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WhArt have I been doing?

Whart, see what I did there? oh, wait. No, you don’t.

I haven’t just been misspelling words (well, i have, but you know, that’s an everyday thing).

I’ve been learning me some photoshop. Yes, I know some. I taught myself all I know. I did my book covers. I’ve had a great time working on them.

I need to learn more. A lot more. There’s so much about photoshop that I don’t know. The more I learn, the more I find that I need to learn. i started watching a lot of time-lapse painting and I would love to learn how to paint. It’s something that’s always called to me. Yes, i create art with my words, but there’s something about the visual aspect. Paintings have always drawn me in.

So begins another hobby. Yes, I will still be writing, I’m just adding this on as something else for me to work on a little here a little there. You will get to see what I’m doing as I post my progress and my projects, be they good or bad. for October I want to do a piece a day. Or at least try. Odds are I will create a few small, fast pieces, and I will create other, more difficult pieces. The goal is to spend a little time every day working on a piece and making it look the best I can.

So here are the first few pieces I’ve done. First is a football field. Not just any football field, but the original field of the Galactic Football League Ionath Krakens. Their original field was orange.

KrakensField-sm

But I was informed that the field was no longer orange. How quickly I forget. The field is now blue!

KrakensField-blue-sm

Then I pieced together some pictures of me from the past. WOO WOO!

WeirdJay-sm

Finally I watched a youtube video on how to make a quick, simple space scene. Yes, it’s got a lens flare in there. That’s something I won’t use much or often.

stars20151005

My next piece will likely take me longer to create, clean up, and make look good. It’ll be a fun one, I assure you that. 🙂 I’m laughing just thinking about it. So get ready for more art. Once I get further along with my skills I’ll be starting my own tumblr blog and my own deviant art page. Should be a hoot!

I’m off to go make more art!

Until Next Time!

Stay Awesome!

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Because Scott Sigler is in town!

Some writing may happen today, but probably not a lot. Why? Because the FDO is in town (the Future Dark Overlord). Scott Sigler, baby!And when he’s in town, you go see him. Why is he in town? Because the third book in the Infected series is out. PANDEMIC! I have a copy. I will be reading it as soon as I finish the book I’m working on. No, I will NOT be bringing that copy with me. Why? I want to support my local bookstore by buying a copy of it there.

Where will all this happen? At Mysterious Galaxy BookStore right here in San Diego (Kearny Mesa, actually). So I’ll be there getting a fresh copy. I’ll have the FDO deface it with his left-handed signature. I will have dinner with the FDO (and 30 of our close, personal friends…or more). It’ll be a great time. If you’re not doing anything tonight, join me! It’ll be awesome!

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Hey! I didn’t forget about you

I’m going to start including pictures in my posts. I hope you don’t mind. They may or may not have anything to do with what I’m rambling about, but hey, it’ll be there. 🙂 I’ll try to include where I picked it up from just in case someone gets fussy and wants me to take down the picture.

So I’ve been busy lately.

Over the weekend we went up to Lemoore to see my nephew’s promotion ceremony. He’s in the Navy and just advanced from Chief Petty Officer to Chief Warrant Officer. Usually the next step is from Chief to Senior Chief. Going to Warrant Officer is a big deal because it’s the only way to go from Enlisted to the Officer’s ranks. Not many of these advancements are performed and it’s a very big deal. There weren’t a couple Master Chiefs (those come after Senior Chief and is the highest Enlisted rating) and a Chief Warrant Officer 5 (steps for Warrant Officer go from 2 through 5, 5 being the highest level). To say I’m proud of what he’s accomplished would be an understatement. This truly is a life changing event for him and something that is what an enlisted person should strive for.

Had my brother been able to make Chief, I’m certain he would have gone to the Warrant Officer ranks, but his rate was so tight (only one or two first class petty officers were advanced to chief per year) he was never able to make chief. I’m still very proud that my brother was able to put in his full twenty as enlisted and retired with all the honors he deserved.

I spent my four years in the Navy and it’s a lifestyle. It’s not an easy lifestyle. It’s very difficult and most people can’t handle it. I was one of those that couldn’t take it after four years and needed to get out as soon as I was able. Therefore I have a great admiration for those who are able to serve and make a life out of it. If you have served or are serving, I admire what you’re doing. Thank you.

So going up to Lemoore I took some time off from writing. since getting back I’ve knocked out 7000 words (1503,2115,1733,1639). I’ll be doing more today/tonight. I’m nearly the 40,000 word mark and halfway point of the book. I think it may end up longer than I’m expecting and I’m fine with that. A book is as long as it needs to be and given that I’m just getting to the practice portion of the book (the competition will be even longer) I fully expect this book to grow from 90,000 to 100,000 words. We’ll see what happens in the next 40,000 words before I even start to worry about that. All I know is I’m having fun with the book, the characters, and the universe they’re in. The book is set in the V&A Shipping Universe and Vic, Joey, and the rest of the crew all make an appearance. This book will take place shortly after V&A Shipping II and perhaps we’ll do some more mixing of characters in V&A Shipping III and GRPC 2. I don’t know just yet.

Asteroid Bunnies is up next. I can’t want to jump into this book. It’ll be a blast to write. I’m going to shoot for a 30,000 word book, but again, it may grow beyond that as it’ll also be the first in the series. If all goes right (I almost typed write) this year, Astel 2 will be up after Asteroid Bunnies. Then I’ll finish To Fall From the Sky (that one needs some fixing before I jump back in, but it’s already half-way done). They I think it’ll be Almost-Super Heroes (about 1/4 done), and they Life of Lists. I’ll see where I’m at after that, but suffice to say, I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Beyond writing, I’m reading a LOT of books lately as well. When I lay down I’m trying to read one or two chapters before I fall asleep. It’s doing wonders for my writing. I find the more I read, the more I want to write and therefore the more I actually do write.

Speaking of reading and writers…Scott Sigler (the FDO himself) will be in my neck of the woods on Monday. I will be down at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore here in San Diego. If you’d like to meet him (or hell, if you want to meet me!) I’ll be there and so will Siggy. I’ll be buying a second copy of Pandemic to get signed (I won’t go to a signing and NOT buy a book). Yes, I already have a reading copy. I’ll be needing a signed copy. I don’t want to get food crumbs and cheetle in my signed copy dontchaknow. Yes, Yes I could buy the ebook, but that’s not the point.

Okay, I’ve rambled enough for one day. My next post will be about Lucky or Unlucky. 13 stories of Fate where you can find Me, and Mr. Plested and, obviously, 11 other writers. This is an anthology for 2013 from sffworld forum. If you’re a writer looking for a community, this is a great place to drop by.

Finally! Enough links for one day. Sheesh. Okay, I’m outta here! More to come from me tomorrow!

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Things an Author should never, ever do, and a few things they should always do.

I’ve written this post at least five different times and each time I just never felt I was getting the right tone. I’m going to try yet again and I hope it comes across right this time. We’ll see how it goes. I may delete it again just for the sake of deleting it.

EDIT: I decided I finally got it right this time. Enjoy!

This list is a simple list of do’s and don’ts, but I’m going to try and go a little deeper than do this cuz I say do this. I’m going to try and give a little background and examples as to why these are a good idea and how they’ve worked out for others (both good and bad).

1) Don’t misreport your numbers:

I’ve been around the podcasting community since before podcasting was a term. I was listening live when the term podiobooks was coined. I recorded promos for many podcasts over the years and I’ve seen its ups and downs. I know a large core of the earliest podcasters and I saw much of what was happening.

There was an author that saw some other podcasters get published by a small press and he wanted to be the first with a big six publishing deal. So he took his podcasting downloads and convinced an editor that each download represented a potential reader that would buy his book. Sadly, that’s not how podcasting works.

If I download each episode of a podcast, I’m one person even though I may download the same episode from 3 different devices across 30 episodes. That’s not 90 potential readers, that’s 1. So by inflating his numbers to make it look as if he had 70,000 plus listeners, there were high expectations as well there should have been. Even if 10% buy a copy, that’s 7,000 books sold which is pretty good for a first time author.

Now I can’t fault this person for trying. He pushed and pushed and pushed to try and sell more copies, but sadly there just weren’t enough people that had already listened to the podcast that wanted to buy the book (I bought one). So this author was rejected to publish the sequel through the big publisher. The backlash was pretty sever by the author and he vanished from the podcasting community burning his bridges as he went. It was sad to see because he really was a talented author.

So a simple lesson, don’t pump those numbers. I’ve had over 100,000 downloads of V&A Shipping episodes, but have only sold a handful of copies of the ebook and print book. I had no expectation that it would explode out of the gate. That’s just not reality.

What you should do is one of two things. Either tell them your numbers and accurately what they represent, or leave them out all together. For the most part they’re unimportant and could only raise unrealistic expectations. Let your work speak for itself.

Author Scott Sigler did this the correct way. He had a publisher approach him because of his podcasting. They released his first books and they were a moderate success. He kept podcasting books and publishing books. He grew his audience slowly by giving away content to the point where he had enough people buying his books to support him keeping content out. At no time did he try to be more than he was (well, not personally, but his online persona he was HUGE, but that’s another story). Scott did things right by allowing things to grow at their own pace and used real numbers (book sales) to propel him to a big 6 publishing deal.

Not only that, he’s got an audience NAY! A community of junkies out there that cannot get enough of his work and have no trouble telling everyone they know about Scott’s work. He didn’t force a community, it just grew up around him. I’m not sure that was even his plan to start with, but it was incredible to watch him posting his first episodes on the Dragon Page to where he’s now pretty much a machine pumping out content left and right and the quality just keeps getting better and better.

2) Don’t artificially inflate your numbers:

But Jay, isn’t that the same thing?

NO! NO! IT’S NOT! Let me explain before you jump all over me. Sheesh. I mean, it’s similar, but different.

So I saw a Google+ posting by an author pleading for people to ‘click the link to visit her home page’. Well, that’s fine. I’ve seen that before. I’ve posted links to my site for people to visit. I get the desire for traffic. This author went about 20 steps too far.  The next lines in her post caused me some concern. “Hit refresh a few times and if you can, please do this every day. I have a few friends hitting refresh on my site about a dozen times a day each because I need to get at least 4000 hits on my site a day so I can go back to a publisher that said if I get 400,000 hits on my site in 6 months, they’ll give me a publishing contract.”

I wanted to cry. I really did. Why? Did you read #1? This author is setting herself up for FAILURE! Failure in a major way. The publisher will have expectations. If they think you’re getting 400,000 real hits in six months, they’re going to translate that into sales numbers and set a target. If you miss, you lose. You will never again get a publishing contract. You will have lied your way in and fall flat. I cannot express how bad of an idea this is.

Want my numbers? I get about 3 hits a day to my site. On a crazy busy day I’ll see 30, some days I won’t see any. I know people are reading via email and with rss readers, and a few even follow via wordpress.com. I get that. I know there are more people reading what I post than visit the actual site. I understand that. Really, I do, but I’m not about to start asking people to pump up my numbers just for the sake of pumping up my numbers.

Author John Scalzi has done this right, in my opinion. Sure, it’s taken him fifteen years, but he’s getting on average around 50,000 visitors per day. He gave away content, posted his views, played nice, and built a community around his website. Yes, because of this he was able to sell his novels and make a good living. Like his work or not, he’s done well and did things right with how he got his community going.  There’s that word again, community. We’ll talk more about this later. For now, just don’t bother telling people your numbers or try to get people to help get your numbers higher. It’ll happen. Don’t force it. You can’t force a community to grow up around you just like you can’t fool a publisher with unrealistic numbers more than once. Sales will point you out as a fraud.

3) Don’t be afraid to offend people:

Now I’m not talking about going all Orson Scott Card and spewing hatred disguised as an opinion. That’s just plain wrong and you will burn in your own personal hell of your own design.

I’m talking about people like Chuck Wendig. Chuck has no problem speaking his mind, using offensive language, and get all up in your grill about what he thinks. He’s very passionate about writing and has no trouble telling you that some writing is crap while other writing is brilliant. He comes across as a cross old grandfather that sits at the end of a bar with a scruffy beard, a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other telling the kids how much things sucked when he was a kid.

The thing is, at no point, does Chuck go off the deep end and attack people personally. I’d love to meet Chuck one day because I have the feeling he’s really a great guy. He’s funny as hell and his blog is a blast to read (if you go there, be aware there’s lots of offensive language). But you can’t be afraid to be who you are. Or build up a persona that you can hide behind and spew things that are offensive, but not hate-fueled. You need to find that line, dance on it, but don’t cross it. Like I said, check out Chuck. He’s doing things right.

4) Don’t be a dick:

Many things will get you far in life. Being a jerk to people won’t. Now I’m not saying you need to be a saint out there (you saw the above post, right?) but you need to mind your Ps and Qs. I’ve seen authors do some pretty crappy things to each other. Using sock puppets to leave negative reviews, starting flame wars, blogging about untrue information, using their community to try and trash another author, and just plain being jerks. This could be from denouncing women as inferior, to claiming that minorities aren’t as good as ‘whites’, or any number of things. I don’t care even if you feel this way, not all press is good press. Just because you’re a misogynistic butthead doesn’t mean you need to spread hate to try and build a community. You attract more flies with honey than $#!+ my mother always used to say.

I would give an example of how this has been done, but i don’t want to give the person any more traffic than they deserve.

5) Do Be nice and give back:

John Scalzi does this with does this with his “Big Idea”. Chuck does this with his Terrible Minds interviews with other authors. Scott Roche did this last year when he gave away an indie book a week! There are many ways to do this. I’ve never done much of anything and in the coming weeks, that’s all going to change. I’m going to start a series of posts about authors that are close, personal friends of mine that I think you should be reading. Be they indie, pro, or just giving away work on WATTPAD (or any combination of the three). This will be just a little way to give back. I know I don’t have a massive audience, but I feel I should share those authors that I enjoy.

6) Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there:

I’m going to mention the first two bloggers that come to mind: Mur Lafferty and Jenny the Bloggess. Both of these women are AWESOME in totally different ways. I’ve met Mur and she is a wonderful human being. I haven’t met Jenny and I’m not sure my brain could handle meeting her, but I do have a beaver skull to protect me should I run across her one day and her army of taxidermy animals.

Mur has had issues over the years with confidence. She’s spoken publicly about this and she’s also suffered with depression. She’s put all that out there in her struggle about writing and how difficult it is at times for her to get past her demons and just sit and write and not feel like a fraud (Mur, you’re the real deal and you’re awesome #justsaying). Much of the time she’s filled with wit and is highly entertaining, other times she’s just Mur being Mur and keeping it real.

Jenny has also had similar struggles. She’s blogged about them on some rather serious posts, and other times she posts things that get you inside her head and make you wonder what makes her tick.

Both of them are terrific people and even though they’ve mentioned they have trouble talking about their issues in public, they’ve gone ahead and do so anyway. Much to their surprise, people weren’t frightened away and many rallied to them to try and boost them up in times of need. They didn’t shy away from those ‘bad’ days and they didn’t sugar coat things either. To watch them over a length of time and read their blogs has given me a profound respect for what each of them has gone through over the years and each of them has been successful in their own way.

So what does this little list give you? It gives you ways to get yourself out there and grow a community. Like I said, I’ve watched, I’ve learned, I’ve not followed through. Hence, I didn’t grow a community around me. I know how to do it and I know it’s not something that can be forced or done artificially. It just happens and usually to the surprise of the person the community forms around. I don’t think any of these people set out with a plan of “I’ll build a community and sell tons of books.” They just did what came naturally and what felt right and it worked. They were entertaining enough to attract people to them and real enough to keep people around them. They also interacted with their audience and be part of their own audience rather than be put up on a pedestal to be admired.

I respect each of the authors I’ve mentioned. I’ve read works by each of them and I’ve been thoroughly entertained by their books, but more than that, I’ve been entertained by what they do beyond the books. I read each of their blog posts, I listen to those that have podcasts. I don’t always leave feedback or join in the conversations, but I do enjoy what they have done, are doing, and will continue to do. Each of them has, in their own way, made me a life-long fan of them, not just of their books.

I’m off to go do things right.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Why I went the Self Publishing Route

I post regularly over at sffworld.com and here is a post that some might find of interest. It’s most of the reasoning behind why I went self-published vs traditional published. The main thread is here.

My two cents:

I decided to go the Indie (self-pub, whatever you want to call it) route. I’ve been writing since the 90s, been submitting stories and books since 1999. Been on these forums for quite some time. I’ve developed quite a thick skin. Over those years I’ve written over 100 shot stories (most of them are terrible) and 14 novels (a few of those suck and a couple have been completely rewritten). I’ve submitted to publishers and agents both big and small both via snail mail and email. I’ve collected a large number of rejection letters (all of them form letters for my novels). I’ve even attended conferences and had one publisher that said pull me aside for a personal conversation and had me pitch him my novels and asked me to send them along. After more than a year with no response, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.

First of all I’ve been watching the self-pub movement for quite a long time. I’ve watched the vanity presses suck in authors with hopes and dreams and watched people get taken. I’ve watched people toss their one book they spent 15 years writing and re-writing and watched them fail because no one bought their one book. I’ve watched podcasters skyrocket to stardom (Scott Sigler, Mur Lafferty, Nathan Lowell, Tee Morris, Philipa Ballantine) and a couple do very well being persistent and release multiple podcast novels to coincide with their novel releases (both traditionally and self-published), and others release one novel, release a book, and wonder why it failed. I’ve watched J.A. Konrath and read all his blogs. I’ve watched Dead Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathrine Rush, Michael Stackpole, Amanda Hocking, and many others go the self-pub route and have great success, but I’ve also watched a LOT of other smaller name authors have a level of success that has allowed them to quit their day jobs and write full time pulling in a nice annual income with many titles.

What I’ve seen is those that can produce a large volume of work reap the rewards. Those with one or two titles generally fail because they don’t see immediate success and throw up their hands and give up. This isn’t a game of throw your book out there and you’re guaranteed success. You can’t force people to your book in 6 months and expect it to be a hit. That just doesn’t happen. All of the people I know that have made it spent years working hard to improve their craft and wrote a lot of books. Amanda Hocking release 9 books her first year and did so in a hot genre that helped her gain popularity. J.A. Konrath acquired his backlist and got better editing, better covers, and re-released them all. Same with others I mentioned. They fought for their backlist, got it, and put it out there. People couldn’t find their backlist due to publishers not giving these authors priority. They’re a rare handful.

As for me, I’ve done a couple podcast novels, but due to life happening I stopped. I had released one novel myself, but again, life happened and I stopped. This year will be different as I never stopped writing. I have a backlog of 14 novels and several in process of being written and/or plotted out. A couple of my older books I will be re-writting because I know I can make them better. I have a great and inexpensive cover artist. I have three friends that all proof read my work (one is a technical writer with a background in editing, another went to school for editing because when she retires she wants to be an editor, the other is just good at picking my stories apart for content). It’s taken me many many years to reach the point where I’ ready to get my stories out into the world. I also have a backlist of my own stories that I’ve had edited, I just need covers, book layout, and I can get these books out the door and into readers hands. I’ve spent nearly a decade watching the market, the self-pub movement, and keeping an eye on what’s worked and what hasn’t.

I didn’t come to this decision lightly. I would love to have a standard publishing contract from a major house, but I’m not getting any younger and I’m frankly tired of waiting and submitting and waiting and being rejected. I haven’t been idle and I know it’ll take a long time to gain readers. Going this route, for me, won’t mean overnight success. It might take me another five or ten years to gain an audience, but I need to keep at it and keep trying. Getting my books out there, going to cons, doing interviews on podcasts or where ever I can, and doing blog tours, anything to get my name out there. I also need to keep a steady stream of books flowing out. I need good covers. I need good editing. I need to be patient.

If you’re wondering, I currently have 5 titles out (2 middle grade, 1 collection of short stories, and 2 novels). I currently sell about one book every other day. That’s since the start of this year. I’ll be releasing two more books next week (1 middle grade in the same series, 1 sci-fi thriller novel). I’ll be releasing another novel next month. I’ll be re-releasing my first self-pubbed book with better editing the month after that. I’ll be releasing at least one novel per month for the rest of this year. If I’m lucky, I hope to sell a book a day by the end of the year). I’ve got next year planned out and I’m writing books to release next year, this year. I’ve got 10 years worth of books planned out and I have no real intention of stopping. I’ve got many more ideas than I can write in a short period of time and I am a fast writer. Last year I wrote 490,000 words. This year I’ve written 100,000 thus far and I’m shooting for 365,000 as a good goal given my release schedule. I’ve got a spreadsheet to track my progress. I’ve got friends pushing me to stay on track. I’ve communicated with my family my goals for the coming years.

Even with all of this in place, I still might fail. That’s a very real possibility. But if I don’t get books out there and try, I’ll fail before I start. I can’t have that. I have to give it a try.

So what am I getting at with all of this? Don’t just jump into self publishing without being aware of what you’re getting into . Don’t think this is a road to riches. If you’ve got one book, I would recommend rethinking and keep trying to get that book through a traditional publisher. Write another book, and another, and another while you wait. If you’ve built up a number of books and you’re still not getting anywhere with traditional publishing, then consider self publishing. Understand that you’ll need to learn cover design, you’ll have to learn scheduling, you’ll have to learn book layout, you’ll have to build your blog and your website, you’ll have to learn all the distribution outlets for your book and ebook, you’ll have to learn all those systems for getting your books into the hands of readers. Yes, you could take your word doc and throw it up on kindle tomorrow, but ask yourself what you’re hoping to get out of it? You’ll only get out what you put in and there is so much to learn.

I said a lot more than I intended. Wow! I’m sure I could say a lot more, but suffice to say, do your homework before making the jump. Don’t just jump and hope. Hope doesn’t sell books.

Daily Update: Two Days in One.

Yesterday. Holy cow.

So I had this training session yesterday. It’s for work. It’s dry material. The instructor knows it’s dry material. He does his best to keep in interesting. It’s still dry material, but we need to go through the lessons.

I met my friend Mike.The one who’s done all that music work and cover work for me in the past. You know, for V & A shipping, Billy Barbarian, Murdockian Tales. Yeah, that guy.

He’s a local to this area and we headed over the Bay Bridge. Saw Alatraz and the Golden Gate. Saw, as in, “Hey, see that over there.” We didn’t atually visit. What we did visit is China Town. That was so muh fun. A very touristy place and there were no tourists. Being a Monday night there was no one out and about. Oh, sure, there were a couple of people. It was nothing like what I expected. I had expeccted wall to wall people.

Being a local, Mike pointed out shops to buy touristsy things. I bought touristy things for the Wife, Mi Suerga, and My Favorite Daughter. I think they’ll like what I got and it was all so inexpensive. That caught my by surprise.

It was neat to see some things and I’ll mention that more in a later post and why it was so cool to see them.

Again, the local Mike piked out a place for us to eat. He’d been there before. A young boy followed us to our table. Sat at our table. Climbed up on our table. Giggled, laughed, had a great time. High-fived me. I took a picture with him. I took a picture of the menu on the white board writting in Chinese. I ate something with pork and noodles. A little sweet with a great spiy after taste. It was some good stuff.

Afterward I called up J.D. Sawyer. Mike and I drove over to hang with him. We had a beer, a great cigar, and a lot of conversation. Being both authors we discussed authorly topics. Suh as:

Works in progress

Works in print

upcoming works

legal rights

story concepts

story finances

how little writers make

We also talked about many other author friends and shared a lot about those authors. We talked about (in no certain order)

Scott Sigler

J. C. Huthins

Mur Lauferty

Gail Carriger

Scott Roche

Jake Bible

Paul E. Cooley

Mike Stackpole

Terry Bisson

Mike Plested

Lorna Suzuki

We talked about publishers

Dragon Moon Press

Hades Publiations (Edge)

Flying Island Press

Kindle / Amazon

Smashwords vs Paypal

It was hard, but I did allow Mike to talk as well. He and J.D. share a common interest in photography so they also did a lot of talk about photography. Before we knew it, it was late, the cigars were long cold, and the wind had picked up significantly. Mike and I called it a night.

Perhaps it wasn’t just two days in one, it was three. I did so muh that I woke up this morning and started packing for home. I sent a great deal of pictures home for the wife and my favorite daughter. I miss them. Even keeping myself busy didn’t keep my mind off of things. Even though I’m having a great time up here, I do miss them. It’ll be nice to go home and sleep in my own bed.

Until Tomorrow!

WOO WOO!