Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Day the Sun Stopped Shining

Recently, I was invited to participate in a blog tour called "The Day the Sun Stopped Shining".  It was a great opportunity for independent authors to get together and promote each other's work.  Due to my complete lack of long term memory, I forgot that the blog tour started 3 days ago.  So, because I'm now a dirt bag, let me do what I can to catch up.

First and foremost, as part of both the Holiday season and in support of the blog tour, starting tonight at midnight (PST) and running through 3 January, the first two books of the Brink of Distinction series "BURDEN OF SISYPHUS" and "FALL OF ICARUS" will be absolutely free for download for Kindle!  Consider this my payment for starting late on the blog tour.  The books can be found at these links:



I encourage you all to check back with this blog regularly to see any comments and links to other writers' blogs.  There are some phenomenal writers associated with this blog tour, and many free offers during this time being presented by the authors.

Check out the Sun Stopped Shining Tour blog as well, by clicking on the image below:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Financial Feasibility of Writing

When you're young, you have pretty wild ideas of what you want to be when you grow up.  Of course, if everyone stuck with their original ideas, the world would be full of nothing but astronauts, firemen, and police officers.  Well, and three ninjas.  All things considered, probably not all that bad of a world.

Around my middle school years, shortly after arriving in the United States, I took a shine to writing.  Most of my work was amateurish - the written word version of Weird Al.  By my high school years, the writing had developed.  Not improved, mind you, but at least my desire to write had matured to novel work instead of just parody.  Finally, by the time I was in college, I dove into writing with a true passion.

And it was horrible.

Don't believe me?  Just ask my mom.

The dialogue was unbelievable.  There was no character development.  And the story became so painfully difficult to follow, it was rubbish.  I gave my mom a copy of the novel I was working on "EYES IN THE NUTHOUSE", without directions to read it or to not read it.  She did.  She politely didn't inform me for years that if I had personally handed her the money to buy my novel, she would have rather spent it on a grossly overpriced cup of coffee.

For nearly five years after college, I just didn't give my writing much more thought.  I came up with some story ideas, for which I mapped out the storyline.  Then, I simply filed them away on the computer for some unforeseen future use.  Then, I deployed to Iraq for my second time.  I was stuck in Baghdad for 16-months, without much to do after my convoys or paperwork.  At the prompting of some of my coworkers, I started writing a story arc that had been bouncing around in my head.  16 months later, the Brink of Distinction series was complete (as much to my surprise as anyone else's).

Yes, I sent it to my mother.

Yes, she liked it this time.

And so I began stage two of my work: getting published.  This is the crux of this entire post.  Is it financially sound to make a living out of writing?  If you read my first blog post, you'll know that I firmly believe in transparency.  That's why, today, I'm going to throw out some numbers for you and show why this could never be anything more than a hobby.

In 2008, I found an agent/editor.  For anyone who has done any writing, you know that a combination like that will end horribly for the writer.  Any agency that asks for money from you before they plan on taking it to publishers does not have your best interest at heart.  They have their's.  And their interest is money.

I paid them way more than I should have for editing that was subpar.  Following that, I decided to go the self-publishing route.  There's a pretty great agency that works with that helps you self-publish.  I paid for one of their big packages, which produced a real quality novel... but put me even further in the hole financially.

So what does my finances look like just for book one of the trilogy?  Let's take a look:

Professional (subpar) editing: $2600
Cover artwork: $75
Professional publishing package: $800

Taking nothing else into consideration (such as advertising), I was $3475 in the hole, before I started making a single dime off the books.

So what does my net gain look like so far?  Let's take a look:

Kindle sales ($2.06 per book x 104 copies sold): $214.24
Paperback sales ($2.30 per book x 9 copies sold): $20.70

Total royalties so far?  Approximately $235.  I'm not a math major, but that still leaves me roughly $3240 in the hole financially.

I don't want anyone to miss the purpose of this posting.  I'm not trying to discourage anyone from writing.  However, I started my writing career reading a blog by John Scalzi, who I will admit is a exception rather than a rule to publishing.  Within three years of being published, he was bringing in over $64,000 a year just off his science fiction work.  He is a remarkable writer, but I can't tell people that you will make that kind of money off the bat.

The truth is, by the second book, I had learned my lesson.  Here's the full breakdown for book two in the trilogy "FALL OF ICARUS":

Edited by friends: $0
Cover art: $100
Self created cover and interior: $0
LCCN and Pro Package through the publisher: $80
Total: $180

Kindle sales ($2.06 per book x 110 copies sold): $226.60
Paperback sales ($2.30 per book x 9 copies sold): $20.70
Total: $247.30

So what's the point?  The point is that I've learned to publish my own work, edited by friends that care about the writing I do, and make the smallest margin of profits.  $60 doesn't seem like much, and it's not worth quitting your day job over.

So if it's not for the money, then why do I write?

Because behind me on my bookshelf, there are currently two paperback novels with my name on them.  Because at the end of the day, even though it was self-published and hardly for a great profit, I'm a published author.

That's why.

Check out BURDEN OF SISPYHUS (Book One) for Kindle:

Check out FALL OF ICARUS (Book Two) for Kindle:

Monday, July 18, 2011


When I decided to first start writing novels, I realized one simple, undeniable fact about myself: I never finished anything I started.  I quit Karate just before getting my black belt.  I quit Boy Scouts one badge short of my Eagle Scout (one effing badge!).  I enjoyed the chase, but hardly enjoyed the reward at the end.

For a long time, I assumed that my lack of ambition was a shortcoming.  And from my family and teachers, they thought the same thing.  I was a "big ideas" guy.  I came up with great concepts, but often failed to follow through.  What chance did I have to finish a 400-500 page novel?
It wasn't until much later in my life (I'm now in my 30's) that I realized I hadn't been a failure.  I was fickle, no denying that.  But my pursuit of so many different ideals was because I constantly loved to challenge myself.  When I became comfortable, I simply chose a new path and reinvented myself.  I was an athlete in high school, a surprisingly well-spoken public relations major in college, an alcoholic while serving in Korea.  Finally, I found my true calling.  No, not as a writer.  As a leader of US Army Soldiers.

Twice now I've found myself deployed to Iraq, both times serving in the heart of Baghdad.  I served as a personnel officer once and, the second time, a Commander of over 450 Soldiers and officers.  It was exhilarating.  I watched young troops grow and develop under the tutelage of me and my First Sergeant.  It was what I was meant to do with my life.

Now, as a Commander once again with the prospect of going to Afghanistan in the near future, I once again feel that yearning to lead Soldiers into combat.  My friends call me insane.  Then again, so does my wife.  And I can't blame them.  Looking at it from the outside, it seems crazy that I would go out of my way to put myself into harm's way.  I once tried to explain it to someone, and this is the best I could come up with:

I know hundreds of people who feel that they've contributed to society.  I don't just mean the police and firefighters of the world.  Even the day-to-day factory worker knows that his little slice of the factory contributes something vital, like a small cog in an incredibly complex watch.  Despite its insignificant size, the watch simply can't run without it.  But the contributions they feel every day just can't compare with what you feel in combat.  As a medical officer, I've held someone's hand while they died.  But I've also loaded a patient onto a helicopter and said with pride, "You're going to be fine; have a beer for me when you get home".  I've looked into someone's eyes and known that I've made a difference in their life, even if they only get to see me as their life is coming to an end.

That feeling of accomplishment is what drove me to write during my last deployment.  I had a story to tell, and the emotions that I felt every day - fear, joy, deep sadness, loss - poured into the words that I typed into my computer.  It was science fiction, but I kept it "Approachable Science Fiction".  What does that mean?  It means that nothing happens in the books that can't be explained using modern science.  Never do I introduce a topic so complex that I lose the reader due to technical mumbo-jumbo (hell, I just used "mumbo-jumbo", so you can tell my level of scientific expertise).

Instead, you have an amalgamation of war and science fiction, with a realistic take on how battles end: often badly.  Main characters die.  Characters you like still die.  Characters that do everything right still manage to die.  I like to think that my books are a strange combination of Saving Private Ryan and Starship Troopers.  Mash them together, let the dog eat them, and whatever it vomits up is close to the literary masterpieces I create.

Try my books out.  They're available on Kindle for only $2.99 each, so you can skip McDonald's tonight and read a book instead.  See, I'm looking after your health and educating your mind.

Burden of Sisyphus can be found here:

Fall of Icarus can be found here: