Always Begin With The End

It’s official!

As can sometimes be the case, I finished early.

Let’s call it “ahead of schedule”.

My goal was to have this available on 4/1. To that end, I released my Dating Into Oblivion compilation in the second week of March to get a feel for what to expect of Amazon’s publishing routine. Better to know what to expect ahead of time versus missing a deadline, right?

Can you believe I can’t get a regular job with that attitude? Truth.

Here’s what I learned from my first crack:

– Cover design is pretty easy in Amazon, no need to pay for any software to create one. Ask me how I know

– Except, the back cover. That’s another story. But I figured it out after the first dozen or so copies were ordered, so there’s some collectors edition Dating Into Oblivion hard copies out there with nothing on the back cover but my face. Getting that kink out basically came down to making the assumption that you should paste or enter content into the space where the dialogue box was. Somehow it just works out.

– PDFs are formatted as 9×11 documents. Have you ever seen a book that size? Too big for a paperback, too small for a coffee table book. The cool size paperbacks are 6×9, so I had to overcome a “I can’t fucking do this on my own” moment when I previewed that.

Therapeutically yelling

I need a 20-something!

was helpful in reducing stress. Alexa, on the other hand…

Calling Felipe

Not as helpful.

– It’s better to start the publishing process with your hard copy and then go to your e-book afterward. I don’t know why…it just is.

– There seems to only be spellcheck in the paperback process, too. So…yeah.

My impatience taught me another lesson:

My first stab at publishing warned me that it could take up to 72 hours for formatting to be approved and the book to go live. It took 4. For this second effort, it took 34.

That could have been a real problem had I found myself in possession of a normal timeline versus arbitrarily picking April Fool’s Day as my live date. Because that just wasn’t going to happen.

But, what are ya gonna do?

As it was, my novel went live on 3/25 and I’m just going to be content with that reality.

Now, since I’ve had this blog for four years, officially and never bothered to monetize it, I’m gonna drop a link for y’all.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/f.html?C=Z9SQXHR9LXA4&M=urn:rtn:msg:201903130222099bb62a7a858d4eb8b682ee7bd520p0na&R=V158RSV9LR9Z&T=C&U=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fauthor%2Fchristophergalbreath%3Fref_%3Dpe_1724030_132998060&H=DHROTLNEXOMIGVARF6X15DAUPM0A&ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

Wow. That’s a terrible link.

https://www.amazon.com/Christopher-Galbreath/e/B07PLNKTHB?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

That’s better.

That’s my author page on the Amazon. It has kindle and hard copy versions of both of my books.

If you’re a longtime reader, just enjoy knowing Dating Into Oblivion is out there, you’ve read about 80% of it here for free. However, No One Of Consequence is a largely fictional work that I hope you will enjoy in either format.

And, please, if it’s not too much to ask…share this post if you think you have folks in your readership I’d appreciate you reposting or sharing this to get it in front of them.

Thanks in advance!

And in the meantime, enjoy this picture of what I encountered when searching for myself of the Amazon.

Yeah. Sometimes you straight folk don’t make such clever kids. We’ll talk about that later. For right now, just know that this was the progression of my childhood nicknames:

Grade School – Gallbladderbreath

Middle School –

Girlbreath

High School –

Ballbreath

Now, even though I knew they were onto something with that last one, when my brother coined the nickname Galby, I was on it.

But I’m glad the Amazon is there to help pick at that emotional scar.

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Always Begin With The End

Um…I Wrote A Book(s)

Alright, this is late news in WordPress-Land…but as of 3/11/19, I am officially a (self) published writer.

I had originally been planning on making a final decision on publishing or self-publishing my novel – No One Of Consequence – by this past Monday, after a conversation with a publisher last Friday. What I learned as I was researching self-publishing was that having more than one title available lent a significant credibility advantage to self-published authors. Now, I had plans for a second installment of No One Of Consequence with a self-imposed November ’19 deadline.

But that’s a long time to wait for a credibility lift.

So, I went back to a thought I had in January ’18 when I began my Dating Into Oblivion writing challenge. Originally, I’d thought that it would make a good NaNoWriMo compilation for last year. I’d been skunked for the prior…six? – yeah, six years on participating because I work in retail. November in retail is a bad month to take on a non-work related special project. I figured having a dozen blogs in the pipeline as a foundation would help me succeed in 2018.

Finally.

Of course, then I ended up not working and just wrote a damn book.

This was actually more rewarding for me, since I’d never wanted to be a memoirist, even though that’s where my natural writer’s voice would place me. That being said, I totally wrote in the first person.

Then my plan was to just publish No One Of Consequence with a tentative release date of April 1st – because of course I would release my novel on April Fool’s Day.

Learning that a second work was recommended, going through the self-publishing motions with Dating Into Oblivion turned out to be a wise way to kill time before my publisher interview.

Is that what it’s called, an interview?

Well, with self-publishing it’s on you to provide your own editing and cover.

Ok, I figured I could reasonably succeed at one of those, but what the hell was I gonna do for a cover?!?

Turns out, Amazon Publishing has a cover design tool. Which is how I ended up publishing a non-fiction work with nothing on the back cover but an awkwardly cropped picture of me. No synopsis, no About the Author…just my thumbnail pic and the rest was black.

Glad I took a dry run.

By the time the first hard copies were delivered, I’d figured out how to fix the back cover. By accident.

Meanwhile, while I thought I had done a good job of editing during my two read throughs – one for tense and content after laying it out and one for typos – what I missed were typos that accidentally created an actual damn word.

Oy.

But, at least I can re-upload a corrected copy. So there’s that.

I also learned that if you’re going Kindle and hard copy, do the hard copy first, then do the Kindle version. For whatever reason, the hard copy process includes a spellcheck function and the Kindle version does not.

The last thing I had to consider I’m self-publishing was pricing. I nosed around in my genre on Amazon for comparable work and was surprised to see the pricing was actually higher than I had thought. I’d been thinking $3.99 Kindle and $5.99 hard copy. Well, A) there are a lot of short works – like 60 pages – in my genre, mine was in the 150 page range; and, B) they were more in the $4.99 Kindle/$9.99 hard copy range.

I was ok with all of that.

Since

Royalties.

Ugh. This was confusing. But I’m going to try and break it down for you.

The obvious winner: 70%!

This was Kindle only and you can’t release it on any other e-platform.

Runner up – and if you’re gonna write a book…don’t you want a book? 60%

You can publish a Kindle and a hard copy, both available on Amazon.com. The shocker here is that print fees come out of your royalties. So the author’s 60% is actually .60 – print fees. Printing fees for Dating Into Oblivion were $2.74, but it’s print on demand, which is convenient. So for my $4.99 Kindle book, my take away is actually around $3. However, for my $9.99 hard copy, I’m walking with just under $3.75 per unit in royalties.

Still

For this little experiment, that was better than the final option: 40%

This affords the author the ability to wholesale their book. So, my book could be available to bookstores to order and in this case, I’d make $1.66 per unit that a wholesaler ordered.

If they found it on Amazon’s offerings. I decided to keep that option in my back pocket for No One Of Consequence. Remember, I’m not dying to be remembered as a memoirist. I just…I dunno.

But this is all good to know as I wait for my publisher interview.

I should say, my publisher interview, which went predictably terrible. I know it was my first conversation of this type. Strangely, it seemed like theirs, too.

So, decision: made.

I was going to self-publish No One Of Consequence.

Naturally, this two weeks before my self-imposes deadline would be the obvious time to rewrite the ending.

So I did.

I’ve got to give it one more read through, then it’s ready to go. I’ve got the cover ready to go and 11 days before I hit the “publish” button. I’m going with the wholesale availability, just…because.

Because: I for sure know someone or someones who knows someone or someones that influence bookstore buying decisions.

IF YOU ARE SOMEONE, I NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU!

But since I planned this to be a three book arc, I want the ability to wholesale it. It might be once the first book starts getting into second wave/used bookstores, someone that buys gay fiction might find my book, I might drunkenly wander into a bookstore and introduce myself…

Also, with the 60% royalty option, my payout minus print fees would have been $6.66 and I really don’t think I need to tempt that kind of fate.

That’s my 411 and my excuse for being so quiet on WordPress for the last two weeks. Also, the bold entry I worked on over the weekend farted out of existence as I finished it, so that didn’t help.

And while all of this has been going on, I got a jump start on the outline for the second book of No One Of Consequence. I feel good about getting it into the hands of my dozens of fans by November.

Which is good, since I woke up the other night with a “Eureka!” idea for a book called GhosTed. It’s about a guy named…Ted, who agrees to a date with an online guy, gets stood up, then jumped and killed on his way home. Bad day for Ted.

It’s a love story, right?

Seriously, as I’m writing this, someone in Big Legrowlski just said

Do you know who David Sedaris is?

No one did.

Anyway…Ted “wakes up” in his no-show suitor’s bed. They figure out that they have to work together in order for Ted to be able to move on. I’m friggin’ excited about this idea! I’m hoping to put some work into it between now and June and have a draft ready to shop to publishers by July 4th.

Because I still want to try that route, just not right now. What I learned about publishing is that submission is a contortion act, the work needs three documents:

The whole work

The first 50 pages

And a synopsis.

Ok, that probably the reverse order in which they are viewed by the publisher. But, after all of that, they’re hoping you have both a marketing plan and a following. Hopefully with DIO and NOOC in the Amazon pipeline, I’ll at least have a small following to sweeten my deal with a potential publisher.

We’ll see. But until then, look for No One Of Consequence on Amazon on 4/1, BUY IT, leave me a (kind) review and if you could, share this post or my work with your friends and network.

Um…I Wrote A Book(s)

My Fake Boyfriend Is Straight…

And not in the “straight to bed” way that I used to appreciate in my younger, more capricious days.

The Silver Fox invited me along for a walk this morning with him and his pooch, George. This is different than our usual morning routine of sitting in the coffee shop, reading the news like a couple of old men. But, hey, it’s a beautiful day and our regular coffee shop is closed, so…hi, Uncle Bob.

The Fox assured me that we could swing up and grab me a coffee, regardless at Nossa Familia. Noting his verbiage, I assumed he didn’t want a coffee – George is a handful – and passed. The day is still warming up and it’s not yet at it’s high of 50 degrees, but I put on a quarter zip and a light tech jacket that I’ve had for about 15 years, grabbed my sunglasses and we were off.

We went through the Pearl, toward the “new construction” and eventually found ourselves at the North end, where there’s an off leash park for the dogs. It. Was. Packed. So we just walked around the perimeter and left, me noting that we actually have all week to come here when it’s not so crowded.

We chatted comfortably about how crazy George was – likely overwhelmed by all the scents and pup-dates that have been laid down by the local dogs since his last really long urban walk. Last night’s SNL. How many of the new buildings we could name. Just casual good friend stuff.

All while George tried to accidentally kill me by zig-zagging like a crazy animal in front of us, behind us, around us as if his leash wasn’t creating a dangerous Xtopher trap with each erratic response to new stimuli only he could detect.

Eventually, we ended up coming down NW 13th, which is a historically preserved alley way. No sidewalks, but a lot of raised walks in front of the newer construction that compliment the truly historic boardwalks in front of shops new and old. As we came closer to our regular part of the Pearl District, we noted that the Bridgeport Brewery still seemed to be open, even though last night was supposedly its last night in operation. We agreed that maybe last night was just the end of food service, but by that time, we had traversed another block and were in front of the Safeway, causing The Fox to realize that Samoa Cookies had been missing from his life.

Since I don’t need that temptation in my life, I went across to Nossa Familia and ordered myself a coffee.

And by “ordered myself a coffee”, I mean that I got my fix of the barista I’m currently in an imaginary relationship with. Last time I was in, he punched the last three beans on my coffee card so that I had a free coffee…OBVIOUSLY this is love.

I had finished with my ordering and was chatting with him and a woman who was around the corner working on something out of sight while I waited. I turned to see the Silver Fox standing outside with George and asked if he wanted anything. He declined and I noticed the cardboard Girl Scout box he was carrying,

How many cookies did you buy?

“Eight boxes!” and I couldn’t tell if he was excited to get that many or proud that he’d ONLY gotten that many.

Fat Pants

And I closed the cafe door and turned my affection – er – attention back to my barista. I’d lost the conversational thread, so I went to the young woman making my latte – iced, because: duh – and introduced myself, since I didn’t recognize her. She said she normally works the closing shift, so if I come in the morning, that’s why we haven’t met yet. But she has also only been there six months, which paired with my once a week visits explained a lot.

Her name is Tea. I imagine it’s spelled Ti, but still…her parents couldn’t have named her The Cure For Cancer?

I was distracted by George bursting into the cafe, pulling The Fox along behind him. He appeared to be uninjured. My Barista Boyfriend had offered him a treat, which is what caused George to learn how to operate doors. Now they were playing and George was getting a good affectionate scrubbing from my fake boyfriend.

I got my drink and we left.

The Silver Fox pointed out an odd sign on the plasticized wood tables that were clustered together, waiting for the 60 degree end of this week and next week’s 60+ degree days to be put into use.

It’ll probably snow, since the weather app thinks it will be in the 60s…

After getting virtually no snow here in town after weeks of having it either in the forecast or dominating the forecast, I’m not really trusting its predictions more than 20 minutes out at the moment.

“Yeah, but what do you think this means?” The Fox is pointing to a sticker that warns that using footed stemware may cause damage to the wood.

Not sure, I’ve never seen a warning label like that before.

I went on to theorize that the glass foot might magnify the sun and cause damage that way, “like burning ants”, I hypothesized. He agreed, as if he’d simply been gut checking his own theory against mine and I accused him of bullshit. Of course, he denied this allegation of mine, but by that time, we were outside the new wine bar that’s opening up soon and each making mental notes to check it out at some point…even though it is a block further than the last new wine bar to open up and three or four blocks further than our original little wine bar.

Choices.

Well, my Barista Boyfriend is straight.

The Silver Fox seemed unfazed by my devastating declaration, but humored me with a palms up gesture and a “How do you know that?” Like it wasn’t simply likely that he has been straight and misfiring kind gestures my way this whole time.

Boxers. When he bent over playing with George, I saw that he was wearing boxers.

Obviously.

Like I need to watch a cute guy play with a lovable dog. What I need is to verify where I’m investing my emotional capital before I start egregiously overtipping this guy.

My Fake Boyfriend Is Straight…

My Simmering Facebook Rage

My dad swung by my place yesterday.

He was on his way home from my grandfather’s house, where he’d been staying for a few days.  Apparently, grandpa is losing it.  That’s the only reason I can think of to explain why he would think that spending his 97th birthday in the hospital was a grand idea…anyway, he got released and dad spent a few days with him, getting him resettled.

And…since I’m on the way home, dad and I spent some time chatting in his car and catching up.

The hot topic:  my book.  Well, we could also call it how I’m passing the time while I’m not working, but where’s the fun in that?

It all reminded me that not too long ago, I was mad.

Oh, so mad.

I know.  Don’t sprain your face trying to feign surprise.

You see, a while back there was a Facebook policy change re: linking non-Facebook “businesses” to an individual’s profile.  That means WordPress, specifically, in my case.  At least until Fuckerberg buys it up.  Basically, this forces people to create unique “pages” for their blogs, crystal jewelry Etsy page, etcetera, etcetera, screw you, Zuck.

Let’s all take a moment to remember when he was trying to enforce “real names” on profiles a few years back and how well that went over with the drag queens…

Yeah, that was a misstep…in 6″ sequined heels, no less.

But, intrepid souls that they are, they chose to Lean In on a few other changes.  This has all resulted in what appears to be the Facebook incessantly trying to monetize my newly created blog page by recommending what they call a boost for my page.

“For as little as $30, your post could rea”…and I’ve stopped listening, Mark.

When that didn’t succeed in getting my attention, they gave me a $30 credit to prove their point.  I went back to read how many people I could be reaching if I followed their recommendation:  up to 16,000 and change per day?  No…3,000.  Well, I mean it depends, I guess.

I’m not going to lie.  I tried it.  I don’t just decide to get mad and fly off the handle with only a perceived affront, after all.  It was kind of an interesting experience.  I got to select my target demographic from an age and gender and lifestyle perspective.  It’s kind of like a Choose Your Own Algorithm Adventure, right?

Still, what I ended up with was a half dozen new followers and two people commenting on my boosted post something along the lines of “Why am I seeing this on my page?”

Fuck if I know, ask The Zuck.

As far as I know, there aren’t any angry women in the Liberal, Gay & Lesbian, 25-50 demogra…oh, wait.  Hey, Mark, my advice?  Just shortcut that into an Overly Woke demographic option and save us all some trouble.

Anyway, as an offset to this trauma, the Emoji upgrades are cool-ish, except the nerd emoji now looks like a Minion on FB

It makes me wonder how Disney is just letting that go?

So, what about my conversation with dad got my hackles up about this again?

Well, since this forced transition, my overall WordPress traffic has been down.  Like…way down.  I have managed to put that particular ire on a back burner, since I don’t really care.  It’s not like I’ve monetized my blog.  That was actually slated to be a 2019 consideration…ta-da!  I think the folks who have signed up for ads on their blogs are the ones who truly care about traffic.  300 per week seems to be the magic minimum from what I’ve seen in my research.  I get there.

Truth be told, that’s been a struggle since the transition, though.  On the flip side, the only day I’ve ever hit over 100 views per day on WordPress was post transition, so it seems – like so many of the metrics on WordPress – to be fairly random.  One of the things that WordPress doesn’t seem to be able to track well is the people who scroll from your archives versus people who click from one post to another.

Whaddyagunnado, right?

You’re probably still wondering why talking to my dad would bring this back up, right?

Alright, alright…a friend of mine connected me with a publisher for my book.  I have a FaceTime (thanks, again, Zuck) meeting with them on the 15th.  Then there’s the whole NaNoWriMo Pitch-a-palooza thing on the 17th.  That could result – depending on how much faith one puts into random math – in a consultation with some professionals, too.

But, the more I look into this, the more I lean toward simply self-publishing.  My research tells me it’s a viable concern and that you get more out of it.  I’ve read testimonials from authors who have done both straight to self-publishing and worked with publishers and then converted.  The control you have over that process seems to be preferred.  Hell, if only for the reason that one author gave that you get paid every month instead of twice a year.

Let’s face it, this book isn’t a vanity project, for that I have this little blog-thingy.  I’m going to see this through for the potential income stream.  Y’know, since I can’t trick anyone into hiring me, that’s gonna come in handy.  If I didn’t need to consider that, I would simply leave the book in NaNo-Land and pat myself on the back for doing it.

And that’s where my frustration bubbled over a little while talking to my dad.  One of the things self-publishers need to do is rely on support from their social network to drive initial purchases – er, I mean…reviews.  Favorable reviews drive sales from new readers.  So, I need to be able to connect with my Facebook friends and family to ask for that review or share.    I realize that posting a link to my personal page is not that hard when compared to the old system where WordPress automatically shared to my Facebook page.  But it’s my rage, so just let me manage it.

…plus, I am getting over it.

But you just know that I’m going to try boosting my post when there’s an Amazon link involved.  I can’t wait to see what the Overly Woke demographic makes of that.

Oh, and you’re all on the hook for a review or a share.  So, there.

My Simmering Facebook Rage

Do You HQ?

I’m not going to lie…I’m slogging this morning.  That bums me out, since it’s supposed to be a blogging morning.

Although, revisiting that writing discipline structure for a minute – it seemed like a good idea, setting out specific goals for book writing and then blogging on my “free days”.  Here’s the struggle:  it’s hard to write for five days in a row.

Poor Blanche.

It’s sounds pathetic, but it really is rough. Kinda.

My shoulders get all tense after about day 4 and my brain starts to hurt.  My stomach gets a little whiny, too – go figure – because I have about two cups of cold brew each day that I write, so…yeah.  Good problems to have, I suppose!  

Nonetheless, I’m thinking about splitting it up a bit.  Maybe write on Monday and Tuesday, take a breather day on Wednesday to reset the shoulders and rest the brain and then write again Thursday through Saturday.  

Or, I could always have a ghost day like yesterday, where I just didn’t feel like writing, so I didn’t.  I’m just pretty sure I know what results a lack of discipline can produce already.

Needless to say, you aren’t getting my best today.  Maybe this will warm me up for a little more significant writing later today.  If not that, then I always have tomorrow to look forward to…The Fox has invited me to his Fox Family Estates beach house for a few days of R&R.  I’m not entirely sure that I’ll go, but I do have a caretaker lined up for Mistress Myrtle, so I could go without feeling like a schmo pet owner…

But back to the burning question of the day.  Have you heard of HQ?  It’s a Trivia Game app for your phone and it hosts live games at least twice a day.  

It’s 12 questions for their classic game, which airs at 9 PM EST, so 6 PM here on the Best Coast.  You get three multiple choice answers to choose from and ten seconds to make your selection/answer/guess.  The prizes usually run from $1000 up to $5000 with occasional event games that can be $10000 or more.  I know that there are often $25000 prizes and I have even played – and lost – a couple of the Winner Take All games for $100000!  Those Winner Take All games go until there’s only one winner, so it can be an unlikely 12 questions or go as long as it takes to get down to one winner.

Here’s the deal, though…you usually split the prize pot with the other winners, so that usually boils down to a couple of bucks each. It’s still entertaining, though! Even if you only get to Q6…

I went in very enthusiastic about the idea. I have a pretty trivial brain, so I thought I’d place pretty well.

Flash forward to three months of me not getting past question 6.

Damn sports questions.

Then I had a couple weeks where I’d sneak in a run to Q7 or 8.

Then I quit for a while. A friend of mine on the Facebook played – so I found out – and posted a win one evening. I was all,

I’m smarter than that guy!

Very mature, right?

It took me a couple months to loop back around to playing regularly. I had to remind myself that HQ was like running or golf…you’re only playing against yourself.

Then they started a word puzzle game called

Wait.

For.

It.

HQ Words.

You get a clue and a Wheel Of Fortune type set of blank tiles and guess letters until you reveal the puzzle, strike out or time is up. You get 10 strikes over a 10 question game. Use ’em up, you’re out!

This was where I got my first win. Words has smaller prize pots, usually $1000 – at least that’s what it was when I won. They’ve ramped those up to $2500 on average now. But you can see, my split was $.13, so there were a lot of winners!

Something had finally happened!

I’m not saying my luck had changed or this was the start of a trend, but I’ve won Trivia twice since then.

While it wasn’t luck that changed, there were two changes to the game that helped change my results.

The first was streaks. Play five days in a row, get a free life! A free life can get you back in the game if you miss a question. You can only use one per game, though, so you have to use them strategically.

The other change that happened was the introduction of levels. For each question you get right, you earn points. Those points accumulate over the course of the games throughout the season. The points accumulate and translate into free passes for the different questions, so let’s say you have enough points for a free pass through Q4, you can skip answering until Q5 if you want or play like regular, earning points on questions you answer correctly or getting your free pass to save you if you’re wrong.

My free passes started saving me and getting me through the first half of the games and then, the more I played, the more free lives I earned because of my streaks. I’m at level seven now, between that and an occasional free life, I’ve racked up two more wins.

The disadvantage, of course, is that I’m not the only one who’s benefiting from this structure. As you can see, my big win was only $.21, hardly the coffee money that winners used to claim after a win. I’m up to about four bits now and level seven. Maybe by the end of the season – which I believe is this Sunday – I can break into whole dollars.

Regardless, it’s a fun way to kill 15 or 20 minutes while dinner cooks. Feel free to give it a try. My player name is Galbatron – and you can see that The Most Dangerous Cat In The World is my avatar – so use my name when you create your profile and maybe I’ll get an extra life for the referral.

Coffee money riches…here I come!

Do You HQ?

The Red Shirt Diaries #24

It’s been a while since I wrote a Red Shirt entry. I wasn’t itching to, but last night, it just demanded to be so…so, here you go.

Last night, after eating a really salty dinner of sausage and pepperoni pizza, I made an early night of it. I was tired and my belly was full. Sleep came easily.

Until about 1 AM.

I woke up thirsty. Not just thirsty, THIRSTY-thirsty.

Luckily, I sleep with a glass of water by my bed. It’s a 20 oz glass that I’ve had since the last century.

And it was full.

Mistress Myrtle was laying between me and the night stand, so I had to negotiate my reach without disturbing the dear. My tired ass had gone to bed without turning off the heat, as I do, so exacerbating my thirst was an elevated body temperature. I had somehow worked my legs out from under the covers to help remain comfortable, this is also how Myrt ended up on a side of the bed she does not normally inhabit.

Side note: Myrtle would expect me to tell you that her place is the center of the bed.

This all manifested as me using my exposed legs to leverage my torso up so that I could drink without spilling my water all over. Picture the bowl of a martini glass with a really big kalamata olive in the bottom of it and that’s the basic shape I’m in.

There I am, sucking in water, thinking life is good. I put the water back and lay back down. Five minutes later, I’m thinking that the other half of that glass sounds like a pretty good idea, so I repeat the whole ordeal…and barely avoid choking to death on a cat hair floating through the air that my thirsty ass sucks in while I’m initiating my lip to water connection.

Of course, this – in turn – caused me to narrowly avoid drowning as I aspirated water.

When I laid back down, that’s where my mind went.

I mean, not right away. It took a circuitous route getting there. I didn’t just lay down and think, “Gee, Myrtle, that could have been it for me…” and immediately let my mind wander onto wondering how long it would have been before someone came looking for me.

Lips.

Ears.

Fingertips.

Toes.

That’s how long I suspect it would have been before someone saved Myrtle from her smorgasbord of me.

Y’know, like six hours.

“What? I didn’t want it to go to waste…” – Mistress Myrtle

No, where my mind went on its way to reminding me that I had nearly drown in my own bed was stranger.

It started off with a flash onto into an Albert Brooks movie. The scene where people awake on a tour trolley dressed in Tupas – long white robes tied at the waist with a sash – that everyone wears upon arrival in Judgment City. This is usually also the first clue that they’ve died in real life.

Then, of course, I had a stop at Albert’s brother – Bob Einstein, aka: Super Dave Osborn, who passed away earlier this year – sitting there in a trolley arriving in Judgment City.

“They really expect this place to be a one size fits all joint?”

Bob was pretty tall, and I could hear him kvetching about the length of the robes.

Oh, you’re still surprised to hear that Bob Einstein and Albert Brooks are brothers? Yeah, Albert changed his last name to avoid being confused with the other famous Albert with whom he shared a last name.

Anyway, on from there, I went to some mental Beetlejuice purgatory. You know, the type where there is no dress code? You just show up in whatever you died wearing. Yeah, so I was there in my Oregon sweatshirt and a pair of Pump boxers.

I’ll wait while you readjust your mental image of my martini shaped description from earlier.

Good?

Well, not GOOD-good, but…ready? Make sure you got the legs skinny enough.

I’m sitting there in Hell’s waiting room in my death suit – which my father would like for you to know is University of Oregon colored, not Oregon State colored, so I’m spending eternity in an “outfit” that he does not endorse – and the guy next to me is one of those chatty newly dead guys.

“You from Portland?”

Huh? Yeah. Uh…yeah.

“How did ya die? You don’t mind my asking.”

Oh, yeah. I’d rather not talk about it. We just met and all.

“Stabbed, right? I bet you were stabbed. I’ve heard that about Portland. Ya’ll are weird out there.”

Are you from Jersey or the South? I can’t really decide. I guess it doesn’t matter now, but wherever it is, you should pick a regional dialect and stick with it, y’know?

Me…making friends wherever I go. Quick reminder, this is all taking place in my subconscious. What does that say about me?!? Here I am, in the afterlife, telling people how to live their deaths.

“Whoa. Geez. Touchy. Relax, it’s a long afterlife. So, C’mon…How’d you go?”

It’s too embarrassing.

“C’mon. Me? I got here via blunt force trauma. Wife caught me tipping the sitter, you get what I mean.”

Let’s just keep our elbows to ourselves, here. And, yeah. Doesn’t take much to get your meaning. I hope she made it look like an accident. For her and your kids’ sake.

“You really not gonna tell me?”

Well, A) this isn’t kindergarten, so just because you showed me yours, I don’t have to show you mine. But, B) how about this, I’ll just say that I got here because it’s true what they say, “you get what I mean” and leave it at that.

Because…apparently last night, it was true…you can drown in a teaspoon of water.

After five minutes of not falling back to sleep, I get up and take a Mellie, but just one. I also refill my glass, because what are the odds of that happening again?

The Red Shirt Diaries #24

Joe With Joe

Last week I had coffee with my Home Owners Association President, Joe. Joe is around 75, give or take a year or two and spends part of his year here in Portland and the remainder in South Carolina. He owns homes in both places, but makes it clear that he never wanted to be a Portland resident. He is a South Carolinian.

He spends time here because of his daughter and grandchild. Maybe even a little bit for his son-in-law, too.

You know, I’m getting to that age where I’d probably enjoy being close to one of my kids.

Like that was not an unusual statement or sentiment…

We see each other every week or so when he’s here. He’s one for poking around the building to check in kind of like old southern ladies poke around restaurants, table hopping and talking their way out after their meal. Occasionally, he’ll knock on a door just to give an update or meet a new resident. In a building with only 5 residential floors totaling 18 units, that’s kind of a nice touch from the HOA prez.

Sometimes, I’m not wearing pants, so I don’t answer. Ok, once.

Outside of that, we have the best of intentions to get together formally for a coffee or a drink while he’s in residence.

Last week, we succeeded.

Joe with Joe, if you will.

And it was a true treat.

When Joe putters around the building, you can catch a conversation on a myriad of topics from him…about the building. Oftentimes, I end up catching him as I’m rushing out to something – late, only because the Silver Fox is early – or rushing home and urgently needing to hit the can. But when you are fortunate enough to get him out of the building, the conversation is going to tend toward lots of interesting topics and casual brilliance.

He can’t really help himself. He’s rather smart. A math fella, not sure if he’s a PhD, for sure, but that was his career, so I bet so. He wears pithy tee shirts like thiseuclid tee
Which I think is a great play on words, so it’s amusing to me. However, put a gun to my head and make me explain the principle behind it and it’s gonna be bad news for me. I kind of top out at hypotenuse-level brilliance with math.

He mentions to me that he’s read my blog a little, back when he was using the Facebook. I’m instantly self-conscious because: smart. But he goes on to say that he liked my stuff,

It’a better than a lot of the stuff you see on there.

That seems like a pretty low bar to clear, knowing what I usually see on social media. But then he moves on to a trip that he took with his wife and one of their daughters and the moment passes.

To Edinburgh.

Because they wanted to do the whole Ulysses tour-thing. Ok, I’m gonna admit, I’ve never made it through Ulysses. Here’s the thing, I tell him, “I muddled through Ayn Rand and hated every page of it.

Before we moved on to other books, we indulged in our mutual disdain for Ayn Rand.

Greenspan was a follower, you know.

Of course, I did not know this.

Once I picked up Ulysses and started choking on the text, I put it down and pretty much left it wherever it was that I set it down.

Oh, yeah. That stream-of-consciousness writing is garbage. I can’t stand that style of writing.

But, wait…stream-of-consciousness is my style of writing! But, once again, he’s moved on in the conversation.

I only went because I wanted to see Scotland, I let them do all the Ulysses crap. I didn’t care about that.

Somehow, we move from there to Economics and his appreciation of the subject, which isn’t surprising coming from a math guy.

Economics – invented in Edinburgh, btw.

Because, Edinburg is awesome, right? But you can clearly tell that Joe has absolutely zero Scottish heritage, too, I’m sure. He talks at legnth about the topic, referencing Wealth of Nations so enthusiastically that I’m suddenly dying to read it.

Books we actually like was a recurring theme in our talk. Women, Fire & Dangerous Things was a clear frontrunner for him. Ok, when I say “books we actually like”, I mean he was talking about some of his faves while I made a Powell’s shopping list.

No, literally a list!

Imagine my surprise when he turned the table on me. Tales of the City, of course, is a continual go-to for me, when I haven’t loaned it out.

<don’t you think I’ve forgotten, Mom!>

Anyway, I told him I could do without the goofy Scooby-Doo style mystery. For me, those books are all about people developing connections that endure. Regardless of age, race, gender or orientation. So, during this particular coffee klatch, I’m glad it came up.

The liquefaction of the Portland waterfront – one of the reasons he doesn’t want to call himself a resident – when the big one hits the cascade plate was another topic. Complete with a shout out to…you guessed it!

Geology was also created in Edinburgh…

I believe in the Big One more than I believe in the Second Coming of the Lord, but I’m not convinced either is likely to occur in my lifetime. If it does, I don’t want to live through it, so the Pearl District is a good place for me.

However, in a fit of turning my What Could Possibly Go Wrong mantra on itself, I’m sure Fate will spare me my Red Shirt Diaries demise.

Alas.

For his part, Joe is happy to know his daughter lives on a granite shelf, so no liquefaction for her. The child and grandchild – and yes, even the son in law – should be safe.

And with that, Joe must go. He’s taking some steaks to his daughter’s place for dinner. He wants to drop them off and then head over to the nearby Pickle Ball courts for a little play before dinner.

Because it’s Portland and we have public Pickle Ball courts, damn it. And because that’s only a little weird, our septuagenarian residents play pick up games at them.

So, good news for us, Joe…like it or not, you’re

Joe With Joe

#HeSaidSheSaidToo

Sometimes I think that I know exactly what to think.

Other times, I find myself reminding said self that there are two sides to every story and somewhere in between there is probably a truth or two lying around.

Still, I rely heavily on my confidence that as a critical thinker and proud owner of a well-honed bullshit detector, I will be guided to the truth.

Recently, though…

Jussie Smollet

Covington Catholic

Boy, howdy. What to think about those topics? Even if my assertion that somewhere under or beside each side’s screams is the truth of the matter…I feel like the old He said/She said idiom is getting more than a fair share of abuse.

Hence, the hashtag.

Yesterday, I was reading a blog entry by a Christian Blogger where he was confronted by a homeless person on his morning bus ride into work. He didn’t engage, and was so caught off guard by the outburst that he couldn’t find any words. He just sat quietly across from the man and held his gaze.

Ultimately, the person moved seats and oriented himself facing away from the blogger. His take on that – even though he acknowledge the obvious mental illness – was that the man was possessed by a demon and that in silently confronting him, the devil had seen his inner god-spirit and run away from him, just like the Bible teaches.

What? You’re still back on “He follows a Christian blogger?” aren’t you?

Full disclosure, I follow a couple of Christian bloggers.

Also several POC bloggers, even though I am just an old whitey.

I should probably say that I also follow a couple a Mothers that blog, too, even though the last time I checked – which probably wasn’t recently enough – I do not personally have a vagina. Or kids.

There’s a blogger I follow who is a teenage girl.

Another that is an old man.

And several that are some combination of all of those things and several other that I didn’t even mention.

Oh, and a couple of blogs about cats.

I don’t want to become trapped in an echo chamber in the blogosphere and more than I do in reality. To that end, I read a lot of blogs that are created from different life experiences than my own.

I follow bloggers who say interesting things. The frame of reference that this provides me helps me remain open.

Even though I don’t personally believe this homeless man was possessed by a demon spirit or frightened of my blog buddy’s god spirit, the story was intriguing. The point was still somewhere in there between his beliefs in god and my belief in science.

The homeless guy was – in my layperson observation – nuts.

And I live in Portland, so I was also just relieved that my writer friend didn’t end up stabbed.

What people believe is their own business, I’m not here to tell anyone that there is or isn’t a god. As long as spiritual-minded people also believe in things that are provable, they have all the balance they need in my book.

But back to Jussie and CovCath.

Those two issues that have captured our nation’s attention recently have me worried that too much emphasis is put on what people want to believe before the full weight of facts is considered. My observation is usually that somewhere in there is a bible of another sort.

The Bible-bible is generally accepted to have around 40 contributing authors. Sorry, it was not literally written by this god person everyone is talking about, nor his son. And that fact is freely admitted by believers and non-believers alike.

That that’s sometimes the last thing those groups agree on is another thing altogether, but I digress

This good book, it’s a recounting of events that may or may not have been directly witnessed by the writer or told to the writer in a second hand-ish account. Or it’s all crap, which is where one has to bring faith to the equation.

Having been raised Catholic, I take the book as a collections of lessons versus instructions. Nothing in my life is predicated on the argument, “Because the Bible says”.

To paraphrase the prophet Jerry Maguire, “Show Me The Science” if you want me to think of what you’re saying as fact versus your opinion. I’m usually pretty ok acknowledging someone’s opinion. I may remind them of the old adage, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they usually stink” with a not too subtle meaningful stare if their opinion is too far out in the field. But otherwise, everyone can think what they want. If they present opinion as fact, I have a problem with that.

This is where I think recent events have us boondoggled, though. The facts of the Jussie and CovCath dramas are still unfolding and/or may never be fully known. In the interim, people are filling that factual void with opinions that are settling in quickly as facts. That’s our bible of a different sort, right there. By the time facts are known, opinion will have already been written down by far more than just 40 random people and 2000 years from now…well, I’m not going to finish that extrapolation. Unfortunately for many of us, Jussie Smollet, CovCath, anyone writing their opinions down on either side of either case…in 2000 years, no one is likely going to give a damn.

Hell, the way things are going, in 2000 years, the Kardashians will all be worshipped as gods, if you want my perfectly snarky opinion on today’s state of literal and figurative affairs.

But, as it stands in the here and now, we’ve got people on both sides filling us all in on what to think. Yes, folks, we’ve reverted to a “Whoever yells loudest is right” mentality, courtesy of our Cheeto in Chief – Benedict Donald himself – telling people that news that doesn’t jive with his agenda is Fake News and tweet-shouting at the masses what he needs them to believe in lieu of allowing them to hear the truth and face its consequences. And it seems to be working for him, this abuse of truth.

And in that case, why isn’t it working for Jussie Smollet and that little jerk from Covington Catholic?

In a vacuum of facts, I’m going with what I saw with my own eyes and I’m not taking the gaslighting that anyone cares to add. Remember, everyone, if you saw it, it happened. We aren’t talking about UFOs and ghosts, we are talking about protesters and B-list celebrities – to be clear, I’m calling Jussie B-list, not Trump (he wishes) – in situations where we have camera phone and video tape footage that should help to inform our opinion.

Believe What You Saw With Your Own Eyes.

Starting anywhere else or with any other premise is a betrayal of not only the knowable facts, but also of our own intelligence and integrity. Whatever else happens in this world, those two things are uniquely ours to defend. Do not give them away freely just because someone yells loudest.

#HeSaidSheSaidToo

Would You Read This?

After finishing my NaNoWriMo challenge in November, I was lost.

I did it. End of challenge, end of story?

Ok, maybe not lost-lost, but in my mind, I had accomplished my goal. It’s not like I had a plan to publish and ultimately have the movie rights picked up by that scrappy little studio over at Amazon. So, for me it was all FIN.

But, because I’m an idiot and talked about what I was doing, people wanted to know: So, what’s next?

Fuck if I know. I wrote a book. Surely, that’s enough?

For me, it really was. But at the same time, going back to my finishing point, I felt like it was more of “Welp, there’s my 50k words. Donezo.” Rather than leave it that way, I went back into my ending to make it an actual ending.

Then I looked at my word count and thought, “Well, that’s really more of a novella versus a novel, per se.” That caused me to give it another read to see where I could flesh it out a bit. As I began reading, I was feeling critical about my lack of scene set up. I hadn’t really thought that I needed to do much in the way of actual world building, since people can probably figure out what Portland in the near present day looks like. Everyone will have their own little bubble world when they read it. Having no aspirations to describe a bougainvillea bush over the course of three pages like Anne Rice would, I didn’t dive too deep into what my main character’s house looked like, whether his office had plants or whatnot. I was letting that go.

But, in making that decision to keep the background simple, I was still staring at a novella-length work. My concept was to demonstrate a generational relationship within the gay community with my characters. I think for whatever reason – AIDS essentially wiping out a generation or two of us gays, which we could hardly avoid once it was upon us; or, being an extremely youth obsessed sub-culture as we are, which has backfired on us spectacularly and instead of forming bonds between generations we have a culture of age-shaming because, newsflash: most young people don’t want to have sex with “old” people. Go figure. That last one we certainly could have helped by simply not objectifying the subjects of our youth obsessed culture. Maybe. But here I was, Monday morning quarterbacking.

Great, now I’m making sports analogies. That’s surely a bad sign.

Neverthemess, that being my concept, I thought it would be cool to think of this as a three book arc. Arc One being a protagonist in a middling generation – a gay guy in his 30s and this isn’t a horror novel? Unheard of! – befriending a younger gay and an older gay and letting the story go from there. Arc Two would see the main character in his 40s while his younger friend gay-grows up and his older friend gets older. In Arc Three, his younger friend would gay-die age-wise in the gay culture and maybe his older friend would just die-die.

The vision I had for the stories was all how that generational experience unfolds and how one learns from the others or how information is handed by one to the next.

Y’know…how it should be. I wanted to show the sharing of information that we need, like when parents have to talk about the birds and the bees with their children because they need to learn about how life works. Well, gays need to know how a gay-life works, too. Instead of talking about the opposite sex, maybe we talk about STIs and anal douching. Keep reading, I’m pretty sure I’m not talking about that topic! Just giving you an idea of where gays need gay-guidance beyond what their parents can provide. Maybe some guidance of younger generations by the older characters that is something that straight parent-child relationships have but manifests differently between gay kids and their parents because…well, the shared experience is gone. More accurately, there’s a gap. Where does one comfortably pick up parenting their gay children once they have figured out who they are as adults? It’s still needed, but…even in my own experience, which I would put up there as one of the best, it’s different. My parents aren’t talking to me about raising a child or empty nesting as they might with my sibs.

One of my own biggest frustrations with gay culture has been how we seem to have lost cohesion and how the collective gay ego fills that void. Where we have an opportunity to build up future generations or respect previous generations, we tend to remain isolated in defense of or because of our inability to become thee better selves that aren’t driven by our next sexual conquest. Turns out, there’s no app for that.

But I also wanted to show the payback we could get for nurturing these intergenerational relationships, how it gives us something to look forward to as we age versus the fear of the unknown that is so often left unsaid between comments among friends like, “I never thought I would live until 30” or not having a friend base with the experience base to guide us through relationship obstacles. How many of us as adults – regardless of sexual orientation – could rely on our parents to guide us through the validity of the open relationship culture that gays face? Of course, the challenge with intergenerational relationships within these characters’ chosen families is to keep them like actual families, non-incestuous. This enabled me to correct one of my own perceived societal wrongs, too, as none of my main character’s sleep together. Their bond is formed based on an individual connection and the resulting dependency – which is not a bad word! – versus a sexual bond, which is where I think our culture’s intergenerational relationships have gone off the rails.

My characters forming a bond was only step one, and a very small step at that. My protagonist learning that there’s more to life than a steady boyfriend after a failed relationship besides work was the catalyst for building those bonds. The pacing when I started out was to alternate between personal life and work life with each chapter. In looking to flesh out my work’s size into a full novel – because if you’ve just got three novellas, why not edit them into a single novel, right? – I may have jacked up that original rhythm, but as the future unfolds, the cadence shifts further and further from work and into life, because now the main character actually has one. So I’m willing to let my thoughts for the original cadence go.

So, now I have my novel. Well, I’m two chapters away from fulfilling that statement, at any rate. That brings me back to the original question:

Now what?

NaNoWriMo tries to help out. The name of the event actually stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is an annual event each November and it seems to me that they have heard this struggle I’m up against before. To that end, they have created a support environment for writers to set other goals for themselves throughout the year to avoid losing momentum. After fucking up my timeline with hubris in December, I took a step back in January to wear my writing impulse out so that I could do some legitimate editing. This also allowed me to make notes in my novel about where I wanted to add to the story to flesh the character relationships out further without doing so willy-nilly and potentially making mistakes that would be harder to correct than they were to make. I don’t trust myself or my own work ethic to put the effort into unfucking up something with that daunting a prospect to begin with.

I mean, look how long it took me to actually commit to writing the damn thing!

Oh, six years. Sorry, I thought you knew that. Maybe more, but I’m not thinking about that right now…

For February, that’s what I did. Reread my book and did some for better or for worse formatting. Turns out, when you aren’t trying to add content, you can do that in a couple of weeks. And I had met my NaNoWriMo editing goal of spending 40 hours in February focused strictly on what I had done in November and where I wanted it to go next. I had figured two hours a day, five days a week would get me there. Turns out, without some sort of stupid work to distract me, I was able to spend two to six hours per day on that process. The key was getting myself away from the house, as it happened.

So for the last week-ten days, I have been still getting away from the house and working on those added chapters. Since I kind of went balls out on this process, it was largely stream of consciousness writing. No outline, aside from what was in my head. Had I not been working off of a specific starting point from my own life, I’m not sure I could have succeeded with that lack of actual prep. Part of me thinks that is exactly what I wanted but instead of failure, I became President of the United States.

No, wait…that doesn’t sound right.

Ah, yes. Instead of failure, I had this slightly random fictionalization of something that had happened in my life. Turning the tables, it gave me a good opportunity to therapeutically re-write my own history from a really shitty starting point.

Going back into those chapters I wanted to add, I had a grasp of who the characters were in this quasi-alternative universe. That allowed me to make purposeful content additions that gelled – I hope! – with the rest of the story.

Needless to say, for Arcs Two and Three…definitely gonna need an outline. I’m going from scratch there and I can’t wait to see what happens to these folks.

And, of course, with NaNoWriMo’s guidance and motivational help, today was supposed to be spent working on that pitch letter. February is the month – I learned – where they host a pitch workshop. Any writer that completed a novel – or their 50k threshold, at any rate – can submit a 250 word pitch to their partners, named The Pitch Doctors, and they will select 20 at random from all submissions and workshop them. Of those 20, they will select one to be partnered up with a publisher. So, y’know, that’s kind of cool. The deadline is February 28th. No, wait…March 1st? Regardless, either way, I have built in plenty of latitude in my goal to submit a pitch letter so that I can make some false starts. Like this one, where instead of writing a pitch letter, I’m jacking off on WordPress. Out of 287,000 participants there were 35,386 plus ME that finished their novels. Out of those 35k writers, I’m hoping only 19 others actually take advantage of their pitch workshop…

But, honestly, it’s gonna take a little mental prep time to get my mind around only using 250 words to describe a story that I just used 87500 words to tell. So, this is what that effort looks like today. I’ve still got over a week…

Would You Read This?

Why I’m Single #20

Oops, I did it again.

News Flash: I’m apparently needy…

While out having a little solo misadventure, I gently hit on a guy. I’d just seen a movie and stopped on the way home for a Pallet Jack at Kelly’s Olympian. Really, I was just being nice, offering him a drink.

He declined, but we made polite conversation as we sat a barstool apart.

I learned that he’d just moved here two months ago – you know how I love those fresh arrivals – from Arizona. I mentioned my parents are visiting there now, which made him chuckle. When I asked why, he told me that the jokes about snowbirds and basically old people in general are no joke.

He is still looking for a good fitting job. He’s in his second home since moving up here, the first place just wasn’t a good fit. His housemate at the new place is a much more comfortable fit, personality-wise.

Anyway, he finished his drink and left. Then he came back a few minutes later and handed me a note and quickly scampered off. It basically said that he wasn’t sure whether I had been flirting with him or not, the dangers of being me. Although we weren’t in a gay bar, so I get his caution. But the note had his number and told me to text him if I had been.

Because I still got a little game.

It was way better than that time I used a cheesy pick up line on a guy at The Cuff.

How does it feel to be the best looking guy in this dump?

It was a slow night. There was only six people there and the dance bar and patio weren’t even open. Usually, there were a lot more ugly people there.

Or the time I shamelessly hit on a friend of D-Slice at one of her Free Drink Friday gatherings. I mean, that’s just bad form…hitting on your friend’s friends.

Isn’t it?

But we were talking and he had the most beautiful smile. Absolutely radiant!

It was quite beyond my control.

Even worse is the time I’m cruising down the street with my top down and see a good looking guy getting into a car, honk, yell “woo-hoo!” and it ends up actually being my neighbor.

See? That last one was just bad game altogether! But it was like 15 years ago or so.

So what’s the big deal? What did I do again? Why am I needy?

(At least what am I needy about now?)

The first three guys were all FTM trans folk. That last example was my lesbian neighbor.

I’m sure I’ve inadvertently made passes at even more trans people that went nowhere and they either never mentioned it or I never got to know them well enough to learn that information.

But what I know about myself is that I want the heart I desire to be attached to the plumbing I recreationally enjoy.

Hopefully all that says about me is that I’m simply not the Kinsey Six everyone would imagine me to be…worst-case, I’m just a Five. If it makes me out to appear transphobic, well, I would hope it doesn’t.

But, am I? Are genitals shallow to the degree of being superficial in love? Am I misdefining what I’m looking for in my love life and conflagrating (Made Up Word Alert!) it with a sex life?

Either way, I’m striking out.

But at least my pick up game has gotten smoother as we’ve traveled forward in time.

Why I’m Single #20