Writer Chick Predicts 2018

I’m back again to make my predictions for the coming year. I figure if I keep at it, I’ll get something right eventually. And now for the predictions…

  1. Donald Trump will remain president, despite talk of impeachment, congressional hearings, or a secret love affair with Putin.
  2. Mike Pence will stay awake during the entire State of the Union address.
  3. The new tax bill will help everyone – even those who don’t pay taxes and the Democrats will somehow get the credit for this.
  4. Psychiatry will ‘discover’ a new mental illness for those addicted to Game of Thrones. The affliction will be called, Throne Watchers Syndrome or TWS, or even just GOTcha for short. The pharma industry will happily devise a new drug for the affliction.
  5. Weather will continue despite laws to the contrary – including, rain, wind, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, shifts in tides, and autumn leaves.
  6. OJ Simpson will get a new reality TV show geared toward solving cold cases. His first case will be finding out who really killed his ex wife.
  7. Siri and Alexa will increase their skill sets to include ‘smart babysitting services’ for work at home moms and dads.
  8. Unlike GMO vegetables, cloned meat will become all the rage among non-meat eaters and vegans who still crave cheeseburgers
  9. A ‘smart home’ will take its first hostage and carry on a 20-day siege with law enforcement until authorities locate a heretofore unknown super hero computer nerd who can disarm it. Years later the incident will become known as, “The House that Jack Unbuilt.”
  10. Cardigan sweaters will finally come forward and level sexual harassment charges against Mr. Rogers.
  11. Current California governor Gerry (moonbeam) Brown will find yet another loophole that allows him to run for a 4th term. When he wins, the remaining 20 Republicans who still reside in the state will move to Texas.
  12. Smartphones will continue to be smarter than their owners and get ever closer to world domination and becoming the overlords of all.
  13.  Tobacco will be compeltely outlawed in California and weed will be legalized – ensuring that the Democrats will maintain their super majority in the state for decades to come.
  14. Firebrand politician Ted Cruz will start his own line of soups called Ted’s Dinner and the line will become wildly popular in Texas.
  15. Nancy Pelosi will get yet another facelift and finally completely erase her face.
  16. Barnes and Nobels will become an organic grocery store that also sells books and umbrellas.
  17. Mark Coker will finally rewrite the style guide for Smashwords so that even a human being can understand it.
  18. Hugh Howey will author a new reality TV show called Wool Suit. It won’t involve silos but might involve sheep herders.
  19. Chuck Wendig will resolve to stop swearing. This resolution will last until some f*cktard pisses him off on his blog.
  20. In several states around the nation, it will snow on New Year’s Day.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. What do you think will happen in 2018? Regale us with your prediction prowess in the comments. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and have a very Happy New Year.

Annie

 

 

 

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The Death of Sharon Raydor

If you were shocked by the ending of last night’s 2nd episode of Major Crimes, then you had plenty of company – I included. I was so clueless I didn’t even know that this was to be the successful police procedural’s final season.

Call me crazy but I didn’t see it coming, until last night’s episode. I assumed (wrongly) that Sharon’s health condition was merely a complication that she would either beat in the end or force her into retirement. Color me surprised and very sad and a little bit mad.

In this article from Variety actress Mary McDonnell shares insights into the decision to kill her character in the show, as well as the shock of realizing the show would not be optioned for a 7th season. I found her to be very gracious about having her character killed off and perhaps a little too understanding.

My hat is off to the producers/writers for taking what was essentially a very unlikable character (Raydor) and turning her into not just relatable and likable but a real hero. A character who didn’t have to pretend to be a man, or tote a gun, or wear hip boots to prove how tough and resourceful she was. McDonnell portrayed her character as a real woman working in a largely male world, and who though tough as nails when needed, never lost touch with her softer intuitive side. And in fact, used that to get to the truth of the matter countless times. Somebody needs to give this woman an Emmy or some other award because I can’t imagine anyone having it done it better. And though I was a huge fan of The Closer and Kyra Sedgewick, McDonnell stole my heart where female heroes are concerned.

Even now when I think of those final scenes in last night’s episode I feel sad and the urge to cry. Not just for the character but for the show itself. TNT, what is the matter with you? You end a highly rated show, yet keep on mindless crap that nobody wants to watch? (I digress, this is fodder for another post though.)

But now here’s the gripe I have – I understand that the writer wanted to end the show on his own terms – and kudos to him for doing that. However, by and large viewers don’t want you to kill off their heroes. They just don’t. You can mortally injure them, you can give them terrible challenges and losses, you can even expose their dark underbellies but KILLING them is really not what we want. We haven’t tuned in for multiple seasons to have the final season killing someone who has become a near and dear friend to us. It doesn’t give us closure that she took care of business before she died. It doesn’t make us feel satisfied that she ended her life on her own terms. It just makes us sad. And frankly, it seemed a little selfish that in order for you to end the show on your own terms that you felt you had to go for the worst possible character to kill off. Yes, I’m sure the shock value was hefty and there are probably hundreds of articles/posts about this because of it. But it doesn’t endear you to the fans. Based on what I saw last night, there are many who are so upset that they aren’t going to watch the remaining four episodes of what can only be described as a topnotch show.

In a perfect world, we’ll learn next week that the whole death scene was merely a bad dream that Rusty had and Sharon will be there waking him and assuring him she is not going anywhere. And then they will spend the last four episodes finding Stroh and kicking his evil ass. Sadly, even I know that won’t happen.

So I’ll just say this. Thank you Mary McDonnell, for creating a living breathing normal woman as our hero. Thank you for showing us that there is strength in a soft voice and dedicated determination. Thank you for showing young women that you can be a woman and be a hero without having to look, talk, or act like a man. Thank you for showing us that in the end, that character is what makes a hero, not gender, car chases, or action scenes.

What’s the story with the eBook cover design?

Some of you may have noticed there is a new page called eBook Cover Design on this blog. Perhaps you scratched your head, wondering what on earth I’m up to this time. Let me explain…

About halfway through my new series ah…er…trilogy I realized that due to budgetary restraints I would not be able to hire a book cover designer. I know, I know, you must NEVER design your own book covers. All the experts say so.

Still, authors do all the time and granted many of those covers are not so great, but some of them are pretty good. And let’s be honest, some of the so-called professional covers leave much to be desired. And top of that I figured if it was good enough for Hugh Howey, then it was good enough for me.

The Learning Experience

Realizing I’d have to do my own covers I set out to learn myself something about book covers and design. What I thought would be a relatively short learning curve turned out to be a months long self edu-ma-cation. And man did I make some pretty awful ugly covers for a while. But I kept at it.

I practiced. I learned Canva and then Pxlr. Then I discovered you can’t get high resolution covers from those platforms, which was why even the covers that started to look pretty good still had that grainy amateur look about them. Finally, I faced facts and taught myself GIMP. Also a free shareware but with many similar capabilities as Photo Shop.

I read Derek Murphy’s book “Book Cover Design Secrets” (highly recommend by the way if you want to learn about book cover design). And I just kept at it.

Somewhere along the way, things gelled and I realized I’d learned how to design book covers. (Soon, I’ll show you the covers for the new series but not today.) Anyway, after all the time, study, and practice I also realized that I really enjoyed designing covers. I find it relaxing and it feeds a creative urge I’ve always had to create ‘art.’ Not art as in the written word but you know art art.

Paying it Forward

While all this was happening, I’d also gotten to know a lot of indie authors and have made some great friends in that regard. Who have helped me in so many ways. And like me, many of them are operating on limited budgets and resources are stretched thin.

In case you were unaware, there is a real cottage industry out there selling stuff to writers (especially indies) – from magic formulas that will make you a best seller to how to format eBooks, to marketing, to email lists, and so on. Some of these services are great, some of them are exploitative, and some are quite expensive for an indie author struggling along.

So, long story short, I decided to offer pre-made covers at the nominal fee of $25. Along with the cover you get some customization, your title, your name and tagline, we could change font colors and things like that. Mostly, I just wanted to offer indie authors a decent cover that they could afford and would be somewhat unique (that didn’t look like all the other pre-mades) to them and their story.

So that’s the story. If any of these covers ring your bell, feel free to drop me a line and we’ll make it happen. If not, I may be able to do a custom cover for you for just a bit more. And even if you don’t need or want a book cover they might be fun to look at.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Have a great weekend.

Annie ❤

Who poisoned Red Redington?

red-and-dembeOver the last several episodes Red has been on the hunt to discover who betrayed him and was single-handedly trying to take down his business. He’s gone through a long list of possible contenders, only to find he was at yet another dead end.

If you watched Thursday night’s episode of the Blacklist, you probably experienced some serious shock when they exposed Dembe as the likely attempted killer. Even I gasped at the thought. Of all the possible suspects there could be I’d never has guessed him.

So I started thinking, why would Dembe would do such a thing? After all, he has been the recipient of Red’s largesse since he was a young boy. If not for Red, then Dembe surely would’ve died years ago. He literally owes the man his life.

Then it hit me

Where has Mr. Kaplan been since we last saw her hitch hiking out those fateful woods where she was shot and nearly died?

Yes, yes, I do think that all this business with Red’s business deals collapsing, his money being stolen and now the attempt on his life originates with Mr. Kaplan. The once faithful employee that Red believes he killed is coming back to haunt him.

Killing Mr. Kaplan was the one thing that Red did, that Dembe could not abide. So it makes sense, doesn’t it?

Predictions

In future episodes we will discover that

  • At some point Dembe discovered that Mr. Kaplan was still alive
  • He met with her and she told him her story of captivity and all the pain she went through to heal from her injuries
  • Perhaps she even has a permanent disability now or permanet disfigurement from her injuries
  • This enraged Dembe and he agreed to help Kaplan take down Red
  • Or at least teach him a lesson
  • But he’ll have regrets and uncertainties about it – for as much as he believes Red was wrong to shoot Kaplan, he still views him as a father figure
  • He’ll be very conflicted and either reluctantly expose Kaplan or…
  • Somehow get Red and Kaplan to reconcile

What about you? Do you have a theory about who’s really behind the attempted coup and murder of Red? Or why Dembe would betray him? Feel free to spell it out in the comments.

Ten things the 2016 election cycle has ruined for me

election-2016

I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a political junkie but I try to keep my inner junkie inside most of the time. However, come election time she scratches her way out to join in all the fun. This year was especially something to look forward to because well, it wasn’t going to be the same old same old. Right? And just when I thought I might really enjoy this election cycle, not only did things go off the rails, there are no freaking rails.

And instead of all the fun I looked forward to, the cycle has simply ruined things for me. Following is my list:

The color orange. It’s not that orange was my favorite color but now I can’t look at it without seeing Trump’s orangey pink skin. You’d think that “one of the richest men in the world” could afford a better tanning bed, spray tan and make up artist. He probably should stop purchasing his products in CHYNAH.

Cheetos. And other favorite orange food—dreamsicles, tangerines, papaya, mangoes, orange lifesavers, orange Jell-O – and I can’t even look at raw chicken.

cheetos-crunchy-cheese

The word great. Likewise the words: terrific, fantastic, really, winning, best, hell even the word, word has lost all charm and appeal. And liar, loser and lying have virtually no meaning anymore either.

Election years. I have always enjoyed presidential election years because of the drama, surprises and unpredictable situations you never see coming. This year however, it is nothing but a flat out slug fest between candidates, supporters and media outlets. It’s ugly and keeps getting uglier. Even when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, somebody unearths a new bottom. And it’s about as much fun as root canal without anesthesia.  Although we got a little comic relief when the Libertarians added live stripping to their convention. What’s next? Lap dances by candidates?

The myth that most people have common sense. Seriously, can anybody believe that common sense is a live and well in America when the presumptive candidates are the two most reviled people in the country?

 

Taco salads. This picture: taco salad
Is he going to eat that thing or molest it? Either way, feeling pretty sorry for the salad, no matter its fate.

Hair. Whether it’s the old man comb-over, the grandma shellacked bullet head, or the Muppet style shag, all hairstyles are dead to me now.

candidate hair

Facebook. Social media always has political stuff but generally is easy to scroll right past. And I’ll get in there sometimes and bat things around myself. But this year it is wall to wall and there’s no scrolling past it. That’s all that is in my feed. From erroneous, crazy, gross, vile memes, to trolls swarming, name calling, to non-stop propaganda on every topic under the sun – it’s a jungle out there.

The Internet. I used to love the Internet. Each day when you logged on you never knew what you were gonna get. These days though you can’t swing a dead politician without hitting a story or meme on trump, trumpers, trumperism, trump tweets, trump train, anti-trump, nevertrump, alwaystrump, “what’s trump done this time?,” neverhillary, onlyhillary, who’s hillary?, indict hillary, feeling berns…. Where are those cute cat videos that used to be so popular?

Reality TV. It’s not that I’m a big fan of reality TV but I once found it somewhat amusing. But since reality TV is running for president, the spoofy goofy nature of the medium isn’t quite as funny. And definitely amusing. And I find myself constantly muttering, “Is this a joke?”

What about you? Are you sick of this already? Has this election business ruined stuff for you? Are you looking for good cat videos? Feel free to add to the list or voice your gripes in the comments. The election cycle isn’t even close to over yet folks, and we’ve got a long five months ahead of us – give us strength.

Is Elizabeth Keen Really Dead?

lizzie keen

I don’t know about you, but I am addicted (there I said it!) to the NBC show, The Blacklist. For four seasons I have watched while the ever story telling Red Reddington has dazzled and dazed me, causing me to ask countless questions, like:

  • Are you Lizzie’s father?
  • Who is Lizzie’s mother and was she really a Russian spy?
  • Can you answer a question without telling a story to illustrate your point?
  • Why do so many women find you irresistible?

Is this another fake out?

Over the four seasons of the show we have been faked out. We originally thought that Tom, Lizzie’s husband was just a cute, somewhat nerdy elementary school teacher. Only to discover he was a Russian spy or is that agent, then to find out that Red hired him, to now discovering he is Liz’s true soulmate. A once heartless killing machine who has found his soul thanks to true love. And then sadly to lose the love of his life and the reason for his salvation on the day their daughter is born.

But has he? Is Lizzie Keen really dead? I have my doubts. Just like I did when she was a blonde for a whole season. Or when all clues pointed to her becoming a sort of surrogate daughter in crime with Red.

Her funeral is in the next episode, how might they bring her back after that?

The next episode is to center around Liz’s funeral and then the requisite pursuit of her killer. Which personally I found a little confusing because I thought she died because of complications from the car accident and delivery. But you know, it’s episodic television, so okay.

Anyway, here is my theory:

Liz isn’t really dead but in order to protect her from the shadow agents/group pursuing her presumably because of her Russian spy mother’s sins, the whole world must believe she is dead for the time being.

Once Red and the whole special FBI task force has located the real threat to her, it will be revealed that she has been living in a FBI safe house in Oklahoma, donning a red wig and Birkenstoks.

She only seemed dead and looked dead because the doctor, who we already know was friends with Liz injected some super magical drug that made her look that way. The body used in the funeral will turn out to be a double or even made of wax. I mean who’s going to check to be sure?

Naturally, Tom will feel a bit miffed for having had to raise Agnes on  his own for a year or so, but he’ll be so happy that he doesn’t have to be a single dad, that he’ll soon forgive her.

Though of course they won’t be able to jump into Tom’s boat and set sail for the happily ever after. Somehow Agnes will become the center of some plan or Tom will be tempted to return to his own life. Or Liz will mount her own investigation into who her mother and father really is.  Heck, maybe that’s what she’s doing now, while everybody, including Red thinks she’s dead.

What are your theories?

So there you have it, my theory. Do you have one? Do you like me, think that Lizzie is still alive only to reappear at some later date, or is the Blacklist just becoming its own spinoff and morphing into a whole new show? Feel free to float any theories you like in the comments.

Technology, Computers, and Me

computer-1071694_640

So about a week ago, while I stepped away from my computer to refill my coffee cup my computer refused to boot. Odd thing was that it had already booted up. Naturally, the dreaded thought of all computer users popped into my head: Virus.

I was ever so glad that I have an external hard drive that I use for back up. Because otherwise I’d have had to shoot myself.

Well, despite my crying, pleading, and begging the computer just wouldn’t boot up and in fact gave me the boot. I called around and spoke to a couple of computer repair guys who apparently didn’t need the work because they told me I could buy a new computer for what they’d charge me.

I didn’t believe them, but lo and behold they were not lying. I found just the baby I wanted and ordered it on Black Friday. Gotta love it when timing and big sales come together right?

Of course that meant it would be a week before I had my new computer. So, I pulled out my ancient eMachines (do they even make those anymore?) computer which I shoved in the closet seven years ago and set it up. It groaned, it whirred, it made this awful grinding noise but it worked. Of course doing anything more than writing in Word and checking my emails was about all I could get out of it. And even then it was iffy. But somehow I managed. (Still, I felt like Fred Flintstone trying to work with a chisel and stone tablet).

It is funny though how we get so used to things going lightning fast that when they don’t, we get upset and tense. Could explain some of the road rage you see these days, right?

Then I got the new computer and you want to talk about fast – wow – I had no idea what I was missing. I really must come out of my cave more often and see about all this new-fangled high technology stuff.

So, I guess the moral of this story is that I’m an idiot but things worked out in the end anyway.

mre thumbnailBTW, I’m doing a Kindle countdown on M.urder R.eady to E.at (Book 2 of Scotti Fitzgerald Series) tomorrow and Wednesday. You can get all that fun and adventure for a mere 99 cents. And please do. Okay – end of plug.

Hopefully, once I learn how to ride my new computer I’ll be able to do things like tweet and facebook and other fun stuff.

Annie

Authors earning below poverty line – truth or an attempt to knock out the competition?

 

Will write for food

I saw this article posted by another writer in my Facebook feed yesterday. The title was compelling enough for me to click through to read the article. The article is short and you can read it for the specifics but the long and short of it is that writers are earning below the poverty level. Based on their survey. Which was conducted within their own membership and consisted of only 1400 participants.

Personally, I don’t put much stock in the results of this survey because:

  • Given how many authors exist in this country alone 1400 participants is a very low sample
  • They only surveyed their group members (it would be more accurate to say that within their own group, authors are earning below the poverty line, but that doesn’t make the news, does it?)
  • We have to blindly accept that the data given by participants was true (not everybody tells the truth and particularly about finance).
  • It seems to reinforce their position that Amazon (or some other villain) is causing writers to earn poorly.
  • We do not have the raw data. Who did they ask? What career stage are the participants in? Beginning, end, middle? What were the questions? How were the questions couched? All of these things are important factors to consider
  • How many indie authors participated? (there are thousands and I’m sure many of them would have been happy to add their data to the mix.)

Ironically, the Author’s Guild is involved in attempting to sue Amazon for anti-trust, claiming that their business practices are somehow oppressing writers or their ability to earn income. Since Amazon created the Kindle and the digital book revolution by offering writers of all stripes a level playing field the suit seems laughable. What other company has enabled so many writers to make a viable living? I’m not aware of any, but if you know, please advise.

This page from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the U.S. government paints a very different picture. Something tells me the U.S. government probably has access to much more data, and a wider cross section of writers, than one writers group.

To me, this type of article serves only one purpose – to discourage authors. The message is, “you won’t make money so don’t bother.” And perhaps that would be good for a group who might want to knock out some of the competition. In fact, lately it seems I’ve seen several authors forward this type of information, which seems counter intuitive to me. If they agree with this then why are they bothering to write books and trying to sell/market them?

Perhaps I am naive or too optimistic but I believe that in large part you create your own destiny and outcome. Even if the above survey results were/are true it doesn’t mean that you can’t succeed, nor does it mean you should stop trying to succeed. And I think as writers/authors we should be encouraging one another not trying to discourage each other. Hey, I know that writing is a tough gig but so what? Does that mean I should just pack up my laptop and go sell shoes? I don’t think so.

What do you think? Does this type of article affect you? Does it discourage you or make you want to work harder? As authors, do you think we should focus more on encouraging each other? Feel free to tell us your views in the comments.