Things I Learned From Watching Disaster and Horror Flicks

tips for survival

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Today’s post is just for fun. 😀

1. Always dress comfortably. You can’t run well in high heels and a dress.

2. Always charge your phone before you go on a trip.

3. If you hear a strange noise, it’s probably wise to get the heck out of there instead of sticking around to find out what’s coming.

4. If someone leaves you a strange message warning you about something, it’s best to get out of town and never look back.

5. That person following you in the shadows probably isn’t your friend.

6. Don’t ever answer the phone from an unknown number.

7. Don’t sign up for an app telling you when you’re going to die.

8. If there’s some creepy legend about a place, don’t go there.

10. If you’re going on a trip, take a can of gas, a week’s supply of water for everyone in the group, nonperishable and easy-to-open food like military MREs, warm clothing, a Swiss Army Knife, and something to make a fire. A flare gun might also be a good idea so the helicopters can see you easier. Even if you think you have a reliable car, you can’t be too safe.

11. Never leave on a trip without resolving conflicts. The worst things seem to happen to people who fight before leaving. Plus, you don’t want to spend half of your time in peril sobbing because of unresolved relationship issues.

12. If you come to a small town and everyone is staring at you as if you have a second head, don’t stop to eat. Bolt for the next place.

13. Never trust the government. Chances are they’re coming up with some story to cover up their role in something terrible they unleashed upon an unsuspecting population.

14. Be the first one to get out of town. Otherwise, you’re screwed because as soon as everyone discovers the big disaster, they will ALL be trying to get out of town the exact same way.

15. If a horde of people start to come for your car, drive out of there like nobody’s business.

16. If you stop to take a video or get a look at the danger coming your way, you’re probably going to die. Just run and don’t look back.

17. In a storm, a stopped car is a doomed car. Just keep driving.

18. It’s often the best friend who’ll suddenly fall in love and want to sleep with your spouse. Don’t take both on the same trip.

19. Beware children of who are too mature for their age or just stare off into the distance.

20. If you’re babysitting, lock all of the doors and windows AND close all the drapes as soon as you enter the house. Also, never answer the phone or the door.

21. Anything can kill you. Get rid of anything sharp if you end up in a situation that is remotely “strange”.

22. If some weirdo starts spouting off about something evil coming, you might want to take his words into consideration. Many have died from just laughing off a lunatic’s dire warning.

23. Maybe it really is the end of the world. Might as well get to that bunker right now.

24. If aliens do arrive, they will NOT be friendly. Don’t go to the craft with welcome signs. Also, the military is no match for their technology, so the government won’t be saving you. Just get away from the major cities as soon as those UFOs arrive.

25. Genetic manipulation never leads to anything good.

26. Sadly, even a cute cat or dog can be dangerous. Trust your gut. If your pet suddenly seems strange, get rid of it (if possible).

27. Dolls can be creepy. Take one into your home at your risk.

28. Sometimes that goth teen who is a loner has the answers you’re looking for. I don’t know why, but teens seem to be smarter than adults who have had years and years of experience when “something wicked this way comes”.

29. If it came from space, don’t approach it.

30. If you’re rich, you’re probably doomed. People who’ve had to struggle for their whole lives in order to survive are the ones most likely to survive. Befriend the people with the bitter childhood that taught them life is cruel and unfair. Your chances of survival will go way up.

31. Be a prepper if you can. These are the people who always have what you need when the world is falling apart. If you can’t be one, befriend one.

32. Boil water before drinking it if it’s from a lake or other stagnant water. Many have been up all night with diarrhea from the organisms swimming around in that water. Might as well add a water purifier tablet or straw to your gear in Tip #10.

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Those are my tips from years of careful study of watching movies that range across the spectrum of science fiction, thriller, and horror. If you have any tips you have, I’d love to hear them!

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I Will Not Be Doing Kindle Vella (or Exclusivity In General)

I don’t know how many people have heard about Amazon’s new Kindle Vella. Written Word Media did an excellent post explaining it. I read the email Amazon sent out, and I checked out their video on it. In my opinion, Written Word Media does the best breakdown of this program, so I highly recommend the article if you’re wondering about it.

The downside to Kindle Vella

The reasons I won’t be putting anything into this is because I can’t put my story into a book format AND I don’t want to be exclusive. Yes, Kindle Vella is another exclusive program from Amazon.

I love putting my stories into books. I have nothing against serialized fiction, but I don’t like publishing stuff in that format. It’s why I dropped off of Wattpad. I gave it a try and didn’t care for it. It’s why I don’t do serials. I tried a serial early on with Return of the Aliens, and I felt the reader got a better deal by paying for the entire book rather than episodes. I know this is a highly controversial subject among authors. I have no trouble with authors who like this format of publishing. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Regarding exclusivity, I understand why authors are exclusive to Amazon, but this is something that has never appealed to me. For me, it all boils down to the freedom to do whatever I want with my books. I like being able to publish my books however, wherever, and whenever I want. That has always been the appeal to me even before self-publishing became acceptable. I like writing the story exactly the way I want it, I like being in charge of the cover, and I like being in charge of the pricing. The only thing I don’t like is writing the book descriptions because I’m weak at it. But as they say, nothing is perfect. 😉

A quick note about the ability to borrow my books:

Once in a while, I’ll have get a question from a reader as to why I don’t put my books into KU so they can take advantage of the “borrow” feature.

I’m on Scribd and I’m in libraries. Scribd offers a subscription plan where you can find my books. Granted, KU authors won’t be there, so that’s the downside to it if you’re heavily invested in KU. KU requires authors to be only on Amazon. They can’t be in other places. There is no such limitation in Scribd. Also, there are online libraries. Thanks to Smashwords, all of my books have the ability to be in libraries. You might have to ask your librarian about them getting my books to your library, which I realize can be a hassle, but the opportunity is there.

I avoid exclusivity for two reasons.

1. The freedom factor.

If I were to sign up for KU (or even Kindle Vella), I’d have to agree not to have my story anywhere else. That means I’m vulnerable to the retailer. Let’s say someone out there pirates my book and uploads it to a piracy site. Amazon would require me to deal with this or they will remove my book from their store. I’ve heard of KU authors going through this, and it’s a major headache because you have to nail down where your book is on a piracy site, you have to send a DCMA (which is a takedown notice), and then you have to hope the site actually removes the book. I have no control over someone out there who decides to take my book and put it on some piracy site, and I have no control over what the person running the piracy site will do. Piracy happens all the time to authors. Quite frankly, I don’t feel like chasing after piracy sites all day. I’m busy enough as it is with writing new stories, homeschooling a kid, and juggling the wife-and-mother dynamic (because I do want to spend time with my family). The last thing I want is Amazon breathing down my neck and threatening to remove my book because I went against their Terms of Service in KU.

2. The threat of removal from Amazon has already hit me, and I’ve never been exclusive to Amazon.

I had a couple of books removed from the Australian store. (There might be other countries Amazon has hit, but at the moment, I only know of one.) These books were under a publisher at the time. I asked my publisher about it, but the publisher had no idea this happened, and the books were never made available. I now have the rights to those books back and have republished them, but I don’t know if they’re up in the Australian storefront.

Also, there have been three instances now where I’ve gotten emails from Amazon threatening to remove one of my books from their store because of a price difference between retailers. This is how the email reads: “Your book is $0.02 cheaper on Kobo in this other country (then they name the country). If you don’t adjust the price in your Kindle Direct Publishing dashboard within five business days, your book will be removed since the Terms of Service say we must be the lowest price.” The problem is that even when I do the same price on all retailers, there will be a country that offers a different price. This is probably a currency conversation thing. I set my books at the US price and let retailers deal with the currency conversion. With 100 books out there, the last thing I feel like doing is going in and manually adjusting the currencies in every single country. There’s simply not enough time in the day to micromanage this.

Long story short, when I’ve gone into the dashboard over at Amazon, it turned out that I couldn’t lower the price in that particular country because I had it as long as it would already go. These were on my $0.99 books. The only price lower than that is Free, and Amazon won’t let you click a “Free” button. To get a book free on Amazon, you have to price it free on the other retailers and hope Amazon will price match it. In the end, I had to raise the price on the wide retailers to make Amazon happy. And that really sucked for readers on other retailers who should be able to buy their book at the same price an Amazon customer does. This is extremely frustrating. I can’t control how a retailer is going to convert currencies.

The bottom line is that Amazon can–and will–remove books at any time for any reason. At least when I have my books across multiple retailers, I have a buffer. If Amazon did remove a book for some reason, someone can go somewhere else to find it.

Exclusivity prohibits my ability to reach readers on other retailers, and some readers would rather not buy books on Amazon.

Now, someone might argue that If Amazon removed a book I did have exclusively there, I could always publish it on other retailers at that time. That would be a terrible decision. It would not only hurt me (from building up my audience on those other retailers), but it would hurt the person who wants to read the book on a retailer that isn’t Amazon. My original reason for not jumping into KDP Select (and later KU) was the lose-lose scenario it presented. I knew some readers who were Nook and Apple readers. They started reading my books back in 2010 when I was getting started. They didn’t want to buy on Amazon, and they didn’t want to download the Kindle app.

In the writing community this argument comes up a lot, “This is a business, and you have to do what makes the most money in order to keep your job.” I’m not running my business with my head; I’m running it with my heart. I just can’t take the “feeling” part out of the equation like some can. A lot of authors out there oppose emotional decisions. This kind of thing gets argued about a lot in writing groups. Writers who write for passion are considered hobby writers who have no business sense in the writing community. If I had an eye roll emoji, I’d use it right here. Yes, I get it. Emotional decisions aren’t always the best for the bottom line (money), but there are friends I have made over the years because of my books. If I were to go exclusive, that would be akin to me telling them that they don’t matter to me.

A couple of these people have given me encouragement when I needed it most. I almost quit three times over the past decade, and every single time, it was my readers who gave me the encouragement I needed to stay in the game. People who read books aren’t just a source of income. I feel like a lot of authors treat their readers that way. I realize I don’t have a large audience, but I have one that has been supportive the whole way. That means a lot to me. Instead of agonizing over ads and marketing, I’ve decided to get my personal finances in order. The less dependent I am on my writing income, the more freedom I have to run my writing business (or hobby as some would call it) from an emotional standpoint. My aim isn’t to be a household name. I just want to connect with a few people in a meaningful way and write what I love. Exclusivity doesn’t help me reach those two goals. Being across multiple retailers does.

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There Can Only Be One (A Post for Writers Who Are Writing for Passion)

Over the past month, an author friend and I have been exchanging music videos on You Tube that inspire us while we’re writing our books. She knows quite a few independent musicians that I had no idea were out there, and I really enjoyed getting exposed to a variety of new music. For An Earl In Time, I found one particular group she found to be instrumental in setting the mood that I needed in order to finish the book. I’m suspect a lot of writers out there use music to get them into the world they are writing

In this case, this is the only music group that could deliver on exactly what I was looking for. Their stuff is different. It’s not stuff you’ll find on the radio. Other music groups come close, but they just can’t quite make the mark. This group writes their own music and lyrics. They create their own videos. They upload their songs across multiple platforms for sale. This is an indie music group. No one can duplicate what they are doing. They have a style and sound that is uniquely theirs. In other words, this group is irreplaceable to me.

And this brings me to this subject of this post.

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The benefit of a creative endeavor is that it’s fully dependent on the person who is creating it. You can decide what kind of product you will produce.

Anyone can tell a story that hits main plot points. Anyone can target popular tropes and trends. Anyone can follow the “formula” of storytelling. You can plug in all of the structural components and have a commercially viable story. That’s what a lot of writers who are writing for money do. They just put things into the “formula” and produce a story. These books are a dime a dozen. They’re all over the place. I’ve read some of them, and they sound the same. It’s obvious to me that their books meant nothing to them on a personal level when they wrote them. I understand that these can make good money, but that’s largely because of the subscription model.

The reason subscription services do so well is because the content is consumed and tossed out. Subscribers aren’t keeping your books. But I get it. The reason why these writers write books is for money. They aren’t interested in being on someone’s shelf for a lifetime. They don’t care if someone reads their books over and over, nor are they interested in writing something that will touch someone on a deep emotional level. This is all for the here and now. We’re in an instant gratification world. We want our reward, and we want it right now. Hence their mindset and why they write what they do.

If you are irreplaceable (meaning your stories are distinctly you), you will create books that people will want to keep. You know what I did with that group I found on You Tube? I went to iTunes and bought their songs. I burned their music on a CD. That way I get to keep those songs forever. The reason I did that is because they have impacted me on an emotional level. Books can have the same impact.

To create anything of lasting worth, a writer needs passion. The best books take readers on an adventure they’ll want to read more than once. Exceptional books have layers that will allow readers to pick out new things when they read a second or even a third time. Writing at the deeper level is art in its purest form, and art requires emotional commitment to the story one is writing.

The greatest contribution writers can bring to the story is the writer themselves. No one else can tell the story the way the writer will if that writer is fully invested in the story. Don’t be afraid to merge in aspects of your past, your personality, and your values to the stories you write. The mix of these three elements is what makes the things you produce different from what others are doing. It’s also going to ensure you’re passionate about what you’re doing. You can fake many things, but passion isn’t one of them. The stuff you’re fired up about is going to bleed off the page.

Writers who are passionate about their work might not write books that are the biggest sellers, but these are books that resonate most with the readers who enjoy them. These books will have their critics. Every creative venture ends up with critics. That’s the nature of writing. You simply can’t please everyone because, eventually, you’ll come across someone who has a completely different set of likes and dislikes than you do. This is why you can’t take criticism personally. I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s true. Take a look at the 1 and 2-star reviews on your favorite books. Music and movies get their share of criticism, too. Criticism is all over the place. And it only seems to be getting worse in an era of social media where people feel at liberty to tear others down. If you reach enough readers, you will get some hate.

But does receiving criticism mean you should give up writing what you’re passionate about? Of course not. I guarantee you that there will be people who will absolutely adore your work and will want more of it. There is a reason you attract certain people but not others. The people who enjoy your books are the ones you should focus on. Forget the haters. They don’t count. Only you can write your books with the enthusiasm necessary for you to connect with your readers. No other author will be able to do that. That’s because there can only be one you. Just like a fingerprint and DNA, you can’t be replaced. You can’t be duplicated.

Embracing that aspect of yourself can be very freeing when it comes to getting maximum enjoyment from your writing. It’ll also free you up to write the books that will have the greatest impact on those who love them. Books have the opportunity to touch someone’s life in a meaningful way. Think of it. You have the power to give something lasting to another person in a way no other author can. You have no idea who that person is or how many are out there. All you can do is write the story. The rest is up to God.

I don’t believe in coincidences. We live in an age where we have the means to write and publish our own books without the permission of a publisher. There’s a reason for this. We have an opportunity. Let’s not waste it. Give everything you are to your stories. When the day comes when you’re no longer here, who knows if your books will continue to find new readers? Granted, a lot of books will fall into oblivion, but you might write a book that will be passed down from one generation to another. I doubt authors like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, or Edgar Allen Poe thought we’d still have their books around today. Maybe a century from now, your name will be along with theirs.

So give this your all. Be irreplaceable. Be you. And most of all, have fun while you’re doing it. 😀

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