Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pickles, Plants and Packages

I have a confession - I don't crave pickles or jalapenos like I used to. About six weeks ago I got off one of my blood pressure medicines and since then I haven't craved pickles or any salty foods like I did before. My blood pressure is fine still.
However, it is summer and we do have quite a few cucumbers. Time to make some pickles! Here's the four jars of refrigerator pickles I put in jars last night! (I used the same recipe I mentioned in a previous posting.) They'll be ready to eat in about four weeks.

Along the same lines, here's a picture of some of the stuff we're growing. The cucumbers went into the pickle jars, but so did the little hot peppers. Frankly, they are not very hot (really) so I don't think they'll make a difference in the taste, but it seemed like a good thing to use them for. The leafy things on the right are Chinese spinach, a red-veined edible amaranth (yeah, I had to go look it up). A nice young lady at the plant nursery suggested it, and I have to say the leaves are quite tasty (I was worried). According to the internet, we might be able to get grain out of it also, but I'm not sure how to do that or what to do with the grain if we did harvest it. I tried one time to grind acorns into meal. It took me days (peeling off those little shells is a pain).  I made little acorn muffins. They were horrible.

And just one final note. Our Great-Uncle Frank was a Postal employee and my brother-in-law Arlo retired from the Post Office, so I have high regard for their skills and integrity. Still, when I receive a package like the one below, I have to wonder - what were you guys thinking?

Monday, June 24, 2013

From File to Paper

I am an expert at ETL: Data Extract, Transformation and Load. I didn't know this until my brother helped me rewrite my resume. When I described what I did he told me ETL is a current business buzz-word and much-desired skill. That's nice, I guess. In my job we spent many, many hours extracting data in various formats and getting it into a NASA ISS database. In the early years that involved a lot of OCR - optical character recognition. OCR has certainly improved in the last two decades.

Budding authors have exactly the opposite problem. You want to take your computer file and convert it to paper - a book.
A very nice lady at church asked me about our books a few months ago. The first book that my wife and I published (Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff) was very small (but, arguably, important). This lady wanted a copy, but wasn't interested in the electronic version. When I put my latest book out (My Mother-in-law Misadventures) this sweet woman was disappointed that she could not get a physical copy.
"How hard can it be?" I wondered. After all, James Altucher did it for his books.
For the last few weeks I endeavored to transform my e-book into a physical book. I used our first book as a guideline to learn the process, figuring (correctly) that My Mother-in-law Misadventures would take more work. This, in the short form, is the process I followed (minus the weeping and gnashing of teeth).

1. First we chose to go with a print-on-demand publisher. Let's be clear: this is not the same as a vanity or subsidy publisher. With enough funds I might have gone with the latter, but I was trying to keep costs down. Most books, my own included, rarely ever recoup the costs to publish them. To keep my losses low I needed to keep my costs down. There are a lot of print-on-demand publishers. If you google "print on demand services" you get over 200 million results. Fortunately for me, early in the process of learning to publish a book I stumbled upon Joel Friedlander's wonderful web site The Book Designer. He has an excellent article on which company to use for self-publishing a print-on-demand book. To sum it up, Joel investigated a number of print-on-demand vendors and recommends two: CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) and Lightning Source (Ingram Book Company). From the advice in Joel's article I chose CreateSpace (since I have no budget).
2. Once you establish a (free) account at CreateSpace you Add New Title from your personal dashboard. The dashboard, much like the one on your Amazon KDP account, is where you track all your projects.
3. On the Start Your New Project screen you need to enter the book title (name of your project) and what type of project it is. In my case, of course, I wanted to create a paperback (hardback isn't an option). You can also create Audio CD's, MP3's, DVD's and Video Downloads. Then you choose which setup process you want to follow. Since I didn't know what I was doing I chose to use the Guided process (thank goodness).
4. On the Title Information screen you enter all the relevant fields. The only fields required are the Title, Author and language (which defaults to English on my screen). You can add additional authors, as I did for Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff. If you're writing a series, such as my current Zombie Apocalypse series, this is where you put the series title as well. (Yeah, that's a hint: keep an eye open for Zombie Apocalypse: Vampire Raiders of Las Vegas, though this is the current working title).
5. The next page is where you assign your ISBN. If you bought your ISBN from Bowker (the only official source in the USA) then this is where you put the number you assigned. If it doesn't matter who is listed as your publisher, then you can let CreateSpace assign an ISBN. (As they state "'CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform' is the imprint of record for all books with a CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN.") For Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff, Darling and I didn't care about the listed publisher. In fact, CreateSpace specifically states "A CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN is required if you want to sell your book through the Libraries and Academic Institutions sales outlet through the Expanded Distribution." For My Mother-in-law Misadventures I wanted our own company listed as the publisher, so I used an ISBN that I bought from Bowker.
6. Now you get to the fun part, the interior of your book. The default size for a paperback is 6" x 9". You can choose black and white or full color interior and either white or cream-colored paper. Your choices will have an effect on how you develop your cover! The white paper is thinner. The cream paper is easier on the eyes, and I think it might be less expensive. Once you make these choices (which you can change at any point before you approve the book) you upload your book file as either a Microsoft™ Word or PDF file.
You know what? You format a printed book file a lot differently than you format an e-book file. It is so much different that I will leave that for the next post! For now, let's say you managed to get a good format and you reviewed it.
7. Your cover. Oh my goodness! As many of you know, the cover of my last book was a trial for me. Thank goodness for Tatiana, who did a superb job on both my e-book and my paperback. Doing the cover for The Fiscal Cliff wasn't nearly as difficult. Essentially I used the CreateSpace tool and built the cover online. I used one of their stock photos and the cover came out fine, though I did tweak it after Darling and I reviewed the Proof copy we ordered. I don't think there is a need to use the CreateSpace Professional Cover Design at $399. There are dozens of graphic artists that do good work and cost significantly less money. Tatiana, as I mentioned, is excellent.
8. Okay, now all your data is entered, the interior and cover are finished and everything is uploaded. If any obvious errors or issues arose you will receive a warning or an error. You resolved all those. Submit everything for the final review by the CreateSpace people and sit back and wait. In my case each file was reviewed in less than a day.
9. If the CreateSpace people found issues (they did on my second book) you need to resolve those and repeat the process. Once everything is good you can order a printed copy of your approved work or simply use their on-line review tool. We ordered printed versions. That took a few days to get to us, but helped us catch a few things I might have overlooked if I tried to do it with the on-line review tool.
10. Approve your book, finish the paperwork (distribution, sales and marketing - there's always paperwork) and you're finished.
Order your newly created paperback book and enjoy.

Feel free to send me a copy if you like (just kidding - you don't have to do that).

Schedule Change

Every article on writing good blog posts says you need to be consistent. I follow a number of blogs, so I know this is good advice. Back when I started writing my blog I decided to post on Prime Days. That's an okay (if somewhat quirky) schedule, but hard to follow. In the early part of the month I need to be creative as I post on the third, the fifth, the seventh, the eleventh, the thirteenth... you get the idea. Near the end of the month I get long stretches where I don't post.

I guess that's not very consistent. I think I will try a different schedule, but bear with me while I try to work it out. Since I average about nine posts per month, I'll try to switch to twice a week, once on Mondays and once on Thursday or Friday. I'm not sure yet, but we'll see how it goes.

Thanks for your patience. Usagi, who now runs free through the neighborhood, also thanks you.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Man of Steel

And, yeah, I like the suit.

Spoilers: since I can't seem to figure out how to do those really cool spoiler tags in my blog that other bloggers have, I'm doing it the poor man's way - spoilers are white text on a white background. If you see a gap in the text, it's a spoiler of some sort. Just highlight it to read it.
A review
First of all, I'm a Superman fan. Let's just get that out of the way right at the beginning. I watched the old black and white versions when I was little. I delighted in the 1978 version with Christopher Reeve (though not much of a fan of Margot Kidder). I don't think I missed an episode of Lois and Clark and I thought that Dean Cain was an excellent Superman (and was a fan of Teri Hatcher). I didn't enjoy Superman Returns at all. I'd like to scrub that one from my mind actually.
I'm also a Spiderman fan. The Sam Raimi trilogy for Spiderman violated a Spiderman premise when the webs shot from Peter Parker's wrists instead of mechanical devices. Mark Webb's 2012 version, The Amazing Spiderman, deviated from the comics when The Lizard killed Gwen's Dad instead of Doc Ock doing so. I don't want to see Gwen Stacy die either, so I hope this incarnation of Spiderman continues to violate tradition. Gwen's death at the hands of the Green Goblin (or arguably by the physics of snagging her ankle with a web as she fell from the bridge) was traumatic when I was a young fan of the comic. I'd rather not be traumatized again as an elderly man. I like the Gwen Stacy in the film as much as I liked the one in the comics.
So the precedent for deviating from a comic is well-established. In a previous post I linked to a reviewer that wasn't fond of Man of Steel because it violated a basic precept of Kal-El. In the comics Superman would have found an alternative solution to the final dilemma in the movie. In the movie, he did not.
I also liked the Lois Lane in Man of Steel. Every single incarnation of Lois Lane in the films, series, and comics makes a point of stating how she is an award-winning investigative reporter - and yet she can't see that Clark and Superman are the same person? Please. This movie finally does it right. Oh, and nobody wiped her memory either.
Also, I was delighted with the choices for Clark and Lois. Henry Cavill is awesome as Superman. When he first appears on the oil rig, flames engulfing his body like a magic cloak, then strains to hold the rig aloft while the helicopter escapes - he was perfect. I actually thought the bearded look was brilliant - his search for himself, so to speak. Amy Adams as Lois Lane did not appear as a glamorous beauty, but she was perfect for the role of a clever, investigative reporter. Not only could she do her job investigating, she also had a feel for people and an excellent moral compass. Thank goodness. Most of the past versions of Lois wrote anything for a byline above the fold.
Laurence Fishburne was an excellent Perry White. Russell Crowe played a fabulous Jor-El, though I suspect he didn't make as much money as Marlon Brando in the classic 1978 Superman. Though I liked Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, I just couldn't appreciate the world view of this Jonathan Kent, the paranoia where he advises a young Clark that maybe he should have let his classmates drown. That sits badly with me, but I have to say I was pleased that Kal-El was forged of better stuff (steel, perhaps). Diane Lane was excellent as Martha Kent, but I have to wonder how much she loved her husband. I would hope if that was me threatened by a tornado that Darling would tell young Clark to save me, regardless of the onlookers. That was a weak plot point to me.
One reviewer said there were three parts to this movie: Krypton, young Clark and Superman versus Zod. The way Zack Snyder managed the flashbacks blended well into the story, so I tend to view the movie as two parts, just Krypton and Earth.
Krypton was amazing, at times like watching a harsh version of Avatar, though why Jor-El and Lara didn't just escape to the Phantom Zone is beyond me (and a question that has lingered since childhood). Still, that's the best back-story on Krypton we've ever had (that I know of).
The special effects for all the battle scenes were over-the-top, too much, actually. A real superhero would take the fight somewhere less populated. From the best I could determine, not only was the Kent farmhouse destroyed, but Smallville was pretty much wiped off the map (c'mon - that's not really a spoiler) with all the explosions. The amount of damage done to Metropolis was even worse, though that was part terra-forming and part battle damage.
The final scene with Zod was severe. I can hardly think about it even now. Yet, in hindsight, it was necessary to this plot, this imagining of Superman.
I rank most of my movies by comparing them to one that I thought was incredible, so right now that puts Joss Whedon's The Avengers from 2012 at the top of the list with a solid 9 or 9.5 (I don't give anyone a 10. There's only one Nadia Comaneci after all. Once you give someone a perfect 10 it just opens the floodgates for more.)

So I'd give Man of Steel a solid 7.5, perhaps even pushing an 8. Let's put it this way: though I never want to have Superman Returns in my movie collection, I'll certainly add Man of Steel - and I'll watch it again, too!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite (PS3)

It's a game - and it's a story. Having said that, there might be some spoilers here, so be cautious.
My two youngest gave me the game for Father's Day (thanks, kids!). As an aside, I might add that I think they should move Father's Day to Saturday morning or Friday night, so we Dads can play with our cool presents all weekend. As it stands I actually took Monday off work and indulged myself in an entire day of playing Bioshock Infinite. Darling was sweet about it, but doesn't see the attraction. What can I say? I am a gamer. It is too bad that I tied up the 52" television all day. It is fantastic that I played on such a large screen, though.
I played the game all the way through to the final battle, or what my Dear Daughter read was the final battle, and I failed. At that point I had played over eleven hours on Monday and it was time for bed. I was tired from so much gaming (and had taken a mere 740 steps all day!).
I played the game in "sissy" mode, though, so it would take longer at a harder setting. I usually like playing the games on easy mode the first time through.
I will only give my impressions of the game and the story.
As a game, it is a first person shooter (FPS), not my normal genre. I'm more of a role-playing (RPG), 3rd person perspective player. Once I mastered the controls, I was okay. When I first rented the game a month ago it took me some time to realize the top PS3 controller button was melee attack. Fighting hand-to-hand is not only advantageous, it became necessary later in the game when I ran out of ammo. With some of the gear I found and equipped (hat, gloves, pants, shirt, boots), fist fighting can be quite satisfying.
Other than that, I am a shotgun guy. Let's face it, I was forged by Doom and the combat shotgun in that game rocked. It rocks in this one, too, but ammo can become a problem, though you can buy it at any Dollar Bill machine. Those aren't everywhere, so be cautious.
Some of the mini-bosses were hard. Ouch on those. The banshee woman was horrible, because she kept raising the corpses to fight for her. In hindsight I should have somehow destroyed the corpses; that would have helped.
My problem with FPS games (and other games such as WoW) is that I tend to stand and fight toe-to-toe and that doesn't really work on bosses so well.
The story behind the game drove me to continue playing Bioshock Infinite. The biggest problem with making a game that tells a story is that it forces the game to be linear. I am sure there were spots I could backtrack and discover missed items in previous locations, but I didn't find an easy way to do that in this game. I certainly didn't uncover all the gear and voxaphones (you can find lists of those an almost any walk-through on the web).
I also got lost a lot. Travelling by the sky rail made me lose track of where I'd been and where I was going. Later in the game I noticed maps on some of the larger signs; those might have been helpful earlier. Still, no heads-up display? What's with that?
The story is good, and compels you to play just a little longer (just one more thing) so that you get a bit more of the plot. That was pretty slick.
How would I rate the game, though? It was not as open-ended as Skyrim (which also had a plot, though less compelling), but the graphics and playability were top-notch. Skyrim scores higher than Bioshock Infinite for me. There is a high degree of replay to the game, also, I suspect. And I'll play it again, but not in one sitting (though that was quite fun). Besides, my right thumb hurts from playing so long!
My brother and nephew played the game (I'm sure they played on the hardest setting, though). They told me the game was a classic, one that every gamer should own.
I agree. Now I do own it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Blog Purpose

I'm not sure what the purpose of a blog is. I enjoy writing one, as long as it is on my own schedule and I don't need to cater to the whims of others. After all, it's my blog - the only whim I should cater to is my own.

To date I have 241 posts, and 38 of those are Draft versions that I may or may not post (37 without saved titles). Some are too introspective and others too boring. Some are simply files I tried to capture from one of the computers I decommissioned and I thought I might be able to make a post of them someday.
I started writing on my blog on 5/10/2011 when my Dear Daughter said if I didn't start a blog she would take the name O-Dark-Thirty. My first blog post was the written version of the short speech I gave the church on our mission trip to Africa. It is still one of my favorite posts (and it was an awesome trip).
I don't have categories on all my posts. I didn't learn about those until just a few months ago. I went back in time and added some categories, but I sure wasn't comprehensive.

I have fourteen posts that I categorized with Mom. Of those, one is also categorized Inspirational and three are categorized Cooking. I have nineteen that I categorized Family, but some of those have Mom as well. I have thirty that I categorized Inspirational and I hope some of them are. Probably my favorite among those is Courage. I have two that I put the category Bible on, and nine with Church Sermons. I have eighteen that I labeled Just Funny. There are twelve with Darling and four of those have to do with Moving. I have seven posts that speak of finances and I like them all, but my two favorites are Finances and You and The One $ Rule. The latter one is the one piece of advice I wish my children would learn and follow financially.
My top three commented posts have to do with my family and my Mom, two of them about growing up in Michigan. There are four parts to that story, but people didn't comment as much on the latter two parts.
The number of views is probably skewed due to the number of edits I had to do with some of the posts, though I tried to exclude my count (Blogspot has a setting for that).
Not surprisingly my top viewed post is the one where we published The Fiscal Cliff last October. We sent most of our church members there to get the book, so there are over 150 views. Surprisingly, my second highest viewing has (currently) 119 views for my post on The Hero's Journey, but people might be confusing me with Joseph Campbell, I suppose. The third and fourth highest viewed postings deal with My Mother-in-law Misadventures and The Frau Chronicles. I have almost one hundred views for Software Eulogy - This is One Ugly Posting which is a technical post for cleaning up a netbook. I hope it helped people. My Yearly Financial Tuneup got over fifty views and I'll probably post updates on that one every January. It helped me a little and maybe it helped others.

I have 3607 total views, although the Blogger stats shows a total of over 11,500 views. I'm not sure why I have such a discrepancy. Overall I average about 17 views for each post, but that's misleading because of a few high numbers. My median for all my post viewings is 12, with 101 posts viewed higher than that. My post on Electric Cars only had thirteen views, but it was fun to write - I saw a Tesla that inspired it, and was curious how the costs per mile really shook out.
My post for WWII documents received 79 views, almost seventy of them in the first three hours of the posting, and almost all from Europe. That astounded me.
The hardest one to write, or possible the most transparent, was one I called Pain Lingers in 2011. It garnered only an average number of views, but my brother put a fabulous comment on it, one that warmed my heart. He's a great guy and a compliment from him means a lot to me.
I can't evaluate a pattern of who reads what posting. I don't know what categories my readers like. One brother told me that if I posted more family stories more of my family would read them. Maybe that happened. I actually can't tell from the statistics.
So I don't know who my readers are, and I don't really know what they want me to write about.

Which is cool, actually, because I can simply continue to write what I want and hope they help some people.

<Added: On the other hand, I'm not a blogging superstar because I don't follow the correct formula!>

Thursday, June 13, 2013


The archetype Superman in movies
One of the Wired reviewers didn't like the new Superman movie. I can't comment with any knowledge, since I haven't seen the movie yet. However, lack of knowledge never stopped me before. It usually doesn't stop anyone.

One friend sent me a quote yesterday from Thomas Sowell's piece on Townhall where he says "There seems to be something liberating about ignorance and inexperience. You are free to believe whatever you want to, unencumbered by hard facts and, if you have political power, to impose your headstrong ignorance on those with first-hand knowledge."
Since I am ignorant on so many issues, this seems to allow me to speak on any subject - and perhaps be taken seriously.
Don't take me seriously… Please.

Back to Superman
So, anyway, this reviewer doesn't like the movie. I sent this review to my buddy Wes and he commented back to me "Well, it was well written and he hit on some good points. It will be on the back of my mind when I watch the movie. I don’t normally pay attention to critics (because usually they get it wrong)…but this critic really knows his Superman."
I can't sum it up better than that (thanks, Wes).
Superman is the sum of all the goodness we should have in the human heart. This is what makes him an enduring favorite and makes most kids at some point put on a cape and jump off their bed to attempt flight. We want to be that good.
Apparently this movie tries to make a dark and gritty Superman. Well, who's in charge of this anyway? Dark and gritty is Batman's turf.
Wes and I both thought of the huge cross-over comic which starred Superman and Spiderman. (We each own a copy.) Lex Luthor and Doc Ock managed to zap Spidey with some sort of Red Sun ray and then engineered a fight between Superman and Spidey. The (evil) thought process was along these lines:
Spiderman is tough enough to do a little damage to the big guy as long as this Red Sun ray is working. Superman will lose his temper and clobber the web-slinger. At some point the Red Sun ray will wear off and Superman will kill Spiderman. Result: one dead Spiderman (Doc Ock is delighted) and a repentant Superman who will be so devastated that he will disappear and quit crime-fighting (Lex is happy).
There was this great scene that lasted about three panels in the over-sized comic. Superman threw a punch at Spiderman and was just about to connect with Spidey's jaw when Superman stopped himself. The backlash from the air displaced by Superman's fist knocked Spiderman a long, long way, but the web-slinger survived.

That's the Superman we all know and love; the one who looks for any other solution besides killing the bad guy. He looks for the good in everyone.
After all, we're all a little bit of a bad guy.
Except for Superman. Except maybe in this movie.

(Oh, I'll still go see it and I'll probably enjoy it, but I'll be watching more closely now!)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Internet Fortunes

Grabbed this from CNN. Sorry guys.
Over the last couple years I wasted thousands of dollars on classes designed to teach me things that would provide me with other streams of income.
Let's see. I was very excited and dropped about a thousand on a class to teach me to do programming for the iPhone without doing any real programming. The same information is now available in eBooks that cost less than twenty dollars.
I spent about a thousand dollars on a course to teach me how to write eBooks and create massive wealth by writing hundreds of excellent books. You can really get wrapped up in the pitch, let me tell you. Again, that same information is out there in eBooks and some are probably free by now. Of course, hundreds of them were written by people who bought the course.
I spent some hundreds of dollars to join a writing "club" where the members helped each other by reading each other's books. (If you want to know the actual name of the club, send me an email.) We'd provide feedback and the book would improve until the writer could publish something good. Some of the books were good and some members of the "club" were already established authors with valuable insights into writing and publishing. As I downloaded, read and reviewed books I discovered that most of the people in the "club" wrote poorly. They were there to write the hundred "how-to" books and rake in money. Many of them probably bought the writing class.
While I was writing My Mother-in-lawMisadventures I used a working title of The Frau Chronicles. I knew it wasn't a good book title. This writing group had a group to discuss book titles. I posted some questions, seeking a better title. Nobody answered me. Not a single person.
When I finished the book I asked for people to go grab a free copy and read it then write me a review. That's what the "club" is for. Not a single person did so.
I reviewed dozens of books for other authors. At first I tried to review everyone's new book, but that took too much time. Then I focused on books I thought I'd enjoy reading. That worked better.
Overall that "club" became worthless to me. As I later discovered, there are many on-line communities that cost nothing and provide equal or greater benefit. I'm working on building my connections on those sites, but it will take a while.
In the meantime, here's the bottom line of spending all that money.
The web sites that provided "free" iPhone application development worked fine, but they all, without exception, converted to a membership fee. For much less than the fees for those sites I can hire a programmer to update my applications on iOS and Droid (and that's in my to-do list).
You want to know how to make money writing? Write well. You want to know how to write well? Write. All the time. For years.
You want help writing? There are a lot of free sites to join with helpful communities.
Want to make a fortune on the internet?
Link up with some of these guys who still spam my email box and sell a class on how to make money on the internet.

I won't buy it though. I'm busy writing.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Doorway

I am a Futurist.
Seriously. I have the degree and everything. Currently the program is operated at the University of Houston and they now call it Strategic Foresight. I belong to both the Association of Professional Futurists (APF) and the The World Future Society.
Back in May the WFS solicited submissions for the next issue of their magazine. They wanted a three-hundred word essay on what might disappear by the year 2030. I scribbled off a short fiction piece and sent it in. Not surprisingly I just received a very nice rejection letter (always know your market - they rarely do fiction).
Undaunted I turn now to my own personal audience, my blog readers! (I love you both!) Here's my short short-story, clocking in at 319 words. Enjoy!

The Doorway
The air smells of ozone as I walk along the streets, small rivulets of water flowing next to the curb, carrying bits of debris from the passing thunderstorm. Glass storefronts reflect distorted images of the neon signs in the darkness. I tread the same sidewalks I rode my bike on as a young child, almost eighty years earlier.
"It's 2030 and still no flying cars," I mutter, and the few people passing me ignore the comment, intent no doubt on their communication implants. I didn't want one of the darned things in 2022, but they were mandated for every citizen. Mine remains silent. All my friends are long gone.
I search and still can't find what I'm looking for. The dirt streaks my reflection in the glass and I pause at the old man staring back at me. Then I shake my head.
What I'm seeking disappeared slowly, but there was one here when I was a young man. If it still exists it would only be as a curiosity. Progressives said it was a good thing, good for the environment, good for the people. No more trees sacrificed to the printing press, no more extra trash sent to trash sites that still bulged to overflowing.
My boots splash in the puddles as my stride shortens. It was here once, a small door, painted green with chipped red paint around the paned glass. As a boy it was my one escape from the tedious and boring world.
I stand in front of the door. The panes of glass are gone, replaced by a sheet of warped and weathered plywood.
I try the knob and it does not turn.
This was my last desperate attempt to find a bookstore. Now they exist only in my memory, and even that fades.
My boots move away slowly, carrying me with them.
Wait. Was that the creak of an old door? I turn…

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Choose Yourself! James Altucher has a new book!

James Altucher has a new book! It is called Choose Yourself and available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback versions. James will actually pay people back when they read his book. Well, he has plans to refund your money if you read it in the first ninety days of publication and send him the receipt with proof you read the book. Details of his deal are on his blog. His dear wife Claudia thinks he lost his mind.
I mention James in a lot of my posts, actually. I first mentioned him when he wrote a post about Memorial Day that had me thinking. I also thank him in my newest book, My Mother-in-law Misadventures, but he probably doesn't know that. He's the one that made me realize it was possible to self-publish my book. (And no, my Dearest Daughter, self-publishing is not the same as vanity publishing. It's a lot more work.)
I've read 27% of his book according to my Kindle reader. Much of it relates to James' Daily Practice, which is amazing, but he gives more details than ever before. As usual, his reading style is pretty much all his own.
I plan to write to James and do an on-line interview in the near future. I'll post it here, of course. I'm trying to come up with ten good questions; that's one of the things James says to do daily - make lists.

I have no idea how to get people to go buy my book on Amazon. I'm not the established blogger that James is, so I don't have the readership following him. My book is funny, a bit wistful and has some first-hand WWII stories in it, directly as Frau told them to me and her daughter. People don't know me, though. People do know James!
Go buy his book, on Kindle or paperback. Read it. It has the potential (seriously) to change your life. It's your choice, of course, but you have nothing to lose. Read the book and James will even refund your money.

You can't get a better deal for a book that can revolutionize your world! Go ahead, take that little step…

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bits and Pieces

I mentioned my buddy Bill was getting his new puppy over the Memorial Day holiday. Bill said in his weekly report "Spending time with Sawyer, previously called Nolan." I like the name Sawyer. Here's a picture (taken at the breeder's, Ammo's Brittanys).

Status of the My Mother-in-law Misadventures: I currently have 27 downloads from Smashwords (all using the free coupon which expired last week) and one sale on Amazon. Though none of my friends have written a review, our dear friend Tammie wrote me and said "Bought it, read it, LOVED it!!!! I could envision every scene and laughed out loud many times. She was a character and much loved."
People don't realize how important good reviews are for book sales. Our last book was downloaded over three hundred times and received only one review, for three stars. I consider three stars perfectly acceptable.
I even belong to a book club for which I bought the membership. The idea was that each person in the club would help the others, downloading and reviewing books that interest them. They left me standing in the desert on my book and I'm disappointed. (If you want to know what group it is so you can save your money, send me a note.)
I've read and reviewed over fifty books on Amazon (and will continue to do so). Amazon tells me I helped thirty-five people make a buying decision. That's pretty good and makes me happy to help. Plus, I consider the reviews my chance to be creative AND helpful.
I'm studying what is required to develop a print version of My Mother-in-law Misadventures  using Createspace. It's amazing how much work is needed (an entirely different set of pictures with higher resolution, for instance) to develop the paperback version. I have no idea of the costs yet, but will keep you posted. Stay tuned.

Humble Bundle is doing it again - pay what you want for their games. This time they have a set of six games available for the Mac through Cult of Mac. The deal doesn't last long from this posting, so get it quickly here.

Our garden is doing well. We ate some green peppers and some jalapenos from it the other day and they were tasty. The new bed has peas and they are doing great so far, but it's early. It seems the sun here in Houston batters the plants during the day, though. We're thinking of creating sunshades for the planting beds.
The squash is climbing the twine I put out there for that purpose. One of the squash plants decided the twine was too restrictive and is trying to climb the fence. I think it is in competition with the luffa plant which is right next to it. More on that, with pictures, at Darling's blog site.

The squash plants