After almost two years of being a starving artist and contractor, I finally landed a full-time job at a wonderful organization and I couldn’t be happier. Now that writing is officially back to being a hobby, I can safely unload about it as a career.

There is a certain mystique to being an author. It felt strange telling people that's what I did at first but it was true. I had written a book and had no other source of gainful income. I was a real author, if not a famous one.

I’ve had friends proudly tell their friends that they’re in the presence of a “published author” as if that were a big deal. As someone who’s lived it I have more sympathy than awe for my fellow writers.

Invariably the conversation turns, as all things do, toward money. “How are book sales?” is a common question. You don’t get in other professions as it is basically the equivalent of asking “How much do you make?”

As an author, you’re in a difficult spot. If you say the real number, you come off looking like a failure. So, I defaulted to some version of positive spin like, “I had my best sales month ever.” Without any mention of how low the bar is.

First, it is Actually Kind of a Big Deal

Anyone can self-publish, true. And trad-publishing is no guaranteed seal of quality. But even your worst hack author, actually finished something and took the leap of putting it out there. That alone deserves respect for the level of discipline, courage, and dedication it takes to write a book.

how-to-get-rich-in-publishingOkay, Whatever… How Were Book Sales?

If your definition of “good sales” is a sustainable income and widespread readership, then they were... awful.

In 2016 I made around $392. I sold 223 books plus roughly half that in other revenue (KDP). My top seller remains my first book, which outsells the second and third book combined. At this rate, if I don’t smoke and exercise regularly, I may earn back the money I invested in cover and editing before I die. I’ll be cutting it close.

If your definition of “good sales” is selling more than most people, then my first book was a modest success, at least in the Kindle store.

My book has been a near permanent fixture in the top 10% of Amazon’s LGBT Fantasy category which includes Anne Rice and Richard K. Morgan in addition to a bunch of books about Alpha werewolves. I’ve made it as high as the top 10 in the category. I’ve never dipped below a million in Amazon sales rank… which is the limit of how many titles Amazon counts (officially anyway).

Book one is currently selling better than some of Tor.com’s new fantasy releases… as eBooks, anyway. That's not nothing.

Was it Rewarding?

A few people really got the books and that feels amazing when they share their experiences. But mostly there were crickets.

I was more worried about negative reviews but no one ever said a harsh word. Someone who hated the book had ample fodder to take it down. I mean aside from typos, there was a scene where a woman masturbated in front of her prison guards. Still, it got good critical reviews and a 4.26 rating on Goodreads which is much harsher than Amazon.

But interaction with my readers was minimal.

That was probably the hardest thing to deal with. Being alone all day, living on a shoestring budget and writing into the evening… it stopped being fun especially through the second book. Every writer secretly, or not so secretly, loves to talk about their work.

But you don't want to be that person who's always blabbing about their book to people who don't want to read it. And it's poor form to discuss your writing with other authors, where there can be claims of intellectual property infringement. It also seems needy and self-promotional so it's forbidden in online communities. So, I really had no other human being to discuss my work with besides the editor that I paid.

Around the middle of book two I broke my knee and my life sort of spiraled into depression.

If My First Book Was a Bestseller I Would Have Been Insufferable

You know how everything happens for a reason and all you have to do is want something badly enough? Yeah, right.

Looking back, I probably would have pulled a complete Hugh Howey and rubbed my success in all of your faces as I wrote about travelling the world in my boat and encouraging others to follow in my non-repeatable path to fortune and success.

Being broke and unsuccessful is a humbling experience for someone used to easy success. It’s not just that I didn’t hit the bestsellers lists (… yet) but also, I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had a job.

I was reckless with money in way that I would never be again. Hand-tailored shirts hung like museum pieces in my closet as I shambled around my apartment in sweatpants, living on a diet of boxed wine and TV dinners.

It was a reality check, and one I badly needed.

The depression, the unhappiness… that was all there before. Stripping away the dual distractions of a medium-powered career and a never-ending stream of shiny new possessions put me face-to-face with my demons.

Would I Do It All Over?

I came out of the last two years remarkably unscathed and in a better place than when I started. Given distance and perspective it would be hard to call “following my dreams” a mistake even though they didn’t end up taking me where I thought they would. It absolutely could have ended worse if not for some good luck.

I wrote and published three more books than the average American; two more than the average novelist. Nothing will ever take that away from me.

 

Is there any upside to all of this?

Yes!

Your business losses are tax deductible so if you’re frugal, which I wasn’t, your first book is basically free. I got a way bigger tax return when I cut my salary in half.

Also, putting “independent author” on my LinkedIn profile landed me my first independent consulting gig which eventually landed me a job. The manager needed someone with my unused technical skills and sent me an email with the headline “How are book sales?”

Will You Still Write?

Yes... I'm just not sure what.

As it stands my next series, Age of Wonders, is on hold. The books are set in partly in this universe in 2020 at the earliest. It's not a world where I can just give everyone better smartphones and allude to a female president. I need to see where this goes because I think the events will prove stranger than fiction.

So... Maybe a short story?

 

As any indie author knows it can be hard to tout the strengths of your own work when you're also your own worst critic. It's one thing for a marketing team to call you a "fresh voice in fantasy"... it's quite another to say that to another human being with a straight face.

I've struggled with this heavily in my own work since the Architects series relies so much on misdirection. The books start out like one thing (an unsolved murder and a political agenda) but rapidly evolve into another story all together.

So I decided to practice writing compelling blurbs (technically they're called "product descriptions", not blurbs) by writing hard sell descriptions for fake terrible books. This was inspired by one of my all time favorite tumblrs, Liar Town USA.

I designed the covers with canva.

Please enjoy.

lous-cannon

Lou’s Cannon

Why bring a gun when you can bring a cannon?

Lou Shepherd is porn-star turned cop who plays by his own rules, using his street smarts and massive penis to solve some of Los Angeles’s toughest murder cases.

Unfortunately using a penis to solve crimes isn’t very efficient (and is actually a conduct violation in nearly all cases). Lou’s boss, a grizzled police chief, immediately takes him off the Ripper case and orders him into mandatory sexual harassment sensitivity classes and a twelve step program.

There, Lou meets a colorful cast of sex addicts who have destroyed their lives with poor choices, leaving them incapable of forming meaningful intimate relationships. Lou will have to control his urges when he meets his elderly sponsor, a former nun with a checkered past… that she discloses candidly in group discussion.

Will Lou be able to keep it in his pants long enough to complete the mandated number of hours of counseling? Will he find absolution on his thoughtful journey to recovery? Will he be able to find… love?

Meanwhile a mastermind serial killer is chopping up hookers and leaving cryptic clues to his next victim. But the other police are handling that during Lou’s suspension.

 

How to Get Stupid Rich in Publishinghow-to-get-rich-in-publishing

You’re an author. You have the vision, but you need the audience and you don’t know how to make it to the next level.

Don’t worry, the field of publishing is highly competitive and many authors struggle with visibility. This book will teach you how to break through those barriers of obscurity and become a top-selling author. The secret? Become a celebrity.

Many authors seek to become famous from writing but consider this. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are more people earning living wages as hand models and subway buskers than there are people making a living at publishing novels.

It took J.K Rowling years and hundreds of rejections before she was finally published. But just imagine if she had been a controversial talk show host, prominent cat blogger, or the first female CEO of a Fortune 100 company before she wrote Harry Potter. Literary agents would have beaten down her door!

You don’t have to be professional athlete or musical genius. There are tons of ways to become a celebrity: actors, politicians, and YouTube vloggers can all leverage the secret power of fame.

You may already be famous and not even know it. Did you have a child acting career you struggle every day to repress through drug abuse? Did you know that there are over twenty officially recognized monarchies that you may be well be in line for? You can even use your relatives’ fame.

What’s more, this book is 100% guaranteed to boost book sales or your money back. Just mail us an US Weekly or People magazine cover featuring you and we will refund you the full $2.99… NO QUESTIONS ASKED!

 

Terrible Ptp-tallahasseelaces: Tallahassee

The seventh edition of Terrible Places Tallahassee is your personal key to the gate of existential hell that is Florida’s capital. Terrible Place’s most cynical and jaded team of local insiders thoroughly eviscerate the shitty restaurants, awful nightlife, and depressing sightseeing of one of Florida’s least notable major cities.

In this guide you’ll all the cheapest and least offensive places to conduct perfunctory social business before your rapid departure. Whether you’re visiting your least favorite son at Florida State University or picking up a gently used recreational vehicle, we will make your visit as painless as possible while pointing out all the things to make fun of to your civilized friends in respectable urban areas.

At Terrible Places we understand that travel isn’t a luxury… it’s mostly an inconvenient necessity.

 

 

So I'm a flash fiction anthology. I struggle with short form stories but for some odd reason I love writing flash fiction. Three hundred words to build a world, introduce a character and tell some kind of story with a beginning middle and an end.

My profanity-laden entry, Mile High, deals asks the question: What would happen if Skynet was actually a self aware porn server with dreams of world domination. 300 words is the perfect length to explore a fun throwaway idea. Warning: It's really NSFW. (Mom, dad... you may want to sit this one out)

It was also a departure from my usual fantasy fare. Check it out if you want to sample work by LGBTQ writers. You're certain to find something you like... possibly even a new author to follow. If you don't it's only 300 words.

Check it out:

front-cover

The 2016 Queer Sci Fi Flash Fiction anthology, "Flight", is here, and I have a story in it! It's a really cool concept:

A 300-word story should be easy, right? Many of our entrants say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever written.

Queer Sci Fi's Annual Flash Fiction Contest challenges authors to write a complete LGBTQ speculative fiction micro-story on a specific theme. "Flight" leaves much for the authors to interpret—winged creatures, flight and space vehicles, or fleeing from dire circumstances.

Some astonishing stories were submitted—from horrific, bloodcurdling pieces to sweet, contemplative ones—and all LGBTQ speculative fiction. The stories in this anthology include AI’s and angels, winged lions and wayward aliens. Smart, snappy slice of life pieces written for entertainment or for social commentary. Join us for brief and often surprising trips into 110 speculative fiction authors’ minds.

The book us available in eBook form (4.99), and will soon be available in paperback with b/w illustrations inside (12.99) and in a special collector's edition with color illustrations (24.99).


Buy Links

Amazon eBook | Kobo | All Romance | Goodreads
 

03_TheBladeOfBetrayal

The third and final book in my trilogy will be released on ...October 12th. Mark your calendars or add the launch to Facebook.

Over the course of the series the characters have grown from hapless pawns in the schemes of others into players in their own right. Set fifteen years later, the book introduces us to a new generation, most notably, Jessa's son.

Price: $2.99

Description:

For the last fifteen years, the once despotic Empire of Thrycea has flourished under the rule of its benevolent empress. The people are free and life-giving magic promises prosperity for all. When she’s murdered at sea, the fledgling democracy falls into chaos and its enemies close in from every direction.

Her estranged son and sole heir, Torin, is forced to flee as his mother’s hidden enemies come after him as well. High above the seas, the floating city of Archea has encased itself in a magical barrier with no explanation. Old grudges return and their enemy could make anyone betray their allies.

The champions are outmatched at every turn and find themselves bit players in a long running battle for absolute world domination.

Who are the Architects and what is their Grand Design?

 

 

I'm pleased to announce the release of The Mirrored City, the second installment on the Architects of the Grand Design series. It's out today on Amazon Kindle Unlimited and available in paperback.

smallbookMCThe book takes place a year after the events in the first. It incorporates elements of horror, mystery, and action in a fresh setting. The old characters are back along with some new faces.

As an added bonus you can pick up the first book, The Queen of Lies for free on Amazon today!

The Mirrored City

Maddox is a broken man, held together by the will of his sentient sword. Heath is a prophet of a forgotten god— and an assassin. Jessa is an inexperienced ruler, struggling to broker a truce between her warring nation and her enemies.

That plan for peace is threatened by the local politics of the Mirrored City, a place ruled by dual theocratic governments. Beneath the tenuous accord between the two halves of the city lies centuries of hostility that threaten to break out into open war. Treacherous conspiracies, deadly diplomacy, a string of grisly murders, and the return of the Old Magic could spell the end for all Creation.

No one is who or what they seem. A quest for answers leads the champions to a deadly battle with their greatest foe yet: themselves.

 

When I heard Heroes Reborn was returning to TV, my reaction was, "Oh maybe I'll watch it." It was a show with an interesting idea and wildly inconsistent characterizations and stories that, often as not, read like fanfic written by the creators to appeal to their online communities.

TV.com summarizes all of my opinions on the show brilliantly so I won't go over them here. But here's a choice summary of quotes:

...because that's hella-boring and creator Tim Kring would like to stay in that dramatic kiddie pool of super-powered people against the rest of the world, their abilities misunderstood by Joe Regular and therefore a source of bigotry and hatred...

The bad news is that Heroes Reborn is still Heroes. And not really Heroes 2015 all shiny and new, but Heroes from 2006, dusty and a little mildewy.

This has long been my problem with appropriating the central conceit of the X-Men (that superpowered people are hunted for being different or that beings with magical powers have to hide). Part of it comes from the fact that I wouldn't see the world that way, nor would the huge audiences who turn out to support these superpowered franchises. But it got me thinking why this trope is so common and why I despise it so much.

It's Lazy Worldbuilding

Introducing magic or special abilities en masse into the modern world is a fundamental shift in economics, social class and scientific advancement. It's hard to imagine what a world would look like with superpowered people interacting with each other and the world around them in a variety of capacities.

That's why many writers want to keep special abilities a secret in modern paranormal fiction (or any fiction). It can really mess with the familiar elements of the world so  I get it. But I really appreciate it when people try to do something original. Sanderson did it on an apocalyptic scale with Steelheart; and True Blood did it with vampires coming out of the coffin.

People with special abilities would be the biggest news in the 24 hour news cycle since whatever Trump said last week.

Heroes left off in a more interesting direction with Claire finally revealing her abilities to the world, but it immediately destroyed that idea in the first five minutes of the premier.

Even if persecution existed, hiding is not a good answer. Gays hid for decades. It wasn't until we became visible that we began to gain traction and social acceptance. Even in the most repressive societies, brave people are willing to risk their lives to be heard.

Counterpoint... Sense 8 couldn't have worked without the secrecy, in part because it was handled plausibly, there was an element of mystery, and it gave the characters a reason to work together. Moreover, the show had so much going for it that it just worked.

It's a Lazy Metaphor for Civil Liberty

The always helpful TVtropes has terms for this: Fantastic Racism and Super Human Trafficking.

The X-Men's struggle was partially inspired by the Civil Rights movement. Throughout the comics they could draw parallels to everything from segregation, marriage equality to the holocaust. That was a big deal under the American Comics Code. Now? Not so much.

Television and media are at a point of maturity where we can talk about these things openly and intelligently without having a collective shit fit and censoring everything vaguely controversial.

The showrunners have proven in the past they're willing to pivot on a dime when fans complain so maybe it will get better?  The show was quick to write off boring characters, or shuffle them to the sidelines, but it led to a lot of wasted stories that went absolutely nowhere.

There is so much good TV out there that it's rare for me to stumble across something I don't like. Like erectile dysfunction, I can't remember the last time this has happened. Seriously, my least favorite shows right now (Z Nation,  the Strain, Dominion, and Lost Girl in no particular order) are not bad shows at all and all have their moments... I'd just rather have four more episodes of Continuum a week or eight of Rick and Morty.

But... I have a ton of free time and I consume pretty much anything in the SFF genres so I'll keep watching. If it gets good, or traumatically worse, I'll keep you updated.

Side Note

Also the whole story about the girl in the video game.... was absolutely terrible. If you're going to digitize one of your characters as an MMO avatar, spend the money to do your graphics... the game looked like absolute shit.  Compared to games that people actually play it was like watching the CGI in Lawnmower Man.

36d46ea300bc4e1dce482abf9ce93b8b1446485239898877992

Guess what I can do? My bones heal really fucking fast. Granted I would have much preferred not breaking bones and never learning this about myself. But the improvement was, in the words of my doctor, "Remarkable."

Had my three week x-rays and the fracture is almost invisible.

I still wear the brace, but between you and me, I can pretty much walk.My next milestone is going to be putting on shoes. But having a bum knee hasn't stopped me from dancing. I think if you put me in a dance off with all the other orthopedic patients I would smoke all those motherfuckers. Behold....

There's something satisfying and vaguely metaphorical about healing slowly as my life comes together. As injuries go this one has actually been not too bad. Besides the itching I barely notice it.

tumblr_npw3blCRiy1uw8kzyo3_r1_500I've started the Witcher 3... Which is why I've not accomplished anything productive. Other than kicking ass of monsters. I wish I'd played this game when I was designing my character Heath. What Geralt does and says is very spot on with the kind of work an Inquisitor would do.

It's truly an awesome game... although it's about as kind in its portrayal of women as a Gillian Flynn novel. It's definitely a game that steers clear of the wrath of Gamergate... but there's an artistic integrity that makes me think the developers wouldn't have given a fuck either way.

Anyway I'm alive and well. I start my new job the day after Labor Day (America's one socialist tradition).

Book three is also underway and it's fucking insane by chapter two.

 

It's been an interesting four months since I left my job.

Has it been worth it? Yes, and no.

First and foremost, there's the whole OMFG I fucking did it factor. A lot of people dream about taking time off to pursue their passion, but very few do. That takes balls and now I know that I have a rather healthy pair. I can go through life with a level of confidence I didn't have before. I believed in myself and it worked out fine.

I also got a lot of writing done and had ample time to get up to speed on the industry very quickly. Sales are improved and stable. Based on my sales rank, I'm moving around six-eight titles a day, which is a massive improvement to when the book launched. Reviews are trickling in and they're good. I wrote a good book that won't be a cause for embarrassment later.

I achieved a lifelong dream. Go me. I didn't plan on it, but I laid the foundation over the last decade. Any time I was unhappy at work, I chucked more money into savings. It's like a swear jar for worker complaints.

But writing is a lot like gardening. Most of the time you do something and then you wait. And wait. When sales are low, it can get pretty boring. Plus, I only have one plant in my garden (I like to think of it as a tomato). There's only so much you can do in a single day. At first it seemed overwhelming but now that I have the hang of social media and a working knowledge of the industry, it's not that much work.

To put it quite simply, it's not a full time job... Not yet, anyway.

The creativity aspect is great but the business side is kind of basic for someone who's used to the fast paced world of corporate life. When a pastime becomes a vocation, you start to need other hobbies.

The income isn't stellar, to be perfectly honest. I'm performing way better than most indie published books and from where I started (no marketing, no fan base) my numbers look great. But this is a very, very competitive business. It's not just other authors-- customers have tons of options when it comes to what they do with their free time (Netflix, video games, Facebook... It's not just books).

So I'm going back to work.

I've accepted an offer to work two days a week, doing reporting stuff at a company that makes a very fun product. That will take care of the money, plug any unsightly gaps in my resume and get me out of the house. It seems like a win-win for everyone.

And I never hated what I did for a living, it's just the parts of the job I liked weren't the core responsibilities. This new gig is everything I love. I enjoy coding and building things just as much as I like writing books. The most important thing to keep in mind is if what you're doing matters. My book matters, but I can do more.

It's not an either or proposition. I wrote my first novel in my spare time. It's totally doable if you commit to it. Going full time was the right for me at the time. I'd hit a wall with my last career and, seeing what was on the other side, didn't particularly care to scale it. I had a book and some savings so, whatever-- I went for it.

I'm glad I did.

In the end, though, I'd recommend new authors on waiting to pull the trigger on quitting their day job entirely. If you can stick it out, save whatever you can till you hit a

  • It's 99.999% likely you won't make money off the bat. The money happens, but you need to think in terms of rate of return vs. return on investment. The first book is a sunk cost for most authors. But if you indie publish it's a potential stream of income for life.
  • Writing full time is not that interesting. I compared it to gardening and I think that's an apt analogy. I'm not a gardener. You need to be out in the world, meeting new people, broadening your experiences.

Again, it was the right choice for me at the time. Just as it's the right choice to go back to work part time. Getting old, in general, sucks (And 40 may be the new 30 but it is not youth). But the one thing I absolutely love about being experienced and established is the ability to do whatever I want.

So live your dreams. Life does get better if you plan ahead. 🙂

..the response is positive! Beth Brock has a great website that reviews LGBTQ+ speculative fiction worth following. Her reviews are succinct and give a very good idea about the books' content without spoilers.

Check out what she had to say about The Queen of Lies:

"The story in The Queen of Lies is incredibly complex and detailed, as an epic fantasy should be, and we have several wonderful point of views to explore. There’s Maddox, the arcane student who fucks up his exams and accidentally winds up immortal—at first no one is certain whether they should praise him or condemn him. There’s Jessa, heiress to the throne of a long line of storm-callers. Her mother is conniving and maniacal (I may be downplaying the crazy part). And there are Heath and Sword, who are essentially mercenaries; Heath is a fallen priest of sorts, and Sword is… well, he/she’s a sentient sword who inhabits people’s bodies. Eventually they all come together for a fantastic epic adventure, full of monsters, political drama, and love—yes, love.

...continue reading "The Reviews are Coming in and…"