Routine vs Actual Progress

Rey is back at college, and I have the house to myself again. I could settle back into the old routine that got me here. Or I could reflect on how that got me here, and make some changes.

Before we get to all of that, some brief announcements, pending more formal (louder) announcements to come:

mcon2019-gold-413x413I will be running Go Action Fun Time at MaricopaCon on August 24 & 25.

logo-cokocon2019

 

I will be running even more Go Action Fun Time at CoKoCon August 30th to September 1

 

I will be speaking at a couple of panels at KABAM Fri-Sat, Sept 20-21, 2019.

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I  hope to be at the Phoenix Library Local Author Fair on November 2nd. That is pending application, and the link below, while no secret, is for my reference.

https://www.phoenixpubliclibrary.org/ServicesForYou/Pages/Just-Read-Local-Author-Fair-application.aspx

I have always viewed routines as a potentially dangerous addiction. Some of this is the autism – which loooves routines – but most of this come from a life in show business where routines, as most people would understand them, are well-nigh impossible.

I have a day job, and a house to myself. I can have routines, and I do. I can go from stopping the alarm to starting the car in 45 minutes, with breakfast and coffee and lunch in a cooler. That this routine exists and is reliable brings me more pride and joy than I am comfortable admitting to.

You will be relieved to know that I am not about to describe said routine. Also worth noting: this is basically the only routine I follow with any consistency.  The laundry is a process rather than a routine, in that it is not time-sensitive. I can do it in a long afternoon, or I can spread it out over three nights. If I do it in an afternoon, though, it is a routine.

Similarly, I have a process for cleaning the house, and even a process for writing, but these are steps-in-order, they are not a choreographed ritual that is my  workday morning routine.

I should be more systematic about the writing routine: reflection, warm-ups, that sort of thing. There really are creative best-practices (but stay away from “Creativity exercises” business trot out when trying to “brainstorm” or whatever word they use for it now. You can’t force creativity out in a scheduled meeting.)  But I am often surprised by opportunities to get creative work done (“I know they said 9am, but they actually meant 1 pm”) and have learned to summon the magic without a great deal of preparation.

Routines are time consuming, though. It is within my autism to schedule every minute of my day doing plausibly useful things that wold maintain and enjoy the quality of life I have right now perpetually. Instead, I rather imagine progress. I am not unhappy with my life as it is now, but that is largely because I see it as a process rather than a routine.  If the last few years have taught me anything, there are precious few constants we can rely upon in life.  Even my precious morning routine is quite different than it would have been four years ago.

Other views on routine:

Fast Company says they are essential.

Jonah Mailin on Medium disagrees.

Productivity Blogger (this is a thing, I suppose) Dean Yeong has a best routine listicle.

I am up much later than I planned to be. I am drinking whiskey. Those are also solid routines.

Now we know.

 

Things I have done so you don’t have to

As usual, I have been busy: travelling, making things, dramatically reducing the amount of vegetation surrounding my house. Since this is supposedly an author blog, let me lead with that news.

I have uploaded Go Action Fun Time to Drive-thru RPG  and now await their approval.

GAFT basic rules cover

Yes – my artwork. If you think you can do better, contact me. 

It is only a PDF for now. That was enough of a maze without trying to reformat for e-pub or mobi.  I now know there are six different formats of PDF. And PDF/A is bad. Well, it’s fine, but the security features will lock up the bots at Drive-Thru. Also, compressed or linked JPEGs and transparencies are bad because Apple is i-fussy. I’m not clear what any of that is, so I don’t have to worry?

You, loyal reader, do not have to wait for Drive-Thru’s blessing to get this product. Contact me directly, and I will hook you up. With a commitment to playtest it for me, it would be free.

dzyecg7v4aagrsv

Bongo at a river-side park in BHC.

I journeyed to Bullhead City on RC Lurie business, so you don’t have to. Bullhead City is a cluster of hills on the banks of the Colorado River, across from Laughlin Nevada – where all the money comes from. On top of each hill is a 55+ trailer park. The exception is along AZ95, the main drag, which is an extended strip mall. You might infer how much I enjoyed my stay.

I’ve actually been there twice. The first stint I stayed at a $40/night motel, where nothing was open after 11pm (I arrived at 10:30pm) and my door didn’t quite lock. They had a fridge and microwave but no coffee. I found coffee in the lobby in the morning, and I survived.

On my return trip, the client put me up in a casino.

Casinos are crappy places to stay when on business. The Avi Casino, south of Laughlin proper,  gave me a room with no fridge, microwave or coffee. It’s like they don’t want you spending time in your room at all.

In fairness, the casino cafe (Feathers – I think) is open 24/7 and I was able to get a decent breakfast and out the door in half an hour.

I had a better time in Las Vegas, as you might imagine. I don’t gamble to speak of, but I drink, and prefer to drink with nerds. For that, Vegas features the Millenium Fandom.

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Yes – I have a girlfriend.

True confession: I have never been much for cosplay. Cheryl (my girlfriend)

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Cheryl 

 is an actual costumer, though, and views these events as marketing among other things. I now own a pirate shirt, and several other items of clothing I would not otherwise possess.

I’ve done worse things for romance.

 

Closer to home:

I have finally bottled the mead I tossed last summer. It is sweet and fruity and bubbly – like magic unicorn sweet and fruity. I’m mildly disturbed. It’s called Wildflower, and she be recovering from bottle-shock by late April, early May.

 

The internet promised me that replacing my two exterior doors would cost about $800. I’ve had bids from $1800 to $3600. So … that’s a little more. Curiously, the two estimators who quoted me around $1800 took the most measurements and asked the better questions.

It likely come down who provides the better actual door.

There is a 4-6 lead time with door installation.

The tool of choice for removing dandelions from gravel is a pick-ax. A 30 gallon garbage bag stuffed full of decapitated dandelions weighs the better part of 50 lbs. I filled 9 bags.

My arms still hurt.

Now you know.

Winning for Losing

You can’t win them all. In fact, most of us lose about half the time. It’s how you respond to losing that determines the cost of the loss. We’ll get into some examples, but first,  a self-serving announcement:

 

There is a new version of Are We Lost Yet? With content. Right now.

 

And more to come.

Anyone who feels sorry for poor Brett Kavanaugh should reflect that he is now on the Supreme Court anyway despite his poor performance in the worst, surreall, contrived job interview ever seen on non-fiction television. He won. Don’t feel sorry for the losers. That defeats the point of that sentiment.

The Suns fired Ryan McDuh a year too late. (Did you really need to keep him around to draft DeAndre Ayton at #1? My daughter could have made that pick, and she uses words likes “sportsball”.) The Suns went from having four starting quality point guards under cintract to having zero under contract – and no prospects of acquiring one. They have run out of time to rebuild. They must at least flirt with .500 THIS SEASON or even guys like me are lost to them.

As it stands, they have a 30 win season at most.

Our old friend Neil Patel blogs about his blog failures.

 

The big lesson I learned was that knowing SEO isn’t enough. Even if you can build links, write content, and climb to the top of Google fast, you won’t stay if people hate your content (or product/service).

 

On a more personal note:

Last Saturday [10/6/18] I wrenched my back but good trying to wrestle an 80 lb chain hoist back into its box. The box in question was above my knees, but below my waist, so I really had nothing to work with but my arms and my back, and despite what we may have learned watching the Six Million Dollar Man in the 1970’s ou can’t do much with your arms without involving your [crunch!]… OWWW Dammit!

I swear I heard a crunch sound.

Before anyone panics, it is my opinion that I strained one muscle, and aggravated my arthritis. It’s arthritis. It’s not a bulge or a rupture or anything of the sort.

One of my rules of this blog is that it is not for whining, but there are some aspects of dealing with lower back pain that are less obvious, and perhaps instructive.

A good night’s sleep is about the worst thing I can do for my aggravated back. It stiffens up to wrought iron, and every move hurts. I have to psych myself up to put on socks. Worse, getting ready for work involves standing for 30-40 minutes, and bending slightly to deal with this or that on the dresser or counter or desk.

But Ibuprofen, and an ice-pack for the drive in help a lot, and by the time I get to the job-site, I have been able to get out of the car with less drama than it took getting into it.

This situation, and the single malt scotch I bought to “medicate” it with, not house guests have helped the word count. Low level pain will absolutely compound exhaustion. Leading to that good night’s sleep that is nearly the death of me every morning.

Can’t win for losing.

I don’t know what that says about my character, but that is how I’m dealing with it. It has been getting a little better every day – so I continue.

Now we know.

 

 

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.

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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.

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.

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 collectibles 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 allows 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.