I write like
Jack London

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Friday, May 26, 2017

More Analysis on the Marvel Situation

About a month ago, I talked about how the promo tricks Marvel had been using for the last twenty years were truly starting to backfire on them and were destroying their sales. Two days later, YouTube geek sensation ComicGirl19 posted a similar rant to mine, naming several of the same reasons that Marvel sales were dropping that had nothing to do with diversity.

Then last night, an article from The Atlantic popped up in one of my feeds. And guess what it was about? Yep, Marvel's problems were their sales gimmicks, not their diversity. I highly recommend reading the article because the article a few more issues I was barely aware of, such as the antagonism of editors and writers toward fans, not just the sexism they and their fellows exhibited towards their female co-workers.

Marvel seriously needs to get their shit together before it's too late. Besides, how is Disney going to get new material? Or are they going to do what Sony did and kill Uncle Ben over and over ad nauseam?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Other Writers and Fan-girly Squeals

Once upon a time, I had the privilege of meeting George Takei at a Star Trek convention. I was so nervous I literally couldn't talk. Uncle George was terribly sweet, but he gave me an odd look. As in, "Is she just shy, or should I call security?"

I managed to say "Nice to meet you" or "Thank you". Seriously, I was that nervous, I don't remember what I said. I do remember my voice sounded like Beaker's from the Muppets.

I don't always act that shell-shocked around someone I admire. Well, except for last Saturday night. My friend Jo introduced me to someone whose work I admire very much, and I squealed like a little girl. I'm pretty sure I embarrassed the hell out of the writer, too, not just myself.


So why am I bringing this all up?

I've had the opportunity to watch professional writers interact with their readers over the years, and I've noted four typical reactions in writers. Three of these reactions will lose you readers, but there are ways to compensate.

First of all, if you EVER feel in danger from a fan, get help! Grab a friend, get security at an event, or call the police. Trust that little niggle in your hindbrain. There's a big difference between that feeling and butterflies in your stomach.

Now on to the types...

1) The Cold Fish
It's never easy meeting total strangers. Even the most gregarious person has a little trepidation in a new situation. These writers fail to make eye contact with their readers much less say hello. This behavior can come across as being too good to talk to the hoi polloi when in fact, it's the opposite problem.

I'll tell you a secret. The best at the meet-and-greet are simply better at hiding their fear. Stand up, walk around that signing table, and be pleasant and polite. It will make the encounter easier for both of you. Something to remember is that your readers are probably more nervous about meeting you than vice versa, too.

2) The Hot Potato
The opposite of The Cold Fish, these writers not only come out from behind their tables, they attack people in the aisles and try to force their books on the public. Few people like the hard sell. (And if you know one, I'd like to meet him or her.)

Coming across as a crazy used car salesperson will only get you shunned and rejected. Take a step back, tone down the sales pitch, and take an interest in the person, not the sales prospect.

3) The Negative Nellie
These writers don't feel they deserve their success, or their fragile self-esteem can't handle criticism, so they try to beat you to the punch with self-flagellation. This behavior can turn off a potential reader. If the writer doesn't think their book is good enough, then why would the reader want to take a chance on it? And if the reader already read your work, it sounds to them like the writer is criticizing the reader's choices.

If adulation throws you for a loop, stick with simple phrases. "I hope you enjoy it." "Thank you." "I appreciate your comments."

On the other hand, those phrases work pretty damn good if a psycho reader slams you, too.

4) The Best Response
The writers I've seen handle the public best are Sherrilyn Kenyon and the late L.A. Banks. Both ladies come across genuinely interested in fans. They say how glad they are to meet you. These writers are comfortable with themselves and love the career they've chosen.

It's damn hard to achieve that level of confidence in yourself and in your work. Part of it is knowing your own comfort level with the public. For example, Sherrilyn's a touchy-feely person. She grabs a reader's hand and acts like they are her favorite cousin that she hasn't seen in forever. For her, this is a genuine response.

I know I'm not a touchy-feely person. Sherrilyn's way wouldn't work for me. Heck, even getting an e-mail from reader makes me freak out.

But my own issues don't mean I can't behave myself, be pleasant and say "Thanks!" Yep, that's right. I take elements from the solutions for The Cold Fish and The Negative Nellies. I remind myself that my writing affected a person enough for them to reach out.

And in the end, that's all I really want. To entertain someone for a little while and let them forget their problems.

The least I can do when a reader reaches out to me is to reach back with a heartfelt, "Thanks for reading my work."

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. came out while the niece was living with us, so for various reasons, we didn't make it to the theater in 2015. I wasn't into the series back in the day, so I wasn't too disappointed. So when it popped up on the HBO/Cinemark free weekend, we decided what the hell.

Once again, I'm not posting my usual SPOILERS warning since this movie came out two years ago.

This is one of those movies that was much better than what many of our friends said. Maybe it was because I'm not a hardcore fan of the series, but I loved it.

Armie Hammer totally redeemed himself from The Lone Ranger. As I said in that review, I didn't blame Hammer for the piss-poor writing, but this flick allowed him to real show his acting chops.

On the other hand, Henry Cavill sounds like Clark Kent through the first half of the movie. I don't know if he jumped into this job right after Man of Steel wrapped, but you can definitely tell what scenes were filmed first. And honestly, that's the only real gripe I have about the movie.

The script expands on Solo and Kuryakin's pasts in order to flesh out their characters and give motivation for how they ended up in the CIA and KGB respectively. Since this is essentially an origin story, the writers focus on the interactions between the two far more than they do the case they are forced to work on jointly. The chemistry between Hammer and Cavill was probably the best thing about the movie.

The movie captures the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, but not as well as it captures the style and fashion of that time period.

Overall, I give The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 8.5 stars out of 10.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The "Why Isn't Suzan Posting" Post

It's been a busy week here at Casa Harden.

Last week of classes at public school coincided with the last week of classes at driving school. Instead of going home after dropping Genius Kid off at driving school, I went to Panera's to write. Over 8K words written this week so far, and I should hit 10K by Saturday night. Yay!

Seriously, I'm closing in on finishing Sacrificed. If the first draft isn't done this week, it will be next week.

Yes, that offsets the sheer terror any parent feels when their teen is about to get their driver license.

In the meantime, I sold "Unexpected" to Sword and Sorceress 32. The latest volume of the long-running anthology will be released around the first of November. I'll let you know the specific date down the road.

Then I REALLY need to review the proof copies of the paperbacks done so far and get them launched.

I'm also considering whether or not to do a local author event. Dealing with total strangers in public sets off my anxiety, but Darling Husband has offered to be my bodyguard. Not sure what I'll do yet, but I definitely need something to sell if I'm going, i.e. finish proofing those paperbacks!

Overall, it feels great to be in the writing groove again!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Pitch Black

Yeah, I know Pitch Black came out in 2000. DH and I had planned to see it because we were huge Farscape and Claudia Black fans. Morning sickness had other plans. So by the time I stopped worshipping the porcelain god, the movie was long gone from theaters.

Over the years, I caught bits and pieces on cable. Every time we rented videos, there was always something else someone else wanted to watch, and being a mom at this point, I gave in. So when Pitch Black was on during the recent HBO/Cinemax weekend, I recorded it, and FINALLY I watched it uncut all the way through.

Note: Yes, I saw The Chronicles of Riddick and Riddick long before  I saw Pitch Black.

And since it's been seventeen years, I'm not giving my standard SPOILERS alert.

Pitch Black has a few trope tweaks, but for the most part, it's standard sci-fi horror. The criminal is the hero, the lawman is a junkie, and the holy man actually survives though the pilgrims traveling with him don't.

Unfortunately, the first Vin Diesel flick I saw was The Pacifier, and I've seen the entire Fast & Furious series plus the other Riddick films. I really couldn't get into Riddick as a bad guy. Dangerous, yes, but not evil. Both the pilot and the bounty hunter would qualify more as "evil" in their desire to sacrifice innocents for their own survival than the so-called murderer.

Overall, it's a solid, fun, B sci-fi/horror flick. It would be nice if the series could continue because I want to know more about the character Riddick.

I give Pitch Black an 8 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Friday, May 12, 2017

When a Fan Wants to Mash-up Your Series

A couple of weeks ago, a non-writing reader asked me what would happened if Sam Ridgeway ever met Justice Anthea.


Don't get me wrong. I'll be the first one to admit I love me some fan fiction. Heck, I've posted links to some good stuff here. Fanfic lets you experiment with the story and try new things. In fact, one of my favorite episodes of Supernatural is when the Winchesters find out about Chuck Shurley's novels. Then to Dean's eternal WTF, he discovers fan fiction about himself.

Dean: There's Sam girls and Dean girls. And what's a slash fan? 
Sam: As in... Sam slash Dean. Together.  
Dean: Like... together together?  
Sam: Yeah.  
Dean: They do know we're brothers, right?  
Sam: Doesn't seem to matter.  
Dean: Ah, come on. That... that's just sick.

*sigh* At least my reader wasn't suggesting girl-on-girl or incest action with my heroines because the subject matter doesn't quite mesh with my Suzan books.

But his question did get me thinking. What would happen if for some reason the two met?

I think Anthea would smack Sam upside her head for being a dumbass.

So what do you call it if you write fanfic about your own characters?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Nothing New Under the Sun Except Some Kind Words

I'm really not sure what to say at this point about the state of publishing. Things have quieted down in a way that has nothing to do with the usual summer lull.

No major publishers have crashed and burned. Many small publishers have quietly closed their doors. More people are indie publishing while others have walked away from it for various reasons.

Personally, I've been limiting my time on social media. I poke my head up once and a while to check my accounts. I e-mail with a couple of writer friends on a regular basis, but many of the folks I'd like to talk to are just as busy as me.

And you know something--that's okay. I know that some of my problems over the winter were SAD, some were hormone-related crap that needed maintenance drug adjustments, and some were the constant barrage of negativity through both the writers' grapevine and the news. Once the weather warmed and the new drug cocktail was developed, I realized how much the other stuff affected me.

And I decided to walk away from a lot of it.

Instead, I took last week off to write and submit a story for this year's Sword and Sorceress anthology. (I'll let you know if it gets accepted.)

In the meantime, everything clicked in my head for how Sacrificed will play out. (I've always known how it will end, but the middle part was foggy for the longest time.) My cover artist Elaina did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of what Tiffany and Sam go through in this story. As I write this post, I'm closing in on the 60K mark.

Probably the best things over the last week were people asking when's the next book coming out for both Bloodlines and Justice, as well as Alter Ego readers asking about her next book.

With the way things have gone in my life, I don't want to promise specific dates. Last year, I was a month late on Zombie Goddess from my own mistake, only to have my mother-in-law end up in the hospital again after another fall.

I can say I'm doing fairly good about sticking to the plan I laid out a couple of weeks ago. My dedicated writing laptop has made a difference in keeping my attention on the story. I just need to keep a steady pace over the summer.

As I told a friend nearly thirty years ago, happiness is a fleeting, ephemeral thing. I'm much more satisfied with my life when I'm content.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - The Fate of the Furious

I don't think future installments of the F&F franchise could top Furious 7, but The Fate of the Furious sure as hell tries. It definitely has all the action of the previous movies, but what makes this series special is its heart. This edition picks up shortly after the end of the last episode with Dom and Lettie FINALLY getting their honeymoon.

* * *


* * *

1) Everyone still alive (whether character or real life) is back for this one except for Jordana Brewster (Mia Toretto O'Connell) and Sean Boswell (Lucas Black). Jordana's character had her bittersweet send-off in the last movie. Lucas signed for two additional F&F movies after Furious 7, but scheduling conflicts didn't allow him to appear in this film.

2) Brian and Mia were at least mentioned in the movie.

3) Ramsey, the creator of God's Eye, is officially part of the team. She gives Tej a run for his money as the resident brainiac.

4) Charlize Theron makes a delicious bad guy. Her Cypher is revealed to be behind the events in Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7.

5) Helen Mirren's uncredited cameo as Owen and Deckard Shaw's mom is a frickin' hoot! I really hope they bring her back.

6) The plot is more organic than the last couple have been. No weird plot twists that make no sense. This is probably the best screenplay since the first movie. It hits you right in the feels.

1) Okay, I do have one little quibble with the story. I think Dom and Hobbs forgive the Shaws and accept them into the family a bit too quickly. I mean it took two movies for Dom to forgive Brian and Dom and Hobbs nearly three movies to accept each other.

Overall, I give The Fate of the Furious 9.5 stars out of 10.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - TMNT: Out of the Shadows

Attention, readers! The Heroes in a Half-Shell have been around for thirty-three years now. If you need a fucking SPOILER warning, LEAVE NOW!

* * *

For the second time in less than three months, HBO had another four-day free weekend. We caught up on a bunch of movies we'd missed, though not as many as in February. (Not that I minded repeats of Deadpool and Suicide Squad.)

The latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot came out during the house chaos of 2014. Between not having seen the first one, the fact that Michael Bay was attached to the project, and my love for the original animated series, I passed on seeing the sequel last year.

Someone should have pointed out that Stephen Amell (aka Oliver Queen of Arrow) was now playing Casey Jones.

Besides the spectacular eye candy that is Mr. Amell, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the use of Rocksteady, Bebop, and Kang in the new version. CGI has advanced to the point that the characters don't look fake.

Tyler Perry as Baxter Stockman was a delight, and I really hoped to see his mutated form in an end-of-film teaser, but alas, it was not to be.

One of my problems is that successive writers are taking Leonardo more and more into the Scott Summers/Cyclops asshole-douchery style of leadership. Moody and keeping secrets isn't Leo. At all. I hope if they make a third movie, his personality is lightened up a bit.

The second problem is turning Donatello into a broken-glasses-wearing nerd. Really, people? Can we get any more cliché?

Overall, I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows 7 out of 10 stars for good, sold twelve-year-old delight!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Status Report - April 2017

I'm finally past the SAD that's been plaguing me through the winter. Sun, open windows, and shorts temperatures have definitely helped in the productivity department.

I also took a page from Dean Wesley Smith's book, and I splurged on an 11-inch super lightweight  laptop. I've disabled the browser, the e-mail, and the wi-fi. The change has made a difference in my productivity. In the two weeks since Bali Blue arrived and I set her up, I've written 22K words.

So what's happened since my last release in December?

1) The first draft of Ravaged is done. I'm not going to start edits until the first draft of Sacrificed is done.

2) Sacrificed is approximately 73% done. I was hoping to have it done by the end of April, but it'll be done soon.

3) Resurrected is approximately 30% done.

4) I'm also working on some short stories that will come out between the end of the Bloodlines series and the next Justice novel.

5) Paperbacks for the Bloodlines series should all be out by the end of June.

6) New covers for the Seasons of Magick series are done. The files need to be reviewed before forwarding them to my formatter. Then a bundled edition will be released.

7) Once the first six actions items are done, I'll get back to work on A Modicum of Truth.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I'm Not the Only One Who Has Given Up On Marvel

After my rambling diatribe on Monday, who should appear in my inbox today but ComicGirl19 bitching about the same goddess-damned issues. Have a listen:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Tripping Over Promo Tricks (Like Marvel Comics)

I've talked about how indie writer like to flog their small handful of books, or their only book, with every trick they can come up with. I've talked about how the writing, THE STORY, needs to come first. I talked about how an indie writer can't sell their single title to the same person over and over.

Recently, Marvel Comics' VP of Sales, David Gabriel made some statements in an interview during the Marvel Retailers Summit:

What we heard was that people didn't want any more diversity. They didn't want female characters out there. That's what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don't know that that's really true, but that's what we saw in sales.
We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

Gabriel has since walked back those comments.

And of course, the internet went nuts. Both PC and Anti-PC proponents shot vicious comments back and forth. Personally, I sat back and laughed.

You see, I've been watching Marvel (and DC too, for that matter) making the same mistakes as a lot of indie writers, many of whom have quit the business over the years, and trad publishing have made.

So basically, Marvel has given us what-not-to-do guidelines:

1) Over-pricing product

Trad publishing has been doing this for years, especially by pricing e-books way higher than print books. Marvel upped Spider-man from $3.99 to $9.99. How the hell do they expect little kids to buy comic books when they are priced that high?

2) Giving the reader fewer pages

Indies are especially guilty of this faux pas, but the comic book companies are catching up. Most readers considered a novel to be a couple of hundred pages, but whatever the actual word-count or page-count they do expect a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. When you slice a story in the middle and expect the reader to pay twice as much for half the story, the readers are going to be pissed.

On the other hand, comic books are expected to be a serial format. However, those episodes are getting shorter (40 years ago the standard number of pages was 24, now it's 10) while the price is going up. That leads back to my first point about readers feeling ripped off.

3) Sales Gimmicks

Hey, I'll be the first to admit gimmicks, like perma-free and 99-cent deals, can goose short term sales, but they're not a long-term substitution for decent writing. The comics industry tanked in the '90's thanks to the proliferation of multiple covers for the same issue and reboots out the wazoo to justify the multiple covers. Those crazy die-cut-, gold-embossed covers by whoever was the hottest artist at the moment.

And gimmicks are still used to the detriment of all on both the indie writer and comic book sides. For indies, the latest thing is buying, selling and trading e-mail lists.

NOTE: If you have signed up for my mailing list, or are planning to, my list stays PRIVATE. I WILL NOT buy, sell, or trade your information.

Why do I keep my mailing list private? Because (1) I already know buying the names of people who don't want to hear from me doesn't work, and (2) when other companies do that to me, it makes me pissed as hell.

For the comic books, the latest gimmick is short-term MAJOR changes to characters. I'm not a big Captain America fangirl, but making him a Hydra agent when fascism is on the rise in the world makes my stomach clench.

But to blame low sales on "no one wants diversity" when it's because of shitty storylines and stupid gimmicks?  No. Just no.

And for the record, I was a collector of X-men comics for thirty years, but I stopped ten years ago because of #3. Even when books were under $3, I couldn't afford all the spin-offs and crossovers to get the complete story. Not with a little kid.

And all of this brings us to...

4) Losing the Base Fans

I hate to point this out, but the Golden Age fans are dead or dying. Even those of us who grew up with the Silver Age heroes and stories are becoming grandparents. Where's the new fan base going to come from?

The movies? Really? When the studios are rehashing the same stories from the '30's and '60's over and over again? Even Genius Kid made a smart remark about how times are the movie producers going to make us watch the Waynes and Uncle Ben die on screen.

In the end, it's not diversity, lack of diversity, or whatever other hot-button issue of the day raises its head. We as writers need to be aware of our responsibility to our readers. Don't take advantage of them and deliver the best stories we can. That's all they really ask of us.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thank You, Nissan Midnight Edition Commercial...

...for finding me the perfect song for my Tiffany Stephens playlist.

(I'm now in love with Gin Wigmore and will be buying all her music.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Frustration Beyond Ken

And as Penny on The Big Bang Theory would say, "Your Ken can kiss my Barbie."

One week ago today, my new laptop arrived.  Three years ago when I needed a new one, Dell had stopped making the 11-inch sizes which was what my 2006 Isabella was. She was also the lightest weight laptop on the market back in the '00's.

So I sucked it up and bought a 15-inch laptop in 2014 after Isabella's screen died for a second time. Then manufacturers realized some of us need something small and light, but with more power than a tablet. Lo and behold! The 11-inch laptops are back!

And I could buy one for less than the new battery I needed for the 15-inch!

So I did though there was a massive debate between a blue one and a purple one. Blue won because it was thirty dollars less for the exact same specs. And it arrived on the 12th. I got everything set up and used my gorgeous new baby over the weekend.

"So what's the problem?" I can hear you asking.

Well, I had to finish our local tax return on Monday. (Yeah, I shouldn't have put it off until the last minute, but our town's return is relatively simple compared to the federal return.) Then yesterday, I had to run a bunch of errands, which culminated with a tetnus shot because I nagged my husband after he cut himself on a saw in his dad's garage, he couldn't remember his last update, and his step-grandfather had died of tetnus because the idiot (step-grandpa, not DH) refused to get treatment until it was too late.

So in an act of spiteful revenge, DH made an appointment for my tetnus booster as well. (Hey, at least I KNEW my last booster was in 2000!)

"What does this have to do with the new laptop?" you ask.

Today, Genius Kid and the rest of the junior class at our high school took the ACT because Ohio can't get their shit together when it comes to standardized tests. I had to pick up GK at 11:30 a.m., then I had the whole rest of the afternoon to myself to write.

So I put my new baby in her matching sleeve, grabbed an extra set of earbuds and my Stormtrooper flashdrive, and drove to the local Panera. I bought my Asiago cheese bagel, cream cheese, and large ice tea. I snagged my favorite booth. I popped open my new baby and booted her up.

And Word decided the copy on Baby Blue was not an authorized copy.


If you're going to be an asshole and make some smartass comment on my blog about how Microsoft sucks, just stop right now. I will not only delete your comment, I will make a voodoo doll in your image and curse you for being a small, nasty person. Because I am in that sort of mood right now. Especially since I've been jamming on Sacrificed.

So I spent three hours trying to figure out what was wrong with my new computer. I think I have it fixed. Maybe. It's pretending to work. We'll find out for sure the next time I go to Panera's.

Because I have a free soufflé coming, and I really love their bacon spinach ones.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Oh, United!

The Sons of Maxwell created this after a disastrous engagement in Nebraska. Now, the notorious airline has moved to breaking people...

Friday, April 14, 2017

What Is Literature?



(1) writings in prose or verse

(2) written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit

Origin - late Middle English (in the sense ‘knowledge of books’): via French from Latin litteratura, from littera (see letter).

For some reason, the difference between literature considered worthwhile and literature not considered worthwhile has been making the social media rounds over the last couple of days.

First, the magazine Bon Appétit made the mistake of posting this tweet on Twitter:

Nothing like insulting all us romance writers and readers who cook. And really, Bon Appétit? Slut shaming? After how many millions of people read Fifty Shades of Gray openly and publicly with the ORIGINAL COVER!

Bon Appétit has since changed the post:

Say it with yet again, ladies and gentlemen: THE INTERNET IS FOREVER!

Hybrid writer Bob Mayer then blogged about an NYT opinion piece that debated whether elitism or populism is more harmful to the arts. After reading the piece, I have to agree with Bob. The initial premise is like asking which smells worse: dog farts or cat farts.

And yesterday morning, Kris Rusch talked about the same issue in her weekly business blog. Ms. Rusch compared the indie revolution with the post-WWII increase in paperback publishers. The question she proposed: was there such a thing as a "good" book or a "bad" book?

To answer Ms. Rusch's  question: no, I don't think there's any such thing as a "good" or "bad" book. Oh, sure, there may be a difference between technically good or bad writing.

For example, look at how Yoda talks in the Star Wars. Standard English generally follows the subject-verb-object rule. Yet, Yoda's speech pattern generally uses object-subject-verb order.

Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.

Now if everyone in Star Wars spoke like Yoda, the writer can be properly castigated for abusing the English language, i.e. bad writing. However, Yoda's speech pattern emphasizes his alien-ness. This isn't a guy who thinks like the rest of us, so it's actually an example of good writing. The writer breaks the rules on purpose to create a specific effect in the consumer.

But when someone breaks down stories, or in this case books, into "good" and "bad" categories, it comes from their desire for power and control.

The actually reasons for desiring this control vary. The Bon Appétit issue stems from "good" girls cook for their men, whereas "bad" girls read smutty books, i.e. the desire to control female sexuality.

Trad publishers have lost a great deal of control in the industry. They are losing a ton of money for three reasons:

1) some writers who were trad published no longer submit manuscripts to them and are making money by going indie,
2) some writers have never submitted to them, and
3) some writers submitting to them haven't reached the technical proficiency need yet.

As a result, trad publishers claim that indie books aren't quality because they haven't been properly vetted.

Since the same corporations that own the big trad publishers also own the newspapers and magazines that do a lot of reviewing, things like the opinion piece in the NYT get published in order to shame readers into reading the "good" books, i.e. the same books our co-workers are publishing.

And then there's the moral police, screaming "Think of the children!"

My feeling is if you really want kids to read, give them something that interests them. I learned to read thanks to Dr. Seuss and Stan Lee. How many of moral police would be screaming about what a bad example the Cat in the Hat would be?

However, I would counter that Spider-man's "With great power comes great responsibility" would trump any bad cat influence I suffered.

Deep down though, the people who want to control what you read really want to control how you think.

Don't let them!

(And I'd be the first one to tell you to read Fifty Shades of Gray as many times as you want. )

Monday, April 10, 2017


No, not me.

But I have been hearing it from a lot of indies lately. So much so I've been avoiding quite a few of the usual social media sites I frequent. It's a bit sad people give up when they don't hit the lottery.

Or even worse they write books they hate. Or game the system only to piss off their readers.

So if I'm not blogging as much over the next couple of months, it's because I'm avoiding the Debbie Downers out there.

I finished the first draft of Ravaged last Monday, so I'm enjoying that high and charging ahead on the first draft of Sacrificed. I refuse to let other people's negativity get me down right now. The only question right now is how fast can I get this bitch done!

P.S. If you're one of the assholes who thinks writing fast is shit writing, you need to go away. NOW! Because the last three books of the Bloodlines series have been done in my head for nearly ten years. It's just a question of getting them down on paper.

Or in my case, a computer screen.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - The Martian

Another movie we recorded during last month's free HBO weekend because we missed it during its general theater release, The Martian gives me a secret thrill. The screenplay is based on the novel of the same name by indie author Andy Weir, who published it in 2011.

As usual since the movie has been out for over a year, I'm not giving a SPOILERS warning.

There must be a universal rule that if you stick Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain in a hard science fiction movie, I will love it.

The Martian follows the plight of stranded astronaut/botanist Mark Watney, who is accidentally left behind during the Ares III manned Mars mission.

Man versus Nature movies rarely work when there's only one character. Humans have an aversion to watching silence, much less one endless monologue. And it takes one hell of an actor to keep someone's attention for any length of time in that silence. (Will Smith in I Am Legend is a prime example.)

Drew Goddard's screenplay and Ridley Scott's direction find ways to alleviate the quiet. The movie is edited to flip between Watley's efforts and initial loneliness, the guilt of the crew of the Ares III over Watley's apparent death, and the stunned realization of NASA that he's alive before their frantic efforts to put together a rescue mission.

There's a lot of similarities between The Martian and Apollo 13. Frankly, I don't see how the filmmakers could do otherwise. We're still talking about the same federal government agency. In fact, a friend commented that they tried to turn Jeff Daniels's NASA director, Theodore Sanders, into the so-called antagonist and it didn't work. To me, Sanders was what the director of any government agency always is and has to be, a politician looking at how to spin a disaster into something good. Or at least, not get your ass fired.

I want to show The Martian to every kid in the world to show that knowledge and ingenuity can carry you a long ways, but in the end, we humans caring about each other is how we all survive at the end of the day.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017


I've been waiting for this all my life!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Finishing What You Start

Right now, I'm struggling to finish the Bloodlines series. There's many reasons for my slowdown that I won't get into here today. I'm going to focus on one, and it's the one that afflicts all writers if we're honest with ourselves.


Some call it Imposter Syndrome. Some call it Fear of Failure. What ever you call it, whatever it is, we all have it. It's the fear that the art we've made isn't any good.

And [deity of your choice] help us, we want that reassurance that we aren't wasting our time by spending hours scribbling or typing words. Are they good? Are they crap? Who knows? We sure as hell don't.

Newbies especially want that reassurance. And never is that more evident when one of them approaches me with a few pages or a couple of chapters and wants me to read them. My standard response has become "Show it to me when it's finished."

The general response is along what you would expect if I had asked to ass-fuck their grandmas with a dildo instead.

The few who get over being initially offended ask, "Why do you need to see the whole thing?"

Writing fiction is storytelling. I don't know if your story has the basics. A protagonist. A beginning, a middle, and an end. A certain je ne sais quoi that ensnares me regardless of your typos and bad grammar. A few pages of pretty writing tells me nothing.

That's like asking me what your bread tastes like when we are standing in your field of uncut wheat. It's meaningless and irrelevant.

Usually at this point, the newbies have the same look in their eyes that they would if I'd just hit their dog with my car, got out, and kicked the corpse a couple of times for good measure.

So I gently ask, "Have you finished anything? Another novel? A short story perhaps?"

I'm still waiting for my first yes. Hell, I'm still waiting for one of these newbies to send me their completed novel.

And I think that's the hardest part of this art form. The part that separates the real writers from the wannabes. You have to finish what you start. Sure, that first novel may be a total piece of shit (mine sure was), but so what?

The real question to consider--did you have fun doing it?

But first, you have to finish that story before you'll ever know if it was fun.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Seriously, folks.

If I have to give you a SPOILERS warning before talking about this movie, you have had a very sad life, and you need to start watching animated Disney princess movies--STAT!

This is pretty much a scene-for-scene remake of Disney's 1991 animated version of the classic French fairy tale and using the music by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. The lush costuming and scenery are reminiscent of Hollywood musicals of the '30's and '40's.

Emma Watson's Belle is a little more millennial angsty than her animated counterpart. Ewan McGregor once again ably fills the shoes of an older actor who originated the role, in this case the late Jerry Orbach as Lumiere. Kevin Kline brings much needed depth to Maurice

There are a few slight changes to the story which only adds to the characters' motivations. Beast uses his mirror to show Belle her parents' old apartment in Paris and what really happened to her mother. Beast also opens up a bit talking about his relationships with his own parents, and how he allowed them to affect his personality. Finally seeing Gaston's obsession during the battle at the castle, LeFou switches sides, defends the castle staff, and gets his own happily ever after during Belle and Beast's wedding.

Overall, I give this movie 10 stars out of 10 because it makes my happy and I left the theater still singing the tunes. And I want to go see it again this week.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Target Marketing in the New World

Edit to Add: Ironically, Kris Rusch talked about a related issue this week. I suggest you go read her post on the massive amount of data we writers can collect on readers and our interactions with them.

* * *

Indie writers have this tendency to freak about modern marketing. They generally seem to go one of two ways: either they promote the hell out of only one or two books or they panic and don't market at all.

The really big mistake I think a lot of writers make is failing understand their own work and target it to an inappropriate audience. I see a lot of new writers in the game make the same mistake the Big 5 make--they through spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. But they have no idea why something sticks.

I will say this, and it is just my opinion--permafree isn't working like it used to. Too many readers feel they've been burned by the writers, but bad writing and incoherent stories weren't the only problem.

A subset of readers will only accept or download free books. I'm not talking about folks on a limited budget. I'm not dissing those people. I've been there. I know what it's like when you don't have a choice between food and heat. When even having a TV was a luxury out of my reach. I was lucky my county library was within walking distance. And I ended up buying copies of the very same books I enjoyed through the library system.

I'm talking about those folks who feel entitled to anything they want for free. Those who mock anyone for being stupid to pay. Those who openly pirate. Those people are going to pay you anyway, so including them in your marketing plan is probably not in your best interest.

And these types of folks are an example of what I mean. You need to target your marketing efforts towards people likely to have an interest in and the wherewithal to buy your book. Not everyone on the planet will want to read your book no matter how great your book is. So get over the idea that your book is for everyone NOW!

Let's start by looking at my own family. Mom's into sweet romance. My father-in-law reads military history. Genius Kid loves manga and military sci-fi. Dad secretly reads my X-men comics. My sister is a major horror fan.

Now, let's pretend none of these people are my family. How would I market my sword-and-sorcery novels to them?

A lot of indies would say that since my heroine and hero are in a long-term relationship emphasize that aspect to my mother. My protagonists are fighting demons so highlight that element to my sister. And, you get the idea. And that lovely plan will probably fail.

What's wrong with this plan? Well, first of all, I asked the wrong damn question. My question should have been how do I market my book to people who already LOVE sword-and-sorcery. The people who are actively seeking the exact type of book I wrote.

Does this mean that other folks won't like my book? No, but you'll be wasting your time and money going after people who aren't likely to make your book their first choice.

So how does this apply in real life?

If you decide to run a Facebook ad, you don't include everyone who loves books. You narrow it down by genre and subgenre. I could can even narrow it down by looking at people who are fans of the type of sword-and-sorcery I emulate, i.e. Mercedes Lackey and Barbara Hambly, not Roberrt E. Howard.

One of the best examples of how NOT to market your entertainment is John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood.  Michael D. Sellers does an excellent job of detailing the screwed-up marketing on a movie that had a ready made audience.

The best thing you can do though is understand your potential audience before you do any marketing whatsoever.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Health Interferes

Writing is a glorious and enjoyable pastime for me. It's also terribly sedentary, which for me is no different than when I worked in IT or practiced law. It means taking breaks to prevent repetitive stress injuries, eating right, and exercising on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, I also have several chronic conditions that make keeping the health balance a little more difficult. The last two and half months have been especially so. I chalked the severe exhaustion up to my (relatively) mild seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I mean, we only had three days of sunshine for the entire month of January.

In the meantime, I was trying to finish the last three novels of the Bloodlines series. I'd been delayed a month thanks to my own freakin' mistake. Then the exhaustion set in, and it became a struggle thinking straight, much less writing a page or two each day. I figured as long as I kept moving forward, things would get better.

Then we started getting a little more sunshine, and I felt a little better. My days were a little more productive, but definitely not where they should be.

Time for the family's annual check-ups rolled around, and I started making the calls and appointments. My general practioner had an opening for me a couple of months early, and I took it.

I'm glad I did. My numbers were all over the place. Basically, the hormonal changes of menopause were playing havoc with my careful balance of the last two decades. It means experimenting with my drug formulas again to strike the right notes.

On top of the physical effects is a healthy dose of frustration and anger that my body is still making me pay for the choice to have a child. But that's what my personal journal and this blog is for, dealing with those feelings.

As I write this, it's been fours days with the new formula. I already feel the difference. The question is how this new condition will play out over the next couple of weeks.

But if you're a writer and you're healthy, please, PLEASE maintain that health as long as you can. Take good care of your body because it has more of an affect on our minds than we realize.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Mockingkjay Part II

This was one of the movies we recorded during the HBO free weekend last month, and subsequently watched. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II came out during the holiday season of 2015, about the time our beloved beagle Dax died and Darling Husband's parents ended up in the hospital. In all the chaos, we missed our chance to see it.

Normally, I don't hold the book against the movie derived from it. They are two very different artforms. But in this case, two padded two-plus-hour movies should have been shortened to one three-hour film.

Mockingjay Part I ended with the rescue of Peeta from President Snow's people, and Katniss's horrified realization of how far Peeta's torture has twisted his mind and emotions.

Once again, this movie is over a year old, not to mention the book came out seven years ago, so I'm not bothering with a SPOILERS warning.

Part II frankly plods through the last part of the story. There's a great many scenes that could have been trimmed since they were made to show off the special effects, not really advance the story.

There was also a certain numbness in Katniss, which I don't blame on Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal, but are more the fault of the direction and script. At this point in the book, Katniss had a single-minded determination that wasn't truly reflected in the movie.

Also, they left out Katniss's attempted suicide after killing interim President Coin. That attempt was a direct result over losing Prim despite all of Katniss's efforts. These two changes left me rather indifferent toward the character.

I also need to re-read the book because I was fairly certain Snow finally succumbed to the poison he'd been ingesting over the years, laughing and choking as he enjoyed turning Katniss against Coin in the end.

Overall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II was technically proficient, but left me emotionally cold. I give it 6 stars out of 10.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Logan

I have to admit my mind is still spinning over this movie. First of all, anyone going into this flick thinking it will be a Disney/Marvel MCU spandex fest or even a shitty 20th Century Fox X-men film are going to be sorely disappointed.

This is a western noir. Think Unforgiven. Okay, it's Unforgiven with superpowers, but it definitely isn't your mommy's comic book flick.

* * *


* * *

1) The movie takes bits and pieces from the Old Man Logan comics storyline. However in this version, Logan's not the one who was responsible for slaughtering the other X-men, which I admit makes me feel a lot better about the character. The way the filmmakers handle it gives an extra layer of guilt to Logan and makes his decisions that much harder.

2) Caliban was handled better in this movie than he was in X-men: Apocalypse. He's the tragic hero he was meant to be.

3) Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23 was a marvel! Keep your eye on this actor.


1) Allegedly, this is Hugh Jackman's last stint as Wolverine. I'm a little disappointed because I would have loved to see a Deadpool/Wolverine movie that didn't suck the way X-men Origins: Wolverine did.

2) This is also supposed to be Sir Patrick Stewart's last stint as Professor Charles Xavier. While James McAvoy does a great job as Professor X, Stewart will always be my first love in that role simply because I wanted to see him play Charles since 1987.

3) My only real issue is Donald Pierce leading the Reavers instead of Lady Deathstrike. But no, the idiots at 20th Century Fox already killed her off several movies ago. I would have loved to see Kelly Hu as an independent, autonomous X-villain. Unfortunately, the movie version of Pierce is just as much of a wuss as the comicbook version.

Overall, I give Logan 9.5 stars out of 10. Sorry, but I can't forgive using Pierce here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Music I've Been Listening To

Sometimes you need a little badness in your life...

Friday, March 10, 2017

Quest for the Lost Cat

Quantum Is Calling is an adorable mini-film where Zoe Saldana accidentally loses her friend's cat...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cycling While Writing

No, not the kind on a bicycle.

Cycling is the term Dean Wesley Smith uses for reviewing previous words in a wip for typos, consistency, etc. before continuing to work on the story in today's writing session. I know a lot of long-term professional writers who cycle through their story.

Heck, I did it for years without knowing what it was, mainly because when I'm in the zone, my fingers are flying so fast words are left out, switched, or a homonym is accidentally used.

Cycling doesn't catch everything, or it may not catch everything right away. I took a break from writing for a few days two weeks ago to work on taxes. When I opened the file for Ravaged again, I discovered that I'd stopped writing on a major subplot that started in Blood Magick and has a lot to do with the climax in Resurrected.

Let's just say I could've put both Sam and Tiffany's potty mouths to shame when I was cycling through and realized what I'd done.

So, I'm going back to the beginning and layering in the subplot. Want to know why it's important? I'll give you a couple of hints. It has to do with the witch whose soul Bebe witnessed being eaten back way back in Blood Magick. And it's related to how chicks  breath while they are still inside their egg shells. 😁

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - John Wick and John Wick Chapter 2

Yes, I'm cramming two review into one. And yes, I'm a huge Keanu Reeves fan. I don't care what anyone else says. The man doesn't get enough credit for his range or his use of subtlety. Seriously, go back and watch Much Ado About Nothing. Keanu can hold his own against Kenneth Branagh and Denzel Washington.

The original John Wick was one of the many movies I wanted to see in 2014 and didn't get a chance to. So when it debuted on cable TV last month, I watched. Twice.

I'm not going to give a SPOILERS warning. It's been out for three years, and if you haven't seen it yet, it's not my fault. I will give a warning before I start talking about Chapter 2.

The original film is a take on the Asian revenge stories with a neo-noir chaser. The triggering event is one I totally identify with as a furbaby parent. The fact that John's furbaby was the same breed as two of mine made his rage even more palpable.

In the typical fashion of a certain breed of human males, the entire tale could have been truncated by doing the right thing and giving the instigator to John for punishment. But no, the bad guys dicks get in the way, and John shoots them off with brutal efficiency.

The movie ends with an injured and beaten John "adopting" a new puppy to replace his beloved Daisy. However, his equally believed Mustang is still missing.

Which brings us to the opening of John Wick Chapter 2. The sequel picks up a couple of days after the end of the first movie, and John is looking for his Mustang. As the new head of the Russian Mafia tells his right hand man who's after him and why, the second-in-command asks, "Why don't we simply give him his car back?"

Smartest guy in the underworld so of course, he doesn't survive the first ten minutes of the movie.

* * *


* * *

1) While the plot of its predecessor is a fairly simplistic revenge story, John Wick Chapter 2 digs deeper into John's past and the underworld of the franchise. We learn how John did the "impossible task" in order to leave the underworld and marry Helen.Unfortunately, payment for assistance in the "impossible task" comes due in the new film.

2) The pencil story from the first film was not an exaggeration, and John proves it as part of an epic fight scene in the New York subway system.

3) Common, as professional rival Cassian, was a delight. His fate was left in the air, and I truly hope to see him in the next film of the franchise.

4) Compared to his icy precision in exacting revenge in the first movie, John loses it in this one. But then, literally everything has been taken from him at this point.

5) Don't worry. Boy (the only thing John calls the pit bull puppy from the first movie) survives. However, his puppy daddy crosses a line at the end. The same line as Miss Perkins in the first movie. Out of love and respect, Winston give John an hour headstart. The film ends with John and Boy running for their lives with nothing to their names.

1) The third installment can't come out fast enough.

While I would give the original John Wick a 7.5 stars out of 10, John Wick Chapter 2 cranks everything up to 9.5.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Music I've Been Listening To

All they need is the Dancing Baby with Baby Groot...

Friday, March 3, 2017

Epic Chess Match!

Where Keanu Reeves is stirring stuff in the universe between Ant-man and Dr. Hawking...

Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - The Huntsman: Winter's War

I love free weekends of premium movie channels on cable. It allows me to catch up with the flicks I wanted to see at the theater, but didn't have time to go. (And yeah, Francis, I watched Deadpool twice even though I already have the Blu-Ray.)

The Huntsman: Winter's War managed to stay in theaters for a few days longer than Jem and the Holograams. I don't normally hold that against a movie, but yes, in this case, there was a reason for TH:WW's short lifespan. Since it has been nearly a year since the movie's original release date, I'm not going to bother with my normal SPOILERS warning.

Let's just say the only good things in this movie were (1) Halsey's remake of her single "Castle" and (2) a gratuitous shot of naked Chris Hemsworth and naked Jessica Chastain.

The movie tries to be two things:  a tragic prequel and a humorous action adventure sequel. Neither of these mesh with the dark fantasy that was Snow White and the Huntsman.

The plot mashes together the original Snow White fairytale with Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. The prequel portion where Eric (aka the titular Huntsman) and Sarah were kidnapped, fell in love, etc., could have been sliced from forty minutes down to ten. And I'm being generous here. The subplot of one of the dwarves and his half-brother tagging along on Eric's quest was more engaging.

The producers assembled an exceptional cast, but the writing plodded and the dialogue was repetitive. I cannot blame the actors, who did the best they could with the lines they were given.

But with a $115 million budget, how the hell could the special effects be so shitty? DH and I have been re-watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine during our lunch breaks. How the fuck can a twenty-three-year-old TV series have better special effects than this waste of a movie?

I tried to like this movie. I really did. But I'd rather watch Thor, Interstellar, Hitchcock, and The Devil Wears Prada back-to-back with no pee breaks while being forced to drink two gallons of beer.

Overall, The Huntsman: Winter's War get a token 1 star out of 10 for naked Hemsworth.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

Something Fun for Friday

With the horror that started The Walking Dead's seventh season, this seemed to be a perfect antidote. Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Crippling Computer Despair

I'm not sure what happened over the weekend. My virus traps were clean. No strange cookies appeared. My computer wore her security condom like a good girl so no strange Trojans could infiltrate her pathways.

But something happened. I took me a good forty-eight hours to restore everything. The print drives were the biggest hassle.

Thank Goddess! I didn't lose a damn word from any of my current wips!

And this children is why you do backups.

However, the lost time in writing and putting together tax return info was annoying as hell.

Therein lies the problem. Since I've crossed the half-century mark, I'm much more conscious of time. How little I have left. How much I want to do.

It's the same weird feeling I get when I go somewhere for vacation. The first half is all excitement and wonder and fun. Then at the halfway point, I get nostalgic. I try to remember each and every moment, knowing they will be the last ones of that trip.

Damn you computer! Damn you for reminding me of my mortality!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - The Lego Batman Movie

"Everything is awesome!"

Yep, even that little earworm makes an appearance in The Lego Batman Movie albeit in the background.

This movie taps into the family theme a little deeper than it's predecessor, The Lego Movie, did, all within the realm of the Batman mythos. On the surface though, this movie is a fangirl's dream with all the nods to seventy+ years of Batman history. And it's funny as hell.

* * *


* * *

1) Ironically, this movie digs deeper into Batman/Bruce Wayne's psyche than most other stories I've read or watched. Sure, his parents' murders are the inciting factor to Bruce's vigilantism. But this movie takes it a step further by showing him so paranoid about ANY human connection he denies Joker's claim that he is Batman's greatest foe. Which of course, sets off the Joker's greatest scheme EVER!

2) The cameos are too fucking numerous to mention. In fact, I think I missed some in the kinetic energy of the film. But a special nod goes to Billy Dee Williams who played DA Harvey Dent in Batman (1989). I'd hoped to see him play Two-Face in a Michael Keaton sequel, but it was not to be.

3) Special mention goes to Doug Benson who voiced Bane. I sat through the credits because I would have sworn Bane was portrayed by his The Dark Knight Rises actor, Tom Hardy.

1) I know this sounds weird, but this flick was way more enjoyable than the live-action DC superhero movies, and it upsets me. As I'm writing this review, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is playing on the TV. (I'm taking advantage of an HBO free weekend.) There's no humor to relieve the unrelenting dreariness and despair of Man of Steel and BvS. Suicide Squad was a bit better, but the humor had to be inserted during retakes.

This is a time in history were heroic stories are important. We the People need something positive in our lives, someone to look up to even if he/she is a figment of our imagination. Both Batman and Superman were created during the Depression for a reason. When I say "positive", I don't mean the constant visual and dialogue jokes of The Lego Batman Movie, but Goddess damn it, we need something positive. Uplifting. And it's sad that a toy-inspired animated movie delivers what the live-action movies can't.

In the end, I can honestly tell other parents to take their kids to see this movie. It's the same clean fun of its predecessor. Overall, I give The Lego Batman Movie 9.5 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2017 Business Goals

Yes, my business goals this year involve writing and publishing to earn enough money for the entire Mattel Barbie Wonder Woman line.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Another One Bites the Dust

Last week, Samhain Publishing announced it will be closing at the end of February.

The Digital Reader and several other outlets announced the news with suggestions that customers download and back up their libraries since they had time, unlike the three-day warning/debacle of All Romance eBooks back in December.

Wait! Haven't we heard this one about Samhain before ?

Yeah, we have. A year ago in fact. Publishers Weekly, along with several other media outlets, announced Samhain's closing from a letter sent to the publisher's authors. However, some time later, principle Christine Brashear wrote another e-mail to the authors to "clarify" the situations. It was only a "misunderstanding" and Samhain was "downsizing", not "closing."

Um, okay?

Several Samhain writers were marketing their releases well into July of 2016, many stating all's right with the world. Others said they had their contracts terminated.

Is this a better fuster cluck than EC or ARe? If writers get their rights back without Samhain having to file for bankruptcy, then I'd say yes. But that's just me.

On the other hand, anyone who didn't get paid will probably never see a dime of that money. It's long since been spent on overhead, contrary to what the conspiracy theorists believe.

Later on Friday, a couple of Alter Ego's Facebook friends/readers lamented the end of so many publishers. Unfortunately, they blame Amazon. The real problem is that any business is cyclical. A good business person knows you have to put some money aside for the slow time. Since e-books were so new, many publishers and writers thought the gravy train would last forever.

Hell, I'm impressed it lasted for nearly ten years before the first downturn. And I'm sorry, but this downturn was inevitable.

I hate seeing any publisher go under (well, almost any), but we writers have a lot more options that we did when I started this bizarre journey nearly twenty years ago. Don't fret just yet. Take a good, hard look at your business plan and make whatever adjustments you need to make to survive.

Good luck!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Discipline and the Indie Writer

I could make a lot of BDSM jokes with that title because (1) Alter Ego writes that genre and (2) I have the sense of humor of a twelve-year-old American male.

Which meant I was rolling on the floor in tears when the Russian hookers/golden showers story broke.

But that's not the point I wanted to make.

If you're a regular reader, you know I've had a harder than usual struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Thankfully, we had a full day of sunshine yesterday so I'm feeling better than I have been through the month of January.

Bu last month, EGADS! Not only was I dealing with the physical issue, but my own lack of empathy for myself. Normally, I get up, brew some tea or pour a cup of coffee if DH made some, and write my blog post if one is due. Then I work on a wip.

Usually, I can do 1,000 to 1,200 words in a couple of hours. At the end of that time, DH and I break for lunch and watch a program. Currently, we flip between Season 7 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or Season 7 of Star Trek Voyager. DH paraphrases Dr. Sheldon Cooper and says we watch them in the order in which Rick Berman wanted us to be disappointed.

By the time the episode is done, I go pick up Genius Kid. (I'll be sooo happy when he has his driver's license. I think.) Then I write another 1,000 to 1,200 over the course of two hours before I have to consider prepping for supper.

If the guys have something going on, I can squeeze in another hour or two of writing time. But to be perfectly honest, I've been catching up on Season 11 of Bones or binging on Arrow. (I fully blame Angie for the Arrow fixation!)

Needless to say, I've been mad at myself for not being able to concentrate during my normal writing times. Heck, I haven't even had the energy to leave the apartment and head to one of my writing haunts to jumpstart the process.

So what does my bitching and whining have to do with discipline?

The people who are accused of "fast writing" (like me) aren't writing faster than anyone else. We have the discipline to keep our butt in the chair (or standing in front of our computer stand). We spend the time actually writing/typing. We don't check e-mail/Facebook/new feeds constantly. We don't play games on our computers.

Well, all right. I admit to playing Mah Jong. I swear I only do it after the first five hundred words are written. And truth be told, if I can make to that five hundred, I usually can't stop to play Mah Jong.

But when I maintain my writing discipline, I can hit 3,600 words a day. And frankly, that's wa-a-ay slower than a lot of prolific writers I know.

The issue with indie writers is that we're not faced with external deadlines, such as detailed by our publishers in contracts. Any deadlines are completely arbitrary.

In order to succeed, we have to want to write. We must enjoy writing. Otherwise, there's a zillion other thing to do with our time.

My schedule above? That's only the current schedule. The one I've been following since 2015. Once GK has his driver's license, it will change. And when he moves out, my schedule will probably change again. And that's okay.

When you sit in the chair, or stand, to type, or write long-hand, isn't important. That fact that you do so consistantly is the important thing if you want a career as a writer.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

BAM Publishing

Since I used to belong to Books-A-Millions's frequent buyer club, I received a lovely e-mail from them last Friday (February 3) concerning their brand-new publishing arm.

First of all, the links within the e-mail I received didn't work. I had to view the e-mail within a browser to access the links. Those took me to a page that had, well, a zillion red flags.

- FREE guidebook (You can't even see the TOS online.)

- To obtain the guidebook, you must give them your name, e-mail address, and phone number (How much do you want to bet that information is sold to a third party?)

- They want you to write on their website. (Um, why? I write where and when it's possible. In fact, I picked up my son at school one day, forgot my phone, and wrote an entire scene on the back of a grocery list.)

- They have a FREE Introductory 15-minute call you can schedule! (That doesn't go to a toll-free line.)

- BAM Publish has "all-inclusive packages"! (When they won't tell you the price, it means you probably can't afford it.)

- When I tried to go to BAM Publish directly, I got a 404 Error for a company called Infinity Publishing. (So Books-A-Million isn't running this program. They're just taking a cut for recruiting naïve writers.)

- When I tried to google Infinity Publishing, I landed on a porn site from clicking on its main company URL. (For the record, I have nothing against porn, but I prefer it AFTER I've had my second cup of caffeine of the morning.)

- So I tried looking up Infinity Publishing on complaint sites, and it has a nice, solid "F" from the Better Business Bureau.

All the world needs is another #(&$&(@*# vanity publisher, because that's exactly who Books-A-Million has gotten into bed with. Personally, I'm staying away from BAM Publishing.

EDIT TO ADD: After I'd drafted the post above over the weekend, I discovered an article on Indies Unlimited on Monday. The author Lynne Cantwell had much of the same to say about this scam.

Lynne took one for the team by sending in her private info to find out about BAM Publish's (aka Infinity Publishing) prices. There's a fee of $59 on top of the cost of your print books. The really sick part was the $349 for global distribution of your print and e-books. And the prices skyrocket from there.

All I can say is stay far away from these BAM Publish/Infinity Publishing folks! Very, very far away!

Monday, February 6, 2017

When the Clouds Pass

The day I posted the February status report about my recent frustrations, Kris Rusch wrote a very similar post about writing or not writing through bad times. After reading it and several of the comments, it was heartening to know I'm not the only writer that feels this way.

Add to that the fact that we've had two full days of sunshine, and I'm starting to feel like myself again.

All of which helps me to obey Batman's orders.

Now if only Sam doesn't lose the earring she borrowed from Tiffany during the climatic battle against a dino demon...

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Protest Songs

I really don't want to hear anyone, who did a certain thing in November, bitching when their tequila prices go up 20%.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Status Report - February 2017

I'd originally planned to be releasing Resurrected in a couple of weeks. I tried to have Ravaged ready to be released by February 1.

Neither is going to happen.

I'm frustrated beyond all measure at the moment. On one side are my health issues. Endocrine breakdown exacerbates Seasonal Effective Disorder. My Vitamin D levels drop, which cause fatigue. Supplements barely make a dent, and with the overabundance of clouds and rain this winter, natural Vitamin D production is very low. So I tend to depend too much on caffeine in an effort to feel normal, which isn't a good thing either.

Then there's the other stuff that's stressing me out.

Yeah, I know no one wants to hear entertainers talk politics. Yeah, I know some you will be pissed off and swear never to read my books again. Yeah, I know I might be ruining my writing career.

But a long time ago, I swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of American.

Not once, but three times.

Hell, I can still recite the preamble from memory.

Now, I'm seeing people in our government blatantly ignoring due process, betraying intelligence resources, and putting our armed forces at risk.

I'm not taking party sides. They've both equally guilty of putting party interests before the interests of the people they are supposed to be representing.

Darling Husband and I had a long talk last night about my reactivating one of my law licenses and doing volunteer work. It would mean putting writing aside once again for Goddess knows how long. DH made the comment that sometimes art has a greater effect on people than legal action. I said people in jail aren't going to be reading my books.

His answer: The people being detained aren't the ones who I need to be communicating with.

So what's the right answer?

There isn't one. Not for me anyway. I'm reassured that whatever decision I make, DH will support it. All I can do is figure out what's best for everyone.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Underworld: Blood Wars

I admit I'm a sucker for the Underworld series. I have been since the first movie in 2003. It's been five years since the last installment. Blood Wars is the first installment from a female director. Unfortunately, the writing suffers from the same affliction as The Force Awakens--an incomplete story that depends too much on automatic fan love.

* * *


* * *

1) The plot is a little more coherent than 2012's Underworld: Awakening. With the three oldest of the vampire Elders dead and Viktor's coven destroyed, the remaining vampires jockey for power. Some want Selene dead for betraying and killing her maker. Some want her to train their neophyte Death Dealers. And some know exactly what Selene's hybrid blood can do.

2) Kate Beckinsale still rocks as Selene.

1) As I said, the story felt very incomplete. It ended on a cliffhanger in much the same way The Force Awakens did.

2) The motivation for the two primary antagonists was practically non-existent. One of the pluses of the first three movie in the series was the personal, passionate reasons for both sides to take the paths they did. After that, power for the sake of power seemed rather petty.

This is one of those movies if you love the series, you'll enjoy it. Otherwise, you might want to wait for The Lego Batman Movie in two weeks.

As a superfan, I give this a 7 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

No More Silence

Don't let anyone tell you to shut up and go away.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Alternative Facts

Copyright 2017, Author Earnings
Author Earnings' latest report came out via Data Guy's presentation at last week's Digital Book World '17. This was more of an overall view of the industry and included not just Data guy's spiders, but also information from Nielson and Bookscan.

Yes, there was some pretty significant information. Such as the strength of indies in underserved markets such as African-American-themed books. Or that the print book sales surge was actually a test by Amazon offering consumers steeper discounts on trad published books after post-conspiracy debacle contract negotiations were resumed. Or that e-books have plateaued or shrink and instead are up 4%.

What's more telling to me though is that the same people, who derisively dismissed Hugh Howey and Data Guy's efforts when they started Author Earnings a little over three years, are now listening attentively. Yeah, the same people, who screamed from nearly every online venue that DG was a liar and his data was false, are now inviting him to their conferences, sitting raptly at attention and soaking in the numbers.

I know there's at least one of you out there thinking, "But, but, but digital was growing 100-200-300% back 2010-2011. 4% is awful!"

No, it's isn't. Let's you sold 1 e-book in 2010. Not a lot, but a good start. In 2011, you sold 2 e-books. That's a 100% increase. In 2012, you sold 20 e-books and that's a 1000% increase for you.

Compare that to total e-books available on Amazon (because I'm trying to make this easy to follow). When I first started publishing, there were roughly 3 million e-books available. Staying in the top third, i.e. your rank was above #1,000,000, was fairly easy.

Now, there an estimated nine million e-books available. My books are generally ranked roughly around #2,500,000 mark. That's still the top 30%. However, there's more books to choose from so it doesn't mean I'm making anywhere near the amount of sales I was before.

(And no, I'm not blaming Amazon or anyone else. I only started publishing again last June after a nearly three year hiatus due to personal issues that I enumerated extensively during that time period. I still hold to the belief that the best way to market your books is by producing more material for your readers.)

So the money pot is actually growing. There just happens to be more people dipping into it. However, there's still room for indie growth.

How so?

Beyond numbers, there's something more telling. Trad publishing is leaving a hell of a lot of money on the table. Remember the African-American themed books I mentioned above? 96% of those sales were e-books, and guess who controls that market? Trad publishers like to claim that certain portions of our country don't read, but the numbers say otherwise.

The best thing indie writers can take from the latest AE report is that trad publishing is leaving a lot of genre territory for us to claim. So get out there, find a niche genre you love and start writing it!

P.S. Yes, I stole Data Guy's Pac-Man slide. It's cute, and it's a generational thing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Falling Over Like Flies

I admit I've been avoiding the subject of All Romance E-books/Omnilit over the last month. Mainly, I didn't feel like stirring the pot over a bunch of allegations. I hate to tell folks, but I've seen this before, and I can pretty much guarantee that the money is gone.

I don't mean the owner of ARe stuffed it in an account in the Cayman Islands. I mean it's already been spent. Yes, it sucks dirty donkey dicks. And depending on the laws in various states, maybe, a very miniscule maybe, the legal team going after the owner might seize some personal property as recompense.

However, if you have money due from ARe and feel the need to do something, author Brenda Cothern's attorney has filed a class action suit. You might want to check into it.

Unfortunately, ARe wasn't the only small publisher (yes, they did publish books in addition to being a retailer) to crash and burn over the last month. I personally know of three small/micro publishers to close their doors.

A lot of indie writers are complaining that sales are down, but I really have no anecdotal data to share. I published two novels and an anthology of my own stories, plus had a short in a trad published anthology, over the last seven months after a three-year drought. So, yes, my sales may be down, but probably not for the same reason as everyone else.

Is this all bad? A symptom of something worse happening?

My opinion is we're looking at a market correction. Several companies jumped into e-book publishing and/or retailing under capitalized. It happens all the time when a new market opens up. These companies hit the gold rush period, much as Ellora's Cave did with the erotica market, and their business plans did not take into account the periodic ups and downs of a business. And just like any other business, there had to be a dip in sales after the first surge of e-books.

Think of a brand new business as a rock. When you drop it in a pond, there's a big splash. When that splash lands back in the pond, it sets off a series of ripples. Each ripple becomes successively smaller until the pond's surface is level again.

We're at the point of the indie rock where the splash has landed back in the pond. Over the next few months, we'll see a few less sales, a few more writers quit, a few more small/micro publishers close. Then the next ripple will pick things up, but the rise won't be anywhere near as high as the initial splash.

Since the publishing world moves at the speed of Warp Tortoise, the ripples will probably continue for the next decade or two before the publishing pond stills again.

Then the next rock will hit. And only the deity of your choice will know what that will be.