30 August 2017

It's bloody hot here this week, so not a lot of training walks have been taken--but we got out last week for a couple of decent ones, walking around downtown Sacramento. I think it's my new 2nd favorite place to walk; the first is still San Francisco and probably always will be, mostly because we can't hop in the car and be there in 10 minutes. It's a 90 minute drive at best, 2+ hours if there's a lot of traffic.

The Spouse Thingy took this last weekend off for my birthday and we planned on going to SF, but then there was an alt-right "prayer rally" that was drawing a massive counter-protest, so we bailed on that as a birthday option (though I admit, I wanted to go be part of the counter protest). The alternate plan was to head for Old Sac and Practical Cycles, where I wanted to test ride a couple of different bicycles, but screwed up sleep and then wicked hot temps convinced me that just puttering around was the better option.

We finally got there this morning--it was only suppose to hit 100 today, which made it seem like we'd have until noon or so to get the test rides done before it got too hot.

Long story short, after testing a couple of bikes, I came home with a spiffy neon pink Pedego Interceptor III. This will replace the eZip Trailz bike that I've had for the last 7-8 years--I'll probably sell it soon--and it's a hell of a lot lighter and faster than that one.

It's a 7 speed electric with 5 levels of pedal assist (not sure when I'd ever need more than the first two, but it's nice to have) and if I just use the throttle, I can speed this puppy up to 25 mph.

Ideally, I won't; the throttle is just to get me home if I get into trouble. Same with the pedal assist (and this is where I grouse that if you give me shit for needing an electric, I am going to wish 10,000 hungry fleas upon your crotch); I doubt I'll run it at more than the first level, but if I start feeling like my blood sugar is crashing or I'm over heated, I have a quick way home. And yeah, this is what it's come to. I just can't handle heat anymore; if it's over 72-75 and I'm exerting myself, there's a good chance I'll start feeling like chit sooner rather than later.

But I also don't want to not be able to go outside and work up a sweat--and I'm a year into a shoulder injury that just won't heal and has seriously limited my swimming--so this is what the Spouse Thingy got me for my birthday.

A few days ago, we picked up a new bike for him--he likes recumbents, and his is a semi-bent--but his is not electric. It's all on him to get this sucker moving. Yes, I can hit the throttle and heave him behind, but I wouldn't do that...heh.

Yeah, it was a spendy week, but all the walking has made us really want to do more, and this is more of an investment in ourselves than anything else. Ideally, no using the car if we're just going to the store or pretty much anywhere else around town. We're also looking into getting a tow bar and bike carrier so we can haul the bikes and hit some trails in Sacramento and beyond (face it, where we live is 5 miles around, and no safe way to get to a bigger town on the bikes.) We've come to realize we prefer getting outside and being active over going to the gym and dreading the workouts.

Now, if the heat wave would just break so that I don't have to get up at stupid o'clock to ride.

Morning burns.


19 August 2017

This cat tree has been in this room since we moved into the house. No matter what the room has been used for--it's been my office, a weight room, and now a closet/treadmill room--this tree has been there.

It's always been Max's domain. If he's sleepy, he often goes there. Upset, he goes there. When I go to bed, he goes into this room and sits at the top of the tree, and talks to me. He meows a bunch, I call out, "You're fine, Max," and he goes to sleep.

It's his tree; his territory.

But lately...Buddah has been exercising his youth and has been working very hard at becoming the alpha kitty. Max never knows when he'll be attacked. He never knows if Buddah is around a corner, waiting. Max has always been the more patient of the two, but Buddah knew: Max was the boss.

Now this. In the last week I've found Buddah up on the top of the tree several times, and his only goal seems to be to keep Max off it. He's not sleeping or using it to springboard to the top of the wardrobe. He waits for Max to come into the room, and then watches as Max turns around and slinks off, dejected.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being pissed off on Max's behalf. He's never liked Buddah, but he's always been willing to leave him alone. He lets Buddah have his own territory--the high places, especially the top of the TARDIS in my office--and all he really wants is the top of this tree, the back of the Man's closet, and my lap. There's really not a damned thing we can do, either.

I get it, Max is old and Buddah is taking that as his cue to establish dominance. But's really pissing me off.


17 August 2017

Another middle of the night conversation (I have sleep issues) with a writer very new to the game. She owns digital rights to her first novel and recently released it on Amazon, enrolling it in Kindle Select and--no choice in the matter--Kindle Unlimited. Visions of dollar signs invaded dreams, because we've all heard the stories about the fortunate few who, when Kindle Publishing became a thing, hit big.

That was pre-Kindle Unlimited, though. And she had no idea the impact it can have. I have zero problems with people who subscribe to KU for the volume of books they can read for a single price, I have problems with the way the writers are paid.

Let's use Emperor as an example. The list price of the paperback is $15.95, and of that, I earn about $4. If I sell 500 copies, I earn $2000.

The Kindle price is $4.99, and the rate is 70%, minus a tiny delivery fee (yes, I pay the delivery fee when you buy my book.) For each book, I earn $3.50 minus that it's around $3.40. If I sell 500 copies, I earn $1700. If I take the book out of Kindle Select, which puts it into KU, my rate drops to 35%. So those 500 books earn $1.74 each, for $840.

When someone reads this book via Kindle Unlimited, I get paid per page read. Now, that's not actual page counts, but an arbitrary count that Kindle decides my book should be based on an algorithm that who the hell knows what it is. The actual page count is 302, but Kindle thinks it's 278

The payment for page reads this month is $0.0040. At 278 pages, I earn $1.11 when someone "buys" my book using Kindle Unlimited. If I sell 500, I get paid $555.

One of the problems is that with an all-you-can-read buffet, people download more books than they can read, so they have a whole bunch of books in their TBR pile. I wont earn a cent until they open the book and read...or at least flip through to the end.

Since the evolution of Kindle sales to include Kindle Unlimited, I've watched my earnings drop in a major way.

Are any indie writers breaking through? Sure. Writers who use click farms to assure a certain number of pages read are leaping to the head of the pack. Ever see a #1 book jump #368,987 to the top? Yeah...that writer paid a few hundred bucks to make that happen.

Anyway...yeah...that was the reality to which the newby writer entered digital publishing.

It's not a huge deal for me; seriously, our lives don't depend on my income. But the IDEA that as time goes on my work is worth so much less that it was just a couple of years ago kind of stings.

It's also why I will never get books under KU. I don't get them when they're free; if I want a book, I wait until it goes off sale from free and has a price attached. If you're a friend and a writer, I probably bought your book, and not when it was $0.00. KU is terrific for readers, it's horrible for writers.

I've kept most of my books in KS for the 70% rate, but I'm seriously eyeing taking them out of it and going wide--being more available on sites other than Amazon.

I seriously appreciate everything Amazon has done for indie publishing, but damn...our work is worth more than $0.004 per page.


13 August 2017

Last week, during one of those nights when I couldn't sleep--not unusual--I fell into a conversation online with a couple of fellow insomniacs. We've all had blogs for over a decade, and we've all noted a sharp decline in the number of posts we create each month. Granted, blogs are not the thing they used to be and most of the ones I looked forward to each day are long gone, but none of us foresaw a time when we would let the dust gather in the spots where we shared the stupid chit that tumbled through our brains.

Across the board, it's been in the last year that our posting has seriously declined. And across the board, it all boils down to politics.

We're all writers. None of us are A-listers; all of us are part of overwhelming majority of writers for whom a sales month that breaks $500 is pretty freaking good, considering our biggest chunk of income come from page reads laid out at $0.0042 per page read. No, seriously, that's what Kindle Unlimited pays, roughly.

But that's beside the point. We're writers, so we need readers. We need readers who are not ticked off at us, angry at us for having opinions, offended because we don't think the way they do. We don't have the kind of power that comes with an A-list name, and can't get away with the political commentary that people like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King manage. Those who are paying close enough attention know where we stand, but we can't afford to be pushy about it.

We all lamented that; we all live in a country where free speech is a constitutional right, yet we all understand the fundamental point that having that right doesn't protect us from the repercussions of exercising that right. And it shouldn't; you can't yell "FIRE!" in a crowded theater and not expect to get your asterisk arrested when there is no fire. You can't hold a sign up outside someone's home proclaiming them to be a coke-sniffing whore without verifiable proof that they both indulge in a lot of cocaine and take money for sex. You can't stand in the center of a shopping mall with a megaphone and announce that Jerry from the customer service stand has crotch worms.

We have free speech; we have libel and slander laws. It's a necessary balance.

We also have freedom of choice, and a reader who despises the political leanings of a writer has every right to never again read, much less purchase, any product that writer offers for consumption. So we tread carefully, lest we offend a part of our base.

I have avoided the Cheeto-coated elephant in the room for over a year, lest I offend. I have mostly steered away from the political, lest I offend. I have have deliberately avoided allowing anything political on Max's official author page on Facebook, because it doesn't feel like the place for it, but I have also restrained myself on mine to the point where some days, I feel like choking on the things left unsaid.

I thought about that conversation a lot yesterday while watching news from Charlottesville unfold and reading the reactions online. Little bits of it pinged around in my brain as I tried to comprehend how, in 2017, there are still people embracing the Nazi party line, so brazen in their stance that they showed up with torches, chanting Nazi slogans, that they didn't bother covering their faces. I stewed in it as I watched video of a car plowing into a group of counter-protestors. It gutted me to learn that a woman was killed.

Her name is Heather Heyer. Her last Facebook post: If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

Here's the thing about that late-night conversation that feels like a grain of kitty litter stuck to the bottom of my foot three miles into a ten mile walk: if my sales suddenly stop, if I never sell another book, we'll be just fine. Max's annual claim that his royalties go toward buying things for Toys For Tots isn't an exaggeration. His musings about spending his money on events to save the boobies isn't a joke. By design, the money I make writing generally goes toward our annual charitable contributions. It would suck, because there is some ego involved in seeing the royalty statement every month, but if I stopped selling what I write, we're not in danger of losing the house. We'll still eat. We'll still be able to afford toys and a gym membership we rarely use. The Spouse Thingy does a fine job supporting us. The only thing that would suffer would be what we contribute.

So I allowed Max his outrage on his personal FB page. I'll survive any repercussions. His furry little asterisk gives voice to my embarrassment: I don't get it. There is nothing special about being white; there is nothing cultural that needs to be rescued from the tides of change. It doesn't matter if white people continue on; give it a hundred years--presuming we don't backslide so hard we wind up with a collective national concussion--and there won't be anyone truly white. That's not losing anything; that's gaining a common culture, and it's taking steps forward.

1992 in Gainesville. Clearly, not much has changed.
The fact that there are people who believe in White Nationalism, and shout Nazi slogans while they march with tiki torches in hand?

We should all be outraged; that the KKK still exists in America is an embarrassment. That anyone feels safe enough to march with torches in hand, screaming to take back something that should never have been theirs in the first place, is morally repugnant. This shouldn't be White America, people. It's just America. The United States of America. The melting pot of the world, bastion of freedom. We should be the foremost example of equality, diversity, and freedom, yet we're stumbling backward and turning this country into a land of which most of the world will be--if they aren't already--afraid. If they're not afraid, they're mocking us.

And we deserve it.

We only need to take a look at the current administration; the people elected to govern this country are a symptom of the problem. We have at the helm a crude, ignorant, misogynistic racist, and those with greater control of Congress aren't any better. They're stuck in a rut of party-over-country and they don't have the balls to do what's necessary to correct the course that we're on.

No, this didn't start with the election of Trump; this has been going on far too long, led by right-wing fundamentalists who were incredibly open about doing everything they could to stonewall the operations of the country, all in the name of putting the Republican Party on top. We all saw it happening. It's still happening.

And yet, we elected to this nation's highest office a man who does not have the temperament, personality, or intelligence to get the job done. He was open about his misogyny, he freely mocked the disabled, he couldn't string together a coherent sentence, and yet people voted for him for no reason other than he wasn't her.

That he sits in the Oval office--when he isn't indulging in one of his far-too-often golf outings--blustering utter nonsense is tacit permission for the lowest of our low to take to the streets and demand for themselves something no one needs.

Come to grips with it.

Your need for cultural identity ends when it infringes on someone else's right to live without fear; your symbols of Confederacy are not necessary for you to live in freedom, especially when they say to an entire segment of the population: you are hated, and we will win. No, you won't. Your monuments to men who fought to hold onto slavery are little more than participation trophies. You should have grown up by now; most people get rid of those once they reach an age where logic wins over ego.

Your fear of infiltration by others is unfounded. Your worry that white people are being displaced is nonsense. Do a blood test, check your ancestry. I guarantee it's not all white. You are a smattering of everything, encased in a skin that makes life incredibly privileged right from the start.

And seriously, don't tell me on one breath that you condemn the actions of yesterday in Charlottesville, and in the next tell me you still support Trump. Trump is a symptom of the disease, and people, you don't cure the disease without treating the symptoms.