Monday, January 30, 2017

Writers Should Also Be Readers

I don't personally know any writers who aren't also readers.  I've heard tales of non-reading writers, but like mountain lions in Missouri, I haven't encountered one yet.

Now, I'm not talking about writers who don't read while they're writing their first drafts.  It takes a whole lot of writing your own words to defeat the voices of other writers in your head, so I totally get that.  Hell, for years, I couldn't read other works of fiction while I was writing my own.  And then for a while I couldn't read other works in the same genre while I was writing.

Nope, I'm talking about writers who proudly proclaim that they don't read.  Or that they don't read new books.  :shrug:  I don't get it, but whatever.

Personally, I'm a reader.  I've been a reader since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.  And I read widely.  Partly because I was a reader first and I love most genres.  Partly because, as a writer, you never know what might come in handy.

To give you a sample, you can go here to see what I've read so far this year.  Six books - mystery, action, history, paranormal romance, paranormal suspense, and YA paranormal.  Pretty mixed bag, even if you group the paranormals together.

And here's a list of what I've one-clicked to read since the start of 2017...

Remember the Night by Silver James (paranormal romance)
The Thirteenth Man by JL Doty (SF)
In For a Penny by Naigle and Browning (cozy mystery)
Good, Bad, & Sexy by Jennifer Lyon (romance)
No One Lives Twice by Julie Moffett (mystery)
Granny Hooks a Crook by Julie Seedorf (cozy mystery)

Loads of new-to-me authors in there.  I'll intersperse them with some old favorites from my shelves.  Some hard-boiled crime, naturally, along with a few suspense novels waiting for me, and I've got two SF series I'm working my way through, and a couple fantasy series I'm in the middle of.  I might also throw in a classic or two. I also read kids' books when the mood strikes me.  Keepin' it fresh.  You feel me? It's a smorgasbord all up in here.


What kinds of things do you read?  Are you a one/two genre reader or do you read whatever strikes your fancy?  Feel free to give a shout out to your authors of choice. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Tip

If you feel the need, at any point in a relationship, to tell someone 'if I die/disappear, my significant other did it', then you need to get the hell out of that relationship.

I've seen too many true crime shows where the victim said or wrote those words, but they stayed in the relationship anyway and wound up dead.  And, sure enough, it was the significant other that did it. 

Thinking that your significant other may, in fact, kill you - enough that you feel the need to tell someone to look at them for the crime - should be a flashing neon sign.  Don't tell yourself you're being silly.  Don't pretend you're just being paranoid.  Hell, you might be paranoid, but that doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you.  Ya know?

It's your flight instinct at work.  Listen to it.  Run away.  Run away.

And stay alive.

Jus' sayin'. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Crime in the News: What Do You Think?

A couple of days ago... maybe yesterday, I lose track of time... I saw a news story about a known gang member who'd been sentenced to 19 years (for what, I don't remember) and had his sentence commuted by Obama.  The news story was that the man had been murdered in the halfway house where he lived after his dis-incarceration.

Here's what I remember from the story.  Two masked, armed men came into the house.  While one man held the other residents at bay, the other man shot and killed the dude.  Then they left.  No one else was harmed.  So, basically, a hit.

Okay, here's the question of the day...  Do you think the hit was carried out by vigilantes or by rival gang members? 

Personally, I think it could go either way.  If it's rival gang members, it should be this one killing and that's it.  If it's vigilantes, prepare to see more of this.  Obama did commute an awful lot of sentences before he left offices. 

* No, I don't know if he commuted more sentences than other outgoing presidents.  Just stating the fact that he commuted sentences and an opinion that it seemed like a lot to me. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Sneaking in a Snippet

Hey All!  I thought I'd drop a little surprise on y'all this morning.  Here's a first taste of Natural Causes...

Natural Causes
Chapter One
Dennis Haggarty gazed at the clock on his office wall, ticking the seconds until he could go home to his wife.  He still couldn’t wrap his brain around the words ‘his wife’ or the fact that she was leaving him so soon.  In a few short hours, she’d be on a plane headed east to visit a dear friend he’d never met.  Then again, there were a lot of people in Jillian’s life he’d never met. 
He didn’t have anyone left for her to meet.  His sister was dead. His mother and her husband would never speak to him again. As for his former partner, Pat had already adopted the new Mrs. Haggarty like the daughter he never had. 
Dennis didn’t care enough about anyone else to want them to meet his new bride.
The minute hand clicked to quarter after the hour of four.  If he could make it another forty-five minutes without another shitstorm blowing across his desk, he’d be home free.  The newest chief of police in the mountain town of Last Ditch, Colorado could avoid the mundane calls that came in nightly.  He wouldn’t be bothered until morning—not unless something drastic happened or the phone rang while he was still at the office.
No sooner did Dennis finish his thought than the black plastic bastard shrilled.  He waited for Norma to answer, but then he remembered his office manager had taken off early.  Something about a bridal shower or a baby shower or needing a new shower curtain.  Frankly, he couldn’t remember. 
Picking up the phone, he blurted out the standard greeting.  “Last Chance P.D. This is Chief Haggarty.  How can I help you?”

Just a taste and it's not totally edited yet, but I hope you enjoyed it.  I expect to have this ready to publish in a couple of months, depending on editor availability and my own gumption.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Tip

Do not confess to a crime you didn't commit.  Ever.

I don't care if you've been in interrogation for HOURS.  (You can leave any time you want if they haven't actually charged you with anything, or you can shut up and ask for a lawyer.  Either one should stop the interrogation.)

I don't care if they promise you a light sentence or a recommendation to the DA or a puppy or a million dollars.

I don't care if they threaten you.

DO NOT confess to a crime you did not commit.

In case you're wondering, I just saw another true crime show where someone confessed to murder when they didn't do it.

Just don't.  Ever.

(I looked the case up online.  They did find the real killer.  His DNA matched and he left his shoes with his name written inside them at the park where the body was discovered.  He confessed, like he should've.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Keeping Everything or Just Some Things?

I'm a packrat by nature.  This can be a bad thing in terms of space and the fact that I may end up on an episode of Hoarders some day if I don't watch myself.  This can be an excellent thing if I ever need to produce a bill from 2007 or a receipt from 2010. 

Or if I ever need to prove that I wrote what I wrote.

I have documentation of damn near every step along the way - either electronic and hardcopy, and sometimes both.  First draft, second draft, ad infinitum... editor notes, idea notes, etc.

Keeping everything I ever printed from my computer can become problematic, though.  I used to, but the mountain was getting too tall and we were moving and into the shredder that stuff went.  Now I only keep handwritten notes.  In one of the those nifty expanding files thingies.  One slot for each book. 

Except when I get in a shredding frenzy like I did this morning and begin shredding notebook pages before I realize I meant to keep those.  Bleh. 

For the most part, though, it's all saved. 

The notes I keep in the notebook until the notebook is full.  Then I pull out all the pages and file them in their little slots.  (I was keeping the notebooks themselves, but that was a little haphazard since I can use one 5-subject notebook for innumerable manuscripts.)

Sure, I have tons of things I won't ever need.  Like the rejection letters from 2004.  Like any rejection letter from the query process since I won't ever be doing that again.  Or to paraphrase Edna Mode "That was the then, darling. I like to live in the now."  Next time I go through those boxes in the storage closet, I'll cheerfully toss those bad devils. 

Whenever that will be.  In case you missed yesterday's post at The Writing Spectacle, I'm lazy. 

What about you?  Are you a packrat or do you only save what is absolutely necessary to your life now?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sticking to the Budget

Okay, so this is primarily a blog about writing and crime.  But I assume you all realize I am a voracious reader, too.  And since you're all readers (as well as writers and crime buffs), I figure this topic will  interest you, too.


Yeah, I'm groaning right along with you.  I'm groaning especially hard since this book I've been hearing about on Facebook that sounds particularly yummy just released yesterday and it's outside my set budget.

Sorry.  I can't afford to buy new-to-me authors if their books are over $4.  Hell, I'm barely will to spend more than $3, but I'm willing to stretch up a dollar if the premise sounds awesome.  But $4.99 is flat out for debut. No matter how many people recommend you.  No matter who your friends are.  For petesakes, I hardly ever buy $4.99 books from MY friends. 

Just a fact of life.  I have a budget and I have to stick to it.  Even if someone gives me a gift card.  Even when I really really really want to splurge.  Splurging leads to bad habits.  If I splurge today, I'm more likely to splurge next time.  And next time it might be a $9.99 book.  Nope nope nope.  Ten of those and I'm out $100.  I don't have $100 to blow. 

Yeah, I'm a stick in the mud.  Too many years being cash-strapped has made me Auntie Scrooge.  Blah blah blah.  Plenty of cheaper books to read that are just as yummy. 

And as I've said before, this is why all my books are $2.99 (or less, if they're on sale).  Pricing them otherwise would be hypocritical. 

So, while I might drool over higher priced books, I'm being good and sticking to my budget. 

Do you have a book buying budget?  Do you stick to it fervently or is it just a guideline?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Stealing Cover Art is Wrong, Too.

Recently, I ran across something disconcerting on Facebook (I know, I know... big surprise).  I belong to several groups for independent authors who want to post links to their books in hopes of finding new readers, etc.  On one of these groups, a person - who shall remain nameless - has been posting about their book and the cover caught my eye.  Not because it was a particularly good cover.  Nope.  The cover had the look of being homemade and the image used seemed to have been ripped off from an old crime novel. 

As you may know, I am a huge fan of old crime novels, so it wasn't hard for me to think that.  They all have a certain flavor.

So, being the sleuth, I applied my Google-fu.  I searched 'old book covers' and then the key elements of the cover in question.  Then I scrolled through the images.  Took me like five minutes to find the old cover that this author had stolen for his new book.

That rubbed my fur the wrong way, of course.  For numerous reasons which I will elaborate on later.  But I tried giving this modern-day author the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe he'd contacted the original author or artist...  Umm, they both died a long time ago.  Then I thought maybe he got permission from the original publisher.  Yeah, they're no longer in business.  Or rather, they got bought out by someone who got bought out by someone who got absorbed by one of the BIG 5.  I rather seriously doubt the BIG company gave this self-published dude permission to use an image they own, no matter how long ago it was published.

Then I wondered if maybe the copyright had run out.  Umm, if I read it right, the work doesn't become public domain for like another 27 years.  (Anything before 1923 is okee dokee, but after that, not a chance.)

So, yeah, this dude ripped it off. 

Then I went to this dude's Amazon Author Page.  He's got a ton of books and almost all of them have covers that appear to have been ripped off from old pulp fiction novels.


Anyway, it kind of makes me wonder... If someone doesn't give a rat's ass about stealing cover art, how much of his work is actually written by him.  :shrug:  I am not willing to waste my time and money to find out.  I did do a quick 'look inside' on one of his books and noted three things - 1) he doesn't give credit to anyone for his cover art, and 2) he made damn sure he had all his copyright verbiage on HIS stuff while blatantly ignoring other people's copyrights, and 3) he fully admits to writing a fifth book in someone else's four book series from back in the '30s.

This pisses me off no end.  First, because it's STEALING.  Second, because self-published authors have a hard enough time struggling against the negative concept of the reading populace without this shit.  Third, because it was so obviously a hackjob of a cover.  You can still see pixels of where he erased the old cover.  He didn't even bother to hide what he'd done.  People like him make people like me look bad, and that really grinds my ass.


Anyway, not really sure what to do with this.  I thought about calling him on it publicly, but I really don't need a shitstorm raining down on me from a potential psycho or his psycho fans.  I thought about contacting the BIG publisher, but I doubt they would want to put forth the effort to go after this twerp.  So, here I sit.  Frustrated and angry and wanting to smack someone in the back of the head. 

And I can't even go fishing to drain off the negativity because the weather sucks and the fish aren't biting.  Ugh.

All I can do is the best I can do.  Stay on the legal and ethical side of things.  Try not to worry too much about shitheads like that.  And hope that readers will see the HUGE difference between morons like that and honest self-published authors. 

Peace out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Couple of Things

Thing One:
So, anyway, yesterday I got my undies in a wad over some stupid twit spouting nonsense.  (Like there aren't thousands of them just like that one.  Untwisting my undies could be an all-consuming pursuit if I let it.)  Then we lost internet, which gave me time to forget all about it for a while.  I'm calmer now.

Not that the person isn't still a silly bitch, but I no longer want to throttle her.

You see, she decided to make her opinions on self-publishing public.  And, shocker, she thinks self-publishing is awful.  It's killing the written word or some such twaddle.  And, of course, she should know because she's a travel writer and has a whole 3 books (memoirs or something) published traditionally. 

I haven't read her books, so I don't know if they're any good.  Which is why I'm not trashing her books publicly.  She admitted that she hadn't read a lot of self-published books, but didn't have the same presence of mind apparently.  Which is why I called her a stupid twit and a silly bitch. 

I wouldn't presume to cast aspersions on her livelihood, however, without confirmation of her writing's quality or lack thereof.  She could be a silly twit and still write good books.  I wouldn't know.  Others have, supposedly, gone around 1-starring her books without reading them.  That's just wrong.  And it's exactly what she was doing.  Trashing things without actually knowing anything about them.


Yeah, it pisses me off when people spout crap about self-publishing.  They're taking potshots at my only source of income.  And likely the only source of income I'm suited for anymore - even if there were employment opportunities for me out here in the back of beyond.  It's even more disconcerting when these unthinking twerps have a wide audience for their spewage - like a major paper or a large FB following.  So, I can totally understand the impetus to make her look like a hack.  It's just not right.

She has since apologized for what she said, I think more because she's now taking a heaping helping of crap about it than because she actually is sorry for writing what she wrote. Admitting she had been ignorant about self-publishing when she wrote it, which kind of only pissed me off more.  :shrug:

I'm not going to sit here and say that all self-published books are awesome covered in awesome sauce with awesome sprinkles.  There are good ones and bad ones - just like in traditionally published books.  I don't think the good ones and the bad ones are that hard to discern, even before you slap down your hard-earned money.  (And books with ideas I disagree with are not necessarily bad books, which is why I don't review them.)  As always, it's buyer beware. 

So, when you read something by someone - whether they're supposedly an expert or not - who's trashing self-publishing, try to read it with a grain of salt.  We aren't all bad.  We aren't ruining the written word or the publishing industry or what have you.  We're out here providing the best books we know how to provide at a reasonable price.  Give us a chance.  You might be surprised.

Thing Two:
Taking a break BEFORE you post about something that pisses you off is always a good idea.  If I hadn't lost internet yesterday, I would've still waited to post about this.  Sometimes I type out whole tirades, then walk away from the computer for a while.  When I return, the tirade usually ends up deleted. Sometimes it sits in draft form until I delete it weeks later.  Think before you post.   (Which is what she should've done.)  Thinking ahead of time is probably a hell of a lot easier than weathering a shitstorm afterwards.  And retractions really don't mean much. You can't unring that bell.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Crap. It's Monday

Yeah.  Monday.  I usually look at Monday as just another day.  Today?  It's chock full of Mondayness.  And I'm supposed to blog here today.  Something insightful and either crime or writing related.  I got nothing. 

BTW, I have a plan to blog every day this coming year.  Monday-Wednesday-Friday here.  Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday-Sunday at The Writing Spectacle.  (Saturday being The Fishing Report, and Sunday being the Weekly Update.)  With only the occasional day off if I get caught unawares by life stuff. 

But I'm empty this morning.

Hey, I only said I would blog every day - not that every day would be scintillating.  So, this rambling crap counts.  Right?

On another note, if there's anything you'd like to see here, drop a comment.  I can't guarantee I'll take your suggestions, but there's always a chance. 

:wanders off in search of more coffee:

Friday, January 6, 2017

Tossing Life Preservers

Why do I post what I post?

Sometimes it's to get things off my chest.  Sometimes it's to help me see my own way clear.  Most times, though, it's so other people adrift out there on the wild waves of the writerly experience can find a glimpse of someone who might be in the same position. 

I get a lot of encouragement from my fellow writers here.  And I thank you for that.  But that isn't the point.  I hear that I'm in the same boat, which is fine.  We all go through it.  I get that.  Unfortunately, I fear there are many others who don't get the same encouragement and who feel they are all alone.  There are others out there who don't understand that there are others in the boat...  afloat, adrift... and they feel cut off when there might be others sitting right beside them.

Writing is a lonely business.  Naturally.  For the most part we're sitting here making stuff up by ourselves.  (Unless you're a collaborator, then you and another author are alone together.)  No one else is in our heads.  No one else knows what it's like to pound our words day after day, week after week, with nothing to show for it but filled pages.  Print them out and wave them around and you might get a pat on the head.  If you're lucky, you get a publishing contract with a reputable house and see other people finally understand.  Most often, though, you're still alone.  And you feel like no one understands.

So, I write blog posts of my experiences.  I try to put it all out there.  Maybe only a couple people see it and they aren't the ones who really need it.  But if one person sees it and thinks 'hey, I'm not alone', grabs onto the life preserver and floats for one more day, then I did my job here. 

When I think back over the past 12 years of writing, there have been many other authors who tossed me life preservers without ever knowing what they did.  They kept me from drowning.  I'm trying to do the same.

Anyway, if you stop by and think I'm whining or bitching or whatever, that's fine.  It wasn't for you anyway.  And if you stop here and find a kindred spirit, if only for an instant, then welcome.

As for me?  Don't worry about me.  I'm fine.  I'm plodding along.  I'm writing and editing and trying to sell stuff so I can continue to write and edit.  Sometimes that's about all we can do.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Plodding Along

Right now, I'm finding it hard to look ahead.  Every time I try, I see the same stumbling blocks - all outside my realm of control - and I do what stumbling blocks make one do.  I stumble.

Oh, there are good things ahead.  There have to be.  Just around the corner.  Just past the river.  Just down the street. Like Tony in West Side Story sings about...


Could be!
Who knows?
There's something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone'll jingle, door'll knock,
Open the latch!
Something's coming, don't know when, but it's soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It'll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don't be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . . 

But right now, that's all it is.  A feeling that something better is on its way.  Not really anything I can do to make it get here any quicker than it will.  And if I spend too much time thinking about it, I stall. 

So, here's what I'm doing.  I'm plodding along.  Every day I sit down with my Kindle copy of Natural Causes and a notebook, writing edit notes as I read through what I've written.  When I get that done, I'll input those notes.  Then I'll read through it again, making more notes and inputting those.  Hopefully, by the time I get all that done, something will break and I'll be able to ship this off to the editor.  If not, I'll work on something else while I wait.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Publishing Wrap-Up

For all intents and purposes, 2016 was my second full year of self-publishing.  Here's how everything shook out in the year...

First off, I published 3 more titles, bringing my total of published titles to 7.  In Deep Wish went live in March.  Fertile Ground went live in May.  Up Wish Creek went live in September.  Natural Causes was supposed to be live in November, but due to a case of burn out (I crashed and burned), that didn't happen.

Copies sold:
In Deep Wish = 50.44
Fertile Ground = 65.28
Up Wish Creek = 24.07

Umm, yah.

My other titles sold as follows in 2016:
Dying Embers = 300.39
Accidental Death = 46.58
Wish in One Hand = 154.07
Blood Flow = 51.79

As you can probably guess, I did some advertising for Dying Embers and some for Wish in One Hand.  I also did some advertising for Blood Flow, but the numbers don't bear that out quite as well.

All in all I sold 692.63 books in 2016.  500 of those were whole books (490 ebooks, 3 print books) and 199.63 were books in KU pages*.  As for KU, this year people read 79650 pages worth of my books.  Sounds like a lot, but like I said, it only works out to about 200 books.

Last year was, of course, better.  I finished 2015 with 1016.77 books sold and only 4 books available.  But my advertising budget was bigger last year.  I expect that accounts for most of the difference in sales numbers.

Here's the month by month:

January = 15.28
February = 30.40
March = 90.97
April = 28.13
May = 193.41
June = 115.04
July = 44.57
August = 20.46
September = 19.56
October = 10.30
November = 94.39
December = 30.11

You can tell where I did advertising and/or promotions.  

This year I averaged $1.14 per book.  Last year, I averaged $1.34 books.  I attribute that to selling more paperbacks last year and having more 99c sales this year. 

If you're still with me after all that, here're the grand totals for my 2 year self-publishing experience...

Total Books Sold = 1709.40
DE = 814.65
AD = 467.82
WIOH = 217.59
BF = 69.55
IDW = 50.44
FG = 65.28
UWC = 24.07

This has netted me just over $2100.  We won't talk about what I've spent - mainly because I would rather not look at that data right now.  Let's just say it's enough to pay off Dying Embers and part of Accidental Death.  Woo.

As always, my experiences may not be your experiences.  I post this to show others what the hard numbers are, so they can be informed about going the self-publishing route.  It ain't the easy road to wealth and happiness.  At least it hasn't been for me.  Good thing this is a labor of love.

Sometimes I wonder whether I should've just continued to try and get traditionally published.  Then I hear about another publisher going belly up and screwing both readers and writers.  That shit totally makes me happy where I am, even if I'm not shooting toward the top of the bestsellers lists and buying a new car with my profits**. 

Anyway, if you purchased any of my books, I'm totally grateful and I hope you enjoyed the read.  If you get a chance, leave a review on Amazon for me and/or rate it on Goodreads.  I'd really appreciate that, too.

*I use formulas for each book - Pages Read divided by Total Pages - to calculate how much of a book someone in the Kindle Unlimited subscription service has read.

** In case you're wondering, I drive a 2003 Chevy Cavalier.  It looks like hell, but it's only got 70K miles and it runs like a dream... :fingers crossed it lasts at least another year:  :knocks on wood, too, for good measure: