Sunday, August 31, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Status Report - August 2014

There's a lot of people doing the Chicken Little "The sky is falling" dance. Sales are down! Reader are gone! Publishing is dying!

Is it really?

Yes, my sales are down. And it's my own damn fault.

You see, last summer we decided to move back to Ohio so DH is closer to his parents, GK his grandparents. I stayed in Texas to finish getting the house ready to put on the market.

Only to have the Great God Murphy intervene in a big way.

I tried to keep up on my production schedule. Blood Sacrifice and an Alter Ego novella were released in October. Three-quarters of the first draft of A Question of Balance was written during NaNoWriMo. Another Alter Ego short novel was published in May.

That is pretty f**king slow for me, and my sales numbers are starting to show it. I'm only selling about half of what I was a year ago. Because I'm not producing. Because my readers are waiting to see if I can complete what I started.

And rather than sinking my earnings back into my business, I used the cash to pay bills and finish work on the house. Seriously, when I saw my Amazon deposit yesterday morning, the first things I did was drop the check to my dentist in the mail and drive over to Home Depot for some supplies. When I get my B&N payment next week, I'll swing by Uncle Bob's for more boxes and bubblewrap.

This is definitely not how I would recommend running your business, folks. It's a damn good way to ground it into nothing. My production schedule is sitting by my side, mocking me. And there's no one to blame but myself.

Will things get better?

I believe they will. DH has agreed to pay Angry Sheep back from the proceeds of the house sale. I've already lined up someone to help me format the Bloodlines series for paper release next year. And once the house is show worthy (I need to tile the last bathroom and clean out my office this weekend), I'll retreat to Starbucks and write on my f**king phone if that's what it takes to get back in the groove.

As always, your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Podcast - The Author Biz

Thriller/suspense author Will Graham pointed me toward this delicious little podcast by Stephen Campbell. He interviews Deborah Coonts who talks about taking back her control of her career. Deborah currently works with Bob Mayers and Jen Talty's Cool Gus Publishing.

P.S. Sorry, but you'll need to click on the link to Stephen's website. I tried to embed the podcast of his interview with Deborah, but Blogger and WordPress don't like to play nice with each other.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Movie Mania - The Expendables 3

Remember when I reviewed The Expendables 2, and I said the only '80's action icons that haven't been in an Expendables movies were Harrison Ford, Hulk Hogan, and Mel Gibson?

Well, two out of the three made it into the latest installment of the aging hero action-fest. This time around Mel plays uber-villain, and co-founder of the Expendables, Conrad Stonebanks while Harrison Ford's Max Drummer replaces Bruce Willis' Church as the team's CIA contact.

This time around there are no innocent chicks and children to save. Even new Expendable Luna (Ronda Rousey) has more testosterone than the average man on the street.

*** SPOILERS ***

1) The addition of Wesley Snipes as one of the original members of the Expendables. His Doc is even crazier than Dolph Lundgren's Gunnar.

2) This time the in-jokes centered around the actors' real-life trials and tribulations, including reputations, jail time and helicopter crashes. See how many you can catch.

3) Kellen Lutz as Barney's newest protege, who actually survives this movie. The kid's showing his chops as an action hero. And let's face it, he was the best thing in Twilight as Emmett Cullen.

4) Antonio Banderas seems to be embracing the lighter side of his talents since his Galgo was the comic relief for this film (though unfortunately not as sexy as Puss in Boots). The role also shows the depth of his ability with any script. When his back story comes to light, he left my eyes stinging.

1) WTF?! Is there a quota on how many black guys can be in an action movie? That's the only reason I can think of for Terry Crews' Hale Caesar to miss most of the movie. I get the plot point, but why couldn't it have been done with Dolph or Randy Couture.

[Edit to add] Oops! Forgot to give my rating! I give it 8 out of 10 just for Ford's maniacal laughter while flying a helicopter like it was the Millennium Falcon.

What about Hulk Hogan? Well, there are already rumors swirling that he will be in The Expendables 4.


A lot has been made about The Expendables 3 ($15.8 million) making slightly more than half the opening weekend take of The Expendables 2 ($28.6 million). The blame was placed squarely on the pirated DVD quality download circulating on the internet a couple of weeks before the movie was released. But the majority of downloads were by non-U.S. users, and even if every download had been converted to U.S. ticket sales, the movie would have only made another $4 million, still well below the second installment of the franchise.


I think Stallone made a mistake by deliberately aiming for the 'PG-13' rating to broaden the franchise's audience. The first two movies were rated 'R', and the majority of flicks these guys are known for were 'R'-rated. Sly missed the point of why his core audience love The Expendables. They were made in the same vein as these stars' movies that my generation grew up watching.

Secondly, The Expendables 3 had to fight the summer word-of-mouth phenomenon that Guardians of the Galaxy has become. In fact, GotG regained the number one spot on Sly and buds' opening weekend. Normally, a testosterone-fest doesn't have much action competition this late in August, but the Marvel sci-fi hero story surprised even their Disney masters. It's made nearly half a billion dollars worldwide in its first three weeks in theaters.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

You Just Don't Understand

"You just don't understand." I've been hearing that phrase a lot over the last few years.

I can't possibly understand having a seriously ill spouse, even though DH was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer and dealt with two surgeries and ten months of chemo. I can't possibly understand having a chronic illness, even though I been dealing with an endocrine system that decided to shut down in the middle of my pregnancy, it hasn't restarted, and there's a medicine cabinet full of drugs that I have to take to stay alive. Apparently, I also don't understand what it's like to:

- Lose a job
- Lose my savings because of a medical catastrophe
- Have a child with special needs
- Have a parent who's alcoholic

...and the list goes on and on.

The same meme permeates my professional life as well. "You don't understand how trad publishing works!" has become the battle cry of some top-level publishers and writers.

Over the last week, Lee Child has popped into The Passive Voice. Yeah, Jack Reacher's creator. That Lee Child. You can check out the conversations here and here.

In my personal opinion, neither side acquitted themselves in a mannerly fashion. But I agree with one commenter who noted that Lee came in with guns blazing, telling us how we're wrong and we just don't understand trad publishing. And Lee did use one of Passive Guy's posts entitled, "We. Don't. Care. How. Traditional. Publishing. Works.", as proof that indies are ignorant.

What Lee is not considering is that there's a HUGE difference between "understanding" and "caring".

A lot of writers who have gone indie have been trad published. They're very much aware of how trad publishing works. And they see its limitations, which is one of the reasons those writers are taking their careers into their own hands.

In my case, my trad publishing career consists of five years writing a legal column for a regional magazine and having a short story accepted into an well-known anthology. In Lee's case, he's one of the best-selling novelists in the world and makes millions per year. Are we going to see trad publishing at the same level?

Hell, no! And that's part of the problem. Lee's forgotten what it's like to be at the bottom of the trad publishing totem pole.

Is it envy or bitterness on my part when it comes to trad publishing? I don't think so. I spent the first twenty years of my professional life figuring out that I'm not a company ladder-climber. Some folks can do it naturally (my brother-in-law Tim is one), but I'm "too independent" as a psych evaluation, given to me by a potential employer, said.

Do I want Lee's level of success? I can honestly say no. First, because my time will never be my own again if I reach that level. Second, because I've seen how a modicum of success in this field changes people. Sometimes for the better, but most times, not so much.

As I read through the conversations on the two TPV posts, I had one of those stuck-by-lightning realizations. Lee thinks he's talking to other writers.

He's not. He's talking to publishers. Small publishers who figured out how to eliminate the bloated overhead that's killing the Big Five in New York. Small publishers who are tapping the markets/subgenres that the Big Five feel aren't worth their time. Small publishers who have connected with the ultimate end users in this business--THE READERS!

So yes, indies do understand trad publishing, but to use it as a model will kill our businesses. While I may not get advances with seven digits like Lee does, I make enough collectively from my readers to pay most of my bills. And frankly, that means more to me than Lee Child's approval of how I publish.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Bunker and Silo Show

If you didn't catch the livestream on Monday, Hugh Howey and Michael Bunker's video of their show is up on YouTube. They discuss the current state of the publishing industry and mention the growing middle class of indie authors (like me!) that are now able to write full-time thanks to the changes in distribution and the explosion of e-books.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Home Repair Edition - Part Deux!

Back in June, I vented about all the bad luck we'd had while trying to get the $*$@)( Houston house on the market. Well, we were getting down to the wire for hitting the prime summer home sales market. There was still quite a bit to do, and I've been getting sicker from the stress (one of the lovely side effects of being immune compromised and having heart arrhythmia).

A benefactor spoke with DH and offered to front the money to hire somebody to help me with the last few things. His contractor showed up...

...and promptly tried to set my house on fire. *facepalm*

Really. The contractor tried to loosen the old linoleum in the kitchen using my candle lighter. Then he used water. The concrete slab was covered in a muddy, pulpy mess by the time he left. And to top it off, he used my tools because he didn't having any floor tools of his own, then left the unwashed tools on my kitchen counter.

I spent most of that evening and the next day cleaning up the mess instead of working on the other projects that needed to be done. I also primed the floor for leveler because there was a huge dip in the middle of the concrete. When the contractor arrived the next evening, I had the tools and supplies ready to go.

And he got pissed. Because I knew what I was doing. Because I knew he didn't know what he was doing. Because I had tits instead of a dick. Take your pick of the reasons. Thankfully, he quit five minutes after he arrived. Otherwise, I'd have to fire him. I wasn't about to do a half-assed job and leave behind something that would fall apart in ninety days after the new owners moved into the house. And I sure as hell wasn't going to take disrespectful shit from someone young enough to be my son.

All of this went down between Tuesday, August 5th, and Thursday, August 7th. Thanks to the stress, I hurt so bad Friday morning that I could barely roll out of bed.

In a flurry of emergency calls and pooling of funds, DH arrived from Ohio Sunday evening. We knocked out a bunch of stuff last week. He headed back after breakfast on Saturday to get back before today since GK started high school this morning.

Saturday and yesterday, I worked on two of the last three things that need to be done. The carpets will be cleaned on Tuesday, and the new stove should be here on Wednesday. The real estate agent will be here late Wednesday or early Thursday to take pictures. So by Thursday evening, this stupid house should be officially listed.

*sigh* I'll be so glad when this is all over.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Parodies I've Been Listening to Lately

Pharrell Williams agrees with Madonna's sentiment. You know you've succeeded in American music when Weird Al wants to rip on one of your songs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Octopi

...but you'll love this video anyway because there's sex and swearing. (May not be safe for work if your boss or one of your co-workers is an octopus.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Now Amazon's Whining Like a Little Girl

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I received an e-mail from Amazon KDP. (The Passive Voice reprinted the full text of the e-mail sent to KDP authors.) It was a request to e-mail Michael Pietsch, the CEO of Hatchette Book Group USA, and tell him why he's wrong. Amazon even thoughtfully provided suggested language and provided Mike's e-mail address. Amazon also asks that they be copied on the e-mail the KDP author sent to Mike.

My initial reaction was the same as Selena Kitt's. Except with a lot more swear words.

So of course, when PG posted the letter on his blog a few hours later, I put my two cents in:

I read this shortly before I went to bed. I shouldn’t have checked my e-mail because I ended up tossing and turning as I composed a response to Jeff Bezos. 
I didn’t appreciate Hatchette’s efforts to pull me into their little war. And I know I’ll be in the minority here at TPV, but I don’t appreciate Amazon’s either. 
Yes, I’ve watched Hatchette harm friends’ careers over the years. I don’t agree with their pathetic propaganda campaign. And it makes me sick that Hatchette and their one-percenters spread their elitist BS across the world when it’a all about how many extra Benjamins they can collect. 
On the other hand, Amazon isn’t innocent, and they have caused me direct harm when they’ve removed my books from their retail site by arbitrarily and randomly changing the rules of what’s acceptable erotica. They also froze my account for several hours in December because I dared to question their policies even though it was a polite, professional e-mail. Frankly, I don’t trust Amazon any more than I trust Hatchette. 
So my question becomes why should I support either of these multi-million dollar companies in what amounts to a public schoolyard fight? 
There’s no reason to. Hatchette already lost the e-book/change war when they entered into a conspiracy to price-fix with four other publishers and Apple. As for Amazon, someone else will replace them as the top U.S. retailer in twenty or so years. 
My only concern here is my own company and my own bottom line. Because it’s just business, right? Or at least that’s the line both companies have dished out when they screw over someone. 
So here’s my answer to both Michael Pietsch and Jeff Bezos: When you pay me, I’ll do your company’s dirty work. Until then, leave me out of your playground slap fight.

I hoped that someone would pick apart my points, show the flaw in my logic. The regular commenters at TPV are a bunch of really smart people.

What did I get? A list of people who agreed with my points. And it unsettled me.

Then Barry Eisler popped in, and his take unsettled me even more. He talked about the "revolution in publishing" and "becoming a victim in someone else's war." When Toni McGee Causey disagreed with him, Barry ripped into her for using flamboyant, over-the-top language.

So of course, I had to jump in the middle:

Barry, I respect your opinion and normally, I agree with you on how things are developing in the publishing industry. 
But “smart alliances” for you is not necessarily a good choice for me. Amazon treats you very differently than they treat me. If James Patterson walked up to another Hatchette mid-list author not as well known and said exactly what you said here, how would you take it? Because to me, it sounds like a subtle threat, even though I sincerely doubt that’s how you meant it. 
I’ve learned an important lesson from the Big 5, and that’s not to put all my eggs in the one basket. Thankfully, I learned that lesson before the Kernel Pornocalypse last fall. Who stood up for the erotica writers then? It sure wasn’t Amazon. 
As you and Joe Konrath have said numerous times, we don’t know the exact terms Amazon and Hatchette are fighting over. Oh, we can guess, and I have a suspicion about which guesses are correct. But right now, I have to wonder if Anonymous B. is also correct in his/her comment above. Why do supporters need to CC Amazon if they write to the Hatchette CEO?
I fully expected to be ripped into as Toni had been. I got a bare acknowledgement of my points and that the effect on KDP authors wasn't his "primary interest." In other words, this has turned into an ideological battle for him as much as it has for James Patterson and Douglas Preston. And he avoided my specific questions, something he often rails at Patterson and Preston for doing.

I thought Barry Eisler was better than that. I'm disappointed at finding out yet another hero has feet of clay.

Through all of this, no one's asking the bigger question: Why the hell does Amazon think they need the help of a bunch of indie authors, whom Hatchette is going to ignore anyway?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hatchette Can't Keep Their Stories Straight

In an article released last Thursday, American publishing industry magazine Publishers Weekly claimed Hatchette Book Group's sales rose 5.6% despite their current lack of a contract with Amazon in their headline. The next day, British newspaper The Guardian claimed a 1% dip in sales in theirs. So who's telling the truth?

Actually, both are once you dig through the respective articles. But the headlines are the amusing aspect.

It shows the difference in how Hatchette and the rest of the BPHs are twisting their PR campaign against Amazon in the U.S. The PW article plays into the David succeeding against Goliath meme that is extremely popular in American culture.

Just one little problem with that. Hatchette Book Group is owned by Lagardere Group, a French company whose 2013 revenues exceeded 7 BILLION euros. Compare that to Amazon, an American company, whose 2013 revenues were $74.5 MILLION U.S. dollars. Exchange rates aside, who is exactly the Goliath here.

Hatchette isn't the only foreign player in this game. Most of the Big Five are owned by non-American concerns.Penguin Random House is co-owned by German corporation Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC, a British company. Harper Collins is owned News Corp., whose primary shareholder Rupert Murdoch is Austrailian. Macmillan in controlled by Holtzbrinck, another German concern. Simon & Schuster is the only American player, and it's a teeny, tiny part of media giant CBS Corp.

In Europe, the BPHs don't have to worry so much about getting the news media on their side. A huge chunk of the news outlets are already owned by the parent companies of the Big Five, and they consider Amazon a snotty little American upstart.  But the sad part is the newspaper outlets are facing the same problems as their American counterparts--a loss of readership as more people switch to the internet and other electronic media for their news. And this is why The Guardian had an alarmist headline. "The American are coming! The Americans are coming!"

So what does this all mean?

In the end, not a damn thing. One of my great-grandfathers was fond of the saying, "The only constant in the universe is change."

The Big Five may think their conspiracy and now their little PR war with slow adaptation of e-books, but they're wrong. Not when e-book sales have jumped from less than 1% to over 40% in the last five years. It's time for the Big Five to jump on the change train before they get run over.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New BAMF Girls Club

Yes! New BAMF Girls Club episode! Six girls sharing one bathroom is already bad, but Michonne's plans make thing a lot worse!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Monday Movie Mania - Guardians of the Galaxy

This is the movie I've been waiting for all summer, and it didn't disappoint. Yes, it's really bad when I've had a crush on an anthropomorphic raccoon for thirty years. Director James Gunn and his people hit all the right notes and perfectly captured the entire team's personalities.


1) Bradley Cooper did an excellent job as Rocket. He conveyed the heart as well as the raccoon's rapid banter.

2) As Groot, Vin Diesel's entire repetoire consisted of four words, and like Dr. Seuss, he did sooo much with what he had to work with.

3) The story hit all the right beats from each of the characters' growth arc to the fear of losing everything to stop Ronan.

4) Two words - Nova Corps! Does this mean we may have another series in development?

5) You have to stay for the cameo at the end! I don't know if it was supposed to be smoke from the wreckage of the Collector's ship or it really was a hidden cigar the character was holding, but I laughed my ass off.

Yes, there is only one con. An editing glitch at the beginning of the climax. Seriously, that was the only problem in an absolutely terrific movie!

This is one of the parts of the Marvel franchise that could have been seriously screwed up, but the producers, director, cast and crew honored the title and characters. I can't wait for the sequel, which already has a tentative release date on July 28, 2017.

I give this movie a 10 out of 10 for sheer sci-fi action fun!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Weird Al Is Back!

Yep, my favorite parody artist dropped a new album, Mandatory Fun, a couple weeks ago! And yes, you will be tortured with his videos for the next two months. BWAHAHA! Here's the first single, "Word Crimes" to the tune of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines."

Friday, August 1, 2014

Amazon Speaks, Trad Publishing Folks Cry

After Monday's announcement on the KBoards, you knew the backlash would happen. I won't link to all of them. You can't miss them on the 'net. The gist is pretty simple. Amazon is a bunch of lying liars!

I'm reminded of Wile E. Coyote. You know the cartoons.

Yep, Wile E. is always fine until he looks down.

Here's the thing. Folks in trad publishing and folks related to trad publishing know they've gone over the cliff of change. They really believe that if they don't look down, they won't smash into the ground.

Except this is real life, not a Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoon. The ground's coming up fast. So they're blaming everyone else. But contrary to their beliefs, Amazon isn't the Road Runner. The 'Zon didn't push trad publishing off the cliff. They jumped off the cliff of their own free will years ago when 'Zon was still a tiny business in Jeff Bezos' garage.

Trad publishing is about to crash, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I feel like trad publishing are the Plastics of Mean Girls,

but the indies are Missy trying out of the cheerleader squad on Bring It On.