Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Not a Good Day

I woke up this morning about twenty after six pretty damn sick with one of my "episodes". Stay dry if you're in a rainy spot. Enjoy the sun if you can. I'll see you all on Friday!

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Movie Mania That Wasn't and Other Assorted Thoughts

We went to see Black Panther last week. I started to write a review, but I want to go see it again. I think in my fangirl *SQUEE* I may have missed some pertinent things. Things that probably won't change my overall score of the movie, but I want to see how two different audiences react to it.

To be frank, I know my perspective of Black Panther is skewed by my whiteness, just as I know my perspective of Wonder Woman was skewed by my femaleness. I know my review of Wonder Woman would have been slightly different if I'd waited until I'd seen it for a second time in the theater.

And not for the worse either.

Both movies have made me more conscious of my own biases, especially how I went along with certain behaviors to get along. That's not good for any of us in the long run. There's something half-formed in my mind. Something that I think I'm trying to flesh out in the themes of the Justice series. But the thought needs to simmer a little more before I present it to the world.

As I think I've mentioned here, DH and I have started house hunting. Since we're having trouble finding something that meets our needs, we're leaning toward building.

The one house that would have worked for us, we were overbid on back in December. So I tracked down who owns the plans for that design. We met with their agent on Friday.

The builder's plans for that same subdivision have been delayed until August over getting the water and sewer lines laid in a timely manner. I think that will work out for us in the long run. It gives my time to get out my books (or at least set them up on pre-order) on the aggressive schedule I've set for myself for 2018. It also gives us time to save up money for the essentials you don't think about, like the washer and dryer, window treatments, shower curtains, etc.

For the most part, I'm on track with my schedule. I lost this weekend over prepping tax paperwork, but that's a necessary evil. I think I can make up the lost writing time next weekend.

I hope.

In the meantime, A Modicum of Truth had the best opening week of any of my books. I think I'm on the right track through the raspberry bushes.

Now, if I can get the Muse to stop throwing new shinys in my path for a bit, everything would be hunky-dory.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Friday, February 23, 2018

Angry at the Bullshit

This is a totally political post because some people decided it was okay to slime and torture a bunch of kids who survived a horrific incident. If you don't like it, do yourself and me a favor: walk away.

Now.

Because you see, my son's generation already knows you don't give a shit about them.

And there's a bunch of parents down in Parkland, Florida, who had to bury their kids this week. Kids just like mine who were counting down the days until graduation. Who were getting ready for college or work or military service. Who were looking forward to one last summer of fun before buckling down into adulthood.

Those parents probably got e-mails this week just like I did, saying "Hey! Your kid's graduation cap and gown is ready for pick-up!"

There are items sitting in those parents' closets and drawers, items that will continue to collect dust. The dress their daughters picked out for prom. Tie and cufflinks sets grandpas left for their grandsons. The copper frying pan aunties bought from late night TV ads for their nieces' and nephews' first apartments.

But their kids' friends aren't quietly crying in a corner. They saw what happened. Those friends saw bodies torn and ripped by little bits of metal. Life leaking out in bright scarlet streamers and chunks of flesh blown apart.

And they know you don't give a shit about them.

It enrages them that you treat their friends' deaths and their own lives so callously. So they're going to make you listen. Even if takes them screaming from the halls of justice.

So, yes, it's political.

You made it political when the NRA pumps millions of dollars into your re-election coffers.

You made it political when you forgot "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" came before "the right to bear arms".

You made it political when you continuously claim the Second Amendment trumps the First Amendment.

And if you're really concerned about your guns being taken away, guess what? It won't be the current government. It'll be the kids you're currently using for target practice who find a way to stop the slaughter.

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*Comments have been closed because I don't want to hear your bullshit excuses.*

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Little Green Monsters

I've talked about professional jealousy here before. It's an ugly insidious thing that eats the souls of good writers. I expect it out of newbies. It's damn hard not to get depressed when things seem to flow effortlessly for other writers. Hell, I've suffered from the condition myself, but I'm not proud of that fact.

In general, if it crops up in my head, I squash it with an imaginary shoe.

However, envy of those ahead of you makes more sense than the envy I'm seeing in my peers, i.e. those of us who were fourth-generation indies.

(In my head, I consider first generation to be the folks who self-published, I mean REALLY self-published, not vanity published, prior to any e-readers. Second generation are those transmitting PDFs or selling CDs. Third generation are those writers who jumped into the Kindle world first.)

Anyway, the folks with some initial success, who are still writing (not sailing naked--which is perfectly fine because I enjoy the pictures), now worry about staying on top of the heap. Staying on top isn't easy by any stretch of the definition. Algorithms change. Retailers crash. Old ways of advertising don't work anymore. The public's tastes shift to the latest shiny.

In other words, it's the same old-same old in publishing.

But because they were the first to hit it big in e-books and not sell out to the Big 5 publishing houses, they became accustomed to a certain income level. I'm not talking about the gold rush people, the ones that threw out a bunch of books in 2010 and 2011, then disappeared under the next wave of indie writers. I'm talking about the ones who've stuck with this crazy venture for the last five to ten years. The ones who've worked their asses off. The ones Data Guy revealed with his last Author Earnings report, and the folks just below them.

And the scary part is how many of them have said spiteful things about each other. On their blogs. On other people's blogs. On Facebook. On Twitter.

Part of me is a little jealous of their success. I could have been one of them if I hadn't floundered through personal shit from the summer of 2013 through the summer of 2017. I could have been a selfish bitch and said no when people needed me. In retrospect, maybe I should have. Only DH appreciated the effort I put out to help other family members.

On the other hand, maybe it's a good thing I essentially started over this year. I didn't become accustomed to a certain level of income. I didn't assume the gravy train and the glory would continue forever. And I didn't freak out during the 2016 downturn in the industry.

Because any significant income on my part had already faded by 2016. LOL

In other words, I can sit here and whine about the shitty hand I was dealt, and how life's so unfair.

Or I can write a story. And publish it. And be super fucking grateful that people are willing to plunk down their hard-earned money to buy my books.

Now, I can't say I will never feel a twinge when a friend says he or she landed a TV option deal. But I will be happy for them.

Because that's their path. Not mine.

Mine's still through that frickin' raspberry brambles, but I'm trying to remember to taste the fruit.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Catching Up With the Joneses

I may be doing better about keeping on a regular writing and publishing schedule, but I'm learning nothing I knew in 2013 as far as marketing and promotion is applicable today.

Part of it is good. We indies have a hell of a lot more options than we did back then. But all of them cost cash, and most of them take time to learn how to use them effectively.

We used to get attention through advanced reader copies (ARCs) sent to reader review blogs and our most ardent fans. But many of the prominent review blogs from five years ago have shut down for various reasons. Our fans won't leave early reviews, or worse, illegally post our books for sale on pirate sites.

Or the worst, post our books on legitimate retail sites and make money off us. (That's called theft, kids. Depending on the amount of money, you might be looking at a felony conviction. Jus' sayin'...)

But the only constant in life is change as Great-grandpa would say.

So now, I'm studying Amazon ads and Facebook ads and promotion stacking. All the new tricks of  the trade to get attention.

But the real tried and true method? The one that still works?

Write a new @$&@*&# book!

Seriously.

I see new writers making the same mistake new writers have made since self-publishing became a viable thing. They flog one book to death. Over and over and over...

*headdesk*

So as much as I feel stupid figuring out impressions and CPCs, I know I'm doing one thing right.

Sort of.

*sigh*

I keep hearing Red Leader's stern voice in my head, like a Force ghost: "Stay on target. Stay on target."

My target is entertaining my readers on a regular basis. Once I get the current crop of finished stories out, I've got more ideas in the pipeline. Like I said last week, I've already got enough ideas for the rest of 21st century. My Muse has decided that's not enough, and she's started stockpiling for the 22nd.

I'm very thankful I have incredibly patient readers!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

I love the fact that Bruno works with a lot of different people.


Friday, February 16, 2018

When Death Comes to Take You

DH and I are planning to buy a house. Part of the discussion is whether to buy something already constructed or to build. Part of the discussion  is whether this will be our last move at all and how should we plan for not being able to get around.

The discussion turned to actual scheduling of looking at the current houses on the market, the ones that meet our specific needs. Scheduling these viewings around my writing and publishing schedule. Basically, my very full until September schedule.

And somehow, the discussion turned to what I'd write next. There's a ton of stuff I've started and I want to finish. There's some ideas in genres I have yet to try, and I mentioned a specific idea. DH asked when I would write that one. I said I don't know. And the real reason hit me.

I don't know if I'll live long enough to write it.

It's not that I fear death. I'm simply acknowledging that my time on this planet is more finite than it was last year.

Or ten, twenty, thirty years ago.

I have folders full of vague ideas, outlines, and partially written stories. Enough that if I typed a thousand words a day, it would take me a century to write them all.

And I'm constantly getting new ideas. Spin-offs from already established series. Things that are completely new. What-ifs from non-fiction things I see in the news or on the street.

I honestly don't understand how any writer can get stuck. I'm merely disappointed I won't finish all of my stories before I leave.

If you want a lovely story of Life and Death, click this link.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Modicum of Truth Is Out!

Yep, the longest book I've ever written is now available. Just, please, PLEASE don't ask me when A Matter of Death will be out. I may have to lash you with a wet noodle if you do.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Tax Time!

One of the joys of owning my own business is when tax time rolls around.

NOT!

Actually, I try very hard to make sure everything is labelled appropriately, so I can just run the reports and send them to my CPA. Inevitably though, something doesn't match up, and I have to dig through receipts to fix it in the accounting database.

So here's your friendly reminder for my fellow U.S. writers that you still have file a return even if you didn't make any money on your books.

Especially if you didn't make money on your books. You can still take the losses (in most instances) on your taxes, and the IRS won't demand money you don't owe them.

So today, I'm gathering and double-checking everything before I send it to Ed the CPA.

And for everyone who keeps checking the Justice tab here and on my main website, let's just say you have a nice Valentine's Day present coming.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Yep, February needs some fun music and a little Bruno...


Friday, February 9, 2018

Snow Day!

A huge storm passed through Chicago and Detroit last night. We were supposed to be on the southern edge. The weather reports said we would get 0-1 inches while Toledo, which is an hour north of us, expected 7-9 inches.

Needless to say, we got a little more than an inch. Genius Kid and I said, "Screw it," and went back to bed. Okay, we both stayed in bed. When Genius Kid's alarm went off, he checked the school closures report and rolled over.

On the other hand, I slept through the whole thing. My stamina sucks these days. I've been getting up every morning to do writing sprints with a fellow author. But he wasn't going to be able to do it this morning, so I didn't bother to set my alarm.

This afternoon though, I've got to get back to work. Over the last four days, I've been writing 1,500 words on Hero Ad Hoc in the morning and reviewing the e-book proof of A Modicum of Truth.

[Lesson Learned: Don't write a 100K epic fantasy in the middle of a major release cycle. I'm not touching A Matter of Death until my schedule is clear.]

Luckily, the guys are still planning on their night out with Papa. I'll have extra time since I won't have to make dinner, and I'll have a silent apartment for roughly two hours.

I'm also not baking today as is my usually wont on a snow day. I made mint chocolate chip cookies on Monday. (Only a two-hour delay though.) I don't think my waistline can handle more no matter what those cans of pumpkin in the cupboard are whispering.

So for those of you in the snow belt, how do you handle snow days with the kids?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard

Anybody who belongs, or has belonged, to Romance Writers of America has heard the acronym BICFOK. No, it's not a dirty word. It's the acronym for the title of today's post.

You don't have to take it literally, though I have the past three mornings. I've set my alarm, got up and planted myself in my office chair for three hours in order to get the day's wordcount in before I work on editing.

If you don't take BICFOK literally, it stands for doing the work. To have a writing career, you have to do the work. You have to learn your craft, and you have to write an entertaining tale. All the fabulous covers, witty blurbs, and marketing money in the world only gets your reader's foot in the door. To keep them there, you've got to write a damn good story.

I see too many new writers burning themselves out gaming the system. Oh, they don't think they are gaming. They aren't bookstuffing or clickfarming or any other weird shenanigans that are designed to rip off the money-paying public.

No, they write stuff only for the money. Following trends. Writing books that they hate in genres they don't respect. And they wonder why they aren't making any money beyond their obscene ad spend.

It's because a good story is about more than the tropes and formulas. It's about the way your characters make the reader feel.

And I honestly believe if you're not feeling the feels when you're writing that story, your audience won't either.

I say this because I finished the first round of edits on Sacrificed late Sunday night. And I was sobbing as I saved my files.

DH had already gone to bed, but I was still sniffling when I climbed under the covers. He asked me what was wrong, and I told him. He didn't belittle me for identifying so closely with my characters. He simply held me until we both fell asleep.

And since he's my alpha reader, I'll probably have to hold him tonight when he finishes reading the book.

Isn't that what you want from your audience?

To laugh along with your heroes, cheer for them, and when shit happens, cry with them?

All the money for covers and ads in the world can't buy those feelings. You have to earn them

By placing your butt in that chair, your fingers on your keyboard, learning your craft, and writing a damn good story.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - The Great Wall

Another film I'd wanted to see in the theater over a year ago. DH wanted to see The Legos Batman Movie though, and I'd thought we'd have a chance to go the following week. Unfortunately, his mom was readmitted to the hospital a few days later, and The Great Wall was a quick two-weeks and out at our local theater.

So I recorded it over the free HBO weekend at Thanksgiving, and we finally had a chance to sit down and watch it.

Needless to say, if you haven't watched it and are worried about SPOILERS, why are you still on this page?

First of all, this was a joint Chinese-American production, which in all the uproar over the movie was conveniently forgotten.

Matt Damon, as always, brings his A-game to whatever role he plays. And no, he's not the white savior some folks (who didn't even see the movie) claimed he was. He's actually Han Solo to Jing Tian's Luke Skywalker.

Jing Tian's General Lin may be the actual problem with American audiences because she IS in the Luke Skywalker role, not the princess role. And literally not how Leia evolved from princess/diplomat to general in Star Wars. Lin has been a soldier since she can remember, and saving her country and its people is in her blood. And horror of horrors, she and Matt Damon's William DON'T HAVE SEX!

*gasp*

Instead, the two work together to save Medieval China from monsters that literally eat everything in sight.

This is a good old-fashioned action monster flick. It's a ton of fun, and something you can let your kids watch. There's not a lot of gore. Most of it is insinuated.

I loved the movie because it showed men and women fighting side-by-side to protect the human race. Frankly, if I hadn't put out four short stories and a novel set my the Justice universe prior to the movie's release, I'd be worried about accusations of plagiarism.

There were a couple of tiny editing screw-ups, but it didn't detract from the movie. Nor will I count off for them. In fact, I'm going to look for a director's cut. *grin*

Overall, I give The Great Wall 10 out of 10 stars!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Yes, I watched the Grammys last Sunday, and I have to agree with Bruno Mars. With the crap happening in the world today, we all need some fun music.


Friday, February 2, 2018

Money, Money, Everywhere

January 31st was this week, so writers are starting to get their 1099's and are digging through their shoeboxes for receipts in preparation for doing their taxes.

Blog posts are popping up, and in general, writers are whining. A lot.

- I don't make enough money self-pubbing.
- I don't make enough money trad-publishing.
- Amazon is charging us too much.
- Amazon is giving free money to scammers.
- Barnes & Noble refuses to pay me.
- Barnes & Noble can't go under because AMAZON!
- Apple could compete if they'd get off their asses.
- Kobo needs to buy Barnes & Noble.
- Wal-Mart will save us!
- Wal-Mart won't save us!
- I launched a book for free and I don't understand why it's not making money!
- I can't live on $30 a month!
- I can't live on $10,000 a month!

*ahem*

It's gotten to the point, I don't read many other writers' blogs any more. Things change, and you gotta roll with those changes. And more than a few of my colleagues have a tendency to throw temper tantrums when things don't go their way.

So...

Let's talk about money with the caveat that I'm not whining here.

My yearly income has slowly dwindled from 2013. The fault, the responsibility, is solely on me. I've had some life rolls. I've made some bad decisions, namely putting other people's needs before my own. So I haven't gotten much writing finished or published. In fact, the only new pieces I had out in 2017 were the seventh Bloodlines novel Ravaged and the short story "Unexpected" in Sword and Sorceress 32. That's totally on me.

For 2017, I hit my lowest total income level since I started writing fiction professionally in 2011. As much as I love indie publishing (and I had to laugh at this when I entered the final numbers into my spreadsheet), a super large chunk of my income actually came from trad publishing.

ASP E-books   $ 506.53
ASP Paperbacks $ 42.13
Trade Royalties (e-book and paper) $ 413.92

TOTAL $ 962.58

(If you really need a comparison, my income in 2011 was $ 131.40.)

The circumstances remind me that I need to diversify my income streams some more. They also remind me that I need to FINISH more stories. Starting them is easy. Finishing them, publishing them, and getting them out into the world is the hard part. And I've got a ton of stories and series started that really need to be finished.

For 2018, I'm working hard to do both. Angry Sheep Publishing has been accepted as a Google Play vendor, and all the currently published Suzan Harden books are uploaded and for sale. Since Wal-Mart is using Kobo, there's not much I have to do there yet.

In the meantime, I've laid out a schedule with the idea of publishing one book a month. Notice I didn't say, "Write one book a month." No, I have a couple of dozen stories, both novels and shorts and in both names, that I'm several thousand words into I just need to finish. I slightly missed January's deadline, which should have been the release of A Modicum of Truth. But considering it's my first book to cap out at over 100K words, I'm not feeling too bad at the moment. I delivered it to my formatter Tuesday night, so hopefully it'll be released by the second week of February.

While I'm waiting on the e-book files for Justice #2, I've jumped back into editing Sacrificed. The Bloodlines fans have been incredibly patient over the last seven years, and it's way past time to finish this series.

And about once a week, I spend a couple of hours on the 888-555-HERO series. After the project crashed and burned in 2015, I'm ready to get this out into the world. I'd forgotten how much fun it had been!

Here's what my schedule looks like:

February - A Modicum of Truth
March - Sacrificed
April - Hero De Facto
May - Hero Ad Hoc
June - Hero De Novo
July - Reality Bites
August - Ghouls in the Grocery Store
September - Resurrected

Maybe, just maybe, I'll get A Matter of Death done by Halloween. But I'm not holding my breath. LOL

Nor does any of this include Alter Ego's books. She hasn't put anything out for two years now because it's hard to feel sexy when life is a shit storm around you.

And that's all the complaining you'll hear from me. When life throws lemons at you, it's time to make some lemon bars!