Photo Credit: Zazzle.com

  ~ How Much Do Traditionally Published Authors Make? ~

In the 1989 release, “Beyond the Bestseller: A Literary Agent Takes You Inside the Book Business,” literary agent Richard Curtis writes in the chapter entitled, “P&L”:

“Others among us may realize that publishing is a tough, unpredictable, and treacherous business, and perhaps the people who play for such high stakes deserve a handsome profit for the risks they take and the capital they invest (though it must be said in all fairness that 15 or 20 percent is not exactly a windfall profit). I don’t know the answer. But I can safely say that the profit-and-loss worksheets of most authors I know are a lot more depressing than anything I’ve seen from publishers.”


Fast-forward 20 years later, and you’ll find that things haven’t changed much on this front. On the popular collaborative blog Genreality, New York Times Bestselling Author Lynn Viehl shares in detail the stats of “Twilight Fall,” the sixth book in her popular Darkyn series, to show just how much a bestselling author makes these days:

“After expenses and everyone else was paid, I netted about $26K of my $50K advance for this book, which is believe it or not very good — most authors are lucky if they can make 10% profit on any book. This should also shut up everyone who says all bestselling authors make millions — most of us don’t.”

Ms. Viehl posted a follow-up seven months later when she received her next royalty statement:

“My income per book always reminds me of how tough it is to make a living at this gig, especially for writers who only produce one book per year. If I did the same, and my one book performed as well as TF, and my family of four were solely dependent on my income, my net would be only around $2500.00 over the income level considered to be the U.S. poverty threshhold (based on 2008 figures.) Yep, we’d almost qualify for foodstamps.”

Fortunately for Ms. Viehl (and her loyal fans!), she is not a one-book-a-year author. Having written 47 novels in 6 genres (since 1998), I think it’s safe to say she is one of the most prolific professional writers working today. With each new release, she reinforces her existing audience and attracts new readers…which makes me wonder if her numbers would be as high as they are if she had only produced half the work (which would still leave her firmly in the “Incredibly Prolific Writer” category). Just goes to show how much hard work goes into making a living on the back of this beast we call Publishing…or is it the other way around? (The publisher’s portions of sales was over $450,000, and Viehl guestimates they netted about $250,000.)


Still not convinced I’m not just being a party pooper? Science fiction writer Tobias Buckell has surveyed and collected novel advance data from 108 science fiction and fantasy authors. Survey says! “The median advance for a first novel is $5,000.”

I remember the look on my husband’s face when I told him this. It wasn’t one of optimism. It was more a look of impending doom. I think he was boggled that I knew this and still persisted in pursuing this writing scheme. Fair enough. But what else could I do but keep barking up the only tree in the park?


 ~The New Rich~

But everything changed back in late 2007, when Amazon introduced the Kindle and Kindle Direct Publishing. (Thank you, Mr. Bezos!) In just a few short years, e-reader ownership has exploded through the roof and into the stratosphere, and the publishing industry as we know it has been turned on its head. Indie writers have been mining gold, and the Interwebz are buzzing almost daily over Cinderella stories. People just love to see people get rich. I’m no different.

And what’s just fantastically, awesomely great about the indie writer community (actually, the whole writing community at large) is how willing everyone is to help each other out, including sharing sales and income stats.

Check it out.


Since going the self-publishing route, J.A. Konrath, bestselling author of the Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels mystery series, and the man behind the hugely popular blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, has graduated to an upper echelon of tax bracket to make all envy.

In his enlightening blog post, “Time Investment,” Konrath reported an income of $2,295 from Kindle sales alone in January 2010. Twelve months later, his income for January 2011 (just that month) was about $42,000 (including sales from Createspace, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble). This equates to a 2,000% increase in his income in just one year. He says it took him four and a half years to earn $42,000 from “Rusty Nail,” published by Hyperion.


Michael R. Hicks, author of the science fiction series, “In Her Name,” writes in the introduction of his indie publishing guide, “The Path to Self-Publishing Success”:

“In February, I made over $500 from Kindle sales (prior to that, I made an average of around $300 a month). In March, that grew to $2,500. April: $7,000. Then in May, we’re talking real money: $15,500, and in June, my royalties were almost $29,000.

“For July, as I’m writing this…well, for July I’m looking at making at least $30,000, with my last six-week royalty report showing $44,000. Over a thousand bucks a day. And that’s just from the Kindle store, not including anything else.”


According to a Washington Post article on the “e-book gold rush,” romance author Nyree Belleville, who writes under the pseudonyms Bella Andre and Lucy Kevin, never earned more than $21,000 for any of her 12 books published by her traditional publisher. Indeed, Belleview had been dropped by her publisher in late 2010. So she started self-publishing her novels. How is she doing? Belleview’s first quarter earnings for 2011, a little more than a year after she started self-publishing? $116,264. Not too shabbeh.

The killer quote in the article was by Belleville herself: “Isn’t this awesome?!

Heck yeah! I don’t even know Ms. Belleville, but I’m happy for her. I love to see people succeed wildly, and I hope her success continues to grow.

~So You Want to Be a Billionaire?~

Yeah, me too, so freaking bad. But is everybody going to have these kinds of results? No. Of course not. (Dammit!) According to Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, an ebook publishing and distribution platform, Smashwords has less than 50 authors making more than $50,000 a year, and a lot more more who don’t sell a single title (Source: Washington Post).

So what’s the real dealio? Is self-publishing gonna make me rich or what?

There’s no guarantees in life — (dammit again!) — but the way I see it, you can’t lose by trying. The start-up costs are minimal…chump change compared to other businesses I’ve been involved in. If you somehow gum things up — you know, start flame wars on reader forums, don’t bother properly editing and formatting your ebook, or have covers that epitomize pure ugliness — or simply can’t get your “brand” to catch on, you can always start over under another name. (Of course, if you’re arguing with readers over reviews and TPing their forums, then maybe you’d be better off pursuing forestry.)

In the meantime, there’s nothing holding you back from pursuing traditional publishing at the same time. Though I didn’t exactly paint a picture of rosy contentment for writers traditionally published, I am not shut of traditional publishing. They’ve still got resources, connections, and distribution outlets self-publishers can still only dream about. Right now, the only way to get your book into a big box store is through a traditional publisher. It may not be the only game in town anymore, but it’s still a viable option. Lots of indie writers vet their manuscripts on the traditional side to see if they can get a worthwhile deal before they release it themselves.

Many writers who still dream of the big book deal worry about the taint of self-publishing ruining their chances at any traditional deal. Well, fuggetaboudit! This is the new slush pile, baby, and writers are being summoned to the lofty heights of Fifth Avenue daily. Think of self-publishing as a chance to shine, a sexy portfolio of your best work (that happens to earn royalties). Surf the tsunami of crap and show them what you’ve got!

In conclusion, I’m going to state the obvious. And though it’s needless to say, I’m gonna say it anyway, in big honking letters:

Your biggest, most important investment will be the time and effort and passion spent writing your stories. That’s where the money is. That’s always where the money is.

So go, write, spin your special brand of gold. Your readers are waiting.


Photo Credit: Cesar Bojorquez aka tj scenes - flickr.com

~ How to Get to the Top of Mt. Olympus ~

Just like most other writers, having been raised on the romantic and mystical view of the publishing process, I have The Dream. There are many variations of The Dream, but it goes something like this:

In a fit of madness inspired by genius, the Writer goes on a three-day writing binge, sustained only by near-lethal amounts of caffeine, twenty packs of cigarettes, and vending machine sandwiches, downloading at mythic broadband width speeds from the Heavens Above, at the end of which said Writer collapses into a blissful sleep, unaware that the quiet manuscript sitting on the desk is about to change a generation…and bring said Writer immortality and outrageous fortune.

But during edits, the Writer loses faith in the manuscript. Thankfully, the Supportive Roommate (forever memorialized in the dedication and in subsequent interviews) rescues it from the round file and sends it to New York unbeknownst to its Creator.

Naturally, the manuscript is discovered in the slush pile of a Well Known Publisher by an up and coming Junior Editor. This event defines her unprecedented publishing career…along with the record-breaking preempt her publisher pays to secure publication rights after the Writer astutely hires Agent Barracuda who launches a bidding war.

After a stellar book launch that goes without a hitch, the Writer enjoys a noteworthy and praiseworthy career, lauded by legions of fans and critics alike, and immortalized on the silver screen and in a long-ass Wikipedia page.

It’s a nice dream, but it’s hardly illuminating in terms of the path one needs to take to achieve such literary celebration in the gleaming gardens of Mt. Olympus (aka the NYT Best Sellers List). I want to know what I need to do in order to get there. Really. What incense do I gotta burn, what animal do I need to sacrifice, what god should I worship in order to get my heinie a spot by the gently wafting fans and bowls of peeled grapes yon High?

Can someone give me some directions, please?

Perhaps it’s my age — I’m getting persnickety and alarmingly eccentric by the hour — but my old plan of building a writing career looks an awful lot like running around and asking for permission and acceptance and crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. In traditional markets, it’s a pretty long and convoluted path for a story to find the end-reader…not to mention it typically takes at least a month to hear back on short fiction submissions, and sometimes as long as six months or more! And the book publishers who do still even accept unsolicited manuscripts often cite long response times. And remember that even though you have a great story and even though an editor may love your story, whether or not you receive an acceptance for publication depends on whether your work suits the tastes of an already existing and cultivated audience of readers.

Anyway, I’m getting too old and impatient for that. I don’t want to hurry and wait, hurry and wait. I want to go, go, go already! This is real life. I have a family. I need to make the time I spend away from my family working on this dream benefit them now, not in some hazy future that will undoubtedly include college tuition payments.

I may not have publication credits to my name yet, but I’ve got *cough*-plus years invested into my writing career. I’ve got the manuscripts to prove it. I think I am a fair judge of my work. I can find and cultivate my own audience: people tend to find their own. I’m also a lifelong reader, and I think I can recognize crap when I step in it…or write it.

These may not sound like prestigious qualifications for a publisher, but they’re the ones I’ve got. And so I am proud to announce that I have formed a new publishing company and will be publishing my work through Seven Left Turns Publishing, Inc.

How’s that for some direction? 🙂

~ We’re Going to Vegas, Baby! ~

I haven’t given up on The Dream — I’ve just decided to let Mt. Olympus come to me. In the meantime, I’m going where there’s better odds, where I have a higher chance of seeing a return on my investment in the near and foreseeable future. I’m going to that Vegas in the Cloud, where the casinos of mass digital distributors like Amazon and BN spin their algorithms to the fickle tune of a global audience of millions of readers, all greedy-hungry for new content….and I’ve got what they want. Mwah-ha-ha-ha!

And just like the real Vegas, at the very least, I know where to find it. There are maps and brochures and rest stops along the way, created by the recent thousands who have traveled before me. It may not have the same perks as traditional publishing, but I’m practicing my trade. I’m a working writer. I’m practically guaranteed to end up with at least a free cup of coffee and a couple of new readers for my efforts.

And that sounds like a damn good way to begin an epic journey to me.



Tomorrow I ask, “Can You Really Afford to Take a Vow of Poverty?”


"The New Gold Rush" by Angela McConnell ~ Please share and link back! ~ This artwork is available under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license and was filmed before a live studio audience ~

~ I Was Raised Traditional Orthodox ~

As a teenager I fed voraciously on my monthly issue of Writer’s Digest, and I read to pieces my copy of Richard Curtis’s, “Beyond the Bestseller: A Literary Agent Takes You Inside the Book Business.”¹ Nerdy reading for a high school kid, I know, but I loved it, and I wanted to learn everything I could about the publishing business.

So from a pretty early age, I knew about the consignment system, discounting, payment upon acceptance, the notoriously long and complicated journey author’s royalty checks must travel, payment escalators, the advantages of having an agent, and the like.

As you can probably imagine, I felt pretty entrenched and invested in the traditional publishing model. Hell, I didn’t even think of it as a model. It just was the only route to becoming a Successful Writer (ie., finding an audience and earning an income). I certainly didn’t want to deal with the stigma of self-publishing, driving around with a trunk full of books and pressing a business card into the hands of every person I came across.

After high school, I spent the next *mmph* years working on my craft and reading about query letters, novel proposals, and sales pitches. I also read a lot about author etiquette, how to appropriately approach agents and editors at conferences, how to respond to rejections, and how long one should wait before following up on a manuscript request. Folks in publishing were rock stars in their shining towers on Fifth Avenue, and agents stood at the door behind the velvet rope checking your name against some Cosmic List of Good Luck Shines Down Upon Them.

It never bothered me that this was the case. That was just how it was, and there was no point worrying about it. I just knew I needed to write a damn good story and play by the rules of the game. Hopefully, I’d sell a short story to a market notable enough that would get my foot in the door with a great agent, who would introduce my work to an enthusiastic editor of a publishing house willing to invest in me. What else could one do but keep writing and keep hoping? Sally forth! and Tally ho! and all that rot.


But then Amanda Hocking happened. A regular Josephine who writes great books managed to bypass the velvet ropes and long queues in Manhattan and climbed to the top of the heap by herself, without the benefit of a publisher, using only Twitter, duct tape, and two “AA” batteries. Rags to riches. It’s a great story. The best part is it’s true. (Except the bit about the duct tape and two “AA” batteries.)

But Hocking wasn’t the only one scaling the heights of the Kindle Top 100 Lists. Don’t believe me? Check out this spiffy table (created by Derek J. Canyon) of last December’s Kindle sales figures of 26 indie authors (compiled by Michael J. Sullivan).

Around this time, Irish writer David Gaughran was not only inspired to try out self-publishing for himself,² but he built a hugely popular platform for the indie movement in a very short amount of time, resulting in the successful launch of his popular ebook, “Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish and Why You Should.”b

In the Introduction, Gaughran writes of his own conversion to Self-Publishing:

“I have written a couple of books and several short stories. I spent 18 months sending queries to British and American agents, collecting more than 300 rejections before coming to my senses and taking back control of my life. I still remember the day: Sunday April 3, 2011. The day my life changed forever. The day I decided to become a publisher.

“I had been in bed with the flu all week and spent most of the time coming to terms with the changes in the publishing industry. Barry Eisler had just walked away from a $500,000 [advance] to go it alone, and self-publishing star Amanda Hocking had just signed a $2 million deal with a New York publishing house. To me, these two developments, while in direct opposition to each other, were proof of the bona fides of self-publishing.”

I will remember that week. It was like someone flipped on all the floodlights. Writers were blinking in the sudden illumination and hope, going, “Wait, what? Really? Really? And I can do this too?”

My own reaction was to read every single post on Hocking’s blog from Day 1. Then I followed the links to the successful self-published writers she had learned from and read those writers’ blogs. I became a regular attendee at the Church of Konrath and quickly converted to Self-Publishing. And believe me, I’m not the only one by a long shot. A quick Google search will reveal thousands and thousands of indie author blogs promoting self-published titles and sharing tips and insights from their own self-publishing experiences.

Yep. No doubt about it. We are witnessing a digital gold rush, a mass conversion of faith. It’s an exodus to the New Promised Land, a crowded, noisy, huge parade of writer-rock-star-hopefuls…and the best part? You’re invited.


But what about this New Promised Land? you want to know. What’s it like?

Well, walk with me a ways, and I’ll tell you all I know…tomorrow. 😉


¹ I don’t know how many times I’ve read “Beyond the Bestseller,” but it’s a lot…and I still love this book. It may be nonfiction, but Richard Curtis tells good stories — each chapter/essay is graced with fun anecdotes and mischievous humor — and he’s just a delight to read. He is on my list of Dream Agents. We would be great friends, Richard and I. Any agent willing to dress up like the Swami of New Deli with a kosher salami slice in his turban for a client is someone I would want representing me. 🙂

I should also note that Curtis is incredibly forward-thinking and has led the charge into the digital frontier. In 1999, Curtis started E-Reads™, “the oldest independent e-book publisher in the field and an innovative leader in the modern book industry.”

² David Gaughran has two enjoyable short story titles available on Amazon: “If You Go Into the Woods” (which also includes bonus story “The Reset Button”) and “Transfection.” His self-publishing guide, “Let’s Get Digital,” is also available as a free .pdf from Mr. Gaughran’s website. This is excellent reading for the writer considering joining the ranks of the Indie Parade.


Harlan Ellison, the inspiration for Kindle All Stars, will also be a contributing author! Huzzah!!

Here is the current roster of authors so far:

Wow! Who would have guessed that my first story accepted for publication would be appearing alongside such an impressive list of authors? I’m thrilled!

In an interview with Frank Zubek, Editor Bernard J. Schaffer was asked, “What prompted you to take on this project?”

His answer?

“It was a fit of madness. I released a book in May, a book in June, have a book in editing right now with Karen The Angry Hatchet, and was halfway through the first draft of another book when it suddenly occurred to me that I needed be doing more. Insanity.

“By the time I realized that this is a project that only a babbling lunatic would attempt, I’d already opened my big mouth and it took on a life of its own.

“That being said, I am happiest when caught in the thrall of a whirling dervish. To me, it’s fun. Even when it isn’t.”

I am reminded of the oft-quoted words of W.H. Murray from The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951):

“…the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”

I bet he didn’t see all this coming. Thank you, Bernard, for your fit of madness!



The concept of evolution is generally understood to be a process of change and growth, hopefully to something better, leaner, and sexier. These changes are often brought about through “turning points,” such as walking across a stadium wearing a square hat, spawning new people, and facing Death in its dripping maw.

But those people most eager to climb to the summit of their self-actualization know that by far, the most reliable and exciting changes are brought about through Good Old Fashioned Mutation.

Fortunately, there are many ways in which to induce mutation and spur new growth. One popular way is through a special liquid diet of caffeinated potions, and various other, erm, brews.

My Desk ~ July 17, 2011

Check it out. It’s not that I’m proud of it — well, I’m a little proud of it. I mean, dang. That’s a lot to process in one night! My liver rocks! Just kidding, just kidding! This is an accumulation of a week…hopefully two weeks, thankyouverymuch.

Hey, don’t judge me! I am nothing if not open to trying new things. And really, when it comes down to it, when you really boil it down dry to the searing bottom, I do it for you guys. You’re welcome.

I evolve for you, Dear Reader. This stringent diet, combined with LOTS and LOTS of reading, eye-stuffing, digital immersion, and sleep deprivation — all conducted without the benefit of sunlight — resulted in a metamorphosis of a kind.

I ventured into Summerdom an Aspiring Writer, stopped in at a Starbucks and stayed a few months, and have emerged into the sharp days of Autumn a Self-Publisher. That’s right. You heard me. I’m joining the Indie Parade with my first story scheduled to come out at the end of next week. I’ll be waving and smiling from the Amazon float, waving my little “I ♥ Kindle” flag.

What does this mean for you guys? Starting, well, right now, actually, I will be bombarding you with digital clay pigeons filled with my business cards and promotional giveaways. I will also be releasing a “friendly” virus that will run virtual flags across the top of your screen every five minutes reminding you the current release is available until you 1-Click-to-Buy-It to make it go away. Oh! And I’ll have a countdown widget you can download that chimes every quarter hour for each of my next titles. It’s gonna be swell!


And that brings us to the point of this particular post. I thought I would let you know what to expect in upcoming days and reassure you that all blog content is and will continue to be created with the goal to make you dream, make you dare, make you EPIC…and above all and always to entertain you. The only kind of spam we do around here is fried. Oh, yeah!

All that making nice and holding hands aside ;), I am publishing my first short story Lookaway Dogs at the end of next week, and I’m really excited about it. My favorite artist in the whole world is doing the cover. I finally got to see it last night, and it looks amazing! (As soon as it’s finished-finished, I’ll do the unveiling.)

That means, for a little while at least, there’s going to be a lot of Indie Publishing Drum Banging going on around here. And not just because I’m joining the ranks. I think now is one of the most incredible times ever to be a writer. I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve learned and the stories I’ve come across. Aspiring writers and traditional hold-outs won’t want to miss it.

I will, of course, be blogging about my own progress in empire building and sharing with you lessons as I learn them: everything from cover design commissions to toddler wrangling tips, removing hidden characters in documents by screaming curse words at them, and quick ‘n easy recipes that are healthy, too!

I will also be resuming my semi-regular features of Workspace Wednesdays and The Sunday Short Story Report very shortly, as well as interviews with other indie authors, and more dinosaur theatrics. (Don’t worry…I haven’t forgotten. 🙂 )

In short, I have a fun schedule planned for all of you. Next post, we’ll discuss my conversion to Indie-ism and pass out propaganda buttons and tiny sandwiches. And if anyone has a tank of helium laying around, if you could bring it, that’d be great, thanks! 😉



“Few projects slung my way, these days of electronic idiocy and bad writing, can perk me up and get the fireworks. This is one of the best, sweetest ideas I’ve heard in years. Nothing but the smiles of Success are due the project, the people putting it together, and the good kids who will benefit from every penny garnered. I am 100% and a bag of marmosets behind it!”

                                                                                                                 ~ HARLAN ELLISON

I am very honored to announce that my short story, “The Shroudmaker,” will be included in the Kindle All Stars: Resistance Front anthology, with all proceeds to go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Project Editor Bernard J. Schaffer, author of Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes and Women and Other Monsters writes:

In 1967, mercurial author Harlan Ellison created a book that brought speculative fiction into the forefront of modern culture.  Dangerous Visions and its sequel, Again, Dangerous Visions were a collection of short-stories written by as many breath-takingly talented authors that the not-too-shabby-himself Ellison could enlist.  The series went on to win multiple awards, launch the careers of numerous talented authors and solidify SF as a legitimate form of literature.It was a good idea then, and it’s a good idea now.

I am currently assembling a collection of short-stories from the best writers I can find who are either currently using Kindle to display their work, or are considering giving it a shot.  In my opinion, we are the punk rock of literature.  The resistance front.  The same type of hungry writers that Ellison found in ’67.

On August 17th, 2011, I wrote Mr. Ellison to inform him of this project, and he graciously permitted me to use the above quote for the project.

On top of receiving the blessings and awesome endorsement from Mr. Ellison, the project will include a story from the venerable Alan Dean Foster, as well as Keri Knutson, Laurie-Ellen Blackthorne, M.R. Mathias, Simon John Cox, Bernard J. Schaffer, Miles Cressman, Matt Posner, and Angela McConnell. (Dat’s me!)

The project is still OPEN TO SUBMISSIONS…but only until SEPTEMBER 15. So you’ve got four days left to add your name to the list above. 🙂

If you don’t have a story ready, but you’d like to support the project, you can visit the Kindle All Stars Merchandise Store where you can find T-shirts and coffee mugs sporting the cool logo done up by Tony Lee Healey.

Finally, if you are interested in receiving updates on the project, you can like us on Facebook, or visit the websites of our awesome promotional team Frank Zubek or Laurie Laliberte.

The book is slated to be released around Thanksgiving, so I will, of course, keep you posted as that grows closer. 🙂

Anyway, thanks for reading, and have a Happy Monday!!!



Screen shot 2011-09-11 at 7.18.23 AM

We used to have this neighbor named John. He was a family man, lived with his wife, two daughters, a son-in-law, and a small collection of grandkids. He was funny as hell, hilarious really. He used to knock on our door on occasion and announce that he smelled weed, did we have any weed? Um…no. Turns out wishful thinking smells just like cannabis.

John used to hang on the backyard fence and gossip with me and my husband, unloading his burdens with his usual sense of humor and candor. “So my youngest daughter has decided she’s a lesbo, but I’m hoping it’ll pass,” or, “My brother has a mistress! He says he’s in love with her. My wife would never allow that.”

He was always laughing and cracking jokes. He had a big belly like a bowl full of jelly, a shock of pure white hair, electric blue eyes, and he was always smiling.

So of course I thought he was joking.

I was in the backyard filling up the dogs’ water bowl before leaving for work. John came flying out of his house wearing only a tank top and giant boxers, his ratty too-short robe open and flapping behind him.

“Hey! Did you hear someone blew up the Pentagon?”

I took in his disheveled appearance and his shiny-bright eyes and thought maybe he finally scored some weed…or that he was making some kind of weird joke I didn’t get.

But it was no joke.

Since we didn’t have television, I jumped into the car and turned on the radio as I headed down to the train station in San Bernardino. Bill Handel was on KFI AM 640 that morning. Handel’s a funny guy, too. But the minute I heard Handel’s voice, I knew this was real. He was talking about planes and buildings and fire…and casualties.

The freeway was eerily empty for morning rush hour. Everyone on the train platform looked shocked and frightened. I didn’t know what to do really, so I got on the train and headed into work. We all clustered around a passenger with a portable TV, and I saw black smoke billowing from the top of one of the towers.

My friend Annie got on at Rancho. We rode the train together to West Covina, a little more than halfway to Downtown L.A. We called work, but we couldn’t get through to the courts where we both worked as court reporters. No one was answering the phones. We were scared.

We decided to get off the train.

My courtroom was in the middle of trial at the time, so I called my judge on his cell and left him a message letting him know what was happening and that I wasn’t coming in.

Annie and I rode the train back to Rancho where she had parked her car, and she drove me the rest of the way home. It was the only time she ever came to my house. It was odd showing her around the house we were renovating while the world fell down over and over again on the airwaves.

~    ~    ~

Today, all over the country, people are sharing their stories. Not all of the stories have to do with Ground Zero or the Pentagon or witness accounts. Most of the stories will be, “Where were you when it happened?”

Sometime today, my old neighbor John will recount to someone the story of how he ran out of the house to tell his young neighbor about the attacks and how she didn’t believe him.

Sometime today, my old boss will tell someone about how he was filling his gas tank when he decided to check his voice mail and discovered a message from his frightened court reporter.

Sometime today, my good friend Annie, who I miss very much, will tell someone about how she drove her friend Ang home from the train station and got a tour of the house.

Sometime today, my fellow Ninja writers will come over to break bread and share stories, new stories, because that’s what people do. And while we tell stories, the world will fall down over and over again on the airwaves.

~    ~    ~

Where were you when it happened?


Banning Ridge, California ~ September 5, 2011

It rained the other day. Just a little. Just enough to dampen the street and remind us Southern Californians that there is more to life than summer. I am just as surprised as everyone else.

So I checked, and it turns out the rumors are true. It’s September. Time to scuff up to the carpet and explain what happened to me, where I’ve been.

This happens every year. January through May, I’m laboring away, breaking up stones along the banks, high on the ambitions of a new year, usually on a diet… Suddenly it’s June, and I’m floating face-up in the lazy currents of summer I-spying animals in the clouds.

Calvin & Hobbes Syndrome…I sufferz it.

Even so, I’ve missed you guys! Please accept my humble apologies for falling away from the blog. It was not deliberate. Honestly, I thought about you guys every day, how I needed to remember to tell you about this or show you a picture of that. But don’t worry. I took notes. We’ve got plenty of time to go through the slide show. 😉

But we’re here…now…together…properly bathed and groomed. I assume we both have a vodka latte cup of tea in hand. So let me tell you what I’ve been up to, and I hope you’ll drop me a line in the comments and let me know how your summer went.

~    ~    ~

So last summer, I drove a million miles and discovered my superpowers and did a lot of yardwork and stuff and grew an inch on the inside. This summer, I drove a million miles, read the owner’s manuals to my superpowers, did very little yardwork (i.e., conducted a half-hearted, more-for-show turd patrol once), and grew an inch on the outside (courtesy of Starbucks’ Grande Mocha Frappuccino with an “add shot”).  🙂

I gotta be honest: this was one long-ass summer. In a way, it feels like two different summers.

On the one hand, it was the summer my daughter was 2 and half, our third summer together. She’s never going to be 2 and a half again. For this reason alone, I will always remember this summer with great nostalgia, reimagined through huge Ray Bradbury lenses, sepia around the edges…all her milestones and surprises, all the petting zoos and souvenirs and Bambi boogers, kite-flying at the beach, the hugs and kisses, duck-dodging at the lake, defending ourselves in the Great Black Widow Infestation….

Dada got to come home on leave for a month, much to the Toddler’s delight. She thinks he lives on an airplane. I miss Fat Cat, too. I keep reminding myself it won’t be long before these separations fade into the past, and we’ll remember the difficult times with much affection…mostly for having gotten past them. 🙂

But we do all right, the three of us. Dada is working hard, staying busy, looking forward to looking back at this time with affection. 🙂 Although we miss Dada fiercely, me and the Toddler get along swimmingly, laughing and arguing like an old couple…and it suits me just fine. I love spending long summer days with her, and I am mindful and grateful that I am living the life I dreamed of when I was younger.

So that’s the summer that’s on the books, the summer my baby girl will remember.

But there’s another side to this Gemini summer, one experienced only by me while everyone else slept. It was during this shadow summer, a series of endless midnights spent at my desk, that I dreamed, planned, schemed, wrote, and read, read, read!

~    ~    ~

See, back in January, I declared this to be the year. Of course, I do that every year. But this year it’s different somehow. I can’t explain it. I just know that this is the year I start my writing career, one that I will be proud of. Something big is going to happen this year.

So, anyway, I started out strong, blogging every day for a tiny audience of 7. I kept telling myself, if I build it, they will come. Having only a vague notion of what a platform was, I decided I needed to revamp my blog, make it more professional. Of course, that meant I needed a cool blog header.

On January 27th, I conducted an “epic” photo shoot and blogged about it. The next morning, I woke up to discover I had over 200 hits. At first I thought it was a mistake, but it turned out my post had been selected to be featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page. Over the course of four days, I got close to 4,000 hits thanks to WordPress’s editors.

Talk about a kick in the pants! Fire down below! Running downhill! Get the hell out of my way!

That felt good! I walked around the house like I was going places, swaggering like a rock star. Good thing I didn’t shoot for rockdom. I think even a crowd of 20 cheering me on would make my head blow up so big I’d have to be rolled off stage. (Plus, I don’t think I’m hardy enough to do all those drugs…though come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind giving it a go…the singing bit, I meant.  😉 )

ANYHOO, as my 15 minutes of digital fame waned, I settled happily into writing and blogging. I had a core group of 30 wonderful readers by then, and I was really enjoying myself, trying out new and silly things.

But I must confess, at this point, I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do to achieve my epic dream. I wasn’t even exactly sure what my epic dream looked like. I mean, some things I had a clear vision of, like my name in large font across a book cover, a big fat smile on my face with palm trees in the background, maybe a nice tan.

But the path to get there wasn’t clear to me. I had it stuck in my head that the way to a successful writing career was marked by a well-done debut novel published by — well, a big-name publisher. If I was diligent and lucky enough, maybe I would sell a couple of short stories along the way to respected markets to help my chances of attracting an agent, an editor, and ultimately a publisher for my novel.

I’m sure this is nothing new to any of you writers out there. This is actually the standard template passed out to all newbies. The secret to publishing success can be summed up with this equation: (Writing+Editing+Reading)(∞) + Lotsa Luck=NYT Bestselling List.

You’d think this would make it easy. To become a successful professional writer, all I have to do is write, submit, and wait. Everything else is out of my control, so why worry about it?

Well, I’m a woman. This whole notion of lack of control over my own career and not worrying about it runs counter to my feminine nature and only makes me want to pinch someone’s head off. Even so, that doesn’t change the actual work of a writer.

So I kept writing. I submitted a couple of short stories. Nice comments, no bites though. And I kept working on The Novel. It’s all I could think of to do, but I still had a niggling feeling something big was going to happen.

Then in March, Amanda Hocking happened. 26 years old, self-publisher, sold basically a million ebooks on her own, making her own brand of epic happen. And she wasn’t the only one, not by a long shot. There’s JA Konrath, Stephen Leather, Blake Crouch, Bob Mayer, J Carson Black, John Locke, Michael R. Hicks…the list of newsworthy authors goes on and on. And there seems to be no shortage of up and coming indie writers. Blake Northcott, David Gaughran, Bernard J. Schaffer, and Moses Siregar III, come to mind off the top of my head.

Thus, I was recruited to the indie revolution, called to arms, and joined the Resistance Front. I spent the blue hours of summer in front of the computer (and under the covers with my iPhone) reading, reading, reading…just stuffing my eyeballs full of new ideas and concepts. I signed up for Twitter and Facebook and dreamt in feeds. I skulked about forums and blogs like an alligator, my eyes just above the water, my fingers taking notes below the surface, watching, trying to learn as much as I possibly can.

And I began to prepare. I changed my business plan, my writing priorities, my entire definition of what a successful writer means. I am learning so much. Frankly, my mouth has been agape all summer, I kid you not. There are so many smart people out there. I can’t wait to introduce you. I’m sure my neighbors can attest to squeals of delight and excited applause carrying through my office window at night.

Finally, after a long summer of cultivating possibilities, it is September…and I can’t wait to show you guys what I’ve been up to. I have the same feeling I had when I wrote that epic post. This is what I wrote: 

“Perhaps it’s a silly little coincidence, but when I first saw it, I had a sense of magic, of things shifting into place.  I don’t know how to explain it better than that except that it happens from time to time, and it’s never failed me before.”

Something magical is about to happen. I feel it in my bones. I’m not afraid to say that. I’m not afraid to wish it out loud. I’m not afraid of jinxing it. I’m not afraid to look for it, and I’m not afraid to find it.

I drove up Banning Ridge the other day convinced I would find a rainbow even though they’re about as common as kangaroos around here. It’s just that the clouds looked so right, and the sun was trying so hard. I drove all the way up to the top of the ridge and…nothing.

But on my way down, just before sunset, I found what I was looking for.

Banning Ridge, California ~ September 5, 2011


I have tried long and hard to figure out how to transfer my blog subscribers from my original home on WordPress.com to my new place out in the country. After much searching and conferring, I am here to report that…well, it can’t be done.

So I am double-posting this invitation on my old blog address and at www.angelamcconnell.com in the hopes that it will go out to my much-appreciated, never-forgotten, and very-much-missed original subscribers. The 404 redirect should send you down the street to the new place.

I’ve got lots of new stuff coming up for your entertainment and amusement…interviews, reviews, and dinosaurs, oh, my! And stories…lots of stories.

In any event, I am sorry it took so long. I hope that you all have been well, and that life has been gracious to you. And I hope you will stop by and check out what I’ve done with the joint, find out what you’ve missed. If anything, stop by and say hi…and drop me a link in the comments or at angela@angelamcconnell.com, so I can catch up with you. 🙂