Monday, December 24, 2012

A Little Bit of Heart on My Sleeve

I am a very proud person.  As such, and as other proud people may attest, it is very difficult for me to just ask for help. I'm not talking about, "Hey, can you hand me that book?" sort of help, I'm talking about, "Hey, I don't know if I can do this alone".

So I am going to tell you a story.  And then I am going to ask for help.  You can quit reading now, or you can finish this post, and decide what you want to do.

I have had the very, very good fortune to be involved with a man who prizes me above all else.  My happiness is his happiness.  He gave me the opportunity to write, freely.  He supported me while working full time, and gave me all the hours of the day to tap out my craft.

About a year ago, he got a promotion.  In February, he moved part of our house from Ohio to Illinois.  In September, I moved the rest of it.  I worked up until I moved in September.  Regardless, the mortgage, the car payments, student loans, etc, etc... we lived on a tight dollar.  Over 90% of our "free" money was not actually free, but fed the three of us (myself, him and our dog).  We did not have money to save, though we wanted to.  Even though his promotion was for good pay, the concession was that they would not pay any moving expenses.  It was all on us.  It bit into the little money we had.  But at least we were together again.

And we had confidence.  The pay was good (enough).  The house would sell.  That would give us a much better buffer.  It would all work out.

But the store he was placed in was a bad location.  He no longer worked for the company he had been with for 10 years, but for a smaller company that bought the franchise.  The rental location was locked in.  The rent was exorbitant.  The store had twice as many sales... but for items less than 1/10 the worth of the other stores in the franchise, making it the smallest grossing.  He followed every action plan, every suggestion to increase his sales.  He worked upwards of 60 hours a week trying to make things happen.  But the owners didn't follow through on their own programs.  They announced a manager-in-training position, gave guidelines on the interview process.  He followed them to the letter, weeded through dozens of candidates, and finally passed one through to be interviewed.  Two weeks later the candidate called him, asking why he had not been contacted.  They still haven't contacted him, and not because he was a bad choice - but because they could not be bothered to do their end of their own programs.

He did mailings, flyers, attended events, and then at area meetings it was revealed he was the ONLY manager following through on those.  He signed people up for special promotions vaguely announced (as in a day it will happen, but no details) to help increase sales and traffic in his store, and then his managers would never release the details of the sale.  Not even on the day OF the sale, leaving him adrift with angry customers.

And on December 20th, 5 days before Christmas, they fired him for making a stupid, careless mistake with an abandoned gift card.  They called it theft and cut him loose, and by calling it theft, deprived him of unemployment.

I don't know what else I can say about that, except it is Christmas Eve and the shock still hasn't worn off.

Our house never sold, we have no income and we could barely afford this "opportunity" as it was.

Everything inside of me went very still when he sat me down with tears in his eyes.  He is a good, good person, but my heart broke for him when the despair cracked his voice.  "I have ruined our future," he said dully.  "I am so, so, so sorry."

I heard the clock ticking on his desk as the moments passed by.  My consciousness went immediately into Mom/crisis mode.  I was very calm, I felt very dead.  "It's okay," I told him quietly.  "We will figure something out."  And, "We can't afford to stay here.  We should start packing."  And, "Before you do, please sign onto your computer and look for a job."

He applied for six jobs immediately, and in the past four days at least upwards of 30 total.  But right then, we started packing.

We only moved four months ago.  We had no money for a truck back home.  Was it a blessing that the house hadn't sold?  At least we weren't homeless, unless we couldn't make the payments - and it was looking like that.

"Stop it," I hissed at myself repeatedly through the day.  "Just pack.  Don't think about it, you can cry later."

Only four months, at least we hadn't gotten rid of the boxes yet.  I walked through that day without saying much.  I planned how best to eat the perishable food that wouldn't survive the 10+ hour move back to Ohio. I encouraged his job-seeking.  I didn't allow myself quiet moments to panic, but stayed busy.  I called my mom sometime during the day, explained what had happened and told her we would be coming home to the best of our ability.  I couldn't even sleep.

The clock rolled around.  The dark outside gave way to a sunrise on which I felt nothing.  And then at 10:30 am, my mom called me back.

"Grandpa had a fever yesterday," she said.  "He passed away around midnight."

It was like that moment in the movies, when all the main character hears is a ringing noise.  I couldn't tell you what she said next, only that I murmured the appropriate noises of agreement.  Once the phone went dead, I filed away my emotions in the "cry later" folder.  I zombie-shuffled around.  I packed.  I collected a fresh round of our financial data and found to the cent how much we need to survive, month to month, once we return home.  And around 2pm, I fell into an exhausted sleep.

I slept for about 7 hours, woke up feeling like I hadn't even shut my eyes.  I cooked the dinner on my perishable foods plan.  We ate it.  We packed.  He told me about the jobs he applied to during the day, and I gave words of encouragement.

Then at 11:30pm, his mother sent me a text message.  His dad was going into the ER.

My protective, emotionless shell cracked a little.  "Was the 'Mayan Apocalypse' just meant for the two of us?" I raged at my phone.  After all, my world was crashing to bits.  But I reigned it in.  I tied my anger down.  I kept moving forward, executing my plan to methodically repack the house.  We both paled at the cost of the moving truck (we need a bigger one since we're doing it all in one go).  We made half-hearted jokes.

And the night again became day, my sleeping schedule now totally messed up.  And that morning, the 22nd, I called my mom again.  She told me about the plan for calling hours for my grandfather, and how one of his sons couldn't making it until a day after the intended burial, so it was pushed back.

And then I realized, at that moment, that I would not be there to say good-bye to my beloved grandfather.

I lucked into him, really.  I come from a broken home, and when my mom remarried it was like magic for us.  Suddenly we had a family that came together on holidays.  A family with traditions.  I will never forget the first day I walked into my grandparent's house and just knew it was okay.  I was terrified to meet them - what if they hated me?  I wasn't really their grandchild.  I was the daughter of the woman their son married.

I needn't have worried.  They welcomed me with open arms.  They did everything in their power to tell me I was loved just because.  As it was, I was the first grandchild, regardless of not being natural born.

My grandfather was an amazing man.  Until the day his hand shook too badly, he wrote letters to his local newspapers.  Even then, he gamely tried to adapt to the technology of the computer.  He stayed politically active, encouraging people to vote.  He worked as hard as he possibly could for positive change.

My grandfather saw good in everyone.  He believed the best, even of the worst.  He worked every week with Meals on Wheels, even long past the time he deserved a rest.  I worked the soup kitchens with him a few times, even, and it was so inspiring.  He was a veteran, he was a provider, and he was family.  I know of times when he approached people too poor to own a phone.  He slipped them calling cards so they could talk to their families.  Money was something that let him do good in the world, and his life was the time in which to make it work.  He provided for his family and beyond.

I had a very special bond with him.  I was a wreck after college.  I was finally free of a terrible 4.5 year relationship, and I couldn't let anything jeopardize that.  I wanted to get away from that ex with every fiber of my being, and just move on with my life.  I wanted freedom.  I wanted something different, and I decided to go to Japan.

Everyone around me said things like, "Why would you want to do that?" or "It's so far!" or "You don't even speak the language!" or "I think it's a mistake."

My own family said this to me at a BBQ before I left.  But when they went into dinner, he held my arm and drew me back and away from them.

"Don't listen to them," he said fiercely.  "This is your life, and your decision.  You may never have a chance like this again.  And if you want to do it, forget all them and DAMN IT JUST DO IT!"

I loved him more in that moment than I thought possible.  His were the only words of encouragement I got before I left the country.  They meant the world to me.  He meant the world to me.  If nothing else, he was the only person that wanted to let me live my life the way I chose.

I think he made me a better person.  I remember how having one person there to believe in me meant everything.  I try to pass that along, I strive to be there and encourage people when they need it.

And now he is gone, and I am not able to be there to say good-bye.  I will miss his burial by two days.  I can't even afford flowers for him.

On the 22nd, I sat down with my significant other, and I told him everything I could about my grandfather.  I want him to be remembered, and loved like I loved him.  If anyone deserved it, my grandfather did.

Everything - the SO losing his job, his father going to the ER (he is on antibiotics and doing okay now), and my grandfather passing just overwhelmed me.  On the 22nd, I sat in my SO's arms and I just cried, because there was no power in the world that could have held back my tears.  In two days, the things that can happen.

When it was over, I was exhausted.  I slept for nine hours, woke up and made the next item on the perishable dinners list.  But I was more alert than before, and I knew I needed help.

When I wrote "Youth", I got the idea from my grandfather.  His steps had slowed considerably, and all I could think was, "What if there were something I could do for him?"  So I did the only thing I could, and I wrote a story about a drug that miraculously makes you feel 20 again.  I knew I would dedicate it to him long before I wrote the first word.  But I also knew that miracles come at a price, and that price would be death.  So "Youth" had boundaries, and the user would die within a month.

I started writing it while caring for my dying stepmother.  Her cancer finally got the better of her, and of all the family, my father and I were the only ones who stayed by her side.  We took 12-hr shifts.  During the night shift, in the 59 minutes between giving her oral doses of morphine to keep her painless, I started "Youth".  On the hour, every hour, I broke off writing to tend to her.  I stayed with her as long as I could, and then I had to go home and attend to my own job and home, and while I was driving home, she passed.

I remember thinking, as I drove home, "I don't want him (my grandfather, who inspired "Youth") to linger, if something happens."  I am a firm believer of dignity in death.  I can only be grateful that he went quickly, painlessly in his sleep.  I am so relieved he didn't suffer that way.  For me, love is not keeping someone in agony just so they don't die.  Love is letting them be at peace.

I took a long break, and then I finished "Youth".  I dedicated it to my grandfather, I posted it the usual sites.  And for Christmas, I had intended to present a copy to him, and thank him.  For everything.

And oh, how the world can be cruel.

I published "Youth" in November, and to date, not a single copy has sold.  Not a single person has read how my grandfather gave courage, and was loved.  The only gesture I can make, has gone unnoticed.

And this is where I ask for help.

I have lowered the price of "Youth" to $3.99 (from $5.99).  I want to ask you, to just try and tell two people about it.  You can even direct them back here, if you like.  If you can tell two people, and they can tell two people, and they can tell two people... and if even a fraction of those people pick up the book, things will improve.  My message will get out there.  People will know my grandfather was loved.

And why not offer it for free?  Why not offer it for $.99 cents?  I am a practical person.  "See to thy own house, first."  If we are a mess, we can't help other people, and I want to - I want to help other people for helping me.  That is why I am pledging myself to do just that.  If we can get ourselves squared away, and on stable legs, I pledge to donate money in my grandfather's name, to the charities he was so passionate about.  I want his legacy to live on, though he was not able to.

So to recap: I lowered the price by $2 to make it easier to help.  Even getting the message out is a huge step, if you can help with dollars (I know they're tight everywhere!!).  And if you can help, I pledge to live frugally and wisely until such time as I can pay it forward, in his name.  I already do that anyway, and I'll probably continue do it regardless, but I want to give a measure of assurance.

My grandfather really impressed on me the value of giving time to those in need.  Now that he has no more time to give, I want to give the next best thing, in his name.

For you, do it to care, or do it as a social experiment, or do it because you can... whatever the reason!

"Youth" is available on Kindle, Nook and Kobo.  There was an editing error, but I am working on getting the clean copy uploaded and repriced.  (So if the $3.99 isn't yet active, please be patient, I just hit send!)  Kobo will be late because they are down (not accepting updates) until after the new year!

So even if it's just the time to spread the word (and feel free to direct them back to this page!), thank you in advance for caring.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest

Doo doo doo do DOO, doo doo do DOO DOO
*flashback sequence, sometime 2011-2012*

I'm just a surfing around the internet trying to think of good writing goals.  Hmmm, you know, I hear authors are finding a lot of success with Amazon.  They're getting good, decent contracts and really making a name for themselves with a publisher that seems to care about them as people, not machines.

Huh, Amazon has a Breakthrough Novel Award Contest?  How did I not know about this sooner?  Boy oh boy, my heart is full of happiness and joy and puppies licking candy canes!  But despite my excitement, I am an author who cares about her career. I know that NOT understanding what's expected of me in my contract, and NOT understanding at least enough legalese to protect myself is a DUMB MOVE.  Let's look over the terms of this contest hmmmm...



If you win Amazaon's BNAC, you get a contract for your book.

From Penguin.

Thanks, but NO THANKS.  You can collect your consolation prize at the door there, Penguin, but you won't be wringing me dry, a new and vibrant author, with your machine of lies and death.  If Amazon isn't offering the contract for their own contest, well, I didn't avoid the query-go-round for nothing!

*close window, forget about ABNAC 95%, fast forward to today*

Oh, Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.  I remember this.  The one with Penguin that was actually not a very good deal at all.  Well, maybe they've changed something, let's have a looksee...

Well, I see the $5,000 paid against royalties for the winner has been increased to $50,000.  That's pretty substantial.  And now there are also 4 "First Prize" winners that get paid $15,000 against royalties along with the printing of their book.  That's kind of nifty.  What else?

Oh, previously self-published books can be submitted, as long as they meet the 50-150k word requirement. So I'd be okay on "Shackled" but not so much on "Youth" which falls a little shy of the 50k minimum.  Anything else?

... Huh.

Amazon has taken control of their contest.  Now, if you win Amazon's contest, you get published... by Amazon.  Well that certainly sounds more appealing!  Hmm, but if you "win", you have to accept the contract "as-is" with no negotiations.  Now, I've heard contracts from Amazon are a-to-the-wesome, but I've never actually SEEN one.  Though, I suppose I could take the contract to a lawyer once it was offered. Let's do a little more digging...

Well, I'd have to give up worldwide rights.  And there would be no "end" on the contract, as far as this shows, so if they don't get me in the right places and it never sells, I don't have recourse to get that book back.  I have to be honest, I don't understand if "Interactive Editions" includes if the book is optioned for a movie, or is made into a movie.  Am I expected to give up revenue for that?  Is a movie an "interactive product"?  I'm not really finding anything to back it up with a yes or no.

Gross vs Net, people often don't understand this.  My book might make $400,000 gross.  But if Amazon says they spent $400,001 dollars in marketing/layout/overhead, that is subtracted from the gross to leave the net: -$1.  That would mean that after the initial advance royalties, I wouldn't see a single red cent.  I don't like Net Revenue.  I think without defining exactly what CAN come out of Gross, you're leaving yourself open to a dangerous, expensive and vague loophole.  I always push for points (percentage of Gross, Ex: 5 points = 5% gross), because then no matter how much they spend, as long as money comes in, you get a part of it.  I am incredibly wary of this "net" business.  Especially when I don't understand what "interactive editions" could really identify.

But on the other hand, who am I?  I'm not a big name, I'm not well known and talked about with reverence.  I'm still a fledgling author, in the grand scheme of things.  $50,000... or even $15,000 in advance royalties and all the power of Amazon behind me?  Am I willing to essentially give up one book for that kick in the behind towards the door marked, "Success"?  How many books do I think I have in me?

More than one more?



Pffftt, one more book in me.  Who'm I kidding?  I have dozens, maybe hundreds, if I don't stop getting in my own way of writing them!  I can write a book for this contest!

Okay, you've nabbed me now, Amazon.  So I can just submit my novel anytime next year, right?

What do you mean, NO?

What do you mean you're only accepting the first 10,000 entries?

Starting January 14th?!?!  And you'll only accept them until you reach 10,000 or January 27th?!?

Hungry, hungry hippos, Batman!  I'd better get writing!  (And you should too!  Good luck everyone!)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Quick Update

Sorry I haven't been around all, it's been crazy hectic.  That's the holidays I guess, right?

So, what's on my plate.

As of today, I only reached 12.38% of my word count goal for 2012, of 500,000 words written.  Ehehehe, whoops.  Looking over my progress chart, it's easy to see the large swathes of days where I did no writing.  However, I did reach my mini-goal of completing a new novel for 2012, and that was "Youth".  And I didn't totally poop out, because I had another mini-goal of reaching double digit completion on my word goal - at least 10% - and I did manage to get to 12.38.

I'd like to try and reach the 15% milestone by the end of the year.  I will try.  And the year's not over, maybe I'll write 440,000 words before January 1st (Ha.  Ha.  Ha.).

Anyway, that's where I am, and hope you're all finding more success with your goals than I have!

P.S: It's December, so my Writer's of the Future entry should be judged soon.  NERVOUS!  Will let you know how that does!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


So apparently while I wasn't paying attention, Amazon switched from the easy to maneuver .azw format into the hair-ripping, gut-busting, rage-inducing .azw3.  You wouldn't think that three could make much of a difference, but oh, how it does.  My whole formatting process was completely thrown off and it took me two days of downtime to figure out how to properly format.

I took a jaunt with Scrivener, finding it very, very painful to work with.  I tried Writeway, which I had a lot more success with, but that I'm still not convinced I want to plunk down 25-50 dollars for.

In the end, I did it by hand.  (And with a little help from Calibre.)

But the good news is: Youth is now for sale!

You can buy it on Amazon

Or Barnes and Noble

Or even Kobo!  (Okay, not Kobo yet, but it's coming!)

"Youth for you, when you can appreciate it most."

A blessing? A curse? One pill can restore the aged, the infirm, the terminally ill to the sprightly, energetic days of their early twenties. One pill reverses cancer, strengthens bones, restores eyesight... makes the user young again.

There is only one side effect: 100% Death within one month.

Louise Smith has been virtually abandoned by her family. Her children have moved away, mostly out of touch. Her husband spends his days in the care of a nursing home, too mentally ill to be safely home. Is her life worth living?

Louise must decide: tough out her days, or one pill for the final hurrah.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Kobo Experience

I've dallied about, posted my work on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but sort of gave the hairy eyeball to that "Kobo Thing".

In one of my frequent chats with Michael Kingswood we got to discussing the success he's found with Kobo's platform.  My hairy eyeball came creeping out again, and I decided to take another swing around the block to peek for myself.  What was this Kobo Thing?

Plainly put, Kobo is kind of what is Amazon is... where Amazon is not.  Kobo, for instance, has a considerable presence in Japan.  KDP, Amazon's proprietary blah de blah, does not list in Japan.

This is not the only place Kobo is working it, while Amazon is lagging.  In fact, it appears Kobo is quietly becoming a powerhouse... in other parts of the world.

So, hairy eyeball intact, I signed up and took a swing around Kobo's Authors Enter HERE site, weirdly titled (at least for me) Kobo Writing Life.  It just doesn't roll off the tongue.

The site seems clean, easily navigable.  Things are logically placed.  There are notes to help you along.  The unimaginatively entitled Dashboard has very insightful and interest-piquing promises... once you've published a book, that is.  It has features like quick stats, if you just want to eyeball (hairy or no) your income.

It has a graph that shows your daily sales... you know, for you, so you don't have to swim through ugly excel sheets just trying to figure out your monthly numbers coughAmazoncough.

It conveniently lists your top sellers in order, and also has (what promises to be) a cool map showing you world interest by region!

I've been meaning to go back through the IH series with a fine-toothed comb.  I know I have typing errors, weird errors, in there.  I'm sure of it.  In fact, I went through "Cheat", the first episode today.  Oh yeah, best error?

He felt like a fool.  Except, I didn't type fool.  I typed food.  I wonder what type of food he felt like?

But I've been pondering over DWS, and the value of my time, my work, ect.  At 20k, the IH episodes should be sitting pretty at the $2.99 mark.  So that's my goal.  As I update them with the cleanest possible copies, and little teasers like "Look out for episode HARGLE" (where HARGLE = the next number in sequence) I'm going to start prodding the price points up to $2.99.  So if you're somewhere in the middle of the series, here's your warning - they won't stay $1.99 forever!

So back to Kobo.

The update process was remarkably painless, after remembering my early days stumbling through Amazon and B&N's complicated, often slow and annoying systems.

There is even a link, prominently placed and easily visible, for people to provide feedback and "I'd like to see..." suggestions.

I think Kobo's really got their heads on straight when it comes to bringing in the talent.  Honestly, Amazon's site looks like something I'd picture from the DOS age and B&N is kind of all over the place.  And one major point that Amazon just cannot understand, but that B&N at least has down - when a book has been edited, you can easily go back in and change your edits.  Leave out something in the description?  No problem, change it before it goes to review.  Kobo is fatalistically simple to get back into your queued-for-review books.  Amazon locks them down like Fort Knox, often making you wait hours, (days, in the beginning) to be able to worm back in and fix an error.

So, I uploaded "Cheat" to Kobo today.  I'm hoping to get at least 1 IH up a week until they're all up, and then we'll start on the rest.  "Shackled"'s KDPS runs out at the end of this month.  Time to get 'er back out there, and on a new market!

Oh, and the best part is that Kobo is running a special through the end of November - any titles at the 70% price point... will be bumped up to 80%!  That's not only a sweet deal for authors that just... well... sweet.  You can't help but wonder if Kobo maybe, just maybe, cares about us.

Kobo, you've got yourself a convert.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Year-on-Year (YoY), September 2012

I'll keep this pretty short, as there isn't much to say.  My YoY from September showed pretty bleak numbers... basically this whole year.  I had a nice bit in August, when my IH series was bought in completion.

July was my first 0 sales month in the 17 months I'd been publishing at that point.  (January 2011 doesn't count, I started publishing in February.)

I'm hoping to ramp up with some good offerings this Christmas, pull myself up by my bootstraps as it were.  I'll have my second full novel coming out, tentatively in November ("Youth").  It will be in BOTH digital and print!  I'm considerably excited about that.

Also, the Writer's of the Future entry I submitted in July is up for judging between now and December!  Here's hoping I hear something good from that :)

Okay, so cut the suspense - here's the chart.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Problem With Moving...

... is that everything you own HAS to go with you.

For people who are not sentimental hoarders, they may find this is no problem.  Old junk?  Throw it away!

For people who ARE sentimental hoarders, like myself, this is a Big, Big Problem.

First off, just because we have all this stuff, doesn't mean we want all this stuff.  It's quite overwhelming, actually.  Memories everywhere, and no fortitude to throw any of it away.  I think, actually, negative desire to get rid of it.

Fortunately, I'm not a shopper-hoarder.  I don't go out and buy a lot of stuff and then never take the tags off any of it, or leave it in the original shopping bag...  No, my stuff is accumulated through a lifetime of interaction with other people, who shove things onto my being, and which I am then incapable of disposing of.


Moving all of that is just about the biggest pain in the rear you can picture.  Not just the packing, the mountain of boxes, of sheer stuff... but the pain inside that goes with parting with any of it.

I did good, real good, packing up my house.  In fact, I threw away twenty trash bags, and donated four boxes, including a giant box of stuffed animals and another of clothes.

I am not going to lie.  When the garbage men took away that first huge load (I did it in a few so they wouldn't get stuck with everything at once and so I could slowly make my way through the house), I had a moment of teary panic.  I had to tell myself, "You can't climb into the back of that dumpster truck, nor would you want to.  It's disgusting.  The stuff was trash.  If it wasn't, it is now.  Let it go."

Contrary to the mantra that, "It gets easier", it doesn't.  It really doesn't.  I think, if anything, you develop a stronger and more impulsive grip on things you still have.  It's like all your mania was spread over all these things, and with half of those things gone, you have twice as much mania for the remaining things.  But I managed to pack, and ship all my stuff away, and leave a lot of it in a landfill (sad face) back where I came from.

The thing about not being a shopper-hoarder, is that at least my stuff hasn't increased since then.  But it's still too much.  We moved from a three bedroom house with a full basement to a two bedroom apartment on the second floor.  We're swimming in boxes, and truthfully, I think most of it's mine.

I probably know, that most of it's mine.

So I made a pledge to myself that went something like this:
"I will throw away one thing, everyday, until I have an acceptable amount of things."

It may sound strange, but I am a minimalist at heart.  When I moved to Japan, I took two suitcases.  The airport stole one.  I survived just fine with one suitcase... for three years.

Now, of course I bought things while I was in Japan.  And a lot of those things ended up shipping back home with me (ugh).  But the point is, I felt free, happy, and unencumbered.  I loved that.  (I missed the half of my stuff that didn't make it... but... hey, whatareyagonnado.)

Today I should have throw away my 24th "thing".  I've "thrown away"... two.  One was a book that molded (BIG SAD FACE) and the other was a wallet that technically I gave to Andy because his fell apart, but I'm counting it anyway.

So today, I made the heart-string-pully decision to catch myself up and I started going through boxes.  A few of the things were easy, but when I could open a box and just go, "Nope, nothing in here" and close it... I'm in for a rough time.  So here's the things I threw away:

1. Kinex Big Ball Factory Instruction Manual
2. Kohl's Internship Lanyard with attached bracelets, nametag and pin.
3. Stuffed cow doll.  Present from high school friends.
4. Marching band saxaphone lanyard (to hold up sax while playing and marching).
5. Tiny stuffed dog with elongated velcro arms.
6. Gameboy Advance Pokemon Ruby instruction manual.
7. Waitress money collection/book thingy.
8. Starcraft Strategy Guide.
9. Brood Wars Strategy Guide.
10. Guard's Uniform shirt.
11. WoW Burning Crusade instruction manual.
12. City of Heroes quick start guide (they closed it down!!)
13 - 15. Gargoyle statues
16. Stuffed claw machine dog.
17 - 18. 2 Portal MTG decks.
19. The figurine from the top of my graduation cake.
20. Toy skeletal dragon.
21. Lipton bottle I was using as a pen holder
22. Old Starter ballcap with the Chinese symbol "star" from an ex when I was in high school and that will never fit my fat head again.

So with the moldy book and wallet, that makes twenty-four and I am all caught up :P

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A 5k of a Different Color

I sure hope the title doesn't make you think I'm running, because hoo-boy, am I not doing that.

However, I set myself a personal goal today.  I wanted to write 5,000 words.  I wanted to make some sort of significant dent in my 500,000 word goal that I will probably not reach, but hey if they stars weren't so far away, we'd never stretch to grasp them.

It took me six sessions, and a marathon hour at the end, which I finished at 11:53 pm...

But I did it!

My final word count for the day was 5,456 words.  I worked on two stories, Tick and Youth.  I love Youth, but sometimes you need to do something different for awhile.  So about 1,200 words are for Tick and all the rest are for Youth.

Good writing day for me!

Youth sessions:
Tick sessions:

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Wow, I haven't been here in just over two months.  I am terrible at keeping up, haha!

Well, some good news for any Medrick fans out there.  I've finally kicked my own derriere hard enough and got myself moving.  I didn't do any writing yesterday, but I wrote the 23rd, 24th, 25th and 27th and I wrote 7.5k new words for my next brainchild in the pipeline, Youth.

7,531 to be exact.

This is a novel, not a short story, and I'd say it's about half done word-count wise.  As in, I'm expecting it to clock in around 50k, and if you look at my handy little word count meter down there, you'll see it shows 48.88% completion.  So yaysies for that :)

I have to throw a good thanks out to Michael Kingswood.  Awhile back he posted on his blog about this handy little chart he made for himself that helped him track the actual costs of his book.  (I'd post the link if I had it handy, but I don't remember even what month he posted it in.)  Basically you put in your start time for writing, and your end time, and how many words you wrote in that time, and (at $50/hr, which I think is reasonable for a writer) it tells you how many copies of your book you have to sell at your desired price (that you set, it figures your royalty).

Wow, looking over that sentence it sounds confusing!  But it is really, really, cool.  And on top of that, it's deeply motivational to someone who thinks like me.  I'm pretty creative, but I also have a hard science side.  I like to see things happen, know results.  When I write, yeah, my word count goes up, and I know some hours here and there, but how much time am I actually spending?

What is the cost of my time?

As writers take the dropped ball from agents and publishers and have to look more at the business side of their craft, things like this become really important.

Say it took me a year to write a book.  (I know, I know.  A year?  What the hell am I doing?!?  Haha.)  As a business person, I'd have to ask myself: why?  When I take typing tests, I always clear 90+ wpm.

Say my novel is 50,000 words long.  Now say I type a flat 90wpm.  With that math, it takes me a little over 555 minutes to complete a novel.  Or, in another sense - less then 9 1/2 hours.

Now, why did a 9 1/2 hour project take me ONE YEAR to complete?

Okay, okay, I'll give a little slack.  I don't thunder-type for an hour straight at 90wpm when I'm writing a manuscript.  Sometimes I have to stop, and think.  Are my characters behaving realistically?  Do I have enough setting?  Can you see this scene, or is it vague?  Those questions take time to answer.  Also, sometimes I misspell words and backspace doesn't count toward your keystrokes, ha ha ha.

Here's another fun fact: The longer I sit at my computer, the less work I'm going to get done.

It sounds like baloney, but I think a lot of people will agree to being the same way.  If I were at a cubicle job, doing the same general tasks over and over, that's different - I constantly have something to do, with little variation.

But when I'm writing, worlds are flowering under my fingertips, through the imperfect filter of my own brain and vocabulary.

There's going to be hitches.

So I find, in the end, I write fantastically in small spurts.  Then - I walk away.  Yes, WALK AWAY!  I go play video games for an hour, or frisbee with the dog, or watch an episode of some random television show. I do something that clears the filter, and then I come back later.  Sometimes an hour, sometimes a day later.

Okay, so 7.5k of a 50k novel is 15%.  If it were a 9 1/2 hour project, I should have completed it in a mere 85 minutes!

Truth time?  It took me 4.06 hours.  (Another fun metric this spreadsheet tracks!)  BUT, those were a very productive 4 hours.  They weren't all at once, they were over 4 days.  Huh, that sounds suspiciously like the, "Write at least an hour a day" mantra I hear going around :P

Aaaaand, I don't manage to write 90wpm while writing.  My best day of those four, I wrote at a speed of (thank you, spreadsheet!) 2324.52 words/hr, or (haha) 38.7wpm.  I blame the thinking time variable!  (At that pace it would take me 21.5 hours to complete the first draft manuscript... still considerably more reasonable than the YEAR it supposedly took.)

But I guess the most important things to take away from this post are:
1. Write at a comfortable pace.
2. "Thinking" time can eat into your hours.
3. A novel shouldn't take a year to write.
4. If you wrote 1,000 words a day, every day for a year, you'd write 365,000 words, or more than 7, 50k novels.
5. Know your business!  Writing has a cost all its own!

And for anyone with a geeky maths and science side like me, have a gander!

And, now that you can all see it, I can't hide.  This is the truth about writing, for me.  I often don't spend more than a half hour at a time sitting still, and yes, each one of those sessions represents a complete chapter.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Hallo there all.  I just wanted to take a moment to talk about submissions.  Of the writing kind.

Today I submitted a story to Writer's of the Future.  Now, when I was deciding I wanted to put my writing out in the great big world, the query-go-round was the first huge obstacle.  It didn't take me very long to decide that wasn't the type of career I wanted to have.  I wanted something that would seriously reward me as an author, not just my pride in being "in print".

Then along came these fancy e-reader things, and I knew I wanted one the day they were announced.  I lived in Japan and I begged and begged and begged my parents, "If you get me anything for Christmas - just get me this, and I will be THRILLED."  And, that's all I got that Christmas, and I was THRILLED.  (See how that works?)  The best part was that I could get English-language books to read while in Japan.  I have to say, there is a shortage of English texts in the land of the rising sun ;)

But somehow it didn't occur to me that I could get MY works on that fancy digital book.  And then, one day, like magic, it did.  I was busy working on another story that sits forlornly in the "Whoops, I abandoned you!" pile and I came across KDP.  Incidentally, I came across it on the internet because sometimes while writing, I go on brief research spurts to make sure I'm not talking out of my hat, and that I actually know what I am saying is true.

So anyway, then I started doing lots of investigating into KDP.  But the problem was - I hadn't written a novel.  I had come close a couple of times, lengthy, sometimes rambling manuscripts, but never anything concrete.

I moved home.  Stuff happened, and then I wrote a novel.  A complete one, my first one, "Shackled".  And let me tell you, by the end of it, I was thinking, "Why would anyone ever want to write one of these?"  Because I was brutal on myself and I forced my arse into the computer chair to write and write and write the freaking story until I was done.  It took me about three months total and looking back more effort was spent getting over myself than actually writing.  That's not to say it's not good - I think it's an awesome story - but I was quite melodramatic about it, to myself.

I got it all ready, and I put it up on Kindle and crossed my fingers and toes and eyes and... well, not much happened.  I sold a few copies and I got a couple 5 star reviews.  Luckily, that's more than some (so I've heard.)

Well now I've turned this into kind of a rambly backstory, sorry.  But the short of it is, I don't have a lot of experience with submissions.  I haven't received a hobojillion rejections like Konrath or others.  I actually haven't even received one.

Mostly because I haven't submitted anything :P

But I mean to be serious about this writing thing.  Remember the whole 52 Shades of Short Stories I want to participate in?  Well, I seem to do short stories well, and if I'm not writing novels, then they need to be submitted somewhere.  Today started my submissions journey - a 1,250 word short entitled "Moebied" and cast to the great dark waters of Writer's of the Future.  May they treat it gently.

And again, sorry for the rambly but... NERVES.

Friday, July 20, 2012

On the Twelfth Day...

So last time I posted, it was about finishing the short story, "Need".  Twelve days later, and I just wrote another short story, "Moebied."  It's 1,247 words long... about a thirdish the length of "Need".  I also have another unpublished short I wrote awhile back called "Singularity."  Now I'm puzzled as to which to submit for Writer's of the Future!  Obviously I'd like to submit my best work.  I'd like to get two or three beta readers for "Moebied", if anyone's interested?

Well, I'm happy to be writing again.  :)  Twelve days is a much shorter break than er... three months.

I was really interested in joining 52 Shades of Short Stories.  I still am, actually, even though I'm coming in mid-year (but it was really only started mid-year hehe).  I wrote "Need" on 7-8, a Sunday, which I could say started that week.  Now I wrote "Moebied" today (Friday), which is technically the next week.  That makes me two for two weeks ;)

Hmm, it might be pushing it next week to be three for three hehe, but we'll see!  Anyway, yay writing :)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

3 Months~

Wow, I haven't posted in three months and I have no good excuse.  Truthfully, I haven't written pretty much since I stopped posting.  How's that half a million word challenge going, you ask?  Well, don't :P

The good news is that I broke the long drought and in a marathon writing session (I'm talking 6+ hours, with goofing around splattered in the middle) I wrote a complete short story called "Need".

The story begs the question, "What is the last thing a man will ever need and how far will he go to get it?"

At 4,136 words I wrote this a lot slower than usual.  Not merely the goofing around, I was incredibly picky about my phrasing.  How picky?

Final check of the documents shows ZERO PERCENT passive voice usage.

I know.  -I- didn't even realize it was so low, until I looked at the checker.  I know there were a few sentences I changed around to remove the was/were/to be.  I know the characters probably used some passive voice, but to register at zero percent?  I think that's pretty rocksome!

Also, I got to use the word "slattern".

Intrigued by this story?  I'm considering submitting it to Writer's of the Future... and if I do, it will be my first... EVER... actual submission.  I just haven't been interested in that part of publishing.  But I'm getting there.  In fact, with the way I write short stories, I'm becoming VERY interested in the short fiction market, in general.  I've been browsing submission guidelines.

So, that's what's new with me :)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Year-on-Year, March 2012

For the first two months of this year, my YoY looked pretty good, the numbers were higher than 2011, at least. I now have 13 published items: 1 novel, 6 novellas, 1 novelette, 1 omnibus, 4 short stories.

Here is my loverly chart:

As you may notice, my sales for March of this year were exactly the same for my sales in March of last year (2011). I was hoping for at least 1 more sale... it would be wonderful to have three months of growth... but I can settle for "same". For the year, I am still technically "up". I have high hopes for April, because I like to think with 13 titles I can beat a sales record of SIX! Starting in May is when I think I'll be really worried...

Another nice thing: my BBoS (Big Box of Shame, the brown box that Amazon puts across your sales chart when you have zero sales/the new month starts) is ALREADY gone for April! Yaysies :) A copy of "Shackled" moved, which I'll explain why that's interesting further on...

Also, 2 of the 3 months this year, I received royalty checks, which is of course, FANTASTIC ;)

Another thing of note (not pictured in this chart), 4 of my 9 sales (44%) were for my highest priced items at $3.99 and $4.99. In the end, sales are just a number until you can actually do something with the money you earn. I would have to sell 8.06 short stories to equal 1 copy of my $3.99 sold. 10.08 to match the $4.99. Ultimately, selling less was actually more for me (than if these had all be $0.99 shorts).

That really reinforces for me that I need to get one of these novels-in-progress finished! Not only for higher royalties, but because people really do seem to buy them at a better clip. It's a little sad, as I seem to be mastering short stories with every passing day :P

Speaking of which, a few days ago I finished up another short tentatively named, "Singularity". I'm considering turning it in for the Writer's of the Future contest, introduced to me by my good friend Kingswood but I haven't been able to grab him yet to question him about it. (Are you reading this? :P)

So I guess the only thing to do is get crackin' back at it!

Friday, March 23, 2012


I recently went to the doctor and discovered I was severely anemic. By severely, I mean - I already take a daily multivitamin containing 100% of my Daily Value (DV) of iron, as well as eating red meat and iron-rich vegetables, and I still fell into the "anemic" rating.

Now I'm on an iron supplement and I can't even begin to describe how much better I feel.

I originally went for fear of my family's personal genetic curse - hypothyroidism. It is not an exaggeration to tell you that it afflicts almost 100% of my female relatives on one parent's side. Luckily (for now, at least!) I've escaped that particular hurdle.

I am fat because I am fat!

Hypothyroidism and iron deficiency fatigue have strikingly similar characteristics. Joint pain, physical exhaustion, confusion, depression, lack of concentration/motivation. (And no wonder, with pain, exhaustion and depression would YOU be motivated??)

I am overweight, and not particularly proud of it. But since January I have been trying to do something about it. I even started a grueling diet and workout, in which I consumed 1,200-1,500 calories of strictly water, veggies and almost all lean proteins with a 3,000+ daily caloric burn. This would mean I would lose 1lb about every other day.

Well, actually I gained weight.

Mathematically, it doesn't make sense. Nutritionally... the fact is, while I wasn't "starving", my body thought it was (stupid body). So it held onto every tiny bit of every morsel of food that came into my body... so even though I was running/biking a combination of 6 miles a day, plus strength training and eating about half my output... I gained weight.

This is a symptom of hypothyroidism (which I mentioned I do not have). I read, for severe hypothyroidism, a person could need to burn NINETEEN THOUSAND calories a day to lose 1lb a week! How exhausting!

In fact, my doctor told me something I thought I'd never in a hobojillion years hear, "You need to exercise less and eat more." How funny! So now I range between 1,700 and 2,000 calories a day, and during my "exercise" portion of the day, I burn 600 instead of 1,000 calories. Throughout the day, I still end up burning around 3,000, because I walk the dog, and strength training benefits your metabolism for 24 hours afterward.

The good news is that I am now seeing progress. I had my 60-day fitness test today. In January I went to the gym, in February it was a big life upheaval and I didn't, and this month I've been really steady. I go three days and am off the fourth, so I end up there 5-6 days a week depending on how the "breaks" fit.

Soooo, for mostly this month's work, I've lost 6lbs of body fat! Yeah! I still have a lot to go (boo!). My 1-minute-do-as-many-sit-ups-as-you-can, went from 27 to 31 (4 increase!) My muscle endurance stayed the same - I can lift 100lbs once, but not 105 :( But the good news is, with the weight loss I had, that 100lbs I can STILL lift, is a greater percentage of my overall weight. At my "ideal" weight range, 100lbs is actually perfect (by that I mean average, because I am not a bodybuilder.) I lost a number of inches (enough to need both hands to count :D).

My heart is still strong and healthy and I lowered my resting heart rate by 2 beats a minute. (My heart doesn't need to work as hard to get oxygen to my body.)

Overall, I'm happy with my progress. I know the work I'm putting in (and how much easier EVERYTHING has gotten since I started taking iron supplements). As I jokingly say:

"When my books make it big and it's time for me to do the talk show tours and the interviews, I want to look goooooooood" ;)

But besides that, general health is important to me, and I want to take care of my body if I can. And as far as the changes since the iron supplement - I am so much more on the ball with writing! That's fantastic, seeing how it's my life :P

Any health stories anyone else would like to share?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Now Available: "Nightmare"

Been pretty busy lately, sorry I haven't been stopping in much! Just wanted y'all to know that I uploaded my newest novelette, "Nightmare" this week!

Lisa Maynard's son is every sort of problem child. When she receives a mysterious letter from someone called the "King of Nightmares", she thinks it's a prank by Joseph. But the promise is sweet - a child that will "never, never give you grief again." But how much is prank, and how much is promise fulfilled...

Clocking in at almost 11,000 words this is my 13th release! And, I've met my monthly release goal - I'm 3/3 so far this year! :D (Waaaaay behind on word count though haha.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Best Thing (Floppy Jowls, Floppy Ears)

Today was ridiculously beautiful outside. Some of that awful Midwestern winter sloughed off, and left us with clear blue skies and a shorts-worthy temperature that makes all the hearts of those cooped up all winter, sing with joy. So I did the right thing, and went over to my beau's parent's house, with their big country backyard, to let my dog chase his frisbee and be happy and free running his legs off.

But getting there, now that was the Best Thing. There is something especially gratifying about driving down those country roads, radio on, windows open and the dogs jowls and ears flapping in the breeze.

Very gratifying. (Also, HILARIOUS.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Year-on-Year, February 2012

I started my indie journey in February 2011. That was when I published my first completed novel, "Shackled". When I started, I was honestly relieved that I had finally "written that novel" that I intended. So many people say they think they'll write a book, or they have this great story without a single word scrawled anywhere.

Good intentions don't actually amount to anything without action.

I feel like I'm sounding preachy, so sorry about that.

I now have sales data from a year's worth of sales. That's to say, of my own work (obviously). Yes, I have learned a lot about the "bidness". A few unshakable things I have determined:

1. Being previously traditionally published DOES help your ebook sales.
2. Marketing CAN help your ebook sales. (It CAN also hurt your image.)
3. Customers' desires for reading material do not always make sense.
4. Patience is the long game.

There have been a number of people who strike it big with that first novel, or first whatever on Amazon, etc. I am not one of them. I am solidly the backbone of the writing industry - the mid-list author. Do I think I could still "make it big"? Absolutely. Just not in my first year - and I'm learning to be okay with that. Do I think being mid-list makes my writing poor quality? Absolutely NOT. I think I have a fair number of reviews to back me up on that.

And one last point I will touch on, but briefly and as delicately concise as possible: Do I think everyone that writes a book should publish it? NO. The fact is, we are not all created equally and some people are just not writers. I am not a lacrosse player. I am not much of a skier. I can't identify birds by their call, nor am I particularly good at folding laundry (or keeping my socks matched). Some people are writers, some are not. I believe I am a writer.

I believe interest in my work is growing. With the massive amount of marketing I've done (read: none), I am not surprised that my sales are still small while others around me are reaching peaks of 5, 10, 100k sold. Yet, I constantly see while they spend a lot of time pushing their first book, I've gotten three or four new works up for sale. This is the key of the mid-list author - write something good. Then write something else good, so that after your first good thing has been read, the reader can move onto your next good thing. This frees up a lot of marketing time for me to do what I do best - the writing craft. And while I'm not paying the mortgage or buying fancy chocolates, my royalty checks are increasing in both amount and frequency. I still feel confident that one day they will pay my bills and still leave me at the leisure to write as I please. It just may be another year, or a few 'nother years down the road ;)

So anyway. I know what you're really here for - the pretty graph. Here are my year-on-year sales (in units) through February 2012. Please also remember, my first work was published February 2011 - so there was nothing for sale January 2011.

Comments welcome!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Coming Soon: Heirloom!

So, my February release is almost ready to go! Just need to finish up some formatting and I will post and thus make my February goal post! That will make me 2 for 2 in one-a-month releases!

Behold, Heirloom...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lazebot, Slouching In

So I haven't blogged much. Or, if you're following my 500k writing challenge, written much. I could give lots of excuses or even valid reasons why I've been slacking off.


K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Mostly I'm demotivated. Unenthusiastic. Dragging. Lazy.

My writing inactivity has gotten so bad that to reach my goal, I need to write an additional 158 words a day, minimum, on top of the regularly scheduled writing, to keep on track/catch up. Not impossible, but definitely climbing in the wrong direction.

I had a spurt of writing today. A little gritty, short-lived. Finished a short story I've been mulling over for awhile at just under 3k. My writing total today (over 2k) actually brought my writing target per day down by 1.8 words. Fantastic! A step in the right (write? HO HO HO, shameless puns!) direction.

It's tentatively titled "Image". Probably will change. It's a bit spooky, about a 3-span generational gap. And a little twist. Based largely off my own childhood recollection of staying with my great-grandmother and being terrified. Hopefully I'll have a nice cover soon, and can release it in my February slot and maintain my 1-a-month-release-goal for this year :)

Lazebot, Slouching Out

Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Header!

I've been sitting on it for awhile, but I finally got Frigid published, so I have a new header-banner! It features Mason, Anthony and Jayden (episodes 4, 5 and 6 respectively). Yaysies :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Squeaked by, but Icarus Helix #6, "Frigid" is submitted for my January writing project!


I know "Frigid" has been a long time in coming, glad to finally finish it up and get it out there. A lot of people liked "Thief", and it has a lot of the same characters in it (Jayden, Mason, Dennis Harper). It adds more to the story, and reaaaaaaally makes you wonder about the "company" ;)

So, so far this year I'm 1 for 1 in the "publish 1 project a month" category of my writing goals! Yay! I am, however, quite behind in the word count... yikes...

Anyway, FRIGID! Check it out soon, please :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Bedside Table

When I was a kid, I fell asleep on a dime. The instant the lights were out - so was I. As I got older, I slept less and less. It wasn't until I was in college and I forgot to sleep for three days (and started hallucinating) that I realized I might have become an insomniac somewhere along the way.

I don't suffer from rampant insomnia, just very, very minor. I have a friend who would stay up for a week or more at a time and then crash - and there was nothing he could do about it.

Stress obviously inflames my insomnia. But if I'm not quite tired when I lay down, I have the worst habit.

With my eyes closed, my body relaxed, waiting to drift into sleep under the warm covers, I start to create.

The perfect scene.

The perfect line.

The next bit of the story I'd been stalled on while sitting at my computer all day.

And who wants to get up then? When you're already snuggled into bed and waiting for sleep? And what are the chances you will exactly remember that phrase or scene or word, just as you had it, in the moments before slumber? I'll give you a hint. It starts with "Z" and ends with "ero". For me, anyway. I am most perfectly, unquestionably creative when the last thing I want to do is get up and write it down.

So on my bedside table, I left an empty notebook and a pen. And my booklight...

Just in case.

Last night Andy fell asleep within milliseconds of laying down. And SNORED (sorry, hon, but it's true!) I couldn't fall asleep. But what I could do, was imagine.

Imagine I did!

I couldn't take it anymore, I wasn't sleeping. But then it hit me - I was prepared. I snapped on my bedside light, opened up the notebook and exploded all my thoughts onto the paper, effectively writing the first chapter of a novel I've been hemming and hawing over for the past... three? years.

Turn your weaknesses into strengths, that's what I say :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

That New Year's Thing

Well, I had a blast for New Year's Eve! We had literally all of our family in the surrounding area crammed into our tiny house (including us - 10 people and a dog!) Everybody brought way more food than they should have, so it went over quite well :) We all played Wits and Wagers as well as Mad Gab, before watching the ball drop.

Being decidedly of German descent, we did our age old tradition of pork and sauerkraut for New Year's dinner. The more sauerkraut you can cram down your gullet, the more GOOD luck you will supposedly have for the coming new year. (They had to make up SOME good excuse to eat rotted cabbage!)

For the record, I ate more sauerkraut this year than any other year previously. Despite the tears in my eyes. (And that's after mom pre-rinsed it and added brown sugar to take the edge off... and after mushing it in with my stuffing and mashed potatoes...) That means lots of good luck for me!

I have some pretty lofty goals this year - goals that are concrete and will probably take me the entire year to complete. Here are some, in no particular order:

1. Pen 500,000 publishable words. (Including but not limited to 6 IH episodes, 3 novels, 3 short stories.) This should be achievable if I write 5days/week, 2k/day!

2. Lose at least 40lbs. (The holidays were not kind to me :P... or rather, I was too kind to myself...)

3. At least, triple the royalties earned last year. (Which is to say, I still won't be making mortgage payments or swimming in my own pool of gold coins like Konrath ;D)

4. Try to go through every box I have in the house, and really throw away/condense it down.

5. Publish at least 1 new piece per month. Period - no excuses! (Compendiums and omnibuses excluded!)

So, what do you think of my short list? :)