Monday, July 06, 2020

A Retiring Fellow

Some years back I got a friend request on Facebook that surprised me. It was from a well known movie producer. Now, this had nothing whatsoever to do with my movie deal with Warner Brothers at that time (for my novel, THE FLOCK). At least I don't think it did. It was never mentioned.

I enjoyed corresponding with him from time to time, and I always got a kick out of his posts about has fascinating career and how he ended up producing movies. And he had great stories about famous writers, directors, and actors who had created the movies he produced. He was the kind of interesting and famous friend you never think you are going to make on Facebook.

After a couple of years, though, he began to complain that he had too many Facebook friends and that he was going to start paring down the list. I seem to recall he had a couple of thousand at the time which actually isn't all that many in the scheme of things. What he said he wanted was a few hundred people that he felt made his experience on Facebook fun, and with whom he could actually exchange ideas and stories.

He was one of the very few people on the platform that I worried about not seeing anymore. But he would text me from time to time to assure me that I'd made the cut. This went on for about a year as he shed friends.

One day he started up a conversation about work. Retirement came up. I was still several years away from retirement. Close enough that I could taste it and wanted the day to come so that I wouldn't have to punch a clock and stress myself out by keeping myself from punching managers or supervisors. I mentioned to him that I thought everyone should be given the opportunity and pension to retire by age 50. I thought that was a reasonable amount of time to toil away for the capitalist system and then kick back and enjoy twenty to thirty-something years of fun.

This idea upset him. I mean...he actually got angry. I never would have figured it, coming as he did from the counter-culture of the 60s and early 70s. But it did piss him off.

A few days later I noticed that I was no longer on his friends list. I suppose at that point he must have been actively looking for reasons to shed anyone and everyone to get down to his magic number of Facebook friends of 400 or so. In the end, I didn't make the cut, as he had put it. I must admit that I missed his stories. He was pretty cool.

I finally did retire. Being retired is glorious. Fuck working. If you don't have to work you shouldn't do it if it's making you miserable and you have the means to give up your job. I worked from my teens until I was 62 years old. That was freaking long enough. I know lazy bastards who do things like leech off of their parents and make their wives support them. I've always worked. For the past ten years that I did work all I could think of was making sure that I could retire at 62. I was freaking finished.

And I think of my old Facebook friend and I wonder what it was about the idea of people being able to retire on a government pension at 50 that pissed him off so much. Maybe he was just a right wing curmudgeon with the aura of the counterculture about him that was totally false. I'll never know. Not only did he cease to be friendly with me via Facebook, he subsequently died.

No, don't ask who he was. It doesn't matter, now, and I'm not going to mention it. If his name wouldn't be familiar to you, the films that he produced almost certainly would have.

As for me, I freaking love being retired. I have time to have fun. I don't stress out over getting up before light unless Carole and I are going on a trip, or I'm going to drive to a park to go hiking or camping or kayaking. I can stay up half the night working on a new novel. I can plan out an ad campaign for my novels. For years I talked about planting a garden and never did. Now I have and we harvest vegetables from it almost every day.

Fuck it. That famous producer was wrong. I was right. Retirement is amazing. You don't have to sit on your ass and wither away or become stupid in front of the television.

In fact, I wish I'd been able to do this at 50 instead of 62. Or earlier.



Fuck working. I hiked ten miles, saw three waterfalls, a mountaintop, deer, a wild turkey hen with eight chicks, and rhododendron in full bloom everywhere along the waterways. I didn't punch a clock. It was a weekday. There was no schedule. I did whatever the heck I wanted to do at the pace I wanted to take.


My favorite view of Stone Mountain while being on Stone Mountain.

Seven of the eight wild turkey chicks I saw.

The mother hen.

One of thousands of rhododendron blossoms today.

A small cascade above a larger waterfall.


Wednesday, July 01, 2020

What a Weird Freaking Year.

In late 2019 Carole and I were busy making all kinds of plans for 2020. I was already retired, Carole had plenty of vacation leave built up, money was not an issue, our travel trailer was in good shape and I had just paid cash for the best motor vehicle we have ever owned.

We had planned out a number of vacations starting with our Springtime journey to Florida to seek out the giant freshwater springs there and to kayak and snorkel the clear spring runs and deep headsprings where millions of gallons of fresh water come rushing to the surface from limestone aquifers. We had reserved all of our campsites, paid for each spot, and had toted up and bought everything we were going to need and use.

Then, a month before the trip...coronavirus shut down the nation.

And this was only the most bothersome bit of the strangeness of this year. A President who seems to be loathed by anyone with the capacity to think. A hatred that goes far beyond even the rage I used to see aimed at Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or George W. Bush. This is something that seethes and boils and threatens to turn into revolution. Yeah, laugh if you will, but if things get much worse...well, then think again.

I've lost track of the numbers of people filing for unemployment benefits. Almost every working person I know has either lost their job, or has seen their hours cut to the bone. No benefits remaining. No insurance left. Nothing in the saving account but dust and despair.

2020 was supposed to have been the fist big breakout year of my retirement. Alas, no. I am reminded of the cautionary quote often credited to John Lennon: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Yes, Johnny, my sad, murdered friend, that is indeed a reasonable definition. This year has proven it out.

We all spent weeks and months locked down. I made do with trips to the grocery store, the hardware shop, and many walks around my rural neighborhood. There was no traffic on the streets. We even stopped hearing motor and tire noise on the Interstate two miles away. The skies ceased to buzz with the scrape of jets against the clouds. Sometimes it was so silent that when I sat in our two-acre yard I thought I was off in one of my wilderness areas.

During all of this Carole and I planted a garden. I did a lot of yard work. The one-mile jaunts around our giant rural block became routine. My hair grew into a great, gray, bushy mess. I longed for a trip to the barber.

Now, things have loosened up. Five or six jets a day now growl across the heavens. We can hear traffic from I-485 again, but still not as heavy. Fortunately my son and I can jump in that new truck and head to the mountains for hikes to see landscapes and forests and wildlife. And, thus, the eye-candy for the photographs I present now. I just bought a few new lenses for my also-new camera. Buying a new camera and lenses does not mean you suddenly produce finer photographs. There's a learning curve with new equipment just like there is with anything else. I'm still trying to fine tune how to use them effectively. I'm getting there, but I'm not totally happy with the results.

And so, here are some photos from my third trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park since the lockdown was partially relaxed. It's beginning to look as if they may be forced to reenact that lockdown. Infections are soaring. Death rates from Covid-19 are pushing higher. Our plans were to fly to Italy next year to visit Florence so that I could knock that visit to see Brunelleschi's Dome off the old bucket list. But the EU distrusts us so much that they don't even want infected US citizens coming over there.

Damn.

2020 keeps delivering unfortunate surprises. What nightmares is it holding in reserve?


I don't know why beautiful butterflies are attracted to fresh horse poop, but they are. I also don't know how this ant climbed aboard this butterfly's wing, but she did.




These turkeys were in the Oconaluftee section of the Park.

Westerners don't see a big deal when it comes to witnessing an elk in a National Park. But the ecosystems here in the east haven't had them for hundreds of years. They've reintroduced them in North Carolina. They started with 40 or so elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since reintroduction I've heard varying accounts of the numbers there now, but 250 or so seems to be what I hear most often. They're obviously spreading out. I used to see them only in Cataloochee, but these were photographed in Oconaluftee at roughly 2000 feet above sea level in the fields there. We ended up seeing almost twenty elk on Tuesday.




This elk we saw on Balsam Mountain at roughly 5000 feet above seal level. This was in a heavily forested area with only a few patches of grass and no fields, at all. The elk are obviously filling up all ecological niches they once inhabited.

The habitat is obviously good at Oconaluftee and the Qualla.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Audio Books

One of the last bits of reluctant advice I received from one writer was to have my books adapted to audio. "Audio books often outsell my ebooks," she told me.

So, one of the first things I did after that was look into the process. Very little effort was involved with it, once the task of conceiving, plotting, writing, and editing the novels (that's always a lot of effort). I did as she had told me and after figuring out how it works I jumped in, both feet.


I've been lucky landing excellent voice talent to read my books. Five have been done, with one having been held up in production for some reason and has yet to be released. Beyond that one glitch, it has been a relatively easy process, and sales have generally been better than I had figured.

Here is a listing of the four books that have so far been completed and released. (Still awaiting the approval of DEADLOCKED).

In no particular order they are:

FOUR FROM MANGROVE, my collection of four short stories of high fantasy, all set within the mythical city-state of Mangrove.


 

THE COALITION Zombie Trilogy. My three novels of the tales of Ron Cutter surviving in his post-apocalyptic world of zombie pandemic (now under one cover).




THE EMISSARY: A Novel of Fantasy and Horror. Set in Elijah, in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Martin and Amy Braun find themselves surrounded by hatred manifesting itself as lycanthropy. All while trying to protect a mysterious foster child who may be an herald for that event, or somehow there to save them from it.




WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of a Superhuman. An affliction has struck a tiny few of humanity, giving them superhuman powers. The government steps in and recruits each of them as protectors of large urban areas around the nation. Once your powers manifest themselves you either work for Uncle Sam, or Uncle Sam puts you away. This is the autobiography of one such hero, Billy B; in his own words.




Saturday, June 27, 2020

Advertising.

I talk with a lot of other writers. We always ask one another about advertising and various methods of promotion. Some of the authors I converse with over this topic claim that they do well with advertising on Amazon.com. It makes some amount of logic, as Amazon is very close to becoming a publishing monopoly. They do seem to control access to the marketplace in all other ways, so why not advertising, also?

However, after years of trying out various advertising campaigns at Amazon I have never encountered a situation wherein I profited from putting my money there. That is, no ad campaign returned to me even as much money as I put into it. The opposite was almost always true. If, say, I put $400 into an ad campaign I might get $150 or $200 in cumulative sales over the course of the campaign. Only once did I squeak out a tiny bit of profit from an Amazon ad push, and only by a few dollars.

So, for me, advertising on Amazon is a complete waste of my money, my effort, and my time. My last bit of money spent there advertising my work was, in fact, the last money I will ever spend there for that purpose.

That is all.


I'm not sure why, but my COALITION: Zombie Trilogy is the best selling of all of my books since I republished a number of my titles after regaining publishing rights from a former imprint. It has done well in ebook format, but dollar-wise is doing even better in audio book sales. WORKING CLASS HERO has the edge in total ebook numbers, but the audio of that book isn't nearly as high in sales.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Sales.

As I figure out the details of promoting books online I find that I have learned a few tricks that push my sales up a bit. One line of advice that I got from another writer was to use a service that adapts your books to audio without having to spend any money for production. All you do is audition voice talent, pick the person best suited for the job (there is an amazing amount of voice talent in the pools) and the production is out of your hands other than delivering the manuscript and approving the audio versions. After that, the audio is passed through another round of professional editors who clear it for audio publication.

I have been surprised at the sales of the audiobooks. All I have to do is promote my novels as I normally do, and the audiobooks tag along, sometimes outstripping the ebooks in dollar sales, if not actual numbers (since audiobooks are more expensive than ebooks).


It's part of the massive learning curve of having to promote my fiction rather than leaving it up to a traditional publisher who might be incompetent at the task, or who doesn't care (sometimes both). I may not be great at promotions at this point, but I'm better than I was at it, I'm still learning, and I definitely do care.

****

Here's a question and answer bit I did at a website concerning my superhero novel, WORKING CLASS HERO. I'll be adding the second book to that series very soon, and have plotted a third book. If sales and/or my desire to continue warrant, I'll be doing more in that series. I like the characters and I enjoy the act of creating new stories in that world.


Thursday, June 18, 2020

STORY BUNDLE!

Best selling author and publisher Kevin J Anderson, and founder and tech writer Jason Chen have been putting together book bundles to sell as a way to create author promotions and charity donations. I was happy to have my first WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of a Superhuman as part of his Superhero book bundle. I get to be a part of an effort to aid a good educational charity, and to join with a group of other fine authors all spinning yarns about super-powered people.

So, if you want a way to land a whole lot of excellent reading, plus help out a good cause, all at a super-bargain price, grab one (or all) of these book bundles!

Explanation and link below.




THE UP, UP AND AWAY SUPERHEROES BUNDLE

If reading is your kryptonite, I've put together a superpoweredStoryBundle—thirteen books with marvelous heroes, supervillains, secret identities, mutant powers, and extraordinary gentlemen (and ladies).
In curating this batch, I included my novel Captain Nemo—one of my favorites—the life story of Jules Verne's fictional friend, who fights pirates at sea, is marooned on a mysterious island, finds a passage to the center of the Earth, crosses Africa in a balloon, and builds the extraordinary sub-marine boat, the Nautilus.
Dean Wesley Smith presents a brand new book featuring his popular and unnaturally talented character Poker Boy. Heroes comes in all shapes, sizes, and personas.What makes a hero super? Mark Leslie's collection Nobody's Hero contains seven stories that explore what makes a hero.
A power she doesn't want. But everyone else does.In Robin Brande's Dove Season Marnie has a secret she's been able to hide from the world for years. But now she's been exposed, and her worst fears are coming true.What does the government want from her? To use her as a spy? A weapon? A warrior? She's not made for any of those.But Marnie can't resist the forces who are after her, any more than she can resist using her power.
Matt Forbeck's Brave New World: Revolution: In a world in which supers either work for the government or are thrown into prison, the legend known as Patriot is finally caught and will soon be executed for his crimes — unless his friends in the rebellious Defiance can break him out!
In Jon Mollison's Overlook, nothing's more dangerous than an invisible man… Matt Ward's Cynetic Wolf: An immortal government, half-human oppressed masses, and a young hybrid whose existence threatens everything the cyborg overlords built since the world ended.
In Lucas Flint's The Superhero's Test, seventeen-year-old Kevin 'Bolt' Jason must learn how to control his newly discovered superpowers to protect his family from asupervillain who seeks to destroy him.
What happens when you find out that you suddenly have super-powers is that Uncle Sam makes you an offer you can't refuse. That's Working Class Hero by James Robert Smith. In Fid's Crusade by David Reiss, we see that in the end, it may take a villain to save the world from those entrusted with the world's protection.
The Enlivening by Ashlyn Frost—She's his Frankenstein and now it's time to pay. Tina Glasneck's Hellbent features a hammerless Thor, a devious plan, and a destiny to thwart. And in Jeremy Flagg's Morning Sun: Before joining the Nighthawks, thirteen outcasts fought alone. Their paths should never have crossed. As the Children of Nostradamus come into their own, they have to ask: does having superpowers make them heroes?
You'll read these faster than a speeding bullet. (Sorry, the groaners just write themselves!) Kevin J. Anderson
* * *
For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you're feeling generous), you'll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.
             Captain Nemo - The Fantastic Adventures of a Dark Genius by Kevin J. Anderson
             Cynetic Wolf by Matt Ward
             Working Class Hero by James Robert Smith
             Dove Season by Robin Brande
             The Superhero's Test by Lucas Flint

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular books, plus eight more more books, for a total of thirteen!
             Playing a Hunch by Dean Wesley Smith
             Fid's Crusade by David Reiss
             The Enlivening by Ashlyn Frost
             Nobody's Hero by Mark Leslie
             Morning Sun by Jeremy Flagg
             Overlook by Jon Mollison
             Hellbent by Tina Glasneck
             Brave New World Revolution by Matt Forbeck

This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi) for all books!
It's also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.
Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
             Get quality reads: We've chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
             Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that's fine! You'll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
             Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there's nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
             Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Challenger Center for Space Education!
             Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you'll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.
For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

Thirteen great superhero novels!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Book Promotions.

Back in the days when I sold my stories and novels to publishers of various sizes, my major responsibility for promotions was something akin to press assists and not much else. I'd send out some review copies, do Q&A with reporters, chat up the books to journalists and magazine editors, and do author appearances in bookstores and libraries. But that was pretty much the extent of my involvement.

The way I saw it back then (and justifiably so), it was up to the publishers to promote and advertise the stories, scripts, and novels I had spent so much time creating. As I like to paraphrase, "I'm a writer, not a salesman, dammit!"


These days, of course, I have to promote and advertise. All on my own dime. And I have to do a lot of experimentation, because by and large other authors who know how to do this will not share such information in a market that is already packed beyond capacity and highly competitive. (Writers some years back ceased to consider fellow writers as colleagues and see them now as competitors.) So a huge learning curve has ensued.


I have had to learn where to advertise and how to do it. I won't belabor the finer points but even when you find a good spot to advertise you have to tweak the parameters of what is advertised and how to utilize various codes to ensure maximized results. It's not easy and even though I've figured out how to get positive results, I'm still not skilled at it. But what I have learned over the past few months is where to put my ad dollars and how to pull an ad when it's not generating more income than the cost of the ad campaigns. Fortunately, the two methods I now use most often do give me that option. I can edit, or pause, or completely halt an ad campaign if I'm not making more than it's worth.

Disappointingly to me, most of my sales--in fact about 90%--come in the form of ebooks. I never have become accustomed to reading ebooks, but I reckon it's because I'm too conservative to have ever given my reading habits over to that format. I do read more ebooks than I once did, but I prefer to buy print books. I will be purchasing more of my books in print format to sell at convention and library appearances in future and hope to see those gain a larger portion of my overall sales.

At any rate, the books I've been pushing most of late are titles that I've gotten back into print since retrieving the rights from a former publisher. All three have been rewritten, re-edited, and graced with new cover art and contain my preferred texts. So grab one or all of them if you want to spend some quality time living in another world for a few hours. All books are now also available in audio book versions.

WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of a Superhuman.

THE COALITION Zombie Trilogy. The three original titles all contained under one cover as a single volume. In audio book, ebook, and paperback!

DEADLOCKED. My first zombie novel back in print in my preferred text with many added and restored sequences. Three formats: audio, ebook, paperback.