2016-02-28

Self-Publishing: Patience

Update
Dragonverse Origins now stands at 87,817 words. I'm working as hard as I can to finish this book but I'm also not going to blow the ending. One of these days (10+ years from now) I will be retired and I will have the ability to write every morning. Then, I can pump out 2 books a year without any problems. I write in the morning on weekends and day's off only because that is when my wife is asleep. I also squeeze in a few hours here and there when she is out and about and I'm home with nothing else planned. My wife did not marry me only to sit and watch me immerse myself in my writing when I'm not at work. I did not marry her so I could abandon her to a life of living with someone who spends all his time writing or reading Twitter. So, until I retire, my writing time is limited and that's okay with me.

Patience
I pride myself as being a patient person. I was in the military and one of the popular sayings is "Hurry up and wait". If you don't have patience, waiting can become a form of torture. In my previous job at the nuclear plant where I now work, I would spend a large part of my day waiting. Patience is a must in these circumstances. But there is one thing that has always challenged my patience: Getting to the end of a book.

When I'm reading and I get close to the end, I tend to speed up and rush so I can finish it and move on to the next book. I don't care how good the book is, when I get to the last 3 or 4 chapters or the last 20 pages, all I want to do is finish it so I can pick up and start the next book on my reading list. The same goes for writing. When I get to the ending, I tend to rush because I want to get the book out there and I want to start on the next project.

This past week has been particularly challenging for me because I've actually been questioning myself as a writer. Sales have been down -- way down -- and I think it's because I haven't released a book in over a year. My brain tells me to hurry up and finish Dragonverse Origins so I can release it and start on another one to help boost sales. I've also caught myself wondering if anyone reads these posts at all. Sometimes I get some replies to questions but more often than not I get nothing when I ask a question. Other writers I know have huge sets of comments each time they post.

The statistics page tells me that my posts are being read -- Thank you! But the statistics also say that my readership is rather small. I've been blogging for several years and I had hoped more would be reading. Perhaps my posts are too long. Maybe they've been too unfocused. But if that's the case, why hasn't anyone commented so I can make changes? Feedback these days seems to be quite limited. I thrive on feedback.

All writers, but especially self-published writers, have ups and downs. Patience is an important part of dealing with the down part of writing. Patience can be learned but it's not easy for most people. For myself, my mind has to be constantly engaged in something. When I was in high school, I carried a paperback pocketbook around with me. I read it in class before the bell, after I finished a test while waiting for the rest of the class to finish, while standing in the lunch line, on the bus to and from school, and anytime I had a moment to myself. I did a ton of reading in high school. These days I use the cell phone in place of the paperback book. I keep up on Twitter and my mail during idle moments. These time-slot filling activities are a help, but I can also just sit and wait -- for as long as it takes.

But patience can only go so far. To help deal with situations where patience seems to be running out you must come up with other solutions. For myself, I must continually remind myself that I'm not a big-time writer with a huge following. I make very good money at my day job (which I love by the way) and I just got a 6% raise making that income all that much better. The money I make from writing as well as the joy I get from it is an added bonus to my life. I have to continually tell myself that writing is not and should not be my entire life. A person must set priorities in their life. Mine are:

  • Family (my wife is on the top of that sub-list)
  • My day job
  • Writing
Based on the above, since my wife is asleep and I'm not at work, I need to be writing. 

By the way - if you have any suggestions for improving this blog, I want to hear from you.

2016-02-21

Writing

Update
Dragonverse Origins currently stands at 84,312 words. My original goal when I start a novel is 80,000. I still have a few more chapters to write and since I am fully aware of the fact that my endings tend to be too quick, I'm having a difficult time trying to actually end this book. I desperately need to time-compress about 2 years of story. But I also don't want to give the impression that I'm rushing things. It's a delicate balance that I'm not very good at. I'm hoping to have this done very soon and off to the content editor so he can help smooth out the rough edges. I'm also itching to begin the next Peacekeeper.

If you have some ideas about the next Peacekeeper, now is the time. The story is not written in stone and I can easily (I hope) add some more elements. So far, without giving much away, I plan on hitting the following:

  • More insight into the relationship between Tom and Lashpa.
  • Details about the Omel and what they are like as a people.
  • Some interesting information concerning the AIs aboard the Seeker-class scout ships used by the Peacekeepers.
  • A small but important link to a pivotal event that took place in Honor Thy Enemy.

Launch Pad Fundraiser Update
The Launch Pad fundraiser I started ran into a small glitch last weekend. I didn't realize this but GoFundMe requires that the funds be pulled out at least once every 30 days. I rushed to try to get Nicole at the University of Wyoming to accept the funds and in doing so I learned a few interesting pieces of information. To accept the funds directly, Nicole needed approval from the University and would have to set up a complex system of getting the funds directed to Launch Pad. I also learned that the University takes about 40% of all grant money. One-hundred percent of all direct donations, however, go to support Launch Pad.

The end result was that I started accepted the donations and having the funds moved into my writing business bank account. Later this year, I will hand the money over to Mike Brotherton (minus what GoFundMe collects). So, if I can raise $2,000, that would be the same as Launch Pad receiving a grant of $2,800. That's almost half of what it takes to run Launch Pad for a year. Since a GoFundMe campaign never ends, I hope to keep this one going and maybe if we get enough interest, we can turn Launch Pad into a workshop that is totally funded by past attendees and other writers.

You can still donate to Launch Pad by clicking here: https://www.gofundme.com/3hhxuzze


I normally write quite a bit more in these posts, but I want to focus my time today on trying to finish Dragonverse Origins. Remember, if you want to see something in the next Peacekeeper -- write me! I will consider it.

2016-02-14

Paperless statements

Update
I took a day off work to get the taxes done. I use TaxAct to do my own taxes. Since I have a business as well as an HSA I must use the premium version. I have a checklist that I run through every year to make sure I have all the right paperwork and numbers before sitting down. Even so, this year it took most of the day (with breaks) to do the Federal, State, and City taxes. One of the biggest surprises this year was the number of Amazon 1099's I received. Early last year, I switched from using my SSN to my EIN at Amazon and Smashwords. That resulted in double the number of 1099's (one for each tax number from every sub-division). Next year will be better. Lesson learned - if you switch from using your SSN to your EIN, be prepared for a large number of 1099's.

Work on Dragonverse Origins has been moving along but at a slower pace than I would like. Usually, my wife goes out with one of her friends at least once during the week giving me a few hours of time to write. Because of the weather and how she's been feeling recently, she's been staying home. This means my writing time is reduced. I've also been catching up on Colony which is becoming a very interesting show. I just hope they don't stretch out the mystery of the visitors for too long because I'll lose interest in waiting for the answer to the show's ultimate question. Origins stands at 78,627 words. I'm working on moving the story along to the ending.

Endings are not my strong point and I tend to finish things up too fast. I'm trying very hard not to do this in Origins. I do need to time-compress at the end but I've got to figure out how to do it without making it seem like I'm rushing. If I don't compress, then this is going to be a VERY long book. I try to hit a target of around 85,000 words and I'm almost there.

Paperless - The Problem of an All-digital Life
A friend of mine and fellow writer publishes a blog series on going paperless. I've always been a big fan of using less paper but recently, I've been rethinking the logic behind doing so. If you rewind back in time several months you would find that I was totally paperless for all my credit card statements, bank statements, utility bills, etc. I really didn't need them because I would use Quicken to automatically synchronize and balance all these accounts. But there was a sinister dark side waiting for us.

My wife is not a very computer-savvy person. I am (I'm a programmer). Running the automatic Quicken balancing program is easy for me. Not so much for her. Setting up a new account would be a nightmare for her. As long as I'm around, paperless statements make a ton of sense. But what happens if I suffer a sudden heart attack or end up unable to do my part with our finances? I have set up so many computerized ways of doing things that she would be lost. I needed to change that. I decided to return to paper.

The biggest problem I encountered was when it came time to gather the forms for filing the taxes. Because I'd gone paperless, I had to navigate to a handful of websites, hunt around until I found where the tax forms were located, and print them. Even with a checklist, I started wondering if I missed any. Immediately after finishing my taxes I did two things: 1) I went to every website I needed to and opted out of paperless (except for one that would have charged me) and I put together a document telling my wife (or executor) where I store things and how to retrieve them.

My wife and I use LastPass to store all of our passwords. This is a wonderful program and I highly recommend it. But even with this wonderful program, having to navigate to a bunch of websites just to see your statements is a pain in the neck. Now that I'm receiving most of my statements in paper form, I can rest easy that my wife will be able to handle things if I depart before she does. It also means that if we both leave this life together, our executor will be able to figure things out far easier than if I had remained totally paperless.

We also have virtually all of our bills set up to be automatically paid through a single credit card. This is a wonderful idea and we don't have to worry about paying hardly anything. My car loan and my home mortgage is set up the same way -- everything is handled automatically. But what are our bills? Would an executor know about them? To safeguard this information, I wrote it all down: What account is automatically paid via which credit card; What money is automatically going into which account; Where are all these accounts.

These are things everyone should think about - not just writers. If you were to suddenly pass away, would your spouse be able to handle things? If you and your spouse were to pass, can the executor of your will find everything? We live in a digital age that has made things so much easier on all of us. But nobody stops to think about what happens when the person who set up their digital life is no longer around? Unless all this information is written down and maintained up-to-date, things are bound to be lost. If you live a paperless life or you have things computerized and digitized to make things easier -- now is the time to write it down and put a PRINTED copy of all that information in a safe place.

One more tidbit: If a massive solar flare were to wipe out the internet and erase all the data on your computer, could you financially survive? Such a flare is possible - one narrowly missed us only a few short years ago. Write down the phone numbers and addresses of all your financial institutes and other important entities and put them in a safe place. Am I paranoid? No. But I like to be prepared for anything. So, stop reading, gather your information, and put it into writing in a safe place.

2016-02-07

NEO RWA

Updates
Dragonverse Origins is moving along at a good pace (76,217 words if you're a numbers person). I know what needs to be written and the words are running together in their excitement to get out into the open. As soon as the last one is digitized, the book will be sent to my content-editor so he can rip it apart and help make it better. In the meantime, I’ll be starting work on Peacekeeper 3. I’m not sure if I’m going to keep that as the title or not – suggestions?

NEORWA
Yesterday, I was honored to present a talk at the monthly NorthEast Ohio Romance Writers of America (NEORWA) meeting. I say ‘honored’ because these people have their act together! Seriously – the SFWA can learn a lot from how the romance writers have organized themselves.

To be totally honest, I was expecting to present a talk to a group of women authors of which the majority knew little to nothing about self-publishing. Boy was I wrong! It didn’t take long before I realized I was addressing a very different group of people. These were seasoned authors, some of whom have won several major romance awards (none of which I’ve ever heard of). About half have published novels (traditional as well as self-published).

The room was filled with around 30 women. Male romance writers do exist, but they make up a very small percentage of the existing writers. During my talk and subsequent question and answer session as well as during the lunch afterward, I learned that writing romance is not as easy as one might assume. I’ve heard some people describe romance as “your typical boy meets girl, they fall in love, something tragic happens that tears them apart, they make up and get back together and live happily-ever-after.” If that’s what you think, you would be dead wrong. While some major plot-lines might follow this track, that's not always the case.

Just as in other genres, romance has its sub-categories: Historical, paranormal, erotic, contemporary, etc. The story can take place anywhere and at any time. Sound familiar? As a science fiction author, I can easily imagine a romance story set on a different planet complete with all the science and other trimmings that make science fiction what it is. The over-arching theme of a romance novel is a central love story with an emotionally satisfying ending. The rest is as diverse as any you will find in science fiction or fantasy. Based on what I've learned, writing historical romance is particularly difficult because, like getting the science right in science fiction, you must get your history right or your reviews will suffer.

Unlike SFWA where you must make a certain amount of money selling your books, membership in the RWA requires an author to only have written a book and made it publicly available. Another unique aspect of the organization is that to retain your higher-level membership, you must continue to write and publish. For a full set of rules, click here. During the lunch after the meeting, I learned that RWA authors, no matter how well-known they become, tend to always have the desire to help foster other RWA authors. While this same attitude exists in other genres, it seems to be more prevalent among romance writers. Their use of local chapters that meet monthly and engage in group activities is another strong factor in bringing writers in contact with one another. It’s a model SFWA should look into emulating.

I’ve been an active member of SFWA for nearly a year. The organization’s website is full of useful information. But, other than being able to visit the SFWA suite while at WorldCon, and running into a few members at other events, I haven’t interacted with any other members. Having local chapters that meet once a month is a great idea. The monthly meeting begins with the business of doing business as an RWA chapter. Later on, they discuss upcoming events sponsored by the chapter such as a trip to a fashion museum. These events, as well as the meetings, allow members to interact with each other, exchange ideas, and learn from each other. There’s a lot to be said about face-to-face interaction with other writers.

There are other benefits to having local chapters. Guest speakers (such as myself) can be invited to present to the assembled group. This is a learning opportunity for the members that is very difficult or impossible to obtain without the existence of the local chapter. Experts from the community can be invited to share their knowledge in a wide variety of topics. Granted, much of the same information might be available on the internet, but being able to interact with a live person, ask them questions, and get instant feedback from them as well as the other members of the group is a much better way to learn. Writer groups are a popular alternative but they tend to focus on reading and commenting on what the members are currently working on. They have their place in a writer's life, but attending a chapter meeting dedicated to your chosen genre can provide additional benefits.

I learned a lot by accepting the invitation and I’m very glad I was invited. I came away with a whole different view of what it means to be a romance writer. They are hard-working, authors dedicated to producing a professional product for their readers. If you are a writer of science fiction, fantasy, romance, or any other specific genre, you should seriously consider making a visit to a meeting of another genre’s writers – if you can find one. You will walk away a better person. 

There is one more thing I learned the other day I would like to share with you. I have always viewed indie-publishers and self-publishers as one and the same. One of the authors pointed out that being an indie-publisher means you are an “independent-publisher”. This means you go through all the same steps as a traditional publisher but you are responsible for the cost of these steps (editing, proofing, cover development, marketing, etc.). A self-published person, on the other hand, is someone who simply self-publishes a book. They tend to skip the other steps that turn a good book into a professional product. Although I’m not sure I agree with this definition, I found it interesting that this particular author made the distinction. It’s the difference between being or not being a professional. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Perhaps I should begin identifying myself as a professionally self-published author, but that sounds like too much of a mouthful!


Time to get back to finishing Dragonverse Origins.