Author Archives: JT

Two Dogs

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Both dogs, at separate times, walk into the same room. One comes out wagging his tail while the other comes out growling. A woman watching this goes into the room to see what could possibly make one dog so happy and the other so mad. To her surprise she finds a room filled with mirrors. The happy dog found a thousand happy dogs looking back at him while the angry dog saw only angry dogs growling back at him. What you see in the world around you is a reflection of who you are.*

Shorter: Perception is reality.

I had an epiphany at the Day Job a few years ago during a particularly miserable time when management and staff were not in sync. “Loggerheads” is both a reasonable description and an underused word. The circumstances are not as important as the question at the height of the darkness: why do I hate coming to work? Many of us, if not most of us, dread Monday as a culture. The epiphany came when I took a step back and made a list:

  • My job is very interesting. The constant stream of questions and situations challenge me to do my best every day.
  • Most of my colleagues have their heads on straight. There are always exceptions, but they usually have bosses who will listen to reason.
  • The people I’ve been lucky to supervise over the years are the best in business, and most left my team with a promotion. Equally cool: some still talk to me years later.
  • I’ve been blessed with above average bosses 80+% of the time. The mediocre ones never last long.

The list showed me that my perception was the problem about the “going to work” thing. And fortunately for me, my perception is also the solution. Implementing the “get over myself” solution took months, but I’m coming along. My blood pressure is down, there are more good nights of sleep than bad, and I don’t hate Mondays.

One surprise outcome is how this has affected my Night Job. I don’t know if I’m a better or worst writer, content or technique, but I don’t hate opening Word or Google Docs anymore. I do dread opening them up when I lack something to write about, but the “I totally suck at writing” feeling is gone. Confidence is a wonderful tool.

Maybe it’s human nature to seek complex solutions for hard problems, but I found this time that pouring the camel through the eye of the needle wasn’t necessary. I changed my perception of work and I changed my life. And it started when I recognized the problem was me.

(*The parable above is from the internet, as is the puppy picture. Neither were posted with their creator’s name. Please forward their names and I’ll be happy to recognize them. Thank you.) 

Keep Going

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This might be one of the “biking as writing” or “writing as biking” posts. More likely, it’s gonna more proof that you’re never too old to do stupid shit.

The end of November didn’t suck, though the potential for major suckage stank up the place. The Bride was bouncing back from not one, but two bouts of strep throat, and the day job had me pinging off the walls. The Saturday before Turkey Day had me 28+K words shy of the needed 50K words to win Nanowrimo. There was lots of Real Life going on inside and outside the house, yet somehow…

Maybe I was having a letdown this morning from the stress, but The Bride got me a Trek Marlin 7 as an early Christmas present, so time to boo-yah some trails. (Hey, I’m a veteran. We can use military slang without understanding the correct context. We’re cute that way.)

Here’s where the “stupid poo-poo” thing sneaks in. It snowed yesterday. The dirt trails were snowy and wet, so they were (follow the logic here) muddy as hell. To multiply the “stupid ca-ca” thing, my spiffy new bike does not have wheel guards or fenders, so (more logic follows) I got muddy from the spin of the wheels. Hey, Mom, I’m a mudder now!

No, I did not have to get muddy and, yes, my pretty new bike is not pretty now, but darn it, I can’t remember the last time that five miles of hard work felt so good. This morning’s ride could be a metaphor for that last week of Nanowrimo: the long, hard slog in the mud. But the followers of this blog (both of you) are the smartest readers in the world and you already figured it out.

While I have your attention, I will mention ASIN continues to be read and bought, making it my most successful book. “Success” is relative, as Mr. King sells more books in a second than I have in my life, but I’m pleased as punch. For those of you who use Goodreads, my profile is updated and I’m posting short reviews of the books in my life. More about GR in the next post.

Time to gird the old loins now and try to hit the daily writing goal while watching truly awful Raiders/49ers football. Y’all be good to each other. Mostly, be kind. And if you’re having any small or large crisis in faith or confidence, gimme a shout-out because I believe in you. Take care.

 

Cover Charge

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(If this sounds like a rehash of an old post, I agree with you because, gosh darn it, I feel like I’ve written a version of this post before, but I couldn’t find it. Oh well. New followers won’t know any different, so apologies to older followers. Here we go!)

Creating art is an art, but there’s the analytical aspect. There’s no point in painting a Mona Lisa or sculpting a Rodin without discipline and a self-imposed system of quality control. For me, the most difficult quality control portion writing a book was not sentence structure or character development but picking out a cover.

I’ve used 99Designs for three or four books. If you’ve never used 99Designs, the premise is straightforward: you start a contest, you outline your needs, you have X number of days to pick a set of covers that will advance to a final round, and then another set of days to pick the finalist. I’ve developed a QC system that might help you in the future:

Communication: You cannot overcommunicate, in my opinion. When you establish the contest, you provide a book outline and some details, and a list of your expectations. As the contest continues and the book cover designers post their covers, you have opportunity to provide feedback. The biggest favor you can do for the designers and for yourself is to be open and candid. Provide sample chapters and links to your web sites (social media, blog, home site) so the designers can see your public thinking.

Rating: You can rate book covers on a system of zero to five stars. For me, I use zero to three stars, reserving zeros and ones for book covers I’m never going to use. Two stars are for book covers I’m not quite sure about, and three stars are for designs that I’m certain or near certain are going to survive to the final round. When designers ask why they received their rating, answer all questions. Don’t be afraid. The designers really want to give you what you want.

Be Realistic: Don’t fall in love with the first submissions (like I always do). You’ll have a lot of great designs by the end of the first round if you have adequately communicated your needs. Be patient and stick to your rating system from the beginning of the contest to the end of the contest.

The Final Cover: I have no idea how to pick up final cover. For my latest contest, I bounced back between three or four designs because they were all great. When I narrowed it down to two designs, I couldn’t decide, so I bought them both. They each have their strengths, and I would have been happy to post either on Amazon. The final decision came down to which cover do I want to see five years from now. (The winner is here, if you’re interested.)

If you have a better methodology, please share. To paraphrase Edmund Gwynn, “Writing is easy. Book covers are hard.” Thank you.

Cover Reveal

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Lots to cover, but as I have the attention span of a mayfly, let’s be economical with the words.

The first Emma Parks book is free for download on Friday, October 19th. Lots of positive feedback for this and the sequel, so grab it! Here’s the link to Hope Knocks Twice.

Second, yep, that’s the cover of my new book, A Sheriff in Nevada. I bought two covers and pinged back and forth for weeks. They’re both excellent, but this one nudged ahead by a hair because I feel it best represents my home state. The second cover will be the subject of a future blog post.

Last, the book itself will be available for pre-order very soon with the release date of October 31, 2018. Why release it on this date? Because that’s Nevada Day, gosh darn it, and a book about Nevada for Nevadans should be released on our admission day.

I want you to read the book, so I’m asking for less than a buck of your hard-earned money. You’ll get more than your money’s worth, I promise!

Edit: Amazon got the link up quick! You can pre-order right now.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading and take care of each other, okay?

Electric Hearing

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Short story: Helen Keller reportedly said, “Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people.” While I can’t speak to the blindness, deafness is an emotional killer when you lose your hearing and you’re in a family of misfits with the patience of day flies. I’m not writing this as a martyr or a victim – I’m long past the days for feeling guilty or sorry for having a physical disability – but if you’re having hearing problems, today is the day to get help.

Long story: To avoid the martyr/victim thing, let’s skip my winding road to deafness other to say it was inevitable. Deafness is a genetic thing in my family, as two of my eight great grandparents wore boomboxes to aid their hearing. Folks in my generation remember the transistor-radio-sized devices folks wore before hearing aids (HA) became small. The one thing common from their days is the persistent perception that hearing-impaired folks are slow and dumb. (I was slow and dumb long before deafness, but I digress.)

I made the decision to get the cochlear implant (CI) when I realized the Bride was almost yelling at me to make herself understood, but I resisted even then. A bad CI operation has life-changing effects, ranging from tinnitus to vertigo, either or both possibly permanent. Even the best situation involves wearing a ~$10,000 external device that makes some people uncomfortable (see above: “slow and dumb”). There’s the possible loss of remaining natural hearing in the implanted ear, too, due to the process on placing the implant on the cochlear. The price tag for the operation and all the fun: $150,000 in this here United States. That’s not a typo.

The examination and interviews for the CI are a long series of “Are you sure you want to do this?”, which makes sense considering the list of potential outcomes. There was yet another hour in the testing booth, a first for The Bride but an old friend to me. Of the three mainstream CI devices, I picked Cochlear over Med-El and Advanced Bionics (AB) because Cochlear is the industry standard. The implant was inserted in my head in May and activated in June. Here’s a non-bloody computer simulation of the implantation if you’re so inclined.

Activation. A big deal. Serious. Watch this video. Joy, happiness, tears.

If you’re considering a CI, here’s advice that’s worth less than a cup of coffee. There is a very active CI group on Facebook where fellow wearers will patiently answer all CI-related questions. Get used to carrying CI gear if you’re away from the house for more than an hour because the device eats electricity. Cochlear (the company) will sell you rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries, which is good since you’ll be swapping out batteries once a day. Finally, take every opportunity to educate family and colleagues on the CI. And the hardest lesson: be patient. Electric hearing is a solution, not a problem, and like all life-changing events, it takes getting used to. Listen to your surgeon and audiologist.

I wish I had a conclusion but there’s none to be had because there’s no happily ever after yet. I will say every patient’s experience is unique, and I was fortunate to miss the negative outcomes. The hearing in my implanted (right) ear is vastly improved, though three months later, people still sound like the kitten at the end of The Emperor’s New Groove. My left ear has a hearing aid, which I forget to turn on some days, so there’s a good sign. All in all, things are working out, knock on wood. Thanks for reading.

 

(if you’re the owner of the above picture, please let me know so I can either credit you or remove it. thanks!)

Status Report

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News you can’t use…

Today begins the professional editing of “A Sheriff in Nevada.” Twitter followers know my stomach has butterflies the size of B-52s because I’m flashing back to high school term papers (“Was I even close to the target???”). The edit will take two weeks.

Around that time, Cassidy Carson and I will be jetting off to faraway lands because we’re both in “use it or lose it” situations. Such is our level of dedication to the fine citizens of the Silver State.

Our return home will herald the shaking of bones and such over the keyboard to position ASIN for publication. I hope creating a Kindle copy is easier than it used to be back in the day. (“Tell us another story, Grampa.”)

This all takes us into November and Nanowrimo with this year’s subject being the first of two sequels to ASIN. No, it will not be another Emma Parks book (Hi, Lisa!), but I will do one as soon as I get something that’s worth 70K+ words.

Last word: this Monday’s blog post will be on cochlear implants.

Okay, that’s all for now. Return to your lives, citizens.

John McCain

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If you’re looking for a Victor Hugo script in the 21st Century, the current Washington DC administration has plenty of fodder for your keyboard. Anger, controversy, foreign intrigue, indictments, convictions: this White House has it all and more. Good people everywhere are pushing back in their own ways to make their points. There doesn’t seem to be middle ground, as you’re either with the President or resisting. Along those lines, the Resistance has its martyr now, and it’s the same man who helped make his party into what it is today.

Unless you buried your head in the sand, you know John McCain was honored September 1st at the grandest meeting of the Resistance since 45 was inaugurated, as noted in the New Yorker. Former Presidents, the Senator’s daughter, and other speakers made pointed personal remarks about the character and behavior to the current White House occupant. Senator McCain found the President’s behavior repugnant to the point that Mr. Trump was not invited to the Washington National Cathedral, three and half miles from the Oval Office (Mr. Trump was at his Virginia golf club, anyway).

Also uninvited was Mr. McCain’s running mate from his 2008 presidential campaign, former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. Her rise to a national stage was one of the key factors in the rise of the Tea Party Republicans, though not certainly the first, last, or most important factor. Her nomination as her party’s standard bearer helped validate and empower thousands of Palins across the country. While some of their extremism is out of fashion, the impact of these vocal ultra-conservatives continues to resonate through the halls of Congress. From the cheap seats where I sit, the momentum created in 2008 played a key factor in Donald Trump’s election in 2016. This version of the Trump-oriented Grand Ol’ Party may not be of Mr. McCain’s choosing, but he certainly had a hand in its creation.

Whatever your opinion of Senator McCain, and it seems very few people sit in the center between the extremes between love and hate, his carefully orchestrated memorial service paid appropriate homage to a complex man who loved his country and helped make his party into the what it is today. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to you.

Not Gonna Dance

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Hi, it’s me. How y’all doing? Been a while, huh?

I’m resurfacing because I’m about to publish a book, probably in October.

Before you roll your eyes at yet another lame sales pitch, hold your horses. I am not going to do the “indie author sales dance,” period.

I danced hard for my last two books, one published under this name and a risque trash novel under another name. I won’t list the dance steps as y’all have done them yourselves many times (here’s the list). I exhausted myself bopping and popping with the whole social media outreach thing, and with spending more than a few hours trying to engage hundreds of dance partners. I wore out my dance shoes because I believed in my books. I believed in them hard. After all, they’re my e-children. Can you relate?

All that energy and emotion amounted to nothing. No sales, no nothing. No second dances.

I can write 70,000 words, but after that…who knows? Along the way, some kind of night magic is lost. Maybe I’m doing a masculine tango while I should be doing a sensual waltz. The Hustle instead of the Sprinkler. The Watusi instead of the Twist.

So here’s my only two-step: this new book is my best book, but I’m not objective. I believe in my children, flesh and electronic, so sue me.

I will hire a professional orchestra to edit the book and to design the book cover, then I’ll stick the thing out on Amazon. There may be a couple of blog posts and a little Twitter, plus I may make my other books free as a preview.

But the dance card will otherwise be blank. There will be no indie author sales dancing for me, and I’m okay with that.

Y’all take care of yourselves, okay?

[Edit: if you are the owner of this and/or other images on this blog, let me know and I will remove. Thank you!]

Bird Thoughts

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[Hi, everyone. Back from break after touring the best part of the Silver State via Highway 50 and back round Interstate 80. Fun times for this Nevada nerd. Now, time for the writing exercise. If you’re late to the game, I bought a book of writing prompts to kick start my butt back into the game. If you’re interested, these exercises all have the same hashtag (link). As always, my comments at the end are at the end in italics and brackets.]

Bird Thoughts

Think of a specific type of bird, such as a wandering albatross, and write a detailed description of it, including its appearance and its movements, and perhaps even its thoughts.

Argus of the Icari nest watched the human below climb the near-perpendicular shale cliff without rope or support. Even in the near darkness of the dawn, he could see the human was laboring, yet not being as careful as the others before today. He found himself counting the seconds for the man (perhaps women) to put a hand on a loose offshoot of rock. The cliff face was too dangerous to fly by, much less ascent, and he was sure the rock crumble under the weight of the climber. The fall would be sudden, too quick to save itself from the fall to the valley floor below.

Argus hoped for the fall, because if it made the ascent to his station, he would have to kill the human to save his nest’s secrets. Despite his training, he had no taste for murder.

His left wing quivered and he folded the tip to his face, plucking the small ant trying to nest between the feathers. Like those his age, Argus was a speedbird, the youngest of the warrior caste. Their youth and physical fitness made them the swiftest of the nest, able to fly incredible speeds during the hunt. Their wings were developed to the point where they could withstand sharp turns as high speeds, including the turn upwards from the ground after falling a far distance. Continue reading