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.


Rain, Cold, and…A Cold???

El Niño has arrived, bringing with it a large, wet weather system: inches of rain in the desert and feet of snow in the high country. This is good, since the region has been enjoying a decades-long drought. A whole LOT of rain is in order.

SDXB had planned to drive into town from lovely Sun City but changed his mind upon peering out the window into the gloom. His decision was clinched when I remarked that I may have a cold. But am not sure. I’ve thought it was the usual allergies — pollen-laden plants are starting to grow, what with the rain we’ve already had this winter. That was why I was camped out at the Albertson’s yesterday, trying to extract a dozen Sudafed pills from the pharmacists. I’d already discovered that a Claritin just about disappeared the runny nose and the scratchy throat, indicating the issue was more allergic than viral. Today we’ll find out how true that is, since I just dropped half of a Sudafed. Much more than that and I’ll be awake for the rest of the year…but if the issue is actually an allergy, a small amount of pseudoephedrine will send it packing.

It is unusually cold here. Enough so that, for the first time in many years, windshields on cars left outside overnight are icing up.

A-n-n-n-d lest you think I exaggerate about Arizona’s legions of driving morons….

No kidding. One of them hopped in his car and charged off down the road, surprised and confused because he couldn’t see through his iced-up windshield. NOT surprisingly, he ran into a traffic-control box and put out all the stoplights for a mile or two around him.

It is impossible to exaggerate the number of morons who infest Arizona’s fine roads. 😀

So at any rate, with SDXB out of my hair today, the next 12 or 15 hours are cleared for work. We’re almost done with the Latina feminist journal — everything is finished except for one long article I farmed out to our new intern, who promises to turn the thing around soon. It’s a long and complicated thing, but I’ve already given it a read. I’ll merge her edits with mine, which will allow me to spot any changes she’s made that are different from mine, collate them, and come up with clean copy. Then it’s off to the editors with that magnum opus!

Two new works of Chinese science came in, both by urban infrastructure engineers. The articles are strangely interesting — the one in hand has to do with the dynamics of plumbing water all the way to the top of a tall high-rise, problem-free. Both are written in fairly dense Chinglish. To the natural difficulty of the subject matter, this feature adds the authors’ wrestling match with the weirdness of an alien language. And make no mistake about it: English is a weird language!

One of the Latina scholars has written an extraordinary story whose quality and interest are so high that, IMHO, she should be proposing a version (of the literary nonfiction variety) to The New Yorker. Most academics are not, when you come right down to it, very good writers. But this lady? She can write her way out of a paper bag. I intend to suggest to our editor that she encourage the woman to send a proposal to that august magazine and also to The Atlantic. Editors at either one, I suspect, would fall all over themselves to get a version of this story written in the mode of John McPhee. Which, we might add, this writer is fully capable of producing.

Ruby is lobbying for food. A clap of thunder rolled through. We must have food to soothe our doggy nerves. Water is falling out of the sky. We must mark that with food. We got wet running outside in the rain. We must dry off with food. The Human says we are a good and a cute and a wonderful dog. Clearly that must be celebrated with food.

Hm. Here’s some spam from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. This particular amusing website was the only market that sold the Racy Books we put out through the now defunct Camptown Races Press. It far outpaced Amazon. Occasionally, it even broke even. You have to pay to get your books up there. You’re certainly not likely to make a profit (unless you know a lot of somethings I don’t know). But if an ego trip is what you’re after (which, far as I can tell, is what most self-publishing authors ultimately come away with), there it is.

Speaking of authors…{sigh}…I suppose I’m going to be reduced to actually working, by way of making a few of them publishable.

Day’s end…at last…almost

Oh, god…have i ever been this tired?

God to Puling Human: Well. Yes. Of course you have. What are you going on about?

Up at 4:30. Write today’s rant. Post it on the one Facebook writers’ group I’ve found that seems to be pretty darned good. Fiddle with the pool. Shower in the backyard hose, wash chlorine out of hair. Feed dogs. Bolt down breakfast.

Paint face. Throw on clothes. Put up damp hair. Fly out the door to Scottsdale. Sit through meeting.

Excused from buying new picture frame by son, who found one in his garage to replace the one that broke when it fell off the wall. Convenient, because it means I don’t have to hang around Paradise Valley after the meeting until Aaron Bros opens at 10 a.m.

Stop at Sprouts to buy a couple of grocery items on the way home. Starved: cook up some pasta as a snack.

La Maya invites me over to talk, lunch, and paint (or, in my case, draw).  Get a little work done here and then head to her place. Have incredible RM food (RM: that would the Real Mexican) for lunch, beside self with joy. Discuss life, the universe, and all that, “all that” including politics, academia, business, and art.

She suggests that where marketing is concerned, the better part of valor is face-to-face contact, NOT social media. Together we dream up the idea that I should approach Changing Hands, the only independent bookstore that still thrives in the Valley, and offer to do a workshop (they throw these things all the time) on some aspect of self-publishing. In the act, I peddle my wares to the attendees.

We also propose that I should compile another bookoid, to be produced in PoD format and distributed at these proposed shindigs, that would be filled with tips for writers and self-publishers. I realize I already have enough material to generate such a creature. Easily.

Furthermore, we consider the possibility that I should offer a service course along the same lines for one of the local junior colleges. This, she suggests, would create a small market for all the non-naughty bookoids (we think the naughty ones had better not be suggested to the minions of the local community college district): chances are good that most of the students would buy the things, especially if they could be offered at a deep discount for a week or two during the courselet’s duration.

This, I think, is an exceptionally good idea. Especially if one of the bookoids is the proposed compendium of writing tips. 🙂

Back at the Funny Farm, now I sift through the entire body of Plain & Simple Press posts, dating back to early 20 and ought-14. Come up with 48,950 words.

Not bad. I’ll need about 80,000 words, so am almost 5/8 of the way there. Some passages can be expanded upon — for example, a live link to some article somewhere else can be replaced with a precis of the article. An introduction will add about 1,500 or 2 ,000 words. And I have in print an entire textbook of writing advice, from which I intend to self-plagiarize liberally.

If Melania can rip off the First Lady, I surely can rip off myself.

Next, I open an email from Amazon, responding to my demand to know why TF the 99-cent sale of the six books I put up for countdown sales didn’t work. Amazon’s factotum informs me that the countdown sale is in effect: it was set to start at 3:00 p.m.

Ohhhkaaayyy… I check a couple of the books and find that indeed by then they are showing as available for 99 cents.

But on reflection, I’m pretty sure that even though these old eyes need a pair of glasses to read a damned computer screen accurately, and even though a 3 looks sort of like an 8, I still can tell the difference between a 3 and an 8 and between a letter a and a letter p. No problem. The difference is sterling clear. I do not believe for one effing minute that I entered 3 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. SIX GODDAMN TIMES. But whatever. It looks like the sale is now online, even though I’ve lost the advantage of making it available for 99 cents on the entire first day of the goddamn sale.

Just about to throw it in when a message comes over from Jackie: How come the cookbook is still selling for $9.99?

Shee-ut! Damned if it ain’t.

I open the Amazon factotum’s email by way of sending another annoyed inquiry when I discover that down near the bottom, well below the fold, she claims I never set up the 30 Pounds / 4 Months book for the Countdown Sale.

That, alas, is flat out not so.

The 30# book was the first one I set up. I remember it well because the annoyance factor was so high. After I screwed around with that, figuring out how to operate the software to create the sale, I moved on to Cabin Fever and set up all five of the naughty books. Then, I posted my ads on Twitter and several Facebook sites, merrily crowing that the books would go on sale on June 21.

Later, when I got a notice from Kindle reminding me that I’d made all these arrangements, I discovered that the sales were scheduled for JULY 21, not June 21.

Re-entering the website and navigating back to the place to set things up, I found to my amazement that the drop-down month calendar where you have to select the start day was a JULY calendar, not June — a bit of a surprise, since I did this on June 10, and so naively assumed the calendar they shoved in my face to be the June calendar.

Experimentation showed there was no choice of any other month: it was July or nothing. So I had to go back into each of the books I’d already set up, to confirm that in fact the date Amazon had arrogated was July 21, not the June 21 I believed I was selecting.

I think I would have noticed if I hadn’t set up a sale for the 30# book. If I’d opened 30# on the “Bookshelf,” which I most certainly would have done — first, since that’s the one I expected to make money and that’s also the only one for which an inane “countdown” sale can work effectively — I would have noticed if I’d never set up the sale.

Then I had to go back to each of the two ads, change the dates in PowerPoint, convert to PDF, convert to TIF, crop the TIF, resize the TIF, convert to JPEG, and repost all the ads I’d put everywhere on the goddamn social media. This annoyance was also something I would have noticed.

Really, dealing with Amazon is the sh!ts. Some damnfool thing happens EVERY TIME you try to do something. There’s always some complication, some unnecessary hassle, some mindless pointless restriction that makes your life difficult, SOMETHING. And every, single, goddamn time you respond to one of these by trying to do a workaround, that screws you up even worse!

Not ONE thing that I’ve attempted on Amazon, from trying to create a Goodreads Author Page to trying to establish a pseudonym for Roberta Stuart, has worked without some kind of headache or hassle. NOTHING is simple at Amazon. NOTHING works in any sensible way.

If Bernie would please bring back the antitrust laws, I personally would lead a coup* to clean out all the airheaded Republicans and Democrats and install the man as king.

*Dude, little CIA factotum: it’s a joke.