Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Decisions, Decisions.

I got an offer from Permuted Publishing!  A three book deal for Under a Broken Sun, which is pretty exciting!

So why am I not bouncing off the walls?


Is it a good offer?  A bad offer?  What do I look for when signing my rights away?

The challenge of being a self-published author.

I'm searching for agents, but if you go to an agent with a publisher in hand, they're less likely to work with you, especially if it's a smaller niche publisher like Permuted (they are strictly post-apocalytpic).  Plus an agent knows the big boys - Simon & Schuster, etc, which means bigger advances.

In other words, I don't want to jump at the first person expressing interest.

BUT, do I risk turning them down just to have them disappear?  And then maybe never get another offer again?


Leave advice via the comments.  It's free, and will be taken as such.  :)

Oh well.  Book 2 calls.  WRITE ON!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Great discussion with a social media coordinator

Yes, there are groups and organizations out there that will manage your social media presence for you, and believe me, it's worth it.

I haven't signed up yet for it, but this guy's giving me a free look-over on my Facebook ads, to see if 1) I'm targeting the right audience and
2) I'm sending out effective ads.

Here's what I learned about Facebook advertising:

- You can have a campaign consist of multiple ads, each one targeting a specific audience with different images, words, etc.  Once these go out, you can use the results to identify your best target audience.  And if you set a dollar limit on your campaign, your ads will accumulate to that limit and no more.

- Broader scope is not better.  You may think targeting 58 million people would be great, and you may jack up your likes to your page, but that doesn't necessarily translate into sales.  Many people like a page just cuz they like it, or they like everything that comes their way, but they're not the ones buying your book.  A broad reach may get you 100 likes on your Facebook page and no sales, whereas a niche target may get you 25 likes but 25 sales.  Likes don't pay.  Sales do.

More to come once I get the feedback from my social media coordinator.  In the meantime, if you have a chance to consider Facebook advertising for your on-line book or self-published book, DO IT.

And most importantly, WRITE ON!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The key to overcoming writer's block is...

...to stop writing.

No, I don't mean forever.  There wouldn't be any writers left in the world if we did that.  No, I mean, don't stare at your screen or typewriter (for you hipster writers) "trying" to write.  Stop.  Step away from the computer.

It's ok.

Now, that's all well and good, but how do you get back on track?  Well, in my experience writer's block usually comes from an uncertain direction forward.  What now?  What plot point can I throw in?  What's the subplot?  How can I move the story forward?

Screaming is a good place to start.

This happened to me on the bus the other day whilst writing Under a Broken Sun II - Mammoth Caves.  The hero's group pulled off the main road for the night, into a barn.  They split up, some to check out the farm house to see if anyone was alive there, some to get wood.  Some stayed in the barn to start a warming fire.

And then....



Yeah, I got nothin'

So, what did I do?  Well, I happen to have a playlist of songs that are the "soundtrack" to my story.  I listen to them in random order, over 150 songs, when I write.  When I'm blocked?  I stop writing, and start listening.

I closed my eyes (all on the bus, remember), listened to the soundtrack, and put myself in the scene.  It's cold.  Biting cold.  The three men go out to cut wood.  So they have axes.  They talk about the previous scene.  Danger.  Need danger.  What's dangerous about being in the middle of trees with no electricity and cold?  Not hypothermia.  To easy to avoid.  Not in-fighting, doesn't suit the characters.  I watched the movie in my head.  And suddenly -

- there was a growling.  Slow.  Deep.  Then another.  A guttural harmony.  

Block avoided.  I won't tell you what happens because then you won't buy the book figuring you already know it all, but suffice to say, I was off and running again.

So to get over your writer's block, stop writing, start listening, start observing.  Go into your story.  However you can, however you choose to do it, close your eyes, and BE there.

And then?

And your story will hug you.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sometimes life just sucks...

Today was one of those days, and it seems to be a common thread amongst my friends and family.  Bad news, depressing news, rejections, dreams being knocked off course by turbulence that no one can control.

This is one of those days.

So what do we do?  Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and chin up and all that?

Nah.  Fuck that.  We get angry.  Depressed.  Throw stuff.  Cry.

Emotions are a part of dealing with pain.  They squeeze the pain out of us like wringing a sponge, and it hurts, and it sucks, but it gets it out and over with.  Because once the pain of disappointment and anger goes away and is out of our system, we're able to focus on the next steps.

Don't fight the emotions.  Punch a pillow.  Scream outside.  Take to the treadmill like you're stomping on someone's face.

You know the rules: no killing, no torture, no self-harm.  None of that helps anyway.  But recognizing the emotions, and being ok with the tears, that does.

Then, when the mind is clear and the soul can connect again, we can pray, meditate, think on our situation, and accept whatever curve ball has just been thrown at us, and get to the next chapter.

Remember, if life is a book, we're the main characters.  And as any writer knows, what do you do to your hero to make their adventure more exciting?  You switch it up on them.  Throw in road block after road block and watch your hero persevere.

There's no reason why we can't do the same.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Time...

It's time to redefine God.  It's not a he, excluding all females.  It's not a she, excluding all males.  It's all.  Everything.  From every individual star to the gum on the bottom of your shoe.

It's time to stop Praying for Action from this God.  Rather, we should act.  WE are God.  Therefore we are collectively everywhere and everything.  We are all knowing.  We are all loving.  Those that aren't simply exist to remind us what love is.

It's time to stop thinking of one God being better than the others.  God is not one god.  It is everything.  It may take DIFFERENT forms, but not one better than another.

It's time to stop thinking of one PERSON as being better than the others.  The God of our ancestors created separation: us from God, and us from each other.  But we are all one.  WE are God.

It's time to consider every human, every animal, every aspect of this world as our equal.  Women are not better than men, men are not better than animals, animals are not better than trees.  All are required to make the world what it is, and all are deserving of equal awe and reverence.

It's time to rethink who YOU are.  You are not insignificant.  You are not unwanted.  You are not alone.

You are GOD.

You.  Are.  Perfect.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Being True to Yourself

Somedays, you just have to throw off the past, and begin again.  Whether it's a book that you never can quite finish, or a chapter in your life that doesn't seem to end, it's imperative that each one of us realize WE have the power to make these changes in our lives.

And changes in our lives will only stick if we make in them in alignment with who we truly want to be.  "Be the change you wish to see" as Ghandi once said.  You can't do that if you're unsure of who you should be, (you SHOULDN'T be anyone) or who others think you are (who cares?)  It comes from within.

Some may call it God - a calling.  Some may call it the soul.  Others may not believe in any of that and just think of it as a free choice.  All are valid and different interpretations of the same thing.  It's you.

It's about time I start living by those ideals.  It's time I stop seeking approval from others as to who I am, and start molding that mound of clay I've been sitting in front of for forty years.


The most powerful words in the universe, as I've said many times.

Nothing is impossible when it comes to being who you are.  There are no boundaries.  Approval is not necessary from anyone except yourself.  Your soul knows who you are.  It's just waiting for you to see it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Amazon vs. Nook for Self Publishers

Not that I'm an expert, but I have tried over the past two months selling on both Amazon and Nook, and here's what I can tell you:

Nookie books just ain't worth it.

In the time since I've set up a Nook sale, versus amazon, I've sold 1 book on the Nook site.  265 on the Amazon site.  Now that's not a scientific study, and if I pushed it more with direct links to the site on Facebook (see previous posts on advertising on Facebook), maybe I would've gotten, I dunno, maybe 10.  Point is there's a night and day difference.

Among them:
1)  Amazon was a HELLUVA lot easier to format the document to their specs.  Nook has a manual process that almost allows you to either type in the document (like someone's gonna type 80,000 words on a web page) or upload a document, which is translated into a document to edit.  The chapter breaks were all messed up, which I set up by simple page breaks.

2)  Amazon has better marketing for self-published authors.  The KDP Select program, which I dropped out of to get onto Nook, has some promotions opportunities to take advantage of like free giveaway days (5 per every 90 days) and a countdown promotion (the price of your book starts low and gradually increases, which seems a little backward, but whatever).  The point is, when you're doing these promotions, Amazon is pushing it for you.   How?  Because...

3)  Amazon is linked to by a ton of freebie sites.  When you offer your book for free, hundreds (maybe thousands, I didn't count) are updated automatically for people looking for free good reads.  That adds to your readership, which increases your chances of reviews, which increases your chances of more readers.

4)  Amazon's reach is obvious versus Nook.  Barnes & Noble should be commended for trying to stay in competition with Amazon, but with the Kindle Fire going gangbusters and the multiple Kindle offerings, Nook is on life-support, and someone's gonna pull the plug.  You never want to see a monopoly form, and iBook from Mac still has a chance due to the popularity of Apple, but Nook just can't compete.

5)  As the article linked above also mentioned, Amazon is much more global in reach.  For me that's not as huge a deal, since my books both take place in America and are more or less American-centric, but I did have a huge amount of sales in the UK, as they are a great target audience for secular or atheistic post-apocalyptic stories like mine.  And the freebies have sent my book to 8 different countries.  That's exciting, if nothing else.  Great to say my book is in 9 countries.  (Not translated into 9 languages, though.  That's BIG time.)

There's more, and I'd be happy to take questions based on my brief experience, of if self-published authors have other experiences, let me know.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing to music...

I can't write without headphones on.  I need the soundtrack, and in fact have even created playlists specifically for whatever book I'm writing, even specific moods.

Here's my top three songs that were instrumental in my writing Under a Broken Sun.  Check them out - they're incredibly intense:

  1. Mazzy Star - Into Dust.  Originally heard this on an episode of House, and instantly fell in love with its haunting simplicity.  Hope Sandoval's voice is quiet, and with minimal effort and few words, highly impactful.
  2. Linkin Park - The Little Things Give You Away.  Some say the band's most emotional and powerful song ever.  Written after the band saw the destruction of Katrina, this piece also could be interpreted as a son remonstrating his father for ignoring him all these years.
  3. Willy Porter - You Stay Here.  Although this is a cover of a Richard Shindell piece, Porter's phenomenal guitar playing again makes the complex sublime.  The lyrics are apropos enough for a post-apocalyptic book, but the force in Porter's voice adds a tremendous amount of anger, uncertainty, and longing in this dystopian future.

More music to write by in later posts, but in the meantime, give these three a listen and see what story pops into your mind.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Advertising on Facebook

If you're a self-published author and you're not familiar with advertising on Facebook, you should be.

It's really not that complicated, but ensuring you're getting your money's worth is.  It's easy to set up a daily budget, so you could reach thousands of people on just a buck a day.  However, here are some observations that I've found after four months of advertising on Facebook:

  1. Likes on your book's page (and your book SHOULD have it's own page) do NOT translate to sales.  In fact, in some areas that I've targeted (like India), people just seem to like pages at random.  However, it certainly doesn't hurt.  I noticed a definite drop in daily sales when I wasn't advertising.
  2. It can get away from you.  Facebook encourages you to set up advertisements that run continuously, which is fine, but if you're self publishing and monitoring your own sales, you should make sure your marketing spend doesn't exceed your sales.  I'm using almost dollar for dollar any money I make via Kindle Direct Publishing to increase marketing spend.  At $30 a week in sales, I'm definitely not in it to be a millionaire.
  3. Choose your target audience wisely.  Spreading yourself out to seventy-million people just because they all like eBooks isn't going to translate into sales as much as 6 million people who like your genre.  You may generate more likes for your book's page, but see #1 above.  You may be paying for likes, not links.
  4. I have two ads going: one for the book's Facebook page, where my marketing guy writes book-appropriate blurbs and quotes (Brian J. Sheridan, in case you're looking.  Great guy), AND I have a direct link to the amazon page where the book is.  I haven't done enough of an analysis to say which is more effective, but I'd venture to guess the clicks to the amazon site result in more sales than do the likes.

I'll keep posting observations, but if you have any questions, feel free to comment below and I'll let you know what I'm experiencing.  Like I said, this isn't a real scientific study on the effectiveness of Facebook campaigns, but it is a valuable tool for any self-published author.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Been a busy week.

Productive, which is good.  Nearing 8500 words, and my characters are getting a lot of crap thrown their way, which is the way it's supposed to be.  This time around, for the first draft, I'm just writing.  I may end up at 65k words, a ton of misspellings, and some places that don't make sense, but at least it'll be done.  

Then the real writing begins.

I tell my daughters that all the time.  The first draft of a book should be flown through like a jet at Mach 5.  Just don't expect it to be done.  Writing is re-writing as someone once said.  If you go into that knowing your first draft is basically just a pencil sketch, you'll be much more acceptable of the prk the second through tenth drafts will take.

But write on.  Always write on.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Maybe the back of the bus isn't such a great writing spot...

Because ya never really know if you're gonna get it.
But I do like it because I love to write in confined spaces, like airplane seats, backs of buses, chairs in dark rooms.  Places were distractions are at a minimum.  Stephen King wrote Carrie on a makeshift desk facing a wall.

The one thing I do need, though, is music.  A soundtrack.  I'll even stop writing to change the playlist that fits the mood more.

What's your writing space?  Anything consistent or is it wherever the heck you are?

Well, whatever it is, WRITE ON my friends!

Monday, January 6, 2014

And we're off...

4000 words written so far, and the opening to Under a Broken Sun II - Mammoth Caves takes place in Chicago during a blizzard.  Because the environment is completely screwed up.

Needless to say, I'm a little freaked by the weather we're having right now (google polar vortex).  But I guess it's a good thing if your writing scares you.

Interesting part of writing a sequel:  how to include the exposition required for new readers without boring your old readers.  J.K. Rowling was really good at this, but even then you find yourself buzzing through the exposition wondering who in the hell would be reading book three WITHOUT knowing Harry Potter is the boy who lived?

So I like to incorporate the backstory slowly over the first few chapters.  If you leave it vague enough, and interesting enough, new readers might even put down the sequel to read the first one.  But really, who leaps into the second book in a series?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Authoring Your Life's Book

Many of you have probably heard the expression that New Year's Day is the first blank page of the book of your life, entitled 2014.  Or something like that.  And that's true, and a good analogy that I want to take one step further, and offer up a little reality to it.

Your life is your own book, to write in it whatever you want.  BUT, there will be critics.  

Take a look at the reviews for my book, Under a Broken Sun.  


There are 24 of them, 3 of which are 2 or 1 stars.  Harsh critics.  Read each of them and then think about the one thing they had in common (besides the hating the language)....

...go ahead, I'll wait....

....ok, got it?   If not, I'm gonna tell ya, and if you did, I'm gonna tell you anyway, because this ain't no choose your own adventure blog.

None of the three finished the book.  Even a couple of the three star reviews didn't finish the book.  Some of the reviews complained about plot holes or things that weren't realistic.  Maybe they were explained later in the book, but they never gave it a chance.

Does all that upset me?  Not in the least bit.  I don't know these people, and they don't know me.  They gave it a try, and in some instances were instantly turned off, for one reason or another.  I may never know why and I don't care.  They have their life stories and hate foul language or are fiercly proud of their religion and feel offended.  I don't know and I'll never know.

How is all that relevant?  Think about the people you meet in your life.  Some will know you for only five minutes and give up on your book.  Some will stay with you until the bitter end, because they just can't get enough of your life's book and want to see how it ends.  As with writing, some will have criticisms that come from a background you may never fully know or understand, and like critiques on your writing, you can listen to it and pay attention to what seems to fit, ignoring everything else.  Or, you can ignore all of it even if some of it is true.  In either case, realize people come from all walks of life, and bring that experience with them when you meet them.  So if someone criticizes you for the way you dress, your lifestyle choices, or anything that you deem nitpicky and stupid, remember, you don't know them and they don't really know you.  For whatever reason, they don't want to read your life's book and that's fine.  They don't have to.  Plenty of us will still want to.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Resolutions? None.

I may have mentioned this before, but I don't do New Year's Resolutions.  They're a continual reminder of what we DIDN'T do last year and more importantly they're a subliminal message to ourselves of who we are NOT.

I do affirmations.  Using the most powerful words in the universe - I AM - I write down who I am as a reminder of what drives me going forward.  Sometimes those affirmations may have changed from the last year, but usually they're the same, even if I didn't do everything I should've in the past year.  Despite our actions, who we are and who we choose to be shouldn't change unless we truly want to choose a different direction for our lives.

So, for example, here are my affirmations for 2014.  They may sound like bragging a bit, but remember what I stated at the top of this blog.  Just like optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as everyone else, affirmations is the statement of fact, not relative to anyone else.  Arrogance is suggesting you're BETTER than someone else.  Affirmations just state what is.

1)  I'm an author of The Timepiece Chronicles series, the Under a Broken Sun series, and the teen-self help book Dealing with Dudes and Chicks.  (Notice I didn't say 'I'm a writer'.  That's a very vague and difficult term to quantify.  Authorship connotes ownership of something real.  So even if your novel, short story collection, or poems aren't finished, put yourself down as "The Author of...", and make your projects real.)

2)  I'm a devoted family man.  True and indisputable.  I love my kids to death and am totally devoted to them.  Love my wife and family more than anything else in the world.

3)  I'm a hard worker in my place of employment.  Also true, at least according to my latest review.

4)  I'm a health food nut who constantly tries to keep himself fit.


None of my actions from last year suggest that.  This is an example of an affirmation that needs to be beefed up in the coming year.  But by affirming it, I'm putting it out there that this is who I am, and thus any actions to the contrary need to stop.  It's like a reverse resolution.  Instead of suggesting who I am not, and suggest actions to take to correct that, I'm suggesting who I AM, so that the CHOICES I make reflect that.  These are a lot harder.  Takes a LOT of reminders.

That's it - short, sweet, to the point, and these four guidelines drive me throughout the year.  What are some of your affirmations?

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