Control the Internet, Don’t Let It Control You

If you’re like most people, you have a smart phone. It’s good for taking photos, getting directions, finding out who the winner of the 35th Kentucky Derby was (Wintergreen), and protecting you, at least in a legal sense, from a police beat down or a Karen verbal, and possibly physical, explosion. You may also get a viral video in either of those last two cases. However, your smart phone is also capable of controlling you in ways you haven’t thought possible. Those who worry about being chipped through a vaccine have failed to realized that they have much more effectively chipped themselves through their Internet and smart phone usage. You need to control the Internet and take back your personal autonomy from the what you think to what you do to who you do it with.

Continue reading

How Social Media Can Fix Itself

If you haven’t realized it by now, social media companies are not a product. They are not beholden to their users for any reason other than that they need users to be the product. Social media then sells its data and insights to the highest advertising budget to get the most targeted results. While making you the product has been vilified in some arenas, it’s not any worse than you as the product for TV or radio. The biggest difference is that Facebook, Twitter, and their ilk can target you specifically, have done experiments to show they can manipulate your feelings, and are in it for a profit, not of millions of dollars, but hundreds of millions.

Continue reading

Journey to Better Marketing: Online Marketing

The purpose of online marketing is to drive people to your website to buy something. While the Internet is constantly changing as are the way search engines evaluate websites and their relevance to queries, one thing appears to remain true throughout the changes. In order for your online marketing to work, you need to provide meaningful content at your website.

Continue reading

One of My Weaknesses: Building a Virtual Community

I’m not any good at building a virtual community. I’m not sure why. My Twitter account hovers around 230 followers, usually fewer. My YouTube page is at about 250 subscribers. My Patreon has five dedicated and amazing Penguinators (Thank you!). The only reason I have over 1,000 Facebook friends is because I played a game called Castle Age for four years and I needed friends to get prizes (DfA!).

However, a virtual community is what I need to build to survive as a writer. I need a group of individuals who will interact with my webpage and social media. People who will share penguin posts and buy books and penguins. A core group of active fans, who can help get the word out and keep my TV series on the air for another season (figuratively speaking), would be amazing.

Taylor Swift has her Swifties. Haley Reinhart has her Haliens. Firefly has its Browncoats. Justin Bieber has his Beliebers. What’s the name of J.K. Rowling’s fans? These fans are there to support and protect their chosen artists, and just such a fan base is what every creator needs.

I’ve seen examples of fan-building, but I don’t know how to use my personality to do it. All I know is that I need to figure it out and quickly. Change is coming, and when it does, I’m going to need a lot of support and a lot of change.

How would you build a virtual community?

The Email List: Struggles and Reasons

I’ve been struggling with this idea of an email list for several reasons. It’s a lot of extra work. It’s an extra expense. I don’t really like the email lists I’ve joined, and I was hoping that people would migrate over to my Patreon where we can make beautiful words and penguins together. (You can still migrate to Patreon and get cool things for as little as a dollar a month.)

Extra Work

I already write at least one post a day for my blog; I surpassed 200 days of posting in a row on July 12, 2019. I plan on keeping that streak alive, but it isn’t easy to come up with something new every day. I try to write 3 posts a day for my SEO job when they have work available. I need to write posts for my Patreon – one or two a month. I edit books as a side job.

Adding one more thing to my list of things to do, which includes marketing, continued learning, reading, refilling the creative well, dishes, laundry and other housework, taxes, teaching English, searching for freelance jobs to supplement my income, keeping my social media accounts active and relevant, and spending time with my wife and family, is a little overwhelming, especially when I really have no idea what I’m doing. How can I keep an email list current and active while still finding time to write my next book?

Extra Expense

MailChimp offers free limited use email lists. If I get more than 2,000 subscribers or I want to do something cool like set up a series of future emails, I’m going to have to pay up for that. This extra expense may end up being worth it, but right now, it’s hard to justify. Automation would be great for an introduction to and its creativity, books and penguins. For now, I have to live with what there is – the opportunity to follow up with an immediate discount email, a day later intro email, and an email on the first of the month that rounds up everything I posted on my blog. Then, I’ll hope people don’t forget who I was when the next email I send is more than a month away.

Other Email Lists

Russell Nohelty and some other people do these great list building contests. For a small fee, authors join the list builder. The money is pooled to come up with a prize package that people will really want based on a fandom, like Doctor Who, Firefly, or Marvel. I’ve signed up for a couple of these and ended up on email lists that were not what I was expecting. (Who knew Buffy the Vampire Slayer was related to the reverse harem genre of books?) Aside from that, I received 20 to 40 different emails or more during a two-day period after the sign up and those emails keep coming until I unsubscribe. They aren’t just from the authors, they’re from Amazon, Kickstarter, GoodReads, and other websites the authors had people sign up at to get more entries. (I did not win the Buffy swag, by the way.)

All the emails end up being the same. Hi, I’m author, here’s what I’ve been working on, here’s a free (short story, book), here’s a contest you haven’t entered, here are some other free books… I don’t want to inundate your email inbox with emails you aren’t going to read, and I haven’t figured out how to make an email that is any different. Why would I want to make an email list where people will get the same thing (minus the freebies) that other authors are already sending out? Do you really want pictures of my cat? (If so, I’ll send them, but she doesn’t like being photographed.)

On Patreon

I was really hoping to build my Patreon into a juggernaut. If I could get 600 people signed up at a dollar each, my financial situation would be much more stable. It wouldn’t give me the opportunity to quite everything, but it would reduce the amount of freelance and SEO work I had to do. Unfortunately, I still haven’t got a handle on how best to get fans to sign up for the Patreon. I’ve offered discounts at any level. I’ve created offers, like join at $30 for three months and get a penguin. I’ve posted about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I haven’t figured out how to grow any of my social networks beyond a certain number and Patreon is the same right now.

Why Am I Doing It?

I am starting an email list because it’s the best way to keep you in the loop about what Jenya and I are doing creatively. YouTube changed its criteria for creators to monetize videos. Facebook changed its algorithm, so that creators had to pay to get their fans to see what’s being posted on the fan page; it has also randomly marked my as spam without giving me a reason or checking the posts that I sent notices about. Weebly eliminated access to its website for anyone geographically listed in Russia and other countries. These changes have made it more difficult for creators to make a living off of random and organic growth. They have also shown that these companies control my eCommerce to a degree that is not only uncomfortable and unprofitable but also dangerously close to being able to remove my presence from my largest outlets with a small change in their algorithms. I can’t count on social media and search engines to drive organic views to my websites.

In addition to this, my SEO job ebbs and flows. There have been days when there just aren’t any articles to write. I need to find a better way to make money, and every other book and website I’ve read about being a creator in the Internet age says an email is the only way to go. When a website like or MySpace shuts down or becomes less visited, the email list is still there to sustain the creator. In theory, I’m in control of the email list, and thus in control of my destiny. And isn’t that all anyone really wants? To control his or her direction?

So, please sign up for our email list. Like share, comment on our social media posts and sign up for our Patreon. I look forward to you becoming honorary Penguinators.

#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; } /* Add your own Mailchimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */ #mc-embedded-subscribe-form input[type=checkbox]{display: inline; width: auto;margin-right: 10px;} #mergeRow-gdpr {margin-top: 20px;} #mergeRow-gdpr fieldset label {font-weight: normal;} #mc-embedded-subscribe-form .mc_fieldset{border:none;min-height: 0px;padding-bottom:0px;}

Subscribe to Our Free eMail List

* indicates required
Email Address *
First Name *
Last Name *
Marketing Permissions

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from

Email Direct Mail Customized Online Advertising

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.

//$) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]=’EMAIL’;ftypes[0]=’email’;fnames[1]=’FNAME’;ftypes[1]=’text’;fnames[2]=’LNAME’;ftypes[2]=’text’;fnames[3]=’ADDRESS’;ftypes[3]=’address’;fnames[4]=’PHONE’;ftypes[4]=’phone’;fnames[5]=’BIRTHDAY’;ftypes[5]=’birthday’;}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true);

Vanilla, Credit and Creativity

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit” – commonly attributed to Harry S. Truman though the actual origination is disputed (

In creativity, the more ideas you have, the more likely you are to find a great idea. When people come together to share, they can combine ideas and build off each other. In these cases, it’s better for the people involved to check their egos and their need for credit at the door. If someone can come up with a world-changing idea because people were open to sharing and participating in give and take, that should be what matters. While the creative community knows this, it also knows that the person or company who implements the idea gets the credit and the rewards. It’s a stumbling block that comes with capitalism where the almighty dollar rules all.

Facebook went through this with the lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg for stealing the idea from the Winklevoss twins who recruited him to work on ConnectU. Zuckerberg is a billionaire, but he cared about who got the credit.

In “How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery,” author Ken Ashton tells the story of vanilla and a slave boy named Edmond. Europeans loved vanilla, but it only grew in Mexico. Plants were taken to other countries, but they didn’t produce any vanilla beans. The world’s supply of vanilla was limited to the two tons of beans produced in Mexico and pollinated by a specific bee there.

It wasn’t until Edmond (who didn’t have a last name because he was a 12-year-old slave) pollinated a vanilla orchid, adapting a technique he had learned from pollinating watermelon vines, that the vanilla industry was able to grow beyond Mexico. Edmond was freed about 6 months before the rest of the slaves in Reunion and given the last name “Albius.” He went to the city, was jailed, his former owner was able to free him in three years, but Edmond came to a “destitute and miserable end” according to his obituary. Edmond is remembered through the name of his pollination technique called “le geste d’Edmond” (“Edmond’s Gesture” in English) and a statue that stands on the island where he created the technique. In 2018, according to “Time,” vanilla ($515) was worth almost as much as silver ($527) per kilogram.

While Edmond didn’t get the recognition he deserved in his lifetime, it was due to his status as a slave and African and not because his owner tried to take credit. In fact, his owner insisted on telling everyone the debt that the nation owed to Edmond for his discovery. He corrected false stories and did his best to improve Edmond’s standing in life. Twelve-year-old Edmond probably never thought about getting the credit for his discovery.

However, in today’s climate, discovery, innovation and creativity take a backseat to quarterly profits and the need for fame and recognition. We may be capable of achieving great things, but we need to figure out how to justly compensate everyone involved. Unfortunately, greed, intellectual property theft and laws geared toward improving the lot of corporations make it increasingly difficult to justify being creative for the sake of humankind.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

Point and Click Your Life Away

Every so often, I get caught up in one of those point-and-click Facebook games, like Farmville or Castle Age, and I become totally obsessed with them. I’m building characters. I’m building farms. I’m building castles. I’m fighting monsters. I’m raking in the fake currency. I’m completing quests, and in the best of these, I’m connecting with people on the Internet I will probably never meet in person. In short, these games allow me the opportunity to feel successful and enjoy the feeling of actually building toward something. It’s a feeling that seriously lacks in real life.

No matter how many blog posts I write, how many books I sell, or how many SEO articles I write, I don’t see the results that show I am building toward something. Instead, my real life looks like I am spinning my wheels and staying afloat, with the weather and waves threatening to change all that.

These games have a time element and a rewards system. Just wait five minutes, and you get another point, or energy bolt, or gold piece to spend. Of course, you always have the option of throwing the developers some real money to get more of whatever makes the game go. The more you play, the more new lands you find the more powers you develop and the more secrets you discover.

Discovery also lacks in life, even as I seek out new experiences and new information. It seems like I am surrounded by old information that is told in different ways over and over. It’s like looking up 30 articles on heart attacks to see that chest pain is the most common symptom for men. It’s something we all know. Isn’t there anything new out there?

Recently, I got caught up in “Magic the Gathering: Arena.” It’s a great game. You collect cards and decks. You build decks, and then you battle against other people that you can’t really communicate with. It has all the elements I love: Discovery, strategy and card collecting. (I had so many Magic cards when I was in my teens and twenties.) And then there’s the winning – who doesn’t love winning? I just can’t continue on with it knowing the responsibilities I have.

These games are time- and attention-stealers. They don’t do anything to advance you forward, and if you’re like me, they suck you in and reduce your effectiveness in other areas of your life. If you’re thinking about the next reward you can get in your match three gems game or Candy Crush, you’re not thinking about how to solve other problems you’re facing or how to help other people get through life better. Yes, they are fun, and if you can play them in moderation, more power to you. I, however, cannot. Now, if there were a point-and-click game that translated into helping people. That might be a game worth getting lost in.

If you’re going to point and click anyway, try one of my adventure choice stories. You’ll be helping me out and get a good story, too!