I write like
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Podcast - The Author Biz

Thriller/suspense author Will Graham pointed me toward this delicious little podcast by Stephen Campbell. He interviews Deborah Coonts who talks about taking back her control of her career. Deborah currently works with Bob Mayers and Jen Talty's Cool Gus Publishing.

P.S. Sorry, but you'll need to click on the link to Stephen's website. I tried to embed the podcast of his interview with Deborah, but Blogger and WordPress don't like to play nice with each other.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Movie Mania - The Expendables 3

Remember when I reviewed The Expendables 2, and I said the only '80's action icons that haven't been in an Expendables movies were Harrison Ford, Hulk Hogan, and Mel Gibson?

Well, two out of the three made it into the latest installment of the aging hero action-fest. This time around Mel plays uber-villain, and co-founder of the Expendables, Conrad Stonebanks while Harrison Ford's Max Drummer replaces Bruce Willis' Church as the team's CIA contact.

This time around there are no innocent chicks and children to save. Even new Expendable Luna (Ronda Rousey) has more testosterone than the average man on the street.

*** SPOILERS ***

PROS
1) The addition of Wesley Snipes as one of the original members of the Expendables. His Doc is even crazier than Dolph Lundgren's Gunnar.

2) This time the in-jokes centered around the actors' real-life trials and tribulations, including reputations, jail time and helicopter crashes. See how many you can catch.

3) Kellen Lutz as Barney's newest protege, who actually survives this movie. The kid's showing his chops as an action hero. And let's face it, he was the best thing in Twilight as Emmett Cullen.

4) Antonio Banderas seems to be embracing the lighter side of his talents since his Galgo was the comic relief for this film (though unfortunately not as sexy as Puss in Boots). The role also shows the depth of his ability with any script. When his back story comes to light, he left my eyes stinging.

CONS
1) WTF?! Is there a quota on how many black guys can be in an action movie? That's the only reason I can think of for Terry Crews' Hale Caesar to miss most of the movie. I get the plot point, but why couldn't it have been done with Dolph or Randy Couture.

[Edit to add] Oops! Forgot to give my rating! I give it 8 out of 10 just for Ford's maniacal laughter while flying a helicopter like it was the Millennium Falcon.

What about Hulk Hogan? Well, there are already rumors swirling that he will be in The Expendables 4.

*** END SPOILERS ***

A lot has been made about The Expendables 3 ($15.8 million) making slightly more than half the opening weekend take of The Expendables 2 ($28.6 million). The blame was placed squarely on the pirated DVD quality download circulating on the internet a couple of weeks before the movie was released. But the majority of downloads were by non-U.S. users, and even if every download had been converted to U.S. ticket sales, the movie would have only made another $4 million, still well below the second installment of the franchise.

My POV?

I think Stallone made a mistake by deliberately aiming for the 'PG-13' rating to broaden the franchise's audience. The first two movies were rated 'R', and the majority of flicks these guys are known for were 'R'-rated. Sly missed the point of why his core audience love The Expendables. They were made in the same vein as these stars' movies that my generation grew up watching.

Secondly, The Expendables 3 had to fight the summer word-of-mouth phenomenon that Guardians of the Galaxy has become. In fact, GotG regained the number one spot on Sly and buds' opening weekend. Normally, a testosterone-fest doesn't have much action competition this late in August, but the Marvel sci-fi hero story surprised even their Disney masters. It's made nearly half a billion dollars worldwide in its first three weeks in theaters.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

You Just Don't Understand

"You just don't understand." I've been hearing that phrase a lot over the last few years.

I can't possibly understand having a seriously ill spouse, even though DH was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer and dealt with two surgeries and ten months of chemo. I can't possibly understand having a chronic illness, even though I been dealing with an endocrine system that decided to shut down in the middle of my pregnancy, it hasn't restarted, and there's a medicine cabinet full of drugs that I have to take to stay alive. Apparently, I also don't understand what it's like to:

- Lose a job
- Lose my savings because of a medical catastrophe
- Have a child with special needs
- Have a parent who's alcoholic

...and the list goes on and on.

The same meme permeates my professional life as well. "You don't understand how trad publishing works!" has become the battle cry of some top-level publishers and writers.

Over the last week, Lee Child has popped into The Passive Voice. Yeah, Jack Reacher's creator. That Lee Child. You can check out the conversations here and here.

In my personal opinion, neither side acquitted themselves in a mannerly fashion. But I agree with one commenter who noted that Lee came in with guns blazing, telling us how we're wrong and we just don't understand trad publishing. And Lee did use one of Passive Guy's posts entitled, "We. Don't. Care. How. Traditional. Publishing. Works.", as proof that indies are ignorant.

What Lee is not considering is that there's a HUGE difference between "understanding" and "caring".

A lot of writers who have gone indie have been trad published. They're very much aware of how trad publishing works. And they see its limitations, which is one of the reasons those writers are taking their careers into their own hands.

In my case, my trad publishing career consists of five years writing a legal column for a regional magazine and having a short story accepted into an well-known anthology. In Lee's case, he's one of the best-selling novelists in the world and makes millions per year. Are we going to see trad publishing at the same level?

Hell, no! And that's part of the problem. Lee's forgotten what it's like to be at the bottom of the trad publishing totem pole.

Is it envy or bitterness on my part when it comes to trad publishing? I don't think so. I spent the first twenty years of my professional life figuring out that I'm not a company ladder-climber. Some folks can do it naturally (my brother-in-law Tim is one), but I'm "too independent" as a psych evaluation, given to me by a potential employer, said.

Do I want Lee's level of success? I can honestly say no. First, because my time will never be my own again if I reach that level. Second, because I've seen how a modicum of success in this field changes people. Sometimes for the better, but most times, not so much.

As I read through the conversations on the two TPV posts, I had one of those stuck-by-lightning realizations. Lee thinks he's talking to other writers.

He's not. He's talking to publishers. Small publishers who figured out how to eliminate the bloated overhead that's killing the Big Five in New York. Small publishers who are tapping the markets/subgenres that the Big Five feel aren't worth their time. Small publishers who have connected with the ultimate end users in this business--THE READERS!

So yes, indies do understand trad publishing, but to use it as a model will kill our businesses. While I may not get advances with seven digits like Lee does, I make enough collectively from my readers to pay most of my bills. And frankly, that means more to me than Lee Child's approval of how I publish.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Bunker and Silo Show

If you didn't catch the livestream on Monday, Hugh Howey and Michael Bunker's video of their show is up on YouTube. They discuss the current state of the publishing industry and mention the growing middle class of indie authors (like me!) that are now able to write full-time thanks to the changes in distribution and the explosion of e-books.


Monday, August 18, 2014

The Home Repair Edition - Part Deux!

Back in June, I vented about all the bad luck we'd had while trying to get the $*$@)( Houston house on the market. Well, we were getting down to the wire for hitting the prime summer home sales market. There was still quite a bit to do, and I've been getting sicker from the stress (one of the lovely side effects of being immune compromised and having heart arrhythmia).

A benefactor spoke with DH and offered to front the money to hire somebody to help me with the last few things. His contractor showed up...

...and promptly tried to set my house on fire. *facepalm*

Really. The contractor tried to loosen the old linoleum in the kitchen using my candle lighter. Then he used water. The concrete slab was covered in a muddy, pulpy mess by the time he left. And to top it off, he used my tools because he didn't having any floor tools of his own, then left the unwashed tools on my kitchen counter.

I spent most of that evening and the next day cleaning up the mess instead of working on the other projects that needed to be done. I also primed the floor for leveler because there was a huge dip in the middle of the concrete. When the contractor arrived the next evening, I had the tools and supplies ready to go.

And he got pissed. Because I knew what I was doing. Because I knew he didn't know what he was doing. Because I had tits instead of a dick. Take your pick of the reasons. Thankfully, he quit five minutes after he arrived. Otherwise, I'd have to fire him. I wasn't about to do a half-assed job and leave behind something that would fall apart in ninety days after the new owners moved into the house. And I sure as hell wasn't going to take disrespectful shit from someone young enough to be my son.

All of this went down between Tuesday, August 5th, and Thursday, August 7th. Thanks to the stress, I hurt so bad Friday morning that I could barely roll out of bed.

In a flurry of emergency calls and pooling of funds, DH arrived from Ohio Sunday evening. We knocked out a bunch of stuff last week. He headed back after breakfast on Saturday to get back before today since GK started high school this morning.

Saturday and yesterday, I worked on two of the last three things that need to be done. The carpets will be cleaned on Tuesday, and the new stove should be here on Wednesday. The real estate agent will be here late Wednesday or early Thursday to take pictures. So by Thursday evening, this stupid house should be officially listed.

*sigh* I'll be so glad when this is all over.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Parodies I've Been Listening to Lately

Pharrell Williams agrees with Madonna's sentiment. You know you've succeeded in American music when Weird Al wants to rip on one of your songs.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Octopi

...but you'll love this video anyway because there's sex and swearing. (May not be safe for work if your boss or one of your co-workers is an octopus.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Now Amazon's Whining Like a Little Girl

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I received an e-mail from Amazon KDP. (The Passive Voice reprinted the full text of the e-mail sent to KDP authors.) It was a request to e-mail Michael Pietsch, the CEO of Hatchette Book Group USA, and tell him why he's wrong. Amazon even thoughtfully provided suggested language and provided Mike's e-mail address. Amazon also asks that they be copied on the e-mail the KDP author sent to Mike.

My initial reaction was the same as Selena Kitt's. Except with a lot more swear words.

So of course, when PG posted the letter on his blog a few hours later, I put my two cents in:

I read this shortly before I went to bed. I shouldn’t have checked my e-mail because I ended up tossing and turning as I composed a response to Jeff Bezos. 
I didn’t appreciate Hatchette’s efforts to pull me into their little war. And I know I’ll be in the minority here at TPV, but I don’t appreciate Amazon’s either. 
Yes, I’ve watched Hatchette harm friends’ careers over the years. I don’t agree with their pathetic propaganda campaign. And it makes me sick that Hatchette and their one-percenters spread their elitist BS across the world when it’a all about how many extra Benjamins they can collect. 
On the other hand, Amazon isn’t innocent, and they have caused me direct harm when they’ve removed my books from their retail site by arbitrarily and randomly changing the rules of what’s acceptable erotica. They also froze my account for several hours in December because I dared to question their policies even though it was a polite, professional e-mail. Frankly, I don’t trust Amazon any more than I trust Hatchette. 
So my question becomes why should I support either of these multi-million dollar companies in what amounts to a public schoolyard fight? 
There’s no reason to. Hatchette already lost the e-book/change war when they entered into a conspiracy to price-fix with four other publishers and Apple. As for Amazon, someone else will replace them as the top U.S. retailer in twenty or so years. 
My only concern here is my own company and my own bottom line. Because it’s just business, right? Or at least that’s the line both companies have dished out when they screw over someone. 
So here’s my answer to both Michael Pietsch and Jeff Bezos: When you pay me, I’ll do your company’s dirty work. Until then, leave me out of your playground slap fight.

I hoped that someone would pick apart my points, show the flaw in my logic. The regular commenters at TPV are a bunch of really smart people.

What did I get? A list of people who agreed with my points. And it unsettled me.

Then Barry Eisler popped in, and his take unsettled me even more. He talked about the "revolution in publishing" and "becoming a victim in someone else's war." When Toni McGee Causey disagreed with him, Barry ripped into her for using flamboyant, over-the-top language.

So of course, I had to jump in the middle:

Barry, I respect your opinion and normally, I agree with you on how things are developing in the publishing industry. 
But “smart alliances” for you is not necessarily a good choice for me. Amazon treats you very differently than they treat me. If James Patterson walked up to another Hatchette mid-list author not as well known and said exactly what you said here, how would you take it? Because to me, it sounds like a subtle threat, even though I sincerely doubt that’s how you meant it. 
I’ve learned an important lesson from the Big 5, and that’s not to put all my eggs in the one basket. Thankfully, I learned that lesson before the Kernel Pornocalypse last fall. Who stood up for the erotica writers then? It sure wasn’t Amazon. 
As you and Joe Konrath have said numerous times, we don’t know the exact terms Amazon and Hatchette are fighting over. Oh, we can guess, and I have a suspicion about which guesses are correct. But right now, I have to wonder if Anonymous B. is also correct in his/her comment above. Why do supporters need to CC Amazon if they write to the Hatchette CEO?
I fully expected to be ripped into as Toni had been. I got a bare acknowledgement of my points and that the effect on KDP authors wasn't his "primary interest." In other words, this has turned into an ideological battle for him as much as it has for James Patterson and Douglas Preston. And he avoided my specific questions, something he often rails at Patterson and Preston for doing.

I thought Barry Eisler was better than that. I'm disappointed at finding out yet another hero has feet of clay.

Through all of this, no one's asking the bigger question: Why the hell does Amazon think they need the help of a bunch of indie authors, whom Hatchette is going to ignore anyway?

Saturday, August 9, 2014