Well, 2018 wasn't my best year, but it wasn't my worst either.
I started off by releasing the e-books of A Modicum of Truth (Justice #2) in February and Sacrificed (Bloodlines #8) in March.
And if you're a regular reader of my blog, you know everything got put on hold shortly after Easter.
I kept writing though, as best as I could. The trade paperbacks for this year's releases came out in October and December respectively.
I made some money, less than every other year, but more than my first year. However, I was mainly coasting on fumes from previous releases.
So I'm concentrating on putting out a lot of books in 2019. I'm not jinxing myself by giving specific dates until the pre-order is up and running. (Yep, I'm going to try to stay ahead this year!)
- Hero De Facto is back from my alpha reader. I'll do another round of proofreading before sending it off to my formatter.
- Hero Ad Hoc should go to my alpha reader later today.
- The first draft of Hero De Novo will hopefully be finished before Hero De Facto goes on sale.
- A Matter of Death needs to be completed as well.
- Then if nothing else goes wrong, I'll finish the last three Bloodlines stories and the fourth Justice Novel.
I'm still looking at the possibility of another surgery, so I'm trying very, very hard to get ahead before this happens, if it happens.
I could wail and gnash my teeth over perceived failures like a lot of my fellow writers do, but I can't. I'm just happy to be alive and doing something I absolutely love--making up stories to entertain all of you.
Last Saturday, I wrapped up the copyediting on Hero De Facto and e-mailed it to my alpha reader's Kindle. Unlike a lot of other writers, I don't use beta readers.
Why? Because at that point the entire series is pretty much done in my head. It's simple a matter of setting it to bits and bytes for other people to consume. But I trust my process, and it/I manage to entertain a number of people.
I think that's where the fine line between overconfidence and underconfidence in writers lie.
There are those who haven't studied craft enough to understand why their story isn't doing well in the market. However, they think the piece is brilliant, and therefore, everyone else must be idiots.
On the other hand are the writers who want their piece to be brilliant, and they seek out third parties' validation in an effort to be deemed brilliant by those the writers esteem. It really doesn't matter to them if the story is readable by the general populace.
Want to know my secret? I'm not looking for brilliance, though I write the best I can with every piece I create. I want to entertain. If one of my humorous adventures brightens your day, then I know I have succeeded.
So far, my alpha seems to be amused in the right places, and that's what I really care about as a writer.
So did any on you get up early to hit the post-Christmas sales?
I used to do that, but after working at Hallmark for a few years, I'm so stocked up on wrapping paper and card I had to pack them into large boxes during the move. And now that the nieces and nephews are grown, well, I'm using less and less every year.
After a day where the entire DH family gathered under one roof, I was exhausted. And I mean EVERYONE from Papa to the littlest great-grandbaby and the brand-new grandpuppy Scotty.
So I'm finally awake. We've got plenty of Pepsi, coffee, chocolate, and cinnamon buns to fuel me. Time to get back to the writing!
We didn't see the original Wreck-It Ralph when it was released. None of us were that interested because we were FINALLY laying hardwood in our family room. Eventually, we caught it late one night on cable and were pleasantly surprised by the story.
So when the sequel was released, DH was rather adamantly that we go see it. The reason probably has something to do with him being in the computer industry.
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1) The Disney Princesses were hysterical!
2) Twisting the hero into the needy, neurotic nutcase and the heroine into the one wanting their freedom.
3) Gal Gadot.
4) Felix and Calhoun adopting the other Sugar Rush racers.
1) Not enough Disney Princesses and Gal Gadot.
Overall, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a fun movie with a lot of jokes that will fly over most kids' heads. I give it 8 stars out of 10.
Now's the time a lot of writers are looking their goal sheet for this year and silently weeping into their whiskey.
A little grief is okay. Give yourselves a five-minute pity party, then toss back the rest of the whiskey.
First, look at what you did accomplish. Did you publish a book? Did you finish writing a book? Did you submit a short story to an anthology or magazine? How many words did you write? Was it more than one? A whole sentence? Paragraph? Page?
Then fucking congratulate yourself! That's more than some people do in a lifetime.
Where did you fall down? Furthermore, was it really a fall?
Sometimes, life has to take precedence over art. What if your parents, your siblings, your significant other(s), or your kids needed a little extra help this year? Or a lot? Setting aside your art for them doesn't make you a failure. It makes you a compassionate, caring human being.
Or maybe you were the one facing the life-changing event. If so, cut yourself some slack. If you're not healthy, physically and mentally, doing any kind of art is nearly impossible.
More likely though, you overestimated what you could do in a year. No shame in that, but make next year's a bit more realistic. Take a good look at what you did accomplish and add, say, ten percent. Or one percent. Or fifty percent. Just make it within the realm of possibility for you. Giving yourself unobtainable goals only destroys your self-esteem because there's no way to win.
Were my 2018 goals obtainable? Maybe, but cancer made sure I couldn't hit them.
That's okay. I'm alive. I'm healthy. And 2019 is a brand-new, glorious year!
I can hear you now--"But-but Suzan! Aquaman isn't out until this Friday!"
Well, (a) you're right in that Aquaman isn't in WIDE release in the U.S. until Friday, and (b) no, I didn't illegally download it from a pirate site, nor did I go to China for their early release.
Warner Brothers teamed up with Amazon, Atom, and various theaters for a special preview at 7:00 p.m. on December 15th. And I couldn't wait to see Jason Momoa rocking his superhero shtick again. Because, let's face it, he makes Aquaman cool!
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1) The ultimate in casting choice (besides Jason) was Temuera Morrison as Thomas Curry, Aquaman's dad, though the rest of the choices were excellent. Seriously, Jango Fett as Dad is fucking awesome!
2) The Aquaman in-jokes, including, yes, Arthur riding a giant seahorse. (Trust me, it was way more awesome then it sounds.)
3) The King Arthur in-jokes. (Yes, the one from Camelot.)
4) The fact the writers stuck with the Silver Age characters and backstories (the ones I grew up reading) with only some slight alterations.
5) The same mix of adventure, quest, and romance as Wonder Woman without the negativity and angst of Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, et al.
1) The score left something to be desired, as in it was totally unmemorable. While specific themes have been developed and repeatedly used for the Trinity, once again, Aquaman got screwed.
I had a blast and I want to see it again. Overall, Aquaman earned its 10 out of 10 stars.
We caught the second Fantastic Beasts flick at the theater after seeing the first on HBO last year. Instead of continuing it's own path in the Wizarding World, this edition circles back to Harry Potter's past, which is both good and bad.
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1) Jude Law as the younger Dumbledore was spectacularly on point.
2) We learned more about Nagini's tragic backstory, which makes me sympathize with why she turned to Voldemort.
3) Also, I loved how quiet, shy Newt confronted Dumbledore about how he uses people.
1) The first half of Fantastic Beasts 2 is a mess between assumptions that the viewer read the books (Grindelwald was barely mentioned in the first movie series, much less his full history) and the awful editing, like chunks were ripped out to keep the time down to a reasonable running length.
2) Leta Lestrange was used to create unnecessary tension without fully fleshing out her character. It made her sacrifice feel cheap.
3) The movie wasn't bad. It simply was a set-up for future films without being a complete story in itself. That's rather sloppy story-telling on JK Rowling's part. I guess I expect more from her after seeing what she's capable of.
Overall, I have to give Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grndelwald 5 stars out of 10.
Seriously, we've had maybe 20 hours of sunlight in our little corner of Ohio since Halloween. I have friends in Alaska who are getting more sunshine than I am. And if I'm not getting some regular sunshine, it makes the SAD so much worse.
So I'm not writing about anything earth-shattering today. I'm going to get out to run errands, do the last bit of holiday shopping, mail the packages I've already wrapped, etc.
And try to get a short story finished that I promised my readers months ago!
I feel I've been on the bench too long. I only released two books under my name in 2018. Alter Ego hasn't released anything in over two years. (She says it's hard to feel and write smexy when we're surrounded by pain, disease and death.) So neither of us are surprised our sales have dropped like the proverbial stone this year after coasting on fumes for the last five.
However, I'm hearing whispers that other indies are seeing huge drops in sales this year, drops they claim aren't due to the usual fall school/holiday downturn. And those that use internet ads (such as Amazon and Facebook) and book deal newsletters (such as Bookbub) are seeing lower returns than ususal. But if they stop advertising, their sales plummet.
From what I'm observing, there isn't any one problem. Here are the situations I'm seeing:
1) Amazon's Latest Updates
Amazon has rolled out updates to their online platform every year between the months of July and August since I started indie publishing. And every year, there's been bugs. In fact, there's a cadre who refer to the following month as Glitchtember as the bugs become known and obvious.
This year's Glitchtember has extended into the rest of the year. Amazon's efforts to force users to go to their country's associated store has led to a slew of books disappearing from the retail platform. What's more unusual is Amazon's admission that there was a problem!
But hey, if you're only selling books on Amazon, and Amazon isn't showing your book as available, you've lost that sale.
2) Online Advertising
It used to be that for a few bucks a day, you could advertise your wares on Google and make a ton of money. But Google uses an auction system for their ads, and as time went on, they sold more and more ads at higher and higher prices.
Then Facebook and Amazon jumped into the online ad business, using the same criteria as Google, and now the same problem is occurring as they, too, saturate buyers with ads. Even worse, more computer users are employing ad blockers to keep the multiple ads from slowing down their machines. Or from annoying the hell out of them.
Now, indie publishers are paying more and more to advertise and seeing less and less returns, but if they don't do ads at all, their sales crash. Resentment at the pay-to-play issue is building, but unfortunately, we're not going to see the free advertising we had in the beginning of the indie revolution again.
3) Bargain Book Newsletters
Amazon cracked down on reviewers and their bargain book newsletters years ago by eliminating their ability to monetize the freebies. As a result, many of those review/newsletter proprietors had to close up shop.
The handful left, like Bookbub, are charging more money to advertise through them and making it tougher to get a spot. And even when an indie publisher gets spot, they're not seeing the long-tail with their other books like they used to. Unfortunately, indies aren't just competing with each other for those newsletter slots.
4) Trad Publishing Copying Indie Methods
Nope, we're competing with trad publishers for those BookBub slots. They pay more, and they have a huge backlist to advertise. If you see a $1.99 book on BookBub, it's probably a backlist trad book.
But trad publishing is copying indies in other ways. Their covers are becoming simpler with titles and author large enough to read in thumbnail size. Backlist formatting is getting better rather than throwing up a cheaply, and shittily, OCR-scanned copy of the mass market paperback. In other words, the trad publishers are starting to get their act together when it comes to e-books.
5) Reader Fatigue
How many of you have downloaded hundreds, if not thousands, of free/cheap e-books? *raises hand* Yeah, that's coming back to bite us writers in the ass. Why buy a new book if a reader has a zillion still waiting to be read on their devices? We have to publish something so unique and brilliant they can't resist us, and that's a damn mountain to climb.
On the other side, something that's personal for me and other middle-age people I know--we're rereading old favorites. Between dealing with elderly parents, our own health issues, and launching our kids into a world that seems to headed for disaster, we reach for the comfort reads from childhood. I know I've been going through the Katherine Kurtz/Barbara Hambly/Mercedes Lackey novels from my teens and twenties while dealing with cancer this year.
So what does this all mean?
It means we have the level playing field we claimed we wanted when the indie revolution started. It means we need to step up our game when it comes to storytelling; we can't rely on gimmicks to sell our wares. It means that the e-book market in finally maturing, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
My attitude may change when I get back to publishing in January. But for right now, I don't think it's the end of the world.
While DH was on his staycation last week, we hit a couple of movies we really wanted to see. I'm going to review Robin Hood first because it may not last in theaters much past this week.
My overall view is it's not as bad as the critics would have you think, but it's not as good as it could have been either.
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1) Taron Eggerton and Jamie Foxx's sheer charisma and chemistry carry a good chunk of this movie. Unfortunately it's not enough.
2) Some interesting twists in character stories, including a revamp of Morgan Freeman's Azeem from the Costner vehicle Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
3) Jamie Dornan trying so hard that he's unintentionally hilarious. (And I don't mean in a Alan Rickman chew-the-scenery way either.)
1) The script's plot needed to tightened. Oh, Cthulu, does it need to be tightened.
2) Even my libtard snowflake tendencies couldn't handle the heavy-handed preaching aimed at modern culture: 1% overreaching, the Catholic Church's child abuse scandals, the treatment of POWs, government treatment of returning vets, etc.
3) Treating the Crusaders as a modern SEAL team.
4) I don't mind them not setting the story during the reign of Richard I of England, but for the love Thoth, don't mix so many incongruous temporal elements together. It just makes a mess.
5) Some chemistry between Robin and Marian would have been nice. Robin sleeping with his Muslim buddy would have made more sense in this flick.
This is one of those movies I had great hopes for. It stumbled, but didn't fall flat on its face the way Star Trek V: The Final Frontier or Happily Never After (the two movies by which I measure all badness) did. Save your money and watch Robin Hood when it hits cable next year.
Overall, I have to give Robin Hood 6 stars out of 10.
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