Thursday, April 20, 2017

Edit or Self-Edit and Book Covers Too

I have been spending more hours than I want to count this week updating two of my book covers. I like the new ones, probably because I may have a better understanding now than I did when I built my first ones two years ago.  I am not going to re-do all of them, right now, but likely will do one or two more soon.

I am also back working on my nonfiction book. I took five months off to finish up some other projects and am now enjoying the research and writing of nonfiction once again.

At one time in my life, I spent a lot of time, often too much, editing other writers works. I don’t do much of that any longer as I mostly worked with historical nonfiction although I did take on a few fiction projects. Now I mostly edit my own. What am I getting to here? All the advertisements I get in the form of tweets or email offering, book doctor or editing services. Often the promo starts with a line telling all who read that there are so many, maybe millions, of books and eBooks for sale that are chalk full of errors. And, it’s possible there are, but I would rather read a book with a handful of errors than one that is perfect but without a good story.

 I have downloaded, read and enjoyed, self-edited books by several authors. All were people I follow online or on Twitter, and most were pretty good reads. I did not notice a multitude of errors in any of them and the things I noticed can sometimes be found in mainstream novels. As I said above, if the story is a good one, I will read it.

My point is not that books do not need a good edit, but that some self-edited books come out pretty clean. If you are writing a book and hope to sell a thousand copies, which is what you will need to sell to pay for a middle of the road priced editor. I mentioned book covers above, and good ones will help sell books if the book can be found among the 8,000,000 or so on Amazon. Once again writers like myself, who sell books, steadily but not spectacularly, need to be weary of not spending too much for the creation of a cover. I am not crazy about many of the new covers that seem to be black no matter what the subject, they all look the same to my old eyes.

Today’s photos are from my backyard.

Meanwhile, keep on reading and keep on writing.
Oh - one of the redone covers, this for my first kid's chapter book

Monday, April 10, 2017

A New Book and A New Spring

I am happy to say today that I, at last, got out my second book in the Blade Holmes western mysteries. This one entitled, The Ghost Dance, follows Marshall Holmes from Fort Robinson, Nebraska to Nevada and back to the Sioux Reservations of Southern, South Dakota.  The book centers on the famous circle dance of the white shirted dancers, the Ghost Dance. This one has lots of authentic western history and is a very nice follow up to, Commitment, the first Blade Holmes historic novel.

In other writing news, I am nearly finished with my final touches of my gardening book, then it will get final edits and off to my first readers. If everything goes well, I hope this one is only a few weeks away.
A bee last summer on one of my backyard sunflowers

So what am I reading? Thomas McGuane – Keep the Change, so far I am enjoying it, even if it does fit best into the dreaded category of Literary Fiction. I am also reading and enjoying, Postcards, by famed Wyoming writer, Annie Proulx.
Not only me that enjoys basking in the sun

My book sales are picking up right now, always a good thing and the weather is looking more and more like spring. Can’t wait to start digging in that terrific garden soil again.
We have spent some wonderful days hiking in the new Spring weather

Keep on reading and keep on writing. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Writing & The Month of March

I am still surprised at how many posts I see each day that have the same theme. The theme is always something like this - The five mistakes writers make, or, the six no no’s of writing in first person. They pretty much rehash the same things over and over. Seems like I remember a few years ago that bloggers were told to put a number in the blog title for more hits, I still see so many five of this, or six steps to this. Not sure if it works but still seems popular. 

Lately, it looks to me that writing books about writing or marketing are the way to sell books. I seem to get multiple tweets, emails, and links each day to this kind of information. It also seems that writing how to for a hobby or small business books could be a money maker. I see more and more of these often offered in eBook only format and many in the 15-80 page range. How much? All are priced from .99 cents to $2.99. Maybe I will give it a try.  How about, Living Uncomfortable on Retirement Income, or maybe for golfers, Turning A Fade into a Screaming Slice. Probably not, maybe a writing book, Hours and Hours of Writing Only to Start Over – Again.

Well, another month has come and gone, and my book sales were mediocre. My trial at giving away one of my novels met with moderate success and did give me a bit of an uptick in sales. I would recommend it to anyone who writes and is still building an audience.

I finished my first draft of my gardening book – it was fun and so different from what I am used to writing. This one will be a .99 cent eBook and likely an $8.99 soft cover. It gives both sound gardening advice and some fun to read garden murder mysteries. Not sure I have ever seen anything quite like this book. Here is a brief excerpt from the first chapter.

It’s Planting Time

Gardening should be fun. Most of the time it is, but where I live, at high altitude in Wyoming, it can sometimes be tricky business. Start the season too soon, and a gardener may find the garden snow covered by morning. Start too late, and the garden might be covered in snow before harvest. When the growing season is short, timing is everything.
So, when do you start? Tough question, easy answer. No matter if you are gardening at altitude, or in the lower areas of America’s heartland, start after the last snow and harvest before the first hard frost in the fall. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that easy? Yes, it would, but, unfortunately,  it is not.
Can an experienced gardener predict the best time to plant every year? Ahh, no. But we can all find a way to understand when the time is right to sow those first spring seeds. The best way is to live in the same place for a long time, and then you will know, know the perfect time to plant. If you are new to the area, or if, like me, you forget what last year was like, or didn’t write it down anyway, here is a start.

In 2012, the USDA updated their Plant Hardiness Zone Map. This is the best way to start, all you need to do is type in your zip code and up it comes.

All Photos were taken Thursday in our back yard
It is looking like Spring, at least some days!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

An Attempt at Book Marketing

It has been an interesting three days as I attempted to move a few books. Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to read more about book marketing. Something I have not done much of, instead I spend time writing and editing, then move on to another book. I like the writing part, but am woefully bad at marketing. I have turned down several chances to publish with small presses as I still would have been the main, or only, marketer, could not see an advantage over Indy publishing.

To boost my sales, I offered a free eBook, a pretty good read and one I had a chance to publish with a small press. I declined the small press offer, believing if it only sold a few hundred copies I would make more Indy, than with a small press.

Creating a good Facebook Author Page, and developing an active email list seem to be the first needed steps, I have done neither. Instead, I trudge on, with a handful of posts on my blogs and a once-in-a-while tweet about my books. Guess what? It doesn’t work. A few days ago I posted this, in different variations, on several of my blog sites, as an attempt at marketing.

I am giving away, for the next three days, one of my novels, Ghost of the Fawn, the eBook format anyway. If you read on electronic devices, like Kindle or even your phone, it is free, no strings attached, just click the Amazon, buy for $0.00 - and it is all yours.
So what will you be getting? An adventure, modern day western mystery, set in several places in Wyoming. And it's short, only a couple hundred pages.
Click the link, download the book, and see what I have been up to the last few years.

How did it do? About what I expected, a few dozen downloads and a bit of an uptick in sales of my other stuff – but overall, not much. Looks like I might need to take some advice from marketers, who know what they are doing, to heart. 

Love to hear about anything that has worked for other Indy writers.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Ghost of the Fawn - Free eBook

Now in the second day of my free ebook give-a-way. So far, not bad. I hoped that during the five days of the give-a-way that I might get 100, or so, downloads. After the first day it looks like I will fall short of that goal, but still, it is not bad for my first try. Maybe, the weekend will help, and I will still make it. I did give away a short story a few months ago which did fairly well and helped my sales of other books for more than a week.

I have lamented a few times, on this site, that I was a poor book marketer, but I am trying and will continue with a few other promotional ideas as I go along. This book, classified as a mystery or modern day western takes place in Wyoming and spends time on the Wind River Reservation, in Riverton and at the famous, Big Horn Medicine Wheel.
Medicine Wheel

It's funny how things happen, I wrote this novel, Ghost of the Fawn, with Jr. High and High school readers as my target - but I am getting some wonderful comments from older readers who love it. Now if I can just get some of them to post reviews instead of just e-mailing me.

I will post an update and then a conclusion to this exciting story as I move along. In one small genre category, it is now up to number 3, pretty happy about that.

Here it is if you have not got the free download yet! Give it a try.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ghost of the Fawn - Free for next few days.

Free eBook, this is the first time I have given away a book. I did this several months ago with a short story and it was well received. This one is a book of Wyoming mystery, intrigue and history. Set in central Wyoming in modern times, Give it a try today.  FREE!!  Click to Order

Friday, March 17, 2017

Getting an Amazon Best Seller or at Least in the Top Half

I spent some time this morning doing research as to how many books Amazon has for sale. Might have fit better into, messing around on the internet, but I’m going with research because it sounds like I was working. During this research phase of my day, I could not find anything from the last few months but did see that in 2015 Amazon had 17.1 million books, in English, available for sale. The same information listed more than three million, written in English, eBooks.

If this is true, an author with a book consistently listed in the top one million seven hundred thousand will make it to the top ten percent of books on Amazon. The same eBook would need to be in top 300,000 to qualify. To be in the top half of all books listed for sale on Amazon, it would take a book in the top 8,500,000 or the top million and a half eBooks. Sounds pretty good except that a book selling near the bottom of the top half of all books on Amazon would only need to sell a copy or two each month to qualify for that ranking, maybe even less than that.
My first six books - click to go to my Amazon Author's Page
Got my proof books for my two latest novels today. Will need to make a few changes to the cover of, The Ghost Dance, I didn’t like the white font. Otherwise, it looked fine. Hope that doesn’t take long. That book will be out to first readers in the next day or so – then some final edits, and it will be published. The other proof is for the third in the series of my of kids books – Yikes, My Neighbor’s a Vampire. It is fine and should be as this is the third time I have made changes. My thought is, keep doing it until I like it.
I liked how it looked on my computer, but too light here

Now I am in the final part of my first draft of a gardening, and murder in the garden, book. It is a bit different, I hope readers like it.

I also continue the painstaking research on my second nonfiction book, still hope that I will get it out before 2018, but not sure. I am also hard at work on the third of my Blade Holmes, historical fiction- mystery novels.
Pronghorn walking the foothills west of town
The days are warming, and spring cleanup has started in our backyard. We have also made a few nice drives giving me a chance to get out with my camera.
Young Bison Bull

Keep on reading and keep on writing. 
Mule Deer running the Pronghorn off

Friday, March 10, 2017

Western Writers or Writing Westerns

I write about the West, some of it old, some new. All five of my adult books are set mostly or partly in Wyoming, my three kids books are set where I grew up in Nebraska. There is an old writer adage that says, write what you know. I like the idea of writing what you know, but also about where you have been. I still spend as much time as possible outside, observing and listening to nature, and anything else that flows in or out. Some of what I take in with my senses finds a way into my stories.

I love watching all sorts of wildlife and listening to anything that breaks the silence. I have found that the smell of a campfire can travel for a mile or more under the correct conditions. That made it into one of my books. A river and lake sound different and both sound wonderful in the rain. Describing the sound can be both challenging and rewarding.
Three Mule Deer - Rare Albino 2-year-old in Front

I call this site, Confessions of a Writer of Westerns, but I really don’t write westerns. Some are in that time period, but they are Historical Fiction, some I classify as Historical Mysteries. Everything I write is out west. Thus I am a western writer. I had a reader email me that read my book of Christmas stories. She had this to say, “The stories are so warm and true to life, I couldn’t put it down.” I thought well, that’s great.
Our Local View

Then she went on to say, “They sure don’t seem like westerns to me.”
In my reply I let her know that I appreciated how much she liked the stories and added, “They may not seem like westerns because they are not.”

 Most people, or maybe I should say many people, confuse the real west with the fictional wild west, where gunfights at high noon and barroom brawls were an everyday occurrence. The wild west of television series fame was a creation of Hollywood and made a good living for many pulp writers for decades. My books tell stories of the west, some old, and some modern, but they are set in a real west.
I enjoy writing about people in the west, some real and many products of my imagination all tied together. I am in the read through the proof stage now on my third kid's book, and my second historical mystery, with my legendary protagonist, Blade Holmes.

For the last few days, I am stepping a bit away from my usual stuff, but still set in the west. The book I am working on is about gardening in the West, gardening takes up much of my time when the weather cooperates. I also have a cozy mystery in the works about a Wyoming Golf Pro/amateur detective. But I will never get away from writing stories involving cowboys, ranchers, Native Indians, townspeople, soldiers and shopkeepers, all out west.
Taking a break - out with nature

Now it’s time to get back to writing and reading. 
Used this Golden Eagle for a scene in my newest novel - available next week

Monday, March 6, 2017

Writing - But No One is Counting

Seems I have had a burst of energy this week, more writing and much more editing. Now the weather is warming, and I can set some goals for spring. Oops, just looked out and it’s snowing – again.
Five Days Ago
I have, at times, posted a, what I did this month blog at the start of a new month, so what did I do in February? Quite a bit. First, I quit counting how many words I wrote. I have kept track of everything for two years and did again in January of 2017, then stopped. I got mixed reactions from writers who counted or did not count their words. Some thought it necessary to keep on task, others said they wrote what they wrote. My wife thought that I was getting a bit too hard on myself if I missed a day or two of writing. She was right, I put a lot of pressure on myself to write every day and to stay on pace for my quarter of a million words each year. Now I am writing, but no longer keeping track of numbers, kind of a relief and I don’t need to keep my calculator at hand.
I did go back and check to see how much I blogged last month, not bad, 11 on my blogger sites, three on Wordpress and five on Google plus. I had been away from Wordpress for a couple of years and decided to give it a try again, not gaining much traction and not sure I will continue posting there on a regular basis. Google Plus seems to have a lot of people, but I don’t get too many comments on Plus, nothing like my regular Blogger site where I have much more traffic.
This Golden Eagle Backlighted by the Setting Sun Yesterday - Spectacular Bird
I did get the review copy of my third kid's book, made a few changes on the cover and ordered another. Should go live later this week. That will be my seventh book and will be followed shortly by my eighth, as I will order the proof this week. Then I hope to finish the first draft – almost there – of my book on gardening. Busy days!

Meanwhile, keep on reading, writing and thinking of spring.
As We Left the Park Last Evening

Monday, February 27, 2017

Reading - Writing - and Wintering

Seems I am suffering through the writing blues of late. Not stuck, just don’t feel like writing much. Oh, I do some, but not many words, not sure why. Guess I will blame it on the weather, seems as good as anything. Wait maybe I could blame it on politics, naw, just not feeling it.

Typically in the winter, I get out and do quite a bit of hiking, this winter, not so much. I think I need the exercise to get my mind going and the old creative juices flowing. At present, I’m waiting for the review copies of my most recent kid’s book – the third in a series. Shipped on Friday, shouldn’t be long now.
Nice herd of Mule Deer with Laramie Peak in the distance

As always, I am reading several books at the same time, presently reading books by, Richard Wheeler, Elmer Kelton, and Hank Haney. The books are different enough that it is not a problem reading all three at various times of the day or week. What are they? Wheeler’s, Accidental Novelist, a story of his life from editor to writer of western novels,  Kelton’s, Ranger’s Trail, a western novel, and Hank Haney’s golf book, The Big Miss, about working with Tiger Woods.

When working I am re-editing my second Blade Holmes, Western novel, and finishing up my gardening book. I am also in the planning stages of the fourth of my kid’s books. Soon, when the inspiration strikes, I will get back to research and writing of my second nonfiction book. I have found nonfiction to be both rewarding and challenging, but, someday I will finish.
Nice setting for a Mountain Man book

Keep on reading – keep on writing, and keep on thinking SPRING!

Photos were taken yesterday on a snowy drive.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Story Idea's

Seems to me that recently I see a post or Tweet every day that starts with something like this – “Are you stuck, can’t find anything to write about?” Odd.

Are there actually writers who cannot come up with anything to write about? My problem is the opposite. I have too many ideas, too many stories, and I have to pick and choose which ones I might have time to write. 
At times, a single photo can bring on a good story

I hope no one would be serious about buying a book with ideas to write about. Might be a better idea to read more widely, travel, work and experience life, then come up with what you like to write. If you are lucky enough to make your dreams of writing turn out, and the story falls into a classification of Children’s Fiction, or Fantasy, congratulations, they are the two best-selling fiction genres.

Westerns, the old style shoot-um-ups are, for the most part, or for all parts, dead. On the other hand, historical fiction is alive and well, selling about three percent of all books. Children’s fiction is still far above all other genres selling nearly 40% of all books. Children's fiction is still riding the wave of the Harry Potter books, and the numbers may be a bit high because of J.K. Rowling. (By the way, I have read all of the Potter books and enjoyed them).

For writers at all levels, first bookers or author’s that have written several books, the key is finding an audience. Find enough readers who like what a writer is doing and the books will sell, even westerns.

I read an interesting blog recently that suggested writing in several genres instead of only one. This advice is opposite of what has normally been preached to new writers.  I was sure that I would never sell a book as I have written in so many genres

So far I have dabbled in Children’s, Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Short Stories, and nonfiction-historical. And have been lucky enough to sell books in all genres, not best seller sales, but enough to take a nice trip or two.
Where else would a western writer vacation? Dodge City last October

Friday, February 17, 2017

Books, Selling, Writing & Publishing

We try to take off for a few days each month. Today we are off to see brothers and sisters in Nebraska. It is about a ten-hour drive, so as always, we have a book to listen to on the way. Sometimes I talk on and on, and we don’t listen much to the book, other times we listen more and I talk less.
CCC built Water Station at Guernsey State Park

In other news, I am following, as are most who have used Create Space, what is happening at Kindle Direct Publishing. I have six books and a short story (wow – it won an award), on KDP. Now KDP is in the print book business also. It looks like, down the road, the two will be merged into one, Kindle Direct Publishing. Right now, they do not offer author proof copies, or a chance for writers to buy books closer to cost so they can resell to booksellers. Unlike many writers that have published independently, I sell quite a few hard copy books. I have books in several bookstores and libraries, because of this I need to be able to purchase books at a good author price. Guess I will wait and see what happens.
Evening in Wyoming

Every few months I look at publishing something in a traditional market. Because these chances have always come from small and medium-sized publishers, I have passed. Now, it looks like I may go the traditional route with my next nonfiction book, not sure why, but there are a few advantages.

This week’s weather has been incredible. I have spent some time playing golf, hiking and taking photos. Hope it keeps up, and lets me get some yard work completed next week, not that I want too.
Oh – one last thing, I am still getting in some writing and editing, it is just more difficult when the temperature is 70, and the sun is shining, and it's still February.
Mule Deer Doe checking out the guy with the camera

Keep on writing and keep on reading. Have a great weekend.
Photos are from my outings this week.
Sunset splashed Red Cloud Shelter, built by the CCC at Guernsey State Park

Friday, February 10, 2017

Writing to the End

Seems like my book sales always tail off in the first part of each month. I am not sure why, but there might be a reason. I am not much of a self-promoter and usually see an uptick after I do some type of live presentation. I do not have thousands of follows on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus or all the other social media sites like many writers do. My numbers have grown the past few years slowly, as I usually hand select which one’s I want to refollow.
Six Books Down - Two More Coming Soon

It is embarrassing how slow I have been in getting new books published. I get down to the last few edit, revising and first reader steps and then start something else, or stall out on a book cover. I have always enjoyed writing the words, not so much with selecting or building book covers.

The last few weeks have been full of meetings, travel, Dr. appointments and bad weather for us. Those seem to be pretty good excuses for my slow down.
And, at times, heavy cross traffic slows me down

I read an excellent post recently about plotting or not plotting when writing a novel. It always interests me when I see how others go about putting a story together. I start with an idea, usually an event. In the two books that I am working on covers for, here are the ideas I start with. With my children's book, book three of a series, It was easy, the entire series has a theme. In my newest, my three protagonist kids meet up with a vampire. This follows the theme of the first two where they met up with a ghost and a zombie.

My historical fiction is a bit more complicated. In the first of what will be four or more novels with protagonist Blade Holmes, he gets involved in a real mystery following bad guys back and forth from Laramie City to Fort Laramie Wyoming. The second book, also partially set at Fort Laramie ends with the Ghost Dance in the Black Hills.

After I have an idea, with nothing else to go on, I write the first chapter, letting my mind take it where it may. After that, I put together a few notes on where I want the story to go. With these notes, I will often write down scenes and places I want to include. Then I start writing. I never pick an ending at the start, often half way through I know how it will end, sometimes I end in a place and with an event that surprises me.

Love to hear from others as to how you put a tale together.

Meanwhile - keep on writing and keep on writing. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Saturday Thoughts on Writing

Seems like western movies are here to stay. Every year or two a couple of new ones are fairly well received, at least well enough for someone to make another. I still see quite a few new, western books that look and read a lot like the pulp westerns of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Not sure there is much of an audience for these and all are self-published. On the other hand, historical fiction, historical mysteries, and historical romance seem to still have quite a large audience. It also appears that writers of historicals are finding success with both self-publishing and traditional publishing.

Confessions of a Writer of WesternsAlthough I call this site, Confessions of a Writer of Westerns, I actually write, in most cases, historical fiction. MY definition of historical fiction is a work where the story is fiction, but the setting, events and some of the characters are real to the time and place.
Often settings like this - a trapper and trader camp at Fort Laramie
are used for historical fiction. Take the setting and form the story.

Work in Process - My present novel, which I am still in the process of editing is a fictitious look at the Ghost Dance in the weeks before the terrible massacre at Wounded Knee.  In the work I use six main characters to carry the tale, and of the six, three are mine, and three are real people from the period and place. I enjoy writing this type of fiction, but to keep it authentic, it takes many hours of research. The research material becomes part of the story and adds to the history lesson that many historical fiction works carry. I hope that after reading my historical fiction, readers will do some research, finding out more about the events, people, and places in the story.
Much of my new novel is set in the Black Hills
Of course, this was not there at that time.
Note - I took this one with the Wyoming flag, along the row of flags

At Last - Before finishing, I always run my stuff through a readability check. I like to make sure my works fall into an area where they are readable and understandable but not too hard. My kids’ books I try to get to a fourth-grade level my regular books around a low high school level. This lower high school level is above what is allowed on most government regulations that are to be read by all of us, ordinary people. By the way, this post comes in at 9.8 or just under, 10th-grade reading level, pretty normal for most novels today. 
Many stories have been written about scenes like this