Hypothetical Hiring Challenge: College, Porsche, or Marathon? All three?

I met Geoff Graham a couple of years back when I was still doing web sites for a living. Working with him was one of those rare professional experiences where things get done, but everyone is still in a good mood. Can you imagine? Enjoying your working life?

Geoff posted the following question on the twitters yesterday with a poll: “You must hire one of three candidates: The first is a college graduate. The second completed a marathon. The third owns a Porsche. These are all the facts that you can know before you make your decision. Which one do you hire?”

I feel uniquely qualified to respond to this question because I have done all three of those things at different times in my life. I’ll lay out my mindset for each and the best answer.


I went to college because everyone is supposed to want to go to college. I did not want to go to college. I wanted to be a guitar player in rock bands. Later, when I dropped out of college, after a lot of money wasted and teeth gnashed, I played guitar in rock bands for a few years. Now that was an education.

I think if my parents had gnashed teeth even more they could probably have forced me to finish school and get a degree. If so, I would have been a positively terrible hire. I know because I had more than a few jobs in those years and I was a positively terrible hire. No degree could have changed that about me.

You don’t know when you’re hiring a college grad whether they actually cared or whether they finished because their parents shouted them through it. If the latter is true, when you hire them, you’ll be taking over the job of shouter in chief.

A Porsche

I am a car guy. I have been a lifelong fan of Porsche. When I owned one years ago I hung around with other Porsche owners. There are cool Porsche owners and complete jack-legs. Merely owning a car is not a marker of either. All it means is someone had the money to spend and the will to spend it.

Porsche enjoys a reputation as a performance car brand which they richly deserve thanks to their history of commitment to motorsport. Porsche owners, on the other hand, are just people. The former is not transferable to the latter.

If you want to hire someone with a commitment to the art of performance driving, hire an SCCA or NASA or other performance series driver. They’ll most likely be in a Miata.

If the applicant owned a particularly cool example — say, a real RS America, a real 550, or a 959 — maybe that would say something about taste or refinement. But hire-ability? Meh.

My car was 26 years old when I bought it. It needed a lot of care and that care was not cheap. If you hire a Porsche owner, they might be a little more willing to stay with you because they need the money to keep their car on the road, but if that’s the case you might as well hire someone with a modest drug habit.

A marathon

“Marathon” is a word that gets misapplied. I have heard someone refer before to a “10K marathon.” I think there are also a lot of half marathon runners out there who occasionally leave the word “half” off when they describe their experience. There were nearly four times more finishers of half marathons than marathons in 2016.

As a marthon, ultramarathon, and Ironman finisher, I can tell you: forgetting the distance, there’s a big difference between a half marathon and marathon. It happens at about the 20 mile mark. If you have never run through that, you just don’t know what it’s like. A person committed enough to run through that might be a good hire.

Remember: Running a marathon isn’t just the act itself. It’s months of preparation in addition to one’s normal commitments. Most likely the marathoner has been running for years, doing 5k, 10K, 13.1 events.

I’d say of the three choices the marathoner is unquestionably the best, given that you don’t know anything else. Other factors might play in. Like, let’s say the college graduate put herself through school while raising two kids. That’s someone who knows how to manage her time. What if the Porsche owner built the car herself? What if the marathoner walked the whole thing?

Of course, it’s a thought experiment, so we don’t know. But Geoff asked for a few more suggestions. Here are a few more ideas:

  • A single mom who is cutting it
  • A Certified Sommelier+ (i.e. Level 2 or above)
  • A thru-hiker
  • Someone with a handful of summits (14ers, Mont Blanc, not Kilimanjaro)

Have any more ideas?


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Million word year: 250K Complete. I have steak fatigue.

This year I have challenged myself to write one million words of fiction. I’m sure I’ll be glad I did it once it is done, but for now it’s a real pain in my hind parts.

I feel like someone who has finished a delicious steak and then declared, loudly, “I could eat that every day of my life!” only to be overheard by a young and peevish genie who forces them to do exactly that.

Breakfast? Steak. Lunch? Steakey-steak. Dinner? Get ready, guts. Here comes the meat shower.

So, yeah. I have steak fatigue. But this is happening, guys.

Come hell on a bike or the creek rise past the barn, this is happening.


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Connooga 2018 Wrapup

We spent the weekend knocking around Chattanooga for Connooga 2018, which was a lot of fun. My wife Meghann’s desire to cosplay is growing with every one of these cons we attend. The only thing that’s holding her back now is free time. I keep telling her she’d make a great Rey.

Thanks so much to Shon who put the author & literary tracks together. He did a great job and panels were well attended with lots of interested and highly literate attendees. It’s a great pleasure to be among so many other writers and readers.

I’d planned to bring some cookies to entice potential readers, but we didn’t have time to make them, so instead, I set up my table and put out a chocolate heart with a sign inviting people to please eat the chocolates.

Scientific Book Research

Most of the authors I know who do tables like this have some sort of giveaway thing to offer people who stop by. Some do bookmarks, but I see a lot of little bowls of candy. Mind you, when I spot the candy bowls I gobble it down with loud smacking sounds and pronouncements of “HOMPF OMP SO GOOD.”

More than once one of my colleagues has had to ask me to please leave and stop eating up all their freebies. A couple of those times it was because I ate one of their books by mistake. Oops.

Anyway, I decided to try the free candy myself. Lots of people grabbed a piece, which is good because that’s another piece of candy I didn’t eat myself. Also, lots of people were kind enough to buy books, take a card, or sign up for the mailing list which are all highly appreciated acts for which those humans will later be immortalized in statue.

But the Venn diagram looks like this.

Interesting, right?


From having spent the weekend walking around Chattanooga it’s plain to me that someone thinks the city will soon be very full of people. We stayed in a little section that resembled any urban area: buildings overhead with shops on the ground level. The only difference was that the shops had no one in them.

The coffee place had 4-5 employees but we were the only customers. The streets, also, were mostly empty. If you want to cross Broad street, the big double avenue that terminates at the Aquarium, you can press a button to ask the light to change, or you can just walk across because there is no traffic.

They put huge cool murals on the outsides of their parking decks. They must think someone will come look at them.

On Friday I had a panel with Gil Hough on Self Publishing, which was good fun. Check out Gil’s work here. Unfortunately for Gil he had to endure more panels with me over the course of the weekend as well. As far as I know he has survived.

On Friday night we walked up Broad Street and over the pedestrian bridge that crosses the Tennessee river, then grabbed some dinner at Beast & Barrel. They had andouille sausage on the menu, so, in accordance with the laws of the universe, I ate it. It was delicious.

The pedestrian bridge is pretty cool. It was full of groups of people, families, kids running about. I’d say it was my favorite thing about the city, second only to hanging around my fellow scifi/fantasy fans.

On Saturday morning we had a run around the city, then I tweeted this photo with the assertion that the sculpture in question is called “Buy Jim’s Books.” I lied. It’s actually called “Continuum.”

We grabbed some breakfast at the Bitter Alibi, which was delicious, then headed back down to the Convention Center. I had a panel with Dan Jolley who was great fun. Check out his work here: Enter the Jollyverse (his word, not mine, but I think it’s hilarious).

I also met fellow authors David Joel Stevenson, Kenyon T. Henry, and ran into Michael D’Ambrosio whom I met a couple of years ago at Midsouth Con.

It was a great weekend and we can’t wait to come back next year. Thanks again to Shon who put the author track together and did a great job with it. If you’re in the area, put it on your calendar for 2019.

For those of you who bought books or signed up on the mailing list, thank you so much. Your support means a lot to authors. More than I can possibly tell you. Which is why I will now show you using the medium of interpretive dance- Hey, get back here.


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2018 goal: ten books, 1 million words

One wisdom oft heard in the indie publishing industry is that we should write fast, write to market, and write in a series. The theory goes that more books in a series make it more attractive to the reader. I intend to spend this year putting it to the test.

I got into Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series late, but when I did I was glad to see so many books. I also recall waiting with fingers aflutter for Robert Jordan’s tenth book in his 6-book Wheel of Time series. That series, if I recall correctly, fetched up in the end at 14 books. Hitchhiker’s Guide was a “trilogy in four parts,” when the fourth book came out, then 5 parts, etc. Good times.

Numbers are hard.

A million words sounds like a lot, and it is. Broken down to weekdays it comes out at about 3800 words per work day. But at this rate, I’d have no wiggle room for contingencies. So, it’s 5000 words per week day for me.

Here’s a link to a chart that will show how I’m doing.

Right now it’s a little bit of a struggle to make that happen every working day, but it’s true that one big difference between me and authors making a lot more money than I am is that they simply have more books. Take a look at Robert Bevan’s excellent catalog, or Christopher Moore, or Barry Hutchinson. Do look at all those authors. They’re hilarious.

My plan was to keep writing one-offs until one seemed like it took off and then follow that with sequels, but I’m led to understand that sometimes a series doesn’t take off until there are five or more books in it.

Breakfast Serial

I’m going to start by writing a lot in the Santa vs. Krampus series. It has 92% positive reviews and 75% five star reviews, so that’s encouraging.

Regardless, 2018 should be an interesting year. I just delivered the 3rd book in the Santa vs. Krampus series to the editors and expect to have that out in a couple of weeks while I write the fourth one.

Thanks for reading. It means a lot. For me this is a dream, a privilege, and my job.

If you want to stay up to date on these doings and all the releases planned for this year, one great way to do that is to join my mailing list.


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Ten Thousand Gods Promo Screwup: I Blew It Dot Com (But I Make Amends)

I sent an email to my mailing list last night announcing that Ten Thousand Gods was free on Kindle this week when it was actually just 99 cents. Well, shit.

I got a flurry of emails over the next few hours from people pointing out my mistake. Thanks for catching that, folks.

I am a one-man operation here so when the ball gets dropped it stays dropped.

That said, for the next week Ten Thousand Gods will indeed be 100% free. You can find it at this link on Instafreebie. Use the password “OOPSIBLEWIT” (no quotes).


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New Book available for Pre-order: How to Mount Kilimanjaro

I am pleased to announce that I have a new non-fiction work up for pre-order: How to Mount Kilimanjaro, a mostly serious guide to climbing Africa’s highest mountain.

Find it here on Amazon (or the image at right): How To Mount Kilimanjaro: A Mostly Serious Guide to Climbing Africa’s Highest Mountain (Mostly Serious Guides)

I’ve taken a little break from working on fiction to do some non-fiction work and it’s been great. Each recharges the other, I find. Is it okay to love both? Don’t answer that. I don’t care. I’m having fun.

When I wrote my guide on Aconcagua years ago, I did it for fun. It was a surprise to me when that book became one of the highest-reviewed and most-bought books on Amazon for people considering an Aconcagua climb. I’m hoping I can prove useful again with this book on Kilimanjaro.

If you’re considering a Kilimanjaro attempt, I think you’ll enjoy it. If you’re one of the many people who have asked me about what Kilimanjaro is like, here’s everything I told you plus some stuff I forgot and some research I’ve done since.

Thanks for reading!


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