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.

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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.

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Some Working Notes on Bullying

There has been of late a new and popular campaign against bullying, and that’s laudable, but they are going about it the wrong way.

What follows are some working notes from what may become a longer work, but I dared some people on twitter to read my blog, so some of this is for them. Some of it is truly working notes.

I’m skipping the part where I establish my expertise. You’ll have to trust me: I have a lot of experience with this from both sides.

The current tendency is to target the bullies. While you won’t find me stopping you, that approach will never really work. You may stop some bullies, but more will always take their place.

Bullying as a social tactic is both easy and alarmingly effective, and therefore will always be popular. Bullying is not used so much to steal lunch money – though that surely happens – but to raise one’s status among one’s peers.

That works because we collectively let it work. We let it work because we tend to equate people who are difference as threats, and therefore confer status upon those who join us in suppressing them.

We are not wrong about this.

The trouble with weirdos is that you may not be able to guess with any safe level of certainty how they might react in any given situation. Given that the number one predator to human beings is other humans beings, this causes alarm at a primal level. Our history overflows with people attacking other people for no reason beyond perceived differences and tactical opportunity.

This attitude, of course, is at odds with our expressed desire to build a more just social society. While any useful remedy for the underlying psycho-social tension eludes us, it’s relatively easy to point out the big kid picking on the little kid and say “There! He’s the problem!”

So we bully the least of the bullies. Ok – that kid totally had it coming. But you are not likely to solve anything beyond that one incident. Hell, you have a better than even chance to make it worse.

In the 1970’s, when I learned to deal with bullies, I was taught we are responsible for our own emotions, specifically how we react to those emotions. Make no mistake, emotions are going to hit you. They are auto-triggered in the brain. But outside of some very specific adrenaline circumstances, we then choose what to do about them.

Let me distill the lesson I learned the hard way:

If you let the abuse affect your reactions, you are giving a bully more power over your life than he needs or deserves. Yelling or crying or other fits will only ever make it worse. Now you’ve validated the underlying premise – that you are weird and unpredictable and to be shunned.

I am also leery of counseling kids that they should always appeal to authority. Many times the worst bully in the classroom is the teacher. May times the worst bully at work is the boss.

You fight bullying with what you can control – which is you. Don’t take the bait when you’re the target. Don’t pile on if you’re a bystander. Oh- and don’t be the fucking bully.

This is easier written than done – for these are totally natural impulses. I’m over fifty, and I still struggle with this. But that’s the answer. Tolerance, kindness, understanding, just like in the Bible, or Sesame Street.
OK – housekeeping.

The week before last I made 4500 words – close but no cigar. I’m not going to list it out – you’re welcome.

This week I did even worse 3500 plus this blog. Some of that has been work. Some has just been a funk.

I have lost my super-powers.

I used to make a to-do list and it would all get done – somehow. The shortcomings above are matched all across my life.

I used to be impervious to bully bait , and here I wasted half the night getting pummeled on twitter- when I knew a hundred times better what the actual agenda was. As an explanation, not an excuse, I think the reality of living alone is catching up to me, now that the logistics of the separation are mostly settled.

My first impulse is to talk about these things with my wife but…And that, actually, has been the hardest part for me.

I have had many friends offer to listen if I needed to talk, and I appreciate their concern, but what  I’m really missing is the deeper context. Being near the boat once in a while is not the same as being in the boat every day. It’s the difference between “the noisy thingy”, and “ the ratchet on the forward portside railing that makes the disturbing clacking noise”.

There is no one left in my life that knows what I mean by the noisy thingy. And that has been the hardest adjustment to make.

Now we know.

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.

Maybe I shouldn’t be left alone…

I have the house to myself for the first time in a month. Earl has gone back to Tucson to sort his life, and my daughter has gone back to NAU. I paid off a credit card with the meager profit from the house, and drank good whiskey to celebrate.

It’s only been 24 hours, but so far – it’s been good to be alone.

That’s pretty much the news.

From the Armadillo group we learned:

The EEOC has well written guidance about sexual harassment. No, seriously, they do.

Six years ago, when we came to EEOC as commissioners, we were struck by how many cases of sexual harassment EEOC continues to deal with every year. What was further striking to us were the number of complaints of harassment on every other basis protected under equal employment opportunity laws the Commission deals with today. We are deeply troubled by what we have seen during our tenure on the Commission.

With legal liability long ago established, with reputational harm from harassment well known, with an entire cottage industry of workplace compliance and training adopted and encouraged for 30 years, why does so much harassment persist and take place in so many of our workplaces? And, most important of all, what can be done to prevent it? After 30 years – is there something we’ve been missing?

Once you realize that the other gender(s) are of equal status to your own, the lines aren’t hard to puzzle out. It’s that first realization that seems to cause all the trouble.

It has been posited that 1070’s Des Moines, Iowa is the blandest  time/space coordinate possible.

 

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None are so bland

But Google image searches for 19670’s Des Moines turn up weird shit:

 

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Hulk Hogan, Donald Trump and Andre the Giant from back when they were all equally respectable.

And/or

Word count:

Last Monday’s WHWL? counts for 1000 words.

I wrote an interlude of Echoes (the sequel to One of 64) of about 1000 words about the Imperials, gianr silicone spheres what inhabit gas giants and used to rule the galaxy until they basically got tired of it.

I shared that at the same writer’s group where we talked about the EEOC and 1970’s Des Moines. 500 words.

I sketched and inked 4 panels of One of 64 – webcomic version(200 each =800 words).

I hand-wrote wrote another 750 words on Taliesin’s Last Apprentice, the sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond.

And whatever this word count is puts me comfortably over the limit. I’d say drinky time, but I have already started.

Now we know.

Living on Facebook is never dull

Those of you who follow me on Facebook might already know that I had an interesting weekend. I had an unexpected house-guest who basically lives his life on Facebook. While he was here, I planned a little bonfire with a few friends, and after he posted about it, and then again, and then again, it turned into an event.

Even with all that:

1000 words credit for research into the Irish Immram tales, a type of folkloric tale about a sea voyage. This is the template fr the sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond : Taliesin’s Last Apprentice.

1000 word credit for editing and compiling the first section of that book, now that I have a mostly complete draft.

1500 words on Echoes, the sequel to One of 64.

500 words for attending a writer’s group.

850 words for a draft of the first half of the next chapter of Taliesin’s Last apprentice.

850 words for transcribing it.

For Jack, I write all the first drafts by hand. That won’t work for a writer’s group, so I have to then edit and transcribe them into the word processor with a relatively quick turn-around. So double duty.

5700 words. That would call for whisky except I already started on beer.

Oh and fuck Sprint. Fuck them right in their squishy fuckholes. I mean, I didn’t care for Verizon’s customer service either when I had them a few years ago, but I have had an epiphany – none of these companies have good customer service. Verizon, though, at least has good coverage. Sprint has dead spots in city limits.  Also an army of Pakistani Sprintbots who are all very sorry they cannot actually help me.

OK, fuck you too.

I almost titled this post : “WordPress does not believe fuckhole is a word” but that title would pop up on Facebook and the like, and that might be a step too low. Besides, WordPress also flags WordPress as misspelled.

Out of curiosity (and poor judgement) I clicked on a link to the Barefoot Writer, where the breathless form letter (they all read like some overcaffienated motivational speaker) told me how much money I could make from writing freelance ad copy. About $50 gets me access to their database of clients. Maybe.

Fifty bucks gets you a daily hard-sell e-mail to spend a couple hundred dollars on their marketing course. Which, no doubt gives you the opportunity to spend a thousand dollars on their in-person seminar somewhere and – just stop.

If your copy-writing biz is so damn lucrative, why aren’t you doing that instead of bothering me? (I’d ask them, but all these e-mails are no-reply.  the inbedded links go right to the credit card screen).

But the worst, I think, is answering one of these ads fills every site you visit with similar ads. I’m OK guys. I have enough to write. Sorry I touched your tar baby.

Since I don’t want to leave on that note, Zefrank would like to tell you about our friends the cuttlefish:

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.