Monthly Archives: February 2015

Interview with Steven K. Smith writer of The Virginia Mysteries Series

Steve is a writer right here in Richmond, come to find out we’re only a few minutes from other but we met through the wonder of Amazon and the internet.

Steven Smith

He has written, The Virginia Mystery Series, a series of adventure books about brothers Derek and Sam who move to Virginia, and get into a series of adventures based on great history that is here in the state.

I finally picked up the series when it was a Bookbub feature. (And it looks like his experience was even better than mine.  No jealousy here…)

So I reached out to Steve after I picked up the book, and sent him some questions.  He was nice enough to answer.


What did you write before these books?

I’ve always loved to write, but it’s had many starts and stops along the way throughout my life. I really started up in earnest about five years ago after my youngest was born. I found myself the dad to three boys under the age of six, which was simultaneously exciting and exhausting. I started a blog called as a way to capture some of the daily adventures that found their way into our busy home. After a few years writing blog posts, I started writing bedtime stories that I thought my kids would enjoy to hear. The story started coming together and I realized it could be a book, and a few months later, Summer of the Woods was born.

Did you ever try to get an agent or send them to publishers?

I’ve never attempted to go the traditional publishing route with my books, and I don’t regret it. Since writing books kind of snuck up on me, I hadn’t put a lot of time into researching how to work with a publisher. In my day job I work for a company that grew out of an online Manhattan startup, so I’m used to working in new ventures and really enjoy the entrepreneurial mindset. I started learning about indie publishing and found it very exciting to be in control of my product from start to finish. Some people don’t seem to enjoy that part, but I find it a lot of fun to start my own imprint, MyBoys3 Press, hire editors, cover designers, and work on marketing efforts. I listen to a lot of indie publishing podcasts in the car and on planes, and given the state of the traditional publishing industry, I don’t think I’d be able to make that jump now that I’m used to running it all myself.

Are there any more books planned for the series?

Yes! I’m currently working on a fourth book for the series that is tied into the historic Jefferson Hotel in downtown Richmond. My hope is to keep them coming a couple per year since kids seem to really enjoy them. I’d also like to try my hand at a young adult or older book at some point in the future, but I think that’s going to take a bit more work to get used to the writing style. The great thing about books is that the content is evergreen. There are always going to be new young readers coming along through elementary school that are looking for exciting stories to explore. With Print on Demand and eBooks, once books are out there, they don’t go away like they used to after just a few months on bookstore shelves. That’s exciting from both a creative and business standpoint.

How did your Bookbub experience go?

I tried for a long time to get approved for a Bookbub deal. They rejected me at least a handful of times. After I finished Book 3 last fall, I created a box set for the Kindle version of the three-book series. I decided to take a risk and offer them for a big discount to see if I could catch Bookbub’s attention and pull in a lot of new readers at the same time. This time they bit, and the sales from the ad covered my marketing costs by nearly tenfold. The experience reinforced to me that as a writer, and really any kind of entrepreneur, you need to keep trying new things. Some of them (most of them, probably) won’t work, but some will, and that is what’s going to keep your business driving forward. But you probably wouldn’t have found the one that worked if you didn’t try a bunch.

Being new to Richmond, how did you research the town to develop the background to the story?

I moved to Richmond about four years ago from New Jersey to be closer to family. My wife grew up in Virginia, and my parents and sister all settled in the general area too, so it felt like home very quickly. I was a political science and business major in college so I’ve always enjoyed taking a lot of history classes. As I watched what my sons were learning in school and started exploring the area, history seemed to be lurking around every corner. My first book is mostly a straight adventure story, but for the second and third books, I intentionally tied some of the historical people and places that I was learning into the mix. My new tagline for the series is “adventures with a twist of history.” I think too often history gets a bad rap as being boring, but when you mix it into an exciting mystery or adventure, kids love it and they get to learn some cool things about our nation and the area they live in at the same time. It has also given me a natural connection to local historical sites like St. John’s Church, Colonial Williamsburg, and the American Civil War Museum which are all carrying my books, as well as with teachers and librarians who like the tie-ins to what their students are learning.


Thanks to Steve for taking time out to answer my questions.

Catch up with Steve on his site

Check him out on Twitter @myboysthree

Or on Facebook

Check out interviews I have done with other indie-writers.

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.


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.



Kevin and the Triple Creature Feature is a Kindle Countdown Deal this week.

I had totally forgotten I had set the third Kevin book to a Kindle Countdown this week.  Anyway it is the third book in the Kevin series.  Maybe I will get back to that series soon.  99 cents is as good as it is going to get.  So get it now.


In other news Kevin and the Seven Lions is free on Nook and Kobo.  I still can’t get the Amazon to price match.  You could help by click on the Find a Lower Price Link, and then linking the Nook or Kobo link.  (Apple is taking it’s sweet Molasses time in putting the book up on iTunes.  You know.  Because. Apple.)

"Kevin and the Seven Lions"

I am trying to get Kevin and the Seven Lions go perma-free on Amazon.   It’s a strategy that seems to work for a lot of people.  And the book long since made a profit on what I put into it.  (The others, well that’s a different story.)  By doing that it would be the plan that hope the sales on the sequels would increase.

So if anyone here can let Amazon know that the book is free on the other sites that would be a great help.

If you’re a writer and have tried the perma free approach, please share you experience in the comment section.