Like virtually everyone on my friends' list, on yesterday I received a barrage of comments to posts and replies to comments from days ago. I don't mind the replies to posts so much, as I check my recent posts for replies whether I have received an e mail notification of comments or not, but I do not always check my comments to posts, and it's distracting somehow to know that people were replying with interesting things to say, and I had no idea.
Last night we went to Luna de Noche Mexican restaurant with my brother and his wife. The food was good, but for dessert we decided to head over to the corporate bookshop cafe next door. Unlike the norm with those corporate bookshops, the selection of desserts was uninspiring. The counter help there was amazingly poor; I believe that the nadir for me was when the fellow behind the counter determined to refrain from taking my order so that he and a co-worker could analyze which of them should be "on duty". Then he and his co-worker had to be instructed by someone more clued in as to how to make this "new" concoction my sister-in-law ordered, called a "gingerbread latte". I am not really a coffee drinker, so my Borders Customer Advice of the Day is: "gingerbread MAN", not gingerbread LATTE". The store, down in Plano, was nearly lifeless on a Saturday night. Plano seems to me to be harder hit by our telecom layoffs than the rest of the Dallas metroplex; maybe there's a connection.
I love my brother and his wife, who live one suburb over. They are just really cool people. My brother and I are but 13 months apart in age; I'm elder. I cannot believe that I am old enough that my little brother's elder son is a 15 year old with a girlfriend. My nephew is a lot like me in a lot of ways, but I never had much social success at 15. I'm not sure that at 17 I learned any of those Janis Ian truths about ugly duckling girls like me, although my not being a girl may be some mitigation on this score.
During our after-dinner chat at their house, my brother revealed one of those little family secrets about a family member that is almost utterly irrelevant, but which absolutely floored me. As with the best of such things, it was a minor quirk in a family member from many years ago, which intrigued me mainly because I had no idea that this quirk existed. I pride myself on being extremely perceptive about such matters, so it caused me a bit of that feeling of "more clueless than I realized". It was a bit like that feeling when one realizes that x acquaintance is having an affair with y acquaintance. One really doesn't spend so much time worrying about other peoples' person(al) choices as saying "my goodness, I can't believe I didn't see that long ago!". Well, my world is sometimes a quite ordered place, which probably benefits from being all shook up once in a while.
I bought a very good twenty dollar book on self-publishing last night. I have already promised myself that I will self-publish this bit of nanowrimo whimsy. When the nanowrimo word count program did not appear on the site Friday night as promised, I began googling to locate new options. I'm intrigued by how many people self-publish books on how to self-publish.
My goals are simple--put something out fairly inexpensively, get an amazon listing, sell a very few copies, and have lots of fun. I liked the article in the airline magazine about the guy who did a print on demand self-publish of his late 80s Brit novel (which had gotten good reviews, pleasing if modest sales, and then prompt remaindering). The article had a humility I liked--after explaning his detailed efforts to get himself back in print, and the many advantages and disadvantages of POD, he cheerfully admitted that he'd sold a grand total of 15 copies of the book since he'd been going at it.
I remember that in 1999 an NPR radio spot on the iuniverse.com company's roll-out of a cheap way to print on demand books got me energized to get my chess poetry chapbook into production. At that time, I researched assiduously into the topic (actually, this topic is one on which I am fairly well read in general, as I'd meant to self-publish for years), and reached a simple conclusion--I could self-publish at a copy shop for less than a hundred dollars and sell on ebay, or I could self-publish in a more formal way for roughly a thousand dollars and have an amazon listing and a more attractive booklet, and not sell at all (other than, perhaps, on ebay). I am a firm believer in inexpensive hobbies, so I opted for the cheap way. As my choice resulted in my essentially breaking even (at one time I was in slight profit, but the second printing is still in 'recoupment', like some bad horror movie still playing in Slovenia), this was right for me.
The problem with my poetry book is that I did not go to RK Bowker and spend the 225 dollars to get 10 ISBN numbers. Accordingly, I could not get an amazon.com listing. For some reason, an amazon.com listing seems to me some sort of pinnacle. It's a faux legitimacy, but a legitimacy nonetheless. Other than that, I don't have many regrets about my bad poetry book, which was immensely satisfying to write and sell. I take that back. I have one regret. I regret that ever since the copy I sent to amatrixangel somehow did not make it to him, my computer filing cabinets always seem to lose the new address he's given me so that I can mail another. Maybe he'll oblige by e mailing his address to me yet again. My computer filing cabinets keep secrets of state and the meaning of life, but his addy dissolves into ether every time.
I'm as firm as ever in my resolve to self-publish, but now I'm thinking a home-made job may be the way to go once again. I'm thinking a nicer print job, but still along the same kitchen table lines. This time, I'll spend the 225 dollars or what have you on a set of 10 ISBN numbers (why can't they sell individual ones for 25?). I'll also get a library of congress designation. But apart from that, I'm inclined to spend a bit less and not have to worry with one of those "we charge you 700 to publish plus 250 for extras you want plus 100/year maintenance fee" add on processes that seem endemic to the print on demand business. But I may consider using some very small limited run printer. I love the idea of somebody putting a book together in their microbusiness somehow. In the future, I think we should all have microbusinesses, and enjoy them and never have to go to an office.
My brother's suggestion is simple. He thinks we should just make a pdf file and set it up on a site as an ebook. There's much to be said for that.
I could deliver it essentially free, or, better yet, let people donate to some worthy cause in an honor system method. I could always print up five or so tangible copies for my own vanity. For that matter, I could probably just "publish" the whole thing as an LJ. Interesting....
Of course, part of me wants to send it off to the Adams Press in Chicago to print up, as I used to love to see their "Publish Yourself!" ads in the back of Writer's Digest when I was a teen, and I loved the way their brochure pointed out that they were merely printers and not subsidy publishers, so they would not promise you anyting in terms of sales. I am a firm believer in few promises when few promises are in order. I am amused by how many of the print on demand publishing houses suggest that their service somehow puts one on the road to success, when in fact it is just a good way to get stuff done reasonably cheaply that will sit on amazon.com but may not sell.
Of course, the key challenge for "Lonely Distance" will be cover art. My MS Paint skills do not really run to panoramic pen and ink sci fi scenes--not even the "deep sky full of stars" type of thing that would fit this novel. In life, I have often found, though, that if one does what one can do, rather than fretting about what one can't, things work out better. I may just go with a simple text cover and not spend so much time worrying. I guess I am learning from all this something I probably knew already--one makes it up pretty much as one goes along whether one pays someone else to help or not, so it may be easier to just do it myself. Spending "big" money on hobbies always seems silly to me. I love that a kite at a Wal Mart and string are five dollars, and that crayons at a dollar store and postcards are two dollars, and that nanowrimo asked a 10 dollar donation (I splurged, and gave 12.57), and that cacti cost a buck or two and that butterflies are free.
Speaking of things free, some fellow e mailed me today because I had written an amazon.com review of 801 Live! I was pleased to open it, as I love compliments as much as the next guy, and e mails about reviews are usually compliments. But in fact, it was an offer to have me burn a copy in return for other pirated work. Now it's one thing for a friend to send a mix CD or some such, in a non-monetary way, although I never burn mix CDs for various legal reasons (not to mention the practical one of having no burner). But trading with a stranger to by pass the artist's royalty is just not my style. It's kinda quaint and cool to share music with friends, but anonymous exchange to save a buck seesm different to me somehow.
The nice thing if I do figure out how to do this self-publishing thing for a very few hundred dollars is that I can feel less guilty if I do some other things on my list, like set up a new aquarium or begin playing in chess tournaments. After my recent chess post, and after perusing books with titles like "The Latvian Gambit Lives!" at the bookstore last night, I have a hankering to take up chess tournaments again. Of course, for a mere 50 dollars I could just rejoin the internet chess club (for that matter, for free I could use a few other chess servers such as the US Chess Federation one, for which I already have a membership, or the Free Internet Chess Server or yahoo or what have you). But I want that feel of real live chess pieces being moved against a real live opponent. I must get hooked up with the local Dallas Chess Club. As U Texas--Dallas is one of the top 2 chess teams in the country, not twenty minutes down the road, I know there are strong players here. In my last tournament, a couple of years ago, I think I managed to shave 50 points off my rating through poor play; we'll have to see if this is middle age decline or just a glitch on the road to true strength. Chess tournaments are not that expensive to play in, but it might be fun to actually road-trip to a nearby city in the first weekend in December for one, as my wife is tied up that weekend doing some home show for the AAUW or some such. CD burning talk reminds me that I want to get my and scottm's recordings off to the CD duplication factory, so that I can use them for nervousness exchanges. I've procrastinated doing that for weeks now. I found a cool place that will do the dupes quickly and very cheaply, and then my brother will help me with the label and insert printing software. This is yet another reason to avoiding spending too much money on book printing--there are CDs to print.
I stopped in an aquarium store yesterday in Garland. This one caught my eye because it is in an area which has lots of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants. The store looked just like similar places in Asian-american neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The fish were in excellent health, but displayed as unostentatiously as imaginable. The big sale item was immature Australian arowanna, a long, shimmery silver aggressive fish.
One was 45 dollars, while another was 100 dollars. These large ravenously hungry fish cost more per individual than I am willing to spend for my entire tank set up, including all gear and fish. I will instead find a used tank at a yard sale or maybe Wal Mart, buy a filtration set up at Petco or another yard sale, and then get a one dollar package of "feeder guppies". I haven't found a good "feeder guppy" outlet yet, as most stores here seem to work on the "feeder goldfish" principle. But I have a wild impulse to have wild guppies, which merely bolsters my opinion that I should be spending less on putting words in print so that the funds saved can get my aquarium hobby back in gear.
I also want to get a few more succulent plants. Our sansiviera is so huge, and the little cacti are really thriving. Meanwhile, all the local nurseries are filled with pansies, ready to plant. I love pansies, and last year our pansies lasted all winter. But neither my wife nor I seem to have the energy to plant them this year, so we may not be pansy people this time. Of course, our summer marigolds are still in bloom, and the Mexican heather is now entering something like its fifth month in bloom, so our garden is not too drab.
In this week's paper, I noticed in the sports page the odd advice that catfish on nearby Lake Lavon were biting, and that one found them by fishing near the dead trees in the lake made white with cormorant droppings. Now when I hike near Lake Lavon, I see herons and ducks with frequency, but no cormorants. I don't really recall seeing cormorants to speak of in north Texas, although we did see many at the Everglades this Spring. But yesterday when I took a brief walk at tiny Glendover Park near our home, the little dipper park pond had a cormorant swimming in it. I feel a bit like that fellow in the Truman Show sometimes, as if the Producer puts in extra stuff to make the plot more plausible.
I'm enjoying Trollope's The Duke's Children. Trollope's fiction usually suits me very well. He has such a tolerance for his characters. I worry that I am much too inclined to simply love or hate mine. In real life, Trollope apparently was a fellow who was quick to anger--perhaps he suffered fools more gladly if they were his fools than merely fools in general.
I am eager to see the new Harry Potter, the new Lord of the Rings, and fewer photographs of John Ashcroft. The recent spate of arrests of celebrities for having sex with teenagers or for possessing child pornography really troubles me. Have we lost our way so much that folks have no sense of propriety? Celebs live such odd lives, as the recent Michael Jackson trial testimony illustrates. Of course, as I write this, I remember hearing from an acquaintance of a local school in which a twentysomething employee slept with the high school kids. Indeed, a fellow we used to play sandlot football with when I was in high school and college--arguably the fastest human I've ever know, for whom one merely lofted the ball as far as one could throw it, and he would catch it--now is serving 50 years or so in state prison for having the imprudence to not only get involved with a student, but also to allegedly contact her while he was out on bail to try to intimidate her into refraining from testifying. So I guess it's not limited to celebrities. Call me spoiled--I want life's dysfunctions to be the usual ones of ennui and spiritual crisis--I don't really want dysfunction to be made flesh quite so vividly.
You'd think that people would have enough to do what with routine casual dysfunction, without needing to go in for felony dysfunction. We all make mistakes, but it's nicer when they're indiscretions of the heart and not penal offenses.
I think I'll go back to daydreaming about self-published books and self-released CDs and shimmering guppies and solid chess now.