That time I became a successful writer #writeeveryday #author #amwriting

RockyBalboaIf I had to come up with a specific trigger that decided me on writing a book, I guess I’d come up empty.  Put an experience a year behind you and things start to go out of focus, I suppose.  There had been plenty of false starts before I wrote Commune One, so I can’t really tell you why this one stuck and the others didn’t.  Maybe I wasn’t the right kind of person to write a book back then, whereas now I’m the kind of person I need to be.  Maybe it really was just all about learning discipline.

What I can say for sure is that, at some point, I sat down and started writing a story and, after hitting around the 90 or 100 page mark (I used to measure things in terms of pages at first), I realized that I was probably going to finish.  Moreover, I realized the story I had was probably going to take a few books to complete, and that seemed okay to me.  At no point did it occur to me that I might not get these done.  So, I suppose you can legitimately call me a writer now.  Or a hack.  That works too.

As I put the finishing touches on that first book, it occurred to me that I’d have to start worrying about publishing the damned thing, so I dove into that process as well (and learned a whole bunch of new and important lessons through its execution).  I learned how critical patience is, for example.  You don’t want to rush this stuff, definitely.

As the first couple of sales started to trickle in, I started looking towards what would be next.  For one thing, I knew I had two more books to write.  For another, I got curious about audio books.  If you’ve read some of my other stuff on here, you’ll know that I’m a passionate believer in audio books, given that they turn my daily commute into something I can look forward to rather than dread.  And it just seemed to me that, in a market completely saturated with new entrants at various levels of quality (I’ve seen self published works of outstanding caliber right alongside those of stunning mediocrity), it behooved a fella to do something to stand out from the herd.  This is just one of those important life lessons you pick up when you compete at anything for any given amount of time…and this market absolutely is a competition, make no mistake.  Writers are competing for time and attention, so step one is not getting lost in the crowd.

An audio book with your name on it is just such a way to stand out from that herd.  See, anyone can publish a book now; that’s not an amazing achievement anymore.  Signing with a publisher: big deal.  Putting your ebook up on the internet: not so much.  But an audio book…well.  That’s a thing that has to get produced.  Someone (other than you, your friends, or your family) needs to believe enough in the story you’ve created that they’re willing to invest time and effort into it.  In essence, you need other people to believe that your work is good enough that you can all make some money on it.  Readers (and listeners) know this instinctively: if they see that your novel has been released as an audio book, they figure maybe there’s more to what you created than just some random person button-mashing away on a keyboard.

Coincidentally, at the same time I was pondering this industry, R. C. Bray (my hands-down favorite narrator in the audio book business) decided to host a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) in which his fans could, you guessed it, ask him whatever they wanted.

Before I continue with this, I need to confess that, as I spent my wee hours of the morning contemplating the process of getting an audio book produced, I fantasized about having Bray one day narrate one of my books.  I vividly recall thinking that if such a thing ever happened, I’d consider myself a success as a writer.  For me, it wasn’t down to book sales or some big, fat publishing deal.  My meter stick was just being able to hear something I’d written alongside the likes of The Martian or The Mountain Man series or even the Arisen series.  I thought about that, silently, unwilling to mention such a conceit even to my wife, and advised myself to dream on.

During the AMA, I asked what I thought was a simple question: “Given the cost to produce the average audio book (I had read it could run anywhere from $10K-$20K, depending), could he offer any advice on breaking into the market for a newbie?”

His response was kind but clear: That’s a pretty deep question, honestly, and there isn’t enough time to answer that here.

He didn’t blow me off, though.  He sent me his e-mail address and said, “E-mail me this question so I know its you and, when I have the time tomorrow morning, I’ll give you the answer it deserves.”

So I did that and we got to talking offline.

There was a bit of back and forth and I explained what my situation was to him, insofar as stating that I was interested in getting my book produced in audio format but that I didn’t have $10K to put up to get that done.  Turns out that there are a few different ways to get the job done, some of which include profit splitting…in which case I only had to find a narrator who believed that my book was good enough to bet his/her time and effort on.

Now, as this conversation was going on, it happened that Bray went over to Amazon and bought the ebook of my novel without telling me.  You can imagine my surprise when, after getting a few chapters in, he told me he wanted to narrate the series.  I won’t belabor the point but I will say that I immediately called my wife and lost my damned mind into the phone.  I don’t recall exactly what was said anymore but she did have to remind me to breathe several times.

Commune - Audio Cover

My second book is now finished and in the editing process, soon to be sent out to my narrator (mostly so I can get it into his queue; he’s ridiculously busy).  I haven’t really gotten rich doing this and I honestly don’t care if I do or I don’t.  I decided a while ago what success as a writer meant to me: write something that people would enjoy and maybe one day hear it performed by my favorite audio book narrator.  Money is kind of besides the point.

I can’t really offer any advice to aspiring writers to replicate such a thing.  I can’t write an article that tells you how to craft a good story (hell, I’m not even sure that I’m 100% on the process) or even how to write competently.  A lot of what happened to me over the last year had more to do with luck and random timing than anything else.  How do I advise someone to be in the right place at the right time?

The best I can really do for you is to say that if I hadn’t tried, it wouldn’t have happened.  At no point during this entire process did I believe I was good enough for any of this to take place.  Even so, I said “screw it” and put my chips forward.

And that’s what it takes.  Have a little faith in yourself, despite any evidence to the contrary that you can dream up.

Commune Book Two – Progress Update #editing #writing #goodgodletitbeover

slamFirst editing pass is complete on the manuscript.  I’m not sick of the story just yet, which is good, but I soon will be after a few more passes.  Time to send her out to some beta readers now.  Unfortunately, there are few enough of those in my little circle that can read and critique a book in a timely manner – not due to lack of interest, of course.  None of these people actually get paid; they just do it out of the goodness of their hearts.  The thing about being a grownup is that your life is busy as hell.  I’m grateful to the folks who are willing to lend a hand.  To those of my friends lacking the time: I totally get it.  Just buy a copy when it comes out and we’ll call it even 😛

Thank you and welcome, new readers! #grateful @amwriting

Fantastically, it seems there are still folks out there taking a gamble on my first book.  I say “fantastically” because that means that by this point, anyone still hitting the button to download it is a complete and total stranger.  The family and friends crowd was exhausted a long time ago.

This also means that I’m doubly grateful to those of you jumping on the bus.  It’s no secret that this is a series I’m working on; a series that is incomplete, by the way.  I get that there are plenty of people out there who may be interested in beginning a series of books but hold back from doing so until said series has been completed.  Seems George R. R. Martin has burned one too many fans in the world…

So not only are you guys taking a chance on a relatively unknown author in a veritable ocean of new talent, you’re also banking on the fact that I’ll have this series of books done in a timely manner.  I’m absolutely humbled that you’re diving in with me.

I’m well aware of the phenomenon of authors freezing up towards the end of their series, freaking out that they won’t be able to bring things to a satisfactory conclusion.  What I can promise you, my readers, is that I knew what the end of the Commune Series looked like from Day One when I wrote the opening line.  There’s a plan here, and I don’t mean some nebulous Lost plan wherein the smoke monster turns out to be the manifestations of some super mutant human and all the characters are actually just dead time travelers (good God).  Nope, I’m talking about a real ending that gets properly setup and paid off.  I can’t promise that you’ll love what happens to every single character but I can guarantee that the ending will be earned.

Book Two is just around the corner.  There are only a few chapters left to write (perhaps five or less) and then on to editing!

Take care.

Commune Book Two Progress #apocalypse #amwriting

Well, I crossed the 110K word mark today.  Judging how much there is left in the story to cover for this entry, I’m guessing the final count will be somewhere around 130 to 140K, which is alright with me.  The good news is that I think I can still have it finished by August, but that’s probably only the first draft.  It’ll need to go through a few edits and such.

I didn’t have much of a target length for this book so much as I knew what the plot needed to be and what I wanted to cover.  I’m not sure if I’m surprised or not at the scope of this story.  I knew there were going to be several more people in it, that I’d have to deal a bit more with group dynamics, and that there would need to be some world building due to the fact that we’re now over a half-year into the post apocalypse and the world needs to be getting harder to live in as resources get consumed.

The biggest challenge by far has been keeping myself limited to telling the story in first person from POV characters.  It’s hard because as the writer, I’m aware of everything that’s going on in this world that I’d like to be sharing with you, the reader, and yet I can’t because the perspectives of my characters can’t see much further than the little valley they’ve carved out for themselves.  It’s important that I keep it up at least until the end of this book, though.  The idea that perspective of the narrator shades the story is a big part of what I’m trying to convey in these stories; giving up 1st person would obliterate that intent.

Should you be interested, you can find the first book in the series at this link.  Get yourself up to speed; these stories aren’t slowing down any time soon.

Burnouts and Other Random Hooey #amwriting

Been quiet a couple of days.  Things have been hectic.

One of the things I’m gradually learning during this whole writing thing is that you have to spend as much (if not more) time running your mouth about the books you’re writing as you are just writing the damned books.

I’m an introvert.  I wrote my first book with the understanding that:

  1. I need to create something or I’m going to tear out what’s left of my hair.
  2. Writing a book is about the most solitary activity in which I could engage.

Joke’s on me!  I didn’t have the first clue what’s actually involved in marketing a book and getting people to pay attention to it when I wrote my first book.  I knew there was some sort of thing you’re supposed to do to tell people about it but that was really some nebulous, undetermined activity to be reserved for later after all of the publishing activity was completed.

Holy Jesus.  I feel like Jay Sherman…

buymybook

If you’re a true introvert, you know where I’m coming from.  You see, they have these people called extroverts, who get a deep psychological charge from interacting with other people.  They go to social events and gatherings, hang out and mingle with everyone all night long, and feel invigorated and energized the next day; ready to just go out and beat the shit out of the week.

Guys like me need a weekend of recovery after going out to dinner and a movie.  We literally feel like we need our batteries recharged.

For me, this is typically focused towards face-to-face social interaction.  I should and do have a higher tolerance for internet activity.  This, too, has a limit, it seems.

This is all a long, roundabout way to say that blogging a lot is freaking draining, man.  I’d rather be busy writing my next book; not writing about writing my next book.

Oh well.  Writing the second entry in the Commune series is actually tearing along, so I guess I’d rather have this problem than the alternative: the dreaded Writer’s Block.

 

Needed to develop some relationships. Wrote a scene involving a pissing contest…involving actual piss. #amwriting

pissingmatch

Image Credit: Universal Pictures

It’s okay to write about pee-pee if you’re also about the business of developing your characters and plot.  That’s my story, anyway…

Commune Book One is available right now on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble (see the free preview).  Book Two (including the epic pissing match in question) will be available later this year.

Commune Book Two Progress and Book One Free Preview #writing #postapocalypse

This morning sees the manuscript at 73K words and my very rough guesstimate is that I’m about halfway through, give or take.  The outline, strictly followed, calls it 50% of the way there, but I’ve had additional ideas while in the process of writing that I’ve jotted down.  I may include them or not, depending on relevance to the story and how they effect the flow.  It’s looking good, though.  I’m happy with how things are progressing and the pacing feels right.

You can grab a copy of the first book in the series by clicking the cover below if you need to catch up.  Feel free to crack open the free preview and see if this is a story you’d like to dive into.  I’m well aware that some people are resistant to starting a series that isn’t yet finished but I can fairly promise you that this one is getting finished.  I’ve had the whole series (three books) mapped out from the start; there’s not really any point where I’m running into writer’s block here.  I know what the whole story is; I just need the time to write it out.  The whole series will be done by early to mid next year.  I’m pushing hard to have the second book complete towards the end of August.

Click here to preview Commune Book One and/or purchase your copy.

US Military Men & Women – Share Your Stories! #marines #army #navy #airforce #coastgaurd

military

I’m a civilian.  The only knowledge I have about military life is what I’ve learned from my dad, who was a Soldier, and my other friends who have served, in addition to what I’ve researched for myself.

This presents a hell of a challenge, then, when a major character in my second book (currently in progress right now) is a 12 year veteran of the Marine Corps.  The reader spends a lot of time with this guy, so I’ve had to create not just a character, but a character with a realistic military career in the United States Marine Corps.

That shit is hard.

Lucky for me, I have some good Marine friends, both veterans as well as active service members, who can protect me from doing idiotic things.  One of them is listed in the acknowledgements of Commune Book One (Hi, Scott); another of them (currently stationed out in Okinawa right now) is looking like he’ll be a big part of me keeping Book Two on point.

I’ve spoken to a few vets on the matter and, so far, they all seem to appreciate the fact that the main thing I’m trying to do is show the most realistic portrayal I can of the military mindset and lifestyle, warts and all.  I’m getting the impression that these guys are excited about having their stories told, even if it’s only in a work of apocalypse fiction.

I’m trying to do a lot of things in this series of books, one of which is to honor the service and actions of the men and women of the United States Military in the truest way that I can, showing them as the real, complex people that they are.  Call it a fanboy love letter, if you like.

Whether I’m qualified or not, I’m taking on the role of a collector and keeper of stories, here.  If you have served or are currently serving and you have stories you want to share from your experiences (pretty or ugly), whether you were in country, on base, or in basic, please feel encouraged to send them my way.  If they work out for the story I’m trying to tell, an adapted version may end up in my books (with your permission).  Even if they don’t, I’ll be posting them up here at this site (again with your permission, of course – you or I can change names to protect the not-so-innocent).

I don’t know how much range this post is going to have or if there will be a lot of takers but I’d sure as hell like to get as many eyes on as I can.  If you’re reading this right now and you know anyone who might be interested, please share this along and direct them to my contact info on this site so they can drop me a line.  No story is too small; I’m not necessarily looking for a bunch of top tier operator stories, though if you went out and did that, it’s cool and you’re welcome here too.  But the background folks, whether you ran logistics in an office of slung food in the mess, I want you here too.  The lowliest grunt who never did anything more than fill a gas tank is still more of a badass than me; you guys are all my heroes, men and women alike.  You all have a place here.

I’m looking for human stories.  Whether it has to do with your first or last firefight; or that night you got bored, lit your pubes on fire, and ended up in the infirmary; or that wild time in Thailand that you can only vaguely remember.  I’m interested in all of it.  I’m damned sure not the only one.

Josh