Category Archives: Indie Writing

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:

 

Hangout with AJ Cosmo June 2016-Report Cards, Poop, and Jar Jar Binks

It’s been awhile but AJ Cosmo and I were able to catch up again.

TL:DR

We cover these topics:

  • Writing groups are great ways to keep you FROM writing.
  • AJ’s next book is called Hugs and was written for a mom who is reader of AJs.
  • His next middle grade book is called “Poop”–he’ll get on a banned book list and then that will be the end of that.  He’ll be super famous rich.  (The book is actually about health.)
  • I learned from most recent book The Return of the Professor that new books really do help increase sales.
  • Also that I should have added pronunciation guide for Dolbin School.  It’s pronounced DOLE-bin (long o sound.)  I stole the name from Dolby Labs.  When writing the original book in 2013, I needed a name for the school and I have movie posters in my office and I saw the Dolby Labs logo and I adapted name.
  • Writing books for me has become enough to consider it a part-time job.
  • We both are not fans of Scrivner writing software.  When you spend more time trying to learn the software opposed to writing, well, that’s a problem. There I said it.  Glad I got that off my chest.
  • I also talk about the rule that Report cards can only be given out at a certain time on the last day of school, plus AJ spouts his disappointment that Jar Jar wasn’t in The Force Awakens.

Check our previous hangout.

Get AJ’s latest book Nuts:

And you can pick up my latest book The Return of the Professor.

 

Setting up your imprint and ISBN on Createspace

I’m setting up the paperback for the newest book, The Return of the Professor.  Ever since my second book, Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien, I have used my own imprint and bought my own ISBN for $10.  (Which is way cheaper than buying them through Bowker.  So don’t go that way.)

Createspace ISBN

Why Create your own Imprint?

I tend to recommend this because your paperbacks will look more professional when they have your business name on the inside of them.

Createspace says that if you don’t use their ISBN numbers then you can’t be in colleges or libraries.  This hasn’t been true for me.  My books are in at least five different school libraries here in Virginia.  To get those books into the libraries I just either donated them, or I spoke at the school.

Once I got a book into a school library, I stopped worrying about the Createspace statement that my books won’t go to libraries.

What they really mean is that libraries won’t order them from Createspace.

Well, in terms of hustle and getting your name out, it is up to you to get your books to be in libraries and you can do that with your own imprint and ISBN numbers.

How to Do it

Getting your own numbers is easy.  When setting up your title on Createspace choose the Guided Route, where Createspace guides you through the system.  In that route they give you the option of purchasing your own numbers with your own imprint.  You also set-up the name you want for your imprint in the process.

It’s very easy.

 

My newest book, The Return of the Professor, is now available for preorder.  Check it out!

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.

 

New book, The Return of the Professor, now available for Preorder.

My newest book, The Return of the Professor; The Dolbin School 3, is now available.

The Return of the Professor Kindle Cover 1

Click here to preorder the book.

Because I know that a lot of my readers are teachers and parents, I created 15 pages of lessons plans and activities from the entire Dolbin School series, Dolbin School for the Extraordinary, The Dark Cloud Rises, and now The Return of the Professor.

In order to get the extra plans all you need to do is:

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

That’s it.

The last day to get the extras is June 17.

Please share this out.

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.)

 

 

Why I stopped using Scrivener or just focus on the work

scrivener-logo

I know.  I know.  I am supposed to love the new writing app Scrivener.  It’s supposed to be the great thing, since, well ever.

Scrivener is to some writers, what Apple is some designers.

In other words…without error.

So I bought a copy and began writing my next book with it.  It took a while to be able to get a hold of how it works.  It changes how everything is organizer, which I guess is the point.  But I found I was taking a lot of time to get it right.  A lot of time.

Time that could have better been spent, I don’t know, writing the book.

Even if that meant writing the book in Word.

The HORROR!

Scrivener is supposed to be able to do just about everything.  Export to Word, Export to PDF, Export to Modi and Epub, and send your mother a card.

Maybe not that last one.

But then I saved my work.  And what appeared wasn’t a file, but a folder.  And then I tried to save a back-up in the same area.

Scrivener told me I couldn’t do that.

Why not?

I don’t know.

But most importantly I lost work.  I lost a whole chapter of my next book.  And that shouldn’t happen.  And it almost ruined my beach vacation.

I was at the Outer Banks and sitting on the outside porch of the condo we were renting.  I had a good view of the beach.  I pulled out my laptop and set it on the table with the sound of the ocean waves and I opened my book up and Scrivener told me something about a corrupted file.  (I admit I don’t remember exactly what it said as my eyes went dark and my head exploded.)

But corrupted to Scrivener apparently meant only the most current chapter I had been working on.

After exporting the other chapters to Word to get another back-up I continue to write my next book in Scrivener.  I don’t know why.  Word had never lost any words I have created.

For some reason I kept trying to write the book in Scrivener.  One thing that I like about Scrivener is that I can see notes on the current section I am writing.  I don’t have to flip back and forth between files.

I like that I can see notes in the bottom right. But note that the file was named to show that I was missing Chapter 10.

I like that I can see notes in the bottom right. But note that the file was named to show that I was missing Chapter 10.

After some research I learned that I probably lost the chapter because I had been saving it to the cloud in my Onedrive.

Ummm…it’s 2015.  Cloud saving is a non-negotiable.

I work on two main computers.  I have a desktop with a larger monitor 27 inch and a Lenovo thinkpad that I carry around.  Not being able to switch easily between those two machines makes writing too difficult.

Then I joined a Scrivener group to see if I could learn what I did wrong, but I proceeded to see several posts with people losing work.  And losing work because through cloud storage.

Scrivener is a great idea on paper, but save yourself the trouble, and your work.   But if you are losing time to learn HOW to use the tool, as opposed to writing, then work with something else.

I hear George RR Martin writes massive popular novels on a DOS Machine.

Maybe he is on to something.

 

 

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.