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Minimum wage

Nicole update: comments have been turned off per Ilona’s request. 

Admin note: Kristi, my email to you keeps bouncing.

Okay, so because Kid 1 is moving out, I’m noticing apartment prices, and as I was browsing, I came across a graphic that said that in most cities minimum wage doesn’t permit an employee to rent an apartment.

When I think “minimum wage,” in my head, it’s the bare minimum necessary to rent a one bedroom apartment, pay utilities and have money for food. I am not even counting the car, insurance, medical or anything like that.  Just bare minimum to survive.

Minimum wage: $7.25 x 40 hour per week x 4 weeks = $1, 160.

I looked at the quick surveys of apartments in the three nearest smallish towns that are considered Austin suburbs, so Cedar Park, Leander, and Round Rock.  When you factor in the assorted fees (renter’s insurance, move in deposits, etc), the average price of a one bedroom apartment is between $850-900.

A person working a minimum wage couldn’t live by themselves.  They would either have to get a second job – and many do – or get a roommate.

The established norm, the ratio that landlords usually require, is that your annual income is at least 40 times your rent.  That means that being able to afford $800 apartment (going with a low end here,) a person would have to make $800 x 40 = $32,000 annually.  $32,000 /2,087 hours (which is what General Accounting Office believes to be an average number of working hours per year) = $15.33

That’s how far the minimum wage is off in a place we live.

Two people living together working minimum wage jobs can barely afford a one bedroom apartment.

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t news.  While Gordon was in the service, I knew soldiers who were on food stamps.  We had lived through a few years of low income, but at least, twenty years ago, we somehow managed to survive.  The gap seems even wider to me now.  Maybe I am just older or because I hadn’t hunted for an apartment for the last ten years, but if you are a kid attending college, working and accumulating student loans, you can’t afford to live on your own in Austin.

Fun Things and Cool Books

We’ve got some stuff to take care of on the family front, the chief of which is trying to make the house at least somewhat presentable, because right now it looks like hoarders live here.  All the things are out of Kid 2’s room and are everywhere, together with furniture from IKEA and remains of boxes.  PS. It is really, really difficult to find an actual dressing table in white.  IKEA is the only place that had it at a reasonable price.

So while we are doing that, I thought I would chat about some fun things.

Perdition

Perdition1Synopsis

Welcome to hell.

The prison ship Perdition, a floating city where the Conglomerate’s most dangerous criminals are confined for life, orbits endlessly around a barren asteroid.

Life inside is even more bleak. Hailed as the Dread Queen, inmate Dresdemona “Dred” Devos controls one of Perdition’s six territories, bordered on both sides by would-be kings eager to challenge her claim. Keeping them at bay requires constant vigilance, as well as a steady influx of new recruits to replace the fallen. Survival is a constant battle, and death is the only escape.

Of the newest convicts, only one is worth Dred’s attention. The mercenary Jael, with his deadly gaze and attitude, may be the most dangerous criminal onboard. His combat skill could give her the edge she needs, if he doesn’t betray her first. Unfortunately, that’s what he does best. Winning Jael’s allegiance will be a challenge, but failure could be worse than death…

***

So, how to describe this book…  In the galaxy far far away in the far far future, the government had no idea what to do with criminals that are too dangerous to house in the regular maximum security prisons.  They took an old space tanker, fiddled with some life support, and decided to dump all of the worst of the worst into it.  Basically it’s Escape from New York inside a giant space ship.  Some automated systems are functioning, but prisoners pretty much roam unsupervised.

Quickly gangs formed, each led by a really nasty prisoner, and each gang has carved out a territory.  Dred, a psychic, rules one of these little prison kingdoms.  Dred is empathic.  When she comes across a killer, she gets flashes of what that killer has done, which is how she ended up inside Perdition in the first place.  She hunted the worst of the worst.  Dred is brutal, but not psychotic.  She rules her little kingdom, trying to hold on to power, keep the other gangs from taking over her territory, solving things like food supply and worn-out life support systems, and trying to do it as fair as possible.  In the land of the murderers, she is probably the best alternative, because the rulers of the other prison kingdoms are much worse.  Then Jael arrives, with his own set of screwed up powers, and a very complicated dance begins between him and Dred.

It’s a brutal book.  It’s like Prison Break in space, and it doesn’t flinch from gore and death, but the psychological undercurrent is even more interesting than the physical action.  There is a thread of possible romance weaving through all of it and some hope, and you can’t help but root for Dred.  Gordon and I read it and we both liked it and we both would read the second one.  I beliebve this book is the first of a trilogy.  As always, your mileage may vary, so there is an excerpt below.  Try it, see if you like it.

You can find an excerpt here.

Amazon | B&N | BAM | Indiebound | Vroman’s | Book Depository | Powell’s

Also on iBooks!

***

And now for something completely different.

Grace Draven revealed the cover for the sequel to Master of Crows.

Brush of black wingsShe says:

I received final versions of brilliant artwork from Louisa Gallie and Isis Sousa this weekend. A visual feast to be sure. I can’t show the Isis final until after the RT convention, but here is the cover reveal for THE BRUSH OF BLACK WINGS (scheduled for a summertime release)

I am really looking forward to this book.  Sadly, there is nothing on her site about it yet.

And I still haven’t read Radiance.  Because I am so tired, I have no brain power.  It is waiting for me on Kindle.  Maybe some time next week…

***

Speaking of the lack of bran power, the sped up production schedule has done a number on my brain.  I’m so tired of thinking.  I have this really, really awesome game on Steam, called Valkyria and I love it. You control a squad of soldiers in a magical World War I type setting.  It is turn-based, tactical, the soldiers have vibrant personalities.  It’s like solving a puzzle.  Do I move Lago here and shoot the tank, or should I spend the point on my lone-wolf sniper instead, have her run up the tower, shoot, and then run down again, so when the turn ends, the enemy tank doesn’t fire at her? As I mentioned, I love it.

Yeah, I can’t play it.  Thinking about it is making my brain hurt.  I am playing Dragon Age Inquisition, finally, but there are days that I can’t even do that.  Usually I turn to TV.  As I mentioned Kid 1 is moving out.  My husband really likes Forensic Files.  Kid 1 living on her own + endless stories of this college student stopped returning phone calls and her family arrived to find her in a bathtub, carved into six pieces and covered in acid and only a bubblegum wrapper and a purple thread could point to her killer who may or may not have been her boyfriend are not good for my mental health.  We’ve gone through most of the Ink Master.  I desperately need some TV that is fiction and doesn’t involve murders of college students.

secret gardenIn self-defense, I did something I never thought I would do.  I bought a coloring book.  This coloring book.

I saw an article on it somewhere and it had really intricate drawings. So I had a little debate with myself.  On one hand, I am a grown woman and this is a coloring book.  On other hand, I am a grown woman and nobody tells me what to do.  So I bought it and this set of of gel pens.

gel pens

Then I bought a larger set of gel pens, because I wanted more colors, but this set did really well for me and for $20 it was a really good value. It is surprisingly relaxing.  The gallery of the designs are below, some are colored already to show off the gel pens, some are not.

So if you feel like coloring, even if you, ahem, a grown man or woman, you might like this book.  Sadly it’s back-ordered right now, but if you do enjoy coloring and have some other books suggestions, I’d appreciate them.  I really like flowers, animals, and actual drawing vs just mindless arrays of designs.

Well, that’s it for that.  :)

ARCs are incoming

ARCs are incoming

Update: we received way too many entries, almost 400.  Sorry, guys, but there are only 5-6 spots.

Email from Anne,

Just wanted to give you a heads up that we are expecting first pass page proofs of MAGIC SHIFTS in on Friday. We’ll send them to you as soon as we receive.

Oy. On the bright side, I will have e-ARCs ready.  :)  The ARCs are almost books; it’s a PDF file very close to what will be actually printed.  The plot is set, the narrative is written and only minor changes can be made.  The ARCs must be checked for weird grammar, printer errors, and most severe inconsistencies. So if you got a keen eye for detail and you want a shot at proofreading the ARC, email us at ilona.andrews@outlook.com with the words ARC Magic Shifts in the title.  Please say a couple of words about yourself, whether or not you beta read for us before, and we will pick 5-6 people.  You get to read the book 3 months early and I get to not look at it anymore.  Because I can’t.  I hate it so much.

The house is a wreck.  But the room is pink and white.  Score.  Next on the agenda is trying to respond to at least some of the email and putting together furniture.

Personal Post

20150420_092019120150420_0920381Painting around the bed – it was assembled in the room and we can’t disassemble it or take it out – is a bit difficult.  But it is princess pink and the ceiling is white, so yay.  :)

It’s funny how kid tastes change as they grow up.  Hoping to knock out the walls today.

Busy Signal…

Dear Ilona, where are you and what are you doing?

Things.  So many things.  The Thursday Librarian event went very smoothly.  Much thanks to everyone, especially to the librarians, who were so welcoming and to the Ace and Avon staffers, who took amazing care of us.

Copyedit was due Friday before 5:00 pm EST.  It was turned in at 4:58 pm EST.  Huge thanks to Shannon, who is amazing, for her last minute emergency help.  It was incredible generous.

Copyedit follow up queries were do before today.  They are in and done.  Acknowledgments letter is left and it must be before noon.  This will be the next thing.

I haven’t read email for a week, except what Nicole sends me, because it might be urgent.  I am behind and I apologize if you have emailed me and received no response.

 

Awards and Hedgehogs

Magic-Breaks-smMagic Breaks won Romantic Times Readers Choice Award in Urban fantasy.  Thank you so much, guys, that is super awesome.

We are very excited fro RT this year. It is held in Dallas, so for once we can drive instead of flying.  We are hoping for a relaxed schedule this year.

Gordon and I are mostly moderating things this year.  Here is our barely readable schedule  as of now.

Panel, Wednesday, May 13, 2015 – 2:30pm to 3:30pm
Dinner with JS, Wednesday, May 13, 2015 – 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Meeting with TJ, Thursday, May 14, 2015 – 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Panel, Thursday, May 14, 2015 – 2:45pm to 3:45pm
Panel, Friday, May 15, 2015 – 2:45pm to 3:45pm
Avon event: Friday, May 15, 2015 – 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Awards Ceremony: Friday, May 15, 2015 – 7:00 pm –
Penguin event, Saturday, May 16, 2015 – 3:00pm to 4:15pm

More details in a much more understandable form can be found here.

If you are an author we know and you would like to meet, please email me.  If you are a reader, and would like a reader fun time hang out thing, please comment so I’ll know if we need to schedule one.  These things tend to be really informal.  we find a room or a bar and you get to ask whatever you want and get whatever you want signed.  I usually bring ARCs, but I am not sure if we will have them in time for this RT.

In other news I was trying to buy dog food, when Gordon looked through the bin of dog toys and found… this!

20150414_083412 20150414_083444

20150414_083430 It’s Orro!

Hehehe.  The dogs are not getting this one.  He is mine!  He makes a snorting noise when you squeeze him.  I died.

We are working on the copy edit, so SiP is kind of up in the air.  The downside to copyedits is that you can only do so much of them in a row, so if my hair appointment doesn’t take three hours, I can knock some out. It’s a big pivotal scene and we don’t want it to suck.

The other shoe

The other shoe

The copyedit for Magic Shifts just landed. It’s due on Friday.

Update: And it is looking light too, which probably means a lot of stuff was missed. :(

 

Texas Library Association Conference

Texas Library Association Conference

We have been invited to attend Texas Library Association Annual Conference (http://txla.org/.)  We will be there all day Thursday.

Austin, TX—TLA CONFERENCE

Thursday, April 16

LOCATION: Austin Convention Center
500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, TX 78701
Phone: 512-404-4000

10:00-11:00 AM: STEAMPUNK & FANTASY: THE LURE OF THE DISTANT WORLDS (LOCATION: ROOM 16 AB, LEVEL 4)

Panelists: Ilona Andrews, Thomas Willeford, C.C. Hunter, and Sophie Jaff

From alternate histories to alternate realities, steampunk and fantasy authors reveal the creative aspect of rending foreign worlds and the emotional spark of finding universal lessons that draw in readers.

11:00 AM: PENGUIN-RANDOM SIGNING (LOCATION: ROOM 16AB, LEVEL 4)

There will be a signing immediately following the panel in the same room. We will be signing copies of Magic Breaks.

1:50 PM: HARPERCOLLINS SIGNING (BOOTH #1342)

We will be signing Burn For Me in the Harpercollins booth from 2:00-3:00 PM

If you are attending, come see us!

***

This week is crazy.

Monday: Go to Costco, buy things for teacher’s lounge, drive into Austin, (screw you, Mopac) pick up kid by 2:00 pm, drive to Round Rock to a specialist by 3:00 pm, while Gordon takes Kid 1 to view the apartment.

Tuesday:  Appointment at 12:00 for me, appointment at 1:30 for Gordon.

Wednesday: Something is here that I do not remember

Thursday: An all day Texas library Association Annual Conference appearance.

Things that must be done before Thursday: hair.  If one more family member mentions my grey hair, I will get one of those bug zappers and defend myself.  Must call in the groomer, because the Shih Tzu looks like a mop.  Also must call in to pharmacy for refills.  Also Kid 2 just called and she has to present her goals and year plan to us at a student led conference this week. Must pay taxes.  So much taxes.

Must finish Sweep in Peace.

Girls

I try not to talk about the kids too much, but if Kid 1 reads the comments on the previous post, she might decide that her honor might be impugned.  Her driving honor.  Oh noes. A few people asked what is going on with the kids.  So personal post, you’ve been warned.

Kid 1 has a car.  It’s huge and black and a few years old.  We bought it used, but the owner had taken a good care of it. She didn’t want a small car.  I think she felt safer in a larger one.

(As an aside, one day we should buy a new car.  We have never done that and when people talk about a new car smell, I just make funny faces at them.  It kills me to buy something that will depreciate the moment we drive it off the lot.)

Kid 1 has been driving for a couple of years now and most of the time when we go out, she gets the keys in a rather imperious manner, waves them around, and announces that she is driving.  I used to have fear of flying and for a while, when she started, I would get the same anxiety when she drove.  Now I just sit back.  I didn’t want her to drive into Austin, because it is hell.  There are several lane changes which must be done at 5 mph on what is normally a 75 mph road, because the cars line up so densely.

Kid 1 has been accepted to Concordia University and she got a partial scholarship.  We are very proud.  It’s a small private university about twenty minutes from us.  It has an excellent reputation and her plan is to do at least first couple of years to knock out her general education and then perhaps transfer to UT or A&M.  Right now she is aiming for Sports Broadcasting, but that may change.  She is graduating from high school in forty days.  :)

She has a boyfriend and they are planning on moving in together.  That freaks me out, but given that she will be nineteen this year, it probably shouldn’t.  Unfortunately, her old job wasn’t working out with her hours, so she is looking for a new one.

The girls do go to different schools.  Awhile ago Kid 2 got in a fight.  She was a substitute target.  The attacker, a larger girl, was actually mad at Kid 2’s friend because her ex-boyfriend decided to date her and Kid 2 jumped to her friend’s defense.  Words were said, Kid 2 turned to leave for class, and the bigger girl jumped her from behind.  When I got to school, the other child was bleeding and bruised and her clothes were torn.  Kid 2 was relatively unscathed but they both wanted to fight more.

We didn’t press charges.  I am not a fan of pressing charges unless the situation is truly out of control.  However, I became alarmed when the school attempted to present the situation as mutual combat.  According to them, the proper avenue was for Kid 2 to cry for help and because she defended herself, she was just as guilty as the child who attacked her from behind.  I had seen the video of the fight.   (Because kids are idiots and they record everything.)  There was no time to cry for help. The girl outweighed by about 30 lbs and she was very angry. Not to mention that if you cry for help in this situation, you are asking for a target on your back.  The school had nearly doubled its student body in the last four years.  The freshman class alone this year is over two thousand students.  It’s like a prison yard in the hallways.  You can’t show any weakness.

I became very concerned when we kept asking what measures they were planning to take to prevent the next fight and getting no answer.  Basically, their plan was to punish everyone involved with a couple of weeks of in school suspension and that’s it.  If another fight happened, they would both be more severely disciplined, but there didn’t seem to be any plan to prevent the confrontation from happening beyond the general instructions to Kid 2 to go look for an adult when the other girl and her group came by. There was only so much they could do. Kid 2 fights like her life is on the line. We didn’t want anyone hurt.  We also had difficulty moving away from the fight, because the kids subtweet and fight on social media and it is very difficult to put a stop to it.  We can stop it on our end, but it kept going on the other side.  Sooner or later it would explode again.

While Kid 2 was in in-school suspension, her grades went up.  I asked her about it and she said that nobody was disturbing her and she was allowed to work at her own pace.  Clearly, Kid 2 and the school didn’t work together.  We began looking at other schools. One of the schools was a private college prep in Austin.  Kid 2 loved it.  She walked into Khabele and in ten minutes her entire composure changed. She desperately wanted to go there.  We warned her that to make it, she would have to get up at 6:00 am, ride the metro into Austin, and then walk a mile. She didn’t care.  She loved it and could she please go there.

There is more stuff there with the public school.  Maybe I will tell you more after Kid 1 graduates.  It will probably make your hair stand on end. If I could take Kid 1 out, I would, but she is a senior is about to be done.

Kid 2 worked her butt off and met requirements for Khabele – I have to tell you, I’ve applied to colleges that were easier to get into – and she is very happy to be there.  She gets up on schedule, rides the public transport like a champ, and we got her a bike for her mile on foot, as Downtown makes everyone a little nervous.  We just went to an art show where her drawing was presented as part of a fund-raising auction.

Eye-and-butterfly

She doesn’t consider art to be her strong point – she is a writer – but Gordon and I were both very impressed.  I am torn – on one hand I hope that someone buys it, on other I want to buy it. :)

And that’s it for Kid 1 and Kid 2. When commenting, please remember that these are my children.  Thank you in advance for being respectful.