5min Update

This week has been an interesting one. I’ve got a new shift at work, and a lot more time. Or at least it feels like it.

Before this week I worked Friday to Tuesday, from 3-10. This week I’ve got the weekends off, and I’m home by 7pm.

I’m a natural night owl so I didn’t mind working late. It just meant I stayed up late and did stuff when other people were asleep. But I don’t know why this shift makes me feel like I have more time. Maybe it’s because I can still get to d&d even though I worked that day. Maybe it’s because things aren’t closed when I get off work and I can go out to eat, or shopping for a moment.

In any event, I’ve had a bit more time for me, and I’ve spent that time editing Ghostly Intentions. I’m half way through, so I’m pretty confident I can get it out this weekend. That would be awesome.

Also, I have Costume Shop ready for an edit so I’ll probably be finishing that up and publishing it in a couple weeks. Plus I’m working more on finishing book two in my half blood sorceress series…. So much writing. And I’m happy to be doing it again!

And that’s my five.

5 Min – Day 7 -Possible Giveaway?

I am trying to declutter and realized I have a LOT of print books in my house. I think I need to start getting rid of them. So I think I will be doing some give away of print books later this month. I have both Witch’s Sacrifice and Witch’s Curse.

Anyway, last night I did a lot of marketing stuff. I took care of my website, updated some things, and did not write more than five words. It’s a little frustrating at times when that happens, but at the same time I need to get those marketing things out of the way too.

This morning I took some time to wake up, watch some youtube, and relax with a bowl of cereal. I know I’m going to go to work today and there are going to be a lot of calls waiting for me. I dread weeks like this, where calls are never ending. I don’t mind my job, I even like it some days, but having unending calls…dear god please let them give me a break in between calls. Just a minute to catch my breath. Just a moment to be me for a second, or check in with Bjorn on his twitch stream, or something.

But it only last a week or two before it calms down again. I’m pretty sure they are shifting the call volumes around until they get all the new people trained so that we can all be on the calls. That means in a few months we should stop having this problem, but for now it’s sometimes frustrating. And sometimes I just wish I could stay home.

But day jobs are a thing…for now….

And my five min are up.

 

Salesmen or Customer Service Rep

What’s the difference between being pushy and being helpful?

Last year I went to a used car dealership and looked into getting a car. I really liked the car they showed me, but the tactics used by the men at the dealership were so underhanded and vitriol that it has put me off ever going to a used car dealership again. If I do go to a new car lot I will be so against the dealership that it’s going to be difficult for them to help me even if they are actually there to help me instead of helping line their pockets.

Some of the things they did:

  • Telling me what I needed instead of listening to what I said
  • Assuming I’d buy it even after I said no.
  • Changing their wording to try and get me to do the thing I said no to already
  • Treating me like I was stupid for saying no.
  • Telling me they knew better, or the bank knew better then I did about my finances.
  • Making it physically difficult for me to leave.
  • Asking again and again for that sale to the point of harassment.

It’s unfortunate that I’ve seen some of these tactics bleed into other businesses, though not as bad as that dealership was. But, I do see people “assuming the sale” and pushing for that “no,” often dozens of times.

It’s frustrating, even aggravating. If I were to walk into a store and the employees started assuming I’d buy whatever they handed me I would be inclined to leave. I know my budget, my tastes, my desires. Often I don’t even want a specific thing when I go into a store I just want to see what’s available. Having your employee sit there and give me things to buy doesn’t make me want to buy, it makes me uncomfortable and want to leave.

But I also recognize not every customer is like me. There are others who don’t know what they want. They need more help picking the right outfit, or the right sized couch for their space. I get that. A good “customer service agent” can tell the difference between someone who needs that extra bit of help, and someone who just wants to be left alone to pick their own things. They will ask if they need help. Watch to see if they look confused. Offer little bits of information about products or services. Only if the person wants to engage in conversation will they but in. And if the person is just looking, or doesn’t want to be bothered, then they will let it go.

But it seems that more companies want “salesmen” instead of “customer service agents”. They care less about the customers good experiences and more about the amount of crap they can push off on the general public.

I get it. Your growth business is no longer a growth business. It’s just another stock on the market maintaining it’s shares, and you’re looking to raise capitol to make your stockholders happy. So you’re expanding your sales, pushing more merch, and upping quotas to get bonuses so you give out fewer bonus (thus saving money) and push your employees to get more from the public to try and meet the insane quotas. I GET IT. You have to please the stockholders.

I also understand that as long as we, the public, keep going to your shop, allowing “salesmen” to sell us crap, then you’re going to keep doing it. “It works” you say, all the while annoying some of your customers to the point that they quit shopping with you, and pissing off some of your employees because they didn’t sign up to be aggressive salesmen. But IT WORKS, so you’re going to do it.

I just wonder how long it will take for this salesmen attitude to infiltrate all of our businesses and shops. Till then I will keep looking for the shops that encourage the employees to be friendly, and chatty. Where I get greeted by name, and they already know my favorite drink. Because I’d rather pay extra to get that personal service then pay the lowest common denominator to watch my fellow human beings be turned into pushy salesmen who only care about the bottom dollar.

Behind the Scenes

Some days I wish I could just go the traditional route. I mean then someone else gets to do the cover art, formatting, updating all the back matter, and trying to get my book on all of the different platforms. It’s a lot of work. And that isn’t even the editing, which I started paying someone else to do. then there is setting up Gumroad so I can sell direct through my website, and then…. finally…. some writing.

And let’s not forget marketing, social media and… ARRRGGG!!! It’s enough to make me want to pull my hair out sometimes.

I am not a full time writer. I write when I can, which isn’t as often as I’d like sometimes. Some days I struggle to get the words out, or rather good words out, especially like now when I am sick and my brain feels a little fuzzy. (Hint, I write anyway, even when it’s hard.) But I do have work, and children, and now I have to take my daughter to her job every morning. But I still write. I keep at it, keep hacking away until I have something worth while.

So, today I did some editing, reorganizing of some files, updated the back matter in a couple books, experimented with Gumroad, and I did THIS!

thisI thought I needed a little bit of a break from “Mermaid’s Curse” to feel like I accomplished something. And boy did I. I love the way the scarab came out. And I’ve already worked on the plot enough to actually sit down and write it. A short story, maybe I can finish it and have the third book in the series out eventually.

But, “Mermaid’s Curse” is still my priority. I want a full length novel on my wall of books, and it is coming along nicely. Just so, I’m off to finish another chapter in that one before I go work on “The Scarab Necklace” for a bit. Let’s see if switching back and forth (like I use to do) will give me the inspiration I need to actually finish something new.

I’d like to teach the world to sing….

I had this conversation with someone today on reddit, and I’d just like to share it. After writing it I felt so proud to be part of the indie community. And if you are an artist, writer, story teller, or just someone chasing your dreams… you should feel proud of the community of creators we are building too.

It isn’t a contest. We aren’t at each others throats vying for the top. We are friends, and coworkers, helping one another because we are also helping ourselves.

************ the conversation ***********

In response to my assertion that “the arts are skyrocketing” and a person should follow their dream, another redditor replied:

I agree that we have a lot more avenues to express our creativity.  And, it is easy to reach a lot of people. I also believe that supporting local economies is good. But I wonder about ‘skyrocketing’. Is this a growing viable industry, is that what you mean by ‘skyrocketing’? Do most people make good money or even a living?  Or are most folks ‘starving artists’ that would be considered as hobbyists to the business world?

My reply:

I am mainly familiar with the self publishing book world since that is where I am working.

Ten to fifteen years ago, before Amazon opened up publishing to individual authors, the best a writer could do was sign with a publishing house. Most houses would pay 10-15% royalties on a book. They would miss payments, miss count, hide numbers, and basically the publishers made bank while the author made crap. A large portion of authors, way back then, had to have a second job because what they were making through the publishing company couldn’t really pay the bills. They were limited to one book a year. Often signed to contracts with “no compete” clauses so they couldn’t sell anywhere else. And a big part was that there were only so many publishers with so many open book slots each year, and more authors to fill those slots then slots available.

Then Amazon came around. They give their authors direct access to publishing, pay them 70% royalties, and let you do everything yourself.

There are MORE writers now that actually get books out into the world then there ever were before. And they are selling! Things no publishing house would touch because they were cross genre or off brand are now selling millions of copies. Authors, for the first time ever, have a real chance to make a living doing what they love.

I know several dozen authors who make a full time living from writing. They quit their day jobs. And now they just create art. I know about hundreds of other cases and there are reports of thousands of authors who all write full time.

Amazon, smashwords, kobo, and all the other platforms have opened up a world to people who were once hampered by what the publishing industry dictated.

And others are succeeding because we, self published authors, are succeeding. We hire freelance editors, illustrators, voice actors, formatters, personal assistants, and more. Just because we love to write, and people love to read.

Now a lot of authors are starting to hire graphic novelists, animators, and film makers….

Yes. from where I sit, the art community is sky rocketing. We are sharing the wealth. We are encouraging indie development, and teaching each other how to succeed. There are free podcasts, tutorials, and ebooks out there for anyone who wants to put in the hard work to become a self published artist, writer, musician, filmmaker or whatever. And we as an indie community understand that the more our fellow creators succeed, the more we succeed.

It’s kind of a beautiful thing, and I am so happy to be part of it.

Pity Party, Table for One

I have really been hanging out in the dull drums lately, and I’ve been trying to figure out why so I can kick the thing that’s encouraging me to be there. It’s like this little monster sitting on the edge of a pit, and every time I pull myself up he bites my knuckles and I fall back down again.

But… why? What is this little monster that keeps nipping at my heels? Why does it suddenly find my fingers so tasty?

I think it’s because I’ve been lathering my nuckels with salt and pepper just for his amusment. Someone kick me while I’m down? That’s okay, lets feel sorry for ourselves. It’s just a teaspoon of salt. Someone get that bonus I knew I couldn’t get? That’s another tablespoon of butter. (Because everything tastes better with butter, right?)

I’m reminded of Johnny B Truants little book, “The Universe Doesn’t Give a Flying ‘F’ About You“. That person at work didn’t know I could have used that bonus. That customer didn’t know I was already in the dull drums and their harsh words just hurt that much more. All they knew was they “deserved it”, and they “earned it”. How dare that person get in my way.

What if I had gotten the bonus? What if that customer didn’t snap at me? Would I still be chilling on the ice shelf that is called “eh, good enough”?

When people kick you, run you over, and get in your way, you can salt and butter your fingers and let that little devil push you back in the pit that is the dull drums… or you can say to hell with it all, and stop playing the game.

The truth is, that little devil is only a few inches tall. Sure, he has sharp teeth, and they hurt, but if you stop just wincing in pain and dropping back into the pit then there is a really good chance you can fling that little demon off into next week. Then when you catch up to him you just fling him again. Eventually you’ll get stronger, and you’ll be able to fling him into next month, next year, or maybe next decade.

The real secret? Get off that icy shelf called “good enough”. Do something. Learn something. Apply for a new job. Stop salting your fingers and start putting on metal gauntlets with huge metal spikes.

The universe isn’t going to hand you a completed book, or a finished painting. It isn’t going to turn off the game and turn on the camera. It isn’t going to send a knight in shiny armor to save you.

SAVE YOURSELF! First from yourself, then from the little demons biting at your fingers.

Now I’ve got writing to do!

Stress, and day 6 of NaNoWriMo

It doesn’t matter what goals you set for yourself… getting that new job. Asking that hot girl out. Finishing that project by such and such day…. We are all going to have distractions, all have little things that set us back, or make the job harder.

Right now, stress seems to be the biggest one for me, and my goal of finishing NaNoWriMo, or more importantly to myself, finishing a full length novel.

And the stresses aren’t major ones. My tire was flat, I had to take my daughter to pick up her glasses, my normal back aches and pains. Nothing huge, but those little stresses add up.

Sometimes it’s best to just take a day off and relax. Breathe. Read a book. Listen to some music. Go out to dinner with your significant other. Sure, you’ll fall behind on the goal for a couple hours, but you can catch up.

Even if the only break you can get is taking twenty minutes to walk away from the entire situation and just do something that has nothing to do with your goal, you will return feeling fresh and invigorated.

Yesterday I was only able to put a hand full of words on the page. It was a struggle, and I decided the better idea would be to take a break. Finish the book I’d been reading. The word count wasn’t worth the stress. Not when I could take the few hours to pull myself together, and start fresh the next day.

That means I need to write 1800 words a day to complete NaNo on time, or just have some really good high wordcount days. Either way… I’ll get there.

Lighting the way

There is a moment when you are out in the woods, lost and weary, and you finally catch a glimpse of a light off in the distance. But your body is struggling to put one foot in front of another. Your mouth is dry, eyes sagging. Your breath ragged. And a fog has descended upon your mind. You don’t know if you can reach that light. And part of you just wants to lay down right there, sleep, even though another part of you knows that if you do you’ll never get up again.

It’s the same with any struggle. You fight so hard to attain a goal, work day and night, and see that light at the end of the tunnel. And sometimes you make it. Sometimes you get there and realize it wasn’t a lantern, it was just a fire fly and now you’re further off track then before.

But finding waypoints along the road will help. Setting markers, attainable goals. Little projects that lead up to the larger ones. Taking chances…

Sometimes it feels like you’re moving backwards. Sometimes it feels like your just stuck in a pit of despair and avoiding the rats of unusual size. But the light is still there… waiting for you to reach it.

More often then not, we are our own biggest road block. Our will fades, or determination takes a vacation, and we let the RoUS get just a little too close. They have to nibble on our toes before we finally get moving again.

Think of them as motivation to keep moving. Don’t get mad at them, but don’t sit around and chat with them either.

Absolon, life like? (Or- Michigan is fucking NUTS!)

absolonsmI posted the second chapter of “Absolon” today.

It’s kind of freaky, actually. I wrote it, and posted it. In this chapter we start to see what happened to the world after WW3, and what people are dealing with in their daily lives.

One part of it, I think I might spoil a little, because I was shocked to learn it wasn’t as inconceivable as I thought it might be.

In Michigan they just passed a law that requires community service (that is, they will have people work for free) in order to get basic health care and food stamps, and/or unemployment.

Sounds kind of straight forward, right? Even a little intuitive when you think about it. They get “free money from the state” so lets have them work for it.

Now lets look a little deeper.

Everyone who works pays into the system. We pay taxes, social security, and medicaid. We pay these things so that when we are down and out, out of a job, and looking for a new one, then we have a little security to fall back. We also get roads, military, politicians, and all sorts of other things out of the deal. Not all of which we agree with, but we pay our taxes, elect our officials and hope things work out.

Second, there is a system for unemployment for a reason. Everyone who works pays into it. And when we are out of work we take from it. That is how it has worked for a very long time. It gives everyone a chance to look for a new job, get well (if it was a medical reason) or just take a breather and recover for a bit before jumping back into the rat race.

Not everyone will get a chance to take advantage of unemployment, but shouldn’t we be grateful? Unemployment only pays a small percentage of what you were making before hand. Not enough to pay your bills usually. Who the heck wants to be on unemployment? Most people want to get back to work as soon as possible.

Which brings us to another problem in this system…. Work.

If you have a bunch of people on unemployment and food stamps working for the city for free, then what happens to the people who did those jobs before the city started getting free “community service”? Do they get laid off? Fired? Restructured? Retrained?

Or do you throw them back on the unemployment lines so they have to come back and do the job they were doing before, only this time for free.

Even if you figure that the people working this community service are doing it for “pay” in the form of unemployment and food stamps, how can you guarantee that they are being paid a decent wage for that time? How do you measure that? How do they still have time to go find a “real” job?

Why not just create new jobs and hire them?

Grumble, grumble, grumble….

Anyway, there is a lot more to this argument. A lot of fall out that could happen if it passes, and sticks.

Move over! I’m coming through!

Early a friend tweeted a link to this article, in which Joe Abercrombie (a traditionally published writer) said self publishing is too much work. He doesn’t want to publish, he wants to write.

Yep. He’s right. Self publishing is a LOT of work. There are covers, editors, formating, and months and months of writing with little return.

But it’s worth it!

For centuries art has been funneled through publishers of one sort or another. Book publishers, music producers, game developers, TV executives, art curators… you name it! There was a gate keeper set in front of your goal that you had to get through.

It’s like a lottery. Someone wins, and a whole hell of a lot of people lose.

And publishing, like any lottery, wasn’t dependent solely on talent or content. It was also marketability, how much money they could make off you, and sometimes your ability to stroke their ego.

Guess what? It isn’t a lottery anymore. The gate keepers are starting to notice wholes crashing through the walls, bypassing the gate they so carefully erected.

Indie game designers have produced, sold, and created major hits among gamers. Like Limbo, Journey, Minecraft, and Bastion. Games that skyrocketed past all the game publishers, earning millions.

Indie authors, like Hugh Howie, and Amanda Hocking proved you don’t need a publisher to make it big. They refused to give their rights away for someone else to make money off their talent, and they succeeded.

In film we now see some amazing special effects, animations, dramas, and story telling available right on youtube. For free. Netflix is offering some of them, like the Guild, streaming. Theaters are playing others, like Plurality, as ‘pre movie vignettes’. Others will follow suit. Indie films will get longer, and better, and eventually be available along side everything else.

Musicians, like Maclemore, are hitting the top charts without signing their life and their music over to some producer.

Even physical objects, and hand made goods. You can go to Etsy and by something directly from designers, artists, and makers. Or you can download designs from Thingaverse and print them on your 3D printer.

Publishers… the gate keepers who so carefully erected that wall so they could decided what was published, and who succeed, are starting to see that their wall looks more like swiss cheese then brick.

The status quo use to be that people produced things, and the person who sold it and distributed it, was the one who made the most profit off it.

I see a future where the person who designed, created, wrote, painted, filmed, or made an object…. they will be the one who makes the most profit off their IP. They made it. They should.

Copyright is broken. DMC is bulky, and intrusive. Publishers are more interested in the bottom line then the creators they say they serve. We’ve known this for a while, and now we have ways to combat it.

Move over publishers, I’m coming through.
If all that’s standing in my way is a little hard work, then I’m rolling up my sleeves, and I’m doing it.