I write like
Jack London

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Fanfic Rocks!

In you are in any way a fan of the Avengers' Black Widow or Parker from Leverage, go check out some great AU fanfic from a talented writer, Liana Mir. She captures the characters from both franchises perfectly.

Especially, Elliot's irate phone call to Clint after Parker is invited to Natasha's baby shower. I  can just hear Hardison breathing into a paper bag in the background.

*I read the latest installment yesterday, and I'm still giggling.*

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How a Fan Stabbed Me in the Heart

Piracy is out there. I know that. I could try to stop it, but in today's digital age, that's like catching rainwater in a sieve. So for the most part, I ignore the piracy. It's as faceless as I'm sure I am to the pirates and people who feed them.

But this week was different. This week, GK's social studies teacher had the class google themselves and their parents. As a writer, I have the biggest internet footprint in the family. So I was stupid enough to google myself later that night...

And I wish I hadn't done it. I stumbled across a discussion of Zombie Love in a comic book online forum. One gentleman had borrowed Blood Magick from his local library. As far as I know, it's only available from one library, the Harris County Public Library. Anyway, he LOVED it, and he was rather upset that Zombie Love wasn't available through the library because he wanted to read it NOW!

And he didn't want to buy it.

So there was a discussion on this forum of all the places he could download it cheap or free. All of which were illegal as only one commenter pointed out. This commenter also pointed out that this was how I make a living.

To my mystery supporter, thank you for standing up for me and all the other writers and artists out in the world. This IS how I pay for not just my food and rent, but my multitude of maintenance drugs for my chronic illness.

As I read the comments in this forum, I think I was most surprised by my own reaction. I wasn't angry. I was heartbroken. If he loved my work that much, why did he feel he needed to steal it?

So to my fan, I wish you had contacted me directly. I don't know your circumstances. And I know you don't mine.

If you borrowed Blood Magick from another library than HCPL, you could have contacted the library and requested that they order Zombie Love.

If you had contacted HCPL and talked to Michael, the lovely gentleman who handles the e-book department, he in turn would have e-mailed me directly about getting the book into their program.

If you had simply asked me why Zombie Love wasn't available through the HCPL, I would have been honest and told you. And maybe if you had asked nicely, I would have given you a free, legitimate copy.

But you, dear reader, chose to go a different route, and as your fellow commenter said, that's between you and your conscience.

To the rest of my fans who felt it was worthwhile to purchase a legitimate copy of my work, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Since I've been working on a novel with forty-something lady attorneys holding their own against superheroes and supervillains, I've been listening to Girl Power music while writing. So starting with the Spice Girls...


Friday, March 20, 2015

SFWA Is Gossiping About Me

Or maybe they're not. You see, I'm not a member so I'm not really sure what's going on.

Wednesday evening, I checked my Blogger stats. One of the things it display is other web pages that have linked to my blog. Usually, it's my main author website or some dumbass porn purveyor hoping I'll click on their link so they can infect my computer.

But Wednesday evening, this was on the Traffic Sources page under Referring URLs:

http://www.sfwa.org/forum/index.php?/topic/7907-is-amazon-your-friend/

Now, I'm not a member of SFWA. Why would a link to Wild, Wicked & Wacky be on an SFWA forum? When I clicked on the link, I got this:

HTTP 404 Not Found

So was it someone bitching about girl cooties in their fantasy? Because let's face it, I do put romance and sex in my stories.

Was the link referring to the rise of indie publishing? Because, yes, I do promote indies.

Did someone who was an SFWA member talk about the review I gave their book? Maybe. Were they pissed I hadn't put the review on Amazon? That doesn't make sense because I may not have bought the book from Amazon.

Given the very tired meme the link mentions about Amazon and cuddling, did they link to one of my many gripes about Seattle's finest? Because, I'll be the first to admit Amazon is not my friend. It's a book retailer for my publishing company. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Frankly, Amazon is not even one of the better retailers for my products. I sell more through Barnes & Noble and Apple.

So anyone out there who's an SFWA member want to give me a hint why a link to my blog appeared on an SFWA forum?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Passion, Hard Work and Luck

There's been a lot of writer whining on the interwebs lately. I've spoken about the sense of entitlement ad nauseum. But today, I'm going to focus on the positive. Here's three things (beyond craft) I believe that a successful writer needs.

1) PASSION

Without passion, without the driving need to record your thoughts and whimsy, your stories will lack that certain something. That ephemeral quality that will pull a reader into the world that only exists in your mind.

I'm not one of those people that says you have to write every day. Granted, I do, but that's my method to retain my sanity. But if you don't have that overwhelming need to spill out your creativity and knowledge, then you're probably not going to make it as a writer.


2) HARD WORK

Once the initial high of your creative side wears off, you find that shaping your vision into a product of reality is difficult. It's tough. It's demanding. The image in your mind doesn't just coalesce on page or laptop. It has to go through what is essentially your brain's translation matrix from one hemisphere to the other in order for your fingers to record it to paper or screen.

This is the point where most folks give up. Writing should be fun, not work, they think. Actually, it should be both. As in, this is the work you love doing because it is fun. But nothing is ever 100% fun. Not even Halo. And I've had the thumb cramps to prove it.


3) LUCK

No one in our highly Protestant-influenced American culture wants to believe luck is a factor in our success. Hard work and clean living should be enough to guarantee success. If you don't succeed, then you weren't working hard enough!

But in reality, hard work isn't enough. Otherwise, there's a ton of terrific books that should have been on a bestseller list. Sometimes, it comes down to sheer dumb luck. Alter Ego's wonderful sales are due to a book that came out the month after her first one. Maybe you've heard of Fifty Shades of Gray? Without readers looking for more books like E.L. James', no one would have given Alter Ego's a second glance.

"Oh, that's just a fluke," I hear you say. Yes and no. Blood Magick's sales had tapered off from it's initial high in 2011, but then jumped up again last summer. Why? Because the indomitable Nora Roberts had a brand new book up for presale. Wanna guess what her title was? Because we shared the same title, people were seeing my book pop up on their searches. A few gave mine a try while they were waiting for La Nora's.

Then there are the times when luck turns the other way. Ask David Hasselhoff about his big American concert that was supposed to launch his U.S. music career that was pre-empted by O.J. Simpson's police chase. Or my friend Kim, who's big paranormal debut came three days after Hurricane Ike ravaged Houston. Local appearances were cancelled, the orders for local bookstores were turned back, and she didn't have the electricity to do any phone or online promotions.

It would be nice if hard work was all we need, but sometimes it comes down to being in the right place at the right time.


So what does this all mean? The first two items you can control. The third one you can't. So ask yourself this--is the risk worth it?

For myself, I can say YES! As always, YMMV.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Status Report - March 2015

Laura Kirwan and I are be-bopping along on writing Hero De Facto, the first book of the 888-555-Hero series about two lawyers who specialize in representing superheroes (and the occasional supervillain). We've got a tentative release date of May 1, 2015.

Yes, it's the same day that Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out. I love marketing!

In the meantime, the new covers and print editions of the Bloodlines are coming along. I'm looking at re-releasing the previous books and launching the new ones in June.

Unfortunately, that also means I'm going to have to raise prices. So if you were planning on buying the first five books of the Bloodlines series, you have two and a half months to get them at the current price of $2.99.

Also, I'm planning on getting a separate website launched for Angry Sheep Publishing. I've turned my business paperwork to the State of Ohio, and I'm having a business logo designed. I squealed with delight at the preliminary sketches.

As I've told DH and a couple of other people, I feel like I'm doing IT project management again, consulting with my contractors, reviewing their submissions, squeezing any writing in between e-mails, etc.

Don't worry. This blog isn't going anywhere. I may not be posting as often over the next couple of months, but there's still billions of people I haven't annoyed/amused yet!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

How to Make New Friends

I recently made a new internet friend because I knew The Tick's battle cry. In celebration, here's one of my favorite episodes of The Tick's animated series from the '90's. "The Tick vs. The Big Nothing."


Friday, March 13, 2015

Perception

People make snap judgments based on their perception of a given situation. It's human nature. They use past experience, things they've been taught, and/or their beliefs to shape the picture of someone in their mind. The problem is that picture may be incomplete at best. Or it may be totally inaccurate.

I could make this easy and talk about an episode of Bones I recently watched. (It's "The Drama in the Queen", Season 9, Episode 23, if you want to check it out.)

Instead, I'm going a little harder and deeper. I'm going to talk about people's perceptions of me.

A few weeks ago, the subject of publishing net income came up on TPV. I didn't give specific numbers. I merely said I was saving for my son's tuition to MIT. At which point, another commenter became very irate about how I was flaunting my upper middle class-ness. The conversation degenerated rapidly. I bowed out when it became obvious that I was the scapegoat for this person's personal problems.

When I told DH about the incident, he laughed. Why? According to his mother, I'm the hillbilly who only married her son for his money.

Except at the time DH and I met, we had about the same amount in savings, but my salary was 50% more than his. He was looking to buy a house. I planned on going to law school.

So how did I get in this position of where I'm too uppity for either side of the money/class divide?

Once upon a time, I grew up in southeastern Uh-hi-uh (that's Ohio for the rest of you). It's Appalachian foothills country though some social scientists and geographers don't consider us part of the true Appalachian culture.

The majority of my extended family were green, blue or black-collar. In fact, my mother was the oddball for being the first person in her family to go to college. When I was seven, my immediate family moved to my paternal grandparents' farm while they moved in with my great-grandfather to take care of him.

It was a working farm, made more so when my dad lost his factory job in the mid-seventies recession. We raised and/or hunted our own food. My siblings and I wore hand-me-downs from the older cousins. And we worked out butts off. But then, so did most of the other people we knew.

But one thing Mom stressed was learning how to speak "educated". As in "wash" is not pronounced with an "R". She had been teased unmercifully at the private college she attended, and wanted to make sure we fit in.

And I knew the only way I would go to a decent college was through scholarships. I applied for everyone I could find that I qualified for. I was awarded a full ride at a private college, so I grabbed on with both hands. Since it was a academic scholarship, I had to maintain a 3.0, or I'd lose everything. I did keep up my GPA between the hard sciences and sorority parties. Somehow.

I also did everything I could to fit in with the ton of trust fund babies. Sure, I could have been jealous of the things they had that I didn't. But I felt more like Spock studying an alien culture.

That fit-in behavior carried over when I got my first IT job, which in the '80's was still pretty male dominated. I learned manspeak and football and cars. And I was told I was pretty cool for a chick.

Then I went to law school.

Talk about a whole different class strata. Wow! Again, I was judged by which school and where I clerked and a whole bunch of other crap that didn't make a damn bit of difference in a court room where I knew what I was doing and earned the judges' respect.

And none of my accomplishments makes a difference when I walk into a showroom to make a major purchase like an appliance or a car. Because I have boobs. Therefore I can't possibly have any money. Or if I do, then it's my husband's.

After some really bad experiences (yes, Newark, DE, Honda dealership, I'm referring to you), DH and I even have our comedy routine down. I scout out what I want. If the salesperson talks to me, and even more important, they are polite and professional to me, they'll get the sale then and there. If they don't, well...there's nothing more fun than DH stringing them along for a good hour on a Saturday before I step in and say no.

And none of that makes a goddess-damned bit of difference when complications from my pregnancy leave me in such poor health that I probably should be on disability. Or my son has to endure six surgeries to keep from totally losing his hearing.

The same son who is already looking at colleges. MIT was only one of the ones mentioned, but so far, it's the most expensive one he's looking at. But if he wants to go there, I'll to everything in my power to help him obtain that goal.

So who's the real me?

The woman in jeans, boots, and a sweatshirt slopping hogs? The sorority sister in her preppy clothes? The piss-poor physics student attending college on an earned academic scholarship? The far-older-than-usual law student in her shorts and t-shirt when everyone else in Texas is freezing their buns off? The head of a law firm's probate department in her black suit making opposing counsel look like a fool? The heart- and endocrine-damaged patient? The desperate mom praying to Aset to protect her son?

You tell me. Who's the real Suzan Harden?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jealousy Is a Four-Letter Word

My friend Angie, who comments here a bit, sold three short stories last week to three different editors. I'm ecstatic for her. This is her path. She's aggressively pursuing it and succeeding.

Here's the thing--her accomplishments are not a reflection of my lack of progress over the last year. (Let's face it--the last new thing I had published was "Justice" in an anthology that was released back in November of 2013.) I know her success has nothing to do with me. It's a fact of this business, hell, it's a fact of life, that everyone has ups and downs. And sometimes, my downs happen during other people's ups, and vice versa.

If a writer can separate herself, separate her ego, from other writers, she'll have a healthier and happier career. But I'm seeing a lot of people who can't do that.

On Monday, a long-time trad published writer ("Whiny Writer") bemoaned that her sales were lacking because of [insert her variation of the "self-publishing tsunami of swill" meme]. Normally, I'd link to her post, but a bunch of sock puppets popped up on another blog where commenters ruthlessly dissected her post (if you read me regularly, you know where), and I don't have time to deal with her bullshit. Oh, and I'm referring to her as Whiny Writer because none of her sock puppets, who all complained about indie writers' spelling and editing, could spell "whining" correctly.

Seriously. I'd be less critical if the sock puppets had used the British/Aussie spelling--"whinging".

The thing many of these folks like Whiny Writer above don't get is that no one's reading the really bad books. If you doubt me, go look at the rankings of them on the various retail sites. If you're ranked #2,999,999 out of 3,000,000, trust me, no one's bought your book in the last five years.

If you write well and want to sell, you have to do something to stand out. Either a new/neat twist on the subject matter, cover, or price gets people's attention. And frankly, price is fading fast as a gimmick. Free or $0.99 no longer gets a new writer the attention they need for sales traction.

So getting pissed because someone else found their traction is not going to help you find yours. And if successful authors offer to help you "fix" your cover or blurb, then maybe you should listen. In the same blog where Whiny Writer's sock puppets attacked, the long suffering Annoyed Writer made the comment that Whiny Writer was right.

First of all, I'm trying not to giggle because according to Whiny Writer, Annoyed Writer betrayed the trust of writers and readers everywhere by going indie. Secondly, Annoyed Writer is selling her books for a much higher price than Whiny Writer's publisher, and she wonders why she's not seeing any sales. Whenever someone points out Annoyed Writer's cover look like something for a non-fiction Eastern art history book instead of the genre fiction it is, she gets pissy.

As Albert Einstein once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Covers are one of the first things that catch a reader's attention, whether we or they want to admit it. Which is why Laura and I have had an ongoing discussion over the last couple of months on how to brand our covers for the 888-555-HERO series.

And guess who also has some not-so-good covers? Yep, Whiny Writer. But it's easier to blame indie writers rather than her publisher.

So what am I trying to say out of all of this:

1) Don't get mad about someone else's success.
2) Focus on your own business.
3) If something isn't working for you, change it.

And, the most important tip of all:

4) If your sock puppets complain about someone else's spelling, make sure your sock puppets' spelling is impeccable.

Good Luck!

Saturday, March 7, 2015