Tuesday, December 3, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013--The final three days!!!

The NaNoWriMo writers in Denver Colorado made steady progress.
Early November 28, 2013: Thanksgiving Day--at 3:49 pm, I was only at 30,574 words--needing 19,426 more words to hit the fifty thousand words in thirty days goal of National Novel Writing Month. I could imagine my Three Critics smiling among themselves that I was proving once again that I am incapable of accomplishing anything. And there was no way that I was going to prove them wrong--after all, there is no way that someone can actually finish twenty thousand words (40% of a novel) in just three days.

End of the day--November 28, 2013: Somehow, someway, by the end of Thanksgiving Day, I had managed to have written 7,804 words for the day--bringing me to 37,960 total.

November 29, 2013: Another hot writing day--6,668 words done in twenty-four hours--it brings me to 44,628 words for the month.

November 30, 2013--last day of National Novel Writing Month--despite a brief interruption of a friend fixing a computer problem--I managed to get 5,434 words done--bringing my total at 7:50 pm up to 50,059 for the month.

Yes, that is right--somehow, I managed to go from a sure loss to a win in the last three days of the NaNoWriMo. I am a winner of the 2013 National Novel Writing Month.

And at 7:50 pm, I crossed the line of fifty thousand words for the month.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Nanowrimo 2013 week four progress

Where I was at 3:49 pm on Thanksgiving Day during the NaNoWriMo.
The last update on my progress towards the goal of fifty thousand words in thirty days (oh, the insanity of National Novel Writing Month) found me sitting at 22,379 words on the 21st of November--basically, 44.7% done and only at 64% of the suggested amount done by that point, with 27,621 more words needed to hit the goal...and a suggested 3069 words a day if I wanted to divide up the remaining words up evenly though the remaining days of November.

November 22, 2013: Getting a bug up my ass, I spend more time setting up the front and back matter template for a possible Golden Dawn/Wiccan/pagan/magical correspondence course than I do working on the Nanowrimo. At the end of the day, I only advanced to 24,574 words.

November 23, 2013: It was a community networking day in my local Wiccan/pagan community. I spend three hours at the Mercury Café talking to other people in the local Denver Wiccan/pagan community. When I get home, I post a blog post about an idea that I have for a Golden Dawn community project--the idea is met with the sound of crickets chirping. 25,864 words.

November 24, 2013: It is a grey day--and it affects my mood. The slight depression makes my total of 26,227 words look really bad.

November 25, 2013: Still feeling a little blah. I do a whole ten words that day, bringing my total to just 26,237 words. I do promise myself that I will continue working on the rough draft until it is complete...because I am stubborn.

November 26, 2013: I work on the rough draft and advance my word count to 28,471 words. Plus I spend a hour or two taking photos of jewelry for the Celtic Soul Etsy store. All in all, between the two tasks, I consider this to be a very good day, full of accomplishments.

November 27, 2013: I manage to get to 30,156 words by the end of the day. That is only 67% of the suggested word count for that point in the month, and only 60% of the way to the final goal of fifty thousand words.

Early November 28, 2013: Thanksgiving Day--at 3:49 pm, I have only wrote 418 more words. It looks like this attempt of cracking the goal of National Novel Writing Month is going to be a complete failure. And that probably surprised no one--especially my Three Critics--after all, my Three Critics claim that I am not really a writer in the first place, believing in their hearts that I should go back to flipping burgers for a living.

Friday, November 22, 2013

National Novel Writing Month 2013 progress week 3

My NaNoWriMo 2013 progress week three
As you might remember, National Novel Writing Month for me this year started off rough with me tossing my first idea into the round circular file. I did catch up a little bit on my shortage week two, which left me at 11,564 words on day fourteen, and only halfway of where I should have been at that point (according to the suggested 1667 words a day that the official NaNoWriMo site suggests).

I wish that I could say that I have managed to catch up to where I should be at this point in the challenge, but I haven't. As always my failure to do so will probably make my Three Worst Critics very happy.

Day 15: The night of the local Open Full Moon ritual which I attended (I am a member of the Hearthstone Community Church's board, so I try to always attend the OFMs). 12,231 words.

Day 16: Spent the day running errands--my word count continues to grow ever so slowly. Looking over the stack of books that I want to review on one of my other blogs, I start writing a post about Demonolatry. 12,330 words.

Day 17: Reading over the daily email of a Yahoo group postings, my planned Demonolatry post starts to look more complicated, simply because I am about to give a positive review to an author who ended up getting roosted for one of her previous books (and has annoyed one of the big names in the Golden Dawn). I end up spending more time than I originally planned to on finishing the Demonolatry post (which is located here). 12,506 words.

Day 18: The best day so far during this year's NaNoWriMo--I add 3943 words to my total. I finally hit the point where I am a third of the way towards the final fifty thousand word goal for the month--and 55% of where I should be. 16,449 total words so far.

Day 19: I don't gain any ground, but I do not lose any ground either. 19,128 words.

Day 20: Again no gain, no loss. 21,357 words.

Day 21: Awoken up early by bill collectors--it throws me off for the entire day. I start working on the chapter that explains how fast food companies squeeze their workers to maximize their profits (the one chapter that has to be published, even if I hit delete on the entire book). Only 1017 words for the day. My grand total at the end of week three: 22,379--44.7% of final goal done--64% of where I should be at this point.

In order to finish the fifty thousand word rough draft on the 30th, I have 27,621 words still to write--basically, I need to write 3069 words a day to accomplish that.

And for those interested, I have already promised myself that if I miss the final goal that I will continue to hack out words until the rough draft is complete.

Friday, November 15, 2013

NaNoWriMo week two progress

At least, I am visible on the chart.  
So yesterday was day fourteen of the joys that are the National Novel Writing Month, therefore it is time to update all my loyal readers about where I am at in the process (and by "loyal," I mean random people coming by who are so bored that even this entry is entertaining).

[For those of you who have not came directly from the last entry, my score on November 7, 2013 was 4918 words with an estimated finish date of January 11, 2014--basically, I was at 42% of the suggested word count by the end of that day.]

Day 8: 4945 words--estimated finish date is January 20, 2013. I did complete some writing this day, but it had nothing to do with the NaNoWriMo--it was a rant for the Hearthstone Community Church's monthly newsletter...those words do not count towards the novel.

Day 9: Depression rears its ugly head. At the end of the day, I am only at 4959 words--January 30, 2014 is when I might be done with the first draft.

Day 10: I hit 6701 words by the end of the night, with January 14, 2014 looking like my estimate finish date. I also hack out a short erotica story and upload it to Smashwords. Just like the OFM column, the erotica story does not count towards my NaNoWriMo word count.

Day 11: 6722 words--I fall to January 21, 2014. Maybe I shouldn't have written that erotic story the night before.

Day 12: 7968 words--January 15, 2014. Sadly my wife's computer is exhibiting problems.

Day 13: 9695 words--January 7, 2014. Yep, my wife's computer definitely has an issue--joy! I get to share the computer with her until her computer gets fixed...which means that given a choice between her working on her business or me working on my rough draft--she wins.

Day 14: 11,564 words, and my new estimated date of completion is December 31, 2013. I need to hack out 2,261 words a day (opposed to the 1667 that I would need if I had not fallen behind), and am currently at 49.5% of where I should be at this time.

Tonight is the Open Full Moon ritual, therefore I am probably not going to get a lot done today on the rough draft. I imagine that will make some of my haters happy--after all, I suspect that they would like to see me fail to complete the NaNoWriMo goal this year also. I am undecided on whether I should let them be happy or not--but I will admit that there is part of me that wants to set them on fire with lots and lots of words.

Friday, November 8, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 week one

You can barely see my progress this week.
As some of you know, I am once again attempting the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month...actually, it is international nowdays)--that wonderful time of year when some writers welcome insanity into their lives and try to write a fifty thousand word rough draft in the space of thirty days--yep, that is right, an entire rough (first) draft of a novel.

This is my seventh attempt. The first five happened in college. The first year, I missed my word count by the amount of words that went into that semester's term papers...which is why I count the first year as a partial win. My last year of college, I lasted a whole day...it was the same semester as I was doing my senior seminar in literature (I was reading two books a week just for that class). Last year...depression, exhaustion, it was just not a good year for me at all (in hindsight, I have a real good idea of what was actually derailing me).

So here is how my first seven days of Nanowrimo went:

Day 1: Just three words written. At that pace, I would finish on June 19, 2059. Things could only get better...well, provided that I did not completely give up. I had went to one of the food banks on this day (and realized that I really needed one of those two wheeled shopping carts on the way back--thank goddess for the kind Christian ladies who decided to have mercy on me and give me a ride...because after half a mile [three quarters] I was exhausted).

Day 2: 207 words completed--it is really just an outline (still exhausted from the food bank run). On a bright note, estimated date of completion--March 1, 2015.

Day 3: Spot massive plot problem. Only at 223 words--I might finish the first draft by September 7, 2015.

Day 4: Decided to toss the first attempt for the time being--someday, I will attempt to finish Farmer Ants...but not this month. Switched to an idea that I had earlier in the year, Burger Flipping Confessions. The only problem with this idea is that someone might mistake the novel for the story of my own life--it is sure to get at least one family member upset. Still, I am starting to feel desperate, and I had been kicking around doing this one for at least six months. I reset my word count. By the end of the day, I have 1434 words done on Confessions--new estimated date for completion is March 20, 2014.

Day 5: I don't actually remember what happened on this day. I know that I had a panic attack about something...probably the household budget. I do dimly remember talking about going back to looking for a job in food service. At the end of the day, I am only at 1447 words--April 23, 2014 is the new estimate for date of completion.

Day 6: The calendar for the NaNoWriMo that I had printed out said, "Send in the flying monkeys." Sadly, that is exactly what happened. Some person took offense to a very neutral, and very true statement that I made on the internet, and decided to let me know that they were upset. I am presented with a choice of giving into their demands which will take days to accomplish (if I can even do it that quickly) or allowing them to sic their lawyer on me...considering that I had done everything that I was legally required to do, I decide to ignore them and work on the novel instead. There is now a chapter in Confessions that I am really hoping ends up on the cutting room floor, but might end up in the finished novel if the theme shows up again. I finish the day at 2029 words--maybe by March 28, 2014, I will be finished with this rough draft. (Also took some pottery photos.)

Day 7: First day of actually hitting the suggested daily word count. I feel more positive than I did the day before considering that a flying monkey did not succeed to derailing me. (I took more pottery photos.) The chapter I wrote needs a heavy reworking. But still, at the end of the day, I am at 4910 words, and might finish on January 11, 2014.

So in summary, I am at about 42% of the word count that it is suggested that I be at by the end of day seven. On the bright note, I believe that I have enough to flesh out the rest of Burger Flipping Confessions. And I took a temporary cover shot yesterday for the book.

If you buy ebooks on Smashwords, Burger Flipping Confessions is currently set at "Reader determines the price" which as we all know is the same as setting the price for free, except that you are actually considered to have brought the book (unlike the "free" setting), therefore you can access the final version on Smashwords after I edit it and set the price to something realistic.

Friday, October 25, 2013

After the censorship dust clears (not safe for work)

Woke up this morning feeling depressed and generally down (am I wasting my time as a writer?), so I decided to head over to Kobo and see the current damage.

Now for those who somehow missed it, a couple of weeks ago, the number one British tabloid of a paper (ok, maybe not number one...but I am not happy with them at the moment) did a big story a couple of weeks ago about how WHSmith's website had nasty erotica books on it--in the forbidden categories of incest fantasy, bestiality fantasy, and rape fantasy. Furthermore, these could all be found in searches involving children books (such as searches for the word "Daddy"), therefore they invoked the fourth forbidden category of "underage."

Will no one think of the children? Well, why are your children online unsupervised in the first place?!

For those people keeping track, these are the same categories that Paypal threw a fit over a couple of years ago. And they did it in such a way that the pseudo-versions of these things were also going to be banned. By the way, the underage category was viewed to include anyone below the age of twenty-one...(meanwhile the age of consent in Vatican City is twelve), bestiality to include two werewolves doing it, and incest to include the hot "as young/old as you are" step-mother (who is not even remotely biologically related to you).

As the regular readers of this blog know, I write erotica. It was the first type of fiction that I realized someone was getting a check for, and I do it for the money. Bottom line, erotica--including one of the forbidden categories--pays better than my other writing does (and better than flipping burgers does a lot of the time). There is a reason that 28.57% of self-published books are erotica. Furthermore, there is a reason that 3.19% of said erotica is bestiality fantasy, and 6.65% is incest fantasy (that one in ten self-published erotica books which contain either bestiality or incest). Quite simply, they make money.

Really? These are still ok?!
WHSmith's response to the news? They took down the entire website, and stated that they were going to remove all self-published works until they have been looked at by a real human being. Kobo (a supplier of WHSmith) also went though their stacks with a chainsaw.

(One of the funniest moments of this whole mess was Mark Coker talking about installing a "not safe for Apple/Kobo setting--as if any of us know what is unsafe to Apple; I have had ebooks get though that shouldn't have, and things rejected that was vanilla sex only. Besides, the channel manager on Smashwords already allows you to avoid distributing to these outlets if you think that your work is not going to be accepted--so we need a special setting--why?!)

So the damage to my stock? Well, I still have four erotica items up...only one of which ever sells any copies. Basically, they destroyed my entire money-making ebook stock in the purge.

In the meantime, there are still items such as Teacher Knows Best (which I discovered while looking for a friend's work) which are still up. Why is that one safe? (Unless they have not looked at it yet...a possibility considering that I had one more item up on Kobo during the weekend.) I am guessing that it involves sex among a teacher and college students, and not high school students.

(This guess is based on the fact that Double Stuffing the Teacher is still up--it is my artwork on the cover--the publisher also has one of my flash erotica stories...where was I? Oh yeah, that one involves college age sex, but their high school sex story has been taken down. Yes, I was also searching for a client's work--I would like to continue doing artwork for the one erotica publisher that buys artwork from me. And yes, that is a Smashwords link...because I do not trust Kobo to leave it up. Again, it is about the money...I got paid to do a few erotica book covers.)

So in the end, where is the erotica market headed? I am guessing vanilla sex stories with vanilla titles and vanilla covers and descriptions. Yep, that is right--Fifty Shades of Gray (Grey) is the archetype of the future of erotica. Unless the customers realize that they can go to Smashwords and buy the racier stuff...which could happen.

As for myself, I am going to continue drawing bad covers for another erotic writer/publisher as long as they continue to do such things, and do the occasional story myself...because until they make it illegal to write and draw such things, I have to stay where the money is...because I really do not want to go back to flipping burgers.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Getting ready for Nanowrimo 2013

It is that time of year again, when writers start to prepare for thirty days of insanity, for the great and terrible NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal for writers who decide to join the insanity of the naNoWriMo is to write the first draft of a novel--aka fifty thousand words (1667 words a day for thirty days).

This will be attempt number seven for me. (And no, I have never succeeded in completing this challenge...which probably makes the Three Critics* very happy.) The first five attempts of the NaNoWriMo for me happened during college/university (which is where I was when I learned about this challenge), so it is understandable that I failed those years. My best year was actually the first year, where my shortfall on word count remarkably was the same amount of words that I ended up writing in various final papers that semester. All the rest of the attempts grew steadily worse...my attempt during my capstone year lasted a single day. And last year...well, in hindsight, it took me much longer to recover from college than I thought it would (plus there was something else going on that kept distracting me from the task at hand).

Will I succeed this year? Unlikely, as the Three Critics are sure to point out. After all, I am a writer of flash fiction and poetry, not a real writer at all. But that is ok, my Three Critics need to remain better than me--the world would not be right if I somehow even managed to match their level of success (not alone surpassed it).

So what am I going to write about this year?

This year (until I change my mind mid-stream...which I have done more than once during the NaNoWriMo...two half-completed rough drafts do not add up to a single rough draft), I am going to attempt a (sort-of) science fiction novel: Farmer Ants.

Here is my current working synopsis:

Luke is just an ordinary boy going to high school in a small town, being bullied is about the only break in the boredom that is Sagebrush. But then he learns that there is something different about himself, something that he must keep hidden--for it is the same thing that fueled the witch hunts of yore--the ability to drain energy from other people. Yet as he tries to survive high school without being discovered, little does he realize that someday he will look upon these days as a happy time before the world changed forever, before the aliens invaded Earth.

Yes, I know...this one is bound to hit the floor like a unwanted piece of liver. But this is not about me, is it? No, it is about the Three Critics. I have to fail to make them happy, don't I? Of course, I do--because after all, they have to be right about me never succeeding as a writer. Their world would make no sense if I accidently proven them wrong and succeeded in finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge this year.

(The only thing worse than me completing the NaNoWriMo would be if afterwards, I cleaned up the rough draft and made it into a successful novel--you know, one that actually kept me out of food service because I made sufficient money from it to live to write another day.)

[* The Three Critics are the three people who shout the loudest that I am a hack, and unable and unworthy of being a great writer. There are some days that I only get out of bed and drag myself to the keyboard, in order to spite them.]

Friday, August 30, 2013

Won an eight hour challenge

Fools and Cthulhu is the first ebook that I put up on Amazon.
Last week, Joe Konrath (one of the writers and bloggers that I read on a regular basis) offhand was talking about how easy it was for writers to forget that writing can be fun (quite easy to forget when you are focused on the business end of things). And he mentioned how he cranked out a few items over a beer--really short humorous ebooks) in the space of an hour.

Then he issued a challenge to his readers--write, edit, format, cover illustrate, and upload a short ebook in eight hours. And he said that he would blog about the winners...hmmm, there was no way that one could go south, was there?

Now, I am not sure how many writers read his blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, but he was shocked that over an one hundred and forty of us actually completed the challenge.

Including myself.

Now, I will admit that I knew ahead of time that I could complete the challenge; after all, a lot of the erotica I write is short stories completed within ten hours (outlined, written, edited, cover made, formatted and uploaded with just ten hours used to complete the whole nine yards).

But it had been awhile since I wrote something just for fun--at least, ebook-wise.

The tricky part was that Joe Konrath likes Amazon (he does not think that they are the devil), so he wanted you to do the uploading to Amazon. And in my case, I have never done that before (I have been dealing with Smashwords and their distribution network).

Yes, I had been putting off learning how to do so...for awhile...much to my surprise, it was not nearly as painful as I imagined it to be.

Anyway, I now have another short-short story up in ebook form on the internet. And yes, I know, I should have stuck to writing erotica.

Fools and Cthulhu is 99 cents on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Almost the end of the earnings year

Finally, I put something up on Amazon.
It is hard to believe, but it is almost the end of my earnings year. Now, for those of you who say "huh?!" about that statement, just remember that the majority of my income is of the quarterly variety. While I do receive some monthly payments, they are really small in comparison to my income that is paid out after every quarter. So I just have one more month of sales that will result in income for this calendar year.

(After September 30th, most of what I earn, I do not receive until next calendar year.)

And considering that it is so close to the end of my earnings year, there is a large part of me that is already engaged in planning out what I plan I doing next year.

One of the differences in my next big writing campaign will be the fact that I am finally putting stuff up on Amazon (more about this in a few days). The very first Amazon offering of mine (a short story of about 1640 words) is Fools and Cthulhu (99 cents)--it just went up yesterday.

So is there anything new or different that you plan on doing for your next writing campaign?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why all future earnings estimates are zero when you are a writer

The other day, my dear wife asked me what I thought that my current project was worth. I told her the honest truth. Zero--zip--nothing. Needless to say, she did not like my answer. But it was the truth.

I did take time out to attempt to explain the logic of my answer to her. And so here it is; just in case, your day as a writer was not depressing enough as it was.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming that you are a non-technical writer. And probably self-publishing to a certain extent.

In 2004, the League of Utah Writers (LUW) surveyed their membership. Overall, the average income from writing among its 234 non-technical writer members was a mere $2,705 dollars per year. Yes, less than three thousand dollars a year.

Now, a good portion of the LUW actually reported no income from writing at all.

The average of just those writers who had actually received income from writing was $5,213.28. Still less than six thousand a year.

A third of the writers worked in newspapers and for magazines, and a third wrote novels and books; editing and consulting chewed up eleven percent, and short stories six percent. The other eighteen percent fell under the category of "other."

Sometime ago, I read that your average self-published writer only sold nine copies of any given book. Unfortunately, I do not remember the source of that information, much like I forget the source that claimed that your average traditionally published writer average a mere five hundred copies sold. Personally, I find both statistics to be scary as hell if they are even remotely true. (They are also proof that I need to invest in a better filing system.)

Let's presume that my current project sells the average nine copies...that is a whooping five dollars and forty cents if I place a 99 cent price tag on the piece. That is so close to nothing that it is safe to say that my current project is worth nothing.

Of course, there is a large number of self-published writers who make nothing. There must be. Or next to nothing. Don't believe me--consider the following information.

In 2011, Dave Cornford and Steven Lewis carried out a survey of 1,007 self-published writers. They learned that half of the writers that they surveyed made less than five hundred dollars. The average earnings was a mere ten thousand a year. The reason that the average is so high? Turns out that less than ten percent of the authors were raking in seventy-five percent of the pie (people like Amanda Hocking and E.L. James). Turns out that self-publishing is just like traditionally publishing with the majority of the earnings earned by the super-star one percent.

By the way, the 2011 survey is one of the reasons that I am proud of the fact that I have to pay self-employment tax as a writer. With the 2012 floor for self-employment tax being $434 (after one takes all the deductions that one can get away with), anyone who pays self-employment tax as a self-published writer is probably in the upper fifty percent of self-published writers actually making money. No, I am not going to tell you exactly how much I make in dirty money--just assume that I could make more flipping burgers for a living...like most other writers.

(Yes, I am assuming that the figures have not budged any from 2011--in fact, I assume that the average has actually gone down due to the gold-rush of DIY writers.)

So overall, if you are a writer (untested and inexperienced--or working on a brand new genre and have no previous items of the same ilk) and not in the higher reaches of the profession (top quarter of the earners), your most honest answer to the question about the monetary value of what you are working on has to be ZERO.

[In a post on my economics blog, I joked that I make somewhere between zero and thirty-five dollars per hour of writing. More often than not, it is closer to zero than the thirty-five. And that is the harsh truth, as well as another depressing conversation for another day.]

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rejoice--I am not a professional writer

Let the universe rejoice! Let be known that I am not a professional writer! I am not even a hack!

And how did I learn this? By taking a quiz. The quiz is by Lisa Morton and is on the Horror Writers Association LA article page. For those who just want to see the questions, here they are:

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?
2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?
3. Do you turn off the television in order to write?
4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?
5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunities (either research or networking potential)?
6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?
7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?
8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?
9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?
10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?

Given that Morton believes that you need to answer yes to all ten (but is willing to give you some slack for eight or more), the people who know me will instantly see how I do not qualify by her standards. Of course, my biggest problem with the whole quiz is that she wrote it after being disappointed in a discussion group where no one actually talked about writing (which describes every writer discussion group I have ever encountered).

Here are my answers:

1. No, I just generally have a high tolerance for dirt. And some of my best bouts of cleaning are when I am struggling with something I am writing, and need to do some heavy thinking about it. I guess that if you are working on your writing, then you never actually clean anything. Damn food service habits bite me in the butt again (that is where I picked up my high tolerance for dirt, and the habit of thinking while cleaning).

2. No, and no. My schedule includes time to be with people because I slowly go crazy if I do not talk with people on occasion. (Again, let's blame that one on food service--I could blame it on being the oldest of eight kids, but that would just be too harsh.)

3. And miss my shows?! Hell, no. I write during commercials...occasionally.

4.  I have very seldom actually met useful criticism or honest praise...so I have no clue how to answer that one. I guess that makes it an no.

5. Does anyone remember the last vacation that I took? For the last seven years that I worked food service, I did not take a vacation. And now, I can't afford one...but I couldn't afford one while doing food service, so not much has changed. I never planned my vacations around writing and research--no, I dealt with my family instead. So no...unless one considers my extended time out of the work force as an extended vacation, in which case--no.

6. No. No. Oh, hell no! Honestly, I find that talking to other writers (who are not my friends) to be terribly tedious. And quite often, a complete waste of time. As for my friends (writers and otherwise), writing is just one of the many things that we talk about. I am fond of talking about cats, witchcraft, and Doctor Who...in fact, these topics trump talking about writing.

7. I have worked food service all my adult life...therefore, I have no idea how I could take a lower paying job than that. So I have to answer no...unless being unemployed counts--and I doubt that it does.

8. A more lucrative career?! Considering that I spent my entire adult working life in food service and the fact that I was a high school dropout (until I was forty), I guess that giving up writing erotica for the glamorous world of drug dealing is what the lucrative career is. And I was never going to have a nice home as a high school dropout, so by default, this one is an no. You can't answer yes to a question that does not actually allow for a yes to be given.

9. Yes, I am still the same person that I was five years ago. But considering that all my answers are no's, this is technically also an no, isn't it?

10. Ambition?! I have it on the best of authorities that I have no ambition. And being realistic, I have no high hopes for my writing career. For god's (and goddess's) sake, I write erotica and other low-brow stuff. I am not going to be Stephen King or J. K. Rowling. Or even a literary writer like my sister. And I might not even be entertaining. So again, this is a technical no.

So that gives me ten big f***ing indications that I am not a professional writer. That should make a lot of people happy. Including Lisa Morton. Good thing that I do not have an union card because it would have to be ripped up.

But here is the twist. By IRS standards, I am a professional writer. I have to pay self-employment tax. I paid it last year; I have to pay it this year; and even if I quit writing right now, I will have to pay it next year. The one question that Lisa Morton does not ask is whether or not, you are actually making money as a writer. But I guess in her universe, that question does not matter. So rejoice that I am not a writer. And someone please go convince the IRS that I am not a professional writer, so I do not have to pay them any more taxes.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Barnes and Noble melted?!

It seems that Barnes and Noble is currently having website troubles. As in you can't actually get to any sales page for anyone's books, no matter who the writer is. Yes, they are knee deep in 404 "page not found" errors. That can't be good for business, can it?

[Update--the preceding was posted at 5 pm MST; and now at 9:30 pm, Barnes and Noble seems to have discovered and fixed the problem--whatever it was. Still one wonders how many sales they lost during the down time.]

Sunday, June 16, 2013

How low can you set the professional writer bar?

[File this under "I will never be considered a real writer by some people." and "Congrats! You still breathing--here is your ribbon."]

A couple of days ago, one of my online writing friends (who lives within fifty miles of me, but we have never actually met) mentioned the fact that she was appalled by how low an organization set the bar for being able to claim that you were a successful, professional indie (self-published) writer. For those who are curious, they set the bar at $250 lifetime earnings and at least one novel length work. Yes, $250 lifetime earnings, and a book with fifty thousand words.

I draw much the same conclusion that my friend did--I guess that anyone can call themselves a successful indie writer nowdays. And this is despite the fact that my bar for calling someone a successful professional writer is much lower than hers.

Now to understand my viewpoint, you need to remember two things. One, I have people in my life who would never consider me a successful writer, even if I was making fifty thousand a year as a writer...mainly because I do not write literature (in certain circles, hacks are never allowed to claim to be anything better than a hack, no matter how much money you make doing it). Two, I worked food service for twenty years, never making more than ten dollars an hour (the circle of people that insist that I am just a hack think that I should go back to flipping burgers and give up writing...because I will never write anything great or meaningful...see if you can spot my attitude problem about why I think that they are wrong). Therefore, I realize that I will never be a "real writer" or a "real journalist" or "a human being worthy of respect." But I also realize that sometimes hard work produces next to no money at all.

To clarify, I tend to use the following definitions:

Writer: You spend your time stringing sentences together to make some form of sense.

Professional: Someone actually gave you a damn check to do some work.

Self-Employed: You actually had to pay self-employment taxes last year, and you have to do again this year.

Working: You spend at least ten hours a week writing (or attempting to write) stuff that you earn income from.

Successful: You make at least as much writing per hour as you would flipping burgers for a living.

Self-supporting: You pay your bills solely though your writing.

Legacy/Traditional: You work with a publisher other than your family; Indie: You self-publish; Hybrid: You do both traditional and indie writing work. Technical and/or Ghost: You write for some company, and no one ever sees your name on the work. Journalist: You report and/or comment about the news.

By these definitions, I am a professional, self-employed working successful hybrid writer. I am still working on the self-supporting part. And I have been a technical and/or ghost writer, as well as a journalist. Again, it is the self-supporting part that is my lack and current problem.

In my case, I have been paid by magazines, a greeting card company, a student newspaper, a couple of businesses, for stuff that ended up in print. I have also been paid by several internet sites, including paid by the article and/or paid by the view sites. And then, there are my ebooks. By "Olympic" standards, I am a professional. And I became a professional in 1985, and was one during my entire burger-flipping career (aka I have "paid my dues").

The hourly range for what I have earned as a writer ranges from zero to thirty-two dollars plus an hour (the plus is because I am still collecting income from some projects in monthly and/or quarterly royalties or pay views). The stuff that I have earned zero dollars from are things that I wrote for free in the first place. Unlike some writers, I did not start my writing career writing stuff for a mere byline--my first submissions were for potential pay--and all my free work was done later because I believed in the causes that I was writing for (such as the Hearthstone newsletters and the recent Golden Dawn book).

Yes, I paid self-employment last year; I have to pay it this year; and I am projected to have to pay it every future year unless the internet and ebook outlets completely melt down and dry up.

As for the $250 threshold that the organization set up, well I qualify as soon as I hack out a novel length work. Why? Because last quarter, I made that much with just two of my short stories.

But that just means that I am a professional hack, doesn't it? So I get a ribbon for still breathing, but absolutely no respect for being able to write a well-crafted sentence. And that is the story of my life.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Apple iBookstore removed Bad Monkey from its stacks

Bad Monkey cannot be brought in the Apple iBookstore.
[File this post under: Mysteries about the business world I will never know or understand.]

As most of my regular readers know, I write a monthly column for the Hearthstone Community Church ("The OFM people") which I later collect into 99 cent ebooks. One of the collections (the 2011 articles) is called Bad Monkey.

Now, awhile back Bad Monkey was uploaded to Smashwords, and then it made its way though the distribution network. Including the Apple iBookstore. I know--I searched for it--it was available on Apple. Pity, I did not take a screenshot of this fact...

...because it has been removed from Apple.

We have all heard of the difficulties that erotica writers have with the iBookstore. H***, I have experienced them firsthand (under two of the pennames that I wrote erotica under). Now, I am experiencing the same crop of problems as an esoteric/Wicca/pagan writer.

And I will never know why my ebook was pulled from sale by Apple. One of the hazards with using Smashwords to upload my stuff is that I do not get to see the notices that Apple sends out when they remove stuff, or outright reject it. Why am I using Smashwords? Because I do not have an iDevice (yes, you need an Apple computer to upload to the iBookstore directly).

My paranoia says that this is the reason that it was pulled off of the iBookstore. 
But I have a paranoid theory. And it involves another about-to-be published book...also called Bad Monkey. I really hope that I am wrong because if my paranoid theory is right, then if a traditional and very popular writer decides to use a book title that is also being used by an independent (indie) writer, then the indie writer loses part of their stock. Apple would never actually do something like this, right?!

Oh well. Bad Monkey: The Collected 2011 Hearthstone Community Church Articles is still available on Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Made the top 500 on Yahoo Voices in April 2013

Yes, I took a screen shot of this because I was excited.  
And this is how I imagine that other people will feel about it.
So, I made the Top 500 in April 2013 on the Yahoo Contributor Network--for having a really big audience on Yahoo Voices (formerly Associated Content). What does this really mean? Probably nothing at all. Or that the audiences are really small. Or perhaps that my small payment for pageviews were in the top 500--in which case, it is just proof that even the best writers are starving artists--or not, depending on the clout level (levels nine and ten get paid more than clout level eight). Still I thought that I would say something because I do not remember the last time that I advertised my work on Yahoo Voices.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How often should you check your sales figures?

One of the things that I notice about a lot of writers is that they are obsessive with checking their sales figures reports. And the more often that the sales figures update, the more often they check their reports. Even reports that update only once a month are checked at least once a day. And those that update every hour are stared at constantly--or so it seems.

Now, don't let me let you think that I am innocent of this behavior. I am not. I can be quite obsessed with my sales figures.

But here is the deal--the obsession with your sales figures does nothing to actually budge your sales. That's right, starring at your sales figures does not actually change what the numbers say.

My opinion is that you should never check your sales figures more often than once a week unless you are doing something that is (hopefully) going to budge the amount of book sales that you are doing. In other words, promotions and advertising campaigns are the only times that you should ever look at your sales figures more than once a week.

What should you be doing instead of checking your sales figures? Well, writing new material, of course. After all, it is the activity that gives you the most bang for the buck as a writer. Or at least, in my neck of the woods, writing is the activity that gives me the best rate of return for my investment of time and energy.

So how did I come to this conclusion? Well, I learned it while being a food service manager. I watched managers who ran a sales report every ten minutes...and it accomplished nothing other than stressing them out. I learned that it did not matter how often I ran the report, my numbers were still going to look the same at the end of the day. Unless I was doing something productive that is (prep, talking to customers, etc.); and to be productive, I had to step away from the reports and get to work.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Been a little disgruntled and feeling troll blue

Disgruntled Turtle Monkey knows how I feel. 
I have been feeling a little disgruntled lately. And a little blue because one of the trolls in the parade has started to foam at the mouth again. Yes, I am not famous yet--but I already have troll parade of mean little haters to remind me that I am worth less than a bagful of stink bugs. I just wonder how they would react if I actually became wildly successful.

It wouldn't be so bad if the troll did not leap to conclusions. They have absolutely no idea of the local job market, nor do they have any idea what I am actually working on (the joys of working under numerous names--many which are secret). What they do know is that I am unfit to be a writer...because...lack of information...lack of nice thoughts...they are related to Little Ape...who knows what their actual problem is.

I just hope that what they think about me (worthless writer, etc.) helps them sleep at night. Because all it is doing on my end is reminding me that I live for pure spite--I had a really good art day last week, all because of their comments. Keep up the good work troll--keep telling people that I am worthless and mentally ill; it just makes me work harder to prove you wrong...or look for something crawly to throw at you.

And remember, dear troll, that the best way to annoy me is to tell everyone you know not to buy the pagan friendly children book series that I am helping to create--aka Turtle Monkey--in fact, line up your friends with picket signs and scream at the top of your lungs that I am a very evil man. After all, the whole point is to make sure that I never become more successful than you are; it is what you must accomplish--the complete and utter crushing of my little monkey dreams.

[Update: July 2013: Due to differences in sales expectations and business philosophy, in early July 2013, I ceased to be involved in the Turtle Monkey project.]

Sunday, May 5, 2013

An Erotic Writer Achievement List (NSFW)

(NOT SAFE FOR WORK--more or less)

This is an erotic writer achievement checklist that I first saw on A. Vivian Vane's blog...which she got from the Darknest Fantasy Erotica Forum. Thought that I would fill it out and add a couple of items to the list...because I can; this is how the blogosphere works, after all. Of course, mine is pretty blank at this point...and I am not really sure if the second achievement here refers to just stuff I have published, or if it includes stuff that I sold to magazines (one way, I make the cut; the other way, I don't...yet). There are a couple of these that I am moving towards completing...because I just am. We will see where I am at an year from now.

[X]Cherry Popping – Publish First Story.
[?]Dirty Thirty – Publish 30 stories.
[ ]Filthy Fifty – Publish 50 stories.
[X]Minute Man – Write a full short in a day.
[ ]Feel the Carpal Tunnel – Write 10,000 words in a day.
[X]I Guess What I’m Saying is Bukakke – End a story with the protagonist drowning in it.
[ ]Out-earning the Day Job – Earn $100 in a day.
[ ]The 1% – Earn Five Digits of Income in a Month.
[ ]Your Author Rank Is Not a Video Game – Hit the Top 100 Amazon authors in any category
[ ]Did I Just Read a Story About Me? – Write a story about a real sexual experience you had and email a link of it to the other participant(s)
[ ]Well, At Least Someone Read It – Hit the Top 100 Erotica Free list
[ ]Well, At Least I’m Rich Now – Hit the Top 100 Erotica Paid List
[ ]King Nothing – Hit #1 on the Free erotica list.
[ ]Setting Feminism Back a Hundred Years – Publish a Breeding Story.
[ ] Fucking Freaks – Write a Monster/Tentacle story.
[ ]Full House…of Fucking – Publish a PI story with each hetero pairing. (Father/Daughter, Brother/Sister, Mother/Son)
[ ]Not Quite World Famous – You have at least 10 fans in your email list.
[X]Just Don’t Look – Went a whole day without checking your sales reports
[ ]The Moon My Pack Howls To is Green – Publish a Werewolf Story.
[ ] Just Call Me Alexandre – Publish one million words in a year.
[ ]Sticky Pages – Sell a paperback.
[ ]Aural Sex – Sell an audiobook.
[ ]Is There A Gif For How I’m Feeling? – Get at least one review on Goodreads.
[X]I Am Secretly An Important Man – Have more than one penname.
[ ]Hot Man-love Pays The Bills – Publish a Gay Male story.

[X] Twice in one night -- Quit writing erotica for an extended time period, just to resume writing it years later.
[X] No Lube! -- Lost a significant amount of money to the censoring policy of a sales outlet or payment service (aka "We have changed our policy and can no longer allow you to publish such smut.")
[ ]Honesty is the best policy -- Does your mom know what you write?
[ ] Love you long time -- Write a novel length erotic story.
[ ] Extended family -- Not only have you done the full house, you gone on to deal with the grandparents, first cousins, and all the aunts and uncles.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Children are already reading this?!

Censored to make the ex-partner feel happy and secure.
Learned today from my co-creator, J. M. Monkie, that school children are already reading this ebook. And yes, it surprised me--we haven't done our official launch yet. But it is all good. Heavens knows that I need the reassurance that we have an audience for this project.

Why do I need reassurance? Because I am the artist for this project.

Yes, that is right--I said that I am the artist.

Not the writer. But the artist.

Talk about expanding my horizons. I am deep in a zone that is untested waters for me.

Now, I have done artwork off and on for over thirty years. I even thought about going to art school (Colorado Institute of Art--nowdays, it is called The Art Institute of Colorado). Couldn't because I did not qualify for Federal student loans at the time (I did not have my GED yet). And I am glad that I didn't because it probably would have been a waste of money (nothing like an instructor at the Institute looking at your artwork and telling you to save your money because you can learn everything that you need to know on your own).

About a year and a half ago, when I retooled my business (went from focusing on the print market to focusing on the ebook market), I pulled out my drawing board. I needed some ebook covers, and I had no cash to buy any. So yes, I cobbled together a few covers for the erotica market.

(Yes, it is strange that an erotic writer is also the illustrator of a children book series. But trust me, I have heard stranger true stories.)

Then last year, I needed some Tarot pictures for another blog I write. So I did the pictures for that...ended up with monkeys in my Tarot cards. And that is how the writer of the Turtle Monkey series discovered my artwork, and decided that I was the perfect artist to do the illustrations.

She is confident that I can do the artwork; it is me that needs the reassurance.

So today is a red letter day for me--some school children are already enjoying the Turtle Monkey series. I guess that makes me a professional artist as well as a professional writer. (Hey, if I earn money doing it that makes me a professional--degree or no degree.)

[Shameless self-promotion: Meet Turtle Monkey, the first book in the Turtle Monkey series is available on Barnes and Noble.]

[Update: July 2013: Due to differences in sales expectations and business philosophy, in early July 2013, I ceased to be involved in the Turtle Monkey project.]

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Urge to write another article on the lottery

Last night on the way home from the Hearthstone Open Full Moon ritual, I passed the billboard by Colfax and York that advertises the Powerball and Mega Millions. And promptly had the urge to go home and write another article about how bad an investment the lottery was.

The billboard had a picture of Ben Franklin looking shocked (or were they aiming for interested) at the amounts that the Powerball and Mega Millions are up to. They want to imply that Ben Franklin would buy a lottery ticket or three. He wouldn't--I am sure of that from reading his autobiography (which I have misplaced--the only reason that I am not writing the article). Franklin believed in hard work to become rich, not luck.

This is a belief that I have also picked up over the years. Today (as my regular followers know) every time I get the urge to buy a lottery ticket, I write a lottery article instead (better return for my time and money). Not that I had the urge to buy a ticket last night--no, it is simply that I had the urge to mock the billboard (hence this blog post).

If you are curious to read my articles talking about how the lottery is a bad investment, here are some links:

Save money by banning the lottery from your budget.

Do lottery tickets make good gifts?

Misleading lottery ads

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tax Horror Day 2013

Today was Tax Horror Day. I finally filled out my taxes today--I cut it as close as I could to my next royalty check (c'mon royalty check, show up before the next credit card bill does).

My business is improving. I had to pay self-employment taxes this year (which I would rather pay than not pay, given the state of the economy). And I already know that I have to pay them again next year (yes, I am one of those people--hopelessly self-employed).

Of course, the IRS does not ask me to prove that I am a "real" writer. All they care about is that I made enough to have to pay some self-employment tax. They could care less that most of my income came from writing erotica, unlike some other people who loudly declare that erotica writers are not real writers.

I think that maybe the only opinion that mattered today was the IRS'. Right?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book review--Contagious (Jonah Berger)

As most of the readers of my blog know, as do my Facebook friends, I spend a lot of time sharing pictures of cats and links to articles that make me generally annoyed. (I like the cat pictures--it is the articles that annoy me--in fact, I LOVE cat pictures.) And being a writer, I am generally curious about why certain articles and trends light up the internet.

Contagious--Why Things Catch On (by Jonah Berger) is one attempt to explain why certain things on the internet and elsewhere go viral. It is not the only attempt that I have encountered, but it is the first that I have read by an actual Ph.D. who has conducted research on the subject.

Berger starts off the book with the story of Barclay Prime's hundred-dollar cheesesteak (the brainchild of Howard Wein), something that I never heard of before. Yes, I said, hundred-dollar cheesesteak. Exactly the type of item that I would have been curious about when I was still in the restaurant business...and let's be honest, I am still curious about such things. Berger hooked me with an interesting story, and kept me interested though-out the rest of the book.

I learned a lot about marketing from this book. I am not sure if I can make any of it work for me; let's be honest, I am not great when it comes to marketing (an advertising major, I am not). On the other hand, the book does give me hope that a certain project that I am involved in (yes, the farting monkey project) might have viral potential.

I give this book five stars. And I am keeping the book for my own personal library.

[Disclosure: The book used for this review was given to me by the good people at Simon & Schuster, a result of a GoodReads First Reads contest that I entered--thank you Simon & Schuster and Professor Jonah Berger of the University of Pennsylvania.]

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why I do not advertise certain books

Here is an ebook that I actually advertise.
Last week was the annual ebook sale promotion on Smashwords. I had a few ebooks on sale during the promotion (some that I admit to writing; some under a different pen-name). The results were as expected--personally, I always have trouble moving stuff on Smashwords...I think that it is the website itself, and not my writing that makes my sales slow there.

Now, one of the comments I got on Facebook was from someone that did not know that I wrote a version of the Golden Dawn Neophyte (0=0) ritual that required only three officers to perform--which brings up the whole question of why I do not advertise that ebook more.

To understand that, one needs to know the history of the ebook in question. The three officer version was something that I wrote for Bast Temple, the Denver GD lodge that I belong to. It was written because we could only gather four members initially--it was either do a revised version of the Neophyte ritual or not practice the ritual at all. (The person in the hot seat, having performed Neophyte rituals as the sole officer, wanted to spread the work around.)

Later, the ritual was later published on Lulu in a hard cover edition. It was probably over-priced. At a certain point, Lulu removed it from publication because their page count requirements had changed for hard cover printing--it became 46 pages too short under the revised rules (it might be even more than that now...I haven't chacked page count requirements lately for that outlet).

So the ritual spent sometime out of print...until last year when I decided to put it up on Smashwords as an ebook. It is probably still over-priced. Abd it is only available on Smashwords at the moment.

Why? Because I actually intend to write the additional pages to get it back up on Lulu. And the same pages are going to be in the Smashwords edition also. So I have not done all the steps necessary to get it into the Smashwords Premium Catalog (which is how you get an ebook on Smashwords though to Apple and Barnes&Noble.)

Part of the reason for the delay was that I needed to finish off my college classes. Another part is projects with a higher priority number. And the final part is that I am not completely sure what I want to add to the book yet.

And considering that I have been told by some initiates of the Golden Dawn tradition that it is not needed...well, it is understandable that I do not advertise it that much. I might not advertise it that much when it is finally complete.

For those who have brought a copy though Smashwords, the important part to remember is that as soon as I add the pages and upload it to Smashwords, you get to go and download the latest version--therefore, if you own an ebook copy of the current, you also own a copy of the future improved edition.

As for books that are available on Barnes&Noble, one of the ebooks that I do advertise is Pizza Boxes on the Floor, which contains an article that I am going to be revisiting during the June Open Full Moon ritual. I think I do so, merely because my cat likes to have his picture on the cover. I am strange like that.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Did you see that there was a coupon? (humor)

Last night, I enrolled some ebooks in the annual Smashwords site-wide spring sales promotion. Basically, the promotion generates a coupon code that shows up on the view pages of the books that are enrolled in the promotion.

Besides the three ebooks that I openly admitted to writing and/or working on, several of my erotica stories (by pen-names I do not admit to using, except to the IRS) are enrolled.

So I was surprised this morning to see that some customers on Smashwords were still not using the coupon code for the enrolled stories. Not that I am complaining. I am merely saying that I didn't think that the coupon code was that hard to see. I will take the money (need or basic greed, take your pick), but still I feel some twinge of guilt that some of my readers paid full price for something that was on sale.

The only thing that I can think of that makes any sense out of it is that they must be elected government officials trying to stimulating my personal economy. Trust me, the money is going directly to feeding my cats which creates lots of jobs.

I thank you for not using the coupon code. My cats thank you. America thanks you.

Smashwords Read an Ebbok Week 2013

Yes, I am involved in the creation of this ebook.
It is "Read an Ebook Week" until March 9th 2013 on Smashwords.

This time around, I have three ebooks discounted during the annual Smashwords promotion.

Five Reasons Why Magic Fails is 50% off (promotion price $1.50--normally $2.99).

Golden Dawn Rituals--Volume One--Neophyte Ritual (0=0) Three Officer Version is 75% off (promotion price $1.50--normally $5.99).

And the first volume of the pagan/Wiccan friendly children series that I am doing the covers for, Meet Turtle Monkey is 50% off (promotion price $1.50--normally $2.99).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Book Review: Submerged (Cheryl Kaye Tardif)

As most of my regular readers know, I am a writer. What they might not know is that writers have a tendency to dissect books that they read; it is part of our search as professional readers (because you have to be a reader to be a writer) to find the perfect formula for writing the perfect book.  Not so thay we can copy that book, but so that we can write the perfect book that lays within ourselves.

Towards this quest to find the perfect book within ourselves, we tend to collect books that we consider examples of a perfect book written by someone else. Tonight, I am adding another book to my small collection of perfect books.

Submerged (by Cheryl Kaye Tardif) is an good example of a perfect book. The cover is perfect for the story that it advertises. The pacing is perfect with just the right amount of new information being given, and new questions being placed in play. The chapters are the right size--just big enough to satisfy, yet short enough that one is tempted to read just one more chapter...and then another. The symbolism used supports both the plot and the characters. Submerged is a good example of a perfect book.

(I wish that I was as good of a writer as Cheryl is.)

My only concern with it is that some of the culture references might age quickly, and I am not sure if that can be helped given the speed that our culture changes at.

Submerged is a hard book to put into a category. It is about half romance, half suspense, and a quarter supernatural (yes, math is not my friend); it also a tale of addiction, fall, and redemption. I quite enjoyed reading it.

If you didn't already guess, I am giving this book five stars and two big thumbs up. This book is going to be enjoyed by both regular readers and those picky writers.

Submerged is available on Amazon.

[Disclosure notice: This review is based on a pdf that the author provided me. As for the Amazon link, it is just a regular link because I live in Colorado, therefore I can't be an Amazon Associate.]

Thursday, February 21, 2013

No thanks to FTC issues

Can you spot the potential FTC problem here?
 One of the things that you have to learn as a book reviewer is what the Federal Trade Commission wants you to disclose. The FTC rules governing bloggers is simple: One, you must disclose any money, discounts, or free products and services that you recieve from the author and their representatives; two, you must give an honest review. That is it--it is that plain and simple.

Unless someone decides that they want to see you burnt at the stake. Then, the rules can become a living nightmare. Ok, maybe the person I am about to talk about doesn't want to see me burnt at the stake; but they still want to see my authority as a book reviewer and Golden Dawn expert burnt to the ground--which feels the same to a book reviewer and writer.

At the root of the problem is the fact that a certain GD writer a few years ago started to brag that their masterpiece was selling on eBay for a thousand dollars apiece. Now, the book had officially been out of print for several years. But I figured considering that he was claiming that it was selling for such a high price that it would be worthwhile to do a review of it. After all, I had a copy of the book that I brought when it first came out.

Besides when the book first came out, the author got a wheel barrow full of bad reviews--as in a dozen one star reviews. The positive reviews that he got were all five star reviews. Yes, one is correct to suspect that maybe everyone reviewing the book was biased. I figured that the book needed a review from someone that was neutral--as in someone that had no stake in the Golden Dawn trademark lawsuit.

So I gave the book an honest review. I found that I did not believe the author's claims that such a book was needed; it is designed for a magician to use without a lick of training; that cost the book one star. And I found the book to have enough mistakes in the rituals that it could not be used for the purpose of allowing completely untrained magicians to use it out of the box; every ritual needed to be doublechecked; therefore I took another star from my final assessment. Bottom line, I did not think that the book belonged on every magician's shelf, and that there were too many mistakes to trust the book without having enough training where the book would no longer be needed in the first place.

For those keeping score at home, this means that I gave the book a three (out of five) stars review. As I said before, he recieved a dozen one star reviews. But out of all his reviewers, he has spent the most time trying to overturn my review. In fact, I have never seen anyone spend this much time and energy trying to prove that a review was part of a conspiracy against them--ever!

Now, part of it may simply be the fact that it was one of the articles that I used when testing the waters of the pageview markets. I used the same dozen articles on several sites to gauge how good (as in "what will I earn here") various pageview sites were. But I suspect that a large part of it is simply the fact that as a neutral, without any connection to anyone in the court case, my review was actually the most damning of the reviews.

Since I have done the review, periodically I get told that I am a member of conspiracy hell-bent on destorying his Order. Now, for many years, I tried to play nice...clear up to last year when one of his Order members told me that it was ok for them to destory my reputation because I did not belong to his Order. Because of being told that, I have gotten involved in a couple of projects that support the legal defense fund that the other party in the case has set up (to recover the costs from the first case, and help defray the costs of any further case...a case that the author in question seems determined to cause).

And this brings us to the events of the last couple of months.

A couple of months ago, the author in question decided to reissue the book in question. And he openly asked for people to point out mistakes in the book. I volunteered a mistake that I found in a recent research project, but I did not provide him with a full list. After all, he wasn't paying me to be his fact-checker. I do not do free editing.

When he hears this (see the jpeg above), he "hires" me without me submitting a bid for the job. He claims that I am obligated to prove that his book is flawed. He also makes it a condition that I attend his convention in a month and a half--where the person who told me that it was ok for them to destory my reputation will be (I had already stated that even if I did not have bill collectors calling me that I probably would not want to attend).

I tell him to talk to his lawyer because there is a legal reason I can't do the job. (Go ahead and look at how he "hired" me.) His response is to tell me that his lawyer saw no legal problem, and that it must be because I signed a contract to help destory his Order.

I suspect that his lawyer did not see how he "hired" me, or that it is a legal trap to try to sue me.

Because there is no way that I can actually fulfill his conditions. One, I do have bill collectors calling me over a student loan default. Two, I am self-employed--I have better things to do with the money I collect from jobs than attend his convention (even if a certain person would not be attending). Three, he is trying to get me in trouble with the FTC.

Now, this is a man who, when the FTC came out with their rules governing bloggers and online book reviewers, claimed that he knew the FTC rules better than I did. Therefore, he should be able to see the FTC nightmare contained in his job request. Basically, he wants me to revise my assessment of his book...or at least, provide him with proof that will allow him to claim that I was dishonest in my review.

Now, legally I do not have to prove my assessment of his book to him. If the FTC wants my proof that his book is flawed, they can ask for it. And it would be illegal for me to change my mind, and my review of his first edition--a fact that I think that he knows. But he does not care about FTC rules when they are in his way, only when he can use them against someone else.

It is just too bad for him that the FTC often decides not to go after the individual reviewers, but rather after the employer (aka the person paying for the job). In his world, my refusal to do the job proves that I am involved in a conspiracy. It will never occur to him that I did him a favor by refusing to do the job. If he presses me too hard, and I do the job and then revise my review, I am positive that someone in the GD community will report him to the FTC. In fact, I am not sure that he is completely on safe legal ground even at this moment--between this and last year's events (he encouraged people to give another author's entire product line one star reviews), I think it is only a matter of time before the FTC has a good look at him.

And for the record, even if he does fix all the mistakes in the second edition, he still hasn't convinced me that the book is actually needed. After all, if magic was that easy--as in you could learn it from a book that reads like a car manual--then we would not need esoteric Orders in the first place...which would make his Order completely useless. Therefore, the best he can hope for is a four star review...and we all know that anything less than a five star review proclaiming him the greatest thing since white bread will just be a sign that there is a conspiracy determined to destory him--as if the man's actions and behavior are not enough alone to cause people to loathe his guts.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lessons from Ultimate Blog Challenge (Round One)

In January, I made a weak attempt to do the Ultimate Blog Challenge (31 blog posts in 31 days) on my esoteric blog, Gleamings from the Golden Dawn (at first) and on this blog (after seeing the initial results on GFGD). There were reasons why the attempt failed...including the fact that I was working on a major project that needed to be partially finished by February 1st. But it was mainly what I learned about my personal results that made the attempt weak.

One of the benefits that is claimed for the Ultimate Blog Challenge is that it helps build up your traffic. I saw absolutely no evidence of this--but then again, it was a weak attempt. Of course, it could also be the simple fact that neither this blog or GFGD is really set up for selling people stuff, saving their souls, or simply posting for the simple sake of posting.

In other words, the benefits that other bloggers report for the Ultimate Blog Challenge may not even be possible for me. After all, the type of audience that I am writing for is very limited. Plus my readership on GFGD is interested in a very specific type of post (they merely tolerate my cat fetish), just like the readers of this blog are interested in a very particular type of post.

And there was also the simple fact that I did not feel like just writing junk posts just to hit the goal of 31 posts.

So what did I learn from the first attempt at doing the Ultimate Blog Challenge?

One, it is not going to boost my number of readers or pageviews. (I have yet to see any scheme that actually works for any of my blogs.)

Two, I am not going to get any more comments than normal (even the daily comment thread on the Facebook support group would only net me one comment, and not the two that it was supposed to).

Three, I have a really hard time commenting on other people's blogs when they are just trying to sell a service (or product), or are trying to get people to embrace Jesus.

Fourth and most important, if it is really going to benefit me, I need a posting plan--an ongoing planned series of posts that naturally fits into the existing audience of whatever blog that I decide to use. Fortunately, I have a couple of ideas that would result in a series of posts--ideas that I have not followed up on simply because they require a certain level of commitment.

And doing the Ultimate Blog Challenge would help me get the series done--it is a daily checklist type of task if you are working on a long series.

Therefore, I am going to do the March 2013 round of the Ultimate Blog Challenge on GFGD, but I am going to be aiming to accomplish a long series of interelated posts, and completely ignore the claims of improvement that other people make--the type of gains that I will collect are going to be different. After all, I am not really trying to sell people salvation. No, I am merely trying to inflict the possible first draft of an ebook on an unsuspecting audience.

Monday, January 28, 2013

How I ended up doing artwork

Hot dogs and alien women--it is going to be one of those weird stories, isn't it?
Besides being a writer, and a photographer of pottery, lately I have also been doing some artwork for a pagan/Wiccan friendly children book series. Now, I will admit that it mystifies me how that happened.

For one thing, I do not have any formal art teaching--or at least, no education beyond an art class that I failed in high school (me and the teacher did not get along very well). Oh, I did take three continuing education classes at the Colorado Institute of Art, but I do not think that they actually count.

In other words, any skill as an artist that I might have was self-taught and developed.

For me, art has always been a hobby. Something to do on a job when I was busy twiddling my fingers. Yes, I know the restaurant rule "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean." No one actually does that unless there is an inspection coming up within the next couple of days.

The only art that I have done "professionally" before the current project is that I have done some of my ebook covers. Why? Because I started writing ebooks while in university (where I did not take a single art class)--even a twenty dollar photo was beyond the limits of my starting budget.

And that is what landed me the gig of doing children book art--my own cover art for erotica short stories. Scary, isn't it?

Even scarier (at least to me) is the fact that I am only about a week away from the first ebook of the series (Turtle Monkey) being uploaded to Smashwords. We are about to see if customers accept me as a children book artist.

I will admit that if the ebooks sell well, I will be even more mystified. After all, it is not like I am a real artist with actual training. No, all I have is the heart of a child and a big box of colored pencils.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How ebooks could slump during Xmas

The other day, I talked about the fact that my ebook sales slumped on Barnes and Noble during the Christmas shopping season and have yet to recover. Now, this sounds odd when you look at the news that ereader sales were still strong with some outlets reporting record sales of ereaders sold (whether dedicated ereaders or other devices with ebook reading capabilities). So how could a writer's royalties slump during the Xmas shopping season?

Two things to keep in mind about my royalties for fourth quarter 2012. One, despite the slump at B&N, fourth quarter was still my best quarter ever as a writer (thanks to Apple). Two, I was not surprised by the drop in my ebook sales.

My ebook sales were normal until Thanksgiving. And Apple's expansion played a big part in fourth quarter being the best for me so far. Likewise, I did have some new erotica available under one of my other pen-names.

It is after Thanksgiving, and up to January tenth (and maybe beyond...I am waiting for the latest sales update), that my Barnes and Noble's sales slump.

There are at least three possible reasons for this slump. Two reasons tie into the fact that most of my royalties come from a single item (yes, one item is accounting for about 80% of my current income). One, I did not put out anything new for awhile under the pen-name that is credited for that item (different pen-names for different fetishes). Two, I might have hit the saturation point for that item. But I would expect to see a gradual decline in sales, not a sudden drop like my figures show.

The third possible reason, the one that I believe is the real cause, is also the reason that I was not surprised by this slump. In fact, I was expecting a slump in my royalties.

Now, bear in mind that I spent twenty years in the restaurant business (ten as a manager), plus my father owned a produce business (he started out in deliveries, and moved into sales). Restaurants, unless they are located close to shopping centers, tend to have decreased sales during the Christmas season. Why? Because people are spending money on other things, mainly Xmas shopping.

And that is the golden reason that a writer's ebook sales could slump during the Christmas shopping season, and into the post-Xmas season--people are spending money on other items.

In this case, ereaders and other associated devices.

Ebooks are not physical items. You cannot wrap an ebook. And do you really want to buy a friend or family member an erotic novel or short story?! Probably not. (Remember that most of my income comes from erotica of a particularly dubious sub-genre.)

On the other hand, ereaders and other ebook reading devices are physical items. Therefore, you can put them under the Xmas tree.

And I believe that is the real reason that my sales slumped during the Xmas shopping season. This slump is probably a pattern that I need to get used to, and budget around.

If I am right, about February, as people's wallets start to recover from Xmas shopping, I should start seeing my royalties return to normal.

(And why no corresponding drop in Apple sales? Well, it was the first quarter for many people to buy ebooks in Apple's expanding global market...this might not be the normal buying pattern for those customers.)