Who Owns Your Copyright

The rise of the digital age and the huge amount of indie authors now working as writers, has opened up a big black pit that no one talks about… Copyright ownership.  A copyright is a 75 year binding contract between an author and their book.  That means for 75 years, they are the only ones that have the right to obtain royalties from it.

Only, most of us aren’t living for 75 years after the start of our copyright.  For instance, I was 32 when I published my first two novels.  Add 75 years to that and I don’t lose the copyright until I’m a 107.  Chances are really good that I’m not going to be around to see it expire.

But copyright isn’t like your house.  You can assign it to someone when you die, but you can’t split it among heirs die unless it first goes into a trust and then the trust doles out specific percentages to each party.  This used to be handled by publishing houses, after all, they hold part of the copyright.  But indies don’t have publishers who will make out checks to their loved ones.  We have Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, etc. entities that don’t care where the money goes because they get their cut first.

Also, we can keep our digital ebooks alive a very long time after we’re dead.  Usually, an author dies, a publisher waits for the books to stop selling and then slowly pulls them off the shelves and the copyright sits in a basement and dies quietly.  So what happens in the year 2087 when my copyright dies on Dark Cotillion?  That’s just it, nothing.  People can start reprinting the book if they so desire, but it isn’t that popular and it isn’t a classic, so essentially, my heirs will just continue to draw royalties off the ebooks because they will continue to exist without competition despite being in the public domain.

Meaning if someone buys a copy in 2090, they are still probably going to buy the original Dark Cotillion and not one put out by someone else who has written an introduction.  This means my heirs will get the royalties.

But what heirs?  In my case, my nephews, nieces, and great nephews… Maybe a tiger sanctuary, who knows.  The point is, unless I assign all of my copyrights to a specific person, they will have to go into a trust.  But that trust will need to be set up upon my death with a plan for how new royalties get spit out.  And every year I publish a book creates a new copyright end date for my heirs to deal with.

Which brings us to the subject of a copyright will.  I thought my father’s lawyer was pulling my leg when it was first mentioned to me.  They weren’t.  A copyright will ensures that as long as the copyright exists, a trust will be set up with payments going out in specific splits to each heir I have.  And I was cautioned about doling out the entire amount each month.  If I don’t, the trust builds and the heirs of my heirs will be getting money off my copyrights long after I’ve gone and my original heirs have gone.

My copyright will states the following:

A trust will be set up.  If my parents are alive, they each get a certain percentage every month from the trust that does not use the entire royalty amount.  My SO also gets a specific amount each month.  When one of my parents dies, their share gets split between the nephews and nieces.  When both have died, the entire portion of my parents’ percentage belongs to that group of heirs (it’s about 55%).  When my SO passes away, the percentages change dramatically with any great nephews and nieces who are over 18 getting a certain percentage and my nephews and nieces get a larger share among them.  Since the nephews and nieces really aren’t that much younger than I am, I had to include provisions for when they die.  To give you an idea, the executor nephew is only 13 years younger than me.  So when I’m 107, he’ll be 94.  This means a provision had to put on for a new executor to be chosen and for the percentages to change upon the deaths of the nieces and nephews to ensure their heirs get a split.  For example, if they don’t have any children, they can’t leave their percentage to their dogs/cats/buffaloes/tiger sanctuary.  It all has to be redistributed again.  And so on and so on until the end of time or until the end of the trust.

This was done because I could leave all my copyrights to a single nephew or I could split it up so everyone profits upon my death from my copyrights.  Now, I could have assigned specific copyrights to specific nephews/nieces/great nephews/great nieces/SO/parents.  But if one book or series flops or isn’t making any money, that owner would get nothing while the others might still have royalties coming in.  This is especially critical since I offer free ebooks.  The person that owns that copyright can up the price after I’m dead and gone, which could hurt the copyright holders of the other books in that series.  A trust and executor ensures that no single person can break the chain (except the executor and I have more faith in him than that).

Just something to think about the next time you are drafting your will if you write books.

Indies Aren’t Perfect, But They Try

Sometimes I get really annoyed when I read reviews of indie books.  The biggest complaint is spelling and grammar errors.  Recently, I read a book that had a slew of these reviews.  I ignored them and read it anyway because I thought it sounded good.

Three… I found three errors.  Now, I’m not a proofreader, but I am an avid reader and three errors really doesn’t seem that bad to me.  Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have noticed them at all because I was so into the story if I hadn’t been looking for them.

No indie author has a perfect book.  As a matter of fact, the perfect book is somewhat of a myth.  Even traditional authors have issues when they go to print.  Don’t believe me?  Get your hands on some first print runs of some major books.

I believe it is book three of the Anita Blake series when Anita’s car changes color, not once, but twice in a single page.  In the Lincoln Rhymes series, they have a “predestined meeting place”, which doesn’t actually make sense.  I think it should have been “predetermined,” but I read the book and enjoyed it just fine.

We strive for perfection, but it isn’t always obtainable.  Here are some things editors have done to my books:

  • Changed all the names of the characters in the D&R books to make them sound more “American.” This is why Eric Clachan, Aislinn’s brother, seems to be Alex Clachan in Tortured Dreams (no, you didn’t imagine that if you caught it).  It’s in audiobook form and I can’t change it, so it just exists.
  • Changed Gabriel Henders last name to Hendricks, because “Henders isn’t a real last name.”  It is and it’s what I wanted.  However, it was recently pointed out to me that I missed one of the Hendricks references in Elysium Dreams.
  • Notice the double Fionas?  Fiona Gentry dies in Elysium Dreams.  Fiona Stewart goes to work for the SCTU.  Except, there was only one Fiona in my head.  An editor changed Lana Gentry to Fiona Gentry because “it sounded better.”  When I rejected the change, she refused to finish the project.  Since I had already paid her, I eventually gave in and changed it to Fiona because I didn’t want to start all over with a different editor. (I had already done that twice with the book… we’ll get there)
  • A different editor “skimmed” through all the killer chapters in Elysium Dreams as well as the violent scenes with Ace or the rest of the SCTU because she couldn’t handle the gore.  She didn’t tell me this until she started editing Explosive Dreams.  When she got to the fairground scene with Xavier and Ace, she gave up.  She’d edited three of the D&R books at that point.  Which is why I hired the editor that hated all the names because they weren’t American enough and that led me to hire the editor that refused to continue if I used Lana Gentry as a name for a character.
  • I hired a man after the Explosive Dreams debacle.  He said he could handle the gore.  He edited part of Cannibal Dreams and decided he hated Aislinn Cain and Patterson Clachan so much that he couldn’t continue.  He did refund me part of my money, but he’s the only one.
  • So, back to a woman to finish Cannibal Dreams.  Which she did and then I hired her for Butchered Dreams.  Except she was too busy to actually edit either of them and gave them to her friend to edit instead.  Her notes were weird because she kept asking me where the romance was.  When I finally sent her a note explaining there was no romance, she gave up on editing the book.  I could actually see where she lost interest.  I had to ask about it because the editor told me this wouldn’t be a problem for her, she like serial killer horror, so why was she now squawking about the lack of romance and the brutality?  Eventually, she admitted that she had overbooked and hadn’t gotten to them herself, but had given them to a qualified friend… who only read romance novels.
  • The first editor of The Dysfunctional Affair kept putting in “Insert Sex Scene Here.”  When I rejected all of those comments, she said I was too difficult to work with.  She finished the job, somewhat, and told me she would never work with me again.
  • The first time I hired a proof reader was for Elysium Dreams… It had been in the hands of three editors and needed a lot of work.  I found a man who said he would love to do it.  It contained 102,098 changes.  It’s only 75,000 words…  Nineteen hours of going through his proofreading changes convinced me that he didn’t really understand the genre I wrote, he kept wanting to remove words like “blood,” “brains,” “hell,” “shit,” “torture,” “skinning,” and anything else violent in nature.  He actually suggested that instead of having Ace get jabbed with a hypodermic needle in the neck and it breaking off, that I have her get slapped in the face with an open hand and have that knock her out, but without bleeding.
  • The proof reader I hired for Explosive Dreams had some issues too.  She demanded I remove the explosion scene at the beginning because it gave the wrong impression.
  • The proofer I hired for Dark Cotillion informed me that I didn’t know my mythology well enough to write a book with such characters.  She even sent me a long email explaining that Anubis was a Greek god, Fenrir was Sumerian, and Kagutsuchi was Celt.  I Googled them all and sent her the links, explaining their origins, their physical traits, their emotional traits, and their powers.  She sent me a dismissive response telling me she had a history degree, she was the expert, not Google.  She also swore I was the most difficult author she had ever worked with.  She also completely ignored the fact that I also have a history degree and might know what I’m talking about.
  • But the one that takes the cake, is the husband and wife team that I hired in a desperate attempt to fix Elysium Dreams.  They just randomly inserted comments.  It’s like they read a paragraph and made a comment about it without reading any of the paragraphs around it.  I had no “changes”, but I did have nearly 50,000 comments on how I could improve specific paragraphs that actually wouldn’t have improved them because a paragraph by itself doesn’t tell a whole story.  I realized they were failing miserably when they commented that a paragraph would be better if it explained why Aislinn was injured.  It had been explained in the two paragraphs immediately above it.

Yes, we try to be perfect, but it’s hard.  Editors and proofers are human, even the best ones miss things.  However, finding real editors and proofers is like jumping down a slide with a blindfold on in a river full of saltwater crocodiles.  Because for every good editor or proofer, there’s at least one that is in it purely for the money and since the industry is booming, it’s easy for them to make a few thousand a week without doing much work.

And like me, you have to be in this business for a while or know people to get a good editor or proofer.  We trust these people because we pay them.  I have trouble reading my own books, let alone editing them (it embarrasses me, which is weird as hell and I know that).  I had my fair share of scammers and people who were just plain lazy.  And they have made good money off of me.  Nothing I can do about that, except move on and try someone new.

I now have a good editor and a good proofer.  But they are human and they do miss things in every book.  I figure if I’m at only four or five errors per book, I’m doing really good.  I’ve read some books by indies that have had editors and proofers and still had books that looked like a fifth grader wrote them because the punctuation and grammar was atrocious and we won’t even talk about the spelling errors.

Editing is the only disadvantage an indie actually has… We do not have ten or eleven or twelve editors going through our books line by line because we cannot afford to pay that many editors and proofers.

A Month of Firsts

The other reason for my trip down memory lane and thanking those that supported me is because July has been a month of firsts and some achievements.  I’m going to give a list and send out a huge thank you to my readers who allow me to continue to follow my passion.

  • My third highest sales month ever with an average of 146 ebook sales a day.
  • Gave away an average of 250 ebooks a day.
  • Sold more ebooks on iBooks than Amazon.com in a month.
  • Sold more ebooks in Canada than I sold there in all of 2015.
  • Sold more ebooks in Australia than I sold there in all of 2014 and 2015 combined.
  • Sold more than 500 copies of the Dysfunctional Chronicles novellas (I have never sold that many ebook copies of the Dysfunctional Chronicles in one month).
  • Sold or gave away ebooks in 36 countries.
  • My highest ebook sales ever on Google Play.
  • My highest ebook sales ever on Kobo.
  • My highest ebook sales ever on iBooks.
  • My highest ebook sales ever on Nook.
  • As of July 31st, I have sold more books in 2016 than I did in all of 2015.
  • And finally, as of July 31st, I have given away more books in 2016 than I did in all of 2015.

So, I want to thank all my readers for their support and I can’t wait to continue our adventures together!!

Wrong Enemy

The other day, I had an author inform me that they would not be publishing on Amazon.  After I picked my jaw up from the floor, I had to ask… Why?!?  It is their opinion that Amazon has all indies bent over a barrell.

First, Amazon offers indies a service.  It’s actually a pretty good service and relatively fair.  Yes, royalties differ based on prices and locations of sales (so do royalties of traditional published authors based on locations and prices… they might be getting 12% of all sales in the US and Canada, but only 9% in the UK and it could be a hell of a lot lower in any country that requires the book to be translated into another language; for example, an author I know makes a whooping 2% royalty rate for books/ebooks sold in Spain).  So, I only make 35% on my ebooks sold in India.  The fact that ebook is available in India and sells at all is pretty astounding.  I’ll take my 35% and run.

Second, royalty rates for indies and traditionals are comparable.  I’m going to be generous and pretend that Clive Barker’s publisher is paying him an astounding 20% (there’s no way that’s really happening, just FYI… I don’t even believe Stephen King and James Patterson are making 20%).  His latest ebook is $14.99 and we’ll pretend that he get’s 20% of that.  Every ebook earns him $3.00.  I make 70% in the US on Amazon sales.  That means my ebooks priced at $3.99 are making me $2.80.  If for some insane reason I decided to price my books at $14.99, I’d be earning $10 and some change every time someone dared to buy my ebook (which they won’t at that price… I’m not Hugh Howey or Clive Barker).  In India I’m only make 35%, so I’m making $1.40 roughly.  However, chances are good, that Clive Barker’s 20% was cut too and he isn’t getting $3.00 out of Indian sales either.

Third, Amazon is just one of many publishing services available to indies and they aren’t the ones giving us the biggest shaft.  Enter Google Play.  Android has become very popular and so has Google Play and it’s a good place to have your books, but you need to watch your prices.  Google Play discounts them the moment you hit “publish.”  That means my $3.99 book is discounted and I don’t know how much unless someone tells me (it was $3.03).  Then I get my royalties from them and I’m only getting $2.02.  I’m only earning 51% of the expected retail price of $3.99.  However, since it’s been discounted, I’m actually earning 67%.  Still sucks.  The solution was to up my prices on Google Play.  I upped them to $4.99 on Google Play only so that I can actually earn $2.81 an ebook, in the US.

Fourth, there are exchange rates.  You can leave them or adjust your prices for every country on the planet to make sure you are still getting what you think you should be getting.  But they fluctuate and you’ll be making changes often.

Fifth, Amazon has issues with free ebooks.  But, so does Barnes & Noble.  You can still make an ebook permafree, it just requires a little help (I use friends and readers to do this).

Sixth, if you aren’t publishing on Amazon at all… well, there’s no real way to live off your work.  Amazon accounts for more than half of most indie author sales.  They have a huge market and the Kindle (and Kindle App) are still the most popular way to read ebooks.  I have a Kindle, but I use my tablet to read ebooks.  I have all the apps installed, but I mostly use the Kindle reading app.  Why limit yourself?  Not including Amazon is as bad as only publishing on Amazon…

Standing Together

I had a much different post scheduled for today… much different.  For the past year, I’ve been dealing with the politics of being an indie author.  It’s been a rough struggle.  Indies are more acceptable today than ever, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still those that shun us.  I’ve been accused of writing solely for profit, not being a real writer, and being inferior to other writers and I’ve listened to the hype with mixed reactions.  Sometimes, it pissed me off.  Sometimes, it got under my skin and made me wonder if they were right.  Sometimes, it just made me feel bad.  So, for most of 2015, I have wanted to do anything but write a book.

Yes, I did write 3.  They were all late for my self-imposed deadlines.  They were all akin to being tortured.  And each one of them tore at me just a little more.  I kept asking myself if this was what I really wanted?  Then… Yesterday happened.

Yesterday, I went to a writer’s meeting, the focus of which was supposed to be handholding for NaNoWriMo.  It turned out to be a support group for Hadena James, as I discussed why I was struggling with NaNo, I had to admit all of these things, not just to myself, but out loud to a group.

After I had showed this wounded part of my soul, the group was supportive.  They reminded me why I was an indie.  They reminded me why they wanted to be indies (this was even more important and helpful than why I was an indie).  By the time I left, I felt like my soul had been healed.

I’m not a hack.  There are times when my books skyrocket onto the Big 100 Amazon bestsellers list (I’ve had as many as 12 at one time on that list for as long as 9 days).  My books usually stay in the top 100 rankings for their respective genres and classifications.  I do make money off my writing.  Enough that I do not have to have an office job in a cube farm full of coworkers that spread melancholy and work that sucks my will to live.  I should not be ashamed of that.  I am living the dream.  I am living my dream.  I am not inferior to any other writer.  I may not make as much as some.  I may not have the following of others.  But I am not inferior, just different.

All too often, I’m finding writers tearing each other down.  Shredding each other’s work (without reading it), simply because publishing books is competitive.  We are all striving to grab part of the reader dollar.

It is ridiculous.  We do so much better when we help each other.  I know when I post a book I liked on my Facebook page or Twitter account not written by me, but that I liked, my readers will check it out.  I also know that my readers appreciate the suggestions (they tell me so).  I don’t post books I hate (except a handful that I didn’t like with the disclaimer that it was all me, not the book and Anna Karenina rants).  Imagine how much better the world would be if writers (all of whom are readers) did the same… Readers would know our preferences for books and authors, but they might also find new books and authors they might not have otherwise heard of.  There’s no reason we can’t share readers.  There’s no reason for us to be nasty to each other.  Imagine the boost a new or unknown author could get if Writer A read and liked their book and then posted on social media: Just read this… Loved it!

That would make a world of difference for writers and readers.  (CJ Weiland and J Ahrens have both released great books lately in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres, just FYI)

As for me personally, I have decided to ignore the divide.  The writers who treat me badly and call me fake probably haven’t read my books or taken the time to get to know me (I’m passionate about indies and writing), meaning, their bias is based upon the fact that I call myself “Author.”  For those that applied mystical bandages to my unseeable wounds, thank you so much.

The Problem with Google Play if You’re an Author

It’s great that Google Play allows readers to buy directly from their store and read it on their android device.  As a consumer, it’s even better because Google Play steeply discounts books on their site.  My $3.99 book is only going to cost you $3.03.

Unfortunately, if you’re an author, it really sucks.  They say:

There is no cost for selling books on Google Play. You’ll receive the majority of the revenue from each sale, and your revenue share will always be based on the list price you provide.

Yet, I make $2.00 of that $3.99/$3.03 that my book is listed at.  No place else cuts into my royalties more than Google Play.  Even using Draft2Digital for distribution to Apple, Scribd, Kobo, ect, I make $2.57 of my $3.99 asking price.  Actually, I make $2.74 on Amazon, $2.59 on Nook, $2.57 on everything that Draft2Digital distributes, and approximately $3.00 if someone buys my book through the Smashwords website, which has happened exactly 11 times this year.

If you’re talking 10 ebooks, that $5.70 isn’t a big deal.  But I’ve sold 167 books on Google Play this month where I have made $2.00.  The difference is $95.10.  My sales on all sites are increasing, not decreasing.  Plus, Amazon offers price match, so what happens when they decide to discount my books to $3.03 to meet the Google Play price?  I go from making $2.74 a sale to $2.12 a sale.

It might sound like I’m whining, but it isn’t about whining, it’s about realizing what could happen.  I live off my royalties.  I don’t have a real job.  Writing books is all I do and some months every penny counts.  While the indie book publishing movement has been great for people like me (allowing me to skip traditional routes and start writing for a living without a contract that scares the snot out of me), it has some pitfalls: Google Play discounts my books by $0,96 thinking it will increase sales (and it doesn’t seem to work that way) and keeps it’s hosting fee of $1.00 leaving me with less money in my pocket.  The only solutions available to me are to suck it up and accept this $2.00 royalty or to increase the price of my book on Google Play (which completely negates their discounting in order to boost sales).

Now, here’s why I think the discounting doesn’t work.  The big three for me, in order, are Amazon.com, Apple, and B&N.  Behind this is Amazon UK, Kobo, Google Play, so it is the sixth largest retailer for my books.  I accounts for less than 5% of my total monthly sales.  As an author, I am aware of this cut in author’s royalties by discounted books, so while I buy books from Kindle, B&N, and even occasionally, Apple.  I never purchase the discounted books from Google Play.  I figure the author is like me and every penny counts, so I am willing to pay the regular list price on Amazon, B&N, or Apple.

Pricing Options

A few weeks ago, I began to look at my ebook prices.  There are just some countries where I do not sell books, even though English is a common secondary language or there are large populations of English speaking immigrants.

I took the time to actually look at my pricing, like most authors, for countries outside of my own, I just check the little boxes that say “base on US prices”.  I began to wonder if those little check boxes were hurting me.  Currency conversion rates flex every day, so it’s hard to change prices based on the fluctuations that occur there.

But I can price based on cultural information.  I’ll use India as my example; My $0.99 ebook is priced at 69 rupees when based on the US price.  Today, that’s $1.06.  I only make $0.35 when I sell it in the US, why am I making so much more when I sell it in India?  The truth is, I shouldn’t be.  Unfortunately, 49 Rupees is the lowest I can set my ebook in India, so I changed all my $0.99 USD to 49 Rupees instead of the 69 Rupee default on Amazon.

That was in June.  Today, if I sell an ebook for 49 Rupees, I’m making $0.75.  That’s more than I’m making on it in the US, UK, Canada, or Australia… but that 20 Rupee difference is even bigger in India.  Big enough, that once I dropped the price, I started to sell a few ebooks in India.  I’d only sold 6 in the last 3 years in India.  Suddenly, in a month and a half, I’ve sold 21.

Noticing an uptick in sales in India, I began to evaluate my prices in other countries.  I dropped the price in Japan and started selling more ebooks there.  I also dropped it in Canada and Australia and saw a decent rise in sales in those countries.

For some of these, I’m not making $0.35 on a $0.99 ebook, but quantity is making up for the exchange rate.  In other countries, I’ve dropped the price, the exchange rate and minimal price is still higher than my standard $0.35 and yet, I’m making more sales.

The other thing to keep in mind if you are writing a series, if you check that box, book 2 might be priced a whole lot different than book 3, because the exchange rate was different when the books were published.

The moral of the story: don’t be afraid to lower your prices in other countries.  Just because the retailer has a suggested price, doesn’t mean you have to use it.

Book Pricing

I think about book pricing often.  One of the things I wonder about is the Dreams novels.  Tortured Dreams and Elysium Dreams are very different books, in both style and genre.  I occasionally wonder if I could increase my retention rate by offering Tortured free and Elysium for $0.99.

Tortured is more of the classic “who done it” mystery while Elysium is definitely more thriller with a lot less “who done it”.  As a matter of fact, I – the author – boldly tell you exactly who is responsible in the second “killer’s chapter.”  Aislinn and the gang still have to figure it out, but you, the reader, know exactly who it is and can scream at them to stop overlooking clues.

Plus, I did some foreshadowing in Tortured for upcoming killers.  But that foreshadowing is far more pronounced in the rest of the series.  Those that pay attention, already have some idea about the killer in the next novel, Summoned Dreams.

Anyway, I keep stats, lots of them.  I have a massive spreadsheet that I enter every book purchase into and it has started me wondering.  Would those on the fence about trying Elysium be more likely to read it if it were $0.99?  My retention rate from Elysium to Mercurial is great.  It’s getting the readers to make the leap from book one to book two that is lacking.

As I am preparing for my writing career of 2015, these things have once again come to the forefront of my mind.  I have a list of plans that includes book tours, adverts, giveaways, etc.  So, I’m thinking about pricing…

Ancient Aliens and Other Shows Like It

I watch a bunch of shows like Ancient Aliens, UFO Hunters, Monsters & Mysteries in America, Paranormal Witness, and The Unexplained Files.  Most of my friends wonder about my taste in TV shows and I don’t admit I watch them very often.  However, there is a reason I watch them.  Aside from their entertainment value and the fact that I can purge any anger by yelling at the TV, they make me think.

If I put aside my preconceived notions of what I  know to be reality (and this is different for everyone, after all, I believe in ghosts and hauntings where a lot of people don’t), there’s information in them.  Sometimes, it’s historical fact.  Sometimes, it’s speculation.  Either are good for me as a writer.

When I listen to Crazy-Hair Tsoukalos (Giorgio Tsoukalos) with an open mind, it makes me start to think about what I really know to be true.  It opens my mind to other possibilities.  I’m not jumping on Giorgio’s “Aliens built the pyramids to be a giant energy source for refueling their ships” bandwagon, but I have to admit, there are still mysteries about the pyramids.  Like why did nearly every ancient culture build them?  You can tell me that it’s because it’s a basic form that makes sense, but seriously, they’re a lot of work.  Some cultures should have gone “nope, not building it, you’re nuts and this is going to take forever with our primitive wheels and carving methods.”  And maybe they did, maybe that’s why pyramids don’t exist in every known advanced civilization to exist before the turn from BCE to CE.  After all, Ancient Greeks weren’t really building pyramids, they busy defacing the pyramids in Egypt.  Instead, they built other colossal stone buildings that make me think “wow, what the hell are you guys doing?  Don’t you have better ways to spend your days?”  If the ancients had built fewer pyramids and other colossal stone structures, they might have come up with the Theory of Relativity long before Einstein.  Then again, maybe they did and we just haven’t found evidence of it.

As Bill Birnes goes on and on about secret underground bases in Dolce, New Mexico or talks about UFOs over military installations, I can go “uh, yeah, that’s how new military aircraft are invented” or I can go “well, maybe there are some things we don’t understand yet.”

It’s when I have those “well, maybe,” moments that my mind opens up and I not only expand my knowledge, but expand the ability of my imagination to come up with new things.  It’s not an accident that Gabriel has a story about a wendigo.  I’m fascinated with the Native American concept of the demonic flesh-eater that enters the bodies of men and turns them into fierce cannibals.  I’ve read about it.  I’ve watched the Monsters & Mysteries episode.  It’s interesting and I can’t say “these people are crazy and it doesn’t exist,” but I also can’t say “yes, it exists and it is pure evil that roams the earth looking for the unwary.”  Humans have dealt with far crazier things than a wendigo.

My personal feelings have to be set aside for this to work.  And it’s amazing what can happen after that – Gabriel’s wendigo story will be explained in a later Dreams book, an experience created because I opened my mind to the possibility that a wendigo might exist.  My fantasy novels all come from this same place, as does my horror (which I’ve never published).  It’s really quite amazing what the mind can think of when you give it permission to ignore what you know to be true and think about the what-if.  Shows like these, keep me from becoming too comfortable with the conventional and exercises my imagination.

PS: Sorry about the Tsoukalos rant… I really don’t have anything against him except his hair cut… that rubs me wrong and I have no idea why.

“I’m 57% Done!”

When people ask what stage I’m at in my next book, I always say things like “I’m 57% done.”  The usual reply, “That’s great, H!”  In their minds, I know they ask what the hell does that mean?!? Even some writer’s look at me mystified by this magic percentage that I seem to pulling out of thin air.

I’m not pulling it out of thin air.  It’s a “percentage of a goal.”  I use WriteWay writing software.  When I start each book, I think about the length, for a Cain novel, this is standardized to 80,000 words.  For a Dysfunctional novella, it’s 25,000.  For a fantasy novel, it’s 65,000.  These are goals, not set in stone numbers.  Books always vary in length because each requires their own magical amount of words to tell the story.  There’s no way for me to know what that number is going into it, so I set a goal.

Over the past few years, I’ve discovered telling someone I have 49,323 words done on my novel requires lots of explanation.  If I tell them a percentage, it is pretty satisfactory.  Percentages are easier to understand than word counts, if you aren’t a writer (although, some of my closest friends and family are slowly learning).  The best part, every time I save my book file in WriteWay, the percentage of the goal automatically updates.  It’s the last thing I check before I shut down the program.

But as I said, every book has a different amount of words needed to tell the story.  At this moment, I have 50,000 words on Butchered Dreams.  According to my goal, that means I need another 30,000 words.  It’s not going to get another 30,000 words.  I know, I’m writing it and the story isn’t going to require that many.  If I end up with that many more words, I’m going to start repeating myself.  I estimate it will be another 20,000 words, give or take.

This magical word count is different for every story.  Cannibal Dreams ended up being 76,000 words.   Meaning WriteWay kept telling me I need 4,000 more words to the 100% mark, but the story didn’t require another 4,000 words… so it didn’t get them.  I have gone over this goal, but it’s more likely to fall a few thousand words short than a few thousand words long (Dark Cotillion is the major exception).

So, when a writer tells you they are Blah% done, it means that they have a word count goal in mind and they have achieved x amount of those words.  When they finish, they may be a few thousand words short or a few thousand words long, but they’ve put in the needed magical amount of words to tell the movie.

(PS: I set my goals based on a German manual for writers that suggests “magical numbers” for each genre.  These numbers were compiled from over a million published books in every genre to find “ideal genre length” to give writer’s an idea of how long their novels should be to improve marketability)

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