Category Archives: professional life

Why I Write.

…Because I have to.  It’s a compulsion.  And, no, I’m not an obsessive-compulsive personality.  I am driven, yes.  I am passionate.  I am labelled a ‘high achiever’, though, when measured against the achievements others I know and what they accomplish in the same amount of time, I’m a slacker by comparison.

Someone asked me what genres I actually prefer to write.  I had to think about that, because, I love all the stories I write.  I love the characters, I love their stories.  But, when push comes to shove, when it comes to ‘genre’, I love writing science fiction.  As usual, though, I don’t write formula.  The aliens aren’t the bad guys.  Humans aren’t the heros.  There aren’t any bad guys and good guys, no good against evil.  Because that’s not really how reality works.  It’s all about perspectives.

A Gathering of Rebels, a story so big it took 2 books to tell it.

Changes at Amazon Important to Indie Authors

I predicted it last year. (I shared those predictions with another author who’s a close pal …and with my webmasters’ group. Only.)

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It’s happened …when I predicted it would. (Yes, math still works.)

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What does it mean?

It means that indie authors now really have to treat their vocations as a business or get out of the game. It means calculating in overhead, operating expenses, and COGS. It means pricing their books competitively, not giving them away, nor discounting them, except for planned promotional deals that run days, not weeks, months, or years. It means less ability for indie authors (or the trad published, either) to game the system with cooperative ventures. It means a lot more than that, but it’s not prudent for me to publicly share the rest of what I know, calculated, and project …except, of course, with my inner circle.

I Was Naughty Today …and Nice (I Guess) :D

So I have this friend, and this friend’s website, which I threw together under emergency, “has-to-be-live-now” conditions, custom coding it in, quite literally, hours a few years back, NEEDS to be upgraded. …Because it’s going to fail soon. But this friend is very particular, so it’s very hard to get a semi-solid “this is what I envision” from them. I had a couple of “Dawn” ideas, but nothing I “knew” would gather any sort of approval. So I pulled a “sneaky” based on a mere passing mention that was made of another friend’s site, something I knew was built on bad coding, but that I knew I could hand-code myself if need be.

Now here comes the “sneaky/naughty” part:

First I displayed a site laid out much as the one already in place. After a couple of hours of working through this friend’s critique of it on the phone, I switched to a rough I’d coded on another design scheme, and, as I anticipated, this was definitive “no”. So then I pulled up a raw, stripped version of something I thought might be kinda sorta cool–good for cross compatibility (responsive-to-all-devices/mobile-first) yet allowed for a really professional presence that didn’t get ‘old’ to the eye or the brain. And it worked. This one is a go. …At least so far. We’ll see how this all works out after I get done custom coding it all out, then dressing it with content.  My fingers and toes are all crossed.  This is supposed to be a Christmas present for them to be launched with the advent of the new year. Wish me luck.

Start of One of the NF Books I’m Writing

In case you think I’m fooling with you, I thought I’d share the draft first chapter of one of the non-fiction books I’m working on. Here ya go. Tell me what you think over on my DLKeur Writing As page on Facebook.


WORKING TITLE: Writing Your Novel – The Very Best, Easiest, Fastest, Least Frustrating Way to Write Your Novel

I like books that get right to the point, so let’s, shall we?

 

I’m, by nature, a pantser, that is, I like to create organically, writing on inspiration driven by emotion, rather than pre-calculated structures.  I like to let my characters lead the way through the crises presented to or perpetuated by them as churned by the story’s plot engine.  It’s an exciting way to write …if you know what you’re doing and where you are going.  It has surprises, elicits moments of pure genius, and, most of all, is sublimely fulfilling.  There’s a ‘but’, though.

 

Organic novel writing, or pantsing (‘writing by the seat of your pants’), has its problems, namely left turns, right turns, U-turns, and, worst, winding up completely lost.  These problems can leave the writer frustrated and discouraged, their manuscript unfinished and abandoned.  There’s a reason for that, and there’s a way to avoid it.

 

A successful pantser, just like a plotter—a writer who calculates what happens next in a story based on their detailed outline and story mapping/plot mapping—should know a few things before plunging into the writing, namely:

  • what their story is and what that story is about (two different things, though related),
  • who the story is about, and
  • where the story is going and will wind up (terminate).

 

You also should know the main conflict and pretty well understand how the plot will flow (the overall plot mechanism to be utilized).   Most importantly, though, you must know your ending …usually. (Don’t you just love exceptions? We’re going to proceed without discussing those exceptions, though, because they so very rarely apply to such a very few writers.)

 

Further, you really should know your main character(s), their vulnerabilities and strengths.

 

What you don’t have to know is the how of where the story is going to go next and next and next as you write it through, not unless you’re a died-in-the-wool plotter.  If you are a plotter, then, yes, you will need to know exactly or all but exactly where your story and its plot are going next and next and next through every moment of every scene.

 

My main complaint about plotting is that there’s absolutely no excitement or real joy in writing a novel via the plotting method.  It’s pure labor.  Once you’ve dryly outlined the whole of it, it’s a matter of padding it out so it holds reader interest.  My brain goes cold and my eyes dry up doing that, so that method is absolutely not something I advocate for anyone who isn’t writing pot boilers for minimum wage income.  And nothing really genius usually happens unless the character really takes it off script—those extreme left, right, or even U turns organic novelists regularly can experience, twists and turns that often lead to surprising, even brilliant results, but sometimes lead to complete disaster.  Nice thing about disasters is that, as the creator, you can go back to the fork in the road that leads to it and try again, over and over, taking yet another pathway until you find the one that’s perfect.  Of course, that means that writing without plotting can take regrettably longer to complete.

 

Disasters like this rarely happen to me, and there’s a very good reason.  It’s called ‘know your story’.

 

For those of you who read my How to Write a Good Book in 17 Days, you’ve already seen a crash course that employs this technique.  In this book, though, I’m going to elaborate on the process and start from inception and conception, then walk you through execution.  Let’s begin.

 

Every Story has a Beginning that is the Result of a Previous Ending

Every story has a beginning, but that beginning is actually the result of an ending.  You’ll often see me end a novel or short story with ‘The Beginning’ instead of ‘The End’.  There’s a reason for that.  Because the story’s culmination is actually the beginning of the next story.  This is true of every cherished novel I’ve ever read, be it something by Mark Twain, Conrad Richter, Ursula Le Guinn, Kim Stanley Robinson, Greg Bear, Charles Todd, Prestin and Child, or any of the other many authors I enjoy reading, a list way too long to present unless you’re the kind of person who enjoys reading through the begats in the Bible’s Old Testament.  If you check your own list of favorite novels and novelists, though, I think you, too, will find the same to be true of your favorite author’s novels.

 

The end of one novel can beget a new unwritten novel’s beginning.  And therein lies a clue to effectively starting your novel….

END EXCERPT

The Trans-Dimensional Shift Machine Let Loose

8 Months Research, a Breakthrough, So It’s Build Time

Inside The Dimensional Shift Machine, strip

Back in January, 2016, I quit publishing.  I had book #3 of the Country James series ready to throw to my editor and was pounding out the final manuscript of E. J.’s Come-Back Road, the second book of a planned three book series covering the life of one Dr. Warren Jeffries, DVM that started with Old Hickory Lane. I quit because I got a good solid look at the piracy numbers of just one of my titles.  Then, I got the rest of the numbers, too.  

Throughout 2016 and 2017, I published nothing.  And I was pretty darned sure that I would never publish another novel, not until piracy could be defeated (Ha! Dream on. Did a year of research on that and found no good solution.) Then I met author Laura Belgrave, mystery/crime author of the Claudia Hershey Mystery series.  Like a drip of water that slowly wears away stone, Laura got my rock hard petulance worn down bit by bit.  It took her until January of this year.  Then, once again, I began to research.

I’ve got a very interesting brain.  It works at its own pace, and, usually, that pace is quite fast.  Not this time.  I kept shoving data in, but got back …silence.  I shoveled in more data.  Then more again.  Still silence.  Eight solid months inputting more and more data; eight solid months of dead silence.  …Until last week, when, like gears finally starting to move once the penetrating oil does its job or like one of those strange flowers that takes months to form, then bursts open into full bloom all at once, the whole evaluation and conclusion precipitated from subliminal simmering into fully served answer.

So I tried it.

And it worked.

Now, I’m scurrying about, pulling out projects I built, then mothballed as unworkable, and all the pieces are hanging together quite nicely.

I’ll keep you posted on progress as I work through all the various branches of the project’s build. See you on the other side.Inside The Dimensional Shift Machine, DLKeur 2016 web

 

Site Updates and Upgrades in Progress

Yeah. I know. It’s about time, huh! So, I’m working on EJRuek.com and CountryJames.com, then it will be DLKeur.com right after. Then, I’ll see about revitalizing Aeros’ site. Meanwhile, I did release another E. J. Ruek book. I just never got around to posting it up here on this, my main website. It’s titled Slightly Disturbing Stories and those folks who’ve read it seem to really, really like it.



How to Write a Good Book in 17 Days

Way back before I set a moratorium on publishing my novels because of piracy, I set out to write at least two books a year. And did it. In fact, all three of my Montana Love Story novels were written in a month and under, with the second and still unpublished third book drafted in seventeen days and sixteen days, respectively. It was something which I hadn’t thought myself capable, that is to write a good book — one of my books — in shorter than a year. I proved to myself that I could …only to quit publishing in a fit of temper about all my books having been pirated, even those exclusive to Amazon.

Now, a full two years plus since my last novel’s release, an author friend’s needs prompted me to put my process down in an orderly, organized guide. Here it is:

Pondering Why I Write

I had an interesting discussion last night that made me think about the books I’ve written, the published and those sitting in files, real and virtual. An author friend, Laura Belgrave, whose website I manage, admitted that, yes, her books matter to her. I admired that when she said it.

I’m not sure why, but, for me, while the books I’ve written and published delight me when I happen to reread them, I don’t place them as ‘important’ in things I actively care about most: my husband, the animals I care for, the land and trees, friends, my husband’s musical compositions and his instruments, my brain, body, knowledge and skills, maintaining my father’s house, my own musical instruments….

The books I’ve written? They’re just things I’ve done and released into the world. So, too, when it comes to my artwork, and my musical performances.

Laura’s caring about her creative works in contrast to my own curious attitude about my creative outputs gives me pause to wonder at myself. It especially makes me wonder why I write.

I do feel quite happy, even proud, of the books I’ve self-published (not, though, the ones previously published by others). In my opinion, my books — the ones I’ve authored without interference from money men — are very good, despite errors missed in editing, some due to Microsoft Word’s auto word-replace penchant, errors that I should, but don’t, make the time and effort to go back and fix. They’re great stories, written with passion and skill. So why, I wonder, don’t I place them high on my ‘most valued’ list?

I’m not sure of the answer to that question, but I think it might be something of the zentaoist in me. Those books, though brought into existence by my hand, exist completely independently of me, their author. They are, in essence, each their own entity once created. I own copyright, but they are not me, nor I, them. I certainly delight when someone enjoys them, but not because I wrote them. Rather, it is a delight in someone appreciating them, the books themselves, and the animals, aliens, and people, that live within their pages.

And, now, I think I’ve touched on something pertinent: I write to bring the characters within to life, so you, too, can meet, greet, and appreciate them, whether they’re people, animals, the land and its lore, or aliens from other worlds and cosmoi.

Professional Self-Publisher vs Professional Author, the Bottom Line

I just read an article about professional self-publishing authors versus hobbyists. I thought it was reasonably presented, well-written, succinct, and to the point. There were a couple of things, though, that niggled at me, mostly because my brain is always adding in the qualifiers, quantifiers, and outliers — the means and the extremes. First, though, a short synopsis:

The author, Peter Mulraney, first defines professional versus hobbyist quite nicely. There can be no argument from the tax authority, which is where the distinction is most critical, much as many a self-published author will dodge that comprehension until after they’ve gotten themselves stuck in some auditing mire.

From there, we get a quick summary of product-based business basics:

  1. the business plan
  2. the product and its marketing
  3. diversification
  4. record-keeping
  5. self-discipline

And, of course, this is where my brain releases devils within details, the first and foremost being that, in order to do #1 on the list, you have to have previously mastered #5, no small feat for many. Heck, for the majority, it’s tough to even muster enough self-discipline to get up in the morning in time to shower, dress, and head out for the day job with enough time to spare that some unforeseen delay like a train at a railroad crossing doesn’t send them into a frothing frenzy because they’re going to wind up fifteen minutes late for the job …again. Hence, you see that frenetic driver, their body leaned forward in urgency as they weave in and out of traffic to then cross three lanes in a dive for their exit, tires smoking as they round the last corner to scream into the employee parking lot.

Luckily, Peter lays out a nice road map, though, defining a business plan as “setting measurable goals.” He then gives a tidy example:

  • writing and publishing a book every year – that means scheduling time to write
  • building a body of work within a defined timeframe, for example, ten books in five years – that means committing to the long term view
  • setting sales targets, for example, selling 10,000 or 100,000 copies – that means scheduling time for marketing

Let’s take a look at those, shall we? Write and publish a book a year, and — very important this — scheduling the time to write that book. Okay. Do-able. …For some.

But, wait. Check out bullet point number two: Build a body of work within a defined timeframe — ten books in five years.

[Sputter.] That’s two books a year, something even big-name, trad pubbed authors often sweat to accomplish …and they (supposedly) have editors and agents to help them along in meeting that goal.

But there’s help once you’ve got number one out the door. It’s NaNoWriMo!

Voilà! That should get you book number two for the year.

Okay. Onto the second part of bullet point number two: committing to the long-term view.  Now, I ask: How many folks can you name, including yourself, who can make a monthly plan and stick to it?

How about just a weekly plan?

A day plan?

Okay. Let’s lower the bar: How about just making and fulfilling a monthly shopping list of everything needed in your household for the month, vowing to never venture out to the store again until thirty days hence? …How about just a week’s worth?

I’m sorry, but most everyone I know these days, save myself and Bill next door, can’t even manage a full day! And you think a five-year plan is going to be a functional reality? Do you remember that research paper you had to turn in by the end of the month in high school? How did that work out? That book you were assigned to read and give a book report on? That chapter of reading for History class?

If the honest answer is, “Great! No problem. Always got my goals and assignments done” or, even, “Usually got my goals and assignments done,” then, yes, do give long-term goal-setting the go. If not, practice completing short-term goals, increasing the length of time for each practice goal by twice every time you succeed. Once you have managed to succeed at setting and accomplishing a yearly goal, then, okay, give longer-term planning a try.

And now we come to bullet-point number three: “setting sales targets.”

In a word, don’t. Not even if you’re a best-selling, trad pubbed author with an awesome advance release team and publicist, plus an in on Oprah …unless,of course, you’re the mob boss in some mafia, syndicate, or cabal with enough influence that will guarantee the numbers you set yourself, by hook or by crook.

As to some of the details Peter mentions, I’m only going to address this one, because it’s to-the-point and on-target:

“Being in business means being flexible with what you write and publish. There is no point in persisting with a product line that does not sell.”

Bingo!

And here’s the translation: If the books you’re passionate about writing don’t sell, are you willing and able to write what does? Because that’s the difference between being a professional self-publisher and being a writer. The bottom line drives the former; passion, the latter. I count as the latter, which, because I do make a profit, because it’s work, not a hobby, makes me, not a professional self-publisher, but a professional author who now just happens to choose to self-publish rather than go back with the trads.