Can you please explain this to me? Can you please sit me down in a chair, one that doesn’t face the window, because I’m obviously easily distracted, and use small words, because clearly I’m a bit dim in the “I get it” department, and tell me what is going on?Continue reading “About Yes And”
On Going Big or Going Home
When you were a little kid, remember how exciting it was to think about Christmas morning? All the commotion, the gifts, the noise, the screaming parents. Well, maybe not that one, or the barfing dog, but you understand what I’m saying – the anticipation. Oh, how great it was gonna be…Continue reading “On Going Big or Going Home”
Death of Some Salesmen
You’re a writer, you know how it goes. You published the book, and it just sits there, doing nothing except get annoying because…well, because nobody’s reading it.Continue reading “Death of Some Salesmen”
You’re a writer, you know how it goes. You create, create, create, and some of it’s pretty good.
I got this new idea. Actually, my wife got the idea, and I’m going along with it. Actually, I got the idea quite some time ago, and she shot it down, rediscovered the idea on her own, and, well, I’m going along with it.Continue reading “Hey, Fred!”
Forget the Setup, Eddie
What’s the difference between a gorilla and a pound of oranges?
Once, in a galaxy far, far, etc., I had my first novel roll across an editor’s desk at Random House. The editor liked the book, but suggested a small gaggle of changes before they would sign it.Continue reading “Forget the Setup, Eddie”
Five Years to Independence: Year Four – The Year of Sustainability
Wow, sustainability is a buzzy word, isn’t it? Was this taco sustainably produced? What about that triple-spice latte? It’s an overused word in these times of growing awareness, but it applies here.
If you’ve followed along in my sustainably-produced diatribe, you know that Year One was the Year of No Regrets, Year Two was the Year of Confidence, and Year Three was the Year of Accomplishment. All these years are aimed at helping you, the hidden artist, bring your talent to the fore, that you might live your life as the creative individual you truly are.
So, here we are at Year Four, the year with the trendy name. What does it mean? How can talent be sustainable. It’s not like coffee, after all.
This whole five-year program is about building and counting artistic success. You stopped denying that you were talented, you adopted that talent, and then you went out and proved to the world that you are an accomplished talent. I am so proud of you.
The Year of Sustainability is all about doing it again. And again. And again. This is the year in which you make your artistic existence real. It’s a subtle, but very important difference from the Year of Accomplishment.
In that year, you did the big thing – in my case, I leapt away from the world of never-ending, soul-stealing customer service jobs and became a technical writer. A writer, a real writer! Look! It’s on my business card!
The Year of Sustainability is the year in which you prove that your success wasn’t a one-off wonder, a Looking Glass/Brandy hit. This is the year in which you build the structure to keep repeating that success.
In my Year of Sustainability, I proved to the world that I really was a writer by getting myself hired as a technical writer. But then I had to prove it to myself and the company that I was worthy of the title. I did it by staying really focused, being willing to learn, and always open to growing in the job.
That’s your job this year. You must embrace your accomplishment, and make it repeatable, reliable.
Where we go from here is The Year of Independence, in which you let go of the previous you and launch into the abyss of success. Whoa, there’s an image, huh?
Now, the Year of Sustainability, like the Year of Accomplishment, may take more than one year. While it may have taken you a while to reach your accomplishment, it may equally take a touch more than a year to make your success sustainable.
But, the whole point of this exercise is to get it into your head that you are a successful, talented person. You can be the creative individual that you’ve always thought you were. You can do it.
So, get your head around that fact that you have made a huge accomplishment, but it was just the first of many. This is the year in which you prove, to yourself and the universe, that you are a successful, talented individual. Your art is your life.
Okay, true story: my road from empty customer service rep to fulfilled writer has a caveat that we may as well look at.
I’ll admit it: technical writing is not a glamorous job. It does not fulfill my need to tell the stories in my head. It doesn’t sell my novels, and doesn’t bring me fame and fortune.
What this job does, and the reason I count it such a big success, is that it establishes me, my name, my talent, as those of a writer. Yes, it’s technical writer. But the second word in that title means everything.
In this job, I’m surrounded by writers, most of whom are journalists. I speak the language of writers. My work, albeit assembly instructions, is read all over the world every day. These are not the stories that I want to tell, but they are stories that I am paid to tell, and they make my house payment and send my kids to college. That to me is a success.
When I look in a mirror, I don’t see a customer service rep. I look at a writer.
When you look in a mirror, this year I want you to see a writer, or a dancer, a singer, a painter, an actor… I want you to see the you that you know you are. Even if, like me, it’s just a version of who you want to be.
I’m very proud of you. Keep going!
Crows are Smarter than People, but don’t Sizzle
I have proof! It’s true! They are way smarter than I am!
See, I’d seen an ad during the Super Bowl, like, four times, for the McDonald’s Cheesy Bacon Fries, and each time I thought to myself “dang, that’s cool!”
Now, my darling, wonderful wife is out of town, and I find myself with a day off (please don’t tell my wife I did this – she’ll have the I-told-you-so of a lifetime, and I’ve already given her so, so many. It’s safe to post this, because she never reads my stuff. If you don’t tell her, we’re cool).
So, It’s a lovely day at the harbor here in Ventura, and there’s a McDonald’s just a few blocks away. I don’t feel all that hot from an abusive weekend in Las Vegas (being volleyball parents isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be), and, hey, I mean, it’s McDonald’s, right?
The first challenge is that the Cheesy Bacon Fries come in a box with a knife and spork. Uh oh, the gullet says. This could be danger. Then I crack open the box.
So, when we were in Montreal, we discovered a Canadian dish called poutine – fries, cheese curds, brown gravy, and meat, all piled onto a plate. It is heaven on a cold day.
Ronald’s version doesn’t have the brown gravy, but it’s the same thing.
The first taste is really great – man, warm salt and fat. Kind of bacony, a little bit potatoey, and a strong dose of cheesy. Even as I chew it, I’m thinking this is not a very good idea. Kinda of like eating the cake that’s been out on the counter for a couple of days. It might be okay. Might.
So, about the crow. He flies up and takes station on the lamppost, right above my car. He looks at me with that look that crows have – inscrutable, but intriguing. He wants a fry. He’s scared away all the pigeons, and the seagulls haven’t spotted the McD bag yet.
I make sure he sees me waggle a bacon-encrusted cheesy fry out the window, and give it a toss onto the grass. He dives on it the second it’s down.
Now, seagulls are smart. Once, my daughter and I played fetch with one. We had found a golf ball on the beach, and tossed it into the sand down next to the waves. A gull swept down, scooped it up, and dropped in right in front of us. I threw the ball again, and the bird brought it right back. We played like this for maybe 15 throws, until he dropped the ball way out in the water and flew away. Huh. Game over.
But seagulls will eat just about anything. You can make them explode with Alka Seltzer tablets – but please, please don’t. I can’t think of a more awful way to die.
This crow however, perhaps ponders a more awful demise in eating the cheesy bacon fry. He holds it in his beak and stares at me with disdain, his black eye asking “how could you?” He hops onto the back of a bench, the fry firmly held in his beak, and looks thoughtfully out to sea.
The arrival of a flock of seagulls startles him, and he bolts out over the harbor in a stunning show of aerial mastery. He swings over me, the cheesy bacon fry wagging in his mouth, and then out over the water.
With every sign of intention and purpose, he drops the cheesy bacon fry into the bubbling waves, and off he goes.
What does this story have to do with writing books? Everything, my friend, everything and more.
If you , like me, publish your own work (my books are at Smashwords) there’s a huuuuuuuuge lesson here:
I bought the McDonald’s Cheesy Bacon Fries, knowing full well that it was just a box of salt, fat, and a strange orange semi-liquid cheese. No, I couldn’t eat them, because, well, ick. But I gave McD’s my money for the experience. It was all sizzle, and surely no steak.
It’s the sizzle. It has to be the sizzle – sizzle so alluring that it makes you buy a product you really know you shouldn’t have, just because, well, because there’s so much sizzle!
On the health side, I’ll fly with the crows.
But on the marketing side, I’ll take a page from McDonald’s!
Please don’t tell my wife.
Hashtags of sizzle:
#McDonald’s #authorsoninstagram #droppington place #marigolds end
NOW We’re Getting Somewhere!
You’re a writer, you know how it is. You write your book. You push it to agents. Nobody wants to represent it because, well, maybe it’s not that good of a book. Maybe it IS good, but not marketable. That’s what Disney told me.
I had an agent tell me “you should publish this yourself.”
Did so. Well, published this book instead: Droppington Place. But then I sat down and rewrote the book in question, which I have yet to push out to the agently world. That book is this book: Marigold’s End.
Boom – did you see how I did that, there? You notice that here, in the top quarter of my post, I’ve already pitched two products. Boom. Huh? You, my friend, have already been marketed to. Zimzam, what was that? What did it take?
That’s Gorilla Marketing at its best.
Okay, so, contrary to the Gorilla Marketing tenet of “do no work,” I did a little bit of work, and now have something to show you: PhineasCaswell.com.
“Wha… what’s happening?” you exclaim, your mind a whirl of sudden marketing impact. Boom, two books, zimzam, a website, just like that. Whoa. Sit down, my friend, lest you explode or something.
All right, all seriousness aside, if you have a minute, click on the PhineasCaswell.com link – there it is again. Open it in a new window so that you don’t miss any of my glorious words here.
Why is this a big deal? Because, if you publish your own book, you are responsible for marketing it. You need a website to give yourself some bottom – make yourself available for your readers. And, unless you yourself are a web designer, this can be a challenge.
I gave up trying to be a web designer as well as a marketer, an author, a technical writer/illustrator, a videographer, all in addition to being a loving husband and father.
First was Open Element, which gives you free, open-source web design software, with templates that seem to be “responsive” – you know, works well on cell phones as well as desktops. But the software is so so so so so very hard to navigate, and the stuff it seems like you really need? Well, that’s in French, you see…
Next came, Serif, a British company that makes a terrific web design suite. It’s quite inexpensive, but not yet quite up to the challenge of responsive web design.
Then came Google Web Design, which worked for a minute, but I couldn’t figure out the language to navigate their templates… OMG, my website looked ghastly! Like a commercial for Google!
However, GoDaddy, who carries my hosting, has a nifty WordPress plug-in. As above, boom, zimzam, etc, now PhineasCaswell.com is a nice, responsive website, looking equally cool on desktops, tablets and phones (marketers take note: that was yet another link).
Brag about the site though I should, I’m passing on to you, my valued reader, that WordPress seems to be really good at making a responsive website. That means that you don’t have to be.
One little nasty surprise does seem to come with a WordPress plug-in: the SSL certificate. If you haven’t got one of these, your WordPress site actually scares viewers away with a big warning that your site is not safe. I paid $75 to get my certificate. If you don’t pay the $75, you appear to the world as a creepy underworld scum, out to steal passwords. Seems as if there’s a piratical side to fighting pirates that just might be worse…
But you, my marketing self-publishing writer friend, that’s the big news for you, should you be looking for an easy way to build a backend for your authorial effort.
To those who were paying attention, I dropped Phineas Caswell as my nom de plume, and have published both novels under my own name. Not such a big deal for you, but a whopper for me!
Do that Thing that You Do
You. Put down those fish crackers, I’m talking to you. Serious – this is a serious talk. No goofing around about anything. Just drop the crackers.
So, what do you do? Me? I’m a writer. It’s what I do. Technical writing, a little marketing, a little blogging, a couple of novels, a couple of short stories. It’s what I do. Working on a screenplay right now.
In fact, thank you for asking, it’s a screenplay based on my own novel, Droppington Place. It’s a funny story… well, okay. You’re right. We’re being serious here.
Have you seen Kubo and the Two Strings? Lovely picture, although a tad sad. It was made by LAIKA, a film studio in Oregon that makes handcrafted, stunningly animated movies. What could be a better fit? What better film company to make a major motion picture out of Droppington Place?
As you know, I’m a proponent of Gorilla Marketing – do little, expect lots. In this mode, we ask ourselves why we must go through all the hassle of selling millions of books. Why could we not simply approach LAIKA directly, make the motion picture, and then sell the millions of books? You know, it’s not really putting the cart before the horse: it’s more like they’re side-by-side. Boom. Anything could happen.
So I set myself out to write a screenplay from the novel. Piece of cake. I know the book forwards and backwards. What if I simply move these scenes around to make it more, you know, cinematographically friendly?
Well, three things happened. Three. You were expecting two, but, hey, it was three. Sorry to disappoint.
First, in reordering the book for cinematographic friendliness, I found a much better flow to the story. Rats. Now the book needs a rewrite.
Second, in retelling the story for the large screen, I found some motivations for characters I hadn’t seen before. Rats. See above.
Third, I had a revelation. A very sad, very tawdry little revelatory affair that hurts to write about, but you’re a writer. You know how it is.
Shakespeare is quoted as having written, “to thine own self be true.”
I was on an airplane, struggling with the screenplay, when the words came to me. Poop, I thought. I don’t want to hear these words.
The words came as clearly to me as if I had written them myself, but I’m not this good. It was simple poetry, and it hurt to read. It said, “write what you want and it’ll be great.”
Write what you want and it’ll be great.
Stop plotting and planning and pushing and prodding. Stop massaging and manipulating and maneuvering and marketing. What’s in here (taps on chest) is what’s important.
“Your lungs?” I asked.
I have written what I hope will sell, and hope you will buy. I haven’t written the Great American Novel. I’ve written something clever and fun and creative, and that I think you’ll like. I like it.
But the calling is to write what’s inside, and I don’t think it’s about my lungs.
What is the story I was created to tell? What can I give to you that will be great enough to make you think, wow, my life is now better? What epic saga lies inside here (taps on chest)?
So, compadre, we have to saddle up another horse. It’s a long ride ahead, and now there’s another wagon to pull. Please don’t put the saddle on the horse that’s supposed to pull the wagon – you’ll just confuse things.
Okay. You can go back to your fish crackers now.
Make Yourself a Magic Virus
If you’re sick, don’t read this post. There’s a stupid wordplay about viruses that is, well, so bad that we’re just going to skip it.
When you have just under two minutes free, watch this video: Build the San Salvador 4. How about now?
You know how people eat up those “dude, you had one job” videos? That was the thinking behind this little gem. Have to tell you, it still cracks me up, and I had a hand in making it.
So, why make a movie – especially one as dumb as this?
Three little words, my friend. No, not I love you. Or hands up, suckah. No, no, no… and no, not no, no, no either. Magic, she gasped. Ah, yes, our mantra/manta/bantha.
It’s a tight circle, my friend, this marketing thing. At the end of the video, which is calculated to be just funny enough to appeal to a certain age – the very age I’m hoping will read Droppington Place – is my new little logo, and the whispered word “magic.”
So you, you’re so fascinated by the video, you type in PhineasCaswell.Com, just like you see it in the image at the end of the hilarious video, and there is a link to Droppington Place. You click on the link – blink – why, here’s a nifty book for you to read!
Like a spider’s web, one slimy tendril at a time, you have no choice but to be roped into reading at least the free sample. Bwahahahahahaha.
It didn’t take a great deal of effort to make the motion picture. Sort of like, really? And all this linking is sort of sleep-inducing. And, at the end of the day, YOU have to do all the clicking and reading and stuff.
NOW you can see how Gorilla Marketing works… or doesn’t work, because I’m not doing much work… oy, this get’s confusing.
So, click on the link (HERE it is again in case you can’t find it up there), and repeat after me:
“Magic,” she gasped.
If you’d like to read all of Droppington Place for free, go HERE, and tell ’em you’re not paying a dime today, thank you. Boom. Freebie!