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Friday, August 15, 2014

The Author Can, and Will, Sell You Books

Now that  'Who Am I Today?' has been released I'm encouraging all potential buyers to head for their nearest independent bookseller and place an order.  Annie Bloom's in Multnomah Village has the book in stock for immediate purchase.  As I've explained in previous posts, my publication platform is Ingram Lightning Source.  One reason I went with the Ingram system is to help give a boost to neighborhood bookstores across the USA.

Several indies around the country have already jumped onboard and placed orders.  My sincere thanks to Montana Book & Toy Company in Helena, Valley Bookstore in Stillwater, MN, and the Bookshop of Beverly Farms in Massachusetts.  Having such a great support network is something all authors dream about and I'm looking forward to helping it grow every day.

I also know there are many parts of the country where indie bookstores have, sadly, disappeared.  For anyone who wants my books and can't get to a local independent, feel free to buy them directly from me.  Here's how my system works:

All my titles are priced at $10.  In addition to the new one I also have plenty of stock remaining for 'I'm Right Here, Fish-Cake' and 'It Came With The House.'  You may contact me via email to start the process and my email address is jpshaffer@comcast.net and you should put 'Book Purchase' in the subject box.  For orders of 1 to 5 copies there is a shipping charge of $3.   For orders of 6 to 10 copies the shipping charge is $5.  If you decide to buy more than 10 copies the charge is $6, even if you buy 30 or 40, or more.  I'll cover the additional shipping cost.  Happy to do it.  You can pay with check or Paypal.  Books can be autographed, or not, as specified by the purchaser.  If you live in the Portland metro area I might even be able to deliver the books right to your home at no charge.  We'll work out those details as they arise, okay?

I offer this option as an alternative to Amazon, and I look forward to meeting new friends!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Faster Than The Speed of Blurbs

There are no blurbs on the front or back cover of my book.  No quotes from other writers praising my writing talents.  With conventional publishing there is a long pre-release publicity buildup and I'm not doing that.  The publishing platform I'm using allows me to crash into the open market quickly and I'm hoping the lack of blurbs will not be a drawback.  Maybe I'll get blurbs later.  I've never been too sure how much blurbs really matter, anyway.  The crucial factor in my favor right now is that independent bookstores all over the US can order my book for their customers.

There is one big 'IF.'  Your local independent bookstore needs to be hooked into the Ingram network.  Ingram is one of the major book distributors. They have giant warehouses around the country. Here in Oregon if you drive along I-5 you will see one near the freeway just south of Roseburg.  That building is crammed with books and when a customer comes into Annie Bloom's and wants a book that we don't have in stock, the Roseburg warehouse is the first place we check.

My books originate from an Ingram warehouse in Tennessee.  That's why it may take a week or more to get a copy if you order one.  Right now I'm in the process of sending out copies to various media outlets for possible reviews.  I've also had great support from the management at Annie Bloom's and the book will be stocked there, and should be available sometime this week.

If you live in a part of the country that has no local independent bookstore feel free to go to the Annie Bloom's website and order a copy there.  It can be shipped anywhere in the country (you'll have to pay a mailing charge of $5.60).

My promotional campaign depends heavily on every person who decides to buy the book.  Word-of-mouth is an old fashioned way to get publicity but I prefer it above all others.  If you like 'Who Am I Today?' please let your opinion be known.  Friends telling friends about a book they enjoyed is better than any blurb.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Latest Edition of Me

A new collection of my commentaries on various aspects of everyday life is now available!   Huge thanks to Trevor Richardson at Subtopian Publishing for helping make this happen.

The title of the book is 'Who Am I Today?' and the ISBN number is 9780988936331 and this information is important.  From personal experience at Annie Bloom's I can tell you that it's always best to have the title, author, and ISBN handy when you call or walk in to order a book.

Wherever you live in the US, you should be able to get 'Who Am I Today?' through your nearest independent bookseller if they are part of the Ingram distribution network.  Many of the essays in the book have appeared in Huffington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, Subtopian, and other publications.  Some are appearing in print for the first time.  The subject matter is all over the place and that's a big reason I've had trouble developing an audience during the past 25 years of writing.  I never developed a niche and I'm interested in a wide range of topics including history, parenting, UFOs, television, the aging process, house cleaning, and how we all manage to get through the day.

So who will enjoy this book?  I like to think my target audience is everyone above age 20.  Kids in the younger demographic brackets might find it interesting for some of the historical references.  My biggest worry is that some readers may not be able to tell which essays are satirical.  The world has become so bizarre and there are so many media outlets promoting "weird news" and other societal oddities that reality and fiction often seem indistinguishable.

I feel pretty confident in saying that if you buy this book as a gift for someone, they will not be offended by the content.  I'm not a "slash and burn" essayist and I grew up in an era when bad words were not a standard part of daily communication.

I'm looking forward to promoting the book through local media in Portland and by word of mouth in the weeks and months ahead.  And if you bump into me on the street and have a copy in your pocket,  I'll be happy to autograph it!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Roughing It

I'm not embarrassed to call myself a moderate when it comes to personal habits and public behavior.  The term also describes my approach to myriad issues of daily life.  I've maintained a high level of inner contentment during the past few decades by avoiding extremist ideas in politics, individual conduct, and recreational pursuits.

The latter category is significant because of the growing popularity of physically demanding summertime vacation activities known as "extreme sports."  A huge number of Americans now enjoy climbing walls of granite, kayaking down raging whitewater rapids, trekking through isolated, rugged wilderness areas or trying to ascend snow-capped mountains.

No such outings will ever be listed on our family calendar.  My approach to outdoor adventure was heavily influenced by the late Marlin Perkins, venerable host of the classic TV series 'Wild Kingdom,' who usually waited in the canoe while his partner Jim plunged overboard and wrestled with the alligators.  Like Marlin, I also prefer staying dry and not getting bitten by other species.  I firmly believe the word "camping" means staying at a motel that has linoleum floors instead of carpeting.

Robust, daring travelers may consider my low threshold of discomfort a disgrace to our American pioneer heritage.  I see it as one small pillar of support for independent motel operators, a vanishing breed of unsung entrepreneurs who carved out their own special niche in the national landscape.

Cheap motels can bring visitors to the brink of frontier living while maintaining a safety net of essential services.  Sleeping bags may be needed to ensure a comfortable night's rest if the room is furnished with thin blankets and weak baseboard heating.  The rustic feeling may be enhanced by a dingy, cramped shower stall and water pressure that hovers just above a slow trickle.

Basic wiring is also crucial for my style of camping.  Having electrical outlets readily available means I can brew a cup of soup or cocoa immediately by using a small, plug-in heating coil instead of having to build a smoky, sputtering fire.  

Roadside motor lodges took a tremendous public relations hit when Alfred Hitchcock released the original movie version of 'Psycho' in 1960.  But anyone who watches the film closely cannot deny that Janet Leigh's room is clean, comfortable and tidy.  In fact, if the Bates Motel hadn't been operated by crazy Anthony Perkins (NO relation to Marlin, thank goodness) I'm sure it would have rated at least two diamonds from the lodging experts at Triple-A.  

Responsible campers are supposed to live gently on the land and the same philosophy can be applied to motel accommodations.  I always throw trash in wastebaskets and pile used towels in the bathroom before leaving.  This makes the housekeeper's job a little easier.  And, to be honest, I don't want the staff to think I'm an inconsiderate slob who was raised by wolves and can't pick up after himself.

I have no quarrel with people who think my style of camping is lazy and dull.  If your idea of outdoor fun is huddling in a snow cave while heating a can of chili with a butane lighter, go for it.  But I like to have four walls around me at night and during stormy weather.  And anyone who tries to change my attitude gets a simple response:  Do Not Disturb.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Water Next Time


If I had a glass of water for every gripe or wisecrack about the recent E-coli event in Portland I could open my own private reservoir.  A lot of reaction has focused on how well the phone notification system worked, or didn’t, and there’s been plenty of humor about a boil water alert getting it’s own hashtag.

As citywide emergencies go, this one was pretty low intensity.  I’m not criticizing anyone who raced to the supermarket and stocked up on bottled water. But access to the municipal supply was never in doubt.  The system remained fully functional and the flow didn’t stop.  So I’d say right now is the perfect moment to consider the next water crisis, which might be much more serious. 

Ask yourself this question: If an 8.5 earthquake hits the northwest tomorrow and nothing happens when you turn on the nearest faucet, what will you do?  Finding clean water after a major disaster is a contingency that everyone in every city needs to think about.

There won’t be any warning.  What’s the state of your current household beverage supply?  Will it last for a few days, or a couple of weeks?  Damage from a massive quake could create a lot of truly grim scenarios.  If you want to learn more about the geologic instability of this region just read ‘Cascadia’s Fault’ by Jerry Thompson (Counterpoint Press 2011).  It’s likely the number of underground water mains needing repairs will be big, and I can foresee immediate controversy erupting over which pipes get top priority.  Assuming, of course, that all the tools and heavy equipment required for such work, and crews to operate them, are available.

Also, don’t forget that every city water system has a front and back end.  Getting clean water to drink is the front end and in Portland the Water Bureau handles that part. On the back end, sewage disposal is overseen by the Bureau of Environmental Services.  If that part of the system stops functioning for any length of time our quality of life will take another major hit.

Here’s the unpleasant reality: when indoor plumbing goes ‘offline’ a person who lives in a house can always prepare a latrine in the backyard.  But what about the thousands of people who live in apartments?  What are they supposed to do when their toilets don’t flush?  I have posed this question to friends a couple of times while discussing emergency plans and the standard response is, “Ewww!  That’s gross!”  Yes, I agree, and that’s exactly why we need to figure out possible solutions.  Saying “Ewww!” and hoping it won’t happen isn’t a useful policy for dealing with any potential crisis.

Most estimates of water use in America say an average person uses about 80 to 100 gallons per day. That includes showering, laundry, bathroom needs and drinking.  If the flow stopped suddenly and I had to cut my consumption to the absolute bare minimum, I honestly don’t know what that amount would be.

Does this kind of theorizing make you nervous?  Water security is, literally, a life and death matter.  Sorry if I shook anybody up but this subject needs a thorough, joke-free public discussion before the real shaking starts. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Fast, The Furious, and Me


I’m ready to let some higher authority take over my car when I’m on the highway.  Actually I want all cars to be under some central command system.  For decades I’ve read about experiments that use a cable buried under the pavement to control vehicles traveling the roadway.  Whatever works, I say let’s give it a try.  I didn’t always feel this way but I’ve been worn down by too many close encounters with motoring miscreants.

The latest incident happened recently as  I was heading out of downtown Portland on the Sunset Highway about 9 A.M.  As I entered the tunnel my car was in the far left lane and traffic was fairly heavy.  I was trying to stay about three or four car lengths behind the vehicle in front of me.  This is a basic rule that every kid hears in driver education class.  Unfortunately it seems to be widely disregarded once a license is obtained.

On the way out of the tunnel I heard someone honk and thought, “Are you KIDDING?”  A glance in the rearview mirror showed the car behind me almost touching my back bumper.  Only one headlight, on the left side, was illuminated.  The right headlight wasn’t working because it was smashed and broken and part of the hood was dented.   So I was being tailgated by someone in a car that had damage from a previous collision, and that driver was honking to make me speed up and tailgate the car ahead of me. 

As we headed uphill toward the zoo I saw the honker suddenly move into the middle lane, then continue over into the slow lane, where it accelerated for a short stretch and then cut back into the middle lane.  It gained about 75 feet from all that activity.

In my mind, a scenario unfolded that brought swift consequences to that other driver.  Because I’m a science fiction fan, my imaginary response came in the form of a massive, all-seeing all-knowing computer that instantly pinpoints motoring miscreants and takes control of their vehicles, which are safely steered to a safe stopping area.   The offending drivers are then subjected to a whitering lecture issued through the car radio.  Think of ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’ combined with ‘Eagle Eye.’

I feel like the technology for this scenario must already exist.  Microchips that record data and send out radio signals could surely be modified to take over operation of a motor vehicle when a specific order is issued by a remote source.

The main problem with this idea is that a lot of offenders would just ignore the warning and immediately revert back to their reckless habits. Authority figures, human or robotic, don’t seem to intimidate them.   Also, as all science fiction fans know, most super-intelligent computers inevitably go haywire and try to take over the world.  Best not to pursue this scenario beyond the wishful thinking stage.

Maybe the cable in the pavement is the answer.  I’m ready for anything that will bring order to the daily traffic flow and keep the cannonball runners in line, moving at the same speed as everybody else.  Oh, and I also want someone to invent a device I can point at anyone who gratuitously honks at me and deactivate their horn permanently.





Saturday, February 22, 2014

Two Big Writing Obstacles--My Hands

Being creative is only part of the task I face as a writer.  My thinking ability is pretty good.  Organizing the words inside my head is seldom a problem. The bad part happens when I start typing.  I'm terrible at it, always have been, and decade after decade my skills never get any better.  Just typing that previous sentence was rough.  I spelled 'decade' as 'descade' and made a couple of spacing errors.  Correcting each new glitch takes a few seconds and all those little nicks of time slow down the whole process.  It's like driving your car and pushing the brake pedal by accident every 15 or 20 seconds.  This explains why a lot of my columns and essays tend to be short.  Producing a final draft of 500 to 900 words often leaves me physically and emotionally weakened.

I took a typing class in 8th grade and basically faked my way through it.  "Don't be looking at the keys!" was one of the teacher's daily commands and I tried to obey but soon realized my efforts were always going to end in failure.  Other kids were doing just fine fine, gaining speed and using every finger as the textbook instructed.  To this day I only use the index and middle finger on each hand.  (FYI--I just typed 'eavh' instead of 'each' and had to correct it).  On rare occasions the ring finger on my right hand may get into the action, but both little fingers are totally uninvolved.  I sometimes think I don't even need my little fingers anymore.  If I had a relative who required a pinky transplant in order to survive I would gladly donate one of mine without a moment's hesitation.

It would obviously help to memorize the keyboard but that's never happened either.  Finding 'V' is always a mini-mystery.  And 'M' is dangerous because it has keys for punctuation as neighbors on the right side and they often get hit by mistake.  When I see my wife and daughter typing at their computers, staring at the screens while their fingers blaze along at machine-gun speed, I'm puzzled and forlorn, not unlike an old horse hitched to a covered wagon stuck in deep mud.  I feel the same way watching talented musicians playing their instruments while singing and dancing simultaneously.

You'd think I would have at least mastered the ability to type simple words flawlessly but that's not the case.   Although 'the' and 'is' have a pretty high success rate I still manage to mangle them into 'thr' and 'id' and other variations on a regular basis.  One good feature about manual typewriters was that people like me with minimal talent had some margin for error.  If you pressed the wrong key by accident you had time to pull back before the mistake was committed to paper.  I don't want to go back to those days but I do wish someone would invent a sensitivity meter for modern keyboards that would automatically detect when one fingertip is touching two or more keys and give priority to the key that has the highest percentage of skin contact.

Looking ahead, I feel pretty confident in assuring whoever reads this blog that you will probably never receive a text message from me.  Since my dexterity skills can barely handle typing on a normal size keyboard with real keys, communicating via a tiny flat-screen keyboard with virtual keys is way past the outer limits of my abilities.  I'm going to end this entry now because my finhers, or fingers rather, are starting to feel ftugued.  I meant fatigued.  Five paragraphs will do that do an inept typist. Next time I'll try for six.  Five-and-a-half for sure.