I found out the official weight of the VRT kit today: 2 pounds. I'm not sure if that means postage will be $3.95 or $5.20? I'm not charging for postage on the decks I sell, so it kind of makes a difference. I'll call the post office later today and ask them.
January 2002 Archives
John Ashcroft has had drapes made to cover two semi-nude statues in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice. Cause you know, he wouldn't want to make a speech standing in front of a statue that had, like, a breast exposed. That's not art, that's some kind of pre-version and it's just not right. Lucky that Ashcroft now has the authority to spend eight thousand dollars of taxpayer money hiding it from our tender eyes.
Sheesh. As Opine Bovine said, this would be funny if he weren't the attorney general of my freaking country. For instance, if he were the attorney general of someone else's country. Then it would be funny.
Well I was planning to get some work done today, but my web server had other ideas. A quick post to this diary caused a server error, which somehow clobbered the file that keeps track of the entries, making the web journal think it only had one entry instead of the 100+ which are supposed to be there.
Took me several hours to find out what the problem was and fix it. The old posts were all still there, they were just missing from the index. Fortunately Greymatter has a bulletin board with lots of helpful people & they were able to tell me what to do.
This morning I went to the Llewellyn site and ordered 100 copies of the deck. Aie! The last time I spent that much money was when I bought my car. Come to think of it, the retail price of 100 decks is higher than the cost of my car. Weird! I found the various discount schedules a little confusing, so I hope I clicked the right buttons and didn't end up declining any discounts I should have gotten. On the other hand it was nice to be able to do it all online & not have to call a sales rep long distance.
They asked me to fax my certificate of resale. Since I've never actually bought anything for resale before, I didn't have any of those forms yet. But I got one from the NC State web site. Filling it out reminded me that I had never sent my January form in. It's two weeks late, but the late fee is a percentage of the tax payment. I don't owe anything so there's no late filing penalty for me. Whew!
Next time I'll have to be more careful. If I sell any decks within North Carolina I will actually owe sales tax, so I'll have to make a payment for the first time.
The driveway repair isn't my birthday present. At least, not from Georg. It's conceivable but highly unlikely that anyone else would have re-gravelled my driveway as a gift. So the gravel fairies remain a mystery.
Georg thinks it was the city. He thinks they fixed it because the rut was right up against the edge of the road, and it might have been weakening the asphalt. It seems like a plausible explanation. Certainly more plausible than anything else I can think of.
Now I have two hopes: 1. that I do not receive a massive bill from the city for the driveway repair; 2. that I can somehow convince them that regrading the soil around my foundation is essential to the structural integrity of the road. Maybe I could tell them that the house is going to fall down and end up blocking the road.
In deck news, I am valiently fighting off a cold this weekend to work on e-cards for my site. If I can get the hang of MySQL, y'all will soon be able to send electronic postcards with images from my deck. After that, we'll tackle the secure order form. Which is a bit more serious. Have I mentioned how much I love OS X? None of this would be possible without it. Well actually it would, but it would require camping out at my office. This way is much better.
Anyone who has been to my house lately (like the past 6 months) is aware that we're having a little driveway problem. Namely, a rut in the gravel at the edge of the road. A big, huge, honking rut, with a mound of earth and gravel behind it. A rut so deep that you have to creep in and out, seriously angering the SUV-driving type A's who seem to follow me home every day. Even so I end up slamming the undercarriage of my car against the driveway about half the time.
I'm not sure how the rut got so bad. There wasn't a rut at all for the first few years here. The only thing I can think of, is that I drove a big old Ford pickup for about a year. It's possible that the truck tore up the ground at the bottom of the driveway, loosening the gravel enough to cause the rut. (The truck also caused a big dent in the fence where I accidently backed into it. But that's another story.)
So anyway, the rut is a problem. Georg tries to even it out every once in a while with a big rake, but then it rains again, the gravel gets washed away and the rut is back. I've taken to discouraging people from coming over. Because even if I warn them, they never realize how bad it's going to be and they hit the rut going way too fast. It's really embarrassing when your friends bang their heads against the roof of their car because you have a stupid rut in your driveway.
Well I came home from work tonight, after dark as usual, and what do I find but a fresh load of gravel competely filling the rut. The whole entrance to the driveway is smooth. It looks so different in the dark that I almost drove right past it, thinking that it wasn't my house. The weird thing is, I have no idea who did it. Who are the gravel fairies that fixed our driveway? Is this my birthday present? If so, it's the nicest present I've gotten in a long long time.
I had gotten email a while back from someone in the Philippines who wanted to buy my deck, but she couldn't use Amazon because she didn't have a credit card. I wrote to Llewellyn and just heard back that yes they do have distribution in the Philippines, through the National Book Store. Of course she could have sent me a money order and I could have shipped her a copy. But it's probably more convenient to buy it locally & now she has that option.
Amazon has added one of those "Buy this and that together for only!" features to my listing. They're promoting my deck with Tarot for All Seasons by Christine Jette. The funny thing is that you don't save anything by buying them together. The price is exactly the same as buying them both individually.
Another funny thing about Amazon is that Georg is apparently considered the primary author. I don't know why this is, maybe because his name is first on the book? At the bottom of our page on Amazon, it says "People who bought books by Georg Patterson also bought books by..." Maybe I ought to be complaining that it isn't my name, but I'm still so blown away by the very idea of being on Amazon, that it's hard to get worked up about me, me, me.
I determined that I can't get good scans from the book just by pressing the entire book against the scanner. The gutter really shows. So I got out my trusty Xacto(tm) knife and started cutting pages out for Amazon's "Look inside the Book."
Then I went to the submission form for "Look inside the Book" and discovered that you have to send them an email, requesting that your title be included in the program. It seems like we're doing them a favor, by letting them post content from our books, so why do we have to ask permission to do it? Well of course I'm being disingenuous. I know very well that most authors need Amazon a whole lot more than Amazon needs us.
OK, anyway, I filled out their form, and I got back an autoresponder that says only publishers are allowed to do "Look inside the Book." I wonder if that includes authors, or if they really mean publishers only? I have submitted a lot of content to another form that is supposedly for publishers only, and they accepted it. But who knows, this might be different.
So I may have cut up my first copy of the book for no good reason. Well, not no reason. It did allow me to scan the Victoria's Chalice pages for Valerie. That way she didn't have to wait another month to see it. She said she liked the diagram they used for the spread. I'm glad because I liked it too.
In other Amazon news, I found out that spikes in the sales rank are normal. Apparently the most popular books (the top 10,000) are re-ranked every hour. If you get a clump of sales, say three or four in the space of an hour, you can rocket up into the top 10,000 even though your overall sales don't warrant it. Then your sales rank will drop for the next couple of hours until it finally drops back to a more realistic position.
Apparently these have to be separate orders though -- a single order, no matter how big, won't have this kind of effect on the sales rank. Maybe that's to prevent authors from buying tons of copies of their own book, just to get it noticed? They do list the top 100 ranked books, and they have another list called "Movers and Shakers" that shows the books with the fastest movement on the sales rankings. A book that jumps from 50,000 to 250 must attract a lot of attention that it wouldn't otherwise get. Not like this will be a concern for VRT! It's still interesting from a statistical point of view.
Went to the Llewellyn website and signed up for a bookseller's account. That will let me order decks from them wholesale. They even have an online order form. Now comes the critical decision -- how many to order? I was thinking that I'd just order a hundred & not have to order any more for a long time. But then I realized how much that would cost. I don't really have a couple thousand dollars to tie up in inventory like that. Well, hopefully the preorders will give me a realistic idea of how many I need to order.
(Oh lord, I just realized that I'm going to have to deal with inventory in my taxes next year. Aie!)
I heard back from Llewellyn about the spreads -- I have the official OK to use anything from my deck on my web site. Whew! So I went ahead and posted all the spreads.
Speaking of the online readings, I was on an ASP tips site and read about how someone had written his own random number generator, that's supposed to work better than the built-in randomize function. I asked Marc, the Man Who Knows Everything About ASP. He said that this other random number generator probably is better, but for my purposes the difference would never be noticeable. So I should go ahead and convert to this other function if I wanted to try it as an intellectual exercise. But it probably wouldn't have any effect on the actual use of the site.
Well I have plenty of other intellectual exercises that will actually accomplish something practical. Like setting up e-postcards on the site, which is the next big thing on my do-to list. So I'm going to hold off on the random number generator for now. I will ask you all a favor though. If you happen to be doing readings on my site on a regular basis, and you notice that the same cards come up over and over, would you let me know? Thanks!
I must be the worst self-promoter in the world. Someone wrote me a very nice letter this morning, saying that she had been learning with the Thoth deck and was looking for something a little easier for a beginner. She liked the art on my deck but it didn't really "grab" her. And she wanted to know if I thought she should buy it anyway and use it as her primary deck to learn the Tarot.
Here's where someone who is good at self-promotion would say, absolutely! I just know you will love my deck. Buy it! But you know what I said? I said no! I told her that her primary deck should be one she really relates to. And if she's looking for a beginner's deck until she's ready to pick up Thoth again, she'd be better off with a deck that's more closely related to Thoth, like Haindl or Light and Shadow.
I know I'm supposed to be beating the drum, telling everyone how great my deck is, and how happy they will be if they buy it. But I just can't do it. Tarot is such a personal thing. People will buy VRT if it speaks to them. And if it doesn't, I'm not going to cajole them into buying it anyway. I guess I'm hopeless at this promotion thing.
Spent much of the weekend working on my site. First I fixed the online readings so you can print all the spreads. Then added a form for pre-orders. I don't have the secure order facility set up yet; this is just a form for people to let me know they're planning to order from me, so I know how many copies to buy.
I wrote to Ruth Ann at the Tarot School and she was kind enough to mention my site in their weekly Tarot Tips newsletter. That was nice! It's a great newsletter, if you're not already reading it it's at Yahoo Groups.
Most of the weekend was taken up with writing a review of this Tarot art book that a friend sent me. It's the catalog from a museum exhibit in Milan, that featured the earliest known decks. The art is really beautiful and I wish I could read the text. My friend sent it almost two years ago and I've been meaning to write it up ever since. Well, I've finally got the text written & now I just need to do the scans. It will be a big job and I'm kind of dreading it. But once it's done I can put the whole thing online and forget about it.
Some more Amazon.com news: I found out how to submit descriptive text to Amazon.co.uk and sent them the "back of the book" text and etc. Discovered that the deck is listed at Amazon.fr and Amazon.de, but I have no idea how to submit text to them. Also I wrote to Amazon.com about their "Look inside the Book" program. I really want to do that with VRT! They sent back an autoreply that says that only the publisher is allowed to submit material for "look inside the book." I hope they let authors do it too.
It's a book!
That's what my friend Marc said when I showed him the book this morning. He had assumed it would be a "little white booklet" and he was surprised to see a full sized book. I'm absolutely blown away by it. It is, indeed, a book.
On the front cover they have large-ish pictures of the Six of Wands, the Lovers and the Three of Cups. On the back there are tiny pictures of the Prince of Wands, Eight of Swords, Queen of Cups and Ace of Coins.
There's a picture of every card along with the interpretation. The pictures look better than I had expected, after all the back and forth over the spot illustrations. Not as good as the cards of course, but how could they possibly?
Speaking of the spot illustrations, they look great! The only problem I noticed was a major moire on the woman from the Lovers. Her arms and cleavage are all striped. Maybe I can figure out how to fix it for the next printing.
It's so amazing, after all this time, to hold a real book in my hands. I hardly had any time to look at it last night (got home from work at 9:30 and had to go right to bed, as I got up at 4 this morning for the radio station). So I took it with me to work today. I sat it up on my desk so I could just stare at it.
Georg just wrote to tell me that he picked up the "checking copies" of the book. It's the finished book! A real, actual thing, not a proof or a galley or a mockup. A real book!
Joanna says that the purpose of these checking copies is to mark any corrections we'd like in the next reprint. She wants them back within a couple of months. I wonder how big the first printing is? Can't be that big, or they wouldn't be getting ready for a reprint already. Or would they? I really have no idea how it works.
Also, we will get two checking copies of the complete set -- box, deck, book, bag -- in about a month. After that she'll order our twenty "contract copies" which I guess means the author copies in our contract. I had assumed we were going to get ten copies, but I guess it must be ten copies each. Which is very nice! Hey, maybe I better not say publicly that I was only expecting ten. No, I knew it was twenty all along, that's it!
Man, I wish I didn't have to work late tonight. I want to see the book!
Heard from Joanna yesterday afternoon. It seems that our "checking copies" of the book have been sent overnight to us. We should have them today. Wow! I have no idea what a "checking copy" is, but I'm still excited. Maybe it's the finished, printed book!
She says that the complete package (the "kit" as they call it) won't be ready for another month. So my guesstimate was just about right: I was thinking I'd probably see it about two weeks before the release date.
I finally received OS X yesterday. That is the last time I use UPS ground for something I want to have right away. The wait was agonizing! Especially when I remembered that there's a CompUSA out in Raleigh somewhere. So I could have driven out there and bought the darned thing on Saturday. It's funny how I can stand to wait four more weeks to see my deck, but I can't stand to wait three days to get some software.
Anyway, enough of that. It's here, it's on my computer, and I'm filled with awe and anxiety. It's beautiful, yes. A friend described it as "disorienting," which I find quite accurate. Things are not where they're supposed to be; things don't work as they always have. It will take some getting used to.
They say that X is much more stable than 9. I haven't yet tested that theory -- spent the evening playing around, upgrading to X versions of my software, installing iPhoto (which is really insanely cool by the way), etc, but didn't try to do any actual work. I did have two crashes, Explorer once and (disturbingly) Classic locked up when I tried to start it once. But both times, it was easy to shut down the application without crashing the entire computer.
I got my originals back! Actually they've been sitting at my mail center since Thursday, but I didn't have time to go get them until today.
It's so nice to have them back. They're still in the individual envelopes I had put them in -- when was that? A year ago? I can't even remember. Well it was a while ago anyway. The envelopes are snug in a little box made of foam core, with a charmingly labeled lid:
Now I'm off to put the originals back in their album. Then I'll try to make a few new desktop pictures. The ones I made before were the cards I happened to have really good scans of. Now I can do any card, so if there's a particular desktop picture you'd like, let me know!
Georg is away for the weekend. I'm spending the time alone communing with my computer and watching movies that he doesn't want to see. Sometimes simultaneously: I've finally decided to upgrade to Mac OS X, so I bought a book about it to read while the software is en route. I can't imagine a better way to spend an evening than curled up on the couch in my long johns, watching movies on TV and reading about OS X during the slow spots & commercials.
The more I read about OS X, the more excited I am. An even groovier Mac interface than before, and Unix backing it up. A Mac with Apache pre-installed! Does it get any better? I guess I should hold my praise until I've actually installed the darned thing. But it really looks like it's going to be the best of both worlds.
It's mid January already. Ieee! The release date is six weeks away and I have so much to do. I have to build the shopping cart on this site, get set up as a vendor with Llewellyn and order some decks. (I don't even know how many to order!) I haven't even talked to Llewellyn's publicity department yet. I'm sure they have things they want me to do.
Weirdly, my "amazon sales rank" dropped from about 916,000 to about 9,800 a few days ago. That's better than I expect my sales rank ever to get! I was so excited I printed the page out. A hour later, it had jumped back up to 916,000. It must have been a mistake. I saved the printout anyway, so I can pretend it's a best-seller.
Still trying to learn the mysterious ways of Amazon. They must have sold a few copies, because they've got one of those "Customers who shopped for this item also shopped for these items..." lists on our page.
Apparently, customers who pre-ordered VR on Amazon also bought the Cosmic Tarot, Karma Cards, the Intuitive Tarot, and the Lovers Tarot. The funny thing is, I don't have any of those decks.
I ought to check out these other decks & see if they're somehow similar to mine. OK, I'm back from some online browsing. Intuitive Tarot isn't a deck, it's a book. Lovers Tarot looks like a very pretty collage deck. However the name makes me giggle because it begs to be said in a Barry White voice. Anyway, enough silliness. The deck uses renaissence museum art. I wonder how the artist got away with that? I know collage tarot artists who've been turned down by several publishers because of using museum art.
Isn't Jane Lyle the one who did another Renaissence Tarot? That kind of ticked me off that someone else would use the name of an already-existing deck. It doesn't really seem fair to Brian Williams, or to consumers who might be confused by indentically-named products. On the other hand, it might not be Lyle's fault.
You may have heard that we had a lot of snow a few days ago. Almost a foot in some places (we measured just over 10 inches in our yard). I'm not a Southerner by birth, but I am 100% Dixie in my fear of, and lack of ability to, drive in ice and snow. So I missed the radio show I was supposed to do yesterday morning. I felt bad about it so I subbed someone else's show this morning from 5 to 8.
The drive wasn't that bad really, except for the obnoxious jerks (3 different people!!) who tailgated me. I would like to know what possesses someone to go out at 4:30 am, when it's 20 degrees and the roads are a sheet of ice, and then tailgate. Okay, I was driving pretty slow, but under the circumstances I think it was warranted. Are type A personalities really that insane?
I must say, I really like being on the radio early in the morning. It's not as hard to get up as I had feared. There are never any distractions (like the doorbell or the phone ringing), and there's a certain freedom in knowing that no one is listening. Well, Georg sometimes listens if he wakes up in time.
All the online bookstores I sent info to have got it posted. So far Books-a-Million is the big winner, posting the cover and description really fast. Amazon and Barnes & Noble took their sweet time, but it looks like they've finally gotten everything up there. Powell's doesn't have us listed at all, but they're independant so maybe they don't list books until they actually have them in stock.
I'd like to send Amazon a few scans of sample cards, but I'm not sure exactly where they should go. It's not really "look inside the book" because they aren't pages of a book. But they aren't "book illustrations" either. The cards are the most important thing, and "look inside the book" seems to be featured prominently, so that looks like the way to go.
In other news, I got a nice email from someone at New Worlds magazine. She wants me to write a short essay about the deck -- what inspired me to do it, something like that -- so they can feature it in the next issue. I had a moment of panic when I misread her message as asking for 10,000 words, in the next two weeks. Yikes!
Her actual request, for 1,000 words, was eminently reasonable. I'll try to put it together this weekend.
Hello, Buffalo? We found your snow. I'm sure you're anxious to get it back.
No really. I think there's been some mistake.
Any time now...