Pantsters, Plottsters, and Hippies—Conventional vs. Self-Publishing

Guest Column by Dan Baldwin, Ghost-Writer & Author

Dan with a cigarI remember the 1950s when conformity in life, belief and culture was not only expected, it was demanded. Most people went along, but there were a few on the fringe who refused to conform. This was before the age of the hippie. (Although of that generation, I have more in common with the beatniks—jazz, writing, being cool as opposed to being loud, “sick” comedians like Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl.) We seem to be living in a retro-fifties era today. The cries for conformity are everywhere. If you’ll watch the news carefully you’ll see that the “free” kids of the sixties, who are now in their seventies, are bringing back the worst of the fifties.

Dan, send me your BANDANA Story!

Will it be scary, salty, bloody?

That’s true in the writing universe, too. As with the “pantsters” vs. “plotters” debate, we have an ongoing confrontation between those who believe in the conventional and those who believe in the cool (originally a beat term).

Dan with Pendulum

Dan talking to the spirits of the past with his pendulum

The conformist seek comfort in well-established, inflexible rules. The cool isn’t afraid to risk pushing the edge of the box or even punching through now and then. For example, the conventional believes with the faith of a 12-year-old Southern Baptist at her first tent revival that a work must—must mind you—be rewritten and rewritten and rewritten until like Goldilocks says, “it’s just right.” The cool, with the confidence in his own ability looks across the uncharted literary landscape and says, “I wonder what’s over there” and then makes the journey to find out.

Dan at Weavers NeedleBeing a beat generation survivor, I think of myself as a cool. I send my works to first readers for their input. I listen to that input, evaluate it, and incorporate their suggestions if I agree with them. A conventional writer will automatically submit to the recommended changes of an editor, critique group, best friend, fellow writer, or first reader without hesitation. Why? Because that’s the way it’s done. The rule book says so.

Dan and donkeyA conventional knows for a fact that the way to publishing success is to get an agent who will get a publisher who will then publish the work. He knows for certain that this is the only sure-fire method. The cool knows that he can take that road or choose another, such as self-publishing. I’ve debated the pros and cons of traditional vs. self-publishing and each side has its share. The amount of emotional attachment some authors have to conventional thinking, however, borders on religious belief.

I am not against conventional writing, publishing or marketing techniques provided they are not employed by rote simply because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.’  To me, conventional or cool should be a choice and not a self-imposed mandate.

Dan and booksSomething to think about, eh? Give it some thought.

Dan Baldwin has been my role model and motivator for the last 15 years. He has penned and ghosted probably more than 70 books. Mysteries, thrillers, westerns, and the paranormal are his favorite genres. In his spare time he works as a psychic detective to let the departed speak through his pendulum. You can contact him through his website below.

DAN BALDWIN at Four Knights Press

Dan on Radio: The Paranormal Pendulum

Never mind the ads–Dan’s interview starts a couple of minutes in.

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A Taste of Bandana Berries

Here is a taste of my my bandana story. It’s about the red snuff kerchief that my Opa always carried along. But how will this story end?

Opa and 2-year old AnnElise

Opa took me to the St. Leonhard’s horse parade. I was 2 years old

“Opa has picked berries for you!” Mom was in her typical taking-care-of-business mode. She rushed past me through the kitchen with a load full of washed laundry. She had no time to waste before heading back out into the field.

This was the berry-picking and haymaking season in my Bavarian village. You could tell by the tattered house dress Mama was wearing. Her hair was tied under a headscarf. Her skin was flushed. On her upper arms tan lines showed from longer sleeves. She was ready to jump on the tractor as soon as the sheets were hung.

I flung my school bag into the corner of the bench. Then I dropped my four letters down and grabbed the plate,  warmed-up pancake soup and a schmalznoodle. For those who do not know, pancake soup is a clear broth with plain omelet strips cut into it, and schmalznoodles are sticks of fried bread. Beggars can’t be choosers, but I could smell the berries before Mama had set the bowl on the table.

“Here, Opa picked these for you!”

Wow, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries. They glistened like sumptuous little jewels. “Where did he find them?”

“Inside the Marsh Moss clearing. Didn’t take him but 15 minutes to scoop these up.”

Grandpa always looked out for us kids, me and my three younger siblings. He helped us build bird houses, constructed an underpass along the creek so that we didn’t have to cross the busy state road, and made sure to drive us home at 6:30 with a stick.

“How did he carry them home? Did he have a basket?”


“His hat?’

“Nope, his bandana. You know how he ties these knots in it.”

“His bandana?”

“Yes. Eat up. I must go now. There is some cream in the fridge. Aren’t you getting a royal feast today! Thank your Opa for it.” And out she was. Seconds later, the small tractor puttered off the yard.

Gramps’ bandana? The berries suddenly didn’t smell so good any more. I didn’t dare imagine all the places the bandana had been. And he never put it in the wash. He insisted on washing it himself, usually in the rainwater trough under the gutter spout. Easy grandpa logic. That red bandana was his only one. His lucky bandana. He couldn’t do a day without it. So, he washed it himself, as needed.

As needed? I gagged. I kept on ladling my pancake soup, very slowly. Gramps’ bandana, was it washed? When was it washed last? I ogled the sparkling berries in front of me. And my imagination went wild. Poisoned by a snuffed out bandana?

Should I risk a light bandana poisoning? It was a hot day today, and gramps for sure had wiped his sweat on his bandana. Or was I in for a severe intoxication from snuff snot? That is, my gramps was addicted to stuffing Gletscherprise (Glacier Pinch) up his nose and then blow it out like an erupting volcano into his almighty bandana. Brown goop. That and the recent bloody accident had made the “bandana berries” most unpalatable to me. Three days ago, gramps had spliced not only the kindling but also his palm with his splicing knife. Blood was dripping. “No big deal,” he had growled after mom had rushed to bring him a bandage. He beat her to it and wrapped his good-fortune bandana around his palm. Maybe it had curative properties? The next day the cut was gone.

Where all had the bandana been? I stared at the bowl of berries. The soup was finished and I was still hungry. I pulled the bowl closer and sniffed the stunning aroma.

Berries with cream

Bandana berries—to eat or not to eat was the question

How do you think the story ends? Send me your (alternate) ending for this bit. It would be great fun to contribute your guesses to my story.

And send me your story soon!

NOTE: My webmail isn’t jinxed. It just may ask you to declare yourself as human. So write in any time if you’re not an android. If you’re getting a weird reply, it’s my spam blocker.

The ad of the day: Dump the plastic detergent and find yourself a real man!

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Priyanka’s Spin on a Classical Vase

Greek-style Plexi-vase

S-P-E-C-T-A-C-U-L-A-R ! I can’t stop watching this. It’s mesmerizing. Reflections and light play a bag of tricks on my mind. And not only did my daughter Priyanka build this piece, motor and all, she also made the GIF of 85 sandwiched pictures above. And this is how she describes it:

“Kinetic Column is my contemporary take on an iconic, historical relic. It’s completely built out of neon acrylic sheets. The transparency and bright colors contrast the white stone columns we traditionally know. The top platform is meant to resemble the turning pedestals you would see in home shopping TV shows. An amphora vase cut and etched on iridescent acrylic serves as the topper.”

For this mind-bending piece of art, she had to first bend some plexiglass with the help of her mentor Trey Duvall:

Priyanka writes: “This project is one of my efforts to create open source art. I currently work at an open source technology company (SPARKFUN)and am incredibly inspired by the sharing of information to recreate or expand upon projects. I think this makes the exclusive fields of creating art, designing tech, or writing code more accessible to a range of people that would not normally think to explore those realms.”

Here is more to watch—Laser etching:

Laser cutting:

And this the movie of all of it:

Isn’t it something? Technology, design, and craftsmanship come together. Priyanka is preparing to soon learn and build more at the NYU Tisch School of Design ITP Program. She will start her studies for the Masters degree in August. Can’t wait to see what comes next. (bragging rights of a proud mom)

Here is Priyanka’s website with art for sale:

Makin ART

And don’t forget: Please send me a BANDANA STORY–tell all your friends about it! Let’s have fun with it!

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The Bandana Book–Call for Entries

Wow, I hopped on the Internet–it’s astounding what bandanas are all good for! I thought I could make a book of it. But not without your help. Submit your entries! Download the guidelines below. $200 grand prize; $100 second; and $50 for honorable work (multiple)–tell your friends!

Bandana gone to the dogs

Bandanas have been an important hiking gear for me. Sometimes we have turned around when I forgot my neck-saver. Indeed, I am a redneck. I burn easily. Perhaps that happened to the cowboys too, when they were driving cattle under the scorching Texas sun. Ditto. Necks turn red. Or, wait a minute, were they wearing a paisley red bandana? That would explain the expression, too.

My bandana is blue and has Hopi dancers and decorations on it. Of course bandanas come in all colors and patterns, but red is still the best. And those colorful mini rags are usually dirt cheap. Michaels, the crafts store, will sell them for a couple of bucks. Don’t pay any more than ten. Some bandanas like to claim a boutique extravaganza. Mine actually came from a Goodwill store. Maybe 50 cents? I’ll ask my daughter.

John Wayne’s trademark rag

What else is a bandana good for? It got me thinking. My grandpa never left house without one in his trouser pockets. Mostly—gee thanks, but gross—he used it to wipe snuff and snot off his mustache. But at times (I hope that kerchief was clean), he carried mushrooms or blueberries home in his bandana. He tied the diagonal corners together to make a carry bag. On one occasion, he used his bandana  as a bandage after he cut his hand splicing kindling wood.

A bandana could, seriously, save your life. Maybe you got injured and needed a tourniquet. Or you got lost and needed a flag for the helicopter search team to find you. Or you needed to filter drinking water from a desert puddle. My friend Edda might use a bandana as a signal flag for the prettiest Texas cedar tree for Christmas. And on it goes.

Bandanas are not only for hikers, cowboys, and pirates. Animals like bandanas too. Do you have a bandana at home? Maybe you can write a story about it and send it to me. I am so much looking forward to that!

Call For Entries: BANDANA Stories

More uses for bandanas here:

20 Bandana Uses

30 Bandana Uses

74 Bandana Uses

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Dole Container Shipping Is Bananas!

Dole Pacific ship anchoring at San Diego, CA

Like the fat Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland I sit perched on the window sill of our 13th floor room at the Hilton in San Diego. Down there, at the dock, a ginormous cargo ship lies anchored. Its name is the Dole Pacific. It’s stacked high with white containers. Piles of “white mice.”
Dole cargo shipAnd then the process begins. Like a cat watching mice at play, I get entranced with the container logistics 13 stories below me. So many containers! So many bananas? Or were they filled with pineapples?
The big “Dole” boxes all  have refrigeration fans and stack up perfectly, on the cargo ship as well as on the loading zone. No “supply chain problem” for bananas, so much busy-body activity below.

The cargo ship at anchor had two cranes for unloading the containers. Close by the dock, there was a mountain of containers piled up. Were they empty? Crammed on the islands between the throughways, spindly trailers were neatly filed up. And across from the monster warehouse with its gaping receiving gullets, the “mice” were perfectly sorted into numbered spots to be carted away.

Dole container warehousingHow does all this work? At eight o’clock sharp, the first harbor rig, a motorized box with a hitch in its back, crawled out of the abyss somewhere below me. Its overnight sleeping location was invisible from my windowsill. What was that tiny looking tadpole up to now? Catch some mice? You bet! That cabin vehicle knew exactly what it was doing. It backed straight into one spindly trailer, hitched it, and scurried with it to the dock. There it sidled up to the monster boat. Slowly but surely, the crane drifted one of the hundreds of containers down on the truck’s trailer. And, happily, the truck carted the white mouse off. This process repeated itself a number of times, until half a dozen rigs scurried back and forth between the cargo ship and the distribution area.

They lined up so many mice! I smacked my lips in awe. That was no small feat, because these monster mice barely fit into their spaces. After a while, no more slots were available for the mice to be parked. But, voila, from outside, the cross-country rigs lined up by the pearly gates of Dole harbor business. One by one, ever so slowly, they pulled off one after the other mouse to the open prairie. And they knew exactly, which mouse they were getting. How did they do that? Meanwhile, the harbor rigs filled up the vacant spots with more mice. It was a mystery to me.

Dole containers (reefers)After three days, all the containers were offloaded from the Dole Pacific and she sailed off to Ecuador and other places to bring more bananas in. What was in the boxes now? Air mostly, I read, and 5 percent freight.

I was getting hungry for bananas. A cat? Why not.

The terminal at the Port of San Diego can hold about 800 containers. All of them are refrigerated boxes known as “reefers”: Each 40-foot reefer can hold 1000 boxes, and each box holds around 100 bananas. Dole discharges around 2 billion individual bananas and 16 million pineapples in San Diego alone. Read more at:

Why Dole Owns Container Ships

The Not so Vintage Banana Boat

Today’s ANTI-AD–Stop the PLASTIC Tide!!

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