Here’s A Nutty Thing

In May of 2011, if the interweb is to be believed, (and I guarantee you that EVERYTHING on the interweb is true), I decided to start a humor blog. I thought it would be fun to write funny things. I had heard about WordPress and thought that would be a fine place to plunk my funny ha-ha’s into the world’s consciousness, so I high-tailed it over there, (actually I may have low-tailed it, it was almost six years ago and I honestly can’t remember at what level I was holding my tail).

I went through the whole process of creating my account, linking it to my email address and whatever other preliminary things there were to do.

Just before I got ready to write my first side-splittingly hilarious article, I noticed that when I created the site I had misspelled the site’s name. Instead of “Things To Laugh About,” I had typed “Things to Laught About.”

At first it seemed like a small problem. But I was, in the lingo of those whacky kids, a n00b. I could not, for the life of me figure out how to access the controls of this already off-the-rails express train, and delete that one rogue letter from the title.

So I weighed my options. #1Live with it, and forevermore be known as the “can’t-spell-his-own-blog’s-name guy,” #2 delete the account and start from scratch, or #3 abandon the whole notion of writing funny things altogether.

Well, my vanity ruled out options #1 and #3, and I couldn’t figure out how to do #2. And since the blog was attached to my email account, it was being pissy about letting me do several of the things I attempted.

The whole operation was getting off to a very rocky start. In the end, I ended up with option #4. Create a new email account and start from scratch. It felt a little like leaving my family and going to live in Italy under the name Aldo Federici, but that’s the route I chose.

My cleverness, however, was limited, and the new Gmail account I created was sjvarengo, as opposed to the old one which was just svarengo. Can you see why I became a writer? It’s that level of inventiveness that allows me to create human being from electronic impulses in my mind, and to determine the course of their lives.

My plan worked, and on May 17, 2011, I posted my first article, entitled “Laugh, Damn You!”

The blog still exists and I still post new entries from time to time, and a while back I added a second blog to the same account, (a process which they have made much easier in the years since that first dreadful day).

Now we’re getting to the crazy part.

I have a friend who recently started her own blog, and as soon as I saw it I wanted to support it. I tried to follow the blog and post some encouraging replies. But when I logged into WordPress, I used my svarengo account, having quite forgotten all about the horrific episode back in 2011, and with those blocked memories I also blocked the creation of the sjvarengo email account. It took me a few failed attempts before I noticed that when I liked a post, the person that was liking it was thingstolaughtabout. With a “t.”

In a flash the details that horrible night came flooding back into my memory and, after rolling into a fetal position and crying for a couple of hours, I said, “I used a different email account.”

Of course I could not remember what account I used, and still could not access the memory of creating the sjvarengo account. If you’re like me you have more than one email account anyway, so I ran through all the addresses, including defunct Time Warner accounts and even a Hotmail account which I was so proud of because I beat my whole family and was able to register my account as simply varengo@. Take that, relatives. I think after I failed to log into it for several years, Microsoft may have scrubbed it from existence, but that wouldn’t have mattered if it was the correct login address. It wasn’t however.

So I decided to go into the basement of WordPress and see if I could find an account settings page or something that would tell me what email was attached to the blogs. After (literally) an hour of searching, I found it. Mr. sjvarengo.

It’s kind of funny right there, because of course that’s what I use as my pen name and the blog and this website both use that as their titles. But I had forgotten all about it.

Of course, once I’d figured everything out I was able to subscribe to my friend’s blog, click “like” and see the correct person’s name show up, and leave comments from someone who didn’t look like they’d escaped from their special education classroom to start a humor blog called Things To Laught About. It was all good.

Then another thought popped into my head, as thoughts are wont to do. (I have never had a thought pop into my knee). “Do you suppose,” I asked myself, “there are any emails sitting in Mr. sjvarengo’s account?”

So I mid-level-tailed it over to Gmail and attempted to log into the account. Of course, only having recalled that the account existed a few moments before this, the task of recalling the password was a little daunting. Because, of course, I only use super-secure passwords that are at least fifty characters long, and are a combination of numbers, letters, symbols, and blue whale noises.

That is, of course, a lie. I use the same handful of passwords over and over again, and even then I usually can’t remember them. And God forbid I should actually throw in a capital letter into the mix, well chances are I’m never getting in there again.

This time, it looked as though I’d outsmarted myself once more, as I ran through the short-list and found none of them worked. Eventually Google started getting a little nervous and informed me that one more failed attempt would result in an F-18 airstrike at the location of the IP address I was using, which would have been completely unacceptable, since my daughter was letting me work at her apartment. I didn’t care about the other thirty or so people who lived in the building, but I didn’t want to leave my daughter’s apartment messy. Or blown up. Literally.

So I started trying to reset the password. Have you ever? Talk about top-level CIA security vetting. I was sweating within seconds of beginning the process and ended up screaming “I’ll tell you where the pathogens are hidden!!”

Then, in an act of uncharacteristic optimism and, as it turned out, charmed luck, tried my primary, go-to password, with the first letter capitalized.

I was in!

Believe it or not, that did the trick.

Were there emails? People, there were emails.

So here’s the real funny thing about all of this. Because I never accessed the account, I never received any feedback about anything I’d written over the course of that past six years. WordPress has a stats page, so I knew that some of the blog posts had been read, (including one that included an in-poor-taste joke about Amy Winehouse and Lindsay Lohan having a “who-will-die-first” competition, which got (not joking) over 20,000 hits the day Amy died.) But I didn’t see any “likes.” I didn’t see the names of subscribers, if any existed. I pretty much felt like I was writing for myself, “Dear Diary” if you will, and making them accessible to 7 billion people who would never see them.

But apparently people did read, like, and subscribe. Over the past six years there were nearly 400 emails notifying me that folks like Blair (The Shameful Sheep) thought an entry was “pretty awesome” (WordPress’s choice of words not mine.)

Well, after another too-long and too painful process, I got the account linked into my Outlook app and I’ll know right away about these crazy people.

Moral of the story, even when you don’t know it, people are appreciating you.

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It’s Spring! Here’s What’s Happening In My Head

So it’s been Spring since 6:29 AM yesterday, and boy has it been a big disappointment! The current temperature in Baldwinsville is 21°, and those are frosty Fahrenheit degrees we’re talking about, not balmy Celsius!

But that hasn’t stopped me from thinking lots of big thoughts. Really big thoughts. Thoughts so big that they’ve actually started to poke out of my ears.

For example:

Craig’s Impending Baldness

My friend Craig Hart is getting his head shaved in a very short amount of time, to help find a cure for childhood cancer. This is an astoundingly important cause and I support it fully. Here’s a link to a Facebook page about it, which will allow you to donate to the cause if you have a mind to.

But as important as this is, the thoughts that cross my mind are things like

  • will his twin son’s be freaked out by their dad suddenly being bald? When my daughter was very little and I shaved my beard, I remember her crying frantically and screaming “I want my real daddy
    back!”
  • Will he remember to bring a hat? It’s quite a bit warmer there right now, at 42°, but 42° with hair feels different than 42° with a shiny bald head.
  • Will his friend Paul make good on his threat to draw hair on the blank canvas that will be his cranium with Sharpies?

Mary’s New Blog

My friend Jeff Goldstein teaches the Dale Carnegie course, which I took last year. Once per year he is able to offer the course at no cost to about fifteen individuals and this year’s class began three weeks ago. I am returning as one of his two coaches. The other coach is a fellow Lafayette grad named Mary, who started writing a blog today, which she calls “The Coffee Shop.” Can’t you just smell the goodness?

I read it. I liked it. I tried to follow it, but WordPress got glitchy on me and said it wasn’t going to let me follow. Of course, that sort of challenge get’s my juices flowing, and I will follow it fifty times if I have to, until the walls of the WordPress Bastille come crumbling down. You all should check it out.

The Dark Clock Giveaway

I announced that I was giving away a free digital copy of my novel A Dark Clock yesterday on my Facebook Author’s Page, to my mailing list, and as a Random Thoughts post right here. I also mentioned it on my regular Facebook feed and a few times on Twitter.

When I checked the Instafreebie dashboard about an hour ago I saw that three copies had been claimed.

It’s cool. Only the first 24 hours or so, but I will admit the phrase “Can’t even give it away,” did pop through my head.

Paying my dues. I get it, I really do.

So those are a few of the swirling voices within my skull. I’ve got to take off and pick my wife up in a few minutes, so I can’t share anymore right now.

Till we meet again!

Free Stuff!

Everybody likes free stuff. Everybody except Mrs. Edna Crandall of 325 Whitewash Lane, who prefers sitting on her front porch and waving a stick at the children who pass by.

But everybody else likes to get something for nothing.

Dark Clock030917And for one week, starting today, March 21, 2017, and running until Monday, March 27, 2017, to celebrate the commencement of spring, I will assist by making available a free digital copy of the novel A Dark Clock, with the help of the fine folks at Instafreebie.com. All you have to do is follow this link, (seriously, follow it!) and give them your name and email address. You won’t regret it, because not only will you get my book, but you’ll have access to literally hundreds of free books from all sorts of genres and all manner of wonderful authors.

And remember, if you want to be the first to learn about these sort of events, make sure to sign up for my mailing list.

Enjoy!

Pushing Through

I never expected to sell a million copies of my book in the first few months of publication.

I really hoped that Cerah’s story would click with people, and that they would come to love her as much I have, and I was pretty sure that it was a good book. The people who read it in preview were universally positive about it, and the age range of my preview group ran from 16 to 77, so I felt like it would appeal to a lot of different people.

I know that fantasy is not everyone’s cup of tea, and some people balk at reading long books, (A Dark Clock is in the 530-page range), so, again, I didn’t expect to be #1 on the Amazon Top 100 list.

But I had hoped for a little more of a response than I’ve had.

This is where I have to put my big-boy boots on. There is always another way to promote, there is always someone out there who’s well-timed word will open new doors.

I still believe in my work, and I still believe other’s will enjoy it if they give it a look.

So I’ll keep on pushing, and Cerah’s following will continue to grow.

Me vs. Others of My Ilk

I’ve made contact with a lot of writers thanks to the vast and magical interweb. The exact mechanics of these connections has to do with the acquisition of a plethora of free books from a fantastic site called Instafreebie, which allows for the downloading of said books for only the cost of my email address.

 

youve-got-mail

Lots and lots of mail…

Some may feel this is too high a price to pay because only the most naive and feeble-minded would fail to realize that each time I downloaded a book from a new author, I was joining his or her mailing list. Which, in turn, means I could expect an influx of emails from all of these wonderful authors.

 

Now, I can already hear some of you crying “foul!” (Yes, I can hear you, so be in awe of my Santa-like abilities). “You also have a mailing list!” you say.

I do not deny this. Nor do I begrudge any of the other writer’s theirs. There are a few select writers whose lists I have joined without the added sweetness of a free book, so don’t think I’m badmouthing anyone for having a mailing list. I’m fer it, not aginn it, as my hillbilly forbearers might have said if I had any.

The point at which I am painfully attempting to arrive is this: there are many kinds of list-owners.

Some of these authors have sent me maybe one email, to thank me for my interest in their work and to let me know that they would keep me informed of any upcoming blockbuster news. A few, it seems to me, may have never emailed me at all, although I’d have to cross-correlate the contents of my Kindle with the contents of the “Reading” folder in my email to confirm this.

On the other end of the spectrum are the writers for whom sending out emails appears to have replaced writing books as their primary literary activity. Some of these guys and gals are sending me multiple messages daily, on topics that range from additional free books that are available, to the path they took in becoming a writer, to a nice piece about pets.

Of course, there is a full spectrum along which all the other writers fall, from infrequent to… yes I’ll say it, annoying.

What does this mean to you? You who might be reading this right now? Well, those of you who are on my mailing list will quickly realize that you’re not reading these words from your inbox. You’ve had to make the trip here. You’ve had to actively participate. This makes you pretty special. But what about my part in all of this? I do, after all, have a list of my own.

My intention is to be on the far less prolific end of the email continuum. When there is “breaking news,” I’ll definitely hit the subscribers up and let them know. When I have something else significant to share, like news of a good friend’s upcoming release or something along those lines, I’ll likely send out an email then as well.

But other than that, you shouldn’t expect (or fear) that you’ll be getting constant messages. I’m a writer and I like telling stories about myself and my pets as much as the next guy (or gal) but when I send you an email I want you to see it and say, “Hey, I haven’t heard from this boob in a while. I wonder what he has to say.” And then I’d hope you might open and actually read it. Rather than, as I’ve begun to do, open it long enough for the email client to mark it as read, then drop it into the folder, so that I can go back to it later if I feel so led. (Or drop it into the circular file, never to be thought about again).

On the average, unless something earth-shaking is happening, I would expect you’ll hear from me once (twice, maybe) a month or so, to highlight any news, make a whining request that you buy/read/review my books, and to supply links to blog posts that I feel might interest you, (even if they are not my posts. -gasp-)

But hey, this is me, and that’s them. I’m not saying either of us is right. I’m just saying that I’m less wrong.

Friends: Entry #2

One of the things that sucks about having friends who are authors is that you have to read a lot. They’re always writing books, these people, and apparently they do so expecting that other people (a category into which I fall), are going to read these books.

One of the things that’s great about having friends who are authors is that you get to read a lot. My first paragraph may have led you to believe that I consider reading a chore. HA! Nothing could be further from the truth. Reading is such an important part of my life that I actively schedule the time to do it. I’m such an addict that I’m usually reading several books at the same time, (though I tend to concentrate upon two, max.)

That is the case now. I’m reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, and a book by my friend, and second featured author from the mythical land of Iowa, Erik Therme.

Erik Therme

Ok. I probably didn’t need to write his name twice in the space of a few millimeters of each other (oh, yeah, baby… we’re metric on this website), but when I wrote about Craig Hart, I gave him a nice fat headline, so I couldn’t very well not do it for Erik.

Erik has published three novels. They are, in order of publication from oldest to newest, Mortom, Resthaven, and Roam. He’s got his own website, and he also has a snappy author page on Amazon, and you could go to either of these resources and read all about his work, but then you won’t get my take, which is vastly superior to all other takes, as takes go.

Now before I talk about the work, I have to make a pair of full-disclosure-y statements.

#1. I haven’t known Erik that long. We met on Facebook. (You may remember in my post about Craig that we met on Twitter. I want to assure you that I do exist in real life, and am not a social-media-only entity.) I think he may have seen some of the obscenities, err, comments I wrote on some of Craig’s posts, and he also had (brilliantly) a book release event live on Facebook which I attended, leaving several more obscenities, DARN, I mean comments! One thing led to another and now we’re buds.

#2. I haven’t had time to read all of his books. I’m a doctor, Jim, not a computer. (Sorry, Star Trek moment). But I have delved deeply into his first book, Mortom.

Mortom

mortom

One of the portions of Erik’s book drop party, (I said it that way because I’m totally hip-hop), was a free giveaway of something I did not win (no bitterness), based on the answer to the question “What is your favorite book and why?” Several people chose Mortom. I assumed at the time that they were just sucking up. Ok, I still believe that. I will go to my grave believing that.

But then I started reading it, and I have to say, it’s pretty damn good. It tells the story of a guy named Andrew who inherits a house from a guy named Craig, (no relation to our mutual author friend). Andrew likes to solve puzzles, and Craig left him a doozy. You may notice a rat on the key that is featured on the book’s cover. NOT A COINCIDENCE. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Mortom has too many things going on for me to tell you much in detail, without ruining it for you. If you’d like me to ruin it, contact me privately, but be forewarned, my ruination may be all lies. Just get it and read it and be done with it, already.

I don’t want to gloss over Resthaven, but in order to keep this post to no more than novella-length, let’s move on to his newest work, Roam

ROAM

roam

I haven’t started reading this book yet, but there’s already a ton of stuff I know about it, much garnered from the online book release, and much from Erik’s subsequent posts on FB. Here’s some of what I know:

  • There are not too many people that Erik knows whose names he didn’t work into the story. This is brilliant, because at the very least, as many people as he could cram in will probably buy the book, just so they can brag to their friends that they’re famous when they gather at their snooty social functions, trying to raise money to save the greater hedgehog tenrec and what not. I wish I had thought of doing this.
  • There is a beautiful girl named Sarah who features prominently. In my book A Dark Clock, there is a beautiful girl named Cerah. Cerah is pronounced the same way as Sarah. Really. I can’t make this stuff up people. Now, I’m not trying to draw any conclusions here, other than the obvious: Great minds think alike.
  • Finally, Sarah has an abusive, drunken, psycho boyfriend. I am an abusive, drunken, psycho boyfriend! Oh, no, wait. That part is not true. I’m a very nice fellow.

Take this knowledge which I have imparted upon you and pop off to Amazon.com to buy all three of Erik’s books. You won’t regret it, and who knows. Maybe he’ll name a character after you in his next book!

I will now tell you a secret: If you click on either of the book cover images you will be transported magically to a wonderful land where you can actually purchase them for yourself. OK, it’s not magic, it’s just a hyperlink. Go ahead spoil everything.

 

 

Why A Blog?

Here’s a legitimate question: Why do you have a WordPress blog when you already have a website dedicated to your writing?

Here’s another one: What was up with Captain Kangaroo’s hair?

Well, I can answer the first.

This blog has to do with the fact that an author who is also his own marketing executive needs to get the word out in many diverse ways. That’s why I designed the S.J. Varengo – Author website, and why I also put together an Amazon Author Central Page. This blog is vitally connected with the latter..

One of the functions the Amazon page offers is a link to your blog, in that it actually shows your posts on the author page. Because my personal site doesn’t have a feed function, I can’t do the same with that.

So the website allows me a little more space to move around, but this blog allows me to combine two information outlets into one.

It’s all going to work seamlessly, he said whilst biting his nails in anticipation that it might not.

I’ve written several blog-type entries on the website, and I expect I’ll write more. I’m just that sort of guy. What’s going to happen, (and this is where the magic seamlessness comes into play), is that I’ll copy the posts here as well, and then they will (also magically) appear on the Amazon page. That’s like three bouts of shameless self-promotion for the price of two. (And since as marketing executive for this pud I have a budget of exactly zero dollars, that kind of thriftiness is what is going to drive me to the top…of my own business, which I’m already the boss of so…)

So bear with me today as I bulk post all the past entries, then get ready to enjoy so much more in what can only be described as a life-enriching experience!