Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Foolhardy Venture

Blink of an I is back from the editor and I've started on the final round of edits for that (well, final editor edits, then I'll do a final read-through for the little things).  Early Grave went to the editor yesterday.  I should be getting the bill for that today.  And thanks to the spreadsheet work I do, I have the money to pay the bill.

I was thinking about that last night when my brain probably should've been tucking itself in and winding down to, you know, sleep.  If you told me I would bust my ass everyday at my job and not get a regular check for it, I would laugh in your face.  But that's exactly what I do. 

Some... okay, most... would call it foolhardy.  Hell, so would I.  If my daughter came to me with this scheme, I would shudder in fear and wonder 'but how are you going to eat?' 

I mean, I'm lucky.  Hubs has always taken care of the paying for eating and housing and utilities.  He's even funded the majority of my foolhardy venture.  At some point, though, I had to get off the dole.  I had hoped to get off of it by my books paying for themselves.  Ummm... not yet.  There's always hope, but not yet.  I had this grand dream that by the third year of publishing, I would at least be funding myself.  Ummm...  I averaged about $30 a month last year.  That won't even pay for the editing on one book.  Forget covers and marketing.

So, I took up this spreadsheet thing.  It's kind of like taking in other people's sewing.  I get paid by the piece.  Not much, but it's paying the publication bills.  And it's enjoyable, in a teeth-gnashing kind of way sometimes.  Plus, it leaves me time to do my job - which is writer.

Yesterday, I did spreadsheet work in the morning, edited from then until the afternoon (when I got it done - otherwise I would've been editing into the wee hours of the night) and then did more spreadsheet work.  Today?  I started editing about 6am, then took a break to write this.  Whether I get any spreadsheet work to do today is anyone's guess.  If I do, I'll get it done and go back to editing.  So I can publish Blink on or around the 21st.

So, yeah, it's a foolhardy venture.  I'm kind of loving it, though.  And if I'm not making money at the writing thing yet, well, there's always hope.  Although, right this moment, I'm reminded of Dad's old maxim (paraphrased, of course): Hope in one hand and spit in the other and see which gets full fastest. 


Monday, January 29, 2018

Where I'm at Right Now

So, I got the edits for Blink of an I back from my editor yesterday evening.  Yay!  But I'm still not ready to send her Early Grave.  Boo!  I did a little mental panic dance at that moment.  And then I told myself to chill out. 

I can still finish Early Grave's edit pass and send it off to AWE tonight or tomorrow morning.  I could even, if I had to, work on both of them at the same time.  The skillset needed for each task is different enough I wouldn't be getting myself all confuzapated.  (Confused + addlepated = confuzapated.)

Early Grave - reading it on the Kindle and making edit notes, then entering edit notes I made into the manuscript.

Blink of an I - Opening my working copy and her edited copy side by side and entering her edit notes as I go down the pages.

It could be done.  If I had to.  I guess.  Right now, I'd prefer sitting down today and cranking through Early Grave until it's done, then tackling Blink after I send EG off to my editor.  We'll see how much I can get done and whether I reach a point where EG is 'editor ready' by the time I want to do Blink.

And that's where I'm at right now.  All editing, all the time.  Except for when I need a break and wander out into the woods.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Publishing Schedule... Or Part of It Anyway

An kind of serendipity occurred this week.  My deadline got pushed back by a few days. And I felt bad celebrating.  You see, Early Grave is almost ready to go to the editor, so when she told me she might have to delay getting the edits for Blink of an I to me today, I was happy dancing.  Because if the edits had come in today, I would've felt bad putting them off until I was done with EG.  But if I worked on them and not EG, I would've felt bad because I know me and I know it's hard to get back into a project after I set it down to work on something else. 

Yeah, it gives me a headache, too.

No worries, though.  She'll get the edits to me by Monday and I'll have EG ready for her by Monday.  Win win.  And I have space built into the schedule, so Blink won't actually be delayed.  Then again, I never did quite give y'all a firm date for Blink.  Sometime in February is a large enough target I'll have a hard time missing it. 

So, here's how it'll go.  She'll get me Blink on Monday (or I'll start working on it Monday if she gets it to me sooner).  Two weeks for me to input all her edits and to read-through one last time.  One week for formatting.  That should put Blink of an I available for upload the week of the 19st... say the 20th or the 21st.  Barring any major snafus or the Apocalypse, that is.

AND, having just worked stuff out in my datebook, if all goes according to plan, Early Grave could be out late April/early May instead of May or June.  Still doesn't make Sleeping Ugly come out any sooner, though.  I'm still looking at an August release for that.  I won't get a chance to start beating the stuffings out of that first draft until sometime in March.  And my editor usually takes a vacay sometime in there.  And spring fishing.  And... Well, you get the gist.

So, here's how the 2018 production schedule is looking right now:

Blink of an I - February 21st (at the latest)
Early Grave - Late April / EarlyMay
Sleeping Ugly - August
DH3 or Unequal - November

DH3 hasn't actually been written yet, so I would need to cobble out about 6 weeks to do that.  If I get it done, then it'll be the one that goes live in November.  If not, then Unequal goes.  And if DH3 is the winner, Unequal will be published in 2019.  Beyond that, I have no clue.

Whew.  I'm tired just thinking about all that.  Is it too early for naptime? 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Tax Time Approacheth

Okay, so how many of you read the subject of this post and ran screaming into the night?  I admit, the thought of tax time makes my stomach curdle.  Not because I think I might owe anything.  I'm nowhere near making enough money to offset my deductions,  Nope.  I get queasy because I know I have a boatload of work to do before I can even start my taxes and the thought of approaching the BIG ENVELOPE OF RECEIPTS scares the crap out of me. 

This, of course, is because I do not keep track of this stuff throughout the year.  I have an entire year's worth of receipts and invoices and stuff to sort through.  And then, once sorted, I have to enter it into a spreadsheet to come up with totals to put into the boxes in TurboTax.  Oh, god, I still have to go through my email and print any receipts I forgot to print last year... :shudder:

Yes, folks, I do my own taxes.  As with not making enough to offset deductions, I don't make enough to bother with a CPA (or enough to afford a CPA).  Yet.  There's always hope*, right? 

Anyway, now is the time when I need to start thinking about doing this monumental task.  As soon as all our other tax paperwork arrives, I need to get those taxes done and submitted.  No waiting for April around here.  Just get 'er done. 

What about you?  Are you thinking about taxes in January or are you a 'wait 'til April' kind of person?

*Yes, I am the insane one who wants to make enough money that I'll need to pay a CPA to do my taxes, because that means I'm selling beaucoup books. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

It's a Juggling Act

Right now, I have two books I'm working on.  Blink of an I and Early Grave.  Two totally different books - different tones, different genres, different ideas.  Most likely, two totally different markets. 

I've said it before - I'm an eclectic reader.  At any given time, I'm as likely to pick up a suspense novel as a dystopian or a mystery or a... whatever... to read.  And that reflects in my writing / publishing.  Just as it would kill me to read one genre in succession, I think it would kill me to write one novel after another in one genre.  I think I'd be bored to tears.

But it's not necessarily the best marketing plan.  To be successful - i.e. to sell loads of books - I probably should've written and published one series all the way through before jumping to the next.  Instead, Dying Embers came out in February of 2015, then Fertile Ground in May of 2016, and Early Grave will be out in May or June of 2018.  Accidental Death came out in May of 2015, Natural Causes in February of 2017, and Untitled #3 might be out at the end of this year.  I didn't do much better with my genie series: Wish in One Hand (August 2015), In Deep Wish (February 2016), Up Wish Creek (August 2016), and finally Wish Hits the Fan arrived in September of 2017.  With other books in between each of the successive series title's drop. 

There was no plan.  Not even a best laid plan worthy of a mouse.  It was more like 'this one looks good, let's do that', lather rinse repeat.  Which is why readers are looking at getting a dystopian, a suspense, a paranormal, and perhaps a mystery from me this year.  And why I'm currently driving myself nuts editing a suspense while I'm waiting for the dystopian to come back from my editor.  (Who is a saint that can edit all those different things without going batshit crazy.  I like to think I'm keeping her on her toes.)  It's definitely a juggling act - the one where the guy is keeping a chainsaw, a bowling ball, and a carton of eggs in the air at the same time. 

Anyway, call me crazy, but that's the way I have to do things.  And on the bright side, I'm never bored.  I hope my readers aren't either.  And I hope my crazypantsness encourages readers to step outside their comfortable reading box. 

Outside the Box... get it?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Jus' Sayin'

The other day I was talking to the assistant manager at the local dollar store. He was bemoaning the fact that they're short-handed. They've been short-handed for months. And it's not that people aren't applying for jobs. It's that none of them can pass the background checks.

Think about that for a second. Having fucked your life up so bad you're unable to pass the background check for a job at a dollar store.  You may say 'but they didn't fuck their whole life up, they just made one mistake, maybe'.  To which I'd say, 'the one mistake fucked their whole life up because now they can't even get a job at a dollar store.'
Here's something I found at an online employment site (company name redacted) that tells what a background check would entail:
All employment offers at :dollar store: are contingent upon passing a background check. :dollar store: uses the background check to look for criminal convictions on your record. They also use it to verify the information that you’ve provided on your application. So don’t try to be sneaky and twist the facts — honesty is the best policy.
Let's think about that for another second.  None of the people in this rural area can pass a background check.  Which means either 1) criminal convictions or 2) lying on their application.  

Sure, the reasons could be people lying.  But why would someone lie on a dollar store application?  They're so shorthanded that you don't need any experience, so you don't have to lie about that.  So, the only reason I can think of for lying on your application would be a criminal background.  And we're back to #1 again.  Crime.
Oh, and you need to pass a drug test.  Which, failing said test, would also mean a crime.  
Back to the one mistake thing.  One mistake can fuck your whole life up.  So, knowing that - and if you don't know that you're either in denial or you live in a hole - why WHY Whyyy would you do something that might potentially fuck up your life?  Jus' askin'.  

I follow the Bangor, Maine Police Department on FB.  They end a lot of their posts with the same advice: "Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people's things alone, and be kind to one another."  Seems pretty simple, eh?  Not a hard set of rules to follow that would lead to you not being unable to work at a dollar store, right?  

Apparently it is a hard set of rules.  Around here anyway.  And I would suspect we aren't the only area experiencing a dearth of background passing applicants.  

Jus' sayin'.

On a side note, it's nice to know I would have a job to fall back on if I needed one.  Bet I could walk in there today and have a job by the end of the month.  I already have a huge leg up on the other applicants.  Because I can pass a freakin' background check.  And that's just sad.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Story Behind the Story: Blink of an I

Years ago, I had this idea.  I wanted to write something similar to Fahrenheit 451, Anthem, Brave New World, 1984, etc.  So I got to thinking...

What would it take to get the world to a point where it becomes the world in Anthem or Fahrenheit 451

That's where Blink of an I started.  A pondering of what steps would lead to those dystopias.  Now, obviously, I couldn't write a book about all the steps.  Good lord, that would take forever and be thousands of pages long.  Whatever book I wrote would have to be way smaller than that. 

But where to begin...

I started with one character.  One simple, unassuming person.  So unassuming, in fact, she needed a totally bland and forgettable name - Mary Jones.  And she needed to be nothing.  Or rather, she needed to think of herself as nothing.  Because she'd been taught to think of herself as nothing. 

In Anthem, the main character doesn't even have a name because individuality has been wiped out.  The blink of the 'I', so to speak.  And there's where I got the title. 

And so it began.  As I said, I'm a sort of pantser.  More so when I started this book initially back in 2006.  I had no idea where I was going.  I just started walking and waited to see where it would lead me.  Thus, I had numerous starts - all of them wrong.  I trashed them and started over.  And over.  And over.  I can't even remember when I had a full, finished first draft of this.  And even then, I worked it over too many times to mention. 

I queried agents with this sucker.  Erm, yah.  Didn't go well.  Then I put it away. 

Last year, when I began a way to fund my publishing empire without having to wait on the book sales to do it, I dusted Blink off and sent it to my editor.  Well, perhaps 'dusted off' isn't quite correct.  I sent it to AWE dust intact.  (And, man, if was WAY dustier than I thought.) 

Anyway, it's in the process of being scrubbed and polished.  It'll finally be available next month sometime.  (Good lord willin' and the creek don't rise.)  This one took me roughly 11.5 years to get out there.  YEARS.  And I hope y'all will enjoy it.

Any questions?  Comments? 

Speaking of Blink, I did promise to announce a winner in the Cover Contest thing.  Since only two people commented, they can both win.  Deb wanted a copy of this, I believe.  (Email me whether you want a PDF ARC or a PDF of the finished version, Deb.)  Stacy didn't say what she wanted.  (Email me your preference, Stacy.  Do you want a copy of this when it's finished or one of my other books (e-copy or paperback)?)

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Ways of Writing

 Everybody has their own way of doing things.  For instance, I like to do dishes in the morning, but my mom shudders at the thought of leaving dishes in the sink overnight.  But I'm usually working after dinner, so the dishes get left until morning.  (Thankfully, Hubs is totally cool with that.)

Just like dishes, there are different ways to write a book (or do anything else, come to think of it). 

There are two basic ways to write in the world and two basic types of writer - the plotter and the pantser.

The plotter plots out the whole book before they write it.  The pantser doesn't plot out a damn thing and writes everything as it comes to them (hence, writing by the seat of one's pants = pantser*).

Of course, there are varying shades of both.  Personally, I consider myself a plansterer.  I have a plan in mind, but I write it all by the seat of my pants as it comes to me, and it changes - sometimes without my wanting or needing it to.  A friend of mind calls herself a puzzler and puts her books together like a sort of big jigsaw puzzle.

Some people outline.  Some people write the last chapter first.  Some people write a bit here and then a bit there.  Some people write straight through.

Personally, I'm a straight through writer.  Start and the beginning and when you get to the end, stop. (Yes, that is the Mad Hatter talking there.)   Totally linear.  I can't do it any other way.

Which, of course, doesn't mean that any other way is wrong.  They're just not right ways for me.  I've also tried outlining.  :shudder:  It didn't go well.  The beginning of that book, before I gave up and pantsed it, is so bleh I could cry.

Anyway, there was a point to this post when I started it.  Right now, I'm working on editing Early Grave.  I wrote it like I write all my books, with one exception.  I started it and then stopped and then wrote some more and then stopped, then I got stuck and didn't write on it for a while, then I unstuck myself and wrote the rest of it in a fury.  So, it's in a line, but it's a severely dotted line - like Morse code done by a madman.  I'm reading along making notes and I'm like 'wait, what', which leads to furious scribbling of notes on how to fix what obviously went very wrong between one spot and the next.  It's the definition of 'hot mess'.  :shudder:

I did it that way because I was trying to write that book between editing several other books.  And I now know that way of doing things makes editing out the other end a pain in the buns.  Unfortunately, I may have to do it again because the publication schedule waits for no man.  I can't just say 'hey, can you pause this for a six weeks so I can get this first draft written?' :shrug:  It is what it is.

What way do you do it?  Have you ever tried another way? 

*Not to be confused with the Panzer, which was a German tank.  Although, there could be a tank-like roll over everything element in there, I guess.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Meandering Post about Forums and the Drug of People Reading my Books.

I've been reading the forum boards at KDP again.  I had this idea that I would jump back in and be social and do some networking.  Then I read the boards and remembered why I stopped going there.

Oh, I'm sure there are many fine people who post on those boards.  I can see them.  I also see the not-so-fine people, though, and they make the experience more of a headache than I am willing to subject myself to.

This time it was a person slamming self-published authors as being particularly stupid because why would anyone spend all that money on editing when you can't possibly hope to recoup it.

Then there was the person slamming anyone who is enrolled in Kindle Select as being particularly stupid because it's so limiting and Amazon is the anti-christ or something.  

Maybe I am particularly stupid.  Wouldn't be the first time.  But then I remember each time I see someone read an entire book's worth of pages on Kindle Unlimited, or the whole damn series one after the other, or my entire backlist.  And my heart soars and I know someone somewhere is reading words I put down.

It's like a drug.  People are reading my words.  And they're enjoying them enough to read the whole book or the whole series or all of the books.  Now, there's a high.  And it's one that doesn't dull my senses or muddle my brain or make me drive like an asshole or make me do stupid things.  (Unless you're among those who count self-publishing as a stupid thing.  In which case, I say to you: Bugger Off.)

Sure, I wish more people were buying and reading my books.  I wish everyone who read one enjoyed it so much they were excited enough to buy more.  Or that they could afford to buy more.  (I get the whole budget thing.  I'm living it.  Which is why my books are as inexpensive as I can make them without screwing myself.) What writer doesn't want more people reading their books? 

Anyway, I'm off of reading the boards again.  So much for being social and networking with the ultimate goal of selling more books.  I don't have the intestinal fortitude for it anymore.  I'd rather spend my time writing books, editing books, and publishing books.  The readers will come somehow or other, and I will revel in them.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Things at OTB

First, the contest is still open on my Pick a Cover post.  Thus far, I have two votes for A on the blog, one private vote for C, and one private vote for either C or D.  (Yes, I will take private votes - especially if you're not interested in entering the contest.)  I'll most likely close it up on Friday and announce a winner on Monday. 

Next, I'm 29% done on the read-through, note-making stage of Early Grave.  And I got with my editor, who will take the first round of EG when I'm ready to send it.  I'm hoping to get thru this phase by Saturday and then use the next two weeks to make all the changes, so I can have this to her after she finished up with Blink and the end of the month. 

This year is on track.  So far.  Fingers crossed it stays this way.

My big sales extravaganza at the end of 2017 wrapped up the end of the year nicely.  Surprising since I didn't put any advertising in place for that one and only did some stuff on FB and Twitter.  That blog review really helped, although it wasn't planned or even expected until it happened.  Unfortunately, that's where the sales ended - last year.  I had kinda hoped for some residual stuff.  :sigh: 

Anyway, I'm going to try not to worry about that stuff.  I mean, I'm still going to advertise when I can and junk, but I'm working on not sweating the lack of sales.  My books are out there.  More will be out there this year.  Different stuff, similar stuff.  Blink is definitely different stuff.  Early Grave is the third book in the SCIU series, but with Ned Washington as the main character.  Then I plan on publishing Sleeping Ugly - which is a paranormal but not djinn.  And if I can manage to get some inspiration somewhere and finish it, the third book in the Dennis Haggarty series should round out 2018.  If not, I might go ahead with another dystopian - Unequal.   Time will tell.

Those are about all the things I can think of at the moment.  Any questions? 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Pick a Cover

Sometime a while back, I decided to do a cover for Blink of an I.  At that time I hadn't even decided to go ahead with its publication.  I was just bored - either that or avoiding work I was supposed to be doing - and created a cover.  It took a long time and was a lot of work, but I was generally pleased with the outcome.

Now that Blink is approaching its publication day, I needed to readdress that cover.  And I had another idea for a much simpler cover for Blink.  Then I played around a bit with the original cover.  Thus, I can't decide which one I like best.  (Or rather which one will sell better because it really doesn't matter which one I like best.)  Soooo...  I'm putting it out there in the world.  Help me decide which cover Blink of an I goes live with next month.

Without further ado, here are the selections.  (Click on any one of them to make them larger.  The gray parts are actually static like on an old TV.  And the original cover ones are composed of smaller pictures of things.)

Original Cover, fat font
Original Cover, thinner font

Leave a comment with your choice.  If you have a choice and a suggestion, that would be awesome, too.  I'll tell you which ones I like best later.

Everyone who comments with a choice and/or suggestion will be entered to win something.  I haven't decided what yet.  A book?  An advanced copy of this?  A gift card?  What would you like to win? And no, you don't have to pick the cover I ultimately choose to be eligible.  Especially since I'll be announcing a winner way before I reveal the winning cover.

(Yes, the one has the author name off center.  I don't like it there either.  If I pick it, I'll fix that.)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wrapping Up 2017 in Book Sales

Last year was not a bonus year for selling books, lemme tell ya.  And, from what I've heard, I wasn't the only one.  All I can say is we have to keep motoring along and hoping for the best.  The alternative is unacceptable. 

Okay, now for the wrap-up. 

In 2017, sales (through individual sales and Kindle Unlimited page reads) were as follows:

All books: 261.95
Dying Embers: 37.01
Accidental Death: 16.78
Wish in One Hand: 45.53
Blood Flow: 3.05
In Deep Wish: 48.16
Fertile Ground: 17.01
Up Wish Creek: 41.68
Natural Causes: 13.65
Wish Hits the Fan: 38.16

Umm, yeah.  I did say it wasn't a banner year.  Of course, it also wasn't a big year for advertising.  I only spent $111 on ads.  Which might have something to do with the lack of sales.

Outgo for the year was just over $1500.  Income for the year was just over $300.

For all three years of publishing, I've sold 1971.40 books.  I had hoped to clear the 2K mark this year, but that wasn't to be.  The grand totals for each book are:

Dying Embers: 851.66
Accidental Death: 485.50
Wish in One Hand: 263.13
Blood Flow: 72.60
In Deep Wish: 98.61
Fertile Ground: 82.28
Up Wish Creek: 65.81
Natural Causes: 13.65
Wish Hits the Fan: 38.16

And because I sat down and did the numbers, here's how the finances have worked out for the entirety of my publishing journey thus far...

Spent about $8600 and made about $2500.  As Hubs likes to put it, that income means Dying Embers and most of Accidental Death are paid for.  Thinking about it this morning, it's more like a Ponzi scheme - with newer members paying older members, so it looks like it's funding itself when it's not. 

Anyway, I don't mean for this to be discouraging or sound like a whine.  It is what it is.  As long as I find the funds to publish books, I will continue to publish books.  Right now, that means working part time as a contract computer person.  I do spreadsheets and troubleshooting, and most of the money I make there goes into an account to pay for editing and cover art.  Whatever it takes, right?

But if you're thinking about doing this self-publishing thing, understand that it isn't a get-rich-quick endeavor.  It isn't even a get-rich-slow one.  It's a labor of love, perhaps.  It means finding satisfaction in knowing people out there are reading your books when they weren't able to before you self-published.  It also means finding satisfaction in knowing you've done this thing.  You.  Not an agent.  Not a publisher.  You.  And yes, it is pretty satisfying.  Heh, it kind of has to be, doesn't it?

For the year ahead, I have plans to publish 4 books.  Right now, they will be Blink of an I (due out in February), Early Grave (hoping for May or June), Sleeping Ugly (August or September), and either the fourth book in the Dennis Haggarty series or another dystopian (November or December).  This is pretty firm in my head, but as always, it's subject to change.

Any questions?