When I first released Dollar Deal: The Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers, I put it out wide – everywhere from Amazon and Barnes & Noble to Kobo and overseas. By 2016, I decided to give Amazon Kindle Select a chance – meaning that I was exclusive to Amazon for all eBooks and I could take advantage of certain deals and people with Kindle Unlimited could read it for free.
After a year on Amazon Select, and with my first fiction book in preparations for release, I have chosen to remove Dollar Deal: The Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers from the Kindle Select program and put it out wide again.
I have a few reasons for this and most are just my personal preference at this time for Dollar Deal: The Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers. I want this book to remain available to more people and in more countries.
Stephen King has fans all over the world. One of the biggest supporters of Dollar Baby Filmmakers is Bernd Lautenslager and he is from The Netherlands. Hell, I showed my movie in The Netherlands and Argentina before it was screened in the United States.
Amazon sells to foreign countries but Kobo does it better and to more countries.
Once I release Fallen Star, I am certain that it will be Amazon Exclusive just as Dollar Deal: The Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers was for the last year. That book will likely remain in Amazon only – at least until I am further into the series.
Once again, there is a reason for that choice.
That is where this decision is important to make clear. When an artist, writer, filmmaker, or any other creative person chooses what to do with their projects, they need to have game plans – or more accurately, business plans. I tested the waters with Dollar Deal: The Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers and found that I wanted it to go wide for business reasons.
When it comes to Fallen Star, I have a different business plan and a very different goal than I had with Dollar Deal: The Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers. That means making it Amazon Exclusive and riding that out.
With that said, here is where you can buy Dollar Deal: The Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers at this time – with more coming.
So, I was visiting one of the indie author groups that I am a member of on Facebook and someone posted a link to an article from The Huffington Post about self-published authors. The article had a click-baiting title that was an automatic red flag: “Self-Publishing: An Insult to the Written Word.” Right off the bat, I knew this was going to be at least an interesting read. However, when I finished reading the article, I had to wonder if this was really something that was really written three days before 2017 started.
So, I checked out the author of the piece.
Her name is Laurie Gough and she calls herself an “award-winning author of three memoirs” who “is also a journalist and travel writer.” Clicking on her author link, I see this is also the only article she has written for The Huffington Post, or at least the only one they are showing right now.
Let’s get started on what this article said and why I think the author must be trolling the independent writer’s community. I will put her comments in italics and then respond to them in bold text.
I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.
Oh boy, that came in the second paragraph of this piece for The Huffington Post. The paragraph was the answer to the question of why she wouldn’t want to make more money by self-publishing. I figure right off the bat that she doesn’t care too much about making money.
See, this article was written for The Huffington Post. They don’t pay their writers and just offer them a chance for exposure. On her website, Gough says she teaches writing classes but she seems to have no problem writing for a website that exploits writers for free. To understand how unethical The Huffington Post is, let look at what actor and writer Wil Wheaton gave as a perfect response on his Twitter account.
@wilw This advice applies to designers, photographers, programmers, ANYONE who makes something. You. Deserve. Compensation. For. Your. Work.
Regardless, Laurie Gough likes to write for free but hates self-publishing. Let’s see why.
You have to go through the gatekeepers of agents, publishers, editors, national and international reviewers. These gatekeepers are assessing whether or not your work is any good.
So, let’s look at this statement. There are different types of writers – that is for sure. Some writers need to feel valued. They need a pat on the back. They need someone to tell them that their words are good. They need someone to tell them that they are special. They need a traditional book publisher to tell them that they are worthy of the honor of publishing a book.
Other writers like to entertain their readers with good books and stories. The people they care about are their readers, not the suits that only buy books that happen to be hot and selling right now and ignore anything that is risky.
Of course, these “gatekeepers” were once ruled by the Big Six, but they then became the Big Five and is likely to drop again because the gatekeepers can’t compete in the new world of publishing. Bookstores are shutting down and the traditional publishing world means less and less every day. But some writers need the pats on the back that they offer.
This system doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have.
No, it’s not. The best system we have is for writers to choose whether they want to go to the gatekeepers, self-publish, or become a hybrid author. There is a good reason that writers like Kristine Kathryn Rusch are trying their best to get their books back in their rights. There is a reason that Rusch is now doing better selling her old books on her own than the gatekeepers were doing on her back catalog after they moved on to new books.
The craft of writing is a life’s work. It takes at least a decade to become a decent writer, tens of thousands of hours.
Let’s go back to Kristine Kathryn Rusch. She won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 2001, which was about 10 years after she started writing fiction, so the timeframe is there. Guess what? She still wants to self-publish now. Hugh Howey started writing in 2009 and began his Wool series in 2011. He self-published and is adamant about remaining independent. His book was so good that Simon & Schuster chose to sign a deal with Howey to sell his physical books while letting him keep his eBook rights.
Are these exceptions to the rule that Laurie Gough suggested? No, they are just examples. There are many more. J.A. Konrath is another example of a former traditionally published author who is making much more money since becoming a self-published author. Joanna Penn is making six figures a year self-publishing.
From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.
I am sure there are plenty of bad novels out there by self-published authors. I also know there are abysmal books out there that the gatekeepers let through and published. Sure, it is easier to self-publish a bad novel but to call all self-published books an insult is like saying that all traditionally published books are as bad as Snooki: Confessions of a Guidette.
I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.
Paragraphs like this make me wonder if the article was written six years ago and just now made it through the gatekeepers at The Huffington Post.
First of all, no one makes CDs anymore. Second of all, there are more great albums made independently now than ever before because there is almost no reason to even consider going to a major record label. Sure, independent albums won’t get on the radio, but no one listens to the radio anymore. There are a lot of indie bands with no record deals who are real musicians and it is an insult to pretend they are not just because they have no record deal.
Same thing with self-published authors.
And every single self-published book I’ve tried to read has shown me exactly why the person had to resort to self-publishing. These people haven’t taken the decade, or in many cases even six months, to learn the very basics of writing, such as ‘show, don’t tell,’ or how to create a scene, or that clichés not only kill writing but bludgeon it with a sledgehammer. Sometimes they don’t even know grammar.
Wow. This is elitism at its finest.
Self-published fantasy writer Amanda Hocking sold a four-book series for $2 million in 2011. I doubt they would have bought those books if she was as bad as Gough pretends self-published authors are. Would Hugh Howey have gotten the deal with Simon & Schuster if his books were lacking the basics of writing? Or, is this the example of a cliché writing that she mentions in her article that good writers should avoid?
Meredith Wild self-published her Hacker series and ended up getting a $6.25 million advance for her next five books. Maybe Gough never got an offer like this and is bitter at the self-published authors who did. One-third of the bestselling books at Amazon in 2015 were self-published. Maybe jealousy is part of the equation here. Hell, The Huffington Post even posted a story three months ago about a self-published book that made the New York Times Bestseller List.
Writing is an art deserving our esteem. It shouldn’t be something that you can take up as a hobby one afternoon and a month later, key in your credit card number to CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing before sitting back waiting for a stack of books to arrive at your door.
I agree that art is deserving of respect but just because the author wrote those words in this article does not mean that she actually respects anyone who creates art. At the start of this article, I insulted Laurie Gough for writing for free at The Huffington Post. That was not fair because there is a good reason for some writers to write for free. There is also a good reason for some writers to self-publish.
Insulting everyone who makes a choice you would not make is ignorant and self-indulgent.
I studied writing in college. I have a Bachelor’s degree in professional writing with an emphasis on fiction writing. I got that degree in 2001 and have spent the last 15 years freelance writing and working on honing my craft. I am now self-publishing and to assume that this is a “hobby” that I took up one afternoon is ignorance. I self-publish because I want to keep control of my writing and books and don’t believe that traditional publishers offer anything to me right now.
In the future, if someone like Amazon Publishing wants to approach me, I will definitely listen to them. However, when it comes to the gatekeepers, I don’t need a pat on the head to tell me that I am good enough. My readers will tell me that and their opinions are all that matters.
I don’t know what caused this Huffington Post article to be written. I can only assume that there is a bitterness from the author towards self-published authors. Saying that all self-published novels are crap is a complete lie and fabrication. Looking at the fact that there are almost 300 comments on the article in just over a day tells me two things.
A nerve was struck
This was a click bait article that succeeded in trolling people enough for them to respond.
I noticed a lot of authors, including some that I know, respond to her in the comments there. I also noticed a lot of readers coming in and backing up their favorite self-published authors in the comments, telling me that the only people who matter – the readers – are there to stand up for authors they love.
Just because self-publishing isn’t good enough for Laurie Gough does not mean that it is not the perfect choice for very good writers – many who are more successful than Gough. Many self-published authors are more talented than traditionally published authors.
What are your thoughts on self-published authors and their novels? Is damning all self-published authors for the sins of bad ones fair? Do you have favorite self-published authors? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Many people make them and almost no one keeps them.
I promise to lose weight. I promise to save more money. I promise to eat better. I promise to write more. I promise to eat more ice cream.
OK. Maybe that last one is an easier New Year’s Resolution to keep.
However, New Year’s Resolutions are for suckers and they only tend to achieve one thing. They make a person feel like crap for not following through with them. They make people feel worthless because they didn’t eat better, exercise more, and lose weight. It makes eating more ice cream seem that much better.
But, at the end of the day, people need to make changes if they want to live a better life.
2016 sucked. There were a lot of things that happened in the world that made the world a much darker, dangerous place. There were a lot of deaths of people that some of us loved. For me, it was even tougher as my wife almost died and I spent the last eight months of the year caring for her and helping to bring her back to health.
For as much as 2016 sucked, it also filled me with a sense of optimism.
My wife almost died. She lived. She was in a hospital, bedridden for months. She is walking again, with a limp and some pain, but she is walking again. We are financially destroyed right now thanks to credit cards piling up and hospital bills arriving that the insurance is mysteriously refusing to cover. But, at least we had insurance and they couldn’t refuse to cover us. At least we are still paying rent and have a vehicle that is not only paid off but in pretty good condition.
We will remain thankful for that as days ahead could change everything in a second. The future is full of doubt but we have survived what lie has dealt us.
Now, it is time to look forward into 2017 and what might be the scariest year we have ever headed into.
And it is time to make changes.
These are not New Year’s Resolutions. These are promises to myself that I will work to get better in certain areas.
I will write smarter and that does not mean writing more. I will look at what I am writing and who I write for and I will make sure to capitalize on what will put my family in a better place and focus on those places first. I will plan out a better writing schedule, one that allows me to get things done in a timely manner while still having time for Johanna and Ash and a family I won’t neglect ever again.
I know what I almost lost in 2016. I won’t take them for granted again.
I will read more. I will watch more movies. Those are things that will make me a better writer.
I will finish Fallen Star and then move on to the next book. And the next book. And the next book. This is my career. This is not something where I will celebrate my next finished book. I will write every day and not stop until I have a library of books I have written that I can be proud of.
And I will stop procrastinating.
Putting things off is my greatest talent. No more.
I will get going again on DDP Yoga and I will do it with Johanna since that will help her relieve a lot of the pain that her accident left her with. We will keep working out at the Y. I will work with and maybe even coach my son in his basketball and baseball leagues. I will be an active parent for him, as I always have, and will make sure he knows I am always there for him.
We will have family days where we get the hell out of the house, I get away from my computer, and we do things together. That was something that stopped when we moved to Midland. That is not something I will neglect again.
Once again, these are not New Year’s Resolutions. These are things that I am going to work on doing better in my life.
Finally, I will make money from my books.
This is not something I have any control over. The only way that I can make money is to get my books out there, make them the best they can be, get the word out, and then keep writing. I can’t make money sitting on one book that I published. This is my career. This is my writing life. This is what will put my family in a better place.
Well, let’s start out by letting me admit to something about my upcoming novel Fallen Star.
After winning last year’s NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words on Fallen Star, I have failed when it comes to completing this year’s edition of the writing competition. And the good news is that I am ok with that.
My goal with NaNoWriMo this year was to complete the re-writing phase of Fallen Star since I never finished the book after last year’s NaNoWriMo. You know, that is ok too. I am kind of glad I didn’t finish it because I was full speed ahead and realize that isn’t the way I should be going as I start my fiction writing career.
Look, it took me years to finish Dollar Deal: The Story of the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers. I put a ton of work into that book and realize now, looking back on it, that I didn’t put enough work into one specific area that might have made that book a bigger success.
I didn’t work on creating my author platform. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to see it will it make a sound? If I write a book that I put well over 100 hours into developing and I release it to the world that doesn’t know that I exist, will it be a success?
Look, here is the deal. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings by saying this but it is true. I have learned that an author’s friends and family will not support that author by buying or helping to spread the word about their books. Sure, there might be one or two people close to the author that will help spread the word and a small handful of people who will buy the book but that is it.
“Instead of going after the big breaks and chasing the gatekeepers, I discovered a small but powerful audience that needed what I had to offer. I found my tribe. And that made all the difference.”
I don’t want to say that if you are my friend or a family member, and you are reading this, that I don’t want you as part of my tribe. I just know, and the experience of publishing Dollar Deal pounded this home to me, that I can’t rely on my circle of friends if I want to be successful. If I want to make a living writing and support my family as a writer, I need to really create my author platform.
It starts now.
I am about to start working on the re-writing phase of Fallen Star and I want to take you on that journey with me.
Click on the cover to buy the book from Amazon.com
I was listening to a podcast I follow by Joanna Penn. This past weekend she had an author on there named Gabriela Pereira, a woman who wrote a book and started a community of writers called The DIY MFA.
The book is about, as the title basically spells out, how to become an author by doing it yourself instead of spending money on an MFA from a university.
Now, I am a college graduate and learned my writing at the Gaylord School of Journalism a the University of Oklahoma. Was it worth it for what I learned? Yes, it was. Was it worth it for the amount of money I am still paying out in school loans? No, not really.
So, what did the author of the DIY MFA book talk about in the podcast interview with Joanna Penn? Well, it is basically about teaching yourself what you need to know about writing by using the same techniques they use in college.
It is funny, though, because a lot of what she talks about I already do but never really thought about it. I guess I learned well from my two main writing professors, J. Madison Davis and Deborah Chester. Basically, write AND read with purpose.
So, what does this mean here? It means that I am going to be putting a lot of these things into motion and I will bring you all with me and talk about my writing as I do it. You will join me from now until I publish the book.
And it isn’t just about writing the book. As I said, it is also about building my author platform so that this book – Fallen Star – is not released in a forest where no one can hear (or more accurately read) it. You will watch as I build this author platform and hopefully the readers I pick up along the way can be there from the start.
Shawn S. Lealos: Author
So, what exactly does this entire author platform thing entail?
These are two things that I will be developing over the next month or so and will roll each one out one at a time.
A Facebook Group – I have a Facebook Writer’s Page but a Group is different. For those who don’t know, a Group is better for talking to each other and people can actually see when there are updates better than Pages that could realistically disappear from people’s feeds over time. The difference is that Groups is not a place for me to just post links. It is a place for me to talk to readers, get feedback, share news I find interesting, and develop a relationship with readers. I will keep my Writer’s Page, but that is where links are posted.
A Mailing List – Now, don’t be scared with this one. I understand that many authors abuse their mailing lists. I won’t be one of those authors. People who subscribe to my mailing list won’t get spammed with emails every day of the week and the emails won’t be me begging people to buy my books. The good news is that, when it starts, everyone who subscribes to the mailing list will get a digital copy of Dollar Deal: The Story of the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers for free. The emails will come out once a week and will update people on what is going on, share any news that I find interesting, and most importantly, offer special freebies for subscribers. I will update people on when books are going on sale, but the main purpose of the list is not to sell, sell, sell.
That is just the start, but it is the most important when it comes to me getting to know my readers better and offering my readers something that makes following me worth their time.
Editing Fallen Star
So, back to Fallen Star.
There is a major change in how I am writing my books from this point forward. I have become a Scrivener user.
Interested in Scrivener? Amazon.com sells it for Windows and Mac. Click here to learn more
So, what is Scrivener?
Basically, it is the author’s top software program to write their books. Sure, there is always Word or one of the many free word processing apps and those work just fine when it comes to putting words on the page.
However, Scrivener really opens things up for the writer to really take control of their work. I will talk a lot more about Scrivener when I start blogging about the re-write of Fallen Star.
Also, I will go into detail about what my editing and re-writing of the novel involves and what most people mistakenly think editing actually means (it isn’t about fixing grammar and spelling – at least not at this stage).
With that said, I will finish this post and let you know that the real writing is about to start on Fallen Star and I invite all of you along for the ride. Keep watching this blog, follow me on my Facebook page and make sure to join my upcoming Facebook group and email list when I launch them and we will take this journey together.
Also, I love comments. I love them so much that I will throw everyone’s name who leaves a comment into a hat and draw a winner every month for a special prize. What is this month’s prize? A free autographed copy of Dollar Deal: The Story of the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers trade paperback book. If you link to my blog, I will add your name a second time. Let me know what you want to see in the blog. Let me know what you want to know about writing, Stephen King, filmmaking, comics, movies, or anything else. Seriously, ask me anything.
When I started Renegade Cinema back in 2013, my idea was to create my own movie website based on what I had learned both from working with Chud.com and 411mania.com and from what I learned about SEO and more from my content writing. I started it with my cousin, and fellow film enthusiast and writer, Derick “D-Rock” Dotson, and we brought on some really solid writers in Jesse Blume and Devan Gill.
My biggest mistake was thinking I could start a website on my own, with no real financial backing, and expect any of the writers to stick around. For the last three-plus years, I have found some great writers to come on and help, including Bethany Lewis, Caleb Masters, Ruby Le Rouge, Rick Tym, Derek Johns, Sandi Davis, Allison Fleischer, Patricia Marquez, Danika McClure, Caliber Winfield, Derek Ciapala, Aidan Green, James C, Tony Beaulieu, and Sandy Stachowiak.
One by one, everyone fell because, and this is completely fair, no one should be expected to work for free, even if it is just a passion project. The big problem is that there was little to no money to be made from Renegade Cinema. Every month, I made less money on Adsense than I pay in web hosting fees. I can’t pay the writers and I would never, ever, expect someone to write for free and understood every time a writer left the site due to outside commitments – including D-Rock, who I started the site with.
Hey look, a tumbleweed! By Jez Arnold (Tumbleweed), via Wikimedia Commons
When I moved to West Texas, after my wife was transferred here with her job, I was kicked out of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and lost most of my chances for screener reviews (including the prized end of year screeners). I also lost out on advanced critic screenings because there are none in West Texas. Because of that, I am stuck with just my own connections – and I still have some of them.
With that said, I will be shuttering Renegade Cinema in the form that it was built to be – a site for movie geek news for movie geeks. I will be building a new site before I close the original and will reopen it as a strict review and column site. Trying to write movie news, even for movie geeks, is not worth the time on my own site anymore because there is too much competition and it is too hard to succeed in Google, even with the best SEO practices, because of the competition.
I have a family to support and running the site takes so much more time that just writing for a site, so I needed to finally admit that I can’t run Renegade Cinema anymore.
As a result, I will simply post my reviews under a new Renegade banner and invite others who want to write reviews to have a place to post them as well. I will review movies, as I always have done, as well as books and TV shows, but more likely seasons and not individual episode recaps (although I might still recap and review season premieres and finales).
I will be doing this as a way to continue my work as a film critic on a platform that I own but it will be for my own library of film criticism and not as a way to profit from the website. I will also be conducting more interviews and working with festivals and conventions as well for coverage there.
It is a slight change, but there is no reason to pretend that Renegade Cinema is a source for movie news when no one writes there anymore.
However, there were some amazing stories written for Renegade Cinema. Many of those will be ported over to the new site, specifically the great columns by writers like Jesse Blume and Bethany Lewis and the reviews from the former site.
As you can see, I had some amazing writers working for me and I want to preserve their work on the new site. As for me, expect more reviews and columns on a regular basis on the new site when it arrives, as well as blogging here and the soon-to-be-released Fallen Star novel, which is still coming later this year.
There are smaller reasons for blowing up Renegade Cinema and starting over, but the main gist is that I want a fresh start with the site and feel that there needs to be a major change to emphasize the new direction. Soon, Renegade Cinema will be no more. But, there is still something new on the horizon when it comes to Shawn S. Lealos and movies.
Yeah, there is actually more to the story than this. Basically, Tim Tebow is trying out for Major League Baseball. Like most people, I used this as a chance to make jokes about Tebow and laugh at the entire ludicrous goal of doing the hardest thing there is to do in sports – hit a fastball.
Then, I listened to an interview with Tim Tebow about his Major League Baseball dreams.
Basically, after stammering through an answer to an unheard question (which was probably, do you think you can make a team or something stupid like that), Tebow said these words:
“A lot of people will say, ‘What if you fail? What if you don’t make it?’ Guess what? I don’t have to live with regret. I did everything I could. I pushed it. I would rather be someone that can live with peace and no regret than “what if?” for being scared that I didn’t make it.”
So, the entire idea here should be clear when it comes to what it has to do with Shawn S. Lealosand why it is on my blog.
I am a writer.
That is easy enough to say, but it is also easy to see people who don’t take that very seriously. I am lucky. I have a wife who supports me as a writer and no one else in the world matters. She believes in me and that is good enough for me. Even if she wasn’t completely behind me, I still need to believe in myself. That is what will make me successful.
Learning Life Lessons Thanks to The Boz
The year was 1996 and I was in my first semester at the University of Oklahoma. I chose to sign up to work for the Sooner Yearbook and also took a class that was pretty much a free intern position for the Oklahoma Daily newspaper. With the newspaper, I never felt comfortable, but things clicked with the yearbook, where I became one of their main sports reporters.
One day I was watching an OU football game on television (we split up game day coverage between three of us, and I was off that week). During the game, someone interviewed Brian Bosworth – The Boz. He was in a special section in the south end zone with seats he had purchased and given to kids from a local children’s hospital, inner city kids in need, and kids whose lives were affected by the Murrah Federal Building bombing.
It was a great story.
I went to the Oklahoma Daily newspaper and pitched it. They thought it was a great idea and said they would give the story to one of their “more experienced” reporters. I was deflated but never gave up. I went to the yearbook and pitched it to them. They told me to get on it and it would be one of the year’s feature stories. I called the OU Athletic Office and they gave me Bosworth’s Hollywood agent’s telephone number. I called him and set up an interview. Then, Brian Bosworth called me and I interviewed The Boz.
I was 15 when Brian Bosworth was the best linebacker in the world while playing at OU. He was my freaking hero as a kid and I actually remember keeping a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about the guy. Here I was, my first EVER interview, and it was an interview with my childhood idol. And I nailed it. I also interviewed a nurse at the children’s hospital who had a son who played football until he lost his leg. A kid that Bosworth visited, took to a football game, and helped to make him feel like a million bucks.
I wrote the story for the yearbook and it ended up winning a Story of the Year award for the yearbook.
I went back to the Oklahoma Daily newspaper while I was writing the story for the yearbook. I asked how they were doing on the story and they told me that their “more experienced” writer had not figured out a way to contact Brian Bosworth yet and was waiting to maybe catch him at a football game. I told them I had already interviewed him about it and they asked why. I mentioned that I was writing the story for the yearbook. They told me that I could write it for them too if I wanted to.
So, I did.
It ended up as the cover story in a newspaper called The Red Zone, which was given out free to the over 60,000 people (at that time) that attended OU football games. It won me an honorable mention award for Best Periodical Feature Story at the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists ceremony that year. For a story that The Oklahoma Daily didn’t even want me to write. For my first ever interview – with a childhood idol.
I also wrote a “Where Are They Now” article for the nationally published Inside Sports magazine and got paid for it. My first ever payday for writing. For my first ever interview. That I was told a “more experienced” writer should take on.
Because I never gave up when they told me no.
I wanted to cover the Rolling Stones when they came and played at OU. We were told by the OU ticket office that they would only credential the Oklahoma Daily and that the yearbook was not high enough on their list to give passes to. I called the Rolling Stones publicity office in Chicago and got the yearbook press passes to the concert. Because I wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I ended up winning a ton of awards for my journalism in college, inclouding sweeping the Gold Circle Awards one year for Sport’s Feature Writing, taking first, second, and third place for the nation.
Because I didn’t take no for an answer. Ever.
The Years Roll On and The Story Stays the Same
I am 20 years older now and refusing to listen to people tell me no is harder than it was when I was 26 and roaring to make a difference.
However, I have to keep that attitude.
Credit: The Clipartkid
I have been freelance content writing for the last seven years. Newspapers are a dying breed and there are almost no magazines left for freelance writers to make a living writing for. It is getting harder to write online and three of the biggest cash cows I wrote for have folded in the last few years. I can’t rely on them anymore.
My Stephen King Dollar Babies book didn’t do what I hoped it would and after a year on the market I am only selling a small handful each month. I overestimated how many Stephen King fans wanted a book about King compared to those who just wanted books by King. That is ok. See, one thing I have learned from all the writer’s blogs that I read is that this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. My book will remain for sale and people can discover it later.
However, it is time to really get rolling on my new fiction series. Fallen Star comes out later this year and is the first book in my Steve Samson Chronicles, a contemporary fantasy novel series about a human police detective who lives in a world where superheroes are real and works to help normal people while those with super powers battle in the skies above.
I have faith in my story and I believe it is something worth telling.
There are a lot of doubts in my mind, but those are just nagging voices trying to tell me that people don’t want to hear from me. That is something John Grisham once said – why would anyone care about his stories in bookstores filled with thousands of books. Guess what? People cared what John Grisham had to say. A lot of people cared.
With bookstores dying (there is about to be only one remaining in the Permian Basin area where I live – a Barnes & Noble), that means my book will live among the hundreds of thousands of books on Amazon.com. That is ok. I never took no for an answer when I was writing as a college student and I am not going to take no for an answer from the voices in my head now that I am finally taking on this task of starting a fiction career that I once dreamed of even before I started college at OU.
I Believe I Was Destined to be a Writer
See, I was going to a junior college and studying business back in 1995. I wrote a short story called The Devil’s Playground based on an urban legend from back home in Yukon, Oklahoma. My English teacher said she thought I was a great writer and asked why I was majoring in business. I said people told me to major in business to “get a real job.”
She mentioned that OU had a professional writing program in their journalism college, so I could learn fiction writing while also learning how to make money writing for newspapers, magazines, and more (the Internet then was in its infancy).
So, as you can see, I started at OU with the thoughts of being a fiction novelist. I got distracted by sports journalism, and later by filmmaking, before finally settling into freelance content writing for the Internet and work as a film critic, which I still love doing.
However, everything has revolved back to where it started – my first dream. It is time to be a novelist.
And this year, I will start that process with my first published fiction novel.
It is kind of strange how you can be just moving through life and then something happens that just completely throws everything out of whack, changes everything in one instant, and makes you reevaluate everything – and I mean everything – in your life. That happened in my life on May 15.
On May 14, everything was normal. My wife Johanna was at work, selling shoes at CHAMPS. I took our son Ash to a carnival in the parking lot of the mall and made sure to send Johanna lots of cute pictures of Ash as he was riding rides and enjoying all the carnival games. I had finally started writing for 411mania again and my Alternate Takes columns were starting to take form for the first time since I stopped writing last year to get my Stephen King dollar baby book written and published.
I was getting ready to start the second draft of my new fiction novel Fallen Star and hoped to have it done by the summer.
Things were “normal.”
Johanna had left early Sunday morning for a funeral in Houston. I stayed home with Ash and we went to Best Buy, where I got him a flash drive for his tablet. When we got back home, there was a police car in front of our apartment. The police officer asked if my name was on a white Cobalt, and when I said it was, she asked if I have a young child. When I pointed out Ash to her and she informed me that Johanna had been in a car accident outside a town called Junction, Texas. She got me on the phone with a state trooper who only told me that she was alive but that was all.
I got no further news.
I called the hospital in Junction and found out that she was there. They said she had a punctured lung but they were able to inflate it. They were sending her to San Antonio to a trauma center there because they didn’t have what was necessary to treat her in Junction. They also said her feet were “really messed up.”
I got Ash in our van and started to drive to San Antonio. I had no idea what was happening. Finally, we stopped at a gas station (which ironically, I learned that Johanna had stopped at before her wreck when I looked at our bank statement) and I got hold of the San Antonio hospital. The nurses wouldn’t tell me anything but then the doctor got on the phone and had to tell me because he needed my permission to operate because Johanna was unconscious. He said that she lacerated both ankles. Chance for infection, which could mean amputation. Lacerated elbow and no blood circulation to her hand.
I told them to do anything they needed to help her.
The injuries were worse than I imagined.
Johanna almost tore her heel off of her right foot. It needed a flap and we found out over two months later that she also severed her Achilles’ tendon. She tore a lot of skin off her left leg and had to have a skin graft taken from her thigh to create the flap to cover it. The graft seems to have taken well, but she will need plastic surgery in the future if it is to ever look normal again. She broke her tibula and fibula on that leg as well.
She didn’t just lacerate her elbow – she severed the artery in it and dislocated the elbow, causing three breaks. They fixed the artery and got the blood flowing again. Because of the loss of blood, she has nerve damage in that arm and it only heals at a few millimeters a month. They fixed the break, but the elbow is pretty disfigured right now and also might need plastic surgery to regain a normal look again in the future.
Johanna also had some discoloration in the lobes heading to her brain. No one knows what that means, but what we do know is there was memory loss. She has no memory of leaving for her trip. I slept in her hospital room and was there 24 hours a day for almost a full month, outside of leaving each night once for food in the cafeteria. She was unconscious for four days and didn’t respond to anything. She woke up and was in and out for another week. She was awake normally after that but was weak and tired. I took care of her. I hand fed her. I made sure she had everything she needed while I was there.
When the school season ended, I had to leave to get Ash enrolled in summer camp (which was made free thanks to a grant by the YMCA due to our accident). He had been without me or his mom for a month and that wasn’t good for a six-year-old. Johanna and I decided that it was best for me to return home to take care of him while her mom stayed with her in San Antonio. Here is the kicker – Johanna doesn’t remember me being there at all – feeding her, taking care of her, talking to her. She has no memory of the first month after the accident.
My dad had a brilliant idea of starting a GoFundMe campaign to help us. We got nowhere near what we will need to make it through this, but received more than I could have hoped from friends and family who reached out. I also received money from people directly to help me eat while I was at the hospital and received money both from Johanna’s work and her old sorority in the form of donations. A friend of Johanna’s ran an Avon fundraiser for us and the dollar movie theater in Norman donated a percentage of their weekend snack bar sales to us. We received so much help and it is something we will work to pay back all our lives.
Here we are – 15 surgeries, two months in the hospital and another month in a skilled nursing center later. Johanna is still not back home yet, but I have been home with Ash since June. We are hoping to get her back to Midland by the end of next week or the start of the week after that, but at a rehab center here because she still can’t walk and is only at the start of her rehabilitation stages. We have a long way to go.
Johanna’s boss said maybe I should write a book about this entire ordeal. I like the idea, but in a different way. I don’t think I have it in me to write a non-fiction memoir about this entire incident and don’t think anyone would really want to read it anyway. However, I have been working in my mind on the second book in my now titled Steve Samson Chronicles, of which Fallen Star is the first book in the series, and I think I will implement this incident into the main storyline and that could give me a chance to really purge myself of all the feelings that have built up inside since I almost lost the only woman I love.
But, that means it is time that I reevaluate my writing career. I need to get to the point where I am writing my books, but with all these new medical bills, I am worried I won’t find that time. That is unacceptable. I will have Fallen Star finished and published before the end of this year and I will have the new book underway by the time that NANOWRIMO kicks up again in November. Last year’s NANOWRIMO really pumped up my creative juices.
But this means finding more economical uses of my writing time, finding some better writing clients, and probably stepping out of my comfort zone of entertainment and sports writing and finding clients in more serious topics to make the money I need to afford my time writing novels.
I’ll also have a short story ready to go in the next two months.
When May 14 ended, I was just coasting along. Writing for 411mania again, getting ready to proof Fallen Star, and just doing what I do every day of the week. By May 16, everything in my life was turned upside down and nothing that was important on Saturday mattered anymore. Things are improving and we will have Johanna back home soon. Until then, it is time that I really started working on what I plan to do for the rest of my life.
We moved to Texas. Not just Texas, but West Texas, miles from anything fun and interesting. It wasn’t something we really expected or wanted, but it was because my wife was able to get a promotion at her job by accepting the move. It is supposed to be temporary until something comes open back home, but we are making due.
While she was here settling in, and I was still back home in Oklahoma, I actually finally published my first book – the Stephen King dollar babies book, Dollar Deal. It was a big deal and I had been working on it for a few years now.
Sales have been very slow as it languishes in the midst of hundreds of thousands of other books on Amazon, but it has sold some which means there are people out there who have bought my book. That is a cool feeling, at least. It even has positive reviews on Amazon, which is cool. Nothing yet over at Goodreads, but I am patient.
So, what does 2016 hold for me?
Well, I guess it is time to start talking about New Year’s Resolutions, but I am not big on those anymore. I never follow through with them. I think the problem is that I always make resolutions that I don’t have complete control over. So, lets go with some that I can control.
I started writing a new book last year during NaNoWriMo. It was my second time to enter and my first time to come out of November as a winner. 50,057 words for my next novel, Fallen Star.
See, the slow sales of my non-fiction book about the Stephen King dollar babies made me re-think my non-fiction book about the history of comic book movies. I put a lot of work into the Stephen King book and the comic book movies book would be even more work. So, with the idea of a year’s worth of work maybe delivering the same slow sales, I decided to move back into what I originally loved doing and what I actually wanted to do when I went to college a lifetime ago.
So, Fallen Star is a mystery novel that takes place in a world where superheroes are real. My hero is Steve Samson, a detective who is not a superhero and deals with regular crimes on the streets while the superheroes remain busy with the major threats. I have a plan for a series of books that will, eventually, lead into a trilogy where I actually delve into the heroes that I gradually introduce in this series.
So, I finish this book (I am about four chapters from the end) and then go back and re-write it (because first drafts are almost always crap, and the real writing takes place after the story is laid out on the page). Then, I will write the next one in the series. Get the first one edited and then start the third one. Once I get the first three done, I will start a release schedule and continue writing, working on building my platform and getting my name out there.
That is my first resolution this year. Keep writing, working, and pressing to make my mark.
Get healthier. Yeah, this is a big one, but I am not going to pigeonhole myself with what I am going to do and then beat myself up for failing. I will just say “get healthier” and then do it.
Get my business under control. I have to do a lot of freelance writing right now to make ends meet. My Stephen King dollar babies book didn’t do enough to allow me to focus on my book writing full time. As a result, I will do even more freelance writing and finally start to get things under control financially. Money don’t buy happiness, but a lack of money can do a lot to cause a lot of unhappiness. It’s time to proactively fix things so I can write more for my career than for others.
See more movies. I lost my membership to the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle when they pulled out one of the rules that said me moving to Texas made me ineligible for the group, even though it is only temporary. That cost me the end-of-year screeners, plus there are no press screenings in West Texas. That meant that I missed out on a TON of 2015’s best movies.
It is time I found a way to rectify that situation, one way or the other.
Last year, I also said that I would write more on this blog, and then never did until my Stephen King dollar babies book was out. I don’t want to promise that again this year and not follow through on it. As a result, I won’t say it, but I hope I will.
With that said, it is New Year’s Eve and they say that, what you are doing on New Year’s Eve will define your next year. Well, I was in the middle of writing a huge freelance assignment, so it looks like 2016 will be lots of work for me.
Let’s just hope that its work that will lead to some big things down the line.
The website Through the Black Hole has published both a review of Dollar Deal: The Story of the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers as well as an interview with me about my Dollar Baby film, writing the book, and much more. Check out the Dollar Deal review here and the interview with me here.
Also, don’t miss out on the contest I am running to name the lead character in my new novel series. Prizes include a trade paperback copy of Dollar Deal: The Story of the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers, credit in the first book of my new series, and a free trade paperback copy of that book as well. Find more info about the book series and the contest here.
Now, for some new news.
Dollar Deal: The Story of the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers is now part of the Kindle Unlimited program. That means that anyone who has Kindle Unlimited can read the eBook as part of their subscription for free. It is also available now for Amazon Prime members to check out and borrow. Hopefully, this will bring more new eyes to the book and help increase its visibility on Amazon.
If you are a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can now read my book and have nothing to lose. Also, make sure to leave a review and let everyone know what you think of the book. Good, bad or ugly, all reviews help, with the good helping to recommend the book and the bad helping me become an even better writer over time.
To check out, borrow or buy Dollar Deal: The Story of the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers, just click on the image of the book below.
I mentioned that I had a pair of announcements coming up, but things have stalled a bit on one of them. I was considering an appearance at the Permian Basin Horror Fest last weekend, but chose not to attend after all. Another big announcement is on hold until further notice, but it could be a monster announcement if everything goes right.
Yeah, I know I’m not giving much information there, but there is a good reason for it. Trust me, if this comes to pass, I will be screaming the news from the mountain tops.
Well, here is the second announcement that I was planning on giving. I have chosen to move away from non-fiction novel writing for now, for various reasons, and have begun work on my first fiction novel. I am re-tooling an old mystery novel I was writing for a fiction writing class at OU and have set it up in a new world that I am building to turn this into an actual series.
I have already started to write the book, and I plan to put in the time to finish the first draft in full during NaNoWriMo in November. With that said, I thought it might be fun to have a contest here on my website.
Here is the idea for the world for my novel series: Superheroes are real and my hero is a police detective who works to solve murders that are often overlooked in a world where super villains are more dangerous, but the little people need protected too. The superheroes are really just background color for the series, although they will play into story lines in smaller, amusing ways. A good description would be Lucas Davenport in the world of the Dresden Files (but with super humans instead of mystical characters). I also want to keep the murders based in the human world, so this is not going to go in the direction of Powers, where the police are investigating superhuman crimes.
Here is the contest: I am looking to name my lead character – the detective. I would like to bring the readers into this and see if someone has a perfect name for a police detective in the world of superheroes. The person who comes up with the best name will get a free trade paperback copy of my Stephen King book, Dollar Deal, as well as their name listed in the acknowledgements of the first novel in this new series and a free copy of that first novel when it is published.
Use the comment section below to give your ideas and make sure I have a way to contact you if I choose your name for my new hero.
I’ll be keeping you guys updated as I work through this first novel and look forward to seeing the final result.
On a secondary note, there is a Dollar Baby Film Festival coming up in Minneapolis, Minnesota this month. I won’t be there, and my movie is not showing there, but there are some great ones screening. The event is Crypticon and it takes place on Oct. 23 through Oct. 25. I am sending three books to the organizer, Tony Northrup, to give away at the event.
Movies from filmmakers profiled in Dollar Deal include Doveed Linder (Strawberry Spring) and Warren Ray (Maxwell Edison). The other movies are adaptations of Deliver Glass, Suffer the Little Children, Beachworld, Cain, The Man Who Loved Flowers, Night Surf, and Love Never Dies).
Also, Tony interviewed me recently about Dollar Deal (if you haven’t bought a copy yet, buy it here from Amazon, and remember to leave a review on Amazon after you read it to help me promote my book). The interview, and Tony’s review of my book, will show up on the website Through the Black Hole later this week.