Monday, March 28, 2016

My Personal Woo-Woo Moment

Remember the theme from The Twilight Zone? Hang on to that. You’ll be needing it shortly.

Over on another blog I once gave my opinions on self-help books. Here’s all you need to know: you only need to read one self-help book because they all say essentially the same thing. Boiled down, it’s this: if you want to succeed—personally, financially, or at life in general—you need to take responsibility for your life, work hard, have a positive outlook and take positive actions. If you work at a non-skilled or hourly job, skip the sections about how to succeed at work because those chapters are aimed at people who work in management or sales. That’s where the money is. Companies promote, prefer, and pay more money to people who bring money into the company and therefore into their pockets. Self-help books target managers and salespeople because they’re the ones most likely to have money to spend on self-help books. Want to make more money at your job? Figure out what your boss wants most and make it your job to give that to him/her. That’s the secret to work success. You now owe me $28.95.

And speaking of secrets …

Yes, I did read The Secret. Some of its advice I found helpful, other chapters got the side-eye and a snort. Its premise that your thoughts shape reality is valid, but only up to a point. Your thoughts do shape your own personal reality. If you believe the world is an okay place, it will be. If you think life sucks, it will—for you. We form opinions in our heads and then go looking for examples to prove what we already “know.”

Example: If you think you won’t get that job you desperately need, you’re right, you probably won’t. You’ll go into the interview negative and defeated, and the interviewer will pick up on that. Don’t expect a callback. On the other hand, if you go in smiling, relaxed and confident, with a clear, direct gaze and a spring in your step and your enthusiasm obvious to everyone—well, you still may not get the job, but your odds of coming out on top are infinitely better. If you don't get that particular job, your upbeat attitude is sure to net you several other offers. Meanwhile, Mopey Moe over there, who knew at the outset he wouldn’t be hired, is not at all surprised when he isn’t. He then proceeds to bitch about it to anyone who’ll listen, a group that becomes smaller and smaller because nobody likes a whiner.

So The Secret does work, after a fashion. Just not all the time. If, say, you’re standing on the sidewalk and a car goes out of control and starts barreling toward you, I recommend you get out of the way. Otherwise you’ll end up a grease spot, positive thinking or no.

I’m about to get to the point of this story. Thanks for sticking with me.

I recently picked up yet another self-help book. I have a problem with procrastination, and this book promised to help me. Well, they all do, but this one’s working because for once I’m doing the exercises. That’s the downside to all these books: sooner or later you have to take some kind of positive action. Otherwise nothing will change. Taking timely action of any sort is where I’ve been falling short.

Following instructions, I picked a goal: “I want X amount of money by the end of the year.” Every day I write down this goal, then list ten things I can do to achieve it. Then I rank them in order of priority and that’s what I do all day. At the end of the list I write the mantra, “Failure is not an option.” To this I added a mantra from The Secret: “I am a money magnet.”

My logical side understands how this works. It’s not your thoughts shaping the Universe. It’s your brain training itself to focus on priorities, and to stay alert to life around you, because that’s where the opportunities are. For instance, one of the things on my daily list is, “Keep an eye out for loose change.” Next time you go for a walk, or even cross a parking lot, casually scan the ground for dropped pennies and nickels and such. Last week I found a quarter on the floor of the library. I also found—well, that’s my woo-woo moment.

Last Tuesday, after I’d been at this exercise for over a week or so, I had a dream. I was with my best friend from high school, walking around Philadelphia. I spotted a five-dollar bill in the street and picked it up. Shortly after that I spotted a dollar and nabbed that too. No, I didn’t split it with my friend, though had the dream continued I’m sure I’d have treated us both to a cheesesteak or something. But hey, six bucks. I am a money magnet, even in my sleep.

Two days later I went up to the library. As I was setting up the laptop, I spotted something at one of the other tables in the lobby. It turned out to be money, just lying there on the seat of a chair with nobody around. A five and a one. Just like in my dream.

(Insert theme from Twilight Zone here.)

Like I said, there was no one around. Nothing else had been left on the seats or the table to indicate someone was coming back. The table was unoccupied when I came in. There was no way to tell who’d been sitting there. I was at the library for two hours, and in that time nobody came by looking for missing money. I took it home and added it to my stash. I’m now six bucks closer to my goal.

Other things have happened since I started doing this exercise. The freelance job gave me a huge assignment, at higher than my usual pay. I had my taxes done and discovered the federal government owes me a refund. I didn’t have to pay the state anything. Okay, I had to pay local taxes, but I was expecting that, and it wasn’t all that much. Just the other day I learned DC Comics will be offering writing workshops in their search for new talent. I may just apply.

Have my thoughts rearranged the workings of the Universe to my advantage? Or am I simply more aware of existing possibilities? Which doesn’t explain the dream or the subsequent payout. I’m going to file that under Whoa.

Okay, then. Back to thinking happy thoughts, setting priorities and trying to write for a living. And keeping a sharp eye out for change in parking lots.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Life is Not Fair

Maybe I’m still feeling echoes from that blog I reposted about my bad luck in the workplace, but the other day I got thinking about Survivor. the reality TV show. I was an avid fan for the first couple of seasons, then lost interest as I realized it was total a-holes screwing over each other, with the biggest a-hole getting rewarded with a million bucks. Watching Survivor is like reliving a bad experience with office politics in the worst job you’ve ever had. I’ve had enough of that in real life, thank you very much.

In one of the last times I tuned in, it was because some local woman had been picked as a contestant. Nobody I knew. She didn’t even live in the area any more. But she had at one time, so she got a lot of pre-show press coverage here in Dutch Country. I turned on the show to see this local celebrity. She was one of those annoying people who’s always chirpy and upbeat, with a penchant for bursting into song at inappropriate moments. She was probably a morning person too. She and nineteen other people got dumped on a tropical island. Let the games begin.

Oh, wait, not just yet. Once they’d settled on the beach, Jeff Probst announced this season’s twist: they had too many contestants. Before the game even got started, two players would have to go. Method of determination: schoolyard choose-up.

Yeah. No contests, no challenge, no demonstration of skills. The first two people to reach the island were named the heads of their “tribes.” They each picked a person. Those people then picked two people, and so on down the line. The two left over at the end were eliminated from the game.

I wasn’t at all surprised when Annoying Local Woman didn’t make the cut. There’s a time and place for show tunes, and it isn’t on a tropical island with a bunch of hungry, sweaty strangers. Or any place other than a Broadway stage, for that matter.

So they shipped her back to Dutch Country, singing all the way, along with the other guy who wasn’t picked to play. I didn’t learn much about him in the half hour leading up to the team selections. He didn’t get much air time. Not at all surprising, considering how it turned out.

Without the benefit of film clips, we the viewers were left to wonder why he wasn’t picked. He was a young, good-looking, healthy-seeming guy. He didn’t display any bad habits during his five seconds of air time. So why was he left standing on the beach? I have no idea.

I’ll bet he didn’t either. It must have really pissed him off. No telling how many times he auditioned before he finally got the nod. He probably prepped like mad, getting himself into physical shape, learning survival skills, studying past seasons of the show, planning his strategy. He probably already had the million dollars spent in his mind. This was it, his one big shot, his fifteen minutes—or sixteen hour-long episodes—of fame.

Then he gets to the island, and only then finds out they’ve changed the rules. Five minutes later it’s over. He’s out of the game before the game even started, because none of the other kids on the playground wanted him on their team. So much for weeks of prep.

To add insult to injury, this was the first time Survivor had ever played the game this way, dumping two people right at the outset. To my knowledge, it was also the last. Never before, and as far as I know never since, have they done it this way. Just that one time. Somebody with a brain probably realized it was expensive, not to mention pointless, to ship twenty people out to Pango Pango if you really only wanted eighteen. Or maybe Annoying Local Woman sued them for breach of contract. She signed on to play the game and then the show reneged. If I was a lawyer I would have represented her, as long as she didn’t sing in court.

They did this on Amazing Race as well. Maybe it was even the same year. One time, one season only, they brought in twelve teams and then cut one right at the starting line. At least this happened by challenge. Twelve teams competed in a mini-contest. Last to finish got sent home then and there. Again, what was the point, other than to crush somebody’s hopes and dreams right off the bat on national television?

None of this helps that guy, or that race team. This was their shot at the big time. How were they to know the game would change the one time they got to play? Or that the rules would change back for every subsequent season, after their one chance was over? Timing is everything, and sometimes it sucks. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

Take it from me. I’ve had too many jobs yanked out from under me because the rules changed after I got there. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do with that happens. Stay flexible, I guess. And get out of the traditional work force. Start your own job and make your own rules, and adapt them as needed to a changing marketplace. My current job could go belly-up at any second, with no warning, and through no fault of mine. I should be concocting a Plan B, C, and D right now, just to keep my butt well and fully covered.

And not waste time watching Survivor, though I’ll stick with Amazing Race. I like Phil. He comes across as a nice guy. And nobody sings show tunes on there because they’re all out of breath. That right there’s enough to recommend it.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Return Engagement

This is my fourth attempt to write a blog today. I hate to skip a week, because I don’t want to disappoint the one or two people who may be looking at this. I could skim by and post an excerpt from one of my WIPs, except I have The Reading Room page for that. I want those one or two readers to get their money’s worth. Wait, this thing is free. Yeah well.

So I’ll just type aimlessly and see what happens. Maybe something good will occur to me.

# # #

I know! I’ll talk about my medical problems. Just what people want to hear. Lucky, lucky you.

Twelve years back I had surgery to fix a stomach hernia. Looks like the sucker may be back for a repeat performance. The incident that finally sent me to the doctor was burning chest pains. Y’see, the symptoms for acid reflux and a heart attack are surprisingly similar. The last time I had acid reflux (a side effect of the hernia) I had pains on the left side of my chest and shooting pains down my left arm. The tests revealed my heart was fine; it was my gut acting up. Once I had the surgery, everything cleared up.

Since I wasn’t having any other symptoms (no sweats, nausea, pressure in the chest), I was 90% sure it was acid reflux again. However, that ten percent uncertainty made me call the doctor. He put me on antacids and within a day I was fine. I’m currently going through X-rays and blood tests to see whether the hernia’s back. At this point, all signs point to yes.

Sidebar: here’s even more fun attached to heart disease. Those classic heart attack symptoms—chest pains, shortness of breath, shooting pains down the arm—are based on a man’s reactions. Women’s symptoms are different. They may mimic muscle strain, or the flu. We may not even have symptoms. One second you’re fine, the next you get dizzy and keel over. Not something a woman my age with heart disease in the family background wants to contemplate. Thanks a heap, medical science.

So I’m going through the tests. That’s two X-rays and two rounds of blood work. The X-rays had to be scheduled at the hospital; the blood work’s walk-in, done at a local lab. Both sets require fasting for 10-12 hours beforehand. Here’s a tip for that: get the tests done early in the morning. You can burn off 7-9 of those fasting hours overnight while you’re asleep. Have yourself a nice heavy meal—I recommend pasta—around 6 or 7 at night and you’re good to go.

One thing I didn’t know: if you’re giving a blood sample, it’s okay to fill up on water. Recommended, in fact. It plumps up the vein so the tech doesn’t have to root around for it. Wish somebody’d told me that beforehand.

As for the X-rays … here’s where things get interesting. One of my lead-lined glamour shots involved a barium swallow. They need to coat your gut so they can see your innards better. You lie on a table and gulp down this heavy, crappy-tasting stuff while the nurse clicks intestinal selfies. Why does it have to taste like chalk? Why can’t they make it fruit- or candy-flavored? They can do that now for children’s prescriptions. Who decided medicine has to taste crappy just because you’re an adult?

Afterwards they recommend you go heavy on the fluids and maybe take a laxative to get the barium out of your system. I definitely should have paid more attention to that part.

I had the X-rays Thursday morning. Got home, was fine. Was fine the rest of Thursday and most of the day on Friday. It wasn’t until Friday night that the barium came back to bite me. It’s called constipation, in this case in all caps, underlined, with three exclamation points. Trying to dump that junk was like trying to pass Mount Rushmore through the eye of a needle. You get the idea.

Fortunately, I live in a neighborhood with a lot of retired people. I was able to bum some laxative off my next-door neighbors. Remember when folks used to ask to borrow a cup of sugar? I don’t recommend going door-to-door and asking, “Hey, got any ExLax?” But I did, and they did, and it worked. Things loosened up the next morning. I’m drinking more water now, and upping my intake of green leafy vegetables.

Just had the blood tests this morning. I didn’t faint this time, hooray! Last time I had blood taken I made it through collection, only to pass out after they took the needle out. Good thing I never got hooked on heroin. I’d definitely suck as a junkie.

That’s it for the tests. In two weeks I go back to the doctor and find out if there’s surgery in my future again. And how do you plan on spending your summer vacation?

# # #

Let’s inject some good news here. Supernatural has been renewed for a twelfth season. My last couple of books, and the two I’m working on now, were inspired by that series. If it ever goes off the air, I’ll have to give up writing. Maybe that’s a good thing. Stress is never good for the body, and writing is stressful. There are days when trying to poop out words is harder than trying to poop out the barium. And on that lovely metaphor, I’d better call it quits. Stay healthy, folks.

Monday, March 7, 2016

T Minus 36 and Counting

This is a retro post of sorts. It originally appeared on another blog in September 2015. I've decided to rerun it here so you'll understand why the news of Samhain Publishing shutting down so soon after I tried to land a job with them got me so twitchy. It's happened to me before. Many, many, many times before.

# # #

Last month [August 2015] I went cruising the online want ads for work. And wonder of wonders, I found something. I’m now doing freelance work from home, of a type and for a customer I’d rather not disclose for fear I’ll jinx it. The pay sucks, but when you’re not earning anything, even a little’s an upgrade. Besides, I’m hoping the experience I amass now will help me land something more lucrative down the line.

Because sooner or later, this job’s going to end, most likely abruptly and with no warning. How do I know? I don’t. I’m going by my previous experience, which hasn’t been the best. In other words, today’s blog is going to be a vent. If that’s not your thing, bail now. For the rest of you, better buckle in, Spanky. The seas are about to get choppy.

# # #

My first full-time, non-temp office job after graduation was as a file clerk for an engineering firm. I’d done temp work for them off and on for a year or so. They always needed somebody. They were always busy. They finally hired me. I now had a steady job, a guaranteed weekly paycheck, and benefits. Hooray!

This lasted a year and a half.

What happened? Well, the engineering firm that hired me specialized in designing and building nuclear power plants. As I learned decades later, no new nuclear power plants have been built in the United States since Three Mile Island had its meltdown in 1979. The company hired me in 1981. It was already a dead business walking, but I didn’t know that. I’m not sure anyone did, except maybe the folks at the top. Not that they would have told us. Rule of thumb for employees: management never wants you to quit until they’re ready to fire you. By then it’s too late for you.

They were busy when I was hired—busy wrapping up their existing projects. As those wound down, so did the workload. No new projects replaced them, and none were going to. Again, we in the trenches didn’t know that at the time. As the most recent hire in my department, I was the one they cut when the layoffs started. This was my first layoff. It would not be the last.

# # #

After enjoying the benefits of unemployment, I found another job at a typesetting firm. Computer typesetting was just coming into vogue, so I actually got training. It also meant a move. That’s how I wound up in Ephrata. A week after I signed my rental lease, the company announced it was relocating to a larger building in Lancaster, 25 minutes away. Well, gas was still cheap back then.

A week after I accepted this job, my old job called and asked me if I wanted to come back. I politely declined. Just as well; the engineering firm got bought out by some out-of-state power company, still couldn’t make a go of it, and eventually went out of business. Had I gone back, I would have been laid off again within a year.

Instead I stuck with the new job. The typesetting firm doubled their employees when business picked up, then moved to the larger building. Then business dropped off and they cut their staff in half again. I was shown the door. That’s two layoffs in roughly two years, from two different jobs in two different industries. My negative outlook on the world of gainful employment had begun.

# # #

I was on another paper-pushing temp job at a company that manufactured farming equipment when I landed a job at one of the two magazine printing firms in the Ephrata-Akron area. The very next day, the folks at my temp job offered me a long-term position. The job with the printing firm was located closer to home and paid more. I explained that I was leaving and went on to better things.

The “better things” didn’t pan out. After a promising start, I switched departments and found myself working for the only person in the company I couldn’t get along with. I did everything I could to fix the situation, to no avail. So I stuck it out long enough to stick a year’s salary in the bank and then quit. I’d already started writing articles for a small weekly paper and I had my fiction writing, so I wasn’t worried.

Should I have accepted that other offer from the other company? Turns out, no. One of my assignments for the paper was to interview their CEO. During those three years I was at the printing firm, the bottom dropped out of the global farm machinery market. The huge workload they’d been expecting never materialized. The company was bought out at least once in that period, and had a round of layoffs. As a recent hire and a low-level support staffer, I would have been among the first to go.

# # #

The newspaper job turned out to be the second-best job I’ve ever had … while it lasted. I started out as a stringer, then became a part-time editor, then finally a full-time editor. Once again I had a weekly salary, steady work, and benefits. Not to mention the flexible hours and option to work mostly at home. My idea of heaven.

You already know where this is going, right?

When I was hired, we had a gung-ho publisher and a go-getter editor. A month later, the publisher got promoted and the editor quit. The new publisher was a bottom-line bean counter and the new editor was an idiot. Between the two of them, over the next two years they proceeded to run the paper into the ground.

This was around the mid-90s. You may recall what happened to print journalism in the mid-90s. The price of paper abruptly quadrupled. Newspapers across the country, the ones that couldn’t support themselves, either cut back or folded. Mine was among the folders, thanks to the incompetence of our fearless leaders. I don’t know what happened to the publisher, but the editor got fired. Too late to save my job, unfortunately.

Last year I was reading an article about the future of print news. It included a chart showing newspaper revenues since the 1930s. The red line climbs steadily until around 1994, when it takes a sudden sharp dip. Then it starts climbing again. That dip occurred during my premier stint at a newspaper. I have got to work on my timing.

# # #

After a few more abortive jobs and more temp work I returned to editorial—same company that had laid me off, except at a different paper. One of the guys in the paste-up department had done work for TSR, the Dungeons and Dragons company. He was still in contact with a bunch of those people, including their editors. This was my chance. TSR published a line of novels based on their games and characters. Somebody had to write those books. Why not me?

I got names from the paste-up guy and sent a query letter, including one of my published fantasy stories. They actually replied, saying they had no openings at the moment but they had projects coming up and might need some writers in the spring. No prob. I could wait.

Two things happened before spring rolled around. One, I quit the newspaper job over a pay dispute. Two, TSR went bankrupt. The company that led the gaming industry for 20 years, that made D&D a household word, hit a financial speed bump right about the time I contacted them. They got bought out by a rival gaming company. All the contacts my contact knew were fired. I found a back door into the company and they not only bricked it up, they blew up the building. Did I offend some god somewhere or something?

# # #

Leaving the paper turned out to be a blessing. I landed a home typing job at the other printing firm in my neighborhood. At the time I lived about two blocks away. I could walk up the street, pick up my work, type at home in my underwear with the stereo blasting, and pretty much set my own hours without having to worry about idiot co-workers and micromanaging bosses. The typing job paid more than I’d been earning as an editor. That’s pretty pathetic when you think about it.

During our training period one of the managers took us on a tour. Up to this point, no job I’d ever had, regardless of position, company or industry, had lasted more than 3-4 years. Three was my average. For every job I’d quit, two had laid me off.

This was my experience when the manager warned us that the nature of the job we’d just been hired for was changing. More articles were coming in on disk, typed by the authors themselves. “This job’s going to change over the next five to ten years,” he announced.

And I thought: “It doesn’t matter. One way or another, I won’t be here that long.”

I was right. A year to the day after I was hired, the other printing firm, the one I used to work for, bought us out. They used a different software program. Overnight our training and experience became worthless. Our work was given to their typists. Management assured us we’d be retrained, once the consolidation process was done. Management didn’t tell us they were building a new facility overseas. They saved that little tidbit until right before Thanksgiving, after letting us dangle all summer, wondering what would happen to our jobs.

Here’s what happened: they were being sent to India. The entire home typing department was being shut down. Two weeks after the meeting, I got my layoff notice in the mail. I didn’t even last the five years promised by the guy during the tour. On what would have been my three-year anniversary, I was once again looking for work.

# # #

My last full-time office job echoed my first. I was back at the printing firm, this time as an editorial assistant/copy editor. They were busy as hell when I started. “This department’s going places,” the manager told me.

Guess where.

A month after I started, work suddenly slammed to a halt. Nothing was coming in. Management blamed a glitch in the computer system. It picked up again after a couple weeks, but I started to notice things. The annual raises were postponed from April to July. People who left weren’t replaced. Changes were made to streamline the production system, which eliminated at least one job. And the workload had started to drop.

I was not at all surprised when management called a company-wide meeting for all employees. “You’re a great bunch of workers,” they kicked off the speech. “We’re proud to have you working for us. However, with costs and the global economy, blah blah blah … ”

Upshot: Our biggest client had decided to have all editorial work done in India. Instead of scouring for new customers, those in charge had tried to squeeze more work out of customers who already had one foot out the door. I have no proof, but I suspect that abrupt slowdown around the time I started was them doing a test run of the system that would funnel our work to India. The subsequent months were used to work out the bugs. Layoffs were announced, to begin the following month.

I didn’t even get that long. One of the regulars had gone out for maternity leave two months before. She was supposed to be gone until September. She returned unexpectedly in August. I showed up for work one morning and there she was at her desk. By lunchtime I was once more out of a job.

# # #

This pattern even applies to jobs I don’t take. Some time back I saw a want ad for a sales clerk at an adult bookstore on Rt. 272 outside of Shillington. I thought about applying, just so I could see the looks on the faces of people when I told them what I did for a living.

In the end I didn’t. Just as well. About a year after the ad appeared, PennDOT decided to widen that stretch of 272 from a two-lane to a four-lane. Almost every business along the road was bought out through eminent domain and razed, including the adult bookstore. Had I gotten the job, it would have ended within two years, tops. Last I heard, the owners were still trying to find somebody to rent a building to them, without success.

# # #

I’m posting this now to mark the date. Now that I’ve started working for this outfit, they’re doomed. Sometime within the next three years they’re going to go out of business. I have no idea what their financial situation is at the moment. Doesn’t matter. I work for them now. The clock is ticking.

On my end, I intend to keep looking for freelance work and build myself a client list, so if one goes down I’ll have backup. I’ll also be writing. It’d be nice if I sold a book that did well so I wouldn’t have to rely on employers. Provided the publisher doesn’t go out of business. Oy vey.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Watch That Basket

Somebody—either Mark Twain or Andrew Carnegie, the jury’s still out—once gave this questionable financial advice: “Put all your eggs in one basket—and watch that basket.” I doubt if Enron’s employees and investors would appreciate those words of wisdom. Especially if not only the basket, but the whole henhouse happens to tip over. What are you supposed to do then?

What brings on my latest bout of pessimism is the news that Samhain Publishing, one of the first and biggest e-publishers of romance, announced over the weekend it’s throwing in the towel. Reasons are varied, but the bottom line appears to be that old standby, low sales.

When Samhain started, there wasn’t much competition out there. Epublishing was a whole new animal. Ellora’s Cave came up from nothing and cornered the erotica market. Samhain and a whole slew of romance e-publishers soon followed. For the longest time Ellora’s Cave and Samhain were considered the Holy Grail by us striving writers. Get a book accepted by one or the other and you knew you’d finally arrived.

What we didn’t know back then—how could we?—was that the road we were on was destined for a dead end. Without going into the sordid details (readily available through a simple Google search), Ellora’s Cave hit a financial speed bump that included massive layoffs and a growing number of writers claiming they haven’t been paid. They’re still in business, more or less, but appear to be circling the drain. Now Samhain says they’re closing shop. And these two were at the top of the mountain. What does that say for the scads of smaller e-pubbing outfits out there? And what does it mean for us nervous writers who hope to publish with them?

I myself never published any books with either EC or Samhain, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. In fact, my career in romance started when I wrote a story for an open call at Samhain. They rejected it, I sent it elsewhere, it got accepted, and suddenly I was a romance writer. The following year I wrote an M/M story for another Samhain anthology, and again I was rejected. I sent it to the other publisher, they took it, and suddenly I was an M/M writer. So Samhain’s responsible for my success, even though it wasn’t with Samhain. I might have sent them other things, but I sent them to my regular publisher first—loyalty, y’know—and they got accepted there. Samhain started a horror line about a year or so ago, but I never got around to writing for that. Too late now.

A few months back, around October-November, I applied to Samhain for work as a freelance line editor/proofreader. I took the test and waited. And waited. After six weeks and a nudge letter, I was told thanks but no thanks. Fair enough. Then within a month Samhain announced they were firing the editor of their horror line and closing to new submissions of all types while they “regrouped.” When I read the bit about how they planned to cut personnel through attrition I realized why I hadn’t gotten hired. My timing has always been lousy.

And now this. My timing’s not only lousy, it’s fatal. (I killed both TSR/Dungeons and Dragons and a local adult bookstore. Ask me for details sometime.)

What brought about Samhain’s demise? A lot of people seem to want to blame Amazon, the way retailers want to blame WalMart, but I’m with the group that blames the rise of self-publishing. There’s a glut on the ebook market right now, primarily in romance and all its subgenres. Anybody with a computer, ten fingers to type and format, and enough bucks to buy a cover from someone on Fiverr (or download a free stock photo and do it themselves) can now write and publish a book. It may not be good, but it’s there. E-books from publishers can run from $3 to $5 and up. Rhonda Writer from Great Egg Harbor, New Jersey can hit Send and have her magnum opus up on Smashwords or Amazon overnight and charge 99 cents for it. You’re a romance reader on a budget, looking for a cheap fix. Which book are you going to buy?

Like I said, I don’t have any books with Ellora’s Cave or Samhain. I wish the best of luck to the writers who do. They’re going to have to get their rights back now, so they can rework and try to re-sell their books, or else go into self-publishing themselves. Even more competition for dwindling bucks from a dwindling number of readers.

As for me, I’ve got my eggs in two baskets right now, with two different romance e-publishers, and I’m anxiously watching those baskets. I may have to ask my hens to start laying eggs in other genres, like science fiction (my old standby) or young adult. Maybe even horror. Or mystery. Hard-boiled eggs, anyone?

I knew I should have taken art in college. I could have had a career as an illustrator and written books on the side. I could be on Fiverr right now, making up covers for all the self-publishers. What’s in your basket, folks?