How to Kill Your Success, Part Deux

 

 

wp-1480005872974.jpg

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! This is the day when we all look back over our lives and remember to be thankful for everything we have. There’s definitely lots to be thankful for. My wife and I had our first child, and it took us fifteen years to crank out the little guy so I’m definitely thankful for him. And of course, the lovely woman who birthed him. Yes, that is me with my early morning wildman hair and no glasses. (The little guy kept pulling them off while trying to press his head against my head.)

The last few years have been crazy. I was fortunate enough to spend my father’s last 5 years with him, getting to know him, his likes and dislikes, his love for his family. He was a spiritual man who felt the need to impart his knowledge and wisdom to his children. He also encouraged my writing, and as I continue on this journey he continues to stay in my thoughts.

This thanksgiving I want to talk about one of the things that keep me motivated, and should hopefully help you keep on track as well.

You are going to die.

Wait, what? You thought I was going to say something else?

I can’t take credit for it. A guy by the name of Gary Vaynerchuk said it. But it’s awesome, so I stole it. But what does it mean? It means that time is short. If you want to accomplish anything meaningful, you can’t waste it.

Time is the one thing in this life that has any real value. We all trade time for money. We spend time in ways we hope will produce income, whether it’s writing or some other pursuit that interests you. People place a monetary value on it. But the reality is, it’s all you really have.

We also waste a lot of time. we do things that don’t move us forward, towards the things we want in life. We waste time being mad at people over petty things that don’t matter. We write each other off over political differences, personal choices, pie recipes, cat pictures. (By the way, I don’t have cats so don’t post pics of them. I’m allergic.)

We waste time everywhere. Society keeps us busy with TV, internet, social media, video games, all designed to hold our attention (and rake in revenue, of course).

I’m not going to knock people’s past times. Everyone has hobbies for relaxation, I know I do. But if you’re one of those people who complains about not having enough time, you may need to rethink where you’re spending your existing time. Most of us have jobs, things to take care of. So ask yourself, what are you doing with your time? Write it down. Write down where your existing time is going, so you can see it in front of you. Then, after deciding what it is you want to do, start cutting the things out that are eating the precious bits of time you could be spending somewhere else.

Someday, you’re gonna die. None of us can stop it, none of us can take time back once we’ve spent it. The biggest thing people do to kill their own success is wasting the one thing that they have that can give them success.

The good thing about time is that even if you’ve wasted some, life isn’t over. If you’re still breathing,  you still have time. You can still do all the things you want to do. You just have to keep trying, and stop throwing your time away.

Cheers.

Books, Linux, and assorted news

My book giveaway went great. I wound up extending my free book giveaway through Saturday.  I had 251 downloads in the US, 35 in the UK, and 3 in Germany. I’m sure my numbers won’t stand up to many other writers, but for a first time out, I’m very happy with it. I don’t have anything to compare it to, so I’m interested in hearing from other indy authors t see if they have had similar results. I also finished proofing the paperback version of the book, so I will announce it when it goes live.

I’ve been planning on writing a series of posts on e-publishing on Linux, using only open source tools such as LibreOffice and gimp, among other things. Over the last few months I’ve (hopefully) learned everything I need to know about formatting. I also did some extensive work with gimp for covers, so I should have plenty to write about in the coming weeks, haha. Indy publishing has been a huge learning experience for me, and I’m still trying to figure out the ins and outs. Everything in its time, of course.

You will probably see some more posts unrelated to writing. While I love talking about writing, and will continue to share things as I learn them, I don’t want to get burned out just talking about that. So expect some deviations.

I have a Youtube channel in the works that I’m putting together with a good friend of mine. More on that as it gets formulated.

That’s all I have for now, hope everyone has a safe Thanksgiving and Black Friday 🙂

 

Why Self Publish?

Recently I’ve been asked why I decided to self publish, over doing it the traditional way. I borrowed the Declaration below from Joe Konrath over at http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ .

The truth is, I have been dreaming of being published for most of my life. From the time I discovered that I wanted to be a writer, around the ripe old age of seventeen, writing has been the one thing I’ve consistently come back to. But like all authors, there’s something about the dream that draws me in. Maybe its holding my own book in my hands, feeling the cover and texture of the paper,  or maybe it’s seeing my name on it, knowing that this was something I Created. I don’t know. But whatever else it is, for me it’s also the dream of making a living doing something I love. That, above all else, has been my motivation. I don’t need to be rich. I don’t need a million dollars (although that would be nice!) and I certainly don’t need fancy cars, a big house, and specially tailored clothes. All I need is to be able to make a living. That’s it. Impossible? It used to be.

There was a time when writing a book was akin to playing in a band, or being a supermodel. You had to be DISCOVERED. That meant you had to send your manuscript in and hope someone read it. That meant you had to receive rejection after rejection, and not necessarily because your writing was bad. More likely, it was because whoever happened to be on the receiving end of it didn’t want to read it. or, maybe they read it but just didn’t like that kind of book. or, maybe the grass grew an inch too tall because of the big rain, and they had to leave work early to mow the grass, or maybe…

You see how this goes. When you publish the, ahem, normal way, you are at the mercy of a gatekeeper. Someone who will Judge your book, and most likely tell you its crap, even though it’s really not. Or, maybe it really is crap, but relying on some self-appointed gatekeeper isn’t the way to find out one way or another.

There is a lot of slogging through crap when it comes to trying to get published. This declaration pretty much sums it up for me.

 

The Declaration of Independence for Writers

When in the Course of publishing events, it becomes necessary for writers to sever their ties with the industry that is supposed to have “nurtured” them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that we should declare the causes which impel those writers to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all writers should have an equal chance to find readers. That their successes or failures should be dependent upon their own actions and their own choices. That they should be paid fairly for their work. That they should have control over the works they produce. That they should have immediate and accurate access to their sales data. That they should be paid promptly. That they should not be restricted from reaching those who may enjoy their work. That whenever a publisher becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of Authors to abolish all connections with the offending parties.

The history of the legacy publishing industry is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over writers. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

They have given us take-it-or-leave-it, one-sided, unconscionable contracts.
They have failed to adequately market works they have acquired.
They have artificially inflated the price of ebooks.
They have refused to negotiate better ebook royalties for authors.
They have forced unnecessary editing changes on authors.
They have forced unnecessary title changes on authors.
They have forced crappy covers on authors.
They have refused to exploit rights they own.
They have refused to return rights they aren’t properly exploiting.
They take far too long to bring acquired works to market.
They take far too long to pay writers advances and royalties.
Their royalty statements are opaque, out-of-date, and inaccurate.
They orphan authors.
They orphan books.
They refuse to treat authors as equals, let alone with a reasonable measure of fairness.
They make mistakes and take no responsibility for those mistakes.
For every hope they nurture, they unnecessarily neglect and destroy countless others.
They have made accessories of the authors’ ostensible representative organization, the quisling Authors Guild, and are served, too, by the misleadingly named Association of Authors’ Representatives.
They have failed to honor promises made.
They have failed to honor their own onerous contract terms.
They’ve failed the vast majority of authors, period.

 

The first thing I began to notice when I was debating on which way to go, was the price of ebooks. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but If I’m not receiving a tangible, i.e. a paperback or hardback for my money, I don’t expect to pay the same price or higher. And yet, all my favorite authors (that means you, Dean Koontz!) have (had?) ebooks that were more expensive than even a paperback. Utterly ridiculous. I’m sorry, but it does not cost the same amount to make an ebook as it does paper. Not to mention the author who wrote it is getting the shaft. I have begun the slow process of not buying books from the big six publishing houses, and also, searching for good books written by unknowns who have self published. While I prefer a paperback over ebooks, ebooks are the future. You can debate this all you want, but its true. So while I still want to see my books in print, at some point there aren’t going to be any more brick and mortar stores that will carry paper books. The ones that still exist are hanging on for dear life, or looking for alternative ways to bring in revenue. Like Barns and Noble, for instance. I don’t have hard data here. If you want that, check out Joe’s blog, he’s got tons of it, including his self pubbing sales numbers. When the big book stores die, the only place to get them will most likely be places like Amazon. And fortunately, you can have you book printed as well.

I’m not sure when I realized I wasn’t going to be published the usual way. Maybe it’s when I realized that authors get screwed, earning only something like 35 cents on a paper back. Or maybe it was when I realized I was being forced to pay 15 bucks for a book that only exists here, in digital space, instead of decorating my large oak bookcase. Every writer must find his or her own path. For me, it’s self publishing.

The mutilation, er, metamorphosis of a cover.

So, in the interest of documenting this journey called self publishing, I thought I would share some of the ins and outs of cover making. Yes, I make my own, in a wonderful program called Gimp. This cover is different from the first two I did, way more technical and required me to learn a good bit more about the program. Yes, it had me tearing out my hair just to get it done. I went through more ideas and hours than I normally would spend on something like this, but as this book is going to be a series, I wanted it to be perfect, branded, and made in such a way that I could make the next two sort of add to it. That being said, I will walk through some of my early designs first, so you can get an idea of what this cover went through to get to its current look.

Version 1:

This version sucked for reasons you can probably see. I was doing more sketching with this one than anything else, just trying to get a feel for a cover, and didn’t really have any concrete ideas other than the word ELI, which is an event in the book.

Version 2:

This was better, although I didn’t like any of the fonts I used, and the fire text was, to me, over done. Again, still following the ELI concept, but it kind of throws off the title of the book, and more appears that the book is called “Eli” instead of “The Confessor”.

Version 3:

Still not sure where I was headed. Tried some different stuff, still didn’t really know the program too well either. I do a fair bit of drawing when the mood strikes me, playing with graphics in Gimp is sort of like sketching to me, except I’m more impatient with it. I had no real strong idea of what the book cover should look like, and it didn’t help that I wasn’t finished writing the damn thing in the first place. I was at the in-laws house doing this, taking a break from writing. No, I didn’t procrastinate too much. I promise. No, really.

Version 4:

By this time the book was almost finished, and I was home at long last. I started getting some strong ideas, namely the tunnel, from another scene in the book. I was learning a good bit about the program, but still not satisfied with it. The lay out was more mocked than anything else, I scrapped it because something about it just didn’t feel right.
Version 5:

Flowery huh? As I explored ideas, and just about finished the book, my overall ideas began to get stronger. This cover, at least to me, doesn’t look horrible, but is too passive for the subject matter. I wasn’t too happy with my skills in Gimp at this point, according to my wife I’m a perfectionist, and I wasn’t happy with anything I was coming up with.

Version 6: 

had a pretty strong idea of what I wanted, but for the life of me just couldn’t make it work. If you look closely, there’s a page from a Bible in the bottom, and some words written in color, each color representing the word its coloring. I decided to take a day or so off. Learning a new program is a lot like working out. You stretch the muscles, tear em a bit, then give them a rest so they can rebuild.

Version 7: 

By far the best of the bunch. By the time I got to this point, I was using Gimp like an old (new?) pro, and I’m very happy with this version. That it’s the best of the bunch I know, not because I think it is (although I do), but because my fifty friends on my private Facecrap page tell me it is. And you know we can all trust our friends, right? 🙂 This cover is one of three, and is a departure from what I normally do, in that the second and third covers will be a continuation of this one, so to speak. It still might need some touching up, but overall, I’m happy with the result. And, I had stopped tearing my hair out too, so that’s a good thing.

Well, hope this perhaps gave some insight into what I go through in making a cover. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, and caffeine go into this. While I know I could possibly get better results if I paid a cover artist, or at the very least save myself some headache, for me, doing it all, at least at this point, is part of the process I need to go through, so I can understand just what it takes to do everything.  With this book, I’m also planning on using Amazon’s CreateSpace to do paperback, so I’ll keep you all posted as I go along. Thanks for reading.

The Liebster Award?

Good morning,
Before I launched into my day of slaving over a hot keyboard in search of the right words, I checked my email, and lo! I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Blog Award! Sadly, I’d never heard of it until now, but it sounds prestigious 🙂 Thanks to Nathan over at thewriterscodex.wordpress.com for the nomination. his blog deals with the ins and outs of writing and the writing life, so check him out!

I’m supposed to answer some questions and then nominate some other people, so on with the questions.

  1. What prompted you to start your blog? Well, I’ve actually stopped and started a few blogs, none of which I’ll list here 😛 I never honestly had something that I really wanted to write about, and didn’t feel comfortable with those others. When I started writing full time, having a blog was just an extension of what I do. Plus, it’s a good way to connect with other writers, hear their perspectives on the same things I run into on a daily basis.
  2. What is one life event/decision that you didn’t expect, but made your life what it is today? My marriage. My wife and I met on pure coincidence, a chance meet that might never have happened. She’s been an inspiration to me, as well as the love of my life.
  3. Do you have any regrets in life? If so, are you doing anything to resolve them? It’s easy to have regrets, but sometimes in life, it takes longer to learn what you need to learn. I view all “mistakes” as lessons, and some lessons are harder to learn than others. That being said, I don’t look back and wish I could have done something different. It’s better to look forward, than backward. Take what you’ve learned, and use it to make things better.
  4. What specific tasks are you doing to achieve your goals right now? I have two goals currently: Walk two miles every day for a month, and finish my second novel. I’m five days in on the first one, and I’m 3/4s of the way through my second. It’s called Confessor, and there will be two or three other books in the series. You can check out my other book, The Brotherhood, on Amazon. (click the link on the left. This has been a Shameless Plug ™)
  5. What one thing do you wish people would remember you for after you’re gone?  I’ve actually never given this any thought. When you’re dead, you’re dead. It’s more important for me to look back on my life and see some things I’m maybe a little proud of, than caring how people remember me.
  6. What do you enjoy most in life? Chasing dreams.
  7. If you could make one decision that would change your life forever, what would that decision be? I’ve already made that decision, and it’s changed my life more than I ever thought. That was to not pursue another “job”, and instead, pursue a career in writing.
  8. What is it about books that draws you them? I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. I didn’t have the greatest childhood, and initially reading was a way to avoid the situation. Then it became something I couldn’t go without. I don’t know exactly what draws me to them.
  9. Describe your favorite movie in terms of what makes you love it so much. I don’t really have a favorite movie. A favorite book would be the question, and so I’ll answer that. When I first read Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz, it was the first novel whose ending moved me to write the author and tell him how I felt about it. I’ll always remember that one. It was one of the first books that ever moved me to tears.
  10. Think of a loved one, what one question do you want to ask that person? If I could ask any loved one a question, I’d ask my brother Jeremiah, “How’s heaven?”
  11. What would it take for you to make friends with an old enemy? I don’t have enemies, because it takes more focus and attention to hold grudges than it does to let them go, and I don’t have the time or inclination to devote to the maintenance of enemies.

Well, that’s all I got. As far as nominations go, I’m sorry, I lack the time to list them here. Check out the list of blogs on my page if you want to know what I read, and go see what they’re up to. I only follow blogs that are interesting, and everyone of them is worth an award. Yeah yeah, I know. I suck at this. I will edit this post with a true list just as soon as I can compile it. But time is the fire in which we burn, and I’m already crispy.

The End, for all its worth.

As I stated in my past post (at least, I think I did) I’ve been strangely absent. Well, perhaps not strangely. I have, in fact, been hard at work, which is what I should be doing. There are other well known bloggers that rail against spending too much time doing the social media thing, especially for new authors who only have a single book to their name, and so I tend to try to follow in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before, and focus on my work.

 Besides, hanging out being social means I’m not locked in my closet doing the work. (I don’t really work in a closet, but I digress)

I’m coming up on the end of my second novel, entitled Confessor. Immediately after, I will launch into a sequel, that is only partially gelled. Before that, I will apply my somewhat limited creative talent making a cover for it. The cover, depending on what I come up with, will probably take me anywhere from three days to a week to finish it. Meanwhile, the book will (hopefully) be at the editors, getting worked over like a punch-drunk boxer on the ropes. (Sorry. Really bad example. I’m tired.)

I took a little bit different of a path while writing this book. I did my usual sketch of an outline, but a good bit of content deviated from it, which is fine by me. I don’t need to be told every little twist and turn, just a starting point, and sometimes, and ending.  I think this book is infinitely better than my first, although that’s probably just author subjectivity at work.

This book will probably end around 70,000, give or take. it sits at 62,000 some currently. Today was a marathon, I wrote about 5,000 starting at about noon, and working almost non-stop until four. That’s a heavy day for me. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I usually aim for 4k.

I think I stated elsewhere that I’m using a program called Libre Office to format this one as a test. I formerly used Microsoft Office, but as I’m in the process of weeding out all MS products, that one was the first to go. Once I’m sure my formatting works, I’ll post it here for anyone interested. I don’t want to do it yet, in case it doesn’t work, and I’m forced back into MS.

If anyone has questions about the formatting, I’d be glad to answer. Feel free to shoot me an email or comment here. it’s not as hard as “they” would have you believe.

 

 

 

I’m Alone.

I’m alone.

No, really. Writing is one of those things best done solitary, with no ramblings, people or animals trying to get your attention, no one to see you spill coffee on your shirt (I just did) then say “hey, you just spilled coffee on your shirt.”

I’m still on vacation in Arkansas, although I’m heading home day after tomorrow. While I’ve been here at the in-laws, I use my mother-in-law’s craft room as a place to write. It’s nice and quiet, a ceiling fan over head to keep me cool, a window that I can stare out into the stiff summer heat, watch insects buzz around the flowers. But I’m alone. Every day I sequester myself in this small room, keyboard on my lap, and I write. Yes, I’m on vacation, and I go do the vacation-like things such as swimming or boating, or whatever else is planned,  but I don’t think I’ll ever take one where I stop writing. I can’t. It’s become a compulsion that refuses to let go. And I don’t want it to.

These days, a writer can write anywhere, any place. All you need is a notepad, and a pencil. Oh, I mean a cell phone or tablet. You can peck words out riding on a train, or a bus, and if you were writing about a train, or a bus, you could make it more realistic. You could add in all the sounds, the rumbles, the voices chattering all around you, the sound of the guy in the back with headphones on blasting his rap too loud (I hate rap).  I don’t ride buses anymore, although I occasionally ride a train. Sometimes I let my wife drive on the long trips just so I can pound out a few paragraphs.

But the truth is, the bulk of my work is done in solitude. Either I confine myself to a room, or when I’m home, I work at the kitchen table with a laptop, or at a desk in our office. I get more work done when I’m alone. I’ve tried to write in the same room with my wife (love you honey!) but she’s more distracting then I want to admit. Sometimes she wants to talk, and I make it a point to give her my full attention, which means stopping in the middle of whatever juicy paragraph I’m writing, turning, and looking at her so she knows I’m listening and not just saying “yes dear,” “uh-huh,” “exactly,” or whatever one or two-word answer my subconscious throws out at her when she expects a response. On the other hand, she could take advantage of me easier that way. hmm. Maybe it’s a good thing I try to listen.

There’s a couple of good reasons that I try to find some place quiet to write. The first one, obviously, is distractions. There’s plenty of things to pull my time away from writing (this blog, for example) without any outside forces dragging me away. Internet, Facecrap, Tweeter, email, other people’s blogs. I’m sure there’s more, but you get the idea.

The second reason, is that I think better when I’m by myself. Even when I’m not distracted with things around me, I think better in the peace and quiet then I do in a car or somewhere else. I can hyper-focus on getting the work done. I feel like the words flow better when I’m alone. When I’m alone, I automatically feel less distracted, more calm, more focused.

What about you? Any other reasons to add, for writing alone? Or maybe you prefer to write in a busy subway station because there’s something about the background noise that lets you think better? Let me know in the comments.