Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

For the first time in a while, I’m going to write a post. I used to do this more often, but I have just been letting general busyness get to me, I guess. I think that is a good thing, overall. With my new job, I have much more time to write, and it’s really showing. I began my new manuscript two Mondays ago (Aug. 5th) and it is already nearing 19,000 words. At this rate, the first draft might even be done by the end of the month – and hopefully from there, will be published anywhere e-books are sold by the end of September (and hopefully, a paperback will be available as well).

So far, I’m very pleased with how things are going. I think I’m reaching a point where all this hard work is starting to pay off. Don’t get me wrong; it was paying off from the very beginning. People are finding my writing, and (generally) enjoying it. I’m finding new readers, slowly. It’s encouraging, especially in that I do very little to promote my work outside of the occasional Goodreads giveaway (to which people enthusiastically respond, just from the sheer premise of the book and the cover art). It’s encouraging to see people going onto the next in the series. It tells me I’m doing at least something right.

I honestly couldn’t be happier (except, maybe, if I became, in the words of Forrest Gump, a “gazillionarie”). To me, it’s always been about the writing. Writing is what I believe I’m best at, and it’s what I have the most fun doing – which is why it’s amazing to see anyone read and enjoy my work. I’ve always known that if I wanted to reach the stars, my best chance of getting there was honing my craft and becoming the best writer I could possibly be. What I write isn’t the most intellectual stuff, but my goal is to write a fast-paced story that is hard to put down, something that hopefully has good characters that readers can grow to love (and hate) over the series. Basically, the kind of stuff I like to read, mostly in science fiction and fantasy realms (though I do read outside of those genres as well).

It’s always a work in progress, and I’m always learning. It takes a while to get where you’re going, especially when where you’re going is always changing. I expect that as I keep writing, my goals will always be shifting. I will always be aiming higher, to craft a better story and to reach more readers. I’d always intended to self publish the Wasteland Chronicles, owing to the novella format. In the end, it was the right decision. Self-publishing allows me to write, edit, and reach my readers faster than any other means.

It’s a lot of fun, and if you had told me a year ago that by this point I’d have three more books published, I’d want to find a time machine. Last year around this time, I was pretty depressed because I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. I wasn’t writing (at least, not as much as I am now). I dreamed of getting to a point where I was writing and managing my books on a daily basis. On August 13th last year, I was working a depressing job and struggling to cobble together the first, short draft of what was to be called “The Wasteland Journals.” A couple weeks ago, I found a really old manuscript of that draft and thought it had been written by a retarded fish.

I have come a long way. And the progress I’m making now makes me look forward and dream to where I’ll be a year from now. A year from now, The Wasteland Chronicles will have long been done. I might be working on a second series by that point (perhaps set in the same universe). I might begin work on the epic fantasy series I’ve always wanted to write as a kid. I will likely have eight or nine + books published. By the end of this year alone, I will have at least two more published, and hopefully, with the time my new job affords, maybe even more.

I feel like nothing can stop me, for the first time in my life. I’m not my own worst enemy anymore. I’m finally doing what I want to do, and it feels great.

If I were to tell my full story of life and writing, it would be many thousands of words. If I were to write this fifty years from now, it might be a hefty book (or two).

Now, I just want to concentrate on my thoughts of my writing and my life in the past few years.

For as long as I remember, I’d always been fascinated with reading. When other kids were out getting into shenanigans, I was in my bed reading J.K. Rowling, Robert Jordan, Isaac Asimov, or whatever author I was into at the time. I would read whenever I got the chance, between classes, on car rides, wherever. By the first grade, I was a book junkie, and by high school, my addiction had manifested into the desire to become a real life writer.

Now, at the ripe age of 25, I’ve written five books, two of which are self-published (and a third that will be within a week). If I had started realizing my potential earlier, maybe I would have written much more.

In the past four months alone I’ve started taking this writing thing a lot more seriously. I’ve done more for myself and my writing than at any other point in my life. I was stuck in a rut, writing-wise, for a long time. I feel like there were a lot of years where I wrote hardly at all, and if I did, the book was never finished because I didn’t know what else to do with it.

In 2010, I finished my first real book, with my friend Jelani Sims. It took two years of outlining and writing to finish it, but it got finished. Looking back, it could have, and should have, been done a lot quicker.

We had no idea what we were doing. We just worked on it, taking our best guesses on what should be done. We stopped outright at several points, only to start writing on it again somewhere else down the line.

Then, I learned the job wasn’t over when the book was finished. I learned about the joys of editing, copy editing, formatting, and marketing.

Well, we really did not learn that (at first). We published Night of the Necromancer in early 2011. It was exciting at first. There was a lot of fanfare, and it got some press. I think even to this day the book sits somewhere in OU Gaylord’s illustrious halls (perhaps in the professional writing alcoves)?

But after the first string of sales, everything just…died. It became clear, a few months in, that it was only our friends and family that bought it. No one else was interested, and I had no idea why. The book was great…wasn’t it?

Yeah, the story was good. That’s what a few random reviewers said. But why wasn’t anyone buying it?

I’d read some articles about some authors who found a lot of success by lowering their book prices to $.99 in order to get exposure, so I thought that might be what the problem was. So, we lowered the price from $3.99 to $.99. We got a few more sales, but by the time all was said and done, the royalties about broke even.

Then, I just got depressed about it, because I truly believed that was all there was to it. You write something, it either works out or it doesn’t. I think that depression created a block from me ever writing. I would write, but the projects wouldn’t get finished. I vowed that my next book would see an agent next time.

I attempted a fantasy novel a few times, always getting slammed to a halt about 50,000 words in (always when they got to that dreaded oracle scene). I may have attempted a few other things, I’m not sure. I was also working a job that was just downright depressing and boring, which certainly did not help.

I think the overall feeling was one of powerlessness. I tried to make something work, and it didn’t.

I didn’t know anything back then. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, but now I know exactly what I did wrong. And I’m learning what I’m doing wrong all the time. I’m still doing a lot wrong, but the most important lesson is learned: I have a sense of power, and I recognize that even if I make mistakes, I can correct them or at least do better next time. And as I keep on doing that, my writing will get better, and the way I get my writing out there will be better.

What I did wrong:

1. I had bad quality. My problem was not pricing, as I had previously thought. After all, who backs down from paying $3.99 for a book they want to buy? Hardly anyone. Actually, $3.99 is very cheap for a book, even an e-book. That’s just a little over the price for a gallon of gas. The problem was one of quality. Not quality of story, but the actual text of the story. The formatting was horrible and not user-friendly. There were typos galore. The cover art was good, but even good cover art can’t make up for typos. This is just a fact. There are hundreds of other choices within the same genre that a reader can go to. Yours has to stand out above the rest, and be professional, or you will not be taken seriously. Recently, a reviewer pointed out my grammar and typos, giving me one star. At first, I felt upset and angry. Then, I realized that it was my fault. Maybe I couldn’t fix my characters without a complete rewrite, which is something else this reviewer pointed out, but I could at least hire a copy editor to fix the typos. I did. And the book is better for it.

2. I did not stay updated with the industry. I did not read blogs, articles, or forums where other writers gathered to talk about writing and the promotion thereof. I wished every day, when I was not writing, that I had a great community of writers to learn from. For some reason, it never occurred to me to go searching for one online. I think as I read the Kindle forums, KBoards, and blog posts of other self-publishing authors, I started to learn what I was doing wrong. If I had done this earlier, I could have taken advantage of many opportunities to advance my career, opportunities I will never have again. Then again, I’m glad I am wise enough to keep updated with self-publishing related things, because now I am more conscientious of what I need to be doing to be successful at it.

3. I did not promote. You can write the greatest book in the world, but no one will read it unless they find it. And readers can’t find it unless there is someone to tell them about it, in some form or other, whether it’s the author his or herself, or a friend. I have done almost zero promotion for the past month, and it shows. If I had promoted a bit more, solicited more blogs, done more giveaways, or found new avenues for promotion, my sales would not be so slow.

4. I did not read enough. Reading inspires you to write. When you read great books, it makes you say, “Hey, I want to write!” It really is like magic. I find my writing flow is so much better when I’m reading constantly.

5. I did not write enough. It’s really hard to talk about all the steps, and how they work together, but this one is a biggie. I had major lack of motivation. I think it stemmed from the lack of success and discouragement of Night of the Necromancer (which came from a skewed perspective of what “success” was). Success is the journey, not the end. Truer words have never been spoken, because the journey never ends. Success is getting better, being better than you were yesterday, and not giving on something that truly matters to you. Give up on everything else, but don’t give up on something that matters to you – and only you can be sure of what that is. I’ve never doubted, for a moment, that writing was what I wanted to do. I have the talent, I have the drive…why not go for it? Why waste my short life doing things that don’t matter, in the end?  I sort of lost focus on a lot of things post-college, and it took a while to find my feet. It’s important that in whatever field you choose, that you make it your passion and learn all you can about it, and correspond with others in it.

It’s also important to recognize the brevity of life and to do what you want with your life, while you still have it. That realization was very big for me. I have other goals in life, too, but writing books is the main one for now.

I think it’s amazing that anyone can publish a book using Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, Apple, Sony, etc.. I think it’s amazing that someone on the other side of the world can buy one of my books. I think it’s amazing that someone on the other side of the world can buy one of my books and completely trash it.

I know that I have been downloaded in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Japan, among other places, I’m sure. The few giveaways of done where thousands of copies of my books were downloaded were mind-blowing. The almost two thousand people that requested copies of The Wasteland Chronicles on the Goodreads giveaways section was also mind-blowing. I’ve had real life successes that give me fire to go on, which was something I was lacking before. So far, I’ve sold hundreds of copies of my books. I don’t think I’ve hit the thousand mark overall, but I’m closer to a thousand now than zero. Not enough to live on, but enough to keep trying and to keep pushing. I feel like by the end of this year, things will be moving a lot faster. Even if they’re not, I’m going to keep writing. Because that’s what writers do. And that’s what I’ve learned to do.

Maybe self-publishing isn’t the right path for everyone, but it is the right path for me, at least at this moment. As long as you’re self-motivated enough, and you have the talent and the drive, you have a shot at succeeding at writing. Not a guarantee, but a shot. That’s what I want: to succeed at a job that I’ve always wanted to do, which is to tell stories that entertain, and hopefully, when I get better at it, make people laugh, cry, and think.

Since college, I’ve never truly wanted any other job, other than to write full time. I always just assumed it would happen, that a muse would drop out of the ether and God would somehow write through my pen. Don’t worry, I’ve come down to Earth a bit since then. I’m trying my hardest to succeed, and I am getting better at this. I’m not there yet, I haven’t really found my voice yet, but I will.

Hopefully, I can tell more of my story at some future date. Right now, the main goal I have is getting Origins online. I’ve incorporated my copy editor’s fixes and all things are go as soon as I give both books 1 and 2 a back to back read. That should happen on Saturday, at the latest.

After that? Time to write Book 3, Extinction. And hopefully update the paperback of Book 1 to get rid of the typos. And promotion. Always, always, promotion.

New Apartament

Posted: April 23, 2013 in Life

I just moved into a new apartment.

Craziness! Or perhaps, not so much. I don’t know, but I really like it so far. It’s a studio with wood floors and a spacious bedroom (at least, spacious compared to what I had before). No TV or dining table yet, but I got my computer and Internet hooked up now, and a new keyboard so now I can type (egad, Dr Pepper spills!). So far, I have maybe 90 percent of my stuff moved in, and 50 percent of what’s in the apartment put away.

Here are some pics (no furnishings yet):

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From living room, through kitchen/dining room, into bedroom.

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From bedroom into living room.

So far, I really like it! It is one bedroom, and it’s nice to have a place to myself. It’s in Jefferson Park, close to the Paseo. It was built in 1929.

Once it’s all put together, I’ll put some more pics up. Still need to move in my newly acquired television set and eventually a dining room table.

Fortune Favors the Bold

Posted: February 21, 2013 in Inspiration, Life, Writing
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The key theme lately seems to be exhaustion. A lot of change in the air right now. I’m eventually going to move out of my current house. The plan is to move back with my parents at least for a bit. That may not even happen. I kind of want a place on my own. I like the idea of having my own space, my own little kingdom if you will. It’s a little scary since I haven’t lived on my own before, but I figure it will be worth a go.

Point is, I think I’ll be fine whatever happens. I have a lot of optimism about the future even if the daily grind might seem a bit much.

And still…I’m hacking away at Origins. The book will become monstrous. Well, monstrous in the sense that it will be much longer than the projected 40,000 words. Something more like 60. The readers will get more bang for their buck, but I feel like I need at least that long to tell the story without rushing it. A lot of Apocalypse was rushed because I wanted to keep it short. It made it very action-packed, but at the same time it caused some of the characters to get written off the stage quite early. In Origins, I’m hoping to juggle all the story lines and plots effectively, trying to find that right balance between the characters and action.

After posting this I plan on hitting the keyboard again. I’m going to do some night writing, which I don’t do too often these days except on weekends. I’m feeling up to it, so why not? I just woke up from a short nap so I think I can manage.

Writing is kind of a weird. It balances working in silence and promoting the crap out of what you’re doing once it’s done. I probably advertise/talk about my writing more than the average writer, but it’s because I find it interesting (even if others don’t). Right now, I’m in that phase where I’m not being noticed. A writer is by nature a desperate person. I don’t really know why but that seems to be the trend. I’m getting better at it, though. I’m starting to have more confidence in my words and stories and not taking things so personally when flaws are pointed out or it’s not 100 percent (because it never will be). As long as I can put out the best possible story I can in the time I’ve given myself, I think I’m glad. I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned about  trying to make a professional product/platform, and I’m still building both as I write this. I only wish I had more time for it.

I learned everything I know now just from doing. I was in a rut for a while, both in life and in writing. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but I just couldn’t find the motivation I lacked. Something snapped in me in late November of 2012. I think I recognized that this is what I wanted, and just started doing it – and the more I learned and did it, it became an addition. Any time I experience a small success, it’s a rush. On a day where I don’t get a single sale, it gets me down…until I notice some the next day, and I feel better.

What is success, to me? I’m still trying to figure that out. Definitely the main component is brightening someone’s day by providing an entertaining escape, at least for a little bit. Also part of that is selling more than a few copies a day, not because I want riches, but if I had could support myself from my writing, it would make me really proud. To me that’s a huge accomplishment, because that’s something that’s really hard to do and takes a lot of hard work, talent, dedication, and not giving up. It takes thick skin. Mettle. Gumption, if you will.

But at the same time, I don’t think I’ve earned it yet. I’ve only been seriously doing this for three months now. I don’t think the universe gives us things easily, because then we don’t appreciate them as much. We only appreciate what we have to work for, that way when we point at what we did and what we accomplished, it actually means something when we say, “That thing, over there? Yeah. That was me. It’s pretty neat, huh?”

I think I know how to tell a story now, although there’s always room for improvement there. I still need to become more clear cut, writing, presentation, and promoting.

A lot of it is just setting manageable goals. I used to set weird goals, like, “I want to make a living off writing.” It’s a weird goal because I have no control over that today. I can say, “I will write 1,000 words today,” or “I will try to have the book ready to go online by the end of March (by writing 1,000 words a day and doing a whole bunch of other stuff),” or “I will do this giveaway this weekend,” or “I will solicit X amount of blogs.” There’s no magic formula. I’m sure there are lots of writers who write well and promote the hell out of their stuff, with hardly any results. I’m sure there’s some that just put something out there, forget about it, and it takes off, and the laws of logic cannot fathom the reason why.

Rare is the reader that will take the chance on an unknown author. Everyone who buys books buys a book because everyone buys that book. I think people are also love a pretty cover, and an intriguing first page.

I’ve been realizing a lot that it’s a numbers game, and a lot is involved – none of which I can control. But then again, my odds of success go way up if I have ten books out there, rather than one. The benefits of self-pubbing is that you can work much faster…you set your own pace, and don’t have to jump through all the hoops that can take months, and even years. There are the down sides – oh yes there are, but right now, the self-pubbing thing is where it’s at for me.

Like anything in life, the more you put yourself out there with writing, the more chance you have of getting lucky. Fortune favors the bold, or something like that.

And thusly concludes another of my madman ramblings. Back to that writing thing.

One day about two months ago, I was sitting during my lunch break and got the idea to write a list of “rules” that a writer should live by. I came up with about forty (really 31 rules, but some had sub-rules). Really it was just another expression of my nerdiness in trying to quantify/describe something. Here are some of them, and in brackets what I now think of them a couple months down the road:

1. Write every single day, no exceptions.

[I still believe this is true, though ONE exception might be made – if you are editing a book you have finished, this counts as writing. I think it is still important to create new content, like a blog post.]

2. Write at least 1,000 words per day, even if you have to bleed for them.

[This is Stephen King’s and many other writers’ adage. I think it is a great rule. Granted you do a thousand words or more every day, you can be done with the first draft of most novels in two to three months. Novellas are even shorter, from a month to a month and a half. You can do a short story a week, counting editing and everything else.]

2a. Don’t wait to become inspired. Just become inspired.

[I still think this is VERY true. I’m not really a believer in any sort of mysticism, even if art seems to have a mystical quality to it. I think the idea that inspiration drops out of the ether takes credit away from the ingenuity of humans. I think we are all capable of amazing things…a lot of it is believing that we can do those things.]

2b. Some days you won’t want to write. Maybe most days. Write anyway.

[Like above, still very true. Sometimes, writing is a job. But as far as jobs go, it is pretty fun.]

2c. The Muse is a flighty thing; don’t wait for hours for her to arrive, like a pretty girl not arriving on time for a date (if at all). The Muse keeps her own schedule you are not privy to, and besides, you have writing to do. When she comes, do not dismiss her; let her guide you for her powers are far beyond that of you, a mere mortal.

[I still like the analogy of the Muse being a pretty girl who may or may not show up for a date. I think the Muse is a mysterious thing – some days she likes you, some days she could care less, some days you are own your own. But when she does decide to show up, amazing things happen. It’s not really our place as writers to question where she has been, or why she is not spending more time with you – it is just to be grateful for her company, because the Muse is always out of your league. Have a set time you write every day, so the Muse knows where to find you. Nothing is more annoying than the Muse showing up at an inopportune time when you are far from desk, notepad, and pen (though she will always do so anyway just to mess with you As a side note, I think the wording is kinda silly toward the end, but I may have just been feeling silly that day.]

Maybe I’ll add some more of the things I came up in a future post. After all there is still 30 or so of them.

Since this is getting a little long, I think it’s time to go. I have an interview this morning. It should go well, but wish me luck, ladies and gents!

I have five minutes to write this before my job starts. I’m very ADHD and always have to be doing something so voila, blog post!

All I have to say is I think I have successfully made the conversion to morning person. How did I do this, you ask? It was easy when I gave myself an activity I was excited to do in the morning: writing.

I read a book called What the Most Successful people so before breakfast, and it sort of inspired me. It made me realize that the morning could be one or the, if not the, most productive part of my day.

Since starting to get up early in the mornings, I have not been interrupted once. Nothing has come up to force me to stop writing. That’s because no one does anything in the morning, which makes it the perfect time to get important personal goals out of the way, before the needs of others get in your way.

I have to say I’m a believer in the all powerful morning now. Besides, it just feels cool to be doing stuff before everyone else! It’s great to start your day advancing your goals right off the bat.

What do you guys think?

Well, yesterday was an interesting day. I got laid off from my boring and not ideal job where I have been working for almost two years. I thought I still had a couple more months on it at least, but in a way it’s a good thing. Working there did not give me much of an incentive to try to find something else because I had found a way to live with it, even though I knew it was not good for me.

Now I’m in a position where I have to find something else. Only, I don’t know what that thing is yet. I would like it to be writing, but that is not too realistic at the moment, and I will have to put in a lot more months (maybe years) of hard work before it is reality.

I know there are jobs out there I could very easily get, but those are not the jobs I want. I know they are the kind of jobs that would suck my soul dry. No one really wants those jobs, it’s just a matter of circumstance.

Yesterday was also interesting in the sense that I got my return edits back from my professor on Apocalypse. I glanced through them and there were some good comments made. I also had twelve sells yesterday, which is way more than I usually get. I have no idea if it was a fluke or if it will stay at that rate. I had about four sells by the time I heard the news before lunch at work, so I don’t think it was just people on Facebook or whatever after finding out about me losing my job. I tweaked my blurb a bit, but it’s hard to believe that more people would buy my book just because of that. Also, my professor wrote a stunningly amazing review, which you can find here.

I’m a little bit afraid of the future, because it is unknown. I do know what kind of job I would like to have:

1. Something that allows creativity (preferably writing).

2. Something that allows interaction with other human beings (who are not yelling, complaining, etc., at you).

3. Something that makes me feel like I’m doing something important.

There are jobs like that out there, but there are in high demand and only one person can get it, in the end, even if all the applicants are technically equally qualified and it just comes down to interviewer taste.

I’ve been waking up at 5:30 a.m. or earlier every morning just to write. My new novella has reached 24,000 words on its first draft, and I am going for 40,000+ words. I am excited in the sense that I am finally, finally getting into the flow of this, not expecting success immediately, and learning on the way. I want to have it done completely by the end of this month. And it is always encouraging when I hear someone say they liked something I have written. It is always validation that I am doing the right thing, and helps to avert those crises I sometimes have where I feel like I took a wrong turn somewhere.

Writing stories is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. In a way I feel like I have wasted a lot of time in college not writing enough. But in another way I think I needed to be thrust into the harsh reality of the real world to realize how much harder I needed to work for it. College was a bubble – even though I had more time, I had less incentive to try. I had always assumed that I would magically just sit down and magically write an amazing book, because I was always filled with amazing ideas. Having amazing ideas does not necessarily translate to communicating those ideas effectively to paper. It takes a lot of work to put ideas to words, and words themselves change the ideas in a continual back and forth.

There is this cultural conception that creativity is a magical thing, when really it is just a lot of hard work. True, there are such things as bursts of inspiration – but these bursts don’t come out of the ether, they come as a result of putting in the hours every day. As your brain rewires, you begin to see the world differently and it becomes more natural as you form a habit.

Even though I don’t really want to do it, I’m going to have to force myself to find another job. I think in the end it will turn out to be a good thing, but there is a lot of not knowing involved and that is always the hard part, forgive the cliche. Since college I’ve become very aware of how hard things can be out here and how hard it is to find a good job you are happy with.

I really do think this writing thing will work out. I’m getting better and better. I’m going back to read Night of the Necromancer, my first book, and realizing that a lot of it feels choppy compared to what I’m doing now. A new version of it should be online soon, with completely revamped formatting. Things are only looking up writing-wise. I’m still waiting for the big payoff to come. Or maybe there will be no big payoff…just a gradual climb upward.

Whatever it is, I think I’m on the right track. I just need to keep going.