Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Working From Home: Time Is Money.






















Louis Shalako




Working from home sounds so wonderful to someone who's never done it..

It can be a blessing and a curse.

That’s because time is money in this business.

There have been times when I wished I could afford to rent an office downtown. I would get to work at 9:00 a.m. and go home at 5:30 p.m. Theoretically you could get just as much done and still have time for what other workers might take for granted, a normal life—whatever that actually means.

Let's not attempt to define it. As it is, if I wake up at 6:00 a.m., the first thing I do is hit the switch on the kettle. I fill it up the night before. My time is my own, but time is also precious.

The second thing I do is to sit down at the computer and open up the first of several email accounts and begin checking emails. The most I’ve ever had in a day was over seven hundred, lately it’s been running a hundred or so emails (mostly automated notifications) per day.

It usually takes about an hour. After that I do a quick check of all accounts. This flies in the face of much expert advice. Conventional wisdom doled out to newbie authors is that; (if) you are just throwing up any old book on Amazon and sitting back and waiting to get rich, then, (ergo) checking your account ten times a day may be a little discouraging. It does you no good, and wouldn’t you be better off writing. Under those exact circumstances, the advice is good, (or good enough.)

However, there are other circumstances. For example, if an author took it upon themselves to conscientiously take a link from their print on demand paperback titles on a publishing platform such as Createspace or any one of a number of fine service providers, then posting the links daily to a number of different social platforms, then checking one’s account on a daily basis (once) is good policy. If you (or I) should suddenly discover that a couple of books went out the door over at Createspace, then one might reasonably conclude that the promotion was effective to some small degree.

If you want to sell a book or two, now you know how to do it—or at least one way to do it.

And every sale is cumulative. It goes towards your total sales. Once you have more than one title available for sale, total sales is the only number that really matters.

This usually takes fifteen minutes or half an hour per day.

The next thing I generally do is to seek out and read relevant stories. I am a writer. I have Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, and a number of other social accounts. I post links there.

I have ten or twenty thousand followers, they would like to see something from me on a regular basis. 

Otherwise, why bother following me at all?

It’s important that the links have some value. It can be useful information, it can be humorous, whatever. 

Depending on who you are, and what you feel is a comfortable brand for you to wear, it might even be calculatedly offensive—certain names come to mind, Howard Stern or Marilyn Manson for example.

It takes time to post three or four links to a plethora (nice word) of different social platforms.

By the time other people are arriving at work, I’ve put in two or two and a half hours.

This morning, I took a story from 6,250 words up to 7,100. That’s part of the job too. I had a bit of time and so I grabbed it.

People don’t really appreciate what we do as writers. I don’t mind sitting there having a cup of tea with someone, but if I’m in the middle of a story, I get a little antsy. I’m looking over my shoulder. I keep looking at that computer. I’m like any other guy—I want to work, I want to make money. This is my job.

I need to make my living. This is also my home—there is that conundrum where sometimes you have to set a limit or something. People don’t see the distinction sometimes, and sometimes neither do I.

I live my work, but then, I also love it. When you waste my work time, you take away something very precious from me—the right (and the responsibility) to work.

This is my blood, my toil, my tears and my sweat, ladies and gentlemen.

***

It’s extremely important to get up out of this chair and away from this desk from time to time.

Last night, I walked the city streets for a couple of kilometres. It doesn’t even last long enough. I wish I could go further, but I have long-standing back injuries and my legs go numb. If I had to dodge a bus or something I’d fall flat on my face. My range is limited. This morning I walked in the woods. It’s just a question of accepting certain limitations. It’s all about quality of life, and that means getting out of here!

This blog story is a thousand words. Still, it takes at least a half an hour or forty-five minutes to write one. It takes time to find a picture, it takes time to format it and load it up on the blog—and I have seven or eight blogs. Research takes time, and I’ve spent whole days looking at stock photos. Yet another person might not even see it or accept it as a viable occupation.

(I say it is.)

As I write this, it’s 4:45 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon. People who work days are thinking about going home and putting some dinner on. I have to cook too, I have to sleep, shower, mop floors, do laundry and take care of household business.

By the time I go to bed, usually around 10:30 or 11:00 p.m., it’s a pretty full day. (Going to bed early means I can get up early and start all over again.)

I don’t make a lot of money, but we do have a little fun once in a while.

It’s no easier than any other way of working, and if you’re getting a lot of irritations and distractions, interruptions and phone calls, then it’s certainly no better than any other comparable white-collar job.

With a little luck, I’ll do two or three thousand words today on what looks like a novel—or a very long short story. I started Sunday morning and it’s up to 7,200 words in four days. That doesn't seem like very much, does it?


With a little luck, I'll sell a book or two along the way.

That makes it all worthwhile.

And there you go. The rant is now over.


END

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Chemical Hockey League

Fanthomas, (Wiki.)








Louis Shalako




Breathing easily, taking long deep breaths, Svetlana Beliveau blinked sweat out of her eyes, unable to brush away a few fine strands of blonde hair under the visor, and waited for the puck to drop. With total clarity she saw that the team hairdresser had missed three or four vital strands and left them long on her right temple. They tickled and annoyed her, falling into her right eye.

She spat and wished for a hydration bottle, glaring at Borge Sninka, looming in his white jersey. All these Finns and Swedes in the game. Coming over here and taking our jobs.

“Grrr.” She growled into his eyes as he stared back calmly, jaws working back and forth.

The hovering android waited until all the players were in position. The face-off was to the left of Howling Monkees goaltender Dave Bletchie and the score was one-nothing in favour of the Witches Brew in the red jerseys, which were her favourite.

With its characteristic twang the hatch popped open, the puck came down and her opponent Mark Sninka’s stick swept through the bulls-eye as she reacted with lightning speed, holding his stick back and knocking the puck to her own winger, number eleven Marcia Feeney. Sninka had anticipated the drop and it was whistled dead on the play. So now she would have to do it again.

“Asshole!”

“Thank you.”

Her heart always warmed to Sninka after a few shifts, he really was a nice guy, a proper gentleman. How they hell they achieved that was a mystery known only to his trainer. She refocused.

She skated out of the circle and arced around back in again. She put her stick on the ice in impatience as Sninka did his own circuit, mouth going, ordering last minute instructions to his winger and defensemen. She hunched. She banged her stick, so did he, and then they froze.

The puck dropped.

This time Sninka was caught on the wrong foot, and she managed to backhand it out of his reach then pass it to centre ice. Paula LeBlanc took a blinding slap-shot that gave up a dangerous rebound. Her forwards raced in and the defense waited for a pass back. She was right there at the right-hand hash-marks, pushing and shoving with Solomon. The Witches were playing their offensive zone well tonight, a good sign. There was a brief scrum in front of the net before Howlers goalie Dave Bletchie dropped and smothered it.

Androids hovered as horns and whistles blew, and players shoved and pushed and mouthed foul words at each other in the goal crease.

The game had a lot riding on it. The Witches were leading the series but the Howlers were only two places out and there was a mathematical chance of taking the number one spot before the first round of the playoffs. 

This would pay off big in the overall TV money apportioning at season’s end.

With two minutes left in the first period and thirty-seven seconds left in the Witches’ power play, they lined up for another faceoff and waited for the puck to drop again.

Svetlana was ready but Sninka was antsy and couldn’t get a grip on his emotions. He kept going too soon. 

Visibly upset, he was waved out of the circle by the robot’s signal arm and his place was taken by Howler right-winger Dale Skaggs.

Skaggs was blindingly fast lately, and he pulled the puck aside before she could even react, and his left defenseman Ed Smithers smacked it the length of the ice. Nine players raced after it, with the Howlers defense holding back and letting Sninka and Skaggs fore-check deep in the zone.

Maxim, (Wiki.)
Witches goalie Red Lincoln came out and dropped on the puck and the play was whistled dead. The arcs and edges of strong players on sharp blades knifed up a flurry of snowy rooster-tails.

A Howler got a little too close and there were precautionary whistles as Solomon and the Witches’ number nine May Belmont pushed and shoved. 

With a one-goal lead to protect and another two full periods to play, it was vital to take advantage of the player advantage, but the Witches just couldn’t make anything out of it. 

Play went back and forth with Howler Randy Booth coming out of the penalty box at full burst. With both sides equal and another set of face-offs in each end, the seconds ran down and then the horn blew.

Players filed off and down to the dressing rooms, Coach Linda Borzekowski’s mouth going non-stop all the way and the assistant coaches filling in the blanks with individual players.

Sports pundits and colour commentators ratcheted up for a twenty-minute stint as the stands began to clear a bit for bathroom breaks and to fetch more plastic cups foaming with the icy beverage of the Gods.

#

The dressing room was bedlam, with players streaming in, dropping into their trainer’s chairs, people rushing to and fro and everyone talking and shouting at once. The air was blue with ozone and condensation. It smelled like a dentist’s cabinet in there, she thought, or a recently-washed and waxed hospital hallway, or maybe an apothecary’s dumpster just before inventory-time.

Svetlana sat down and swung her legs up into the troughs and laid her arms in the prescribed positions, carefully blanking her mind of such extraneous thoughts. She was just vibrating. She hacked at sticky phlegm in the esophagus, wishing she could get it out. The taste in her mouth was the worst, it never left you. They kept poo-poohing it and never did anything about it.

Bennie and Amerigo dropped down on each side and began taking her skates off as legendary Doctor Cornelius Amiri put the view-mask on and plugged into her head. Women could take more pain and physical abuse over a longer term than their male counterparts, and he was privileged to work with one of the league’s premier stars. With their lower centre of gravity and the strong, wide-spaced hips to build on, they had a competitive advantage over the taller, narrow-hipped males.

Their pit routine well rehearsed, tugs and pushing at her ankles and wrists kept her aware of the outside world as they plugged in the transfusion and ion-swapping array tubes.

“Okay, Svetlana, how do you feel?”

Her emotions were ruled by the chemical performance enhancements and her feedback was crucial in monitoring the levels of gonane, phytosterols and brassinoids in her bloodstream. She must be objective. On the plus side, they were a goal up and Crabbe had thrown a massive check on Solomon early in the period that had set the whole tone from there.

She felt better already as the rejuvenating oxygenated blood flowed into her, banked in the early part of summer, after they had dropped out of the second round of the playoffs, and she had been allowed to binge on junk carbs for a three-week period to combat the resulting anemia.

Jsmeds, (Wiki.)
“I want to kill him.”

Amiri didn’t ask who. It didn’t matter, actually. What mattered was just the right combination, each chemical component had to be at their proper levels.

“Argh.”

“What?”

“It’s just that I feel kind of slow in the legs and hips today. I feel fat, if you want to really know.”

“Ah.” He had suspected as much, as her performance in the first period, the slow take-offs, the hesitation on her one and only scoring chance bore out.

One flick of the wrist and it should have gone in.

“Good girl. Don’t worry, we’ll fix that right up…”

Amerigo tugged at his sleeve.

“We got a problem.”

“What?”

“Pump failure or software glitch. Groin pump.”

“Shit.” He thought furiously, faster than any other sports doctor alive today as far as he knew.

His own brain’s performance enhancements, all chemical, were among his most dearly guarded secrets. A clicking at his pelvic area, near the right hip bone, confirmed it had just gone into overdrive.

“Okay, grab the other pump. And we’ll analyze the program for you, honey, before you go out.” He jacked into the laptop and selected a battery of bug sweeps. It might be hackers, one never knew these days.

Her wave-forms were all over the place, and the lactic acid suppression took time. The pump had to be changed immediately for it to have any chance at all in the next sixteen minutes. The reaction was exothermic, and you could only turn up the heat-exchange so much. It was optimal to go for core cooling of the body between the second and third period, but he had hoped to get some in now as well. More than anything, they had to find the problem. He gave her hand one last squeeze of reassurance and began to unbuckle the miniature unit from her pelvis, now exposed by Bennie in preparation for the pump-change. Amerigo was unwrapping the plastic from their new unit.

“How much more plasma do we have?”

Bennie shrugged.

“I don’t know, ten or eleven litres.”

Doctor Amiri did a very quick assessment. They only had so much in the bank.

“Okay, grab another litre and that’s it.”

His assistant stepped up and over and pulled open the fridge door with smooth alacrity. It was a polished routine. There was only so much time between periods and the coach wanted to talk to them as well. Benny poked the needle in. The blood doping bag hung inverted. He gave it a squeeze to get it started, looking down at the exit point on her ankle to verify the flow.

So Svetlana was doing good then, it was just that their own metering was off on the minute quantities of HGH-type steroids and pain inhibitors necessary for today’s professional athletes to get the best out of the musculature and skeletal framing they had been born with. There was the long history of repetitious injuries to consider as well. His mind raced, her spreadsheet and flow charts, graphs and wave-forms always in the forefront of his mind.

Over the working life of the athlete, optimal performance and high statistical averages in terms of games played, points earned, awards and championships, and the totals in the win-loss-tie columns had to be maximized for their full remuneration potential to be realized. Their initial physical conditioning could only take them as far as humanly possible. Men and women like him did the rest. As for some of the trainers and business agents around him, especially on the Howlers dressing-room floor, he didn’t exactly have the highest opinion.

Svetlana was the best because he was the best. She knew she wouldn’t be around forever, and they must make hay while the sun shone.



END

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Progress Report. The Evil Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff.

The (slightly) Evil Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff.

















Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff.





Dear readers;

Here at Shalako Publishing and Long Cool One Books, not to mention our recently-launched sister company, Larga Fresca Uno Libros, we’ve been on the internet for about six years.

That’s not very long at all, is it?

At the time, we had six unpublished manuscripts, not much skill and very little knowledge, either about publishing or even readers. That may seem odd, considering that we are readers ourselves, but of course our own personal taste doesn’t mean a thing in the marketplace.

What matters is what other people want to read.

Otherwise we would be writing entirely for our own vanity, and the audience for that sort of thing is rather limited.

After six years, a bit of a progress report would appear to be in order.

We have fourteen novels, and five different pen-names. We have something like thirty novellas in a slew of genres. We have sold short stories and given them away. We have read, and listened to many experts and authors of long standing and acknowledged stature, and we have distributed or sold over 70,000 books and ebooks. We have been published in seven languages, and published our own works in three. We’ve even had some small interest from more traditional publishers; not that we care to dwell on that or over-analyze. 

We have created something like, shit, a hundred and twenty or a hundred and thirty products in six years. 

And the sky is our oyster, an old Chinese proverb, one which I just made up out of expedience.

We reckon we’re doing all right, although there is always more to do—accept another challenge, question another authority, contradict another pundit, send up another genre, or merely unmask and uncloak another pompous chimera.

Hell, ladies and gentlemen, if things get bad enough, we might even write another book.

***

We have upgraded our skills, our knowledge and our processes.

We have six years of experience as independent authors and publishers.

We have been blooded.

We have been tested, and not found wanting, and when we were found wanting, we fixed it.

And then we came back for some more.

We are wanting no more, ladies and gentlemen.

"Any questions?"
***

Knowledge is power.

Power is money.

And money is sex.

Any questions so far?

***

We have met the enemy, and as usual, the enemy is us, and in something that doesn’t happen to everyone, we seem to have defeated our enemy, (those internal chimeras we all have and cling to with such tenacity) and to have earned our stripes in spite of all that, ladies and gentlemen.

For that reason, as well as other valid reasons, the time has come to pitch the fourteen year-old Pentium II Microsoft clone. Her job is done, and old Besty can go to her grave with a clear conscience.

She gave her all, and she will either be quickly forgotten or remembered with a curse of anything but affection.

Such is life—

Good riddance and thank Darwin for that, ladies and gentlemen.

Phase I is complete.

Let Phase II begin.

Which it will, very, very shortly.

If nothing else, new hardware and new software represent a new learning curve. All of that is going to be connected up to Louis’ head, ladies and gentlemen.

But then, the readers are getting smarter with every passing day.

We would be fools not to pay attention to that, ladies and gentlemen.

(P.S. Never mention this post to Louis, or the block will be broken and the poor fellow, who thinks he’s doing this all on his own, would be absolutely crushed.)

Essentially, I plan on embedding a terabyte of hard-drive and 8 gig of RAM into the boy’s skull, plus a few other system and software upgrades.

And, as usual, we’re going to make him do all the work, while we sit back and laugh at his torment, and in a final twist of irony, we going to let him think he is under-appreciated, ladies and gentlemen.

The only thing he gets out of it is the odd Happy Meal and the toy out of my box of Cracker-Jacks. I’m a bit old for that sort of thing anyways, but then I was old when they built the pyramids. As for myself, all I get is Stella and one or two other sturdy little hench-women.

We shall just have to make do, eh?

Heh-heh-heh.

(Ahem. -- ed.)

Thank you and goodbye.

The (slightly) Evil Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff.


END


Hey, check this out, ladies and gentlemen: my boy Louis on iTunes.