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Jack London

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Home, Wet Home

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last five days, you know about the devastation Hurricane Harvey has inflicted on the Texas coast and is now inflicting on Louisiana.

We lived in Houston for a little over eighteen years. I graduated from law school there. Our son was born in a Houston hospital and considers himself a Houstonian regardless of what anyone says. It's a lovely multicultural city with lots of things to see or do no matter what your personal tastes are.

Unfortunately, it also sits on a swampy drainage area, that has roughly three inches of topsoil on an ancient clay seabed, right next to the warmest large body of water on the planet. It  also sits in the crossroads of three major weather patterns. In other words, Houston get rain, and it floods hard and fast.

Now, throw in the scattered remnants of a tropical depression, a patch of abnormally hot water in the Gulf, and two high pressure systems to keep any circulation practically stationary over that ancient seabed, and you've got the disaster of Hurricane Harvey.

It's not like folks in Houston aren't used to hurricanes and tropical storms. While we lived down in Texas, Hurricane Ike hit the city on DH's birthday in 2008. Our subdivision was without power for nine days, and we mainly encountered wind damage. Flooding came the day after Ike as a separate storm front swept through and dropped an inch or two on the already saturated soil.

In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison was closer to Harvey's damaging rains and subsequent flooding, i.e. turning the Southwest Freeway and 288 into rivers. However, Allison was much smaller and she sat on the southeast section of the metro area where the levees and reservoirs couldn't catch the water. When citizens bitched about the lack of preparation, etc., then-mayor Lee Brown said, when you get two-feet of rain in thirty-six hours, you're going to get flooding.

And he's right. There's only so much preventative work you can do before Mother Nature teaches you an entirely different lesson.

There's a lot of bitching online about why a general evacuation wasn't called. It's because Houston learned a different hard lesson in 2005. Hurricane Rita was bearing down on Houston as a Category 5 storm. Even though forecasters said she would turn east prior to making landfall, a lot of people felt the need to bug out, especially after seeing what Katrina had done to New Orleans only three weeks earlier.

In 2005, the Houston Metropolitan area was 5.2 million people. You want to know what happens when half of Houston decides to evacuate at once? Traffic was at a standstill on every freeway. I-45 was literally a parking lot from Houston to Dallas, as was U.S. 290 to Austin, and I-10 to San Antonio.

People died in those glorified parking lots. From heat exhaustion. From stress-induced heart attacks. All because emergency crews couldn't get to them. What do you think would have happened if Rita had remained on course for Houston? Those people in their fragile little cars would have been sitting ducks.

After that horrific experience, the city and county leaders put together a layered evacuation plan. The islands and coast evacuate first. Then the zones closest to the coast. And the plan worked pretty damn well during Ike.



But Ike didn't squat on the city like the proverbially toad for four days straight and dump four FEET of rain!

The Houston Metro area has grown to 6 million people over 2200 square miles since Ike hit. Can you imagine trying to evacuate 6 million people at once when flash flooding is a major risk? So the citizens did the best thing they could have. They sheltered in place until that became impossible.

Even then, a lot of the designated shelters were underwater. Take a look at that map above. Pretty much everything, and I mean EVERYTHING other than Austin and Waller counties, is under water. The reservoirs and lakes are filled to capacity. At least three dikes have had sections collapse. The Army Corps of Engineers are doing controlled water releases to keep other dams and dikes from failing

We used to live up on the northwest side. In fact, we were closer to Waller than downtown Houston. Our old house is in the fucking 500-year flood plain! From what we're hearing from old friends and neighbors, a couple of inches of water has probably ruined the lovely hardwood floor we installed in 2012. And the folks who bought our house probably didn't buy flood insurance. We sure didn't. Hell, I can count on three fingers the number of times we had standing water on our street, and one of them was the day-after-Ike storm.

Yeah, that's how bad it is.

If you feel the need to help, here's a list of legitimate places to donate:

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund by the Greater Houston Community Foundation

Houston Flood Relief Fund (Sponsored by Texans DE JJ Watt, who is known for his philanthropic work in Houston)

American Red Cross

To the people of Houston: I'm not going to send you any Cthulu-damned thoughts and prayers. I'll send you some real help.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Keeping Up with the Joneses

HBO had another free weekend in July, mainly as an enticement for the latest season of Games of Thrones. On the other hand, we used it to catch up on some movies we missed in the theaters last summer.

Keeping Up with the Joneses was one of those movies. I admit I've had a girl-crush on Gal Gadot since her first appearance in the Fast & Furious franchise so I'd really wanted to see it. Since this movie has been out for nearly a year, you're not going to get my normal SPOILERS warning.

With this cast, especially Zach Galifianakis, I assumed that this would be a laugh riot. It was...okay.

The premise is simple and perfect. A suburban couple is stuck in a rut. When their kids are away to summer camp, a new, super-elegant, super-perfect couple move in next door, except the new couple are not what they seem.

I'm not sure if it was Michael LeSieur's writing or Greg Mottola's directing that screwed this up. The best (or worst) example of wrongness was the scene where Isla Fisher's Karen has grown suspicious of her new neighbors and stalks Gadot's Natalie into the lingerie department of a store. Gadot comes on as an overbearing butch. The actress is obviously uncomfortable, and Isla is trying to play off her. The whole thing comes off as very awkward. Why they didn't let Gadot use her natural charm in the semi-seductive scene is beyond me.

This scene is a setup for another payoff later, but the awkwardness here ruins the convincing play during the payoff scene, so I'm pretty damn sure it's not the actors.

An example of how good the cast is comes when Jon Hamm's Tim confesses his job dissatisfaction to Zach's Jeff. The tough guy slowly lowering his walls and clicks with his neighbor.

Maybe it's the writer in me seeing where a joke could be added or where another joke could have been punched up. I really wanted to love this movie, but this should have been the Spy for 2016. It wasn't, and a part of me is sorely disappointed.

Keeping Up with the Joneses is not a bad movie. It simply wasn't as good as it could have been. Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Billy Joel tried to pack all the world events that had happened in his lifetime up to 1989 into a four minute song. He didn't have enough room.


Friday, August 25, 2017

The Barnes & Noble Pornocalypse 2017 - Part 2

No one is really sure what prompted Barnes & Noble's heavy-handed tactics this week. Several bloggers have blamed it on the release of K. Webster's The Wild earlier this month. Webster deliberately violated T&C on several retail sites, not just B&N, in a effort to drum up publicity for her book. (And no, I will not link to it.)

Others have suggested that B&N was cleaning house in an effort to make themselves more attractive to a potential buyer.

However, I have trouble believing B&N's witch hunt was based solely on one author misbehaving or a corporate suitor. I mean, Microsoft got so fed up with B&N's missteps that they choose to walk away rather than deal with the bullshit. I can't see any investor, other than the crazy investors currently buying stock, touching B&N with the proverbial ten-foot pole. Not even Amazon or Kobo.

The weirdness on Wednesday was amplified when I checked the listings for one of my favorite erotica authors, Selena Kitt. While a majority of her e-books were gone from B&N's online listings, the paperbacks remained available.

Another favorite author Sarah Robinson, who writes hot romance but not erotica, was "on review" with B&N according to her Facebook posting.

So what the hell was going on with B&N's online store?

All we know is that B&N decided the backlash from authors and readers wasn't worth it, and they have started restoring accounts. Personally, I have a problem with the fact that they started pulling accounts before posting the August 16, 2017, revisions to their T&C. As a former attorney, I highly doubt if that stunt would hold up in court if a group of indie authors would file a class action suit. But this bullshit will probably make a lot of indie authors reconsider dealing with B&N in the future. I know I'm reconsidering keeping the updated books I've reloaded on B&N over the last few months.

Then, on top of B&N's crap, Amazon started reviewing Alter Ego's books. Why? I have no idea, but their T&C from September 1, 2016, is still online. I did some checking and other erotica authors have seen their own books being rifled.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm really getting tired of erotica being the publishing world's whipping boy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Barnes & Noble Pornocalypse 2017 - Part 1

I'm not sure what the hell is going on over at Barnes & Noble these days. Over the last few months, a shareholder has been buying shares willy-nilly and driving up the stock price in an effort to force a sale of the company.

Then things got weirder...

Yesterday, news exploded over the interwebs that indie writers were getting e-mails from B&N saying their accounts were being terminated because they *gasp* had erotica books for sale.

Except....here's the really weird part. Several of the indie writers in question, like Bobbie Holmes, haven't had erotica books for sale at Barnes & Noble for years.

Others like Ava Clair were in the process of releasing a new book when the hammer came down.


Yesterday, I had my head buried in edits while fighting the sinus headache from hell, so I didn't hear about the shit flying until very late last night. My first research instinct this morning was to check if B&N had changed their terms of service.

Lo and behold, here's what I found:


WTF! No Terms and Conditions? So, is B&N crashing? Have they lost their freaking minds? Or are they trying to clean up their slutty act for a new suitor?

Hell, I'm not sure I have a dog in this race anymore. Last year, I pulled down everything under both pseudonyms when my payments from B&N were late two months in a row with no explanation. Therefore, I haven't earned a dime through their online retail site since July of 2016.

This year, I've started re-publishing e-books for the print books B&N has decided to carry online. So far, none of them have been Alter Ego's books. Still haven't earned a dime, much less a tuppence.

Nor have I received the infamous, vague e-mail yet.

So I'm going to sit back with my iced raspberry white mocha and see what happens next in the train wreck that is Barnes & Noble.

And work on my super-sexy sword and sorcery novel. You know, the one that fades to black, LOL

Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Spider-man: Homecoming

This is the film where I'll finally forgive John Francis Daley for leaving the cast of Bones for a screenwriting career. Yep, that's right. My favorite on-screen FBI criminal profiler was one of the writers of the latest Spider-man flick.

And this one finally gets everyone's, okay, my generation's favorite web-slinger right. This is not to blame Tobey or Andrew's performances in the previous five films. I'm talking about the writing. I'm talking about the sheer joy Peter had as a teenager in being Spider-man.

I'm talking about the fact that we didn't have to live through Uncle Ben's death AGAIN!


* * *


SPOILERS!


* * *


PROS
1) Tom Holland's charm as the wall-crawler in Captain America: Civil War was not a fluke. He really is that adorable!

2) There are just the right amount of Robert Downey, Jr., in the movie. Enough to spice things up, but not enough to overwhelm Peter's story.

3) Both the writers and Michael Keaton brought a vulnerability and everyman quality to Adrian Toomes, aka the Vulture. You actually sympathize with a fellow resident of Queens, who's just trying to support his family.


CONS
1) I still have an issue with a woman my age playing Aunt May. I own it. But after thinking about it, maybe it's more than our perspective regarding aging has changed over the last fifty years. I look at pictures of me now versus pictures of my grandmothers at the same age, I look a lot younger. It's not vanity talking, but an acknowledgment that I had much better healthcare and nutrition than my grandmothers did. But deep down, I have an issue with Aunt May looking "HOT".


Re-negotiating the licensing for the Spider-man franchise is one of the smartest moves Sony's made this century. Marvel Studios have deftly folder our hero into the MCU, and made the franchise fun again.

I give Spider-man: Homecoming 10 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

It's funny how some of the songs I listened to back in high school hold up over time.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Picking a Genre

Goddess, I feel old. I've only been doing this indie publishing a little over six years, and somehow I'm an old-timer. Lately, I've been seeing writers with no trad publishing experience and only a year or two of indie experience whining about how hard this business is and why aren't they making six figures a month.

When I take a look at their catalog though, I see one novel in romance, two in urban fantasy, three erotica shorts, and a young adult novel. All under different pseudonyms.

Can anyone in the audience name the problem? Anyone? Bueller?

*headdesk*

If someone reads your romance novel AND they like it, usually they want to read more of your romance. You aren't going to sell more of that same romance novel to that same reader.

Now, maybe that reader would have read your YA, too. But they can't find your YA because you put under another, totally unrelated name. So how are you going to sell a second book to your reader if they can't find you?

This is another example of lottery thinking. Jumping from genre to genre isn't going to win you readers because not everyone reads the same genre or the same sets of genres.

If you need to write in different genres, pick something related. For example, fantasy is a pretty broad genre. By June of 2018, I'll have 13 books in one series of UF, three books in a sword and sorcery series, four books in paranormal romance series, and three books in a superhero series. All these books are under the same name. There's quite a bit of crossover in readership.

On the other hand, I have fourteen books under the Alter Ego pseudonym under the broad genre brush of erotic romance ranging from hot paranormal romance to BDSM romance to ménage. Again, there's a lot of crossover among that readership.

Since there's not a lot of cross appeal between the two broad audiences, it doesn't make to have the same pseudonym.

Notice something else? Yeah, there's a lot of books for a reader to choose from.

I'm not out writing cozy mysteries, military sci-fi, or sweet romance. I'm sticking to a category and building it.

Now, granted I've slipped over the last few years in the production department, but I'm still averaging three figures a month in income. Why? BECAUSE I HAVE A LOT OF BOOKS.

Okay, maybe not as many as say Amanda M. Lee or Kris Rusch.

But the more books you have in the same genre, the more likely it is a reader will discover one of them  and check out the rest.

One thing I haven't done is genre-jump in an effort to hit the lottery. Also, I'm sticking to genres I love to read. Why? Because the last thing I want is to hit the jackpot on a genre I hate. I don't want to be stuck writing stuff I actively dislike. Life's too short, and frankly, I don't want to earn living at something I hate. Hell, I can go back to farming if I want to make myself miserable.

When someone asks, my advice is to write what you love. Write the types of books you want to read but can't find. I guarantee you there's someone else out there, just like you, wanting to read the same stuff you wish were on the bookshelves or your e-reader. You'll make everyone a lot happier, including yourself.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hiding in Plain Writing

DH and I often laughed that [deity in which you believe] should have an instruction manual pop out of the uterus along with the baby. Of course, if Murphy is truly the one and only god, the manual would be written in Ancient Sanskrit.

We've managed to muddle through the first seventeen years, but this last year is looking to be a doozy. Why? Because we've brought him up to think for himself, to analyze situations, and to make the best decisions he can.

The events of this last weekend in Charlottesville, NC, forced DH and me to have a long, uncomfortable talk with our son. He asked smart questions, ones that not even sociology and cultural experts have the answers for. The legal questions about constitutional law I could answer. And my answers unfortunately made my son even less sure of his path going forward in life.

Today, GK starts his senior year of high school. I hate not giving him some semblance of stability on which to make his future choices. I talked about his great-great-great-grandfather who fought for the Union in the original Civil War. I told him the story of his great-great-uncle Ralph, who at 16 lied about his age to join the Army during WWII. But deep down, I know I can't make GH's decisions for him. I can't make this easier.

Normally, I self-soothe by reading, but I overslept this morning. With some (granted self-imposed) deadlines, I got to work.

Or tried to.

I was still mulling over last night's conversation. So, I went back a chapter in the current wip and started reading to catch the thread of the story again. And it hit me.

Maybe I was dealing with my emotions through my work. What had started as a simple fantasy adventure story in 2013 had turned into a world mired in a political morass. A world that ignored their external danger in favor of in-fighting. A world that wasn't just in danger of losing its moral compass, but of losing its very existence.

If thoughts can change a universe, then maybe my heroes' literary battles will change the tide of thinking in the external universe.

Nah, I'm not that conceited. But it will change my personal thought pattern, and hopefully, relay that positivity to my son.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Atomic Blonde

Even though Atomic Blonde didn't do well during its first couple of weeks in theaters, I believe it will become a sleeper hit once it's out on streaming and Blu-Ray a la Keanu Reeves' John Wick. The film did cement Charlize Theron's place as an action star, which was what she wanted when her production company picked up the rights to The Coldest City, the graphic novel on which the movie is based.

Atomic Blonde is a fun, popcorn thriller that harkens back to the off-the-wall action flicks of the '80's, in particular the Kevin Costner career-booster No Way Out.

Guess I should have said, "Spoilers!" before mentioning Kevin, huh?


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) Charlize Theron was perfect as the world-weary MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton. She faces betrayal on every side, especially from her own agency, and manipulates the betrayers in a ballet of deceit.

2) James McAvoy continues to amaze me every time I see him on screen. He has the charisma to make you like and hate him at the same time.

3) The realism of the action rocked. In a martial arts class, we had discussed hand-to-hand combat between men and women, and how to compensate for women's lesser upper body strength than men. Basically, women need to use any weapon they can and be brutal and dirty, or they're going to lose in a straight-up fight. The stunt people and actors used the very techniques we'd discussed to make Lorraine taking out the KGB agents believable.

4) When the film hit a point near the end, I thought all the cool shit was for naught and the film makers would go for the No Way Out ending. They surprised me a little by adding another plot twist in the last seconds of the story.

5) The soundtrack of my formative years!


CONS
1) Gratuitous lesbian love scene. Yeah, I know they would have done the same damn thing if Charlize's character was a man, and that's why it pissed me off. Hell, the same shit with Strawberry Fields infuriated me when I was watching Quantum of Solace. It's the fucking 21st century, people!Can't we have a spy do their job without getting some poor innocent schmuck killed?


Overall, Atomic Blonde was a fun "B" movie that I think would have done a little better at the box office during the off-season, instead of the height of the summer blockbuster period. I give a 7.5 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

I'm still on an '80's kick as I try to finish writing A Modicum of Truth this month. And Michael Jackson did epitomize that era!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Channeling Speedy Gonzales!

For those of us a certain age in the United State, Looney Tunes was a Saturday morning staple. Especially certain heroes such as Speedy Gonzales. Not only could he outrun his foes, he outsmarted them, too. When I was a kid, I wanted to run as fast as Speedy. Now that I'm a middle-aged writer, I wish I could type as fast as him.

Actually, I'm pretty much in the middle as far as writing speed goes. That's somewhere between a novel every ten years and three novels a month (yes, I do know someone that fast).

However, I need to go a little faster than usual since I made the mistake of promising that A Modicum of Truth would be out by my birthday, aka Halloween.

Oops!

As of last night, I have a little over 20K written on the second volume of the Justice series. I'll need to write 60K by the end of the month (or pretty damn close) to meet my original deadline. Is it doable? Yes. Have I done it before? No.

But I'm determined to get it done because I refuse to disappoint any more readers, including myself. So time to nibble a little cheese, and ARRIBA! ARRIBA!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Reviews and the Jealousy They're Written On

Reviews have always been fraught with spilled ink and hurt feelings. It's bad enough when any Joe/Jane Public slams your work. In fact, I try to adhere to the rule not to read reviews of your work.

But when it's someone more famous, it's harder to avoid. There have been public feuds between writers through the ages. Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer. Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Stephen King and far too many authors to list here.

In fact, Christoph Paul wrote a guide on how to start a literary feud.

While Mr. Paul suggested ripping the other writer on a podcast, the trend among indies today seems to be deliberately attempting to start a feud by leaving a horrible review on a rival in the same genre. And personally, I believe it's done out of jealousy with the justification of the First Amendment and/or a piss-poor attempt to gain attention, aka any publicity is good publicity.

Which goes back to my original advice regarding reviews on your books--ignore them.

Feuds occasionally happen over innocent misunderstandings, but you’ll have a better success rate with willful misunderstandings. - Bill Ferris

Even if you cannot ignore your reviews, DO NOT ENGAGE! Seriously, that's exactly what some of these bad reviewers want.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, you cannot disengage from the bad reviewer (like family or good friends). Because of course, they're only trying to help you be the best writer ever!

That's when I smile and say, "Thank you for your feedback! Which paragraph/sentence prompted your insight?" And then pursue that help with specifics until the friend/family member runs in the opposite direction.

Worrying about and/or dealing with someone else's jealousy is a waste of your time and resources. Focus on your writing, and ignore the idiots.

And if all else fails, sue 'em.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Sharknado 5

Yes, it's summer which means it's time for one of my guilty pleasures, SyFy's  campy Sharknado series of made-for-TV movies. Believe or not, this year's release is the fifth flick in the franchise.

Yes, the Sharknado plots are so stupid they're fabulous. I give the producers, directors, and writers credit for finding new ways to destroy world landmarks. And especially, props to actors for having fun with the story.

To me, the biggest thrills are the pop culture references and the cameos. Sharknado 5 had Nichelle Nichols, Chris Kattan, Fabio, Dolph Lungren, Olivia Newton-John, Margaret Cho, Tony Hawk, Charo, Bret Michaels, and as always, the cast of the Today show.

Once again, the movie ends on a cliffhanger, but one that will have you grinning as Lundgren does his best Doc Brown impersonation.

If you didn't see it last night and you love campy, crazy fun, you can pick it up on Amazon or On Demand.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Handy Reminder

This video seems like a good reminder of grammar rules while I edit novels over the month.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Makin' Hay While the Sun Shines

There's an alfalfa field to our apartment complex (one of the joys of small town/rural living). We aren't supposed to have any appreciable rain until today, so the farmer cut the alfalfa Tuesday, raked it on Wednesday, and baled it yesterday. You can't bale wet alfalfa. It will literally rot from the inside out, leaving you with nothing to feed the cows come winter. So the farmer has to go by the universe's schedule, not his/hers.

*sigh* There's nothing like the smell of dried alfalfa.

Why the hell am I bringing this up? Well, like the person farming the next-door field, I needed to go by the universe's schedule lately, which is the reason for no blogging the last two weeks.

We had some family things, like Genius Kid's birthday and a planned road trip to see the sister-in-law who's a professor in Indiana, and we took FIL with us. We're still dealing with a few emotional things from the aftermath of MIL's passing in June, which is why we have a big family dinner with everyone on Wednesday nights for FIL's sake.

Then there were work things. Like the page proofs for Sword and Sorceress 32 arriving. Finishing the paperback proofs of the Bloodlines series. Getting some new writing done. Realizing I'd planned to have A Modicum of Truth finished in September so it would be out before Sword and Sorceress 32. And I haven't even started editing Ravaged.

Rather than get scared and throw up my hands in despair, I realized this was do-able if I buckled down and worked. Which meant something needed to be put on the backburner.

And the blog got elected.

So if WWW goes dark for no apparent reason over the next five months, I'm hip deep in words, chocolate, and tea. But trust me, it's all good.

P.S. Sword and Sorceress 32 will be released November 2, 2017!