Mark Terry

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


February 27, 2013
I'm delighted to announce the publication of my latest Derek Stillwater novella, GRAVEDIGGER. It takes place in 1992, shortly after the events of DIRE STRAITS, when Derek was younger and employed by the CIA. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Self-Employment 101

February 26, 2013
I was chatting with a friend of mine yesterday - okay, I was sort of venting. There's a lot of crap going on right now and I was momentarily juggling more of it than desirable and felt like I was dropping half of it.


Let's back up a minute.

Yesterday, on Facebook, I also posted a job posting I ran across and I called it the State of the Market. To whit, somebody was looking for someone to write articles for the real estate market and about healthcare and they were willing to pay the magnanimous sum of $8 per article. Yes. PER ARTICLE.

So, in other words, if you can somehow write a 500-word article that is professional in one hour, you would make about minimum wage. But if you, perhaps, did a little research, interviewed people, or in general did what you're supposed to do to make a professional readable written product, you'd make about 15 cents an hour.

So anyway, we were chatting and we talked about that article and I said there was another one that was looking for someone with an MBA to write articles and they would pay $25/hour. To which my friend said that he didn't see an MBA going for that, but $25/hour was pretty good.

So here's where I discuss self-employment briefly.

For a self-employed person, $25/hour really isn't all that good. Here's why.

For all you wage slaves who work the so-called 8-hour day, your yearly salary is typically built on 2080 hours per year. That is to say, 8 hours a day, 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. So $25 per hour comes out to $52,000 a year, which is decent. And, for most wage slaves in the U.S. at that pay rate, they've got another $10-$20,000 worth of benefits like health insurance, paid holidays, paid sick days, paid vacations, possibly even year-end bonuses, etc.

One very big misconception people who have never been self-employed have is that if you do a gig for $25/hour, then you're well on your way to that same $52,000.

Um, no.

Assuming I worked 40 hours per week 52 weeks out of the year, the fact is, I couldn't possibly get 2080 billable hours out of that timeframe. Because much of my time is spent on non-billable business functions - researching jobs, querying, filing, invoicing, talking to clients, marketing, etc.

In order to get 2080 billable hours, I probably would need to actually work 3000 to 4000 hours a year. That's a lot.

Or, as is the case with the majority of self-employed folks, they bill at a higher rate. Hell, if an attorney or a psychologist, etc., can bill $300/hour, I get enormously frustrated when people think $40 or $50 an hour for a professional medical writer is expensive. And more than a little pissed when they throw out a number like $8 per article.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Collective Alzheimer's

February 21, 2013
So... my youngest son, who is a hotshot swimmer in high school, had the prelims for Leagues last night, which was for the 8 teams in their league. 150 kids, the meet started at 5:00 PM and ran until 9:15 or so. For whatever reason it was at the West Bloomfield High School pool, which is an older, smaller pool with only 6 lanes, so the damned thing took forever. For example, there were 17! heats for the 50 meter freestyle. At least those races last about 25 seconds. There were about 7 heats for the 500 meter freestyle, and each of those races lasts 5 or 6 minutes.

Anyway, because WB is way on the other side of where my wife works, I knocked off working at about 2:30 yesterday and drove to where Leanne works. I left my car there and she drove to the meet. We got there early because we wanted to find seats (we discovered at the county meet how much of a problem that can be). Granted, the seats were the world's most uncomfortable metal bleachers, but seats nonetheless.

Anyway, we drove home and were going to stop and pick up food for Ian and his friend Eric. We decided on Little Caesars Hot & Ready pizza because it's cheap and fast. Only, as it turns out, they close at 10:00 and we hit the local store at 10:05. So we just dropped off Eric and went home.

And as we pulled into the driveway, my wife said, "Shit. Your car's still at work."

Duh. We both completely forgot about it. So Leanne pulls out, heads back to work, 10 miles away, then rolls around the block back home. "Screw it. You get up and come to work with me tomorrow and drive home."

Which, for the most part, was fine. Except due to all this I also had to drive Sean to school today.

Crazy life.

Oh, and Sean qualified for the League finals in the 50 meter freestyle and the 200 meter free relay. That relay team is only about a second from qualifying for states, so we'll see what happens on Friday.

I just hope I don't forget where I left my car.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Humanitarian Aid - How I Made The Cover

February 20, 2013
Because a couple of you asked about how I made the cover, I'll share my secrets.

First, I don't have Photoshop. My son does, but he's at college. And I'm too cheap to buy it for something like this unless I decide to start doing all my own covers, which is still unlikely (and wait till you see Judy Bullard's cover for the next Derek Stillwater novella - love it!).

So, first. I bought a photograph from a stock photography place. I used iStock, but there are plenty of them out there. Google "stock photos" or "royalty free art" and you'll get a bunch. My search words, in this case were "spaceships" and "outer space" and "planets" although I tried "space battles" as well. When I finally found the one I liked, I paid $19 to download it to my computer. I went with the "large" format, which seemed to work. People who know more about graphic design would know more details about pixels, etc.

I'm a Mac user, so I have iWork, but I imagine you can do the same thing on Microsoft Word (which I have, too).

Anyway, in Pages, which is Apple's iWork version of Word, I pulled up a blank page. Then, under the File menu I went to Page Setup ...> Paper Size.

In the dropdown menu I clicked on "Manage Custom Sizes." I set it for wide 6 inches and height 9 inches and then named it "Book Cover Ratio." I left all the other fields alone.

Then I dragged my stock photo into the open document and resized it by clicking on it and dragging the pic's corners to where they needed to be. Then I went to the Arrange menu and clicked on "Lock" to lock the artwork down.

Then, I used Insert and chose Text. This gave me a Text box, which I positioned at the top. I screwed around with this for a while, because what I had in this case was a white box with black print, which looked like crap. Eventually I got it so the box was black and the text was white for the title. I messed around with centering it and looked at 20 different fonts (I believe this one is Impact) until I liked the one I got.

I used another text box for the print at the bottom, messed around with using a box for each one, but found it was easier with just one, sized it, got the font I wanted, and saved it.

Pages doesn't allow you to save as a .JPG, but you can safe it as a PDF, which I did. Then I opened the .PDF in Adobe Acrobat and saved it as an image in a .JPG format, and voila, I had my cover art. Took $19 and maybe an hour or hour and a half. (I'm told you can also use iPhoto for this, but I didn't figure out how to do it).

If you don' t have Pages, I imagine you could do something very similar with Word (which I do have, and which I use far more than Pages, actually).

This is quick and dirty and I didn't do any image layering, which may be more complicated, but for a straightforward image with some text, then saving it eventually to a .JPG, this was pretty easy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Humanitarian Aid

February 19, 2013
This is the cover of a science fiction short story that will be published in a few days as an Amazon Kindle Short. When it's live I'll link to it and have more to say.

Note: Wow! That was fast. The story, Humanitarian Aid, is now available for Kindle only for 99 cents!

What's it about? Many years in the future humans have spread out into the galaxy. 42 races belong to the Galactic Union. When the Kevlu wipe out the Earth colony Manitoba, Dr. Con Torres, a physician with the Galactic Health Organization, is sent to Manitoba to help find and treat any survivors. It's a hopeless task with an estimated 500 million dead and the Kevlu still insisting the planet is theirs ... but Con likes to think that "humanitarian aid" still has meaning in a galaxy filled with non-humans.

But I wanted to point out a couple things first.

1. Yes, it's under a pseudonym. T. Ray Drew (the T stands for Terry, because, you know, I'm not that imaginative. Drew is my middle name. Ray is something of a family name - my brother's middle name and my maternal grandfather's first name. Plus, I thought T. Ray sounded sort of cool). It's no secret, I just wanted to differentiate a straight SF short story from all the other things I write in the thriller, mystery realm.

2. Like the cover? I did it myself. And no, I don't have PhotoShop. This was surprisingly easy and inexpensive to do and I'm very pleased with the cover. If people are interested, I'll write a blog post about what I did for the cover. I don't think it would be the best way to go (I guess) for more complicated covers, but I was pleased with this. What do you think? A blog post about this cover?

3. In terms of inexpensive, the stock photograph cost me $19. The short story will sell for 99 cents. The royalty rate on that is 33 cents. I need to sell about 60 copies to break even on this thing. It's an experiment.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Coming Soon: Monster Seeker 2

February 18, 2013
A week or so ago I finished the final edits on a follow-up to my novel, MONSTER SEEKER, which I wrote a couple years ago. In reality, I didn't have any plans to write a sequel to MONSTER SEEKER, although when I wrote the original one I had hopes.

You may notice that at the bottom it says: IAN MICHAEL TERRY with MARK TERRY.

Yep. Ian Michael Terry is my oldest son. He is currently a freshman at Michigan State University and he is 19 years old.

I'll write more about how this came about and how we co-wrote this novel, although in most regards it is Ian's novel - he wrote it, I rewrote and edited it, made suggestions. The story is his as is most of the work.

The cover art for this one, like the cover art for the first one, was done by Stephen Walker of SR Walker Designs. Typically I have Judy Bullard of Jaebee Creations do my cover art, particularly of the Derek Stillwater stories, which she has a nice feel for. But I think Stephen's style fits the Monster Seeker books well.

I expect this book to go live in a few weeks. I'll write about how Ian and I worked together on this and have some other posts about things relevant to this book. I'm also going to have an interview with Ian to post up here in a while.

I'll also be having a Derek Stillwater novella come out in a short time as well.

Monday, February 04, 2013

What I've Been Reading

February 4, 2013
So, the first 10 books (although that's complicated) I've read so far this year.

1. Key Death by Jude Hardin
I read this in manuscript format, as I blurbed it. I believe it's coming out in June or so, a short novel featuring Jude's PI Nicholas Colt. I enjoyed it. Serial killers, drug deals, and twists and turns.

2. A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin
Blew me away. I was resistant to reading it because it's very long and the first very long book in a very long series of very long books - did I say it was very long? - and epic fantasy it's usually my thing, but hey, when you're in the presence of genius, sometimes you need to go ahead and see what all the fuss is about.

3. Last Chance Lassiter by Paul Levine
This is a prequel novella featuring hard-luck down-and-dirty Florida attorney Jake Lassiter and I enjoyed this very, very much. Essentially Jake takes on the case of an old blues singer who believes he has been plagiarized by a Rap star.

4. Dinosaurs in the Attic by Doug Preston
A nonfiction book about the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, this was very enjoyable and interesting.

5. The Human Division #1: The B-Team by John Scalzi
Scalzi is writing a serialized novella, which his publisher is releasing a chapter/section every Tuesday. It's SF and it's in the same universe as his Old Man's War series. This first part was quite good, about 60 pages or so. It will also be published as a novel when the serialization is completed, but I'm enjoying the serialization. Overall it's a little hard for me to tell exactly what the plot is about, but essentially there's Earth, and there's the Colonial Union, which is the government that was set up by Earth out in space, and then there's everybody else in the galaxy who were fighting over territory. Then, in The Last Colony, that went to hell and a group of other planets (Earth and CU not included, exactly) take over and say, "No more colonization, no more fighting over planets." And in this book, it seems that there's some folks with either the CU or Earth (or both, or neither!) who don't necessarily agree with that edict.

6. Pandora's Temple by Jon Land
A sort of Indiana Jones meets Dirk Pitt meets James Bond meets ... well, you get the idea. Totally ridiculous and a lot of fun. I gather this is about #10 of the series. I've read a couple other books by Jon and enjoyed them reasonably well, but this is pretty outrageous and involves ... dark matter and Armageddon and... don't think too much. Just go along for the ride.

7. The Human Division #2: Walk The Plank by John Scalzi
Part 2. This is an oddity, pretty much all told in dialogue, as if it's a recording. It doesn't seem to be at all connected to Part 1 until you get to Part 3. I had a tough time getting into it, but eventually did, and once you get to part 3 it makes complete sense.

8. The Human Division #3: We Only Need the Heads by John Scalzi
In Part 3 we basically get some of the characters from part 1 down on the planet where Part 2 took place, while other characters from Part 1 are involved in diplomatic negotiations with a race that is supposed to have control over the planet the other group is on. It doesn't end well. Or begin well, for that matter.

9. The Treatment Option by Joel Barrows
I read this in manuscript. Joel is a client and this is a thriller about bad deeds involving a pharmaceutical company. I enjoyed working on this quite a bit.

10. The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell
A new series (clearly) by James Rollins and someone I've never read before, Rebecca Cantrell. I'd read their novella, City of Screams, which doesn't really prepare you for how weird The Blood Gospel is going to get. But it basically takes the history of Christianity and the Catholic Church and overlays vampire mythology on top of it, then combines that with James Rollins fast-paced, action-adventure style, and throws in a bunch of historical figures who are, er, well, um, vampires. As Jim said in an interview, it's pretty amazing (read weird) how much of the Catholic Church's history dovetails so well with vampire mythology. I enjoyed this a lot.