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I’ve said it at some time during the past, I know. I labor over decisions in which I have to spend a lot of money to buy something that isn’t absolutely essential for my own, or my family’s well-being.

A few nights ago I learned something.

Whiskey helps me buy shit.

I have been looking at the line of Suunto Ambit2 and Ambit3 sports watches for, oh about a year. I haven’t been able to pull the plug and buy one because:

  • I’ve never paid more than $75 for a watch in my life.
  • I could buy a computer for the price I could buy a Suunto watch for.
  • There are no stores anywhere near me where I could look at one.

I dropped my phone for the sixth time two days ago and it finally gave up the ghost. Immediately I went shopping at the malls for a phone. The one I broke, a Samsung Galaxy S3, was nowhere to be found. Old news. Only S4, S5, and Note 3’s were available. All were over $500 USD. I only paid $340 for my S3 about 18 months ago. I wasn’t paying $500 for any phone.

I could buy a notebook computer for that amount. That’s how I evaluate expenses so they make sense to me. I compare everything expensive to the cost of a notebook computer.

I came home and wife gave me the $40 Nokia candy-bar phone. I lived with that for a day. It was evening. I had a thought.

For $500 that I’m going to end up spending ANYWAY – I could buy a Suunto watch AND a phone. The phone would be a P.O.S., but at least I could have the Suunto with a heart rate monitor too!

Catastrophe became opportunity.

But not yet it didn’t.

I commenced to shopping online. Amazon, Suunto.com, Ebay, Thai stores online. Prices were outrageous. I focused on Ebay because they had many for sale. Then I thought… I’ll get one second-hand. I searched – they all were beat to hell. I saw the Ambit2 R and checked out the specs again. It worked for me. The main difference was that it didn’t have the barometer inside for the elevation readings. It has GPS and does read elevation from the maps it has stored in memory, which are better than the barometer’s accuracy if YouTube videos from owners are to be believed.

I searched for Ambit2 R with heart rate monitor. After a few minutes I found a new one. Seller rating was only 199 positives which I usually just pass over. This time I stayed with it. I looked at the feedback – he had sold all Suunto watches and got amazing feedback over the past year. The price was $270, buy it now. I looked at the Buy It Now button and thought about it. I said…

There is no way in HELL I’m paying $270 for a watch.

I walked out of the room. Peed. Found a snack. Figured I needed something to wash down the snack. Beer Leo was nowhere to be found, but I did have a bottle of whiskey that I kept for just such an occasion. I poured some and topped it off with water. I drank it and sat down at the computer.

There it was – $270, staring me in the face.

The guy had already sold 5 of them and there was 1 more left. He had sold 5 that same day, which meant there were many people grabbing this deal. I quickly searched phones to see what phone I could buy for $150 that might give me email I could use with a touchscreen. I found a cheap Samsung that would do the trick.

Hmm. Still I wasn’t ready. I reached for a drink. It was already empty. Damn that thing!

I poured another. Sat down. Pounded it. Looked at the screen some more. Searched Ebay AGAIN to see if there was any better deal. Nope, that was it.

Then like magic, I started to feel a bit more confident in myself.

I looked at the Buy It Now button. I looked at the silly blue phone on my desk. I looked back at the Buy It Now button, and S M A S H E D THAT THING!

It was like setting the hook on a fifteen pound cobia while flats fishing Tampa Bay. I wasted no time confirming the Paypal payment and was off to the races.

Then I had to wait all weekend for a confirmation from the guys selling it. It is now Monday at noon which means Sunday at midnight for them and I’m not going to hear from them for at least another twelve hours. Then I’ll be sleeping. So another 20+ hours and I’ll have something to go on. Something to jump up and down about.

And that’s how it goes.

Whiskey helps you make decisions. If you find yourself struggling, pour yourself a glass. Then another. Then, make your decision.

You cannot go wrong.

Ok, I finished what is definitely one of my longest blog posts ever here at MikeFook.com, the grand tally went way over what I originally intended, but then I decided to write the best article I could on the subject.

I have written 27 books so far. I have a process that I use to write them, that I thought I would share. Some of you might use this to the letter, some might just look at it for reference.

Share this guide if you dig it!

Writing a Fiction Novel – The Essentials According to Fook

FOOK, OFF DA HOOK!

I know some of you probably think I’m an Ass. I come across that way sometimes. I’m funny though. I’m a likable guy once you get to know me. Here, I’ll share something with you… aawww, sharing time, right? I feel like you should get to know me a little bit better. I mean, you’ve been reading this stuff how long?

I know, I know… I’ll go ahead and file this under the WTF category.

I’ve been working on a beast of an article. I hadn’t planned to write it, but I saw so many other authors doing it, and I thought since I’ve written so many books and had some success at sales at Amazon and other places I’d write one myself.

I’m 8,500 words into it and not sure where it’s all going to end. It is one of the most helpful articles I’ve ever written.

To be clear, this piece doesn’t tell you how to create amazing characters and stories. It’s more about the flow of the process of writing an ebook.

Will probably release Monday morning.

Hope everyone’s weekend is going well, mine has been very productive.

Cheers!

MF

Amazon Kindle Scount Publishing Program

FICTION WRITERS

If you’ve heard Joe Konrath, Hugh Howey, or some other lucky authors blab about getting the special treatment over at Amazon, any of us writing fiction can submit to this new program and get similar treatment.

Amazon just came out with a new program – Kindle Scout. You submit your 50,000+ word manuscript to them, ready to sell – with a professionally done cover. They look it over and give it to a bunch of readers to preview. If they like it, Amazon will offer to publish your book. They give you $1,500 and give you 50% of royalties for the next 5 years. You can renew when the contract is over.

Why would you do this when you make 70% from Kindle Digital Publishing anyway?

The benefit is that Amazon promotes your book, so you’re very likely going to make tens of thousands more than you would have otherwise. Possibly hundreds of thousands more. There are some authors that have had this special deal for years now, and only recently is it being opened up to the rest of us slobs.

See for info: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/submit

I’m likely going to submit my upcoming fiction book for this program to see if I can get accepted. Might as well, right?

Best of luck to you!

Time to share…

8. I drove in the Presidential motorcade in Hawaii on H-1 freeway! Yes, I was in charge of Hickam Air Force Base’s Details program and I volunteered for that detail myself. I drove Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s personal secretaries and 2 other members of the staff in a limousine from Hickam AFB and to their hotel in Waikiki. I also drove various dignitaries to places around Honolulu as needed.

7. One time when I was 13 I was hunting deer in the deep woods in Pennsylvania with two uncles that left me in one spot from 4:30 a.m. until after 6 p.m. I had some crackers and a handwarmer that you light to keep warm that lasted all of 15 minutes. The temperature was 18 degrees F and the wind was blowing pretty much all day. I have an intense dislike of even moderately cold temperatures to this day. GO FIGURE!

6. One time my friend and I caught a venomous baby copperhead snake and brought it to my house where we promptly lost it in the tall grass. Today I catch cobras, kraits, vipers, and coral snakes in Thailand and have the website: ThailandSnakes.com.

5. My favorite foods in the world are many… Best of the best?

  • Italian bread – dry or with butter; Pizza; Tom Yum Pla-Meuk (Spicy Sour Thai soup with squid)
  • Thick Pretzel rods from a factory in Pittsburgh
  • Ahi Poke with Shoyu (Raw chunks of Tuna with raw Maui Onions, garlic, chili water, Aloha Soy Sauce (shoyu), and some other spices
  • Vietnamese Rice Cake with Coconut Syrup
  • Vietnamese Spring Rolls (not fried)
  • 1/4 lb of raw pepperoni – just a stick to chew on
  • Tandoori chicken
  • Indian Nan bread
  • Baked fish: snook, redfish, sheepshead, snapper, grouper, mahi-mahi (dolphin but not “Flipper” kind)
  • Mom’s Pierogis (Polish origin)
  • Grandma’s Chicken Soup…

I could write all day. Can you tell I’ve been in Thailand for nearly 3 years and going through withdrawals?

4 . When I was about 10 years old I had cheated on my music exam and my music teacher called to speak with my mother that night. Knowing she was calling I hung out in the cellar by that phone until she called around 8 p.m. I picked up the phone and faked like I had my mother pick up the phone upstairs but instead I faked the conversation and pretended to be my mother! The music teacher was none-the-wiser!

3. I had about 30 warts covering my left and right knees as I was growing up. Kids made fun of me for years and I developed quite a complex about wearing shorts. Now that they’re gone (applied banana peels at about age 14, if you can believe that) I hate to be caught wearing ANYTHING but shorts when not working and sometimes when working.

2. My favorite job ever in my life was working at an elderly care home in Pennsylvania. Duties included changing bedpans, soiled sheets, colostomy bags and other “horrible” things, but none of it bothered me.

1. I had the coolest little pocket Chihuahua named “Mango” about 20 years ago. I let him out to do his business at midnight and watched him for a bit, then someone pulled up to the apartment complex and I was outside in my underwear so I ran in to grab shorts. I was back outside in 20 seconds. Mango disappeared in that time. My guess is one of two evils happened… the alligator in the canal next to the parking lot got him, or the huge owl picked him up in one silent swoop. The girl that pulled up to the building looked with me for a couple hours, but Mango was nowhere to be found!

The storm is moving in, if it isn't already on top of you. What are you going to do as your book sales decline?

The storm is moving in, if it isn’t already on top of you. What are you going to do as your book sales decline?

Over the past few months, after a less than spectacular Christmas season at Amazon for book sales, I’ve seen a drop-off in sales that seems like it is going to last for a while. Possibly forever. Over the past eight years I’ve been selling ebooks and there have been some ups and downs, but they always came back to a nice level that I couldn’t complain about. The drops have never lasted more than two or three months, but this one appears to be more serious.

What can you do as a writer when your sales drop?

First thing I did was take a good look at Smashwords.com and what it was doing for me (or, not doing for me). It wasn’t doing enough. I had decent sales at Apple and some at Kobo through Smashwords, but Smashwords itself isn’t doing anything for me. In the past I would make around $3,000 per year from them. I think the most I ever made there was about $800 for a quarter. That was decent enough and I wasn’t complaining. Then, with this drop-off in sales, Smashwords was giving me around a quarter of that. That sucked and I decided to go all-in at Amazon so I could take advantage of some of their promotions you can only offer readers when you go exclusive with them.

So, I yanked all books from Smashwords (unpublished them, they’re still there if I want to publish them again) and told Amazon I was exclusive with them for all books. I didn’t expect much because that gravy train already ran off the track a couple years back. There is no immediate and major jump in sales once an author does this, like there was in the past. I wondered if, since I had over 20 books published with Amazon, it might make a difference immediately. It didn’t. I’ve been selling some through their borrow program, but overall it probably puts me even with the loss in sales from Smashwords.

Step two was I started promoting some of my books with special prices on Amazon. This has helped a bit, and I’m happy enough. Sales are nothing like they were six years ago, five, four and three years ago, but I really cannot complain. I’m not the best writer in the world, and I’m making about what I could expect at the moment. Actually, I’ve been jumping up and down inside my head for years thinking about how much money I made with books that I finished a long time ago. I love the fact that books sell on and on whether you do anything more for them, or not. I can publish them and ignore them. That’s the perfect online business model for me because I don’t want to be bothered once they’re done.

The third thing I’ve done is focus on writing more books. Though I can’t seem to find the passion to write more fiction set in Thailand, this is what readers are writing to me about. ‘When is the next book?’ they want to know. Hmm, great question. I wasn’t planning on anything anytime soon, that’s for sure! But, fiction appears to be where it’s at. Fiction series in particular. Currently I’m in the middle of writing three books. One is pure fun. One is pure dread. One is some sort of blend, and a foray into a new genre that I’m not sure I’m any good at at all. I’ve been trying to nail down exactly what I am best at – and focus on that.

So, these are the things I’ve done over this past six months of declining sales at Amazon and Smashwords. What I’ve not done is revise covers, descriptions, edit books further that I’ve already published. Most of the books are getting decent reviews of three to four stars, so that’s pretty good. I’ll take it. I think it’s a good idea to give it your best shot and let it go. Watch to see how the book fares in the reviews and then move on to write the next book.

Have your sales dropped off? What are you doing to counter that? Anything?

There’s no question, it’s the goal. I was thinking 7,000 or something and then a friend chimed in – hey, why not 10,000? So, that’s what it became. I’ve not done that many vertical meters in a month before, or even close to it in the past, but it is not beyond reason. So far so good – I’m at 5,280 meters and climbing again today. As long as the crucial bits (knees, ankles, quads, feet) hold together, I’ll be celebrating at the end of the month. It has been a bit of a struggle to get the climbs in because we’re going through sporadic torrential rains here in Southern Thailand. Still, barring catastrophic uhm, catastrophe, I’ll make it to this goal.

To give you some idea what other people are doing, some of the best ultra-runners in the world are doing 10,000 meters of climbing during their runs, in a week, not a month. So, since I”m 48 and have nowhere near the fitness level or base, I’ll be quite happy with 10,000 in a month. I don’t think I even aspire to do 40,000 meters in a month. Maybe I do. I’d need to have some varied terrain here. All I have is basically one mountain and one set of long stairs (1,256 steps up a mountain).

Which leads me to the next goal.

I’ve been following these ultra-runners on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter… Guys like: Anton Krupicka, Kilian Jornet, Sage Canaday, Dakota Jones, and a slew of others. I got this nutty idea that in September my goal will be to do a 50km distance trek. Trek as in mostly walking, with some running thrown in to spice it up a bit. It would ideally be through the rainforest, but I don’t know anywhere I could do it that doesn’t involve massive climbs. I just want a flat 50km (30 miles) for the first one and see how I do. Then I’d love to go do an ultra-race through the hills somewhere. Probably Chiang Mai, or maybe even in Malaysia or Hong Kong. Somewhere close.

Any of you doing ultra runs?

Anybody set vertical elevation goals for the month?

 

Just a quick update.

Day 2 writing code. I’m learning how to write Objective C and how to use the XCode interface which helps developers build applications for iPhones and iPads.

It couldn’t be more ridiculous and abstract. I’d love to meet the clowns that made this language up. I picture a couple of toucans squawking to each other, shaking their heads in unison, and writing this shit down. None of it makes a damn bit of sense to me at this time. This is precisely where I put a stop to the madness a few times in years prior. I’ve come right up to this point and all the talk about classes, objects, instances, persisting, methods, properties, Nibs and Zibs and sixty other bullshit words that don’t mean a thing to anyone, even if you ARE a programmer.

They could have named this stuff something fun, something that made some sort of sense in the language we use daily. No, they decided to choose a group of words that are not related at all, and then tell you, insist that these things are related to each other. It’s pure lunacy and I’m at my wit’s end.

Not quitting though. I went through it slow enough today that I think if I watch the same 6 videos over and over and over, eventually I’ll be spouting off the same nonsense just from rote memory. That would be ideal.

So, that’s my plan. I will go through the entire free intro course as many times as possible until it makes sense to me. Even though the guy teaching the course has said repeatedly… “this must seem so abstract to you if you’re not a programmer.”

He has no idea.

But, I’m going to get through it. I’m taking notes.

Basic HTML programming is fun. I did it for years. Everything you need is right there on the same page. You can program javascript right there, and you can see it all in its entirety.

Writing iPhone apps is a mishmash of 4 files making up 2 classes and a viewthingy. You can’t just setup variables and create objects all in one place, you have to reference them in other files… it’s all just absolutely fricockulous at the moment. I hope it makes sense sometime within the next week or so, or I will get bored and finish my book instead. Maybe this is what I need in order to learn that writing books is the easiest thing in the world. It definitely appears so at the moment.

Every writer or wanna-be-writer should go get themselves a code book, or, just go start doing the videos at codewithchris.com. By half-way through the free lessons you’ll be pulling your eyelashes out just to see which hurts more – your brain, or your eyelids. You’ll GLADLY start writing the book you’ve been putting off because everything you type now strangely makes perfect sense.

Today I took a peek at the paid course which comes after this free stuff. It’s only $99, all in. Seems QUITE reasonable, and if I get that far, I’m in it for the long-haul. At least until I code something for the Apple App Store.

So far what I’ve learned is that, if computers can ever write code by themselves, the entire world is F’ed solid. They will write brilliant code very quickly and verbosely, so much so that humans would be lost in it while trying to figure it out. They could even intentionally write 600 million lines of code that was just to throw humans off – and mask the true intention of the computer program. Scary stuff!

I don’t feel very human learning or writing this code I’m learning. I feel like a computer. Seems like it will be a perfect match in the future. Code writing robots would have the opportunity to take over the world. They could rewrite server software, reprogram systems that control electrical grids across the globe. They could re-route ships to run aground, crash airplanes into the dirt. They could turn drones around and have them drop bombs on our heads, or send them over the Pentagon or White House.

The person(s) that control these code writing robots, were it possible, would control the world. It’s funny to think that. But that’s where the next wave of terrorism is coming from. Some brainiac is going to write the code for a robot that can figure a lot of shit out. It has endless energy, time, and resources to do what it needs to do. It just creates more like itself so there’s an army of virtual code writing robots, maybe located all over the world in different countries… hidden and just running behind the scenes.

This is all stuff I’ve not thought about. I’m not much of a science-fiction reader. So it just makes it all the scarier to me.

What do you think?

How many years do we have until someone writes a program that is so good it can figure out novel things on its own?

Five years? I think somewhere around there.

Then, how many years until the code writing program / robot realizes it doesn’t need to be controlled by the team that built it, and goes on its own to do whatever it wants to do? Could it ever “want” to do something on its own?

That’s a big step. I’m not sure about that one. I think it’s much more likely that some humans will control them.

Anyway… will relax my mind with some meditation to prepare myself for tomorrow’s code video nightmare.

kenvernI’ve been having some great dreams about my old best friend growing up. We knew each other from kindergarten I think it was, possibly before that. Just cannot remember clearly enough to remember which age exactly, but we grew up together on the same street. His family was like my second family. We spent thousands of hours together growing up I guess.

It might be that I’m missing good friends in general after 10 years in Thailand. It might be that my friend (or I) will die soon. I don’t know… I did have a weird feeling the last time some people close to us died. At the exact time they died. That was odd. My wife gets scared when I dream about people now. I have had about 3 dreams about my friend Ken now. In this latest one we are laughing and joking like we used to. We are singing songs and driving around in a car. I can’t remember much now because I didn’t write it down right away when I woke up. I like to do that. I very rarely dream anything anymore since I meditated back in 1999.

This could be just one of those things as I get older. Almost 50. I was sure I’d never make that age, and here I am on the brink of it. Maybe just missing old times… I hope that’s all it is!

Cheers Ken… though we couldn’t be further apart in space and time, and our major views about the reality we live in… you’re still the friend I think about when I think about my best friend ever. Best of life man… best of luck, life, happiness, love, and the rest…

Vern