Members

Members

4 minute read

I’m building a new lifestyle, here in the sun. Mags and I packed up and moved to Cyprus at the end of September 2018. If you are interested in our journey so far, click on the category “Living the Dream” which catalogues our progress.

I do a few things to keep me busy. Nero’s Notes is a company that sells notebooks and stationery online. Lime Training and Consultancy Ltd  offers anti money laundering expertise. I like to hang out with my family, which for me, means Margaret, and our canine sidekick, Spice. I play golf.

Each pastime rewards me. With revenue, satisfaction, joy or a combination of these. Thankfully, I do not try to earn money from my golf; I would be very hungry if I did rely on it to put food on the table.

My real passion is writing. I love to write, both on paper or on a keyboard. I love talking about writing. Agonising about writing. Complaining about writing. Writing about writing. In February 2015, I confidently posted here about writing my novel. April 2016, I was going to publish.

Ah.

In a matter of hours it will be 2019. I still haven’t published a novel. That’s despite taking time off other work to write the book.

Why not?

The answer to that will run long, and will certainly run the risk of being defensive, and self-serving. I shall try to be concise, and honest.

Imagine starting a new job. You arrive, eager and excited.

A desk? You need a desk? You’ll have to buy one. With your own money. A computer? Yes, you’ll need to buy that too. Pen? Paper? Yes, that too. You need to buy it all.

You realise that these things actually cost a bit. A lot actually, if you like the good stuff. Undeterred, you rationalise that these tools are important. You will use them every day to work; to work at being a writer. You’re investing in your future. The earnings will cover it.

Earnings, yes. Those. How much will you earn? Well, for the first eighteen months, nothing. Nada. Zip. After that, you can self-publish and you never know, you might get a thousand or two in sales. That might translate to a few hundred after costs.

Hmmm…hoping for more than a few hundred? Fame? Fortune? It takes years to be an overnight success, you know.

It takes hard work, talent, hard work, luck, hard work, timing and hard work. Did I mention hard work?

And with all that, the chances are that you will never earn back the money you invested in equipment, let alone the thousands of hours of your time.

That’s why not.

Why now?

Having spent a couple of years “being a writer”, which did involve some writing as well as quite a lot of buying writing ephemera, I ended up with not one, but two, first drafts. I had even done some work on combining those two drafts into one timeline. Then I stopped. Nero’s Notes took much of my time, Lime grew. I decided that these two things had better earning potential.

While that was undoubtedly true, it was not the whole answer.

I don’t like the idea of editing or of trying to find a publisher, or self-publishing. I don’t like the idea of putting hundreds more hours into marketing, with huge portions of any revenue going to third parties.

Those things too, are undoubtedly true. They are not the whole answer either. Yes, the work is daunting, Yes, the return per hour will be tiny.

The real obstacle is fear. Pride. Imposter syndrome. For many reasons, I measure success in pounds and pence. Publishing will crystallise the loss. Somewhere, I will have a spreadsheet that starkly demonstrates that writing is a waste of my time.

Now. I’ve told you. You know the truth. That’s a relief.

I’m going to edit the drafts. I’m going to publish – first to members, and then to the wider-world.

Membership – A new model

As I publish books, they will be for sale through all the usual channels, with all the usual cuts being taken by the middle-men. However – members of this site will already have copies as part of their membership.

Members will pay £12 a year. A pound a month.

Members will get access to subscriber only posts, on writing, publishing and productivity, direct access to a members chatroom, where I will hang out, and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year, before it is available on general release.

Members act as both the carrot and the stick. Revenue (after payment fees) comes direct to me, not to Amazon or Apple. Having people willing to commit upfront creates a huge incentive to repay that faith, to overcome imposter syndrome and to publish.

This approach is not new. I subscribe to several websites with similar models. The Pen Addict for one. I was inspired to write this post by Matt Gemmell, who has an excellent membership scheme and website. He has also written two superb novels, Changer and Toll, which I heartily recommend. Buy them, or even better, become one of his members.

How to join

If you would like to help, then become a member of stuartlennon.com, or give a membership as a gift.

I will still be publishing many posts on the site for everyone, after all, I want people to find me. However, a proportion of posts will be exclusive to members. Non-members will see the following message.

“This post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year.”

Naturally, there will be a link to become a member.

I don’t anticipate a tidal wave of people signing up. There are already many, many demands on our wallets. However, if you do feel able to become a member, then I’ll do my very best to give you value for money, and you will be helping me to live the dream.

Working Tools – 4. Bullet Journal

You may know that I run Nero’s Notes, where I sell notebooks and the odd bit of stationery. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that I use quite a lot of notebooks myself.

I am resolved for 2019 to keep a bullet journal, or indeed, a series of them. If you are not familiar with #bulletjournal, where have you been? That aside, go check out this excellent overview from the man that created the system. You can read about my earlier experiences with the journal here.

Quarterly System

I have decided to use one book for a quarter, at which point, I will move on to a new one, regardless of how much space remains in the current book. This is a departure; typically I flog a notebook until every single page is covered.

Why the change?

It’s all related to goals and flexibility. I do like a bit of goal setting. Traditionally, I draw up a list of annual target and goals for each area of my life, the hope being, that these will guide my every action throughout the next twelve months. It may be my age, it may be the scale of my endeavours, or it may be the modern world – but I now find that twelve months is a very long time. Therefore, I’m splitting the year into quarters, and setting goals for thirteen weeks rather than fifty two.

I will still consider the outcomes that I’m hoping for at the end of 2019, but in terms of actionable items, I’m going to focus on just the first quarter. As that quarter comes to an end, I’ll conduct a review and set targets for the next three months. There is nothing original about this approach – I’m sure that I have read it in several different places and guises. However, I’m just co-opting the time frame, in an effort to keep my goals relevant to my reality.

My goals are more diverse now, than they have ever been. There’s Nero’s Notes, Lime Training and Consultancy, this website, 1857 and my novel – just in the ‘Work’ sphere. Breaking things down into quarters forces me to focus on small, “doable” actions. This, I hope, will help ensure that my goals do not overwhelm me and become irrelevant.

Migration

A part of the bullet journal method involves a process of migration. From day to day, month to month or even journal to journal. This is a kind of enforced review and will keep reminding me of the goals set. That is not to say that they cannot change, only that if they do it will be something that happens with intention, rather than by default.

Furthermore, having lots of pages available in each journal will encourage me to make more notes. This is in part inspired by the concept that when looking to have a good ideas, a great way to get going is to focus on having lots of ideas. Joey Cofone, CEO and co-founder of Baron Fig, reminded me of this on a productivity podcast that I listened to just the other day.

Conclusion

You can find my 2019 set up here – and I will continue to update here on the site (category Journal), for better or worse.

 

Living the Dream – 27. No Quarter given.

No quarter given

A quarter. We have been here a quarter of a year. We arrived in Cyprus on the 21st of September, so today, the 22nd of December marks three months of #livingthedream.

Challenges

There have been moments, far too many moments, of despair and pain. None of us, most of all Nero, deserved his end. Our house has been empty for three years, and this contributed to burglars targeting it and the elements wearing it down.

Progress

Hopefully, we’ve fixed the roof. We have a bedroom door again, a fence encircles us and we have greatly enhanced home security. It’s too early to declare victory over our septic tank, but we do seem to be winning.

Mags and I are now “registered aliens” with certificates to prove it. We’re attending weekly “Greek school.” Our car sports a local number plate and the scar of some nasty vandalism.

Margaret’s sister, Adele is with us for an extended stay, including Christmas. She is a wonderful guest and we are having a lot of fun.

The youngest member of the family is a Shitzu-Poodle cross-breed (we think), Spice. She is settling in, and is as bright as a button. Spice too, is celebrating a quarter, as best we can guess, she is 12 weeks old. Perhaps it’s fate that she came to us.

Spice, 11 week old Shitzu-Poodle cross puppy.
So cute!

This first quarter has not been all rainbows and unicorns. However, we keep on keeping on. Sipping coffee at the beach, in December gives us hope. Likewise, golfing in the sunshine is exactly what we had envisaged.

The Future

The New Year begins with two more months of winter, until the rain departs and the temperatures creep up. We will be focusing on our businesses, and building our new life in the sun.

Living the Dream – 26. Rain? Where did that come from?

Rain? Where did that come from?

The sky, obviously.

Winter

My memory of rain here was of spectacular electrical storms, followed by beautiful clear days, the air feels thin and crisp, where before the storm it was soggy and heavy. Cypriot rain is mostly polite, falling predominantly at night.

It doesn’t rain often in Cyprus, but when it does, it makes a real effort. These last two weeks have been punctuated by violent, percussive storms.

We’ve had some of that, but we’ve also had prolonged spells of persistent, soaking precipitation. Heck, it has even been a mite parky.

Rain in Cyprus
Winter is here

Already feeling that Aphrodite’s Isle has been less than welcoming to us, Mags has been put out by the rain. Plans for beaching, golfing, even washing have been, …well, washed out.

Respite

All that said, on Saturday, I played Golf in the sunshine. On Sunday, I roasted a chicken on the BBQ. The latest bout of weather arrived during the night, and I fully expect to be back on the golf course on Wednesday, in bright sunshine and 20 degrees. The same day in the UK, the forecast shows ‘wintry showers’ and a temperature of 7 degrees.

On the golf course
It’s not all rain.

What interests me, is how quickly our expectations have changed. Living in the UK, every plan included the very real possibility of pretty much every type of weather. Certainly, year-round, my golf bag included warm layers, waterproof layers and sun cream.

I was scheduled to play golf today, and though it is raining, in the UK, I would not have hesitated to go out. “Skin is waterproof.” I would say. Here – one look at the grey skies, and I’m reaching for the pullover and a good book.

“Shall we put the heating on for a bit?”

Experience warns me that in August, I will be yearning for rain and cool air.

Never satisfied, are we?

Living the Dream – 25. Sugar & Spice

Spice Girls in the cage

Sugar & Spice, and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of…

Quite apart from being a gender stereotype, our “Working Titles” for the newest additions to the Lennon household are quickly turning out to be misnomers.

Background

Some monster abandoned the litter of eight at the gates of the pound. Two didn’t make it, and a UK-based family has adopted the boy. Mags met the remaining five girls. (I avoid dog rescue centres, as I am a sucker for sad eyes. We would end up with ALL the dogs at home.) Four were black and white and one was brown and white. The brown one had a twinkle in her eye and a nose for mischief. One of her sisters had a speckled snout, a piercing stare and a fondness for kisses. Sugar & Spice fits the bill.

First Days

Sugar & Spice are cute, loving, and stink. Kennel life is not the Ritz and the vet gave us strict instructions not to give the girls a bath until they get their second jabs. They fight as only siblings do, but will not sleep unless they are touching each other. I can sit for hours watching them sleep; in fact I do. Winter storms are crashing across the island, but the girls are only mildly curious. Mostly, they sleep through them. House training is ongoing and both dogs are as smart as tacks. I daresay we will have our hands full. Seconds ago, we discovered that one or other of them , or possibly both, possess weapon-grade flatulence.

Litter-Mate Syndrome

Who knew? LMS is a thing.

It seems that litter-mates homed together can form an unnatural relationship. Mutually dependent, yet overly aggressive. Sugar & Spice go at it, hammer and tongs, with a ferocity that belies their stature. Mags and I were on tenterhooks, desperately keeping the combatants apart. Research and advice from friends was unanimous. The best thing for the girls and for us was to split them up. The risk is that the dogs will become an unhappy, aggressive double-act.

Therefore, it was, with regret, and a dusty eye, that Sugar returned to her sisters in the kennel, waiting for a new home. While Mags and I steeled ourselves to be strong and stoic, Sugar ran into the kennel, delighted to be back in her pack. Without a second look, she dropped back into routine.

Our Spice Girl

Conversely, Spice is proving to be a bit of a Princess. As the only canine in the house, she is agitating for her own spot on the couch, and is less than impressed with puppy kibble. Tinned tuna or freshly roasted chicken on the other hand, she is eager to consume. House training is going OK, I didn’t really like sleeping anyway…

Job Role

As with all canines at Nero’s Notes, Spice will, in the fullness of time, be expected to pull her weight, work-wise. Just as with her name, the role will evolve as her character is revealed. For the moment though, she will be featuring heavily in social media. Thankfully, nobody can smell her across the internet…

Working Tools – 3. OSX v IOS

OSX v IOS

OSX v IOS. Before we start, let’s establish my credentials. I have none. I don’t code and my only expertise in computing is gained from listening to lots of podcasts and struggling along day to day, trying to get stuff done.

In the first of this series, I outlined that I have both a MacBook Pro (2017 15 inch) and an iPad Pro (10.5)

IOS Only

The truth is, I would dearly like to only have one device. I have made a conscious effort to do as much as possible on my iPad Pro with an eye to being ‘IOS only.’

Why?

A great strength, and paradoxically, a weakness of IOS is focus. One can multi-task on iOS. Split screens, app pairs and all sorts of good stuff. However, I find it more powerful for single tasking. One app open, doing one thing. I can turn off notifications and focus on doing one thing properly. This is especially true for writing with Ulysses, which I explained here, is one of my most-used apps.

Judging by twitter and podcasts, this can be a somewhat contentious area. People get very aerated about it, making categoric statements transposing their preferences to proclamations of fact.

Terrace Setup for IOS
My mini-desktop

I would like to be IOS only, but I struggle.

That is not to say one can’t be IOS only, just that I struggle to be. I find backup in an IOS-only world difficult. I find managing data stores (filing systems) in IOS, awkward. Working through one port means all sorts of dongles and complications, that frankly, I can’t be bothered with.

OSX

For certain tasks, I seek out OSX. Podcasting for example. I have a microphone connected and I want to have multiple apps and windows open at the same time. That said, I have recorded on iPad, and it works fine. It’s just a preference.

Desktop for OSX
My desktop setup

(The MacBook Pro is next to the printer, under the standing desk.)

OSX v IOS is a myth. There is no need for me to work on one platform. I have the hardware and the software for both.

If I had to work on one, could I? Absolutely. Yes I could. I would have to look at what I do and how I do it, but I have no doubt that both platforms can support my work.

Convergence

Will the two platforms merge? Oh, I don’t know. I would suspect, yes.

Not because of high-powered thinking or philosophy. First and foremost, Apple is a money-making machine. Producing a single engine, which powers all interaction, is efficient. Efficient is profitable. So – is there a time when all of our devices are extensions of one engine? Probably.

However, the last thing that Apple will do is merge hardware. They want people like me, buying multiple devices – all the time.

In the meantime, I leave the last word to developer and Apple commentator Steve Troughton-Smith who tweeted;

“Every time I hold the iPad in my hands it fills me with childlike wonder at how much technology we’ve distilled into a magic pane of glass, with instant access to the world’s shared knowledge. That feeling never goes away for me, and it’s why I feel sad for those who don’t get it”

Living the Dream – 24. First Guests

Our first guests have been and gone.

Of late, Cyprus was anything but #livingthedream. I had postponed planned travel until the New Year.

Consequently, I spoke with Clare @ Nero’s Notes and floated the idea that as I wasn’t travelling, she might come here. It was a long shot. After all, it’s a long way to come for a meeting.

However, before becoming the lynchpin of Nero’s Notes, Clare was a friend to Margaret. She found a way.

So it was, that Mags and I parked at Paphos airport last Friday evening. Clare, Andy and Molly waited, bags at their feet, outside the main door. We were zipping jackets against the chill, as they took theirs off. It seems we have acclimatised to the temperature already.

Revelation

Seeing our new lives through the eyes of visitors was powerful.

We ate, drank and laughed our way through the weekend. The gang visited a couple of beaches, swam in the Mediterranean and perused souvenir shops. We ate “Meze” with musicians from Crete playing bouzouki beside us.

Not bad for November!
Lady’s Mile Beach

Just for a couple of days, Mags and I saw how others see our new lives. The house is gorgeous, the weather beautiful and the beach ten minutes away. Staff greet us as friends in some restaurants and bars.

Yes, we talked about the difficult events of the couple of months, and there are plenty of issues and difficulties that we need to work through, but actually, much of what we came for is still here.

Gratitude

Finally, I have with an urgent need to work off all the calories that I ate and drank, a growing addiction to a word game on my phone, and a great deal of gratitude toward the Wellers, who managed to make Mags laugh and smile and get us to the beach. I am amazed by how help and support can come from the most unexpected of sources.

Working Tools – 2. Software

Working Tools – 2. Software

I wrote last in this series about the digital hardware that I use. It makes sense to now cover what software I am in most often.

I prefer, whenever possible, to use apps that work consistently on all my platforms.

Shopify. Nero’s Notes runs on Shopify. It’s a strong platform that eases many of the difficulties and challenges of running an online shopping site.

Xero. Accounts for the businesses are produced here. I cannot recommend these guys highly enough. I can reconcile sales to the bank account on the couch.

Bank Apps. I’m migrating from ‘big banks’ to challenger banks, both for business and personal. Banking should be easy, so a good app is an absolute must for me now.

Microsoft Office. Given the choice, I would not have any of these apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc) on any of my devices. They are huge, endlessly updating, monsters. Thing is, everyone else uses them, particularly corporate clients. iWork is compatible with Office, but it’s clunky.

Mail. I use Apple’s stock app. It’s not brilliant, but it’s ok. Using the stock app means it syncs well, and links with other apps and share sheets.

Fantastical. The best calendar app. Natural language input is such a winner. I have multiple calendars shared with different people.

Creating

Ulysses. My writing tool of choice. I love the simplicity of the interface, and the focus that it brings. I will publish this article directly to the website from Ulysses.

Ulysses Logo
A Flutter-bye!

Audacity. I record my end of the podcast on Audacity, and then send it to TJ. He works the magic in the edit.

iMovie. On the rare occasion I upload to YouTube, I try to tidy things up on iMovie first. A lot still to learn.

Consuming

Unread / Feedly. Unread is where I read blog posts. It’s a reader, and needs a feed. I use Feedly to subscribe to blogs, but I never read in it. I just prefer Unread.

Overcast. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I would rather use Apple’s own podcast app, for the same reason that I use Mail, but Overcast is just that much better. It’s a great app.

Netflix and Apple Music. I subscribe to both. So, particularly when travelling, this is where downtime happens.

Communicating

Slack. I belong to several Slack groups and administer one or two. I barely understand it, and I’m sure I don’t use a tenth of its capability, but in a world of tense, tetchy open forums, it is nice to inhabit some safe spaces.

‘The Socials.’ Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Not places that I love. However, I run an online business. I need to utilise these channels. I’ll promote this post through them. Whenever I can, I use Buffer to schedule posts. This is more efficient, and means that I don’t get sucked into endless scrolling.

Messaging. iMessage. What’s App, Messenger, SMS. Different contacts seem to use different formats.

The Message Bubbles
iMessage by Apple

Talking.

Cellular, Skype, FaceTime, What’s App, Messenger – again there is no consistency across my range of contacts, so I have lots.

My favoured apps are constantly evolving. In creakingly, I look for ones that I find simple and not distracting. Huge monster apps with masses of functionality that I don’t need distract me. They become an end of themselves.

Next, in #workingtools –  OSX v IOS.

Living the Dream – 23. Bad luck comes in threes

Living the Dream – 23. Bad luck comes in threes

The Three

First, we got burgled. Then came the horrific attack on Margaret and Nero. Now, somebody has gone after the car.

Generally, I try to be a positive person. I see the glass half-full, and look to see the good in every situation. I don’t mind telling you, it has not been easy to keep that going this month.

The Third

On Saturday we went for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants in a nearby village. I parked correctly, on the street, careful not to block anyone or any access. At some point, somebody carved to large scratches into the bonnet and one long scratch all the way from nose to tail on the passenger side.

Gee thanks.

I know that there are many terrible things going on in the world, and worse things could happen, but we really could have done without this right now. As Margaret said, every time that we wake up, determined to rally, we seem to get another punch in the gut.

Hopefully, this will be a straightforward repair job, paid by the insurance company, but I’m wary of assuming anything at the moment.

We console ourselves with the cliche in the title, that bad luck comes in threes and that we’re done now.

Moving Forward

As I type, new fencing is being finished around the house, securing the garden from dogs and, I think, enhancing the look of the place, and we are going to pick out some new external lighting, which will be fitted before the weekend.

I have secured a new client for my consultancy business and Nero’s Notes is ramping up for the holiday season. The trees are bearing fruit, so tomorrow’s breakfast will be a grapefruit from the front yard, followed by a round of golf. Now; that’s #livingthedream

View of the green
It’s not all bad!

Living the Dream. 22- Mind your language

Language Class. I sat on a chair designed for somebody a fifth of my age and weight. My knees let me know that they were not enjoying this unaccustomed position.

We were waiting for Stavros, who was to be our tutor. Margaret and I had come with our neighbour Nicky, who, to our ears at least, already spoke Greek. Nevertheless, she was adamant that the beginner class was right for her.

Scanning the room, I guessed that Brits were the majority, but there were East Asians, Middle Eastern people, Russians and Eastern Europeans too. Some had come alone, some with partners of friends.

“Beginner’s Greek?” Asked a woman at the door.

“I hope so,” I replied.

The woman nodded, came in followed a young man. They walked to the front of the class.

Adults in a children's classroom
Tiny chairs and furrowed brows

Greek Level 1

“Hello. My name is Angela and I will be your tutor.”

There followed some approximate introductions and a confusion of administration. Satisfied that Angela was in charge, the young man left. Turns out he was Stavros and he had passed us off to Angela for reasons unknown.

I was reminded of the 1970s UK TV comedy “Mind Your Language”, as the class interacted. I daresay we will be a more politically correct crowd, but the potential for humour is obvious as we all struggle to bend our minds to a new tongue.

Once it was agreed that bureaucracy and registration would be sorted remotely next week, we moved onto the serious, and surprisingly taxing, task of the alphabet.

Learning

There are some letters in Greek that look and sound identical to their English counterparts. A, Alpha. “Got it,” I thought.

However, the plot thickened. Some letters look like their English counterparts, but have a completely different pronunciation. “Oh good.” I muttered sourly.

“And finally, we have letters that bear no resemblance to English, in appearance or sound.” Angela beamed.

I have a feeling that I might be a little long in the tooth for a new language.

It’s all Greek to me.