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    Mary's DIY Publishing Blog


    How to be one broke-ass millionaire

    One of the things that I've been dealing with lately is people who are making the transition from living off a paycheck to living off a lump sum of money. Now, in these cases, it's because people have retired and are starting to live off their savings. But obviously people who switch from a regular job to indie writing can run into the same issue.

    It can definitely be a tricky transition, because if you are a good little saver, you typically don't touch your savings--you salt them away for a rainy day. Then a rainy day (or a rainy rest of your life) comes along, and you don't know how to adjust

    As a result not understanding how to manage a lump sum of money so that you can actually live off it, I've personally known two people who 1. had plenty of money, and 2. were broke--at the same time. (It should be noted that BOTH people were trusting absolutely everything to professional money managers.)

    How could it be that people can have plenty of money, and yet be broke?

    Case #1: This was a few years ago, when my father was still alive. One of his relatives was ailing badly. She desperately needed to move into an assisted-living facility, but she just couldn't afford it.

    Except that it turned out that she could. Remember how I mentioned that a million dollars, invested relatively conservatively, could give you an income of $20,000 to $30,000 a year? Well, you can also invest it so that it gives you an income of ZERO dollars a year. Which was how this woman's money was invested.

    Worse yet, she didn't even know she had it. Perhaps her husband (who had died) or perhaps a professional money manager (who had since moved on) had made that investment--she didn't know. She was a woman of a certain age, and in her mind, it was somebody else's job to worry about that kind of thing.

    You can say that she deserved it for being so oblivious, but she suffered quite horribly as a result of "not being able to afford" appropriate care. Things got pretty bad before my dad decided to intervene and figure out what the hell was going on--because it really didn't make sense to him that she should be so broke.

    Because she wasn't.

    Case #2: This has been more recent, and it's been a real eye-opener for me because we got focused on this early, so I've been watching the process unfold.

    So, again, let's say there's a million dollars that is invested to give an income of $20,000 to $30,000 a year. And it has been providing a lovely supplement to this person's Social Security and pension income, except that she decided that managing the lump sum was too much trouble, so she called in the professionals.

    What was the first thing the professionals did? They took that $20,000-$30,000 a year away.

    Oh, they didn't steal it, of course not--that would be illegal! They just put it someplace where the person can't get to it. Unless she makes a special request for an "allowance," which will be--well, you know, they have to pay her taxes and of course their fees (which are not low) get deducted out of everything first, so maybe $250 a month? Or less?

    The knock on her income is kind of an issue, because this person's cost of living is increasing as they get more frail, and Social Security is looking at her assets and saying, "Why are you getting so much money from us?" She really does need the additional income. And of course the professionals are more than happy to provide her what she needs--by selling off her investments.

    Oh, boy.

    Not shockingly, we are intervening. There are people in my family who have made it well past 90, and we're not thrilled at the idea of this one running out of money and getting evicted (most likely from a nursing home) 15 years from now. That's where the professionals will lead her--and once they ruin her, they will just walk away. Because their work will be done.


    This Is a Really Good Film

    Things are, as expected, kind of crazy right now--it's family stuff that I can't really talk about, but we've made some legal moves that will hopefully allow everyone to be taken care of in a way that is both effective and manageable for Team Responsible Adults. In the short term, it does mean a lot of extra work for me (I'm going to computerize things! A shocking idea, I know), but I'm hoping I can set things up so that I budget a certain amount of time for all that, and then can budget a certain amount of time for, you know, the stuff I actually enjoy doing. Like writing.

    In the meantime, I watched This Is Not a Film, which is a movie about the Iranian film director Jafar Panahi and his experience being under house arrest and banned from making movies by the Iranian government.

    It's excellent, but it's one of those movies (like Barton Fink or Adaptation) that is very much about being a creative person, which means that 95% of the people who watch it (even if they like it) really have no idea why it was made. The thing is, here's this guy who really is compelled to create, and he is prohibited from creating--so he's incredibly frustrated, which really brings out so much about the creative process because he's so nostalgic about it (plus he just can't not do it, no matter how dangerous it is).

    The result is a movie that basically goes step-by-step through the various aspects of creativity: There's world creation (he literally tapes out a set onto his living-room rug), there's a whole meditation on how you start out making something but then it starts to make itself, and there's the fact that it's really therapeutic. At first Panahi's art is a welcome distraction from everything that's going on in the real world, but then what's going on in the real world become impossible to ignore (and there's that moment of guilt about having used art to escape). Finally, he gets behind the camera and starts making art out of what's going on!

    Anyway, it's really brilliant--it's so much more than, "House arrest sucks!"--and I heartily recommend it. And obviously I hope Panahi gets his freedom sooner rather than later!


    What's in that free book?

    I'm traveling for the holidays, so I loaded up my phone with e-books--mostly authors I know (Lindsay Buroker!) but also some free books from writers I don't know.

    I finished the first one last night, boy did it make me wish I'd never started. The plot was basically Weepy Girl and the People Who Scream at Her, and at the conclusion, Weepy Girl, after losing everything that ever mattered to her (and weeping about it), dies. Weepily.

    The End.

    Wow, that really . . . does not motivate me to shell out actual money for the next book.

    Now, the book was science fiction, so maybe Weepy Girl's not really dead and there's some kind of exciting sci-fi twist in the next book, but since I'm unhappy about having spent my time and energy on the first book, it's not like I'm going to bother finding out. If the author's other books are like the free book, I don't want to read them. Ever. If (as I kind of suspect) the author half-assed their free book because they saw it as just a teaser for their "real" books--well, that's obviously not much of a marketing strategy, is it?

    I've also seen free books that are basically jacket copy for the actual book--the free book is very short and very basic, and it doesn't really give you anything more than a description would. ("Zombie Deer Hunter, Book 1. Fred is a deer hunter--but the deers he hunts are zombies!!! Also, he may have the hots for the mysterious doe-eyed priestess who provides him with special zombie-killing buckshot. The End. Follow these links to buy Zombie Deer Hunter, Books 2-347!")

    I mean, I can see how writers convince themselves that it's OK to not bring your A game to a freebie--you can't possibly give away all your hard work, you want to be paid for your time, you're worth more than this, etc.

    But you know the freebie that made me instantly shell out for the entire series? The first book of Hugh Howey's Wool.

    You absolutely cannot argue that Howey did not bring his A game to that book--it's excellent all on its own.

    (I'm gonna get spoilery about Wool here--be warned!)

    Ironically, Howey did the same thing in that book that the author of that Weepy Girl book--the main character dies at the end. But it happens in such an unexpected way (unlike Weepy Girl, who dies exactly the way she'd been weepily expecting), and the book is so well written that I just had to read the rest.

    And hey, that Lindsay Buroker! The first book of her Emporer's Edge series is a freebie, and while you could argue that it's not her finest novel, it's definitely complete--she wrote it as a novel, not as some marketing teaser to the "real" story. The same thing is true of the short stories she gives away or sells for very little money: They're actual stories that work on their own and add to the EE universe, not just "Click on these links if you'd like to receive some actual satisfaction from your reading!"

    Like they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you waste my time with some crappy hack copy in your free book, why on Earth would I assume that you've got anything else in you?


    Some things resolve nicely, others do not

    As you can tell, writing has had to go on the back burner again--just a bunch of stuff going kaflooey all at once. The good news is that I have my car again, and it seems to be fine! The bad news is that spring is going to be really busy, so it may be a while before I can finish off the YA novel and start in again on Trials.

    Anyway, I've been watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Netflix. (I tried watching it when it was broadcast, but I just couldn't swing it--I've gotten really spoiled. And it was so much better on Netflix.) I finished the first season, and it reminded me of something that I've always really appreciated about Joss Whedon: HE ACTUALLY FINISHES HIS STORIES.

    I mean, I'm going to try to not be spoilerly here, but there's this big plot arc and a lot of character arcs and a supervillain, and by the end of the first season, it's all wrapped up. It's done. Sure, they've set up the next season, but it's pretty much just, "Now that this is over, you'll have to go do the next big thing!" not some huge mass of quasi-nonsensical cliffhangers.

    I've obviously been having a lot of frustrating story experiences lately because that struck me as damned near a miracle.

    I know Whedon's attitude has always been to wrap up each season individually, because you never know when you might get canceled (you can tell he grew up in a television-industry family). It's just so nice to see--so nice to get a proper resolution for once. And honestly, it's a major reason why I seek out his stuff--I trust him to actually end things in a satisfying way. I don't make the same effort for the gazillion writers who try to jerk me around with cliffhanger after cliffhanger after cliffhanger.


    Progress report

    Some family-related stuff has come up, and it looks like Christmas-to-spring is going to be pretty hellish for me. Hopefully it's one of these big-push type things that, once it's done, will mean less time-consuming and stressful lurching from crisis to crisis, but it's still going to be a bear.

    So, I figured I'd better get on the ball if I want to finish the first draft of the YA novel by the end of the year, and today I wrote 2,800 words!