Friday, July 31, 2015

What I've Been Up To

Yes, I've been slacking on writing blogs for the last week. Why? I received an e-mail requesting my bio for the upcoming Sword and Sorceress 30, which contains the latest Justice Anthea short, "Diplomacy in the Dark."

I'd started writing a full-length novel about Justice Anthea and Brother Luc's adventures back during NaNoWriMo in 2013. I hit the 52,500-word mark, which meant I got my badge for that year, but I got stuck on the story itself. Then everything literally fell apart on the house in Houston while I was trying to get it on the market. So, the novel was shoved into an electronic file with the assumption I'd finish it.

Some day.

I'd been working on Zombie Goddess and Hero De Facto earlier this year when the deadline came around for Sword and Sorceress 30. Anthea demanded attention, and I gave in. Wrote a short story. E-mailed it to Lisa Waters.

And went right back to working on the other two novels while reviewing new copies and covers for the Bloodlines series. Got the contract. Signed and returned it.

And went right back to work on the other stuff. Until I got the bio request. For some reason, I pulled up the file for the Justice novel.

And something clicked in my brain. I knew what I'd done wrong (essentially trying to cram three plots into one story). I started ripping the text apart, deleting some stuff, and adding more over the last two weeks. It feels good to be consumed by a story again.

Does that mean letting everything else go to pot?

No. I've got several stories that are at the 40-60K mark that need to be finished. I'm taking it one project at a time. One month at a time.

Things are finally stabilizing at home, and I'm writing on a regular basis again. That makes me happy.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

When Is the Perfect Time to Write

- Get up an hour early and write before the kids get up.
- Write while the kids nap
- Write during your lunch hour
- Write after the kids are in bed
- Write on the bus/subway
- Write only on the weekends
- Write every day

Each of the above statements are from prominent, well-known, best-selling authors. But which one is the perfect method?

I'm seeing a lot of newbie writers still searching for that Magic Bullet. The thing is every single method is right. Right for that writer, that is.

If you haven't figured out your own method yet, you may have to do a little experimenting. And there's not a damn thing wrong with that.

I admit I've tried them all. And they've all worked at various points of my life. But if you have a day job and a family, you're going to have to work around those responsibilities. Which is also okay. GK needed me a lot more as small child than he does as a teenager.

Last year when I was still in Houston and guys had moved up to Ohio already, I could set my own schedule. My best productivity was between 2a.m. and dawn. But that's not doable with all of us back together plus Niece, who recently moved in with us. So, it's back to writing whenever I can squeezed it in between chauffeuring kids, checking on in-laws, and other chores.

The only real advice you can take out of this is be flexible and remember--there really isn't a Magic Bullet.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Why You Need to Learn the Aspects of Self-Publishing Before Hiring Someone

Are you a writer? Have you noticed certain accounts following you on Twitter and/or Facebook after you've announced your intent to self-published? Or after you've announced the release of your latest book?

Then there's other spam. I keep getting e-mails from a company calling themselves Publish Wholesale. They will publish format my print book and create for ONLY $959! And for ONLY AN ADDITIONAL $200, they'll format my ebook!

I can't begin to tell you how many of these scam artists are popping up to prey on naïve writers. The incredible David Gaughran has made it his mission in life to document the worst of these abusers, Penguin Random House's Author Solutions.

Yep, that 's right, ladies and gentlemen. The absolute scammiest of the scam artist belongs to one of the U.S.'s Big Five publishing houses.

But I'm not jumping on David's bandwagon. I'm advocating a radical change in a writer's thought process.

Learn how to format and create covers yourself.

Now, someone out there is going to see this and start screaming either "I don't know how!" or "How dare you can't tell me what to do!" Let's break both of these down.

1) I don't know how!

This comes from a place in your head where fear resides. Maybe you're computer phobic. Maybe you think you can't learn new things. Maybe you are sure you'll screw up, and no one will ever buy your book again.

Now shove that fear aside. Research conversion software. There's a lot of freeware and low cost packages available. And by low cost, I mean less than $50, but personally, my cheap ass self prefers freeware.

Take a short story you've written and spend a few hours practicing on it. Start simple. No fancy fonts, pictures, graphics or whatever.

Now find some graphics freeware. I use Paint.Net for my erotica covers. If you're not a fabulous artist, there's a ton of stock photo sites. I generally buy a small package, so the cost comes out to less than $10 per photo. Also, there's fonts you can purchase if you don't have any on your computer that are appropriate.

I'm not talking out of my butt here. This exactly what I did with Seasons of Magic: Spring back in 2011.

By practicing, you'll also figure out what you are good at doing yourself and what you suck at. There's nothing wrong with that either. Every good businessperson needs to know where to cut costs and when to hire out work.

2) You can't tell me what to do!

I'm not telling anyone anything.

I'm making a suggestion based on a business need, so if you decide to hire somebody to do these things, you've got a rough idea of the time and effort involved. There're some incredible editors, formatters, and graphic artists who price their services reasonably. By learning the tools of the trade, you'll have a better idea if you're getting a good deal or getting screwed over.

For the record, I've started hiring out some of my covers and some of my formatting. Why? More demands on my personal time since our niece moved in with us are cutting into my writing time. And I was seriously juggling my writing time before that since I'm writing under two different names.

Now, if you just won the lottery or have a trust fund, none of this means anything to you. But for those of us building a career, a thousand dollars can mean rent, groceries, and doctor's bills. That's why I advocate making decisions that don't result in you living on the streets.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Authors United *Facepalm*

Remember the folks at Authors United? The cream of the crop authors who were bitching up a storm about how badly Amazon treated Hachette in their negotiations last year? Yeah, those same negotiations that Hatchette refused to participate in?

Well, AU decided they would issue a letter to the Assistant Attorney General. Not the U.S. Attorney General herself, Loretta Lynch, but her sidekick. AU is demanding an investigation into Amazon. Not once in this magical, marvelous letter, however, do they list what laws Amazon violated, much less how those laws were violated. *facepalm*

If you want to read an excellent fisking of the letter, go over to Joe Konrath's blog. I highly suggest keeping drinks, firearms or flames out of your reach while you read. Especially if you have any kind of legal background.

Meanwhile, Amazon is having a major sale to celebrate their twentieth anniversary in business. The sale is only good for Amazon Prime members, but guess what? Amazon lets you sign up for a thirty-day free trial of Prime!

As Master Yoda would say: Hmmm...suspicious that timing is. Halt the sale, it will not. Foolish the AU is to believe away Amazon customers, they will drive.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Monday Movie Mania - Magic Mike XXL

I went to the flick with Niece, who was hopping up and down in the seat through this whole thing. And that's what this movie is, a fun flick. Anyone thinking this should be deep and intellectual really needs their head examined.

Most of the cast is back (minus Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyffer) with some excellent additions.

* * *


* * *

1) The number one pro is and always will be gratuitous Joe Manganeillo  butt shots.

2) Jada Pinkett Smith as Rome, the owner of a club Mike used to dance for. She brings some needed estrogen to the testosterone fest.

3) The secret cameo of Michael Strahan. I knew the man had moves on the football field, but on the dance floor? Oh, my!

1) The ending was rather abrupt. I think it would have been better with some kind of good-bye scene between the guys since this was supposed to be their last hurrah.

Overall, I'd give this a 7 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

Hatred on the Internet

Invariably, someone will feel they need to argue, so I'm going to close comments on this post. The fact I feel the need to close comments says how bad the problem has become.

The hate is strong in the world these days. It's not just things like the burning of African-American churches across the U.S. or slut shaming of underage rape victims or harassment of members of the LGBT community. It's gotten to the point I don't read comments on my favorite sites. It's gotten to the point I've blocked several friends on FB. It's gotten to the point I don't even get on Twitter anymore.

There is very little compassion or empathy on the internet. There's been several studies including one published in Psychology Today. And if you look at the comments, well, the trolls kind of proved the author's point.

There's irony inherent in a system that can bring people together from around the world can also be used to divide us. People like Dylann Roof allegedly not only told friends about his intentions to kill blacks, but proclaimed his intentions on his Facebook page and his own website. What makes his threats valid and another person's nothing more than blowing off steam online, other than the fact Dylann allegedly carried out his plan?

I think the fact we don't know which is which online makes the problem more troubling. A friend shared a post online about rape vs. consent only to have a male she considered a friend PM her with a sexist joke. When she called him on it, he didn't apologize. Instead, he doubled-down, claimed she was being too sensitive, women like being sexually harassed if the harassee is good-looking, etc.

So how do we as a multi-cultural world deal with someone else's anger? How do we help these people to change their behavior into something positive?

The problem is we can't. Sometimes the beliefs are so hardcore, so ingrained, that to give these people an alternative sends them into an emotional tailspin.

Then there are the trolls who enjoy inflicting pain.

So how do you respond when you're not sure which party you're dealing with? I wish I had the answer to that.

If you respond to a troll, you're only helping him jack off. If you allow the hatred to permeate without a response, then folks on the edge start to think this behavior is acceptable.

The best thing that can happen is that the owner of the site monitors comments. That the owner explicitly states the comment policy. By having a website open to public comment, we are responsible for the level of discourse.

I've had people get mad about some of the things I post here. I've had people get mad when I've called them out for some of the things they've said in comments. I've had people get pissed because I deleted their comment. So be it.

The comment policy here is that you need to be civil, and yes, since WWW is under my control, then my judgment on what is civil rules.

This isn't a First Amendment issue. This is what my parents and grandparents called "using your company manners." If you can't behave in any public venue, maybe you shouldn't venture into that space.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Long and the Short of Writing through Amazon's Kindle Unlimited.

The KU drama continued over the course of the weekend. Once again, I'm flabbergasted by the rudeness and the shortsightedness of some of my fellow writers.

After the last eleven years, hell, out of the last fifty years, I shouldn't be surprised by human behavior. But I still am.

First of all, what works for someone else's career may not work for yours. Screaming at the person who notes that X works for him does nothing for either of you. If X doesn't work for you, that's fine. Turn around, walk away, and go do Y, which works for you. But X may work for someone else. You don't know about the third party, and you're not saving him by insisting that he do Y. Let the third party make that decision. Ask yourself this--do you really want the third party to scream at you the way you scream at the first person?

Then there's the argument of what's better--novels or short stories. Why is this even a question now?

For a long time under the 20th century publishing structure, a writer could sell novels to the big publishing houses or short stories to the magazines. There wasn't a whole lot of in between areas for things like novellas. Most of these strictures were based on the optimal return on investment for the paper the stories were printed on.

Now? With electronic publishing, the writer can write whatever length they please. Except now, I see a bunch of writers yelling at each other over who's getting screwed the worst over the recent reimbursement changes to KU?

There's one teensy problem with their analysis. They are equating "buy" reimbursement with "borrow" reimbursement.


Under the pre-digital system, a library paid for a book ONCE. Patrons of the library could borrow it as many times as they wished. Likewise under the old system, the buyer bought the book ONCE, and she could read over and over again. Or trade it in at the used book shop. In none of these cases, did the original author see an additional penny of income.

Now? Now, we can get paid for nearly every borrow through Amazon, which is FANTASTIC! But it's also where the bitching comes in.

A lot of folks gamed KU 1.0 by only listing shorts and chopped up novels, so they received far more money for borrows than for sales. Now with KU 2.0, Amazon pays for pages read, which means if you don't write a damn good story, regardless of the length, the writers will be lucky to get a penny or two out of the deal.

Contrary to popular belief, this isn't about length, or getting screwed by a big company. It's about giving the reader a quality experience. Something I think a lot of my fellow writers have forgotten.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Have E-Book Subscription Services Shot Themselves in the Head?

There's been a lot of shouting over the recent change to the Kindle Unlimited ("KU") payment plan. On the heels of Amazon's announcement came the news late yesterday that Scribd has eliminated all romance books from their subscription service. Apparently, the only exception are free books.

Why? Because romance readers are some of the most voracious readers of books in all forms. I know folks who can go through a book or more a day.

Think about it. If a subscriber only pays $9.99 a month, and they read 30 books a month, how can Scribd possibly pay each author their full retail amount? Even if the reader only read books that are in Scribd at $0.99, that's still a $17.70 payout to the writer/publisher after Scribd's and the distributor's fees.

I have to wonder if Scribd has notified their subscribers yet because I haven't heard a hue and cry from the readers. The news first broke late yesterday afternoon from publisher Bob Mayer from Cool Gus Publishing who got the news from their distributor D2D and from Mark Coker of Smashwords, another e-book distributor.

So what does this all mean?

It depends on why you put your books into a subscription service like KU or Scribd to begin with. In my case, I haven't put anything into KU because it requires exclusivity with Amazon, and I'm the rare indie author in that I make far more through other channels than I do Amazon. As for Scribd, or its major direct competitor Oyster, I only entered my Bloodlines and Secret of Magick series into their programs. It was an effort to promote them since my erotica/romance books under Alter Ego were doing just fine on sales at the time.

In my opinion, and this is only my opinion, I don't think Scribd or Oyster can be viable in the long run without lowering payments to writers/publishers, which is exactly what Amazon has done to keep KU going. If a writer depends on only one retailer or one methodology, such as borrows, for their income, I think they will be screwed in the long run. As always, YMMV.

Edit to add: Here's Scribd's announcement. There's been a little grumbling on Twitter, but mainly from authors. Same on FB. It'll be interesting to see how the rest of the day goes.

Edit to add 2 11:15 pm EDT: Still more screaming from authors than readers about Scribd's changes on social media, but I did notice a handful of readers who are ticked about Scribd charging for free books. #Scribd