Tech and water: the computer (part 2 of 2)

I had some conflicts last week between technology and water: phone v. toilet; laptop and drop surface table v. glass of water.

I was happily working downstairs last week as it was a bit cooler. A pint glass of water sat next to me on the dining room table as I typed away on my third book.

Twilight Imperium is serious business.

Twilight Imperium is serious business.

Our table is a magical table — built by Geek Chic six years ago when they were popular but only wait for nine months popular. There is an amazing drop surface under the leaves for playing games. This is the table that Wil inherits from his parents in Best Laid Plans.

We have some custom maps printed that live under the plexiglass down there in the drop surface.

When I knocked my water over into the laptop keyboard, I was first concerned about technology. But my Lenovo Thinkpad is a champ — the water ran out, I pulled back the keyboard cover and dried that sucker out. No problem. I mean, let’s not fool myself, I was pretty upset. But after about 30-45 minutes, I was pretty sure I was okay.

And then I started thinking about the table. I open it up, clean the crumbs, remove the plexiglass (it’s big; really a two person job), lift the grid carefully, pull out the two maps that are something like 3 feet by 4 feet, balance my favorite fan on the edge of the table to dry them, knock the fan over breaking the fan blade. Lay down on floor. Get back up, finishing drying and cleaning, put table back together.

Contact Vornado fan customer support — they are sending me a new fan blade. I’ve had this fan for fifteen years. I love this fan. Maybe not as much as the table, but close.

Watch computer anxiously. Discover primary writing project (Book three in the Greywater Chronicles) file is corrupted and missing sections. Email Scrivener technical support. Get response in less than hour. Scrivener is AWESOME! Fix file. Find missing sections. Turn everything off and sit very carefully in the backyard.

Finish day at Rose and Thistle on patio. Thank god.

Lessons: never go anywhere near water again? Although I suspect I’d have worse luck with whiskey.

Tech and water: not such a great week (part 1 of 2)

I had some conflicts last week between technology and water: phone v. toilet; laptop and drop surface table v. glass of water.

bathroomPart 1: the phone saga. I had my lovely Nexus 5x jammed in the back pocket of my jeans. I love this phone. It’s about five months old. It’s also way too large for most of my pockets.

So, with the phone sticking out of my back pocket, I sat down on the toilet to pee. When I stood up, the top edge of the phone caught on toilet seat and flipped into the pee water. My first toilet/phone accident.

I’m proud to say I immediately grabbed that phone without thinking about it. Turned it off. Dried it off. Stuck it in some rice, which kept pulling water out of the bottom ports. Ran a hand vac over it. Dabbed at it with Q-Tips.

Wonderfully, it powered up just fine a few hours later.

Only a day later when someone called me did I discover that the speaker for talking on the phone didn’t work. The good folks at Gadget Fix on NE Broadway took it apart, cleaned it, and now it’s working again. Phew.

But little did I know that I had more disaster in my future. I’ll pick at that wound tomorrow.

Delightful things from April 2016

April has been lovely in Portland, Oregon, and we are full of delightful things (take that aslilac you will). Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Little Free Libraries: I keep stumbling across these wonderful little boxes of books, and I’m a bit happier every time. These are all over the world!
  2. BodyVox: one more weekend to see their fun and thought-provoking dance show, Pearl Dive Project, here in Portland. Eight dances choreographed by non-choreographers. Very cool.
  3. Portland Art Museum: a fascinating exhibit of photography by contemporary Native American photographers: Zig Jackson, Wendy Red Star, and Will Wilson. I really liked getting to see their work with Edward Curtis’ photography from a hundred years ago.
  4. Finishing Pandemic Legacy: this game is really fun. If you’re already playing Pandemic, you should treat yourself and a couple of friends to playing this serial game over twelve months of fighting a pandemic. More on Board Game Geek.
  5. Lady Rizo: I always love getting to see Lady Rizo, and the show this last week at Star Theater in Portland was particularly wonderful/awesome/inspiring. I’m not sure why I love how she eats a glove, but it makes me so happy every time.
  6. Bikeytown is coming to Portland!!! I’m terribly excited about bike share. So often I want to ride in one direction and walk in another, or take a bus, or hitch a ride with someone. I also hate locking my bike up on the street.

Marketing. It burns. It burns.

My pretties!This started as a normal update on the ins and outs of marketing books and rapidly took a turn to weird. Consider it an essay. About marketing.

So, I’ve got two novels available and a third in active edits, but I’m still finding my audience. Fair enough. I’ve working in digital marketing. I know (sort of) how this works. (See Rules for Being Online and Theory of Twitter)

But then I start getting tangled up in my methodology. And then I get tangled up in the word “methodology.” I won’t follow this tangle any further.

But fundamentally, I want to try to do this on my own, from scratch. No smoke and mirrors. I currently have minimal budget other than my time. Sounds great. What could go wrong?

Know your readers/customers/audience: well, since I don’t have that many yet, I have my imaginary personas. They are helpful only to a point.

Know your self: working on this one. Silly, fun, kind stories about the complicated, mixed-up, inconsistent nature of who we are.

Content Marketing: this blog post, email newsletters, videos that I haven’t made, podcasts I haven’t recorded. Provide real people with interesting content, and they will connect to me and to my books. Sounds great. But takes time. And hard to not judge this content even more than my original fiction writing.

And again, none of matters if the books aren’t selling.

Social media: damned if I’m going to pay for any services to get followers/likes/strokes. I’ll use a service like Hootsuite to help me time my own content, but I’m not going to automate anything. Everything will be touched by me. But then I start get sucked into the numbers game. The ego stroke. The sexbots. The drugs. Well, not the drugs. But the whole world is bizarre. And maybe I’m being stupidly stubborn on the manual management.

And at some point, none of this matters if books don’t sell.

And I start crossing paths with people who seem mean. I want the friendly marketing bots to come back. Come back, friendly marketing bots. Make me feel better about myself without being a scary person.So far, I’m sticking to my principles of touching everything. Even the sexbots.

Advertising: costs money and requires copywriting skillz I lack. Brief experiments did not have the return on investment (ROI) I wanted. But I know about ROI. So that’s something.

Giveaways: sure, I have some books on hand. But shipping costs money. Although I always have Little Free Libraries. And my Goodreads giveaway actually was really fun (and I think may have helped with sales). I should try again.

Events: a little tough as a friendly introvert, since writing a blog post is always an alternative. Also quickly costs money since I feel strongly about beer and wine being present at events. Maybe I could find a beer and wine sponsor? Someday I’ll have to actually talk to a book store as well. But they are as scary as some of the grumpy people online. Chase my tail in circles.

Publicity/PR: well, shoot, I have no idea how to do this. I talked boldly about press releases and outreach and press kits and blah blah blah. I read the advice of writing marketers about press releases and interesting pitches. I did none of it. Perhaps this blog post will push me into taking action.

I’m also not sure how much to believe the writing marketers. A lot of the advice seems like it’s from the 1980s and was never updated. An easy solution would be to have a conversation with a few reporters about how they find stories. But they seem scary.

Sits down with bourbon and pouts. Clearly, I need to talk to people. All sorts of people. I have learned to order pizza over the phone. For my spouse’s travel hacking hobby/obsession/awesomeness, I talk to credit card companies. I give professional presentations with a minimum of stress. I write scolding emails about appropriate information management techniques and code documentation. I can learn how to do this.

And I’ll always have the social media sexbots. They want me. I know it.

Next steps

Writing this blog post was cathartic. I was going to say oddly cathartic, but I think catharsis was exactly what I was looking for. So, moving forward…

  1. Take advantage of local friends’ expertise and classes. Meeting with people and attending a one day small business class on marketing later this week. Pulling all my marketing thoughts into one primary document in preparation for marketing class.
  2. Focus on the Portland angle right now. I have had this vision of finding a worldwide audience right away. But my story as an author (and within my books) has a strong Portland bent. I might as well us this. I am passionate about this.
  3. Use my current (small) profits to run some online advertising campaigns and see how it goes. Amazon and Goodreads seem like the most promising…I think.
  4. Reviews, reviews, reviews. Keep chipping away at this.
  5. Content marketing is great as a baseline, but gotta keep moving forward on items 1-4.

My first two books are now available on this site and Amazon.com. You can follow Taylor on GoodreadsTwitterFacebook, Instagram, and/or sign up for email updates — whatever works for you.

The Future in the Greywater Chronicles

The Greywater Chronicles are in the future. It’s true. But also not particularly overt. In fact, you could easily read the books as taking place in the 1990s as much as the 2040s. The first three books are focused on love and friendship, and the time period of the books is a (delightful) surprise for anyone who is paying attention.

But if you are paying attention, there are some interesting things going on.

  1. Things that are different in the future aren’t really remarked upon by the characters. The future is usually more boring and less exciting that we suspect.
  2. The cars drive themselves. We still have taxi drivers since we’re not allowed to have self-driving cars without human oversight.
  3. Global warming is real; greywater plumbing and energy efficiency are all the more critical.
  4. Portland became uncool, cool, and uncool again. In the mid-2040s, Portland is considered a bit provincial and not a hip place to live.
  5. The earthquake has not yet hit. This might change in a future book.
  6. We have mobiles and computers, but there is no discussion of what these look like and how we interact with them. For my  characters, the technology is unremarkable and unremarked upon. Some technology is seamless, with more devices referred to with a simple noun rather than any fancy new language.
  7. Old and young live together. The baby boomer generation is dying off, leaving us with a surplus of housing built for the old. At the Misty Forests Recovery and Adult Living Center, the longer-term residents are mostly older, but this is likely to continue to shift to a more balanced demographic.
  8. Portland has figured out how to deal with mental health crises with MenPros (Mental Health Professionals). Yay!
  9. The United States has not solved debt for higher education. Boo!
  10. People are still silly.

A Theory of Twitter

I like Twitter.

I’ve used Twitter since 2008, although my current active account is much newer. There’s a lot of noise (and sometimes mean people), but I’ve a lovely groove of finding interesting people sharing things we love.

Most of the people I interact with on Twitter are not part of the rest of my life, and it’s a delightful way to broaden my world. I love the unexpected discovery, share, or communication. Here are a few of the key ways that I use Twitter.

Lists
I love, love, love lists. This is how I usually view Twitter. I like my curated control over the Twitter content, and I like sharing my lists. I usually keep about half of my lists private, either because they are for work purposes or that I’m still building them out.

After lists, I will view my main feed, and then oftentimes various hashtags that I enjoy.

How I decide to follow
I like accounts that are real people, with some indication that they are posting their own thoughts and content to Twitter, and there is some hope that we might interact directly with each other.

If it’s an account with a really high volume of Tweets or followers, I might add to a list, but I’m unlikely to follow. Many accounts are also auto-posting from another source (Instagram, YouTube, etc.), and I’m unlikely to follow them.

Follow each other
I am a big believer in reciprocal following. This seems polite and this also can be an indicator of whether I’m following someone who is actively managing their account.

If I am following someone and they never follow me back (I typically give someone 1-4 weeks to follow back), I usually add them to a list if I’m still interested in their content and then I unfollow.

Sometimes I unfollow accounts that are following me. This is usually when their tweets are nothing but marketing (unless marketing something I love), particularly automated marketing, or violate my rules of good internet behavior. Muting is used as a probationary activity for excessive tweeting (ie, flooding my main feed with self-promotional messages or engaged in a lengthy private conversation).

I don’t follow people tweeting really mean stuff or sexbots, although both kinds of accounts can make me laugh.

Housekeeping
I try to review my followers and other interactions at least weekly to make sure I haven’t missed anyone interesting. I do this via the Twitter web platform.

I have the Twitter app on my Android phone and I frequently use that to check in on what’s happening with Twitter and interact with others. I recently turned off the email notifications since the phone app was keeping me sufficiently tuned into my interactions.

I also use Hootsuite to keep content from getting too bunched up. If I’ve got a bunch of fun stuff or weird ideas, I’ll space it out to not totally flood people’s feeds. There are a number of other tools to automate responses, direct messages, and following, but I prefer to manage all those interactions through the main Twitter web and phone apps.

A final note
Since Twitter controlled by an external corporation, I also understand the whole infrastructure could change. So I try not to be too attached to functionality or visuals. And just enjoy the content!

My own rules for being online

I’m trying to be more intentional about my online activity — for my own mental and emotional health, as well as protecting my time to do other cool and fun things. And having time for chores, I suppose.

Social media is a double-edged sword for me. I love the connections and swapping of cool info and serendipitous discovery. I’m not so fond of my internal monologue and emotional response to negative content. I also can slide into feeling that everyone else is having a marvelous life with each other while I live alone in a dirt hole. When I start freaking out about negative content or my unworthiness, I need to back away from the computer or phone and go run around outside. I am moderately good at actually doing this.

I’ve also benefited from having some clear rules* about my own social media posts.  When I can’t live up to these rules or I’m regularly interacted with others who are not, it’s again time for me to go run around the block.

The rules:

  1. Be kind.
  2. Be generous.
  3. Share information, ideas, and cool stuff. If it’s not yours, share with attribution.

The guidelines**

  1. Communicate and share without using automated responses, if possible.
  2. Don’t engage with meanness (unless maybe to thank someone for sharing their thoughts).

*I debated calling them guidelines, but I think they really are more than guidelines. But sometimes rules do get broken. So then I try to be kind and generous to myself even though I messed up and was a jerk.
**Okay, these are guidelines.

Some March favorite things

So many wonderful things! Here are some of my most favorite things from the last few weeks in March.

  1. 2016-03-23 19.11.31The 21 Balloons by William Pène du Bois. An entertainingly weird children’s story that I’ve recently enjoyed as a bedtime story for myself.
  2. Chesa: Spanish food in NE Portland, including paella and delicious gin & tonics.
  3. Twilight Imperium: Okay, this board game is a doozy, but I have accidentally managed to really learn to rules. So despite my preference for 90 minute games, I am looking forward to a day of Twilight Imperium every three to six months. And I have an evil plan for the next time. Shhh, don’t tell anyone I play with…
  4. Prism Dice. It’s on Kickstarter. Based in Portland. They are so pretty.
  5. Sex and the City: I was home sick and ended up watching much of the first season. I’d maybe watched an episode or two before, but never enough to follow the intrigue. I’m enjoying it more than I expected! Also, I’m really, really boring compared to them. I like to sleep and I hate uncomfortable shoes. I guess I do like wine and cocktails, so we do have that.
  6. Getting to see The Godfather on the big screen at Hollywood Theatre in NE Portland. That was great fun!

Detail & imagination: playing with the ideas

One of the tensions I find most interesting in writing is between providing real, vivid details and creating space for the reader’s imagination. I have an overactive imagination and as a reader, I love filling in the open areas of books to build connections to my own experiences. This is particularly true for me in romance, fantasy, and science fiction.

Because of this, there are some intentional ambiguities in the Greywater Chronicles universe with Mistakes Were Made and Best Laid Plans. I read a lot of classic science fiction growing up (and enjoyed Star Wars) where I switched the gender of the heroes. While my characters do have a specific gender identity and use gendered pronouns, I chose many names that do not have single gender uses and character traits and professions that do not always line up with traditional western ideas of gender. Besides a nice push back against more rigid roles, this hopefully also allows readers to more easily see their own gender identity in my characters.

I also like to imagine that I live in the cities or farms or tents or spaceships or castles of my favorite books. The Greywater Chronicles are clearly set in Portland, Oregon, but I don’t name the city initially. Furthermore, the

Race and class are perhaps the trickiest for me to give space for the reader to see themselves. I try to use descriptions that show the personality of my characters while not excluding readers’ own physicality. However, my characters are reasonably well employed, and not struggling with being part of a minority or oppressed group. They just want to find love and happiness, which is a luxury we rarely acknowledge.

All this being said, I also love stories that are incredibly specific in the details so that I can attempt to imagine life as someone completely different from myself. I’d be sad if everything was written so that I could project myself onto the characters, but I quite enjoy some character projection from time to time.

Some awesome (and not so awesome) things from last week

All sorts of fun and frustration this last week. In no particular order, some cool stuff!

  1. The Twitter hashtag #SciArt pulls up some amazingly beautiful stuff. I’ve added a nature photo of my own below, but you should go see the real art.
  2. Frustration/sadness with the discovery that scalpers are a very real thing — tried to buy pre-sale tickets for the Flight of the Conchords show and was unable to do so (at least initially), but tons of great seats immediately started showing up on the ticket re-sale sites. Very sad. Fortunately, I found sympathy with other fans online and then tried again some more a day later and managed to get a couple of seat waaaaay in the back. Spent some time speculating over dinner about how to counter scalpers — and didn’t come up with any realistic/non-intrusive ways to pull it off for larger performances.
  3. Wonderful food, wine, and drinks at Coopers Hall in Portland, Oregon. Delightful evening with friends, but check that they are not closed for a private party before going. It’s funny to buy a glass of wine that costs as much as I often spend on a whole bottle, but it’s also a delicious treat.
  4. I quite love Ghostbusters and I’m looking forward to seeing the new Ghostbusters this summer. If you too have a fondness for ectoplasm, snot, vomit, and ghostly (demonic?) possession, enjoy this preview. That being said, this is Ghostbusters people: keep your expectations under control.
  5. Craig Robinson is on tour. Go see him if you can. He’s in Portland at Helium Comedy Club at the end of March. I’m missing him. 🙁 But it’s okay, I can hear him singing highly inappropriate things very quietly in my ear.
  6. I’m working my way through the Rama series for the first time since I was a young teenager, and while they aren’t perfect, they’re a fun imagining about a very cool alien spaceship and how humanity responds. And we all know about my feelings about spaceships…  Buy the Rama books from an independent bookstore (I’ve linked to Broadway Books in NE Portland this time).

Good afternoon, Mr Tarragon. I’m going to eat you! Bwahahahahaha. #garden #herbs #dinner

A photo posted by Taylor Rush (@rush.taylor) on