I Survived & Progress Update

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. My family always takes the week to go to the beach in California–one final burst of warmth and sunshine before the dreary Midwestern winter sets in. We meet up with all the family on my wife’s side and snuggle into a little beach house together.

This year there were 16 people in the house–fewer than on some other years, but still a good number.

Now, remember in high school history classes, when they talked about industrialization, migration, and urbanization? People crowded into apartment buildings. Then, when they got sick, the sickness could just spread like wildfire, the people were so cramped.

Well, I suppose you can see where this is going.

On Wednesday, the first person got sick.

On Thursday night, three more people were sick.

On Friday, six more people were sick.

On Saturday, one more person got sick, and we all went home. That makes 11/16 people sick, a pretty decent infection rate. I’m sure it will remain the defining feature of this year’s Thanksgiving vacation.

Miraculously, I was not one of the ones who fell ill, and neither were my two children. We still had a lovely vacation, even though it we were haunted by the fear that one of us might be the next to fall victim to the plague. Because, seriously, that’s kind of how it felt to watch it spread through the house.

Anyways, enough about that.

Being on vacation, I didn’t do much writing, but instead devoted some time to checking out other people’s book/writing blogs. Met some wonderful folks. Seriously, the book-blogging community is a lovely place, generally speaking. Sometimes things can get a bit heated, but that’s because it’s a community made of people who are passionate about the things they blog about.

In other news, I finished Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. I might just write up a proper review for it. It is, I’m coming to realize more and more, my favorite novel. I find it deeply meaningful and symbolic, without being remotely stuffy or pretentious. A masterwork. Can’t decide if watching the movies would be a good idea or a dreadful one.

Final news is that, although I didn’t do much novel writing this week, I think I did strike upon a story idea I want to run with. It won’t be my next novel, or the one after that, but perhaps the third novel release from now (and my fifth overall). Hooray!

Hope everyone else stayed healthy out there!

A Nightmare & An Update

Dreams are strange things. I don’t worry too much over what they might mean, but I certainly enjoy talking about them.

The other night I had a dream. It turned into a nightmare, but from my experience that’s how all nightmare’s go. You never start out in a nightmare; rather, a dream becomes a nightmare. Sometimes it happens slowly, and sometimes the change feels instant. I guess it’s just a reflection of life in general. Fortunately, not all dreams become nightmare–another reflection of life.

In my dream, I was visiting a high school literature class to discuss my writing with them. The entire junior class was reading one of my books (though I honestly can’t recall if it was Home To Roost or Cleaving Souls).

At first, it was very exciting. But then the longer I talked with them, the more I realized that very few of them cared what I had to say. It dawned on me that my book had become another one of those much-loathed required readings, like A Separate Peace or The Scarlet Letter. And if that were the whole dream, it would have been strangely sad, but I wouldn’t have called it a nightmare.

The nightmare began when I noticed that even the teacher thought my story dull and drab. She said that the only reason that they were reading it at all was because someone in the school district was making them. When I asked more about it, the teacher said that someone (she never said who) had basically destroyed their family and their finances in support of my book, and bought copies for the entire district. It had wrecked that person’s personal life so badly, that Child Protective Services had to take their kids away, and now the school had to take care of the kids all the time.

So that was pretty awful.

But then the teacher released the class for the day, and took me to the room I would be staying in, courtesy of the school. Where was it? At the school. What was it? The school cafeteria.

The high school emptied and made that magical transformation from a lively school to a dusty mausoleum (and if you’ve never been in a school after everyone else has left, then trust me, that’s exactly what happens). Also, it was suddenly night time.

The school had provided me with a sleeping bag that smelled faintly of urine, and had me bed down atop one of the cafeteria tables. All the lights were off except one: the lights to the adjacent hallway, visible through a series of windows set in the far wall. The rustling of the sleeping bag and sound of my own breathing echoed in the cavernous room. Rather uncomfortable, but not necessarily scary.

But then I heard children crying. Not high-school age, but small children crying for their daddy. I realized that they must be the children of my patron, now wards of the school district.

“Your daddy isn’t here,” someone said, “but the man who made him go away is. Do you want to see him?” Somehow, I knew that he was referring to me, and I prayed that the children would say no.

They didn’t.

The lights were still off, except for the hall light. In the quiet, I could hear the fast drumming of little feet running, and a series of too-thin shadows scurried down the wall of the adjacent hallway, flashing from one window to the next as they ran towards the cafeteria’s doors. The kids weren’t crying anymore; they were coming for me.

I wanted to shout out that they couldn’t come in–that I didn’t want to see them at all–but I couldn’t speak.

The cafeteria doors banged open, but nobody stood in the doorway.

I heard little feet again, this time close by, moving slowly in the darkness. I could feel eyes on me as I lay atop the cafeteria table.

Then one of the kids whispered, “We want to touch him.”

I tried to scream, tried to yell for them to get back, but I couldn’t. All I could do was breath, and so I breathed as loud and as hard as I could, until I woke up panting.

Now, it may sound like a pretty stupid dream, but in that moment, it was terrifying. However, once the moment was over I was able to calm myself and go back to sleep. Sometimes silly things are very upsetting. Being silly doesn’t make them not upsetting, and being upsetting doesn’t make them not silly.

Makes me think of my three-year-old daughter. She gets upside-down about plenty of dumb things, but in the moment they’re very upsetting to her. I’ve found that it can be helpful to her if we show that we understand her feelings, and then try to put those feelings into perspective for her to see. She’s often able to recognize that whatever is upsetting her really isn’t a big deal and actually can be managed, and she calms down.

It seldom goes as smoothly if we skip the part about sympathizing.

So my thought for today is that we should try to understand and sympathize with people. Before we jump in and tell people what they should or shouldn’t do, or how they should solve their problems, we should first take a moment to try and understand what they’re feeling and thinking.


And now here’s my update:

Cleaving Souls is almost ready for launch! It’s going to be released on Tuesday, Oct. 10, in both ebook and paperback format. I’m pretty excited for that, especially since some great reviews have already rolled in! (And few things are sweeter than a positive, unsolicited review.)

The only thing left to do before the release is revamp the blurb. It’s not too bad now, and I might end up keeping it, but I’m still stewing over making it a bit longer and less generic. But I’m not sure. Blurbs are tricky for me, because I really don’t want to take away anything from the story–I’d rather my readers gets to discover everything for themselves.

For anyone else who’s excited enough to want to post about it, I’ve made some simple promotional material. Feel free to use any of it on whatever social media platforms you use.

In other news, I won a self-publishing book cover art contest (first and second place in the horror category, and first place in the thriller category). As you may or may not know, I go against all sound advice and make my own book covers. I think they turn out well, and I have a lot of fun doing it. Perhaps sometime I’ll have to make a book-cover-creation-process post, featuring different iterations of one of my covers.

That’s it for now. Happy readings!

Book Release Plans

Ta-da! Cleaving Souls is almost done. Rough draft. Check! First round of edits and revisions. Check! Second round of edits and revisions. Check!

Now I just need to contact early readers, distribute copies to them, plan the release schedule, makeup release materials, contact book bloggers for a blog blitz or tour, organize with said bloggers, and record and edit the audiobook.

Geesh.

I’m also expanding out and trying my hand at editing some other people’s work. Gotta keep those editing skills sharp (or sharpen them up, as the case may be.) And I’m still plowing into the rough draft for The Glass Heist.

It’ll be interesting to see how my hard-earned experience with publishing Home To Roost affects this next book release. Fingers crossed for good things!

And speaking of good things, I’m looking forward to another blogger’s review of Home To Roost, this time on Southern Today, Gone Tomorrow.

In more personal news, we saw some family for the eclipse, which was great. There was a lot of cloud cover, so we didn’t see the eclipse, which was less-great. But oh well. We’ll just plan more carefully for the 2024 eclipse, I guess.

Apps, Chickens, Sheep

I made a decision just now: I will not be using the WordPress mobile app to create blog posts. Here are my reasons:

  1. I don’t think that it syncs well.

That’s pretty much it, actually. Everything else would be fine. But I’d just written up a nice little post, published it, went to check it online and…..nothing! So I checked it on my phone, and it had the design for site a mashup of its current design and its former design. Yikes! I waited for a while, and the post never did show up on my computer, so I’m just ditching the app when it comes to writing posts.

But what I had posted about was this:

We had a nice little book club meeting. My wife is a member in a small book club, and they gave Home To Roost a try. We had the club members over to our place for a luncheon and a tour of the actual locations in the book, given by the author, yours truly!

I wish I’d prepared for the tour better. Maybe come up with some more amusing anecdotes or something. But it was muggy outside, and I was nervous, and it was probably for the best that it didn’t last too long.

I did make a great chicken cake, though! (Don’t worry, it wasn’t a chicken cake. Just a chocolate cake with a picture of a chicken on it.)

Yummy Chicken Cake

In other news:

  • I think I’m going to dedicate some time to learning the ropes of some social media tools that I’ve ignored up until now.
  • I need to start being a little more cautious in how I phrase and share opinions on other people’s blogs. I know I’ve been guilty of leaving too long of comments, and perhaps some other sins as well.
  • I had to put my sheep in time-out today. My three-year-old was jumping on the trampoline, and the sheep decided to attack her from beneath. She ran under the trampoline and was headbutting directly beneath my daughter, which was very alarming for her. Lots of tears. Ba-a-a-ad sheep.

What am I doing here?

Okay peoples of the internet, it’s time for me to decide just exactly what I’m doing here.

Not here on earth. I’m not wanting to launch into some big existential conversation or anything. I just mean here, as in here on this blog.

Originally, I’d hoped to mostly keep it to publishing and writing news. Make it about being an Indie author, and the process of trying to make that work for me. But I suppose it’s high time that I reevaluate what that means.

The truth is, I’m not a very successful author yet. I’m working to change that, but for now, I’m still trying to break into triple digits on sales, and it’s been almost four months now. I haven’t lost hope, but I’m realizing that for me to post regularly on this blog, or even semi-regularly, I might have to include some other things.

Things about myself, outside of writing, perhaps.

And so I’ll probably start doing some of that. At least, I will for the foreseeable future.

At first I’d wanted to avoid doing much of that, because, well, it seemed pointless. Then, as I was looking into different book bloggers’ sites, I found this one, by a wonderful person named Kerrie.  She really opens up to her readers in her “About Me” section (which is where the link will take you), and it was such a nice change. Most of the blogger profile pages I’d come across were very guarded. “I’m so-and-so. I like fish, but I hate fish. LOL!” And that was about it. But because Kerrie was willing to share more about herself, I took greater interest in what she had to say.

Now, writing about myself might not have that same effect, but I still want to do it for two reasons.

  1. I think that the world will be a better place when people open up with one another more. If we’re open with each other, then we might understand one another better. And when we understand one another, we will probably be far less likely to hurt one another. I’m not saying I feel misunderstood or anything, but I do hope that by opening up a bit more, maybe somebody else will feel inspired to do the same, just the same way that I felt inspired to open up after reading Kerrie’s blog. (That’s my altruistic reason.)
  2. I need things to talk about. You’re supposed to post semi-regularly on a blog to keep it rolling. Once a month does not qualify as semi-regularly, I’m pretty sure. So, I guess I’ll just talk about myself and other writerly-related things. (That’s my shallow reason.)

And now I’m off to update my “About Me” section. Then I’ll probably do some editing on Cleaving Souls, and then work on an Amazon Marketing Campaign for Home To Roost.

Peace!

Lions and Tigers and Publishing

It’s almost been two weeks since I published my first novel, Home to Roost. It’s been quite a learning experience. For one thing, even when you’re publishing online, the actual process of publishing can be fairly involved. I don’t know what else I was expecting.

For indie publishing, a lot of people who are publishing on Amazon will use CreateSpace to do a paperback run of their book. It’s really easy to find reviews of CreateSpace’s services. I chose not to use CreateSpace, and instead used Amazon’s KDP Paperback program (it’s still in beta). Since CreateSpace is owned by Amazon anyways, I figured that the services wouldn’t be all that different.

Having never really used CreateSpace, I’m probably not qualified to do a very detailed review. However, I can say this: I’m perfectly happy with KDP Paperback. If you have a handle on formatting, are willing to look up a few terms, and have a couple of hours to fiddle and tinker, then you can get a fine paperback copy of your book printed.

As for royalties, I’ve seen quite a few people confused about how those would work for KDP paperback. I think I can break this part down:

You get 60%, minus production cost.

So, if your book costs $10, and costs $4.50 to print, then you’ll get $1.50 in royalties for every copy sold.
10 x 0.6 = 6 ; 6 – 4.5 = 1.5

It’s pretty simple.

For Home to Roost, I just set my prices so that I’d get roughly the same amount from royalties, whether a reader decided to purchase the paperback or the ebook edition.

Now, I had assumed that there would be much higher numbers of sales for ebooks compared to paperbacks–after all, $3 is quite a bit cheaper than $11.50. But I was wrong. They’re actually pretty even. I think that unless people own an e-reader, ebooks are just too uncomfortable for many people to read.

Anyways, I’ll do some more focused posts on what I’ve learned later. Be awesome til then.

 

Current Word Count: 354, 345

My Current Word Count

Well, I’ve published a few short stories now. They’re not free on Amazon, but hopefully Amazon will price match soon and make them free. They are free on Smashwords, where one of them as received a 4/5 star review. It’s something!

But, like I said, they’re short stories–none more than 5,000 words. So, since my current word count is much higher than that, where has everything else come from? I’ll break it down really quick, for anyone who cares, though only in approximations.

  1. I’ve written lots of little things before, having been writing since the second grade or so (although, I didn’t attempt my first novel until the third grade, naturally). I’ve counted all of that, taken together, as about 15,000.
  2. My first, more serious attempt at writing something of length occurred while in college. It was something of a horror/drama, about a weak man being dragged by his escaped convict and abusive ex-wife to her remote and isolated childhood home, so that they could face her buried demons together before she kills him and herself–or, tries to, at least. I wrote about 15,000 words into that (Project name: Closure), before giving it up when school got heavier and whatnot. It obviously didn’t go too far, but it was rather encouraging. I managed to write quite a bit in not too long, and while the writing wasn’t very good, it still happened, and was, in a way, empowering.
  3. The summer of 2013 saw another abandoned novel project. It was a ‘new’ take on the Peter Pan story, but it got convoluted and out of control rather quickly, and was abandoned after around 70,000 words. I had the story mapped out to the end, but some of the things would have been quite forced, and it was already longer than my target word count of about 60,000 words. The project name for that one was The Last Pan. And, while it too was abandoned, it felt like a really big step forwards.
  4. The third try’s the charm, right? I started writing Home to Roost in April of 2016, and finished the rough draft…sometime later. September? August? I don’t recall. But it came in at 110,000 words, had a beginning, middle, and end, and received positive feedback from early readers. I’ll be publishing it next month.
  5. Angela of the Stars was my next writing project. The rough draft is finished, sitting in my hard drive and waiting for some revising. The setting for the story was rather ambitious, compared with Home to Roost, but hopefully I’ll be able to wrestle everything nicely into place for the final draft and a release this summer. That story came in at 120,000 words.
  6. The last bit of writing that I chose to include in the count was my short stories. Like I said, they’re short, so taken altogether I counted them as about 10,000 words. I mostly do them as a writing exercise, or as something to do when I need a break from the bigger projects, but I publish some, and think they’re pretty fun.

And that’s where my current word count comes from. There’s been big improvement already–enough so that I wouldn’t feel too bad asking somebody to fork over $3 to read my novel. However, there’s still a ways to go.

And, since I’ve talked so much about word counts, let me give you a few examples of word counts from well-known stories:

  • Goosebumps stories: 20,000-25,000 words
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: 77,000 words
  • War and Peace: 587,000 words
  • King James Translation of the Holy Bible: 783,000 words
  • Artamène/Cyrus the Great, which holds the distinction of being the longest novel ever written: 2,100,000 words

 

Current Word Count: 343,105

342,176 Words (and counting….)

That’s how many words I’ve written so far. 342,176.

There’s a saying that you might hear tossed around every now and again that goes like this:

“Write a million words–the very best that you can write–then crumple them up and throw them in the garbage. Now, with those first million behind you, you are ready to begin to write.”

It’s said different ways and attributed to different people (David Eddings, Jerry Pournelle, Ray Bradbury or John D. McDonald), but the idea stays the same.

I don’t know if it’s true or not. I could imagine some people being talented long before they hit a million words. Others, I’m sure, reach that milestone and still struggle to make their prose enjoyable.

Well, my wife and I have decided to try an experiment and chase a dream.

I’ve always wanted to be an author.

Actually, allow me to rephrase that: I’ve always wanted to be a successful author. I’ve wanted to be other things as well, but always in addition to being a successful author. It’s a wish that I believe many people have–to share their ideas and have others pay money to read them, money that could have been spent on donuts or movie tickets or a plethora of other goods.

We’ve chosen to go after that goal and see how far we can make it. If, once we’ve hit a million words (or gone a bit past it), it seems like we’ve run our course, then we’ll know that we gave it an honest effort, and we’ll be satisfied knowing that we dared.

So, if you care to, you can join us in our undertaking. I’ll be writing here every so often, sharing some of the things I’ve learned about writing, some of the other things going on in my life, and whatever else might seem post-worthy on my way to my first million words.

 

Current Count: 342,503