Coffee heat rising

Conundrum of the Day: To Drive or Not to Drive?

So today’s conundrum — it’s huge, hyuuuge, I tellya! — is whether to dork around with scanning and uploading checks to the credit union or just to schlep them up there.

I need to pick up some groceries, too. The credit union is way over on the west side and the grocery stores where I would look for quality produce are way to the east or down to the south. And…few things do I hate more than driving around in Phoenix’s noxious traffic.

However…the other day I discovered a Fry’s (Kroger’s, for those in more civilized venues) over on West Peoria, conveniently on the way (more or less) to the credit union. The neighborhood is sketchy. But probably only a little more so than mine. It doesn’t look, at a glance, like the parking lot is too dangerous to walk across — and now that I no longer carry a purse slung over my shoulder, there’s relatively less risk of mugging.

So much do I dislike the scan/scan/crop/crop/upload/upload hoo-hah (x however many checks you have to deposit) that really…sometimes I’d actually rather drive all the way up to the CU and just fork the money over to a teller.

This is do-able when I have to go to a Costco, too — a decent Costco resides on that side of town, only about six or eight miles from the credit union. (Yeah…jolly, eh?) It’s also relatively safer than the one closest to where I live — although you’ll see a fake crippled vet sitting in a lawn chair holding up his sign at one of the entrances to the parking lot, you never run into anyone in the lot actively accosting you to panhandle.

Don’t need to make a Costco run, though. All that’s really needed is just enough produce to tide me over until next month’s Costco junket. Which, we might add, I would like to put off as long as possible.

Meanwhile, I need to meet people.

Do I want to meet people? Not especially. I’m happy enough here in my cave. Indeed, I’d be just as happy if the cave were in the side of a slab of southern Utah sandstone. But…I suppose, for one’s mental health, one needs to meet people.

Also, conveniently, I’ve discovered that folks who crave to be published writers will pay The Copyeditor’s Desk’s going rate of 4 cents a word, just to get me to read their golden copy and advise.

For the current client, what I’m doing, really, is instructing: essentially teaching the guy creative writing techniques at about the university sophomore of junior level. This is pretty easy for me…because of course it’s what I spent 15 years doing at the Great Desert University. It crossed my mind, as I was contemplating that project, that I could actually offer to teach people creative writing, along with editing their copy. And that would be worth paying 4 cents a word for.

Or more. Whatever the market would bear.

The problem is, I’d need to find folks who crave so much to give their golden words to the dark and the waiting sky that they’re willing to pay for the privilege.

Well, here in Amazon’s Self-Publishing Dystopia, the woodwork is crawling with writer’s groups, some small and some large. This weekend one meets downtown, at a coffeeshop associated with the Episcopal Cathedral — and one can (usually) park for free in the Cathedral’s lot.

To engage oneself with this group, one has to send in 1500 of one’s golden words for members to read and critique, and then print out a half-dozen copies for the purpose.

Do I want to do this?

Hm. The cave beckons (don’t leave me, humann!)

Well, I could send them the current chapter of Ella’s story, which no, I have not updated since I sank into the current slough of despond. It’s actually about 1800 words, if you count the blurb at the top. Close enough, I reckon.

How much explaining do I want to do, though? Do I seriously want to tell a passel of wannabe writers that I consider publishing stuff on Amazon to be a colossal waste of time and effort, and that I publish my stuff for free at my website, where it probably garners more readers than books on Amazon get? Do I really want to tell them that if you want to succeed as a writer you have to succeed as a marketer, and that if I wanted to spend my time marketing, I’d be making a decent living selling ad space for magazines, peddling cars for Toyota, or hawking refrigerators and stoves?

Not. so. much.

Well, I really don’t know. As you can see by the length of this squib, I’m having quite enough trouble bestirring myself to get off my duff and drive to a credit union & a grocery store.


Done In and Dogged Out

LOL! If it’s not one dawg it’s another.

Well, that’s not funny, given how sick poor old Cassie has been.

Actually, Cassie is presently somewhat better, other than having come completely unhouse-trained. She now poops and pees wherever and whenever she pleases. Fortunately, it’s usually on the pee pads I put in her favorite locales — something that’s getting pretty pricey, since I have to pick up and replace four to six of them a day. But sometimes it’s on the bathroom or bedroom rugs. Yay. At any rate, she doesn’t appear to be feeling as bad as she did.

Which is not to say she appears to be feeling well. I’d guess she’s running at about 80%…maybe 90% on a really good day. Whatever happened to her doesn’t appear to be about to go away.


Last night Ruby started barfing spectacularly. She apparently ate something that made her good and sick. It soon became apparent that this was not a life-threatening thing…but by “soon” we mean sometime after midnight.

Ruby and Cassie both are in the habit of “harvesting” mummified oranges that fall off the trees and dry up, often after having been chewed out by the roof rats. They bring these crispy treats into the house, hide them in the bathroom, and crunch them up into crumbs. What a mess to clean up!

Well, they’ve never made either dog sick before, but apparently this time one of them did.

The real concern, though, when a dog starts barfing, is that we have some nut cases around here — apparently among the drug-addled vagrant population — who have been known to throw poison treats over people’s fences, thereby killing their dogs. It’s a strategy used by burglars, but neighbors have reported having small, harmless dogs targeted. So given both dogs’ corgi-esque love of yapping, of course an unexpected, apparently reasonless barfing attack causes some worry.

By 2 or 3 in the morning, though, her stomach calmed down and she seemed OK. Come the light of dawn, she was fine. Fed her hamburger (cooked) and rice this morning and again this evening: she seems to have recovered.

I, however, have yet to recover from the three-hour night. 😀

Today I managed to get a new chapter of Ella’s Story on-line. Not quite by the self-imposed deadline…but only a day late. Since no dollars are concerned, we need not add the dollah-short part.

But this was accomplished, I’m afraid, not by actually finishing the chapter as conceived, but simply by spotting a natural pause and cutting it off there. Between the sick dogs and my natural laziness and a general feeling of overwhelmed-itude, the truth is I’m not applying myself to this project for the enough hours a day to make the required progress. One of the things it illustrates, though, is how amazing those late 19th-century and early 20th-century writers were, in their ability to produce novels on the installment plan. Dickens, for example…and Poe, I believe, among many others, would write segments of novels for periodicals. And of course, they had deadlines, just like a journalist does.

Having amused myself as a magazine journalist for a good 15 years, I can assure you that a journalistic deadline is one helluva lot easier to meet than one that requires you to make stuff up and then turn your imaginings into something believable. Or at least more or less readable. A workaday magazine or newspaper article pretty much writes itself, growing like crabgrass out of your interviews and research online and in print sources. A piece of fiction? Not so much…

To my intense annoyance, I discovered that somehow WordPress had disappeared Chapter 11. I know I put it online, because I remember the images I posted with it, and because those images still lurk in the “Media Library.” So I had to reconstruct that, yet another time-killer.

One advantage Poe and Twain and Dickens and all those had over us wretches in the Digital Age is that all they had to do was write the damn stuff. They didn’t have to publish it, too. They had…oh, does anyone remember them?…publishers who edited and typeset and designed and laid out and illustrated and proofread and printed and distributed their work. Today those who imagine they will find great fame in self-publishing have to do all that themselves. And none of us is qualified to do all those things well.

Not by a long shot. Nor does having to devote half to three-quarters of your time to jobs you don’t want to do and aren’t really trained to do leave enough hours for you to do what you do want to do and what maybe you’re good at: to write. I am so very tired of spending hour after hour after hour in digital ditz! Just to create a table of contents for the 33 chapters I’ve put online in Ella’s Story required me to do 297 mind-numbing, repetitive, tedious computer operations today. That’s not counting the typos, which in having to be redone probably expanded that number by about 10 percent.

I un-friended the FB writer’s group I’ve belonged to for the past two years or so. That was too bad, because each week they give you a chance to publish some magnum opus…which has conveniently allowed me to publicize my emittances with some regularity. Haven’t noticed any increase in sales, though.

What I have noticed, however, is this 7th-grade mean girl they’ve picked up. She’s very, very nasty. Today she took aim at me. My response to that is simple enough: fuckyouverymuch. I don’t hang around where I’m not wanted, so off I went. That, we might add, will be one fewer electronic time-suck. I don’t know whether organizers of those groups try to moderate them, or if they even can — this one is quite large. But evidently someone needs to.

And now for something completely different… Did you know that you can still read books?

No, I mean real books, the things shaped like boxes with this hinge-like strip along one edge to which pieces of paper are attached.

The Brothers Grimm

Couple months ago, I’m at the Costco and I happen to spot this old-fashioned-looking hardback with an embossed cover and gold-leaf print: Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales.

WTF!?! Last time I saw that book, it was at my great-grandmother’s house in Berkeley, back in another century when normal people could afford to live in Berkeley. It is a beautiful little production, published by some outfit called Canterbury Classics, out of San Diego. Gosh.

So for old time’s sake, I bought the thing. Stuck it on the nightstand and went off and forgot it.

One evening I started browsing through it and was reminded of what a hoot the original Grimm’s tales were. This is great stuff! And perfect bedside reading, when you’re so tired you can barely lift the dogs onto the sack. They’re very short, pretty light (in a strange and sometimes not-so-light way), and none of them require a sustained attention span.

So the other day I’m back at Costco and what do I find but a whole SLEW of these Canterbury Classics! Hot diggety! How can I leave them alone?

Yes, I know: Impulse Buy Hell. But hey: how often do you get to buy embossed hard-cover books with gold-leaf print all over them?

Grab Bulfinch’s Mythology and, by god, the original Thomas Burton’s Arabian Nights.

This stuff is too, too good. It is going to keep me amused for weeks. Maybe even months.

And so, to bed…


Ruby the Corgi Pup. © 2014 The Copyecditor’s Desk, Inc.

The Brothers Grim: Public Domain,

Frontispiece to Burton’s Arabian Knights. By Adolphe Lalauze (1838-1906) – A plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights entertainments, now entitled The book of the thousand nights and a night Vol. 1, Public Domain,

Time flies…damn fast!

Woo HOO! There’s a book hiding in this pile of pills!

Tempus fidgets, as my mother used to say. She and about a million others in the Greatest Generation, I’m sure. True that, though: time passes so fast you don’t even notice it going by.

Yesterday, for example, I didn’t notice it was Wednesday. Thought it was Tuesday. Along about sundown it happened to occur to me that a whole day had disappeared. 😀 Tossed a blurb from Asked up online, but never did much else, partly because we had another sharp storm in the evening that threatened to blow down trees and power poles.

Just wrote that little piece on Quora — “Did You Ever Walk Out on a Doctor (because he was disrespectful…).” And right off the bat, it attracted something over 200 “likes” — a kind of a record. Since it went over so well there, I decided to add it to the Asked collection.

Another essay — on getting out of an abusive relationship — is closing in on 1,000 likes. Can you imagine?

In the middle of this, up pops a message from a client: did I receive the paper he’d sent me to edit?

Uhmmmm…well, nooooooo….

Turns out the damn MacMail decided out of the blue to route messages from this guy into “Junk Mail.” This was several days ago. He sent me a new copy before I could find the original among the 105 unread messages in “Junk,” the 174 derailed to “Trash,” and the 415 (!!!!) in  the “Facebook” folder.

Holy shit! There is simply NO way anyone could possibly keep up with that tsunami.

Tuesday was one long struggle through the heat and humidity to stay focused on writing the proposal for the Drugging of America book. On reflection, I realized Chapter 1 covered way too much ground, and that I needed to break it into three chapters. That took most of the day.

So I now have three new chapters — for a total of 17, plus the introduction, plus the references section, plus a resources section. And now I have to revise the chapter outline. Whee!

But by the end of today, most of the proposal was drafted. Still have to write a self-aggrandizing bio, but otherwise the most difficult parts of that thing are done. Tomorrow I’ll finish the body of the proposal, revise the chapter outline, and get the thing ready to send off. I hope.

My plan is to send one proposal to one university press — the one I think most likely to publish this book. Then when (which is usually the case: when not if) they reject, I’ll send out a half-dozen at a time until someone bites.

And I think they will. This really is a great idea for a book, one whose time has arrived. And there isn’t much competition. Other than Barbara Ehrenreich’s latest eloquent rant, that is.

But the advantage I think mine has is that it isn’t an eloquent piece of creative nonfiction cum seat-of-the-pants reporting. This is a book that could be — easily — used as a reading in a number of college courses. And not just in pharmacy or nursing. The proposal will suggest courses — real courses that I’ve tracked down at universities — in public policy, nursing, and pharmacy, plus a combined program that leads to an MD and a master’s in journalism.

Texts that sell in college courses, as you can imagine, are the sine qua non of academic publishing. Sell a book to one professor, and you sell upwards of a dozen copies a semester. If it’s a decent undergraduate course — as you can bet will be the case in colleges of nursing — you’ll unload upwards of 30 copies per section. A required lower-division course? Hundreds of copies. Every semester. At a stiff price.

I was still getting substantial royalties from The Essential Feature 10 years after the thing went to press…because every professor who ordered it for a course spawned 30 or 60 sales. Per semester.

So…that’s how I hope to sell this book.

However it flies, the thing is not going on the trash-heap that is Amazon.

Selling your squibs on Amazon is fine as a hobby. That’s essentially what my little scribbles are — the FireRider series and the diet/cookbook thing and the various other stuff. Taken together, they generate about $5 a month. When the weather’s  good. But pretend as much as you would like that you’re “in business” to sell the stuff: it’s still self-published. You can’t get a newspaper or magazine to review it for love nor money, nor do you have much chance of persuading a bookstore or a library to pick it up. And it certainly is not going to end up on some professor’s syllabus!

Another day has slipped by. I’m exhausted! Going to bed, before it starts to rain again…

Publishing: Proceeding Apace. Decluttering: Ditto.

 Holy mackerel! It’s been TWO DAYS since I last posted here. How two days passed in an hour and a half escapes me…  Just now I’m engaged in preparing and preposting two months’ worth of bookoids for the Publishing Empire. {heh…maybe that’s what I should’ve called the current enterprise!} That is a much larger job than it seems.

It entails creating covers for 16 books (plus boxed sets, which just now are on-the-side jobs); obtaining ISBNs for each one (a truly time-consuming nuisance: you’re doing well if you can get one ISBN registered in under ten minutes); reviewing, correcting, and updating copy for each book; and posting cover image and contents for each book to Amazon.

I’ve learned you can enhance efficiency and reduce distraction by doing all of these tasks for a bunch of books in one sitting (actually, it’s going to take about three or four days…), rather than breaking in to whatever you’re doing to jump through the endless hoops for one book at a time. And you can post the completed MS and cover art at Amazon and “save as draft.” If you’ve done every step but the last one (and done each step right…), all you have to do on the scheduled “publication” date is go back into your Amazon “bookshelf” and click “publish,” thereby saving yourself a lot of time-consuming hassle on that date, when you might want to be doing something else with your time.

So, here’s an OPINION POLL:

Which of these do you prefer: the one with the black Roberta Stuart byline, or the one with the red?

Draft cover Daniela 2 LO RES

Draft cover Daniela 3 LO RES

The question is, which “Roberta Stuart” byline would be most visible in an Amazon thumbnail? Black? or Red?

Demonstrate the POWER OF THE HIVE MIND and cast your vote for one or the t’other! Tell me in the comments to this post which one you think is more effective.


You’ll recall the last time I visited these precincts, I was considering whether to get rid of the fancy Christofle silverware in favor of some stainless flatware that can go in the dishwasher. Well, my friends, the deed is done. And, after traipsing all over the Web and all over the city, I finally found a set that’s not too cheesy and not too expensive at…so obvious, why didn’t I think of it before this morning?…Williams-Sonoma!!

I did indeed go over to Sur la Table. Total wasted trip. The one set that looked like it might be OK when viewed online had all the heft of plastic. Just junk. And they way they had their flatware displayed — jammed upright into random containers — confirmed that the proprietors regarded the stuff as junk, too.

Revisit Crate and Barrel’s: unappealing, lightweight, not so very junky, but junk.

Across the city, driving driving driving Arrived in another mall that hosts a Williams-Sonoma and a Pottery Barn. At the Williams-Sonoma, in addition to scoring a couple of tasty snacks, I found two sets that appealed. One — the coolest of them — had heavy handles that unfortunately were made of pewter: “hand-washing recommended.” Saleslady said that translates as “handwash, period.” Defeats the purpose. The other was this brushed steel retro design reminiscent of the set my ex- and I bought shortly after we were married, yea verily way back in 19 and ought-67. It was moderately weighty and not displeasing in appearance.

And marked down 20 percent.

Just in case, it was over to Pottery Barn to check out their wares.

Forthwith, BACK TO WILLIAMS-SONOMA. Pottery Barn had a couple of attractive designs but they were…oh yes. Silver plate. Purpose defeated again.

So I purchased the following:


Not too awful, eh? These little gems can go straight into the dishwasher. And, although they’re not as elegant as a set of fine Christofle, they have a decent heft to them and they’re distinctive without being obtrusive.

Kind of interesting, this flatware safari. If I’d ordered the stuff online that appealed to me, from Sur la Table, I’d have been very unhappy and probably would have ended up traipsing to Scottsdale to return the junk. Overall, I went to five brick-&-mortar retailers plus an unknown number of online sellers before finding a design resembling what I wanted. And really…I don’t think I’m that picky! There’s nothing extraordinary about these pieces. Well…except insofar as they display a modicum (and I do mean modicum) of quality.

Think of that.

Of Late…

Haven’t posted for a day or two. Busy couple of days and then last night the damn router went down again and this time stayed down all night. GOTTA get a new router. One of these days…

Meanwhile, a number of developments, all of them positive for a change!

The Mayo surgeon had to loosen her clutches long enough for me to get a grip on my wits, at least in a perfunctory way. As you’ll recall, on the weekend before the last planned surgery, scheduled for a Monday, a convenient case of bronchitis led the anaesthesiologist to intone,”It would be foolish to proceed,” frustrating the surgeon no end. The next fun procedure was scheduled for the 15th of this month.

Subsequently, the surgeon erred in forgetting to have the Mayo’s scheduling department reserve an OR for that date. So the soonest she can try again will not be until after she gets back from vacation, toward the end of this month. That gives me time to get to another doctor at another institution to try to get some fresh insight, and to gather enough strength to put up a fight. Somehow I’ve got to bring a stop to the present cascade of disasters; whether I can remains to be seen, but at least I’m beginning to make out a vague pathway toward that goal.

This is particularly good because a new challenge has developed: As I have begged the staff to just do the goddamn mastectomy and stop torturing me with (presumably very profitable) procedure after procedure after procedure, they have begun to pressure me to get reconstructive surgery. I do not want reconstruction, for two reasons.

1) I’m not in the market for a man, and at my age no one looks at my boobs and so no one is going to notice whether I’m a little lopsided or not. For that matter, at my age no one sees a woman at all. When strangers are staring in your direction, they’re actually looking right through you. What they see is the background behind you.

2) More to the point, especially for older women, breast reconstruction is more complications and more surgery waiting to happen. The autologous procedures now in vogue, where they gouge chunks of flesh out of your back, belly, butt, or thigh and slap them on your chest, are esthetically unsatisfactory IMHO, cause still more surgical wounds for you to have to recover from, weaken the muscles in those areas, and can leave you with chronic back pain, weakness, hernia, and the unpleasant. disabling manifestations of upper quadrant disorder. As for implants: silicone or saline, they have an expected lifetime of about ten years, at which time you get to enjoy still more surgery to have the damn thing removed or replaced.

When I told WonderSurgeon that I do not want reconstruction, she told me I need to “think about it.” In other words, I’m a child who doesn’t have good sense.

Guess which one is fake.

One of my friends chose to go flat after a double mastectomy; she said she never regretted it, and she looked just fine. Obviously, if one side is flat and the other is not, that’s a little more problematic. However, you can get custom-made prosthetics that are a great deal more convincing and comfortable than fake reconstructed boobs (if you’re feeling strong, go to The Scar Project, where you can see artist-quality images that show women with and without reconstruction — warning: this is graphic).

Such a large  contingent of women has decided to go breast-free that there’s even an organization representing them. Interestingly, many of these women describe similar pressure from their medical teams. Apparently people are so convinced that every woman’s self-image is so inextricably invested in her boobs that a woman must be crazy if she chooses not to go through the tortures of the damned for the sake of having a lump sticking out of her chest.

So: I need some reinforcements to put up a fight on this front.

I called to make an appointment with a medical oncologist at St. Joe’s that my gynecologist, who unwittingly plunged me into this mess, has been trying to get me to see. He also has been out of town, and so on the last attempt to get together with him, his staff couldn’t shoehorn me in before the the 15th. Called again, they managed to set up a meeting for the 20th. Hallelujah!  That means I’ll be able to talk with the guy before the Mayo doc can cut me up again and before the craziness makes another spin around the drain.  I don’t know whether he’ll provide enough moral support for me to hold my own, but everyone who knows the man says he’s eminently rational.

So that may be a dim light visible through the black fog.

Yesterday morning the damnedest thing happened. My single all-time deepest-pocketed client, Scott Flansburg — the man who made it possible for me to pay off the mortgage in one fell swoop — has hired a new business manager. He’s looking to kick his business plan up a notch, and he wants someone, namely me, to write new products for him and the like. Said bidness manager tracked me down, how I do not know — probably through LinkedIn — and asked if I would be interested in working with them. They want to expand into e-publications.

Lo! What should The Copyeditor’s Desk be into but e-pubs! I’ve got a slew of formatters, illustrators, and designers who can hire on to help him out, and of course I wrote the book that earned Scott $1.5 million in the first year after publication and $1 million the following year.

Heh. When we say “things are looking up,” we speak in cosmic terms.

Meanwhile, I have two clients who are just wrapping up their books. Both of these guys  have uttered the words “…and how do I market this thing?” Flansburg is a wily sort of a gent, and you can be pretty sure that he would not hire a marketing agent, which is what this guy is, unless the guy had a decent track record. So this is promising: we just may be able to do some bidness here!

If the guy can sell books (and authors), The Copyeditor’s Desk may soon have two happy customers. And that is always good. Very, very good.

And finally, in the God seems to have gotten over Her tiff at me department: I took it into my head to buy a large Talavera-style garden pot for my beloved shady deck. Purchased anywhere north of central Mexico, these things are absurdly expensive, and the place where I chose to buy, Whitfill’s Nursery, is famed for charging through the wazoo for everything. So I walk in there and find the desired vessel, and on my way out my eyeballs land on another design. The actual price of these monsters is $59.99, but someone has scribbled $29.99 on the one I happen to spot.

On close inspection, nothing seems to be wrong with it. Apparently some underling carelessly mispriced it. The kid at the cash register didn’t even blink…so I walked outta there with a BIG, beautiful, gaudy planter for half price!

Obviously, an omen.



Thinking of turning your blog into a book?

It will be a challenge, because blogging is intrinsically different from book writing. However, if you’ve organized your categories intelligently, you may be able to extract enough material for a salable book out of a year’s worth of posts.

I just posted a quickie guide to getting a book published over at The Copyeditor’s Desk. It’s not the be-all and end-all of publishing advice (it’s a blog post, for petesake), but it does clue you to a valuable resource many writers have yet to discover. Check it out!