Thursday, December 31, 2015

This n That Thursday

It's the last This n That of 2015. 

I'm having a tough time looking back at the past year.  Not because it was a bad year but because it all seems to blur together in hindsight.  What did I do in 2015?  I published 4 books.  Everything else gets fuzzy around the edges when I try to look beyond that.  I'll try to do an actual wrap-up on Sunday or something.

The flood waters here are starting to recede. Which is good because I really have to go to the store and I've been holding off so I don't accidentally wind up driving through a low-lying floody spot.  (There are loads of low spots.  And loads of high spots.  Hey, it's the Ozarks.  It definitely ain't flat around here.)  Now that the water is leaving here, they're getting floody east and south of us - because that's pretty much where the 'here' waters are going.  Heading for the mighty Mississippi.  Cumulative waters from here, there, and everywhere are making it particularly nasty for anyone along Ol' Man River. 

I did not get pictures of the wet weather creek here.  Sorry.  It was too wet to go out, and then it was too cold, and now the stream is going away again. 

Speaking of pictures, we had a hawk hanging out around the house yesterday.  Unfortunately, everywhere he landed was behind branches so pics were problematic. He finally landed on the wires, but then he wouldn't look toward the house. 

That bitch squirrel who had babies in our house last year is desperately trying to get back inside the eaves.  She chewed a hole in the north side.  We kicked her out and put flashing over that.  She chewed a hole in the south side.  We kicked her out and put flashing over that.  Now she's chewing on the soffits in frustration.  Sorry, lady, but you need to find another place to call home for the winter.  Go build yourself a leaf nest for petesakes. That's what the other squirrels are doing.  Find a tree already.  I'm considering a Nerf gun.  I don't want to hurt her, but I want to discourage her from chewing on my house. 

What on your This n That plate for today?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Update - Week 52

Last full week of the year, folks.  And I really didn't do much of anything.  Shame on me.

I didn't get any work done editing Fertile Ground.  Didn't even look at it.

My cover artist is up to her armpits in alligators and will get the new cover art to me when she can.  Which I am perfectly fine with since I won't be launching this until March.  Hell, my editor doesn't have to have the first pass to me until January 10th anyway.

I did start a story based on an idea that popped into my head after reading a news article.  I have 5 paragraphs down. I have no idea where it's going, but the idea is recorded.  I also jotted a note about a potential Christmas suspense short for next year.

I cooked stuff for Christmas.  I made a cake.  Walnut Graham Cake with Candied Walnut Glaze.  It's okay, but not as good as I remembered.  I think I may have over mixed the batter.  I know I over-boiled the glaze. My twice-baked potatoes turned out pretty good.  So did my ham.  And I ate too much. Natch. So I spent the remainder of Friday and portions of Saturday laying around like a pig in the sun.

All of my books are on sale as of yesterday - in both the US and the UK*.  99 cents each through New Years Eve.  Get them while they're hot.  And if you like the stories, leave a review.  Please.  And pass this news along.  Word of mouth is the only advertising I have right now.

I did hit 1000 books sold in 2015.  Yay.  And I'm having a contest over at Outside the Box to celebrate.

What's new in your world?

*For some reason, my author page at Amazon UK is showing weird - where sometimes it only shows the paperback versions.  There are ebook versions of all my books available everywhere Amazon sells ebooks. (UK links available here for my suspense and mystery titles, or here for paranormal).  AND even though it doesn't reflect the sale on my author pages, they are on sale. Click the book you're interested in and the Kindle Countdown Deal shows up on each individual product page. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

This n That - Christmas Eve Edition

I don't remember a lot of Christmases (or much else from my past). I do remember one Christmas Eve.  My older sister and I were playing in our room when there was some kind of kerfluffle out in the living room.  I think we might've heard a booming Ho-ho-ho.  When Mom called us, we ran out to discover soooo many presents under the tree that you could hardly get past.  I think that was the year I got my giant frog stuffed animal.  Looking back now, it probably wasn't that big, but to me, it was the biggest most wonderful frog ever.

I remember Mom and the older girls baking Christmas cookies.  I'm 5 and 10 years behind them, so J was probably 9 and L was probably 14.  There was a wonder about it.  So special and secret as I gazed at them from my spot by the kitchen entryway. 

I remember the years our grandmother came to stay with us for Christmas.  My nephew was a toddler at the time and he liked to sit under her walker.  On Christmas Day, she took the bows from her presents and stuck them all over her head to make him laugh.  It worked.  We all laughed.  Good times.

I have a vague impression of the years - ones with all five of us kids at home, ones with us and then mates and then grandkids where the house was so full of people you could hardly find a place to sit and open presents.  All tumbled together.  And it's good.  The specifics are gone, but the meat of the memories lingers.

Sure, there were questionable Christmases. Sometimes the bad memories are stronger than the good ones.  Which is why we have to work to keep the better memories firmly seated in our heads.  They're the only ones that matter.

What's one good memory for you from Christmases Past?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Week - Quiet Enjoyment

As I said over on Outside the Box, this will be a week without the typical posts.  I'm not in the mood and I suspect neither are you.  Instead, I want a week of quiet enjoyment of life's little wonders. 

For instance, it's unseasonably lovely here.  We went for a wonderful walk yesterday.  We figured it was upwards of two miles round trip.  But it was a pretty day and this is such a pretty area, it was worth the hike.  We didn't really see anything exciting or unexpected.  The cows were hanging out as usual.  The little birds were doing their thing.  It was just nice. And quiet.  And we got to enjoy each other's company.

Really, that's all I need for Christmas.

What's one moment of quiet enjoyment you experienced this holiday season?  If you haven't found one yet, what is a moment you're hoping for when the hurry-scurry is over?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Update - Week 51

There is not enough coffee on the planet this morning.  I say we take over the Colombian drug plantations and make them grow coffee beans instead.  Coffee addicts of the world, unite!  There are more of us than there are of them!  We can kick their butts.  After we have some more java.  Cuz really, who's got the energy for a hostile takeover without caffeine? 

Another blurry week has gone by.  Next to last full week of 2015.  According to my to-do list from last week, here's what happened...

My editor is now working on In Deep Wish.  Meanwhile, I'm making edit notes for Fertile Ground so I'll be ready to jump into that during my downtimes getting IDW ready for March pub. 

Speaking of getting IDW ready, my cover artist should have the cover done soon.  I've seen the stage before the font insertion and it is awesome.  But she's jammed with the holidays and stuff, so it's not quite ready yet.  And that's totally cool because I don't really need it immediately. 

I spent some time this past week working on spreadsheets for next year.  So pretty.  (Yes, I think spreadsheets are pretty.)

Speaking of spreadsheets, I am 2 books away from reaching 1K sold in 2015.  It's not a mile-marker I ever thought of reaching when the year started, but I'll be thrilled to see it happen.  Which it will.  Two books in 11 days?  I think that's doable.

Yesterday, I started out with the idea of doing the dishes.  (Yeah yeah, I leave my dishes 'til the morning. Unless I'm writing, then I do the dishes at night as a break.)  Anyway, I did the dishes and then I knew I had to clean the coffee maker because it was taking forever to brew me a pot of life-giving nectar.  Which morphed into me scrubbing all the stove burner pans.  Which lead to me deep-cleaning the kitchen.  And while I was cleaning the coffee pot, I had to do the drains.  Naturally.  Can't waste all that hot vinegar when it's so useful for flushing out all the drains.  Except my bathroom sink drain still isn't draining right.  So, this morning, I'll be taking the pipes apart and scrubbing the gunk out.  Yay.

I lead an exciting life.

What's going on in your life?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

This n That Thursday

So, a couple days ago, I thought I'd be all 'on the ball' and junk by starting the template forms of my sales spreadsheets.  I'm down to two now.  My data spreadsheet which has sales by month for each book.  And my sales totals spreadsheet which takes the data from the other spreadsheet and puts the overall numbers into easily understood forms.  I didn't want to reinvent the wheel, so I made copies of the two 2015 spreadsheets and renamed those copies to 2016.  Easy peasy. Right?  Well, no.  For some asinine reason, my 2015 overall spreadsheet thought it would be awesome to change the source names to point to the new 2016 files.  So when I wiped out the old data in prep to put new data in, my 2015 spreadsheet had nothing but zeroes in it.  :headdesk:  Took me about an hour and a half to redirect all the formulas to where they were directed before.  Not sure in what universe change those formulas would've been a good idea.  Thanks, Excel Software Engineers.  Now I have to remember what I did, so I don't repeat the mistake next December.

I was handing out postcards for BloodFlow and someone said 'so I guess you must like shows like this'.  Well, not strictly.  I like true crime shows.  I like political thriller movies to a certain extent.  I haven't found a political television show I enjoyed.  Unless you count NCIS and Bones.  I don't watch NCIS anymore, though, and I only watch Bones in reruns on TNT.

Right now, I can't think of a single fictional TV series I actually follow.  I used to watch reruns of Grey's Anatomy, too, until I realized Meredith was Derek's doormat - and people liked it that way. I'm kinda glad he died.  I wish she would've stuck with the veterinarian.  Then again, Christina was in a totally farked up relationship with Owen, and Burke before that.  I don't think the writers of that show know what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like.  Just people treating other people like crap and the crapped upon falling all over themselves to appease their semi-abusive mates.  Bleh.  Just once I wanted to see Meredith to tell Derek to go pound sand. 

Anyhoo...  Enough about that. 

I have a new calendar for 2016 now.  Pretty pretty, but plain.  I mean, it's got like filigree around the edges, but no pictures.  I don't need those for above my desk.  I have my pretty chickadee print for that.  And my new birdie-a-day calendar that sits on my desk (which I could write on, but I don't want to mar the pics.)

The candy I sent my mom for Christmas was totally grody. (I know because I ordered some for myself, too, and it wasn't edible.)  They credited me and they've been awesome in the past, so I'm not going to tarnish their company name.  Now, I need to pick something else out, but I'm running out of time for shipping.  And Mom does not do online giftcards.  She may end up with a Merry New Year's gift instead.  She's cool about it, though, so it's all good.

We've seen the fox several times now.  I have decided to call him 'Pup-pup'.

Got any this-n-that in mind this morning? 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Staying Organized

I'm not an organized person by nature.  I mean, I know where everything is for the most part and I can usually keep track of appointments in my head.  (Sketchy business, I know, but it used to work for me.)  But the more things I have to do, the less I'm able to juggle it using just my brain cells. 

When I started this self-publishing thing, I knew I would need help.  I picked up a date book.  And a wall calendar with just dates and no pictures.  Stuff gets jotted one place or the other or both, so I don't drop the ball on the things that need doing.  (In theory.  I still drop the ball from time to time anyway.)

That was last year at this time.  And one would've assumed I would be smart enough to know in advance that I would need all that stuff again.  But no.  It's December 15th and I only just now got a 2016 date book.  I still need a calendar I can write stuff on.  I guess I should've written 'buy new organizational materials' in my 2015 book so I wouldn't forget.


Being a self-published author means keeping track.  It has to.  I don't have a boss, giving me deadlines.  I don't have a secretary to remind me I have something due to the editor.  There's no team putting together my marketing plan and no assistant following up on things for me.  It's just me.  And my planner.

Me... and my planner... strolling down the avenue...


It's green.  I like green.  This year's is smaller because the dollar store didn't have bigger ones and I didn't want to drive to Walmart.  (Which is why I didn't get a calendar.  The dollar store didn't have anything but the pretty picture calendars.)  As long as it keeps me on track, I don't care how big it is.  When I was outside sales, I had a huge date book.  But I had a lot of appointments and notes and junk.  "10:30am - Ann Arbor - Mary Jones at Widgets, Inc. to discuss engineering of new Platt case."  Stuff like that.

Now?  No time stamp. No location.  "Edits to JC" "Contact AB about ad" "Make shot appt" Check it off when it's done. 

I just have to remember to write it in the book.  And sometimes that's the trick.  Remembering to write stuff down so I'll remember it. 

How do you stay organized?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Update - Week 50

Two weeks left until the end of the year?  Umm, yeah, that doesn't sound right.  But there it is.  (It's not three weeks because the last week ends in 2016, so I guess they've given those days to the first week of the new year.)

I got In Deep Wish off to the AWE.  She gets it for a month and then it's back to me.  This time we're doing something a little different and she's scouring it hard for consistency issues, plot holes, backstory needs and removals, etc.  I've never done a sequel before, so I think this is necessary.  We'll hit all the other stuff on the next pass.

My Incredible Cover Artist (ICA) is working hard on the cover for In Deep Wish.  I have the initial concept.  It looks awesome.  Now she's making it pretty. 

I wish I had tons more money so I could have AWE and ICA working on other covers and other edits while I'm working on my end.  Then I could put out books so much faster for all y'all.  But I don't and I'm only one person anyway, so I can only do so much.  Cloning ability would also be nice.

Speaking of money, and by association sales, I'm 5 books away from selling a thousand books in 2015.  Mind you, over half of those were at the 99 cent price point, so not a huge royalty on those, but still. Every little bit helps fund more books.  So yay.  And I have something special planned for the 25th-31st for all my books. 

I was supposed to start early edits for Fertile Ground yesterday, but I lazed out.  I really need to get my buns back to work.  Today.  I will do it today.  Hey, I had three things on my to-do list yesterday - business accounting work, cleaning, and editing.  I got the dreaded accounts balanced.  I cleaned.  (Okay, I tidied.)  Two out of three ain't bad. 

Would you believe it's been so warm here that I now have bulbs beginning to sprout up through the soil??  Since I moved everything around, I'm not quite sure which bulbs are which, but at least three of the buggers are poking up.  They're going to be sad when winter actually does arrive here.  =o\

I got my first prezzie.  A good friend and go-to gal for me sent a lovely page a day calendar full of beautiful bird pics.  Every day a new bird.  I'm totally down with that.  =o)

What updates do you have to share today?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

This n That Thursday

Here's a little story - one you may have heard before (although the telling is slightly different from one story to the next.)  Once upon a time, there was a pretty princess - okay, it was a scullery maid - who was doing her very best to put out quality work for her people.  Then she met a charlatan who tricked her into thinking he could make magic.  He took all her coins and made a pile of dog doo where something awesome should've been.  She lived and she learned.  And went on her merry way. Eventually, she found a real magician who made the dog doo disappear, and then she was happy. Until she found a place where people were making fun of the pile she'd been left with.  (Nothing ever totally disappears in the magical kingdom of WWW.)  Which was all fine because she'd already acknowledged it was a pile.  She'd already fixed it.  What hurt were the personal attacks.  And so, she was sad.  For a little while.  Then she took herself in hand and reminded herself that total strangers have no ability to hurt her because when you don't have a reason to care about someone, you shouldn't care what they think.  She's still a little pissed, though - not at the merry-makers who laughed, but at the charlatan who put her in that position to begin with.  May the fleas of a thousand bugbears nest in his boxers.  The end.

Speaking of magicians, I got a glimpse of the cover for In Deep Wish last night.  Ooo, pretty!  I'd tell you more, but it would spoil the fun.  Suffice it to say, it's got Jo on it.  (Same cover model as WIOH. I don't know who this gal is, but her poses are so 'Jo'.)  It has another genie on it, too, but all I can say about that is it's not Zeke.  Maybe he'll make an appearance on the cover of Up Wish Creek.

I finished my Christmas shopping and shipping yesterday.  Ordered some nice gifts for the Moms.  Mailed all the cards out and the Kid's package.  Plus, I sent books to the Moms and the A.W.E.*  Busy busy.

We had a red fox in the yard last night.  He was eating at the corn pans.  Yes, we didn't know foxes ate corn either - which made Hubs wonder if something was wrong with the little dude.  But no, the fox was fine.  They're omnivores, so they eat pretty much whatever's available. Including corn, berries, acorns, wheat, etc. in addition to the mice, moles, and bugs.  He ate his fill, turned his fluffy tail, and trotted off.  =o)

Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is just weird.  I'm only about halfway through reading it, but yeah, weird.  Not bad weird.  Not exactly good weird either.  I'll reserve judgment until the end.

Anything in your this n that today?

*Awesome Wonderful Editor

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Reading Important Books

I've been on a quest of sorts with regards to reading.  No, not the one where I read x-number of books in a year.  I read as many as I can as a matter of maintaining my sanity.  This is the one where I'm trying to go back and read old books that I haven't read before.  Some of them are 'important' books for one reason or another.  Some are just on my shelves and I'd like to read them to see if they belong there or can be sold to the local used bookstore. 

I've done this for a few years now.  I pick books I feel like I probably should've read somewhere along the way, but didn't.  Some of them are classics in the broad sense of the word like Les Miserables or The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Others are classics in their genre, like Stranger in a Strange Land or Casino Royale, or the first of the cat mysteries by Lillian Jackson Braun.  (Right now, I'm reading The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.) Still others are books that were made into films and I want to see if the book is as good as the movie - First Wives Club comes to mind and The Poseidon Adventure.  

I'm also reading lesser known works by major authors.  (And 'major author' is subjective, of course.)  The Labours of Hercules by Christie.  The Day of the Guns by Spillane.  Kill as Directed by Ellery Queen.

All of them are important, if you look at it from the right perspective.  I mean, reading widely expands the mind, enriches the life, etc.  Yada yada. I'd probably read everything if I had the time. I think it also helps my writing.  Knowing what was written before, how certain writers did certain things.  What to do.  What not to do. 

Or maybe that's just me.

What do you think?  Do you read widely?  Are you interested in reading older books - even if it's just to see what you might've missed? 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunday Update - Week 49

How did it get to be Sunday again?  Didn't we just have a Sunday? 

Not quite sure what all I did last week.  Let's see if I can cobble it together.

I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  Big book.  And I only have the hardcover, so it took longer (what with having to hold the heavy thing).  I also read most of No Good Deed by Allison Brennan.  I'm almost done, but I had to stop last night because it was way past my bedtime and I was tired.  As of last night I'm 18 books behind in my reading challenge.  Yah, that ain't happening.

I'm way behind in my editing, too.  No excuses there.  I should have it to my editor by the new date, though.  And everything is still greenlight for a March release.

I did some marketing.  My ad at ReadCheaply saw a nice little boost in sales for Wish in One Hand.  Then I happened to mention on FB that I was close to selling 1000 books this year and some awesome people bought a few copies.  I've already sold more this month than all of last month, so it's a win.  Gads, November sucked. 

I'm planning on putting together a marketing post for Outside the Box with links to the various places I've tried and my own opinions.  Should be good for readers, too - because readers might find new places to locate books.  Win win.

We had two bald eagles flying lazy circles over the house a couple days ago.  Pretty cool.  Not good enough shots to run into the house for a camera, though.  It's hard to get good in-flight pics, especially through the trees.

I got the Christmas tree up and finished the decor.  I also made pretzel turtles.  These may be my only Christmas activities this year.  I mean, other than sending the Kid her box and Christmas dinner.

And that's about it.  How were things for you last week?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

This n That Thursday

Olive oil - great on salads, nasty straight.

I'm totally not in a Christmasy mood, but I did get the tree up yesterday.  I'm going more minimalist this year.  Just a few things here and there rather than everything everywhere.

I left to run errands yesterday and not far down the road, just around the first corner, but before the next corner, three does standing in the middle of the road.  I waited patiently for them to finish chatting.  Then they walked away.  Lucky for them I wasn't the UPS dude.  He flies like a bat outta hell through here.

At the Walmart, I turned from one aisle to the next to find a woman trying to get something big off a high shelf, so I asked her if she needed help.  "Oh, that's okay. I think I can get in enough trouble by myself." To which I replied "But imagine how much trouble we could get in together." Which started a twenty minute conversation.  Turns out she's from Wisconsin and has ties in the Upper Peninsula. It's bizarre here in SW MO to find someone who even knows where Ishpeming is, let alone someone who's father was born there.  Small world.

I do that. Strike up conversations with total strangers.  Sometimes they strike up conversations with me.  For the most part, it's pretty neat.  Occasionally, it gets weird.  Overall, it's worth it. 

Of course, I also talk to the birds and squirrels.  They never answer. Whew.

What's the this n that in your world right now?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Leaving Reviews

Recently, I had to reply to an email and explain to a writer why I would be unable to leave a review for their book.  Ugh.  I hated to do it.  You know me, though.  I don't review books I don't finish, and I just couldn't finish that book.

But it got me to thinking about reviews in general.

The popular idea is that any review is a good review.  (Like the old wisdom that any press is good press.)  I disagree.  Sometimes a bad review can totally tank a writer's sales, crush someone's spirits, etc.  I'm not willing to do that.  At the risk of ruining my rep*, I am a nice person.  Plus, my mother taught me that if I don't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say anything at all.  So, silence is my bag.  It's golden, after all.

However, no reviews can also tank sales.

And a carelessly worded 5-star reviews can somehow tank sales.  Go figger.

Anyway, I started out writing this post to provide a tongue-in-cheek way to leave reviews if you're not good at writing them, but it morphed into something else.  :shrug:

So, if you're inclined to leave a review but don't know what to say, here's a template to help you out.

I (enjoyed, despised, was meh about) this book because (the plot was exciting, the characters were lame, I couldn't get into it).  The main character was (easy, hard) to relate to.  The villain was (cardboard, deliciously evil, too nice).  This author's writing style (put me to sleep, kept me on the edge of my seat, left me wanting more, confused the heck out of me) and I (can't wait for the next book, hope they get help, encourage them to find a fitting psychotherapist). 

Pick the phrasing that best suits your needs and delete the rest, choose a number of stars to reflect your attitude, and VOILA!, you have a review.

The point here is to leave a review - at Amazon, at Goodreads, at B&N... wherever you choose, but for the love of writers and reading, please leave them.

But only if you can be positive, or helpful, or if you have to say something negative, at least can be constructive in your criticism.  K?

*Hubs and I have a running joke that he's the nice one and I'm the mean one.  Oh, he is nicer than I am, but I'm not really mean.  Not in public anyway. LOL