Free Books and Unicorns

Photo by Andrew Kuchling.
Unicorn! photo by Andrew Kuchling.

Today, you will find me over at the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Romance Writers’ Blog talking about copyright and the internet for authors and humans beings in general. It’s fun, sexy stuff. What? You don’t think so?

Because I have been remiss in sending out monthly newsletters, which are really just an excuse for me to give away copies of books I love, I am going to give away three ebooks this month to three different subscribers. Join my mailing list (below) for a chance to win one of these wonderful reads.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – It’s still my favorite book of all time and it should be yours too.
Unmasked Heart by Vanessa Riley – A Regency Romance with a surprising heroine.
Rock Hard by Nalini Singh – I do not read contemporaries very often but this one is swoon worthy.



An Honest Look at the Finances of an Indie Author

Photo by Bart Heird.
Photo by Bart Heird.

One of the things I love about the writing community, and the indie author community in particular, is its transparency. Gone are the days when discussions about contracts and money were things you just did not do. I applaud authors who are forthright with what contracts say and how much they make. This transparency helps us all learn and be realistic about our prospects.

I have had books on sale for over a year and I completed my first tax return in which I had sales to report. Since today is officially tax day, I thought it would be beneficial to share what taxes look like, honestly, for newbie indie author.

This was not an easy post to write. I will admit that being this transparent is nerve-wracking, but I believe it is important.

Disclaimer: I did not become an author to make gobs of money. I became an author because I have stories to tell and I love writing. Yes, I want people to read my books and like them, but even if I never published another book, I would keep writing. It is part of who I am.

Another Disclaimer: I am in this writing books thing for the long haul. I have done my industry research and I know I will need more books in my backlist before I start making any meaningful money. I define “meaningful money” as my books pay for themselves and that book reading habit I have.

Here are the numbers:

First, I tracked how much production cost for each book I have produced. This only includes my outside costs. It does not include my own labor cost for things like formatting.

book cost totals

 

 

 

Clarifications:
Content Edits include developmental edits and line edits.
Copy Edits are the last round of edits and include copy editing only.
Covers also includes all the Twitter and Facebook banners and other graphics for each book.

These numbers do not include an entire hosts of other expenses which includes, but is not limited to the costs of: ISBNs (I used to be a librarian. I think these are expensive but important.), proof copies of the paperbacks, software I use to compile the ebooks, traveling to a writers conference, traveling for research, copies of the print books I order to do giveaways, other giveaway items, envelopes for mailing, postage, marketing, writing classes, books on writing, domain costs, web server costs, professional organization dues, or the sheer amount of caffeine I consume in the form of tea and coffee per year.

If you total up the production costs (not including anything from the paragraph above) of putting out three books, the total is a whopping $3,965, averaging $1,321.67 per book.

There are cheaper ways to make books. You can forgo hiring a professional editor. You can hire a cheaper editor. You can buy stock covers or make your own. You can rely on readers or beta readers to do your copy editing.

You can. You can do all those things, but I do not. I want to put out the best possible book I can write. That means, I contract out the best people I can find and pay them decent money for the very hard work they do for my books. Some authors pay more than I do. Some pay less. The best thing about being an indie is I choose, and this is the path I have chosen. Your path may differ and that is okay.

Now for the hard truth. My tax returns included sales for the first two books which combined cost me $2,630.50 to produce. The third book, Letters in the Snow, did not go on sale until early in 2016. I included it here for comparison purposes.

With two books on sale, I made a whopping $448 last year.*

I did not forget any digits. That is $448 before taxes.

This is the hard truth of self-publishing, but I have friends who have gone the traditional route and their finances do not look that much better than mine.

What it means:

I am not going to lie. The numbers are disheartening, but I know they can get better. They will, eventually.

I still have a ton of work to do. I have mountains of words to write. If I want to make more money, I have to write more books. Good books, maybe even great ones. Books people want to keep reading at any rate. The ones out already get fabulous reviews, so I know I have the start of an audience and that is an amazing thing all by itself.

If you are new to publishing or thinking of jumping in, it is absolutely worth it. I did not write this post to scare you. I did it so you do not work under the belief that writing, packaging, and marketing books is an easy wave your wand thing to do. Mrs. Weasley is not going to do all that work for you, my dear. It is work, rewarding, but work.

For most of us, it also takes time. This is not my full-time job. It is another job I do, in addition to many other things that require my attention. I wish I did hide in a little hut all day and write, but that is not reality. I am learning to be content with the time I am have and be wise in my use of it.

My best advice? Do your homework and make an informed choice. Even more than that, find a circle of cheerleaders who will jump down the rabbit hole with you.

The even better advice? Keep writing, my friends.

*Updated: That is gross, not net. I lost money in the long run.

Finding Safe Harbours

Photo by Chad Sparkes.
Photo by Chad Sparkes.

If you talk to me long enough, you will probably know a few things about me. I am a Christian, I read a lot, and I am a geek girl to my core. My dad raised me to love Star Trek and scifi and it was the one lesson I never argued about.

I loved Joss Whedon before he directed The Avengers and non-geek people took notice of him. My movie collection contains Buffy, Angel, multiple copies of Firefly and Serenity, and a fan film (not made by me). I have books that discuss his world creation and the fandoms that have resulted from the work of this geek god.

I tell you this so you will understand that I love him with zealousness, but I realized last week that he does one thing that I do not like.

He never lets his characters be happy and he keeps a sense of realism by killing off characters we love. Main characters that are unhappy, unfulfilled, or facing the yawning portal of doom drive forward and move the plot along.

This means, as a viewer, I always knew that, while the bad guys might get caught, relationally everything could go to hell (literally in Buffy and Angel) in a moment. If two characters settled down and were happy, one of them would die, or leave, or have a pesky soul getting in the way of them consummating their relationship. If two characters had been pining for each other, the moment one decided it was time to move the relationship forward, the object of their desire would move on, tired of waiting.

It ripped out my guts. It broke my heart. I can describe all those heart-wrenching scenes from those shows because they slayed me. (word choice intended)

I still love Joss Whedon. I think he is a genius, but all that emotional upheaval without some safe harbour is exhausting.

This lack of safe harbour is one of the reasons why I broke up with the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. For the non-geek, they are the Game of Thrones books. I read three or four of them, praying they would get better, but my prayers were in vain. Nothing good ever happens in those books to the characters and if it does, they die a horrible death or want they want/need gets horrifically snatched away. It was emotionally draining and no amount of great prose and character development made up for the way it hacked away at my heart with no glimpse of it ever making a turn for the better.

Recently, I read At Blade’s Edge by Lauren Dane and I realized Joss Whedon and the Martin books scarred me. At Blade’s Edge is the fourth in the Goddess With a Blade series and I highly recommend it. Like drop everything and read this book, recommend it. In the fourth book, Rowan, the main character, has finally found a safe harbour in the midst of a very violent and responsibility filled life. Her harbour grounds her, makes her stronger and lets the reader know that things can still be going to hell in a hand basket, but there is hope.

The entire time I as reading At Blade’s Edge, I was waiting for the rug to be pulled out from underneath me. Dane has never done this to me as a reader, the way Whedeon and Martin do, but a sense of dread followed my reading. I was so caught up in my worry, I failed to let myself become emotionally attached to the relationship cementing on the pages. I was waiting for the worst to happen and for Rowan’s harbour to be smashed to pieces. I wanted desperately for that not to happen. It did get dented, but at the end of the book, Rowan’s harbour is, mostly, in tact and that made me realize something.

There is power in a safe harbour.

I want the characters I love to have one good thing even if the world around them is crumbling at their feet. I need them to be able to come back to one person they love and who loves them back. I want an HEA* or some semblance of it. I need it. Not only do the characters need a safe harbour, so do I.

I am not talking about a unicorns pooping rainbows kind of HEA. It does not have to be perfect, but I do want some hope at the end, a light that tells me all is not lost for the characters I have come to love. I think everyone deserves some peace and happiness.

I know that real life is not like that. I know many people live desperate, horrible lives filled with pain, abuse, hunger, and death. Life on this planet sucks an awful lot.

But sometimes it doesn’t and we need to be reminded that life can be good. Life can be great, fantastic, and amazing.

When I read a book, I want to be entertained by hope and happiness. You can take me to hell, but I want you to drag me back from the brink before you write The End.

As a writer, I can promise, even with only a few books under my belt, that I will never leave you without a safe harbour to dock your ship, fold up sail, and have a nice rest with someone you love.

 

*Happily Ever After

 

A Matter of Word Usage: The Post

Snow Field by Chris Ford
Snow Field by Chris Ford

Today, a rant for you.

I am a word person. I like words. I love the way some words roll off your tongue, like fisticuffs. I love what some words imply, like shenanigans. Words are important.

I admit, I might be a word person, but I am not a spelling person. You can’t have it all.

I want to take up the matter of what has become a common word usage that bothers me. Very few of you probably care or have noticed. I want to discuss the blog post.

This website is a blog. A blog is a website with entries that are chronological, usually with the newest appearing first. There are video blogs (also called vlogs) picture blogs, word blogs, and music blogs.

The individual entries on a blog are called posts. Their long name is a blog post. This entry you are reading is a blog post.

The problem is that I have noticed with annoying frequency that people refer to a post as a blog. They say, “I wrote a blog.” or “I posted a blog.”

I know why this had come about. Most of us are, at heart, very lazy and blog post is two words. People have just started saying blog when they really meant blog post or simply post.

The problem is that calling a post a blog means something entirely different than the way it is being used. “I wrote a blog” means you wrote an entire website which, in your defense, you may have done. It’s like a journalist saying “I wrote a newspaper.” They did not write a newspaper, they wrote an article for the newspaper.

It is more appropriate and correct to say “I wrote a post” or “I posted on my blog” or even “I wrote a blog post.”

I know this makes me a word snob, but the words we use have meaning. We argue over the use of certain words we find offensive because words matter.

Blog post, blog, and post matter very little in the grand scheme of things, but all words matter, no matter how small. Please, I beg you, stop using the word blog incorrectly.

Thanks for reading my blog post and rant. Have a fabulous Friday.

 

Sometimes, You Have to Say It

Picture from Fatma .M
Picture from Fatma .M with permission.

It is 5:20 am, which is too early for civilized humans, and I have the Reading Rainbow theme in my head. I loved that show. Incidentally, you can now relive your childhood by making your children watch the awesome that is Reading Rainbow on Netflix.

That is not why I started this post.

I was writing a letter to my editor this morning, congratulating her on the launch of her new focus, what she was already being fabulous at, being a word guru, and I realized part of the email needed to be a blog post.

A few years back I read something or heard something which talked about how we never know how much time we have and that all our relationships were precious. They went on to say that we spend a lot of time not telling people that we care about that we care about them. What a waste of precious time.

I grew up in a big, very loving family, the kind where you have to hug and kiss everyone when you come in and when you leave. It takes a long time to make it through the house, but I always knew, beyond a doubt that those people loved me dearly. As the years past and we grew up to have kids of our own, we still greet each other with hugs and kisses, it just takes a lot longer to make it through the house.

After hearing that, I decided I would be honest with people and tell them when they were important to me because there are a lot of people I love and I wanted them to know it as often as I could say it.

I do not think this diminishes the words when I say them. It is not like the argument that goes like this: If we say, “I love pizza.” and “I love the mountains.” and “I love my husband.” all the loves become meaningless. The love I have for pizza does not diminish how much I love Mr. Rochester. I do really love pizza. I love the mountains with a soul crushing love and I would do absolutely anything, go anywhere for Mr. R. I love them all.

Many languages have multiple words for love and we only have this one word: love. I think the word takes its meaning from the context of the discussion. Do I love my children the same way I love a good book? No, though occasionally I wish I had less of one or the other which depends on the day and the volume of the arguing going on over the legos.

I think it is ok to love pizza, my kids, my husband, my friends, and my family because I do love them. Not only do I love them, I want them to know it. I never want them to doubt when I am gone that I cared for them, deeply. I want them to know I prayed for them and rejoiced for them and loved them. And yes, in case you were wondering, I did pray for that pizza. I blessed it unto my body as a gift from the Lord because pizza and beer are amazing.

The thing about words is that you have to back them up with something. I love my children, but I treat them like I love them too. I love my husband and so I try to do things I know he prefers, even when they are not my preference. I love my friends so I listen to them and spend time with them. I hope that my actions match my words.

I know sometimes they do not because I also love myself and sometimes I am selfish.

Today, someone you care deeply for needs to know it. How often to people get to be told they are loved? Be a blessing in someone’s life today and tell them they are important to you.

Sometimes, you just have to say it.

Book Birthday: Storm in the Mountains

Storm Cover

 

Today is the day I launch book two of the Turning Creek series into the wild. Storm in the Mountains tells the story of Marina and how she finds her true purpose. With Marina, things are never easy. In this book, you will find saloon fisticuffs; throw-down brawls with monsters of all kinds; women who love their whiskey, tea, and coffee; a harpy who is always ready for an adventure; dialog full of wit and snark; and a man who knows the best things sometimes have the biggest thorns.

Here is the blurb:

Marina Ocypete is a harpy, a Remnant of the Greek myth living in a small town in the Colorado Territory She would rather start a decent fight than sit around idle. The local sheriff offers her a job as a deputy which seems like a better choice than suffering from boredom, but Reed Brant has a way of getting under her skin.

With the influx of Remnants in his town, Reed needs Marina’s skills as a harpy to keep the peace. His head knows she is not the get married and settled down type he wants, but she might be just the thing his heart desires.

When women start disappearing in Turning Creek, it will be up to Marina and Reed to find the cause behind the fear gripping their town. Marina will have to choose between a fate she never questioned and the man who makes her believe even a harpy can have a heart.

Order your very own copy at these fine establishments:

print: Amazon, CreateSpace
ebook: Amazon, Google Play, Kobo, Nook, AllRomance

Links will go live as soon as vendors are up.

To celebrate Marina’s book birthday, I am giving away a Colorado Book and Coffee package which includes a signed copy of Lightning in the Dark, a signed copy of Storm in the Mountains, a Colorado coffee mug, a tree ornament made from recycled Colorado pine, and a bag of gourmet coffee. Click on the entry form below and share with your friends!
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Sometimes, We Cry Over the Silliest Things

For Mother’s Day, I shared a snippet of my journey through being a mom of a baby in the NICU. I thought I had faced most of those demons, but we defrosted our fridge last weekend.

When I came home from Texas Children’s Hospital, the Milk Bank sent me home with over 100 bottles of breastmilk I had pumped while staying at the hospital. They represented hours of work and tears. I put them all in the chest freezer. We did not use bottles and they all just sat there. I knew the effort that I had put into those bottles, so I started looking into donating them. It turns out that donating breastmilk is not at all easy to do. Nearly impossible, which is very sad.

Then, Hurricane Ike made an appearance.

We live less than four miles from the coastline and, while we may be at the high point in our neighborhood, we are always in one of the first zones to evacuate. We went north to safety with our four month old baby in tow. Our house was fine, but the electricity went out for about 24 hours. The chest freezer contents were alright, but I did not want to take a chance on the milk if it had even defrosted a little. I had to throw it all out. It was difficult, but I did it.

There was this one bottle though, wedged in a corner and cemented in ice. It would not budge and I left it there.

Seven years later, it was time to defrost the freezer. Past time, actually. I unloaded all the other contents and there was that bottle. I had forgotten it was there, covered up by some cranberries and juice from the lemon tree. It was wedged tight, still. I turned off the freezer and waited. A couple hours later, I knelt down, pulled out the bottle, and took it inside.

I put it on the counter.

I never could fill these things up by pumping. I'm in awe of working moms who do.
I never could fill these things up by pumping. I’m in awe of working moms who do.

The label has his name, medical number (which I had memorized after a few days because I wrote it so often), the date (6/2/08), the time (8am), and medications (which I never listed because I was too tired to write advil every dang time).

I moved it around the counter.

I carried it around the kitchen. I put it in the fridge. I took it out. I put it back on the counter. I looked at it all day.

I could not throw it away.

That night, I was washing dishes, looking at it sitting on the counter, and I started to cry.

That bottle was hours of sitting in a curtained off space in the Milk Bank at Texas Children’s. It was oceans of tears shed while I begged God for the life of my son or the fortitude to survive if he did not. It was words of prayer sent up. It was almost seven weeks of sleeping at the hospital, going to the Milk Bank every 3 hours without fail to pump. It was mastitis and wondering if I was making an effort for nothing. It was pain and heartache.

That bottle was realizing that my baby might live. It was falling in love with Mr. R all over again as he read C.S. Lewis to our boy who we had never yet heard cry. It was holding Gideon for the first time when he finally got off ECMO and was stable. It was rejoicing when I was able to feed him for the first time. It was joy and peace.

That bottle is still sitting in my fridge. Mr. Rochester asked me today if I wanted him to throw it out. I said no. I think I will pour out the milk and save the bottle.

I want to be reminded of that time. I want to remember the tears and the joy. I want to look at it and remember to be thankful for what I have been given because it is a blessing, that child that lived against all odds. I want to remember what it feels like to be cast into the fire and come out refined. I want to remember so I will remember to share my story.

Sometimes we cry over silly things and sometimes we remember why we are blessed by those tears.

Making a Better To Do List

I am not the most organized person owing mostly to the fact that I like piles. Piles of paper. Piles of books. Piles of stuff. My secret organization technique is to leave something in a nice pile for a few months, go through it, realize most of it is too old to be useful, and throw it away. Mr. Rochester does not approve of this.

The one thing I do that is organized is keep a To Do list. Honestly, who does not love crossing things off a list with a fist pump into the air every time you finish a chore? Sad people, that’s who.

About a month ago, a friend pointed me to a To Do list created by Ann Voskamp. (You have to sign up for her newsletter to download the PDFs, annoying, but effective.) I loved that her To Do list had different sections because I often found myself making multiple lists for different things. I decided to try out the list for a month, see what I liked, and what I wanted to change.

What I loved about Ann’s lists:

Menu: I make a weekly meal plan but it was nice to list out the meal for the day on my daily list. It helped me double check ingredients in case the boys had consumed all the milk, cheese, everything in the pantry since I made the weekly menu and went to the store.

She has a section that includes a memory verse, a relationship you were working on, and doxology (a place to write what you are thankful for). These three sections helped me be intentional about what verse or chapter of the Bible I was reading that day, who I wanted to pray for or pay special attention to, and giving thanks for the very many blessings I have in my life.

There is a section for “The Day’s Dire,” things that absolutely must get done that day in addition to a regular To Do list. There is also a timeline for the day so you know if your list is longer than the hours you actually have.

What I did not find useful:

Ann lists Daily To Dos and Domestic To Dos separate from other To Dos. It annoyed me to have my To Dos in so many places. I also never used the “Dailies” list because how disheartening is it to write dishes, laundry, pick up. Every. Single. Day. Just thinking about it makes me sad. Writing it down makes me want to cry. Daily housework sucks out my soul and I did not need to be reminded of that monster eating me bite by bite. The Domestic To Dos list was annoying in the same way but I just disliked having them in a different place. Laundry and vacuuming are not on a different priority level than running errands so I wanted them all together. If I do not go to the store, we starve. If I do not vacuum, the dust bunnies revolt against their human overlords. Either way, we die a horrible death.

I never used the area for workout, food log, or water intake. I do not currently work out and I feel no guilt whatsoever about this.

New and Improved, for Me

I created a new Daily Lists sheet this morning (link goes to a pdf of the form below). It includes everything I liked about Ann’s list and got rid of the things I did not need.

Daily List Pic

 

I changed “Memory Verse” to The Word. I like to read the same sections or chapters for a week or so at a time, then move on. While I was testing Ann’s lists out, I was (and still am) reading through Galatians, one chapter a week at a time. I kept the work “Doxology” because it reminds of singing the Doxology in the church I grew up in. It also reminds me that while I am to be thankful for blessings I have been given, they have also been given to be used, not hoarded.

I put all the To Dos together. The items that are pressing for the day are starred and at the top.

I bought a cheap clipboard, covered it in purple owl duct tape, and viola. I have a fun new way to keep my daily life organized.

One Caution: No matter how many lists and plans you make, remember to always be flexible. Every day has it’s own surprises and we need to be mindful when we are called to change our plans in service to God and others.

Happy list making.

I Was Never Sure I’d Get Here: a Mother’s Day Post

I spent my first Mother’s Day as a mom as Texas Children’s Hospital. At the time, I had never heard my baby cry. I had only heald him briefly for a picture before he was hooked up to machines that beeped and keep him alive. It was days after Mother’s Day happened before I knew if I would ever spend another Mother’s Day with that precious child. I tried to be thankful that first Mother’s Day, but I did a lot of tearful praying and sometimes just in tears.

By the grace of God, that boy, Gideon, did come home eventually, healthy and ready to conquer the world.

Seven years later, I know have two boys, no longer so small as I think they are, who fill my life with laughter and the kind of shenanigans only boys can dream up.

I'n not sure what's more adorable, the turtle or those two boys.
I’n not sure what’s more adorable, the turtles or the boys.

Being a mom has been harder than I ever dreamed it would be and more rewarding than I imagined possible. Being a mom has made me a better person, though admittedly, I get by most days by the skin of my teeth and a large dose of God’s grace.

Mother’s Day is hard for some and joyful for others. If you are a mom, I hope you are showered with extra blessing today. If you are not a mom or if your mom is not here for you to hug, I hope you find someone to hold tight today and share a laugh with because this day is really about how we love each other. May your day be overflowing with love.

I never thought I would get to this place, but I am so thankful and happy I am here.

For the Joy of Books

My boys were on spring break this week so my days were filled with activities with them and revisions on Storm in the Mountains.

Monday, I woke early and crept quietly into the living room, curled on the couch, and continued to devour Written in Red. Gideon, the 6 year old, woke up first, grabbed his own book and joined me. Soon, we were a threesome when Wash came bearing his own book. We sat, snuggled together, reading, for over an hour. My boys bring me joy all the time, but the quiet peace of that morning was perfect.

This week, I was able to introduce my boys to one of the wonderful things about vacation: Buying new books for a trip. It took some convincing to get Gideon not to start reading his new books the very moment they arrived. I ended up hiding the books for the trip.

I remember hauling around stacks of books on vacation, even as a kid. My family drove everywhere, they still do, and I used those hours in the car to read.

Vacation packing is different now that I have a kindle, but I still need a handful of options for every trip. Here are some of my options, not all, for this trip:

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

The Trouble With Magic by Patricia Rice

Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle

Have a lovely week. I am going to have my nose in a book.