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Barrett Manor

Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

My Reality Check Bounced

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Well, 2015 was a pretty crappy year for me in terms of income, and 2016 doesn't look to be much better. But hey, should I be pleasantly surprised on that front I won't complain.

I have some goals for this year, and they're modest. One is to earn more money. The other is to increase my writing output. I have to temper that with the fact that I have some commitments for this year that I need to fulfill. I anticipate another busy year filled with stress. But hey, maybe if I have low expectations I don't be so bitterly disappointed.

And speaking of bitter disappointment, I've been seeing more and more stories of readers pissed to the gills when writers don't deliver the next book in a series in whatever time frame those readers expect. Holy crap, people. If you knew what a creative deals with on a day-to-day basis, you might think again. (Here's a piece I wrote a couple of years ago about that.)

Most writers are independent workers. Because we get to set our own hours and have the freedom to accept or turn down contract work, we're not covered by wage and hour rules. That's a two-edged sword. Hey! I can work when I feel like it, and in my bathrobe if I want! On the other hand, no one is obligated to offer me anything approaching a minimum wage for the time I put into a project. Hey! I'm free to negotiate a better rate! On the other hand, for every writer with talent and drive, for every writer who has paid their dues and worked their asses off to produce quality work, there are about a hundred people who think that because they learned to string two words together in school that they can do the same thing. And they're willing to take a pittance to get their names "out there."

The fact is that many - if not most - people writing fiction these days have other streams of income. Maybe they have a day job. Maybe they also freelance ad copy or work their tails off during tax season as an accountant. Some of us are fortunate to have a spouse who has a job with a decent wage and benefits. Maybe that writer is also caring for small children. Or an aging parent. Or a disabled relative. Yes, people with full time jobs are doing those same things, but virtually all have the security of a steady paycheck. 

Writing fiction is not a steady wage. And not every one can be at the top of the sales heap. What would you do if your boss told you that you had to work for three to six months or longer to help develop a new product, then wait until the sales staff went out and sold it before you saw a dime in wages? You'd tell them to take that job and place it where, you say? 

This is what we deal with every day. When you're flipping burgers you get a paycheck. When you're working on a retail floor, putting together cars, fitting pipes, exploring for oil, working for someone else, you get a paycheck. Writing and art are speculative businesses. It takes anywhere from three months to a year for most writers to produce a book length manuscript. Once that manuscript is finished, the author goes back through to check for obvious problems. Then it goes to beta readers. Then the writer produces another draft based on that feedback. Then, and only then, does it go out the door. If that writer isn't under contract for that particular book, then she gets to send it to their agent or submit it to publishers and wait. During that time she can start another book. But it's often several months before an acceptance - if there is one. Hooray! A contract! An advance! Depending on that contract, 1/3 of the advance is probably paid on acceptance, another 1/3 after edits at the publisher are completed, and another 1/3 on publication. 

And check out what authors get for advances at most major houses. That's not a lot to live on. And out of those advances we get to pay taxes, and those of us who have agents pay them a 15% commission. A good agent is worth every penny. But if I get a $10,000 advance (and that may have been paid in installments), I get $7500 if I have an agent, and then I get hit with the double tax whammy. You know that 7.5% you pay for Social Security and Medicare taxes? That's split with your employer. If you're self-employed, you're responsible for the entire 15%. I get to set that aside along with what I anticipate will be income taxes. I get to pay income taxes quarterly. And if that $10K is all I make in a year and I happened to be single, I'd probably get back the income tax portion of what I sent to the IRS. I'd still be on the hook for the employment taxes.

So what does that have to do with the next book in a series? Maybe nothing, but perhaps a lot. It depends on the author and their particular situation. If that series is from a first time author and they only got $10K for the book and they're single, I can pretty much guarantee you they've got a day job or they're off scrambling for other sources of income. 

So what can you do? Well, buy the damn book. Don't get a pirate copy. Encourage them, but don't demand. Extra pressure isn't going to help. If we were all able to produce brilliant copy on demand, you wouldn't be waiting for that next book. Support authors you like. How? Buy their books. Recommend their work to others. 

And speaking of reality checks, it's time for me to finish my yearly taxes. I'd write up a taxes drinking game, but then I'd be too drunk to do the paperwork properly. But that begs the question: Could I write off the booze? Hmmm....

Filed under: Life            
1/13/2016 4:21:32 PM
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Seriously, Folks, It's Free Enterprise

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


This is something I wrote back in 1988. Apart from cleaning up formatting and fixing a couple of typos (we didn't have spell check in those days, and it was possible for copy editors to miss things) here it is in all its gory. I mean, glory:

I can't believe we're passing up on the marketing gimmick of a lifetime. 
It's little wonder that America, the land of the sort of free trade and the 
home of the Pet Rock, has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the globe. Yes, we've got no respect. We seem to be lacking in ingenuity, folks. 

You are no doubt wondering why I have suddenly turned my word processor to a serious topic. The blame falls upon my editor, who insists that I am not doing my part to end world suffering, promote peace, and win a Pulitzer Prize for commentary like some other humor writers have. Therefore, she has assigned me the topic of How to Help the American Economy, and has threatened me with the thumbscrews if I do not write an actual piece of serious journalism.

Regular readers of this space are well aware that I've done my share of serious pieces. Witness the two columns I devoted solving the budget crisis in Texas. Is it my fault that no one took seriously my suggestion that the state charge folks for gawking at traffic accidents? I've also spent a year warning the populace of the imminent invasion of the dreaded Flying Asian Cockroach, and believe me, you haven't heard the last of that one yet. Still, I shall press on.
 
The aforementioned marketing opportunity is slipping away through our fingers faster then we can say "Grand Old Party." Curiously enough, it's another topic I've devoted entire columns to. Dear Readers, we are missing out on our chance to put a husband and wife team in the White House.

For those who are new to this column, here's the idea in brief: Why not take Robert and Elizabeth Dole, two politicians from the heartland of Kansas, and elect them as president and vice president? It really doesn't matter who gets which position. It's the marketing angle we're looking at.

Of course, there are other good things that would come out of such a match-up in Washington. For starters, there would be only one family for the Secret Service to look after. And talk about simplifying affairs of state! The vice president would finally have as much say as the presidential spouse would.

But enough of that. We were talking about the marketing angle, weren't we? If we get a matched pair in the White House, think of all of the things our American entrepreneurs could come up with to capitalize on it.

We could have Bob and Liz salt and pepper shakers. Just the thing for spicing up an All-American breakfast. The same company could also produce the Dole butter dish and knife set, for folks who know which side their bread is buttered on.

Let's not forget those cute ceramic figurines. Collect the whole set. President Elizabeth and vice president Robert. Or the other way around. Or both if they manage to make four terms out of it.

Someone will undoubtedly try to market a pair of gloves, but since the pair will contain only right hands, they'll have to be packaged with a pair of Gerald Ford commemorative gloves.

Of course, we have a major problem in that Robert Dole has dropped out of the race, meaning that unless there is a "draft the Doles" movement this summer at the convention, all of these wonderful ideas would be worth slightly less than the current value of the U.S. dollar. So, in order to make my editor  (and my thumbs) happy, I'll devote the rest of this week's space to a new marketing project.

If we can't compete with imports from the east, the least we can do is try and capitalize on them in some way, and what better import to start with than the dreaded Flying Asian Cockroach? (I told you you hadn't heard the last of this one.) Yes, even as you read this, the cockroaches are making their way across these United States. These large, winged creatures love people and they  love the daylight. Cringe if you must, but think of the possibilities:

A good kiddie toy is in order here, and I suggest the Flying Asian Cockroach Backyard Barbeque and Tactical Assault Team Set. See Mommy and Daddy and Brother and Sister enjoying a nice backyard outing. See the Flying Asian Cockroaches attack the bug light. See the family turn into a crack commando squad, complete with miniature Uzi guns, and wipe out both the bugs and the& neighborhood.

We could tie that into a Saturday morning cartoon series, too. Think of all the toy makers and animators we could put to work on that one. Of course, the program would be educational, teaching the children how to eradicate a pesky life form from this planet. Of course, we couldn't get too educational, lest the little ones get the idea that nerdy cousin Fred belongs in the same category.

See, all it takes is a little American determination and we could get our  economy turned around again. America, land of the free Flying Asian Cockroach model in every box of breakfast cereal and home of the brave columnist who is learning to type with a pair of broken thumbs. Kinda brings tears to your eyes, doesn't it? 

(Author's note: So you made it to the bottom! Yes, this is very dated. And whatever happened to the Flying Asian Cockroach, anyway? They are here. And they have assimilated. Be afraid.)

Filed under: Humor            
1/5/2016 10:00:58 AM
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Politics of the Past

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Yesterday I posted this image to Facebook:


Once upon a time I worked in radio. And I got to cover the 1984 GOP convention. I was also writing a humor column at the time, and I picked up a few odd souvenirs that I thought might make good fodder because, well, why not?

I also picked this guy up:

fritz_busters.png

Both say something about the times. The top button also played music, apparently. 

While I was biding my time waiting on a package I decided to see if I could find the article in question. Dang it, it's not in the electronic archives. But I did find something else from 1988, which seems oddly appropriate. I'll post it in a separate entry.



Filed under: Pictures            
1/5/2016 9:53:32 AM
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Meowy Catmas!

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


At last! The 2015 Catmas Card!




Filed under: Cats   Pictures   Catmas      
12/21/2015 3:43:56 PM
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There Goes The Low-Carb Diet

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett



A wedge of iceberg lettuce with...I don't know. Gravy? Alien goo?

Filed under: Pictures   Food         
11/29/2015 10:02:11 PM
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Today is What?

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett



"Meh. I'm too old to care. Just let me sleep, will ya? Oh, and let me know when Slave One comes home. And when it's time for Treats. Otherwise, go away."

Yes, Midnight is doing well for a cat her age. 

Cats Pictures

Filed under: Cats   Pictures         
11/13/2015 10:40:37 AM
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About Last Night

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Congratulations to all the 2015 Hugo Award winners!

I wasn't going to stay up and watch, but I couldn't tear myself away. And no, that's not a train wreck analogy. Instead, I was genuinely curious to see who won, and how many rockets Noah Ward might take home. I'm glad I stuck around to hear Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis. And the Best Novel award being presented from the ISS? Priceless.

It's difficult to critique the ceremony without reference to the cloud hanging over the awards this year, but I think I can do it without getting political. Yep, I have my opinions, but this is about the ceremony. Having produced a ceremony one year, I know first hand all about the technical issues that go on behind the scenes, stuff rehearsed multiple times that misfires, you name it. 

This is the stuff of a live performance. It's easy to sit in the back and critique what went wrong or why they did this instead of that, but considering what was hanging over them this year, they came through with flying colors. The people running the ceremony - and this includes the emcees - have no idea who the winners are going to be. Considering the very real possibility of several No Award votes, they had some serious logistics to figure out. There were five categories in which no award was presented. Think about that for a minute. Yes, the still have to read the nominee list out, but no acceptance speeches, no sustained bursts of applause as someone makes their way out of the audience to the stage, and so on. Would people have felt cheated if the ceremony had been shorter? No doubt some would have. 

I'm glad I'm Sunday morning quarterbacking this thing instead of giving a knee-jerk reaction. Did stuff go wrong? Yep. (We had our share of missteps, too, and some were downright embarrassing. No finger-pointing from this quarter.) But again, that's the nature of live performances, particularly things like award ceremonies that have so many unscripted moments. But the knee-jerk part of me was also reacting to things outside of their control. That's because it's (one more time) a live show and it's easy to sit back and point fingers.

But this one had many purely fannish moments such as the opening bit and the Dalek helping to present the Best Dramatic Presentation awards. David Gerrold and Tananarive Due did a great job of keeping the ceremony light-hearted. 

So y'all done good. Get some rest.



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8/23/2015 2:08:07 PM
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...And I'd Like to Thank My Ballet Teacher...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


This post is two years in the making. Two years ago I was running the Hugo Ceremony at LoneStarCon 3. And I promised to post at least one cool picture I was handed afterward. So here, at last:

lsc3_cc.jpg

That is Astronaut Cady Coleman, who participated in the Hugo Awards Ceremony. She also signed a ginormous picture of her with the Expedition 27 crew. It's very "Right Stuff," as you can see here. I'd like to share it at some point, but I'll need to shot it or scan it or something.

The other thing you see there is my LSC 3 badge. I've folded it over (tons of ribbons!) so you can see the a couple. See that red and white one? At Closing Ceremonies chair Randall Shepherd recognized a group of volunteers as "Stars of Texas." My name was mentioned first, but I'm sure they must have been in alphabetical order. I don't remember. Maybe it was from "least" to "most" work put in. Yeah, that was it. ;-)

At the time Randy said that there would be something more later on. Well, you know how these things go. And I totally forgot about it. 

Apparently there are physical awards! I'm told they were designed by Vincent Villafranca (who designed the Hugo Base) and were handed out last night during the Chesley Awards. 

I really wanted to to go Spokane this year, but it just wasn't in the budget. But dang, if I'd known that was going to happen I might have tried to see if I could get there, if only for a few days.

Oh, well.

Yes, it was nice to be recognized. I'd like to mention a few people who also made the Hugos a success. I know I'm forgetting names, and I've kinda slept since then. So instead of trying to remember names, here's the credits page from the Hugo program booklet:


lsc3_hugocredits.jpg

Sorry for the quality. I just put it on the table instead of scanning it. (Had the scanner working with Windows 10 last week and now it's not working. Grr.)

Also want to thank Laura Domitz, one of the original co-chairs of LSC 3,who recruited me for the job and Randall Shephard, LSC 3 chair.

And as always, Paul. He had to put up with Chris and I during that time. (Chris was not only stage crew, but he put the slide show together!)

Anyway, I'm told I'll get the actual award at FenCon, and I'll share a picture out when that happens.



Filed under: Conventions   LoneStarCon 3         
8/21/2015 10:59:06 AM
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Recovering From The Spam Attack

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Man, I hate Mondays. 

Spent half the night up sick, and still under the weather today. And the three hours during which I did (sorta) get some sleep were filled with responsibility dreams. I'm so fracking tired of those. 

But I did sit down and figure out exactly what was going on with the comments on the blog. They shouldn't have been working at all, which mystifies me as to how the spam attack got through. 

Well, the new reCaptcha seems to be working okay. I'll probably implement that on the contact page as well.

But first I have other things to do this morning. 

Comment away. Let's test this guy.


Filed under: Housekeeping            
7/27/2015 10:10:15 AM
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Spam Attack!

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Wow, I got slammed with comment spam today. Most of it was, er, of an adult nature. I think I've managed to catch and delete all of them.

This is goinna take some wrangling. For now comments don't work.


Filed under: Technology            
7/26/2015 7:02:57 PM
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