I write like
Jack London

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Results of the J.A. Konrath 8 Hour Challenge (and a Free Story)

As many of you know, I broke down and tackled Joe Konrath's short story challenge a week ago Thursday. Joe's kind enough to promote our books this weekend. He also encouraged us to try out KDP Select, which I planned to do later, but what the hey?

For those of you awaiting patiently for Blood Sacrifice, this challenge really helped spur me into getting the damn novel done. As in 10,00 words written since I completed the challenge. And I'm literally writing the story backwards, but I'm not going to question this method since the book is getting finished.

Love, War and a Bulldog takes place once everyone returns to Los Angeles after the events of Amish, Vamps & Thieves and Blood Sacrifice. There's no major spoilers.

Okay, maybe a minor one. But seriously, folks, if you haven't figured out who Phil's dad is by now, look up "Amazons" on Wikipedia.

So here's the deal--

1) Love, War and a Bulldog is free now through Tuesday, September 3, on Amazon US only. Click here to download.

[Edit: Amazon has made it free on other country sites as well. It already has downloads from UK and Germany. I've changed the link so it will take you to the appropriate store. Please let me know if you have a problem.]

2) If you're a pure-ist, don't read it until after you've read Blood Sacrifice.

3) Love, War and a Bulldog won't be available at other online stores until December 1.

4) I'll try to do a free period at the other sites, but the best I can guarantee is a Smashwords coupon. (I know. You'd think Apple, B&N, etc. would get a clue about these types of temporary sales.)

5) If you absolutely want it now, but you don't have a Kindle or you absolutely refuse to get a Kindle app, my books are DRM-free, You can always convert the file through Calibre or any other conversion software.

So what the hell is this story about?

Emerson O’Malley, a were-bulldog, has been trapped in his canine form since the day he was born. Even worse, the likelihood of him losing his virginity is zero. But when he rushes in to rescue three nymphs, he pisses off the Greek goddess Aphrodite, who curses him into human form. Does he take advantage of his one night with the woman he loves or does he save Los Angeles from the goddess’s wrath?

P.S. Emerson and his ladylove Agnes made their first appearance in Zombie Love.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Indie Cooties (Or Why You're Not a Real Writer)

Well, I thought the bullshit about indie v. trad publishing had died down, but it's back in full-force.

At the beginning of the month, horror writer Lisa Morton wrote a piece called "Ten Questions to Know If You're a Pro." If the article had been on Lisa's own blog, I doubt if it would've made that much of a wave. Lisa claims she was frustrated with associates who did not take the craft or business as seriously as she did, that it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Reading it a certain way, I can see this may have been her intent. Unfortunately, because of her word choices, the piece comes across as serious and not funny at all.

To add to the situation, Lisa is the vice-president of Horror Writers of America, and her article appeared on the Los Angeles chapter's website.

Another horror writer and fellow HWA member Brian Keene did not find Lisa's piece amusing and wrote a rebuttal.

Here's my two cents: I don't know either Lisa or Brian. In fact, I never heard of Lisa until I read Brian's piece, and I've been following Brian's blog for several years now. I can see what she attempted. I can see why he felt dissed by this list. I'd like to point out at no time did Brian attack Lisa personally.

And then like the whole Sue Grafton thing last year, the stupid situation went viral. You know it's bad when Neil Gaiman is making fun of the list.

Forbes contributor Suw Charman-Anderson wrote a thoughtful piece on the issues raised by Lisa's article, asking the real question of what makes a writer a "professional."

Some bloggers, such as Marie-Claude Bourque at Musetracks, have tried to start a serious discussion on the matter. And that's when the trolls came out, spewing the usual crap that self-published writers are not professional because they haven't been vetted.

Here's the thing: the publishing industry AS A WHOLE is totally UNREGULATED. Other than common law contract issues, we can do what we want because guess what? WE MAKE UP SHIT FOR A LIVING!

Anyone can start a publishing company. Anyone can be an agent. Anyone can write.

Do you really want to see stuff censored by a self-regulating industry? I sure as hell don't. It would stifle creativity.

Is there stuff out there that I despise? The Saw movies come to mind. And all the Harlequin Presents books.

Do I have a right to stop someone else seeing, reading or writing this kind of stuff? Only my underage son, and frankly, once he's eighteen, he can watch, read or write whatever he wants.

The other side of the coin is that if you as a writer are not producing things people want to read, you're probably not going to sell jack shit. You can make all the nasty comments about E.L. James and Fifty Shades of Gray you want, but at the end of the day, people read and liked those books.

Just because something isn't your taste, or someone does something in a different way that you would have, does not make them wrong.

As if that weren't enough, here's how Merriam-Webster defines "professional":

1:
a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession
b : engaged in one of the learned professions
c (1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession
(2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

2:
a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs
b : having a particular profession as a permanent career
c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return


3: following a line of conduct as though it were a profession

According to one of the most noted dictionaries of the English language, I am a professional. For the rest that don't agree with that, well, I hope you have fun with your hobby.

Monday, August 26, 2013

How Much Longer Can Barnes & Noble Hold Out

It's hard  to believe it's been two and a half years since Borders drowned in Chapter 11. You'd would have thought Barnes & Noble would have learned from the death of what had been their biggest rival for a couple of decades.

And in some ways B&N did. They saw what Amazon was doing to gain market share. They jumped into the device market with the introduction of the NOOK. They opened up their e-book store to indie writers. But they did nothing to alleviate the crushing overhead of brick-and-mortar stores.

Sales of paper books went down or stagnated, depending in which source you take as gospel. Even as their archrival fought to keep its head above the rising tide of debt, B&N reduced their movie selection and eliminated music entirely. They expanded that previous media space and installed a mini-toy store instead. In the front of the store, a gigantic NOOK display blocked the sight of the books. Where the NOOKs hadn't invaded, home furnishings, kitchen knick-knacks, and Vera Bradley dominated.

So why didn't these changes save B&N?

They forgot their primary mission--customer service.

Clerks would refuse to order books that the stores did not carry, or they would lose the order. The B&N website has not improved its search criteria or any other functionality in the last three years. Attempts to contact the company regarding problems are often met with a resounding silence.

The toys were not necessarily a bad idea, but pricing them 30-50% above other retailers like Target and Walmart was.

On the NOOK side, they didn't fulfill their promise of additional content for their tablets. Customers only had access to e-books and a few cheesy apps. No movies, TV, music or decent games. So customer started rooting their tablets in order to use them with other vendors. B&N retaliated by locking the devices in such a way that if a customer tried to root her device, she ended up with a paper weight.

Then there's the issue with vendors. B&N got into a pissing contest with Simon and Schuster over payment of front table and end cap placement prices that lasted six months. Some indie writers are missing payments as far back as May.

Rather than take a hard look at business practices and improve them, the B&N board fired CEO William Lynch last month. CFO Michael Huseby now runs the company. I'm sorry but beancounters rarely have the vision to pull a company out of a tailspin.

Chairman Len Riggio filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that he planned to buy out B&N's shares of the retail stores and take the company private.

Fourth quarter losses in the NOOK division prompted the company to state last month that it was withdrawing from the tablet market. They've been mum about whether the e-book section will follow NOOK or stay with the bookstore division should they find a buyer for the NOOK. And frankly, no other tech company wants to touch NOOK with the proverbial 10-ft. pole.

A couple weeks after the fourth quarter announcement, losses went even higher due to extra taxes on an accounting "mistake."

In August, management reversed the policy changes stated in July. NOOK devices will still be manufactured. Riggio has withdrawn his offer for the retail stores.

And in the midst of the chaos, bugs in Nook Press, the upload interface that replaced PubIt in July, has caused a wealth of suspicion in the indie writer community. Sales appear and disappear. Real-time updates have been a joke. Writers are concerned they are seeing the same types of fuzzy accounting that trad publishers are notorious for. Many are biting their nails, waiting to see if August payments hit their bank accounts.

Can B&N get their shit together?

Not at the rate they are going. The big question? How long can their bloated plane glide before it crashes.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Really? Mother Moster's new single debuted this week and you thought I wouldn't post it?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why I Don't Talk About My Writing Process

In case you don't follow Dean Wesley Smith or Joe Konrath (and frankly, if you're indie publishing or want to indie publish, you should be), both of them are talking about their writing process.

In Dean's case, he's been doing a writing in public series for August. He's a true panster, and for a hybrid like me, it's interesting watching him go through his day.

Yesterday, Joe came clean on four humor books he published under a pseudonym. In his case, he was trying to find the fun in writing again by doing doing something crazy and off-the-wall. He claims he blew his own rules of indie publishing out of the water, but is still making money on these books. (Personally, I don't think he did break his rules, but that's a post for another day.)

So, two different experiments, two experienced writers. But it's the comments that are most educational.

Basically, writers are afraid to let their freak flag fly. "Oh, my god, what would people think of me?" "I'll ruin my career!" "You can't write that fast! The book won't be any good!"

*sigh*

I give both Dean and Joe a lot of credit for growing a damn thick skin over the years. They don't let the stupid comments from people get to them. And I really do admire them for that.

I, on the other hand, am so fucking sick of confrontation. After the kerfluffle when I announced I was going indie, I've been actively avoiding most writers.

In the year since I quit the day job and started writing full-time, I've been working pretty damn hard to improve my craft. Writing faster. Trying new forms such as short stories. Experimenting with styles and techniques. And I'm getting the same comments from writers as Dean and Joe. "Oh, my god, what would people think of you?" "You'll ruin your career!" "You can't write that fast! The book won't be any good!"

Which means I'm down to a handful of people I can talk writing with. And it isn't anything I've actually done "wrong." It all comes down to the other people's fear.

So if you ask me for advice, you might only get a platitude from me until I get to know you better. Nothing personal, but I don't want your fear.

Now, if you can let go of the fear-monster and want to try something new, Joe's running a challenge at his blog. Write a short story, edit it, format it, create a cover, and upload it to Amazon within eight hours. Once it goes live, e-mail Joe the link and he'll mention you on his blog. I did it in seven hours and thirty-four minutes, but I got side-tracked looking at cute bulldog pictures. A lot of people did it much faster.

Try it. I dare you. In fact, I double-bulldog dare you.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

BAMF Girls Club - Episode 10

In all of the hot water heater trauma of last week, I totally forgot that Comediva had a new episode. I'm not sure what's better: Lisbeth explaining Grumpy Cat, Hermione taking out Mr. Smith, or Lisbeth dancing to last summer's super popular song.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Movie Mania - The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

After loading a 16-ft moving van in one hundred degrees temps, collecting paperwork to get GK enrolled in school, and desperately looking for a solution that would remove a stain on the carpet in GK's bedroom (don't ask), I deserved a break.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants came out in 2005, but a local theater has a chickflick night once a month. Despite being a big fan of Alexis Bledel and The Gilmore Girls, I never saw Sisterhood.

Until now.

Sisterhood starts with four lifelong friends, Tibby, Lena, Carmen and Bridget, shopping before they part for the summer. The girls stumble across a pair of jeans in a second-hand store that miraculously fit them all. They decide to share the jeans, each girl for a week during the summer, and they dub them "The Traveling Pants".

During the course of the summer, each girl faces their own emotional crisis. Lena finds love and believes the pants are magic. The other girls' encounters while wearing the pants are far more heart-breaking but lead to necessary growth.

****


SPOILERS


****

Tibby is the only one not traveling for the summer. She winds up working at Wallman's (aka Wal-Mart) in order to buy camera equipment and is bored out of her mind. She discovers a young girl Bailey passed out in the aisle. Bailey has leukemia, lives five blocks from Tibby, and of course, accidentally ends up with the Traveling Pants.

Tibby's journey from walled-off sarcastic film-maker could have been handled so poorly, but Delia Ephron and Elizabeth Chandler wrote the part with a delicate charm. Placed in the hands of the magnificent Amber Tamblyn, this subplot becomes so much more than a saccharine disease-of-the-week death scene.

I think my only gripe of the entire film is the intrusive use of pop music during certain scenes. I understand I'm not the target market for this film. But instead of subtly adding to a moment, it sounds like the mixer was working on this movie and a couple of videos at the same time and mixed up the tracks.

Overall, I give movie 8 out of 10 stars.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Music I've Been Listenting to Lately

I know I've posted this one before, but after listening to Dee Snyder's Senate testimony again, I've been on a Twisted Sister kick.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Where's Suzan? Definitely Not in Waldo's Happy Place

After all the drama of the packing and move, after all the trauma of broken laptops, and after all the stress of not getting as much written over the summer as I'd planned, I went to the movies Wednesday night.

It was one of those places that serves food and alcohol, and they have a chickflick night once a month. Wednesday's offering was Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a movie I hadn't seen yet even though I love Alexis Bledoe Bledel (sorry, I always get her name wrong).

I got there five minutes after the start of the film (which totally isn't like me). The pepperoni pizza I ordered was cold. And I didn't get my Diet Pepsi until an hour and a half into the show.

(Good flick though, and I'll do my review on Monday.)

I figure this just isn't my week. I'll go home, take a nice hot bath and go to bed. When I got home, water was pouring out of the bottom of the water heater as fast as the intake was dumping it in. I turned off the gas, but the water shut-off valve was corroded so bad it refused to budge. So I had to close the house's main before I started moving stuff out of the path of the flood.

*sigh*

Several phone calls to find an available plumber and $650 later, we've got a new hot water heater.

And for some strange reason, I'm exhausted. On the plus side, I got some work done on Blood Sacrifice in between phone calls and during the installation.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Disruption Sucks

Right now, I'm feeling a tad bit of sympathy for traditional publishers. Disruption in your work environment throws you off your game. You get disoriented because things aren't were you left them. You reach for something and your hand meets empty air because the item moved.

The last couple of weeks have been insane, and not just because of the move of 1200 miles.

As I said before, Isabella, my trusty Inspiron 700m, died. DH and managed to get everything switched over to Ivan, my backup Inspiron 700m. These were the lightest laptops on the market eight years ago, which is why I loved them so. We planned on getting me a new work computer after the end of the year, mainly because we've been promising GK a new machine for some time now, and we thought, "Hey! Great Christmas present!"

But I have had problems with arthristis for three years now. Yeah, I know I'm too young, but it's part of the whole screwed-up endocrine/immune system thing I have going. And well, you know where this is going.

I had gotten several work tasks done Saturday morning while curled up on the loveseat. I stood up to take Ivan to the kitchen, one of the few places I could safely plug him in to recharge without someone tripping over cords. And i watch in horror as he slid from my suddenly non-working hands.

And to top things off, I'd just received two new covers from my designer by e-mail and had not saved them to a flashdrive or the external harddrive yet.
I had a good cry and a shower, then DH and I sat down to analyze the damage. Even though the impact hadn't broken any external bits, it cracked the motherboard and screwed up something in the memory. Or so we thought initially.

DH, being the cool tech guy he is, performed emergency transplant surgery. But despite his best efforts, neither machines' screen would work. So now, I'm tethered to our wide-screen TV in order to see what the hell I'm typing on the Bride of Frankenstein.

Like a traditional publisher, I can get by for now, but the long-term prognosis sucks the big one. This means investing in new resources to make me more productive again. Because I doubt the local cafe owners would be happy with me dragging a widescreen TV into their establishments.

Monday, August 12, 2013

HELP! (And a reward for the correct answer!)

A few weeks ago, I came across a blog that one of my daily dose people (i.e. Passive Guy, Joe Konrath, DWS, etc.) linked to, either directly or indirectly. The lady writer had the HTML on her blog post for a universal link to all Amazon stores for her buy links in the back of her books.

The book link would go to the appropriate store based on the reader's locale, i.e. if the reader was in England, the link would go to that book page on www.amazon.co.uk.

This was terrific! I didn't have to list every single Amazon store! I saved that URL, or I could have sworn I did. But between the move to Ohio and two computer crashes, I cannot find the bookmark for that blog!

It is NOT the Wordpress Affiliate Link Localizer plug-in, Easyazon, Viewbook.at OR Booklinker.net.

As I said, I'm looking for the blog of a female indie writer who posted the HTML for a universal Amazon link.

REWARD: Be he first person to post the link to the correct writer's blog post in my comments section, and I'll send you a $20 Amazon giftcard!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why Dee Snyder Is the King of Free Speech

This was a major issue when I was in college (1985). None of the idiots in Washington, D.C., realized how intelligent and well-spoken the incredible Dee Snyder was until he slapped them upside the head with facts and logic.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Status Report - August 2013

As far as my writing goes, not much has been happening. In May, we made the difficult decision of moving back to Ohio. 80% of my resources has been dedicated to that task this summer. The ultimate goal was to get up there so we could enroll GK before the new school year.

I did finish an Alter Ego novella and cranked out a huge chunk of Blood Sacrifice before packing had to take precedence. Once the truck was on the road Wednesday, I was too damn sore to concentrate on much.

(And for the record, getting old sucks. My sister and I used to load and unload three or four wagons of hay IN A DAY, and the the worst thing that would happen is sweat. I had to steal GK's leftover painkillers from his oral surgery just to sleep the last two nights because extra-strength Tylenol just wasn't cutting it.)

Yesterday, I got a good chunk of the novella edited. Once it's published (probably Monday or Tuesday), I'll get Blood Sacrifice done since one of my beta readers keeps asking where it is.

As for sales, they've been slow but steady over the summer. The biggest change is the rise in Apple sales, which I talked about on Wednesday. I know sales will sag when schools start around the 15th, but I'm not worried. Since I'm not homeschooling for the first time in four years, I should see a rise in writing productivity that compensates.

I just pray Zombie Goddess won't take a year and three drafts to complete.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Hell of a Week...Oh, and Apple

Well, the moving truck pulled out of the driveway at 10:30 a.m. this morning. Three and a half hours behind schedule.

Fortunately, one the few aspects of mine GK has developed is the desire for organization and sticking to a schedule. Unfortunately, DH has neither. Add in his heavy dose of sentimentality and both GK and I were ready to kill DH this morning.

I was at least prepared for DH's meltdown, having experienced it seventeen years ago when we moved to Texas. GK is like, "What the fuck is wrong with my dad?"

In addition to the actual moving BS, my laptop died, our shredder died, and there was a fubar regarding our moving truck reservation. Everything was dealt with, but it sucked unnecessary hours out of our already tight schedule. But we still would have left late today anyway because of DH.

*sigh* Anyway...

Three interesting personal things about Apple:

1) Apple finally decided to pass on numbers for free e-books. My giveaways for Zombie Confidential are 494, which brings my total to 3,370 as of June 30, 2013. On a side note, every time I think the book will drop out of the top 100 in the Amazon Women Sleuths category, it jumps right back up.

2) Apple has some very odd standards when it comes to cover art. They are refusing to sell Book #4 of Alter Ego's BDSM series because it has a naked woman in handcuffs on the cover. Apparently, they did not notice the naked woman in chains on the cover of Book #1. In both cases, you cannot see any of the naughty bits. I haven't decided what I'm going to do just yet, but I'm leaning toward replacing the current cover with a Victorian woman.

3) As I mentioned, my Apple sales have been matching or surpassing my Amazon sales this year. Here's the breakdown of percentage of total sales:

January: Apple - 0.9% Amazon - 24.9%
February: Apple - 11.4% Amazon - 12.2%
March: Apple - 14.2% Amazon - 14.8%
April: Apple - 23.3% Amazon - 12.3%
May: Apple - 8.6% Amazon - 22.4%
June: Apple - 21.3% Amazon - 11.8%

It'll be interesting to see if this trend continues through the rest of the year.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back in Business...Sort of

Ivan has been fully loaded with programs and data. I'm thankful I didn't lose any wips or the box inventory I'd been working on when Isabella went into cardiac arrest. However, we're picking up the moving truck at noon, we actually ran out of boxes and need to buy more, and we have a houseful of furniture to load, so I know I won't get any writing done today or tomorrow.

I'll be posting some interesting personal news about Apple on Wednesday, but it may be late in the day.

'Til then, be safe and productive everyone.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Videos I've Been Watching Lately - NSFW

WARNING: This video is NOT SAFE FOR WORK!!

George Carlin's classic seven words routine. He actually went to jail for this act, and his case went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

There's Trouble! Right Here in Bayou City!

Isabella, my beloved work laptop, croaked Tuesday afternoon.

(Yes, William, I had good backups.)

Unfortunately, it took most of yesterday to install the files and programs (still have three programs to go) on my second stringer, Ivan. Two days of productivity totally lost.

So no writing, no editing, no blogging because I still have a hell of a lot of packing to do before the moving truck arrives on Monday.

I'll see y'all on the other side!