Category Archives: Choose Yourself

Cover for my next book–Irving Williams and the Mystery of the Lighthouse Ghost

 

My newest book Irving Williams and the Lighthouse Ghost is coming soon.  

Here is the cover.

I got the cover from a designer I found on Designcrowd.com.  It was the first time that I used Designcrowd, here designers send you the designs first and then you select the winning design.  You can even purchase several designs, if you have the budget.  There were a couple of other designs that I liked, and I wanted to reward the designers for working on the designs.

I posted what I thought I wanted.  But this designer read between the lines and came up with something I never would have thought of.  My wife said that it looks like a classic children’s story.  So, it won the contest.

The book will be ready soon for prerelease.

The many things to learn from Neil Gaimen–Ideas for writers and other artists.

I published my first book in 2013.  It was a children’s picture book.  

At that time I thought I would keep writing picture books.  I felt out of sorts when my second book was not a picture book.

But then I learned about Neil Gaiman.

He does everything.

neilgaiman1

I knew that he had written Coraline.  I had read the book and seen the movie and liked it a lot.


Then I saw him appear on Youtube with a wonderful commencement speech.

And an amazing speech at Bookfest in 2013.

Then, I read American Gods.


Wait?  The guy that wrote Coraline is the same guy that wrote American Gods?

How is that possible?

Then it seems he writes many other things.

He takes the time to write short stories.

 

Hold the phone–

He began his career writing comic books.

 

And before that he was a journalist.

And it was as a journalists that he learned to write fast and under a deadline.

What I did was work as a journalist. It forced me to write, to write in quantity, to write to deadline. It forced me to get better than I was, very fast.

Oh, and P.S. he didn’t go to college.

HE. DIDN’T. GO. TO. COLLEGE.

And yet he has an honorary Doctorate.

Oh, and now he does audiobooks.

Yes, his books aren’t made into audiobooks.

But not only that….He narrates them.

Seriously,.

And he does pictures books

Now he’s just showing off.

My favorite book of his is, Fortunately the Milk.

Just wonderful.  I remember reading it and thinking “Man, this is the book I wanted to write.

(Seriously I can’t recommend this book enough.  Just pure joy from start to finish.)

Here’s what I learned from reading his books and reading about his career.

  1. Write many different things.

  2. Learn to write fast.

  3. Be creative in different domains

  4. Enjoy the process of writing.

I’ll leave you with his eight rules of writing.  Very beneficial for anyone trying to write.

  1. Write
  2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
  3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
  4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
  5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
  6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
  7. Laugh at your own jokes.
  8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

Check out my post about Neil and the need to market like a dandelion.

Also check out my latest book:

 

The Idea for lesson plans with the new book.

I have a new book available for preorder.  The Return of the Professor, The Dolbin School 3.

The Return of the Professor Kindle Cover 1

But I am also offering lesson plans/activities to go with it, and the other two books in the Dolbin School Series.

Knowing my readers

I don’t know why more writers don’t do  this.  Especially if you write for children.  When books are taught in class, teachers need to take the time to come up with plans for the books they use.  I am a teacher.  I want teachers to use my books.

When visiting Potomac Elementary School, I spoke with the librarian and she told me that she appreciated Dolbin School for the Extraordinary for the short chapters.  Suddenly it dawned on me that teachers were using my books.

I also know that parents of older kids are reading the series, so with these activities parents can also have some value with with the books.

How many times have you had your child read a book and then be done with it?  I hope with these activities I hope parents will be given ideas of what to do with other books their children read.

Trying something new

With the release of this new books I have taken over a year to get the book the out.  Which is a mistake and another post in among itself.  So I wanted to do something different for it.

I have no idea if this make any difference in sales. But part of indie-publishing is trying something new and experimenting.

But I also know who a lot of my readers are, and I know what they need.  And I know they need activities and lesson plans.

So here’s how get the plans for the new book.

  1. Buy the book.
  2. Forward your receipt to thereturnoftheprofessor@gmail.com

An email will be sent immediately to you with a link for the plans.

P.S.

I also have lesson plans for my Kevin series.  If you join my Insider’s List you get them for free.  They were written by  a teacher friend Nikki Sabistion over at Teaching in Progress.

 

Let’s say this again. You don’t need to pay anyone to publish!

Again.  In 2016, you don’t pay people to publish you.

self-publishing

You publish you.

I have had several conversation recently about this.

These are my steps:

  1. Write book.
  2. Hire cover designer.
  3. Hire editor.
  4. Publish on Amazon and iTunes.

No where in there do I need to pay someone thousands of dollars to get my work out.

If you see AuthorSolutions, iUniverse, Tate Publishing, just ignore them.  Please, I’m begging you.

Don’t believe me.  See these great posts from David Gaughran:

Author’s Guild ends relationship with Author Solutions.

The connections of Author Solutions with Barnes and Noble

Penguin helps exploit writers

In 2016 put your time and money into making a great book.  Your money goes to cover design, editing, and formatting.  NOT PUBLISHING.

Remember, YOU publish YOU.

 

Visiting an elementary school as a visiting author and Idea-Mating to come up with more ideas.

I was invited to visit and share my writing at Potomac elementary in November.  Thank you to Beverly Blue for the invite.  I also got to share the day with AJ Cosmo and Verlyn Tariton.)

There I am at the top giving lessons in the gym. Thanks again to Potomac Elementary.

There I am at the top giving lessons in the gym. Thanks again to Potomac Elementary.

I met with students from Kindergarten to 6th grade.  I met with seven different groups.  If that’s sounds intimidating, just remember teachers do that everyday.

Everyday.

Instead of me just reading from Kevin and the Seven Lions, although I did that, I talked mostly about generating ideas for writing.

I shared a lesson that I do in my classes at the start of every year.  First, one side of the paper you write all the different things you love.  Be it football, baseball, ponies, pizza, cars, Disney, doesn’t matter just put it down.  Now you have a list of things things you can write about about.

But we’re not done yet.

On the other side of the paper write down things you hate, or don’t like.  The loathe side of the list.  Homework, brussel sprouts, tests, whatever, put it down.  Now you have more things you can write about.

This what I call my Love it-Loathe it List.  All of my students have one at the beginning of their writing journals.

Now we take it a step further.  Take one thing from the love side of the paper and one from the loathe side of the paper and combine them.  Pizza and brussel sprouts, Football and spiders, now all of a sudden you have a third or more things to write about.

Idea mating, two ideas coming together and making more ideas.

With the sixth grade group we came up with football playing turtles.  (For some reason, someone hated turtles.  Turtles.)  We discussed that with turtles you combine turtles, ninjas, mutants, and your teenage years, and suddenly you have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Idea mating at it’s finest.

I taught the kids there should never be a day when you say I have nothing to write.

Never. Ever.

I don’t allow it my class.  When it happens I refer my students back to the Love-Loathe it list.

There is always something to write about.

Everyday.

(For more ideas on creating ideas.  Check out Claudia Azula-Altucher’s book Becoming an Idea Machine.  See my review of that book here.)

 

 

Getting Ready for my first school visit

Next week I am visiting Potomac Elementary School in Northern Virginia.  I got this picture below.  I will be also be visiting the school with AJ Cosmo as well.

I am looking forward to not only meeting the students, but also meeting teachers.  Having teachers support your work is amazing and as I have mentioned in the past a great way to develop an audience.  When teachers and librarians recommend books, they recommend them to dozens if not hundreds of students over time.

If you write children’s books, get yourself into the school libraries.

I am blessed to have this opportunity, I am looking forward to it!

Seriously, never in a million years would I have thought this would happen.

Seriously, never in a million years would I have thought this would happen.

Facebook Memories and beginning of this strange thing I do.

According to Facebook I first shared to the world about my first book Kevin and the Seven Lions on October 30, 2012.

Kevin and the Seven Lions Memory

It was also announced that Disney had bought Star Wars and that there would finally be an Episode 7.  (Which is now only a few weeks away.)

Episode 7 30 rock

In those three years, I have met many  new people because of the books.

  • I have interviewed several people, including AJ Cosmo.
  • I have read my book to an entire school on the morning announcement.
  • I have sold autograph paperback copies.
  • Claudia Altucher, All Street Journal best-selling author of Become an Idea Machine, has sent people my way who needed help in creating their own children’s book.
  • I have been, (ever so briefly) high enough on best-seller lists to be within reach of Harry Potter.
  • I have meet Steven Smith another best-selling writer in the area.
  • My current principal has asked to meet with me to help with ideas on a book idea he has.
  • And there are many  other things to list.

I write this list for two reasons, one to remind myself what has happened, and two to show what is possible when you begin something new.  Writing books and telling stories is more than just book sales, although those do matter, there are numerous unexpected ways that creation will effect you and those around you.

Begin writing.  Trust me.

An eight year old publishes a book-Interview with Max and Martin Weiss

I admit it. I am jealous.

Max Weiss is 8 years.

Max Weiss

And Max has published a book- The Baseball King.

I was 39 when I first published.  Ugh, Max is so far ahead of the curve.

Okay, jealousy aside.

Max does want to be a pro baseball player when he grows up.  Good for him.

Max is an entrepreneur as well.  He sold an early version of the book to his neighbors.

I learned about Max through is father, Martin Weiss (Wow, what a great name!)

Martin shared his story in a Facebook group Choose Yourself, so I HAD to learn more.

Max and Marty were nice enough to answer some questions for me.

(Seriously read this.  There is a lot to learn and admire here.)

  1. Max, how long have you been playing baseball? As long as I can remember. It’s been something like 4 years since I’ve been playing. I started with t-ball. I hope to play for the Boston Red Sox when I grow up. I will play first base or shortstop. Right now I play all positions, but the ones I’m really good at are shortstop, first base and pitcher.
  2. Max, what prompted you to go out and sell one-page copies of the book to your neighbors? One day I was bored and I was thinking about baseball so I though how about I write a book. So I wrote a story and I sold some copies to the neighbors for one dollar. It was good so I thought I should charge money for it. My dad told me now to go back those neighbors and give them the new hard cover book for free.
  3. Is there another book on the way? Maybe there might be a lot of books that I might write soon. Who knows? If I did, I’d write about basketball. When I grow up I might write more books. But I might not be an author if I’m a baseball player. I’m thinking about starting a YouTube channel about different games before I write another book. My other idea is to start a charity for kids who want baseball equipment but don’t have enough money to get it.
  4. Marty, being a member of the Choose Yourself group on Facebook, how long have you been reading James Altucher’s work? I’ve been reading James Altucher’s work since about 2011. A friend of mine, Patrick, first introduced me to him. He had sent me an email saying that I had reminded him of Altucher (albeit he was sure to mention that I was a taller version). I first really became intrigued with Altucher related to his supposed interest in a particular stock at the time that I was following. I slowly became more and more interested in his writings. I do remember the one thing that seemed to really intrigue me about him was his honesty. I remember thinking about how he says things that others would be too afraid to write, yet they are things that perhaps many of us had actually pondered ourselves.
  5. Tell the story again of how you got the Carlton Fisk quote. As the book project continued, I kept coming up with many more ideas. One that I thought that would be really great was to get a current or former Major League Baseball player to write a blurb for the book. I originally asked Max to offer up some names of players. We initially sent out a couple letters to current players (and I believe perhaps even my child-hood, favorite Wade Boggs). Given that I knew sometimes it could take months to get a response from players, I thought it might be best we looked at retired players. It also dawned upon me too that a retired player is more likely to cross generations, which I thought would be great for the book. Max and I agreed upon Carlton Fisk. He certainly knew he was through a Red Sox event we attended locally (Winter Weekend at Foxwoods), and of course Fisk’s iconic World Series home run. I discovered Fisk is an honorary board member of the Cancer Support center. I had then simply sent the appropriate draft copies, along with our request, and a nominal check made out to the Cancer Support Center. Most importantly I was very clear and sincere in my personal note that I expected him to keep the charitable contribution regardless. I thought for example, that this wasn’t necessarily as simple as asking for an autograph and could understand a number of reasons as to why he might not agree to a blurb. Ultimately, Max and I were so ecstatic to receive our request back from Fisk upon which he had written a note on our sample cover print out, which read: “Go for it Max. Good luck,” which he had signed.
  6. With your son writing the book, you formatting and uploading the book, and your mother this seems to be a family affair. Are there other entrepreneurial projects involving the whole family? The key thing about this project was being able to show to Max the relationship between ideas and execution. I was proud even with his initial execution, and wanted to further demonstrate the tools and resources, which are so easily available today to make things happen. While it still requires hard work, many resources have been democratized, and so much is possible or at least a lot more accessible than a decade ago. Beyond the initial entrepreneurial spirit he demonstrated, it was certainly the thought of Max’s grandmother (my mom), having the skills to draw the illustrations, which led me to the conversation with Max around taking this book idea even further. I really liked the idea, that this was a family affair. While not given credit in the book, Max’s aunt (my sister) helped with the editing. She’s a wonderful teacher, and really enjoys what she does. Aside from the experience for Max, it’s been a lot of fun for me as well. Having an excuse for example for putting up a Web site (www.TheBaseballKing.com). And yes there are other entrepreneurial projects. Specifically we sell a few products on Amazon.com. This is a lot of fun as well. Particularly as my wife enjoys testing the products, and the boys help me out with things like packaging and sticking labels on products to be sent to Amazon for fulfillment. There of course have been those one off projects. One baseball season for example, I involved my kids in a video project in which we created fun to watch team videos, slightly customized for each child.
  7. What else should people know about the project? I think my mom is confused as to the “seriousness” of it. At first, I’m not sure she understood how far we planned on taking this. Yet at the same time, I believe she probably thinks today it’s a lot more serious that it actually is. I really didn’t want to stress her out in having to do so many illustrations; particularly knowing she doesn’t do this kind of art (oil paintings and realistic portraits is more her forte). My vision was simply some black and white drawings taking inspiration form Shel Silverstein’s books. I had told my mom, she could just draw stick figures. Given what we’ve done with the book today, my mom wishes for example she had used charcoal paper and not just plain typing paper to do the illustrations, and of course is critical of her own work and insists she would have done a better job. I love the illustrations, and also like the “rawness” of the illustrations in that they appear to be hand-drawn in the book. The other interesting aspect to the book was the editing process. It was important to keep Max’s original story intact as much as possible. Heck, I have several books myself published by major publishers, and the editing done on Max’s book is minuscule relative to what the editors had done to my books! For Max it was mostly punctuation, capitalization and spelling. There are aspects of the story we questioned internally, but never mentioned to Max. In fact, we even rationalized some of these things in our head as if the author had purpose. For example, when the boys are playing ball, we found it odd that Max chose the Yankees (He’s a HUGE Red Sox fan!). But interestingly the boy who chose the Red Sox is the one to go on and become the baseball king … and of course why would he have a Yankee become the hero? That raised another thought as well though. We found it interesting and perhaps selfless, that Max’s friend Ryan is that character, and not Max himself. Rather, he takes the backseat. In another example, we thought about having him add to the story of who won the game when he tells the score of the children. Again, we had to step back, and we thought, let it be. Perhaps the beauty here is as the two young boys playing together, it wasn’t really relevant who won. I am afraid that years later, Max will ding me for the one change I made, in which he may later express his mad reasoning … Max at the end of the story is the opposing team’s catcher. In his original story, he was the umpire. Aside from making some nuances with the illustrations come together, I felt there was a conflict of interest of having Max be the umpire for his friend, Ryan in the World Series.

 

There is so much to learn from this interview.  So thank you guys  for taking the time to answer my questions.

Oh and Max, yes, you can be a baseball player an author.  Derek Jeter released his first book, the same week I released a baseball book.  (Guess who did better in the rankings.)

So you can do both.

Oh, and you can help kids that don’t have enough money for baseball equipement.

Glad to know know kids like you exist Max.

 

So go ahead and check out the book’s website.

Also Martin Weiss is a pretty accomplished fellow as well.  He write computer/IT books.  Check out his Amazon page.

Here is info on Max and his grandmother.

 

When teachers write lesson plans on your books

One of the themes I have found myself writing about is that teachers should be writing books.

Fiction books, non-fiction, or both.  It doesn’t matter.  Write books.

Teachers that I have talked with get stuck in various steps of the process, from “I don’t have an idea!” to “I am working on it” with nothing to show for it.

But this week I am experiencing one of the benefits of having published several books.  A friend of mine does very in Teachers pay Teachers and she is doing a free giveaway of lessons based on the Kevin book series.

Kevin Books TPT giveaway

Click the picture to get the giveaway that Nikki created.

When teachers write lessons plans based on your work, that’s a milestone.  To me it’s a big one.

As a teacher you spend most of your working hours writing lessons based on other people’s work.   Having someone else write lessons based on your work is an experience that I want my readers, you, to experience.

In a time when teachers are under attack from politicians, and the media writing your own books is a step toward choosing yourself and getting yourself out from underneath that pressure that hopefully someone in a position above will finally appreciate you for all the work you do.

Even if you don’t make enough to leave your job being introduced to your students as an author is worth it.  Trust me on this.

If you need any help with any step along the way in creating your book please contact me on my Indie Book Design page.  I think sometimes just having someone to connect with can help.

If you’re an elementary school teacher check out Nikki’s blog and her Teacher Pay Teacher’s store.

Check out my original posts about why teachers should write books.

Teachers Should Write More Books.

Another Reason Teachers Should Write Books

Four Reasons Teachers Should Write Books

The Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth – Not your father’s financial advice

(Quick update. Go here to get a limited time offer hardback of the book, plus some other goodies.)

(Update 2. The book is now available on Kindle and in paperback.)

James Altucher has self-published and traditionally published several books.  His last self-published book, Choose Yourself, has sold over 200,000 copies since it came out in 2013.  He has made and lost millions and then made it back.

He has a follow up to that book, The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, which will be available on March 1.  I was lucky enough to get an early copy.

Choose yourself Guide to Wealth cover

 

In 2015 things have changed and are changing.  You just know things are different.  You can’t quite put your finger on it, but advice for your career and finances aren’t working anymore.

James wrote about the changes in his 2013 book Choose Yourself.  Which really was a book on health.  Not just make a lot of money, but be healthy in all aspects of your life.

Here James has put together a blueprint, a handbook, to help us navigate the new financial quagmire we too often have found ourselves in this century,  As James says in the book “This is not a self help book.  It’s just exactly what I did for myself.”

If you are looking for save a 1000 bucks, pay down your smallest credit card first, go to college because it makes you more money, then please stop reading.  This book will only make you furious.  And then you will hate me.  So please stop reading.

But if you need new ideas, then please keep reading.

Okay.

Still with me?

A little background

I first discovered James’ writing around 2012.  I was doing a search on “do I pay down my mortgage or save?” and I came across a blog post about why you should never buy a house.  Ever.  Is that advice you normally get?

So I read some more.

And I discovered that James was writing about other ideas.  And ideas that I agreed with, but no one else wrote about.

Such as having one job to make money is not safe.  In is in fact, the opposite of safe.  That I completely agreed with.

I was also beginning to put my first book Kevin and the Seven Lions together.  And James is a big proponent of self-publishing.  He shared his experience of publishing the traditional way, and the new way.  He advocates for self-publishing big time.  So I was on board with his writing ever since.

So he was writing about two ideas that no one else, I could find at the time, would ever have the courage to write about.

In terms of jobs, I have been employed full-time as a videographer, a minister, in retail, and as a teacher.  I have also run a freelance business on the side, and over the last couple of years I have published children’s books.  My wife has said I have ADD.  But in spite of being teased, my experience has taught me that being able to do many different things is a valuable skill.  And now in my early 40s it is beginning to pay dividends for me.

In terms of publishing, my books have brought not just a few extra dollars in, but they have brought in other opportunities to work with other people.  I have been doing several things at once.

That is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what is taught by schools, colleges, and parents.  “What is your major?”  “What do you want to do when you grow up?” “You need to settle down?”

It would be great to settle down.  But what happens when your boss fires you because he can’t make payroll?  Or because the company was bought and now you are considered redundant?  Or simply because your boss doesn’t like you.  BAM!  You’re outta there.

Then what?

Well you need to reinvent yourself.  Or to borrow James’ phrase Choose Yourself.

At the beginning of the book James uses graphs and stats to show the financial trend that is affecting all of us.  That feeling of unease is explained in his graphs showing just how flat wages are for the middle and lower class.  And it hasn’t just been occurring since 2008.  It’s been going on my whole life time, and probably yours.

College, housing, and healthcare have also done nothing but gone up faster than inflation over the last several decades.

Your income.  Not so much.

(And you teachers that read this blog know EXACTLY what I am talking about.)

James lays all of the facts out in the beginning of the book.

And here is what he recommends to get out.

Ideas are the most valuable currency of our time.

This is simply the thrust of the entire book.  He calls it becoming an idea machine.  His chapter alone on the Idea Matrix is enough to recommend buying book.  He has written before about the Idea Matrix, but here he gives more details on how ideas turn into wealth.

 

This idea alone is worth the purchase.

This idea alone is worth the purchase.

And how do you work your way up the Idea Matrix?  Write down 10 ideas a day.  Everyday.

Using Mark Zukerberg as an example, James explains how ideas are more valuable than cash.  Yahoo wanted to buy Facebook early on.  Mark would have gotten $250 million.  He said no.

Not all ideas bring in cash, but they do bring experiences and opportunities.  James got to see the inside of Amazon’s self-publishing set-up when he sent Amazon ten ideas.  He wasn’t paid, but he got to meet new people and plant seeds for future opportunities.

And writing down ideas has worked for me.  James sharing his book with me, and you reading this post, happened because I have been working on becoming on my own Idea Muscle over the last several years.  This blog post is the direct result of working my way up the Idea Matrix.

P.S. His wife wrote a whole book about the process of becoming an idea machine.  Check out my review of it.

The rest of the journey

James really delves deep into details on:

  • How to negotiate (I really learned from the section.  Always have a longer list than the other person.)
  • How to build a company
  • How to be a super connector (Interviewing people on a blog, which I have done here is one way to be a super-connector)
  • Look for trends when investing (surprisingly he doesn’t mention self-publishing here)
  • What to do with your money once you actually have some.  (His advice is very different from, well, every other financial writer.)

But I got the most out of the stories.

There is a lot in this book.  And too much to comment on here.  This post is now over a 1000 words.  But here are some of the stories I got a lot out of.

Richard Branson started Virgin Air when his flight was canceled by leasing a plane on the Virgin Islands, and then to help with the costs stood in the airport with a sign that read “Puerto Rico $39”.

Brokers will lend out shares you own, to other investors so they can short them.

Warren Buffett is really more of trends investor. And that early on he made money by the fees he made from other people’s money.  He didn’t just invest his own money, as it is often portrayed.

Gene Wolfe invented the Pringles can and then writes one page a day and got so good at writing he won awards.  (I also wrote about the idea of one page a day.  Just 150 words a day and your life changes.)

Marni Kyrnis creates a Craiglist ad to be your wing woman at the bar.  And starts a new career.

That Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, asked the agent who wanted to represent him who else they represented, and they got quiet and then responded “Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes”.

It is the stories that really show what James is talking about.  Despite his skill at finances, he is actually a skilled story teller.  (He needs to publish a fiction book sometime.  Seriously, though check him out on Wattpad.)

Things are changing

To thrive emotionally, career-wise, and financially in the 21st century you must NOT think like the 20th century.  A corporation or job will not choose you and protect you.  30 years and a gold watch are done.  Those days are over.

And that is a good thing.

We can get through this by choosing ourselves first, and then helping each other.  This isn’t a selfish me only, way of thinking.  This is I am healthy, and now I can help you way of thinking.

Pick this blue-print up when it is available in March.  I will also update this post with a link to the book.

In the meantime you can pick up Choose Yourself and Become an Idea Machine now on Amazon.

     

 

Here is my original review of Choose Yourself.