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]

Advertisements

The waiting and the leaving

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, I have been waiting for things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tumblr_oas9o9yoyp1sesm5bo1_400

Bongo at Point Reyes in 2016.

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

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

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

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.

 

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.

 

Author Events – a thing I do now sometimes

conalope1

I will be at Westercon 70, down the road in Tempe AZ of the July 4th weekend (July 1-4) doing many things.

We are proud to host the most prestigious regional science fiction and fantasy convention on the west coast on its 70th anniversary. … We are officially branding our 2017 event ConAlope. We are commemorating the 70th anniversary not only of Westercon but also of the crash landing of a UFO (or a military surveillance balloon) in Roswell, NM on July 8th, 1947. We suggest that the stranded aliens wrangled a horde of frisky jackalopes and rode northwest to Tempe. They may well make an appearance at Westercon!

I will be hosting a  book launch party for Beanstalk and Beyond .

I will be running episodes of Go Action Fun Time in the game room.

And Mystic Publishers will have copies of  Beanstalk and Beyond for sale in the dealer’s room (along with their other books, I suppose).

This will all be a whole thing with time/space coordinates as soon as I have those. This is just a head’s up.

Before that happens, I will be just south of Prescott next weekend (June 24 & 25) conducting a trail finding/building workshop at Whispering Pines Campground for the annual Arizona Community of Christ Reunion.

This is a church event, and I am there for church reasons, but it would be of interest to  novice hikers, and the event is technically open to the public, assuming you register for the camp. I will also have copies of my hiking guides on hand.

I include the Whispering Pines event because several regular blog readers are also church members, and because it segues into mentioning that this blog now has a calendar page. 

I am also working on a secondary book launch not on a holiday weekend at a major SF/F convention. When I have some resolution to that, I will not be shy. If you have ideas, I am still in the listening phase.

Now you know.

 

Beanstalk and Beyond Release Notice

I have just had confirmation from my publisher that my novel  Beanstalk and Beyond will be released on May 1, 2017.

It may or may not be up on Amazon before then. When that happens, I will not be shy about that.

I have been warned that if I want plenty of books on hand, I want to schedule any sort of release party for late May.  I am open to suggestions about this thing. Once I have time/space coordinates, I will not be shy about this either.

On May 1st,  I start a new job as  a field service technician for RC Lurie, which sells architectural lighting systems and related products. My end of it will be making sure they work.

It’s full time. I am not looking for side gigs until I start feeling comfortable with this job.

I will be a new employee for the first time in 15 years (and hopefully the last time as an actual employee). This will be my first job of consequence outside of live entertainment since the 1990’s. It remains to be discovered how much that takes out of me.

So I may not show up at social events I would otherwise attend, and my bliggety blogs may update less frequently for a while (particularly the ones nobody reads). I am confident, however, that I will find my way on top of all of this.

Meanwhile, we’re making Sangria over at Winehobo. 

Also, I’m mowing my own lawn tomorrow. Draw your own conclusions.

Now you know.

The More Things Change…

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

First, some rumor control. There has been a rash of stories about border guards detaining people for no good reason, and as much as I would like to attribute that to the Trumpster – this is not new. [Watts ended up convicted of a felony, is barred from traveling in or though the US and paid a fine.]

My wife has given notice at Rhino, and I will miss working with her very much, not only because I (obviously) enjoy her company, but because she was also good at her job.I don’t get into Rhino politics online, but from my perspective – which is abnormally well informed – this situation was 100% avoidable had anyone in charge been inclined to take action.

This is neither the first nor last good employee who has had this experience.

March 7th is her last day at Rhino. She took a new job which starts March 8th.

I have started going back to writer’s groups. I go to Central Phoenix one on Monday nights at Grand Central Coffee Company (where I’m work-shopping the sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond). and an independent one on Thursday Night at the Armadillo Grill – which seems really familiar.  (My old group met there for years, on Thursday night). Join us if your are inclined, and I will try not to spill beer on my copy of your first or second draft. [Links above are to the Meet-up sites which may require registration]

At Are We Lost Yet?  I report on outdoor retailers vs the Utah GOP.

The twice annual Outdoor Retailers Show has announced that it will pull out of its long time home in Salt Lake City Utah in protest of Utah officials support of eliminating federal lands by transferring them to the states.

At Fantastical History, we continue on with giants, exploring my strange (made-up) theory about the Muans and how they became Asuras.

Muans ( a term made up well after the fact) are a race of supernatural immortals native to southeast Asia. Their lost history informs the legends and myths behind the Asura and Devas and Jinn and Oni of more recent human cultures.

At Curious Continuity, I report both facts and wild conjecture about TRAPPIST-1 and its seven dwarves.

Unless we are captured by alien slavers and dragged there, we are not going to be around when (if) human starships reach the seven rocky dwarf planets orbiting tightly around TRAPPIST-1.  Why wait for that – when we can just make stuff up. Come on – NASA wants you to!

And I updated my writer’s resume to try and land a gig writing for Outer Places. So if they made it this far down checking me out – hi guys! The links were sparse because a lot of what I’ve written for the web has since evaporated in 404 unknown host country.

The more things stay the same, the more they change.

Now you know.

 

MORE ON PETER WATTS:

http://io9.gizmodo.com/5497556/sf-author-peter-watts-found-guilty-of-felony-resistance-against-border-guardhttp://io9.gizmodo.com/5497556/sf-author-peter-watts-found-guilty-of-felony-resistance-against-border-guard

https://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/2009/12/12/us_border_guards_arrest_author_peter_watts.html

http://www.tor.com/2010/04/27/sometimes-we-win/