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Business article: Gmail Add-Ons That Will Boost Your Productivity

Things that have transformed my productivity:

  • Gmail’s Canned Responses. I use these to save and use templates for queries, book sales, and such.
  • Trello for Gmail. Jodie and I use Trello for managing my content and other projects. Trello is making a lot of things more organized so I don’t have to try to keep them in my brain. With TfG, I can now add Trello cards (tasks, basically), straight from my inbox.

What helps you stay productive?

Full story: Gmail Add-Ons That Will Boost Your Productivity | Outpost Blog | Outpost

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Business article: How to Stop Email From Slipping Through the Cracks

Business article: How to Stop Email From Slipping Through the Cracks

So. Much. Email. I struggle with getting back to people too. Working on pieces like this gives me new tools and ideas I can put to work to do a better job on my inbox, and I hope this business article helps you with your backlog too!

Full story: How to Stop Email From Slipping Through the Cracks | Outpost Blog

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October 2018 writing report

Anthony St. Clair's October 2018 Writing Report

By the numbers, during October I wrote 42,513 words, at an average of 1,371 words per day. I wrote every day, which put my writing streak at 381 days in a row as of Oct. 31. October’s scribbling puts me at 446,558 words for 2018—on track for 500,000 words for the year. Those 446,558 words include fiction, 8 article assignments, content work for clients, and things for my Wanderers, my patrons on Patreon.

Here are a few things that really stuck out to me from October’s writing, plus a few links to some previously submitted pieces that were recently published:

Rucksack Universe stories

Wander is out! I still can hardly believe it. Thank you for ordering books, sending congratulations, and telling others! If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, you can order Wander here in e-book and paperback.

Chief Reader is about to start reading Cloud Fortress, which will be the sixth Rucksack Universe book. All I will say at this point is that if you’ve read Forever the Road, Cloud Fortress will have you scratching your head wondering what the hell I’m playing at. Cloud Fortress also takes place in between The Martini of Destiny and Home Sweet Road. And… nope. That’s all for now.

After drafting part of Wet (which will be the seventh Rucksack Universe book), I did something I hadn’t felt a need to do in a long time: I started over. Between outline and drafting, something in the story had changed. My understanding changed. A character introduced themselves earlier. Action’s pace said it was going to be different. Instead of fighting it, I went with it. The resumed drafting is going so much better now.

Recent links/articles

8 Ways to Avoid Email Embarrassment | Outpost Blog

10 Ways to Boost Email Productivity | Outpost Blog

Far From Eggs & Bacon: Meet the Japanese-Style Breakfast | ZeroCater

Build Your Website’s FAQs to Respond Better to Customer Questions | Outpost Blog

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Beer & pizza article: New Haven-Style Pies, Northwest Brews

Beer and pizza article in the August 2018 Oregon Beer Growler - New Haven-Style Pies, Northwest Brews

Had such a good time meeting the folks at Eugene’s The Wheel Apizza Pub. Great pizza & refreshingly tasty, approachable, yet different craft beer.

➼ ➼ ➼ Check out their profile in the August 2018 Oregon Beer Growler

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Rucksack Universe update: Wander nearly ready, new manuscript underway

Last week I did something I’m so excited to tell you about.

I signed off on the copy-edited manuscript of Wander.

Yup. That’s right. My copy editor and I had some final discussion about a few points, I made some last tweaks and polishes, then told him we were good to go.

What’s next? I’m giving the manuscript one final pass, then I’ll send Wander back to my editor for proofreading. He’ll make sure everything is spelled right/consistently, things are dotted and crossed the way they should be, line breaks and chapter breaks are good, all that sort of technical stuff.

Once I’ve processed his proofing, the manuscript will be locked. That means no changes (unless I find some wayward typo). No rewriting. No second-guessing.

No touch booky.

From there, Wander will go into publication mode, being prepped for e-book formats and paperback.

What does all this behind-the-scenes author/publisher geek-out stuff mean for you?

It means that I’ll shortly be telling you the release date for Wander.

Get ready!

P.S.: Over the weekend I also started drafting the next Rucksack Universe book, codenamed Wet. I’m a couple of scenes in so far. I’ll keep you posted.

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Video: Where do book ideas come from?

On Mon., June 4, 2018, I had the fun honor of sitting in for a YouTube Live author chat, hosted at Eugene local bookstore Tsunami Books. Write Now is a weekly live discussion with three writers: Joanna Bartlett, Valerie Ihsan, and Julie Dawn. Joanna was out of town, and they graciously asked if I would sit in (though I must say, I knew there was no way I could replace Joanna’s Nigella Lawson-ish tones).

At the heart of our discussion was a simple question: Where do book ideas come from? Do we have to search them out? Is it a matter of paying attention to the wider world? Can you run with multiple ideas at the same time? And how do you go from initial idea to a fully developed piece of writing?

Check out our discussion. Please leave your thoughts in the comments, and subscribe so you don’t miss future Write Now chats.

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How to have a 200-day writing streak

Time to make the word count

As of May 3, I’ve written every day for the last 200 days, averaging about 1,400 to 1,600 words per day. On May 3, 1,500 words in the outline for my next Rucksack Universe book put me over the hump.

Writing takes many forms for me. Sometimes it’s outlines and drafting for fiction. Sometimes it’s drafting articles for clients. Sometimes it’s planning documents and new ideas for the business. (Sometimes it’s writing emails or blog posts for really cool people. You know, like you.)

All those things count toward my daily numbers. In all my years writing, there is indeed a special secret that I’ve learned. After all, the writing isn’t always easy. Some days it’s hard. But here is the secret that helps me, and I hope it helps you:

Show up every day.

Yup. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired or jazzed, or if each word is a flow or a fight. I show up. I sit down. I write. Sometimes it’s 2,000 words in one go. Sometimes it’s a hundred words here, a few hundred words there, throughout the day. It doesn’t really matter. All that does matter, is that one word written is one more word than I had written before.

All that matters is showing up. There is no muse. There is only effort. I write until I’ve written enough for the day. That’s typically 1,200–1,600 words for me (though there are some Sundays where I let myself do only around 500).

There’s no magic, formula, or silver bullet.

There’s just showing up.

Now to aim for 300.

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Free Rucksack Universe Fiction: Stars in your beer

Stars in your beer - B.S. Trotter - Rucksack Universe Anthony St. Clair

From The Lost & Found Travels of BS Trotter

Originally published in London Rising

Okay, we all know that after a couple of pints you can, well, see things. But for Londoners they were not expecting to see strange things in their beer.

I want to make a distinction here: they are seeing strange things in their beer, not because of their beer. We all sometimes see strange things because of beer, typically because we should have stopped about five pints back.

Street lights turn weird for me. After I’ve had a few too many I always find that the street lights, instead of just shining and being bright, in fact have a sort of halo. The light hangs in cloudy rings around the light bulb, as if the lampposts were strangely camouflaged angels. Sometimes I think I’m seeing the world how painter Vincent Van Gogh saw things when he painted his famed Starry Night.

Then I realize I probably just need a kabob and my bed.

However, Londoners are seeing the strangest thing in their pints. Reports and calls and letters have been flooding in to London Rising that all over the city, when someone first picks up a brimming-full pint of their favorite blackest stout, they see a star inside.

Folks, that’s not fancy talk from a humble itinerant reporter suddenly aspiring to be a poet. That’s what people have said, over and over and over. The same thing.

A star.

They look at their pint, which is dark as night sky, and in the middle of the beer, it’s as if they see a small spark. It’s there just a moment, then it either fades or simply can’t be seen anymore or wasn’t there to begin with.

First Call Brewing declined a request to be interviewed for this story. However, the cheeky buggers did point out that no stars are used to brew Galway Pradesh Stout.

Keep those reports coming in, though. I’ve heard it said that after a good pint you can understand the universe. Like you I didn’t expect to see the universe in my beer, but I’ve a feeling the universe is a better place for it.

The Rucksack Universe is Anthony St. Clair’s ongoing beery travel fantasy series of myth, intrigue, and adventure.

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Daddy, why are you a writer?

Notebook and blue pen

This morning my 5-year-old son came into the office, looked at my computer screen, and asked, “Daddy, why are you a writer?”

I thought about it for a moment. It’s something I haven’t considered in a long time, up there with why my eyes are the color they are or why I live in Oregon or why we breathe. But I took Connor’s question seriously, because I always take my children seriously. A child’s question is an opportunity to refresh and examine your beliefs and understandings. My kids keep me honest, they keep me assessing, and they help me disrupt myself.

The difference between breathing and atmosphere

But back to Connor’s question: why am I a writer? The gist is simple, I explained to my son. I’ve known since I was 12 that I would work with words. It’s so much a part of me now , that I don’t think about it. If I do think about it, I have to take mental backsteps.

It’s like when you think about the atmosphere. Sure, we all know that we breathe, and we know that we are surrounded by air. But when you stop to think about it, it’s a pretty crazy fact and you need a moment to process it. Connor’s been going through that himself lately, telling us how every time we move, we displace air and create wind, and talking about how the atmosphere is all around us.

As with so many things though, the gist is simple yet incomplete. When I talk to my kids, I try to get to the heart of something, the how and why. For my thinking, I try to find the most truthful explanation that balances being comprehensive with being comprehensible. I believe that life’s great truths are things a 5-year-old can understand—and that adults then constantly struggle to remember.

About the words but not about the words

“When I was becoming a teenager, I realized that words were really important to who I was,” I answered my son. “But I came to understand it wasn’t about the words necessarily, it was about how I could use the words to express thoughts, feelings, and concepts. I came to understand that I was capable of expressing things that other people felt or thought, but they had a hard time putting their thoughts or feelings into words. I could though, and that meant that I was capable of expressing what others wanted to say.”

He nodded, we had a little cuddle, and then he went back to his room to play.

But it got me thinking some more.

Why am I writer?

The real answer

It’s a little like asking why I have arms. As much as I believe in nurture and free will and self-determination, I also believe deeply that some aspects of us are wired in, we just mainly determine how we do or don’t apply those various parts of ourselves.

I’m a writer because I get language. Not necessarily in a grammatical sense—I understand grammar, I have an English degree, but I’m no more going to wax authoritative about grammar than breathing Earth’s atmosphere means I have a comprehensive understanding of the laws of chemistry and physics as it relates to elements in a gaseous state.

I write because I under that language is the process through which we translate the infinite into the temporal and the temporal into the infinite. Language is how we express the heart and explain the mind.

This is not as elementary as it sounds. Ever notice how certain you can be of how you think or feel about something, and then go to actually try to convey it into words?

Yup. It can be hard as hell.

It’s hard as hell for me—and I do this for a living.

I’m a writer because voice is who I am. There have been many years where I’d forgotten that. Or maybe I ran away from it, got scared and tried to abandon a sort of calling.

Many times over the years I’ve been pretty scared of this part of myself. After all, what if I express the wrong thing? What if there are bad consequences? For many years, I’ve erred on the side of saying nothing at all. But not anymore.

I’m not just a writer. I’m a teller, an explainer, a letter painter, an understander, a sharer.

I’m a writer because that is how I can be one with the heart of the world, the soul of us all, and turn it into something that we can understand in our day-to-day lives.

I’m a writer because it’s a decent way to make a living.

I’m a writer because someone needs to be.

I’m a writer because it’s who I am, and it is the only honest truest expression of who I am and what I am on this world, in this life to do.

That’s why I’m a writer.

Now I’m finishing up at this, and I’m thinking of my articulate daughter and my inquisitive son. I’m thinking of how I hope that what I live, what I try to live, is what they will see and connect with too: that just as their mother and I strive to live our most honest truest selves, that we hope that one day, as they come to understand, they will too.

It just happened that for me, it’s being a writer. But for my kids, it’s an example.

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The circle: Why bend genre when you can break it?

Image: Stiller Beobachter https://flic.kr/p/og2Waz

The circle

We were all supposed to make noise and move around in whatever direction we wanted.

It was the last activity for an acting workshop I was attending in college, put on by a theater troupe who later would perform Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, if memory serves). Through the course of the afternoon we’d gone through various improv, blocking, and dialogue techniques. Now, in this last activity, we would just wander and react.

It was quite fun. At first, everyone was all over the place. People moved about, dodging and bumping into each other. There would be brief exchanges of words, some nonsensical, some with depth. There was a good bit of laughter.

Eventually, though, the most curious thing happened. Two people began moving in a similar direction. Then a couple more joined them. Then more and more.

Eventually, every person in the workshop was walking in a counterclockwise circle in the middle of the room, going around and around and around together.

Except for one person.

I was still wandering my own way—and had wound up in the middle of this stream of people. Only problem was, I was walking in the opposite direction as everyone else. I still wanted to move my own way. I still wanted to go in my direction. It just happened to be different from what everyone else was doing.

As soon as I could, I got out of the circle and kept doing my own thing.

I guess some things never change.

Don’t bend genre

I think about that afternoon a lot—how it felt to be doing something different from everyone else, and wondering why I was the only one. I think about it as a parent too, since early observations indicate my son and daughter will be walking their own directions too.

But I also think about it a lot as an author. Specifically, when I think about genre and book categories.

You know. You look online or go into a bookstore, and everything is categorized all prettily for you. There’s the romance and the horror, the fantasy and the westerns. Everything is tidied into stacks or web categories. You can whittle things down finer too. There’s sweet romance and paranormal romance, epic fantasy and urban fantasy, and even things more granular which I won’t even get to.

Then there’s poor buggers like me.

Thing is, so far my books don’t fit any tidy genre categories. The Rucksack Universe is categorized under fantasy. But just as Neil Gaiman has said, more or less, that he doesn’t necessarily see his books as fantasy but concedes they have to be put on the shelf somewhere, I figure that fantasy is about as good a fit as I’m likely to find.

But that doesn’t mean I play by the rules.

My books aren’t what come to mind when you think fantasy. If you envision swords and sorcery, wizards and kings, vampires and werewolves, and lots of scantily clad helpless women who need rescuing, well, you won’t find that in my stories. That makes it a challenge to attract readers and help them see that the Rucksack Universe is something they want to take a chance on.

Break it

The other day, Library Journal and their SELF-e program asked me for an author interview. It was a really cool bit of Q&A (should be out next month). I keep thinking about my answer to one question in particular.

They asked what I wished I had known about self-publishing when I was getting into this.

I thought and thought about that. Then it hit me.

Genre.

I wish I had understood how hard it was going to be to categorize my books, and what impact that would have on how I appeal to potential readers. I’ve been a full-time, self-employed, independent writer and author since 2011, with books on the market since 2013. Yet in all that time, genre continues to bust my balls.

Now I understand why. It’s ridiculously simple, of course. Been staring me in the face all this time. Hell, not even that. It’s part of my DNA.

I don’t fit the box. I don’t tidy nicely into the category. I don’t walk in the circle or the same direction as the circle.

My stories are different. Thing is, the people who come to them, tell me that’s what they like. They like that they’re unlike other stories.

I appreciate the validation, and I’m going to keep on keepin on with my oddball stories of travelers, beer, and living and breathing legends myths. But how do I appeal to new readers and bring them to the series? When someone is browsing, say, the fantasy category, they may already have a set of genre expectations—but I get to turn those expectations on their head. It’s what I’ve always done. It’s who I am and who I choose to be. Expecting X from a story? Here’s a heaping of A with a pint of B—and you’re going to have a feckin good time.

After all, why bend genre when you can break it?

Appealing to new readers has been a challenge because I’ve been walking the same direction in the circle with everyone else.

Now I’ve stepped out.

Image: Stiller Beobachter

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Hi.

Anthony St. Clair - Travel Fantasy Author / Craft Beer Writer / Business Copywriter

Author and copywriter Anthony St. Clair has specialized in online content since 2000, blogged since 2004 and is the author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series.

FREE Sample

Check out this free sample of FOREVER THE ROAD

Anthony's third book, FOREVER THE ROAD, is a Best Books 2015 Fantasy pick from Library Journal's SELF-e, and a 2015 Oregon Book Award nominee.

Download your free sample to find out why Nth Degree's reviewer said this "high-stakes story, told with wit and compassion," left him "completely gobsmacked."

Rucksack Universe

Travel fantasy tales
of wit, adventure & beer

Forever the Road by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novel - learn more and buy now

Home Sweet Road by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novella - learn more and buy now

The Martini of Destiny by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novella - learn more and buy now

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