Joined ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors)

I’ve been meaning to join the Alliance for Independent Authors for a while, but I’ve just never gotten around to it.

Until now.

I’ve finally joined. :D

Alliance of Independent Authors member badge
There’s an affiliate link on the image, meaning I’ll get credit for it if you click through and join.

There are plenty of reasons why I decided it was finally time, but the big one was that I’m getting antsy about having few other authors to talk to about the publishing side of writing. It’s time for me to correct that. :)

Winding down in June

June has been the month where I am finally wrapping up the last of my dad’s estate issues. It’s been two years since he died and two years since my sister and I began this, so it’s a relief to finally be at the end of it.

This has meant that I’ve been very distracted this month. I haven’t been able to keep up my daily writing and I haven’t been able to think much about my writing.

Don’t misunderstand. I’ve had time to keep up those streaks most days, but I haven’t had the energy. So, I haven’t.

My dad was a car man, so he had built a working garage when I was a kid. But his health wasn’t good in his later years and the garage suffered. He had a lot of stuff packed into it. Far more than I or my sister had imagined. Very little of it was organized. None of it was clean. The inside was overrun with signs of rats.

Clearing it out has been a struggle. I’ve spent many hours traveling the forty-five minutes to the garage to clean for three to four hours before going home to get ready to do it again a day or two later.

My dad’s garage is on a piece of property given to him by my grandmother. He had also bought a share from my aunt. The family didn’t want us to sell the property. However, we decided we really couldn’t keep it, so we put it on the market late last year.

The emotional baggage that comes with that decision has been a lot to bear for both my sister and me.

By the end of today or tomorrow, the last details should be done. I’ll be closing on the sale of his garage and then there’s nothing left to do but get back to writing.

May 2024 accountability

My word counts dropped in May. I know why so it’s not a big deal. I wrote 5,291 words in May.

On May 20th, I lost my > 200 words a day streak. The rest of the month wasn’t better. I had too much to do, and everything just got a little overwhelming.

I’ve tried to pick the streak back up, but it hasn’t been easy. My routines have changed significantly, and things are still not settled around here, so I keep missing my goal. Overall, though, I do expect better from June. And since the halfway point of the month is a good restarting point, I’m going to try to make yesterday the last missed writing day in June. :)

Draft2Digital and the Smashwords July Summer/Winter Sale

At this point, I’m really wishing I hadn’t bothered to migrate my secondary pen name so quickly from Smashwords to Draft2Digital when the opportunity was offered to me.

Why?

The Smashwords July Summer/Winter Sale is about to start and the migration means I won’t be joining. The reason is pretty simple: I never discount my most recent book. The options I usually have in Smashwords to discount only certain books is missing from Draft2Digital, and if I choose a discount there, then it’ll apply to my entire catalog.

I’m missing out on something I usually participate in and it’s a real disappointment for me.

Smashwords to Draft2Digital

I know people complain about Smashwords and the uploading process when you’re trying to get a book out of a Word document, but I have to say that at least managing a book there is a thousand times easier than managing one at Draft2Digital.

The whole process is more awkward.

But the worst is trying to get more than one book delisted at a retailer. It’s a pain in the ass. And there’s no way to see if you’ve already delisted a book so you end up going into the same pages to double check, making the whole thing annoying and a waste of time.

I dread the day when my main pen name account at Smashwords is forced to transfer to Draft2Digital.

My little side pen name transferred already, and that’s when I found out I’d really misunderstood what was going to happen. I thought merge meant merge, but apparently it was “transfer” all along, which is a far cry from a merge. Now I have two accounts at Draft2Digital. I’ll eventually have three: both pen name accounts from Smashwords and my original Draft2Digital account that published books for both pen names.

Someday, they claim I’ll have tools to merge these on my own. I’m hopeful, but I won’t be holding my breath while I wait on it.

In the meantime, I found out that things were not all well on the home front after the transfer.

My library prices came in at $0.99 for some reason instead of $16.99 and, wow, is that a huge difference. I quickly fixed them, but only after I found out it had happened, about a week after the transfer. My fault for not going over every detail of the books once the transfer took place, but really, it never occurred to me that they’d get something as basic as pricing messed up.

All in all, I’m sad to be moving to Draft2Digital, even if the interface is slicker and the book upload process is smoother. The actual management of my catalog is going to become a lot more tedious, and I just don’t see how that’s a win for me.

I’m also not that thrilled to be using a company that is so risk-averse with sexual content. Violence always seems to get a pass, but put sex in a book and it’s suddenly “erotica” even if it’s just a romance. They claim they’re going to be good to the erotica authors who are moving over from Smashwords too, but I’ve already been hearing grumblings that it’s just not happening that way at all.

As for me, I have a romance series that gets pushed into the erotica category every time. Since I know what content it contains and the series is strictly within the “erotic romance” category, meaning it is a romance no matter how much sex is in the story, I get annoyed every time I have to try to defend myself against this switch in genres (and I was once a Vice President of a chapter of Romance Writers of America so I do know what I’m talking about here). It’s not erotica. It’s romance. The sex is essential to the story, but the romance is the primary driver of the entire story. That’s pretty much the definition of the genre.

They can tell me as many times as they want that it’s not an automated check looking for certain keywords, but that’s exactly what has to be happening. All they have to do is read the book description, genre tags, and think for two seconds. It’s a distinction a human versed in publishing and genre tags could do easily. Instead, they seem to be relying on keywords that come up from content inside the books that can only be inferred as erotica content if you take the keywords out of context and ignore the genre and description of the book.

As I said, risk-averse. They rely on blocking books from being distributed to certain retailers and then try to tell you it’s all the retailers’ fault.

That said, I decided to pull all my books from Hoopla because of this issue, and I’m probably better off for it. I get about $0.52 every time my books are checked out for novels that sell for $6.99 and net me between $4 and $5 depending on where I sell the copies. I was honestly doing Hoopla and its library clientele a favor by letting them loan out my books at that rate.

If the onus is on Hoopla for the blocking of books, then I’ll admit my mistake, but I doubt it is. They had approved and were loaning out multiple books in this and other series, while “blocking” a few random books in that and another series that I suspect could have keywords that might be misunderstood.

For example, one romance series has a book in it in which my character has out-of-control magic. So the character started wearing a collar to block the magic. That collar is absolutely not a slave collar, not a sex collar, not a collar in any way tied to taboo content. It’s a thing to stop magic. The book is blocked from Hoopla. I suspect because some automated system picked up “collar” from the book and combined it with an exchange between characters where one character in the book says to another character (in a humorous exchange): “I’m not going to be anybody’s sex slave!” Or something like that. I can’t remember the exact wording. This screams automated keyword scraping as a method of filtering books.

It’s a joke. But a bad one. In fact, joke’s on me for writing humorous stories, and choosing a collar as the way to block out-of-control magic. But screw them. They don’t get to loan out my newest book in the series, possibly costing me sales, and block the one that came before it. :D

Anyway, I just really don’t like Draft2Digital. Or Hoopla, for that matter. Even if I’m not sure which one of them is to blame. Both have annoyed me.

This needs to be the year I get my Apple account up and running so I can just ignore D2D from now on.

April 2024 accountability

It’s a fact that if writing is going well for me, I don’t blog as much. I just realized I never wrote my accountability post for April 2024.

In April, I continued to write every day. I wrote 12,013 words.

I had hoped to start writing earlier in the day each day but that hasn’t been easy to do.

Some good advice

Absolutely adore these videos.

It was two weeks ago, I think, when I first came across The Cozy Creative channel and Lidiya Foxglove’s videos. She has a lot of wisdom about being a writer for the long-term, and she shares it with a quirky and fun attitude that makes her videos really easy viewing.

I’ve watched more than a handful so I’m not basing my opinion on any one video, but I definitely recommend you give them a watch if you’re interested in writing journeys and good advice to get you through a long haul as an author. :)

Starting somewhere so I can end up elsewhere

Part 1 of The Slow Writer’s Guide to Becoming Prolific

March and April have marked the beginning of my plan to create a slow writer’s guide to becoming prolific. After a strong start back in 2012 that lasted a few years, but then suffered from a bunch of life changes that seemed to hit one after another, my plans to write and publish a lot of books didn’t pan out.

From 2012 to 2023, I published books, don’t get me wrong, 44 unique titles of which 23 were novels. But I didn’t publish the number of books I wanted to publish. And most of those titles were published in the first half of the eleven year span. You can take a quick look at my progress page to see that.

In March, I began working on a way to get myself writing regularly again. It’s worked out very well.

So, step one of the slow writer’s plan to become prolific was to set a small goal I really couldn’t miss unless I really just didn’t want to make a success out of this at all. I set a goal of writing every day, and to make it count, I added a minimum word count. I had avoided that in the past, or I’d made it so small that it never really felt like it added up to anything. This time I decided not to do that. I wanted it to amount to something.

Thus began my streak of writing >200 words every day (fiction only). As of this writing, the streak is ongoing and it’s gained me 14,093 words toward my plan to be prolific.

I don’t do much editing of what I write, except I really do, because I work on my text as I go until it’s telling the story I want to tell. I don’t worry about much else. I have a decent grasp of grammar and I’m not prone to making many spelling mistakes. So I write mostly publishable words. These words are good words and they’re adding up. This is a good thing. :)

March 2024 accountability

Accountability? Progress? Summary? I honestly just don’t know what to call these posts. So for the moment, I’m going to stick with accountability because that was what I called the last few I wrote.

In March, about mid-month—or actually, at exactly mid-month on March 15th—I decided to start writing every day again.

Usually, I avoid setting a word count goal for that, but this time, I knew I wanted to see real progress, and I wanted it to add up to something. So, I set a goal for > 200 words a day. No more of this “one word counts” or “negative words still mean I did something that day.” This was intended to be a goal that would get me some real forward progress on my stories and get me back into some semblance of a writing routine.

I’m not good with routines. Past posts on this site are littered with the proof of that, so feel free to go looking if you want. :)

Maybe because I was also posting about this goal on a Discord server of fellow writers (it’s a small server of writers from my state), I found extra motivation to keep going even when I might have normally said forget it because it was 2 am and I still hadn’t written 200 words, but I did keep going.

In March, I wrote 9,259 words, and more than doubled my February word count.

506 of those words were from March 1–14, and 8,753 of those words came during March 15–31.

My year started off weird because my daughter was home a lot longer than planned, and I really needed this push to get started writing again. :D I’m glad I did it.

I decided not to change anything for April, because it’s working, and I don’t want to blow it up just when it’s picking up steam. ;D

The only small, teensy little thing I’m hoping to do different in April is start earlier in the day. But it’s not a requirement, and it’s not a real goal. Just a hope.

Having fun and reaching goals

I came across some draft posts that should have been published to the blog a while ago. Here’s one that still has something important to say, even if it doesn’t reflect my current state of mind. At the time, I was having difficulty having fun. Revisiting the posts mentioned below might even have helped me get to where I am now. :)

Today, I sat down to try to remind myself why it’s important to keep writing fun. I went looking for some old posts, and reading them did help.

The posts reminded me that focusing on productivity when I’m writing takes the focus off my enjoyment of the process and turns it into a self-critique. Sure, there are benefits to that if it keeps me focused on criticizing my speed and output instead of on the story.

But as is often the case, once you start criticizing yourself, it can be hard to rein it in. Spillover happens. It’s better to stay focused on enjoying the entire process of writing, including the part that gets the words out.

Simplifying in October: a daily accountability update

It seems as if I’ve forgotten my daily accountability challenge, but the truth is it’s still going strong. I’m just not prioritizing posting on the blog here over writing fiction. :)

I tend to fall away from blog posting when the writing is going well. I’ll post another update soon about what’s working to keep me writing and what’s not, but as of now, I’ve written 5,718 words from October 1–4, and that is a 1,429 words a day average so I am quite pleased with that.

Day 22 of the daily accountability challenge

Accountability for 9/30/23

Yesterday was basically a no writing day, even though that wasn’t my intention at the start of the day.

However, I didn’t have a zero word day. No, sir. I had a -3 word day. I am disappointed, but it’s a fact that some days you’re just not going to feel great and things you wanted to get done aren’t going to get done because of that. That was yesterday. Moving on now.

Today, I’ll be back at the multiple stories challenge which I’ve since given its own page.

I’m starting the new month with renewed vigor!

Day 21 of the daily accountability challenge

Accountability for 9/29/23

Yesterday, I had a limited amount of writing time. It took far too long to write my words. Overall, I wrote 415 words total, on 2 stories.

As for my September on-track challenge, I haven’t made much progress on it, and as today is the last day for it. I don’t see a win in my future on this one. I would need many thousands of words to have reversed the accumulating deficit in my word count.

All I can do now is look forward and try to keep that deficit from growing larger!

I’ve continued with my multiple stories challenge and I’m pretty happy with how it’s helped me increase my word counts this month over last. :)

Blocking Google’s AI bot crawlers

Google released some news about a new token that can be used to block their Bard and Vertex AI crawlers.

Google-ExtendedA standalone product token that web publishers can use to manage whether their sites help improve Bard and Vertex AI generative APIs, including future generations of models that power those products.

Time to edit my robots.txt file again.

(See Here’s how to block OpenAI’s bot crawlers in your robots.txt file for why I’m blocking them.)

Block Google’s AI bot

Straight from the source: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/crawling-indexing/overview-google-crawlers

User-agent: Google-Extended
Disallow: /

That’s the important bit. It’s not even an example on the page, but at least the user-agent info is.

Happy times.

I don’t mind opting-in to things I consider helpful to the world at large. But this opting-out business is ridiculous. Businesses take intellectual property seriously when it’s other people trying to benefit from their property. But when they want to benefit commercially from other people’s property, they have no problem skipping the permission phase and hoping no one cares later.

Day 20 of the daily accountability challenge

Accountability for 9/28/23

There’s nothing much I really want to say about yesterday’s writing, except that I enjoyed working on multiple stories. It’s very motivating. Ideas for one story feed into ideas for the others, so it also gives my creativity a boost. Because of that, I finished the day off with 1,503 words written, across 4 stories.

I really don’t think I would have done as well if I’d forced myself to stick with one story tonight.

Day 19 of the daily accountability challenge

Accountability for 9/27/23

Well.

Yesterday was a day. The family things I’ve been dealing with are continuing to bleed into every new day. Here’s hoping it will ease up soon and give me back my creative energy!

I ended the day having written 82 words, on 1 story.

At least it wasn’t a zero word day? Even if that’s just a small win, I’ll take it. :)

Here’s how to block OpenAI’s bot crawlers in your robots.txt file

I went looking for this information this morning, and although it’s nice that everyone wants to give you the entire history of robots.txt and web crawlers and the like, sometimes (okay, most of the time) I just want the info I came for.

Now I’m going to share, without all the extraneous history lessons.

Block OpenAI’s GPTBot

Straight from the source: https://platform.openai.com/docs/gptbot

User-agent: GPTBot
Disallow: /

This goes in the robots.txt file.

I don’t need more than the basics, because I’m not interested in allowing access to certain directories and whatnot. But you can follow the link for more details if you want something else.

On a different page, there was also information on how to block ChatGPT plugins from accessing my site.

Block OpenAI’s ChatGPT plugins

Straight from the source: https://platform.openai.com/docs/plugins/bot

User-agent: ChatGPT-User
Disallow: /

To be honest, I’m not sure whether I want to block the plugins or not, but better safe than sorry. I can always undo it later simply by deleting the lines from my robots.txt file.

Why I’m blocking them

You could say this is a statement from me about copyright and you might be somewhat right. I own the content I write. But, in reality, it’s more about me making a statement about controlling where my writing and ramblings end up.

I ramble here because I want to share, but that doesn’t mean I want everyone in the world to just grab it up and put it wherever. I’ve blocked google’s image bot for years and years, and the same goes for the internet archive (when they honor it).

The fact is, my blog is my house, and I don’t like the idea of people coming onto my lawn, grabbing my signs, and running with them. Especially not so they can build a commercial product that benefits them financially and gives me nada.

Money hungry? Why, yes, I am. They’re more than welcome to pay me $$$ and license my content for training. I’d probably say yes. :D

A year later and I just realized…

At some point, during one of my several theme changes for this site over the last year or two (probably this one), I’ve lost my sidebar widget that included my personal best records (and one or two personal worsts, but they’re only there to remind myself not to let it happen again). :o :D

Since I had copied the widget into OneNote at some point in the past, I didn’t actually lose them. They just weren’t on the site anymore. Now, my stats have their own page. :)