Coffee heat rising

This, That, and the ‘Tother…

Drawing a bit of a blank about what to write about this morning. Yesterday evening I had some brilliant idea, but now can’t remember it. But of course I can’t remember my name, so…no surprise there.

Here’s an Abert’s towhee out here in the backyard, pecking up some bugs under the paloverde tree. They’re effective insectivores — the birds, that is; not the trees. Along with a thrasher or two and a passel of sparrows, they’ll keep your yard free of ants and any number of other little crawlers.

Most of the hummers have (wisely enough) migrated north. They’re leaving the Valley earlier each year, in response to the climate change that doesn’t exist.

The Anna’s hummingbird used to migrate with them. They stopped doing so, though, with the influx of human admirers who hang out sugar water for them. For many years they buzzed about the Valley all year round. But this particular variety of flying gem is also damn scarce this spring…summer, or whatever it is. Reloaded all the feeders but have only seen one or two of them. So presumably this is yet another loss to what was once a pretty spectacular quality of life in Arizona.

My son says he wants to buy 40 acres in southeastern Utah, park a Tiny House in the middle of it, and go completely off the grid. Just him and his golden retrievers.

I have to say…there are times when that sounds pretty damn good. Think of how many unpublishable novels a creative type could scribble under those conditions.


But turning to the writing career, let us speak of cabbages and journalism…  The other day I picked up a sort of scholarly disquisition published by a Canadian university press. It is, shall we say, spare. Not to say “slight.” Which is, yes…that is what it is.

It’s only about 100 pages of copy, including a very lightweight introduction that does nothing but outline the book’s contents.

Looked at that thing and thought…huh! What I’ve already got in the “Drugging of America” series would fill that much space. Especially if, as this guy’s book is, it’s set in large type with wide margins. The guy has gotta be someone’s son-in-law.

So I decided to trick out a proposal. Preparatory to that, I took the first post and de-bloggified it yesterday. First step was to convert the links to end-notes.

Well. Naturally this led to another garden stroll through the Internet. HOLY shit, but this is a rich topic. Madly saved sets of links to a new Wyrd file, and came up with material for a good three more chapters. This would give the proposed book ten solid chapters, plus an introduction, plus a bibliography. And that would be one heckuva lot stronger than this little hardback I’m looking at now.

So over the next few days, I need to write an introduction, a chapter outline, a TofC, and a proposal. In a week or two, I hope to have that ready to send off. I’ll also send it to Columbia, which has published another of my books. And the UofA Press, where I have friends who have friends.

Step aside, Barbara Ehrenreich…

Choir season is winding toward its end. It’s been a splendid year with our two new musicians operating as director and associate director. The latter proposes to give voice and music lessons over the summer.

A friend and I have already imposed on her for the same, during the past couple of months. She (assoc. director) would like to be paid in the form of donations to the church. That would’ve been OK if I hadn’t used a large slab of this year’s required minimum drawdown from retirement savings to pay off the damned car. But having done that, I’m running dangerously low on money — have about four grand to last till the end of the year…and since operating this shack, eating, and maintaining the hounds and the car cost about two grand a month…well. Houston, we have a problem.

Really, I don’t know how I’m going to get through the summer, to say nothing of making it to the end of the year.

Complicating matters, the pool replastering job can’t be delayed much longer. There’s a crack under the coping that clearly extends through the shell, meaning the water that’s leaking through it is quietly creating some major structural problems. So that needs to be fixed.

Maybe it can be patched. But that will not fix the other issue: the plaster is flaking off because it’s almost 15 years old. That will cost four to six grand.

Ohh well…

Speaking of the writing career, I told myself I would finish (or at least make progress on) a chapter of Ella’s Story. Since I have to be out of here in an hour and a half to meet my business partner in lovely downtown Tempe, I seem to have procrastinated about as much as possible on that scheme.

And so, away…

Digital Aversion

They say you should start your work day with the chore you like least. Then you have the worst done and the rest of the day is, as it were, smooth sailing. Thus if you’re in sales, you should start with cold calls. If you’re a lawn man, maybe you should pull out weeds by their roots first thing in the morning.

By that theory, I should be over at Amazon right now, X-ing out my existence as the author of six books and creating a new existence as Roberta Stuart, pornographer par excellence. This is how I should start my day: get the most obnoxious, difficult, hair-tearing, time-sucking job out of the way first.

But as you can see…I’m not there. I’m here. Doing this.

It just makes me cringe.

What an ineffable waste of time. Amazon has decreed that you can’t have more than three pseudonyms, and it has further decreed that any variant of your name is NOT your name but is a “pseuodnym.” (I have three, because my dear parents gifted me with an unpronounceable, weird, and insufferably snooty first name.) So in order to build an “Author Page” to peddle my little company’s Racy Books, I have to sign out as myself and sign in with a new email and create a new persona. Then I have to persuade Amazon that the new persona is me. Then I have to jump through hoop after hoop after hoop, presumably, to get revenues for Camptown Races books directed to the corporate bank account. It is going to be a freaking nightmare and I don’t wanna do it!

I don’t want to do it, because it soaks up time. Needlessly. And time is my only asset with any value!

The only element of my life that’s worth anything is my time. And as the seconds and the minutes pass, I have less and less of it. Every time the sun rises, every time the sun sets, I have less time in my spiritual bank account.

The older you get, the more conscious you grow of that particular little reality.

Hence: digital aversion. NOTHING consumes time more voraciously than these wondrous computer devices, programs, and platforms we all have to deal with, day in and day-a-wasting out.

Every day I have to learn some new program, jump through some new digital hoop, contend with some new hassle. Every hour is at least partly consumed  by watching a computer grind away and grind away and grind away. Some part of every day is absorbed by getting around yet another error message, yet another digital roadblock.

As we speak, I’m hassling with WordPress because it’s decided to hang over the upload of a freaking THUMBNAIL, goddamnit, needed to update the Camptown Races Press site. It’s not like this was a gigantic TIFF here. No. This is a tiny little JPEG. Now I’ve had to crash out of the program, my coffee has gone cold while I’ve wrestled with that sh!t, the page is not updated and for all I know may never BE updated and for the life of me I can NOT figure out how to make   control the amount of air between those damn thumbnail images.

I personally have come to hate it.

Yeah, digital technology has done wondrous things for our ability to communicate and to cope with vast quantities of (largely irrelevant) information. But folks…

Life was better without it.

Speaking of Roberta, that wily and prolific author has emitted another new book:

Veronica & KJ 2Girlfriends LORES

And she would be forever in your debt if you would grab it from Amazon and post a fine review of the thing.

Zombie consumerism may take book publishing down

One of ATC's series
A series from ATC

If you enjoy reading and you like your reading matter on paper, not in little lights on a screen, you need to know what is happening to the people who bring novels and nonfiction to you. The following post, originally published in the October 2009 issue of Southwest Signature, is by Bill Fessler, president of the Arizona Book Publishing Association. Bill is general manager of American Traveler Press. ATP has published more than 250 books, primarily focused on the tourism industry, among them souvenir cookbooks, outdoor and nature guides, and general information about local subjects. Bill enjoys traveling, and his business fits in perfectly with this love.

The latest (big) news in the book industry is that Wal-Mart has begun selling bestselling, hardcover books for $10 on their website. decided to match this price, and now Target seems to be joining the fray. Things are getting heated, and the prices have dropped to $9. As a consumer, this sounds awesome; but as a publisher, this is awful. And yes, this includes those of us whose books are not on the bestseller list.

If a book by Sarah Palin, Barbara Kingsolver, or another big name can be purchased for $10, how are the rest of us going to convince the customer that our $19.95 book is worth the extra money? The answer: we can’t compete at this price. If your book is $19.95, the consumer will simply pass over your book and look for a $9.95 competitor. If your book is $9.95, that means you are selling it to the bookstore for $6 or less (probably in the $3 range). Very few of us can make a profit selling books at this price point.

“If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10, publishing as we know it is over,” David Gernert, Grisham’s agent, told the New York Times. “If you can buy Stephen King’s new novel or John Grisham’s Ford County for $10, why would you buy a brilliant first novel for $25? I think we underestimate the effect to which extremely discounted bestsellers take the consumer’s attention away from emerging writers.”

“But Bill,” you ask, “what can I do to combat this?”

First of all, don’t buy these $10 books; if you really want to read them or buy them as presents, pay a reasonable price (I suggest no less than 20% off of the retail price). Second, buy them at a physical store, not online; pricing like this is designed to direct consumers to online purchasing, which ultimately leads to closed stores. Third, strongly consider buying them at an independent bookstore; Barnes & Noble and Borders have a better chance of surviving a lengthy online war between Wal-Mart,, and Target, but the little guys need customers in their store every day, buying books, in order to survive.

Last, start discussing this bad decision with your friends, coworkers, and neighbors; we need to break the cycle of Zombie-consumerism (basing our purchase decisions on price more than any other factor). Just as McDonalds does not make the best hamburger, Simon & Schuster does not publish the best book. But if you look at their revenue stream, one could argue they do.

There are better books out there—we know that there are better books among our publishers right here in ABPA. But until we begin to spread the word and change the buying habits of those around us, the loser will be the consumer. Don’t be a Zombie!