Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I Got That Writing Feeling

No, Not Yet

Last year we were in Branson Missouri the second week of November. While there we attended several of the, just opened for the season, Christmas shows. The shows were excellent, but it seemed too early for us. Around our house, nothing Christmas started before Thanksgiving. So, where am I leading with all of this? I’m trying to polish off my second book of Christmas short stories, and the time of year makes it a bit hard for me.  Seems like I should be working on a golf mystery or an old west Fourth of July shootout when it's so warm out.

My first book of 14 tales came out two years ago and I felt like the time was right for a second book. This one is scheduled for 10 stories and I am more than halfway there. Hope I can make it. If you didn’t get a chance to look at my first book of Christmas stories you can read the first story for free - here.
Old Book Cover but this is the first one

Word Count – In other writing news, my word count is up, way up, must be fall. The past few days I have averaged nearly 2,000 words a day, a nice amount for me.  Now, if I can only keep it up.

Scattered Mind – Might be because I’m always working on several projects at the same time that has helped me get back to work. I spent one day recently, on my kid's chapter book, two days on my western mystery, and a day on my new humorous, I hope, nonfiction book. I blame my multi-tasking mind, the one I call scattered, on my 42 most enjoyable years as a high school teacher.

Sunset in Guernsey State Park this weekend

Hope everyone who writes is getting their nose to the grindstone and all readers have found a superb book. 
Dropped off the grandson at the ranch yesterday evening after school and FB practice

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Writing, Football, Nature, and Selling a Book or Two

With football in full swing and the last of summer visitors at our house, seems I am not getting much writing done. 

Speaking of football nothing beats watching the grandkids play sports - here my grandson gets ready to kick off last Friday in a Jr High game


Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the company and football it just cuts back on writing productivity. Where we live in Wyoming winters can be tough, hard to do much, even get out of the house, that is when my writing picks up to its greatest level. See my books here.

Right now I am satisfied with three or four thousand words a week, including posts like this gem. J
Our Gardens still have quite a lot of color but also some brown


What am I working on?  Mostly my third Blade Holmes western mystery and the fourth in my series of kids chapter books. The kid's chapter books do not sell as well as the Blade Holmes books, actually not even close, but they are fun to write. I will carry on this afternoon and evening with one eye on the TV screen watching football and the other slowly adding to my working copies. I know this type of multitasking goes against conventional writing wisdom of writing, but I have done it for so many years it seems natural.


And if I tire of both? We will take a drive and possibly a short hike or walk – wonderful way to recharge the writing batteries.


Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. John Muir



Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mystery Book Cover Change

When in doubt, change the cover. At least that has been the conventional wisdom with many authors. What does that mean? If the writer believes the book is a good one, but it is not selling, try changing the cover or the text on the back cover. I liked the back cover text but was never in love with the cover, so I changed it, at least on the eBook. If Ebook sales or page reads on Kindle Unlimited pick up, I will change the cover on the soft cover book also.



This book, Ghost of the Fawn, has been my only attempt at young adult fiction. Those that have read it (not enough) have been mostly older readers and I received a lot of nice comments from them. I don’t want to give up on trying to sell it, not just yet. Maybe I should have been reaching for an older more traditional audience, the people that read my historical mysteries come to mind.

The new cover, shown here

will be a few days in arriving at my Amazon author site – hope it helps, it’s a really good story. Now back to work on one of my works in progress.



Now that we are experiencing some cooler weather in the evenings we have been enjoying some outside time as the sun sets.



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Books and Tracking Sales

Sunset Last Evening
I read a post yesterday where an author referred to the, 70,000,000 books available on Amazon. Is that correct? If it is, that is a lot of books. Makes me feel better about my sales rankings for my slower selling titles.

I took a quick look at Amazon this morning and found these numbers,  Soft cover – 34,438,903 -  eBooks, 5,557,018 and hard back, 14,631,957.  Quite a bit short of the 70 million, but this does not include, audio or large print, and various other book categories so it might end up close to 60 or 70 million, and as I said above, “That’s a lot of books.

Breaking down the two most common types, soft cover and eBook it looks like if a writer has a softcover book in the top three and a half million, they are in the top ten percent on Amazon. As for eBooks, a book in the top 555,000 places the author in the top ten percent once again. Interesting.

What is a Best Seller - I occasionally see a book or an author listing their book as a best seller, when I check it out the book often does not make my top ten percent numbers. Not really saying anything here, the numbers are fascinating though.
If I look only at the numbers above I have two books, my two Blade Holmes western mysteries in the top five percent of all books – not bad. So how much do I make from these two each month – drum roll please, around a hundred bucks. Not exactly Steven King or J. K. Rowling money. I do have other books that boost this to enough to make some good pocket money every month.

Good Numbers – Bad Numbers - So how about my worst seller? It’s my attempt at a humorous look at gardening. I like this book with useful gardening tips, humor and four short murder mysteries with a garden setting.  Well, it ranks in the top half in both soft cover and eBooks, actually top 20% in soft cover. Total earning or this book, $42.00.  Not so good, and I like this book. I am thinking about giving this one away for a few days next spring, just before gardening season, see if it can get any traction.

Selling Books Myself - One last thought, my CCC book does not rank high in eBooks or softcover because it is a local history book. I do quite a few speaking engagements, around the area, about this book and the CCC.  I have peddled several hundred copies myself and because it is sold in area museums and book stores it does quite good. This was my first to sell 100 copies and my first to pass 500.
Canyon four miles north of town - nice setting for a western story

Checking Sales - I don’t know of any writers that sell on Amazon who is not, at least, partially addicted to checking sales numbers and author rankings on Amazon. I try to limit myself but it is hard to not check each time I set down to the computer.
Sandy Cove at Guernsey State Park

Have a great rest of the week and keep on reading and keep on writing.









Thursday, September 7, 2017

Keeping Up

Talking With Wannabe Writers - Two weeks ago I was at an event selling books with other local authors. As is often the case a few, would be authors, stopped by to chat, asking about writing or publishing, and many other things concerned with putting together and selling a  book. I never mind talking to people wishing to write, as long as they don’t keep me from selling a few books. I always start with the same question, have you written your book yet? More often than not the answer is, “no.”
Writing and Fame - Seems like too many people think that writing a book will make them rich and famous, or at least one of the two. Not many would want to actually be in my shoes, write multiple books and make a hundred dollars, or a couple of hundred a month, most months. As for fame, that is an interesting question. Sometimes I am treated like a bit of a local celebrity, other times I am just, “that other guy who wrote some books about something.” Either is fine with me. I enjoy writing, I like the stories.
Story Teller - During my years (all 42 of them) as a high school teacher I was told by various staff members that it was easy for me to teach. “You are a natural storyteller, you don’t have to work at it like I do.” Or something similar. At first, I was not sure what to think of that kind of a statement. Later in my career, I took it as a compliment. I’m a storyteller, that’s why I write.
What I’m Working On – In the past week I wrote 2,000 words on the fourth in the series of my children’s chapter books. I also wrote about that much on my new, tongue in cheek, nonfiction book I have tentatively titled, On Turning 70. My third in the series of Western Mysteries, is also coming along fine, research finished, and another 600 words this week.
Keep on reading and keep on writing.  Have a super weekend.

Favorite writing quote I ran across this week

When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand. Raymond Chandler

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Book Marketing - A Fickle Business



Off all things dealing with being an independent writer and publisher the most fickle of all is selling books. I endlessly read posts from authors on selling books, I also have purchased a few marketing books. What have I learned? Only what I stated above, selling books is a fickle business. I had one week in August with strong e-book and soft cover book sales and several thousand pages read on Kindle unlimited. At that point, I was sure I had, at last, figured it out. Well, not so fast. In the last week I have done almost nothing in sales and one two day period, I had all of one page read on Kindle Unlimited. Considering that last month I had a pretty fair month, for me, with a bit over 12,000 page reads on Unlimited, no pages one day and one the next cannot be called a slow start for the week – possibly a disastrous start fits better.
 
No matter how bad a few days or a week can be it seems that I will always bounce back. Or at least I hope I will.
I think I will not check my sales for a couple of days and see if that helps.

Meanwhile, I will get back to my works in progress. I have set Thanksgiving as the goal for my next two books, (my tenth and eleventh) I also have great hopes to get the third book in my Blade Holmes series, following, Commitment and The Ghost Dance, out by March first.

The photos were taken from our hike in the park one evening last week. The red is a result of smoke in the air from the fires burning in Montana - sure hope they get them out soon and save all their great scenery and the health of the people of Montana. Bring on the rain and snow.





Thursday, August 31, 2017

It's All About the Plot


Sometime along the way in most of our education travels we learn that there are but seven topics for stories. The list put together by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch (1863-1944) has been taught for years and seem as appropriate today as they did many years ago.
Quiller-Couch’s list
1.  Man against man
2.  Man against nature
3.  Man against himself
4.  Man against God
5.  Man against society
6.  Man caught in the middle
7.  Man and woman
Interesting to note that Quiller-Couch wrote under the pen name of Q. I like it. Quiller-Couch also is credited with this, something every writer has heard.
If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.


In 2004 Christopher Booker, an Englishman like Quiller-Couch published his – The Seven Basic Plots and has a new, maybe more modern look, at story plot possibilities. Reportedly Booker worked on his list for more than 30 years.
Booker’s List
1.  Overcoming the Monster
2.  Rags to riches
3.  The Quest
4.  Voyage and return
5.  Comedy
6.  Tragedy
7.  Rebirth

Might be easy to place everything I have written or read into one of the two lists. So what about those that write westerns or historical fiction? Famed western author and screenwriter Frank Gruber listed, again, seven plot lines for westerns.
Gruber’s List
1.  Union Pacific Story
2.  Ranch Story
3.  Empire story
4.  Revenge story
5.  Cavalry and Indian story
6.  Outlaw story
7.  Marshal story
Gruber also said that dialogue should be used to move the plot through the story.


I find it both interesting and gratifying to know that everything does not change too fast. Long live the western, after all, it follows the same plot lines as every other kind of fiction.

-Today's photos from our backyard gardens.-

Keep on reading and keep on writing and remember the weekend is not too far away.







Monday, August 28, 2017

A Novel Setting

Choosing the setting for a story is never easy unless you follow the old writer's adage of write what you know. That is exactly what I do, or try to do.  I set my stories in places I have been, typically many times or places where I live or have lived.

All three of my children’s books are set in my hometown in Southeast Nebraska. My historical fiction all starts in Wyoming, where I live, but often wanders into nearby states.

 Recently I read a book, supposedly set in the area where I was born and where I spent many years. I was excited to get the book and start reading. It was a pretty good story but could have been set anywhere as the story used no descriptions of the area.  At the end I got the feeling that the author might use other titles for this same book, change a few words and re-release it. When I read I like to feel like I am there, and like stories that take me away. I have never visited Hogwarts. But felt like it when I read the Harry Potter series. I also like Lee Child books, often set in big cities that I have not visited, but I feel like I know them when reading.

I live in Wyoming, grew up in Nebraska, spend time each year in Colorado, South Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri and like to write about those places. We have also spent a good bit of time in Australia and Hawaii, places I someday hope to use as settings.


Take me away with a story and I love it.



Today’s photos from hikes in the nearby Guernsey State Park the past few evenings.



Monday, August 21, 2017

Signing Books - The Eclipse & A Feel Good Day

I had a terrific time yesterday talking with so many people, selling and signing books in Sunrise, Wyoming. Sunrise, once a thriving Iron Ore mining town has been a ghost town and out of operation for more than three and a half decades, but thanks to Mr. John Voight, who now owns the town and old mine site, it has been revitalized.
In the old YMCA, Sunrise, Wyoming

The occasion for this celebration was the eclipse, full totality in Sunrise and surrounding areas. The ghost town of Sunrise has now become history lovers must see. A major find of Palo-Indian artifacts has been discovered on the property. Now the 100 years plus history of copper and Iron ore mining added to ancient civilizations and Sunrise is once again becoming a place to visit. Several of the old buildings are being restored, yesterday we spent our four hours in the old YMCA building. On the expansive porch outside where we sat were a flint knapper and a grinding demonstration using authentic metates. Across the street atlatl throwing and other kids and adult activities. Upstairs, lectures, and demonstrations dealing with the eclipse. Not sure of the crowds but I believe there were hundreds, more likely a thousand or more, people on the grounds for the middle day of the three-day event.
During the time of Totality

Sunrise YMCA
Fun times for all, and I sold a few books and am happy to report that several said they had downloaded or read with KDP one or more of my books – certainly a feel-good day.


Click here to see all my books on Amazon - The book cover above is a book coming soon.

I hope that all of you enjoyed the eclipse, we watched from our back deck – spectacular. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Writing and Sales - My Life

Last week Estes Park Colorado, now we are back from the Black Hills of South Dakota. Love taking these short trips, Mount Rushmore is a bit under three hours away. 

Still not getting much writing done, but some. Also played in a weekend golf tournament, seems to be a pattern here of doing a lot of other than writing things.
This photo of me is from the old Civilian Conservation Corps Golf Course at Guernsey State Park
 I talked about this course in my CCC and the building of Guernsey State Park, book.

 
But, my eBook sales are steady to up, and my KDP pages read has (half way through  August) become my best ever month - thanks!


My two western mysteries, Commitment, and The Ghost Dance are being read and enjoyed by many, and I could not be more happy with that.


Now if I can just get the rest of my books to take off like the two historical fiction books I refer to as western mysteries. 

I am getting some writing done on my third Blade Holmes western mystery and continue to work on the humerus nonfiction book I spoke of last week. Next week the grandkids will be back in school, and our lives will return to more normal - then, more writing, hopefully much more.

Meanwhile, keep on reading and keep on writing. As for me tomorrow some reading sitting in a camp chair from one of my favorite places in Guernsey State Park.

Not far from here

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Writing Update as Summer Cools Down

We spent some time in Rocky Mountain National Park this week, always a great place to visit.  I love being able to drive up above the timberline and a chance to see some stunning views of the Rockies.
Lots of Elk in the Park

Writing Update
Writing wise I remain a bit on the slow side. I am getting some things, ok, a few things accomplished. Most days I am able to write 250 to 400, or so, words. That’s not much output for me but not bad this time of year. Seems in winter I really crank it up getting quite a few days in the 2,000 range, but not now and this is not a call for an early winter.
Raven on a cloudy and cool day
What I’m Working On
Most of my work seems to be on my new, tongue in cheek, nonfiction book, the one I have not yet talked about here – soon, I hope. I also finished a few more pages in the fourth of my children’s chapter books. These books don’t sell as well as my others but are getting some nice comments from parents who have kids reading them or who have read them to their children. One thing I have learned, children’s books do not do as well as eBooks, should have known it, kids like books, seems they have enough electronics in their lives without books too.  I guess there is a bit of a consolation prize in that I do sell a few of these in softcover each month.
Me and my 12-year-old Grandson taking a look at a huge Elk herd.
By the way, I like this view of me :-)

What’s Next?

The great eclipse is only a couple of weeks away and we are right in the middle of it. I am doing a book signing at an event the weekend before the eclipse and then expect to stay home on the big day and watch the sun disappear from my deck. 
Snapped this one a few days ago - looks like he wants me to go away.'
So I did.