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]

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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.

hammockrig

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 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.

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.

26993602_10211504930004659_4359609649977180624_n

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.

 

ardan

None are so bland

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

 

afa-187788

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.