10 December, 2012

Let's meet Katarinne and Oriana

Here's the opening scene for the 'other half' of the story in Stain of Corruption. It starts with Oriana and Katarinne during an incredibly pivotal point in the Mage War, 40 some years before the start of Ghosts in the Snow. :)

(scene below the cut)

02 December, 2012

An update and a glimpse

I'm not a good blogger, I know. It's been an incredibly crazy autumn for me and I have a gazillion distractions dragging me this way and that, but I've been working on my fiction, even if I haven't been blabbering here on the blog.

SPORE is done and out the door, and hopefully it'll be acceptable. I think it's a quirky, twisty kick ass book. While not as overtly violent and depraved as the Dubric novels, it has its moments of dark surprises, and I'm pretty enamored with Ghoulie, especially. Not sure why - a vengeful ghoul isn't exactly an intriguing, multi-faceted character - but I do like him gobs. And Sean. And Mare and Mindy and, well, pretty much all of the characters. I am very happy with the book. Other than one sex scene that I'd intended but couldn't find a way to squeeze in, it's pretty much exactly how I envisioned it. Yay!!

Anyway, as news occurs I will blog about it, so stay tuned for SPORE's journey to a bookstore near you.  Go SPORE!! ;)

Tonight, though, I've delved back into the Dubric universe with my current incarnation of Stain of Corruption. Dubric and his burdens have never been easy for me to write, but here I am, looking at where the story stands, where I want it to go, and how I need it to get there.

13 October, 2012

Oh, wow. It's been a while. (oops!)

Let me start off by saying I did not get arrested. Was a very interesting day, though. Made a couple of new friends and actively participated in both civil disobedience as well as the intricate political process of getting a candidate to the ballot. All in all, it was a good day.

And... for the very first time in my entire life I have political signs in my front yard! How weird is that?!? (Go Gary Johnson 2012!! Live Free!)

Ahem.

SPORE is almost done. I am about to finish up chapter 24, every major character is in a very bad, very terrifying place (all different bad, terrifying places to boot, even tho they're currently split into pairs) and it's only going to get worse as they're pulled further apart and plunged deeper into the story's climax. Yay!! Still have to do the chapter graphics for chapter 23, but I'm really digging the book. Double yay! ;)

Overall, things here are pretty darn good other than I'm usually exhausted after taking care of my granddaughter all day and writing all night. After SPORE's out the door I'll - hopefully - have time to sew since I've barely turned on my machine in about 6 months. I have two baby quilts to finish (and start!! Have fabric for one but not the other! Aaak!) by Christmas, plus various presenty things to make.

After SPORE. I can sew after SPORE. Right?

Anyway, I'm good. I hope you're all good.

Anyone have interesting news to report?

{{huggs}}

24 August, 2012

I may be getting arrested Monday fighting for my civil rights.


I will be in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday afternoon protesting the GOPs attempt to strip third party candidates off the November Ballot. They are targeting Libertarian Gary Johnson specifically (no word yet if they're also going after Jill Stein or anyone else as well) because he DARED to get on the ballot in every state, DARED to talk about the issues and solutions, and DARED to be inclusive instead of campaigning by creating fear. As a concerned citizen and registered voter *I will not stand aside* and let political big shots lie and cheat their way to no dissension or no alternatives, especially after those alternatives played by the rules (sometimes rigged against them re: Pennsylvania) and did every thing they were supposed to do to be included as a legitimate candidate. It's just plain WRONG and I will be there to fight for my rights.

Whether you like Gary or Jill or any other candidate (including Romney or Obama) or not, we all need to decide where we're willing to stand and fight for fairness, freedom, and justice.

If you can and will join me and others to stop this madness, let me know. We can meet up and work together.

27 July, 2012

Sorry to have missed you. Oppressive heat will be back soon.

It's been incredibly hot and dry here, and Iowa is not known for either of those things. Sure, we get hot, a few days each summer around a hundred degrees, but along with the heat comes about 90+% humidity. Usually, in late July, you can see the air - it's whitish - because it's so crammed full of moisture. Many nights, there's a thunderstorm which will, temporarily, cut the heat and force some of the humidity to precipitate, instead of floating forever in the air. There's a relief, usually a short day or two, then it's hot and humid again.

Not this year.

We've had about a month at or around 100˚F. We've had about a month with humidity around 25%, which we don't usually hit except in the coldest parts of winter. We have rivers that have dried up, or are little more than a trickle. The corn is already turning brown with teeny, skinny cobs about the size of my thumb. The beans haven't grown tall or fluffed and just sit there slowly turning yellow. Instead of perfect growing conditions for grass, grains, and trees, everything is becoming crispy. Trees are shedding leaves, lawns are brown, and, frankly, wildlife, which is usually plentiful even in town, has all but disappeared. My bet is the deer, raccoons, possums and whatnot are staying near what few water sources remain, but I can't be sure. Even the birds are trimmed back, the mornings silent instead of filled with birdsong.

For someone used to sticky humid summers where we have to mow the lawn every other day, this is really distressing. There's a lot of worry that if we don't get a lot of rain this fall, before freeze, what fish remain in the rivers and lakes won't survive the winter. And neither will the trees. And who knows what the crap crops will do to our already faltering local economy.

Scary stuff.

Long term forecasts indicate the hot dry slow bake of the midwest will continue until mid September. Or maybe October. And once it starts raining, it won't stop. Maybe. If it starts raining at all. They think.

I just know that farmers here are selling their cattle because, with hay reaching $1500 a large bale, and grain at all time highs, they can't afford to feed them. The corn is so crappy it's not even useful as silage (mowed down to be used, leaves, stalks and all, for animal feed). Living in an Agricultural state, I see the fields, the pastures, the spindly weeds growing in hay fields and ditches, and it worries me because food prices are currently awful, and this heat wave and drought will only make them worse. A LOT worse.

I sure don't see it getting any better.

We're careening toward an economic cliff running hand in hand with climate change, yet our politicians bicker over gaffes, imagined affronts, and skewed data, telling us nothing about how they will actually repair our ailing economy, how they'll make it easier for folks to find and keep jobs, or how they'll deal with the coming food/water crises and lifestyle modifications that'll have to be used as the weather changes. Nothing they're saying really matters, it's all sound bites and bickering over the same damn crap, little different from the crap four years ago, or eight, or twelve, or twenty or any time I can remember.

Frankly, bail outs mean shit when people can't afford groceries. Taxes mean shit when people don't have income to tax. Gaffes mean shit when the national and global economies take a nose dive.

Sooner or later, the weather will change, we will get rain, and Iowa will be green again. Politicians, though, will continue to screech lies and half-truths at each other from their pedestals. Until they stop being so divisive and nasty, and instead start offering real solutions to real problems, nothing's ever going to get better.

08 July, 2012

Ready to fly! Maybe.

Here I am again with yet another meandering through random topics.

The generator tells me I must talk about Airline Failures. Another fabulous topic for yours truly since one of my absolute least favorite activities is flying.

I'm taking a guess here to assume the topic means not 'failure' but bankruptcy. Airlines go bankrupt and they, as a business, fail. I don't want to talk about that, though. I want to talk about the failure of airlines to consider their passengers.

Charging for carry-on bags? Fail.
No leg room? Fail.
No snack on a long flight, other than *maybe* a skimpy pack of peanuts or a cracker (both of which are so cheap and crappy I'd be embarrassed to give to trick or treaters for fear they'd egg my house)? Fail.
Crampy, crampy, crampy spaces where passengers' shoulders have to layer over one another. Fail
Too narrow seats? Fail.
Crappy 'canned air' smell (I usually feel I'm almost suffocating)? Fail.
Losing luggage? Fail.
Lack of assurance your belongings are safe? Fail.
Stuff that doesn't work, whether fans, lights, or call buttons (and, I assume, emergency oxygen masks)? Fail
People who have more right to put their head in my lap than I have to read, work on my book, or simply sit there without a head in my lap? Fail.
Crappy restrooms? Fail
Uncomfortable seats while we're stuck waiting to board flights? Fail.
Over-booking so passengers get bumped? Fail.
Price gouging rates, especially to 'non vacation' destinations? Fail.
Intrusive security measures? Fail.

I could go on, but that list is already plenty long. I truly despise flying. I'm a bit claustrophobic anyway but to be crammed into a seat with little to no wiggle room and my knees crammed into the seat ahead of me (oh, the utter JOY of when that person leans back and tries to snap off my kneecaps to give their leisure more room!) is, for me, worse than enduring dental surgery. At least with dental surgery I get a pain killer and some happy gas. I endure the security crap because it supposedly keeps us safe (frankly I have my doubts) but getting on and remaining on a plain is AWFUL. Just awful.

Airlines make seats and spaces smaller and smaller to cram in more people, raise overall prices, yet do nothing to improve service and overall enjoyment. I can see why they keep failing, I can. Sure there's a captive audience - some people need to fly for jobs and emergencies - but instead of doing their part to make travel enjoyable, or at least not crap-tastic, airlines seem to pride themselves on increasing the shittiness of the experience. With that business model, failure is pretty much assured.

I don't fly unless I have to. I'm sure I'm not the only one with that sentiment.

07 July, 2012

Holy Moly

Back again, (Happy Saturday, by the way) with another random post. each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)

Yay. Today's topic is Religion Definition Debate. Someone want to remind me again why I agreed to do this. Whee.

Let's start with something concrete. In this case, I'm consulting my personal, very battered copy of Webster's Handy College Dictionary that I bought around the time I graduated high school so I'd have a dictionary for college. Yes, it's copyrighted 1981, is surely dated, and it lost its cover years ago, but it's also the dictionary I use whenever I need to look something up. Like this. Don't like it, get your own dictionary.

Anyway, my dictionary's definition of Religion is:
n 1, a system of faith in and worship of a deity. 2, devoutness; dedication to a holy life. 3, a doctrine or custom accepted on faith.

Frankly, I see a lot of wiggle room there, and maybe that's the problem. Yeah, definition one pretty much insists that a deity must be part of the equation, but when you get to definitions two and three, things get fuzzy. Can someone be a devout, dedicated vegetarian who views their clean lifestyle as holy? Sure they can, but does that make it a religion? How about those troublesome investment banking practices that got the rest of us into a lot of trouble. Don't they follow doctrines and customs accepted on faith in financial markets? Doesn't mean they were good, or right, only indoctrinated. Could a greedy, self serving bastard use religious persecution as a defense for tricking people out of their savings? They probably could use it, but I don't know if it'd fly.

I think people need to realize that religion isn't something concrete. It's one of those 'I know it when I see it' issues, but everyone knows and sees different things. Who's to say one person's devotion to the rising of the sun every morning granting life to the earth is less a religion than another person believing a Roman era prophet is the son of God, or that believing it's all a bunch of hooey is just as vital, and correct, as any other faith?

I tend to follow 'to each their own' view, unless one persons faith impacts, impedes, or otherwise restricts someone else. If you're belief system insists you must sacrifice a human life every solstice and you're killing people, then I believe there's a problem. If you believe that smoking peyote brings you closer to the great maker and you're doing it in the privacy of your own home, then I really don't mind. What I find alarming is when one group decides that their brand of fervor is THE brand and everyone else must get in line with it or suffer. That bugs me a LOT. 

I saw an article recently where a state congress person was all for using public money to fund religious schools until a Muslim school was slated to receive part of the money. Then she did a complete about face and wanted to end the program because - gasp! - they're eeeeevil and not Evangelical Christian, omg! Imho, it shouldn't matter if they're christian, muslim, jewish, atheist, pagan, hindu, buddhist, sun worshippers, scientologists, or whatever. All should be treated the same under the law (and the separation of church and state, to me at least, says the law shouldn't fund them, but what do I know). 

Don't even get me started on the birth control mess. Boy oh boy oh boy.

Anyway. I think that we will continue to have debates on religion and its definition mostly because it's a vague, nebulous concept that tries to embrace too many dissimilar ideas. With my dictionary's definition, almost ANYTHING could be considered a religion. Until that's fixed, we'll be arguing the same points a century from now. 

06 July, 2012

Keyboarding

I'm back again with a new post in the Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)


I'd like to start by saying that some topics the generator apparently generates are so far out of my realm of experience they seem impossible. Like today's toping Making Your Own Keyboard.


Um. I'd rather cough up the cash and buy one, thanks anyway.


But that doesn't get the blog post written, so instead of blabbering like an utter idiot, I've gathered a few links on the subject.


To start with, here's how to make your own steampunk keyboard.
You can also make your own roll up keyboard.
Or make an existing keyboard backlit


I even saw one keyboard turned into a waffle maker (but couldn't find instructions). Apparently the sky's the limit on keyboard modifications. If you could change your keyboard, what would you do?

05 July, 2012

Augmented Unison

I'm back again with a new post in the Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)


Today the Random Topic Generator said I should write about Augmented Unison. I have to admit when I saw that suggestion I thought WTF?? Is that even a real thing?? It seemed like the generator randomly smooshed two words together.


Nope. It's a real thing. A musical thing.


I haven't taken music as an academic pursuit since I was a freshman in High School so please forgive me if I screw this up. From what I've read this morning, an Augmented Unison is a harmony interval where it widens (goes up) one half step from perfect unison. It's also called a Halftone. I think.


I found a pretty cool video that explains intervals. The information about Augments starts right at 3:00



I hope this makes sense and helps folks think a bit more about music. I know I learned something today. :)

04 July, 2012

Dark, Creepy Closets

I'm back again with a new post in the Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)


Today's topic is Checking The Closets Before Bed.


A lot of kids fear the creepy darkness in their closets, and some adults too, I'm sure. Is it the darkness itself? The inability to see? The potential for eeeeevil? Or merely an imagination in overdrive from some earlier stimulus like a scary movie or fighting parents?

I honestly don't know, but I can admit I'm a frequent flyer of Nightmare Airlines and I always have a light on, somewhere, so that I can see at night.

Does anyone else still do that, or worry about what's lurking in their dark, creepy closet?

03 July, 2012

Sore!

Sorry I'm late. It's 4th of July week which is a BIG DEAL for Bill's family and, well, it's been busier than usual around here.

Anyway, I'm back again with a new post in the Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)


Today's topic (well, actually yesterday July 3rd) is Muscle Soreness. 


For some of us, muscle soreness is a constant distraction due to injuries or atrophy or disease. In my case, it's literally a pain in my neck. I got whiplash from being rear-ended about 24 years ago and I still have trouble with the left side of my neck, especially if I spend too much time on the laptop. Owie, owie. For other people it's their lower back, or legs, or their hands. Do too many sit-ups or crunches, your belly muscles might get sore. Run too far or without stretching properly, you can screw up your legs. Muscles can get pulled, or sore, from moving improperly or not moving enough. Diabetics have all kinds of pain from from dying nerves, and on and on and on. For me, at least, Ibuprofen is my friend, I have to take some every night before I go to bed or my neck will wake me up.


Do any of you have problems with muscle soreness?

02 July, 2012

Publicly Private

We're Number ONE!!
I'm back again with a new post in the Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)


Today it's Sending a kid to private school vs public. I'm certainly not an expert on education in America, but I am a parent and I have to admit I have a little bit of experience with both public and private schools. 

When our daughter was teeny, she begged to go to preschool - as many kids often do. In our local area, though, the public head-start and preschool choices were, frankly, shitty. No funding, too many kids to too few teachers, dilapidated location, etc. So we saved up pop-can returns and did odd jobs until we could afford to send her to a private preschool. It was located in a church halfway across town, but was rated very highly and I have to admit it was pretty darn cool. We could visit any time we wanted, we got involved in some of the educational activities, and we got to know the kids and the parents. 


All in all, despite probably costing more than we could reasonably afford - we were a hair's breadth above the poverty line, after all - it was worth it, at least to us. Clean, bright, cheerful, and only a handful of kids for each of the three teachers. I think - but am not sure - the class was limited to 20 students. Twenty. With three teachers. When someone says you get what you pay for, they weren't kidding in this instance at least. Our daughter loved it, we loved it, and she came out of there happy, loving school, and excited to learn more cool stuff about bugs or art or numbers or whatever. She went there as a three year old, and a four year old, and both years pretty much rocked.

After that, she went to public school. We open-enrolled her out of the massive metro school district we were living in and into a rural school district for a couple of years. That was, all in all, a very good experience, too. Then we moved to the middle of nowhere and lived in a reasonably decent district where she'd be safe, at least. But was she educated there? Um... Kind of. Better than if we'd stayed in the metro, definitely, but not as well as we'd have liked. And she was on the bright side of the curriculum, she took advanced classes in science all through her schooling, was in band for a while, participated in things like basketball and choir, and, as a B student, her grades were decent, and she got into a good college. But she wasn't very motivated, and she didn't enjoy it much which made her less motivated so she enjoyed it even less, and round and round it went.

I do believe, tho, that if we'd have managed to keep her in private school, or home schooled, she would have been more motivated and learned more. Bill and I were both VERY involved with school and homework and making sure she did what she was supposed to do. We took her to band lessons and paid for project materials and extracurricular activities. We never missed a conference, open house, play, sporting event,  or bake sale. We were involved, but, still... She could have done better, her educational experience could have offered her more, demanded more, and, frankly, we could have made better choices too.

I'm not saying that public school can't, or doesn't, give a good education anymore. For some students it does, but I have come to believe that those students would have excelled almost anywhere anyway. Classroom size is a huge factor. Teacher burnout. Funding (for anything beyond sports. Oh, golly, don't get me started on that!) Administrative leadership. Facilities. Educational milestones and goals. All of those things matter and, in my truly limited experience, private schools kick public schools butts. They do. As in most things, you get what you pay for. 

01 July, 2012

Chasing rainbows

The lovers, the dreamers, and me. :)
I've been out of sorts the past few weeks - oh, the chaos! - and I'm struggling to get myself back on to a reasonable schedule in a lot of areas.  One is blogging. I really enjoyed the blog challenges from earlier this year, and I'm jumping in again for July.

This month, though, I'm doing a Random Blogging Challenge, each entry prompted by a random topic generator my friend Jean suggested. (Jean's blogging all month too, so check her out!)

Anyway, todays topic, randomly generated today right after lunch, is Your Ever Changing Goal In Life.

Whoa. Talk about being publicly slammed with my own worries. Surreal.

So. Um. Goals. Life goals. Big goals. Plans, baby! What are your plans?

Frankly, I don't know and that's part of my 'flailing around in chaos and getting nowhere' problem. When I was young, my big life goal was getting the heck outta there, off to college and onto my own life. Did that, box checked, let's move on.

Got the funky-friendly house. Got the great marriage. Got the great kid. Got the health. Enough money. Enough time. Hell, I'm even published. Check, check, check, and a whole 'nother line of checks. I make quilts. check. Understand how to cook most everything (I still can't cook decent fish, but since I don't even like fish I can't see learning to as a 'life goal') so, check. Learned to like my hair. Check. Got the rosacea under control, check.

Frankly, most of those are 'little goals'. I mean, let's get serious for a moment, learning to love my curly mop wasn't exactly a metaphysical struggle.

What's next in the queue? Honestly, I don't know. Bill and I talk about it sometimes, how we've reached the point of 'this is enough'. We've climbed the summit of departing-poverty and are sitting here enjoying the view. Sure there are other big mountains out there - wealth, power, fame, what have you - but they don't interest either one of us. We don't care about stuff, it's just stuff. We don't care about money, once there's enough for bills and food then we're good there. And we are good there, truly.

There are things I'd like to do. I'd like to get back to writing productively for readers again, it is sort of my job after all. I'd like to get some sewing done this summer. I'd like to lose 20 lbs by Christmas. I'd like to be better at taking my vitamins. I'd like to finish sorting and organizing a mountain of miscellaneous papers I've been putting off sorting and organizing. I'd like to do lots of things, but none of them are life goals.

Again, I just don't know.

I suppose the closest thing, the most accurate goal I could articulate is I want to be happy. I want to like myself. I want to be less cynical, less grumpy, less prone to self loathing. I want to be thankful for all of the wonders I have and have accomplished.

You know, that actually sounds like a pretty good goal to have. :)

13 June, 2012

Quick, quick, zoom!

Just a quickie post to let everyone know that things here are just fine. Crazy busy as usual, but just fine.

Newsy items to share. Um, we're down to four cats. A friend of Bill's has a farm and needed cats, so Cooper, Echo, and three of the kittens have a new home with lots of barns and sheds and plenty of critters to hunt. We decided to keep one of the kittens (as yet unnamed) so we still have her plus Puufy, Abbie and Peanut.

I've been making a point to sew weekly at a friend's quilt shop and it's working out very well. My stress level has dropped immeasurably.

I'm writing steadily on SPORE and a proposal's been sent out to the world. It's a different kind of book, but I think it's really fun!

We're all looking forward to Dark Knight Rises and Brave.

Honestly, that's about it around here. Mostly it's just more of the same, just kinda crazy busy. :)

If anyone has blog post topic ideas, please let me know. I'm mostly coming up blank here.

Have a great week!  {{huggs}}

20 May, 2012

Everything is Clutterin'

Like a lot of people, I have a tendency to accumulate clutter. For me, the main culprit is paper.

I print out recipes, writing tips, cute sayings, quilt patterns, all kinds of things. I save magazines, newspaper articles and birthday cards. I'm a sucker for office supplies, catalogs, and freebie calendars. In short, papers pile up. Since the papers are piling up, I don't get other things put properly away either. Before I know it, there's a paper and clutter explosion.

Frankly, I'm sick of it.

Cables and office supplies and books and papers, oh my!
We switched the office and living room a couple of weeks ago. I loved having both rooms empty of almost everything but furniture. No extra stuff, no clutter. But to do that, we had to move the extras to the kitchen table, my sewing room, and other places. Since then, the crap has begun creeping back, mostly because we occasionally need to use the kitchen table, etc. Right this moment,  I literally have a long pile of miscellaneous useful-but-rarely-used stuff sitting on the floor behind me with no better place to put it. None. Why? Because its almost entirely clutter.

I'm tired of stepping over it every time I go to my desk. I'm tired of the dog knocking it all over the otherwise clean room whenever he comes running past to see what eeeevil dog is peeing in his front yard.

I have too much paper clutter. I have too many quilting magazines and patterns. I have too many kitchen do-dads, too much fabric, and I'm one more kitten away from officially being a crazy cat lady.

It ends today.

I have some big totes and a deep vat of determination to put my 'rarely used but don't want to part with it' stuff in the totes, all separated and categorized by function. Writing-related books and articles. Fabric. Quilting patterns and such. Kitchen crap. All of my big clutter-monsters. They're going in totes and going in the basement. If I need something out of one of the totes - like my notes and articles on The Hero's Journey, for example - I can go down there, pull out the folder, and get what I need. If I don't need it, it'll stay in the tote. Next year, if it's still in the tote, it's outta here. No exceptions.

If I don't use it on a regular (at least weekly) basis, it's going in a !(@*$^ tote, dammit.

14 May, 2012

The Nice Squirrel

As I start this, it's Monday, a bit shy of two in the afternoon. We've just completed a rather late lunch of grilled shrimp skewers and tomato salad. It's a gorgeous day outside and we have just about every window in the house open. Bill's mowing and the kid's downstairs working on her jewelry side business. I, however, am currently sitting in our living room/office at my desktop iMac - fwiw, I do almost everything composition related on my MacBook, a traditional keyboard doesn't work as effortlessly for me. If I'm sitting here at my desk then I'm not working/writing, I'm planning my grocery trip, paying bills, or futzing around online. Today I'm online. The iPod player in my sewing room is blaring Johnny Lang, and I've spent the last half hour or so trying to get through the stack of tabs in my browser.

I regularly pile up a lot of open tabs in my browser.

I intentionally research lots of things for the books, but I also follow links that sound interesting and take me to all sorts of odd places. Like Victorian death photographs. watching LMFAO music videos, and if consumption of factory raised chicken contributes to obesity. I call it the SQUIRREL!! factor. I see something that seems weird or quirky or thought provoking, or just plain fun, and I click.

I spend waaaay too much time screwing around online. I do. I admit it. It's that damn scampering squirrel, ya know?

SQUIRREL!! factor aside, most of my browser tabs are for recipes, quilting, or writing. Especially writing. Recipes and quilt patterns are usually printed, archived, or simply tossed aside. They're quick and easy to process through. Writing posts and articles, though, are a bit trickier. I follow several writers and publishing professionals (especially on Twitter) and, if their topic of the day interests me, I'll click. And I'll click, and click, piling up tabs like crazy. Marketing. Platform. Character Arcs. Theme. Pacing. Structure. Writing links are like nuts for my squirrel. Most end up being somewhat craptastic or utterly inapplicable to me. While I do enjoy reading about different processes and methods and all, I know what works for me and my writing brain, and what screws me up. A lot of the writing articles I read are simply discarded. Works great for them, not so much for me. But that's okay. We're not all supposed to do this job the same, after all.

Every once in a while I run across something that really intrigues me, or scratches a mental itch. Those things I'll print or bookmark. Even rarer are the posts and articles that make me nod my head in utter agreement. They're the posts I tend to share. I don't share much, but today I have two. Yes, TWO.

Today's first big nod was Don't Be An Ass case studies: Wheaton and Gaiman on I Should Be Writing. Immediately after reading it, I ran across Chuck Wendig's On The General Weirdness of Having Fans.

Let's start with 'don't be an ass'. Honestly, I think every public professional... no, screw that, every freaking PERSON, should have that branded somewhere on their psyche. I grew up with a professional musician and, starting as a small child, met many famous people. I worked as an advertising graphic designer for much of my adult life (more creative professionals and locally famous people), and have spent my whole life in middle America dealing with shop owners and loan officers and repair people and teachers, just like everyone else. I became a pro writer and rubbed elbows with some fairly famous authors. In all of those interactions, I've met supremely nice human beings, and utter shit-head assholes. As a regular person living a regular life, I refuse to work with assholes. I don't seek their expertise, and I sure don't buy any of their wares.

There are a handful of writers that I will not, regardless of how 'great' their writing may be, ever spend one penny of my hard earned money on. Heck, I won't allow their crap in my home, they're that awful as people (and no, I won't name names). There are other writers who are consistently so sweet and kind and approachable I buy everything they write even if it's not my thing. I've seen writers act nice to their fans then turn around to their friends and say something nasty about the fan that's walking away beaming after meeting their idol. The fan that spent money and time and gathered the guts to just walk up to them - as an introverted person, lemme insist for a moment that approaching someone you look up to is just about the most intimidating thing ever - only to be presented a false front or, even worse, utter disdain. Yep, I've seen that too. Treating fans like last week's dirty diaper.

Most writers are incredibly nice, but some are not nice at all, just like any other group of people. I've met Neil Gaiman (mentioned in the linky above) several times. He's nice. Supremely nice. Gracious, even. Despite never meeting Wil Wheaton, I have a lot of confidence he's sweet, too. He sure seems that way online, at least, and I really appreciate his 'don't be a dick' stance. As for myself, I do my absolute best to be friendly, approachable, and kind. I don't know how many free books I've given to fans. Lots. Signed lots more. I have - so far - responded to every bit of fan mail I've received, and I even respond graciously to the 'not a fan' letters. I'm happy to talk to writing groups, school kids, whoever wants to hear about this crazy job I found myself in the middle of. I answer all sorts of interesting questions and, more often than you might think, fans become friends.

The point of all that is Don't Be An Ass. There are a lot of amazing people out there, and if you approach the fan/writer equation with grace, kindness, and overall good will, it's a great experience for everyone, including the writer.

However, as Chuck Wendig (whose blog you probably ought to be reading if you're not already. Yeah, yeah, it's laced with bad words and references to bodily functions, but that's part of its charm) it is really weird to have fans. Don't get me wrong, I love my fans, but it's a bit of a mind-bender the first time (or the hundredth) a stranger rushes up to you squeeing about how awesome you are.

Frankly, I consider myself to be rather mundane, boring and, well, a bit of an air head, so there's always the moment of wanting to look over my shoulder to see what genuinely cool and worthy-of-attention person is behind me. Even when I'm at a signing table at a conference or have just been on a panel or whatever. It's WEIRD, okay? Especially when I know that I wash dishes and trim my toenails and change cat litter just like every other mortal. When I know that, for me at least, writing isn't 'special' or even remotely awe inspiring, it's a whole lot of lonely late nights glowering at my computer screen because what I'm typing is obviously a slimy lump of rotting muck. Ask my daughter. She'll tell you how boring I am. Fans make it rather surreal. They make it all surreal.

But without the fans I wouldn't have three novels still in print. I wouldn't be able to send checks to charity four times a year from the ebooks. I wouldn't have another novel being shopped around, two more in progress, friends scattered literally all over the planet, been to places I'd never thought I'd see, and I certainly wouldn't be sitting here on a Monday afternoon blogging about being nice to fans.

We all should strive to be kind. Always. Play nice. Be thankful.

If I ever don't do that, y'all have my permission to set me straight.

03 May, 2012

An incredible lightness of leftovers

I have this weird thing about frugality. I don't like to waste anything. I don't waste one thread of fabric I don't have to (it's one reason my quilts are all so scrappy). I don't waste money. And I don't waste food.

Nothing aggravates me more than finding something rotting in the fridge that I could have, should have, used up before it went bad. I can't say I've never thrown anything away - I do, on occasion, have to toss a slimy half-tomato or gushy hunk of cucumber - but I make a point to repurpose extra bits of food as much as possible, and make sure leftovers get eaten.

Today's breakfast was leftover fried rice that I'd cooked Tuesday from leftover chicken, leftover miscellaneous veggies, half an onion I needed to use up, some celery that was starting to edge toward limpness, and the last little smidge of soy sauce in the bottle. Other than the brown rice and a handful of frozen veggies to round it out, the whole batch was repurposing leftovers. And it's yummy, and cheap and, since it's homemade, reasonably healthy.

Last night I made burritos from Monday's leftover taco meat, some tortillas and a jar of salsa. I'll probably have some of them for lunch.

Remaking leftovers is awesome. And nothing goes to waste.

02 May, 2012

Miracle Kittehs

One of the surreal events of this past April concerns our cat, Echo. We got Echo last summer as a kitten, and had her and her sister Peanut spayed in the fall. In early April, though, Echo started to look uncharacteristically fat.

Actually, she started to look pregnant.

It's impossible, we told ourselves. But she kept getting bigger and her nipples became prominent. Our vet said it wasn't possible, surely a false pregnancy. Until we brought her in. He was as shocked as we were. She'd had one ovary attached to her kidney and there was some worry she'd managed an ectopic pregnancy, because cats rarely have multiple uteruses. Still, the vet kept insisting 'if the sperm can get in, the kittens can get out'.

I wasn't convinced, I was sure - in my heart at least - that she'd try to expel the kitten(s) and end up dying or something because her uterus had been removed. And Echo is a sweetheart. A bit of a wild child, sure, but a sweetheart none the less.

Anyway, I took her to our old vet near Des Moines who also worried about the ectopic pregnancy. She had me take Echo to yet another vet who specializes in tricky xrays and ultrasounds. Sure enough, she had a uterus and four kittens.

They were born weekend before last, right on time - according to all three vets - and absolutely perfect. Three white ones and a calico. Here they are, in a pic I took last night. Echo and her miracle kittens.

Echo. The cat born with 2 uteruses.
The remaining uterus will be removed soon.

01 May, 2012

It's May!

I have had an incredibly busy - and rather stressful - April, but it looks like life is finally settling into a more stable routine.

I am so, so relieved! I'll even get a 'sew day' once a week. Hey, at least it's pencilled onto my schedule. ;)

Now for writerly news. :)

I just received my quarterly earnings for the ebooks from Smashwords - thank you everyone who bought a copy!! - and I've already sent it to Project Night Night. The royalties came into PayPal this morning, and I sent them right back out tonight. I'm kinda digging the simplicity of it. :)

SPORE's first five chapters are off to pre-readers again - I'd made some pretty substantial mistakes the first time through - and it'll hopefully be a much easier edit this time. Planning to get it off to my agent around the middle of this month.

It's going well. Not great - that would be frightening and worrisome - but well. And for that I'm thankful.

30 April, 2012

Z is for Zaftig

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

Grisel Paula. Yep, she's zaftig.
Zaftig is of Jewish origin and means succulent. It's usually used to describe the shape of women who are roundish, softish, and have curves, like the picture to the left.

A woman of such shape and softness is a historically traditional image of beauty, fertility, femininity, adoration, seduction, and worship. Only recently (within the past 50 years) has a different shape become the feminine goal. 

That's not to say zaftig is gone. Oh no. It's still a live and well in hollywood, fashion and music. I sincerely hope it continues.

28 April, 2012

Y is for Yeast

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

Budding yeast.
We've all heard of yeast. Brewer's yeast, bread yeast, yeast infections... Yeast is a microorganism that consumes sugars then makes the bubbles in beer and champagne and in edible foods like bread.

So basically, it eats then it farts.

Think about that next time you're having a beer or a nice slice of bread. You owe it all to yeast farts.

Btw, yeast and I don't get along in the kitchen. Whenever I try to get yeast to fart itself into a nice loaf of bread, it always laughs at me then goes off to watch tv or something. I have had no success at getting home made bread to rise despite trying several techniques and recipes. Surely it's all the yeast's fault! Damn yeast! ;)

27 April, 2012

X is for XXXenophile

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

Bill and I used to attend SF/Game conventions. Remember when Collectible Card Games became all the rage, back the early days of games like Magic the Gathering, StarWars the Card Game, etc? Well, at ICON in Iowa City, my friend Michele and I decided to try out a brand new game called XXXenophile.

It was actually a pretty fun game, if rather raunchy. Actually very raunchy. XXXenophile was based upon a very similar comic by Phil Foglio and designed by one of the best modern game designers, James Earnest. It's easy to play, and funny with cards like Daisy Chain, Three-Way Bulb, and Crop Circle Jerks.

I told you it was raunchy, but, truly, it's a fun game to play.

26 April, 2012

W is for Writing.

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

To be honest, I really don't want to write about writing. Yeah, yeah, I know I'm a writer, or at least I wear that hat sometimes, but writing and I have not been easy companions.

A lot of writers write easily, happily, joyfully, gathering massive word counts and lots and lots of finished projects. Me, not so much. When the writing is going well, it truly is awesome, but it rarely goes well.

Anyway, I've talked about writing quite a lot at conferences and writers meetings, and I'd like to link to a post I made here a year and a half ago about one of these talks. I think there's a lot of important information in there. Why do YOU write and what do YOU want? (hint: there are no wrong answers ;) )

25 April, 2012

V is for Valences

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

My favorite class in high school was Chemistry. Really. Was freaking awesome. I loved it so much I started college as a Pre-Vet Med/Chemistry DOUBLE major. Love, love LOVE chemistry. I've probably taken more collegiate Chem classes than most anyone else who ended up with an art degree. Organic, inorganic, biochem, pharmochem, applied chem... Ah, just thinking about it makes me giddy.

My high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Larry Dean, was incredible. He was a tough old bastard, but scary smart, sweet, ornery, and a quirky old coot, all at the same time. When we started Chemistry as high school juniors (I think there were about 25 of us, maybe more) and the first thing he made us do was learn our elements and valences. On the first day of class he gave us a list of about thirty elements with their symbols each with some weird numbers he said were valences. He told us to memorize it, there'd be a test the next day, then he went on to begin explaining the periodic table, which was in our book.

The next day we did have a test. He'd say the name of an element and we had to write its symbol and all of its valences. In the order he spoke them. Any mistakes, and I mean ANY mistakes, it was counted wrong. Forget a plus or minus? The whole entry's wrong. Forget to capitalize the first letter of the symbol? Wrong. Forget a valence number? Wrong. We handed our papers to the kid beside us for grading and we were to tally up the ones they'd missed, and the ones they got right. Then we took the right ones minus the wrong ones, and that was our score for the day's valence test. So, out of 30 items, if you miss 8 you got 22 right, so it's 22-8 which becomes 14 out of a possible 30 points. That's less than 50%!

Right Minus Wrong grading is a bitch kitty to endure. You either learn the stuff fast and KNOW it, or you're going to fail.

Before the first month or so was over (and we'd moved from Valences to doing the same right minus wrong thing with a blank periodic table, filling in symbols, atomic numbers, weights, and ionic numbers), we'd whittled down to eight of us, three girls, five boys. We were together for two years, through basic and advanced chemistry. I can't recall any of us screwing up an experiment because we knew our stuff, by god. It was branded into our brains. Balancing equations became incredibly easy, like breathing. So many on this side equals the same number on that side. Gotta count those electrons, baby!

What a valence shows is how many electrons a given atom has to either give up or gain to combine with another atom (and make a compound or molecule). For example, in one water compound (H2O) there are two Hydrogens (H) and one Oxygen (O) - the teensy 2 says there are 2 Hydrogens and no number beside the Oxygen means there's only one. The H's each have a valence of +1 (it has an extra electron out there all alone it wants to lose), and the Oxygen has a valence of -2 (it has a space for two more electrons to gain). The problem is how to make the plusses and minuses add up to zero.

So, H(+1) plus H(+1) plus O(-2) = Zero. Compounds that add up to zero are stable and tend to occur naturally, and they don't get much simpler than water.

Since many elements (including Hydrogen and Oxygen) don't like to be alone, they tend to pair up with themselves (or have molecules of more than 2 of that element, but Hydrogen and Oxygen make pairs). As they come together to make the compound, it still has to add up to zero, on both sides. And, since there's 2 Hydrogens for every 1 Oxygen, you need twice as much H as O.

So, for water, it's

2H2+O2=2H20

Four Hydrogens plus two Oxygens make two waters.

Mathematically, that's 2(2(+1)) + 2(-2)=2(2(+1)-2) Both sides equal zero, so it's a balanced equation.

Yeah, there's a LOT of math in Chemistry and it's not possible to do the math correctly if you don't know your valences. I first took Chemistry more than thirty years ago and I STILL know them, they were burned so brightly into my brain. :)

Fwiw, Inorganic Chemistry (what lots of kids take in high school) is comparatively simple, it's just straight equation balancing with simple, straightforward bonds. For example, Iron Oxide (common rust) is Fe2O3 and looks like this. Organic Chem is a LOT harder and more complicated, because there are so, so many different kinds of bonds between the atoms and they make very convoluted shapes.  As an example, simple Glucose (table sugar) is C6H12O6 and looks like this. Still pretty simple. Really. How about insulin? Its formula is C256H381N64O79S6 and it looks like this. Imagine balancing those equations!!

All of the chemicals, compounds, molecules and structures in the universe exist because of valences. If atoms weren't wanting to get rid of or add on electrons, nothing would bind together. So we owe those little loose electrons a lot. :)

23 April, 2012

U is for Underwear

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

Hmm. A few days ago I'd mentioned that I had posted about religion, politics, and money, but my S wasn't for sex.

Instead, I shall talk about underwear today, mostly because my husband suggested it, and he probably suggested this particular topic because he thought I wouldn't do it.

Ha ha, babe I am! So there! ;)

Don't anyone ever say I don't have guts. Or a sense of humor. ;)

Anyway, as we all know, underwear covers up our, ahem, naughty bits. Gonads. Genitals. Privates. Uglies. Yee-haws. What have you. It was originally created so that we humans could wear our clothing longer since most people didn't have more than one or two sets of clothing and laundry was a PITA. Don't have to wash the trousers so much if they're not getting skid marks, right? While we still wear undies to help protect our clothing, it's also become a whole category of clothing on its own.

Disclaimer: Some of the following links might not be safe for work. Or your computer screen if you're drinking a beverage. Many of the links are ADULTS ONLY.

Underwear can be sexy, comfortable, lacy, shiny, funny, saggy, tight, uplifting, loose, cheap, expensive, absurd, redundant, or totally absent. You can go for the traditional, or something a bit more modern. Total coverage, or minimal, or somewhere between. Sometimes, people even wear underwear on the outside of their clothes and there's a whole series of children's books dedicated to an underwear super hero!

So there you go. Underwear.

Wait. Don't go in your underwear, take them off first. ;)

T is for Truth

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

Webster's has several definitions for truth (btw, you have to boggle at the circular logic of the English language and its frequent use of having a given word be part of its own definition) but the one I like the best is 1b: Sincerity in action, character and utterance.

Let's face it, part of a novelists job is telling lies. The characters, their thoughts, their actions, their place of being, their everything is a lie. There aren't real people in novels, they're constructs on a page.  They're imaginary. False. Mere illustrations and whimsey. As are the events that unfold around the characters. While a novel may reflect a specific real person, place, or event, the actuality of fiction is falsehood.

However, another incredibly important part of fiction is telling the truth. In some ways, I think it's more important than the lie of fiction itself, in fact, writers use the lie to show the truth.

A character, regardless of their place in a narrative must ring true or the reader is less likely to follow them through the story. For example, if you're writing a powerful business magnate, he or she is not going to sit at a table with the board of directors and whine about how life is so unfair, everyone hates them, and they really wish someone would ask them to the homecoming dance. A teenager with low self esteem, maybe. A corporate CEO at a board meeting, um, no, not unless they've ingested some pretty extreme pharmaceuticals. But it goes deeper than that. The truth of a character is in the little things. How do they treat others? How do they carry themselves? What's their internal dialog like? What's hidden behind their outer shell?

Let's say a female character spends their spare time - what little they have in the busy fictional life they lead, ha ha -  curled up on the couch with a sappy romance novel. What does that illustrate about her? Pretty standard stuff, right? What if, instead, she sits on that same couch drinking cheap beer while cussing at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show finals on TV? It's a completely different picture and, in some ways, a lot more true. Human beings tend to be complex. Characters should reflect that, they should showcase their own inner truth, their own unique sincerity.

A character might lie, cheat, steal and murder, but in their heart of hearts are they despicable without any redeeming quality at all? Are they struggling? Are they lashing out in pain? Are they hopeful, determined, jaded, or on a noble mission? Or do they find mayhem and sadism a sexual turn on? Find that inner truth, that sincerity of that character's actions, inner motivations and utterances, then show readers that shining core.

I believe that fiction, good fiction at least, should have a truth at its heart while telling its lie of a story. A reader will take that truth and make it their own. Often that truth varies from reader to reader. For example, is Stephen King's THE STAND about humankind's quest to exterminate members of its own species? Is it about listening to your dreams, regardless of how impossible they seem? Is it about snarling at the bad and embracing the good? Is it about the corruption of power? Hope? Death? Armageddon? Balance? Redemption? The contagion of religion? The power of friendship? The cost of delving where we should not have gone? I've heard people insist it's about those things and others because, in the book, there is an essential truth a lot of readers have connected with.

I don't know precisely what Mr. King truly intended to illustrate in the novel (he's mentioned he was intrigued by how we can't close pandora's box once it's been opened) but I am certain that whatever he intended to do didn't hit most of his readers. They found something else there instead. The readers found their own truth.

In my novels, I have consistently had a goal in mind, a topic or concept, a specific truth I want to examine and I tried to show this truth from as many angles as possible. So many angles and so much slamming the internal truth of my vision against the narrative that I thought it was blatantly obvious, that I was beating readers over the head with it.

Nope. Didn't happen. Readers consistently saw something else there. Something I hadn't intended, something they alone could see. But when a book is written with sincerity, when it's approached with the humbling task of showing the truth within the lie, when the writer really isn't talking about a murder or a plague or getting a date to the dance, but about something deeper and more true, a novel and its characters can come alive. There's no better story than one built around a hard core of truth.

21 April, 2012

S is for Silers

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

I've already blogged about my husband's family, now it's time to blog about mine.

I'm a first born, and a first grandchild (in fact the only grandchild until my brother came along), in a family that counts its members in the low 20's. Sure, if you add in the cousins and such out in Oklahoma and California we might hit forty, but it's still a pretty small family, at least compared to the Joneses.

Most of us lived on the same dead end dirt road, and most of us still do (my sister, a couple of cousins, and I are the only ones who don't). We were rural and poor or close to it, for the most part, and we tend to stay put and avoid risks or upheaval. My aunt and uncle raised their kids and still live in a house they bought from my great-great uncle's family. My uncle and his wife and daughter live up the road (he'd purchased the house from a non-family member in the late '80s). We used to live in my cousin's old house (which had been my great grandparent's old house), and my mother lives in the same place I grew up, but in a new house built by my brother for his family.

When Bill and I lived in the neighborhood, my family owned four houses along a 1/8 mile stretch of dirt road. Seriously. There are good points and bad points for living so close to family. One good thing, holidays. My aunt Deanie used to host Christmas and we'd just walk up (after all, I could see her driveway from my back door). When my uncle Oscar took over hosting, we had to walk a little farther.  We had almost endless connected yards. As a kid, I cold walk out of my great grandmother's house, head north, and could cross the yards of four more houses (all on half an acre or more) before hitting a non-family property line. There was a path, from my aunt Charlene at the north end, to my great grandma's back door at the south.

In small families you know everyone. There isn't any 'okay, now whose kid is that again?' like we have in Bill's family. Nope, I can easily identify every single person in my family, well, other than my cousin Tanya's kids who I barely know. She has a Tyler and a Megan, but I'm pretty sure there's a third one. I think.

I know that sounds awful, not knowing if my cousin - who I used to babysit - has a third (or 4th) child, but despite our small size, our family is kind of splintered.

After my great grandmother died, we pretty much stopped having summer cookouts together. Then Thanksgiving faded after my grandmother's death. I tried to resurrect Thanksgiving it after Bill and I married (all 22 of us us at our house), but it never caught on. Before my dad died, Christmas fell away. We all lived there on the same road, within shouting distance if you had decent lungs, and we rarely saw or talked to each other except on holidays, even when I was a kid. Now days, we rarely get together as a group unless there's a wedding or a funeral.

We all love each other, and we're friendly and have a nice time visiting when we do get together, but it's a quiet kind of thing. We're all intensely private, introverted people who are more interested in staying home than going out and partying. We have a definite tendency toward artistic personalities - my family is crammed full of artists, writers, musicians and people active in theater. We tend to have small families, no more than three children, and divorce is uncommon. We used to lean really liberal in politics, but that's changing for some of us to more libertarian views.

There is a lot of substance abuse in my family - I do not drink alcohol, at all, because 1) I really like the taste of whiskey 2) the one time I did get drunk it took me months to get the 'need' taste out of my mouth and 3) alcoholism is a bitch that I've seen it first hand. So no thank you, I'll just have iced tea. Within my family, there's been a good deal of trouble with drugs and almost everyone is (or was) a chain smoker. There's also a lot of depression. Is it the artistic temperaments?  Is it our introversions? Is it because we're clannish and suspicious of outsiders - as my aunt has said, you're blood, or you're an in-law (married in and are accepted), or you're an out-law (married in and you are not)? Hell, I've been a blood member of my family for almost 48 years and I often feel like an out-law. Is it because we all lived so close together and have few secrets? Is it something else that keeps splintering us, some underlying current between us? I don't know. I do know that pretty much everyone who gets out of the neighborhood goes far, far away (often out of state) and rarely comes back. That's really sad because we are good people. We're just kinda quiet.

20 April, 2012

R is for Royalties

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

Religion, politics, and money. I really know how to pick my topics. Thank goodness I didn't pick Sex for my S entry. ;)

When I was in the 'aspiring writer' stage of my writing career, I ran into a lot of inaccurate information about royalties and advances. What I've learned these past few years, though, is pretty simple and straight forward. I'm going to use simple numbers (which may or may not reflect actual, realistic sales) but they should give everyone an idea of how this 'getting paid to write fiction' thing works, at least in traditional publication.

Let's start with the advance. When a publisher buys the rights to publish your book, they pay an advance on future sales, also simply known as an advance.

To keep things simple, let's say you get a $10,000 advance (first novels are usually quite a lot less than this, btw, but $10k is a nice round number). Usually, it'll be split into two or three pieces. In my case, it was signing the contract (or on signing), a third when the book and its various rewrites and changes meet publisher expectations and it's accepted to head off to production (on acceptance), and the final third when the finished, printed, published book is released for sale (on publication). So, the publisher would cut three checks of  $3333.33 each.  If you have an agent (and, imho, if you're being traditionally published, you should) your agent gets a piece of the action, usually 15%. The publisher sends every payment to your agent, they remove their portion, then send you a check from their agency for $2,833.33 for each advance payment. An agented writer's total income from the $10k advance is $8500.

Publication contracts usually have a whole section dedicated to time, as in when various things should happen. The writer (you) must deliver a completed manuscript by a particular date, the book should head off to production by a particular date, the book will be published on a particular date, and the publisher will pay you (for the advance and any subsequent royalties) by a particular date. Usually, advances are paid within 30 days of the signing, acceptance, and publication milestones. Royalties are calculated once or twice a year (generally June 30 and/or December 31) and the publisher then has a specific time window (often 90 days) to pay any royalty income (again, to your agent, should you have one). Agencies have a much quicker turn around time - they want to keep their writers happy. I generally get a check from my agency within a week of my publisher's cut off day. The publisher will usually delay payment as long as they can.

So, that $8500 is spread over three payments that might take as long as two years to get fully paid to the writer.

Unlike a lot of rumors I heard when I was working on my first novel, a writer does NOT have to pay back the advance should the book be a sales dud. The publisher uses the advance as an Advance on Future Sales, and they're essentially making a bet that the book will sell enough copies to make that much money back, if not more. If it doesn't, their gamble didn't pay off. You still get to keep the money.

Okay, finally we're to Royalties.

When a writer signs their publication contract, there's a whole section dedicated to the amount of royalties each book will earn. They're sometimes broken down into sets of units sold (so the writer's royalty rate increases as they sell more than 100,000 copies or a million) and there are usually different royalty rates on hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, and ebook versions.

To keep things simple, let's put a 10% royalty rate on a mass market paperback that the publisher has decided to sell for $8.00 cover price (actual royalty rates for mass market are usually around 6-8%, but 10% is an easier number). With every single book that sells, the writer gets 80 cents. So a thousand sold books earns the author $800. However, the writer was already paid an advance on sales, so, at 80¢ per book, it will take 10,625 books sold before the author has paid off their $10,000 advance (this is referred to as 'the book has earned out'). After that, and only after that, does the writer start getting royalty checks.

Does that make sense? Every book counts toward paying off the advance, but once the book's earned out the author will receive a royalty payment for subsequent sales.

Publishers usually calculate royalties once or twice a year, then they have their grace period (usually 90 days) before they have to pay the writer and, sometimes, it's within 60 days of the 90 days or other crazy delaying tactics. Frankly, this is a major reason why writers need agents. They will negotiate much better terms for royalty rates, payment speeds, cover prices, and what other rights the author keeps (like foreign print, audio, film, etc) because without an agent the publisher might keep pretty much everything and only pay out 120 days after the 6 months after the end of year. So it might take 2 years to get paid for book sales. It's crazy.

But, anyway, our writer's book earns out! At the end of year royalty calculation they've sold a thousand copies more than the 10,625 break even point and the publisher sends a payment of $800 to the agent some time the following spring. The agent then sends our writer a royalty check for $680. Yay!

As long as the book is in print and selling copies, whether it's for six weeks or twenty years, it will continue to receive royalties. Publishing contracts stipulate under what conditions the rights revert to the author or their heirs (common ones are stalled sales or a specific time limit). The book can then be re-sold to that same publisher (with a different contract), another publisher, or simply fade from publication.

Most writers never hit the big money of bestseller lists and, frankly, most books don't earn out at all, but  even a small royalty check is nice when it comes. :)

19 April, 2012

Q is for Quilting

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

Finally, something fun to blog about!

I began quilting almost 22 years ago. I'd sewn quite a lot of our daughter's baby clothes and had all sorts of scrap hunks, nothing big enough to for more clothing, but too big to throw away (I have issues about wasting things).

Anyway,  I decided that  people used to make quilts out of their scrap hunks so maybe I should, too. I gathered them up, found a pattern for a star I kinda liked, and I even went out and bought a bedsheet to use for the 'white part'.

Then I had to trace and cut what seemed like eight-hundred-gazillion pieces for a bed sized quilt. It was made from the cheapest fabrics at the dime store (all I could afford) and a couple of bedsheets. 

I still have it.

My first quilt ever. It's a hot mess.
I was so, so proud of what I'd made, at least until it started falling apart. I'd made so, so many mistakes out of ignorance, but back in 1990 there weren't a lot of handy resources on quilt making. I went back to sewing baby clothes because they were easier, cheaper, and didn't fall apart.

Iowa State Quilters Challenge, 1995.
Then one day, our local PBS station showed a new program on Saturdays. Strip Quilting with Kay Wood. The woman is a freaking genius and I was almost immediately hooked. With Kaye's guidance (and a cutting mat, cutter, and one ruler), I made a little bargello wallhanging out of my baby-clothes scraps (Laura still has it hanging on her wall, it's so cute). 

Snowmen Door Hangers, 2009
Now that I had a little more confidence, I decided to tackle Kaye Wood's take on a Lone Star Quilt. I don't have it anymore (it was the first quilt I gave away, to my new niece, Jordan) but it turned out pretty darn good (and I think Jordan still has it, too). I had to go out and buy Kaye's special triangle ruler, another first. I started buying greater amounts of fabric when shopping to make baby clothes so I'd have enough for quilting. I started subscribing to Quiltmaker Magazine (I'm still a subscriber). And I taped every episode on Saturday afternoons.

Color Challenge Quilt, 2010
Yep, I was hooked.

Threads of Malice Tour Quilt, 2006

I've since figured out quarter inch seams and never use sheets for anything but, well, sheets. I also no longer buy the cheapest fabric I can find, in fact I don't flinch at $12 a yard - or higher - fabrics. I've done hand and machine applique, and hand and machine quilting (I prefer using my sewing machine for both). I've entered quilts in competitions that I've won, and a lot more that I didn't.

Winners Bouquet, 2012
I do all sorts of techniques and styles, but my fabric choices are almost always scrappy. I wouldn't hesitate to use more than one hundred different fabrics, if I thought the quilt needed them (my most, so far, is more than 400 in one quilt).
Christmas Table Runner, 2010
I've sewn so many quilts that I've burned out the motor on two sewing machines. 

Pieced Dawgies, 2012
And I still give away almost every quilt I make.

Twice As Nice, 2011
Quilting keeps me sane, and helps me remain happy. It's a great hobby to have. 

Henry's Quilt, 2010

17 April, 2012

P is for Politics

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

Boy, I musta been over caffeinated when I picked my topics for the month. ;)

Here's hoping I don't piss too many people off.

I was born into a family of liberal democrats, married a man who considers himself extremely conservative, and I fall awkwardly between.

Yes, I am - gasp! - a centrist. A moderate. One of those wishy washy middle people who tries to find a reasonable compromise and thinks the screaming folks at both ends of the spectrum are equally nuts.

Sorry if you're one of them and that bothers you, but this is my blog.

I have a few hot-button issues, but mostly I'm socially moderate with a slight liberal lean, and economically moderate with a slightly conservative lean. In short, I straddle the political fence.

I know that anyone's life can go to hell without warning - sudden job loss, house destroyed by fire, accident, whatever - and there should be programs and safety nets to help. However, I do not believe in a life long (or generations long) free ride. I'm happy to help pick someone back up, dust off their backside, then, once they're moving forward again, let them go on their way, but I don't want them camped out on my couch forever. Also, I tend to learn from my screwups and I get aggravated when someone apparently doesn't get it despite making the same damn mistake over and over and over. Once, okay, here ya go! Twice....  eh, fine. Third time, figure it out for yourself. I'm not your mommy.

I'm apparently a hard ass that way.

I refuse to go to church, but I donate to charity. A LOT. In fact, every penny of my ebook sales is donated to charity, plus I'm a regular contributer to our local animal shelter (I buy bags of cat food and drop it off at their door), our local homeless shelter (I donate groceries), local library (new, current books), hospice (quilts), volunteer fire department (fundraiser supper and raffle tickets) and the battered women's shelter (I've sent books, clothes, toys, money...). I also happily buy whatever crap local kids are selling door to door because if some kid has the guts to go around knocking on doors, the least I can do is buy a candle or package of cookies.

I believe abortions should be safe and legal, but they shouldn't be the 'first choice' option for birth control (there are lots and lots of ways to not get pregnant in the first place so wise up and use something!), nor should late term ones be allowed except under medical necessity (why can't they just c-section deliver the babies and adopt them out??). I couldn't imagine having one myself, but I don't feel it's my place to tell someone else they can't, especially if they've been molested or raped or there's something medically wrong with them or their baby.

I believe in personal responsibility, not government control.

I believe that we need to stop shitting in our own ecological living rooms by polluting our water and land and air, and there should be tight regulations on industry to ensure our environment is kept clean, but I think Carbon Credits are a bunch of hooey. They're just another way for someone in a fancy suit to make money. Also the first step in improving our environment should be to STOP RIPPING UP WILD AREAS. You want a new factory or housing development, put it where urban blight has left vacant buildings to crumble and decay. Clean that up, repair and rebuild what we already have, and leave the remaining wild places alone. Then expand the wild places, not with rows of easy-to-maintain pine trees, and kentucky bluegrass, but with the same kinds of wild plants, trees, streams and whatever else that was here before we came and ripped them out in the first place.

You wanna be green? Don't build a new house, buy an old one and fix it up. Think of it as upcycling. And it's cheaper, too.

I'm a flat taxer. Simplify the damn tax code already and I don't care if you charge every citizen the same $$ amount or the same percentage, just make it simple enough a 4th grader can figure it out. You made this much, you pay that much. End of story. We could do it with postcards, it'd be so easy.

While we're simplifying the tax code, simplify legislation, too. Bills should have one piece of legislation on them, not a pile of expensive riders just so some Senator's brother's company gets a lucrative contract for something that's essentially worthless. One thing. If it's a bill for housing for the poor, then that's all it is. Vote on that, just that. Additional funding for low-rent housing in an economically blighted area? Pick one, yay or nay, and let's move on. Quit padding the popular bills with expensive crap, and passing horrid, freedom-crushing legislation because it has one good rider stuck in there everyone wants. Pass the good stuff, vote down the crap. How can that be so difficult?

Citizens have to live within their means and the government should, too. Suck it up and get it done. If someone's living expenses get too high and they dig a deep debt-hole to pay for it (like our government has done oh so well), private individuals generally have to do two things at the same time: make more money and cut expenses. The government needs to do that, too. Maybe they can hire Congressmen out as babysitters on weekends or make Senators greeters at WalMart or something. Have congressional staffers fry burgers, I dunno. No, wait! How about cut spending and raise taxes?? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Also, you cannot have every freaking program under the sun for free, okay? Social programs cost money and have massive staff and overhead requirements. That money has to come from somewhere, it's not freely floating around the air. It's not. If a program is needed, something else has to be cut. In the opposite hand, you can't keep crushing the working class and expect the economy to grow. There has to be a balance in there, between all the cuddly teddy bears on one side and the corporate interests on the other. We need BOTH, okay? Big business and social programs. We do. Don't expect the ever shrinking working class alone to fund all these programs.

And, goddammit, stop allowing any private company that receives government funds to give big bonuses to its executives when the company LOSES MONEY, especially if they're still in debt to the government. That's freaking insane! Btw, if a large company is losing money, it's not the lowly clerk's fault. The worst they're doing is wasting a few staples and staples are cheap. Don't fire the clerks and janitors to trim payroll and expenses because, frankly, it's stupid. Losses are the big-shot decision maker's fault. Fire them instead because they're the ones going through huge budgets like they're breath mints with expense accounts and thousand dollar suits and trips to Barbados and crazy ass ideas that don't do anything but burn money. Clear out corporate (and governmental) bloat from the top down, not the bottom up, and most everything will run a lot smoother.

Lastly, I think that just about every politician above the local level is a greedy crook and the only real difference between the two parties is the color of the team-stamp on their foreheads.

As an illustration of the above comment, as a centrist I have noticed that the Right is calling Obama almost word-for-word the EXACT SAME THINGS the Left called Bush. Same complaints. Same descriptive put-downs. Same extremist paranoias. Same every freaking thing. Oh, the specific details might vary. A little. Bush had Haliburton, Obama has Solyndra, that kinda thing. But it's the same crap as the last guy and, frankly, I've seen little difference between them. I also don't love or hate either of them. I rate both as 'meh', they're okay, I guess. Just one more rich guy in a suit tying to separate me from my money, and slowly boiling the frog of my personal freedoms. But, then again, so has every other administration and congress I can personally remember. I've lost count how many times one side proposes this idea that the other side DESPISES then, two years later (or four or ten) the second side proposes the same dang thing, only this time it's the FIRST SIDE that despises it. Heck, how many times has a politician ran on tearing down the other guy because he voted for this crap thing, or slept with that prostitute, or took money from that dastardly interest group or whatever, then, once elected, did the exact same thing. It happens so much we barely notice any more.

They're all crooks, and they're all in this together. Their primary goal is more power for them, less for us. As long as we keep taking sides against one another, the red vs the blue, the politicians win and we all lose.

When talking about local people serving in local offices like city councils and county boards and things, some are really great people trying to make a difference, some are wannabe bigshots who'll screw over anyone who isn't greasing their palm. By the time a politician's reached the national level, the genuinely-trying-to-make-a-difference has almost always been beaten (or bought) out of them. As far as I'm concerned, professional politicians suck.  Politics sucks. No matter who wins, we're all screwed.

Deep breath.

Thank goodness tomorrow it's all about Quilting. I'm getting rather tired of these aggravated emotional topics. ;)