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 advise 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.

I’ll be appearing for an interview on 8/25-http://tobtr.com/10207903 #interview #books

Commune - Audio CoverJoin me and Audie Award winning Narrator R. C. Bray as we discuss books, writing in general, the fine art of narration, and any other random thing with host and author S. Evan Townsend! R. C. Bray will also perform a live reading from my novel, Commune Book One.

Bring some popcorn!

Why Writers Need to Celebrate Cormac McCarthy #writing

I’m going to post a quote, here, from No Country for Old Men.  Maybe you’ve read the book and maybe you haven’t, but I don’t care.  Study this:

“He ran cold water over his wrists until they stopped bleeding and he tore strips from a handtowel with his teeth and wrapped his wrists and went back into the office. He sat on the desk and fastened the toweling with tape from a dispenser, studying the dead man gaping up from the floor. When he was done he got the deputy’s wallet out of his pocket and took the money and put it in the pocket of his shirt and dropped the wallet to the floor. Then he picked up his airtank and the stungun and walked out the door and got into the deputy’s car and started the engine and backed around and pulled out and headed up the road.”

Okay?  Now; read it again, but pay attention to the bold words.

“He ran cold water over his wrists until they stopped bleeding and he tore strips from a handtowel with his teeth and wrapped his wrists and went back into the office. He sat on the desk and fastened the toweling with tape from a dispenser, studying the dead man gaping up from the floor. When he was done he got the deputy’s wallet out of his pocket and took the money and put it in the pocket of his shirt and dropped the wallet to the floor. Then he picked up his airtank and the stungun and walked out the door and got into the deputy’s car and started the engine and backed around and pulled out and headed up the road.”

That’s a whole lot of and’ing, ain’t it?

When I first read this book, I was a little taken aback by McCarthy’s writing style.  At first, I figured it was a thing he was doing to evoke the sense of an old cowboy relating a story on a front porch somewhere, but as I dug deeper into some of his other works, I soon realized that this is just how the man writes.  He seems to run away from commas and semi-colons while screaming frantically, instead choosing to stuff another “and” in there whenever he can.

It takes getting used to but, at the same time, one must admit that it suits him.  At the same time, he’s not exactly hurting for lack of sales, is he?

And this is my point in bringing this up.  My wife, who is my best and most trusted critic, flays me alive if I rely on the words “and” as well as “or” in my writing too much, and her first pass through a draft always includes highlights of their usage when she sees them jumping out more than she’d like.  These kinds of things tend to bug the hell out of her, as they do with other readers, so she advises me to keep an eye out.  Most of the time, I’ll listen to her.

You’re going to run into all sorts of people in your life who will tell you how you’re supposed to write.  Editors, friends, family, and the like; they’ll all tell you what you’re doing wrong.  In an alternate universe, there are an army of people who, having never heard of Cormac or his work, would be the first in line to point at the above paragraph and explain why he was an outright hack.

But in this universe, our friend Cormac is a Pulitzer Prize winner and those same people praise him as a literary genius.  The secret is that Cormac McCarthy doesn’t give a shit what they call him.  He’s just focused on telling the story the way it needs to be told.

Of course, we’re not all geniuses like McCarthy.  Some of us actually are shit writers, despite our fondest wishes to believe otherwise.  But, because shit writing is subjective, you owe it to yourself to keep plugging away regardless of that danger.  Have the humility to hear criticism and incorporate those things that make sense to you, but also have the wisdom and self belief to know what must stay.

There’s a story in there that you’ve got to get out; just get the son of a bitch told.

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 😛

Radio Interview 8/25 @SEvanTownsend @audbks #book #interview

Speculative Fiction CantinaJust a quick reminder that famed audio book narrator R. C. Bray and yours truly will be appearing on the Speculative Fiction Cantina podcast on August 25th at 3 PM, West Coast time, with author and host S. Evan Townsend to discuss my novel Commune Book One.  Bray will also perform a live reading from the novel.

You can view the full event details over at the Facebook page, here!

Learn more about the Speculative Fiction Cantina at this link!

Get a copy of the book here!

Reviews of any kind are wonderful. 5-star reviews make my day #amwriting #thanks #grateful

Loved this book can’t wait for the second installment ! Great characters. Well told keeps you wanting more ! Definitely value for money !

Hearing that someone enjoyed something I wrote this much will never stop making my day.  I’m always so grateful to hear that something I wrote has resonated with someone out there.

Josh