Kindle Unlimited Just Happened

Well, a major bomb has been dropped on the publishing world today and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens (to say the least). The new Kindle Unlimited subscription model allows readers to borrow as many books as they’d like from the Kindle Unlimited library for a monthly fee of $9.99 and the first month is free. There’s lots of speculation right now about whether this is good or bad for authors (I don’t see how readers could possibly lose but maybe I missed something). This link to Hugh Howey’s blog offers a good look at a cross section of reactions from authors, many of whom sound very concerned while Hugh Howey himself seems to be looking at the optimistic side as well as how readers benefit .

What this means for indie authors might be a big deal, indeed, since inclusion in this library means going into KDP Select (making their books exclusive to Amazon). Typically, I get most of my sales from Amazon so for me it might make sense to go back to Select. I like the idea of my books being available on other platforms, though, such as Kobo and BN (especially Kobo since it’s a really friendly platform for writers). If I understand correctly from the blog post mentioned above, high profile authors like Hugh Howey are being included in Kindle Unlimited anyway but might have to choose regarding exclusivity down the road (seems hard to believe Amazon would make them choose but that’s what I gathered). I have to  say, I was amazed to hear him say he’d actually consider going exclusive with Select as he has in the past. I was planning on it anyway for my new book  (Jump When Ready Book 2) when I release it since that program offers some nice promotional tools. So, an interesting coincidence there for me, at least.

I know there’s going to be tons of conversation about the repercussions of all this and will be very interested in learning more. Many have been saying for years that this model is coming. Well, now it’s here and we’ll just have to see what happens next. One thing is for sure, though. There’s never a dull moment in indie publishing.

Digital Book Today Weekly Great Read

I just received an email telling me that Jump When Ready has been included by Digital Book Today as one of their Weekly Featured Great Reads! This is a really nice feature Digital Book Today is running to help promote indie writers and I was thrilled to see Jump When Ready included. It’s also great timing since I’m just finishing the edits for Memories From A Different Future (Jump When Ready Book 2), which I plan to release very soon.

Anyway, it seemed a good occasion for dropping the price for a day or two to $0.99 (I just pushed that button so it might be a couple of hours before that price shows in Amazon; you never know—sometimes their amazingly fast with those sorts of updates). I was already in a really great mood (just got back from the pool, actually) but this just made my day that much better. So, if you haven’t read Jump When Ready yet, this would be a great time to snag a copy. I hope all of you are having a great day too. Now it’s time to grab a  beer and wait for those fireflies to come out…

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We Love What We Do

“Why don’t we approach literature like we approach music and the fine arts? Yes, there is a commitment when it comes to time and money. Yes, the chances of “making it” are slim. But with music, photography, and the fine arts, we “self produce” while we grow our audience and hone our craft. We work our way up, rather than break out. We love what we do, and we dream of making a living doing it, but it isn’t necessary.”

These words are from a recent blog post by Hugh Howey, which I just loved. One idea that struck me as a really cool and unique way of looking at things is the idea that, while people often ridicule indie writers as being unlikely to ever make any significant money publishing, Hugh Howey points out that 98% of those who pursue the traditional publishing route make no money at all. They never get the agent they spent years writing query letters to, they never see that big publishing deal they dreamed of, they never see any publishing deal at all. Finally, they quit and stop writing altogether. On the other hand, indie writers may make little money at first but they get to keep writing and reaching new readers. Eventually, the money may come but even if it doesn’t to the degree one might have hoped, that writer gets to keep on writing and no one is going to remove those books from the shelves. Writers who love what they do have no reason to stop doing it.

I really love indie publishing for many reasons. I’m thankful that so many opportunities exist that didn’t before—all those platforms where we can sell our books. Yes, I’m thankful for that big monster called Amazon for giving all writers an equal chance at finding an audience. This idea was unheard of just a few years ago and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. The fact is, I’m thrilled each time I sell a single book. I’m utterly elated each time one of my books receives a good review on Amazon or Goodreads. I agree with Hugh Howey’s point that publishing is a miracle and it’s magical that we can now write a book knowing it will be published, that no one can say “No, we’re not allowing that for you.”

I was one of those lucky few whose work actually was offered representation by a literary agent. Not once, but twice for two different books. I know I’ve mentioned that before on this blog but that’s not because I think I’m cool because of it. Just the opposite since both times, when I thought the world was about to turn on its axis, that a totally new day was about to dawn, nothing much happened at all (other than a great deal of back and forth regarding revisions). At the end of those two experiences, I was almost one of those who walked away from the whole deal. Thankfully, I came to my senses and, like so many authors are doing now (an ever increasing population as more authors choose indie publishing over traditional), I decided to go ahead and publish first Jump When Ready, and most recently, Streetlights Like Fireworks. This is wonderful new world of publishing these days and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. It’s just a great time for writers, in general, which is why many of us have been pulling together like never before as things keep changing rapidly around us.

There’s so much bickering going on lately, once again driving a wedge between those on the traditional side and on the indie side. Honestly, it’s getting tiresome (even though I do have some strong feelings about who the good guys really are in that particular fight). So, I appreciate that much more the point that Hugh Howey closes with: “Finally and most importantly, there shouldn’t be any animus between writers, however they publish. This is hard enough without trying to tear each other down. We are in this together. It’s our world that’s changing. In many ways, we should be standing together and demand that it change faster.

 

Gatecrashing the Cosy Consensus on Amazon

David Pandolfe:

For those of you who may have missed Hugh Howey’s Change.org petition (not likely, I know), it’s a link definitely worth clicking on in this excellent post from David Gaughran. Please consider adding your name to assure you keep the authority you’ve earned and deserve as a reader.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

amazonhachetteA group of bestselling traditionally published authors – including James Patterson, Scott Turow, and Douglas Preston – engaged in an act of breathtaking hypocrisy on Thursday with an open letter calling on Amazon to end its dispute with Hachette.

The letter is incredibly disingenuous. It claims not to take sides, but only calls on Amazon to take action to end the dispute. It also makes a series of ridiculous claims, notably that Amazon has been “boycotting Hachette authors.”

Where do I start?

The Phantom Boycott

First of all, refusing to take pre-orders on Hachette titles is not a “boycott.” Pre-orders are a facility extended to certain publishers – not all publishers. Many small presses don’t have a pre-order facility. Most self-publishers don’t have a pre-order facility.

I don’t know why Amazon has stopped taking Hachette pre-orders, but both sides have stated that negotiations aren’t likely to be resolved any…

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Beach Reads

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We hit the Outer Banks for a few days this week and it was great, as always. For those who might be unfamiliar, that’s in North Carolina. For my first year or so in Virginia, I had no idea what those OBX stickers on cars were all about but that’s cool person lingo for Outer Banks, evidently. Am I partially writing this blog post just because I wanted to share my sunset photo? Honestly, yes (isn’t that a stunning sunset?) but I also wanted to talk a little about my attempt at taking a break from work.

I’m a writer so, unlike normal people, I gave myself a deadline while on vacation. The plan was to read my manuscript of Jump When Ready # 2 (still knocking the full title around). Just a quick read-through, was what I had in mind. Is it kind of obsessive that this was on my Kindle at the beach? Yeah, I know, especially since there are a number of books I’ve been meaning to read. Honestly, though, I didn’t ignore my family (too much). I just wanted to see how the story was working now that I’ve finished it and this was the first chance I had to sit and read from beginning to end.

The only problem is I can almost never read my own work without marking it up for line edits. Which I did. On a Kindle. Using the little notes feature. Right, I know. So now I have a few hundred tiny little notes to go through so I can make more edits to tighten things up. Not that I mind because I really like to be sure that the books I publish are thoroughly edited and well-paced throughout. I know what you’re thinking. Wouldn’t it have been easier just to bring my laptop? After all, a Kindle is probably the least recommended device for making book edits. In retrospect, yes, it definitely would have been better to have used my laptop.  But I was on vacation so I figured I wouldn’t need it.  See what I mean? I’m not normal. I’m a writer.kindleImage

The long and short of all this is that Jump 2 will be coming out soon. In the meantime, I’ve been leaving Streetlights Like Fireworks at the $0.99 “book launch” price long past the launch since it really makes me happy to see that new readers are becoming familiar with my work. But I’m thinking I should raise that price back up again soon. So, if you haven’t snagged a copy yet, you can still get one on the cheap. By the way, it’s a really great beach read. And I already edited the heck out of it so you should be all set to just relax and enjoy your vacation.

Writing Ghost Stories (or at least stories with ghosts)

ghostFlyingA while back I was in a writing program, working on a novel I haven’t yet published (but plan to soon) as well as short stories, one of which got published in the Georgetown Review. These were more in the literary fiction vein than my more recent YA fiction, but one consistent aspect caught a friend’s attention. She noticed that, in some form or another (metaphorically or otherwise), my writing always featured a ghost. She asked why I didn’t just write a ghost story since it seemed I wanted to, at least sub-consciously (she even presented me with a  collection ghost stories she found in a used book store, which I appreciated). Actually, it was a good idea. Still, it would be a while before I acted on her suggestion.

That first novel did get an agent but didn’t get published traditionally, which was a disappointing moment in my life. It was something of a literary ghost story and I do intend to revisit it at some point in the not too distant future. At the time, though, I was discouraged and decided it was time to take things in a different direction. I started dabbling with YA fiction and, sure enough, both Jump When Ready and Streetlights Like Fireworks turned out to be ghost stories, at least in a way. They aren’t straight-ahead, classic ghost stories and they definitely aren’t horror stories but each novel is at least partly about a ghost or ghosts (as well as how the living interact with those ghosts).

In a recent post, I talked about how writing a story set in the afterlife can start to mess with your head. After all, most of the time we don’t go through the day pondering what it might be like to be dead (at least, I would hope not). Since Jump When Ready is about the afterlife, I figured I’d start out there while also hoping this doesn’t turn into some sort of paranormal blog (after all, I’m bound to write something one of these days featuring entirely living characters). But I also thought it would be fitting to talk about some paranormal (or possibly paranormal) experiences I’ve had, or that people I know have had. I’ve wondered for a while why I remain at least subconsciously preoccupied with ghosts, which is presumably why they keep creeping up in my fiction (right, “creeping”—see what I did there?). Who knows? Maybe it’s because I’ve had a few strange experiences in the past and these experiences have stayed with me (and maybe part of me has always been waiting for an explanation).

I think most of us have had some sort of paranormal experience (or at least a weird, difficult to explain, experience) and while we don’t usually talk about these events, they come out every so often. Usually, these stories see daylight only after a few beers or glasses of wine have been shared and, typically, these conversations aren’t acknowledged all that much the next day. As mentioned, I’ve been thinking about some of my more strange experiences lately and it occurred to me that several of them had to do with specific rooms in specific places. Were these locations haunted? Not sure. Maybe…

Three rooms

Do I believe in ghosts? Sometimes I do, and at other times I’d rather not. The idea of someone being trapped, wandering the earth for a possible eternity just leaves me feeling depressed. But, on three occasions, I did have to wonder.

One day when I was a kid, while visiting my friend Sean’s house, I asked him why one of the bedrooms remained empty even though he and his siblings all shared rooms. He simply said, “No one likes that room,” and left it at that. Years later, in early high school, we were hanging out one night at his house when the rest of his family was away (I can’t recall now why Sean didn’t go with them) and, when I decided it was time to go home, he mentioned more than once that maybe I should stay over. I reminded him that I lived down the street and I walked home later wondering why he seemed so uneasy at the prospect of being alone in his own house. Now, granted, we were still pretty young but I was old enough to reflect on how delighted I’d be to stay up all night watching TV and wiping out all the snack foods. Maybe Sean was just afraid of being alone in an empty house. Or, maybe the house wasn’t empty. Eventually, Sean’s mother informed mine that their house was, indeed, haunted. She said each of the kids had been able to see the ghost (a woman, evidently) when they were very young and each of them had lost that ability in time. Sean’s mother told mine she could see the ghost herself and, while her husband could not, he always knew when the ghost was in the room since he’d feel a chill. According to her, he’d typically ask if the ghost had joined them so she could confirm. For the record, these weren’t new age, woo-woo types. Sean’s mother was a dental hygienist, his father worked in advertising and they were pretty conservative, as I recall—basically a typical Irish-Catholic suburban family. I never did find out any more about that unused bedroom in their house but it seems like something must have happened there at some time in the past. Or maybe it just had bad ventilation. Who knows, right?

I don’t know what was up with my friends’ houses but a few years later, during summer break, I made plans to go hit a few bars in town with my old friend, Matt. Another friend of ours was going away with his family and he mentioned that, if Matt and I needed a place to sleep it off after bar hopping, we could find a key to his house hidden in a certain spot (looking back, it does seem  a rather unusual invitation but we didn’t think anything of it at the time). So, late that night we decided we were, in fact, not fit to drive home and took our friend up on his offer. I should add here that the friend who offered his house as a crash pad for his buddies had lost his father to diabetes complications a few years before. So, we were bunking down on the living room sofas and I had no idea if Matt was still awake across the room when the pounding started on the ceiling. This was not a light tapping sound. This was a loud, insistent hammering, like someone repeatedly stomping on the floor (I know what you’re thinking but this wasn’t like a rattling pipe or anything; again, this was a furious repeated pounding). Matt’s voice came from across the room (yes, he was awake now if he wasn’t before). “Do you hear that?” he asked. I assure him that I definitely heard it. That pounding went on for quite a while, coming in sporadic bursts that, to this day, I can’t help remember as sounding angry. The message really did seem clear: Get out of my house, you drunk assholes! You’d think we would have left but we were buzzed enough that we stayed right on those couches waiting it out. Eventually, the pounding stopped and we managed to get some sleep but we left early the next morning and never forgot that weird experience.

A few years later, still during college, I rented a house along with several friends. And there was this one bedroom downstairs…yes, you guessed it. We all tried it and no one stayed long. In many ways, this was the prime bedroom choice since, being the only one on that floor, it offered the most privacy (at least after everyone else went upstairs). I slept in that room only once and had horrible nightmares in which I imagined people screaming.  The other roommates all admitted they couldn’t rest well in that room either. One day, we met a mother and young son living in a nearby house and, while we were talking, her son said, “Mom, are you going to tell them about the house?” The woman tried to shush him, but we convinced her that we wanted to know and she informed us that there had been a fire in the house we’d rented and, yes, people had died. She said people in the town had raised funds to help the surviving homeowner rebuild but eventually he’d moved away and the present owners used it only as a rental. As you can imagine, that unused bedroom remained empty during the remainder of our rental term. I probably don’t have to tell you that when our lease was up the following spring, we didn’t renew.

Ghost Hunters

I hope I didn’t disappoint you with these primarily indirect “paranormal” experiences. I do realize there might well have been “rational” alternative explanations in all three cases. And, no, I’ve never seen a ghost (nor would I want to). If trapped souls wander among us, I’d rather leave those encounters to expert paranormal investigators like the Ghost Hunters. Although, in Streetlights Like Fireworks, it’s one of Lauren’s pet peeves that the professional paranormal investigators sometimes find the ghost but never actually do anything for the ghost. Nope, they just leave the trapped soul forever trapped and move on to the next episode. Talk about rubbing salt in a wound. Not only are you trapped in some in-between state with no evident escape but you also end up being cable TV entertainment fodder. Yeah, perfect. If as if death isn’t scary enough. Add that as a possible outcome and it’s definitely enough to keep you hitting the gym.

I was going to mention some other odd experiences, some that circle back to thoughts about the possibility of reincarnation and others that might fall (very loosely) into the intuitive or psychic categories (I think we all have some of those too but we often call them hunches and the like) but this post has gotten longer than expected so I’ll save those for another time.

So, readers and writers, what about you? Do you think you might be compelled to read or write about paranormal experiences because you believe there’s a kernel of truth to them? Maybe more than a kernel? Have you had experiences of your own that are difficult to explain? Or do you just like to read and write about this kind of thing even though you don’t actually believe in the paranormal at all? Let me know if you’ve had any interesting experiences that might be described as paranormal. Maybe give me a shout after you’ve had that third glass of wine and feel like talking about it.

Who’s Afraid of Very Cheap Books?

David Pandolfe:

Since I’ve been running Streetlights Like Fireworks at $0.99 so more readers become familiar with my work, it seemed fitting to share David Gaughran’s post regarding “cheap books.” Believe me, my intention is not to devalue books but rather to give readers a chance to check out someone new (namely, me). This is a great post and I especially appreciate David’s point that maybe it’s expensive books that are devaluing literature.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

CheapthrillsA common meme in publishing is that cheap books are destroying the world or literature, and that low prices are undermining the viability of publishing or writers’ ability to make a living.

I’ve long thought this position is nonsense – a narrative which plays on misplaced fears of change and a confusion of price and value, which is also based on flawed assumptions and analog, zero-sum thinking.

And, if anything, the opposite is true.

Why So Cheap?

Self-publishers are fond of 99c pricing for a number of reasons. It’s the lowest price you can set at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo without making your book free, and it has an obvious impulse buy appeal to readers. This price point is particularly popular for the first in a series or a limited-time sale in conjunction with an ad spot, but some have used it more aggressively.

I launched my latest…

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Head in the afterlife

orbsAs I continue to discover new writer blogs, I find myself continuously amazed at the generosity of indie writers who share what they’ve learned. There are so many awesome people out there that it’s hard to know where to begin, although a few come readily to mind such as David Gaughran, Susan Kaye Quinn, Armand Rosamilia and Robert Chazz Chute (and then there are all the wonderful podcasts such as the Self-Publishing Roundtable, the Self-Publishing Podcast and the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast). Having been in this game for only a year, I can’t tell you how helpful this open and free exchange of knowledge has been.

What’s been on my mind lately is just what can a relatively new indie writer like me bring to the conversation? As you can see on my blog, I often reblog posts from those more experienced than myself about indie publishing. Although, I did offer an attempt at contributing by sharing some information about my recent book launch for Streetlights Like Fireworks. That would have been much more impressive had my novel soared to the very top of the rankings and become an instant phenomenon (but at least it got up into the #2,000 range for a bit and collected some nice reviews, which made me happy).

One thing that occurred to me is that maybe I could add by offering some observations about how writing about a certain topic can start to affect a writer’s outlook or at least create a preoccupation. Well, at least for this writer, lately. To a degree, what comes to mind is an actor cast to play a role and, during the time it takes to produce the movie, wearing that psyche for a while. Evidently, when filming Lincoln, Daniel Day Lewis stayed in character for three months, requiring even Stephen Spielberg to address him as “Mr. President.” Well, what about writers inhabiting their characters? I realize there’s quite a bit more separation here but I know that I’ve definitely woken up from dreams within which I’ve been interacting with one of the fictional characters I thought I left behind that evening when I shut the lid on my laptop. Thankfully, I like most of my characters and I haven’t yet written any particularly dark stories. What of the writer spending six months inside the head of a psychotic killer or even an amoral broker? I mean, that has to have some sort of psychological effect. Naturally, writing horror comes to mind. I know I wouldn’t have an aptitude for that to begin with but I can’t imagine hanging around in Stephen King’s brain (although I sure wish I had his talent).

For me, I think the most view-altering aspect of my writing so far has been continuing to develop my YA series about the afterlife, which kicks off with Jump When Ready (Jump #2 will be out soon). In many ways, these are lighthearted books. I mean, as lighthearted as they can be given that they’re about a bunch of teenagers coming to terms with what it means to be between lives while those they knew struggle to carry on without them or even move past them as they continue living. Still, these books require me to spend a fair amount of time imagining what might happen to us after we die. You might find this surprising, but the afterlife is a topic people generally try to avoid. (Okay, maybe you don’t find that surprising.) Sure, maybe when we’re drunk we’ll give it a whirl but usually (and, thankfully) the topic soon changes to something less morbid and scary. After all, what could be more frightening than the basic truth that each one of us has an expiration date, the clock ticking before someone wraps us in our first baby blanket. Right, I know. Who wants to think about that?

I don’t think of myself as a morbid person. Although you might wonder, why then did I decide to write about a bunch of “dead” teenagers? Or, for that matter, why does almost everything I write feature a ghost in there somewhere? Clearly, there’s some sort of fascination with the afterlife going on with me (at least subconsciously). As I continue to create these afterlife stories, naturally I have to speculate more on what might happen to us on the other side (or if there is another side where anything does–the scariest part being that maybe there is no other side and nothing happens). I’m not a particularly religious person (okay, I’m not religious at all) but the idea of reincarnation seems to make the most sense to me, although maybe more as some sort of reuse of energy than any actual preservation of personality. I do find some comfort in this (which is, of course, why so many people are into religion—it’s comforting except for that stuff about sin and hell). At the same time, when your fictional characters are already “non-living,” you can’t help thinking maybe more often than you otherwise would about mortality. Honestly, it’s not unusual for me lately to be walking down the street or spending some time with my family and suddenly find myself suddenly thinking how one of these days I’m going to cease to exist, as is everyone around me (which isn’t comforting one bit, especially when looking at my kids). So, I may not exactly be Daniel Day Lewis wearing Lincoln around for three months but writing about life after death definitely affects what I think about and how I feel each day. Not that it’s all bad. After all, my characters are having a good time remaining perpetual teenagers living together in Halfway House while sorting things out and trying to help people they left behind.

I’d love to hear from other readers and writers about this. Do you find yourself wrapped up in your characters’ worlds, their psyches, their obsessions? How do you separate from your creepy creations (or do you love them for their creepiness?). Readers, do you ever find that a novel or series at least temporarily alters the way you normally look at the world? Does a character or fictional world alter your perspectives in profound ways or make you consider things you otherwise might not?

If you’d like to find out what my YA characters experience in their version of the afterlife, check out Jump When Ready. So far, people really like the story, so it’s definitely been worth spending some time pondering life after death. Although, coming up with a way of being addressed as “Mr. President” for a while might be good too. Yeah, I’m off to get my top hat now…

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Amazon v Hachette: Don’t Believe The Spin

David Pandolfe:

An insightful analysis of the ongoing Amazon/Hachette dispute from writer David Gaughran’s blog.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

amazonhachetteThe internet is seething over Amazon’s reported hardball tactics in negotiations with Hachette.

Newspapers and blogs are filled with heated opinion pieces, decrying Amazon’s domination of the book business.

Actual facts are thinner on the ground, however, and if history is any guide, we haven’t heard the full story. Here’s how it started.

In a historical quirk of the trade, publishers and booksellers negotiate co-op deals at the same time as the general agreement to carry titles. (For those who don’t know, co-op is the industry term for preferred in-store placement, such as face-out instead of spine-out, position on end-caps, front tables, window displays, and so on.)

At publishers’ insistence, the same practice has continued in the online and e-book world, namely that negotiations regarding virtual co-op (e.g. high visibility spots on retailer sites) take place at the same time as discussions over general terms and publisher-retailer discounts.

There is a lot…

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checking out the ghost town

Not that I don’t already have enough social media distraction in my life but I’ve recently been checking out Google Plus as an alternative (or at least additional) option to Facebook. As I’m sure all indie writers are now well aware, Facebook’s recent changes have essentially made any posts authors make to their Facebook “fan” pages virtually impossible to see unless the writer is also willing to pay to “boost this post” (in other words, pay for advertising). As an author relatively new to the game, this didn’t sit well with me after working to bring people to like my author Facebook “fan” page. After finally reaching a respectable number of likes on my page, I learned that only a tiny fraction of those people who like the page will actually see what I post there. The result being, I’ve found myself using Facebook less. I will say, though, at least I’m not alone. I had to laugh the other day when a writer mentioned that not even her husband saw her recent post on his timeline.

So, this made me curious about Google Plus. Yes, I’d heard the rumors about it being a ghost town but I figured I might as well check it out. I have to say, it really does offer some nice features such as creating circles allowing you control who sees what. Google Plus also offers quite a bit more control over what you post there, such as the ability to edit after the fact and use formatted text to make your posts look more professional. Now, it’s back to square one. After getting people to like my Facebook author page, how do I get them to follow on Google Plus? The major obstacle being that most of them are probably only on Facebook.

I’d love to hear from others on this. Are any of you other writers or readers checking out Google Plus too? What do you think?

By the way, here’s my page on Google Plus. I’d love it if you followed me there.