There And Back Again

There And Back Again

Where the heck have I been for the last four months? After months of semi-regular blogging, nothing.

After the launch of The Reluctant Agent, I thought I was gung-ho to start the next book in the Reluctant series. And I was. I wrote the first chapter fairly quickly and things seemed like they were on their way.

Until they weren’t.

Admittedly, I have been busy over the summer. Band season was in full swing and I typically played in at least 2 concerts a week. But I had time to write, oftentimes having hours at a time.

And I couldn’t bring myself to write.

Almost any activity seemed preferable to writing. I simultaneously looked forward to and dreading writing.

And it seemed pointless.

While my sales of The Reluctant Agent were great at the Sherburne Arts Festival (and I’m so grateful to everyone who purchased copies), I’ve sold only single digits of copies since then. I tried playing with Amazon Ads to boost sales – the first attempt ended with no impressions (so it cost me no money), the second attempt garnered some impressions and two sales, but that’s it. I tried to set up a signing with a local book store and after providing my information, I heard nothing. I emailed them twice more and got no reply. An attempt to sell my books at another local store has likewise been answered with silence.

I began to wonder: what’s the point? I felt like the more I pushed, the less the universe cared. I spend all of my free time trying to fit in writing. Was it really worth it?

Fast forward to this past weekend…

Cabin in the woods

This past weekend, I went on my (nearly) annual writing retreat. I set myself up in the cabin in the picture. Since I had driven two and a half hours to get there and spent real money to rent the cabin, I felt like I really had to write whether I wanted to or not.

And so I did. I wrote on and off from 3:30 Friday afternoon until about 9:00 that night with a break for dinner. The next morning, I wrote from 9:00 to 9:00.

I just kept at it and at it and while I can’t say I wrote a ton of words, I made substantial progress. However, something more important happened:

I remembered why I like writing.

It’s the act of building the story, of researching the stupid little details I put into the book that brings me joy.

With the lead up to The Reluctant Agent, I was busy with editing, building the cover, creating the print and ebook editions, and marketing. Everything about the business of writing, but not the actual writing.

And when all of that work seemed to result in nothing, I got discouraged. I wasn’t consciously blaming my lack of success, but it certainly fed into my ongoing battle with Imposter Syndrome (see this post for more details). If all that work wasn’t achieving results, why bother?

The answer came to me this weekend: the success is in the act of creation, not the selling of the creation.

Now please don’t mistake what I’m saying: I very much want my books to be successful. I want everyone to buy copies of my books. But the reason I do it is for the creation – the process. I confused the success of the product with the success I had already achieved – writing a book.

So now what?

I think I have my writing mojo back.

For the first time in forever, I was eager to write a blog post. Tomorrow night, I’m looking forward to spending more time writing. Because that’s where I get the joy in this.

That being said, tomorrow, I have an opportunity to sell my books at an Art fair at work. I would love to sell out of the supply of books I’m bringing, but you know what? Even if I don’t sell anything tomorrow, I still get to come home and write. And that sounds pretty damn good!

Happy Journeys!

Mike

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A Peek​ Behind the Curtain

I was at dinner with my father-in-law and I told him I was in the middle of publishing The Reluctant Agent . He asked, “How do you publish your book?” to which I replied, “With a lot of cussing.” (Note: That is no exaggeration…more on that later). I’ve been thinking about that ever since, and I thought I’d share what I do.

1. Finish the damn book – This means getting the book edited, proofread, and proofread again.

2. If you’re using something other than Amazon for print, get ISBN numbers – If you only use Amazon for print, you don’t need an ISBN number for your book. Likewise, you don’t need an ISBN number for e-books. But if you use another service, you WILL need an ISBN number.

3. Format the book – Here, I have a bit of a secret weapon. I use a piece of software called Vellum that only runs on a Mac. It does all of the heavy-lifting of formatting my Word document into something that looks professional. I didn’t know about it during the first printing of The Reluctant Captain and the difference between the two editions is night and day. Vellum costs approximately $200.00, but I think it’s some of the best money I’ve spent as a writer. There is also a free alternative at reedsy.com. One drawback to both of the tools is that you don’t have complete control over the formatting (for example, I wanted to use the cover font for the chapter titles, but that wasn’t possible). The reedsy tool only has three choices of book styles, while Vellum has anywhere from 3-7 styles for each element of the book.

4. Create the print and e-book versions of the book – I opt to try to sell my book in as many places as possible, so I have to come up with e-book versions for Amazon, Apple, Nook, and Kobo, as well as the PDF for the print book. Here is the other reason that Vellum is worth it – I can push one button and generate all of these formats AT ONCE.

5. Create the cover for the e-book – This is relatively easy. Once I have my scanned cover art, it’s pretty straight forward to make the cover for the e-books – the only trick is making sure you have the correct size, resolution, and format for each platform.

6. Create the cover for the print books – This is where the cussing occurs. To produce hardcover and paperbacks, your cover has to fit in a specific template provided by the printer. In my case, I use Amazon for the paperback version I sell on Amazon and I use IngramSpark for a wide distribution paperback and the hardcover edition. Each platform has its own requirements for size, positioning, print resolution, and format. The only tool I have for this is GIMP, an open source tool that pretends to be like Photoshop. It is not very easy to use (selecting and copying a section of a picture seems to only work on a whim). So that’s the beginning of the cussing. Then you upload it. And it’s often rejected immediately because the resolution wasn’t correct or it’s the wrong format. So you fix it and re-submit. And it works…except you get an email in a day or two that tells you that something is too close to the edge or not close enough, and it’s back to the drawing board. To give you an idea, I have 9 copies of The Reluctant Agent hardback cover on my computer. As you can imagine, there was a whole lot of cussing going on!

7. Upload the files and information to all of the platforms, set your prices…and wait – You would think after writing one hundred thousand words for the novel, writing the sales description would be easy…and you are wrong. It is tough. On some platforms, you have a limited number of characters (not words) for your description. But eventually, you wade through it and if you’re lucky, everything is accepted in a couple of business days. If not, you’re back to any step between 3 and 6…and repeat ad nauseam.

In the end, it really is worth all of the cussing. I’m very happy with how the hardcover editions of both The Reluctant Captain and The Reluctant Agent look. They look like real books! Which reminds me…the links to buy The Reluctant Agent are over there on the right. You can also sign up for my occasional newsletter. It’s an easy way to keep updated on what I’m doing!

Until next time,

Happy Journeys!

Mike

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All Over But The Shouting…

All Over But The Shouting…

This past Saturday marked the release (finally) of The Reluctant Agent. I opted to release it on the day of the Sherburne Arts Festival. Here are a few actions shots of my day:

All dressed up and ready to sell!
The author in action

For my local arts festival, I think I did rather well. I sold 18 copies of The Reluctant Agent, but also sold 7 copies of The Reluctant Captain, which has been out for 4 years now! I want to thank everyone who came out and supported me by buying my book. It really meant a lot to me. After breaking down the tent and hauling the 6 boxes of books home, we went out for a celebratory dinner at Ray Brother’s Barbeque:

Enjoying an adult beverage in celebration!

What’s Next?

I’m a bit at a loss as to what to do next, so I may leave it up to you, the people who read my blog. I mentioned before that I had started a horror story anthology that’s maybe a third of the way completed or I can dive right into the next story in the Reluctant series (if you’ve read The Reluctant Agent, you’ll already have an idea of what it will be). I just put up a poll on my Facebook page so you can vote and tell me what you want!

I’ll be taking a vacation shortly and I plan to buckle down after that. And you can help me decide where I should focus my efforts.

Contest Results

And the winner of the signed copy of the hardcover of The Reluctant Agent was…no one. I didn’t receive a single entry. I may decide to run this contest again at some point, so I won’t give away any clues. So read (or re-read) The Reluctant Captain. I tell you that if you are moderately exposed to geek culture, you can at least come up with one reference.

Thanks

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank everyone who is responsible for The Reluctant Agent:

  • My Beta Readers Keven, Melanie, Michael, and Donna – Thanks for your feedback on the early draft. It was instrumental in making the story better
  • Emilee Jayne Janitz – Thanks for a cover that was better than I imagined
  • Jeannette Armstrong-Collins – Thanks for a wonderful job of editing my manuscript!
  • My family – Thanks for your support and love.

And finally, thank you to everyone who bought a copy of my book! It means so much to me!

If you haven’t gotten your copy, you can buy it in multiple formats:

  • The ebook is available in many formats here
  • The paperback is available here
  • The hardcover is available here

I’ll let everyone know the results of the poll in just over a week’s time.

Until then,

Happy Journeys!

Mike

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Long, Long, Long

Long, Long, Long

It’s been a VERY long month since I last wrote.

First, The Good News

Today I received the first print of the hardcover edition of The Reluctant Captain! Forgive the bad picture:

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye

My mother, Myrtle Tefft, passed away on February 21. My mother was an intensely private person, so I’ve only alluded here to the fact that her health was failing. Although it wasn’t a surprise, it was a shock that she went so quickly. Thankfully, she passed away in her sleep.

I owe much of who I am to my mother. My mother was born in 1930 in London, England and grew up during the Blitz. My mother was tenacious (which is the polite way of saying she was stubborn) and never afraid to stand up for herself if she thought she was being treated unfairly. I get those traits from her without a doubt.

Although my mother immigrated to the States in 1958, she kept many traditions from England alive. Until I went to college, I drank tea far more extensively than coffee, starting on tea with large doses of milk and sugar. Every year, my mother made Christmas Pudding and, for my birthday, Steak and Kidney Pudding (Note: For my American friends, a pudding means a steamed cake – in the case of Christmas – or pastry in the case of Steak and Kidney. It is NOT the pudding we eat out of cups). On Sunday dinners, if we had roast beef, we always had Yorkshire Pudding (popovers). We would often play an English pub game called Shove Ha’penny. The board is a slate with several lines engraved on it. You would “shove” English Ha’pennies (half pennies) and try to get them in between a set of two lines. It’s rather like shuffleboard.

With this comes a change for me. For nearly the last year, Mom was either in a hospital or nursing home at distances ranging from 10 to 50 miles. I tried to visit as often as I could (about every other day). As a result, most of my evenings were taken up with travel. Now, I have to adjust to having time and knowing what that really means – my mom is gone. I’m still coming to grips with it. I’ve found ti hard to conecentrate on anything. In fact, this is the most meaningful amount of writing that I’ve done since she passed.

I know that I will make peace with this, be able to move on, and start writing again. My mother would want that. She often asked me how my writing was going when I visited her. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I didn’t have time to write because I was visiting her, so I would say, “It’s going,” or some other non-committal answer.

Before I sign off, I want to share one of my favorite pictures of my mother and I. It was taken on Mother’s Day in 2015;

Until next time, Happy Journeys!

Mike

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What’s Going On?

What’s Going On?

Only a few weeks between blog posts? It’s a miracle!

Things have been a whirlwind as I have a number of things going on with books. I sort of feel like a squirrel on coffee; darting from thing to thing. But here’s what I’ve been doing:

Learning Vellum – Vellum is a program that easily formats manuscripts into ebooks and paper books. It does a fabulous job of formatting and making the book look attractive. The great feature is that you click one button and it generates all of the formats at one time. One drawback (but not for me) is that it’s only available for the Mac. There’s not much to learn about it, but it is such a big time saver. Here’s what the new first page of The Reluctant Captain looks like now:

The Reluctant Captain Hardcover Edition – I’m trying my hand at publishing this in a hardcover edition using IngramSpark to do the printing. The current paperback version is printed via KDP which is part of Amazon. I’m hoping that by moving to Ingram for the hardcover (and possibly paperback), I could get my book in honest to goodness bookstores!

Republishing the Ebook and Paperback Editions of 
The Reluctant Captain – Using my new found skill with Vellum, I intend to republish the ebooks and paperback editions with a reformated interior and updated covers to indicate that The Reluctant Captain is Book 1 of the Reluctant Series. I think it’s safe enough to say that now that the release of Book 2 is on the horizon.

The Reluctant Captain – Using my new found skill with Vellum, I intend to republish the ebooks and paperback editions with a reformated interior and updated covers to indicate that The Reluctant Captain is Book 1 of the Reluctant Series. I think it’s safe enough to say that now that the release of Book 2 is on the horizon.

Secret Agent Man

And speaking of Book 2, what’s up with that, you ask?

The book is with the editor right now. She hasn’t flung the manuscript back at me in disgust, so I think it’s going well. The current hope is to get the book back from the editor by the beginning of April and aim for a mid to late May release. This will be dependent upon a number of things and I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up with an actual date. Stay tuned for more details because I am going to try to do blog more often.

That’s all for this post.

Happy Journeys!

Mike

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2019 – A New Hope

As usual, I’ve been delinquent in providing an update. First of all, a (belated) Happy New Year to one and all! I hope that 2019 is a year filled with wonder and love for each and everyone one of you!

What’s New Pussycat?

I successfully survived the holiday season. In my alter ego as a musician, the holiday season is incredibly busy; this year was busier than most. I played in two tree lighting ceremonies and five concerts between Thanksgiving and Christmas. When a proposed Christmas Eve service fell through, I was disappointed, but mostly relieved.

This was balanced with spending time visiting my mother in a long term care facility that’s about an hour and a half from my house. I’ve been taking my dad down there 2-3 times a week after I get home from work, so with the aforementioned concerts, December was a bit of a grind and I’m glad it’s done.

What’s Up, Doc?

What is on tap for 2019?

  • The Reluctant Agent – This will be the year that The Reluctant Agent finally makes its appearance in the world! My book is in the hands of an editor and I can make plans for the release of the book. Come back for more announcements, or better yet, subscribe to my email list over there on the right. I will start sending updates via the mailing list.
  • Updated versions of The Reluctant Captain – Without going into too much detail, I’m going to be releasing an updated version of The Reluctant Captain. I’m not changing the story, but I am updating the formatting. My hope is that I can make the book available to find in actual bookstores! Stay tuned for more updates…or sign up on the mailing list.
  • The Untitled Horror Anthology – I think that this won’t see the light of day this year. But, hope springs eternal!
  • Begin work on the next book in the series – My desire is to have another book in the Reluctant series sometime next year. That’s a lofty goal considering it took me almost four years to get The Reluctant Agent to the point of release.
  • Upgrading my author skills – Besides doing more writing, I’m working through some courses in my spare time. I’m taking a video course on how to use Scrivener (my new writing software) and I’m going to be taking another video course on podcasting. While I’d love to podcast, that is not in the cards any time soon.

We’ll see how much of the list gets done, but I’m definitely focusing on the first two items in the list.

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor…

I don’t like the hard sell, but I’m hoping you can do one or two things to help me get ready for the launch of The Reluctant Agent:

  • Join my mailing list – I promise that I won’t bombard you with email – in fact, to date, I’ve sent out zero emails. But I would like to keep people up to date on what’s happening and it would be a big help!
  • Review my current book – If you’ve read The Reluctant Captain, I would love it if you added a review on Amazon, Good Reads, or the platform of your choice. Reviews are a big help both to me as an author and as a way to get more attention.

Until next time…

Happy Journeys!

Mike

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