Monday, April 1, 2019

Writing Update

In three months of 2019, I've written 93000 words. That's the good news part of a good-news-bad-news story.

The bad news? A lot of it was not on the new post-apocalyptic series. What was written in that is something of a mess. So while I'd hoped to have a book in April or May, I can see that's not going to happen.

Furthermore, personal goals are going to keep me from the computer the next month or so, and did to an extent the past month. While I've written a lot about self-sufficiency and being off the grid, I can only claim to have experienced being off the grid, 100% solar, and surviving on something like $300/month (which I suppose means you aren't terribly dependent on the outside world, but I never figured a way out of needing propane for my refrigerator or food from the store in that situation or objects that I owned that I am in no way capable of manufacturing on my own. (See The Toaster Project.)

So now I'm working toward having less reliance on the mass food distribution network, starting with growing most of my own vegetables, expanding to fruit in future years, fishing more and more for the plate, and after that finding local sources for eggs, cheese and meat if I can. (I can't have a dairy cow where I live but I can have hens, though hens make no economic sense at all at this scale.) I've been busy in March building infrastructure for the garden. I have terrible clay soil, as many of us do, so I've been on a mission to improve it using no-till methods. (Worms, I have lots of. Spiders, check. Fungi, I have. I think it's pretty healthy and fertile soil except for the fact that it turns to concrete when it dries out.) I spent one day building a fence, and another day spreading two tons of compost I had delivered over the cardboard-mulch start I made last autumn. I started over 500 veg plants indoors with a grow light and greenhouse window (I won't say that window is why I bought this house, but it sure didn't hurt!) I've harvested two salads so far--spinach and lettuce. Peas are up, turnips are up, chard and bok choi are up, and onions and leeks are growing happily larger. I've set up trellising, wrestling with the clay soil to get posts sunk deeply. And so on. I'm having a blast, but it does take most of my time. I'm out there six hours some days and too exhausted to do much at all at the end of the work day.

Scraping paint on the shed. It's not crooked, the photographer is

The good news is, once this "build and repair the infrastructure" phase is over, there will be plenty of days where I only need an hour of work outdoors, so I can get back to the writing.

I love writing, and I'm at no risk of stopping doing it. It's simply on the back burner for now. I'm only checking my business email once a week, as well. I'll let you know when there's progress on a book that's worth reporting on.

Thanks, as ever, for being fans and friends and for enjoying my books.

Friday, March 15, 2019

My apologies!

I just now realized that something went wrong with my notifications on comments to the blog. People made comments and they were never moderated because I was only getting some notifications. I'm terribly embarrassed about this! If you took the trouble to come here, read, and speak to me, I really wanted to say something back.

Computers and the internet--both a blessing and a bane, aren't they? When they mess up, you can end up being rude to the very last people that you'd want to be rude to! I am so sorry.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Endless problems with my books being stolen

It's hard to learn to be a decent enough writer that strangers will want to buy your books. It takes at least a decade of sacrifice, working a normal day job while writing when you can fit it in, taking courses, reading craft books, joining critique groups, and spending your time and money on that. Even then, working a second unpaid job for a decade to build your writing chops, there's no guarantee you'll hit the right combination of luck, timing, and technology that allows you to sell enough books to pay the mortgage and eat. It took me almost 30 years to find that lucky moment.

A lot of writers--some whose names you might know--make less than $10,000/year once they find their luck. I'm doing a bit better than that, but I still make less than an assistant manager at a McDonald's makes (and she has health insurance.)

I sacrificed for years to learn and improve my craft. I didn't go on vacations--I wrote. I didn't buy new cars--I wrote. I didn't buy new clothes--I went to thrift shops, and I wrote. I've been without health insurance for half my adult life--because if I worked a day job part-time for a few years here and there instead of full-time, I could write more.

Nonetheless, every lowlife criminal in the world thinks it's fine to steal from me. They sit there on their $1500 iPhones (I can afford no cell phone, BTW) and cavalierly steal my books in various ways. More than one person has stolen my IDENTITY. There are "lou cadle" websites in other countries that are not, I assure you, me or approved by me or in any way related to me. They are just scams and thefts.

And so my income keeps decreasing as piracy, illegal sharing, and theft of my professional identity carves away at what little money I'm making.

There is no legal recourse to this, as some of the thieves are in China or Russia or India. Even if a writer does spend thousands of dollars on investigators and attorneys to track down the piracy site owners and tell them to cease and desist, they'll pop right up with another website 24 hours later. So we writers just eat the losses and grow more and more disheartened.

What tears my ass about this is not that there are evil people in the world who would steal: that I figured out when I was a child. What really bothers me is not the pirate but the reader, that for an ebook I've spent maybe 500 hours of damned hard work on, I'm asking you to pay less than you pay for a cup of coffee. Less than most of you pay for a day of cell phone service. A quarter of what you might pay at the movies (and my book will last you for many more hours of entertainment than would a movie, unless you are a big fan of When Yukong Moved The Mountain and Shoah). Less than what you pay for a candy bar or soda pop at that movie. And yet for some, that's not nearly a low enough price, so they steal from me.

Things that are not stealing: using Kindle Unlimited. Using Overdrive at your public library. Paying at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Google Play or iTunes for a book. (There are even legitimately free books at some of those places, a free price approved by the author.) Things that are stealing: file sharing and reading a whole series and then returning all the books for a refund. (That doesn't hurt Amazon or Apple one bit. It hurts only writers, and you eventually, for they will remove your account if you do it very often.)

Tell everyone you know, please. Stealing a book, or downloading books from piracy sites, or sharing DRM-stripped KU files is EXACTLY like breaking into someone's home, stealing their wallet, and setting on fire their cherished mementos of a life. Is that last an exaggeration? No. I've given my life to writing, so when you steal my books, you don't just steal my wallet. You steal the years of work and sacrifice from me. A book thief might have been vacationing in the Caribbean 15 years ago, but I was eating generic corn flakes and getting up at 4:30 to practice writing before I got on the bus to get to work.

Theft is what book piracy is, and that's all it is. Bad people will keep doing it, of course, for that is what bad people do. They commit crimes and do not care at all who they hurt. It's the nature of sociopathy.

But everyone with any moral center should recognize their crime for what it is and stop committing it.

Thank you.

- Lou

Thursday, January 31, 2019

My World War II thriller is out

Code Name Beatriz is out!.

"Wireless agents have a six-week life expectancy after they parachute into France." 

Antonia, devastated by what the war has taken from her, is numb to the warning, and willing to die working with the Resistance in France...until a special operation brings her face to face with a Canadian man who makes her want to live again. When the operation goes terribly wrong and the Nazis capture him, what will she risk to free him?

Click HERE for link to Amazon page.

For some time I've been fascinated with the female SOE agents of World War II, Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan, Violette Szabo, and all the heroic women who parachuted into France to help fight the Nazis on the ground. What heroes they were! I hope here I've done them justice with my fictional Antonia, an agent code named Beatriz.

Other links will be coming as the book appears at other sites.  Thank you for reading.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Living more mindfully

Excuse the rare personal post!

I move too fast. I want to move more slowly, with spaces for breathing between all I do.

While I’m not a Buddhist, I’ve read about their concept of mindfulness. You do one thing at a time, and you attend to it. In so doing, you learn more. You relax more. You enjoy chores you used to rush through because you are there, in the moment, fully present, your hands immersed in warm dishwashing water, noticing how that actually feels good (rather than mentally cursing the chore, as we so often do.)

How did I get to the decidedly unmindful place I am right now? Five years ago, when I lived in the motor home in the deserts and woods of Arizona, I was fully mindful. I was utterly relaxed. Most days were blissful. I was so at peace that birds came right up to me and sang along with me when I sat outdoors, sang and played the guitar. I’m a million miles from there today.

The problem starts with the business of being a full-time author. Amazon’s algorithms favored books that came out every 3 months back in 2016. This year, you’d better be releasing one per month to get that monster’s approval and have any chance of being discovered by readers who don’t yet know your work.

Truth: I can’t write a good book in a month. I can’t write one, revise one, edit one, proofread one, run it through more than one pro proofreader in two months, even, and be happy with the result. I don’t even count the hours--years sometimes--of research that goes into all of my books. (I like learning, so it’s not a burden, and it’s hard to convince myself to track it or count it as work, though it is.)

I could write two pretty good, pretty error-free books per year, I think. I can’t do that and remain a full-time author, of course. Amazon's rules won't let me. So the choice is between better books and paying my bills this way.

This rush then extends its ugly claws out into other realms. That kind of productivity, plus the necessity of paying attention to whatever “innovations” Amazon is up to this month that affects authors requires a lot of social time online with other authors so I can stay abreast of this gossip. Authors do each other small favors, and those take time. The online time starts to pull at you, as it will (social media is terribly addictive), and if there is anything less mindful than staring at a screen and feeling irritated a lot, I can’t imagine what that might be. (Perhaps being forced to listen to jackhammer all day comes close.)

And soon, eight hours per day is taken up, just as with any office job. (Except I have to work Saturday and Sunday as well. I almost never take a day off. That wears on a person.) And so there’s not enough time to mow the lawn, clean the house, or make really good scratch meals as I’d wish. (I’m a good cook--seems like a skill I’m wasting most days.) I end up in real in-person conversations that I wish would end so I could go back to whatever is next on my list. In another mental state, I might really enjoy those conversations.

I bought a new house last year, and the yard was a mess, and there were several broken things, and my personal to-do list has been long. I’ve nearly worked my way through it, and am on to the “improvements” list now, but instead of enjoying this work--and I could, under other circumstances--I’m still in a rush-rush-rush mode. It doesn’t make the job get done any better, and it makes me resentful while I'm doing it. Truth is, there are tasks I enjoy like scraping paint and pulling weeds that relax me to a deep level, if I’m only able to commit to a solid two to four hours at them and do them carefully and with attention and without a rigid goal that starts out "I have to...."  Weeding or sanding can be like a meditation. But not if I’m trying to rush through the list to go back to check my sales because I’m running an ad and then checking emails and dealing with the day’s pile of them again.

I should be loving my life. I should be thrilled at living the dream of being a full-time writer. But I don’t and I’m not. I sigh far too much. I enjoy the small moments far too little.

And I know the answer to this discontent. It’s to slow the heck down. :D I want a to-do list with three things on it, not three dozen, every day. I want to stop and smell the roses--or the paint, or the compost, or the red peppers frying up in the pan. I want to plunge my hands into a sink of hot sudsy water, look out the kitchen window at the birds and squirrels, and just stand there for a full minute, feeling and seeing what I’m feeling and seeing.

I know most of us feel this way during our working years. I'm not special in that sense. What's rare about me is that I get to be one of the 6,000 or so people making a living as a writer, a position I'm well aware 500,000 other writers covet deeply and would think me mad for risking by slowing down this year.

I’ll have a book coming out soon. And I’m writing another. But instead of rushing it to publication to sate the maw of Amazon, when I’m done, I’ll put it aside and let it rest for a month before picking it up for revision. I’ll enjoy the process more. It’ll be a better book for that rest. I’m not going to release five or six or seven books this year (my totals for the last three years). I’m going to release three--and one was actually written last year. Next year, maybe that’ll only be two books released. Odds are, my business will crash as a result.

I am so happy I have readers, and I write for them as well as for me. But I don’t think I’m doing any of us a favor by rushing as I have been. I often ask myself, why is Gray so much more popular than everything else I write. These books come from the same mind, the same fingers. Gray was released one book every six months and the editing and release came NINE YEARS after I first wrote it. I think that’s the answer, in part. I took more time. I revised more mindfully. I had down time during which I did other things mindfully, which made me a more balanced person when I returned to writing the book.

That’s my theory, at least. If I’m wrong, at least by slowing down and paying attention to the world, I’ll be doing myself some good, if not anyone else or my books. I won’t feel as if I’m living in a bubble, locked in a wrestling match with Amazon, with the world an irksome distraction, which is how I feel most days now. I will eat better, rest better, feel better.

The birds might even come near again. And that would be lovely.