My First ER Visit of 2017 is in the Books


Thanks to the good people at the Oakwood Hospital ER who helped me last night after an embarrassing incident that resulted in two fractured toes and a sprained knee. Was happy for once to go to the ER and leave the same day.

I was yelling at Holly for the millionth time that day to clean up her crayons in the living room and I tried to storm out of there dramatically and, instead, kicked the step from the living room up to the kitchen so hard I blew out two toes and my knee and don’t remember a period of about five minutes after it happened.


It was awful. Holly was crying because she thought it was her fault and my screaming in mortal pain didn’t help any.

Still though, it was nice to be the ER for my clumsiness and temper rather than my bad diet or other health reasons.

2016 Income Distribution

All of the W-2s and 1099s and spread sheets have been sorted through, the whiskey has been drunk, and the tears of frustration wiped away, which means it’s time for the annual look inside the finances of a working creative in the 21st century.

I did this in 2014 and 2015 because I believe there is too little information about income out there in all of society, but especially in publishing. My income from novel writing is still too insignificant to do an entire post about it like Kameron Hurley, John Scalzi, or Jim Hines do, but I think it’s really helpful for new writers specifically to see how my income from fiction writing in my first few year as a published novelist compares to my income from my day job and my freelance editing business, both of which I’ve been doing professionally much longer than I’ve been publishing fiction professionally.  So here’s the chart:

On the surface, this chart shows one intriguing trend. Every year, even as my income has risen, the portion of of my total income made up by my day job has decreased and the portion made up by my freelance has increased. I say on the surface though, because 2016, I think, was a fluke, and I expect 2017 to be more like the previous few years. That’s not bad, it’s still great, but not enough to harbor any realistic dreams of chucking the day job.

The novel income is still depressing. I made more this year editing books for a single publisher than most authors will make for writing books with that same publisher. I routinely get editing checks as big as most first novel advances. So it’s not just me. But each year I hold out hope that time + luck + talent will =$$$.

In 2016, my writing income was made up up three things: the delivery portion of the advance for RIOT LOAD, the signing portion of the advance for TRIGGER SWITCH, and three royalty checks. Yay that I’m getting royalty checks. MURDER BOY continues to sell very steadily. I haven’t seen a statement yet that includes the bulk of the sales for RIOT LOAD so that one is still a mystery to me, though I don’t expect those sales to be quite as awesome as those for MB. That book had been building up anticipation and an audience for YEARS.

The day job remains the same. I like it, it taps a different part of my brain, and it provides insane health coverage, which is important since I have a wife, three little kids, and a body in full rebellion for the way I’ve been treating it the last 30 years or so. It also provides me the freedom to only take on editing projects I truly believe in and enjoy and to keep my prices reasonable enough to be able to work with authors at all career and income levels.

I expect 2017 to look much like this, with the freelance chunk trending back down toward where it normally falls in the 30% range, and I expect the writing income to go up a bit as I’ll be writing some short stories, but I’ll be spending most of the year writing a book not under contract that I will hope to sell in 2018 that will hopefully increase that percentage even more.

The Most Important Office in a Democracy is Citizen

DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley used under a creative common license.

“The most important office in a democracy is citizen.”

This line from Obama’s farewell address last night really stuck with me. I experienced an epiphany/horror or sorts as I watched that speech last night as it dawned on me what we’re really losing with this president and what we’re in for with Trump. I took to Facebook with a bit of a rant, but wanted to drop those words here for the archives as well.

It’s really just now hitting me that we’re going from this to.. that…He’s always just seemed like a sideshow to me, but now…oh, right, this is happening.  It’s all the wistfulness of watching the last episode of Friends, but also finding out I’m starring in a reality TV version of The Hunger Games the next day.

I’m having visions of Jackson Browne’s The Load Out and I just want Obama at the piano alone for a few more songs.

I did not expect to be as angry at the end of that speech as I was, knowing what we’re missing out on.

I have friends and family I love who voted for Trump and I’ve avoided saying anything up to this point and tried to be neutral, but screw that.

Other people I love will be worse off at the end of a Trump presidency and that’s not cool. Trump is a disgusting, shameful president but really I think it would have been worse with a more conventional Republican candidate because there wouldn’t have have been as much anger and scrutiny. The current iteration of the Republican party uses hate and ignorance and fear as its currency and it needs to die. Soon.

‪The best thing I can say tonight is to remember WE elected a president like this and we can do it again.‬


So You Want to Build an Author Website

I’m a web content junkie and I pride myself on the usefulness of this website and the great comments I’ve received from folks on how easy it is to use. Many of the best parts of this site came from ideas generated by Judy Bobalik’s annual Facebook post about it. Judy reads a ton and has handles programming for several large mystery conventions, so she knows what she’s talking about. That FB post is hard to find though the rest of the year, so with Judy’s permission I’m posting it here for the archives. Feel free to share to anyone who could use it and share your own tips in the comments.

From Judy:

I’ve started my research on authors who are wanting panels for Bouchercon 2016 (we do not start programming until June 2016). This means I have been visiting author websites. Here are my requests (other programmers, readers and bloggers feel free to add if I’ve left something out)

If you’ve hired a publicist and they haven’t told you things, find another publicist. This is not rocket science.

1. Have a website and keep it up-to-date.
2. A brief bio. It’s fine if you have the long bio about how you wrote your first book at 4 but have a brief one also.
3. A downloadable photo (I don’t care about this but I know reviewers do.)
4. A printable booklist with date of publication or series books in order.
5. A brief synopsis of the book. It’s wonderful that so-and-so thought your book was wonderful but blurbs don’t do anything for me. Give me a synopsis.
6. Contact information.
7. And I can’t believe how often I go to a Facebook page of an author and am not able to find a link to their website.
8. Tour dates with either the year or add the day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at an events lists and thought oh they’re going to be in Chicago next week and then find out it was two years ago.
9. An up-to-date events list.

Me again…I would also recommend this post from John Scalzi about why every person, writer or otherwise, should have a space on the web to call their own rather than just relying on social media or commercial blogs that own the content you create and can delete it forever with no notice.

This site is currently hosted through and I use WordPress to create and maintain it. I recommend both highly.

Me: A Year in Review 2016

I started doing these a few years ago to help work through the let down after the holiday season and unpack the year in a way that lets me look forward to the coming year and remember the lessons, good and bad, from the current year. So let’s talk about the year that was.

Professionally, it was a good one. My second novel was published and I signed a contract for the third and final book in my Dominick Prince trilogy. I also started writing that book, TRIGGER SWITCH, and I’m so happy with how it’s turned out so far. The sales for this series won’t set the world on fire, but having contracts for these books has given me the freedom to try some interesting things that will pay off in the next book I write. These books have made me a better writer in so many ways and I can’t wait to see what happens next with my career.

I traveled a bit more extensively for this book that I did for the first one, and I’m not entirely sure it was worth the cost. June is a hard to time to draw folks out to events for a new writer and I think I was better served by my online promotional efforts than by the in-person events. As much as I love indie book stores and travel, I think I’ll be cutting back substantially on that front in 2017.

Personally, my family life was amazing, but my health was concerning. For the second year in a row, I spent significant time in the hospital and was sick a good chunk of the year. I have three weeks of sick days and, again, for the second year in a row, I exhausted them all. This is not sustainable, I realize that. And the good news is since my last hospital stay I am healthier. I’ve lost a bit of weight and, until the holidays, was eating well and resting well and I hope to continue that into 2017 because my body is only going to give me so many chances before it puts me out for good.

The worst part of all of that is it put me behind on quite a few projects that created a huge amount of stress in the middle chunk of the year and until recently for all involved. In many ways this was my most successful freelance year, certainly in terms of income and cool projects I got to work on, but my relationship with deadlines was even more fluid than usual and that has got to change in 2017 as well.

The kids continued their path toward world domination, though we’re still in the experimentation phase of finding activities and such that work for them. We also fought a few new battles on the educational front and continued others we began last year. Public education is in a crisis right now and we’re lucky to have the time and resources to look out for our kids and make sure they survive in tact and ready for the real world rather than becoming economic cogs for a world that doesn’t exist anymore.

As far as reading goes, my goal is always a book a week, or 52 books in a year, and this was the first year I did that and blew way past that number, but I can’t talk about why that’s the case until next year. Needless to say, many good books were consumed as well as a heaping amount of mediocre twaddle. Next year I hope to read 52 books, all for pleasure, and get back to my year-end roundups.

Now, let’s talk about what’s in store for the year to come. I have to actually finish that third book I started this year and i hope to start a new book as well. This will be my first one written on spec in a while and I’m terrified and excited in equal doses. This will be a standalone and hopefully will take everything I’ve learned from writing the last three books and blow it up a level or two. Next year will also be the first year in forever that I will get back to short stories. I just sent off the contracts for my very first commissioned story and there’s another anthology I want to write a story for. I’m also toying with the idea of writing a longish short story to include as a coda for TRIGGER SWITCH, ala John Scalzi’s great book REDSHIRTS.

My editing business is humming along nicely on a series of excellent referrers, but I’d love to find another great publisher to work with in addition to the one I currently work with. Individual authors are fun clients, but I think I have a lot to offer in the way of experience and help for the right small press if the price is right. I’ve not been particularly impressed with the exploding trend of under-funded, under-resourced small presses putting out inferior work. But overall, I’m pleased with where the publishing industry is going and I think the last vestiges of bitterness I felt after the Exhibit A debacle have disappeared.

So thanks again to everyone who helped make me a better writer, parent, and person this year. For those who I disappointed this year, I genuinely hope to do better next year and I appreciate your patience. Viva La 2017.

My Life Rules: An Attempt to Talk About How Thankful I am Without Sounding Like I’m Bragging

During my recent social media hiatus, one of the biggest things I noticed was how my sarcasm and negativity faded from my online persona. I hadn’t realized how bitter and nasty my online presence had become until I was away from it for a while. This really hit me on Thanksgiving when, instead of chatting about everything going right in my life, I wrote a stupid comment complaining about parade coverage on TV. I dabbled on commenting on it for a bit before just deleting it and staying away from social media for the rest of the day.

So after processing all of that, today I’m ready to talk about how truly thankful I am for a life I never could have imagined for myself. Let’s start with that parade stuff. I didn’t have to work a retail job I hate or, worse, miss a retail paycheck I desperately need. I got to enjoy the day with my family knowing my finances were taken care of. I did a little bit of editing and some novel work, but I did it on the couch in comfy clothes surrounded by family and food and booze. I get paid well to do something I love, something I’m good at, and something that people appreciate me for. I have a robust editing clientele that I adore and I’m working away on novel that is under contract with the same publisher that published my first two novels.  And I get paid for this. and people read these books and tell me how much they like them.

That’s just awesome.

And let’s talk about that family I get to support with all of that dream money. When I couldn’t find the TV feed of the parade I was looking for (the NBC feed, FYI, who I think does the best job and the one I remember most from my childhood) we found a really cool 360 live feed on YouTube that I watched with the kids. They went nuts watching it on the iPad and the desktop and being able to move the camera around and get a 360 view of the parade and the city. I love their excitement and enthusiasm and how smart and energetic they are. They have made me a better person and will continue to do so well into the future I imagine. And while we were fooling around with parades and gadgets, my lovely wife was baking and cooking herself silly in the kitchen, making the house smell delightful. I do not deserve this woman and I am lucky to have her. She is my best friend, my partner in crime, my sounding board, my safety net, my drive to succeed, and the baseball bat upside the head before I ever do anything really stupid.

Later that day we got to spend time with my in-laws who love us and support us and are the main reason our house is as livable as it is. And I’m thankful for our house. It’s not our dream house, but it’s not a nightmare either. We have a great mortgage payment on it that allows me to take some career risks I wouldn’t be able to otherwise, and it’s big enough for all of us to keep us cozy but still provide just enough space to get away from each other when we need to. We have a great neighborhood full of great people in a great location.

The next day I was able to go out and spend a bit of money on silly things like video games and streaming sticks and superhero socks without wondering if we’d still be able to make our mortgage payment. We have a bit of money in savings for emergencies and enough resources between family and friends to ensure no emergency is truly devastating financially. That evening we got to spend time with my family who is always great about taking the kids and giving Becky and I time with each other. Growing up, my parents gave me free reign in the library to read whatever I wanted and encouraged me when I wrote weird little stories they never really got.

So yeah, I’m incredibly blessed. I realize I’m also lucky, but I think crowing about how lucky I am takes away from the effort and sacrifice those around me have made to help give me the great life I have. And if you’re reading this, you’re part of that great group and I’m thankful for all of you. Yes, even you.

The Toxic Swamp of Masculinity: An Oral History of my Vasectomy

Untitled Me, after two Valium and gauze applied no place a man ever expects to have gauze applied.

TMI Ahead.

Anyone who has read this blog, or my Facebook feed, or either of my two novels knows that I did not take to fatherhood easily. In fact, with the first two, I took to it VERY poorly at first. So at a certain point, Becky and I began discussing permanent ways to keep our physical love alive without adding any further…souvenirs, if you will.

Once I began researching vasectomies, I was shocked at the toxic swamp of masculine bullshit out there regarding this procedure. So much chest pounding and ponytail dragging about how men were made to procreate and changing that changes a man.

So. Much. Bullshit.

I’ve talked here quite a bit as well about my many, many problems with the modern ideas of masculinity and this stuff just re-enforced all of those feelings. One of the first times I remember being exposed to these ideas, was in an episode of HOME IMPROVEMENT where Tim is in the Urologist’s office talking about this and explaining that his stuff down there was like an amusement park and he didn’t want any of the rides messed with. Barf.

You know what’s masculine? Admitting when you’re tapped out as a father. Admitting that some of the sexual problems you’ve had in the past have nothing to do with the pipes, but are mental blocks due to pregnancy fears. For crying out loud, I managed to stay a virgin until I was 25 almost solely due to the fear of an accidental pregnancy throwing a wrench into my dreams (I realize that just drips with patriarchal stink, but that was the world I knew then). What’s masculine is wanting to use my limited resources, both mentally and financially, to give the three kids I already have the best life possible and the most time with them I can. And wanting to spend more time alone with my wife, who I adore to no end and don’t get to spend enough time with.

I love the kids I have and would not change how my life has turned out so far, but that doesn’t mean I need to keep pushing my luck and not take the proper steps to make it happen. So early this morning I bundled up, drove out to GameStop, waited in line for an hour and a half to get the new NES Classic Edition game system,  and then drove out to the doctor’s office and got the old snip and tug done.

So far everything seems to be recovering fine, and as far as I can tell, my masculinity remains intact. Updates to come if that changes, of course…

Update: Over on Facebook, someone asked me about the procedure itself and, since I hope some day in the future this post is found by someone looking for info and acts as a buffer between the wall of masculine BS, I thought I’d add my comments here as well.

So the procedure itself was really easy. I had no anxiety because I’ve been ready for it for a while. I had the no scalpel version, which I strongly recommend. Honestly, shaving me for the procedure took the most time. The nurse went crazy.

I have an incredibly low tolerance for pain and I barely noticed the procedure. I was also doped up, so go for that option as well if offered. After that, it’s been OK. Pretty achy, but our youngest has a fondness for kicking me hard down there when I’m holding her, so it’s not a unique feeling.

I slept a lot and felt pretty drained. Today I was feeling okay until I decided to run an errand to get a new cable box and feel like every cell between by legs revolted at once with pitchforks and flame throwers. So sleep a lot, stay in bed, and you should be good.

I’m With You


I voted today and, no, I’m not telling you who I voted for. But as has been the case the last several elections, I voted a mix of right of center and left of center views and realize that as a straight white guy of protestant beliefs, I’m sitting pretty, for the most part, no matter who wins. I have friends and family though, on both sides, that certainly feel differently and that’s what concerns me going forward.

Our political system is broken and the main culprit is fear. So many people are making so much money keeping Americans scared. Scared of losing a child. Scared of losing a job. Scared of the unknown. Scared of not getting what we deserve. Scared of someone else getting what we deserve. Civility is at an all-time low and so is empathy. There are too many echo chambers and not enough melting pots.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve seen time and time again people change positions when it begins to affect someone they love, so it seems like we all would be better served by increasing the pool of people we love. Not just family or friends, but neighbors and strangers. We’ve all got a lot at stake in this country and a representative democracy doesn’t work without feedback from the represented.

Voting is actually one of the least effective tools we have as Americans to make our voice heard so don’t let your voice go silent after the election. Contact your representatives, volunteer for causes you support, donate money to worthy and transparent organizations. I’m not all that great at math, but I think an active 99% is a pretty sure bet to beat even the most highly motivated 1%.

Now go do some good in the world.

View From the Hotel: Murder and Mayhem Milwaukee Edition


I made it! The drive from Canton to Milwaukee is one of the best there is and the six hours always seem to fly by. The last couple of years I’ve taken to listening to audio books instead of the radio starting with Dennis Lehane’s SHUTTER ISLAND and then Mindy Kaling books the last two years. This year was Jennifer Weiner’s new memoir, HUNGRY HEART and it’s as awesome as I hoped it would be. I like memoirs like this read by the author. I’m eager to check out some of Lawrence Block’s non-fiction he’s narrated as well as Stephen King. But right now I have editing work to do, then some writing to finish, then maybe a shower because I smell like car sweat and Panda Express.

Once again, if you’re close by tomorrow, come and see me and the rest of the Murder and Mayhem Misfits as we do our little dances at the Irish Cultural Heritage Center.