TAKE A VACATION

Ah. Finally, a proper cup of tea, well, an infusion of herbs plus a few spices plus some honey. (The honey is the decadent part.) Decadence? Why, of course! I took a vacation – which would be hard to notice for anyone who wasn’t watching my house and picking up my mail. (Thanks, Susan.) Such is the nature of work, and also why pure vacations are harder to take, now. Even without a wi-fi signal it is possible to check voice mail and email. And if there is an internet connection, disconnecting takes personal resolve. But then there is synchronicity and balancing acts and listening to hints from the universe.

While my tea is hot I want to remind myself to write another chapter of the sequel to Kettle Pot Cup, my first book about tea. I just spent most of a week (hey, it was only five days, but that’s the longest vacation I’ve had since walking across Scotland in 2010 – Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland) – starting over. I spent five days in a neighboring tourist town, La Conner. Seeing $50 menu items I was reminded of how many high-end meals are accompanied by a tea bag in a tiny metal tea pot. Come on, fancy restaurants, up your game and provide loose leaf tea, a french press or even just a strainer as if flavor mattered throughout the meal. Whew. Rant over. Hello, loose leaf tea I can enjoy because I am home, again.

I wasn’t planning on playing tourist. Sitting in my tiny breakfast nook is a pile of gear for a long-anticipated overnight backpacking trip. Exertion for an afternoon, then days of relaxing out of range of cell-phones. But, that part of the world caught fire (#BoltCreekFire) on the day before I was ready to go. The Bolt Creek Fire wrapped around the site of my destination and the site of one of my books, Twelve Months at Barclay Lake. That closed the highway. As it burned I recalled a ranger’s comment from when I was researching the book. Evidently, the area is almost temperate rain forest (119 inches of rain per year), which means it rarely burns. But, when it burns the trees are so large, the undergrowth too thick, and the terrain is so extreme that they decided the best way to put out the fire is to wait for rain. And so they have. They’ve been busy containing the fire, and protecting the residents and their houses. And we’re in a record dry spell. So now, enormous trees are burning then falling hundreds of feet to land in the highway. Yep. That closed the highway. Detour!

Detour? No. My backup plan was to hike at another lake along that road, Twelve Months at Lake Valhalla

OK. How about the next and only highway north of there that crosses the mountains? Nope. Landslide.

Hint. Hint. Hint. Maybe my sore knee Really Did Not Want To Go Hiking!

Capitulate. Surrender. Start checking lodgings in natural settings, like Kalaloch in Olympic National Park. Beach walks from a small cabin with a kitchen and a pile of books, ah. Ah, no. No rooms available. No rooms available throughout the park. Nor any rooms that I’d like to relax in outside the park. Ah, the San Juan islands, a fave. Nope. East of the mountains? Road closures, silly boy. At least get off my island and stay just across the water in La Conner, a sweet tourist town that I’ve visited frequently but never stayed in. A room!? Yes! Waterfront, even.

So that’s what the hints were leading me to.

Remember, I was trying to rest and recuperate. My recent doctor’s note was TAKE A VACATION. (All caps in original message) OK. OK. Hint. HINT. La Conner’s tourist area is basically one long street with shops, galleries, restaurants, and such. I envisioned unwinding in some brewpub, maybe reading, maybe some introspection; but not much writing. This year I’ve self-published three books (Twelve Months at Dugualla Bay, Kettle Pot Cup, and Firewatcher.) Oh yeah, and work in real estate. (Required disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/). Rest without writing (much.) I’d even get some easy exercise by walking around town and its marina.

Mistake #1) Have a beer. This would not become apparent until…

Mistake #2) Walk across the Rainbow Bridge. 

While walking across the very high Rainbow Bridge (which is not painted in rainbow colors, and it is really only 75 feet of clearance), the gluten in the beer kicked in as I was mid-span. Anxiety attack. Over a long drop. Beside a railing that looked like it was below my center of gravity. Eep.

Grumble. Gripe. 

Some anxiety attacks and some gluten reactions pass within half a day. Nope. More like three days. The beer was good, but that price was too high. Hence the comment about tea, hence the sudden shrinking of culinary options, hence the incentive to lounge while looking contemplative.

But then, serendipity. My knee hurt, so I strolled slower. I strolled more slowly so I was more likely to chat with store owners. By the end of a day or two of hobbling around, three of my books were for sale in a local book store (three of my Twelve Months books are in SeaportBooks.com), I met with an entrepreneurial couple, found a venue for our self-publishing workshop (but first comes Coupeville), and found a lead on a realtor to coordinate with.

Evidently it is relatively easy for me to drop into business mode.

I also noticed that the business cards I’ve been giving out for over a year had the wrong web address (.com instead of .net). Aargh! It is a good thing that I usually carry more than one kind (see the opening scene for Dolly in Hello Dolly).

So, maybe I didn’t end up where I wanted to go but ended up where I needed to be. (paraphrasing Dirk Gently)

The biochemicals left my system the evening before I had to check out. I’m now back home with my familiar mix of shelter, entertainment, dining and drinking, working (naturally), and generally living. 

While in La Conner I read their newspaper (La Conner Weekly News) which had two articles out Langley, the closest tourist town to my house. Similarities and differences to contemplate. The kelp is always greener in the neighbor’s waterways. That was a bonus.

The highway is still closed. The ferry that was part of the transit plan was running at half-schedule. Little encouragement, there.

One of the reasons for the timing of the vacation was the successful conclusion to one real estate transaction and having to wait for the bulk book buy order to arrive. Ta da! A big box of books stamped HEAVY arrived as I was unpacking.

A medical test came back looking good, and the report came in soon after I got home. Nice timing.

La Conner bears no fault for my sad days. My episode was a reminder of my preference for lodging that has at least a small kitchen. The room may be more expensive, but the food is cheaper, the food is more likely to be healthier for me, and there’s a lot less guessing about the menu or interrogating the restaurant staff. Frugal doesn’t always mean cheapest.

The bed was soft. The view was of the channel off my private deck. The shower had more hot water than mine at home. I didn’t have to set up a tent, pump water, eat cold meals, or dig a latrine. 

And despite those hints, I also look forward to finding the right campsite, in good weather, with good water, and a view, and maybe even a backcountry outhouse. There won’t be a wi-fi signal, so maybe I’d do an even better job of resting and recuperating. That’s one way to TAKE A VACATION.

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One Company One Story – Lineage Cell Therapeutics

Welcome to the third video in my One Company One Story series.

Pardon me as I paste in yet another disclosure disclaimer.
I am not a certified finance professional. But I can comment on my finances, and I can comment on stories. I the SEC and maybe some other organization(s) require it.

This time, Lineage Cell Therapeutics, a company with a long name, a long history, but not much to sell, yet. The simple version of some of their proposed treatments is that they’re using stem cells (pluripotent cells?) to regrow tissues in the eye to treat Dry Eye Macular Degeneration (another long word) and regrow nerves in accident victims. Stem cells were massively controversial, and may still be, but there are so many other things to worry about and stem cells look more promising now. The company is still years away from a hoped-for FDA approval, but the treatment has been being developed for decades, so maybe they’re making enough progress. That’s the encouraging part. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed the FDA becoming very conservative with innovative treatments, which may be prudent, but it can also mean people are denied the possibility of that very treatment. As with many biotechs, the race is between the development of the treatment, the FDA approval process, and the company’s finances.

Because I own stock in the company there is also a personal history with it that can be somewhat tracked by reading my posts about the company (Lineage Cell Therapeutics) and the stock (LCTX), particularly my Semi-Annual reviews. Some of the history of the original company is covered in a previous post. (One Company One Story – Geron) If you are unfamiliar with the company, here’s a video where I basically toured their web site and commented on the parts that interest me the most. I won’t say ‘enjoy’ but I hope it is useful despite being a bit rough because I was a bit rushed. (Regular readers know how busy I’ve been. That’s also why I left in one gaffe in the video. Just being human.)

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Firewatcher Launched

Let me start with an irony or a coincidence. Whenever I finish writing or producing a book and it becomes available for sale I consider it “launched”. Maybe that has something to do with being trained as an aerospace engineer. My most recent book and my first science fiction novel is launched! And it is called Firewatcher. It is a science fiction novel so it isn’t much of a surprise that it starts with a space ship that was launched. Now the book is launched, too. 

Original Painting by Rob Schouten / Cover design by me and Joe Menth

At a quick read it is a story about pioneers who worked hard at escaping Earth because they fear an artificial intelligence that has become dangerously powerful; but if they act quickly they can escape. They don’t know where they will go, but they will go. That also can describe any book. An author writes it, launches it, has hopes, but doesn’t actually know the kind of journey it will have.

After a deeper read there are ideas to play with like what is truly alien, what old habits must be abandoned and what new habits must be formed. There’s also the very human story of what happens when colonists leave Earth to settle a new planet, hoping to find one that is unpopulated but livable, and then populate it. We carry our soap operas and gossip mills with us.

But is that what readers will get out of it? Authors never know for sure. It is launched. You get to help decide how far it will go.

This is my eighth book, but my first bit of fiction. I think I startled a fellow writer when I pointed out that I designed it for sequels and already have about six in mind. Firewatcher may be the biggest because it establishes the world and the characters that will live (well, most of them will live) in the sequels. 

The most common question has been (Hey, I already have a FAQ!), “How long did it take you to write it?” Sorry, I didn’t take notes. The simple answer is that it took about three years, starting before the pandemic. The truer and deeper answer is more like nine years because it took about six years to invent the maths, physics, biology, culture, physiology, botany, etc. that would enable a ship to transit dimensional space and encounter a suitable planet. Aside from the technical aspects, how could they organize such an escape? What would they be able to carry without knowing the planet’s or the moon’s or the asteroid’s features and challenges? 

And then there were the aliens, but to describe them would take a book – which is called Firewatcher. (Available on Amazon)

It was a balancing act to create aliens that are more than people in costumes without being so alien that we couldn’t make sense of them. I hope I succeeded.

As for what happens on Earth, the colonists purposely decide to lose contact so they can’t be followed. (That also allows a sequel(s) about what happens after they leave. Dystopia? Revelation? Singularity?)

I won’t relay the entire story about how I decided to write the novel, at least yet. I’ll save that for public readings and such; but I can reveal that the universe gave me a couple of HINTS that I was sure I shouldn’t ignore.

One sign that I was enjoying the process was that I found myself more drawn to the story about Ari and Cho than to watching shows at night. It turned me from being a spectator to being a participant in the scifi genre. They helped me get through the pandemic.

I started with an image, expected it to become a hard science fiction story, and found that my characters had challenges but also had a sense of humor. Hard science fiction, as I interpret it, is a story where there should be a reason why the science could work. One way I look at it is, Star Trek is science fiction because there’s usually an engineer fixing problems while Star Wars started with explanations and philosophies. Eventually Star Wars described more details about The Force and the Kessel Run, but that came later. I think I needed a bit of humor and some mental exercises over the previous few years.

I’ve probably gone on more than enough but as most writers know; “If I Had More Time I Could Have Made It Shorter – #IIHMTICHMIS”.

Before I finish making dinner I want to pass along some thanks that I’ll lift from the book.


acknowledgements

Thanks to Rob Schouten for allowing the use of the image of his original painting, Fire, for the cover art. Also, thanks to Joe Menth for his assistance with the cover design.

Thanks to Don Scoby for an early review of the concept.

Thanks as well to Brian Kern and Richard Pelletier for support and holding onto backup covers of various drafts as the work developed.

Thanks to mathematics for the inspiration from a simple, elegant, and deep equation. e+1=0


back cover

Escaping a digital dystopia
Too little time to safely plan and prepare
Can they survive?

In a world where people trust computers 
more than people, power shifts.

A resistance movement finds a way to flee
while in plain sight.

No one is perfect, not even the aliens,
and who is really alien?


For anyone who has a story and wants to learn more about the process, Don Scoby and I will be teaching a workshop on self-publishing, “From Inspiration To Publication”, on Saturday, October 15 in Coupeville, WA. Contact me for details.

Thanks for reading along. I hope you enjoy the story and want to hear more. I am also a fan of the idea that everyone has a story to tell, and I hope I can help.

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Positive Pent-up Progress Released

You know how it goes. The bumped pebble that hits a stone that dislodges a boulder that means a major portion of a mountain can become a flow that can reach the sea. Geologically speaking, landslides reaching the sea don’t have to be imagined around the Salish Sea. Our volcanoes have histories of landslides. For me, one event has released plenty of positive pent-up energies in many aspects of my life. Prepare for a series of events that start with real estate and visit imaginary space, and further proof that personal finance plans must be fluid or get run over.

Near the end of July I wrote a post called, Good News Is Swirling. Lots of good things were happening. The most obvious one was the release of my book about tea, Kettle Pot Cup. It is a fundraiser, so I don’t expect to make money from it, but it was an accomplishment and something fun to do.

Two days later I received an unsolicited phone call from folks who wanted to move to Whidbey Island. Yesterday the deal was recorded at the County and they officially own it. Yay! And I got paid. Yay!

Getting paid wasn’t much of an issue prior to the pandemic, but helping these people ended a dry spell in my business. I hadn’t been paid in real estate for almost 18 months. Prices were up. Clients were bidding. But the people I was working with were being outbid, out-priced, or deciding to buy outside Washington State. I was busy, but I wasn’t paid. 

Unsolicited phone calls are hard to plan for. Year-long dry spells aren’t easy either.

So, am I taking my doctor’s advice to TAKE A VACATION? Nope, at least not yet, or in the way most folks might expect.

I bought a bit of THC as TLC. But the larger purchase was repacking my pantry. Food shopping as retail therapy, and also expanding my menu selections. Hello, salmon. Welcome back.

But take a vacation? Ha! I have to and get to get ready to give a real estate presentation at one of the local libraries. Every few months I compile some data about the real estate and affordability trends on Whidbey Island, where I live. (Which is also why the state requires the following disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/.) The next one is scheduled for September 8th. The freshest data are delivered on the first working day of the month, so I have a lot of work to do that I couldn’t start doing until today. So, yeah, I’ve got that to get done, soon. Fortunately, I’m comfortable with data.

(Freeland Library Thursday, Sept. 8, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
https://sno-isle.bibliocommons.com/events/62eab44b76d1822900625047)

Segue

Data? Math? I’m finally to the point in publishing my sci-fi novel that I’m creating title pages, character descriptions, and acknowledgements. I had fun adding thanks to a simple yet insightful equation that inspired some of the story. 

e+1=0

It was a very geeky moment. The book should be ready for sale within weeks.

But first, that check provided the cash I needed to restock my inventory of the books I’ve already written and produced. The costs weren’t much when seen from this side of a deposit slip, but from the other side I had to dole out examples gingerly. It is hard to have a marketing campaign when the inventory is described by waving my arms. Within a week or two they’ll be back in stock.

That timing works out well because shortly after that I’ll be co-hosting a workshop/seminar about self-publishing, From Inspiration To Publication. Fresh examples and anecdotes added to my twenty years of self-publishing. That’s another presentation to prepare, but maybe not until after the 8th of September.

How does all of that work its way into my personal finance plan? I can anticipate some costs but can’t predict any sales. Most books do not make enough to cover the author’s costs; but books are also like odd lottery tickets. As one publishing executive pronounced before a governmental panel, the publishing industry is mostly random. They rarely know if a book is going to sell well or if an author is going to succeed. Celebrities are celebrated, but most authors have to work harder to spark their applause.

And then there was the call from Kingfisher Bookstore in Coupeville as they decided to join the other island bookstores that are selling my book about tea. Unexpected but appreciated. It was also an excuse for a drive up the island.

Life is not spelled w-o-r-k. They both use four letters, but remember my recent post about splitting my pants? (I Split My Pants) Well, now I can afford a new pair.

I can also afford to visit people who help me work on various ailments and injuries. There’s a long list of home maintenance items for various contractors. Remodel and renovation will continue to wait. Repair and replace come first. Planning for those costs are guesses, too. My house was built in 1964. Fix one small thing and it may uncover something else. Which to fix, first?

My check was deposited yesterday. I’ve spent the day unleashing pent-up projects, mostly with bits of cash that weren’t even large enough to pay for a new pair of pants. (I’m surprised at the cost of hiking pants. The last ones I bought were at least a decade ago.)

For the price of a pair of pants I:

  • began refilling my pantry
  • began restocking my book inventory from one publisher (KDP)
  • began restocking my book inventory from one publisher (iUniverse)
  • began restocking my book inventory from one publisher (blurb)
  • began restocking my book inventory from one publisher (Lulu)

For a little bit more I hope to:

  • buy new pants
  • see a physical therapist
  • see an eye doctor
  • see my regular naturopath

The total will add up (that is the way math works), but from this side of that deposit it seems simple, easy, and something that could’ve been done earlier. From that side of the deposit, each one had to be evaluated, compared, and if possible delayed because each item may be worth a day’s living expenses. 

I’ve mentioned #ALAYCPYB before (As Long As You Can Pay Your Bills) because advice that seems simple and logical frequently has the implicit assumption that all bills can be paid. Even before the deposit my situation had improved to where I could pay my bills, but only by going into debt by borrowing against my house’s equity. This deposit roughly equally a year’s frugal living expenses. Another such deposit would largely go to taxes. Another such deposit would just start to paying down debt, especially after my truck broke down. (A Jeep Dancing And Credit)

Personal finance plans sound deterministic, a way to control a life. Personal finance plans can seem silly, because life is too capricious. My life has been chaotic enough that I have more of a strategy than a plan. As I described in my book, Dream. Invest. Live., my frugal approach is basically, 

“Spend less than you make. Invest the rest.” 

As a member of the Gig Economy, I still have to adhere to a prelude which is, “It takes money to make money.”

It really doesn’t take much to create a great impact. It all starts with a pebble, right? But it is too easy in this economic system to get into a situation where even moving a procedural pebble can be a monumental task. Thankfully, my business’ dry spell is over and I can move more and get more done. Imagine the energies that can be unleashed that are bound up in people who could use help moving a pebble or two.

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I Split My Pants

Some days it is hard to do anything the normal way. I split my pants. That’s common enough; but I split these pants down the front, not in the most embarrassing way, but from waist to knee. I think that takes a special talent, or is a good example of finding the limits of frugality.

There’s always a story behind the story, but this is only a blog post so I’ll simply say that my plans for an overnight backpacking visit to the site of my third book, Twelve Months at Lake Valhalla, were diverted by a long ferry line and a bout of impatience. I needed a vacation and sitting in a ferry line for hours wasn’t the way to start. Instead, I turned around and decided to visit the site of my next photo series, Twelve Months at Fort Ebey. I even had everything I needed for an overnight in the backcountry. Why not stay in Ebey’s campground and get sunset and sunrise photos (assuming I didn’t sleep in.)

Get lucky. Get a campsite beside the trail to the tall bluff overlooking Admiralty Inlet (hmm, just realized I can also mention an earlier book, Twelve Months at Admiralty Head), and begin setting up the most minimalist setup. RVs were there. People using truck dollies to cart in supplies. Cars sprouting bicycles and stuff. I had a tent and luxuriously used one corner of the picnic as I sorted out tent poles. Minimalism.

That’s when I noticed the rip. It felt airy, which is fine in the heat, but my pant leg had split as high as my waist, which meant other people could see my underwear. Alas, but I carry spares for many things, including clothes. Doh! I did have another pair of cargo hiking pants with the zip-off legs, but to save weight I left behind half, the wrong half. I had spare leggings. The shorts portion was back home, safe from my mishaps. Sigh. OK. Well, I carry a sewing kit so get to stitching, and I did, and I only had enough to stitch up about half the rip. 

Walking around the park with half-ripped pants is not an appealing image. I did enough to get my photos, but mostly I hung around my campsite. If I desperately needed pants I could drive home and back in a couple of hours, but that just seemed silly. Half-ripped pants seemed silly too (but evidently fashionable?), so I opened a book and a backpackable bottle of wine and relaxed.

No problem, really.

Actually a bit of a celebration.

The pants that ripped were at least twenty years old, maybe thirty. That’s an accomplishment. They were more barely threads than threadbare, but for decades they’d traveled with me on hikes, bikes, and international trips. They had history. They also represented frugality. 

They were middle-range pants, not cheap, but not superlative. Cargo shorts with zip-off leggings that were excellent for those trips. Amortize it out and their usage was pennies per trip. Lately my jeans barely last a few years, and they don’t get that same level of abuse. Jeans are heavier while also being less reliable. Jeans are also less accommodating to the weather. Those hiking pants had been through heat, rain, snow, you know – real weather. I’d clambered across fallen trees and one time was straddling a snow bridge while my feet dangled over a bunch of empty.

I didn’t conduct a memorial service for them. They’ll be thrown into the trash soon because they aren’t good for turning into cleaning rags. They have, however, brought to mind those trips. Many memories from an accidentally interesting life.

And then I looked around at many of the things I bought when I was hiking almost every weekend. I’ve worn through boots at a rate of about one pair per decade. My sleeping bag is thirty years old. I cold-camp, which means I no longer cook my food. There’s no real need. Water filters get clogged, but not as often as I expected. Water bottles rarely break, anymore. Headlamps are getting better, LEDs in incandescents out. My favorite foam cushion broke (another story), but they don’t make them anymore (something the Help Desk agreed as a bad idea.) My compass is the same. Same for my pocket monocular.

Hiking and camping look expensive when the pieces are totalled up, but like with most things, divide the cost by the number of times it is used, or the years it survives and the effective cost comes down – IF you can afford it in the first place. #NotAGiven

Things that last can be expensive, but just because something is expensive does not mean it is going to last. There’s that tricky balance. I’m glad it has worked as well as it has for me.

Hiking is not just about the cost.

Cost benefit analyses use both words: cost, benefit.

I just wrote hundreds of words about the costs of hiking, but I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words about the benefits. Almost all of my books (so far) involve hiking, skiing, bicycling, and basically moving across the planet by moving my legs. (Check out my Amazon and Fine Art America online stores for the results.) I suspect many of my health issues are because my finances have been so difficult for the last few years that I haven’t had the time nor the money to hike, ski, and bicycle. I look forward to getting back into something like that shape, not to reclaim youth but to at least reclaim my access to nature.

A friend on Twitter said; “Adventure sure seems to follow you around, Tom.” – Adel Brown; to whom I replied; “I also think that everyone leads interesting lives,…” For some reason I’ve just been fortunate enough to notice it. And as my split pair of pants shows, it doesn’t take much. Of course, I can’t recall an entire episode of Friends or Frazier. I barely know the names of Seattle’s professional sports teams. It is possible to live life as a spectator, but why do that when it doesn’t cost much to live your own life, ad-free? Bonus: you get livelier stories to tell.

Here’s a short panorama that was this trip’s benefit.

Gotta do some shopping sometime soon, or lose another inch or two of waistline. There’s an entire wardrobe of gear just waiting for me to get rid of the weight I’ve gained as a realtor and from dodging the pandemic’s bugs.


And since I mentioned being a realtor; gotta say because the state says so;
Disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/.

And if I am going to mention that I might as well mention this:

Come on by to see the data behind the stories, and maybe share your stories, too.
Freeland Library Thursday, Sept. 8, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
https://sno-isle.bibliocommons.com/events/62eab44b76d1822900625047

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From Inspiration To Publication – October 2022

We’re back! How many times have you heard that, lately? It is finally time to revive and reinvigorate the workshop on Self-publishing. I’ve done it as a solo (Modern Self-Publishing), as part of a trio (Madrona Workshop Troupe), and as a synopsis with Don Scoby thanks to various branches of the Sno-Isle Library System. The world has provided stories, opportunities, time, and inspiration to many people over the last few years. Challenges create stories. Fortunately, it is now possible to turn those stories into books. Readers may thank you. Historians and future librarians may too.

Don and I have decided to present the longer version as a one-day seminar/workshop, From Inspiration to Publication. Ten hours, yes, ten hours (yay! or aargh!) describing the self-publishing process from managing your manuscript through to publication and a bit beyond. We recorded the short version back in 2019. Remember 2019? Does that seem like a different era? A story written then would probably be different from the same story told now. 

While this is a bit of self-promotion (understatement), it is also an example of the basis of this blog, my book on personal finance, Dream Invest Live, which is informally described as personal finance for frugal folk. Self-publishing can create passive income, with a bit of work and luck; but self-publishing is also frugal in the way it manages that more precious resource: time.

Listen to the stories of authors whose work was turned down dozens or hundreds of times. Impressive. But. Each attempt takes time to meet the submission guidelines and criteria for each agent or publisher. Do they want a chapter or a shorter excerpt? What do they want in terms of competitive positioning? Describe your social media platform, and provide traffic analytics. Who are you and why should they work with you? Multiply that time commitment by the number of submissions you expect to make.

Those are all valid questions for an agent or publisher to ask because they are running a business and they have a need to know. You spend time finding out who to contact, prepare your submission, they get around to reading it (from their probably overwhelming stack of other submissions), you wait for the response, and eventually you might get around to negotiating how to proceed. Or, more likely, you get yet another rejection letter to add to your stack.

Self-publishing can skip much of that and speed through the rest. You know who you are. You probably already know about at least some of the competition. You’re presenting it to yourself, probably inside your head, so there’s no need for reformatting. Some writers can finish writing their next book in the time it takes the traditional industry to find the right home for your work.

Write it and publish it and you’ll get direct feedback from readers about whether it is good enough, or what you should do different next time, or both.

Writing can be tough. Self-publishing can be a lot of work. Editing, cover design, marketing, distribution, every aspect of the business becomes your responsibility to manage yourself or to delegate. Don’t be surprised if you can’t do it all. Learning to ask for help is its own lesson.

That’s one reason the previous events were so well attended. Hearing about the entire process helps point out where you’ve already got the skills, which ones you need to develop, which ones you hire out, and which ones you might ignore. (I’ve given up on page numbering. Shudder.)

If you haven’t read the fine print in the graphic above, the event will happen on October 15th from 9AM to 9PM at the Coupeville Rec Hall on Whidbey Island. It was going to be a two-day event, but a slot wasn’t available and we didn’t want to wait until after #NaNoWriMo was over. There will be breaks (duh) and it will be in downtown Coupeville, which can be quite sweet. 

Apologies for the short notice, but if you hadn’t noticed, life is speeding along, trying to play catchup from the last few years.

A poster or flyer can’t answer every question so we encourage you to contact us via email

(Tom tetrimbath@gmail.com, Don BiscottiDon.com). We can trade phone calls after that.

This is going to be an in-person event, no zooming or streaming or recording so people can ask questions without divulging anything about their work-in-progress except to the others in the room. A group session reveals questions you didn’t think to ask. An in-person event allows you to meet other writers.

Other writers are one of the most powerful resources for self-published writers. They may have other opinions, which can be insightful. They can also be a support group. Friends and family may help you through other challenges but they may not understand the emotional hit or lift from an online review or a typo discovered too late (e.g. scold and scald don’t mean the same thing. Oops.) Bring business cards or at least some way to contact each other.

Browse Don’s web site to get some background on him and his work; and I highly encourage following him on Twitter (@WIBakingCo) to see how he does what he does. I’m on Twitter, too (@tetrimbath), and I’ll also point out my list of self-published books on my main blog site, as well as my Amazon Author page

This won’t be academic. We’ll be pulling from our experiences with various publishers, ebooks vs paperbacks vs hardbacks, and talk about the other opportunities becoming an author can create.

Hopefully this will help you with your project.

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One Company One Video – Geron

Do you ever just get the feeling that someone should do something that seems simple yet remains undone? As most of you probably know I wrote a book about personal finance, Dream. Invest. Live. (which has become a story in itself, but I’ll tell that story, later.) I watch, read, and listen to financial news. Much of it frustrates me. The topic is frequently the stock price, but the stock merely represents the company and the company is nothing without the people who work for it. I am not a certified finance professional. But I can comment on my finances, and I can comment on stories. Every company is a story, so I’ve decided to tell at least my version of those stories, one company at a time.

I’ve owned their stock, GERN, since 1999, the only time I bought a stock based on a hot tip. Thirteen years later the concept of ‘hot’ is debatable. (Though if I’d sold a few months after buying it I would’ve made a lot of money in a short time. Silly me for waiting for the company’s rather than the stock’s progress.) Their simple yet grand goal back then was to extend human lifespans through several technologies. The company has stayed alive (ironically) by selling off most of those technologies. Maybe, maybe, they may finally succeed, or not. So goes innovation. Stay tuned – and watch the video for a longer discussion.

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Upgrading My Venerable Bicycle

I ride a 30-year-old bicycle, a Trek 8000, which I’ve described before as; “It is a classic, hard-tail, 1992-ish Trek 8000 mountain bike. No springs. No shock absorbers. No disk brakes. It is old, purple, and slightly rusted. It is also the bicycle that I rode from an island north of Seattle to an island south of Miami, from Roche Harbor on San Juan Island to Key West in Florida. Want details? I wrote a book about the ride.” (My Bike Gets New Brakes) That makes it old enough to drink and vote and complain about these young kids with their fancy gadgets like navigation systems and 27 gears and electric motors. Electric motors! Kids these days. Five years after that post it was time to replace it (the simplest solution) or upgrade it (the frugal solution). Welcome to lots of new components on an old frame, and a story about supply chains, bicycle chains, and chains of events.

My bike is venerable. As I’ve gotten busier my weight increased which encouraged more use of that venerable bike for exercise instead of errands. When I worked from a coworks the bicycle was the right vehicle and I was the thinnest I’ve been in over a decade. 

Now that I am a realtor and adjusting to pandemic and post-pandemic life most of my work is at home or requires driving to visit properties. Bicycling to one property can work, but if a client wants to visit another one they’d have to give me lots of time to catch up. My red Jeep works better for that. 

But my bicycle should still work for exercise, right? Well, yes and no. I live in a slightly hilly area. To downshift enough to climb the hills the bike started requiring me to do a U-turn, roll downhill far enough to downshift, then do a U-turn to head back up the hill. Lots of points for exercise. Lots of points taken away because of safety concerns. Frustration became an added feature.

This must be fixed!

Unfortunately the pandemic crowds bought up the inventory of new bicycles. Prices went up. Delivery times lengthened to months. I can be patient. … Two years later, so much for patience, how much for a new bicycle? Roughly $2,000 after taxes and accessories are added. Grump. It may be the time to exercise, but not the time to spend that much money.

But surely the bicycle can be repaired. Surely? One bike shop said they considered it unsafe to work on equipment that was so old. Another tried three times, but the issue didn’t go away. Grump.

Ah, but if I can’t replace the entire bicycle, and if repairing the same component three times didn’t work, how about replacing all of the other components but using as much of the old bicycle as possible? $400. $400! Deal!

That was February, a fine time to let a shop work on it while the weather blew through the area.  I felt comfortable enough to tell the mechanic that I wasn’t in a hurry.

A month goes by, no news. Another, and another, and I exercise patience by only calling once a month.

Spring goes by. Bicycling in spring. Missed it.

Summer shows up. I show up at the bike shop because I was in the neighborhood (which is about 45 miles from my house.) The work still is not done. Why? Because the supply chain had run out of shift levers. Shift levers. My venerable bicycle was propped up on their work-in-progress rack which was visible from the sidewalk. It looked fine except for two shift cables hanging loose because there as nothing to attach them to.

Finally, the call. Come and get it! Finally. 

By chance I had a gap in my schedule, my errands had me halfway there, all I had to do was drive the rest of the way, dismantle it enough to fit inside my little Jeep, and make sure I didn’t get dirt or grease on my professional clothes, my clean jeans.

Drive away, finish the work day, get home and go for a ride.

Whew. The freedom to sweat in tights, again. Hmm. That sounds odd, but I’ll leave it there.

Then find out that, whether the bicycle was in good shape, I no longer was. It was time to retune the engine; e.g. me.

Then also remember that the mechanic mentioned a problem replacing one component that they left in place. The component that was the presumed culprit. Sigh. Fated to be with me? The bicycle does shift, but it still requires convincing the chain to downshift. At least I don’t have to do U-turns on the hills.

Life is tradeoffs.

Option 1) Give up bicycling, except on flat roads. That doesn’t do as much for errands or exercise; but it is cheaper initially. It can ultimately be more expensive because being unhealthy is uneconomical.

Option 2)  Buy a new bicycle. That should solve the mechanical problems, as well as the exercise problems; but new bicycles that fit my over six-foot tall body have supply issues, too. It would also mean buying by using debt, which exacerbates the financial impact.

Option 3) Do what I did, repair. The bicycle is repaired, mostly. I should be able to get back into shape, eventually. My finances are impacted but by only a fraction of the price of a new bicycle; but venerable does not mean invulnerable and a new machine may be needed eventually.

I hadn’t thought of this until I wrote that paragraph but another option is to give up any job that can’t be done at a slower pace in more casual clothes. Hmm. Nah. My job as a real estate broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. is worth hanging onto for a while. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/ (Note: I’ll be giving a free and public presentation on my perspective on Whidbey Island’s real estate and affordability trends on September 8th at 2PM at the Freeland Library. Drop in or hope we can upload it to YouTube.)

Frugality has many quirks. Much of the advice is about life hacks, little things to save here and there. The broader issues are like I describe in my book, Dream. Invest. Live.; “Spend less than you make and invest the rest.”; with my current corollary of “As Long As You Can Pay Your Bills #ALAYCPYB”. The idea of buying things that last isn’t fashionable, but while I’ve been working through my financial turmoil it has been comforting to know that I can benefit from things I bought for function over form, for reliability over performance, and for the pesky and boring notion of taking the cost of a thing and dividing it by the number of years I’ve been able to use it.

My bicycle is venerable. It isn’t perfect. Neither am I. Some day I’ll probably buy a new bicycle, but I’ll probably recognize it as a way of updated every component at once. In the meantime, when I ride my venerable and imperfect bicycle I will also be riding a reminder of years of rides, including my ride across America. Just Keep Pedaling That has a value, too.

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Good News Is Swirling

Always remember, it is possible to suddenly be overwhelmed with lots of good news, and that can be a lot of work. This post may be a swirl of disjointed items because I’m squeezing it in between work items, waiting for phone calls and emails, and trying to figure out how I’m going to manage to mow the lawn while the Sun is up but the day’s not too hot.

Good News

Readers are finally receiving their copies of Kettle Pot Cup and passing along their comments.
“I got your book. It’s really fun.”
“I got your Tea book and it’s fun and charming and delightful and very *you.* Which is a good thing. Well done, sir.”
Spread the word! (As I pause to take a sip of loose leaf pu-erh tea.)
Now I have to wait for the royalty checks to arrive so I can order more books.

Good news

I finished the last story edit of my sci-fi novel. There’s more work to do, but the story won’t change. Punctuation, grammar, formatting, cover design, marketing text – yeah, there’s more to do.

Good news

Someone who learned about my tea book was inspired to read some of my blogs (and possibly at least one of my books), and is considering having me write for them. Probably not a full-time gig, but it is a nice possibility for my writing business.

Good news

It is summer and dancing is happening. On Whidbey Island, dancing happens throughout the year, but this time of year means a few dances per week. And more dancers are feeling brave enough to dance in public. That’s still a balancing act and a judgment call, though. Vaxxed and boosted doesn’t mean invulnerable. But I do enjoy dancing, and it helps my mental health.

Good news

It is the weekend for the Whidbey Island Fair, a county fair, but with a focus on this part of Island County.

Good news

Enough of the affordable housing measures and projects are happening and have been working on it hard enough that houses are being built and regulatory progress may also be made.

Good news

A friend passed along an opportunity to buy a tiny house on a big lot on another island I also like. So close, but I’ll have to check those lottery tickets. No need for MegaMillions, just a few hundred thousand could make something somewhat pleasantly dreamy happen.

Good news

For the first time in over a year I have a client managed to get a house offer accepted. The market prices don’t seem to have moved much, but there seems to be less competition.

Good news

As I type, the median list (not sales) price for my area is $945,000. Whether that will hold or rise or fall, it may explain why algorithms are estimating my house’s market value at ~$538,0000; up about $10,000 in a month and about $80,000 in a year. A nice bump to my net worth; though I’d have to sell or take out a loan against it to benefit from it. But there’s this tiny house on a different island…

Managing good news

So much good news has made my thoughts swirl. Meditation? Ha! The thoughts are overwhelming any such attempt – unless I fall asleep from overwork. Good news is good, but latent good news can require managing. Making sure opportunities remain open, responding as responses are necessary, thanking people and the world and circumstances – and somehow finding time for self-care. There’s the adage, “Chop wood; carry water. Reach enlightenment. Chop wood; carry water.” because life chores remain and are necessary. I think the modern equivalent is more like “Mow the lawn and wash the dishes and pay the bills.”

There’s more, I’m sure; but this gap in my day is closing, so I’ll close this off, maybe with a PS. You see, MicroVision (MVIS) is announcing earnings this hour, and – well, let’s see if that’s good news, too.

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Artistic Passive Income

A reader, or at least a buyer, helped keep one of my books alive, today. Twelve Months at Merritt Lake had its first sale in over a year, today. I wrote it in 2006, definitely not even close to today. Despite a poetic review; “This is a gem of a book with moments of poetry…” & “Overall what strikes me is how courageous it is to publish an authentic description in one’s own voice” – Erin Waterman, it has sold fewer copies than most of my books. And yet, it lives. Books can die from publishers pulling the listing, but especially since computers became repositories for print and e-books, it costs less to keep them going. It also means they can be readily revived. It also means that work done decades ago can continue to benefit readers and authors.

Let’s get the personal finance portion out of the way. Passive income has its place. Allow me to use an example from a fellow author, Don Scoby. Bake a cookie to sell a cookie and you have to bake another cookie. Show people how to bake a cookie by writing a cookbook, and the cookbook can be sold and sold and sold without having to continually clean the kitchen. Say hello to “Make Your Own Darn Good Cookies“, a cookbook he wrote four years ago and continues to have a better Sales Rank than my Merritt Lake book (until today.)

One of the problems with books is that it takes less time to go for a hike or to bake a cookie than it does to write about it. Then comes the wait to see if anyone cares about it enough to buy it, read it, and encourage others to do the same. As with most art, the artist only sells the first copies; the majority of sales come from readers and patrons passing along the suggestion that others should do the same.

Some artists become successful with their first works. Sometimes that’s because they’re just so good. Sometimes it’s because they have the resources for coaching and production and professional publicists. Frequently artists are seen as late-bloomers or long-delayed overnight sensations. (e.g. old)

The 10,000 hour rule provides a rationalization, but it is not a proof or a guarantee of succeeding. Work at something for 10,000 hours and develop a marketable skill. Step one: work at something for 10,000 hours, e.g. five years at 40 hours per week each year with two weeks off. I know if I suggest that to many of my artist friends they’ll scoff or laugh. Two weeks off? Ha!

Those 10,000 hours are an investment in time, and time is more precious than money. But again, it is an investment with no guarantee of a profitable return. Artists are known for working from passion, or at least persistence and perseverance. That’s probably because they’re frequently not being paid, so something must keep them going.

One benefit of writing is that books can live a long time. Burning books sell more books. Publishers pulling a title are an opportunity to republish, possibly with a chance for fixing typos, clearing edits, adding epilogues – and maybe getting a better deal. I don’t want my publishers to pull my books, but I have plans for updated editions for most of them. (I know more now because I haven’t stopped writing. And then there’s improving the cover art…)

Personal finance (Speaking of cover art to fix – see Dream. Invest. Live.) 

About 13% of Americans of retirement age have to work as long as they live because bad luck happens or they never got around to saving.

Conventional wisdom is based on the roughly 80,000 hour model of forty years of working 2,000 hours per year. If you’re lucky you can retire with Social Security and a pension.

Throw in some good fortune or frugal living or good investing and it is possible to retire sooner. I retired at 38 just before becoming a millionaire (hence the personal finance book mentioned above), which was too quickly followed by, as a few professionals put it, “A perfect storm of bad luck.” It happens. Hence my continued work life.

Social Security and pensions are passive income, but are tied to efforts earlier in life. Work, wait decades, get paid.

Arts like writing and photography can be passive income, too. Some arts, like sculpture, can’t be readily replicated. Culinary arts are perishable. But a book or a digital photograph can generate benefits without any extra effort by the author or photographer. Note: That is ‘can’ generate benefits, not ‘will’ generate benefits. 

There are no guarantees, but that is true for Social Security (which though it should be stable has its enemies), pensions (because the value of pension funds can dwindle), investments (even annuities can have issues), stocks (duh), and even real estate (nature can be uppity.)

It is hard to work without knowing if you’ll get paid. Switch from a job reported on a W-2 versus a gig reported on a 1099 and experience the difference. Each has its benefits, (hmm, a pun), but W-2 jobs are regular and regimented while 1099 gigs are more open-ended in many ways.

I’m not predicting a resurgence in my earlier books based on one sale. That sale could simply be a click that was a mistake, but it did inspire this reminder for optimism. 

We can’t know the consequences of our actions. We make plans. We do stuff. We hope. Live long enough and 10,000 hours seems to be a smaller number every year because it is a smaller percentage of a total life, every year, every day.

I don’t keep track or count my hours. (Yes, believe it or not, I do not track everything in my life.) I’ve probably spent more than 10,000 hours writing (7 books, soon to be 8, plus hundreds or a few thousand online articles). Maybe I’ve spent that much time or more taking and presenting photographs. Karate? Could be, but only if I count practicing on my own; but that’s definitely not passive income. Engineering wasn’t passive, but it paid well. Public speaking and consulting? Also not passive, though something I enjoy. Real estate? Working on it. (State Required Disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/).

Of that list, writing and photography have probably paid the least, but also have the greatest long-term potential. Come on, potential; actualize!

Personal finance is frequently limited to budgets, or advisors, or stocks and bonds. Personal finance is also about income and assets, expenses and liabilities. Passive income is only version of one of those four, but it can be an unexpected bonus that pays on its own schedule and usually without warning.

Hmm. Something else to write a book about? Maybe after enough readers and patrons have enjoyed my work, passed the word along, and my publishers and printers pass along those royalty checks.


Another 1,100 words and another hour of writing. Chalk it up.


You can’t plan these things. Evidently, this post was an unplanned milestone.

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