THE PROCESS…SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR!

November 26, 2014

credit

So here it is, another Thanksgiving and I find myself reminiscing once more. I seem to spend a lot of time doing that lately.  I guess it’s a byproduct of growing older—thinking about things you’ve done, places you’ve gone and people who have come, gone or stayed throughout the process.  And, indeed, it is a process.  It has a beginning, a large middle—you hope—and a quick and peaceful end…you also hope.

I do try to take a moment each Thanksgiving, albeit a private one, to think about what I am thankful for.  I am thankful that the big cancer scare I had this year turned out to be little, at least for the time being.  It could be an issue sometime down the road, but for now I’m told I’ll more than likely die from something else.  I am instructed to keep an eye on it and I have made that a new, standard part of the process.  As such the issue is parked and it is not consuming my every thought as it was earlier in the year. So I am grateful for that.

I have had unfortunate gains this year.  My waistline has expanded to the point where, for the first time in my life, weight is an issue.  I now go to the gym every other day and beat myself up and then return home to eat things I shouldn’t…but I am getting more disciplined about that and I am grateful—supposedly—for consuming less ice cream and fewer cookies.

I am thankful that my wife Rosemarie had a decent first-year of retirement, though some of her body parts are showing stress and some ancient car accident injuries are acting out once more, as they seem to do every ten years or so.  But over all, she, like me, is still able to get around on her own, drive to where she wants to go and makes it up and down the steps with just a moderate amount of groans.  That she can still maneuver through the process as a coordinated, unassisted, functioning human body….well, I am thankful for that.

I am thankful that our family, overall, is continuing in the process too.  There have been some bumps this year and there are a few issues that still tax us elders of the clan.   We hope these are resolved in some favorable way, the sooner the better.  But, I suppose this is true of most families today where stress is inevitable and the accompanying clash of personalities is all part of the process.  There is still laughter along with care and concern going on in the family’s collective process and that is something to be thankful for.

I am thankful for lots of little things too…that the refrigerator still works despite making a horrible noise every now and then.  I am grateful that the replacement part for the one that is causing the racket arrived so that I can install it the moment the old one finally breaks for good.  I am grateful that the new car we bought last Black Friday has survived the year without any recalls.  I am grateful I got new glasses, although there are still just as many typos in my blog.  I am grateful that I published my fifth book this year, but no so grateful that I haven’t learned how to make my books more successful.  That is definitely an ongoing process.  I am grateful that my two most valuable assets—my computer and my Keurig coffee maker, continue to function correctly despite needing a minor adjustment once in a while or a good slap on the side.  I almost forgot to mention that Rosemarie and I went on a cruise last spring and we saw the Panama Canal.  I was grateful we were able to do that.

I probably could go on and on.  We all take too many things for granted but there is much to be grateful for when you stop and think about it….assuming nothing really terrible has occurred in your life.  For me it’s been another “basic” year with a few exciting moments, good and bad.  If you are simply trying to get through the process as easily as possible and with as few heartaches as possible…well then, achieving that alone is a big deal and one should be grateful.  There are always others who were not as lucky and the process proved more difficult.  With that said, here’s a rerun from last year’s posting on this day…

Thanksgiving is the one American holiday that has it all.

Parades and family gatherings, the big dinner and, of course, football.

The clanging of pots and pans signal a busy kitchen with lots going on.

Cooks across the country have been up cooking since early dawn.

There’s the bird to stuff, and a string bean casserole to make

And for dessert there are pecan and pumpkin pies to bake.

No time to worry whether or not your waistline appears svelte.

‘Tis better you throw caution to the wind and just loosen your belt.

I’ll watch the big parade and cheer when Santa comes at the end.

Then it’s officially Christmas with presents to buy and cards to send.

I will no doubt park myself in front of the TV and watch the big game.

And if my team loses I’ll make sure everyone knows who’s to blame.

Meanwhile, I have lots to be thankful for this year, just as in the past,

I’ll think good thoughts and build memories to make them last.

And one final Thanksgiving tradition of merit, if you want my advice,

Always be thankful to the turkey who made the ultimate sacrifice.

*****


AMAZON CHARGED ME MORE THAN MY CUSTOMER…WHAT A CONCEPT!

November 24, 2014

stupid                                                    Stupid, by Jack_Cardew

Y’know, there are times when I think some of those insulting clichés apply to me.  Yeah, when I was born I got in line for what I thought were brains, but I got trains instead—Lionel.  It’s true, I’m not the brightest light bulb in the socket.  And it goes without saying, there’s dumb and dumber and then there’s me.  Okay, you get the picture—not a lot of high self-esteem going on here today…but there’s a reason.

Back about a month or so ago, I read an article about how well some authors were selling their books via amazon.com’s program call KDP Select.  This is a program you can opt for under amazon’s Kindle platform.  It will—allegedly—pay a higher royalty, publicize your book a lot more with some specific promotions and widen its distribution.  You do have to make one sacrifice, though, and that’s exclusivity.  KDP Select prohibits you from selling an “e” version of your book anywhere else.  So I took my newest effort, The 11th Year of Christopher Arthur McDaniels, and enrolled it into the KDP Select program.

I filled out the KDP Select form with all the appropriate information and when it came to making a choice of whether or not I wanted to earn a 35% royalty or a 70% royalty that is available under the Select program, I went for the higher pay out, of course.  Hey, that’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?  What silly nit would choose to make a lower royalty?

Now, bear in mind that I have four other books attempting to sell themselves on amazon.com.  These are not in the KDP Select program so their royalty is restricted to the basic 35%.

Time marches on and I get my first month’s report on sales.  I sold a spectacular total of three Kindle books in the past 5 weeks consisting of one copy of my adult novel, The Pope’ Stone, and two copies of Christopher.  At 35%, the Pope paid me $.87—about the amount I need to buy a Keurig cup of coffee.  Meanwhile, at 70% royalty, the two copies of Christopher paid me…what!  How can this be?  I was paid NOTHING for the two copies of Christopher.  In fact, I was charged a $3.61 “delivery charge” for each book!  What delivery charge?  It doesn’t cost anything to deliver an e-book.  It’s a download—how can that cost?  The customer pays $2.99 for the Kindle copy of Christopher (the minimum price set by Kindle, not me) and then Kindle adds on a $3.61 delivery cost that I have to pay.  I know, this makes no sense.  I sent them an e-mail since this inquiring mind wanted to inquire.

Well, if you noticed the earth vibrating under your feet the other night, not to worry. That was only me jumping up and down in frustration trying to figure out how I could sell two Kindle versions of my book and wind up IN THE RED!  Of course, amazon had a perfectly rational (to them) explanation.  When you join the Select program they tout the added distribution to all the other amazons around the world that your book will be sold through.  I guess for that added feature they choose to charge a delivery fee based on a specific amount per location, multiplied by the number of megabytes in your book’s file.  Even though Christopher is a kid’s chapter book and runs only 100 pages, it has 12 small illustrations, one for each chapter.  These drive up the megabytes into the stratosphere…hence the $3.61 charge for whatever.   That’s the conclusion, more or less, that I drew from the silly response I got from the folks at amazon.

Now, remember, I’m the dummy here.  I went back to that form I originally filled out when I joined the Select program.  In the section where I chose my royalty rate it specifically offers me the opportunity to select the 70% royalty, but it also has a nice chart that clearly states there is a delivery charge and my net royalty will actually be “0.”  In my case, not only did I earn 0, I wound up in debt because the delivery charge cost more than the sale price of the book.  Why would that scenario even exist?  Amazon, BTW, doesn’t explains why there’s a delivery charge in the first place…at least nowhere obvious.

Needless to say, I changed the royalty on Christopher from 70% to 35%.  There is no delivery charge at the lower royalty rate. Now if I sell a Kindle copy of Christopher I will actually get paid, once I make up my deficit.

It really sucks being dumb like me.  Whoddathunk amazon would dictate a minimum price of $2.99 for a Kindle version of my book, offer me a 70% royalty rate and then charge a delivery fee that results in my losing money on the deal?  Thank God I did not sell a high number of Kindle downloads of Christopher.  I probably would have had to take out a loan to pay amazon back.  Like I said…I’m  not the brightest bulb in the socket.

*****


2nd Class Writer

November 21, 2014

not worthy

I will continue to speak out against those who refuse access to self-publishers, or indie-publishers as we are now being referred to.  There are two award competitions that I have considered participating in within the past two weeks.  I am shut out from both because I have published my own books instead of mucking through the years-long process of attempting–begging–to be accepted, embraced and eventually published by a traditional publishing house.

It is true that there is a lot of junk produced by self-publishers, maybe even some of my own.  However, the same can be said for the professional book producers who manage to always stack high the bargain tables in any book store with tons of inferior or rejected product.

It is my theory that a good book stands on its own.  It makes no matter how the author’s creative process transitioned from his or her mind to the printed words on the pages.  Whether the author hired the printer or the professional publishing house used its printer, the outcome is the same—words on paper.  What matters is that the story is captivating, the writing is qualitative and the reader enjoys the experience of having read the book.  That is all that there is to the process.  If an awards competition refuses considering a self-published book merely on the merit the book was not approved and produced by a professional publishing house, well, that really isn’t much different from rejecting a homemade chocolate chip cookie vs. one baked and packaged by Keebler or Nabisco.

Self-published authors remain, by and large, thought of as second-class writers.  I think this attitude is slowly changing and may even go away someday.  For the present, however, it is up to us to stand up, speak up and persistently peck away at those who feel us unworthy.  I have made it a point to do this every time a door is closed in my face.  Today it was the National Book Foundation.  I hope the folks there at least took my comments to heart and someday, somewhere, a self-published author will beam with pride after winning one of the Foundation’s prestigeous National Book Awards which he or she is currently unworthy of.

*****


THE GUT OF THE MATTER

November 15, 2014

gut

You don’t normally hear me talking about sports very much.  That’s because I do not spend a lot of time involved either in playing or observing sports.  I do like American football—I specify “American” because here in South Florida football can just as easily be interpreted as soccer.  I am not much of a soccer fan, nor hockey, nor basketball, nor tennis or golf.   Baseball I might watch if the game has some excitement going on or maybe if it’s the World Series.  In fact, come to think of it, I didn’t see one game of the World Series just this past month…must have been busy with something else.

So where was I? Oh yeah, the sports/jock person that I am not.  The reason I bring it up is because I was gently nudged by one of my doctors to begin getting some vigorous exercise to maybe help get rid of a fatty liver and a girth that was expanding faster than an express bus to a heart attack.  I am, and always have been, a pretty skinny guy.  For the first time in my life I’ve started to fatten up around the waistline and now I am faced with the same challenge a lot of people have—diet and exercise!  Yuck!  It would be okay if there weren’t so many cookies and cakes and breads in the world.  Why did God let all those things into my life if he didn’t want me to consume them?

So now I go to the the gym every other day and I spend almost two hours putting my body through a rigorous process of stress, strain and sadistic torture.  I’ve been at it for well over a month and I have not lost a pound or a centimeter.  I can hardly move when I first attempt to stand up and walk each morning and I look silly all sweaty in my gym shorts and sweaty T-shirt with Snoopy the dog on it that says “Unathletic Dad.”  Yeah, my son got me that.

Meanwhile, I am surrounded by all these bodies, both male and female, that are considerably younger and in much better shape than mine.  Some of these people can actually lift a car or run like a rabbit for a full hour on a treadmill.  Me?  I can lift, pull or push maybe 40 pounds on the various weight machines—but that’s about it.  I guess I should be grateful I can do that.  I keep trying to increase the weight each week, figuring I’m building up my strength and tolerance, but nah.  40 pounds seems to be where I am and where I am meant to be…and stay.

Even though I don’t seem to be making any progress I shall continue with the program and hope that the next time my liver is examined that it has at least lost some fat.  I have gotten over worrying about how I look in my little gym outfit and I have to admit it is a good hour of grunt and groan downtime that allows me to  contemplate plotlines for potential books.  So this is maybe a good thing for my writing exercises.  And, oh yeah, I take my iPod with me and listen to upbeat music to help get with the program.  I even bought the new Taylor Swift album.  The song, Shake it Off, is especially inspiring.

*****

 


TALENT IS TALENT IS TALENT!

November 12, 2014

swift concernt

I have come to the conclusion that whether you like or dislike the product, talent is talent and it always stands on its own.  This said, if you like controversy and endless metaphorical debate, you will love the new official music video by Taylor Swift of her song Blank Space.  (You can check it out on You-Tube.)

It’s no secret, I’ve posted it several times on this blog that I am a big fan of Taylor Swift.  I am totally out of range of her demographic target, supposedly out of sync with her music and basically disconnected from her culture.  But, But, But…this makes the point that talent is talent is talent and it stands on its own.  You don’t have to like the art of surrealist Salvador Dali but you have to admit he sure can draw a great drooling pocket watch.

Taylor Swift is excellent at just about everything she does and what she does is ENTERTAIN.  As such, she is a prolific writer, an adept musician, an exceptional stage performer and an incredibly astute businesswomen.  If you do not like the product her “machine” puts out, that’s okay.  But it is hard not to respect how well the machine functions.

Okay, back to the music video that started all this.  Trust me, if you begin watching it, it’s hard not to watch it all the way through, assuming you are familiar with Taylor Swift and, more importantly, her critics who regularly criticize her persistent lyrical focus on her not-so-successful dating life.  This video is a whole new side of her that heretofore hasn’t been exposed to this degree.  No, she doesn’t pull a Miley Cyrus and take her clothes off.  What she does is poke a little fun at herself…and a lot at her critics.

She has already noted in her other new song, Shake it Off, that there are always people who do not care for you—“haters” as she calls them.  And she advises that you simply have to accept that these people will always “hate hate hate.”  In the song Blank Space she goes further.  The entire song and video is about her haters and what they hate about her.  It’s simply great fun.  And what’s even more fun is all the debate that has already started about the video and will no doubt hashtag, facebook and tweet on for days to come.  Taylor Swift, meanwhile, will continue to sell her music at a record-setting pace.  Good for her.  BTW, did you know that all the proceeds from another song on her new album, Welcome to New York, will be dumped into the New York City School system.

Taylor Swift is 24 years old.  She has already won armfuls of the most prestigious music awards the industry has to offer.  She is the first artist to have three albums released in a row, each selling over one million copies in its first week.  What were you doing at 24?  Like I said, you don’t have to like the product but you can’t ignore the talent.
*****

ANOTHER POETIC ATTEMPT

November 10, 2014

past-future-signposts

There are so many things I want to do all over again.

I want to do them exactly in the way I did them then.

I want to ride my sled down a snowy hill a hundred times.

I want to sell empty soda bottles till I collect enough dimes.

I want to take the train downtown and then return back home.

With little bus fare there was an entire city I could roam.

I want to rake leaves in a big pile and smell them burn,

Or mow neighbors’ lawns for spending money I’d earn.

I want to go back to high school and pay more attention.

I’d get higher grades this time or at least honorable mention.

I want to walk the streets of my neighborhood just as they were.

I don’t want to see them as they appear now, memories all a blur.

I want to meet the girl I married for the first time all over again.

I want to feel those feelings just one more time if I can.

I want to ride in the back seat of the bus and smell the fumes.

I want to roam the house I grew up in and revisit all the rooms.

I want to ride my bike to places my parents wouldn’t believe,

Just to see what there was to see and how many miles I’d achieve.

Speaking of parents, I wish they could hear what they need to hear,

How priceless they were to me, how cherished and held so dear.

I am getting old now and looking back makes me feel better than ahead.

Going forward holds no promise; I enjoy reliving the past instead.

*****

 


ALMOST ALMOST!

November 5, 2014

DeadLetter8I wasn’t a winner, but I must have come close.  My book, DEAD LETTER, was entered in this year’s annual self-published book awards competition sponsored by Writer’s Digest magazine, one of two of the most important trade publications in the book biz.  DEAD LETTER scored the highest (5 = “Outstanding”) in every category except for one in which it got a 4—the cover!   The judge was not crazy about the naked lady.  BUT, BUT, I could not ask for a better review (read below) and it is especially gratifying since it comes from a totally objective and highly respected source.  I am certainly not one prone to bragging, but as a wannabe successful writer, this is a proud moment for me.  Hey, I cudda been a contendah!

Here’s how DEAD LETTER did…

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

Plot and Story Appeal: 5

Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary:

“DEAD LETTER by Marc Kuhn is a story written by an author who seems to possess a sensitive soul that gives him the ability to craft a touching, deeply emotional and satisfying story.

As for production values, I like the title but I wasn’t all that crazy about the cover, not because I have an issue with nudity (I don’t) but because it was dull. I think a picture of a small town or a letter would have been just as effective, if not more so. Of course, this is a personal opinion from a reader who prefers vibrant colors on book covers. However, the back cover copy was excellent and well written. I think it will spur people to read the book. Nice author bio. It encouraged me to check out the other books, and to visit the web site listed. It was nice to see a picture of the author on the site.

I enjoy books set in small towns and I think other readers will enjoy the setting, too. I think the author also does an excellent job capturing the eras he writes about as well. The opening of the book was amusing, as obviously intended. The feeling the early part of the book generated reminded me of SUMMER OF ’42 by Herman Raucher, which is a good thing. The writing style is superb, keeping the story moving at an excellent pace. The author is talented not only as a writer, but at evoking emotions. Readers who love romance and mystery will fall in love with this book”

- Judge, 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

 *****


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