Life Observations

That’s the sound of a truck backing up. (Can you hear it?) Anyway, this week has been very frustrating. A virus wormed it’s way into my computer and infected EVERYTHING! Tentacles wound themselves so tight around my stuff that the tech guy couldn’t find the heart of the beast.

I was amazingly calm for someone who lives on her computer. I’m not exaggerating. I turn the thing on around 8 am and shut it down as late as 10 or 11 (if I’m writing–even later than that.) Besides my books, my budgets, both business and personal are electronic.

But when I called PCWebDoc.com (yep, that’s a shameless plug for an amazing business out of Pennsylvania) I was very calm as I told them my computer was being held hostage and I wasn’t sure I could get the ransom before … oh, sorry, that’s one of my books. Anyway, things looked very bleak for my dear electronic friend as I handed my very sick computer off to the PCWeb doctor at their ER. Well, I’ve already shared the story. (Scroll down two posts to “It’s Alive”.) Dan (whom I will always secretly love) remotely took over my computer and the news was baaaaaaaad!

But I was not panicked.

I have a handy-dandy flash or jump drive that holds every single one of my books. EVERY one of them. (Even the ones that are merely a page or two and just notes.) My finshed books along with all my author copies are tucked safely into it’s folds.

Plus …

My finished books AND author copies are burned on to CDs. I even have my book trailers and website/blog info stored on both flashdrives and CDs. Overkill? You betcha. But guess what? When Dan said it may wipe out everything. I didn’t shed a tear. Groaned loudly, but truly didn’t panic. All of my gems are right here next to me. I knew my babies were safe.

There are now online ways to backup your files though I’ve never been able to get one set up.

In the end, it didn’t come to that. Everything worked just fine and I didn’t lose even one day’s worth of writing. If you live on your computer and depend on it whether you’re a writer or not … BACK UP! BACK UP! BACK UP! and back up again. Because Dan mentioned this new virus smooth-talked its way around my firewalls and there’s a high probability, now that it has my number, it may very well come back a third time.

So, did I mention you need to be dilegent about backing up your stuff? You never know when some virus will come wandering into your sanctuary and steal away everything near and dear to you.

No matter what happens there are always two sides to any situation and when either is blind to the other it can become a very negative situation.

At the end of June an author friend of mine emailed me to tell me they’d found their books and every single one of mine on a site called LendInk. I’d link to it, but it’s recently been taken down. Of course at first blush the site looked like every other pirate site that was offering my books for free. Only … it wasn’t. It was a matchmaking service for kindle and nook owners who legitimately purchased books and were willing to lend them and readers who wanted to borrow them. (Please see THIS post for an explanation of how it works.)

But the site made authors noodgie. It’s scary watching your hard work being downloaded for free at sites where they don’t have your permission. Pirating is like a flu bug making you puke and weakening your resolve to keep writing.

So I completely understand when authors started banding together on twitter and facebook, sending DMCA notices to take down their books at LendInk. The fact is, they reacted before reading the fine print. (They had actually given Barnes & Noble and Amazon permission to have their books lent.) Hey, it happens. Authors are carrying a lot of responsibility for their careers these days. More, I believe, than any other time in publishing history. It’s a tough business with so many trying to carve out a career in the crazy noise of so many books.

And now LendInk is down and people are pissed … angry enough to post author names with twitter and facebook posts. (I’m not giving the link to that post.) One commenter mentioned he went to an indie store with the list and pulled all the authors’ books from the shelves. Others are boycotting the authors listed in protest.

And the whole thing makes me sad. Yes, LendInk was completely operating within Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s terms of service. Yes, they were making a small amount of money as Amazon Associates when someone clicked through their site and made a purchase on Amazon. Yes, readers were enjoying their site to find books to lend/borrow. BUT, for some authors, it smacked of, if not breaking the rules, definitely pushing the envelope of what Amazon and B&N had originally intended with their lending ability.

I completely understand why DMCA notices were sent. I understand why readers (and many authors who like the lending option) are upset the site was taken down. But making matters worse by punishing authors who felt they were only protecting their intellectual property seems to me, to be pushing things just a little too far.

Seriously as a middle child I’d just like to see everyone drop their pitchforks and torches, grab a coke and start singing:

Techdirt has a great explanation of how the whole thing unfolded (and I particularly admire their disclaimer at the beginning of the post).

*** NOTE: My apologies on missing a couple of posts the last couple of weeks. I’m working REALLY hard to edit my next book and seriously … these vampires are just NOT cooperating. But I’ll try to be better next week.  ***

I love to talk. I don’t mean just the usual dialogue that happens between friends and neighbors or a phone conversation with my sister. Nope, I’m talking industrial sized, get the earplugs out, run for the nearest exit, Nina’s opening her mouth kind of chatter.

Seriously. Mr. Nina once bet me that I couldn’t carry on a one-sided conversation for the duration of a three hour car trip—once. The poor man’s ears were bleeding by the time we arrived and I was still going strong. LOL! I have no trouble finding things to talk about.

Marketing on blogs, twitter and facebook are not a problem for me. It releases some of those pent up words. But I digress. This post isn’t really about social media and marketing, it’s about how much I love to share.

So it’s no wonder when I finish reading a really good book, I’ve been known to send the author a note to tell her how much I enjoyed the story. But then I’m quick to give compliments as well. All of us hear so few good things in the course of our day, I like to be that little piece of happiness (and it goes back to my need to chat with everyone) that brightens someone’s day. But I’m an anomaly I’m sure.

It seems like so few readers are willing to write a review for a book they love, let alone pen a quick note or email to their favorite author.

And I wondered why. Is it a new trend created by a generation that would rather text a brief message 40 times a day before sitting down to write a newsy letter? Has it always been this way? I’m curious, have you ever written to an author? Have you thought about it and didn’t for one reason or another? Let me know. I’m curious like that. Because trust me authors love to hear from readers.

When I was in high school I was very active in drama. (I know … such a surprise right? LOL!) When I was on stage I got to become anyone. A fat Russian spy. A traveling dancer entertaining a MASH unit. A woman married to a murderer. I loved it!

Being an author is a lot like acting on stage. When I write a scene I crawl into the skin of that character. Burrow into their heads and think like them. And I really enjoy writing from the man’s point of view (POV). Many female authors I read are very good at creating flawed male characters who rise above their pain and backgrounds to save the world and fall in love.

And I started thinking about this. Why are women so good at this? I think it’s because we’ve spent so much of our lives studying the opposite sex. It starts at a young age with our dads. When I wanted something–to borrow the car or stay out past curfew–I knew when to ask my dad and when not to broach the subject. I also grew up with three brothers. There’s a lot you learn with three male siblings as they go about their days just doing guy things.

I realize not every writer grew up with their dad or male siblings. But it doesn’t matter your home life, every day we interact with others. From the playground to the classroom to the office, we connect with both sexes. And since most women are intuitive, we pick up on little nuances of behavior that most men don’t see or recognize. Writers simply learn how to extrapolate that information and turn it into a believable hero readers fall in love with.

Here are a few guidelines in writing a male POV:
Men aren’t complicated
– They don’t say one thing and mean another
– They don’t mask their thoughts
– They are what you see

Men are Visual
– They have better light detection and depth perception
– Conversations often stem from visual cues
– Sexual attraction starts with what he’s seeing

Men are Problem Solvers
– They are “doers” not “thinkers”
– They like being in charge (or think they are)
– They rarely admit being wrong (and it’s even more rare they apologize)
– They aren’t detail oriented. They prefer the big picture
– They rarely ask for opinions

Men are conservative in communication
– They speak around 7,000 words per day (Women are more around 20,000)
– Connect to the physical rather than the emotional
– Don’t use euphemisms
– They rarely listen without giving advice
– Don’t use adjectives
– Don’t enjoy small talk
– Rarely use agreeing noises (uh huh, oh yeah)

(Any major characteristics I missed?) So what about you? Do you think female writers create believable heroes who act like real men OR do they create men who act and talk the way a romance reader would want a man to act? What do you think? I’m always curious about stuff like that.

Okay, it’s release day for Magic Mike …

And yeah, I totally want to go see this with some girlfriends. It looks like there are some awesome dance moves in this movie. *vbg* (And for some reason Mr. Nina doesn’t want to see this one … go figure! 😉 ) But it looks like I’m going to have to wait a day or two. In the meantime, I thought I’d post a little something for my female readers. An informal poll if you may.

This post actually stemmed from a conversation I had with my brother-in-law.
Me: I really like those jeans on you.
Him: *very puzzled* You think so? They have no shape. They just sort of hang on
me. You know like Don’s jeans.
Me: I remember Don’s jeans, I liked them too.
Him: I thought they were ugly. I’d rather have something that showed off my butt.

This conversation totally cracked me up. It never occurred to me that my BIL (who’s not a young guy) even thought about how his butt looked in his jeans. I guess that’s because I’m not a butt woman. There was a time in college when my roommate was appalled I didn’t look at guys’ butts. Well of course the geeky scientist in me stepped forward and decided to do a little research.

Everywhere I went I checked out guy’s butts. Swaddled in denim. Covered in gym shorts. Framed in painter pants. (Yep, showing my age there.) And I don’t remember if I thought any looked better than another. But I do remember after doing this for a couple of weeks, I was walking to the dining hall feeling like I had become obsessed with butts! I broke the habit right then and there. Because the truth is … butts don’t do it for me.

You know what makes me drool? Forearms and hands. Yep, strong, wide palms progressing to muscled forearms. *sigh* My thoughts definitely go to what those hands can do for me. (Like take out the trash or washing dishes … where were you going with that? Sheesh. *vbg*) Now if my gaze travels up that forearm, tripping over a sculpted biceps and further still to a well defined chest … well then I’m a total goner! I chalk it all up to a misspent youth hanging out at the beach. Lots of young shirtless men to enjoy. And they didn’t manscape back then. Everything was at it was intended to be. (But that’s a blog for another day.)

So what about you? When you’re watching the opposite sex … what takes your breath away? You know me, I’m curious like that. Oh, and are you planning on seeing Magic Mike? … For the dancing of course!

Okay, anyone who knows me understands two things 1) I’m assertive and really don’t mind if the opinions I share go against the grain. I don’t expect people to think like me, but I think it’s important to share all sides of a debate (as evidenced by this post). And 2) I hate it when I don’t understand something.

So when I kept hearing about the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) lawsuit against Apple and 5 of the big six publishers my spidey antennaes started twitching. But I’m not pubbed with the Big 6 (Harper Collins, Hachette, McMillan, Penguin Group, Random House, Simon & Schuster) nor do I have any manuscripts languishing, being held captive sitting on the desk of any editor or agent who will pitch my story to the big guns. So I was just kind of ignoring the tingle.

Then I noticed many authors were becoming impassioned by this discussion throwing around terms like “Agency Model”, “Author’s Guild”, “Collusion”, and “World Domination”, errr … I mean “Amazon Monopoly” and the twitch became a slow, burning vibration that could no longer be ignored. I’ve spent a good part of the last 3 days scouring the internet and annoying other writers to figure out what all the hoopla is about. And what I discovered is that this issue is a lot like taking a wild ride standing on top of a bi-plane… lots of wind with dips, twists and gasping that completely mess up your hair, but don’t seem to go anywhere. It’s very confusing and did I mention emotional? Yep, a bunch of “agreeing to disagree” stuff going on with this one.

First let me start with a couple of definitions:

Wholesale Model (or the way the big guys do it):
Publisher sets price ———-> Retailer gets book at 1/2 publisher’s price ————> Customer pays price RETAILER sets

Agency Model (Digital pubs & Self-Pubs):
Publisher sets price ———-> Retailer sells at set price (but receives 30% of sale) ——–> Customer pays price PUBLISHER set

That’s it in a nutshell. But if you’re like me and want a more indepth explanation check out Macstories. Yeah, I know the graphics on that blog are waaaay better, but I’m so much cuter. 😉

Anyhoodles.

Now the author’s guild (of which I’m not a member) and John Konrath are really slamming the whole Agency model of doing business. Why? Because if hardcover publishers use this model it really screws an author out of royalties. Mr. Konrath has a great post HERE about why it sucks (his words not mine).

For me, I repeat … For ME who is self-published and published through digital publishers, the agency model makes all kinds of sense. I know what royalty rate I’m making and whether it’s on net or cover price when I sign the contract. There are no questions.    Number of books X Royalty Percentage = Royalty Payment    Every. Single. Time.

So what’s all the hoopla you ask? Well, if you’re still with me I’ll explain. (In my terms and with a bit of humor NOT legaleze so hang tight.)

The DOJ is alleging that 5 of the big six publishers and Apple got together over double double lattes and scones to discuss how Amazon was soooo big they could undercut prices of books and sell them at a loss. If left unchecked this bully could eventually push other publishers out of business and become the only game in town. So these 6 discussed banding together and adopting the Agency Model of selling books. If they all agreed to a particular price for books as publishers, then through the agency model the retailer would have to sell them at that set price. No one could undercut. Unfortunately it’s illegal for a group of friends to make these sort of deals  lounging at the spa getting facials. Collusion is a bad thing and it’s the sort stuff that’ll get you a spanking (and not the good kind) and a hefty fine.

Jane from Dear Author has a very nice explanation of the whole lawsuit if you’d like more detail.

So how’s this affecting you as an author? Hmm, well, guess it depends on where your career fits in the publishing spectrum. The publishing landscape is changing faster than Cher at a concert and it’s important we all stay informed. Emotions run high when it affects our business. The trick is to gather all the information and make the best decision for you and your books. What makes sense for me might not be a good marketing strategy for you.

But I’m going to go out on limb and say … regardless of how the DOJ decides this case, I’m not placing bets on Amazon’s bid for world domination. Yeah they’re moving their armies across the proverbial Risk board. But see that strong hold over there at Kobo and the small armies sitting at Barnes & Noble? I’m betting that the next roll of the dice  will bring them right back into the game. What do you think?

 

Seriously, I’m not that old. But when I look at the world I realize there are sooooo many day-to-day things we take for granted that weren’t around when I was a kid. Not sure what I mean? Well how many of these things do you remember?

1. Corded wall phone – We had a phone on our kitchen wall. And it was attached. There was no walking around while you talked with someone. Video phones and communicators were seen only on Star Trek.

2. No video games – The first video games were actually in those big machines found in arcades at the fun park or in bars (which I obviously found out in college). We did have a game of “pong” that hooked to our television in the 60’s.

3. No Home Computers – When I was in college I worked for my Dad’s engineering company. The computers they used filled a special room where the floor and ceiling were suspended to protect the electronics. I got my first home computer three years into my marriage and it had a small screen with green square font and no printer.

4. Payphones – I don’t even know if you can find these anymore. But these phones were on the streets, in hotels and dorm halls. And just like its name, you had to put the money in to make a call and keep feeding in more coins while you talked. Germaphobes would not survive these beauties today!

5. No debit cards – You could get a credit card, but they were rare. We wrote checks for everything. This swipe and buy is completely new. My college professor talked about the advent of that kind of shopping and being paid without receiving a check … but we couldn’t imagine. (And of course by extension … no ATM’s)

6. Being called in for dinner – That’s right. We were out playing and when dinner was ready whoever was still in the house went to the back door and called for anyone who was out playing in the neighborhood. Every family did this.

7. Speed limit being dropped from 70 to 55 – I’ll never forget going from 80-85mph that my father used to travel on the highway down to 55. We thought we could run faster than the car was moving.

8. No remotes – We actually got off the couch to change the channel or turn the tv up. Of course it meant turning a dial either way, none of this digital number stuff.

9. Penny candy – Yep, we could find change in the couch and run up to the corner store and fill our pockets with penny and 1/2 penny candy. (Of course stamps were only $.08 when I wrote letters in middle school.)

10. Microwaves – If you didn’t defrost it … you didn’t eat it. Leftovers were heated in the oven or on the stove. I didn’t get a microwave until I’d been married for three years.

11. Video cameras – I remember when I was in high school my Nana won this device where you could record a movie, put it in this tv device and it would play the movie. We were amazed. I got a video camera as a gift when my oldest was a year old.

12. Music went from 45 rpm’s that we played on a small record player with a needle to 8 track tapes we could play in the car to cassette tapes to DVD’s. We still have our 33 lp’s from college and a turn table that our children are asking us to use again.

13. No Calculators – My sister is a couple of years older than I am. My dad actually went to her high school math class to show them how to use something called a slide rule. By the time I hit my junior year in high school the first calculators were coming out. They were the size of a small router and the manual was the size of a short novella.

14. No Leash Law – We had several dogs growing up. They scratched at the door when they wanted to go out and we let them run the neighborhood like a cat. There was no “cleaning up” after them. We had a dog that made his morning rounds and got scraps from our neighbors. He was a great little beagle named “Ralph”. (He even managed to get in the elementary school one day and a couple of teachers ran down the hall calling his name … seemed everyone knew our dog. LOL!)

I’m only 50 years old. My parents have seen even more changes in their lifetime. Can you think of anything I’ve missed?

I got nothing here people. Sorry about that. I’ve got all kinds of ideas, but can’t pull any of them together. My personal life is in total chaos. I can’t seem to pull my thoughts together to blog … let alone write. It’s a really crappy place and the really awful thing is that it’s all out of our control at this point. It’s been a year of questions without answers. A rollercoaster ride with plenty of dips and turns, but without the slow climb up to help us catch our breath.

At the end of this week I’m headed to the Maine Writer’s Retreat. I haven’t seen my home girls since last year and I’m in desperate need of a shot in the arm from these ladies. I’m hoping it will be enough to put my feet back on track again. This not writing thing is definitely not working for me!

In happier news I’ve use randomnumbers.com to choose a winnr from my Mother’s Day Post. Drum roll please …

 Congratulations to VIRGINIA from Florida!
you’ve won a copy of my book “Dangerous Affairs”

Mr. Nina and I went to see The Avengers this weekend. LOVED it! I would highly recommend it. There was a wonderful balance of action and humor … lots of laugh out loud moments. What about you? Seen any good movies recently?

This is a crazy month for me. Lots of traveling to visit family which is wonderful, but it also is cutting into my writing time. This is only a problem because I’ve really got to pull my act together and start working. I have plenty of projects, but I can’t seem to settle on one and get it finished. But I’ve decided that since my life is still kind of crazy at the moment that writing something totally new is a bit overwhelming. So I’ve decided to pull out a never-published book and do a complete rewrite. I’ve always loved the story, but it’s never caught the eye of a publisher. Which is fine. I’m sending it out in the world on my own. It’s a romantic suspense novel, which I understand isn’t selling through NY. Got to love this whole self-publishing avenue available to me now.

Anyway, since my other self-published books are beginning to sell I’d like to keep it going by releasing a new book. That means the pressure is now on to produce. Again, it’s my own personal goals that create the pressure, but still.

Every writer (whether they work full time at their craft or squeeze it in around another job) tries to find the balance between creating new stories and editing upcoming releases, promoting their books — and real life. Sometimes it’s a precarious balance.

I’ve found myself over the last few months ago frittering away my days. Bad. Very Bad. I spent my days typing at the computer, but somehow emails, Facebook, Twitter and visiting blogs were more important than putting words together to form chapters. 😀 hee hee. That’s me.

When I was in high school about every three months I’d fall apart, tears streaming down my cheeks claiming I couldn’t possibly live up to everyone’s expectations. My mother would calmly suggest I drop out of this or turn over the responsibility of something to someone else. I’d claim I couldn’t do it. Then I’d mop up my tears and rise to the challenge and of course I’d push through and meet all the deadlines and fulfill my responsibilities. It’s what I do.

After all these years, I’ve come to realize it’s how I’m hard wired. I can’t change it. Nothing but deadlines … a goal to finish by a certain date … works for me. It even happened when I was teaching. Even though I knew I wanted to create a new program I never buckled down and actually did it until I had the first group scheduled to come for the program. Then it was no holds barred until the research was done and the lesson plan complete. The deadline has to be real.

I’ve tried to participate in writing challenges, but there were no repercussions. No one except me knew if I didn’t finish. 1k 1 hour … just can’t seem to do it. I need to know something tangible is at the end. So, after being a published author for nearly four years, I’m finally figuring out what makes me tick.

So authors, how do you work best? Do you find deadlines (either actual or self imposed) motivational or do you like the freedom to create at your own pace? And if you have any secrets about keeping your productivity up, please share!

Curious authors want to know.

Today my man is going for a job interview. We pawed through his closet putting together the whole shirt/tie/suit jacket/pant ensemble. Did it match? Did it make a statement and if so, was it the right one? He’s a big guy and some clothes pinch around the collar or snug too tight around the arms. I thought if he was going to sit in a 2-3 hour interview he should be comfortable.

But he was much more concerned about the impression his clothes would make than his own comfort.

I know that’s how it’s supposed to be, but I just can’t wrap my head around that. The fact is, he could do the job just as well in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt as he can in a suit jacket and tie.

At home, I sit most of the day at my computer typing away, dressed in nothing more than my pj’s. The cats don’t care as long as I get up once in awhile to play with them and fill their food and water bowls. My editor and publisher don’t care what I wear as long as my writing is solid and tells a good story. And I suspect my readers don’t pick up my books wondering what I have on that day.

Of course I wouldn’t go out in public that way … I’m not that inappropriate. (Though I used to slip on boots and a winter jacket and cap over my pj’s and bed-messed hair to drive my kids to school, but that’s another story.) But I bump around in jeans and a sweater most days.

When I go to conferences I always end up buying new clothes. I want to look “professional”. I don’t do the suits and dresses like so many attendees, but I do wear colored jeans and dress shirts.

I know — always dress for success.

But aren’t I the same person in jeans as I am in slacks? Can’t I still write the same words and weave the same story despite my outer appearance?

Why exactly do the clothes make the person?

When you go to a book signing to meet your favorite author does it matter to you what he/she is wearing? Do you prefer to see a professional woman in a skirt rather than slacks? (As my father-in-law always insisted I wear a dress to an interview.)

As a teacher at an outreach Center I wore jeans every day. My dad came to visit and was appalled that one of the teachers came to the Center dressed in jeans. (Schools often relax the dress code for their teachers on field trips, so this wasn’t surprising to me.) When I questioned why he found it offensive he said the children won’t respect them and be polite. I had no issues with classroom managment and the kids didn’t know me from the tooth fairy … okay, maybe the tooth fairy … but you get my drift. The clothes didn’t make me a good or bad teacher.

Do the clothes, if they’re clean and neat, really make a difference to you? Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like that.

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