Archive | July 2013

The Post With Cat Hair in It

Actually, they all have cat hair in them. I live with a cat (he’s not mine, but he likes me). He’s an independent fellow, indoor/outdoor guy, not much of a lap addict. Hell, he doesn’t even like catnip.

Udacity study buddy

Yes, this is Exhibit A: the Hummingbird Hunter

(the hummingbirds are now safe. The feeders were moved to a new location. He can watch; can’t touch)

However, he hears the computer booting up or the keyboard clicking and suddenly, my desktop becomes his very favorite place in the world.

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Cat happiness is keeping a human from non-cat centered activities.

I have Microsoft Arc wireless keyboard and mouse. Exhibit A likes to sit on the keyboard. If we are chatting online and you get a weird burst of characters from me; chances are he sent it. As for the mouse, I frequently have to reach between his legs or around his stripey orange butt to use it.

Last night, I was on a writing hot streak (If you have read or are reading These Foolish Things, I am hard at work on the prequel. And having seen the compression factor by Create Space squish a digital Word file of 417 pages to actual book format of 278 pages, if you guys want something substantial, don’t hold your breath. This is going to take a while). Anyway, I had to periodically pick up my keyboard and wait while His Majesty did his kingly desk sprawl (see above). I thought I’d gotten clever at one point by sitting at the desk and giving him the clear space on the desktop by using my lap desk to rest the keyboard. Suddenly, that became the more desirable real estate. Cats and real estate agents: Location, location, location.

how people with cats eat

This also applies to home computing

Somewhere along the line, maybe during all the hours they sleep, feline internal software got a new version or a patch or an upgrade and they are now programmed to seek out the space between the human being and the computer screen especially if the human is trying to do something. That has to be the answer; Mr. Independent here couldn’t be buggered unless I am focused on what I’m doing. And then, his attitude becomes “You know, we don’t spend real quality time together.” (And right now, I am working around cat butt, head rubs that mash my hands into the keyboard and DON’T CHEW ON THOSE WIRES! DAMMIT! YOU ARE NOT A PET RABBIT!!!!)


I took this picture 30 seconds ago. That’s this blog post on the right.

The dog, God bless him, is normally a Velcro animal, very emotionally needy and doesn’t handle high def TV all that well (He will bark-at dogs, horses, camels, 70 year old still photos of cattle from a Ken Burns documentary and last week, people moving sand from an archaeological dig in Egypt. You heard me; he barks at sand). He will quietly lie on the rug gnawing on his toys or snoozing (when not growling and woofing at horses in a John Wayne movie). He doesn’t insist on getting in my lap, on the desk or under my feet (if he did, Exhibit A would punch him in the face for stealing his act. I’ve seen it).

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Background: The Dog’s Bandanna.

Foreground: The Dog’s Banana (seriously. It has a mustache).

When I wrote my first book, I was sharing my home with 4 cats:

George, Toulouse, Cookie, Sam

 George ,Toulouse, Cookie, and Samba.

Sammy Cat hated everyone else. That’s why she’s on the other side of the bed.

I did not have the “let’s get on the desk and drive her nuts” action that I have going now. Cookie (the Blue Point Crab), would get on a corner of my desk and sit next to the monitor while I worked, but she didn’t interfere.  The boys would be on the floor either rolling around chewing on each other or just lying with bellies up in the breeze from the fan. (SamCat would lie on the futon and just glare at everyone else. As far as she was concerned, they were a bunch of dopes) I would stay up late at night typing away and listening to Sandra Harris on WHOM 94.9. If I got up to get a drink of water or use the bathroom, I would have a furry escort trying to get me to go to bed. I could almost hear little annoyed sighs when I turned around and went back to work (face palms would have been muffled by fur). Some time between midnight and 1 AM, they’d just give up and go to bed without me.  As you can see from the photo, they made sure there was little or no room for me. They snoozed, I losed. Lost.

But those were the cat models of a decade ago. Like I said, the current models have gotten a software patch that better guides interference. Technology doesn’t sit still.

Mark Twain was  a great fan of cats, having a sizable clowder (technical term for a group of cats. Mine preferred to be known as a pride). I’d be willing to bet that Beelzebub, Sour Mash, Blatherskite and Zoroaster tried to “help” him write (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the first novel written completely on a typewriter.  I’m sure there was a lot of batting at the keys and the ribbon going on. And probably some choice words from Mr. Twain).

And I’d be willing to bet that he turned in a few manuscripts laced with cat hair.

Brick Wall in the Rear View Mirror

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”


Randy Pausch, “The Last Lecture”


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 12 years in the making
(It’s a selfie. I’m not a fan of them, but…)

See that picture? There’s an invisible brick wall in the background.


I had significant help and support getting here (Diane, Sue, Chris, Aileen). Thank you, Guys, for helping me get past the brick wall.

How I Did It (For those who ask “How’d you do it?”)

(This is MY blog. I get to gaze at my own navel every now and then. And yes, I can see it when I want to. Without a mirror)

So, the paperback version of These Foolish Things  (trying to remember proper grammar and punctuation. If I remember rightly, you’re supposed to underline book titles) is now available through Amazon.

This is after 12 years of rejection by publishers and literary agents (“We don’t know how to market it” ).  I’m attaching a link to a story about an author who re-typed a National Book Award winner, submitted it to 14 publishers (including the one who published it and the literary agent who represented it)…and they all rejected it. (This was in response to “The Cuckoo’s Call” author being unveiled as J.K. Rowling)

Bob Greene, Better Story than JK Rowling.

For most of that time, an author had one of two choices: submit something through the tradition publishing houses and hope it was accepted or pay for self-publishing through a vanity press.

Once upon a time, there were a lot of book publishers.They would compete with each other for titles, hoping investing in an author would pay off with handsome sales. The investment would include professional editing, layout and printing, jacket design and marketing/distribution. If they thought the author had hits in him/her, they would pay advances (and the Stephen King/Tom Clancy/Mary Higgins Clark kind of authors would get multi-million dollar ones). It was possible for a great novel such as Ordinary People  to be pulled from the “slush pile” (unsolicited manuscripts) and published.

However, the great herd of publishing houses was thinned by mergers. And they became more cautious about who was let through the gates into Publishing Paradise. At first, they wanted only manuscripts from literary agents (who also became cautious), then only certain literary agents, then only authors with proven track records.

They still exists, but it’s like the wild buffalo of the United States: gone from a herd of millions down to the ones living in Yellowstone and those guys are in danger of getting shot if they wander into Montana. And their output is substantially reduced.

The other “Old Timey” means of getting a story from your ink-stained fingers (well, with the advent of computers, more like Doritos and Red Bull. My thing is coffee) was to go to a vanity press where YOU paid for all the services (instead of the publisher) and it was up to YOU to get the things sold. For every “Christmas Box” (the first self-published book to reach #1 on the New York Times bestseller list)  there are thousands of people with boxes of unsold books stashed in garages, basements and attics.

This is the quick and dirty version of the story:

Richard Paul Evans Wikipedia

And for every story of his, there is the vast army of Roger Sterlings (“Mad Men”) whose gamble on self-publication goes nowhere. A recent episode showed Roger pulling copies out of his briefcase and tossing them. He couldn’t even give them away.

Self-publishing was an expensive option and up until the early part of the 21st century, the “most affordable” packages were still pretty expensive and included all the services provided by a full-service house, but the author paid the costs. This is a link to Xlibris, a Print On Demand house still in business. See the cost of the top package? $15,249. I don’t have that kind of dough. Most people who have to go through self-publishing don’t have that kind of dough.

Xlibris publishing packages

However, technology doesn’t stand still.

Now, through services such as Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords and Bookbaby, an author can publish his magnum opus (NOT Tom Selleck crossed with a penguin) without it costing an arm and a leg.

magnum pi opus

Get it? Magnum Opus?

Through Amazon’s Create Space, you can publish a paperback for free (of course, like a nail salon, they try to upsell you at every turn (I opted for $25 for additional distribution channels, did not go in for the cover design, etc. BUT COVER ART IS VERY IMPORTANT! I HAD MINE DESIGNED BY PROS!  The barter system is alive and well).

I have my first paperback order and I find this very exciting. I’m sitting here, 12 years down the road from something that started as disjointed chapters written in a grade school composition book …

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(Seriously: I write in these things. No worries about battery life)

…to an actual “hold it in your hands, dog-ear the pages and spill wine on it” book. I am expecting great things of it (I have the mindset of a 6 year old in that “this will be the greatest ____ ever.”) . But my main point in telling this story is to show that it is possible to to get published despite the barriers.

That’s how I did it.