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Jack London

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Something to Brighten Your Monday Morning

It's Monday morning, and the first thing I do is scan the internet news. I don't watch TV news anymore. I swear the Houston stations lead off with dead baby stories EVERY FREAKIN' MORNING.

So I searched for a positive news story. Anything.

Allegedly, twenty members of Westboro Baptist Church were arrested by the West police when they tried to picket the funeral of the fire chief who died in the explosion two weeks ago. If you've ever dealt with small town Texas law enforcement, it's an easy story to believe. Maybe WBC believed the other stories about Texans love for their guns because they didn't show up in West.

Then I saw a story about new Peeps flavors being introduced this summer: Bubblegum and Lemonade. A portion of the sales will go to cancer research. Okay, a little more positive, but let's face it, the press release is glorified marketing. (It doesn't mean I won't try the lemonade ones!)

Finally, out of Georgia came the report that students from Wilcox County said, "NO!" to adults' continued efforts to segregate them. Even though segregation officially ended in 1964, parents raised private funds to hold two separate proms for the last fifty years. This year, the kids raised their own funds to hold their own integrated prom. Word got out through Facebook, and donations came from as far away as Austrailia. The kids' fundraising was so successful that they donated the excess funds to charity.

Damn, I want to adopt them all. Anyone who says kids today have no ethics or morals had better be wearing a sturdy athletic cup around me.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Songs I've Been Listening to a Lot Lately

Freddie Mercury was far from a pretender. He's a great performer and musician who's sorely missed.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The More Things Change, The More People Scream

What a week! The anxiety levels are rising again as the latest numbers come out, and e-books have taken over a significant chunk of the market. The range of responses has been amazing.

The funniest "news" was James Patterson's full-page ad in the New York Times, asking for government bail-outs for traditional publishers. Seriously? At a time when the Big 5 and 1/2 are making record profits?

The most misunderstood was Neil Gaiman's keynote address at the 2013 London Book Fair. In his speech, Neil freely admits that things are changing, no one (including him) knows how things will shake out, and now is the time for folks to experiment. Industry pundits are pissed because they sure as hell don't want to embrace the change. Writers are pissed because Neil's already made his millions.

Neil's comments on the backlash can be read on his blog. I suggest you listen to his speech and judge for yourself.




And the establishment's attitudes were not helped by this week's NYT Bestseller List. Yep, that right. Three of the top five are indie writers.

Things are changing, and this bickering is so 2011. Get over it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to Respond When Bigotry Hits the Streets

I admit when I heard about Brad Paisley's song Accidental Racist, I thought he was trying to be cute. And I REALLY wondered what was going through LL Cool J's head by participating on the record.

After listening to it, I think the song tried to bridge a gap, but it was rather sugar-coated. Both men could have gone farther in addressing the problem in the lyrics.

Because racism is a problem in this country. And it's becoming more and more obvious since President Obama was elected in 2008 when a great deal of festering ugliness exploded across the nation.

On last Thursday's Colbert Report, Stephen and guest Alan Cumming sang their own parody concerning homophobia.


Did you laugh?

I laughed. I probably would have laughed harder if the parody wasn't in the coattails of nasty problems from last week.

One of the points of art is to get the human race to examine itself. One of the roles of artists is to ask the hard questions, to examine the things about ourselves we don't want to acknowledge.

As clumsy as Brad and LL's duet is, it has gotten people talking about stereotypes and judgments, on the internet and in real life. Maybe it will be the turning point in solving four hundred years of shit in this country.

I hope it is.

I really do.

Monday, April 22, 2013

No One Knows Nothing

There's a saying attributed to Socrates at the end of Plato's Republic. The actual quote can be translated as:

As for me, all I know is that I know nothing, for when I don't know what justice is, I'll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy.
On the other hand, "Nobody knows anything," has been attributed to Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman.

Both of these can be considered the source of this post's title.

The scary part is that I'm coming to the realization (finally) that one certain fact is true: no one on this planet has a clue. I don't mean all the crap last week with the Boston Marathon bombing, the ricin letters or the fertilizer plant explosion. In each of those cases, someone knew exactly what he/she was doing and didn't give a flying fuck who got hurt.

I'm referring to the so-called experts in writing. Writers, publishers, agents, editors. None of them know anything. Today, I'm picking on the writers.

I should consider myself fortunate. I've had people who I've considered brilliant help me in my writing career. Or tried to help me.

But the longer I've known these people, the more I realize they are repeating the same mantra: Do as I do and you will be as successful as I.

Unfortunately, the other side of that coin is: If you don't as I do, I will spit my god's wrath all over your face and shun you.

Yes, I could write romantic comedies until the end of time, but that not what I want to write. Yes, I could outline and organize and stick post-its all over my office walls, but I'd rather write by the seat of my pants. Yes, I could send in queries for the next twenty years, but that's not the type of validation I want.

And then reality smacks me in the head with an iron skillet. I do want validation. From my peers.

Except fellow writers don't consider me a peer because I don't follow their proscribed rules. Even the ones who claim they do not have rules HAVE RULES. Theirs just aren't the same as the majority's.

The realization that the writers who have tons more experience than me only understand their little corner of the universe is fucking depressing. It's like the moment you realize your parents aren't gods and they're human. It turns your world upside down.

Some people can't deal with that realization and retreat into old patterns. Some people avoid it and distance themselves from the situation. Some people, not a lot but a few, can gracefully make the transition.

Right now, I'm not sure in which category I'm going to end up.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Songs I've Been Listening to a Lot Lately

Am I the only one who can see Freddie Mercury and Elvis Presley dueting on this song?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Patience, My Writers, for Winter Is Coming...

Seventeen years ago, I was at a family wedding reception. My cousin Frank shoved a hardcover in my hands and said, "You have got to read this! You'll love it!"

Now, Frank and I were born literally sixty days apart. He's one of the very few people I trust when it comes to literature. Hell, he was the one who introduced me to the Uncanny X-Men when we were ten. If Frank says to read something, I read it.

The book Frank shoved into my hands at his brother's wedding reception? George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones.

While the orginal novel received excellent critical reviews, much love from the fantasy fanboys/girls and a Hugo award for Blood of the Dragon (Dany's chapters excised to form a novella), the rest of the world passed by this excellent book with nary a gasp.

With the success of Peter Jackson's movie adaptation of Lord of the Rings, rumors flew about a film version of A Game of Thrones. However, HBO required the rights in 2007 and decided to turn A Game of Thrones and its sequels into a series. The long-awaited series finally debuted in April 2011. Now, you can't avoid Game of Thrones merchandise everywhere you look.

What does the history of A Game of Thrones have to do with writers?

So many of us expect instant fame and fortune. However, Martin is a perfect example of an overnight success--one that was nearly twenty years in the making.

Don't go into this business wanting silver and gold dropped in your lap. Do it for the love of story.

George R.R. Martin has been a professional writer for forty-three years. A Game of Thrones wasn't a story that George slammed out because someone shoved a shitload of cash in his face. This was the project of his heart, the one he walked away from a successful Hollywood career to write.

One of my favorite sayings is from Marsha Sinetar. It's the title of one of her books. Do what you love and the money will follow.

Write the best book you can and make it available to readers. Don't fret because you're not an instant success. Just keep writing.

And remember! You're nobody's bitch.

This same process worked for George. It can work for you, too.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hug Your Kids Today

Monday started off on such a good note, but by the time I got home from writing at the cafe, the news out of Boston was smeared across every news outlet. I told GK to expect lots of extra hugs for the next few days whether he liked it or not.

To the asswipe who thought blowing up a bunch of innocent people was cool: I'm not Christian, and my gods are not as kind and forgiving as as Jehovah. May Sekhmet hunt your cowardly form until the end of time. May she feast on your flesh and marrow. And when she's done with you, may Ammit devour your soul and your name forever forgotten. So mote it be.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Tax Day!

Why, yes, I am excited to write a check to the IRS this year! I made money on my books last year! Whoo-hoo!

The actual return was electronically filed a couple of weeks ago, but this morning I swung by the post office to drop the check in the mail. Then I hit Target because they're having an excellent sale on Pepsi products. (Pepsi Max is my only vice besides chocolate.)

Now, I'm sitting in the Barnes & Noble cafe, trying to wrap up a few projects.

For example, I'm posting chapters of Blood Sacrifice over at my Blood Lines blog. Chapter Two went live this morning. (Hit the link for Blood Lines under My Blog List over on the right if you're curious.)

Between working on that, I've got edits on my Super Secret traditional submission and the last couple of pages of Alter Ego's last book in her first series to write.

All-in-all, this is a damn good Monday morning!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Famous Writer Facepalm

I'm getting really tired of the anti-indie sentiment floating around the internet. It's almost as bad as the anti-Amazon crap, but then according to Scott Turow, I'm too fucking stupid to understand that I need agents and publishers to ensure the quality of my manuscripts.

Really? If so, why am I getting daily messages from readers wondering where the hell my next book is?

Scott had an op-ed piece in last Sunday's New York Times entitled "The Slow Death of the American Author." In it, Scott accuses the U.S. Supreme Court, Amazon, Google, libraries, and pirates for the diminishing monetary returns of authors.

I won't get into all the factual inaccuracies in Scott's opinion piece. Suffice to say, many others pointed out the problems in more detail than I could hope to. Though if you want an entertaining read, Barry Eisler's commentary is the funniest.

First of all, anyone who can blame pirates and libraries in the same breath isn't inhaling the same atmosphere I am.

Second of all, what slow death? I'm doing just fine. (Just got my Apple numbers for March. Still ahead of Amazon sales. B&N still beating everyone. Go figure.)

But the thing is Scott's not talking about the death of authors. He's concerned about the slow death of the Big Six.

The really big problem that has the writers up in arms is Scott's position as the president of Authors Guild, a group that supposed to be on the side of writers. Or so we thought.

In some of the brouhahas lately like the RH Hydra fiasco or the Nightshade spiral toward bankruptcy, Authors Guild has not said one word. Not one. Other organizations, such the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, have. But not one word out of Scott on behalf of Authors Guild.

For those who think other writers are picking on Scott Turow, well, I think they have every reason to question where his loyalties lie when the shit hits the fan and authors get taken for a ride by publishers.

Because of the massive upheavals in the publishing industry, I'm not inclined to join another writers' association. Or even rejoin one.

You see, I quit the Romance Writers of America. Or that's what I was accused of in a private e-mail last year. As I pointed out to this person, I didn't quit. I simply didn't bother to renew my membership.

It's nothing against RWA. If you're a beginning writer, I highly recommend joining RWA. For the money, their craft classes outstrip any MFA program in the nation. I may rejoin down the road. We'll see what happens through the rest of this year.

But when it comes to the business side of your publishing career, look to your right. See those blogs I have links to? Those are the people who have a clue about business. Read them.

Or not. It's your choice.

But whatever you do, don't listen to Scott Turow.

[Edit to add: Stonekettle Station isn't exactly a writers' blog, but Ret. Navy Chief Warrant Officer Jim Wright is funny as hell. His style of social commentary reminds me of Mark Twain. Don't read it if you're easily offended.]

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dave Farland Book Bomb!

First of all this isn't any book bomb. Dave Farland, aka David Wolverton, is a respected SFF writer and teacher. His sixteen-year-old son was critically injured in a long-boarding accident last week, including severe head trauma, and is in a coma. The medical expenses are already in the mid-six figures and climbing.

What can you do to help?

Today, writers and fans are promoting book bombs for his novel Nightingale and his writer's guide Million Dollar Outlines.

If you were planning to buy something else on Amazon today, use one of the links above to go to Amazon for the purchase. Dave's Amazon Affiliate Code is attached, so even if you end up buying Twilight, Dave will get a few cents from Amazon for the advertising. PLEASE NOTE: Amazon DOES NOT charge YOU extra!

If you'd like to do more to help the Wolverton family, James Duckett, a friend of the Wolvertons, has set up the Help Ben Wolverton website for information about Ben's condition and a link for direct donations.

And if you would be kind enough, please spread the word!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Rest in Peace, Mrs. Thatcher

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed away earlier today. For those of us who grew up in the '80's, she was as much as an influence as Madonna, showing that gender and strength were not mutually exclusive.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Friday, April 5, 2013

Unrealistic Return Expectations of the Indie Writer

There's a petition circulating right now through Change.org asking Amazon to refuse refunds on e-books that have been read.

I understand the sentiment. No one wants to feel they've been taken advantage of. But there's major problems with this stance:

1) I doubt many of the signers of this petition have owned a retail store of any kind. When my husband and I looked into purchasing a brick-and-mortar store ten years ago, the statistics we received from the Small Business Administration said to expect 5% in returns. (When I find the blasted file in my office, I'll give you the source.)

According the the National Retail Federation ("NRF"), retail returns were expected to hit 8.7 percent during the 2008 Christmas shopping season, the height of the housing financial disaster. They actually hit 8.9 per cent and climbed over subsequent years.

According to Businessweek, retail returns hit a yearly average of 6 percent for 2007. A 2012 article by Businessweek said the yearly average was back down to 5 percent.

What does that mean for us indie authors? Alter Ego's first book, Book A, is my bestselling book to date. It also has the highest number of return. So, let's calculate it

Total books sold through Feb. 2013 = 1558
Total returns through Feb. 2013 = 9
Percentage of returns = 0.57 %

Not even the national average of 5%, but a tenth of that. If I add in my other seventeen books, the percentage drops even lower. That's damn good!

If your return percentage is higher than 5%, you need to take an honest, objective look at your book. Is the cover or blurb misleading? Are you calling it a romance when it doesn't have a "happily ever after" or "happy for now" ending? Is the beginning polished to perfection and the middle or ending need a major overhaul? Your readers may be feeling cheated or misled and want their money back. Not all of them leave nasty 1-star reviews.

2) Changing the policy punishes people who are not cheating the system. Haven't you ever accidentally clicked on something you shouldn't have? Have you ever bought a book where the formatting was so screwed up it was unreadable? The NRF survey for Christmas of 2012 estimates that 4.6% OF THE RETURNS are fraudulant. In other words, only 23 fraudulent returns out of every 10,000 sales.

That means out of all my sales, statistically speaking, less than one of them was a fraudulent return.

Were any of them fraudulent? Yes, I suspect two were because Book A was bought on Day 1 and returned on Day 2 when suspiciously Book B was bought...and then returned on Day 2 when Book C was purchased. So, is punishing these two idiots worth pissing off 1,556 other customers?

In my opinion, no, it's not.

3) Are you absolutely sure the book has been read? The reason I say this is? Sure, Amazon can track where you leave off on your Kindle, but both my mom and mother-in-law jump to the end of the file and READ THE END FIRST. If they don't like how the writer ends the story, they don't read the rest.

Yeah, I've had the argument with Mom thirty years ago that reading the end first ruins the book. I don't dare say a word to the MIL. LOL

4) Contrary to popular belief, Amazon does cut off customers who abuse their return policy.

5) Be very, VERY careful about throwing stones. Norwegian author Anne B. Ragde slammed e-book piracy in a 2010 article in Dagens Naeringsliv, only to have her own teenage son out Anne's music piracy.

Are there always going to be people who steal? Unfortunately, yes.

Will these people buy your books if you prevent them from stealing them? Probably not.

Will Amazon change its return policy? I have no fucking clue.

Will having print-only editions save your books from piracy? Seriously, do I have to explain to you what a scanner does?

I recommend that indie writers take a deep breath, grab their favorite beverage and get back to working on that current wip. I will because I know I have a thousand people waiting on Alter Ego's Book D.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Writers Behaving Badly - The Author Guild Smackdown

Get some popcorn and a drink before you read the following links. This is better than WWE match!

Okay, we all know about Amazon acquiring Goodreads. Big whoop, right?

Well, Scott Turow, the president of the Author's Guild, wrote a screed last Friday that made the Unibomber look positively sane. But that's not the good part.

The entertainment comes in the comments on that post and the follow-up commentary over at The Passive Voice.

Highlights:

- Rather than address the merits of the situation, YA author Ellen Hopkins called Bob Mayer a "scorned author" who has not reached the "stature of [Scott Turow]" and told him to "shut [his] mouth."

And Bob, an ex-Green Beret, could kill both Hopkins and Turow with his little finger. It doesn't mean he will. Kind of like Amazon taking over the world.

- An anonymous commenter calling himself (herself?) "Clamps" accused self-published authors of "spamming their way to the top."

Isn't this one getting old? It's right up there with J.A. Konrath buying a million of his own books in order to hit the Amazon Top 100.

- Ellen Hopkins claims Amazon reviews are more skewed than Goodreads. Passive Guy jumps in with "Just like the New York Times reviews."

Seriously, Ellen? Do you not understand how you got those glowing literati reviews?


What does this all come down to?

Not a Selket-damned thing, folks. This internal fighting is stupid. It's ridiculous. It's why I've withdrawn from the writers' organizations I used to belong to.

Nothing really matters except getting our words down and getting our stories in front of readers. How you do it is up to you.

[Edit to add: Since I wrote this post, comments on the Author's Guild blog post have been closed. Gee, I wonder why. *rolls eyes*]

Monday, April 1, 2013

Monday Movie Mania

After introducing GK to the original Die Hard while DH was away on a business trip, he was quite insistent that we take in the fifth movie in the series, A Good Day to Die Hard.

As my friend Brian pointed out, this was the first Die Hard movie that written specifically to be a Die Hard movie, and it shows.

Because this movie sucks the big one.

And this is the first time I've said this about a Bruce Willis movie since Bruno filmed the disaster known as Blind Date.

Seriously, folks, I love explosions and camp as much as the next geek girl, but The Expendables and The Expendables 2 were masterpieces compared to this.




*****




MAJOR FUCKING, PISSED-OFF-WRITER SPOILERS!!




*****




First of all, I do not blame anybody but the producers who green-lit this piece of crap story written by Skip Woods. Whatever Skip was smoking while writing the script, PLEASE TAKE IT AWAY FROM HIM.

Normally, I love Skip's work, especially Swordfish and Wolverine. He's got a lot of history to work with in the other four movies. I just don't get what happened here.

1) Characterization

John McClane's compassion and regard for his family is always foremost. Here, it's pretty much absent even though the inciting event is that his son Jack has been arrested in Russia. There were some stabs, but they fell flat. I don't expect John and Jack to be hugging, but in the other movies, there's been some sort of emotional bond between John and the other characters.

2) Implausible Events

McClane's never been to Russia, doesn't know the language, but miraculously knows how everything works and how to find Jack.

The bad guys have a gas that magically disperses radiation at Chernobyl. WTF! This is so fucking insulting I cannot even see the screen right now because my blood pressure is that high.

3) Lack of Suspense

Part of what made the earlier movies great was the everyman ingenuity shown by McClane verus the bureaucratic incompetence shown by the other law enforcement officers. The closest they have here is a CIA contact that dies at the beginning of the second act. Also, John may do some crazy shit to survive, but here, he acts flat out stupid by getting into stupid situations to begin with. By the middle of the movie, I just didn't care. The woman texting in front of me was more interesting.

4) The wooden acting

Hell, Alexander Godunov looked like fucking Oscar material compared to the actors. Everyone just seemed to be going through the motions and reading from cue cards.


All-in-all, watch the original on Netflix. One can NEVER get enough of Alan Rickman chewing the scenery.