LDStorymakers Presentation

I’m at LDStorymakers this weekend. Had a wonderful time yesterday facilitating idea generation for the magic systems of eight writers who all had some really cool stuff.  Today I will be giving my presentation on banishing writer’s doubt, fear, and block using cognitive therapy.

For those who want the slides, here they are.

Banish writers fear doubt and block with cognitive therapy (PDF)


Announcing a collaboration with NY Time bestselling author Larry Correia

So I signed the contracts and put them in the mail today–I’m officially doing a collaboration with Larry Correia.

This is an extension of the novel that we sketched for the 2015 LTUE presentation we did together called “How to Build an Action Plot.”

Basically we took pirates and smugglers, put them in space, added in a nice helping of giant robots, huge aliens, space ships, nasty warlords, organized crime, and a government you don’t want to mess with, then stirred.

It’s going to rock.

You can see the materials for the presentation here. And read more about the collaboration in Larry’s post.

Please note that we started our novel sketch by asking Larry’s ten-year-old son, “Hey, what’s awesome?”

He replied without hesitation, “Giant robots, bandits, and murderers.”

And we took it from there.

I’m done being Amazon’s fool

Do you see this picture? This is Jeff Bezos laughing at John Brown. Because John Brown was a fool.

Let me explain.

When I sell my ebooks on Amazon for $2.99 to $9.99, Amazon charges me 30% of the price. I keep 70%. That’s a decent deal. I’m happy to do business with them as a partner with my ebooks.

But Amazon’s got some alter ego going when dealing with folks selling used books. When I sell used books, Amazon somehow thinks it’s a swell deal for all of us little guys if they take a huge chunk of the pie. Look at the numbers below.

Order date: 04/08/2017
Price: $3.98
Shipping: $3.99
Amazon fees: -$3.99 (100% of sale price)
Your earnings: $3.98

Order date: 04/05/2017
Price: $5.50
Shipping: $3.99
Amazon fees: -$4.21 (77% of sale price)
Your earnings: $5.28

Order date: 03/23/2017
Price: $3.50
Shipping: $3.99
Amazon fees: -$3.91 (112% of sale price)
Your earnings: $3.58

Order date: 03/15/2017
Price: $1.49
Shipping: $3.99
Amazon fees: -$3.61 (242% of sale price)
Your earnings: $1.87

You might think, hey, John, you’re making a few bucks on each. But no, what you see above is what I get from Amazon. I still have to ship the product. And if I purchased the book somewhere, I have to cover those costs as well.

For example, look at the last one. Amazon feels that not only do they need to charge me the total sale price of the book, they also need more than half of the shipping costs. That book cost over three dollars to ship plus a little for a bubble mailer because I actually care that the book is in great shape when the buyer opens the package. So I lost money. But Amazon did just fine.

And Bezos was laughing because John Brown, the fool, was paying Amazon for the pleasure of taking time to list the book, shelve the book at his house, package it, and then post it. It was as good as going to Disneyland!

The fees used to be lower.

Order date: 06/26/2014
Price: $3.59
Amazon fees: -$2.88 (a mere 80% of the sale price)
Shipping: $3.99
Your earnings: $4.70

I hated the fees they were charging then, but after postage, we could still make a buck or so on books priced at this level. Not anymore.

So adios Amazon. I’m done being your fool. And shame on me for taking so long to recognize it. I’m moving all my used book stock to because they actually have a good thing going. Look at what they charge for their services.

$0.75 – $50.00: 25.0%
$50.01 – $100.00: 22.5%
$100.01 – $250.00: 20.0%
$250.01 – $500.00: 17.5%
> $500.00: 15.0%

That means on that $1.49 book, they would have charged me a whopping 37 cents.

Hey, profit for them AND me. And a great price for the buyer. Win-win-win.

How nice.

Lord of Bones Update

So I’m up to 20,000 words on the next novel. The working title used to be Lord of Bones, but that doesn’t fit it right now. So the title has now changed to The Drovers. It may change again. This is the first book in an epic fantasy series that has the potential for many, many novels.

It about a retired, deadly mercenary named Borros who is trying to live the good life as a man of cattle, and smuggling blackmeal (a forbidden magic substance) on the side. A war with Osson, the kingdom across the sea, is imminent. And Borros has contracted with the king’s agent to deliver 250 head of cattle to the capitol city to help supply the king’s army. But then the crew he hires turns on him and tries to kill him and steal the herd. He and the camp cook defeat them, but there’s no way he can drive the cattle by himself, not where he’s going. He goes to the next village to hire a new crew, but the men refuse. And he has no choice but to hire a crew of boys. A week into the journey, far beyond any place they could get help, something begins to stalk them. And he and the boys are going to have to use all their wits and skills to survive.

A simple calculator for how much home you can afford

It’s March. Spring is here in most places. And this is when the house hunting season starts to get rolling. I used to moonlight as a realtor. I started from nothing, ran my own little gig, and did very well. Then I got a book contract, and there was no way I could do three jobs. But I learned a lot.

One of the things I learned is that home buyers very frequently have a very hard time staying within their budget.

They set a number, start looking in their price range, then peek at the homes in a higher price range, and of course those homes look better. Why wouldn’t they? They’re more expensive! And, geez, they have such nice faucets and cool counters and a shower with five heads so you can wash your body from every imaginable angle, and suddenly many of my buyers would refuse to see cheaper homes. Because they just had to have the ultrawash shower.

Or a dent in a wall that’s officially called an alcove.

Or a super deluxe gas heater fireplace that runs on banana peelings and saves gerbils.

Or whatever.

It’s called house craze. It’s a temporary thing. It passes as soon as you get in the house and start making the payments.

And then you wake up and realize you have a hot tub and you hate hot tubs! What in the world were you thinking?!

Well, you had house craze.

The unfortunate side effect of buying too much house is that the mortgage eats up so much of the take-home pay that it makes everything else exceedingly tight. Or impossible.

You don’t have room to pay off debts. Don’t have room to invest much, or at all. Don’t have room to have fun vacations. Don’t have room for anything except the fricken-ricken, blankity-blank, #$%!* house!

This condition is called being house poor.

So house craze leads to being house poor.

Which leads to second jobs and stress and often more debt. You may also end up in a roadside ditch. The situation below occurs with more than just with cable companies.

The lender will tell you that you can lend up to 36% of your take-home pay!

Your eyes go wide, and you being to think that maybe you can afford two ultrawash showers. But just slow down and think for a second–the lender is the one SELLING you the loan.


Don’t listen to the lenders.

Listen to common sense.

My advice is the same as Dave Ramsey’s:

  1. Don’t buy a house until you’re out of debt and have saved enough to pay 10% of the purchase price of the house.
  2. When you’re at that point, get a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a monthly payment that’s no more than 25% of your take-home pay.

So that’s my advice. You’re free to do with it what you wish. Just know that being house poor sucks.

And all that to introduce the calculator which will tell you exactly how much home you can afford. It takes 10 seconds to fill in.

Here it is: How much home can I afford?

Download it and be happy.