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:
Something 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. And while I don’t mind sharing space with Orb Weavers, a Black Widow is another thing altogether. First came the bug spray. 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.
A 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.
So much for my vow to post a minimum of once a month. Shortly after I posted that vow, my father’s health took a turn for the worse. He passed away on February 25th. All I’ll say is that this is not the place to dwell on it. I’m just glad I got the chance to get up here and spend at least a few months with him before he left us.
But this is my writing blog, so I’ll try to keep to it on subject. As the title says, Chucklers has been submitted to a small press. I won’t post any specific details yet, because I don’t know whether or not it will be accepted. There is a blind acquisition process where the manuscript will be stripped of any identifying information and will go before a group of editors who won’t know who wrote it, judging it based on the merits of the writing. I like that idea, but it also scares me. It’s the old fear that at some point, someone is going to read my stuff and figure out that I’m nothing but a hack. I think many, if not most writers go through the same feelings of self-doubt. I would imagine that any sort of craftsman or artist does. Or am I just that insecure? :-/
At any rate, this is the first time I’ve submitted to a small press. Until now, everything I’ve done has been indie. So I called to talk to them about the process in hopes of learning what to expect, and just as importantly, what to NOT expect. I already knew the basics. Assuming the manuscript is accepted, the publisher takes care of the editing, cover art and cover design, formatting for e-book and print, and the headaches of the actual publishing. That means I wouldn’t spend the money on outside services that I normally spend on my books. However, it also means that I surrender a significant amount of control over the process, as well as fifty percent of whatever money the book brings in. I also have to get over my nearly obsessive daily tracking of my sales numbers. What it really boils down to is that if they accept my work, they are agreeing to be an equal partner in the business venture that Chucklers represents. In short, they become an investor in the book. It will take some getting used to, but my insecurity is my own. This is simply the way small presses work.
When I sit back and really think about all the ins and outs, the only real concern I have is with the schedule. When I put the money up on my own, I pay for outside services (editing, cover art/design, formatting) and as soon as it’s done to my satisfaction, I publish. Assuming I don’t take too long with my edits, the time from manuscript submission to the editors to publishing the finished product is usually three or four months. Going through the publisher, it’s going to be closer to a year… possibly longer.
Now, that doesn’t mean I sit on my thumbs and wait for a year. It simply means that I have to put Chucklers out of my head for however long it takes to get word on whether or not the manuscript is accepted. It means I need to shift to other projects and get them moving. I need to do things like set up a Mailchimp mailing list, get some backlisted editing done, and get other works written and ready for publication. I received a phone call a few weeks ago reminding me that I had unfinished edits on the short story Ghost Story. I need to pull that out and brush it off. Get it finished and ready for final publication. And it’s time to get going seriously on the sequel to Half Past Midnight. For those who may not know, the name of the sequel is Year 12, and it’s officially going to be my top priority writing project.
There are also a few other writing projects I have in mind, but until I see how things go with Chucklers, I won’t know when I’ll be able to start them. All I can say is that I HOPE to get them done this year. But if I can get on schedule here, I stand poised to get two more novels written (and hopefully published), publish Ghost Story before Halloween, possibly publish another short story, and possibly write & publish another novella in the HPM universe.
So wish me luck. This year promises to be a completely new learning experience on many levels.
Yeah, I’ve been quiet for a while. Ironically, it’s not because I haven’t been busy. Quite the opposite. Life has been pretty “interesting” for the last few months. As in “may you live in interesting times” interesting. :struggle:
My wife & I sold our house about two months ago. The idea was that we would downsize to a smaller house with more property. But during the interim between selling the old house & buying a new one, we were going to stay with family members. We expected it to be a matter of a few weeks, possibly a month or two.
But right after we moved in with them, life jumped up and smacked us all. We had a few crises that have demonstrated to us that Murphy is alive and well, and apparently has taken a liking to our family. I won’t go into details, because those stories aren’t mine to tell. But a minor side effect has been that I haven’t been paying much attention to marketing for my writing, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know when this is going to change. As a result, my numbers have slipped drastically, and I simply don’t have the time or setup to pursue the “traditional” marketing venues.
So I’m going to try an experiment here. It may work, and it may not. I just figure this is the perfect opportunity to try something off the wall.
My book with the worst numbers right now is “Streets of Payne”. I don’t know if it’s because the book is cyberpunk, and there simply isn’t the following for the genre that there once was, or if it’s because that’s my newest book, or if I’ve made a mistake with the cover, or blurb, or categorization, or what… All I know for sure is that the thing isn’t selling.
So here’s my experiment. If you think you might be interested in a cyberpunk-ish techno-thriller, check out Streets of Payne. If it looks like something you might be interested in, buy it. I recently lowered the e-book price to $2.99, so it’s not like it’s going to break the bank. And for the first three people who purchase the novel in the next 24 hours, and can provide me with electronic proof of purchase, I will give you an Audible.com promo code for the free download of each of my three published works in audio format.
So, buy “Streets of Payne” in print or electronic format within the next 24 hours, email me (jlb DOT author AT gmail DOT com) with your proof of purchase, and I will send you promo codes for the free download of the Audible.com audio book versions of “Streets of Payne“, “Half Past Midnight“, and “The Road to Rejas“.
I will do this for the first threepeople who contact me with proof of purchase before 10PM central time, Monday night.
And then I’ll do it again for the NEXT 24 hours… and the next… until Friday night, or until I run out of codes, whichever comes first. Like I said, I don’t know if this little experiment will help, but I figure it probably can’t hurt, either. Right? :-?
Linda Prather contacted me last week and invited me to participate in something called the “My Writing Process” blog tour. Linda is a great author, and I’m proud to say, a good friend, as well. She is the author of the Jacody Ives Mysteries, and the Catherine Mans psychic suspense novels (some of my personal favorites), and recently participated in marketing her novel “The Gifts” as one of “The Deadly Dozen”, a boxed set of twelve mysteries and thrillers by some of the best writers in their fields. It was this boxed set that recently landed her the coveted titles of “USA Today Best Selling Author” and “New York Times Best Selling Author”. Yeah, I wanna be like Linda when I grow up.
To see what Linda had to say about her writing process, check out her blog post here.
Now, for the blog tour itself. The “My Writing Process” blog tour is where various authors answer four particular questions about how and why they write what they do. It’s always the same four questions, but as you might imagine, the answers are as varied as the authors themselves. Curious about it, I looked it up and tried tracing it back to see if I could find the origins of this tour. HAH! After finding literally hundreds of entries spanning back over at least three years, I finally gave up. This thing is simply too huge and widespread to find an origin. I can imagine someone one day asking an author, “Hey, how do you write the stuff you write?” and from there becoming a tradition of sorts.
Whatever its origins, I am honored to have been asked. Thanks for inviting me along, Linda. :-))
Now, on to the questions of the tour…
MY WRITING PROCESS
1) What are you currently working on?
I have a few irons in the fire at the moment. My main project right now is Chucklers. It’s a collaborative apocalyptic/horror novel that I’m writing with horror writer, and good friend, Edward Lorn. Ed approached me with the idea of expanding on a premise he wrote in his short story “He Who Laughs Last” from his story collection, What the Dark Brings. After talking a bit, I think we both got pretty excited about where it looked like the story was going to go, and we dove in. Recently, we realized that Chucklers is a much larger story than we anticipated, and it looks like it’s going to end up as a trilogy.
I also have a sequel to my first novel in the works. I’m working on it under the working title of “Year 12”, and as is the nature of working titles, it may or may not change. It will be the story of Zachary Dawcett, the young boy who was kidnapped in the last part of Half Past Midnight. As the title implies, it is set twelve years after the Doomsday War of HPM, and Zachary is a young man now, in a world struggling to rebuild.
And finally, I have something new. WC1 is my manuscript code for a more traditional SF novel. I wrote a little bit about it in an earlier post. I like to call it “military sci-fi – light”. I don’t have a military background, and what I have in mind is going to be considerably different from what most people would think of when they hear the words “military science fiction”. But it will definitely be science fiction, and will deal with a war, so for now… military sci-fi light.
2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?
First of all, I don’t think genre really applies to me. In this breakneck paced world of e-books and self publishing, many authors no longer seem to stick to a single genre. I know that has always been the case to a certain extent, but it is so much more common now, and I’m nothing if not common. :-P
Currently, I dabble in several genres; post-apocolyptic, cyberpunk, horror, science fiction, and am even considering writing a reference book for writers. So let me address the question as a matter of writing style; How does my work differ from others?
Something that I try to do in all my work is to bring an air of inner strength to my characters. Whether the story is about a family in a near future east Texas after a nuclear war, or a female detective three hundred years in the future, I try to make my main characters as independent and resourceful as I can. And then I try to test their limits.
I’m also a bit of a research junkie. I strive to bring as much realism into my settings as I can. I once spent three days researching atmospheric density, Rayliegh scattering, types of photosynthesis, stellar classifications and the frequency of the various star types in our galaxy, molecular composition of translucent atmospheric particulates… all to see what color the sky might be in the world of a short story I was writing for an anthology.
3) Why do you write what you do?
As strange as it sounds, I think I want to help people. I want to write stories that show readers that everyone can be a hero. You don’t have to be a hulking mass of muscle to win the day, as long as you embrace your inner strengths. I’ve mentioned it before, but much of my writing is influenced by my martial arts training, as is my life in general.
I learned early on that there are advantages and disadvantages to all physical attributes. If you’re tall and muscular, you likely have a longer reach and body strength. But a smaller, lighter person is likely faster, and can be trained to take advantage of a larger person’s higher center of gravity, unbalancing their opponent. It’s a lesson I learned early in life when someone half my size wiped the mat with me during a judo randori. That was roughly forty years ago, and the lesson has stuck.
I’ve seen too many people (including yours truly) underestimate the abilities of their opponents, as well as their own abilities, whether they be physical or intellectual. I want my stories to get people to think outside the box. I want them to realize their own strengths and weaknesses, to ask themselves, “could I do that in that situation?” I want people to keep the thought in the back of their minds that there are often unorthodox solutions to common problems, if only you are willing to embrace them. I want them to realize that they don’t have to rely on someone else to be the hero of their story–that heroes are often just ordinary people who are willing to step up and face the crap that life throws at them.
4) How does your writing process work?
It varies. (I suppose that shows that I’m still pretty new to the writing business.) I’ve had instances where a story comes to me pretty much full-blown, beginning to end, all at once. There is one currently on my “to do” list that came to me in a dream one night. It was an entire story that I woke up with and scrambled to get on paper before it left me. There are others where I have nothing but a specific scene or idea that I have to think about for a long time before the actual story comes to me. For instance, my short story The Burning Land (the one for which I did all the atmospheric research), in the Explorers: Beyond the Horizon anthology, also started because of a dream. (I wrote about the process of that one in more detail in an earlier blog post.) For now, I’ll just say that I awoke from a dream about a story, and the dream led me down a days-long rabbit hole of research that I found so fascinating that I believe I will likely revisit the world later on to expand the setting of The Burning Land into a full length novel.
And yes, I am definitely a research junkie. I get carried away with my world building to the point that most of what I write in notes never makes it to the final manuscript. I’m sure it’s a common frustration with writers–you spend hours and hours writing notes so that you know the world of your story inside and out, only to have most of it end up on the metaphorical cutting room floor. But in my opinion, it is a necessity. As the author you have to know your world in minute detail, but you don’t want to burden the reader with extraneous information that doesn’t really contribute to the story you’re writing.
And I’m now learning about writing with another author. Collaboration writing is much different from anything I’ve done up to now. It’s exciting, exhilarating, and incredibly satisfying to see the words fly almost effortlessly onto the page. And working with a good partner helps keep the story fresh. I’m lucky enough to be working with someone who thinks a lot like I do, yet different enough that we often surprise one another with what we come up with. It keeps the story fresh and exciting for us while we write it. The only problem is scheduling, and that is something that can always be worked through.
So that’s it. There are my answers to the “My Writing Process” questions. And now it’s time for me to pass the baton. I’d like to introduce you to three authors whose work I have read and enjoyed. They have accepted the invitation to post a bit about their writing processes, so watch for their blog posts next Monday (April 28) to see how they approach the craft of writing.
So next week, watch for…
Edward Lorn is an American horror author presently residing in the southeast United States. He enjoys storytelling, reading, and writing biographies in the third person.
Once upon a time, during a session of show and tell, a seven-year-old Edward Lorn shared with his class that his baby brother had died over the weekend. His classmates, the teacher included, wept while he recounted the painful tragedy of having lost a sibling. Edward went home that day and found an irate mother waiting for him. Edward’s teacher had called to express her condolences. This was unfortunate, as Edward had never had a baby brother.
With advice given to her by a frustrated teacher, Edward’s mother made him start writing all of his lies down. The rest, as they say, is history.
Edward Lorn and his wife are raising two children, along with a handful of outside cats and a beagle named Dot. He remains a liar to this day. The only difference is, now he’s a useful one.
Justin Macumber is the author of Haywire, A Minor Magic, and the newly released Still Water. Justin was the founder and host of the popular Dead Robots’ Society podcast, having only recently stepped down as host to spend more time on his writing. He is still a co-host on The Hollywood Outsider, a weekly podcast about movies and television and does weekly TV Talk chats for Grimm and Sleepy Hollow.
He and his lovely wife live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex along with their motley pack of dogs and cats that they think of as their children.
A resident of New Jersey, Mary currently works in financial marketing. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy. In her spare time (when she has any), she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things—she’ll try almost anything once.
Mary graduated Magna cum Laude from Princeton University in 2010 with a Bachelor of the Arts in Music, specializing in composition. Although she is currently focusing on writing, music is still her first love, and so in her spare time she composes songs and soundtracks. You can follow her at her blog, on twitter, or on Facebook.