What we Learn by Flailing in the Dark

Before we recite my mistakes, and then some notes from writer’s groups and other sources, I have an announcement:

 

I will be in Kingman this Saturday for KABAM (a book festival)

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More information on KABAM on their Facebook page. I will have copies of Beanstalk and Beyond on hand, as perhaps copies of my hiking guides as well.

Now..

My son owns a 2003 Cadillac Deville, which broke down recently because of course it did.  I went to help him, and that grew into a 12 hour day until I finally sprung for the tow truck.

  • Removing the water pump, and  the pulley above it both require special tools, which, happily, you can “rent” from most auto parts store with just a deposit.
  • To remove the water pump you also need a 3/4″ socket, and to turn the thing the opposite direction of what you would want to.
  • Once you realize it’s not just the belt – it’s the water pump, you are past where you can do the deed curbside. Tow the thing to somewhere you can actually work on it.

Because the shadows, and our collective exhaustion were defeating our efforts to remove that damn water pump. (Also, we were doggedly twisting it the wrong direction).

Do not wipe all the cookies from your browser just because they freaked out a part of your credit union’s website. The website still doesn’t work, and now I have to re-enter a bunch of passwords – which I hate.

At Brazen Wonk, we notice how Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination troubles are entirely of his own making.

There is also, after a long lapse, a new page of the 64 webcomic.

I haven’t made anything like word-count the last few weeks. I have been distracted by my son’s car disasters (I only mention the smaller crisis here) and romance. That’s right. But not here – you’d have to ask me in person.

Except this – I haven’t been getting much sleep,. and yet I still have a bunch of energy. Like back to being hyperactive sort of energy.

But let’s step past that rabbit hole and get to notes from writer’s group sans meaningful context:

The Uncanny Valley is when an android is almost convincing, but not quite. TV Tropes sums it up here. Stranger Dimensions has examples.

Someone in the group knows Loren Coleman – Cryptozoologist.

 

camas_pocket_gopher_wikiwand_0

Not just a collection of random nouns

Pocket gophers, specifically the Camas Pocket Gophers are real creatures, and not just a collection of random nouns.

 

 

Those two items are actually unrelated.

 

Finally we cannot reccomend strongly enough Toilets with Threatening Auras on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Vice wrote them up a bit, if you need to know more.

Now we know.

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What Value Book Events?

As I am calculating my word count for the week, what value, in words, do I put on sitting most of Saturday at the Payson Book Fest?

Sure, it took all day, but I only sold 2 books – and that counts a trade with another author. And this is at a book festival – presumably my target audience.

And it’s not as if no one was selling. The well-known and extroverted author across the aisle was selling a book an hour. He had several titles, the ability to cut deals, and a well-worn patter: “Hi! What do you like to read? Well, right here I have a book that’s vaguely like that. But just today I’ll sell you the whole series as a bundle for $12…”

My informal tracking had him landing a sale one out of three times.

I sold one, and she bought every separate title at our table, and had her money out before I even made my pitch.

I am not shy, but I am not pushy. I lack the chutzpah to pull people in like a carny. And, for the record, I am totally one of the people the extroverted author does not sell a book to. I have an elevator pitch “The adventure of Jack after the Beanstalk...”  and a few other lines from my marketing pitch, but you would have to come to me.

A few did, and they listened to my pitch, and said they would think about it and maybe come back. None did.

How do we value a well-intentioned waste of time?

Or was it wasted?

Besides the fact that I sold two more books than I would have binge-watching Narcos, there may some real, if hard to quantify value for doing these events. Because a lot of people go to these things and only buy a small fraction of the books they will eventually purchase. And a lot of them just come to window shop.

There is a vague thing in sales called the Rule of 7, which states, essentially, it takes seven contacts, or “touches”, with a potential customer before they even begin to think about a purchase. Those seven touches (on average) (and this theory varies widely by source) are why sellers add marketing on top of sales.

So if I think of it as marketing, then maybe some good? Maybe those two or three near misses I had  will buy the book later.

http://www.mysticpublishersinc.com/store/product/beanstalk-and-beyond/
The book you didn’t buy. There! I touched you!

That’s an awful lot of maybes to clear a Saturday for. But I camped afterwards in the coolish pines, and that was definitely worth it.

hammockrig

The part that was worth it.

 

WORD COUNT:

 

Last week’s WHWL? = 1000

Last week’s Monday night group = 500

Editing Go Action Fun Time with the new mechanic, and just cleaning up the copy, 3 hours at 500 words/hour = 1500

Thursday Night group = 500

Handwritten draft of Taliesin’s Last Apprentice = about 500 words.

(Written at the  Book Fest, as I was not barking like a carny).

If I count a Book Event at a thousand words – I hit my 5k goal.

In the end, it’s worth what I say it’s worth, isn’t it?

 

Now we know.

Word Count Returns

I have made word count for the first time in over a month and I am…

Wait. I have to shout something first. Stand back a bit, will ya? Thanks.

 

I WILL BE AT THE PAYSON FESTIVAL OF BOOKS ON JULY 21ST!

cropped-7k9a7367-1400x750-ver21

Yes, Payson – that dry little city in the pines where it will not be (quite) a hundred and fuck. I will be there selling books, officially, Beanstalk and Beyond, and unofficially, I will have some hiking guides handy as well.

Particulars:

The Payson Book Festival [http://www.paysonbookfestival.org/] will be held Saturday, July 21, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino, Hwy 87 mile marker 251, Payson, AZ 85541.

Authors from throughout the state will sign and sell fiction and non-fiction books of many genres. “Buckshot Dot” will share her original western poetry and songs. Other presenters include Liz Warren, fourth-generation Arizonan and nationally known storyteller, who will spin tales, YA author Janette Rallison, Science Fiction author J.L. Doty, author and screenwriter Tom Morrissey and APW author Patricia Brooks. Kids can meet the Cat in the Hat and Story Monster at storytime sessions. [website]

I’ll be at the Mystic Publishing booth #61 (out of 61).

https://goo.gl/maps/gC8uK5DakSD2

We have been warned that area hotels are full, (not from our event) so this may test my speed-camping skills. Normally, this would segway into a camping spot discussion, adorned with a link to my hiking blog, but that blog is still caput. {click here to see for yourself how well my publisher supports me}. {Yes, I am still angry}

I know places, though. Not a question of will I find a place to sleep. Just a question of whether I can make the meet and greet. 

Now that I have some control over my creative time, rebuilding that Are We Lost Yet? needs to make the agenda.

It competes, at the moment, with Go Action Fun Time. My day at Crit Hit filled me with renewed optimism for this project (both my game sessions filled) and I have developed a streamlined dice mechanic that made those sessions much easier to manage.

If you’ve played Go Action Fun Time, the next paragraph will make some sense. If you haven’t, I will not fault you for skipping down.

GAFT does not yet have a separate blog in which I would drivel on about the new mechanic, so let me spew it out briefly here: Instead of Core + Stats + Talents + Focus each adding (or subtracting) dice from the roll, only the Core ios represented by dice. The rest are just straight adds to the roll.  Much faster. We tested this at Crit Hit.

GAFT Foxhunt color2

The (evil) uplifted fox inexplicably survived.

I have a tentative  commitment to a gaming con in California in October (because my rescue hobo talks me into this sort of crap), and my ambitious goal is to have a published version of the game for sale by that point, even if only a PDF.

But I have to re-write the rules between here and there.

WORD COUNT:

We go Sunday night to Sunday night.

WHWL from July 9 = 1000 words.

Monday night writer’s group counts as 500, even though, because of rain and vacations, I was the only one who showed up.

Fantastical History from July 10 about lessons from Leprecon  = 1000 words.

Editing One of 64 in preparation to hand off to an editor (in preparation for eventual self publishing) = 500 words.

Submitting a short story to Clarkesworld (which they efficiently rejected = 500 words.

[I over-value submissions because I want to encourage myself to submit).

Thursday night writer’s group = 500 words.

Two playtests of Go Action Fun Time at Crit Hit = 1000 words

[500 words each – as a critique group meeting, because it has a similar function.]

Finishing the hand-written draft of the Isle of Monks chapter of Taliesin’s Last Apprentice (the sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond) = 1000 words. (well, likely closer to 750.)

So 5750 words.

That means good whiskey.

Well, moderate whiskey – I’m shaving some costs to make that bet with the credit card company.

Now we know.

[660 words]

 

After the Shuffle

Before we begin, I need to shout something. Stand back a pace. Thank you.

I WILL BE AT CRIT HIT NEXT SATURDAY RUNNING GO ACTION FUN TIME!

Game 1, 10am Saturday: The Blistering Death of the Congo

hill-prehistoric-survivors-fb

Game 2:  8pm Saturday: The Fox Who Hunted Back

GAFT Foxhunt color2

(These are the games I was scheduled to run at Comic Fest but did not go off for reasons.)

Ok. The actual blog starts …. now!

If you spend any time on Facebook following my antics, you will already know that Earl has moved back in. This time until November, and that required moving my life around.

For new readers, Earl documents most of his life on Facebook, and I have been dragged along in that wake. So one of many reasons I resist making this blog about Earl and his antics, is that they are recorded in reasonable detail elsewhere.

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Earl upstaging me, as is oft his habit.

In the process of moving furniture about and stopping to fix things that were hidden by the previous arrangement, I feel like a got a lot done, but not much of that was writing. However, that dust is clearing, and I hope to start making word count again.

I learned enough at Leprecon that it merits a separate post.

OK, one antic: Earl threw a party a my house and was kind enough to invite me. Again, I refer you to FB for any details. As a result, I have more seafood and beer than I am likely to consume before it spoils – and I am really quite fond of seafood and beer.

I recite this fact to soothe myself when I grow anxious about the bet I just made with one of my last credit cards.

Desert Financial doesn’t offer credit cards anymore, but I had one with their name on it and a fairly large balance. And I thought I was auto-paying minimum payments to that account for a good five months before the actual financial institution that runs the credit card called me wondering where their money was.

Let me save you an hour on the phone and three separate visits to the branch: they were stashing it in a savings account I forgot I had.

So I didn’t lose the money, but the minimum I was paying was about half the actual minimum, and now I’m five months behind. That put me in range of their settlement formula. I took that deal.

So now I have until the end of September to come up with just under a month’s pay to settle the card. Which is plausible but by no means certain. Success relies upon finding some side-work, and avoiding disaster. I have not relied on dumb luck like this for my finances for at least ten years – I am out of the habit.

But this week at least, I have plenty of beer and seafood.

If you take that as an invitation, well. Earl is likely home.

Some random facts:

Lamb poop does not particularly smell.

Firefly the boardgame is complex but well designed, and playable while still holding tight to the flavor of the show. It is a master-class in game design – that will consume your entire evening.

 

The Verse that ate your entire evening

Diet Coke can clean just about anything, among its many other documented uses.

But if you made it to the bottom I’ll confess a secret: I do not buy beverages for a party that I will not personally drink, absent of a specific, advance request.. If you poison yourself with diet soda, bring your own.

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.

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.