Monthly Archives: August 2014

Do you like charming ghosts?

Haunting Danielle small ebook_edited-2

 

Haunting Danielle is now live at Amazon! 

When Danielle Boatman inherits Marlow House, she dreams of turning it into a seaside bed and breakfast. Since she’s never visited the property, Danielle’s not sure what awaits her in Oregon. She certainly doesn’t expect to find one of the house’s previous owners still in residence. After all, the man has been dead for almost ninety years—shouldn’t he have moved on by now?

Charming Walt Marlow convinces Danielle the only way he can move on is if she solves the mystery of his death. Danielle soon discovers her real problems may come from the living—those who have their sights on Marlow House’s other secrets.

Remember when rabbit ears weren’t furry?

TV

 

 

 

What is that old cliché about age? Oh I remember—you are only as old as you feel. Personally, I find that saying a little passé.

These days it’s not necessarily the aches and pains that make us feel old, but the inability to keep up on the technological treadmill. It started innocent enough with the TV remote. At our house we have four different remotes for our living room television. One came with the TV, another from our cable company, the third for our Roku and I’m not really sure what the fourth remote does. When my husband and I go out for the day, my mother (age 86) asks me to turn the living room television on for her, because she has yet to master the remote. Truth is, I can barely operate the remotes.

I’ve always felt fairly young; after all I’ve kept up with fast paced technology. Haven’t I?

I’m not intimidated by computers. I got my first one back in the mid-80s when hard drives were considered optional, and DOS was the operating system for what we called IBM computers—even if they were not an IBM brand.

Back in those days we didn’t have the luxury to Google for instructions to help us operate our new computers, which, by the way, did not come with instruction manuals.

I’m self-taught in numerous software programs: PageMaker, Word, account programs, Photoshop, Family Tree Maker, Excel, Expression Web and more.

My first online experience was with Prodigy in the late 80s. I wasn’t able to get Internet—like we know it today—until 1998. Until that time, the places we lived didn’t have Internet service.

Since going online I’ve tried to keep current with happenings in the cyber and digital world. I’ve created websites and dabbled in basic html code. I was on MySpace before Facebook. I know the difference between upload and download and how to do it. I’ve tweeted and shopped online. I’ve registered domains and am fairly competent with Photoshop. I’ve used QR Code generators to create barcodes. Personally, I think I am a pretty tech savvy grandma.

Today one of my author friends made a post about Amazon buying Twitch TV for $970 million, a move that surprised him. As I was reading his post I asked my self, What in the hell is Twitch TV?

At the end of his post he wrote: Twitch is a streaming service for video gamers… for those of you old people who don’t know what I’m talking about.

I really wanted to hit him with my cane.

Does Self-Publishing ever make you feel a little ADD?

ajDo I really have attention deficit disorder? There was a time–when I was general manager of Havasu Palms—that I seriously considered the possibility. As manager of Havasu Palms there was a restaurant to run, a mobile home park with rents and utilities to collect, a marina and store to oversee.

I recall numerous instances where I would be sitting in my office working on something, and then suddenly I would remember something else that needed to be done. Not even realizing what I was doing, I would shift gears and start a new project, leaving the one I was working on unfinished. Several hours would go by, and I would realize I had half a dozen half finished projects strewn across my desk.

After employing a few organizational skills garnered from a self-help book, and putting great effort on focusing my attention, I curbed my erratic hip hopping from one task to another.

But here I am, some 20 years later, and I find myself in a similar situation. A self publisher—like a manager of a resort—wears many hats. I am writer, publicist, marketer, project coordinator, type setter and more.

As the to-do list piles up, I find myself hip hopping around in much the same way I did at Havasu Palms. In the midst of my current work in progress I might be reminded of a tweet I need to send, a blog post I must write, site to submit one of my books to, a newsletter to send, or get distracted by my writer’s group on Facebook. Each day I tell myself I will get organized, yet I rarely feel more accomplished the following day.

Perhaps what I really need is an assistant. But then I also need the time to hire and train one. It would be easier to simply clone myself. That might work, providing the cloned me can stay  focused.

Have you tried Kindle Unlimited?

HavasuPalmsHostile

Last month Amazon grabbed the attention of its independent authors with the rollout of the new Kindle Unlimited program. For $9.99 a month Amazon customers can now read all the books they want (that are included in the program). Amazon also offers a 30-day free trial. This means you have 30 days to gorge on books for free—just remember to opt out of the program before the renewal date if you don’t want to pay for the service.

For an independent author’s book to be included in Kindle Unlimited’s library, it must be in Amazon’s Select program. This mean the independent author must exclusively publish the eBook on Amazon’s platform—it can’t be offered on other sites like Barnes & Noble or iTunes. The author is paid each time the book is downloaded AND read past 10% (as of now). If you download an author’s book and don’t read it past this point, the author doesn’t get paid.

How much an author will be paid is the big question. For the first
month the amount came in at $1.81 per borrow. Depending on the book’s cover price, that amount might be significantly less or more than what the author earns with a traditional sale.  Of course, the theory is there will be far more borrows—since theoretically it cost the reader nothing to download the book (aside from the flat monthly fee)—so the author might see a considerable spike in readers which means bulk will be the key to making this a financial win for authors.

Or will it? If members of the program gorge on books, this means the amount paid back to authors will dwindle in size.

I see this program as possibly great for readers—and great for authors. But only if it works out like medical insurance. In medical insurance, the insurance company banks on most of its customers not ever using the policy. Each month customers pay the premium, yet what the insurance company pays out is considerably less.  But then someone actually uses the insurance, like we had to in June when my husband ended up in the hospital. It will take more than five years for our insurance company to recoup its money from our premiums—and that is assuming we never see the doctor again during that time.

The Kindle Unlimited program might work out great for both readers and authors, providing a majority of the members don’t gorge on books.

As a reader, I signed up for the free trial, and when it came up for renewal, I didn’t opt out. One of the reasons was the non-fiction books in the program—books I have wanted to read yet couldn’t justify buying.  For example, when exploring the possibility of buying an RV, I found a slew of books on the RV lifestyle that were in the program. Instead of figuring out which one I should spend my money on, I just tried them all out. Yep, I gorged.  Read one after another.

As an author I might be tempted to start writing shorter books that might fit well into this program and earn some serious buck. But the fact is, who knows where this program will go? It is too soon to tell, and imprudent for any author to spend too much time developing a project exclusively based on KU.

A case in point—eHow.  Back in the day eHow allowed anyone to write short how-to articles and then earn monthly revenue based on what eHow brought in from ads. I wrote some of those articles, and was quickly earning over $500 a month—passive income that came in each month without me writing another word.  There were a number of writers who devoted their time to building their bank of articles. I remember one author who was making over $2000 a month. But then as quickly as it started it was over, when the people behind eHow shut down the program. Some lucky writers—like me—were offered a chunk to sell their articles to eHow. I took the money and didn’t look back. Of course, my nice monthly passive income stopped.

My point being, before authors get too excited about the possibilities, don’t get carried away by devoting all of your time building a product based solely on an untested platform. I am not saying not to write books for the program, just don’t make that the only reason you are writing the books.

As for me, as a reader I will stay with Kindle Unlimited for a few more months and see if I continue to borrow enough books to justify paying the monthly fee. I will continue to pay full price for eBooks—buying something I want to read that isn’t in the program.

As for me, the Indi author I have a couple books in the program, just to test it out. At the end of 90 days I’ve the option to pull out and republish at the other sites, or renew with Select. Way too soon to tell how this will all pan out. Even if it looks like a winner at the end of the year, who knows what 2015 will bring. One certainty about self-publishing, the rules are constantly changing.

(Photo: Havasu Palms, A Hostile Takeover — the eBook is currently in the Kindle Unlimited program. If you’ve signed up or have the free trial, you can download the book for free.)

What does your critique of a bestseller say about you?

School bullying concept 1When book reviewers sit around and slam bestselling books that they find unworthy of their sales rank (think Twilight and 50 Shades), I figure they are simply expressing reader opinions. Authors of those books understand not everyone will love their stories—obviously many have or they would not be bestsellers—and the negative reviews are often expressing the views of non-fans.

These negative reviews, in combination with the positive ones can give an author insight to his or her target market. It doesn’t mean the author needs to change to appeal to the one stars, but it can help the author come to an understanding of what fans want, enabling the author to continue giving it to them.

But when authors sit around and bash bestsellers, that is a different story. Before you argue Authors are readers too!—understand I am referring to when authors—as a group—a group striving to improve their sales—do this. It not only reeks of sour grapes, it is also foolish in the extreme, because instead of focusing on what will actually help the authors’ sales ranking, they are engaging in a negative bashing fest that helps no one.

Instead of a circle jerk where all the authors are slapping each other on the back and agreeing the successful author’s work really sucks, wouldn’t the time be better served to take a closer look at what made the book or author a success?

This doesn’t mean you try cloning the successful author’s work, but you might find valuable information you can incorporate into your own work or routine that will improve your ranking. And really, isn’t that our purpose when we hang out at places like the KDP Forum? It should be. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case over there. I suppose that’s why I no longer hang out at the KDP Forum.

Peach Daiquiri, Peach Martini or something else?

photo (43)It’s been a long summer—what with Don being on IV for six weeks, still in physical therapy and no summer vacation for us. So this afternoon while we were sitting in our swimming pool we decided we wanted a tropical drink—something to make us think we were lounging by the pool at some five star resort.

We didn’t have any juice in the house—but we did have a bottle of vodka and some fresh peaches. Time to experiment! The results, yummy, satisfying and resort worthy. Not sure what to call it—peach daiquiris use rum…a peach martini, perhaps?

Whatever it is, here is the easy recipe for two.

1. Peal four peaches and remove pits. Break each peach into three or four pieces.
2. Fill two glasses with ice.
3. Pour two shots of vodka into a blender.
4. Place the blender lid on the blender, remove the fill cap.
5. Turn the blender on and add (through the fill cap) a little peach, then ice, then peach, until all the ice from the glasses and the peaches are used. The mixture should be a thick slush.
6. Pour the mixture into the two glasses.

Enjoy!

Havasu in August, without air conditioning

LadygroomerYesterday morning we woke up to no air conditioning. That may not seem like a big deal to some people –but if you’ve ever been to Lake Havasu City in August, you know it gets a tad warm here. The high yesterday was 106°, which is actually cool for this time of year. Today it’s been around 109°.

The good news—we have a home warranty—the bad news, the repairman couldn’t get here until this morning, more than 24 hours after we called.

Fortunately there is more good news; it seems our house has good insulation, because while it got to the upper 80s in the house, it really wasn’t bad with the fans going—and we do have a pool to jump into. Mom’s side of the house has its own air, so the furry kids camped out over there for most of the time. I ended up sleeping in Mom’s room last night, and Don dealt with our warm bedroom.

I didn’t get much writing done. Seems excessive heat kills the creative juices. Didn’t get any house cleaning done either. Seems excessive heat makes me lazy.

But the air is back on, and I am a happy camper again.

One reason I’m happy—beside the cooler air—is the fact we have a home warranty. Do you have one? I know some people don’t like them, and you have to read the fine print, but when I was in real estate we always encouraged our buyers to get one.

We signed up for a new policy this year. Instead of paying one lump sum, we pay a monthly fee. We’ve already used it three times so far—dishwasher, backed up plumbing and now the air conditioner. We have to pay a service fee each time they come out, which is $60 for our policy. That is still much cheaper than having to pay for the total repair bill. Today they waved the $60 fee for the air conditioning repair, because it took them over 24 hours to get here.

Personally, I think home warranties are a great idea. I look at the price of the policy as a way we can manage and budget repairs on our home. When our water heater went out a few years back I kicked myself for not having a home warranty. But like I mentioned, you do have to read the fine print, and understand what you are purchasing. You might have to pay for additional coverage on certain items, such as swimming pool equipment or refrigerators.

Some people think home warranties are a waste. I’m not one of them.

(Photo: Fortunately Lady went to the groomers this week, so she didn’t have to wear that heavy coat!)

Did you know it costs tens of thousands of dollars to self-publish a quality book?

Black book and dollars.Get out your bags of money if you want to make it in this crazy world of self-publishing. At least, that is what some folks seem to think.

Yesterday I watched a CBS news show clip (from Dallas/Forth Worth) tell its viewers that to get out a quality self-published book expect to spend tens of thousands of dollars. I had to replay that segment several times to make sure I heard him right—yep, tens of thousands of dollars. Wow, where do these guys get their misinformation?

They started out by saying you can self-publish for free on Amazon’s Kindle platform, and go print-on-demand, which is also free. There the person who orders the book pays for the printing costs. They capped off the segment by reminding viewers of the other costs necessary for a quality book, which they listed as: Editor, Cover and Reviews.

When I shared this information with a private writers group I belong to—a group where a significant number of the members make serious bucks as self-published authors, some of which are names you would recognize but I will resist the temptation to drop—one suggested media outfits were doing the bidding of the big six, out to inject fear and uncertainty into the process to steer writers toward traditional publishing. I suggested maybe instead it was some Indies putting out this bogus information—to scare off the competition.

While I don’t know where this guy got his facts, I strongly disagree with his inflated numbers.

The news segment mentioned a quality self-published book needed an editor, cover and reviews. Let’s see what those things actually cost in the real world.

Editing
Earlier this month I shopped for a new editor on Elance, a site where freelancers pick up jobs. I received 50 bids for my 80,000 word manuscript. Some of the applicants were qualified—some were not. The range of bids was all over the place, from a little under $200 to $3,600. Editing costs can vary, depending on what you expect from your editor. This price range seems pretty typical from my past experience with shopping editors and from what I hear from other authors. Many self-publishers also hire proofreaders.

Covers
For the super frugal, an author can use the cover generator over on Amazon or pick up one of those pre-made covers offered online, for sometimes as little as twenty bucks. But, a quality cover can be had for under $500. Prices will increase if you want original art, instead of purchasing stock images.

Reviews
Paying for reviews is a controversial practice—and I’m surprised CBS listed this as a must have. Indies I know—successful Indies—don’t pay for reviews. If they do—and get caught—expect the wrath of the Goodreads crowd and bloggers to come down hard.

One expense they failed to mention was formatting. The manuscript document needs to be formatted one way for an eBook and another for a print copy. If you publish at more than one eBook vendor, such as Barnes and Noble or Kobo—how you format the book may be slightly different from what you upload at Amazon for Kindle.  Many of us—those who are computer savvy and comfortable with Word—do this ourselves. Other authors farm this out.

In my opinion it does not take tens of thousands of dollars to self-publish a quality book. It takes talent, hard work and determination. Self-publishing is by no means a get rich scheme—yet neither does it require you be rich in order to self-publish a quality book.

When life interferes…

HautingDanielle (1)At the end of May I received two comments on my blog in response to my post “Instead of a treadmill desk – a jogging trampoline!” I intended to respond but life got in the way. My husband came down with a mystery infection and then had emergency surgery the first week in June. He came home after almost a week in the hospital and had to undergo six weeks of in-home IV treatment, with me playing nurse.

Things are sort of getting back to normal around here. Sort of.

Don hasn’t been back to his office, but he’s off the IV and now going to physical therapy about three times a week. In spite of his pain and fatigue he’s getting some work done (he is a real estate broker), but that means he’s moved into my home office and we are sharing a desk. I bought one of those little devices that hook up two computers to the same monitor and keyboard, so both of our desktop computers are on my roll top desk.

I don’t use my desktop computer much these days—and prior to Don getting sick, I used to put my laptop on the desk’s keyboard drawer when I wasn’t standing on the trampoline typing.

When Don came home from the hospital the trampoline got shoved aside. I’ve just recently set it up again, yet I’m not using it at the level I was before, for one thing Don and I are still sharing the office, and when I write I can’t do it with anyone in the room. This means I often retreat to the living room couch with my laptop, to find solitude necessary for me to write. Fortunately it is swimming weather, so the pool gives me a daily work out.

As for my writing, yesterday I sent my latest book off to the editor—Haunting Danielle. I normally write fiction under my pen name, Anna J. McIntyre and non-fiction under my real name. But Haunting Danielle is a little different from my other McIntyre books, so I was trying to decide if I wanted to publish under my real name—or the pen name I normally use for fiction.

I decided to publish the book under both names. Why? you ask. It will let my McIntyre readers know the book has a slightly different flavor from my other titles under that name, yet like the McIntyre books it is character driven.

One of my greatest marketing failings as an independent author is creating a series that doesn’t neatly fall under a specific genre. I did this with my McIntyre’s Coulson Series—and now I’ve done it again with Haunting Danielle. I’m trying to pin it down–a ghost story, paranormal mystery, with a splash of romance and maybe a bit on the cozy side. There’s no graphic sex in this one—and while many of my readers insist McIntyre romances are on the clean and sweet side, some reviewers claim there is too much graphic sex in my books. Go figure.

Haunting Danielle is the first book in a new series by the same name. Look for its eBook release on September 1, 2014.

Spanish rice – made with cauliflower instead of rice!! YUMMMM!

calWhen I grew up our family never had rice. But my husband’s step-father was from Hawaii, and white short grain rice was something they had at almost every meal. Fried rice for breakfast, stew served over rice, rice instead of potato—rice, rice rice. So for my husband and I, rice became a regular staple in our family’s diet.

We started slowing down on the rice a number of years ago, and turned exclusively to brown rice (the rare times we have it) after my husband was diagnosed with diabetes. Rice is rich in sugar and carbs.

Our son is into the paleo diet lifestyle and told me how he makes fried rice using cauliflower. During the last few years I’ve made pizza dough and tortillas with cauliflower—both of which I enjoyed. Yet, it is a heck of a lot of work.

Last night I was making tacos and wanted a side dish. I had a head of cauliflower in the frig, so I wondered—could I turn it into mock Spanish rice??

As it turns out, making rice from cauliflower is a heck of a lot easier than making pizza dough or tortillas. For all three recipes you have to toss the cleaned and trimmed cauliflower into the food processor to “rice” the cauliflower—turning it into tiny rice-size pieces.

But with pizza dough and tortillas you have to microwave the riced cauliflower and then squeeze out the water. The squeezing part is a pain. But making rice was easy and it was delicious! I will definitely make it again.

Directions
1. Clean the cauliflower, removing stems and leaves. Cut in pieces and toss in a food processor to chop it into rice-size pieces.
2. Dice half an onion.
3. Dice a fresh serrano hot pepper. More if you like it spicy, or use a can of diced green chilies.
4. Toss four or five fresh tomatoes in the food processor. Pulverize then add the chilies.
5. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan.
6. Sauté the onions in the hot oil until translucent.
7. Add riced-cauliflower. Stir and allow it to brown slightly.
8. Season liberally with whole cumin.
9. Stir in the tomato mixture and lightly salt.
10. Brown a bit and then add grated cheddar cheese and take off the burner. Allow the cheese to melt.

I understand the amounts for the ingredients aren’t exact—I made the recipe on the fly. But it will give you a general idea of how to make it, if you want to give it a try.

Yummy and healthy!

EDIT: I forgot to include the garlic. I gave the dish a few shakes of powdered garlic with the cumin. This is what happens when I start making recipes up and don’t write everything down!!