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.

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The Plan Going Forward (2018+)

I am not one to make a big thing out of the new year. It’s one more day;, an arbitrary marker. Nothing really starts and stops except the tax year. A measure of how seriously I take this: I once made a New Year’s to never make another New Year’s resolution, and I have faithfully kept that for decades.

That this weekend marks a change of direction in my life is a coincidence. From the time my life fell out from underneath me  to the point where I could realistically transition from damage control to forward progress again happened to line up with the new year.

I am emotionally reconciled that my marriage is over. Most of the financial transition that situation forced has been completed, or is on schedule to be completed. I have completed moving the giant pile of crap that I take responsibility for from one address to another.

I have a pile of old tax returns to set on fire in my new yard, and on that occasion, I will allow myself some self pity over this matter for one last evening. You are welcome to join me. I will be drinking good whisky.

Then we are done with all of that shit.

What follows now is as much for my reference as any other purpose. If you came just for writing advice, or random facts, or the antics of octopi, nothing below here will satisfy that. It’s all about me. If you stop reading here I will not take that personally.

People have a much higher chance of achieving goals if they write them down. I am putting myself publicly (even though I average like six hits per post – this is a public blog) on the spot for this.

Here’s the plan going forward.

Finish the damn books.

A chapter a week in both the Jack sequel and  the 64 sequel, and starting in spring some non-fiction project as well.

I have no shortage of ideas, and have been blessed with the ability to describe them in writing at a professional level. The trick now is to keep my ass in the chair.

It is a known dynamic of publishing that if you get three good books to market, you begin to develop a readership, and by ten books, this becomes a feedback loop swelling into a following.

They have to be good books – but I feel I am up to that. Quantity/time is my major challenge.

This can be done if 5000 words per week becomes my minimum. The default format for this blog will be documenting my progress towards that. (And other things that come to mind.)

This week I hit 4000, counting this blog. Since I’m working tonight, that’s going to stand.

 

Divesting myself of all this crap in a rational manner

I still find myself valuing things and stuff more than perhaps would be best-practice Buddhism. Couldn’t quite bring myself to leave it all for the dumpster. I left a lot – but that is kinda hard to tell from walking through my house now. About half of my total possessions are still in piles. That you can walk around my house testifies to my ability to stack efficiently more than my economy of inventory.

The plan, over the next few years, is to get myself down to an inventory level that is actually mobile. To get there, some things have to happen:

  • For everything I acquire, something has to go. I am replacing, not adding.
  • I have some memorabilia and collectables that are wasted on a thrift store shelf. Collectors who want these things will seek them on the internet, and I plan to put them there for them to find. That project replaces the non-fiction book until it is done.
  • I’m going to limit my books to what can fit on the bookshelves. I’ve given myself some time for this, first because I lost nearly half my bookshelf space in the move, and second to give myself some time to read these books before I get rid of them somehow. Also crucial to this plan – more bookshelves.
  • Now that I have an appropriate space, I’m going to transform this pile of tools and hardware into a workshop, and make stuff out of the accumulated materials that I couldn’t bring myself to toss in the trash. Maybe some of it will be worth something – I don’t know.  There is no downside to trying.
  • A workshop also enable more efficient home repair and renovations, which will be ongoing.  I rent this place well below market value on the assumption that I take care of upkeep and repairs.
  • I am going to eliminate my unsecured debt. I have a budget that alloows me to live within my base pay, so I can throw my extra income (Rhino and what-have-you) into debt relief until it is gone.

For the record, this is nearly identical to my plan before my life fell apart. It took me three months, but I am back to where I can pursue that again with a straight face. This point coincidentally marks the promise of new year.

 

Coda: The end game

If you made it this far, I can tell you how it ends. I am resolved not to die in this house surrounded by piles of stuff I can no longer manage. My grandfather has already done that gag, in the very room I write this from, and I would find a different path.

I daydream of a compound, shared with other parties, where we have combined resources into a big workshop, a big kitchen and an expansive library. I don’t have much to add to the kitchen, but I can help out with the other two. Then all I need is a bedroom, and a place to park the RV I otherwise work out of. By work out of, I mean drive somewhere nice, write through my 14 day stay limit, drive somewhere else, come back to the compound when the circle leads me there. That would be my ideal endgame.

There are, of course, a lot of moves between here and there. But now we know how I want it to end up.

Then I’ll figure out what comes next.

 

Marketing to writers trying to market trying to…

Last Friday, I did a radio interview for the Author’s Show, and “internet radio” show featuring various authors.  My airdate is November 27 – when you can hear it all day Channel 3.

From their website:

Web

Don’t click – I stole this!

The Authors Show is more than a “show” in the traditional sense of the word.  It is a professional book marketing audio & video program  that offers participants  multiple benefits that authors who are serious about marketing their work need to consider, especially inasmuch as these benefits have long lasting effects.

 

A cynic might say that their primary target is the authors themselves, to whom they will happily sell MP3’s of these interviews starting at $129 and going up quickly from there. I’m not that excited about posting a interview on my website so that six people might listen to it. If I had the distribution platform to make such a thing worthwhile, I could produce an in-house recording of similar quality (I know folk) for less money.

BUT I learned a lot. First of all the guy on the other end of the phone had a spiel about how book marketing actually works, and I was going to listen to it until he ran out of string.

To summarize his Ted Talk, internet marketing is all about getting as high as you can on search engine results. If your work does not appear on the first three pages, you might as well not exist. This is how people look for books. Everything else, your promo posts on social media, your book trailer on You Tube, your well meaning engagement on GoodReads, all of that accounts for a fraction of a percent of typical sales.

We find books by search engine.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with engaging potential readers on Faceplace or Flitter, but that’s basically busy work; waving your hands around so that your publisher thinks you’re trying. Never spend real money on that sort of thing.

The only marketing worth spending money on is that which raises you ij search engines: SEO, site design, and soul-squashingly dull stuff like that..

The other thing I learned is that cell phones are worthless for internet audio. They were very gracious about rescheduling for when I could Skype in. And they asked a bunch of softball questions designed to help me sell my book.  So I’ll stop bagging on them, even though I’m not likely to buy their MP3 of my own voice.

http://www.mysticpublishersinc.com/store/product/beanstalk-and-beyond/

An actual book you can buy!

 

Compare and contrast the Tempe Book Festival where we sold three books, all mine, [Beanstalk and Beyond] and all to people I knew.  Now, I believe the actual purpose was to recruit writers rather than sell books to readers, in which case the Tempe event was a rich environment.

 

Yes- Mystic Publishers  is taking submissions.

 

I am told, anecdotally, that I am one of their best sellers. Maybe because I’m marketing to readers, and not writers.

Now we know.

 

PS:

If you made it down this far, we’re friends, and you should now that I am moving. Down the block. Because reasons. So if you feel like you haven’t moved enough crappy furniture, or don’t have enough crappy furniture of your own [and it’s still November 2017] contact me, because I have a surplus of both opportunities.

The Depressing Truth Behind Making Word Count

I have an ongoing weekly goal of 5000 written words a week. I have from Monday to Sunday to write, edit or otherwise create 5000 words worth of new material for a range of projects. (Yes, blogs count.)

I made my word count today for the first time in months, and that might be cause for rejoicing, the underlying reasons for my newfound productivity are not.

First, we brag.

On Are We Lost Yet, I finally recount my adventures in and around the Johnson Canyon Railroad. (Featured in Five Star Hikes: Flagstaff and Sedona).

The article is a few hundred words, but the video counts as a thousand.

In general, I need to figure an hour of total production time (writing, shooting, editing) for every minute of good You Tube video. The footage for this one (and ones like it) was shot years ago as personal notes, so that skews the formula. Nonetheless, I spent over three hours editing it.

Over on Curious Continuity, I popped out a thousand words ( separated by stolen, if credited images) on Fermi’s Paradox, and why our universe might remain terribly lonely.

I also did some artwork for The 64 (and drafted 1300 words on the sequel), but the artwork isn’t scheduled for months, and the novel for years. But we’ll get there.

Nobody on their deathbed laments that they wished they had made word count more often, or any other sort of job-related regret. They all wish they had spent more time with their family. I will to, I suppose. But this week, and perhaps many more to come, all I have is the work.

My wife of 29 years has left me, as in changed her address. As in I had to go start an account at a different credit union just to make certain  there is a hard line between our accounts now.

This was not my idea or desire. There was no problem with my wife or  the marriage that, from my end, I could not deal with or circumnavigate. She saw it differently, and here I am making word count.

I must, then refer you  to her, if you know her, for an explanation of why. I have gotten different answers, and I remain uncertain which if any I believe. There was, so you know, no particular incident or crime, or specific breach of faith. She was unhappy, and felt that leaving me was the way to deal with that. And there was nothing I could do – because I asked – to change her mind about that.

I’m not writing this in an attempt to elicit pity. I am still ahead of the curve in overall human experience. But I’m going to write these next paragraphs anyway, so that it doesn’t just plop out of me on Facebook or the like.

My marriage was one of the few enterprises in my life that I truly took seriously; the endeavor I put the most time, energy and money into (though the kids muddy that measurement), and it has failed. So when I write or speak of the scattered positive aspects of this situation, that is not, an attempt to disparage my wife or our relationship history. Rather, it is an attempt to convince myself that this is not the end of the world.

I have never been a single adult. I met my wife on my first day of college and we were dating by the end of that September. I was married at 21, and have remained so,  to that same woman, ever since. (Divorce is coming, but not here yet).

I have no clear idea how actual adults date in the 21st century. And, so we’re clear, I am not in a hurry to find out. In the summer of 1986 I rented a studio apartment for six months. Penny and I were still just “dating”. That was the last time I actually resided alone. I am kinda curious to see how I handle it.

Now, by alone, I mean with Penny’s two cats (also not my idea) and my daughter’s rabbit, all of which require food and attention. We all live together in a crumbling monument to all the compromises I made in the interest of a now failed marriage.

So bit by bit, I am reconstructing my house now that I no longer have to accommodate other human beings.

I am also working on developing a social life, because I haven’t been able to say yes to a party without side negotiations in 29 years. But I’m still not getting so drunk I have to sleep on your floor.

I still have to feed the pets.

This will be an adventure! So say the optimists in my life They may be right.

Being on a sinking ship is an adventure. And you will learn a lot about yourself and your true limits and priorities; things you might not have learned any other way.

But in your few quiet moments, you are still going to wish that the ship wasn’t sinking.

This was 850 words towards my goal. By the time I add links and tags, I can count it as a thousand.

 

Now you know.

 

Selling Out was not my fault

I sold out of Beanstalk and Beyond at Westercon – and that was not my fault.

My title was one of many that my publisher couldn’t get Lightning Source to deliver in time for the convention. Consequently, the only physical copies available for sale in AZ, as far as I know, were in the cardboard box I brought to my book launch, and half of those were already spoken for.

I spent a fair bit on memberships and hotel rooms, and I need to wait a paycheck before I order any more. So if you were hoping to just buy one off of me in the near future, I’m sorry.

I just wrote the damn thing. I was not prepared to be the sole retailer in the state. (I did not have this problem with either of my hiking guides).

Learn from my mistakes: Fire up your Square before the customers walk in, particularly if its been a while. Make and bring business cards. There is no such thing as too many flyers. If you are selling at $15 each, have a pile of Lincolns.

Even so, I sold out. BUT mostly to people I already knew, which is common for a book launch.

There is no better marketing opportunity for early career authors than participating a SF/F convention. Don’t go thinking you’re going to sell a bunch of books to your fellow authors. Go to network, make friends, get ideas. It will pay for itself.

Eventually.

I hope.

In any case, since I actually sold books for profit solely because I attended the con, it is now a tax deduction.

More of what we learned at the con at Practically Done.

Links and a memo to the lawnmower boy

First, some relevant links, because my stranger essays (like the one below) are an acquired taste.

At Are We Lost Yet? I finally posted a Behind the Hike on Sterling Pass and the Vultee Arch north of Sedona.

At Curious Continuity, we expanded a little on the Robots and AI’s vs your crappy job.

I have a new blog, Brazen Wonk, which will become my outlet for political posts. I am not shy about my politics, but as this thing transitions towards an author blog, I did not want my wonkish rantings cluttering up a blog about life’s lessons learned, and writing announcements. Just as importantly, I’m trying to build an overall narrative about the importance of moderation in a democracy, and I do not want to clutter that up with random musings on lawncare, or the antics of octopi.

The latest is about the Gorsuch confirmation battle.

Bored? Sober? Penny has updated Wine Hobo with profile of Pillsbury Wine Company in Cottonwood, and their invaluable listing of wine related events.

If wine’s not strong enough, Total Wine and More will teach you about whisky.

Finally, an octopus has eaten all of a jellyfish except the part it wants to wear.

You’re welcome.

Now this:

Open Memo to the kids who mowed my lawn

Let’s start by saying you did a decent job of it, despite a number of challenges that you mostly brought upon yourselves.  So this is not (for the most part) to complain about your work. The thing is that I have a lot of experience both in mowing my lawn in particular, and making a good effort at an inherently unprofitable job in general. Here then, is some unsolicited advice.

Some background, since we are sharing this with the rest of the internet: My wife hired you, the twenty something male whose name I did not catch (so “Guy”) to mow our front lawn when you came to the door to solicit that work. Front yard and trim around our wall for $25. Only, we didn’t have cash that day, so she told you to come back in a few days. Then we both forgot about that, thinking that you were not likely to come back.

So you know, knocking on doors looking for odd jobs is tweeker behavior, particularly in this neighborhood. Now, we don’t think anything of the kind now, but that’s the starting assumption you’re going to fight when approaching middle-aged white homeowners.

Tweekers don’t come back. You did. There ends that debate.

You woke me up when you knocked on the door. Ok. It was like 10am, that’s fine. You had another twenty something woman with you, whose relationship to you I could not determine (so “Gal”), and your girlfriend, because you referred to her as such, and an infant child. Also, an electric lawnmower and a gas powered weed-eater of varying functionality.

With that scene set, here’s what I should have pulled you aside to tell you:

  • Bring your own water. Not all homeowners are as nice as I am.
  • If you’re going to mow strangers’ lawns, you need a gas powered lawnmower. Your day went better than it would have normally because I have an electric mower too, and have the exterior outlet and the pile of extension cords to support it.
    • A gas mower means not having to worry about any of that.
    • But if you’re going to stick with an electric mower, learn to over/under the cable. It’s an obscure show biz skill, but it halves the difficulty of feeding an extension cord across a given distance, such as the lawn you are mowing.
    • Star at the coil, and go out from that direction as if vacuuming a rug. The concentric circle method is for gas mowers.
  • I was happy to lend you my trimmer when yours died ( or simply outwitted you – it was hard to tell), but I was not happy to see how it was returned. With middle-aged men, the problem is as much the surprise as the damage. Hiding it essentially doubles your jeopardy. If you break something, tell us about it.
    • It cost just shy of $9 and a half hour of my time to fix it – but it took a week to get the part.
    • Even so, when (if) you come back, be prepared to use your own trimmer.
    • KIMG0128

      No good deed goes unpunished.

 

  • You paid twenty dollars for that diaper.

Let me explain that last. I offered another $25 to do the backyard as well, and you accepted. That work was well done, except I could see where progress stopped. The infant, whom your girlfriend had been struggling to deal with all morning, had filled her diaper, and you had no spares. So you and Gal worked furiously to get it mostly done, so you could go home and change the diaper. I had another twenty dollars of bonus work which would not have taken you long (trimming that bush spilling over the top of my wall – essentially a disguised tip). As it was, I had to wait for my part to come in to finish trimming my backyard.

This brings up a couple of broader lessons.

Leave the family home. They gain nothing by loitering on the sidewalk while you mow the lawn, and you lose revenue you can’t afford (more on that below) when those specious logistics fall apart.  It’s not just you. I have told many young stagehands that leaving early to give their significant others a ride or whatever costs them a half-day’s hourly wage. Is that really cheaper than a cab ride? Young people in love don’t always do that math.

A note for your girlfriend, and all the other SO’s who view their partner going off to work as some sort of threat to the relationship.  We pay you to do the work in part so that you will take it seriously. Bringing your SO to the jobsite gives the opposite impression. Also, useful people will always be in demand. If your boyfriend has nothing better to do with his time than hang out with you, there is likely an unpleasant reason for that.

Here’s your real problem, though. You made a total of $50 for about three hours of work. Split between the two adults, that’s just over $8/hour. That’s not going to get it done. I’ve spent time being twenty something and desperate, and I get that some money is better than no money, but you will starve to death doing lawns like this. There is no upward price pressure. At $60 or more, I’ll do the lawn myself. I am your real competition, and I am really good at mowing my own lawn.

But, as I said, you did a respectable job, and I asked you to come back in few weeks, and you said yes. And if you do, I’m going to ask if you have a working cel phone. If you have one, I’m going to refer you (both of you) to Rhino Staging, because their lowest rate represents a 50% increase in your hourly wage. But you gotta be able to just answer the phone, and you can’t bring your girlfriend.

Truth be told, though, I actually hoping you won’t come back. I’m actually hoping you find something better on your own.

 

Now you know.

 

Good Advice from Direct Experience

I turned 50 not long ago, so I feel I am old enough to share a few general life lessons.

This won’t take long.

  • Own your life.
    • Do your own thinking.
    • Take responsibility for your feelings.
    • Your circumstances can be an explanation, but not an excuse.
      • My nearsightedness is more of a day-to-day problem for me than my autism, by a good margin. No one fundraises for my nearsightedness. Just saying.
    • Trust your stuff (whatever that stuff happens to be).
      • It is your job to figure out what your stuff is.

If you don’t know, choose the option that leaves the most other options open.

    • Sometimes that means stalling, and that’s OK. I mean, it’s like deliberately fouling to stop the clock, but that’s a legitimate tactic.
    • If you know – then do it. Nike is right about that.
  • Define yourself as broadly as possible. When you say stuff like “as an [x] I believe….” you are artificially narrowing your perspective, and thereby leaving out options to no gain.
    • I am a discrete entity within the time-space continuum, with a definable vector through space time and a known mass.
      • That may be carrying it a little far.

 

I have become fond of the Four Agreements of Toltec Wisdom:

  • Keep your word.
  • Take nothing personally.
  • Avoid Assumptions.
  • Do Your Best.

 

General Work advice:

  • You can get a job by knowing what you’re doing. You make a career by taking responsibility for getting it done.
  • Getting yourself into position to do the work well is never a waste of time.
    • Seriously: measure twice – cut once.
    • Just wear or use the fucking PPE.
    • Absolutely double-check that you have everything before you crawl/climb into the confined space/stupid high place.
  • Building relationships is never a waste of time.
    • Decisions aren’t made in meetings. They are made in the hallway conversation afterwards.

 

Specific to stagecraft:

The four Ks:

  • KNOW the system you are working with.
  • KEEP it in good working order.
  • KNOW what you’re doing
    • And make certain everyone else involved knows the plan as well.
  • KEEP your concentration.

 

The Three A’s

  • ATTITUDE
  • ABILITY
  • AVAILABILITY

These are all equally important in who gets scheduled.

 

Traits of a good stagehand (in order of priority):

  • Show up sober.
  • Be able to follow verbal instructions
  • Get along with strangers (because you will do this every day)
    • Don’t panic
    • Don’t be a dick.
  • Pay attention
    • This is the number one factor in sfaety
    • Also, you can learn things.
  • Remain flexible
  • Take the craft seriously.

 

With the exception of life and safety, nothing important actually happens backstage.

 

Writing Advice:

  • Show don’t tell.
  • Death to cliches.
  • Keep your ass in the chair.
    • Anyhting you write down is more productive than an empty page.
  • It is your job to figure it out.

 

Also, I dreaded writing this thing for about a week, but the answer turned out to be just sit down and write it.

 

Now you know.