Coffee heat rising


So today’s “If You’d Asked Me” post managed to get up before the crack of dawn: short, to the point, and guaranteed to enrage my two friends (that I know of) who are anti-vaxxers. This, after the mile-long doggy walk and before the pool guy showed up to provide an estimate for replastering the crumbling pool. Proposed price range: $7,000 to $10,000.

One could knock something off that by opting for plain old-fashioned plaster, which in the past had a life expectancy of around 10 years. But — wouldncha know it — my guy reports that manufacturers have cheapied down the product so it no longer lasts as long as it used to. The so-called “premium” plaster is said by its maker to last about 7 years; he said it would last around 10 if cared for properly. The regular plaster is now estimated to last 4 years(!!); his guess was it could last 7 years with proper care. Premium plaster is $4,970, which is a savings…but not if you have to replace it in 8 or 10 years. For comparison, what I have out there now is plaster that was expected to last 10 years but has survived 14 years. The PebbleTec and PebbleSheen products, he said, last 15 to 20 years, which is about as long as I expect to be in this house before I croak over or am dragged off to the nursing home.

So I’m opting for the PebbleSheen, a finer, slightly smoother version of PebbleTec. The price, we’re told, is the same.

There’s a fair amount of cash lurking in Fidelity, which I guess we’ll have to withdraw to cover this little exploit. Depending on how bad the damage behind the cracked tile is and whether I decide to try to reinstall the pipeline that would let me plug Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner into a dedicated port rather than sticking his tail into the skimmer basket, price could waver by as much as three grand. Oh, whee.

I’m having to take the next RMD before the usual September date, because I’m out of money as of…just about now. This is because I paid off the damn car loan…never did recover from that hit. For at least the next year, I’m going to have to maintain an ascetic lifestyle. No clothing purchases, no new shoes, no meals out, no travel, no driving from one end of the Valley to the other, no indulgences…  Blech.

Having the laptop off in Apple’s precincts is a real inconvenience. Thank the heavens for DropBox! All the projects I’m working on are easy to access. But sitting on an office chair in front of a desk still does make the back hurt. A lot. So that puts the eefus on getting much done. Hence, I’m putting off converting the “Asked” page to the same PDF offerings that now grace Ella and Writer.

That notwithstanding, this afternoon I managed to write about a third of Drugging’s chapter 3. Converting the stuff from Bloggish to more formal English replete with citation & documentation is quite the little job. The Drugging of America posts can only serve as rough outlines from which to spin upwards of 2,000 words per chapter.

Figure it’ll take about two more days to finish the draft of that chapter. At that point I’ll be ready to write the proposal. Meanwhile, my friend La Bethulia, who’s a psychiatric nurse practitioner, agreed to read chapter 1, the weightiest of the three chapters that will go out with the proposal. Actually, the NNT chapter is a little bracing, but I think it will be OK. I actually may contact the NNT website and ask if someone there would review that chapter, since I take their project’s name in vain repeatedly. If I can get them to vet it for facts — and do so promptly, not an easy trick for an academic during the summertime — I think I’ll have a lot better shot at selling the thing to a real publisher.

I hope.

Mwa ha ha! A better way to publish *FREE BOOKS*

Over at Plain & Simple Press, I’ve been giving away free installments of Ella’s Story, If You’d Asked Me..., and The Complete Writer. You could either read them as blog posts at the P&S “News” site, or, free-for-the-asking, get your hands on a PDF of the entire Complete Writer or Asked. Or read the chapters online, collected at each bookoid’s dedicated page. Since Ella’s Story is a work in progress, it wasn’t available in PDF.

But…now it is. 🙂

We (that we would be Wonder-Guru Grayson Bell  and yrs truly, the P&S proprietor) realized that the reason Writer’s dedicated page had staggered to a dead stop was that there’s a limit to the amount of data WordPress will tolerate on a single page. Writer was right up against it. So I proposed to take down the individual chapters from that page, consolidate them in a PDF, and repost. Grayson thought not: a giant PDF would have the same effect of choking WordPress. BUT…several PDFs would not do that. Probably.

This theory proved correct. The Complete Writer‘s content to date is now published in two PDF segments: section I, “Write Tight,” and section II, “Make It Perfect.” The next seven chapters, which comprise the print book’s third part, “Writing Nonfiction,” will go up one at a time; then when they’re all posted, they’ll be moved into a new PDF, leaving the page free for the next section’s chapters.

Nonfiction books lend themselves to this strategy, since they often fall neatly into sections. That’s not always true of fiction.

And it’s especially not so true of Ella’s Story, which works more like a kind of telenovela than a traditional novel. I write wherever the characters lead me, which just now is toward a revolution on some other planet.

Or someplace. Maybe.

Nevertheless, the Ella’s Story dedicated page was, as of late last week, beginning to swim through a vat of taffy. Looked like the same problem that tripped up Writer was afflicting Ella.

Monday (just yesterday!??), I posted chapter 22.

So, it occurred to my fevered brain that the content could be posted, pretty much without regard to what was going on in the plotline, in 10-chapter doses. No logic there…but then there’s not a lot of logic to Ella’s Story, anyway, at least not in any external sense. So…wtf.

Last night I packaged the first 20 chapters in two PDFs, creatively named “Part 1” and “Part 2.” Each holds 10 chapters, complete with full-color illustrations.

The remaining two chapters are posted separately on the page, below the links to the PDFs, and also as blog posts at “News.”

This turns out to be pretty cool for the reader. What it means is that instead of having to scroll through up to half-a-dozen blog posts or a-a-a-l-l-l the way down to the bottom of an infinite dedicated web page, you can visit said dedicated web page and find the most recent installments right under your nose. And if you’ve wandered off for awhile but can remember where you were the last time you visited, you can easily find your jumping-off point in the PDFs.


As you might imagine, I’m feeling pretty smug about this scheme. Come on over and check it out! Ella’s Story, chapters 1 through 22…now in easy access.

More of Ella’s story…the serial adventure

So here we are, one week into the scheme to serialize — online — not one, not two, but three books: If You’d Asked Me, Ella’s Story, and The Complete Writer.

This little adventure seems to be working on one level: Plain & Simple Press’s Facebook site now has something like a hundred “likes,” which I guess is to its credit. It’s kind of amusing to put dollops of these books online — in the case of Ella’s Story, anyway, it gives you an excuse to look for exotic images to decorate with.

Pretty time-consuming, though. The fiction piece is easy to put up, but the two nonfiction bookoids (If You’d Asked and Writer) require some fairly elaborate HTML formatting. I am not fond of coding. And there seems to be no simple shortcut to set up links for the tables of contents. Because I haven’t come up with chapter titles for the novel, I’m not building a TofC for that — at least not yet. Because…I can’t see how to create a ToC without having chapter titles: the code to set up page jumps from a table of contents entry to a title takes the reader to the line below the target text, so you have to have something to link to that’s above the first line you’d like the reader to see. I suppose I could enter some sort of symbol above the chapter numeral. But??? I dunno…let’s figure that out later.

Anyway, I uploaded Chapter 4 of the noveloid today: a flashback to Ella’s first meeting with Bhotil, in which she learns (to her dismay) that she’ll be living and working on one of Varnis’s two moons.

It remains to be seen whether loading a chapter a day, rotating among the three books, is a good idea. It does get something from each book online each week. This week we’ve seen  two chapters from Ella, two from Writer, and one from Asks. Next week two chapters from Asks and Writer and one from Ella are slated to go online.

This may be uploading content too fast, for a serialization scheme. In olden days when real magazines still existed, a publication like Saturday Evening Post came out only once a week. Pulp penny dreadfuls like Argosy came out monthly. So a serial story appeared weekly or monthly, not daily. It’s possible that daily publication is more than the market will bear.

On the other hand, it’s a different market and a different medium. Publish the stuff too slowly, and people may forget about it.

Then there’s the issue of keeping up with the schedule. Writer and Asked are complete, so it’s just a matter of copying and pasting existing copy, some of it already camera-ready, into web pages. But Ella is still in progress. To crank a chapter a week will be a challenge. Especially since I have no idea how Ella gets out of the predicament she gets herself into on Zaitaf.

This should be innaresting…

New [*FREE!*] chapter online: THE COMPLETE WRITER

Okay, so far I’ve managed to squeeze in one (count it: 1) productive task around a day of busy socializing and loafing: Posted Chapter 3 of The Complete Writer at the Plain & Simple Press website.

Chapter 3, online now!

Each chapter of three books will appear, one at a time, at the P&S blog, “News & Chat,” and at the same time, each chapter will be added to a separate page, in normal print-book order, so that eventually the entire book will appear on its dedicated web page. Thus…

This weekend was fairly hectic. Saturday morning we had a special coaching session for the All Saints’ choir, engineered by our new choir director, featuring a guest speaker who is an expert on the human voice. It was extremely interesting — in addition to learning a lot about how humans make vocal sounds, we got a whole slew of exercises and advice.

So…watch out, Metropolitan Opera! Here we come.

Sunday morning’s service was fairly long, and handsomely embellished by a rousing sermon from a guest pastor. Our guy is good, very good indeed…this lady was awesome. Plus the women’s chant choir got to sing the Psalm. So that was all highly satisfactory.

Then it was OUT of there like a rocket to meet WonderAccountant. We had tickets to the Phoenix Chorale’s Sunday afternoon performance: Scandinavian music! As usual with the Chorale, that also was pretty awesome.

First, of course, we had to go to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants…thereby piling on another pound for me to get rid of (again). Great food. Two margaritas. She was driving, thank God: for those who live and dine out in Phoenix, Otro serves real margaritas with a full portion of tequila, not frozen bottled margarita mix. Two will put you under the table. 😀

This morning I was reduced to having to pick up the mess preparatory to house-cleaning. This sounds simple but…well…when the occupant is in the habit of simply dropping things wherever she happens to finish with them, picking up the house can be a challenge. This is a lifelong bad habit: gotta quit doing that!

Today: off to La Maya’s place: home-made tamales for lunch! Now am so stuffed I can barely waddle. But very, very happy.

In less than an hour, I want to tune in to Chuck Bartok’s talk show: the emanation of a marketing guru who spends a fair amount of time and effort sharing what he’s learned. This could be interesting.

The day’s two remaining to-do’s — deposit checks and pay bills — will not get done between now and then, meaning little or no time & energy will be left to finish the Ella chapter I’m supposedly writing as we speak. Oh well.

Who would imagine “retirement” could be so effing busy?

Can You Cope with Hard Times?

So it looks like the economy is chugging right along just now. That’s nice. The skeptics among us, as we know, expect the current administration to bring the whole house of cards down on our heads — any minute now! But even cooler heads understand that what goes up must go down: the economy never stays “up” forever. Eventually it will sag, and we poor little sheeples will lose jobs, see pensions shrink, wonder how we’re going to pay for gas and food…

Well, take heart! Our friend Donna Freedman has come out with a second volume of her excellent frugalist’s survival guide, Your Playbook for Tough Times. She sent me a copy, and I have to tell you: it’s an amazing little book. In just 196 pages (counting the table of contents and lengthy thank-you’s), she covers the bases, even telling you how to find free and low-cost food.

In a sense, Donna argues that all times are tough times, or (if you have a brain in your head) you should at least treat them as though they were. Says she:

The feedback for the first book was interesting. Here’s a comment that really got my attention: “I realized that ‘tough times’ are no longer an isolated event. They’re pretty much like a fifth season, like hurricane season, and (something) one really has to prepare for.”

Some of us have always lived this way, in that we don’t take money for granted. Rather than spend every dime we earn, we put some aside in case something unexpected happens: job loss, say, or illness. And since these days a lot of workers have to fund their own retirements, that means making careful plans for their money.


It has a such an array of ideas, strategies, and advice — all of it informed by Donna’s philosophy of “stealth savings” — that it’s almost encyclopedic. It addresses about every personal-finance challenge most of us are likely to face, and does so with common sense.

Check it out!