Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Project Update IV

Ugh. September was a brutal month.

Failed to stay on task. In fact, receded quite a bit from those healthy productive habits I established back in May and June. Numbers don’t lie. In September I devoted 25.25 hours to the self-publishing project – 50 minutes a day, and a lot of that reading and research, not doing and producing. Compare this to 33 hours last month and 54 hours in July.

(All told, I’ve invested just shy of 200 hours into the project over five months. The guy who inspired me to do this last spring said you need to devote 16 hours a day for a full year to launch a successful business. So … I’m operating at 8 percent of the desired level of energy. He’d be twelve times further down the self-publishing world. 16 hours a day, however, is unrealistic for me in my situation, but I have to up that 50 minute mark significantly to succeed.)

As far as my physical health goes, same gloomy news. Only walked 12.5 miles, 2 miles less than August’s total, 8 miles less than what I logged in June and July, 16 less than what I did in May. And I only lifted the weights twice the entire month. Shameful. May, June, and July saw me lifting six times a week. And you know what? I really feel the difference.

Also, since we’re mind-body units (nothing is compartmentalized), I do feel that my decline in productive hours getting the business off the ground is a direct result of this inattention to the physique. Richard Branson, the head honcho for the Virgin conglomeration, was once asked what one thing he – or anyone – could do to increase productivity. After a moment in deep thought, he said: “Work out more.”

But there’s more to this than just me cutting corners with the working out. September was an insanely busy month for us. We celebrate three birthdays – and six birthday parties – over the course of two weeks. (If you’re wondering, it’s: Patch’s family party, my family party, Little One’s family party, the extended family party for all three of us, Patch’s friends party, and Little One’s friends party. Whew. That even tired me out just typing it.)

It’s the Back-to-School month, with adjustments to the girls’ schedules and, being their prime caretaker, mine. Back-to-School nights. Ice cream socials. Throw in a handful of soccer practices and games. I spent four afternoons staining the deck and throwing out my back. There was a second family get-together one afternoon for a cousin’s graduation. Two trips to the doctor. A day trip into NYC to see the Mets play. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

So my schedule wasn’t as open, carefree and moldable as it was back in May and June. Instead of doubling down to do the work, I looked for escape in time-wasting side projects and activities.
All right. Enough self-flagellation. I pledge to do better in October, and actually get things launched. What did I accomplish in September?

Well, the book, Oncewhere Walked the Whale, is finished. Completely. I’m satisfied – no, proud of it. I also finished a 19-page e-Book I’m going to send to everyone who joins my email list. I’m proud of that, too. I researched six self-publishing authors’ websites top to bottom, authors I’ve known about before I threw my hat into the ring. Of the six, three had outstanding websites – excellent and professional. Two were sort of average. Glorified billboards. And the last was absolutely terrible. Childish, ineffective, and downright embarrassing. I know where I want to be on the list, so I have quite a decision to make settling on a web hosting company.

The book cover is still throwing me. One of the many things I’ve discovered about myself this summer is that I am not a graphic artist. I can write, yes. I can jam out on the guitar, yes. In those senses I am artistic. But I can’t come up with a satisfactory book cover and translate it into a 1500 x 1000 pixel jpeg. And I’m using respectable photo editing software. Three days of work late in the month and nothing to show for it. I even had Little One help and try to design a cover on her own. No dice. So I decided that lack of a cover will not hold me up. Whale gets published in 30 days or less regardless. I can always add a cover the following month if need really be.

Read five books in September. Only one science fiction, Eon, reviewed a couple posts ago. A spiritual book, a pair of physics books. The last was The Warrior Ethos, a compact 90-page inspirational essay from Stephen Pressfield, which I finished in one day, and then proceeded to re-read each day for the next four days. Highly motivating, and probably helped me salvage this awful month.

Saw a couple of crappy movies (worse was the latest Mission Impossible, seen with my buddy one weekend) and a couple of good ones. Watched one of my all-time favorites, Limitless, and was pleasantly surprised by an enjoyable Riddick. And wasted a lot of time watching New York football. Oh well. I’ll have to multitask while the games are on I guess.

October can’t help but be better, and thinking about it as I write, I can’t help but reach my goals with a little application. To that extent, I must, on a daily basis:

– Resume waking at 6 and hitting the laptop keys for an hour.

– Get my walk in and then lift some weights after dropping the little ones off at their schools.

– Keep taking my supplements (basically a multivitamin, an omega-3 pill, and green tea extract … I really can feel the difference, too, when I cheat on these)

– Avoid my distractions during the workday (believe me, I have a list of twelve of them – the “Dirty Dozen”).

– Get three or four more hours of work in. I have a very ambitious long-term strategy.

– Then work on my honey-do list, which includes finding something that will bring in some cash flow on my behalf.

That’s it. If I can succeed at that, I can succeed at this self-publishing project.

Looking forward to a triumphant Project Update V.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Need to Work Here

Monday, September 28, 2015

Thoughts for Mental Framing

A septillion thautons have coalesced into a crystalline scaffolding of letters and words before me upon my desk. What forms and patterns, pray, do they align themselves? Only the following …

‘Unfree will’ is mythology: in real life it is only a question of strong and weak wills.

   - Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, section 21

Few are made for independence – it is a privilege of the strong.

   - ibid., section 29

… we must discipline ourselves in the winter for the summer campaign, and not rashly run upon that which does not concern us.

   - Epictetus, Discourses, Book 1 Chapter 2

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Review: Eon

© 1985 by Greg Bear

[minor spoilers]

Caution: This book needs to be read more than once!

I found myself in the rare quandary where the effort I put forth to read the book was not equal to the amount needed to withdraw the maximum benefit from it. Kinda weird, no? Feeling moral obligations when you’re reading for pleasure, for escape, for, well, avoidance of real life? So much mental strain put forth to tease out who these characters are, what exactly was going on, and being unable to decide whether it was my fault or the author’s and realizing that the book could only be fairly assessed with a second reading.

Whew. Got that off my chest.

Unfortunately, Hopper has a fifty-book backlog, some with shelf lives already entering a second decade, so I do not have the time for a re-read at this moment.

That being said, what did I think of Greg Bear’s Eon?

First, a brief synopsis.

It appears, circa 2005 or so, that a hollowed-out asteroid, nicknamed the “Stone,” has entered our solar system. It’s already been mostly explored and mapped out at novel’s start, and most of the alien technology is still being studied by the eggheads sent up to live in the asteroid. The most startling conclusion, teased to the reader via “Top Secret!” warnings and ominous “Are You Ready for This?” cautions to the newest newbie on the Stone by her superiors, is that the asteroid is from our future.

This, naturally, presents a whole myriad of problems. Messin’ with timelines and such. And, interestingly enough, a library on the Stone has a “history” book which predicts nuclear holocaust on earth … in two weeks’ time.

But the key to salvation may lie in figuring out “the Way,” a sort of time-space continuum thingie which physically traverses the Stone and somehow enters another dimension (?), extending for millions of kilometers and hundreds of years. Attached to the Way are gates which lead to others worlds in other spacetimes. Yikers.

Early on, maybe twenty or forty pages in to this 500-page paperback, I settled on the perfect analogy: Eon is a neat blend between Arthur C. Clarke (specifically Rendezvous with Rama) and Tom Clancy. There’s Russians. There’s geopolitics. In fact, to embellish the analogy, I visualized the lengthy scenes where the Russians invade the Stone as a perfect cross between The Longest Day and the space battle at the climax of Moonraker.

This definitely was a visual book for me. If Eon was ever to be made into a movie, James Cameron would be the perfect choice to helm it. Like most Cameron movies, the characters are a bit flat, a bit one-note johnnies, but the potential to see alien technology in action – and fireworks – is there, almost chapter by chapter.

And speaking of aliens …

There are several races in the novel, which led to some confusion in opening chapters. Who are they? What are they? Why are they doing what they are doing? It takes time to piece motivation as we’re entirely unfamiliar with their customs, habits, and history. And Bear does get bogged down, more than necessary, in the minutiae of political faction infighting six hundred years in the future. But the non-human aliens were indeed very cool, though I’d like to know more about the Jarts, the off-stage baddies of the novel.

The book should have come with a glossary. There are lots of terms that don’t become quite clear until midway or towards the end of the novel. I’m still not sure what happened at the end. Somehow the Way was destroyed or changed as a result of one future faction seceding from another or something. Bear wrote follow-up novels to Eon, so I assume it still exists in some capacity or another to allow for further investigation and conflict.

Overall, I liked Bear’s imaginative grasp of the future. “Picting” – a visual language where (I think) holograms circle around the individual, saying what needs to be said in hovering diagrams … “Talsit” – meditation in the future which repairs the body physically, mentally, spiritually … “Incarnates and ghosts/partials” – duplicates of your You, your essence, which sits stored in the “City Memory”, and various other little nice touches. Made life six hundred years from now interesting and naturally completely mystifying.

Grade: B. Probably move up to an A if I re-read it and understood more than the sixty percent or so I did the first go-round.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Birthdays and a Baseball Game

Ugh. Life is moving way too fast for me right now. Slow down, okay?

September is a busy month in my family. My birthday, both my daughters’ birthdays, one of my nephew’s birthday. (The end of August has my godson’s birthday, and the wife’s is coming fast in October.) So we enter a six week stretch of endless parties, celebrations, the going to stores for the buying of gifts, wrapping presents, cleaning the house and cleaning the house, planning the special occasions. It’s fun but it also takes its toll. It’s tiring, to be honest. My own event, which I normally downplay as much as possible (ideally a wife-cooked steak dinner and quietly opening a few wrapped books at the dining room table with my girls), involved a full afternoon of staining the deck, followed by a two-hour Back-to-School night for Little One. Thankfully the wife and I were able to sneak out to Chili’s later on for tacos.

Add in Labor Day at the beach, soccer practices and games, CCD, and all the school stuff and you have a nonstop month.

I spent four days staining our backyard deck, an unpleasant task I have to do every four years. This time we used a heavier stain designed to last up to six years. I told Little One, soon-to-be-eleven, that the next time the deck needs to get done, her future boyfriend will be doing it. And even more unpleasant, Fall really hasn’t settled in yet in these parts. Temps reached the nineties and, man, did that sun flame down on me as I painted. I christened the deck the Sun’s Anvil. I sweated, lost a lot of salts and minerals, and got a September sunburn.

However, all is not an unfettered gripe. The writing project continues apace, albeit glacially, as I eke out an hour here and there to get that intimidating to-do list accomplished. Very pleased with my results so far, though I wish I had accomplished more up to this date. Still on schedule though, but barely. I estimate eighty hours to complete it, forty to get the essentials done. It’ll be tough. Take that into consideration, okay Life?

Have notes for a few blog posts on deck. Just need to rearrange them into sentences, paragraphs, you know, writing kind of stuff. Shouldn’t be too hard. Patch is home sick with me today, and both girls are off tomorrow for the Jewish holiday, so the gulf between what I plan to get done and what I actually get done will be substantial; it’s only a question of whether I can leap it with all the baggage I have hanging off me.

Still unemployed. Every week I answer an online ad or two for the few jobs in my wheelhouse, and send out unsolicited resumes when the online ads aren’t forthcoming. It’s highly depressing and demotivating. Chips away at the self-esteem, day-by-day and even hour-by-hour. Have to keep busy and try not to be too hard on myself. I’ve also been racking my brains every now and then for another industry or occupation I can try my hand at. Nothing yet; you’ll be the first to know.

One pleasant diversion from all the previous paragraph’s worriment is baseball. After dropping them post-childhood, I started following the New York Mets again three seasons ago. Now they’re having a decent season, somewhat comfortably in first place and should make the playoffs barring a catastrophic collapse in the last twelve games of the season. Shouldn’t happen, based on their schedule, but you never can be sure with the Mets.

Anyway, as a birthday present this year, the wife and little ones got us tickets to see the Mets play the awful Braves last night. The weather was absolutely fantastic – no humidity, sixty degrees, a slight breeze, not a cloud in the sky. The seats were pretty good – not nosebleeds, close enough in left field to give us all a good view of the action. The only problem was meeting my wife at her place of work in NYC. Since school has started, I had to wait for Little One to get out (remember, I had a sick Patchie with me all day), drive over to the bus station, take the bus in through the Lincoln tunnel, grab a cab at Port Authority, meet the wife, take her car to Citi Field. Though we were late (made it to the stadium by the second inning), we had those de-licious stadium hot dogs, washed ’em down with de-licious soda, and had our seventh-inning ice cream cones. And the Mets dispatched the Braves 4-0 to top it all off. Good times.

In the past we’ve gone to one baseball game a year, usually a Yankee game, usually at the behest of my father-in-law, a big Yankee fan. Haven’t done it regularly, though, since the little ones were born. This year, in contrast, we’ve gone four times, twice to see the Mets and twice to see the Yankees, and haven’t really spent as much as you’d think. Both teams won one and lost one. We sat in the highest, corner-most seat at Citi Field. We did the Yankee stadium bleachers and fourteen rows behind home plate. We saw two extra-inning games. We were so close to A-Rod I’m sure he heard my little girls cheering him on. It was a fun season, and we’ll probably do it again next summer.

Now – back to the grind, writer boy!

Ah, I love this (relatively) new stadium!

Yours truly with a goofy, sugared-up Little One

Somewhere near the end of the game ... hard to see, but Little One 
snapped this shot of the ball in the air halfway towards home plate

And some pics, here, of our first trip to Citi Field earlier in the season.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Never Forget

Benedicat tibi Dominus, et custodiat te.

Ostendat Dominus faciem suam tibi, et misereatur tui.

Convertat Dominus vultum suum ad te, et det tibi pacem.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Labor Day

In honor of this year’s Labor Day holiday weekend we, er, worked.

We had three straight days of sunshine. Beautiful weather, though unseasonably hot and humid for this time of year. The finest quality of September, the one that makes it my favorite month of the year, is that slight nip, that hint of chill, on the breeze. Sadly, that playful bite was not present. And we sweated profusely because of it.

Personally, I mowed the front and back yard, clipped hedges, power washed the deck and the stone steps on the side of the house, doused the backyard bushes and beneath the deck with that Ortho bug-be-gone stuff, cleaned out 50% of the garage, and did four loads of laundry. The wife stripped the paint of the deck. I will be restaining it later this week.

As a result, muscles I never knew I had, despite painting Little One’s room two weeks ago, spontaneously massed to launch a revolt on my body. I was literally bedridden the majority of yesterday.

There was some fun. Saturday night we drove down the Jersey shore to attend a fair. I did my quota and took the little ones on the Ferris Wheel. Also went on the Crazy Bus. We bought tickets for the mega-raffle (winner gets $25,000) and blew through a hundred dollars in three hours. Budgeted money, and well-spent. Only downside was that my father-in-law could not be there with us.

The girls did the beach thing one day with their mom, swam in a friend’s pool the next, and played at the “Wall of Noses” park yesterday with yours truly. I hung out with my bud one night and we saw, basically because there was nothing else to see, Mission Impossible at the movies. Eh, so-so. Very convoluted and loud. I also visited my padre in the confessional for a recharging of batteries.

Only downside is that I did not read, write, or work on the Project. Too much going on, never a dull moment. That kind of a weekend. Hoping to make some progress this week, despite that deck waiting for me outside, and the birthday bashes for the little ones following in a few days.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Back to School

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

School resumed for us yesterday. Patch, entering second grade, continues at the elementary school three blocks away. Little One, however, is now attending the town’s excellent middle school, which requires me to drive her there. (Guess I should start thinking of a new nom de plume for her, as she’s not so little anymore.) We’re up at six-fifteen and out the door by seven-twenty. I sit in a line twenty-five or thirty cars long, drop her off at the school’s front gate, then swing back home and escort Patch the three blocks to her classroom door.

I now have at least eight hours of uninterrupted time during the day to work. No more wearing the hat of Entertainment Coordinator for a pair of merciless ten- and six-year olds. No more fending them out of the refrigerator with chair and whip. No more responding to three hundred “Hey Daddy?”s a day. No more wrangling to keep the Cartoon Network off in exchange for doing summer workbooks and library book readings.

It’s the hap-happiest season of all!

There are now no more obstacles for me to getting this book published.

The stress and headaches are still there. For instance, whatever money we’re saving from the girls being back to school is canceled out with Patch’s aftercare. When I eventually do get a job, we’ll have some difficulty finding out where Little One should be / go after school. At eleven she’s not quite old enough to be left alone at home, nor do I feel comfortable with her walking the two miles back and forth from her new school. But crossing that bridge, as it’s said, is something we’ll worry about when we come up to it.

Still, though, for the wife and I …

It’s the most wonderful time … OF THE YEAR!