It's not finished by any means, but the backyard desk is now fully functional, and I am about to enjoy a cold Goose Creek IPA from my solar-powered refrigerator. A small fan keeps me cool and blows away the mosquitos. The inverter just shut off, although the solar panels are still pumping out a little juice, just not enough to keep up with the demand with everything running. I will be adding another battery on Tuesday, and another solar panel in a couple of weeks, then may add another battery or two. This is totally doing solar on a very low budget, but it will provide enough power that I can build phase two, a 10' x 12' shed that will hold 15 panels when fully populated. For now, I have to disassemble some things that are not fully screwed or glued, in order to build a lockable door for the battery compartment, then everything goes back together after next Tuesday, as the final completion. I can then charge all of my devices, and commence phase two of my solar project. I expect to have the book available for purchase, or at least as a pre-order, by February 1st.
My solar project is coming along nicely. I will mount the two panels I have tomorrow, and see if my two-year-old Walmart battery will come up enough. I also have a new AGM battery, frightfully expensive, that is working very well. My Harbor Freight inverter (750 watt square wave) died, so I grabbed my 1500 watt pure sine wave that I intended to use for this project anyway, and it is working great! Then I have to cut joists to support the battery shelf, build the door for the battery cabinet, build the 2' x 8' desk which will jut out to the rear, and build a framework to support two tarps to keep the sun and rain from making the place miserable, and I will have a new outdoor office, and plenty of power to build the larger project, a 10 x 12 shed that will hold 15 solar panels when fully populated in a year or two. each panel should be good for about 1 kwh per day. I already have an 8000 watt (32,000 watts peak) split phase 220 volt inverter for that project.
Our backyard solar project has started, and we will start working on the Solar Energy book once we have some results! I am building just a desk at first. I sunk two 4x4 PT posts in the ground, then a couple of legs about four feet in front of them (43 inches to be precise.) I then screwed two horizontal supports between them, and ran another support at a 30-degree angle, up to the top of the posts. I need to add some more support, then will put three solar panels on to a 4 x 8 sheet of OSB, which I painted with a new Rustoleum product that I loved. It comes in quarts (like that old elephant joke) and is labeled as a premium latex paint for wood, metal, and other surfaces. That will go on the 30-degree angled support. I have some 3/8" plywood as well, which I will use as a shelf on the horizontal supports, to store the batteries, controllers, and inverter. I am using all old scrap I had lying around for this project, except for a 1 x 4 x 8 board that bought to use instead of the expensive solar panel clips, and, of course, not including the solar products, which I began to accumulate some time ago. There will be a 2' x 8' shelf hanging off the back, several inches below the horizontal shelf, which will serve as my writing desk. This whole unit will also provide all of the energy needed to build a 10' x 12' shed that will accommodate 15 solar panels. Since we average somewhere near ten hours a day of sun in the sunshine state, each 100-watt panel should provide somewhere in the area of one kilowatt-hour of electricity per day. I will be using a 110-volt 1500-watt full-sine-wave inverter. It will allow me to run a small refrigerator, and some other things right away, as well as charging all of my devices, from cell phone to the 19.2 volt batteries for my drill and saws. I will start buying an average of one panel, one battery, and one charge controller per month, so should have the larger one fully populated in a little over a year, and if I switched to gas appliances, I could, with careful husbanding of resources, run my whole home on a total of 18 kwh per day. I have an 8,000-watt (32,000 Peak) inverter for that project, which will put out 40 Amps of 220-volt split phase power, so I should be able to run anything in my home on that inverter. Expect the solar book to be on the shelves shortly after the end of the year.
My last two orders from CreateSpace have included defective product! First, I ordered five copies of HOW TO BUY A CAR Without Losing Your Shirt, and pulled one to check it out. The cover had just been modified, and maybe a couple of small things on the inside, and I had added the first chapter from our new book, COMPOSITION as a teaser to try to get pre-orders for that book. I was not altogether pleased by the cover, and have since reduced the size of the image in order to make it a bit sharper, and avoid losing the curve of the buyer's shoulder. But then. I opened it up, and found the interior title page was for someone else's book entirely! Further study the next day, after I complained, showed that there appeared a complete copy of the other author's book, followed by about the last half of that same book, followed by about the last half of my own book. The interior contained THREE of the bar codes that signify that it is the last page of the book, on three different pages! That is absolutely poor quality control, and should have been noticed before the book shipped. The other four books were all right, though I spent considerable time checking them out. Then I ordered one copy of COMPOSITION, and when it arrived, I noticed that many pages were cut on a bias, such that the line separating the header and the footer, and all of the text, seemed to be going up hill. This was inconsistent from page to page. I don't know if they have hired some utterly incompetent new employees, or installed a new printing machine, or what, but I have never noticed these kinds of problems before. Maybe I got the only two bad books that they have turned out in the last year, but I doubt this. I think if you are buying copies for book-signing events, you should check each book over carefully. And if you are selling books to customers through CS or Amazon, you should buy a sample copy for yourself and make sure that it is all right. I took some photos, but I cannot access them right now, so I will try to post them to this blog page later.
I thought it would be a simple matter to put a preview of my new book COMPOSITION into the back of Terry's six free books, which get a lot of downloads from i-Books and Barnes and Noble and Kobo, so it would be good publicity for the new book, well in advance of the release date. All of a sudden, five of those books came off the Smashwords premium list. Somehow, ePub conversion got screwed up. Part of it was that I have too many normal settings for format, and a couple of them went from single lines to multiple lines with 1.5 or so lines. I had to reset it back to single lines. Smashwords was very good about telling me what I had to do there, but they did not tell me exactly where to make the change, so it took a while to find it for the first book, but it was a quick change once I did, since it affected the whole book once you change one paragraph. To get to it, I had to right click on the style setting, then at the bottom left, there is a button labelled FORMATTING. Click that, and on the lower right, you will see a box that should say single, but might say multiple, with a number in the box next to it. It should say single, with no number in the box next to it. But the other problem was that the meat grinder was trying to pick up Table Of Contents information and bookmarks from the preview sample, and interject them into the original book's TOC. That was a nightmare! For that book, I actually had to remove the Chapter 1 heading and Introduction heading from the sample. I don't know why that was a problem with one book, but not the others. Then another problem is that the MORE BOOKS FROM TERRY link from the TOC worked fine, but the next one, the BOOKS FROM OUR FRIENDS AT CROSSROADS Publishing of Florida link, took the reader to the MORE BOOKS FROM TERRY page. It took a while to figure that out, but I fixed it by putting a page break at the bottom of the MORE BOOKS FROM TERRY page. Note that both of those pages are occupied by full page JPG files, and while the bookmarks were set correctly, the lack of a page break upset the link, even though the pages themselves printed correctly. Then a couple of the books printed the COMING IN OCTOBER text on the same page as the BOOKS FROM OUR FRIENDS page, and again, I had to add a page break at the bottom of BOOKS FROM OUR FRIENDS page. I never did have to go nuclear (converting the whole book to plain text, and then reformatting from scratch) but I thought I might have to at one point. The only time I have had to do that was when I was doing a lot of the publishing on my little netbook computer--which is why I have not even tried to do anything on my Chromebook computers. Some of it was also done on my tablets while lying in bed, but the processors in those smaller computers use straight quotes and straight commas and apostrophes, and Amazon and Smashwords require curved ones. DO NOT try to do any editing on tablets, Chromebooks, or netbooks. I bought my laptop as a refurb from Joy Systems, Microsoft's largest refurbisher, for under $200 a couple of years ago. They sell through many of the big box stores websites. Therefore I would say money should not be an impediment for anyone. You can get a very good laptop for not a lot of money. I'm still using that same laptop. It has a Core i3 processor at 2.1 GHz and 4 Gigs of RAM, and a 128 Gig SSD, so it boots from cold in 14 seconds. I am really happy with it, and today you could probably buy newer specs for the same money. You could buy a very serviceable computer from them for not much over a C-Note! At any rate, I hope that all of my books will make it back onto the Premium list in a day or two.... They did, except for one which had a different problem, also caused by the superfluous "Normal" style listings, and I am about to correct that. Again, Smashwords was very good about telling me exactly what had to be done to fix it.
I had been giving some thought lately to how I could increase sales, especially of our signature book, Jay's wonderful HOW TO BUY A CAR Without Losing Your Shirt. I had just finished watching Nick Stephenson's webinar, and recalled that he stopped thinking of Amazon as a place that sells books, but instead, as a search engine that also sells books. So I redid the cover a bit, and changed the keywords to add a few that I thought someone might type in if he were looking to buy a car, not necessarily looking to buy a book on buying a car. We'll see if that improves sales! It should be available for sale in a day or so with the new information. And I did a major tweak on the cover--same design, but did a much better job of matching the background color to the wash background on the original painting, and tweaked the text color to opposite that on the color wheel, for better contrast. That may help a bit as well. UPDATE: I made another change to the cover--now it resembles my original intent when I ordered the artwork. I had to crop and stretch the artwork, and even copy a section of the wash in the background of the painting, and paste it below the painting, but now the entire background of the cover--both front and rear covers--is the wash from the painting. I did those changes entirely in Microsoft Publisher, and it probably took a whole lot less time than I might have thought it would! Check it out on our landing page.
I spent the afternoon at Office Despot, where I spent about $20 for copying charges.. I did the original 11" x 17" flyer on card stock in full color, for a little over $2.50 each (two of them), then a few of the flyers on the Smashwords sale, B&W 8-1/2" x 11", for about 25 cents each, then the full color 8-1/2" x 11" flyer on card stock at about 65 cents each for the work in progress. The Review request was a DOCX file, and a PDF file, neither of which I can load here, so I created a JPG from it, but had to compress stuff and change the font size, so it looked better than this. I printed up 50 of those, regular copy paper, B&W, a few cents each. I had intended to buy a package of ten sheets of pre-perforated card stock, thinking it would be $7-$8.... What a shock! That stuff now is 20 sheets for about $25, and the cheapest package of all was 12 sheets for $18! So I just had them print my PUB document on card stock for about 60 cents a sheet and then I stood there and cut them into individual cards. And then it was over to the bar for the book signing. I did not know what time the owner got there, so I was early--and he was late! But I was all set up by 7 PM, and Tom, my fellow author and painter (he who paints pictures of roaches) was also late. He brought along three copies of a new self-published (as in printed on his own printer stapled in the upper left corner, with blank cover sheets except for the title.) He brought along a magic marker and proceeded to create three different one-of-a-kind covers to make these "books" collectible! When he arrived, he immediately got on Facebook and created a LIVE video to invite people over. We had 32 views in about ten minutes, one local author came over with his girlfriend, possibly because of that video. I had blown ten dollars on having Facebook "Boost" my flyer to anyone over the age of 18, and living within 25 miles of Gainesville. I had at least six people I had never heard of "Like" the flyer, but they never showed. I sold two books, and Tom sold one book and a couple of roaches, so he made more money than I did, but not a lot. I did not even break even on the expenses, but I pulled in $20, out of $30 spent, and I had a couple of promises that people would buy the e-books online, and a promise of at least one review. By the way, all of these flyers, business cards, etc, except the review request, were created in Microsoft Publisher, which is a free download if you have Office 365. If you do not have that program, you need to get it and learn how to use it. I create all of my covers on it, and anything like this. I used to edit a couple of local charity/community organization newsletters on it as well, and I have been using it since it first came out for Windows III back in about 1993. I used Express Publisher for DOS before that! That was back in the days of the 80286 processor running at about 8 MHz.
Windows is updating to the new Creator's Update on my laptop, so I'm sitting in the library with nothing to do. I just created the cover to the first book of my photography course, a book which I have intended to write for years, and I think I will set it up for pre-release, with an anticipated deliver date of December 1st, or possibly November 15th. At least I have started a specific project, and I already have some notes that I have been jotting down from time to time.
I just got off an online chat with Microsoft, while in a public library trying to rough up a cover for a new book, and totally unable to create a portrait mode slide to use as a cover, using the online version of MS Power Point. I crank out covers all day every day, using MS Publisher on my laptop, but here I was using my Chromebook, for much lighter work, and I had been looking over photos I took on July 4th, and spotted a nice shot for the cover of the book. Wendy V. had no concept of what I was trying to do, and apparently did not know that Microsoft has online versions of their Office Suite, for people who are stuck in that position. Actually, I first tried Google Docs, and had the same problem there, but I know that people use Power Point to create book covers, and I myself had done some work with it before I installed MS Publisher on my laptop. I actually wound up editing an old version of the Power Point cover I did for another book, to show the general idea for the new one, but I will have to start from scratch in Publisher to create the new one. She did send me instructions after this, but they were not applicable to the online product, only to the full installed product. I did not realize that the online product was as limited as it was.
Here is the copy-and-pasted transcript of the help session:
Info at 16:56, Jul 10:
Thank you for contacting Microsoft. An agent will be with you shortly. You are currently 1 in line.
Info at 16:56, Jul 10:
Want a copy of this chat emailed to you? Click on the (+) button below.
You are now chatting with Wendy V.
John at 16:57, Jul 10:
I am trying to rough up a book cover, which I would normally do in MS Publisher, but I am not on my regular computer, so I have to use Office Online. How do I make a portrait mode presentation in Power Point?
John at 16:58, Jul 10:
Or why don't you have Publisher online????
Wendy V at 16:59, Jul 10:
Hello, John! I would be happy to guide you in the best way to accomplish this book cover. What Office solution are you currently using?
John at 17:00, Jul 10:
Power Point Online. I am used to Publisher, and have used it since it first came out, for Windows III on about a 386 computer. Before that I ran Express Publisher in DOS!
Wendy V at 17:02, Jul 10:
Allow me to rephrase my question, John. What version/Edition of Office do you have?
John at 17:02, Jul 10:
I have Office 365 which is up to date, but not on this computer, so I am using the online version of Power Point.
John at 17:03, Jul 10:
John at 17:04, Jul 10:
Chrome (up to date) browser, on a Chromebook
John at 17:04, Jul 10:
In a public library
John at 17:06, Jul 10:
And all I see is landscape , with no visible means of changing to portrait mode, or even changing the size of the work.
Wendy V at 17:07, Jul 10:
John, some of our Office 365 plans have our Publisher included and you can install in up to 5 different devices, this might be a solution for you. Let's find out which Office 365 plan do you have. Allow me to share a resource with you.
Wendy V at 17:08, Jul 10:
What Office 365 business product or license do I have? (click here & follow the steps)
John at 17:10, Jul 10:
I have Office 365 Home, and I have Publisher installed on it. I am not using a Windows computer, and I am using your online tools, for people who are stuck using another device, and don't have access to their installed version of Office. I DO have a full install of Office on my laptop, but I am not using that now, so I have to use your online product!
I perform in a local bar on Monday nights, and I am forever using various websites to download lyrics for songs. These guys either copy each other at will, or they all get their lyrics from the same idiots, because there are frequent mistakes that make no sense, on each and every website that posts the lyrics for a given song. For instance, there's a John Prine song, that I heard first from Joan Baez, called HELLO IN THERE. It is about old people, and I am getting old enough to talk about them, even if I still live alone, and ride a motorcycle (at least when I get it running again--I do my own mechanical work, too....) There is a line there, and I distinctly heard Joan Baez sing "Old rivers get wider every day." How is it that the lyric sites all say "Old rivers get wilder every day?" By what process do rivers age? They leach silt from their banks, and wash it downstream. When you make the river WIDER like that, you slow it down. Same amount of water spreads wider, doesn't have to go as fast to get the same volume from source to ocean. Duh.... It's quite the opposite of getting wilder. There are any number of similar errors that I see whenever I am downloading lyrics, and they are on all the websites! There's one in Buffy Sainte Marie's HE LIVED ALONE IN TOWN, as well. She sings "So wander with me now, or wander off alone," and the lyric sites all say "or wander all forlorn." How is that an alternative to wandering with me now? You can be happy, or forlorn, or any other feeling, whether you are with me or not! Another one I remember is from an old Frank Sinatra song, Mind if I Make Love to You. There is a line that distinctly states "And the mounting moon is new." Think of rising moon. Yet the websites all say "Mountain Moon." What the hell is a mountain moon? There are similar errors in several other songs that I look at now and then. I suppose I should bother to correct them, but I am surprised to see that they never do get corrected. I can't be the only one who notices them, can I?