."
Melody: "Okay, we'll reschedule you for next Monday."
Me: "Oh, hey. I guess you can call in sick to your doctor's appointment. WHO KNEW."
Lut: *manages a smile*
Melody: "We really do prefer that you at least show up so we can see how you're doing and if you need emergency care."

I had been worried that Lut would still not feel up to treatment by Monday, because I'd caught the same cold on Friday and while I was mostly healthy five days later, I still had a lingering cough and drippy nose. Even as I write this, 10 days later, I am still not 100%. As feared, Lut was still sick Monday. I got him moving to go to the appointment -- "I want them to SEE YOU so we can have an expert opinion that you are recovering and that you don't need urgent care" -- but when Melody offered to reschedule again, he wanted to do that. So we go back on Friday. My work schedule is in shambles. I'm glad I am officially only 2.5 days a week after this week, because even this week, where I am nominally still supposed to work30 hours, I'm only going to show up for like 14 hours. >_< (I get holiday pay for 6 of that, but the other 10 are gonna have to come out of my depleted stash of PTO.)

Writing
I was on vacation in December! So I only wrote 16,900 words of The Twilight Etherium.

2004 Rowyn: "THAT IS NOT WHAT VACATION LOOKS LIKE."
2018 Rowyn: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I did prod myself to write on my vacation; I honestly hardly ever "feel like writing". But it doesn't take much prodding to convince myself to write a few hundred words, at this stage. "I'm bored, I might as well write so I have something to show for it." Or "I have the day off! I could spend this WHOLE MORNING at the coffee shop and get some writing done! That's fun, right?"

The TTE draft is up to 74,400 words now, and about half-done per the outline. That puts the final manuscript estimate at 151,000 words. I still think the last half of the outline is going to be shorter than the first half, but we'll see.

I also wrote a number of blog posts, for a change. My favorite was the tribute to Excel. It turns out I rarely have much in the way of blogging that I want to do these days, but I do miss having a record of my life so it was nice to get back to that a little. And yeah, I was definitely writing more blog posts because I was writing less fiction.

The Business of Writing
I was on vacation in December!

But one of my goals was to get the remaining bits for Frost and Desire to Alinsa, and I did this. I also commissioned an artist to do the cover for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince.

I also ran a Bookbub ad for The Sun Etherium I may write a post about my experience this year with advertising.

Art/Other
I finished "Gimme One", which was just a general art-practice piece.

Gaming
I am getting bored of Pokemon Go, sadly. This has contributed to my decreased exercise time, although apparently not as much as I thought it had. *stares at Google Fit numbers in confusion.* I expect I will keep playing at least a little every day. There are a handful of dailies that only take a few minutes:

* Catch a pokemon
* Spin a pokestop
* Do a field research quest

I have to leave the house, at least to walk across the street, in order to do the last two. But if I am leaving the house at all, going to one pokestop doesn't take me out of my way. And doing each of these once per day gives most of the rewards, so worth doing. I try to end gifts out as well: at a minimum, to all the gift-eligible people that I haven't reached max friend status with. Preferably to everyone eligible. But both of those require a lot more dedication, so I haven't been doing them as much. I haven't been to the Plaza since the last Community Day; I've been trying not to drive as much for Pokemon Go.

I am about 1/3rd through level 38, and I expect it'll be several months before I hit the level cap. Possibly I will speed up again when there's more daylight and biking after work becomes feasible again.

Goals for coming month
Let's see.
* Care for Lut
* Finish 17 more bullet points on the outline for The Twilight Etherium
* And/or finish 17 bullet points on the editing list for The Princess, Her Dragon and Their Prince, or some combination of these two.
* Release Frost and Desire if the layout is finished this month
* Spend 15 hours reading stuff that I didn't write. Books, graphic novels, blog posts, articles, and short stories all count. Twitter, Discord, and Tootplanet do not.

That last one is an effort to tackle my "why am I not reading anymore?" problem from a different angle. I will try tracking my progress on this and see how it goes. It may turn out to be too annoying to track "time spent". But I feel as if my mind is simultaneously "it only counts as reading if you finish an entire book" and also "reading a book takes too long and is too much commitment." And I need to get back to reading or my writing is really going to stagnate. So many of my books were directly or indirectly inspired by other authors.

The "finish bullet points on the outline" emphasis for TTE is because the draft is half-done and already book-length. I do not want to encourage myself to be long-winded by setting a word count goal.

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studious

Here's to You, Microsoft Excel

Shout-out to Microsoft Office's Excel, the Swiss army knife of computer applications, the Spreadsheet Program That Could.

Like, whatever you want it to do.

It can.

Was this a good idea? MAYBE NOT BUT LET'S DO IT ANYWAY.

On my first exposure to spreadsheet programs, I found them confusing: "I don't understand how this works." One of my friends, Telnar, said "You know how word processors are programs for using text? Spreadsheets are word processors, but for numbers." And I thought, "Oh, that makes sense."

And Excel thought, "Cool, but WHY STOP THERE."

At some point in the 90s, Microsoft decided to watch how users actually used the various programs in the Office suite. "What kind of numbers do our users crunch in Excel?" they asked. "What sort of functions do they need?"

And the users said "Well, we don't really use this for numbers that much."

MS: "Uh. Huh. But you use it?"

Users: "OH YEAH IT'S GREAT FOR LISTS."

MS Excel developers: "That sure is a thing. So. HOW CAN WE MAKE THIS PROGRAM BETTER FOR LISTS."

Users: "Really we want to store a lot of records, like lists of our customer's names and addresses in a format that we can sort and filter and stuff."

MS Excel: "You mean like ... a database?"

Users: "What's a database?"

MS Excel: "That thing you just described. Did you know Access comes bundled with MS Office, just like Excel?"

Users: "No. Also, databases sound scary and we like you, Excel."

MS Excel: "Okay ... uh ... sure, we can pretend to be a database, I guess. I don't know if this is really a good idea ... "

Users: "WE LOVE IT THANK YOU."

MS Access: "... this was supposed to be my job, why doesn't anyone love me."

MS Excel: "WE DON'T KNOW please stop being scary so we can stop doing your job. Also, we're going to add pivot tables to give better reports on the database information that users keep putting in spreadsheets."

Users: "What's a pivot table?

MS Excel: "It gives you statistics on the data in a database. Like the total number of customers who live in Michigan and joined in 2017."

Most Users: "That sounds scary I don't think I can do that."

Jane in the back: "AW YEAH I LOVE IT."

MS Excel: "Okay, well, we already added it, so, uh, you're welcome, Jane."

Jane: *BIG THUMBS UP*

Users: "Howabout you add charts? Like pie charts, maybe, or bar graphs, or line ones perhaps?"

MS Excel: "OH YEAH LET'S JUST DO ALL OF THOSE AND ALSO TWELVE MORE KINDS IN INCREASING ORDER OF OBSCURITY."

Users: "... sure that works."

Some users: "I'd like to be able look stuff up. Like I want a formula that checks to see if Mary Watson is in my address spreadsheet and then tells me what her address is."

MS Access: "You know what is great at this? A DATABASE PROGRAM."

Some users *sidle around Access, look hopefully at Excel*

MS Excel: "We're gonna call this formula "VLOOKUP", or "HLOOKUP" if your data is stored horizontally."

Some users: "You're the best, Excel!"

John: "Oh, hey, I'd love it if I could tell Excel to do the same set of operations on a spreadsheet over and over again. Like I get this spreadsheet from my distributor every month but the columns are in the wrong order and it has a bunch of records on international sales that I don't care about, and other stuff. Anyway I do this same fifteen-step process on every file and it'd be great if I could just press a button and have Excel do all fifteen steps."

MS Access: "HAVE YOU CONSIDERED USING A DATABASE PROGRAM FOR YOUR DATABASE NEEDS."

John: *hides in terror until MS Access is gone, sneaks over to Excel, whispers* "so can you help me?"

MS Excel: "We can add that! Here, press this 'record macro' button and then do your fifteen steps, then press 'stop'. Now you can replay that macro the next time you need to do those same things on a file."

John: "Thanks!"

Most users: "What's a macro?"

MS Excel: "... we just said?"

Most users: "can we pretend it doesn't exist, it's scary?"

MS Excel: "Sure, our program works fine even if you ignore 99% of our features."

Most users: "WHEW."

Pat: "So this macro thing is great but sometimes I want to be able to tell Excel to do things automatically that are more complicated than what I can record. Like I want it to dynamically change the range of cells that it's operating on, or whatever."

MS Excel: "So, huh. You want to be able to program Excel, basically?"

Pat: "Yeah, sounds good."

MS Excel: "Okay, well, we have this programming language that records the macros, so we can just expand it and users can write programs in it."

MS Excel developers: "Are we really putting an entire programming language in our spreadsheet program?"

MS Office: "Actually, we're gonna put it in all our products."

Most Users: "TOTALLY PRETENDING THIS DOESN'T EXIST WHAT IS IT EVEN IF WE WANTED TO BE PROGRAMMERS WE WOULDN'T NEED YOUR APP."

Pat: "AW YISS PERFECT."

Robin: "Hey, Excel, can you make it so I can import stuff directly from my SQL database to a spreadsheet?"

MS Access: "WHY AM I EVEN HERE."

MS Excel: "I DON'T KNOW MAYBE IF YOU TOOK OFF THAT ZOMBIE MAKEUP AND THE VAMPIRE FANGS PEOPLE WOULD LIKE YOU ACCESS"

MS Access: *lifts vampire cloak, hisses*

MS Excel: "So, Robin, you want to do database reports in ... Excel?"

Robin: "YES."

MS Excel: "You're sure you don't want to use a SQL query builder or report writer for this instead?"

Robin: "I ONLY WANT YOU, EXCEL."

MS Excel: "... okay, we basically do anything a user has ever asked us for, so here you go."

Confession: in my 25+ years of using Excel, I have used every one of these features. I am pretty sure this means there is a WHOLE BUNCH MORE STUFF THAT EXCEL CAN DO. Does it julienne fries? PROBABLY.

Is it a good idea to build a form in Excel that uses VBA to hide and reveal parts of the form based on data entered and then send that form's data to a different spreadsheet which stores it like a database? Possibly you should have hired an actual programmer for your programming needs but EXCEL IS NONETHELESS HERE FOR YOU.

Like any Swiss army knife, Excel is not necessarily the BEST tool for any particular job, and sometimes using it for a given job turns out to be a TERRIBLE MISTAKE. But I love you anyway, Excel. You're the best. ❤️

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Me 2012

Gimme One

"Good work, large friend! Gimme one!"

gimme one

I pronounced this drawing done a few days ago. This is the first time I've done a black and white digital picture and then converted the b&w to color. (There is a specific tool that basically changed the color without changing the values. So you select the areas/layers that have the same color -- "these are all brown skin" -- and just change them, and it keeps all the shading.) I am not perfectly happy with the process. I think I am supposed to do some touch-up work to make it look better. This probably requires looking at tutorials or something. I find tutorials on digital art a bit grating because they're all designed around Photopaint and while I have two art programs and they can do most of the things Photopaint can, they do not do them in the same way so spending five minutes watching someone dig through submenus on Photopaint is not as helpful as I'd like.

For this particular picture, however, I'm calling it here. I didn't have a purpose in mind for it anyway. It's just "I saw this pose on a Senshistock (a stock/pose reference account) and went OMIGOSH SO CUTE I WANT TO DRAW THIS."

Now I've spent 15 hours drawing it and I feel like I should come up with personalities for the characters and write a story for them. I mean, I already have a cover, that's the hard part, right?

It kind of is, actually.

I don't think I like this picture enough to make it a book cover though. Even if there is plenty of room at the bottom to lay out the title and author name.

I am a little tempted to go back to one of my early pictures of Miro and Ardent and try coloring it in this fashion, though. Except the layout on my favorite wouldn't make a particularly good book cover. I feel like, while my rendering skills are weak, my framing skills are [File Not Found]. I can't figure out how to frame things in a dynamic, effective way. Art. So hard.

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studious

Weekend Musings

Last weekend was a coffee shop weekend for me.  For the last several months, I've been using my out-of-the-house time mostly on Pokemon Go. Even when I wanted to  go somewhere indoors, it'd be to the mall or the library, where I could spin pokestops.

But I have been in the mood for Panera, so I went there for breakfast on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I also stayed later than I intended to every day except for Sunday. Each time, 4thewords was to blame. On Saturday, I accidentally started a 2000-word battle so, of course, I had to stick around and win it.  I wrote 1200-ish words of The Twilight Etherium that day. On Sunday, I didn't much feel like writing The Twilight Etherium, but I didn't feel like writing anything else either. So I wrote it because I had to write something for my daily quota.

After Panera, I exercised and ran errands. Most of my shopping is online now. I get groceries by ordering them online at Wal-Mart and then just picking them up, which is very nearly as good as having groceries delivered direct to my house, to be honest. But I still have to go into Costco to pick up stuff there. 
I just realized that I forgot to pick up the book I put on hold at the library. D'oh.  Well, I can always put it on hold again. I haven't been doing much reading anyway. Other than my own books.  c_c
Back in September or so, I started a sketch and then lost my stylus. I replaced the stylus within a week or two, but didn't go back to work on the picture. This weekend, I decided I really needed to justify replacing my (really expensive) stylus, so I went back to the picture.  It felt like it was never going to be done at the time, but now it is looking much closer to complete. It's currently in grayscale, using Artrage's pastel and blender brushes. There are techniques for taking a digital grayscale picture and colorizing it, and I might attempt that.  I don't know if Artrage has the right tools to do so or not.  Might be interesting to try.

I am writing this on Monday, almost entirely because I need to write something to keep my 4thewords streak and I don't really feel like writing at all. I am enjoying being on break and not worrying so much about being productive or not. I've actually thought about spending time on other not-really-productive things. I could start another PBEM! I haven't done one of those in a few months. Or I could try to revive the last one that I let die!  Or I could attempt to revive the PollRPG (I still like the illustration that I started of Corydalis and Smoke and never finished. ) I liked the PollRPG characters and setting and I'm sorry I didn't get further on it, but also not sure if people would be able to follow the story enough to vote usefully in polls, if I restarted it.

Oh, hey, I could try going back to the gaming store for board game nights!  Forgot all about that option. It would be much easier now that I have a car.  I don't think I've actually been to the gaming store since the registration on Lut's car expired, which was like four or five years ago now. I did use a rental car a couple of times to go to Fred's place for gaming, I remember, but it's still been a few years.

Anyway, what I really want to do right now is work on this picture, and I've got my streak in, so Imma do that now.

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exercise

The Best Kind of Exercise

I walked to work on Monday. This was the first time in months that I did so. I biked a lot in the summer and fall, and even several times in November. But otherwise, I've been driving. On Monday, it was around 30 F, with a dusting of snow: enough to frost the ground and cars, but not enough to stick to the roads. I could've biked, but decided to give walking a shot instead. I walked a little more than usual, in order to hit a couple of pokestops that are a half-block or a block out of the way each. I soon realized why I haven't been walking to work: after buying the car and especially after getting my new no-physical-keyboard phone, I've been in the habit of bringing my tablet computer to work, so I can write using it during lunch and breaks. Carrying a messenger bag with a tablet computer in it is a lot more annoying than just carrying a lunch bag. If I try walking to work again, I will probably put my tablet and lunch into a backpack or a grocery tote instead of the messenger bag. The messenger bag has a lot of compartments and is heavy even empty. Also, like a big purse, it tends to accrete Stuff because it's big enough to hold Stuff. I do not need to cart all of it to work, though.

That aside, the walk was fine. When I got to work, one of my coworkers let me in and whispered, shocked: "why are you walking? Is something wrong with your car??"
Me: "Oh, I haven't been exercising as much as I used to and figured the walk would be good."
Coworker: "Oh. But it's too cold to walk! Let me know when you're leaving, I'll drive you home."
Me: "No really it's fine, I chose to walk. Thank you for the offer!"

I am still amused by how people react to the idea of going somewhere on foot, even when the distance is pretty short.

Ironically, while I don't walk to work, I've been walking outside for exercise anyway. If I notice that one of the two pokegyms near work has a raid I can solo and it's after 11AM, I take my lunch break and use it to walk over to the gym and do the raid, and hit any other pokestops I have time for. After work, I go to a tiny park near the bank, which has a pokestop and a pokegym and a teensy exercise track.

The walking path is ridiculously small. It's like 1/7th of a mile for the entire loop. I walk around and around it in the evening, spinning the pokestops and getting a little exercise in. I like it better than walking to and from work because of the pokestops, and also because I don't have to worry about traffic, or lugging my tablet computer around.

On Thursday night, I was thinking about the fact that I really don't get nearly as much exercise as I did during the summer, when I was biking to work, and usually half an hour for lunch, plus an hour after work. Now I walk for 30 minutes at lunch and 30 or 40 minutes after work. It's less exercise total, and a less strenuous form of exercise. But I really don't want to use the exercise bike in my basement: I can't spin pokestops there, and Google Fit won't track stationary biking automatically, and the basement is cold and dismal. I also don't want to drive any more than I have to on a work day. I am willing to drive to the park next to the bank for exercise because it's only 2 blocks out of the way from home, and some days THAT seems TOO FAR. I could drive another two miles to walk between four pokestops instead of two, and I don't because DRIVING TWO MILES UGH TOO MUCH.

Jogging would get me more exercise than walking and I could do it in the same place, so the only problem with that is jogging is terrible. Some years back, I got pretty good at jogging, in the sense of "I could jog very slowly for over an hour". But I always disliked it, and while I increased my stamina, I couldn't seem to increase my speed. It was always the slowest jog, like 4mph or even less. I don't technically walk faster than I jog, but it's close.

I tried interval training a few times: the idea is something like "run for 2 minutes, walk for 2 minutes, repeat 10 times". It was the only thing worse than jogging.

But as I was walking the loop, it struck me that my reaction is less "I hate running" than "I hate running for a measurable length of time". Running for 2 minutes is like 90 seconds too long. BUT! The first 30 seconds of running is actually fun. What if I ran until it stopped being fun, instead of until some arbitrary amount of time had passed? So I ran for one side of the tiny loop -- 1/15th of a mile! -- and then slowed to a walk for a while. And then repeated that cycle three more times.

It turns out the speed difference was large enough for Google Fit to measure! It recorded me as doing a "high-intensity activity" for a total of 3 minutes.

This also had the benefit of warming me up and getting blood into my hands so that they were no longer cold, so that was nice.

Saturday, I repeated this pattern again -- "walk a while, run until running starts to feel like work, walk a while until I feel like running again" at the little park near Panera. This time, I added in running from the start, so I did 8 whole minutes of running, and around 45 minutes of walking. I guess the pattern is something like "run 30 seconds, walk 3 minutes".

I don't know if "run until it's not fun" will let me get any better at running. Maybe after a while I will work up to running for a full minute without wanting to stop? On the other hand, it's something I am actually willing to do. And the best kind of exercise is not the kind that is most efficient at building muscle or burning calories or increasing stamina per minute. It is whatever exercise you will actually do.. I stopped at 53 minutes thinking "this is fine, I could do some more but I'm out of time" rather than "oh thank heavens I can FINALLY STOP that was awful".

So I will keep at it for a while. This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/634061.html. Please comment there using OpenID.