Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why Lookee Here

Seems to me, the newest Icarus Helix drops today. And here it is! So go get your "Thug" on! :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Third Hand

The problem with keeping odd hours and eating all over the house (read: at my computer) is that I usually find myself having to make two trips to the kitchen - once for food, and a second time for drinks. To me, this is kind of a pain in the butt. Not only because I am inherently lazy about inconsequential tasks, but also because it delays things I actually want to do. (Eat, read, watch something.)

I am fortunate in that I often get my drinks from cans. (Pop.) A can being a closed container at the start, it is easily transported in unconventional ways without loss of product.

When I have a bowl in one hand and a plate in the other, there is nowhere for the can to go. Now, I know you might think - "Why not put it in your pocket?" For anyone who has ever dealt with girl pants, you have probably also dealt with girl pockets.

Girl pockets are only large enough to hold our hopes and dreams. Good luck putting anything substantial in there.

(To me) The next obvious solution is simply to grow a third hand. In the absence of practical science or sufficient quantities of radiation, I must think a little more widely. For example: can the beau carry the can for me? Well, he also has a plate and a bowl, so, no.

Expanding my scope yet again, I alight upon a delight of my life who is also usually underfoot. Being half border collie, he delights in doing and completing tasks no matter the consequence. (Read: He is less lazy than me in that circumstance.) It was but the matter of a moment to teach my worker dog his task, nay duty to assist the one who feeds, bathes, cleans up after and cuddles him. Being that I have a very good relationship with him, he will patiently sit and wait for me to take the can back, practically forever. I am very much of the "nurture" side of the argument. My dog was able to do this at nine months old.

I will give a small disclaimer in that Ajax is extraordinarily gentle and does not chomp down on things when offered them. It makes the first five minutes of "Tug" very easy to win.

So I give you, my Third Hand:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Actually Not Dead

I know, I know, I haven't been updating regularly. Sorry.

So here's just a quick update:

1. Puppy's worms seem cleared up, and his fur is getting back to being soft (yay.)

2. Humidity is pushing us into the 110's (WTFH???).

3. Wicked horrible storms everyday mean the computer has to keep getting turned off. (Sigh.)

4. "Thug" is on schedule to release THIS WEDNESDAY! (Miraculously.)

5. Black-Eyed Peas broke up. (Seriously??)

6. I now have an AC unit in my writing room so I don't die from the humidity + computer heat while trying to write. (This Wednesday!)


Monday, July 11, 2011


I love my dog very dearly!

But recently he has been shedding fur. A lot of fur. Like, I go to bed clean and wake up covered in hair that has somehow drifted from the living room, down the hall and through the closed door of the bedroom (his crate is in the living). Hairy morning.

He's a (part) lab and this is his first summer. Between the black fur, the sensitivity to heat (of labs)and a recent flea infestation that FINALLY succumbed to the Frontline (and numerous baths), it's not uncommon for the dog to be shedding, even heavily.

But when I can pinch his fur in fingers and give a brief tug... and the whole clump comes off in my fingers... something is the matter!

I also noticed some white bits in his stool. He often eats grass because he actually thinks he is a goat. (Also, labs are notorious eaters.) I originally thought it to be just grass seed.

Then I thought - What if my dog has worms?

THEN I thought - How the hell would he get worms?

So I took the day off and planned to take him to the semi-retired vet who only charges $20 walk-in fee plus medication. Not bad!

First step - come armed with a stool sample! So I waited for the puppy to pop a squat and went to pick it up with a plastic grocery bag...

Imagine my disgust when those "white bits" I noticed a few days ago turned out to be WORMS. Probably a full inch long, they stretched and bulged amongst his poo.


I quickly wrapped it and headed for the vet...

... only to get there and find the building essentially condemned (WTH?) They were shredding the inside of it, rebuilding and the vet sign had been hollowed out.

New plan.

"Sick" dog in the car. Wormy poo in a trash bag on the floor of the car...

I went up the street to another vet clinic I knew was there (but undoubtedly more expensive!). Luckily they weren't busy and took me as a walk-in!

The vet suspects poor Ajax has a common lab affliction - Flea Dermatitis. Not only do flea bites itch for him, but he essentially breaks out into hives because he is actually allergic to them. He doesn't bite or scratch much, though I did notice the spots on his skin a long time ago. I figured it was heat rash because it came and went.

But other than that - TAPEWORMS! My poor guy has been eating and all the protein has been sucked up by those little buggers, making his coat brittle and unsustainable :( He should have his nice, soft coat back soon!

Now as I said before - how in the hell did my dog get worms?

Fun Fact!

I apologized profusely and looked miserable about my dogs worms. The vet took pity on me and explained how he probably got them:

When a dog gets fleas they scratch and bite at them. Sometimes when they bite, they swallow the flea. Fleas carry tiny parasites ON THEM that grow into tapeworms. So just one flea can give a dog tapeworms.

Completely preventing fleas on dogs is a pipe dream. We Frontline him on schedule and he's only ever had one bad break-out (we don't Frontline as often during the winter, and right during the beginning of spring he had his break-out). So a dog getting tapeworms is nothing unusual. I think the medication for it is only a few dollars per tablet.

So the goal is to get his worms cleared up, get him on a (better!) preventative than he was on, and keep lovin' him like we do :)

And before, when I said "sick" dog, here's why:

My dog is a cannonball of energy. Despite the fur loss, the worms, the weight loss from the worms... you would never, ever have guessed he was sick.

I attributed his symptoms to the following:
Fur loss - summer heat. (It was not patchy, just kind of general shedding)
Worms - grass seed in the stool
Weight loss - more active during the summer (we're not talking skin and bones walking around, he lost maybe 5lbs... at 10 months he's over 60lbs (with worms!) and lean)

He is energetic and lively. His eyes are bright, and he will play and run on a moment's notice. He still loved playing frisbee and going for walks at any time! He had normal stool (no diarrhea). So, I don't think it was unusual to have guessed he was fine.

But, I'm glad we got it cleared up, though the medication made him a little drowsy today. My poor wormy wigglebutt will feel better soon :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

#Sample Sunday: "Liar", Prologue

Prologue - Bad Men

Marcus Tiller did not think of himself as a Bad Man. Bad Men were the people who took your money, knowing you would lose. Then, when you had no money left, They would offer to let you borrow, so you could keep playing. Once you lost the borrowed capital, those same Men would tell you They would break your legs next Tuesday... unless you came up with what you owed. Those were Bad Men.

Marcus was just a man in a pinch. His cards were perpetually bad, his mojo gone on the wind. Sometimes, when you were down, you stayed down. Sometimes the world would not let you stand up. But sometimes... an angel watched over your shoulder.

He stared hard at the newspaper in his hands. Did an angel smile, even now, at his disbelief? Surely the words would crawl from the recycled pulp and escape his notice.

Make 100k,
become rich from
very little work.
No selling necessary!

The advertisement was followed by a phone number and a name: Ollie Parsons. He dialed immediately.

Icarus Consulting was squeezed between the Mane Street Salon and the corner convenience store, Reuger's. Though the three stores shared the same brick face, the dark lines on Icarus' sign made it appear to draw back from the street. He checked his watch - seven minutes early for his interview.

The door swung open with a gentle noise of vacuumed air. The atmosphere in the office was charged - an ionized air purifier humming gently against the wall. The AC pumped cool air over his face. He felt energized after a few moments in the room.

Foldable cubicle walls neatly marked the territories of the building. Cut off from the noise of the outside, he could only hear the purring of electronics and the tapping of a keyboard. The typist stopped and after a moment's pause, a head popped up over the wall.

The woman flashed him a brilliant smile, unruly curls waving about her face as she hurried to greet him. Her business suit was tailored very fine and she moved with indisputable grace. Though she was shorter than Marcus, she stared confidently into his eyes.

"May I help you?"

"I'm Marcus. I'm here for an interview." Why did his voice catch like that?

"Marcus... Tiller?"

"That's me."

"Mr. Tiller!" she exclaimed, grabbing his hand and pumping it enthusiastically. "I'm Ollie... Ollie Parsons. We spoke on the phone?"

"Oh, yes, right. I'm going to meet with you? I'm sorry, I didn't realize..."

"No, no," she answered, waving a dismissive hand. "No one does. I'm the only one here. Just little old Ollie all alone in the office." Her teeth flashed again in a smile. "But I'm looking for a very specific candidate, so, really, I have to be the one to take care of it! Right?"

"Er, right."

She ushered him back into the recesses of the office, deeper than the small storefront appeared from the street. They sat at a round table with plush chairs. She folded her hands and looked at him expectantly.

"Did you bring a résumé for me to look over?"

"Right, here it is." He fumbled the paper out of his bag, handing it across the frigid surface of the table. He laid his arms down and the cold seeped through his jacket to chill his bones.

Her eyebrows quirked unexpectedly. "St. Mercy Four Cities Hospital? I see you've worked there for quite some time. I would think a position of that institution would pay a decent salary. Could you tell me the nature of your work?"

"I'm a neonatal attendant. I help care for the newborns in the ward, before the parents are sent home. I'm a babysitter in the best sense of the term - medically and physically."

A small smile played across Ollie's mouth. "Indeed. Please describe the care you give to the infants."

"I watch over them through the night, change and feed them, I write a lot of charts about their condition and take 'Apart Time' shifts."

"What is an 'Apart Time' shift?"

"Each baby needs individual care apart from the other babies. We usually have them from 2-4 hours, in which we give them attention, cuddles, soft things to see and touch, feed and change them. We may also listen to music or read stories so they hear and respond to sound or a human voice."

"Interesting. So you are left alone with someone else's baby for a few hours at a time? Sort of like a nanny?"

"Yes, I suppose you could look at it like that. We also monitor their vitals, though, especially infants in the ICU. I write and interpret a lot of medical jargon."

"Tell me, Mr. Tiller," Ollie said, giving him a hard stare directly into his eyes. "Do you like your job?"

He hesitated. There was not necessarily a reason to lie or be truthful. Should he say what she wanted to hear? He thought it might be best to speak what he felt.

"They are not my children. Of course I care about them, in a professional capacity, but once they leave the hospital, they are out of my life, essentially. I generally won't see them ever again, or recognize them if I do."

"I see. And, could you explain to me why you could possibly need $100,000?"

Images of the Bad Men flashed through his mind and he flinched. His hands clenched on the table. "I owe some people some money," he said, horrified at his own admission. What use hiding it now? "There is no option to not pay... not that I'm trying to get out of it," he amended quickly. "Just, I don't have the money I need."

"Well, we can touch on that particular circumstance later..." she offered. "What I want to know is, how far would you go for the money?" He looked askance at her, but she was smiling without a hint of indiscretion.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Icarus Helix Episode 5: "Thug" (Sneak Peek!)


"Thug" releases on the 27th of this month. Are you excited? I am! The Point of View (PoV) is a little different in "Thug". Exciting stuff happens :D

Here's something kind of fun I want to talk about: covers. I think the relationship an author has with their cover artist is a very important thing. Yes, you can hire some stranger to design the face of your baby, but wouldn't you rather have someone who understands your vision and wants to further it?

I am INCREDIBLY lucky to have Jeroen ten Berge as my cover artist. Not only is he easy to joke around with, but he has a real passion for his work that I think shines through.

I probably can't draw my way out of a wet paper bag. Unless I'm tracing, then I might have a chance.

I especially can't draw with a computer. (You may have noticed.)

So when Jeroen and I were discussing the cover for "Thug", I wasn't sure if my words were getting my point across. "Here," I exclaimed. "Let me draw you a picture!"

Here is what ensued:

I have to admit, even as I sent it, I thought to myself, "If he can't tell what's going on here..." and then I bent over double with laughter. Because honestly, if he couldn't tell what was happening in that picture... he was probably on board with just about everyone else in the entire world, save myself. In the end, he cracked up over my horrible picture as well :P


He's amazing.

So here (with an idea of what the story is about) is what he turned my monstrosity into:

Didn't I tell you he was good?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

#Sample Sunday: "Cheat", Prologue

Prologue - CryoGeneTechnics

CryoGeneTechnics Incorporated spent ten years and millions of dollars studying the four bases of DNA - adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. Their goal - the discovery of weaknesses in DNA pairs, the causes of diseases and eventual cures. In the course of their research, they developed a compound called "laurosine", a so-called "active" protein that was capable of finding and overwhelming the weakened half of a DNA pair.

Laurosine was so potent it could replace any of the four bases. CGT-Inc scientists were ecstatic in their research. Humans, before limited to A-C and G-T DNA pairs, now had a wildcard option. A-L, C-L, G-L, and T-L pairs became possible, increasing the number of combinations by 200%. The new possibilities for strings of DNA were now virtually limitless. None could not foretell the potential of these mutated strands.

CGT-Inc scientists bent their efforts into molding laurosine into a vaccination. They wanted to cure genetic weakness and provide the gateway to a new, virus-resistant superhuman. They believed they could eradicate genetic disease. Repeated failures did not dissuade them - some clung to a desperate hope.

In 1993, CGT-Inc Holdings quietly funded the creation of a small, unaffiliated company named Icarus Consulting. The fledgling firm procured a small office space in the quiet town of Harrisford. Their goal - access to the St. Mercy Four Cities Hospital. It was the only hospital with a maternity ward for miles, servicing four cities: Harrisford, Beckettsville, Unionshire and Werado. They began to run ads in the local newspapers -

Make 100k, become rich
from very little work.
No selling necessary!

Floods of people turned out for the job opportunity, but in the end they found their ideal candidate.

Marcus Tiller, resident of Harrisford and neonatal attendant at St. Mercy Four Cities Hospital, signed on as a medical consultant for Icarus in 1994. During his interview, Marcus let slip that he was deeply in debt from a history of questionably legal gambling. Despite this dark stain, the interviewer was interested in Marcus and closed the deal two days later. He was confidentially debriefed within the week. Due to the nature of his work, he would be paid "under the table" to avoid taxation and - unbeknownst to Marcus - paper trails. He provided the firm with a key to his home. The consultation office closed the next day; all traces of Icarus Consulting simultaneously evaporated. Marcus' payments were made in cash, left in his home and always while he was away.

Marcus' task: inject newborns in his ward with a laurosine-based compound and monitor their results. A wide variety of children were to be tested, including as many nationalities and mixed medical histories as possible. For each child brought into the experiment, he was to be paid $1,000 with possibilities for bonuses, based on results. For three years he injected children at a rate of almost one per week. Then, he suddenly vanished, leaving his home stripped of clues and his bank account of cash. CGT had been patient while waiting for results, as the effects of laurosine could not be predicted. The reports they received were sparse with information. At his disappearance, the company was left with very little concrete data to continue the observation phase - only a list of names and dates of injections.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

So, Of Course

This morning I posted about pointy things, and how they like to harm me.

I went to a water park with my family today. We have these passes that let us get in half an hour before general admission. It was really nice. There was no one really around. With me and my brothers, there were only two other people in the whole wave pool. We had time to hit the lazy river with no one else around :)

But I have to tell you something you will probably not believe. But that doesn't make it less true, just more infuriating.

This happened right after we arrived. We were literally in the park less than ten minutes.

We dropped our stuff off on some poolside chairs, got down to our bathing suits, took off our shoes and headed for the wave pool. Four steps away from our chair I felt a sharp pain in my foot.

"OW" I hollered in surprise. My family turned around to look at me. I didn't see anything immediately wrong with my foot, so I looked on the ground where I stepped.

I stepped on a dressmaker's pin. In all of the world, in all the of the places to be, I found the ONLY POINTY THING AROUND and stepped on it.


What Follows

I don't consider myself a particularly clumsy person. Yes, as I've gotten older my reflexes have dimmed and as I've gained weight I'm not as flexible as I once was. But I don't think I'm below average and I can still beat my 13-year old brothers every time.

But the fact remains: If it is sharp, I will probably cut myself.

It seems pointy things are always trying to enter my body. I'll leave that to your individual sensitivities as to how you'd like to interpret.

I seem to have a knack for nicking. Aside from obvious things, like cutting my hand while preparing vegetables for dinner, I get in some pretty outrageous circumstances. For example, I will never NOT step on the plug of an electronic if it is not properly stowed. (That HURTS.) Curse you vacuum cleaner!!

I'm sure you all remember my post about getting stitches from work.

Here are a few of the things I've done (and possibly have scars from.)

While cleaning my food processor, I tipped the container and the blade fell out. Instead of letting it fall, I caught it in mid-air and have a 1-inch scar on my hand to prove it.

At work, I leaned against the corner of the wall while talking to a co-worker. The corner had that protective, soft rubber weather striping. I leaned on the only nick in the striping, where a jagged piece of metal poked out about 2mm. I cut my elbow open and bled enough to need a band-aid :P

We are doing some painting in our house to freshen it up and also because the paint was 30% of normal cost. We ended up painting the bathroom ceiling and supplies are lying about a little willy-nilly. The hammer was laying on the floor in the doorway of the 2nd spare bedroom that is the beau's quiet time room. (The 1st one is where I write!) I try not to move their supplies so they always know where they are.

I went into the bedroom looking for the scale. I stepped on the nail-removal end of the hammer. I didn't find the scale. I left the room and checked around the house. Decided to check that room a second time. Stepped on the sharp end of the hammer a second time. Left the room. Still couldn't find the scale. Decided to check a third time (seriously, where the hell did the scale go?) I remembered the hammer and stepped over it. I stepped on the corner of the vent's grill cover instead. DAMMIT.

In conclusion, if I ever come to visit, please round the corners of your furniture, stow away all electrical plugs, hammers and unattached vents, check your weather striping, don't let me help with dinner and keep me in one place :P

Friday, July 1, 2011

June 2011 Sales Update

Well, June was quite the month for me! Though I spent the greater part of it spiraling down into a black vortex of utter despair, the last week really looked up for me :P So let's get to graphin' and break down some information!

First of all, as you can see, I outsold last month! That is always fantastic :) So, June gave me a new record sales high.

My June sales totaled 27 units. That is about 128.5% of May. A 25%+ increase from the previous month is fantastic, I think! It may build slowly at first, but 25% really adds up over time!

Since I put my first book up for sale in February, I have sold 67 units. 40.29% of those were in May. My sales last month were 52.5% of my total, so the percentage has dropped. However, I still sold more units that last month, so that is great!

Last month I thought "Coward" exploded into the world with 6 sales in 5 days. Well, imagine my surprise when "Thief" sold 7 its first day! Then it picked up an eighth copy the next day. And a ninth about a week later :) It was well on track to being my top seller for the month, but "Cheat" caught up! (I am not complaining.)

In fact, the day "Thief" released has been my single highest day of sales. With 7 "Thief" sales, I had 6 other sales, for a total of 13 for the day... 48% of my sales for the month! :O

Now for some attributions... my excellent cover artist recommended me and swung a reader my way for 5 sales. I was featured on Daily Cheap Reads Jr. and saw three sales that day, one of each of the titles they listed. Finally, Man Eating Bookworm held a giveaway and that counted for 3 more. So 11 sales (40.7%) were the direct result of OTHER's work. Thanks guys!!!

21 of my sales (77.77%) of my sales came ON or AFTER "Thief"'s release (June 22nd). Do you see why I said swirling vortex of despair earlier? ;)

I sold less copies of "Shackled" where I get 70% royalties; more of my novellas, where I get 35%. But, I believe I still made about 40 cents more than last month. Yay :)

I lost my 5-day no sale streak :( In June I went a tortuous 14 days with no sales. Then another 7. Then "Thief" hit :) I would also like to mention that I changed the listings of my YA pieces to a broader category. I believe it contributed to more hits after "Thief" released.

In May I averaged .68 sales/day. In June, .9/day! Ooooh, so close!! :)

B&N stayed in the game this month. They accounted for 22.22% of my sales. Smashwords was 18.51% and Amazon 59.25%.

Best-selling rank so far:
#1 - Cheat, 23
#2 - Shackled, 13
#3 - Liar, 11
#4 - Coward, 11
#5 - Thief, 9

Onto conversions! Remember, I want at least 50% conversion, and I think 75% is fantabulous!

So, as follows:

Cheat - Liar; 23 - 11 (47.82%) I think this is great! It's shy of 50%, but I also understand people don't read everything they grab right away. I believe this number will improve. Currently, it is down from 58% in May.

Liar - Coward; 11 - 11 (100%) What do I even say to that?? It is the mystical 100% conversion. I couldn't be happier :)

Coward - Thief; 11 - 9 (81.82%) If 75% is fantabulous, then I am on a roll :) I am very satisfied with that conversion rate! Now we just need to keep that rate while increasing the numbers they deal with.. ;)

Final Notes:
I was utterly in crisis during the beginning of the month. I was very much in a "this is the end, woe is me" mood over my highly lackluster sales. Thanks everyone for turning my month around when "Thief" came out! It was a very nice way to end the month. I will try to keep it firmly in mind if I go two weeks without sales in July...

My June goals were 25 (achievable), 30 (happy) and 50 (excitement). I passed my achievable goal and almost reached my happy goal! I'm trying to take into account this month, and what I've learned. I also know that the boons I had this month may be nonexistent next month. I don't really want to set my goals lower than what I did this month, so with a bit of trepidation, here are my July goals:

Achievable: 30
Happy: 40
Excitement: 50

If you've read to here, thanks for reading! Please leave any comments you may have, because I'd love to know what you think about my June sales :)