Onward Methuselah, Part 1

Several people (well, at least two) have asked me to keep them abreast of my self-publishing adventure so here goes.

All weekend long I told myself Monday was the day I would finally do something about republishing. I planned to log into my account on CreateSpace and download one of their templates so that I could format my manuscript for print.  If you’ve ever used a template you know they can be tricky. The easiest way is a Select All > Copy and Paste from your doc into the template.  But it certainly isn’t without risks. I was looking at least a couple of days of insuring that the formatting held.

front cover finalThen I had an email from my buddy Cinda MacKinnon who successfully self-published her award-winning debut novel (A Place in the World) a few years back.  She invited me to her house for tea and advice and said she had a couple of great books on the subject of self-publishing. Always a believer that you can never have enough knowledge about a subject, I quickly accepted and I’m glad I did.

I won’t go into the subject of our chit-chat as it involved grandchildren and elderly parents, a common theme for those of us in the “sandwich generation.” Eventually we did get around to self-publishing. This is a book she highly recommended:

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Boy was she right. The author rates a bevy of publishers in the “self-pub” market by the following criteria:

  • Shenanigans lurking in legal contracts that could bite you in the butt (this alone would be worth the price of the book)
  • Royalty schemes designed to make publishers more money and you less
  • The quality of books published (as expected, you get what you pay for)
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Example of a royalty scheme to be avoided.

According to the author, CreateSpace is in the “Pretty Good” category.

ohnoOh no!!!  Panic stuck. Was I about to make the mistake of a life time?  (okay I already made that mistake)

No one wants to settle for Pretty Good when Outstanding might be possible, right?  Only as expected the Outstanding were full service companies, prepared to take your book from editing to print, even throwing in some marketing assistance. My books have already been edited at least three times. All I needed was print and publish, right? (here that pernicious worm creeps to ear and whispers:”maybe not.”)

The other book Cinda recommended, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, covers “How to Write It, Sell It and Market It . . . Successfully.”  I’ll read it tonight and report any interesting insights tomorrow.

th-2So much for day one.  I have to remind myself of this fact: I’m not Methuselah, even though I might feel like him.  Eventually I better get to it – I can see they’re loading up the Ark already.

 

#ThursdayDoors: Community

Blog-wise, I’m slowing down folks.  I have plenty of excuses but the big one is, I’m getting ready to self-publish and it’s not that easy. No time to trespass for pictures of doors. However, there was no need to go out of my way for this shot:IMG_2031

They aren’t the most spectacular doors in the world but this building is special to me.  For five years I spent every Tuesday morning in the art studio at the back learning to sculpt (click here to see the results).

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According to this map of Old Orinda, the building (numbered 17) was constructed in 1925 and served as a high school before earthquake preparedness became such a concern.  Now it’s a place for young and old to learn, exercise and create.

IMG_2036Behind the center is the outdoor theater so I had to take a peak.

Looks like they’re getting ready for the next show:  Love, Sex and the IRS.  Gotta see that one!

Check out other doors over at Norm Frampton’s blog.

Also – check out this video posted by Doug over at Elusive Trope.  I call it Door to the World.  Thanks Doug.

#ThursdayDoors: Young lady with wiener dog

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Somehow I think this soon-to-be posh stationary store is targeting a shorter clientele than the tall young lady with the wiener dog, don’t you? When I first moved to this area, Walnut Creek was a sleepy mid-sized town built over farmland previously used for. . . yup, you got it.  Growing nuts.  Hey, it’s California – what did you expect? Now it’s almost a city.

Last month I posted pictures of an outdoor stage being readied for a show. Well, guess what?  My friend and I walked over one Sunday and saw the matinee.

Show

Moments before the show.

On a sizzling day in bright sunshine, you have to stretch your imagination because the climatic scene takes place late at night. The show, Murder on the Nile by Agatha Christie, is a whodunit set entirely on the deck on a cruise ship (the audience is actually sitting in the Nile).  Between scenes we were asked by the director to pretend it was lights out as they played Egyptian music and moved props around the stage.

IMG_1962They handled the issue of intermission by having the character who’d just been shot leap to his feet and yell  “Intermission!”

According to the director’s note, the play was almost blacklisted in London. The reason: the cast included a maid and the Ministry of Labour objected. It’s hard to imagine an Agatha Christie play being offensive to anyone, isn’t it?

Check out other ThursdayDoors over at Norm Frampton’s place. 

Pathetic Gasbags and Extispicy (PG&E)

The other night I’d just exited the shower when the door bell rang. Holy Cow, thought I.  Who rings my bell after Happy Hour? Someone who obviously doesn’t know me.

I grabbed my bathrobe and headed towards the front door, my imagination conjecturing both the good and the bad, although it was probably just some young kid selling magazine subscriptions. Another $15 bucks down the drain for a year’s supply of Popular Mechanic. Instead a bearded man of around seventy stood on my doorstep holding a four foot roll of paper. When he caught me looking out the window he waved the roll at me.

“I’m your neighbor,” he yelled. “The one you called.” 

thI should have told him to come back over at a reasonable hour but foolishly I opened the door. I blame the booze. Did I mention that this is a guy we met briefly a dozen years ago when he was chasing feral cats into our yard?  Since then, he hasn’t said a word to us.

Skipping the pleasantries, he got right to business.

“Two policemen came to my door and told me to be a nice guy and take down the tree.”

IMG_2011He was referring to a 100 foot pine tree hanging over our house showering needles and cones on our car, the roof and the driveway. Entangled in the tree are power lines that feed our neighbors down the hill. The tree, however, isn’t on our property. It’s on property belonging to the man waving a roll of paper at me as I stood naked under my bathrobe dripping water all over the floor.

Now this pine tree is clearly visible from his house. In fact it’s visible from the main road, so visible that we keep getting visits from tree service companies. 

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I need Erin Brockovich, folks.

So I googled the property owner. Holy Cow, it turns out we’re living next door to a man who’s been accused many times by the cities of Berkeley and Oakland of being a slum lord.  I left a message on his phone asking him to call us about the tree but I have to tell you, I didn’t expect much.

Then I called our power company (PG&E) thinking they might want to do something. Boy, was I a dope.

After getting the run-around with a customer service rep, I demanded to speak with a supervisor. Here’s how it went.

Me, after explaining the situation: “If the tree goes down it may land on our garage bringing with it live electrical wires.”

PG&E: “Doesn’t matter. The tree is on your neighbor’s property and we can’t do anything unless he calls us.”

Me: “You don’t understand. It’s highly unlikely the guy next door will do anything.  His swimming pool looks like a cesspool.”

PG&E: “Well then, wait for the tree to come down and let your insurance company deal with the mess.”

Me: “What if we’re in the garage?”

PG&E: (pause) “Make sure you keep good records.” 

I guess we should look on the bright side. If we die, our heirs can sue.  

Those of you who are old-timers to the Twissel blog know I’ve already fought my share of battles with soulless bureaucracies like the IRS and the State Tax Board but neither of them told me to keep good records in case their inaction caused my death. 

Thinking our mayor might want to know that PG&E is advising home owners in her town to let the trees and power lines fall down and then have their insurance companies clean up the mess, I sent her an email. She didn’t reply but apparently she did get the message.  

And how about that four foot roll of paper the neighbor’d waved in my face?  It was a property map supposedly proving the tree is on easement and therefore not his responsibility. I think we’re screwed.  What do you think?

Only the Best Hookers for Jesus

tin hats

Babyboy Prez received a time out the other day.  His generals locked away his favorite toy – the lovely box with the red button that only he could push.  And why did Babyboy Prez get a time out?  Because he was furious with the Pope for not recognizing him as the new Messiah and blew the Vatican off the face of the planet.

“I’m so tired of those so called Jesus freaks telling me I’m not a Christian.  What is being Christian folks?  It’s being weak.  It’s being a loser. I say if Jesus was here today he would use those nukes.  He would blast those Muslims off the planet. Wouldn’t he?  Wouldn’t he?  And he’d be the most awesome general.  I’d invite him to Trumphouse and let him sleep in the Lincoln Room with only the best hookers.

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Who will Inherit the Earth?

th-3The answer to my title question is: giant rats. Yup, that’s right. If you don’t believe me, click here, then read, and weep.  Or drink, whatever gets you through the night because after we’ve poisoned the environment and bombed the hell out of all surviving life forms, giant rats will take over and I imagine they’ll do a better job of taking care of the planet than we humans have.

Of course, if you’re a good Christian you’ll take umbrage with this prediction.

"Blessed are the meek:
 for they shall inherit the earth."
 Matthew 5:5

The Bible has been translated countless times so it’s hard to know exactly what Jesus meant by “meek.” But he probably didn’t mean rats. According to many theologists he meant the “righteous, humble, teachable, and patient under suffering, long suffering willing to follow gospel teachings; an attribute of a true disciple.” (Wikipedia)

However, many American politicians argue that acting in a Christian manner in the modern world makes us look like pussies. And these are politicians who claim to be devout followers of Jesus.

“Weakness inspires evil.”  
Governor Mike Pence. 

Does this statement by vice presidential candidate Mike Pence remind anyone else of the small-dick jocks in high school who decided anyone weaker than themselves deserved to have their heads shoved into the toilet?  

(Before you tell me that in high school you were a football player and have an enormous dick, no pictures are necessary. I believe you. I don’t mean to say every jock is a bully with an equipment issue.)

Of course, Gov. Pence isn’t really suggesting that being weak inspires Satan to rise from the pits of Hell. Or at least I hope he isn’t.  Babies are weak. Sick people are weak. Elderly people are weak. No, he’s suggesting that trying to solve world problems through peaceful channels is weak. We gotta go bomb everybody.

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He’s rifting on an aphorism dating back to Homer’s “woe to the conquered,” Might Makes Right, the theory that if you’re powerful enough to dunk someone’s head in the toilet then you must be right. Right?

Gov. Pence should keep in mind the following words of Abraham Lincoln, his party’s standard bearer:

"Let us have faith that 
right makes might, 
and in that faith, 
let us, to the end, 
dare to do our duty 
as we understand it"
 - Abraham Lincoln, 
February 26, 1860, 
Cooper Union Address

As you can see, Lincoln inverted the phrase to read “right makes might” in a speech addressing the constitutionality of the federal government controlling slavery in new territories. He wanted to emphasize that doing the right thing is what gives us real power. Enforcing your vision through the use of might alone forges at best an uneasy peace. Poor fellow, he’s got to be rolling over in his tomb over the inelegance of his party.

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President Trump – Yikes!!

Beware of three word slogans containing verbs, folks! Might Makes Right (fascism), Arbeit Macht Frei (death camps) and now Weakness Inspires Evil (heaven help us).  They never lead to anything good.

Blessed are the peacemakers
for they shall be called the 
children of God. Matthew 5:9

 

ThursdayDoors: Antler Art

 

IMG_0689We ran into this gate on one of our many road trips from California to Utah. It’s decorated with sun-bleached antlers formerly belonging to deer and elk. Antler art is huge in the West and especially in eastern Nevada.  I believe these gates lead to a camping ground because in the distance we could see Wheeler Peak, the highest mountain in Great Basin, a national park which runs along the Nevada and Utah border.

We had just passed Major’s Place, one of the last places to get a beer before heading into the Mormon stronghold of Utah.

MajorsPlace

This is the town of Major’s Place – just one building which is of course a bar.

As you can see the antler theme prevails here as well. It’s easy to miss Major’s Place as you speed along the highway, however if you do happen to spot it and stop, beyond the doors you’ll find more antler art, antler furniture and antler lamps. In that part of the world you just can’t overdecorate with antlers.

Deerhead

This guy got to keep his antlers probably because he looks like a dude you wouldn’t want to mess with.

I stole the bottom two images from Stay on Route 6, a website devoted to exploring the longest contiguous transcontinental route in the USA. Highway 6 is also known as the “Grand Army of the Republic Army” because it passes through many historic sites dating from the Revolutionary War.  We didn’t go into Major’s Station as it was closed and it’s beyond foolhardy to trespass in eastern Nevada.  You could end up in the ground and not in the slammer. Those folks love their guns

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From Antler Art

Check out other doors over at Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors shindig.