Tuesday, January 20, 2015

End of an Era

Maybe the word "era" is a bit much, but a couple days ago I found out that Amazon was no longer hosting the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest (ABNA) to make way for their Kindle Scout program, which I'll talk  about in a minute. The contest has been going on since 2007, and it's led me to many amazing experiences.

I've never won the ABNA contest. In fact the furthest I made it was the top 100 in the very first year. Most of the other years I got scrapped after the pitch round. Last year I made it to the quarter finals. So what is it about this contest that was so great?

  1. It validated the fact that I am a writer. A real writer. People read my work and saw my talent. I heard about this contest before I even starting querying agents so it was really my first leap into the literary world and it was amazing.
  2. It made me want to be better and work harder. When I received my reviews in the years I didn't make it very far, I realized that those books weren't finished. They weren't good enough to get published. It made me revise more and do whatever it took to improve my craft.
  3. It made me want it more. After that first contest, I was bound and determined to get published, and I achieved that goal with Never Eighteen, which is the book that I entered the 2nd year of the contest and only made it past the pitch.
  4. It introduced me to other writers. They had a forum on the website so I was able to chat with people that were in the same boat as me. We had so much fun on there, especially the first two years. Which leads me to...
  5. The best thing I got out of the contest though, were connections. I met wonderful, talented people from all over the world those years I entered the contest. Some of them have become lifelong friends. I've had to pleasure of meeting many of them in person too. Let me count...around 20. And I've met friends through those friends, and also got to meet some in person. I hope I get to meet more of them in the future. 

Pictured are: Lisa Grintals-mclellan, Don Harkham, Me, Brent Billy Curtis, Jarucia Jaycox, Amy Kinzer, Janet Oakley
 



Pictured: Amy, BD MacCullough, Don, Jarucia, Brent and me.





Pictured: Gae Polisner and me.



David Stanley and me.


Jarucia, Katie Kadwell, Scotti Cohn, Kristin Kendle, Willow, Landon, and Destiny.






Me, Christine Beth Reish and Tracy Walshaw.



I'm sure there are other reasons the contest benefited
me, but these are the most important.


So though we say goodbye to the contest, it holds many good memories and I will keep and cherish the friends I made through the experience.

So I guess I may try out Amazon Kindle Scout. Which according to the website, is this:  

Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It's a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.

Doesn't sound bad, right?

Some of the above pictures from NY were probably taken by Rick Kopstein. I'm pretty sure they were. So I wanted to give him props. Check out his website. He's a great photographer.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Torrentz

Have you heard of Torrentz? It seems to me a website where people upload shit they've pirated - including my book, Never Eighteen.

For those of you who use Torrentz, I'd like to school you on pirating books and such. I am a writer, this much we know. I'm what you'd actually call a mid-list writer, meaning, I'm not well known but someone felt my book was publication worthy.

In fact, I'm not even really on the mid-list anymore. I.E. I make no money off my book. Did I once? Sure. I made an advance. But I've seen no royalty checks. I'm not like a famous actor, actress or rock star that makes millions. Not that that makes it okay to pirate their stuff, it's still illegal. But if you do, it's no skin of their nose.
However, I am a single mom trying to make a wage to survive. I have two teenagers, one in college, the other headed there in a year and a half. When you pirate my book and share it with others - you are robbing me blind.

And Torrentz doesn't care. I don't know how many times I've sic'd my publicist for that book onto them. They still do not remove my copyrighted material. While people can read my book for free? I will probably not make a dime in royalties.

So, those who use Torrentz, I have a simple request. If you are going to read my book illegally for free, at least have the decency to give it a review on Amazon.  Getting reviews helps lower-than-mid-list authors like me get more attention.

I'm not particularly angry about this. I'm just tired of it and disappointed that I'm getting jilted out of pay because you can't pay $1.99 for the Kindle version of my novel. Seriously, 2 bucks.

Anyway. I will now step off my soapbox and head back to writing my next book so you have something to steal in the future.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Stuck

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself. I'm sure everyone does, right? Sometimes it's hard to remember that no matter my problems, some people have it way worse than me.

For instance, I went to the beach over New Years, and it rained like crazy Sunday. Extenuating circumstances kept me from leaving that day, which was the original plan. The next morning when I went to leave for home, I stopped for a mocha at a coffee kiosk and found out that I wasn't going anywhere. The heavy rains had washed out parts of the highways I needed to access to leave town.

I was stuck.

I turned back around and headed back to the beach house. I was not happy. Not one bit. In fact, I was being a little whiny bitch.

photo by WSDOT
When I turned the TV on to try to get some news on road closures, I stopped
whining. Roads were just closed, they were flooded, some demolished. At least 10 landslides had caused damage in different areas, including lifting 3 homes off their foundations and pushing them into the street.

In another area about 200 people were stranded because the only road leading up the hill to their homes had been completely washed out.

It was a miracle no one was hurt.

I remained a little frightened, I wasn't sure if water would find its way up to where I was staying. I was near the bay, the ocean and a lake and most of the rivers in the area were flooding.  However, I felt sure I would be okay. I took the extra day to telecommute for work, relax and watch the news for any updates.

This morning I checked the updates and all roads leading home were opened,not fully, but enough so that I could get through.

photo by WSDOT
Driving home, the devastation became more real for me. The side streets of one town were still completely flooded, I saw first hand two large landslides, the ones that took houses out, rivers still overflowed, trees were down and meadows and farms were flooded for at least half the way home.

People had been evacuated and displaced. Locals said it was the worst they'd ever seen.

That is as close to a natural disaster that I've ever been aside from the handful of small earthquakes my city has seen. It puts things into perspective. Whenever I feel stuck again or sorry for myself, I will try to remember that small town with its flooded streets and deteriorated bluffs and all the people who really lost something these last couple days. Then I will pick up my pieces and forge on, keeping in mind that no matter how bad things seem, it's not the worst thing that could happen.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Good News

When looking back on the year, it's easy to focus on the bad that happened. Though there was bad that took place in my life and the world. I have to try to remember that there is good in life too.

Let's remember some good stuff from 2014 and keep the tradition of finding the good in 2015.
  • Lets start with my Seattle Seahawks. They fought their way to the Superbowl and won.  First time in franchise history. I'm hoping for a repeat this year.
  •  Do you remember the stray dogs of Sochi? They were rounded up and killed before the Olympics started. Okay, that's not the good news. The good news is this crime against canines prompted Olympians and others to set up adoption rescue efforts to save the dogs.
  • Openly gay football player, Michael Sam, is drafted in the NFL draft. Sure, he's been cut by a lot of teams, hopefully not because he is gay.  I wish him success in the NFL.
  • Isaiah Austin drafted. Days before the draft, Austin was diagnosed with genetic disorder Marfan syndrome. This forced his retirement. However, during the draft,  NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that NBA was drafting him, making a dream come true for him. 
  • The Ice Bucket Challenge may have wasted water, but it also raised $115
    million for ALS research.
  • Because of the waste in water in the Ice Bucket Challenge, and to try to  break a dangerous Twitter drinking game challenge, Brent Lindeque started #RAKnominations, or Random Acts of Kindness Nominations.  He began by giving a homeless person a sandwich, chocolate and a coke, filmed it, then nominated two people to do the same within 24 hours. 
  • Cincinnati Bengal, Devon Still's four-year-old daughter Leah was in treatment for stage-four cancer. Though he was cut from the team, they put him on the practice squad so he could support his daughter. The team also sold his jersey, raising $1.25 million that went to his daughter's cancer fight. 
  • Bill and Melinda Gates donate $50 million to help stop the spread of Ebola.
  • Thankfully all the news about police officers isn't bad. 
    • After a routine traffic stop, one bought a car seat for a mother having financial troubles. 
    • Cops in Florida received a hang up 9-1-1 call, and when they went to investigate found a struggling family without a Christmas tree. They used their own money to buy a tree for the family and was set to make sure there were gifts under it come Christmas.
    • The police department in Lowell, Michigan pulled people over for minor infractions, but instead of giving out tickets, gave out Christmas gifts instead.
    • In Mount Dora, Florida, the police department began Shop with a Cop, which paired officers with children of low income families, who then took them out to buy Christmas presents.
  •  Malala Yousafzai became the youngest co recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in the right to education for children. Two years before, Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban on her way to school, which sparked her mission.
  • As of December 10th, Amber Alerts had helped rescue and return 723 children in 2014.
  • Did you see the video of the deaf baby that heard for the first time? Melty heart.
  • This. Seriously, happy Muslims. The Honesty Policy, a group of British Muslims wanted to show the world that Muslims are happy. Muslims are viewed so negatively and disrespectfully by so many, I think this is a good way to remind everyone that they are just people like you and me. This goes with any culture, religion, or race. The happy Muslim videos have spread to Germany, Gaza Singapore, and many more...There's this one too, featuring Muslim women doing a variety of everyday things. It started as a video among friends that went viral.
  • Speaking of Happy, then there's this.
  • Using drones to do good. From flying ambulance tool kits, to lifeguard drones, to drones made to search out wildfires, these drones are being put to good use to help save the environment and lives.
  • Scientists confirm that the Ozone Layer is healing itself thanks to a 1987 treaty signed by 197 nations that phased out man-made chlorofluorocarbons.
  •  After 10 years, a girl swept away by an Indonesian tsunami is reunited with her family. News reports of this reunion resulted in a cafe owner recognizing their son, also lost in the tsunami, as a homeless boy who slept near her business. This family got both their children back from a tsunami that killed thousands
 See, the world isn't all bad. Let's keep that in mind as we venture into the next year. Let's try to focus on the positive things so that the atrocities don't bring us too far down.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I DON'T want to see in the next year...

It's the last day of 2014. I am very ready for this next year to begin. Some crap
happened this year that sucked not only for me, but for our country and for our world. Here's what I don't want to see any more of in 2015...

Mitch McConnell's face - Aside from him being ugly as hell, he's an obstructionist, a villain and a self proclaimed "master of gridlock." His voting history makes a statement. It says, I'm against the following...

  • Women rights
  • Rights of minorities
  • Equal rights for homosexuals
  • Better education for our children
  • Making college affordable
  • Cleaning up our environment
  • The rights of injured people
  • A healthier America
  • Immigration 
  • People being able to earn a living wage
What is he for then? Guns, big money, combining church and state, and a Big Brother type government. Frightening.

Pandemics - People die. This is the #1 reason. But also propaganda spread by the media makes people go crazy. Media spins stories in a way that gets ratings. It's not different with the spread of diseases. They want us to panic so we stay glued to their every word.

Decapitations - We almost saw as many in our reality as we see on Game of Thrones. I don't mean to make light of these murders, but they're so horrific, it seems like a good way to separate myself from the atrocities of the world. But of course I can't. And the bigger problem is ISIS, a name I would rather not hear any more of in the news.

Racial profiling - Don't tell me racial profiling doesn't exist, because I know better. From Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown to Ezell Ford (and of course long before that, but I'm talking the last couple years), if racial profiling didn't exist, these men would still be alive.

Cowboy cops - Yes, I understand that not all cops are cowboys. Some do a wonderful job in protecting us from all the ill will and harm out there. But there have been too many senseless deaths as of late because a cop was trigger happy or acted with an unreasonable level of violence. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Dante Parker, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Kajieme Powell, Yvette Smith...I will note, all of these victims are African American. Does this happen to white people, I'm sure it does, but all too often it's the result of racial profiling in the first place that allows this to happen.

Airplanes disappearing - 2 right? That's 2 too many.

NFL players getting off easy - Yes, the NFL has been better about disciplining their players, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson...of course, it took the video of Rice's punch to get that ball rolling. 48 players have been considered guilty of domestic violence under NFL policy between 2000 through 2014. In 88% of those, the league suspended players for one game or not at all, 56% received no suspension, and 15 others were forced to sit out one game. These guys are role models for men and boys alike. Punishment should be quicker and harsher.

Obama bashing - Yes. This. The man has done a lot of good for this country. Here's
just a few things he's accomplished:

  • Allowed millions health insurance
  • Got rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
  • Brought our troops home from Iraq
  • Instituted equal pay for women
  • Saved the auto industry
  • Created millions of jobs and lowered the unemployment rate
  • Dow Average is up
  • Gas prices are down
  • Consumerism is higher
  • Interest rates are lower
  • Expanded hate crime definitions to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.
  • Expanded access to affordable government loans and Pell Grants for college.
  • Eliminated Qaddafi and Bin Laden
  • Started a nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia
  • Removed restrictions on stem cell research
I could go on, but you get the idea. Stop bashing. Let's support our president by coming together. It's time to stop ripping our country apart.

School shootings (or any shootings for that matter) - Self explanatory. Of course, this won't happen without some kind of gun control initiative. And don't even argue with me on that because I will disagree with you.

College rape - Nice that the federal government is finally cracking down on universities who are not following laws put in place by Title IX. I'm glad they're investigating, but it took long enough. Sexual assault is rampant on college campuses and colleges need to do a better job of protecting victims and reporting offenses.

And for good measure let's throw in an end to racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, misandry, and any other kind of hate and intolerance that might be out there.

I'm sure I could think of more, but these are high on my list. What are some things you want to see end? What are you tired of hearing about? Let me know.


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