One of the great positives about being a self-publishing author is freedom. Who doesn’t want to be their own boss?
I answered to bosses more years than I care to remember. There were a few along the way who were somewhat tolerable. But autonomy is nice, albeit enormously challenging.
When I wrote my first novel in 2012, I was motivated by a need to get something off my chest. It was therapy. Yes, Fifth Sunday: The Loving Hands Murder is a work of fiction, but it is based on a true story. In it, I shared many of the realities of church life, the stuff that goes on behind the scenes. I would like to believe what I experienced was the exception to the rule, but it’s not.
Truthfully, I came out of the ministry deeply wounded. The related nightmares aren’t as frequent as they once were, but they still pay me an occasional visit.
So I finished the book and submitted my manuscript to CreateSpace and Kindle Publishing. And then I just forgot about it. No promotion. No advertising. Nada. Consequently, as a self publishing author on Amazon, I ranked somewhere near the bottom, or so it seemed. Last I checked, Kindle listed 1,490,599 titles. Somebody had to be last, right?
Fast forward three years to 2015. That’s when the writing bug hit me in a big way and in September I published, In the Valley of Hope: Faith Conquers Fear. And then I was hooked. Followed up with a second novel in the series, Farewell PFC Polk: The End of A Nightmare.
Since then, three more titles.
The Angels Diner Series– Alexandra’s Song and Miracle at Gabriel’s Rock. And Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane.
I tell you all of this because there is so much more to self-publishing than writing books. That’s only part of it.
You’ll quickly learn as a newbie author that you are needy. Need help with writing, formatting the interior and exterior of your book, and submitting your work to electronic and print publishers. Need help learning to use social media and cheap advertising. Oh, yeah. You also need a self publishing author website.
Beware! There are wolves seeking to take advantage of your neediness with promises of miraculous results just for purchasing their proven tools. They’ll even show you how much money they’ve made with their tools of wonder. Rest assured, their profits have come from suckers like you and me who have fallen for their tried and true, time-tested methods.
Wise and knowledgeable counsel is indispensable for mastering the self pub process. The big question: Who can, and who should you trust?
Best advice. Find out what the guys at the top of the self publishing industry are doing, especially those in your genre. Do that.
Everyday, there’s something new in my inbox from online marketers touting the latest and greatest method for climbing the self-pub mountain. But nothing beats hard work, discipline, and consistency.
Early on, I read a blog that has proven helpful for my approach to book sales. To the author, I apologize. Can’t recall your name. But the advice was the best I’ve gotten. In a nutshell, don’t get distracted by stuff. Write. Publish. Run some inexpensive pay-per-click ads on the Kindle site. Price your book low enough to break even until your sales pick up. In the mean time, write another book…and another to build a following.
Speaking of writing additional books…it effects the sales of your previous books. Fifth Sunday is now my second best seller. Keep on writing.
One last thought. If you run across a magic bullet that really works, let me know about it. I’m game for anything tat really works.
Have a great day!
That feeling you get when you finish a novel.
Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane is a wrap, and I hope it will be a blessing to you.
Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane
For this novel, places and incidents from my childhood sparked my creativity. For example, The Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, VA. Blame my affection for chocolate covered cherries for the the switch from apple blossoms to cherry blossoms.
In my mind’s eye, I saw cobblestone streets lined with blossoming trees, quaint specialty shops, Victorian and Colonial style buildings, and friendly people. A place of harmony. Welcome to 118 Cherry Blossom Lane in Harmony Springs, Virginia.
The protagonist in my previous two books, Alexandra Zakharov, in Alexandra’s Song and Miracle at Gabriel’s Rock, was a concert pianist. I like to write about music because of my background as a musician.
The lead character in Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane is a professional oil painter, chosen because my wife, Janet, is an artist. Fewer Google searches with a ready resource by my side.
From there, the story took shape as 41-year-old divorcee, Hope Hunter, gets a second chance to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.
And so it began. A forgotten dream, rekindled, and tested by all manner of adversity and ill-willed people. Such is life. Right?
Hope of Cherry Blossom Lane is an against all odds story in which good triumphs over evil.
As always, you can get your copy at Amazon in print or eBook format.
Have an awesome life,
Who’d a thunk it? This old man added something new (previously believed to be impossible) to his writing routine.
Never gave it much thought. Check that. Never gave it any thought. But it just might be the most important thing I have done to help myself.
So what is it? What is that vitally important thing that many writers have overlooked? Especially, those of, shall we say, more advanced age. EXERCISE!
I write every day. Never miss. Even on holidays. Hour after hour, sitting in a chair, staring into a laptop monitor.
Headaches. Neck pain. Carpal tunnel eyestrain (if there is such a thing.) Never mind chronic butt aches.
Last fall, I decided I needed a treadmill. Did a lot of research and then I shared my expensive findings with my wife who poo-pooed my idea. Can’t afford it, at least a good one, and there’s just no good place to put “that ugly thing” in the house. Hey. 45 years of marriage. She’s always right.
One of my well-meaning sons suggested a Fitbit or a gym membership. (A) Don’t have $130 for a device that counts steps. (B) Not about to go into a public place so people with muscles and six-pack abs can point and laugh.
By Christmas, thoughts of a healthier me faded somewhere between a stuffed turkey and egg nog.
However, the idea that I dismissed continued to simmer somewhere in the recesses of my mind. Resurfaced on June 30. That’s when I flew solo to my local Wally World and bought a pair of walking shorts. Mercifully, today’s styles drop to the knee.
6:00 a.m., July 1, in hopes that all of my neighbors were still sound asleep, I ventured out for my first walk. Proudly, I survived an entire mile.
Day 2. A mile and a half.
Within a week I was up to three miles. By the fourth, four and sometimes five miles.
31 days have passed and I haven’t missed a day. Lord willing, walking is a part of my writing regimen that is here to stay.
I tell you this because, if I can do it, you can do it. In November, I’ll hit the big 69. On that day, I’ll celebrate by walking 7 miles. One mile for each decade I have been blessed to live on this great earth.
Oh, yeah. The headaches and neck pain are gone. I’ve lost weight. I wish I could report that I look significantly more handsome. But, you can’t have it all, right? More importantly, that hour and a half each morning gives me time to think about new twists and turns for my stories.
I have read just about everything imaginable about how to write and market books. Maybe I just missed it, but I can’t recall anybody mentioning the importance of physical exercise. We are by the nature of our craft, couch and chair potatoes.
So here is my writing tip for the rest of your life. EXERCISE.
Christmas in July? Really. Back in the day we used it as a promotional stunt in radio. Today, that gimmick is now a viable programming alternative.
Maybe it’s kind of a weather thing. You know. Christmas and snow. Freezing temps. Helps us somehow feel cooler in the sweltering heat of July.
Regardless of the reason, some local radio stations are playing wall to wall Christmas tunes. Please spare us, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
Not to be left out, at least one TV network has gone wall-to-wall Christmas programming. That would be on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel. Admittedly, I’ve seen most of them.
So yesterday, with absolutely nothing else on TV worthy of note, I watched The Case for Christmas. Yep. Please don’t think badly of me.
Synopsis: Santa Claus (George Buza) must hire a lawyer (Dean Cain) when a man sues him for emotional distress.
Starts out silly. A goofy looking guy shows up at the North Pole to serve Santa a summons. The elves are even goofier. I suppose criticizing elves is not politically correct but I’m being completely transparent here.
Commented to my wife, this is stupid. Silly. But, I kept watching all the way to the end. Why? Turned out to be a really good story. Enough for a lump in my throat and a few sniffles when Santa was vindicated.
Hats off to the writer(s) for taking a silly premise and turning it into an entertaining story.
Sometimes when I am writing, I feel that my fiction ideas are silly. Then I see one of these movies based on plots that are way out in left field and the writers still manage (most of the time) to make their stories interesting.
Moral: Don’t shy away from silly, goofy, or bizarre. If you can turn those ideas into compelling and entertaining stories then you have arrived.
Since concluding my last novel, Alexandra’s Song, I have taken a month off from writing. Well, sort of. Actually, I have devoted time to revising my previous works with new covers and a few touchup edits where needed.
This old dog still likes to learn some new tricks. I was determined to master GIMP (because it’s FREE) and step up my marketing efforts. Mission accomplished. What is GIMP, you say? Like Photoshop without the hefty price tag.
Additionally, I have set up a little side biz at Fiverr for those interested in professional custom book trailers. Gives me a chance to use some of my background in production and voice talent. You can check out the service here.
This blog marks the end of my lengthy To-Do list. Tomorrow, I’ll knuckle down on the second book in the Angels Diner series, Alexandra and Grace. Target date for release in October 1.
In the new book, Danny is missing and so is Molly’s guardian angel. Determined to get the boy back she must take on Helel Ben Shazar and the angels of darkness. Can she succeed without the help of Angel? For that matter, can she survive?
In a previous post, I observed that finishing a novel is an exciting event. Close to that euphoria is what is happening with Alexandra’s Song. It is selling like hotcakes, which I assume is a good thing if you run an IHOP. Seriously, best book launch to date and it has also resulted in an uptick in sales of my other novels.
Yeah, I write because I love it. But it does make me feel good when people read my work and speak kindly of it. So, thanks so very much for your support.
Here’s to a great summer. Stay cool and if you get a chance, share a review of my books at Amazon.
Wholesome isn’t cool or popular. “You write clean books. Really?” Sounds like writing intended for children. In fact, WHOLESOME is a dirty word in that it is a turnoff term to many if not most potential adult readers. Clean. Family Friendly. Wholesome. Safe enough to tell the parrot belonging to the town gossip.
I have my grandmother to thank for the censor that monitors my writing style. Or, maybe it’s the era in which I grew up or the influence of a small town. Whatever the reason, there’s a governor onboard this writing bus.
That’s why you won’t find overt sex or vulgarity in my manuscripts. It’s just not in me. On the few occasions I attempted to push the envelope, the scenes were removed in the first edit. Makes me uncomfortable.
Flashbacks to my childhood provide some clues. My mother threatened to wash my mouth out with soap. Never suffered those consequences but I watched a friend go through it. I did, however, lick from the bar, just to see if it was a punishment I thought I could endure. It wasn’t.
Then there was the time when I was walking home from school with a buddy. Fourth or fifth grade, I think. We played the cursing game. Rules are simple. Whoever can string together the most different curse words in a sentence, wins. I was on a roll. Blew him away. Unfortunately, my grandmother’s best friend, and the head of the Lutheran Ladies Guild, was sitting on her front porch when we passed by. One phone call was all it took. My grandmother shamed me so badly that I never played that game again.
Admittedly, I grew up in a time where there was tempered violence on TV and in the movies. Lots of people killed. Plentiful mayhem. The limited flow of blood was reportedly only ketchup or catsup. Pick a spelling.
Back in the day, in my hometown, there was little to no cursing. Wholesome speech and entertainment were the way of life. Then came the Navy where I was introduced to Salts, salty language, and a jaded worldly view. But my values had already been firmly set. Made me feel like an outsider.
When I turned my ambitions toward writing, a wholesome style seemed unrealistic. My G/PG mindset didn’t fit the stories I wanted to tell. In my adopted profession, wholesome was profane.
Here’s the thing. I believe that integrity is integral to all we do. At the end of the day, we must be true to ourselves. The challenge then, was to pen sagas that make you feel by still leaving something to the imagination. The seedier parts of life and language are implied. Great artists do it all the time. Give you just enough to allow your mind to fill in the blanks.
As a musician, I learned the importance of expression. Music is so much more than just the notes on the page. Good writing also requires richness of feeling. Relatable emotion. Seeing yourself or someone you know in a character or a circumstance causes you to become engaged in the story.
One of the comments that meant most to me from a reader was that “the characters feel like family.” Uncle Harold. Aunt Maude. Cousin Henry. Your mom. Your dad. Your sister or brother. That kid in school or coworker who made your life miserable. The people who make you laugh, cry, angry or sad. The ones who make you feel love, joy, ephoria and romance. A setting that engages your senses.
Expression. Feeling. Relatability. Stirred passions and heightened imagination. All in a wholesome/family friendly style. The reader fills in the details that matter to them.
Wholesome writing is not intended to be judgmental or preachy. It’s just a writing style that enables me to be true to myself and real to my readers.
My new novel, Alexandra’s Song, is hot off the presses and available in print and electronic media. It’s the first in the Angels Diner series. I have started work on Book II, Alexandra and Grace. Release is targeted for mid September.
If you read my books and enjoy them, it would be helpful if you would share a good review at Amazon or Goodreads. And tell your friends. Your support is greatly appreciated.
My new novel, Alexandra’s Song, began with a seed idea. “A girl is running.” Planted it at bedtime. Nurtured it while trying to fall asleep. Woke up early with a story concept which I immediately used to construct an outline. By lunchtime, Alexandra’s Song was born.
Obviously, there is nothing new under the sun. Googled it just to be certain. Yep. The name is used for teaching grades 3-5 how to write. At least my process is different but just as simple. In fact, so elementary that I showed it to my eleven-year-old granddaughter in under fifteen minutes.
Seed idea. “A girl is running.” Then you expand upon it.
- Who is running?
- Why is she running?
- Where is she headed?
And you just keep using those basic questions you learned in journalism class: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? And then the vital question from your creative writing course. “What if?”
Just keep expanding on your seed idea and soon you will have a full blown story and an outline.
Conceptualizing new stories with this method is a breeze. Nailing down a title, not so much. Before settling on Alexandra’s Song, I was determined to call my book, Angel’s Diner. Seemed fitting. That’s where Molly Sanders meets Angelica Lopez, her guardian angel. Then I thought about calling the story, Divinity Falls, which is the fictional town where the story is set. Ultimately, there was what I believed to be an exciting twist in the narrative that dealt with Alexandra’s Song. Bingo! Book title. Regardless of that minor struggle, the title also came from the original seed idea.
That little seed is now growing into a series of novels which put Angel’s Diner back into play. Book II is in the works, and it will be entitled, Alexandra and Grace. New but similar seed idea: “A girl is frightened.” Book III: “A girl is fed-up.” Book IV: “A girl is heartbroken.” You get the picture.
This method also prevents rabbit chasing. As long as the plant and the resulting fruit emanate from the same seed, you will stay on track.
My first three novels were written in the historical fiction genre. Fifth Sunday: The Loving Hands Murder is set in the 1980s in Alabama. In the Valley of Hope: Faith Conquers Fear is primarily rooted in 1919 and set in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. And Farewell PFC POLK: The End of a Nightmare belongs to the 1950s and is located in my hometown of Strasburg, Virginia, and Japan.
By the time I got around to conceptualizing the fourth novel, I wanted to remove the historical restraints and rely solely on my imagination. Pure invention. Total creativity. Unbridled fantasy. Believable. Real. Enter the supernatural and the inclusion of angels all from a seed.
Struggling for a story idea? Then plant a seed idea. Nurture it. And watch it grow.
OK. Book sales and good reviews are rewarding. But, as for me, the most exciting part of the novel writing process is the finish line.
What I mean by the finish line is what happens beginning at about 70,00 to 75,000 words. That’s when the story that has been bouncing around in my brain for months is ramping up to a (hopefully exciting) climax.
My goal = 100,000 words. Then comes whittling, most commonly known as editing. Borrowed the term from my grandfather. Cut the unnecessary. Strengthen the plot. Enrich the characters. Perfect the grammar. After all the judicious editing, the finished manuscript is reduced to near 90,000.
In a previous article, I referred to the writing process as sculpting. Then comes whittling. Does that mean the publishing process should then be called shellacking? Maybe not. That’s also a term associated with bad reviews.
Back to that sculpting analogy. I have reached that point where the glob of clay looks like the vision as it appeared in my mind back in February. Started with one simple statement, “Molly is running.” Slept on it. Woke up the next morning and hammered out an outline and a controlling synopsis.
Here, by the way, is the controlling statement for Alexandra’s Song:
Molly Sanders is running from her destiny and her guardian angel.
This is the synopsis for Alexandra’s Song:
Molly Sanders is running from her painful past and takes refuge in the small town of Divinity Falls, PA where she lands a job at Angels Diner, reluctantly falls in love with Casper Knight, and encounters a mysterious woman, Angel Lopez, who claims to be her guardian angel. Molly is presented with an opportunity that will lead to the fulfillment of her lifelong dream. Her decision brings the wrath of the angels of darkness, an unwanted encounter with the man she despises, and an outcome she could have never imagined.
Then, on February 15, I began the most painful segment of the writing process. The beginning. Write. Rewrite. Start over. And then finally, off and running. Oh, yeah. Somewhere around the middle of the book, I go back to the beginning, rip it apart, and rewrite.
I used the word painful to describe the beginning of a manuscript. Kind of like a bee sting. Just enough pain to know it’s there. Not enough to keep me from loving the act of writing.
Three months into my journey has taken me to places I’ve never been. A vacation that hasn’t cost a penny. Philadelphia. Pittsburg. The mythical communities of Divinity Falls and Upton, PA. I will spend the next two weeks in New York City where Alexandra’s Song will conclude.
Got to close for now and get back to my story. After all, I’m at the most exciting part. Can’t wait for you to read it. Alexandra’s Song. The first book from what will be the Angels Diner series. Available on May 29.