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Bark Like A Fish, Damnit!


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ursulav

Why, 2K!

That's right, as of...well, sometime last week, probably, I haven't been checking that closely...we cracked 2000 copies of Nine Goblins sold! How cool izzat?

Thank you, everybody who ordered a copy! You're awesome, and I hope you enjoyed it!

The following bits are probably only of interest to self publishers, but I wanna contribute what smidgeon I can to an often opaque set of numbers, so read on if you like that sort of thing!

In terms of numeric breakdowns, after expenses (mostly editing services and coffee) we're looking at around $5.5K. For self-pub, that's not the extreme end of the bell curve, but definitely a very respectable success. If you figure it took about 100 hours to write, that's a very good wage (although if you figure that it took since 2006 to write, the numbers look...um...less good. And it's not like you can just sit down and put in a 100 hour work week and have another book. Well, I can't, anyhow. You know, trying to work this out like this is probably a fruitless exercise...)

Anyhow, as far as I can tell--and I am extrapolating from VERY little data here, so I could be very wrong, anyone with more experience, feel free to chip it!--the initial sales burst comes in the first month or two, then it begins to taper off. I'd guess there's a spike in sales when you put out a new book (or at least, so I am told!) but as the next Goblins book may take another couple years at this rate, we'll find out if it applies to other releases by the same author.

Around 90% of sales were via Amazon Kindle. Smashwords is definitely worth it, though, as there's a lot of readers who, for whatever reasons, will not use Amazon and it sucks to leave them in the lurch. I've heard from friends that direct sales from their website do very well, and that's something to consider, although I dread the tech support aspect there. Suspect that may be the wave of the future, though, as Amazon eventually will start to squeeze.

The nice thing about slow taper, though, is that while it's not paying my rent as it did for the first two months, it's still solidly buying groceries, and even as we slither downward, I can probably expect it to keep me in hard cider money for awhile.

That is due entirely to the readers, let me hasten to add--I'm not promoting it beyond posts like this one and links on the website, and it's the plethora of good reviews and (gasp! the legendary!) word-of-mouth that's moving copies. I am super grateful for that--I even had a fan tell me the other day that they bought a copy and loved it and didn't know it was by me. Which, I mean, pen-name and all, but that means the book has a life of its own beyond just yours truly, and that bodes very well for it.

So all in all, my first self-pub adventure has been a rousing success, despite all the weeping and bloodshed that it took to bring it into the world. (Come to think of it, there's a few more typos found...need to get that deal with in my copious spare time...) Thank you, everybody!

And yes! Promotion! I can do this! If you want to buy a copy:

Smashwords

Amazon

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ursulav

Birder Directions: A Play In One Act

So there we are, at a hawk watch station, asking for directions to the nearest Aplomado Falcon.

And we got them, but they were Birder Directions, which are a special kind of instructions similar to country directions, only worse and more so. "Go down to the end of the road, turn left at the scary-looking goat, look for a house with a green roof, and there's a tree in the yard there, and if you wait five minutes, an Oak Titmouse will pop up." There are directions like this in books.

These were delivered unto us by two elderly gentlemen, one of whom was as sharp as a tack and one of which was a trifle fuzzy, but could tell a hawk from a handsaw when it migrated overhead.

Needless to say, the fuzzy one was the one primarily giving directions, while Tina took notes.

(As I cannot remember the names of the two elderly gentlemen involved, I shall call them Bob and Frank.)

BOB: So you come out of here and you get on the big road...ah...511. 510? Maybe it's 510. Does it have a number?

FRANK: 511, I think, if it's the place I'm thinking about.

BOB: Right, right. So you take 511 and you go past the battle.

URSULA: ...the battle?

BOB: Ah, you know, the old battle. There's a marker. Maybe it's a national park. Can't think of the name of the battle. They've got a marker, though.

FRANK: Palo Alto.

BOB: Right, right. Don't know why I couldn't think of that. Anyway, it's on the left. I think. There'll be a marker or a park or something. Anyway, go past that.

TINA: Past it. Got it.

BOB: I don't know how far past...couple of miles, I guess. You should pass Port Isabella Road. Not Port Isabella, though, the road. The old one. There's a new one, but not this one. Actually, you could just take that road if you wanted...Do that. It's easier. Well, anyway, so you pass the battle, right? Couple miles, I think. Do you know, Frank?

FRANK: Not that far.

BOB: Right, right. Okay, so then you come up on a road. Named after that fellow. Emerson Road. Is it Emerson Road? Doctor Emerson, that's it.

FRANK: Thought it was Hugh Emerson.

BOB: Definitely Doctor Emerson.

FRANK: If you say so.

BOB: So you go past that, there's a stoplight.

FRANK: Two stoplights.

BOB: Four stoplights.

FRANK: I don't know if it's that many.

BOB: Anyway, then you'll see a bridge to nowhere.

FRANK: Heh.

BOB: It's an overpass. You'd go under it, right? Except you don't. Don't go under it. There's a frontage road, right? You know how they love their frontage roads here in Texas. Go on for miles. Every on ramp is like a mile long. They love 'em.

URSULA: We've noticed.

BOB: But not this one. It's short. Up to the bridge. Which doesn't go anywhere.

TINA: Does it just...end...?

BOB: Sorta. Anyway, you take the frontage road and then you turn left and go over the bridge that doesn't go anywhere--

URSULA: *has horrifying visions of the rental car hurtling off a cliff with Tina yelling "DO YOU SEE A FALCON!?" as we plummet to our deaths*

BOB: --and it'll turn into a gravel road, right? And then you go--lord, Frank, how far is it? A mile?

FRANK: Not even.

BOB: Maybe a mile.

FRANK: Not a mile.

BOB: Well, anyway, there's a railroad track. The old railroad track, they don't use it any more. Maybe a mile down.

FRANK: *gazes upward*

BOB: And you go over the railroad track up to the bend in road--is it a mile to the bend, Frank?

FRANK: It is not even close to a mile.

BOB: And at the bend in the road, you stop and look left.

FRANK: There's a nest box on a pole.

BOB: And a bunch of palm trees.

FRANK: Yuccas.

BOB: Yuccas. Right. Don't know why I said palm trees. Anyway, there'll be a falcon in the yuccas.

FRANK: They eat the yucca blossoms, and don't ask me why a falcon eats yucca blossoms, but they do. It's very strange. You'll need a scope.

TINA: *stares at directions in mild dismay*

URSULA: *begins laughing with quiet hysteria*

So we did. We didn't mean to, but we got lost trying to avoid a toll road and suddenly there was Dr. Hugh Emerson Road, and we passed it and the world's shortest on-ramp (we had to actually reverse on the highway to get to it, it went by so fast) and the overpass did indeed go to a gravel road almost immediately, and nothing like a mile past the railroad tracks we stopped the car and looked to our left.

Sitting in solitary splendor among the yuccas was an Aplomado Falcon.

So, y'know. Birding.

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ursulav

Home at Last...

So Texas was wild and crazy and I stepped in a chigger nest, and boy, that's a thing, isn't it? My feet and ankles look like I have chicken pox.

But it was worth it! We saw marvelous and strange birds. Lots of them. 35 lifers* for me, out of over 150 species seen, between the hill country and the Rio Grande.

Of particular note--the Tropical Parula is beautiful, the endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler is stunning, the Common Pauraque is...um...a freakish mutant bark bird, and the Ringed Kingfisher is noble and magnificent. Green Jays are wonderful, Great Kiskadees are awesome. Wires full of Green Parakeets preparing to roost (in the trees around a Walgreen's, corner of 10th and Dove in McAllen, Tx) are bizarre and delightful.

But the dawn chorus of the Plain Chachalaca is really unbelievable--a half-dozen chicken sized dinosaur-birds, at the top of a tree, screaming a very unmusical "Cha-ka-cha-ka-cha!" A few of the birds do a kind of descant over the top--"Eee-ow-ee-ee-ee!" We stood in the parking lot watching several trees full, which would go in sequence--Tree One would scream for about fifteen seconds, then stop, Tree Two would scream, then stop, Tree Three would scream, then stop, and Tree One would start up again. It was a sort of round, done by an utterly tone-deaf choir.

Obviously I fell deeply and immediately in love with them.

Since they prefer dry scrub and I cannot immediately import an entire flock to North Carolina, I returned home with a somewhat heavy heart, and also I was exhausted because I've been getting up at variations of 4:30 for a week. But I came back to the best season, when the trees are full of new leaves and there is a blinding green haze of leaves and the dogwoods are blooming and the moss phlox is covered in flowers, which always surprises me, and the groundcover roses I'd planted around the birdfeeder to discourage cats have come back from the dead with a vengeance. And I am terribly, terribly glad to be home.

Could do without the chigger bites, though.


*In birding terms, that's a bird you've seen for the first time, and now enter into your lifelist, the record of all the species you've ever seen. My life list stands at around 450, with 427 of them what are known as ABA species--those appearing in the US and Canada, as recognized by the American Birding Association. If you keep such a list, you are what's known as a lister (and not all birders are) and you can aspire to see over 700 ABA species, although to get there, you have to chase after a lot of rare birds blown in from Asia and Europe. (Not counting rarities, there are probably 650 species that actually live in North America or immediately off shore.)

A lifelist at or over 700 ABA birds is very difficult and requires a great deal of dedication and travel. My buddy Tina is over 600, and the joke is that that puts her halfway to 700. At 427, I am in a respectable neighborhood, but not a terribly elite one.

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ursulav

Pokemon Gardening

I was supposed to be working, but there was a thing going to draw yourself as a pokemon trainer, and...well...

I'm weak.

uvchampsona
Poke-verse Ursula is a gardener who grows Grass-type pokemon in an effort to attract provide rare Bird and Insect types with a safe haven during migration. (That these occasionally chew holes in the Oddishes is, after all, the reason she grew them in the first place. Fortunately Oddishes respond well to pruning and many sport punk haircuts as a result.)

She writes a regular gardening column "Beyond Butterfree: Habitat Gardening For Less-Charismatic Pokemon."

She is prone to collaring strangers at parties to inform them that Tall Grass has declined in the last century to unsustainable levels. "Do you realize that less than 5% of Tall Grass remains untouched in this country?" she cries, brandishing her mojito. "If something isn't done to stop habitat loss, wild Pokemon may become something only seen in zoos!"

(She will also tell you things about the mating habits of Gyrados that you were probably happier not knowing. It's best just to nod and back away slowly. Depending on the number of mojitos involved, there may be hand gestures.)

When not documenting the migratory habits of Mothim, she occasionally goes off to watch Bird-types, accompanied by her faithful Quagsire, Quag-Bob.

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Fifty Species Goal: #15-23

And to think I was worried about getting fifty species in a year! Now I'm starting to think I underestimated the case! I may have a shot at 300 total this year! (I currently am in the mid-200s somewhere--thought I was over 300 already, but going back and tallying the spreadsheet shows I am lower than I thought.)

A sentiment I've heard occasionally--generally cheerfully uttered!--is that the extraordinary diversity in my garden is a result of either extreme good fortune, obsessive targeted gardening, or great location in the unspoiled woods. Or because it's huge.

Well...not exactly.

There was a study done in England a decade or so ago that looked at biodiversity of insect species in gardens, and what they found is that a bigger garden does have more species than a smaller garden, but not by as much as you'd think. If my garden is twice as big as yours, I will probably not have twice as many species, unless other factors are in play. Even quite a small patch of garden, and a water feature literally the size of a plastic window box, will bring in a vast array of species. (An older garden does have more species, interestingly, probably because trees and shrubs are a huge draw.)

As for location--well, species found on the edges of woodlands are different from those found in cities and suburbs, but not that much more numerous--and not, it should be said, noticeably more rare.  Being totally crazy on the native plant front, and having a lot of trees around helps, but the tree thing happens in a lot of cities too. (Hell, I got more bird species in the city than I ever do here, simply because I was an oasis there--the Central Park Effect writ very small.)

The only species that are probably going to be more numerous for me than someone in a suburb are the various amphibians and reptiles, which are plentiful locally and have a harder times in cities. But that's a very small percentage of my species list.

The primary reason I'm sitting here cruising towards 300 resident species is because I'm the sort of obsessive individual who looks. That's all. I am willing to go out at 10 at night and photograph the moths buzzing around the porch light (and then I go back in and turn the porch light off, so that they don't get too fried.) All I've got that's specialized is a pretty good cell-phone camera and a willingness to join ID sites like BugGuide.net and BAMONA.

(And a willingness to look like an idiot chasing bugs around. That last is pretty important. And yes, I still scream and duck when the moths fly for my face. I'm not actually that fond of bugs, I just think it's important to know what they are.)

So if you're wondering if your postage stamp sized yard is enough to make any kind of difference and feeling discouraged--believe me, it can and you will. You may have to be cleverer about it than I am--I have the luxury of space--but that's honestly not hard. I am enthusiastic, but often not bright.

Okay! Enough pep talk! To the critters!

#15 -- Pseudacris crucifer Spring Peeper

A frog! Woo! This is actually a pretty common species, and we've probably had them for ages, but this is the first year they've been calling separate from the chorus frogs and I've felt confident in the call ID, so I'm counting it here.

#16 -- Nemoria saturiba Red-Splotched Emerald

redsplotchedem

Originally thought this was a Red-Bordered Emerald, but the red spots on the body are apparently the tell. This makes him a lot more obscure. (And by obscure I mean "There are two sightings on the BAMONA website, and I'm one of them.) He feeds on sweetgum leaves.

#17 -- Acleris nigrolinea Black Lined Leafroller

Another obscure one, and also a pretty uninteresting little insect, I must say.

#18 -- Melanolophia canadaria   Canadian melanolophia

These are swarming my porchlight in vast numbers at the moment. They're a weirdly tall moth--they stand up away from the wall instead of lying flat.

#19 -- Iridopsis humaria   Small Purplish Gray

One gets the impression that they ran out of clever names at this point.

#20 -- Egira alternans   Alternate Woodling

I was saying on Twitter that this one sounds like a folk-electronica band.

#21 -- Copivaleria grotei   Grote's Sallow

This one looks a lot like a bird dropping. It feeds on ash leaves.

# 22 -- Eupithecia matheri

There is no common name for this species and not many sighting reports. The Eupithecia clan all look alike, and trying to tell them apart is tricky. A good many of my sightings get rejected as "Eupithecia, but can't tell which one from photo."

#23 -- Achatia distincta    Distinct Quaker

distinctquaker

So it turns out that there are a kajillion different Quaker moths. Highlights include "Ruby" "Rustic" "Subdued" "Cynical" and "Intractable." I love those last couple so very, very much.

Next week I am off to Texas and the 50 species goal will be on hold--but hey, at least this is getting me taking photos, even if I fell off the wagon on the Photo A Week thing!


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ursulav

Spring? Spring?

It was eighty degrees earlier. The air is like velvet. The Virginia bluebells that I forgot I had planted have come up and the oakleaf hydrangeas are unfurling their leaves. Even the Aruncus is up, and the pawpaw is covered in dozens of tight flowerbuds.

God help me, I think it may be spring.

I've planted beans and nasturtiums. I am going off to Texas next week to birdwatch en masse with friends, and when I come back, it will be time to plant tomatoes and basil and--lord willing--things will be more than little green clumps, and the garden will look more like a garden and less like a desert of dead oak leaves.

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ursulav

AAAAAGUUUUGGHGHHH*pantpant*GGHHHHH!

It is the day I face the Tax Guy.

I have prepared. I have pre-paid. I have unwadded all the receipts and tallied them up and breathed into a paper bag.

And still, in my heart of hearts, a tiny voice screams "THEY WILL TAX YOU AT A 150% RATE!"

I know this is irrational. It does not quell the tiny voice.

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ursulav

Fifty Species Goal: #10 - 14

A very exciting few days here! (Well, for me. I don't know about the rest of you. Those of you who aren't excited about bugs, probably not.)

More moths!

#10 -- Melanolophia signataria Signate Melanolophia

#11 -- Zale lunata Lunate Zale

lunatezale

This is a rather large, very handsome moth, a member (if the internet is correct) of the Owlet Moth Tribe. I love that there is an Owlet Moth Tribe and wish to write stories about them.

#12 -- Protoboarmia porcelaria Porcelain Gray

#13 -- Acleris maculidorsana Stained-back Leafroller

And #14 isn't a moth at all, but the awesome little native plant Chimaphila maculata, or "Spotted Wintergreen." My photos don't look like much, but it's a dark, waxy green leaf with a thick white midrib and red stems. I found it on a dry embankment by the driveway, where it passes through pine trees. Unfortunately for my ambitions, it transplants very poorly--it's a symbiote with soil fungus, and if the fungus isn't present or is disrupted too badly, it won't take. It's as common as it gets in the Piedmont in the Carolinas, but rare and occasionally endangered everywhere else. I am enormously honored to have some in the yard.

Meanwhile, in the garden things are coming up, usually several feet from where I thought they were planted, and the goldfinches have turned that mangy yellow color that they get before they manage to molt all the way to gold.


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ursulav

Fifty Species Goal: #4-9

Wow! An awesome run of species ID, here in the House ‘o Squash.

I’ll spare you the photos of all of them, since they’re six moth species, ID’d by the nice people at BAMONA.org. ( If you’re bug sensitive, sit this one out–these are moths, not too scary, more like bits of fuzzy origami, but still.)

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ursulav

The Vision of Crazy-Wool

There has been a crazy awesome turn-out on the Patreon thing. You guys blow my mind. It pays for KUEC AND my antacids AND my coffee. I don't know how to thank you.

So, err...have a story! For those of you who've played CrypticStitching, here's a small prequel for your amusement. (And if you haven't played it, Crazy-Wool is the stuffed Sheep shaman of Wool-Tribe, Quippet is his apprentice, and the (probably) Chosen of the Spirits...well, that's the point of the game, after all.)

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