Friday, July 26, 2019

The story of Gray

This is the tale of how Gray was written, and when, and how it came to be in your hands.

I had ceased teaching university in 2004 partly because teaching writing was messing up my ability to write. Or, let's back up 10 years before that: after a moderately successful decade in publishing stories, poetry, and slick magazine articles, teaching had slowed me down for the following decade. But I missed writing, so very much. Teaching was also becoming boring after a decade of it (most jobs get boring after 2 years, so this was actually a win!), and it was always far too much work (I often only worked ¾ time, yet I worked 60-hour weeks and made far too little money and often had no health insurance), so I said "My house is paid off. I have some money saved. Let's go back to writing, Lou, which is still the only real passion that's lasted you a lifetime."

I wrote three books in my first year off. A pen name book (no longer for sale) was one of them. A non-fiction book (which I never published or marketed) was one. And Gray was one. I'd been reading about the topic of the type of disaster itself, as reading NF science is one of my hobbies. I'd always thought that disaster novels and movies had gotten something wrong. Often, in real life, disasters come without warning, and if there is no more electricity, no more communications, the people suffering in the midst of it don't have the slightest idea what was going on. Before the year 1900, no human would have ever known about the when of an impending disaster or the how or why of it!  (Read the terrific books Isaac's Storm or Krakatoa to get an idea of how disasters played out before 1900.) I wanted to write about that—a limited viewpoint of one person, a confused person who didn't know anything about the disaster, and whose struggle for survival was so demanding that she could seldom spare a thought to wonder over it.

Gray was a single long book, complete by the end of 2005. I tried to get a agents interested in it and in the pen name book, but I got no nibbles at all on either. The few who bothered writing back said of Gray, in their professional wisdom (cough, cough), "No one reads post-apocalyptic books any more."

I was mightily confused at that comment, for I certainly still loved the genre, but I moved on in my writing. I outlined a book I still like the idea of, a mainstream novel about a woman whose husband died young, who with her insurance payout decides to foster troubled teen girls on a small farm/homestead she had always wanted (or at least thought she wanted). It's funny at points as things go wrong, and poignant at points. I did write a lot of it, but then I thought, "They won't want this one either," and let it sit unfinished. (I think I still have it somewhere, but I couldn't swear to that.)

After my three and a half books were written, I didn't go back to work teaching. I liked being away from it too much. I found a way to live on the cheap (and I do mean cheap—it cost me $4000 US/year to survive, and that was without food stamps or any other assistance) by selling my house, and while I wrote some short stories and poems for the next seven years, and even some outlines for novels, I burned it all in campfires. Wasn't worth the trouble of marketing it, I figured. Agents didn't find my work appealing, and agents were the barrier to my communicating with publishers. And short work simply doesn't pay much, so you may as well burn it in the campfire as send it out into the world. Financially, you'll come out ahead by using your lighter.

Then I settled down to a life you'd call more "normal." More settled, certainly. More electricity to run the computer, and daily internet access after years without. So I started writing novels again, first a draft of my family history novel, and then my disaster novels. Again, I ran into the agent brick wall with all that. I was beyond frustrated. I had great publishing credentials. I'd had stories in top fiction magazines. I had writing awards, so I knew I couldn't totally suck as a writer in everyone's opinion. Good magazines had written me once upon a time, asking if I had any stories for them, so I was sure I wasn't deluded about my skill as a teller of fictional tales. I'm still not sure why agents didn't like my stuff. (Had you still been able to approach publishers directly, as you could when I was young, I suspect I would have sold my books, but those days were long gone by 2012).

But by this time, I didn't have to burn my work and give up writing again, or give it up for good. Now there was the Kindle, and my dear friend Shelley said, "You can do this. Self publishing can work." There was Howey and Konrath and Hocking and others proving it would work danged well, in fact. Still, I hesitated (in retrospect, too long!) But I took the plunge with my old pen name book and with the disaster novels, planning to follow up with whichever genre of book sold best. And very quickly, total strangers around the world started buying my disaster ebooks. So cool! I wanted to hug every one of them. :D I even got a few pieces of fan mail! Lifelong writing dreams were finally coming true, and nobody was in my way. I was my own publisher, reaching readers directly, and learning how to run a business.

People in the know said, "Good start, but you need a series now." I didn't have a series idea, but I'd been re-reading Gray with thoughts of publishing it next, and I thought, "I have a lot more to say about these characters." So I took the long novel—which was somewhat different, and ended soon after Coral finding Benjamin and them deciding to leave his house when something bad happened there—and I rewrote what I had and then continued the tale, making sure each book had a climax and came to a resting place that completed a section in a satisfying way. One of the books of the series gave me a bit of trouble and took seven months to complete, but I worked at it to get it just how I wanted it. 

And the series found its readers. Fans wrote me daily. I got offers for traditional publication of it and for audio publication. It was great—and overwhelming some days, for my email inbox was stuffed full every morning, needed to be combed through, the offers needing to be vetted, and at times I despaired of carving out more time to write!

Gray continues to be my most popular work. Podium Publishing picked it up as audio book, with a professional approach to me when I'd gotten past those overly busy days. They did a great job with it, and I was given a wonderful narrator, Lauren Fortgang. I've moved on from Gray, to other books and series, but it continues to excite and move readers all around the world, and I'm still as grateful as I was in 2015 to every single one of you who bought, read and enjoyed it.

And while Amazon has its problems sometimes managing its self-publishing platform, I'm also grateful to them, for had they not taken the risk of developing the e-reader, losing money hand over fist on it initially, and had they not opened up publishing in ways that didn't demand that writers schmooze agents to get through to publishers (who all live in the same place and all look and think alike, which is not necessarily how most readers think), you'd have never read Gray. I'd have never been a full-time writer. We wouldn't have countless numbers of wonderful novels by other people were it not for Amazon leading the way with the Kindle and letting novelists be their own publishers, be their own agents, and free themselves of the NYC system that wasn't working for most writers or many readers.

Mostly, though, the gratitude I have—and which I never forget, not for a day—is aimed at my readers. Without you, I'm still a frustrated person living well below the poverty line and burning my stories in campfires.  So thank you for reading.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Congratulations to my books designer for an award

Deranged Doctor Designs, my book cover designer for most of my books, has always done a terrific job. In May, they won the e-book Cover Design Award for Code Name: Beatriz.

I can't claim more than .01% of this award (I did describe the book to them, so that's why I claim even that much!) so I'm not bragging on me, but on them. They've always been a delight to work with, and I've recommended them to several writer friends.

Congratulations to the design team there.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Howdy all!

I'm still terribly busy with the house, yard, and ridiculously large vegetable garden. (Me to self, passing the plant display at Lowe's: "you already have 31 tomato plants. You do not need another tomato plant!")

The shed is painted, and various other projects were finished. And then it was on to getting chipped wood from tree companies to 1) spread around the garden paths and 2) use to kill grass and weeds. I finally got this pile moved, but there'll be more coming later this year.

I planted my vegetable garden and annual flowers that I grew from seed indoors, and I replaced what perennials didn't survive the sub-zero week we had last winter. I weed around the whole place twice a week. When I take a breath and stand back and look, I realize how much I've accomplished in a year. But mostly, I don't have time to stop to admire; I simply put my head down and work. Hot weather is coming soon, and I won't be able to take six-hour work days out there when it's hot. By July, I'll be preserving the bounty of the veg garden.

At least I hope it's a bounty!

I moved back to where I grew up in large part to be around the people in my family who are getting older, wanting to spend time with them while I still could. The last remaining person of my maternal grandparents' generation just broke her hip--and that often leads to pneumonia and the end, particularly at the age she is. We had just had a wonderful lunch together last month, and I was able to give her a copy of my large print paperback of Storm that I had done in large part for her. I quizzed her about the old days and my great-grandparents, and she had wonderful tales to tell. I do love stories of days gone by.

That's it! I wanted y'all to know what I've been up to and that I'm still in the land of the living. And come autumn, I'll be in the land of the writing again.

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.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review of 2018 + plan for 2019

It was a busy December of catching up with tasks I'd wanted to do for some time or should have done years ago, but I caught up and am proud of what that means. Soon there will be an omnibus edition of Books 1-2-3 in both the Oil Apocalypse series and the Dawn of Mammals series. (I'd do a five-book collection, but Amazon's rules about pricing makes that impossible.) They'll be out within a few weeks.

My newest novel is a World War II Spy thrilled, called Code Name Beatriz. It too will be out within a few weeks.

Because I have an older relative with vision problems, I know about the need for more large print books, so I've had Storm reformatted and made into a large print paperback. As soon as the cover is re-done for that, it'll be out too.

And finally, I revised and found a cover for a novel based on the life of my great-grandmother as a child. Her mother was so poor, she had to give her to an orphanage around the year 1900. I just released that under the pen name Rosellyn Sparks. Its name is The Long Road to Home. I drafted this in 2011, and my relatives have wanted to read it for some time, so this falls under "it's about time!" from their perspective. :D

That's a lot that came to fruition and was caught up on all at once.

I moved 1500 miles in 2018, and I bought a house for the first time in years, so the fact I got four books published last year is something of a miracle. Two were Lou Cadle novels, and one was a fantasy under the pen name LC Bard.

And now I'm in the middle of writing the 31st book I've written (I've not published all of them) in a new post-apocalyptic series. It should be out in May if all goes well.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

to sign up to my mailing list

To sign up to get news on new releases, visit this website on a browser. On the right-hand side of the page, there's a short form. You can unsubscribe at any time.

It's that simple! I only send announcements about new releases, and I never sell or share your email address with anyone else at all. (I never did, even before the EU law changes. Lots of writers share them with Facebook. I never trusted FB as far as I could throw Zuck's vast team of lawyers!)

You can also sign up at Bookbub or via Amazon's +follow function (though Amazon's doesn't always work.)

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Repost: Oil Apocalypse Blogs #2

A continuing series. I answer more questions about the books and the research behind them.

What is the scariest aspect of the end of oil?

In my opinion? Food. Our just-in-time food delivery system depends entirely on petroleum. Starving people may not remain pleasant people, especially not when they live in the concentrations of today’s urban centers. England’s little glitch back 10 years ago that resulted in the “nine meals from anarchy” talk gave us a hint of what may well happen at the start of such an event.

Daniel Chase photo via Wikimedia. Before Hurricane Sandy

But food delivery isn’t the only facet of the food system that requires petroleum. Tractors and other farm machinery, tractor tires, insecticides, fertilizers...all require petroleum. Indeed, it was the industrial revolution and petroleum products as applied to farming that resulted in crop yields that caused the world population to explode from 500 million to over 7 billion in just a couple hundred years.

We need to pause from time to time and think about that. 500 million people is probably the carrying capacity of the earth absent petroleum. That is, this lovely, diverse, rare planet can support/feed only a half a billion homo sapiens. So when oil is gone, there will be at least 7 billion extra starving people (probably 15 billion or more by the time it happens, though drought or disease may have killed several billion first because we have other potential problems that stem from overpopulation).

So imagine: Fertile land and deer and fish for half a billion, with 15 billion clamoring for food. You can see what’s going to happen. People are going to starve to death...but a few will not do it quietly and politely, darn them. They will kill you to get your food, and if your food is gone, some will kill you to use you as food.

I'm working toward food self-sufficiency myself, and if a lot of people do this--including urban gardeners, who can use abandoned lots, roof gardens, median strips, and much more--that will mitigate the problem. Kudos to those who are doing just that. But of course, sufficient people will not do the work, and certain arid places (Phoenix, Las Vegas) are not in climates where that much food can be grown, and we'll end up in a bad situation at some future point.

I don't think I'll live to see it, honestly, but if I had grandkids, I would be working to teach them how to grow their own food and fish--that's for sure.

A foreign war triggers the end of oil in your books. But don’t Iran and Saudi Arabia get along really well?

Not according to what I read. I read several foreign policy papers (rather boring research for me, I confess), and of all the local neighbors who might attack Saudi Arabia for its oil in the future, Iran seemed the most likely. Again, I can’t guess at a date, but one day, surely current tensions will come to that. Its impact on oil exports? That I would not begin to try and predict in the real world. Worst case scenario for the reader more than likely, is Russia backing Iran (as they likely would) and winning and gaining control over the Saudi Arabian oil fields. The British/US invasion of Iraq was ill-considered and wasteful and got us almost no oil. Our entering this hypothetical Iran-Saudi war, if Russia is a major player, to protect our access to Saudi oil? Absolutely necessary. It’ll probably be couched in some typical lie to appease the masses--WMDs or religion or “evil” leaders or whatever--but it will be entirely about oil and, if we want to keep living as we do, if we want to keep eating, not so much a choice as an imperative.

However, much more of the US's oil comes from Canada than from the Middle East at this point, so in our real world, this wouldn't be so much of a crisis.

more next week