Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Betrayal and Loyalty

Sometimes, something happens that hits you in the gut. When it happens twice, you sit back and say WTF?

Earlier this month in a post about Amazon removing its tagging system, I talked a little bit about people, who I knew, maliciously tagging Alter Ego's books. I found out about it in the middle of January, roughly two weeks before the tagging system disappeared.

I admit it hurt. The people I recognized were fellow writers. Either these people had discovered that Alter Ego was me and did the malicious tagging on purpose, or these people didn't care they were affecting the sales of a total stranger. Either way, it made me question these people's integrity. It made me question my friendship with them.

In a way, I was glad that I hadn't made a screen shot of the tagging. That I could put the whole thing behind me and resume writing.

Then this week, more weird shit happened. Someone went through Amazon, downloaded Alter Ego's books, and returned them. It wasn't all at once. The buys were spaced about an hour apart, long enough to read one of the novellas and return it before downloading the next one. People forget that Amazon shows us indies real-time stats.

It made me wonder who was doing it and why. It made me wonder if one of these same people were trying to fuck with my sales again. Or was this someone new thinking they were going to mess with some smut bitch?

What I don't think the culprit realized is that Alter Ego has fans. Loyal fans. And other writers friends. When Alter Ego mentioned both incidents online, these fabulous, lovely people went to work. Tweeting her. FBing her. Promoting the hell out of her work and dissing the idiots who pulled such evil stunts.

Despite the crap of the last six weeks, Alter Ego's sales are doing good. Damn good, thanks to the loyal fans and friends.

These are people I would bend over backward to help. These are people who deserve my loyalty in return. These are people who have renewed my faith in the human race for a little while longer.

Monday, February 25, 2013

My Spiritual Father Won the Fucking Oscar!

When people ask me to describe my writing style, I tell them to imagine how the love child of Quentin Tarantino and MaryJanice Davidson would write.

Either you've got a blank look on your face right now, or you totally understand what I'm talking about.

Or maybe you're taking this literally, in which case you're a dumbass because the three of us are about the same age. And if you are taking this literally maybe you should log off the internet and go find your meds.

Last night, Quentin won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, his second, for Django Unchained. (For trivia's sake, he also won an Oscar for Pulp Fiction with co-writer Roger Avary.)

I haven't seen Django Unchained yet, but thanks to the Oscar win, the movie will be in the local theaters for a couple of more weeks at least. GK surprised me by saying he'd like to see it too.

This is one of the few areas where DH and I don't always agree on child-rearing. I'd rather have GK watch/read/play something in such a way that we can discuss the merits/aspects/purpose of that particular form of entertainment. He's a pretty bright kid, and I'll admit I often forget he's not as old as he seems.

But when I looked at DH and asked, "What do you think?", he surprised me by saying, "Let's see how he handles Pulp Fiction first. If he's okay with it, then we'll all go see Django together."

Ironically, after letting GK watch Die Hard two weeks ago, he went through my movie library looking for more Bruce Willis flicks. When he pulled out Pulp Fiction, I'm the one who said no because I thought the Marcellus's rape scene would be a little too intense.

But then, we're having pretty serious talks about girls, sex and gay rights lately, so maybe it's time to talk about our society's rape culture.

Besides, if I really wanted to scare GK, I'd let him watch From Dusk till Dawn...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

BAMF Girls Club - Episode 7

Buffy sets up Hermione with Willow, and unexpected magic happens.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Frank Moses Is Back!

The movie adaptation of the cult comic RED (aka Retired, Extremely Dangerous in CIA speak) was a surprise hit back on 2010. I don't think anyone expected such hilarious chemistry between Bruce Willis and John Malkovitch. The sequel will be out August 2nd.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Crazy Squirrel from Hell

I'd like to say I didn't post on Monday because of the holiday. Or I forgot. Or a myriad of other reasons that might actually make sense.

No, I didn't take time to write the freaking post because I was dealing with the Crazy Squirrel from Hell.

Saturday night, I had just fallen asleep when I woke to the most godawful racket. At first, I thought Wonder Dog had managed to get himself shut up in the master closet. But no, he was asleep in his bed.

This is the dog that barks at a leaf blowing across the yard, but he's totally sleeping through what sounds likes a wood chipper in my closet.

I'm now awake enough to recognize the sound as a rodent filing his teeth on the house's wood frame. Except whatever's gnawing on my house isn't a field mouse. It's wa-a-a-ay too big.

We've got a fucking rat.

DH is sleeping on the living room couch, thanks to the flu he brought home from a business conference. I go down, wake him up and drag him upstairs to hear my wood chipper. "We've got a rat."

"Or a squirrel," he says.

"Either way, I'm not letting a damn rodent rip apart the house we just got fixed." I glare at DH.

"It's two in the morning. We'll deal with him when the sun's up." DH stumbles back down to the couch.

I pound on the wall until my new roommate stops chewing and go back to bed. I lay there for nearly two hours, waiting for the wood chipper to start up again.

Over lunch, DH and I discuss the problem. He votes for rat bait.

"Really?" I look at him like he's a city kid, which he is. "We're trying to get the house on the market. If that thing dies inside the wall, we won't be able to show the house for at least three weeks to a month." Unfortunately, I know from bitter experience the decompsure rate of the average field mouse and can calculate it out for a larger rodent. "We still have some fox scent. Let's try that first."

(For those of you who may not know, fox scent is concentrated fox urine. It's very useful for getting rid of varmints such as the mama raccoon who thought our attic was a marvelous maternity ward. It's amazing how many men in Texas, the gun capital of the U.S. and especially those with penises who work at FUCKING HUNTING STORES, have no fucking clue what "scent" is.)

So DH and I spend Sunday afternoon cutting up an ancient polo shirt, spraying  the pieces with fox piss, and distributing them in crawl spaces and the attic.

Sunday night, DH's fever has broken and he's not coughing like a Mustang desperately needing its carb tuned, so he's back in bed with me. Around 1 a.m., our buddy decides the wall between our bathroom and GK's has better chewing material.

"The fox pee's not working," DH says as we listen to the gnawing.

"Maybe we missed where he's coming in," I say.

On Monday, DH checks the exterior of the house, but he can't find another possible route besides the attic vent and the hole in the garage wall where the water line had to be replaced (and is on our list of things to fix). Meanwhile I redistributed a few fox pee rags closer to GK's bathroom.

Monday night at the same rodent time, he decides to return to our bathroom wall. Except this time, it sounds like gnawing on the bathtub itself.

"The pee's definitely not working," DH says as we lie there in the dark.

It's time to poison the bastard.

I stop at Ace Hardware. I love the guys there. Most of the time. I tell the clerk my problem. "I've got a rat living in my wall."

He takes me back to the pesticides. "It could be a squirrel."

"Either way, the fucker can't take a fox pee hint and needs to die." I buy the huge blocks of rodent poison bait.

I get home and muscle the bedroom dresser away from the plumbing access panel. I pop off the panel and shine my flashlight inside the hole to set the bait. Sure enough, a ball of gray fur sits on one of the frame joints. Beady eyes stare at me from over a fluffy tail.

I slam the panel back into place. GK finds the whole thing hysterically funny. I'm ready to shove one of the poison cubes down his throat.

After lunch, DH has the brillant idea of flushing the squirrel into the main part of the house, once again showing his lack of country smarts.

"Are you insane! That thing could have rabies! I'm not getting rabies shots!" I generally don't shriek about wildlife, so DH backs off his plan.

Instead, he checks for the squirrel. Since it's no longer curled up in the joint, DH places the bait inside the wall and replaces the access panel.

I'm writing this shortly before dinner on Tuesday. Hopefully, the Crazy Squirrel from Hell dies painfully tonight, and I get to sleep through the night.

(Edit to add: DH heard CSFH in the walls between the master bathroom and GK's bathroom around 7 PM last night. We haven't heard a peep since though I was awake until after 2 a.m. waiting for him. Thankfully, DH took GK to his orthodontic appointment this morning and let me sleep in. After eight hours of real sleep, I feel a lot better.

Though I still want the bastard to die a slow, agonizing death.)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

BAMF Girls Club - Episode 6

Bella and Lisbeth hit a Ghost note in their relationship.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Wisdom of Harrison Ford

This is from Bravo's Inside the Actor's Studio from a few years ago. I think it's the first time I really saw Harrison Ford, the actor, instead of Harrison Ford, the larger-than-life movie star.

In one of those weird coincidence things, the same day I watched this, DH commented how different I was online as "Alter Ego" versus "Suzan Harden". Then listening to the interview, I realized I unconsciously used some of the acting techniques Mr. Ford talks about to get into the skin of both Alter Ego and my characters, like Sam Ridgeway. It's exhilarating and scary as hell at the same time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why Building the Backlist Is More Important Than Instant Gratification

Since so many indie writers are relatively new to publishing, I see a lot of skewed assumptions everywhere from associates here in Houston to comments in the blogoshphere. The first question an indie writer needs to ask herself is what are her long-range plans.

Frankly, are you expecting your one book to make thousands or (in your secret heart of hearts) millions? That is, do you believe you'll win the publishing lottery?

Let's face it. We ALL want that. The one book that will earn us millions. Heck, maybe even enough to buy ourselves a castle, a la J.K. Rowling. But the truth is we have no idea if, much less when, such an event might happen.

So what do we need to maximize our revenue? A backlist.

This means getting as much quality product out as we can. If a reader finds a book they love, they will search out everything that writer has to offer. And I do mean EVERYTHING. (This is just as true for trad published writers.)

One of the reasons I was able to leave the Day Job was due to people buying something of mine, then subsequently buying every single title I have available. That's nine under my name and seven under Alter Ego. It adds up. It adds up exponentially the more titles you have available.

I'm a relatively new writer. I've only been writing fiction professionally for two years. Can you imagine the possible sales after you've been writing for five? Ten? Twenty?

The main problems most new writers have is the lack of of patience and the lack of vision. They cannot fathom steadily working for years in order to build up that back list. They cannot see that once a story is finished, it will continually earn them money.

Say you only sell one copy of one title a month. You make $2. Now, two dollars a month isn't a lot, is it? It barely covers a small, black coffee.

But put up another title. Now, it's $4 a month, right? Not necessarily. The folks that bought your first title may go back and buy your second title. A new reader loves your second title and returns to buy your first. So, more likely you've made $8 in that month.

Put a third book up. Not only are previous fans buying your new book, they're now telling their friends. Word-of-mouth kicks in. Now, you're selling five copies of the new volume per month, plus copies of the two previous books to three new fans a month. You're up to $22 a month.

But constantly putting up a new work every month is hard. Waiting for that gradual build-up is hard. Most writers give up long before they start to see any money roll in.

And that's when a new writer turns to a traditional publisher. But she is trading the instant gratification of a $3000 advance against the three months her book will actually sit on a brick-and-mortar store's shelves. She loses her rights to her book for an extended period of time that the book could be earning her money.

If that one book with the traditional publisher does not earn more than $3000 for the writer, it's deemed a failure, but the publisher will sit on the rights for as long as possible. Even if the writer does get her rights back in a reasonable time, say seven years, there's usually a good chunk of that time where the writer is making no money on that particular title.

Meanwhile, instead of putting out a title a month, the writer is normally limited by their contract from publishing additional work in that genre for a certain amount of time. If it's a multi-book contract, say three volumes, then the writer is subject to the publisher's whims. Best case scenario? The publisher does release the three books in consecutive months, but in reality, the writer is usually looking at one release a year.

Now, these are not hard and fast facts by any means, but these are some of the factors a writer needs to consider in their career paths.

In other words, don't be a sheep and follow the herd. Be an Angry Sheep forging your own path!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Status Update - February 2013

Well, I've passed the two-year mark since I decided to indie publish. Frankly, I've been amazed how well things have been going! I've ditched both of my jobs, and I'm writing full-time. It's meant some careful financial planning because some months sales are terrific and other months are kind of sucky. But that's totally normal for the book-selling business.

Total sales for 2011 - 181
2011 Releases - 3 novels, 2 novellas and 1 non-fiction

Total sales for 2012 - 2469
2012 Releases - 1 novel, 7 novellas, 3 short stories

Yep, that's a 1300% increase. For those curious about cause and effect, sales went up which allowed me to write full-time, therefore productivity went up.

I also tried to release something every month in 2012. As you can see, I managed eleven new releases despite being waylaid by the flu for the month of October. Unfortunately, Blood Sacrifice fell by the wayside and the Seasons of Magick: Winter release was over a month late.

2013 will be a little different, definitely fewer releases. After I complete two novellas for Alter Ego, I'm going to buckle down on the Bloodlines novels. I really miss writing longer works, and I'm looking forward to getting back to Sam and the gang.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

BAMF Girls Club Is Back

Thank to last year's Kickstarter, Comediva has produced four new episodes of their fabulous series!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Games Workshop Rights Bullying Hits a New Low

[Editor's note: Hogarth's Spots the Space Marine is back up on Amazon. It had been removed after Games Workshop sent Amazon a DMCA notice earlier this week back in December. Legal lesson, folks--DMCA applies to COPYRIGHT, NOT TRADEMARKS. (My apologies for the incorrect date regarding the DMCA notice.)]

M.C.A. Hogarth is an incredible writer and a brilliant artist. She wrote, among many other things, a story called Spots the Space Marine.

For those of you who aren't SF fans, the term "space marine" has been around forever. Okay, maybe not forever, but at least sixty years. The company Games Workshop decided to trademark a commonly used SF term.

Then they decided to go after folks who used the term, but not just any folks. They didn't go after the estate of Robert Heinlein or John Ringo. No, they went after folks they thought wouldn't or couldn't fight back. Like M.C.A. Hogarth.

Several folks have dealt with this issue far more extensively than I could. John Scalzi gives his usual acerbic breakdown of the term in literature. Angela Benedetti adds her two-cents as a game writer. Cory Doctorow has his own snarky take at Boing Boing. C.E. Petit gives some legal thoughts over at Scrivener's Error.

For M.C.A. to fight this, it's going to take money. A lot of it. If you'd like to support her, here a few things you can do:

Buy Spots the Space Marine. It's still available at Smashwords.
Buy her artwork or drop a tip in her tip jar.
Buy her books at Amazon.
Buy her other books at Smashwords.

Thank you in advance for supporting another writer!

P.S. If Spots isn't your cup of tea, I highly recommend Claws and Starships!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Amazon Tagging Is Going Bye-Bye

It never fails. As soon as someone tries to abuse the system, Amazon reacts.

In the same spirit of the uproar of removing reviews, the Kindle Boards are aflame over Amazon removing the tagging system. Among the accusations is that Amazon is trying to get rid of indie authors. That indie authors make Amazon less money, therefore they are being hidden. Basically, the usual paranoid BS (one of the reasons I don't go on the boards much, and I sure as hell don't post).

One person at least tried to find out what was going on. When Amy E. Barker asked Amazon, here's the reply she received:

I'm sorry for the concern caused by not being able to edit or add any new Tags. The original idea of Tags was to allow customers to tag items they were considering buying (for example, tagging items for a specific person as a gift), tagging products that they have purchased for later recommendations and tagging products to suggest better organization of them for Amazon. Over time Amazon has introduced new features that have replaced the TAGS functionality, including Wish Lists, Customer Reviews and Recommendations. Since the introduction of those features the usage of Tags, and therefore their value to our customers, has declined. We have removed TAGS in favor of the replacement features. Tags that you created are still available under Your Profile page.

What I think it really comes down to is that once again, just like reviews, there are writers AND readers abusing the system. Some books had been marked with some ugly labels that had nothing to do with the book itself: 'fag', 'n*****', 'Nazi', etc.

Sometimes, writers would tag someone else's book with their name in order to make the rival's book disappear or to grab onto the coattails of a super successful author.

I've seen the second issue happen. I was the victim of issue one.

One of Alter Ego's books was tagged by Author X under her name. Eighty-eight of her friends also tagged it, which meant if anyone clicked on the tag 'Alter Ego', that particular book would not appear. What these people didn't realize is that ANYONE could see who tagged which books.

You see, only five people KNOW that 'Suzan Harden' and Alter Ego are the same person. (Okay, I'm pretty sure a private investigator friend has deduced the truth, but he's wise enough not to say a damn word.) So when I checked who'd done the malicious tagging, I was shocked to discover several people that I know had participated. Unfortunately, I strongly suspect account hacking was not the case with these people. I also suspect they didn't view this action as harming someone they knew.

I would give more details, but since GK is underage, I plan to keep Alter Ego under wraps for five more years.

This incident saddened and disappointed me because I held these people in high regard. I was also confused by their actions because several mutual friends had been victim of these kind of attacks on Amazon lately and on e-mail loops, these same people agreed our friends had been abused. So why do this to someone else?

What most writers can't seem to get through their heads is that readers can go through books faster than we can write them. We are not rivals. Just because Mrs. Smith bought my book today, it doesn't mean she won't buy your book tomorrow or next month.

So something that had been a useful feature is gone thanks to some boneheads. I don't blame Amazon. I blame the readers and writers for not acting like adults.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Whistle Creek

My friend Savannah Rose has a special deal with her first novel Whistle Creek at Enter code BX44M at check-out and it's FREE!

If you love romance, small towns, and good old-fashioned family drama, then this is definitley a novel you want to check out.

Journalist Rose Langston travels back to her home town of Whistle Creek to rebuild her life following her divorce. She’s been hurt, betrayed, and belittled but nothing can prepare her for what she’s about to discover when she enters the gates of the L & M Ranch.

Tyler Monroe left Whistle Creek when Rose’s dad threatened his reputation the night of her graduation. But problems arise with Rose’s brother Todd when he inherits the L & M Ranch, and Tyler returns to his roots to help out the brother he never had but always wanted.

Can Rose and Tyler accept that they still have feelings for each other, or will their past pain rip them apart again?

For more information, check-out Savannah Rose's blog.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Super Bowl Starts in Sixteen Hours...

...and in tribute, here's one of my favorite Super Bowl commercials!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Stephen King Admits Reading 50 Shades of Gray

Well, the post title got your attention, didn't it? LOL

Seriously, here's video of King's Q&A with masters students at UMass Lowell before the big program he did at the university last December. And yes, he does discuss Fifty Shades of Gray.