Cheerleading November 2013: Gabe Venema

Gabe Venema With A PipeNaNoWriMo participant Gabe Venema has had one hell of a year. Between the trivial bullshit of high school and his actual home burning down in a motherfucking wildfire, Gabe has every excuse to just lay low and do nothing at all. But check this guy out, he’s doing the EXACT OPPOSITE.

Gabe Venema is only related to me by law, and very distantly at that, but that won’t stop me from telling everyone I know that he’s one of those socially-conscious-yet-level-headed and all-around inspirational people that I wish I lived near. This dude has taken up the challenge of creating a work of literature in the month of November. National Novel Writing Month is a big challenge — a really big challenge — and I know he’s already busy with other, you know, more pressing matters like life in general. But look at him, he’s doing it. He is on his way to contributing to the great lexicon of American literature.

And he got a late start, which for many is cause enough to throw in the towel. But he’s at it like a champ, so I want everyone out there who’s not shy to give Gabe some support. He can do it. HE CAN DO IT.

Leave comments wherever you can — spread the word any way you can — GABE, YOU CAN WRITE THIS BEAST.

Seriously, this dude is amazing. And he’s whip smart. And he loves Green Day, which means he has excellent taste in music.

And I’m really eager to see what his NaNoWriMo project brings.

Seriously, Jen Rosenstein, You Can Use This As Your Logo

Goodtimesaurus - For Partying Dino Style

Jen Rosenstein, you can use this Nintendo-playing Goodtimesaurus as your logo if you want. No offense taken if you would rather pass. No money need change hands. It’s not even copyrighted.

I drew it for Draw A Dinosaur Day last month, and I was going to do something interesting with it, but giving it to you for a logo is much more interesting than anything I would have done.

Let me know if you want it. If not, I’ll give it away to starving children in a developing nation somewhere. Maybe Bangladesh?


Cheerleading November 2012: Stephanie Hammer

Stephanie HammerStephanie Hammer is a professor of mine from way, way back in my days at UC Riverside. Devon & I recently met up with her again in Hollywood and got all caught up on kids, books, kids’ books, and film noir from the 90’s. We also briefly touched on NaNoWriMo, and let me tell you all: when Stephanie Hammer says she is going to do something, she does not mean she is going to just kind of do that thing. She means she is going to DO THAT THING. With gusto. With applomb. With verve. She does it all the way and then some.

She is currently rocking a word count that most people would be happy with having written in a whole year, and we’re barely halfway through the month. But you know what? That’s no reason to start coasting. Now is the time for the slow clap.



Clap clap…

Clap clap clap clap clap clap *HOOOORAAAAAAY!!*



Cheerleading November 2012: Devon MacGregor

Male CheerleaderNaNoWriMo and Movember are two exceptionally great things that come about each November. This year, I’m not participating in either, but I know people who are, and I want to do everything I can to cheer them on.

To kick off this cheerleading racket, I would like to lead the cheer for one Devon MacGregor, who is participating in her very first NaNoWriMo!  Devon, as you may or may not know, is my illustrious wife and mother to my daughter Aliena, and Devon claims she is not a writer.  This may be the case, if you count being “more of an editor” the same thing as “not a writer.”  But she’s got the skills, and she’s got a graduate certificate in publishing from the University of Denver, so don’t think for one moment that this lady can’t put down 50,000 words in a thirty-day window.

Her novel is unexpectedly science-fictiony, and because I live with her, I’ve had some sneak previews.  I love what I see so far.  When she hit 15,000 words, I high-fived her so hard I shattered my hand.

Let’s give this girl all the cheer she can get!  GO, DEVON, GO!  GO, DEVON, GO!

I’d really love to link to her author page, but she doesn’t really have one, so instead, I’ll encourage everyone to go visit her Instagram feed.  She’s really talented visually, as well.

Time To Get That “Official Announcement” Out Of The Way

Big News!Timing is always tricky, but one thing I’ve learned is that blog posts aren’t as prone to timing hits and misses as social media channels, so I guess I’ll just go ahead and officially announce that I have a book for sale.

This is terribly bland, and I apologize for the lack of fanfare. But, really, it’s a self-published ebook of poetry, so fanfare is probably inappropriate. I guess I should maybe start going to poetry open mics or something. I’ll check the search engines for local happenings maybe. My experience in Chicago was that those who were best at being interesting were notoriously bad at showing up in search engines, so probably I’ll have to just throw a dart at a map and start talking to people in real life. This could get very dangerous or very boring very quickly.

Maybe something is happening in Ojai. Stuff happens in Ojai.

Anyway, yes, I am now technically officially shilling my own book for NOOK or Kindle:

The Moving Sidewalk To Mars

It’s poetry. It’s drawings. Dig it.


Sharkblog - it is on

Just in time for the Detroit Auto Show, I am ready to unveil the all-new 2012 – now with more Sharkblog!

Sharkblog is not only here permanently, but is now a much bigger priority, largely thanks to my friendly wife who occasionally reminds me that I lack focus and really shouldn’t bounce from project to project when I haven’t fully exhausted the potential of the first one I started.

Hence: rather than start a new project involving all the things I left out of Sharkblog last year, I’ll instead keep on Sharkblogging and go ahead & implement the things. All the things. And I’ll track it all using both Google Analytics and the new site stats that come with installing Jetpack for WordPress. (Tracking things is very important.)

The very nature of Sharkblog displays my natural tendency to split focus. It’s a two-fold project: blog about shark monsters, mainly shark hybrid beasts, and also blog about the SEO results of the blog about shark hybrids and monsters. It’s like having a two-person play where the other person is the actor’s reflection in a mirror.

So my New Year’s resolution this year is not a list of benchmarks to check off. It is one word: focus.

And I’ve decided that Sharkblog is worth my time and energy, so is now more devoted to high-quality shark monster hybrid content than ever before. The site has been redesigned to be more Sharkblog-centric.

On a related note, I’m also more devoted to getting a better day career than “account manager,” so I’m going to really boost the efforts to bring in more high-quality traffic with Sharkblog. I’m going to do one thing at a time, and do it well, and make sure I can show measurable improvements. I’m going to establish a definable Sharkblog universe. I’m going to track the progress and analyze every single little move. I’m going to focus the hell out of this portion of the website.

And I’ll still post about other random shit from time to time. Don’t you worry about that, no sir.

And luckily for everyone out there, I’ve made the switch from creating a new blog post from every tweet to simply having a Twitter sidebar widget (to your left), so you can subscribe by email & your inbox won’t get blasted with constant nonsense. You’ll just get the solid and the polished.

To sum up: a brand new direction for, and a bigger and brighter future for Sharkblog. More focus. More sharks. More better.


Twitter Grader | Get Your Twitter Ranking

Twitter Grader | Get Your Twitter Ranking.

Check it out, peeps: bastion of marketing awesomeness Hubspot has a free tool called the Twitter Grader.  It’s exactly what it sounds like: it grades your Twitter feed.  It gives you your rank among all of Twitter.  All of it.

However, I went to see what I could do better and it appears I’m doing everything perfectly.  Or so they say.


As I discovered via‘s Twitter-scoring tool, I suck at Twitter.  I like their tool better in that it’s more honest and it comes with a fun visual.  (As you can see, has me cast as some shoeless hipster who complains about everything.)

Bil Gaines is terrible at Twitter.

Hubspot pegged me somewhere in the 2 million-somethingth ranking. That sounds about right.

But no suggestions on how to improve that ranking?  Surely I can do something better.  Next quarter, I want to see my score in the 1.9 million range.


What’s so damned important about Twitter?

Fortune and glory, kid, fortune and glory.

Specifically: I hope to leverage a following to earn a living as a writer of fictional things. Twitter is one avenue for building said following. If I show up to a publisher or agent or, really, anyone who can pay me for what I write, and I say, here’s this finished manuscript, it’s hey-great-good-for-you-get-in-line. But if I show up with a finished manuscript and a healthy string of almost-guaranteed sales, then it’s hey-step-inside-let’s-talk.

So I guess I can start now. I’ll try the old “ask” trick. Do me a favor? If you’re still reading this, can you let your friends know about this site? Share on Twitter or Facebook or StumbleUpon or whatever your preferred social medium is.

What’s in it for you? I’ll tell you.

Your incentive is this: send me a screenshot of you telling your friends about this website and you’ll get a discount on my pending venture into the brutal underground world of self-publication and self-sales. I have a short story in the works and should have it for sale within a month or two. You can get it cheaper than anybody else. This offer expires as soon as I get that story officially up for sale. It’s not a huge incentive, but then again, it’s not a huge amount of work to share the link. I hope this sounds reasonable. (Note: this’ll probably be digital-only, at least at first, so you’ll need a Nook or a Kindle or an iPad or something.)

And because I am aiming to rank better than 2 million on my Twitter score from Hubspot by next quarter, I’m hoping for more Twitter followers who aren’t spambots or porn. Good luck to all of us.

Fortune and Glory.

SHARKBLOG: 100 Facts About Sharks (A Book!)

100 Facts About Sharks | 100 Facts About Sharks.

Finally. A useful book on sharks.

Check this site often. Apparently, there is a promotional video in the works!

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated since October.

It’s a strange thing to contemplate – how do you continually produce fresh and relevant content for a printed book of facts, without giving away the product? And if you can’t do that, how do you market it in non-traditional ways?

And when you think about the product you’re selling…do you even need non-traditional marketing? Is a blog-style website design not even useful?

Hmm… Blog Blog.

Are you excited?  I am excited.  The Blog is here.

This excites me because I’ve been waiting for this site to really get going.  Even as I type, their library of infographics is becoming larger and stronger.  The addition of the blog will surely pull in more creative types who will use (and/or contribute to) the library.

I encourage folks to use this site as much as possible.  More than anything, I want this site to succeed because I want their “labs” to come online for me.  I expect a powerful graphic-creation tool.  I want it now.  I drool for this tool.  I dream about it.  I CAN. NOT. WAIT.

In the meantime, I will continue to quietly gather data on sharks and shark hybrid monstrosities as they relate to my own web traffic.  It’s all in the interest of learning, I swear.  It’s only partly about the fame.  Don’t want to get stuck in my current job forever, you know, gotta learn my own ropes before I manage someone else’s.

Created by Shark Lovers at

In other news, I heard StumbleUpon got a nifty new redesign.  I haven’t looked at it. I’m not a Stumbler myself, but I’ve heard good things, so I decided to help myself and StumbleUpon at the same time.  Now you have an icon down below.  Share away.

I also added Tumblr, because it rhymes with stumbler. – Infographics & Data Visualizations

Infographics & Data Visualizations –

I hope you cats are ready for the next level of Sharkblog, ’cause I just discovered this website where soon I will literally be able to CREATE MY OWN INFOGRAPHICS.

Oh, this excites me in all the wrong ways.  Oh, yes.

Their generator tool is not yet available, but I’ve signed up to be among the first to know when it launches.  In the meantime, I went ahead and tried out their me-on-Twitter tool.

As I suspected, I am completely pathetic on Twitter:

This is actually really embarrassing, since I talk up Twitter to people in real life all the time. But I’m not going to go out of my way to build a list of followers on Twitter that don’t mean anything. I’m not one of those marketing people who follows five thousand users in hopes they’ll automatically follow me back. Similarly, I don’t automatically follow every marketer and spammer that follows me.

I insist on high quality Twitter followers. Only the best.

New Side Gig: Writer

Writing is ultimately how I would like to make my living, and for the first time in my life I’ll be able to call myself a steady professional. I’ve made a few bucks from publishing before, but now I have a title and consistency. I’ve officially published the first of many articles as the Chicago Green Parenting Examiner.  Check me out.

My goal with this gig is to write two or three articles per week on the sensitive subject of environmentally-friendly child-rearing.  It’s a big deal.  I started it all off with something I really do care a lot about: cloth diapering.  My entire angle is to make “green parenting” less of a hippie-dippy drug-trip lifestyle, and more of just a set of responsible and money-saving lifestyle habits.

Obviously, this is not the bright burning glory of a one-off published piece of fiction, and I doubt it will pay more than one small bill per month, but hey – a part-time professional writer is still a professional writer.

Score one for Bil.

Digital Photography vs. Digital Design: Technology

Sitting in San Francisco International Airport, staring dumbly at the Ten Winners of the 2011 National Design Awards, it occurred to me that the Polaroid photos that define a previous generation are now widely available for us all in digital form, and that helps us as a generation define those of the Polaroid years.  However, we also use the professional design of those times to define those times.  Everything visual, really.

What I mean is this: in the same sense that the history of the Revolutionary War can be condensed into a textbook for us to read and learn from, so too can the pictures of the past be placed onto a website for our viewing pleasure.  The ease with which we are able to see so many photos that were not intended to be on the internet gives us, the internet users, the power to define the history.  We can reshape it and display those photos as we see fit, and tell the story our own way.

And the design of our times – in all aspects of life, not just casual photography – this, too, is available for us to see on the internet.  The sheer number of eyeballs viewing these artistic endeavors (and the not-so-artistic ones) was completely unimaginable 30 years ago.

And watch where technology takes us.  I’ll bet you in 30 years it will be even easier to see our silly games and passionate efforts, and our children will have the power to define us by the images they see on their chosen media.

And all our graphic design – the professional work of trained individuals – will most likely be lumped in with the impulsive, amateurish photos we take for no other reason than to have fun…pretty much the same way we look at outdated design styles and lump them in with the old Polaroids.

At least, I do that.  I assume others do, too.

Think about it: those orange and brown stripes on the wall at an old bowling alley and the sitcom-esque font used to display the name of the joint.  They could just as easily be in a roller rink where tall people in short shorts and long hair cruised in circles to the dulcet tones of Adam Ant.  But the people who bowled and the people who roller skated were not necessarily the same people, were they?


I’ll be honest: my hope is that thanks to all this digital publishing, future generations will have a much wider scope of their vision of the past than I do.  I hope they are better able to tell that people have always been diverse, and yet we mix together like marbles in a bag.

Analytics Check-Up

Search engine optimization takes a while, and to be honest, I don’t have a content strategy. Which is fine, because I also don’t have anything to sell at this time.  Really, what’s happening is that I’m blathering on like an idiot and hoping to repeat myself often enough to get the search engines to point to me for certain keywords.  Keywords like Sharkblog.

I’m already at the top of the search results for “Bil Gaines.”  I’m pretty confident in that one. Google is constantly coming up with sneaky new ways to “tailor” their search results to be more “in tune” what what they think I “want” (see Google Is People?) but I have a feeling that by now almost anybody who searches for my name will find my website.*

Thanks to Google Analytics, I now know that more people have come to my website by searching “HydraHeston” than by searching “Bil Gaines.”  That’s pretty awesome.  It means my content strategy is working.

*If you want a video that encapsulates both my growing paranoia and simultaneous illicit love of Google into one convenient and well-constructed argument (complete with engaging slideshow), I recommend Eli Pariser’s TED talk:

I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, and perhaps I can expand on them in another post down the line, but this video sums it up succinctly. I really am considering purchasing his book, but first I’d have to finish the “I, Robot” series and then I’d have to get over my distaste for hardcover books.

By the way, public service announcement: Shark Week starts on July 31.  I feel like I want to do something special for the occasion, but I’m not sure what.  I will have a baby by then, perhaps I’ll celebrate Shark Week by dressing her up as a shark.  It’ll be good for father-daughter bonding.  Also, it’s good for children to have nightmares.  I read that somewhere.


I use WordPress. If you’re reading this, it means you use WordPress, too, but more for the reading and not necessarily for the publishing. I use it to publish this which you read. WordPress helps us all out.

The latest version of their platform, version 3.1, is called “Django” (after old-timey jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt). Since I happen to know that the world’s most famous Matt, Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, is a bit of a jazz fanatic, I can only assume that Matt loves WordPress 3.1 as much as he loves Django Reinhardt, which is probably a lot.

I, too, love Django Reinhardt. I would like to believe, therefore, that I too will love WordPress 3.1.

So I’ve downloaded it and installed it, but so far I detect no noticeable difference. Perhaps it’s got more to do with site architecture and SEO friendliness. I guess I could go read up on it. Maybe. Maybe not.

The only thing that I hoped for, really, was for my website not to look like this on my computer at work:

Pssst...if this doesn't look any different to you, please let me know.

Unfortunately, the upgrade did not help. It still looks like that at work. Not a big deal, I haven’t been hearing from anyone else that it looks so bad, but you never know. If it’s a Windows 7 thing, I may be in trouble down the line, but not so much right now.

Luckily, this video of Django Reinhardt still comes through beautifully.

Man. Look at that pencil thin mustache. It is something to aspire to. I’m working on a beard to distract from my too-short haircut, but perhaps when my hair is of a length appropriate to cream-oil the bejeezus out of it, I’ll trim my face down to the suave Django look.

Then maybe I’ll let both my hair and the ‘stache grow out. You never know. It was a pretty popular look once upon a time.

How Authors Really Make Money: The Rebirth of Seth Godin and Death of Traditional Publishing

Is straight-to-eBook the new straight-to-video?  Yes and no.

How Authors Really Make Money: The Rebirth of Seth Godin and Death of Traditional Publishing.

I’m gonna go ahead and ask everybody I know who has any aspirations toward writing, fiction or non-fiction, to read this article.  (Don’t skip the video in the middle.)

Obviously, I’m among the “aspiring authors” mentioned in this article, and so am still on the outside of the proverbial roomful of established writers, proverbially looking in.  Thus, I can’t say whether Tim Ferriss’ advice is valuable or not.  However, it sounds really smart, so I’ll assume it is.


Luckily, I read the comments, and one ireful (really? “Ireful” is a valid word? Okay.) reader had this to say:

Your headline caught me and I was excited (as usual) until I realized that (as usual) you had failed to take popular fiction into accout.

These models can’t work with genre fiction. Public speaking to build your platform, for instance, isn’t a viable option. Speak about what and to whom? There’s no platform there. In genre fiction you’re putting out (for some authors) a book a month. The platform is constantly shifting.

As a fiction author who worked up to full time writing via the ebook industry (which, for the last ten years, was where the former New York mid-list relocated to), wrote full time for 14 months, then just had to take a crappy $9/hr day job because stupid long tail economics ( just killed off my monthly royalties again, I find your post completely unrealistic as far as fiction is concerned and have a hard time even finishing reading it. I think you need to put a proviso in the front end of it. NOT FOR FICTION AUTHORS. We have a whole different set of problems to deal with.



To which Ferriss took the time to reply:

I’m a non-fiction author and know very little about fiction. If you’re a fiction writer, your options seem to be:

1) make money from book royalties
2) make money teaching at a writing program
3) selling a movie option
4) writing and selling a screenplay
5) creating a muse of some type


So, with an article filled with smart advice for non-fiction authors, combined with those five options right there for making a living, I think I’ll be set on the right track.  I can write a manuscript before attempting to sell it.  I can write a screenplay.

If I can actually get my head on straight, I think I’ll make it.  I really do.