Books/Writing/Publishing Trends 2020

The future of something?

Beginning a new year leads to thinking about what is happening on many different fronts.  For me, of course, I’m always looking at trends in books and publishing.  While I am curious this really doesn’t affect me all that much, but still feels like something I should pay attention too.  The following trends come from an article by Scott Mathews which appeared in The Independent Publishers Magazine.  The article below has been edited for length, click for the full article.

Some of this I agree with, some maybe not so much.  Still interesting.

Trend #1 Print Books are still top of the pile

This should grab your attention because surely the natural progression would be e-books taking over the throne? Not so. Well, not yet. People apparently still love to hold a real book in their hands. For this, and various other reasons, e-books have shown a decline.

Does this mean the age demographic is now 30+ for print and under that for digital? No. This is where it gets somewhat confusing. Millennials are just as likely to go for print, bucking that sector’s trend of digital-only.

Trend #2 E-books are dead, long live e-books!

Having said what needs to be said in Tip#1, it goes without saying that e-books are still a vital part of people’s lives. Industry insiders have dissected the above trend, and all are cognizant that in terms of time and legacy, e-books are still relatively young and playing catch-up to print.

It is inevitable that the digital book will have many more peaks and valleys than print, although both are grappling with new ideas and follow-throughs. E-book trends are more uncertain as the world in which they exist is more volatile and iridescent. It’s a kind of nebulous line that makes it not as easy to define, but just as urgent to detect and develop.

Trend #3 Diversity is the new dynamic

If authors, and subsequently publishers, do not grasp diversity with both hands, they will fall behind in sales. This is a clear-and-cut fact. Diversity in the form of multicultural voices and multigender voices are the norm, and the must-have. This reflects the diversity that is alive and expanding everywhere in America.

Trend#4 Bigger demand for services

Everyone wants a book or a well-written assignment, and everyone thinks they can write. However, they’ve quickly discovered that writing is in the gift and the blood and it’s not as easy as thought.

Would-be authors and students turn to services like ghost-writers and writing agencies in droves to get the work done properly. Two such services experiencing a surge in demand are Xpertwriters.com and A-writer.com.

Trend#5 A writer and Entrepreneur!

Marketing your work is an essential part of ensuring hype and sales. This goes for whether you’re self-publishing or going with a traditional publisher. You must start blogging about your work, especially as a self-publisher.

Amazon is not going to do it for you, and as part of your marketing effort it’s vital you use every social media method available to get the hype going. If you don’t do this, your work will languish in cyberspace!

Trend#6 Audiobooks are more popular

They still fall under print and e-books, but they are on the rise. Izzard Ink Publishing says that digital audio accounted for 25% of all HarperCollins digital revenue in the first quarter of 2018.

Simon and Schuster says that digital audio revenue shot up a staggering 43%, so something big is happening here. It obviously takes more investment to get this show on the road but offering a print-on-demand book as well as an audio version is a sure-fire winner.

Since Americans seem to be multitasking more in their lives, they will have less time to just read a book. Audiobooks come into their own when they fit in with all the other activities that they are pursuing.

Trend#7 It’s all about the brand

You’d better ensure that you’re fit enough to sell your book. With direct-to-reader becoming the predominant buzzword going into 2019, much of the onus of the marketing will fall to you.

And the marketing will not just be about the book – it will be about you (the author) too! So be prepared to have YouTube inserts, Instagram postings, Facebook and Google+ campaigns… the whole thing. People will follow you, then your book.

If you’re a timid author, you’d better enroll in some get-confidence-quick classes, because you’re going to need it.

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The world of books is huge.  Millions and millions of books sold.  My share of that market is so small as to be somewhere close to zero.  Overall trends in the industry may have impact on publishers, but any one author is doing their thing because of who they are; not based on some trend.  Now there may be some authors who plot their path based on statistics of what sells or whatever the hottest trend is—but that is not me.

Mystery novels have been a staple of the written word ever since there was a written word—that’s not a trend; but a fact. 

As I said, my part of the whole is so small it can’t be measured, but one thing mentioned in the article was the increase in print books and a decline in e-books.  Those are industry wide issues, but I also saw a substantial jump in paperback book sales this last year.  My books are not available (except by order) in book stores (lots of reasons for that –which I will explore in a future blog)—so this is on-line sales of paperbacks.  Those sales in 2019 almost tripled over 2018.  A “real” book is not as convenient as an electronic one—but I was very pleased to see people like the feel of owning a tangible book.

Thanks for being a reader!

Ramblings, Reality and Baseball

Without a doubt, I break creative writing rules. The main reason I break those rules is that I don’t know any better. Rule breaking is often associated with rebellion, but it also can be a result of ignorance. Point of View in a fiction book can be first, second or third person. Most of my books get this whole thing kind of muddled. Mixing POV is a no-no and would result in my writing getting a bad grade from my writing professor. Here’s the key to understanding why I do this, I don’t care.

What is a novel?  It’s a story.  My books tell a story about flawed characters involved in a mystery, usually involving a murder.  Is there a specific book of rules for this storytelling?  Yes, and no.  The objective, however, is clear.  It is to tell the story in a way that communicates to the reader what the author wants communicated.  That sounds to me like there are no rules.

Very smart authors, not saying I’m one of those, often break the “traditional” rules as an expression of independence and creativity.  So if you know the rules and break them deliberately that is okay; but if you just don’t follow the rules because you don’t want to—that’s bad.

You may be wondering why this is on my mind?  It has been suggested by someone who knows the rules that I should try writing from a slightly different approach.  I’ve given it a lot of thought and decided I should just stick with what I’m doing.  The reason is not that this advice is bad; it’s just not me.  My stories have a certain feel and flow.  Maybe a simple style or a simple author?  The most frequent comment I get from readers is that my books are easy to read.  There was a time that for some reason I was not sure that was a good thing.  But I have come to the conclusion that is a very good thing.  I want the reading of my books to be easy and enjoyable—not a challenge and laborious.  So, like my flawed characters, I will just keep doin’ what I’m doin’.

Lots of grumbling in the indie book world about changes Amazon made to emphasize paid ad space on book pages. Those changes have apparently resulted in lower sales for some of the big boys of the indie book market. The sellers of indie books are very susceptible to the whims of Amazon, and how they are completely focused on their profitability –not the authors’ revenue. As it should be. Amazon had a big hand in creating the boom in indie authors and e-books, but they are a web site focused on one thing –their success. If that matches with the authors success, so be it; but they are out for themselves. Why that seems to surprise some authors is beyond me. That is exactly what they should be doing.

During my years advising business people on selling their businesses, there was one model that consistently had buyer interest. It was the reoccurring revenue model where no one customer represented any significant portion of the business. Such as residential garbage collection. Two industries I worked in a lot that had those characteristics were propane and billboards.

Amazon has many of those same characteristics only on a scale never seen before.  Does any single customer mean anything to Amazon?  Of course not.  If you could talk to a human (most likely you can’t) at Amazon to complain about something and threaten to take your business somewhere else, they would say adios.  The collection of all customers matter but not any small number; much less just one.  Same with vendors.  Amazon owns the largest market place on the planet.  If you want your product to be in that market place, you will abide by their rules.  If you don’t; once again—adios.

Many indie authors exist only because of Amazon and many will disappear because of Amazon.  Amazon pays good royalties to authors for e-books; but it could be some day in the future they look at the number of books they have available (a billion, ten billion?) and decide why pay royalties for new books when the supply is too large already.  Good-by indie author.  Remember it’s their web site, and they can do what they want.

Audio books are becoming a larger share of the book market.  A long time ago I decided to get into the audio book segment.  It has not gone according to plan.  I still think will have a Santa Fe Mojo audio book sometime soon (yeah, no reason to believe that).  If not soon, will probably regroup and try again—maybe go with Dog Gone Lies next time. 

Not to be too crass, my goal with my writing is to make some money.  While art for art’s sake may be noble it is not very profitable.  The audio books are a total unknown to me as far as sales and profitability.  If I can see a path to some profits, I will have a lot more audio books available.  If no profits, probably not going down that path. 

I’m a baseball fan.   My team’s the Colorado Rockies.  The current sign stealing scandal is very ugly and before it’s over, will involve some bad things happening to players.  MLB can punish managers and owners, but until they do something to the players, this will not end.

Cheating has always gone on in baseball, even by the pitchers who will claim to be the most harmed in this latest case; but this seems as bad as it gets.  This was a whole team, including managers.  For maybe naïve reasons I was surprised someone had not blown the whistle long before now.

Being a fan of a losing team does have advantages.  Kind of hard to believe the Rockies were cheating, considering the results, unless they are also very bad at cheating.  I think many fans of other teams are not going to give a warm welcome to these cheaters during the season. 

Thanks for being a reader!

My Creative Career

Most of my life has been as a businessman, not a writer.  My first love was art.  Even in college my desire was to be an artist.  I was a creative person who desired a career doing just that—being creative.  Like a lot of people, those first impulses didn’t work out.  I needed to make a living and someone said CPAs made a lot of money—so why not.  It’s only my life we’re talking about.  What could be wrong with being stuck at a desk the rest of your life crunching numbers?  The answer, of course, was a lot.

What does it mean to be creative?  When I was painting, it meant creating an image of something that was unique, or interesting, or appealing or something?  If my painting of a tree looked just like the tree, was that creative?  How about just taking a photo of the tree, was that creative.  I think my art career never happened because I struggled with images that were not unique.  I wanted to paint a tree that didn’t look like a tree, but was the essence of the tree.  Even I didn’t understand what that meant. 

Okay, forget the tree, I will become a creative accountant.  Of course the first unique image that popped into my head was a jail cell for being a too creative accountant —not a good image.  I dropped the creative part and spent a good deal of time just becoming a good accountant.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.  I enjoyed numbers and seemed to have a talent for crunching them.  I achieved a level of success that was rewarding, but not fulfilling.

Prior to becoming an accountant, I had been self-employed in several endeavors.  From food service to retail, I had owned my own businesses.  I had some success and also experienced failure, but during this time I realized I enjoyed business.  It was like a puzzle.  Lots of pieces to move around and try to figure out how they all fit together to generate sales and a profit.  Not every day, but on many it actually felt creative.

Next came my period of working for giant corporations which was not so creative.  Mostly what I learned from that experience was lots of nuts and bolts accounting and that most top executives were assholes.  Maybe that MBA stood for something else?  Most of the successful people I met had one thing in common, they were bullies.  There were, of course, exceptions but by far the most practiced management style was intimidation.  The age I’m talking about was total alpha male domination, so that might have been the reason; but being kind, considerate, thoughtful or even deceit were traits honored at home and abandoned at work.  The world is still full of those people; be very cautious.

After the big company nonsense, I found much greater joy and success working for myself and several smaller companies.  The biggest difference, other than the people seemed more human, was the appreciation of creativity.  Innovation is the life-blood of smaller businesses.  I’ve always been an idea-guy and eager to share opinions.  My biggest business successes were with companies that appreciated the innovation and my willingness to try new ideas.  At this point in my life I had the right combination of experience, knowledge and guts to try things others wouldn’t—it failed on occasion and succeeded every once in a while.  In many ways I had solved the business puzzle.

Now, I write fiction books.  Writing is obviously creative—I’m making stuff up; can’t get much more creative than that.  I enjoy the process of thinking about the story, the characters and devising the plot twists with subtle hints.  But what is not fun; is the business of writing.  As an indie author I have complete control over every aspect of what I do.  Or said another way, I have almost no help in doing what I do.  This is not the writing part, have lots of help with editors and designers; this is the business side.  Selling the books, planning marketing, making a profit. 

You would think with my business background this would be a snap.  It’s not.  The main reason is that it is very limited.  There are some variables, but mostly the decisions are; do you go exclusive with Amazon or more broadly with a few others?  Do you sell your books at x or 2x?  Do you have free books?  Do you advertise on Amazon, Bookbub, Facebook or others?

I’ve been doing this for years now; and I’ve tried most everything at least once.  None of it works really well.  Ads are expensive and the return is questionable.  Free books generate interest, but it is hard to make much money from free.  You can go wide and thumb your nose at Amazon, but probably it costs you sales; still tempting.  So-called experts, usually selling something, say develop your brand; establish your presence on social media—no doubt it helps, but only a little.  Most people advising indie authors are making a lot more money than the indie authors.  The real advice might be find a market niche full of desperate people and sell than advice like “try harder.”

It is a new year and time to stop whining and do something different.  Be creative.  Be innovative.  Okay, I’m willing; but not sure what that is?

I’m afraid the indie author phenomena powered by e-books and Amazon has created a creative glut of decent books that nobody knows about.  Maybe even great books that go unread; because there are literally tons of books available and not enough time to read a small fraction of that quantity.   

Maybe it’s time to pull out the paint and brushes and create a tree that looks just like a tree but isn’t and suffer in silence.

Plan B-Billionaire Special

This original art is for sell for $7,500,000.  I’m going with the concept of only needing one really rich dumb ass and life will be great.  It’s a very creative concept!

Thanks for being a reader!

2019 Best Sellers

The highest selling book in 2019 was Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.  Since its release in 2018, this book has sold millions.  #1 best seller.  As an indie author I can’t even imagine that kind of success; I work mostly in the thousands territory not millions. 

On Amazon it has 30,000 reader reviews with an average rating of 4.8—this book is loved.  There is no question the majority of reviews are excellent; but there are a lot of reviews (300 or more) by people who hate the book.  These are people who knew the story, knew the rave reviews and paid a substantial sum to purchase the book (no free book days for this baby) and yet, they hated it.

A couple of actual reviews:

1.0 out of 5 stars Too unrealistic to enjoy

I was very disappointed in this book after reading all the hype about it. While the reading is good, the story is so nonsensical- a 6 year old left alone in a shack raises herself, living in the same shack, using the same boat, and no one lifts a hand to help her? In more than 20 years, the boat never breaks down, the house doesn’t need repairs and she’s able to wear the same clothes for many years….she’s got long hair that she says is ratty and tangled but description s of it has it down her back, luxurious…she’s gorgeous but bathing is optional until in her 20s…she has sex with a philanderer but never gets a vd and not once apparently does she get sick. No flu, cold, nothing….she never got shots and apparently has the immune system of a super hero because she stepped on a nail and never got tetanus….I kept reading so I’d finish and the ending is unexpected but it’s generally a boring book where day after day, she’s alone in the marsh….

1.0 out of 5 stars Did I read the same book as others?

Format: Hardcover Verified

About half this book was good. Beautifully written at times, and with an interesting, plausible story. But wait…the gaps …Maybe less time talking about Kya fumbling around with sex with Chase and more time on her development as a renowned author and painter would have been nice. There’s more, but you may be reading the book. I must comment though on the most ridiculous court room antics since Curly’s trial in a Three Stooges short. Oh, I think I just did. (And just after reading a book on Harper Lee – if you know what I mean). This was one of the most disappointing books I have read in quite a long time. Sorry Ms. Witherspoon. Can I get my money back if I return the book?

1,665 people found this helpful

It seems to me that books that sell a ton are often hyped by famous people.  In this book’s case, Reese Witherspoon was a strong force in promoting this book.  Nothing wrong with that—would love to have Witherspoon talking about my books (unless it was bad).  And the other factor is that it is published by one of the major publishing companies.  My point is not that the book, the author and publisher don’t deserve their success—they do; it is that even the most successful, beloved book of the year is hated by hundreds of readers.

Reviews are opinions.  So why is it surprising that some number of readers don’t like a book—it isn’t.  Most of my bad reviews are for language.  Some readers are offended by language and seem to feel a need to warn others of the offensive words.  Crawdads uses some of those same words, but the bad reviews are more focused on the story and not the language.  A relatively small number of reviews as a percentage are bad but many, many people found those reviews helpful.  I know when I’m buying a new leaf blower the reviews I read first are the bad ones—tell me what went wrong!  Guess it’s the same with books –give me the bad stuff and I will avoid this by most accounts great book?

Reader reviews are a sore point with me.  I think I take them too personally; but it is hard not to.  As part of my new year “I will be better program,” I have promised myself I will not read the bad reviews of my books.  Of course I know I will not keep that resolution for more than a few weeks, and I will be back reading the reviews with a strange focus on the bad ones.

In case you were wondering below is the list of the twenty top selling books for 2019 and the number sold. 

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens—907,192
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama—888,611
  3. Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild by Dav Pilkey—524,849
  4. Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis—505,809
  5. Diary of An Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney—493,154
  6. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis—490,019
  7. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss—483,478
  8. Educated by Tara Westover—454,989
  9. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris—365,246
  10. The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith—272,182
  11. Unfreedom of the Press by Mark R. Levin—267,751
  12. Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern—265,295
  13. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero—250,048
  14. The Mueller Report by the Washington Post—243,007
  15. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss—237,239
  16. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath—235,821
  17. It’s Not Supposed to To Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst—232,932
  18. The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney—231,149
  19. The Woman In the Window by A. J. Finn—230,098
  20. The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo—229,730
Thanks for being a reader!
My Best Seller!

Auld Lang Syne (Old Long Since?)

The new year is about beginnings; and maybe endings.  Who hasn’t said “okay, this next year is going to be different (or better, or happier, or more successful, or thinner, or……..).  As most of us can attest that usually doesn’t work out.  But still, it is a symbolic new beginning.  So what’s new this year?

My writing has slowed to a crawl.  This is not uncommon for me as the old year ends.  Usually starting around Thanksgiving, it seems my focus goes astray and my writing stops.  That was not my plan this year.  I was chugging along on Durango Two Step but some mystic force turned my brain to mush and everything stopped.  So even though I was trying not to; my old habits kicked in.

I’m sure in January I will get back to pounding the keys and moving the story along.  DTS is going to tie up a lot of loose ends for Vincent; and I’m sure he is anxious to get that done.  Plans after DTS are a little vague.

Many of you are probably familiar with a project I started and stopped; Doctor Hightower.  This was going to be a mystery but also a little Sci-fi tacked on.  I know, not exactly my thing but the concept has great appeal to me.  Got about a third into the book and hit one of my on-going mental blocks.  I’m sure that says something important I should pay attention to; but I just ignore these hang-ups and move on to the next project (or take more naps).

My current plan for 2020 involves finishing DTS (which is the 4th Vincent Malone book), finish the first Doctor Hightower book, and begin the 5th Vincent Malone book.  Of course, like most long-term plans all is subject to change, or stated more correctly; this will change.

If you are a reader of my books you know that I more or less ended the Pacheco and Chino series.  I’ve been pleased that several of you are not happy with that situation.  I still think the story line had reached kind of a natural end for Ray Pacheco.  Not going to revive that series (at least I don’t think so); but have been thinking about a new series with only Tyee Chino and a new partner.  I will keep you informed as this starts to take shape.

Should have the Santa Fe Mojo audio book available in the first part of 2020.  This has been an unusual odyssey.  Lots of starts and stops that have caused this to extend beyond anything anyone imagined.  If I knew all of the details, it probably would make for an interesting story—but most of this has been out of my hands.  The people working on this have had a lot of other complications that have caused significant delays.  I still believe the end product will be a quality production.  I’m looking forward to a completed book and evaluating whether or not there will be more audio books in the future.

My blog and newsletter are important ways for me to communicate with interested readers.  I really do appreciate everyone who has signed up.  The timing and schedule for these will be the same in 2020.  The blog will be weekly on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  The varied days just has to do with my schedule and giving me some flexibility.  I think last year it was mostly Saturday but will stick with one of those days each week.  The newsletter is monthly and goes out on or about the 15th of each month.

The newsletter has a fairly established format.  Usually with two articles written by me.  One of those covering writing, or my books or something related to indie authors in general.   Also I usually cover a location that is featured in the books or will be featured.  This includes food, restaurants, points of interest or specifics related to my writing.  Most months will have an artist or author article highlighting someone I recommend or admire.  And, of course, an update on my projects and often a favorite recipe.  When you sign up, this newsletter is emailed to you each month.  You can also access old newsletters going back several years.

This weekly blog is a little different animal in that it can be about anything.  My focus will still be writing, my books, indie authors, characters and all things related to writing and marketing fiction books.  However, from time to time this blog will take off in new directions in ways that I can’t predict; but hopefully are interesting. 

2020 stands to be an intriguing year.  The US Presidential election should dominate much of our news.  Hopefully we don’t split ourselves apart any further as we pick a President.  I’m a sports fan so there will be lots of new and fascinating sports stories; full of drama and intrigue with little if any consequences to our real world (drama without consequences—what could be better).  We will all get older—if you’re very young that is usually good; for the rest of us, not so good.  Hopefully mankind does not make the world a worse place, and we can all feel better about our planet and ourselves at the end of 2020. 

Happy New Year Everyone!

I want to encourage all of you to continue being readers—not just my stuff; but all things.  Books are not our only source of insights but they often convey a depth that is missing in much of the other forms of entertainment.

  Thanks again for being a reader!

The Allure of Power

This is not a political blog—it’s about writing, fictional books and other stuff.  But I guess politics could be in “other stuff.”  A definition of politics, “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.” 

Rather than sink to the depths of turning this blog into a political battle, maybe I should just talk about power.  The need for power is everywhere.  What does that mean.  Is power money, dominance over others, sex or something else.  Most of my writing centers on the abuses of power.  Murder would be the ultimate power grab—taking a life is the gravest abuse of power.  But also I have written about political power, law enforcement power, personal power over another and the more benign power of friendship. 

Why do humans seek this power?  The answer in my books is mostly due to money and sex.  That focus emphasizes power as strength or dominance.  Controlling someone else or a group is power.  The money and sex part may be just about measuring where you rank.  With that in mind, power is achieving the highest rank or status.  I’m King and I have the most power; therefore, I’m the best, the most important.  Okay there is some logic in that, and we sure can see the pattern that plays out in history and in our current politics; being a winner is achieving the highest level of status.  But what does that get you?  Money?  Sure.  Sex?  No doubt.  It still seems odd to me that while that may be enough to fight so hard for; it doesn’t really answer the question of why do humans seek power.

When I’m writing I spend a great deal of time trying to understand the motivations of my characters.  The main characters often fit the most obvious patterns of power seekers.  They often are flawed people trying to achieve a level of success to offset a history of failure.  They seek power as a way to achieve self-esteem.  I must be a good person I have all of this power.  Usually they are flawed because that is probably the wrong goal.  Power does not make you a good person.

The characters that I find the most interesting are often the secondary characters.  Seldom do they have power.  They live in the shadows but provide important support to the power seeker.  But why are they not power seekers.  I have struggled with that contradiction.  The human condition seems to be trying to achieve the highest status; but not everyone does that, why?

Politics by its definition is about power.  Power, or at least the acquisition of that power, seems to allow people of all stripes to decide that the means of obtaining and keeping power is justified by some sort of desired outcome.  Sure I can be dishonest, mean, deceptive but once I start to govern you will see the benefit of all of my shenanigans. 

Those secondary, support characters don’t seem to believe that the ends justify the means.  Most of my secondary characters have a more centered moral position.  They may (and often are) not the best people, but they seem to know who they are and have their own set of values.  It has often occurred to me as I’m writing that the strongest characters in my books are not the main ones but the minor, support characters. 

From this self-analysis I have concluded that the weakest people are the ones who need the most power.  Stronger individuals can forgo power because they have something else—self-confidence.  That is obviously a generalized statement; and, of course, it is about my fictional characters, so maybe it is just hooey.  Maybe?

Back to politics.  Would that mean the most aggressive, self-assured politicians seeking power are the weakest members of our society?  Does power attract the neediest?

When I was in college—oh so long ago; I was involved in a Philosophy class project where we decided what would be the best form of government.  Lots of silly discussions.  One of the smartest people in the room proposed that leadership of government should not be in the hands of one person; such as a President, but rather should be a tribunal.  Three leaders with one up for election every two years.  One of the reasons for this structure was to attract the best, most civic minded among us.  Whereas our current system of one President attracts the neediest.  Because that structure attracts the power seekers.

In history we can see that power seekers have been our political leaders, religious leaders, kings, Presidents, Generals, scolds, tyrants—all seeking something for themselves while promising everything for others.  In most cases the promise for others was never very believable; but we consistently fall for the con—because we want to believe.  Someday, I’m sure, we will realize that choosing the strongest, loudest, most confident, best looking individuals to lead results in picking the weakest, most incompetent leaders.  By contrast we should choose the most thoughtful, generous, intelligent, humble people as our leaders.  But would anyone with those qualities want to be a leader?

Thanks for being a reader!

An Incomplete Journey in Writing

I wrote my first book in 2009.  This may be a surprise to some of you, because the first book you can buy was published in 2015—The Bootlegger’s Legacy.  I actually refer to the TBL as my first book.  That should be corrected to the first book I actually wanted anyone to read was the TBL.  The actual first book was The Originals.  It is not available any more (thank goodness). 

First “real” book

I still think the story line of The Originals was good.  It was about a son finding a mysterious past about his father after his father’s death and the world shattering consequences of that discovery.  The story was good, but the storyteller had a lot to learn.  I sort of got burned out three fourths of the way through the book.  I wanted the whole experience to be over; so I ended it abruptly.  What I had not thought about much when I began to write; was how hard it is to write a full-length novel.  Towards the end I just wanted it to be finished and rather than doing the hard work of writing when I didn’t want to; I just stopped.  Created a false ending and declared the whole experience done.

That was ten years ago.  The world has changed a lot and my world has also changed—but not that much.  For about half of that time I wrote very little; licking my wounds from the first experience.  But after that huge pause, I have turned out ten books which are available today.  I have experienced a level of success that was not expected based on my 2009 experience.  And that is completely thanks to you, my readers. 

Writing may come easy for some, like a good athlete with natural gifts becoming a great third baseman.  If you have great talent, a lot of things are easy.  My talent for most of my life was numbers (yep, I was good with numbers) and painting.  Not writing.  My connection to writing was reading.   I loved books.  Being an avid reader might make you a good reviewer, but it does not mean you can write a book.  I know.

Even with that love of books I had never thought about being a writer.  For one, the prospect of actually being published seemed remote.  For most of my life the book publishing industry was controlled by a handful of large publishing companies.  But the world changed.  The on-line retailers and e-books created a whole new environment for books.  Suddenly being an indie author was a solid path for a writer.

Writing that first book opened my eyes to the difficulty of producing an acceptable book.  Sure you need a story and some reasonable ability to write complete sentences; but that is just the beginning.  Like so much in life I learned that it was actually very hard work.  Now I’m not suggesting this is on the same level as ditch digging all day, but it is hard work.  Physically hard, mentally challenging and emotionally draining.  That is hard work.  I had anticipated that I would sit-down at my computer and within weeks have a rough draft.  After several weeks all I had was a rough outline and many discarded pages of failed attempts at telling a simple story.  At that time, I was still fully employed and was writing very early in the morning or very late at night.  Anyone who writes a book while working full time at something else is to be admired.  It was a struggle and led to my abrupt declaration that the damn thing was done; when in reality it was not.

The next book which I began in 2014, five years later, was much different.  I had learned a lot, but most importantly, I was no longer working long hours at another job.  For the Bootlegger’s Legacy I spent almost full time just writing the book.  That was much better.  We may think otherwise in our multi-tasking world, but being able to concentrate on one thing with full energy is the best path to creative success.  Writing is hard enough without a zillion distractions.

Today I have a process to writing which allows me to handle my life and writing better than when I began.  At first it felt like I should be alone and undisturbed to focus on writing—ah, yes; the great artist is at work– do not disturb.  Good way to alienate anyone and all most everyone you care about.  Being an asshole may have some historical basis for creative people, but it sure doesn’t make for a happy household.

Now, I know there will be spells when I am not writing, usually because I’m stuck on some plot point and don’t know how to resolve the conflict; but rather than screaming and throwing things (I’m sure I never did that), I relax and enjoy the break as my brain works on the problem.  I pick my writing times (early morning, late evening) when it’s the least disruptive. 

So over the years I have become a smarter writer, I have more help (which I welcome—with exceptions) and I no longer think my books have to be perfect—but they do have to be good.  That distinction has meaning to me—don’t obsess over every little thing—do your best and move on.  My goal is to write an interesting story that entertains and in some way informs the reader about flawed people and the complications of life—and yes, a little humor along the way.  Some days I get there and some days I don’t.  But I will keep trying.  Maybe even get around to rewriting that first book and call it the Un-originals, or something equally stupid.

Thanks for being a reader!