Weird facts about my Soul

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A few years ago, I traded in my Chevy Sonic for a 2013 Kia Soul. My children rejoiced, saying, “Look! Dad finally has a soul. I mean, it’s black inside and full of garbage, but he finally has a soul.”

Then, “Can we borrow your soul Dad?”

And so forth.

My 2011 Chevy Sonic, for context, was a panic buy to replace my beloved Equinox, which had a gas tank issue. Once your wife is envisioning your vehicle going up in a ball of flame, you have no choice but to sell it.

The Sonic is like a sports-car made by east European communists. It’s is surprisingly fast (because it uses the same engine block as the larger cars in Chevy’s fleet car line) and handles decently, because it is small. And everything in the interior feels cramped, just like a sports-car. But it is a fleet car, engineered to fall apart after 80k miles or so.

While I could drive it like a maniac, putting four adults inside felt like a clown car stunt, and things were starting to fall off. So we went to the dealership and came home with the Hyundai Veracruz, and my Soul.

Early on in my ownership of it, someone asked me about it, and I told them that it was the best MP3 player I had ever driven. They do seem to have put more thought into the media system than any other part. The speakers have LED rims that change color with the music. I never saw that as a selling point when I purchased it, but they have come to amuse me.

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Its is boxy, mediocre in both acceleration and climbing, and the fuses jiggle loose from time to time. It has no roof rack. You will feel every bump in the road – every one. Those are my complaints. All of them.

Four adults can fit within with some dignity. I can actually fit a lot of things in it – for boxy=roomy. When I moved 1000 feet north, most of the things made the journey in my Soul. My lawn furniture and gas grill came home in my Soul. But it’s not a truck, so people don’t ask me to move stuff for them all the time.

It has a tight turning radius and a relatively high ground clearance. It gets around 20 mph even when I drive it the way I do. I made it 80K miles before it needed any major service.

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This might be its best feature!

Of course, I need it to go another 60K miles at least. I have three years left on the $15k note secured by my Soul that is generously valued at about $5k. How the hell do you get $10k upside down on a car loan?

You wreck a car without the means to make a cash down payment, or even cover the insurance deductible. So you find yourself at the mercy of whatever scheme the dealership puts together. The Soul (and the Veracruz) were the fourth generation of cars coming off the lot with this debt still buried in the financing somehow.

When we bought it, this Kia Soul had a big rebate, so magically, this is the car they buried that debt inside.

I owe a lot more on my Soul than my Soul is worth. My Soul has been used to hide previous sins.

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I do not own my Soul.

Somehow the only name on either the title or the loan paperwork is that of my (soon-to-be-ex) wife. She does not know how that happened either.  She has a completely different car now. The Soul remains my primary vehicle, even though, after the divorce, I will have no legal ownership of it.

Sometimes, when I project the payments out over time, I daydream about saving up a down payment, and just leaving this thing in the parking lot of the credit union that actually owns it. But that would be Wrong.

After all, I’m the one who wrecked that car I have yet to finish paying off.

In a year at RC Lurie I put 20k miles on that car. That’s a fact that will shut a car salesman up about leasing options. Those are hard miles, city traffic, construction sites, lost on back roads. My Soul has already taken a beating.

I have become fond of the Soul I am driving to death without any real hope of ever paying off. Good thing, because I just dropped $800 on brake repairs and a long list of maintenance items.  (My local mechanic is a master of never fixing just one thing, and since I cannot abide multiple trips to the garage, I am his lawful prey here).

So I choose, for now, to keep my Soul, even if it isn’t legally mine. It works for me. And there is speculation that Kia cars can go 200k if treated right. So maybe I can get mine to 140? We shall see.

And I can always add a roof rack later.

Consumer Reports on the 2013 Soul. They even make a little joke about the interior.

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Go Action Fun Time Full Beta season has some time/space coordinates

Go Action Fun time is my role playing game about teenage superheroes travelling through time and space.  More on that project can be found here: https://sites.google.com/site/goactionfuntime/home

GAFT cover image

This is from the “Pilot Episode”

In the spirit of emulating a TV cartoon show, episodes are organized into seasons,and the first full Beta season is being finalized, and we have dates and times for  the first three episodes, and approximations for the first half of the season.

Many of these episodes will be played out at science fiction/fantasy conventions, or gaming conventions in town over the summer. In most of those cases, participating would require having a membership at that convention.

Others will be hosted at my house – where all you have to do is show up.

Go Action Fun Time is designed as a drop-in role playing game. You do not need to have participated in any of the previous episodes to be included in the next. I will have pre-generated characters available.

These are the known episode Time/space coordinates:

 

The Dinosaurs of Old St. Louis: [S01;E01]

Arizona Game Fair – part of Phoenix Comic Fest at the Phoenix Convention Center

West building, 2nd Floor

RPG Room, Table 4

26 May 2018 3:00pm.

A Tyrannosaurus Rex has emerged through a crack in time into 1854 St Louis. You will return it. Try not to attract attention.

hill-prehistoric-survivors-fb

The Blistering Death  [S01:E02]

Arizona Game Fair – part of Phoenix Comic Fest at the Phoenix Convention Center

West building, 2nd Floor

RPG Room, Table 4

26 May 2018 7:30pm.

A plague is ravaging the tribes along the prehistoric Congo. You will cure it.

GAFT Foxhunt color2

The Fox Who Hunted Back [S01;E03]

Arizona Game Fair – part of Phoenix Comic Fest at the Phoenix Convention Center

West building, 2nd Floor

RPG Room, Table 2

27 May, 2018 11:00am

Package delivery in far future Scotland is hampered by berserk security, moving piles of garbage and an uplifted fox holding an ancient grudge.

 

The Silk Road Part 2 [S01;E04]

My house

9 June 2018. Time TBD.

You will transport the goods you bought in a future episode (because time travel) along the fabled Silk Road, across the burning wastes of 7th century western China.

 

Yes, That Lusitania.  [S01;E05]

Leprecon 44 – Doubltree Hilton North (Metrocenter)

22-24 June 2018

Solve a mystery aboard the great luxury liner hours before it sinks.

 

“We are all Sam” [S01;E06]

Leprecon 44

Doubltree Hilton North (Metrocenter)

22-24 June 2018

Confront the terrible secret beneath a besieged city full of clones.

 

Ragana’s Tower [S01;E07]

Leprecon 44 – Doubltree Hilton North (Metrocenter)

22-24 June 2018

Rescue the princess from the dragon, whether she wants you to or not.

 

The Silk Road Part 1 [S01;E08]

Crit Hit

Doubltree Suites – Phoenix (Airport)

320 N 44th Street

14 July 2018

The fabled Silk Road stretches across the breadth of Asia and was used as a central trade route for centuries. You will buy something here in 2nd century China and sell it on the other side … someday.

 

Sparkle and Bleed [S01;E09]

Crit Hit

Doubltree Suites – Phoenix (Airport)

320 N 44th Street

15 July 2018

Attend the homecoming dance in a small town in 1950’s Nebraska along with warring gangs of vampires and werewolves.

 

The Silk Road Part 3 [S01;E10]

My house

28 July 2018

A thousand miles across western Asia, racing mongol hordes and  your fellow time travelers.

 

Living Forever in the City of Gold [S01;E11]

MaricopaCon

Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix Airport

3422 E. Elwood St.

11 August 2018

Mayan mythology is seriously messed up. Really. OMG.

 

How the West was Shot to Hell [S01;E12]

MaricopaCon

Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix Airport

3422 E. Elwood St.

12 August 2018

An auto-race across the apocalyptic west surrounded by killer robots and zombies and aliens.

 

Yi and the Nine Suns [S01;E13]

CokoCon

Doubltree Hilton North (Metrocenter)

1 September 2018

Did you know Earth once had nine suns? Well, maybe they were spaceships…

 

Something Rotten 2kms over Denmark [S01;E14]

CokoCon

Doubltree Hilton North (Metrocenter)

1 September 2018

A murder mystery in a floating castle of the far future. Based on Shakespeare – sort of.

 

The Peak of Mount Atlas [S01E15]

CokoCon

Doubltree Hilton North (Metrocenter)

2 September 2018

The highest mountain in Atlantis is sacred and forbidden. Climb it anyway.

 

This is as far into the future as I dare speculate.

Yes, I have been busy. We will fill everybody in as time allows.

The waiting and the leaving

I’m leaving tomorrow for a week. That’s the lead. It’s not life changing, but I am fairly excited.

I’m being sent to a 3 day class in Berkeley California. I am driving there, starting tomorrow, because I like camping and hate airports. Also, my company is indifferent as to whether I expense the mileage or the plane fare.

I can’t expense extra hotel days, which is fine, because I have campgrounds sussed out. At the end of the blog I’ll add the Google map. But that is a notion, it is not a guarantee.

I imagine I’ll have learned some things when I get back.

Meanwhile, I have been waiting for things.

I am waiting for new glasses. My current ones are scratched to shit, and I kinda dread driving across country with every headlight a halo, but that will not stop me.  At the optometrist, I learned that I do not have glaucoma, but I do have thick corneas, [640 something, I know not what. Most people are 500 something] which distorts that annoying puff test. So I got to sit through a super annoying ultra-sound on my eyes.

That’s the price of a good optometrist, I suppose.

I have been waiting for Menasha Ridge (the publisher of my hiking guides) to tell me what exactly happened to Are We Lost Yet?. There’s a link on the sidebar – so you can see the WordPress error statement that has replaced my longtime hiking blog.

Hopefully, I will have some sort of update when I return. I plane to do some hiking, and would like to have some established place to write about it.

I’m waiting on the inevitable teacher’s strike. Happily, I do not have kids in school. (Universities aren’t the issue). But I do get to watch a political class that rose to power partly by demonizing teachers and glorifying ignorance come to terms with the actual consequences of systemically starving the main reason the state government was chartered in the first place.

I have zero consequence that our good ‘ol state legislature can come up with anything before endless summer starts early.  I could go into how the state legislature has not been in compliance with the state constitution on funding standards for decades, but that would be Brazen Wonk territory, and I still have things to pack.

I’m waiting for the season premier of Westworld, but I’ll be at Point Reyes National Shoreline instead. I have been here before. Now I go alone, of course, and have been re-configuring the camping supplies for just one person. That has proved sadder than I expected.

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Bongo at Point Reyes in 2016.

I have been waiting for my taxes to be filed. There is a delay on the part of the party I am still legally entangled with. No one’s mad – I’m getting a little money back, but not enough to change my life. But I need the paperwork back to I can settle my house insurance refund and  – yeah, I’m bored writing this sentence.

I won’t itemize it here, but even with the travel days, I should end the week at 4500 words.

Here’s the map. I come back to Phoenix either late April 28 or early April 29.

Recovering from Mistakes with unrelated links

Success is not determined by the ability to avoid mistakes, You want to try and avoid them but no matter what you do, mistakes will be made. Success is then determined by your ability to correct from mistakes.

Your ability to adapt.

Your ability to come back after half-time and run off 20 points against the Phoenix Suns.

Let’s, uh, change the subject. Writing about the suns is like crying in a war zone: you may not be able to stop.

I’ve had a busy few weeks at my day-job, and while I mostly kept up with the fiction, the blogs did not make the cut. I made up for that today.

At Curious Continuity we gush with praise about James Gleik’s Time Travel A History.

At Fantastical History we start what may be a series of articles about the rules of magic.

Before we get to word count, a few things that blew into my inbox:

Generic blog advice

http://www.wealthywebwriter.com/2018/04/attract-more-traffic-to-your-website/
Lost letters of the alphabet

http://omgfacts.com/we-used-to-have-6-more-letters-in-our-alphabet/

WORD COUNT:

1700 on Talisin’s Last Apprentice.

500 for the Monday night group where only one other person showed.

1300 on Two of 64.

500 for the Thursday night group.

1000 for Curious Continuity (it had pictures).

500 for Fantastical History

600 new words on TLA

And 300 for this blog.

That’s a bit (6400?). And it’s midnight, so I’m lidding it up.

Next week? Sure. That could happen.

This blog is not dead. I guess that’s what I’m really trying to say here.

Now we know.

Some Working Notes on Bullying

There has been of late a new and popular campaign against bullying, and that’s laudable, but they are going about it the wrong way.

What follows are some working notes from what may become a longer work, but I dared some people on twitter to read my blog, so some of this is for them. Some of it is truly working notes.

I’m skipping the part where I establish my expertise. You’ll have to trust me: I have a lot of experience with this from both sides.

The current tendency is to target the bullies. While you won’t find me stopping you, that approach will never really work. You may stop some bullies, but more will always take their place.

Bullying as a social tactic is both easy and alarmingly effective, and therefore will always be popular. Bullying is not used so much to steal lunch money – though that surely happens – but to raise one’s status among one’s peers.

That works because we collectively let it work. We let it work because we tend to equate people who are difference as threats, and therefore confer status upon those who join us in suppressing them.

We are not wrong about this.

The trouble with weirdos is that you may not be able to guess with any safe level of certainty how they might react in any given situation. Given that the number one predator to human beings is other humans beings, this causes alarm at a primal level. Our history overflows with people attacking other people for no reason beyond perceived differences and tactical opportunity.

This attitude, of course, is at odds with our expressed desire to build a more just social society. While any useful remedy for the underlying psycho-social tension eludes us, it’s relatively easy to point out the big kid picking on the little kid and say “There! He’s the problem!”

So we bully the least of the bullies. Ok – that kid totally had it coming. But you are not likely to solve anything beyond that one incident. Hell, you have a better than even chance to make it worse.

In the 1970’s, when I learned to deal with bullies, I was taught we are responsible for our own emotions, specifically how we react to those emotions. Make no mistake, emotions are going to hit you. They are auto-triggered in the brain. But outside of some very specific adrenaline circumstances, we then choose what to do about them.

Let me distill the lesson I learned the hard way:

If you let the abuse affect your reactions, you are giving a bully more power over your life than he needs or deserves. Yelling or crying or other fits will only ever make it worse. Now you’ve validated the underlying premise – that you are weird and unpredictable and to be shunned.

I am also leery of counseling kids that they should always appeal to authority. Many times the worst bully in the classroom is the teacher. May times the worst bully at work is the boss.

You fight bullying with what you can control – which is you. Don’t take the bait when you’re the target. Don’t pile on if you’re a bystander. Oh- and don’t be the fucking bully.

This is easier written than done – for these are totally natural impulses. I’m over fifty, and I still struggle with this. But that’s the answer. Tolerance, kindness, understanding, just like in the Bible, or Sesame Street.
OK – housekeeping.

The week before last I made 4500 words – close but no cigar. I’m not going to list it out – you’re welcome.

This week I did even worse 3500 plus this blog. Some of that has been work. Some has just been a funk.

I have lost my super-powers.

I used to make a to-do list and it would all get done – somehow. The shortcomings above are matched all across my life.

I used to be impervious to bully bait , and here I wasted half the night getting pummeled on twitter- when I knew a hundred times better what the actual agenda was. As an explanation, not an excuse, I think the reality of living alone is catching up to me, now that the logistics of the separation are mostly settled.

My first impulse is to talk about these things with my wife but…And that, actually, has been the hardest part for me.

I have had many friends offer to listen if I needed to talk, and I appreciate their concern, but what  I’m really missing is the deeper context. Being near the boat once in a while is not the same as being in the boat every day. It’s the difference between “the noisy thingy”, and “ the ratchet on the forward portside railing that makes the disturbing clacking noise”.

There is no one left in my life that knows what I mean by the noisy thingy. And that has been the hardest adjustment to make.

Now we know.

Tempe ComicCon is still kicking my ass

Last Saturday I spent the day sitting under my publisher’s canopy at the Tempe ComicCon. Or Comic Event, Or whatever. Ever since San Diego sued Vegas, no one knows what to call themselves anymore.

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Where books sales do not actually happen.

I came away with two sales of Beanstalk and Beyond – both to people I knew – and an upper respiratory infection, likely triggered by allergies. That’s not a good return on investment.

I am not a hard-charging sales guy. I’m going to sit in the corner and doodle on my pad until you ask me a question. We had a few more extroverted authors who chatted up the few folks who stopped inside long enough to be chatted up. One of them sold a book to someone she didn’t now. But our total sales for the day was five, and that counts a trade.

This cannot be The Way.

I must confess here that I have long known this to be a poor strategy. Long ago, I swore to myself that I would not be that author sitting at a con with three books on a table in front of him that no one wants to buy; just sitting there looking sad. These events are distribution channels, but they are not marketing opportunities.

Very few people will impulse buy a book at an event like this. Nothing you do in  the booth is likely to change that. You do your marketing somewhere else.

Behold actual evidence:

gallup-poll-how-readers-select-books

This is taken from a good article by John Brown. It’s just one survey, but I have seen similar results elsewhere.

Let me summarize the factors driving book buying decisions, in order, in larger font:

  1. Previous positive experience wit the author’s work.
  2. Recommendation from a friend
  3. Browsing in a bookstore or library – or rather – the cover.
  4. Reviews
  5. Subject or genre preference

Other factors drop off steeply from there. An increasing part of factor three is search engine positioning. That’s becoming the new bookshelf.

The point of all this is that I had a lot of time to think, while blowing my nose, and I may be forming a Plan. But not enough of one that I can just blurt it out on a blog.

WORD COUNT

2000 total words on Taliesin’s Last Apprentice (the sequel to Beanstalk).

1100 on Echoes (the sequel to The 64)

900 on last week’s WHWL?

1200 word equivalent finishing a page for the One of 64 webcomic. (Not the page posted. I’m still a few weeks ahead.)

And I’m going to give myself 1000 words for sitting in that damn booth all day.

That’s 6200. No wonder I’m beat.

Now we know.

The completion of 51 orbits

Yesterday (Jan 22) was my birthday, which is less of a thing to me than it seems to be on Facebook. There is no particular party planned, past or present. I mention this because people ask.

Even though just about every particular of my life has changed in the past 12 months, in a lot of ways, nothing has changed at all. If that seems contradictory you are not watching me putter around the house.  I’ve learned some important and hard lessons, but they are mostly deeply personal and peculiar to the people in my life. For more general wisdom, I will refer you to what I wrote a year ago, which I still stand by.

Here’s what you can do while not attending my non-existent birthday party:

THIS SATURDAY I will be at Tempe “ComicCon” at the Tempe Public Library hawking Beanstalk and Beyond.  The term “ComicCon” is in quotes because they are not supposed to use the term, but they had already named the thing when that judgement came down from on high.

Beanstalk Conicon 2018

You can also meet the man who put together this poster

Saturday, January 27, 2018
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

TPL Comicon 2017

The Library Comicon is an annual event featuring costume contests, artists & authors, shopping, and activities for children and adults alike.  Fans of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Wholocks, Trekkies, and more are invited to gather at the Tempe Public Library in costume for a celebration of pop culture.

 

I’ll be in the booth with a good pen and my sparkling wit. I hope to see you there.

 

LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE

It appears that I gave $50 to Barefoot Writers* so I could get 3+ e-mails a day detailing other exiting opportunities to spend even more money, but only if I act right now. More grievous is the inrush of spam mail aimed at the economically desperate – spurious investment opportunities and credit cards I qualify for no matter what.

If copy-writing were really that lucrative and/or understaffed, I’d get like one letter with a take-or-or-leave-it offer. Because they have copy-writing to get back to. The hard sell I’m getting likely means they make more money off of desperate wannabe’s than desperate marketing clients.

Compare/contrast with Marketing Profs Today, a more generic marketing resource, from which I also get regular e-mail. They also offer plenty of opportunities for me to spend more money. Their newsletter, though, will have links to five articles, four of which will have actual content and free – once you click through the pop-ups (this is typical)** . (The fifth will be behind a pay wall.)

All I get from AWAI (the actual acronym for the organization behind Barefoot Spammers) is  bland advice I could get following writers on Twitter, followed by a thousand word hard-sell.

I’ve blown $50 on dumber things, and I had ti to blow at the the time. I’m not wealthy, but I’m solvent enough that $50 by itself does not threaten the budget. Even so, the next bit of curiosity I might satisfy is: will they really give me my money back as claimed?

[*] I am not going to dignify these people with a link. They are not hard to find if you are curious.

[**] You’ll have to give info for a free membership/subscription.

WORD COUNT

1200 words of transcription duty on Taliesin’s Last Apprentice (sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond) on Monday, and then another 1200 original words on that same project on Saturday.

500 words for work-shopping that on the Monday night Central Phoenix Writer’s Workshop.

1500 words on a chapter for Echoes, the sequel to One of 64.

500 words for work-shopping same at the Armadillo Group.

Six panels for the One of 64 webcomic colored (at 200 “words” each) for 600 words.

That’s 5400 words.

A glass of good whiskey, then, and one more time around the sun.

You were warned.