I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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A few months ago James Bonner was sitting at his favorite coffeehouse in Boerne, Texas, Electric Coffee, a place that has become the counter culture center of the small Texas Hill Country Town, “I spend a great deal of time there—which is to say that this coffeehouse is one of my favorite places.” Bonner shares about the coffeehouse. James was chatting with his friend Tricia Laffer, as they often do, when happening upon one another at their mutually favorite middle of the day break from life. Bonner had been talking about finding a new way to display books online. James has an online bookstore and blog, Communitea Books, the pair was talking about an idea Bonner had, “How cool it would be to create this interactive space where the visiting interweb consumer would be looking at, what appeared to be, a series of bookshelves, spine out, as if the patron were actually in a bookstore, and then by clicking on the spine of the book a customer would then be directed to a product page for that book.”
Though James still thinks the concept is great, he doesn’t know anything about web development and html coding, she shares, so, for him, it’s either a pipe dream or many, many years off in the future, “When I can hire someone to take on what seems like an enormous project” Tricia mentioned then how cool it would be if Instagram could be that feature, in some way, like, well, we all know how Instagram is formatted, so essentially each picture would be of a book cover and a link that would direct the customer to different product pages, and check outs, and what not. “I loved the idea, however the thought of sitting around all day uploading photographs and typing in information for thousands of books, again, inspired a degree of anxiety.” James shared.
As daunting as the task seemed to Bonner he started to do some research into the logistics of what that would look like, and on specifically for Instagram. “I was introduced, then, via the rabbit hole that internet searches create, to Snapppt…Snapppt is a program or app or whatever that links to Instagram, as directly as they are capable at present, but it’s, essentially an eCommerce platform that kind of sits on top of Instagram.” "So, OK...” Bonner thought, “…if I could find the ambition, again, to stare into the depth of the technological void, whilst spending my day floating behind artificial eyes with an analog brain something really cool could come from this!”
James did not do anything for a while, he focused, instead, on developing the best website that he could, “…at least by the standards of Google Search Console and Adsense.”
“One afternoon I was doing some basic social media marketing, and focusing on various platforms: Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and the like and I was browsing Pinterest, you know, I was Pinterested in the Pinteresting Pinterest’s, and it occurred to me that Pinterest is perfectly capable of providing the same marketing and eCommerce means as Snapppt, and Instagram.”
Bonner, of course, already has his own website, communiteabooks.com, and, thanks to Shopify, he has bookstore attached to his Facebook page. “But, What if I flooded the market with a new format of bookstore? In a way that no one had ever seen? The idea, when talking to Tricia, seemed cool, but all of a sudden it seemed to me ridiculous to not develop this idea.” Bookstores like Barnes&Noble, The Strand, Powell’s they all have their own Instagram and Pinterest pages, but are they using these social media platforms in a way that would turn them into visual online bookstores? No, and, in point of fact, as of now, and other than a pair of Bonners friends, Benjamin and Calixte, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Bookman and the Lady, whose focus is on Rare and Collectible books, nobody is.
So, James started developing it.
He first created an Instagram bookstore, Communitea_Books, using Snapppt as a sort of eCommerce layer, and a Pinterest bookstore, Communitea_Books, which links directly to his website. James, as he pointed out, is doing this on his own, attempting to create, and to innovate with a seemingly outdated product, and because it’s just him, and “…it seems as if I already have a never ending, and constantly expanding series of projects as it is.” For Bonner to “maintain some semblance of sanity, while taking on Instagram and Pinterest.” He is adding only fifteen books a day: fifteen to Instagram, and fifteen to Pinterest. “I love books, and I’ve always known that there are ways to keep them relevant, and not just for the consumer, but to maintain a market relevance as well, and I will continue to play with new ideas, and create new ways to keep books in people hands.”
“There is one little pet peeve though, that continues to eat at me, and that seems to be steadily growing in the back of my head: I have uploaded all my books to my website, however the eCommerce program was designed for individual products, and books have always been displayed collectively: by author. My platform doesn’t recognize the author as a separate section, it is part of the Title, and so I can’t have my online bookstore organized by author. As I upload books onto Instagram and Pinterest I wanted there to be some uniformity, some means of logical browsing—if you were looking for something specific, or you’re the type of person that create clusters in your brain in order to organize things, like I do, but the only way I could do that was to alphabetize my products by the first letter of the Title, which, you know, I have a difficult time dealing with.”
“I was sitting here this morning, doing some social media marketing for Communiteabooks.com and it finally dawned on me, in a way that it really had not yet: with Pinterest, and Instagram I am creating something that has never been done before, and by doing so I have multiple bookstores across multiple platforms all over the internet, they are all separate, and they are all one. I am so intrigued by that. Also, the idea of where this could potentially go—I don’t really do anything with the intention of realizing some foreseeable goal(s), and yes, of course, I have goal(s), and yet because I understand that everything is organic, and everything is constantly changing, the promise that I have no idea where else this could lead is awesome. And that I’m doing it with books: with these century old, conceptual, collections of knowledge and story. It just amazes me!”
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Any writer you might talk to in regards to the art of writing, and when asked “How do I know if I’m a writer?” Or a question along the lines of-, within their response, somewhere, and usually as upfront as possible, they’ll admit that, “If you cannot get through a day without writing, and if not does the act of writing linger above you like the alcoholics cloud of desperate clarity?—if you feel it, as a haze behind your eyes: when you lack concentration, and the appetite to live—if writing intrigues your senses to the point of definition, then you are a writer. And if this is not the case, don’t worry, you are not.” The fact is that writers have the unique recognition of their life’s calling, it’s unmistakable. And, in that way, a writer is fortunate to never be within the constant agonizing uncertainty of destiny, however a writer it equally as unfortunate to always be inquiring, and to never be completely contented. A writer remains apart from the search for understanding (destiny) and the fulfillment of fate.
At different points of my life I have written differently: where I would write, how I would write, the routine—which is important, for different reasons, depending—changed, a little. Once I realized I wouldn’t complete my first novel and that I would, essentially, be writing endlessly to no end, and that I would need to, instead, chop it up into pieces of itself, rewriting and recreating it, and eventually selling it as a series of short stories I could only write at night, after the sun had gone, and the world around me felt still. I was living in Salt Lake City then, and would look out over the valley where the city rest, and the world seemed peaceful.
A couple of years later, in New York City, I wrote on park benches, in parks: Washington Square Park, Central Park, Madison Square Park et al, and in a notebook: pen-on-paper. I could not write otherwise. The notebook would always be with me, in my back left jean pocket, the only item I would carry on my person, and not in my bag, just in case. I would put pieces of stories together later on my laptop, however my creativity was stirred only when I felt the pressure of the notebook pressing back against my pen. The notebook always felt so resolute, unyielding and as the ink bled on the paper I was in awe by the act of creation. As the notebook began to give life, a life that would flow through me, from elsewhere, and demand entrance into the perceivable while sitting on benches in the Deep Woods northwards in Central Park.
In Santa Fe I would always have to be around people, writing in café’s, and it was usually in one of the following: Iconik Coffee, Aztec café, or Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Café. I was never able to write anywhere else, I would try, of course, say at Station Café next to the train depot for example, and yet I would sit, only and stare at a table, or through the window as the Rail Runner slowly skated to a stop. I remember even still sitting outside of Station staring at a small pile of cement, chipped pieces scattered, and a small crater the pieces had once filled on the front patio. At Iconic I used to look forward to getting lost in the developing fantasy behind my eyes, I wouldn’t be looking over a notebook or my laptop, but instead into my imagination as if replaying a memory projected for me by will alone. Aztec itself was inspiration, the place stimulating my delusions like walking through your childhood home so much later in life that you were certain all recognition was lost, but realizing, almost instantly that a part of you is still there. At Annapurna’s I could see the snowcapped mountains in June as the world itself would envelop me like a children curious of a wayfarer. I would sit sometimes at Marble Brewery overlooking the plaza and I would write, but it wasn’t the same.
My first year back in Boerne, after opening Wardrobe Books, every morning after visiting the bookstore, I would go to Starbucks, order a drink, and sit in one of two chairs, if I wasn’t sitting in either chair I wasn’t able to focus. And that might be perhaps because I was too focused on whomever was in either chair standing up to leave, and me taking their place. I was there every day, and while there I tried to order something different to drink every day, often coming up with strange combinations of flavors, or whatever I could fathom. I would sit, and for hours I wrote. I both started and finished my first novel sitting at the Starbucks in Boerne, Texas. I remember finishing it. There was a girl sitting across the room from me, I knew her, she worked there, and on that particular day she was there studying or something, I don’t know, I just looked up and she was there. It’s been more than two years since that day but I can still picture her exactly as she was, her pale blue eyes were so piercing. I’ll never forget. The thought of her eyes lingered in my mind as I finished writing the last sentence, of the last paragraph of the first novel that I would write.
Since that day, after finishing my novel, Between Transitions, I have developed a more practical approach to writing, at least, for someone living an actual life, with friends and family and responsibilities and expectations: my laptop is open all day, and every day to a WORD document, whatever it is that I might be currently working on, and I sit down periodically to write. Every time I sit down, I have to write for at least five minutes. Of course, I find that every time I sit down I write for considerably longer than five minutes, and yet not allowing myself to get up before then has become a contract with myself that feels, to me, like I have graduated from a place of desperation, and fearful artistry. It’s the difference, to me, between a starving artist and a seasoned one. One thing that I have learned is that the circumstance for our creativity changes over time, and with experience and the only constant is that you are writing, whether you’re writing from a place of intention and emotion and feeling or you’re simply writing for the sake of writing. We write because we have to, not to feel accomplished or to accomplish, and not to be proven or to prove, we write because of what we are from a place deeper than most of us are willing to look.
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Every week a few friends of mine and I play trivia. It started, for me, in Santa Fe when a handful of friends invited me to join their weekly trivia team at El Farol, Geeks who Drink was the group that organized that weekly trivia event, they’re known nationwide. I decided that it was definitely for me when the MC asked “What sport did David Foster Wallace’s protagonist Hal Incandenza play, in his masterpiece Infinite Jest?” Well I was all over that. “Tennis.” I whispered to a friend of mine that had been chosen to write our answers, and then to turn them in.
I had forgotten about those trivia nights, over time: relationships, business ventures, life. I moved back to Texas and was sitting at this new local taco spot—now recently closed—when I heard something about a weekly trivia night that they were beginning to develop, every Wednesday night I was told, and I immediately went to work putting together a team, in my head. This group was not Geeks who Drink, but a competitor of theirs (Jaocb, the MC, hates it when I mentioned Geeks who Drink), Trivia Live. Of course, I didn’t care, and every Wednesday night I started coming for the cheap alcohol, the inconsistently somewhat decent tacos, and trivia—slowly building my team; of the original four of us only two, including myself, are still involved. The team we since put together has been phenomenal. We have our science (SCIENCE!) guy, our TV, animal(s), food&drink, and geography (one of them is Russian—born and bred) girls, we’re all kind of movie buffs, we don’t really have a consistent sports person, but we’re not too concerned about that, and I’m the literature and history guy.
A couple weeks before the taco place closed down Trivia Live started hosting trivia night, on Monday’s, at our favorite Micro-Brewery: Cibolo Creek Brewing Co., and we couldn’t have been more excited—we were all growing pretty tired of the taco spot. So we started phasing out taco’s for farm-to-table burgers and Micro-Brewed beer (some of the best I have ever had, and I’ve had my good share of Micro-Brewed Beer). We used to recycle trivia team names, I would come up with a new witty, or funny, or annoying names every night just for kicks, and the Jacob came to know us really well so we were able to continuously change our name and keep are point values (it might not be in accordance with all the rules, but eh). Eventually we did agree on a name that we would adopt with: Isaac Asimov’s great quote: “People who think they know everything are an annoyance to those of us that actually do.” I like it, aside from the obvious reasons of it being perfect for trivia going, I liked it because of its length. A number of my names were long only because I enjoyed the fact that Jacob would have to say it over the loud speaker, and whether anyone else laughed or not I didn’t care, because I always did. One of my favorite names to date was, “Sometimes my mother calls me by my brothers’ name.”
I love it when literature questions come up, obviously. I know that I’m going to get it right. I’ve missed two literature questions over the course of the last year, or longer since we’ve been playing, and I can remember both of them. The first only because I’m ashamed at myself for missing it. It was regarding post-modernism political satire books, and the answer was, of course, 1984, but, for whatever reason I just could not think of it. It’s especially aggravating because I was born in 1984 AND aside from having read it multiple times, and enjoying it every time, I’m aware of the history behind almost all of it, and the details of publication, and the fact that thought the book was published in 1949 it was written in 1948, and the title is simple a reversal of the date (1948 – 84). Arrgh, it still bothers me that I missed that one, and that was months ago. The second is less vexing, however, it still gets to me. The question was asking, “What 19th century author whom created Detective C. Auguste Dupin, is considered to have written the first detective mystery novel?” I drew a blank. If I had a little more time (Each question is timed by a song, we have the length of any given song to offer an answer) I would have come up with, of course, Edgar Allan Poe.
At Cibolo Creek Brewing Co. we are 3 for 4, which is to say that of the four times that we’ve played there we’ve gotten first place three times. We have become the team to beat, and everyone there knows it. There has been the creation of at least one time that competes for the sole purpose of beating us. And, to be fair, the one time that we did not win, they were the team that were responsible.
By the end of the night, after a couple pitchers and extensive competition there’s at least one person on each team that becomes Andy Kaufman, during his controversial wrestling years, when putting on a show wasn’t always so apparent. It’s great! We all have fun with it. Throughout the week if something related to literature and trivia comes up I always make mental notes, but, in Boerne, I don’t know that there is a single person that can rival me when it comes to authors, book titles, plot, or general author knowledge, and the cross-over to Hollywood. I like that, it’s a good feeling knowing that you are the best at something. We’ve all seen how a sense of minor personal pride has shifted from a constructive character trait towards another thing to be ashamed of, or another thing to be judged for, but regardless having that to hold on to, even if it’s just a piece of something that I’ll occasionally pick up and acknowledge and the set right back down, it is nice to have on my shelf. And I’m grateful too for the people that I share that table with, and knowing that they too are able to feel a since of pride and acknowledgment. I know books, and I know people, and I enjoy the helloutta both of them, and having the opportunity to express that—other than here—is so much fun.
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This is off the general topic, I know, and I apologize for that, however with it being such an important, and encompassing debate it’s difficult not to address it if you own a blog. The topic of Gun Control, or as I prefer to acknowledge it: Gun Safety. The conversation, as I have witnessed it, has become so overwhelmingly flout with sound bites, that there is no linear direction, or understanding of the topic, or as it is widely understood in the reflection of what the imposed intention is of either party. In other words, we are not having a conversation at all, but rather an uncontrollable debate of the surrounding misunderstandings, and misdirection that surround the conversation.
It’s frustrating, to me, because the influence of the NRA is clearly effecting the political debate. You might think that, based on that statement alone, you have an idea of where I stand in the conversation, but I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss or accept me.
I believe in the necessity of the 2nd amendment. I understand its purpose, and I believe in individual rights of the American citizen. The intention of the 2nd amendment was to allow an oppressed population to stand up against a corrupt and overbearing government. The same corrupt and overbearing government that we’ve had (and has steadily grown worse) since the 60’s. With that said, and with the apparent lack of understanding for the protection of our rights, what purposes, really, does the 2nd amendment serve today?
Gun Safety and Gun regulations are a common sense step for a country as deeply impacted by the problems that we experience, in regards to gun violence. And neither Gun Safety nor Gun Regulation are an infringement on our rights. If you believe that they are then you are living with a misunderstanding of what it means. There are a lot of facts and statistics that I could waste my time listing here, but they are all available, if you care enough to actually look. However if you’re not compelled to do a little research, I ask that you question whether your lack of interest is a result of political sound bites such as, “Guns aren’t the problem,” and “People will still be able to get guns if they are banned (or regulated),” “Guns are as dangerous as cars,” and “Guns are a tool, like knives,” because, I would suggest that if you are influenced by these arguments that you are being apathetic, if, for no other reason, that regardless of if either, or any argument against better Gun Regulations were indeed accurate, it would still not be enough of a reason to do nothing. I’m not going to lecture, really, however I do implore you to do a little research.
The intention is not to ban guns, or, well, actually the intention is not to ban all guns, I mean there really are a couple of guns that nobody needs to own, despite some arguments it’s simply a fact. You don’t need a semiautomatic rifle (what is commonly, but inappropriately referred to as an assault rifle). It might be fun, and the act of owning it might impress on you some semblance of freedom that you, for whatever reason, feel like you don’t already have, but do you have to own a piece of everything to feel free? There are so many things that exist on this planet that are not available to you as an American, and still you’re not taken aback or affected by those, why?
I believe that in order to buy a gun there should be a few simple requirments, and I might be persuaded to remove or to add to this list, but from my perspective the following should be agreeable.
If you want to buy a gun:
It is too easy to get a gun. Period. And there is simply not enough of a basic familiarity and understanding of how, when, and why to use one, once you have a gun. There is, of course, an issue surrounding mental health, but that argument in, and of itself is more of a reason to establish better Gun Regulations that not to. And I would posit, even, that the issue of mental health is more of a foundational one that exists within the systems of our societal constructs, which is to say that our mental health issues and our gun control issues might be one and the same, and we are spending too much time and effort trying to disassociate the two. I believe that there is an oblique misunderstanding of our systems that intrigue us to sit around and debate that the problem is, "this" or "that," and a separate political problem exits when we find ourselves arguing between arbitrary ideas. Guns kill people, people kill people, and crazy people kill people. In reality Desensitized people kill people. This is not entirely a gun control issue, and it is not entirely a mental health issue. However it would be inappropriate to suggest that it is not at all a gun control issue, and not at all a mental health issue. Creating better Gun Regulations is just common sense, and, again, I’m not talking about banning guns, but developing better Gun Safety systems. In the same way that continuously developing better practices when understanding correlations between our mental health issues are pertinent. The requirements above are not unreasonable requests, and for most of you that own guns, or that would like to own guns you would be more than capable of passing the required regulations.
Every time there has been a mass shooting in this country, or at least in the last decade, we have had the same conversation, and gun rights enthusiasts are consistently coming up with new, and completely absurd arguments to maintain their position—for the American people to maintain a position. They are changing their story, because every time an act of mass gun violence occurs the people that are affected are no longer willing to listen to the nonsense. This time around, after the deaths of seventeen students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida it’s becoming more and more difficult not to listen, when students like Emma Gonzalez and Cameron Kasky are making incredible efforts, and unbelievably impassioned speeches calling out the hypocrisy that our country is facing, and the unfortunate disregard of our politicians to admit there’s a problem. Especially considering that no one, not a single politician is calling for the ban of all guns, but when there are 300 million guns in the United States, enough for nearly every man, woman and child in this country the means in which we come about getting our hands on guns, and the intention behind the trigger is an issue that we cannot continue to overlook.
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What does it mean exactly to be a, ‘Local Author?’ That’s kind of interesting concept, the distinction made between being an author and a local author. I’ve written for national, and international journals, and I’ve written for local newspapers and journals, and I had not thought about this distinction before now. I love ‘local authors.’ The label seems to follow those that cannot help but write, they are writers and once that realization has been made it’s not possible to live without writing, and yet ‘local’ authors, the label, the distinction, seems to follow those that may, or may not have accepted the process of self-publication, but despite the leap to commercial stardom may actually prefer it.
Having self-published, myself, I understand the appeal, until I have to market my book, and myself. Not only is the act of marketing exceptionally complicated, but in the social media world, the process is daunting as well, and exhausting, and never-ending, and…, and…, and…
I worked at an independently owned bookstore in Santa Fe, and there was a very large focus on ‘local authors,’ we would carry anyone who wanted to be represented, and display their book under consignment. It was fascinating being a part of that, on the backend, especially in Santa Fe, New Mexico with the hundreds of different artists and writers roaming around; in a city like Santa Fe, the home of George R. R. Martin, Cormac McCarthy, Amistad Maupin, Michael McGarrity and others, the distinction of author and ‘local’ author never actually occurred to me.
There’s a local author here in Boerne, Texas his name is David Martin Anderson, and his a very prolific writer, one of his books The Last Good Horse was a finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Award, and yet he is very much a ‘local’ author. I have reviewed books for journals and almost every week I get requests on LinkedIn from authors wanting me to review their independently written, and published books, not to mention the requests at Communitea Books. And because I have been a self-published author as well the desire to stand with-, and to help them succeed by however means they perceive success to be made, is exciting and encouraging for me.
‘Local’ author Elena Mikalsen messaged me earlier and inspired an idea, that I hope can ‘take off,’ providing some marketing and sales for different authors as well as Communitea Books. My intention has always been to develop a community oriented bookstore, and I wonder how I can expand that idea via the writing community through my bookstore’s website? If you’re a local author, and you’re reading this, and you’re curious about what might develop from this idea than I beseech you! Send me a message!
The self-publishing dilemma has created a world of art unlike anything that we’ve ever known, or seen. It’s complicated, there are so many wonderful works floating around in the ether that have gone-, or will continue to go unnoticed. I know of a number of well-known, established authors who detest self-publishing. “The mass production of crap,” they might-, and some have said. The process is, of course, bittersweet because the means to publish anything definitely highlights the crap, in the same way that the good might be lost, but, at the very least, I happen to think that this “Mass production of crap” can only challenge us to be better, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the greatest struggle, and acknowledgment of life.
I have read, and reviewed so many amazing books that have been self-published, or released by very small publications that are considerably better than books I’ve written released by Random House, Simon&Schuster, Harper Collins, etc., so it seems to me that because these books are so well-written, by authors that have something to say, having a platform for authors to market their books is not only opportunistic, it’s essential for maintain the industry. Because, let’s face it, ‘local’ authors are the industry. Unless we want to forego print altogether and submit ourselves entirely to the digital world, which, me, for one, I can’t ever imagine allowing that to happen.
I’m asking all ‘local’ authors, and I don’t just mean local to Boerne, Texas or the Texas Hill Country. If you are a writer looking for a platform to market your book in any part of the country, or world contact me. And we’ll, together, find better ways to make that happen, on my website, and in whatever new opportunities arise. I want Communitea Books to develop as organically, and collectively as is possible.
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I hated to read when I was a kid, and actually, all the way up through high school I couldn’t stand it. Most of what I was reading was for school, and I wasn’t a fan of school. I wouldn’t realize for many, many years that my distaste stemmed from an inherent flaw built within the education system itself, but that’s a different story, and one that I could not possibly have explain in elementary school, even if I wanted to. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the books that we were reading, the stories, I mean, and the writing but I never liked someone else telling me what to do, and what to read, and especially what to think of what I was reading. David Foster Wallace suggested that the point of a Liberal Arts degree is to teach people how to think, and as insulting as that sounds, he posits that the intent is more deeply-rooted, which is to say, that the point of a Liberal Art degree is to teach you that you have control of what, and how you think. I’ve always liked that position. Maybe because we’re not offered that through high school, there was always a right and wrong answer to everything, which, of course, indirectly teaches us that there are right and wrong answers to life. Hmm, well any well-adjusted adult would argue otherwise.
Anyway, because I was told what to read, and what to think about what I was reading I didn’t enjoy the act of reading. It was lost on me. It was lost on me until I picked up Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I don’t remember where I found it, I don’t remember how I found it, all I know is that I couldn’t stop reading it. I loved it. And, in many ways, it changed my life. I discovered a love for reading. I, of course, read the follow-ups to Hatchet: The River, Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return, and Brian’s Hunt. I started looking for books to read, on my own, and found a way to enjoy them. The school’s required reading lists never ceased to irk me, though I learned to find joy in story, especially if I was offered the opportunity the read the book on my time, such as our summer readings. That’s when I read Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country for the first time, which introduced me to a different type of author, and a different kind of story. It’s still mainstream, of course, which, you know, eh, but as an introduction to the fact that not everyone was afforded the same lifestyles that I had been privileged to—what argument would you really want to make in opposition?
If, at this point, I’ve lost you then I think you should consider looking into writings by African, Asian, and Middle Eastern authors, both fiction and non-fiction. Another good introduction writer, but to Middle Eastern writing is commercial and Noble Prize Winning author Orhan Pamuk—he’s Turkish. I bring them up only because they inspire an entirely different type of genre, an artistic writing style that is unlike anything you might be familiar with. The only thing that might come close here in the United States, that’s more mainstream at least, is the more obscure works by Beat Generation authors: Jack Kerouac, Allan Ginsberg, etc.
I’ve been thinking a lot about reading lately, and not necessarily what I’m reading, but more how I’m reading it, the act of reading in, and of itself, and how that translates in different places. As an example: close your eyes. Now picture yourself reading. What do you see, how does it look? Are you sitting on a chair, next to window, with a cuppa tea, as the rain settles just outside the window? Are you in bed, winding down, the day is done, and your attempting to settle your mind with a book? Or are you on a bus, or the subway, on your way to work, or anywhere with a book in your hand? I have found myself in each position, enjoying reading in any way that I can, however when I picture it, when I picture myself reading, I am almost always on the subway. For two years, in New York, I lived in Parkchester, in the Bronx. I would commute to Manhattan every day, not to my ‘day’ job, but to wander the streets looking for a new café, or to end up at my trusted MUD Coffee, either way the commute allowed me to read. A lot of people read during their commute on the subways and buses. That’s a major factor when understanding why people living in cities read more than those in rural areas, it’s largely due to public transportation. I loved it. I loved riding the subways, and I loved reading on the subway. Currently I’m living in Boerne, Texas. I small German town in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. The very mention of public transportation might actively upset people here. In part because they love their cars, but also Boerne is fairly affluent, and some people fear that public transportation means catering to low income families, which might mean that more of ‘them’ will show up. Despite that being unlikely, it’s also unfortunate that our politicians are refusing to address that fundamental problems that create low income, poverty stricken communities, and people—that’s probably another conversation though. Anyway, without public transportation the means to read while commuting diminishes, unless you’re like me, and you read while driving trusting that all the other idiots on the road will recognize how important I am, and drive around me, accordingly. Just kidding, I only sleep when I drive…reading would be stupid, haha ha ha.
I often sit at a coffeehouse and read, which I’ve learned recently created the problem appearance of being social. I am kind of a socialite in Boerne, a lot of people know me, from numerous circles floating about, and when sitting at a coffeehouse I’ll find myself in conversation after conversation and losing reading time. I have a difficult time reading at home, I don’t know why. Perhaps my house doesn’t exactly feel like a home, I don’t always feel comfortable in the house. There is a tree, at the river, in the center of the town, which has a large branch forking from the trunk that is established perfectly to rest on and to put your feet up. I used to lay there, for hours, and read. That park is always crowded with people now, and children running around, playing, feeding bread to ducks adjacent to signs that implore visitors not to feed bread to ducks, and that even offer a list of alternative food sources. It’s difficult for me to concentrate there. That’s most likely related to the fact that it would be hard for me to ignore the people there. I’m a people watcher.
The point is that I’m reading less than I otherwise would. I can feel the loss. I think that is part of why I want to open Communitea Books, my bookstore. I would love to create a place for people to read, for me to read. Surrounded by like-minded people, people whom explore the human experience in story, and whom might want to share that experience with others.
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When starting an online ecommerce store, such as my bookstore, or a blog eventually, once you’ve put a good amount of time, and effort into the site, the finished product, it is inevitable to want to monetize that, to generate passive income through your site by selling Ads.
I have been dreaming about the day that Google Adsense approves my status so that communiteabooks.com will begin generating that passive income. You see, Communitea Books is my job. I have put everything else aside in order to pursue this dream. The dream began when I started selling books on abebooks.com and Amazon.com many years ago, and developed when I moved back to Boerne, Texas. I found space available in a multi-vendor shop on Main Street and opened the beta version of Communitea Books, I called it Wardrobe Books. I wanted that manifestation to eventually take form as it’s on brick-and-mortar but the building that I was in sold before I was able to make that happen. So, instead, I put all my books in storage and, defeated, lost myself for a few months. Eventually I decided to create my own website and blog.
The process has been a lot of work, but it’s been a lot of fun as well. I built a good site, for selling books, and wrote several blog entries, and then excitedly submitted my application for Google Adsense! Only, I was rejected. I didn’t expect that. I then fixed a few things, wrote another blog entry or two, and reapplied. Again, I was rejected. This time I didn’t know what to do. I was concerned about the volume of content, how many blogs were available, and I didn’t even consider anything else. I didn’t think about the quality of my content, because, geezus, it’s me, I mean, I can write! You know, like, pssh, that couldn’t be it. I didn’t think about Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policies, contact info—even though, yes, I did have a contact page, it would be stupid not to. There was just more that I could have done—Again, defeated, I was hoping for my book sales to generate all the income I needed, only I don’t know how to market an independently built online bookstore! How do I create traffic? I build a Facebook page, of course, a Twitter, an Instagram, then a Google+ page, followed by Pinterest. I had all these great pages, however, with the exception of Facebook, and maybe Twitter, I don’t understand the content, I mean How, Why, and What do people post on these different sites? It has got to be slightly different for each site, yes? And how do I get to the point where I both Know, and Understand my Market? That alone is a considerable amount of work, and I wanted to do, so I began actively learning these pages, and the people that frequent them. I developed an idea of my bookstore analytics using both Google and Facebook Analytics, and went from there. For those of you that do not know, it’s a beneficial process, but it is exceptionally slow going. And I really needed to start generating income!
So, I took a look at what I was doing wrong when it came to Google Adsense. First I reassessed the quality of my blogs content. I went back and read a few, and they sucked. I mean my punctuation, grammar, the idea I was attempting to portray, I was noticing now that I had rushed through it. I was more focused on pounding out enough individual blog entries that I didn’t stop to revise, or rewrite, or even reread my blogs! And, I’m a writer! My profession. My time became my commodity and I had decided that I didn’t have enough of it to spend the right amount of time making sure I was writing something that my readers, could read. Strike One. So, I went back, did some revising, a little bit of rewriting, and some editing for my blogs. I felt accomplished, but I knew I wasn’t done, there was something I was missing, and I could feel it, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
I reread the policy guidelines for Google Adsense. If you don’t take anything else from this entry, heed this, because the purpose entirely of this entry is to illustrate the importance of building a solid website and/or blog, is not about writing an entry a day. Adsense wants only for you to build a complete site that people will visit, that they enjoy visiting, that they can navigate, and that they will be enriched by the content. That does not mean you have to have a vast, gorgeous, over complicated website, with dozens, and dozens, or hundreds of blog entries. In short, what Google Adsense asks only, is that you read their guidelines. And, let me tell you, visiting the Google Adsense guidelines page opens you up to the potential of creating a better website, and a simple website.
My next focus would be consistency. Maintaining an online store and blog requires constant attention. It is imperative that you remain up to date, that you provide new products, that you offer new concepts, and that you update your blog regularly. Update your blog regularly. This is kind of a big one. A more important concept than some might consider, and obvious to others. The internet world can be a confusing one, and it changes faster than anyone can possibly be ready for, however realizing that you have to change and develop with it creates the opportunity for you to at least know how to be aware of those changes.
I’m learning every day, in life and how to create the best, and most trafficked online bookstore I can. It’s time consuming, and it requires patience, and maintaining a level of discipline, but Google Adsense doesn’t have to be a headache. They are strict, but fair. Read their guidelines and they’ll help you build a better site.
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The process is challenging. Attempting to do anything online with the purpose of attracting people to your site or blog is draining, and with the exception of a very, very small percentage of people—the select few who find themselves on the fortunate side of happenstance—the process is continuous, it never ends. You build clientele and exposure but it is as gradual as watching children grow, you’ll notice only if you blink for long enough to miss a few steps. A large number of people give up, and I don’t think it’s because they don’t have the patience for the struggle, I think it’s more likely that they feel, and wrongly so, that there is no real progression, that whatever they’re striving for is fruitless.
Marketing for an independently built, and run online bookstore is both exceptionally easy and exceptionally difficult. With some time you learn to understand your market—with the help of analytics programs like Google and Facebook. You can develop a marketing strategy based on that free information. Personally, I find that there are two real challenges that I face every day: the first is establishing a marketing budget, especially for a business like an online bookstore. The greatest challenge, however, again, is time. If you put in your dues, remain active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and even Reddit—if you can find your niche—and you post, at least once a day, on most, if not all, of these social media outlets your clientele will inevitably build.
Time, for me, is a struggle though. It’s not that I don’t have any time. I don’t work a 9 to 5 job, and I don’t do shift work. I work for myself, where time management is tricky. And, for years, when I was only writing, time management was easy. Well, it became easy. Of course, it didn’t start out that way. If you have nothing but time it’s easy to want to do with your time whatever you want to do, which, at the beginning, leaves very little time for actual work. Once you discover your niche it’s easy to become a workaholic, which I did become. I love working. I love writing. And I love building this bookstore.
When I started working on the bookstore however the habits that I spent a decade creating, and maintaining melted away like camembert cheese in the hot Catalonian sun. I felt like I was in my early twenties again, but in the childish whatthehell am I doing with my life, kind of way, and I found myself mentally coveting all my time, and, with all these ideas and goals floating around in my head, I didn’t know where to begin. I had notes and books piling up, projects wasting away, and I’d sit in front of my computer ready to work, and I would accomplish nothing.
Then I would focus myself on a single large project and feel accomplished, for a while, until I finished, and there I was again, staring into a computer screen with too much, and yet nothing to do. My house is filled with projects, half-read books, ideas taped to my desk, and I tell myself, “If I could just do that one thing, it’ll make everything else easier to do, or, simply, fall into place. I just need that one thing to happen for me.” And, yes, I do have a one thing that is almost constantly on my mind. I am almost always working towards it. And if I’m not, I am thinking about it: praying, shaking my fist, drinking wine, sacrificing scorpions to the sun god (Ra), and self-help books (half-read). Where does a life go? People sometimes wonder. I’m sure I know the answer, or an answer, to the question. We spend our adult lives trying to make the rest of our lives happen the way that we were told they would during our formidable life.
We have to make a living. We don’t barter. And, I’m not happy about a few situations in my life. The website: communiteabooks.com is doing well. I’m proud of it. I want it to be better. I know it can be better. I have ideas, and visions of possibilities, things that would require a more specified knowledge of html, of coding, of actively building a website from the ground up. Unfortunately unlike building a table, or writing a novel, or painting a picture I cannot even fathom where to begin. Everything I know about building a website I taught myself while building my website. People, remember, I have an online BOOKSTORE I’m not selling ideas, like, Bitcoin. I’m still impressed by television. Nevertheless I have the ambition to create, and I believe that Communitea Books is worth the process and the time. Even when I find myself overwhelmed with all the things that I want to do, and not having the means to do them, or at least believing that I don’t have the means.
Sometimes it seems to me that everybody is content with routine: living a life structured by work: getting up, going to work, doing a very specific job, and going home. I’m not even capable of it; seriously, I’ve tried. A lot. It’s interesting to me that the people we always see talking about failure and effort and struggle are the people that don’t seem to fail or effort or struggle. But, as humans, we construct our own stories, and reasons for the situations of others. People exist only as we perceive them to exist, and in the way, only, that they were, or are based entirely on our own perceptions, as they came into our lives. We never hear about failure and effort and struggle from the people who are actively failing and putting the effort in day in-, and day out, and struggling. Or, at least, we don’t pay attention to those people.
I’m an artist, damn it. I’m also thirty-three years old. Which of the two comes first? I still wake up every day determined to develop this website, to accomplish that one thing, to eventually walk into my storefront and order a tea, slide a book of the shelf, find a place in front of the fireplace, and watch people browsing the shelves, engaged in conversation, watching TED Talks on the TV’s above in-between chapters. In the meantime it’s the process that I focus on, day-in and day-out. I will continue to wake up some days overwhelmed, and wanting to accomplish more, and wanting to work on that novel, and wanting to paint that picture, and wanting to pay off the rest of that debt, and wanting to look out a different window, and knowing that if only that one thing would happen for me, it would all be possible.