If This Was My Last Day

What five things would I do?

If this were my last day, what five things would earn a place in those precious hours.

  • I’d take a walk along the road leading to the woods where owls hang out.
  • I’d play with my grandchildren and tell them stories either in person or over the Net.
  • I’d sit on the dock in the afternoon to reflect and record notes about my life.
  • I’d go for a swim and watch the sun go down while sitting on the dock.
  • I would eat unlimited amounts of butterscotch ice cream.

And you? What would you do?

I Think My Brain Took A Holiday

It’s been 10 months now since we took a speed-run north to shelter against Covid in our Canadian home.

And it’s been a spectacularly unproductive time for me as a writer. I’ve had lots of ideas and lots of time but the motivation to sit for hours and crank out the words just wasn’t there. One peek at the headlines and I was done for the day.

As an aside, I’m a compulsive reader and news junkie and I’m really working to stop “doomscrolling.” Given the worldwide headlines, and the fodder that gave me for stories, I was overwhelmed.

Two weeks ago, my brain “apparently” went into gear and redesigned my writing life. I say “apparently” because warning bells started going off yesterday as I was reviewing some of my book stats. There was something not quite right in my writing universe.

(Ever get that tingling in your back/neck that says, “somethings wrong!” Well, I often have my creative muse do that – but this time it was screaming and banging at the back of my head to get my attention.)

I Did What?

Seriously, I reorganized my writing life? And I did it when?

Who Was In Charge Last Week?

Turns out the inner-child in me was in charge and decided things needed shaking up. An impish grin filled my mind and all I could do was shake my head, rein in that curious lad and investigate what he’d done in my adult-absence.

  • He’d left my gardening sites and ebooks alone. (Thank goodness for small mercies!)
  • He’d taken this site intending to make it a fiction site.
  • And he started an entirely new site for this blog
  • He started a new website for fantasy fiction but did leave the old one for other fiction.

So while some of his ideas were interesting and had some merit, the adult in me is back in charge.

This is my blog.

I’ll be writing about a wide range of things – from issues for writers, for seniors, and for sharing about whatever happens to get through my new filters. (I had to install new info-filters to weed out all the crap that’s out there.)

For the record, my fiction site is here and my gardening site is here.

You can get updates for this blog (about writing, aging research, longevity, and whatever comes across my mind in creative living.)

Subscribe to this blog here.

Dear Reader: A Career Change Lands

Frankly, it was about time I took this step.

I’ve been “told” by a certain person I happen to live with, that I’m now retired. And this wasn’t phrased as a suggestion. (Every guy knows that tone of voice.)

To be honest, I never thought I would retire and I’ve spent much of the last year trying to understand exactly what it means to be a writer and be retired at the same time.

Complicating this decision is the fact I have a bucket list of places to go and things to do that would choke that poor proverbial horse.

You’d think a large bucket list that would make it easier to switch wouldn’t you but I seem to have been well indoctrinated in the good old work-ethic of my Scottish mother and grandparents. (Note my dad was no slouch on that front either.)

Covid certainly brought these questions to the forefront. There’s nothing like a world wide pandemic and the thought these 70+ year old bones might not make it to the vaccinations and the new normal (whatever that may be.)

Didn’t This Website Used To Be Fiction?

Well, yes it was for a brief time as I built out a fiction career. This one was to be the fantasy story site. Even fiction writing is on the chopping block at this point as I look to other creative activities.

Author note: two weeks after this was originally posted, I made the decision to walk away from fiction. This may not be a permanent walk-away as I’ve left the ebooks on Amazon but have no intent to write more or update the website.

But before this site was fiction, it was my personal blog and to this it returns.

Subscribe To Get The New and Older Posts

I’ll be reposting many of the previous posts and I invite you to subscribe to get them.

A Reader Called Me A Fart In A Windstorm

I had a reader email the other day to describe me as a “fart in a windstorm” or of no consequence.

I thought about that for a second or three. Went through a range of emotions and then decided what she thought wasn’t my problem.

My problems are my own — which is a very stoic approach to life. Check out this wonderful website on Stoicism.

And remembering that led me down another few thought trails. One of those trails was a system described by Roger James Hamilton in a free ebook (Amazon link — not affiliate) Read the first section and I believe there’s a link in there to take the quiz to discover your own approach to the world.

My approach to life is a syncretic mix of discovery and new. If you’ve read the book, you’ll understand I have what he calls a “creative” approach to life. It’s not that I am a creative/writer, it’s that I look at the world as a playground and want to explore it.

If you’ve watched the movie UP, you’ll understand the concept of “Squirrel!” If not, see below. All somebody has to do with me is point me to something new, something bright and shiny, say “Squirrel!” and I’m off to play. In Hamilton’s terms, that’s a creative.

This happens to be a perfect attitude for a freelance writer.There’s very little I’m not interested in (at least for a short period of time.)

But to sum up, what any reader thinks of me isn’t my problem. In this case, she owns the delete and unsubscribe button and I trust she used both.

That’s all by way of saying you get to live your own life. You get to take on your own challenges or avoid them. But at the end of the day, your life is a sum of your decisions and attitudes.

My life is full of challenges, lessons and insights.

At the moment, I’m doing one of Joel Runyon’s Impossible Challenges. And I must tell you that water is cold!

I’ve started writing in a new genre and am reading, researching and having way too much fun with it.

I’m continuing researching Alzheimer’s and Fitness topics

And that doesn’t include my normal reading objectives — there’s somewhere around 45 non-fiction books (mostly history) waiting my attention after two months of being on a restricted reading level due to some eye issues. (I’ve just ordered two new non-fiction books — one on current American politics and one on a history of the Ottoman empire.) 
Or the ebooks and websites…
Or…

My attitude to life is that it’s to be learned. And there’s so much to learn — it’s like being a kid in a candy store.

It’s not to stick in one groove.

It’s not to live in a way to gain any reader’s approval.

In short, I’d do this stuff and write about it even if nobody read it. 
That’s my attitude. And that’s my life.

So it doesn’t matter what that reader thought. It doesn’t matter whether she thinks what I do is inconsequential.

What matters is what I think.

What matters is what my attitude is and how I answer the important questions.

And that my friends is all any of us have in the end.

The End Of A Great Power: Two Books

If you’re interested in entering the discussion about why the American empire is in danger of collapsing, these two books will serve as a beginning primer.

The End Is Always Near

Apocalyptic Moments, From the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses
Dan Carlin (Pub 2019)
Carlin is the host of the immensely popular podcast, Hardcore History,  and this book is an extension of some of his podcasts.

His central thesis in all of this is:

  • The more states increase their power, the more of their resources they devote to maintaining it
  • The capacity to engage in war/conflict with another power depends on the level of resources needed to win and/or maintain the existing empire.
  • States/empires begin to fail when they have to borrow money to maintain their empire and the conflicts.
  • When they run out of borrowing power, they fail.
    He writes in an engaging manner and the fact he’s using his podcast transcripts may account for some of this professionally relaxed voice in his writing.

He illustrates his thesis with specific moments both from ancient history and the near nuclear misses of the modern era.

The book is well worth the quick read of 246 pages (Amazon).

He also gives a reasonable number of “further resources” to read in the index for every chapter.

If you’re looking for a fast read and an enjoyable one to understand this subject, I’d highly recommend this book.

But Having Said That

This book was preceded by:

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

Paul Kennedy (Pub 1986)

This book is far more complete in explaining the same thesis but it shifts time frame away from the (mostly) ancient world of Carlin’s book to the years 1500 to 2000.

The New York Times reviewer had this to say:

“He expands his thesis in the introduction and epilogue. It can be easily summarized: The more states increase their power, the larger the proportion of their resources they devote to maintaining it. If too large a proportion of national resources is diverted to military purposes, this in the long run leads to a weakening of power. The capacity to sustain a conflict with a comparable state or coalition of states ultimately depends on economic strength; but states apparently at the zenith of their political power are usually already in a condition of comparative economic decline, and the United States is no exception to this rule.

Power can be maintained only by a prudent balance between the creation of wealth and military expenditure, and great powers in decline almost always hasten their demise by shifting expenditure from the former to the latter. Spain, the Netherlands, France and Britain did exactly that. Now it is the turn of the Soviet Union and the United States.”
Archives of the New York Times

In other words, pretty much what Carlin says. This book is far more dense — as befits a book written by an academic — 540 pages with an extensive index of further reading. Check it out here at Amazon

The Significant Difference Between The Two Books

Kennedy took quite a bit of flack for the last 30 pages or so where his publisher asked him to comment on the decline of the American empire (remember written in 1986 only 10 years after Vietnam) and he did so with the same set of criteria of military engagement and financial management. This drew significant argument from some economists and politicians.

Carlin does not deal with the American situation.

The Bottom Line

If you want to read an engaging book on the subject, read Carlin’s book. I’d recommend this if you’re at all interested in history and understanding how and why some of these amazing civilizations fell.

Kennedy’s book is far more complete — focussed on a more modern era — and is a bit of a slog to get through it unless you’re a serious student of history.

A Personal Note:

A quick review of online comments shows many commentators (particularly those in the U.S.) do not agree with either Carlin or Kennedy when the books would suggest the the American empire is in danger of failing. There are those who suggest the characteristics of ancient empire failures do not apply to a modern world and its economic models.

I have no deep background to comment on the intricacies of modern economics.

What I do have is my Scottish grandmother’s saying, “The piper must be paid.” 

(Every Scot knows the piper is always paid for playing — in coin or drink.)

Facebook Just Jumped The Shark


Let me say up front that Facebook is very useful in our small real-world community as it serves as a major way to communicate events and even sell (or give away) items.

But having said that, I should confess I’ve never been a huge fan of Facebook as an author.

And lately, I think it’s jumped the shark in its desire to make money. (At least for me as an author.)

So What is Jumping The Shark?

The beginning of the end. Something is said to have “jumped the shark” when it has reached its peak and begun a downhill slide to mediocrity or oblivion.

“It’s said to have been coined by Jon Hein who has a web site, jumptheshark.com, and now a book detailing examples, especially as applied to TV shows. It supposedly refers to an episode of the TV show “Happy Days” in which Fonzie jumps over a shark on water skis, which Hein believes was the point at which the series had lost its touch and was beginning to grasp at straws.” Urban Dictionary.

Gardeners Like Videos

I know gardeners tend to like videos so (in a video) I polled my fans on Facebook

(I have just above 5000 Likes and 5000 Followers – or roughly 10,000 readers who may/may not see the video) about gardening questions they may have.

Facebook showed that video post to just over 1000 people (encouraged by 5 shares.)

This means 10% of my “fans” saw the post asking if they had gardening questions. I also note this was a large response by past traffic patterns.

I made two videos answering one gardening question in each.

The Results

  • Video number 1 was shown to 357 people with no shares.
  • Video number 2 was shown to 1505 people with 8 shares driving those numbers. (Note this was almost a record-setting number.)

A low of 3% and a high of 15%

It’s clear the second video views was driven by shares, but even so, it still only reached 15% of my readers.

While I intended to create a series of garden videos, I confess I ran out of steam with the numbers.

To be sure, Facebook dunned the hell out of me to invest in advertising to show the videos more often. Other creators will recognize the line, “Boost this post to reach XX readers for only…”

Facebook Is An Advertising Channel

I remember Brian Clark from the old Copyblogger site writing that Facebook was an advertising channel and not good for anything else (as an author or business.)

I find the hyper-local information about our community helpful but as for developing a fan-base or helping gardeners, I’ll be doing that on my own platforms moving forward.

And treating Facebook as an advertising platform.

The Only Possible Use I Have For Facebook Now

Is to establish a presence for name recognition purposes. I can link to my website author posts and if somebody stumbles over my page – great. And possibly as an advertising platform for my books.

Why “Possibly” An Advertising Platform

Fiction books are usually sold as series. At the moment, authors spend money advertising the first book in the series (often at breakeven or a small loss) hoping readers will buy the first book and then continue buying the others in the series.

As long as the series is profitable as a whole, the loss on the first book caused by advertising is worth the cost.

Gardening ebooks are sold as one-offs. There’s little in the way of a series “cliff-hanger” boost in sales. It is hoped if the first book helps the gardener, they’ll be more likely to buy a second to help solve another problem.

Bottom Line

For me moving forward, Facebook’s utility as an author is clearly an advertising channel and I suspect that’s fine by Facebook.

But, let me pose a question.

If my intent is to sell books, am I better off:

  • paid advertising on Facebook where fans don’t want to be sold to, but entertained or
  • paid advertising on Amazon that’s built for selling books?

Right.

And yes, I’ll likely have more to say on this in the future but for the moment, Facebook is simply one more ad channel for me.