An update: new observations over coffee

She is dating again. She has a type. He is athletic, a foot taller, and wears his hair high and tight. They share a love of comfortable sandals and outfits one might see in the gym.

Her bra is padded. This is how I know they are dating. There wasn’t this much effort into peacocking in the past.

Her hand is quick into the purse to pull out money for coffee. She is her own person, will pay her own way, she does not need a man. Still, she has one. It has been months of lonely sitting at the single tables pecking away at her phone in texts.

The big man has entered. He has a lady friend and I am happy to see this. He lumbers in line. Everyone has hope, everyone a chance.

Before heading out the door, their hands brush against the backs of one another in first touch. Her blush response is quick. She looks up as he holds the door for her in an uncommon gesture in her life. She smiles.

Will I see him again?

 

 

First Chapter Preview - Killing the Devil

At the time of this post I have spent the day going back and forth between preparing for a writers workshop and setting the release date for Killing the Devil on August 15, 2017.

As part of that Pre Order message the first chapter is in preview (front page, go there and download). There are a host of wonderful tweets and videos on the way to match. This is the business side of being a writer. Its a reminder that I have built a team of great people to help me edit, and are patient with me in the internal design process (thank you Jason Orr and the team at JERA).

As for the writers workshop #mww17 I am looking to make many new friends, learn about writing, and improve what I have to offer all you readers- Midwest Writers Workshop. I know 2017 is sold out now, and I have been looking to attend this group for the last five years. Really hoping this one is special... because I am selfish... I am sure all the other years were great, but this one special.

A new look and feel

You may have noticed something new on the website. A series of videos that promote all the books I have written. Each new video lasts about 15 seconds and tries to encapsulate the pure essence of each book in about 3-5 lines of text.

There is this challenge writers face. The best example of this was Pa Pa (Ernest) Hemingway. The challenge is to write the shortest story possible. True story or not, here is how it is recounted:

The claim of Hemingway's authorship originates in an unsubstantiated anecdote about a wager between him and other writers. In a 1992 letter to Canadian humorist John Robert Colombo, science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke recounts it thus: While lunching with friends at a restaurant (variously identified as Luchow's or The Algonquin), Hemingway bets the table ten dollars each that he can craft an entire story in six words. After the pot is assembled, Hemingway writes "For sale: baby shoes, never worn" on a napkin, passes this around the table, and collects his winnings.

Video production for 15 second segments has helped me to appreciate this once again. While I am not Hemingway, shrinking the story down, or at least the hook of the tale smaller than an elevator pitch has been refreshingly fun.

In addition, I've also gone back, and with distance, don't feel as bad about these works as I did when they first come out. Distance from these babies has given me time to go back and say, hey, that idea is pretty interesting. That part right there, kind of cool what I did there. That is a huge step from "keep it away from me, I can't look at that again."

So, check out one of these great books for summer reading.

Insensible Loss - What if you could live forever? The only catch to immortality is that you have to trade life with your lover. VIDEO

The Symmetry of Snowflakes. - Hanks family isn't just blended, it's pulverized. He is facing another awful holiday alone, until he meets Erin. VIDEO

Observations over coffee - June 2017

This summer will mark the fifth year of spending my weekends at the same coffeehouse to write. Each Saturday and Sunday, barring exceptions, I arrive about the same time, order the same drinks, and write until the battery dies on the laptop or my mind turns mushy. For me, it’s the golden hours. I have written so much in these five years sticking to this cadence. Much you will never read.

During those same hours, I am keeping an eye on the patrons. Yes, I am not alone in this. Many of the same people come in most weeks and do the same thing. There are teams of people who come in after an exercise class, running, church, or the students at some local college down the road.

I may start to sound creepy at this point…but a lot of what I do in life is based on observation. There are things I see at airports that span from hilarious to gross. People live their lives in public, and I get to see these snapshots. Many, most… no one thinks that another person saw them do it.

It saddens me to say that I think one of my favorite patrons may have lost the coffee house in a divorce. At first, five years ago, I noticed this couple because I thought she was someone I worked with in another life time. She wasn’t. The couple would come in each week, I would notice her (because I am a guy) in her cute outfit and wonder why she is with him. For years they always picked a similar table, ordered the same drinks, and stayed about 30 minutes before leaving. Pretty normal stuff.

They were friends with the “dad jokes guy”. Yes, not a catchy name, but descriptive. He has a few daughters, they come in and have sugar drinks, he gives them a few dollars to get baked good down the row, everyone knows him, and he tells lots of dad jokes.

I have seen the couple around the neighborhood, at different bars, and watched them hang out with “dad jokes guy” and others. It’s all a great time.

About two months ago, I noticed that out of the couple, she started to come in alone. She would get her drink, stay about 30 minutes and head out. I noticed that she wasn’t wearing a ring. And after a few weeks of this, I thought the worst, she may have become a widow. Her sadness was just under her normal smile.

That changed two weeks ago. The he in the couple came in with “dad jokes guy” and the two spent two hours talking. I am not one to listen in on conversations, but from the demeanor I will say it was a pep talk, other fish in the sea, you will be alright, I am here for you buddy, call me when you are feeling bad, lets remove all the sharp object from the house. He came in the next day, on his own. And that was the last time I saw him. She has been back regularly.

It’s not easy. Looking for that right person, trusting them, living with them, and putting another’s needs in front of yours; I can’t image. Lose the house, I understand. One of you gets the kids full time and other has visitation rights, lived it. You get your friends and the Beatles White Album, take it, Abby Road is superior and all I need… and this lamp. But to lose the coffee house in addition to that? Et tu, Brute??? That must be the hardest part. You can’t get coffee this good anywhere else.  

Strategies for Successful Travel

I have been going to the same dry cleaners for about 17 years. I have helped her three beautiful daughters get through university, and she has jokingly thanked me for helping pay for tuition. In those 17 years I can name the two times I have had the slightest of problems. Things so small I fear that even mentioning them gives them more focus than they deserve.

Today, picking up my folded shirts that I forgot to pick up last week, there was the mention of a slight price increase. I had not noticed. During my time in Chicago or living in Toronto, I would still drop my dry cleaning off at this location when passing through, because in those cities, dry cleaning was both more than double her price and untrustworthy in the state of each items return.

“You don’t realize,” I explained. “Dry cleaning, your service, is one of those things in life I just don’t have to worry about any more.”

I like that concept. I want more of that in my life. More people like my dry cleaner. Someone with such a great consideration for care and quality, I just don’t worry about that any more.

Could you imagine? A company that has such great luggage, I know that I will always buy that make and model when it one day, long in the future won’t keep up with me. A computer bag with the capacity and comfort I need that didn’t fall apart after six months on the road. A car rental agency that provided a car without sticky gooey grossness, didn’t smell like the combination of foot with a smokers remorse.

Maybe it’s me, but when I find someone or something no longer needing my worry and has my full trust, it is worth the small cost increase. Value is not always about price, but combines time and care. I wish I had more people like my dry cleaner in my life. I will tell you my secret, if you share with me yours

Would you buy this book?

Title: The Devil’s Laughter

Summary: Harriett wants Rick to tell her story to the world in his next book. There are three problems, she only has a short time to live, Rick is a drunken mess who hasn’t been published in a decade, and Harriett is a serial killer. The two must sort through the dental records and body count before the FBI or Grim Reaper catch her.

That title and description is something I would pay money to read.
I enjoy books about serial killers.

First Drafts

"First Drafts" is a page on my website where I post early unedited and unshaped content. Some are novels, others short stories, and a few unfinished in the works.

There are a few reasons I do this.

First, the integrity of the work. I like to keep and save copies, even bad ones, because you never know what will happen to a file or a laptop. This way there is always a version that I can go back to if the worst were to happen.

Second, is process. Some people ask about, or think about the process of writing. Each person has their own. This is a clear way to show what I go through. I look back and can see the evolution of thoughts ideas and skills.

Third, is legal copyright. There are several works that will never go past my laptop because I see something or read something that is so similar. I am not saying that it is stolen, good lord no... but ideas are often in the air, there are several takes on it, and this way, I can put a date with the progress. I look back and go, "yeah, that is my take on that concept, but now that this other medium has produced the work, I might not spend more time on my version. The best example was a year I spent writing a story about a man who is trapped living in an airport after reading an article about a true life situation that was similar. Then, Tom Hanks starred in a movie about something very similar. My version will go unseen to anyone else, but involved a stolen fortune, and two retired police officers from Florida.... I may... now thinking about that... post it on "First Drafts"  

Forth, share with the readers. So many nice and kind things have been said about the books I have self published, that I hope to give back to the readers the same kindness. Often I am just so humbled that anyone would buy and read my work, let alone say nice things about it. The least I could do for those who are interested, is share an extra level of value if they are interested.

It is not regularly updated, but full of goodness, and free reading if you are interested and can look past the errors: http://paulmichaelpeters.com/first-drafts/  

It was the paperwork that broke the system

It’s good to know one’s limits. Going camping without preparations is no fun. Thinking you can make it up Kilimanjaro without stopping to acclimate to altitude can be deadly. Betting on the underdog with money you don’t have will likely get you beat up in certain circles.

I have discovered a new limit of mine; Postal forms for international service. After years of doing drawings and giveaways for my books, open to global markets, I have to pause and reconsider these due to the number of forms I have to fill out.

Looking at the USPS website, the policy has not changed, and the quick form for copies of The Symmetry of Snowflakes fall within the parameters provided. However, in going to my local post office, complete with President Eisenhower brass plaque, they agents explain to me the changes. It is no longer the short form, it is the long form, and this is no longer a weight based metric. Every piece of mail needs it.

In my first attempt, I had no time after the 30-minute line to spend on the forms. So in my second visit, in a short line, I tried my luck again to see if the instructions were consistent. They were. So I left the line, grabbed the pen adhered to the counter, and started to fill these forms in. After my return visit to the line, at the counter, and processing the first package, it turns out that the staff hates the new system too. The seven-page form, top discarded for instructions, gets a print on demand sticker for each page (one for the sender, one for the agent, and the rest in a baggie attached to the envelope. In addition, there is a postage stamp printed, and the printed form sticker after the details are hand typed into the computer.

What a bad system.

I should not be surprised. Government agencies love paperwork. Stamps and stickers in septuplet seem the pinnacle of the USPS.

So, with disappointment and regret, I am sorry to inform you all that I will not be doing paperback drawings for international countries. Readers in the UK, EU, the Outback, and Canada, as important as you are to me, I will need to find a way to send you digital winnings. It wasn’t the prices that have gone up twice in the last four years, the long lines I have waited in, the machines of automation that nearly fractured my finger tips on pressing hard enough to register, it was the paperwork, I just wasn’t built to fill it out in septuplet.

“All you have to depend on is yourself and your luggage”

This year my schedule will put me at about 40 weeks on the road for travel. Luggage is one of the most important things to consider when you are away from home. One of my favorite movies Joe vs the Volcano empresses it in one quick and unforgettable scene YouTube Video

LUGGAGE SALESMAN
    Have you thought much about luggage, Mr. Banks?
 
JOE
    No, I never really have.
 
LUGGAGE SALESMAN
    It's the central preoccupation
    of my life.  You travel the
    world, you're away from home,
    perhaps away from your family,
    all you have to depend on is
    yourself and your luggage.

Over the last four years the bag I have been carrying looked more like a briefcase. Two handles, sturdy build, lots of pockets, and a tremendous amount of space called The Empire Builder by Tom Bihn. This bag is indestructible and carries everything I need and more. There are so many great things about this bag, but it is heavy. So I have been looking for an lighter alternative.

A pleasant discovery on Kickstarter, Bobby Anti-Theft backpack by XD Design, came to my attention as watched a different Kickstarter investment I made almost two years ago was fail miserably. Bobby looked very promising.

The look of Bobby was handsome, very professional and considerate of the needs of a traveler. So I ordered one in gray. XD Design was the ideal business partner you want to find on Kickstarter. They communicated frequently, remained transparent about the process, and delivered what they promised on time.

This last week I took Bobby with me to see if he could keep up. Monday I traveled to Boston, Tuesday to Detroit, Wednesday was to Richmond Virginia, Thursday I flew to Atlanta, and Friday I came back home.

Bobby feels light. In my hand by the handle, or strapped on to my back, I often forget that I have a backpack on. This with all the items I carry inside. Designers have made Bobby with the items travelers carry in consideration. There is a pocket for my laptop, padded for safety, and straps to hold it in place. There is a pocket for my iPad with the same design, that also fits my book. Small storage spaces hold my wires, battery, small utility box of plugs and wires, with a pocket at the top for easy access smaller items. Each side includes hidden pockets that hold my passport, keys, wallet, iPod, ear buds, cleaning cloth for eyeglasses, 3oz hand sanitizer, and car park tickets so as not to get lost. And then, in additional all that, there is another deep pocket that is in the padding of the back. This holds all those bits of paper and receipts that one picks up for expenses.

I found that the design of all these pockets and placement allowed for very easy access while I was traveling in cars and in planes. I could not reach them while wearing it, but sliding it off quickly, everything was available and secure. There was no spillage.

15" MacBook, cord, extra battery, iPad, book "Mr. Memory", Amazon.com utility box, and much, much more... in a lightweight and easy to carry backpack.

15" MacBook, cord, extra battery, iPad, book "Mr. Memory", Amazon.com utility box, and much, much more... in a lightweight and easy to carry backpack.

Bobby opens up fully and flat when you need to pack or unpack. Bobby opens up a little for a hand to reach in and quickly grab what is needed. What a brilliant idea! It works wonderfully.

On the side the rests against your back is a wide strap. This strap and the bag handle are in perfect alignment that when you don’t want to carry the Bobby you can secure it on the bars of your roller/drag bag in complete harmony.

There were several positive comments during my travel on Bobby. In waiting areas and airport lounge people asked, “who makes that?” and “where can I get one?” It would have been a good marketing place for XD Design to include a few business cards to hand out with compliments.

At first I was concerned that Bobby might be too small for the amount of things I carry with me during the week. But everything fits right into place with much less weight.

The one minor point I am keeping my eye on are the zippers, and how long they will last. With the change in humidity, there was a relaxing in the fabric around the zippers near the bottom one day, but it wasn’t much to correct for – just a point to note for consideration.

I highly recommend Bobby Anti-Theft backpack by XD Design It something I can depend on.

National Geographic traces the adventures the Ponthieva (by chance)

There is this strange cycle of interests and ideas that churn through the culture. I will think, "oh yeah, that is a good idea", write half of it, then discover someone else beat me to it.

Inspiration comes from many sources, articles, books, blogs, shows, movies, that it can be difficult to find something new and unique. Just recently I am reminded of Stephen King Under the Dome had several questions about how it related to The Simpsons Movie

So it was with great pleasure last week that in reading my digital copy of National Geographic there was a story called In Search of the Lost Empire of the Maya. Quickly scrolling through the images here I found them very familiar. They looked like the location in my mind when writing the adventure of the crew of the Ponthieva. There were the steps that were climbed above the tree line to find the hidden treasure room, the white stone of the pyramid, haunting faces of lost gods, and even a map that shows the near proximity of the rivers forged with other possible locations of adventure nearby.

Two things leapt to mind seeing these. First, how fortunate I am to have a cover designer like Nicole Ray (see more of her work here) She did an excellent job in capturing this lost city. Second, what a nice change it is to be ahead of the idea churn for the first time, by nearly 18 months. 


Links

National Geographic In Search of the Lost Empire of the Maya http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/09/maya-empire-snake-kings-dynasty-mesoamerica/

Nicole Ray on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/people/sloeginfizz

AV Club "Yes, CBS's Under the Dome is aware they did that in The Simpsons Movie http://www.avclub.com/article/yes-cbs-emunder-the-domeem-is-aware-they-did-that--97173

 

End of Summer Gift

One last holiday weekend and the summer of 2016 is over. What will you be reading in the car, on the train, or flight? What can keep you entertained but is easy to pick up between distractions?

Between now and September 6, 2016 the novella “Peter in Flight” and collection of short stories “Mr. Memory and Other Stories of Wonder” are available for free download to you.

Simply go to the author site and select the version which fits your needs best, then go to checkout. You will need to fill out the form, but no credit card is needed for the free offering.

AUTHOR SITE: http://paulmichaelpeters.com/promotio... 

Already an avid fan of the author? Read draft versions of the next works before release: http://paulmichaelpeters.com/first-dr...

The Long Hard Kick

Recently I’ve returned from the United Kingdom. My time in Dublin Ireland was delightful, I would go back there or consider moving for a few years in an instant. London was good, but a little too large for my pace. 

Any black cab or taxi greeted me with the same question, “Who is going to be the next President? Hillary? Or Trump?”

This is what I’ve learned during my recent trip abroad...

In America, Detroit, we are really good at building fast cars. If you want a car that has horse power, goes really fast, in a straight line, your best options are going to be found by an American brand. If you want to have a feeling of tight handling and control, sharp in the turns, and stops on a dime when sheep sit in the middle of the lane through rolling pastures and hills between hamlets, there are several great options on that side of the pond.

In America, soccer (or football to the rest of the world) is an activity where mom’s and dad’s drive their kids to for practice and play. Vast tracts of land with several regulation sized, chalked out, well-equipped soccer fields sit side by side of one another with some of the greenest grass that have ever stained white socks. American kids kick long, straight, and hard to cover these distances between the goals. Soccer/football in other parts of the world are on single fields that are well worn. Having a ball is pretty special. Small spaces for practice like an alley, back court yard, or empty lot is where the children of the UK learn juggling, control, and short game skills.

There is more than a common language between good friends. There is an understanding that 2016 is turning out to be one odd year. As a fan of history, I think it is similar to 1913 in many ways… Who will win? I am an American. I kick long and hard, drive fast and straight, optimistic that things will be better, and willing to put in extra hours to get the job done. Not really something that comes across well in a 15-minute ride, but I certainly have a better perspective on the Briexit.

And the winner is...

Over the last two months a drawing for the Amazon Kindle Oasis has been leading the front page of my website. Thank you to the nearly 1,000 people from around the world who entered. 

Drawings can be exciting to participants, especially the winners. Which is why in addition to the Amazon Kindle, I have included 10 additional names for drawing to be drawn for a paperback copy of my recent work "Insensible Loss".

If your name wasn't drawn, you also have a unique discount provided for having entered the drawing (see email), with huge discounts on my top selling books.

I hope you enjoy! Happy reading... And the winners are:

Copy of “Insensible Loss” - J. Millheim, A. Morrison, C. Miracle, H. Landfield, S. Patrick, B. Rouleau, B. Stewart, M. Halverson, K. Roffey, D. Philippon

Amazon Kindle Oasis - F. Voelker

Thank you all for entering. Congratulations to all the winners.

56-40 21- 12 Challenges with Goodreads

Goodreads is this great online community about books and reading. If you are interested in finding something new to read, find information about an author, or want to share thoughts and ideas with people of a like mind, they are on Goodreads.com.

As great as those things are, it is still a marketing tool for Amazon to generate revenue. The books at the top, that you see frequently, the large images that cover a huge percentage of the page, interviews, listings, are all paid ads. It is no longer the community of like-minded people.

“Meh, what’s new Peters? We saw that coming when Amazon purchased the rights.” One might say.

Here is the thing, with all that corporate investment, you would think that the machine would work better.

To promote my books, marketing, I can follow a path for a Giveaway. Perfect: I write and want readers. Readers want to read new writing. I send out the paperback to the winners.

New process on the way – I pay over $100 to Amazon (called goodreads.com here) and they will do that same drawing for an eBook. I am supposed to be thankful for this, as it will mean I don’t have to deal with the paperback, and the mailing, and the process.

This changes the deal, in your dear writers humble opinion, as this moves from an opportunity to connect with the reader (I always include a note with the signed copy) to a profit play. In the original drawing, Amazon didn’t see a dollar, but both clients, the reader and writer, were able to get value from participating in the community. The new model, Amazon takes more money from the writer, to reach readers. I say more money as the services of publishing, promotion, listings, and formatting, are already chargeable to the author (or through the publisher which cuts into the authors profits).

I get it. It’s a business. I am pro-business. I am pro-Amazon.com. Still, I was hoping that if you were going to take a cut at every step in the process, the big publishing machine would work better.

You see, there are these things call ratings and reviews. People tend to point to this as the result of those dollars spent as an indicator of more organic growth in readership. So it is an important metric to have for writers wanting to grown the base.

If you go to my Author Dashboard, or any of the books I’ve listed there, you will see that several of my works are misrepresented. The stats are off. There are double the number of ratings and reviews listed in the summary than there actually are.

Yes, I am complaining that there are too many reviews and ratings….

People write the worst things about my work. They write the nicest, kindest things there too. What you should expect is an honest representation of what you thought. What Amazon and Goodreads should do, is strive to be accurate in accounting for the metrics provided.

One day I hope that Mr. Memory and Other Stories of Wonder will have 40 great reviews, but I want to earn that number. Insensible Loss will have 12 honest reviews, some day, when they are written. The numbers should be accurate.

Yes, I write to the librarian, to the contact team, and I do refresh the stat’s engine. If this were the first time, you would not be reading this blog post. I am writing this because it has become a standard practice of publishing bad information at Goodreads.com, and I have other things to write, more uplifting things to publish.

You have my money. You have my loyalty. Could you please just start doing what you agreed to do? Represent my work in the community honestly?

True Confession: Movies I Have Not Watched

There are some movies I need to admit to not having watched. This may be a passable offense for many, but as a previous Blockbuster Video Manager, it’s an admission that I made recommendations that were not entirely based on knowledge, but on popularity.

Not having watched these movies has allowed me to avoid “spazing out” or coming down hard on those who have not watched something like, well, any Star Wars movie (the proper order, for those keeping score, is A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, the prequels, and then Return of the Jedi followed by the most recent. It provides the original order integrity with a flash back at the right moment to understand the history of how we got here…)

I have never sat through the Godfather or the sequels. It’s true. Just this week I watched Raging Bull for the first time, meh. It has nice cinematography, but these characters are so unlikeable. Rocky, or Requiem for a Heavyweight were better alternatives in my mind.

More important, and the reason behind this post is a little movie called Flashdance. When I was young lad, I had this album. It was ordered through the Columbia House record club. I listened to it non-stop and knew every word. Little did I ever think that it would be more than thirty years before I watched the movie it came from. Yet here I was knowing every word to every song when they came on the screen.

If we were back at the Blockbuster, I would say that the Flashdance was a must pass. There is very little dialogue in this movie. Hardly a word is spoken until 12 minutes in. There are lots of songs, if you like songs, get the sound track. Hot 80’s women. If you like Mousercies (aerobics show each morning on the Disney Channel) or those attractive women on a turn table in a pure white room from the 80’s, those had more plot and dialogue than Flashdance. Three years after Flashdance was a movie with John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis (before the yogurt ads) that is so much better.

I will give you this, Flashdance did pave the way for music driven movies like The Bodyguard, Cocktail, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, The Lost Boys, Valley Girl, The Big Chill, Less Than Zero, Footloose, The Breakfast Club, Purple Rain, and Good Morning Vietnam. (Just last year did I watch Pretty in Pink for the first time, otherwise I would have added it to that list of good movies with great soundtracks of the 80’s that I watched in the 80’s)

So what’s the lesson here? None what-so-ever. Just the observation that a movie with no real plot, little dialogue, but hot ladies and popular music can make lots of money. Next time I get a bad review for my writing I will remind myself about the difference between quality and making money.