Catching up with some quick lessons

I took a vacation, followed by back-to-back conventions in and around an extended visitation from Earl, and now that is all over, and I have my life back, and some time to reflect.

For those that know and/or care about Earl Hedges, he has left for Rochester NY on adventures, and will not have reliable internet for some time. That is what I know.

Now, some brief lessons learned in more or less chronological order:

My Vacation

Lo Lo Mai Springs Resort is what any KOA wants to be: over-priced and still worth it. I paid $40 a night for a tent site (which is twice what I might have paid at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, a few miles down the road) and I did not feel cheated at all.

First of all, we had the place nearly to ourselves until Friday.

Second, our tent site was right on Oak Creek. (Wading around in rivers works leg muscles you did not know you had. )

camp at LLM

Third, they all the KOA-like amenities such as showers, and a store etc. The store is cash only – a handy fact to know in advance.

Fourth, the neighboring property has a group of Alpaca’s, to which Cheryl is partial.

cz w alpaca

Cheryl and friend.

Yes – it was quite warm, hence our extensive experience with wading around in Oak Creek.

And yes – we were able to hike the West Fork of Oak creek without disaster.

occ by cz 1

Photo by C Zierman

 

I found I had to choose between quality time with my girlfriend, or documenting antics for Are We Lost Yet? I no longer have the bonuses to do both (if I ever did). AWLY? has not been updated in some time. I regret nothing.

There is probably still a market for a Arizona winery book. Meanwhile, we have these resources:

Verde Valley Wine Trail

Screenshot_2019-09-08 VVWC_Map2018(3) - Map-inside-brochure-wineries-8-18 pdf

CoKoCon

This is still CopperCon in size and spirit (and personnel) .

I played some Go Action Fun Time and moderated some panels.

Spoon theory, I now know after moderating a panel on it, is a metaphor for rationing personal resources while managing a disability. I did not have much to add, as whatever my disaqbilities, energy is not something I have ever had to ration.

RPG’s and writing: “You have to accept your godhood.” – Beth Cato

Do You Need an Editor? Yes.

“Write with abandon. Edit with extreme prejudice.” T.L. Smith

Five Rules of Writing (amended)

  1. Show – Don’t Tell
  2. Avoid Cliche’s
  3. Keep your ass in the chair
  4. Use adverbs sparingly.
  5. Just get there.

For rule 5  “there” is the story. Start where things start happening, and get to the end expeditiously.

Good world-building insulates you from characters (and player characters) going off the map. BUT BUT BUT the reader only needs to know enough about the world to follow the story. Just get there.

Things that appeared in my inbox:

Remedial crash course in website design: How Not To Suck at Design

Emmy Award-winning showrunner of The Office, Brent Forrester, shares his rules of writing comedy.

And finally some oddly edited but nerdily fascinated backstage action from the Drottningholms Slottsteater.

Drottningholms Slottsteater backstage 5 min from Drottningholms Slottsteater on Vimeo.

 

Now we know.

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Pantsing a post

I’m really kinda alarmed at how much of a pantser I actually am. Ok, let me back that up for the non-writers. I’m really surprised at how much I make up as I go along.

Before we get to all that, a few quick plugs for things we learned on other topics:

Over at Curious Continuity, we have concluded our survey of FTL methods.

And at Fantastical History we recap some things we learned (including the pantsing thing) at Leprecon 45 last weekend. 

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Some people make and use plans.

In truth, I like to know what I’m going to write before I sit down, but the realities of time and life mean that sometimes I just have to sit down and tap away and see what happens. My problem is that I’m good enough at spouting out nonsense off the top of my skull that I charge into the void with unwarranted optimism.

And a lot of typos.

And then I tie myself up in a not when I actually have to pull the plot together.

My whole life goes like that. I have a bit of a plan, it fall apart from errant assumptions, I make a new plan? – no I just make stuff up until I’m out of it all somehow.

I abandoned a carefully researched plan to buy a car to snap up a car I assumed to be beyond my reach. (Ruby Vroom). I seem to be getting away with that.

Not really related, but something I learned: open both side of the dead swamp cooler before deciding to replace it. Sometimes the previous tenant had just disassembled the belt for some reason. Put it back together and – cool-ish swamp air until late July.

Back to things I make up as I go along – WORD COUNT:

I wrote 1000 new words on Taliesin’s New Apprentice (the working title for the sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond), and transcribed 1500 into the thinking machine. Add the writer’s group I read it for critique in, and that’s 3000 words.

GAFtdicemonster

As I hinted at a bit in my last post, I edited and ran two episodes of Go Action Fun Time at Leprecon 45. That’s a thousand word worth each.

So At the Monday cut-off I made my 5000. And at the end of this blog, I’m already at 3000. But I got more to transcribe for Jack to read in 22 hours.

So now we know.

Promises to myself made on a blog

It is known that if you write your goals down, you are more likely to achieve them. What if you write them down and then blog about them? Let’s find out.

GAFT trex color2.png

So we’re clear: this is not my personal goal.

I have concluded that it is achievable to publish the Ruleset for Go Action Fun Time at least in PDF form by the end of the month. That said, the written goal is end of the quarter. There are LLC and ISBN issues to be worked through, and I am a prisoner of administrative response times.

After the Ruleset comes the Cast Directory of sample player characters, and other useful non-player characters, and then the Setting Bible with my lunatic visions of the fantastic past and speculative future.

There exists an online version of the rules, which I am still editing. I was doing these in conjunction with the text version, but that proved too time consuming. Character Creation is fairly consistent. Doing Things is synched with General Task Rolls and Movement. After that, you’re looking at older language and sketchy links.

A draft of the Setting Bible is also on the site, with original typos and everything. Use with caution.

I have a great admiration for people who design blank character sheets. That proved more difficult than any other single aspect.

The Ruleset may be the only book I write for this game with active links. Because geez.

Some other lessons:

  • Think through your outline and use it. It will save your sanity.
  • Pick a font early and stay with it. I spent a lot of time fixing fonts.
  • Remember you are teaching. It is OK to repeat things. If you are not sure which way to present the information, present it in all of the ways. People learn differently.
    • Examples! And give those some thought so as to be instructive.
  • Simple is the enemy of detailed.
  • Perfect is the enemy of done.

Later in this space, we will have more on ISBN numbers, and maybe the LLC process.

GAFT cover image

This is from the “Pilot Episode”

On more personal notes, we will soon blog about how hygiene is the enemy of sustainability, and the sad, but hopefully improving reasons that I know this.

We will also learn about my stupid and wholly self-created first world problem and its consequences. Hint: I currently have (and am paying for) both Dish and Cox cable – at least for the next 30 days.

Relatedly: don’t lose your contracts during a move – you may find a need to refer to them before making stupid decisions.

 

WORD COUNT:

I  edited a 30k document in two weeks.

Also, I turned a 400 word narrative into a thousand word epic poem because I hate myself. And I need to fix a bunch of meter issues, because I still hate myself.

But I have finished this blog entry, and I promised myself a cocktail. That promise I shall keep.

Now we know.

Markers were passed in our absence

So I’ve been busy, even if I haven’t been scrupulous about documenting that all here. Between my last post and this, some markers were passed, and we note lessons from those here. This is the personal part of my personal blog here. If you were hoping for random Facts about Odd Things, that must wait for later posts.

Last year vs this year: same guy, better lighting.

I have been an official resident of this house for a year. At just about that time, I wrote down some goals. I am pleased to report that a year later I have made maybe 60-70% of the progress towards those goals as I would like. Some of those shortfalls – particularly sorting the garage and the bookshelf situation – were unintended consequences of hosting Earl indefinitely.

Earl is in Louisiana working with the Salvation Army at least through Christmas. I do not know his plans past that, and I suspect that he does not know them either.

The follow-up to One of 64 is on hold to make room for pushing Go Action Fun Time into a real product. I have abandoned self publishing One of 64 for financial reasons. Every time I put together the money to move that forward some disaster cuts in front of it in line. So now it sits with a publisher awaiting a Decision. That decision would inform the pace (and perhaps direction) of the sequel.

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

An actual book you can buy!

The sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond, provisionally titled Taliesin’s Last Apprentice, moves along decently. I’m only a few months behind on that.

Some of the shortfalls – particularly wordcount issues in the last few months – came as a result of having a girlfriend (I am cleared to use this word I believe) who does not live in town. It has been my serious philosophy that building relationships is not a waste of time, but the 5 hour drive time one way does expand the amount of time I am not really wasting.

It was loosely a year between the time I accepted emotionally that my marriage was over, and my accepting emotionally that this woman I am driving across the desert to see is my girlfriend.

 

KIMG0759

Still going…

Relatedly, I have passed 100000 miles in my 2013 Kia Soul. At that mileage, the only mechanical failures are the CD player, and I cannot roll down two of the windows from the driver’s door console buttons (they still roll down from the individual switches on those doors). That’s it. Everything else works. On we go.

I did get some writing done.

BCDT-from-track

Are we trespassing yet?

Over on Are We Lost Yet? we explore the remains of the Black Canyon City Dog Track.

And you can poke around in crumbling remains of how men once made money from shadows by getting dogs to run around a track as fast as they could. But watch your step.

While researching that, I found the Rogue Columnist – who chronicles the underside of Phoenix, among other things. I got lost in his work the way I usually get lost in TV Tropes.

Over at Curious Continuity, I muse about time travelers creating scars in time – into which they cannot travel. By time travel standards, that sentence makes as much sense as most.

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This can never happen – and not just because of copyrights.

And we are editing Go Action Fun Time into something more like a published product and less like internal notes.

GAFT cover image

This is from the “Pilot Episode”

If you made it down this far, we’re friends. And friends sometimes want to know what I want for Christmas. I’m a middle-aged man with more stuff than I can store, so consumables (whiskey!) are always appreciated. Also, I am currently without a decent BlueTooth speaker like all the kids have.

Or the means to play a CD in my car.

Now we know.

 

Poorly blogging about smoke alarms in 3 or 5 acts

Every once in a while all I have learned in a week cannot be connected by anything particularly clever, and I just spew random facts.  I don’t even have anything to yell about. Next weekend I will be in town doing nothing that is open to the public or of general interest.

The most interesting parts of my life right now are off limits to this blog: the antics of my house-mates, finances (in any detail), and my still essentially non-existent love life. There is, to be clear, no actual news on any of those fronts. But there are plans, some clearly insane, and they are off limits here. Because I don’t want to break news to (or tip off) people who actually know me through my silly blog.

So lessons learned that are in-bounds, going roughly backwards through the week.

GAFT cover image

This is from the “Pilot Episode”

In the draft of Go Action Fun Time, I write at some length about how episodes (aka adventure or modules in other games) are broken into the traditional 3 act structure for a lot of reasons.

Episodic TV actually runs in five acts. But, in our defense, those are hour long dramas. We are simulating a half-hour action cartoon. Besides, I like what I wrote, and I am keeping to 3 acts.

I may though, go to 12 pt courier on everything, in line with these standards. 

 

On a busy construction site, late in the game (when guys like me saunter in) there will be active smoke alarms. And if your work makes a lot of smoke or dust, you will set these off, and this is bad. Especially if you’re working (as a hypothetical example)  on a partially occupied hospital. You might be tempted, rather than go through the process of filling out forms and getting clearance to bypass the alarms, to just tape over them. Don’t. Not just because it’s not the Right Procedure, and not just because the tape might not work anyway, but because the act of removing that tape will absolutely set off the alarm.

And then you find yourself standing in the warm sunshine of a late August morning in Phoenix with every other person on the jobsite while the GC goes on about this at some length, and threatens to dismiss the next clown he catches doing this.

Writer at work

The cheesy graphic Patel used. I learn from the best!

On occasion my curiosity mixes with abit of greed and I wonder how I might make some money off a blog. This leads me predictably to other blogs blogging about monetizing blogs. The best I’ve come across in NeilPatel.com, where the always upbeat Patel will explain with a breezy blog voice and a ton of screen-captured statistics how everything I do here at WHWL? is wrong.

  • My posts are too short (1800-2400 words is what you want for Google to take you seriously and yet still have a chance of someone finishing the article.  My posts weight in around 850)
  • My posts are not focused on a  single topic that would be known to attract readers. They are usually a little more focused than this, but not much. But I do not research possible topics by SEO strength.
  • My posts are not structured. I do not do number lists or this-then-that explainers.
  • I don’t have consistent video content.
  • I don’t have pop-up boxes asking you to subscribe.
  • I don’t buy targeted advertising

What impressed me most about Patel though is his easy-breezy writing voice that whisks you through some relative thick material before you even know it.

https://neilpatel.com/blog/how-to-become-a-better-blog-writer-in-30-days/

https://neilpatel.com/blog/content-marketing-works/

https://neilpatel.com/blog/the-future-of-seo/

 

There is no decent place to eat breakfast on a weekend morning in Show Low unless you are local. Conversely, I was able to get a decent breakfast with little drama in the far smaller burg of Overgaard. Go figure.

Bongo Overgaard

Breakfast in Overgaard

I was up in and around Show Low for a friend’s wedding. I shouldn’t get seriously drunk at wedding receptions, it seems. I’m still a bit too bitter.

I enjoyed the drive home though.

Bongo SaltRBridge

WORD COUNT

Last week’s What Have We Learned? = 1000 words

Monday Night Writer’s Group = 5000 words (even though I was the only one who showed up). (Again.)

2 hours editing Go Action Fun Time = 1000

2 hours revising my novelette “Enrinyes” = 1000

Good thing too! The file labelled “submittal copy” still had “2nd draft” pasted in the header among other problems.

Thursday night writer’s Group = 500 (this group is still well-attended!)

Hand-written draft of Taliesin’s Last Apprentice (the sequel to Beanstalk and beyond) = 900 words.

4900 words. Close enough.

[750 words]

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.