Reading The Books I Collect

One of the things I do is collect books. We’re talking lots of books. Thick books, skinny books, hard cover, soft cover, really, really old books and just-published best sellers. 

Books. Lots and lots of books.

I collect them.

Note, I haven’t read them all. In fact, there are hundreds of books on my shelves I haven’t read yet. For example, I have 56 Hardy Boys and 50-something Tom Swift Jr books I haven’t read but collected because I read them when I was younger – much younger.   Did I mention Churchill’s five volume,”A History of the English Speaking Peoples” or Durant’s 10 volume “The Story of Civilization”?  Hoagland’s “1000 Years of Irish Poetry.”  Or…

You get the picture I’m sure. And I haven’t even begun to mention the gardening book collection. My 100-year old, antique books were used for background research for my award-winning “Gardening Wisdom” book but then ignored. I won’t even suggest I should read the 4-volume RHS ‘Dictionary of Gardening’  that was a standard pro-level reference before the Internet. 

I Retired Earlier This Year

I happily built stone walls, gardened and did a few other projects this past summer but then fall rolled in and winter – quite naturally for Canada-  has followed.

And Covid.  Well, there’s little need be said about this except we’re continuing to self-isolate and wait for a vaccination. As seniors, we’re in a high-risk category so we’re being particularly careful. (Update: we’re both vaccinated now)

Instead of Driving South, I Went Looking For Projects

I thought I might do some stone carving and I’ve messed about with some tools and stone getting back into the hand-eye coordination necessary to use carving tools. But you can only chew up so many big stones and spend so much time out in an unheated garage. Plus after farming and running a nursery for years, early rising seem to be a feature of my current life.  To be frank, I now prefer to drink my coffee, make some notes on the computer rather than wander outside in the dark to minus-forever temperatures so I can cut up half-frozen rocks. 

But then, in reshelving a small book, I realized I’d quoted from it but hadn’t read the entire thing.

“Wait a minute,” a small voice in the back of my head whispered. “Wait a minute.”

The Short Version Of Starting Reading Seriously

I decided I’d take a day to read the book. And I did. And then my winter project appeared in one of those flashing thoughts you need to grab on its way through your head before it disappears into the ether.

I’m going to spend some serious time reading or rereading my library.

There’s no chance I’ll get through it before next spring but what a challenge and opportunity.  I have the books. I’ve ordered extra bookshelves to get the stacks off my office floor and I’m retired.

The current plan is to write a few words, carve a little stone and read as many pages as possible.

It’s an experiment but what a joy to realize the objects of my collecting obsession will now become part of my inner life as well as decorative objects on a wall.

Damn, who thought you could read the books you collect?

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Do You Know How Good Your Supplements Are?

Are you as confused about effective supplements? And your health? And do you really know how good your supplements are?

The honest truth is that I don’t know enough myself. It’s a confusing subject and my primary research hasn’t reassured me at all.

You see, there’s so much marketing and self-serving bovine excretia flowing over our media, the average person hasn’t a prayer of understanding or keeping up with the data flow. I know when I decided to lose weight and improve my diet, I immediately felt lost and completely out of touch. There were so many “helping voices” out there, I surely didn’t know where to turn. Or, frankly, in which direction to turn.

This information will be a work in progress. Much like ourselves I note.

Consider it a snapshot of the current state of the art and as I learn more, I’ll update right here. Simply understand, as I said above, it’s a work in progress.

I wanted to get a snapshot of the industry before I began so started searching around on random topics.

It wasn’t pretty.

For starters, the industry is a well-protected one with significant Congressional support in the U.S.

A Time Magazine article said:

“1994 law, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which prevents the products from the scrutiny and approval given to other drugs. “I could pretty much create something this afternoon in my kitchen and sell it and not have to do any kind of testing ahead of time,” author Catherine Price” 
You can read the Time article here.

Price wrote a book outlining the industry and its “issues” here on Amazon

OK, but what about the size of this business?

Well now, we run into a few problems getting numbers. There are a multitude of small companies promoting products that fly totally under anybody’s radar. And the industry itself got into a “PR war” between two competing groups arguing whether the industry was a 12 Billion or 37 Billion.

But those numbers dwarf in comparison to the 278 Billion projected for 2024 by Globe NewsWire.

What we can agree on is this is big business.

But It’s All Safe. Right?

Well, here we go again. If you note the U.S.A. regulations above (the largest consumer market for supplements) there are no testing requirements as there are for other foods. As long as you make no outright medical claims on the label, you can sell it as a “dietary supplement”.

And the FDA said

But There Must Be Controls On Production

Well not that I was able to discover. In fact, one of the things I discovered was that you could start your own supplement company quite easily. And if you don’t know how to do this (yet) you can take a course here on Udemy

Celebrities

One of the most famous author/podcasters Tim Ferriss (The Four Hour Workweek etc) got his start this way. He formed a company, sold it and funded his empire.

And celebrity endorsements are legion. Here’s an interesting report on which celebrity is endorsing which product and data about the product.

Speaking of sports celebrities and products

Consumer Reports magazine reported in March 2012, “We’ve had more than 400 recalls of spiked products since 2008,” says Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s division of dietary-supplement programs. Most were marketed for bodybuilding, sexual enhancement, and weight loss.” That, by the way, was in 4 years.

Are you confused yet? Or a bit hesitant to take a look at your own supplements?

I am.

I’m starting to investigate and research every supplement I’ve read about or take and will report back to you on some of the more interesting information.

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This Change In My Author Website Made Me Money

I’ve been looking at my author website again trying to understand modern publishing as it’s currently working in the trenches. Here’s where I landed this week.

What’s Process and What’s Content

  • Process is about the author’s life and working habits. The process of creating.
  • Content is the end product – the book, the video etc

Top selling authors share all the process but monetize all of the content.

That’s why all the how-to articles on my website were unpublished and why some of the posts are being added to my gardening ebooks. Here’s the first of these improved ebook – Tomatoes

My Fiction Sites

These have also been reimagined and separated into process and content. 

My Income Depends On Readers Buying Content

And if this is the case, giving it away doesn’t make much sense.

Reimagining The Attention Economy

I’ve obviously misunderstood the Attention Economy thinking that gaining reader attention was the primary, driving force.  My understanding was that by gaining attention and building reader trust – sales would follow.

I’ve obviously done it wrong. I gained lots of attention and book sales were mediocre. 

When I mostly abandoned the websites and adopted Amazon advertising, sales went up.  

When I mostly abandoned the website building by unpublishing hundreds of how-to posts, ebooks sales went up.

Even I’m getting the message now that content is what I sell and process is what I write about. The task is to make both things interesting and valuable.

But at least I now know which is which.  

p.s. The garden website is currently being rebuilt and modified. That one has too many posts to modify easily.

Book Review: Keep Sharp

Build a Better Brain At Any Age by Sanjay Gupta, MD.

Let me make this short and sweet.

This is a decent book if you’re new to reading or trying to understand about Alzheimer’s disease.

The 12-week programme steps are useful if you are a new to beginning an Alzheimer’s prevention programme, or if you’ve ignored every other bit of advice in the media this would be a useful series of exercises. You can read the reviews here on Amazon.

This is a so-so book with little new in it if you’ve been following the research or reading other books such as Bredeson’s The End of Alzheimer’s.

Table of Contents

Part 1: The Brain: Meet Your Inner Black Box

Introduction to Alzheimer’s and defining cognitive decline. The author lists 12 myths and offers advice on how to move past these common beliefs. (my note: pretty much available everywhere online)

Part 2: The Brain Trust: How Not to Lose Your Mind

If you’ve been reading about Alzheimer’s, there’s not much new here – eat right, exercise right, sleep right pretty much sums it up.

Part 3: The Diagnosis: What To Do and How To Thrive

I haven’t seen this kind of 12-step programme before so if you’re new to the field or seriously concerned, this would be a good starting point. (This would be the only reason I’d recommend this book – it’s a solid “thing” you can do if you’re concerned.)

Bottom line:

There’s not much new in the way of information but the 12-step programme would be useful if you’re just beginning your prevention programme. Check it out here.

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Create Cool Shit

I’m a creator and a storyteller

My retirement goal is now clear in my mind.

Create Cool Shit

What’s cool to me now?

  • Stone walls
  • Wonderful gardens
  • Stories (how I deliver them is still up in the air but multimedia is a leading contender)

Note I reserve the right to change my mind about what’s cool at any time.

But More Importantly

What’s cool to you now?

Trees and Writers Keep Growing Or Rot Inside


One of the hardest things for writers to do is constantly outgrow their world.

The hard reality is it is only by recognizing multiple paths forward in both craft and creativity and abandoning old visions will writers have room for innovation.

But the fan base you’ve built, those who’ve bought your work and paid the bills, those people don’t want you to change. Nope. Not a bit of it.

Here’s my dilemma, I can stay in the old way of doing things to make my fans happy or I can go all creative and make myself happy.

Staying In A Safe Place

My guess is that by staying in one place — a safe place —I’m going to have to tell myself a story about how creative I am or how my work is “growing” somehow or how it’s helping so many people.

But deep down, in the corner of my soul, I’ll know I’ve compromised.

I like to tease my children about being on my 9th (or is this the 12th?) midlife crisis. But as my children also know, I reinvent myself with each change. From consultant to nurseryman, to award-winning, garden-writer to writing fiction to… (maybe stone carving or sculpture) I try to live the advice I pass along.

Bread of Life or Soul Of Life

Note this is not the same thing as taking a job to pay the bills or writing at something while I create in other spaces. Those things are bread-of-life.

When I talk about taking creative leaps, I’m talking about soul-of-life.

Another way to imagine a creative career is to imagine a tree. A tree is an interesting life form and I like to think of an artistic career as a multi-branched tree with tons of big branches leading to smaller ones. When you get to the end of one, you get to find another, walking out the new branch to the very end as well.

Creativity Is Like A Tree

But creativity, like a tree, is either growing or it is dying. And like a tree, it is either balanced in its growth or it falls over in a storm.

I also note trees take many years to die once they stop growing — mostly rotting from the inside. You see where I’m going with this?

I grow or I die as a creative person and without that active, visible growth showing in my work, I’m rotting away from the inside.

By the way, this is a tough one because there’s a real world out there where the bills have to be paid. But — nobody said writers following a creative dream was easy.

I wouldn’t want to do it if it were.

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