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.  :sidefrown:

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.  :-))

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.   :-D

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!   :-))  So stay safe, everyone.  I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

 

Jun 092016
 

ww44Sorry I’m late with this post. There was a lot going on in the “Personal” sector of my life yesterday, and I was so preoccupied with it that I honestly went all day thinking it was Tuesday. It wasn’t until MBH and I were taking the girls for their evening walk that I realized it was Wednesday. By then it was too late to do much about it.  And as it turns out, it was probably kismet that things turned out that way.  Why?

As those of you who frequent Facebook know, after you’ve been there a while, you begin getting notifications about “memories” each day.  These are reminders of things you posted on the same date, in years past.  By interesting coincidence, it was exactly one year ago today that I committed here on the blog to be more regular on my blog posts, AND to making the writing more of a priority. I guess I can count myself at least partly successful.  And it somehow seems fitting that I start the next steps of the journey on the anniversary of that promise to myself.

Next steps?  Yep.   :-D

As I’ve been hinting at for the last two weeks, I’ve been in communication with a small press about working with them on some books. Well, it’s finally done!  Mostly, that is.  As of today, the contracts are signed, witnessed, scanned, and emailed.  I suppose it’s technically not a done deal until they send back the copies with their signatures as well, but at this stage, that’s mostly just a formality (I hope).  So I think it’s safe to announce now that I’m now part of the Severed Press stable of authors.  I’ve signed two contracts, for two series of books – the Chucklers trilogy (which I’ve been working on -off and on- for a couple of years), and another project that will likely turn into a series that I’m just going to call EPP for now.

 

So, status reports –

Writing –

Chucklers – rewrites are about done (hopefully by tomorrow), and I think I’ve fixed the timeline problems I was having. It will go back out to betas either this weekend, or early next week.  Looks like the current draft is going to come in at just a bit over 120k words.  This novel has been so much more complicated to put together than I ever imagined.  Two contiguous timelines that have to intertwine, showing events happening in three different locations with six main POV characters, and a host of secondary POVs. There have been times when I’ve had to put it in the drawer for months at a time just to get a fresh perspective on it.  :-?

EPP – New project – This is the first of at least two novels set in mid-Triassic Pangaea, about 240 million years in our past.  It’s going to be quite a departure from anything else I’ve written, and is going to take a LOT of research.  But I’m a glutton for punishment, and I’m actually looking forward to working on it.  So wish me luck.   :-/

Miscellany – I’ve had a recent streak of winning things over the last several weeks.  Nothing huge, but a book here, a door prize there. Most recently, I won a free book cover from author/artist Denise Lhamon.  I need to figure out what to use it on.  Maybe the EPP project?  Hmmm….

 

Personal –

I just found out that our eldest had to put her pug down this morning.  He was very old (I think fourteen years), was listless, had stopped eating and drinking, and had lost a lot  of weight, so it was time.  But as anyone who has been through this can attest to, knowing it’s the right thing to do doesn’t make it any easier. MBH & I had to put one of our dogs to sleep several years ago after he had a stroke.  I walked out of the vets office with water running down my face, and that dog didn’t even like me!

But there’s an undeniable connection between the pet and the pet-owned.  And it hurts like hell when that connection is lost.   :-((

WW44BOn a brighter note, Baby Bird is supposed to come for a visit in a few days. Things can still change, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s going to work out.  If you’ve read my past posts, you know that she recently graduated with her BFA, and she’s making the transition from college life to working to pay the bills.  She put the word out this morning on FB that she’s now able to do some commissioned paintings.  Before now, almost all of her time was spent doing work that was assigned to her for her classes.  Now that she’s graduated, she wants to start by doing some 9×12 inch gouache (it’s a type of opaque watercolor – I had to look it up ;-)  ) human/animal morphing paintings similar to the one here.  If you’re interested, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with her.

As of now (about six hours after she made the post), she has six inquiries, with at least two of them sounding pretty serious. I hope this works out for her.  I know I’m the proud parent, but she really is incredibly talented.

 

So that’s it.  Sorry again for the late post.  And as always, stay safe everyone!   :bye:

Oct 142015
 

Critter notes –

Last week I mentioned some of the furry critters we’re learning to share space with.  Some are harmless, like the rabbits, deer, and armadillos.  Others are nuisances, like the opossum from the other night, or the moles that dig in the yard.  And of course, some are downright nasty.  Just ask Bella and Cricket about that skunk.   :pain:

Brown Orb WeaverSomething else that we’ve noticed lately though, doesn’t exactly fall into the furry critter category.  There are some BIG spiders here that seem to be relatively common.  Now, we’re used to the little grass spiders, wolf spiders, etc, that are common in the Houston area, but these suckers are huge by comparison.  I’m pretty sure that they’re Brown Orb Spiders, but since I’m no expert, I could be wrong.  This not-so-little beauty keeps weaving its web just to the side of our front entrance.  I’ve knocked the web down when it gets too close to the walkway, since MBH is considerably less tolerant of our eight-legged neighbors, but he keeps building back up in the same general area.  I generally don’t have much of a problem with them, and I’ve noticed them all around the neighborhood, so I guess they’re simply more common here.

Cricket has a couple of hot spots on her back, and she’s chewed strips into her fur with all the gnawing.  I looked online, and found that a vet recommends treating it with diluted povidone iodine.  So I made the diluted solution, took her on the back patio, and swabbed the affected areas.  (I’m supposed to do this twice a day until the spots clear up.)

Coming back inside though, I saw this little guy on the left. Black Widow-01 And while I don’t mind sharing space with Orb Weavers, a Black Widow is another thing altogether.  First came the bug spray. Black Widow-02 That was quickly followed by my size twelve spider stomper.  I might not mind spiders, but I’m no saint, either.   :shock:  I have several friends who usually mention spiders and flamethrowers in the same breath.  Black Widows are enough to make me think they just might be right.

So, on to writing notes…

Giveaway notes –

Last weekend was the big giveaway.  Okay, maybe not all that big, but it was a giveaway.  Friend and reviewer, Carol Conley from the “I’m a Voracious Reader” book review blog, contacted me a few weeks ago to let me know she had read Ghost Story, and wanted to know if I would consider running some free days to coincide with the release of her review.  Now, I generally don’t like doing free days, since my experience with them has been mostly negative in the last couple of years.  They worked really well for me back in the early days of Amazon’s KDP Select program, and I’ll never forget that first nail-biter when I put HPM up for free shortly after it released.  In a single day, I gave away more than 11k copies of Half Past Midnight.  That giveaway, and the reviews it sparked, shot followup sales through the roof for the better part of the following year.

For a new author, just getting his feet wet in the world of indie publishing, it was nothing short of miraculous!

Of course, shortly after that, Amazon changed their algorithm, as they so often seem to do.  The next time I ran a book for free, it didn’t do nearly as well, but wasn’t a total loss.  So I tried it again later.  The third time I did it was with the release of Streets of Payne.  This time, not only did I not get as big a response, I completely lost all momentum and sales actually went down.  When I checked into it, it seemed that moving from the Top 100 Sold, to the Top 100 Free was a sales killer.  Since “free” was not “sold”, SoP‘s sales rank dropped like a stone.  No visibility, no sales.  It was the exact opposite of the Ouroboros Effect I wrote about in an old post “In answer to Mike’s question…“, and this time instead of boosting my sales, it actually killed them.

So no, I don’t like doing free days any more.  But Carol is a friend, Ghost Story is just a novella, and it’s not like it was really selling all that well anyway.  So what did I really have to lose, right?   :-/   And while I was putting Ghost Story out there for free, why not also throw SoP out again?  It wasn’t selling either, so what could it hurt?

As it turned out, nothing.  It didn’t hurt, and there actually was a slight bump in sales afterwards.  Not huge, but a few extra sales is a few extra sales.  Yay team!   :-)

Year 12 notes

I have problems with what I call “transition scenes” when I’m writing.  I get scene “A” pretty clear in my mind, and I go after it, flying through it like there’s no tomorrow.  I can see in my mind where scene “B” is, and how it should run.  But the transition from “A” to “B” stumps me.  For whatever reason, I get hung up in the minutia of who says what to trigger what, and why did this do that, and… I get stuck.  I just got through one of these transitions yesterday, and I have to say, I get a little frustrated with myself.  I feel like I should be able to knock out three or four thousand words a day.  Instead, I’m lucky if I average over one thousand.

Yeah, I have problems.  But I’m progressing.  Not as quickly as I want, but I’m progressing.

Speaking of writing, I need to get back to doing just that.  So time to stop whining, and get back to work.  Take care of yourselves, and stay safe.  I’ll talk to you later.   :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: