Monday, October 24, 2016

Where the Magic Occurs

So, I was sitting around Saturday morning looking at stuff and junk, when I realized that I didn't like my Twitter header anymore.  Which led to the bright idea to take a picture of my actual workspace.  Which led to this post. 

This is where I work - exactly as it is.  No retouching.  No cleaning.  Just my spot.  As is.  Kinda like me.  ;o)

So, there I am - laid out in workspace style.  You see my coffee mug.  You see my pack of smokes and my ashtray.  You see the myriad of writing utensils - one cup for pens and pencils, one for markers, and the last for highlighters.  Two calendars - the plain one on the wall for keeping track of things and my bird of the day calendar in the corner. (Today's bird is the White Tern.) There's also a photo of my mom and dad.  The remote goes to my little stereo, but I rarely listen to that. If you look closely, you'll find my headphones hanging from the drawer knob. Better to listen to tunes without disturbing the Hubs. The two books under my monitor are old Funk & Wagnalls dictionaries (A-L and M-Z).  The corner of the frame you can see in the upper right is a copy of The Declaration of Independence. 

For the record, those drapes are never opened.  And the window behind them leads to another room.  (I didn't design this place, so no clue why there's a window looking out on the sun room, but no windows looking outside.) 

Looking at this closely, you can also tell I need to dust.  Yikes, my keyboard.  Don't let the dust fool you.  If you could zoom in, you'd see there's no dust on the keys I actually use.  In fact, there are hardly any letters left on the keys I use most frequently.  Again.  I can't keep keyboard letters intact for more than a few months.

So, anyway, there I am.  Pretty much everything you need to know about me can be found in that picture.  (Okay, so you can't tell what's on the monitor.  It's a manuscript.  Naturally.)  All it needs is food and a little sculpture of a fish.

If you designed a workspace* that told your story, what would be on your desk?

*I didn't design it that way.  It just ended up being that way.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Crime in the News - Accidental Shooting?

A news story developed here in Missouri over the weekend.  An 18-yr old man was shot and killed by another 18-yr old man. 

Around here that's not usually a story worth following.  It seems to happen more and more around any city of more than x-number of people.  Even in the little outlying towns.


Initial reports claimed this was an accidental shooting.  The dead man was supposedly the shooter's best friend.  And it's all so very tragic.  He says he wasn't expecting the friends he had invited over to arrive from that direction, so he was afraid and fired a weapon.


One particular witness says that when the car pulled up, he heard the shooter call the deceased by name.

It still could be an accident.  The same witness says he heard "Oh expletive" either right before or right after he heard the shot. 


Why did he have a gun in his hand when walking out to greet friends?  Why would he have a gun in his hand when walking out to greet strangers for that matter?  Paranoia?


The shooter was the one to call 911, and he was standing there crying while the EMTs tried to save the other guy's life.  Could be he was genuinely sorry because he had accidentally killed his friend.

Could also be that he was fake crying to try and smooth the way for a lesser charge. 

He's been charged with 1st degree murder and armed criminal action.  Whether those charges stick or they plead it down to a lesser charge or the evidence bears out that it was actually an accident, time will tell.

What do you think?

(As always, I don't have all the details, but I've given you what I do have - minus the names and locations so this doesn't blow up all over the internet with for/against people stopping by here to bitch at me.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Crime in the News

Okay, so here's another crime news item for your consideration...

Recently, there was a shooting and an assault in the parking lot of a major retail chain.  Man shot.  Woman injured.  Man in custody.

My first though was 'domestic issue', and I was right.  The shooter was the woman's ex-boyfriend and baby daddy.  The shootee was the woman's current boyfriend.  And the woman was severely beaten by the shooter.

They found the dude.  A little while later, they found the gun.  Easy peasy, right?  One would hope.  But...

In a later interview with the shooter's ex-wife, we learn that this particular dude has a mean streak a mile long and a penchant for putting the blame on someone else.  And getting away with it.  "She was flirting with someone else" was apparently sufficient in one instance to get charges reduced after he beat his wife.  As if, even if it were true, her behavior was worthy of a beating.  Or the idea that because he had a single scratch on his face, she was also culpable in the 4-hour beating that she endured.

Now, don't get me wrong.  There are plenty of times when both parties are culpable.  And the above is only her side of the story.  But when you add in the various restraining orders against the dude, and his subsequent behavior against this other woman, it's easier to guess who's the aggressor in this case.

The ex-wife said she knew it was only a matter of time before he tried to kill someone.  She had been afraid it would be her.  Now, she's afraid he'll get out and come after her again, but she felt like she had to say something.

I haven't seen any more follow-up news stories on this yet, but I'll be interested to find out what happens.  And whether he tries to lay blame elsewhere again. 

Oh, and coincidentally, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Remember, people who love you should NEVER hurt you.  Get out.  Get help.

Your turn.  Thoughts?  Opinions?  Would you speak up if it were you?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Just the Facts

Hubs and I were watching a true crime show on Friday night.  I think it was 48 Hours.  Might've been Dateline.  Anyway, the evidence seemed pretty clear cut to me.  (Hubs, too.)  Even though it was circumstantial.  Neither of us wanted to stay up for the end, so I googled the case.  And discovered that the first trial had ended in a hung jury...

Let me back up a little.  This particular case was 30 years old.  A woman was found by the side of the road, barely hanging onto life.  She couldn't tell anyone what happened and she never would.  Her head was caved in.  There wasn't a great deal of physical evidence.  There were no witnesses.  There was only the man who found her.  Or rather, the man who said at the time that he'd been driving down the road and had seen what he thought might be a body, so he whipped a u-turn, and when he realized the woman was still alive, went down the street knocking on doors, looking for help. 

Then, after some further investigation, the man who 'found' her said that actually she'd been in his car with him, but she'd fallen out of his car on a turn.  Except the body was 200 feet from the nearest curve.  Except the woman only had the head injuries - no road rash, no messed up clothing.  Even her shoes were with her and she was wearing clogs.

But they had no real evidence, so the case went cold... 

Flash forward thirty years.  Her daughter, who was only a baby when she died, had badgered the local authorities into opening the case again.  Interviews of whoever was still around ensued.  Evidence - what little there was left of it (a lot of the case file had disappeared) - was reviewed.  It all boiled back around to the man who 'found' her.  Turns out he was a bouncer in the bar where she was last seen.  Turns out he had a new story that still didn't match the evidence - this time she'd fallen out of his car and hit her head on a mailbox pole.  (There was no mailbox anywhere near where she was found.)  It was all just a horrible accident.

Now, I've probably left out a bunch of stuff.  The guy, for instance, had been a model human being for the past thirty years.  The woman's boyfriend had been in and out of jail for the past thirty years.  A butterfly was probably flapping its wings off the coast of Chili.  None of that really mattered when you looked at the facts.

The facts were that the last person this woman was with had lied.  Repeatedly.  The evidence showed that her head was bashed in.  There was no evidence of anything that would resemble a fall from a moving vehicle.  And there was only one person in the vicinity who could've ended this woman's life - however you put together the pieces. 

If you strip away all the unnecessaries, the equation is simple. 

But, the first jury was hung.  The defense introduced theories to cloud up the simple equation.  The prosecution introduced theories which clouded up the simple equation.  2 + 2 = 4 turned into (6 divided by 2 -1) + (the square root of 4 plus 0) equals X. 

The next jury got it right.  Guilty.  15 to life.  (Which is apparently the most you can get in the state where this occurred.) 

My theory?  He offered her a ride home and tried something.  She said no.  She tried to get away and he whacked her in the back of the head, knocking her down, then he hit her a couple more times in the side and the front of her head.  Then he panicked.  He got in the car to drive away, but realized she wasn't dead, so he went back and tried to make it look like he was a concerned citizen, in case she woke up and identified him as the one who beat her.  I don't know for sure.  It's just a theory. 

No way, in any theory I could think of - and I thought about this a lot as I was trying to fall asleep that night - did 'accidental' come into the equation. 

Something to think about if you're ever sitting a jury, I guess.  Try to boil out all the unnecessaries and look only at the facts.  Make a decision based on those.  I'll probably never get to sit on a jury - not if the attorneys ask me any questions during jury selection. Which reminds me... I'm still on the jury pool here in MO until next month.  I wonder if they'll call me up. 

Have you ever been on a jury? 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Value of Time - Part 2

I've been thinking about the whole 'value of time' thing and the hard numbers. 

For me, here's an estimate of how it works out...

My first drafts work out to be approximately 70,000 words.  I type an average of 1000 words an hour.  So, that's 70 hours.  Add another conservative estimate of 40 hours for editing it to the point where I can have my editor look at it.  Another 25 hours of inputting her initial edits.  Another 15 hours of inputting her proofreading edits.  Another 5 hours of final read-through to catch anything I might've missed.  2 hours of formatting. 

70+40+25+15+5+2 = 157 hours.  And that's if I don't make my own cover.  And it doesn't count research or networking or any one of a sundry other things I do to make a book happen.

157 hours.

At federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, that means a book would cost $1138.25 in labor.  Of course, the last time I had a job, I was earning roughly $19 an hour, so that's $2983 for a book.  And if I wanted to get freaky, when I was doing computer consulting, the company billed my time at $60 an hour, so that would be $9420, but they only gave me like $20 of that, so we're back to around $3000.

$3000 per book in labor alone. 

If I priced it that way, I'd only need to sell one. LOL.  But, like I said before, the market doesn't give a rat's hairy butt what it costs me to produce a book.  They only care about what they are willing to pay for said book.  Oh, I could charge $9.99.   I'd need to sell about 300 books to break even.  But when I raise my price, I get no sales.  Zero times anything is still always zero, and breaking even point moves farther away instead of closer.  True, I haven't tried raising the price to traditional publishing levels.  That's laughable to me.  I did try once to make one of my books $5.99.  Crickets.  Drop the price to $3.99, I get some sales.  Drop it to $2.99, more sales. 

Now, here's where it gets sticky.  I get even more sales when I go below $2.99, but then I also drop from a 70% royalty structure to 35%.  More sales, less money. 

For the same amount of work.  But, again, readers don't care about my level of effort. Well, unless my level of effort is low and the book is crap.  Then they care.  And I'm okay with that.  That's how it should be. 

I don't tell you any of this to make you feel bad that I'm doing all this work and only making like $2 a book.  That's life.  I'm pretty okay with that $2.  Sell a hundred books, get two hundred dollars.  Sounds good to me.  I'd get it all in cash and roll around in it naked, but that seems silly.  And if I wasn't doing this writing thing for whatever my hourly wage would actually work out to, I'd have to get a job working for someone else.  I could make $9.50 an hour at the Tyson plant, where it either smells like yummy chicken nuggets all day or it smells like rotten meat bad enough to make me gag when I drove past.  (I used to drive by the place to get to Walmart, so yeah, it's either yum or barf.)

Personally, I'd rather be doing this. 

Anyway, that's how it plays out here at the Sanderson Ranch.  Any questions?

Oh, and if your comment doesn't show up right away, it means I went fishing.  ;o)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Let's Talk Numbers Again

It's been a while since I talked numbers here on the blog.  But since I passed a milestone this past month, now is as good a time as any. 

This month, I rolled over $2K in gross earnings.  Yeah, it doesn't sound like much.  But I know there are authors out there struggling worse than I am, so I'm going to be content with that for now. 

Here's how that shakes out. 

First a look back at 2015:

Books sold: 1016.77
Dying Embers: 514.25
Accidental Death: 421.24
Wish in One Hand: 63.52
Blood Flow: 17.75

Now a look at this year so far:

Books sold: 556.57
Dying Embers: 297.23
Accidental Death: 45.28
Wish in One Hand: 98.73
Blood Flow: 7.04
In Deep Wish: 37.46
Fertile Ground: 62.28
Up Wish Creek: 8.55

Yeah, not quite the banner year I was hoping for, but I haven't really done much in the way of advertising this year.  Of course, it's hard to obtain advertising without reviews.  It's also hard to spend money on advertising when you don't have money, but that's my problem.  To make $2K since I started this whole endeavor, I spent around $7K.  The larger portion of that was spent in the first year, so I'm not as deep in the hole this year as I was last year.  So I got that going for me.

Lastly, if you're interested in review numbers, here they are:

Amazon: 27 reviews (4.7 stars)
Goodreads: 53 ratings / 17 reviews (4.13 stars)

Amazon: 7 reviews (4.9 stars)
Goodreads: 24 ratings/ 6 reviews (4.29 stars)

Amazon: 7 reviews (5 stars)
Goodreads: 13 ratings / 7 reviews (4.46 stars)

Amazon: 3 reviews (5 stars)
Goodreads: 4 / 2 (4.75 stars)

Amazon: 4 reviews (4.25 stars)
Goodreads: 6 / 4 (4.17 stars)

Amazon: 1 review (5 stars)
Goodreads: 2 / 2 (5 stars)

Amazon: 2 reviews (5 stars)
Goodreads: 4 / 3 (4.75 stars)

This is only for Amazon US.  I have additional reviews at Amazon UK that shake out about the same way.  No reviews on any other Amazon country site as far as I know.  I had a few reviews at B&N when I sold there.  And I know I have reviews at some of the pirate sites.  (yay, reviews... boo, book piracy)

Anyway, my books are well-received for the most part, so that's good.

Not sure where I was going with all this.  I hope it helps other writers see what's possible (although my numbers my not be indicative of anyone else's success or failure).  I hope it helps readers better understand the self-publishing thing.   

Any questions?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Breaking the Rules

You may have discerned that I don't appreciate people telling me what I can and cannot do with regards to my writing.  (Not without some actual basis in fact, and even then, I'm skeptical until I do my own research.).  When I was a new writer, I railed against all the 'rules' regarding querying, etc.  I followed them, but it grated my butt.  I followed them because the gatekeepers* wouldn't have given me the time of day if I hadn't. 

Now?  Eh.  I do what I want.  I threw out the notion of going through a gate and climbed over the damn wall. 

I'm not sure readers really give a rat's ass about the rules writers are supposed to follow anyway.  Unless they've been listening to the traditional publishing machine.  For me, as a reader, anything goes as long as it's done well.  Want to start a book with a character waking up?  Go for it, but do it well.  Want to start with a dream?  Works for me, as long as it works.  Breaking the rules of grammar?  Fine by me, provided you do it in such a way that makes sense.  (Dialogue is awesome for breaking the rules, because people don't talk proper in most cases.)

Oh, I'm still bound by rules.  They're in the back of my head with everything I read and everything I write, and every time I find myself facing one, I stop and try to figure out whether the rule makes sense or whether I'm just following it because it's accepted by a bunch of people I don't know.  If it's the latter, I throw the damn thing out.  Or at least set it aside and look at it later. 

What are some books you think might've broken some unwritten rule, but that you enjoyed anyway?  I keep going back to a short story I read years ago, by Bradbury I think, that was written entirely in 2nd person.  It totally worked for me and I enjoyed it.  And that's really all that matters, right?

*Yeah, there are gatekeepers in traditional publishing.  But I don't think you're supposed to talk about them.  I'm such a rebel.  LOL