Writer’s Life Milestone

Last night was one of the highlights of my writing career – I had the honor of being chosen to give the commencement speech for Wakapa Academy’s graduating class of 2019.

If you would have asked me, when I had graduated clear back in ’91, if I would ever be able to stand in front of a full auditorium of students, faculty, and their friends and family… the truth is… I wouldn’t have been able to picture it.

It was their special night, not mine. Yet to be chosen as the guest speaker will be one of the top milestones of this #writerslife.

Originally, the English department chose 3 of my books, Broken Things, Soul Sister, and Sharkbait – one for each grade level – to read for their third quarter. This was followed up with a meeting with the school board sharing the student’s work, an end of quarter parent-student meeting to show off their work, and a morning for me to spend with the students.

Being the local author, I was able to go in and spend a few hours with the class, answering their questions, discussing the books, and discussing life in general.

There is a wonderful intimacy to these events, one in which the students can share common themes from their own lives. There is a level of unexpected sharing, of connecting with the students and their own life events that as a writer you cannot fully expect, and it creates a candid moment when an author can see his writing through someone else’s eyes.

I also got to see the creativity and artistic talents of these students based around the books. There are some gifted artists, poets, and storytellers coming out of Buhl, Idaho. Watch out, world.

So there is a certain honesty and vulnerability that pays for a writer to put into his writing. Maybe not all the time, but we as human beings should seek to connnect with our audience, at least from time to time, to say, “Hey, I feel the same as you, I’ve been there. We’re not alone.” And to do this without preaching. Because at the heart of our art, it is our honesty and vulnerability that resonates with the audience. Not judging. Not preaching. Just sharing.

My first experience with a school was several years ago, at the Magic Valley High School. They had chosen Broken Things for a One Book, One School program, which means that every student and faculty member read the same book in the school over a period of a few weeks. It was a similar event, where I got to go in and spend the day with the students. To this day, going into stores, or just walking in one of the small towns of Southern Idaho, I still occassionally have those past students come up to me to talk.

It is humbling.

When I was asked to be the guest speaker for Wakapa Academy, the English teacher said that the graduating class voted who for who they wanted, and that my name was on every slip of paper.

It is terrifying to get up in front of a full auditorium for the first time. It is just as frightening to live up to the trust and expectation of those who put you there.

I’m not what you would expect at an event like this. I look like a middle-aged dreadhead hippie. I’m sure I raised a few eyebrows. And yet that moment of taking the stage, fear gives way to taking action, to the prepared words that are for the graduating students. To hopefully live up to their expectations on their day. To live up to expectations from a very flattering introduction.

This graduating class is right up there as a highlight of my life as though one of my own children had been a part of it – certainly better than my own graduation. And it is difficult to share this experience, as the last thing I want to come off as is prideful and/or narcissitic. Yet it deserves to be shared, because the experience means a lot to me. I would expect most writers do not expect to have their books necessarily well-received, especially when you think of the challenge of connecting with High School students. Of students being told they have to read your books.

So to the Wakapa Academy graduating class of 2019, congratulations, and thank you for letting me share (and steal) some of your time.

(And a special thank you to the amazing teacher and principal who made this opportunity possible! ❤ )

How to Make $1 a Month Selling Your Books

That’s not a typo. Yes, just $1.

On Jeff Goin’s website there’s a blog post about how the average writer makes less than a $1 a month. Since there are so many blog posts out there dedicated to making much more than that, this blog post is for those who only want to break that one dollar glass ceiling.

First off, are you writing? If you’re making anything at all, obviously something’s out there. If you’re not actually in the process of writing, you’re best probably calling yourself an author. It has all the hype of telling people that you’re a writer, but is probably more honest.

Do you have more than one book? Because multiple books really helps. Each new book should get you at least a couple sales. Maybe even three! And if you are using bargain basement pricing, you’re going to need all of them to get that dollar.

Are you self-publishing? If so, that gives you more tools than the trad publisher, and more of the royalty goes in your pockets. TBH, if you are making less than a dollar month through a traditional publisher, there’s a problem with the relationship.

Btw… I’m not going into marketing here. That cuts into that $1 goal.

So before we start, you need at least one book, and hopefully indie published. $1 a month, here we come!

Kindle Unlimited

Oaky, so putting all of your eggs in one basket has always been lousy advice. But if you aren’t making that $1 a month, there’s no reason not to. Nobody’s looking for your eggs, apparently, wherever they’re shopping. You want to make a dollar a month? Go exclusive with KDP Select and get your book(s) in Kindle Unlimited.

Why? Because of page reads. Let’s say Amazon pays you an average of .0045 cents a page reads. Each page is roughly the equivalent of 250 words. A 10k book is about 40 pages, which is worth .18 a read by a single person. If you’re writing this short, you need an audience of 6 people to get that dollar.

But you probably have your NaNoWriMo book up, at least, right? And that’s a nice size book sitting at 50k words! That’s .90 cents, right there! You only need one reader and a second somebody to read the first few chapters to get your dollar! Woohoo! Per month! Now you’re living, right?

Exclusivity gives you two other tools. One is Free Days! You’re an artist. You shouldn’t have to give your art away for free. You should expect people to pay you for your work. However! Free is still a good draw, and though most people will take your free book and run, you might get a few readers who’ll read it through Kindle Unlimited. Also, occasionally a free book run sparks interest and gets you some sales afterward. Also, if this is book 1 in a series, if people actually like what they read, they’ll read the rest of your series afterward. You can go free every three months.

Instead of going free, you can do a Kindle Countdown Deal and mark your book down to $0.99. This gets you $.70 per sale, so all you need is to direct two people and you’re good.

Anyhoo…

Paperbacks

I have to throw this one out there. You’ve got a book, make it a paperback, charge $12 for it. Why twelve? Because your goal is to sell one copy (maybe two, since you had to pay for shipping, right?). Take that book to a library! Use your sexy writing charisma (or hutzpah!!!) to sell that book. Librarians are awesome. If you have a decent relationship with them, they’ll likely buy your book. At $12? You’re done for the year! There’s your dollar a month! Sometimes parents and friends can also be this sale, but we’re not shooting for the moon here, any one sale will do. That was almost too easy, right?

Covers and Blurbs

Are people ignoring your ebook? Have you compared your cover to those in the top 20 of your chosen genre? If you want to run with the cool kids you probably need to start by trying to dress (cover) and act (blurb) like them. While this doesn’t necessarily become a sale, it might!!!

Writing

The more you have out there, the more likely you’ll sell a book. Any book. It doesn’t matter what they are, or even if you have crappy covers and blurbs. You very well might sell that book! Which brings me to…

Pricing

Price your book at $2.99 or higher. This price point, through Amazon, gets you the 70% royalty. Anything less? 30%. If you’re desperate and sell you book at the $.99 price point you need to sell three books. At $2.99? Only one.

In Conclusion…

Beat the average! Make a dollar per month! It’s possible! Maybe in the future I’ll talk about doubling this… or more!!! And don’t worry, if you are keen on keeping up the image of the starving artists, the above plan won’t derail your life. You wrote that book out of love anyway, right? Not fame and fortune. The masses will discover your book after your dead, surely, and then everyone will appreciate your greatness. Until then? Get that dollar! Get going and sell that book!

A Day in the Life of a Writer….

The day starts at 6:00 am. The alarms actually began at 4 am, and there are many of them, but they were all ignored. 6 am wins, because that’s when the rest of the family needs coffee, and though they could make it themselves, there’s a sense of disappointment, a let down, because at 6 am, I have that one job…

At this point, there is NO point to writing until the kids are off to school. This is actually ironic, because if I could have gotten up at 4 am, I would have had two solid hours of writing actually completed. Maybe even this blog post. I really don’t know, because I was unconscious.

Is everyone out of the house? Great! NOW the day officially begins. BUT NOT WITH WRITING!!! <- Caps for emphasis. It’s Yoga time, babee!!! All writer’s do yoga, right? I guess I’ve never asked other writers, but I’m going to assume so. I used to hit the gym… a couple times a week. People are impressed by writers who lift, because frankly they expect you to die any day of a heart attack from sitting at a desk all day eating donuts. Statistically… yeah its true. We’re ticking time bombs of death. My gym is currently torn apart and split between two houses, so yoga it is. Yoga is great, because it’s also a form of meditation, gets the brain ready for all that output I’ve got planned. Bonus: You can say you exercised.

Almost ready to write… but not quite. It’s a writing day, not an editing one, so it’s time to get my Hemingway on. That means “Write Drunk”. I am sure the great writers of the past had their reasons for creating this rule. I won’t argue.

Am I drunk yet? I’ve never been a good judge. But let’s say I am. That means it’s time to write!!! Ideally, this becomes a storm of thouands of words pouring from the brain onto the screen, hour after hour, as I create nothing less than another literary masterpiece.

Unideally (IT”S A WORD, DAMMIT!!!) but still okay, maybe I end up with an updated list of great book ideas that I’ll someday write. At the very least maybe I cleaned off my desk or threw the frisbee for the dog.

After all the writing is done, after the books are published, after the liquor runs dry, it’s time for becoming the bohemian socialite. There are options here, of course. I could do a book reading! This involves walking up to random people on the street and following them through stores reading passages from your favorite work until the kind store clerk politely asks you to leave. (Hint: Security is less friendly). I am 99% sure this leads to book sales, and I would encourage all writers NOT to skip this step.

I might also drink with celebrities, late into the night. This is a neat option, that will more than likely get my books turned into scripts and finally movies. You would be surprised how many celebrities hang out in a town like Buhl, Idaho. You might think the quantity rhymes with ‘Hero’. And (shrug), maybe it does. But remember, alcohol is a factor. And maybe that guy on the bar stool is a second cousin of some director guy.

Is it late into the night yet? This is where a guy starts ignoring those 4 am alarms. And this is important… learn to judge who wants to hear about your writing, and who is just humoring you so they can lure you to a cheap hotel with promises of buying a signed copy of your book when they actually just want to cut out a kidney and sell it on the black market. Fortunately, you can only mke that mistake twice, then the joke’s on them. HA!!!

Yes, the lifestyle of a writer is glamorous. And this was just a glimpse of ONE DAY! And remember… every scar tells a story.


Rough Year So Far

January Through March

As the title implies, it’s been a rough year. I had a busy January and February, working 6 days a week for the post office. Also got incredibly sick first part of January (last time I blogged), and still had to get up and go to work because there was no one able to cover. Try carrying the mail with a stomach flu for 8 hours a day. Oh. My. Gosh. And THEN!!!! I ended up wiping out my stomache with two hernias (really rough January and February…), had surgery on said hernias in March, spent March recovering, and jury duty in April.

May’s gonna be great.

One thing that’s changed in my life is my inability to get up early anymore. I used to get up around 4 am to get extra word count in, but lately it’s been impossible. maybe it has something to do with recovery, or the exhaustion. I’m not in the great shape I’ve been in, in the past, or maybe I’m just more exhausted. I dunno. Still trying to get back on my writing schedule regardless.

The Positive

I did manage to finish a project I started clear back when I first finished Broken Things, I think like in 2013. That’s my horror novel Crawl. To help spur me to write it, I broke the book into three chunks and released it as a serial. Maybe not the best way to release a book, but it worked. I even tied it in with The Unresting and Sharkbait, though only with little Easter Egg references. If nothing else, I have that to show for 2019 (now to work on the paperback). I also released a 5 part serial under a romance pen name during my recovery downtime, so that’s a win.

Also had a short horror story published by Z Publishing House.

Wakapa Academy, a High School here in Buhl, did a G.S. Wright quarter, which was awesome. They read Broken Things, Soul Sister, and Sharkbait, depending on the grade level. Some students read all three, and a few read almost everything I’ve written . O.o

I’ll also be the Key Note Speaker at their graduation next month.

New Challenges

No, not planning on anything horrific, I just need to get myself back into competitive writing shape and get back some of my old habits that have slipped.

  1. Let’s blog daily for a week. Because why the hell not? Let’s make this through May 7th (an extra two days).
  2. Minimum word count progress: 2k a day through May 7. Should be higher. I’m going to be gentle to start. That’s 18k by the end of a week from Tuesday.
  3. Daily yoga. Or calisthenics. Or 10+ miles of walking. Something.
  4. Music. An hour or so a day on the guitar or at the keyboard.
  5. Social Media? I’ve been away.

Today’s Writing Projects

  1. Work on a pen name romance. Complete: 12332/20000
  2. Work on my current novel project. Complete: 2750/50000

Happy 2019!!!

Here we are, at the start of a new year on my blog.

Last year’s goals were once more unachieved, though I wrote a record number of words (for me), just short of 300k. I don’t remember what all I set, and I’m not going to look it up. Let’s just let 2018 die, shall we?

I’ll talk more about my goals for this year later, this week, maybe. The main goal is to hit 1 million words and publish a lot (as I announce every year). 🙂

Maybe I’ll blog everyday.

I’m starting this year recovering from a stomach flu and chest cold, so it’s not a great start. That and working 6 days a week for the Post Office since the mid-November. I’ve been sacrificing my writing time for sleep recovery, which makes me sad. Still, I’m going to attempt to show up every day to get a word count in. Because that’s how I see January 1st, as a new beginning.

Sunday Escape

Yesterday didn’t turn into a great writing day, maybe got in an hour of editing and weaving new story ideas into the draft. All in all, I added another 778 words. Deleted other stuff.

For the rest of the day, we got out of the house, a little later than planned, and went to Malad Gorge for a few hours. We had initially planned to head into the Sawtooth Forest, but didn’t have the time, what with the kids needing to get to work and all.

The Devil’s Wash Basin at Malad Gorge

On a positive note, I think all the necessary details and fun stuff have been plugged into the first draft. I’ve got about 10k to go through and make sure the story is clear before it’s off to editing.

I’m not entirely on schedule for the month, but I’m surprisingly close. Depending on what I get through today, I may well have only to drop one project. Two finished WIP’s in one week is pretty damn impressive anyway. I’m setting the bar high for next week. 😛

Sleep! The Great Interrupter of Progress

I was hoping to have the first draft of my novel finished today, and I’ve almost got all of my new ideas patched into it. I did not, however, spend much time on it yesterday. I edited a bit, and added 288 new words.

Even having a day off, if I fail to get up early, I run out of time.

Early for me is getting up around 4 or 5 am. Sometimes earlier. Getting up so early gives me time to myself, and I spent all of yesterday hanging out and playing with the family. I did need the sleep. I’m physically active enough that my body needs time to recover. I realize that sleep is good for me both mentally and physically, but I still resent the need for it. I would drop my sleep down to a few hours if I could.

Anyway, tomorrow. I’m going to try and wrap this novel up by tomorrow night.

 

Who Are Your Top 5 Friends?

I recently read an article (on Medium, I think) that said that you are the average of your type five friends. If you surround yourself with positive and successful people, well, that’s a good place to be. If your friends are negative and lazy… well…

When you take a look at your friends, do you find this applies? Do you surround yourself with the kind of people that you look up to and that inspire you?

Over the years, my circle of friends has shrunk, at least, as far as those I interact with and see often. Social media has kept the world smaller, and my circle of friends exists more heavily online than face to face. Best friends have moved away, and I either stayed in contact with them or let them fade away. And that’s a two-way street. It’s life, really.

It makes me think of the friendship and relationship dynamics of the Sims games. You don’t call or interact, friendships die.

So the ones you do stay in contact with, well, those are the ones who obviously matter. If you’re a writer, are your friends published? Do they actively market themselves? And I think more importantly, do you share within this circle your successes, so that you pull each other up?

It might seem weird to require your friends to meet a certain standard. But if you have a weird diet (like being a vegan), do your friends respect that, or attempt to sabotage you? If you need support (emotionally, spiritually, whatever), are they there for you?

Are you there for them?

Anyway, just thoughts.

I started August working on my novel I’m planning on finishing this week, and ended up coming up with a ton more stuff to add. I slept my morning away today (I’m physically exhausted) which is not good for my goals. I’m going to try to make it up, but we’ll see.

So yesterday amounted to only 786 new words and a bunch of brainstorming that I need to implement. It’s good stuff, so no regrets, and it only makes the book stronger (and more fun (IMHO).

September 1st Quick Update

Here we are, a month later after my last update. I obviously didn’t engage myself as I had planned. Yet though I’ve been silent, I’m really close to the release of another novel. I’m hoping it’ll be live within the next few weeks.

There are certain world events in my new novels I would like to tie together. Part of that depends on getting future stories out. So the events in The Unresting will be felt in my upcoming novels, as well as potentially bringing back some of the characters (though likely not right away). Anyway, it’s part of the brainstorming.

Finally, the other thing you’re going to see is a semi-shared world between myself and romance authors Gabbi Wright and W.G. Spencer. They introduced a shifter mythos in their Girl of Flames series, one that I helped create. You’ll see the tie-in with my next release, and maybe I’ll share some details at that point as well.

 

August 1 Quick Update

Things are just as difficult as I expected. Getting up and actually writing at 4 am is still a challenge. I really like sleeping until 6, so there’s that. For day 1 of the impossible challenge, I still got through 1900 words on the current novel work-in-progress (goal was 8k, or 4 hours of writing. The day didn’t provide that kind of time).

I’ve got 12,500 words polished in said novel, so I’ve got a head start, at least, considering my lack of time.