Mar 152017
 

WW75AWell, as you can see, we got the fence back up, though it did take a few days longer than expected. I managed to get the old post out of the ground well enough.  See that big “log” on the ground in front of the fence?  If you click on the picture, you’ll see that it’s really not a log at all.  It’s the two feet of concrete that the old post was set into… two feet of concrete that I had to dig out of the ground before I could plant the new post.

I suppose I should be grateful, though.  The guy that put up our fence used an auger to plant the posts, so the holes are all nice and neat – smooth cylinders of concrete straight into the ground, and relatively easy to find and dig loose.  Not so easy to get out of the ground by yourself, though.  I mean, that much concrete is heavy!  Beat Up 

However, I managed it all right, though I had to go wide enough with the hole so that I could get enough leverage with the shovel to help lift it out.  And that meant that the nice, neat, round hole, was no longer nice, neat, or round.  Now I had an oblong, ragged, gaping hole in the ground, with considerably more volume to fill than I had bought concrete for.  But yours truly is nothing if not inventive. You see, I get buckets from the local bakery for use in my various gardening experiments.  They’re free, and give me considerable freedom to test out various ideas for planting, irrigation, or to just carry tools around.

In this case, I just sacrificed the bottoms of two of them, cutting them out so that I had a couple of empty plastic cylinders.  I poured a little concrete in the bottom of the hole, slid the first bottomless bucket around the new post, filled it with more concrete, and when it was full, repeated the process, stacking the second one on top of the first.   The end result was a post set within concrete filled buckets that were then easily surrounded with the fill dirt I had dug out in order to remove the old post.

So there I was, feeling quite clever… old post still propped up, holding the horizontal rails and fence in place so the dogs couldn’t get out and nothing else could get in. The new post was standing straight up in the ground (I knew it was straight, since I had repeatedly checked it with the level while placing it).  And that was when I realized that the horizontal posts from the old fence had to go into the new post before the concrete completely set.

And I still hadn’t even taken them off of the old post!   Eek!

The next several minutes were filled with me frantically struggling to remove the fencing staples that held the fence to the rails with a screwdriver and hammer, all the while hoping the “QuickCrete” I had bought, wasn’t so quick that I wouldn’t be able to move that post to get the rails into the holes on the new post.  And after considerable hammering and prying at the staples, (you know, those crazy “U”-shaped, double-headed nails?) and more than a little bit of cussing, I managed to get the rails loose from the fence itself, and then from the old, broken, post.

And the concrete hadn’t set so much that I wasn’t able to move the post.  So I shoved the new post out a bit, placed the horizontals in place, and shoved the new upright back into place, all with the concrete still pliable enough to fill back into the hole. Crisis averted.  Whew!  Struggle

At that point, the new post and rails were in place, but the concrete hadn’t set well enough to put any tension on them.  The QuickCrete bag said it would be four to six hours at a minimum, so I still had to prop the old fence back up again with old lumber (and a bit of wishful thinking) right up against the new post.

Saturday came, and as promised, brought with it more than enough rain to keep us from working on the fence any further. No big deal though, we still had Sunday, right? (sigh)

Unfortunately, Sunday brought its own set of issues… namely, me.  I’d been having problems with my asthma for the last few weeks, which let me know that I was probably getting ready to have a full-blown allergic reaction sometime soon.  “Soon” ended up being Sunday.

MBH and I got up and made cinnamon rolls.  It was another experiment for us, as we had never made them before.  They turned out pretty good, though as with most experiments, there was room for improvement and we’ve already decided how we’re going to change the recipe for next time.  After breakfast, we bundled up (Saturday’s rain brought more cold weather with it and the temperature was down into the upper 30s), and took the girls for a brisk morning walk.  That was all it took.

WW75BMany years ago, I was diagnosed with exercise induced allergies.  My first attack was when I was a teen.  I had just finished one of my karate classes, and was jogging home when I started noticing how much my feet were hurting. Within a few minutes, I was having trouble breathing, and by the time I made it home, I was in the midst of my first asthma attack, accompanied by my first experience with hives.  My mom freaked (understandably), and rushed me to the local emergency clinic, where the doctors also just about had a cow.  To be fair, I suppose I would have done the same.  I mean, you see a thirteen year old kid on the table, face so swollen that his eyes are barely able to open, and he’s wheezing like his throat is swollen shut.  My mom told me later that they were about ready to trache me.  Luckily, one of the docs recognized my symptoms, administered a dose of adrenaline, and within several minutes, I was breathing normally again and the swelling was going back down.

Since that first time, I’ve learned to deal with this as a normal part of my life.  I’ve also learned to recognize the symptoms leading up to an attack, and minimize their effect.  MBH has also learned to help me deal with them.  Because of the tightness of chest and trouble breathing I’d been experiencing for the last few weeks, we knew it was coming.  And since I had shut down the last few attacks before they’d really run their course, we suspected I was due for a relatively bad one.  Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as we had feared, though as you can see in the picture, I did end up with a few hives.

But the end result was that my Sunday was spent kicked back, trying not to scratch, while I tried to let the attack run its course.  A few hours of hives, with the accompanying itching, swelling, high blood pressure, and asthma, meant that I wasn’t about to be outside working on the fence.  Instead, I ended up sitting like a lump in the easy chair, waiting on the symptoms to peak so I could take a Benadryl and crash.

But Monday, I finally got to get outside to finish the freaking fence.  Yay!  It’s still not perfect.  It turns out that I set the pole a couple of inches higher than the original, and the gate is about an inch higher off the ground than it was.  And while there’s nothing I can do about the post being higher, there is enough adjustment in the gate itself to line it up properly.

So that’s it for my “Post about the Post”.

Other news…

End Point PangaeaEPP now sits at nearly 55k words, and is still moving.  This has been my main focus (other than visiting family, fence posts, and allergic reactions Wink ), so no other real writing news to report.

The Burning Land – “But wait,” you say. “I thought there wasn’t any other writing news.”  That’s true.  However, I’ve done a bit of recording, and am going to see about releasing TBL as audio via ACX and Audible.  We’ll have to see how that works out.  But with the changes that Amazon has made in terms since they bought out ACX, it’s very difficult to find voice actors who are willing to work for a royalty split.  These days, they want payment up front, and for anyone that does a decent job, the cost is usually at least $200 per finished hour.  Since ACX lists Year 12 as an estimated 12.8 finished hours, that means I would have to come up with roughly $2600 to have it produced.  And I just don’t have that kind of money.  So it occurred to me that perhaps I could do it myself.  But I need to start with something smaller… MUCH smaller.  Most sources agree that you can count on working about eight to ten hours per finished hour when you begin audio work.  Thus, this experiment with TBL.  I’ve already recorded the basic reading, and I already have the software, and know how to use it.  I’ve used it to record my promos for my other books.  Now it just remains to be seen if I can get a decent enough production level to put out something good enough to Audible.  That means editing out the miscellaneous train whistles from town, jet noises as they pass overhead, stomach gurgles from when I try to record just after eating (lesson learned there), wind whistling through the trees, laptop fan when it kicks on… I think you get the idea.  But IF I can get all that done, and manage to produce a decent audio file, then I might consider tackling the recording for Y12.

And that’s it for now.  Time to get back to writing.  So for now, stay safe everyone, and I’ll talk to you next time.  Bye

Jan 052017
 

First of all, I hope you all had a fantastic New Year’s.  I’ve reached that point in my life where quiet is better, so no crazy parties for MBH and I.  Truth be told, we’ve never been much for the wild New Year’s Eve parties. For us, getting our wild on this year entailed fixing one of our favorite meals.  Now, in order to let you appreciate just how different this meal is for us, I have to let you in on a not-so-secret secret. I’m not a big fan of red meat. Sure, I’ll munch on a burger as much as the next guy, and I love sausage and bacon in the morning.  But I’ve never really developed the appreciation most people have of a fine steak or roast.  It’s just not my thing.

But a few years back, I sampled my first buffalo flank steak and fell in love.  I don’t know why, but buffalo just tastes GOOD to me. And luckily, there was a store that carried it near our house in Houston.  It’s a little pricier than regular beef, but both MBH and I liked it enough that it became a semi-regular treat for us.

When we moved to Oklahoma, one of the things on my mind was the idea that we had moved into buffalo country!  It’s true.  Driving around this part of the country, it’s relatively common to see small herds of buffalo, where ranchers raise them like other ranches raise cattle. I just knew we were going to have quick and easy access to more buffalo at better prices.

ww67-aUnfortunately, the truth was much different. I’ve only found a few stores here that carry any buffalo at all, and those stores typically only carry it ground.  I found one place in Tulsa that says they have buffalo sirloin in their frozen food section… sometimes.  But none of them carry flank steak.  Side Frown

We searched online and also found some sites that sell the cuts we’re after, and we ordered from one of them… once.  Don’t get me wrong, the meat was delicious, and the people at Wild Idea Buffalo were very knowledgeable.  As a matter of fact, we learned to try some other cuts from them, and loved their skirt steaks and their flat-iron steaks.  The problem with ordering from them was the shipping fees.  Buying half a dozen steaks cost us about $40 in shipping, and that is just something we can’t afford to keep doing.  But I get it.  Shipping meat across the country requires fast, refrigerated shipping.  And that isn’t cheap.

But it’s still outside of our budget.

ww67-bSo for the Christmas holiday this year, we asked our son to bring some buffalo flank up from that store in Houston, where we used to buy it.  It’s ironic that we’re here, in the heart of buffalo country, and the best way for us to get our favorite flank steak is to have it brought up from Houston.  But he brought us four absolutely gorgeous steaks, and one of those was our New Year’s Eve dinner.  (insert a sigh of contentment here)

And as you can see from the pictures, it didn’t go unappreciated.  Big Smile

On the writing front…

Chucklers, Volume 1 – Severed Press put CV1 on an Amazon countdown sale for 99¢ and advertised it in the Booksends newsletter. The sale ends at 2AM tomorrow morning (central time), or just about fifteen hours from the time of this posting.  So here’s me, crossing my fingers and hoping sales do well.

End Point PangaeaEPP moved slowly for a bit, but I’m back on it today.  Between the holidays, and other writing projects, EPP simply didn’t get the attention it deserved, so the progress meter on it barely moved over the holidays.  That changes now.

FSJ – The Sekrit Projekt went pretty well. For now, I’m waiting to see what happens with it, and that’s all I can say about it for now.

Year 12 – I got the file for the Y12 print interior and, after some quick back and forth changes, I’ve approved the result and we’re moving on to the e-book files and print cover.  I’m hopeful that the final product will be ready to publish VERY soon.   Grin

So that’s it in my world. Time to get back to writing.  So as always, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you more next week. Bye

Oct 202016
 

081215_1754_WW8Publishi1.jpgIt’s been a few weeks since I posted here.  Last you heard, I had just published  the short story, The Burning Land. Since then, I’ve been working like a fiend on my next two releases, Chucklers – Book 1, and Year 12, both of which are very close to being published.

CB1 – I have to admit to a bit of panic when Severed sent me the CB1 ebook file for approval.  See, I had requested a copy of the formatted .mobi file with the cover, table of contents, front matter, back matter, etc.  Basically, I wanted to see exactly what it was going to look like when a reader loaded it onto their Kindle.  I’m one of those readers who reads my Kindle with the nighttime mode on.  I find it easier on  my eyes.

If you don’t already know, night mode is the setting on most Kindles wherein you can invert the standard setting of black text on a white background, to white text on a black background.  There is even a sepia setting for those who prefer black text, but find the white background to tiring on the eyes.  However, I’ve run into documents that have formatting issues that only become visible in night mode.  Things like a bad tag on the text color that makes it black, even when the color of the background changes.  Yeah, try reading black text on a black background sometime.  See how well that works for you.  Dazed

Another common problem is when certain parts of the work refuse to accept the night setting. You’re reading along, relaxing with your low light, white text/black background setting, when WHAM!  You click to the next page and there is a section that has black or gray text that is “highlighted” with a bright, white background, like in the picture above.

I’ve dealt with those, and other issues, either with my own titles, or in other books I’ve read.  As a result, I’m a little cautious.  I like to make sure my titles are as problem free as I can make them.  So when I opened the file they sent me, only to find no cover, no TOC, no front or back matter at all, and more than two dozen formatting problems, I have to admit, I began to panic.  I contacted the fine folks at Severed with a list of the issues and got a puzzled reply.  They weren’t having the same problems, even after testing on multiple devices.  They sent another copy of the file, and when I opened it, lo and behold, the cover, front matter, back matter… everything that had freaked me out when I found it missing in the first file, was there.  There were four minor problems, one of which was an error I had made in the original manuscript, that I didn’t catch until going over it again for this pass.

I have no idea what happened, but can only assume that the first file was somehow corrupted in transmission.  Whatever it was, Severed responded quickly, and I’m now confident that CB1 is going to come out as a fine product.  Better yet, it’s close enough to being ready, that I think it will probably be out pretty quickly.  So again, if you haven’t signed up for my new release mailing list, please consider doing so here.  I always make my first announcements and cover reveals there, before anyone else gets to see them.

 

Y12 Year 12 is off to Red Adept Editing.  I’ve used RAE for editing almost everything I’ve self-pubbed, and they’ve never disappointed.  They’re the people I always recommend whenever anyone asks for a good editor.  Since this is the beginning of the editing process, I know I probably have another month or so before Y12 is ready to publish, but believe me, I’m going to keep you all up to date as it winds its way through the process.  Besides, I still need to do a blurb, dedication, acknowledgements, and all the other finishing touches that go on a manuscript before it’s published, not to mention the cover.

And speaking of covers… I had a short conversation with Glendon at Streetlight Graphics that leads me to believe they’re already working on cover design for it.  To be perfectly honest, when they contacted me, I was so busy, that I don’t even fully recall the conversation.  But I do remember answering some of the basic questions they always ask before putting a cover together.  By the way, they’re another company I can recommend with the utmost confidence.  They do great covers and formatting if you’re in the market.

So, Y12 is getting close to publication, too.  I feel pretty confident that it will be out before the end of the year.

 

Other projects –

EPPEnd Point Pangaea is back on top as my priority WIP.  I hope to have the first draft done by the end of the year.

TBLThe Burning Land – But wait!  That one is already published, isn’t it?  Well, yes.  But I’m going to use it to try my hand at producing an audiobook.  I’ve already got a few titles out on Audible, but I’ve never taken the time to actually record one, myself.  But TBL, as a short story, is short enough that I hope to learn that process, and so open another income stream.

After those?  Well, I have several titles I plan on doing.  I just don’t know which ones will top the list.  I need to do Chucklers – Book 2, End Point Pangaea 2, the second Amber Payne book, or any one of several other projects.

But for now, I need to go fix dinner.  Sausage-stuffed portobello caps and salad.  Yum!   Big Smile  So stay safe, everyone.  I’ll talk to you next time.  Bye

 

Jul 152015
 

Mailchimp signupYay!  I got the visual editor for my website working again (mostly).

Just in time for Wednesday, too.  And I’ve got a lot going on with my writing since the last blog post. First and foremost, you will notice a new signup field on my site. If you’re reading this on the actual site, you will see it over there on the right. The header presently reads “Sign up for new release notifications”. If you’re getting this in a feedburner email, the signup form looks like the picture accompanying this post. At the moment, it’s not much to look at. Maybe I’ll be able to pretty it up later on, but for now, I thought it was more important to get it up and active.

Now that last sentence will likely get a “huh?” out of a lot of you. In other words, why the push to get the mailing list going?

Like I said, I have a lot going on with my writing now. And ironically, a lot of this is due to an inspirational roadblock I hit on Year 12. Without going into a lot of detail, I hit a brick wall with the plot on Y12… lost the flavor. There was a day of panic, hair pulling, and chest beating before I decided my time would be better spent moving on to another project. Not wanting to actually start a whole different book, I instead began a project that I’ve had percolating for quite some time. It will be the story of how the antagonist from Half Past Midnight managed to roll into Rejas at the head of a small army. The story should be another novella, similar in length to The Road to Rejas – possibly a bit shorter. I’ve tentatively titled it Crazy Larry.

Additionally, I have another project that I’ve been slowly working on. It’s going to be a short story collection, and it came about because there are a few particular stories that some of you have asked me to publish, but I’ve not felt right about. Not that I don’t think they’re good, it’s just that I don’t feel right charging a reader 99¢ for a short story that will only keep them occupied for a few minutes. Yet 99¢ is the least amount that epublishers will allow you to charge. And let’s face it, after paying for editors, cover work, and formatting, I at least need to recoup my expenses on the work, right?

But if I put them all into a collection together, along with some that very few people have ever seen before, then I have a single edit, one cover, and can sell it in good conscience, knowing that I’ve given the reader their money’s worth.

And since the story collection is a bit shorter than most of my work, I’ve decided to throw in the beginning of something else a lot of you have been asking for. I’m adding the first chapter for the Streets of Payne sequel (working title Payne and Suffering).

So if you want to receive announcements about these, or any other writing I do as it nears release, please sign up for the mailing list. I’m not going to spam you, or bother you with the day to day miscellany. I figure, if you really want to torture yourself with that stuff, you can just read my blog, right?

And that’s it for now. Back to writing.

Stay safe, folks.  Bye

Jun 242015
 

WW1A lot of us writer-type folks seem to be freaking out over Amazon’s changes in its payment policies on the relatively new Kindle Unlimited program. The panic attacks are instigated by misleading article headlines that (whether intentionally or out of ignorance) scream to the rafters that Amazon is once again trying to ruin self-publishing. These headlines scream that the ‘Zon is now only going to pay authors by the page read. According to several of the articles I’ve seen, the author will only be paid for the portion of the books that you (the reader) actually read. I’ve seen all sorts of analogies – from the cook only getting paid for the part of the meal you ate, to the musician only getting paid for the part of the CD you listen to. But that’s NOT what’s going on here folks.

All of us who publish through Amazon received the same email, and it says very plainly,

We’re always looking at ways to make our programs even better, and we’ve received lots of great feedback on how to improve the way we pay KDP authors for books in Kindle Unlimited. One particular piece of feedback we’ve heard consistently from authors is that paying the same for all books regardless of length may not provide a strong enough alignment between the interests of authors and readers. We agree. With this in mind, we’re pleased to announce that beginning on July 1, the KDP Select Global Fund will be paid out based on the number of pages KU and KOLL customers read.

(NOTE – the underscore and bold in the above quote were added by yours truly.)

When Amazon began Kindle Unlimited, they had a payment plan in which a KU customer could download a book, and as long as they read 20% of the book, the author got paid an equal part of the KU/KOLL (Kindle Owners Lending Library) pool. For those who aren’t familiar, KU and KOLL are programs that allow certain Amazon members to temporarily download e-books, similar to borrowing from a library, so they can read the books without purchasing them at full price. Amazon gets a membership fee as their compensation, and they put a portion of that into a pool to be split among the authors whose books are loaned out to entice more authors to enter programs that make their work available to those customers.

So as I said, when KU came out, as long as the person downloading the book read 20% of it, the author received credit for an equal share of the pool. It didn’t take long for many authors to figure the basic math on that one. Why write a 200 page book that required a reader to read 40 pages before you got paid, when you could write a ten page “book” that required the reader to only read two pages for you to get the same payment? For many authors, the emphasis on writing quickly shifted from writing and publishing novels, to writing and publishing short stories and serialized fiction. I don’t really begrudge those who when that route. It was a basic business decision, and I think everyone involved knew that it was a way of exploiting a loophole in the system. And I think most realized that it was a loophole that was bound to be closed once Amazon figured out how to do it without screwing everyone over. It was pretty much inevitable.

So all the teeth gnashing, and chest beating about how Amazon is screwing the little guy is, once again, nothing more than a bunch of sensationalist BS. Let’s remember that it was just last year that Hachette was screaming to the rafters about how Amazon was using its “monopolistic” position to squeeze the traditional authors out of their pay? Never mind the fact that Amazon paid indies almost three times more per sale than Hachette, or any of the Big 5 paid their authors. Never mind the fact that Amazon’s “monopoly” (which it absolutely isn’t), exists only by virtue of the fact that there is no other place where a customer can go to shop for a book, look for it using all sorts of search parameters and/or keywords, and find it with a few simple clicks of a mouse. Never mind that Amazon’s customers are the ones who determine which books are the best sellers, not the literary critics at a newspaper who get paid to write the reviews.

Monopoly? How is it a monopoly if I can go to Barnes & Noble, or Google, Kobo, Smashwords, or any other online book distributor to buy most books?

“But Amazon requires indies to sell their books exclusively on Amazon!” No, they don’t. They simply make it more attractive and more profitable for those who do. I have experimented with selling exclusive on Kindle Select, and with selling on all the other online distributors. I have done this on several occasions, watching my sales over months to see where it makes more sense for me to place my books. And I have come to the conclusion that for me, it simply makes more financial sense to sell exclusively on Amazon through Kindle Select. The additional money I make via the KOLL “borrows” more than offsets the few paltry sales I get through the other online distributors.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t have any naïve idea that Amazon is in business to promote indie publishers. They’re in business to make money, as most of us are. But I do admire the way they go about it. They recognize that the ones they have to please are not the authors. And it’s not the big traditional publishing houses. From what I see, nearly everything they have done up to this point is in an attempt to please the customer. Isn’t that a novel concept? A business whose primary concern is for the customer!

So look at it from the customer’s perspective. I (the customer me, not the author me) log onto Amazon, and they have a list of items I’ve searched for, items I’ve purchased, items I’ve put in my wish lists, and just about any other kind of item I’ve looked at on their site. They compare that to items purchased or looked at by other people with similar purchase histories, and they put the items in front of me that, based on comparative shopping, they think I might be interested in.

Looking for a fifty inch flat-screen television with smell-o-vision? Sorry, we don’t have that. But people who have searched for similar items have ended up purchasing this similar item for the low price of…. You get the point. Amazon makes it easy to shop on their site. They want to continue to make it easy to shop on their site. Because that’s what keeps us coming back for more.

I’m not going to change that, and the Big 5 aren’t going to change that.

And I find that refreshing.

And before anyone thinks I’m in favor of this because it doesn’t really affect me, since I don’t write much short fiction, let me point out that I will likely begin losing money on this, too. Not because of the KU issue, but because my books are in Kindle Select. This means that I currently get money for people who “borrow” my books via KOLL. And if you recall, KOLL will now also be thrown into the “pay per page” category. And let’s face it, a lot of people who borrow a book via KOLL probably never read it, or don’t read it all the way through. So yeah, I’ll likely see some money lost. That’s why they call it a business. If I see drastic losses, then it will obviously be time for me to re-evaluate whether or not I keep with the Select program. Right now, I make more through Amazon borrows than I did with Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, et al. If this changes things, then maybe I’ll have to go back to publishing in all the other sites again.

I hope not. That’s a lot of work.

All right. Time to get off my soap box. Time to get back to work on the WIP. Stay safe, everyone.  Bye