About runawayserfer

I am a writer and editor living on the Left Coast & writing my first novel: a 1980s-era political thriller titled El Imperio.

Better than Blackjack

For NPR the hook is the get-rich-quick angle. For writers it’s all about creation inspiration, found stories. This article is inspirational for how curiosity and a sense of the new and unusual is a writer’s most important talent – not regurgitating an iteration of whatever’s selling.


Read To Lead: How To Digest Books Above Your “Level”

I read like this my whole life – not because I wanted to get rich (I was 6!) but because I yearned to be enriched.

Thought Catalog

The best advice I’ve ever got about reading came from a secretive movie producer and talent manager who’d sold more than 100 million albums and done more than $1B in box office returns. He said to me one day, “Ryan, it’s not enough that you read a lot. To do great things, you have to read to lead.

What he meant was that in an age where almost nobody reads, you can be forgiven for thinking that the simple act of picking up a book is revolutionary. It may be, but it’s not enough. Reading to lead means pushing yourself–reading books “above your level.” In short, you know the books where the words blur together and you can’t understand what’s happening? Those are the books a leader needs to read. Reading to lead or learn requires that you treat your brain like the muscle that it is–lifting the subjects…

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“Millions” in writing advice, paid out in pennies


Practical Art: On Teaching the Business of Creative Writing

Fine advice for writers – especially those in or graduated from one of the many MFA programs – but a bit too wordy with not enough practical advice. Sort of like grad school itself.

An apprentice artisan observes the economic realities of his or her discipline. My father and grandfather were carpenters. They built homes and remodeled bathrooms. They worked when other people slept or relaxed. They had to create things that were beautiful and useful in order to make money to help feed their families. Their profession required the synthesis of artistry and practicality.

Blockheads – or Bust!

English: Diagram of venture capital fund struc...

English: Diagram of venture capital fund structure for Venture capital (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just read a report from ReadWriteWeb.com (“Growing Your Business in the Modern Economy: 6 VCs Weigh In”) about what venture capitalists look for in a start-up. I like reading such reports because they remind me why I stopped working for businessmen – I used to watch The Apprentice for reminders but Trump decided to go all political on us. Mainly, communications from capitalists – and nowadays they are all venture capitalists – spell out what is so ultimately FUBAR about their way of doing business.

The paper’s writer makes it clear how VCs see themselves:

One gambles with the expectation of loss, and the delight of having cheated expectations when one wins. Taking risks, on the other hand, comes with the expectation of success. If you fail, it often means that the risk was not properly managed.

In other words, VCs see themselves as different from ordinary gamblers. No Gamblers Anonymous meetings for them! They only put their money down for 100% Guaranteed Winners! This is the mindset of the Bain Capitalist – that frat boy who is gonna turn his daddy’s millions into billions.

In fact, one of the investors the writer consults speaks to that type of greed:

When we spoke to institutional investors, the biggest challenge for their portfolios was growth. Their challenge was getting that 50x to 100x they could get when they bought Symantec or McAfee or Microsoft or Apple.

Ah, the budding Mitt Romney thinks to himself, if only daddy had bought one of those companies. I would already be rich beyond my wildest dreams of avarice!

I like to call people who think like the target audience of this report The Blockheads, the “risk”-taker who has to convince himself that his bet isn’t a bet at all but a Sure Thing – because the imagined rewards are so big. It’s the mindset of the publisher who will only option a book if she thinks it will make her as much money as optioning Stephen King or J. K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer – had she done so. It’s the mindset of the “fan” who chooses which movie to watch based on its expected box office receipts – and thinks a film is good because it made over $100 million its first weekend. And The Blockhead is the VC’s investor of choice because he’s stupid enough to believe anything providing he’s told he’s not stupid at all. That’s really what he’s investing in – someone to tell him he’s smart and a winner, but if you have to give someone money to tell you that… well, you figure it out.

(Not that I think I’m smarter than they are. No, not at all.)

Unusual Inspirations


Fiction (Photo credit: Eat your greens!)

Sporadic posts for a few months, then – two in two days. What is wrong with me?

Here’s what’s wrong with me: I’m moving. My friend & roommate bought a townhouse and we are packing up 20 years of accumulated furniture, two lifetime’s worth of accumulated books (collected by two voracious readers!) and moving there by the end of the month.

Here’s what else is keeping me busy: I’m in the middle of proofreading/editing a book on how to build community – an essential topic in the era of Occupy – that the author and his friends/colleagues want to revise and publish in a new edition. This started out a job but as I “read” the book I’m getting intrigued by its ideas and theories. The original title was Genuine Dialogue and Real Partnership: Foundations of True Community.
Here’s what else has me too busy to blog: I just completed (well, nearly completed) a revision of the Fiction International website because the old one was looking dated.

Here’s my other “too busy to blog” excuse – and it’s a big one (though not as big as boxing books): I’m right in the middle of revising the look of David Brin’s website. In fact, the new look isn’t up yet, though it will be within a week or two weeks. He’s revising his site because he has a new science fiction novel coming out in June called Existence. (If you promise not to share it with anyone, here’s a sneak peek at his new look.)

You might think that this listing is designed to excuse my break in blogging. It’s not; it’s really about the importance of revising things other than drafts – already-published books, websites, a home. It’s also about learning something important about my writing habit:

The break in blogging occurred when I had almost nothing to do but write. Paradoxically, when I’m the busiest I’ve been in months I suddenly start blogging – and writing fiction – again. I think this teaches me something about myself: clearing time from my schedule to write is counter-productive.

Love Me Some Zombies

Intertitle from the AMC television program The...

Intertitle from the AMC television program The Walking Dead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to admit, I wasn’t a big fan of The Walking Dead, the teevee show, when it started. I watched it, of course, but I mostly watched the last five minutes when the characters stopped sitting around whining and did something. Then Glen Mazarra got promoted.

I hated the move at first, but that was because the studio suits had orchestrated the change in a particularly dickish manner. But after the end of Season 2 I was sold on Mazarra. He got rid of much of the sitting and whining and revealed the real threat – the zombified humans.

Now I really need to get around to reading the novels.