Monday, February 18, 2019

The Orville Is Better Star Trek Than Discovery

I stand by that statement. Both The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery are in the middle of their second season runs. Our family is still watching The Orville, and we've given up on Discovery.

Genius Kid had been on our case about watching last Thursday's episode, "Deflectors". He watched it while Darling Husband was visiting Papa and I was hiding at Panera to get a chunk of the current wip done. DH and I watched it last night, and GK was "What did you think? What did you think?" We had a rather lively discussion about love, prejudice, and justice.

But DH capped it off by saying, "This could have easily been a NextGen episode."

At that speaks volumes. About what Star Trek is to us older fans. The values we've tried to instill in our children and grandchildren. Our hopes for the future.

Don't get me wrong. I wanted Discovery to succeed, but I wanted it to succeed on its own terms, They have a wonderful cast led by the fabulous Sonequa Martin-Green. But they won't let that cast or the writers move into truly new territory. Instead, it's a rehash of plot points from ST:TOS.

The feelings we have aren't about the reprise of yet another version of Spock. Therein lies Paramount/CBS's problem. They think if they throw old favorites at us, we'll all subscribe to their streaming service and they will make lots of dough.

It's not just about the characters. We want good stories. Stories that make us think. Stories that challenge our preconceptions.

But most of all, we want stories that are essentially positive. Our characters may stumble along the way, but honestly, that's one of the things I love about Captain Mercer. He means well. He tries to do the right thing. He's not intentionally a butthead.

Lt. Cmdr. Burham mutinies in the very first episode. Out of what? Pride? She think she's better than the captain? Not even Martin-Green's charm and earnestness could bring me back. It makes me wonder what the showrunners are thinking. Or if they reflecting what are current culture is, instead of what it could be?

Maybe that's what some of us want out of our entertainment. To be shown the path forward. Because let's face it, we can never really go back in time.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Bezos, Blackmail, and Dick Pics

Why, oh why, do guys think their junk is their best feature? The body part that must be immortalized by cell phone cameras and shared with the world?

Look, we've all done stupid things in our youth. I'm just thankful most of my stupidity happened before the advent of the smart phone. But Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon is my age, i.e. mid-fifties.

Instead of being a stupid kid, he hit that wall we lovingly call a mid-life crisis. That point where full-grown adults, faced with their own mortality, decide to act as stupidly as a lot of teens and twenty-somethings. Yep, he allegedly sent his girlfriend a dick pic.

Ok, Bezos was stupid. But why is there always a guy who feels the need to prove he's even more stupid than the first one?

DH and GK lovingly refer to this as the Malfoy Effect, after Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter books. The inciting incident in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is when Malfoy breaks a school rule in order to tattle on Harry, Ron, and Hermione for breaking a school rule. Malfoy is then shocked when Professor McGonagall punishes him as well as the other three.

Our Malfoy in this case is Mr. David Jay Pecker, CEO of American Media, Inc. (AMI) Yes, that IS his real name. AMI publishes the loved/hated gossip magazine The National Enquirer.

AMI already got in trouble with the U.S. Justice Department last year when it came to light that they had paid off several folks with dirt on the current president of the United States. Part of the plea deal was that company keeps their noses clean.

Well, allegedly, a representative of AMI got hold of Bezos's dick pic through his girlfriend's brother. (I wonder what that next family get-together will be like!) Instead of running an embarrassing cover story as is their wont, AMI allegedly decided to extort Bezos for political reasons.

And here's where Bezos pulled the Madonna Move.

You see, when Madonna was a starving artist on the streets of New York, she had posed for some nude photographs. A few years later, Like a Virgin was climbing the charts, and guess what popped out of the woodwork? The singer's reaction to the attempted extortion and embarrassment was "So what?"

The story quickly died, and a few years later, Madonna went on to publish her own book of nude pictures of herself entitled Sex.

So, back to the original topic, Bezos's junk. He did the smart thing by calling AMI's bluff and posting his response in an op-ed on a news site owned by a third party. He allegedly also turned the matter over to the FBI for investigation.

If the e-mails allegedly from an AMI executive are found to be fact, then not only did AMI violate the plea deal from last year, they're looking a extortion charges, which is a hell of a lot more serious than paying off porn stars and prostitutes.

Here's the thing, folks. Don't let your middle-age fears get the better of you. It doesn't matter how good that girlfriend/boyfriend half your age makes you feel. If you'd tell your kids not to do it, then you shouldn't be doing it either.

Because you never know what could happen to those pics after you send them to your significant other.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Something to Entertain You While I Write

It's winter, and I no longer have a beagle to keep my feet warm while I write. So I looked up beagle videos on YouTube to cheer me up. If you've never had a beagle, here's a list of reasons not to get one.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Story Length

Story length is one of those odd ducks that writers, editors, and publishers can argue about over several nights at a bar.

Here's my two cents: It doesn't fucking matter. The story needs to be as long as it takes to write the complete story. That means it can be six words or six hundred thousand words.

Thanks to trad publishing, it became an accepted myth that books need to be a certain length. As paper costs rose, trad publishers wanted longer books in order to validate higher prices.

The first two hundred-seventy-five-page mass market paperback I bought way back in 1973 was $0.95. That book today, if it were still in print, would cost me $7.99. Ironically, the writer's relative share of a trad paperback has gone shrunk over the last nearly fifty years. But that is a conversation for another time.

Today, story telling isn't limited by physical resources. A 100K-word e-book takes up 850 kilobytes. By comparison, the digital copy of Star Trek (2009) on my laptop is 1.24G.

The times when readers complain a story isn't long enough are when they feel you haven't told a complete story. It's not that it's really too short. It means either you've missed story beats along the way, you left out the emotional transition, or you left plot threads dangling.

Don't get me wrong. You can leave a thread or two for the next book in the series, but you can't leave too many without making the story feel incomplete.

As I've said before, you got to have a beginning, a middle , and an end. Samwise Gangee can't simply go from the Shire to Mount Doom because his best friend has a problem. The relationships he makes, the changes he goes through on the journey, and finding his inner strength are essential for his happiness at the end of The Lord of the Rings.

What? You thought Frodo was the hero? Nope. It's not just about the One Ring. Sam is the one who saves Frodo's soul. Without both victories, the story would be incomplete. In other words, Tolkien's readers would say that huge-ass epic was too short.

Readers feel the truth even if they can't put a name to it.

So make your story true regardless of how many words you use. The readers will love you for it.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Truce Has Been Broken

I love Ryan and Hugh individually, but together, they are fucking hysterical!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Why Do Businesses Chase New Customers...

...instead of nurturing their current customers? I googled the question because I see so many different industries do this, not just publishing.

It seems to come down to our cultural obsession with growth. Bigger is better! You must have the most followers on social media! You must have the largest mailing list! You must have the most widget sales!

And I see my fellow indies making the same damn mistakes that the big corporations are making. Throwing all kinds of money at attracting new customers, i.e. readers, instead of serving the customers/readers they've already cultivated.

Seriously, what's the point of trying to sell your book to folks that aren't interested? And spending gobs of moola on advertising when you're getting a piss-poor return on your investment (ROI)?

Even better, why aren't you delivering new product to the people you've already attracted?

Any time I've asked that of most indie acquaintances who are bemoaning how much they spend on ads, they look at me like I've grown a second head. Then they tell me they are afraid to stop advertising because when they do, their rank on Amazon falls.

That's their fear talking. They want to stay afloat when maybe they should be deep-diving for more treasure.

You know what reader acquaintances tell me? Some get pissed off when a writer they love stops putting out books in the middle of a series. Others tell me they won't touch a series until the writer completes it.


So what do you do about this catch-22 situation?

Here's my two cents: write a trilogy with a solid ending on the third story but a possibility to keep going. Don't release them until all three books are completed.

Think I'm joking? The first four books of the Bloodlines series were written before I decided to go indie, and I put them out in pretty rapid succession between May of 2011 and April of 2012. I was having a ton of sales at the time.

Then everything went to hell in a hand basket in my personal life. My writing suffered. And I lost a good number of readers because Blood Sacrifice didn't come out until October of 2013.

Nurture the readers that already love you! Let them tell their friend how great your books are. The best way to grow your readership is organically.

Nor am I saying don't advertise at all, but don't do it willy-nilly either. Have a plan.

For example, I'm sticking the 888-555-HERO series in Kindle Select at first, which means it will be exclusive to Amazon. I plan to set Hero De Facto to free when Hero De Novo comes out, and then advertise on a couple of places that specialize in the fantasy genre.

On the other hand, don't be a afraid to pivot. I put out a teaser on FB last year, just a post with the cover of Hero De Facto with the series tagline, "The only thing more dangerous than a superhero is his attorney."

An attorney friend shared the post, and I got 600+ hits from OTHER ATTORNEYS! Not my usual fantasy readers.

So be prepared to adjust your advertising if needed. Be ready to pivot if your assumptions aren't working. Be willing to try outside-of-the-box techniques.

But most of all, be writing that next book.

P.S. I'll report back here later this summer about which plans of mine worked and which didn't. Just remember there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution in the publishing industry!

Monday, February 4, 2019

I'm Moving....Sort Of

One of my major projects for 2019 was moving all of my books under the same publishing umbrella. As in, the company would own the publishing accounts for the various retailers rather than have them under my personal e-mail addresses.

Why? Why the hell do all that work when I'm so behind in my writing?

Because my cancer diagnosis clashed with the common sense former probate attorney. The one who told her clients to be prepared before the worst can happen.

Now that GK is legally an adult, he could, in theory, take over the publishing aspect. In fact, we've had a couple of talks already about passive income and copyright.

GK: So let's say you live to eighty-four like Nana. The extra seventy years on a copyright doesn't kick in until then.

Me: Yep.

GK: I'd be over a hundred before it was done!

Me: Yep.

GK (with a gleam in his eye): How many books do you think you'll have published by the time you die?

Yeah, he's already doing the income calculations in his head. LOL

The point is I want to make the transition for DH and GK as seamless as possible should I die sooner rather than later. They know where my account list and passwords are. I just want to make it easier for them, and for me.

I'd planned on starting the process of consolidation during the fall dead time in publishing, but a badly behaving model forced me to start the process now.

That's not necessarily a bad time. I just need to pay close attention to my writing production and juggle the tasks as efficiently as I can.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Why Ebooks Are Great for Libraries

Two weeks ago, I talked about reselling paper books. I'd meant to talk about e-books on the following Friday, but I lost track of everything as I tried to finalize the files for Hero De Facto so I could send them to my formatter.

So back to our original topic...

In general, you can't resell e-books like you can a paper book. Your e-book is essential software. If you read the Terms and Conditions of your retailer, you'd find out what you're actually buying is a license to use the software.

The issue of selling electronic files has been partially dealt with through litigation in the music industry and computer applications. However, that case law has yet to be applied to e-books. After seeing what happened with the music industry, many retailers and publishers slap on DRM (digital rights management software) to keep readers from making illegal copies.

What about your software backups then? Technically, you may not be allowed to do that on some e-books. After being in the IT industry myself, I'm a HUGE believer in backups, which is why I don't put DRM on my files. I also request that retailers don't use DRM on the e-books I publish.

DRM punishes legitimate buyers of e-books by not allowing them to make software backups. Nor does DRM actually prevent piracy. Guys, I've been out of IT for over twenty years, and I can crack most DRM'd files. For the record, I wouldn't on principle, but most pirates don't have any sense of ethics. DRM isn't going to stop them.

So what does this have to do with libraries?

With e-books, libraries can buy a book that will never fall apart. They won't have to spend their minimal funds having to replace a book some idiot patron defaced. Or stole.

Remember when I talked about authors I discovered through the library?

The same holds true whether you borrow a paper book or an e-book. However, I'm discovering more and more indies who are as short-sighted as trad publishers. They think they are being cheated for a library buying their e-book and then, in theory, allowing the e-book to be borrowed forever. The trad pubs put a timer on their e-books so the library can only loan a particular e-book X times before the library has to pay a new licensing fee.

Except the library won't be able to do to loan an indie e-book forever.

Why? Because our tech is changing so damn fast. People forget the Kindle and the iPhone were both introduced in 2007, only twelve years ago. My iPhone 4 is considered obsolete even though it's only five years old. Libraries will have to pay for new licensing when formats change.

Then there the issue that folks using the library may not have the money to buy an e-book. I used our county library like crazy when I was a poor student and an even poorer college graduate. Guys, I couldn't afford a freakin' TV! I depended on the library for my entertainment.

On the other hand, I still used the library when I did have disposable income. The library allowed me to try out several different series and authors. Then I'd buy the ones I wanted to re-read multiple times.

At a time when so many of my fellow writers bemoan the lack of discoverability, they ignore one of the easiest solutions--their local libraries. And the thing I really don't understand are the same writers who will GIVE AWAY thousands of e-books through Amazon are the same ones bitching about libraries not paying them for every copy borrowed.

If anyone can explain it to me, I'd like to hear it.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Where in the World Is Suzan Harden?

Sorry for the radio silence over the past two weeks!

I've been racing to finish proofreading Hero De Facto before sending it to my formatter. The final version clocked in at roughly 105K. People are either going to love it or hate it.

I've also been trying to finish the first draft of Hero De Novo. The words are flowing, But I don't think it'll be wrapped up by Thursday like I had hoped.

My real problem for not having things I'd planned done by the end of January is kind of weird. I'm sleeping way too much. Like 11-12 hours a night when I'm an. The issue has gradually become worse over the last five months. So I made a point of mentioning the issue during my quarterly checkups this month.

Of course, the first thought of the medical personal was I have clinical depression. But I've been there before. None of the other symptoms have happened. My work and personal life are chugging along like they should. Hell, I only wrote 1500 fewer words than last year at this time, but that's thanks to losing a couple of hours a day to the oversleeping.

When the docs were convinced it wasn't depression, that's when a bunch more appointments and tests were added to my calendar. Including a trip to the sleep clinic and a fun contraption I had to wear to bed.

You see, I'm still considered a cancer patient, and I will be for another four years. So a weird symptom shows up, every one jumps into action to make sure a few of those cancer cells haven't set up shop somewhere else.

But I'm not as far behind as I feared I could be when the extra appointments were added.

Except for these darn blog posts! LOL