A Simple Mission for the New Year, Should You Choose to Accept It

Here’s a great project for the start of a new year: clean out your spice cabinet and your medicine cabinet. We did the medicine cabinet at my mother-in-law’s place and ended up filling several trash bags with old, expired, and no-longer-usable meds, and clearing out a lot of space in the cabinet.

A lot of people get paralyzed about discarding medications because they either don’t want to waste a medication that might still be good, or are afraid that there is some kind of legal liability. I will save you some time. In general, there’s no system for recycling prescription medications that are still good or not expired. There may be clinics here and there that do that, and I wish more of them existed, but in almost every case, there is nothing you can do with those medications but throw them away.

I was told to try veterinary clinics, but I did that with some of my mother’s meds and it was a total failure. I called and at their behest drove the meds all the way to the clinic (30 minutes). Later the same day, they called and demanded I come and take them back. I refused, and had a brief argument with them until they finally agreed to just throw them away. Again, there’s a mistaken belief that there is some legal and appropriate way to throw them out. There isn’t. Just throw them out. (The exception may be some very specialized medications. For example, my mother once used a medication that the company explicitly insisted must be sent back if unused.)

For the spice cabinet, after you’ve cleared out the obviously old stuff, take a Sharpie marker and write ’12’ on the remaining bottles. Then you’re all set for next year.

Hey, look, a review!

During my previous life as a short fiction author, I seemed to have a review curse. Every time I had a story coming out–oops–it was the reviewer’s month off. Or something! Or if I did get a review, it was a very brief mention. So it’s nice to find this review of the Jan/Feb 2012 Analog by Sam Tomaino at SFRevu.

Tomaino called the story “amusing” and “a little hard to swallow but fun.” Fair enough, Tomaino. Fair enough. And thanks!

Long Winter’s Nap on Smashwords and Kindle

My Christmas story from the December, 2006 edition of Analog is available for free now on Smashwords, and for 99 cents on Kindle if you, say, have a credit card balance of $99.01 and want to make it an even $100. Note that Smashwords has .mobi formatted files for viewing on Kindle, and I’m told there’s a way to get that file from your computer to your Kindle, so if that kind of manipulation is easy for you, there’s no reason to pay for it from the Kindle site.


I am working on getting it up at Barnes and Noble. The Pubit system seems to work slowly on the weekend. Again, properly formatted .epub files are available on Smashwords, and it is pretty easy to sideload those onto the nook straight from your computer (no helper application or emailing required), so the only reason you might want to pay $1 for the story there is if you wanted me to have the 30 cents. Which, if you do, is very kind.

I’ve also posted Improving Slay Times in the Common Dragon on Smashwords for free, so if you haven’t read that yet and are inclined for something silly and cynical, check it out. (People who have been to grad school seem to appreciate it quite a lot.)

I’m finding the self-publishing process to be interesting and fun. For me, at this point, it’s not going to be my primary publishing path, particularly not for longer works, but I can definitely see how it can complement traditional publishing. I also don’t think it would be that hard to launch an original novel using self-publishing outlets. I’ve spent some time “slush reading” at Smashwords, and I’m convinced that well-written, well-produced works would stand out like a sore thumb.

You can filter quite a bit just by reading the descriptions of the stories. They typically start with some kind of genuinely interesting McGuffin, and then deteriorate to uninteresting vagueness.

“Bob Smith is a bounty hunter for fairies gone bad in a futuristic New Orleans. When he falls in love with one of his targets, he is faced with the greatest challenge of his life, and must do a hard thing in order to prevail against evil. Please check out my book you will love it.”

And there are actual readers at Smashwords and in the Kindle community, so books that stand out get discovered, and get read.

That said, I’m still looking for a traditional publisher for my novel, and am still marketing my short stories to pro magazines, because the exposure I can get through those outlets is still much greater than the 100-200 word footprint I currently have in the self-publishing channels. That may change in the future.