We interrupt your regularly scheduled…

We’ve all got skills and ideas. We all have stuff we can make and do. If we’re really smart we can turn those things into new (and sometimes awesome!) things.

Somewhere along the line somebody realized you can use chainmail (you know, the stuff the knights wore) for scrubbing cast iron pans. Earlier this year I realized I could combine my skills as a writer with my knowledge of chainmail to create an instruction set for those wanting to make their own chainmail scrubber (or, you know, fight off barbarian hordes or something…) and so…

Today I’m announcing the release my chainmail scrubber instructions, and a kit that includes the rings to make a scrubber of your own. It’s right here in my ETSY store!

Yes, you could buy some sweatshop made scrubber. But, what if you want two or three? What if you want one in an unusual size? What if you want to change the shape just a little? Why buy a sweatshop scrubber when you can learn (and then teach) a skill?

With my instructions and kit you can get a scrubber and learn a useful skill. (Seriously this stuff isn’t just for fighting the horde anymore, people are making chainmail jewelry out there. And house hold goods… And…).

You can learn to make something useful that really works and really lasts. And, you can customize it to your style and needs.

Right now they’re available in stainless steel, and aluminum (light weight for you hikers and campers out there…). I’m also considering putting together kits with bronze rings (The color is different and they tie in with a story I’m working on…). The bronze ones aren’t part of the first wave, but if there’s enough interest they’ll be out by the end of the year.

If you want to, you could get really creative and mix metals to create a scrubber with your own custom pattern!

The scrubbers really do work wonders with stuck on food (especially on good cast iron that you don’t want to use dish soap on…). And, you can say you made it yourself! (And modify it so it’s uniquely suited to you!)

If you’re interested in learning, or just have some cast iron to clean check them out in the ETSY store.

If you’d like to talk, or hear, about writing instruction sets, leave a comment or send an email.

Either way, see you next post!

Well dear reader we’re at one of those ‘fun’ points in the universe. And this time it really is going to be fun.

Within the last week or two I’ve finished a major editing pass on my second novel (it’s out for other people to chew on as we speak…); I’m finding myself in a new and exciting world of equipment maintenance (Yes I can actually replace a hard drive… But now I have this weird little nylon buffer that sort of decided to be a three piece set…), and I’ve been asked to be an assistant den leader for the local Cub scout pack. It is a time of finishing old projects and picking up new ones (including a few projects I’ve tabled for one reason or another).

One of the projects I’m starting on is a book about making your own ‘beach’ glass and using it in art projects. And…I’m asking you to join me!

Here’s the plan… I’m writing most of the book and making a bunch of cool glass in the process. What I’m asking you to do is accept some of the glass and try making something with it. The glass and the something are yours to keep, all I’m asking in return are a few pictures and answers to a couple of easy questions.

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Basically the last chapter of the book is a show and tell chapter where the stuff you make can be showcased and some of your thoughts and experiences can be expressed (naturally you get credit for all of your creations!).

This is the offer dear reader, you get some pretties, the chance to play, and the chance to show off what you made. I get to finish my book and the opportunity to share some of the goodies piling up in my workshop.

As far as kinds of projects…I’m open to anything: Jewelry, mixed media art, painted glass, diorama/miniature stuff, or anything else you want to try using some of this glass with. It’s all on the table dear reader.

If you’re interested, if you like playing with stuff and want some pretties to play with, contact me at Forevermountainpub@gmail.com and we’ll go over the specifics.

Play is a good thing dear reader, and I’m offering you a chance to join in my play.

If you want to play shoot me an email. Either way I’m going to have some fun! And, I’ll see you next post.

Out of your comfort zone!

As writers we have favorite subjects to write on, and styles we prefer. It’s a good thing. We have (or should be developing) areas we know well and are good at. We have a general focus. But. Sometimes we are asked or compelled to step out of our comfort zone.

Sometimes this is a good thing.

Sometimes it isn’t.

It all depends on the situation and how we look at things…

The good

Sometimes we step out of our comfort zone because we have to. And in these cases we can find things we like and things that are very helpful to us. Sometimes we actually learn something.

Back in 2016 I published my first book Chainmail Bottle Carriers. In writing that book I found a few things I thought were better shown in a video than in the written style I was using. But… I had never written a video before much less made one.

I wanted to do it, but I didn’t have the experience or expertise in the area. Well, as much as I hate to admit it I see new subscribers on my You Tube channel more frequently than I see sales of that particular book here in 2018…

In practice I think I’ve reached more people because of the videos. But I had to get out of my comfort Zone to do it.

The bad

Recently Thomas S. Monson the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints died and an obituary was printed in the New York Times…

I happen to disagree with a number of points in that obituary. But I support the author in writing from the author’s own genuine stance and perspective.

There are a number of people who have pressured the Times to retract the obituary and even to force the author to ‘write a better one’. The thing is, if you try to put someone out of their comfort zone in this way (or if you allow yourself to be put out of your comfort zone in this way) you are creating a number of problems.

  1. If the original piece of writing was genuine you are forcing someone to be dishonest about what they think, feel, and believe. No matter how passionate you might be, you can’t claim to be honest and force someone to “agree” with you dishonestly while maintaining any sort of integrity in yourself.
  2. You run the risk of having things blow back on you (or if you’re the writer you run the risk of having the situation happen to you again).

 

They say what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and this is precisely why I don’t’ agree with those who want the Times to retract their obituary and write a ‘better one’. Quite simply I support the author’s right to state a genuine opinion because I don’t want someone coming back at me and trying to force me to change my stance and opinion. If you force someone to dishonestly change their opinion you open the door for someone else to do it to you.

 

The take home

Sometimes it is good to get out of your comfort zone and try new things, but you need to be careful about doing it. If you are ding new things and writing new things with good purpose good things can come from it. If you are saying and writing new things because you are forced to do so, that’s dishonest and not good for you or the person making you do it.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Check out the video I just posted, and see you next week.

Piecing it together…

One of the projects that is almost out the door is an instruction set I’m working on for how to make a chainmail belt.

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I have also been talking to people who are working (or want to work) on putting out some sewing and knitting patterns. I can promise you that as much thought and work needs to go into a pattern or instruction set as is needed for any other project (you know… If you want your instructions to be understandable instead of rage inducing…)

But there are differences between writing a pattern or instruction set and some of the other writing we talk about here…

Doing and writing

One of the things I’ve really noticed in the process or writing instructions is that it is a good idea to actually make or do whatever yours supposed to be writing about while you’re writing the instructions. This can be slow and awkward. You keep having to set one thing down to do the other. However, this is often one of the best ways to avoid forgetting those little details that crop up while you’re working. Doing and writing in a parallel mode helps you think more about what you’re actually doing, so that you can write your instructions correctly.

There are times you need to write things up later, but this really can lead to memory problems and missing details. If you absolutely can’t write while doing, you might think about video or audio recording, or some other form of in vivo documentation to help you.

A picture is worth a thousand words

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” photographers tell me this all the time. As one with a few hundred thousand words under his belt I can say that this is one of the situations that they’re actually right about. Pictures, graphs and charts can show information more clearly and concisely than a verbal description; but only if you’ve put some thought into your pictures, graphs and charts! If you want to see the full spectrum of good and bad visual information head over to You Tube and watch some ‘instructional’ videos after you finish reading this post…

Often it won’t be enough to “snap a few pics” that you can insert into your instructions.  You need to think about what you’re showing, and from what angle, and with what kind of lighting and contrast. You might even want to get into some picture editing software and add some labels and text…

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Your pictures really do need to be as thought out as the rest of your instructions. And even then you’re not done!

Play testing!

It is virtually always a good idea to have someone else read what you write before you call it done (trust me, some of us have learned the hard way…). When you’re writing instructions or a pattern, it might not be enough to just have someone read over what you wrote. For patterns and instructions you might just want someone to actually try to do what you’re writing about.

In this case you can’t do it all yourself! You already know how to do what you’re writing about and you may well miss errors and confusing points that will be obvious to someone else trying to follow your instructions.

I know someone out there want’s to skip this step, but… Nope, you need to let someone else try to follow your instructions and then give you feedback. (note: fear of feedback shouldn’t be an excuse that stops you. If you’re seriously afraid of what people will say, then either you or your instructions aren’t ready yet…)

Instructions are a teaching tool. They are worthy of genuine thought and effort (and, based on how many knitting patterns my wife buys, they are sometimes fairly profitable…). In fact if you want to do them right you should give them as much attention (or more) than you would give any other writing project.

You also have to understand how your instruction projects are unique.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Next week…

Back to the long and the short of it!

You have to commit

Honestly the hardest thing I had to deal with during my wife’s family’s family reunion was the owners of the property where we stayed.

The husband (who seems to be the one detailed to actually maintain the place) was quite evidently not committed to the operation. He had another business that he was interested in and was quick to write off issues and problems with the property as being his wife’s ‘thing’.

The wife (who I have not met in person) by all appearances is trying to run the business, but she really doesn’t seem to have put the learning and thought into really running things. I could be wrong in my diagnosis, but it was very easy to identify problems. Even when you filter out the maintenance issues which she sent her husband to deal with there were business end items that the husband was quick to put squarely on her shoulders.

But what does this have to do with writing?

Well, writing is a serious business. Writing is something that there aren’t a whole lot of people who are actually going to be pushing you to do (at least not in a way that is helpful). Writing is something that you personally have to put the time and effort in on if you want to succeed.

You can get help (I’ve discussed it here), but ultimately writing is a vocation that requires personal effort. It takes time, learning, thought, and heart. Writing is something that you have to commit to.

In The Karate Kid Mr. Miagi said, “Karate is like road. Karate Yes, OK. Karate no, Ok. Karate maybe so? Squish.” In Think and Grow Rich Napoleon Hill teaches us to decide what we want and what we will give to get it. Both of these apply to writing one hundred percent.

To write anything worthwhile, long or short, fiction or nonfiction, you have to pay the price. You have to put in the work. If you are just going to ‘try’ you will fail. If you commit and do you have a chance to succeed.

I’m not always perfect. We all have off days and days we can’t give 100%. But, if you want to be a writer and you want to have a product that is worthy, you have to commit. You have to put in the time and effort. You have to read, learn, write, and edit with real intent and effort. You have to do what you need to do to succeed.

If you do all that you can and fail. Well, you failed while daring greatly. If you failed because you didn’t do enough. Well, that’s on you.

If you choose to be involved in this endeavor I do want you to succeed dear reader. That’s why this blog is here. The idea is to assemble what you need and the rest is on you. See you next post.

Don’t write (all) your obsessions!

One of the first, and best, pieces of advice young writers are given is: ‘write your obsessions’ (you can substitute passions for obsessions if you must). It’s good advice, but it’s a guideline with a dirty little secret.

You should write things you are interested in, things you know about, care about, and are willing to spend time with. Those are the things that you do. They are part of your natural way of going. Those are the things you know enough about to write them well (or at least you are willing to learn about them to a high enough degree to write about them well).

Writing about things you really know and do saves you a lot of time in research because you know the basics already. You know the language of what you’re writing about. This is a good thing, but it will also require you to think about what you’re writing and who you are writing for.

“Well Farangian… I’m already thinking about those things!”

Yes, but sometimes the way you have to think about things to write about them is different from the way you think about them to actually do them. You have to think about audience. You have to think about presentation, formatting, packaging, grammar, narrative structure… Sometimes you may even find yourself trying to work up projects just so you can write about them.

And there dear reader is the dark secret. If we write about our obsessions, if we write about the things we love, it can easily turn what we love to do and do for enjoyment into work. Turning what we love to do into work can kill our enthusiasm for doing, and for writing.

The way out is to write about your obsessions, but not all of you obsessions. And definitely do not write about all of your obsessions all the time.

Yes, if you love pottery you can write pottery books. But, when it gets to feel like work you might need to back away for a while. That may mean putting the writing down, or going to work on some other interest (for a while at least… Don’t give up entirely on you obsession, or your writing). It may be a good idea to separate what you love from what you write, or spend some time with another interest that you’re not writing about (at least for a little while).

Sometimes time away from a project is the best thing you can do for it. To achieve that ‘step away’ time you need to have something you’re not writing about (Gasp! I know… It scares me too!)

So, yes dear reader, write your obsessions. Just don’t write about all of them all the time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I think Delta and Echo companies need their commander…

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See you next post!

Boundary lines (part 1?)

How do we decide what is and isn’t appropriate? How do we know what to share with whom?

Once when I was young and foolish (at least younger and more foolish than I am now…) I was involved in a conversation with two friends, a missionary and an art student. The missionary accused the art student of participating in the creation of pornography because she was in a class where they were drawing a nude model. The art student countered that her drawings were not pornographic because they were an assignment to learn to draw the human form…

I have some books that include pictures our young missionary might also classify as pornography. I would have to argue that they are not pornographic, unless you were to use them for pornographic purposes. In my world and for my purposes they are not.

The pictures in question are appropriate subject matter in textbooks on human anatomy and developmental psychology. The pictures are meant to help educate the reader about medicine and human development (something that’s kind of important and necessary). But, it is possible for someone to use them for other purposes.

We can see similar things in other arenas. When I worked in mental health I had information about my clients that was important for me to know, and sometimes important for me to communicate to other people. There were also people who should not have been given (and probably still shouldn’t be given) access to that information. But, how do you know who, and whose purposes, are on the right side of the boundary?

This is a question and a subject that can be important to us as writers and consumers of books and other media. Sometimes it is not an easy question to answer, but it needs answering. And, since this is a writing/publishing blog it is a question that is probably worth discussing here.

This is meant to be a discussion and I really do encourage questions and commentary from readers. So, any one with initial questions or comments feel free to comment on this post or email them to me at forevermountainpub@gmail.com . I look forward to hearing from you and discussing this topic more in the future!

Not alone!

As people who regularly read this blog know I’ve been working on a novel called Johnson Farm…

About the same time I started Johnson Farm I got a crazy idea. There was a talented young artist I wanted to help progress and find opportunities for her art. So, I made her an offer…

When the book was well enough edited that I was comfortable with her reading it I would give her a copy and ask her to design a cover.

The art!

In January, just over a year later, the book was in the right place.

I’m actually not sure which one of us was more nervous when we met to have a serious talk about the cover.  For Sariah Anne the project was something new, something outside of here comfort zone. On my side of the table I was in the rare position of being the one “behind the desk”. I’ve worked with people before, but this was my project. Johnson Farm was my baby that I’d been working on for a year, and now I was putting my baby into her hands…

Well, this week I officially got the result…

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This is the cover Sariah Anne created for me. It wasn’t my vision of the place… But, that was the assignment I’d set for her, to create a cover based on her read of the book. And I actually really like it!

More than just a cover…

At the same time Sariah Anne was working on the cover I’ve been doing the finish editing for the story. It’s a strange feeling seeing it all this close to done (literally down to a couple of misplaced periods and a couple of quotation marks in today’s work!). It feels like it is really coming together and I love the story.

This leaves the next question: where do we go from here?

Well this is where I can use your help dear reader…

At minimum I will be putting the book out as an EBook with a completion date of late April or early May. I would really like to get a physical edition of the book put out, but that takes money and my little company is just starting. So, I’ve set up a Kickstarter (here) and am offering some premium goodies to people willing to pledge money toward the book (for those not familiar with Kickstarter: if the project funds you get the premiums you chose when you made your pledge, and if it doesn’t fund you aren’t charged anything and we all walk away).

So dear reader… I’m going to ask you to take a look and (maybe) buy some books! I you do, you aren’t just helping me, you’re helping Sariah Anne as well.

If you can’t (or won’t) buy at this point, I understand dear reader and I would ask you to share this post or the Kickstarter with those around you.

That’s it for this one dear reader, and until next time…

Thank you in advance!