Note: The content of this article was originally written for my newsletter subscribers on March 23, 2022. If you want to read these articles while they’re still fresh, please subscribe to my newsletter today. You can find the signup link in the side panel (desktop) or at the bottom of this page (mobile).
Hi Reader Friend,
Last month, I made a promise to you. I’d talk about two things: Paperweight and the continuation of my website development horror story.
So, rather than appetizing your anticipation with even more words about things that are neither Paperweight nor horror, let’s just dive in. We can “warm up to it” later.
Whether you’ve signed up to this newsletter voluntarily or are part of some agreement to give my newsletter an inbox to visit, you’ve likely heard me mentioning the word Paperweight. If you’ve been skimming content, or if you’ve forgotten the word because I haven’t been saying it much, you might be confused.
“What’s Paperweight?” you may ask.
Well, it’s a novel(la) I’m writing, and one that you’ll get in e-book form as part of your subscription to this newsletter.
But is it one that you’ll actually want to read? That’s the real question here.
So, let me help you out by answering a few questions you didn’t ask:
- Paperweight is a cross-genre work of fiction that can best be described as Indiana Jones meets The Office. Its core genre is action-adventure with a touch of thriller, but it leans heavily into corporate satire. It also dabbles in magical realism. It’s definitely a comedy. Hopefully, it’s also funny.
- The story follows a treasure hunter who takes “one last job” to retrieve the last known Mayan treasure—a forbidden relic with mysterious powers—for a client. But when he makes the delivery, the client is missing (presumed dead), so now the treasure hunter has to find a new buyer before the relic curses him. Fortunately, he finds someone who wants it. Unfortunately, the new buyer, a CEO who’s trying to save his dying company and believes the relic can help him, needs a salesman on his team and hires the now-retired treasure hunter into his firm without telling him the truth: that the relic with mysterious powers is not going to sit on some trophy shelf in his house, but will sit on his office desk as a paperweight where its position determines the stability of the company and the safety of its employees. As you can imagine, this creates plenty of conflict, especially when the bad guys come looking for it.
- I’ve envisioned it as a novella of about 40,000 words, but it’s probably going to span into a novel of 70,000+ words given how things are going. I don’t yet know how long it’ll be, but I won’t be taking any shortcuts with it, so I expect at least 70,000 words (or roughly 275 pages), but it will probably tip higher.
- The novel(la) is based on a short story I wrote in 2010 of the same name, which I’ve included in Read My Shorts: Volume 1, which you can read right now by accessing your subscriber bonuses.
So, that’s the snapshot view of the story. I don’t yet know when I’ll have it finished or ready for reading, but you will have access to the e-book once I announce it. Be aware that the e-book will not be available at any retailer for at least a year, only here via my newsletter, but I will have paperback and hardcover versions available on Amazon if you want to support my work financially when the time comes. This may also be preferable for those of you who’d rather read a book you can hold than one you can tap.
And, as always, if you want to be the first to read it (even before my other subscribers), then please sign up to my beta reading team. That’s the best way to give me early feedback on any book I’ve got coming up the line.
But, in case you need a little motivation, I’ll be posting a short excerpt to my newsletter next month. Stay tuned.
A Year Later: Going from No Website to a Full-Fledged Author Site (Part 2)
Okay, so now more about my website development horror story. If you haven’t yet read Part 1, you can play catch-up by revisiting the email I’d sent on Thanksgiving. Alternatively, you can read it via my “Newsletter Articles” section of my site’s “Latest News” page once I post to it in a few weeks. (I’m still posting backdated articles and haven’t gotten to that one yet, but I will soon.)
Newsletter Note: It’s posted. You can read it here.
When we last visited this story, I’d just lost two-thirds of my website content with a single bad save followed by another bad save. With just 24 pages surviving (down from about 52, which was originally down from almost 80), I had to figure out how to stop it from deleting any more.
But who was I to intervene in web-related things of which I have no understanding? I’m just an author who dared to build and maintain his own author site in an effort to expand his reach to readers. Madness was going to happen!
Fortunately, there’s an unwritten rule in business that states customer service should always be at the forefront of good product management. In other words, I’d bought a WordPress page theme from a company that specializes in a particular type of WordPress page theme, and if I were to solve the problem of why that theme started deleting my pages, then I needed to contact my theme provider with the exact story of what had just happened.
So, I sent them an email after the second deletion. They sent me a response.
“The page builder doesn’t delete WordPress pages,” was the basic response I got.
So, by this point, it’s April, and I’ve had the site for going on five months. In that time, I’d developed page themes for my author bio, contact page, policies and promotions, and most of my product pages for individual books. Because I’m basically a newbie at web design, I didn’t know much about best practices going into the project, so I didn’t get any of these pages up to a standard I liked with any particular quickness. But I did manage to create some pages I liked, and I really didn’t want to lose any of them.
So, when tech support told me that their page builder didn’t delete WordPress pages, I had to say, “Well, actually…”
Then I proceeded to demonstrate how their theme deleted my pages by recording a screen capture of their theme deleting my pages. I did this by just hitting “save.”
When the demonstration was over, I was down to eight pages.
But I’d made my point. Three days later, they found the problem and promised a patch would come out as soon as possible.
So, I was right. Their theme deleted my pages.
But, they were also right. Their theme did not delete my WordPress pages.
Don’t be. As it turned out, there was good news underneath this layer of shock and loss, and that news stemmed from how the theme builder actually worked.
Yes, I’d lost most of my work from that third and final bad save. But not really.
Perhaps I need to backtrack to the second bad save to clarify this paradox.
When I saw what had happened to the pages I’d built in February and March, I was pissed and needed a two-week nap to get my head together. But then, once I calmed down, tried rebuilding the pages again, and watched as the second failure left me with fewer than 30 original pages, all I could do was laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Clearly, this wasn’t part of the page builder’s intended design, so I reexamined the situation and considered my abilities and options. After all, I’d already invested hundreds of dollars into this site, and I couldn’t throw it all away before seeing my vision come to life. There had to be a way to fix this.
On that examination, I realized one of the abilities I had was to save my layouts to a different folder. For anyone who knows anything about web design, you’ll know these layouts are exported into something called a JSON file. That JSON file contains the code needed to recreate a page as it was designed. And, because web design is just a matter of telling web code where assets from the database should be displayed and how, as long as my content still exists (posts, photos, etc.), my page layout can be reconstructed rather easily. As long as I save the layout to my library, that is.
So, rather than construct new pages to replace the ones I’d lost, I saved the layouts for my surviving pages.
The bad news was that I obviously couldn’t do this for the pages I’d lost—two-thirds of my site by this point. But the good news was that the surviving pages had the templates I’d used to create the ones I’d lost. So, to rebuild my lost pages, I just had to paste in their respective templates and copy back in their text and images.
Oh, yeah, did I mention that I don’t create a single page until I’ve written it out as a Word document first?
So, I saved every template I could, then waited for my theme builder to release the patch that would solve the problem.
By May, the patch had arrived. Once I installed the patch, I went right back to work replacing the pages I’d lost. Then I hit “save.” This time, the page builder deleted all the pages from the front end of my list.
So, the patch had solved nothing. It just reversed the order in which it had deleted things. But, based on what it had done previously, I could see it was at least trying to do better.
Regardless, it wasn’t good enough, so I needed a new way to approach the problem. Fortunately, that way involved exploiting the half of the truth that my theme provider got right.
More on that in Part 3, coming soon, probably.
And thanks for reading.
Until next time.