Funny about Money

Simple Living = Frugality = Peace of Mind: Personal Finance and Stress Control

August 3, 2015
by funny
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Time-Suck Control: Update

Hah! This morning I put off the print-on-demand vendor’s time-suck demand until Wednesday, the next day I have scheduled for diddling away time in largely unproductive frustration and hassle. “On my way out the door to an all-day meeting,” said I.

😈

That would be an all-day meeting with a computer keyboard…

So how did the first day of the Time-Suck-Control Scheduling Strategy go? Not too badly. Not great, really, but it was more or less successful. I set aside yesterday to do nothing but write (around the household chores, the pool maintenance, the fricasseeing plant survival chores…oh well). The entire day was devoted to jump-starting the second bookoid of the Biker Babe series, which is suffering from a low battery.

And yeah, I did get through a scene. And I figured out the problem: Biker Babe is turning into something different from a tale of two people f**king like rabbits as they scurry across the landscape. It’s actually turning into a romance. Yesterday Bobbi (the babe) met Biker’s deceased wife’s best friend, a motherly sort who, devolving into a kind of female mentor, advises her to treat Biker kindly and remarks that for the first time since the Deceased croaked over, “that spark in his eye” has returned.

Problem is, Bobbi is a denizen of academe, something she keeps hidden from the widower’s friends. She’s socialized to feel an intense hypersensitivity to sexist slights and also to resist being stuck in the traditional female role. This is at odds with the biker culture, in a funny way. (Not funny ha-ha, either.) She does not much like being called “babe,” nor does she appreciate being told to sit and wait while he takes up a challenge to beat one of his pals at billiards.

As you can see, trouble is about to rear its ludicrous head…

At any rate, these developments are slowing down the scribbling pace, because setting up the situation distracts from…yes, the rabbitting around.

Today I’ll have to move on to another story, which I’m pretty sure I can crank in one day without too much trouble. Rabbits are pretty easy to describe in action…

The second whiteboard — the one in the office — turns out to be a handy aid in the Time-Suck Control Department. The main whiteboard, which has a calendar and space for to-do’s, resides on the door I have to pass through to get to the car. This forces me to look at the things I’m supposed to be accomplishing now, today. I’ve pressed the second one into service as a place to list time-suck chores.

Writing chores appear on the out-the-door white-board and time-suck chores on the office whiteboard. So, things are less likely to be forgotten, but they’re separated out and assigned to specific 14-hour time slots.

Soon we’ll see if this really works. Tomorrow is another writing day, but Luz will be here for four or five hours. That means today I have to shovel the pigpen a bit, and although she personally is quiet and not inclined to bother me with socializing, having somebody banging around the house still is a distraction.

Wednesday is assigned to time sucks, but the morning will be trashed by a visit to the dentist. I expect to be pretty frustrated and upset by that visit, since he’s about to announce that he’s going to empty my bank account and torture me with a new series of pains and discomforts. Like I haven’t had enough of those of late… Whether I’ll get anything done after that is anyone’s guess. A lot of time-sucks remain to be done on that day:

Post Fire-Rider, Book II (this entails registering an ISBN, a true time-suck!)
Read my friend Ken’s suggested links on book marketing; distill new ideas for action
Write and post an article on LinkedIn by way of attracting attention to the publishing ventures
Get act together and create a more effective marketing plan; contact a writer who’s doing pretty well & ask for appointment to discuss her strategy
Send receipt to editorial client
Build e-mail list of people to pester about new publications
Start a Pinterest site
Create a Writers P&S site on Facebook (ugh!)
Pester the Web guru about getting the sites up and adding lost plug-ins
Figure out what vendor (above) is talking about and come up with some sort of fix, if needed.

Getting all that done in one afternoon, after the dentist’s appointment soaks up the morning? Highly questionable. And therein lies the reason I need someone to help with (read “to do“) the marketing stuff.

August 2, 2015
by funny
1 Comment

The Writer’s Dinner

I did it to myself. I’m crankin’ away at the second installment of Bobbi and the Biker’s tale. He takes her to his favorite sh!t-stompin’ place, a country-western biker joint in a bad part of town. Tells her they have the best hamburgers in town. She thinks he’s putting her on, of course. But lacking anything better to eat, she orders a cheeseburger after they sit down to a big ole picnic table with his cronies.

Ketchup and mustard were passed up the table, and we dug into a classic American dinner like I hadn’t tasted since I was a little girl. Tender beefy flavor enriched with the nutty cream of melted Swiss and the tang of dill pickles and the sweet overtone of Heinz filled my mouth and I thought this was something I’d never get enough of. The fries were fat and hot, crisp on the outside and floury tender on the inside.

“Satisfactory?” BillyBob asked.

“Oh, my god!” I said when I could speak.

He smiled and bit into his own burger.

{chortle!} Well, by the time I finished this delectable passage, I was craving a hamburger — a real one — so bad I could hardly sit still.

Anyone remember real hamburgers? The ones that had real meat in them? Enough meat that when the short-order cook fixed it “rare” it actually came out rare? With tomatoes that had a flavor? And kosher dill pickles? And potatoes that looked and tasted like chunky slices of real Idahoes, not like long thin potato chips?

Dayum!

If you can remember that, I’ll bet you can remember real milkshakes, too.

Welp. By the time I finished the scene, nothing would do but what I had to have a real hamburger!

Needed to go to the grocery store, anyway, so it was off to the Safeway.

Back in the Day, Safeway and Smitty’s (defunct now, alas) used to sell beef round and chuck roasts for less th an they sold ground round and ground chuck. So I used to buy a roast and ask the butcher to grind it for me.

And the DIFFERENCE! Oh my. Fresh-ground hamburger was an entirely different critter from the stuff you bought off the counter in a styrofoam tray. That always mystified me…only because in those days we’d never heard of “pink slime.”

Ew.

Eventually Safeway got wise to that strategy and butchers would refuse to grind it for you. At that point I pretty much stopped buying hamburger. Even in my ignorance of the glories of pink slime, the cost seemed like just too much money for what it was.

Today, though money was no object. Such was my Art-induced craving for a real hamburger.

Also picked up some crumbled blue cheese (speaking of too goddamn much money for what it is…). Stuffed a patty of hamburger with some of it. Threw the meat and the potatoes on the grill…not quite the same as real French fries, but a helluva lot better than a bath in hydrogenated oil.

Tossed together a salad from one of those hydroponic heads of lettuce that tastes a lot like lettuce used to taste.

Incredible. You forget how good real food is.

Now. Let’s see what else we can do to get Bobbi to utter, “Oh, my god!”

August 1, 2015
by funny
2 Comments

Fire-Rider! The labor produces

At last! Something substantive to show for a month’s worth of unremitting labor! Today I finally got the first book in the Fire-Rider series posted on Amazon.

WAHOO!

How d’you like the cover? It was designed by artist Gary Bennett, who was art director at Arizona Highways magazine during its glory days, when I also had the privilege of working there for a short time.

fire-book-1aiFireRider‘s action takes place 1900 years after the fall of the American republic and its many imitators, allies, and enemies worldwide. A period of global warming flooded coastal cities and island nations, spread havoc and famine, and culminated in a series of global pandemics. The result was a world-wide population collapse that left humanity with too few of the highly educated workers needed to sustain its technological apogee. A swift climatic reversal gave way to a harsh ice age and foreclosed any possibility of reviving the human race’s former technological glory.

The survivors live during a postliterate, post-industrial, post-technological dark age that will come to be known as the Great Lacuna. Rival Espanyo and Hengliss cultures alike survive in agrarian, feudalistic cultures loyal only to local warlords and overlords. Chronic warfare dominates the cultural landscape.

The stories related in the saga of Kaybrel Fire-Rider, Kubna (“warlord”) of Moor Lek, were gathered during his time by the wandering scholar Hapa Cottrite, one of the few literate men of the Great Lacuna. Some 3700 years later, a crew of herders found a cache of crumbling documents hidden in a cave where they had taken shelter from a storm. These were the remains of the Cottrite Codex, a collection of arcana and journal entries penned by Cottrite himself. The Fire-Rider epic is a fragment of that precious trove, translated and narrated by the famed storyteller Estabanya Estabanya Marcanda do Tilár i Robintál do Nomanto Berdo of the Methgoan Academy of Written and Oral Performance.

A Gift for the Kubna joins the allied raiding parties of Okan and A’o before the burning city of Roksan, a major Espanyo stronghold that the Hengliss allies have defeated and sacked. It tells the story of how Kaybrel, the powerful and dangerous governor of an Okan province called Moor Lek, came into possession of the orphaned Tavio Ombertín and why he decided to take the youth under his protection.

This is going to be an awesome saga. Don’t miss the first installment! And please: be sure to tell your friends on Twitter, Facebook, and waypoints. You’ll love it.

Watch this site for updates and more story-telling.

July 31, 2015
by funny
3 Comments

Time Suck Control

Okay, so after yesterday’s rant and after a full day of running from pillar to post around the city, I conceived the idea of building a kind of calendar to get a grip on the time sucks that have expanded to fill all available time and space. TS, I call it: it stands for “technological stuff” as well as “time suck.” And the technological stuff IS, by and large, the biggest offender in the time-suck department. Add to that to the fact that I now have to drive 40 minutes round trip to get free access to the PCs needed to format e-books, and you have some serious time suck.

One of the successful (s/he says) porn writers claims to allocate time like this: write a 5,000-word bookoid in two days; spend one day formatting and uploading it.

Well…it’s possible you could crank 2,500 words in a day, though it would be a bit of a stretch. Probably not very good words. But whatEVER. And it’s probable that once you know what you’re doing, you could format the result for Kindle, Nook, or both in a single day.

Realistically, I’m not producing anything like that much copy in a day. Most of the time, when I finally get a chance to sit down and write, I manage about 1,000 words, give or take. The second Biker Babe book is at about 3500 words right now, and the plot has barely begun to thicken. It will need a rewrite…as a practical matter, I’ve been so whipped by the time I start writing, I’m not thinking clearly and so the thing just isn’t coming out the way one would like.

At any rate, the write-write-format idea has some appeal. So yesterday afternoon (speaking of time sucks…) I created monthly calendars to cover the rest of the year, dedicating time for writing, for TS, and for my highly minimalistic social life. Videlicet:

Calendar1

As usual, click on the image to see details

As you can see, half of today will be occupied with two meetings. Tomorrow, the entire afternoon is gone: have to drive halfway to Yuma to the monthly chivaree of my fave writer’s group. The morning of the 5th will be blown by a dentist’s appointment (the prospect gets me so upset I can’t even spell it right!). And since I know I will be very upset after that meeting, I’ve scheduled the rest of the day for running errands an other time sucks. Tuesdays or Wednesdays are designated for errands (also disturbing, evidently…), because those are the days when Costco is at its quietest and so, incidentally, are most other venues.

Obviously, this pristine schedule won’t last: there’ll be, for example, at least two more dentist’s appointments in the near future, maybe more. I do get together with friends now and again, believe it or not. And there’s always SOME damnfool thing that scotches up the best-laid plans. But at least now I have a plan.

For August, it gives me four or even five days a week for writing, which is quite a lot. Sundays are ambiguous this month: writing or TS, whichever is most pressing, because a lot of stuff is still in the set-up stage, and I’m still climbing various unpleasant learning curves. But once all that stuff settles down, it means that in the summer I’ll have an extra day for writing (I hope) or for time sucks (as needed), compared with the rest of the year.

After choir gets started, we have this:

Calendar2a

In this scenario, half of every Sunday is occupied by choir, and so is every Wednesday evening.

The latter is significant because when I’m not falling over with exhaustion, I typically work until 10 or 11 p.m. So that excises several hours of work time — not very productive time,  by that hour, but still…things do get done then.

What’s left during the choir season, then, is three and a half days dedicated to writing, three and a half days given over to either TS or writing, whichever is most pressing, and four half-days of either writing or TS, if there’s time and energy for that on Sundays.

Now. The cool thing about this scheme (as unrealistic as it may be…) is that to meet our production goals, I’ll need to post something about once every three or four days. With specific dates already dedicated to time sucks (believe me, formatting and posting these things IS a time suck!), I can schedule exactly when I’m going to put the things up.

The 18 serials of Fire-Rider are now ready to go. Gary, the graphic artist, delivered all 18 covers, plus a high-res version of the original cover so that I can improve the image at the Fire-Rider website. If I start on that project tomorrow and only post on days that are already dedicated to time sucks, then the last FR story goes live on Kindle on October 3.

Since I’m not doing Kindle’s thing in which Amazon demands exclusivity and pays you not for the book but for the number of pages readers look at(!!!), then I also could post on Nook, once I figure out how. The figuring out will suck some more time, but actually it looks like it may be easier than posting to Amazon. In theory, I probably also could put it on iBooks, but the why of that escapes me.

At any rate, if all that’s going up is FireRider (plus an improved version of the cookbook, whose formatting I’m still wrestling with), that will give us a full month — all of September — in which to build an inventory. We already have six “racy” novelettes in hand. I’m working on two others right now, so that means I need to write only two and my freelances each need to write only two to meet our minimum goal for a single month. Ideally, we should have fifteen in hand, but ten will do the trick.

As it were. :roll:

 

July 30, 2015
by funny
3 Comments

WHEN am I supposed to get any writing done?

Well, actually, the first grutch of the day is not about the endless series of roadblocks to the writing venture. It’s about my usual hobbyhor$e, money.

Dammit. I went in to get my teeth cleaned yesterday and the (wonderful!) dental tech informed me that she found a crack in a molar.

Make that ANOTHER crack. I already have four crowns holding broken teeth together. So that will be ANOTHER THOUSAND BUCKS out of my already impoverished funds!

Quitting the damn teaching job may have been a mistake…

I’m not convinced: in my experience, a cracked tooth hurts. This elicits no pain at all. So I expect it’s a superficial crack in the enamel. Maybe it can be fixed with bonding. One way or another, it represents MORE money drain and MORE time suck.

Time suck seems to be the story of my life.

Yesterday I spent the entire damn day at the campus computer commons, because Kindle will not read & convert ANY linked table of contents generated on ANY Macintosh computer. So I had to drag TWENTY-THREE FILES out there and convert every TofC on a PC. While I was at it, I had to (try to!) correct an error that happened in some of the Fire-Rider files, causing images to pop up in the middle of the TofC.

Then while I was there, I called  up the cookbook and discovered that the Wyrd “style” I used to format the all-caps design flourish in first-of-section paragraphs came over as fucking MICROSCOPIC TYPE! As it develops, what you see in Kindle’s “Preview” tool ain’t what you get!

To fix that, I’ve got to get into an HTML file from an unzipped bundle and screw around with that without causing any more chaos. I do not KNOW how to zip and unzip files in Mac, although I do know it can be done. So that will represent another whole afternoon wasted.

Thank god I didn’t do it in any of the 125+ recipes in there! There are only about a half-dozen initial paragraphs with this little quirk. But it’s still going to take time…I find most of my electronic time-waste is entailed in fiddling with code and crap and not with anything that does anything even remotely creative.

Today the ENTIRE DAY is going to be absorbed. In 14 minutes I have to leave for my early-morning bidness group meeting. Then fly back into town, let the dogs out for five minutes, and fly north up the freeway to meet the designer, who has the remaining Fire-Rider covers ready plus a bunch of other stuff. Then race home, bolt a few bites of lunch, and race back out to the Mayo for an afternoon checkup with the gut surgeon.

Tomorrow is mostly gone: Meeting with a would-be writer in the morning — mentoring, more than anything, unless I can persuade the guy to write porn and unless he can actually do it. Then meet a friend who wants to introduce me to another writer over happy hour — that will blow the evening. So, only a few hours will be open in the afternoon tomorrow.

Saturday is mostly gone: West Valley writer’s group shindig occupies the ENTIRE afternoon. I happen to really like this group, though — it’s the only group of amateur writers I’ve ever seen that’s not mostly comprised of flakes and nut cases. They’re very professional, very together, and many of them are pretty successful at this game. So it’s fun to meet with them even though their events take place halfway to Yuma.

Yes, I knew it was going to take some time to catch up with the ten or twelve months lost to the medical disruptions. But y’know, this wrestling match has gone on since the first of the month. I haven’t finished the second Biker Babe book because literally I haven’t had more than an hour or two uninterrupted in which to focus on it, not when I’m not so damn exhausted I can’t hold my head up.

Cripes.  Thirteen minutes to blast-off. Gotta get the dogs in and gather all the junk and get out the door. Bye!

July 28, 2015
by funny
0 comments

Dumb Tax and Learning Experiences

Okay, this is gonna have to be fast because a ton of THINGS remain to be done. But you probably think I fell off the edge of the earth…so…just to keep my hand in, here goes…

Since quitting the teaching job about the four weeks ago, I plunged into a whirlpool of nonstop work, 12 and 14 hours a day: trying to catch up with all the work that hasn’t been done over the past year while I’ve been wrestling with the Mayo Clinic and trying to establish a business framework in which to build the proposed p0rn novelette empire. I’ve gotten a LOT done, much of it entailing technologies and jobs with which I am not familiar. Videlicet:

The print version of Slave Labor is now in existence.

The diet/cookbook is finally online!

Day before yesterday I returned corrections for the print version of Thirty Pounds in 4 Months; while I was at it completely reformatted the endless thing in a new template. Awaiting new page proofs.

The blog empire is moved over to WestHost but the new back-end guy hasn’t done much to get it organized. Says he picked up a bad bug from his two-year-old’s day-care experience…which is likely, because there is a nasty bug going around these parts just now.

I’ve about learned how to upload a book-length MS to Kindle and soon will apply to Nook (later!).

My friend who can fairly be described as the dean of scholarly publishing, referred me to the editor of Johns Hopkins University Press. I wrote a new cover letter and sent the proposal for the Boob Book to him, and he immediately sent it to an acquisitions editor, saying it “looks promising.” :-)

I’ve hired a freelance who has written several p0rn0graphic bookoids with more to come; I will fill in with two more after I understand more about how her characters interact. This will give us a seven-story series in a frame story.

Considering another potential scribbler; we shall see on Friday when I interview the guy.

Created a contract for hiring these creatures.

I’ve written two founding stories for series of spicy novelettes, but have had an awful time finding time to write any more around all the other demands.

The 18 installments of the Fire-Rider series are ready to go; just waiting on the art director to finish the covers (seven are in hand, though…that’ll last the better part of a month if I publish at the rate of one every three or four days).

I’ve come to hate things technological…what a time suck!

Finished the last freshman comp course I hope EVER to have to teach. Told the chair I’m taking off next semester.

Took out a month’s subscription to Shutterstock, which gives me the privilege of downloading up to 750 images.

Already have found, downloaded, and catalogued about 100. Every time I enter a new set of key words, a bunch more likely candidates come up.

Found some extremely kewl drawings for the Camptown Ladies Talk blog (which has yet even to be established at Westhost; reference the alleged kid virus), but discovered they’re .eps files, which have to be converted to jpegs and then reduced hugely in size. But still…amazingly kewl.

Created an awesome cover, using PowerPoint and Preview, for the first installment of the Biker Babe series. Unfortunately it’s a little too racy (read “eye-popping”) to publish on this site, but when the Camptown Races Press site is up, those of you whose sensibilities can sustain a truly lively image will have to come over and admire it.

Purchased 100 ISBNs.

Created spreadsheets to suffice (i hope) in the absence of a decent database.

Edited copy. Advised one distraught author and another who simply plods along and refuses to give up.

Escaped having to deal overmuch with my neediest client, who thank God ended up with his account at Createspace intact and operative.

Mocked up a cover in Powerpoint that looks pretty persuasive but have not had the nerve or the time to fiddle with trying to upload it to Amazon or B&N…another day!

Spent two half-days getting the car’s tires changed.

Spent half of yesterday today re-learning Windows at the campus’s computer commons; figured out how to get content loaded to Amazon correctly, using a PC not a Mac.

Approached the college with an initiative the Scottsdale Business Assn has cooked up, by way of offering internships in members’ companies under the SBA aegis. Interesting but tricky.

Raised Hell, put a block under it, and finally resolved the issue with AMEX about the freeze on my credit bureau accounts. Extracted two new credit cards from AMEX, to kick in after American Express’s contract with Costco expires.

Along the way,  I have learned a LOT of stuff, most of it falling under the heading of “dumb tax.” For example:

Yesterday I learned that Kindle cannot run a table of contents generated on a Mac, no matter what iteration of Word you’re using. It must be updated on a PC or its links will not go through. Period.

What’s the Dumb Tax part of that? If I’d been paying attention when I read the endless instructions for  how to upload to Kindle from .docx, I would’ve noticed this little detail… :roll:

Bowker gives one an opportunity to buy a bar code and UPC to go with the ISBNs you’re spending your children’s patrimony to buy. I declined, knowing they weren’t necessary for e-books. But what I did NOT think about is that they are necessary if you want to sell hard-copy books on Amazon. Or anywhere else. The bar codes are expensive, and I was too cheap to pay for them.

Greed Tax: same thing as Dumb Tax. Now I’ll have to have the damn things printed out on labels and ship any hard copies of the diet/cookbook to Amazon, expensively, from my house rather than having the PoD guys ship direct to Amazon. :roll:

And why not have the graphic artist just add the bar code to the wrap-around cover? Because I’d like to sell these things sometime in my lifetime…

When using a finely tuned Book Design Template, you have to use styles even if you’re preparing PDFs for print. If you use Wyrd’s italic or boldface function (command-i or command-b), for example, what will happen is that any line with so much as one character of italic or b.f. will take on added leading. So instead of the line being, say, 10/12 (ten point type over 12 point leading), it will appear to be 10/13. Lovely.

Why did I not sense this in advance? Not knowing, I’d hesitate to state, for fear of being erroneous.

My friend the e-book builder had converted Slave Labor to .mobi with far more techie software and expertise than I’m capable of marshaling. When I wanted a print-on-demand version, I just slapped the copy I’d sent to him into Book Design Template’s “Focus” model (very handsome, BTW) — without even thinking about the font formatting. Nor was there any reason to think it would make any difference. The styles are designed to make the files work with Kindle. Oh well.

Also yesterday I learned that Windows has reinvented itself so many times that to a Mac user it now looks like it was developed on a planet circling Antares.

Should’ve bought myself a cheap laptop PC with which I could continue to use Windows, down through the ages.

That’s only partial Dumb Tax, though: in the past, I’ve found that switching back and forth between the Mac and the PC environments causes a lot of headaches. It’s quite a PITA when you confuse one set of commands with another.

Because of the TofC issue, I learned that the college’s Computer Commons is dead empty in the summertime and is a HEAVENLY place to work. It’s quiet, it’s air-conditioned to sweater-weather levels, and with no one around, you get the techs’ complete, undivided attention.

I’m definitely going back today or tomorrow to work more on relearning windows and to refine the Fire-Rider tables of contents. If I can get them to let me sign in as a member of the public after my campus credentials expire, then the Computer Commons may become my office-away-from-the-home-office, at least during the summertime.

Honestly, I couldn’t believe how cold it was in there. In the morning, I was sitting here at the Funny Farm with the AC blasting and fans running, and sweat was running off my  nose as I was tapping away at the keyboard. I’m not thrilled about burning the gas to drive up to campus every day, but if I get more work done and have fewer conversion problems, it may be worth it.

I think the groundwork for the Camptown Races Press enterprise is now about laid. I sincerely hope so, because wrestling with all this stuff has meant I haven’t been able to write more than a paragraph or two a day for the past several weeks. By the time I’ve finished a day’s raft of To-Do’s, I’m so tired I can’t hold my eyes open.

So I’m hoping that by the end of this week I’ll have the websites updated, announcements of the newly published books posted here and at those sites, a social media expert hired to help peddle the things, and FINALLY some time broken loose in which to do what was the whole point of this exercise: sit down and write for a living.

Now…the only question is, how do I persuade every single reader of Funny about Money to review my astonishingly brilliant and wondrous to read Amazon books???