The Year In Review

We had an incredible cold spell here last week. The coldest it’s been in sixty years. And it took out my internet. I still had a connection, but almost no sites would load for me. (One of those times when I can be grateful my main email account is still Hotmail, I guess, because it did load.)

I finally got working internet back yesterday and was ridiculously happy. I could watch my streaming channels again! I could drown in Twitter threads. I could check my sales…

Okay, that sales part made me kind of sad. Luckily (?) for me, some of the days I was offline were also shit sales days but I didn’t see them until they turned themselves around.

Overall it’s been an ugly year in that respect. I am mildly comforted by the fact that I don’t appear to be alone in that, but it’s still rough. The kind of rough that makes you question your life choices.

As I said on FB the other day, I am like that person who had the stable marriage and went off and had a torrid affair with an artist and now that the affair didn’t work out can’t go back to the stable marriage. (Not that I want to.)

You’re supposed to make the bad life decisions first and then find stability, not have things be just fine and then walk away because you couldn’t face a lifetime of boredom doing things no one should care about as much as they do.

For the record, I don’t actually regret that choice at all. I am a much happier person now and I think a better person than I was before I walked away from the good career. It was a fool’s game I was never going to win. I don’t think anyone wins it actually, because it’s never enough. It’s like seeking approval from people you don’t know instead of finding self-acceptance. That’s a recipe for never being happy.


After a heart-to-heart with my vet this year I made the decision to stay doing what I’m doing for at least the next six months to a year. I want to be here for my dog until the end and, as bad as my life choices have been, they haven’t been so bad that I can’t make that happen for her.

(Of course, having made that choice she’ll now defy all odds and live to be sixteen, but if that’s what happens, I’ll take it.)

It’s a bit scary, that choice. Knowing you’re on a precarious path that’s not going to get better but still staying on it. That adds a whole level of stress that just taking risks doesn’t. Give me a perfectly good plane to jump out of over this insanity any day of the week.

But thanks to a childhood that sort of trained me out of actually experiencing fear or anxiety (because you just drown if you try to feel those things in real-time when someone you love could die at any time due to their illness), I am fortunately still fully functional in my bad-choice-making existence.


Enough self-pity, especially when it’s all my own fault. It’s December 27th here. Close enough to year-end to look back and see if I accomplished anything.

And…surprisingly given the fire and moving again and how the year felt like being stuck in mud…I did!

I published five new non-fiction titles this year in addition to two collections and two re-releases with better titles. I published a cozy mystery as well as a collection of three cozies. I published a holiday romance short story and a collection of four holiday romance short stories. I published seventeen audio titles (8 short stories, one collection, two novels, and six non-fiction titles). And I also published three video titles.

(See the very end for the list.)

All in all, it was actually a very productive year for me. I’d set out to “close loops” and I did that. The cozy was the last in that series. The AML book was one I’d been meaning to write for a couple of years to accompany the Regulatory Compliance title. The Affinity books closed that series out that I’d started in 2021.

I also tried something new with the audiobooks and found I really enjoyed it. Not just the challenge of learning something new, which I always love (go Learner), but the actual acting part of it, too.

Of course, narrating a novel is a whole level of difficulty above writing one. The words not only have to work but so does the acting and the sound quality. If you have a shaky foundation with what you wrote, then putting it in audio just highlights all of those issues.

But for one of the non-fiction titles doing audio brought in more listeners than that book had had readers. (Something that was also true with the very first audiobook I ever released almost seven years ago now. That one I did not narrate, I hired someone.)

As in most years, I didn’t get everything I wanted done this year.

I still want to write another fantasy novel, but it just didn’t happen. The fire derailed me and I retreated to what’s safe for me, non-fiction.

Also, I have been working on some other non-fiction that will publish in January that I’d wanted to publish in November. But that got derailed by the new laptop I bought that turned out to be a time-wasting piece of you-know-what.

Of course, that project opened a new loop as did starting to narrate the cozies in audio. If I carry through with both of those that means seven more cozies in audio, two short stories in audio, and another six titles to write and five collections to publish.

My mind being what it is, I’ll close them next year. And then maybe that fantasy novel? Haha. Sigh.

I’d like to say I think 2023 is going to be a better year than 2022, but…hm. I am one of those people who believes that bad luck comes in threes and I think at least one domino will fall next year causing the beginning of a chain of unfortunate events.

Then again, I’m pretty sure I thought that in 2021 and then it didn’t happen. So I carry on and when things go to shit, I’ll adapt.

Anyway. I hope you each accomplished something you wanted in 2022 and that you have an even better 2023.

Non-Fiction Book Releases

Affinity Publisher for Ad Creatives

Affinity Publisher for Basic Book Covers

Affinity Publisher for Non-Fiction

Affinity Publisher for Ads and Covers (collection)

Affinity Publisher for Book Formatting (collection)

Sell That Book (re-titled re-release)

How To Gather and Use Data for Business Analysis (re-titled release)

Undisclosed Pen Name Title

AML Compliance Fundamentals

Fiction Book Releases

A Puzzling Pooch and Pumpkin Puffs

Maggie May and Miss Fancypants Mysteries Books 7 to 9

Holiday romance short story

Holiday romance short story collection

Non-Fiction Video Releases

Affinity Publisher for Ad Creatives

Affinity Publisher for Basic Book Covers

Affinity Publisher for Non-Fiction

Non-Fiction Audio Releases

Regulatory Compliance Fundamentals

How to Gather and Use Data for Business Analysis

Sell That Book

Secret Pen Name Project

AML Compliance Fundamentals

Data Analysis for Self-Publishers

Fiction Audio Releases

4 Holiday Romance Short Stories & Collection

4 Spec Fic Short Stories

2 Cozy Mysteries

Why I Like Writing Non-Fiction

I’m currently working on formatting a non-fiction title that has close to two hundred screenshots. It had been a while since I formatted any non-fiction books with images in them and I could not for the life of me figure out how I used to insert images into my books and have Affinity automatically put a border around the image.

For five images, fine, you just manually put the border on it. But the images were also coming in pinned and I was having to undo that, too. And then I had a brilliant idea. I could grab my own book off my shelf (Affinity Publisher for Non-Fiction) and I could read the chapter I wrote on inserting images using Affinity.

And lo and behold, there was the answer. (picture frames)

So that’s reason one I love writing non-fiction. Because it captures the knowledge I have at a point in time and then forget because I don’t need it. I’ve pulled the Excel functions books off my shelf more than once because of that. I know there’s some trick to using a specific function but can’t remember what it is off the top of my head. Or I know the function exists to do X, but don’t ask me in the moment what that function actually is.

The other thing I really like about writing non-fiction is that it makes me learn more. I don’t write books about subjects I don’t feel comfortable discussing, but I’m one of those people that will race ahead with a “that works” solution without stopping to see if things have changed. But when I have to explain something to someone else, I finally stop and say, “is there a better way to do this?”

And sometimes there is. I used to manually resize my picture frames to my image (by using dimensions, so it wasn’t horribly time-consuming) in Affinity. Until I wrote that book and realized there was a button I could press which would size the frame to the image. And that I could change my settings so my images always imported at 300 dpi. And that I could create a shortcut for insert frame break to save a bit of time when I needed one of those (which happens often when inserting two hundred images).

None of those were things I would’ve just sat down and figured out on my own. But when I’m trying to explain things to someone else, I do. Which means that even if a title doesn’t earn me a lot of money it saves me time because my own process improves. (I still want it to earn money, my dog is big, hungry, and vocal when not fed. It’s just a nice side benefit.)

Plus, there’s just a sort of puzzle-solving aspect to writing non-fiction. How do you get the right components on the page and in the right order so that someone stays with you and learns what you’re trying to teach them? It’s like a Rubik’s cube, except I can actually come up with a solution.

And finally I like to think that it helps others, too. I (perhaps naively) think that anyone can learn anything if they have the right teacher and put in the time. And since my mind works a little sideways to the norm, I like to think that maybe I bring a different angle to things which helps people see them from a different perspective that finally makes it click into place.

Yeah, so, there you have it. Sometimes I beat myself up for writing so much non-fiction instead of fiction (only one novel and one short story this year and five years since my last fantasy novel even though over a thousand people have bought that whole series at this point-eek), but I really do enjoy it.

Oh, and for those of you who are writers but not into writing non-fiction but were kind enough to read to the end…If you’re wide, don’t forget to check out the Google promotions tab because you can now put a discount on your books if people buy 2 or more books in a series. You can set it up for all of your series under one promo so it takes only a minute or two to get up and running.

Also, if you’re looking for new social media to join, perhaps Hive has worked its issues out and will be that next place for creatives to gather. It’s app-only right now so you won’t find me there anytime soon, but it looks like it could be that thing that’s big in a few years. (Just exercise caution in what you share there as you should with all online activity quite frankly. It’s young and will have growing pains.)

Okay. Back to it. This book is not going to format itself…

To Hell With ASUS

I don’t do social media other than here, so sorry in advance for subjecting any of my followers to this rant.

I think I mentioned I’d bought an ASUS computer recently. It was the first one I’d ever bought from them. Not sure how I settled on it, but it had a high screen resolution and upgraded amount of memory that I thought could better handle what I do and it was supposedly designed to work well for graphic design/artistic types.

I didn’t get around to using the computer for about a month because I was doing audio work, but then I did. And it started crashing on me. Their online help is questionable so I called in. The person who helped me the first time was decent and walked me through the standard run updates, etc. process.

But it still crashed. The second person was not useful. He transferred me to a department that wasn’t even open at the time so their customer service kept me on hold for a while and then just hung up on me.

So I called again. Got the first person again, I’m pretty sure. They figured out what had happened with the hang-up. Told me someone would call.

Guy calls. Spends an hour on the phone with me. Can’t get the BIOS to update. So I get to send it in.

I send it in. Without the computer for 10 days or so. They replace the SSD and a fan. Get it back. It starts crashing again.

I call. They say because it was sent in before it has to be sent in again. So I send it in again because when it crashes sometimes it makes a buzzing sound and smells like something is maybe burning?

They kept the frickin’ computer A MONTH. And said they couldn’t find an issue. Only reason I ever got it back was because I called and said, “Uh, where’s my computer?” Both times I sent it in I sent it with a list of dates and times it crashed and what I was doing when it crashed. Did they ever try doing exactly what I was doing when it crashed? Not as far as I can tell.

So I get it back. And it starts crashing again. They send me a survey about my experience. I rate them poorly because it’s STILL CRASHING. They ask me to video the crashes.

Okay. I sit down, start working, and within two hours have two videos for them of it crashing. One from my other computer, one from the computer itself.

I send it to them. They say they’ll respond in 24-48 hours. A WEEK LATER I follow-up. Because it’s now started crashing every four minutes when I use it. Which means I can’t even work around it crashing because no sooner is it up and running than it crashes again.

I get a response. You know what the response is??? Have you tried running Windows Update.


Do you think I haven’t tried to update shit? Multiple times? Do you think I didn’t upgrade two of my programs to the latest version at a cost of $200 to see if your precious, delicate little piece of shit laptop would maybe handle them better?

Three calls with your support staff and months of issues with this laptop and no, not one of us ever thought to update the damned computer…Seriously?? That’s your response after all this time.

FUCK YOU ASUS. Never ever ever ever will I buy another computer from them. Ever.

Comments off because I swear to God if someone tried to comment on this post that they’ve never had a problem with ASUS I would jump down their throat. (Oh, and clearly I’m not alone in my issue, because they didn’t even let my 1 -star review through on NewEgg, but there are at least two others out there also having instability issues and they’re now “out of stock”. Umhm. Way to dodge further bad reviews on your product…)

Revisiting AI

I posted a while back about one of the AI art generators because I was excited to see what that could do. As someone who does a lot of my own covers and has the ideas but not the skills to do really complex covers and gets frustrated with cover designers who flake or take a month longer than they said, I thought it was a potentially interesting new option.

But I never really pursued it. When I was able to get into the beta on that one I did about five prompts and thought, “well, this is crap.” It was not able to take my simple description and do anything the least bit attractive with it.

I figured that was that. Creepy, not-quite-right images that just don’t work for anything outside of horror.

That’s changed pretty fast though. A few friends of mine who are authors have really dug in on using Midjourney and some of the stuff they’ve created is really, really good. To the point that one set up a shop for selling notebooks with covers they created from Midjourney and another is or is planning to do a Kickstarter with images they’ve created there.

On the flip side I’ve seen some pretty prominent authors publicly state they’re not going to support the use of AI and most I’ve seen who were playing around with it early on have said they are done even posting personal use images with it because of the harm it does artists.

(Which, man, that cover that was done for Ilona Andrews is amazing…)

I’ve decided I’m personally sitting this one out for the time being. Because it’s become a hotbed of controversy. And there are some clear ethical violations going on out there with building models.

For example, I’ve heard of people building models using one current, active artist’s work. That’s just some serious bullshit right there.

And there’s another AI that’s so sloppy about stealing other current artists’ work that the generated images still show the original artist signature.

Tech seems to have this thing these days where it’s like, “can we do it, let’s go!” and then “oh fuck, that has problems, let’s fix them on the fly.” It really harms a lot of people along the way in the name of “progress” (which is otherwise known as making a bunch of dudes with no social skills or empathy rich).

I don’t think AI art or writing is going to go away so I expect at some point it will become something I use indirectly even if not intentionally. (One of the SFF publishers was just put on blast for using an AI-generated image someone had put up on a stock photo site. How we’re supposed to know that’s what that is, I don’t know.)

I do think AI art and writing need some ethical parameters. Because it’s one thing for one artist to take years to learn another’s style and then to reproduce that style over the course of a couple of weeks for each piece and it’s something else entirely to have a computer learn that style in the course of a week and then churn out replicas one a minute. Unless we want to either subsidize new artists so they can create and still live or we want to just stop having public displays of new creative works, something will have to change about this.

Training an AI on public domain content I think is probably fair. Training it on copyrighted content (like this blog is and any current blog is) without permission, not cool.

And using it to basically replicate one specific artist’s work when that artist is still alive and active–that’s asshole-level behavior right there. (Especially the example I saw with some dude who wouldn’t admit he was doing it replicating a woman-artist’s work.) Not surprising that it happens, but also not something we have to as a society reward or accept. Shunning is very effective for a reason…

But, yeah, I think this particular cat is out of the bag and it’s going to be ugly for the next few years and change the industry substantially over the next ten.

Planning For 2023

It’s about that time. About time to start thinking about what we’ll each try to do in 2023. I always have a list each year of New Year’s resolutions that I try to knock out. And I usually try to make them fairly concrete and achievable. Write X number of words. Write Y book. Publish Z book.

Setting goals like, “earn $50K per year from writing” are not helpful in my opinion. But write X words, publish Y books, put Z dollars per month into advertising, etc. those are the things that can get you to that goal.

Still, though. My goal planning is probably not where it should be.

In a private group I’m in one of the more successful authors posted their plan for 2023. It was incredibly concrete. Publish Book A in January, Book B in February, etc. all the way through the year. Following that plan this author was going to be able to get out 8 novels that support three series and two different pen names on a consistent reliable schedule.

That’s why that author has published over 80 novels at this point and has been a six-figure author for years.

Me? My planning post was like, “well, I should wrap up these three books I’m working on and get those published in January and then…maybe this, maybe that, maybe this other thing?”

Each year I know I’d be better off just setting up a series of projects on a schedule and knocking them off one-by one. But each year I do my vague, I’ll get something done sort of process instead. And I do get stuff done. It’s not like I end the year with nothing written. But it’s not that steady rhythm that’s so helpful to fiction-writing success.

Don’t be me kids. Set goals you can control. Make them specific. Plan them out across the year so you can track progress. And think about delivering a product to your readers on a consistent basis that they can come to rely on.

Okay, then. Off to finish edits on this book that was seriously delayed thanks to a bad computer so I can start 2023 off with a good release or two.