Yes, I’m One of “Those” Readers

I’m not sure when it had started. I used to be able to focus on reading one book from start to finish before picking up and starting another book. But, for some reason, over the years, I’ve devolved into one of those readers who must tackle several books at once.

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The picture above (as well as my Goodreads page) show you exactly how many books I’m reading. Yes, there are six of them – four novels and two short story collections. Although, to be honest, I just finished reading The Method Writers by the Rogues Gallery Writers last night. (So I’m down to five books … at the moment.) Yes, I’m one of the authors of The Method Writers. And reading the novel (well, re-reading) is not completely out of vanity (well, that may be debatable.) I was re-reading it from a critical standpoint as we (the Rogues and our publisher, Dreamer Publications) are preparing/updating the manuscript for its paperback release this summer.

I believe the main reason (besides my ADD) that I juggle (no, not literally – I’m not that coordinated) so many different books at once is that I’ll start reading a thick paperback I’m excited about and then it becomes a true pain in the ass to read … in the most physical sense of the word. Don DeLillo’s Underworld for example. It’s a chunky 832 page brick. It can hurt my pre-arthiritc hands to even hold open after a long day of hacking away at a computer keyboard. And the print is so small (not War and Peace small, which is so fucking small you need a magnifying glass to read, but still) that it strains my pre-bifocal eyes to read after a long day of staring at a computer monitor. I’ve actually switched to the Kindle version of Underworld, because it’s a challenging enough read without the physical barriers.

I’d switch to the Kindle version of Graham Greene’s 594 page Complete Short Stories paperback with small print and little-to-no white space, but it doesn’t exist. So I can only read his collection in small chunks, which, being a short story collection, works out just fine. Upton Sinclair’s Oil! isn’t much better (560 pages packed with smallish print and long paragraphs,) but it’s design is a little better and I’m far enough into it where I’m not about to throw out extra cash just to get the Kindle version.

Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters Remix is not a thick book by comparison (wearing a white cover and weighing in at only 302 pages) and the text is not too small. But it comes with other challenges. The font used for the text is very light, almost gray, so it can be a strain to read, especially without proper lighting. And, in this “Remix” hardback release (the initial publication of IM was only paperback,) Chuck wanted his initial concept to be carried out, which is a non-linear, glossy magazine approach to structure with each chapter ending with a “Now, Please, Jump to Chapter XX.” This alone is not too annoying, but there is also “hidden” content that none of the main stories’ chapters point to. These are essays and extras that Chuck created specifically for this release. Again, not too too annoying. However, some of these extra chapters are printed backwards. Chuck envisioned his readers needing to hold the book up to a mirror to be able to read the text in these sections, so they could actually see themselves in the mirror while reading Chuck’s book. Now that is not only annoying, it’s terribly, terribly stupid. Instead of succumbing to his wish, I learned how to read backwards, and I became pretty proficient at it too (Ha Ha, you didn’t trick me with your schemes, Chuck Palahniuk!!!) In some of the extras, he even jokes about making you work so hard to read the entire book, like he’s being ultra clever and getting off on it. Like Tyler Durden had asked, “How’s that working out for you?” Well, considering his success and that his books still sell, I guess it’s working out well enough.

The only book I haven’t mentioned from my list is Amber Sparks’ short story collection, May We Shed These Human Bodies, which is a delightful read (reading it on Kindle,) containing short, quirky pieces of fiction told from some pretty unique perspectives.

So, Swesky, what’s the point of all this dribble? Well, I’m still a big fan of the physical book, and besides being a reader and an author, I’m also a book designer and an independent publisher. Therefore, when designing or publishing a book, I do my best to avoid the types of issues I’ve mentioned above and attempt to create a product that will make for an enjoyable reading experience. I want my audience to own a cool-looking book that’s comfortable to hold. I want the text to be big enough so it doesn’t strain the typical reader’s eyes. I want the font to be legible, letters that are easy to make out. And I want plenty of white space to give the eyes the little breaks that they need and deserve.

What I’ve learned as a read is that if a paperback or hardcover I wish to read is a tome and/or contains print that’s hard to read, I’ll purchase the Kindle or electronic version (if available) instead. My bookshelves are getting full anyway. 😉

 

A Tax Weekend Giveaway

A special message from my vintage Royal typewriter:

IMG_8552And not a single typo! Please click on the following links starting tomorrow for your free Kindle books:

Fell on Black Days by Jeff Swesky

Flight From Fear by Rabbi Samuel Cywiak with Jeff Swesky

“Fell on Black Days” Goodreads Giveaway

Dreamer Publications is giving away 3 autographed copies of my collection of short fiction, Fell on Black Days. The Giveaway is currently running and ends on Friday, February 5th. Enter here:

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Fell on Black Days by Jeff Swesky

Fell on Black Days

by Jeff Swesky

Giveaway ends February 05, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

A Time for Change

New-Year-Resolutions

It’s a new year. A time for reflection, resolutions, and change. I’ve done my share of reflecting which led to quite a few resolutions. Now it’s time to put some plans into action and allow the changes to take place.

And while these resolutions cover various areas in my life, I’m going to focus (at least for this blog post) on the ones that relate to writing.

Sure, in ways, all of my resolutions have to do with writing on some level. When one is a passionate writer everything in the universe seems to relate to his or her trade. One of my resolutions is to focus on my health by exercising more, eating better, drinking more water, and drinking less alcohol. While this has more to do with my general health, fitness level, and wellbeing, it’s true that healthier habits will help me to be a more productive, more efficient writer. I also plan to become more spiritual and want to start meditating. While this also has to do with more than my writing practice, finding peace and enlightenment can only open new doors to creativity.

Near the end of last year, I began writing a new novel. The first I’ve truly invested in since I came up with the idea for Such a Dreamer back in 2000! Since I don’t wish to have another twelve-year (which had extended to fifteen including last year’s final revision and edits) novel, I need to set a strict writing schedule and stick to it. I’m at my creative peak early in the morning, so that means setting the alarm and waking up early and putting in an hour or two of writing at least five to six days a week.

Also, I plan to be more organized (yes, lists!) and procrastinate less in 2016. These areas affect my writing practice both directly and indirectly. But in terms of writing, the new novel isn’t my only writing project. I still have books to market, blogs to write, websites to update, and … and that’s just the tip (that’s what he said!) of the proverbial iceberg.

And finally, I hope to simplify things in 2016. Not have as much unnecessary “stuff” around, cluttering my life and environment. Trim the fat and get rid of what’s not truly essential. I’m not only referring to physical stuff. Virtual stuff, which is endless these days, is just as bad, if not worst. I have more social media accounts than I know what to do with. And I don’t even know if I have a Pinterest or Instagram account. I might have them, but the hell if I know.

I have a LinkedIn account with plenty of connections and endorsements, but I’m unsure if that social platform is useful for a writer. If it is, I sure as hell don’t know how to take advantage of it. And don’t even get me started about Facebook. I would cancel my account in a heartbeat, but worry that too many friends and love ones will actually think that I’ve terminated our relationship in reality. A lot of people take Facebook quite seriously! Yes, I realize that I’m posting this link there automatically via my website, and without that feature this post may not even receive many views. But still—freaking Facebook! Yeah, a definite love/hate relationship there.

Back to virtual stuff for a moment. My goal is to identify which sites and accounts are essential to keep and then truly invest into using them and updating them. The others, I’ll either delete or make them inactive.

So those are my key, writing-related resolutions for this year. Not unlike many typical resolutions people have, I know, but I’ve already made some baby steps in these areas toward the end of last year, so I believe I’ll follow through. I’ll let you all know how I progress.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, productive, and prosperous 2016!

What’s Going On

This post may not be as powerful or as moving as the Marvin Gaye hit by the same title, but yet the label still applies. I haven’t posted here in a while, but there’s a lot going on in my creative world, so I wanted to fill you in about What’s Going On.

First off, I haven’t discussed it much on my author sites, but the production of Thornetta: The Musical, which I co-wrote with Bridget Callaghan, is coming together beautifully. We have nine shows scheduled in September of this year at the InsideOut Gallery in Traverse City, MI. Whether you want to help out (by sponsoring, volunteering, or donating,) buy tickets, audition, or just want to keep informed about our progress, please visit: www.Thornetta.com

I can’t go into too much detail yet, but I’m working with others on potential projects related to the Holocaust and Flight from Fear. There are still survivors who have held off on sharing their stories, and it’s extremely important to honor them and to record their stories. Lest we forget.

I am nearly done with the final revision for my South Florida-based coming-of-age novel, Such a Dreamer.  It’s been a long time coming, and I’m excited about getting the manuscript into the hands of my editor.

With these and other projects (creative, domestic, and otherwise,) I haven’t had much time in recent months for any new writing. Which is why the posts for my serial crime noir saga, The Awakening of Kenny Black, has stalled. With that said, my schedule has become a bit more lax lately, so I’ve started on chapter 6 of Episode Two. I should have it posted by the weekend, and plan to continue posting new chapters regularly. If you’re new to the saga, and are interested, you can acquire Episode One on Kindle.

And finally, Dreamer Publications is currently running a Goodreads giveaway for my neo-noir literary short story collection, Fell on Black Days:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Fell on Black Days by Jeff Swesky

Fell on Black Days

by Jeff Swesky

Giveaway ends June 10, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Reboot: Email Control

emailWith the overabundance of information and “knowledge” being shared across the internet these days, it’s easy to become distracted. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t need any more distractions in my life than absolutely necessary.

These days pretty much every account or purchase or service or whatever requires you to provide a valid email address. And after being a consumer or customer or patient or whatever enough times, your inbox can become inundated with email on a daily basis, which may include some important information, but more times than not they contain special offers or promotions or social media notifications or whatever.

At some point during 2014, I began to receive hundreds of “legitimate” email messages (not email that is typically captured as Spam) in my Yahoo account per day. And if I was too busy to check email that day or for days in a row–you’ve guessed it–there was way too much email to even navigate through. It became a source of stress.

Aside from not needing unnecessary distractions, I also like to be able to find something when I’m looking for it. That’s why after several episodes of “Did you read the email I sent you?” to which I replied “What email?”, I realized I needed to address my email issue.

The first thing I did was to change my social media notification settings. I was already getting the important notifications on my Computer spam ILLUS.jpgiPhone, so I didn’t need duplicates cluttering up my inbox too. I went into the Account menu and updated my notification settings to eliminate the email notifications. Plus there were the “What’s Trending” and “You may also be interested in” type of social media emails. At the bottom of those emails is an option to “Stop receiving these type of notifications” link, so I took advantage of those too.

This helped to cut down the daily flow that flooded my inbox, but it was like using a wad of chewing gum to fix a leaking pipe. I needed a something stronger to allow the important email to surface.

Next I targeted the sources that frequently sent me offers and promotions that I’m not remotely interested in. At the bottom of most of these emails is a link to Unsubscribe. It took me an hour or so, but I went through and unsubscribed from all of the non-essential promotional emails, as well as emails from business partners, etc. that I’d never supplied with an email address in the first place. Now some of these senders, once you unsubscribe, inform you that it may take up to 7-10 business days for your email address to be removed from their database. For the life of me, I can’t understand why this would be the case, other than they have multiple databases that they had copied my email address to and their process to remove it is not fully automated.

The unsubscribe phase was a success. I noticed a huge drop off in the number of emails per day. Occasionally, I still receive email from sources that I’ve unsubscribed from (multiple times, even,) so at this point, I’m just marking those as spam.

It’s true that it takes time to save time, but in the end the result is usually worth the effort. Certainly in my case it was.

Are you overwhelmed by email? Here are some potential solutions:

  • Modify your social media account settings to eliminate email notifications
  • Unsubscribe from unwanted or unnecessary email promotions and newsletters
  • Use a different email account when you are required to provide an email address for a purchase or service
  • Use a Gmail account for email, since it has the ability to separate incoming email into separate tabs, including Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums.
  • Cancel your internet service and cell phone plans, destroy your computers and mobile devices, and live peacefully in a state of ignorant bliss.

Reboot: Making Lists

listsI’m sure you’ve heard the age-old advice that if you want to get organized, set goals, and get tasks completed then you should make a list. The reason why you’ve probably heard it over and over is because, as Sam Kinison once said, “IT WORRRRRKS!!!” Although … Sam was talking about something completely different.

If you’re thinking, “Nothing new here, Jeff. Why the hell are you even writing about this crap?” Well, it’s such a simple solution that we tend to forget about it altogether. And can use a reminder every now and then. So the first topic in my Reboot series is about making lists.

About a month ago, I was stressed out. The stress was not from work, domestic duties, or a relationship. It was from having so many creative obligations and tasks to do and not having a plan to getting it all done.

For one thing, I’m working on several creative projects in various stages, and for some of them, I have multiple roles. I’m co-producing the original musical Thornetta, which I co-wrote the stage play for (and still have revisions to make.) I’m also the web developer for this project. Meanwhile, I’m building the publishing company Dreamer Publications, completing the final revision on my novel, Such a Dreamer, and working on my crime noir serial, The Awakening of Kenny Black. I’m also in the very early planning stages for a potential documentary.

Each project needed my attention in one way or another. Some were very specific needs and others were bigger, broader tasks. Anyway, I’ve had all this noise spinning around my brain, which is why I became quite stressed and overwhelmed. This was probably going on for quite some time–maybe even before the holidays–but it all culminated about a month ago.

One morning it dawned on me that I needed to get all this shit outta my head. So I wrote down as much as I could think of onto a page in a small notebook. Now, my style of making lists may be a little different than your typical numbered or bullet-pointed list that is neatly written down a lined page. No, mine looks like this:

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I know, not pretty. And my handwriting is atrocious. But, for me, it’s quite effective. Since I’ve written it all down, I’ve stopped worrying about the details and starting attacking the items by order of importance or urgency. During the past few weeks, I’ve completed almost everything (evident by the scratch-outs and X’s) on the list.

For me, making this list was truly the first step I needed in order to start my creative reboot! Hopefully, this post will help to inspire you to become more organized and reach your goals too!

Until next time!

Reboot

reboot_wide_t_nv

Reboot, as to say, hit the power button and restart the computer for the changes to take effect. To clear out the cache and temporary files and kill off the rogue processes. To give the processor a fuckin’ break.

A reboot is what I need, what my mind needs for my writing practice to flourish again. It’s what I need to revitalize my creativity, to keep on a regular writing schedule, and to be productive with the several different creative projects that are on my plate for 2015.

My creative processor has been running too long without a reboot, so I’m powering down for the system changes and upgrades that I’ve been planning for 2015 (aka ways to achieve my creative project goals) to take effect.

Please be patient while Jeff Swesky reconfigures his system…. 25% complete…. 42% complete… 67% complete… 96%… 99%… 99%… 99%……….

This is the start of my Reboot series of posts where I’m going to examine my daily schedule and workload and how I manage my time. And what I’ll need to do to improve it so that I can become more productive. I hope to touch on subjects that are universal, whether you’re a creative type or not. The struggles and distractions that make it difficult to juggle all the obligations and relationships and still find time to do the things we enjoy.

That’s my “Reboot” concept anyway. A journey of self-discovery to help me accomplish my creative goals, while continuing to balance work, obligations, health, leisure, and, most importantly, relationships. I hope there will be snippets of wisdom and insight that you’ll be able to incorporate into your own journey of personal growth.

So please stay tuned . . . a new version of this software will be available soon. There are many, many bugs to fix!

Get Ready for Kenny Black Friday!

You may be sick of hearing about Black Friday and all of the doorbuster sales, but what I’m announcing is different. This friday is not just Black Friday, it’s Kenny Black Friday! And to take advantage of Kenny Black Friday, you don’t even need to leave your home and fight the crowd. Nor do you even have to spend a single red cent.

So what the hell are you getting at, Jeff?

Starting on Friday, Episode One of The Awakening of Kenny Black will be available as a free Kindle download on Amazon. The free Kindle promotion will continue into the holiday weekend and extend through Cyber Monday. You can access it here:

Kenny Back cover true black 4 - 150 - 6x9

Also, near the end of this promotion, I’ll be posting the first chapter of Episode Two here on JeffSwesky.com. I hope you take the opportunity to get your hands on some Kenny Black, and please share with others.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

And if you’d ask Kenny what he’s thankful for, he’d say: Vengeance!

Happy Veterans Day!

Happy Veterans Day to all of those who have served to protect our great country. Your dedication and sacrifices have provided Americans with the privileges and freedoms that we often take for granted. And Happy Veterans Day to all active duty military for continuing to fight for and defend our country.

veteransday_1I’d like to wish a special Happy Veterans Day to my father, Walt, for his service during the Vietnam War. Fond thoughts and memories also go out to my grandfathers, Earl and Walter, who bravely served in World War II.

On a side note, my literary short story collection, Fell on Black Days, is currently being offered by Dreamer Publications as a Kindle Countdown Deal until Monday, November 17th. The current sale price is $0.99. The sacrifices of our great veterans have allowed me with the freedom to express myself in the stories included in this collection. Thank you all for your service and for these freedoms!

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