Monday, August 29, 2011

In My Heart

I don't think I need to go into some long-winded, flowery, million-times-voiced explanation of how music affects me. I think by now, it's just something people understand - music is powerful.

When I was in high school I listened to a lot of heavy metal and hard rock, also punk a little ska and (regular?) rock. No death metal - I couldn't understand what they were screaming, so what was the point? A lot of death metal sounds suspiciously the same to me. Loved me some MudVayne, Slipknot, Coal Chamber...

One thing I notice about the music I grew up with - all in all, it just seemed hopeful. It was about where you would be, where you would go, who you loved... The beats moved and it made you smile.

I listen to four radio stations. One is a college station that plays primarily rap. One is a generic "current" rock station. The third is a special mix of the 90's, 00's and now. The last is a country station.

A year ago, I never touched that last station.

Then, I started noticing how much I hate today's music. Not at first. At first it's catchy and fun. But the lyrics start to sink in. They carry a heavy message of hopelessness, depression and anger.

Katy Perry sings about her drunk whorebaggery... and how she'll do the exact same thing next week!

One song I turn off immediately when it comes on has the lyrics, "they be treatin' you like a slave, throwin' chains all up on you" and then I click it off.

GaGa's "Edge of Glory" is the same four notes with her basically just repeating the chorus.


And over.

And over.

It's boring. It's mind-numbing. And it's the same 12 songs played in an endless shuffled loop. I need stimulation. I need NEW music.

I need hope.

So recently, I started poking at that fourth radio station. Sometimes a song here or there to break up the monotony, but more and more I find I just leave it on. This is quite startling to me, as (maybe as recently as a year ago) I would rather stab my ears out than listen to country.

Even scarier - I actually know the lyrics and sing along with a few of the songs... know a few of the artist's names... want to listen to the songs when I'm NOT trapped in a car...

I've been doing a lot of "What the hell are we gonna do"ing. Not necessarily soul-searching, but equally as important. Now, more than ever, hope plays a key role in my mood from day-to-day.

There is hope on the horizon for me. It may involve an awkward and sudden move a quarter of the way across the country, but I have a lot of support from my significant other and I'm really thinking it might be the best play.

So, about the country station:

I'm finding more and more I like the music here. Don't get me wrong - I still don't like a lot of it. But I like a lot more than I did. Country singers still get it - they still sing about hope and love and feeding your dog (?). So I want to share a very appropriate song for my situation and I hope you all enjoy it.

If, like I used to be, you can't listen to country without having a brain bleed, I'll also just post the lyrics and listening will be optional.

Two lines that really stand out for me:

Get lost and get right with my soul


Maybe it's the feeling or maybe it's the freedom

So please enjoy Rodney Atkins', "Take a Back Road". Be warned, it's catchy :)

Sit in that six-lane backed up traffic
Horns are honking, I've about had it
I'm looking for an exit sign
Gotta get out of here, get it all off my mind
And like a memory from your grandpa's attic
A song comes slippin' through the radio static
Changing my mood
A little George Strait 1982

And it makes me wanna take a back road
Makes me wanna take the long way home
Put a little gravel in my travel
Unwind, unravel all night long
Makes me wanna grab my honey
Tear down some two-lane country
Who knows
Get lost and get right with my soul
Makes me wanna take
Makes me wanna take a back road

I've been cooked up, tied down, 'bout forgotten
What a field looks like, full of corn and cotton
If I'm gonna hit a traffic jam,
Well it better be a tractor man
So sick and tired of this interstate system
I need a curve and wide-a-twistin'
Dusty path to nowhere
With the wind blowing through my baby's hair

Yeah, makes me wanna take a back road
Makes me wanna take the long way home
Put a little gravel in my travel
Unwind, unravel all night long
Makes me wanna grab my honey
Tear down some two-lane country
Who knows
Get lost and get right with my soul
Makes me wanna take
Makes me wanna take a back road

Some ol' back road

Maybe it's the feeling or maybe it's the freedom
Maybe it's that shady spot
Where we park the truck when the things get hot
Yeah we park the truck when the things get hot

And it makes me wanna take a back road
Makes me wanna take the long way home
Put a little gravel in my travel
Unwind, unravel all night long
Makes me wanna grab my honey
Tear down some two-lane country
Who knows
Get lost and get right with my soul
Makes me wanna take
Makes me wanna take a back road.

Some old back road, get right with my soul
Now all I gotta do is take some old back road
To the shady spot where things get hot
Way down, way down, way down some old back road

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pat Yourselves on the Back

Hello everybody, and may I also say WOW.

From comments here to mails in my box, I have gotten tremendous support from you guys and you all rock my socks off. (Seriously, cannot wear socks for like 6 months, they have been rocked so hard, and so far.)

There are a lot of things in motion right now. I am trying to set myself up for success and I've made some hard decisions and spent more time on the phone in the last 48 hours than in the last 2 months, combined :P

As far as I know, my head is healing fine and my hand is doing much better today! The road rash is still very sore and the scabs tear a little easier than one would hope but I think I'll be okay ;)

Hopefully I will come bearing good news, and soon! But for now I want to tell you all to just give yourself a big pat on the back because you guys are totally awesome. I have a recognized terror of failure and even thinking about changing the IH schedule put me in tremors. My good friend, going for a PhD in Psychology recently did a career counseling session for me.

Probably one of the biggest things I took away from him was when he looked me in the eye and said, "It's okay. It's okay to fail. It's okay to give up sometimes, or try again later. It's okay."

It sounds stupid but I burst into tears because it's so much harder to live with that understanding (for me) than to just get it. You guys have been amazing friends, backing me up even when I'm falling and I thank you for it.

I love you guys!!! My colleagues, my fans, my FRIENDS!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I will probably be the first one to tell you - I hate excuses. I would much rather the person just say they are sorry for something they've done then try to tell me all the extenuating circumstances.

But, to make a rule there have to be exceptions. (Or so someone once gravely informed me.) If the excuse is something that will continue to cause problems in the future, I think it's better to know.

The fact is, "Frigid" will not be releasing as scheduled. It _will_ release, just not on time. I'm hoping before this month ends. After that, IH will be changing over to a 2-month release schedule (from it's current 1-month schedule).

I've had a number of major life bombs dropped on me recently. Certainly not the least is that my significant other will soon be jobless. He is the assistant manager of a well-known national brand, but the landlord for his store up and decided he is refusing to renew the lease. It's not only his store, a number of landlords seem to have ganged up on his company. His is not the only store that is closing, nor is it the only one in our area. Probably the worst part about this is that his store was actually doing well and under his management! About 6-7 weeks ago, his store manager was promoted and he has been running the store alone, (still on an assistant manager's salary, even!) and blew away the upper management with his stellar numbers and efficiency. It makes the fall all that harder.

The reality is that I rely on him a lot (probably too much). He pays the mortgage for HIS house, the utilities... I pretty much use my measly 6k/year income to skate by on my bills, and when I catch a break, take us out for dinner or stock up the pantry once in awhile. (Does anyone even say pantry anymore?)

I am proud of where the IH has come so far, and I am making definite inroads into indie publishing, but I am not growing at a life-sustaining rate and I need to make some hard decisions.

I don't need a lot to survive - only about $500/month for MY personal bills. I am making about $10/month with my writing, so far. With his looming joblessness, I definitely need more coming in.

Don't get me wrong - I have been looking for a better-paying job for upwards of 2 months.

There. Is. Nothing. In. Ohio.

Smart people leave Ohio. I did once and did very well for myself. But, I came back. And now I find I'm basically back to where I started before I left. Minus the debt I paid off while I was gone (but the new debt is growing, sigh.) I really, really, really want to leave again. It's a lot harder when it's not just you, but you have someone else very important to you that has to be situated, also.

If this wasn't enough for you, I was also in a biking (bicycle, not motorcycle) accident recently and kissed the pavement with my right hand (THANKFULLY not broken or fractured, just very, very contussed) and also with my head. (No helmet, FTW.)

Hospital bills I know I won't be able to afford and a concussion later, here I am. Slightly disoriented, unable to cool off while sitting directly in front of a full-blast AC and painfully typing this to you.

Thankfully the road rash on my hand, head and leg aren't too bad. But they are pretty colors.

So to recap: homelessness looming, bike accident, changed release schedule and #6 will be late.

And, for what it's worth:

I am very sorry.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Icarus Helix Episode 6: "Frigid" (Sneak Peek!)

I would love to know everyone's thoughts :D

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Communication, Part 2

We hit 60 words today in our sign practice. Andy missed a couple on his round (he went first today) and I got them all correct. Got to use my sign to celebrate, even! Went something like this:

Me: Sign champion!

Him: I'm incompetent.

Me: Correct. (One of our new signs today.)

Him: =(

Haha, seems a little mean, but it WAS funny :)

Friday, August 12, 2011


I will be the first to admit: in the mornings I am an angry, biznotchy, growling, lumbering, scowling, barbed, volatile creature of hatred. I don't wake up well, I never really have. Something about the land of dreams sinks its claws into me and fights, fights to let me resurface unto reality.

I wake up slow. I use multiple alarms. I always hit the snooze and I hate, hate, HATE noise. It's not even noise so much as voices. I hate listening to people talk in the morning. Give me at least an hour before you so much as say "Good Morning"! Something about it just grinds against my brain and mashes every snarling instinct in my nervous system. It's not flight for me, it's FIGHT.

Needless to say, with as exuberantly talkative at my beau is at ANY given hour, this is a problem for us.

I recently published "Thief" about a mute boy whose best friend is deaf. They communicate in sign language. Oh, to know sign language... it's so... silent!

When I wrote "Thief" I tried to do some research into sign culture. I've always been interested in signing. I even tried to sign up for it in college. (Fun fact: my college only allowed you to take beginner's sign unless you actually had a close relative who was deaf. I don't. The waiting list for beginner's sign was still two semesters deep...) If I take a class, I don't want it to be half-assed... I want to learn everything I can. Just taking beginner's sign seemed sort of a waste to me.

So for my research I signed up with a huge deaf/signing culture message board. I introduced myself, said I was doing some research into signing culture and had some questions.

Then the internet crickets came out.

When I finally received a response, it was sadly to a link that was all about what non-hearing people hate about "hearies". I found many of the things there to be inflammatory and even hurtful. This was my greeting into the deaf culture? I was quite upset. I ended up mailing the moderator and asked to take my post down, then I excused myself from the message boards.

They say you catch more flies with honey. If you want someone to understand you, you have to be accepting when they start from ground zero. My students in Japan said some shocking and almost blasphemously incorrect things about America. I kept my patience and explained the error, and I tried to laugh off as many of the incidentally hurtful things they said. If someone kicks a rock and accidentally hits you, punching them in the face isn't going to solve anything.

I really despaired about signing for quite awhile. I'd made a few brave forays into the culture and seemed to keep finding locked doors.

Recently, Andy (the beau) asked me to go see Harry Potter (part 2) in the theaters with him. I read the books, at about a rate of 1 per day. They were alright. I wasn't terribly impressed. I can respect they brought the world of books to many kids, and applaud them for that. I would probably have sufficed on Sparknotes. Sadly, I found the movies equally as lacking. They just didn't hold any punch for me. But I took his desire to see the movie, and I struck a deal.

I would finish watching the movies (4 total more to watch, at that point) AND see the last one in theaters with him, if he would learn sign language with me.

Now, I understand it can take about a hobojillion years to learn sign language. But I felt like it took a hobojillion years to get through all the HP movies.

A deal was forged.

We add about 4 new words a day, via a set of 500 sign flashcards we obtained at a Border's funeral for 30% off. We also bought an ENORMOUS sign dictionary (ostensibly for when the cards are finished?).

We're up to somewhere about 50 words. We practice every card (current plus the new 4) every day. We've settled into a routine:

1. Pick new cards, at random.

2. Try to guess what the signs on the cards mean.

3. See the meaning of the cards, read the text of how to sign it, read "related" words".

4. Someone says a word and you have to produce the sign. It gives us some good practice because it's almost like "translating" the word into movement.

We were also doing an I-sign-you-say backwards translation, but doing both took up a lot more time and with an increasing number of cards/words, we just say-and-sign-quiz.

It's slow going. It will take us about a million years to learn sign language. But the important thing is: we are doing it together. With increasing numbers of words, we can put together some simple sentences. We can communicate small things via sign. We have opened up an additional line of communication and set aside time to spend with each other (that is very important).

And maybe a small personal favorite thing... the more we learn, the more I look forward to a nice, voiceless morning.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Schrödinger's U-turn

Me and the beau were driving on the highway from our town to the next over the other day. I was watching the scenery and we passed a few of those U-turns they have through the median that are really only used by clocking coppers and occasionally emergency vehicles. At every U-turn there was the (No U-Turn) sign.

This sort of irritates me, because especially on that stretch of highway (it's even worse farther on), if you miss your exit you are literally driving for miles and miles before you can turn around. I can even think of at least one exit that says "No Re-entry Eastbound" so if you miss your exit, and take the next exit, you still can't turn around.

My solution, of course, was that a number of the no U-turn's could actually be places where, oh, I dunno, you can turn around! When bargaining, aim high, so I said every other one should be OK for turning around.

The beau of course reminded me that U-turns through the median onto a highway could be quite dangerous (duh, thanks, I know). And if you're on the highway, you might not be able to see someone making the U-turn... meanwhile you're going 65mph... etc.

So I suggested there could be some sort of sign for these types of U-turns. I thought about it for a moment. Obviously the words can't be too long, because you're going 65mph and don't have time to read the frikkin' Analects so it has to be quick!

Our conversation went something like:

"Okay, I know what to call it!"


"Viable U-turn Ahead" and here's where I beam with self-satisfied glee because this is a perfect answer.

"You can't use viable."

"What? Why not?"

"Wh... what does viable even mean? I don't even know what it means. The laws of this country aren't made for any other reason then to protect dumb people. People don't know what viable means. If you use that, no one is going to know, and there'll be just as many accidents anyway."

(And out of all that I of course took...) "You don't know what viable means?"

"I... okay, maybe. It means potential, right?"

So we had a long discussion on the what the exact difference between "potential" and "viable" is. I argue that "potential" refers more to an unknown quantity ie: He has a lot of potential. Whereas "viable" refers more to a YES/NO statement, there either being (in use) or being (not in use) of a U-turn ahead. Either way, watch out.

I drummed up a mental tally of some of my coworkers... and decided OK, maybe "viable" WOULD be a bad choice...

So with an equally satisfied air of triumph, I declared, "Schrödinger's U-turn!"

He made some unintelligible exclamatory remarks...

"Do you know what Schrödinger said?" I asked, somewhat exasperated.


So I gave him a crash course in layman's terms of THAT experiment. While agreeing it was interesting, he burst my bubble with:

"If they don't know what viable means, they probably won't know who Schrödinger is."


That is probably true.

But I don't like being defeated twice, so I sulked.

"I don't care," I said. "We'll put it in the traffic manual and they have to learn it or NO LICENSE. I hereby declare Schrödinger's U-turn to be in effect."

So there.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Captain American't

You may remember my glowing review of Green Lantern.

I'm writing a series about teens with superpowers. Obviously I like this kind of stuff.

But for everything good about Green Lantern, Captain America sucked floppy donkey schlong (pardon my language).

Some of the jokes were funny, but the actors' timing was poor. It felt forced. In fact, in a huge movie theater with the sound so high the ceiling is shaking, the actors mumbled so much I couldn't understand the dialogue.

Hugo Weaving (better known as "That Bad Guy From the Matrix" or "V") is an incredible actor. I loved his performance. I wish he hadn't been stuck with such droll dialogue, but at least he managed to put a great deal of life into it.

Other than Hugo, I liked the costumes and a lot of the cars, especially the Hydromobile, as I called Johann Schmidt's transportation. And Samuel L. Jackson, because if you don't like him in any given movie, he has a federal contract that says he can come punch you in your face (even if you are pregnant or wear glasses). So, I liked him.

When all the bad reviews started coming out about Green Lantern, I was skeptical of the movie. I wanted to see it - so I did... and loved it. The more reviews I saw the more I thought, "Either you didn't watch the same movie as me, or you have been paid to badmouth it by a rival studio". I could not understand the fiery loathing the reviewers poured onto the hapless head of beautiful Ryan Reynolds.

Then Captain America came out and got glowing reviews. "It's everything Green Lantern wasn't...", "the acting was superb...", "If you see one movie this summer, see CAPTAIN AMERICA!".

The only one of those reviews that was correct was the first - everything Green Lantern wasn't... because Green Lantern was awesome and Captain America was physically painful, it was so disappointing.

I get it - it's supposed to be a set-up for the Avengers movie next year. It's supposed to build tension and make you anticipate something in the future.

The only tension it built in me was an aggravation at having a wallet six and a half bucks lighter. Don't see this movie in theaters. Wait until it comes to Redbox and rent it for a dollar. Or better yet, wait until you have one of those $.50 weekend coupons from Redbox and THEN rent it. Or BETTER, rent something ELSE, get offered a FREE rental and get Captain America.

You'll thank me later.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

July 2011 Sales Update

I felt at the end of last month that my sales this month would not be as high. I had a few reasons for my belief. First(ly), I had someone purchase all my works in one big swoop (5 sales). I also was featured on Daily Cheap Reads Jr. These provided a little more than my average exposure (none but enthusiastic book bloggers). Another reason for my belief was that my release was very late in the month (the 27th). This only allowed 5 days for the new release to sparkle in July... not even a full week! So some residual sales were probably lost (but are being picked up early August).

Despite these things, I only fell short of last month's sales by 2... TWO! I believe this month and through the end of the year should go up, up and up! So, onto the chart!

My July sales totaled 25 units. That is about 92.59% of June. I was expecting more around 20, so I was pleasantly surprised :)

Since I put my first book up for sale in February, I have sold 92 units. 27.17% of those were in June. My sales last month were 40.29% of my total, so the percentage has dropped. While this seems down dramatically, please also note that my TOTAL units sold INCREASED 37.31%. So, having the same number sell each month (or less) of course the percentage will drop, if for no other reason than there are more "points". Think of it like school grades in school. The more points there are, the less each individual point is worth...

"Thug" has been slow on the uptake. The first four days saw six sales, where I was expecting closer to 7-10. But I'm not worried, because there is a lot in the world to read and I'm sure fans of the series will come around to grab it up eventually (or even soon!).

17 of my sales (68%) came on or after "Thug"'s release (July 27th). This is down from 77.77% in June, but that's kind of a good thing. It meant my sales were more evenly spread across July, not all coming in a big lump like at the end of June. This was definitely better for my overall mental state throughout the month :P But it was also exciting to see sales more often.

July had my highest number of DAYS with sales, at 12/31 - 38.71%!

In June I averaged .9/day in sales. In July: .81. Ah, it went down, but that's okay. It is literally the difference between two sales.

Smashwords was 4% of my sales this month (down from 18.51%). B&N was 24% of my sales, up from 22.22%. Amazon was a whopping 72% of my sales!

Best-selling rank so far:
#1 - Cheat, 31
#2 - Liar, 16
#3 - Shackled, 14
#4 - Coward, 13
#5 - Thief, 12
#6 - Thug, 6

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

So, as follows:

Cheat - Liar; 31 - 16 (51.61%) June saw 47.82%, so that conversion rate has risen! That means people who picked up "Cheat" before have read it and decided to move on in the series :) I hit my 50% conversion, so yay!

Liar - Coward; 16 - 13 (81.25%) Well, this is down from 100%, but both numbers increased, meaning people are getting more into the story! I am still well above the awesome 75% mark, so I am very pleased.

Coward - Thief; 13 - 12 (92.31%) This number has risen almost 11%! I think that is great. It is startlingly close to 100% and well above both the 50 and 75% benchmarks. I have nothing bad to say about these numbers, either :)

Thief - Thug; 12 - 6 (50%) I have hit the 50% goal marker, so I am happy. As I mentioned, "Thug" was slow on the uptake, but I believe early August will see more sales of it.

I'm going to introduce a new section here, at least for this month. We can talk about "units" and percentages, but I thought it might be a little bit of an eye-opener to see how much I am actually making. (Here's a hint: not much :D) So, I've prepared two charts for you. The first is a breakdown of ALL the royalties I've earned since the beginning of my "journey" if you will (since February 2011). It is broken down by vendor. Please check it out:

This second chart is a breakdown, by month, of the royalties I've earned (not vendor exclusive). Because of the "rules" of royalties by the vendors, anything less than $10 in a month means you don't get royalties until that account balance reaches $10. In (very late) June I received my first royalty check from Amazon... for February, March and April! I won't receive another one until (at the earliest, late) August :( But, I finally hit $10 at both B&N AND Smashwords this month, so I should receive THREE in August! :D So enough blathering and here is the chart:

Final Notes:
I feel like I'm pretty on track with where I should be, from July. I'm hoping to be swept up in the big Christmas rush season. As the weather cools down and more people turn back to reading, I offer a nice, affordable body of work to peruse. I also think that writing YA will help fill the void left behind by Twilight or Harry Potter, especially since HP is coming to the ebook world. Hopefully those readers will be looking for their next big reading fix and they will come upon me :)

My July goals were 30/40/50 (achievable/happy/excitement). I'm not totally surprised I didn't meet my achievable, but I was pleasantly surprised by beating my pessimism. Boons last month aside, I did well on my own this month :)

If I were going to give someone advice, from this point, I would say: TITLES MATTER! I'm not talking what the book is called, I'm talking having works out there for people to snap up after they read something else of yours. If someone isn't buying X, they might be buying Y, Z, A, N, or P! (I have 6 titles, so I used that for reference, hah.) While I have no proof that people finish "Cheat" and immediately buy "Liar"... the sales pattern strongly reflects it...

So why are you still here? Get writing! Okay, I'll give you just one last little bit, and then you better GET WRITING! (If you're aiming to meet/exceed me) :)

I feel a little confident about August, so here are my August goals:

Achievable: 35
Happy: 40
Excitement: 50

Thanks for sticking around and I'd love to know what you think!