What I Do

I discover that the majority of people in Wickenburg haven’t got a clue what I do.

On Monday, I put a piece of real estate I own on the market. I listed it with Jorja Beal. Jorja has lived in Wickenburg for many years and knows it better than I ever will.

Yesterday, Jorja had to stop by my office to get some keys. I met her in the parking lot. The first thing she said to me was, “I didn’t know you wrote books about Quicken!” She was surprised and impressed. “I didn’t realize we had someone in town who was famous.”

I’m not famous. Well, not exactly famous. There are a number of people who think I’m famous and I occasionally get asked for my autograph, but I don’t really think of myself as famous.

I told Jorja that that’s what I do for a living. Then I asked her what she thought I did. She told me she thought I was a Webmaster. I told her that although I do maintain a few Web sites, there’s no money in being a Webmaster in Wickenburg — unless, of course, you’re willing to grossly overcharge all your clients, which is something I’m not willing to do. I told her I write books for a living, then brought her up to my extremely disheveled office and showed her the “Langer Library”: three shelves of books, starting with titles first published in 1990, along with many of their translations. There are over a hundred books on those three shelves, but if you weed out the translations and the handful of books I contributed to but didn’t author on my own, the total title count is around 60.

I opened my closet full of author copies and pulled out a copy of the Quicken 2005 book and handed it to her. She said, “No, I already have one. Steve Cole gave me one.”

Steve Cole runs Cole Accounting here in town. Steve is a great guy, laid back, patient, and knowledgeable. He gave me a lot of help when I had to tackle the payroll taxes for my employees at the Airport. He also does my husband’s taxes and this year I’m going to ask him to do mine. (Consider this advance warning, Steve, if you’re reading this!) When I finished the Quicken 2005 book and was staring at a blank dedication page, I decided to dedicate the book to him, as a way of thanking him for his help. And when my 20 author copies arrived about a month later, I brought half of them to Steve so he could give them away to his clients who use Quicken. I guess Jorja is one of those clients.

I’m not sure if Steve knows that the books are where the money comes from. He’s never done my personal taxes so he might not.

People might find it hard to understand how a writer can make a good enough living to buy things like real estate and a helicopter. But when you average 4 to 6 books a year and you have one or two titles that become regular best-sellers, it is indeed possible.

Other people in town think I fly helicopters for a living. Wouldn’t that be nice! To be able to do the thing I love best and make enough money to support my lifestyle! The truth of the matter is, the demand for helicopter tours in Wickenburg is pitifully low, so Flying M Air will never become a big income-generator here. And that summer job I had at the Grand Canyon this past summer paid very poorly. It was an entry level position that worked all of its pilots hard, making us fly in very challenging conditions. I may have come away as a much better pilot, but my bank account sure didn’t show much for all that work.

A few people thought I ran the airport FBO for a living. They must have been pretty puzzled when I gave it up.

Other people may think that Mike makes a ton of money and supports both of our expensive habits. That isn’t true either. I support all of my own expensive habits and Mike supports his.

Indeed, I’m one of the people Art Pullis wrote about in one of his painfully elementary articles about the local economy in the Wickenburg Sun. The one where he discussed money coming into Wickenburg from outside the town. Less than 1% of my income comes from within Wickenburg, but far more than that is spent here. I’d spend even more here if I could find more of the goods and services I need here in town.

But I’m working on that. I’m sending Ed Taylor, one of Wickenburg’s two aircraft mechanics and owner of Wickenburg Aero Service, to the Robinson Helicopter Factory Maintenance School in November. When he gets back, he’ll be a helicopter mechanic. My helicopter mechanic. (No more trips to Prescott to get expensive maintenance items done. I’ll be keeping my maintenance dollars in town.) And I hope Ed picks up a few more helicopter customers as well. I’ll see what I can do to help that along.

One footnote here: there is someone in town who knows what I do. Yesterday, I went into the library to borrow a few books. I went to the counter with my battered library card and the librarian went to her computer to do whatever it is she does. (Probably check to see if I owe money for late fees, which I often do.) She was looking at the computer screen when she said aloud, “How are your books doing?”

I looked around. There was no one else she could be talking to. Stupidly, I said, “Who, me?”

She looked at me and smiled. “Yes.”

“Oh! Very well, thanks. I’m starting a new one tomorrow.”

“I don’t know how you do it,” she said.

“I don’t either,” I replied. Then I took the books she handed me and left.

Today I start work on “Microsoft Word 2004 for Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide.” Hey, it’s a living.

What do you think?