I know some people dread high school reunions, but man, this one was terrific and I’m looking forward to the next one.
September 19, 2013
August 23, 2013
I don’t get it.
Maybe I’ve been in this business too long, or maybe I still have the mindset of a print author who takes over a year to write a book. A year of my time working 12 hr days, 6 days a week, plus blood plus sweat plus tears plus endless revisions and editing and self doubts before that book sorta kinda almost seems/feels good enough to submit, either to an editor or a critical proofreader, or, now that it’s a do it yourself process, to Amazon or Smashwords or whoever.
Okay, I get the concept of a loss leader. I get the concept of lowering the cover price for a promo or a sale. I even, reluctantly, get the concept of setting the first book in a trilogy or fourple-ology for free to suck readers into buying the rest of the series…hell, I do that myself and the modest boost in sales sorta kinda justify the means.
What I don’t get is this new *trend* of combining four or five full length novels by four or five different authors into one volume and either selling that volume for .99 or giving it away for free. I fully grasp the supposition and hope that some new readers who graze at the free troughs at Amazon etc will perk their ears at the opportunity to try five new-to-them authors for nothing and then maybe, MAYBE they will find one of those five authors appealing enough to buy another one of their books. I do get that. But is it really worth it? Can someone show me actual numbers that support the concept?
I’m sure the readers are happy…thrilled…to find such bargains, and I don’t want to take away any of that happiness. But really, each book that I sell goes to putting food on my table and a roof over my head, just like every day that a reader goes to work, she or he is doing so in order to put food on their table and a roof over their heads. Would they work free for a day in the hopes that someone sees how well they do the job in order to get them more work? Skewed logic, perhaps, but wtf. I write for a living, readers work for a living: we both should expect to get paid for it.
I was asked not to long ago to consider joining into one of these collaborative volumes but after some thought, declined and it’s been niggling at the back of my mind ever since. I really don’t get why five well known authors would (without knowing the numbers here, so forgive me for just tossing some out) take one fifth of 35% of .99 for one of their full length novels…and be excited about it? Didn’t we allllllllllllllllllll as writers, just finish one and two and three year long discussions about how horrid the big bad publishers were for only giving us 13% royalties on ebooks? Didn’t we just finish rallying around the self-pubbing maypole to expound with great enthusiasm on the ability to earn 70% royalties for our ebooks and the fact that we are finally…FINALLY…getting paid decently for what we thought our work was worth?
So again, I don’t get it. And even though I swore I would never think about numbers again, I can see no other recourse but to haul out the finger and toe abacus.
*cracking my knuckles for the hard part*
Say if I sell my book via a publisher, cover price $4.99, the percentage I end up with (25% of net which works out to about 13% of cover price) is roughly .64 cents.
Say if I sell that book via my own finger and toe-power (Amazon) I end up with 70% of the cover price, which is roughly $3.49. Quite the difference.
Say if I hold a sale and go through Amazon, lowering the price to .99, I get 35% of the cover which is roughly .34 cents. This usually boosts sales but you have to sell 10 times as many copies to earn out the same amount, more numbers which don’t usually meet the hopeful expectations. Again, the benefit is a new reader taking the chance on the .99 book and enjoying it enough to search out other titles to buy at full price. That’s the whole loss leader principle and yes, I get that. I’ve even done that with good results, but when the sale ends, so doth the spike in numbers.
Freebies are self-explanatory, but they’re usually only free for a finite period, be it a week or a month or two months, and again that depends on the effect of sales of other books. A new funky term has risen in the past few months: “perma-free” meaning the author has decided to leave the book permanently free in order to stay on those freebie lists and hopefully entice new readers to try them. Just another guise of a loss leader, and in an indie market that has become flooded with thousands of new books and new authors every week…it helps to be on those lists in the hope of being noticed.
So where is the harm in banding five authors and five books together in one volume? If you’re a numbers person it might cause your sphincter to spasm a little. Take a five book volume on sale for .99. The royalty rate is 35%, so that aforementioned .34 gets divided between the five authors, giving each roughly .06 for each sale. Six cents. Regardless of how you print it out, it’s still…six cents.
So. Let’s use 1000 sales as a “sayif”
Say if I sell 1000 books ($4.99) via a publisher, I would get ( .64 X 1000 [gotta love easy math, didn’t even need my toes] ) $640.00
Those same 1000 books self pubbed ($4.99) would earn me ($3.49 X 1000) $3490.00
1000 books self pubbed on sale for .99 would earn out $340.00
1000 books for free makes a lot of happy readers but the author would get bupkus.
Now the big one: 1000 books in collaboration earns each author…..$60.00
Hmmmm. It takes just 17 sales at a regular price of $4.99 to earn out the $60.00. Or 22 sales at $3.99, (which seems to be an average price at the moment for self pubbed full length books). So in joining this enterprise, the authors joyously sell 1000 copies of the 5-in-one volume in order to joyously collect a stipend of $60.00.
I don’t get it.
I would happily…or joyously…listen to the logic of those who have done one of these collaborations, cuz maybe I’m missing something? Maybe these volumes go on to sell 100,000 copies, in which case each author would take a $6000.00 cheque to the bank and I could wipe my brow and say “whew, I finally get it.”
Please do chime in. I really do want to understand it.
July 25, 2013
I hope everyone is enjoying the blogger fair, exploring new sites and writers. Today’s guest blogger is Michelle Birbeck, so sit back, have a coffee, and enjoy.
Far Away Places as Close as my Imagination
Most of the places I visit are either not real or places that I’ve never been before. Those that don’t exist are just as real to me as those I’ve never been, and with the wonderful inventions of technology, there isn’t anywhere I can’t google.
But for those places that don’t exist, I have to store all the bits and pieces in my head. This is especially true when it comes to the catacombs.
So what are the catacombs? In The Last Keeper, they are the home of The Seats, the ruling body of the vampires. They have catacombs in everywhere that there is a Seat, London, Egypt, Finland, Russia, China, Australia, America, and Brazil.
So how exactly do you go about creating a new world that only you can ever see? For me it starts with painting a picture, a mental one. How big is the place? What colour are the walls? Is there anything on the walls? And then when I have the picture in my mind, I start making a map. I can guide my characters through the map, showing them all the places they need to be and all the places they can go.
After that, I just need to keep the picture in my mind and make sure it goes down on paper the same way I created it. That is the easy part, as the picture is always malleable and can be altered in small ways to fit the story.
Of course, not all imaginary places have to be dark caverns under the ground filled with sulking vampires. That is the beauty of the imagination; you can go on holiday anywhere you like without ever leaving your own mind.
More about Michelle Birbeck and The Last Keeper
Michelle has been writing and reading her whole life. Her earliest memory of books was when she was five and decided to try and teach her fish how to read, by putting her Beatrix Potter books in the fish tank with them. Since then her love of books has grown, and now she is writing her own, and looking forward to seeing them on her shelves, though they won’t be going anywhere near the fish tank.
The Last Keeper
Serenity Cardea’s race has been hunted to near extinction. She’s a Keeper, with the ability to influence others, including those immortal beings who want dominance over the world. Ray Synclair is a history professor in training with a passion for times past. Fascinated by Serenity, he has no idea that the world is filled with immortals, most of whom want him dead. Because the only way to kill a Keeper is to kill their partner…
July 24, 2013
Don’t forget to rummage around the main site. Jacquie is giving away three Kindle copies of Much Ado About Marshals, so check it out and put in your entry.
Thanks, Marsha, for hosting me today! I’m delighted to be here and have enjoyed your books immensely.
The world of romance novels is vast. Early on, I realized that the humorous books always stuck with me, and since I have an off-kilter approach to life myself, well, the books I write reflect that. Maybe growing up on a dairy farm in an area where you could only get one channel on television warped me, I don’t know. That’s my best guess, though.
As a kid, my friends and I rode our horses everywhere, and I can’t tell you how many stagecoaches we robbed or how many times we formed posses to chase bad hombres. Holsteins just aren’t that exciting, so we pretended they were longhorns. The cows weren’t amused, but it kept us busy.
We lived in Owyhee County, Idaho, and that’s where my Hearts of Owyhee series is set. The county is large, about the size of New Jersey, but rather than 1,000 people per square mile, Owyhee County had 1 person per square mile. It’s also home to a mining town, one of the few that didn’t succumb to fire, Silver City. Lots of fascinating rabble-rousing happened there but few know about it, and now instead of mining for silver, I mine for interesting tidbits.
The Owyhee Avalanche has been in business since the mid 1860s, starting in Ruby City, moving to Silver City, and is now publishing in Homedale. I found this article in the January 11, 1873 issue:
“ROLLER SKATING. Jones & Bonney’s Skating Rink is now open and is a splendid place for exercise and amusement. Roller skating not only most consummately occupies the mind in its performance, but it brings the whole muscular system into active play in the most enticing and beautiful manner. A good skater sails over the floor as airily as a bird upon the wing, in a perfect revelry of enjoyment, and a carnival of fun.”
I can just picture those cowhands and miners on roller skates! And I wonder if they had to check their weapons at the door. Then there’s this item from the same newspaper:
“A young lady got on her muscle and gave a fellow a black eye in to the other afternoon. Served him right.”
Silver City is where Much Ado About Marshals (Hearts of Owyhee #1) begins, but the rest of the story is in Oreana. I used the name but moved the town, and made it more populace than it ever was. But what a pretty name. In the real Oreana, there’s a beautiful stone church. I found out that the building was renovated in the 1960s to be a church, but it was originally a mercantile.
Ah ha! My heroine’s family owned that store, I decided, and that gave me fodder for a lot of humor. After all, everything people bought came from there, so the Gardner family would know all everyone’s secrets. And the products—wow, fodder for fun. Here’s the blurb for Much Ado About Marshals:
Daisy wants to be a detective just like dime novel heroine Honey Beaulieu. But her parents insist she marry. What better solution than to marry the new marshal!
Wanted for bank robbery, Cole is mistaken for the new marshal and faces a dilemma few men have to face—tell the truth and be the exalted guest at a necktie party, or live a lie and end up married. Either way could cost him his freedom.
Excerpt set up: Cole was wounded while trying to keep his friend from robbing the bank in Silver City, and now he’s wanted for the crime. His friend took him to Oreana to see a doctor, but they mistook him for the new marshal. In this scene, the town gossip has just complained that Oreana shouldn’t pay salary to a marshal who’s wounded and can’t do his job. “Half a man” she called him. Daisy and her friend Sarah are worried that the widow will throw a kink into Daisy’s plan to marry the new marshal.
“Maybe so, but the boarders were talking about it last night at supper. I’d say if you want the new marshal to keep his job, you’d better find a way to get him on his feet. And fast.”
Unfortunately, Daisy knew Sarah was right. She tried to concentrate on her task, but all she could think about was how she could get the marshal healthy—her entire future depended on it! When she unwrapped another bottle from the new box, the label caught her notice:
LOST MANHOOD RESTORED
The DR. LIEBIG Private Dispensary
400 Geary St., San Francisco, Cal.
“Sarah, I think we have our answer! Listen to this. “Nervous Debility, Impotency, Seminal Losses, Physical Weakness, Failing Memory, Weak Eyes, Stunted Development, Impediments to Marriage, etc. from excesses or youthful follies, or any cause, speedily, safely and privately cured.”
“He doesn’t look too nervous.”
“No, but maybe he doesn’t show it.” Daisy concentrated on the next word, trying to decipher its meaning. “Do you suppose Impotency means general weakness? After all if a medicine is potent, that means it’s strong. So impotency would mean that a man has lost his strength.”
Sarah nodded. “Must be. And he can’t be all that strong with a hole in his leg.” She picked up another bottle, unwrapped it, and studied the label. “Why on earth do you need a cure for not wanting to be a preacher?”
“Well,” Sarah explained, “it says Seminal Losses. I guess that must refer to men who have quit seminary school.”
Daisy shrugged. She didn’t know, either, so she studied the label again. “This medicine sounds like just the thing to speed his recovery, especially if it removes any Impediments to Marriage—although I don’t know how on earth it could do that. Mama says love potions are hoaxes.”
“But it couldn’t hurt.”
“It might help.” Daisy stuffed a bottle in her apron pocket.
“How are you planning to pay for it? Aren’t you going to tell your dad?”
Daisy shook her head. “He won’t mind. I’ll just record it in the account book.” Where, she didn’t know—maybe on Mrs. Courtney’s account, but she wasn’t about to let her father in on her plans to marry the marshal until she had him bagged good and proper.
Hearts of Owyhee Buy Links
Much Ado About Marshals: http://amzn.com/B0058ON1LS
Much Ado About Madams: http://amzn.com/B007HRTQ0O
Much Ado About Mavericks: http://amzn.com/B008EDN9T4
Thanks again to Marsha for hosting me today, and please visit her post on my blog to learn more about her wonderful pirate adventure, Across A Moonlit Sea:
Jacquie’s Contact Links
Romancing The West: http://romancingthewest.blogspot.com
Author blog: http://jacquierogers.blogspot.com
July 23, 2013
My second guest blogger for the Blogger Book Fair week is Haley Whitehall. Don’t forget to follow some of the links here and at the main Fair site for freebies, raffles, and other goodies.
This year’s Blogger Book Fair theme is to let your imagination travel to far-away places. Since I write historical fiction, I have logged many hours doing just that. Most of my books take place during the Antebellum/Civil War period. Although I have been too and enjoyed many reenactments, I still believe the next closest thing to time travel is writing about the places I wish I could visit. I can make sure my hero is opening a can of beans with his bayonet instead of an electric can opener!
I have been drawn to the Civil War era ever since I studied it in elementary school. The Newbery Medal winning YA novel Rifles for Watie got me thinking I could write my own novels about the War Between the States, and I’ve been daydreaming in blue and gray ever since. All it takes is for me to turn on some Civil War music or watch The Horse Soldiers starring John Wayne and I’m instantly transferred to the battlefield. I have recently released a Civil War short story Journey to Glory and I am in the process of editing In Dixieland’s Grasp, Book 2 in the Plantation Shadows series. It will be published in 2014.
Here is an excerpt from Grits and Glory, Plantation Shadows, Book 1 (currently on sale for 99 cents at Amazon and most ebook distributors)
I hope my excerpt transports you back to the Civil War and right into the middle of the action!
He went about his business slowly, trying hard not to think about facing the enemy in advance of the army. Charging the field with a whole brigade was bad enough—skirmishing something worse.
Peter took deep, calming breaths. He heard his comrades crossing the Rappahannock. Footsteps echoed on the pontoon bridge. Soft voices caught his ears and the occasional moan or curse. He wished he was retreating with them.
He stood his ground, rifle in hand, the dream he’d had playing in his mind. You look like a corpse. A true Southerner is going to lay you in your grave. You were born a coward.
Peter shook his head to make his father’s voice stop. His eyes narrowed. He focused on the approaching Confederates. This was life or death. This was not a dream.
His heart barely kept time with his lungs. His head felt fuzzy, but his judgment remained clear. He forced his feet to remain planted.
Forced himself to listen to the officers.
Forced himself to follow orders.
Lieutenant French spoke, sharp, and booming. “Hold your position.”
The skirmishers formed a hasty battle line. He’d give all his pay for an ounce of cover. Fully focused on loading and firing, he ignored the crackling volleys, lead tearing into flesh, and chilling screams.
The Confederates were fifty yards away and closing fast.
Pulling a cartridge out, he bit the top off. Poured in the acrid powder. Pushed the wad and bullet on top. Shoved it down the barrel with his ramrod. He grabbed a percussion cap out of his pouch.
Cocking the hammer, he put the percussion cap on the nipple. He nearly fired without removing his ramrod.
“Damn.” His arms trembled. He held his breath to steady his actions and fired. He saw his target fall to the ground, gripping his chest. Peter exhaled. They were targets. Not men.
One of the Kane brothers moaned. Peter’s head jerked to his right expecting to see one of them wounded. Instead, Jim rubbed his swollen eyes. Standing shoulder to shoulder, their faces black from biting numerous cartridges, they looked like miners. With his tongue, Peter tried to wipe the grime off his teeth. The bitterness soured his mouth and when he swallowed, the powder stuck like glue in his throat.
The trees screamed at him. The ground bled. His whole body smelled like gunpowder. Henry Jackson grabbed his shoulder and crumpled to the ground. Andrew Silas lay beside him.
Lifeless bodies. Glossy eyes. Peter blinked. Another man went into convulsions. Peter sucked on his bottom lip. The vein on his neck pulsed. He loaded his rifle again. It seemed they were taking on the entire Confederate Army.
A wounded Federal kept crying out, “Mother! Mother! Mother!”
The wrenching plea brought tears to Peter’s irritated eyes, splintered his nerves. It was the redheaded boy who had been shocked to find out he talked like a Johnny Reb.
“Shut up,” Peter said, then cringed at his heartlessness.
A burning pain seared his right arm. He touched the wound and the sting it brought overpowered his senses. He pulled his hand away as if he had touched a hot stove, his fingers dripping blood.
A rebel raised his rifle and fired at the redheaded boy’s skull. Peter clutched his rifle tighter. His eyes darted from one panic-stricken comrade to another. His chest felt hollow. His emotions went numb, no longer able to register grief or pain.
“Damn the brass!” Peter’s words were drowned by the next volley.
Either send in reinforcements or let us retreat. Neither happened.
His scalp, hands, forehead, chest were soaked with sweat—as if it had been raining sweat.
The Confederates advanced towards them. The dwindling line of fire his friends provided offered little hindrance.
A clattering noise clipped the air. Bayonets. As if the blood and bullets weren’t enough. A sour taste rose in Peter’s throat. Realizing they had the upper-hand, the rebels let out a horrendous “Yyyeeeaaaa!”
Peter froze. The rebel yell rang in his ears, turning his heart to stone. He swallowed his fear in a big gulp and grabbed his leather pouch. His ammunition was running low—everyone was running out. He felt his coat pocket. It contained a handful of bullets. Soon, they’d be surrounded.
His stomach clenched; his lungs seemed to shut down. He struggled to breathe, struggled to stand, struggled to think. The darkness of death drifted towards him, ready to devour him in seconds. The scope of his thoughts narrowed to the point of a bayonet. The bayonet gleaming in the hands of his enemy. He could surrender and end up in prison. He could stay on the field and die.
Or he could make a run for it and have a chance to live.
He glanced back at the pontoon bridge. With the Confederates in pursuit, crossing it would be a death trap. If he could escape the battlefield, he’d be forgotten.
He took to his heels. Must keep moving. Must get off the field. Must get to the city.
A Confederate soldier lay on his side, his eyes glassy. As he ran past he took the soldier for dead, but a hand reached out and grabbed his ankle. Iciness spread up his leg and he fell headlong onto the ground.
“Peter,” the rebel whispered hoarsely.
Peter sat up and blinked at the soldier. He had taken a ball to the gut and gripped his middle with both hands.
“Amos?” Peter said. “Amos Dawson?” He had never expected to run into an old school friend like this.
“Help me,” Amos said. “Water.” Amos reached his arm out.
Peter glanced at his canteen and then at the wounded man. He didn’t have time to talk and tend the man’s wounds.
“I’m dying, Peter.” His skin was white and waxy and he labored to breathe. “My throat is dry.”
Peter passed him his canteen. His heart beat erratically as he waited for the man to finish. Amos took a long drink, and then grimaced and moaned when he pulled the canteen from his lips.
Peter nodded. He wanted to say more, wanted to help, but he couldn’t stay.
Amos’ green eyes registered understanding. “Take care of yourself, Peter,” Amos lay down on his back and moaned again. “I will speak to your mother for you.”
Peter’s throat tightened and he struggled to hold back tears.
“Go,” Amos said. “Or we’ll both by lying here.”
Peter slung the canteen over his shoulder and resumed running.
Once inside the limits of Fredericksburg, he moved deeper into the city, using the trees and buildings as cover.
A burning sensation spread up his arm, blood dripping down his sleeve. “Blasted!” His pulse pounded in his ears in time to his throbbing arm. He kneeled and pulled a bandanna out of his haversack and tied it above the elbow, pulling it taut with his free hand and teeth.
He got to his feet and stumbled forward. Don’t stay in one place long. The familiar warning echoed through his mind. He wasn’t safe. He could be discovered. He could be pursued. He could be captured.
Adrenaline propelled him onward through the battle-scarred city. He felt numb seeing most houses in town scathed by the Union bombardment. The artillery had blown holes as big as barrels through the structures. The town lay deserted and pillaged.
Peter’s feet pounded the ground in a swift, steady motion. He held his rifle across his chest, his right hand on the butt and his left gripping the hot muzzle. He didn’t dare get any closer to the trigger, for fear his taut nerves would cause him to fire by accident.
The Confederate soldiers drifted farther and farther and farther away. He ran to the countryside heaving for breath, his lungs burning, his sides aching.
At first he was running blindly, but then the path became familiar. He felt pulled towards a certain mansion. He could only hope that it would provide him refuge.
Peter staggered up the walkway and grasped the gate. He eyed the whitewashed house with apprehension. His past and future lay behind that door. A future in the Union Army or in prison.
Taking a deep breath, he pounded on the door. All he heard was the blood rushing in his ears.
At last, the knob slowly turned. The door opened to reveal a young woman swollen with child. Her hand flew to her mouth, stifling a scream. Her knees buckled, and she grabbed the doorframe to steady herself.
This wasn’t the same innocent woman from his childhood. Was she carrying her second child? Third? So much had happened in the past two years. “You remember me, don’t you, Abigail?”
She visibly relaxed. “Peter? What are you doing here? You were the last person I had expected to see.”
“I know. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
Her sharp eyes looked him over—searching his soul to see how Yankee he had become, he was sure.
“I’m glad you’re well,” Peter said, breaking the uneasy silence. “I was worried about you.”
Abigail opened her mouth, but hesitated as if searching for the right words. She turned her head and flicked a glance inside the house.
When she spoke her voice was soft. “General Lee urged everyone to leave the city. He even sent army wagons and ambulances to transport people to safer ground.” She paused and shifted her weight, taking long pauses between her words. “Many women and children fled to the safety of my house. I am hosting them until it’s safe for them to return.”
Peter nodded, a deep frown etched across his face. “You needn’t say more. I’m not welcome here. I’ll be on my way.”
“Wait,” Abigail called just as he reached the white picket fence.
Peter stopped. “Your arm is bleeding. Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.”
“There are Confederate soldiers everywhere in town; others are roaming the countryside.”
Peter pinched his lips together. Anxiety wormed its way into the pit of his stomach. He shrugged, tightening his voice. “I figured that.”
“It isn’t safe for you to go anywhere. You can stay here, sir.” She took his hand and helped him into her home, ushering him to a door.
“You can stay in the cellar.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Peter said, bobbing his head.
His nose wrinkled at the stench of the onions and turnips. They hung in bunches from the ceiling.
Creeaak. Peter’s heart sank like a rock thrown in the river. Abigail had shut the door, but he understood. His world had been turned on its head, not by the war, but by his actions on his eighteenth birthday.
He was putting her in danger by being here. An uncomfortable feeling crawled up his neck. He shook his head and it fell away. She’d never stood up for him when they were children. She owed him.
Peter felt his way around the cellar with his left arm, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. He found an empty barrel, turned it over and sat, cradling his right arm in his lap. He untied the bandanna and tried to examine his wound. All he saw was coagulating blood. Poking at it made it hurt worse, made the pain pulsate through his body.
His heart raced. He closed his eyes and took a deep, ragged breath.
“You’re safe here,” Peter whispered. “You’re safe.”
The floor stared back at him. He imagined he was a boy again, playing hide and seek. It was no use.
He couldn’t fool himself. He was a wanted man. Whether he would be turned in or not was up to his sister.
You can Find Haley at:
Grits and Glory can be found at:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/grits-and-glory-haley-whitehall/1113085354?ean=2940015525298
July 22, 2013
This week a bazillion authors have come together for the annual Book Blogger Fair which means readers can spend literally hours roaming through blogs, entering contests, finding freebies and generally having a good time. I will be hosting five new-to-me authors who might be new to you as well and just like the Sample Sundays of old, maybe you’ll make a few new discoveries.
Today’s guest is Lissa Bryan, “an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot”…. though only in her head. Her words, not mine LOL. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing. I can relate. Enjoy *s*
This year’s Blogger Book Fair theme is travel to far-away places. travel is also a major theme of my novel, The End of All Things. After a horrible plague decimates the nation. Carly and Justin must travel from her home in Juneau, Alaska to a place with a warmer climate, where they will have a better chance of survival. It’s a journey across a nation laid to waste by the disaster, but also a journey into love.
Check out the trailer, here.
“I’ve never been out of Alaska,” Carly said. She wasn’t sure she could explain to him how awful a prospect it was to leave everything behind, to give up on the idea the world might return to normal if she just waited there instead of abandoning her hope and home.
“I’ve never been to Florida.” Justin took a large bite of his cold pork and beans and chewed with relish. “Here’s the thing.” He pulled a paper towel off the roll beside the sink and used it as a napkin. “We need to leave soon. It’s going to be a very long journey, and I don’t think we’ll manage to make it all the way to Florida, or even south of the Mason-Dixon for that matter, before the winter sets in. So we have to hurry and get as far as possible in the time we have left.”
Carly hesitated before asking, since she knew it was another dumb question, but she had to know. “If we can’t take a car or a motorcycle, what are we going to do?” “Ride bicycles. Walk.”
“Justin, you’re talking four thousand miles here.” The idea of moving into a house across town had been daunting enough, let alone the idea of traveling across most of North America.
Carly shook her head. “You’re talking about more than half a year, maybe more.”
“Do you understand, then, why I want to leave as soon as possible? We need to go somewhere we can grow enough food to sustain ourselves. Florida has an excellent climate for farming. I’m not saying we have to get all the way to Florida. There are other states in the South that would have a good climate for us, but I’m thinking of Florida as my goal. We may be able to use different vehicles during sections of our trip, but that’s not a guarantee. The ones we find may have dead batteries, or the fuel could have gone bad. If we encountered a roadblock or traffic jam, we’d have to unload the vehicle and try to find another. Bikes are more reliable.”
“Do you actually have this planned out, or is it just an idea you have?”
Justin chuckled. “Once you get to know me, Carly, you’ll find I have everything planned out.” He went out into the hallway and grabbed one of the bags that contained his gear. He opened up the front pocket and withdrew a map. A route had been highlighted, cutting across Canada and through the US, a bumpy line, but almost perfectly diagonal.
She traced her finger over the long line. “What if I refuse to go?”
“I can’t leave you here to die, Carly.”
Die? She gave him a startled look, but he didn’t back off and admit to exaggeration or soften the comment with a shrug or smile. Instead, he looked straight into her eyes, and his steady gaze told her he wasn’t trying to scare her or embellish. He saw it as an inevitable consequence if she were left there on her own, not as a possibility.
She looked away, unable to meet his eyes any longer. “Because you knew my dad?”
“No, not just because of the promise I made when I joined The Unit, but because I fancy myself to be a decent human being. One way or another, I’m going to have to convince you, but I hope to hell it doesn’t take very long. I know you don’t know me very well yet, but you’ll find I’m a person who keeps my promises. And I promise you I will do my best to keep you safe, warm, and fed. I’m your best shot at survival.”
He tugged up the sleeve of his T-shirt and showed her the symbol tattooed there, the same symbol that was on her father’s ring. “This once meant something. It meant enough that I had it permanently etched into my skin because it’s a part of me. It wasn’t just a military unit. It was a code of honor. I may be the last man standing, but I swear I’m not going to let that code die, too.”
And gazing into his eyes, Carly believed him. She might have very little experience of the world, but she knew sincerity when she saw it. He truly cared about what happened to her, for whatever reason. Her doubts and fears warred with her instincts, which told her Justin was what he presented himself to be. He was a nice guy with a mischievous sense of humor and a strong sense of honor and duty. Her father had told her to trust no one, but he had also told her about the symbol and what it meant to the men who wore it.
“I’m scared,” Carly said. She felt her cheeks warm in embarrassment at the admission, but she felt like he deserved her honesty.
“I am, too. None of this is going to be easy, but I’d put our chances at reaching Florida higher than most.”
“That doesn’t sound too encouraging.”
Justin was quiet for a long moment. “Do you want me to be honest or comforting?”
Carly blinked when tears stung her eyes again. He already thought she was stupid. She didn’t want to add whiny to the list. “Just for a little while, can you be optimistic?”
He took her hand in his own. “Sure, honey. I understand.”
You can read the entire first chapter here.
June 27, 2013
Yeah, like that would ever happen *snort*.
So, it’s been a while…again…but as promised, I’m back with some updates and new pics. Firstly…Cabinet Guy. He’s been back a few times putting the finishing touches on things. I keep putting yellow post it notes on sticky cabinet doors or missing trim or lights that don’t work the way they should, and Cabinet Guy dutifully shows up and goes through the notes one at a time. I suspect he has begun to grind his teeth each time he sees one or gets a cheery (not) email from me.
He was here the last time on Payton’s birthday, fussing with the hearth of the refaced fireplace in the kitchen while she and I had a rousing game of Hand and Foot. Every now and then I’d hear a giggle and he’d explain that he was getting flashbacks of when he and Jefferson were younger and we’d spend weeks up at the cottage, with the adults playing cards and the kids staying out of the way. At one point I suggested to Payton that we play for her birthday money and Jay yelled: “No! Don’t do it! If she wins, she WILL take it. It happened to me!”
So I assume he has one more visit to go just to clean up the two or three post-its still stuck to the walls. I’m sure he’ll be happy to see the end of this TEN MONTH reno job, just as much as I will be happy to finally get the ducts cleaned and see the last of the carpentry dust vanish. Must remember to send him a broom and plastic scoop for Christmas. I could always tell where he’d been working from the little pile of filings and sawdust he left behind.
All in all, however (and I’ve already posted the pics) I’m immensely pleased with all the work that’s been done. The kitchen seems more splendid each time I sit and study it. The family room is perfect. The upstairs bathroom, with the claw foot tub, makes me smile every time I walk past the door. He’s added TONS of storage in almost every room he’s worked in…and considering he’s worked in 7 out of 8 rooms, that gives all my trinkets, books, collectables, and STUFF a happy shelf or cupboard to occupy. I even have empty spaces!!!! *gasp*
With all the major work inside almost done…and I say major because there is still the dungeon to tackle…Landscape Guy was called in to start work on the outside. My last house sat on 3/4 of an acre and about half that was covered in splendid gardens. This house sits on maybe 1/4 acre and 99% of it was overgrown weeds, 20 yr old gnarly shrubs, grass that wasn’t grass anymore but a combination of clover, grass, weed, and more friggin pansies and out of control groundcover than I’ve ever seen before. Just last week I discovered that the lower tier of the front yard isn’t grass at all but a spread-out bed of tarragon. The enormous garden in the far corner is filled with everything from rhubarb to peonies, to ferns, to chives, to bluebells, to lillies, to yellow things, to white things, to big purple spikey ball things. There is a shrub in there too and some vines, along with a patch of *augh* asparagus. Blech. I was going to leave that patch until next spring and just concentrate on cleaning the upper tiers, but…with Austin working for me this summer, he just may learn a lot about gardening *evil grin*
Back to Landscaping Guy, however, he’s been working here for five weeks now. The first two days he had gone around the house with a machete, axe, pick, and shovels and whacked down the overgrown jungle that surrounded the place. He dug out trees and shrubs and made numerous trips to the dump with his van filled to the roof with all the crap he pulled out, trimmed, pruned, and hacked. He’s built fences and gates, he’s hauled gravel to shore up the six inch gap beneath the family room addition where the squirrels were making merry. He’s edged and turned over and planted gardens around three sides of the house and the garage. He’s hauled and spread a small mountain of mulch. He’s fixed plumbing issues with the outside taps (apparently the previous owner was unaware that one should drain the pipes in winter and most of them were cracked wide open) He dug out drainage tunnels and excavated a dozen or more railroad ties that were once, eons ago, steps leading down from the upper tier to the middle tier. Hell, he found a flagstone patio on the middle tier that was totally overgrown, and a rubber liner where there was once a pond.
My original plan for the front was to have stone steps replace the rotted railway ties, but that got changed as being too impractical. Then I was going to extend the present deck onto a lower level, but then I thought…I have three farking decks now, do I really need a fourth????? Nooooooooo. Keep in mind, each time I changed the design, Landscape Guy drew up plans, figured out materials, lined up equipment. After the deck got the big thumbs down, I thought he might get a little feisty when I said: I have a better idea! But he didn’t. He just waited three or four days to make sure it was what I wanted. LOL
So what I wanted was an interlocking path across the front of the house, replacing icky non-grass and grotty old weedy, gnarly trees. Eventually I’ll have it go around into the back yard and join up with the existing stone patio, but for this year’s project…and budget…laying it across the front would make everything clean and lovely. It would also crown the spiffy new rock garden that spans the full front of the hill. He still has a few more days worth of touch-ups and finishing things like a step down from the deck and facings to cover the sides, but here are some before and after pics to show the progress from jungle to happy landscaping.
This was the garden outside my kitchen window, right at the front entrance.
This is how it looks now:
This was the side of the garage before, which faces the main front door
And here it is now:
Grotty side leading to the back:
Blah back patio before:
And now, my lovely and peaceful retreat with fern garden:
Front view of the upper tier before:
Path across the front of the house before:
Still a bit of work to do and the weeds and friggin pansies come up quicker than I can blast them with Round Up, but everything seems happy and ready to burst into bloom, which makes me happy and ready to…just sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy it!!!!
And…I almost forgot to mention my Harry Potter birdhouse! It already has residents!!!
Hope you’ve enjoyed my trials and tribulations. It never ends, of course. Next job up is the dungeon (the basement). Neither of the grandkids will venture down there willingly and I must confess I’m not too keen on it either. Bit of drywall, a ceiling, some paint….yeah. Much easier to reach the wine cellar then *g*.
May 19, 2013
I am literally wiped out most of the time these days. Finally down to a few dozen boxes instead of a few hundred, and half of those I can’t get to cuz they’re in the garage. Cabinet Guy says he’ll be finished SOON and he’ll clear some of the crap out of there so I might have a chance of finding stuff that’s missing. I can see some of the errant boxes if I squint into the gloom of the shelves in the garage and read the son’s writing on the sides. My good wine glasses, for instance. LOL. Where else would you put a box that has FRAGILE written all over the sides, and MOM’S GOOD GLASSES, and CARRY AT OWN PERIL? Yeah, I’d stick that in a cramped little garage *snort*.
Landscaping Guy is moving like a dervish. Five days work and he’s torn out all the scraggly trees and overgrown 40 yr old ugly shrubs and dug up at least two dozen stumps and root balls, cleared a bazillion weeds, and turned the earth in three gardens. He’s had me running almost as fast to buy plants and shrubs and trees to replace the old stuff, but I now have three new, loverly gardens and he’s starting around the side and back next week. He’s leaving the deck and stairs and icky rock gardens to the last, and I don’t blame him. Big jobs. But knowing Mikey, he’ll zoom through them like shit through a duck. Probably not a good metaphor, but it works for me. LOL
I also went out and bought myself a Big Girl drill with bits and everything. Always wanted to play with a drill but Stupid would never let me. Now I have a big honker all charged up and ready to do stuff. I also have my very own electric lawn mower. Not saying I know how to use it, and not saying I will…isn’t that why we have sons and grandsons???
MOST of the rooms are finished. My office and bedroom furniture was permanently fixed and fitted on Friday, the doors balanced and the crown moulding restored. Even have my keyboard shelf attached again. Woo hoo. There were a few setbacks in other rooms. I had him take apart the bathroom pocket door cuz it didn’t work…I couldn’t reach the water shut-offs and that made me freak a little. He’s redoing a section of the fireplace surround as well to fix something that was bugging me. And I’ll need to get a Plumber Guy in cuz with all these gardens going in, the old farmhouse pump and well just isn’t cutting it. After Landscaping Guy finishes planting, my job is to water, but as I found out yesterday, there isn’t enough pressure in the pump to work a sprinkler. Most of the outside taps are cracked and leaky, which sorta gives me an idea why, if the idiots who lived here before me couldn’t be bothered to fix anything, why the gardens and lawns are in such an ugly state. Does NOT explain how they could live here for at least four years with the smell of raw sewage from unvented and wrongly installed drainage pipes in the basement. Or how they could fail to notice, if not smell, the inch thick mouse crap that was everywhere. Or how they could fail to notice that someone had disconnected the heating vent to the bathroom and simply rerouted it into the family room instead of installing new vents. It’s a good thing I don’t winter here because the heating system sucks, the floors are like ice in the newer half of the kitchen and the family room addition. The latter can be explained by the fact the underneath of the family room is completely open. I had squirrels taking up residence under there last week, scuffling around under the floorboards and driving Suzie nuts. Four bags of moth balls took care of that temporarily, but that’s another job Landscaping Guy is going to tackle next week. Even before I moved in, my son closed up all the open air highways leading inside through the foundation and stopped the mouse problem; hopefully Mikey can block up all the highways leading under the family room.
Oh, and I found a basement window I didn’t know was there…and a third chimney. Also found the old coal shute. Now if I could just find those wine glasses…..
May 10, 2013
Okay, so I’ve been home for 10 days, and I must admit I came through the door with some trepidation. While I was wintering in Florida, I got mixed messages from home about how the progress was going on all the renovations. Cabinet Guy, naturally, said that everything was progressing as planned. The DIL sent emails and pictures showing, as of a week before I was supposed to return, that nothing was close to being finished. Luckily there was still snow and cold weather here, so I delayed my return for a week, giving Cabinet Guy some extra time…which he apparently needed to do major clean up. (Why is it that men think their farts don’t stink and their boots don’t leave dust behind???)
So to set my homecoming mood a little, yes, we left sunny, hot Florida a week ago Saturday. I was driving by myself, following another couple, keeping in touch via walkie talkies which worked out great. We had frequent stops but still made pretty good time to Wytheville Va, rolling into a Best Western around 10:00 that night. Asked for and were given non smoking rooms where a pet was allowed, cuz I had Suzie, my little dawg, who did not sleep a wink on the long drive. She hates car rides and usually sits stiff-legged and owl-eyed regardless how long the trip takes. When my Brother in Law and I drive down, straight through without stopping, Suzie sits stiff-legged and owl-eyed for the full 22 hrs.
Normally, I have no problems with Best Western but on this trip, tired and seeing crosseyed from driving all that time, I checked into a non smoking room that smelled like the ashes on the bottom of seven day old ashtray left outside to get crusty and molder in the heat. Worse, at some point a cat had stayed in the room, and while they never bothered me when I was younger, I go into sneezing fits now if I’m around one. So there I was…hastily changed into jammies cuz I was tired, snuggled up in bed with Suzie, who was asleep the instant she found an accommodating pillow. I started sneezing in earnest around midnight, and because most of my things were packed sardine-style in the car, had nothing to take for it, not that I would have ventured out into a dark parking at that time of night anyway. The smell of the old smoke started to work on me too, having quit the habit before Christmas, so by 4am, I gave up trying to sleep at all and watched reruns of NCIS until it was time to get up and drive again. Yes, I did complain to the front desk advising them to make note of the rooms where cats stay. My own sneezy reaction was mild compared to how my son would have reacted. He swells up like a bloated yak and his throat closes within five minutes of breathing feline fumes. The manager’s reaction? “So sorry you were inconvenienced, dear, but why didn’t you call the front desk we would have changed your room?” Well, the hotel was full, for one thing. For another, it was 4am when I was most uncomfortable, and not in any mood to go slogging to another room.
Even more fun, when we went outside in the morning it was raining. And it rained alllllllll day long, all the way north from Virginia to Ontario. More fun…there was an hour and a half line up to cross the border (Although I did get to play with some of the previously unexplored buttons and knobs on my car and found out how to lower the aim of the headlights so they don’t blind the person I’m following. Sorry Jim, but who knew?) So it wasn’t until close to 10:30 pm that I pulled up in front of the son’s house, where I was staying the next two nights with the kidlets while the parental units were off for a weekend to celebrate Jefferson’s 40th birthday. Yes. My baby turned 40. I suppose that means I must adjust my age slightly upward as well, since few will still believe it hasn’t changed in the last ten years. Bummer.
Kids were happy to see me, I was happy to see them. Suzie was so happy she crapped all over their living room, so I spent a good part of that initial homecoming two days steam cleaning their carpets. *snort*
On to my own little abode. Again, with some trepidation, I drove the few short blocks and was met at the door by Cabinet Guy, who looked like he was suffering major trepidations of his own. Not sure if I mentioned it somewhere in these reno blogs that I’ve known Cabinet Guy since he came home from the hospital in his mother’s arms. So I have no qualms about smacking him upside the head, and he is very much aware that I will do so if I’m not happy with something.
First thing I saw was the new storm door and steel door on the kitchen. They replaced an ugly brown screenless thing and a scratched up wooden door with single-paned window inserts that let in more cold air than an AC unit. Woo hoo, good start.
Then came the kitchen, and I must say I was holding my breath a little. To save having to flip back, here’s how it looked to begin with, taken all those months ago with a fisheye lens….
Here’s how it looks now…(taken with my iPod cuz I haven’t unpacked my camera yet *snort*)
Ugly white cupboards…gone. Blue tiled island…gone. Outdated angelstone fireplace…gone. Useless (and hollow) bulkheads…gone. The placement of the sink and stove were reversed and the dishwasher was installed in the island. The pic doesn’t do justice to the height of the cupboards or the size of the pantry, nor do they show all the secret spice drawers and corner nooks that look like solid wood but they open up to store trays and cutting boards etc. And all the drawers and cupboards are slam-proof, they close softly on their own unless you dive at them like a linebacker.
I think I actually hugged Cabinet Guy…Jason…he of The Woodworking Shop in Brampton, Ont. Yes, that is a shameless plug. The cabinets are gorgeous, I have almost as much storage space as I did in my huge kitchen in the other house, but the workmanship is soooo much better. I’m very very happy with the result and it was almost…allllllmost worth all the aggravations. LOL
The second most amazing transformations happened in the bathrooms. You may recall the long, narrow 50’s era pink arborite, pink tile, pink toilet, pink sink, dwarf washer and dryer beside a dingy, and claustrophobic shower that I never would set foot in?
Well, thanks to Bathroom Guy, it was completely gutted, walls pulled down, bulkheads again removed, the jaundice-inducing florescent light box ripped out and the dwarf machines dispatched to Snow White’s camp. Mind you, the bathroom is still long and narrow, and fitting full sized machines in was a bit of a magic act, but it all works….
With the ugly half wall and bulkheads removed, the shower is twice the size of the old one, the slate is gorgeous, the double shower heads are mahhhh-vellous! Especially after a long day of unpacking, sweeping, dusting, washing…augh. And you can sorta see the original farmhouse window on the left that Bathroom Guy found buried behind the drywall. It has been restored and painted and I’ll be putting mirrors into the four arched panes. Very spiffy.
As for the upstairs bathroom…*sigh* Once again, I think I hugged young Jason.
It’s not that it was so terrible when I first saw it. I mean who can complain about a deep two-person jacuzzi with a million jets? Ummm…maybe the person who has to use two tanks of hot water to fill it?
So here is the original…
And the new look…
What the original photo didn’t show was the incredibly grotty, gross, plastic shower on the right hand side of the room, which, as you can see by the middle pic, was replaced with a huge new linen closet and three deep drawers. That stained glass pic was a birthday gift I made for my dad for his 70th birthday, and Jason has built it into the wall with tiny lights behind it. I *know* there was a tear in my eye when I saw it.
The other major reno job was the family room, but as you can see the Guys are still working on it. When they’ve finished…I’ll post more pics.
April 14, 2013
That goes for all writers. New writers, experienced writers, weekend writers. I tend to be blunt when asked to do a critique. I look at the work as if it was my own—which is probably mistake #1—and criticize accordingly. On the other hand, I’ve been through the grist mill, suffered editors with bad attitudes, editors who wanted me to change my books to what ‘they’ would have written, and enough rejections to fill a thick file folder. But that was my trial by fire. Each and every one of those rejections, those criticisms and comments made me take a harsher look at my writing. They more or less forced me to improve my craft, to read more outside genre to see what I could do differently to avoid those dreaded words: predictable and stereotypical.
Romance novels surely must suffer the most from those two words. There can only be so many ways two people can start out at opposite sides of the room and come together at the end to waltz happily away into the sunset. I would say the majority of central plot lines begin with the hero and heroine being antagonists, then they go through some crisis or have an epiphany that brings them passionately together. It’s the stuff a good romance is made of. And it’s predictable, from page one, if the heroine is feisty and strong-spirited and goes against the social norms of the day, and if the hero is darkly dangerous, a womanizer, a rake convinced he will never fall in love or marry.
I write historical romances, so I’m super critical when I read one and I honestly read as few of them as possible. That qualification aside, my litmus test is the first chapter. If I can see the entire plot spool out in front of me in those first few pages, then I gently set it aside…not unlike, I would imagine, what editors in publishing houses do.
And that brings me to the reason I sat down with this blog….(that and a cloudy day threatening rain *s*)…that being one of the major problems with self publishing.
As previously mentioned, I have a rejection file an inch thick. They were accumulated over the course of my first four manuscripts, all of which, in turn, I considered to be brilliant, ingenious, passion-inspiring, intriguing, exciting…yada yada yada.
All of which sucked.
I think I’ve mentioned before that when I used to do workshops on revising and self-editing, I usually handed out a Xeroxed copy of a horribly written chapter from some anonymous author and asked the writers to critique it. After the gales of laughter some of the honest criticisms inspired, after it had been torn apart and pilloried front to back, I told them the chapter came from my first manuscript. There was always a long, heavy silence after the admission, but in the end, they got the point. I learned from my mistakes. Each rejection made me take a long hard look at those manuscripts until I understood…or thought I understood the problems in each one. And for the next book, I would try to change or improve. I like to say the process is like going to school. You don’t go from kindergarten straight to high school, you have to endure all those years of learning in between.
And that is what is missing these days, with the ease of self publishing. There is no in between. There is no trial by fire, no rejection slips that make a writer sit back and wonder why, why? What’s wrong with it?
The writer writes a book s/he thinks is brilliant, ingenious, passion-inspiring, intriguing and exciting and she puts it up on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Smashwords etc then sits back to wait for the flood of fantastic reviews and avalanche of sales. When neither of those things happen, the writer is stunned, confused, angry, even discouraged. If so and so can write an indy book and publish it herself and sell a gazillion copies, why can’t I?
Well, maybe because it sucks.
And NO, I’m not saying ALL indy books suck, so don’t threaten to send me a bag full of fleas and a smelly old yak to foster them. I’m merely saying that there are good indy books out there, there are indy books that could be better, and there are indy books that would never have made it past the desk of an assistant editor.
There are a gazillion blogs out there by new and experienced writers who say the most important part of writing a book is having that book edited. I agree wholeheartedly. As much as I may be somewhat confident that I sometimes know how to weave a storyline together, and as much as I edit myself half to death and revise and revise and revise… I still don’t trust what I see or do on paper. I have readers who take the pages and, I hope, give me honest critiques. If it sucks, I want to know. My ego isn’t that huge that I expect every word I write to be a gem and that I don’t need editing or proofing. A quick read through some of my blogs is proof of that *snort*. And yes, when I was typing out China Rose and Bound by the Heart, and The Wind and the Sea in order to self publish them, I groaned out loud and banged my head on the desk multiple times at the adjective overkill and the wordiness of scenes where I took 50 words to say what I could have said in 10. The storylines held up, the writing sure didn’t, and again, I credit those theoretical years in between a writers kindergarten and high school where I learned how to say what I wanted to say in those 10 words, where I learned to make pictures out of words and scenes that would suck a reader in and make her flip those pages faster to see what happened next.
I did an interview not long ago when I was asked if, in this day and age of self publishing, did I regret or resent the years it took me to get my first book into print. My answer was no. All those rejections made me more determined, made me a better writer (I hope), made me think the indy writers today are missing out on those learning years. Then again, perhaps not missing them entirely because if they’re savvy enough and take a good hard look at why their book isn’t selling, they might channel some of that confusion and discouragement and determination into making the next book better.
Please, no yaks. No fleas.