Friday, December 29, 2017

Trying Something New

New writers constantly want the magic bullet, the secret handshake, whatever you want to call it.

What they're really afraid to do is experiment. There's so many ways to write. So many different methodologies. All of them have pluses and minuses. What works for one writer may not work for another, and vice-versa.

There's an old saying BICFOK. It stands for "Butt In Chair Fingers On Keyboard."

It's that simple. And that difficult.

I'm one of those writers who likes to carve out a straight hour or two to write. Preferably in the afternoon or night. Because I am SO not a morning person.

But with a husband and a kid, that's not always realistic, either from the amount of time standpoint or the time of day standpoint. It's also not healthy sitting in one position for so long as I age.

This morning I tried a couple of different things. One, I started writing a half hour after I crawled out of bed. Two, I tried writing is short bursts, aka sprints.

Sprints have been advocated by several writers I've known over the years. I've only ever tried them with other people, and the experience wasn't the best because there's always that one person who needs to talk.

(Yeah, sometimes I was the guilty party.)

This morning though, I tried three solitary 25-minute sprints. On the plus side, I came in on my normal speed of 600 words per minute hour. (Dang! Talk about a Freudian slip! I WISH I could type 600 words per minute.) On the negative side, I had a problem getting back into the story after my breaks. Though in all fairness, I took more than the 5-minute bathroom/drink break that I was supposed to do.

The reason I'm doing this? We're looking for a house, and I need to make the most of my writing time if I'm going to maintain my business schedule in the middle of a move.

So, I'm going to try sprints again, and see if I can't refine my technique.

Anything y'all are trying new to improve your writing for 2018?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 in Review

Despite my best-laid plans and my efforts, things didn't go exactly as expected this year. Including not writing a blog post for Christmas Day. I started, but got distracted by other things, like Peter Capaldi's last portrayal of The Doctor.

Only one novel and one short story of mine were released, even though I did finish two other novels. I'm not sure if I'd call 2017 a failure though.

I did complete three novels, though the latter two won't officially be released until 2018.

I spent a good part of the year catching up on paperback releases, a task leftover from 2015. I actually managed to sell five of them. Okay, two were bought by DH's aunt, but hey, I'll take whatever tidbits I can get at this point.

This was my second lowest income year, but it was still $800 more than what I made in 2011, my first year of publishing.

Where did I slip? I let a great many real-world things distract me. Some needed my attention, like the death of DH's mother and GK's illnesses. Some things not so much, like the political climate in the U.S. and BBC America's recent Doctor Who takeover.

Where did I do good? I have several books close to completion for 2018. I hope to have nine releases. If there's any leftover time, I want to restart Alter Ego's career.

Angry Sheep Publishing was accepted as a vendor by Google Play. I'm still in the process of uploading books onto that retail platform.

I bought a bunch of covers ahead of time because Goddess only knows how tax stuff will shake out in the end. (Though our CPA is already on top of it, and has sent us several informative e-mails on what to expect for 2018 and what we need to take care of NOW!)

And hopefully, I might have my own office next year. It was our compromise if DH wanted to stay in town and buy a house.

It will be interesting to see what 2018 brings.

What about the rest of you? Any goals met? Anything getting in the way of your writing?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

My Favorite TV Theme Songs

Weekdays when I got to walk to Grandma's house after school--Speed Racer and peanut butter chocolate chip no-bake cookies!


Friday, December 22, 2017

Status Report - December 2017

A Modicum of Truth has turned into the book that just won't stop.

Just joking. I'm at the point in writing where the second, bigger climatic battle is about to start, and I'm already over my original estimate of 80K. These scenes will be my focus over the holiday. Needless to say, if you read Wednesday's screed, I definitely need to be alone for the next three days so I don't wind up in jail for assault. LOL

I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that Darling Husband, Genius Kid, and I stay healthy for the next few weeks. DH's employer was bought, and we waiting to see how benefits shake out.

I was rather sad I couldn't buy DH his computer this year. We'd been saving and planning since it was his turn for an upgrade. But the car GK's been using went kaflooey and the new tax law means we need to pay as much of my 2018 business expenses in 2017 as possible. So there went the money I set aside.

On the plus side, I've got covers lined up for the next several releases under both pseudonyms!

Anyway, here's the plan for the next few weeks:

- Proof the Ravaged paperback today and tomorrow. Send notes to Jaye, my formatter.
- Finish writing AMoT over the weekend.
- Edit AMoT Dec. 26-29. Send file to Jaye on Friday.
- Edit Sacrificed Dec. 30-Jan. 2.
- Finish writing Reality Bites Jan. 3-20th.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for Elaina, my cover artist, to re-do the spine for Blood Sacrifice. For some reason, CreateSpace got super-picky about the title on the spine, even though it's a 280-page paperback with plenty of room. Once I get that back and through Createspace's approval process, Blood Sacrifice will be available as a paperback, and I'll upload the e-book on Barnes & Noble.

Everything else will depend on when my contractors are back to work between vacations, families, holidays, etc. I don't begrudge them the time off because I'm sure their families are a lot more gracious and fun than mine.

(And even as I typed this missive, DH came in to tell me his smartphone just died. *facepalm* We don't have landlines, and I really don't want his family calling me!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Merry Effing Christmas

Or maybe this post should be subtitled, "When People Go Out of Their Way to Make Each Other Miserable During the Holidays."

I erased what I'd originally wrote for today's post. I was angry. I was super tired since I'd been up hours early the last two mornings. And the post sounded pretty ugly.

And nearly twenty hours later, I still feel just as mean and ugly.

Christmas for me has become an extended period of emotional blackmail and manipulation. There's no kindness, no thoughtfulness, no thinking of the needs of others.

This is the first Christmas without DH's mother. And like Thanksgiving, it's become a huge fuckfest of hurt feelings because no one is getting their way. And no one is getting their way because none of them can admit to hurt feelings.

DH's father is already upset and hurt because only one out of five children even bothered to extend him an invitation for Thanksgiving. (You can guess who.)  Originally, Sister #4, her husband and daughter were going out of town for Thanksgiving. Her husband broke his leg the week before Thanksgiving and had to have surgery. She extended a half-assed invitation to FIL the day before Thanksgiving only to rescind it the very next day.

So, December rolls around, and since nothing had been said to DH, he asked his dad if he had plans. No, none of the sisters have said anything to FIL. DH offered to bring dinner over to FIL's place on Christmas Day like we did at Thanksgiving. FIL said no.

Yeah, you can see what's coming.

First of all, FIL refuses to tell any of the daughters how much they hurt him over Thanksgiving. Then, he's waiting on them to tell him what to do about Christmas. And he's pissed off because we live on the second floor of our building, but he can't get up and down the stairs anymore. (For Thanksgiving, I cooked at our place, then took the dinner and dessert to his.)

So, FIL calls Sister #4 and tells her to put something together (no, he didn't ask nicely). Her hubby's in a walking boot by now, but she whines because her house isn't showcase perfect because of (yet, more) remodeling being done.

(Sister #4's hubby makes serious bank compared to the rest of the family. I'm not jealous, really I'm not because he's a sweetheart, but their house is on its third makeover in ten years. She has a real problem with letting money sit in the bank. Actually, DH is kind of the same way. I chalk it up to the fact that FIL was pretty effing frugal when they were growing up, but then, he was raising five kids on one salary. So, all the kids go overboard on extraneous spending in one area or another.)

Anyway, back to the current drama. Sister #4 tries to bully Sister #1 into hosting Christmas. Mind you, Sister #1 hosted last year. And they are the only two in town with homes big enough to handle the extended family. Add on Sister #1's kids and spouses won't be in town (eldest works in the medical profession and is on duty, youngest is spending her first Christmas with brand new MIL who is widowed), so Sister #1 wants to delay the celebration to the following weekend when her kids can be there.

Then both Sister #1 and Sister #4 get into a snit fit about Sister #3's kids coming at all. (One of which was the niece who stayed with us two years ago, and got busted for dealing pot last year.)

Sister #3 can't host because of issues between her family, her second husband, and the pot-dealing daughter.

Sister #2 lives three hours away in another state, and given FIL's anxiety issues, it would be a nightmare for everyone to go there.

(A side note: DH and I offered to buy his parents' house four years ago while they looked for a condo. Sister #4 threw a major hissy fit to the effect that we were taking advantage of the parents. Parents told DH we could still buy it as long as Sister #4 essentially became our landlady. We said no, thanks, okay, my answer was more colorful, which is why we're currently in the apartment. We decided to stay here until Genius Kid graduates before we made our next move. Needless to say, what is now FIL's house, that he still owns but no longer lives in, would be big enough to host Christmas, too.)

By now, FIL is pissed at both Sister #4 for not hosting at all and Sister #1 for not stepping up. Add in that he made a nasty comment to DH that Sister #1 was the oldest and she should step up. When DH relayed that to me, I commented by that standard, I have to host because I'm the oldest in my family. *eyeroll*

So, we're at the point where everyone's doing their own thing on Christmas Day, and Sister #2 is driving to Ohio and taking FIL out to dinner in order to spend some quality time alone with her dad.

And...

Sister #4 got pissed that she wouldn't see Sister #2 and wanted to join #2 and FIL for dinner on Christmas Day. Sister #2 suggested they pick up food and have the dinner at Sister #4's house. Nope, can't do that because house is torn up.

Then, FIL complains nothing is open on Christmas Day (not true) and if Sister #4 is that adamant about being with him and Sister #2, then they were going to Sister #4's house anyway. Oh, and if they're there already, then the rest of the family should be there, too.

I went to the grocery store yesterday (aka Tuesday morning) and bought stuff to make our dinner before most of this went down.

Now, everyone's meeting at Sister #4's house on Christmas Eve.

Except...wait for it...FIL called two hours ago wanting to know if we're coming to his apartment Christmas Day, which was our original fucking plan. I told DH I wasn't going and he could do whatever he wanted.

I'm so, SO tired of manufactured drama. Especially manufactured drama over lack of honesty and communication.

You know what? I've given up on everyone else's bullshit.

I'm watching It's a Wonderful Life like I have for the last ten Christmas Eves with a good stiff drink. I'm having my cinnamon buns and cinnamon coffee for Christmas breakfast. I'm going to see The Last Jedi. I'm making my chicken phyllo and pumpkin pie. I'll watch the Steelers and Texans game on TV. (I'd actually looked into making the trip to Houston to see the game in person, but it was a little out of my price range.) And I'm damn well going to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special INSTEAD OF TAPING IT LIKE I HAVE THE LAST THREE FUCKING CHRISTMASES BECAUSE I WAS TRYING TO MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY, AND YOU ALL DECIDED TO BE FUCKING MISERABLE ANYWAY.

So there.

And believe or not, but this a way more polite post than the original, so DON'T YOU FUCKING DARE GET ON MY CASE ABOUT MY LACK OF CHRISTMAS SPIRIT.

I didn't start this, but I'm damn well going to finish it.

Assuming DH and I find a house before next Christmas, the holiday will be there on the 25th. Dinner will be served at 1:00 PM. And if you don't want to come, that's perfectly fine.

But any other arrangements are totally on you.

[Edit to Add: I'm at the point where I can laugh about this again. Literally five minute after I posted my rant, Sister #4 texted DH to say the family is meeting on Christmas Eve at a restaurant.]

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Sully

HBO and Showtime must be getting desperate for subscribers. They had their third(?) free weekend this year over the extended Thanksgiving holiday, so I tried to catch up with movies that I missed in theaters (and watch Deadpool a couple of more times despite having it on Blu-Ray, DVD, and a digital copy on my laptop).

First up is Sully, the movie based on Captain Chesley Sullenberger's water landing of a US Airways Airbus A320 in the Hudson River where all passengers and crew survived.

I'm not a big fan of Clint Eastwood's directorial efforts. His tastes tend to be depressing, but I am a huge fan of Tom Hanks (going all the way back to his Bosom Buddies days), and I knew this story had a happy ending in real life so I gave it a go.

It's been over year since the movie's release and nearly nine years since the incident on which this account was based, so I'm not giving my typical SPOILERS alert. I mean, seriously! The only way you could NOT have heard about the Miracle on the Hudson is if you were in the deepest, darkest part of the Amazon jungle...

And you were still there.

The framing event of the movie is not the incident itself, nor the rescue of the passengers and crew, but the subsequent National Transportation and Safety Board's investigation of the incident. I was a little bothered by the way the NTSB investigators were portrayed. It's their job to look at all the aspects of any such an incident or accident in order to protect the public by preventing that situation from happening again.

And yes, I'm calling this landing an "incident", not an "accident". Just like getting a flat tire and pulling safely off the road is not an "accident".

The movie shifts in time, as if flowing the free association of Captain Sullenberger's thoughts. It begins with him calling his wife just after he made it to shore. (It's not a funny scene, but both DH and I started laughing because the conversation was very similar to one we had in 1998. DH was in Nigeria and supposed to fly to Kenya the day the U.S. embassy in Nairobi was bombed.) Subsequent events are shown out of sequence, but the movie wasn't hard to follow.

Tom Hanks gave an honest, understated performance as Captain Sullenberger. He emphasized the humanity of the pilot: his fear for the safety of his passengers, his shakes after the incident, and his reticence at becoming a public figure.

Aaron Eckhart rarely gets any praise in his supporting roles, but he did a fabulous job as Sullenberger's copilot, Jeff Skiles. The two men's respect for each other shone through the actors' portrayal.

This is one of those movies that actually makes you feel good about the human race when so much horror contaminates our lives. Overall, I give it 9 stars out of 10.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

My Favorite TV Theme Songs

Um, what exactly were you expecting after my review of the Justice League? *grin*


Friday, December 15, 2017

40 Books and Counting...

Last week, Angry Sheep Publishing got the okay to sell books on Google Play. As part of the application process, I had to let them know how many books I'd be uploading. And so I counted them up because I couldn't remember.

Then this week, the question came up again when we were going over family income with a bank mortgage officer. (Yeah, we've decided to look for a house in West Bumfuck, Ohio. My condition for staying here is that I get an actual office that's a separate room in the new house.)

Long-term writers have said again and again that after so many years they forgot how many stories they had written. Part of me didn't believe them. I couldn't imagine forgetting any of the worlds I'd created.

But it's starting to happen.

Part of it can be attributed to age. Part of it is due to stress. Part of it is just my head getting full of new ideas, so the old ones that have been completed get tossed into a long-term storage unit. Literally. LOL

But you know something? It's all okay. Because it means I have the career I wanted. And that's a pretty damn good thing.

Oh, and the number? A Modicum of Truth and Sacrificed will be my thirty-ninth and fortieth releases respectively. And that's only what Angry Sheep has released. It doesn't count the stories I've licensed to a third party for publishing.

I love this job!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Too Much Pressure on Ourselves

Perfectionism. It's such an insidious little parasite, especially this time of year.

I'm not sure what's worse, watching my sisters-in-law get irate over not having their version of the perfect Christmas or my colleagues fret over not having the perfect book. And to top it off, there was a letter in one of my favorite advice columns this morning from a mother tied in knots and burning out because she thinks she's not providing the perfect childhood for her preschool-aged children.

The perfect Christmas. It's an unobtainable goal. Someone's feelings always get hurt over some trivial matter. Whatever happened to taking turns and sharing and kindness? People should have learned those things in kindergarten.

The best Christmas ever for our household? When we stopped playing our mothers' games of proving who loved who more. Seriously, it was a major battle between my mother and DH's every frickin' year! It included stopwatches timing how many minutes we spent at one parent's house or the other. Instead, we stayed home for our fourth Christmas. I made chicken phyllo and apple pie with cinnamon ice cream. We played DH's new games on his Nintendo 64. We watched movies. It was quiet and peaceful and we had fun for the first time since either of us were elementary students.

This Christmas, the perfectionism has spilled into the indie realm. No, let me amend that. A certain level of perfectionism has always existed, but it seems to have intensified lately. Writers are lamenting that sales are down, but as Kris Rusch pointed out in her blog over the last couple of weeks, indie publishing is finally hitting a level of maturity, instead of its initial gold rush days. Now, we  need to work on sustainability.

However, I see a lot of indies still searching for that perfect genre, perfect plot, or perfect cover that will send them back into the stratosphere. It doesn't exist, and these folks are driving themselves just as crazy as my sisters-in-law drive themselves in their search for a perfect Christmas.

As for your kids, I take the Roseanne approach. If they make it to eighteen alive, then I'm a successful parent. Yeah, I know there's a little more to it than that. But you know what? At a time when my teenage son and I agree on so very little, we can both sit back with our pie and laugh at the sisters-in-law (his aunts) insanity.

Because there's nothing better than cozying up on the couch with our Christmas blankies, a good snack, and It's a Wonderful Life. Now, that's perfection.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Justice League

Once again, we have a DCEU film that's not as bad as everyone says it is. However, it definitely showed signs of too many chefs in the kitchen.

This is one of those odd moments where I have to point out Kevin Feige kept a consistency through the MCU (at least, until Thor: Ragnarok). I think Warner Brothers should let Patty Jenkins take over the DCEU as THE executive producer of the franchise. She has a much better grip on the characters than any of the WB execs or their poster boy Zack Snyder.

Don't get me started about how WB thinks throwing a shit-ton of money at a problem with solve their essential story-telling problem. Don't get me started on how their animation and TV divisions can tell a much better story. And definitely, don't get me started about how adapting the storyline from the New 52 comic for the first live-action Justice League was a big fucking mistake. But these are peripheral to my thoughts on the movie itself.


* * *


SPOILERS!


* * *


PROS
1) Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman has been the best thing in the DCEU so far, and she doesn't disappoint. Her Diana has turned the corner after grieving for her loss of Trevor and her home for the last century and is ready to rejoin the world.

2) My biggest worry was comparing Ezra Miller's Barry with Grant Gustin's from the TV Arrowverse, which I know isn't fair to either gentleman. It was the same worry of all the kids (18-35 year olds) I spoke with who are heavily invested in the Arrowverse. Ezra definitely pulled off a much younger, geekier version of Barry Allen that meshed with Grant's portrayal. We won't touch on the difference in age and accidents of how they each got their powers.

3) I swear to Gaia that Jason Momoa was created by the gods to give Arthur Curry some badass street cred!

4) This is the first DCEU flick where Henry Caville seemed comfortable in his Superman suit, and the first time the character showed a hint of the Big Blue Boy Scout that my generation expected from Superman.

5) I was a little surprised Junkie XL was released from scoring JL. I thought his Deadpool score was perfect, and I was glad they left in his and Gary Clark Jr.'s rendition of "Come Together" that was used in the trailers. But Whedon's decision to use Danny Elfman to score the movie made sense. Elfman captured the nostalgia for these characters by reprising John Williams' Superman theme from 1979 and Elfman's own theme from Batman (1989).

6) Bruce getting the Kent farm back by buying the bank. This was closest to the relationship Clark and Bruce had in the '70's comics I grew up with, and I was happy to see the movie end on that note.

7) The end credits cameos had me squealing in my seat--because as I've said before (and again below), major Titans fan!!


CONS
1) As a long-time Titans fan, I wasn't happy when the comics shoved Cyborg into the JL, and Victor Stone was totally wasted  here. In fact, the way his character was set up made it seem like he was the bad guy, and I half-feared that's what Snyder/Whedon would do, just like Fox did with one of my favorite X-men Psyclocke.

2) The writers' way of bringing back Superman from the alleged dead was fucking creepy as hell, and only Ezra's Barry made any kind of moral objection to what the others were doing.

3) Too much fucking CGI was used where costuming, makeup and practical effects should have been used instead to give the film more weight/reality. If I wanted all CGI, I would have watched Avatar (which I haven't seen and no one can make me either).

4) Going back to CON #3, Steppenwolf should have been the opener for when Darkseid takes center stage in the second JL movie (which has been delayed thanks to WB's disappointment in the box office take for this movie). But it was like Jack Benny being the opening act of Bon Jovi; Steppenwolf just didn't seem like much of a threat.

5) The mish-mash of directorial and writing styles could be jarring at times. Zack was still going for his full-on tragedy and Joss tried to lighten things up a bit.


Darling Husband and I watched JL and Thor back-to-back one day during DH's week off after Thanksgiving. I found it ironic that the majority of nits that critics picked about JL was equally applicable (or more so in some cases) to Thor.

Overall though, Justice League was closer to the movie it wanted to be, and I award it 8 stars out of 10.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Panic at the Keyboard

No, not me. But I am seeing it with a lot of writers. The cause of the panic varies.

For some, they aren't making the money they think they should, and I've spoken before about unrealistic expectations. Some writers haven't received the accolades they think they should, but let's face it--the deck was stacked against indies from the beginning. Things are starting to shift (Romance Writers of America are accepting indie nominations for its Rita award), but the pace is glacial. Other writers are facing burn-out trying to keep up an unrealistic writing pace. Putting a book out a month is a common citation. Kris Rusch has an excellent series, and her advice once again goes back to unrealistic expectations and setting a reasonable pace for yourself.

I hate to say it, but most people aren't cut out to be business owners. I also hate to say it, but most people aren't cut out to be artists either.

Does that mean I'm going to tell you to stop doing what you're doing?

No, I'm not. You're all adults (presumably). So why do something you absolutely despise? Do you even understand why you despise a thing? How'd you get from living a thing to despising it?

Sometimes, finding your path requires a high level of introspective honesty. That's something our surface-obsessed culture couldn't care less about, and most of us aren't taught. We're taught about what we should be based on everyone else's criteria, but not what is best for our core selves.

This is why a lot of writers are setting unobtainable goals for themselves. They've been told that X is the measure of success, which is what trad publishing has been doing to us for decades.

And that's total bullshit.

The indie path is about the freedom. Freedom to set your own pace. Freedom to set your own goals. Freedom to decide your own successes.

So if you're unhappy with your writing life, take a step back from your desk. Go for walk, watch the twinkling lights, or close your eyes and focus on your breathing. It doesn't matter what you do, just be. Listen to your inner voice.

She'll never steer you wrong.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

I'm Officially Old

It doesn't matter if my hair is currently purple and blue. According to this quote, I'm officially old.

You see DH and I have been house shopping. We have some very specific requirements since we both work from home. Saturday, we attended an open house at a lovely home that met a majority of our requirements.

However, there was a step down from one section of the outdoor deck to the next. I was distracted by a point DH and I were discussing, and my heel hit the edge of the step.

You know that slow-motion feeling when something bad is about to happen? Realizing I was about to land on my face and having a tiny bit of proper training on how to fall without killing myself, I started to roll.

Needless to say, a fifty-two-year-old body is not as fast as a thirty-four-year-old. My right knee and wrist hit the wooden deck hard before I completed the roll. I'm thankful for that little bit of training because my head was quite all right.

And that the deck was wood and not concrete.

I apparently am officially old because both my husband and the very young realtor did panic. Yes, I had to calm them down while I was testing my wrist and knee to make sure nothing was really wrong. (I broke my radius right above the same wrist during a disastrous snow-tubing incident my freshman year in college. And I tore ligaments in my foot during a non-contact tae kwon do session. I'm well acquainted with the pain of serious injury.)

My wrist was fine, though sore for a couple of days. It made typing uncomfortable so I only did a few hundred words over the weekend out of the four thousand I'd planned on A Modicum of Truth.

I added some new scratches to go with the multitude of scars on my right knee, and it's still a bit swollen. But nothing that propping it up with an ice pack won't take care of.

I'm just trying to figure how I missed my "just right" phase. You see, when I was in my forties, I'd have older authors (by older, I mean 0-5 years older) tell my that I needed to live some more before my writing would mature.

Really? WTF?!

On the other hand, Genius Kid will be the first one to tell you I'm a twelve-year-old boy living in a fifty-two-year-old woman's body.

All in all, I was more embarrassed than hurt. But I've always been a bit of a klutz. It's just that thirty years from now my clumsiness could be deadly.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Thor: Ragnarok

I know I'm going against the grain of reviews and opinions on Thor: Ragnarok. Hell, I went into the theater fully expecting to love this movie. However, as each second and frame ticked by, I found myself getting more irritated until the emotion blew into full on anger. I felt gypped by Marvel.

Quite frankly, this wasn't a Thor movie. This is what happens when a studio tries to twist things in mid-stream and fails miserably.

I don't expect you, I mean generic you the average reader, to have a deep insight into Marvel's version of Thor, much less read and absorb the Elder (Poetic) and Younger (Prose) Eddas which are the modern world's main source of information regarding the Norse myths.

There were a few things that delighted me in this movie, but overall Thor: Ragnarok SUCKED!!


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) I swear to Odin, Cate Blanchett can do no wrong. I loved her since I first saw her in Elizabeth. She totally rocks as a goth-emo version of Hela, Goddess of Death.

2) The twist in Hela origin as being Thor's older sister brought a certain symmetry to the story, in that Odin banished both of his natural born children, but cut his adopted son a hell of a lot of slack.

3) The chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston was the only other redeeming feature. (Honestly, I so want to do a Mary Sue menage based on those two under Alter Ego's brand. LOL)


CONS
1) Kenneth Branagh set up the story of Thor as an epic cross between Shakespeare and grand opera in scale. Alan Taylor continued that feeling. Taika Waititi took that scale, tossed it in the dumpster, and set fire to it.

2) Thor: Ragnarok didn't start filming until the box office returns from Guardians of the Galaxy came in, and it's obvious the original outline was tossed in the dumpster fire in favor of an action-comedy space adventure just like GotG.

3) Oh my fucking god! Disco music?! The reason '70's pop worked GotG is because it was a major fucking plot point! It has no fucking relevance here!

4) Jeff Goldblum's Grand Master acting like a middle-aged dad trying to hard to be a liberal hipster was painful to watch. (And that's from someone who's been a huge fan of his since his Tenspeed and Brown Shoe days. It's on Wikipedia if you don't know the reference.)

5) Total waste of both Doctor Stephen Strange and the Hulk. You could have cut both parts and ended up with the same fucking movie.

6) The total nonsensical death of Odin. ("Hey kids, clean up the mess I made which led to the total betrayal of my people.")

7) The shitty demise of the Warriors Three.

8) Total lack of Sif. (Seriously, what the fuck?!)

9) Heimdall being the only one who seems to give a shit about the citizens of Asgard.

10) The Battlestar: Galactica ending. I mean, really?! The survivors are searching for a home on Earth?! Which seemed to be the reason for the stupid '70' disco music. On the other hand, DH referred to Buck Rogers roller disco music. Take your pick.


Okay, I made myself stop at ten issues I had with this movie. Sad to say, I have many, MANY more. Overall, I give Thor : Ragnarok 1 star out of 10.

(Seriously, if you have to see it, don't waste good money at the theater. Wait for a free HBO weekend.)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Friday, December 1, 2017

Writer Twitches

I'm closing to the finish of A Modicum of Truth, and the twitches have started.

I'm not sure how to explain the twitches. I haven't met another writer who admits to having them. It's this weird feeling in my brain, like an itch I cannot scratch. It happens when I'm having a ton of fun as the story starts its slide to home base.

I don't want the fun to end.

I need to find out what happens next.

The story took two detours away from my outline I wasn't expecting, and I let Subconscious take the driver's seat. She usually has some good instincts. And letting her have her way means I don't have to spend as much time layering the story. She pulled two subplots from A Matter of Death forward, and pushed one back. So either she did her job right, or readers are going to hate me.

Subconscious doesn't get the bullshit from readers, nor does she give a flying rat's ass what their opinion is.

(The readers don't realize I have three primary personalities and a host of sub-personalities. If they did, they'd be giving me the contact info for every shrink they know.)

And for the first time ever, I'm ending the book on a cliffhanger for one set of my heroes.

So I'm a little nervous about that. I think I've done it in a good way, more a The Empire Strikes Back type of ending than the second season finale of Preacher. (Seriously, dudes! Tulip?!)

But nerves over reader reaction and the twitches are two different things. Or maybe they are the same because the twitches are my reaction as first reader.

'Cause guess what? The me that writes this blog isn't the same me that writes the books. I'm the janitor, and I'm cleaning out the extra words the writer doesn't need for her art.

But you know what? It sure beats shoveling pig shit.

You know what else? I'm often as surprised as the other readers of the things that come out Subconscious. And if I can't predict what's going to happen, maybe it'll surprise and delight the readers as well.

I think.

I hope.

Aw, fuck it. Maybe I should go back to shoveling pig shit.

(Hello, everyone! This is Subconscious speaking. Trust me, you're going to love this book! Suzan fell asleep at her keyboard, so a lot of you will see this message on the blog before she finds it and erases it when she wakes up tomorrow. But A Modicum of Truth is fabulous and exciting and brilliant! I promise!

And really, Suzan's alleged twitches and itchy brain have more to do with her caffeine consumption. She should cut back. Toodles!)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Affordable Care Act PSA

This is  public service announcement (PSA) because I know a hell of a lot of writers get their healthcare insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The open enrollment period has been shortened. At the federal level, open enrollment ends December 15, 2017.

While some states have extended the end date for open enrollment (which was changed federally in April in an effort to sabotaged the act), make sure you know YOUR STATE'S deadline.

Don't assume.

Don't ever assume.

If you plan on going through the ACA for insurance in 2018, play it safe and submit your paperwork early.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - The Accountant

Holidays at our house are for catching up on movies we've been wanting to watch. However, this year I found a little gem that wasn't exactly on the top of my list of films I wanted to see.

Both HBO and Showtime, along with their movie channel families, had a free long weekend this Thanksgiving, and I had new favorite Deadpool on as background noise while I was working on A Modicum of Truth.

The Accountant came on, and let's just say I was highly distracted by the movie. It's a clever little thriller that sets tropes on their head. The ending is satisfying without being some sappy faux happily ever after.

This is one of Ben Affleck's better roles. He seems to do so much more with a part when he's not playing traditional leading man heroes. His Chris Wolff isn't your typical protagonist. He's a forensic accountant who specializes in auditing for the mob and terrorist organizations, but he has a specific moral code.

Anna Kendrick is adorable without being sappy as another accountant who's pretty damn smart, just not at Chris's level. But it's Jon Bernthal who rocks as the movie's primary antagonist.

I can't go into any more detail without revealing some nifty twists. If you're in the mood for a fun and relatively blood-free thriller mystery, The Accountant should be your cup of tea.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Friday, November 24, 2017

Black Friday Sucks!

Yesterday as we drove to my father-in-law's for Thanksgiving, we notice that the Elder-Beerman department store at our local mall was open.  Elder-Beerman was the second largest regional department store in Ohio until Macy's parent company Federated Department Stores bought out Lazarus and subsequently re-branded them under the Macy's name. It's also the last big anchor store at our mall since JC Penney closed this summer.

But the Goddess-damned store was open at 10 a.m. on fucking Thanksgiving Day.

Maybe I'm turning into the get-off-my-lawn guy. Maybe it's the lovely symptoms of menopause. But damn! Stores can't give their people one fucking holiday off?

I mean, yeah, I sell books for a living. But I rarely, and I mean RARELY see a sale on a holiday.

Which is how it should be. You should be celebrating the holiday, and if it's not with the family of blood, then it should be with the family you made.

And even for the holidays I've spent alone, and there's been a few, I wouldn't want to put someone else out, keep them away from their family, out of some selfish need.

I'm not going to suggest or ask or beg you not to shop on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. You gotta do what your own conscience tells you.

But me? I'm not shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday.

What I will ask you is this: please, PLEASE show a little compassion for the folks in stores and restaurants who are just trying to make their rent and put food on their table for their kids. And these people are told they will be fired if they don't show up on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. There's a lot more of them than you realize, and even a decent tip or a smile can make the difference.

So if you need to shop, please be kind.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

#NotAllMen, Comic Book Stores Redux

When I get a private e-mail response to one of my posts, it's almost always a guy, and it almost always starts with, "I didn't want to get into it with you in public, but..."

The missive sent because of Monday's post about failing comic stores was my first official #NotAllMen response for this blog.

WOO-HOO! I finally got my feminist cred! *Snoopy dance*

The gist of this Particular Reader's missive was that his local comic shop was run by a woman and she mean to him.

First of all, I don't doubt Particular Reader's account of his encounter for a second. But there's a few things to keep in mind:

1) I never said women were better managers than men. I've ranted more than a few times on this very blog about Blue Willow Bookstore in Houston and the snotty female manager who got pissy with me because I wanted to buy a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. However, with the current slump in comic book sales and the closing rate of comics store, chasing away ANY behaving, money-in-hand customer is not a smart idea.

2) I'd like to point out that in the numerous independent comic books stores in five states and the District of Columbia that I've visited since 1988, only one was owned by a woman.

3) The two articles I mentioned in Monday's post regarding the comic store downturn were written by...wait...for...it...TWO WHITE DUDES! Now, if two white men can recognize a problem in the industry they cherish, maybe, just maybe, there is an actual PROBLEM!

4) If you're selling a particular type of merchandise that you're not intimate with to the point you can't answer a customer's questions, then you need to hire someone who is familiar. One of the people I mentioned yesterday was the little old lady who ran the Book Nook. She knew the DC and Marvel lines, but she wasn't as familiar with Dark Horse, Image, etc. She hired her nephew who was.

5) Going back to point #1, the owner of the Book Nook was a class act. Like I said Monday, she sold new and used romances as well as new and used comics.

One day back in the early ‘90’s, I’d taken the afternoon off for a doctor’s appointment, one of those things at 2pm where it’s not worth going back to the office. I stopped by the Book Nook on my way home. There was a display wall that partially divided the comics from the romance section. I was behind that wall when an older man came in.

Apparently, he’d come in during that quiet time on weekdays after the lunch crowd, but before school let out to pick up some romance books. He and the owner were discussing the latest Nora Roberts when I walked up with my stack of comics. Poor guy turned twelve shades of red when he realized someone else was in the store. (Have I told you how bigoted this town is?)

The owner didn’t bat an eye. She just turned to me asked for my romance suggestion. I said I preferred Harlequin’s Temptation line since it was a little more modern, but my grandmother swore by Debbie Macomber. Once he realized I wasn’t going to tease him about his reading choices, he chilled, and the three of us had a nice chat.

And that's what makes a good business owner who will get repeat patronage.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Comic Book Store Conundrum

I've been reading comics since the '60's.

Wait. Let me amend that statement. I learned to read from the comics in the '60's (and Dr. Seuss too but he's not the point of this post). In an issue of Spider-man, Peter had a friend who'd taken something called angel dust and gotten sick and was about to hurt himself. Peter as Spider-man saved his friend, and the cops said Spider-man was all right in their book. And a little boy asked his mom if Peter's friend would be okay. She said she didn't know.

Yeah, I was four at the time. I didn't quite understand everything that was going on. But for once, I couldn't quite glean the story from the colorful pictures like I could Superman or Batman. So I made the effort to figure out the words in the balloons.

Which led to the drugstore in town that had comics on the bottom rack of the magazine wall.

I didn't have money back then. I relied on my cousins. Especially my cousin Frank. He used his allowance to fill his comic addiction, and he'd let me read his books. In fact, he spent so much money the owner would let him and his friends have the stripped copies when the new books came in.

Then our little town's drugstore went out of business in the mid-'70's. The bookstores in the bigger towns closed soon after. Finally, comics disappeared from the big grocery stores as well. I didn't know this at the time, but this was one of the first distribution crises that would hit the publishing industry.

In the early '80's, my little brother's middle school was selling magazine subscriptions. Lo and behold, a few Marvel comics were available, including my favorite The Uncanny X-Men. So I coughed up the money for it and New Mutants.

Once a month, they arrived in our rural mail box. The trick became getting to the mail first. Otherwise, the younger siblings, and sometimes my dad (yeah, Dad, I know you were reading my X-Men), would read them and not necessarily return them right away. In Dad's case, I think he piled his farming magazines on top of them to keep Mom from knowing he was reading them.

(Mom was an English teacher and had some specific, and very negative views, of comics, and science fiction too. Mind you, she could go through a grocery bag of Harlequins in a month. I'm talking the big department store brown bag with handles. Pot meet kettle. *rolls eyes*)

By the time I was out of college in the late '80's, the independent comic store had sprung up. And since I had a job, I had this wonderful thing called discretionary income. I could buy more than just two books a month. And I lived and worked in a town that boasted two comics shops. You would have thought I was in heaven.

*sigh* Do you have any idea what it's like to walk into a store, money in hand to buy stuff, and have everyone stare at you?

(Yeah, I know some of you do, and I know why. You're not the ones I'm addressing.)

At the first store, I tried to check out some of the back issues of stuff I couldn't afford earlier in my life, like the '70's issues of the Legion of Superheroes, but the silence and the staring grew to be too much. I grabbed the current issue of Wonder Woman and went to the counter to pay for it. The owner sneered and said, "Figures that's what a chick would buy." I never went back to that store.

At the second store, the owner and other patrons weren't quite as weirded out by my presence. However, I made the mistake of discovering my first issue of Sandman. When I went to pay for it and the rest of my selections, the owner commented how a lot of "chicks" seemed to like that book.

I answered that I was glad Vertigo had resurrected Cain and Abel from DC's old horror lines. My statement seemed to shock the shit out of the owner. He blinked and asked what else I read. We actually had a civil discussion, which led me to dropping by his store once a month for my comic fix.

Unfortunately, the good times couldn't last. I took a new job in another state and had to suffer through the same crap as before. After a second job-related move and more uncomfortable staring and nasty comments, I went back to subscriptions, this time through comic store in Colorado called Mile High Comics.

Shortly afterward, the First Gulf War and its accompanying recession hit. I was laid off, and I thought I'd have to cancel my subscription. Then a miracle happened, and I don't just mean finding a new job.

I moved to small town in Ohio that had a little shop called the Book Nook. It was split into two sections. One was new and used romance books. The other side held new and used comics. The best part? The store was run by a little old lady who didn't give a flying flip about which side of the store you shopped. I was in heaven!

Until the husband I found in that little town and I moved to Houston. Then the bullshit at local comics shops started all over again.

Around this time, I had a niece whose tastes were as eclectic as mine. So for Christmas, I gave her the first trade paperback edition of Sandman. She loved it! The sad part was I didn't buy any of the books I gave her for subsequent Christmases from comics shops. Not wanting to deal with the bullshit, I went to Barnes & Noble instead, though one clerk in particular was as snotty as the comic shop people in the totally opposite way. *sigh*

Maybe my patronage didn't matter in the long run. By then, I was in law school, and I still had my Mile High subscription. But comics were stacking up faster than I could read them. A couple of years after Genius Kid was born, I gave up my subscription. Partly because I didn't have the time. Partly because I didn't like the creative turn the X-books were taking.

By the time I started homeschooling GK, the comics stores closest to our house with the nasty owners had gone out of business thanks to the combination of the economic downturns of 2001 and the house bubble bursting in 2008. One of my former secretaries recommended Bedrock City Comics near her apartment.

This store was worlds away from crap I'd experienced in my twenties. The staff were helpful and pleasant. My original mission to get GK hooked on Spider-man didn't succeed. He arrowed straight for the manga shelves. But I found I liked the new person writing Wonder Woman and picked up a bunch of new and back issues. And we went to pay, the manager asked if we found everything we wanted.

I laughed and told him I wanted to get my son hooked on Spider-man. The manager chuckled, but we had a nice conversation about the generational differences in reading material.

We couldn't afford monthly visits to Bedrock City at that point, but I tried to go quarterly as a reward for GK hitting a homeschool goal. Still couldn't get him to read Spider-man, though.

Then a new store opened closer to our place, but I didn't get the chance to check it out until a few days after we'd closed on the sale of our house. I had some time to kill because our Houston mechanic was doing some repair work on our car before I drove north. So I stopped at the shop on my way to pick up some lunch.

Holy crap! Women were working in this store! Not just one, but three! And they were fucking enthusiastic and engaging!

They wanted to know if I was looking for something specific. When I said I was just browsing, they cheerfully let me do so without trying to force a specific sale.

And I wanted to cry. Because this was the store I'd always wanted to go to, and now I may not ever visit it again. If you're in Houston, I strongly recommend The Pop Culture Company for its excellent selection.

At the time, I told myself, "It's okay. You're moving back to the place with the Book Nook."

However, when I pulled into the strip mall a few days later, the Book Nook sign was up, but the lights were out. I peered forlornly through the dirty windows at an empty store. Apparently, I'd missed their closing by a matter of months.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought my first comic since that visit to The Pop Culture Company three years ago. I bought the Wonder Woman '77 Meets The Bionic Woman trade paperback from Amazon. I fed my nostalgia bug and didn't have to deal with snooty clerks from either end of the spectrum.

So why am I telling this story? This morning, I read Ed Catto's column in the online magazine ComicMix. Ed's essay was an answer to Glenn Hauman's column from last week in the same magazine.

Some comic shop owners are blaming PC culture and/or SJWs for their downturn in business. Yet, from my experience over the last thirty years, a lot of these shop owners have gone out of their way to chase customers they don't approve of out of their stores. Customer who want to buy their products and have cash in their hands. And this was long before the issues of sexual harassment at publishers and representation in stories became publicly debated issues.

Nor is my gripe specifically about women versus men working in a comics shop. It's about attitude. I'm sad that only one male shop manager wanted to treat me as a customer from the moment I stepped into his shop instead of looking at me like I was a cockroach infestation. And that type of attitude difference can lead to long-term consequences for a retailer.

Retailers exist to fill a customer need or want. Customers don't exist to provide a living for the retailers. If the retailers are not fulfilling that want or need, then the customer will go elsewhere. It's that simple, and that difficult, at the same time.

I've seen a couple of different customer studies (most were proprietary which is why I can't quote them directly or provide links). If a customer has a good experience in your store, they will tell 1-2 people at most. If a customer has a bad experience, do you think it's the same ratio?

Nope, it increases exponentially. The customer will blast their bad experience to 10-20 other people. And the studies I've seen were commissioned well before the rise of social media. Now, bad experiences can lead to viral incidents where millions of people will see you acting like a shit to a ten-year-old girl who's dressed as her favorite superhero in your store.

So yeah, if you're a comics shop owner, times are a little tough. But don't make things tougher on yourself by driving away paying customers because they aren't 55+ white men. You know, like the cousins who first introduced me to comic books are now. Because they are retiring and dying, and by the time they finish, you won't have any customers at all.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Trusting Your Art

Artists of any stripe can be a insecure bunch, probably because they are often belittled.

In American culture, pursuing art is considered inconsequential. A waste of time. Criticism of this pursuit is often vocalized by artists' friends and families as helpful advice.

I mean, how often have all of us heard the following:

"Why are you wasting your time on that crap?"
"When are you going to get a real job?"
"No one can make a living writing/singing/painting/etc."

And even if we get past that bullshit, there's the people related to the type of art we wish pursue, i.e. the current professionals, the critics, the brokers, who again in the name of helping can hold us back. You know the type of well-meaning advice:

"Instead of writing Y, you should write X."
"This is crap. You need to change everything."
"If you have so-and-so doctor/edit/review your work, you'll make lots of money."

One  of the hardest parts for any artist on this crazy path is learning to trust themselves. There's going to be a lot of people who have opinions of your work.

And that's okay.

But it shouldn't matter to you either.

Why? Because if you present your work to the public, you can't stop them from having an opinion about that work. Nor can you control the life experience those other people bring along as baggage as they read/look at/listen to your work. And trust me, there's a lot of baggage those consumers drag along to the party.

For example, an editor for a publishing company (and no, I'm not naming names) stated that zombies are over.

And I laughed. Why? Because that same editor has been saying vampires are over for the last twenty years, and I still haven't seen bloodsuckers totally go away.

It doesn't matter what someone else says. If you want to write about vampires, or draw superhero comics, or create weird metal statues, then DO IT!

Trust yourself to fulfill your vision of your project. Only you can create things a certain way. A way like no other person can. And the world will be a poorer place without your vision.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Indie Drama Queens or Why I No Longer Have Many Writer Friends

I don't know about the rest of you, but for me, high school was horrible. It's one of my top three worst experiences in my life.

And the other two consist of DH's emergency surgery when we didn't know what the fuck was wrong and me nearly dying during my C-section when my blood pressure crashed for no apparent reason.

So yeah, high school was pretty fucking bad. So bad, I will never, ever go to a high school reunion. Why would I want to hang out with people who spread vicious rumors about me, threatened me, and generally treated me like shit?

Yet, I keep running into indie writers who desperately want to re-create that experience. The cliques. The bitchiness. The infighting and taking sides over some innocuous happenstance. In other words, the drama queens.

It all comes down to some variation of validation. You have X, but I don't. Or I have Y, and you don't. Where X and Y are considered certain factors that signify a "real" writing career.

I thought we got over that years ago when we decided to forego begging agents for a crumb of attention, following editors into bathroom stalls, or being ecstatic that a publisher granted us a measly 6% of the income from our books.

But no, we humans are insecure little fuckers. We devise new and better ways of trying to prove we are better than our peers. And we often succeed in making ourselves and others totally miserable.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm so fucking tired of that kind of bullshit. My path isn't yours and vice versa. Judge your success by making each book better than your last one.

Or go live out the rest of your lives in high school. That's okay because I'm going to be over here doing something entirely different and my teen self will be having a blast doing it!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Aftermath

The Mallet Hammer had a boulder and concrete land on it.
The frame was so twisted it was considered unsalvageable.
Last week, I accompanied Darling Husband to a business event at his employer's headquarters in Tampa. He can't fly anymore thanks to an anxiety issue. Part of the reason I went was because I worry about him driving alone for extended periods. The other part was we needed some alone time as a couple after the last few years of life insanity.

Also, we're at a point where Genius Kid is a capable young adult. He can drive. He can cook. He has his own bank accounts. He gets his ass up when his alarm clock goes off and heads for school without (much) prodding on our part. And he kept an eye on his grandfather while we were out of town.

We also planned for two days for travel, instead of trying to do the entire 1126 miles in one day. We left Sunday and spent the night at some friends' house in Nashville. We had a lovely time there.

Arriving late Monday night in Tampa, we immediately crashed. I don't even remember hearing DH get up and head to the office for his meetings. (The hotel and his company's office are in the same building. Yay!) Then I woke up about one p.m.

And therein lies part of my problem. I expected the exhaustion, having come down with a nasty cold the week before we left. What I didn't expect was the severe muscle and joint pain.

I've been immune-compromised since my pregnancy with GK. The doctors don't know why. My new doctor here in Ohio has taken my issues seriously. He's tested for lupus. The pain issue has been too inconsistent to be fibromyalgia. He's as thoroughly stumped as the doctors in Houston.

First, I downed a couple of acetominophen. I took my time with a shower and getting dressed. Then I headed to the Starbucks across the street for some breakfast and editing.

I didn't last very long on the hard wooden chairs. I went back to our hotel room. Propped on pillows, I continued to edit until DH came back to the room to drop off his work stuff. His boss insisted I join them for dinner.

Apparently, she was worried I would be bored. I laughed and listed off everything I brought with me to work on during the trip. She was suitably impressed. And we had a nice time.

Wednesday morning, I felt a lot better. I took Baby Blue (my travel laptop which is essentially a glorified tablet) to Panera, which was literally next door to Starbucks, for breakfast. I didn't stay long because it was pretty crowded, but I did get in 3K words by the time DH was done for the day. We had a lovely dinner, just the two of us.

We left a warm 80-degrees in Tampa on Thursday morning. Just north of the Florida-Georgia line, we hit rain and a 20-degree temperature drop. The rain slowed us down enough we reached Atlanta just in time for the beginning of rush hour. URGH!

By the time we reached our hotel in Nashville, we were both exhausted. We had a light dinner at the hotel bar and crashed once again.

And I woke up to not only the same extreme pain of Tuesday, but a left knee swollen for no apparent reason. The rain was gone at least, and it was in the 30's. DH suggested the weather change might be responsible.

The 1,000,000th Corvette after its restoration!
We headed north once again. DH took Friday as a vacation day, so we stopped at one of our favorite places, the National Corvette Museum. We wanted to see the restored section where a sinkhole opened up beneath eight one-of-a-kind 'Vettes. It was pretty cool seeing the two restored cars, and a little sad seeing the five destroyed cars. The eighth is in another section of the museum, and you can watch as it's currently being restored. With the aches despite the painkillers and my swollen knee, I had to make frequent stops, but the visit was worth it.

We spent our final night in Cincinnati, and had dinner with one of DH's closest friends and the friend's significant other at the riverside Montgomery Inn. If you're ever in the city, I highly recommend the restaurant!

However, the relatively short drive between Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio, left me pretty much incapacitated. We all made jokes about getting older, but I didn't dare drink alcohol with all the painkillers and decongestant I'd taken. And getting up and down stairs was a slow, torturous process for me.

After one last night in a hotel, we got home Saturday afternoon. After unpacking and starting some laundry, I collapsed on my recliner. I managed to edit a chapter. But that was all I completed before I went to bed and slept twelve hours. I still wasn't even fifty percent when I got up Sunday morning, but I worked a little bit while watching Cleveland-Detroit game and then listening to the Texans.

DH trying out the fit of a 2018 'Vette.
Don't get me wrong. We had a great time on this trip, but DH and I had planned to do some traveling around the country once GK graduates. But this little trip has me concerned about whether I can handle it. I very obviously won't be flying any time soon. We stopped every two hours for stretch breaks driving our drive to and from Tampa. I couldn't handle not moving for an extended period on the tight seats of an airplane.

Just as obviously, we won't be making a trip in a 2018 Corvette. DH tried one out while we were at the National Corvette Museum. Can you name the problem?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

I'm Going Senile...

Holy Crap!

I totally forgot to tell y'all that Sword and Sorceress 32 came out last week! It contains my short story "Unexpected", a delightful tale of a damsel saving the dragon.

P.S. There's a lot of other cool writers in the anthology, too.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sun, Coffee and Words

As you read this, I'm in the lovely city of Tampa, which also happens to be the headquarters of DH's employer. He had to come down for a two-day management meeting, and as I've said before, he no longer flies. So we drove down.

Don't worry. I won't be spending my days on the beach. My lily-white skin can't handle the sun. Seriously, I have to wear SPF 50 on the nights of the full moon.

Nope, there's two Starbucks and a Panera within walking distance of the hotel, and I have my frequent buyer cards. So I have no fucking reason not to get some writing done. Right?

Though I may have to sneak in a viewing of Thor: Ragnarok or two. Because Hemsworth and Ruffalo? YUM! Did I mention there's also a mall with a theater across the street from our hotel?

P.S. If you want proof I'm working, check out Chapter 4 of A Modicum of Truth.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was another movie I had wanted to see last year, but did not have the time. I recorded it during an HBO free weekend this summer, and watched it during my recent  illness.

Because it's been out for over a year, you're not going to get the usual SPOILERS alert.

Normally, I love Tim Burton films, but this one starts a little slow. The peculiar children, other than our hero Jake, aren't particular well-fleshed out.

On the other hand, Burton's need for insanely goofy action scenes results in a hysterical battle between one of the movie's villains, the Hollows, and animated amusement park skeletons. It's reminiscent of Mars Attacks! Also, Jane Goldman's screenplay doesn't leave off on the cliffhanger that the novel does.

But despite the marquee-level cast (Come on! We've got Eva Green, Terrence Stamp, Dame Judi Dench, Allison Janney, and Samuel L. Jackson!), this film doesn't rise to level it should have. I wanted to love this movie, but it came out meh. If I wanted something  on TV for background noise, I would find something else.

Also, if you've read the book, they switched Emma and Olive's powers for no real reason I can understand.

Overall I give Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 5 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

Some Insights While I Play Catch-Up

I'm finally able to breath, and coughing is under control, though my ribs ache like the dickens.

While I try to catch up on my projects, I suggest new writers read an essay series by Hugh Howey, the author of Wool. And just because Hugh's thoughts are part of Amazon's Author Insights program doesn't make them any less valuable items to consider as you makes your plans. The link is to Part One, but Parts Two and Three are posted on the website.

I'll add one more thing. There is no one right way to write and publish. I've seen several third parties try to pit one professional writer against another because they give conflicting advice.

As I've said before, I've taken tips from a lot of pros over the years. Some suggestions work brilliantly for me. Some don't, but that doesn't mean those tips aren't valuable to someone else.

As for the people trying to start fights? I find it laughable that so many of them are authors who aren't as successful as the people they try to pit against each other. Maybe if they spent more time and energy on their own business, they would achieve the success they are so jealous of in others.

Just my two cents.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It's NaNoWriMo Time!

National Novel Writing Month starts today!

I'd hoped to have A Modicum of Truth done by now. Not to mention, reviewed the previous 888-555-HERO novel, write the last two chapters of it, and put together a series bible. All of this in preparation for hitting the ground running this morning.

And as you read this, I'm probably still crashed on my recliner with this nasty little cold, alternating between green tea, cough syrup, and water.

Can I catch up? Of course, I can!

Once the room stops spinning from the severe sinus pressure. Otherwise, I'll be veging for another day or two.

To everyone else starting NaNo on time, break a leg!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sinking into the Plushy Goodness of My Recliner

We have new downstairs neighbors who like to smoke. A lot. So much so that the smoke permeates our apartment. Genius Kid and I started to have respiratory problems. Thanks to a recommendation from Jo in California, we bought an air purifier for GK's bedroom. It made such a huge difference for him we bought a bigger unit for the living room/dining room. It arrived Saturday. Murphy, what a difference!

Unfortunately, the smoke damage was already done to the sinuses and lungs, making them more vulnerable. I woke up yesterday with a sore throat caused by a lovely viral infection. Needless to say, I didn't make it to the movies this weekend. This morning, GK texted from school that he also feels like shit, but he's going to try to stick out the day.

So right now, I'm curled up in my recliner with my birthday pumpkin spice latte. I'm going to try to make some headway on A Modicum of Truth, but with the pounding in my head, I'll probably take a nap or veg out to Supernatural.

We'd planned to go out tonight to one of my favorite restaurants, a little hole in the wall with good food and even better strawberry margaritas, but I don't think I'm going to be up for that. I thought maybe I'd be up to making pumpkin pie, but the run to Starbucks wore me out.

So we'll put off birthday dinner, drinks, and pie for a weekend that I'm a little more upright. In fact, I think I'll go take that nap now.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

How Many Times Do I have to Say Writing is a F***ING BUSINESS!

I'm late posting a blog today. I thought about not posting one at all because I'm at that lovely stage--the middle of writing a book where it feels like I'm slogging through a waist-high swamp, and I'm beginning to hate the damn thing.

And I wouldn't have posted at all if a few things hadn't happened this week that built into a crescendo when other acquaintances have asked for non-writing business advice.

Over the course of my life, I've been an IT project manager. I had to put together time and budget estimates for completing software. I've acting as a sounding board when my husband and his partners bought a software consulting firm. I've owned my own law firm.

Now, I own my own publishing company. I write up and spreadsheet sales and forecasts and projections and budgets.

And apparently, I'm the only one.

Or at least, I haven't anyone who truly treats writing and publishing as a business.

Let's talk about ROI again, that is a return on investment.

(If you want to see my rants concerning ROI in 2014 and again in 2015, feel free to do so.)

To review:

The return on an investment is when you divide the gain of the investment minus the cost of the investment by the cost of the investment. Or

ROI = (GOI - COI)/COI

I published my first novel Blood Magick in April of 2011. From then until August of 2016, I sold a grand total of 202 copies at $2.99/e-book across multiple platforms. To make the math easier, let's say I earned $2 per book. Therefore, my GOI is $404.

It's approximately 90K words. At the time, I wrote about 500 words per hour, so it took me approximately180 hours to write the story. Let's say I, the publisher, paid me, the writer, $10 an hour.

DH did the photography for free. I bought food coloring, corn syrup, a dozen white roses, and a pewter pentacle. My costs were approximately $45. Plus it took me a couple of hours to play with Paint.net to create alter the cover picture and add the text, so add another $20 for my time

A friend and I edited each other's novels over coffee, so throw in $10 for my Starbucks card.

I know just enough HTML to be dangerous so I formatted this myself using freeware.

My costs of investment? $1800 + $45 + $20 + $10 + $0 = $1875

Therefore, my ROI for this book is ($404 - $1875)/$1875 = - $0.78

Not good, right? What did I do wrong?

Well, it's an obviously homemade cover, and the formatting, while adequate, wasn't pretty. Competition grew over those five years. I undercut myself on pricing. Add to that a bunch of personal shit so I didn't pay enough attention to my business from the end of 2013 to 2016.

I took down the entire series from all retailers but Amazon in 2016. I hired a cover artist and a formatter. The additional cost for both was $240. (See? Sometimes cheaper isn't better.)

Then I uploaded the new version to Amazon about a year ago for a test run. I'll compile sales in January of 2018 so I have a healthy year's worth of data.

If you've noticed, I haven't added any numbers for advertising. Why?

Because advertising has been budgeted for 2018 once I have all the Bloodlines books released. Frankly, I'll treat advertising as a separate ROI calculation as well as a production cost ROI.

I see too many indie writers through good money with absolutely no fucking clue of what their ROI is. How do I know this? Because I ask.

So one more time--writing is a business. Treat it like one!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Still Scribbling...

I'm currently struggling to get A Modicum of Truth done before Halloween. If you'd like another taste while I'm in my corner typing away, check it out at my reader website.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

There's quite a bit of controversy surrounding the subject of this film that has nothing to do with the real-life menage a trois between William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, and his wife Elizabeth and their live-in paramour Olive.

Is this a factual story? No, not entirely. Writer/director Angela Robinson took a lot of liberties with certain events and the timeline. However, only the three historical people that are subject of this movie know for sure exactly what happened between them personally.

Is it an entertaining story? Yes, definitely. Robinson adeptly explores the question of whether you can love more than one person. Add in the repressive culture of the '30's and '40's, and you get a bittersweet tale of finding true love and fighting for what you need versus what society says you can have.

Is this story about the creation of Wonder Woman? Not really. Robinson superposes how certain interests and aspects of Marston's went into comic book stories, especially the BDSM kink side. But the focus is definitely on Martson's personal life.

Some people will find the subject matter disturbing. They definitely are not the intended audience.

But this is a sweet story that could have easily been told without using the historical personages, but I doubt it would have gotten as much attention.

My only gripe was the music chosen for two love scenes. It was a cheap, cheesy, and disrespectful shot at the unconventional love affair, and totally at odds with the story as a whole.

For that little faux pas, I give Professor Marston and the Wonder Women 9.5 stars out of 10.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Music Videos I Haven't Watched in 30 Years

Bananarama appeared on a recent episode of The Graham Norton Show, performing this song, and I went digging through my vintage cassette tapes for some old memories.


Friday, October 20, 2017

I Don't Need No Stinkin' Writing Prompts!

With NaNoWriMo twelve days away, I'm starting to get e-mails about "WRITE THE NEXT GREAT NOVEL! HERE'S FIVE WRITING PROMPTS TO GET YOU STARTED!"

*facepalm*

I thought briefly about checking the creative writing group that meets at the local library. The showrunner provides a writing prompt, you write for thirty minutes, then share your work with the group.

Uh, I don't think so.

Then there's a writer's meet-up in Lima that's run by a local poet.

Poetry isn't really my cuppa, and not what I do. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say. But guess what they do? The proverbial writing prompt isn't going to move me forward as a writer.

Ideas aren't my problem. Hell, a pre-made cover advertised by Alter Ego's new cover artist set off an idea for a super sexy dystopian fairytale fantasy on Tuesday. Needless to say, I bought the cover.

And wrote the blurb and two hundred words before I made myself stop and return to A Modicum of Truth.

Honestly, I don't get how a writer can NOT have ideas. I'm like the flipping dog, distracted by every squirrel that runs by. I CAN'T shut off the flow.

What I have to do is shunt it aside. For me, ideas are like a leaky roof dripping onto my brain. I stick a bucket underneath the leak to catch the drip (i.e. scribble down a few notes). Then I need to change out the bucket, which quickly starts filling, while I do my other work. When the next bucket fills, I swap it out for a new bucket so I can concentrate of my current story. At least, for a little while longer.

If you really truly need a writing prompt, unless it's a technique to get your muse unstuck, maybe you should reconsider whether a career in writing is for you.

But if you really, truly need a prompt, here's a real life example:

When I was still a practicing attorney, a male hawk used to sun himself on the sub-roof outside my office window. This was the summer of 2005. That same year, I also took my son to see the Mayan exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural History. Part of the exhibit included the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012. 2012 was also the year that our solar system crosses the galactic plane during its orbit.

So, take one or all of:

- a hawk
- the Mayan calendar
- Earth crossing the galactic plane

Guess what? I'm already 40K into the first book a new UF series. No, it's not this year's NaNo project--

Sqiurrel!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I'm Writing, I'm Writing

The paperback for Amish, Vamps & Thieves is out! Still have Blood Sacrifice and Ravaged to review, but I also need to finish A Modicum of Truth. Gah! Too much stuff to do before the end of the month!

While I'm quietly going insane, you can check out the first chapter of AMoT over on my reader-oriented website.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Videos I Haven't Seen in Nearly 30 Years

I'm so happy Prince's estate has released his older material. While I understand the gremlin in the back of an artist's mind to keep control of their material, once the public has consumed it, the artist cannot take that experience away.


Friday, October 13, 2017

When Is Enough Stress Good Enough?

We seem to be a society that is never satisfied. You hit a career goal or an item on your bucket list, and you wonder why you aren't happy.

Before anyone asks, yes, I'm that way, too.

A week ago today, I released Ravaged, the seventh novel in the Bloodlines urban fantasy series. That bring my total releases under the Suzan Harden banner to fifteen. That doesn't count the four short under the Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthologies. Nor does it count the sixteen releases under Alter Ego's name.

For the first time ever though, I didn't have the surge of adrenaline right before I uploaded the files to the various retailers and distributors. I didn't have the latent fear in the back of my mind about whether the readers would like it. I felt very blasé about the whole task.

In fact, I went right back to working on A Modicum of Truth after I closed my browser.

That never happens to me. I'm usually a nervous wreck for the next two-three days after a release. I'm constantly checking my sales numbers. I fret about reviews. And I simply can't concentrate on the next project even though I make sure it's been started before this release occurs.

To be blunt, I haven't been making bank like I used to. Frankly, I'm averaging $30/month this year because I'm coasting on fumes. I haven't had a quasi-regular release schedule since 2013. I admit that's totally on me, and Ravaged is supposed to be the start of a new monthly release schedule.

(And I've probably just attracted Murphy's attention by saying that, and I will be royally fucked by the one, true god relatively soon. But that's an issue for another blog.)

But on various other indie writer blogs, I hear laments from writers about the pace (they're putting out books at one per month if not more), the money (oh, noes! I only made $10K this month when I've been making $25K per month for the last year), or they are quitting because of stress.

Here's the odd thing. We indies work for ourselves. We decide the pace. We decide the effort of making money. We put the stress on ourselves. We made the decision to be an artist and an entrepreneur in a world that has no respect for one and over-glamorizes the other.

What does that have to do with my weird emotional reaction to the release of Ravaged?

We humans need a certain amount of stress to thrive. The actual amount differs from person to person, just like the amount of carbs, vitamins and protein we need to eat differs from person to person. However, too much of any one thing, including stress, can harm us.

The fact that I was able to move on  to the next task after uploading the files for Ravaged means I'm currently at my optimal stress-level. Not so little stress that I don't give a shit about getting any project done. Not so much stress that I'm a quivering mass of fear and angst.

If I can stay at this level for the next six months, I'm golden and y'all will have a lot of good stories to read.

P.S. Today's the last day Ravaged will be $0.99 at retailers. Tomorrow, it'll go back to it's regular price of $4.99.

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