Organization: the neverending quest

This is my office right now:

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It doesn’t look organized, but it is. It’s organized two ways, and one is more effective than the other.

You see, the (1) clutter demands attention and for good reason: It’s important. Stuff I have to do. Stuff that, if I file it neatly away in the (2) three-ring to-do binder buried underneath all that mess, I will forget about and never do and screw up my life.

The goal is to not screw up my life.

But what about filing? you ask. Eh. Filing is for stuff you have to keep but rarely use: tax returns, vendor catalogs, vehicle and health and vet information. Stuff like that. If I had my ’druthers, I’d be able to stick it all in a file box like the one I keep my year’s tax receipts in after I’ve entered the bucket full of receipts into Quicken.

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What about tossing? you ask. Yeah, what you’re looking at is after having ruthlessly tossed and shredded. Trust me, I get rid of whatever I can the minute I lay hands on it and determine it’s worthless to me.

So after ruthlessly tossing-and-shredding, and piling things on my desk in a way that will remind me of its importance, the best way I’ve discovered to not screw up my life and still stay clutter-free is to hang all the important stuff up on the wall.

This demands cork. Or steel/whiteboards magnets. Something. Just get it off my effing desk! I want elbow room and work space. Throw in some effective cord management.

Stylishly.

I want style.

Because there is no style here. I can stick pins in the sheetrock all day long and it’ll do the trick, but I want some style. Martha Stewart Living style. Only more realistic. And cheaper.

So what I’m working on in my organizational efforts is to find a stylish way to hang all my stuff on the walls where I can see it at a glance without boxing myself into a stylish but useless and expensive space.

But I can’t even decide on a paint color.

How valuable is knowledge?

NOTE: This is the third in a series of several posts David Nygren of The Urban Elitist and I will be cross-blogging concerning the issue of authors (whether traditionally published, e-published, or self-published) actually getting paid for their work.

Outside of David’s and my continuing exploration of how to monetize our work (and for me, this means fiction), I’ve come across some interesting things that really only cement my opinion that, in a misguided attempt to be generous, knowledge is flung around like rotting leaves on a late fall day: plentiful, soggy, and seemingly worthless.

In ages past, knowledge was specialized and carefully husbanded, passed down from father to son or from master to apprentice, under the craft guild’s auspices: tailoring, goldsmithing, masonry, jewel cutting. These trades were respected, well paid, and each had their—get it?—guild to watch out for the trade. (I won’t go into the differences between a guild and a union at this time.)

tohnewlogo6Not that long ago, esoteric specialized trades with their own secrets began to write how-to books. I still liken this to the groundbreaking This Old House (and if you don’t know how groundbreaking this was in the building and remodeling industry, you just weren’t paying attention or you weren’t born yet). In 1979, I was 11 and I ate it up, glued to PBS every Saturday morning. (There’s a genome for DIYers, you see.) Still, the how-to books got bought and people learned these things—and they paid for the privilege.

A couple of years ago, I thought I’d undertake the task of making drapes, so I bought (oooh, there’s that word again) an e-book on the subject. It was self-published, an A-to-Z how-to with simple instructions laid out for an idiot ADDer like me, and far superior to anything I’d seen in a bookstore or at the library. It was $24.95 and worth every penny. (Never did get around to doing the drapes, but now I understand the concepts and principles of drape-making.)

Today, I went looking for how to create dollhouse plans and build a dollhouse. Now, I have never been into dollhouses and this project has to do with my current WIP, Stay, for which I want to build Whittaker House (a gothic revival mansion inn) and its surrounds in miniature. And I found this: FREE dollhouse plans and instructions.

I would’ve paid money for instructions like that, perhaps as an e-book or as a serial or a do-along project. I mean, she seems to know what she’s talking about, right? I wondered, “What’s wrong with that woman?”

funny pictures of cats with captionsBut then I looked at the header of my own blog, where it says, CREATING E-BOOK SERIES. I’ve been spending hours and hours building the next post on this (in case anybody was wondering where the hell it was). What’s wrong with that woman in the mirror?

Three things:

1) I’m a dilettante. I’m not sure I’m doing this the “right” way. I can only share what I’ve done; thus, I’m not sure my knowledge is actually worth anything.

2) I like to teach, and any bit of knowledge will spur me on.

3) I’m a compulsive helper. Knowledge is power and I think there are a lot of people out there who could use some empowerment.

If I had a penis and had gone to a master to teach me, say, stone cutting, my father would have paid the master to take me on as an apprentice. I would have served in his household in whatever capacity in exchange for room and board and knowledge for a period of 7 years (or more), which would have made me little better than an indentured servant. And then I would have struck out on my next phase as a journeyman and continued training. Once I earned the title of master under stringent training and specification, I could then say, “These are my credentials because I gave 14 years of my life to my trade in money, blood, sweat, and tears, and I am now in a position to charge money for my expertise and get my own little slave.”

If I had gone to college and enrolled in their fashion program, I would have paid tuition and gained credentials that told people, “Yeah, I kind of know what I’m talking about, so you need to pay me for my knowledge.” Oh, wait. I did do that. And I have a couple of awards to show for that. In my particular field of textiles, I’m considered a bit of an expert. So I charge.

But I didn’t go anywhere to learn how to create e-books. I learned my CSS and (X)HTML on my own from the free sites online (which sites exist in order to promote a standard markup). I learned the software programs by hit-or-miss. Nobody taught me; I didn’t ask anybody to teach me. I don’t feel I know enough to charge.

So why am I doing it?

To get traffic here into my blog to get you to buy my book. I am an expert on the subject of The Proviso, so I want to get paid for it. I am fortunate in that a couple of people have mostly agreed with me on my level of expertise.

Rightly or wrongly, some knowledge has to be given away to entice you to buy my product. Sometimes, those enticements don’t seem related. Obviously, there are some problems with the method I’ve chosen, which is to say, the people most likely to show up here to take the knowledge I’m offering free are probably writing books of their own and I should view them as my competition. They probably view me as their competition, too.

But say I’m wrong and it’s painfully obvious to everyone (except me and the people who take my advice) that I have no clue what I’m doing. Well, then my competition will screw up, too.

Sometimes free isn’t worth what you paid for it and can actually cost you a whole lot of real time and cash.

You can’t leave it alone*

In my work in progress, Magdalene (#3 in the Dunham series), the non-Mormon heroine, Cassie, wants to ambush the (widowed) Mormon bishop hero, Mitch, at church. They’ve been dating (excruciatingly chastely) for 5 months and she is thoroughly bewildered as to why he hasn’t invited her to attend (not to mention more than a little peeved that she hasn’t been able to seduce him). Not that she wants to go to church, mind, much less join; she just had the idea that we were all about acquiring converts—which is a completely reasonable and wholly correct assumption.

Since Mitch lives in the heart of the steel belt and she lives in Manhattan, she has quite a bit of trouble figuring out which ward he oversees, where to go, and what time to be there. Thus, she turns to Mitch’s best friend, who left the church halfway through his mission and is a professed and semi-practicing pagan. He gives her the procedural rundown and says,

“The more you understand about our culture, the better you’ll understand Mitch.”

Our culture?”

“Well, yeah. Mine, too. You don’t stop being a Jew just because you convert to Christianity.”

“That’s genetic.”

“With us, it might as well be.”

I live in a place that’s rich with Mormon history, so, like any native, I take it for granted. I don’t feel any sense of heritage when I go to Utah (which state I avoid like the plague). It’s in Nauvoo, Illinois, where I feel this connection to my heritage; every time I go, I find my cynicism and willingness to snipe seeping out of my soul, leaving a refreshing softness and wistful smiles. And, well, I got married in Nauvoo. That might have something to do with it.

So I took some pictures when we were there in August for my cousin’s wedding. Enjoy.

*There’s a saying about a portion of folks who identify as ex-Mormon or recovering Mormon (yes, there is a 12-step group for it): You can leave the church, but you can’t leave it alone.

I’m a series whore

Okay, let me clarify: I’m not so crazy about the ones where you have to read them in order, especially if they’re not marked on the cover as being part of a series (Covenant, are you listening to me?) and which book it is. I like the ones you can read out of order. Yeah, you might get spoilers for the ones that came before it, if they happen in chronological order.

But what I really really really really super-duper like are books that are interconnected by characters, say, like a family series. Like, say, ahem, the Dunham family. With these people, I go back in time, forward in time, some of them aren’t even related by blood but by friendship. It doesn’t resemble a straight line so much as a wagon wheel, with a hub (The Proviso) and spokes, each spoke being a separate, standalone story but with characters you can keep up with in other books.

My current project is Stay, set in both Mansfield, Missouri and my beloved “Chouteau” County. It’s the romance between two of the very minor characters in The Proviso.

As you can see from the word-count meter at the right, I’ve written a good portion of it. That doesn’t mean anything. It’ll be rewritten several times before it gets published some time in (I’m hoping) the winter of 2009/2010. As you can also see, it’s a little more manageable (for me and you) at 100,000 words.

Niches are nice, but…

I started a new book a couple of days ago. It’s easy when you start ripping off plots on purpose instead of trying to reinvent the wheel and then finding out someone else did it before you. First Hamlet, now the New Testament. Next thing you know, I’ll be rewriting Moby Dick.

Now, I can write for a Mormon audience. Or I can write for the romance audience. Or I can write for the general fiction audience (whatever that is). Well. I wrote for all three, because that’s what I like.

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