Barrett Manor

Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Today is What?

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

"Meh. I'm too old to care. Just let me sleep, will ya? Oh, and let me know when Slave One comes home. And when it's time for Treats. Otherwise, go away."

Yes, Midnight is doing well for a cat her age. 

Cats Pictures

Filed under: Cats   Pictures         
11/13/2015 10:40:37 AM
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About Last Night

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Congratulations to all the 2015 Hugo Award winners!

I wasn't going to stay up and watch, but I couldn't tear myself away. And no, that's not a train wreck analogy. Instead, I was genuinely curious to see who won, and how many rockets Noah Ward might take home. I'm glad I stuck around to hear Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis. And the Best Novel award being presented from the ISS? Priceless.

It's difficult to critique the ceremony without reference to the cloud hanging over the awards this year, but I think I can do it without getting political. Yep, I have my opinions, but this is about the ceremony. Having produced a ceremony one year, I know first hand all about the technical issues that go on behind the scenes, stuff rehearsed multiple times that misfires, you name it. 

This is the stuff of a live performance. It's easy to sit in the back and critique what went wrong or why they did this instead of that, but considering what was hanging over them this year, they came through with flying colors. The people running the ceremony - and this includes the emcees - have no idea who the winners are going to be. Considering the very real possibility of several No Award votes, they had some serious logistics to figure out. There were five categories in which no award was presented. Think about that for a minute. Yes, the still have to read the nominee list out, but no acceptance speeches, no sustained bursts of applause as someone makes their way out of the audience to the stage, and so on. Would people have felt cheated if the ceremony had been shorter? No doubt some would have. 

I'm glad I'm Sunday morning quarterbacking this thing instead of giving a knee-jerk reaction. Did stuff go wrong? Yep. (We had our share of missteps, too, and some were downright embarrassing. No finger-pointing from this quarter.) But again, that's the nature of live performances, particularly things like award ceremonies that have so many unscripted moments. But the knee-jerk part of me was also reacting to things outside of their control. That's because it's (one more time) a live show and it's easy to sit back and point fingers.

But this one had many purely fannish moments such as the opening bit and the Dalek helping to present the Best Dramatic Presentation awards. David Gerrold and Tananarive Due did a great job of keeping the ceremony light-hearted. 

So y'all done good. Get some rest.

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8/23/2015 2:08:07 PM
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...And I'd Like to Thank My Ballet Teacher...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

This post is two years in the making. Two years ago I was running the Hugo Ceremony at LoneStarCon 3. And I promised to post at least one cool picture I was handed afterward. So here, at last:


That is Astronaut Cady Coleman, who participated in the Hugo Awards Ceremony. She also signed a ginormous picture of her with the Expedition 27 crew. It's very "Right Stuff," as you can see here. I'd like to share it at some point, but I'll need to shot it or scan it or something.

The other thing you see there is my LSC 3 badge. I've folded it over (tons of ribbons!) so you can see the a couple. See that red and white one? At Closing Ceremonies chair Randall Shepherd recognized a group of volunteers as "Stars of Texas." My name was mentioned first, but I'm sure they must have been in alphabetical order. I don't remember. Maybe it was from "least" to "most" work put in. Yeah, that was it. ;-)

At the time Randy said that there would be something more later on. Well, you know how these things go. And I totally forgot about it. 

Apparently there are physical awards! I'm told they were designed by Vincent Villafranca (who designed the Hugo Base) and were handed out last night during the Chesley Awards. 

I really wanted to to go Spokane this year, but it just wasn't in the budget. But dang, if I'd known that was going to happen I might have tried to see if I could get there, if only for a few days.

Oh, well.

Yes, it was nice to be recognized. I'd like to mention a few people who also made the Hugos a success. I know I'm forgetting names, and I've kinda slept since then. So instead of trying to remember names, here's the credits page from the Hugo program booklet:


Sorry for the quality. I just put it on the table instead of scanning it. (Had the scanner working with Windows 10 last week and now it's not working. Grr.)

Also want to thank Laura Domitz, one of the original co-chairs of LSC 3,who recruited me for the job and Randall Shephard, LSC 3 chair.

And as always, Paul. He had to put up with Chris and I during that time. (Chris was not only stage crew, but he put the slide show together!)

Anyway, I'm told I'll get the actual award at FenCon, and I'll share a picture out when that happens.

Filed under: Conventions   LoneStarCon 3         
8/21/2015 10:59:06 AM
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Recovering From The Spam Attack

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Man, I hate Mondays. 

Spent half the night up sick, and still under the weather today. And the three hours during which I did (sorta) get some sleep were filled with responsibility dreams. I'm so fracking tired of those. 

But I did sit down and figure out exactly what was going on with the comments on the blog. They shouldn't have been working at all, which mystifies me as to how the spam attack got through. 

Well, the new reCaptcha seems to be working okay. I'll probably implement that on the contact page as well.

But first I have other things to do this morning. 

Comment away. Let's test this guy.

Filed under: Housekeeping            
7/27/2015 10:10:15 AM
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Spam Attack!

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Wow, I got slammed with comment spam today. Most of it was, er, of an adult nature. I think I've managed to catch and delete all of them.

This is goinna take some wrangling. For now comments don't work.

Filed under: Technology            
7/26/2015 7:02:57 PM
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My Bot Jeeves

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

(For those times when I need to call for an Orange Alert.)

A couple of weeks ago I hit my limit on phone solicitors. The phone rang 10 times. I put three of the numbers on the block list with Verizon, which I discovered the next day wasn't working. 

I finally signed up for Nomorobo, and it's been quiet - blissfully so. I have to pick up the phone once in a while to make sure it's still working.

So how does this miracle of modern technology work, you ask, and how many limbs did I have to sacrifice for peace and quiet? Nomorobo is a winner of the FTC Robocall Challenge, and it's free. Yep, free. The biggest catch is that it requires digital phone service (like FiOS or U-Verse) that supports simultaneous ring. Register with the service, type their number in your simultaneous ring list, and sit back and watch them take care of those pesky phone solicitors. (This may be a huge incentive for some people to finally ditch the copper lines and go digital if it's available to them.)

Nomorobo answers on the first ring and checks the number on the Caller ID against their database. If it's on their list, the call gets blocked. If the phone keeps ringing, then it may be worth answering.

So yes, it's like having Jeeves answer the phone and ascertain as to whether or not I am home to the caller.

Is it perfect? No. But I can report numbers that get through. They also let through numbers associated with legal robocalls. 

My goodness, it's lovely to be able to work again without constant interruption from "Rachel" and her ilk. I'm actually starting to get things done again.

Tags: Technology

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7/21/2015 4:57:03 PM
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SoonerCon Report

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

(Looky what I bought in the Art Show.)

Yeah, I'm late on this. We had some computer issues and I wanted to wait until we had a link to the radio show ready to post. So now I have no excuse to procrastinate.

SoonerCon was a blast, as usual. I can't say enough good things about the concom. They put on a good event.

Friday's Photography for Art Sales panel was awesome, and I picked up some good techniques from my fellow panelists. 

Saturday was a blur. I had a moment of panic when I discovered I was moderating a panel that included Peter Pixie as one of the panelists. I love Peter Pixie. He's a very cool guy, but he's the emcee. He's good at what he does, and I've been on panels he's moderated. Could I live up to his standards? Well, I got through it, and he had some nice words. But it was a cool panel. I had fun.

The radio show turned out well. We got lots of laughs, which is sort of the point of the thing. 

Sunday morning's hat demo went well. My partner in millinery crime, Bev Hale, was unable to attend. But I muddled through and got some good feedback from the audience. Also we had a surprise "guest" of a vintage top hat with damage to show, and discuss how it might be made wearable. 

The only disappointment was that I didn't do as well in the art show as I hoped. Had some new hats and fascinators, and hoped they'd go over well. Some similar fascinators had gone over well at the previous convention. Oh, well. You never know. It's just one of those things, and it's as much of a marketing thing for Steam Cat as anything else. And if I look at it from that standpoint, it was a success. 

Speaking of the art show, I did pick up something. I was going to go crazy in the dealer room until I saw the desk set from Peri Charlifu, and I just had to have it. Plus, it provided an excuse to clean off the desk in the bedroom. 

So, the radio show. You want a link, don't you? Here ya go

Tags: Life

Filed under: Life   Conventions   SoonerCon   Radio Shows   
7/7/2015 9:45:23 AM
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On The Hugo Kerfuffle

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Hugonaut, by Vincent Villafranca

That is the closest I'll probably ever get to having my own Hugo Award. Above is Vincent Villafranca's Hugonaut, a lovely little bronze that is based on a piece of the Hugo base he created for LoneStarCon 3 in 2013. I purchased that at a convention art show. If it seems I'm whining that I'll probably never have one of these on my mantle, it's not out of any conspiracy theory. Frankly, I'm not getting any younger, and the odds of producing something spectacular enough to even get nominated diminishes every year. I'm not whining, as much as I'm whipping myself. I'm not producing as much as I'd like, and well, that's on me, isn't it? (I also ran the ceremony at LSC3, which has nothing to do with voting, so I hope that gets the disclaimer out of the way.) (Also, this is my own opinion. I'm part of the conrunning community, but I own what I say here, and I fully expect I'll tick off part of that community. Whether or not you agree with me, just read through to the end before you hit that "comment" button.)

Every year when the award shortlist is announced, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Yes, some deserving people don't make the cut. Some people decided to do something about it and put together their own slate and publicize the hell out of it. While I have nothing against that in principle, what does bother me is that the slate (well, two this year) came wrapped in a blanket of us-vs.-them politics. Liberal or conservative, politics ain't the way to honor deserving writers and artists. 

How do you fix this? Well, I don't know if there's an easy answer, but I'm of the opinion that this ship will right itself eventually. Let's start with a little background, for those of you unaware of how all this works.

The Hugo Awards are fan-run. Visit the link for a history of the awards and a list of nominees and winners from past years. In order to nominate, you have to have at least a supporting membership in the current, previous, or past World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon). Only members of the current Worldcon can vote. A supporting membership costs around $40. It's not a terribly high bar, but it's not something one might do casually. IMO, the fee is designed partly to help fight gaming the process, but it also benefits the convention. Those things ain't cheap to run. 

If you'll look at the list of nominations over the years, you'll see that names shifted from "old school" writers and artists to newer, younger people. Well, part of that is attrition. Asimov and Heinlein aren't exactly putting out books these days. Part of that is a shift to a younger readership, and, perhaps, part of it is that the younger authors and artists are more savvy at social media.

A big complaint I've seen by the people that put together the slates is that nominations are dominated by big publishers. I see a lot of finger pointing in the direction of Tor, but if you look at nominations, they aren't the dominant publisher. I think the finger pointing is more personal at an editor or two at Tor than the publisher.


The big publishers have traditionally had the money and the distribution engines to get their works in front of the public better than small presses. So the average reader is more likely to have read a book from one of the Big 5 imprints than from a small press. 

This is changing. But you must consider that it took several years for self-publishing and electronic distribution of books to gain a foothold. I strongly suspect the awards are going to be running behind that curve, but they'll eventually catch up. 

And gaming the nominations for political purposes isn't going to help. It's only going to serve to drive away fans who have discovered in the last few years that they can vote for these awards.

This is sad, because politics are tearing apart the community.

Forget the SMOFs. (Well, for a moment, at least.) They're a smallish community and their influence on nominations is really a drop in the proverbial bucket. Yes, they set the rules, but like many organizations, WSFS is volunteer-run and it seems a small group of core volunteers ends up making the rules. The process for making and changing rules is convoluted. In part it's to help keep a small faction from taking over the organization. (You're not paying attention to fannish history if you don't think that's ever happened to any fan group in the past.) However, most all-volunteer organizations are run by a core group of people who are passionate about the cause or the organization, or whatever. 

What can you do?

If you vote, do what you always do. Vote (and nominate) for those who you think are the most deserving. If you don't see someone you think is deserving, or if you're unfamiliar with any of the works in a given category, there's no shame in voting for Noah Ward. (Think about it. Say it out loud.) Read up on how votes are counted (they use Aussie rules), and cast your vote to make what you hope will do the most good. (And by "good" I mean "good" by your definition.)

Get involved with conrunning at the local level. Hell, volunteer to help at Worldcon if you're going. There's nothing like seeing how the sausage gets made to make you want to either dig in and help or run away screaming. If your beef is that the same insular group of people are running things, that's not going to change until you - and others - get involved. Starting at the local level is the way to do it. But you say, those SMOFs are all old! Well, think about it for just a minute. By the time you're 50-60, your child-rearing and tuition-paying days are behind you, and you (generally speaking) have more time to travel and get involved with things. This is why the group skews to middle age and up. Get involved in the local level and work your way up. Goodness knows local cons can use a lot of help.

Seek out and promote lesser-known writers and artists on social media. You don't have to be a promotion machine (or a self-promotion machine), but no one is going to nominate someone they've never heard of. If you're a writer or artist pimping your own stuff at the start of awards season, recommend deserving candidates in other categories, or even your own. The more of us who make recommendations, the more good names will get put forward.

This is how it starts. Change doesn't happen overnight, and giving up because someone gamed the process isn't going to help. If the Hugos are to be awards of the fans and by the fans, then the fans need to take them back. It doesn't require slates, and it certainly shouldn't involve politics. 

Thanks for reading through this. Please see the comment policy if you're new here before you post a comment. And I'll be monitoring Facebook comments as well. I know a lot of people are passionate about this topic, but keep it civil. Or as we say in Texas, what would your momma think if you said that?

Tags: Writing

Filed under: Writing   Conventions   Hugos      
4/9/2015 8:05:34 AM
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Bring Back The Weekends Project: Where The Rubber Meets The Road

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

So far, my quest to reclaim my weekends has been going swimmingly. I'm less stressed. I actually can do things I'd like to do over the weekend instead of stuff people dump on me.

This weekend is where it gets tough. I have two meetings over the weekend, and only a couple of people have given me things I've repeatedly asked for. Deadline for some was yesterday. Deadline for the rest was this morning.

If you got your stuff to me by the deadline, thank you. Thank you. Did I say thank you? Because I really mean it.

For the rest, the tough part for me is going to be sticking to my principles. Do I cave and and make myself look good? Or do I show up with a sloppy presentation? It's gonna be the latter. I'm not going to name and shame. I will name and praise, and that will definitely happen this weekend.

Filed under: Life            
3/20/2015 12:44:11 PM
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Publishing Myths, Part 11: I Will Gladly Pay You Tuesday...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Ah, payment. We all like to be paid for our hard work, make no mistake. We all like to be paid on time, too. One of the more worrying trends in the publishing industry is shifting payments to a purely royalty-based system. Sometimes this includes editors and cover artists along with the writers. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, it seems. Over the last year and a half I've seen more reports of publishers with payment problems than I have in a long time. Several small publishers have gone under owing money to authors and others. Some of those have had a good reputation for payment in the past, which makes this all the more worrying.

Now there are lots of small publishers that are doing well and paying royalties on time. Obviously, those are the ones you want to try to work with. 

So what do you do? First, do your virtual legwork. What is the publisher's reputation? Have you seen any verifiable stories of late or missed payments recently? 

How are royalties calculated? When will you see your first payment, and how often after that? Will you get a statement if no royalties are due? You should be able to find these things out from most publishers.

You should also see if you can find out some details on how they hire and pay editors and cover artists. Small presses often hire those positions on a contract basis, which is not a red flag. There may not be enough work for full time positions. You don't need to know what they pay, but whether the payment is on a flat rate or hourly basis or a royalty basis. 

For me, paying staff on a royalty basis is a red flag. It suggests to me that the business is very under-capitalized. If, as a writer, you don't get paid for 90 days until after publication, then it's a fair assumption that others who work on a royalty won't get paid for 90 days, either. This is just my opinion, but editing, layout, and cover art are items that should be paid by the job (or on a salary basis) rather than payment being dependent on how well the book sells. 

And how are royalties calculated? Royalty on the net is becoming more and more common, so it's important that a publisher be absolutely transparent in how that royalty is determined. See Writer Beware's excellent write up on this for more information.

How can you protect yourself?*

As a contractor, I can tell you entering into an agreement always carries a certain amount of risk. But hey, many people with day jobs run the risk that they'll be laid off tomorrow. Nothing is free of risk. If I follow my end of the contract to the letter and the client runs into financial problems, I can get an attorney to write a Strongly Worded Letter. I can sue. But there's the old blood from a turnip thing. And it would probably cost me more money to sue than I'm owed in the first place. So I can give you some ideas, and it's up to you to decide your level of risk.

1. Get a contract. If there's a royalty payment involved, have the contract vetted by a literary agent or someone versed in publishing law. That goes double if your an author or artist assigning rights. 

1.a. If intellectual property is involved, make sure your contract explicitly sets a threshold for return of rights. It may be a set period of time or it may be a sales level. If this is a work for hire job (where the rights belong to the publisher or other entity) then that should be explicitly laid out as well. (A TV or movie tie-in book is an example of a work for hire job.) 

2. Don't be afraid to ask for something up front. You probably won't get it, but ask anyway. 

3. For editors and cover artists, try to negotiate a flat payment, due on completion of the job (also #2 above). You may be taking a risk that the payment is less than royalties turn out to be, but a payment in hand now might be uh, handy if the publisher runs into trouble down the road. 

4. Keep good records. Keep copies of contracts. Keep your invoices. Keep copies of royalty statements. If you keep all of your records electronically, make backups. Use whatever method works best for you, but just be sure you keep up with it so you know what's going on at a glance.

5. If you have to produce invoices, add a line to your invoice to reflect when payment is expected. An invoice is a bill. Your own bills have a deadline, and so should your invoices. Consider tacking on a late payment fee. This is tough to do, but that should be part of your policies that prospective clients need to know up front, and you should try to get it written into the contract. Like any item in a contract, that can be negotiated and you could waive the fee on a case-by-case basis, but you have to show that you mean business.

As yourself this: Would you go to work flippng burgers if the manager promised to pay you at the end of the week a net share of profits based on how many burgers sold? Would you go to work for a company developing a product with the promise of payment after the product started to sell? I don't know about you, but my bills won't wait that long.

Yes, there's always a risk, but do your due diligence and minimize your exposure. You can't always count on the other party following through.

Thanks for stopping by. 

*Standard Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or an accountant, and I don't play one on TV. Please seek professional advice from you know, a professional.

Tags: Publishing Myths Writing Publishing

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3/12/2015 12:58:53 PM
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