Archive for March, 2014

Extinction Release Date

Posted: March 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’ve had quite a few people asking me when Extinction will be out, and so far I’m on target to have it out in early April. I will be working on it all week (full-time, yay!), so I imagine it shouldn’t take too much longer. It’s contingent on a few things…

1. I have to get through the draft a couple more times. The end is particularly rough, because I haven’t gone over it yet. I hope to get completely done with my third edit in the next day or two.

2. Hopefully, my copy-editor can take a look at it at some point next week. If he can, then that means I can get it should be out in early April, as planned.

Extinction is the longest WC so far, and being longer, it takes longer to edit. With the glossary, it’s almost 90,000 words, a good deal longer than Darkness and Revelation, the next longest books in the series. A lot of stuff happens, and it sets up the final action of the series quite nicely (or at least, I hope nicely).

So, early April is my answer. I’m not going to give a firm date because I know how things can shift around, like Darkness did (which came out three weeks later than I’d planned)…

The nice thing about being full-time is that I can dedicate everything to finishing this.

As always, thanks for reading, and I am greatly looking forward to my first week as a full-time writer!

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Extinction and Rambling

Posted: March 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’ve sort of just hit a milestone with Extinction. As of now, it’s the longest book I’ve ever written.

It’s sort of weird how I wrote this one. I got the first 60,000 words down, and didn’t know how to continue it. I edited those 60,000 words and kept adding until it reached 80,000. That’s where I am now, and imagine there will be another five thousand words before it ends.

It still needs a lot of work. I’ll admit, I’ve been pretty tired lately and it’s hard to work in that state. I’ve been pushing myself to work fast despite working full-time and feel like all that is starting to catch up with me. I wake up every morning dead tired, but the positive thing is, I’ll start next week being able to concentrate on this full-time.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Pretty much since high school, my aspiration has always been to be a full-time writer. Back then, you really don’t understand how hard it is to do that, how much work, talent, and luck just to get to that state. I just sort of assumed it would happen for me, somewhat foolishly. Very few authors make a full-time living from writing. I sort of always naively thought that by the time I graduated college, I’d have two to three books under my belt, books so brilliant that no agent could ever refuse them.

Yeah, I was a big time dreamer. I didn’t really know how the world worked. Trust me, it’s not like that.

Nothing ever just happens. I had so much more time in college to write than I do now, and yet, I write far more in a week, sometimes even in a day, than I ever did in college. My work ethic just did a 180. For my whole life, I struggled with chronic laziness. It still gets me. Even now, as I write this, there’s a stack of dirty dishes piled in the sink that’s been there for a week, and at least ten empty coffee mugs on my desk.

I think writing is so hard to begin with because it does not pay off immediately. You have your aspiration, and you know what’s good, but somehow, you can’t just seem to make it work. I tried writing so much, and I hated the feeling of not knowing where to go next, or looking at a line and knowing it sucked, or analyzing a scene and feeling like it was diverting from the storyline. I’d have these aspirations, but when the story came out, it was cliche, and even laughable.

Every writer, every artist, has to go through that phase. I’m not saying I’m through it. I still suck in a lot of ways. I have a lot of room for improvement. But I have the basics down, at least, and sometimes – the inspiration does come through.

I also stopped trying to put pressure on myself to have everything perfect. I allowed myself to have fun, and to even suck. I started to see writing as practice and not merely an act of inspiration. It was in this mindset that I wrote Apocalypse.

The  first book is always the hardest one. Every writer, or anyone setting out to become their best at anything, has to go through the pain period. The most important thing you can do as a beginning writer is to write every day and to have the humility to know that you’re going to suck for a while. It might take years to reach a point where you’re good (and even then, you have to accept that a lot of people will still think you suck).

The point is to always be perfecting your craft, finding your voice, haggling over the right word. It’s a balance, though; you don’t want to overinvest your time and lose sight of the big idea.

Okay, I should quit pretending to know what I’m talking about. The final words of Extinction should be written soon. I’ll write the ending and see how I feel about it. Then it’s editing. Lots and lots of editing. I hope to have the final product out in early April, and with me going to full-time, I’m planning on releasing books much more quickly.

It will be my full-time job, after all.

I was trying to sleep, but it’s just not happening. I said I’d write a post about my decision and what led to it.

Today I put in my two weeks notice. After six months of strong sales, it just makes sense, and perhaps more importantly, it feels right. If I’m to reach my next stage of success, I’m going to need all 24 hours of every day to do it.

First of all, I am amazingly happy and it’s a dream come true. I tried to make sure I have the highest possibility of success. I feel insanely lucky, because things definitely could have gone the other way.

I mid-2012, I was in a tough spot in my life and could find little motivation to get out of that situation. I’ve since learned that when you’re in that state, the best thing you can do for yourself is to change your situation. Make some drastic life decisions, or develop some positive new habits to incorporate into your life.

Changing my habits was the beginning of everything. Without those changes, I wouldn’t have written five books since that time, and I wouldn’t be where I am now. I believe anyone can make changes in order to achieve their dreams.

The changes I made was pretty simple. I drastically cut back on video games and TV, and decided to read and write more. I also started exercising – mainly running. I don’t know why, but exercise and creativity go hand-in-hand for me. In mid-2012 I started to run around the block. A couple miles at first, but soon I was running seven to eight miles on my longer runs.

Meanwhile, during my breaks at work, I’d write on my iPhone and email myself the story. Writing Apocalypse started like that. I’d also go home and work on it. I hoped that writing would work out, but it was so far away and remote.

Apocalypse was composed in three parts over six months or so. The middle was written first, then the end, then the beginning. I had a friend do the cover art (which has been a HUGE reason for the series’s success), and formatted the book as best as my limited knowledge allowed.

Then, on December 5, I hit publish. I went through KDP, or Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s the system that allows anyone to self-publish a book to Amazon’s Kindle store. I had no idea how successful or unsuccessful the book would be. All I could do was hope that some word of mouth got going and that sales would go beyond family and friends.

It did okay – a little better than I’d expected. Apocalypse sold 56 copies in December 2012, the month of its debut. There was no advertising or anything, just one book out of thousands that were published that month. But at 56 sales, I could rest assured that at least of few of those people weren’t family. I think this was helped by the good cover and the fact that I wrote in a hot genre that is still pretty good these days – YA post-apocalyptic.

I’d always wanted to read a book about an apocalypse that was caused by a meteor, so I wrote that book. Every movie or book you see about the subject has the heroes stopping the meteor before it hits Earth. I really wanted to explore the idea of what would happen if the meteor hit Earth – and what if that meteor had an alien virus inside of it. Don’t know why, but that idea took a hold of me.

Anyway, I soon got to work on a follow-up, Origins. I was inspired to keep working, and this is where I made another big change in my life: I started waking up at 5 in the morning. I know, crazy, but it’s probably the biggest secret to my success. It’s actually not that bad, once you get used to it. I really look forward to the morning because it’s  where I work best.

In early January, I was laid off from my job and it was seriously one of the very best things to ever happen to me. I wasn’t making any money, but within a couple of weeks I had a job working at the Hobby Lobby warehouse.

The hours were long and it got hot as hell in the summer. There were days where I’d get in at 7 and leave at 6, and this isn’t a sit down kind of job. It’s heavy work, lifting and walking for miles. After I got off, I’d be too tired to do anything. I’d grab some food, watch a little TV, and crash, sometimes at 7:30 or 8. I’m pretty amazed that I wrote two books during my time there –  Origins and Evolution. It’s only because I was willing to wake up at 5 and do my writing.

I ended up leaving the warehouse in late July to start a new job where I am now (for the next two weeks, at least). I got the job through a college friend and I’m really grateful for it because it would give me the time and energy to write more.

By the time I was working at Midlands, I’d just published my third book in The Wasteland Chronicles. The series was picking up a little steam by this point. August had been my best month ever, at 211 total sales. I’d been waiting to have three books out, because this was my chance to try a strategy that had been successful for so many other indie authors – making my first book completely free. My logic was, if people didn’t really know who I was, why would they take a chance on buying my book? If I made it free, then there was no risk to the reader. If they read it and didn’t like it, at least they only wasted their time and not their money. But if they did like it, they could go on to the next ones.

I fell in love with this idea, but I didn’t want to do it until I had three books. So, when the third was published, I made some changes to my model: I published everywhere I could, not just Amazon. This included Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo, a Canandian ebook retailer. I also made making paperbacks for each book a priority. No matter how many copies you sell, there are some people who just won’t believe a book is a book until they can hold it in their hands. I did this through CreateSpace, Amazon’s print on demand imprint. All of these tools are available to anyone, you don’t have to pay any money except for what you do to produce your book (like cover art and editing). Later, I also published to GooglePlay.

I made my first book free on all these vendors. If it didn’t work, I could always go back to charging for the first one, as I had before. I had reason to think it might work. It worked for big time indie authors Hugh Howey, Russell Blake, Joe Konrath, Lillianna Hart, among others. I figured there was a chance it could work for me as well.

Apoclaypse finally went free on Amazon sometime in early September; it took a couple of weeks to get Amazon to price match it. The first book was downloaded for free approximately 100-150 times a day. Those results amazed me. Again, I think the cover/concept of the book had a lot to do with those initial downloads, since I write in a fairly large genre that has a lot of interest.

After the book went free, the series started to pick up a little steam. Apocalypse was free, but I still charged for Origins and Evolution. The sales on the sequels more than made up for what I lost by not selling Apocalpyse. I was easily selling about 10-20 copies a day, which equates to about $20-$40. Taking the middle number, $30, and multiplying it for over a year, equated to $10,950 a year, so I was thrilled with those results. Things were looking up. Origins broke the top 10,000 Kindle books for the first time, which was a ceiling I’d been trying to break for a while. It got up to 9400 or so before falling back down in the rankings.

But everythingand I mean everythingchanged mid-September. I applied to be promoted by BookBub almost on a whim. For those who don’t know, BookBub is a HUGE email list where readers can sign up for specific genres. They have close to two million subscribers. BookBub sends out an email every day of deeply discounted or free titles in genres the reader picks.

I applied to be featured by them. A few days later, they got back to me and said they wanted to run my book on September 21. I remember getting that email at work and not believing my eyes. I’d read on a writing forum I frequent about the crazy amount of downloads BookBub can generate. I had no idea what to expect. I knew I was probably going to get quite a few downloads, but I didn’t know how many, or if there would be any staying power.

The ad ran on September 21. I refreshed my sales report for my total downloads for Apoclaypse. Within the space of a minute, it went from 2,000 to about 3,000. I kept checking all day, and it was always the same. Every hour showed about another 1,000-2,000 downloads. By the time I went to bed, there were about 17,000.

I kept getting downloads throughout the month, until I had about 31,000 by the end of September on Apocalypse. I also had a ton the next month, and at is highest point, Apocalypse was ranked #6 in the Kindle store. It was ranked #1 in science fiction on Apple for a long time – almost a full two weeks.

This is where it started to get crazy.

As people finished Apocalypse, they went on to Origins. Origins shot up to about #2500 in the Kindle store. It was getting something like 70 downloads a day, and Evolution was getting about that as well. My mailing list exploded. I made a Facebook page and started getting fan mail from everywhereas local as Oklahoma, as far away as Vietnam, Australia, Germany, Sweden, and other places. People started to comment on my blog. For the first time, I started to realize that people actually liked my book. That meant more to me than all the downloads. People were finally reading my story, and liking it.

By early October, I had my next book, Revelation, ready to publish. It went live, and it just fed the fire. I had over 3,000 sales in October 2013.

This was the point where I was likewhat is happening? It was like a switch flipped and I wasn’t ready for it.  I was prepared for the long haul, to write at least ten books before ever hoping to go full-time. I estimated that I’d be going full-time sometime in 2015, maybe late 2014, if I was lucky. But I got insanely lucky with BookBub, and I can’t discount that.

I released Darkness, my newest book, in early 2014, making January my best month for sales ever. It was at this point where I thought: yeah. This is probably here to stay. So I began to think of how best to quit my job so I could write full-time.

I decided that I wanted to be 100 percent sure of what I was doing before I did anything. It’s always been one of my principles to not depend on a partial feeling, especially when making a big decision. I asked around, of friends, and especially of my parents. My parents painted a very conservative picture which was a great counterpoint to me just wanting to go for it right then and there. I asked some writers what their opinion was, and got a host of opinions. I thought about it for a while, and in the last few weeks, I’ve been leaning more toward quitting sooner rather than later.

I signed up for health coverage through Obamacare – I had to do so before March 31 – so that clinched the deal. I put in my two weeks notice today, so now, I guess I’m officially a full-time writer. Or at least, I am starting next Friday.

All I can say is – it’s been a very crazy journey. So much of writing is luck. It’s with me right now, but it’s a fickle thing. I could fall on hard times later. But that’s a risk I’m okay with to pursue my dream. If I fail, I fail..

So, this is my shot to try and make it. I think I’ll succeed, or at the very least, I’ll make a good run at it for a few years before I do something else. If there’s one thing I know, the future is impossible to predict. I could have never predicted that I’d be where I am now a year ago – only in my wildest dreams.

Luck was a big part of it, but I also worked my ass off. I decided that video games and TV (my kryptonites) were less important than reading, writing, and researching the publishing biz. Instead of playing video games, I’d be reading Joe Konrath’s blog or looking at KBoards Writer’s Cafe. I’d watch the successful authors, see what they did, and emulate them as best as I could – which is a lot harder than it sounds. I’d wake up at 5 in the morning and write, and have 1,000-2,000 words down before I was out the door for the day. Often, I’d write more.

The point is, anyone can make sacrifices to achieve a long-term goal. It isn’t easy, but the secret is to think more about the journey and less about the destination. Be ready for the long haul for anything you do in life. When you read about what other people do, don’t think “I wish I could do that.” Take inspiration and know that if theycan do it, you can, too.

Well, that’s the story. Of course. I’m leaving a lot out, but this is already too long, and it’s already too lateso. Yeah. That’s it. I just feel insanely lucky to have such great supporters. So many things had to go right, and then by some miracle, they did. By my estimation, success in writing is a combination of hard work, talent, and luck. You can control the first two, but all it takes is a random dash of luck to get the ball rolling. I fee lucky to have the opportunity to pursue my dream and I hope to never take it for granted.

In early January of 2013, after reading this short book, my life changed completely.

It’s not often that you say that about a book, but within these pages was the secret that has allowed me to write all these books while having a full-time job.

The book surveys the lives of highly successful people and finds one thing in common with a lot of them – they wake up early.

I used to think there was no difference in the time I chose to write: morning, afternoon, evening, whatever. Afternoon was always off the table though, except on weekends, because of my work. I would wake up at the latest possible moment, take a shower, eat breakfast (maybe), and go to work.

I wrote most of Apocalypse in the evening, after work. I didn’t work on it every day, and for a very understandable reason. The last thing you want to do when you get off work is work some more.

Writing is fun, but there’s a lot of times when it’s hard. It can be drudgery at points. I’m reminded of the saying of not liking to write, but liking to have written.

After reading this book, I decided to try the morning. I began waking up at 4:30 at first, but eventually moved that up to 5.

And I wrote. I actually kept up by act of will and coffee. I had just published Apocalypse and wanted to follow-up with my sequel as quickly as possible. I eventually had that written by April that year, and published.

I continued doing this – writing every morning – and spending my weekends working on my book (writing is highly time-consuming, you guys…)

Eventually, it just became normal. I finally had gotten into the habit of writing every single day, in the morning.

This is why the morning is the best time to write:

  1. No one will interrupt you in the morning. This is pretty huge. Evenings are full of events so you’re writing time will CONSTANTLY be interrupted. This very rarely happens in the morning unless you’re a parent of a very young child.
  2. When you go to work, you will already have written. You can come home stress-free and do what you want. You can even write some more, if you’re up to it.

That’s it, really. It doesn’t even have to apply to writing. You can use two hours before you go to work to focus on you on your goals. For me, that was writing. For others, that might be getting in shape. Or going grocery shopping. That might sound weird but it’s a lot easier to shop at 6 in the morning rather than 6 in the evening.

The challenge, of course, is going to bed on time. That’s key, and if you can’t do that, this probably isn’t for you. If you do decide to do it, though, start waking up early and drinking coffee, and eventually, your internal clock will adjust.

This works for me really well because I’m single, live on my own, and I’m not a crazy party animal. My life is pretty boring and mundane, actually. But it’s how I’ve written so many books.