Procrastinating and falling forward

It wasn't quite the weekend I intended, and then it was. That's kind of cryptic, but here's how it happened.

I needed to keep the Lisa Burton Radio line moving. I'm in the habit of telling folks two weeks out when to expect their radio interview. At one week out, I send a final proof to that week's guest, assemble, and schedule the post. That was my primary goal, because folks are counting on me to get it done. Mission accomplished.

I needed to write my last micro-fiction for October, but put it off all day Saturday. I've learned, when procrastinating on these, that something isn't quite ready yet. That was the case with the last story.

The novella, called The Hat, tried to seduce me all day. I promised myself I wouldn't start it until next weekend, and staved off the craving by writing a blog piece about the Research Sirens. This was only partially fiction. Conversia, one of the sirens, wanted me to interview some folks to get the details right. I have reached out to a medical person and a musical person, and they are willing to help me. In the comments, I also got another offer of musical assistance. It's so cool to know folks who will help out. I'm willing to consult on anything I might know about too if anyone needs it.

I spent a big part of today on email, and Sharknado Five. Yeah- yeah, these films suck, but how bad they suck is part of the appeal.

Old What's Her Face, said she needed a pedicure and asked if I could watch the dogs while she was out.

“Well, of course, Honey. Whatever you want.”

While she was gone, the stars lined up for my last micro-fiction. I wanted some confusion, and I want readers to see it right away in this story. I'm doing it on purpose, and don't want readers to think I'm just an idiot when things happen out of order. Today, I was ready to put it all on paper, and did. This one made me emotional when I wrote it, and I hope that comes across.

These micros will post, one per week, during an October event I call Macabre Macaroni. Tuesday is usually a non-blogging day for me, and works perfectly for this event. This year there are five Tuesdays, so I needed five stories. I have them now.

I've adopted the philosophy that if I'm going to fall – fall forward. That's kind of how it worked, and I'm pretty pleased with my weekend effort.

I have to make a road trip to Moscow, Idaho on Wednesday. I will drive back on Thursday. I'll check in when I can, so make sure to treat Lisa's radio guest well during my drive home. I'll weigh in on the comments as soon as possible.

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#Bookreview – Will ‘O the Wisp by C.S. Boyack

A wonderful review of Will O’ the Wisp. I particularly enjoyed learning what Robbie’s sons thought of the book. It’s getting close to that time of year. If you’re looking for some seasonal reading, Wisp might be for you.

Robbie's inspiration

Will O' the Wisp by [Boyack, C. S.]

What Amazon says

There is something evil up Bergamot Holler, and it’s been targeting the Hall family for generations.

Patty Hall is fifteen years old. She loves stargazing, science fiction, and all things related to space exploration. This leaves her perfectly prepared for the wrong problem.

Patty is afraid her mother will send her to a care facility if she tells her what she’s seen. If she doesn’t figure things out soon, she’s going to join her father in the Hall family cemetery plot.

Patty has to come to grips with her own physical handicap, face the wilderness, and an ancient evil all alone if she’s going to survive.

Will O’ the Wisp is suitable for young adults. It involves elements of suspense, and is set in the mid 1970s.

Our review

Patti Hall is a young girl of 15 years old, who is just starting her Freshman year in…

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A bit of research

Lisa walked into the paranormal office while buckling on her gun belt. She had a look of grim determination. She’d put on her jodhpurs, boots and top from the time we went on the outlining safari. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”Lisa Burton
“It’ll be fine. If I’m going to write these stories, a bit of research is necessary. I don’t know some of the details and I want to make the stories plausible.”

“You’re stories are all speculative fiction.”

“That’s not what I mean. Sure they have fantastic elements, but the real-world stuff has to be that much more accurate.”

“Those girls are hell-bent on destroying your writing career by sending you down a wormhole of research. They aren’t called the Research Sirens for nothing.”

“That’s why you’re coming, to protect me. I enjoy research, and a certain amount of it is necessary.”

“Yeah, and a certain amount of it isn’t. Remember when they talked you into flying to China? If Lorelei hadn’t showed up you’d still be there today.”

“They’re the best researchers ever, and I want their help.”

“I’ll pull the Land Rover around. It goes with my outfit.” She headed up the stone steps, then turned back. “Lorelei will be pissed if she finds out.”

“Then we can’t let her find out.”

***

Lisa parked behind the Olympus Lounge in the tiny mountain town. She set the meeting up, and this is where the Sirens chose.

She made me wait in the car while she looked around the parking lot, one hand on her big assed gun at all times. She held up her hand and made a come here motion with two fingers. She shouldered her canvas map-bag and we went inside.

The lounge was decorated with marble columns running up into a darkened ceiling. We crossed a marble floor while glancing at busts of famous authors.

The ladies waited on various pieces of plush furniture. Wiki sat cross-legged on a huge beanbag with her nose buried in the iPad mini she never seemed to be without. Her red A-line haircut looked like it was multiple shades from various dyes, and had been cut to look like it was chewed into shape. She wore a tee-shirt with the Apple logo, a denim skirt, black leggings, and sneakers.

Wiki had always been the most helpful, and she wrinkled her nose in the most adorable way when she spotted us. She jumped up and skipped to a table booth had been reserved for our meeting.

Conversia rose from the sofa and straightened her black sequined dress. Her caramel skin and huge spiral perm drew instant attention. The scoop neck on her dress wasn’t something that could be ignored. She walked gracefully to the table, heels clacking on the stone floor as she walked.

Libraria came out of the back somewhere. Her blonde hair was in a tight ponytail, and she hadn’t given up on the sexy librarian look. She carried a tray with a carafe of red wine and five glasses. She glanced at me over the top of her glasses before placing the tray on the table.

Conversia gestured at my chair and I took a seat.

Libraria poured the wine and offered me a glass first.

Lisa scooped it up and took a tiny sip. Her eyes fluttered as she did a complete chemical analysis. “He won’t be having any today. He brought his own.” She reached in her canvas bag and produced a small thermos and tin cup. “He prefers coffee anyway.”

Wiki leaned forward and gushed. “What are we doing today?”

“I, um, I’m working on two novellas and I’m nearly ready to start. They’re quite different, and I need to get some details right.”

Libraria said, “Thank the Gods you came to us first. Starting now could be a disaster. You need to do your research until everything is perfect. Why don’t you tell us what you have in mind.”

“Well, one of them is about these people locked in an underground bunker. They’re stuck there for three months, because of a regular thing that happens in their solar system. As a part of the story, I need to know about the human circulatory system.”

“What you need is a good book on anatomy. Entry into medical school would be even better, but you may not have time. I have a complete library here and can help you find anything you need.”

Wiki turned her iPad toward me and opened her mouth in a silent “ta-daaa” gesture. The whites of her eyes were framed by the heavy mascara she always wore. Her black fingernails and collection of friendship bracelets framed a YouTube video of the human circulatory system.

“Is that a new nose-stud?”

“It is! Thanks for noticing. It’s a real diamond too–”

Conversia placed a perfectly manicured, red fingernail under my chin. She turned my head her direction. She batted her eyes and leaned forward, the scoop-neck of her dress guaranteeing I wouldn’t turn away. “Pay attention. Sometimes all you need is a consultant. Someone else has already done this research. All you need to do is find them and ask them some logical questions.”

“Uh-huh, um, what kind of questions?”

“What do you intend to have happen in your story? Ask if that’s plausible.”

“Okay, so I have another story where the character is going to learn to play the upright bass. I don’t know anything about bass clef.”

Squee! Look at these cute bass clef earrings I found.” Wiki wrinkled her nose and turned her iPad back towards me.

Lisa moved towards her. “Those are really cute.”

Wiki slid over in the booth so Lisa could sit down.

Libraria said, “I also have books about music theory, simple chords, and can even find you one about how to build your own bass.”

“Girls!” Conversia said. “The man needs another consultant. There are any number of music teachers, instrumentalists, and whatnot that could answer his questions. I suggest a month or two in Vienna or someplace where he can really learn.”

“It isn’t going to be symphonic in nature. It’s more like rock-a-billy, bluesy stuff.”

“I see,” Conversia said. “Perhaps I can set up a mentorship with Brian Setzer or someone similar.”

“That would be awe–”

Lisa slapped me across the forehead. She opened her mouth and played back an audio recording of my own voice. “I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to be plausible.”

I leaned back in my chair and sipped my coffee. The girls leaned back in the booth, and Libraria crossed her arms.

“I think we’re done here,” Lisa said.

Wiki turned her iPad around once more. In a half-hearted voice she said, “Look, a cute cat… playing an upright bass.”

Lisa grabbed me by the collar and stood me up. She pointed me toward the door and gave me a shove.

“Bye, ladies. Always a pleasure,” I said over my shoulder.

***

Lisa pulled onto the highway out of town. “You’re such a dope. A few horn-rimmed glasses, a scoop-neck collar, and a wrinkled nose and you’re ready to move to Vienna. I told you they were dangerous. Lorelei told you they were dangerous.”

“I think Conversia was onto something though. I need a consultant for each story.”

“I have all your friends in my database, and there are a couple who will do a wonderful job. I’ll send out some email and see if they’re interested.”

“At least you didn’t fall under their spell.”

“Don’t be so sure. Wiki and I ordered those earrings, and a bass clef pendant to go along with them. We’ll be like sisters, she said.”

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The day I accidentally created the universe

I walked out of work at 5:30. My mind was full of ideas about all the blog projects I have to get to. Lisa's radio show demands constant attention to keep it up to date. I have a couple of October invites I need to get to as well. Then there is the matter of one last micro-fiction for my October celebration.

Lorelei, the Muse leaned against my tailgate. She faced the Boise Mountains, and I knew she wanted something. She knows I like that view of her athletic form, and she taunts me whenever she wants something. She wore heels and a short skirt, but abandoned the jacket in this heat. She walked up to the passenger door and waited for me to unlock it. She looked fantastic, but then she is a minor goddess.

We buckled in and I worked my way out of the parking lot to the stop light. “So what's up today. You seem to be jumping in fast after your vacation.”

“I know you have ideas, and I just want to know when you're going to get on with them.”

“I plan on writing the micro this weekend. It's only a two day weekend for me.”

“Yes, and you have all your blog duties, I understand. It's time to get started on the novellas. Have you done anything with them?”

“I was thinking I might start the first one next weekend. I have outlines, characters, and more. I've been dwelling on The Hat a lot lately. I even have a character name.”

“And?”

“Lizzie St. Laurent.”

“That's a mouthful, but sounds appropriate to the story. When do you think Lizzie can get to work?”

Next weekend. In fact, I keep trying to go beyond the story, so I know it's time to start writing.”

“Going beyond isn't always bad. Maybe there's more than one story to Lizzie.”

“If it's a novella, how do you pull that off? A second novella?”

“Let's not get ahead of ourselves. You haven't written the first one. Remember telling me a story will be as long as it needs to be? Maybe it's actually a novel.”

“Would you be mad? I know you want a novella.”

“We've gone over this before. I inspire – you create. That's up to you. I'm only trying to steer your career in directions that could benefit you.”

Her sandalwood perfume was inspiring me. It's so rare these days that it sometimes warns me she's around. “I've had a couple ideas for a follow up story, but nothing is taking full form yet.”

“Like I said, no rush. Deal with this one first. Maybe you can write one of your short stories about her for the next Experimental Notebook.”

“That would probably be best. You know what would be fun? I could team her up with Jason Fogg. He should get another story in any future Notebook. He has a science fiction background, and she has a paranormal basis though.”

“So? Doesn't seem to stop your robot girl from interviewing angels and ghosts.”

“I mean, well, I suppose it could be done. She'd probably do better with others of her kind though.”

“If you say so. It isn't like you're lacking for paranormal characters.”

“Yeah, but the guys from Panama are over a hundred years in history. Even the Will O' the Wisp kids are nearly fifty years in the past.”

“Keep talking it out.”

“I don't under– Oh, she might get along well with a bunch of characters from The Playground. Gina, Morley, Helena, Justine, even Clovis under the right circumstances because he brings so much tension to any scene.”

“Now you're getting it.”

“Maybe one day I'll do my own paranormal team adventure. It could be like the Marvel Universe, but I'm no Stan Lee.”

“Neither was he, until he was.”

I suspected I was high on sandalwood. “Maybe Lizzie, Jason Fogg, throw in Clovis and Justine, maybe Morley Jenkins. Take on some huge world class bad guy.” I turned to the passenger seat, but she was gone.

She'd done it again; filled my head with ideas, most of which will never bear fruit. This is kind of her style. I wind up dwelling on things and eventually stories take shape. I knew my head had been filled with all kinds of inspiration, and I'm actually looking forward to see what takes form.

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Foul is Fair, on #LisaBurtonRadio

Coming at you with one point twenty-one jigawatts of power, this is Lisa Burton Radio. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl, and with me in the studio is Ashling, a pixie from An Teach Deiridh. “Welcome to the show, Ashling.”

“Thank you for having me and for accommodating my service crow. Say hello, Count.”

‘Caw.’

“I find it odd that you’re from a fairy castle, but choose to spend the bulk of your time in Seattle. What’s so cool about Seattle?”

“Well, for one thing, there’s the Fremont Troll, and I totally know the guy who was the model for that, true story. Then there’s the football, and the fact that I first met the Count in Olympic National Park, not long before my wings got hurt, but really, one goes where the job leads. So really the main quality of Seattle most related to my spending so much time there these past couple decades is the local music scene and, specifically, a certain beautiful redheaded bass player in the late ‘90s. She and my employer, well, the relationship didn’t really end all that well, but it was fun while it lasted, apparently, and they got Megan out of it. Good kid, Megan. Likes art. Her father never really made it back to Seattle once he left, so she’s kinda been my super top secret charge.”

“Wait a minute. You have a job in Seattle? You mentioned your employer and your charge. Can you tell our listeners a little about that arrangement?”

“You ever try to keep a secret in the Faerie castle of An Teach Deiridh? It is not easy. Not even when the secret’s over in the mortal realm. And it’s not like the mortal realm is super safe anyway. Consider the odds that now that they’ve figured out cockroach mind-control, jewel wasps are clearly planning their next steps in world domination.

“So here I’ve been, flitting back and forth, trying to keep Megan safe and secret. And this is working in an environment where 90% of people look at a pixie and only see a butterfly. Very good for keeping a low profile, although as usual, my disability makes it a little complicated, because even your average human might blink a little at seeing a butterfly perch on the back of a crow to fly. But as usual, we make it work.”

“Now back to Megan, you called her your charge. Who gave you this mission?”

“That would be my employer, the Unseelie King. And the whole mission’s been disrupted ever since he’s gone missing. Ambushed. The kidnapping’s also led to the secret getting out somehow about Megan. Kinda couldn’t wait anymore to start talking to her about her heritage. Barely solved the medication issue – did you know that overdosing on too much ADHD medication can interfere with focusing one’s magical heritage? Little-known fact. I knew, of course. It’s my job to know these things. But anyway, barely dealt with getting her medication back to normal when she’s attacked by a redcap. In broad daylight. In Seattle. That’s An Teach Deiridh politics for you. Seelie, Unseelie—nearly everyone’s working an angle and a weapon. And we’ve got to get the king back. We especially need to get him back by Halloween, when it all gets even more complicated, and Megan’s so new at this, she literally had to ask if her dad was ‘80s David Bowie… I’m telling you, Lisa, my plate is pretty full at the moment … Count, when did I last eat?”

‘Caw’

Of course that counts as a meal. ‘Pixie’ was right there in the name, so it must be good for me…”

“Stay with me here Ashling, don’t crash just yet. Have some M & Ms, lots of sugar there. So the drama over at An Teach Deiridh is getting in the way of your mission with Megan? Who’s left defending the palace?”

“Oh, plenty of people say they’re defending An Teach Deiridh. Sidhe, bane sidhe, trolls, redcaps, pixies, sprites. Of course, even though the castle is primarily associated with Irish and British faeries, we’ve actually got Fairy Folk from origin-cultures around the world. Scandinavia, for instance, or Greece. We’re very cosmopolitan.

“Megan’s BFF is one of the menehune, the Hawaiian engineering faeries, and let me tell you, it’s nice to have it clear a few people are definitely on your side in all this politics. She’s also got an in on some arrangements to keep an eye on Megan’s mother through all this mess. I can’t do everything myself.”

“So what has to happen to get the king back home and set everything back to normal?”

“Well, word is, there’s an artifact that may help get him out of the mess. The Claiomh Solais, the Sword of Light. Thing is, nobody just hands you the Sword of Light. It’s always on the other side of a quest. Very quest-oriented, that sword. Some of the An Teach Deiridh politicians tried sending someone else, and that guy never made it back, so it’s going to be the new princess. And Megan’s just a kid. She’s managing to learn a little bit of bardic magic—you know, where you do the spell with music—due to my fabulous on-the-road explanations, but she certainly can’t handle this all alone.”

“Oh come on. We all know who’s going to take up the quest. Load your backpack with M & Ms and Pixie Stix and get on with it. What kind of risks will you face?”

“You ever hear of the Wild Hunt? The deadly annual Faerie sporting event? Well, in their down time, some of those things are going to be in our way. And so will unfordable rivers with occasionally migratory whirlpools, and that’s before we get to the lost city of Findias –“

‘Caw

“I don’t want to talk about that part, Count. I wouldn’t want you to get all emotional. And anyway, Lisa, this is all on a time crunch. If the king isn’t back by the ritual deadline, it will throw off the entire mystic balance of the seasons that will slowly destroy nearly all the art and music in the world. I think that’s giving poor Megan a bit of pressure. Luckily, I’m there to keep a level head. Quiet, stoical support; I’m very good at that.”

“Ashling, I wish you and Megan the best of luck. The obstacles are formidable, but I have faith in you. Any last ideas you want to leave with our listeners?”

“We’re almost done already? But I have so much I need to tell your listeners about. I mean, I bet they’d like to know where faeries come from. And why Count is named Count. And what everything has to do with the price of tea in China. And why dragons hate bridges. I’m full of useful knowledge. That’s why the King keeps me around, and entrusts me with keeping an eye on his daughter.

“Okay, fine. Last ideas. Everyone should have a crow for a best friend. Oh, and brownies make the best cookies. If a brownie ever offers to make cookies, YES is the only correct answer.

“Any last thoughts, Count?”

‘Caw’

“Well yes, Count. I think that goes without saying. Thanks for having us on the show, Lisa.”

“Listeners can find out what happens with Ashling and Megan in the book Foul is Fair. I’ll put all of the purchase links on the website.

“Don’t forget to use those sharing links on the way out. I’m sure Ashling would appreciate it, and she’d do the same for you when your character appears on the next Lisa Burton Radio.”

***

Lots of girls play Fairy Princess when they’re little. Megan O’Reilly had no idea the real thing was like playing chess, guitar, and hockey all at once. Megan had known for a long time that she wasn’t an entirely typical girl. But living with ADHD—and her mother’s obsessions—was a very different thing from finding out she wasn’t entirely human. Somewhere out there, in a completely different world, her father needs help. There’s a conflict, revolving around Faerie seasonal rituals, that could have consequences for humanity—and if Megan’s getting the terminology straight, it sounds like her family aren’t even supposed to be the good guys. As she’s further and further swept up in trying to save her father, Megan may be getting too good at not being human.

 

Purchase your copy here.

 

 

Jeffrey Cook lives in Maple Valley, Washington, with his wife and three large dogs. He was born in Boulder, Colorado, but has lived all over the United States. He’s the author of the Dawn of Steam trilogy of alternate-history/emergent Steampunk epistolary novels and the YA contemporary fantasy series the Fair Folk Chronicles. He’s a founding contributing author of Writerpunk Press and affiliate of the Clockwork Dragon author’s conglomerate. When not reading, researching, or writing, Jeffrey enjoys role-playing games and watching football. Katherine Perkins lives in Ontario, Ohio, with her husband and one extremely skittish cat. She was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and will defend its cuisine on any field of honor. She is the series editor of the Dawn of Steam series and co-author of both the Fair Folk Chronicles and various short stories, including those for the charity anthologies of Writerpunk Press. When not reading, researching, writing, or editing, she tries to remember what she was supposed to be doing.

Connect with Jeffrey and Katherine at the following places:

authorjeffreycook.com

clockworkdragon.net

facebook.com/dawnofsteamtrilogy

twitter.com/jeffreycook74

 

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The Idea Mill #30

It’s been a long time since I trotted out an Idea Mill post here. Honestly, the feeds I got weren’t that awe inspiring lately. I also got busy with my own writing projects.

I checked my folder, and some of the things I earmarked really weren’t up to snuff, so I went looking.

All authors need inspiration. I get mine everywhere, but I use push feeds to send me news of things that are more my style than what the Kardashians might be up to. When I get a few decent ones, I assemble them into one of these posts. The hope is that one might inspire your next bit of fiction, or enhance something you’re already working on.

Let’s start off with Congress and the Military. You could write any number of horror stories just on those two words, but I found an article. A bill apparently moved from a sub-committee toward the floor of the House that would split the United States Air Force in two. The Air Force would remain, and the new group would be called The Space Corp. It hasn’t happened yet, but the fact they are discussing it lends all kinds of swagger to all those space military stories out there. You can read more here. The military hasn’t done this since the Army Air Corp was turned into the Air Force in the first place.

Let’s throw in the job announcement at NASA too. The one for Planetary Protection Officer.

The timing is ripe for one of those ground floor kind of stories. Maybe set the stage with top secret information that something is out there, and we need protection from it. Then introduce your first group of cadets and start outlining. Can’t find a threat? Let’s give honorable mention to this flying bat-monster over Chicago.

This is a well worn trail, and we all know it. Today, you have a point for some research to add a degree of realism to the piece you create.

Our next story is about unsolved languages. Apparently Facebook’s robots created a language of their own to interact with each other. The punchline is that we don’t know what they’re saying to each other. That could be a story all on its own, but a researcher brought us this cool article about Researching Lost Languages.

To me, this article has more interest than the Facebook news. Robots with a secret language is another well worn trail. There are all kinds of ancient languages out there that we’ve never been able to crack. Without the Rosetta Stone, we may not have cracked hieroglyphics. Other ancient languages don’t have a handy Rosetta Stone lying around. There is even a wonderful Nazi tie in that adds a veil of evil to the whole thing.

An ancient language researcher would make a neat character. It has shades of Dan Brown and Indiana Jones all at once, particularly with the Nazi tie. Maybe we wind up cracking one of these languages, and find out something that we really don’t want to know.

The last one involves a revelation that blood from young animals can slow down the aging process in older animals of the same type. This all started with dental research in the 1950s. Dentists are evil enough to make decent bad guys. Ever seen Marathon Man? It even had a Nazi tie in.

The research led to sewing lab rats together, and intentionally wounding the older of the pair. An unstitched rat was given the same wound. The one with access to young blood healed faster and better. There is even more potential in this research because the article delves into modern stem cell potential. To get more information, read the darned article.

I think I’m going to borrow from this one myself. I still have that Grinders novel I want to get to, and it fits right in. This could fuel any number of mad science type stories. It lends credence to some kind of Lady Bathory tales too. Need a modern day Fountain of Youth, maybe you just found it.

Just for fun, I try to come up with a corny story that uses all these elements. That young-blood story is going to be rough, but I’ll try.

The Men in Black captured a flying bat monster over Chicago. (Extra credit for using him) They tried to communicate with him, but couldn’t understand him until they found a researcher into ancient languages.

The researcher discovered he was speaking one of the ancient languages, but he needed time to interpret it. In the mean time, the Space Corp is formed and the first volunteers join up.

Eventually, the threat is revealed. Bat Monster is a spy, and the researcher recovers his communication kit. This allows eavesdropping on the invaders.

Our Space Cadets, (I hope they call them Space Cadets) ship out. They are going a long ways, so they have to be in suspended animation. Part of the process involves the Cadets donating their own blood as part of their revival process. The blood of eighteen year old Cadets will help reanimate the thirty year old soldiers when they arrive. Then, of course, they have to battle the hideous bat monsters.

How’d I do? More importantly, what will you do? Did you find a useful story element here? Maybe an entire plot?

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Collecting People – Guest Post by, Craig Boyack…

I’m collecting people over at The Storyreading Ape’s place today. Stop over and say hi.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Hi gang, Craig here again. Today I want to go into some of the work required in being an independent author. We can’t cover everything, so I’m going to try giving you a thousand foot flyover. You can plan your attack accordingly.

Being independent means you are in charge of everything. There is no team backing you up. This involves everything between proofreading and promotion. You have to be the general contractor, and the quality control expert.

This means you are going to have to collect people. You’re going to need a system to save them and recall them when you need them. For you youngsters out there, we used to use what we called Rolodexes.

The old Rolodex system worked pretty well back in its day, and I confess to having one on my desk even today. Basic simplicity is hard to replicate in modern society. It seems developers…

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