Friday, May 22, 2015

Moondrops & Thistles has a new cover!

Moondrops&Thistles-cover200The print cover (to the left) of Moondrops & Thistles (Elucidate Publishing, 2012) has not changed, but I had a thought for a new cover for the ebook, asked for a few opinions, then did an update. It’s getting nice comments so far.  What do you think?

While you’re checking the cover, maybe read an excerpt. On Smashwords, you can read the first 10% before deciding whether to purchase. I also have the beginning on the book’s website, along with reviews and other buy links.

You can also now request your library to order this title, and my other books, in electronic format through Overdrive.
 

Moondrops & Thistles
LK Hunsaker

Love. Honor.
Trust.
Sacrifice.

Daws, aka Sergeant Fred Dawson, U.S. Army, is a determined and highly respected leader. Called to serve in Desert Storm, he performs two impromptu rescue missions and manages to bring all of his men back home. While still haunted by the cost of his actions, he loses the most important person in his life, in an accident for which he feels partly responsible.

Deanna Meyers has had it with men. As far as she's concerned, there isn't a true loyal and honest gentleman left in New York City. In the midst of trying to advance in the world of advertising where the men in charge are more interested in her other attributes than in her skills, she finds herself in another destructive relationship, this time to the possible detriment of her career.

When they run into each other at a bus stop in the pouring rain after midnight, Daws and Deanna recognize the spark of a connection that draws them in the way they are both drawn to the city lights at night.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Oh, so this is what it was like…

6012-dncI have to laugh. Way back when I was working outside the house and taking care of my young children after work, I used to grab bits and pieces of time to write. Generally that meant after their bedtime when I was tired but determined, and in a few minutes on weekends here and there around whatever else was going on. I would dream of the time I could stay home and write for more than snatched moments around everyone else.

I got that. Well, more or less. Hubby’s job changed and so did mine: I got to stay home and do everything but work outside the house. Well okay, but the kids did have school all day so that was some glorious writing time. Well, other than when the house flooded and I had to manage the fixing of it. And other than calls from the school to pick up a sick kid. Or taking care of the utility sink when the washer overflowed it. You know, all that fun house and kid stuff.

And then the kids got older and more on their own and I got my writing days. Really. Man, did I get on a flow! A one book a year flow, and these were not skinny books. Then a two book a year flow until I caught up to having 12 books out over 12 years even though the first books were four years apart or two years apart. But I was on a roll.

And I saw so many younger author acquaintances just wishing for the day they could have full days to write and I remembered full well that feeling. But there is the other side of that: when you don’t have to fight for writing time, there’s an intensity you lose. I’d started wondering if I was losing too much writing intensity because I had so much time to just write. You know the phrase “be careful what you ask for,” right?

So yes, the kids got older and more on their own enough to need wedding planning and then to be graced with beautiful, wonderful, incredible little handfuls (ahem, grandchildren) who I love to spend time with as much as I can. One is out of state but we “chat” over the phone or through the net and he visits as much as his parents allow (can manage). The other gets lots of Grandma time since she stays with me while Mom and Dad are both at work.

That all day writing time… Well, you know. I’ve lost speed. And once I get over the exhaustion of doing this at “my” age instead of the young mommy age, I’m sure that intensity to find writing time will return.

For now, I’m intensely enjoying these magical little gifts that are the result of putting up with their parents (ahem, enjoying their boisterous head-strong parents at each stage of their in-a-hurry-to-be-able-to-do-what-I-want childhoods) and that may be enough intensity for now.

I’m still writing. Just slower. That’s okay. Too soon, the babies will have their own things to do and I’ll have more story fodder that’s simmering in my mind as I try to stay awake long enough at night to think about my stories.

Hugs

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Oh The Places You’ll Go

Reading-empathyToday is World Book Day and I love seeing all of the posts about what people are reading and how much they love to read.

What am I reading? I’m in the middle of Creation by Gore Vidal, an intense long complicated book set way back in the time of the Persian empire. I’m also working on Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, a very thick lit fic that’s so beautifully written I could be jealous if allowed myself. And I’ve just started on a brand new ebook by Rigel Carson titled G-1, a sci fi futuristic read that has a lot of today’s societal issues mixed into the make-believe world of the future.

Yes, I’m usually reading three books at once. I never used to do so, but I find it convenient to leave one upstairs beside the bed, usually the one that takes the most concentration, one in print beside my easy chair that I’ll read during TV shows someone else is watching or through Pirates games (it’s Pirates season again!), often non-fic. And I have one always in progress on my ereader or tablet. That’s usually one I can carry in one hand as I chase the baby around the house to keep her out of trouble, one that takes less concentration and often with short chapters that works well for short reading spurts.

I do read a lot. Not because I have the time, but because I make it, because it matters. Often it’s after 9 pm when I’ve already put more than a full day’s work in and I need to unwind. Books unwind you far more than TV does. They do.

But it’s not only for unwinding. It’s for my profession: I don’t read authors who say they don’t read other authors. It’s part of the job requirement. Along with that, it’s for my knowledge base. I’m a perpetual student and I can’t understand anyone who isn’t and doesn’t care to be. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. Apparently I feel like I have a lot of growing to do. ;-) So I read. A lot. In different genres. About different subjects.

And yes, I often encourage others to do the same. Why is it my business? Because we are all connected. What we do affects those around us and our society as a whole. The more we truly understand each other, the better we can get along. And books don’t argue back. They say what they say and you’re free to take it in or dismiss it. But the more you take in, the more empathetic you become.

There’s a world of difference between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is caring about how someone else feels. Empathy is actually understanding how someone else feels. Huge difference. Empathy is far more important and we need for more of it.

So pick up a book that’s set somewhere you haven’t been about something you haven’t experienced, and let your empathy grow.

Reading helps you go places, even if you stay right there in your home area. But you don’t have to listen to me. Listen to the experts about going places:

And if you’re interested in checking out one of my EMK books, Pieces of Light, a novella, is free this week only for Read An Ebook week.

 

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Monday, January 05, 2015

1-5-15

Yes, I like to play with the numbers in dates. Strange, I suppose, since math class always made me cringe. But there you go – not everything makes sense.

I’ve started journaling this year for the first time in far too 5005cp-lkhmany years. I did make an attempt a couple of years ago, but then my “wait, I write all the time, anyway, so what’s the point” attitude kicked in and I stopped. I still think there’s a point. Maybe especially for writers. And especially for dream journals, which I also have and need to get back to.

It’s quite a release to journal. I don’t plan to let anyone read it, although I don’t plan to destroy it, either, so there’s a chance someone along the line will read it. At that point, I won’t care one way or the other. Or I suppose I won’t. Guess it’s hard to tell. My guess is it’ll be too boring to bother with. The good stuff is in my books.

I’m also back to more artwork. The more I do it – I did a bit for Christmas gifts last month – the more I want to do more. I’ve even wondered if I should have stayed the course back when I was majoring in art. Ah well, you can’t change what you’ve done; you can only learn from it.

The key will be finding time for both art and writing, but I think they will complement each other well. I can see it already infusing more into my stories with colorful detail, with more luscious imagery. There’s a tip for other writers: paint something. It doesn’t matter how it turns out. Just look out your window and paint what you see how you see it. Like journaling, it’s a nice creative exercise that helps to unlock a different part of your brain and will seep beautifully into your words.

Painting or drawing is like journaling, really. You don’t realize how much you don’t see until you do.

How’s that for philosophical?  :-)

According to Goodreads, I read 30 books last year. Well, 2 of them were children’s books I reviewed and two I abandoned. So, 27, roughly. No, one was a box set of 3, so 30 is pretty accurate. A mix of them. Long, short, literary, romance, non-fic, cozy mystery…

Not that the specific number matters. What matters is what I got out of them.  I review almost everything I read these days because, well, it’s nice for the author to get a review to show people are reading her work, and, reviewing is like painting. You have to think more about what you read when you deconstruct it enough to review it well.

5004cp-lkhIn art, you’re taught to see what you actually see as you reproduce it instead of what you think you see. In other words, look at each small part of it instead of at the whole object. The small parts make a bigger “whole” than the whole work itself. Really. It does. Even if it doesn’t make sense mathematically.

That’s why I prefer art. Stuff like that actually makes sense in art.

Anyway, hubby is an artist, as well, as is most of my family. We’re just strange that way. Hubby and Son do woodwork together. They’re about to branch out into more artistic artwork. So, why not? We (well, I) set up a page for our family art. It’s just beginning, but it’s a start.

Hunsaker Arts

2015 is starting out busy around here, but that’s nothing new. How about you? Starting anything differently creative?

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

12-13-14 … miscellaneous rambles

My grandson turned a year old yesterday. On his birthday, his cousin who is 3 months younger decided to take her first steps. These babies, although they live several states apart and have seen each other for a total of 2 weeks, are pretty synergistic, or so it seems. How many 9 month olds will notice his 6 month old cousin can’t get around as well as he can and bring her toys to play with or allow her to play with the same toy he had first when she reaches for it? How many 6-9 month olds absolutely light up at photos of her baby cousin?

I like to think they know they’re related. Babies are smart, far smarter than too many people give them credit for. There was also no jealousy when their parents held their cousins, which can very well happen at this age.

Of course, being brought up in a loving and sharing environment where they’re encouraged to explore helps that.
~~~

Christmas is far more fun when babies are involved. This new grandma is having plenty of fun.  :-)
~~~

Of course, this new grandma has set work aside to some extent, also, to spend time with babies, even when it’s over the phone or on video message.

The writing plan for this year was to get Rehearsal 4 out, as well as the new editions of Rehearsal 1 & 2. That’s not going to happen. Possibly early 2015. The first EMK Artists & Cottages book was set to come out in October, also, which also didn’t happen. Well, you know, books stay the same however long they sit. Babies don’t. Babies change incredibly fast.

They are also very inspiring. Punkindoodle and Ladybug are no exception. More stories ahead…
~~~

One of the big parade hosts on Thanksgiving was talking about some TV channel and how great it is for kids and said when the kids are sleepy but won’t give in, set them in front of whatever channel it was and let them fall asleep watching.

My gut wrenched and I wanted to grab his microphone and yell, “DON’T DO THAT!” Sigh. Put them in bed with books, preferably with someone reading them a book. Don’t bore them to sleep with television. Relax them with reading. Yes, it matters. It most definitely matters.
~~~

I also caught a clip of a show someone else was watching the other day where a guy said he was a writer because he’d written a book. His buddies promptly laughed at him and asked if it was published and since it wasn’t, they made a big deal out of saying he wasn’t a writer if he wasn’t published. Really? One of them was moronic enough to say, “I’ve flown in airplanes. Does that make me a pilot?” Now, if you don’t realize how completely unfitting that comparison is to publishing making you a writer, maybe read more. You’re a writer if you’re a writer. You’re a published author if you’re a published author (in whatever form). [You’re not a writer if you only read books (re the pilot comparison).] You’re an artist if you create art, whether or not anyone ever sees it. You’re a musician if you play music. We are all a very wide variety of things. Why pigeonhole? And why laugh at someone who has written a so-far-unpublished book just because it’s not published yet? How about trying it yourself instead? Write a whole book. Sure, anyone can do it, but not everyone will. (Quality is a whole different matter.)
~~~

And this morning: a new teen show commercial where a girl talks about someone being sweet, “but sweet can be boring” so she changes her whole appearance and sets out to… do whatever she sets out to do with her new “I’m so cool” attitude. Really??? Come on, Hollywood. Grow a brain, already. And we wonder why kids think snarky and nasty are cool? Sweet is not boring. Snarky is getting very boring. Kids being who they aren’t just to fit in with the snarky in crowd are beyond boring.
~~~

So that’s the state of things as I see it on this 12/13/14 at 15:16 (military time for 3:16). Some things only happen on a rare occasion and we should maybe take notice even when it seems pretty non-eventful.

4895cp-lkh

 

 

 

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

DIY: Fuzzy Sock Mittens

When I couldn’t find those little baby mittens with a string that keeps them hooked onto their coat, I decided to get creative. With the plethora of fuzzy socks available lately, it’s easy to find some in the colors you want.

4880My first thought was to use the toes since they’re already stitched together and that would be great for bigger hands (or if you find them in small sock sizes). I wanted them smaller and more rounded, so I cut off the end. I left enough of the ankle to be able to wear the rest of the socks. (You’ll want to finish the edge in some way so they don’t ravel.)

Next, I turned them inside out and trimmed the end I cut to a somewhat rounded shape. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
4881cpBecause this material frays and bunches, I cut fusible interfacing and ironed them on to the finger areas that I would need to sew.
4882I tried machine sewing, but given the softness and bulkiness of the fabric, my machine kept getting stuck, so I gave up and grabbed needle and thread and did a simple whip stitch around the edges.

To help keep them on baby’s hands, I used 1/8 inch soft elastic, sewed it in a circle, folded it around the pre-finished edging (inside-out), and sewed it in. Measure it on your baby and be sure not to make it too tight. No cutting off baby’s circulation!

For the string to keep them from getting lost, I used three strands of yarn and braided them together (use all the same or vary the colors to match your socks). I knotted the ends tightly and sewed the knots on the edge of each glove, then frayed the extra yarn under the knots for decorative purposes.

And voilá! Homemade one-of-a-kind baby mittens!

4893
 4893cp


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: These do not have separate thumbs. You could cut the shape out to create thumb holes if preferred.
Note 2: This was a spur-of-the-moment project for my granddaughter. If you have thoughts on different ways to do it, please comment!


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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Don’t Ditch It, Re-do It

A quick tidbit about me: I hate white walls. I mean I seriously hate white walls, particularly when they are done in a matte paint you cannot clean. More especially when those matte white un-cleanable walls are in a kitchen.

Whenever I move, which has been often, I paint to make it my own. (With the exception of military housing and its white matte un-cleanable un-changeable walls, which I hated.) We’ve been here for seven years now and most every room in the house has been painted, most right after we moved. The kitchen, though, has been a bit of a thorn in my side because despite the hated white matte walls, I was unsure what I wanted to do with it. It came with a pretty white-based herb border around the top and much of it is white tiles with scattered herb images. White tiles I don’t mind so much. They clean easily. The countertops are a green-blue-gray swirl I like okay even if it wouldn’t have been my choice. The cabinets are oak. They need some revamping and my wood experts husband and son will get to that in time, but they are beautiful, and all of the oak in the house was a big sell point for me, so I wanted to play on that.

Along with the white walls, there is a double door that goes out onto the kitchendoor-originaldeck, very nice, except the door was painted glossy white and the window frames… well… you can see it here. Plastic frame. Old yellowed plastic frame. As bad as matte white walls. At least it had a wood texture imprinted in it.

I always try, when redecorating, to bring the outdoors in, to blend them so the view from the windows are part of the decorating scheme with as much flow as possible. I’m very earthy. I love the natural greens and blues and browns of the earth. So that’s what I use, along with accents of floral yellows, corals, dusty rose. I’ve insisted that this view to the trees outside my kitchen stay unblocked as possible, no big table umbrella, the grill and smoker are to the side out of the way. And the café rods there when we moved have been sitting there waiting. At one point, I had fresh herbs from my garden hanging from them.

When I found a pair of beautiful barely-there sunflower kitchendoor-newwithcurtainyellow and tree leaf green floral valances on a transparent cream fabric recently, I knew what I wanted to do. There was the color scheme I needed to liven up my kitchen and take away that glaring white.

Taking the valance with me to the hardware store, I grabbed a butternut squash yellow in kitchen satin for the walls and a pale leaf green for those doors. (Don’t let them fool you. One coat? Not that I’ve ever found so far. And painting kitchen satin on top of matte white was interesting. It sucked up the paint and made it not an easy paint job, but the second coat covered it beautifully.)

Anyway, that yellow window frame had to change, too. Hubby said he could replace it. I’m sure he could (we’re big do-it-yourselfers), but I did it faster and far cheaper with paint.

I wanted them to match my cabinets and so I started by painting them a light golden brown:
kitchendoor-inprogress
The left side shows what it looked like after two coats of brown paint. (I grabbed a paint sample instead of a can since it was cheaper and still more than I needed.) Of course that didn’t look like wood yet, so I grabbed my bottle of antiquing gel (you can find it in any decent craft supply store), brushed it on, and wiped it off with a paper towel so it only filled the cracks and barely coated the paint. (Work in sections so it doesn’t dry too much before you wipe it.)  Voilá! I made wood from plastic. After cleaning the residue off the windows and standing back, I couldn’t tell the difference between this painted plastic and real wood. (Even hubby approved.)

Note: You do want to seal it with a brush-on varnish of some kind so the antiquing gel doesn’t wash off when you clean it. I used clear acrylic medium by itself, which gave it a nice sheen. You could find a matte finish if you’d rather not have the sheen, or a gloss finish if you like ultra-shiny.

Here’s my finished project:

kitchendoor-finished
It makes the whole kitchen look far more elegant and refined and took barely any time with not much expense. (I also found those valances on a good sale.)

For those finishing touches that make a big difference: I pulled down all of the switch plate covers, as well as the shiny gold café rod ends, and spray-painted them antique gold using Rustoleum hammered spray to match my cabinet hardware. I used the same spray to make the silver track light we just bought match my décor (be sure to cover every part of it that should not be sprayed!).

Next on my project list: I picked up samples in complementing colors to paint small clay pots. I plan to put those below an under-the-counter plant light on a wood rack formerly used for spices to start herbs for my herb shelf (you can barely see the top of that in the photo – also made by hubby – yeah he’s pretty handy).

Why “formerly used for spices”? Well, I have a new spice rack courtesy of hubby that also matches my cabinets. But that’s a post for another blog.

Do-it-yourself takes some learning and some patience, but it’s ultra satisfying to turn out something that makes your home nicer and reminds you of the results of your own work whenever you look at it.

That money you saved not replacing something you reworked yourself? Buy a few good books and kick your feet up for a well-earned break.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

If you don’t have it, make it: Re. Nanowrimo

VanGogh-WeepingWomanThis is a counter-post to my author friend Linda Acaster’s post today:
#Nanowrimo is Live – But is it for you?

I love Linda’s fiction and I respect her accomplishments, so this is all in good sport. 

No worries. I’ve heard every negative thing there is to hear about writing 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days: everything from “writing should be spontaneous and not forced” to “whatever you write during Nano will be garbage (or other, strong expletive synonyms).” So from the point of view of someone who is in her 11th straight year of the challenge, plus a couple of Camp Nano sessions and off-site sessions….

Yes, I’m doing Nanowrimo again. Yes, I still have time to write a blog post. Yes, I still read a few other blogs. I even read other novels during November. I’m about to finish Jane Eyre and start on Marilynne Robinson’s newest.

No, I don’t neglect my family. There is still food in the house and on the stove. The dishes get done each day. The carpets get vacuumed. Heck, I even dust now and then during November because I like the shine of my oak furniture I finally have after years of self-assemble cheap stuff that’s better fit for kids and military moves. This year, I have the additional benefit/writing distraction of a beautiful new little soul crawling around the house and reaching her arms up to Grandma to pick her up just because. (Grandma always does, despite word count or lack thereof.) Heck, they usually don’t even remember it’s Nanowrimo month until I regale them with my wonderful (more or less) word count.

My pre-planning these days consists of deciding on a setting, and an art, then picking a couple of characters last minute to throw into the story. They kind of develop themselves as I write.

I will say this method of writing only developed during Nanowrimo one year because I wanted to do the challenge and hadn’t the vaguest idea what I was going to write for it. Turned out that first “just grab characters and write them” story needed very little rewriting and it’s one of my most loved books, according to my fans.  [Protect The Heart] Normally, I do plan my books for some time before writing them. I’m good with either method.

These days I use the fast novel month to write my Ella M. Kaye books since they are all short and non-rambling romances better given to this sort of thing. But, four of my lengthy LK books began during Nano. In 2008, I added 97,000 words to Rehearsal: Of Chaotic Currents (which turned into about 260,000 words eventually). None of it was more garbage than any other first draft.

In fact, the more often I do these fast writes, the better they get. Like every art, practice increases a writer’s dexterity and creativity. It certainly does not lesson either.

As far as trying it when you “have time,” that is exactly the point of the challenge. If you don’t “have” time to do what you love, learn to make it. For instance, I’ve written this post while entertaining a squirmy 7 month old, first in her high chair beside me then on my lap dropping her toys. with an intermission to watch the birdies and to explore Grandma’s herb shelf. She likes to feel the chives.

I don’t “have time” for Nanowrimo. I make time for it because it’s helpful to me, it advances my career, and because I can and will. I also love to challenge myself.

No gate-keeping from the family, by the way. Writing is my love and my career, and it’s my job to make time for it.

The only real reason I can see for not doing it is simply because you don’t want to.

I have to sigh whenever someone comes up to me at a book signing and says, “I’d write a book if I had time.”   *eye roll inserted here*  You make time for what matters. Until you give it a good try, you just don’t know what you can accomplish.

By the way, I can write 2,000 words in an hour when I’m on a roll, so it’s not much time out of my busy day.

Whatever it is you love, make time for it! It’s worth it.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An author’s ICE bucket challenge

This writer hates the cold. I mean I hate the cold with a lingering unforgiving passion. Still, I found myself shrugging at the people who think they’re tough because they dumped a bucket of ice water over their heads. Eh. I went to swimming lessons every summer as a kid at 7 am and jumped in that near-freezing cold water and stayed in it until I was too numb to know how freaking COLD it was. And still, I went back and back and back again until I earned my junior lifesaving status.

Ice water bucket challenge over in about 5 seconds? Yeah, I could. (And in all honesty, I give kudos to those doing so and helping to spread the word about ALS, especially when they get creative with it.)

So last night, after a few days of thinking: don’t challenge me, please. I could do it, but I don’t want to film it…  I was lying in my warm comfy bed considering the challenge. Then, the idea. I have an ice bucket challenge of my own, specifically for my fellow writers.

Write a blog-length story having to do with an Ice Bucket. No long planning. No over-thinking. Just open up your blog and start writing a story. Keep it short. I guess I better do the same to get it started. Here goes:
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There I was, minding my own darn business, when Wham! Out of the blue, that crazy-eyed pigeon slammed right into my head. Yes, my head. How did I know he was crazy-eyed? Just trust me on this. Okay?

After I shook off the shock, I stared down at the crazy bird that apparently left itself stunned – I did say it slammed into my head, right? – and considered whether it had, I don’t know, rabies or bird flu or whatever. Could you catch that with a slam upside the head? Probably not, I suspected.

What did you do with a stunned crazy-eyed pigeon lying there helplessly on the sidewalk where it was sure to get stepped on by some kid bobbing his head listening to his too-loud headphones and his eyes half closed? On the other hand, I wasn’t too sure I cared. I was working on a good headache, either from the slam or from grabbing furiously at my hair trying to make sure the pest hadn’t left feathers or bugs or worse in the course, wiry mess that I’d fixed the best I could, considering, for an interview. All I needed, on top of being so nervous I hardly remembered my name, before going into the job interview was pigeon goo on my head.

”You hurt it! Look! This guy hurt that poor bird.”

”What?” I looked at the crazy girl screeching in my face and wondered if the thing on the sidewalk was her pet. I could just imagine she was the type to make a pigeon a pet. Of course by now she had people staring at me like I was, I don’t know, satan’s twin or something.

“Look, lady…”

“Don’t call me lady. Look what you did. Do you hate animals? You’re an animal hater, right? I bet you are. What did you do to it? It’s just trying to survive, you know.” Her dander was rising faster than a wig on the downslope of a steep roller coaster. I kept watching for her to literally blow steam through her nose.

”Look.” I tried again, with no identity tags at all. “I did nothing. That thing…”

”It has feelings, too. It’s not a thing.”

”I think it might not have anymore.” I shouldn’t have said it. Really, I shouldn’t have. But this nutty girl was getting far too many nerves pulsing through my pounding head.

Her pitch rose. Her intensity likely would have shattered my eyeglasses had I been wearing them. “Wow, get a grip.” Also the wrong thing to say, but I was tired of the slamming, pounding, throbbing, and screaming, from both the bird and this chick, and…

Woosh! Ice water flooded over my head and down my now soaked and shivering body and I turned to yet another chick. “What was that for? I didn’t hurt the stupid bird!”

She only grinned with a shrug and set the bucket beside her. “You had bird doo in your hair.”

Silence. Blessed silence followed my unearned ice bath water. The shrieking girl giggled, picked up the now soaked and sobering pigeon, and left me alone, with the crowd following.

Bucket girl shrugged again. “Fixed your problem, didn’t I?”

The best thing about that story? When I explained at the interview the whole story of the pigeon slam and shrieking girl and bucket girl, I was hired on the spot. After long days of happily busying myself writing about the funny things that happen randomly in life, I get to go home to bucket girl and our purely practical but with good humor twin girls, neither of which shriek, I’m happy to report. Both of whom just love pigeons. Sigh.
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There you have it. A straight through, not-much-thought ice bucket story. I now challenge my BookSpa writing group and my Western PA authors group to write your ice bucket story on your blog or send $10 to ALS. You have three days to fulfill the challenge. Be sure to challenge your author pals and leave a link here in the comments so we can find your stories!

Personal note: Along with the story, I’ll be donating to a high school friend’s personal yearly ALS fundraiser. If you’d like to do the same, his page is
 HERE.
 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

So Amazon asked me to express my thoughts on cheap ebooks…

ep-logo-onblueI’ve remained mostly quiet about the issue between Amazon and Hachette, although this is NOT only between the two companies; this involves all book companies and all authors. Since they decided to email directly and ask me to email Hachette to side with them against the publisher, gloves are off. Fine. Here’s my response, which I will also email to both companies at the addresses provided. You can read their letter here: Readers United (an Amazon page)  [A caveat: I have no affiliation with Hachette whatsoever. I publish under my own company.]
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Dear Amazon,

Since you requested my thoughts concerning your dispute with Hachette via an email sent to my personal address, I will gladly share my thoughts.

I’ll admit you nearly swayed my opinion with your argument that less expensive makes for more sales. That does sound
reasonable. However, what George Orwell understood clearly and too many apparently don’t yet is that what people get cheaply and easily they don’t value greatly. That is a fact of human nature. There are exceptions, of course, and some who buy cheap do actually appreciate the work and years of learned craftsmanship that went into the product they got for a song. In general, though, people do not value what comes easy and cheap. Those cheap paperbacks were of certain genres made for certain readers. They were not putting War & Peace out for 25 cents. 

As an avid reader for the past 40+ years, I can personally see that the quality of books has dropped. I believe the ease of publication and the free and $0.99 cover prices you have pushed and promoted have contributed to this in the same way the quality of education has dropped in recent generations due to trying to make the standards more “fair” for students for whom schoolwork comes less easily. Education is not supposed to be about ease. It’s supposed to be about learning. The same is true of books. We each have our own level, our own genre, and we cannot demand all books play at the same level just as we should never pull some students down to the lowest level of education in the name of “fairness,” since there is, in actuality, no fairness in that whatsoever.

Already readers across the globe are asking themselves why they should bother to buy books when they can get so many of them free, and many don’t care much about quality since quality is a thing of the past, for the most part. That is what George Orwell saw, along with other warnings (within his fiction) that he was obviously not mistaken about. We should be lifting readers up, not dragging them down. That’s much of the purpose of fiction. Readers should care about quality. They should use stories to elevate their own minds and worlds. Of course there is a place for quick entertainment fiction and I don’t mean to degrade it, since there’s plenty of room for everyone, but it needs to stay in that place and not overwhelm the rest of literature. And even quick entertainment fiction should be held to a certain standard of quality.

”The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization
from destroying itself.”
Albert Camus

Let me tell you just a bit about myself. I started my publishing career as an indie, and by that I mean independent. It was back in 2003, long before indie was cool, but even then I could see the value in not allowing some big company to dictate what I could or couldn’t get out in print. I had spent ten years writing consistently and studying the craft, taking a novel class, reading avidly as I have since I could read, and all of this was after having been obsessed with Stories and the written word ever since I was read to as a child and then learned how to form sentences correctly. I am very serious about my craft, which is also my art, and along with learning how to write fiction specifically, I studied how publishing was accomplished. That’s why I become indie. The big pub path didn’t fit my own path. That doesn’t mean there is not a place for it. There absolutely is. I was glad to have another option, however, and it has been a hard uphill climb, but that was my choice and I was willing to take the risks and put my own funds into making it happen.

I have no qualms with the big pubs. They are doing business and it’s their right to do business as they choose (within legal bounds). Free market is the only right answer for overall success. Anyone who does not want to join in or support that business has the right to choose not to buy from them.

I stopped purchasing anything from you the moment you made your intentions clear of monopolizing and ruling over the book world. I do not link my books to you from my site or anywhere else. My prints are there only because my printer sends them automatically, but sales from your site have been nearly non-existent. My sales come from BN, Kobo, and other retailers [likely because that’s where I link to – a lesson other authors might consider]. I have lately experimented with putting two novels under my pen name (faster write novels that have taken less investment on my part) on the KDP site but only at the 70% rate and non-exclusive, and again, sales there are nearly non-existent. I will not put my novella there since I can’t price it at $1.49, which is what it costs at other retailers, without dropping to 30% profit, and .45 each is not worth my time to format and upload. 

I understand that exclusive books get far more help from you and I understand that’s why authors do it. I have nothing against authors jumping on opportunities that look helpful if it fits their needs. I will not do exclusivity, however, because I believe in free market, and my strong belief in that, which is supposed to be the staple of American society and why we got as strong as we used to be, far outweighs my need for book sales.

I fully object to your exclusivity clause which is a monopoly attempt. Even if it is “only” for six months, you know after six months, a book is no longer a new release and has less selling power. I fully object to the way you pull books from certain companies off your retail site just because they won’t play the way you want them to play, to include small pubs. I fully object to you buying out everything book related you possibly can in order to increase your monopoly hold. I fully object to being forced to make my books available for lending since I won’t use your exclusivity program. I fully object to authors getting their royalties docked due to ebook returns, which allows readers to read and not pay (we have libraries for that). And I still resent your attempt several years ago to force all indies and small pubs to republish their books through your then-newly purchased publishing company, which would have cost us money most of us could not afford just to suit your bottom line better.

As I see it (and this is simply my opinion), your actions, if not countered, could potentially lead to less freedom in the book world and a tighter hold on what can be published. As an indie who has fought the past eleven years to be taken seriously as an author and artist and who had to do a lot of learning to find the best resources and to create the resources I needed that weren’t already in existence in order to produce professional quality books in the mixed genre non-standard fiction I write, any possible intrusion in that process is not something I can idly and quietly lose to one company making billions on the pittance prices you think we authors (or publishers) should be able to charge.

I will not spend twenty years writing a very long, well researched, well crafted series of six books just to have to sell them for only $2.99 each [half the price of a fast food combo meal or less than one gallon of gas] just because it’s better for your bottom line. I’m sorry, but my 600+ page books are worth more than that and I won’t have you say otherwise.   Yes, I understand so far you are not saying I must price them at $2.99 (etc.), but if you win in forcing the big pubs to price the way you want, we indies and small press authors will have no means to fight if you decide to do the same to us (and maybe you won’t, but how do we know?). I don’t intend to price my ebooks at $10-15, but I do want the freedom to do so if I wish.

For the record, I will not pay $10-15 for an ebook, so I’ll gladly wait for the paperback instead, or borrow it from my library. For those who no longer buy print books, I can understand why they would pay that price and I have no objection to what someone else is willing to pay. A good book is very well worth the cost of one low end restaurant dinner or a quarter of a tank of gas and will last far longer than either. (Neither of those can be resold, either, once consumed.)

Your free and .99 scheme that, yes, is helping a few authors sell big and a handful of others to sell moderately is already hurting my right to sell at a decent price. Why pay even $2.99 for a small name author’s books when you can download a billion free and mostly free books from hundreds of other small name authors? The free pull is wonderful for you since it grabs customers, but it isn’t so wonderful for a lot of us writers. I do not wish to give my work away after all the time and heart I have invested in them, but you’re making it rather impossible not to do so. Of course it’s your right to try to win customers, but it’s my right not to support practices with which I disagree.

I’ve already heard the arguments that giving the first book, or first book of every series) away free gains readers and makes sales. That might be fine and dandy for those writing four to six books a year, but for those of us who put more time into our books (lit fic, upmarket romance, lit fantasy, lit sci fi, etc), giving away even one of them, that likely took two to four years to write and edit, is a huge loss of investment. You are stacking the deck to give fast-written and yes, often (not always) lower quality, books the upper hand. Why should  authors put years of work into their books or bother to worry about high quality if their sales price will be dictated at such a low price it’s not worth their time?

I cannot and will not support that, as it’s bad for my bottom line as a lit-mixed author, and, I believe, bad for fiction in general. As we have clearly seen in recent years, change just for the sake of change is not always a good thing. It must be  a smart change in order to be a good thing. It must be overall good, not good only for a few at the expense of others.

Your bottom line is about profit. That’s fine, since that’s what business is about. My bottom line is about my craft, my art, my heart and soul effort to make my books the best I can and, when they sell, to be able to ask a decent price according to the length, quality, and amount of time I’ve put into them.

No, I will not sign a petition to try to force any publishing company to give in to your demands, since the way I see it, you have no right as a retailer in a free market society to demand such a thing. If readers don’t want to pay those prices, they can buy less expensive books by their choice. It should be their choice, not your demand. Leave publishers alone to price and sell as they see fit and the beautiful effect of free market competition will keep prices low. And if the big pubs collude to price too high, readers may very well gravitate toward indies and small press, since indie is actually cool by now and getting more so all the time. I have no qualms with that, either. There is room for all of us. Some people buy $70 tennis shoes and others buy $10 tennis shoes. Either is fine, and a personal choice they should be allowed to retain, just as the shoe companies are allowed to price as they see fit. Why should books be different? Art must not be considered any less valuable than any other product. In many cases, it is far more valuable and should be seen as such.

Sincerely,
a small name indie author struggling every day to find readers who value the art and craft of literature and stories,
LK Hunsaker