Ten Weeks Out

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CO Marathon 10Kb

Last year’s Colorado Marathon was a a bit snowy.  I ran the 10K and enjoyed the weather, while watching Chris Price qualify for Boston with his stellar performance.  This year I intend to run the whole enchilada, my first marathon since 2015.  I’m excited to be training for a full marathon again.  I forgot how intense the commitment is.

This last week was my first over 50 miles.  Ouch.  Hopefully my muscles will adapt because over the next ten weeks my legs will be running 688 miles.  They tell you to buy a new pair of shoes every 500 miles.  I’m following a personalized adaptation of a Hal Higdon plan, which is to say I’ll alternate weeks with high and low mileage.  This coming week I’ll run 68 miles, then 76, then 75, then I’ll drop down to 68 and finally to 51 miles in week five.  The fifth week will mostly be impacted by four days of snowboarding in Crested Butte.

If I survive that five week schedule, I’ll jump up to 90 miles in week six, followed by 75, then 81 and then I’ll start to taper with 64 miles for week nine and only 40 miles for the week of the marathon.  Hoping to feel fresh for the run on Sunday, May 7th.  The course runs through Poudre Canyon and will be gorgeous.  Hope it snows again.

Color Mode

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rgb-vs-cmyk

This is a bit geeky but I want to share some of my lessons learned as a survivor of the indie publishing process.  This mistake cost me some money because I bought a handful of books to sell on consignment at a local bookstore before discovering this problem.  The issue was some of the text in my book was a lighter shade of black than the rest of the text.  I had two shades of black.  Turns out, there are maybe 1004 shades of black.

RGB represents the three primary colors of red, green and blue.  Computers, and TVs, essentially all monitors, output color in RGB because they are working with light.  Think the colors of the rainbow.  All the colors of the rainbow combined are white.  You see the white in the middle of the RGB Venn diagram above.  Conversely, when there is zero light, a monitor screen is black.  RGB is represented by 0 to 255 values for red, green and blue respectively.  Based on what I just said, 0,0,0 is black and 255,255,255 is white.  Microsoft Word outputs fonts in RGB because it assumes it is outputting to your computer screen.  Your printer converts RGB fonts to CMYK as you print.

Which brings us to CMYK or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key.  Key means black because the last letter in black is “k” and “b” might lead you to think blue. Your printer isn’t dealing in light like a monitor, it’s working with ink.  Think a box of crayons.  You were told in elementary school that all the colors of the rainbow make white, but you could never get all your colors to come out as white no matter how big your box of crayons.  CMYK is represented by values from 0 to 100.  Hence, the Venn diagram above yields black for the 0,0,0,100 combination of C, M, Y and K.  Black and White are on opposite ends of the spectrum for RGB vs CMYK.  And they use a different amount of pixels, 256 vs 101 per color setting.  Make sense?

When I had to use Adobe InDesign to layout my book and create print and ebook formats for my publisher, I didn’t know that this graphics package was preparing my fonts for a printer and converting MS Word fonts from RGB to CMYK.  This alone would not have been an issue had it converted everything to the same color mode.  For some reason my MS Word fonts had two different values for black.  Or at least they converted to two discrete values.  One was a default setting for black that InDesign calls Black, for which the CMYK values are 0,0,0,100.  Or maybe 100,100,100,100.  I forget but think both sets of values are equal.  The second default setting was called Registration.  Its CMYK values are various numbers for each of the four settings.  The result is a lighter shade of black.

My publisher, Ingram Spark, which is really a distributor as I have my own publishing firm, Lobo Media, returns an electronic proof to me to look for issues with my print uploads.  Had I actually printed it, I might have noticed the color disparity.  I only reviewed them online though, and guess what?  The CMYK values don’t contain nearly as many pixels as RGB, think 100 vs 255 as printing is at less resolution than display monitors, so I could not discern the disparity on my screen.  It shows up in ink on paper, but not on a monitor.

I think the lesson here is to print out at least part of your proof to look for printing errors.  I’m blogging this because it was a topic of discussion at my book signing Thursday night.  I signed and gave away my leftover copies that contained the misprint.  They are totally readable, but flawed.  While Karen was walking around assuring everyone that the kinky sexual preferences of the book’s protagonist were entirely fiction, I was having conversations on color mode.

Marketing Plan

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cake

Last night, I got my cake, and got to eat it too.  That was how it felt to talk about nothing other than my book with friends for a two hour happy hour, that stretched into five hours. Don’t ask me how bakers can make photo-realistic frosting.  It involves printing and leaves me with the impression we’ve gone as far as we’ll ever go with technology.

ellie-n-chase

Ellie and Chase focused on the eats while the adults imbibed beverages.  Chase’s mom Wendy hosted this book signing for me and I can’t thank her enough.  Such a sweetheart.

suzy

A couple of other events competed for my neighbors’ attention last night, but Suzy picked hanging out with authors over more socially responsible activities.

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Last night’s book signing kicks off my marketing plan.  My ebook will go on sale for 99¢ Sunday.  I’ll follow that up with some advertising – a $25 or $50 investment on Facebook and maybe something on Amazon.  I expect a Kirkus review in early April, about the same time as I hope to have my book on display at the Tattered Cover.

blaine-and-doug

You might be able to find these two characters in my book.  Doug represents all Security Analysts.  Blaine is the source for some of my dialog.  He’s promised to help me launch my website, which is key to my marketing plan.  Blaine has also published several books and is guiding me on next steps.  He thinks he knows more than me, and he does; but I think I have the better cover design.

Bath Time

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dr-teals

Want to know how I do it?  How I run so much for an old man?  I’ll tell you how I do it.  After running long runs, which I consider to be 12 miles plus, I soak in epsom salt.  Cost about $4 a bag.  Cheap thrills.

This will be my first week to run over 50 miles as I train for the Colorado Marathon in May. I’ll be running two or three 12 mile or longer runs per week for the next ten weeks.  That’s a lot of baths, but Dr. Teal can go the distance.  I probably won’t need to buy a second bag.  Much more affordable than a massage.

I ran 12 miles today.  Taking off tomorrow to drink like Hemingway at my book signing.  Stop by for happy hour 4 to 6 at 2020.  I’ll be running 15 miles on Saturday if you want to join me out on the trail.

Daddy – Daughter Strides

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Boulder Marathon 2012

See the blood over my right breast in this photo?  A little chafing in the 2012 Boulder Marathon.  These things have a way of catching up with you.  I learned this past week I have gynecomastia in my right breast.  That’s essentially breast tissue growth.  It’s been sore for a couple of months.  At first I assumed it to be chaffing from long runs.  I get that occasionally.  Then I realized it wasn’t chaffed.  And then I freaked out a little bit because I felt a noticeable lump.  I probably over-reacted but having had cancer, it’s not an experience I care to rinse and repeat.

I had it checked out.  Blood tests and imaging, including a mammogram.  I’m fine.  I don’t really know the cause other than apparently my hormones, while they are all within their respective ranges, have likely changed their ratios.  My right nipple is about twice the size of my left.  Just another reason to keep my shirt on.

I’ve been running strides with Ellie the last couple of days.  She’s prepping for track to start in a week so we are learning form.  We run two miles and then run eight strides in the grass in our racing flats.  Yes, I have racing flats.  Ellie wears her spikes.  The point is not so much a physical workout as to teach Ellie what it’s like to run fast.  Speed might be natural talent but your legs still have to learn this.

We run about 200 meters, progressively working ourselves into a sprint.  We jog the first quarter, then double our pace for the next quarter, then stride near sprint pace and finish with an all-out sprint.  The distance for the sprint is a bit shorter than for the stride, which is shorter than the two previous legs, so they are not evenly spread legs.  Neither one of us is in shape to run big sprints, so that part is very short.

It’s all about form and muscle memory.  This training isn’t ideal for me, considering I’m training for a marathon, but it won’t hurt me to run less distance for a week.  I didn’t expect myself to be able to keep up with Ellie but I can.  I think the two mile warm up helps.  My upper thighs and glutes are sore though.  Maybe this week of running with Ellie will help my speed.  2016 was a slow year for me.  Muscles have memory and mine remember running fast.  Ellie might just help me qualify for Boston in my marathon this May.

These Shoes

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speedcross4

So happy to be running again in my favorite brand of trail running shoes.  Salomon Speedcross 4s.  Sorry fat ass Hokas, but I’m not a fan of big, bulky running shoes.  I might even blame those Hokas for my lower back pain.  Never had lower back pain before.  Then, after training in those wide-sole shoes for a few months, suddenly my back hurts.

I’m serious about blaming those shoes as a possible cause.  I’m a runner.  If something’s wrong, blame the shoes.  I know it’s counter-intuitive because Hokas are so massively cushioned, but soft shoes aren’t necessarily good.  They forced me to land on my heel more than I normally would.  That jarred and ultimately compressed my spine.

These new Salomons, from the first step, have me running in my old forefoot-landing form.  I don’t hurt nearly as much at the end of my run, even though their sole is much harder.  They promote the correct form, at least for me.

You might think I have no business dispensing such advice on running shoes and their relationship to injury.  I don’t claim to be a certified coach, or qualified sports physician.  If you expect professional opinions from me, then you’re the fool.  As an experienced runner, I live and breathe anecdotal evidence.  That’s what runners do.  We know how a shoe makes us feel.  And man, these Salomons make me feel good.

Book Signing @ 2020

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The Boulder Bookstore still has copies of my hardcover if you’re interested in attending my book signing Thursday, February 23rd.  They are shelved in the Local Authors section.  There are even some paperback editions in Longmont at Local Editions at 17th and Harvard.

book-signing

My friend Wendy has been so gracious to set this event up for me.  Some people still think writing is cool.  She emailed some people and sent out a Nextdoor invite.  I figure this blog post should capture anyone not on either communication.

2020

I’ll order some food trays and it will be a cash bar.  Happy Hour prices though.  The event time is 4 to 6, although you can stay for dinner.  They generally serve one entre but are otherwise small plates and pizza.  My neighborhood also has Mexican, Thai and BBQ.  I’ll tell you where this story came from, answer any questions, and let you know about my next book.

Amazon Reviews

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amazon-stars

The reviews are finally starting to roll in on Amazon.  Nothing on Goodreads or Apple iBooks yet.  I think I would be happy even if they were all 3 stars.  It was nerve-racking, waiting for reviews to appear.  And just having reviews of any sort is critical to promoting further sales.

Reviews are inherently subjective, but I would give myself 4 stars.  As a debut novelist, my skills aren’t quite there yet to give myself 5 stars.  I know where the weaknesses are in the writing.  I give myself four though because I am satisfied I accomplished what few others have done, which is to convey fairly technical information on cyber attacks in a digestible fictional story.  I read a few books in the sub-genre and can tell you, no one else has done this.  I’ll add that I just discovered a book written by a German author that looks promising, but everything else merely references cyber attacks in the title, and give near zero details in the book.

Of course, this is also one of my book’s major distractions.  I broke the rules of the genre to get so technical.  I was warned.  But I wasn’t necessarily writing to sell a million copies. Like my blog, I was writing for myself.  And what myself wanted to do was to relate a computer security primer as a fictional read.  I did, based on advice from beta readers and my editor, delete thousands of words.  I also moved much of the technical narrative into dialog – that helped make it more readable.

So most of the reviews reference how technical the book is.  One review clearly phrases it as a criticism, which is totally fair.  It’s a no-no for a thriller to get so in the weeds.  I was ready for that critique though.  Very curious to see what else readers will comment on.  One of my early beta-readers said he couldn’t read it because it was so in-your-face political.  He didn’t provide examples and I have no idea what he meant.  My undergrad is in poli-sci and I feel confident I didn’t intentionally insert political commentary.  My characters had points of view, very few of them were mine.  Beyond politics, there are some easter eggs in there I’m waiting for readers to challenge.

Amazon and Goodreads allow me to comment on reviews directly online.  I have been advised by other authors to not do that.  I probably will though.  It’s review season people.  Review early and review often.

Fiction Writer

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pan-am

Karen has begun to read my novel.  Apparently she is feeling obligated considering I dedicated it to her.  I didn’t expect her to appreciate all the technical content.  If my story weren’t fiction, it would be non-fiction.  I imagine writers are motivated for various reasons; part of my desire was to relate a computer security primer.  The technical content is rather dense in places and it’s fair to say I wrapped a story around a scientific white paper.  But that’s not what Karen is all worked up about.

The thing about writing fiction is everyone questions where the imagination comes from.  I find I’m not able to get away with saying, “I just made that up.”  Not in this house.  So I’ve developed a string of responses, depending on the question.  Like, “that really happened,  I pulled it from the news.”  Or, “I used that name because it’s generationally accurate.”  If you’re a writer in a similar position, constantly defending your actions, or your writing, please share some of your defensive responses with me.  I’m running low.

The most dangerous subject matter is of course sex.  I believe my book to be pretty tame.  In fact, writers label my style of writing on sexual content, “closed door” sex.  It’s not graphic by any means.  But that doesn’t mean Karen isn’t mad at me.  I might have included some locker room talk.  Nothing in comparison to Trump’s pussy-grabbing banter, but then I’m not a billionaire.  There is talk of Asian women, Chinese Xiaojie, and an affinity by my protagonist for uniforms in bed.  Excuse me for thinking outfit fetishes were mainstream.

Read my book and tell me if I’m weird.  Seriously, I just made all that stuff up.

Nasty Ellie

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img_0556

American women are taking it to the streets today in solidarity.  Good for them.  Ellie is going to be part of something today that no doubt will indelibly shape her character.  If all she does is talk to Susan all day long, she’ll grow from the experience, but she will be among thousands of empowered and spirited ladies.

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Ellie is a doer.  Volunteer work.  Student council.  She will be traveling on a bus from the neighborhood to downtown Denver all on her own today to be part of a political event bigger than the inauguration.  I don’t know exactly what she’ll take away from the experience but I expect it will be positive.  Self-empowerment.  Belonging to a tribe.  Politics.  She is just a high school freshman, but she is growing into something special.

Run & Read

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run-read

Becoming an author has completed my transformation to a purely narcissistic being.  And it feels good.  Still, I’ve been tasked with major home renovations and chores every weekend so far this year.  To the point I haven’t been able to run or read as much as I desire. This weekend will be different.  This weekend will be mine.  There are only two things on my agenda, running and reading.

I was able to finish one book this month but plan to finish two others by Sunday.  I’m reading Michael Lewis’ new book, The Undoing Project.  It’s on scientific research and is a bit more dry than his typical stuff.  That, or the material is not as new.  His first chapter was on basketball, and was basically a rehash of his on base average logic from his baseball book, Moneyball.  As if his editor made him cut this chapter from his previous book so he decided to use it here.  The remaining chapters are largely about the research collaboration between Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman.  This is well written but my problem is that I read Kahneman’s book last year that covers some of this, Thinking Fast and Slow.  Even a bad book by Lewis though is pretty good, so I’m going to finish it.

The second book I’m reading is Countdown to Zero Day by Kim Zetter.  I started this book last year but I didn’t read it so much as consult it for reference material as I was writing Cyber War I.  It’s the story behind the Stuxnet virus that America and Israel launched against Iran, a key premise to my novel.  This is well written though so I’m reading it now cover to cover.

Competing with my reading this weekend will be running.  I’ve been working some long days and not running as much as I’d like during the week.  I plan to make up some miles this weekend.  At a minimum, I’ll run my twelve mile loop on the LoBo Trail each day.  Might stretch it for fifteen miles.  It’s cold out, that should help.  Running and reading.  That’s it for me this weekend.

Run Cold

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winter-run

I don’t think I was alone this week when I say I ran in some cold weather.  I started the winter season off with five days in a row of twelve mile runs.  Thursday December 29th through Monday January 2nd.  That kicked off my marathon training.  It turned cold right after that, which was fine because returning to work was brutal.

The intensity was there day one as if the two week plus vacation never happened.  I’m not sure what day the snow started.  I ran again on Thursday of this week.  Five miles in 4°.  Then ten miles today, Saturday, in 20°.  Sometime in between, a foot of snow fell on top of my running trail.

I’ve been lucky in that the cold as hell days I’ve selected for running were free of wind.  With the Colorado sun sans wind, I don’t know that it matters how cold it is outside.  Running is ideal in those conditions.  The deep snow however was taxing, like running on a sandy beach.  Wonder what it’s been like running in Texas?  Or Atlanta?  Who else out there embraced the cold?

Found My Stride

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fast-eddie

2016 was not my best year of running.  The trend away from fitness accelerated the last couple of months with only two or three runs per week, and shorter distances.  Work and the novel got in the way.  I’m not complaining, it was still an awesome year.  Published the novel and reunited with a sister I hadn’t spoken to for nearly thirty years.  2016 was awesome. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I found my running stride again.

I gained over ten pounds near year end.  Personally, I like having a fuller face but my race times were suffering.  First year in seven that I haven’t run at least one marathon.  I determined to do something about that by registering for the Colorado Marathon in May.  Not only committing to a marathon, but I boasted I would run fast enough to qualify for Boston.  At altitude.

I started training Thursday with a twelve mile run.  It was harder than I expected but I’m not totally out of shape and was within my means.  Running twelve again on Friday was brutal.  There’s no recovery for old men.  I was nearly in tears by the end.  At home, I crawled up the stairs on all fours.  My plan was to run twelve miles for each of the five days remaining before I return to work.  I wasn’t confident after day two that I could run sixty miles in five days.

I went out today at 10am, in 32°, wearing a tech short-sleeve layered with a thick cotton long-sleeve, and shorts with a built-in liner to keep my weenie warm against the 4 mph wind.  I started to think about my next novel and outlined the first three chapters in my head.  The winter sun painted long shadows from cottonwood tree branches, lined across the trail like railroad ties.  With two miles remaining, I broke from the hypnotic spell to discover I’d found my stride.  On my third twelve miler, I was running fast again, strong to the end.

Unless you’re a runner, the feeling of striding fast and comfortable after two hours of running is hard to describe.  It’s not a hallucinogenic high, but it’s like an overdose on ecstasy, with dopamine spilling over.  It’s happiness.  It’s an exclamation point on a good year and a good sign for the year to come.

Resolutions

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cup

I don’t always make New Years resolutions, but when I do, I blog them.  Completing a thousand mile drive home from Texas to Colorado gave me ample time to contemplate.  I came up with two goals, both doable.  Enlarge the photo if needed to read my new coffee cup.  You’ve been warned.

First resolution is to run a marathon in 2017.  Sure, I’ve run marathons before but this time will be different.  This marathon will be spectacular.  This marathon will qualify me for Boston.  I didn’t run any marathons at all in 2016.  It was an injury year.  Strained hamstrings and lower back pain.  Although truthfully, I ran less to devote time to writing.  Hard to do it all, but I’m going to in 2017.  I’ve run within seconds of qualifying the past two years.  My plan is to run the Colorado Marathon May 7th, fast enough to qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon.

Next goal is to publish my next novel.  Maybe not publish, but I’ll start writing.  I already outlined the story in my head during the two day drive from Austin and just finished capturing it in notes.  I’m changing up my writing goals a bit from my first book.  It was important to me to experience the writing and publishing process, end-to-end, the first time around.  I gave myself a target date to ensure I finished.  It’s fair to say, writing a novel is one of those projects so many start and never finish.  So completion was paramount to me.

For my second novel, I want to focus on two other areas of writing – quality and marketing.  I want my second novel to be better than my first.  I think it will be.  And I want to put more energy into a marketing plan.  I’m willing to take longer to write for a better book.  And I’ll expect to allow for multiple months after it’s complete to perform the requisite marketing tasks.  Obtaining a review before publishing could take a couple of months.  I might even enter contests.  I might also put more into up front research.  I’m going to budget two years for this second book.  I still think setting a timeline is important.  My experience on the first novel was to treat it like a project, and projects have target dates.

The benefit of stretching the book process out for two years is I’ll have more time for running.  I recall a good twenty years of my life where I had zero hobbies.  Now I have two.  Life just keeps getting better.

Last Day

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hyde-park

This is my last day of the holidays in Texas.  Driving home tomorrow morning.  These are some highlights.  Eating out is always one of my favorites in Austin.  We’ve been dining at the Hyde Park Bar & Grill for thirty years.

book-for-mom

It’s so hard to shop for your parents when they already have everything they need.  I simply wrote a book and wrapped that up for my mom.  Writing a novel this year didn’t make me exceptional in this crowd.  I enjoyed the discussions with Mark and Paige on their novels.  Paige has published several and Mark is still editing his first.

papa-reading

It’s a tradition that Papa always reads for the girls on Christmas Eve.

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Brit, Ellie and Rachel dressed up fancy on Christmas day.  Ellie and Brit ran every day too.  They ran a ten miler one day, to counter the extreme eating.  No matter how many times I got them down to Town Lake, Brit would run past the bridge where she was supposed to cross, running farther than planned.

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The fancy dresses didn’t last long.  I recall seeing them mostly in their pajamas.

santa-gift

I always get the best gifts from my brother-in-law Chad.  This package included a Batman onesie and even funnier coffee cup.

grandkids

Each year includes a photo on the stairs of the Collier-Mahoney-Campbell grandchildren, from Brit the oldest to Liam the youngest.  We’ll end today with some laser tag and dinner at Matt’s El Rancho.