One of my favorite radio shows is Under the Influence by Terry O'Reilly. It is on CBC radio, which is Canada’s version of NPR in the USA. As with most shows these days, you can get it on a podcast. What makes it my favorite? I always learn something interesting about the advertising business.
When trying to decide on how I was going to brand myself, I had to think about how I want to be remembered.
The title of my book, Lines by Leon, is a reference to the many lines that I have created. Lines of poetry, plotlines in a story, lines in a pencil sketch, and lines of music. The alliteration was a bonus. It was because of that that I choose it for my domain name. I was able to use it for my Twitter account, but not for my Instagram. Why not? It was taken – by a talented artist who had posted a few sketches 3 or 4 years ago, and nothing since. I messaged him (twice), asking if I could use it, since obviously he was not, but I received no response. I was primarily going to use it for my comic, The Miniscules, so I used @theminiscules, but decided later to keep the brand name consistent over all platforms. My only option was: lines_by_leon. Not the end of the world, but I dislike wasting underscores.
My logo, taken from my book cover, is from the sketch that I did called Hopes, Dreams, and Wishes:
It represents how elements in our lives may seem out of our control. Often, it may seem that they are at the mercy of the winds but chasing them sure is fun. The original was quite faint on the first scan:
So, I darkened it up with Photoshop:
I then moved some of the bubbles around to create a longer illustration for my bookmark:
I printed a bunch to give away in my books and for promotional use. I decided to get the original illustration printed in cardstock for framing. I have them for sale on my website.
It still makes me smile when I look at it.
So when you think of Leon Stevens, think of a dreamer still searching for the one bubble that can be caught (and as an amazing writer!).
Taking the pulse of the nation. Identifying trends. Collecting statistics. Surveys have been around for centuries (Really? Sure, why not…). The first survey that I took was a mail-in from inside of a chocolate bar wrapper. I think that I received a free chocobar for that. Whoo-hoo!
Wait a minute. That’s not right. The first one I took came across my desk in elementary school. As I unfolded the note, the question was revealed to me in flowing cursive (with a little heart above the i):
Do you like me? Yes / No
Survey says: Yes. Margin for error, 50%, nine times out of ten.
Next came the chocolate bar survey.
I am always (usually) polite to telemarketers. They are doing their job, and it’s not to annoy you. Some are very good, not allowing any spaces or pauses in their script for me to interject, “Sorry, I am not interested and don’t want to waste your time.” Once I get my 2 cents in, I am justified to up my aggravation level. All they have to say is, “Thank you for your time,” and I am happy. But if they insist on continuing, I will tell them that I’m hanging up – my courtesy to them.
I started adding surveys to some of my blog posts. Of course, I had to make them humorous. Then I decided to make a slightly longer survey for my newsletter subscribers to find out a bit of where they had heard of me. I use a few different promotional sites, so I wanted to know where my money is best spent. Of course, I had to make it humorous. Stop by if you nave a few minutes to waste.
Lines by Leon: The Survey
Without surveys, we wind up with products like New Coke. Without surveys, I may write a romance novel. Without surveys, we:
The ultimate survey is an election, where the result has immediate consequences. So, make sure you have decided on the product that gives you the least discomfort – the one that you can live with for four years.
I’ll leave you with one last survey:
Do you like me? Yes / No
I want to thank you for taking part in my writing journey. Writers write to share their ideas, visions, and emotions, and I hope that you find my weekly rambles entertaining. I write in a lot of different styles, which may or may not be the best way to keep a readership.
I think about it this way: My writing is like a box of...(I'll stop there to avoid copyright infringement). But it is. You know the one, that assorted box that you get at Christmas, the one with the candy map. You always go after your favorites, but sometimes you take a little nibble of the one with the chocolate squiggle. Maybe you discover that you like it, or perhaps it makes you glad you didn't buy a whole box of strawberry creams. Aren't caramels supposed to be soft?
What was the first thing that I wrote that wasn't part of a school assignment? Probably a song lyric, but I always scrapped it because I was never happy with the result. When I decided to pursue classical guitar studies, I began to compose, letting the music provide the emotion instead of words. I wrote many pieces, some I wrote down, still others I forgot. I recorded some, but it never came out polished. I make too many mistakes, I can never play as close to perfection as I want, I get nervous performing in front of people or a microphone, so it takes a lot of takes to get something that I am OK with. The first piece that I wrote is called Riviera Galliard, which is an homage to the Renaissance composer, John Dowland. I hope that I can record it and share it with you. There is my incentive.
I wrote a few others in the same style before turning to acoustic guitar after hearing the Canadian guitarist Don Ross. Unfortunately, most of those pieces have been lost. Either I can’t find the scores that I wrote down, or my memory decided that I didn’t need to know those anymore. I can still dig up little snippets, but it is like reading a corner ripped out of a book.
Fast forward to my poetic journey. I ventured back into lyric writing to make sense of a difficult situation. The poems followed as some of the unused ideas became short poetic pieces. Most of my poetry is short and not too complicated. As one reader put it: “Lines by Leon is an eclectic mix of poetry and thoughtful, personal reflection. The ideas are straightforward with an understandable simplicity. “ I wanted people to reflect on the poems and seek connections without having to try to interpret deep philosophical meanings or search for underlying cryptic messages.
During my poetic journey, I started to sketch images that came to me. Some of these images evoked ideas that became my short, short stories, one or two paragraphs that tell part of a story and leaves the rest to your imagination. Some of my stories became longer, but still without conclusion, similar to waking from a dream and lying in bed thinking--what the…?
Enter science fiction: My forever favorite. If you have read my blog post, Returning to Roots (and I hope that you have), you will know that my father introduced me to this genre. We would watch science fiction T.V. shows, and he would read me stories. It was only natural that I would turn to this topic as my writing developed. I was able to cross my styles when I wrote a series of post-apocalyptic poems that are featured in my next book, The Knot at the End of the Rope.
I also want to keep a sense of humor in my writing. Some of my poems and stories will hopefully make you chuckle or smile. My blogs and newsletters give me a chance to poke fun at things, be cynical at current events, and showcase my odd sense of humor.
Some writers stick to the same formula, and their readers stick with them, which is perfectly understandable. A successful author wrote that to be successful, you have to write what your audience wants. I do want to entertain readers, but I’m not trying to make everybody happy. I’m trying to make myself happy, by hopefully providing material that can be enjoyed by others.
If you are here for my poetry, fear not, I continue to write and still have pages to revise. It took me three years to get to my first book, and I promise that it won’t take another three for the next. For my sci-fi fans, I am proud to share my short stories, which could not have happened if it wasn’t for my father. Let’s all gather to share to love of the written word—no matter the style.
Let’s say that you speak 5 languages: ABCDE. For simplicity sake, we assume you are fluent in all of them. Now, you are giving a speech to 10 people who have varying degrees of fluency in some of those languages (represented my font size). Most everyone speaks A, many speak B, a few C and D, and one E.
1 – ABCD 2 – ABC 3 – ABD 4 – ABCD 5 – AC 6 – A 7 – ACD 8 - AB
9 - A 10 - E
The first time through, everyone - except for 10 - is going to be able to understand it to some degree. Then you repeat the lecture four more times until everybody has heard it in their preferred language. Now, you ask if there are any questions. There are many because each person has their own strengths and weakness in each language. So, you answer each question and translate it for the others, as to not duplicate any questions. You then spend the rest of the time with 9 and 10 because 9 doesn’t understand “A” very well, and 10 has only heard everything once.
Ever been to a lecture like that? Of course not. If you were 1, 2, or 3, you would probably be bored and leave after the first reading, or just start talking to each other, while if you were 4-8, you would wonder why 1-3 are leaving, but being glad you are not 9 or 10, because they just don’t seem to understand, although it does frustrate you that the lecturer is talking to them more and not answering your questions (that was a really long sentence that I just wrote, sorry.) If you were 9 or 10, you would probably be on your smartphone most of the time because you don’t understand the 4 other languages.
Does that sound like a disastrous lecture?
Now, imagine that the lecturer is an educator, and the attendees are the students with different learning styles and accommodation needs. Welcome to a classroom. But wait! A classroom with only 10 students? In every teacher’s dream. Class size average is about 25, which means some have a lot more…
With possibly smaller class sizes mandated due to COVID-19 occupancy restrictions, there will be a need for more teachers, and each teacher will be able to devote more time to each student. If there is a silver lining to the crisis, then let’s hope that it works in favor of the teachers and their students.
I received this from Medium.com on Tuesday:
Your payment summary for July 1 – July 31, 2020
We’ve sent you $0.04 (USD)
Your payment was sent to your Stripe account on August 4, 2020, and will automatically transfer to your bank account or debit card on file. This may take up to 5-7 business days.
I knew writing was going to be tough…At least with the exchange, I received $0.05.
The goal for most authors is to earn a living writing. Unfortunately, for many, it’s not going to happen. Making some money? Sure. Writing full time and making scads of dough? Not happening for most of us. As you can tell by the above graphic, unless I pare down my expenses a bit (just a bit…), I’m going to need more income streams.
Joking aside, there are many avenues for writers theses days, Medium being one of my latest finds. It is a site for news/entertainment/general interest/poetry etc. I started on a similar site, vocal.media, and had a few views of my articles (mostly reworked blog posts). Posting the same content to Medium gained me more reads and followers in a few weeks then the months that I used Vocal. As you can see, views=$, or in this case, cents. But as a writer, you want to gain a readership, so any exposure is worth it.
What do I like writing the most? I think my science fiction stories compel me to write more, but I do thoroughly enjoy coming up with topics for my blog. I still write poems from time to time, but not at the rate that I did when I started.
I didn’t start writing to make money, but I enjoy writing, and if I can make a living from it, I’m going to try. If my writing helps someone get through tough times like it did for me, or if a reader finds it entertaining, I’m OK with that too…
I didn’t think that I needed too much editing done on my poetry book (such arrogance!). With some of the grammatical freedoms us poets (see how I put myself in with all the other great writers?) are granted, I figured that the most important aspect was spelling, so spell check, and some reading from friends/family would suffice. Was it a good choice? In hindsight, not the best, but I’m still satisfied with the result. The problem is that you read what you believe that you wrote, not what is actually on the page, unless you go word by word (which I did), so you still can miss things.
I’m looking for an editor for my science fiction book. I’m a new writer, still learning the rules and trying to find my voice, so it was important to me to find a professional to guide me. I sent out some writing samples to several editors, and what surprised me was that the edits that I got back were very different.
Some came back as if they were just run through the same writing checker that I used, while others had detailed notes on why certain changes were made. Some editors focused on the continually changing tense (which I knew, but was hoping that it was appropriate – nope); others did not mention it at all (was I that good of a writer?).
I received several quotes that mentioned that they enjoyed the story that I had sent and were excited about this project. I hoped that they were not just buttering me up. A few didn’t say anything about it – is that what I want in an editor?
A writer must connect with their editor, to be on the same page (Ha!) so to speak, and is an important relationship in a writer’s life. This will be a hard decision that I can’t take too long to make.
Did I make any spelling errors? Ask my editor…oh, that was me today.
What is funny? Anything that makes you laugh I suspect. Or chuckle, snicker, chortle, giggle, or smile. The measure of real humor is something that makes you laugh when you are alone. Think about it. When was the last time that you laughed out loud all alone? For most of us, it is rare, if non-existent. But, as they say, laughter is the best medicine. One feels contented after a good, long laugh.
I remember a time when I was sitting in the mall with my sister reading a newly purchased Calvin and Hobbes book. I remember it fondly because of the tears running down my cheeks from laughing so hard. Then there was the time that I couldn’t place my drive-thru order because I couldn’t talk through all my laughter (I don’t remember why, though). Then there was the time my mom said something that no one expected her to say…
You can’t feel angry when you are laughing. Or sad, or alone, or helpless…Pain disappears for a while (not counting the pain in your side). You can laugh so hard that you cry, and those tears can wash away any sad thoughts- at least for awhile. Laughing is contagious. Try to hold a straight face while others around you are partaking in the joy.
I like to make people laugh. It makes me happy. Most of my writing these days has a humorous edge to it, even with some of the more serious topics. Some of my ideas were the catalyst for my cartoon, The Miniscules.
People’s sense of humor evolves. What was funny as a child (farts) is not necessarily funny as an adult (notice that I said not necessarily, I bet you know someone who still laughs at them). Children get some of their sense of humor from their parents, and they also get it from peers and pop culture. Schools can be a breeding ground for hurtful humor, but I know that our educators do their best to teach what is acceptable.
Humor is constantly changing. What was thought of as humorous in the past is no longer acceptable. Many comedians went through times (some still do) of pushing boundaries and limits, using race, gender, sexual orientation, status, profanity, and taboo subjects in order to get a rise or laugh out of the crowd. People supported this questionable content, demanding more profane, edgier routines.
I know. I was there. I admit, I laughed. Now I don’t.
One last thought: Has anybody ever laughed at a “Knock, Knock” joke?
I like space stuff. I always have. If I had the chance to go into space, I would. No hesitation. I credit my father for reading science fiction stories to me as a child, and watching Star Trek, Space 1999, and Lost in Space on Saturdays. I remember being fascinated with the Time Life books: The Solar System, Space, The Sun. I don’t know what the first sci-fi book that I read on my own was, but if I had to guess, I think that it was The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury.
I experienced a partial solar eclipse once. I think that it was around 84.2% (no, my memory isn’t that good…). My pinhole telescope and welder’s glass provided a very cool image for a pre-teen kid. When the first Viking pictures from Mars were broadcast, I thought for sure we (humanity, not my family) would be living there sooner rather than later.
My family bought my father a telescope for Christmas one year. I think that I championed that idea more to serve my desire to have one. Seeing the craters and mountains of the moon, the rings of Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter for the first time was a dream come true. I think that I had hoped that he would build an observatory in his backyard. No Keck observatory for me…
So, it was odd that when I started to write, I didn’t start writing science fiction. No, not really. My poetry served its purpose, and I continue to be inspired to write it. But my head was always in the stars. If I had a book in my hand, it was more than likely about space. I always got excited when a new sci-fi T.V. series or movie came out.
I’ll quote from the introduction of my next project:
“I decided to write a series of short stories in the style of the early years of science fiction, where scientific knowledge wasn’t king, and imagination drove the author to create…”
I should probably talk about the title of this post. I missed seeing Halley’s comet. I don’t remember why; I’ll just blame it in the clouds because I can’t think of any reason that I didn’t stay up all night to see it. I did see a comet in the ’90s, and now I have an opportunity to see another. So, I’ll set my alarm, get up stupid early, travel away from the light pollution of the city, and gaze upon an object millions of years old.
Last week, the days started to get shorter. Since December, the days had lengthened, almost imperceptibly by a minute or two a day, until before I realized it, we were on the downswing once again. Now, I don’t know how far south one has to go before the days and nights are close to the same length all year round. I suspect once you get to the two tropics (Cancer and Capricorn), it starts to even out. Which one is the northern one? I never remember. I’m sure that it came up on a high school test in my past. It’s not a fact that I have needed – until now. There was a book called Tropic of Capricorn ( or was it The Tropic...?).
We used to have to memorize everything in school: Math facts, times tables, capital cities. There’s nothing wrong with memorization. It’s just not that easy for everybody. Apparently, some things that I memorized, I didn’t. Oh, I’m sure that it’s in there somewhere (in my brain, that is), but sometimes it takes a little longer to find.
I like math. Really. I find it fascinating. I also find it frustrating. Remember those times tables? Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. Quick, what’s 7 X 8? Did you say 56 right away, or did you think “ If 7 X 7 is 49 then 7 more is….umm, well, 49 plus 1 is 50, so I have 6 left over from the 7, so 50 + 6 is 56. Which way is quicker? Which method makes you look smarter? Although, you do need to understand why 7 X 8 = 56, then once you do, it’s better to remember it.
If I were able to recall any math fact instantly, I probably would have become a mathematician or a scientist, or in the worst-case scenario, an accountant (my apologies to all accountants, but that was just too easy). I assume that people like Einstein, Hawking, Turing…OK, one sec. Bear with me…
Tangent Time– I had to Google female mathematicians. That’s sad. Marie Curie was the only female scientist that came to mind, but now I know. Here are a few in no particular order (well, the order is how they were listed on the Smithsonian site, and that was chronological), so here they are as presented on the Smithsonian website: Hypatia, Germain, Lovelace (who wrote the first computer program the mid- 19th century, that’s pretty cool), Kovalevskaya, Noether, Johnson.
Back to the topic, which was…memorizing. I went to university to learn Classical guitar. If you are a musician, you know that memorization is the key. You don’t have time to think what note comes next because once you do, it’s already gone. I was never that confident with my memory. I was always afraid of forgetting, and sometimes I would. Complete blank. Not an ideal situation for a performer. When I do have to play, that thought is always there, “Don’t forget. What if I forget?” Nice set-up for failure, right?
What about spelling? Most of the time, you probably don’t have to think about it. Then you look at what you typed and see all those red squiggly lines. I still forget how to spell certain words. Remember that stupid saying, “i before e except after c, except in the words: their, weigh, receive, receipt, and the 100 other exception to the rule?”
Not everyone is going to excel at memorization or understanding certain topics. We are not all the same. So I try to practice remembering things: names, numbers, what the heck did I come here to buy?
Oh well, seeing that I am here, I might as well pick up some chips and dip.
Do I have enough money? Chips cost $1.18, and dip is $2.39. Well I know 8 + 9 is 17, and 10 + 30 is 40, so 40 + 17 is 57…add that to the $3, and you get $3. 57! Since I have a fiver in my pocket, I’ll be left with $1.43. All good.
It is time. I’ve been holding on too long, and it is just frustrating. This is no longer working for me.
I have to get a new knife.
How long have we been together? Ever since I got the department store credit card in college. I needed a dress shirt, and being in college, I had no money. Credit cards make you have more money, right? So I got the card, and the shirt (long gone now), and the two free gifts. Free gifts? I like free gifts as much as I like free money (which can be traded in for free dress shirts).
I know what you want to know. What was the other free gift? I know I did say two gifts, and I know that you are smart (SMRT) enough to figure out that the knife was one of them. But this post is about the knife, so why am I teasing you with this mysterious second gift? Why, indeed…
Do you want to know about the knife or the other thing? OK, it was a serving tray. Not that exciting, except for the fact that I still know where that one is as well. It’s in my mom’s kitchen. She still uses it. That’s the gift that keeps on giving. I gave it to her on Mother’s Day (or birthday, it was so long ago).
Back to the knife. It’s been sharpened (improperly probably), and if you place the blade on a flat surface, you can see a space between the edge and the surface. Makes cutting tricky as it leaves parts uncut. So, I'll have to bite the bullet and fork out some cash. I like to cook. I don’t like crappy cutting.
I also need new running shoes. I admit that I have used them well past their prime. There are holes which I have unsuccessfully repaired, but they are so comfortable, and shoes are really expensive. It is suggested that you replace your shoes every 300-400 miles. Mine are hitting triple digits. Ever try on new shoes? They don’t feel the same or feel comfortable.
I also need a new bike helmet. I’m not going to go into that stats, but something rather than nothing is probably not the best argument. But hey, if I fall and my head hits the ground, would I rather have a bare head or an old helmet? Right?
Am I cheap? No, I’m thrifty. OK, I’m cheap. I dislike spending money, especially when I’m on a budget. Here is a link to an article that I wrote: Maximizing Your Food Budget. I’m a fan of the adage: If it’s broke, fix it (if that isn’t an adage, it is now). I use and fix, and fix again. That’s my gift to the environment. So, with a heavy heart, I must retire "Mr. Slicey" (not really the brand name).
If I still have it next week, you can call me cheap.