What Was I Thinking?

It’s official. I am far more interested in doing my own thing than in making lots of money from my writing activities.

Because rather than write the next romance novel (the best plan), or the next fantasy series (a potentially good plan), or even a new non-fiction title (could be fantastic, could be a dud), I am working on video courses for my non-fiction titles.

Now. On one hand, this is a logical thing to do. The Excel courses lend themselves to a video course format. Much easier to learn when you can see what the instructor is talking about. And it’s a good way to extend the books and reach a new market for them.

(My first video course is actually going to be the AMS book. I think that one lends itself well to video as well and I needed a course that wouldn’t be a waste to produce but would allow a little room for growing pains. Don’t want my first video course to be Excel for Beginners when the competition in that space is fierce.)

So there’s some logic to what I’m doing.

On the other hand, am I frickin’ crazy?

Because it’s a completely new skill set. I had to convert my walk-in closet into a little recording area, which meant learning all those requirements and hanging a ton of blankets all over the place. Plus I had to learn a video editing software I’ve never used before. (Camtasia, which is fantastic, by the way.) Not to mention the time I spent converting each book into PowerPoint slides I could use in the videos.

And then there was overcoming the fact that my natural speaking voice sounds like a twelve-year-old valley girl. (I tend to end sentences on an up note when I’m not thinking about it.) So I’ve been using my “I’m in a business meeting and no one is listening to me but I have a point to make damn it” voice. While trying to sound friendly and warm at the same time.

It’s actually been fun. And I’m putting in good hours on it. But it’s a lot. And a significant shift in direction.

I do think it has the potential to be a good move. But maybe, you know, following up on what I’d already done with the audiences I’d already attracted would’ve been a better idea? You know, just a thought.

But that’s me for ya. Far more interested in doing something new I haven’t mastered before than doing the same ol, same ol.

(Of course, my pup does need to be kept in kibble and have a nice yard to play in so I really should be thinking about balancing what I want and paying the bills…But not this month it seems.)

Giving Advice

This week I had a friend of a friend who’s a new author reach out for some writing advice. And of course there are always folks finding their way to the various forums who want advice as well.

And it’s tricky.

Because I’ve found my path and how I want to approach this. (Subject to change, of course.) But it isn’t how I started out and I don’t know that telling someone to do things the way I do them is necessarily appropriate.

Especially since this industry is changing so much and so fast.

For example, one of the folks who was looking for advice on self-publishing was looking for advice on how to get their first novel into print. Now, I could have a lengthy discussion with that person about whether print is the best choice. And point out to them that a large majority of their sales will (likely) be in ebook if they self-publish and talk about how once you put that book out in print that listing will be on Amazon probably longer than they’re alive and that maybe that’s something worth considering when you’re new and not yet good at figuring out your book’s title and cover, etc. and are probably going to publish it under your real name.


I could just point them to CreateSpace instead of having them pay a few grand for something that should cost less than $500 and could actually be done for free if they want to put in the effort.

If that’s all that person wants–to see their book in print–who am I to try to turn them into a full-blown self-publishing business looking to make a profit? Will they later start to learn more about self-publishing? Maybe. Or maybe all they ever wanted was physical copies of their book to give to friends and family.

So be it.

Same with the newer writer who approached me. Right now that writer wants to go the trade publishing route. So I told them how to do it and that money should flow to the writer in that case. Could I have launched into a lengthy discussion about contract terms from the Big 5 and agent pitfalls, etc, etc.? And maybe even suggested that self-publishing was the better option for that novel given what they’d told me about it?


But that’s not where that author is mentally. And I don’t think it’s my place to drag them down that path. Hopefully they’ll learn and either adapt to fit into the path they do want to take or choose a different path, one better suited to what they’ve already written. That’s up to them, not me. All I can do is give them that starter bit of knowledge that will let them decide.

Or so I think.

Hopefully I’m right.


You Don’t See What I See

So I’m a woman. I don’t always point that out but part of why I started this blog was so that when I wanted to talk about issues relevant to that fact, I could. And today is one of those days.

Two things are prompting this post. First is a thread that’s been blowing up on Kboards the last couple days that is probably soon to be locked. It wasn’t the main point of the thread, but it came up during that discussion that there is at least one top-100-ranking male romance author (and possibly far more) using a female pen name, representing themselves to their fans as a woman, and interacting with their fans as a woman. Sometimes it seems as a black woman (although it wasn’t clear to me whether that was also in romance or not).

This male author said that they had gone so far as to have conversations with their readers on Facebook about their book boyfriends, etc. So it wasn’t simply a matter of using a female pen name and a stock photo or photo of the author’s wife. This also involves back and forth conversations with fans creating a space where they can talk to their favorite author about the interests they share. All the while knowing that on their side it’s complete bullshit.

The second thing that prompted this post is a thread over on Twitter where a woman was talking about being approached while walking her dog by a man who was at first friendly but then started asking uncomfortable questions about where she lived and if she lived alone and actually followed her and hugged her against her will.

Part of that thread was full of the well-meaning but completely lacking in understanding men who had to provide their perspectives on what she should’ve done. You know. The usual. Maybe the guy was just socially clueless. Or she should report him to the police. Or carry mace or a taser or…

Or why can’t you just be nice to guys instead of assuming they’re all creepers. If you just smiled at men and said hi this wouldn’t happen


(Oh, and this post is prompted by a third thing. On Seth Godin’s blog the other day he included a comment that “…you have a theory that smiling at a stranger increases the chances that you’ll have a good interaction” and I laughed out loud when I read that because that was so clearly written by a man.)

So here is my PSA to men. And I’m not saying that any of the men who read this blog even need it, but this is my little place on the internet to share my experiences, so this is where it’s going:

You don’t see what I see.

You do not experience the world the way I experience it.

A man like Seth Godin can smile at a stranger and have them smile back and it’s a good interaction. I smile at a strange man, he follows me for four blocks trying to chat me up because he thinks that smile must mean I want to have sex with him. Right now. In that alley.

And before anyone jumps in with not every man or that’s doesn’t happen often, let me tell you…If it was just once that I had made eye contact with a man I didn’t know or smiled at a man I didn’t know and had an awkward experience, I would still make eye contact with men I don’t know or smile at them. I don’t.

I reached a point between working in big cities (Washington, DC and New York) and traveling in countries where men are very forward (France, Greece, etc.) that I found my best strategy was to (1) not react to any sound in my immediate vicinity because it was more often than not a man trying to get my attention, (2) not look directly at anyone because if I made eye contact with a man about nine times out of ten that would result in him seeing it as an opening and trying to chat me up, (3) not smile in public because see #2 (also see number 1 for how the “you should smile more” thing misses with me–I just don’t hear it).

Because of how I now am (no reaction to sounds, no eye contact, no smile), I sometimes get called a standoffish bitch. Or cold. Or frigid. (Thanks for that one, Jimmy.)

Men don’t understand. They don’t experience what I experience. They don’t get in taxi cabs and have the driver ask them if they’re single and then have to suffer through a twenty minute conversation about how they should find a man or (when they lie and say they’re in a relationship) questions about where their man is because clearly he shouldn’t let his woman out in public alone.

Men don’t get followed down the street by a guy who’s “just being persistent.” They don’t get stuck on a register at work with a guy who won’t leave and have to be polite to him because he’s a customer. They don’t walk out to their car after a late shift and see that same guy lingering around outside waiting for a chance to ask them out.

Men don’t get it because they don’t experience the world the way women do. So when these situations come up, they don’t put themselves in a woman’s shoes and try to see the world from her perspective. They look at it from theirs. They don’t see how a woman couldn’t look up from her book while riding the bus for fear of being stuck in an unwanted conversation with a guy who might follow her to her car. They think instead of that attractive girl who was sitting across from them on the bus last week who would’ve been perfect for them if only she’d looked up. (Not realizing they stared at her for five minutes straight like a true creeper.)

Men don’t get it. They’ve never tried to politely tell a man they aren’t interested and have the man go from “Hey, sexy, what’s up?” to “Fuck you, bitch. You’re not that hot anyway” in less than a minute.

So all that helpful advice about how being nice works? Bullshit.

Of course, I haven’t talked yet about the other advice women get. The advice that says call the cops. Or take the guy’s photo. Or carry mace. Or a taser. Or…


The girl who started that Twitter thread said what I was thinking: If I called the cops on every guy who was a creeper towards me I’d never leave the courtroom.

And if I took photos of every guy who was a creeper, my phone would be full of dudes. (Not to mention that would escalate the situation.)

Now, I’m fortunate. I’m not petite. So I don’t get physically grabbed by men. They hover, they follow, they lean in, they linger, but they don’t grab. They just annoy. And cuss when I ignore them. So I don’t have it as bad as some women.

As for carrying a weapon…This shit goes down fast. With a true predator–a man who is going to try to harm you rather than cajole you–I’m not convinced that I could adequately use a weapon against him in the timeframe I’d need to use it.

It’s like using bear spray. By the time the bear is standing there in front of you, do you really think you can dig it out of your pack, get the safety off, and spray it before the bear attacks?

It’s not like a woman can walk home with mace in her hand and wave it at every man who gets within five feet. (Even if some days it feels like that’s the only safe option.)

Plus, most women learn that the average guy can be ignored or awkwardly avoided until he gives up. Pulling a taser or mace is likely to escalate a situation that could’ve been kept to awkward and uncomfortable.

So when this shit happens and a woman shares her experience, if you’re a guy maybe stop yourself before you reply.

You don’t need to tell a woman how to navigate this world. We get trained in it every fucking day. If a woman is in her thirties and not horribly scarred by terrible events, chances are she’s figured out how to handle all but the psycho predators. You don’t see it, because you don’t have to do it, but every woman around you has ways of handling her interactions with men (including you) to keep herself as safe as she can. She doesn’t need your suggestions.

If you do need to respond, a “That sucks. I’m sorry that happened to you,” will work just fine.

And as for that male author who is pretending to be a woman with his fans? I don’t care if a male author uses a female pen name. Or a fake bio. Or a fake photo. (I don’t like it, because I don’t think it’s honest, but I get that it happens.)

But when you engage in conversation with women, pretending to be a woman, talking to them about their lives? In order to make a little extra money off of them? (Because, really, if you write the right book you don’t need social media to sell it.) That’s just fucking predatory.

That’s using someone’s openness and desire to connect with others against them. It makes the world a worse place. And it’s an all too familiar violation for women who have had men lie about who they are to get close.

Remember, you don’t see the world women see. You don’t understand how doing that is right up there with the worst kind of crap that men pull. Don’t do it. Find a better way.

Happy Holidays

Hard to believe another year is almost over. I’m just glad I was able to spend a nice holiday with my family which seems to get smaller every year since none of us that are stateside have had kids. The only casualty for the day was my thumb which has an inch-wide blister at the moment. (Note to self: Do not touch a roasting pan that has been in the oven for close to two hours with your bare hand.) At least a combination of running it under cool water, holding the inside of an aloe leaf to it, and then walking around with a wet rag pressed to the blister for the next couple hours seems to have done the trick. It’s amazing how much you use your thumbs.


I figured I’d share this cool picture I took of the pup this morning. I’ve lived in snowy states most of my life and I’m sure I’ve seen single snowflakes before, but for some reason this time I really noticed how cool it is that you can see the pattern in a snowflake without needing a microscope. I was going for the snowflake at the bottom left but captured three of them in this part of the photo:

IMG_4433 (4) - Copy

Added bonus that it was on the pup’s nose.

For those of you who find yourselves with a little extra holiday money, there’s a Boxing Day sale on at Kobo with tons of books 60% off. That link should take you to the page where they’re all listed. Don’t forget to use the promo code when you check out. (My title The How to Meet A Woman Collection is one of the titles. It includes Online Dating for Men: The Basics, Don’t Be a Douchebag, and You Have a Date, Don’t F It Up. At full-price that’s three for the price of two and with this discount it’s even better. So if any men out there have been thinking about finding love in the new year, might be worth checking out. If not there are lots and lots of other titles included in the promo.)

I’m wrapped up on all the writing I’d planned to do for the year, so might take a few days off to just relax before I hit the ground running in January. (Who am I kidding? I’ll probably be back at work on something by tomorrow…Unless someone can recommend some really really good books to me? I’ve had a run lately of okay but not amazing reads and am dying for a book that can really suck me in and make me put everything aside until I finish it.)

A Realization

I’ve been trying to figure out what hit me so hard about Courtney Milan’s post about her sexual harassment experience when she was a clerk. (http://www.courtneymilan.com/metoo/kozinski.html)

It wasn’t that the judge called her honey. Or that he showed her pornographic photos. I think any woman over the age of thirty who has ever worked outside the home isn’t surprised to learn that men at all levels have acted in ways that were inappropriate and uncomfortable. Maybe the names of some of the men have been surprising, but not the actions.

When #metoo was doing the rounds on Facebook I posted about it. If the criteria for saying #metoo was sexual harassment, then there’s no doubt that I qualified. By the time I was twenty I’d lost count of the number of inappropriate sexual comments men I didn’t even know had said to me. At work, on the street. Basically, anytime I was going to be out in public it was a possibility that some man would say something sexually suggestive.

And like most women I learned for my own sanity’s sake to draw distinctions between the awkwardly inappropriate and the truly creepy ones. It’s like the definition of pornography that came out of that Supreme Court case.  I can’t write you a precise definition (sorry guys that feel a need for one), but I can certainly tell you when that line has been crossed.

But I’ve been fortunate in my professional career to not be in a position like Courtney was. I once had a man I worked with who tried giving me unwanted shoulder massages. (I told him if he f’in touched me again, I’d take his hands off. He stopped. Until I was remotely nice to him a couple months later and he tried it again and I had to repeat my threat.)

And I did have a job where I reached the point of feeling physically ill every time I had to go into work because of one of my co-workers who I felt was stalking me. (I told my boss. She asked if it rose to the level of sexual harassment. I said probably not but please don’t schedule me with him anymore. She continued to do so. He was her brother, after all. A few weeks later I got into a screaming argument with her over wearing shorts to work and was fired…)

So reading that post didn’t bring up any of those kind of memories for me. Maybe a little of the “oh yeah, I know how that feels to be almost ill at the thought of interacting with someone and having to anyway…”

No. I realized today that what hit me so hard about her post was something that’s not even part of this #metoo movement.

It’s this idea of loyalty. This notion that if someone gives you a tremendous opportunity that you owe them your loyalty. That you will work as many hours as they need you to work without complaint and with a positive attitude. That you never go around them. That you never publicly disagree with them. (And for some, that you never disagree with them at all. Ever.) That you don’t try to move ahead of them. That you are below them and always will be, but that if you play it right you’ll be given lots of money and the opportunity to move up in their wake.

Forget that you worked your ass off to be there. Forget that you bring skills and intelligence to the table that they need in order to succeed. Forget that there are a very limited number of people who can do what you do. None of that counts.

And to be fair here, I realized when I was thinking this through that my first job out of college was a situation where I gave everything I had but my mentor and my boss and my boss’s boss all acknowledged and rewarded that, and supported me enough to even suggest that it was time to move on to bigger challenges after I grew bored about two years in. That’s how it should be.

But so many of the bosses I worked for after that didn’t see it that way. They weren’t monsters. At the time I liked most of them. But looking back on it now I can see all those moments, all those ways in which they took and took and took and never gave back. The better ones gave raises and promotions, but the minute my path diverged from theirs they either actively sabotaged my taking that path or were so non-supportive that they may as well have sabotaged me.

And it’s so hard to try to explain to others. To try to explain why you’re not happy with an opportunity that others would kill for. Because you know even as you’re desperately unhappy that there are so many who’d say “Oh my God, do you know what I’d give to be earning that?” or “Do you know how many people wish they were you? How many people wanted this opportunity that you’ve been given?”

I think the isolation caused by that “you’re lucky to even be there” comments is what makes it so much harder for those who find themselves in a situation like that.

For me, Courtney’s story wasn’t just of a man who was sexually inappropriate. It was a story of getting an opportunity that thousands wish they could have, but only being able to have that opportunity by working for a man who called his clerks “slaves”. A man who expected them to be at his beck and call. A man who went so far as to tell his subordinates what they were allowed to read.

(I’ll tell you, reading fantasy novels is probably the only reason I lasted as long as I did in my corporate career. And I can think of at least one person I worked for who would’ve probably done the same thing the judge did if they’d ever noticed. There are reasons I use pen names for my writing and one of them is that kind of bullshit attitude that you can’t be a serious professional and enjoy something like fantasy or romance novels. Fuck that.)

That was what hit home for me in her story. I’m not downplaying the sexual aspects of it. Not in the slightest.

But the fact that she felt compelled to consult attorneys in order to share her personal experience? Or that she felt bound by an expectation of loyalty from her abuser (I would argue what she experienced was emotional abuse) and only broke her silence when he broke the loyalty code first? That what made it so hard for her to walk away was the prestige of that opportunity?

That’s what shook me. The realization that I, even though my bosses were never sexually inappropriate, had been there, too. Letting someone else control my life, letting them take whatever they needed without complaint.  And all the while with them expecting me to be grateful that they’d bothered to give me a chance…

10,000 Copies Sold

Sometime this last month I crossed the 10,000 copies sold mark. Half of that came in the last six months.

I should be thrilled. I should be dancing on the tables, overjoyed that maybe I’m finally starting to get some traction on this whole writing thing and to figure out how to sell what I write.

But I’m not.

While there is a part of me that’s excited about where I am, I know this might not continue on an upward trajectory. I have a color-coded list of income by month and I can look at that list and say, “Hey, there’s December 2014 when I published my first romance novel and a successful romance short and thought I was on my way. My first $500+ month.” And then I can look at July 2015 and see that I only made $56 that month. And that that was followed by August 2015 where I had a $600+ month. And then December 2015 which was again under $100.

So I know better by now. Some folks do great right from the start and just keeping going, but I’d say that for most writers it’s more peaks and valleys.  Good months and then not so good months.

What makes me even more uneasy is where those sales have come from this last six months. In July, almost half of my revenue for the month was from a single romance novel. In October, that novel is next to nothing for revenue, but I had a successful fantasy promo and non-fiction picked up the slack.

On one hand, yay, diversification. When one track slips, another can catch the slack. On the other hand, where do you put your efforts when from month-to-month there’s no good way to predict which titles will do best?

I like to tell my friends entering the corporate world to just get that first job, put your head down, and do the best damn job you can. Even if it isn’t the ideal position for you, you need to focus on where you are to get forward momentum and move up. You want to tell a good story when you’re ready for that next job, you need to commit to the job you have now.

That should be true of writing, too. Pick one path, focus on it, and follow it until you succeed. And I think it is for many. But what path do you choose when you could easily choose any of three paths?

(Me being me, I just wrote a new story on path four that I should just drop already. Someone please smack me upside the head.)

The other killer about that number is that it’s not enough. I know how amazed I would’ve been in year one of self-publishing to sell 10,000 copies. That’s thousands of people I don’t know who paid cash money for something I wrote.

Think about that for a minute.

Let that sink in.

Thousands of people have paid money for something I wrote. How many people can say that?

But then realize that selling 10,000 copies isn’t enough to make this sustainable. For one year, let alone four of them.

I often ask myself why I stick with the self-publishing. There are so many ways I could make money that would be far, far easier in terms of hours spent and money earned. And I think part of the answer is that it’s so damned hard for me. I have some weird, twisted need to fight for what I get or I don’t consider it worth keeping. If I’m not challenged, it doesn’t work for me.

(Also there’s theI get to work alone and from home aspect of it…)

Anyway, yay for me. Pauses to celebrate this milestone. Now time to get back to it.

20K here we come. And sometime this decade, please.

On Collaboration

I’ll admit it, I don’t always play well with others. But when I was working in a corporate environment, I pretty much had to. A lot of the work I did involved coordinating my efforts with others and then writing up reports on what we’d found. Sometimes those reports were a hundred pages long and involved five or six people reading through and making sure that the terminology was correct and that we all agreed on the presentation of the facts.

So when I started writing I was glad to play in my own little sandbox. But there have been times I’ve been tempted to collaborate with a fellow writer. I have one writer friend who has brilliant off-the-wall ideas that I could never match. But I do better than they do with continuity and character development. So at one point I thought it might be good for us to combine those two strengths to write something together.

(We never did, but it was something I thought about.)

One of my hesitations though–other than the fact that I tend to prefer my own solutions to problems–was the legal aspect of it. You can’t just say, “Hey, let’s write a novel together.” You have to think about who owns the copyright, how much you’ll each earn from it, what happens if one of you doesn’t want to continue, etc.

There was just too much that could go wrong and that I couldn’t foresee for me to be comfortable entering into a collaboration like that.

And how do you work together? Who writes the first draft? Who makes edits?

There were just too many moving parts to it for me to be comfortable doing it.

But it turns out that one of the books in the NaNo Bundle (and only in the Nano Bundle at this point) is Writing as a Team Sport by Kevin J. Anderson.

(You might’ve heard of him. He’s the guy who’s co-written all those Dune books.  And many more besides. Been on the bestseller lists multiple times. Sold millions of copies of his books. Just an average Joe, really.)

In that book, not only does he talk about different possible approaches to collaborating and outline some of the pros and cons of doing so, he also includes at the end a sample legal agreement that you can use.

That agreement alone is worth the price of the bundle. For example, it would’ve never occurred to me to include an indemnification clause in a collaboration contract even though it makes total sense to do so now that I think about it. Or to mention plagiarism, for that matter.

The book didn’t convince me to rush out and start collaborating with other authors, but I do feel much more confident in my ability to do so successfully and in a way that protects both me and any potential co-author.

So if you’ve collaborated in the past or you’re thinking about it now, buy the bundle, read the book. It’s a tremendous resource that you should definitely check out and that will probably save you a lot of heartache or drama down the road.

(And, not covered by this book, but shared by another author recently: Be careful if you decide to collaborate with someone you’re dating but not in a long-term relationship with. Keven and his wife and DWS and KKR have both successfully collaborated and stayed married for decades, but imagine collaborating on a book with someone you then break up with.)