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.

Amazon
Apple
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Smashwords

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Say (F***) No to Beta Readers

A couple of weeks ago, a new(er) writer asked me if I used beta readers. When I said no, they asked, "But how do you know whether you're hitting the tropes of your genre?"

Maybe because I've been a reader for nearly forty-eight years?

This is why the long-term writers say you need to be a reader in order to write. You absorb a lot of the aspects of basic storytelling by consuming the product.

I grew up in a small town. A very small town. First there was the comics and Dr. Seuss books at Grandma's and my cousins' house. Those were a lot more fun the primers my mom gave me. I zipped through the contents of our county library annex and the grade school's library in no time flat. Especially, the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys original mysteries and the complete OZ collection someone donated.

It was a treat when my grandma took me to the big county library a half hour away. More Nancy Drew, plus Doctor Doolittle, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and anything by Andre Norton.

Then came the bussing to another town for junior high. New library! That lead to McCaffrey, Asimov, Bradbury, and Homer.

When I hit high school though, I wasn't impressed with their collection of fiction. Most of collection was far younger than the level I was reading at. Meanwhile, the county library expanded its program to allow borrowing by mail. From there, I was introduced to James Clavell, John Jakes, and Patricia A. McKillip.

I could keep going, but you get the idea. Nor should story consumption be limited to the written word. Comics, radio serials, theater, movies, and TV are also good learning places.

So, after inhaling all those stories, the basics are pretty ingrained in your brain. You know the tropes of the genres you love. You could write them with your eyes closed.

Except...

We often don't trust ourselves. In many of us, any artistic endeavor is actively discouraged at best, or punished severely at the worst. We let those challenges gnaw away a part of our souls, so that by the time we actually produce a full story, we seek a way to fill the hole.

That's what critiques and beta readers really are. Their feedback becomes the stuffing we desperately want to fill the hole in our soul that we shouldn't have allowed anyone to dig in the first place.

That's what really missing in our writing--the trust in our own abilities. Not someone else's opinion of our abilities. Not how they would have written the story. Not their ideas.

Your ideas are just fine. Technical stuff, like grammar and spelling? That's easy to pick up. Actually, so is storytelling. But learn from the masters. Learn from the writers you love. Don't listen to people who aren't writing the fucking the story. They don't care. You do. It's your story.

And it won't be your story if you let other people tell you how to write it. Which means, no, you don't need any beta readers.

Proofreaders? Yes. Beta readers? No.

Trust yourself. You can do this. And you will rock!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Kingsman: The Golden Circle

The second most anticipated movie of 2017 (for me, after Wonder Woman). Eggsy is back! And again, he's driving both his allies and his enemies crazy!


* * *


SPOILERS!


* * *

After the events of Kingsman: The Secret Service, Gary "Eggsy" Unwin has settled into life as the new Galahad. He and Princess Tilde are living together in Harry's old house with J.B. Dumbledore has become the new Arthur. Merlin and Lancelot are still Eggsy's best buds.

So of course, that's when an old enemy from the first movie shows up to kill our hero.


PROS
1) I'm so sad there wasn't more of the fabulous Michael Gambon as the replacement for Arthur. There's nothing better than hearing the former Dumbledore say R-rated words on screen.

2) The inventive way they brought back Harry. It may stretch the suspension of disbelief, but it wasn't a one-trick pony, and it showed the talents and inventiveness of the Statesmen's Ginger Ale.

3) Speaking of bringing Harry back, the writers, et al, didn't make Harry perfectly all right once Eggsy found out he was still alive. He had memory and physical problems from being shot in the head. It was a touch of realism I appreciated.

4) OMG! The Happily Ever After was awesome!

5) Let me amend that. Mark Strong's rendition of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" rocked!


CONS
1) There wasn't as much Channing Tatum as the trailers and ads promised. I was a little sad because watching his and Taron Egerton's characters bond should have been the highlight of the film.

2) Killing J.B. was a shit move. The filmmakers should have known better than to kill a pet even if they used the incident to move Eggsy and Tilde's relationship along.

3) Okay, part of me was rooting for the Kingsmen and Statesmen's resident geeks to get it on. It was a total waste of Mark Strong and Halle Berry's awesome onscreen chemistry.


Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a worthy successor to the original. However, it's a lot more emotional, so bring some tissues. Overall, I give it 9 stars out of 10.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

RAVAGED Is Out!

RAVAGED IS OUT!

About midnight last night, I finished uploading Ravaged to Amazon, Smashwords, and for distribution to iTunes and Kobo. B&N will be a few more days since they want the number of pages for the paperback, and I don't have the formatted paperback back yet.

But I'm late and I wanted to get the e-book out ASAP.

I can't guarantee when Ravaged will go live on any particular site, but I'll be updating the links below as they go live.

Amazon
Apple
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Smashwords

I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Family Drama Keeps Pulling Me Back In

Frack! I couldn't even make it through the first book of the next eight I want to release before more cow defecation hit the spinning turbine. Shit is happening that I can't talk about at the moment for someone else's privacy reasons. It's getting taken care of, but taking care of it is time-consuming as all get out.

My formatter had sent me the Kindle e-book file for Ravaged on Tuesday, September 26. I haven't completed reviewing it yet. It should have been a two-day job max. I'm not even at the half-way point on A Modicum of Truth either, and I'd planned to have it finished by now.

Why can't I have normal adult first-world problems? I have a friend whose kid is trying to decide between Harvard and Yale. Another friend and her S.O. are debating on whether he should take a promotion across the country when their youngest is also in his senior year. A third friend is simply thankful that her teen driver is all right after a drunk adult hit her daughter's car head-on when she was on her way to school.

If I weren't high on cider, donuts, and pumpkin spice lattes right now, I'd probably be curled up in my bed with a bottle of tequila, bawling my eyes out. But then, nothing's stopping me from going to the store for a bottle or two.

On second thought, maybe I should head over to Kroger for a bigger chocolate cake...

Monday, October 2, 2017

Why I Didn't Write Monday's Post

There are certain scenes in movies that simply make the entire film. Sally's fake orgasm. George running through the streets of Bedford Falls on a snowy Christmas Eve. Toto revealing the jerk manipulating the innocent Dorothy and her friends.

Well, last night, I was watching Magic Mike XXL for this scene: