Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mid-year report

No, it isn't yet the middle of the year yet, I know! I'm a rebel like that.

I'm a full-time novelist, earning a living that way, paying all my bills and maxing out my retirement contribution via novel sales. I know many, many writers out there would like to be this. Because I actually track my hours and tasks each day (I once worked for a management consulting firm, so tracking "billable" hours is like falling off a log for me), I thought I'd tell you what I've done so far this year, so you can see what one full-time writer's life looks like.



  • new words of fiction written: 186,000
  • words revised and proofread: 384,000
  • research: 169 hours 
  • administrative tasks: 215 hours
  • social media: 30 hours
  • socializing with other writers: a lot! But sometimes I learn something, so it is business time as much as social time
  • volunteerism: didn't track my hours, but I do help other writers
  • days off: 11 
  • blog posts written: 29 (I have some queued up for after the next novel release)
Not that the days off were usually off, exactly. That's when I run around and catch up on major-hassle errands, do repair projects, wrestle with government agencies, and so on.

My work days usually last 5.5 hours, and I work seven days per week, though there are moments outside those hours when I'm probably thinking about if this or that plot twist would work. ETA in response to an email: I'm a morning person, so I'm usually up before 5:00 a.m. and often done by noon.

I expect the second half of the year to be pretty much a duplication of the first half.

As you can see, I don't get as much as a one-day weekend most weeks (I tend to take time off in 3-4 day chunks). The time I work is close to that of any full-time job, 40 hours per week, and while a lot of what I do is fun, it certainly isn't all fun. Other benefits to this work: I get to write in the oldest, most comfortable clothes I own and not commute and not put up with horrible coworkers. So I'm not complaining, you see. But it is a job, aspiring novelists should know, not some endless happy dance in the land of frou-frou bunnies where ice cream drips from the trees. (which would be a real mess, come to think of it.)

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to live this life. It was a long-held dream and Amazon, the Kindle, and my fans have made it come true. To all of them, many thanks.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What I'm up to these days

An update to my fans and readers. I'm in the polishing and proofreading stage of the first in my new post-apocalyptic series. Yay! My pro proofreader will have it in early June as well as one of my friends who is expert on something I've put in there but am not an expert on, and I'll put it up for preorder around the 20th of June at Amazon, mention that here, on Facebook, Twitter, and to my mailing list. Right now, I'm planning for a July 10 publication date.

Some minor spoilers. It's set in Arizona, at mid-altitudes, close to here (yes, Virginia, there is water in Arizona):

Wikimedia commons


And it has some of these in it:

Wikimedia Commons

And a character sees something like this:


Wikimedia. by Sgt. MJ MacLeod
Can't wait to see what you think of it!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fan Appreciation Day!

I just made up this holiday. But let's all celebrate it anyway!



While I often say how much I appreciate my fans and readers to those in my mailing list, I know I have tens of thousands of other readers who aren't on the list, so I want to say to you, if you happen upon this, I am at least as much a fan of yours as you are of mine.

I write for you guys. I want to entertain to, to scare you, to get your heart beating fast, to make you shed a tear, to believe in my characters and care for them. I love when I hear you stayed up until 3 a.m. reading my books. If my entertaining you also distracts you from some physical or emotional pain in your life, that's the best news of all to me.

For the first time in a writing life that spans almost thirty years, I'm making a living writing fiction, and I could not possibly do this without your support. It's not just that you buy my books or read them on Kindle Unlimited. It's that you tell your friends about them too. It's that you rate them or review them on Amazon or Goodreads. This all helps keep me in T-shirts and toner. (Hmm, not saying I wear toner. That'd just be odd.) And if I'm paying my bills, all I need to do every morning is write! I can put out more books as a result. So you're helping me write more of the books you enjoy. A win-win.

If you want to hear more often that I appreciate you, sign up for my mailing list at the right hand side of this page. Rest assured, I do not send newsy emails with pix of my cute cat or grandkids. I only send out a mailing if there's a new release or a big sale that you might want to know of. If you don't want to sign up, I completely understand. Our email inboxes are crammed as it is. Just bookmark this site and check back every couple months, and you'll see the newest release under the sign-up form. Or you can +follow me on any book's page at Amazon, or at Bookbub, and they'll send you an email when I release a new book.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Scary Disease of the Week: Influenza

And so we’ve arrived at the final disease, my choice of the #1 scariest infectious disease out there.

Avian flu, via Wikimedia Commons

#1 is Influenza. We haven’t seen a pandemic flu in North America in a while--long enough to have lost our collective fear of one. The 1950’s saw the last. There are many different influenza viruses, and some have a low fatality rate, less than 2%, and some have a much higher rate, 70%. In most cases, the elderly and children are most vulnerable.

I chose this disease for the pandemic in my thriller in part because most of us hardly think twice about it. The word “flu” doesn’t send us into a tizzy the way “Ebola” does. Some of us get the vaccine, but many do not. We’ve grown used to the annual talk about flu and vaccines and tend to tune it out, despite that this virus kills thousands or tens of thousands times the people as Ebola does every year.

The flu type I chose for my novel Crow Vector, HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, H5N1), is frightening--not just to me, but to the experts. With a 69% fatality rate right now, even with treatment, and almost no capacity at all to create vaccines for it, if it explodes out of China and starts moving from person to person (rather than only bird to person, as it stands), we are all in deep trouble.

The flu generally kills via filling the lungs with fluid. While it has no brain damage beyond the usually temporary confusion we feel when we have a high fever, going from having to cough several times a day to gasping for air to needing a breathing tube before you die is something I’ve don’t want anyone to have to experience.

Because the killer version of the H5N1 virus has already been manipulated in the lab to make it able to pass easily from person to person, in the 2014 Rotterdam experiments and elsewhere, we know with 100% certainty that it’s weaponizable. Not only is it, those experiments made it clear to anyone with the will and technique exactly how to turn it into a human pandemic. So... yeah. Scary disease indeed.



1950's flu epidemic; patients overwhelming medical system
Obviously, that I thought it most frightening--most realistically frightening--is why I picked it for the novel.

And this concludes my six-part series on scary infectious diseases. Return to Part I to see some runners-up. For me these are the scariest five:
  1. Influenza
  2. Rabies
  3. Hemorrhagic fevers
  4. Botulism
  5. Cruetzfeldt-Jakobs
Which disease scares you the most? Tell me in comments.