Tag Archives: writing

Technical Difficulties

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Sometimes it feels like the Universe is against me. I’ve wanted to work on the blog for weeks, but every time I tried, something went wrong.

It looked like The Man and I would be in Flagstaff for a few days before we trecked off to Cali. I thought I’d find a nice coffee shop and use some of those days to hunker down and schedule a few weeks of posts before we headed up into the forest. However, The Man decided he really needed to be settled somewhere, so we didn’t linger in Flagstaff.

When we got to the forest, we tried to use the WiFi at the mercantile, but we couldn’t get it to work on our phones. It took The Man a couple of days to figure out we were trying to connect to the wrong server. We were both happy to finally have internet access. However, there’s no way I can write and schedule blog posts on my small phone, so I pulled out The Man’s old  iPad.

Several months ago I’d used the iPad before to type up a blog post, and it had worked fine. This time, however, when I typed in the text box, no characters appeared on the screen. When I previewed the post on a new page, I could see the characters, but on the page where I typed–nothing. So I pulled out my laptop.

To use my laptop, I had to plug it into an inverter I bought at a truck stop. The inverter plugs into the cigarette lighter and sounds like a lawn mower.

You may wonder why I didn’t charge my laptop’s batery, then use the battery as my power source. Unfortunately, my battery had crapped out months ago. It only charged to 40%, and that charge dimished rapidly. This was my laptop’s second battery, the one my computer guy bought me when the original battery crapped out. The replacement battery lasted just about a year.

I plugged the inverter into the cigarette lighter and the laptop’s power cord into the invertor. Once I plugged the mouse (bought at a small-town garage sale in Colorado for $1) into the laptop’s USB port, I was sitting in a tangle of cords, but at least I’d be able to get some posts scheduled.

Not so fast! the Universe said.

My laptop would connect to the internet, but although I was connected, I was also told I had no internet access. I restarted the computer. Again, I was connected, but I had no access. I shut down the computer and restarted it. Yet again, I was connected, but had no access. I seethed in frustration, but nothing I did gave me access to the internet.

The Man said he’d take a look at it, and he did. He ended up uninstalling an update and finally (!) I was able to both connect to the internet and access it. I was mighty grateful.

I typed up and posted a dispatch from the woods. Although working in the front seat was a little crowded and I kept accidentally sounding the horn, at least I was making progress. The working conditions weren’t the best, but I could handle it.

On my day off, I parked in front of the mercantile early, before it opened. I plugged in all my cords and tried to get on the internet. Once again, I was connected but had not access! I was frustrated but tried to remain calm.

When I’d turned on the laptop, an update had immediately uploaded. Maybe the update had messed up something? I uninstalled the update and again had both connection and access. Thank goodness!

I had alrady handwritten a post about the 2017 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in my notebook. I just had to type it up and add a photo, and it would be ready to schedule. I’d moved to the passenger seat, so I had a little more room and typing was a bit easier.

I had the post almost complete when my laptop told me the battery was critically low. Battery? I wasn’t using the battery. I looked at the icon that tells me if the power cord is plugged in. It did not indicate I had a power cord plugged in.

I jiggled the power cord. The icon showed it was working. I relaxed a little and typed in a few more words before getting the low battery message again. I jiggled the cord a few more times but couldn’t get the power cord to work again. Bummer. The power cord had crapped out.

The Rubber Tramp Artist went on hiatus while a new power cord and battery were ordered. I went to the post office (26 mile round-trip) last Friday before work and picked up the new cord. That evening after work I went back to the mercantile to get the blog show back on the road.

I plugged the inverter into the cigarette lighter, then plugged the new power cord into the inverter. So far so good. I turned on the laptop and waited for it to connect to the internet. No! I was again connected with no access. Sigh.

Then, before I could figure out how I might correct the problem with the WiFi (which has been a reoccurring situation for everyone who’s tried to use the internt there in the last couple of weeks), I realized the computer was not recognizing the power cord. What the heck!?!

I was demoralized, to say the least. I put everything away and went back to camp in defeat.

Since then, I’ve determined the power problem was with the inverter, not the power cord. That was a relief. So now I have a new inverter on my wishlist for next payday.

I don’t know if I will be able to overcome the internet problem.

Currently I am at Panera planning to work for another five hours, to get as many posts scheduled as possible because I don’t know if or when I’ll be able to work again from the mountain. In any case, I’m nothing if not resiliant. I’ll keep posting, even if I have to come down from the mountain to do it.

 

What I’m Learning About Self-Publishing a Book

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I recently self-published my first book, Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. It’s a 200+ page collection of short essays about my experiences as a camp host and parking lot attendant at a popular trailhead in a National Forest. Some of my readers have expressed interest in publishing books of their own, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about self-publishing so far.

#1 Writing the book was the easy part.

Confessions of a Work Camper includes 15 never-published-anywhere-else essays, as well as newly written introductions to each chapter, and some fun lists, but the bulk of the book has appeared in blog posts. For the most part, the book was written before I decided to self-publish it.

The steps that came after writing were the more difficult parts for me.

#1a Proofreading is a pain.

Believe it or not, I edit my blog posts several times before I schedule them. I thought I’d been doing a great job proofreading until I put the texts of posts into my book document and found typos all over the place. So I did more proofreading and editing. Then I did more proofreading and editing. Then I took a friend up on her offer to help, and she read the entire document and offered some corrections. Then I read the entire book aloud and found more mistakes. So when it was time to approve the proof of the book, I did so without reading it one more time. That was a mistake.

When I started reading my essays again in preparation for reading them aloud to an audience, I immediately found more errors. I’m not talking about formatting problems. I’m talking about wrong words in sentences. Since the words aren’t technically misspelled, the spell check didn’t alert me to them, and my eyes glided right over them. Sigh.

Every typo is an embarrassment to me.

The first edition is barely complete, and I already need to work on the second edition.

#1b It took me a while to figure out how to use CreateSpace.

I needed some form of Adobe to use CreateSpace’s cover creator. I couldn’t get Adobe to work with Firefox. I had a telephone conversation with a CreateSpace representative in South Africa. He was exceedingly nice and very helpful, but Firefox and Adobe still wouldn’t work together to let me use the CreateSpace cover creator. I ended up using Google Chrome to do anything on CreateSpace that required Adobe.

I put the text of the book in a Word Starter document. (Word Starter is the word processing program my laptop came with. I never upgraded.) When I transferred my text into the document formatted for CreateSpace, any words in italics transferred to all caps. Since I use italics to indicate thoughts or conversations, this glitch made it seem as if all the people in my book were YELLING AT EACH OTHER. I had to go into the CreateSpace document and manually change each instance of capital letters into italics.

When it came time to approve the book’s formatting online, formatting that looked fine in the CreateSpace Word document looked all wrong in the examples of the actual book. I spent an entire morning working on the formatting, and it’s still not perfect.

I’m not saying CreateSpace is impossible to use. When I got frustrated with it, I reminded myself that people many people use CreateSpace to self-publish every day. However, there is a learning curve when using CreateSpace. (The Poet had warned me of the learning curve when she first told me all she knew about publishing with CreateSpace.) Until a writer learns the ends and outs of CreateSpace, getting a book ready for publication may take more time than expected.

#2 That book’s not going to promote itself.

Again, writing the book was easy, compared to getting people to buy it.

My book was first released as an ebook. In the first day the ebook was available, it sold nine copies. This is great! I thought. From there, sales dwindled. Once my friends who read ebooks bought their copies, I had to figure out how to get strangers to buy it.

#2a Public libraries aren’t so keen on buying self-published books (and sometimes they don’t seem to want to buy any books at all).

I had the idea to get all my friends across the country to ask their local libraries to buy my book. To make it easier for them, I researched different libraries to find out how my supporters could go about requesting a book for purchase. Many libraries have an online form for such a request, but while some library systems (I’m looking at you, Las Vegas, NV and Richmond, VA), say sure, patrons can suggest a book for purchase, I found no indication of how to do so.

I filled out an online request for the purchase of my book with a library system in a major U.S. city where I happen to have a library card. I received a response saying they don’t even consider buying a self-published book unless it has at least 50 reviews on Amazon or GoodReads. (I currently have seven reviews on Amazon and none on GoodReads.)

#2b I’m not much of a hustler, so figuring out ways to promote the book hasn’t been easy. I’m encouraging folks who’ve read the book to leave reviews on Amazon and/or GoodReads. I’ve set up an author’s page on GoodReads. I’ve announced the book (repeatedly) here on my blog and on the Rubber Tramp Artist and Blaizin’ Sun Creations Facebook pages.

I’ve done two readings so far, and have another scheduled for the day this post runs. The two readings were at the RTR and both were small. Making a reading a success seems to take a lot of promotion, including hanging flyers and sending emails. I haven’t given up, but it’s a lot more work than I expeted.

#2c It takes CreateSpace a while to deliver 100 copies of a 200+ page book.

It was Christmas before I was able to approve the book for publication and order the 100 copies I wanted for promotion. I thought I’d get them by the first week in January, which was based upon absolutely no concrete information. Instead, my estimated delivery date was January 17. I was hesitant to schedule reading where I hoped to sell copies of the book when I had no copies of the book to sell.

#3 Lots of people want to write a book.

When I mention I’ve recently self-published a book, the person I’m speaking to often says s/he has written a book or wants to write a book. I try to be encouraging while also making clear that writing a book is only the first step in getting it read.

 

In Which I Decide to Write a Book

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My friend the Poet visited me at my campground over the summer. During the visit, the topic of self-publishing books came up. The Poet planned to self-publish a book. I hadn’t given self-publishing an actual book much thought. Sure, I’ve published zines before, but a whole book? That seemed beyond my capabilities, but the more I thought about the project, the more I thought, I could do this!

A couple weeks after The Poet’s visit, I decided on a Tuesday afternoon that I would self-publish a book (called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods) collecting my stories of work camping. Before a week had passed, I made decisions about chapters. I wrote intros for each chapter, as well as an intro to the whole collection. I decided in addition to stories that had already been posted on my blog, the book would include brand new, never before published stories. I wrote several of these new stories.

I want the book to be ready for purchase for the winter holidays, which means I have to work pretty fast. When I got to civilization, I asked the Poet for all the information she had about self-publishing. She graciously sent me an informative email within a couple of hours. I choose a company to work with and did some of the preliminary work of setting up an account.

I also did a quick Google search on “confessions of a work camper” and “confessions of a camp host,” and with the exception of a couple of poorly written blog posts, I found nothing. Could I possibly have come up with an idea for a book that’s never been written? (Part of me thinks I should not go public with this idea, lest someone else scoops it up before I can complete my project. Oh well. I’ve never been much good at keeping my big mouth shut. Also, I feel like if I go public with my intentions, I will have to follow through if I don’t want to look like a fool.)

I wrote to another friend who is a published (as in by a publishing company) writer. She offered to help me with the book and told me to think about goals for the book. Goals? Ok.

My Goals for My Book

#1 Generate income

#2 Generate interest in me as a writer

#3 Bring more readers to my blog

#4 Amuse readers

#5 Educate people about the possibility of work camping.

Because I am worried my blog will suffer while I am working on the book, I have been recruiting guest bloggers. I’ve invited several friends to write for the blog while I am busy with the book. In less than an hour, three people said yes and one said maybe. If other folks want to share stories, please contact me. I am looking for nonfiction pieces of a personal nature, 300 to 2,000 words. I’m most interested in travel and van dwelling stories; pieces about class issues; recommendations for books, articles, zines, websites, music. I don’t want to put a lot of work into guest posts, so please edit carefully before you send me anything for consideration.

This entire book project is exciting and overwhelming, but mostly exciting. I think I will feel less overwhelmed when I am no longer isolated on a mountain with no internet access. It won’t be long now.

 

This Summer

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I’ll be heading to my summer job pretty soon.

Of course, as I learned last year, when a summer job starts, the actual weather of summer may still be weeks away, especially in the mountains. There’s no way to tell what sort of weather I’ll encounter this year. I’m worried it will be too hot, even at over 6,000 feet.

I’m worried about mosquitoes too. Last summer mosquitoes bit me a few times, probably less than ten. Apparently it’s quite unusual to see so few mosquitoes at my campground. I think the lack of the little bloodsuckers was due to the dry conditions. While I’m no fan of drought, a minimally itchy summer was nice, and I’d like to have another one.

My plan for this summer is to spend more time on the mountain. Last year I went to civilization nearly every week. That used up a lot of gas, and when I was out and about, I bought things I could have probably done without, such as restaurant food and books and yarn and postcards from thrift stores. This year I want to use less gas and explore more of the area near my campground.

Last year my weekly excursions were necessary to shower and use the internet. This summer I am going to try a different plan.

My co-worker lives about 15 miles from my campground. Last summer he invited me several times to come over to his place and shower and do laundry; I never took him up on his offer. He doesn’t know it yet, but I do plan to take him up on his offer now.

In the community where my co-worker lives (the word “town” is too grandiose for the place), there is a small grocery store (more like a convenience store, really, but with no gas pumps) with an shaded outdoor patio. The store has internet access, and the owner told me last year that I am welcome there any time, even when the store is closed.

To tie it all together, the post office were I plan to set up general delivery is just down the road from my co-worker’s little community.

This means if I go to the small community, I will only have to drive 30 mile round trip to do the things I need to do, instead of the nearly 100 mile round trip I would have to drive to go to civilization. This new plan should save a lot of gas.So if three weeks a month I can shower and do laundry at my co-worker’s house, pick up my mail, and use the internet at the store, I can spend less money than if I go to the closest big town, even if I have to buy something at the store in order to support the people who are letting me use their internet.

I’m not sure what less trips to civilization is going to mean for this blog. I don’t know if I am going to be able to write and schedule a week’s worth of posts in one day. I may have to go to an every-other-day or three-times-a-week schedule. Please know that even if a new post doesn’t come up every day, I’m still out there, I’m still writing, and something new will appear eventually.

The best way to stay abreast of my writing is to subscribe to this blog. If you aren’t already a subscriber, it’s easy to sign up. Look to the right of where you are reading right now. You’ll see a button labeled Subscribe. Right above that button is a box where you can type in your email address. Once your email address is in the box, click on the Subscribe button. Once you are a subscriber, you will receive an email notification whenever a new post is available for your reading pleasure.

Have a great summer. I plan to do the same.

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I took this photo.

New Year, New Look

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Dear Readers,

Welcome to the new Rubber Tramp Artist site. It’s still me, Blaize Sun, sharing my stories, rants, and observations.

Rubber Tramp Artist used to be Throwing Stories Into the Ether. Although almost a year ago when I started writing, I really did feel as if I was sending my words out into the clouds, I now know I have readers (followers, even). The new name, Rubber Tramp Artist, says more about me and my life (and is shorter and–hopefully–easier to remember).

If you are a subscriber, thank you. I’ve transferred my subscribers to this new site. However, if you don’t get a notification of a post from me tomorrow, you can scroll down this page and subscribe again

I’ve transferred all the previous posts here, so you should be able to find your old favorites (or click around and see what I’ve been up to, if you are a new reader).

I wouldn’t be on this beautiful new page right now if it hadn’t been for the help of a dear computer-savvy friend. (Thank you.)

Thanks also to all of my readers, especially the folks who took time to write comments.

I hope 2016 is great for us all.

 

In appreciation,

Blaize Sun

Coming to You Live

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Coming to you live from a cheap motel in big, hot Babylon…

This is the first post I’ve written in a long time that went up as soon as I was finished writing it. Lately, I schedule posts when I’m done writing them, and you might not see a post until weeks after it is written.

I did something a little different this week. I needed to write part 2 of a two parter I’d started in April before I left the city. Whenever I tried to work on it in a coffee shop, I was too distracted, and I couldn’t seem to force myself to make any progress. So I decided this week on my days off, I would go to big, hot Babylon and splurge on a room at a Motel 6 with internet and finish the post. I met my goal; the post is done, along with seven others, all ready to come at you in the next few weeks.

It’s 6am now. I’d only planned to sleep for about six hours anyway, but I think I got less than that. There was a lot of noisy stomping, interspersed with some yelling, past my door last night. My room is on a corner, next to a staircase, so I guess many people walked by. You’d think folks would know that a person in a motel room might be trying to sleep in the middle of the night, but maybe I expect too much from people.

The Motel 6 is not bad. I got many good things for my money, including check-in before 8am (which means I’m getting 27 hours in the room), a flush toilet, running water to wash my hands, unlimited hot showers, cold air blowing from the A/C, a fast internet connection at no extra charge, electrical outlets, free coffee in the morning (I’m sipping from a cup now), a double bed, free ice.

It was still a sketchy cheap motel. I ventured out at dusk to get some ice. My room faces a sort of courtyard where the pool is. I had to walk down a long outdoor corridor, then descend a flight of outdoor stairs to get to the ice machine next to the office. There were a bunch of dudes milling around, in the swimming pool, hanging out on the balconies. Also, people had not only their curtains but the doors to their rooms open. In a past life on the streets, I learned that when you leave your cheap motel room door open, you are inviting others to come over to see what you have to offer, so you can see what others have to offer. I wasn’t afraid because none of these people look at me and think I have anything to offer them, or at least I hope not. I hope I don’t look like a mark. I’m going to keep on thinking I don’t, since none of the people out there (including the woman standing outside the office who was so pregnant she might have actually been in labor) tried to talk to me.

My ice mission was thwarted because there was no ice in the machine (probably because some butt wipe had taken everything to fill a cooler), so I went back to my room and didn’t poke my head out again until just before six this morning. As I was walking to the office to get coffee, I saw eight or ten empty Modelo cans lined up on the outdoor part of the A/C until a few doors down. There were already dudes milling around outside, and I witnessed paranoid peeping from the corner of a curtain in a room across the way. My door is locked, bolted, and latched, and I don’t plan to walk outside again until 10:58. (Check-out time is eleven o’clock.)

When I leave this motel, I have to do a load of laundry, then maybe take a look at the nearby Goodwill. From there I’ll make a quick stop at Stuff-Mart, then on to Trader Joe’s. Then I’ll head back up the mountain.

My plan is to get the supplies I need (butane for the stove, food for my belly, clean clothes) to last me two weeks and just stay up on the mountain. It’s too hot to sleep in my van in the flat lands, and the only thing I really like about Babylon if I’m not staying in a motel is internet access at coffee shops. So I might as well stay up where it’s cool and beautiful. (If there were a place to do my laundry on the mountain, I would stay up there for a month.)

I found out last week that my campground doesn’t officially close until the middle of October. Of course the actual closing of the campground depends on weather and all other acts of nature and humankind, but I’m planning on being up there until well into autumn. It’s good news in that it’s a steady pay check.

After that? Stay tuned.