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The IWOSC OC I’m Published! Challenge 2017

As the host of the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) OC satellite, I’m excited to introduce our I’m Published! Challenge 2017! The idea is that participants will write, edit, and format a book, lay the foundation for the book’s future marketing, and publish it…all in only six months. In December of this year, all participants will have a published book!

I’ve created a Facebook group as the hub of our project: IWOSC OC I’m Published! Challenge 2017 FB Group. Anyone associated with IWOSC (friends, service providers) may join, even if they are not participating. I think there’s value in being able to follow the progress, observe the process, and perhaps be inspired to independently publish in the future.

I will provide a schedule, a task list, spreadsheets and how-to guides…everything you need to be able to publish a book on your own. Neither I nor IWOSC is acting as the publisher – you will be your own publisher. We are just providing the support and guidance. This is a great way to get your feet wet, gain some experience, and have a tangible product for your efforts as a result.

So please join our Facebook group and consider participating! There’s no cost to join except for your time and effort. We will be kicking off the challenge at our IWOSC OC monthly meeting on June 7th, but if you can’t attend the meeting, you can still participate. I will post meeting notes, all the files and schedules, and helpful links in our FB group. Everything you need will be there.

I look forward to seeing your dreams come true!



Interview With The Book Designer About My Box Set Experience and Rebecca Hamilton

Tomorrow, my interview with The Book Designer goes live. Here’s the link to the article: Andrea Ring on Becoming a Bestselling Author (and Her Experience with Promoter Rebecca Hamilton)

Since I gave the interview, a great deal of controversy has come out about these box sets, how Rebecca conducts herself, and how she conducts business.

I first learned of the controversy on The Passive Voice. I read TPV daily, and on April 28, one of the headlines was “The Bestseller Box Set Gig.” The excerpt posted talked about the illegitimacy of 20 authors banding together to try to hit a bestseller list using black-hat marketing methods such as gifting thousands of copies. And PG (the Passive Guy), who I respect, commented that “when everybody is a bestselling author, the marketing benefits from such claims decline substantially in value.”

I happen to agree with PG. I didn’t join the set to make a list, but to push myself and learn about marketing. (But that’s irrelevant to the discussion.) I had just been through the grueling process of joining a box set effort and trying to market it and cooperating with 21 other authors, and I could personally attest that all of our marketing methods were above board. I could shrug off the commonly held notion that 20+ authors hitting a list is not the same thing as hitting a list on your own with a single title (it’s not, although it’s still legitimate), but many commenters were suggesting that I was unethical, that no one had ever benefited either monetarily nor career-wise from such participation, and that the whole thing is akin to vanity publishing and buying your way to success.

I was heartsick to learn that so many people felt this way. I wanted to comment, but by the time I had seen the article (I was out of town), comments had been closed. (I don’t think I ever recall PG closing comments, BTW.)

And my interview was still out there, processing.

So I sent an email to my contact at The Book Designer, alerting her to the post and saying that if they needed to pull the interview with all the controversy, I understood.

And in the mean time, I read the entire article referenced in The Passive Voice post. On one hand, I could refute a lot of the underhanded methods cited as occurring in every box set – they weren’t used in mine. We didn’t pay for reviews. We didn’t incentivize readers to buy books. We didn’t gift thousands of copies (although we did gift some – about 3% of our total sales, and many of those were not claimed – but Amazon’s Terms of Service allows for gifting).

On the other hand, some damning evidence was provided about these things going on in other sets or in other services offered by Rebecca’s business, GenreCrave. There was evidence of bullying authors into silence if they disagreed with Rebecca or asked for a refund.

I went from heartsick to feeling physically ill. I combed through every post online I could find about the situation. I re-read my contract and compared it to what people were saying. I admit, I became obsessed.

I consider myself an ethical person. I would never, ever bully someone nor condone the same from someone else. I’ve never paid for a review – I barely have any reviews on my books! Many of my books focus on ethics and philosophical debates, for crying out loud! How did I get mixed up in this? Especially when I’d truly had a positive experience and was proud of myself for doing something so against my nature?

So I took a deep breath. My career was not at stake. Not really. No one’s ever heard of me. 🙂

But my personal integrity IS at stake.

Our box set was scheduled to be taken down on May 2nd, and I could only sigh in relief. BUT…we got a message in our box set Facebook group that Amazon was offering to promote the set if we stayed in KDP Select for another 90 days.

And The Book Designer wanted to run my interview despite the controversy.

I agonized. I toiled. My husband and friends wanted to strangle me, I’m sure. I finally decided to pull my book from the set. And I agreed to let the interview run.

The other authors and I in our box set did nothing wrong. We worked hard, and that’s it. We don’t deserve to be painted as villains, as unethical, as black hatters. And that’s why I continued with the interview. While my career might not take a hit from the association with Rebecca, the careers of a lot of the other authors in my set might. I had an opportunity to set the record straight about the Dark Humanity box set, and I took it.

This interview is not an endorsement of every service Rebecca ever gave or will give – I only have this experience to relate. And it’s not meant to ignore or negate others’ experiences.

I will also say that the discussion online about the entire controversy has been continuing even up until this very moment, and I’ve been following as I’ve had the time. And to answer the questions I’m sure I will receive at some point…

Yes, my feelings have changed since I originally gave the interview.

Yes, I’m questioning everything that was done in our box set. The marketing methods were above board. Period. But other issues have been pointed out regarding Amazon’s ToS, and I’m considering those and if they apply to our set. At this point, I’m not sure what I could do about those things if I believe we were in violation, but I will absolutely own up to it.

To be continued…


You Think the UK’s Healthcare System Is Better Than Ours?

Court To Decide Whether Severely Ill Tot in UK Can Travel to US for Pioneering Treatment

Can you imagine such a thing here? The US government  – a JUDGE – deciding the fate of your child?

Despite this family raising over a million dollars and thus being able to fund this treatment themselves, the UK doesn’t let them make this choice. Apparently a judge knows better than the parents.

This is sickening. We’re not talking about abuse. We’re not talking about neglect. We’re talking about a difficult decision that every parent has the right to make.

We need to wake up here in the US. This is what socialized medicine leads to. Whenever you choose security, whenever someone else pays for something, you give up freedom and are subject to the payer’s dictates.

I know healthcare is expensive. I know we’d all love to NOT have to pay for it. But this is the result of that kind of thinking – a judge telling you that your son is better off dead.

No thanks.

Depeche Mode…Damn Them

If you know me at all, you know that Depeche Mode has been been my favorite band since I discovered them at age nine. I’m not some super creepy groupie about the band members, but the music speaks to me. Dave Gahan is one of the most entertaining frontmen ever, and Martin Gore is a modern-day Mozart. Yes, I actually believe that.

I vaguely knew Gore was liberal – he’s been involved in some activist causes over the years, if I recall. Excellent. To each his own.

But in this article, I read this tidbit:

“Martin Gore, Depeche Mode’s chief songwriter and guitarist and keyboardist, said in the same interview: ‘We’re all really depressed by the outcome of the referendum [meaning Brexit]. I think it was a really stupid idea to leave something so important to the people.'”

How gauche. To leave the fate of a nation up to its people! What’s the alternative, Martin? Oh, right – a dictator. Isn’t that what you consider Trump? And the very thing you despise about him?

People are free to have their own opinions, and Trump and Brexit have been particularly polarizing. Fine. But when you state an opinion, it has to make sense. Your worldview, your moral outlook, must be coherent.

I won’t go so far as to say I won’t buy the upcoming DM album or I won’t be attending a concert. The music inspires me. But Martin Gore, your statement is completely idiotic. My respect for you just took a nosedive.


University of Washington – Another College to Cross Off Your List

When I was at Arizona State 20 years ago, I took an upper-level English class that spend half the semester explaining how Ebonics is a legitimate language with coherent rules and should therefore be accepted as grammatically correct. The arguments – for example, “He go,” is technically more correct than “He goes” because there’s no reason to change “go” to “goes” – didn’t move me then, and they don’t move me now.

This is just one more example of the left trying to equate standards with racism. Standards dictate a level of acceptability and correctness, an ideal. They don’t discriminate. Without them, any and all behavior is acceptable. And while language may seem like a small thing compared to other areas of life – like etiquette, or morals – the principle is important. We need standards.

It’s also interesting to note that the university writing center’s little manifesto is written in perfect, standard English. They are committing the very micro aggression they’re yammering about.

20 New Habits for the New Year

January 1 is my favorite day of the year. Endless possibilities. A clean slate. Twelve months to reach those goals. I always enthusiastically make a list of resolutions, drive my family crazy trying to implement a new routine, and then after about two weeks…bleh. Mission abandoned. Something goes awry, and I can’t get back on track.

Today is January 25. Guess what? All those promises I made to myself, the new habits and routine I fleshed out?

It’s still on, baby.

I know part of the reason for this is that my kids are older now and mostly self-sufficient. I have more time for myself now than I’ve ever had in my adult life. But the other part is that I’ve finally chosen goals/habits/whatever you want to call them that are doable and are showing immediate benefits – which reinforces my motivation to do them. And let’s face it: I’m getting older, and time seems to run faster every year. I don’t want to waste a single minute.

So here are all the habits and daily tasks I’m doing right now. I hope they can provide some inspiration for you.

  1. A kiss and a cuddle with my husband. Maybe more. 🙂 Sometimes our inclination is to just drag ourselves from bed and let the other person sleep, but this is a great way to wake up.
  2. 5 minutes of prayer or gratitude. Whether you have faith or not, the key to happiness is being grateful for what you have. Thanking God or just reminding yourself how blessed you are puts you in a positive frame of mind for the day.
  3. Coffee and news with my husband. The sun’s not up. We’re in our robes. We just sit and talk about our upcoming day and the dreams we had last night. We make plans, give each other reminders, and catch up on the news. Even if we don’t see each other the rest of the day, we get this bit of time to connect.
  4. A walk. On weekdays, I walk our youngest son to school. On Saturdays, I walk with a friend. The biggest benefit is the time with my walking buddy, but I also enjoy the air and the connection with our neighborhood, and it gets the blood flowing.
  5. Eat breakfast. Most of my life, I did not eat breakfast. Even as a kid, I didn’t get hungry until about 10 AM. But I’ve been forcing myself to eat something small at 8:30, the time I get home from my walk. Oatmeal. A banana. Eggs scrambled with veggies. I like not being hungry again until lunch time, and I seem to have more energy.
  6. Take my meds (Claritin and calcium). I have terrible allergies, and I’m getting old, hence the calcium. I always feel better when I take Claritin, but for some reason, I couldn’t make myself take it on a regular basis. But I realized that even if I just had a sinus headache, was that fair to my family? If I could have avoided that headache? And the calcium has been a pain because I need to take it with food, and I never ate breakfast, so the pills got missed. Not anymore.
  7. Use my “Life Apps.” I spent a lot of time last year searching for the perfect apps that would help me with different aspects of my life, and I finally found them. I use Productive on my iPhone for tracking my habits. Teamwork Projects is absolutely brilliant, and I use it both for my businesses and my family organization and communication. More info on that in an upcoming post.
  8. Review upcoming tasks and events of the day.
  9. Exercise. 45 minutes on the stationary bike, 15 minutes on the balance board. And I just added 20 minutes with a weighted hula hoop to see if it has any effect on my waistline. 🙂 The key to keeping up with this is that it has to be every day. If you only plan to work out three days a week, it’s easy to skip a day, thinking, “I’ll do it tomorrow. Plenty of time left to do my 3x/week.” But if you have to do it every day, you can’t miss.
  10. Keep my inbox as clean as possible. Try to respond to email the same day. Over the holidays, I got to the point where I had 3000 emails unopened, just in one account. That’s crazy. I made myself wade through the mess and address everything. Now I just have to stay on top of it. 🙂
  11. Limit my social media to 30 minutes.
  12. Smile.
  13. Write. I have word counts depending on deadlines I’m trying to hit, but as long as I do a little bit every day, I’m good.
  14. Hold kids accountable for their responsibilities. Do you know how many chore charts we’ve created and abandoned? Actually, my kids are decent at staying on top of their chores, but they’ll slide if they can. No more. I simply can’t do everything myself, and they need to learn that wearing five outfits in one day results in a LOT of work. I put their chores in Teamwork, and the app reminds them of each chore via SMS. So far, it’s working.
  15. Listen and be present. This is such an overused platitude, but it’s important. I’m always thinking about the next thing I have to do, the next place I have to be, the next instruction or reminder I have to give. And that’s no way to live, ’cause I’m missing the things going on right in front of me.
  16. Plan meals, cook dinner most nights, and eat as a family. I use Paprika to manage my recipes and plan the meals, and it’s great. I can save any recipe I find on the web, and then I just drag and drop my meals onto a calendar, and Paprika creates a shopping list.
  17. Review monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals every morning. Just a quick peek. Helps you keep the goals in mind.
  18. Express appreciation and gratitude to my loved ones. Yeah, they know I love them. I tell them that 20 times a day. But being appreciative is different.
  19. Clean out my purse and my car.
  20. Do “5 for 5” 3x/day. That’s five chores for five minutes each. The house will be spotless if you actually do this. I usually choose five different songs, and I do one chore for the length of each song.

My Christmas Gift Spreadsheet

It might be a little late to use this year, but a couple people have asked for my Christmas spreadsheet, so I thought I’d finally post it. Just click here to download: Christmas Gifts Record

I have a master template that I keep safe, and then each year, I open the file and Save As: Christmas Record (Insert Year). Insert each person’s name in the upper left green area. Change the Gift Budget and Stking Budget to fit your needs. The Amount Left to Spend at the bottom will change accordingly.

Here’s what the spreadsheet looks like.

Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 9.44.27 PM

On the right, I have a key reminding me how to color-code each gift. If I know ahead of time what I want to buy, I put it on the list and highlight the cell in yellow. If I buy something online but it hasn’t arrived yet, I color it orange. If the item is in my possession but I haven’t wrapped it yet, I color it blue. And when it’s been wrapped, I change it to purple.

When I’ve bought everything for a specific person, I change the top light green row to dark green, even if I still have wrapping to do. And when everything’s wrapped and ready to go, I change ALL the rows for that person to red.

The total will add up automatically, and you’ll also be able to see at a glance how much is left in your budget to spend.

I also use the numbers of the items to keep track of the actual gifts. Ever been cleaning out your closet in May and found a few stocking gifts? I have. But that was in the past, BCR (Before Christmas Record).

Now, as I wrap, I put the number of the item on the gift tag – just small, in the bottom corner. For stocking gifts, I write the person’s initials and the gift number on the bottom of the gift. Then when I put the presents under the tree or int he stocking, I can make sure I have everything and nothing’s hidden in the closet or my sock drawer.

Yes, I’m anal. Yes, I buy a lot of gifts. I actually shop all year round, so I can take advantage of sales and clearances racks and get the most bang for my buck. Next week, I’ll start my Christmas Record 2017. Maybe I’m crazy, but I love, love, love giving presents! Hope this helps you next year!

Why We Need the Electoral College

This conversation happens every election season. We look at the Electoral College – 538 people chosen to cast our votes for president – and wonder, “Why? Why can’t we all just cast our ballots, count ’em up, and declare a winner?”

There’s one big reason: our founders were smart enough to prevent the tyranny of the majority.

This isn’t about protecting slaveowners’ rights, this isn’t about protecting a buffoon from becoming president, this isn’t about preventing an uneducated populace from making a stupid decision. This is all about the protection of our freedom.

Let’s think about what would happen if the popular vote decided the election.

First, candidates would only bother campaigning in highly populated areas, getting the most bang for their buck. They’d be all over California and New York…but what about Iowa? Rhode Island? A few rallies in California might turn out more potential voters than all of the people who vote in Montana. Suddenly, low-population areas have no voice.

But they don’t have a voice now! you say. Untrue. 538 is an even number, and it’s possible, though unlikely, for the electoral votes to be tied between two candidates. Even one electoral vote can make a difference. And swing states change with every election. Hillary Clinton thought she had Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin tied up this time around. Wisconsin hadn’t voted Republican since 1984! Candidates ignore states, even small ones, at their peril.

Two, each state has its own election laws. I can vote by mail in California, some states allow early voting, some ban felons from voting. To get rid of the Electoral College, you are asking all the states to come to an agreement about one voting process. But the states base their laws on what the local population wants, what works best for them. You are asking states to give up that freedom, and for everyone to bow to the pressure of the majority.

Or the states keep their different election laws…and suddenly, you have endless opportunities for lawsuits. If everyone’s vote counts in one big election, why should a felon in California get to vote, but a felon elsewhere be denied? Why should someone be allowed to vote early in Florida but not in Nevada? Obviously, this wouldn’t work.

And what about voter fraud? Fake ballots, or not counting proper ballots, would have a direct effect on a popular vote. It would be very easy to game the system. But it’s very difficult to affect the outcome of the election with fraud using the Electoral College. You would have to have a coordinated effort in the right combination of states, and this is very hard to anticipate. Just look at this election. Hillary Clinton thought she had the blue wall sewn up. Even if she had the will and the means to try to commit mass fraud, those efforts likely would have been in the wrong states.

Our founders never intended for the US to be a pure democracy. A pure democracy ignores the voices of the minority. The Electoral College is an ingenious system that gives every state, and every voter, a voice. A popular national vote does not.

Why Clinton Lost, and Why the Left is Bewildered

A few weeks before the election, one of my childhood friends on Facebook posted a rant saying that if you support Trump, you are no longer her friend. She doesn’t want to know you.

I tried to engage her. I wrote that her statement was strong, and could we talk about the issues before she turned her back on people she had loved and admired all her life.

Her response was to basically spit in my face. And she wasn’t alone in her attacks.

So at the polls, Trump supporters spit back.

The left looks at Trump and wonders how the hell this happened. How anyone could support him. The irony is, I think a lot of people who voted for him don’t support him. They are simply tired of all the self-righteous people on the left spitting in their faces.

The left touts itself as the party of inclusion. Of open-mindedness. Of equality. But it has morphed into that which it despises.

Take racism. Racism is treating someone differently based on race. Once, the left wanted a color-blind society. Now, I am supposed to be ashamed of being white. I am supposed to apologize for my accident of birth and call out my white privilege.

White women are supposed to be ashamed for betraying “their people” and voting for Trump. Huh? Since when do my interests and beliefs align with all other white women in the country? Why do we even keep track of who votes for who based on race? Isn’t that racist?

Voting should have nothing to do with race. We should be voting based on economics, our values, how we view foreign policy. Race should be like hair color – a genetic legacy, separate from character and behavior. Should blonds vote in blocks?  Should the tall rule over the short? It’s a ridiculous concept.

But it’s an ingenious strategy – instead of focusing on the issues, just cry, “Racism!” whenever someone disagrees with you. That shuts them up real fast.

That’s why all the polling was wrong. Trump supporters were shut up. But that’s the great thing about the polling booth – you can vote for whoever you want, and no one is shouting you down.

I also find it incredible that so many people were able to overlook Hillary’s flaws (read: crimes) just because she was a woman. That wanted to break that glass ceiling. But that in itself is sexist – voting for a candidate just because of her gender! I don’t give a shit what gender my leaders are – I just want them to be capable, honest, upstanding. Hillary is none of those things, and if she were a man, she still wouldn’t have gotten my vote.

But I’ve been told that I hate women if I didn’t vote for her. Huh? Couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m a woman, and I love myself. I just didn’t want someone so corrupt and beholden to the elite representing me.

So the left is racist, and the left is sexist. They’ve also become bullies.

Shame on you. You reap that which you sow. I hope you can take a good look in the mirror and change the way you interact with the other side, because there are worthy values on the left. Unfortunately, they’ve become twisted.

But I’ll extend the offer to anyone on the left that I made to my former friend on Facebook: engage. Let’s talk about the issues. Let’s refrain from bullying. That’s the only way we can come together and move forward.