Kindle Edition

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This post details my travails at publishing an electronic book format.  Specifically the Amazon Kindle edition, because based on their marketshare, the .mobi format is all that matters.  I’ll juxtapose this dry material with photos from our Christmas vacation to Austin over the last couple of days.  These two are of the girls at the Austin Trail of Lights from last night.

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I planned to share some of these details to help others publish an ebook.  I held off until I was fully successful.  By fully successful, I mean having a Kindle edition available at Amazon.  This took four weeks from the time my print editions were available.  My ebook was available on the Apple iBooks store immediately, although not without errors.  Apple was my first problem.  Before even describing my issues, I’ll advise you to simply pay an ebook coder to do this for you.  But if you enjoy a technical challenge, by all means, follow my errors.

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The first problem is there are virtually zero instructions for how to export your ebook.  Ingram Spark is my publisher and they provide two different files with a few instructions scattered throughout the docs.  The tips are in a narrative format rather than a checklist, so it’s easy to miss key instructions.  My book design software is Adobe InDesign, chances are it’s your’s too.  The export routine will provide multiple tabs of export options.  I got through it by reviewing YouTube videos.  The best one, because it tells you tips for the layout design as well, is this 24 minute video.  Trust me, I watched dozens.  It’s one of the few that explains the Adobe export options.  It also tells you how to rasterize your text pages.  It doesn’t say this, but making a photo out of text is a clever trick to get around font license issues.  I had those problems too.

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You only really need to publish eBooks to Apple and Amazon.  That’s where most are sold. I figured out I had issues with Apple by downloading their free sample.  Ingram Spark doesn’t do much in terms of monitoring errors from distributors.  Turns out my issue wth Amazon was that Ingram Spark lost my contract agreement.  They made me sign four, a print contract, an ebook contract, a specific ebook contract for Apple and another for Amazon – which they lost.  They offer separate contracts for Apple and Amazon because those sites have mature tools for writers to self-publish directly.  I probably should have chosen to work with them directly.  Because I didn’t, it was difficult to get Apple and Amazon to talk to me for support issues.

There’s so many things.  I’m still working out issues on my ebook with other online retailers.  Comment if you have specific questions.  These last two photos are of brunch today at Magnolia Cafe and a run around Town Lake.

 

Five Degrees

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You would think running in 5° would be cold.  Certainly, less than comfortable.  I ran in 5° this afternoon and can tell you it was really quite nice.  Full Colorado sun.  Double sun really if you count the reflection off the four inches of fresh powder.  Absolutely zero wind.  The cold is just better in Colorado.  I ran five miles today, layered for sure but no balaclava or anything extreme.  Felt great.  Might get into the double digits tomorrow.

Snowshoe in the Dark

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Another snowshoe season has begun.  I kicked things off with a night time jaunt around Brainard Lake with nineteen other like-minded friends and neighbors – Keith and Kathryn pictured above included.

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We had a bit of a late start waiting for Heather.  She delivered three babies the day before and another long day Thursday, but she made it.  The idea was to snowshoe under the full moon, seen here shining through the clouds.  Behind everyone else, I turned my headlamp off on the return.  Deep in the dark woods, I found it peaceful.

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The white streaks are from snow screaming through the night air at thirty miles an hour.  Hurt when it hit you full in the face.  Scott and Julie brave a moment facing into the wind here for a photo.  Scott had the foresight to bring along a flask of Makers Mark.  That’s why we’re friends.

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I made some new friends on this outing, Clay and Charlotte, fresh to Colorado from Massachusetts.  All twenty of us ended up at Avery Brewing after 10pm in Gunbarrel.  I quaffed a couple of their Full Day IPAs, the name capturing the essence of my 50-hour,  four-day work week.  This photo of Jen and Scott is after an IPA or two.

Indie Publishing

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For anyone interested, this is a short primer on self publishing a book.  Made shorter yet, because I undoubtedly skipped a few steps.  All I can relate though is my experience.  I equate self-publishing with acting as your own general contractor on a large home improvement project.  You can hire out any task that a traditional publisher would do for you, or you can choose to do it yourself, or some tasks you can choose to skip.  You don’t need no stinking permit.

My first step was to write a first draft.  This was more than an outline, it was a cover-to-cover story, and it made me confident that I could continue the writing and publishing process.  Near the end of my first draft, I began peppering a writer friend with questions on what my next steps should be.  The key step I missed already was that I should have been participating in a writer’s critique group, eliciting feedback on my manuscript as well as providing others my critiques.  This process not only helps to progress your story, it forms a network of contacts in the industry.  This is something I’ll do earlier on my next book.  In fact, I’m already in one group and plan to start up another.

My next key step was to attend a writer’s conference in Denver, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.  This turbo-charged my progress, providing me with invaluable information on both the industry and writing itself.  The cost was in the $500 range, so it was my first real financial commitment, but so worth it.  You can only learn so much googling information online.  There is nothing more powerful than attending sessions with real people and networking.  I  learned here that I needed business cards, which I then purchased for $15.

The business cards led me to license what would become my cover art.  I bought a graphic from Dreamstime for $15, which I later increased my usage rights for $69.  The initial license allowed me to use the graphic for my blog and websites and business cards, as well as 500,000 copies of my book.  This would have been fine but I was nervous that I didn’t fully understand the license terms and increased my digital rights to be safe.  I think many writers spend a few hundred dollars having something original created.  I believe you want your cover art well before you actually publish to use for early marketing.

Marketing should start early.  I could argue that I began to relate my efforts in my blog after my first draft was complete.  That’s something.  I still have not created a website.  I plan to over the Christmas Holidays but I did purchase a couple of URLs for about the price of my business cards.  One for my story title and another for my publishing firm.  You don’t need to establish a publishing firm but I was advised to and did it even though I wasn’t clear I understood its importance.  Turns out it is nice for other steps in the process like registering a limited liability corporation.  Also not necessary but if I make any real money it will be good for financial record keeping.  It cost $35 to register an LLC with the State of Colorado online.

Along with establishing a business entity, you should register with the IRS for an EIN, an employee identification number that is the business equivalent of a social security number.  This isn’t necessary either but again is wise.  The EIN, LLC and publishing firm were all good to have for when I opened up a checking account at the bank.  With these things in hand, I was able to register an account with a publisher.  I went with Ingram Spark.  Their role is essentially a distributor.  You could register directly with Amazon or Apple iBooks.  You will want these financial items in any case as you’ll need to setup an electronic bank transfer for your expenses and royalties with these publisher/distributors.

I took care of these business tasks while my book was with an editor for three or four weeks.  This included spending another $100 plus on ISBN codes.  As an indie publisher, I didn’t need to hire an editor.  I already had my second draft by this time and I was gaining confidence that it was readable.  I am so glad I hired an editor.  My third draft, based on her suggestions, is a thousand times better.  This cost me $800, which was very reasonable for my number of pages.  I could have hired additional editing services, like someone to check for typos or someone to design my cover and book layout before publishing.  I had help from friends on correcting typos.

Sort of wish I’d have paid what is called a book coder to design my book layout.  Might have cost me a few hundred dollars, but I still had to spend money buying a copy of Adobe InDesign.  I’m actually subscribing to an online version for $29 per month.  Having to learn how to use this software was harder than I anticipated.  The really difficult part is not knowing the format expected by publishers.  The print versions were straightforward but designing the eBook took me a full week to get right.  Actually two weeks if I count the time it took to fix an issue I discovered after reading the iBooks sample.  I could write another blog on just that process.  I probably will.  Ping me if you have questions on self-publishing.  Happy to share my experience.

Vacation Day

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first-mileI took today off.  I’ve been working twelve hour days lately, waking up at 5am to host 6am calls with India.  I need the hour prep and two cups of coffee to wake up enough to lead a call.  I’ve had zero time to run during the work week.  I just got in eight miles today though on a snow-covered trail in 25° and full sunshine.  These photos are from last weekend’s Colder Bolder 5K.

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This old looking guy behind me is actually ten years my senior.  He ends up beating me across the finish line by five seconds.  I didn’t exactly run this race slow.  That old man is fast.  I came across another older runner on the trail today, probably about my age actually.  We ran together for about two miles.  I left him at my four mile turn-around.

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Running across Varsity Bridge in this photo, fatigue set in like a double chin.  A half mile remains from this bridge and I maintained a strong pace, but coasted more than kicked.  I ran strong throughout and didn’t feel the need to hurt myself with a final sprint into the field house.  I ran much harder than I expected and enjoyed every breath of it.  Today’s trail run was just as awesome.  Perfect cold-weather running.  Looking forward to a good winter.

Since I’m all about marketing my book now, I’ll point out the links in the upper left.  Not sure if they show on a mobile device, but will be there on a computer screen.  One takes you  to an ebook edition at Apple iBooks.  The other links are to order print editions at Amazon.  Buy several as Christmas gifts for your techie friends and family.

What Runners Eat for Breakfast

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Runners eat donuts and drink beer for breakfast because we can.  Seems like this is becoming a regular weekend habit for me.  This morning’s Colder Bolder 5K though is the last race I have planned for the year.

Not my best racing season in terms of competitive times, but I ran okay today.  I finished in 22:04, just over a 7 minute pace.  Only ten seconds slower than last year’s run.  Still, I can run a faster pace than that for a 10K.  Hoping for a better season next year.

The weather helped today, not too cold.  Actually great for running, just over 20° with no wind.  Winter temperatures blew into Colorado this week but I’m acclimating.  I’m ready to snowboard.

Published Online

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The book is starting to show up in various online venues.  I’m really disappointed in Amazon because the book is creeping onto their system so slowly.  They do offer the hardcover but just now finally added the price.  Amazon doesn’t show my cover image yet, Apple and B&N show it.  Few of the venues offer the ebook yet which is ironic.  I’m told full launch could take a week or two.  Amazon added a couple dollars to the price I set for the paperback – which I suspect they will keep.  If you want to buy this at a bookstore, until it is stocked, which might be never, you will need to ask them to order it.  They should have it in their catalogues.  These links should take you to the respective sites.

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Apple iBooks ebook at $11.99 standard selling price

Barnes & Noble paperback at $11.49 best deal

My favor to ask of anyone who reads this is to please submit a review online.  That’s the biggest thing that will help sell the book.  Assuming it’s positive.  And really, if the review is somewhere in between, but helpful to other readers in terms of being descriptive, that’s great too.  I sort of think bad reviews are helpful too in that it will steer the book to the right audience.  Receiving reviews will be an interesting process.

One of the more complicated aspects to writing a book is taking criticism. Maybe not taking it so much; after working decades in corporate America, I have pretty thick skin. But knowing how to take that criticism and do something constructive with it is an art form. I can structure my critique groups into three categories. The friends and family I submitted my first draft to. A critique group. And my editor.

Let me start out by apologizing to my friends and family for sending them something so rough it probably was not readable. I was advised not to use friends and family because they wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings by commenting. That’s probably true. Most never gave me feedback. Could be they were too busy to read it but more likely they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. A few were less sensitive. A friend suggested to me that anyone who reads probably at some point thinks they want to write a book. I agree with that. I suspect my friends who took the trouble to provide feedback did so because they enjoyed being part of the writing process. I was actually counting on that.

Then there was my critique group. The mistake I made with this group was I started too late. You should begin with a critique group as you start writing in order to get instant and constant feedback. But I didn’t know what critique groups were until I’d already completed my first draft, and didn’t join one until I had my second draft.

Then there was my editor. Awesome feedback from her. Hours if not days and weeks worth of suggestions and corrections and rewrites. That sums up my three sources of criticism. The art form is in what to do with criticism.

Being my first book, I’d have done well to simply do what everyone told me. The feedback from friends and family was generally safe stuff that wouldn’t hurt my feelings. Make it less technical. Fix glaring errors. I did all that.

The feedback from my critique group tended to be genre specific and basic rules of writing. The genre stuff was to keep my story moving. Delete anything extraneous. Delete commentary that doesn’t deal directly with the story. I mostly ignored that. And this is where the art comes in. This is where I took risks because as a new writer, what do I know? I was advised by yet another writer to take everything with a grain of salt and make my own decisions on what to change and what to keep. I did.

I struggled much more with my editor’s critiques than with my critique group. She read half the book before responding to me so she had more context behind her than my peers who would only read ten pages at a time. And she’s just good at what she does. I probably accepted 90% of her suggestions.

I’m more than a little nervous waiting to read reviews on my book. Worse thing would be to not have any reviews. My expectation though is to have a little of everything. Good reviews will be awesome, they’ll help sell the book. Otherwise they won’t be nearly as interesting as bad reviews. I’ll totally discount the trolling, but most bad reviews will be constructive to an extent. And I’ll have to consider them just as I did with the criticism I received while writing my three drafts. I’ll have to decide what I want to accept and what to discard. Ironically, some negative criticism might actually flatter me. Readers might think I’m writing my personal position, but if it was really only a specific character’s point of view, I’ll accept that as good writing.

 

Ransomware

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This week’s ransomware attack against San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency underscores just how real the events in my Cyber War I novel are.  My soon-to-be-released story is fictional of course, but I didn’t make this stuff up. These attacks I describe are literally off the front pages.  This attack requested 100 bitcoin, roughly $70,000, to free their ticketing systems.

I mirror another true story from last year where a hospital was attacked, requesting a similar ransom.  My story details this attack vector and how you might recover from an attack.  Hint, backup your system, preferably offsite.  While farfetched, you might even get lucky and find your files still unencrypted in your trash bin.  It doesn’t hurt to look.

Hope you appreciate this small computer security primer.  It’s really a thinly-veiled attempt at self-promotion for my book.  I’m in the marketing phase of book writing and publication.  If I were serious about it, I’d have started marketing more aggressively months earlier.  And I’m too cheap, or just not committed enough, to drop 100s if not 1000s of dollars into book promotion – so I am leveraging my blog.  Hoping my book will be available by end of week.

File Upload

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I became a published author today.  Maybe.  I’m not really sure.  I clicked on some buttons to upload my novel Cyber War I to Ingram Spark.  They claim to have a fully automated publishing process, but the final message on my screen suggested I wait a couple of days to hear back.  That’s funny on multiple levels for me.

A technology theme I emphasize in my story is automation.  Different characters present various points of view.  My personal view is complicated but to be clear, I’m no Luddite.  My objective in the book is to give the topic attention, to gain awareness; because I suspect many people equate automation to robots and consider it a futuristic thing.  My point is it’s already happening.

The other funny angle to this is based on perspective.  Ingram Spark is automated after I performed serious manual book layout design work.  I had to subscribe to Adobe’s InDesign graphic design package, design the layout of all pages in between the covers, and separately design the cover.  None of this was rocket science but it was significantly more technical than formatting pages in Microsoft Word.  My sweetheart editor walked me through designing the layout for my internal pages.  I spent three hours last night and seven hours today working on my cover designs.  One for the ebook, another for the paperback, and yet a third for the hardcover.

I received a couple of error messages after uploading, both related to my covers and not the text.  The error messages were clear enough I was able to fix the issues and resubmit.  Ready for the next phase of publishing when I hear back from them.  Now off to shower before meeting up with a buddy to watch the CU/Utah game at Folsom Field.

Neighborhood Turkey Trot

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If you’re going to start your morning off with a mimosa, followed by a bloody mary, it’s okay assuming you first ran the neighborhood 5k turkey trot.  And there were chocolate, creme-filled donuts.  First Coach Jabe inspired half the neighborhood to run three miles at 9:30 in the morning.  Then Suzy hosted everyone at her house near the finish line for drinks, breakfast, and fun conversation.  Great start to Thanksgiving.

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Spacing

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I promised earlier to provide useful content as I report on the progress of my novel.  Useful I guess to anyone else writing a novel.  I’m currently in a final read-through of my manuscript and have discovered a nice editing tip to share.

I have a spacing issue with some sentences.  Initially, before I fixed it, one or two sentences per page.  And I have nearly 500 pages.  Spacing is the term ascribed to when a line of text doesn’t complete the row as expected before beginning on the next row.  The carriage return is off.  My first reaction was to place the cursor at the start of the next row and hit backspace, expecting one to three words to move back up to the previous row.  But this didn’t work, the words joined without a space.  So it’s a spacing issue.

I’ve known about this issue for months.  It occurred when I stopped using Apple Pages for my editor and began using Microsoft Word.  I preferred Pages because it had better export functions to ebook formats and whatnot.  I was eventually forced into using Word because that’s the file format the industry prefers.  Everyone is too stupid to use their preferred tool unless given the proper format, so we have to all agree on a single format.  I suspect the spacing issue resulted from some bug when exporting from Pages to Word.

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to fix it without retyping most of the split sentence.  Given the massive number of spacing issues, fixing this was tedious.  I kept putting it off until I could figure out the root cause and an easy fix.  I then noticed a pattern.  This typically occurred when the next line contained the start of a new sentence.  I wondered if it wasn’t the result of my double spaces between sentences.  This requires a tangential explanation.

I type two spaces between sentences.  Some people will tell you I do this because I’m over 40.  I’ll tell you I do this because I took a typing class in high school and was taught to do this.  The modern convention is to type only a single space.  I’m staunchly in the camp that two spaces is better and refuse to change.  As if my muscle memory will even allow me to change.  Long story short, I backspaced a sentence down to a single space, and the spacing issue corrected itself.  It was truly magical.  So I performed this simple edit for a while, but even this shortcut to retyping partial sentences became tedious after a 100 pages.

I then had this thought that maybe I could leverage the search and replace function.  But search on what?  It occurred to me that, as far as the computer knows, a space is a character as much as any letter.  I typed two spaces in the search function to test this out.  I couldn’t exactly see the spaces, but I knew they were there.  Before I could tab down to the replace with line, the number of found instances of two spaces began to populate to the right of the search bar.  This gave me confidence.  I typed a single space into the replace function and hit enter.  Viola, hundreds of double spaces were replaced by a single space, essentially all the inter-sentence spaces were fixed.

More importantly, nearly all my spacing issues were fixed.  I’m finding a handful of additional spacing issues as I perform my final read-through.  They don’t have a sentence starting on the next line, so it’s a variation of the bug that caused this.  I’m fixing these by retyping part of the sentence.  Not so many to make this tedious.  I’m finding very few typos.  I’m fixing some other things like italicizing words when I switch from third person to first person.  Stuff like that.  I expect to be done by the weekend.

Next step will be designing my page layout and publishing.  My brother-in-law is researching the best font to use for my title.  Right now I’m looking at stencil.  I need a war theme.  I welcome your suggestions.  For all my beta readers, give your feedback quick.  I’m still targeting Black Friday.

Turkey Trot Again

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Ellie and I ran the Longmont Turkey Trot this morning.  The holidays seem to come earlier every year.  Ellie ran the two mile in a 9:04 pace.  Pretty fast.  I didn’t catch my time for the 10K but I ran the entire distance alongside Keith.  We started out easy the first two miles, then surged in the third mile and kept a strong pace to the end.  I’d guess we ran under 45 minutes.  Keith put on a strong kick the final half mile to finish ahead of me by a good ten seconds.

I should add that Ellie took 2nd in her under 20 age group in last weekend’s 5K.  We didn’t wait around afterward to know that.  I took 2nd as well, losing to Keith once again.  This turkey trot is always a highly competitive race.  I typically finish top 3 but doubt I did today.  Results will be posted soon.  More painting to do now in the carriage house and football to watch.  Enjoy your fall weekend.

Moral Standing

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I’ve gone for some time without writing any political posts, but it’s not something I shy away from.  I was pretty passionate early in the election cycle.  I lost interest in the March timeframe after it became clear to me how the media was simply promoting Trump for the entertainment value.  I stopped following the news, for the most part I stopped watching the news.  I started writing my novel in March and have given very little time to anything else, including running.

I can’t let this election result go though without contributing my 2¢.  I voted for Hillary and sure, I’m disappointed to know Trump will be my President for the next four years.  But I’m not going to lose any sleep over the potential policies he’ll enact that I’ll disagree with.  Short of dropping a nuke, there’s only so much lasting damage he can do.  I’ve been on the losing side of most Presidential elections.  The world doesn’t end.  Or at least, it hasn’t yet.

And yet I woke up the next day depressed.  Seriously depressed.  I’ve never felt this way before after losing five of eight elections.  And I could tell from facebook that I was not alone.  Why the depression?  Trump isn’t going to do much to screw me over.  I’m a white male.  It took me  until the end of the day to figure it out.  Introspection isn’t my strong suit.

I was depressed because I couldn’t get over the notion that half the country voted for Trump.  Not the voting per se, but the implicit acceptance of every base aspect of Trump.  If Trump and half the right-wing media can refer to Hillary as criminal, when after hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have found no evidence of anything, after decades of trying, then I feel fairly safe calling Trump a perverted pedophile.  I mean, we can toy around with some of the little things too, like bigotry, xenophobia, sexism and racism, oh, and third-grade diction; but the man has allegations against him of raping a 13 year old girl.  This photo of him above references a porn movie he cameoed in.  And half the country is okay with this?  That’s why I was depressed.  And then I did the math.

I did similar math in a blog I posted at the start of the year suggesting only 10% to 20% of the country was behind the numbers leading to his nomination.  The GOP is nothing if not fractured.  Well, consider half the country didn’t vote.  Like me back in March, they were so disgusted by everything, they just couldn’t participate.  I know some Democrats are mad at them for this apathy, but I can empathize with them.  Back to the math, if half the country didn’t vote, then Trump’s behavior has only been legitimized by 25% of the population.  Still a bigger number of apparently low self esteem voters than I’d like to see, but this somehow makes me feel better.

For me, it’s not about Trump.  It’s about where we are as a society.  It’s bad enough America seems to be trending dumber.  I want to believe we’re becoming more civilized.  We might not be.  When I woke up Wednesday morning, I thought we were for sure in the gutter.  Like in this photo above, Trump will certainly cheapen the Presidency.  I just don’t want to believe Americans are following his example.  I can live with Trump.  I subscribe to Comedy Central.  I’ll be fine.  I just want everyone else to be fine too.

CollaBEERation

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This morning’s 5K race was a collaBEERation between two Longmont Brew Pubs, Left Hand and Shoes & Brews.  I planned to run with Ellie, but she paired up with Susan instead.  I have some closer up photos of them finishing together, but this one captures Susan with both her feet airborne, and the two peaks of the Twin Sisters in the upper right.

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I don’t have any pics of Keith running, because he finished 15 seconds ahead of me.  We had a good race, with Keith leading the first mile, I took over for the second, and then Keith stormed back into the lead for the third mile.  I was just behind him until the final half where he put on a strong kick.  This photo of Jill and Rychie shows them finishing strong too.

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Quite a few of my friends came out to run this morning.  I didn’t get pics of them all.  Awesome fall day with 50° temps and full sunshine, no wind.  And of course, a dozen of Longmont’s brew pubs set up booths afterward to dish out free beer.  I quaffed a Rabbit Mountain Red Ale from 300 Suns.  Jen, Steve and Jill enjoyed some tasty brews as well.

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Carriage House

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All I ever want to do, either after dinner or on the weekends, is work on my manuscript.  I’ve received the final input from my editor and I’m half way through completing corrections and rewrites.  I’m still targeting the completion of my third, and hopefully final, draft by the end of November, but I’m less confident now that I’ll make that date.  I’ve been handed an urgent, end of year, project at work – IBM never sleeps.  And my tenants moved out of the carriage house, giving me yet another project for the weekends.

The good news is that we already have new tenants lined up.  All we ever do is post a rental sign out front and the place sells itself.  People are drawn to this neighborhood, and the option of living in a single, detached unit rather than some monolithic apartment structure.  More good news is we were able to increase the rental 20%, for an additional $2400 annually.  Nothing better than giving yourself a raise.

But I now have a new weekend priority.  I’m repainting the entire unit, which is something I actually have the skills to do.  I also have some plumbing repairs, which I’m not so good at.  Then there’s cleaning the tile grout in the bathroom.  Tedious.  Fixing the gas fireplace.  Replacing the carpet.  The list goes on.  If you own rental property, then you know how I feel.  Cashing the monthly checks is nice, but it can be work at times.  No running for me this weekend.  No watching college football.  No working on my novel.  Fortunately the girls decorated the front porch for Halloween.  One less thing on my list.