Thursday, March 31, 2011

Studies=Money That Could Be Wasted On Better Things

I'm so happy my parents chose an unassuming, boring name for me (albeit the spelling skews away from the norm).  No one has any preconceived expectations with a girl named "Sara" unlike people named Hunter, Angel, Barbie, Poindexter, Imagenius, Wallmartina, Futorapizzadeliveryguy. 

Studies (otherwise known as those expensive weekend hobbies scientists waste their funding on) such as this one take irritation to a whole new level.  Not only did it not answer a single question it set out to, but it probably wasted hudreds of thousands of dollars that could have been used for, oh I don't know, causes that actually help society in some way, shape or form.  Alas, I digress.  It's just that type of thinking that's holding me back from a career in research.

If this study was even remotely true then I am in the wrong career.  Taking into account the first three letters of my first name--as this suggests--I should be one of the following:

Saran Wrap Maker
Saranac High School Teacher
Sarah Palin's Personal Assistant--let the wrist slitting commence
Sara Lee Product Tester
Sarsaparilla Mixer
Sarcastic Bitch---Touche!--maybe there is some credibility to this study after all
The idea that our names are intertwined with our destinies goes at least as far back as the book of Genesis in the Bible, when Abram saw his name changed to Abraham, which means  "father of multitudes" in Hebrew.
In more recent years, social psychology research has connected people's names to decisions they make in whom to marry, what street to live on and what they do for a living — all based on how similar the names were to a person’s own name.

But University of Pennsylvania researcher Uri Simonsohn is stirring controversy by questioning how much our names really matter in making life's more important decisions. Simonsohn examined whether people are likely to choose their workplaces based on how similar the company names are to their own.

The study, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, is based on a sample of 438,000 Americans who had donated to political campaigns in 2004. It was designed to parallel a similar Belgian study that used a sample that included about a third of the general population and found people were overrepresented by 13 percent at businesses where the first three letters in the name matched those in their own names. (The raw Belgian data was unavailable for the new study.)

After controlling for people working at companies named for themselves or family members, as is common in law firms and other businesses, the effects of name similarity appeared to vanish, Simonsohn found. [Most Popular Names in History]

What’s in a name?
Regarding studies that have found a name-job link, "they're finding reverse causality rather than some subconscious attraction to names that are similar to your name," Simonsohn said. [Baby Names Reveal More About Parents Than Ever Before]

But Simonsohn's findings were contradicted by Frederik Anseel, a professor of industrial and organizational psychology at Ghent University and co-author of the Belgian study.

"We do not really agree with Simonsohn's points that the potential confounds eliminate the name-letter effect," Anseel told LiveScience. Anseel has written a response currently under review by Psychological Science.

Cultural differences might account for the discrepancy. Simonsohn points to the possibility that a higher percentage of Americans may start their own businesses. (A direct comparison to Simonsohn's study would be difficult, Anseel noted, because similar political donations are illegal in Belgium.) Anseel said, however, the effect of name similarity on decisions has been found in several countries around the world.

Anseel said that in light of Simonsohn's paper, "the effect becomes less strong," in his own research, but still stands.

Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, was skeptical that Simonsohn's study means people don't have an affinity for companies with names like their own.

"This is not representative of the population in any way, shape or form," Twenge said of the sample, explaining that the people involved, being political donors, were likely richer and would be more likely to own their own businesses. "This happens to be a variable that affects the variables he's analyzing."

Dennis the dentist

Previous research has found an affinity for name similarity in several areas. For example, more dentists are named Dennis than what would be expected by chance. (Although Andrew Gelman, director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University, has noted that dentists only accounts for a fraction of people named Dennis.)

In a previous paper, Simonsohn had critiqued some of that research, including criticizing the idea that people choose spouses with similar names. Simonsohn's research suggested spousal similarity in names is likely due to ethnicity. Spouses with similar names, he said, emerge from having a similar ethnicity and background; among people of the same ethnicity in his sample, people with more similar names weren't more likely to marry.

"I'm certainly open to it," said Simonsohn of the idea of name affinities, adding, "If somebody tells me you base a major decision on a name, I would be skeptical. You need a major piece of evidence to do that."
But Simonsohn does not completely dismiss the possibility of a connection between our names and life choices.
He said the most convincing research he has seen came in a 2008 study from the University of Michigan showing that people were more likely to donate following a hurricane if they shared an initial with the name of the hurricane. For instance, if your name were Rachel, you'd be more likely than others on average to donate to Hurricane Rita charities. (The study itself begins with the story of a woman named Katrina selling lemonade to raise money following Hurricane Katrina.)
"That make sense — that is a decision for which people are nearly indifferent," said Simonsohn, referring to the multitude of good charities where people could donate money. But Simonsohn said his skepticism rises when the decisions are larger – where it would take a significant push to make people choose one option over another. For example, people are unlikely to alter their career choices for $100 or $1,000, he said.
So the notion that we make decisions for unconscious — and sometimes seemingly foolish — reasons may be an uncomfortable one.
"We think it is important to consider that people do not always make rational choices for important decisions in their lives," Anseel said. "We like to think of ourselves as rational beings making a very deliberate assessment of pros and cons when choosing a job, but our research shows that other factors might come into play without us being aware of it."

A Reason to Have Twins

I have not laughed this hard in a long, long time.  Thank you, You Tube.  This completely makes up for the crap you usually propagate.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Inspirational Quotational-Let your Characters Run Free

"Don't put your characters on a treadmill.  They need to go new places, face new challenges, and do
new things."--Ally Carter.

One of the most important things a writer can do is to allow their characters to experience growth.  If your characters aren't evolving, learning from their mistakes (or making them for that matter), and facing forks in the plotline along they way, then you may want to think about making a major overhaul to your manuscript.  People want action, drama, and suspense.  They want to build a personal relationship with your characters.  That's why people read, to take them away from the usual.  Reading is an escape, a retreat to the recesses of creativity.  For the most part, we all lead ordinary lives.   So, if you audience is reading a book riddled with characters  displayig more of the same, what is the incentive for them to continue reading?  Afterall, it wouldn't be offering them anything other than a time-killer and who wants their book to be considered nothing more than that?

In short, if your writing and characters aren't moving into exciting new territory, your readers will. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Scenario #78,784 In Just One of a Million Ways the Twilight Movies Would Have Been Better

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm neither a huge fan of the Twilight movies nor Stephenie Meyer's writing.  Any writing that is critically acclaimed but of which is also riddled with grammatical errors, just rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps, it's our fault and not the fault of Ms. Meyers (who's laughing all the way to the bank) that something so mediocore could be so popluar. In my opinion, her writing is all about selling a product at the compromise of quality and not so much for the love of the written word (hence Midnight Sun).  I know my writing is not perfect and I have a lot to learn, but I really resent the fact that Meyers is now publicly reviewing the work of other writers--work that is far more superior than the Twilight Sighga.  With that said, Meyer's books, as unintentionally laughable as they sometimes can be, are far more captivating than the movies based upon them. 

One of the major reasons behind that is none other than the casting of Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan.  I've wanted to like her acting, I really have, but the more I see of her, the harder it becomes. 

In the new movie Sucker Punch (of which I have not seen but have heard poor reviews), the lead character is played by Emily Browning.  Emily Browning was the first choice to play Bella Swan, however she turned it down.  Either Ms. Browning is repetitively kicking herself or she's laughing, along with the rest of us, at the absurd acting and horrible plot line her name could have been attached to. 

And now it's time for me to duck and cover from all the Twihards out there...

Link to Browning in Sucker Punch:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Inspirational Quotational Brought To You In Part By The Makers Of Zoloft

"You cannot be a good writer of serious fiction if you are not depressed."--Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Apparently, only happy people write documentaries, biographies and other works of non-fiction. In a way, I agree with this which ought to make Pfizer and Procter and Gamble very happy people.  I believe you have to have a certain level of angst going on to write great, compelling fiction.  No one--in my humble opinion--wants to read a book flowered with rainbows, sunshine and unicorn farts.  They want conflict, drama, death, destruction and lives filled with bittersweet endings.  I for one enjoy dark works of fiction and know from experience that it's only within the depths of utter depression that true gems are often found.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Prelude to Vendetta Nation

The following is a short excerpt from the Chapter in Enigma Black entitled The Vendetta.  It's told from the point of view of the the villian, The Man in Black, and is a prelude to the second book in the series, Vendetta Nation:

It had been a close call--one that would never happen again.  She was a threat; there was no doubt about that.  Had she actually listened to the other one instead of stupidly exhibiting the pretentious behavior she had, they may have actually had a chance against him.  He shuddered at the thought of someone being able to stop him, someone being able to take him down before he could accomplish his ultimate goal.
He stood up from the bed in his immaculate master bedroom in the three-bedroom apartment of which he lived alone.  Pain shot up his side.  In response, he grunted gripping it in a shallow attempt at comfort.  The wound where the bullet pierced his flesh remained very tender but he still continued to refuse the pain killers being pushed on him regardless.  There was something about physical pain that invigorated him, that made him feel strangely more alive.  His doctors had done such a wonderful job with ensuring his survival these past several years.  Of course, they benefited immensely from it too. It was a true symbiotic relationship.  His armor would be repaired, his wound would heal and he would return; better than ever.

Inspirational Quotational-Being Overrun by Einstein's Hair

Today's Inspirational Quotational is a two for one (or two that could very easily be combined into one):

"Screw the fear."- Jo Leigh

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."- Albert Einstein

Screw the fear; for in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

After the craptacular week I've had, I think I'm going to just keep repeating that to myself as I finish Chapter 2 of Vendetta Nation.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Some Lighthearted and Positive News Stories for a Change

Because the news is full of crap that I just don't care to read about (especially with a husband in the military), it's good to see Yahoo posting some cute and inspirational stories for a change.

Denver the Guilty Dog

My dog pretty much does the same thing except she trades the whole teeth thing with hightailing it under the kitchen table as she knows I'm not going to follow her down there to admonish her.

Another Amanda Hocking Ebook Triumph

Although I'm not thrilled that Amanda Hocking decided to sign with a publishing company for a two million dollar deal after she became a self-made millionaire with her ebooks ALL ON HER OWN, I still have to give her big props.  It's just irritating that agents and publishing companies are so stuck on the bottom line that it takes success that they didn't create in order for them to stand up and take notice of a new, talented author. 

Good job Amanda, you deserve all the success:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Crazy Cat Lady Edition of Inspirational Quotational

Here's a three for one for today's Inspirational Quotational (although I'm not entirely sure how the last two are inspirational).

"Many people hear voices when no-one is there.  Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day.  Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing."

I have no idea whose quote this is but it is incredibly true.  If it's one thing every writer sacrifices it's their social life.  While writing Enigma Black--when I was really gung-ho writing it--I would literally come home from work, take care of my daughter and then plug away at the computer avoiding all friends and social networking sites in the process.  I'd do this from 7 at night until 1 in the morning (having to arise to face the day again at 6:30).  The allure of writing was too much for me to stop; it was almost like a drug.  Don't get me wrong, it still is and I'm sure when I get into Vendetta a little more, I'll shut myself away again even though I feel completely guilty doing so.

The following two quotes I stumbled upon while looking for today's slice of inspiration.  I'm affectionately calling them my "crazy cat lady quotes":

"Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat watching is a near-perfect method of writing avoidance."--Dan Greenburg

Huh? Because your attention span is that compromised?  Because your Ritalin ran dry?  I guess I shouldn't be too judgmental.  I tend to get distracted whenever Ghost Adventures is on when I'm writing and Zak Bagans appears on the screen.  So, yeah, I can totally see where a cat could mesmerize you that much...

"A catless writer is almost inconceivable.  It's a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat; they make nests in the notes and bite the end of the pen and walk on typewriter keys."--Barbara Holland

The only thing my cat does is drop the occasional bomb while curled up in a ball next to me.  Ms. Holland's cat must be the spawn of Satan.  You bet your sweet ass if my cat did any of the above the little bastard would be outside lickety split.

FYI-I have three cats and love the crap out of them but these quotes are taking cat ownership to a whole new level.

Inspirational Quotational-Because I'm taking a Blog break

So I've been slacking on the whole blog thing the past few days (lets face it, posting inspirational quotationals does not take up that much time).  On a side note, I just realized I spelled lightning wrong on the poem I posted Sunday. Curse you Blogspot and your lack of spell check.  What do you think I am a writer???

What's the good news you ask?  Well, I'm happy to inform you that I've been hammering away at Vendetta Nation and should have Chapter 2 done tomorrow.  The trilogy is really starting to come along and I couldn't be happier.

With that said, here is today's Inspirational Quotational:

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath

Monday, March 21, 2011

Inspirational Quotational-Words from a literary agent

Although I agree with this quote 110%, I think it's also all too easy for a literary agent to say:

"If you've FINISHED writing a novel you are amongst the elite!!! You ARE NOT A FAILURE IF YOU CANNOT LIVE OFF YOUR BOOKS. You only fail by NOT TRYING." - Nadia Cornier

Until the Lightning Flashes

The following is a quick little ditty I hammered out while watching mother nature's light show outside.  Being as it is a quick little slice of poetry, I know it's not perfect but, be that at is may, I couldn't help but think how it kind of sounds like a culmination of every Nicholas Sparks' novel I've ever read.  Lord help me...

Until the Lightning Flashes

My life is perfect until the lightning flashes
Defects are shadowed between streaks of light
In the darkness, what is real and make-believe struggles and clashes
As my hope for the future takes flight

My life is perfect until the lightning flashes
Invisible are the scars, the bruises of my tormented soul
Until the day internal conflict erupts into thunderous clashes
Can my life progress to an ultimate goal

My life is perfect until the lightning flashes
Moods wax and wane like the moon
For under his thumb I remain, enduring his lashes
Plotting the day I will leave, my journey, soon

My life is perfect until the lightning flashes
But with my angel by my side I will turn it all around
For with his forbidden love, the ruins of my former love fall apart into beautiful ashes
As I take his hand and run away into the night without a sound

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Inspirational Quotational-Writer's Block

In the many nights I feel as though I'd like to bang my head against the wall--or chug a fifth of Jack--to free myself from the brutality of writer's block, I'm reminded of the following:

"Every writer I know has trouble writing."--Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller

Thank you, Mr. Heller.  You've just kept me sober one more night ;)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kindle Info-For Those Interested in Publishing E-Books

The following article was written by Nancy Hendrickson, a contributor for eHow.  If you've ever been interested in selling your book on Kindle but wasn't sure how to go about doing it and what format your e-book will need to be in, this article will provide you with some clarity.  I've provided both links to the article and have pasted it below for those lazy people out there ;)

How to Convert E-Books to Kindle Format

If you're an author who owns the digital rights to his novel, non-fiction book, how-to manual or e-book, you still may be missing the opportunity to sell to a new and growing audience: Amazon Kindle users. Kindle, Amazon's wireless device, can access and download more than 150,000 digital products via Amazon's Whispernet wireless network. Industry analysts predict that Amazon will sell from 500,000 to 750,000 Kindles in the next year. Learn how to convert your e-book or digital product to Kindle format and reach a whole new reading audience.

Better than the Bookstore? Format Your E-Book for Kindle Readers

Prepare your digital document for Kindle conversion. To make it easy for readers to find you online and learn about your other books, be certain to include in your document links to your website, blog or author pages. Create a title page, a copyright page and a page with your full name and any other pertinent information, such as your email address and publisher. It is recommended that you include "First Kindle Original Edition, xxxx (year)" on your title page.

Save your manuscript in one of these Amazon-acceptable file formats: Microsoft Word (.doc), HTML, Adobe PDF (.pdf) , plain text (.txt) or Mobi (.mobi or .prc). Mobipocket Creator is a free software program that converts documents to several formats that can be read by the Amazon Digital Text Platform.

Go to Amazon's Digital Text Platform site and open an account, or log in if you already have an Amazon account. Because Amazon will be paying you a percentage of your document's sales, you'll need to provide information so they know where to send your share of the proceeds. Information requested will include your name or business name, as well as electronic payment information.

Use the navigation tabs to click "My Shelf," then "Add New Item." You'll be asked to provide details about your book, including keywords, ISBN (if you have one), title, subtitle, description, publication date and content category. Be sure to select the correct content category, as this will help readers find your book. You'll also need to upload a cover image. When finished, click the "Save" button.

Once you're satisfied with all of the information you've given about your book, click the "Upload" button. Uploading generally takes only a few minutes. Once it has been uploaded, preview the book once again for any formatting errors. During this process, Amazon will work with any of the allowable formats (above) and convert them to a format that can be read on the Kindle.

Set the price for your book. Typically, a Kindle book sells for 1/2 to 1/3 the price of a hard copy. The price is entirely up to you. Other Kindle documents range from 99 cents up to more than $100. Your profit will be 35 percent of the list price you set. Once you click the "Publish" button, your book will be live within 12 to 72 hours.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My impressions thus far in my journey toward publication

And this is why publishing companies and agents are still important...

When I first started writing the Enigma Black trilogy, I thought the whole writing part in and of itself would be the hard part.

That was the first thing I got wrong.

After receiving my fill of rejections from agents (I may still attempt to query a publishing company or two), I decided that it may be more lucrative and, well, easier to go the route of self-publishing.

That was the second thing I got wrong.

In the age of self-published millionaires such as Amanda Hocking, it has become increasingly clearer that publishing companies and, especially, agents are beginning to become relics of the past (a fact of which mainly only those associated with these industries disagree).  Therefore, I've decided to publish the first book in my trilogy as an ebook as, at this moment, I really have nothing to lose.  After all, isn't publishing an ebook pretty much a no-brainer?

That was the third, and hopefully final, thing I got wrong.

Sure, if you don't care about the formatting of your novel, its presentation, or the overall impression it makes on your target audience, that last statement may hold a nugget of truth to you.  But, if you're like me and you find that you do in fact believe those catagories are just as important as great writing, then you're in for the realization that writing the book is only just the beginning. 

If you plan on traveling down the ebook path, I highly recommend finding a copyeditor/proofreader to go over your piece with a fine tooth comb as no matter how many times you read your own work, you're bound to become blind to its mistakes.  What does proofreading/copyediting run?  Well, so far I've found services anywhere from 1/4 to a 1/5 cent per word (which, at the high end is still over $500 for a 110,000 word manuscript). 

Secondly, there's packaging.  You know the whole expression "you can't judge a book by it's cover"?  That may sound all nice and sugary like candy-coated unicorn farts, but in the highly competitive reality we live in people can and DO judge books by their covers.  Therefore, designing or hiring someone to design your book cover now becomes crucial.  Of course, if you decide to hire someone to design your cover, you're in for an even higher overhead cost to a project that may or may not recuperate those costs. 

After your work is polished and your cover art is as eyecatching as it needs to be then there's a little thing called formatting to contend with.  And, yes, there's a service for that as well. ;)

So lets see, if you hire ALL of the above out, you're looking at a total of (conservatively) around $1000. With the vast majority of ebooks by new authors priced anywhere from $.99 to $2.99, that equals approximately a buttload of books you'll have to sell before you'll start to see any profit from your work.  Granted, you don't have to do any of those services I mentioned, but many people do and many see the results they do because of them.

If there's one thing I haven't been wrong about so far, it's the fact that, in order to be a writer, you honestly must LOVE writing.  As I've previously posted, books are not lottery tickets. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inspirational Quotational for St. Patty's Day

You know you have the flu bad when it's St. Patty's Day and just the mere thought of celebrating it invokes a sickening resurgence of blech throughout your body.  What makes it even more blasphemous is the fact that I'm Irish.  This my people's day so celebrating isn't exactly an option, but a requirment.  Time to grab a double dose of NyQuil...

"This is for writers yet to be published who think the uphill climb will never end. Keep believing. This is also for published writers grown jaded by the process. Remember how lucky you are."- Terry Brooks

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Warning: This Post Will Take Four Minutes of Your Life That You Will NEVER Get Back.

In the last few years--around the same time Paris Hilton became famous--I've come to realize that it doesn't take much talent at all to become recognized.  Actually, it seems like the more mundane you are anymore, the more famous you become (I'm looking at you K-Stew). 

As I am one for examples, I have provided one for your viewing displeasure below.  The song is called "Friday" by teenage singer Rebecca Black and, as Time so eloquently stated, it takes on a whole new level of bad. 

For me, I particularly enjoyed the rehashing of the order of the days of the week; a lesson that most of us learned in Kindergarten.  Thank you, Rebecca.  I almost forgot that Thursday came after Friday, that Friday was followed by Saturday and that Sunday came afterward.

However, amongst that invaluable grain of information, a true gem in the video emerges in the form of the quasi-Usher who makes his debut.  Afterall, what craptacular music video DOESN'T have a rap sequence????

My Lyrical Inspirations

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I use songs as muses for my writing and as inspiration for certain scenes  within my novels to give them more feeling (at least that's what I hope I'm doing).  I believe that art can feed art.  A dance to a song, for example, is one art feeding off of another.  Paint on a canvas, carefully crafted words on a page and lyrics within a song can and often times do join together to form a sweet synchronizing ballad in another medium.

The following two songs: 9 Crimes by Damie Rice and Pieces by Red are two of my favorite songs.  I've used them as inspiration for a couple of chapters in the final novel in the Enigma Black trilogy tentatively entitled Redemption.  I've included the You Tube videos for these songs below.  Surprisingly, Red appears to not have a music video for Pieces leaving the lyrics to serve the songs purpose alone--which it does very effectively.  The music video for 9 Crimes is not at all what I would have envisioned, but Damien Rice obviously interpreted it differently than the words I've put to page.

For Authors-Daily Inspirational Quotational

As an author, or aspiring author since I've technically not been published yet (details, details), I find this next quote to ring particularly true.  In order to write a convincing story with equally convincing characters, you have to embody the story your writing; you have to become those characters.  To make them real, you have to put yourself in their shoes, feel every single emotion they feel.  When they cry, so should you.  When they're happy, so should you be.  Then and only then can you honestly expect to establish an emotional connection with the reader because if you feel nothing for your work, then neither will they.

"To imagine yourself inside another what a story writer does in every piece of work; it is his first step, and his last too, I suppose."--Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty

*As a side note, I'm finding that a lot of female authors live insanely long lives.  Unfortunately for me, I think the booze might derail this possibility as far as I'm concerned.  ;)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gov. Rick Snyder = President Brooks in my novel, Enigma Black

Oh Governor (Rep. MI) how you are the prime example of life imitating art.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a Democrat.  This is a fact that I've known and have been proud of since the eighth grade which is a miracle since I was raised in a highly Republican household and ever frustrating since I've somehow found myself married to a Republican.  However, I like to think that I'm different than most of those who pick a side in that, if there is a Republican candidate that I feel would be better suited for the job, I'd suck it up and vote for him or her. That was the case with Rep. Rick Snyder.  Even though I didn't end up voting in the last election (which is a shame because it sounds like all Michiganders are going to be stripped of this right very soon) I still felt he was the best candidate or the job.  Like the rest of the flock, I bought into the whole "One tough nerd" campaign with the belief that he was prepared to fight for the "little man".  My oh my, how a matter of only four months can alter your once indelible perception of reality. 

In Enigma Black, President Carver Brooks uses the threat of The Man in Black and the fear of society to benefit his own agenda creating a dystopian society.  It appears, if the below video is any indication, that the same is happening now in Michigan with the budget crisis.  After all, we here in Michigan have been so battered by our craptastic economy that we wouldn't mind giving up our most basic of rights, right? 

Yes, Michigan is, in fact, screwed.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Inspirational Quotational

Because I'm too sick with the flu-sinus infection-typhoid crap to offer up a smartass comment for today's Inspirational Quotational, I'll just leave you with the quote:

"He lives the poetry that he cannot write.  The others write the poetry that they dare not realise."
                                                                                                          ---Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

In my next post I will detail the similarities between newly minted  Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the dystopian God himself, President Carver Brooks, from Enigma Black.  If, of course, I don't pass out from the sheer amount of NyQuil I've been downing...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Daily Inspirational Quotational from someone almost as old as Yoda...

Anyone who lived to be nearly 105 is worth taking advice from:

"You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like."--Phyllis A. Whitney

Phyllis A. Whitney

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A break away from the mundane

Oh SNL, you never cease to amuse me...

The Daily Inspirational Quotational

Today's Inspirational Quotational is brought to you by George Orwell, a brilliant novelist and revolutionary thinker with ideas that trascended his time. I've incorporated some of the elements of 1984 into Enigma Black:

"For a creative writer possession of the "truth" is less important than emotional sincerity."--George Orwell

Enigma Black--Launching to an Ebook outlet near you soon...

After thoughtful consideration, research, and reading blogs from other authors such as the following repost from Joe Konrath, I have decided to complete revisions to the Enigma Black trilogy, bypass the gatekeeper completely and go straight to the horse's mouth (figuratively speaking, of course). Yes, I've decided to go the route of the e-book (Kindle, Nook etc).   As such, this would mean that the launch of a (hopefully) new career could be just a couple short weeks away.  Obviously, I'm not going to quit my day job as I don't anticipate it being lucrative, but to realize a dream is still exciting in and of itself.  When Enigma Black publishes, I will keep you all posted!

Joe Konrath's Blog reposted with link:

Ebooks Ain't A Bubble
Elsewhere on the internets, I've heard the current ebook boom being described as a bubble. One that will eventually burst.

That's incorrect.

A bubble is when people invest more money in something than it is actually worth. Real estate, technology, dot com companies, housing, the stock market, etc. all are investments that might not pay off, and have been called bubbles.

Ebooks aren't an investment. We're not dumping money into them, hoping we can sell them at a profit later on.

Rather, ebooks are more like a commodity. But not quite, because they don't conform to the rules of supply and demand, as there is an endless supply. But I believe there is also an endless demand. I come to this conclusion by looking at other digital media, and seeing the never-ending, constantly regenerating market.

An ebook is forever. Forever is a long time to find readers. I'm selling over 1000 ebooks a day, but it would take me forty-one years to completely saturate the current Kindle-owner market (assuming there are currently 15 million Kindle owners.)

However, people read ebooks on more than just their Kindles. There are Kindle apps, Nooks, Kobos, smart phones, computers, tablets, and so on. I could sell 10,000 ebooks a day, and it would still take the rest of my life to saturate the current market.

But the market won't stay current. Ebooks will become the dominant format for reading fiction. They'll proliferate the US and Canada, the UK and Australia, and eventually the world.

There's no ebook bubble. There is only unlimited potential sales. I referred to it in an earlier post as a Gold Rush. But, unlike a Gold Rush, where there is limited gold available, I don't see this gold vein ever running out. The gold is readers, and there are billions of them. It doesn't matter how many miners are trying to get rich. There is enough for everybody, assuming writers work hard and stick with it until they get lucky.

Now, while I consider the ebook forecast for the next few years to be bright, with a high chance of riches for me (I'm currently earning $1300 a day), there is a tech precedent that might show otherwise.

That article is worth reading, because it shows what could happen in the ebook world once there are no longer any gatekeepers. If the market gets flooded with crap, consumers could stop buying ebooks and instead do something else with their time and money, just as they did with videogames.

But there are some key differences.

First, there is now unlimited retail space, and consumers and etailers have made it easy to find the worthy books.

Second, while there are competing ereading devices, authors can make their work easily available on all of them without an extra time or money investment.

Third, there is no boom/bust bubble, because we don't have to dump money into development, advertising, or speculative stock trading. We don't have to spend money to make money.

Also, even though the 1983 video game crash ruined many companies and temporarily soured the public on videogames, by 1985 videogames were back, and they've been growing ever since. Videogames now make more money than Hollywood.

I've also seen some authors who are doing both self-publishing and legacy publishing, calling it diversification.

That isn't diversification. It's buying a ticket on the Titanic.

I could make a logical, persuasive case for chain bookstores disappearing (as chain record stores and video stores have), and then draw the obvious conclusion that ebooks will replace print as the dominant format, but I've done that often enough to bother repeating it all here. Go back to April 2009 and read my blog from then until now if you want a blow-by-blow report of how the publishing industry is collapsing and ebooks are taking over.

Instead, I want all authors reading this to ask themselves two questions.

1. Will ebooks eventually outsell print books? (hint: they already are in many cases)

2. Do you want to give up 70% royalties and instead accept 14.9% royalties by signing with a legacy publisher? (assume you'll be locked into the contract forever, because you will)

How you answer those questions is how you should approach the next legacy publishing deal you're offered.

For years, I've talked about the importance of luck. You can't succeed without it.

But writers need to fight Stockholm Syndrome and escape the siren song of legacy publishing. For decades they were the only game in town, and trying to get accepted by the gatekeepers has become imprinted on our brains. Getting lucky meant finding a publisher.

These days, signing with a publisher, who will give you an advance in return for the majority of all your royalties, forever, isn't lucky at all. It's like signing a balloon loan, where the payments get bigger every year. Or a life insurance policy, where you keep paying more annually for fewer benefits.

A much better route to take is self-pubbing. At least there, if you get lucky, you get to keep most of your money.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

For Authors-Your Daily Inspirational Quotational

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."--Mark Twain

This not-so-old, creepy house of mine

This is a blog I imported from my Myspace account.   It's amazing how a person's writing style and overall concept of grammar can change in only a matter of three years.  Thankfully, my sarcasm has remained intact.  My house, by the way, has been visited by an empath since my writing of the events described below.  I didn't know she was empathic until she told me about the middle-aged man in my dining room.  I'm not sure how much of that I believe, but it does make for interesting dinner conversation.

Maybe there's some scientific explanation for some of the crazy crap that has been going on or maybe I'm just going nuts (both very real possibilities), but there are some things going on in my house that can only be described as weird. It started as a few little things; random objects would fall; I would hear something hit the floor behind me but then there would be nothing there when I turned around; weird crap like that. Not normal, but something I could adapt to. However, the events of the last two days have me freaking out and seriously considering a weapons permit. I'm not one that really believes in ghosts.  I think that it's all too convenient that those ghost hunters catch exactly what they want on camera when they're doing their little ghost hunting expeditions. In my opinion, ghosts, if they do exist, probably aren't attention whores like us living people.  Although, it would be funny to see a spirits gone wild video, ghost flashing the camera and stuff. But anyway, back to my story.  So I wake up at 2:30 this morning to Bailee screaming "mama" "mama"; not an uncommon occurrence. However, when I rolled out of bed I noticed that the light was on in the living room. Yeah, that wasn't on when I went to bed. The puppy is in her cage and Bailee is in her crib. How the Hell did that light get turned on?  At this point I'm wondering if the cat developed opposable thumbs and was staying up late planning world domination, because that's just the way my mind works. The house has like a million freakin' light switches for one light. I don't even know what switches go to what. So, my next thought was, who the Hell is in my house.

I jumped out of bed and ran to Bailee's room. I then quickly head back to my bedroom and lock the door with Bailee in bed with me. Obviously, I wasn't going back to sleep anytime soon so I laid in bed thinking about my plan of attack if there was an intruder in the house (this attack mostly consisted of me pissing myself). Eventually, I fell back asleep. Well, tonight I go to let the dog outside. There is a deadbolt to the door on the patio. Last night I tried to turn the deadbolt but the damn thing would not budge an inch so I did like I normally do when things get tough; I said "screw it" and went inside to find some chocolate. So anyway, I go to let the dog back in and low and behold I couldn't get the door open. Turns out the deadbolt was locked. I sure as Hell didn't lock it. So my question is, how did the door lock itself? All I know is that I'm about ready to make like MacGyver and rig something up or start sleeping with a knife of sorts (which will back fire when I impale myself in my sleep). I mean seriously is there an explanation for any of this? The house is only 3 years old and, to my knowledge, no one died in it. Although, the lady did have some freaky voodoo looking pictures hung up in the loft of which I took down. My next thought is whether or not Tamarac was built on an Indian burial ground because that would explain a lot.  Does homeowner's insurance cover shit like that.  My guess is probably not.  Damn insurance companies. 

I don't know but if whatever it is wakes me up again in the middle of the night it better watch its back as I'm a bitch when I don't get my sleep.


I've been getting a slew of add requests to my Yahoo IM.  If any of you are adding me, please, please, for the love of God tell me who you are as I'm not adding Ed Smith from BFE if I have no idea who Ed Smith is and whether BFE is really a van parked outside my bedroom window.

Books Do Not Equal Lottery Tickets

I couldn't agree with Ms. Sansevieri more.  Writers who write because they believe they will reach sales of Potter proportions are in for a world of disappointment unless they have the dream team of marketing on their side.  If you write, you need to do it for the sheer love of it and not because you think you're going to retire on the bundles of money your manuscript is going to bring in.  For every J.K., there's 1,000 authors you've never heard of and of whom cannot quit their day jobs.  Any success is is just icing on the cake.

On the Anniversary of my trip--I bring you my "I hate Arkansas" blog

Three years ago I drove through Arkansas.  Today, I'm still bitter.  Therefore, to commemorate this Anniversary, I have imported my "Arkansas Blows" blog from the now defunct Myspace world:
Okay, besides being pretty much the cockblock of my trip (sorry but if you were to drive through this God forsaken state you would know what I was talking about), I've noticed that Arkansas has a high rate of idiot.
I'm not cutting down everyone from Arkansas.  Maybe I just ran into the small percentage with the missing chromosome in their gene pool.  And, maybe that small percentage happened to be traveling with me on the highway on my way down.  I guess that's what I get for driving.
Anyway, I was heading down the highway and I found myself behind some random redneck pulling their boat behind their pickup truck. Now,  people with some intelligence would make sure that everything was secure in the boat before traveling 70 mph down a highway. I mean, its what I would do, but hell my parents weren't cousins. These jackasses did not have the common courtesy that the vast majority of the population (or so I would like to think) would.
Ok, so I was going 70 mph behind this boat when all of a sudden a cooler, yes, a cooler flies out of the back of the boat and strikes the front of my car.  Said cooler bursts into several pieces and the lid flies up and strikes another vehicle behind me.  Anyone with any common courtesy would, oh I don't know, pull over.  Yeah, not in Arkansas. Yes, the driver did notice the cooler striking my car.  I'm thinking he probably just laughed and carved another notch in his dashboard.
Thinking that the flying cooler of doom had hit my headlight, I exited off the highway to inspect my car.  The good news was that my headlight was fine; the bad news was that I was missing a small panel/cover thing next to my headlight (yeah I know nothing about cars).  I made the determination that it probably wasn't that important and that I was almost to Texas so I wasn't going to file a police report or wait around any longer as the theme from Deliverance (at least I swear it was) was playing at the rest stop I stopped at.
It all turned out ok though.  Replacing the panel will only cost me $15 so those idiots didn't completely "F" me over.  However, if I never see the state of Arkansas again, I will be stinking happy.

Quote of the Day...My Daily Cup of Inspiration

"There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be."--Doris Lessing


In the sad passing of the woman who is considered to be the muse for Bob Dylan, I can't help but think about the impact of muses on various works of art.  Whether your art is created with the stroke of a paint brush, within the solitude of a recording studio, or by the clinging of keys at your fingertips, chances are it was inspired by someone or something somewhere.  Muses, romantic ideals immortalized in works of art throughout generations, can range anywhere from a friend, spouse, lover, child, or complete stranger; to something intangible like a place in time or a memory.

For me, my muses appear in the form of friends, family, acquaintances and through music.  Many of the characters in my Enigma Black trilogy were inspired by those close to me or who were once close to me.  Several of the characters are comprised of more than one person (of course, the identities of these people are only going to be known to me).  However, most of my writing comes from pieces of music and artists.  For Enigma, I relied on the music of Evanescence, Linkin Park, Red, and Muse (fittingly).

Muses, they've been the paint in which artists have used to cover canvases; the words on the pages of books; the lyrics in the melodies of songs.  Without their existence art would simply not exist. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Tear-Jerker/Heartwarming Story

Fennville is a small town in Michigan near Lake Michigan.  It's also not too far from where I live.  This story is an incredibly sad, yet heartwarming example of humanity banding together in honor of a fallen comrade.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Chicago attractions, in pictures

Like your dear Aunt Mable, here I am with pictures from my weekend in Chicago.  However, unlike your relatives, I'm a tad more sailor-like.

We went to the Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and the Willis (Sears) Tower. Unfortunately, I left my camera in the lockers at Shedd.

The Adler Planetarium

The Gemini something or other--basically the clown car that brought astronauts back to Earth.

Astronaut Jim Lovell's suit--he's the dude that Apollo 13 is based on.  If it were my suit, it would have skid marks in it.  Fortunately, Captain Lovell had a smidgeon more courage.

                                               Random astronaut stuff

Example of the Mars Rover.

The Field Museum

Dumbo after Disney was done with him

Not so scary without Spielberg

Whales really are big-boned

Who's your mummy??

The Tower Formerly Known as Sears

Hey Sarah Palin, can you see Russia from here?

Lake Michigan--My house is somewhere over there on the other side.

Tower envy.

Trippy glass floor

What you talkin' about Willis?

Enigma Black-Prologue

This is the last posting of Enigma Black I'm going to do.  The following Prologue is something that I'm going to need to revise.  It's probably one of the last revisions I'm going to make before I again ship it off to agents and publishing companies.  However, given the success of e-books through Kindle, Nook, Barnes & Noble, etc., I'm seriously contemplating just e-booking it instead.

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell
~Edna St. Vincent Millay

Cloaked in shadows neatly tucked away atop a stone ledge, I waited for him. In the months since I'd been whisked away from my former life, waiting was all I seemed to do. Waiting for the day I could return to that life; waiting for the day I would die in triumphant vindication; waiting for the day I would finally obtain the vengeance I so dearly sought.

Vengeance—it’s such a simple word for such a complex action. How I’d dreamt of nothing but it these last ten years. It consumed me, forcing me to drink it in until I’d become intoxicated with its essence. It’d been the single pervasive thought haunting my existence, continuously running through my mind in a sadistic loop. Unable to sober-up, I’d stumbled through the last decade of my life plagued with the inability to think of anything else but my last memories of them and the day of carnage that took them away from me.

Vengeance--it was almost within my grasp. Soon, I would have the power to attain it. However, such power--I’d learned--does not come without a price; and this particular price had been paid for with my life.  The autumn air whipped through my hair caressing what little skin still remained exposed to the elements. Before becoming the property of The Cause autumn had been my favorite time of year. The smell of the air was invigorating and the leaves on the trees now aflame with crimsons and gold’s were positively mesmerizing. It always amazed me how something could be so beautiful as it lay dying. Perhaps, the same could be said about me now. I was an empty shell left abandoned on the beach unable to facilitate life. Besides, even if I had wanted to feel alive again, it just simply wasn’t allowed of me. The colder and more desensitized I was the more liable to kill without blinking an eye I would be.

My former home had fallen into despair these last ten years. Strewn throughout the once prosperous metropolis were dilapidated buildings and empty store fronts creating a virtual ghost town where life once reigned supreme. Most of these dwellings had been abandoned by those who chose to leave the confines of the city in favor of secluded locations where the presence of the New Order was not yet evident. Little did they know, however, these locations no longer existed but were merely destinations of mythological proportions.

It was during my times of contemplation atop my precipice that I would get what I was waiting for. For me, seeing Chase Matthews was the only remaining bright spot I had left in this world. He kept my heart beating, unwittingly providing me with the reassurance that I wasn’t quite dead yet. Through his dimly lit window I would watch him from my vantage point on the ledge during the nights when I could escape from my confines unquestioned.

I knew that I shouldn’t be here, but his aura was like a magnet pulling me toward its glow. His grip on me was strong making my visits to this ledge so frequent that I was beginning to ponder whether a permanent imprint of my rear would become indented into the cement.

My former life with him had been nothing short of perfect. In his arms, I’d regained the feeling of safety and security that was ripped from me in my youth. His big blue eyes looking into mine always made me weak, a feat of which nothing else had successfully been able to accomplish. I’d been strong in my former life without even having been manufactured to be as I was now.

A tear streamed down my cheek burning my skin on its descent. It was yet another sign of the weakness I was forbidden to display back at my new home; but this ledge was not my home and I couldn’t help it anymore. There was still a glimmer of the Celaine Stevens I used to be under the mask I was made to wear. That was something they would never be able to take away from me. I’d given them my life, my body and my mind but my soul was all mine and would remain so until my dying day.

He was every bit the awkward brand of perfection I remembered him as being. Often, I would find myself unable to break my gaze away from him for I never knew when or if I‘d ever get the chance to gaze upon him again. Closing my eyes, I envisioned our former life together and, for a moment, I could almost feel his lips on mine again--a feeling I hadn’t been able to experience in what seemed like an eternity.

He rummaged through his dresser drawer pulling out a pair of neatly folded shorts and methodically set them on his bed. I could tell by the way he haphazardly stumbled around his room that this particular night had been a trying one for him. Fumbling with the buttons on his shirt he proceeded to undress causing a familiar burning sensation to spread across my cheeks. A part of me felt as though I should avert my eyes as the sight of my former lover half dressed would do little to help my present situation, but I couldn’t help it. Instead, I scanned every inch of his toned physique affectionately remembering the nights when I would lie next to him with his broad shoulders encasing me.

Moonlight shone down upon my ledge as a passing cloud gave way. It was then, in that instant, he looked up in my direction as if suspecting my presence. He would never see me. I was trained to stay in the shadows; to be the perfect assassin.

It was getting late and they would be expecting me back soon. Standing up, I braced myself for my descent from the ledge and, with one effortless leap, flung myself off of it letting the wind tear through my body. It was time to get back home to my prison; to my destiny; to my own personal hell.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Encounter With The Tsavo Maneaters In Chicago

After spending a not-so-relaxing weekend in Chicago, I'm home and back to blogging--which may or may not be a good thing.  I'm describing the trip as not-so-relaxing as I don't consider walking seven miles in sub-zero weather all that enjoyable. Okay, so it wasn't sub-zero, but the wind chill was a bitch nontheless.  Be that as it may, despite the arctic air, it was a rather interesting Chicago trip and I most certainly got more out of it than I usually do primarily because I went solely for the museums and not the retail--blasphemy, I know.  Needless to say, after walking through the Planetarium, The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), I'm pretty well spent.

However, being a semi-history buff and a lover of thrillers, I wanted to share the story of the Tsavo Maneaters as I find it a rather interesting one.  In The Field Museum, there's an exhibit containing the perpetrators of the narrative below.  I hadn't heard of the Tsavo Maneaters until I read the plaque next to the exhibit and realized the story surrounding it had been made into a movie in 1996 called The Ghost and the Darkness.  Yes, I know I'm slow. 

For your reading pleasure, here is the story of the Tsavo Maneaters along with the pics I took of them at The Field Museum:

In March 1898 the British started building a railway bridge over the Tsavo River in Kenya. The project was led by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson. During the next nine months of construction, two maneless male Tsavo lions stalked the campsite, dragging Indian workers from their tents at night and devouring them. Crews tried to scare off the lions and built campfires and bomas of thorn fences around their camp for protection to keep the maneaters out, to no avail. The lions crawled through the thorn fences. After the new attacks, hundreds of workers fled from Tsavo, halting construction on the bridge. Patterson set traps and tried several times to ambush the lions at night from a tree. After repeated unsuccessful endeavors, he shot the first lion on December 9, 1898. Three weeks later, the second lion was found and killed. The first lion killed measured nine feet, eight inches (3 m) from nose to tip of tail. It took eight men to carry the carcass back to camp. The construction crew returned and completed the bridge in February 1899. The exact number of people killed by the lions is unclear. Over the course of his life, Patterson gave several figures, once claiming that there were 135 victims.

Patterson writes in his account that he wounded the first lion with one bullet from a Martini-Enfield chambered in .303 caliber. This shot struck the lion in the hindquarters, but it escaped. Later, it returned at night and began stalking Patterson as he tried to hunt it. He shot it with a .303 Lee Enfield several times, tracked it the next morning, and found it dead. The second lion was shot five times with a .303 Lee Enfield, but it got up and charged him in severely crippled condition, whereupon he shot it three more times with the Martini-Henry carbine, twice in the chest, and once in the head, which killed it. He claimed it died gnawing on a fallen tree branch, still trying to reach him.

After 25 years as Patterson's floor rugs, the lions' skins were sold to the Chicago Field Museum in 1924 for a sum of US$5,000. The lions' skins arrived at the museum in very poor condition. The lions were then reconstructed and are now on permanent display along with the original skulls.

Patterson's accounts were published in his 1907 book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.

Field Museum---A must-see location in Chicago
Wikipedia---Source of the story above
Book---For those of you who want to learn more