Category Archives: Time management

The Business of Freelancing

The Complete Writer
Section VIII: The Writing Life…
Sittin’ by the Dock of the Bay?

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

[43]

The Business of Freelancing

Someone once asked Don Dedera, author of ten books and innumerable magazine and newspaper articles, how he accounted for his success as a freelance writer.

“I attribute it to two things,” Dedera replied. “A working typewriter and a working wife.”

Freelance writing is a tough, unremunerative affair, not one for the frail ego or the free spender. Average incomes range from $4,000 to upwards of $50,000 a year, depending on the survey. An annual take for a freelancer of $25,000 can be considered exceptional. If one’s ambition is to make a living as a writer or editor, one is really better off to get a job on a magazine or in a publishing house. Editors rarely develop much loyalty toward freelance contractors, and publishers try to extract as much work in return for as little pay and commitment as possible. Turnover in the publishing industry is breathtaking. So is the bankruptcy rate; when a magazine is in trouble, the first supplier it will short is the writer. If you have any ideas about freelancing to support yourself while you stay home with the kids after school, live in a Rocky Mountain retreat, and work whatever hours you please, think again.

Given these grim facts, one might sensibly ask why on earth anyone would take up such a dismal occupation.

Three good reasons:

  1. It’s a way to eke out a few pennies and work a small tax break between jobs. Like many “business consultants,” writers who call themselves freelancers often mean they’re unemployed. By freelancing, you can keep your hand in while you look for regular work.
  2. Because it lets newcomers display talents to many potential employers, freelancing can open the back door to jobs in journalism. After selling several stories to an acceptable magazine, you let the editors know you need a job. Then you wait and keep writing for them. Sooner or later, someone leaves and you have the inside track for the vacant position. This is the hard way to get hired, but for many a writer-turned-editor, it has worked.
  3. For all its agony, frustration, and penury, freelancing is just plain fun. It’s one of the few jobs in which you never do the same thing twice and you truly learn something new every day. You meet people you would never encounter otherwise, and you get to ask all sorts of nosy questions. You go places and see things that a desk-bound editor can only dream of while she reads your copy. Established writers decide what they will write about and decline projects that don’t interest them—a choice you don’t have on staff. And yes, you get to pick your hours: any eighteen hours of the day you like.

Building a professional image

Let’s assume, since office rentals are expensive, that you will work from your home. This alone tends to diminish your credibility.

If you are to sell magazine articles—or any other kind of writing—you must go about it in a businesslike way. Editors and other clients are not interested in dealing with amateurs. To persuade potential clients that you are a pro, you must act and appear professional. Among the strategies for accomplishing this:

  • Establish a web site and be sure it looks professional. Services such as WordPress.com and Blogger offer free server space; however, to engineer a professional-looking URL, one that doesn’t end in .wordprss.com, for example), you’ll have to pay something, and you may have endure annoying conditions and ads placed on your site. GoDaddy and BlueHost are among the several web hosts that charge reasonable prices for server space and assert no sovereignty over your site.
  • Hire a professional web designer to establish and lay out your site, even if it’s based on a WordPress template. Once you have a good design and understand how to add to and take away from it, you can change content to keep your facts up to date. But unless you are a trained web designer, you should avoid a DIY job on this important tool.
  • Create a letterhead with matching envelopes and business cards. You can do this in Word and store the results on your computer, or, for not very much money, have quick printers at places like Kinko’s or OfficeMax do the job for you.
  • Establish a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Do not, ever, publish frivolous posts or images on these sites! Do not troll, and never engage trolls in arguments or pissing matches. Keep your image friendly but professional on all social media.
  • Join trade organizations. The best writer’s groups for these purposes, in my experience, are the Society for Technical Communication, the Society for Professional Journalists, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Business groups are even more useful for those who seek remunerative corporate accounts; joining the local Chamber of Commerce will bring you into contact with many potential clients.

Operating your business

Set aside time every day for writing. Treat the time precisely as though you were in an office. Use it only for work. Friends, relatives and neighbors, who generally regard work as a place, not an activity, will assume you are free to operate at their beck and call. Resist impositions on your work time, at all costs.

Set goals. Once you’ve staked out some time, you need to organize it by setting goals and arranging your time to meet them.

Assignments provide built-in goals. On your calendar, block out the time you’ll need for backgrounding, interviews, and writing. Plan to finish a first draft several days before the real deadline; then schedule a day to let the copy cool and a day or two for revising and polishing.

Remember to build delivery time into your schedule. If your editor or client accepts e-mail delivery, send the attachment a day ahead of the agreed-upon deadline, to account for Murphy’s Law. This will give you time to resend should your editor not receive your message. If you’re shipping hard copy, figure four working days to send first-class mail coast-to-coast.

Meanwhile, you should aim to send out a certain number of queries in any given period. A reasonable goal is to launch four good, solid proposals each month. When matters lapse, it can take about three months to land a new assignment. So the freelance writer must always stay in circulation. While you’re working on an assignment, search out new ideas, devise fresh angles, write up proposals, and keep them in the mail until they sell.

These, then, might be your short-term goals:

  • To meet your deadlines
  • To develop a certain number of ideas each month.
  • To keep several proposals circulating at all times

Long-term goals address what you want to accomplish over, say, a year—or a lifetime. These are issues you must articulate for yourself and perhaps change as you mature. Writers have various motives. The most common probably follow these lines:

  • To get published, anywhere, at any price
  • To make money
  • To break into national publications
  • To write a book
  • To get a full-time job in journalism
  • To quit worrying about money and produce high-quality writing on subjects that matter for people who care

Market yourself. A website, a blog, and a presence on one or more social media sites not only help to build a professional image, they let people know what you have done, what you can do, and what you want to do. Membership in professional groups and business organizations also helps build visibility in your community.

If you want to write magazine and newspaper stories on a freelance basis, you must to learn to pitch your ideas to editors through the use of the query letter: a formal proposal targeting a specific market. This is a skill unto itself: in one to two pages, you need to show an editor a) that you can write for her or his publication; b) that you understand the publication’s audience and purpose; and c) that you have an idea that fits. Probably the finest discussion of this skill appears in chapter 18 of Bruce Garrison’s Professional Feature Writing. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I refer you to his excellent work.

Most of the Writer’s Digest books on freelance writing include passages or chapters on query letter. Surprisingly little advice appears online, but Monica Shaw at Writer’s Residence provides a nice collection of successful examples.[1]

Successful freelancers sell all the time. When your blog hits the top 100 in its niche, when your book hits print, when you win a writing award, send out press releases to all the local and regional media. If you have a specialty, call radio talk shows and offer to speak on matters of current interest. Write short articles for local shoppers and business publications, and be sure your bio tells readers what you do and how to reach you.

Watch good sales agents in action. And read a few how-to manuals on sales technique. You can use much of what you learn in your own marketing efforts. The key is to stay in motion. Never stop hustling. Never allow yourself to become discouraged, never waste time with people who aren’t live prospects, and always make yourself keep trying to sell every day.

Keep good records. You must maintain records of all your transactions for tax purposes. Keep every receipt, every canceled check, and evidence of any financial exchange for at least five years. Large accordion-style folders are cheap and work nicely for this purpose.

Make records of any toll telephone calls. Some magazines will pay these expenses. You can write the rest off your taxes, but only if you can prove you incurred them for business.

For the same reasons, maintain careful records of your automobile mileage. What you can’t get a publisher to pay for, you can write off your taxes.

Keep a copy of every manuscript you submit, as well as contracts and correspondence with editors. Obviously, electronic data must be backed up regularly. It’s a good idea to have an external hard drive for this purpose. However, remember: all hard drives fail sooner or later. So, it’s useful to back everything up twice, once on an external hard drive and once on a flash drive. You may want to look into free or moderately priced server space on the Internet, such as DropBox or Carbonite. Some writers keep hard copy of all important papers, including manuscripts.

It’s wise to keep old copy, research notes, and interview tapes (or digital audio files) indefinitely. Often you can recycle this data, and occasionally some question comes up that can be answered by something you wrote five years before. Consider using inexpensive cardboard file boxes to store hard copy in a closet or garage. These boxes are also convenient for collecting sample magazines and hard-copy writer’s guidelines.

Keep the production line moving. Your business’s “production line” generates work for pay. Keep it moving steadily. If your client doesn’t give you a deadline, set one of your own. And always meet your deadlines, even if it means working all night to do so.

An odd phenomenon afflicts most writers. I call it “work-avoidance maneuvers.” One starts the day with delaying tactics to keep from sitting down to work: brew another pot of coffee, write a personal letter, water the plants. Because I’ve never met a writer who doesn’t do this routinely, I think it serves a psychological purpose. Some projects, for example, seem so huge you must back into them to keep from feeling overwhelmed.

You can indulge the work-avoidance impulse in constructive ways. Try reading the newspaper, studying a potential target magazine, or reviewing and polishing yesterday’s copy.

If your day’s schedule requires you to telephone people you don’t know—always a stressful task—start the morning with the toughest call. This makes the rest of the day feel like skateboarding along the beach.

When you have a hard time beginning a story, skip the lead and start at the nut paragraph or some later point in the piece. You can work out the lead later. If that trick doesn’t work, try writing a first-person narrative, like a letter to a friend or sympathetic editor, describing what you saw and heard as you interviewed people and did your legwork. If you still can’t get a handle on the piece, set it aside and work on some other assignment; the momentum of accomplishing a small project will carry through to the more difficult one.

Use telecommunications professionally. Consider the telephone a business instrument during business hours. Ring tones for your cell phone should be conservative and discreet; not cutesy, loud, or annoying. Voicemail messages must be professional-sounding and give callers the impression that they are calling an office. If you have a predilection for land lines and your family uses the phone heavily, consider installing a separate line in your office (do not tell the phone company that you will be using it for business, to avoid being charged at a higher rate). Better, get a VoIP service that will let you use your desk phones and also provides NoMoRobo, the only effective phone solicitation blocker.

When crafting a voicemail message, women may want to imply that several people work at the establishment; “none of us can come to the phone right now.” It is unwise to advertise that you are at an address alone or that no one is likely to be there for awhile.

Whenever you call people, they’re always “in a meeting.” This means you spend your day leaving word all over town—or all over the country. When someone returns your call, it is to your advantage to sound like a professional, not like a stay-at-home mom or dad with a laptop on the kitchen table waiting for the brownies to bake.

When I began freelancing, I once left word with a top executive at a Fortune 500 electronics firm. He called back, and I answered the phone with my customary housewifely “Hullo?”

A long, eloquent silence ensued. He clearly thought he had the wrong number or something eccentric was going on.

Business people do not want to talk with eccentrics. During business hours, answer the phone as though you were in an office—with your name or with your business’s name. Set up your voicemail to sound businesslike, too. This is an effective way to build credibility.

Accounting. In this area, you must hire expert help. It’s fine—even advisable—to keep your books in Quicken or at an online budgeting site like Mint.com. But while TurboTax works well for many folks’ personal tax returns, a business return is another matter. Have a tax professional, preferably a certified public accountant, prepare your tax return, at least the first time you fill one out as a self-employed writer. People who claim deductions for home offices make tax collectors itch. Because the tax laws are complex and capricious, you should never try to deal with the Internal Revenue Service yourself.

Deposit the money you earn from freelancing in a separate checking account, and pay your business expenses from that account. This much simplifies the task of keeping track of receipts and business expenses, and, by never mixing freelance income with other money, you can help a tax preparer see how much you earn and how much you spend on business costs. Using a separate telephone line only for business calls also simplifies your bookkeeping.

To deduct the costs of running a home office, you must prove you are truly in business—not playing at a hobby. You have to be earning money, and you must make a profit three years out of five.

The Internal Revenue Service requires self-employed workers to establish a permanent, separate place within the home to use exclusively as an office. The space must be demarcated from the rest of the dwelling with room dividers or portable walls; to be safe, however, you should reserve a separate room for this purpose. You must use the space on a regular basis, not on and off, and it must be your principal place of business. If you have an office somewhere else, you can’t deduct a home office used for the same business.

Once you establish yourself as a for-profit enterprise, you may deduct “ordinary and necessary expenses.” These include rent, utilities, supplies, research costs, travel, subscriptions to professional magazines, membership in trade groups, certain conventions and meetings, communications and postage costs, and the like. Depreciate expensive assets, such as a computer, over several years; IRS rules govern the period over which you must spread the deduction of depreciable items. You are permitted to take a one-time deduction for such equipment, but the deduction may not exceed the income you earned in the year of the purchase.

The possibility of a tax audit is the best of all possible reasons to establish a well organized filing system, electronically and in hard copy. Copies of query letters, proposals, contracts, statements, receipts, and manuscripts will serve as evidence that you are trying to make a profit. If you are audited, you will have to produce all your receipts and expense records for the years in which you are challenged. Keep careful, accurate records and store them for at least five years. Among these records, you should include your appointment calendars.

Literary agents

Magazine writers do not need agents, and few agents will try to market magazine articles, because there’s not enough money in it.

Agents are useful in marketing certain kinds of books. Most writers find agents by word of mouth, through recommendations from other writers. Agencies list themselves in Writer’s Market and Literary Marketplace. To choose one blind, pick out several names and start telephoning.

If you should seek an agent, bear this in mind: legitimate literary agents do not charge reading fees. Avoid those who offer to think about marketing your work for a price.

Literary agents offer your work to prospective buyers and negotiate contracts and fees favorable to you. They retain 10 percent of the take as a commission and pass the other 90 percent along to you. Their services are worth this premium because agents usually can obtain higher rates than a writer can negotiate alone. If an agent agrees to represent you, he or she may provide advice and editorial guidance as a service—for free. Most effective agents live in or near New York City, because they depend on person-to-person contact with book editors and publishers, whose offices are concentrated on the East Coast.

Other jobs for freelance writers

If you have the hustle, business has the money. Some people make a good living writing for businesses. They write annual reports; edit in-house newsletters; write press releases, reference and credit reports, company manuals, company histories, brochures, proposals—you name it.

Get this work by word of mouth, advertising, and chutzpah. One method is to print up a professionally polished brochure describing your manifold skills and take it door-to-door, introducing yourself and offering your services. Another is by advertising in business and trade journals. If you have any gift at translating technical language into plain English, advertise yourself in county and state medical, legal, dental, and veterinary journals.

Put out the word to your editors that you’re interested in working for businesses. Magazines often receive calls from people seeking writers for brochures, newsletters, or press releases.

You can also take your brochure to printers, typesetters, graphic artists, and fast-print franchise outlets. These entrepreneurs often have customers who need writers.

Public relations agencies are another source of freelance jobs. When business is good, agencies may have more work than staff members can handle, and they will hire freelancers to write press releases. Writers with magazine credits may be asked to hack out self-interested trade journal articles for clients, at much higher rates than the magazine would pay. Agency fees to freelancers range from $20 to $120 an hour.

Associations and nonprofit organizations also need writers. They may not pay as well as businesses, although some do. They especially need people to write or edit newsletters.

You can write book reviews. You can write blog entries for pay. You can write resumés for job seekers. You can ghost-write memoirs. You can write genealogies. You can do outsourced public information for government agencies. You can handle public relations for schools and libraries.

Everybody needs a writer. All you have to do is see the need and fill it.

Strategies for Success

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

[42]

Strategies for Success

Now that I know what I’ve learned from experience in the self-publishing game, if I were to start Plain & Simple Press or Camptown Races Press anew, here is what I would do today that I did not do when I started the enterprise.

Hire an experienced marketer with a proven track record—up front

A marketing person would be my first hire. That is where I would put most of my start-up money, and it’s also where I would invest the most effort in recruiting and personnel assessment. I would hire this person before doing anything else.

The woods are full of people who will tell you they can market books. Most of them haven’t the faintest. Some are so hungry, they will lie just to get the job, saying they understand how to engage this or that tool to attract readers and sell books. In addition, a lot of popular ideas about what strategies work are simply wrong, or are outdated.

Where do you find a paragon among book marketers? Ask everyone you can think of, in and out of book publishing.

Track down authors whose books resemble yours and that are selling well. Send each author an inquiry asking if they can recommend their marketer. Most will not respond, so you’ll need to send out quite a few queries. But sooner or later you’ll probably find someone who will refer you to their marketing agent.

Contact the local Public Relations Society of America chapter. This group’s members are working professionals in marketing and public relations. They have a jobs board and invite job postings from prospective employers.[30] Be prepared to budget some money to post an ad and to hire someone for a gig that lasts long enough to produce results.

If there’s a publishers’ association in your state, along the lines of the New Mexico Book Association,[31] attend a meeting and ask members for suggestions. Many of these groups are very active and include publishers and authors with successful track records.

Attend regional and national book fairs. Network actively and inquire among the people you meet to see if anyone can refer you to a good marketing agent.

Attend regional and national writers’ conferences. The larger, better established ones attract New York literary agents. These people do know effective marketers. They may (or may not) refer you. Nothing ventured: while you’re there, you can also ask authors who seem successful.

Budget a substantial amount of money to pay for marketing services and campaigns, which should begin before the book is published. In retrospect, it’s clear this is where the largest share of a publisher’s or author’s budget should go.

Hire a virtual assistant to handle the social media time suck.

Although the effectiveness of social media marketing is, in my opinion, questionable, it cannot be neglected. And it is very time-consuming.

This is another task to which I would dedicate a fair slab of the budget.

You or an assistant should write blog posts every day having to do with subjects related to your books or your readers’ interests. Each of these needs to be optimized for and posted at Pinterest, and then you need to post each one at Facebook groups, on your Facebook business page and on your personal Facebook timeline, at Goodreads, on Twitter, at Google+, and to the extent appropriate, at LinkedIn.

Exclusive of the blogging, which you should be doing anyway, the ditzy social media tasks can easily soak up two hours a day. That’s two hours when you’re not writing, two hours that you’re not out on the town networking, two hours that you’re glued to the computer unable to exercise or take care of your family or read or think or do anything else. And two hours is a conservative estimate.

Unless you truly love passing your time on social media, hire someone else to do this stuff.

Crowd-fund or take out a business loan to pay these contractors.

It’s always better to use someone else’s money than to throw your own down the drain. Platforms such as Kickstarter,[32] Publishizer,[33] and Unbound[34] help fund and market your publishing project. Obviously, you have to share the revenues. But these outfits can generate revenues: a share of something is a lot better than a share of nothing.

Some such organizations function like publishers, but they seem to be more flexible in terms of the kinds of books they’ll chance their money on.

Put books on Ingram right away.

Ingram provides distribution services needed to circulate books to retailers, educators, and libraries. It offers a wide variety of marketing and fulfillment services, as well as a partnership with CreateSpace, a PoD service whose reviews are mixed but which is internationally known.

I would not use Ingram’s CreateSpace for printing, because I want more control over that process than you can get by working through a gigantic faceless corporation that outsources its jobs overseas. However, I would get my books into their distribution system as quickly as possible.

Focus on person-to-person and business-to-business marketing

Early on, I discovered that the 30 Days/4 Months diet plan and cookbook sold easily and in gay abandon when I talked it up to groups in person. Campaigns to sell it on social media generate plenty of “likes” but not many sales.

Acquaintances made in writers’ and publishers’ groups report similar experiences. Almost everyone who is making any money on their books will tell you that speaking in front of groups and arranging author-signings and bookstore presentations sells more books than any amount of virtual jawing on social media.

The next stage of my marketing campaign will be heavy on presentations and in-person networking. If I could have started out knowing then what I know now, I would have hit the ground with personal presentations, radio talk-show interviews, podcasts, and YouTube videos.

Set a Target Income and Ignore All Other Metrics

No amount of “awards” or “Amazon Best-Seller” ego-stroking status changes the real measure of a business’s success: the bottom line.

At the outset, decide how much you believe your book sales should earn: $NNN per year.

Keep accurate records of your income and expenses, in Quickbooks, Mint, Excel, or a similar tool. Nothing else matters in terms of your book’s success. Many “Amazon best-sellers” earn next to nothing for their authors, and many books that do not appear in Amazon’s specious best-seller categories earn well. Pay attention to this fact.

No other device works as well to make you scam-proof.

[1] https://www.loc.gov/publish/cip/

[2] Here’s a good place to start: https://www.the-bookdesigner.com/2010/03/cip-what-it-means-how-to-read-it-who-should-get-it/

[3] http://www.bowker.com/

[4]http://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/

[5]https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help?ie=UTF8&topicID=200650270

[6] http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/

[7] https://forums.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1323

[8] http://www.bowker.com/

[9] http://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/

[10] https://www.smashwords.com/list

[11] https://www.fiverr.com/

[12] http://online.brescia.edu/graphic-design-news/7-prominent-graphic-design-associations/

[13] http://www.thecopyeditorsdesk.com/contact/

[14]http://writeablogpeoplewillread.com/about-this-course/?hop=phxgirl

[15] goodreadsucks.com

[16]http://www.salon.com/2014/10/21/battle_of_the_trolls_kathleen_hale_reveals_the_war_raging_between_authors_and_readers/

[17]http://www.victoriastrauss.com/2014/07/18/on-trolls-and-fake-bad-reviews/

[18] http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-automate-your-tweets-3-useful-twitter-apps/

[19] http://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/how-to-automatically-send-tweet-when-you-publish-a-new-post-in-wordpress/

[20] http://www.pinterestforbloggers.net/

[21] http://www.networkedblogs.com/

[22] http://mailchimp.com/

[23] Victoria Strauss, “Awards Profiteers: How Writers Can Recognize and Avoid Them,” June 9, 1915. Writer Beware. http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2015/06/awards-profiteers-how-writers-can.html . In late 2016, the Writer Beware blogsite remains at http://accrispin.blogspot.com/. Don’t miss this valuable resource.

[24] “Confession: I’m a #1 Best-Selling Author…and a Nanny,” July 18, 2016. http://thefinancialdiet.com/confession-im-1-bestselling-author-nanny/

[25] Rachel Deahl, “New Guild Survey Reveals Majority of Authors Earn below Poverty Line,” September 11, 2015. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/68008-new-guild-survey-reveals-majority-of-authors-earn-below-poverty-line.html

[26] “ February 2016 Author Earnings Report: Amazon’s e-book, Print, and Audio Sales,” http://authorearnings.com/report/february-2016-author-earnings-report/

[27] Jay Yarow. “How Many Kindle Books Has Amazon Sold? About 22 Million This Year,” July 20, 2010, Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/sorry-amazon-kindle-e-books-outselling-hardcovers-isnt-that-impressive-2010-7

[28] Claude Forthomme, “Only 40 Self-Published Authors Are a Success, Says Amazon,” February 7, 2016, Claude Forthomme-Nougat’s Blog, https://claudenougat.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/only-40-self-published-authors-are-a-success-says-amazon/

[29] Jennifer McCartney, “Self-Publishing Preview, 2016,” Publisher’s Weekly, https://claudenougat.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/only-40-self-published-authors-are-a-success-says-amazon/

[30]http://www.prsa.org/Jobcenter/employers/products_pricing/intern_entry_level_freelance/

[31] http://www.nmbookassociation.org/about-nmba/

[32] https://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/publishing

[33] https://publishizer.com/

[34] https://unbound.com/

Lost in Space!

P&S Press’s blog has gone silent for the past several weeks while its proprietor has been dealing with a small tsunami of crises. Of late, my life seems to be an exemplar of the “whatever can go wrong will go wrong” adage.

In the tsunami department, a flood of editorial work has come in, most of it from scientists and mathematicians in China. This copy is challenging to edit: subject matter is arcane and complex, and the English is mightily ESL. It takes hour after hour to read, re-read, and proof it.

Meanwhile, my little dog, Cassie the Corgi, developed a cough and wheezing. Took her to a vet who, despite a negative test result, decided she has Valley fever. Even though I’m not convinced and a second vet is similarly unconvinced, nothing would do but what we had to put her on an antifungal drug that damn near killed her. She was so sick that twice I thought she surely would die within a few hours. Another drug, given concommittently, eased the cough but made her so incontinent she actually would leak in her sleep.

Before long the floors were covered in pee pads, as was anyplace the poor dog would sleep. She refused to eat. I managed to coax her to take a crumb of hamburger at at time, but she wouldn’t eat enough to keep a flea alive.

Finally I decided, unilaterally, to take her off the antifungal. Over the course of some days, she slowly started to recover until she was almost back to normal – except for the wheezing. Took her off the cough suppressant (which contained prednisone) and the last of the incontinence cleared up.

The cough continued to improve, to the point where she could bark exuberantly without hacking and wheezing. Now she coughs mostly when she drinks water…but she’s always done that. Corgis often do that – the other dog does, too.

Today she’s at the vet’s, where she’s supposed to get a full-body ultrasound sound. I almost typed “scam”…which is what I suspect. This is a very fine vet – I think of him as the Mayo Clinic of the Valley’s veterinary profession. And that tells you how wary of everyone and everything I’ve become. Valley fever is a highly lucrative disease to treat – I’ve already spent around a thousand bucks, and if he can prove that’s the dog’s problem and then he can talk me into treating it, we’re looking at expenditures like that going on for at least the next six months, possibly far, far longer. Many dogs are put on Valley fever medicines for the rest of their lives.

“Talk me into treating it” is the operative term. If he believes he can prove the dog has this disease, I may tell him to put her down. She’s 12 years old. I am, as we scribble, broke and cannot afford to pony up thousands and thousands of dollars to keep an elderly dog alive. First I’ll take her back to the other vet; if she agrees that Valley fever is the issue, I’ll probably just have her put to sleep.

Friend of mine has lost four dogs to Valley fever. One of them was on the toxic pills for six years! She told me that her biggest regret with three of them is that she didn’t have them put to sleep sooner.

Nevertheless: in the absence of a positive titer (which will come around in the next few weeks, if that’s really what she has), I remain skeptical.

My own theory is this dog may have a collapsed trachea. This causes exactly the same kind of coughing and wheezing as we’ve seen in Cassie. The condition is not uncommon in corgis, plus at about the age of two, Cassie was injured when she shot off after a cat while she was on one of those dratted extendable leashes. Before I could move, she flew to the end of it and jerked herself into the air – by the neck. It hurt her enough to cause her to scream.

If that didn’t damage her trachea, nothing would have. So the likelihood of a mechanical cause for the coughing and wheezing seems to me to be high enough to give one pause about dosing the dog with a poisonous drug.

Surgery to repair the trachea: about a thousand dollah.

So as you can imagine, this has been a bit of a distraction.

We had a major rainstorm last week, which most of the country has heard about, no doubt. Certainly no Category 4 hurricane, but lots more water than we’ve seen in these parts in a long while.

In the middle of this, my rooftop AC/heating unit went cattywampus. I thought it was the Nest thermostat, a complicated bit of arcana that my son gave me. After hours of farting around on the phone with the Nest tech, I finally called my AC guy – over the Nest guy’s objections, as though they owned the damn thing.

Understand, I took that thing offline because I highly resent the prospect of Google (which owns Nest now) tracking every effing deep breath I take when I’m in my house and knowing whenever I leave my house. Since most people don’t think about that – i.e., these “smart” devices invade your privacy in a Big way – he probably figures Google does own my thermostat.

AC guy takes the thing off the wall and behind it finds…WET WIRING.

Holy shit.

Climbs on the roof and discovers the roof is not, after all, leaking. Exactly. The wiring the AC guys have run down through the roof to connect to the thermostat is so badly sun-rotted that water is seeping down through the route and making its way down to the thermostat by capillary action.

He replaces all the wiring ande rewires the device. Now it’s working. Now Nest is still arguing with me about that. And I’ve had about as much of that as I care to think about.

Moving on, the other day coming back from delivering a vial of pee to the Other Vet, by way of determining whether Cassie has a urinary tract infection (surprise! she does!), I crashed my car.

Not exactly a crash: more like a fender bender. Trying to change lanes at the height of bumper-to-bumper rush hour, I clipped the back end of a flatbed being towed behind a pickup.

The other driver didn’t stop – he didn’t even slow down. I did…and found the plastic “bumper” on the front of the car bent, ripped, and flapping in the wind.

Fu*k!!!!!

Car was running fine, though, so I was able to get home. Insurance broker (always buy insurance through a broker, not direct from some compan’s agent) reported that because I’d bought the premium plan, I had a 0-dollar deductible and also a one-accident-forgiveness. So repairing the car wasn’t going to cost me anything but still more hours of my time. And, of course, my driving record…

He recommended getting it fixed on my own, if I could possibly afford it.

My son, who also is in the insurance industry, recommended taking it to the most expensive body shop in town and getting it fixed – right.

Meanwhile, by way of making sure the car was safe to drive at all, I took it over to my mechanic’s shop. They inspected the thing and found no damage under the hood, no bent struts, no serious damage except the bunged-up fender.

Then they started to play with it, and darned if they didn’t bend that fender back into place, secure it with the car’s clips and some bolts, and leave it looking no worse than if I’d scraped the side of some planter bed.

They did find, however, a gouge in the tire’s sidewall. They recommended changing it out. Since the last time I’d taken the car in for servicing, they remarked that all four tires (which are the cheap junk provided by Toyota) would soon need replacing.

So it was off to Costco, where I figured to drop around a grand for four new Michelin tires. God help me!

On top of almost a thousand bucks I’ve paid out to vets!

And the $10,000 I need to pony up to replaster the pool!!!

But lo! One good thing happened. Count it: 1. The Costco tire shop foreman inspected the thing, said “you don’t need to replace any of these tires. The tread is fine on all of them, and this ding on the sidewall isn’t going to do any harm.” Only thing that needed to be fixed was the walloped tire’s air valve, which was bent beyond usability. New air valve: sixty bucks.

It was the first non-nightmarish thing that’s happened in three weeks.

Meanwhile, I volunteered to do receptionist duty down at our church. This occupies one afternoon a week, which is normally OK…when there are no complications. It’s very quiet here (whereinat I’m writing this), so I can do editorial work or, in its absence, write blog copy. Except…

This morning I had to schlep the dog to the vet for the proposed fishing trip full-body scan. In the rush hour – when we can’t turn east out of my neighborhood because of the city’s peculiarly stupid idea of traffic control – it took FIFTY MINUTES to reach his office.

To give you an idea of what this means, getting back home took twenty minutes.

Then I forgot to stop at a grocery to pick up the dog food we ran out of. So I had to schlep back down the fancy store that carries their food, but didn’t have time to turn around and drive home, drop the stuff in the fridge, and then get back down here to the church on time. So now the dog food is stashed in the church kitchen’s refrigerator and I’m stuck here until 4 p.m., at which time I will have to make another fifty-minute drive to the vet’s office.

Rather than going home and then turning around and retracing my steps, I believe I’ll just go direct to the vet’s from here – cutting about ten or fifteen minutes off the schlep, I hope – and then just sit in his waiting room and work on the emanation that just this minute came in from the current client. They close at 6:00; I’ll get there around 4:45, so that may give me another hour and 15 minutes to translate the copy to English.

And since that just flew into the email in-box, it’s time to quit this and earn some (about to be much needed!) cash.

Watch this space…sooner or later I’ll get back to posting Ella, Asked, and The Complete Writer.

The Writing Life: Never Rains but It Pours

Have you ever noticed that weeks and even months can go by without much  happening, and then all of a sudden everything pops at once? It’s been like that around here.

Last week what should come in the door but…well…not one, not two, not three, not even four, but FIVE editing projects! I haven’t seen a lonely scribbler all summer long, and now here’s a mob of them at my door, just as I’m trying to crank 87 gerjillion Camptown Races Press books for the holiday season!

Speaking of the which, we’re about to promulgate our first Hallowe’en Treat: Janet and the Djinn, a whimsical story of a despairing jilted wife who answers a Craig’s List ad and gets a much more spirited romp than she expected. If you’d like an advance copy, come on over to Camptown Ladies Talk and grab one TODAY, before it hits Amazon. Sign up for the newsletter there (the form’s at the top of the page) and we’ll send you a .mobi or a PDF version ASAP.

Craig's List Janet LoResAdvance copy NOW!
Camptown Ladies Talk

So, back to the issue at hand: five freaking editorial projects when we’re trying to crank eight books this month, one of which I STILL HAVE TO FINISH WRITING!

Lordie! I haven’t been able to get to my own stuff in weeks. But I really couldn’t turn them down. We need the money to keep the business going. Not only do I have to cover the regular overhead — the Cox bill, the web hosting bill, the web wrangler’s bill, the association dues, the paper, the ink, the you-name-it — I now have four (maybe five, soon!) writers to pay. Pay for three of these projects, taken together, will keep us going another two months past the date I figured we’d go broke if we’re not turning a profit.

Crazy-making!

But last week I tried a plan that shows some serious promise: divide up the day in chunks, and devote each chunk to one (count it, 1) specific task. Don’t do anything else during that period, no matter how tempting or urgent it seems to be. Okay.

So, Friday went like this:

Three hours: Post Bobbi and the Biker. Publicize: Build widgets, manage Twitter and post tweets there, write blog posts, plan marketing campaign.
Three hours: Edit copy
Three hours: Write scene for The Taming of Bonnie (Ouija Lover II)

Et voilà! There’s a nine-hour day, right there.

I ended up spending another three hours cleaning up some very messy computer files and backing them up to a gigantic flash drive and then to the iMac. That was quite a job, but it’s going to make life a lot easier.

Saturday was blown away with a three-hour meeting of a writer’s group I habituate — plus the two hours it takes to get there and back. When I got home, I discovered the power had gone out while I was gone, and it had knocked the wireless off the air. Try as I might, I could NOT get the wireless back online. I called my son, who was pissed that I bothered him on the weekend and not very friendly about the prospect of having to help me fix it. Continued to struggle with it. Went to bed with no wireless Internet access.

Naturally. Just as I needed to push HARD to publicize our first Racy Book for Racy Readers.

Sunday morning I managed to get the system back online and then fly out the door to choir. Singing occupied the rest of the morning.

I fell in the choir loft when one of my platform sandals came loose and dropped off my foot. Fortunately I wasn’t hurt, other than a few mild aches, but it was embarrassing and disturbing. Got home and had a drink with lunch. And then another. And then didn’t feel a whole lot like writing or editing. Blew off the afternoon with a nap and reading someone else’s naughty book.

So spent all of Sunday evening, way into the night, editing copy.

Today I’m going to try the three/three/three schedule again. It’s already almost 7 a.m. and I haven’t had anything to eat or walked the dogs, but hope to squeeze those things in before sitting down to work. Started around 5 and I’ve updated the Twitter buzz, posted the FREE ADVANCECOPY OFFER(!!!!!) at Camptown Ladies Talk and here, answered comments at Funny about Money, built widgets here and at Ladies Talk, reviewed copy I wrote on Friday, checked a subcontractor’s edits and sent her work, with a bill, to the Chinese academic client, worked briefly on the Mongolian expat client’s work, fielded e-mail, and…not gotten a heck of a lot else done.

It’s starting to rain: that gets me out of having to walk the dogs — they hate rain. Thank goodness!

And so, to post this, plug it on Twitter, and slap up a post at Funny about Money. Then: breakfast. Then: real work.

 

Two Bookoids Down…

Only eighteen more to go! 😀

Last night finished the second of the ten to twenty racey “books” I’d like to turn out per month. “Bookoid,” is what they might best be called. The word length is definitely in the ball park of what’s being turned out. But that word length is not very long: about 7400 words, for this one.

It’s taking a lot longer to write these things than people say they take, or than I planned. I see, for example, by this blog that I thought the present magnum opus would be done two days ago. I completed the first bookoid six days before that. So it’s taking me about a week to write one of these things.

That’s only four a month, and I need a bare minimum of ten.

The big problem is the constant stream of interruptions. Some days it feels like I can’t get ten minutes without SOMETHING busting in to my concentration.

Yesterday, for example, the car had to go to the repair shop — that’s two trips through rush-hour traffic, back and forth. Twenty minutes after the mechanic dropped me off at the front door, the handyman showed up to fix the kitchen sink. He occupied a fair amount of time, though he didn’t charge anything (which was nice….since the car is about to bankrupt me).

Final student papers are coming in. To get some of them to turn in their 10-page exudations early so we’d get a little slack on the awful deadline for filing final grades, we offered them  20 points of extra credit to post their papers before Monday. So naturally, the best and the brightest have begun turning that junk in.

Okay, so the brightest students are easiest to grade, because all you have to do is slap an A on their paper and you don’t have to waste your time justifying WHY you’re giving the person a D (it’s a waste of time because these folks have heard the same stuff a score of times and don’t pay the slightest bit of attention — some of them don’t even bother to read your comments). But it still consumes time to read them, even in a cursory way.

Speaking of exudations, one of the three surgical incisions I came away from the Mayo with is infected. It’s worse this morning, so I’ll have the privilege of spending half of today trying to cope with that, which will entail another trip to the hospital and a trip to a pharmacy and probably some throwing up in response to whatever antibiotic they inflict on me.

The designer called and revealed that he is only JUST beginning to look at compiling the 18 Fire-Rider covers I need to have before I can post that series on Amazon. Grrrr! But when he did that, he also revealed that I must have been in my cups some weeks ago when I sent him the list of books & titles — he thought the title of book II is the title of book I, and from there things went downhill.

So  now I get into my files and see, yes, somehow that list got completely garbled! I’d sent him something that made exactly zero sense.

So that meant I had to rewrite that, try to get it right for a change, and send it to him.

Then there was the back and forth with the web gurus. The exiting guy — alas, this lovely man got a JOB (horrors!) and besides has four kids and a wife he imagines he should spend time with — is going to move the blog empire over to WestHost today. The new guy is going to reorganize it. Among other things, this site (Writers Plain & Simple) will become a subdomain of Plain & Simple Press, allowing the domain name to revert to GoDaddy.

This scheme — converting a number of free-standing business-related sites to subdomains of my main business websites — will save a ton of money over the long run. GoDaddy is now charging several hundred dollars a year for the many domain names I’ve claimed. Speaking of sucks: that’s a money suck.

So I’ll end up dropping five domain names and picking up one new one: Camptown Races Press, the new imprint for the p0rn enterprise. Good. Very, very good.

Because I was waiting for a number of people to call, when the phone rang I had to pick it up. Normally I don’t…when you get to be my age, you get on every predator’s phone list, so every day I get two or three phone calls from scammers trying to victimize old folks. And yes, I am on the National Do Not Call List, a pathetic joke. Sometimes I can tell the caller is a crook — the ones that spoof Directory Assistance are a bit obvious. 😀 But sometimes Caller ID won’t have enough information to tell whether it’s the handyman calling from his cell or what.

The phone kept jangling all day long. Every time I’d sit down and just get focused, BRRRRRIINNNGGGGA! And there’s some moron on the other end.

No, I cannot afford call blocking. The phone company does not want you to block their customers — the people who pay them for your phone numbers — and so they charge an arm and a leg for call blocking. No, the Panasonic phone that lets you block around a hundred numbers is not a practical option: you need a master’s degree in software engineering to figure out how to program it.

Then Semi-Demi-Exboyfriend decided that NOTHING will do but what I have to traipse out to Sun City to have dinner at his house while New Girlfriend is off in Colorado. It’s all very nice that he’d like to socialize with me, but… He invariably wants me to come out there in the rush hour. So to get there by 4:00 I have to leave here by 3:00. By the time I’ve sat around his house until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., a third of the day is shot!

(Hereabouts, evening rush hour starts at 3:00 p.m., especially during the summer when guys in construction and other strenuous trades start at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. to get around the worst of the heat.)

By way of negotiating this social event, SDXB phoned me…what? Three times? Four? I can’t recall, but every time I sat down to work, there he was on the phone again.

So, what have we got here: TEN ONGOING DISTRACTIONS breaking up ONE day!!!!! Shee-ut! No wonder I can’t get any work done.

Well, it’s after 6 a.m. We can call the Mayo 24 hours a day, so I’d better call and let them know I think this damn thing is infected. That will mean traipsing up there today. If they let me in this morning, then the first half of the day will be erased, for all practical purposes.

If I have to wait until this afternoon, then I won’t be able to go to the writer’s group I favor, which meets at the library of a westside suburb halfway to Yuma.

There’s another time suck. They meet for three hours once a month. It’s an hour’s drive each way: five hours down the hole.

Normally I do not hang out with writer’s groups — they really are an unholy waste of time for someone who already knows how to write and edit, thank you very much. But this group is something else. Most of them are already published, some of them through real presses, some through Amazon. And what they’re interested in is not how to become a Writer with a Capital W, but in how to market.

Marketing is my big weakness. Hustling my wares is far from my favorite pastime, and I’m not good at it. So I see enough value in this group to make it worth killing half a day a month sitting around listening to them.

At any rate, what it boils down to is

a) it’s taking longer to write these things than I figured (original estimate was one every two or three days), and
b) even when it looks like I have a day that’s going to be free, it in fact is a pastiche of interruption and nuisances.

That makes it unlikely that I can turn out ten to twenty bookoids a month, unless I write much shorter. How many s∈x acts can you cram in to 3,000 words? And how much space does that give you to come up with an entertaining reason to present the s∈x acts?

Turning out one a week, which seems to be about the rate we’re looking at, means not doing anything else. I haven’t written the proposal for the Boob Book, even though the chapters, intro, and appendix are ready to go. I haven’t worked on formatting the last two of 18 Fire-Rider serials so they can go online as soon as Gary finishes the covers. Nor, indeed, have I budgeted several hours to sit down and study how to get the things up.

Claro, I’m going to need those four wannabe writers to contribute to this project. So far none has come forward with a draft. It remains to be seen what will happen there. But to get even 10 a month online will take more than one person writing the stuff.

Maybe I should come up with some writing prompts for them…

On the other hand…I have to tellya! Writing this stuff IS a hoot. The one I finished yesterday turned out to be a great deal spicier than the first effort. And in 7,000 words, you can come up with characters that are more than cardboard figures. You can even create a little backstory. These are stories that are probably worth reading for more than just the smυt. But there’s plenty of that, too.

And each of these stories lends itself to a series. Think I’ll go back and forth between them. The next bookoid will be another biker story; then the following will return to the incubus tale.

Speaking of time sucks, now it’s after 7 a.m. Got to water the plants before the heat fries them and get cleaned up lest I have to schlep to the Mayo hospital. Ugh.

Becalmed and Belayed!

Arrrrggghhh! Got back from the Mayo Clinic yesterday, after enjoying the hospitality there for five interminable days.

Actually, the Mayo’s hospitality is very fine: they go way, way beyond the call to provide kind and effective service. And their docs can’t be beat, at least not in these parts. But that doesn’t change the facts of an excruciatingly painful intestinal blockage (scars from an old appendectomy) and major surgery to fix it.

Now I’m back at the house, but very tired all the way around and feeling like I’ve swallowed a bowling ball every time I ingest a few bites of food.

Naturally, this happens right in the middle of Arizona’s so-called “monsoon” season, when temps hover at or above 110, dirt and debris blow through every afternoon, and thunderstorms frighten the locals and blow over trees.

When I got home the pool was a vast mess, a puddle of trash and mud. My son (who has his own place to take care of, to say nothing of a full-time job) got most of it out last night. But then another storm blew through during the night. Up at dawn to shovel it out again.

Fortunately, this morning’s mess wasn’t as bad as I expected. Don’t think I hurt myself hauling just one bag of debris off the bottom, dumping in some chlorine, and reconnecting the cleaner. In fact, the activity was probably good. By this evening the pool will need to be backwashed again, which I can’t do because it involves manhandling a difficult valve. But Dear Son can deal with that.

All of which is to say…what? It doesn’t look like I’m going to get much writing done in the next few days. I’m exhausted, and the bowling-ball sensation does nothing to make me feel like sitting at a desk and working.

So all of the writing projects have heaved to a dead stop.

Meanwhile, hallelujah, brothers & sisters!

I QUIT THE GODDAMN TEACHING JOB!

Yes. This latest little crisis — I now have had six surgeries in the span of a year, one of the for a life-threatening condition — finally elicited the obvious epiphany: Quit doing things you hate doing!

I am so sick of teaching composition. Just can. not. put. up. with another rude little pighead who thinks I should dole out passing grades to people who don’t even bother to read the syllabus or the comments on the papers.

Switching to all online courses helped — at least when you don’t have to face them down in the classroom, you don’t have to cope with mental problems, disrespect, and open rudeness, nor are you at any great physical risk. But it doesn’t change the fact that disrespect, arrogance, and disinclination to do the most minimal level of coursework characterize lower-division studentry. This classic says it all…

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVvKnq5XT-g]

Hafta tellya…that doesn’t even strike me as an attempt at humor. It’s a reality show.

(LOL! If the sound doesn’t play, click the X next to the little speaker icon to turn off “mute.”)

One of  my friends earns more selling used junk on e-Bay than I do when I’m teaching the maximum course load the District allows me to carry! And believe me, my friend will not be retiring to the Riviera on the proceeds from her e-Bay empire anytime soon.

So. I figure writing full-time will generate at least that much, on average. And if it’s true that erotica practically sells itself and that over six months to a year will pull in a living wage if you pour enough of the stuff out there…well. Any day I’d rather write smυt than put up with what I’ve been subjected to teaching adjunct since I was laid off my job…six long years ago!

Crazed Client + CreateSpace + Crashed Computer = No Work Done

ugh ugh UGGHHH what a gawdawful day!

Up at 5 a.m. Clean the palm tree crud and duck droppings out of the pool before the thermometer tops 105. Water the plants before the sun can fry them. Feed the dogs. Bolt down slice of watermelon. Park in front of the computer before 7 o’clock.

Planned to finish writing Chapter 2 of the Boob Book. That done, I’ll have the introduction, two chapters, and two decent appendices, enough to support a proposal, which I intend to send to a couple of my past publishers. One of those publishers is likely to pay an advance large enough to free me from a year of teaching drudgery. And that will open the door not only to writing a socially redeeming book but to kicking off a totally unredeeming bidness that is likely to support me into my dotage.

Speaking of the which, my accountant & friend and I were meeting for happy hour this afternoon, both of us having exceeded our respective drudgery allowances some time back. Developments that arose yesterday — two people offering to write spicey novelettes for my company, on contract; another offering to serve as project manager, plus an offer to do e-book formatting at a batch rate — meant we would need to talk business as well as drink off the stresses of the past few weeks. And I would need something to talk business about.

So, I put off book writing to revise the S-corp’s present business plan and compose a strategic plan. Four pages worth.

Finally I return to the  Boob Book and start to write. There’s a page of To-Do notes to print. When I hit command-P…oh, yes. EFFING Word freezes again.

I hate Word.

Apple’s accursed spinning mandala goes on and on and on and on and on and on and I go off and do some other chores and come back eight or ten minutes later and find the accursed spinning mandala twirling on and on and on and on and Force QUIT! FORCE QUIT WORD, DAMMIT.

Word crashes. Reboot. Notice the wireless connection is unstable. Trying to print the unsaved To-Do notes freezes Word again.

FORCE QUIT!!! Now I figure I’d better shut down all the programs and reboot.

The whole system hangs.

It will not unhang.

A bunch of things I’m working on — and that I’ve done a ton of work on — are hung with it. They’re not saved to DropBox because I’ve been busy working on them. They’re saved to the hard disk. If the aging laptop crashes, hours and HOURS of work are going to crash with it.

I throw on my clothes, grab the machine with its eternally spinning mandala, and haul it to the Apple store, hoping they can clue me to how to make it stop without losing everything I’ve done for the past several days. Which is a lot.

They can’t. The woman I speak to is actually rude.

Next computer is going to be a cheap PC. What’s the point of spending top dollar on a Mac if you can’t get customer service? I’m done with Apple.

Outside the store I sit on a park bench under a mister, a pathetic effort to make the outdoor mall environment tolerable for the baked customers. Finally figure since everything is probably gone, I might as well turn the machine off. Turn it back on.

Incredibly, it reboots.

Some data is lost, but most of the files are recoverable, largely because the MacBook is set to save every five minutes, thanks to years of experience with Word’s crashing proclivities.

I’m relieved but furious.

Back home, more and more time remains to be spent spent sorting out the crashed files, backing up to DropBox, and generally farting around.

But…

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away… A client and dear friend was going into melt-down mode. Had been, since yesterday.

Yesterday he sent a dozen emails and left two voice messages. He’s been trying to produce a second edition of a book he uses as a marketing tool for his chiropractic practice. CreateSpace and Ingram/Spark keep rejecting his application. They tell him he hasn’t filled in tax and address data. He says he has filled in these parts. There is, of course, no human there to ask for an explanation. Only repeated, circular, machine-generated demands.

But while I’ve been enjoying the better part of a year of surgery, design and production for this second edition has been going on without me. A local graphic designer and author’s shepherd has been doing the project, leaving me pretty much out of the loop. So…I have no idea what he’s talking about. Nor do I have a clue what to do to help.

He sends me screenshots of the rejected forms. I can’t access them without his username and password. He sends the same; I still can’t get in. Not that there’s much I could do about it: what on earth would I know about his tax data? Oh well.

He’s at a conference. He gives presentations at such conferences. So one might say he’s a bit preoccupied. But in short order he has a series of seminars to give, and he wants copies of the new books. By this morning he’s getting frantic.

Arriving home from the infuriating, frustrating encounter with the Apple Bit*h, I find two more frantic calls from him. Try to return his calls: no answer.

At this point, I think, “Why on earth are you going with CreateSpace and Ingram when there’s a perfectly fine PoD printer here? The only reason to print through Ingram/Spark is to get access to international distribution to bookstores. The only reason to print with CreateSpace is to sell hard copies through Amazon.

“But…but…almost all your hard-copy sales happen at conferences and seminars. Most people buying the book through Amazon are perfectly content to get it on their Kindles. There’s no reason your admin can’t fulfill hard-copy orders from Amazon.”

This thought communicated to him by e-mail, he eventually returns and allows that he’s had it with trying to deal with these two outfits.

So I call the local printer and ascertain that if we’ll get the local designer to send the PDFs and artwork over, he can probably have his first print run in hand within two weeks.

By e-mail, I report this to Beloved Client and Incommunicado Designers.

This consumes a significant amount of the day. By the time I’m done, it’s almost 2 o’clock in the freaking afternoon. I’m starved and I need a drink.

Fry up a decent meal, pour a bourbon and water.  By the time I finish eating, it’s time to paint my face and get ready to meet Accountant Friend.

The ENTIRE DAY was shot, what with all this screwing around. I got one, count it, one paragraph written.

Three projects, one day, 24 hours: progress

Five to 9…what is that? A sixteen-hour day? And I’m knocking off early: normally would work till 11 p.m.

LOL! Back when I was a working stiff in the magazine industry, one of my editors used to say that freelance writing was grand because it allowed you to pick your work hours: any 18 hours of the day you please!

With the teaching antics temporarily in abeyance, several whole days have presented themselves for productive work.

And lacking too many interruptions, I’ve been able to do a little on each of the three projects in hand: Writing a new (more or less erotic) novel (shaping up to be a romance!); building a prospectus for the nonfiction Boob Book coping with decisions women have to make when confronted with a breast diagnosis); putting the completed Fire-Rider novel online in serialized form.

So: yesterday I wrote one of the appendices for the Boob Book: how to read a scientific paper. Next segment: a chapter on the screening controversies. Wrote a little on the new book. And spent several hours fiddling with the new template I hope to use for the 19 serial novelettes.

Half of today was consumed with a business meeting and a doctor’s appointment 25 miles from home: lots of time disappeared there. But between 5 and 6:30 ayem, I did squeeze in a paragraph or two of the new-old novel.

Later, back at the Funny Farm: it was back to the project of fitting Slave Labor into the proposed print-on-demand template. And ta-da! by the time the sun had been down an hour or two, the whole (little) book was pasted into the template, formatted in styles, and saved as a PDF.

The result is not bad. Not great, but not bad. It’s marginally professional. The problem is, of course, is that no matter how carefully you choose your fonts, Word is not quite up for the job of typesetting. BUT…for the purpose of cranking 5000-word penny-dreadfuls — many of them scribbled on order by flunkies willing to write erotica at an astonishing 2 cents a word  (!!!!!) — perfection is not a requisite.

Without Adobe Acrobat Pro (which I can’t afford), you can’t generate crop lines, so the PDF doesn’t make it obvious that the template is for a 5.5 x 8.5 trim size.

Joel Friedlander, the guy who cooked up this clever scheme, insists that many PoD printers can handle PDFs that have no crop lines. I’ll believe that when I see it. But if forced to it, probably my sidekick can extract a copy of Pro from her employer, the Chinese government, or the guys down at the FedEx shop will have it. One is never without resources.

Friedlander also has a cover design template, of all the astonishing things. You enter your image on the righthand side, figure and adjust the spine width, and enter your back cover copy on the left, in text boxes. Et voilà!

He proposes that one get an image sized to wrap all the way around, and in a video shows how to do that. Very nice, but I have a front cover image that I’ve already paid generously for, and it ain’t going away. So I figure either to leave cover 4 white, or to fill the spine and back cover with a color compatible with the dominant color scheme in the present design.

It’s going to be extremely interesting to see if this works. They say with the new digital PoD printers, which really are glorified computer printers with some capacity to perfect-bind whatever comes out, open all sorts of doors.

And now…I’m done in!

🙂

w00t! Boob Book Intro DONE!

To my surprise, writing the introduction to the proposed book describing the choices women face when they receive just about any kind of breast diagnoses went a lot faster than expected. At this point I’m now reduced to doing the slow, mind-numbing job of organizing 535+ pages of notes.

One of the benefits of self-employment, of course, is that you can carve some time out of your day to work on your own projects. And I do: I segment my days to devote about three hours to the client’s current book, about three hours to the Boob Book, about two hours to riding herd on my three online courses (more, when student papers come in or when course prep  has to be done), an hour or two to keeping up my various blogs, and one to three hours for marketing.

But as grand as that sounds, it’s not so easy.

Problem is, life keeps impinging on one’s business. In about fifteen minutes, for example, I have to visit an oncological nurse practitioner at the Mayo Clinic — that’s a 50-mile drive, two hours through city traffic, not counting the time spent sitting around the waiting room and then chatting with the woman, probably pointlessly. Though I’ll take my laptop and work on the client’s project, it’s difficult to concentrate when people around you are yakking on their cell phones and when staff are calling out people’s names and annoying Muzak is impinging on your consciousness.

On my way home, I’ll stop by a couple of markets in Scottsdale, stores that serve the middle class that has migrated away from my part of town; there I can buy a few items no longer available nearby because not enough of the residents remaining near my home can afford to buy such things. That will consume another half hour or so.

Yesterday I finally gave in to a friend’s repeated importuning to drive to his home way to hell and gone out in Sun City to have dinner with him and his girlfriend. I dearly love this couple, but I do NOT love driving to the sprawl-infested far west side in the rush hour. Nor could I afford the several hours of the afternoon and evening that this junket required: because my business group met that morning at a venue way on the east side of the Valley, I got almost no work done. Between the time I returned from that meeting, had something to eat, and rested up from a sleep-deprived night and the time I had to get dressed and drive to my friend’s house, only about four hours of useful work time remained.

Tomorrow I have to drive even further west — halfway to freaking Yuma, in my opinion — to go with some friends to a book-signing and of course, as long as we’re convening with the friend who lives in one of the Valley’s farthest-flung suburbs, to schmooze over lunch and catch up with news. This activity will consume about half my day.

Not to complain: I’m happy to see my friends and spend time with them. And showing up at networking groups is an indispensable part of marketing your business. The point is, the best-laid plans of mice and persons often go awry…

That’s why I say it was “to my surprise” that the introduction got itself drafted so quickly. Having several days in which the work schedule went uninterrupted…wow! But it was probably a fluke.

Making Time to Write

Writing tips - How to make time to writeLast week New York Times editorialist David Brooks held forth on the daily habits of famous writers, the implication being that if you want to be a famous writer (or even an infamous writer), you would be well advised to establish a regular schedule that devotes a set period to the work. Or, if you prefer, to The Work.

Plumbing the depths of Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Brooks reports that Maya Angelou arose each morning at 5:30, had coffee at 6:00, and then would set off at 6:30 to a hotel room she rented as a kind of office. There she would write from 7:00 a.m. to 12:30 or 2:00 p.m.

Anthony Trollope, on the other hand, would set a goal of 2,500 words a day, to be accomplished at the rate of 250 words every 15 minutes.

The examples are a little extreme. But the fact is, if you want to become a Writer with a Capital W, the number-one thing you have to do is apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. And you can’t do that when you’re trying to accommodate other people’s schedules or working around all the “I’d better get this done first” demands you set for yourself.

Some years ago, my department at Arizona State University, at the time called American Studies, brought a speaker to harangue us — sorry, make that “advise” — about strategies to help crank out the articles and books required to achieve tenure and, once tenured, to manage promotion to full professor.

He urged us to carve out a small window of time three times a week in which all we would do is work on the writing project. We did not have to write. We could research. We could plan. We could outline. We could think. But whatever it was, it had to be related to the project at hand.

The time didn’t have to be long: even fifteen or twenty minutes. A half an hour would be good. An hour at most. Over time, you might extend it to a couple of hours. But don’t overdo it, he said. In any event, limit the time to a specific period, scheduled for a limited number of days per week.

This strategy has several advantages:

1. It allows you to keep the spouse and the kids at bay. If they know that at a certain time you’ll be at their beck and call (again!), they’re more likely to leave you alone for the time you’ve set aside.

2. Three hours a week, while not much, is three hours more than you would work on your project otherwise.

3. You can work up from a half-hour or an hour to an hour or two, giving yourself six or more hours a week — again, time you wouldn’t otherwise spend on writing.

4. Working regularly on creative work primes the creative pump. Weirdly, when you work a short time on a creative project, set it aside, and come back to it, you find yourself coming up with all sorts of new ideas. As Brooks puts it, “order and discipline are the prerequisites for creativity and daring.”

All of it is easier said than done, especially if you’re self-employed.

Obviously, if you have a regular job, you can find regular times in which to work: 5:30 to 6:30 a.m., before you have to get the kids out of the sack and yourself ready to go; or 10:30 to 11:30 p.m., after the kiddies are put to bed and the dishes are washed.

By contrast, when you’re self-employed work comes in irregularly and deadlines can be erratic. Sometimes you need to put in 14+ hours a day to get the job done. New tasks come in, clients get squirrely, new business must be hustled, meetings must be met. When on earth do you find time to do your own thing?

Well, you don’t find it. You have to make it. Got a 14-hour day? Either add another hour or two for your writing schemes, or make Tuesday a 16-hour day so as to break free an hour or two on Wednesday.

Personally, I tend to prioritize my creative work over my clients’ work. At some point, I decided I get to have some time of my own to do what I want to do. Selfish, yes. But creativity demands a certain degree of ego.

Up at 5:30: answer the e-mail.

6:00 to 6:30 or 7:30: write. Or at least think through the project.

6:30 or 7:30: Walk one to two miles, with dogs if weather permits.

7:30 to 8:30: Breakfast, coffee, read paper.

8:30 to around 2:00 p.m.: work.

2:00 to 3:00 p.m.: Prepare and enjoy full dinner-type meal.

3:00 to 4:00 p.m.: Siesta time! Rest and regroup. Take time to think about creative work, characterization, action, or organization and approach to nonfiction or editing projects in hand.

4:00 p.m. to 6:00 or 7:00 p.m.: Work. Answer e-mail.

7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.: Work as necessary, but spend part of this time blogging (Funny about Money, Writers Plain & Simple, MyCorgi.com) while ogling Netflix.

10:00 or 11:00 p.m.: Walk dogs, if it was too hot to take them out in the morning.

What it boils down to? If you wanna be a Writer, you’ve gotta work. If you’re gonna work, you need to make time to work.

(And, once you’re ready, we’d love to talk to you about editing your work. Just contact us.)