Open Our Eyes: Sales Report

Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of HomelessnessThis fall I released the book Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of Homelessness. The little book tells the stories of homeless people—families, kids, grandparents—and supports the work of homeless advocate Mark Horvath and his site,

All profit from the book goes to Mark. All of it. Here’s a quick report on book sales so we can be an open book:

  • October sales: 2 copies, $7.68 profit (we didn’t launch until November, so you folks were ahead of the curve)
  • November sales: 57 copies, $218.88
  • December sales: 30 copies, $77.59

These are only numbers for print copies and we earn roughly $3.84 per copy from Amazon sales (the numbers don’t add up because sales through other channels have a lower royalty rate).

Ironically, payments for digital versions come later, and I received the first one today:

  • November sales: 30 copies, $99.20 profit.

So far I’ve sent Mark two payments. The first was for $226.56 at the end of the year (October & November physical sales) and the second was for $176.79 that I sent this morning (December physical sales & November digital sales).

So to date Open Our Eyes has earned $403.35 to support We’ve also sold 119 copies, which puts us in the top 21% of books published. It’s not vast riches to solve all Mark’s problems, but it’s something. And hopefully it will grow.

Thanks for your support and thanks to everyone who made this book happen. I’d love to keep these payments going for a long time, so please buy a copy if you haven’t already and spread the word.

Slavery Sucks

Lately I’ve been doing writing for the blog of HalogenTV, a cable channel focused on social good. Tonight they’re doing a special slate of programming on human trafficking called Slavery Sucks. In the run up to tonight we’ve been doing a lot of human trafficking stories on the blog. Here’s a quick list:

It’s an overwhelming issue, but it’s one that demands justice. I’ve also been reading David Batstone’s Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade—and How We Can Fight It, which is empowering as it is eye-opening.

Half Day Kindergarten

Tour of My Childhood: Scotch SchoolI’m a work-at-home dad. With a 2-year-old and an almost 5-year-old. That means I don’t get much work done.

In the past few months I’ve gone from one child napping in the morning and both children napping in the afternoon to only one child napping in the afternoon.

Work happens during that lone naptime, in the evenings and when I’m otherwise neglecting my children. In other words, not much work happens. And I have no social life.

I’ve been holding out hope for kindergarten. The Tuesday after Labor Day couldn’t come soon enough.

Until I learned our district only offers half day kindergarten. All day kindergarten, it turns out, is not mandated by the state. So if you want it, in our district at least, you pay for it. To the tune of nearly $3,000.

I wanted to cry when I heard the news.

I love my kids and it’s pretty great that I get to stay home with them. But the whining, complaining, fighting and general disorder are not my cup of tea. Unlike some people, this is not my calling.

I’m trying to console myself with the fact that half day kindergarten is better for kids, that it’s a more gradual introduction to school, that all day kindergarten is mostly filler and babysitting, that naptime may even resume when kindergarten starts.

But I was really counting on that babysitting.

Now I’ve got my sights set on 2014.

(As much as I dislike the district’s policy, in a time of budget cuts, salary freezes and rejected levies, it’s a pretty smart fiscal policy.)

January Sucks: Admitting Failure & Struggle

The other day I tweeted about how much January sucks:

I think this month is trying to crush me. And then kick me while I’m down. Not nice, January. Not nice.

I was sick for two weeks and it feels like I’ve spent the whole month coughing.

But the bigger issue is the struggle. I haven’t blogged much lately, in part because life seems like such a struggle lately. It’s hard. I feel like I’m flirting with failure and that’s not a popular topic to talk about. It’s not a topic that pulls me to the computer to craft a blog post.

But I think it’s time to fess up and move on.

Life is hard right now. Work has been slow for a while. Bills are stacking up and it’s depleting whatever safety net we had. I’m not saying this for pity. It’s just the way things are. It’s too easy to think everyone else is doing just fine and we’re the ones who are struggling, but I’m sure that’s not the case.

So between work and bills and daddy daycare and a preteen who doesn’t want to be here, it’s hard. I’m struggling.

I keep reminding myself that these are the times that show us what we’re made of. And what am I made of? Do I have what it takes to make it work? Or is this juggling act going to come crashing down? Some days I don’t know.

But we keep on.

My saving grace lately has been a client with a nearly unlimited capacity for low-paying freelance articles. Last week they offered me a section editor position and are putting me on retainer. It’s more work for less money, but it’s steady. It’s not the solution to all my problems (is there such a thing?), but it’s a nice step forward.

I’m also thankful for friends we can lean on. My color-coded Google calendar could trigger a migraine it’s so full. Lots of entries involve friends stepping in to watch kids or loan cars or give us some measure of sanity. We couldn’t do this alone.

I’m also thankful for a smart and strong wife. These are hard times and we need a lot of strength to get through. I’m proud that Abby has both good ideas and insights, but also the strength to buckle down and get through this. Especially since financial stress has to be about the worst kind of stress (otherwise you can throw money at the stress and that at least helps a little bit).

One of the books I’ve been reading lately (Not For Sale) reminds me that no matter how tough life gets, I have it easy. The book tells stories of children ripped from their homes, forced to murder and butcher their friends as they’re turned into child soldiers in Uganda. Or women enslaved in brothels in Southeast Asia and each glimmer of freedom turns out to be more of the same rejection and pain. My struggle would be their cakewalk.

I’m also thankful for babies. A few just born and a few still on the way, lighting up their parents’ lives like electricity. Can’t help but smile at that.

A little perspective always helps. And so we struggle on.

Revisiting Star Wars

Over Christmas break my 4-year-old nephew was watching Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and I sat down to watch some of it (after all, Star Wars is a family affair). The next day Spike TV was showing the originals and I caught parts of Return of the Jedi.

“Who’s that guy?” Ari asked when Luke Skywalker strode onto the screen. My nephew had never seen the original trilogy, only the prequels. Sacrilege!

All of which transported me back to the wonderful world of Star Wars. The other day I borrowed Revenge of the Sith from the library since I don’t remember watching it since it came out in theaters. And as if watching Attack of the Clones again wasn’t bad enough, Revenge of the Sith was painful.

Apparently I enjoyed it despite its inconsistencies the first time around, but now the lack of a sensible plot and unbelievable character motivations was just too much. If you really want to revel in the Star Wars prequel bashing, check out the profanity-laden reviews by Harry Plinkett (I’m serious about profanity-laden. They’re beyond inappropriate in spots as well, so be warned).

In some ways it feels good to have someone else point out the inconsistencies and show me why the prequels always feel so flat. My biggest complaint has to be the over-use of digital effects. You’d think George Lucas would have learned his lesson with Jar Jar Binks, but oh no, he introduces General Grievous in Revenge of the Sith, a digital character with no weight whatsoever. Who is this guy? Why do we care? He’s like a lame version of Darth Vader, more machine than man, but the Emperor is still tinkering with proportions and this one is too much machine.

And it goes well beyond characters. Almost every scene in the prequels is on a green screen. Nothing is real. It all looks and feels fake. Sure, the matte paintings in the originals weren’t perfect either, but that’s why they were used sparingly. Lucas turns to digital backdrops in every scene of the prequels.

For a current comparison I think the digital effects of Transformers are just as fake, but the backgrounds and action are real. When a Decepticon slices a city bus in half, Michael Bay cut a real bus in  half, so at least the destruction looks real even if the alien robot doesn’t. In the prequels we don’t get so much as a model, we get digital everything. Lame.

I could go on and on but three paragraphs is already too much. I still love the original Star Wars movies, but I think the prequels will forever stand as an example of the downfall of excess.

But let’s end on a positive note. Perhaps my favorite writing about Star Wars is this piece that explains the inconsistencies by imagining R2-D2 and Chewbacca as integral leaders in the rebellion. That’s awesome.

2010 Reading List

Time for my annual brag-a-thon of the books I read in the past year. Nobody likely cares, but I find joy in keeping a running tally. Plus it’s fun to keep track of stuff on an annual basis (like when I turn on the heat—yes,  I’m weird).

This year was a mix of post-apocalyptic tales and some of my favorite authors. I tend to put off reading some of my favorite authors so I can save up their stories, but the result is never I read them. So this year I got around to reading a few from some of my favorites like Anne Lamott, Barbara Kingsolver and Frederick Buencher. I also dove more deeply into the post-apocalyptic genre, carrying over last year’s obsession and being spurned on by publishing my own story.

This year I think I managed to read more books than I have since 2002. I’ve found one way to read more is to have a stack of books on hand that I’m eager to read. That way when I finish one book I can dive right into the next book. Most of my reading droughts happen when I don’t dive into a new book right away. Oddly enough, I’ve had to turn to the library to keep that interesting stack of books (cuz the 1,500+ books in our personal library aren’t enough?!). Carrying a book with me wherever I go also helps me read more—I get my best reading done while waiting for the dogs to pee.

You can also check out my previous reading lists: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001.

Continue reading 2010 Reading List