Monday, December 26, 2016

Paperback Writer Part 2, or “The Further Adventures of Marilla Parabola”

Available exclusively at
Yesterday I spoke (bragged) about Mona’s new book, “Just Pick the Least Worst.”  To some this may be obvious – of COURSE I am going to brag about it, not because she’s my wife (and I really do like sleeping in the same bed instead of the closet), but because she is the writer in the family.  Yes, I write, and have written, but she WRITES.

I mean, she’s the real talent.  I’m just a hack.

I did a lot of freelancing in the 90s.  Was published in a variety of places, including a number of gaming-related magazines.  Made a couple of airline mags.  Wrote a regular column and features for a long-dead Boise weekly newspaper.  Had fun and made some money, but not a lot, so I went back to a real job.  At the same time, Mona tried her hand at writing, and sold a few articles, and then a short story that became a serial and then an actual book.  A popular book, that sadly is no longer in print (but copies remain in the resale market on Amazon and others).

So when she set out to write another book, I had all the confidence that she’d get that one published, too. “Just Pick the Least Worst” is a humor book, because that’s what she really wanted to write, and she’d a very, very funny person.  She’d have to be to be married to me (stop it right there – having a sense of humor is not the same as being funny, although both are needed to be married to me).  We’ve read lots of so-called humor novels and frankly, they mostly leave us wanting in that the story might be OK, but it’s not funny.  At all.  Hence, her desire to write something that makes you giggle at times, guffaw in spots, and occasionally spit something out your nose.

Yeah, THAT funny.  And where does she get the material for such funniness?

From life, and that crazy head of hers.  Is buying a house that difficult?  Perhaps.
Is it as crazy (and hilarious) as she describes it?  Whaddaya, nuts?  You bet it is.

She wrote her first book, Home on the Trail, as a fictional historical novel.  It’s a tale of a couple that flees a life of hardship in Michigan and tackles with Oregon Trail with a group, only to stop short of the goal and settle near Fort Boise.  And even though we’re from Michigan and lived in Boise it’s not about US.  It’s fiction, even though the couple had two kids, a boy and a girl, and we had two dogs, a boy and a girl, and…OK, there are a few more “coincidences.”  But it’s fiction.

So is “Just Pick the Least Worst” – a story about a couple on the move and fiction.  Really.  No, YOU ARE NOT IN THIS STORY and MARILLA AND FORELOCK ARE NOT US.  

It’s the story of a young couple who, after making several moves around the country decide to move from their last rental and buy a home which is a real fixer-upper and the trial and tribulations they suffer at the hands of realtors and bankers and family and movers and even the stupid people at the title company but it’s NOT about US.  Sure, we’ve moved 13 times in five cities and owned four homes and two were fixer-uppers and Christmas with our extended families means four huge meals PLUS snacks in less than 24 hours but this is a work of FICTION.  Any names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is dumb luck.

Fiction.  And it’s funnier than hell, because truth is stranger than fiction.

And no doubt there will be further adventures of Marilla Parabola, because we’re lived a very full and funny life, and we’re not finished just yet.

Paperback Writer, Part 1

The week before Christmas I made mention that,
“…we’re waiting on one more thing, but it actually goes out to everyone on our list, and it’s been the biggest Christmas clusterf**k in quite the while.  It deserves its own blogpost and it will have one after the holidays, because if I explained it all now it’ll spoil the surprise.”

So Christmas is over, and the clusterf**k needs to be explained.  And the picture tells the story.  Like Paul McCartney sings, “I want to be a paperback writer.”  And now I am.

You probably know that I’ve already written several eBooks (five in all).  Now I’ve written three paperbacks.  OK, yeah, all I really did was take the eBooks and turn them into paperbacks.  Before I explain why I did that, and all about the clusterf**k, let me tell you what’s now in paper (available exclusively at

These three books lend themselves well to the paperback format, and, not coincidentally, they’ve been my best sellers.  However, lately the eBook sales have been lagging, so I thought that I’d try the services of CreateSpace, the book-creation devision of Amazon.  That was one reason I did this.

The other reason will be explained in greater detail in the next post, but briefly – the spousal unit has another book!

Uh-oh…better have the link to “Just Pick the Least Worsthere.  OK, did it, honey.

Naturally, I am happy to see this, and my role in all of this was getting it published.  Her previous book, Home on the Trail, was published by Odgen Publicatons (Mother Earth News, Utne Reader, Grit, and many more).  This book wasn’t in that vein, and so…rather than seek out another publisher, I suggested it be self-published (as we planned to give her book and one of mine as Christmas presents).  That’s the real reason I decided to try out the CreateSpace program. And so now that everyone has their gift, I can explain what happened.

The good news:  when I set up my three books on CreateSpace, I had absolutely no problems whatsoever.  The learning curve wasn’t that steep considering I had made them as eBooks previously, and even with a couple of false starts, I got the job done quickly and the books look good.

The bad news:  every possible thing that could have gone wrong with Mona’s book did.

We did have some issues of our own in the formatics – some of it our fault, and one big issue due to their compiling program.  Briefly – even though the title page was centered, and in the preview it LOOKED centered, when the proof came back, it was LEFT justified.  Asking their Customer Service about this got me a “we’ll respond in a day or two” reply, so I went on to the user forums to try to find a solution.  After a few hours someone there responded, and we eventually solved the issue.  Briefly, even though CreateSpace allows for .doc and .docx submissions, it’s best if you use a .pdf.  And, not just ANY .pdf, but one that is PRINT generated, not SAVED.  I didn’t even know there was a difference, and once I did, didn’t even have a program that could do that.  Turns out there are several, including a couple of free ones, and may I strongly suggest that if you need one try CutePDF (link here).  Works like a charm, and it’s free.

It’s a good thing I sought an answer this way, because once I DID get a response from CreateSpace (a day later), it was basically worthless.  I think it said, “Something something these things happen try again and use our preview mode yargle bargle.”

While this response had no value (because it required human intervention), the automatic functions of CreateSpace seemed to work flawlessly and quickly.  For example, once you review the cover and insides to your satisfaction, you submit the completed document to CreateSpace – they create a “proof” for you to do the “final” review, and then, within 24 hours, your book is ready!

This worked to perfection with all of my books, and the first two times we requested a proof for Mona’s book.  Of course, once we finally had a proof that was completely ready to go…the 24-hour window failed.

After about 40 hours, I requested a call from Customer Service (you don’t call them, but put in an online request for them to call you) to find out what the problem was.  I am happy to report that they responded within a couple of minutes, but why they responded I couldn’t tell you, because they had absolutely no idea what happened, why it happened, or how to deal with it now.  The Service Rep told me that he’d have to contact someone in “Technical.”  I told him, “Go ahead.”  So he put me on hold, called (supposedly) and then got back to me a couple minutes later with “well, it seems as if no one is there – they don’t pick up, so I left a message.”  End result was that he’d continue to pursue this and would get back to me.

He never did get back to me, but a few hours later we got a “your proof is ready to order” email.  What happened?  We had no idea and never found out.  So, we reveled in our good fortune and ordered the books we needed for Christmas presents, confident that our problems were over.


When I ordered my three books, I had no problems.  The way it works – once you approve the proof, you can order books for yourself immediately (it gets posted on the site a day or two later).  You can choose UPS Ground, 2-day, or Next-day service.  Printing takes a few days, but once printed they send you a notice with a tracking number (UPS).  First set of books I ordered I did UPS ground and they came a day earlier than scheduled.  Next time I used UPS 2-day just to see how that worked, and again, it was delivered a day early.

So we get the notice for Mona’s books that said they were printed on Sunday the 11th, and would ship Monday the 12th.  We asked for (and paid for) 2-day shipping, so we could expect them on Wednesday the 14th so we could box everything up for gifts and get them out before the final weekend.

I kept checking the UPS tracking online, and every time I did, there was no info.  I said a label had been created, and it was to be shipped on the 12th, but there was no indication that it had been received by UPS, nor did it show anywhere in the system.  Every day I would check – two, three times – and there was no indication that the package had even arrived at UPS, let alone was on its way to us in time to get here on the 14th.

And once the 14th had come and gone, I called CreateSpace (OK, asked them to call me).  I asked the Service Rep what happened, where are the books, when will we get them, do you know they were due here yesterday and what the hell happened?  She was well versed in the “I don’t know a thing but would like to get rid of you ASPS” school of customer service, and proceeded to lie her ass off.

First, she told me that the books had yet to be printed.  Once they were printed, then we would receive notice and a tracking number.  I said we ALREADY received that notice – weren’t the books printed?  Well, no, she said, there was a delay. 
“So why did I get the notice?” I asked.
“You won’t get one until the books are printed.  I told you, they were delayed.”
“But I DID get a notice. That means they were printed.”
“Well there was a delay, so you should get them in a day or two.”
“But there’s no information on the tracking report.   How would I know if they’ve actually been sent?”
“Well, they haven’t been sent – they have yet to print them, and when they do print them you’ll get a notice with tracking information.”
“I ALREADY HAVE THAT NOTICE!  It said they were to be here yesterday.  If they hadn’t even been created yet, let alone shipped, why would you tell me they were shipped and be here on the 14th when they hadn’t even been printed or shipped?”
“Well, sir, as I stated, there has been a delay…”

And we danced around like that for another five minutes.  She could never explain what happened to the order, why there was no tracking info, whether the books had or had not actually been printed, or what should be done now except “wait a few more days to see if they turn up.” 

I haven’t slammed a received down this hard in years.

Fortunately, Mona called back about an hour later and got a different rep who noticed (a) our books had not arrived in the prescribed time so we were credited for the shipping costs (first rep never said boo about that), (b) she had no idea where that order was but she would make up a new order on the spot and send it out no charge on next-day status so we’d have the books ASAP.

Unfortunately, she never sent us any details about the order (like a tracking number), so we had to hope that she did what she said she was going to do and we’d get the books on Friday or maybe Monday (since UPS doesn’t do weekends).

Sure enough, we got the new shipment on Monday.  We also got the FIRST shipment, too.  No word as to what happened, of course.

So…we are both published paperback writers.  And we have more material for another book. 

More on Mona’s book tomorrow (it’s a delightful romp – the book, that is).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Seasonal Slog

It's beginning to look a lot like...well, y'know.
That’s what we call it; not sure what you call it.  Perhaps you don’t have it.  It’s not really a malaise, or SAD, or even ennui, just a feeling that now, about a couple of weeks before Christmas, things seem…slow.  Really S  L  O  W.  Detached, maybe.

Reasons?  Well, it’s cold.  Snowy and/or stormy.  Even if it’s not cold and snowy, the weather is probably the worst it gets wherever you live.  We have cold, rain, storms…and of course, it gets dark sooner and light later, and the days are as short as they’ll ever be.   And the rain/storms don’t make it any brighter.  No wonder folks get SAD.

People are distracted because of the holidays, and final exams, and a whole bunch of stuff.  We were at Fred Meyer today and Costco yesterday and there are folks there going through the motions, buying groceries and presents and the usual holiday trimmings, but everyone (including us) seemed to be in s-l-o-w motion.  Even the help.  OK, more so than usual – no one moves that fast here on the coast.  That’s just the way it is.

Here in our tourist-town tourist-crowds are Twiggy-thin – things won’t pick up again until spring and the basketball tournaments on the weekends next year.  Some merchants (like us) know it’s a losing game and take their vacation time now.  There are a few still hanging in there, taking whoever comes to town (not many).  I used to joke that we could rename Seaside to “Cannon Beach” in the winter because you could go on the beach and fire a cannon and never hit anyone.  It’s true.  And since locals don’t go downtown to the shops there (they frequent the outlets on the highway just east of the tourist areas), it makes for a very quiet, lonely downtown.

So combine the closed stores and restaurants, the dark, the rain, the cold, the inactivity, the slowness, and you have the “seasonal slog.”  For us, anyway.

We used to think that it was all because of Christmas and the fact that we don’t have kids.  Or grandkids (obviously).  Many say that Christmas is a time for kids, and family, and since we’re just us two, maybe that’s the reason for the glum season.  We do have family, but no one here.  We “finish” Christmas right after Thanksgiving in that we make sure we have everything here so we can ship everything across the Mississippi to friends and relatives in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and New York.

Even that’s slow this year – we’re waiting on one more thing, but it actually goes out to everyone on our list, and it’s been the biggest Christmas clusterf**k in quite the while.  It deserves its own blogpost and it will have one after the holidays, because if I explained it all now it’ll spoil the surprise.  By that I mean what everyone received, not the surprise we got when this seemingly simple process took on a screwed-up life of its own.  As of this writing, it’s only half here (don’t ask) and the other half is somewhere between South Carolina, us, and the ether.  In other words, both sender and deliverer have no clue whatsoever.  Great.

So we’ll slog along until the big holiday weekend, and do our traditional things (again, just the two of us).  We actually like it that way, as we had plenty of crowded, noisy celebrations with extended families to last us several lifetimes.  Good meal, good company (each other), and then we’ll look forward to the end of the year and the most important holiday of all – CAPITOL ONE BOWL WEEK!

Until then, Happy Holidays.  All of them.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Does College Football have an Electoral College?

It sure seems like it.  Alabama, Clemson, Washington, and the Big Ten Champio…

What?  You’re not taking the Big Ten Champion?  You’re taking the other team that played in the Championship?  No, not them either?  Then who ARE you taking?

Oh, the team you always wanted, no matter how they played.  And you ranked them AHEAD of one of the other Champions.  Sure.

OK, full disclosure:  I was born and raised in a small college town in Michigan with two words in its name; one is a woman’s name and one is a word for a leafy, shady recess formed by branches.  And it rhymes with “Pam Harbor.”  So I might just have a bit of a bias against Ohio State.

But there are plenty of people who are like me, grumbling that OSU gets to play in the 2016 College Playoffs, and not THE ACTUAL BIG TEN CHAMPION PENN STATE.  See, never mentioned my Wolverines once.

The case for Ohio State is…uh…what, exactly, other than they were highly ranked almost all year long (right behind perennial #1 Alabama).  Their one lost was to…let me think…oh, yeah, THE ACTUAL BIG TEN CHAMPION PENN STATE.  Yes, it was a close game and the winning score came late in the game.

Like the Buckeyes victory two weeks ago against Michigan, a game that, had more referees been from some other state than Ohio, Michigan might have won.  And there would have been no need for the double overtime.

Michigan feels your pain, Ohio.  You lost to THE ACTUAL BIG TEN CHAMPION PENN STATE on a weird play – a blocked field goal ran back for a TD.  Michigan lost on a last-second field goal to Iowa on a cold, rainy field – had they won that game, all of this would be academic.  Had Michigan State made their two-point conversion late in the MSU-OSU game, this all wouldn’t matter.  OSU had other close calls, at Wisconsin and at home with Northwestern.

But still the ranking committee loved your “strength of schedule” (which included Bowling Green and Tulsa), and…I’m not sure what else.  SB Nation might have said it best today:
The larger takeaway asks what role conference championships might hold in the future. The Big Ten was, without question, the strongest conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Penn State was its champion, and the victor against the Big Ten representative, Ohio State.  Let’s rephrase that for added emphasis: The champion of the nation’s best league was trumped by the league’s runner-up, and defeated that same team during the regular season.

Some folks have pointed out that Penn State lost a non-conference match to rival Pitt (by three), and that the selection committee doesn’t care much for teams to have blemishes like that.  In fact, only one team has ever made the playoffs with a non-conference loss. 

Guess who?  Ohio State in 2014.

Look, there’s a reason the playoffs were created, and then expanded.  Money.  Oh, and the idea that the best teams in the country should play, rather than select some team or two teams (when the playoffs included just two teams) by some arbitrary method.

So they expanded the playoffs to four teams, and it still seems as arbitrary as ever.  It was so in 2014 when both Baylor and TCU got the snub.  It was better last year, as the selections seemed obvious, but there were some that were miffed that the 12-1 Ohio State Buckeyes didn’t get an invite.  No, really.  Like this year, OSU was tied for the Big Ten East Division, but didn’t play in the Big Ten Championship because Michigan State won their head-to-head game (stop me if you’ve heard this one before).  It didn’t help when Alabama blew out the Spartans 38-0.

I guess the committee tried to make up for that slight with this year’s pick, making OSU the first non-conference champion to make the playoffs.

And you wonder why we hate the Buckeyes so.

Personally, I hope Clemson whips their ass, and badly.  Right now OSU is actually favored by three, despite being the #3 seed to Clemson’s #2.  You don’t need to ask where my money is, do you?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Much Ado About Nothing? So Why Complain?

Where, or where, could the right get the idea
about 3 million illegal votes?  I wonder...
Honestly, I’ve been trying to move on from politics.  I had a post ready to go about how I finally blocked, unfollowed, and unfriended some people during the Thanksgiving weekend.  Long story short on that is that I already have plenty of trolls in my life – I don’t need almost-total-strangers calling me names and putting forth non-truths that mask as opinions.  But I let that go – if I claimed to have better things to do (as I did in that post that never made it), then I should actually go do them.  So I did.

Sure, Trump supporters are STILL making claims that his victory was a mandate and a landslide, the latest from Allen B. West where he confuses land with people (because Trump won 3084 of 3141 counties, so it’s a landslide – who cares if no one but a handful of people and some jackrabbits inhabit some of those counties).  One acre, one vote – yeah, that’s the way I learned it.  Much of the Thanksgiving dumpathon was about stuff like that. 

I mean, OK, you’re guy won, but he didn’t win the popular vote OH YES HE DID and GEORGE SOROS IS PAYING THE PROTESTERS and MILLIONS OF ILLEGALS and HE IS ALMOST A GOD and SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.

For those of you keeping score at home, Clinton’s overall popular vote margin is around 2.5 million votes.  And rising.

And I had no intentions on commenting on the current Presidential recount situation.  I (SADLY) don’t believe that the eventual outcome will change.  It’s certainly Jill Stein’s right to challenge the results, and I am much concerned that we’re just starting to see the “fruits” of efforts led by Republicans to disallow voting to many individuals (most of them, as the GOP well knows, who vote Democratic).  I am hopeful that Stein’s efforts bring some of that to light (for a wonderful recap, please see Greg Palast at Truth-Out here).

But still, I had no intentions on commenting on the Presidential recount – until the President-Elect did.  And now, all my original assumptions are put aside.

I mean, I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I often take the position that if someone makes a mistake once, it’s a mistake; but if someone makes the same mistake over and over, the same way, and it benefits the same party – perhaps that’s no mistake at all.  Was the election hacked, or rigged in some way?  I do recall someone saying it was rigged – loud and long.  And in just one of several ironies, it was the President-Elect who said it.

The system is rigged – he just never said by who.

So Stein raised some money, put forth the applications to start the recount in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan (the three states where Trump won narrowly), and eventually the Clinton camp said they’d join in the efforts – and then the shitstorm erupted – from the victors.

Let me stop right here and say this – how much would it have taken for Trump and his supporters be gracious about this?  That is, to say something like, “Hey, we won the Electoral College – that’s all that matters.  Go ahead with your recount – it’s the American way.  For all the good it will do you.  We’ll still win.” 

Yeah, I know.

First, Trump called Stein’s efforts a scam.  Then his surrogates, led by Kellyanne Conway, suggested that Trump has been "gracious" by not prosecuting Clinton while the recount was underway.  Say what?

Then Trump tweeted,
“The results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused…”

Then he tweeted,
"In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

 Then he tweeted,
 “Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire, and California – so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias – big problem!”

Then he retweeted four tweets challenging a CNN reporter (Jeff Zeleny) to “disprove” that there wasn’t illegal voting that harmed Trump, including
“[Jeff Zeleny] what PROOF do u have that Donald Trump did not suffer from millions of FRAUD votes? Journalist? Do your job!”
 “[Jeff Zeleny] Pathetic- you have no sufficient evidence that Donald Trump did not suffer from voter fraud, shame! Bad reporter.”
In other words, instead of proving that there WAS illegal voting, he expects someone else to prove that his claims (currently lacking any evidence) are wrong.  That’s bass-ackwards, of course.

Finally, let it be noted that either he or the Republican Party has now sued in all three recount states to stop the recount.

He is hardly gracious in winning.  But my question is this (and I am not the only one asking it):



And most importantly,


Sadly, I think I know the answer to only the last one.