Previous Next

THWT Question for 05 MAY 2020

Here’s this week’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question:

What leisure time activities are you involved with?

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Nine

Number Twenty-Nine

Have Book, Will Travel

Yep, just like Paladin on TV.

Well, sort of…

For most writers, there will come a time in their career when they will need to travel. Sometimes it’s to a convention. Others it may be to do a business meeting. And there may come a time when you’ll need to actually do an appearance tour.

Yeah, yeah…you can do a lot of that electronically. Sure you can. If you’re willing to give up a huge part of the impact and effect. Then again, if you’re making $10,000 a year and figure a tour to NYC will result in a 25% increase in sales, and the trip will cost you $5,000 to make, just stay home. Again, maybe.

People love to meet “celebrities”, and like it or not, we authors are celebrities in the eyes of our readers. I used to go to Comicon, Dragoncon, and a slew of other you-name-it-cons as a number of my pen names. It was fun and you get to see and meet a lot of fun people. You also get to see and meet a good number of absolute nut cases. But the simple fact is you will see a dramatic spike in sales after such an appearance.

The same goes for less, um…esoteric conventions. An appearance at the RT convention will boost sales. Ditto for other similar gatherings. Even a single signing at a single bookstore will usually pay for itself.

And don’t forget the college lecture circuits…you can easily get $25,000 plus expenses for a two-hour lecture to a group of grad students who can’t string more than seven words together into a coherent sentence.

What this means is you need to get out there and pound the pavement and press the flesh. Oh dear God…I’m channeling Zig Ziglar!

If you’re thinking of making some appearances that are more or less local to your area, that’s something you can probably set up on your own without too great an effort. For more ambitious outings, you’ll likely need some sort of help. A good personal assistant can usually do it, but as I’ve said, good a good PA isn’t cheap.

Also, if you are traditionally published, talk to your publisher about kicking in a few dollars to help with expenses. If you’re doing an appearance at a bookstore, the publisher and store will often pick up the tab for signage and such, and they will make sure the store has a good supply of books on hand. And yes, there will come a time when the publishers and stores will pick up the entire tab for you.

Besides, if you ask, the worst thing they could say is “no”.

And never forget that writing is a lot like sex…

At first you do it because it’s fun and it feels good.

Then you do it for people you really like.

But if you’re any good at all, you end up doing it for money.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 28 APR 2020

The last Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for April is:

All authors have had at least one story “get away” from them and grow too large or have way too many characters or other writing nightmares. What was your worst runaway story? Did you fix it or just throw it away?

Keep Loving!

Deafness and COVID19

What follows is a repost of a blog I did a number of years ago (around 2014 as I recall) about the fact that I am totally deaf and how that impacts my life.

Be sure to read to the end for a COVID19 update.

>> Original Post <<

Depending on the methodology used, it’s estimated that someplace between 0.15% and 2.0% of the American population are “functionally deaf”. Of those numbers, about 65% lost their hearing after age 65. These numbers are problematic, though, because no studies clearly define “deaf” and the numbers are very small. The CDC estimates, and WHO statistics support, that less than 0.03% of children are born deaf.

This means that the vast majority of deafness is related to injury, disease, or age. It’s well known that exposure to loud sounds can damage hearing. Infections can damage the mechanics of hearing. As mentioned above, aging causes a “normal” decrease in hearing as well.

No matter how you slice it, despite the lack of hard and fast data, the fact is that people who are completely deaf—as opposed to “hard of hearing”—from a young age are very, very rare.

That makes me a member of small and exclusive club—I’m totally deaf and I have been since birth.

Ever wonder what that’s like?

I’ve never heard a bird sing. I’ve never heard my children laugh or cry. I’ve never heard Jack tell me that he loves me. I’ve never heard Mozart or the Beatles. I’ve never heard the sound of the wind in the trees or the surf on the rocks. I can’t hear my cats when they purr or meow. I have no clue what my dog’s bark sounds like. If, by some miracle, I could suddenly hear, I wouldn’t recognize these things. They are all foreign to me, outside of my experience.

I can feel vibrations, sometimes through objects like tables or the floor, and sometimes through the air. Using that technique, I can “hear” music. I feel the beat and the rhythm, and I can even make out notes if I can touch the speaker or instrument. When Jack tells me that he loves me, I can put my fingers on his lips and feel his breath. I can make out the motion and the flow of air, and that lets me understand what he says. In a similar way, I can touch his larynx and feel the vibrations, but that’s no substitute for really hearing those things.

Imagine not being able to hear your baby crying. If you can’t see your child, you don’t know they need you. You can’t tell when they are in trouble or when they just want a hug. Imagine never hearing your baby say “Mama” for the first time. Consider never hearing your child and the love of their life exchanging their wedding vows.

As an aside, when I was pregnant with JJ (our youngest), I was terrified that he would be born deaf like I was. While JJ learned to sign before he could talk and he’s the only human family member able to keep up with my signing, he has perfectly normal hearing.

Think about everyday life for a moment. Have you ever come close to being hit by a car, only to jump out of the way at the last minute because you heard the driver honk the horn? How many times has a friend called out to you at the mall and you’ve sat down together for coffee and had a wonderful, chance meeting?

Perhaps it’s because of America’s fascination with litigation, but we tend to put a value of the loss of certain functions. For example, if a worker loses a finger in an industrial accident, that’s worth a certain amount of money in either a settlement or disability payment. A thumb is “worth” more than a finger. Senses are a problem because it’s hard for the lawyers and accountants to put monetary value on them. In general, sight is worth more than hearing, hearing more than smell, smell more than taste, and taste is worth more than touch.

So the question is if I, as a deaf person, am entitled to some kind of government support.

In my opinion, speaking for myself, no.

Over the years, I have learned to deal with my so-called disability. I can support myself. I was lucky enough to have parents who struggled to get the money to get me into classes and therapy to learn how to cope. I don’t need—or want—any help from government.

As for others, who can say? It is an individual issue that must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some people will need more help than others. The trick is to figure that out and do the right things.

I’m proof that with the right support and encouragement a person with a disability can be successful and productive.

By the way, my official diagnosis is that I am “Profoundly Deaf”. In other words, I have less than 0.05% of normal hearing. The best ever hearing test I have ever had done came out with 0.003% of normal hearing. That number is far below the limits of testing accuracy and was, in my opinion, a made-up value provided by the audiologist.


There are some advantages to being deaf, though.

It makes it very easy for me to ignore distractions. When I write, for example, I don’t care if the TV is blaring away in the other room. I can’t hear when Amanda and Debbie are having one of the knock-down drag-out fights sisters are famous for. If the dog is busy raising hell to run a mountain lion off from the yard, I miss it. It doesn’t bother me at all.

It’s also easy for me to ignore irritating people. You know the ones…they find some subject—usually the most boring topic in the universe—and go on and on about it. I just stop looking at their lips.

And let’s jump back to not being able to hear your lover…

In my experience, any person who actually cares about me has learned sign language, at least enough to communicate with me. As you walk together, holding hands, you can make signs in the other person’s palm. OK, the information being exchanged is probably not always appropriate for public display, but no one else knows what you’re saying to each other. Yes, it’s fun!

And there is nothing like lying together and feeling his breath against your neck as he whispers that he loves you. The feel of his fingers on your body as he spells out words of love on your skin is far more sensual than actual words.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that there are times when words only get in the way.

I know you’re all wondering, so…

One of my favorite things is when I’m working. I’ll be sitting at the computer in my office, trying to get some scene in a book just perfect and having little luck at it when Jack sneaks into the room. OK, he doesn’t have to “sneak” since I can’t hear him come in and my back is to the door. Anyway, he’ll come up behind me and touch my neck and shoulders, signing to me. He’ll spell out how much he loves me and how much he wants me. He tells me how beautiful I am and how he can’t keep his hands off of me.

All right…I’d better stop now or I’ll never finish this!

So, am I “disabled”? That depends on your definition. Most people would say that I am, but I disagree with them. I see myself as having opportunities to do things that people with normal hearing can’t do. After all, aren’t challenges simply ways that we can learn to deal with new opportunities?

Maybe I’ve had more opportunities than some people, but I’ve had less than others. No matter. I wouldn’t change a thing. I am who I am, and my deafness has been a huge part of that evolution.

Did I mention the funny things that happen because I’m deaf? There are a lot of them…

I have what most people would call a “speech impediment”, a thing not at all uncommon to people with serious hearing loss. That’s because I don’t know what the word “elephant” sounds like, so I do my best based on the rules of language and sometimes it comes out sounding strange to other people. If you’ve ever seen and heard Marlee Matlin on TV or in a movie, you know what I’m talking about. Other than that, most people don’t even know I can’t hear…at least as long as I can see their lips.

It usually happens at either a restaurant with the servers or in a shop with the sales people, but they will figure out that I’m deaf. They will react the same way as most other people and start using what I like to call “Deaf Idiot Speak”. You’ve heard it, I know. They talk very loud, almost yelling, speak very slowly, and stop using certain parts of speech. Instead of asking if I’d like fries with my burger, it comes out more like, “YOU WANT FRIES?”

I usually just ignore it and go on, laughing inside.

Sometimes I get mad about it, though. I’m deaf, not stupid. One thing that really irritates Jack is when I get sarcastic with these people. I’ll stop talking and start signing at them. Things like, “You’re a dumb-ass.” Or worse.

Other times, I mess with them. “UHG! ME WANT FRIES!”

Luckily, most of the places I shop and many of the restaurants we go to know me. This doesn’t happen at those places. Even the local WalMart is good about it. I mean, you’d expect the sales people at Tiffany’s to adapt since I’m going to drop some serious coin on bling, but WalMart sales floor staff? But they deal with it very well when they see me in the store.

The one thing that I guess will always amaze me is the number of people who think that they can somehow catch deafness from me. It’s not infectious and you can’t suddenly go deaf by being around me. But some people seem to think they can. You can see it in their eyes…they are uncomfortable and want to get as far away from me as they can as fast as they can. You’d think that today people would know better.

There really is nothing I can’t do because of my deafness. True, there are some things, like driving, that I shouldn’t do, but there’s nothing I can’t do.

Yeah, driving…I like to drive. I also like to ride my motorcycle. I don’t see it as dangerous, but the state of California disagrees with that, and their position is the only one that counts. Their cutoff is 2.5% of normal hearing. I made a promise a few years ago to Jack that I wouldn’t drive or ride anymore, at least not on the public roads, and I’ve stuck to that promise. It hasn’t been easy, though.

I like to skydive, too. It wasn’t easy to learn since I can’t hear the instructor’s commands, but I learned. I do sometimes wonder what the rushing air sounds like as you’re in free-fall. I’ve made some pretty crazy jumps over the years, too, things that you should never try unless you’ve got a lot of jumps under your belt. Like jumping from a WWII bomber. Or an airliner. These planes aren’t made for jumping out of, and the turbulence and protrusions on the plane make it dangerous. On the other hand, I can’t hear people telling me how dumb it all is.

The roughest thing about being deaf is using the telephone. In short, I can’t. Sure, there are the TDD systems and similar devices, but it isn’t the same. At least I think it’s not the same. How would I know? I’ve never used a real telephone. The Internet has made communications easier with text chat, e-mail, and the like. With those systems, I can talk to anyone. Maybe that’s why I’m such an Internet junkie.

You’re probably wondering what it’s like being deaf. Not just the brief things I’ve listed above, but what is it really like. It’s not bad, but it’s not good, either. I have no regrets nor do I mope about it.

It’s just me.

Keep Loving!

>> End Of Original Post <<

>> COVID19 Update <<

Here we are in the first half 2020, and COVID19 is running amok. While it’s far too early to say with certainty, we may be nearing the top of the curve.

Here in San Diego County in Southern California, pretty much everywhere, face masks or other coverings are required for public safety. Even though a plain vanilla mask will do little if anything to prevent YOU from getting the virus, the mask WILL prevent you from infecting others. There are a lot of good reasons to wear a mask including: It will protect others, it is common courtesy, and it’s the law.

And please don’t start waving the flag and misquoting the Constitution to me. First of all, I can assure you that I know the Constitution far better than 95% of the morons protesting and breaking the law. Secondly, your right to the pursuit of happiness ends when it interferes with my right to life. So just shut the fuck up.


This is a difficult and stressful time for all of us. Some of us can stay home and isolate to a large degree by virtue of either the industry you work in effectively closing down for a time or, as in my case, you’re able to work from home with a good level of productivity. But we have to go out from time to time for food and other needed things. So we (the ones with any amount of common sense at all) put on our masks and head out to the grocery store to do our shopping.

Now, I want you to think about something…in other words, I want you to put yourself in my place for a moment.

Unless you are using sign language, even just generic ASL, I have no way to understand what you are saying because the mask you are wearing to protect me prevents me from being able to read your lips.

Yes, sometimes I can get at least a feel for what’s going on from your eyes and body language, but I have no way to know for certain what you are saying. Luckily, I’m never alone because, as I mentioned above, I don’t drive. Usually I’ll be with Jack or our oldest daughter Amanda, so they can translate for me.

But while we are all practicing social distancing and we all no doubt have some feelings of isolation, I (and other deaf people) end up being effectively in an isolation booth and sensory deprived.

Since this all started a month or so ago, I’ve been trying to put my finger on why it all has me a bit edgy. It wasn’t until a short conversation I had with another writer on Twitter the other night made me realize it is that sensory deprivation that is bugging me. For the first time in my life, I actually feel like I may be, possibly, disabled.

This is something I need to address in my own mind, and that will be easy for me now that I know what’s happening in my head. But I worry about the rest of the deaf and hard of hearing people out there.

Almost everyone who has hearing loss reads lips, and I would bet that 90% or more don’t even know they do it. It’s just something they learned to do that helps them understand what’s being said.

Guess what? They are in the same boat I am. They can’t understand what’s going on and they may not even know why.

I can only guess, for obvious reasons, how frustrating it is for hearing people to be asked over and over to say something again. That has to wear on your nerves. I know it would mine.

But I ask you to stop and think…maybe the person asking you to repeat yourself can’t hear you. Are they an older adult? If so, they likely have some hearing loss. Glance at their ears. Are they wearing a hearing aid? Another tell-tail is to watch their body language…do they lean towards you or turn their head as you speak?

In other words, be situationally aware.

If you think they can’t hear you well, think of what you can do to help. Speak louder. If it’s just the two of you, move back to maybe 10 feet and take off your mask so they can see your lips. Type your words on your phone and hold that up for them to read. Grab a pen and paper!

And lastly, I’d like to ask you to think about the older folks in your neighborhood and how you can help them. Many of you are already checking on those people, but remember they may be hard of hearing and, due to that, they are even more isolated than you.

Sensory deprivation is a bitch.

Hang in there, do the right things, and we’ll all get through this as long as we help each other.

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Eight

Number Twenty-Eight

Get Thee A Pen Name…Or Several

If you don’t have at least one pen name, you really need to get a few.

Pen names do a bunch of things for you…they protect your identity from the crazies out there (and there are plenty of them…I have the scars from a butcher knife on my back to prove it). They allow you to have a more interesting name than Jane Doe. And, perhaps most important, they let you work in a range of genres.

An author’s name tends to be associated—by readers, publishers, and the industry in general—to a specific genre. In short, would you buy a horror story written by Dr. Seuss? How about a children’s book by Dean Koonce? Probably not. Neither will the rest of the market. There are those who say this isn’t true these days, but frankly, they’re kidding themselves. I know a number of well-known authors who have submitted works to publishers under one name only to be told to use a different name because the publisher knows they will lose sales. It happens to me on a regular basis. Another issue is that a certain “profile” for an author (things like age, gender, marital/relationship status, and much more) will sell better in one genre than in another.

In the print world, most contracts have clauses prohibiting both parties from revealing connections between pen names and real names. This is because the publisher may have a ton of money invested in a book and anything that might reduce sales will hurt their bottom line.

The e-pubs have yet to start worrying about this. I really don’t know why other than the herd mentality at most e-pubs…if they have 10,000 writers in their stable, who cares if one isn’t selling?

The self-publication outlets don’t worry about it because they make their money other ways instead of selling books. Another factor is that, according to contacts inside of Amazon, just over 1% of the authors publishing through them ever release more than one book. Fewer than 0.25% ever release more than 5 books and less than 0.003% release more than 25.

There is, however, a downside to pen names…if you self or e-publish and/or don’t have an agent/representative/personal assistant, you have to do all of your own promotion. Every time you add a new pen name to your portfolio, you increase your workload exponentially.

I’m often asked how many pen names are good…that depends. I know some authors who have fifty or more. I know others who have less than half a dozen.

Me? I have 22 active and maybe another eight or so I consider as inactive, though I do use them maybe once every six years or so. The personas are all over the place in terms of gender, age, and so on. In short, the names and persona are designed to best fit the genre and target market.

The only name I do any of my own promo and such for is this one…

My real name.

For the other names, as the old saying goes, I have people for that.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 21 APR 2020

The latest Two Hundred Word Tuesday question is:

When reading another writer’s work, what is the one pet peeve you catch yourself grumping about most?

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Seven

Number Twenty-Seven

Have A Clear Understanding Of Success

How do you define your success as a writer?

Is it measured by how many books you release? Maybe by how many books you sell? What about by how many awards you win? Something else, perhaps?

For most authors, but by no means all, success is measured in terms of income. And note that there may not be a connection between income and books sold…if you pocket a dime per book and sell 50,000 copies you may not break-even on expenses. On the other hand, if you get $4.50 per book, you’re pushing a quarter of a million dollars in income.

I want you to take care when comparing your income to that of other authors. Not only can that practice be a road to grief, but it’s damned near impossible to get actual numbers…

Getting sales numbers from publishers is pretty easy (if they are publicly traded), but that covers copies sold and income to the publisher, not what is paid to the authors. Depending on the accounting system used by the publisher, you may see a line-item on the P&L for “Royalty Obligations” (or something similar), but more often the amounts will just be lumped under general liabilities. You also have no way to group pen names together under one real person…in other words, a particular writer may make only $500,000 a year gross per pen name, but he might have two-dozen pen names.

At the same time, writers tend to be secretive about their income. I don’t know of a single full-time, professional author who will give you a straight answer about how much they make. Most writers I know will even lie to researchers about their income just to mess with them. Playing games with amounts made by the author’s various pen names is also common. Frankly, it’s not a damn bit of your (or anyone else’s) business how much I make. (As for me personally, all of my income from writing goes into my privately held corporation. I am not required to release any financial information and I don’t do it at all. There are many things my company does, and my personal financial input is about 2% of the corporation’s total earnings. And I get paid from the corporation by way of both royalties on my writings and salary as the CEO and board chair.)

All of this conspires to make it rough on relatively new writers to figure out where they stand dollar-wise.

But it simply doesn’t matter when it comes to figuring out how you’re doing success-wise.

Here are a couple of questions I’d like you answer…

(1) Are you happy doing what you’re doing? (What you’re doing doesn’t matter…you might be spending 100 hours a week writing, or one hour a month.)

(2) Can you pay your bills doing what you’re doing? (And it also doesn’t matter if your writing income pays 100% of the bills or lets you get a Big Mac meal every quarter when the royalty check comes in.)

If you answered “yes” to both questions, then you are successful. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not…most especially do not let yourself tell you that!

If, however, you answered “no” to one or both questions, then you need to figure out how to change your answer(s).

How to do that is usually much easier than most people think, despite the fact that most people want to make it complicated. All you need do is avoid falling into the traps set by people who have allowed themselves to fail and want everyone else to fail as well. As Grandma used to say, “Misery loves company.”

And there are LOTS of them out there. Luckily they are easy to spot, and a little common sense applied to their comments and actions make them glow in the dark. Many times, the comments will focus on how wrong one group or another in the industry are doing things, and they will always be nebulous or subjective in nature. Usually both.

Ignore them and move forward so you can answer both questions in the affirmative.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 14 APR 2020

The Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for today is:

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Six

Number Twenty-Six

There Are No Limits

I’m talking about limits on what you can write.

There is no essential difference between writing a short story, a novella, a novel, a teleplay, a screenplay, or an audio book. (And yes, you can write something aimed at being an audio book only.) The limits here really come from two places…

First, they are marketed differently. If you, as an example, approach a motion picture production company with a screenplay the same way you would approach a publisher with a novel, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

Second, many writers THINK they are different and say something like, “I can’t do that!” to themselves.

To solve these problems, let’s look at each but in reverse order…

There’s not much I can do to convince you that you can write (let’s say) a screenplay. If you really believe you can’t do it, odds are you can’t. Let me just say that I think you CAN do it.

As for the marketing side, there are a couple of ways to do that…you can have multiple agents to shop your work around in different market segments. You can have one agent do it all, but I have never heard of a traditional agent that does this. Or you can get an actual representative to handle the sales.

No matter how you do it, there is a ton of money on the table here. For the last eight years or so, I’ve been writing scripts for “unscripted reality shows”. No, you didn’t read that wrong. In a nutshell, there are about 20-30 episodes per year for a typical show. I get well into five figures per episode. I can write an entire season in a couple of weeks. In other words, I can count on about $1-million a year per series. That crap is a no-brainer and easy money. As the old conman said, “There are pigeons to be plucked.”

And also remember the other less obvious markets like video games, other RPG venues, and similar things. They all need special approaches by the writer, but they are fairly easy to do and represent a pile of money waiting for a taker.

Then there’s the cosplay segment…you get a royalty every time someone puts on the costume, though there may be good reason to take a pass on the royalty and not make a dime on the cosplay deal. It’s called publicity.

I can go on and on about the upside to being diverse, but I’ll bet you’re more interested in the downside, and there is one…


Most authors are control freaks. We see our books as our children and don’t want any changes. We want total creative control. Well, folks, when you branch out into screen and teleplays in particular, you may need to give up that control, at least at first.

As an example, you might spend ten pages in a novel setting the scene, painting the picture for the reader. In a screenplay, you will say something like, “Fred enters Mary’s office.” It is the job of the director and actors to create the setting for the viewer. You, as the writer, are out of the loop in most cases, though I have worked with a fair number of directors who want me sitting next to them as much as possible while shooting…they want to make sure the scene fits my image.

Some writers can’t deal with that loss of control, and it’s a shame.

They lose a lot of money and a huge audience.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 07 APR 2020

The first Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for this month is:

When–if ever–do you hope to retire?

Keep Loving!