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Review: The Creative Entrepreneur

Recently I've had a growing interest in finding books that help creatives grow their own business. They seem to be few and far between. I reviewed Craft, Inc. last year and found it a great resource for starting your own business. However, while it covered many aspects of running a business, I found that it wasn't good for actually teaching you how to set-up and create your own business from conception to reality. Enter Lisa Sonora Beam and The Creative Entrepreneur. Billed as a "DIY Visual Guidebook for Making Business Ideas Real", this book not only teaches readers the fundamentals of building a business to match their creative dream, but it presents the core business concepts in a way that makes them easy for creative personalities to understand.

The Creative Entrepreneur developed out of workshops that Beam created and offered "creatives" who wanted to take their craft and turn them into viable business opportunities. She does not believe that artists need to starve in order to succeed. This book is her legacy; it shows artists that they, too, can grasp business concepts that turn their artistic visions into concrete and functioning business plans—no matter what they are. At first glance, this book looks more like an art technique book than a business fundamentals primer. Don't let the shiny fool you; The Creative Entrepreneur packs an informative punch. Beam introduces the book by explaining how the visual journalling process aides in the process of business creation. She encourages readers to follow along with the exercises in this book, just as if they were sitting in on one of her workshops.

The Case of the Missing Editor: Announcing Ravens in the Library

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for me. In January, I got asked to participate in a special limited edition anthology to help benefit musician SJ Tucker, who had medical issues in 2008. I accepted the offer and prepped my story for publication. For awhile now, most of my time has been focused around helping market, publicize, and spread the word about the book. Last Thursday the editors (Phil Brucato and Sandra Buskirk) announced that the book arrived from the printers and on Saturday, I drove to Seattle to help box books with 16 passionate people.

Many of you who have visited my personal website already know about this book and how excited I've been. For those of you who do not, I'd like to introduce you all to RAVENS IN THE LIBRARY. A compilation dedicated to SJ Tucker, born out of love for music, magic, and the muse. This special VERY limited edition book has been compiled to defray the medical expenses and recovery of musician S.J. Tucker. The anthology will NOT be released in stores, and it is NOT downloadable! It will be available only as long as those expenses remain unresolved. After that, RAVENS IN THE LIBRARY will disappear. Along with my story, it features stories written by many of my favorite writers including Newberry Award winner Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, Holly Black, and Francesca Lia Block. Order your copy today and help a good cause!

This is big news for me and for my writing career. I'm excited to have been apart of this anthology and hope that it's the first of many new works published by me. This is also the reason why I've sort of disappeared from this site and have not been regularly getting posts or reviews up for your enjoyment. I have a quite a backlog of reviews that I am working my way through, so expect more from me as soon as I can get things written. Before I wrap this plug up, I'd like to also announce that I will be signing copies of RAVENS in Seattle this Wednesday, March 25th, at The Dreaming Comics in the University District. So if you are local to the Seattle area (or even Portland, Oregon) come on up, meet me (and many of the other authors/artists) and get your own copy of Ravens.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support to D*I*Y Planner and for being patient with me as I struggle to find the balance between the publication, writing posts here, and editing my first novel.

Slide Clips (A Product Review)

A bit of history first...

Some of you folks may remember this post: mind.Depositor: template and leather jacket sharing. The jacket described used these neat sliding clamp/clips - pictured here and here. If you look at the thread, you will see I asked about the clips and then answered my own question, having discovered Levenger's Clippies . Wandering thru this person's blog, I found a link to a Flickr set showing construction detail: mind.Depositor - how to create a cover for your GTD/Hipster PDA index cards

Now then, a few days ago, I was surfing and stumbled across Slide-Clips.com. The site does not yet have its online store plugged in, so I followed the links and eventually made a phone call that put me in touch with a very kind gentleman named Peter who just joined the site (at my suggestion) with a username of "Slide-Clips".

I mentioned Levenger's Clippies and Peter tells me that Slide Clips are not exactly the same. Levenger's are made in China, Slide Clips in Japan. So I placed an order with him that arrived yesterday.

Review: Tagging, People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web

Two years ago, I wrote a two-part series on tagging. A tag is like a keyword. Tags help you sort things by groups to which you assign meaning to. You can assign multiple tags to a single item so it becomes meaningful in different groups. Ever since I stumbled upon the idea of tagging, I've been fascinated. Then I found out about Gene Smith's Tagging: People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web. A book that I hoped would shed some more light on the tagging phenomenon.

As I patiently waited for the book to arrive, I imagined that it would expand upon various tag methodologies and how one could get more out of using a tagging system or site. There is a bit of that in the book, but it is not Smith's main goal. Instead, Tagging takes the reader on a survey of various tagging methodologies and how various online sites use tagging systems to achieve their goals. He studies these techniques in a way that would help software coders create their own tag systems.

Smith writes his material from a coder's perspective. The book's structure is very linear, as each chapter builds upon the knowledge presented in the last. Chapters 1-5 do go into details on what tagging is, why tagging is important, how folksonomies work, and what tag interfaces look like. Chapters 6 and 7 dive down into the nitty-gritty of how tag system are put together with code. These two chapters give guidelines, business analysis, and technical details (GUI, navigational, and code snippets) to help programmers design and develop their own tagging system for an Intranet or home-brew web application. Finally, Smith includes three case study appendixes. Here he analyzes and compares various social bookmarking sites, media sharing sites, and personal information management systems.

I wish I could recommend Tagging for everyone, but I can't. I think this book offers software developers the biggest benefit. It was an enjoyable but hard read for me. Since I’m not a coder, much of the tech and code discussions didn't make sense to my non-codery brain. I'll be giving this one to kender to read, and maybe he and his company can get more out of it than I did. Tagging is published by New Riders and the book retails for $39.99.

Review: Tarot for Writers

Those of you new to D*I*Y Planner in the past year or two may or may not know about my tarot love affair. I'd have to say it goes beyond the metaphysical. I use the cards for more than divination: journaling with the cards and involving them in my creative writing, for example. In 2006, I wrote about how tarot can help generate story ideas. Rkfoster also wrote about tarot and paper-based planning.

I consistently tell people that the cards are an excellent writer's companion. The pictures speak to the imagination, the cards weave stories when set side by side in a reading. In addition, the symbolism just begs to be written about in a narrative form. I've always wanted to write a book on tarot--one that goes into detail on using the cards for creative inspiration. However, Corrine Kenner beat me to it. Her Tarot for Writers demystifies tarot and shows writers how to use a deck in fueling their creativity and writing practice. Tarot for Writers is jam packed with techniques, writing samples, and reference sections on both the meanings and symbols found in tarot.

The book has three main sections. Part one gives you the low-down on what tarot cards are, their history, and how to use them. Kenner introduces tarot in a way that doesn't confuse or scare people who have never worked with a deck before. Part two gets to the fun stuff. These seven chapters discuss prompts, games, spreads and general information on applying the tarot to every aspect of the writing craft from plot to characters to setting and more. There's even a chapter on using a tarot deck as your own Writing Coach. Part three takes you on a card-by-card tour of what each card means, its literary connections and archetypes, and gives a list of prompts to kickstart the muse. Finally, Kenner ends with a glossary of tarot terms and symbolism--which for me was a nice touch. I tend to use a lot of symbolism in my own work and I can see myself using the symbolism glossary as a handy reference guide.

Adventures in Editing

I have a confession to make. I love editing my novel. Yep, I love ripping scenes apart, uncovering what works or doesn't, discarding whole chapters (and random fluffy bits), and then rewriting it all over so that makes sense and matches the story in my mind. It's a freeing feeling to be able to do this: Take 50,000 words, scrap most of it, and then build it all up again with clarity and a tighter sense of what really matters to telling the story I want to say.

Last year I had the goal of editing one of my NaNoWriMo novels and self-publishing it. I figured that If I gave myself a deadline, then maybe I'd actually do something with it. After all, if you schedule a deadline, you must stick to that goal, right? Boy was I wrong. I sat on it. The most I did with it was to admire it from afar, in its Circa-bound glory. I then focused on everything else surrounding my book's eventual publication, like buying books on self-publication (none of which I've read yet) and keeping up with the latest print on demand news. Not once during all that time did I sit down to re-craft my draft so the story was worthy of publication. Seeing that it's 2009, I can assure you that my "setting a deadline" plan did not work for me at all.

So how did I get from doing nothing to loving it? What drove me to make the dreaded leap from first draft to better draft? Two words: Collaborative Editing.

Road Trip: Visiting Tom Bihn in Seattle, WA

image copyright www.tombihn.comLast Monday, I loaded my Macbook, and a few friends into the car. We were going on a road trip, heading due north to Seattle, to visit the Tom Bihn showroom and factory. Tom Bihn bags are known for their quality and unique styles and colors. I know, most of my bags are Tom Bihn bags. They're made in the USA and carry a cult following among techies (waves to the others out there). Three hours later (and some great rock star parking) we were standing just outside the famed bagmaker's haven.

A single man, seated in front of a counter greeted us upon entering the showroom. It was none other than Tom Bihn himself. He allowed us to hang out, informally interview him, drool over the stock in both the storeroom and stockroom, and he gave us a small tour of his factory facility. All in all it was a wonderful experience and I wanted to share bits of that experience with everyone here.

Review: Power of Less

I’ve been a huge fan of Leo Babauta’s ZenHabits for awhile now. His combination of Buddhist zen philosophy and advise on living “less” has helped me gain some insight and perspective on freeing myself and time. When he announced he was writing a book, I knew it was going to be special. The Power of Less was released last month and it is, indeed, something special.

The Power of Less is very well written and clearly organized. At 170 pages long, it’s a pretty quick read (at least for me). Which makes the book a living testament that Babauta puts what his methodology to good use. The introduction sets the tone by giving you the reasons why “less” is more. Today’s world runs at breakneck speed. Our jobs ask us to do more, give more, and stay longer to get these things done. The answer isn’t to do more or be faster— it’s to do less. Babauta likens his process to haiku, where you have to strip the non-essential information and dig down to find the core, or what matters most. What Babauta does with his book, then, is to take you through writing a haiku for your life. Using six simple principles. Less is the new more and when you put Babauta’s six principles to work, you’ll learn how to be more effective by doing less.

Shoot-out Review: Cheap Fountain Pens, The Next Generation: Chapter 1: Pilot Petit 1

When Doug started his Cheap Pen Reviews, I foolishly offered to review a few more that I had purchased in recent months.

Through my participation at D*I*Y Planner, I rediscovered fountain pens. I really forget how I first found this site. But I recall at some point, someone mentioned fountain pens and I got re-hooked. An old, neglected hobby of mine is calligraphy, so I have had a lot of experience with various ink pens, mostly dip pens due to the sort of inks I would use. I recall using a Schaeffer cartridge pen way back in high school (late 60's).

While cruising the internet looking for new pens to try and play with, I stumbled across JetPens. This site sells all sorts of Japanese-style pens: from fountain to gellies. I ordered a Pilot Petit1 and a Ohto Tasche Fountain Pen. This review covers the Pilot Petit1. I will review the Tasche next.

Credit where due: I have copied the following review format from Fountain Pen Network. Thanks, guys.

Ok, deep breath, back straight, knees together, hands over head, and jump in...